year.”

End of the year or early next year. Ha Joyoon realized that the deadline was just around the corner.
He didn’t think he would be staying for long, but it was still sooner than expected.
It was as if the initial set-up had all been pre-planned.

“Will you be going back to the headquarters?”

“I’m still not sure.” 

“It hasn’t been that long since you came here.”

“From the beginning, I had promised only one year here until the Korean branch was fully established.
It’s as long as it was planned to be, so it’s neither long nor short.”

 

“I thought you’d stay a little longer.”

“The shorter the exile, the better.” 

A clear smile appeared on his lips and then disappeared in an instant.
Considering the age of Shin Kwonjoo, who was only in his mid-30s, the position of a branch director was remarkable despite the branch being in Asia.
There was no proper way to react.
He realized that while he may feel sorry for someone, it could be tantamount to exile for the person involved, so Ha Joyoon quickly apologized.

“Oh, I’m sorry.
I don’t know much about that so…”

“I’m aware of that.
If you had said that you actually knew then that would have been weirder for me.”

Political ability was also required because not only was the media endlessly linked to politics and the economy, it also worked based on connections.
It was clear that the nature of foreign media was somewhat independent of existing newspapers and broadcasting routes, but there was a fierce battle among those who wanted to rise within it.
The man was victorious in this battle.
In the first place, he avoided power and fame and was completely focused on his own work. 

Ha Joyoon fiddled with the table as he hid his bitterness.
Shin Kwonjoo, who was watching him closely, took a drink of water and continued.

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“Well, it suits you.”

“Sorry?”

“Focusing on photography.
Everyone has a role to play, so there’s no need to make such a self-deprecating expression.” 

Ha Joyoon smiled a little, embarrassed by how quickly his thoughts were discovered.
The pretty face with a faint smile was worthy of catching the attention of others at least once.
Ha Joyoon carefully confided his feelings as he slowly wiped his dry cheeks a few times.
He had a thought that the other person was not quite appropriate for this, but there wasn’t much discomfort.

“I always thought that someone had to do it.”

The man who was holding his papers and phone looked up.
Amidst the profound atmosphere, Ha Joyoon remembered Kang Taejung, who had not been contacted for several days.

“I was just one of the many people who recorded.” 

He checked their messages whenever he had time, just in case, but the only answer that he got was silence to the extent that even looking hurt.
It was questionable whether the past in which the one had only loved him, filled with passionate and warm love, still existed. Is this really how you’re going to end things with me?

“I never had any doubts about it… but after I came back, I saw that I really had nothing left.
I still don’t regret doing this but not even a single thing is left besides that.”

“Ha Joyoon-ssi.”

He called out Ha Joyoon’s name in a dull tone.
There was no compassion or sympathy in his voice, so it wasn’t hard to imagine the cold feedback that would soon follow.
Perfectly organized documents in a case were placed on one side of the table.
Shin Kwonjoo casually opened his mouth as he checked the messages that he had left behind during mealtime. 

“If this is your first breakup, then the second one would be an end of the world for you.”

He made it sound like it really was nothing.
When he heard those words, the tone was so indifferent that it could even make him think that it really was nothing.

 

“Was I being too sentimental?”

“Inexplicably.” 

It was such a word.
Ha Joyoon leaned his back on the chair as he let out a little laugh unconsciously.
Languid energy ran up his spine.
The delicately drawn eyes flinched and trembled.
The man who put his phone in his pocket continued the conversation again.

“I’ve said this before, but if you’re not in a situation where you can meet someone new, why don’t you try to stay as a partner with them? It might be more effective than you think.”

Even though there were many people around, the voice of the man who talked about sex was unbothered.
Ha Joyoon responded with an uneven frown.
The other man was so calm that it was questionable whether he had really said it.

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“How would that prove to be effective?” 

“Either way, you’ll end up getting bored of them.
There comes a time when even touching becomes almost disgusting.
Once you realize that, it’ll be easier for either one of you.”

“It’s effective.” Shin Kwonjoo gave a mischievous smile as he repeated this again.

“Is this coming from experience?”

“Perhaps.” 

He answered without hiding his interest.
Even if he didn’t ask, it was easy to see from the tired expression on Shin Kwonjoo’s face that the advice came from personal experience, and it was easy to tell who had gotten tired of it and who had ended up hating the other.
He put down his glass and nodded slightly.

“… Thank you for your advice.”

“Sure.
Let’s leave if you’re done.”

“Okay.” 

Ha Joyoon also stood up, following the man who had led the conversation without any hesitation.
The steps towards the counter were quite large.
It was like a habit to regard time as a property.
Shin Kwonjoo finished the payment quickly despite not saying that he was going to pay for both, and stood at the doorway beckoning to Ha Joyoon.
As he took a step toward Shin Kwonjoo with an awkward smile, the doorbell chimed.

Ring Ring-

“Welcome!”

“… Yeah.
Hang on for a bit longer.” 

“I think I’ll be pretty busy until the end of this month too.”

“Haha- Taejung-ssi must have it hard too.”

 

A familiar voice and an even more familiar name came from the others.
Ha Joyoon stopped walking and looked at the side where the sound was heard.

How long has it been since that happened? One week? Two weeks? At some point, the boundaries of time became blurred, making it difficult to count the days.
The lover he saw after who knows how many days, still looked the same.
Whilst his attention was not directed towards him, the man was still heartbreakingly cool, and full of friendly smiles. 

…The streaks of rain in his heart grew stronger.
He heard footsteps pounding.
Even though he knew it wasn’t true, the scene of rain unfolded itself like a fantasy.

There was no trace of longing for someone anywhere on the face of the man as he talked to the other party with a cheerful smile.
It looked like he was just full of energy, living every day to the best of his ability.

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