The Little Prince In The Ossuary Chapter 5
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Chapter 5. The Little Prince in The Ossuary (5)
# Past Memory (1), Deal Preparation, The boy
The boy was running vigorously on a treadmill. His heart was pounding like crazy and beads of sweat could be seen falling from his forehead down to his chest. The boy's legs were about to give out, but he didn't dare to stop because a trainer was watching right beside him.
The vast gym was solely occupied by two people—the boy and the trainer. The trainer was an unsympathetic man. He never allowed even a single minute of delay in his schedule. His sungla.s.ses and his always-crossed arms gave off an imposing feeling.
The boy was supposed to run for 15 minutes, but those 15 minutes felt painfully long. In the first place, he wasn't even exercising out of his own volition.
Just when the boy was about to collapse, the alarm in the trainer's wrist.w.a.tch went off. Only then did the trainer give him the order to stop.
“Stop. Move on to the next one.”
Drenched in sweat, the boy panted heavily for breath as he leaned against the handles of the treadmill. A drop rolled down his face, the boy wasn't sure if it was sweat or a teardrop. After running on the treadmill for a long time, he felt like the ground was wriggling, but before he could catch his breath, the trainer shouted at him.
“Come on, move it!”
The trainer's forceful att.i.tude reminded the boy of the Korean military from the old times. He once heard from his father that the atmosphere was just as bad as this. Of course, his father must've also heard it from another person, since the draft system had been abolished long ago.
The boy had been forced into a repeating cycle of anaerobic and aerobic exercises. Although the intensity made it look dangerous, there was a medical team on standby, and the trainer made sure his muscles weren't strained by monitoring his physical condition through sensors attached all over his body.
Provided with the information in real-time through earbuds, the trainer adjusted the intensity of the exercise. Even when merely running on a treadmill, everything was thoroughly managed so that the boy's heart rate wouldn't go over 85 percent of its maximum. All of this was to keep the commodity unharmed.
The commodity was, of course, the boy's body.
This was the boy's last day in the gym before the trade took place. For the trainer, it would be his last day of 'product management'. He would receive additional payment for completing his job, but his facial expressions showed no change. Rather, the boy could sense a subtle stiffness in his behavior. Maybe he was nervous, or he was trying to save his joy for later. But no matter how hard the boy looked, there wasn't a single shred of sympathy or concern among the emotions he showed.
The boy was almost certain he was right about him. He had a keen eye for discerning other's feelings, and he had noticed something. After the deal had been set, almost everyone he'd met, even his parents, was treating him not as a human, but a commodity.
'Of all people, I really didn't want my family to do this to me,' the boy thought.
Perhaps it was because of this that the boy had been looking for warmth from the people he met. However, no one, not even his trainer with whom he had spent the most time, had ever shown that to him.
All of a sudden, the boy felt a red mist descending onto him. It wasn't anything new to him. The boy tried to empty his mind, the pent up emotions that were trying to burst out of his heart slowly drowned under the wave of silence, sinking deep down into his subconscious.
After finis.h.i.+ng his training, the boy walked towards the trainer to bid him farewell.
“Thank you for everything you've done. I hope it wasn't too hard.”
But the trainer only answered briefly.
“Take good care of your body. You know how expensive it is.”
But even so, the boy answered with a warm smile. Soon, people would no longer be able to see him with that body and face, it was the only effort he could make to leave people with a good impression of him.
The trainer flinched a little. The boy examined him with curiosity, but he couldn't figure out the reason behind his reaction. It would have been better if he could see his eyes, but to his dismay, the trainer never took off his sungla.s.ses till the very end.
It was only after having parted with the trainer that the boy realized he hadn't asked him his name.
'I should've asked his name…' Regretted the boy.
Accompanied by several bodyguards, the boy returned to the 'house' where his family was staying along with the medical team. House, but not home. The place was big with a high ceiling, it wasn't the place where the boy used to live.
Before he could get off of the car, a small figure came running out of the door. It was his little brother, Parang.
“Hyung is here! Heehee!”
The boy grabbed his little brother by the waist and lifted him up. Thanks to all the training he had been forced to do, he was able to lift him with ease. Parang opened his mouth in surprise but soon started giggling.
Giving his little brother a good hug, the boy asked with a smile, “Hey there, Parang! Have you been a good boy?”
