<3> The Poisoned Official
Meanwhile, two days later, Tae-ram and Se-ho gathered together to organize the story before the next event unfolded in the novel.
The prince’s chamber was more magnificent than Tae-ram’s modest guest room. Especially notable was a small fountain in the center, which left Tae-ram in awe. Above all, the room was incredibly clean. Was it a model house or something? Not a speck of dust could be found. Even if he cleaned his room every day, it couldn’t compare to this level of cleanliness. Tae-ram couldn’t help but admire it.
“Are you obsessive-compulsive?”
Tae-ram asked jokingly.
“It’s because you’re the messy one. Stop talking nonsense and come over here. Let’s start by organizing the basics. Shall we create a simple map?”
Se-ho led Tae-ram towards a desk where paper and a pen were placed. He drew a large circle on the paper and wrote “Runever Kingdom” in the center.
“We can mark the major countries around this central point. I’ll leave the rest to you,”
Tae-ram hesitated, looking at Se-ho’s expression.
“Why are you hesitating?”
“I haven’t decided on any other countries besides the Runever Empire.”
“Even at the very least, you should have some neighboring countries or countries known for trade or abundant resources… something like that.”
“I don’t have any. I just vaguely mentioned neighboring countries, countries with developed commerce, and countries with abundant resources… like that.”
Se-ho let out a disappointed sigh. Tae-ram found himself instinctively adopting a respectful posture in response to Se-ho’s eerie tone.
“You… do you want to get punished?”
“Is that really important right now?”
“Don’t get too angry. After all, this novel was written as a light-hearted joke with Min-ah.”
“I’m not angry.”
“Then stop obsessing over it. Did I ever expect something like this to happen?”
The tension between the two escalated gradually.
“Why are you raising your voice when you, as the senior, can’t even remember the details of the settings?”
“Even if I didn’t write the settings in detail, country names are a basic requirement!”
“What difference does it make? We managed to complete the story!”
“Improvisation isn’t always a good thing. That’s why we’re going through all this trouble.”
“Can’t we call it being flexible? It’s about quickly adapting to trends!”
Not long after they began discussing the story, the two started glaring at each other, growling in frustration. In the midst of it, Tae-ram couldn’t help but feel indignant and angry, with tears welling up. As the senior, he didn’t say a single word. Ah, he wants to go back home quickly.
Seeing Tae-ram in such a state, Se-ho’s heart softened, and he reached out with a gesture of reconciliation.
“Huh… I spoke harshly. Let’s start by organizing the characters. It’ll be helpful for you too, senior.”
“Huh… Alright, I’ll try to organize it.”
“I’ll take notes, so go ahead and tell me.”
“Don’t blurt it out like that. Take your time and explain properly!”
“If you say you’re sorry, why are you shouting again? It’s irritating.”
“Choose your words more carefully.”
“Don’t mock me!”
Peace didn’t last for even 10 seconds. Afterward, the two engaged in a heated argument for a while before settling into a state of silent tension.
“Just write it however you want,”
Se-ho said, almost throwing the paper and pen at Tae-ram. Startled, Tae-ram received the pen, afraid it might poke him.
“Thanks a lot,”
Tae-ram sarcastically remarked.
“Name, age, race, personality, relationship with the main character, relationship with Prince Kirek. That should be enough. Write them in the order of appearance, if possible,”
Regardless of Tae-ram’s snide remarks, Se-ho only said what he needed to say. Exhausted from arguing, Tae-ram simply nodded without saying a word.
“Some characters don’t have defined ages, right?”
“What did you say?”
“Never mind. Just write it as best you can.”
Upon hearing Se-ho’s dismissive words, Tae-ram felt a surge of determination. He wanted to surprise Se-ho by writing something extraordinary. With anger fueling him, Tae-ram began jotting down the settings. Se-ho watched him like an editor supervising an author nearing a deadline. Though Tae-ram felt pressured, he continued to write resolutely.
* * *
[Delicious Man] Characters:
- Kirek Lu Persian: An elven archer. Human, 23 years old. The third prince of the Runever Empire. A prominent candidate for the future Swordmaster and heir to the throne. He has a kind personality but can be overbearing towards his subordinates.
- Fran: A yandere sorcerer. Human, 25 years old. Acting as the substitute head priest of the deity Lian. Since childhood, he has gained fame within the kingdom for his divine powers and holds a position that cannot be taken lightly, even in other countries. He is gentle and kind to the protagonist but displays a thorny attitude toward others. A skilled provocateur. He particularly dislikes Kirek, and they often clash, with Fran having attempted assassination several times.
- Kairan: A large-scale blacksmith. Dragonkin, age unknown. A court magician and a skilled player. Among dragons, he possesses unparalleled magical abilities. He has a pure and innocent personality and is immediately infatuated with the protagonist, who possesses a special aura. His relationship with Kirek is neither good nor bad. In the latter part of the story, he accidentally almost kills the prince due to a failed magic control.
- Lucias: A devoted knight. The Demon Lord, 4266 years old. He awaits the day he can finally rest in death. Although he appears stoic, he has a caring nature. There is little interaction between him and Kirek, but in the final battle against the Demon Lord’s castle, he stakes his life to engage in combat.
* * *
There were quite a few parts that Tae-ram couldn’t remember, but he felt proud. He thought he had written well enough. Tae-ram handed the settings to Se-ho.
“Hey, I’ve finished writing it.”
“Please give it to me.”
Se-ho carefully read the settings written by Tae-ram. As time passed, Se-ho’s expression grew increasingly stern.
“I have many things I want to say… but I have one question. How on earth does the prince survive?”
In terms of being the main character, the prince was subjected to indiscriminate attacks like in a neighborhood book. Tae-ram felt sorry for no reason and explained as kindly as possible.
“Although he went through several life-or-death situations, he managed to survive with his abilities. Well, he’s still set as the strongest among humans, so don’t worry.”
“It’s not the case if you include external beings.”
“That’s true, but… anyway, he’s still alive. He’ll just suffer a bit.”
“You speak lightly of a matter of life and death. Don’t you remember anything else?”
