The Cold Dragons flooded into the room.
Lay spotted Jungah hovered over Zico. *He’s not dead yet?* He furrowed his eyebrows in distaste. Lay glanced at his subordinates and nodded. They nodded back and raised their guns.
“THAT’S ENOUGH!” A roar came from behind.
They all turned around. Immediately, the men bowed at the sight of their second-in-command.
Lay stared at him in shock. Kris strode into the room. He gave Lay a withering glare. Clearly, he was disappointed in his best friend. *We’ll talk later.*
Kris looked at his men, “Put your weapons down and leave.”
“I GAVE YOU AN ORDER, AND I EXPECT YOU TO FOLLOW IT WITHOUT QUESTION.” Kris snarled.
The men glanced at each other. They withdrew their weapons and slipped out of the room.
Lay turned to him, “Liang won’t be happy.”
“I don’t give a damn about what Liang thinks right now.” Kris saw Cho dead on the floor. “He got what he wanted. He doesn’t need to destroy everyone else.”
Lay shook his head and walked out of the room.
Kris turned his head and watched Jungah mourning for Zico. His shoulders deflated at the loss of purpose. They were too late. Zico had already been shot. *What if he dies? How will I face Jungah from now on?*
Jungah quickly sat up. She wiped the tears away from her face, “We have to get you out of here. We have to get you to the hospital.” Jungah tried to lift him up.
Zico wouldn’t budge, “I can’t. Even my leg is shot.”
“What?!” Jungah yelped. She looked down, and the remaining bits of her heart were torn into shreads. Blood was seeping out of the bullet wound on his right thigh. It made the black jeans look darker. Jungah scrambled over. She pressed her hands over the wound to stop him from bleeding. Zico arched his back with a scream in pain.
Jungah felt the tears cloud her vision again. *I hate that he’s the one in pain. If I could switch positions with him, I gladly would.*
A shadow fell over them. Jungah looked up in horror.
“Help him up. We’ll take him to the hospital.” Kris said.
Jungah nodded in immense relief.
Kris bent down to help Zico up. He moaned in pain as Kris lifted him up. Jungah came to the other side of him. She wound Zico’s arm around her neck and wrapped her arm around his waist. Zico’s head rolled around and landed on Kris’s neck. Kris gritted his teeth, gripped onto Zico’s wounded body, and dragged him out of the warehouse. Kris helped Zico into the backseat. “I’ll ride in the back with him.” Jungah said. She hopped on and sat beside Zico. Kris ran to the driver’s seat. He started the car and raced out of the warehouse.
Zico’s head was resting on Jungah’s shoulder. His chest rose up and down in shallow breaths. His blood stained her dress a violent red. Jungah squeezed his hand. For once, it wasn’t warm. It was sickeningly cold. She didn’t like the feel of it. Zico groaned softly in pain. His gaping wounds wouldn’t stop bleeding. Jungah was so scared he would bleed to death before they reached the hospital. “Hold on, Zico. Just a little longer.” She whispered.
Jungah dabbed the sweat on his forehead with her long sleeve. Her eyebrows were knit in concern, and her eyes were wet with tears.
Zico slowly blinked once and twice. His eyelids were growing heavier. He could already feel his life slipping away. His hand slid out of Jungah’s. Her eyes rounded in panic. “ZICO, NO!”
Kris looked in the mirror to see what was wrong.
“DON’T GIVE UP! DO YOU HEAR ME?! DON’T YOU EVEN THINK OF LETTING GO WHEN WE’RE ALMOST THERE!” Jungah fibbed as she cried loudly. She didn’t even know if there were near Seoul yet.
Zico turned his head into her shoulder and moaned at the excruciating pain. Jungah hugged his neck tightly and held him closely against her bosom. “Please, Zico…Please hold on. Don’t give up. Don’t leave me. Don’t go.” Her tears hit his head.
Kris gripped onto the steering wheel. He pressed on the gas pedal and sped faster. *You heard her, Zico. You can’t die yet. If you die, what will happen to Jungah? Will you really leave her here alone? I can’t fill her the way you do. Without you, her life is meaningless. So don’t give up. For Jungah, you must live.*
Zico’s body grew limp and weary. The pain was numbing his body and mind. He didn’t know for how much longer he could stay awake.
