<2> The Delicious Man
When he opened his eyes, he found himself lying on a bed adorned with fluffy lace. It was an unrealistically extravagant and spacious room, with a ridiculously high ceiling. Tae-ram forcefully awakened his dazed mind in a situation that made no sense.
Yes, this is Korea. Startled, Tae-ram abruptly stood up and looked around his surroundings.
Furniture that appeared exceptionally luxurious even to someone unfamiliar with it—wardrobes and tables. The door panels adorned with golden frames had small lion head sculptures attached. The ceiling boasted a large and beautiful chandelier that sparkled and displayed its presence. It was a room that seemed like a princess could pop out at any moment. Though Tae-ram had never been there before, it felt like the Palace of Versailles in France might look exactly like this.
“What on earth is this? Kidnapping? A dream? Hidden cameras?”
Tae-ram slipped his cheek several times.
Despite forcing his hungover and disoriented mind to function, Tae-ram couldn’t make sense of the absurd situation. He stood there in confusion, trying to shake off his headache that refused to go away. Suddenly, something flew in front of him.
“What are you doing, beep?”
An unidentified creature floated in the air above him.
“Ah! A bird, a talking bird…”
Tae-ram rubbed his eyes in disbelief. The unidentified creature continued to float in the air.
“You’re really a noisy human, beep.”
It had a round, yellow, and plump body about the size of a palm. Its black eyes resembled haphazardly sprinkled black sesame seeds. It had a small beak and cute wings. The poorly drawn, childlike yellow bird fluttered its wings and flew around Tae-ram like a baby bird.
“To see illusions… Am I going crazy?”
Tae-ram pinched his cheek this time.
Ouch, it hurt again.
“Is pestering me your hobby, beep?”
Although Tae-ram had many questions, he decided to ask about what bothered him the most.
“Hey, you. I mean… Yellow one! Why is your way of speaking like that? Where did you learn Korean? It’s really strange.”
“Stop talking nonsense and take this first, beep.”
The yellow bird threw something at the still-confused Tae-ram. He caught it by chance. It was a novel with a very familiar cover.
“‘The Delicious Man’?”
“This place is the world inside a novel, beep.”
“What kind of nonsense is this?”
“I don’t feel like explaining, so look in the mirror, beep.”
Tae-ram felt like his head was about to explode. He couldn’t think of anything. As instructed by the yellow bird, he stood before a wobbling mirror.
“…Is this me?”
Tae-ram was amazed at his reflection in the mirror. His hair, which had turned into dog fur due to the dyeing, now shimmered with silky silver strands that flowed smoothly. His eyes, once an ordinary color, had a subtle golden hue as if embedded with amber stones. His skin, naturally good to begin with, now appeared flawless without a single blemish, as white and translucent as a porcelain doll made of flour. It was truly an unreal beauty that lacked any sense of reality.
“I must be crazy. The original me has transformed into something elegant. I feel like I have a noble presence.”
Tae-ram stuck out his tongue. To his surprise, the man in the mirror mimicked his action exactly. Next, he put his finger in his nostril. Again, the mirror faithfully reflected his action. Finally, he contorted his face with his palm pressed against it. No matter how distorted it became, his face maintained its beauty.
Now it seemed like he couldn’t play the game of showing off his looks to his friends anymore. Only frivolous thoughts kept popping up in his mind. The yellow bird, looking pitifully at Tae-ram, who seemed about to be sucked into the mirror due to his obsession with his changed appearance, opened its mouth.
“Stop staring at the mirror, beep.”
“…Honestly, I kind of like it, but why did I change like this?”
“It’s because of the compelling force, beep.”
“The compelling force is the power that drives the story to follow the original. Your role is the protagonist. Your current appearance has been adjusted to match the settings of the original, beep.”
“If it’s the original… my novel?”
“That’s right, beep.”
“Tell me more details.”
As the yellow bird continued speaking, Tae-ram’s expression grew darker and darker.
The compelling force is a power that aims to reproduce the original work, and as the error rate increases, it becomes stronger in its activation. The error rate indicates how much the story deviates from the original and is determined by Tae-ram’s actions.
“What happens if the error rate increases?”
“The compelling force will assimilate you into this world. Once that happens, you will lose your memories of the original world.”
“However, if you reach the ending of the novel, you can return to your original world.”
“Is there no other way?”
“This is the only way to return, beep.”
“What are you exactly?”
