Christmas chemistry(3)


The answer came in a deliberately low voice.
Seeing her hastily descending the stairs, Jeong-woo’s face became puzzled.

Although they may look alike, her humming from earlier was not an imitable trait.

She was Yoon Yi-seol.

Thinking about his initial reaction when they first met, Jeong-woo remembered that they were inside a sleep clinic.

Unless she was suffering from insomnia, there was no need for her to go through the trouble of attaching sensors to her head and sleeping.

‘Even someone who looks so happy on stage can have this kind of problem.’

He noticed that she kept wearing a mask, which must have been uncomfortable.
He thought that maybe, as a well-known celebrity, it was expected of her, but then he thought that maybe she was avoiding being with him, which made him feel bitter.

‘Hey, Han Jeong-woo.
Wake up.
It’s none other than Yoon Yi-seol.
Don’t you remember?’

Anyway, Jeong-woo respected her desire not to be caught and decided to finish the examination quietly.

The latter part of the examination, which resumed, included patients who were using the 5th and 6th examination machines.

Jeong-woo sat quietly on the bench in front of the examination room, looking straight ahead.
As the waiting bench was only for four people, Yoon Yi-seol sat right next to him.

‘Calm down, my heart.’

His heart continued to beat fast.
Even though he didn’t know why, he kept imagining that he was being watched by a girlfriend he didn’t have, as if he were a single guy at an age when everyone else had found their significant other.

‘Why am I having these thoughts now? It’s pathetic.’

But there was something else that made his sadness worse.
On the TV monitors installed in various places in the corridor to keep waiting patients entertained, an idol group special program where they became virtual couples and wandered around was playing.

“Ugh, there’s nowhere for me to look.”

“Hey, Yeong-gam.
What did they say this test was for?”

The fifth and sixth test subjects were a white-haired elderly couple, holding hands tightly as they sat down.
When the grandmother asked, the grandfather looked at his list.

“Let me see… ha… ji…”

Yoon Yi-seol turned her head to him and said, “It’s a test for anxiety disorder, Grandpa.”

“Oh, thank you, miss.”

As he kindly thanked her, Yi-seol seemed to hesitate, sensing something.

‘It must be because she didn’t disguise her voice this time.’

Jeong-woo pretended to be completely absorbed in the TV and didn’t turn his gaze away.


“The five, six, seven, and eight test subjects, please come in.”

The door to the exercise inhibition test room opened, and the four people who were tested before walked out.
Yoon Yi-seol, who was getting up from her seat, reflexively reached out to support the elderly lady next to her, who was having difficulty getting up.

“Thank you.”

When the grandfather also struggled to get up, Jeong-woo quickly ran over and grabbed his arm.

“I’ll help you.”

“I’m sorry.
I’ll owe you one.”

The two elderly people who had gotten up held hands and went back into the testing room.
Yoon Yi-seol, who had been watching the scene with a faint expression, seemed to notice Jeong-woo standing next to her and coughed before walking into the room without a word.

Inside the testing room, four beds with square machines attached to them were arranged facing each other in pairs.

“Please lie down on the bed and sit against the support.
Yes, don’t bend your legs.
That’s right, Grandma.”

The employee attached sensors to each of their calves and pointed to a button next to the machine.

“Please sit quietly for 30 minutes, and press the button whenever you feel uncomfortable in your legs.”

The test began in the small space.
The first one to speak was the grandmother, who had been sitting in silence for a while.

“It’s tough for young people.
They can’t even sleep properly”

When Grandma expressed her concern about insomnia, Jeong-woo smiled reassuringly.
Perhaps it was because they both shared the same predicament?

Although it was just an interested comment, it somehow made him feel comforted.
Of course, Grandma’s kind expression also played a role in that.

“It seems like both of them are very well-behaved.
The young lady’s hands are so white and delicate.
The young man looks reliable, and it feels like seeing my grandson.
Our grandson is in the army, and we received a call from him yesterday.
These days, the military is not that dangerous.
He’s being brave so that grandma doesn’t worry….”

“Grandma, why are you talking about your grandson here? It’s not appropriate.”

“Oh no, I just thought of our grandson because the young man looks similar to my eldest grandson.”

“It’s not similar at all.
Hyung-woo is not good-looking.”

“He isn’t.”

As he watched the two quietly arguing, Jeong-woo couldn’t help but smile slightly.

It seemed that Yoon Yi-seol felt the same way, as a hint of a smile could be seen behind her mask.

“Miss, do you have a cold? I brought ginger tea, do you want some later?”

When Grandma directly spoke to her, Yoon Yi-seol looked embarrassed.
She seemed concerned about answering.

“Yes, Grandma.
Thank you, I’ll gladly drink it.”

“Oh my, what a lovely voice you have.”

Although it was difficult for her to answer properly, Yoon Yi-seol’s priority for etiquette was felt in her heart, even in such a difficult situation.

“Is ginger tea good for this young man?”

“Oh, me…”

Jeong-woo answered, conscious of Yoon Yi-seol.

“I can’t drink that kind of thing well.
Thank you, though.”

