Chapter 220

* * * *

“I’ll be off, then,” Maru told his classmates as he left the classroom.

He put his bag on before climbing down the stairs.
Drifting past the crowd of students after school was over, he left the front gates and walked straight towards the pedestrian overpass right in front of the school.
His girlfriend told him that she’d be waiting in the fruit juice store on the other side of the overpass.
He crossed the overpass and arrived in front of the store.
He entered the store as he watched her, who was sitting by the window.

“You’re early,” Maru spoke as he sat down.

He thought she’d be wearing her school uniform, but she was wearing casual clothes.

“Today’s our school’s founding day.
Didn’t I tell you that before?”

“Wouldn’t I remember if you told me?”

“You could have forgotten.”

“Unfortunately, I take pride in my memory.
If you told me, I would never have forgotten.”

“Fine, fine, you’re awesome, I get it.”

“Did you just realize how great your boyfriend is?”

“I should just…,” She raised her fist as she said those words.

“Want to drink something?” Maru asked as he put his bag on the chair next to hers.

She replied ‘strawberry juice’ in a small voice.
Maru soon went to the counter to order the drinks before returning to his seat.

“So your interview is tomorrow?”

“Yeah.”

“You should be nervous.”

“I’m fine with the interview, but I’m pressured by everyone who has expectations of me.”

“Should I not have come today?” She asked, with all of her smile gone.
Maru just shrugged.

“The ring I gave you, you put it on.”

Her finger had the rabbit-shaped ring he gifted her last year.
She covered her ring with her hand, but he had already seen everything.

“It suits you.”

“…..It doesn’t look childish?”

“It looks cute on you.”

“I, is that so?”

She removed the hand that covered her ring.
Maru went to the counter to get the drinks.
The weather was getting warm.
The droplets condensed on the outside of the glass felt good to touch.

“So you’re here to cheer me on?”

“No, not really, “ she spoke as she made a happy expression after drinking a sip.
A smile of satisfaction blossomed on her face.

Maru felt his daily fatigue disappear just from looking at her.
Feeling Maru’s gaze, she frowned a little.

“Don’t look at me like that.”

“Why?”

“It’s strange.”

“What’s so strange about me looking at my girlfriend?”

“Urgh.”

She flicked her finger to hit Maru’s forehead.
Maru felt that he would be nagged at if he teased her anymore, so he decided to stop there.
He looked away and drank the strawberry juice in front of him.
The combination of carbonation and the strawberry taste was rather nice.
He thought that he should frequent this place in the future.

“Let’s leave once you’re done,” Maru heard these words just as he thought that he found a nice place.

She put her handbag on her legs and was getting ready to get up.

“You finished it already?”

“Huh? Yeah.”

The 400ml glass was definitely almost full when it first came out and she drank all of it in just one gulp.
This was very unusual of her since she usually spent an hour chatting over a glass of drink.

“I still have this much left,” Maru said as he showed her his glass that was still almost full.

“Then finish it quickly,” she frowned as she spoke.

“Why are you in such a rush today?”

“Don’t talk back to me and finish it already.”

She poured half of his glass into hers and gulped it down again in one go.
Maru wanted to ask why she was doing that, but he had no choice but to drink down his own portion once he saw her pressing eyes.
As soon as he finished his glass, she stood up.

“Let’s go.”

“Go where?”

“Follow me.”

As soon as Maru grabbed his bag, he felt her hand pulling on his clothes.
Maru looked at her confusedly since she seemed like she was being chased by something.

“Did something happen?”

“N, no.”

‘Oh?’ She even started stuttering now.
A panicked expression could clearly be seen on her face, yet her footsteps did not stop.
They crossed the street and entered high street.
This was where high school students from around the area all gathered around.
Maru quickly followed her as she drifted through the crowd wearing school uniforms.

“Where are we going?”

“We’ll be there soon.”

Not telling their destination, she kept walking.
Maru subconsciously smiled since she was like a girl overjoyed with knowing a secret.
Going past the food stalls, she arrived at a street with shops and looked around before walking towards one of the stores gleefully.
She went through the automatic door.
Maru raised his head to look at the name of the store.
This store was one that sold casual-style suits.

‘Suits?’ Maru wondered.

Heading inside, she hesitated a moment before being guided by one of the store attendants to one corner.
Maru had a look at the array of suits on display.
A strange smile appeared on his face since it reminded him of when he first entered his company in his previous life.
The nervousness, fear and excitement from back then appeared in one corner of his heart.

“What are you doing?” She asked as she approached from behind.

“Can I ask you to fit me with a suit if I get employed by a good company in the future?”

“What are you talking about? That’s random.”

She pulled on Maru’s ears.
Maru turned around where he saw a display of neckties.

“Come here.”

Standing in front of a full-body mirror, Maru stared at the necktie that she tried on him.

“Does this color suit you?” She asked herself as she put the navy-colored tie against his chest.

She soon put the tie back on display, clearly dissatisfied.
She had a look at the other ties while tilting her head.
Maru saw that the lady attendant from before was grinning while covering her mouth.
He would have grinned as well.
He was overjoyed that she was picking out a tie for him and it wasn’t so bad to wait for her decision, but he decided to interrupt her this time.

“You’re giving me a tie as a present?”

