At some point, everyone’s felt the sensation of their heart beating out of their chest. Like when you show your parents the worst report card ever, or when the evil space wizard you were fighting whom you thought was a complete stranger is actually your dad, or when the girl you like turns out to be a boy.
Now, in a situation where my heart’s beating hard, I too understand. Since I’m giving the confession of a lifetime. My life will change based on how this confession goes.
The target of my confession, Miss Seo Narae, whose confident posture might be misconstrued as arrogance, stood before me. Our class rep and my childhood friend, she’s the girl I like. Her half-curly hair fell in waves down to her shoulders, and because of her sharply raised eyebrows, she looked a little fierce, which reflected her personality perfectly. Moving on.
“What is it? If you have something to say, then spit it out already!”
She gets angry easily. Of course, I understood why Narae felt this way. Class was over and she was going to hang out with her friends when I of all people forced her to come with me to this secluded place behind the gym. Her arms were folded, and her intense glare made me nervous. She was definitely in a bad mood.
But Narae. Don’t make that pose. Since it makes your already huge breasts stick out even more. If you compare her to our other classmates, her popularity’s so high that I actually feel bad for my classmates…what am I thinking about right now? Get yourself together, Kang Sunghoon. You’re the one who’s going to totally upheave your relationship as childhood friends with Narae and take that leap, aren’t you?
With a confession to go out with me!
N-Narae’s always gotten angry easily, so don’t be intimidated by her cold response, me.
“…Um, the thing is.”
One step. I just need to take one more step! Keep it up! Being unable to confess here means I’m not a man! I have no time to spare. Look! Narae’s so angry now that her face turned red!
It was then.
A familiar cell phone ringtone cut off my words.
“J-just one sec.”
I cursed the caller for that god-awful timing, praying that all his kin would become impotent, when I found out it was actually my dad. I cut my curse short.
What the hell is it? Does he want me to hurry back and make food for him?
[You need to hurry back home.]
“I was going to go in just a bit even if you hadn’t told me to.”
[There’s an urgent matter. Come home now.]
Realizing that he had no idea what his own son was going through, I got upset and gave a seething reply that wasn’t strictly necessary.
“What the hell is it?! The side dishes are in the refrigerator, I made rice, you don’t need to do the dishes. I also did the laundry, ironed your clothes, threw out the compost, and the newspaper’s on top of the dining table!”
…I forgot that Narae was standing in front of me. She was still there, looking at me with pityingly. Since she knew full well my domestic circumstances. Because Mom doesn’t come home often due to her work and dad’s suffering from chronic laziness, my family situation is such that I have to do housework in their place.
First and foremost, I should hang up the phone. But dad spoke, blowing away my plan.
[Ah, it’s nothing special. Just that my dad died.]
Dad’s dad. In other words, my grandfather?!
[So hurry back home. I’m hanging up.]
“Dad? Oy, Dad!!”
The only return was the segmented beeps of the phone.
“What’s going on at home?”
Obviously something’s wrong. Is it okay to tell Narae about it? After worrying a little, Narae quickly turned her head and spoke bluntly.
“Whatever. It has nothing to do with me anyway.”
That may be what she said, but she was definitely worried. Others may misunderstand her often, but Narae’s fierce appearance contrasts from her truly caring personality. I fell in love with her because of that part of her. And, with vacation starting today, I was about to confess, but… Now didn’t seem like the right time.
“Narae. I’m sorry, but I have to go now. I’m sorry for wasting your time.”
“What, all of a sudden?! And after you went and brought me here!”
Ah, she’s really mad. If I leave without saying anything, I’ll probably pay for it later. It couldn’t be helped so I explained my situation.
“My dad just told me my grandfather passed away… So I have to go now.”
Although, I haven’t seen him once since the time I was born.
Narae understood my situation, nodded her head, and spoke in a gloomy voice.
“Okay. Get going.”
“Does that mean you’re going to the countryside now?”
I’m not really sure, but…
“Then let me know when you come back to Seoul.”
But why? After I spoke, Narae’s face turned bright red, and she shouted.
“S-stupid! Do you think I’ll just let you off free for wasting my time?!”
Ah, so that’s it. Is she trying to cheer me up?
“Ah, in that case, I’ll apologize to you properly then.”
“And send me a message when you get to the countryside.”
“If I said to do it, just do it! What’s with all the backchat?!”
But all I said was “huh.”
“What, you got something to say?!”
Eek, Narae may have shouted because she read my expression. After knowing each other for so long, she can understand what I’m thinking even without me speaking. I spoke while keeping both my hands in the air.
“Not at all.”
“Then message me!”
I gave Narae a quick farewell and headed home.
“Just you go.”
What kind of dad can say that like he’s talking about chores?
Ah, before that, I should give a simple explanation about our household situation so you can fully understand how I feel.
Right after Dad graduated high school, he cut off all his ties with his family and ran off to Seoul. Because of him, I’d never seen any members of my dad’s side of the family. And yet he, knowing full-well that his side of the family is foreign to me, told me to give my condolences over my grandpa’s passing. Did he think that I’d respond with “Yes, I understand”?
“And what about you, Dad?”
“I’m not going.”
“At fifty years old, you shouldn’t be so stubborn.”
At fifty years old, he was still able to hit me hard.
“There’s no way I’m going back after I barely managed to escape. But you go. Since you’re the eldest son of the eldest son.”
“But, Dad, you’re the eldest son.”
Wrinkles formed around his eyes as he spoke.
“Since when did you start constantly talking back to me?”
“You didn’t know? I just started today, Dad.”
It seems like adults sometimes refuse to accept the idea that their kids have grown up. Rather than try and persuade me, he said:
“If you don’t want to go then get out of the house.”
“Who does that?”
He likes to threaten others.
Looking back, I should’ve left the house right then. If only I’d asked myself why Dad ran away from his home to go to Seoul. But with barely even a thought, I lost to Dad’s threat, and all I could think about as I boarded the bus departing from Seoul was that I’d be back soon.
After riding the bus for four hours before getting off, it was like I arrived at a different world…no, it was just Jirisan (TN: one of the most important mountains in all of Korea). Maybe it’s because of Jirisan, but even the air itself is different.
…That’s right. It was hot. It was really hot. Seriously, it was so hot I thought I might go crazy. But it wasn’t just the temperature that was killer. It wasn’t humid, but even under the shade, it was hot. Even the breeze felt hot. I had no idea because the bus had air conditioner, but good grief. Aren’t mountains supposed to be nice and cool? It may have been because of the crazy weather, but the terminal was completely empty. But, of all places, there was a woman there who immediately caught my eye.