“I am a fairy born to fulfill a will, beep.”
“I cannot answer that due to the prohibition, beep.”
“I’m the author, for goodness’ sake. I believe I have the right to know, don’t I?”
“I cannot answer that due to the prohibition, beep.”
“You’re not telling me the most important question, are you?”
“It frustrates me too, beep! But if I reveal it, then I…”
“What happens if you break the prohibition?”
“I will cease to exist, beep…”
Seeing the despondent expression on the yellow creature, Tae-ram realized he shouldn’t push further. If that yellow being, the only one who could explain the situation disappeared, it would be troublesome. Tae-ram calmed the yellow creature down and tried to extract as much information as possible. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any significant information.
Why of all novels… Why did he have to personally experience this dark history for a sin committed in a previous life? “Delicious Man” was the first novel Tae-ram wrote with the help of Min-ah. It was filled with provocative subjects, had an inexperienced writing style, and a disjointed plot.
The biggest problem was that Tae-ram couldn’t remember any of the content. Cold sweat started to trickle down his back. However, since it was a novel he had written, he hoped that memories would resurface as he progressed. Somehow, he would make it work.
Tae-ram pushed aside his anxiety and restlessness and quickly organized his thoughts. It was a moment where his mental strength, honed through enduring countless malicious comments during the publication of his novel, shone through.
“I forgot to mention, besides you, another person has come, beep.”
The casual remark from the yellow creature only added to the complexity swirling in Tae-ram’s mind.
“There was another victim besides me? It’s not some one-plus-one situation…”
“The person has a deep connection with you, beep.”
Due to his military service, Tae-ram’s network of acquaintances had been completely shattered, so he couldn’t even begin to guess. For now, the first person that came to mind was Min-ah. Regardless of who it was, Tae-ram thought it would be better than being alone.
“Is it a woman? A man? What’s their name? Can you at least tell me that?”
“If you really want to know…”
Just as the yellow creature was about to speak, someone knocked on the door, bang, bang, bang. The knocks were quite forceful.
“What now? It’s an important moment, and this is annoying.”
Without thinking, Tae-ram attempted to open the door, but the yellow creature warned him in a hushed voice.
“The words and actions you display to the people in this world will have an impact on the story, beep.”
Tae-ram paused at the yellow creature’s words. If the person outside the door was a key character, it was obvious that his actions deviating from the original work would increase the error rate.
“Is there a way to check how far the story has progressed?”
“You can see it when you open the book, beep.”
Following the yellow creature’s advice, Tae-ram hurriedly attempted to open the novel when the door suddenly swung open. A man with a dazzling appearance, comparable to that of a celebrity, entered the room.
Caught off guard by the unexpected intruder, Tae-ram was momentarily speechless. The uninvited guest was incredibly handsome. Platinum blond hair shimmered like grains of sand reflecting sunlight, and his mysterious and deep amethyst eyes left a strong impression. Nervous, Tae-ram struggled to find his words.
“W-Who are you?”
“Excuse me, is that person, or rather, Senior Han Tae-ram?”
The refined forehead of the intruder furrowed. Wait, he barged in here and yet he’s annoyed? Tae-ram felt a surge of irritation at the presumptuous attitude.
“Yes, that’s me… Who are you?”
“Sigh… Truly a senior.”
The intruder sighed deeply and tightly sealed his lips. Tae-ram felt a foreboding sense of familiarity and unease.
“So, you’re Lee Se-ho?”
Tae-ram canceled his previous notion that anyone would be better than being alone, realizing that the unsettling premonition was not going to dissipate.
“I’m possessed by Kirik Lu Persian, the main character in your novel.”
* * *
“I’m possessed by Kirik Lu Persian, the main character in your novel.”
According to Se-ho, Tae-ram’s name was originally the same in the original world.
“Is the protagonist an ordinary college student?”
“Perhaps because of the description in the book, ‘like a pure white rabbit,’ my appearance has changed slightly. Nevertheless, I am fortunate to have Senior as the author. I don’t know anything about the later parts.”
“What? You said you read my novel completely! Why don’t you know?”
“I only read the beginning of ‘Delicious Man’ and then closed it. The writing style was sloppy, and the story was disjointed, so I couldn’t get into it at all.”
Se-ho’s words were similar to Tae-ram’s analysis of his writing. It was his first novel, so it was clumsy and sloppy. However, strangely enough, hearing it from Se-ho made Tae-ram’s blood boil. He closed his eyes and opened them to avoid showing his anger.
