This day was just like another day for Yoo Joonghyuk. He woke up then washed his face and brushed his teeth before going to the kitchen to prepare breakfast for two. He would knock on Mia's door to wake her up then went to ironed her uniform and his. Mia was the one to wash the dishes so he would shower and get ready for the day. Just like another day, they met at the porch, said their 'see you later' and went separate ways.
It had been this way since that day ten years ago when he got a phone call which said it was only Mia and him now.
Yoo Joonghyuk would then took the subway to his club and arrived just in time for the morning practice. His teammates greeted him and Joonghyuk nodded back. They had the championship to get and they wanted to win; for the exhilarated feeling, for the prestige and for the money. Mia also would enter her teenage years soon and Joonghyuk wanted her to pass it beautifully and if getting her new bag and new phone is the way, he would work extra hard for it.
Joonghyuk thanked his parents for giving him a nice face when the club's manager called him to talk about the endorsement he would do next week.
It was only after dinner that he would get time to unwind. He opened the familiar webnovels' site and pressed the novel ranked number one on it. Omniscient Reader, it said. Written by tls123, it was the most famous novel currently with views up to thousands every chapter. The novel had been ongoing for the past eight years with merchandise, manhwa adaptation and aeni with multiple seasons in between.
This day, just like any other day in the past ten years, Yoo Joonghyuk read about Kim Dokja's struggle to reach the ■■■.
He met Lee Jihye and Lee Hyunsung through the Dokkaebi forum - a forum made for the fans of Omniscient Reader. At that time, chapter 220 broke his heart and to cope, Joonghyuk wrote a meta spanning over ten pages in word and uploaded it to the forum. He was famous overnight and became a legend in the forum. Many other fans reached out to him but only Jihye and Hyunsung left an impression on him.
On the day when tls123 uploaded a new chapter, the three of them would live chat on their group. Sometimes, Hyunsung would unable to join on the update day because of his job in the army so Joonghyuk and Jihye would hold the reading until Hyunsung was free.
"I don't know, Master," Jihye said. "I just feel like we have to read it together."
"This is strange but," Hyunsung wrote on another occassion, "I always have thought that we're supposed to be there."
When Joonghyuk and Jihye didn't reply back, he quickly wrote again, "Eh, that's too weird, doesn't it?"
"No," because sometimes when he slept, Joonghyuk could feel the wings on Kim Dokja's back on his fingertips. "No, it's not."
Kim Dokja was a protagonist who brought strange feelings to Joonghyuk. He made Joonghyuk mad and sad at the same time and when tls123 wrote about how Kim Dokja pat Lee Gilyoung's head when the kid showed him his newest Titano, it made him warm reading it.
Kim Dokja was a rat; he liked to withhold information, acted alone much to his party chagrin, and sacrificed himself to achieve the ■■■ and left the party for years. Yet, it was what made him, him. He struggled, he grieved, he cried, and he gritted his teeth as he looked towards the constellations and fate when he said, "I'll pull you down from your thrones and burn you to the ground."
Joonghyuk clenched his fist as he read the moment where Kim Dokja had to scavenge through scrap stories to keep his body intact.
Aside from the mystery of the ■■■, Joonghyuk and the rest of the fandom realized that Kim Dokja had other things going on inside his mind. He paused when he passed through Dongho Bridge; he huffed like there was something amusing during the Chungmuro Station scenario; he turned his head looking for something when he finished the Absolute Throne scenario and held the pocket watch that he commissioned from Aileen so tenderly it made the fandom wondered if Kim Dokja had someone he lost and still looking for.
"Is it a sister?" Gong Pildu, a businessman and one of the newest members of their group chat texted then followed it with a series of emoji.
Lee Seolhwa, also another new member of the group replied, "Pildu-ssi, it's the twenty-first century. Brothers also have the same chance to be The One now."
Jihye gave the high-five emoji as they replied back and forth on the hottest topic of Kim Dokja's The One.
Joonghyuk didn't participate and silently opened the chapter when Kim Dokja had to turn to the Demon King to finish the scenario. 'He will be killed by the one he loved the most,' it wrote and as he read once again that Kim Dokja opened his arms to accept the attack from his party members, Joonghyuk exhaled shakily.
That night, he dreamt that he was hugging the bleeding Kim Dokja. Kim Dokja smiled thinly and wiped his cheeks because his tears wouldn't stop and said to Yoo Joonghyuk: "It's alright, Joonghyuk-ah."
It sounded like salvation.
This was something he never said to Mia, his teammates or members of the group chat. He dreamt of the world of Omniscient Reader but this time it was called the Ways of Survival. Kim Dokja wasn't the protagonist but instead it was a man with the black coat yet his face was never clear.
Someone tapped his shoulder and Joonghyuk turned to see Han Sooyoung, always with her lollipops, studying him intently. Joonghyuk wanted to ask why but Han Sooyoung spoke first.
"Until when you'll be like this?"
Then the dream ended.
It appeared in only once or twice during the beginning of him reading Omniscient Reader but now he had the dream most nights. The fandom was in state of turmoil because judging from the way the story had been weaved in the last few chapters, it would end soon. As Joonghyuk and his team finished the final round of this year's championship with trophy in hand, he felt something changed.
He felt like the world was biding at something he didn't know.
Yoo Sangah met him in dream then Lee Gilyoung. Next, it was Jung Heewon. All of them spoke of something in an urgent tone but Joonghyuk always forget it the next day. His head was also hurting in the last few days to the point where he couldn't get up from bed, making Mia worried.
Kim Dokja appeared in his dream brushing his hair softly; Joonghyuk's head on his lap.
"Does it hurt?" he asked and Joonghyuk found that the pain didn't follow into his dream and shook his head.
Kim Dokja pat his cheeks, "You're really troublesome. After pulling that move, you disappeared and took people with you. "
Joonghyuk swatted the hands patting his cheeks; the motion made Kim Dokja laughed. His laugh wasn't ugly but it annoyed Joonghyuk so he moved to sit and yelled at Kim Dokja.
Kim Dokja held him back though and shushed him. "Let's stay like this for a while."
Kim Dokja's hands which hold his arms trembled so Joonghyuk grasped it. Kim Dokja inhaled sharply then laughed sadly when Joonghyuk nuzzled his hand. "I wish I could give you more time to be like this."
"Yet, we must continue towards the end, right?"
Yoo Joonghyuk hummed.
"Don't do that again, bastard."
"Right back at you," was Joonghyuk's answer.
Joonghyuk yawned when he entered the subway. The practice was alright but the meeting with the club's manager was difficult and it drained his energy. He sighed when he remembered that he had to buy groceries today too.
He reread the newest chapter and found that tls123 wrote something new on the author's comment.
"You need to remember now."
The moment he read that, the subway screeched and stopped. People began murmuring in confusion and panic began to build up as the door wouldn't open. The noise stopped when someone laughed and Joonghyuk looked up to see a familiar dokkaebi floating around. Kim Dokja also met this dokkaebi when the story started.
"Bihyung," he murmured and the Dokkaebi turned towards him and raised his eyebrows.
"Wait, what are you doing — " but the sudden commotion cut what the Dokkaebi had said and the events turned exactly like it was in the novel.
The connecting door between cars opened suddenly and Joonghyuk watched cautiously when someone with the white coat emerged. His ears rang and Joonghyuk fell to the ground in pain.
"Joonghyuk-ah," said the man who were rushing to hold him and Joonghyuk could smell the scent of fire, ashes and death from him. "You're finally here, you bastard."
Kim Dokja hugged him close.
[The ■■■■ scenario has been completed.]
[The compensation will be settled.]
...and the memory rushed in.