Wednesday, 31 August 2016

[Me and the Tigress v01] 03. Third Story - Part 2

This is the part where you get clubbed by a bear-- in multiple meanings at once.

Translator: Dijon
Editor: Narane
____________________

…...It’s cold. It’s July, the hottest month of the year, but I was woken up from my sleep again by the cold. My entire body was shivering from the cold feeling on my stomach. I opened my eyes and looked down.

“Have you woken up?”

The phantom, who expressed with her whole body that she was angry just yesterday evening, looked at me with her two shining eyes and had her hands on my chest.

Something about her position is erotic.

“......What’re you doing?”

“There is something I must urgently do.”

I took out my phone and checked the time. It’s 3 in the morning. Even if you have something to say, there’s no reason to say it at this time.

“Tomorrow…… Tell me then. I’m sleepy.”

“Unless it is now, I am unable to avoid Master’s eyes.”

“And what’re you going to say while avoiding Rangii?”

The corners of Saehee’s mouth rose.

“I said I would do something, not say something, young master.”

You mean an action?

“Please do it tomorrow. I’m going to sleep, so get off of me.”

“I cannot.”

“Oi.”

Saehee ignored my words entirely, bent her body to have her face right in front of my nose, and then,

“I do not know why my Master would become enamored with a piece of trash no better than scum, but I truly wish I could kill you, young master.”

She made a chill run down my back.

“....... Are you serious?”

“Of course, young master. My hatred for you is equal to your stupidity.”

Saehee smiled a smile that froze my heart, and grabbed my neck with one hand.

“Although it would aid Master if I were to end your life now, I cannot as I do not wish to see Master’s hurt face a second time. I truly hope you view your continued life as Master’s kindness.”

“Sae, Saehee?”

“It would be best to remember my words, the leech-like-young-master-who-only-continues-to-live-because-of-Master’s-kindness. How Master must have felt while waiting four thousand years for the young master, the great happiness she must have felt because of you, how she felt when she followed you to Seoul, I hope you will think about them as you act in the future. I hope you will think, and think, and please, never forget to think about that."

I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move even a finger. With me unable to talk, as if in a nightmare,

“Ah, and please do not feel too badly about my erasing your memories of this night’s events.”

Along with Saehee’s hate for me, I could only see her hand against my head.

“Because this is simply my way of venting.”

Were you that upset after I didn’t buy you a doll?! Why’re you doing this even when you have so much money?!

Seeing dozens, hundreds of hands cover me, the last thing I felt was an inexplicable sense of unfairness as I lost consciousness.

I woke up today from the sunlight coming in through the window. Uu—. I should hang up curtains. I moved around on the bed to avoid the light and curled up my body. At night I was…… Huh? What was that last night……? Ah, yeah. I had a strange nightmare and wasn’t able to sleep well. What the heck am I thinking of? The only thing I have to think of is how I can comfortably sleep more.

Click.

I heard the door open.

“Sunghoon! It’s morning!”

…...No, it’s Rangii’s voice. I slightly opened one eye and looked towards the door. Rangii had on the same style of hanbok as yesterday, entered the room, and ran towards me with a bang-bang. …...no, maybe pitapat would fit better. Because she was turning round and round in the middle of the room.

Ee—ya. Young people are truly full of life. But mornings are tiring for me because of my age.

“Yeah, it’s morning……”

And I went off into dreamland again.

“Huh?”

I let out a sound to show that I was sleeping.

“Snore……”

“Wake up!”

“I’m—sleepy.”

“Don’t you have to get up early so we can have a date?”

I partially woke up after she talked about a date.

“What do you mean, a date?”

But my body was still curled up under the blanket.

“Saehee said today that men and women who are in love go on things called dates.”

The moment I heard the name Saehee, I felt an inexplicable chill. Why did that happen? Ah, is it because she said something strange to Rangii so she could tease me?

…...Well, that isn’t important compared to Rangii who’s trying to make me get up.

“Yeah, yeah. People who’re dating go on dates. So I’m going to go have a date with drowsiness in dreamland.”

People who need a lot of sleep have it tough in the morning. Since a sudden mishap like what happened yesterday won’t occur, I don’t have a reason to get up at this time.

“How much longer are you going to sleep! Someone’s been preparing breakfast since dawn!”

But I feel like a sudden mishap has just occurred. I quickly got up and begged Narae for mercy.

“I’m up!”

Narae smiled.

“If you’re not fully awake, I can help you.”

I fully woke up after seeing you in an apron. But if my eyes aren’t mistaken?!

“N, naked apron?!”

Bam!

“Wh, who’s naked?! I clearly have clothes on!”

Narae blushed and did a spin. Ah, because she’s wearing a small tank top and hot pants, I mistook her for being naked. The strength of a human’s imagination is scary. Narae’s kick hurts.

“Hm? What’s a naked apron?”

Nibbling on her finger, Rangii made a question mark with her hair and asked me a question I didn’t need to answer while I was underneath and being stepped on by Narae.

“A naked apron is when a woman, or a man, wears only a small dress which is normally used as protection for clothes or as a decoration.”

Because Saehee answered for me.

“Have you gotten up, young master?”

I suddenly got a headache after seeing Saehee. Is it because I was too worried because of her yesterday?

“Rather than gotten up, I got woken up.”

“I have almost prepared the meal, so please prepare to eat.”

There was a tasty smell in the house.

“Soybean stew?”

“You’re a great competitor for Baduk’s role.”

I scratched my head at Saehee’s insult-like compliment.

“Shut up.”



I washed quickly, and when I was about to go out, the door swung open. It was Rangii. This brat, she opened the bathroom door without a care in the world. No, was it my fault for not locking the door?

“What?”

“Saehee told me to wash my face first.”

You look pretty happy for someone who just got told to wash herself.

“Yeah. I’m all done so I’m leaving.”

“Huh? Weren’t you going to wash me?”

What’s that nonsense?

“I taught you how to wash yourself.”

“Wasn’t that how to take a bath? I haven’t learned how to wash my face in human form yet.”

Seeing Rangii smile so delightedly, I wanted to hit her on the top of her head, but I held it in. No matter the reason, solution, or the process, I can’t get punish her for trying to learn how to live in the human world. I let out a small sigh and beckoned Rangii forward with my hand.

“Right. I will fall for your trick just for today.”[1]

“Huh? You’re copying me.”

Rangii ran towards me while saying that, and when she was by the sink…… She’s short. I set Rangii on top of the bathroom stool. Hm, about the right height. I put a towel around Rangii’s neck and had her put her head down.

…...Saehee hadn’t braided her hair yet so her hair fell forward.

“......Your hair’s really long.”

I moved Rangii’s hair back and tied it loosely with a towel.

“Hehehe, I’m proud of it.”

You could be a bit more proud about other things. Some examples are your cute appearance, or your bright, quick-to-follow personality.” …...Shoot! What am I thinking? I concentrated on washing Rangii’s face.

After finishing washing her, I went out to the living room to find a huge traditional meal set out. I asked Narae something as I thought to myself that there was no way she could’ve made so many side dishes from the groceries I bought yesterday.

“Did you go grocery shopping this morning?”

“Saehee and I went.”

Narae went grocery shopping! Then the dream-like situation in which Narae got up early, went grocery shopping, and prepared a meal for me happened? Ah, Mom. I think I saved the world in a previous life. Is it okay to be this happy?

“You have completely forgotten that I went as well.”

It’s not that I forgot; I was ignoring that on purpose.

“How did you know that?”

“Anyone could tell by the way your jaw dropped while looking at Narae-nim.”

“......I’m really sorry for that.”

“Don’t have weird thoughts while you’re looking at me!”

“How do I look like someone who’d have those kinds of thoughts?!”

So that Narae would reevaluate her perception of the human known as Kang Sunghoon……

“Naked apron.”

…...She silenced me.

I sat in the same seat as yesterday; Saehee sat to my left and Narae sat to my right. And Rangii sat on my knee as if it was natural.

“......Hey.”

“What’s wrong?”

Rangii asked me while pricking up her ears, and while I know it wouldn’t have any meaning, I still had to say something.

“Why’d you sit here?”

“I realized yesterday while I was eating that eating here was the most comfortable, so I decided to eat like this.”

Narae gave a short laugh.

“What, isn’t that okay? Since it’s cute.”

And a confirmed fact.

“But I see this as a nice father-daughter relationship.”

And now she’s even digging a grave.

“Oi.”

“I believe the young master will be a good caretaker for children later.”

I don’t want to receive those kinds of future-related compliments at 17 years old.

“It must be because he is a helpless lolicon.”

“Stop saying that. If strangers heard that then they’d think I was really a lolicon.”

“Sunghoon, I want to eat that.”

While they were saying that, Rangii had inexplicably taken a bite of rice and, while chewing on that, she pointed at the faraway vegetables. Try and read the mood.

After I was done watching over Rangii’s meal, I brushed my teeth and lounged around watching TV. There’s a weather forecast on the news saying it’ll rain at night in the central district of Seoul. Hm. Is it going to get a little cooler? The heat isn’t too bad in the house because the breeze hits here well, but getting cooler is a good thing. Ah…… I want to hang up an air conditioner. However. Is it okay to waste my precious summer vacation just watching TV? …...Well, this is better than going to a prep school, or getting private lessons, or getting supplemental lessons like my friends.

My parents are extremely strict about studying. Seeing them sometimes make me panic, but if you don’t have fun when you’re young, then when will you?

“Coffee or tea?” [2]

And while I was bewildered by the sudden English as I was a bad student, I quickly regained my composure after realizing that it was elementary school level vocabulary and answered.

“Please give me coffee.”

“Do you like coffee?”

How should I answer Narae’s question? I don’t love coffee, but I don’t want tea that’s purely bitter. I like coffee since I can have it at least slightly sweet. Could I say that?

“Y, yeah.”

“Hm—mm. Okay.”

