Han Sooyoung reached the hospital room’s door completely out of breath. She was standing before the very room she visited every day for the last four years.
The rest of the companions running up the staircase one step behind were now looking at her. She looked back, and began recalling the last paragraph of the conclusion she didn’t get to write.
⸢There are three ways to survive in a ruined world.⸥
She then heard Jung Heewon’s voice shouting out. “Han Sooyoung!”
The other companions who heard the news belatedly – comrades who didn’t accompany them to the East Sea, could be seen running over here through the building’s window.
⸢I’ve forgotten a few by now. However, one thing’s for certain.⸥
Han Sooyoung’s trembling hand grasped the door’s handle.
She was scared. What if there was nothing behind the door? What if all this was nothing more than a sweet lie?
She looked to her side, and saw Yoo Jonghyuk nodding his head.
⸢And that is, the you reading these words will get to survive.⸥
No matter what was waiting for them beyond the door, they were ready to witness it. The door cracked noisily as it opened. Faint rays of sunlight entered through the wide-opened window. The pages of the manuscript she spent the whole night revising scattered around in the wind. Letters scattered in a blinding fashion. The story she didn’t get to complete, it was right there.
The sentences she really wanted to write sometime, even if it was not now. While thinking about those sentences, Han Sooyoung grinned like an idiot.
⸢This story is for just that one reader.⸥
That smart little witch, the voices said in chorus. Countless of them, from countless parts of the universes.
All became one, and Kim Dokja opened his eyes.
His head turned towards the door, where he knew they’ll wait for him. Where Han Sooyoung wrote they will wait for him.
He smiled at the eyes watching him, starting to tear up. Some were already crying, though less than seconds passed since he woke up.
They watched as the one they missed so much all these years, the one who looked like a small powerless child sleeping peacefully, now looked once again like a grown up. Cracks all over his body, shining as if a galaxy was hidden behind that pale skin, as lines of Han Sooyoung’s novel swirled around, recreating his body and appearance to the one they all were familiar with.
“I’m back.”, he said.
A voice everyone knew and longed to hear one more time from those lips. A voice that created countless plans. A voice that lead them through countless battles. A voice that broke countless promises.
It was the voice of a smart, sly person that could make the stars bow before him. But in their ears it now sounded so fragile, scaring them with the thought of disappearing forever, like the flame of a candle blown by the wind.
The two who he once knew as small children ran to him, jumping on his bed and letting muffled cries through their tight hug. He embraced them, petting the two teens in a relieving manner.
The rest of the companions recognized the familiar sight and their hearts filled even more, with too many emotions to keep the count of.
Han Sooyoung ran towards him, following the same actions as Shin Yoosung and Lee Gilyoung, small body trembling as Kim Dokja’s hand was placed on her back.
It was unlike her, to show such honest feelings. But everyone understood her actions, and she was followed by Lee Jihye and Yoo Sangah.
Seeing this, Jung Heewon also gave in and jumped in the group hug, even more tears spilling as she felt the warmth emanating from her friends. Lee Hyunsung came after her, and his giant body covered everyone in a secure embrace, all crying and laughing together, letting out each and every feeling they shut out for way more than four years.
There was only one person who didn’t join, watching everything from the side with an inexpressive face but warm eyes.
They let out everything that was held back until now. Cries and laughs, sobbing screams and scolding, apologies, jokes and stories he missed while he was gone. And by the end of the day they shared a new untold promise, one that no one was going to break.
It was a warm sunny day, and Kim Dokja was still stuck in his hospital room. They said he was still in a weak state so he has to rest, but he knew his friends were just using that excuse to keep him locked up. He decided to play their game and stay still, at least for a while.
He saw how they flinched every time he was going to sleep, and could feel their relief every time he woke up. It was normal to be anxious about this, after he’d been in a coma for so long. They also never left him alone, taking turns in staying by his side. Kim Dokja didn’t mind that at all – while he had been the Most Ancient Dream he had to see the other him being with everyone else while he couldn’t. Now that he was finally here with them, he was glad to be able to hear their stories, even if they left him with no personal time.
Kim Dokja was aware that he created scars that could never be fully healed in exchange for his friends to live, and the guilt didn’t disappear even if he knew that was the only way. That was why he accepted their lack of trust and being surveillanced twenty-four hours per day without much opposition. He couldn’t make the wounds disappear, but he could cover them with the reassurance that nothing like that will ever happen again.
“I want to ask you something.” he said, shifting his eyes from the phone screen to Han Sooyoung, who was typing on her laptop next to his hospital bed.
His friends gifted him a phone, more to experiment if the ‘Ways of Survival’ file will appear again. It did, he knew it would before even touching the device. His present from Han Sooyoung’s avatar who sacrificed everything for him, given to him by the dokkaebi king who became [The 4th Wall] and protected him from the beginning to the end of the scenarios. Since a part of the system reappeared in this world, there was no way such a present won’t follow him here.
When asked, he replied with honesty. “It’s the original.”
Not the revisions sent later, when scenarios already started. It was the first version, who kept him alive through his childhood and adult years.