Tae-ram pondered hard, but his knowledge of the settings had its limits.
“…I didn’t expect much. I’ve learned some things while living as Prince Kirik these past few days.”
He almost snapped his mouth shut. Tae-ram felt frustrated, but his guilt didn’t subside, so he remained obedient.
“What is it?”
“It’s about the scope of the settings. I inherited Prince Kirik’s knowledge as it is. That’s why I was able to handle the prince’s duties smoothly. Senior, is there anything different?”
The main character, like Tae-ram, was a college student who suddenly fell into a fantasy world.
“Nothing has changed… Oh! I can’t read anymore.”
“Are you illiterate?”
“It sounds weird when you put it that way! I tried to read a novel in the library, but I couldn’t understand the characters at all.”
“It reads naturally like Hangul, so I didn’t realize.”
“Main character is truly useless. Is it fortunate that I can understand what you’re saying at least?”
Hearing Tae-ram’s words, Se-ho, who had been lost in thought, spoke up.
“Call the yellow blob. I want to know more about the prince’s abilities in detail.”
“You can call it yourself.”
“It doesn’t appear when I call.”
Se-ho replied curtly.
“Is the yellow blob too busy?”
Observing Se-ho’s energy-less demeanor since earlier, Tae-ram felt a slight sense of guilt. Right, he might not feel good when he could potentially die. Tae-ram wanted to cooperate with Se-ho as much as possible to lift his spirits. So he immediately called the yellow blob.
“I’ll try it too. Hey, Yellow!”
[What is it, beep?]
“Why only to me…”
[You’ve been dealing with my doppelgänger. I’m hurt beep.]
Upon hearing Se-ho’s words, Tae-ram recalled throwing the yellow blob out the window when he first saw it
“Don’t people usually get surprised when a talking bird appears?”
Tae-ram quickly covered Se-ho’s mouth. It would be troublesome if the yellow blob left because of this. Tae-ram coquettishly pleaded with the yellow blob for permission.
“I didn’t do anything wrong. Tell me. Please?”
The yellow blob’s puffed-up cheek turned bright red. Tae-ram thought he had done something cute and smiled cheerfully. Se-ho looked at Tae-ram with pity.
“I want to know all of Prince Kirik’s abilities.”
“To explain all of Prince Kirik’s abilities would take too much time, beep. To summarize, he has superhuman strength surpassing humans. You will soon surpass Swordmasters and become a Grandmaster, beep. And his exceptional intelligence far exceeds that of most palace scholars. Especially in the understanding of magical engineering, beep.”
“It’s completely cheating. I’m envious. Yellow, what about me? Do I have any useful abilities as the Main character?”
“You can sense and manipulate others better than most people, beep.”
Se-ho seemed even more upset. Tae-ram concluded that Se-ho had realized the seriousness of the situation and became depressed. No matter how capable he was, suffering wouldn’t change, and it wouldn’t be amusing to risk death either. He’ll comfort him as much as possible.
“I understand your gloominess. I think I was too harsh on you, being the main character and all, to Prince Kirik.”
“It’s not just because of that.”
“Let’s just forget about it since it’s over.”
“Why would you say that when it’s not your business?”
“It is someone else’s business.”
Although he felt disappointed, seeing Se-ho’s darkened face, Tae-ram felt even more sorry for him. Should he try lightening the mood with a joke here?
“Um… I should have asked what would happen if you died here, according to the Yellow one.”
“Why would you ask such a thing!”
“Just in case, you know, what would happen if you died.”
“Don’t say unfortunate things!”
Se-ho frowned deeply. Tae-ram thought it was fortunate that Se-ho seemed to have enough energy to get angry.
“It’s just a joke. I hope nothing like that happens. I’ll cooperate as much as possible.”
“Are you really okay, Senior?”
Se-ho spoke with a noticeably softer voice.
“There may be times when you have to have intimate moments with someone you don’t want in the future.”
“You’re worried about me?”
Se-ho fell silent again. Tae-ram muttered to himself. He was annoyed that Se-ho only stayed silent when he was uncomfortable. But he was grateful that Se-ho considered his feelings.
“I’ve never really thought about it seriously, but….”
As Tae-ram, who had reincarnated as the main character, he had to have intimate moments with men. But until now, he hadn’t felt uncomfortable with any of the actions he had taken with Se-ho.
Could it be that his heart has been adjusted? Then that’s scary. Or maybe he was originally someone who was okay with men. Indeed, he wasn’t completely uninterested…
Although he was a little confused, Tae-ram quickly concluded.
“Well… I don’t think there will be any major problems, right?”
Se-ho looked at Tae-ram, who casually said everything would be fine, and felt a heartwarming joy. But the thought of Tae-ram being involved with other men made him extremely uncomfortable. Without realizing it, his tone became sharp.
“Yeah, right. You’re my senior, who even has physical contact with unidentified creatures. I worried for no reason.”
The warm atmosphere instantly disappeared, replaced by coldness. Tae-ram didn’t understand. He had made an effort, but Se-ho’s sudden change of attitude made him slightly annoyed.
“Why are you angry again?”
“It’s not like that!”
“Look, you’re acting strange again. Don’t take it out on me because you’re frustrated.”
“I never did that.”
“Se-ho, let’s talk…”
“If you prefer getting close to other men, go ahead and do that.”
Even originally, it was impossible for Tae-ram, who had a fiery temperament, to just let go of such a provocation.
“Don’t cross the line. Do you want a punch?”
“Are you trying to pick a fight with me, senior?”
Se-ho looked down at Tae-ram with a sly smile.
“Or maybe you want to act cute towards me too.”
“I’d rather get into a fight with a stranger than deal with your so-called cuteness!”
“Why? My mouth is open for me to speak, so I don’t want to!”
Se-ho forcefully covered Tae-ram’s mouth with his lips. He was so heated up to the point that he was unaware of what he was doing. He just wanted to shut Tae-ram up right now.
Tae-ram, on the other hand, couldn’t regain his senses as Se-ho’s tongue forcibly intruded between his pressed lips. This is insane. It feels even better when the main character does it consciously.
