"I'm sorry. I failed to--"
"It wasn't your fault, stop blaming yourself."
My lungs feel like exploding as I run after the individual as fast as my legs can carry me. According to the news, it was a chilly night, but my body feels like it's on fire.
Leaping high into the air, I climb over a metal fence before landing nimbly on the ground and keep up the chase. As the person looks at me over his shoulder, he grimaced and put on a burst of speed.
It was a man, slightly taller than me and wearing a jacket and simple pants, he was Kang Ji-chul, a delivery man that has murdered 2 people, one of the victims being his wife.
He ducks into an alleyway and I dash right in the direction of it, he kicks down a trash can as he runs in an attempt to slow me down, but I jumped over it with ease.
The man was already a bit worn out from our fight earlier, but not before pulling up some tricks on his sleeve to escape and slow me down. We've been tracking him down for 2 days now and I hope this will be the last day of that.
With surprising agility and speed, he jumps up a roof and proceeds to sprint away. I jump up after him and I find myself from one rooftop to another as he gives chase. I fumble with the earpiece in my ear and take a breath as I chase down Ji-chul.
"Where are you guys? I'm at the rooftops chasing after Ji-chul, I think he's headed towards the building where his boss is at to go after him next, this evil spirit (1*) is getting annoying."
"I'll head over to the building in case you don't catch him, ok?" Mr. Mo-tak's voice rings through and I gasped in mock anger.
"Do you not have faith in me? I'll catch him, don't worry!" I chirped back at him and grinned even if it wouldn't be seen by him though I have a feeling he knows what expression I have on my face right now.
"You're still injured from yesterday, let Mo-tak (2*) handle things if you can't, ok? Don't push yourself too much." Ms. Chu's (3*) motherly yet firm tone came on next and I nearly yielded from the words. I continue chasing after Ji-chul with vigor and jump to another rooftop, landing on my feet smoothly as I reply to reassure her.
"I'll be alright Ms. Chu, You healed (4*) me yesterday, I'm good as new!"
"Mun (5*) and I will be coming to the rooftops then, Ms. Chu will go to the building to where Ji-chul is going to be." Ha-na's (6*) statement made me smirk, and I tease her about her relationship with Mun. (7*)
"Woooow, even on missions, you both don't want to be apart from each other, I was right when I said that you're the clingy one." My teasing comes to an end as I see Ji-chul jump from the building and run on the road again.
I jumped down after him and I see Mun and Ha-na on top of the rooftop across from the one I was on earlier. My eyes met with theirs as I was running and they jump off the rooftop as well and begin to run alongside me.
"Took you both long enough, Mun, see if you can use your psychokinesis (8*) on him."
Mun holds out his hand as we continue running and uses his ability to move a bunch of garbage cans in front of Ji-chul and throw them towards him.
He tried to dodge them all, but he falls victim to the heaps of steel to no avail. Ji-chul crashes on the ground on his back and I move fast to apprehend him.
I go to grab him by the back of the collar, but he retaliates by standing up quickly, facing my direction, and grabbing my wrist.
He throws me on the concrete wall and I yelp in pain as I hear my teammates shout in concern.
"I'm fine, let's go get him!" I reassure them as I clutch my back, quickly recovering, and we all charge at him together.
Ji-chul dodges the roundhouse kick I was aiming at his face, but Ha-na's punch hits him instead. Mun uses his psychokinesis once again to make the trash cans from earlier float and hurls them towards Ji-chul. He was prepared this time around and Ji-chul kicks some towards us in return.
The three of us dodge out of the way and Ha-na and I use it as another opportunity to attack Ji-chul. He anticipates this and takes hold of my arm, twisting it behind me and throwing me towards Mun while Ha-na is keeping him busy with her attacks. Mun catches me in his arms and I quickly nod at him as thanks.
I face Ji-chul once again and see him jab at Ha-na's stomach with his elbow, hurling her towards the floor. I react to attack him and finally finish this.
I draw back my arm and swing my fist, punching him in the stomach. Ha-na gets up from the floor and uses this as an opening to kick him right on the chest and send him flying to the wall.
He groans in agony and I did not waste any time grabbing him swiftly by the collar and striking him with the left side of my head, hitting him on his nose. His eyes roll to the back of his head as he loses consciousness.
Ji-chul goes limp in my hold and I lay him on the floor. I sit on the ground with an exhausted sigh escaping me. I contact Ms. Chu and Mo-tak to inform them about the situation.