After hearing that, the group debated if they should keep him away from phones or not, scared of the thoughts that might enter his head if he reads ‘Ways of Survival’ again. Surprisingly, it was Yoo Jonghyuk who spoke up and told them to leave it. He probably understood when he looked at Kim Dokja; that there might never come a day when he opens that file again.
“What is it?”, Han Sooyoung asked after she finished typing.
It was another gift for him. Since Kim Dokja promised he will be the first reader of her new novel, she wanted to write a new one. 'Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint' was already read by their friends, after all.
That was why, while she was thinking of a new story, he suggested to finish her first one. He said it more as a joke, but his words seemed to stir something inside Han Sooyoung and she started writing it.
Not a new story invented by her, but a record of what Yoo Jonghyuk lived through. 'Ways of Survival' created by half of Han Sooyoung ended with the protagonist killing the dokkaebi king. The continuation, wrote down by the now whole Han Sooyoung contained what happened after – how he reached the Final Wall but was unable to pass it. How he became an outer god and lost his own name, adopting the modifier ‘Secretive Plotter’. How he found a regression different from any other and watched it, became part of it, found the answers he looked for, reclaimed his name and chosen his own epilogue. In the end he, his sponsor and his companions left for a new world, were the beginning of their new story awaited them.
It was a record of the one created and sacrificed for Kim Dokja’s survival. A memorial.
Even if it was incomplete, with a lot of gaps, Han Sooyoung was determined to write it better than the first part of ‘Ways of Survival’. It ended up being rather short and pretty bad written because of the lack of information she had from Secretive Plotter’s point of view, but she knew how much it meant for Kim Dokja to complete this story. Maybe she herself also wanted it finished more than she realized.
“Kim Dokja?”, she asked again when no answer came back. That idiot seemed reluctant about asking his question, and she already guessed it was a sensitive subject.
“Did you… plan from the start to end Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint like that?”
“I’m talking about the last chapters being a lie.”
“Ah, that?”, she made a disgruntled face. “It’s all that bastard’s fault. I guess we didn’t told you how things actually happened.”
In the final chapters of Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint, Han Sooyoung from the story was unable to send the epilogue to Yoo Jonghyuk, resulting in him having to write it. He ends up coming on Earth and reuniting with everyone, telling them that he didn’t create an epilogue, leaving the choice to Kim Dokja. Since if they write about him waking up, he will be a different person than the one they remember.
Then the system reappears into their world, a sign that something happened with Kim Dokja, so they go to the hospital room his body was in. It’s unclear what they see after they opened the door, but it’s suggested that it is the story Han Sooyoung wanted – meaning he woke up.
“I sent the last two chapters to Yoo Jonghyuk.”, Han Sooyoung said. “It was the perfect ending - you woke up and everything ended up fine. But that bastard suddenly said he didn’t want to send it forward. He said you wouldn’t be the one we know if we send that. He had a point, but we still argued for a while. Since we know what kind of idiot you are, we couldn’t risk you imagining a bad ending after you see there is no epilogue.”
Han Sooyoung opened a candy and threw it into her mouth absentmindedly.
“There was also another problem with the probability. Since it required a lot for the final chapter, Yoo Jonghyuk would end up stuck in space after sending it, and then even if you woke up you’d be… you get what I mean. So we came up with another solution. We wrote about Yoo Jonghyuk coming on earth so the Ancient Dreams will dream about exactly that, therefore becoming reality. Then we wrote about how we go to the hospital room, and how something happened in there. We didn’t mention what, so we won’t change anything about you and create a different Kim Dokja by mistake. But also since we said that something did happen in there, the chances of you waking up were much bigger than if we didn’t sent an epilogue at all.”
Kim Dokja blinked stupidly while watching her grinning face.
“That bastard was kind of nice actually. There were a few lines from the original I really wanted to make you read, and that guy included them.”
Her face then turned into one of annoyance.
“But he had to be a bastard until the end and added a part about me ‘grinning like an idiot’. Who even gave him the right to edit my novel, huh?!”
The crack of a candy between Han Sooyoung’s merciless molars was heard. She continued by mumbling something inaudible, though occasional curses and Yoo Jonghyuk’s name could be heard.
Kim Dokja watched the scene blankly.
“Are you upset?”
He jolted when he saw Han Sooyoung stop whatever she was chanting and looking at him again.
“Are you upset that we lied?”, she explained.
“No, I think it was a brilliant idea.”
It was her turn to be surprised by his words.
“I-- well, a part of me, wanted to be with all of you. But the rest of me knew there must be a 'Most Ancient Dream' so the story will continue.”
A feeling of nostalgia creeped up inside Han Sooyoung as he started talking. Kim Dokja was someone who thought more than he spoke, making their friends demand an explanation each time they couldn’t understand his actions. But it was different with her. The only reason she was able to write ‘Ways of Survival’, the only reason she was able to write Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint, was because Kim Dokja would always talk with her in their little free time through the scenarios. Giving her information from the webnovel he loved, about things that happened while she wasn’t there, each message he sent her in his childhood, when he was talking with ‘tls123’. Perhaps this was a communication able to exist only between reader and author. And she missed it so, so much.
“That was why, even after all of you came after me, I made that choice.”
