The employee called me, who was standing behind people taking a look.
I came closer and checked the scarves.
The first one that caught my attention was the red one.
Recalling that he bought me underwear in colors that were uncomfortable to wear, I wondered if I should buy that.
Black suit and black coat, then red scarf on top.
However, that might suit him, surprisingly.

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Still, I should buy a neutral color so that he could use it often.
I turned to the gray scarves.

“That one is a best seller.
The color is pretty and it will suit anyone who wears it.”

I checked the price.
67,000 won.
The money I had now been nowhere sufficient.
How could a scarf be this pricey? I started thinking that I might be unable to buy anything from this place.

“Young man, how much are you looking for? The price range is wide.
Tell me, so I can show you.”

“Is there anything under… 50,000 won?”

“Of course.
This one here is around 40,000 won, and this one is around 30,000 won.”

I went to the display pointed by the employee.
I tried to touch a navy scarf.
It was soft.
The color was clear, and I thought it matched the clothes Yeon Woojeong wore.
The price was 43,000 won.
It was a low price compared to what I received so far.

“Do you like it? Do you want to buy that one?”

“Yes.”

“If it’s a present, I’ll wrap it for you.”

“Yes.”

I chose it faster than I thought.
Will Yeon Woojeong come faster today? The employee handed me the wrapped scarf.
As I walked out after accepting it, I tried to think how I should give this.

Is it better to give this right on Christmas? He will wear it himself if I just put this on the bedside, won’t he? If he asks what is this…

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The thought alone gave me goosebumps.
Should I take off the wrap and just put this in Yeon Woojeong’s closet? While I was thinking, the convenience store entered my view.
To be precise, the big choco pie that was placed on the display outside.
The box, larger than a regular choco pie, seemed to have more content inside. 

When I looked at that, I was reminded of the kids in the facility.
On Christmas, they used to exchange secretly hidden snacks for each other as well.
I was also included there.
Even though I had nothing to give them.

Are they doing fine? They should be better because they had one less mouth to feed.
It might be right to give them back because I had received some from them.

I walked to the convenience store and bought a box of choco pie and some jellies.
After buying this, I ran out of money that I brought with me.
It felt like this was my first time feeling easy, even though I just spent my money.

I took the bus heading to Ihwa-dong.
I never expected that I would go back to the facility.
At least, today wasn’t the day when Lee Sugeol would come, so there wouldn’t be anything like me running across him.

Getting off the bus, I headed to the familiar neighborhood.
Although I had no good memory, this was the neighborhood I lived in for almost 2 years.
It felt new to come here after a long time.
Still, it didn’t mean I felt at ease.
I only had good luck.
There was no guarantee that it would stay good from now on.

As I walked down the stairs after passing the alley, the door that didn’t change appeared.
Grabbing the knob, I opened it.
There were only the kids’ shoes in the entrance.
I would only put the snack in the kitchen and leave.
When I stepped into the small hallway, I heard the sound of someone running.
I thought I might know who it was by the footsteps alone.
It was that kid. 

The kid ran in front of me.
I was glad to see him after a long time.
When I was about to hand over the snacks I brought, the kid waved his hands with a troubled expression.
It wasn’t a greeting.
It was like… telling me to leave…

The footstep that followed after.
The owner of the stretched feet that appeared was Lee Sugeol.

“Hey, Kim Jiho.
It’s been a long time?”

Fuck.

The shit bastard after a long time was still like a shit.

I got a hunch that the snacks I bought for the kids might get snatched before I could give them to them.
When I took a step back, Lee Sugeol took a step forward.

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“What’s up? You just left without any words as if you would never come back.”

“I came to see the kids.”

“The kids? Why would you?”

“I will only give this and leave, so please fuck off.”

I put down the choco pie and jelly I brought over on the floor.
There would be nothing I could do even if Lee Sugeol went crazy and didn’t let the kids eat it.
I had no plan to argue more with that bastard here.
And I didn’t want to spend any time in the same place as him who had already hit me.

“What? Fuck off? Look at him talking.”

“I’ll leave now.”

It’s my loss if I talk more with him.
I swallowed my sigh and turned my back.

“Where are you going?”

My hair was caught and pulled.
It felt like my scalp was being pulled out.
The kid’s scream hit my ears.