She was pretty and tall—about as tall as me—with a strikingly icy appearance who looked to be around my age. But it was her attire, and the place she was wearing it, that immediately caught my eye.
She was wearing a modernized. The hanbok was uniquely beautiful, but while it was designed to allow the wearer to move freely and comfortably, so yeah. It’s good up to here. Be it wearing a modernized hanbok, a suit, a kimono, a China dress, or a traditional African outfit, she’s free to do any of that. But it’s a different story when the hanbok is completely black.
That’s right. Black. Like a night with no moon or stars, the kind of black you see if you enter an empty room and close the door. No wait, looking closely, I could see a norigae (TN: a traditional ornament on hanboks that look like tassels) on her waist and a pattern on the skirt, but this didn’t change the fact that the woman standing in front of me was wearing a pitch-black hanbok on this hot day, with an expressionless face, standing in the sun, and without a single drop of sweat showing.
At a glance, I almost got the feeling that she was a mannequin. She didn’t give off the sense that she was a living human. As if she were a corpse that was connected to an invisible string and strung up there. But I could see her chest moving slightly so it seemed like she was breathing; it must have just been my imagination. That’s right. Instead of thinking about that, I should find a bus going towards my dad’s family’s home. I looked around me, looking for a clue.
Then our eyes met.
A fearful chill strong enough to make me forget the heat for a moment swept through my back. She took a single step forward, and the chill intensified. But it was her gaze more than anything else that so thoroughly froze me.
Is there someone behind me? I turned around and saw a bus with no driver in it. Ah, maybe she wants to get on the bus early. I took a small step out of her path. She then altered her course to head towards me. All while looking straight at me.
Wait. What’s going on? Is that strange woman interested in me? The one wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt, long pants, and sneakers. The one carrying a backpack with several changes of clothes packed inside. Ah, is that it? Is it my face? Quite humbly, I have to say I am handsome. Although this is based solely on my reflection in the bathroom mirror. And this isn’t the bathroom.
At some point, while these dim-witted thoughts went through my head, she stood directly in front of me. When did she walk all the way here? I hesitated before taking a step back, and, fully prepared to run away, I spoke.
“Seeing that foolish face, I can see that you are Sunghoon, the Young Master.”
I lost the initiative to those strange words.
“Um, and who are you?”
She called me Young Master for no reason. The heck’s up with this girl?
“I am Saehee, the one who had no choice but to come here from the main estate to fetch the Young Master.”
“By main estate, do you mean my grandpa’s house?”
Wait, what? Did Dad ever mention that someone would come here to act as my guide?
“No one told me someone would be coming here to fetch me.”
Just then, my phone suddenly rang.
“Ah, excuse me.”
I excused myself and answered the phone. I could hear a familiar voice.
[Have you arrived?]
“Ah, yes. Dad.”
[I totally forgot to tell you, but my youngest sister said she’d go get you when I told her you were coming.]
Did you seriously not tell me. Rather, your what? Sister?
[Your youngest aunt is going to meet you there.]
An ominous feeling enveloped me.
“And what’s her name?”
“And her age?”
[Now she’s forty? Or maybe thirty-nine?]
I looked at the woman in front of me. No matter how you look at her, she’s clearly not a 40-year-old middle-aged lady. Maybe they have the same name? If not, then maybe she’s my aunt’s daughter? No, there’s no way she would give her daughter the exact same name.
[Ah, she’ll look a little young. She has a baby face.]
Baby face? If the woman in front of me is my aunt, then of course that explanation…still doesn’t make any sense!
“Any special characteristics?”
[She’s expressionless, cute, she speaks weirdly harshly, and she won’t seem like a human. I’m sure you’ll know her when you see her.]
I looked at the woman, I mean my aunt, who was right in front of me. The moment our eyes met, my head started to spin.
[Then do your best, son. It’s all up to you.]
He ended the call. Because that’s the kind of dad he is. Now, well, it’s nothing new. More importantly, rather than worry about what Dad said, the bigger problem was how this woman could be my aunt.
“Then shall we get going?”
Let’s check. Since I honestly cannot believe this woman is my aunt.
“First, can I ask…what’s your relationship with my dad?”
“That piece of human garbage would be my older brother.”
What could he have done for her to refer to him as human garbage? But, more than anything else, there was one specific part about what she said that I had to question.
“You can’t possibly be my aunt, can you?”
“Based on your family tree I am.”
“Could you tell me your age?”
“I am forty.”
We have a winner. The prize is loss of sanity, a failure of reason, and absolute absurdity.
“The weather is quite hot. We should get going now.”
As if she didn’t hear my reply, Aunt Saehee began to walk. I followed her for the time being as I opened my mouth.
“It really is hot today, isn’t it?”
‘No matter how deeply in mourning you are, isn’t moving around in those clothes stifling?’ is what I meant, but…
“I am fine. Since it seems the only one having a difficult time is the Young Master, who is suffering like a mutt in the dead of summer.”
My aunt didn’t agree. Even though she should have been boiling inside that outfit. That aside, Dad was right: she really does speak strangely harshly. She’s not outright swearing, but I think I’ll lose it if I keep hearing her say stuff like that.
She suddenly stopped in her tracks. If I hadn’t immediately stopped as well, I would have crashed into her back. Before I could ask her why she did that, she turned around, looking at me with those dead eyes as she spoke.
“From now on please call me Saehee, Young Master. In addition, there is no need to speak politely to me.”
“…But since you’re my aunt, I should call you Auntie, shouldn’t I?”
“Since I was adopted, I do not share a single drop of blood with you, Young Master. Thus, there is no need to call me Auntie.”
After she put it like that, I had no desire to pursue the topic further.
“But still, because of your age…..”
“A woman’s age is a decoration. Do you understand, Young Master?”
The first time I saw her smile—it was terrifying.
“A woman’s age is merely a decoration. Thus, please speak casually to me and call me Saehee.”
An unknowable force caused me to close my mouth, and I nodded in response to Au…I mean, to Saehee’s words.
“But have you always talked like this?”
“Is there a problem with the way I speak, Young Master?”
If you speak like that to a weak-minded person like me, there’s nothing I can do but lower my tail.
Outside the terminal, I saw an obviously expensive, fancy car waiting for me.
“Please get in, Young Master.”