“!” Kris suddenly hissed as he slammed his foot on the brake.
Jungah looked up, startled. Zico moved his heavy head and struggled to open his bleary eyes.
”What happened?!” She asked.
“They blocked the road.” Kris muttered.
“What?!” Jungah looked out the window. To her dismay, he was right. The road had been blocked off because of a mud slide that had happened in the rain.
“What do we do?! Is there another way back to Seoul?!” Jungah questioned.
Kris didn’t answer, because in truth, there wasn’t. The other route would take at least another hour more, and he didn’t know if Zico could stay alive until then. The silence was evident to Zico. He took a deep breath. He was prepared to let go. “Pull over.” Zico rasped.
Jungah stared at him, “Zico! There is no time! You need treatment immediately-“
“I said pull over.” He gripped the seat in pain.
Kris glanced at Jungah’s horror-stricken face. There was no other choice. He did what Zico told him to do and pulled over. Kris took the key out of the ignition.
Suddenly, everything turned silent. It was much too quiet for Jungah’s liking.
Nothing could be heard except the pants of agony from Zico.
Kris glanced back at Zico in fret. His insides coiled into an anxious knot. What would they do now? What was Zico planning to do? Why had he asked Kris to pull over?
Jungah’s hands were trembling. She was stuck between yelling at Zico and begging for him not to die.
Finally, Zico lifted his head up and looked straight into Kris’s eyes. “I’m sorry…but…can you give…Jungah and me…a moment….to be alone?”
Kris’s eyes widened in shock. *A moment to be alone? Why? We have to get to a hospital soon. There is no time to be alone.* Jungah stared at Zico, also wide-eyed. *Why is he asking for time to be alone with me? Unless…*
“There are a few last things I want to say to her…please…” Zico pleaded.
Jungah gaped at him. *Few last things…?*
Kris was stunned by the request, but, he collected his emotions and stepped outside.
The door shut, and Zico sighed in relief as he slumped against the leather seat. “Oh man…I’m going to get his car dirty…it’s a nice car, too…” He weakly chuckled.
*How can he joke in this situation?!* Jungah sat up and turned her body towards him. “What do you mean by few last things? Why are you talking as if this is the last time you’ll ever speak to me?”
“You can tell me whatever you want later. Right now, it’s important we get help for you first. I’ll call Kris.” She turned and reached for the handle.
Zico grabbed her wrist. Fearfully, Jungah turned back. His eyes were soft. Unlike hers, his expression was readable and plain to see. He was going to give up. He was going to leave her. He was going to…die.
“NO!” Jungah shouted, once she knew what his intention was. She began to hit his chest repeatedly while sobbing. “ YOU, WOO JIHO! YOU CAN’T GIVE UP ON ME! YOU CAN’T JUST DIE LIKE THIS! I WON’T LET YOU!”
Zico grabbed onto her wrists and squeezed them with the little strength he had left. “I need you to listen to me.”
“No, no, no.” Jungah refused while shaking her head fanatically and sobbing hysterically.
“Listen!” Zico hissed as he grabbed her face. Jungah finally shut . She dared lift her gaze. Zico searched her eyes. He wanted to memorize every bit of her face and take the mental pictures with him to heaven, or hell, or wherever he would go next. His heart pained at the sight of her tears. The emotional pain hurt far worse than his physical pain. “My Jungie Jungie…you grew up so well…so beautiful, so mature, so lovely, so strong.” Zico murmured.
More tears flowed down her face.
“Don’t cry.” He whispered soothingly as he wiped her tears away, “Not for me. Don’t waste your tears on me.”
Jungah grasped onto his wrists while crying, “Don’t leave me, Zico. I’m begging you. Please don’t die. I’ll do anything. I’ll support myself now. I’ll go to college if you want me to. I’ll call you oppa. I won’t distress you anymore. I won’t cuss at you. I won’t do anything you disapprove of. Just don’t go!”