The choice to break his soul, scattering it around countless universes. Han Sooyoung understood the untold words.
“It might sound cruel, but the part of me who wanted to remain The Most Ancient Dream was bigger than the part of me that wanted to leave that place together with all of you. Because the world would’ve ended if I did that.”
Memories of her and Yoo Jonghyuk talking with [The 4th Wall] after Kim Dokja became a lifeless child in front of them resurfaced in her head.
“This wasn’t my doing. It’s what he himself wanted. After all, he knew your group would do something like this.”
She felt like puking.
“Your story reached, not me as a whole, but every single piece of me separately. Making each part of me wish for the one I’ve once been to come back again. Do you know how it worked? It’s something like a majority vote. You probably realized that already, since you spread the novel through all the worlds containing my reincarnations, instead of just going to one alone. I have vague memories of my reincarnation’s lives. Blurry images and indistinguishable sounds. I do remember that a lot of people enjoyed your novel – there are more readers than my total number of reincarnations. See, you can write a good story without plagiarizing the original.”
Han Sooyoung scoffed. “You’re still going on with that?”
Kim Dokja looked at her with a similar expression for a while, before looking down and continuing.
“My real memories start from the moment my soul begun being restored. Lines of your story appeared like a wall in front of me, one after another, and I regained more and more consciousness while reading them. By the time I finished it, I was awake in this hospital room, with all of you there, waiting for me. It’s funny, how I died so many times over the course of years, but that was the first time I truly felt reborn. Maybe it’s not that weird, since that was the first time my soul as a whole disappeared and had been reconstructed.”
He looked up from his palms to Han Sooyoung’s shaky eyes.
“You know, your story changed all those people forever. They still have a tiny bit of the 'Most Ancient Dream' in them, and this world is able to continue because together they all read and dreamed about it, but the pieces of me in them are now gone. That means that the ‘them’ before reading ‘Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint’ is not the same ‘them’ that finished it. I can’t remember any of my reincarnation’s lives, but I do wonder how they are doing right now.”
Han Sooyoung stilled for a second, furrowing her brows in the same way Yoo Jonghyuk usually would, before quickly changing back to her original expression.
“Don’t think of anything stupid, Kim Dokja. Didn’t I write it? Be it you who reads that story or someone else, no matter how they change, they will survive."
He smiled. She smiled back.
A pleasant silence took over them, disturbed only by the birds chirping outside the window.
“By the way.”, Kim Dokja said after a while. “They can’t use the power of the Most Ancient Dream separately, but since you talked a lot about ‘Ways of Survival’, what will you do if the majority will dream about it and a new 'Ways of Survival' universe will be created? Did you really have to mention it so much?”
“Oh, will you just shut it?! ‘Thank you’, where is my ‘thank you for saving me, Han Sooyoung-ssi’, you bastard??”, Han Sooyoung roared in annoyance while the other laughed at his friend, who he missed for such a long time.
Darkness. Different from the one surrounding the train while he was the Most Ancient Dream – that landscape was full of glimmering stars as far as the eyes can see, while the one Kim Dokja was looking at right now was a lonely night with only the moon shining down on him.
Lee Hyunsung was sleeping soundly on the second bed of the hospital’s room, brought there for any one of his friends who were on the ‘night shift’, making sure nothing happened to a certain rat bastard.
Kim Dokja wondered if that’s how it felt to have a roommate. Before the scenarios started, he didn’t lived in a college dorm and never experienced a school trip. The only time he shared a room was in army with the other recruits, and those were some of his worst years of life. It felt much different now, when a friend he can even call family was besides him.
The silence was disrupted by a soft cracking sound Kim Dokja was very familiar with. Probability. He turned his head, just in time to see a young girl appearing out of thin air, the slight glow surrounding her reducing until it disappeared completely, same as the small horn on her forehead.
It was the first time he saw this person, but Kim Dokja instantly recognized her. She was someone described in the last chapters of Han Sooyoung’s novel, someone he previously knew as a fur ball, now looking like a younger, feminine version of him.
The girl smiled and approached his bed.
“Aren’t you sleeping, Dokja ahjussi?”
“Hmm. I slept for a very long time and now I have too much energy.” he joked.
Kim Dokja took a better look at her, still amazed by how uncanny their resemblance was. Though she looked a lot like him, there was a mischievous spark in those starry eyes that reminded him of Bihyung’s usual expression… That also reminded him of his death, and he found his hearth tighten.
“Sorry I came so late. As soon as I found out you woke up I went and searched for someone, you see. I thought you might want to meet him.” she said, and a big grin appeared on her face.
“Who?”, he asked back, unaware of smiling after seeing the girl’s happy expression.
She took one step to the side, revealing someone behind her. He was also someone he saw for the first time, but it was also someone Kim Dokja knew – and one who knew Kim Dokja, perhaps better than any other. That was why, his eyes shook violently at the sight of the one he never would’ve thought he’ll meet.
It was a boy, slightly shorter than Biyoo. He had messy white hair and red eyes – the colors of a dokkaebi – with his signature fedora on top of his head.
“….Fourth Wall….” Kim Dokja croaked out.