Saehee opened the back door with the ease of long practice, and I did as she said, nodding to her once before getting in. I scooted to the side so that she could sit as well, but she closed the door. She went to the opposite side of the car and entered. I felt strangely stupid.
The car took off and she began to speak.
“Before we leave, there are several things I must inform you of. Is that okay?”
“Ah, sure,” I said.
“First, Father’s funeral was a lie.”
It was like she pulled the rug out from under me.
“My human garbage older brother made up the lie to get the foolish Young Master to come to the countryside.”
I should just ignore the insults she adds when she references people. Be brave, me.
“Wait, what are you saying?”
“Father himself gave me this command.”
…Dad, I’m beginning to understand why you ran away from home back then.
“Then why are you wearing mourning clothes?”
“I am not wearing mourning clothes. This is my casual wear.”
This woman’s fashion sense is totally distorted.
“Then is Grandpa at home?”
“No. When he heard the Young Master was coming, he went on an over-seas vacation.”
Dangerous. I began to understand why Dad cut off all ties with his family. I want to go back home. But I’m already in the car, and there’s no way I can go there and say, “It was nice to meet you. I’ll be taking my leave now~” There has to be a reason for why they would lie about someone’s death just to get me here.
“Why did you have me come here?”
Saehee gave an incomprehensible reply.
“In order to keep the oath you made long ago with the Master.”
“What promise? And who’s this Master?”
“I cannot tell you right now.”
I repeated my question several times, but she remained steadfast with her silence. There was nothing I could do.
I got my cellphone from my bag and called Dad.
[The phone has been turned off. Please leave a voice message.]
He knew this would happen. He knew it. Without a doubt, he turned off his phone on purpose. Yeah, I’ll gladly turn my phone off, too. I held the power button on my cellphone and then shoved it into my backpack.
“Then what do I have to do?”
“You must live in the residence for a few days.”
“Are you kidding?”
“I prepared everything you will need, so there is no need to worry.”
“Everything you said is making me worry!”
“You can think of it as returning home.”
“My home’s in Seoul!”
“There is nothing more I can tell you. Please wait patiently until we arrive home.”
You’ve already changed from calling it a residence to my home? That point’s already been settled, has it? I kept trying to get her to talk, but she remained silent.
After 30 minutes of driving on the unsteady mountain road heading deep into the mountains, I got out of the car and was greeted by a cool breeze and a wall longer than I could imagine. And also a massive gate. Not only was the house a traditional Korean one, but the scale was massive. Is my dad’s side of the family rich?
Looking at the massive wooden gate that seemed to belong in a historical drama or a folktale, I felt the sudden urge to shout “We hath arrived!”
“We hath arrived!”
She said it. She really said it. Not me, but Saehee. As soon as she shouted, her voice penetrating the mountain air, the gate opened inwards and someone came out to greet us….
“Welcome, Young Master!!”
I dropped my bag and ran away as fast as I could.
Dad, I think I understand. Why you ran away from home. And why you didn’t want to go back. I might hate everything about this place, too. Actually, I do hate it.
Dad. It seems that I’ve misunderstood you all this time. I thought that you were a total freak. But I thought wrong. Dad, you raised me well so that I had a good, normal personality
Since you yourself grew up in a place where a dog the size of a bus lives!
A yellow dog, big beyond common sense, opened the door with its front paws, blowing gusts of just by wagging its tail as it spoke in a human tongue. After being raised in a household where things like this can happen, you must be a veritable genius, huh, Dad? Hahahahahahahah!!
What the hell is that?!
“Did you forget something?”
To my surprise, I heard a bored voice next to me. Although I was running as hard as I could, Saehee was easily keeping pace with me just by walking.
What’s going on? This doesn’t make sense.
“Goodness, did that surprise you?”
I’m surprised even now.
“No crap I am? Haa. No wait, what was that? And what are you?! I’m—haa—running—haa—but, you?!”
“It is transportation magic” (tn: to know more, search “shukuchi.” It’s a Japanese term that is a direct translation from the Korean).
Who are you, Hong Gildong?! (tn: basically Korean Robin Hood)
“And what—haa—is that?!”
The wall between reality and fantasy is crumbling. Maybe this is all a dream.
“Before that, suddenly moving on this hot day without a warm up is not good for an unathletic person like the Young Master, so if you’ll excuse me.”
Without the chance to even say “What are you excusing yourself for?”
She wrapped her strangely cold arms around my waist, and we floated in the air before returning to stand in front of that strange dog. Following this unbelievable turn of events, Saehee spoke to me.
“Welcome, Young Master.”
I wanted to pass out.
I sat down on the wooden floor of the main chamber as Saehee, sitting dutifully in front of me, gave me an explanation.
It is said that in the beginning, the phantoms were born from chaos. The phantoms lived freely with their mysterious strength and, to those phantoms, some humans were friends, some were prey, and some were enemies. And, with the intention of ending this era, Hwanung descended to this world. (tn: Hwanung is the Korean equivalent of God).
“…Why’d this suddenly become the Dangun myth?” (tn: Wikipedia it)
“This is not a myth but a true story. And it is polite to wait until the speaker has finished.”
Saehee scolded me and continued her explanation.
In order to open up this world for humankind, Hwanung made a single decree to stop phantoms from harming humans. By his decree, the Tiger and the Bear, the two most powerful phantoms, would compete to decide which of the two would become his wife.
And the tiger wasn’t chosen because she ran away.
“Our master is that Tiger. And our unchosen master was sealed away by Hwanung and the Bear.”
Not getting chosen and then getting sealed away, how could they do something so terrible…
“I think so too. She was sealed away just for trying to tear apart the country.”
She’s talking about a tiger, right?
Anyway, the phantoms, now leaderless, were forced to live hidden from human eyes. Occasionally, a phantom would go berserk and do something crazy, but by borrowing Hwanung’s power the humans made it so those phantoms were eradicated and could no longer be found on this earth. And Hwanung, the orchestrator of these events, sealed the Tiger away. However, perhaps due to a moment of compassion, at the last second, he swore to the Tiger an oath. It was at this point that I raised my hand.
“And what is that promise?”
Saehee didn’t answer.
The tiger, trusting his oath, slept peacefully until now. After that, a family was chosen to protect the seal and continued that duty for generations.
“And that is why you, this generation’s guardian, were brought here, Young Master.”
This was a lot to take in, but there was something I had to ask.
“What about Dad?”
“He cut off all ties with his family and fled from his responsibilities. If my piece of human garbage older brother had kept his promise, the Young Master would not have had to come here.”