"We got him, let's meet up at where the car is parked, I'll send back (9*) the evil spirit to Yung (10*) first." I place Ji-chul's hand on his chest and then I place mine on top of it.
I close my eyes, aware of what is happening as the area I am touching begins to glow a bright light and I can envision his face starting to twitch wildly. I hear pained rasps start to come out of his mouth and I can feel his whole body convulsing. I open my eyes to see his eyes wide open, motivating me to concentrate even more.
Ji-chul's face changes after twitching wildly once more, and the evil spirit's physical manifestation appears instead. He shakily smirks with evil intent as he leers at me.
"A shame that I could have had killed you and ate your soul, I bet it would have tasted delicious."
I shoot him a piercing stare and close my eyes again, focusing more on sending his soul back where it belongs.
The twitching of his body increases tenfold and after a few seconds, I hear the sound of fire and I open my eyes to the sight of the soul turning into ashes and smoke before vanishing, leaving behind an unconscious Ji-chul.
I sigh in relief and get up on my feet. Mun and Ha-na rush up to me in concern and I hold up my hand, gesturing that I'm feeling alright. We hear a moan and our heads turn to see an awakened Ji-chul. He stares up at us in surprise and looks at his surroundings around him.
"Who are you, people?" He asks in confusion and we stayed silent, ignoring him. I whip out my phone to call the police.
"Hello, we have Kang Ji-chul here at an alleyway on the southwest near the Ninja Delivery Station." My voice didn't waver and I hear Ji-chul shuffling up to his feet but, Ha-na and Mun stop him from slipping away.
I pull out some zip ties from my pockets and hand them over to Mun, who uses them to tie Ji-chul's legs and arms. We run away from the scene as we hear the police siren and jump on the roof.
We watch from above as the police apprehend Ji-chul and bring him in the car. Once the police were out of sight, we headed back to meet with Ms. Chu and Mo-tak.
Mun, Ha-na, and I see Ms. Chu and Mo-tak by the car and I wave at them cheerfully with a big smile on my face.
Ms. Chu waves back and Mo-tak approaches us and pats Mun and me on the back with a small, proud smirk on his face. I shove him playfully and without any warning, I climb on his back and he grunts in surprise. I hear Mun laugh at what I'm doing and I could feel Ha-na's smirk on my back as she watches the scene before her.
"Mr. Mo-tak, I'm tired, carry me on the way back to the car." The whiny and playful tone in my voice only prompts him to let out a huff then drop me on the floor and I land on my butt. I glare at him and I hear Mun stifle a laugh and Ha-na snort.
They go to enter the car and I immediately get up from my spot on the ground to follow them.
"Ha-na, can I sit by the window?" My question earns a nod of approval from her and I jog to the car and open the door. Mun and Ha-na follow after me and got in the back seat. I position my elbow on the window and lean my face towards my outstretched hand as Mo-tak starts the car and begins to drive.
I continue looking out the window and it was silent for a few minutes until Ms. Chu decides to break it by asking a question directed towards me.
"Yeona, you aren't injured anywhere right? I could heal you later after we arrive at the restaurant." I perk up at the question and a soft smile takes over my face.
"I just feel a bit sore, that's all. I'll be fine after a good night's rest. Oh! I want to eat some of your noodles before I go home!" I beam at her as she looks at me with fond eyes.
"Alright then, your grandfather (11*) will be picking you up, right?" Ms. Chu's question earns a nod from me and she smiles at me once more and stops the conversation as she turns back her body to face forward.
"I noticed that a lot more evil spirits have been appearing and they're stronger than usual." Ha-na suddenly comments and we all pay attention to her.
"She's right and the territory (12*) has been expanding even larger, it could cover up to 15 meters naturally," Mun says with a calculating expression on his face.
"You think that we should go to Yung tomorrow? To ask about the situation." Mr. Mo-tak suggests as he drives.
"Yeah, good idea, let's forget about that for now. I'll be cooking noodles tonight." The positive tone in Ms. Chu's voice made us perk up and we all nodded in agreement and it is quiet once again.
The ride is silent until we arrive at the restaurant. Eonni's Noodles is a quaint place and it always feels cozy especially when you eat noodles. The car pulls to a stop and we all get out and enter the restaurant. It also serves as our hideout of sorts.
The bell rings when I open the door and breathe in the air as the restaurant's warmth comforts me. I take a seat on one of the chairs to relax and I see Ms. Chu enter the kitchen, probably to cook noodles.
As we sit in silence, a vehicle pulls over by the restaurant, I immediately recognized who it belonged to and jumped out of my seat in delight when I see the figure exiting the car.
