[덴더라이브]Dandelion Fan Fiction ~3cm close to your monitor~
*The following entries were posted on January 7th 2014 as second stories written by fans who’ve loved Dandelion and not by the creators of the game. *They may differ from the intentions of the original creation. *The stories include spoilers, so those playing or expecting to play the game should be cautious. *If you send your reviews or personal thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org, they will be delivered to the writer. To see the original post(Korean), Click Here. Error (written by Laun) I clicked the yellow dandelion icon on the desktop. It’s a game that I cleared a long time ago but whenever I got bored I always clicked New Game to start again. In this screen existed a world where a wizard grants your wishes. I had affection for every character in this game but my favorite was Jisoo—the black cat man who always calls Heejung, the female lead, foodgiver. To be honest, I feel like it’d be more believable for him to be a dog. As the sound of mouse clicks continued, time passed on in the game. The number of turns decreased with the update so that made things much easier, but I still hated the part time jobs I had to do to earn money. But then, one thought flashed through my mind. I minimized the game screen for a moment and clicked the cheese icon on the desktop. Using an editor did make the game less exciting but since it let you start the game with more money than you should, I often caved in and used it. I wasn’t sure if the editor would work on this game so I never tried it until now. But today, I thought why not give it a shot. “It won’t freeze and mess up my save files, I hope...” I mumbled to myself and double clicked the cheese. I hadn’t used it in a while so it took me some time to find my way through it, but soon the number 999990000₩ appeared on my screen. For some reason I thought that the editor wouldn’t work, but it did. Now, my Heejung had more money than all the other girls firing up their love with Jiyeon. First, I did what I always wanted to do: buy everything at the store. I felt good to see my inventory full of items from the store. Good. Since I’m feeling good today, I’m going to watch the happy ending! The only part of Jisoo I think is so catlike is hating washing. I mean, I’m glad he kicked Jiyeon and his naked body out, but not taking a shower for a month is a bit, no actually very, unattractive. I guess he doesn’t smell that bad since Heejung doesn’t notice... [“You’re so dirty!! You stupid!!”] Heejung said the same thing I wanted to say. Jisoo on the screen really looked disgusted. [“...I don’t like men who don’t wash.”] Heejung finally said it. [Everyone thinks that way. It’s not attractive to not wash.] Of course. I couldn’t help but smile at Heejung’s thoughts. But oh well, aside from the fact that he never takes a shower, Jisoo is a pretty nice guy. I feel like I can probably stand three days of him not showering if he ever comes to life. [“Re, really? You like guys who wash everyday like that cat?”] [“Yeah... Way more than guys who never wash.”] I smiled and clicked next to see Jisoo’s disappointed face. He looked annoyed and asked incredulously. [“...You like guys who wash often?”] [“Yes, of course.”] The next line appeared with the click of my mouse. [“Liar.”] [“Huh?”] I was surprised to see the unexpected line. The standing Jisoo CG had his arms folded and a wide smile. This isn’t.... how it’s supposed to go. Did Jisoo ever say that line? It’s true that I haven’t played the game in a while and my memory isn’t exactly perfect, but I thought this was the scene where Jisoo looks disappointed and goes to take a shower... My head was filed with questions, but I thought I should first just continue and moved the mouse. [“It doesn’t matter whether I wash or not. You’ll end up liking me.”] Jisoo being so confident.... This isn’t it. This is different. Jisoo never said something like this at the beginning of his route. I mean, no one did. No one was confident about Heejung’s feelings at the beginning of the game. [“But since you don’t seem to like it, I’ll go in to wash when Jiyeon comes out.”] As the screen changed, the game moved to the next day, and I saw the structure of Heejung’s house. Jisoo was not inside. I realized then that I had my mouth dropped open the whole time while staring at the screen. “What???” Did Dandelion let you play a new route for your 100th New Game??? If not how the hell can Jisoo suddenly change like that?? “Arrrrghh~~!!” I sat still and pondered, but I couldn’t come up with anything. I don’t know what I satisfied to play this route, but I decided to continue playing. I was so glad that it was a Saturday. I didn’t see Jisoo inside the house before the weekend. And when the weekend arrived, I clicked go out without hesitation. I chose Jisoo and went to the café. [“What do you want to drink?”] And the two familiar choices popped up: the Americano or caramel macchiato. Since Jisoo likes the sweet caramel macchiato.... I chose the macchiato without hesitating. [“You really want that drink?”] Different again. [“Choose what you like, instead of what I like”.] The menu popped up again: the Americano or caramel macchiato. I was flustered to see the menu pop up again. This had zero effect on the ending. It was really nothing, but I felt weird. In the real world, I always preferred an Americano over a caramel macchiato. But my preferences had nothing to do with the game. It’s natural for me to like what Jisoo likes. Heejung, who’s with you, would like the caramel macchiato. I felt as if the menu was handed out to me and not Heejung; this was strange. [“Is that any good? It’s too bitter for me...”] I drank the mug full of cold water in front of the monitor. He told me to choose what I like. Then are those yumyum crackers you eat any good? I’d way prefer the Sabre. [“Well I guess since you can’t drink it doesn’t matter whether it’s sweet or bitter.”] I clicked the screen absent-mindedly but coughed to hear the last line. Jisoo in this route is so weird. What does he mean by it doesn’t matter since I can’t drink it? [“Hey, had fun today?”] [“Let’s go again next time.”] The next parts went by normally. The weekend dates end and another week begins. I couldn’t find Jisoo anywhere in the house. I know Heejung is talking with Jihae in the living room, I ran into Jiyeon in front of the bathroom, I saw Jieun at the veranda, and in the bedroom... to be exact, I read books on taxes with Jiwoo at the desk. [“So there is someone? Is that how it is?”] [It was a short event where Jisoo suddenly asks me if I’m seeing someone. Of course, for Heejung, there is no one right now. If I’d wanted to go on the bad route, I’d have talked to Jihae, but since I began with the intent to see a happy ending, I felt frustrated at Jisoo asking me that. Would Heejung ever secretly see someone when she’s so devoted and nice? You’re the only guy Heejung and I are interested in. Heejung in the game gets flustered and says no. [“N....No.....”] [“It doesn’t matter.”] ? Hey. Um, Jisoo. Heejung hasn’t finished talking??? [“It doesn’t matter if you are seeing someone.”] Another line that I don’t remember. I clearly remember Heejung stammering and answering no here, and Jisoo smiling and letting it go. I clicked again, anticipating what Jisoo would say next. [“In this place, you have to like only me and no one else.”] [“No one else but me.”] [“This time, and the next time.”] This time and the next time.....? What is this? I can’t understand anything Jisoo is saying right now. But... despite that honestly I’m a bit... turned on. Sorry I’m this kind of a girl, Jisoo. [“Let’s go home. I used my brain too much today. I’m tired. I want to eat yumyum crackers.”] “......What?” I really felt something was off. Jisoo feeling tired for using his brain too much....? Now this was confirmation that something was definitely wrong. I don’t know what I did but right now Jisoo is on a route that’s neither a happy ending nor a bad ending. Telling me that I should choose my coffee again, that I can’t drink it, and that it doesn’t matter if there is someone else...? And what about the last things he said? They all didn’t make sense. [“No...... It’s not just weird.”] I carefully thought about what Jisoo said. The menu, the ‘it’s okay to see someone else’, the words ‘this time’. And this time and the next time... It’s as if... It’s as if he knows this is a computer game. Does Jisoo know that this is a computer game? Then everything he said so far make more sense. I went into the living room, sat on the sofa, and as I clicked ‘rest’, Jisoo appeared. I thought about giving him a gift but felt that if I just talk with him I’d be able to get more clues on what this route is about. As I clicked ‘talk with him’, a smile appeared on Jisoo’s face. [“I can think more comfortably when I sit here.”] [“I guess you’re probably surprised over there.”] [“Are you taking my words seriously? You hurry too much.”] I stopped clicking the mouse. I flinched, as what Jisoo just said seemed to point out my absent-minded clicks. Yes. It’s been nagging at me but the lines are definitely weird. It’s definitely Heejung whom he’s talking to... But I got the feeling that that wasn’t really the case. My guts are telling me Jisoo knows that this is a game, and... and... Me... I hesitated for a bit, but clicked again and saw Jisoo’s next lines. [“Have you calmed down now?”] [“You must know it by now.”] [“I knew ever since this game began.”] [“Even now, you’re listening to all this.”] [“I don’t know what to call you. All I know is that you are the Heejung in front of me.”] He’s definitely talking about ‘me’. Jisoo recognizes me. Although he can’t see my face or hear my voice hidden behind Heejung, he is talking to me behind the disguise. This is so strange.... I should screens capture this and report it to the game company. But I’m too nervous to do anything but stare at the screen right now. I feel like I just found a gingerbread house after getting lost and wandering around the woods. [“I suddenly understood.”] [“No. Actually, it was from the day the house started smelling like cheese.”] Smell like cheese? What’s with that? Did Heejung like cheese? I was wondering when I suddenly remembered the cheese icon of the editor I used. Oh, the smell of cheese....... Sorry, Jisoo. Even Jisoo who has a strong stomach must have had a hard time standing the smell. He didn’t look so pleased. [“After that you were weird. You suddenly bought a bunch of stuff.”] [“And all your actions seemed familiar, as if I’d seen them before.”] [“I thought I was mistaken, but I wasn’t.”] [“As I tried to remember, pieces of memories I didn’t even know existed started coming back. Your stories, your and my, no, Heejung and my story. The stories of all the other guys... And I suddenly realized. Oh, this is a game. It’s not the wizard’s game. It’s your game. And I am in that game.”] [“I also realized that you were at a place I didn’t know, a place I couldn’t reach.”] [“I guess I’m some sort of a glitch. I’m not supposed to recognize you.”] It’s not a new route. Jisoo recognizing me right now was caused by an accidental glitch. That’s how he recognizes me. I calmed down a bit and tried to think more clearly. It doesn’t matter whether or not this is a glitch. Even if all my save data gets messed up because of this, I’d be fine with it since Jisoo recognizes me. It’d be better if he could just come out of the screen, but that’d be impossible even with the help of the wizard... This is at least 100 times more thrilling than getting picked for a limited edition merchandise. [“Am I talking too much?”] [“There are a lot of things I want to say.”] [“As I said before, I’m a glitch so I might disappear anytime without warning.” [“I don’t know when I’ll disappear but....”] Jisoo closed his eyes and continued. [“...I hope we can be with each other for a long time.”] He disappeared and another day passed. I took my hands away from the mouse for a moment and recalled the time I updated the game. While loading the save files from the previous version to the new version, the files suddenly disappeared and produced multiple error messages. If Jisoo is a glitch in this game, it means he can suddenly disappear just like that. “So.” This is the last time Jisoo recognizes me. He can disappear before the ending, and he’ll disappear even when I do see the ending. I can’t save anything as well. There was no way for me to make him stay. No way for me to tell him all the things I want to say. I like you. Thank you. I could only fill up my likability gage and keep my numbers high to replace those words. October 2012, November, December, January 2013, February.... With the sounds of the mouse clicking, time passed. As he did in the bad ending route, Jisoo suddenly appeared in empty places. After the part where the wizard appears, he talked to Heejung, no me behind Heejung every single day. A month. A month isn’t even that long in reality; in the game, it flew by after a couple clicks. ‘I have my business class tomorrow... and...’ It was the last night. The ending was right around the corner. Heejung looked gloomy with graduation happening soon, and I met the night with the same gloominess while thanking god it’s a Saturday. [“Heejung.”] I knew that he was calling me with that name that was never mine. [“Is something going on with you?”] ‘Heejung’ asks, seeing Jisoo looking more down than usual. Jisoo did not answer. Not me, not Jisoo, none of us needed an answer. When the morning comes, Jisoo will return to his usual world as planned. Then he’ll lose his memories and go back to being on Heejung’s side, but he will no longer know ‘me’. So this night was the last night for me, Jisoo, and Heejung. [“Do you... remember the first time I called you?”] [“I don’t know about you but I was... happy.”] I should have been able to hear the voiceover, but ever since the lines changed, I couldn’t hear Jisoo’s voice. [“This ‘me’ was created to meet you.”] [“I realized why you are so lovable.”] [“I know that you tried hard to see me.”] [“Thank you.”] [“And I’m sorry. For not remembering, for always forgetting.”] [“When this moment passes and a new game starts, I won’t be able to remember you.”] [“The wizard will take away my memories.”] [“But you will remember me.”] “Whenever you start a game, wherever you are, whomever you’re with, I’ll find you and take you back.”] [“I’ll appear anywhere I can and stop you from talking with anyone else. I’ll make you talk with only me.”] I couldn’t help but smile. Jisoo would really do that. But Jisoo, will I be able to choose you again for my next game? Now whichever Jisoo I see, I’ll be reminded of you. You, who said so many things to me, you who recognized me. [“I love you.”] You said those words to Heejung countless number of times. But for the first and last time, you are saying them to me. [“I love you for opening up my world and choosing me.”] [“I love you.”] [“I wish you would love me next time too.”] With those last words, the screen turned white. Heejung didn’t understand what those words meant, but she reached out her arms and hugged Jisoo tight. I’m glad Heejung could stay by Jisoo’s side. There was more left to the story, but the story of Jisoo and me ended here. I couldn’t help but sigh. I finally closed my dried out eyes. I could feel the monitor’s brightness even with my eyes closed. Jisoo. If only I could let you hear my voice for at least one second, I wanted to say thank you. I couldn’t do anything in the end, but thank you. I want to meet you too. The next time, and the next time. I moved the mouse, whispering the words that will never reach him. The sounds of the click brought on the morning. * * * A man with dazzling gold eyes stands in front of a painting. He reaches out towards it. The forgotten memories of the past seeps out of the painting—the words he promised. I know that promise. “Wherever you are, whomever you are with, I will find you and take you back. That promise... I’m going to keep it right now.” It is the promise the man made so often. I know the man’s name. But the man does not know mine. Even to whom the promise was made to. But it’s okay. Jisoo, I will always remember. I clicked the mouse. It made the same sound it always did. Stains (Written by Dendo) The silver-haired man opened his eyes at the feeling of his consciousness slowly rising from the deep sea. It felt like someone was forcing it up. But the world rotated slowly as always, as if coaxing him that there’s no need to hurry. The man glanced around. He couldn’t even tell how much time had passed. There was nothing the man could figure out, except for a hint of where he might be. Brown and safe. The first color he recognized gave birth to other thoughts. Before he could find anything else, raindrops drizzled down, permeating the air as if it’d been waiting for the water. It wasn’t sight, touch, or even thought; it was a different kind of sense. He felt the words unable to form sentences line up sparsely and poke him around. He took in and perceived the hints delivered to him. He was in a warm colored space. There was no one, but a bustling hum crept in from somewhere and scattered into the air unable to be clearly recognized. But strangely, the man was taking it all in like a sponge despite his hazy head. He thought all the particles of air swishing past his fingers felt familiar. It was as if the things born with their form were visiting him and telling him long time no see. But that was only temporary. The man recognizing the forms of sound suddenly shook his head. A headache had suddenly stricken him, as if forcefully grinding two toothed wheels together. It was as if an invisible hand was pressing his brain, as if playing with play dough. He spit out clumps of breath as if it was his first time breathing in and out. ‘Jihae’ repeated slowly blinking his eyes. Even that insignificant act was painful to him. After spending a while clutching on to his head, Jihae realized the space he was in was strangely familiar. It was an artificial place crafted by someone. It was definitely a space he had never seen before. No, it was a space he was supposed to have never seen before. With his dry mouth he mumbled that something was weird, and it was only after he raised his head that he realized someone was sitting in front of him. The pretty thin eyes seemed to trace a curve. She wore a black ribbon on her hair and a dainty blue dress with white teardrops. She was speaking to him in her calm voice. Jihae. The sweet voice was asking him what kind of cake he likes in such a casual voice. Just a second ago, Jihae’s head was tangled up. He was flustered at how normal and insignificant the question was. He didn’t answer right away and lowered his gaze. He saw his new clothes that looked freshly pressed, but for some reason he felt that they were very old and worn out. It was as if he had been sitting at this spot, completely still like a doll. There must be a pile of dust fluttering around him. Or else, the air couldn’t be this stuffy. There was no way it could be this hard to breathe. At that moment, the first wall that blocked the man like an invisible force crumbled down. The consciousness that stayed buried deep down the sea finally rose up. Something started spinning in an incredible speed, and he raised his gaze to stare at her calm face. His neck squeaked and the invisible dust formed. For a moment, red and blue stains seemed to pass through his eyes, but then he could see her face clearer. Jihae didn’t say anything. She was also staring at him quietly. The gaze seemed to stay on him forever. No, it was not a straight gaze. It was completely empty. There was no way to tell the thoughts inside the gaze, but it was not from the eyes of a thinking person in the first place. There was no way a person who had thoughts could have such empty eyes. Oh, I see. Jihae made a bitter smile and muttered out the words that had been lingering on his lips so naturally for some time. He couldn’t even tell what he was saying. All he could do was repeat the normality transmitted from her questions. He realized what the strange feeling he had was. It was cruel, but he was facing the truth he had tried so hard to ignore and escape from again. He himself couldn’t tell how many times this had happened before, or if this was something ‘promised’ or something he thought by himself as a result of something. He was stuck in a crevice of time, unable to accept anything or get rid of anything. The man had simply returned to one of the countless number of empty memories he had. Jihae looked up at the sky, the light blue canvas with its pastel tone and shimmers of light. The sun shined through the tree leaves in its random and sporadic ways. The sky was so indifferent as always. Jihae stepped on the grey asphalt with his shoes, a couple steps behind the girl walking in front of him. But even then, it was not the asphalt but himself that was crushed like an egg hit by a stone. The sunlight stained the asphalt. Maybe it was because there were so many trees, but the sunlight seemed to be the shadows instead of the leaves. The green glistened. Grey leaves swaying along with the wind and the passersby, and the white shadows of the sun. Jihae stared at those with his cold face and kept walking away. The plastic bag he was holding onto rustled as if surprised, and sounded as if it was being crushed into small pieces. Jihae let out a sigh. This was a strange world filled with petty replicas, placed infinitely closed to ‘reality’ but ultimately only a fake. Everything was fake. It occurred to him that it must not have been that long since he realized all this, probably. The only reason for that last qualifying word was because there was no way he could be sure of anything. Jihae reached out his hand to stroke his fractured memories. Memories that held records of moments. Funnily enough, that’s what Jihae first thought of the dried out things. He felt sorry for the forgotten and the abandoned. Just a moment ago, he had the coldest face anyone could have, but now he looked vulnerable as if he would crumble down at any moment. He thought of how he had even lost those things, and how in the future he would have to lose himself as well. Jihae didn’t know. He didn’t know his existence and what that all meant. Everything was just a blur like the early morning fog. He was surrounded by the thick clouds that blocked his way and made him want to run away. He could see the path he had to go, but it was so far, and the thickening fog was armed against him. It was saying it would be dangerous to go in any further. He didn’t know what that ‘thing he wanted to go in further’ was. He could only guess that maybe it had something to do with the reason of his existence and something close to his ‘nature’. Then does that mean this has something to do with that? Jihae silently tagged behind her. And then he reached out his hand to grasp the swaying white hand. She seemed surprised and stammered his name. She gave a small embarrassed smile with her feminine face and rosy cheeks. Jihae faced her and smiled. It was strange. This time, he laid his fingers on top of hers and clasped her hand. This clasp should have filled him with something. As the sensation of hunger overcame Jihae, despair struck him. The despair soon turned into resignation, and Jihae felt the desperate need to acknowledge. At the same time something inexplicable kept on soaring up his throat and pained him. Although he never denied it, he knew that he’d be in pain every time he would have to face the things he’d been ignoring. He was seeing the old shadows he never erased and not the girl in front of his eyes. Something small swirled inside him. He gathered himself, taming the rising cold. She was too clear to be an illusion. Is she like the fog that blocked his memories, visible but never reachable? It can be touched but it will dimly fade away. But once you turn around, it will always exist at the same place. Is that what she is? Jihae clenched his other empty hand multiple times. It crossed his mind that maybe the fog was not her but him. When he returned home, the first thing he faced was a blonde boy. The man hiding his rabbit ears in a black hat nodded his head towards him. Jihae lowered his head a bit to say hello. Beneath the pale hand fixing the placement of his black hat, dust flew around. It was a second afterwards that Jihae remembered the man’s name. The man’s name was Jiwoo. There must be numerous other names but since there was no one around to call him by his real name or the nicknames, that was the only name he knew. Awkward silence fell for a moment. The two men never greeted each other friendly as pretending to be bright was not their usual suit. So all Jihae did was stare at Jiwoo’s face. Whether he did not know what to say or whether he simply did not feel the need to say anything was a mystery. Jiwoo seemed offended by the blatant stare and frowned his eyebrows, but he still spoke first. He spoke in a calm and light voice unlike his face. “Hey, you remember my name?” Jihae nodded calmly. Three seconds to be exact. Jihae hesitated for a second on whether he could ask first, but he took Jiwoo’s question as permission and asked. “Do you remember your name?” Jiwoo gave a small smile as if he understood. He seemed childlike despite the situation. “No. It’s been a long time since I’ve been called.” Jihae didn’t ask back like an idiot and just nodded his head. Jihae thought for a while on whether he should tell him his name. He didn’t even know his own name, but he thought it might be better to tell him the name he knew. Jiwoo seemed to see through his thoughts and waved his hand. “You’ll forget it anyways. No need to know.” “...You know.” “Everyone probably knows. Those crazy cats, your young master, or that guy who hosted this game. Though there’s no way to be sure now.” Young master. Jihae’s mouth shut tight as if planned. There’s no one in the house. She went into the room so it was only Jiwoo and Jihae in the same space. Jihae glanced around for a while and let out a long sigh. Jiwoo covered his face with his hat and passed by Jihae. “Then good luck.” When Jihae turned around, no one was there. He disappeared. Jihae stared at the front door, closed tight as if it would never open again. It wasn’t simply an act of opening the front door to leave. It felt as if he would never return. Jihae thought about the words Jiwoo said. It’s been a long time since I’ve been called. Everyone probably knows. “...Then good luck.” The last words he said were not words of encouragement. It was more dense and humid. The words from a man getting ready to forget everything again after seeing the chosen one were unidentifiable, mixed with all kinds of emotions like spices. But amidst that, there was two thing that strongly struck him. Resentment and disappointment. The disappointment of realizing that he’s not the one. Jihae shook off all the tangled knots creeping up from his leg and discarded them. Soon, the people inside the house slipped out one by one. The rabbit man from Kanos, the black cat, and the orange cat too. Jihae was surprised at how calmly they said bye before disappearing. Jihae didn’t bother to say bye. He felt like he’d see them again and he felt sure that he’d be right. And he didn’t want to say bye. He knew that they will be forgotten again and