Dad, I did misunderstand you. You’re really just tra…no, you’re still my dad so I shouldn’t curse at you. Anyway, I’ve already experienced a situation beyond common sense so there’s nothing I can do but act like I believe what she said.
“And what do you mean by guardian? I don’t know any weird stuff like that.”
“That is fine. The title of guardian is determined not by ability but by bloodline.”
“Isn’t this bad for you, though? Since I’m supposed to protect the seal?”
“No, it is not.”
“Because it is ultimately a meaningless title.”
“….What do you mean by that.”
“We call you guardians out of convenience. The generations of people solely capable of watching over the seal. They, like the Young Master, were powerless humans.”
I felt embarrassed for thinking, for just the briefest second, that I might have some special powers.
“Is there anything else you are curious about?”
“So you’re saying that all these phantoms are keeping themselves hidden?”
Is that so? In that case.
“Then what is that?!”
I had ignored it until now, but I pointed at the dog, its tongue lolled out and tail wagging, that was sitting behind Saehee in the yard. That’s right, a dog. It’s a dog, but a monstrously huge dog.
“It is a dog.”
“That’s right, it’s a dog. A monstrously huge dog.”
“It seems you are already well aware.”
“I don’t mean that! I mean what the hell is it? Is that dog a phantom too?!”
“That is correct.”
“Didn’t you say phantoms keep themselves hidden?”
“She is hiding even now.”
“How do you call that hiding?”
When I can see the dog scratching itself with its hind leg?
“Normal humans are unable to see her.”
“Could you not deny me my once normal seventeen years of life?”
“Fear not, Young Master. Compared to an earthworm, the you are closer to a normal human.”
Ah, I’m really thankful for that.
“Then how come I’m able to see it?”
“Every member of the family meant to protect the seal is powerless, but you are able to see it because at a young age, a ceremony is conducted to open your spiritual eyes.”
I guess opening your spiritual eyes gives you the ability to see phantoms. But she said something about a ceremony. What the heck is that?
“What do you mean by a ceremony?”
“I cannot tell you right now.”
Just how accustomed is she to telling people “I am busy right now, please try again later”? I wracked my brain, trying to think of a way to get this girl to divulge some information. At this point, I stopped thinking of her as my aunt. Because she’s probably one of those phantoms she was talking about. Saehee then turned around and spoke to that huge dog.
“Since it seems that the Young Master knows enough, please transform into a human.”
A puff of smoke appeared with a bang. That sound effect didn’t actually happen, but it would have fit this situation perfectly. When the smoke cleared, standing where the dog used to be was a girl with an almost unnatural shade of brownish yellow, bob cut hair along with a pair of what looked like dog ears atop her head. Dressed in a dirt-stained hanbok jeogori and an orange pair of pants, she waved at me with both hands as she spoke. She looked so young that I wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d just gotten admitted into elementary school. The child who, until a second ago, was a dog looked at me with sparkling eyes that fit her energy perfectly.
“I’m Baduk! It’s nice to meet you, Young Master!”
Even as I was swept away by her vibrant energy that made me nod in response, I couldn’t keep myself from asking her:
“Are you that dog from before?”
And one more question.
“…Who gave you your name.”
Grandpa’s naming sense is the best. (tn: Baduk is a generic term for dog in Korean)
“But, Young Master. Is it okay to ask you for one request?”
Baduk went up to the house floor with shining eyes. I nodded my head, unable to betray those expectant eyes.
“Please pet my head~!”
Before I knew it, Baduk was stretched out on all fours, speaking with her chin on my thigh. When the heck did she do that? Wasn’t she standing behind Saehee until just a second ago?
“Please do it~”
Baduk, apparently unaware of how embarrassed I was, implored me to pet her as her tail wagged furiously from side to side. I was barely able to keep my composure when I replied.
“I just found out that your name’s Baduk and that phantoms exist… Would you mind explaining how that leads to the conclusion that I should pet you?”
Yet, even as I said that, I was petting her head.
Huh? Since when was I petting her?
Seeing her with her eyes closed, a blush on her cheeks, and a relaxed expression on her face, I couldn’t help but enjoy…I can’t let myself admit that. I need to get myself together. Yet even while thinking that, I lightly touched her ears. She flinched. I felt them with my fingers. They were warm. Not like toys at all. They were real ears.
“Awooo~ Our ears are our weakness, Young Master~”
Seeing Baduk wriggling, blushing as she used my thigh as a pillow while rolling around, I found myself discovering inner-peace and wishing that time would stop…no, stop. I shook my head. Seeing Baduk with her body becoming more and more relaxed as she lay sprawled atop me nearly made me lose my mind.
“Then I shall continue my story from before.”
Saehee started speaking as though nothing happened. If she had all this happen in order to have me relax, then maybe she’s a snake phantom.
“We stayed here as members of the Master’s family.”
There was something I’d been curious about since before I came here, and I asked her one more time to make completely sure.
“That Master you’re talking about is the Tiger that was sealed away, right?”
“That is correct.”
“And I’m here because I’m the guardian of that seal.”
“That is correct.”
“But there’s also a promise I have to keep?”
“You are unexpectedly intelligent.”
What do you mean, unexpectedly? Anyone could easily comprehend your story even without that self-introduction in the middle.
“Then what the heck is that promise? Can’t you tell me now?”
I blurted out the question I’d first asked in the car, but Saehee replied with something totally unrelated.
“Do you like hiking?”
Why are you talking about hiking all of a sudden? I answered her anyway.
“I don’t hate it, why?”
“In order to answer the question you just asked, we need to move from here.”
“Up the mountain.”
…Great. Now that I’m here, I want to know why the heck they needed to bring me here and why I had to meet phantoms at all. I’m not the kind of person to blindly do as he’s told while utterly clueless. I brushed off my seat and got up.
There are a lot of things in this world that I don’t know.
“Huff, huff, huff.”
“It would be best for you to exercise more, young master.”
Don’t you think that you two are the weird ones?
It had already been forty minutes since Baduk and Saehee guided me out of the house and led me up the mountain. I’m not physically unfit. The weird ones were Saehee, who walked across the unpaved, uphill trail with no effort, and Baduk, who was animatedly walking on all fours.
“Young Master. If you’re tired shall I carry you?”
I shook my head at Baduk’s words. Her true form aside, there was no way I was going to let someone who looked like a little kid carry me.
“Let’s—huff—take a—huff—small break.”