“So, you don’t know the story either?”
“You too? You shouldn’t forget as the author.”
“…It’s been a long time, and I don’t remember well.”
Embarrassed, Tae-ram unintentionally avoided Se-ho’s gaze.
“Sigh… How pitiful.”
“What did you say?”
“Don’t act so tired.”
The switch of Tae-ram’s suppressed anger was suddenly pressed by Se-ho’s disrespectful gaze and pitiful words.
“Don’t try to provoke me with your words.”
“Don’t act all high and mighty.”
“What? Tired? It’s me who’s tired because of you.”
“Don’t unnecessarily raise your voice…”
“Because you keep picking fights!”
“Am I the one picking fights?”
“I can see you doing it right now!”
Se-ho, who was about to shout, clenched his fist and barely controlled his impulse.
“…Let’s stop. I want to finish the novel quickly and get out of this wretched situation. I may not like you, Senior, but I’ll cooperate as much as possible.”
Tae-ram felt a suffocating sensation in his chest for some reason but managed to let it go.
“I don’t like you either…”
“He will come soon.”
Se-ho sighed again as he looked at Tae-ram’s innocent face as if he really didn’t know anything.
“The narrator of ‘Delicious Man,’ Amil. You haven’t seen him yet, have you?”
“Well, so what?”
“The novel! Didn’t you receive a copy, Senior?”
“Oh… Well, I was planning to read it…”
Se-ho interrupted Tae-ram’s words midway.
“What have you been doing, really?”
“I was going to read it, but you barged in!”
“The next development is coming soon, so grasp it quickly.”
“Fine! I’ll read it then!”
Tae-ram shouted abruptly and nervously opened the book.
* * *
[Delicious Man] Page 1
The familiar maid sister referred to the prince as “Prince Charming.” She always said that a pure and pitiful flower-like woman would appear to be the prince’s destiny. At first, I didn’t think much of it, but as I listened and observed, I gradually became fascinated by the story.
Oh! I am Amil, a court poet in the Runver Empire. I’m 18 years old. Although it may not seem like it, I have quite the ability, which is why I serve the esteemed candidate for the crown prince, Kirik Lu Persian.
The prince is the strongest and most magnificent person in the world. He is the youngest swordmaster in the empire, a tremendous genius who established practical and innovative magic theories that changed everyone’s lives during his time at the academy. People say that the prince will become a great king and marry a beautiful queen, and they eagerly anticipate the heir to the throne.
However, time passed by without concern, and the prince has already surpassed the age for marriage. I secretly thought that such destiny was just a delusion. Until he arrived, that is. His name is Han Tae-ram. He claims to be the representative of a deity from another world. Well, since everyone in the castle calls him that, I assume it’s true. Tae-ram suddenly appeared from the sky during the prince’s coming-of-age ceremony. The prince gently embraced him as he floated in the river, seemingly unconscious. It was like a scene from a fairy tale.
I still don’t know what overwhelming emotion I felt when I witnessed their tender interaction. I asked the maid sister, and she told me that now I am also a comrade in protecting the Kirik-Tae-ram couple, so I should cosplay as a commoner more convincingly. Somehow, the secretive excitement seemed cool, so I decided to join in.
“Amil! Don’t just stand there, quickly bring Prince Kirik’s breakfast!”
“Yes, I’m going. I’ll go now.”
The strict butler was always picking on me, and it annoyed me.
“Get yourself together. Hold the tray properly.”
“Should I take it to Prince Kirik’s room?”
“He will be having breakfast with Tae-ram today. Take it to the guest chamber.”
“Yes! I’ll go and come back.”
Oh my goodness! The two of them having breakfast together makes me so happy. Prince Kirik has been spending a lot of time lately in the guest chamber where Tae-ram stays. I hope I can witness another beautiful scene like before.
I haven’t told anyone yet, but I have a grand dream. That is to become the author of history books. I’m starting by recording the events happening around me. Every day, I observe the daily lives of the prince and Tae-ram.
Today, as a budding historian, I have to observe and protect everything.
* * *
Tae-ram closed the book and tightly shut his eyes. He felt a strong sense of embarrassment as if he wanted to disappear immediately.
Damn it. At that time, parodies of classical literature were popular, so he took inspiration from “Love Guest and Father.” It was amusing to write it while giggling with Min-ah, but now that he read it again… he just wants to die.
