ught, then stepped outside the building.
The inside was way too chaotic to hold a decent conversation.
The space was quite cramped, and all the yelling and crying of the kids were raucous enough to make his head spin, too.
He always preferred quiet places even back in Zhongyuan, so an environment like this orphanage was like poison to his system.

Park Yu-Min asked worriedly, “Your complexion doesn't look so good.”

“You're rather amazing to stay sane in that place.
I thought my ears would fall off.”

“You get used to it if you live here long enough.”

Kang Jin-Ho nodded slightly at that answer, but at the same time…

'I made a mistake.'

Park Yu-Min probably didn't want to live in an environment like this, either.
Yet Kang Jin-Ho had thoughtlessly run his mouth off. He had to reflect on this later.

“In any case, thanks for the ride home,” said Park Yu-Min.

“No problem.”

“…Even though I did something terrible to you.”


“I'm really sorry about that.”

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Kang Jin-Ho glanced at Park Yu-Min before slowly opening his lips, thinking that this might be his only chance to ask, “Why did you do it?”

Park Yu-Min flinched a little, then fixed his gaze on the ground.

Kang Jin-Ho continued. “I'm not thinking of blaming you or making you pay for it.
It's just that I'm curious.
why did you do it?”

Park Yu-Min hesitated.
He looked undecided for a while before letting out a long sigh.
“You can see our building, right?”


“It looks really run-down, right?”


“It had been some time since the government grant was cut off.”


“After the handling of all the national subsidy was transferred to local government entities, the screening for the grant became so much stricter, you see.
Our orphanage's qualifications had always been a bit shaky, and in the end…
we got excluded from the list of eligible organizations.”

“Excluded, you say?”

“They want us to close the orphanage.”

“What will happen to the kids, then?”

“They'll be sent to other orphanages.
But the kids here are a little special, as you might have noticed.
Some have stunted IQ, while some others have slight physical disabilities…
If they get sent to other orphanages, they'll either get ostracized or bullied.”


“Our director knows this, and that's why she just can't close this orphanage, you see.
We somehow managed to keep the lights on by whatever donations and support funds we could find and also by getting jobs and working day and night.
Even with that, our budget had always been running tight, so we kept moving to cheaper places, and eventually…
Well, you can see our current home.”

“I see.
And what happened?”

“That day, he…
That old man who showed up with the principal asked me if we had somewhere else to go if we get chased out of here.”

Kang Jin-Ho nodded.
He was finally getting a grasp on what had gone down that day.

Park Yu-Min continued his explanation.
don't have anywhere to go.
Not one.
There is no other place we can go next for shelter.
In two years, I must leave the orphanage, too.
I've been delivering newspapers in the morning to scrounge up some money to support us, but what will happen once I'm forced to leave? Even worse, the orphanage will be forced to shut down if we are chased out of this building.
what about those kids? What will happen to them?”

Kang Jin-Ho cocked an eyebrow.
“You deliver newspapers? With your leg?”


Kang Jin-Ho wordlessly turned his head and glared at the heavens above.
He had also been a cripple once upon a time, and that meant he knew how exhausting it was to walk with a bum leg.
But this boy was delivering newspapers despite his condition?

“Wait, there are companies willing to hire you as a paperboy?”

“Well, yeah.
This whole area is located on a steep hill, and bikes can't get up here, you see.
Not many people want to deliver stuff to this place.”

“You deliver stuff in this area?”

“It's not as hard as it sounds, though.
They actually bring the newspapers up here, see? All I have to do is take it easy and deliver them while going downhill.”

see.” Kang Jin-Ho chose to stop his questioning there.
He had already figured out most of the situation by now.

Park Yu-Min lowered his head.
“I'm really sorry.
I know I shouldn't have done something like that, but…”

“No, it's fine.” Kang Jin-Ho shook his head.
Your crime wouldn’t automatically be forgiven because you had been under immense pressure and had been threatened.
But he also understood that some crimes couldn't be helped depending on the circumstances.
He had experienced similar situations plenty of times himself, after all.
He looked at Park Yu-Min.
“Still, it's a relief that you get to stay here, at least.”

Park Yu-Min sorrowfully shook his head.

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“What do you mean?”

“I was an idiot.
You can't be a worse idiot than me even if you tried.”


“I already knew those people weren't the type to help us just because I went along with them, but…
But I stupidly forgot.”

Kang Jin-Ho's eyes narrowed.

Park Yu-Min didn't notice it and continued.
“They want us to vacate the premise.”


“They want to redevelop this land, but…
It's not a government-led project, so we won't get any compensation for it.”

“Can't you stay put and hold out?”

Park Yu-Min shook his head.
“But how? How can we hold out? With what power? The landlord wants us out of here when our rent duration is up, so how can we cling on? And next month is the end of the rent agreement, too.
When that happens…
We won't have anywhere else to go.” He covered his face with his hands.
“If I only knew this would happen…
If I only knew, then I would have…”

After a weighty, lengthy silence passed by, Park Yu-Min raised his head and stared at Kang Jin-Ho.
“I'm sorry for what happened.”

“It's fine.”

“No, please let me apologize.
Only then, maybe I'll feel a little better inside…
I'm really, truly sorry.”

Kang Jin-Ho silently stared at Park Yu-Min, then slightly nodded.
“I'll accept your apology.”


“In return…”


“Buy me cola.”

“…I'll buy you two cans.
Is that okay?”

“Two cans? So many?”

Park Yu-Min chuckled hollowly at that reply.
After that day's event, the last of his sympathizers in the school disappeared.
The fellow students that once looked at him with pity whenever Choi Yeong-Su tormented him only glared at him with contempt now. Their change made him feel like he was all alone in the world.

What made this situation all the more unbearable was that he had brought it upon himself. Moreover, Park Yu-Min himself believed that he deserved all the hate, too.

He cautiously raised his voice.
“Can I ask you something?”


did you give me a ride home?”

Kang Jin-Ho pondered his answer for a bit.
Why did he do it? Was it pity? Or the memories of his old self? If not, then what…? None of them seemed like a clear-cut answer.
So, Kang Jin-Ho chose the one that sounded closest to what he felt.
“It was just on a whim.”


I happened to see you while riding my bicycle.
Since I saw you, I chose to speak to you.
And after speaking to you, your home seemed far, so I gave you a ride.”

“Even though I did something terrible to you?”

Kang Jin-Ho replied with a nonchalant shrug, “It had been a minor inconvenience, that's all.”

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