that they are on their way to forget again. He knew that although the method may differ, he’d also take the roundabout way towards disappearing. Only the young master could stay at the house because his guardian Jihae remained inside. Jihae sighed after seeing Jieun take a bite of an apple. Time was passing by so fast. Jihae knew that this meant that another ending was coming to this small and completed world. On occasions he really felt that amongst the normalcy of it all, he felt as if something was shaking him upside down. The end. Jihae mumbled that to himself. They were the two words that sunk in the most and yet felt so unfamiliar. The words slipped out of his mouth and fell to the floor. Rather than the vague thought of what could be waiting, Jihae imagined the face he’d make when he has to face the end. Jihae didn’t know if he’d be able to handle it. Sometimes he even thought that instead of him accepting whatever that’s on the other side of the fog, he might just be eaten up by what’s called ‘the end’—him and his memories. I am not afraid of being eaten up. --He wished he could say that to himself. He believed that she would fade away like all the numerous memories stored in him. If the only option was to fade away into just one of countless memories, if the only option was to be forgotten, then he just wanted his existence to be buried by her instead. Memories are records of moments. That’s what he said, but in fact, he had no way to know. His time and her time flowed differently. The thought that his day, his entire life, might simply be a momentarily passing like a handful of sand for her gave him more despair than he expected. Memories, moments, the past, and the future. She was both too far and too close for him to get attached to and he knew that this dream would be shattered in the near future. One time, he even dreamed of being happy with her. He felt as if there would come a day when he can reach his hand out to her warm hands and touch her on the other side of the thin but strong and endlessly thick glass. But he knew better than anyone else that that would never happen, so the hopes stopped mid air, unable to reach but unable to be cast away. She always came back in the endless never-changing summer. It didn’t matter that the green and grey were tangled up into unidentifiable pieces, since everything in his world was alive somewhere between a stilted past and a never approaching future. The moonlight shined above Jihae’s eyes. A deep long sleep was coming soon, a sleep that will not end until she comes back to wake him up again. It was time to revel in the deep darkness that had no expiration date. I will be waiting for her in the summer, the starting point of a year that will pass by slowly for the umpteenth time. Jihae reached his hand towards the girl in front of his eyes. He stroked her cheeks as if he was caressing a glass ornament with elaborate decorations. Jihae stared at the rosy cheeks turning red in an instant and felt despair at the faded warmth he felt. And then he erased his bitter smile in a hurry as to not show her such a face and put on a small smile. For the faceless, voiceless someone who is watching him on the other side. There were so many things he wanted to know. He wanted to know who kept on seeking him, who devoted so many empty white boxes of memories for him. He wanted to see the person’s face. He wanted to hear the voice calling out his name, and wanted eyes that would see the whole world in all its glory instead of these blurry eyes. Even if his wishes could never be fulfilled, he felt as though he could part with this pointless pain if he could see just once. “I’m sorry, miss.” But that is impossible. He could only agree. But for one last time, if he could just be selfish for once. “...If I have to forget, I would rather be forgotten. That’s better.” I do not want to forget. I no longer want to forget you. Jihae? For a moment, it seemed as if an unfamiliar voice overlapped with Heejung’s, but it soon disappeared. Although it was for a fraction of a second, Jihae felt as if he had just peaked into something that was the closest to her. Jihae gave a little smile. Although he could never pour out his true feelings, this was enough. Even if he never got what he hoped for, he managed to get something through. So perhaps it was time for him to feel a bit more comfortable. He reversed the world with light steps. The place he headed out to didn’t matter now that he did what he wanted to do. Jihae was having extreme thoughts unlike himself. The planned ending disappeared because of what he did but he was selfish and told himself it was fine. It was at that moment. Jihae saw something amidst the world flickering away and disappearing like bubbles. The face I saw across the black and invisible world. The black, flustered eyes. Jihae let out a smirk. It had to be now, when the end was near. It was the same for her and him. Even if what he just saw was what he thought it was or not, they were each other’s fog, and the ‘stain’ of this small and completed world. This is a dream of dreams and a monologue that will never be recorded. Even if you wake up you will live in your world and I will in mine. The only thing that I desired in that forever repeating memory is- You. Pressed Flower (Written by DUO) Memories will never be perfect, but time passed by as if it was saying there was no need to remember everything perfectly. It was just like the wind. Some days, it was quiet while some days it brought up a storm as if to uncover the past; some days it would be hinting the spring while it would be the winter wind indifferently passing by in the other. Whatever the flow is, the direction of the wind flowed into the two people who were the centers of my time frame—the person who held on to me, who let ‘me’ exist, and the person who called me into this world. They had shadows of similar shape, despite having been born and raised in two fundamentally different worlds. You were always smiling. Oh, I think even the way you cried was lovable. That smile sometimes reminded me of someone that I wished to erase from my memories, but sometimes it shined too bright for one person to see. So when you, named Heejung, when your face overlaps with that someone from my memories, I had to turn away. Yes, like when I couldn’t face your gaze and turned away. I thought that the smile was like a flower. It shined beautifully but that flower wasn’t fancy. It was even too simple. It emphasized the colors of the vase. But regardless of how fancy the vase is, the flower is ultimately what is important. So regardless of how you looked, you were a beautiful woman to me. The way I treated you or called you did not change. My lady. You liked me calling you this. You always had a smile, but whenever I called you that, your cheeks became rosy and your smile more innocent. At that moment, you looked like cherry blossoms in full bloom. Even amongst the repeating memories, that smile always different in their depth of happiness. How many times did I make you smile or cry in that cycle of life perpetually repeating in the same way? And how many times did I forget? Vases never change and continue flaunting their fancy colors, but the flowers loose their colors as time pass by. Even the thought of the last days frightened me so I tried my best to protect the flowers. I felt that all it took was a slight stumble for her vase to shatter into pieces. The body was thin and long, its surface thinly crafted. It protected itself with a kind of delicacy and that delicacy and beauty were walls that it constructed. I felt like the flowers would shatter too once the vase does. But even with its protective wall, if no one’s there to care for it, there was no way to know what it’s like in the inside. No way to know if the stagnant water was rotting or if the lack of water was drying everything out. So in this repeating cycle of life, I attempted to create a small ripple. I knew it was not allowed and yet I tried to take the flower out of the vase. I wanted to see your truest, whole form, not covered by the vase. “So this is what happened. ...Finally, we’ve met. “ I faced the surprised face and smiled a bit. I could see your face surprised in a different sense and hesitating to speak. I’ve met you like this countless number of times, only from a slightly different perspective. Now, it was as if I was peaking into the world on the other side of her eyes. Did she notice me peeking during that short moment? Did she really see me? I couldn’t know the answer, since you were still hidden behind ‘Heejung’. During the night when everyone and you were in deep sleep, I silently took out the sketchbook drawings that you secretly hid. I remember how your eyes glistened when talking about ‘wish’. What is your wish, my lady? I thought of you just smiling at my question although you knew I had the answer, and stroked the drawing. And I turned my eyes towards the dark window. “I am here, my lady.” * I was unexpectedly surprised while absent-mindedly clicking the “Memory” button like usual. I was surprised at those blue eyes that I like so much piercing through me. ..I must have seen it wrong. The eyes must have always faced straight. I must have remembered wrong. I shook my head in front of the monitor and sighed at seeing the familiar scenes pass by with my light finger movements. The first scene never had a glitch so I must have just seen it wrong. I relaxed and soon forgot about it. And then I exclaimed as usual. God, Jihae is so pretty. I always love hearing Jihae’s voice... I just stared at Jihae for a while but had to turn my head at my mom calling me. She was probably calling me for chores. There was no need to turn the game off. I put on a thin cardigan and left the room without touching my computer. See you later, Jihae! I mumbled those words towards the monitor where no one will be listening. I never noticed that the monitor screen was a bit different from usual in the empty room that would never give me a response. “I am here, my lady.” Fin. The one I hope to reach (Written by Hainen) I remember the moment I was born. I was drawn by someone’s hands, planted into the story someone had already created, and sent to be by someone’s side. So it was set from the beginning that I would never have dreams or hopes. “Jiwoo.” The girl in front of my eyes speaks to me. She is given the name ‘Heejung’ but unlike me, she isn’t aware of herself. So this doesn’t really matter to her. The one I hope to reach is the one behind her- “Jiwoo.” You were the one really calling me behind that puppet. You were not a character in a game like me. You were really alive and breathing. “...Stupid owner.” But my voice will never reach you. “The stupid owner is really stupid.” It will never reach you on the other side of that wall. “If you touch the bottom of my feet once more, I’ll really bite your finger.” I can only say words that are allowed. I guess I’m no more than a kill-time. “If you wish it desperately... we can meet again.” After the last moments of the game was only the good-bye. When the last page is read, I will have to go back to the empty darkness again and wait until you call my name. When you call me again, I will repeat the same words and be sad that I will never be able to reach you. “...Come here.” I know too, that all stories don’t have a happy ending, that sometimes there are sad endings, infuriating endings, and even pitiful endings. I also know that it is not something a character of the story can do anything about. But... But you know, just for once, I wanted to be the most romantic man on earth and tell you on the other side ‘I love you’ like everyone else does. [“If you touch my paw once more, I’ll really bite your finger.”] “Bite it. I’d still like you.” I also like your feet. I just mumbled like that and clicked on the mouse absent-mindedly. “I’m so not jealous of couples... While you spend all of your days smothering each other with peperos, I’ll enjoy my days with a rabbi whose feet are pink at the bottom...” Anyone would think I’m crazy to see me talk to myself while blankly staring at the monitor. But I was alone here and free to mutter to myself without having to care what anyone else would think. “I can’t believe I’m by myself on Pepero day and drooling over a 2D man.” I felt worse after saying that out loud. Of course, the rabbit inside the screen, Jiwoo was more lovable and perfect than any 3D man, but there was still a wall between what’s 2D and 3D. The monitor. I’m talking about the monitor. “Oh! What’s gotten into the world today? The café has a lap top.” I used the date system to go to the café, and when I clicked the option to look around, I saw the lap top item proudly sitting there. Today must be my day. How much would I get for that? Was it 1,000,000won? I think it might be more than that. I smiled and was about to click on the lap top when my screen suddenly turned green. What? It’s not even the blue screen. Green? “What the hell’s going on with this?” I was flustered at the screen suddenly turning green. I tried hitting the monitor and pressed the keyboard randomly. But nothing changed. “Oh god... Is this some kind of a bug? Should I report this...?” I felt like crying, but I had to do it. I was about to press the reset button. “Don’t press it!” Someone screamed in my ear. It was so loud that my heart almost sank. I was in a flurry but quickly remembered that I had put on my earphones. “The earphone...? But the game seems to have stopped and I’d never heard this line before...” The screen was still green. I decided to think that I just hallucinated that sharp voice and tried to press the reset button again. “I told you not to press