He mumbled something about the absurdity of it, and Eli laughed out loud, as if he knew what he was thinking.
“Tell that to Instructor Zheng; he’ll be happy to know he got a bargain. I’ll tell him that, then, and I’ll see you again some day when I get a chance.’
A beautiful hand flicked in acknowledgment. And with that, the screen ended, and the call was disconnected.
Jung stared blankly at the blackened screen again, sighed, and leaned back in his chair.
Of course, I knew that rare books fetched a high price, but I didn’t realize it was that much. Now that I see it, this room and my uncle’s house are treasure troves, and I can understand why they were stolen.
As Jeong Tae-ui stared at the books on the desk, trying to figure out how much they were worth, his uncle, who had just emerged from the bathroom, brushed his hair and tapped him on the shoulder.
“You can borrow it if you want, but you have to be careful with it and return it neatly, because I paid for it.”
“I don’t have the balls to borrow $3500 worth of books.”
“$3500?I didn’t pay that much for the book. Who said that?”
The uncle wrapped a wet towel tightly around Jung’s neck and pulled a robe from the closet.
Shaking off the damp towel, Tae-ui sat back in his chair, tilted his head back, and spoke languidly to his upside-down uncle.
“Some old bookstore owner, sir. He has very pretty hands.”
Zheng Tie raised his eyebrows in slight surprise. He thought his uncle would understand if he said that much. Was he the only one who thought those white, delicate hands were beautiful?
“He’s got a copy of Laurent Gauthier’s Mythology, 1925 edition. He said it’s $3,500.”
“What?Laurent Gattière’s Mythology?”
The color drained from my uncle’s face. His eyes widened, and he turned back to Jung Tae-hyung, smiling broadly. Even the touch of his fingers on the collar of his robe seemed amusing.
“Uncle——.Did you pay such a large sum for these books? If there’s a fire, I’ll bleed to death.”
“What are you talking about? A 1925 edition of Mythology is cheap, cheap, cheap. So, who’s the gracious middleman? I’ll have to call him back and say hello.”
The uncle paused when Chung said his grandson’s name. He looked at Jung with a very strange expression on his face. For the first few seconds, he looked confused, as if he didn’t recognize the name, but then he remembered. “Oh,” he said, and he nodded. But the next moment, she stares at him even more strangely.
“He said it was Eli. I didn’t get his full name, but he seems to know my uncle well, and when I told him I was his nephew, he immediately recognized me as his second.”
“Eli——.Is that what he said, the guy?”
“From what I heard, yes.”He’s my uncle, so I’m a little unsure. Maybe it’s a machine, and I can’t hear the pronunciation. Any idea who it is?”
“Then don’t worry about the book; you can just call the number back,” Jeong Tae-ui added, and his uncle shook his head.
“No, I know who it is; it’s just that I haven’t heard the name in a while; I’ve forgotten.”
“He has several names.”
But neither the low, cool tone of his voice nor the image of his graceful, beautiful hands were associated with the word swindler. However, it is difficult to say that it fits the image of an antiquarian book dealer, so it is impossible to tell a person by his voice and hands alone.
“Your hands were so beautiful.”
As Jeong Tae-ui muttered, his uncle, who was taking out wine from the cellar, looked at him with a complicated face.
“Hands——.Yeah, I’ve never carved them, but now that I think about it, your hands must have been painstaking.”
“Maybe I’m the only one who thinks so, because he said he’s never heard anyone say he has nice hands.”
He said it in such a matter-of-fact tone that Jeong Tae-ui briefly doubted his own sense of beauty.
His uncle resumed his usual nonchalant demeanor, smiled softly, and twirled the screw in his fingertips. With difficulty, he drove it into the wine cork and pulled it out, muttering to himself.
“Scary hands, maybe, but when have I ever heard of a pretty hand? That one.”
“?Well, he had nails like shards of glass. They were also scary, beautiful hands.”
The uncle didn’t say anything in response; he just laughed.
“So, this is the place Touga taught me, right near the elevator, so it wasn’t hard to find.”
The uncle changed the subject. Jeong Tae-ui thought about those white hands for a moment, and the words suddenly reminded him of his petty grudge against his uncle. As he wandered the streets, he cursed his uncle for his stupid building structure. Then she remembered the cotton-candy young man in the communal bathroom.
I blushed again.
The uncle, who had brought out two glasses, was looking at Jung Tae-ryu curiously, as if he thought it was funny. He must have found it interesting to watch, because his face suddenly changed from cringing to dazed, and a reddish color appeared on his face.
“Why.Did something happen?”. Did the guys on my team pull some kind of prank on you? They’re kind of like that. They’re not bad guys, but when someone new joins the team, they’re happy to have more teammates, so they’ll play dumb pranks. It’s like a bunch of kids playing pranks on their crush.”
