And Risae remembers-the rain, laughing in the car until they fell asleep, being jolted awake to the van whipping around. She remembers how, for a moment, it felt like the loop roller coaster she rode on Running Man. Then there was the burst of pain as her head collided with the ceiling of the van at the same time as the van was crushed by a wall.
Risae puts a hand on Eunbi's arm, nearly as afraid to go inside as Eunbi is, but she can't show it. She's theunnie. She has to protect her dongsaeng.
As they're frozen there, the Super Junior Sunbaenim walk through the two of them. The unexpectedness of their arrival prompts Risae to walk forward, gently pulling Eunbi with her. Both of them stop in the doorway.
Seeing a picture of Eunbi where the picture of the deceased should be feels wrong. It looks like a drama scene-and how could it not be when Eunbi is standing right beside her? But even as she thinks this, Risae notices Eunbi is a little dimmer, a little more transparent now.
"Umma," Eunbi says, her voice splintering.
And there's Eunbi's mom-the kind ahjumma who said all the members were like her daughters and who sometimes send them food in their dorm. Tears are still running down her cheeks, even as she greets the Super Junior Sunbaenim.
She thanks them for coming and fusses over them. They give her their condolences.
"I didn't even know they knew me," Eunbi says.
"Did you see the news?" Heechul Sunbaenim says. "I'm Fine, Thank You is number one on all the charts."
"Really?" Eunbi and her mom say at the same time.
"Fans from all fandoms came together to make it happen," Heechul Sunbaenim says.
Risae feels a chill and wonders at the way people could have come together like that.
"How is Risae doing?" Kyuhyun Sunbaenim asks, causing Risae to start at the sound of her name.
There's something crushing her chest, but she needs to hear this.
"Eunbi will protect her," Eunbi's mom says without hesitation.
Eunbi looks at Risae, her eyes bright and wet now. Risae is about to say something when the thing in her chest presses down, and she feels herself fall in slow motion.
Standing onstage that day was even more like a dream than this. There were people cheering for them. They were rising, finally getting to a place where they had fans, where people knew the name Ladies' Code. They had a cake backstage for Sojung, but it was also a celebration of their rising success.
"Risae Unnie," Eunbi says, shaking her. The image of her leaning over Risae shimmers briefly.
"Today is Sojungie's birthday," Risae says, carefully rising to her feet with Eunbi's help.
"We should go see her," Eunbi says, throwing a glance behind her. Risae isn't sure if Eunbi is giving her wake a final glance or if she's looking at something Risae can't see.
They return to Sojung's side and watch the doctor tell her parents she will need another facial surgery once she is stable enough.
Once the doctor leaves, Eunbi and Risae glance at each other and lean over Sojung's bed. They sing, "Saengil chukha-hamnida, saengil chukha-hamnida, sarang-haneun uri Sojungie. Saengil chukha-hamnida."
Neither of them mentions that this is Eunbi's last time singing happy birthday to Sojung and is likely Risae's last chance as well.
Risae looks at Eunbi, whose gaze is still on Sojung.
"Out of your members, who do you most want to protect?" A fan asked Risae once. "Who would you feel uncomfortable leaving alone?"
"Eunbi," she replied without needing to even think about it.
The two of them wander out of Sojung's room and are in front of Risae's room almost without realizing it. There's a sense of "now what?" that neither of them is willing to voice aloud. They hear the doctor talking to Risae's mother.
"Right now we're waiting to see if Risae will survive," he says, "but the truth is, even if she does, we don't know if she'll ever wake up. She might remain in a vegetative state for the rest of her life."
"This isn't right," Eunbi says, her voice rising with each word. "You're right here. They shouldn't be talking about you like there's no hope."
"You're here too," Risae says.
"Umma is right," Eunbi says, ignoring her. "I have to protect you. I have an idea."ns 220.127.116.11da2