Narae had cat’s eyes and a foreboding smile, and she went into the kitchen. What, was she going to ask me what coffee I wanted after making it? The only coffee I know is the one from the vending machines, anyway. That aside, there’s really nothing to watch on TV. All the programs in the morning are the usual stuff, and they’re just boring. I need to pay more attention to the broadcast schedule. Should I go on the computer? No, going on the computer right after eating is a bit…… In the end, I just spaced out in front of the TV. *Sound of epic spacing out*

“Uraaak!”

A clear, beautiful shriek came from somewhere, and as I turned my head, I saw Rangii flying with her body outstretched. Correction. She was flying towards me.

“Uwak?!”

It was too late to catch her, so all I could do was stick out my arms, but she landed face down on the sofa with her chin on my leg as if she was aiming for this.

“You scared me! What’re you doing?”

“Saehee and Narae are fighting over something weird, so I ran away.”

“They’re fighting?”

I turned my head to look towards the kitchen. Although I couldn’t see them, I could just make out their voices.

“You are foolish. Using the coffee beans one day after they are roasted will result in a taste and aroma that……”

“That’s wrong. It’s best right after the coffee beans are roasted……”

…...I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that. Since I can’t understand what they’re saying, and I don’t want to.

“So what is it?”

“You’re too cold sometimes. A woman approaches the man who will become her husband to try to express affection, but you’re acting like that.”

Isn’t it natural for my reaction to you to be as cold as absolute zero? I changed my mind about saying that because she’d just respond with what do you mean by absolute zero? I'm not a good enough scholar.

“Yeah, yeah. So, how should I occupy your time?”

“......I don’t like that tone even more for some reason.”

What a sharp brat.

“But it’s okay. You don’t need to go out of your way to do something for me. Because just being by your body makes me content.”

It looks like lending my leg so she could use it as a pillow doesn’t count as doing something for her.

“But are you sure got up early this morning?”

“Isn’t there the saying, the early tiger gets to the stove first?”

You’re wrong. It may seem correct at first glance, but the saying itself is wrong.

“You're probably thinking this: gentle cats get on top of the furnace first.” [3]

“......Have the words changed like that?”

Are you trying to say that it was originally like that?

“Anyways, I don’t sleep well in the morning.”

And she’s lying.

“Today’s the only day you woke up earlier than me.”

“Isn’t there no helping that? When I’m right next to you I get sleepy.”

“Am I a sleeping pill? Ah, by sleeping pill, I mean a medicine that makes you sleepy.”

“Uu—. I know that much.”

Does she not like being treated like a completely clueless child? Rangii flailed her hands and feet, and she shook her body from side to side. Seeing you like this, you’re clearly a child! Rangii used the rebound from her flailing to turn her body to look up at me. I looked straight at Rangii and spoke.

“So why do you get sleepy when you’re with me?”

“Um……”

Rangii was deep in thought for a moment, and then,

“It’s probably because when I’m with you, this place gets warm.”

Rangii put her hand against the left part of her chest and spoke.

“When my body, my soul, my everything are touching you, smelling you, feeling you, this spot gets warm. This has been getting bigger, day by day, since the first time I saw you. I don’t really know what this is, but this very warm, tender, and a little sad place…… I don’t really know. What do people call this place?”

She was bearing her genuine self before me with her pure, serious eyes. My face flushed at Rangii’s unexpected surprise attack. Th, this brat. Does she not know what she’s saying right now? Y, you little. That’s……

While I was having trouble giving her an answer, Rangii’s serious look flew off somewhere and was replaced by a joking expression.

“So that’s what I’ll say.”

Rangii lifted up my t-shirt, buried her face against my belly and put her hand around my waist.

“Hey!”

I couldn’t see her face, but seeing Rangii’s tail shake happily, I could guess what kind of expression she had. Are you smiling, you brat? That also…… must mean you’re happy.

“......But this is a surprisingly plump, tasty looking belly.”

She’s nonchalantly talking about something I’m conscious of.

“Hey, you brat.”

“Is it okay if I take a bite?”

“Don’t.”

“Just one bite……”

“I said don’t.”

“Just one…..”

“One bite or not……”

“Nyam.”

“Uhak?!”

I instinctively grabbed Rangii’s tail after she bit me in the stomach.

“Kya—eeng?!”

“I said don’t bite!”

“T, touching my tail is a foul!”

Are you that alien who transforms whenever you see the full moon?!

“......Hey, what’re you doing?”

Crap. I regained my senses after I heard Narae’s voice that could’ve reached absolute zero temperatures. Narae glared at me coldly with two cups of coffee in her hands. Um, I’m scared. Please stop looking at me with those eyes.

“Uh, you see, Rangii said she was bored and she played a prank on me so I was playing with her.”

“I was tasting Sunghoon’s belly. I bit it once, but it tasted incredibly good. Do you want to try a bite too?”

“......Okay. I’ll eat later. I’ll chew it well.”

No, in times like these, please refuse. Maybe she didn’t get that angry, but Narae sat opposite of Rangii and offered me a cup of coffee.

“Here.”

“Ah, thank you.”

I thought to myself I should regain my usual self while I’m drinking coffee, and was about to sip it when……

“What, is it weird?”

“No, not that, but……”

The teacup was familiar, but this is my first time seeing the contents. The color is different. The color is completely different from the coffee I drink. I remember seeing on TV once that this is called brewed coffee.

“Was there this kind of coffee at home?”

There isn’t. Definitely not. The only coffee in the house is the box of 100 packets of instant coffee. Don’t say I have cheap taste! If you badmouth coffee mixes, I’ll pour hot water with coffee mix down your throat!

“I brought it along with everything else yesterday. I really like coffee.”

Did you bring it with that bag? This is the first time that I heard you say that you like this kind of coffee.

Narae savored the aroma of the coffee and took a graceful sip.

…...Seeing her so different from usual made my heart pound. So there are times when I can see Narae like this. Seeing such elegance and class overflowing from Narae, I couldn’t help but take up this new challenge and put my mouth to the cup.

Hm.

Bitter! It’s bitteeer! Super bitter! Coffee is normally bitter, but this is really bitter! This is black coffee!

“Isn’t it good?”

If Rangii or Saehee was the one to ask that, I’d say what the heck’s up with your sense of taste?! But Narae, the one I have a secret crush on, is the one who asked. I did my utmost to control my face and spoke.

“There is no way that kind of coffee could taste good.”

I didn’t say that. Narae’s face changed to her usual expression, and she glared behind her. Saehee was holding two teacups and walked towards us. Hm? Why two?

“I hope you will drink the coffee I made, young master.”

Ah, is that vending machine coffee? I feel sorry for Narae, but my sense of taste isn’t mature enough to be able to drink herbal medicine-like coffee. I put down the cup Narae gave me on the table for now, took the cup Saehee had and……

I hallucinated that Saehee sneered and said you just got caught in my trap! This is brewed coffee toooooo! The color and smell are even darker! It might even be more bitter! And you want me to drink that?! Even if I have to overcome the coffee Narae gave me through the power of love, yours is totally undrinkableee!!

“Hm? Does it taste good?”

And then, when Rangii had her face against my belly and was making a weird growling noise, she took the cup from my hand before I could tell her not to and,

“Slurp.”

She drank the coffee.

…...And,

“Unyaak?!”

The coffee cup flew into the air. Rangii with all her hair on edge. Narae with her mouth slightly open in surprise. Saehee swiftly catching the cup.

And also,

“Agh it’s hooooooot!!”

In place of Rangii, I drank the coffee with my skin.

What did I do to deserve this?



Due to the unfortunate accident that happened in the morning, I took a shower, and then saw Rangii standing in front of the bathroom, unable to do anything except wriggle her fingers.

I didn’t get badly hurt because Saehee quickly got me a wet towel, but maybe Rangii felt bad that I almost got burned because she looked extremely depressed compared to usual.

The tail and ears that she’s so proud of were drooped down; she looked just like a dog that was about to get punished by its owner. This is unlike Rangii.

“Um…… are you okay?”

Rangii looked me in the eyes and asked me quietly. With her eyes looking up despite her bowed head, seeing her ask a question like this almost made me laugh. The heck, you brat. Why are you so lovely?

I answered bluntly so that I could see her like this a bit more.

“It hurts.”

“Unyaa?”

Her expression turned a lot darker.

“I, I didn’t know it was so hot and bitter. So, so……”

Wait what? She started by giving childish excuses? If I don’t fix this habit of hers right now, then she’ll grow up and become an adult that only gives excuses. I stared at Rangii to properly educate her.

“So that’s……”

I gave strength to my eyes with a pow!

“U…...uweeng.”

Ah, I made her cry. …...Was my frown that scary?

I put my hand on top of Rangii’s head as tears formed around her eyes.

“Hu—eh?”

“Rangii. You’re not supposed to give excuses when you make a mistake like this.”

“Th, then what am I supposed to do?”

Saehee, you didn’t even teach her this basic thing? My hearing Saehee say there was no need to teach her is probably just a hallucination.

“Apologize.”

“Apologize?”

Rangii tilted her head and copied what I said.

“Just say I’m sorry with all your heart and apologize. Because then I’ll forgive you.”

“Then you’ll forgive me?”

Of course not. If an apology was enough to make everyone live happily ever after, then why do we have laws and police? But since she’s still a little kid, I can teach her that when she gets older.

“That’s all you have to do.”

“Okay.”

Rangii nodded her head, clenched her fists as if she was resolving to do something, and took a step back. I was thinking, is she going to bow? but I was completely wrong. She kneeled, put her head to the ground and kowtowed!

“I was a hindrance to you, Sunghoon-nim, due to my inability. I will accept any punishment you give, so please punish this lowly wife however you please.”

My jaw dropped and I couldn’t close my mouth. Uh, excuse me? Are you Rangii? Are you a phantom that put on a Rangii mask…… No, she was always a phantom. Hey! What’s wrong? What’re you doing that’s so out of character?

Embarrassed, I saw that Rangii was waiting for me to respond so I ushered Rangii to get back up and spoke.

“Y, you don’t need to apologize so seriously, so stop. Get up. I’ll overlook what happened this time.”

“But didn’t you say I had to apologize with all my heart?”

“But what you did was going too far. Now I’m the one feeling sorry, you know?”

Huh?

Rangii’s eyes suddenly shined after being so depressed. H, hey. Why’re you suddenly acting like this?