Se-ho’s aggressive tongue fiercely teased and explored Tae-ram’s palate, trapping his wandering tongue with no place to go. Tae-ram could only stupidly endure.
“This is the punishment that makes people hot with anger.”
Se-ho said that and raised Tae-ram’s swollen lips, biting them sharply.
A bitter taste of blood lingered. Tae-ram was bewildered. Did he just taste my blood?
“In the progression of this story, the next event is the king’s birthday, which is about three days away. I will make myself familiar with my abilities until then.”
Saying that Se-ho closed the door and left without giving Tae-ram a chance to retort. Once he was gone, Tae-ram relaxed and slumped down. Was Amil there? No, even if he was, would he bite people? What the hell is going on?
Even if he wanted to ask, the person in question had already left the room.
“…But this is your room, right?”
Only Tae-ram’s empty words echoed in the room with no one to hear them.
* * *
Finally, the day of the king’s birthday party has arrived. In the morning, there was a commotion in Tae-ram’s room. It was because the maids, led by Amil, rushed in.
“Prince Kirik has sent this.”
“Ah… Please come in.”
In an instant, his nightclothes were taken off, and his body was washed. Tae-ram, who was still half-asleep, couldn’t resist much. By the time he regained his senses from their efficient movements, everything was already done.
“You look even more beautiful today.”
Amil pushed Tae-ram towards the mirror with a satisfied smile. The maids beside them clapped their hands and fluttered around. Tidy hair and neatly ironed attire. It was different from usual.
Still, it’s uncomfortably beautiful. It would be nice if they called him handsome. Fortunately, there are no excessive frills or pumpkin pants.
“Where is Prince Kirik?”
“He said he would go to the banquet hall first.”
Tae-ram’s annoyance soared at Amil’s words. Se-ho hadn’t visited him since that day. Such a narrow-minded bastard. Go to the banquet hall alone? What is he supposed to do, not escort the main guest to the main event?
At the king’s birthday party, Tae-ram would meet Fran, the main guest, for the first time. The presence of Prince Kirik was not essential to the story’s development. However, he couldn’t hide his disappointment. Honestly, he still didn’t know what he did wrong at that time.
As Tae-ram’s expression became increasingly grim, Amil glanced at him and cautiously spoke,
“Tae-ram, you seem uncomfortable. Did I do something rude? If you let me know, I’ll fix it right away.”
“No, it’s nothing. I was just lost in thought for a moment.”
“Or do you have something to say to Prince Kirik?”
Tae-ram forced a smile to put Amil at ease. It would be difficult if he thought that there was a rift between Prince Kirik and Tae-ram. He didn’t even know if the jewel would turn black.
“I’m a bit tired. Thank you for helping me since morning.”
“No, it’s our duty. Then, I’ll take my leave.”
After Amil left, Tae-ram lay back on the bed with nothing else to do. There was still time until the birthday party.
Time passed leisurely, and his eyes slowly closed.
After dozing off for a while, Tae-ram suddenly woke up. When he opened his eyes, it was getting dark outside.
“The banquet hall! The birthday party! This is insane. Damn, it…”
An official meeting with Fran was a significant event. If he just let it pass, he might have to live forever inside a book. It was horrifying to imagine. Tae-ram quickly got up and hurriedly headed to the door. Then, he energetically ran through the royal corridor towards the banquet hall.
As he was moving his feet diligently and running at full speed, it happened. A rough friction sound struck Tae-ram’s ears.
“Hey, move aside!”
A carriage filled with luggage that was coming towards him attacked Tae-ram.
Wait, hold on a second. This isn’t a corridor where servants pass through, right? Could it be because of some kind of compulsion?
Tae-ram couldn’t respond properly because the incident happened so suddenly. He just silently cursed inside and tightly closed his eyes.
Damn it! Why did he take a nap? This is all because of that Se-ho who abandoned him! If he dies, he’ll become a ghost and haunt him! He should have asked that yellow-haired guy what happens if he dies here!
Huh? Why doesn’t it hurt? It was strange. Even after waiting for a while, it didn’t hurt. Tae-ram sneakily opened his eyes and found himself embraced tightly by an unidentified man. It was the so-called princess-hugging posture.
“Are you okay?”
Slightly wavy mint colored hair and deep green eyes. He was a beautiful man with overall light pigmentation. For some reason, his refreshing yet gentle demeanor seemed familiar. Tae-ram unknowingly called out the man’s name.
“Do you know me?”
Seeing the bewildered Fran, Tae-ram thought he messed up. It seemed natural for anyone to think that way when someone they met for the first time in five years suddenly said their name.
Well, what excuse can he make? Should he say he heard it through rumors? But in the setting, no, in reality, he hasn’t been there for less than a week.
After thinking it over, Tae-ram decided to shamelessly leave.
“Thank you. Please let me go now.”
It was also uncomfortable being held in Fran’s embrace.
“I, I’m sorry.”
Fran released the arms that were holding Tae-ram and carefully set him down on the floor. Fran’s face was flushed like autumn leaves. Tae-ram didn’t know if it was the ability of the main character or not, but he had a hunch. This guy Fran. He’s already fallen for him. No, he hasn’t done anything yet, though.
Just to make sure, Tae-ram smiled at Fran.
“Thank you for helping me. If it wasn’t for you, I would have been seriously injured.”
“Oh, no. I’m glad you’re safe.”
As expected, Fran didn’t know what to do and repeatedly clenched and unclenched his hands. Tae-ram was certain. Somehow, Fran has already fallen for him. Is this the so-called protagonist buff?
“It’s my fault that you were almost hurt. I apologize.”
“No, it’s not your fault. A knight has to help those in trouble.”
Tae-ram liked Fran, who lived somewhere and was completely different from someone else. Fran had a gentle and pleasant fragrance, even more, beautiful than imagined. Wouldn’t it be bad for him to enter the novel? No, no! Don’t think like that. But is it okay like this? Meeting Fran in a ballroom… he should check the book later. Damn it. The gem shouldn’t be cloudy…
Tae-ram’s mind became complicated. He already pictured Se-ho’s face looking at him while holding the cloudy gem.
