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    The main story is complete! As for the extras, I’ll be uploading 1-2 chapters per week :)

    “I didn’t really think much about it.”

    “It’s interesting, living like this here.”

    Seeing that I wasn’t quite convinced, Cesare added sincerely, “I find everything fascinating, from people’s curiosity about me to their hostility. It’s much more enjoyable than being inside, so you don’t need to worry.”

    His words didn’t seem meant as a consolation. Perhaps Cesare really could think that way. But what about the others? Matthias in particular.

    After finishing the meal, I washed the dishes one by one. Cesare offered to help, but I shook my head. Perhaps due to having a lot on my mind, I found this simple task rather pleasing. After drying my hands with a dishcloth and turning around, I saw a steaming cup of tea on the neatly arranged table.

    “You’ve worked hard. Have some tea, Hyun.”

    “Okay.”

    Even as I sipped the tea, my thoughts were elsewhere. I was worried about Matthias. What if he got beaten up somewhere? Or worse, killed? Thoughts of the essay collection I had seen the day before kept coming back to me.

    “Hyun, the table is shaking.”

    “Huh? Oh?”

    Startled by Cesare’s words, I looked up to see him smiling and pointing at my leg, which was trembling as if it might run off on its own any moment. I laughed awkwardly and cleared my throat.

    “Are you that worried about Matthias?”

    “Well… of course, I’m worried… The world is a dangerous place, after all.”

    “It does seem like it would be difficult to live with that mindset.”

    Cesare tapped his own head as he spoke. Humanoids face physical and mental constraints. Unlike in games, it’s hard for them to think clearly.

    “Ah…”

    Was it really the right choice to bring them out here? Even if I were to go back, I’d make the same choice, but seeing the protesters’ speeches outside and their vacant stares from time to time made me feel an uncomfortable twinge of guilt.

    “It’ll be okay.”

    “Hm?”

    “We’ll all be okay. So, don’t worry.”

    The warmth of his hand clasping mine seemed to melt my heart. I nodded.

    “Right.”

    “If you’re still worried, we could go out together…”

    Just as Cesare was suggesting we go out together, there was a sound at the door.

    “Matthias is no gentleman, it seems.”

    “Gentleman? Where on earth do you learn such words?”

    I ran towards the entrance, marveling at Cesare’s use of such an archaic term that I hardly ever used.

    “Matthias… What?”

    However, when I opened the door, there was no one there.

    Wondering if someone was playing a prank, I looked around, but still, no one was in sight. By now, I was getting a bit scared and rubbed my goosebump-covered forearms.

    “Hyun? Is it Matthias?”

    “I don’t know…”

    Just as I said I didn’t know, something landed on my head.

    “Oof, what’s that!”

    Startled, I shook my head and whatever was on top fell off. What had covered my head was none other than Matthias’s coat. Holding the coat and looking puzzled, I noticed Matthias taking off his shoes at the entrance.

    “Matthias, what are you doing?”

    At my words, Matthias seemed startled and shrugged his shoulders, then threw off his shoes and started to run. Watching him, I had a feeling.

    There’s something going on.

    What reason could there possibly be to run inside the house? I put on my shoes and started to chase after Matthias.

    “Stop right there!”

    Matthias was running towards the bathroom. As he reached for the bathroom doorknob, I lunged forward and grabbed his leg. With his leg caught, Matthias’s body swayed, and he fell down holding onto the doorknob.

    GaspPant

    Breathing heavily, I held onto Matthias’s leg even tighter. I tried to look at his face, but he covered my face with his hand, blocking my view.

    “What are you doing…”

    “Why would you rush in like that, risking getting hurt!”

    “Aren’t you going to clean this up?”

    “Are you hurt?”

    “Just clean it up!”

    As we bickered, something fell onto the back of my hand. A sticky, viscous liquid. Matthias seemed to realize what it was too, as his grip suddenly loosened. I forcefully shook off his hand, and his startled face came into view.

    His flushed cheeks and the viscous liquid covering his head too.

    I lost what I was about to say and took a deep breath.

    “What’s this? What’s on your head…”

    Without thinking, I reached out, but Matthias grabbed my wrist.

    “Don’t touch.”

    Matthias turned his face away, trying not to show it to me, but it was pointless since we were so close. A hint of shame spread across his face, making my stomach feel strangely warm.

    “Did you get hit with eggs again, Matthias?”

    “Cesare! Can’t you keep your mouth shut?”

    Cesare, who had been leaning against the wall enjoying the scene, asked with a smile on his lips. Matthias growled Cesare’s name. I focused on two words in Cesare’s sentence: ‘again’ and ‘eggs’. It felt like my blood was turning cold.

