It was a man who gave off a sharp impression. An unwanted guest that was invited—it was Jung Hanbaek.
“Why is it so quiet all of a sudden? Wasn’t the atmosphere good just now?” Jung Hanbaek sat down naturally in a chair.
Everyone was baffled.
They invited Jung Hanbaek, but they hadn’t really expected him to come. Then Jung Sehun came forward. He had been famous for his gentle attitude since high school and spoke to Jung Hanbaek with a smile. “Uh, you came? I thought you would be busy preparing for the fortress Pro League.”
“I should come to such an occasion no matter how busy. When else would I get to see you?” Jung Hanbaek maintained his arrogant attitude.
‘I am different from you.’ This message was clearly visible in his attitude. It was only natural that the expressions of the others would distort when looking at Jung Hanbaek.
“Yes, you should have fun since you’re here. Do you want to drink?” Jung Sehun waved a half-empty bottle and a new glass.
Jung Hanbaek’s face trembled very subtly. “I’m fine. How can I drink that? It isn’t even foreign wine. Drink among yourselves. It is my treat today.”
Then Jung Hanbaek closed his mouth and glanced around the room. Of course, most of them were faces he didn’t remember, but there were some whose names were known.
‘Eh? This jerk is here too?’
There was a very familiar face in Jung Hanbaek’s vision. It was a face he never wanted to see in the past, but now he wanted to see it.
“Hey! Gang Hyeonu!”
It was Hyeonu. Hyeonu was quietly talking on one side and turned his head reflexively at the voice.
‘He is definitely calling me.’
Hyeonu knew that Jung Hanbaek had come in, but he ignored him. He didn’t think it was worth it. Additionally, he hadn’t wanted to break the good atmosphere.
“What is it?” Hyeonu responded in a low, hard voice.
“Have you been living a good life recently? Can you afford to appear here?” Jung Hanbaek taunted Hyeonu as much as possible.
For Hyeonu, Jung Hanbaek’s words sounded like ‘Why are you coming to such a place when you should be working part-time jobs to pay back the debt?’
Hyeonu was trying to ignore Jung Hanbaek, but he felt his heart gradually begin to shake. He was going to open his mouth to shoot down Jung Hanbaek, but someone else spoke first.
“What does that mean? Do you mean that Hyeonu can’t even come?” It was Jung Sehun who shouted.
So far, it had been tolerable. Jung Hanbaek might be speaking words that ignored them, but the words were always the same. However, this time he clearly disregarded Hyeonu.
“Apologize right away! What do you mean by speaking like that to a friend?”
Jung Hanbaek was briefly flustered by Jung Sehun’s shout. However, he soon fired back, “What did I do wrong? Didn’t I tell the truth?”
‘There are always guys like this around that jerk.’
Friends, teachers, and people meeting him for the first time—everyone liked Gang Hyeonu. The reason had probably been because Gang Hyeonu was rich. Nevertheless, things were different now. Hyeonu’s family was ruined, and he was in debt. In contrast, Jung Hanbaek had become rich.
“Don’t you know? Hyeonu’s family and business went bankrupt. He is in a lot of debt. Should he be enjoying alcohol here?”
At Hanbaek’s shocking words, everyone’s eyes were drawn to Hyeonu. Their eyes contained deep sympathy and sadness.
Hyeonu nodded silently at Jung Sehun’s question. The debt was already paid off anyway. The moment Hyeonu was about to say that it was okay, Jung Sehun continued, “Why didn’t you contact me? I wouldn’t have ignored you and would’ve helped.”
Starting with Jung Sehun, everyone added one or two sentences. Their words were very similar.
‘Damn.’ Jung Hanbaek’s expression distorted. This wasn’t the response he wanted. He wanted them to have disdainful gazes toward Gang Hyeonu. Jung Hanbaek drank a bottle of water. He felt that if he didn’t drink water, his anger wouldn’t subside.
They treated Jung Hanbaek as if he was half there. They didn’t ignore him. They just didn’t talk to him first. They showed their blatant attitude that they hadn’t wanted him to come to this occasion. They were telling him to leave. However, Jung Hanbaek kept his place until the end. He didn’t eat pork belly or drink alcohol, but he stayed on. The atmosphere was slowly tidied up, and the room became bustling again.
“Hey, does anyone want to go to a second round? I’ll treat you to beer with chicken!”
“Is anyone willing to pay for the karaoke room?”
“Of course not, dude! You have to pay!”
His friends were drunk and acted like they were 23 years old. It was the same for Yeongchan and Hyeonu.
“Yes, the billiard room will be Yeongchan’s treat! Let’s go, go!!” Hyeonu led the chant.
“The billiard room is Yeongchan!” The rest of the group followed except for Yeongchan and Jung Hanbaek.
“Uh, that’s right. I have an appointment tomorrow. I’m sorry. You go on your own,” Yeongchan stated, hitting his head with a fist. He had such a good time that he forgot he had to go home early tomorrow morning.
“Really? Then I’ll leave as well. Hey! Call for a substitute driver. You drank alcohol,” Hyeonu said.
Hyeonu thought he should also go home and rest. Today was the first time he hadn’t played Arena since he restarted Arena.
‘Doing something like this once in a while is fine,’ Hyeonu thought.
