“Shall we drink in the meantime?” “Ah, yes.” Thank goodness she offered him a drink.
He caught his breath as he took a sip, he needed to explain what he liked about her daughter.
This felt worse than writing his college entrance exam since tests always had a set answer.
You just had to read the problem and figure out the test writer’s intent, but this didn’t.
He might fail even if he comes up with a good answer.
Then again, that was what most essay questions were like.
“Tick, tock, tick, tock.” That wasn’t an actual clock ticking, it was just his mother-in-law making sounds with a smile.
This lady knew very well how to make a person feel nervous.
“Hold on.” She took out a phone from her bag.
“Yeah, honey?” It must be her daughter.
Maru tensed up even more.
The woman’s lips were curling up into a mischievous smile again, that wasn’t a good sign.
“Why did I come when I said I wouldn’t? Well, I finished writing pretty early today.
So I wanted to come over to surprise you.
Who knew you’d be the one to surprise me instead?” She gave Maru a short glance.
All he could do was to smile.
“Your boyfriend’s smiling at me.” She put her phone on speaker mode.
– Mom! You’re with Maru? The voice on the other end sounded incredibly nervous, Maru wanted to send his thoughts and prayers.
He really did.
All he could do right now was just to hope that the topic of conversation would change to anything other than him.
Having to deal with his mother-in-law was too stressful.
His mother-in-law motioned him to be quiet.
“So he’s called Maru?” – That’s not important.
Why are you two together? Did you ask him anything weird? Did you? “We weren’t talking about much.
He has a heavy mouth.
I haven’t gotten a single answer from him yet.
Oh, so troublesome.” Oops.
He forgot about that.
Time to think again.
He needed to come up with a good answer.
– What are you asking him?! “Just why he likes you.
Stuff like that.” – Mom! “I’m gonna hang up.
Bye.” She closed her phone with just that.
It rang in a flash again, but she didn’t pick it back up.
So it was his turn again, huh.
He took in a breath and got ready to answer her.
“Let’s go outside.” “Yes?” She stood up first, Maru followed her in a hurry.
He tried to walk past her to try and pay for the food, but she stopped him.
“I don’t like being paid for.” Maru put his card back into his wallet.
They stepped outside.
It was winter, but it didn’t feel so cold for some reason.
Was it because of how nervous he was? “Um…” He still hadn’t thought of a good answer just yet.
Before he could answer her, she opened her mouth first.
“Please don’t hurt my daughter.” The way his mother-in-law stared back at him and the way she politely, firmly, and yet sternly said those words… It made Maru forget to breathe for a second.
She bowed to him lightly.
Maru returned the bow.
“Have you heard about our family from my daughter?” “I heard her father passed away a long time ago.” “What else did she tell you?” Maru slowly raised his head, he decided to just be honest here.
He threw away his filter and said everything.
Why she liked acting, why she liked to hum, why she smiled or cried whenever she hummed, what happened with her friends, and what she liked to eat.
Just about everything she’s told him came out of his mouth.
It felt like he talked for some time.
His feet were starting to succumb to the weather.
Once he finished, he looked back at his mother-in-law’s eyes.
She was smiling.
“I’m not the type of person to trust others very easily.
But… I’m also not stuck-up enough to distrust someone that my daughter trusts.” She nodded before stepping forward and grabbed Maru’s hand with both of her hands.
“Please come over sometime.” She sounded a little more relaxed again, it felt like a wall broke down between them.
Just before he could sigh in relief, she whispered a few words to him.
“But please think before swooping in for a kiss.
You don’t want to give her or me a trauma, do you?” “Y-y-yes!” “I’ll be more casual with you the next time we meet.
Goodbye.” Maru stuttered from shock.
He could feel cold sweat running down his back.
Only after she disappeared from his vision completely was he able to sigh in relief.
“…This is too much.” It felt like he wasn’t able to do anything other than sleep at home now, but Santa wasn’t ready to make him experience happiness just yet.
He got a call.
From her.
– Hey! What did you tell her?! “Hah.” A mountain after a mountain.