Zico’s heart broke at her pleas. “Oh, Jungah. My sweet, sweet Jungah.” He cupped the back of her head and drew her into his chest. She could feel his heart beating faintly beneath his blood-soaked shirt. Zico d her hair, and she shivered every time his cold hand would make contact with her skin. “You’ve never been a disappointment to me. You’ve never been anything but joy to me. It was my pleasure to support you all these years. You were the light of my life, believe me, Jungah. I would never want you to change for my sake.”
Jungah squeezed her eyes shut tightly as she held back a wretched sob.
“I think this is my reward from heaven.” Zico meekly chuckled. He sighed in content as he wrapped his arms tightly around her, “I get to see you one last time.” Her body became rigid at the mention of ‘last’ again. “Lying there on the cold ground alone in a strange place…it was horrible. I kept thinking about you. All I could think was ‘I never got to say goodbye to her. She’ll freak out when she sees that I’m gone without an explanation. She’ll wonder where I am. She’ll curse me in my death. She’ll be miserable. She’ll be alone.’” Zico whispered.
Jungah squeezed his jacket. “I’m right here, Zico. I’m right here next to you. I’ll always be next to you.”
Zico tightened his arms around her and held her securely against his bleeding body. A tear slid down his face. *I’m sorry I won’t be able to keep my promise. I won’t be able to stay with you anymore. How did I get myself into this mess? Why wasn’t I more careful?*
Jungah pulled back and looked him in the eyes. If this really was her last moment, she had to confess. “Z-Zico…the truth is…I knew about this gang and how Cho was copying their drugs. It’s because Kris-“
“Was in the gang, too.” He finished for her.
Jungah stared at him in complete surprise. “H-how’d you know…?”
“Liang told me before he shot me.” Zico breathed. It was gradually becoming more difficult to breathe. He tried to move his leg and winced.
Jungah panicked. She couldn’t let him die thinking that she betrayed him. “I knew, but I didn’t know until a couple days ago. That’s why I was so emotional. I didn’t betray you, I swear. You know I would never stab your back-“
Zico put a finger to her lips to calm her down. “Shhh, baby, it’s okay.” Zico soothingly d her jaw.
Little, painful cries escaped her mouths, and she squeezed his shoulders while lowering her head in shame. “I wanted to help you. I wanted to protect you. I’m so sorry I let you down, Zico. I’m so sorry.”
Zico cupped her cheek and pulled her head down to his shoulder. She buried her face in his neck and cried. “You never let me down once, Jungah. The entire seven years I knew you…you never failed me. Don’t burden yourself with the guilt. You couldn’t have done anything anyways. This entire thing was my fault. I should’ve been smarter and faster.” With tender fingers, he curled her long, black hair behind her ear.
“I have something to confess, too.” Zico whispered. “I knew…you were in love with me.”
Jungah froze. She stopped crying, and her eyes widened. *He knew all this time?* Slowly, she withdrew from his embrace and stared at him in bewilderment.
“I knew all along that you were in love with me.” Zico confessed.
It took a beat to sink in. Then Jungah croaked, slightly angrily, “Then why didn’t you let me know? Why didn’t you tell me that you knew? Why didn’t you confront me about it?”
Zico placed his hand over his bleeding side and sat up as best as he could. He flinched at the aching process, but he had to tell her. “I didn’t tell you…because that would mean I had to acknowledge my feelings for you, too.”
Jungah stared at him. She was completely blown away. *Wait…what is he trying to say? No way. He can’t be possibly saying…*
“I’ve been in love with you, too, Jungah.” Zico whispered. Her shoulders slumped at his declaration. Her jaw fell open, and she stared at him with a mix of confusion, pain, and resentment. “I don’t understand…”
Zico struggled to catch his breath. “I knew you were in love with me. Yet, I couldn’t lead you on. So I pretended not to notice, and I acted like how a brother would act towards his sister. But all this time, I’ve never thought of you as my sister. You were the one girl I would always love. You were my first and last, my beginning and ended. I wanted to love you. Believe me, I did. But I made a promise to your mother that I wouldn’t make a move on you. And then I became a drug dealer. Things became complicated. If I kept you anywhere close to me, if I made our platonic relationship into something more, I would put you in harm’s way. I would always bring you unhappiness and uneasiness. I didn’t want to risk any of that. I know…” His eyes closed in remorse, “I was a jerk to you. I’m sorry. I just…wanted to tell you…in hope that you would forgive me…one day…”
Tears filled Jungah’s eyes.