“What’s the thanks for?”

While the conversation had started, Jeong-woo asked the grandmother.

“Grandma, do you have trouble sleeping at night too?”

“I keep waking up.
This old man snores loudly, and breathes heavily, not breathing propierly.”

“Oh no.”

To make it easier for Yoon Yi-seol for the rest of the examination time, Jeong-woo continued to add in comments and listened to the grandmother’s words.

However, the stories that came out from the two elderly people afterward made Jeong-woo rather sad.

“Being old makes you think a lot.
I’m worried about our four siblings living well, and our grandchildren.
It’s hard for young people to make a living, I wonder how our grandchildren will do.
I’m also worried if our young grandson drinks too much and comes home late.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t mind going for a drink at the senior center.”

“When I sleep like that, I keep waking up to check if he is breathing.
We need to fix it before we go to bed.”

“It’s you who should fix it, not me.
You can’t keep going on like this without sleeping properly.”

“Well, if we die, we’ll sleep well for the rest of our lives.
What’s the point?”

The elderly couple’s many years of living seemed to add layers to their sleeplessness symptoms.

Jeong-woo couldn’t say anything more as the grandmother’s words, filled with exhaustion, conveyed the full weight of her weariness to him.

No wonder the director said that comforting insomnia patients requires an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

“Grandfather, grandmother.”

Then, Yoon-seol spoke up.

“You’ll get better soon.
The director here is really talented.
The best in the country.
My celebrity… fri, friends also came here for treatment and left.”

“Thank you.”

As the grandmother looked at her with a warm smile, Yoon Yi-seol’s eyes under her hat also softened.

“Seeing you two makes me think of my own grandfather and grandmother.
They really liked my singing.”

“Singing? You must be good at it with your voice.”

Yoon Yi-seol, who had been speaking as if lost in thought, turned her head towards Jeong-woo.
It seemed like she had just become conscious of it.

‘I need you to be more thorough if you want to deceive me.’

She seemed to have a personality with many flaws.
Here too, if I pretend not to know, wouldn’t that make me a fool?

‘Well, I guess I’ll just be a fool.’

He couldn’t say he knew everything about Yoon Yi-seol, but he felt that she was a truly innocent celebrity, touched by the sincere interest of the elderly couple.

And now, he didn’t feel uncomfortable being with her anymore.

Jeong-woo once again pretended not to hear anything and fixed his gaze on the TV on the wall.
The virtual couple show was still on.

They’re still doing that.”

He muttered, taking out his phone.
Since there were no more messages from Chan, it seemed that everything was progressing smoothly.

‘That lucky bastard.
I’m just sitting here, unable to even call her Yoon Yi-seol.’

The rest of the examination proceeded without any indication of Yoon Yi-seol avoiding the elderly couple.

After all the tests, which lasted from 9 a.m.
to 11 a.m., were over, Jeong-woo went down to the second floor to retrieve his clothes from the sleeping room.
That’s when he spotted Yoon Yi-seol walking towards the VIP room.

‘Take care.
I don’t know what the problem is, but please find the cause and get treated.’

Although he had only been her fan for a week, Jeong-woo sincerely wished her well.

After filling his stomach with the non-stimulating food prepared by the clinic, Jeong-woo found yesterday’s examination room at 1:30.

‘What are you doing on holidays, or on Christmas Eve? Are you just going to follow Suchan and go to work?’

Unfortunately, the director of the clinic was sitting inside the examination room, listening to carols that were full of Christmas atmosphere.


The director greeted Jeong-woo as he entered.

“Have you found the cause?”

As soon as Jeong-woo sat down, the director displayed the test results on the monitor.
The sleep EEG test results by time period, various tests conducted today and their results were displayed one after another.

“Um… are you interpreting these results for me?”

“Yes, of course.
How much are you paying?”

The director smiled and asked.

“When many people come to the clinic, they tend to categorize insomnia as a mental disorder and try to find the underlying causes in the emotional or psychological aspects.
However, Mr.
Han Jeong-woo’s case was quite complex and entangled.”


“The explanation is a bit difficult.
Are you a science major?”

“Um, are the explanations different for liberal arts and sciences?”

“Not necessarily.”

The director’s sharp gaze turned to Jeong-woo’s eyes.

“It depends on how you respond to my question.
Based on your reactions, I determine the level of difficulty in my explanation.
So, for you, I would say it’s science-related.”

A new image representing the neural nucleus of the brain appeared on the monitor.

“The function of sleep is maintained by the action of neurotransmitters that regulate the nervous system.
The brain opens and closes the door to sleep on its own.”

As Jeong-woo listened to the explanation, he suddenly flinched in surprise at the chemical nebula that appeared on the monitor.

“Jeong-woo falls asleep within 10 minutes.
It was a very normal reaction.
However, during these 10 minutes, the theta and delta waves increased instead of the alpha waves that an insomniac patient should have.
It was due to the peculiar action of neurotransmitters…”

Along with Director Sung’s explanation, the bundle of constellations dancing before Jeong-woo’s eyes showed a lively movement that seemed to wake him up.