“Do you really feel sorry for me?”

“I was missing the subject, object, and the predicate there, but I am sorry. You got down on your knees for something so trivial.”

“Then instead of apologizing to me, could you listen to just one of my requests?”

Stop! You brat! Do you even realize how quickly you’ve made this about you again? Even if it’s natural for children to be selfish, isn’t this going too far? She grabbed my hands tightly with her two cute little hands, and seeing her expectant gaze, there was no way I could say no. Ah, Mom and Dad, how were you two able to hit me without a second thought whenever I did that myself? …...What am I asking for? Since I’m not as cute as Rangii, probably. The world is prejudiced against the non-beautiful.

“Okay. But only because I’m not going to listen to a request like this again.”

“Like this?”

Rangii created a question mark. Oi, you mean you weren’t going to ask me to play with you? Are you innocent, or just stupid?

“No, it’s fine. So. What’s your request?”

“A date!”

…...A date? Wait, I remember you talking about that when I was half asleep. What did she say about a date when she was waking me up?

“Eh?”

“A date. Where a man and a woman in love go out.”

You’re holding a candle to the sun, you brat. Did you think I repeated the term because I didn’t know it?

“No. I mean, why a date all of a sudden?”

No, if it’s her, I should be able to think of it.

I asked Rangii one thing.

“The meaning of the word date. Who told you that?”

“Saehee told me this morning…… Shoot!

Rangii covered her slightly open mouth with her hands; you’re already too late. And I went,

“Hmm?”

--While smirking, and Rangii stuck her hands up to the sky and got angry.

“Darn it! What do you care! A date’s a date! Let’s go on a date! Didn’t you say you’d listen to my request?!”

“You shouldn’t take advantage of people’s goodwill like that.”

Because then, you’d be a villain.

“But what does that matter, young master?”

Saehee popped up behind Rangii. She seems a little far away...? It seems like she’s about five steps away from us.

“......What’re you doing there?”

“I kept some distance to not surprise the cowardly young master.”

“I’m so thankful, I could cry.”

But when Saehee went right behind Rangii in the blink of an eye, that useless consideration for me became worthless. I shouldn’t react to every little thing. I should be used to it by now.

“But what do you mean, that doesn’t matter? Are you telling me that my most memorable first date ever should be with Rangii?”

“Is this your first?”

Why’re you picking this moment to raise the corners of your mouth?

“Pff.”

Don’t laugh!

“That doesn’t matter to you!”

“That is true.”

“This is my first date too!”

“For me as well.”

I don’t want to share such a strange sentiment with phantoms.

“But Saehee. You’re so ol……”

“That is enough, if you please.”

“Ack, Saehee are you angry?”

“I am not.”

…...That’s right. Talking about your age is taboo.

“Anyway, I want my first date to be with Na……”

Even I had enough sense to not mention Narae’s name.

“......I mean, wouldn’t it be best to go on one after I’ve prepared?”

“You truly worked hard to use that dimwitted brain of yours.”

I didn’t like the look in Saehee’s eyes as she seemed to be able to see through everything.

“Then instead, how do you feel about playing with Master and coming back later?”

“Explain to me the difference between that and a date.”

“A date is a date, and playing is playing.”

The two words may be similar, but I felt a force of persuasion as great as the Big Bang.

“A date! A daaaate!”
Seeing Rangii dance around me like a native Amazonian, should I just go along with her? No, but for me to go on my first date with Rangii, isn’t that a little sad? Saehee spoke to me while I was worrying about that furiously in my head.

“Young master. I truly hope you will think about Master’s mood.”

Something about Saehee telling me to think…… weighed on my mind. Rangii’s mood. …...yeah.
Rangii is dancing around me like I’m a sacrifice as she prays for a date, and she hasn’t seen the world in centuries. I’d feel bad if I didn’t play with her a bit.

“Okay. Let’s go.”

“Uwa!!”

Her dance turned into a victory dance, and her movements got larger. Thank goodness we’re the only residents of the house. If we were in an apartment, we’d have received complaints.

“Now that that’s settled, where do you want to go?”

“Are you going somewhere?”

At that moment. I saw Narae, the unwanted house guest whom I have a secret crush on, come into my field of view.

“Na, Narae?”

Seeing Narae walk in from the kitchen where she was cooking or something, with her wearing an apron and smiling while holding a kitchen knife, I inexplicably got goosebumps.

“I came out because I heard something about a D.A.T.E. so what were you talking about without me?”

Could this be my imagination? That the moment when Narae opened her mouth, the kitchen knife looked like it shined.

“F, for whatever reason, you’re scary right now.”

Did you also have that feeling? Dang, I’m glad. That the feeling I had wasn’t wrong.

“We were talking about the date that Master and the young master will be going on.”

She kindly explained the situation, but today she was especially nasty. Narae’s face froze after she heard Saehee’s words, and then she quickly approached me. And with the kitchen knife in her hand.

“U—nyak?!”

Rangii was shocked and hid behind me with her tail straight out. Oi! Miss Great Phantom! Why’s a great phantom scared of a kitchen knife? And you brat! Don’t grab onto my clothes! How am I supposed to dodge when I need to?!

“No we weren’t! We’re just playing, not going on a date!”

“Really!”

Narae stabbed me hard on my chest. …...With her finger.

“Did you think I wouldn’t know?”

Huh? Then why did you get angry?

“What’re you getting so flustered about when all you’re going to do is play? When we did played together all the time when we were kids? You even stayed over at my house once!”

I received a culture shock after I saw Narae get embarrassed and blush after she talked about what happened so long ago.

Sh, she’s cute! So cute! Super cute! …...Is what I would have thought if only that shining kitchen knife wasn’t there.

“Ah, um. Sorry.”

“Whatever.”

Narae went hmph, ignored me, and spoke to Rangii who was trembling behind me.

“Then Rangii. I can go too, right?”

Rangii nodded her head hard and spoke.

“Yeah, yeah. You can!”

“Thank goodness. Because when you’re playing, the more the merrier.”

But why are you not asking me? Obviously, if Narae was coming with us, my answer would be yes and okay, but I feel a little disappointed. Could this be a man’s complicated feelings?

“However.”

Narae suddenly turned her gaze towards Saehee.

“You’re not going to go, right? Don’t we need to have at least one person here to watch the house?”

“I am sorry, but I am a phantom. If you so believe that a person must watch over the house, you should stay yourself, Narae-nim.”

“Are you playing with my words?”

“If that is what you heard, then I am sorry, but I was merely telling the truth. Most importantly, as I must attend to Master and the young master, I cannot stay home.”

“Is there a reason for you to attend to them when they’re playing? Use this opportunity to rest at home. After all, you’re so old.”

“But it would seem as though Narae-nim, with such massive lumps of fat attached to her, would be the tired one.”

Ah, I can see them. Cracks appeared in Saehee’s expressionless face, and veins popped out of Narae’s forehead. I took a step back from within the typhoon and got down to whisper to Rangii.

“Why have those two been acting like this?”

“I, I don’t know either. Ever since I got up this morning, they didn’t look like they got along that well.”

“Our not getting along is a misunderstanding, Master. While we were grocery shopping, we got to know each other very well and are thus getting along this well.”

“Yeah, Rangii. We get along. The problem’s that we get along so well, we fight.”

“He—ek!”

Ah, Rangii. She got scared. What were those two talking about when they were grocery shopping? …...I shouldn’t ask. Since I’m not interested in playing marbles with a grenade with its safety-pin pulled out.

“Rangii, want me to read you a book in my room?”

So let’s run away.

“Wa—ah. That sounds like fun. Le, let’s hurry and go.”

I ran away to my room while holding Rangii’s hand.



Hm—mm. I feel like we went off the topic because of Narae and Saehee’s friendly conversation, but since I’m going to go and play with Rangii, I should think about what to do a little. Where would be a good place to go with her? There’ll probably be a lot of people at the far away amusement park, and it’ll take a long time to get on the rides. Is there anywhere with few people where Rangii can have fun?

…...There is.

“Hm? What’s wrong?”

Rangii was on my knees, reading the children’s book The Little Prince, when she leaned against my chest and looked up. I stopped reading right during the part when the fox and the prince first meet. It seemed like a good book for a kid like Rangii, no, actually, the truth is that this was the only children’s book in my house so I read it to her, but it seemed like she was really interested in the story.

“Sorry. I was thinking about where to go.”

Rangii’s tail went inside my t-shirt and wrapped around my waist. The feeling of her fur tickles.

“Did you decide? I’ll be happy to anywhere as long as I’m with Sunghoon.”

If Narae had said that, I would’ve been happy enough to say something as insane as “Huhu. Then let’s go to the bed together.” But since Rangii’s the one who said that, I was only happy enough to hug her tightly.

“Uwah, why’d you do that all of a sudden?”

Ah, I really hugged her. I noticed Rangii was both wriggling and staying still in my embrace, and at the same time I thought that Rangii doing something so contradictory looked really cute……, no that’s not it! Yeah! She’s cute! She looks cute! Geez. After only seeing kids on TV with terrible personalities, or kids who’ve only learned weird dances that shouldn’t be performed by children, I think Rangii’s cute since she’s such an innocent kid! Yeah. That’s it!!

“......Sunghoon?”

“......No, sorry. My sanity flew away somewhere for a second.”

“What does that mean?”

Do I have to explain even this much?

Even after I finished reading Rangii all of The Little Prince, Narae and Saehee were still talking.

“Where the heck do they sell clothes like that? It must be impossible to find something like that, but you sure did well finding it.”

“Please respect that this is my preference. Am I not keeping silent of your vulgar, excuse me, indecent, excuse me, choice in clothing that in a vulgar, indecent fashion emphasizes certain areas?”

“I don’t want to hear that from you! And don’t you know that this kind of clothes is in fashion these days?”

“I believe that, rather than following trends, dressing stylishly as one’s tastes dictate is much wiser.”

“You don’t believe that you’re dressing stylishly, do you?”

…...I should stop them. I’m scared that I’m going to see the kitchen knife dance and a phantom conjuring magic.

