“Oppa, stop staring at me like that.” She walks across the room to get her makeup kit.
Mianhae for staring, Shin Hye-a. But just as a suggestion, maybe you can skip the make-up today. Fresh and simple looks good on you. She blushes hearing this.
See, your cheeks can naturally have color on its own. Keun Seuk continues to joke around.
Oh, and can we share this breakfast now before we go?
“Sure Oppa.” She pulls the chair to the desk and enjoys the breakfast he brought her, cutting almost everything in half as he hands him the fork. He stares at her again, in silence, marveling at the beauty before his eyes. The ache he feels inside subsides, for now…
Let me just have this day. That’s all I ask. He tells himself as if asking permission from an unknown force.
I will try. Today we will just be strolling around Harajuku. You can see the quirky fashions today, since it’s a Sunday and the kids are out with their stuff. Keun Seuk tells her matter-of-factly.
Nae, we still are. But first, we are doing a stop here. Shin Hye continues to look at him, still all confused.
As the cab driver makes a stop at the torii gate, Keun Seuk gets out of the cab and holds the door again for Shin Hye. Still following his lead, she alights from the cab as well.
After giving the driver their fare, Keun Seuk closes the cab door and says in a quiet tone, Shin Hye-a, we are at the Meiji Shrine. This is where the Japanese mark milestones in their lives. And being with you today, at the fan meeting and meeting you in this lifetime are milestones for me. So, if you don’t mind I’d like to commemorate them. “Gwaenchansumida, Oppa. Let’s immortalize these memories, then.” Shin Hye agrees, following his lead.
On their way to write their prayers in the temple’s main quadrangle, they run across a wedding party. Shin Hye admires the party from afar, musing about the possibility of her own wedding someday. She looks to Keun Seuk and sees the slight hint of sadness in his eyes. “Something really is bugging him. And it doesn’t look like he’s ready to tell me.”
Keun Seuk takes the pen at the stand, distancing himself from Shin Hye for awhile as he writes his own verses of prayer. He was not one to be religious or spiritual even. But at that Shinto shrine, with a prayerful Shin Hye next to him and with a painful statement he needs to deal with all on his own, he could use some help from the heavens. Wae? Of all statements must I have eavesdropped that one? I can rest not knowing anything and just keep on fighting. Hajiman, wae? He had kept asking himself since last night, waking up in the middle of the night even, regardless of the exhaustion from the fan meeting.
Shin Hye takes the pen at the stand, seeing Keun Seuk distancing himself from her. She wonders why. She yearns to ask him what’s wrong. The hurt in his eyes betray him and she wonders what is bugging him. Trying to shrug it off and take the opportunity before her, she writes her own verse – “For love, that I may have the wisdom to tell when it has touched my heart and the courage to know how to make sense of it.”
She senses Keun Seuk waiting for her to finish writing so they can both offer their prayers together. She smiles at him as she folds her verse and signals she is ready. He smiles back before dropping his gaze and they walk to the prayer books together. Following the lead of the other visitors, they offered their prayers together.
Before Keun Seuk tries to shrug off the truth that was gutting at him, Shin Hye catches his hand as they were walking out. “Oppa, you do know that you’re not so good at hiding your emotions, right?”
De, Shin Hye-a? Mwo? Keun Seuk says defensively.
“You’re carrying something heavy today, Oppa. I was wondering if it’ll help if you unload some of it with me.” Shin Hye tells him.
Anieyo, Shin Hye. Don’t mind me today. I’m sure it’s just this humid weather and the exhaustion. Not quite feeling well. Keun Seuk continued to conceal what he knew.
“Anieyo. We are not leaving here until you tell me at least something. You may not be ready to, but I feel like you have to be forced to say it.” Shin Hye tightens her grasp at his hand.
Shin Hye-a, when are we going to stop playing games? Am I going to be the last one to know? So, you don’t like me, huh? At least not like that. Isn’t that what you told the reporter yesterday? Keun Seuk started to ramble uncontrollably, losing the daylight in his eyes.
I was going to come congratulate you for a great job at the fan meeting and I heard you answer that reporter. She had asked what you thought of the possibility of us together. She had asked if you liked me. She had asked what you thought of fans pairing us with each other. And what did you tell her? What did you tell her Shin Hye-a? He tried to keep his voice low but his emotions were getting the better of him.
“Oppa, mianhae.” Shin Hye says choking back the tears lumping at her throat, realizing how much her words had hurt him, even if she didn’t say it to him directly. But he couldn’t hear this as he kept going.
Shin Hye-a, what did we say about honesty? I’ve been wearing my heart out on my sleeves. I’ve been answering the way I think I should answer whenever the topic of you comes up. I’ve been trying so hard, so you can see my heart. Are all my efforts in vain Shin Hye-a? Can your heart not belong to me? Just tell me, that’s all I need to know. Keun Seuk says, almost begging, abandoning all his pride. He deserves to know, doesn’t he?
Shin Hye looks at him silently, not sure where to start, not certain how to pacify the raging bull he’s become before her eyes. Yet, she was neither scared nor confused. All she knew was that he was hurt with what he heard come from her lips the night before. All she knew was that the prayer she wrote is being answered. She is seeing love unfold before her eyes and she’s summoning courage to do the right thing with it.
“Oppa, I live in honesty. I tell people what I think and feel the moment I said them. But seeing you now, for the first time ever, I regret what I said. Yes, I did tell that reporter that I didn’t like you like that. That to me you were just a great friend with whom I’m most comfortable being with. You heard it and you know what I said, so I will not say it again and save you from further pain.” Shin Hye owns up to his accusations.
“But there is a reason I said that, and that’s not because I’m scared of your antis. Nor am I just taking vengeance out on you for denying me in your past interviews. Nor is it because I really don’t like you.” Shin Hye searches for words to explain what she said.
“I said it because, Oppa, you’re important to me. Your friendship is something I am scared of losing. And I value it more than I can ever comprehend. So, no, I don’t like you like that. I don’t like you in the way the fans make us to be, because to them we are just a couple they can swoon over, with a relationship as saccharine as cotton-candy. Like that, we are objects of their illusions, figments of their imaginations. Like that, what we share has no struggle. Like that, there’s no challenge. Like that, we don’t grow. And when we don’t grow, it becomes so easy for us to fade.” Shin Hye says so sure of what she is declaring.
“I know your imperfections. And being in this real kind of friendship with you, I can hate them and deal with them. But don’t need to ask you to change into this ideal person. Instead I find myself learning to accept them or learning to appreciate the person you become as you grow out of them. So, no, I don’t like you like that.” She continues.
“Can we be together? I don’t know. You don’t know. But we are getting somewhere. You and me. Together. Aren’t we? The friendship we build. The bond we make stronger. I think that’s most important. So, no matter what happens, if we follow their way or our way, we don’t end up empty. We end up with beautiful memories.” Shin Hye tells him.
Keun Seuk smiles at the thought. His heart lightening up a bit but even more determined — to hold sacred what they have, to make stronger their bond, to try his hardest so she can someday love him, like that or like however way the heavens have ordained. His heart begins to rest knowing that he will always have her, one way or another.
And with that they crossed another milestone.