Except for the part he just read, the book was completely blank.
Are you saying he has to fill in the rest? And that unfortunate idiot as well. Tae-ram felt a wave of despair wash over him, knowing that he had a long road of hardship ahead. The only fortunate thing was that he could vaguely recall the beginning, which sparked some memories.
『Delicious Man』 is a novel written from a third-person omniscient perspective. The narrator, Amil, observes and supports the main character, Prince Kirik, whom he serves. The main character is a dazzling and innocent young man, described with flowery language. Unbeknownst to him, he unconsciously attracts men of all ages and races. Starting with the prince, he gets involved with a deity, a dragon, and even a demon king… Eventually, after getting caught up in an uncontrollable whirlwind, he ends up entangled with the main protagonist, Prince Kirik, and they have a wedding, bringing the novel to a close.
“Do you remember any of it?”
“I remember the main gist.”
“The main gist? Your way of living is so half-hearted.”
“Don’t evaluate my life as you please. It’s already troubling enough…”
Tae-ram was seething with anger, but he held it in. He thought there would be no benefit in fighting further. Above all, his heartfelt was worn out, and he had no energy left. However, Se-ho didn’t leave Tae-ram alone.
“How can you forget what you wrote yourself?”
“You should try serving in the military. It resets your brain.”
“You have a poor head, senior.”
“And you think you’re so smart!”
“At least I seem to be better than you. By the way, I’m still at the top of the class this year.”
Se-ho smiled with a victorious expression. Tae-ram, tired of Se-ho’s annoying remarks, considered it a talent in itself.
“You’re something else. Fine, I’ll acknowledge it. Can we stop now?”
Even after Tae-ram declared his surrender, Se-ho didn’t stop.
“I understand that even the author has forgotten about this childish and frivolous novel with its volatile content.”
“Hey! Are you done talking?”
“Was I wrong in what I said?”
“And you! You only write those unpleasant novels where people die like falling leaves in a modern setting!”
Se-ho stared silently at Tae-ram. Feeling the piercing gaze, Tae-ram’s throat went cold. Se-ho, who was already imposing in size, seemed even bigger now, and his presence had doubled, perhaps due to his overpowering force.
Though frustrated, Tae-ram felt overwhelmed. Prince Kirik was supposed to be a sword master in the story. Was it because of his mood? It felt like anger was being emitted for no reason… But retreating here would be humiliating.
“What are you going to do if you glare at me? Ha, I’m not scared at all.”
When Tae-ram glared at Se-ho, Se-ho chuckled mockingly and clenched his fist tightly. Tae-ram was intimidated by Se-ho’s massive fist, but he didn’t back down. He stared back at Se-ho, trembling but determined.
Yeah, he may not have any status or power! What’s the big deal if he gets beaten up a bit? But there are no police around here. Ah, whatever! If he’s going down, so be it!
“I didn’t say anything wrong!”
Se-ho found Tae-ram’s feeble threat, resembling a kitten’s growl, cute.
“Senior, you’re such an annoying person.”
Se-ho walked confidently toward Tae-ram. He was just walking, but Tae-ram felt a strong pressure. It felt like he had become a mouse standing in front of a cat. Unconsciously, he took a step back. When he snapped back to his senses, he realized his back was against a cold wall. There was nowhere else to retreat.
“Why are you suddenly quiet? Say something like earlier.”
That’s right! Tae-ram reflexively closed his eyes tightly. Se-ho looked down at Tae-ram and smirked.
“Are you scared?”
He’s mocking him now! Whether he dies or lives, he has made up his mind to challenge Se-ho. Just as Tae-ram made that decision, a yellow creature suddenly appeared and urgently shouted.
“Amil is here, beep!”
“Just stay right there.”
Se-ho clicked his tongue and then grabbed Tae-ram’s face with both hands. He used his thumbs to forcefully open Tae-ram’s mouth.
“What are you doing…?”
In the next moment, something soft and squishy entered Tae-ram’s mouth. The texture was a tongue. Se-ho’s tongue ruthlessly explored Tae-ram’s mouth with confident movements. Contrary to its gentle texture, Se-ho’s forceful and rough tongue was teasing.
With each deepening movement from Se-ho, Tae-ram felt suffocated. Subconsciously, Tae-ram grabbed Se-ho’s hair tightly. Despite Se-ho’s faint frown, the kiss didn’t stop. It only delved deeper, consuming Tae-ram’s breath.