After coming back to earth with all the answers of this world in his head, Kim Dokja many times asked himself if the one who was standing now in front of him was a bad, or a good guy.
He was the one who took Han Sooyoung’s avatar in the past and found his younger self. Because of him Kim Dokja got to live, but countless worlds were destroyed.
Because of him, Kim Dokja’s sanity was kept intact over the scenarios, always knowing he can count on the Fourth Wall to keep mental damage and fear away. But that also made Kim Dokja make many emotionless choices, a wall always separating him from the rest of his enemies, but also his friends.
He was someone that loved stories more than anyone else. The Dokkaebi King who didn’t want scenarios to come to an end. Like Kim Dokja, when he was reading ‘Ways of Survival’. Indeed, the two of them resembled each other a lot.
Jung Heewon once told him that a good companion isn’t someone who follows you without question – a good companion is someone who will question and take decisions in your place when you choose the wrong path.
[The 4th Wall] was someone who followed Kim Dokja’s will from the beginning until the end. From the beginning, protecting him from enemies, until the end, when he kept his friends away while he was breaking his own soul so they won’t reach him. Always, [The 4th Wall] watched the story exactly as Kim Dokja wanted to show it.
Was he wrong in his actions?
For the sole reader of this world, the answer did not exist. For Kim Dokja, [The 4th Wall] was as much to blame as that child scribbling in his notebook on a subway station bench was. Both of them survived in the only way they knew possible. And that just happened to be the world’s destruction.
“Fourth Wall.” he repeated, a little louder this time.
The boy smiled. How strange it was, though this was the first time he saw the dokkaebi boy, his expression filled Kim Dokja with nostalgia. Every time he would compliment [The 4th Wall], he would feel how happy his skill was. The same feeling was now turned into a real expression on a living being’s face.
⸢Technically, I am the Dokkaebi King now, Kim Dokja.⸥
He couldn’t help but let out a whispered laugh, careful not to wake Lee Hyunsung up. He didn’t know what his friend’s reactions would be if they saw the dokkaebi boy.
“Right, you’re back to your old title now. So both of you have the same status?”
After Kim Dokja’s soul broke, leaving behind just his child-like body, he got separated from [The 4th Wall]. He was sure the omniscient being was still alive, but only now when they met again all his worries were soothed.
Biyoo nodded. “Though I'm sure I am stronger than him.”
Kim Dokja saw the Fourth Wall – or the Dokkaebi King – rolling his eyes at that affirmation, muttering something under his breath.
A smile appeared on his face as he watched the two children resembling Shin Yoosung and Lee Gilyoung. Han Sooyoung really did a good job describing the boy as ‘pure’ in the novel - his face looked really innocent. Just the thought that he was the same dokkaebi king Kim Dokja fought against, but from an alternative universe, weirded him out. Then again, the time he spent as one of Kim Dokja’s skills rather than a real dokkaebi must’ve changed him a lot. That reminded him…
“Do you have all your memories back?”, he asked after recalling how his memories were also erased by Probability when he became [The 4th Wall] and scenarios started.
⸢Almost all of them.⸥
The reply put Kim Dokja to ease. That meant that even with those memories, his personality won’t change back to the one of the Dokkaebi King who even took his father’s form so he could defeat Kim Dokja.
“How about your name?”
At this, the dokkaebi boy shook his head.
⸢That was lost a long time ago, Kim Dokja.⸥
It was expected when thinking how long this being existed for, but one could always hope.
“Ahjussi, how about you give him a new name? Like you gave me!”
“Is that okay? Then I’ll think of one.”
[‘The 4th Wall’ is wiggling happily.]
Somehow the big glowing eyes of the boy reminded him of that phrase. Kim Dokja chuckled.
“What will you two do now? Will you stay here?”
The rest of the group will be a problem, though. Han Sooyoung might have some sympathy left for [The 4th Wall] since they lived together for more than ten years while writing ‘Ways of Survival’, and she might be able to convince the others. But if Yoo Jonghyuk saw him first…
While Kim Dokja was already making plans for the future, Biyoo shook her head.
“I was once a human, but that was in the past. I can’t change what I am now, ahjussi. I do think and feel like a dokkaebi, and a dokkaebi’s purpose are stories.”
“What does that mean?”
The girl grabbed the boy’s hand happily, making her new companion jolt from the touch.
“We’re traveling together! Of course, we’ll come visit many times, but you know? After Captain fulfilled his promise and we went in a journey together, I realized that I really enjoy traveling with someone. It’s different from the time I crossed worlds alone at Captain’s order. It’s fun seeing new places where scenarios never happened alongside a friend.”
She smiled towards the shorter boy.
“He also never really saw any world lines without the Star Stream, so it will be nice to see new stories together.”
“...You seem to have everything planned.”
“Don’t miss us too much, Dokja ahjussi.”, Biyoo laughed. “Time goes different in space, what could be thousand years for us could be just a few on earth. In two years we might already be back and live with everyone else.”
⸢Also, you created a lot of troubles for me over the time by being a stubborn fool. Now it’s my turn to take a break.⸥
“Sorry for that.”, the dokkaebi only joked, yet Kim Dokja thought it was fair to apologize at least once for all the time he gave his skill a hard time.