“O~i. Excuse~me. You~ two over there~.”

“What?” “Have you called for me?”

Seeing the two of them respond in unison as if they’d decided beforehand to do that, I wasn’t sure if they got along or not.

“I decided where we’re going to go play, but can I ask you guys to make lunches?”

“Where’re we going to go?”

At Narae’s question, I spoke the place where I thought of.

“A children’s park.”

“......That decision is just like you.”

Narae spoke as if she was disappointed and looked at me. N, no. What’s wrong with a children’s park? Didn’t we go there all the time when we were kids?

“Want to go somewhere else?”

Narae shook her head.

“It’s fine. Then I’m going to make our lunches. Since it’s expensive to buy there.”

“Want me to help too?”

Narae frowned.

“It’s fine. Stupid.”

Tch. I wanted to fulfill the ideal image of the two of us as a married couple cooking in the kitchen together, but I’ll have to wait until next time. That aside, it’ll probably be hard to make lunches for 4 people. Will Saehee help? Thinking that, I glanced at Saehee.

I felt a chill.

A chill went down my spine when I saw Saehee looking out the window with a terrifying smile on her face. That face could make a kid cry. Why’re you doing that?

“What’s wrong? Is there something you’re unhappy about?”

Saehee restored her usual expressionless face and spoke.

“Not at all, young master.”

“What do you mean, no?”

“I was thinking about the old saying, tigers hear words in the night and bears hear words in the day.” [4]

…...You’re on the same level as Rangii.



The children’s park. It’s a park made before I was born, and while just a few years ago it was only free for children, now age doesn’t matter so the park is well loved by many people as a rest area.

On weekends, the place would be full of families visiting, but on a weekday afternoon like today, there aren’t a lot of people. The playground toys themselves are old types, but since maintenance wasn’t neglected, safety isn’t an issue, and most of all, this place is a perfect fit for Rangii.

And if we walk along the trail, there’s surprisingly a lot of stuff to see, so that’s why I picked that place for a date…...no, I mean, for a place to play. There’s also the pro that it’s 5 minute walk away from home. So if I were to start by giving the conclusion, I think Rangii likes this place.

“Uwa—.”

Going through the back gate, we saw a fountain cooling down the summer heat. Water rose into the sky from the long, square fountain, and on both sides of it from the forest, pipes released water into the air, creating a beautiful scene. Most importantly, I liked that it was dispelling the heat from the sun that was above us so easily.

“Sunghoon, Sunghoon! It’s a rainbow! There’s a rainbow!”

Rangii grabbed my hand and pointed at the water in the air, chattering incessantly. Rangii’s hand is small, but there was a rainbow hanging there.

“Yeah, yeah.”

Seeing Rangii like this, I unknowingly smiled happily.

“Lolicon.”

“Ugh. Narae?”

Narae went hmph and tossed her head back. Narae changed from her skin-exposing clothes to white outerwear, and while holding the lunch with our lunches, she looked like a innocent young lady. No, it’s not that she just looked like one. Her personality aside, she really is a young lady in her household. However, seeing her as an innocent young lady is difficult because of her, uh, eh, her breasts are a little…… She’s clearly wearing an airy one piece dress, but why does it seem like it’s emphasizing your breasts so much?

“That is why men are……”

“......Hey, dammit.”

And in comparison, Saehee was inflexibly wearing the same clothes three days ago, two days ago, yesterday, today, and now. The clothes themselves looked like they must be insufferably hot, but even with such stifling-looking clothes on, she wasn’t sweating even a drop. A phantom really is a phantom. No, she seems more like a ghost than a phantom.

“Jealousy is one of the seven causes of divorce.”

“Who’re you calling jealous?! She’s just a little kid!”

“Then are you jealous of me?”

“Why would I be?!”

Narae got angry and argued back at Saehee. Narae is the prettiest when she’s smiling, but quite cute when she’s angry too.

…...So I should endure the gazes of passersby. Thankfully, Rangii is being quiet right now. Hm? Rangii’s quiet? Isn’t there no way she would be? Feeling something was strange, I looked to where Rangii was and she was gone. You brat. Where did you go in the moment I was looking away?

“Sunghoon! It’s really refreshing here!”

I recall someone explaining it: little kids are like rubber balls that can bounce in unexpected directions. Rangii was standing on top of the railing of the fountain, shouting my name energetically while waving her hands. And next to me, I could hear laughter and people saying she’s so cute, if only I had a little sister, daughter, wife like her. I couldn’t help but blush. It’s times like when I see Rangii able to pay no mind to the people around her that I’m honestly jealous of her.

“Hey, that’s dangerous, so get down. What if you slip?”

Rangii hopped from the fountain, and enduring my embarrassment, I grabbed Rangii’s waist and was bringing her down when,

“Darn—it!”

Rangii suddenly grabbed my arm and fell backwards like that. And what’s behind her is the fountain. The place full of fountain water. What I’m saying is that she fell into the water. Even while I was surprised, I tried to hold her up.

“Huh?”

I don’t know where such strength came from that small body, but I wasn’t able to keep her up; and while I was held by Rangii, my body tipped towards the fountain. At that moment, I remembered a small trivia about tigers.

When it’s hot, tigers cool down their bodies by going into streams or watering holes.

Ah, so that’s it. I know it well.

And I’m a human.

Splash!

“Ahahahaha, it feels so nice!”

Rangii laughed happily. She’s really laughing happily. She was too happy for me to get angry at her, so all I could do was laugh.

“Yeah. You having fun, you brat?”

“Yeah!”

I grabbed Rangii’s waist while she was mistaking the fountain for a swimming pool and…… doggy paddling, and handed her to Narae and Saehee who had walked towards us.

“But you can’t go into the water here.”

“Why not?”

“Fountains are only supposed to be looked at. You’re not supposed to go in them.”

“Yeah! I get it! I won’t do this next time.”

The first date of my life with Narae and co. started with me falling in a fountain. Just 10 minutes after leaving the house, I have no idea what’s going on.

“Are you okay, Sunghoon?”

“......Well. This is refreshing.”

Thank goodness the water is clean. Ah, the tap water in this country is truly clean. This makes me want to volunteer for a city ad. I moved the wet hair that was stuck on my forehead back and spoke.

“But still, I think I’m going to have to go back home and change.”

“There is no need to do that.”

That’s because you didn’t fall in the water.

“There is something I can do if we go somewhere with fewer people.”

I’ll believe what Saehee said. Because if she says she has a solution, then she probably really does have one.

I lead all of us to a side road off to the right of the fountain. Now it’s a place where a decommissioned train is put on showcase, but people unexpectedly don’t come here too often. There are still people here, but they were too busy having a good time with their partners of the opposite sex to pay any attention to us. Yuck, disgusting.

“Then please excuse me, Master.”

“Yeah.”

Saehee carefully slid her hand from Rangii’s hair down to her feet. And then shockingly, Rangii went from being soaking wet just a moment ago to looking completely dry like before she went into the water. Instead, a big ball of water had formed on Saehee’s hand.

“What’s that?”

I asked in place of a surprised Narae.

“It is a simple magic. I gathered all of the water’s energy in one place.”

Saehee flicked her hand and the ball of water fell and splattered on the ground. …...how interesting.

“Then please excuse me.”

Saehee, the phantom dryer, put her hand on my head. In a moment, my wet hair was all dried. Next, Saehee’s hand stroked my face, went past my chest and lower,

“......”

…...Narae’s stare is extremely scary. I thought about what could’ve ticked Narae-nim off, but I had no idea.

A bit later, with my clothes as dry as before I fell into the fountain, I forced myself to smile brightly to alleviate Narae’s inexplicable bad mood as she looked as if she was reaching the boiling point.

“Okay, so shall we go now? Hahahaha.”

“Gross.”

Why?!



If you go up a small hill from the fountain, you can see a zoo. Maybe it was because it’s hot, but all the animals in their cages were lying down, disappointing all the visitors; but aren’t all zoos like this?

“Ack? Isn’t that a deer?”

Rangii went right up against the railing around a deer’s den and looked amazedly inside, just like any other kids of her visual age. What’ll you do if you accidentally trip? I went towards Rangii from behind, and with eyes full of innocence, she said,

“It looks tasty……”

Looking at the deer as if it looked delicious, Rangii was drooling…… Eh? Even as I looked again to see if I was mistaken, drool fell down from Rangii’s mouth, and her eyes were shining with gluttony. In comparison, the deer that Rangii was focusing her eyes on was shaking on its four legs, unable to take a single step. Is this the classic scene of a deer paralyzed in fear of a tiger?! The deer couldn’t even think of running away at Rangii’s overwhelming show of gluttony. Tigers are scary!

“......Hey.”

“Sunghoon. Let’s have deer hotpot for dinner today.”

Don’t decide the dinner menu on your own.

“We can’t eat that.”

“What’s wrong? Don’t humans keep animals enclosed there and raise them so they’re easier to eat? If that one won’t do, we can pick another one.”

To think I’d be so glad that there’s no one else around.

“A zoo isn’t a place to pick and eat animals, it’s a place made to go look at them.”

“......How strange. Why would you only look? Isn’t that wasteful?”

What about this is wasteful? I looked at Saehee, asking her with my eyes to give her a proper explanation. Ah, c’mon. She turned her head away. Are you telling me to explain?

…...I felt like the only way I could explain what a zoo is is with elementary school level vocabulary. I looked towards Narae, asking for help. Seeing me like that, Narae sighed and talked to Rangii.

“These days, you can’t see these kinds of animals in the wild. That’s why we raise these animals in the zoo. So that we can give kids the chance to see the animals they’d seen on TV or in drawings in real life. So you can’t eat that deer, right? If you do, then the kids that come here later won’t be able to see the deer.”

With Narae speaking so logically, Rangii understood Narae’s simple explanation, and she nodded her head. Maybe this is a little unexpected, but Narae was always like this. To some extent, her fierce appearance is just an appearance. Yeah, I like Narae when she’s like this.

…...Although, these days, her image really worsened.

“What, do you have a complaint?”

“Why would I?”

