The sound of the wind passing by him was loud and scary.

This is good.'

It had been too long since his last ride on his bicycle, and Kang Jin-Ho was thoroughly enjoying the sensation.
However, he could hear the creaks and groans coming from the Golden Elephant.
No matter how well-maintained the bicycle was, maybe not having any passengers for too long had affected it negatively, judging from all those creaks.

'Looks like it needs some maintenance.'

He had been in the army, so he hadn’t been able to pay much attention to it.
Even so, seeing the bicycle that had served him loyally as his feet for the past few years in such a state somewhat soured Kang Jin-Ho’s mood.

“…I'm sure it'll smooth out if I ride it for a bit more.”

While he thought about asking Jo Gyu-Min to take the bicycle away and have it checked by professionals, Kang Jin-Ho continued to pedal away toward his destination.


A sound similar to a motor churning came from the cogs.
Other people might freak out if they heard such noises from a bicycle, but these noises were natural and unworthy of concern for Kang Jin-Ho.
There was no need to be alarmed.

The bicycle's crank creaked and screamed from the abuse.
If the Golden Elephant were a living, breathing creature, it would undoubtedly be cursing its master right now.
Unfortunately, a bicycle wasn’t a living being, and the only method it had to plead with its master to stop the abuse was to creak and groan constantly.

“Hiiieeek?! W-what is that?!”

People driving in their cars freaked out and craned their heads forward to stare when a bicycle suddenly zoomed right past them.
However, it was too late by then, as the bicycle had already become a small speck in the distance.

The driver in one of the cars gasped and muttered, “Did that thing have nitrous attached to it or something?”

His passenger tilted his head.
“Isn't that illegal?”

“…Well, yeah.
Nitrous on a bicycle would be illegal.”

“Oh. What if that was a normal bicycle, then?”

“That's a bit hard to tell, I guess? It's not like there's a speed limiter on a bicycle or stuff like that.” The driver shrugged his shoulders.

The passenger didn't stop his questioning, though, and continued, “Mm. What would happen if a bicycle exceeds the speed limit set for cars on a public road?”

“W-Wouldn't that be considered speeding?”

“You sure?”

“Hey, don't ask me.
How should I know that?”

The people who had witnessed an event they had never even dreamed about were freaking out, but Kang Jin-Ho remained oblivious to all the mental damage he was causing as he blissfully pedaled away to his destination.


The Golden Elephant left behind long skid marks as it came to a noisy stop.

“Hmm…” Kang Jin-Ho climbed off the saddle and scanned his clearly-not-okay bicycle for a while before parking it in a corner and putting a lock on it.
After he was done securing his ride, he turned and stared at a large signboard proudly proclaiming, 'Seongsim Orphanage.’ The orphanage had moved to this new location after Kang Jin-Ho had asked Jo Gyu-Min to take care of it.

'It feels like the building's vicinity isn't as clean as it should be…'

The orphanage director, a nun, had a direct, upright personality and would have never accepted the orphanage's vicinity being this untidy.
In their previous location, didn't she ensure the floors were meticulously clean even if the rest of the building was about to collapse in a heap?

she can't keep up anymore due to her age?'

The dirty surroundings didn't concern him, however.
They could be cleaned later, after all.
With that in mind, Kang Jin-Ho opened the front gate and stepped inside.


When he entered, kids noisily running around playing came to a stop and turned their heads in his direction almost simultaneously.
Kang Jin-Ho involuntarily chuckled at that scene as it reminded him of a clan of meerkats standing upright in alarm.
He looked around and asked, “Where's Yu-Min?”


After he spoke, the children finally recognized him, and they all rushed toward him.
Kang Jin-Ho looked down as the kids clung to his legs.
Maybe, they failed to recognize him for a moment due to his short hair? After realizing that Kang Jin-Ho had been the one who opened the gate, the orphaned kids warmly welcomed him back.

It was just that Kang Jin-Ho would have preferred it if the kids chose a different method of welcoming him back.

I rescind my opinion about them being meerkats.'

These kids…
were like cats.
Not just any cats, but those way-too-friendly ones that acted like puppies.
Kang Jin-Ho lightly picked up one of the kids clinging to his leg and asked her a question, “You know where Yu-Min is?”

“Opha~, vhere haf yu been?” the girl asked back with a slight speech impediment.

Kang Jin-Ho patted her head and smiled back.
“I was away protecting the country.”

“Heh~.” The girl grinned and dug into his chest in a happy embrace.
Who knew whether she understood what Kang Jin-Ho had said or not? The answer might not even matter to her.

“Mm…” Kang Jin-Ho was unable to do anything after finding himself surrounded by little kids in the blink of an eye.
If it had been one or two kids, he might have sneakily pushed them away, but with over ten of them clinging on to him, he simply had no answer.
“But, uh, I need to get through…”

“Opha, obba~.”


These kids were clinging to him because they liked him.
Knowing that, Kang Jin-Ho just couldn't bring himself to push them away like strangers.
In that case, he only had one option remaining.

“…There, there.”

It was to give up on going inside and just stay here to gently pat all these kids on their heads.
Seeing these kids who didn't want anything from him but still liked him nonetheless made him feel kind of ticklish inside.

“Vhere haf you been?”

“Mm… Well…” Kang Jin-Ho's smile was slightly cramped.

It seemed that this little girl didn't understand what he said earlier.
In fact, none of these kids did.
With the current time being what it was, plus today being the middle of the week, the older kids responsible for restraining their younger siblings were still at school.
Kang Jin-Ho tried to think of another way to escape, but he just couldn't see any.


Cold sweat began to trickle down his forehead.
He didn't dislike being surrounded by these young kids, but he still had to do something about this situation.
Otherwise, he would simply be wasting his time here.
That in itself wasn't such a bad thing, but his objective for coming here was something else, was it not?

“Uhm, can you move out of the way for a bit?”


“…I guess not.” Kang Jin-Ho didn't need long to realize that using dialogues to solve his current situation was unrealistic.
A kid that one could reason with wouldn't be a kid anymore.
Indeed, a kid was a kid precisely because they were unreasonable and selfish.

Kang Jin-Ho began pondering some more, but thankfully, he heard Park Yu-Min's voice coming from inside the orphanage building.

“What's going on?” Park Yu-Min emerged from the entrance and discovered Kang Jin-Ho.
His eyes widened instantly.
“Uh? Jin-Ho?”

Park Yu-Min was carrying a child on his back, a baby in a pouch in front, and a ladle in one hand.
Kang Jin-Ho took a good look at his appearance and slowly opened his mouth.
“…Did you get married while I was away?”

“Huh?” Park Yu-Min couldn't say anything and simply blinked his eyes in bewilderment.

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