Dopamine, acetylcholine, norepinephrine, serotonin, histamine, hypocretin…

As I intuitively recalled the names of neurotransmitters, they all were sucked into the black hole at once, clumping together and disintegrating into a formless dust, only to shoot out of the black hole in a stream.

And as it continued to expand, I saw something I never expected to see.

‘Huh, a dust star?’

In the baptism of stardust, Jeong-woo had to swallow a groan at the smooth dance of free electrons.

In the fantasy where the micro world and reality were mixed, Jeong-woo had a sudden thought.

“Director Seong.”


“What happens if the neurotransmitter suddenly decreases in this part?”

“It will transition from awakening to sleep state.
Very unstable.”

“Like insomnia?”

“You understood it as expected.
Han Jeong-woo tends to sleep deeply even with short sleep, regardless of his emotional anxiety.
I don’t think there is a great danger in maintaining a normal life in this state.”

Actions such as regulating dust stars or communicating with molecules are accompanied by the use of senses that ordinary people cannot use.

‘Of course, this must be the cause.’

Still, he asked Director Seong just in case.

“Why do you think so?”

“Because the brain shows an unusual reaction.”

“Is it different from ordinary people?”

“That’s not a problem for me to judge.
Many scholars have studied the brain, but they have not yet determined the structure of intelligence and thought considering individual characteristics.
I explained the physical cause of insomnia that has come to Han Jeong-woo, but the mental aspect needs to be continued through counseling.

The next words were somewhat expected by Jeong-woo.

Sometimes a drowsiness pours in.

It was explained by Director Seong that although it’s welcome to be able to get a good night’s sleep even if you wake up, if you can’t control that time as you please, it’s no different from insomnia.

“What should I do? Is there a solution?”

“There are two ways.
One is medication.”


“Like Modafinil, a treatment for insomnia.”

Since it was confirmed that it was not a problem caused by a substantial issue in the brain, Jeong-woo was hesitant about medication that seemed a bit uncomfortable.

“The other is sleep training.
It’s one of our clinic’s insomnia cognitive-behavioral therapy programs that uses physical and mental methods to help you control your own sleep.
It lasts for three months.”

“Training? This seems much better.”

“I also recommend this.
If you rely on medication, you may end up increasing the dosage or looking for a stronger one when the effect wears off.
Eventually, side effects will come.”

As the ability is used more, the more unstable the sleep cycle becomes.

If it can be improved through training, it is right to try.
After all, he won’t stop communicating with Dust Star forever.

“Is the cognitive-behavioral therapy effective?”

“If it’s not certain, how could I have lived in a small room in Gangnam without paying rent? If you’re not satisfied, we’ll give you a refund.”

Jeong-woo was determined by Director Seong’s confidence.

“I’ll do it.”

“The cost is about this much.”

Seeing the number on the monitor, Jeong-woo swallowed a groan.
It was expensive.
Too much.
Since he couldn’t afford it this month, Jeong-woo calculated his credit card limit.
It seemed difficult to pay in one installment, and he would have to check the terms and conditions with the doctor first.

“Is it possible to pay in installments?”

“Yes, it is.
Oh, there happens to be someone participating in the program today, so if you join, you’ll get a discount on part of the fee.
Since I’ll be helping two people instead of one.”

Director Seong’s eyes lit up significantly as he mentioned this.

“The faster the better, for me too.”

“The basic program is for 4 hours, and if you leave in the middle, you’ll have to pay a penalty in addition to the discounted price.”

“It’s okay, nothing came up today.”

The director’s eyes widened.

“You look perfectly fine and you have nothing to do on Christmas Eve?”

“Oh, I feel fine.”

“Change ‘perfectly fine’ to ‘attractive’ then?”


“I may not know, but someone out there might think that way.”

With the director’s wording that could be understood but not really, Jeong-woo scratched his head.

2 PM, 5th floor of Cheongdam Sleep Clinic.

Yoon Yi-seol was sitting in the consultation room inside the clinic, which was decorated like a café, waiting for Seong Mi-na to arrive.

She absentmindedly touched the mask and hat she had worn in the morning, which were placed on the table.

“I couldn’t even say a word.
You idiot!”

Yoon Yi-seol, who was venting her frustration by tapping the cheek of that “idiot” with her palm, let out a deep sigh and buried her upper body in the table.

Although they had exchanged many useless conversations that day, why was she so timid today? She hated herself for being like this, knowing that she might not have many chances to meet him by chance like this.

If she couldn’t reach out because she was afraid of getting hurt, she might not be able to make a real friend and grow old alone, and that thought made her anxious.

Yoon Yi-seol lifted her head.

‘I hate that.’

Dorm, broadcast.
Dorm, stage.
They were all people who seemed to act happy in front of the camera.

Except for some friends she made during her debut, she didn’t have anyone she kept in touch with.

Holding her phone in her hand and checking her messenger friend list, Yoon Yi-seol clenched her fists tightly.

“It’s unlikely, but if we meet again….”

Knock knock.

“Excuse me.”

Yoon Yi-seol’s eyes trembled at the entrance of a man who came into the consultation room.

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