Narae glared sharply at me, but I quickly raised my arms to show I had no desire to resist. After hearing Narae’s explanation, Rangii bit her finger and looked depressed.

“Then there’s no helping it. It’s a shame, but I can only give up.”

Don’t feel so disappointed because of such things.

“But only because I can ask Saehee to find one later.”

And then you’ll be arrested.

I held Rangii’s hand and walked towards the wall made from a log.

“Uwaaaaa! What’s that?”

She was acting exactly like a kid who went to the zoo for the first time. I brought Rangii to an elephant moving slowly in its own cage.

Narae answered Rangii’s question.

“It’s an elephant.”

“Is that long thing its nose? Is its nose that long?”

“Yeah. To an elephant, its nose is like our hands. That’s why there’s also this song: Mr. Elephant’s nose is…… hey, why’re you smiling like that?! Why! Is it weird for me to talk like this?!”

“It is not weird.”

It seems like my face relaxed. This scene was just too heartwarming. This felt just like when an older sister looking after her extremely young little sister. Or……

“I am sure you are not imagining the ideal family in this situation.”

“......Sometimes, I wonder if you’re a ghost and not a phantom.” [5]

“I am indeed a ghost.”

“Change the color of your clothes first."

“This is my preference.”

Yeah, of course it’s your preference. Moving my gaze to look at Rangii, I saw Rangii on the fence, waving her hand at the elephant.

“Elephant! Come over here and play with me!”

After my conversation with Saehee that made me feel like I’d just gone 3 years in a drought, the reservoir of my mind was blessed with rain as this scene brought a natural smile to my face. The adults around us were smiling contentedly while looking at Rangii. But I was the only one to notice something in this heartwarming scene. The elephant that Rangii was shouting the name of. The elephant couldn’t even look towards Rangii as it turned away and used all its strength to get away from her. …...could it be?

[————————————!!]

I grabbed Rangii by the waist and ran full tilt away from the elephant when it started shrieking, so I could avoid making elephant-eating tiger a new thing.

“Huh, why’re you doing this?”

“I forgot what kind of a brat you are!”

She’s a tiger. On top of that, she’s such a big tiger that it makes the words huge and gigantic seem too small. There’s no way an animal could stay calm when a tiger is staring as if it’s saying “nyam nyam, you look tasty, come over here.”

Thankfully, it was apparent the elephant stopped running away after Rangii went away, because there was no announcement that the elephant escaped from its enclosure.

Having learned my lesson from what happened with the elephant, I took Rangii to the place with lots of small animals, the ‘House of Baby Animal.’ It should be okay here.

“S, so cute! I want to hug and pet them!”

Rangii, who is cuter than anything, was against the glass wall, looking at the meerkats. The two meerkats were standing on two legs and looked around to notice Rangii staring at them…… then they all fell on their backs. I could hear surprised noises around us. And among them was,

“Huh? What’s wrong with that child all of a sudden?”

Rangii was there too. I quietly grabbed Rangii’s hand and walked away while crying on the inside.
“It’s because they’re sleepy. Because they’re sleepy.”

Is it impossible for me to relax at the zoo when I’m with her? …...No, there might be one place.

“Let’s look at the lions.”

I held Rangii’s hand and went towards the lion habitat.

My prediction was half right. Seeing Rangii against the glass on the opposite side, the lion got up and snarled.

“Heeh……”

It looks like Rangii was interested by that too.

“......Are you saying you want to fight?”

Wait, wait! Did I just hear something completely unforgivable? What’d she just say?

“Master.”

Ah, yeah, Saehee should be able to properly explain……

“There is no need for Master to personally deal with it; I will personally……”

“Hey, you two!”

At my raised voice, Rangii was surprised and turned towards me, away from her full strength staring contest with the lion.

“But Sunghoon. Look. Isn’t it being terribly hostile?”

“That’s because you were the one staring at it first.”

“I only did that because it’s cute!”

“Even if you put it like that, you’re not persuading me at all.”

Who would call a lion cute? Normally people say things like it’s cool, it’s handsome, or it’s so regal. People would call you cute after seeing you…… Why am I acting like this?

I grabbed Rangii by the back of her neck while she was trying to start a fight with the lion and moved her away. And there was one of Rangii’s clansmen, a tiger. As soon as the tiger saw Rangii,

Roooar!!

The tiger howled. Heeh, do tigers recognize other tigers? Having received a greeting from one of her species, Rangii said,

“What’s this kid saying?”

She tilted her head and asked me.

“Hey. Why’re you asking what that tiger said?”

“But I cannot understand him.”

“How does that……”

As I was reacting to Rangii’s words, I suddenly noticed something. I saw the information sign next off to the side. And among the things I saw were the words ‘Bengal tiger.’

Oi, wait a second.

“Where were you born?”

“I was born in Mount Baekdu.”

Is there such thing as a foreign language among tigers? …...I should stop thinking about that. It is what it is.

“You’re clearly a foreigner. I am going to......”
Anyway, I concluded that I can’t keep Rangii here any longer.

“Let’s go over there.”

“Huh? Why are you acting like that?”

That’s because I’m afraid something terrible will happen if you stay in the zoo.

“So we can go somewhere else.”

“Ack! Then I want to go see that over there!”

Rangii pointed at the place where it said Aquatic Birds Area in large letters.

Give it up. I don’t want to experience a horror film directly.

“Let, let’s go next time.”

It was an unoriginal excuse, but thankfully she went along with what I said. She chewed on a finger of her hand that I wasn’t holding, and she looked disappointed.

Farther down the road of the zoo was a manmade stream. The stream looked like something from the countryside, with water circulating because of a machine, and while the kids were enjoying playing in the water, the parents were reminiscing about old times. And like a little kid, she went towards the water with her shoes on and……

“Oh man.”

I put my arms between her armpits and held her up. Rangii struggled in my embrace.

“What’s wrong?”

I know that Saehee can just use her magic to dry her shoes if they get wet. But we can’t depend on her magic forever. Rangii has to live in the human world.

“You brat. You have your shoes on.”

“So I have to take them off?”

“No, since you can get hurt with them off, for today, just put your feet in the water.”

“There is no need to do such a thing.”

Saehee cut in next to me. While I was thinking to myself, you’re not going to say it’s okay because you have magic, right? Saehee took something out of her sleeve.

…...They were white slippers. And they looked like they’d fit Rangii perfectly.

“Because you can wear these.”

I put Rangii down and asked Saehee something while she was changing Rangii’s shoes.

“When did you bring those?”

“Just now.”

Do you have a 4D Pocket in your clothes?

“Is it fine now?”

I nodded to Rangii after she was all ready. Finally ready, Rangii started to play happily within the crowd of passengers…… kids her age. Even with kids like her, Rangii’s cuteness was easily noticeable.

“Let’s sit and rest over there.”

“Yeah.”

We left Saehee to care for Rangii, and Narae and I sat on the bench behind the stream. Whew—. Now I can relax.

“How about exercising more often? How can you be tired already?”

I felt embarrassed by Narae’s scolding.

“Looking after kids is hard work.”

“Despite that you’re actually good at this?”

“My little cousins were really mean when they were young.”

Narae met them a few times back in middle school. Maybe she remembered because Narae tilted her head.

“Were they? But I thought they were nice kids?”

That’s because they act nice in front of strangers.

I suffered so badly that they made me want to have boys when I get married later.”

“What’s up with that.”

Narae chuckled. Even though what I said wasn’t a laughing matter to me at all.

“I like sons, but daughters are good too. Aren’t they cute?”

“Then one son and one daughter would be best.”

“How about two sons and one daughter?”

“My apologies for interrupting during your family planning.”

Heeek?! I thought my heart was about to pop out of my chest when Saehee appeared behind me and stuck her head between the two of us. But what did she say? Family planning? Narae gave a vehement denial at Saehee’s words.

“Wh, who’s doing family planning? That wasn’t it!”

“But you were speaking extremely in detail.”

Narae’s face reddened.

“Doesn’t everybody think about it at least this much?!”

Sorry, Narae. Most high schoolers don’t think about family planning. So I changed the subject.

“But what’re you doing here?”

“I thought it would be best to eat lunch soon, and I came to say something.”

Really? I looked at my watch and saw it was already 12. I’m not hungry, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to eat now. Since we’re going to go to the amusement park in the afternoon.

“That seems good. Could you get…… No, I’ll go.”

I didn’t think Saehee would tell Rangii to come over here when she’s having so much fun, so I decided to get her directly. Geez, seeing you play with all the other kids who look your age makes you seem like you seem like a totally carefree kid, even though you are one.

“Rangii.”

It’s probably a hallucination, but I saw Rangii’s ears prick upwards. Although that didn’t actually happen.

“Did you come to play with me?”

If I play among all of you, the thoughts of the people watching will change from [ah, how nice.] to [who the hell is this guy].

“No. Let’s go eat lunch.”

“Ohh…… It’s too bad, but let’s play again later.”

“Yeah!”

“Bye, Rangii~!”

When did you get so close to them? And with the boys. Something didn’t feel right. I left the stream while mindfully holding onto Rangii’s hand.

In the time I was gone, I think Saehee got a spot under a pavilion. Narae and Saehee prepared sandwiches for lunch. So you two are belong to the picnic-sandwich-crowd? I’m part of the gimbap crowd, myself.

“Shut up. Just eat.”

Narae abruptly handed me a container full of sandwiches. I took one out and took a bite. …...Heeh. It’s good.

“How is it?”

She must have felt self-conscious, because even though she told me to eat it regardless of taste, she asked me that question. I gave Narae a thumbs up.

“Yeah. It’s good.”

“Then that’s fine. I’ll make gimbap next time, so just eat that.”

Speaking like that, Narae took a sandwich and bit into it. It must be my imagination. But it seems like Narae blushed a little.

“Me too, me too!!”

“What do you think is in your hand?”

After I spoke to Rangii who was sticking next to me with her own sandwich in her hand,

“The ingredients of the sandwiches are different.”

“The one Rangii’s holding has cheese, ham, and lean beef. Yours is made of tomato and lettuce.”

“I want to try just one bite too!”