“Where did you get hurt? It would be better to seek treatment. Would you come to our castle?”
“I’m fine! I just had something to think about.”
“If that’s the case, it’s a relief…”
Fran looked at Tae-ram with a worried gaze. Tae-ram felt that his gaze was truly warm.
“The servant who caused the accident ran away.”
Fran’s gentle voice suddenly turned cold. Tae-ram thought that maybe he hadn’t seen him.
“It’s alright. I was busy, so I didn’t have time to focus.”
It was true that he almost died due to the servant’s carelessness, but no matter how much he thought about it, it felt like the accident happened because of coercion. He had to meet Fran by all means for the main plot. Thinking that way, he felt that the servant was the victim. Taking away someone else’s job was a sorry thing…
“I was also careless.”
Tae-ram forced a smile.
“But you almost got seriously hurt. I don’t think we should just let it go.”
“I’m not injured anywhere. So, it’s fine.”
“I think that servant should receive appropriate punishment.”
The atmosphere that was as gentle as a gentle spring breeze turned cold. Tae-ram had to face the truth that he had been avoiding. It wasn’t just a misunderstanding.
“Even if I say I’m okay?”
“Because it’s the law.”
Fran had a fierce look on his face as if he were going to sell someone off to the legal code.
“Fran, you decided to serve the gods because you didn’t trust humans. But why are you trying to follow the laws made by humans?”
Fran was momentarily speechless.
How did he know the reason why he became a priest? He’d never told anyone…
The man with a lovely appearance unconsciously rescued him. Tae-ram was captivated by the small and light body that fit perfectly in his arms, experiencing a strange sense of satisfaction for the first time in his life. The man in front of him kept bothering him.
“Anyway, I’m not from Runever, so I will forgive that servant as I please. Can’t you give Fran a break too? …Fran?”
Fran, who was absent-minded at Tae-ram’s words, stuttered as if awakening.
“Ah… Well, if it’s not too intrusive, I would like to know your name.”
“I’m Han Tae-ram.”
“Tae-ram… Han Tae-ram. It’s an exotic name.”
“Haha… I came from very far away.”
“It suits you very well.”
When Tae-ram saw Fran’s cloud-like warm smile, his heart tickled for some reason.
A beautiful young man as pure as a lily! Fran, little one. He’s so handsome. It’s fine like this, why did he do that? He shouldn’t have included that setting. Tae-ram thought of Fran’s hidden setting with regret.
“Oh! By the way, I want to show my gratitude for helping me, but I don’t have anything right now.”
“It’s truly alright.”
“But still! Even if it’s something small, I want to repay you.”
“…If that’s the case, can I call you Tae-ram? Tae-ram, please call me Fran as comfortably as before.”
“Yes, sure. Nice to meet you, Fran.”
A warm atmosphere surrounded the two of them.
“But I have one curious question.”
“What is it?”
“You said you’re not from this country, right? When did you come here?”
“It’s been about a week.”
“How did you know about me from the beginning?”
Tae-ram suddenly felt like the genre was changing from romance to detective fiction.
“I heard rumors.”
“I’m not suspicious, but I haven’t been to Runever in five years. And I came back secretly. You heard about someone who hasn’t been in Runever for five years within a week of coming here?”
In Fran’s gaze, as he looked at Tae-ram, there was full of fondness, but also a hint of suspicion. Tae-ram tried to pass it off, but Fran was sharp. He let his guard down. Tae-ram quickly came up with an excuse.
“Well, um… I heard it from Prince Kirik! I’m indebted to him right now.”
Fran seemed somewhat convinced by Tae-ram’s safe answer.
“I see. If it’s Prince Kirik, he’s the third prince, right? I haven’t met him, but I’ve heard the rumors.”
“Yes. He told me a lot about this place, as I didn’t know anything.”
“Seems like you two have a good relationship?”
“I think I rely on him the most.”
“The most? I envy you. I also want to get closer to Tae-ram…”
Fran was still smiling, but there was a chill in the air. Tae-ram was engulfed in an inexplicable unease.
“Well, from now on, we can get closer! You’ll be staying here for a while, right?”
“Yes. Please take care of me, Tae-ram..”
Fran’s radiant smile was truly beautiful.
“I’m sorry, but I think I should go first.”
“Was I holding you back too much? Please go ahead.”
“Alright then. Tae-ram, may the blessings of Lian be with you.”
Fran, who had finished speaking, lightly kissed Tae-ram’s forehead and disappeared into a sacred pile of glowing light in an instant.
The gentle touch and lingering warmth remained. The faint scent of Fran lingered in the air. As unfamiliar sensations gradually resurfaced, Tae-ram’s face flushed.
It smells like mint.
* * *
Tae-ram, who had accomplished his goal of meeting Fran, was about to return to his room but decided to head towards the banquet hall just in case.
It’s not over yet, right? He thought he would go there, have something delicious to eat, and watch Se-ho work. He also wanted to break the ice with Se-ho. After the banquet, he’ll talk to him.
“Ah! Before going in, let me check the book first…”
Summoning the book, he was relieved to see that the brightness of the gem remained the same, at least from a visual perspective. It seemed that significant events didn’t necessarily have to happen in a predetermined location. With the newly acquired information, Tae-ram felt a bit excited.
As Tae-ram entered the banquet hall, he could see Se-ho bustling about, skillfully dancing with various women and even men. The young ladies and gentlemen accompanying him, Yeong-ae and Yeong-sik, were all splendid and beautiful in their ways. Although Tae-ram knew that was what a prince was supposed to do, he couldn’t help but feel a pang of jealousy and frustration. Watching that scene, an inexplicable irritation surged within him.
“If I had known this would happen, I should have just gone back to my room and slept. I could have enjoyed the dinner. It’s annoying to ignore these bothersome emotions,”
Tae-ram thought as he stuffed his mouth with food like a hamster preparing for winter. It was the first time he had encountered such a delicacy, but strangely, it didn’t taste good.
