Yul was patiently waiting for Zeng. He would be arriving anytime now. He looked around the glass door of the mall when a young mother came hurriedly walking behind her child who was running ahead. The little boy didn't heed to his mother's warnings as she was yelling at him to stop. The next moment her high-heels decided to betray her and she fell along with all her shopping bags.
Without a second thought, Yul immediately rushed over and helped her to stand. The lady's son came back with a worried expression. "Is mama okay?" He asked with big round eyes.
She was in pain but didn't show it to her son and scolded instead, "A'Ling-ah, I told you already not to run away like that. See, mama had to chase you and she fell down."
"A'Ling is sorry." The little boy caught his earlobes.
Yul smiled at their interaction. After all, he had been there once as his mother had scolded him tons of times when he had run off on his own. As the lady was dusting her clothes, he picked up all the shopping back and handed them over once she was done.
"Thank you so much," she bowed, accepting the bags.
"It's fine," Yul replied shortly and then turned to the little kid. His expression instantly softened. He crouched down to meet the little one's eye level.
"A'Ling, was it?" He asked.
A'Ling looked up at his mom who smiled at him to go ahead and talk. Then he looked back at Yul and nodded as a response to his earlier question. To him, Yul was this tall muscular guy who closely resembled the action hero he daily saw on television in one of his regular cartoons.
Yul smiled again, "You should listen to your mom, you are a good boy, right? What if you get lost or get hurt? Your mom will be so sad. So you should stay close to her from now on, whenever you are outdoors, okay?" He tilted his head, looking at the little boy who remained him of his past self.
A'Ling nodded, "Okay gege, A'Ling won't run away again. Thank you for helping A'Ling's mama." The kid bowed and Yul's heart filled with exuberance at the little one's good manners.
"You are most welcome, A'Ling." He patted the little boy's head and got up. The mother and son then left from the exit panel beside the entrance gate and headed for the parking lot.
Yul was back to waiting again. Another fifteen minutes passed but Zeng didn't come. At times like this, he regretted not having a phone. The academy didn't allow the trainees to keep phones so Yul never asked for Zeng's number.
He waited for another fifteen minutes but to no avail. There was no sign of Zeng and Yul was starting to get worried now. He anxiously waited for another hour but Zeng never came.
About one and a half hour ago:
Zeng got out of Sanyuk government hospital as soon as he could. He was scolded for arriving late by his Senior but Zeng didn't let that ruin his mood in any way and accepted the criticism. He had completed his work at lightning speed and was now free.
He drove towards the highways and set off. While waiting in the traffic, he combed his hair once more and tilted the fringes towards left seeing in the rearview mirror.
It has already been an hour since he left Yul to reach the hospital. Five minutes more and he'll be reaching back to Yul.
He saw Yul standing near the entrance gate. The boy seemed anxious even from this far, he was chewing on his lip and tapping his foot.
Zeng smiled. He was about to call the younger one so that they can get this done after going to his apartment.
He raised a hand to call Yul but near the place where Yul was standing, a young woman fell down. Yul helped her up and while she was dusting her clothes, he picked the shopping bags and handed them to her.
Zeng couldn't expect anything less from him. He knew that though Yul may seem cold on the surface but he was a polite kid. The girl blushed and thanked him. Zeng saw Yul as he propped on a knee to match the little kid's height, who was probably the lady's son.
He saw Yul smiling as the trainee interacted with the kid. The little boy's mother was standing nearby and stroked her son's hair as he looked at Yul with round curious eyes. Yul patted the kid's head. Zeng saw Yul in a happy state that he had seen never before. Something that Yul deserved to have and he himself didn't.
Yul seemed genuinely happy interacting with the child. Even Zeng could tell it from this far. Any passersby could tell what a lovely sight that was. So blissful. So loving. So normal.
The smile from Zeng's face faded away. A familiar void began to form in his heart. His throat went dry. The hand which was propped up to call Yul was taken down to his side. People around passed him but he remained unfazed.
Finally, his feet made their way back to the car. He got himself out of the place as soon as possible because he didn't belong there. He wasn't needed there. He didn't want his presence to tarnish anything ever again.
It had been over an hour of the scheduled time but Zeng didn't come. Yul couldn't take it anymore. His mind was running haywire with all sorts of negative thoughts. Anxious, he decided to go to the only place he knew Zeng could possibly be at.
He somehow managed to reach Zeng's apartment, overcoming the confusing and congestive local train system that he wasn't familiar with. On his way inside the compound, he saw the old landlady watering the plants in her small garden.
He went over, "Excuse me, aunty."
The old lady turned around, "Yes, young man. Oh wait . . . aren't you that doctor's friend?"
"Yes, aunty. Did Zeng ge come back here?"
"Yes, about an hour ago," she said, nodding. Then an expression of concern fell over her face, "Is something wrong with him? He always greets me if we come across but that was the first time he didn't. He also didn't look well."
Yul didn't wait for her to say more and ran towards Zeng's room on the second floor.