His uncle consoled him by saying, “Don’t worry about it; it’s just a guy,” and he shook his head, wondering if the situation his uncle was imagining would be worse if it were a guy.
“I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I didn’t have any problems with my teammates. I got a little beat up, but that was my fault.”
“Yeah, well, then what’s the problem? Since Touga took you with him, you must have gotten into trouble with them right away, so what happened after you left them?”
The golden liquid his uncle handed him wafted a sweet aroma. Zheng Tieyu bitterly clicked his tongue as he smelled the sweet scent.
“Uncle.You said there are prison guards living on this floor.”
“That’s right. The others, including the lieutenant, live on the sixth floor. Why, you want to come up, then go ahead.”
The uncle smirked and joked, his gaze gleaming as he tried to gauge the sincerity of Chung’s sudden outburst.
“I took the wrong elevator, got a little lost, and met a guy in my car.”
Tae-kyung told the story casually, but when the person came back to mind, he grew nervous. His uncle was amused by the look on his face and asked, “So?
“I think I was just about to go into the bathroom, and he showed me the way.”
“……Aha…….Yeah, who was it? You didn’t ask for his name?”
The uncle asked again, the corner of his mouth twitching upward as if he knew. Jung shook his head.
“No, I just asked for directions. He looked a little young—maybe not even an adult yet, depending on how you look at it. He had a fluffy… He looked a little western, but I think he was Chinese.”
“Aha, you look younger, Tsutsu; your tastes never change, even though I thought they did.”
The uncle shook his head as if he had a hunch. Chung Tae-ui glared at his uncle in disbelief.
“So, are you saying there are minors here?”
“No. …… And what if there are minors? We’ll just have to be patient for a while, let them grow up, and then reap the harvest. Kids grow up in the blink of an eye.”
“Uncle, it’s not about that; it’s about… So, who is it, him?”
I said in a gruff voice, “Don’t you think you already know who he is, Uncle?
His uncle looked at his nephew, who was still blushing, his head c**ked, and smirked.
“You’re… naive. From what I’ve heard from Jae-hyun, you’ve had some complicated relationships, and I’m surprised you’re so naive about it. I heard there was a stabbing between two men over you.”
“Did he say that?”
Jung frowned and clicked his tongue.
There had been a time like that. I slept with a young man a few times just because I thought he was cute, but he was incredibly picky and angry.
But we didn’t date, or so he told me. We were just sleeping together when we felt like it.
So I believed him, but apparently it wasn’t true.
Jung-tae himself didn’t know why, but he was popular in that kind of club. So after a while, he was approached by someone else, and—— got a division.
The person who approached him was also not of a normal personality, so there was a really bloody disturbance.
As a result, even Jeong Tae-ui was called to the police station as a witness and investigated, and in the process, rumors spread to Jeong Tae-ui’s school, where he was a cadet at the time. The rest is history.
“So, who is he?”
Jeong Tae-ui muttered a little more bluntly, and his uncle smirked in thought before shrugging his shoulders.
“You’ll probably meet him again soon. She’s the one in charge of welfare and internal life.”
“That… who used to be called —— Xinlu? Does Gyoho live on this floor too?”
“Uhm.Everyone but the members stays on this floor, even when we have outside guests. When people from other branches come for joint training, they stay on the same floor as you.”
Jeong Tae-ui muttered in a daze.
If you think about it, there weren’t many muscles on his body, and there weren’t any wounds or scars, so he couldn’t have been a member, and he couldn’t have been a prison guard who had gone through a tough faction, so of course that left him, so why didn’t I think of him?
He scratched the nape of his neck and thought about it, then blushed again when he remembered how smooth and smooth his skin had been without a single blemish. He shook his head to clear his thoughts, but to no avail, as he felt the sting of his uncle’s gaze on him from the side.
“I see this side of you,” he said. “After all, I’ve lived long enough to see it.”
The uncle shook his head excitedly as he spoke with a tone of disbelief, but clearly amusement, in his voice.
Zheng Tieyi stared at him in disbelief and suddenly remembered why he had come here.
“But you’re not being too hard on me, Uncle. I was just planning to stay alive and go back in half a year, but from what I hear, this is a complete survival game.”
“They say there’s a lot of people dying in these exercises, and you can’t even count the injuries. I mean, you’re dragging your nephew into the fray for crying out loud.”
He didn’t actually sound that bad, but he was exaggerating a bit, and when I complained, my uncle offered a consolation that sounded like a half-hearted excuse.
“I mean, it might be a minor injury or a trip to the hospital if it’s bad enough, but it’s rarely a death sentence. Rest assured.”
“Yeah…….But you know, Uncle, I can’t be hurt badly.”