“Yes! Like you told me to, I ate all my meals, and I listened to mom and dad and sister!”
“Wow, what a good boy!”
The rest of his family came out of the house and welcomed the boy with a slightly awkward expression. His parents were acting guilty in front of him, but he could tell it was merely an act since he could sense the expectation flickering across their faces. The boy was still calm even after knowing that. It was because he had long since stopped expecting anything from them.
His sister, on the other hand, looked pale and a little worn. She kept avoiding his eyes as though she was ashamed. The boy appreciated the thought but still wanted her to look straight at him so that she could remember him.
The boy's father came up to him while scratching his head. He appeared more like a boy than the boy himself. As if life didn't weigh down on him at all. There was something good about that, though, and it was that he was like a friend to him. He was much better than those fathers who couldn't even befriend their sons. But in a situation like this…
The boy in his forties spoke to the little boy, “Welcome home. Has it been… a week? Today was your last day of workout, wasn't it?”
“Yes. How have you been?”
“We've been doing fine, but that's not important. What's important is how have 'you' been doing. You're the main pillar of our family.”
“…I guess so.”
The conversation suddenly came to a stop. An awkward silence fell over the family.
Unable to tolerate the atmosphere, the boy's mother came forward. “We were waiting for you to have dinner together. Come in,” she said, grabbing the boy's hand.
As the boy was led into the house, he turned to look at his sister, who once again looked away. But this time, he could see that her eyes were drowned in tears. The boy was distraught but tried not to show it, because if he did, he knew she would only burst into tears.
The boy's sister was born in autumn, so they named her Gaeul. The same went for the boy. He was born in winter, thus was named Gyeoul. His little brother was born in summer, but they named him Parang because the sky was blue. 'What a lazy way to name their children,' the boy thought when he first heard it from his parents.*
Just as the boy's mother said, the table was already set for dinner. But there was another table set with only a small quant.i.ty of each dish. It was the boy's share. One of the medical staff told him that he would be put on a diet to keep nutritional balance and maintain his body's condition. This must've been why the medical team was here, to manage his diet and lifestyle. Though it was still better than the past four months where he only got to meet his family once a week.
The dinner was good. The boy knew it wasn't his mom's cooking. His sister, Gaeul, had been doing all the cooking since she became old enough to cook. Even their mother couldn't match her skills. Thankfully for the boy, the medical team didn't stop her from serving him his meal. All they did was to limit the amount.
The boy, however, wouldn't have complained no matter what they did with the meal. He was happy enough that he could see his family every day before the transaction was made.
The boy tried to strike up conversations to talk with his family, but none of them lasted long. Judging by their shaky voices and dodgy eyes, it looked like his parents were ill at ease in his company. It was pretty obvious since this deal was illegal and they were selling his body. The boy still tried to lighten the mood with some jokes, but his tactless father made his endeavors useless.
“It's not a bad thing if you think about it. Do you know how many people out there are committing insurance fraud to benefit from the afterlife insurance? Also, you get to play those virtual reality games all your life without having to worry about studying for Korean SAT or going to work. I bet all the other kids would kill to be in your shoes.”
The boy managed to feign laughter, but not his sister.
Gaeul furiously lashed out at their father, “How can you say that to him, dad? You know your son is about to lose his body, right? We won't be able to hold his hand or hug him ever again! Do you think spending the rest of his life stuck in a game sounds fun? Then why don't you go sell your body instead of his?”
“Gaeul!” Their mother raised her voice. It didn't sound like it was to scold her, it was more to tell her to contain herself in front of the medical team.
With her eyes br.i.m.m.i.n.g with tears, Gaeul briefly looked at her brother, Gyeoul, before storming off upstairs.
Their father repeatedly said he was okay, but he probably wasn't 'okay'. His body was showing several signs of anger. The boy thought his father didn't deserve to be angry. He felt the stone in his heart rolling around, prodding here and there.
The boy had spent his childhood in coldness, in a psychological sense. It was all 'thanks to' his father that he was able to develop his keen sense for reading other people's feelings.
His father wasn't particularly a bad person. He was just too in touch with his emotions, just like how kids were. Because of this, he could easily make friends with children. But also because of this, he was easily angered, easily bored, and easily disappointed. It wasn't a characteristic necessary for a good parent to have. He used to be a good father when things were stable, but now, he was putting his whole family to test. And that test was too harsh for his little brother Parang to endure. Even now, he was rolling his round eyes around in alarm.