⸢Don’t be. I enjoyed your story.⸥
Red eyes crinkled from the honest smile spreading on his young face.
“Well then.”, Kim Dokja stretched out his hand. His old friend who stayed with him longer than anyone else – throughout the scenarios, and later throughout the countless years spent as the 'Most Ancient Dream', grabbed and shook it. Not a child, but not a grown up either.
⸢Kim Dokja.⸥ the one he previously knew as [The 4th Wall] said. ⸢Next ti me we mee t you bet ter ha ve a na me re ady for me. Or else.⸥
Kim Dokja smiled. It was good to see again his forever lasting playfulness.
“I’ll make sure of it.”
Already understanding each other, no further words were needed. Still holding hands, a warm light radiated from the Dokkaebi Kings as small horns reappeared on their foreheads.
Kim Dokja spoke towards the disappearing figures.
“If you ever get tired of your journey, know you have a place to return to.”
The shine obscured their expressions, but he was sure they heard his words.
The distinct cracking sound of Probability was heard once more, and the two became blurry until they completely disappeared. The room was silent again, without any proof of the late night meeting being left behind.
The hospital had a huge courtyard for the patients to exercise and breathe fresh air. Thanks to Lee Seolhwa and Aileen who insisted that going out will be good for him, Kim Dokja was also able to use the designated space, despite his friends pretty much confining him for the rest of the time.
He looked at the fountain where colored koi fish were swimming happily, other patients also enjoying the same relaxing view as him.
He already knew it after watching this world line as the Most Ancient Dream, but it was still amazing to see how calm the world became after a few years since the end of the scenarios.
His head turned after being called by the unmistakable voice of Yoo Jonghyuk.
Without waiting for an answer, the sunfish bastard acting as arrogant as always turned around and began walking away, only his slow pace telling the other he’s being waited. Kim Dokja followed the taller man through the paved road leading them to the garden.
The rustling of leaves, birds singing, bees buzzing, other people talking with each other. Every sound but Yoo Jonghyuk’s voice was heard. A surprise, since he seemed to have something to say. Despite his usual self, Kim Dokja also found himself unable to bring the subject up.
He lowkey avoided a certain protagonist since he came back, and he knew that the other noticed it. Praiseworthy, Yoo Jonghyuk left him alone until now. They both did small talks when others were there, glancing at each other from time to time, but nothing more than that. They wouldn’t meet or discuss if they were alone, as if an untold rule was hanging silently between them.
Not now though.
“How is the construction working? Heewon-ssi showed me some pictures a while back, and I know you guys are keeping me here until the house is done.” Kim Dokja asked in lack of a better question.
Yoo Jonghyuk merely hummed without bothering to deny the accusation.
“It’s going well. The location is also secluded and pretty quiet, so the children won’t bother anyone.”
...Of course, it was a good idea to give a lot of space to the strongest people in the new world. It appears that the group never made any big demands from the state, with the exception of that one time they almost destroyed a museum and stole an ark. So as a late reward for saving the world, Anna Croft and other state members took care of the construction of the big house Kim Dokja and the companions dreamed about. Now that he was back, they were finally going to build it.
Since all of the overpowered people were going to be in the same place, the location was chosen with the safety of the civilians in mind.
The house itself was designed by the group members, and when showed pictures of it, Kim Dokja’s first thought was that it could hardly be called a house. It was huge.
“Well, it’s good to be able to play without holding back.”
Now that the system was back in this world line, no one knew how much of their old powers people will be able to use. No one would want a dragon or a ghost fleet summoned in the middle of Seoul.
“You also don’t like crowded places.” Yoo Jonghyuk reminded him.
Indeed, he never did. The Fourth Wall played a big part in his calm demeanor in front of the constellations, but some trauma from his childhood when reporters would ask about his mother and father still remained.
But what was this…? Was that sunfish bastard really trying to show some empathy for him? Wouldn’t he normally think that something like that is pathetic?
“Are you trying to earn sympathy points?” Kim Dokja joked to lighten the mood.
“…What?” the other stopped walking and a bemused face looked back at him.
“You don’t need to pretend, Yoo Jonghyuk. Now that you can’t go to Murim, the only way you can taste those dumplings again is from me. You learned that recipe in later regressions, but you lost those memories, right? Meanwhile I was taught how to make them by none other than 999st turn Yoo Jonghyuk.”
There was an infuriating smirk on Kim Dokja’s face as he watched Yoo Jonghyuk’s eyebrows twitch in annoyance.
“You better be nice to me if you want some, Jonghyuk-ah.”
“I don’t need it.”, the unexpected answer came back. “I know what  told you after reading Han Sooyoung’s novel.”
Kim Dokja’s heart sunk at those words, the subject he avoided until now hitting him straight in the face.
“...Right. But she didn’t include all the details he instructed me, so even now…” he couldn’t finish those words, joking mood already gone.
“Why did you bring me here, Yoo Jonghyuk?”, he asked instead.
The bigger man flinched. He knew Kim Dokja was talking about why they walked together today, but recalling all the events that happened lately, there could be more than one meaning to his words.