    “So, this isn’t the first time?”

    “What are you talking about? He’s just spouting nonsense.”

    Matthias’s eyes were trembling as he spoke. He was bad at lying. My heart sank mercilessly. I grabbed Matthias’s cheeks with both hands. I didn’t care that my hands got smeared with raw egg in the process.

    “When else did this happen? How long has this been going on?”

    As I asked, a conversation from a few days ago flashed through my mind like lightning.

    “Matthias, did you shower?”

    “Ah, I just did a bit of exercise while you were asleep.”

    “You’re really amazing.”

    “…You weren’t exercising then, were you?”

    There was no reply from Matthias. It was an admission.

    Sigh…”

    It felt like I had been hit on the head. How must you have felt, looking at me as I called you amazing? It felt like my consciousness was sinking into the ground. Matthias, looking flustered, moved towards me. Without realizing it, I showed my palms and stepped back.

    “I, I… just a moment.”

    My head was spinning, and I couldn’t think straight. My face felt hot, and my chest was boiling. I felt like I might end up unfairly taking out my frustration on Matthias, the actual victim.

    “I’m going to go inside and rest for a bit. Sorry.”

    I fled to my room without looking back.

    ***

    “Hyun, wake up.”

    At the sound of my name being called, I slowly opened my eyes. Through my blurry vision, I could see Matthias’s red hair. He seemed to be dressed as if he was about to leave somewhere at any moment.

    “What’s going on?”

    “I don’t think I can stay here anymore.”

    “What?”

    It felt as if someone had poured cold water over me. I sat up in a panic.

    “What do you mean?”

    “I tried to endure it, but… it’s too hard.”

    Matthias’s forehead had a noticeable dent, as if he had been hit by someone.

    “I’m sorry. I have to leave you.”

    With those final words, Matthias turned away from me. I reached out to him, but he was already moving away. Watching Matthias shrink to a speck in the distance, I called out his name desperately.

    “Don’t go, Matthias. Don’t leave me…!”

    “Hyun!”

    Someone grabbed me with a strong force, pulling me back to consciousness. Matthias was looking down at me with a startled expression.

    “Did you have a nightmare?”

    I wrapped my arms around Matthias, who was wiping the sweat from my forehead. He lost his balance and collapsed into my embrace.

    “Wait, you’re heavy.”

    But I actually found comfort in his weight.

    “It’s okay.”

    I stroked Matthias’s head, which, thankfully, was not dented or scarred. I finally let out a sigh of relief.

    “Sigh…”

    “What was the dream about to make you like this?”

    I gently touched Matthias’s cheek as he looked down at me with concern.

    “Uh, it’s nothing.”

    As my thumb brushed his eyelids, Matthias gently closed his eyes and entrusted his body to me. I hugged him again and wrapped my legs around him, deeply inhaling his scent. His presence was so precious that it weighed on my heart.

    ***

    “Hyun, you don’t seem to be in a good mood.”

    Lying listlessly on the sofa and just watching TV, I turned my gaze towards the source of the voice. Cesare was looking down at me.

    “Hello, Cesare. You look good even upside down.”

    “Thank you.”

    Cesare accepted the awkward compliment without batting an eye.

    “Where did Matthias go?”

    “I don’t know. He was gone when I woke up.”

    Lately, Matthias had been leaving early in the morning and only coming back late at night. He wouldn’t tell me where he was going or what he was doing. I tried coaxing, pleading, and even scolding him, but nothing worked. I could have kept him confined, but I didn’t want to. That was the last thing I wanted to do.

    Despite this, he consistently prepared meals before leaving, and the quality of the food seemed to improve day by day, making me wonder if he was attending a cooking school.

    “If you’re feeling down, shall we go for a walk?”

    “Mm, maybe later. For now, sit here. Let’s watch TV together.”

    Cesare obediently followed my request. We sprawled on the sofa together, watching the people on TV. I wished Matthias would stay home like this too.

    “The scenery is really nice. Everyone looks so happy.”

    The TV was airing a world travel program called “Running into the World.” People were walking the streets, enjoying lemon sherbet and looking content.

    “It’s a place called Amalfi.”

    “I see. It’s really beautiful…”

    “Shall we go?”

    “Yeah, that would be nice. We could go and have that ice cream.”

    I replied nonchalantly and turned up the TV volume. The drone was flying around the pier, showcasing the beautiful cityscape. As I watched the people on the boats waving, my phone vibrated with a notification of a transaction… with a few too many zeros.

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