it, you stupid owner!” It wasn’t a hallucination. I pinched my thigh just to double check and decided that that was the case. It was not only real but it was also such a familiar voice, the voice I’d heard a countless number of times while playing the game. It was Jiwoo’s voice. “I thought the game was turned off? And Jiwoo’s route...” “You are so stupid. You still don’t understand what’s going on?” I heard an answer to the question I asked myself. No, no. Wait. Get your shit together. There’s no way a computer can respond to you. “It’s a hallucination. I’m just hearing things...” “It’s not a hallucination. God, you’re frustrating me. Are your eyes at the back of your head? Can’t you see the screen?” I pinched my cheeks, thinking maybe my previous pinch was too weak, but it hurt the same. I started getting scared. “Um.... Are you by any chance replying to what I’m saying right now?” I was too flustered to talk properly, but I don’t think the other person cared. “Yeah, get it now? Stupid.” The voice and the tone was definitely Jiwoo’s, but the issue was why I was hearing Jiwoo’s voice replying to what I say. I stammered like an idiot and asked. “Wh, what’s going on?” “Look at the screen, the screen!” “The screen? It’s just green.” “What? No way...” Jiwoo turned quiet, and soon I heard a strange noise as if someone was banging their head on a wall. “Can’t believe I made this mistake... Hey, look here. Now you’ll see it.” As I turned my eyes back to the screen, I saw Jiwoo standing. He had his arms folded and chin raised. On the chat box were the words I heard Jiwoo say through my earphones. But there was no such image of Jiwoo standing, and there were no such lines. “...Am I seeing things now?” “No! Why can’t you just accept what’s going on?” “Then could you?!” I yelled to fight back and my throat hurt. While I coughed, I saw Jiwoo laughing at me on the screen. “Were you just challenging me with such petty vocal chords?” I had to accept that this was not a hallucination after hearing that overly realistic smirk. There was no way artificial intelligence could manage to do that. I gathered myself together, and asked calmly. “Alright. Let’s say this isn’t a hallucination. Can you please explain what’s going on then?” “Can’t you see? I escaped the cliché script and got to actually talk to you. Damn, do you know how frustrated I was? Why are all the lines here so cheesy? They say the same thing again and again... I was so sick of it.” I asked him for an explanation but he was only complaining. I interrupted the whiny bunny who would have gone on forever if I didn’t. “Okay. I get what you’re saying. So what just happened?” “It’s no use pretending you’re cool about all this. Yesterday, you were telling me to come out of the screen and drooling all over...” “Wa, wait.” Oh my god. Did he see all that? I was horrified to see Jiwoo’s evil smile. That face... He saw everything. He saw me glued to my computer drooling yesterday and a couple days before when I stuffed cold rice into my mouth. Even when I didn’t wash my face and yawned too hard I almost pulled my jaw muscle... He saw everything. Everything! “Wh, what do you want?” My voice trembled as I asked. Jiwoo’s smile grew wider. “Haha, now you get me. What I want is......” His rabbit ears stuck up proudly. “You becoming my slave.” “You should stop reading fan-fiction.” “My god. Did you just trivialize the greatest genre of all?” I was flustered at his sudden slave comment, but I soon understood why Jiwoo said that. After Jiwoo said let’s go home, the screen changed again to show Heejung’s room, and Jiwoo went to her bookshelf to take out a peculiar book called ‘Becoming his slave’. He said he’d been reading that book recently. “Do you know how heartbreaking this story is? A boy falls in love with a girl who doesn’t know she has a terminal disease......” “But why did you scream just now?” If I left him to go on, he’d have recited a book report. He didn’t seem too happy about being cut off and frowned, but he replied willingly. “Hey you, I knew you weren’t the most sensible person, but how could you?” “What?” “There were three stamps of my handsome face lying around. How could you think to grab the laptop first? You snob.” Did that rabbit just say with his own mouth that he’s handsome? And what? A snob? It’s so obvious that the lap top is rarer than a stamp! “Your face comes up every time anyways. Do you have any idea how many eye medicine I can get when I sell that lap top?!” “You are a snob! If you’re playing a dating game, all you should do is focus on the datable characters. Why are you being so materialistic?” “You need money to date, you idiot rabbit. Just look at those fan fictions you read all the time. At least one person is always rich!” I had the same thought I had while I talked to the screen this morning. Other people would find me completely crazy. “But really, what happened?” “What do you mean?” “Why can I suddenly... talk to you?” I was responding to everything Jiwoo shot at me, but I had no idea what was going on. All I was doing was playing the game and Jiwoo was a character on the other side of the monitor. Right now, it was as if I was video chatting with someone I really know. My thigh I pinched earlier still hurt too much for this to be just a dream, and Jiwoo’s voice was too real. “...I made a deal.” Jiwoo gave me an answer after a long silence, but it was ridiculous. “Deal? Wait, you’re not saying you made a deal with the wizard, are you?” “That’s what I said.” “But that's, that’s...... just a part of the game.” I couldn’t help but smirk a bit, and Jiwoo glared at me. “This game is a solid world of its own. And that wizard has absolute authority at least in this world. Even being able to... talk to you when you’re outside of the game.” “Really? But if you explain all that to me, wouldn’t it be a, what’s that called, a ‘breach of contract’? In the common route when Heejung asked about the contract, all the animals refused to answer. All they said was that to tell her would be a ‘breach of contract’. Jiwoo let out a sigh. “This deal is a bit different. There is only one thing that I can’t tell you this time.” “What is it?” “I just told you that I can’t tell you, you idiot.” Jiwoo scolded me. “Alright, alright. I’m sorry. But the wizard would never have made the deal for nothing in return. What did you offer?” “That’s...” Jiwoo evaded answering as if he was unhappy about it. I didn’t know if Jiwoo could see, but I hurried him with my eyes. “...You being in pain. That was the cost.” “What?” “According to that pervert’s script, you will have no choice but to cry and be in pain at the end. That’s what the wizard wants.” The cost... is me being in pain? But... “But, why would the wizard...?” “We might just be characters in a game for you, but you’re not the same to us.“ Jiwoo’s green eyes stared straight at me, as if he could see me on the other side of the screen. “We... and I knew from the beginning that you were on the other side of the monitor, that behind the puppet owner, you were there. That means that the ‘heroine’ the master obsesses on is you.” “...That’s ridiculous.” “Then are you saying I’m lying you stupid? Anyways, I made a deal, and from now on, I can talk to you in my route.” ‘In my route’? Then does he mean he can’t talk to me in any other character’s route...? I wanted to ask more but Jiwoo drooped his ears and shook his head. “I can’t talk to you for very long. The owner doesn’t know anything, even the fact that she’s a character in the game, that she’s a puppet for the real ‘heroine’. She doesn’t know that this all just repeats itself.” “Oh... Then you have to talk to me without Heejung knowing?” “Yeah. Right now, I just temporarily cut off her consciousness, but I can’t stall any longer.” Jiwoo posed like his familiar standing image. And he put up his drooped ears and said. “Don’t waste your time on anyone else’s route from now on and just aim for me. Okay?” “What about my free will?” “Yeah right. Idiots don’t have free will.” Jiwoo blinked once after bickering and then everything suddenly came back to normal. By normal, I mean familiar texts and lines passed by, the standing images didn’t move, and the game was how it always used to be. “What just happened...?” Except for my messed up head, everything was back to the way it was. After that, I didn’t touch my computer for a long time. Although it hurt when I pinched myself and I fell asleep and woke up multiple times, I still felt as if I was dreaming. So for some reason I felt nervous, as though if I see Jiwoo talk like that again in my dream, the dream will shatter into pieces. ‘But, what if this isn’t a dream?’ What if Jiwoo is really waiting for me on the other side of the screen and tried to meet me by making that mysterious deal with the wizard? Then wouldn’t I be abandoning the person who needs me right now? “...I must be insane.” In the end, I sat in front of the computer again, turned on Dandelion, and went into Jiwoo’s route. And the moment the game started, I took out my earphones and threw them away. So that I don’t turn deaf. “You idiot, why are you so late!” He screamed so loud that I heard his voice split. I could still hear the scream after taking out my earphones. I could only cover my ears to escape from that horrendous scream. I put them back on after his screams died down a bit. And at the same time, I thought that this is a dream. Yes, this had to be a dream. “You, really, god...” Jiwoo was fuming at me with his hoarse voice and I had no choice but to give him my excuses. “We, well I needed time to think after going through all that.” “Since when did you ever think? You said all you needed was me. You said with me by your side, you didn’t need the sun or the oxygen! I’m finally talking to you and you need time to think?!” ...I said that? “How do you remember all that...?” “I remember every single thing you said, you idiot!” Jiwoo was fuming with his face all red. He must be out of breath. “You are so smart. How do you memorize all that?” “I am not a commoner like you. I have good genes and I was very well educated. Don’t consider me your equal.” Wow, I say something nice and that’s all he can say. “Yeah, yeah. You are so smart, young master.” “You, that young master....!” How can a rabbit be more picky than a cat? I waited until Jiwoo calmed down more to speak. “I’ll come every day from now on.” “...What? Really? For real?” “Yeah.” Jiwoo’s ears swung back and forth as he said with his red face. I wanted to say he looked cute, but he’ll surely bicker when I say it. Oh god, I want to ask him to show me his paws. “As you said, I like you.” “How, how can you just say it like that...?” Like that, I surrendered to my dream. Come to think of it, so what if this was a dream? Isn’t this what every gamer dreams of? “I’ll come every day.” As I promised to Jiwoo, I turned on my computer every single day to play Jiwoo’s route. Since Heejung could never know, we could only talk for a maximum of ten minutes at a time, but all I had to do was turn off the game and turn it back on. It was such a nice system. “The wizard is very talented.” “God, don’t talk about that creep. He’s a pervert.” “Why? He’s good looking.” And since Jiwoo got mad and started screaming every time I say something nice about another character, it was fun to tease him and see him react. Talking to Jiwoo was so fun in many ways, so much so that I wished this weren’t a dream. “I’m glad I can talk to you,” “Hey that’s something a guy’s supposed to say!” While bickering with Jiwoo, I felt as though I was sucked into the screen and was right by Jiwoo. Come to think of it, I think I’ve always unconsciously thought that. I always imagined what would happen if this monitor that’s in between Jiwoo and me disappears, if I really get to have a genuine conversation with Jiwoo. My wish was fulfilled at least in my dreams. I was nervous about when this dream would end, but I was happy while talking to Jiwoo for a week. I was so happy. “You know, Jiwoo.” On the seventh day, I was at the theater with Jiwoo. It’s Heejung sitting beside Jiwoo on the screen, but I was definitely with him. “Why. Again. I told you to just wait if it’s boring. You should be thankful that we can date like...” “No, that’s not it.” God, this rabbit knows how to take everything the wrong way. “I’m really happy right now.” “Huh... Huh?” “To be honest, I was always... sad while playing the game. I was sad that you were only a character in a game... I liked you so much, but felt so sad at the thought that you were just 2D.” I thought Jiwoo would tell me not to embarrass him, but he stayed quiet. On the chat box, only ‘......’ was coming through. “This is a dream for me... but I think this is the happiest dream of my life. Thank you, Jiwoo.” “Hey... stupid master.” “It’s a dream... but I don’t want to wake up.” Jiwoo was sitting on a chair on the screen, but it changed to a standing image of him. Jiwoo’s face was dark. Huh? Why that face all of a sudden? “Jiwoo? “Yes, to every story... there is an end.” Jiwoo was suddenly not making sense and his ears were drooped completely. I thought he was about to pretend to be sentimental like he always did, but for the past week I could tell how he felt just by looking at his ears. Jiwoo is... Jiwoo, why are you... being so sad? “Did I say something wrong?” “...No. The only thing you did was be an incredibly stupid idiot.” This jerk. “Hey, I’m not that stupi.......” “A week... is too short even for the romance genre. You are really so, so, so stupid.” The screen suddenly shook. What? What is this? Is there a bug or something? Jiwoo sighed to see my flustered face. “Since it’s all over now, I guess I can tell you,,, Listen carefully, you idiot. The fact that there was one thing I could never tell you. And the fact that we can no longer be with each other like this.” Jiwoo reached out his hand towards me. But there was no way he could reach me. Jiwoo groped the invisible wall as if he was putting his hand on a glass wall and gave a hollow smile. “The game was supposed to end the moment you concluded that this is a ‘dream’ and said you never wanted to wake up.” The screen started shaking more. It was as if someone was purposefully trying to cut the connection. The screen crackled and made unpleasant sounds. “I just barely made it out... You could have let us stay together for just a bit longer, you idiot.” “Wa, wait,,, Then what’s going to happen now? I’m not going to be able to talk to you anymore?” “No. Never.” Jiwoo said firmly. He didn’t leave room for any questions. That was too harsh. I didn’t know anything. How can he just say ‘the end’ so abruptly? I just liked being with him. I was only saying I never wanted to be apart... “I, I don’t think this is right. The wizard. Can’t you talk with the wizard?” “...That bastard will soon look for you. And there will be nothing I can do.” I understood the meaning behind his words amongst the confusion. “You won’t even be able to... see me?” “...Idiot.” Jiwoo mumbled in a small voice and turned his back against me. No... Wait. Wait. Wait for me. “Th, then,,. why did you make the deal with the wizard? It was a game you were going to lose! Why the hell,,.” “I wanted to meet you” “What?” The annoying noise grew louder. It sounded as if I was in a crumbling tunnel. But I couldn’t take out my earphones. Jiwoo was still speaking. Jiwoo, my rabbit... “I wanted to meet you and talk to you. I didn’t want to just repeat the programmed words like a machine, but tell you the genuine things I wanted to say...” With a bang, the screen completely crashed. My hand slipped away from the mouse and I drowned into my chair. What, what the hell is this? I thought it was a dream. It all ended but what am I not waking up? I have to wake up. I have to realize that nothing happened to me, that this pain I’m feeling was just a nightmare... At that moment, words appeared on the black screen. And I heard a new voice coming out of my earphones. “Finally we meet, heroine.” The words were in purple, and the voice was dreamy. “Nice to meet you. You ended the game faster than I thought you would. I should thank you.” It was the wizard. “This is... a dream. What am I not waking up?” I barely opened my mouth to say those words. I could hear the wizard laughing. “If you think this is a dream, well, think however you want. This is not a dream for me. Of course, even for your pour rabbit.” “Why is this happening...?” “Why did I plot this whole thing, you mean? Well... You’ve watched us for long enough. Can’t you guess? That I’m obsessed with the heroine... obsessed with you.” ...What is he saying? It’s just a game. That’s just a game. Why is this happening when that’s all just a game? “To be honest, I only realized very recently that I could interfere with the world outside of the game.” “...Don’t bull shit when you’re just stuck inside a screen.” “Gosh, so harsh. Why are you so mad, heroine?” Listening to the wizard’s voice infuriated me. I never disliked the wizard, but I felt so pissed to hear his voice right now. No. This is not the voice I should be hearing. The voice I’m supposed to hear is,,, louder, whiny, and annoying... Jiwoo’s voice. Why is he here and not Jiwoo? “...If you knew that you could interfere the world outside of the game, you could have come straight to see me. Why did you pull Jiwoo into this?” “Hmm... Was it because of that?” The wizard’s voice turned low, as if he was displeased what I said. “Why are you only sorry for that rabbit? I, too, along with the other characters, was stuck in the never-ending cycle, just waiting for you... They all at least had the chance to be with your puppet, but I had nothing. Even in that programmed script, there was no place for me by your side.” I could hear his teeth grinding. What he said wasn’t wrong. The wizard character was never datable, and unlike the other characters, he didn’t have his own route... “But that’s... that’s not my fault. And why Jiwoo? What did Jiwoo do wrong?” “Because he was the character you loved most.” The wizard answered disapprovingly. “He was most loved by you, and because of that, that rabbit loved you more than all the other animals. So he agreed to the deal I offered and even though he’d never be able to see you again once the game ends... he wanted to talk to you at least once. Hmm, come to think of it, I guess I was the bridge of love. I let you two meet, didn’t I? I grabbed the monitor and shook it. “I knew you were crazy but this is way passed that. Bring him back. I didn’t hear everything he had to say and there are still so much left for me to tell him! If I’d known I’d have...” “It’s not that bad watching you get angry.” He replied in such a spiteful way that I wanted to punch him. “But heroine, I am a nice wizard who loves you. If you want, I can turn back time to the week before.” “What...?” I stopped shaking the monitor like crazy. Back to the week before? Does he mean the day Jiwoo first talked to me? “Oh of course... you know what the price will be for your wish, right? “...You.” Nice wizard my ass. You will always be the villain. I put up my middle finger towards the screen. As Jiwoo could, the wizard seemed to be able to see me, since I heard a big laugh. “But will you be able to refuse my hand? Like your rabbit did, you will have no choice but to accept my deal.” Two choices appeared on the pitch-black screen. Of course, it was whether or not I’d choose to accept the wizard’s offer. “...You know the answer I’ll give you. Why do you even bother to give me a choice?” “Just to keep the formality. This is, after all, a game.” I moved the mouse without hesitation to click the choice of accepting the wizard’s offer. The choices disappeared and the wizard came on screen. He had his arms wide open as if greeting a customer. “Of course, as expected. But even if you lose your memories and go back to the week before, you will not change. Again, you will not be able to accept that everything is real and insist that it’s all a dream. Again, you will end up hurting your rabbit.” “Shut up and just turn back the time.” “Well, good. This is good for me as well. If I turn back time, I will be able to meet you again a week after...” White light blinded my sight. [If you touch my paws once more, I’ll really bite your finger.] “Go ahead. Bite me. I’d still like you.” I clicked on the mouse absent-mindedly. Jiwoo inside the screen was staring at me arrogantly. “God, why isn’t a man like this in my life?” I couldn’t help but sigh. I mean, I’m only saying this because I was alone. If my parents or my brother were around, I wouldn’t have even dreamt of it. Can’t believe I’m in love with a 2D character and lamenting the real world of 3D... “Huh?” I was skipping through most of the scenes when I felt like something strange just passed by. That’s weird. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that scene before. On the screen, Jiwoo was sitting at the sofa and staring straight ahead. It was as if he was trying to stare the person in front of him down. “What’s gotten into that rabbit,,, It this some sort of hidden event? But there wasn’t anything like that while I played all this time...” “Why are you making such a stupid face?” ...What? Am I hallucinating? “I’m seeing things..” “It’s real you idiot. Open your eyes and listen to what I have to say right now.” “Then aren’t I supposed to open my ears?” He ignored my innocent attack. Wait, did I just talk back to the computer? “Wh, what?” “You know... you should...” Jiwoo inside the screen grinned. “Become my slave.” Answer (by Wild flower) “...You are so dumb.” I turned my head at the unexpected punch. Jiyeon was staring at the long brown hair gently swimming through the wind and gave a bitter smile. The boy who resembled the sunset, no, the man should I say. He still had strong traces of a boy to say he’s an adult, but too grown up to be just a boy. Heejung stared at Jiyeon with her questioning brown eyes. “What do you mean? “You are- oh, never mind. You won’t understand. Yeah, you probably won’t... Forever.” What was he talking about? Heejung tilted her head. Her brown hair flowed smoothly along with her movement. Jiyeon silently reached out his hand. He stroked Heejung’s cheeks and lowered his gaze. His ears with orange tints drooped. He didn’t answer to Heejung’s question and just kept his mouth closed. After a long pause, Jiyeon raised his head. His lowered eyes were unfamiliar. “...Hey, you really like me right?” “Yes, of course.” A delicate hand stroked Jiyeon’s hair. The soft white hand was disheveling his hair, but Jiyeon said nothing as he felt her touch with his lowered gaze. “...You’re not even real.” “Huh? What did you say, Jiyeon?” “Nothing! Hey do you want a mandarin? Mandarins have a lot of vitality C in them so they’re good for your body!” It’s vitamin and not vitality, Jiyeon. Jiyeon stared at Heejung as she chuckled, and smiled bitterly. His eyelashes, the same color as his hair, trembled slightly. She wasn’t real. It’s one of those animal, no a street smart cat’s instinct. Jiyeon had a vague sense of what was going on. His head understood it first. His instinct knew best. At first, it was just a guess. He thought she was a bit strange when he saw her give him a box of mandarins with a big smile, but it was only a question, a guess. He kept watching her and kept feeling his instincts were right. But he had no clear evidence. Jiyeon slowly caught Heejung’s eyes. Her eyes weren’t really meeting his. She’s like a doll, Jiyeon unknowingly mumbled this to himself often. It wasn’t just that Heejung wasn’t looking at him straight in the eyes. It was more that he felt something strange from her eyes that made Jiyeon stare at Heejung time to time. Heejung used to worry if he was sick but now she was used to his strange gazes and acted like normal, as if she never cared in the first place, or as if she was ‘made’ to do so. Jiyeon leaned towards Heejung and blinked. “You know, Heejung. What if this is all a dream? “Why do you say that, Jiyeon?” “...You already know the answer.” What answer? Seeing Heejung widen her eyes and look at him, Jiyeon smiled bitterly. As he silently shook his head, his silky orange hair blew in the wind. He liked her so much. He thought they had overcome the misunderstanding and committed themselves to each other. But that wasn’t it. “-I hate you.” “Ji...yeon?” Heejung’s world started swirling. Jiyeon was covering her trembling sight. His eyes peaking through his bright orange hair glowed. Heejung realized that she was standing straight. Though she wasn’t drunk or Jiyeon wasn’t shaking her body, her sight was messed up. It felt as if someone was holding onto her and shaking her. What’s going on? Heejung reached out her arms and groped the air, but after a few missed swings, she grabbed the wall behind her. She could finally blink. Jiyeon just stared at Heejung silently. She was an important person to him. She was his girl, kind and generous. He also knew that it was too late now to turn things around. So... he was more furious. -Is this the doings of the wizard too? “Heejung. Are you okay? Do you want a mandarin? “...Huh? Oh, no. I’m fine. Sorry for worrying you.” “Heejung,,, You look really tired. You’re not sick, are you? If you are, Jiyeon will be so sad...” Heejung forced a smile towards Jiyeon who had his ears drooped low and sounded like he was about to burst into tears. The strange feeling she felt from Jiyeon just now still tied her up. Heejung leaned against the wall with her trembling body and blinked a couple times. Her dizzy view slowly calmed down. She wasn’t feeling sick or anything. She had no idea why her sight suddenly went crazy. She bit her lips. After her dizziness settled down, she let go of the wall and gripped her skirt. This was just too strange. “Hey, if you’re tired, you can take a nap.” “I’m fine...” “I’m not! If you get sick, Jisoo’s going to scold me. Jisoo’s a mean cat. He hits my head like this and doesn’t shower! And I want to visit you when you’re sick~!” ...You mean take care of me when I’m sick. Heejung knew right away that Jiyeon said something wrong again, but she didn’t correct him and just smiled. It was nothing, but Jiyeon always cared for and followed her. That made her happy. That’s what she thought. As Heejung smiled with her eyes and reached her hand out to stroke his hair, Jiyeon smiled back. In the end, Jiyeon held on to her hands and laid her on the bed. Heejung repeatedly said she’s fine but soon fell asleep anyways as Jiyeon sat by the bed watching her. She’s stupid. She said she was fine. His mumbled words reached no one and disappeared like the fog. Heejung wasn’t listening, but ‘that’ person must have been. Or, ‘that’ person was seeing. Jiyeon reached out his hand to stroke Heejung’s disheveled brown hair. The soft touch lingered on his fingertips and disappeared repeatedly. “I like you... But do you really like me...? You’re not real. Am I really ‘Jiyeon’? This thought that the person was lost because of me, this memory... Are these really mine? -I know everything. These unspoken words lingered inside my mouth. Jiyeon swallowed those words. The person who likes me is always watching me. It’s not the sister in front of my eyes. He felt as though if he spat out those words, the world he’s in will come crashing down. Jiyeon shut his trembling lips. I’m so scared, Heejung. I feel like if I talk, everything will disappear