"The girl that I have to kill... the girl I have to use as a bait..."
"is my first love."
How long... has he been deluding himself? How long... has he been lying to himself?
"It's the girl I had in my heart all my life."
How... could he have forgotten that? How... could he have forgotten the fact that Gangto had told him way earlier that Mokdan was his first love? That Gangto, much earlier... had openly confessed that he had loved (and knew) Mokdan a bit longer than himself?
Rather than himself, shouldn't Gangto have more rights to claim Mokdan as his first love?
“What would you do if you were me? I would still kill her."
Sure, back then Gangto did shot Esther. Yes, Gangto had also whipped her—by his own orders—but really, had Gangto ever got Esther hurt badly enough since he revealed that Esther was his first love? When he shot her, Gangto had immediately rushed her to hospital to save her. Gangto... did not let Esther die!
Compared to that, how could he compare his own feelings towards Esther—Mokdan—to Gangto's?
Because, contrary to Gangto's earlier drunken outburst... he was not the one that took Esther's life. He, Kimura Shunji... was the one who did. He shot Esther in cold blood!
Unlike Gangto, he was the one who have hurt Esther more. By killing her mother figure, by torturing her father as well as Gangto. Hurting the people she loved. To be frank, he must have hurt Esther emotionally much more than Gangto ever had.
"Mokdan's heart will hurt more. No... She will choose to die instead."
He should have listened to Ueno Rie's words. Her words had been spot on.
He should have seen through it. That rather than let him kill her beloved Gangto—his former best friend—Esther would trade her own life for her husband's safety. That girl who would willingly climb into the nail box instead of revealing the identity of Bridal Mask. That girl who would willingly give up her own life instead of betraying her comrades...
“As long as Mokdan... No! As long as Esther is with me, I think I can go back to my old self. No! She can live happily with me.”
Who have he been kidding? Did he really thought he could ever stand a chance to have Mokdan's heart? After all that he's done?
Gangto continued staring at him, eyes full of remorse.
“You let go of Mokdan now? After you've killed her?”
“Don't do this to me...”
That hurt even more than he could have imagined. Though by rights, could he even make any excuse to say that he did not deserve this treatment? Before, he had never—or ever could—hurt Gangto. But how much has he hurt Gangto until now? Yet, Gangto did not even mention any bit of that to him!
Gangto had been hurt—badly—by his own hands too!
“You think I'm here only just because of Mokdan?”
“You think it was just Mokdan who was killed at your hands? All of them were killed by your hands.”
Somehow everything started to crash down into him. Everything. He never really noticed it before. On how much he has blinded himself for the sake of hunting down Bridal Mask. A part of him tried to argue that he had (deserved?) the same kind of resentment against Gangto for having his brother... and his father, killed. But no. In truth, can he even compare them in order to justify his own actions?
Gangto also had his whole family killed—Gangsan by accident—his father, mother... and if he could recall from what his own father had said; Lee Seon's servants and allies. Every single one of them. He also had killed a lot of people dear to Mokdan; all those other rebels... those people that could have been relatives to those kids that were once his own students! Those students he used to claim he'd return to once everything was over!
“This will only end when one of us dies.”
How could he ever go back to the way it used to be? How could he ever go back to being that kindly teacher who wanted nothing to do with any militia activities? After he'd stained his hands with so much blood? There won't be Mokdan waiting for him there. Or Gangsan... or Haeseok. And he'd definitely could not get back to being with Gangto like they used to be. Was there even anything left for him to go back to?
“I will see you at the yard.”
Gangto got to his feet and walked out of the room as Shunji took out the gun that he was keeping.
“Now that you've caught me, I don't have to kill you with my own hands...”
Now that it comes to this, would he still be cruel and inflict even more pain to Gangto? Back then when Gangto stopped short from killing him... moments after killing his father. Back then, Gangto had looked so pained. Because Gango still considered him... a friend.
At that time, Gangto still had Esther. But now?
He had no doubt that Gangto would kill him this time. But at what price? Strange, only at this very moment... he could recall that memory when Gangto cried over the deaths of his mother and brother. The only other times he saw Gangto cry, aside from the time Esther died. He never thought about that moment; when he beat or tortured Gangto before.
As if the moment he put on his uniform—no, the moment he joined Kishokai—he stopped seeing Gangto as his friend yet maintaining the pretense of friendship (even before he knew Gangto was Bridal Mask).
He became exactly what Esther used to say to him—just another Jap—who saw Joseon people as beneath him. No wonder Esther didn't choose him.
Shunji placed the tip of the gun on his temple.
If there was any other acts of kindness he could still do...
He tightened the grip on the gun as he drew a long breath...