My back was already smeared with sweat, my legs were shaking, and my chin swung up and down as I breathed raggedly. Until now my male pride had kept me going, but this was my limit. I can’t go. I can’t walk anymore.
“That will not do.”
But Saehee cut off my words in one strike.
“Young Master, a turtle could outpace you. We need to walk for six hours without rest to get there before the sun sets. If it becomes night, this will only become more tiring.”
Are you saying we need to walk for six more hours? I raised my hands.
“I can’t go. Really, I can’t. Don’t you realize that I’m a normal human?”
“My normal human father was able to walk three hours without taking a break.”
What does that matter to me? Are you sure that isn’t because Grandpa can use that teleportation magic, too?
Ah! That was when I thought of a solution that could get me out of this situation. It was really embarrassing—and I didn’t want to do it twice—but it was probably better to be embarrassed than have to walk for another six hours. No, it’s definitely better.
“That thing, can’t you grab me and use teleportation magic to take me there?”
“Yes, I can.”
A cool reply.
“Is that truly okay with you? Even though back then you said quite confidently that we should go up the mountain?”
I just noticed. This woman hates me.
“Doing that’s probably better than being exhausted.”
“Although this displeases me, if you will pardon me.”
Saehee hugged my waist and picked me up.
“Eh? Young Master. Can’t I carry you there?”
Baduk was next to me, shaking my leg incessantly. Saehee treating me like a parcel or getting on Baduk’s back like a savage. There was nothing to think about. Even if she were to change into her original form, I would refuse.
A six-hour hike for me is a ten-minute walk for Saehee. Looking at the one nimbly climbing up the mountain without sweating a drop even while carrying a person and at Baduk who followed us with her tail wagging as if going on a walk, I could feel in my bones that these two weren’t human. Suddenly curious, I asked Saehee a question.
“So, what kind of phantom are you?”
“I am unable to answer your question.”
What are you, an online system administrator? I gave up on asking any questions.
“We have arrived.”
Saehee dropped me off at a huge cave entrance. At a glance, I could tell it was over three times my height and about 10 meters wide, but all I could do was stare as my jaw dropped. What in the world, was there always such a big cave in Korea?
Saehee went in first. I followed behind her when……
“Wait. It’s too dark.”
After only travelling a bit, I had to stop. I entered the cave, but I couldn’t even see me feet properly. So I couldn’t walk any futher. Do I have to take out my cell phone? I stuck my hand in my pocket and, damn. I put it in my backpack and left it behind. Baduk came right up next to me and spoke as I was unable to do anything.
“Heh heh, then this time I’ll help you.”
Before I could even ask “how?” Baduk acted.
I was thrown to the sky. What is this all of a sudden?!
Baduk leaped lithely underneath me and put my legs around her neck before landing on the ground.
Can I just die?
“Hey, wait! This isn’t right!!”
A little girl smaller than me was carrying me on her shoulders. Thinking about this objectively, this is a laughable situation, but from my perspective, I was so embarrassed that I could die.
“Eh? Then would you like me to run on all fours so you can sit on my back?”
“That’s even worse!”
The heck kind of perverted play is that?! Actually, this is already plenty perverted!
“Then I’ll go like this.”
Baduk turned her head from side to side as she tried to look at me.
“Hey! Hey!! Don’t, don’t turn your head!!”
Baduk tilted her head, indicating she didn’t understand, but there was absolutely no way I could tell her the reason! How could I possibly teach her the many things that one mustn’t do when it comes to teenage boys?!
“Just go like this!”
In the end, I decided to give up entirely.
I wondered how long it had been since Baduk started carrying me through the cave.
“The Master’s seal is set to break in a few years.”
Saehee suddenly spoke. I was surprised to hear her voice when there was no one next to me, but the meaning of her words scared me even more.
“What’d you say?”
Did she just say that the phantom who, after being jilted by a man, attempted to throw a massive tantrum was going to be free soon?
“It has been ages since it was first set, and the seal is reaching its limit.”
“Then what’ll happen if that seal breaks?”
“The Master would probably eat you first?”
Baduk said such a scary thing with an innocent voice.
“There is no need to worry. The Master does not eat food that will make her sick.”
“And who’s the food in this case?”
“Of course, the Master would not do such a thing so long as you keep your oath, Young Master.”
I was concerned about the promise ever since before. Unfortunately…
“And you still can’t tell me just what that promise is?”
“I am unable to tell you myself.”
Saehee refused to answer once again.
A long time passed with me unable to see a thing. Then I saw a soft light in front of me.
“We will arrive shortly.”
When I heard Saehee say that, I tapped on Baduk’s head and spoke to her.
“Let me down.”
“I’ll go just a bit more.”
“No, I mean my fragile ego can’t take any more, so please put me down.”
Baduk looked like she didn’t understand, but she let me down anyway.
For now, since Baduk succeeded in getting me here without injury, I should express my thanks.
Baduk smiled happily and thrust her head towards me with her tail wagging. Is this what she wants? I petted Baduk’s head.
Her ears pricked up when I did this.
Saehee walked towards the light. The light was slowly getting brighter, and when I walked forward to discover what was in the middle of that light, I stopped and could simply stare, stunned speechless.
A tiger the size of a mountain was sleeping there.
The tiger’s white fur, close to silver in color, shined in the light given off by the talismans stuck to the cave walls, while its black stripes seemed to absorb that same light. The white tiger, even lying down, was exerting an overwhelming presence.
“…This can’t be real.”
Something like this is impossible—ah, that’s right. Of course a tiger like this can exist. If a dog the size of a bus is real, then who says a tiger the size of a mountain can’t be real, too? Unfortunately, I’m not so open minded as to think to myself, “The world sure is a big place, hahahahaha.” Upon seeing this massive white tiger before my very eyes, I couldn’t help but stare in abject shock. I mean, is that really a tiger? A tiger the size of a mountain? If it stood up, it’d be as tall as a skyscraper!
“This is our master. Rather than succumbing to shock, please go forward, Young Master.”
But Saehee grabbed my hand and dragged me forward. Baduk was pushing me from behind.
“W-wait! I need time to wrap my head around this!”
“How much time will you need?”
I considered her question before answering.
“You have seven seconds.”
Hey, that’s too short.
“Your time’s up.”
The phantoms led me forward, and when I got a closer look at that tiger whose size beggared belief, I was overwhelmed by its sheer presence and awestruck by its beauty. Its silvery fur shined in the light, and the supple curves of its body made it look as if the tiger were crafted from Goryeo porcelain. And then this happened.