“Hyung, hyung…”

“Get in you little shit!”

Lee Sugeol kicked the kid.
The kid fell down and burst into tears.
I gritted my teeth and tried to catch Lee Sugeol’s hand and slap it off with both hands, but it wasn’t easy.
While I was being dragged in, I hit Lee Sugeol’s arm as hard as I could.
I got free for a moment.
I tried to run away, but I was caught in the back and turned.

The thick palm slapped my cheek.
It was starry in front of my eyes and my head was dizzy.
The moment I stumbled as I couldn’t control my body, Lee Sugeol grabbed my hair and tossed me inside the room.

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I fell on the cold yellow linoleum floor.
I was dizzy, but I propped my body as I stood to my feet, yet the door was closed.
There was Lee Sugeol standing on guard in front of the door.
His body looked exceptionally large.
I tasted blood inside my mouth, and I suddenly got angry.

“Fuck, why did you hit me?!”

“Why? Hey, you left as you please, and why you ask?”

“Didn’t you tell me to leave?”

“That’s when you have nowhere to go.
Bastard, shouldn’t you pay off the debt after I took you in and fed you for 2 years?!”

Lee Sugeol kicked my stomach.
I coughed out.
I hurriedly breathed in at the sensation of getting choked, and I coughed through my narrow neck.

It felt like it was white all over in my sight.
I wanted to kill that bastard.
Stabbing Lee Sugeol’s stomach with a knife, and stabbing him over and over until his intestines came out, and the floor was wet with blood.

My hands trembled.
In fear that I might really stab him.
My head turned cold.
Swallowing the saliva with a blood taste, I turned my head.

“Did I… live for free? I brought you everything I earn.”

“Ha, look at this guy? Did you really think that child’s pocket money would be enough? You fuck, how could I feed you and let you sleep with that kind of money?”

Lee Sugeol approached me and then pulled my hair back after kneeling down.
I glared at him with my eyes raised, but he didn’t care.
Rather, he scanned my face.

“That is because your face is pretty… That was an investment.
Do you think I’m a volunteer worker?”

“…”

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“I could sell you at a higher price if you’re young, but my last conscience saved you.
Yet you don’t know how to be thankful.”

He talked as if showing mercy.
What nonsense.
Said the bastard who sold children younger than me.
Nonetheless, I heard it as he would sell those kids and me for different purposes.

“I was nicer to you because you might go wrong if I mess with you… huh?”

Lee Sugeol lightly slapped my cheek.
It hurt because the place he hit earlier was stimulated, and I felt sour.
When I glared more, the hand holding my hair got stronger and my head was forcefully arched.

“Look carefully.
Can’t you understand the situation?”

Slap, slap, slap.

I heard a series of bursts.
I clenched my teeth at the pain that felt like my eyes were coming out.
There was a sense of helplessness that nothing would work even if I resisted, and a fear that I would not be able to escape like this.

Lee Sugeol let go of my hair and dusted off his hands.
I couldn’t just stay and get attacked like this.
I looked around the room.
There was nothing that could be used as a weapon inside the room with only a drawer and a wardrobe.

Should I just beg him now? But if he was a human that could be talked to, he wouldn’t hit me like this in the first place.
Besides, I didn’t want to beg that bastard even if I die.

Strength filled my fists.
Our heights were similar, and for the build, he was larger, but I thought I would make it if I attacked him as if my life was at stake.
However, in order to do that, I had to hit Lee Sugeol for sure.
My fists were pounding.

While I was thinking, Lee Sugeol stood up.
He took out his phone.
From how he was heading to the door, it meant he would go out.
I shouldn’t let him go now.
If he called for other people, it would be the end for me then.
I jumped to my feet and ran.
I grabbed Lee Sugeol’s waist with my arms and then dragged him back roughly.

“This fucker…!”

Lee Sugeol swung his arm and hit my cheekbone with his elbow.
I felt dizzy but I didn’t let him go.
He shook his body and I, too, moved back and forth.
I turned Lee Sugeol’s body quickly and let go of his waist, grabbed him by the collar in a hurry, and pushed him.

His body slammed into the closet.
He spewed out curses and gritted his teeth.
Cold sweat flowed down.
Now it was a fight to the death between him and me.

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