Three people replied. But why is mine only vegetables? Even though I don’t care, since it tastes good. I gave the sandwich I was eating to Rangii.

“Here.”

“Nyam.”

Rangii opened her small mouth and took a bite. Chew chew. A moment later,

“?”

Her hair formed a question mark and she asked a question.

“Why does Sunghoon’s sandwich only taste like grass?”

Hey hey, how can you say that it tastes like grass?

“It is because the young master is an omnivore.”

“I am an omnivore. And come to think of it, why does mine have no meat?”

“We made ours like that because we kept eating so much meat since yesterday. What, do you have a complaint?”

“Not at all, Narae-nim. No, thank you very much. The truth is that I wanted to eat vegetables.”

With our stomachs cooling down, we decided to take a walk along the path in the park. While watching Rangii copy the many old men and women who were power walking, looking at the totem poles, and watching men play basketball, we ended up at the entrance to the amusement park before we even realized it.

“What do you do in this place?”

With Rangii looking at me, enraptured and her eyes shining, I decided to quote the old saying that one picture is worth a thousand words.

“You’ll find out after you play.”

“Hmmm?”

She seems too short to be able to go on every ride…… Ah. That looks good. I pointed towards the bumper cars that were off to the side and spoke,

“Let’s go on that.”

And then I was painfully reminded of the way people act like completely differently behind the steering wheel.

“U—nyak?!”

“Uwak!”

Narae crashed in between Rangii and my bumper cars. If I hadn’t put my seatbelt on, I would’ve been sent flying out by the impact. Wait. Were bumper cars always this powerful and dangerous? But I don’t think they were?

“I’m going one more time!”

At Narae’s declaration of war, I desperately turned the steering wheel to drive away, but hey! Were bumper cars always able to make such precise movements?

Narae dodged all the clueless drivers rushing towards her and smashed into the back of my bumper car with a bang!!

“Unyaaak!”

I saw Rangii off to my side, her eyes rolling in their sockets.

“Wh, why are you doing that to me?”

“That wasn’t me!”

“You’ll get hurt if you stay there, you know?!”

““Narae!!””

I didn’t know 5 minutes was this long. During those 5 minutes of the session, I pedaled hard and moved the steering wheel to avoid Narae. But, as if she was a master of bumper cars, Narae didn’t miss my back, and I could only feel jealous of Saehee who was watching from outside.
After 5 minutes that felt like 50, Rangii and I sat on a bench, and looked up at the yellow sky.

“......So she was always that kind of kid.”

“......I think she’s been holding in a lot because of all that happened.”

Unlike Rangii and me who were exhausted, Narae stretched, emphasizing a certain part of her body, and spoke happily.

“Ah~. I really released all my stress in one fell swoop. It’s best to do this when you’ve held in a lot.”

I think I’m going to have to change my impression of Narae. She isn’t fierce-looking-but-actually-kind, but rather fierce and kind.
“What do you want to ride next?”

Do you not even get tired? No, am I the weird one for almost getting knocked out after going on the bumper cars? Rangii, who’d gone through the same trial as me, seems to have been revived to full health after drinking the water Saehee brought her. In the end, I was dragged along by Narae and Rangii.

If I start with the conclusion, one hour later. I became a corpse. My body was exhausted by the terrifying roller coasters that Narae went on, and my mind was KO’d by the merry-go-round-like rides Rangii went on.

I looked up at the sky while sitting on a bench and drinking the water Narae gave me. Ah, the sky is really clear. Is it okay for the sky to be so clear when it was supposed to rain in the evening? Instead, I’d like it if it started raining now. So we can go home.

“Are you tired?”

Rangii spoke to me while pulling on my hand.

“......Can’t you tell by looking at me?”

“Then you can pick the next one.”

In times like this, would it be okay to say something like then how about we go home now, or let’s rest a bit?

“Yeah. We kept taking you everywhere so you choose one too.”

Even Narae was supporting Rangii’s words. Enemies on all sides! Am I surrounded by enemies?! Who here is my ally?!

“......”

Fine. What was I thinking, hoping anything from you? I ignored Saehee’s stare and looked around. Where’s somewhere I can rest a little…… I found something good.

And that’s called the haunted house.

“Let’s go there.”

I’m saying this ahead of time, but I don’t have some wicked scheme at all. I’m saying that I’m not looking forward to Narae getting scared and sticking close to me.

“......Pervert.”

“You are showing your true intentions too easily, young master.”

Don’t look at me like that. That wasn’t my intention; I picked that place because it’s where we could comfortably have the most fun.

“Huh? Why’re you all like that?”

Only the innocent Rangii understood my feelings. No, it’s probably just because she doesn’t know what a haunted house is. I gave a rough explanation of what a haunted house is, and we walked towards the place that would become my sanctuary for a bit.

…...But even so, I didn’t want to go in with Rangii. The passages in the haunted house are narrow so only one group of two are allowed to go though. Our group has four people. So we were deciding the pairs, but Rangii threw a tantrum, saying “I’m only going with Sunghoon!” so we divided into Rangii and me, and Saehee and Narae. I definitely wasn’t thinking of using the chaos to increase my skinship with Narae, but…… I’m sorry. I was looking forward to that a little.

But why with Rangii of all people?

“What’s wrong? Is it because you’re scared? Don’t worry! I’ll protect you!”

Seeing Rangii a hundred times more energetic than usual, I unconsciously felt more energetic too. Rangii looked really cute when she clenched her fists and looked at me with determination, trying to get me to get up. Yeah. She’s definitely cute.

But the thing is, though you may have noticed from my decision to go relax at a haunted house, I had never been scared of ghosts in my life. Thinking about it now, that may have been because I saw Rangii, a huge tiger way scarier than ghosts, when I was younger.

I held the hand of Rangii who’s scarier than ghosts and cuter than dolls, and went into the haunted house. First was a flight of stairs going underground. The entrance was covered in a blackout curtain, and there were red lights that made the whole place feel spooky. Maybe it was designed with a cave-like motif because the rocks decorated the walls, making them rough.

I walked and heard the screams of the people who entered before us being transmitted through speakers and thought, those sounds really fit this place, but then I felt something was weird. My body is trembling. More specifically, my left hand that Rangii is holding is shaking. Looking at Rangii, I saw her face had gone blue and she was trembling while holding my hand tightly with both of hers.

There wasn’t a trace of her authority as a great phantom, nor the confidence with which she said she’d protect me.

“......Hey.”

“Ee—heek?!”

All I did was say your name, so why’d you get so surprised?

“D, don’t talk so suddenly! You surprised me!”

For some reason. I thought I saw tears brimming in her eyes. For Rangii’s sake, I silently walked forward.

“S, say something. Are, are, aren’t you scared?”

…….What’re you asking me to do? I was about to talk to her. when I heard a click and a ghostly doll hung from the ceiling by its neck. The blood dripping from its mouth and its envious eyes really matched it well. Anyone else would’ve been easily scared.

“Unyaak!!”

It was then, when Rangii jumped up and threw a right jab! The doll swung back after getting hit by Rangii due to the principle of action, and by the principle of reaction, the doll went straight back at Rangii again. Well, isn’t this basically Foucault’s pendulum?

“Hunyaaaaak!”

She was spooked a second time by the doll. Rangii jumped up, got on my back, and wrapped her arms around me, burying her head into my shoulder. I may die from asphyxiation.

“Hey! M, my neck!”

“Kyaaak!”

M-my breath! I loosened Rangii’s grip a little to survive. Whew, I almost died. Now I could talk to Rangii while she’s trembling on my back.

“If you’re scared, we can go back.”

“W, we can?!”

“Yeah.”

Then should I turn back? But instead of saying to go back, Rangii thought for a moment and said,

“N, no. I’ll go to the end.”

She said something completely unexpected.

“You aren’t scared?”

“I, I’m not scared!”

Even though you’re saying that while you’re on my back in fright.

“It, it just surprised me!”

That means you’re scared.

While obviously bluffing, she got down from by back and hugged herself tightly to my left leg.

Hey.

“I can’t walk if you do that.”

“Uuk.”

I’m glad that Rangii felt satisfied with holding my hand like before. Even though we could go back if you’re scared. I held on tight to Rangii’s hand and walked forward once again.

In the cave were weird things like skulls and coffins. Crosses and the like acted as decorations, shining as they hovered slightly to scare visitors; they faithfully filled their role, and they were enough to scare Rangii. Seeing Rangii step forward even as she trembled made me feel bad for her. You brat, you look like you’re about to cry.

The moral of today: don’t bring timid kids to haunted houses.

There’s no helping it.

“Wait.”

“Hu, hunyang?”

I held Rangii up by her waist and brought her to my chest. Rangii instinctively locked her legs around my waist and wrapped her arms around my neck. I spoke while holding Rangii up by her rear with one hand, and rubbing her back with the other.

“You aren’t scared now, right? Keep your eyes closed tight. We’ll be out soon.”

Rangii looked up at me with tears in her eyes.

“B, but then, won’t you have no fun? I’m okay. I can keep going.”

Ah—. So that was the reason?

I was the one who said to go here. Did you think I wanted to go here because I’d enjoy it? I don’t know why she’s thinking so hard about others when she’s a little kid. Since she’s been trembling in fear until now.

“It’s okay.”

Because seeing you laughing is a hundred, a thousand times better than seeing these gorey things. …...Of course, Narae’s smile is a thousand, ten thousand times more. Wait, from whom am I trying to defend Narae?

“O, okay.”

Rangii closed her eyes and buried her face in my shoulder. Rubbing Rangii’s back while she was like that, I quickly walked to get through the haunted house.

I was blinded by the warm sunlight when we went outdoors. Okay, now...

“Rangii. We’re out now…… oi.”

“Snore—. Snore—.”

Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping right now?! Does falling asleep in that situation make any sense?! You said you were scared! How does it makes sense for you to fall asleep in such a short time when you were trembling in fear!!

No matter how much I ridicule her, it won’t change the fact that Rangii’s sleeping. I sighed and sat down at a nearby bench under a tree. Even though Rangii’s a kid, she’s heavy. And…… it’s hot. Even under the shade, hugging the superheater known as Rangii is making me sweat profusely. Let’s go home when Saehee and Narae come out.

