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A Thousand Faces Chapter 3

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

“What do you mean by suddenly wanting to die?” 

  

Ilnam’s eyes widened in surprise. Had he said something wrong just now? Or had something happened to his son without his knowledge? He had already felt a bit uneasy about recent changes in Junwoo’s behavior, but the sudden desire to die was unexpected.  

  

“That’s the only way I think I can end it.” 

  

“To end what? Junwoo, you’re only fifteen!” 

  

“That’s right. I can’t live like this anymore.” 

  

“What on earth does this mean?” Ilnam blinked in bewilderment, his face showing confusion. 

  

“I want to try that ‘different path’ you mentioned, Dad.” 

  

Ilnam’s expression changed from being stunned to understanding Junwoo’s intention behind those words. 

  

It must be about faking his death and disappearing. 

  

“...Have you never considered any other options?” 

  

“You know it too, Dad. Simply leaving isn’t a possible option.” 

Ilnam had no choice but to agree. This was the only method to deceive Jang Jun-hwan completely. 

  

Ilnam set down the spoon and gulped down the reality before him. He wasn’t sure what change had occurred in his emotions, but regardless, what he had longed for was coming from his son’s lips. 

  

“Do you have something you truly want to do?”  

  

“I’m not sure yet. I’ll leave that for later.” 

  

“I see.” 

  

But Ilnam doesn’t know why there’s a tinge of sadness in his heart. 

  

“Are you saying you’ll leave us forever?”  

  

“Well, I’m not sure. Maybe it’ll turn out that way.”  

  

“Hmm...”  

  

“What about you, Dad?”  

  

“Yeah?”  

  

“Come with me.”  

  

“...With you?” 

  

It had never been something he had considered before. But undoubtedly, his emotions were swaying. Had the reason he had held onto this position all this time been for his son alone? 

  

For a moment, Ilnam imagined a mundane daily life with his son in a place far away from here. 

  

However... that imagination crumbled quickly. To him, who had lived like this, even such an ordinary life seemed like a grand dream. Ilnam had to firmly set his mind. 

  

“If I leave as well, there’s a high chance of getting caught. You know it’s already risky with just you disappearing, don’t you?” 

  

“......” 

  

“It seems like it’s time for you to focus on your plan.” 

  

Junwoo felt a bit saddened. It was an impulsive suggestion, but he couldn’t just leave Ilnam like this. 

  

Perhaps his resolve wouldn’t falter. He knew that. Ilnam is a father who wouldn’t give in if he thought it would harm his son, even in the slightest.  

  

It might be difficult right now. Taking Ilnam along might need to be postponed for a bit. 

  

That, too, would only be possible after the current plan succeeded perfectly. Ilnam was right. 

  

“...Thank you for raising me, Dad.” 

  

Junwoo bowed his head as if it were a final farewell. 

  

“Still, try to drink less.” 

  

Ilnam remained silent for a while. 

  

Facing away, sadness marred his expression, a tangible reflection of the sorrow in parting from his son. 

  

Then, he soon wore a determined expression. 

  

“It won’t be easy alone.” 

  

“Pardon?” 

  

“I know you’re smart... but you’re still young to handle everything on your own.” 

  

“Are you saying you’ll help?” 

  

“Alright. What should I do then? Tell me the plan.” 

  

“No. This isn’t something for you to handle.” 

  

“As if it’s going to be easy! You don’t even have that much trust in your Dad.” 

  

Ilnam wore a hurt expression. 

  

It was difficult. Junwoo didn’t want to involve Ilnam unnecessarily. Even if things went awry, he could find a way out for himself, but it wouldn’t be easy for Ilnam. 

  

However, looking at that face, he couldn’t refuse anymore. Perhaps it was due to the guilt he had carried all this while. It was a pleading expression as if saying, “Please, at least let me do this.” 

  

After some contemplation, Junwoo appeared to relent, offering a smile tinged with a sense of surrender.  

  

“Alright. Then I’ll just ask for your help with the aftermath.” 

