“Once you’re gone, you can’t come back.” Hakyeon halts, fiddling with the opening of his small satchel. “You know that, right? I need you to be absolutely sure of this.”
Jaehwan stares down at the ground, clutches at his side, more as a reflex than anything after Wonshik dulled the pain with his potion.
The City never did anything good for him, only ever brought him misery. Once, he was able to live here freely and happily. And then he was offered the position of a Guardian. A fine job, yes, but that fine job soon turned into a living nightmare, and he wants to leave and never look back. Resolutely, he looks back up at Hakyeon. “There’s nothing left for me here.”
Seeming to understand, Hakyeon nods solemnly. “Very well. I have one more thing to do, so you will leave with Wonshik tonight, and I will follow behind you. I’ve made sure that the guards will let you through the gate. Meet me at the edge of the forest, by the old well. Do you have everything you need?”
“Yes, I’m ready.” Jaehwan never had many belongings to speak of, and much less that he wanted to bring when leaving this place. It is time to start anew.
“Good.” Hakyeon gives him a sad smile, and Jaehwan is struck by the sudden impulse to take his hand. He squeezes it gently, and Hakyeon squeezes back, pulling him into a hug. Jaehwan is enveloped in a kind of warmth that he hasn’t felt for so long, and he knows that he is doing the right thing for himself, for him to be free. He doesn’t know what is out there, and what will happen, but he knows it will be better than in here. “Good luck,” Hakyeon whispers. “Soon we’ll be out of here, all three of us.”
“Thank you,” Jaehwan replies, and pulls away. “Thank you.”
With a final squeeze of Jaehwan’s hand, Hakyeon lets go and pulls the hood over his head, shrouding most of his face in darkness. “See you on the other side.”