The person opens the door and I pounce at the individual, squealing.
"GRANDPA, I MISSED YOU SO MUCH!" I exclaimed with excitement and he chuckles softly and hugs me back.
"Goodness, we just saw each other this morning. I'm here to pick you up, your siblings miss you." He chides as he lets go of me and I remain by his side, still smiling brightly.
"Ah, it's Mr. Choi!" Mun says in surprise as he, Mo-tak, and Ha-na all stand up to greet him and bow.
"Hello, thanks for looking after Yeona today, you all know how she is, reckless and quick to react." My grandpa looks at me with a twinkle in his eye as he says that and Mo-tak chuckles and ruffles my slightly, curly hair with his hand as I protest and swat it away playfully.
"Hey, watch the hair, old man!"
"This brat is the youngest counter (13*) out of all of us, she's a pain sometimes in and out of the job, but we wouldn't trade her for the world. She lights up the room." Mo-tak states with a soft look on his eyes and face.
"Mr. Mo-tak is right, Yeona is like a happy virus!" Mun smiles as he ruffles my hair as well.
"Mun, just because you're nice and all, it won't spare you from my wrath." I glare at him as he stops and holds up his hands and I kick him lightly on the shin. He lets out a sound of mock pain and a laugh escapes me.
"Mun is right, you're a virus, contagious and annoying." Ha-na looks at me with a straight face and deadpan eyes and I stick my tongue at her and she smirks in amusement. I turn to my grandpa once again.
"You're pretty early, I texted you earlier that I'll be eating some noodles first," I tell him as we take our seats.
"I was driving already when I got your text so I just went with it. I also got a call from Min-young, she was wondering about what time you'll be coming home." He informs me and I smile at him once more and play with my hands.
"I was gone the whole day so I never got to say a proper goodbye to Min-young, Min-hyuk, Hyunso, and Nayeon. I'll make it up to them tomorrow by taking them to that antique store near the mall after my afternoon shift here!" I tell my grandpa, my smile becoming bigger as I think of my siblings.
He smiles at my words and pats me on the back.
"Well then, since you'll be eating here for a bit, I'll wait for you to finish."
"Thank you, grandpa!" I thank him, the smile never leaving my face.
"Ok, here's the noodles!" Ms. Chu suddenly appears from the kitchen holding a tray with the bowls of noodles. Before I could help her, my grandpa beat me to it.
"Hi Mae-ok, I was just here to pick Yeona up, but she'll be eating your delicious noodles first." I bite the inside of my cheek to prevent the grin from my lips.
'Oh god, he's about to go flirting with her again, they're so cute, but damn, feeling single here.'
I unintentionally glance at Mun and Ha-na, who are both holding hands, and I looked away before I could get caught staring at them.
Ms. Chu and my grandpa place the bowls in front of us and we dig in to eat. The noodles she cooks always taste so good, I even learned the recipe to cook it for my siblings whenever I'm at home.
We all chat and eat in bliss, even sharing some laughs and stories. It gives me a warm feeling inside every time moments like these happen, I never want them to end.
All these moments make me forget what I am, what I do, and all my problems. Even if it was just for a little while, I'm content.
'Mom and Dad would have loved it here...' A melancholic smile graces my lips, but I quickly perk back up before someone notices and I continue eating and chatting with the others until it was time for me and my grandpa to go home.
I hug Ms. Chu and Mun goodbye and I wave at Ha-na and Mr. Motak as I get in the front seat of the car. My grandpa starts the car and starts to drive home.
I glance at the window and see the buildings we pass by, they're all glowing brightly like the stars in the sky. I let my mind wander and my thoughts are for me to ponder.
Like Ha-na said, more evil spirits have been acting up lately and getting more dangerous, it's getting concerning. More people are getting killed every day and we still need to know why this is happening.
A deep sigh escapes me and I start to feel sluggish, probably from all the evil spirits we had to catch these past days.
'We're going to Yung tomorrow anyway, I hope we get some answers.'
I look at my right hand. Each finger has a mole in the top center of it, one of the signs that I am a counter. I clench it into a fist and lower my hand.
'I wish that I could take a long vacation from all of this, but I can't, I'm scared, scared that I might not come home to my siblings anymore. I'm the one that got entrusted to look after them and then I just leave this world as fast as light. I wish I could get a break from my responsibilities as a counter, I wish, I wish, I wish!'
You all know what people say though, right? Be careful what you wish for.