Even while thinking that, a sudden refreshing breeze made me fall asleep in an instant.

…...It’s not my fault. It’s because last night I didn’t sleep well, and because Narae and Rangii dragged me along. That’s why.



I was a little surprised when I woke up. First: Because I was lying down on top of a mat. Second: Rangii was using my arm as a pillow. And third:

“......”

“......”

I turned my head slightly and saw Saehee staring down at me.

“......What’re you doing?”

“I was observing.”

“......Really?”

Also, I fell asleep on the bench, so how is there a mat under me?

“For the sake of Master’s and your sound slumber, I moved you two.”

“How?”

“With magic.”

That magic you’re talking about is really amazing. But…… I didn’t ask about it, but what’s that soft feeling on the back of my head and back? And I feel like someone’s hand is on my waist……

“?!?!”

Clearly, the owner of that arm must be Narae. Then that soft, pillowy, cushion-like feeling on my back is?!

While I was speechless, unable to do anything but smile, Saehee kindly explained the situation.

“She had watched the young master, who sleeps like a cow, and fell asleep just the same.”

R, really?!

“And the young master is currently laying on my lap.”

Seriously?! That’s why your face was so close?

…...Since I’m lying on Saehee’s lap, and I’m able to look at Saehee’s face with no obstruction in between, then...

“Do you have something to say?”

“......No.”

I stopped thinking.

Narae and Rangii got up an hour later.

“Why are you like that if you like it?”

I have nothing to say.



“Ah—. That was fun.”

My sorta-kinda date with Narae, Rangii, and Saehee ended at sunset. Rangii was smiling widely, maybe because she played so much, and Narae looked refreshed unlike before. …...Well, after she nearly killed me when we were at the bumper cars, seeing her smile like that is healing my heart. And Saehee? Saehee’s behind Rangii with her usual expressionless face. Can no one except Rangii tell if she had a good time or not?

“Now, want to go home?”

“Yeah! When we’re home, I want to bathe, eat, and sleep with you!”

Seeing her like that, I almost said “yeah, that sounds good.” Looking like she wouldn’t lose to anyone in terms of happiness, she was adorably showing her teeth while smiling widely. But I don’t plan on going along with her just because of that.

“I don’t know about the first two, but switch that last one with Saehee.”

“Eh—. Why’re you being like that? I like Saehee too, but I like you more!”

With good timing, Narae interrupted our conversation.

“Don’t carelessly say stuff like that.”

“Why not?”

“Sunghoon might attack you since he’s a lolicon.”

“I’ve been curious since before, but what do you mean by attack?”

Rangii asked innocently. Narae hesitated as even she couldn’t answer that. Well, Saehee is probably the only one who could answer. I looked at Saehee to stop her from saying anything weird. And I wasn’t able to believe what I saw. Saehee was grimacing.

“......Oi?”

I spoke to her since I was worried, but Saehee ignored me, looked at Rangii, and spoke.

“They have come. They are earlier than expected.”

I don’t know what she’s saying, but seeing Rangii, who’d been giving Narae a hard time, have a serious look on her face, nothing good seem to have happened.

“Really?”

“Yes.”

Rangii and Saehee were having a conversation only they understood.

“What the heck’s wro……”

My words were cut off. At that moment, something unidentifiable to a normal human like me covered my whole body. …...What is this?

“Sunghoon.”

Narae’s face had turned blue, and she was trembling as she held onto my arm. Her legs are shaking. Even at a glance, it’s clear that something’s wrong. If I don’t do anything...!

“Saehee! What is this?!”

“It is a barrier. One that attacks people and disrupts their awareness.”

“But what is that?”

“This is the action of the enemy that I told you before.”

“Enemy? By enemy, you must mean…… The Bear Tribe?”

“You’re definitely a changgwi. Being able to identify this so quickly, you’re living up to your name.”

On a deserted street, I saw a woman appear from thin air. It was like an invisible person suddenly became visible in front of me.

Wearing glasses and giving off the sense of great intelligence, a woman who looked to be in her 20s with something that was attracting my eyes to nowhere else but her…… Her breasts were big. No, I’m not talking about where a teenage boy is looking first, I’m saying that her breasts were that prominent! Enough to make my eyes go nowhere else! Although she was wearing a suit, the top of her button down shirt was unbuttoned so a bit of her bra was showing, and I’m paying way too much attention to that! The Bear Tribe really does have large breasts! No, this isn’t the time to be admiring.

“How dare you run that filthy mouth!”






Rangii stood in front of me and shouted.

“I clearly warned you while you were running away! Can you not remember me telling you that, If you troubled me again, I could not guarantee your life?!”

The woman from the Bear Clan, now shortened to bear woman, bowed deeply to Rangii.

“I apologize for my extremely late greeting due to your changgwi’s barrier, tiger-nim. I am Jeongmi, the head of this generation of bears. And while I remember clearly your roar at the seal, despite my regret, members of the Bear Tribe, we had no choice but to find you even after we were driven away.”

“I don’t care about your circumstances!”

The head, Jeongmi, scowled.

“We truly have no interest in the circumstances between you and Ungnyeo-nim. However, this cursed blood will not disappear.”

Rangii clicked her tongue.

“Then tell that damn woman this. I haven’t the slightest hint of affection for either you or him! The man who will become my husband is Sunghoon; this man is the only one for me!”

“I am sorry, but she is not someone to listen to a joke.”

“How dare you! What do you believe when you’re flapping your lips?! I will forgive you just this once in consideration of Sunghoon being with me, but turn back now! I do not wish to taint my hands with blood on such a happy day as today!”

“I am sorry, tiger-nim. We have no choice in the matter. If we were to miss this chance after 300 years……”

Tears fell in a line from one of Jeongmi’s eyes.

“We would be unable to escape this cursed blood.”

The second Rangii’s body shook,

“Attack!”

Jeongmi ran towards Rangii. At that moment, I saw something insane. Even though the street was completely deserted just before, dozens, no, hundreds of women appeared from out of nowhere with all kinds of weapons and ran towards us. This is an extremely detailed illusion. They all had large breasts, and eyes devoid of any consciousness. I felt an instinctual revulsion and fear when I saw their expressionless faces, ones even more terrifying than Saehee’s. Um, this is a dream, right?

“It seems you have prepared quite a lot.”

“The fools cannot tell the difference between a puppy and a tiger.”

Only Rangii and Saehee understood this illusion to be reality and moved. I was frozen, unable to do anything, and Narae was trembling while holding on to me.

“......Saehee.”

“Yes, Master.”

“Spare their lives. They are undeserving.”

“......Understood.”

Rangii moved her hand. She swung the gigantic tiger’s front paw that had taken the place of her hand. An unbelievable sight unfolded as she broke the laws of the conservation of mass as compared to her body proportions. There’s no way something like that is possible. But aren’t they phantoms because they can do these impossible things? The bear women who were unable to dodge Rangii’s paw were swept away as if they were baseballs hit by a baseball bat, defying gravity as they hit the wall, the tree, the ground.

…...Did they die? They didn’t. Even while they were throwing up blood, with their arms twisted in bizarre positions, or even their legs were broken, they got back up again. Maybe they didn’t feel pain because faces didn’t change at all. They just set their broken bones, spit blood, and rushed at Rangii just like before, their eyes completely vacant.

“You, if only you were gone, none of us would have to go through this!”

Jeongmi was striking down with a huge bat, no, a bone-shaped club that was bigger than she was tall. Even in this situation, something about seeing a woman like Jeongmi wield such a fantastical club almost made my mind go blank. Rangii raised her hand to block it, but she felt something and immediately dodged. The club pulverized the road.

“So that’s Ungnyeo’s bone.”

“I brought this especially to combat the tiger-nim. Even if you are the tiger-nim, if this touches you while you are in your spiritual body, you will receive a terrible wound.”

“Tch. How tiresome.”

“You should speak again after you see what you have caused to these children.”

Jeongmi spoke while pointing at the other bear women. Even though they were getting hit by Saehee, having their joints snapped, throwing up blood, and getting so damaged that they collapsed, they kept getting up and attacking with blood flowing down. Is this some kind of horror movie?

“Are you saying that what’s happening to these kids is my fault? None of you have changed at all in the last 300 years! Didn’t what I say get through to you? I just want to live my life!”

“That is a curse to us. Because just your staying alive means we will be used like dolls! Me as well! And my little sister! And everyone!”

…...What the hell is she saying?

“As this is unrelated to you two, please leave for now. Although these numbers are nothing to Master and me, but there is such thing as a worst case scenario. If you were to leave the barrier, you would be safe in the eyes of the public.”

Despite having just been beating up bear women, Saehee was suddenly next to me. There were still lots of bear women, it didn’t seem like they planned to approach us carelessly.

“I will lead you outside of the barrier. When there, please avoid places with many people. I will find you when this disturbance has been dealt with.”

Saehee was being rational. This isn’t something a human like me could do anything about. This is a fight between phantoms and those that are close to phantoms. Narae and I would just be burdens if we stayed here. However…… I already knew. No, I just realized.

“Can I stay here?”

“Sunghoon?”

Narae squeezed my arm that she was holding. I know what you want to say. But I told Rangii back then. That no matter what happened, I would protect her. How could I just run away at the first chance I got? Since this all happened because of me.

I realized that this all happened because I brought Rangii with me to Seoul without thinking. The instigator of all this is me. …...However, Rangii. How can this be a small problem? I’m asking what you consider to be a big problem!

Saehee looked at me and smiled. To be able to smile while she’s surrounded by enemies, she’s definitely not human.

“It seems you have now begun to use your head. But you are still foolish. While the young master is here, Master cannot use her full strength.”

And as if she read my mind, she said,

“Protecting Master does not solely encompass her body. Thus, please leave.”

She made it so the only thing I could do was leave. There’s no way I can respond if you put it like that. I nodded my head.

“Then I shall open a path. I hope you do not fall behind, young master.”

While Saehee was moving, more than a dozen bear women charged at us from all directions. And Saehee…… oi, you’re joking, right?