While Tae-ram was forcibly swallowing the food, a man wearing a hood flipped it back and approached him. Unlike the nobles and aristocrats gathered there, the man exuded a free-spirited demeanor, walking with a rough and energetic gait akin to a mercenary. The man cheerfully handed Tae-ram a glass.
“Here, drink this. It’s delicious!”
Inside the glass was a beverage shimmering with a mysterious light. Swept up at the moment, Tae-ram hesitantly accepted the drink offered by the man.
The beverage emanated a vivid aroma that surpassed freshness, to the point where it made one’s mouth water. Can he drink this?
“It’s okay. It’s not poisonous, so go ahead and drink.”
Having said that, the man confidently began to gulp down the same beverage that Tae-ram held. His rhythmic and swift drinking motion felt lively and enjoyable. Gazing at him with a bit of hesitation, Tae-ram mustered the courage and took a sip of his drink.
A sweet and tangy fruit flavor spread in his mouth.
“See? It’s tasty, right? It was pitiful to see you mindlessly devouring food while thinking it tasted bad. Why are humans like that? They’re truly strange.”
The bulky guy keeps babbling nonsense. Talking about humans in a way that resembles a middle schooler. Despite his inner thoughts, Tae-ram kindly smiled and replied,
“You speak as if I’m not human.”
“Well, you’re the same, aren’t you? Your soul is strange and peculiar. At least it’s not of this world.”
Tae-ram felt his heart sink at the man’s casual words.
“Ah, no, what are you talking about all of a sudden?”
“It’s no use hiding. I can see everything. Your soul is from a different dimension. It’s fascinating to feel such a tremendous presence.”
If he can see souls, he must be a soul-seeing magician. No, wait, but… why is he already here?
Confused, Tae-ram finally examined the man in front of him more closely. The red hair sticking out in disarray, the round and mischievous red eyes like coins, and the small fangs that definitively indicated he belonged to the Dragon race. In every aspect, it was Kairan.
As Tae-ram was lost in thought, Kairan leaned closer to his face.
“You seem very confused. Is it because of me?”
Kairan’s sullen face filled Tae-ram’s vision.
Se-ho, with his strong and handsome features. Fran is pure and beautiful. Kairan had a different charm from those two. Should he describe him as a large dog? Despite his bulky appearance, he’s so adorable and wiggly. Cute.
『The Delicious Man』 was a sloppily written and poorly developed character, but the character set was clear. Tae-ram felt satisfied that he had embraced not only the main character but also the supporting characters. Handsome, beautiful, cute, everything. Honestly, he was happy.
“Have I made you feel comfortable? Suddenly, positive emotions have flowed into you from me.”
Kairan stared at Tae-ram, tilting his head. Tae-ram tried to push him away, even though he was like a child… No, even if he found the character he created cute, he couldn’t ruin the story.
“A person meeting someone for the first time can’t feel comfortable. We should keep our distance since we’re close.”
“But isn’t it different for you? You know me well. You were glad to see me.”
“I’m busy, so I think I should go. Well then.”
As Tae-ram tried to leave, Kairan grabbed his sleeve tightly.
“…Let go, please.”
He should have firmly rejected him, but seeing Kairan’s face, Tae-ram’s resolve wavered.
“Just stay with me a little longer. Hm?”
Kairan had been considering leaving Runever. The repetitive and meaningless daily routine of being a court magician had become tiresome. He needed a new stimulus. That’s when he coincidentally met a beautiful soul-bearing human. A special soul unlike anyone else’s. He wanted to possess it.
At the moment, it was just a light emotion of collecting a gem in the jewelry box. However, he had a premonition that this emotion would grow, swallowing and dominating him in the future. Despite that, he still found it intriguing.
“Wanna come to play with me?”
“I don’t want to.”
“I’ll give you a useful magical item if you come to visit my laboratory.”
“I can’t. Someone is waiting for me.”
“Really? Can’t you make an exception?”
“I’ll give you something else, except for spending time together.”
“Then, will you marry me?”
Kairan’s sudden fiery proposal caught Tae-ram off guard.
Wait, why is he skipping all the stages so suddenly? Kairan, his personality is quite impatient.
“People say that humans can stay together if they get married, right? I have lots of money, and I’m incredibly strong. I can protect you for a lifetime.”
Tae-ram felt his soul drain away as Kairan went from an innocent smile to suddenly serious. It was a destructive force that made him want to immediately submit a marriage certificate. At least, that’s how it felt for someone as easily swept away as Tae-ram.
This cowardly cuteness… It might work. But no, the main character is a prince.
“I have someone I’m in a good relationship with. We’re still getting to know each other, but it’s something like fate.”
Tae-ram sighed internally, recalling Se-ho’s words about the fate community. Even though they still fought like dogs if they met in a standoff, they both would be ruined if it didn’t continue.
“It’s not a happy feeling, though.”
Kairan’s ability to perceive emotions like a ghost slightly irritated Tae-ram. Along with that, he was also angry at himself for designing such an ability.
“Well, anyway, I have to go.”
“Did you marry that person?”
“No, we’re not.”
“Then there’s no problem. Our eldest brother said it’s not over until the seal is stamped.”
Tae-ram couldn’t believe how worldly his brother was when it came to dragon topics. He calmly repeated his mantra a hundred times and calmed his heart.
“It’s not possible.”
“You won’t listen? I thought you liked my face.”
Kairan looked a little disappointed and lightly kissed Tae-ram’s forehead.
“Let’s meet again. Tell me your name then.”
When Tae-ram regained his senses after the sudden contact, Kairan was gone. Only a lukewarm touch and a faint scent remained.
Come to think of it, what was that presence that Kairan mentioned? The main character’s presence? He doesn’t know. He’ll just eat. Exhausted from dealing with the whimsical dragon, Tae-ram, who had lost his energy, ate his meal enthusiastically.
While he was eating, he felt people around him whispering and murmuring.
“That man is the beloved of Prince Kirik…”
“There were rumors that he came from another world. Is it true?”
“I heard he fell from the sky.”
“He’s more ordinary than I thought. He’s short and ugly, isn’t he?”