“Yeah.
I’m always on the receiving end.
Since you have an interview tomorrow, I thought a tie should be good.
I mean, a suit and a pair of shoes are too expensive.”

“But I’m not wearing a suit for the interview,” His words made her stare back at him in a questioning light.
Though even that seemed adorable to him.

“I should be wearing clothes that fit my role.
If I’m acting as a company employee, then I would be wearing a suit, but the role I want is that of a delinquent.”

“Really?”

The tie in her hand rolled down towards the floor helplessly.
The drooping necktie seemed to represent her current feelings.

“But…….”

Maru quickly grabbed one of the ties that she had tried on him before.

“I’ll be needing one some day, so I guess it won’t be so bad to receive one from you now.
No, in fact, It’d be better to get one from you now.
I’ll treat it as a good luck charm.”

The tie in Maru’s hand was a dark blue one with a striped pattern.
It was a common choice for a tie.
She had a look at the tie that she chose and the one that Maru chose before nodding her head.

“That suits you.
Though, it’s a little bland.”

“Bland neckties are the best kind.”

Maru stood in front of the mirror with the tie in hand.
The sensation of silk he hadn’t touched in a long time, as well as the slippery feeling of the tie made him think that this was the reason why everyone studied hard since young.
He was about to put the tie on, when he saw her figure who was staring at him through the mirror.

“Put it on for me,” Said Maru as he turned around.

He leaned forward towards her with a big grin on his face.
She flinched back.

“Why should I!”

“Because you’re buying it for me.
You should at least do this much.”

“……”

“Please, you know I followed you obediently today.”

If she was capable of rational thought, she would have noticed that something was wrong with that reasoning, but Maru did not give her the chance to.
Moreover, from the fact that she wasn’t so rejecting towards him made him feel that she didn’t hate it that much.
Perhaps she just felt embarrassed.
She slowly turned around to check the position of the store attendant before approaching him.

“How do I do it?”

“As you wish.”

Her thin hands grabbed the two ends of the tie.
At first, she was embarrassed, but she soon gained focus.
She tried many different knots to tie the tie.
Maru waited patiently as he watched the adorable agony on her face.

Perhaps about three minutes passed.

“…..That’s not the right way, right?” She said as she put her hands off the tie.

Maru said ‘let’s see’ before looking at the mirror.
The tie was definitely on.
It was just that the shape was seriously wrong.

“You did well for your first time.
You’re good with your hands.”

Maru untied the weird knot.
Then he slowly tied it back properly.
He got to the point where he just had to pull the smaller part down.

“Here, grab this and pull it down gently.”

She carefully pulled on the tie.
The faintly restrictive feeling on Maru’s neck made him realize again that it symbolized one’s resolve towards the world.
With the tie on, one had to avoid the bullet hell that was criticism and the bomb that was incompetency to get a salary to feed the family.

“Why are you so good at it?” She asked, pouting.

“You’ll be able to do it once you’re my age.”

“You always talk about your age when I ask things like that.”

Hmph – she snorted and took the tie off her before approaching the sales clerk.
Maru scanned the suits in the store before walking towards the counter.

“It’s 50,000 won.”

“50,000 won?”

“Yes.”

“Ah… Okay.”

With an awkward smile, she took out her wallet.
It seemed that it was above her estimation.
Maru hesitated on whether he should take his wallet out instead, but he decided to endure his impulse today.
She was a proud girl.
It would be better for him to stay still unless she asked him for help.
Fortunately, it wasn’t that she wasn’t lacking money.
However, her wallet was completely empty after spending 50,000 won.

‘She’s pushing herself.’

The clerk put the tie in a paper bag.
She received the bag before handing it to Maru.

“Use it well.”

“I’ll use it my entire life, so you don’t worry about that.”

“Then let’s go separate ways since we got our things done.
You’re going to Seoul early tomorrow, aren’t you?”

Maru followed her out of the store.
As the sun was starting to set, the sky was turning purple.
The street lights started switching on one by one, and the store signs started lighting up.
Posts indicating last batch discounts for the season could be seen everywhere.

She walked down the street with her hands behind her back.
Oftentimes, she stopped when she found something to her liking, but she never lingered for a long time.
Just as the two were about to exit the street though, she stopped in front of one of the stores.
Her eyes were fixated on a rather crude wooden stand.
To be exact, she seemed to be looking at a pair of shoes on the stand.
She took a step forward to get a closer look at the pair of shoes.
Following her gaze, Maru saw a pair of flat shoes.
It was a pair of peach-colored shoes with a droplet-sized bead at the tip.
The price was 30,000 won.
She reached out for her wallet inside her bag, but she flinched before turning around.
Maru walked past the store as though nothing happened, but he clearly committed those shoes to memory.

“I can get the bus here.”

The bus came and she waved her hand as she got onboard.
After confirming that the bug left, leaving a large amount of smoke behind, Maru put his hands inside his pocket and turned around to walk to the store from before.

“Hello?”

Maru picked up the pair of flat shoes that she had her eyes on before.
The owner rushed out after hearing his voice.

“Yes, young one.
What would you like?”

“Please pack this up for me.”

“Oooh? Whose gift is it?”

Hearing that question, Maru took out some money from his wallet before replying in a low voice.

“A girl I am going to see for a lifetime.”

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