Its amber eyes were bigger than my head, and its slit-shaped pupils seemed capable of bewitching people—no, wait, did it just open its eyes? It opened its eyes!!
“I have brought the Young Master, Master.”
Saehee reverently dropped to her knees as she spoke. Baduk fell to the ground and exposed her belly, showing an expression of obedience.
“I have arrived, Master,” Baduk said.
“So you have.”
But the Tiger only had eyes for me. Should I pee my pants? Or go weak at the knees? Go insane? But out of all those choices, I chose to do this:
“The Tiger just talked!!”
I pointed at it, and even I realized that my reaction was dumb. The Tiger smiled, revealing its fangs. I just hoped that its smile didn’t mean ‘I feel like eating human meat for lunch today.’
“Why are you so surprised. Is my ability to speak that strange?”
Honestly, your existence in and of itself is strange.
For some reason, I naturally responded casually. Maybe because I was so scared. Or maybe I got used to acting like this because of Baduk.
“You’re a bold and honest one.”
If you throw away common sense, then those concepts are meaningless.
“That’s right, boy. Do you know why you have come here?”
“I came here to fulfill a promise, but I don’t know what that promise is.”
The Tiger directed its gaze at Saehee.
“So you didn’t tell him.”
“I felt it would be best for the Master to tell him directly.”
“Is that so.”
The Tiger turned its eyes back to me.
“You look okay with coming here without being given a reason.”
“I only look that way because of sheer shock. So, let’s start over from the beginning.”
“What do you mean?”
Instead of answering I took a deep breath and cried out loudly.
“Someone save me!”
I turned around and ran with all my strength.
…They brought me back.
“You grew to become a delightful child.”
I sat in front of the tiger, my legs crossed, and spoke in a defeated tone.
“I was raised normally.”
The gigantic tiger bared its supernaturally large teeth as it smiled.
“That’s right. But still, you are here to keep an oath we made long ago.”
The Tiger was referencing a promise that I couldn’t even remember.
“Shouldn’t you explain what that promise is, first? Like I said before: I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
The Tiger avoided my eyes for a moment. Ah, it forgot what I said. It was obvious.
“Then I shall tell you.”
After clearing its throat as if readying its voice, the tiger spoke in a low growl.
“The one who placed this seal on me left me with one prophecy. When this seal would yield to my strength and I would be freed, he would send to me the man to be my husband.”
“And if I fall in love with him, even if the seal is broken, they swore to never bother me again.”
At this, I looked pointedly at Saehee, the one who dragged me here, for an additional explanation.
“That is what the Master believes.”
But Saehee skillfully avoided answering. There were more things I wanted to ask, but I kept quiet because the Tiger readied itself to speak again.
“Now the seal upon me is weakening, and after a few years I will be freed without effort. And this generation’s guardian is a male whom I have seen since his youth. I suppose this could be called fate.”
“Excuse me? What does that mean?”
“My husband, the one blessed unto me by heaven. I am saying that this man is you.”
I’m not listening, I’m not listening.
“Ahhh, I have waited so long for this day. Finally, I can receive love.”
“Um, I’m having trouble following what you’re saying…”
“Do not worry. Although I have lived for millenia, I have never allowed another man to lay his hands upon me.”
Do you really think that that’s what I’m worrying about?
“So, let us have a wedding.”
“Who exactly are you referring to?
“Who else but you?”
“You are the wonderful man to be my husband. You are quite handsome and have been raised to have a good character. In other words, you were raised with the love of heaven.
Your appraisal of me is far too generous.
“So, when would you like the ceremony to be?”
Someone’s really jumping the gun here.
“It’s just, I never said I’d marry you though?”
The second I said that, the air within the cave changed. As if I were suddenly a part of a somber funeral. All of a sudden, it felt as if there were a heavy weight pressing on my shoulders.
“Are you saying you hate me?!”
“That, uh, I’m sorry, but our differing species is an insurmountable wall.”
“So you’re saying you cannot accept me because of my animal form?”
Maybe I can actually reason with this Tiger.
“That’s right! It may be possible to overcome differences in ethnicity, culture, age, and gender, but a difference in species is too much! Because I’m a human…”
I kept talking, desperate to talk her out of her misconception, when I realized something. Even now, there was a little girl lying at the feet of the tiger. Her name was Baduk. Whose real identity was…a massive dog!
“Is that so? Then if I take a human form, everything will be fine!”
“No, that’s not what I meant!”
I was too late. The Tiger, once the size of a mountain, disappeared in a cloud of white smoke to be replaced by a little girl… Wait, what? Something seems off.
“Does this satisfy you?”
Without a chance to organize my thoughts, I could only think about how that little girl was actually the Tiger, and it was her words and the fact that she was looking up at me that brought me back to reality. That’s right. She was looking up at me while she was speaking. The Tiger that was bigger than a mountain before it disappeared was nowhere to be found, and in its place was a cute little girl who looked to be in the third grade!
Standing before me was a fantastical little girl with alert tiger ears atop her head, an undulating tail, and silvery-white hair with streaks of black interspersed. If you didn’t include her hair that was hiding her flat chest and other embarrassing areas, she was standing proudly even while in a state of nature. That’s right. She was naked.
How can you speak so casually?! You’re naked! Completely nude! You took off all your clothes?! When Baduk changed shape she had on a hanbok, so why are you totally naked?
“Achoo. Human bodies really are delicate. This level of cold and—achoo! Uuuu, it’s cold.”
Of course it’s cold. Even if it’s summer, did you think being naked while deep in a cave wouldn’t be cold?
“Hey, where are your clothes?”
“Hm? Why do I have to wear such bothersome things? And why are you saying such things now? I had nothing on since the beginning.”
Of course, I can understand what the Tiger meant. Since animals don’t need to wear clothes. But if you transform into a human, then you have to wear clothes like one!
“That is because the sight of the nude form of the opposite sex elicits sexual excitement within humans, Master.”
Saehee, who until now remained a passive observer, made an unnecessary contribution to the conversation. At her words, the Tiger had a bright smile on her face as she took a step towards me.
“Is that so?!”
And another step. My eyes were dazzled by her pure-white skin.
“Upon seeing me…”
“You were aroused!”