As everyone in the banquet hall scanned him up and down as if appraising an object, Tae-ram felt like a zoo monkey. And he has an average height and a decent face for a South Korean! Tae-ram clenched his fists tightly, unable to get angry and protect the image of a pure main character.
“Since he’s a man, he can’t even bear children…”
But when he felt the dirty stares glued to his rear end, he couldn’t bear it any longer.
Just as Tae-ram was about to speak out of anger, a dull thud was heard from behind. The banquet hall became noisy with murmuring people and flustered attendants.
“Prince! What should we do?”
“Guards! No, bring a priest!”
“Why is this happening?”
The rumble of the crowd grew louder, and Tae-ram had a foreboding feeling. There are five princes, but Se-ho isn’t there. With a cautious mindset, he turned around and betrayed his expectations—Se-ho had collapsed on the floor. As that sight entered his eyes, Tae-ram’s mind went blank.
Surprised, Tae-ram rushed to Se-ho in a single step. At least at this moment, it didn’t matter if it was the completion of a novel or anything else. Fallen Se-ho was groaning in pain, blood trickling from his lips.
“Please snap out of it! Se-ho! Se-ho!”
“I’m fine… But more importantly…”
Se-ho’s voice was faint as if it could be cut off at any moment. Tae-ram placed Se-ho’s head on his lap to make him even a little more comfortable.
“I understand, so stop talking.”
“I’m really… fine…”
Se-ho choked, then coughed up another mouthful of blood. The thick blood stained Tae-ram’s clothes, smearing his face and arms.
“What’s fine about this? You fool! I told you not to overexert yourself!”
“Tae-ram… Don’t worry too much. I’m fine.”
Se-ho acted like the prince he was, even on the verge of death. Tae-ram’s expression hardened rapidly. Seeing how serious he had become, Se-ho struggled to lift his upper body and whispered in Tae-ram’s ear.
“Don’t make that expression. Thanks to mana, I’m naturally regenerating.”
Se-ho’s words may have been true, as his breathing became noticeably more relaxed. Nevertheless, Tae-ram was still worried. He had just spilled so much blood.
“Oh. Se-ho, I told you not to speak.”
“It’s you, Tae-ram… Don’t call me by my name, especially not in front of others.”
“This crazy bastard! Is that what’s important right now?”
“Didn’t you say it, senior? Prince Kirik is strong.”
“Right now, that’s…”
Tae-ram’s pupils flickered uncontrollably like a flame in the wind. He wanted to avert his gaze out of guilt. The settings and events he had created without much thought. Confronting them, in reality, brought a bitter sense of realism that made his body tremble.
“Why did it turn out like this?”
“There was poison in the wine.”
“…It was Fran after all.”
“An attempted poisoning. It happened faster than I expected. I let my guard down.”
“It’s all because of me. I’m sorry.”
The original plan was to prepare an antidote before Fran could carry out his scheme.
“Did you meet him?”
Se-ho asked, omitting the subject, and Tae-ram silently nodded his head.
“It seems like Fran started liking the main character earlier than anticipated.”
“It’s not the main character. It’s you, senior.”
“…Yeah, that’s right.”
Se-ho’s words pierced Tae-ram’s heart like an arrow.
The person here was not the main character, but Han Tae-ram. It was Se-ho who was in pain, not the main character or Prince Kirik. He should have realized it a little sooner…
“I’ll wake up soon. So don’t worry if I collapse. Continue the story…”
Se-ho, unable to finish his sentence, lost consciousness. Due to the relief of tension, Tae-ram himself also lost consciousness.
* * *
Tae-ram felt a mysterious sensation as if his body was floating. When he opened his eyes, he found himself in the club room. It felt like watching a movie. Looking around, he saw a man vigorously typing on a computer keyboard. That man was Tae-ram himself.
“I lack uniqueness…”
The past version of Tae-ram, with a more youthful face than now, was writing and erasing repeatedly, immersed in his thoughts. On the monitor, the title “Delicious Man” was prominently displayed. If this was a dream, it was definitely a nightmare.
“Are you still worried because of Fran?”
Min-ah approached the past Tae-ram from behind and spoke to him.
“Yeah. The main character isn’t bad, but everyone else has distinct personalities, so relatively, he seems bland.”
“He seems dull.”
The novel “Delicious Man” was a mixture of various popular elements, aside from the parody of pure literature that was the trend at the time. Tae-ram had started writing it with excitement, but as the story progressed, it became increasingly difficult to salvage. Especially Fran’s character had caused him a lot of concern. Min-ah was the one who helped resolve this dilemma.
“What if we add a yandere character setting?”
“Our Tae-ram needs to study more. To put it simply, it’s a tendency to obsessively cling to one person.”
“That sounds good. Let’s make Fran obsessively attached to the main character and go on a rampage! Despite appearing gentle and devoted on the surface, inside, he’s completely twisted.”
From that point on, hardcore and daring words were exchanged, shaping the character more and more.
“It seems a bit monotonous to only have attempted poisoning.”
When Fran’s character was nearing completion, Min-ah made a frightening suggestion. The past Tae-ram, filled with excitement, joined in. The present Tae-ram, observing it all, silently sought solace in the theme of atheism. Oh Lord, please stop their mouths from uttering such things. Whether they speak or not, the two people from the past enthusiastically exchanged opinions.
“Is that so?”
“What if we add the element of secretly attacking the main character during battle as if it were a mistake?”
“Hiring. It’s good to threaten the main character’s life subtly.”
“Yeah. These days, it’s more popular to roll the dice with offense rather than defense.”
“Great. How can we make it more creatively humiliating?”
“What about rendering the prince impotent? Isn’t that novel? Love deepens during the treatment process.”
“We need a dramatic element, but that might be a bit too intense. We need a crisis that is serious but not too serious.”
“Falling off a cliff?”
Tae-ram cursed at his past self. You idiot! Tone it down. Please. It’s serious enough.
The screen transitioned, revealing Se-ho lying on the ground, covered in blood.