  

Ilnam’s expression brightened in an instant. 

  

“Thank you, son! Anything else? Anything else you need?” 

  

“That’ll be enough. Thank you, Dad.” 

  

Junwoo wore a bright expression befitting his fifteen years. At this moment, he wished to remain not as the regressed Han Junwoo but as Ilnam’s young son. 

  

Come to think of it, it was the first time he had said thank you. 

Joy was evident on Ilnam’s face. 

  

There lay within it the already resigned aspect of his life. 

  

If there was any regret within him, it would solely be the fact that he wouldn’t be able to see his son anymore. 

  

“I’ll come to take you soon. Until then, take care.” 

  

Junwoo smiled, concealing his bitter feelings. 

  

*** 

  

It was when he had returned after preparing his plan to escape from his home. 

  

Somehow, it was already past midnight. 

  

“I’m back.” 

  

In the dimly lit living room, a black shadow sat under the kitchen light. 

  

“I know I have clearly said it. Come straight home once it’s done.” 

It was Jang Jun-hwan. 

  

He held power and control within the organization. 

  

Not only over Junwoo but also over the actions and daily lives of the rest of the group, he seemed to control them as if it were natural. 

  

“Did you see that movie again on your way back?” 

  

“...” 

  

“I told you. Don’t show your face outside casually. Stay quiet even at school until the job’s done.” 

  

An undercover transfer student. 

  

Fifteen-year-old Junwoo was attending school at that time. 

The reason was the ongoing operation his fathers had been involved in for the past few months. 

  

This time, targeting the principal meant his father needed a plausible excuse to visit the school several times. 

  

After hearing him, memories of that time flashed by. The days when he went straight to the video room after finishing school. He watched numerous movies there. 

  

The only solace during the dull days of pretending to be a student that he could endure. 

  

“I’m sorry.” 

  

He replied casually and was about to enter his room. 

  

Junhwan’s words caught him. 

  

“I have something to prepare.” 

  

Junwoo halted in his steps. 

  

Prepare... 

  

Come to think of it, there was only one reason Jun-hwan would wait for Junwoo until this hour. 

  

They had caught onto something new. 

  

Jun-hwan had pressured Junwoo, who secretly watched movies every night. 

  

Junwoo complied without rebelling against him, which had naturally distanced him from movies. 

  

“The school will be cleaned up shortly.” 

  

Being fifteen, attending school was a natural part of his age. It was a condition of growing up normally. Indulging in such things under their influence was considered a luxury. 

  

“Surely you’re not making unnecessary friends or anything like that.” 

It was the same. 

  

“No, nothing like that.” 

  

“Remember, there’s nowhere else for you to go.” 

  

The jumbled things are being sorted out. The uncomfortable feelings that had been tormenting a corner of Junwoo’s heart at the thought of leaving his fathers forever were slowly calming down. 

  

When he was younger, he thought his father’s words were always right. Jun-hwan saw him only as a source of money. He didn’t realize he was brainwashing him for his own benefit. 

  

One of the reasons for avoiding exposure to the outside world might have been there. 

  

Thud. 

  

Junhwan placed a file on the dining table. 

  

“We’ll proceed with this plan next week.” 

  

Junwoo picked up the file. 

  

It seemed to involve using Junwoo in student attire to evade police attention in a fake drug deal. 

  

“This looks big.” 

  

“I’ve judged that you can handle this level now. It’s important.” 

  

“It’s risky.” 

  

“...” 

  

Jun-hwan raised his head. 

  

“Everything we do involves risk.” 

  

We 

  

Junwoo mulled over the word. 

  

Giving drugs to a fifteen-year-old son and calling it ‘we.’ 

  

It was something that could lead to death if things went wrong. 

  

Junwoo’s indifferent eyes scanning through the file halted midway. 

  

The contents included details about smuggling brokers and altered shipping routes. It was unmistakably Junhwan’s approach, a contingency plan for unforeseen circumstances, a quick escape strategy. It appeared that he had already liaised with both the brokers and the team. 