She should’ve resented him for pretending not to notice her love for him.
She should’ve been depressed that they couldn’t have developed their love into something beautiful.
Yet, all she felt was pity. She felt pity for the dying man in front of her who could do nothing but watch as his first and only love slowly fell out of his embrace and fell in love with another man.
Zico slumped forward. It became increasingly difficult to stay awake. It felt like someone had put anvils on his eyes. He couldn’t keep them open. Jungah called his name over and over again. Her voice sounded remote and unclear. An anesthetized fuzziness surrounded him like a warm blanket. *Her voice…I bet that’s what angels sound like.* He dreamily thought.
“ZICO!” Jungah shook him. His eyes fluttered back open. Yet, he couldn’t keep them wide open. His eyelids slid back down halfway.
Tears covered Jungah’s face. “Don’t you dare ing die on me, Woo Jiho. You better survive! Don’t you want me to forgive you?! You need to make up for lying to me all these years!”
His eyes were soft and tender without an ounce of trepidation or anxiety in them.
Jungah resorted to begging. She clung onto him desperately. “Oppa, I’m begging you. Stay with me. I DON’T WANT TO LOSE YOU!”
His eyebrows knitted in distress. He was fine with dying. He was just afraid to leave Jungah.
Zico cupped her face. His eyes fixated on her lips. “If I knew my time was this short…I wouldn’t have hesitated. I wouldn’t have promised your mother. I wouldn’t have let Kris have you. I would have been selfish.”
“You still have time. Don’t talk like that….don’t talk as if you’re dying…” Jungah cried hard. Yet, hope slipped away from her like sand falling between the lines of one’s fingers. She knew his death was inevitable. There was no way anyone could survive with two bullet wounds in the liver and leg, especially after so much time had passed. Even if they arrived at the hospital now, it would be too late. Jungah looked up into his eyes with her wet eyes that were pleading intensely. *Live. You must live.* “Please…Jiho oppa…please…”
“I’m sorry, Jungah.” Zico whispered. Then he lowered his head and kissed her lips. Jungah became rigid. She didn’t move away, yet, she didn’t kiss him back. She just closed her eyes as tears cascaded down her cheeks. Her lips trembled as he captured her lips over and over again.
She didn’t feel the fire she felt with Kris. All she felt was misery, depression, sympathy, and sorrow.
Zico cupped the back of her head, angled his head, and kissed her with the last, remaining strength he had. *I’m sorry, mother. I’m sorry, Kris.* His kisses became softer and lighter.
Slowly, Zico pulled apart from her and withdrew his hand from her head. He gazed into her eyes with a weak, serene smile. His hand fell, and she caught it. Jungah stared at him with the middle of her eyebrows creased in unease. Zico rested the side of his head against the seat. His eyes dropped downwards as drowsiness took over him.
“Wu Fan must be cold outside…invite him back in…” Then his head limply fell forward, and he fell into a permanent dream. His cold hand slipped out of her grasp and flopped lifelessly by his side.
Jungah stared into space. Her heart dropped like a rock. There was a dull ache in her stomach.
The pain started to grow bigger and bigger. It felt like she had been the one that had been shot.
“Zico….Zico…Zico…” No matter how many times she would call him now, he would never respond. He was gone, and he was never coming back.
“OPPAAA!” Jungah screamed. She clung onto his lifeless body and sobbed as her heart split in devastation, “Woo Jiho. Zico. Oppa.”
The door flung open, and Kris shot inside, “What happened?! Jungah! JUNGAH!”
“He’s gone…” She croaked. The color left his face, and his eyes flit to Zico’s motionless figure.
Jungah brought her eyes back up to Zico’s closed eyes. “He’s dead…”
Her vision grew distorted with the tears.
Then everything turned black, and she was floating on a mind-numbing cloud.