Despite the initial confusion and embarrassment, Tae-ram gradually started to feel better. As Tae-ram became more responsive, Se-ho’s tongue moved differently, stepping through Tae-ram’s mouth methodically. With the sensual sensation, Tae-ram’s legs weakened. Se-ho held Tae-ram’s waist tightly, ensuring he didn’t fall.
Feeling good… No, this can’t go on like this… Tae-ram’s mind was a mess, but he desperately tried to regain his composure. The Se-ho he knew wasn’t a man who acted without reason. Since Amil had arrived, it was evident that he was following the original story.
Tae-ram desperately thought about what the main character should do next. The main character initially resisted accepting the prince. Let’s roll our heads. We have to resist. Han Tae-ram! Yes… head!
With all his strength, Tae-ram pushed Se-ho away and forcefully banged his head against Se-ho’s face.
Se-ho lost his balance from the sudden impact but fortunately didn’t fall. Honestly, Se-ho had deliberately handled Tae-ram roughly, expecting to provoke him. However, he never expected such a strong counterattack.
Se-ho gently touched his nose, as if blood might gush out at any moment. He had prepared a manly line in advance for this situation.
“As expected, you’re always fresh and stimulating. I like that.”
Despite his words of liking, Se-ho’s voice betrayed his anger and aggressiveness, causing Tae-ram to flinch. The menacing gaze revealed just how angry he was. There was a mixture of slight guilt and satisfaction.
Did it hurt a lot? The headbutt must have landed properly. But, he still acted according to the original story. The main character initially resisted the prince…
After rationalizing his actions, Tae-ram opened his mouth to continue the story.
“W-Well, you deserved punishment for acting so recklessly. You scared me.”
“It’s not particularly itchy, but be careful from now on. It becomes troublesome when you hurt a royal. It’s not amusing to see you being punished by someone else.”
“If the prince… Why, why are you getting close again?”
“Because you have a cute face that makes me want to touch it.”
Despite the sweet words, Se-ho’s actions were harsh. He grabbed Tae-ram’s arm as if he were about to tear it apart, exerting an unnecessary amount of force.
“It hurts! Please let go!”
Tae-ram’s words were not acting but a genuine cry of pain. His mind was filled with various curses towards Se-ho.
“Oh, I guess I was too rough.”
Se-ho forcefully dragged Tae-ram like a rag doll and threw him onto the bed. Tae-ram’s back hurt, and tears welled up in his eyes. Whether he spoke or not, Se-ho remained faithful to his role.
“Behave. Stay still. I won’t be rough.”
Se-ho straddled Tae-ram on the bed. Their faces were getting closer. It was a fleeting moment when their lips were about to touch.
A cracking sound accompanied by a shattering noise was heard. Se-ho sharply shouted,
“Who is it?”
The boy, Amil, was clutching his head, sobbing. Broken dishes were scattered on the floor. Tae-ram found Amil even smaller and cuter than he had imagined, like a tiny animal. It was fascinating to see the character he had created come to life and move.
While Tae-ram was admiring Amil, Se-ho approached him cautiously, lifting him up and gently brushing off the dust with a caring touch.
“Are you hurt anywhere?”
“Your Highness, please punish me.”
“It’s fine. I don’t want to scold you for something as trivial as this.”
“Consider it a favor for always helping me.”
“I… thank you.”
“It’ll be our little secret, so don’t worry about it.”
As Se-ho smiled softly, Amil’s frozen expression melted like snow. Tae-ram was amazed at how perfectly Se-ho acted as the prince.
“He’s completely different from before. Isn’t the theater industry missing out on an incredible talent?”
With a lively spirit regained, Amil spoke cheerfully.
“Then, Your Highness, I will bring breakfast again!”
“Breakfast is already done. Bring a light snack around 2 o’clock.”
Amil replied with determination and scurried out of the room like a small animal.
After confirming that the visitor had left and all signs of popularity had disappeared, Tae-ram flopped onto the bed.
“Get up, senior. I hope you at least made some progress.”
“Just let me rest for a little longer.”
“There’s no time to rest. Amil will be here with the snack soon.”
Se-ho, now without the prince’s mask, wore an irritatingly stoic expression. Seeing Se-ho like that, Tae-ram couldn’t help but feel annoyed and threw a tantrum.
“Just let me lie down for 10 more minutes. Huh?”
“Are you throwing a tantrum at me? You should be seeking comfort.”