The reason why the boy's father was keeping his temper was probably because of the boy. If he were to revoke his agreement to the deal, everything would be ruined.
Full body transplant. Back in the days, when the technology wasn't this advanced, it meant a transplant operation involving the body from the neck down. But in the present day, the term now referred to the transplant of the brain and spinal cord.
The use of a minor's body for full body transplant was only allowed after more than a month of being declared brain dead. Not only that, the operation was only legal when taking place in a registered medical inst.i.tution, for a recipient who had gone through a proper application procedure, after pa.s.sing a compatibility test, and many other proceedings. Therefore, it was illegal to use a healthy boy's body for a transplant.
What was interesting was that despite the fact that it was already illegal, the chairman of the Hyesung Group specifically demanded the consent of the body donor himself. He said that this was his ethical principle and that the reason why he was breaking the law was that the law was wrong.
His father, who wanted to roar in anger but couldn't, found it difficult to restrain his language. He must've filtered his words a thousand times by now. It was a hard process for a person who was easily swayed by his emotions.
“So, my son. You know you can't renege on your decision now, right? Uh, well… if you act irresponsibly and revoke your agreement, the whole family will be in big trouble.”
'Irresponsible?' The boy slowly counted numbers in his mind. It was a habit he had acquired to swallow his anger. The feeling of a sharp stone rolling around inside his heart. This was already the third time happening. It happened too many times. 'It can't be like this,' the boy thought.
The boy closed his eyes and tried to think of a snowy hill so that the loneliness could take over his anger. After his anger subsided, the boy shook his head.
With that being said, the boy focused on finis.h.i.+ng his meal. If he could, he would've run upstairs to his sister. But he knew that the medical team wouldn't let him. Eating his meal was also part of the rules he had to abide by.
The boy decided to change his perspective. The food he was eating was made by Gaeul. It wasn't often that he could enjoy her homemade food.
The boy emptied the bowl clean. But it wasn't until he finished brus.h.i.+ng his teeth and taking a shower, which was also a rule specified in the contract, that he was allowed to go upstairs to his sister's room.
Gaeul was crying in her room. Parang, with tears welling up in his eyes, asked his sister if she was okay. Kids at that age tended to cry along with others. Before the boy could say anything, Gaeul dragged Parang to her bosom.
“Don't worry. I was just sick, that's all. I'm all better now.”
“Really? You're not sick anymore?”
“Heehee. Thank G.o.d,” Parang let out a cute laugh.
There were two beds in Gaeul's room. Apparently, Parang liked to sleep there with her sister. Of course, Parang also had a room of his own. Although their down payment was running out, their mother decided to buy it anyway for they would receive the rest of the money soon. For the boy who was used to living a poor life, his mother's lavish expenditure was a bit worrisome. But he couldn't tell his mother. He was afraid to spoil the mood.
Not long after, Parang began to nod off in his sister's arms. Gaeul gently patted Parang's head and tucked him into his bed. Sitting at the edge of her bed, Gaeul finally decided to look into the boy's eyes. This was the first time today. But soon, tears poured down from her eyes. The boy was greatly startled at the sudden situation.
“Noona, what's wrong…”**
The boy sat next to her and reached out to her cheeks to wipe her tears, but Gaeul grabbed his hand and began to weep even more sadly. Her trembling shoulder helplessly leaned over to the boy's chest. Without any words, the boy hugged her. Droplets of tears fell onto the bed.
Only then was the boy able to feel his heart filling up with something that he lacked. Something that he had sought from other people, but hadn't been able to obtain. Human warmth.
Gaeul spoke with voice shaky, “I don't know… how I'm gonna live without you…”
“It's okay. We can still talk by phone… and we can meet in that other world if you ever come to the Ossuary.”
Gaeul answered him with a hug. The two of them hugged until they were interrupted by a sudden knock on the door.
“It's almost your bedtime. Come on out,” spoke one of the medical staff in a perfunctory tone.
The pointy stone started rolling again inside the boy's heart.
* If it wasn't obvious, Gaeul = Autumn, Gyeoul = Winter, Parang = Blue.
** Noona literally means “older sister”. Also used by males to refer to an older female.
The Little Prince In The Ossuary Chapter 5
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The Little Prince In The Ossuary Chapter 5 summary
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