By the time both had arrived at the restaurant and Jeong Hui’s apartment, darkness had enveloped the surroundings. Ji An, like a machine, alighted from the taxi and, in silence, with measured steps, entered the establishment. It was deserted, for the restaurant had officially closed for the afternoon. They took seats at one of the tables. Jeong Hui went to prepare some herbal tea, while Ji An, soul seemingly vacated, stared blankly ahead.

Visions of her ahjussi, his head swathed in bandages, surrounded by an assortment of tubes and wires, haunted her; the steady hum of the ventilator and the beeping of machines echoed in her ears. She felt as though her head might burst, and her heart shatter into a thousand pieces.

Jeong Hui returned with two cups of chamomile tea, setting one before her distraught friend and sitting beside her.

„Drink up, Ji An,” she encouraged, „it’ll do us good.”

„Why him?” came the whisper, „Why him?” Ji An’s voice grew louder with repetition, „Why? Why?” A wave of mixed emotions began to surge forth anew.

„Such is the way of the world, my dear. Accidents happen, and this time, it was our Dong Hoon.”

„We were supposed to meet after such a long time… I wanted to finally buy him a lavish meal… Whatever he wanted…” Ji An’s words were filled with regret. She felt guilty for not fulfilling that promise earlier, and it weighed heavily on her.

„You’ll still get to treat him to a fine dinner,” Jeong Hui said, albeit without conviction.

„If he’s been severely burned in the head, face, then how do you know, unnie, if he’ll be able to eat normal meals… Moreover, from what I understand, the worst danger hasn’t fully passed. No one knows if he will wake up or how his mind will function…” She took the cup in her hands, but they trembled so violently that she couldn’t hold it and had to put it down swiftly.

Jeong Hui rose and went to the kitchen to find a straw. Returning, she moved the cup closer to Ji An and inserted the straw.

At that moment, Gi Hoon entered the restaurant.

„I saw the closed sign, but the lights were on, which intrigued me,” he explained from the doorway. „Oh! Lee Ji An ssi, good evening!” He was quite surprised by the encounter and looked questioningly at nunna.

„Ji An had an appointment with Dong Hoon, but he didn’t show up or respond, so, worried, she came to me,” Jeong Hui explained. „We’ve just returned from the hospital and are struggling to come to terms with what we saw…” she summarized.

„I didn’t know you were in Seoul,” Gi Hoon said, sitting opposite Ji An, attempting to engage her in conversation.

However, she was too distressed and didn’t want to reveal in front of him the extent of her turmoil from what she had seen and learned. She grabbed the straw and began to sip the chamomile.

„Yes, the sight of Dong Hoon is quite striking, especially at first,” Gi Hoon continued, but with his eyes, he signaled to Jeong Hui, asking, „What’s happening with her?”

Jeong Hui stood up and subtly signaled for him to follow her.

„Oh! I forgot to take out the trash,” she said loudly. „Gi Hoon, could you help me?” She took a bag from the kitchen, and they both stepped outside.

„Do they think I’m stupid?” Ji An thought. She knew they would talk about her, but she hardly cared. In fact, she was relieved to finally be alone for a moment. She rested her head on the table and sank into deep thought.

Meanwhile, outside, a lively discussion ensued about what to do with her and how to make it possible for her to see Dong Hoon.

„Yoon Hee promised she’d handle it,” Jeong Hui said, „but I don’t know how you’ll explain this to your mom. Officially, she’s a complete stranger. She’s never even seen her, and… I doubt she’s heard of her…” she looked to Gi Hoon for confirmation.

„True. You’re right. Hyung never mentioned her at home… Hmm… But I’m sure he’s missed her all this time… And her being there could be a big support… Hmm…” he seemed to be talking to Jeong Hui but was actually thinking out loud.

„We have to come up with something, because this girl is in terrible shock and despair,” Jeon Hui concluded. „I knew he wasn’t indifferent to her, I’ve known for a long time, but I didn’t expect it to be such a strong feeling…” she looked at Gi Hoon. „Did you know about this?”

„Mmm…” he affirmed, pondering intensely. „It can be done,” suddenly, an idea struck him. „Yes, it can be done!”

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