The Tiger…that was now a little girl walked right up to me and then hugged me by the waist. The little girl’s body heat and her flat chest that I could feel against me through my clothes thoroughly excited…I’m sorry. I wasn’t excited in the slightest. A naked girl was clinging to me, but I was strangely unfazed. Maybe because I could only see her as a child rather than a woman? Or maybe it’s because I know her true form is a tiger. Or perhaps because strong older girls are more my type.
“No, it’s just embarrassing to see you like this.”
I took off my t-shirt.
“Do you want to have sleep with me in this place? Of course, I’d like to, but I need to prepare myself…”
I only had this to say to the Tiger who blushed as she spoke nonsensically.
The Tiger raised her arms in the air, and I swooped down to fit my t-shirt over her. The shirt was fairly airy even on me, resulting in one of the Tiger’s shoulders remaining exposed, but it fully covered her down to her thighs, so it was a success. Yep, much better. With this, I was relieved from her overexposure. She was now a half-naked child instead of a naked one, but I would have to bear with it. However, the Tiger pouted, her cheeks inflating in a sign of dissatisfaction.
“Why are you making me wear this?”
“Human’s sexual preferences are such that rather than being totally naked, having some covering is…”
“Hey, stop saying weird things like that.”
“Is that true, Young Master?” Baduk asked.
“If my husband is a man with these kinds of tastes, then it is my duty as a wife to accept them.”
“I said it’s not!”
What the hell do these people take me for?!
“Now then, since I’ve taken human form, are you content?
The Tiger looked up at me expectantly. Her gaze could rival Baduk’s in intensity. But I could feel something different about the Tiger’s gaze. Though I had no idea, no idea in the slightest, about what that could be. Everything else aside, I could tell…that she was worried.
So rather than rejecting her directly, I decided to change the subject.
“I’ll just ask one question.”
The tiger nodded her head.
“Why me? It’s a little embarrassing to say this, but to my eyes, you’re pretty. Once you grow up, you’re bound to get lots of guys…”
“You said I’m pretty! No one’s ever called me that before!”
The Tiger’s faced turned bright red in embarrassment.
“Really, are you trying to make me embarrassed?”
Hey, hey. C’mon. You’re missing the main point of what I’m saying. And if you’re nitpicking over being embarrassed, doesn’t it make more sense to be embarrassed about being naked?
“How much longer until you answer my question?”
The Tiger was visibly ecstatic when she replied.
“Because long ago, I fell in love with you at first sight.”
“But this is the first time we’ve met.”
“Although you don’t remember, you came to me once as a newborn in order to open your spiritual eyes.”
…Is that the ceremony Saehee mentioned? The Tiger stared off into the distance as if reminiscing over the memories of that time.
“Until then, all children who laid eyes upon me felt an instinctive fear and cried. But you were different. Even after seeing me, you smiled happily and opened your arms to give me a hug. You fell asleep upon my bosom while suckling upon my teat.”
But I can’t remember any of that. I can’t remember being such a brave child.
“At that time, I felt we were fated for each other. That this peerless child would be my husband. You are the partner I was waiting for. Behold. Even now, you are fearlessly standing before me. In this place, where my energy is powerful, no other human could stand so fearlessly as you do.”
I looked at Saehee.
“It is the truth, Young Master. Even now, Father cannot raise his head before the Master, and the piece of trash human fainted upon looking at her. The only exception to this pattern is the Young Master’s mother.”
Ah, if it’s Mom, then I can understand. Since she’s always been that kind of person. All that aside.
“But for me, this is my first time meeting you. Don’t you think suddenly getting married just like that isn’t quite right?”
A question mark appeared above the Tiger’s head. No, I’m not joking, and it’s not a figure of speech: it was really happening. Several strands of black hair rose from the top of her head to form a question mark. Since she could move her hair so freely, she was most definitely a phantom even if she looked like a child.
“What’s the matter? Is it not natural for you humans to marry even those you have never met before so long as your parents give their blessing?”
What planet are you from?
“Ah, is that it? Do not worry. When we were performing the ceremony, your mother already gave her blessing for our betrothal. By your people’s standards, I am your fiancée who has received the blessing of your household. So it’s natural that we have a wedding.”
Mom, just what the hell were you thinking? You married your son off to this phantom. That’s insane.
“That may have been natural in the Joseon Dynasty (tn: an era in Korean history from 1392 to 1897), but times have changed. Plus, I have no intention of marrying someone I don’t like.”
Because there’s someone else I like. Although I didn’t confess to her yet. But marrying a phantom I’ve only just met? That’s nonsense.
“…You don’t like me?”
Struck by my words, the Tiger looked up at me. Her eyes became downcast and the corners of her mouth lowered, making me feel like the bad guy. Guh, for fear that the sight of the Tiger about to burst into tears would make me waver, I looked away when I answered.
“How am I supposed to like you if I just met you today?”
The Tiger, who looked as though she’d received a huge shock, suddenly hardened her expression before dejectedly lowering her head. The ears on top of her head similarly drooped. Although my words were backed by common sense, I couldn’t help but feel guilty. But I also couldn’t back down. Because I felt in her gaze that she genuinely wanted to marry me. Being married to a phantom at the age of seventeen, and to one whose true form is a tiger the size of a mountain! How does that make any sense?
…But regardless of her true form, the one so dejectedly standing before me was a little kid. That‘s why, even knowing that I was correct, I tried to comfort her.
“Well, I’m sure you’ll find a nice partner someday, so don’t feel too down.”
“That won’t happen.”
But she responded with a cold denial.
“Having been rejected by you, I will end my longing for love.”
Are you planning on turning me into a strange bad guy?
“No, don’t you think you’re exaggerating…”
I shut my mouth.
I had goose bumps. Murderous intent flooded the room, like a bomb ready to blow at any second. And at the center of that energy was the Tiger. That girl.
“If you, my fated love, reject me, then there is no one who will accept me. If that’s the case, I will stay here and wait until the seal has broken.”
I remembered the story I was told earlier, and my mouth moved on its own.
“When the seal breaks…what will you do?”
“I will incinerate this land.”
That horrified me. The Tiger, with her hair bristling and her overbearing aura seeming to explode over me like a firework, made me feel such chills that I was rendered unable to speak.
“I will lower the sun and swallow the moon. I will ensure the end of humanity. I, and my kin, will find and kill every single member of the human race in this nation.”
Every single word she spoke had a force in it. She was, without doubt, entirely serious.
“If the Master wills it, every human on this land will die before the sun sets.”
“The Master’s scary when she’s mad.”
Saehee gave extra details with her usual expressionless face, and Baduk was trembling as she hid behind Saehee. She wasn’t exaggerating.