as if they never existed. You’ve always been so nice to me. You’ve always told me everything will be fine, hugging me tightly and whispering to me that you like me. I’m so afraid you will disappear. Jiyeon laid his trembling hand on the top of the bed head. Heejung’s silky hair had sprayed out to embroider the pillow. My sparkling, my precious girl. Jiyeon leaned down slowly. His lips lightly touched Heejung’s white forehead and left. “...You know, Heejung...” He had on a bitter smile. “It’s not you who likes me, but the other person behind you, right? As soon as I laid out those words, the sounds around him stopped. He could tell that Heejung’s rhythmic breathing stopped. Jiyeon slowly raised his gaze. After a couple blinks, he was standing in a pitch-black world with nothing around him. It was so dark he couldn’t tell whether he was standing on the ground or mid-air. His hand that was placed on the bed was frozen mid-air as if it was trying to touch something. Of course, I see. Jiyeon gave a little smile and took back his hand. “...You are so dumb.” Even to the end, Heejung didn’t realize who she is. Jiyeon knew that he was ‘going back’ to the far distant place. He could maybe lose the memory of all the things he realized. It was as if the wizard who feeds off on memories took away his memories before the end of the game. No, actually his memories were about to disappear. His animal instinct told him that. Jiyeon pricked up his ears a couple times, and locked his hands together to put them behind his head. He felt better after whistling. Jiyeon realized his sight was becoming more and more blurry. Jiyeon laughed at himself and stared into the void. Nothing was visible in the black world. Heejung, I miss you. Jiyeon mumbled to himself and closed his eyes. “I don’t want to hurt you next time, but will I be able to avoid that? Heejung...” “What, I thought there was a bug. Why did the screen suddenly shake like that?” A girls’ voice interrupted the silence. The square screen was filled with a boy with orange hair smiling bitterly. The girl moved her hand to shake the mouse, and after a couple clicks, she held onto the screen and shook it again. “It’s not making sense... God, why is it stopping? What am I supposed to do now? I’ll just shut it off and reload it I guess. Is all clearing worth all this? Ugh...” With the sound of bristling clothes, the chair gave a squeak. Click, the sound of a button being pressed. The screen filled with the orange-haired boy turned black. With D.D (Written by SKY) “Jiyeon! It’s finally your turn!!” You played me last. You liked me a lot, even though I could only say chosen words. I think I came to secretly hope for me to be your last love. But that’s a ridiculous thought. I love you, but this feeling cannot reach you. ‘Boring.’ Everything is dark. It’s already been months since I hung around this vast dark space by myself. It’s been months since she started the game. I don’t know where the others are. But every time they meet the story’s end, they all forgot everything about her. And then they all go back to the beginning, someone else is chosen, the ending is met, and everything is forgotten again. All is repeated and yet... “I am the same.” My mumbling voice echoed through the empty space. No one was here. Not other datable characters, not the wizard, and not even the puppet ‘Heejung’ who acts in her place. When the game is turned off, everyone disappears like dust. “I wonder what she’s doing~” I rolled around and thought of her face. The last time I saw her face was a few months ago when she cleared me, in other words, the day the game ended. I never saw her after that. “If I’d known this would happen, I would have said more things I wanted to say...” I let out a big sigh, filled with regret. I was waiting for her like this, but I knew the truth. The game ended. There was no reason for her to come see me.” “Anyways, is no one coming? Why am I here by myself?” I pouted and rolled around the black space, complaining to myself. “Of course no one is. Since you are like a virus in this space. Hahaha.” Suddenly everything turned bright with a crackling voice. “?! What? Who are you?!” It’s too bright I can’t see anything! “Th, the cat and... the rabbit?!” The light gradually died down and I heard a female voice I haven’t heard in a long time. And in front of my eyes... Was her. The face I wanted to see for so long was in front of my eyes. “Long time no see, Heejung! I missed you!” I was so glad to see her that I spit out the words without realizing what was going on. And I flinched at the same time. Whose voice is this? A squeaky mechanic noise echoed through the space. The annoying noise made her frown. “Huh, huh?” The mechanic noise again. “Hee, Heejung, can’t you hear my voice?” After hearing that noise, she peered into the machine assuming it was broken. “....” I clearly spoke. But all that came out was a mechanic noise. This confirmed everything. I can really only say what’s been decided. After that, I couldn’t speak to her. The person I’d been waiting so long for was finally in front of me but I couldn’t say a word, no different from a puppet...! I was fuming inside when suddenly everything around me turned dark. What’s going on? “Finally it’s time for you to become a human. But you can’t talk to her. What are you going to do? Hahaha” The crackling voice... I came back to my senses. I didn’t recognize who it was because of the mechanic sound, but now I could recognize who the voice belonged to despite that. “You’re the... wizard?” Why is the wizard here? The way I remember it, the wizard didn’t appear in this part. “You must be wondering why I’m here.” The wizard said with his provoking smile. For some reason, the mechanic noise from his voice slowly disappeared. “...” “Don’t glare at me like that. I just came to see how you were doing.” The wizard said with a smirk on his face. I tried to answer but I couldn’t open my mouth. No to be exact, my whole body was frozen. Seeing me get flustered, the wizard gave a menacing smile and spoke. “You are such an annoying thing. A mere virus that never disappears unless someone forces you to.” ...Me, a virus? I widened my eyes and asked silently. But the wizard ignored my plea and continued. “Well, but is it not important since that’s all? Since you can’t even talk to her anyways. Hahaha.” With those last words, everything turned back to normal. I felt disturbed for some reason. A couple days passed since then. She played the game every night and the story was heading towards the end. “I want to... stay with Heejung!” No we cannot stay together. While this wall stands in between me and her, it’s impossible... “...Regardless of what happens, if I wish it desperately... We can be together.” It’s a lie. I was lying. I was only saying what was programmed for me, but I was still lying. No matter how much we desperately wish, we can never be together. Never. You know that too. You know better than anyone else... Then how can you still like me? The sorrow, frustration, and questions all tangled up and I felt them kick up to my throat. I want to tell her. I want to tell her all the thoughts I had while waiting. But they won’t reach her. I can see the end of the game coming near... When this ends, you won’t return to me, right? You’ll see another guy and not me, right? After that thought crossed my mind, I hugged my body so hard it’d crush. But I did not scream in pain and my body was not crushed into pieces. Heejung, I want to make you mine. I want to always keep you by my side. I wanted to talk to her, at least for a second. When I realized that desire, I thought of a way. To be honest, I was a bit reluctant... but this was the only way to reach her. “Hello, Mr. Kitty. Long time no see.” “I knew you’d come.” “...It’s almost time, isn’t it?” I had prepared myself for this. The moment to say good bye to her was coming. It could come any moment now. As always, the ending was already set. “You know very well.” “...Wizard, let’s make a deal.” ...But this time, it will be a bit different. The wizard finally met Jiyeon! I was about to click the mouse while thinking the end is really near when all of a sudden I heard a screeching mechanic sound and the screen turned white. Everything froze. What? It was okay for a while but now this again. “What’s really wrong? Does it have a virus or something?” I asked around if this was happening to others as well, but I was the only one with problems so it wasn’t a server error on Cheritz’ part. So my computer’s to blame here... I was wondering on whether I should go get it checked up. “I am amazed. Sending away all the competitors and hogging the heroine... I never thought you had it in you.” I heard the wizard’s mocking voice and the game continued on. “Was it just an error?” I was confused for a second but I was too focused on the game and just kept playing. “Why do you obsess over her?” The wizard listened to what Jiyeon had to say and just laughed. “The harder something is to obtain, the more you desire it.” “......” While the wizard was grinning, Jiyeon put on a strange face. Hmm? I’ve never seen him make that face before. The lines seemed to be different from what I remember, but that was not the point. “There was an expression that I didn’t catch!!” I quickly turned on the screen capture program to save the face I’d never seen from Jiyeon. At the same time, I saw that the clock on top of the screen was telling me it was really late. “Can’t believe time passed by so fast...” I refused to be dead the next morning so I didn’t check the screenshot I so happily took and continued straight on to playing the game. After that, the story progressed as if nothing happened. “Please be happy until then. Even though this might be your last time with her. Hahaha” ...I think the wizard just mumbled something but I couldn’t really hear it because of the crackling noise. Should I really get my computer checked out? Anyways, although it was late, since I came this far I was very intent on seeing the ending today. I continued clicking the mouse. The CG of Jiyeon finally as a human filled the screen. Finally the end!!! I was excited but sad at the same time, and clicked my mouse to go to the next screen. “...Huh?” It was weird. The screen was all white. I’m supposed to see the ending scene here... But suddenly, my thoughts were interrupted with Jiyeon’s voice. “Finally... The game’s finally finished.” The voice sounded like when Jiyeon got excited. What? This never happened before. On the white screen were captions that spelled out the voice. “You have no idea how long I waited for this... Can you hear my voice?” I decided to pretend to be crazy and call out Jiyeon’s name. “Is, is it Jiyeon?” “Yes!! I’m Jiyeon!! You can hear my voice!” I felt goosebumps crawling up my spine. Am I hearing things after playing the game for so long...? The other side must have noticed my frozen face. Jiyeon asked in a worried voice. “You don’t look so well. Are you sick? “...” “Hey...?” “N, no I’m fine! Of course I’m fine Hahaha...” I spaced out for a bit. I’m talking to a computer... Is the datable character from the game calling me right now? “You don’t look well at all. Well, I guess it’s natural that you’re tired since you played until this late.” Jiyeon said as if he was nodding. I barely opened my mouth to speak. “Wh... what’s going on? How can you talk...” “I made a deal with the wizard. I switched my existence for the chance to really talk to you,” “What are you...” “But first, hey...” Jiyeon cut my words and spoke me in a sincere voice. “I can only talk with you for a very short amount of time, so I can’t say everything I want to say, but there is something I really wanted to tell you.” “......” “Thank you... for liking me when I was in a completely different world. I could only say programmed lines and make programmed faces but you still liked me. Thank you so so much. I am so happy to be able to speak to you. My heart keeps jumping and I have pleasant butterflies in my stomach. I want to be with you forever.” Jiyeon quickly spat out all those words but stopped. He then continued in a sad voice. “...But that’s not possible, is it?” “Please don’t forget me... Even if I disappear... don’t forget that I really liked you and loved you so so much.” It was only for a second, but Jiyeon’s face appeared on the screen. With his last crying and smiling face, Dandelion ended. I felt like a storm had just passed. I couldn’t forget the last face Jiyeon made. I mumbled towards the computer. “I’m the one who has to thank you... for making me happy.” The early morning light was seeping into the room through my window. Another Story(the story never to reach you) by Ryu In fact, Jieun... knew from the beginning. He knew that to the girl on the other side they were only ‘game characters’. Not any one of them could deny the fact that they were crafted by someone to exist in something called a ‘game’, so Jieun couldn’t say her thoughts were wrong. But separate to that... his heart ached. ...Even though their world was artificially created, it definitely existed as they too did. It was undeniable that they were game characters in a game world... but it was also undeniable that they had their own identities and were alive and breathing in this world, although she never knew. ...It would be a lie to say he never resented her. But he couldn’t blame her when she didn’t know anything. But one day he started to... wish that maybe one day... she would recognize him for real. A small and desperate wish... hoping that she’d get to know his existence some day... But Jieun could never articulate the words he thought so much about, the wishes he held so dear to her. He didn’t want to