“…Why did you write those words?”
A vague question, but enough for Yoo Jonghyuk to understand.
‘Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint’ was written by Han Sooyoung using Predictive Plagiarism and the memories of whoever knew Kim Dokja. In later chapters when he broke his soul, the story changes from Kim Dokja’s perspective to the other’s.
Han Sooyoung couldn’t have known what was happening with Yoo Jonghyuk in space, so even though she would’ve told him to write his own perspective of the events, in normal circumstances that guy wouldn’t have put much details into his parts.
Yoo Jonghyuk was someone that hated to be unnecessary bothered or to have to explain his actions to others. That was why his anger would be put to test whenever Kim Dokja spoke about ‘Ways of Survival’ and the ‘Yoo Jonghyuk’ in there. He didn’t want to be the protagonist of some measly story, others free to read about him.
Despite that, ‘Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint’ contained lines that couldn’t have been written by anyone else other than him, Yoo Jonghyuk. Thoughts and feelings that was unlike him to talk about were transformed into lines in Han Sooyoung’s novel. There was no logic reason for him to do something like that. Except if.
“I wanted you to read them.” the answer came back in a low voice.
Sentences from the story they shared floated silently between them, none said out loud, but none forgotten. Lines that Yoo Jonghyuk wrote for Kim Dokja to read.
“58th day of drifting. The moment he saw a wane face reflected on the ark’s window, Yoo Jonghyuk recalled the forgotten question.
– In a world where the scenarios have come to an end, what should he do to continue living on?”
“A fool like that should know, he thought. If it was Kim Dokja, then he should know more about Yoo Jonghyuk than Yoo Jonghyuk knew about himself. That’s what the latter thought.”
“102rd day of drifting. Yoo Jonghyuk began reading Han Sooyoung’s novel. He thought that by reading it, he’d be able to endure against time, somehow.”
“While reading about Kim Dokja’s story, he began to harbour this faint hint of anticipation. He thought that the Kim Dokja from this story should be able to answer his question.”
“….he studiously read about Kim Dokja’s life.”
“To him, the figure of Kim Dokja relying on nothing else besides the ‘Ways of Survival’ to survive came across as alien. He read many times, yet he just couldn’t understand it very well. How could a mere story like this be able to support a life?”
“Little by little, Yoo Jonghyuk grew accustomed to reading the novel.
He even found some passages that he liked reading over and over again.”
“155th day of drifting. When he opened his eyes, he was still all alone. Yoo Jonghyuk dazedly sitting there began reading the novel again.”
“He continued to read this story all by himself, and… and he read the story again.”
“279th day of drifting. He finally understood Kim Dokja just a little.”
“Kim Dokja within the novel was saying this. ⸢That’s why you should’ve read it until the end, you know.⸥ What did it mean to read a story to its end? Although he couldn’t fully understand it, Yoo Jonghyuk still chose to heed that advice.”
Why, Kim Dokja couldn’t comprehend. It was bad enough that Yoo Jonghyuk read it. So why exactly did he consider it necessary for Kim Dokja to know that?
He could only hope the story didn’t affect Yoo Jonghyuk too much. Maybe he didn’t like it and only read it in the absence of something better to do. Or perhaps even if he read it all those times, Kim Dokja hoped – prayed for Yoo Jonghyuk to not understand it.
But from the first moment their eyes met in that hospital room he knew none of his prayers were listened, and the protagonist could now understand him at a level no one else but [The 4th Wall] ever reached.
Kim Dokja saw his face and instantly shrank back in shame, feeling naked in front of those black abyss eyes. He cursed Han Sooyoung for including all the private information he ever told her in that novel, open for a certain someone to read. He knew there was no use playing it cool now. Yoo Jonghyuk knew exactly what his feelings were.
It may be unfair of Kim Dokja to resent him for reading about his life when he was the first to read about Yoo Jonghyuk, but ‘Ways of Survival’ didn’t contain the protagonist’s feelings for the reader, dammit.
He expected Yoo Jonghyuk to give him a clear rejection, who knows, maybe even use this to blackmail him, but what happened was… nothing. Kim Dokja avoided being alone with him, and Yoo Jonghyuk simply played along.
It’s alright, he thought, disregarding the bitterness inside him. If they both ignore it, it’s going to be like before. As if nothing happened… As if Yoo Jonghyuk didn’t understand what he means for Kim Dokja.
But then, why were they here? This jerk, did he change his mind from pretending he doesn’t know to making fun of him? No, if Yoo Jonghyuk wanted to simply ignore it, he wouldn’t have written down all the countless times he read ‘Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint’ for Kim Dokja to see. He wanted him to know that he knows. But… but why?
“We were going to have this conversation later, but since you asked I might as well say it now.”, the so called jerk spoke up.
How nice of him, so he wanted to wait for Kim Dokja to get better before rejecting him? Fuck, where was Fourth Wall when you needed him?
“Kim Dokja.”, it was a warning tone. “I will say everything that needs to be said, so you’ll stay and listen until the end.”