Saehee’s clothes, without a doubt, split in half from front to back and began to move on its own. But she wasn’t in her underwear or naked despite that. Saehee was still fully clothed. That is, she was wearing two sets of clothes. For her to have clothes on under her clothes in such hot weather. I couldn’t even imagine.

“This is a simple magic. I can keep them occupied for now, so let us go now.”

“Are you actually super powerful?”

I followed behind Saehee while holding up Narae as she wasn’t able to walk properly.

“Because I am Master’s attendant.”

“......Then how strong is Rangii?”

Saehee answered while throwing the bear women who’d dodged her clothes aside with one hand.

“If you exclude Ungnyeo, no one could stand up to Master.”

Saehee was talking while repelling two bear women that attacked her from both sides with just a swing of her arms.

“The only reason I hold back from killing is because of Master’s kindness. The same goes for these weaklings”

…...It seems I shouldn’t hit Rangii on the head anymore.

After throwing the bear women like that and guiding us, Saehee suddenly stopped. I stopped with her, with Narae on my shoulders.

“......Why?”

“We have arrived.”

Eh? What do you mean? Nothing’s changed…… No, something’s changed. The weird energy that was covering me had inexplicably disappeared. Does that mean we’re outside the barrier? But I can still see Rangii and the bear women far away.

“That is because you witnessed what is happening while within the barrier. I do not have the time to explain in detail, but please avoid places with many people. Such an event will not occur, but Master will be worried.”

“Y, yeah.”

Narae nodded and pulled on my arm. She looks better than before, so it looks like she’s feeling better.

“Sunghoon, let’s hurry and go. My head’s been strangely hurting since earlier.”

Even so, she clearly looks worse than normal. Of course, she wouldn’t feel good after seeing her fellow Bear Clan behave so inhumanly. No, I also don’t want to see something like that.

“Yeah. Saehee, take care of Rangii.”

“Yes.”

Saehee bowed slightly, and when I blinked my eyes, she was suddenly within the barrier, fighting the bear women. This isn’t the time to be relax and watch. Even if we’re outside the barrier, we’re in the same danger. I held Narae’s hand and ran to leave this place.

It was then. Jeongmi, the head of the Bear Clan, shouted.

“I command you as the head! Awaken the blood of the Bear Clan, Seo Narae, and kill that man!”

I heard a strange sound from behind me. What’s with that sudden nonsense? You’re telling Narae to kill me? I grabbed Narae’s hand and tried to run away. …...That was a mistake.

“Narae?”

Narae held me still with what felt like inhuman strength. I naturally looked behind me when I was stopped, and I saw Narae with an emotionless face, vacant eyes, and clenching a fist. And as I was unable to dodge such a fast punch, I got hit……

“No!”

The instant her fist was about to make contact with my head, Narae was sent flying. I’m not kidding, she was sent up as high as my height. She looked like she was hit by a truck. Seeing Narae broken, seeing her collide into the tree, this all felt unbelievable. But Narae’s clothes was turning red.

Rangii stood where Narae used to be.

“Are you o……”

“Narae!!”

I slapped aside Rangii’s upraised hand and ran to Narae. She wasn’t moving, but I put my hand over her nose. Thank God. She’s breathing. She didn’t die. Along with my sense of relief, a great rage surged up within me at Rangii. You damn brat, what the hell did you do?!

“Go away! It’s dangerous!”

Rangii grabbed my body with her human arm that was covered in white fur. The strength was monstrous, but I strangely didn’t feel it. Since she’s a phantom. But Narae! What about Narae!!

“Let go! What’re you saying is dangerous! You’re the dangerous one, idiot! What’ll you do if Narae dies!”

“I held back! Now that she has awakened her Bear Clan blood, she won’t die from just this! Right now you’re in more danger than Narae! I just realized! I’m not their target; you are!”

“What’s that nonsense? Is that important? Narae just got hurt! She might die!”

“Didn’t I say she wouldn’t die? Calm down! Even I can……”

“What do you mean she won’t die! Hey, you little crap! Does it look like I can calm down? I’m asking if it looks like I can calm down when Narae is throwing up blood and unconscious after she got hit by a phantom!!”

The moment Rangii’s grip loosened, I shook her off and ran to hug Narae. I heard that it’s not good to shake someone when they’re like this.

“Narae! Narae! Are you okay? Narae!!”

I shouted Narae’s name at the top of my lungs.

“Uu…… Sung…… hoon?”

Thank God. Narae’s conscious. I’m about to cry.

“Run…… away. My body…… m, moving on…… it’s own.”

“Narae? It’s okay. I’ll take you to the hospital so……”

Before I could even finish that sentence, Narae’s eyes went blank for the second time and she grabbed my neck. Why? Why is Narae doing this? Narae didn’t answer. And the when she was about to strengthen her grip…… Rangii grabbed Narae’s hand. No, she broke it. Narae’s arm was bent where it shouldn’t have been, and her arm was dangling in accordance to gravity. I couldn’t even scream after seeing that grotesque scene.

“Didn’t I tell you?! Narae’s dangerous right now!”

But Rangii was different. She pushed Narae away from my chest, and Narae collapsed onto the ground again.

…...What just happened? She can’t get up. She’s not moving, just as if she died. She twitched on the ground, throwing up blood.

“But the Bear Clan’s control is still weak so if you take her away……”

“What the hell have you done!”

I shoved Rangii away.

“......Huh?”

Rangii sat on the ground, her eyes empty
.
I don’t care. Right now, Narae comes first. I went up to Narae and put my hand over her nose. Thank God. She’s breathing. But the blood on her mouth, her pale face, her broken arm. She’s clearly in danger. I need to hurry and take her to a hospital.

Right then, Rangii was unexpectedly near me and spoke.

“Wha, what’s wrong?! This was all for your sake; there was no helping it! I also hate doing this! But why are you getting mad at me?! Did I do anything wrong?!”

I responded to Rangii's childish tantrum by saying,

“Did you do anything wrong? Are you kidding? Do you really not know what you’ve done wrong?”

Saehee suddenly appeared and was standing in front of Rangii. How did you…… I saw the collapsed forms of the Bear Clan behind Saehee. Ah, so that’s it. You’re an impossible strong phantom as well.

“Master made the correct decision.”

“The correct decision? To send a girl flying and break her arm?”

“B, but if I didn’t you would have been in dang……”

“You didn’t have to do that! Aren’t you two strong? Aren’t you a great phantom? You’re the tiger from the myth!”

Among all the Bear Clan members who targeted Rangii, not a single one of them was properly on their feet. The head that looked like she had something was leaning on her club, breathing heavily. If you guys are that strong,

“Is this all you can do? Was this the only solution?”

“Th, there was no helping it! If I was even a little late, you would have died!”

“Then you! So if I was like Narae and was a threat to Saehee, you would try to kill me?!”

“Th, that’s not it. There’s no way I could do that to you, Sunghoon!”

“I’m saying that Narae is that kind of person to me! But, but what did you say? You were thankful?”

Rangii looked unusually confused. She opened and closed her mouth, clenched and unclenched her fist, and spoke after working hard to figure out what to say.

“I, I just…… For your sake, I didn’t want you to die because of Narae; I didn’t want you to get hurt so……”

But, when she said that,

“Because of Narae?”

I lost my sanity.

“Don’t screw with me! My almost dying, that’s your fault! It’s your fault!”

By the time my sanity returned, it was too late.

Suddenly, the great phantom who had overwhelmed the Bear Clan was replaced by a girl who looked like she got hurt after getting rejected by the guy she liked.

“......Ah.”

I feel like I have to say something, but nothing came out of my mouth.

“......You’re right.”

Rangii clenched her fists.

“Everything is…… my fault.”

Her huge amber pupils were shaking. Blood spilled from Rangii’s hands even though the hundreds of Bear Clan members had been unable to harm her.

“Resent me. You have the right to do so.”

“Master. However……”

“Enough! It is not your place to speak.”

“......Yes.”

Unlike her usual self, Rangii smiled sadly.

“I understand. Ha…… After this, I now know what I have wished for. Truly, this is why they gave up their own lives. Now I understand. It was too late, but thank goodness. As I have realized what I must do for the person I love.”

She laughed bitterly. She had on a smile that didn’t match her.

“Saehee.”

“Yes, Master.”

“I entrust these two to you.”

Saehee’s face froze.

“But Master. I……”

“Since when were you able to talk back to me?”

Saehee bit her lip.

“Understood, Master.”

“I’m sorry, Sunghoon. Because of me, the person you, you like got hurt.”

“No, wait. Um, Rangii.”

I wanted to tell her something, apologize, say I was too harsh, that this isn’t your fault, that I know you did this all for me, but…… My mouth wouldn’t move. Rangii didn’t permit those words.

“I will not trouble you any longer. I will go back to my land……”

The tears hanging near her eyes weren’t able to stay put any longer,

“The time I spent with you was the happiest…… of my life. Thank you, Sunghoon.”

And they fell.

“You absolutely need to be happy.”

Tears were falling.

And so, my first kiss was sweet, but at the same time it tasted salty.

“I love you, Sunghoon.”

Rangii spoke softly and smiled. A sad smile, like a farewell, that was tearing her heart apart. And then I realized. That Rangii was about to leave me, and that if I didn’t grab her now, I might never see her again. I grabbed Rangii’s hand and shouted.

“Wait, Rangii!”



But I only grabbed air. I was looking right at her a moment before, but she suddenly disappeared. My hand was without the feel of Rangii’s hand and her warmth, and the reality of it left me in despair, and I could only smash the ground from my anger at myself.


______________________________________________________________________

 Notes:

.1. Rangii's speech pattern is copied here, which is supposed to be old Korean as spoken by a kid-- unfortunately, not very translatable.

.2. Spoken in English.

.3. An old proverb, meaning that the quietest ones are always the first to act, and are the most dangerous.

.4. An old proverb that actually goes "words in the day are heard by birds and words in the night are heard by mice," meaning that there will always be a listener no matter when and where you talk.

.5. Being a ghost is synonymous with being a mind reader in Korean. Saehee happens to be a ghost-like being who seemingly reads minds.


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