trouble her with his almost child-like fantasies. And to be more honest... it was a bit frightening. Jieun was afraid of a future that even he could not predict with his powers. “Eddie...” “Young master...?” Jieun leaned towards his kind butler asking back in a surprised voice, and shared a part of himself that he previously made sure to hide deep inside. “Eddie... When I think of her... my heart aches... Why does this happen...?” When the words made their way through his thin, slow voice, the silver-haired butler did the only thing he could do for his young master in tears, open his arms. Young master... The silver-haired butler carefully patted his vulnerable and small shoulders, hoping it would somehow comfort the young one. *** Jieun quietly stared at Heejung as she peeled an apple for him. No, to be more exact, Jieun was focusing on the girl on the other side, in a place he couldn’t see. Those ruby eyes were stained with affection and sorrow as usual. He felt sorry towards Heejung, but he couldn’t help but think of her whenever he looked at Heejung. Jieun felt a bit depressed and continued thinking of her while taking the apple from Heejung. Does she like apples like he does? Does she hate broccoli like he does? What does she like to do? What does her smile look like...? No matter how often he thought of her, he didn’t know anything... not even the smallest thing about her. And that fact made her existence an illusion, which made Jieun sad. Even the sweet apple seemed to taste bitter today. ...What face are you making right now? Are you smiling like the girl in front of me...? “I hope you are smiling...” Jieun muttered to himself, but the piece of his heart that will never reach her melted in to the blue sky outside and disappeared without a trace. The pale boy looked at the clear and beautiful sky unlike the storm inside his mind, and just gave a small bitter smile. *** I feel... such warmth in my arms right now, but this warmth is not yours. Jieun looked down at Heejung in his arms. The slightly unfocused ruby eyes were looking at Heejung, but not really. When did this begin? ...And why? Why did I... fall for this faceless girl? At first, it didn’t matter that he was a character crafted by someone, that this world was someone’s creation. There was the instinctual averseness and the following annoyance but they weren’t much of a bother. And that applied to the ‘girl’ on the other side of ‘Heejung’ whom we called the ‘player’. She was a faceless voiceless existence anyways, never in Jieun’s radar. At least, that was how it should have been... But since some time, he could never pinpoint it, but as the game progressed, all her actions and words came in through Heejung as raindrops that soaked his heart. He never knew whether those were true or mere lies- but the feelings turned into mild interest, to affection, and finally to love... Now just the thought of her made him soar with happiness, and made him so sad tears would well up. You know, I’m aware that your world and my world are very different. I can’t believe that one day, one month here... is only a couple minutes in your world. Will you be remembering all this time as a mere moment...? Jieun suddenly grew anxious. What if the game ends and she forgets about him? Yes, to compare, as if the wizard takes away memories, what if that’s how she forgets me? And the thought that he might be that insignificant to her pained him so much he closed his eyes. His trembling eyelashes represented his feelings. If I could reach you... then won’t at least a small part of all this pain I’m feeling disappear...? Jieun impulsively stretched out his hand towards the big empty void. And he smiled with his eyes. It was a beautiful smile, but one that was utterly lonely and vulnerable. “I don’t care how much time passes... one day I hope I can reach you...” The pale boy stared at the dandelion seeds blowing in the wind and mumbled the desperate wish that could never be fulfilled. The words I want to Ask (Written by Luciela) [Finally we meet.] Just as how soda cans drop into the take out bin in vending machines, I throw another log that I’m so sick of by now. How many times have I played this game? I’d have all-cleared after this one so I guess at least five times. [Who... who are you?] I thought it was just my stupid guesses, but the real you would never say something like that. I’ve already appeared in front of you five times but you still might scream when you see me or look at me with intense hatred. But still... [I’ve waited for you. I’ve waited so long for the day I can meet eyes with you again and talk to you.] I’m so glad that I was not lying when I said I waited. As you know, I’m not a datable character. Then am I a sub-character that helps the leads and smoothes out the storyline? No, not even that. Sadly, I’m the hidden character that makes the ending more heartbreaking—the last boss hidden in all the darkness. After a couple clicks, you will say I’m crazy and say that you don’t know me. No, you know me. This is not our first time, you know. Hey, do you know that? I’m still so confused. For a long time, I looked at the heroine with love. I feel that it’s been a very long time. But... The heroine I loved so much, who is my heroine? Is it you? Or is it the girl standing in front of me? No, who are you? I think while looking at your surprised face. Why am I here? Why can’t I go find you? No, what did my creators intend me to do while thinking of you on the other side of the screen? Psst---- [Whew...] Finally the screen’s turned off. Did you choose not to see me now? Heroine, do you know? This place is so dark that I can’t see my own hands. I am scared. It is probably much darker than the time you call night... and my heart pounds with anxiety. But I’m more scared of... the thing I’m really really scared of... I’m scared that when I’m in this darkness, I will disappear without a trace. I want to ask my heroine, behind that puppet, who is watching this right now. You... If I am guessing right, this is not “your” desperate wish but the puppet’s wish so your memories will not be damaged. You, heroine, will you remember me even if I completely disappear from this place? Will you remember me even after this short meeting when something inconceivable happens and you can’t see me? I want to hear your answer, my heroine, and not from that puppet. Wisher (Written by Hatmandu) [Can I ask you one last thing?] [You can ask me two.] When you smiled as if you were so over it, he smiled softly too. It was your favorite expression from the four standing images. So you almost swallowed up the question you had prepared. You thought if you should really ask him. It's the last time. Just because you realized it was all a delusion, there was no need to escape it. You were happy regardless. You had no other choice so you asked. [Why do you love her?] It was her, not you. You knew, so you couldn’t pretend to fall for it. There was no way you could have not asked. It was you, not him. It was your delusion, and your hopes. It was natural that you didn’t fall for it. He never tried to deceive you. In the end, this was all just your wish, the only wish he couldn’t fulfill. The wizard who grants wishes had never faced his own wishes. [You’ve never been in love before.] The casual purple smile shined. It was not the answer you wanted. But you couldn’t stare into his eyes and just lingered your gaze on his hands. He must have realized he hit the spot since he didn’t hurry her. Only until the swaying green stained your eyes did you finally raise your head and stare straight into the screen. Your fingers tapping the keyboard bore no signs of hesitation. [I am in love right now.] [...Are you.] The answer appeared after a slight pause. The triangle cursor by the period was blinking like a pulse. Of course, he didn’t have a heart. But still. [Why do you love me?] The responses were all unsatisfying. The purpose of the questions were answers not more questions. So this style of conversation would have been rude in normal situations, but right now there were two problems here. This was not a normal situation. And he was not a normal conversation partner. [Since you can talk to me.] Even if it was just through fingers and not the lips. You still remember the first morning you couldn’t hear his voice and the shock you felt when you saw a line you never saw before in the game you memorized by heart. Strangely, the only sense required for your conversation is sight. So strictly speaking, it was a conversation by writing. Ever since he broke away from the game’s route, you couldn’t hear his voice. But in fact, if you think based on reality and not on dreams, it was the natural thing to happen. If a voice came out, you would never have believed it’s real. Speaking only belongs to him. But the voice was that of the voice actor. They never synchronized completely, but the best way to put it would be to say that the voice actor was a speaker. The voiceover was a transformation device that would transfer his lines so you can hear them. All this explanation would, in the end, justify this ridiculous situation, the ‘real’ reality that this is a game and that he is a 2D character. The ironic trust that is earned precisely because he is inaudible. It is evidence that this isn’t just some pre-recorded fan service thing. His voice never existed. You can’t hear him. It may sound funny, but he’s in a different world. But you are still a bit curious. [When did you start loving me?] But your start is the time when you could hear his voice, the time you could only hear his voice. The time when ‘conversations’ were impossible. But still? But still. But still you loved him. Even before he recognized you, even before you saw him wait for another woman and obsess over her. Even when you knew this was all a game. Even when you were so embarrassed of yourself that you’d delete everything only to start clicking your mouse again from the start. You were Heejung but Heejung wasn’t you. That simple fact was so hard to acknowledge. [That’s how it is.] Your save data that so often fought through time in order for you to see him, he who fought through time to see her. It was a perfect match, ridiculously perfect. How could they act so similarly? [You are too harsh.] [...Please forgive me.] This was never a cynical or sarcastic remark. At least that was sure. Of course, even if the apology was sincere, there was no need to pretend to be okay. An apology that’s forced down when it’s unacceptable was more wretched and pitiful. But even while your eyelashes trembled, you nodded. You were reluctant, but you accepted it anyways. If there is a time when you cannot receive, then there is a time when you cannot give. That was now. You could only give now. There was no choice, for him and for you. Really, there was no other choice. [...I’m fine.] [...So pitiful for a wizard who can bring back the dead.] When you said those words, he added embarrassingly. Despite your dying down responses, he did not sound so anxious. He almost seemed as if he was refusing to play along your sadness. Refusing to comply when it was acceptable, when it was necessary, it was the unnatural need for compensation. Throwing out a light apology when it should have been sincere in order to pass the matter off as if it were nothing. It was so obvious that you couldn’t stand it. There was no way you could say good-bye like this. To be honest, his feather like apology was pretty effective in breaking your sadness. The problem was that the result was only worse. [Hey.] Then what about another wish? He quickly erased the trace of agitation after seeing your half mad face. His usual sleek smile reached you to coax you, but it was not going to work again. [There needs to be a cost.] [I don’t think so.] I don’t think so? This time he was so flustered he couldn’t hide it, and asked back stupidly. Well, it's not that big of a wish... Not a wish, but more of a favor. He saw you answer calmly and yet he still seemed stunned. You barely stopped yourself from laughing and stated each word as clearly and as calmly as you could. [Tell me.] [Tell me.] He repeated absent-mindedly. [The words I want to hear the most.] Tell me. Only as you quietly, but firmly reached the end of that short sentence did he look like he realized something. That’s why he didn’t ask what words you were talking about like an idiot. He is after all a wizard. He has a reputation to keep up with. [It’s the last time.] You emphasized the fact that it was the last time as if to hurry him. He gave a smile and closed his eyes as if to surrender. You knew he was choosing his words and decided to wait patiently. To be honest, you knew the words already. There was no way you couldn’t know. But still, you pretended not to know, to ponder, to be curious. [...I hope this satisfies you.] Both were pretending to unnecessarily ponder in a play they both knew the lines to, barely stopping themselves from smiling. ----I love you, my heroine. And finally, you gave a big smile. It was the answer. ----Thank you! He meant it. Even though it was a recorded voice. Even though that was the only way this could happen. Even if you were not his heroine. There is nothing problematic about your gratitude. Dreamlike (Written by Sami) "Arrrgh!! That god damn chicken!" I clutched onto my head and glared at the words “Bad Ending” on the screen. I thought I was getting through it pretty well this time, but this ending again. Earning a living by owning a fried chicken place? No matter how much I worship fried chicken, this is too much. The i-love-you scene with the voice actor’s voice acting is pretty cute but the cutesiness only lasts until the first couple