  

Five. 

  

Seeing that number left Junwoo stunned. 

  

Junwoo’s name is not mentioned in the plan. 

  

There hasn’t been a single mention of Junwoo’s name. 

  

It was a plan to discard everything at the first sign of trouble. 

  

He let out a bitter laugh. 

  

Junwoo found himself unconsciously clenching his fist, mercilessly crumpling the edge of the paper. 

  

During times of ignorance, he regarded such things as normal, and now, he felt foolish for doing so. 

  

Presently, Junwoo needed to appear no different to Jun-hwan. He had to remain just the same—simply the foolish son, unaware he was being used for entertainment in acting or lured into crime. Any hint of change had to be avoided. Jun-hwan shouldn’t have any suspicions after Junwoo disappeared. 

  

It was during a brief silence. 

  

“Why? Are you suddenly afraid?” 

  

Junhwan asked in a flat, indifferent tone. 

  

No matter what you say, it probably won’t change the outcome. 

  

I thought of the words that Ilnam had said to me when we were alone together. 

  

Ilnam spoke to Junwoo, who was getting ready for the job, in a serious tone, unlike his usual self. 

  

“Junwoo, listen to me carefully. If anything goes wrong, you are not our son. Understand? From that moment on, you are not our son. Remember that.”  

  

I didn’t understand what he was saying then, but I now realize he was trying to protect him. 

  

“No. That can’t be true. You’ve been doing well, haven’t you?”  

Junwoo collected the files and responded. 

  

“Can you do it?” 

  

“Yes. I can.” 

  

He could. 

  

It was a phrase he had said countless times. 

  

Junwoo had to accomplish everything assigned. 

  

This time... not anymore. He couldn’t be played around by Jun-hwan any longer. 

  

Jun-hwan rose from his seat and approached with measured steps. 

  

His two hands paused at Junwoo’s shoulders, gripping them tightly. 

  

In the darkness, Jun-hwan’s two eyes stared at Junwoo. 

  

Faint desires still reflected in his eyes. They were desires that would never be fulfilled throughout his lifetime. 

  

For a brief moment, their gazes met. 

  

“...” 

  

He became more convinced. 

  

Junwoo’s eyes were calm, without the slightest tremor. 

  

“Never forget that you are my son.” 

  

“I won’t.” 

  

“Excellent. That’s good.” 

  

Jun-hwan’s expression was one of satisfaction. “Review and prepare,” he added at the end. 

  

“Yes. Thank you, Dad.” 

  

*** 

  

Jeju Island. 

  

It was the first day of the school trip. 

  

During those days, Junwoo was always alone. 

  

Growing up under the guidance of his fraudulent fathers made it difficult for him to acquire social skills. 

  

For young Junwoo, school was boring. 

  

He didn’t deliberately cause harm, but he didn’t conform either. 

  

He just wandered through school, going wherever his feet took him. 

  

Troublemaker, eccentric, nuisance, a rootless guy. 

  

All sorts of words followed Junwoo around. 

  

Such an image proved unexpectedly useful now. 

  

Amid kids packed on the bus, Junwoo’s flip phone rang with a “zing.” 

  

-Did you arrive safely, son? 

  

It was a text from Ilnam. 

  

Junwoo tapped on the keyboard. 

  

-Yes. No problems so far. 

-Still, it’s your first trip. I hope you enjoy it. Dad hasn’t been to Jeju Island either! 

  

Junwoo briefly glanced at Ilnam’s last message. It felt like they had become ordinary rich people, unlike before. But even that would probably end after today. 

  

With a tap, Junwoo closed the folder and turned his gaze outside the window. 

  

The expansive sea stretched out beyond swiftly passing scenery. Junwoo lifted his head to inspect the sky, where clouds were gradually gathering.  

  

Fortunately, there were no changes. 

  

Hearing the kids’ complaints about the bad weather, Junwoo made a subtle expression. 

  

Tonight, Junwoo had something important to do. 

 

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