The Tiger looked at me. Deep within her gaze, I could see a terrible hatred, and I must have gone crazy because I could also see a deep-seated sorrow. It was as if she were a normal girl who was cruelly cast aside by a womanizer.
…Where did that analogy come from?
“Leave this land. I do not wish to stain my hand with the blood of the man whom I hoped would be my husband. Saehee.”
“Deal with the aftermath as you wish. I want to be alone. No one is to enter this place until I say so.”
Saehee bowed her head respectfully, and the Tiger turned her back to us.
The Tiger walked away, slowly furthering the gap between us. Her head was down as she took slow steps deeper into the cave.
“It is time to leave.”
Saehee took me by the arm, leading me away.
Can I leave things like this? Can I return home and then leave this country entirely? And after the seal breaks, will she really reduce this country to cinders? This…can’t be happening.
What’s going on? This is absolutely crazy. Beyond crazy. It’s crazy for phantoms to exist, and it’s crazy that something I said hurt a phantom’s feelings, and it’s crazy that because of my choice, I got a phantom to massacre a nation. But above all, it’s crazy that I shook off Saehee’s hand and turned the Tiger back around.
That’s right! I didn’t do this because the Tiger looked like a child or because she looked so sad! And I definitely didn’t do this because I saw a reflection of my younger self within her! I only did this out of fear of what that phantom would do in the future!
The Tiger, her eyes brimming with tears, looked at me in surprise and belatedly began wiping at her eyes with her wrists, as if only now realizing she was crying.
“Th-this isn’t what it looks like! I-I’m not crying!”
What a ridiculously bad lie. Sure, you’re not crying. I’m sure dust must have gotten into your eyes, Tiger-nim. But, hey. Why are you speaking like that? Although, the way you’re speaking now definitely fits your childlike appearance better (tn: the Tiger speaks in a very strange form of Korean where the ending conjugation of sentences is very different from normal Korean. She all of a sudden change it to normal, modern Korean when Sunghoon turns her around).
“Don’t you know you’re not supposed to interrupt people when they’re talking?”
She peeked up at me through tear-filled eyes.
“Of course I can’t marry a girl I don’t like. Even if you are my fiancée, it’s just not possible. But I don’t want to send you packing just like that.”
“That’s… What are you saying?”
Her speech style changed back, but that didn’t matter.
“I can’t just leave you.”
Narae, I’m sorry. Although I like you, this is for your sake and to keep our country safe and peaceful, so please forgive me.
“Let’s go together. I don’t want to leave you in a place like this.”
The Tiger’s ears pricked up. Compared to just a moment ago, it was as if she could outshine the sun and the moon; her expression brightened immensely, and she squeezed my hand with her own.
“A-are you serious?”
“You’re saying that you’re going to be my husband and love me?!”
Hey, hey. When did I ever say all that?
“That might be possible after we get to know each other and come to love each other.”
And after you’ve grown up a bit. Rather than talking about marriage, you’re better off repeating your times tables. …So long as you ignore her true age.
“I’m happy! I’m so happy! So you didn’t cast me aside! You chose me!”
“It is a relief to see the Young Master is a lolicon.”
I heard something that I couldn’t simply ignore.
“Hey, who are you calling a lolicon?”
“What’s a lolicon?”
How can I explain that to the Tiger who’s looking wide-eyed at me…?
“It is a term that means one who is attracted to underaged girls.”
“Don’t tell her things like that!”
But the Tiger expressed joy at Saehee’s words.
“So that’s it! So you were aroused because you like me! My eyes truly did not deceive me!”
What, do you like lolicons? And, after these phantoms unilaterally labeled me a lolicon, I guess I have to give up on talking them out of anything.
“Then does that mean that because the Young Master is a lolicon, you like me too?”
No, I have to make myself clear. After Baduk’s naïve questioning, I can’t just leave it like this.
“I just don’t want to leave you alone in a place like this. Not because I’m a lolicon!”
“In society, this would be called being a lolicon or pedophilia.”
Shut it. Shut the hell up. I’m into big-breasted older girls. I need to get home soon and look at some pictures of big-breasted older girls to establish my sexual tastes.
Ah… But then there’s that.
“Just to make sure, you’re sealed to this place, right?”
“That is correct.”
The Tiger nodded. Thankfully, the topic about lolicons seemed to have been passed.
“Then what will you do? Can you leave this place?”
“Do not worry. At this stage, the seal has my true form trapped, but following you poses no problem. I’m here now because the weather’s too hot.”
“True form? That tiger form from before isn’t your true form?”
The Tiger smiled and answered.
“This form is just a spiritual body. My true form is all of Jirisan.”
“The entirety of Jirisan is my true form.”
The ridiculous scale of this revelation put me at a loss for words.
“Do you now know the greatness of this body?”
She puffed her chest out with pride upon seeing my dumbfounded expression, and I had only this to say.
“Yet despite that, you’re so tiny.”
I put my hand on top of the Tiger’s head. It seemed like the perfect height to rest my arms.
“Uuuuu! I’m going to grow! Just a little longer, and I’ll grow, too!!”
I looked at the Tiger who was beating a rhythm into me with raised arms, and I was close to forgetting that she was actually a Tiger. Ah, but I didn’t ask the most important thing.
“What’s your name? I’m Kang Sunghoon.”
“My name is Ho Rangii.”
“…What?” (Tn: Horangii means tiger in Korean)
After Baduk, it’s Ho Rangii? I looked blankly down at the Tiger as she yelled at me furiously.
“I-I have a different name blessed upon me by heaven! But I’ll only tell you it when you have the determination to do so! Our names are like that! Or do you want me to tell you my name?”
I had no idea what she was saying, but I firmly refused.
“That’s a nice name, Ho Rangii.”
What do you look so disappointed for?
“Then let’s go, Rangii.”
Since she’s Ho Rangii, I’ll call her Rangii. When I said that, I realized her name rolled off the tongue nicely. If I name my daughter Rangii, she’d be…Kang Rangii. …Let’s put a pin in that. Narae would kill me. Since I’ve already decided that Narae will be my wife. Ah, I just remembered I should send Narae a text. I’d better do that once we’re done climbing down the mountain.
I left the cave with the Tiger by my side. I really didn’t want to experience that old proverb keep your wits about you and you can survive entering a tiger’s den like this.
“Ah, but one thing. Do you think Fr*sted Flakes are great?”
“…What is that?”