Jimin and I sat in that cafe for nearly three hours—talking, laughing, and catching up with each other’s lives. It had been so long since I last had an actual conversation with him, and he didn’t fail to make me laugh. He was such a charmer, and I had to admit that if he wasn’t like a brother to me, I would’ve ended up dating him.
“So I tried to excuse myself without hurting anyone, but just as I was about to sit, I hit my head against one of the pans hung for decoration, stumbled, and fell headfirst,” he said, recalling one of the situations he had been in with chairs. Ever since we were young, Jimin and all the chairs around the world had this mutual relationship of utter hatred and competition. It was either the chair or Jimin who lived, and most of the time, the chair won.
Sometimes, Jimin would reenact some of the scenarios, and I would scream with laughter as I wiped tears from my cheeks. It had been a long time since I had last laughed that much, so I was grateful to him for making me feel that way. Just like the old days in the orphanage when we laughed for hours on our beds.
“I swear, I don’t even know why—” Jimin suddenly paused and pulled his ringing phone out of his pocket. The moment he saw the caller ID, his expression turned fearful. He immediately answered the call. Seconds later, he parted the phone from his ear a bit and grimaced.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t have—” The person on the other line interrupted him again.
Putting down the handkerchief I used to wipe my tears, I watched Jimin lower his head and apologize before ending the call, a solemn look on his face.
“I’m sorry, Sunhee. I wish I could stay, but apparently, they kept calling me on my walkie-talkie, and I didn’t answer. Seems like there is a serious case going on, so I need to head back to the station,” he said, taking out his wallet and calling for the waiter.
“The bill, please,” he said to a middle-aged man before wearing his brown, leather jacket hurriedly. “Will you be alright on your own for the night?”
All I could do was nod and knit my brows, not knowing how to react.
“As I said, I’ll be sleeping over at your house for now, so don’t worry. You won’t spend the whole night alone. I don’t know when I’ll be back, though, so if you feel tired, just go ahead and sleep, alright?” He gave the money to the waiter and then stood. “Come on, I’ll take you home.”
“No, it’s okay. I will stay here for a while. You can leave first,” I said with a slight smile.
He let out a heavy breath and leaned towards me, putting both of his hands on my shoulders and looking into my eyes.
“Hey, I’ll be back. I promise. Then, we can stay up all night and talk. I’ll just see what they want from me and come back, okay?” he said softly, gently smiling before planting his lips against my forehead and leaving with a cute little “bye.”
I let both my smile and hands fall after he was completely out of sight. Something like this should be completely normal considering that the two of us were used to not contacting each other for a long while. His leaving to attend to his job wasn’t something that was supposed to upset me, but it did.
Taking two sips from my drink, I stood and pushed in my chair, bowing to the waitress standing at the door before leaving. The sun had finally set, and it was the moon’s turn to illuminate the night sky. The town that we lived in wasn’t in the heart of Seoul, so it wasn’t as busy. Yet, the buzz of people and cars filled my ears.
Sighing, I strolled through the streets to my apartment. Nothing lit my way except for the lights from nearby windows and a few street lamps, some of which didn’t even bother to work. The wind blew softly as it was close to autumn, and I was left dazzled by how beautiful the night could be. I didn’t see the stars—couldn’t actually since the bright streetlights obscured the sky. As I passed a park a couple of yards away from my apartment complex, I watched families, couples, friends, and many others converse.
I wished that I could sit down with somebody—be it a boyfriend, a husband, or a friend—and talk and have fun. Unfortunately, I developed extreme trust issues, so the only person I trusted was Jimin. It wasn’t easy for me to trust him completely, though. There were times when I doubted our friendship, when I wished that I could stay away from him and find someone else, but I knew it would hurt both of us. He didn’t have much trust in me in the beginning either. Seeing Jimin grow up from a boy who cursed everyone to one who was responsible for the lives of many and knew how to make others feel happy was what kept me alive all these years. That was the shift in Jimin’s life, and being there to witness every second of it never failed to spark something in me.
Speeding up, I stuffed my hands into my pants pocket and reached my apartment. If I wasn’t going to spend the night talking to Jimin, then I should at least spend it in my bathtub or on my beloved bed. The moment I entered my passcode and heard the lock click, I pushed the door open and headed straight for my room, slamming the door shut. Walking in the dark wasn’t something I was scared of, not after spending the last twenty-three years of my life in an orphanage that punished us if we stayed awake during the night.
Strangely enough, the door to my room was open. I never left the house without making sure the door to my room was locked, but since Jimin now lived with me, he might have passed by during the day to get something. I didn’t even bother turning the lights on as I took my shirt off and stepped into the bathroom. The moment my foot touched the cold tiles, I froze. Ahead of me was something that looked like the silhouette of a man sitting casually on the edge of my bathtub.
Since it was dark, I couldn’t recognise who that silhouette belonged to, but that wasn’t my main concern. The only thought that played in my head was the fact that a man was sitting in my bathroom.
I managed to slowly back away in hopes that the man wasn’t aware of my presence and closed the door with my trembling hands, trying to not make noise. The moment I made sure the door was locked, I exhaled a shaky breath.
It took me a long moment to realize that I had to get out of my house before that man noticed my presence, but when I finally mustered the courage to let go of the doorknob and go back two steps, my back hit something stiff. I was left frozen in my spot, the hairs on the back of my neck rising. For a moment, my lungs forgot how to function properly, and it felt as though I was going to pass out any moment. I shook slightly in fright, my head incapable of rotating to see what I had bumped into.