times. Hearing the fried chicken whatever part gets very frustrating after the first couple times. I’m supposed to date the animal guys from another world who become humans...! It’s been two days since I purchased to game and started playing. I’ve been messing up my sleep schedule and devoting all my time into this game but the only ending I’ve seen so far is with this average sub-lead glasses guy. And the title’s even bad ending...! God. I let out a sigh and clicked the screen. I guess I’ll hear the background music and the title sequence of dandelion seeds blowing in the wind. It’s filled with voiceovers so I’ll have to hear all of it while playing. I would never see the ending by today... ...What? Click Click click The black screen didn’t change no matter how many times I clicked. At first I was confused, and then pissed. I was already pissed at the consecutive bad endings but now my computer was being crappy. I mumbled and my fingers found the familiar combination of control, alt, and delete. The best combo for errors. “You’re still not sleeping?” “Jesus Christ!” I screamed as my heart humped and I turned around. I saw my mom peeking out from the half open door behind... “You scared me!” “Well, you’re the one who woke me up in the middle of the night.” I closed my mouth at her sneering look. Come, come to think of it... I think I might have screamed my lungs out at the bad ending. “Go to bed.” “....” Okay... I obediently turned my computer off and stood up from my seat. The clock was pointing towards 2AM. I stayed up last night too for this... Nothing I can say. Besides, tomorrow’s Monday. She made sure that I get inside my sheets before closing the door. I’m not going to do it... I’m not! ...But I’ll play the game tomorrow. ...I bought it with my own money. I have to at least see all the endings. * [Hey!] "......." I banged my head on the computer desk. The mouse clicked simultaneously and I heard the next line through the headset. Don’t speak... I don’t like you... I want to cry... I was almost at the ending... Why you again... Pszzt, zztt Even the headset didn’t like me now. The unpleasant noise rang into my ears but I couldn’t even be bothered to take them off. I thought I’d really start hating Heejae if I look up the screen, so I just kept clicking the mouse. I won’t see the ending today, again. Since I saved mid way, I won’t have to start again, but I have to see the same event all over again... Quite some time passed, but I didn’t hear the usual title sequence background music I should have heard by now. ...? I raised my head. The club scene should have passed by now but it was still there. Heejae’s standing CG was the same too. I stared at the chat box. It was empty for some reason. I was about to frown at the error but yellow words quickly appeared one by one. [You finally noticed?] ...What? Before I could even come up with a response, the next words appeared. [Even if it’s a bad ending, it hurts when you just skip it like that.] [You interrupted me while speaking.] [Well... I guess you’re sick of hearing the same lines.] I stopped clicking a long time ago. I didn’t even check ‘progress automatically’. But the lines appeared as if I had, leaving enough time for me to read all of them. And the lines were... as if... they were towards ‘me’ and not the player ‘Heejung’. What the hell... [I don’t think you can even call me ‘hey’. You don’t really know me.] The words were definitely towards ‘me’. At the same time, I thought Heejae was different from the character I’d seen while playing. Was it because I wasn’t hearing his accent? I was just staring at the screen and new words appeared as if they were reading my thoughts. [All you can hear from me are the lines that have been programmed.] [My real voice will never reach you. No, do I even have a ‘real voice’?] The words were dark, self-mocking. I sat still, taking all the words in. No, I had to think somehow to take in the words. A game character was talking to me. ...Is this real? Am I dreaming? Maybe I fell asleep while playing. I did play the game until late last night. A Heejae ending even in my dreams...? That’s pretty sad. [But first... You’re really bad at playing this game.] Ugh, he hit the spot. Maybe it was because I took this as a ‘dream’, but I was actually pretty comfortable with this odd situation. I just blankly stared at the ‘speaking’ Heejae. [You’re probably the only person who haven’t seen a single ending after all those plays.] [Did you raise your stats properly? Are you checking your info box? Don’t fool around with others when you’re aiming one character. You can’t see the ending if you don’t raise your likability to a certain point.] "......." I’m being scolded by a game character... A game character is giving me advice... I laughed dejectedly, but I still took down notes on a notepad. But will this disappear when I wake up from the dream? Is his advice even usable? –This is a dream after all. I stopped writing at that thought and just yawned. I wanted to crawl into my bed. After thinking that, I felt so sleepy. Should I sleep? But I mean, I am technically sleeping, aren’t I...? I put my hand on the mouse and clicked the right button. [Are you exiting?] I saw the yellow text again. Yeah... Yup... I’m going to bed... I clicked the mouse. I was too drowsy to check if the computer was shut off and just went under my sheets. Ah, so warm... * It was morning when I woke up. I felt like I didn’t get enough sleep and just crawled out of bed to put on my clothes. What time is it... OMG. “Mom!! Why didn’t you wake me up??” I stomped out of my room and yelled. Mom was in the kitchen, and hearing my scream, she turned around and calmly replied. “I did. You didn’t wake up.” “But you should have woken me up...!” I spat out words of resentment, but her words ‘You’re the one who stayed up playing the game-!” hit me. I just vented out my frustration and put on my shoes. Oh right, my bag...! “Mom, my bag!!” “Why didn’t you get it in the first place?” “Hurry!” Mom let out a sigh and went into the room to get my bag. I ignored her scolding words and just stormed out of the house. She always nags at me! I knew it was pointless but blamed my mom for my ruined morning as usual and hurried to the bus station. I’m so close. I hope I’m not late...! * “I’m back.” “Hey.” Mom greeted me in her usual voice while watching the TV, and turned to look at me. “Were you late today?” She asked right away. She must have been worried all day. I proudly put my hand on my waist and answered. “I ran like it was my last and got through.” “God, good job.” She was being sarcastic but she didn’t seem mad. I shrugged my shoulders and went into my room. I could hear her outside telling me not to play the game. --But I really have to see the ending today. Please no more bad endings... “...Huh?” I sat at the chair in front of the computer and was about to press the power button when I noticed something strange. I moved the mouse and saw my desktop screen appear. I realized the computer was on this whole time. Oh god, this month’s electricity bill is going to be crazy. I always check that it’s turned off. Come to think of it, I even dreamed about the game last night. A game character talking to me, what a strange dream. But I mean, I did once dream about me becoming a game character, so I guess it wasn’t that strange. Anyways, the important thing right now was the fact that I’d played this game for four days but still hadn’t seen an ending with one of the datable characters. Today, either I go down or I succeed at the aim. And this time I really saw the ending. A good ending with the rabbit Jiwoo. “Hell yeah.” After the ending music, I read the entire epilogue, came back to the title, and clenched my fists as signs of victory. I couldn’t believe one ending could make me feel so good. I guess the way to go is to focus on one thing at a time. Good. Good. Finally, I felt like I got the hang of this game. I clicked ‘New Game’ to play a new character. I should play Jihae this time...! * “...Why god.” The club room, the familiar standing CG. I was in complete despair and dropped my head. WHHYYYYY...!! Pzzzt, zzzt I heard crackling noise through the headset. I raised my head, and saw the ‘original’ lines disappear and new yellow text appear in the chat box. [You’re stupid right?] [Did you raise your stats? ...You probably came here because you didn’t.] I have nothing to say... I plopped myself onto the desk and stared at the screen. The lines passed by automatically without me clicking, but because I’d gone through this before, I was taking this in as a matter-of-fact. ...Which means I’m dreaming again. When did I fall asleep this time...? I was just spacing out and tapped my cursor on Heejae’s standing CG, again just saying his lines. I just tapped his shoulders, but it must have had an effect on him since words automatically appeared on the box. [What... What are ya doin’?] Oh, his accent. I thought it was funny, so this time I clicked around his cheeks and dragged. The character’s cheeks became red, and the text on the box showed hints of being flustered. I repeated a couple times more. I couldn’t help but smile at how cute he seemed. Could he feel the movements of my cursor? I didn’t even know it acted like a hand. It was a game with multiple choice questions so I probably couldn’t do anything directly to him. But it was funny that I was being so logical when I was just dreaming. It was strange. But I was actually pretty amused. * I opened my eyes as morning came, and right away felt knots in my muscles. Ugh... Ah... Did I fall asleep while playing the game last night...? As I moved the mouse the screen lighted on. I must have at least exited though... I checked the time and turned the computer off. It was earlier than my usual waking up time. *yawn* So sleepy... It’s been a week and a half since I started playing Dandelion. I didn’t sleep properly but I was on my way to conquering all the endings, and even that was almost completed. The story progressed with charming characters and their voices, but for some reason the thought of Heejae kept on bothering me. He was a character I used to hate for appearing in every bad ending, but now I purposely didn’t raise my stats to fall into the bad ending route when I could have easily avoided it. He just repeated confessing his love to ‘Heejung’ with the same lines and the same voice, but I didn’t mind. Was it because of the dreams I had a week ago? ...Dreams? I suddenly thought of something so I peered around my desk. I found a notepad on the corner and flipped through it. - stats - check info box - likabil “......” I felt goosebumps crawl up my spine after checking the note I didn’t finish writing on. ...... ...... ...Wow I started breathing again. My head started working again. “......” I turned on the computer again without saying anything. I found the game ‘start’ icon and recalled the save data from the title menu. How long has it been? I forgot the time and played the route again and again, but after the same lines, only the texts ‘bad ending’ appeared... I gave up, plopped down on the desk, and stared at my note. How could this... Does this make sense? Psszzt. I heard the crackling noise I heard before. I sat straight. I put back on the headset I’d laid down on the desk and looked at the screen. I saw the black screen that said bad ending turn into Heejae standing in the clubroom. [You must have figured it out.] I registered the new words in yellow. This was real. When I really realized that, I felt a shiver run down my spine. [I don’t know how this happened. I guess... you could call this some sort of a glitch.] [I became aware of myself, so I escaped my programmed route to let you know of my existence. That was not supposed to happen.] [Not moving the way you’re programmed to is going against this whole place.] Heejae’s standing image came closer. This is probably the closest he can get to me. I tried to imagine what it would be like if one day I suddenly realized I’m just a character in a game. If the existence of my world was created for the pleasure of someone else, there would be nothing more devastating. [It would have been nice if you just looked at me.] He was mocking himself. I could sense how he was feeling from just those written words. I felt a lump in my throat. [I crossed the line. There’s no good in me being aware of all this.] [I can’t escape this place. Nothing will change.] Heejae was smiling. [But it wasn’t as if everything was bad. I could communicate with the real you.] Pzzzzt- The crackling noise was coming again. It was as if he was saying farewell. I gripped onto the monitor, seeing the standing CG get further away from me. I quickly grabbed the mouse. [I like you.] Pzzzztt— With that last crackling noise, the screen turned still. After about two seconds, I saw the dandelion seeds blowing in the wind—the title sequence. I recalled the save data again to get into the bad ending route. But I was happy to see Heejae only for a short time. He confessed his love using the same ‘original’ lines and met the ending. ...He’s gone. This was the conclusion I came to after repeating the route several times. I felt helpless. I quit the game and leaned against my chair. I felt strange. * For the next couple of days, I surfed the internet and read all the reviews on the game I could find, but no one claimed to have gone through a similar situation. I knew that if I told someone about this, they’d think I’m crazy... It was all meaningless. I flipped through the notepad on my desk. I guess this will forever be my secret. I mumbled and picked up a pen. I wrote the date of that day and wrote a short memo. -The day he confessed his love to me.