Despite having seen the scene before, Tae-ram’s heart sank. He had never seriously thought about the characters until now. He had regarded the novel as something light. Tae-ram became terrified. What if Se-ho dies because of him? He didn’t want to imagine it. The story was already changing bit by bit. That meant Se-ho could become even more dangerous in the future.
Can he continue writing the book without Se-ho? No, even if he were to continue alone, he couldn’t live as before. He doesn’t have confidence. And… he doesn’t want that. Absolutely not.
Tae-ram woke up from the dream, screaming.
Se-ho looked at the startled Tae-ram with a worried expression.
“Senior! Are you awake? Are you okay?”
“Se-ho… Where is this?”
“This is the prince’s room.”
A gentle mountain breeze brushed against Tae-ram’s face through the window, reminding him that this was not a dream but reality.
“You! You’re alive!”
Without giving Se-ho a chance to respond, Tae-ram reached out and touched his face. It felt warm and soft. The fact that Se-ho was alive brought him relief, at least for now.
“Since you’re all sweaty, you should wipe your saliva.”
Se-ho forcibly removed Tae-ram’s hand, causing him to feel both frustrated and embarrassed. He quickly wiped the corners of his mouth with the back of his hand.
“If you’re that agitated, you seem fine.”
“And you? Did you receive proper treatment?”
“I was completely healed within a few hours, so I didn’t need any additional treatment.”
“Swordmaster is amazing. At that time, it was so painful, as if someone was poking my nerves.”
“It’s not your fault… Why do you keep saying that?”
Se-ho’s large hand rested on Tae-ram’s head. He gently stroked it, and with his compassionate touch, Tae-ram felt his guilty and anxious heart gradually calming down.
“It was already a destined event to some extent. You and I are not the real main characters, so we can’t perfectly recreate the same story.”
Se-ho hesitated for a moment and then respectfully bowed his head towards Tae-ram.
“And I should apologize. I’m sorry. When I first came here, I took my frustrations out on you, senior.”
“I’m more sorry. I kept resisting and being grumpy with you.”
“I apologize for biting your lips and leaving you alone afterward.”
“…Well, honestly, the lip-biting didn’t bother me that much… And I wasn’t upset or bothered by being left alone. I just thought the prince was busy. Anyway, I’m the one who should apologize more.”
“No, I’m the one who’s more sorry.”
“No, I’m the senior who embarrassed myself. I’m sorry.”
“If we keep going like this, there’s no end.”
“But didn’t you dislike it?”
“Well… umm… I liked it. You’re good-looking.”
“Does being good-looking make anyone okay for you, senior?”
“Why do you interpret it like that!”
Just as they were about to start fighting again without getting tired of it, a yellow creature barged in.
“What are you two doing, beep? Prince Fran is coming, beep! Can you both stop?!”
Startled by Fran’s sudden entrance, Tae-ram seemed flustered, while Se-ho appeared calm.
“Why is Fran here all of a sudden?”
“He’s been checking up on my condition frequently. It seems like he’s here for you, senior.”
“…How long did I sleep?”
“It’s been just a day since the banquet. You collapsed publicly, appearing as if you were in shock. But in reality, you slept with your mouth open, snoring.”
“Why do you have to say it like that…”
Just as Tae-ram was about to say something to Se-ho, they heard a knocking sound.
“Your Highness, it’s Fran. May I come in?”
Tae-ram absentmindedly moved to open the door, but Se-ho stopped him.
“Senior, try to stay as quiet as possible this time.”
“The gem got cloudy because you missed the timing to speak.”
“I’m not sure of the exact cause, but it’s definitely because of your influence, senior. Let’s try to minimize contact with the characters as much as possible.”
Tae-ram immediately thought of meeting Kairan at the banquet.
“Perhaps I affected Kairan…”
Just as Tae-ram was about to say something, Fran knocked on the door again.
“We can talk later.”
When Tae-ram nodded quietly, Se-ho quickly transformed into the appearance of Prince Kirik.
“You may come in.”
“Behold, the third light of the Empire, Prince Kirik Lu Persian. Today, a brief examination… Tae-ram!”
Fran, in his professional demeanor, smiled with delight as soon as he noticed Tae-ram.
“You’re awake? Is your body okay? Should I heal you?”
Tae-ram found Fran’s appearance, which seemed to please people, repulsive. It was terrifying to see someone with such an unappealing face attempting a murder. However, Tae-ram himself was the one who had made Fran like that. He forced a bright smile, hiding his emotions.
“Are you sure? Your face is half gone….”
His face was originally small. Seeing Fran acting so pretentious made Tae-ram feel embarrassed for no reason. He had only had nightmares, but he had eaten well and slept well.
“By the way, weren’t you here to examine Prince Kirik?”
Tae-ram subtly changed the subject, indirectly criticizing Fran for neglecting his duties. It was a timid act of revenge. Fran, whether he knew Tae-ram’s intentions or not, simply smiled brightly.
“Do you have an interest in becoming a royal physician? That’s great. Don’t worry, Prince, you are perfectly healthy. You are strong, after all.”
Interpreting things in his way… It’s annoying. When Tae-ram was getting irritated, Fran suddenly threw a bombshell of a remark as if he remembered something.
“Come to think of it, at the banquet, didn’t you call the Prince ‘Se-ho’?”
Tae-ram failed to control his expression. He had to come up with a response, but he couldn’t think of anything. Se-ho, who was standing next to him, took the initiative on his behalf.
“Se-ho is a special nickname Tae-ram gave me.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes! In the place where I lived, we used special nicknames among close friends!”
“Special nicknames? That’s interesting. Will you give me one too?”
“Well… um… I’ll think about it until we meet again.”
“Yes! I’ll think of a lovely name that suits you, Fran.”
“I’m glad to have a nickname for me.”
Tae-ram lost himself in Fran’s beautiful smile as he drew an exquisite line.
“So, Tae-ram thinks I’m pretty.”
“It’s not something a man would say, but I think Fran is truly beautiful.”
“I’m glad you said that, Tae-ram.”