* * * “Don’t do anything stupid just because it’s vacation, understood?” “Yes!” “You all answer nicely, sure.
Go clean up your desks.
Don’t you dare come back after school closes asking to go back inside.” The teacher looked at the clock before giving Daemyung a slight glance, Daemyung opened the TV drawer to click on the ‘on’ button.
The TV took a second or two to load before the face of the principal appeared.
– Hm hm, ah ah.
That alone was already enough to make them want to fall asleep.
Did all principals just have the natural ability to make people sleepy? “Take this.” “Thanks.” Maru popped Dojin’s candy in his mouth, the mint definitely helped.
It was the 26th.
The day after Christmas and also the day before winter break.
– Us Woosung High… Well, there he goes again.
The homeroom teacher was already sleeping on a chair.
One by one, the students started drifting away into dreamland as well.
“When do they announce the results?” “Thursday.” “Will we pass?” “Who knows.” The results of the prelim would come out on Thursday and the regional finals would start on the following Tuesday.
After that was the prelim for the nationals.
– We, who won’t break even through the cold wind… “I wonder when he’s planning on finishing that speech.” “Dunno, when his throat hurts?” Maru put his phone back in his pocket as he turned to the TV, he could see the principal still flipping through the pages of his speech.
Probably at least two pages left to go? “What happened with you and Iseul, by the way?” He got reminded of it all of the sudden.
The question made Dojin flinch and turn his way.
That’s quite a reaction.
“W-what?” “Oho, so something really did happen?” “Nothing happened, really.” “So why are you surprised?” “……” Dojin leaned towards Maru after a few seconds.
“I… I think I like Iseul.” “Why are you being so secretive over something so obvious?” “Obvious?” “Daemyung probably knows as well.” “Liar.
Stop lying.
You think I’m that obvious?” …Oh? Maru gestured at him to wait for a little.
Once the principal finished his speech after a few minutes, the teacher woke up from his nap and stood up.
“Alright, take your homework.
Do them well.
Don’t smoke.
Don’t do anything stupid.
I’ll see you in February.
Ah, class pres, follow me out after this.
Dismissed.” “Waaah!” The whole class started shouting.
The infectious shouting spread through the hall and all the way to the other floors.
Finally, their break had begun.
“Daemyung.” Maru dodged around all the other kids and walked up to Daemyung.
“Hm?” “Do you know who Dojin likes?” “Is it Iseul?” Dojin’s expression turned dumb.
“What do I do?” “What do you mean, ‘what do I do’? Just do what you have to do.” “Give me some tips.” Dojin’s insistence didn’t change no matter how much Maru tried to push the boy away.
“So you’ll do what I say, then?” “Yeah.” “You’re not going to go back on your word?” “Okay.” Maru put his hands in his pockets and walked out, Dojin and Daemyung followed behind him.
He walked to the other side of the hallway to the classroom inside, everyone was still sitting inside.
The teacher here must’ve just finished his speech.
“Why are we here?” “Why do you think?” He opened the classroom door and looked around.
He could see Iseul sitting in the front.
“Eh?” Iseul waved her hand at Maru, so he waved back.
“Why are you guys here?” Maru grabbed Dojin’s shoulders and put the boy in front of her.
He didn’t even want to give advice.
So, he might as well send the boy straight into battle.
Dojin was just standing there fiddling with his fingers, Iseul seemed to have understood what was happening at this point though.
“I wanted to leave a kid here.” “To me?” “Yeah.” Iseul thought for a second before grabbing Dojin’s shoulders with a nod.
Maru observed Dojin stiffen up more and more before turning away.
“Hey, hey, hey!” He could hear the boy call out to him from behind, but he ignored it.
This wasn’t his problem.
Iseul also seemed interested anyhow.
“Well then…” “Time to leave?” Maru nodded at Daemyung’s response.
To begin with, he didn’t even have time to play with Dojin after school.
He already had other arrangements.
Well, arrangements that Daemyung had set up.
He was just joining in.
“Mintae, was it?” “Yeah.” “Seoul, right?” “Myungdong.” “We’ll have to hurry.” Yoon Mintae.
Maru’s met him once before through Junmin.
Someone who works in staging? The guy was in his twenties, if he remembered right.
“It’ll be fun.” Daemyung had a rare look of confidence which made Maru excited as well.
“Well, we’re making a play together after all.” He seemed like he was stating a fact, not a statement.

* * * “Hah.” Yurim sighed lightly as she took her lips off.
Her heart was beating loudly in her chest.
Did Geunseok feel the same way? “Want to drink something?” Geunseok was looking at the menu casually as if nothing had happened.
Yurim rubbed her lips lightly.
They kissed just now, right? “Want cola?” “Hm? Ah, yeah.” “Wait a second.” Yurim looked at Geunseok desperately, it was her first kiss.
She was trembling and she was a little scared.
It was Geunseok though, so she allowed it.
It felt soft and their breathing was warm, but she didn’t feel any emotions for some reason.
It almost felt like… She was showing love to a wall.
‘It must be because he’s nervous, right?’ Must be.
That must be the case.
Wait, what if that wasn’t the case? But just as she was about to move onto doing something else, she saw Geunseok’s phone vibrate on the sofa.
She knew she shouldn’t, but she grabbed it anyway.
It didn’t have a password either.
It was a text message.
Most of his texts were with someone named Suyeon, their texts were particularly expressive.
Yurim’s face turned incredibly pale.
She checked the messages he’s exchanged with her, most of his responses were curt.
She thought that was just what his personality was like, but that wasn’t it at all.
He was incredibly sweet towards this Suyeon person.
She looked at the door nervously, it didn’t look like he’d come back any time soon.
She flipped to the photos tab quickly.
His photos with her were all on the bottom.
The recent ones were all… with a woman she didn’t recognize.
An older woman.
Why did this woman look so familiar? “Drama.” It was an actress.
The two were smiling in a picture together.
Yurim’s teeth started clacking together.
She’s felt this way before, back then when she was about to be kidnapped.
“Geunseok’s… Supposed to be relying on me.” She couldn’t take her eyes off of the other woman.

* * * “You aren’t going to sing?” Geunseok looked at Yurim after he stepped back inside.
Man, it was so boring even playing with her nowadays.
What was this girl even good at? “Ah… it’s nothing.” Yurim smiled back at him in response.
What an average smile.
Well, what could he do? The girl still cared about him.
He was tired of her now, but he still kept her around because she cared so much for him.

“Let’s sing together.” “Yeah.” “Why are you so stiff? Oh, was it the kiss? Did you like it that much?” “Mm? Ah… Aha.
It was good.” “Oh, so cute.” Geunseok kissed her cheek lightly, her cheeks were soft.
Geunseok’s eyes naturally wandered a little further down.
He could see some skin under her shirt.
“Song… This one seems good.” Yurim stood up from her seat.
Well, he might as well go for it next time.
Geunseok smiled before standing up himself.

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