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Chapter 96 Part 2 - The Mysterious Art Museum

A street artist's life changed when he ended up at a mysterious art museum. DBT,Korean,Novel,Translation,Art,Artist,Slice of life,Poor to Rich,Mystery

It's a bit worrying. He might not recognize me.


Henri from this era wasn't in his right mind, and the last time I met him was seven years ago, in 1892.


I wonder if he'll remember me from just one meeting seven years ago.


With no other choice and a feeling of unease, I followed the nurse to the third floor, heading to a room in the far corner of the mental hospital. Along the way, the sight of patients sticking their arms out of the barred windows and shouting startled me.


Unfazed, the nurse walked straight ahead and then stopped in front of a room, speaking through the bars.


I followed the nurse to the third floor, heading towards a room in the far corner of the psychiatric hospital. The journey was unsettling, as inmates reached out their arms or shouted from behind the bars of their cells.


The nurse, seemingly accustomed to this, walked straight ahead without glancing at them, stopping in front of a room and speaking through the bars.


"Henri. You have a visitor, do you recognize them?"


Henri was inside.


I quickly looked through the bars behind the nurse.


In front of a large window.


A dwarf was sitting on the bed, staring out through the heavily barred window.


"Henri! It's me, Ban. Do you remember me?"


There was no response from Henri. The nurse began to look at me suspiciously. In my urgency, I recounted an old memory.


"Do you remember drinking with me at the Moulin Rouge 7 years ago? We went to the brothel together, drew pictures, and then drank heavily before going to your place."


What word had he reacted to? Henri twitched.


The nurse frowned and said,


"Henri is hospitalized with alcohol-related illness. Please don’t provoke him with talk of drinking."


"Ah, yes. Sorry."


So, it was the mention of alcohol.


After bowing my head to the nurse and looking back through the bars, Henri was now looking at me.


Henri's haggard appearance. His small body seemed even more pitiable.


"Henri! It's me."


Henri looked at me for a while before jumping down from the bed and walking over.


Due to the bars being at adult height, Henri, with his short stature, came close enough to see my face and then asked,


"Ban?"


He recognized me!


"Yes! It's me, Henri!"


I said to the nurse,


"See? He recognized my name."


The nurse nodded and asked Henri,


"Do you permit the visit?"


After Henri nodded, the nurse unlocked the door and let me in, saying,


"You have one hour for the visit. And please, don’t mention that word again."


"Thank you," I replied.


The nurse left, and we were alone in the room.


Had I ever been alone in a hospital room with someone before?


I never had such an experience even with my closest family members, so I was unsure what to do.


Moreover, I felt awkward for visiting empty-handed.


I rubbed my palms on my clothes and laughed nervously.


"I heard about you and rushed here, so I came empty-handed."


Henri looked up at me, then climbed back onto the bed.


"Did you go to your country?"


"Yes."


"To Joseon?"


"That’s right."


"You disappeared that day without a word."


"........................"


Henri looked at me with a pale face and then smiled faintly.


"I thought, after sobering up, you disliked being around a dwarf like me."


"Of course not."


"Sit down here."


I pulled a chair from the corner of the room and sat next to the bed.


"Are you okay?"


Henri smiled weakly.


"I haven’t forgotten you because of what you said to me back then."


"What did I say?"


Henri looked into my eyes and smiled.


"You told me, 'Henri! You’ll harm your health drinking like that!'"


I remember. I laughed at my friend’s joke.


"That time, you said to me, 'I only drink good alcohol, so I'll be fine.'"


We smiled at the old memory. Was it an illusion to feel like meeting an old friend?


"Didn’t you hear that often? With all the drinking you did."


Henri looked out the window with a sad expression.


"No one was there for me. No one said that to me. Everyone just wanted to drink my fine liquor. Those I thought were friends would say, 'Hey, Henri! Night has fallen! We should enjoy it with good alcohol! Let’s go drink! You’re buying tonight, right?'"


"........................"


Henri turned to me and said,


"I caused trouble when drunk, and then drank again out of shame when I sobered up. And when I finally got incarcerated here, the first person I thought of was you. 'I should have listened to that friend,' I thought."


Among so many people, Henri was still being used and ostracized.


Henri, receiving my sympathetic gaze, sadly smiled and said,


"Maybe I'll end up following the same path as my only friend."


He was talking about Vincent van Gogh.


Henri's friend who had died after being institutionalized. Describing him as his only friend was probably a reference to a friend with whom he shared artistic kinship.


But I knew.


Henri could leave this hospital.


Though he might not live long due to his frail constitution, he wouldn’t end his life here.


Although he claims to have no friends, with the help of a friend, Henri will prove his recovery and eventually walk back into the light.


"It's okay; that won't happen. You'll definitely get out of here."


"Hoho."


"I guarantee it. If not, even if you come to Joseon and kill me, I won't complain."


"Haha! Isn’t it too far; can't go. Isn't it next to Japan?"


"Is it? Haha."


Henri always finds it amusing to meet people when he's usually alone. Seeing him smile brings me joy.


"So, what did you do in your country?"


"Oh! I had an exhibition."


"What? Really? I wanted to see it. What kind of paintings did you create?"


Henri's eyes sparkle with excitement at the talk about art.


What my friend needs now is energy derived from hope.


And his hope springs from art.


I decided to do what I can.


"Well, you see, for people who cannot see..."


An explanation that goes on for over 30 minutes.


Henri is pleasantly surprised and delighted by my exhibition story.


He rejoices greatly at my mention of an exhibition dedicated to marginalized individuals.


"Sadness often holds a beautiful aspect as well, wherever and whenever. Discovering those aspects from where no one else noticed them is truly exhilarating. But now that I see, you've gone one step further than me. While I was painting them, you were creating art for them. Well done, well done! I've learned a thing or two from you!"


Gazing at the delighted Henri, I silently speak within my heart.


"Everything is thanks to you. You say you learned from me, but I have learned so much more from you, Henri."



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