Yoo Jonghyuk didn’t need to tell him that. He didn’t need to look like he would strangle him if he left, since Kim Dokja was already frozen in place, unable to move. Maybe it was because a part of him wanted to hear Yoo Jonghyuk’s words. Even if it’ll be painful, even if he will be hurt, maybe a bad conclusion was better than not knowing the other’s thoughts.
But even in that case, Kim Dokja was still Kim Dokja. The rat bastard always tried to avoid things, even if he couldn’t leave the scene.
“I don’t need to. I already know you like Lee Seolhwa.”
“How. Is it because you read that story?”
Kim Dokja froze as he remembered the words kkoma  once told him. ‘Do you still believe you can understand someone through just a few lines of text in a couple of chapters?’
“I know it because I saw your life in the 0th turn.”
But the difference was that they both spent time around each other. They weren’t simply characters. They were companions.
Yoo Jonghyuk looked at him, closely inspecting every move before opening his mouth again.
“Lee Seolhwa is a good person. Even if scenarios never happened, if we met, without a doubt we would’ve been close. Perhaps I would’ve even wanted to date her.”
“But she wouldn’t have accepted me.”
Kim Dokja finally shut down, too shocked by the confidence of Yoo Jonghyuk’s words. His eyes shook as he watched the other.
“Kim Dokja, humans are weak creatures who always need someone to rely on. Not everyone knows the future or has a ‘Fourth Wall’ to block mental damage. In a situation like the appearance of scenarios, all they know is that terrible things are happening around them. Never knowing if they are going to be the next victim, who will betray them or when will they die. And no one knows when the hell will stop, if it even has an ending in the first place.”
Yoo Jonghyuk’s expression was unreadable, and Kim Dokja was once again reminded of how much the person in front of him changed over the time they were away from each other. He wasn’t the ‘Yoo Jonghyuk’ who killed on every whim, or the sunfish with anger issues he met a long time ago.
No, this Yoo Jonghyuk was somewhat closer to ‘Secretive Plotter’. Normal, since both of them lived countless years in space, walking through worldlines, seeing countless people and scenarios. The difference was that this Yoo Jonghyuk had a purpose in mind and his resolution only solidified, while ‘Secretive Plotter’ didn’t have anything but his past failures and lost himself in time.
The one in front of him was… calmer. Wiser, even – yet this wasn’t a word Kim Dokja would ever use in front of him.
“In such a world” Yoo Jonghyuk continued. “People either find an emotional support, or go insane. Someone may find a God to pray to. Another might find a purpose like revenge against one who wronged him. Someone, anyone that could be used to stop the growing destruction inside their heads.”
Lee Jihye who wanted to become like her role model in life, Yoo Jonghyuk. Kim Namwoon who wanted Lee Jihye fall in love with him, because that would mean he surpassed Yoo Jonghyuk. Lee Hyunsung the soldier, who wanted to follow and listen each command his leader, Yoo Jonghyuk gave him. Anna Croft, who wanted to kill all Constellations who destroyed her home, the ones to blame for everything that happened.
“As I said, even in a normal world, me and Lee Seolhwa would’ve been close. But tell me, Kim Dokja, what would happen if we met in a broken and destroyed world, when both of us need someone to rely on?”
“But, but you just said! That even if the world was fine you would’ve-”
Kim Dokja stopped talking, since he already realized the answer.
Abandoned by parents, suddenly appeared in the world one day, with no memories or people to rely on. All alone, struggling to make a name for himself and when he finally reaches success, a child appears at his door. Abandoned like he was, his sisters appears from thin air, as if the world wanted to laugh at him. No matter how much money he’d spend on detective agencies, he still found nothing. No relatives, no parents, no one. This was the past that was created for him.
Scenarios broke Yoo Jonghyuk more than ever, but that didn’t mean he was normal in the beginning.
As if reading Kim Dokja’s mind, he smiled.
“Unlike me, in a world without scenarios Lee Seolhwa would have a normal life. We would be good friends if we met, but she wouldn’t need me.”
It was a different pain than he expected, and Kim Dokja wanted to say something in retort, but the words wouldn’t leave his mouth. Because he would lie if he tried denying anything. The only thing he could do was ask himself, what was Yoo Jonghyuk trying to say by that.
“When I met you, I expected you to die inside that ichthyosaur. But you came back alive and from then on only kept exceeding my expectations. An unknown variable, a prophet, a liar, my companion. You were all those things, both a threat and a necessity. I wasn’t going to trust you, yet time passed and you died like a fool in order to save others, including me. You came back every time, and where I failed so many times you succeeded, even when facing the worst threats possible.”
Yoo Jonghyuk looked at his scarred arms. Covered in more proofs of his battles than one can count.
“It was then when I thought that it won’t matter if I’m alive or not. My sole purpose was to reach the end of the scenarios. Being the only one who regressed, the only one who retained his memories, I thought that this was something only I can do.”
His life without a purpose gained one, and he thought he will find the answers he searched for at the end of his path.
“But I was mistaken. Even if it wasn’t me, there will be you, who solved everything faster and better than I ever could. All my long time struggles were for nothing.”