When Jung Hanbaek heard that Hyeonu and Yeongchan were going to call for substitute drivers, he interrupted them. “It isn’t an expensive car. Why do you have to call a substitute driver? Just leave it here and come pick it up tomorrow.”
Yeongchan was furious, but he was blocked by Hyeonu. Once Hyeonu and Yeongchan left the room, the others including Jung Sehun also left the store. Jung Sehun sent all his other friends out, picked up the bill, and headed to the counter. “I’m here to pay the bill.”
“It has already been paid. The person who went out just now paid for it.”
“Huh?” Jung Sehun was surprised to hear that it had already been paid and asked again. However, the answer was the same.
‘Did Yeongchan pay for it?’
Jung Sehun knew that Yeongchan was a streamer with his own presence in Arena. The money Yeongchan earned was different.
“Then I’ll use the money to pay for the second round.”
Jung Sehun left the store to find all his friends were standing in one place. He moved over there and placed an arm around a friend’s shoulder.
“What are you all looking at? Where’s the pretty girl?”
“No, look at Yeongchan over there. That car is killing me.”
Jung Sehun turned his head in the direction his friend was pointing at. There was the car that Yeongchan was sitting in. Yeongchan’s car was a BMW M5. It was a car that was fascinating to look at. Next to him was Jung Hanbaek. The Audi A6 parked next to Yeongchan’s car was Jung Hanbaek’s car.
“The A6 is pretty... The M5 next to it feels a bit lacking? Isn’t that right?”
“Yes. It loses slightly.”
“Then where is Hyeonu? Didn’t Hyeonu bring a car?”
“He went to the bathroom. He should be coming out soon?”
Speak of the devil and he would arrive. Just then, Hyeonu came out of the store. He walked naturally to where Yeongchan and Jung Hanbaek were.
“Yeongchan, when is the substitute driver coming?”
“I just received a call. They’re almost here. The two of them are coming together.”
“Really? That’s good.”
At this time, Jung Hanbaek once again got involved in the conversation. “I don’t know how a person in debt bought a car. Additionally, I think you can leave your car here? A car that a dog is riding—who would steal it?”
Hyeonu’s car was parked behind Yeongchan’s car. However, since the parking lot was shaped like a field, Jung Hanbaek thought that Hyeonu’s car was the domestic car behind his own. Hyeonu didn’t respond to Jung Hanbaek’s remarks. Rather, he had been expecting it to happen.
Hyeonu chuckled as he imagined how shocked Jung Hanbaek would be when he saw Hyeonu’s car. “Yeongchan, I think the substitute drivers are here.”
Yeongchan and Hyeonu each handed their car keys to the substitute drivers. First, Yeongchan’s M5 emitted a strong exhaust sound and left. Then Hyeonu got into his car. It went without saying that Jung Hanbaek’s eyes became round when he saw it.
“This is your car? Yours?” Jung Hanbaek murmured with disbelief.
Hyeonu’s car was several times more expensive than his own. Comparing an Audi A6 to a Porsche Panamera, anyone who knew a bit about cars would be able to tell the difference between the two. This wasn’t the only problem. It didn’t mean that Jung Hanbaek didn’t have the money to buy a Panamera.
Jung Hanbaek’s father was the chairman of Damsu Construction, and Jung Hanbaek was a professional gamer who belonged to one of South Korea’s leading professional clubs. Their yearly salary alone was enough for them to buy a Panamera in one year. The problem was that Hyeonu’s car was currently superior to Jung Hanbaek’s car. He had money, so what did the car matter? Someone might think so.
However, it was a big problem for Jung Hanbaek. There was a monster in his mind that made it a problem. This feeling started with a small sense of inferiority at the first meeting and became a big monster over the year. Jung Hanbaek’s father always compared Jung Hanbaek to Hyeonu. It was Jung Hanbaek’s trauma. In fact, it was hard to find any place where he was better than Hyeonu, so Jung Hanbaek’s sense of inferiority became worse. The monster he thought had disappeared showed up against not long ago due to the meeting at the department store.
‘I’m worse than him again? Me? Jung Hanbaek?’
Jung Hanbaek was denying reality when Hyeonu shouted at him, “Get out of the car’s way! Get out of the way, you jerk!”
Hyeonu released the stress of today.
Hyeonu thanked the substitute driver who drove him home safely and entered his house. Then he picked up his smartphone and made a call. “Kale? This time, I’m the one who called early.”
The other person was Kale. Hyeonu called the person who had talked to him in the morning.
-Yes, it’s okay. Do you have something you want to say?
It was a reaction that was contrary to the one from that morning. In the morning, Hyeonu had been trembling with an unknown anxiety, but it was Kale this time. Hyeonu was speaking with a drunk voice. This made Kale imagine the worst.
-What happened? If it isn’t an illegal matter, we’ll solve it.
Hyeonu frowned at Kale’s words. “What does that mean? I’m calling about the report this morning. I called to say I’ll cover it in my stream. Please organize the materials and send them to me by email.”
Hyeonu had worried about it all day, and he finally came to a conclusion.
-You... will really accept it? I understand. I’ll organize it and send it to you soon.
After the short call, Hyeonu lay down in bed. During the countless months when he worked various types of part-time jobs including the convenience store, Hyeonu had prayed in his mind for someone to help him.
‘How hard was it for me to ask for help?’
This thought couldn’t leave his mind.
“A loser who can only play games like me...”