“What about you? You manipulated me as you pleased. You little jerk!”
“It was all acting. After all, Prince Kirik is that kind of character.”
“Wow. You found an amazing actor.”
“And you’re an amazing senior, aren’t you? You seemed sincerely angry with that strike earlier. If I had fallen there, the margin of error would have definitely increased.”
“That’s because you were the one who rebelled in the first place….”
“I was overly dedicated. Can you be certain that there were no emotions involved?”
Seho’s precise observation left Tae-ram momentarily speechless, his mouth gaping.
“See? Senior, you’re too emotional and impulsive.”
“…I’ll be more careful from now on, so stop lecturing me.”
“It’s not lecturing; it’s a concern. I don’t want to suffer because of your impulsive actions.”
“Who said it’s all about you? I don’t like it either.”
“At least it’s related to you since it’s your novel!”
“Is everything because of me?”
“At the very least, it’s connected to you! Think about it.”
“I don’t know! I’m going crazy too!”
“I feel like I’m going crazy too! I want to get out of this place right now!”
“I want to get out of here! Why do I have to deal with this bastard as if I committed some sin in my past life?”
“I didn’t want it either. It was disgusting!”
Disgusting? This face? Tae-ram was inwardly shocked by Se-ho’s words. Tae-ram had always taken pride in his appearance. Now, with the buff enhancing his angelic looks, there was nothing more to say.
“Then why did you act so intensely earlier? You could have just pretended for Amil’s sake!”
“That was because of you, senior!”
“What did I do?”
Se-ho, who had been just as heated as Tae-ram, suddenly backed off. Tae-ram didn’t let go of Se-ho and stood firm.
“What is it? Tell me everything! What did I do?”
“I thought it would be a big problem if I got caught pretending, so I did it.”
“Tell me honestly. Did you enjoy kissing me?”
Tae-ram’s words came out forcefully, causing a moment of silence. Tae-ram himself felt embarrassed by what he had said and lowered his head. Se-ho’s face turned as red as an apple.
[What are you two doing, beep?]
Both of them shouted at the same time.
“We didn’t do anything!”
“We didn’t do anything!”
[Well, it’s okay, but check the book, beep. A few more pages have been filled.]
“The novel! Where did it go? It’s gone?”
The novel book that Tae-ram had placed next to his bed was nowhere to be found.
[If you think you need it, it will appear].
Tae-ram felt strongly that he needed a book, just as Yellow had said. Then, as if by magic, a novel appeared in Tae-ram’s hand.
* * *
[Delicious Man] Page 13
Despite knocking several times without a response, I decided to open the door slightly. And there, through the crack, I saw Prince and Tae-ram. It wasn’t just an ordinary conversation; the distance between the two was incredibly close.
I held my pounding heart and silently watched… Then, the Prince pushed Tae-ram against the wall, and an intense kiss began! I didn’t even dare to breathe as I focused intently. The Prince’s rough tone of voice, different from usual, made me realize that he was truly a passionate hero.
Tears welled up in Tae-ram’s big eyes, and his cheeks, as tender as a baby’s, turned a rosy hue. Wanting to see them even closer, I made a big mistake and accidentally dropped the tray of food I was holding. Startled, I could only repeatedly apologize while lying flat on the ground. Surprisingly, the Prince personally helped me up, filled with astonishment.
* * *
While Tae-ram was engrossed in reading the newly added page, Se-ho, who had been lost in thought, finally spoke up.
“I think I understand it to some extent.”
“The principle behind the pages being filled.”
Tae-ram couldn’t help but feel a mix of pity and curiosity at Se-ho’s gaze, but his curiosity outweighed his anger.
“I don’t get it, so explain it to me.”
“Well, I conducted a few experiments earlier. I wanted to know how far our actions were allowed. So, I acted differently from the original work.”
“Is that so?”
“You didn’t know that either? It’s a book written by you.”
“…Go on with your story.”
Reluctantly, Tae-ram acknowledged that his junior, who seemed clueless, had a better grasp of the situation. After all, he was the top student in their year, right?
“We don’t have to faithfully follow every line of dialogue and action from the original work. In other words, we just need to follow the main plotline.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure. Throwing you onto the bed was a different action from the original. In the original, I would gently kiss your ankle and cautiously embrace you, guiding you to lie down softly.”
“You did that on purpose! It hurt so much!”