Fortunately or unfortunately, Tae-ram regained his senses in the face of Fran’s whisper and the chilling atmosphere that had developed between them.
“What other methods should I use to get closer?”
Terrifying. His gaze was halfway twisted. Fran should relax his eyes. It’s scary. Before Fran could change his mind for no reason, Tae-ram decided to change the subject.
“Um, speaking of that, Fran! Have you eaten?”
“Not yet… If it’s alright with you, would you like to eat together?”
“Yes, I’m not familiar with this area, so please show me around.”
“Are there any foods you can’t eat?”
“I don’t have any. I can eat anything.”
“In that case, there’s a pasta place unique to the Runever Empire. Or there’s a restaurant that serves unusual exotic dishes. There’s also a modest restaurant with simple but delicious local flavors….”
“Tae-ram decided to eat with me.”
Without giving Tae-ram a chance to retort, Fran forcefully pushed forward, overwhelming him. When decision paralysis hit him, Se-ho came forward and naturally positioned himself behind Tae-ram, shielding him.
“Since the prince has only recently gotten up from the sickbed, please entrust Tae-ram to me.”
Fran still had a smile on his face, but he seemed colder somehow. Se-ho’s expression wasn’t good either. Tae-ram could feel the temperature in the room drop suddenly. He could somewhat understand why Se-ho displayed such hostility. After all, he had tried to kill him; there was no reason for him to appear pleasant.
“I’m fine. You must be tired from the long journey. Why don’t you go rest?”
“You are the light of the empire, Your Highness. Just to be safe, please take a little more time to rest.”
“Didn’t you assure me with your mouth that I am healthy?”
Tae-ram felt suffocated by the tension between the two of them.
“Tae-ram, will you have a meal with me?”
Drawn in by Fran’s beautiful smile, Tae-ram nodded unconsciously. Leaving aside gender, he was captivated by his beauty. Though his heart may be as black as coal, on the surface, he was the ideal beauty woven by Tae-ram’s own hands.
He could sense Se-ho’s glare, but he deliberately ignored it. Tae-ram justified to himself that if Fran were to dislike him, it would complicate the story.
“Tae-ram is unable to easily refuse others’ kindness due to his complex emotions.”
“Do you think that’s how I perceive it, Your Highness?”
“Tae-ram hasn’t even had the chance to see the royal palace yet. It’s too early to leave.”
“Are you treating Tae-ram like a child? It seemed like you were interested in what I said earlier.”
With Fran counterattacking Se-ho’s words, a full-fledged argument began. Tae-ram found himself in spectator mode, watching their verbal sparring. Regardless, watching from the sidelines, observing a fight seemed to offer great amusement. He doesn’t know, but winning seems to be on his side.
“You don’t seem to understand how much you know about Tae-ram to say such things. Isn’t it just a one-day encounter? I have been with Tae-ram ever since he arrived in Runever.”
Tae-ram exclaimed in admiration. Se-ho used the aggressive term “just” to emphasize their long-standing relationship. By emphasizing, he appealed to a deeper sense of intimacy.
“Aren’t you thinking too highly of yourself? Indeed, Tae-ram and I have only known each other for less than a day. But it didn’t feel unfamiliar from the beginning. It’s violent of you to belittle it as ‘just.’ Don’t you think relationships grow deeper the longer they last? You believe in mere numbers. Your Highness, you truly are naive.”
Fran calmly counterattacked with the composure of an adult. Despite the mere two-year age difference, the experience couldn’t be ignored, Tae-ram thought.
“Do you know what kind of food Tae-ram likes or what books he enjoys reading? Are you saying you know everything, including the fact that he’s sanguine?”
Se-ho regained his momentum in response to Fran’s counterattack. Tae-ram thought that even though he considered himself illiterate and not sanguine, Se-ho was, in a way, like a typical person in modern society who throws around all sorts of information.
“I just told you not to believe in numbers. Your Highness, you’re not very bright. When you’re close, there are things you don’t know.”
Fran’s polite tone carried a thorn. Particularly, his last remark was remarkably meaningful.
“Even if you’re the prince of the empire, your recent behavior was quite rude.”
The two of them glared at each other in silence. Tae-ram’s heart raced. If Se-ho remained silent, it meant he was truly angry. What should he do? He had advised against getting involved, but it would be better than letting the fight escalate! Sensing the escalating tension, Tae-ram quickly stepped in between the two.
“You two seem a bit scary when you raise your voices. Can’t we just go together?”
Tae-ram’s awkward acting softened the demeanor of both individuals.
“Let’s go together, then.”
“I didn’t act maturely. I apologize for speaking disrespectfully to you, Your Highness.”
Se-ho, who had been growling like a dog, regained his usual calmness, and Fran, who had been poised like a cat with her claws out, returned to a kind atmosphere.
In the end, Tae-ram felt like the only one who suffered from the unrealistic acting.
* * *
[Delicious Man] Page 34
I feel really lucky.
I suddenly had to run an errand, and I didn’t want to, but guess what? On my way, I saw Tae-ram and the prince. The prince still looked handsome, and Tae-ram was adorable too. I temporarily put aside the errand and followed the two of them.
“Tae-ram, come over to my side.”
I thought it was just the two of them, but there was also a new official in Runever who had returned after five years. What should I do? They are even more beautiful than I imagined. I thought they possessed a beauty that transcends gender. Beauty has emerged!
While the prince has a contrasting charm, there is also a soft charm with Tae-ram. I lean towards Kirik-Tae-ram, but Fran-Tae-ram is also quite nice.
“Tae-ram, come over here.”
“You seem to be pressuring Tae-ram, Your Highness.”
“I don’t want to hear it from you.”
“I’ll go in the middle.”
The prince and the official bickered back and forth with Tae-ram in between them. It was pitiful to see Tae-ram feeling awkward, but he was also so lovable.
At that moment, a sudden thought came to my mind. After all, there’s no need to eat only one dish at a restaurant, right? It would be nice if all three of them were together.
Suddenly, I remembered what the maid told me about the potential of King Ham Toast.
Even if I get scolded by the supervisor, today I made up my mind to follow the three of them until the end.