“You know that’s not-”
“But I didn’t. At that time. When we reached the last challenge of the Dark Castle I wanted to die, because I considered it to be the only way I can help this world move forward. Yet for some reason every time I was in danger you kept me alive. Even though the world would keep going on without me, you didn’t allow me to regress, and I was forced to see the conclusion you tried so hard to reach. That is why I grew accustomed to following you. If it’s that fool, he can do it. If it’s Kim Dokja, he will solve the riddle.”
There was a frown on his face that told Kim Dokja those weren’t pleasant memories.
“All I had to do was to fight alongside you, to keep you from dying. In that way, you will surely do what I couldn’t. That is what I thought. When we won and the world was saved… I realized that I didn’t reach a conclusion. It was only the beginning. I was finally freed. It was then when my life started, and I realized that I had no idea how to live it. Do you remember my question, Kim Dokja?”
In a world where the scenarios have come to an end, what should he do to continue living on?
“I went searching for you, because I needed you. The same way you lead me through the scenarios, I needed your help one more time. Tell me, what do you think of it?”
He replied without hesitation.
“It was an unhealthy obsession. You never understood how to live your own life so you counted on someone you considered to be omniscient to tell you what to do. To turn you into a puppet.”
Yoo Jonghyuk smiled. For Kim Dokja this was still a strange sight, to see him look so liberated.
“Indeed, it was a wrong way of thinking. I left earth and walked through dimensions to spread the novel file and wake you up – you, who had the answers I wished for. Before I could finish my journey I started reading about your life, thinking the answer will be within those lines.”
“Did you find it?”
“I did. I read it over and over again, and I finally understood that a fool like you doesn't know the answer to my question. There was no way you know how I should live in a world without scenarios, because you yourself are someone that couldn’t live without them.”
A choked sound escaped Kim Dokja’s throat at the unexpected answer. It was laughter. He couldn’t tell what expression he was making and he hoped Yoo Jonghyuk couldn’t see the shaking of his body. Of course, none of these escaped the dark orbs watching him.
He really had no idea what he should do from now on. Living on because all his friends wanted so. He would spend a lot of happy moments with them in the future, but was that all? Will he depend on them like a leech? What should he do with his own life? Go back to Mino Soft? Live like he did before ‘Ways of Survival’ became reality?
Like a parasite, in the past he lived off the suffering of ‘Yoo Jonghyuk’ within the novel, but he couldn’t do that anymore. He didn’t want that anymore.
Same as him, Yoo Jonghyuk relied on ‘Kim Dokja’ within the story to have his answers, but he realized that only himself can find them. He didn’t want other person’s answers anymore.
So there they were. Two readers. Two protagonists. How can they live in a world that is not within a novel?
“Then? What are you trying to say?” Kim Dokja asked with half a smile on his face. “You and Lee Seolhwa could’ve lived well together now that scenarios are over. Why did you finish your journey when you knew there won’t be an answer at the end of it? Feeling bad for the rest of the group? You could’ve just told them-”
“Kim Dokja. You seem to forget, that I already choose you a long time ago.”
“I finished spreading Han Sooyoung’s novel even though there wasn’t an answer I needed from you anymore, because throughout the time spent walking from world to world, I found the answer myself.”
“The same answer as a long time ago, when you helped me reach the perfect life, and I gave up everything so I can find out who you are. To meet you. The one time I had everything I could wish for, yet I choose another path, because the one I walked on lacked a certain someone.”
Step… Step… Step. Yoo Jonghyuk came closer.
Kim Dokja wondered what expression he was making right now. He couldn’t tell since his brain was a mess, but the smirk on that bastard’s face told him it was probably an embarrassing one.
“It took me too long to grasp it. Maybe I would’ve never understood, if it wasn’t for Han Sooyoung’s novel.”
After reading Omniscient Reader’s Viewpoint again and again, Yoo Jonghyuk finally understood that there wasn’t something he wanted from Kim Dokja, but Kim Dokja himself.
“…Are you stupid? Feeling something like that for a dead man… What are you, a necrophile?”
Ignoring the taunt, Yoo Jonghyuk approached him until their faces were inches away.
“You’re alive and breathing in front of me, aren’t you?”
Any further responses were shut down by their lips pressing softly against each other. One hand wrapped around Kim Dokja’s thin waist, keeping him in place, while the other went to the back of his head, pulling him deeper into the kiss.
When they finally moved away, a string of saliva still connected their lips until Kim Dokja innocently licked it away, unaware of the effect on the other person.
“You…” he said, trying to regain his breath after Yoo Jonghyuk’s invasion. “You really want those dumpling points, don’t you?”
The protagonist was about to murder him.
He didn’t have time to finish his curse, as Kim Dokja wrapped his arms around Yoo Jonghyuk’s neck, pulling him in for another kiss.
He couldn’t understand why Yoo Jonghyuk told him all those things. He couldn’t understand why Yoo Jonghyuk choose him in the end. He didn’t know how he should continue living in a world without scenarios, and he didn’t know the conclusion this relationship was going to bring them to. But these questions were for later.
Maybe for once he’ll listen. Maybe, for once, he won’t think of anything else other than what’s in front of him.
A while later, the construction was finally over. Kim Dokja left the hospital room and walked towards the place he and his whole family will share from now on.
This was only the beginning.