Still nursing his aching back, Tae-ram couldn’t hold back his anger toward Se-ho. Se-ho, without backing down, began to argue with Tae-ram.
“But didn’t you forcefully hit me as well?”
“I did it according to the original!”
“No, you didn’t! In the original, it was more of a gentle push, not a crude strike.”
“Crude? Should I hit you again?”
“Why are you acting so immature?”
“Who’s acting immature here?”
“Can’t you see how red my nose is?”
“Do you want a look at my back? It must be bruised for sure.”
Tae-ram lifted his shirt, revealing his bare skin.
“Oh, okay, I get it, so please don’t take it off.”
Startled, Se-ho hesitated for a moment before carefully lowering Tae-ram’s lifted clothes with a cautious touch.
“Let go! Who started it first? Look closely. Let’s compare who’s worse!”
“We don’t have time for that.”
Se-ho unfolded the novel he had and handed it to Tae-ram. The new pages were rapidly being generated. The contents were all Amil’s delusions. In his mind, Tae-ram and Se-ho were building the Great Wall of China. The explicit and embarrassing descriptions made it impossible for them to read the details.
“Well, let’s just go along with it, pretending it’s just a game.”
“Anyway, as long as we follow the main plotline of the incident, the margin of error won’t increase.”
“The gem is still intact, so I’m sure.”
“You really don’t know anything. The red gem attached to the front of the book becomes cloudy when the margin of error increases.”
Tae-ram felt a slight sting in Se-ho’s sigh-mixed voice, and he became more subdued.
Afterward, the two of them stopped fighting and exchanged information, delving further into the story. They even prepared a simple script before facing Amil again.
As 2 o’clock approached, Tae-ram felt the tension building up inside him like a rookie actor before their first performance. Earlier, he had managed to act somehow with momentum, but if he messed up, he would be stuck here forever. It felt like he might vomit…
Se-ho spoke to Tae-ram, who couldn’t hide his restlessness.
“Are you worried?”
“No! I’m totally fine.”
“No need to show off.”
“Oh, no, I’m not!”
“Stay calm. Your failure is my failure as well. We’re in this together now.”
With Se-ho’s low and calm voice, Tae-ram was able to shake off some of his nervousness.
“Let’s do one final check before Amil arrives.”
“Yeah! So, we bring up the topic of the main character wanting to return to the original world…”
“And apologize to the prince for what happened earlier and reconcile.”
The two of them exchanged lines multiple times, and with repeated practice, Tae-ram gained some confidence and even felt a bit relaxed.
* * *
As two o’clock arrived, Amil arrived punctually and presented a sophisticated afternoon tea spread.
There were crispy apple pies, warm pumpkin scones emitting steam, and puddings adorned with plump strawberries—everything that Tae-ram had created in his created world, all his favorites. Tae-ram, who hadn’t eaten anything since morning, couldn’t help but be captivated by the mouth-watering desserts. He had always enjoyed eating, having grown up with Min-ah, who made sure to have three square meals a day with desserts.
“Prince, may I have some of this?”
Even though it was a failed first line, Tae-ram judged that it was tolerable. Of course, Se-ho’s face stiffened as he didn’t share the same opinion.
Tae-ram maintained his composure and picked up a strawberry with his hand, taking it to his mouth. The tangy flavor spread in his mouth. It was delicious.
“Tae-ram, use a fork…”
“I’ll convey it for you.”
Se-ho wore a bright smile, conscious of Amil’s presence, but his hand holding the fork trembled noticeably.
“…As a valued guest, I should pay special attention.”
“I will serve you, Tae-ram, with all my heart.”
“Thank you, Amil.”
As Tae-ram devoured the strawberry pudding, whether Se-ho and Amil engaged in a heartwarming conversation or not, he moved on to the next dessert. He generously spread orange marmalade on the still-warm pumpkin scone and eagerly took a bite. The scone was crispy on the outside but moist on the inside, and the marmalade added a refreshing tang.
“You eat well. Is there anything else you need?”
Se-ho called out to Tae-ram, trying to conceal his harsh demeanor, but Tae-ram, distracted by eating, couldn’t respond.
When Se-ho’s stern gaze met Tae-ram’s, he realized his mistake.
“I apologize for being so thoughtless. I was a little hungry…”
“No, it’s endearing to see you eat.”
“I spoke only the truth. It’s adorable.”
Se-ho suddenly stood up and approached Tae-ram.