Not long passed when I felt warm air brush against my bare nape, causing a chill to run down my spine, making my whole body tremble even more. I clenched both my fists as I turned around and looked at whatever was behind me, but there was only absolute darkness. Furrowing my brow in confusion, I released the tension accumulated in my fists bit by bit.
Spotting the shirt I had thrown onto the floor, I grabbed it, determined to exit the house, but when I turned around, I felt as though something, rather someone, was moving behind me. I paused, totally forgetting about the shirt, and sprinted out of my room.
As I ran through the living room, I bumped into the side of my couch and I fell on top of it, yelping as I landed flat on my stomach. When I flipped around, I was faced with the same silhouette standing a couple of feet away. I inched back, my body dragging against the couch, and the man advanced until he took a seat at the coffee table. Suddenly, the light turned on, revealing Jung Hoseok sitting on my coffee table, his elbows braced comfortably on his knees, his eyes watching my trembling form with amusement.
“H-how did you get here?” I asked, feeling a huge lump get stuck in my throat.
He looked down at the floor before letting out a scoff and saying, “Nice to meet you, too, but before we start, can you cover yourself up? I’m uncomfortable.”
I instantly looked down and noticed that I was clenching my shirt. My hands fumbled as I clumsily put it on, and Hoseok’s eyes only met mine the moment my shirt was on. At least I knew he wasn’t a pervert.
“I’m going to cut short on the introductions. From what I’ve heard, you seem to know me pretty well, and believe it or not, I’ve heard a few things about you, too,” he said, his eyes locking with mine. I had to remind myself that he was both an illusionist and a hypnotist, so he could try to enter my mind at any moment.
“I’ve only heard of you, too. Nothing personal,” I replied, trying to hide my fear.
His lips curved into a smile, and I instinctively averted my gaze, afraid that he might be tricking me.
“I’m stuck with a smart one. Too bad. Heard you are a fellow hypnotist,” he said, trying to act friendly, but I knew that his true intentions were nothing close to what his tone implied.
I kept my eyes low, trying my best to not fall into a trance.
“You know, most people think that because psychologists study the human mind, it means that no one will be able to trick them. I think that’s such a stupid claim. Psychologists are humans, too. So are hypnotists. I can tell that you are smart, but I’m going to have to take something from you.”
“What?” I said, but it came out as a faint whisper.
“No one knows my identity. I’ve found everyone who knows who I am, what I do, and what I’m capable of and made sure to wipe that specific part of their memory. That guy who died, whom I killed, made a simple mistake. He took a video of me without my permission and posted it online under my name for millions of people to see,” he said casually as though it was what any sane person would do.
“Why are you telling me this? It’s not like we know each other that well for you to expose your secrets to me.”
“You think I told you this without knowing how to deal with you afterward? I already told you, there are two options: you die or your memory of me gets completely erased.” He stood and walked towards me. “Which one is it gonna be?”
Okay, erase what I said earlier. Maybe he was a little perverted but knew how to hide it well. Regardless of the way he was eyeing me at that moment and the way his innocent yet devilish smile was piercing my soul, I didn’t feel too intimidated. I had to trust myself.
I knew that without his ability, he was powerless. If he couldn’t enter my mind, then he couldn’t kill me, and he certainly couldn’t erase my memory. But what if he took things to a physical level? How would I save myself?
“Shall I choose for you then? You seem to be having a tough time deciding.” He raised my chin with a finger, his irresistible eyes capturing mine. I resisted the temptation to give in to his looks, to his demonic eyes, to his angelic yet devilish smile. Everything about this human was contradicting, and it only made him more interesting, more attractive.
“Why are you resisting? I’m going to win at the end of the day, so you might as well save yourself the time and the effort,” he whispered seductively. My heart beat even faster. The way his words were capable of stirring something in me felt odd, something that I never experienced before. It felt bad.
“S-stop—” I said, my voice cracking from the strain of trying to pull my attention away from him.
“Let. Me. In,” he demanded, his voice releasing a whole swarm of butterflies in my stomach, and for a moment, I nearly let myself loose, nearly fell for his trap until the ring of the doorbell broke our attention.
Hoseok was extremely composed even though he still didn’t erase my memory. Instead of freaking out, he smiled and said, “Guess the two of us aren’t meant to have fun today. I’ll see you later?”
I stared at him with wide eyes, not knowing whether he was being serious. The tension between us broke when the doorbell rang for the second time.
“I don’t know if you know this, but leaving someone hanging like that behind the door isn’t exactly ethical,” he said, drawing air quotes at the word “ethical.”
“Are you planning to stay here while I open the door?” I asked, my voice faint from the fear of our proximity.
“Why are you worrying about me instead of the fact that someone is ringing your bell and that you are alone with a man you don’t know?” he said, his voice as faint as mine, but his tone had a sense of seduction—something that ignited a sudden, painful spark in me. No, I didn’t like it.
When a third ring broke his intense stare and the tension between our mixed breaths, I took the chance to break free from the invisible chains that trapped me. I made my way to the door slowly, still unsure what Hoseok was planning to do if it was Jimin.
Why was I worrying about Hoseok?
The moment my hand was on the knob, I turned around to find Hoseok sitting on my couch, his arms sprawled over the top. He raised his brow at me as he sat on my couch, acting as if the house belonged to him. I gulped as I opened the door to see the man standing behind it looking at me with annoyance and mild disgust.
“Out of everyone in the world it had to be you!” he exclaimed, pushing his way through. I was about to stop him in fear that he would see Hoseok, but when I turned around, Hoseok was gone.