“Oh… Are you going to… hit me because I ate?”
Tae-ram’s body stiffened with the thought that Se-ho might strike him for eating too much. Thankfully, Se-ho’s hand only gently wiped away the bread crumbs on Tae-ram’s lips.
“Don’t worry. If you don’t do it properly, I’ll have Amil clear away all the desserts.”
“I’m sorry. I was hungry…”
“Pull yourself together and do well.”
Tae-ram vigorously nodded his head. Se-ho’s words about clearing away the desserts felt like a bolt from the blue. He hadn’t even touched the apple pie yet, and he became anxious. Feeling a sense of urgency, Tae-ram recited the lines they had practiced earlier.
“I apologize for earlier, Prince. I was just surprised.”
“And I acted rough, which surprised you.”
“No, it was me who dared to lay a hand on the Prince. I’m the one at fault.”
“It’s okay. The misunderstanding between us is resolved now, right?”
If Tae-ram shyly smiled and hugged Se-ho, it would be over. Tae-ram tried his best to move his facial muscles. However, while Tae-ram’s smile was incredibly awkward, Se-ho’s smile towards him seemed quite natural.
“Will you become mine?”
Despite Se-ho’s gentle voice, his eyes didn’t convey amusement. Rather than feeling thrilled, Tae-ram felt afraid.
“I do feel favorably towards you, Prince, but I can’t do that.”
“Even when I desire you so much?”
Tae-ram felt as if his limbs were about to wither away.
“What’s the problem?”
“I miss my parents so much. Sniff.”
Tae-ram pretended to cry and hugged Se-ho. It was a perfect improvisation. When Tae-ram sneakily opened his eyes and looked at Amil, he was relieved to see that Amil was listening attentively, his eyes sparkling. He must be a safe person.
“Don’t worry. I’ll help you as much as I can.”
Se-ho tightly embraced Tae-ram, and due to his larger stature, Se-ho’s arms felt comforting. Tae-ram unknowingly nestled deeper into his embrace, feeling the warmth.
“Amil, why don’t you leave for now? I’ll stay with Tae-ram until he calms down.”
“Yes! Understood. I’ll take care of clearing the dessert table.”
At Amil’s words, Tae-ram dug his nails into Se-ho’s back. Enduring the pain, Se-ho whispered to Tae-ram secretly.
“Why are you doing that?”
Tae-ram replied mischievously,
“Leave the apple pie behind.”
“…Alright, ease up. It hurts.”
Only then did Tae-ram relax his grip.
“Leave the dessert table. And make sure no one enters this room today.”
“I will follow your instructions.”
As the sound of the door closing faded, Tae-ram’s voice became noticeably more at ease.
“Is he gone?”
“Seems like it.”
“The pages must be filled up nicely, right?”
“I should check to be sure. It’s good to have secured provisions.”
“Don’t mock me.”
“Rather, could you give me some space now?”
Tae-ram immediately moved away from Se-ho’s embrace.
“Oh… Sorry. Let’s check the book!”
Feeling embarrassed, Tae-ram quickly took out the book. Seeing a large number of additional pages, he felt proud.
“At this rate, we’ll fill it up soon.”
“I was worried when you ate like a bottomless pit, but thankfully it worked out.”
“Don’t jinx it again!”
“I was just stating the truth.”
Feeling guilty for his wrongdoing, Tae-ram was about to retort but held his tongue. No matter how hungry he was, he had to reflect on his actions. Suddenly, he realized that if he were alone, he wouldn’t have been able to complete the pages successfully.
“Well, I’ll rely on you from now on.”
Se-ho stared blankly at Tae-ram’s outstretched hand.
“We have to cooperate. We’re in this together, as a shared destiny. Let’s stop fighting.”
“It was always you who started the fights.”
“Hey! Just do it!”
Se-ho hesitated for a moment before finally grabbing Tae-ram’s hand.
“I’m counting on you too.”
Se-ho’s eyes softened and the corners of his mouth curved upwards in a graceful arc. Unlike the artificial smile he had shown while playing the prince, this was a naturally captivating and beautiful smile that warmed Tae-ram’s heart. He couldn’t help but admire Se-ho’s good looks once again. Tae-ram sighed in admiration.
* * *
Meanwhile, a red-haired man was observing them from a distance. Underneath his tightly pulled hood, his eyes sparkled with curiosity and interest.
“Beautiful and unique. An exotic soul I’ve never seen before.”