It was hot. Strangely hot. Even taking into account that I closed the door because of all the uninvited guests staying over, it was unusually hot. I even had the fan on. It felt like a space heater was on top of my chest. It eventually got too hot for me to ignore, and I woke up fully.
The morning sunlight shining through the window blinded my eyes. If I had heard sparrows chirping, this would have been a classic morning.
I scratched my head and got up.
I heard a strange sound. What was that? I rubbed my eyes and discovered the answer when I looked down. It was Rangii. She was stretched out on my belly like a dog during the dead of summer. From above, she’d look like a 十 character (tn: 十 is the Chinese symbol for 10). But the real question was why she was sleeping here. Since she was definitely sleeping in my room when I went to bed.
On the topic of bothering someone while he’s sleeping, I poked Rangii in her side while she slept soundly on top of me.
She was asleep. Fast asleep. Again, poke poke.
She flinched, but her eyes remained stubbornly closed. Sigh. This just makes me want to try harder. I flexed my fingers, loosened my joints, and hiked up Rangii’s shirt.
The door opened.
“…Hahaha, I can explain.”
Seeing Narae’s face freeze as she opened the door and saw me try and tickle Rangii in the sides, I gave the best excuse I could.
Narae’s face stiffened when she walked in and caught me about to tickle Rangii’s sides; I gave the only excuse I could think of.
Don’t try this at home. Please do not try to imitate her flying knee kick; it’s dangerous.
In the end, Narae carried Rangii out of the room, and I went out into the living room on my way to the bathroom. But right before I could enter, I found Rangii kneeling in the living room and Narae furiously lecturing her with a frown on her face.
What’s going on?
“Like I said! That’s why you can’t just go into a boy’s room at night!”
Narae was Rangii common sense. Good job, Narae. Teach her human common sense. …Especially the parts that I can’t teach her.
“I know that. But isn’t Sunghoon an exception?”
“How is he supposed to be an exception! Actually, you especially can’t do that with him!”
“But why not?”
Narae stopped. Normally she’d have grabbed her by the collar, shaken her up and down, and said, ‘If I say you can’t, then you can’t!’ but she was talking to Rangii. Even if it’s just her appearance, she looks like a kid.
“Because he’s a pervert lolicon! He might try and force himself on you!”
I wish I was a kid. Then Narae might be a little nicer to me.
The third day of summer vacation. Setting: living room after eating breakfast.
During this summer vacation, I wanted to experience the wings of freedom, the joy of having so much free time I wouldn’t know what to do with it. But because the number of residents at home suddenly increased, I had to face reality before I could hope to feel such happiness.
I was lounging on the sofa like a king lion, browsing through the channels as if thinking to myself, “I wonder if there’s anything fun on TV~” when I responded to Rangii’s shout.
“Play with me!”
Was that a command and not a request? I turned my gaze to focus on Rangii. What a happy smile. That bright smile on her face told me she had full confidence that I would do practically anything she said. As if she knew, for a fact, that she wouldn’t be met with a rejection.
Of course, I’m a man who defies expectations.
“Play with Narae.”
This must be how a husband feels when he tells his kid to go play with his wife rather than bother him! Though Narae wasn’t my actual wife. But based on what just happened, if I have Narae look after Rangii, she could teach the little brat all kinds of things I’d have a hard time explaining.
Narae will view me not just as a lolicon but a pervert, molester, degenerate; but if that’s what it takes for Rangii to get a proper education, I can bear it.
“Narae said she’s going back to her home, so she can’t play.”
“No, I’m not.”
Narae walked out of the kitchen, sat next to me, and contradicted what Rangii said.
“Who’s going back home? And you. Do you want me to go home that bad?”
“I do not.”
“Make me believe you.”
Rangii looked blankly at the two of us while we spoke, then she wagged her tail slowly from side to side before asking:
“Hm? Didn’t you say you were going home?”
“I said I was going then coming back, you tiny tiger.”
“I’m not tiny!”
I have to disagree with you there.
That aside, Narae seemed to have adapted well to her new reality. After what happened yesterday, I mean. If anyone could accept this insane situation and, albeit with some uncertainty, do such a good job playing with Rangii, I’d put my money on Narae.
In other words, I was still trying to escape reality.
“But why are you going home?”
Her face reddened a little.
“Th-the heck. What does that have to do with you?”
“I’m just curious.”
“There’s just something I need to get!”
“Then why don’t you do what you did yesterday and…”
I was going to ask her, “Then why don’t you do what you did yesterday and call someone to bring it for you?” but before I could finish, I realized that Narae was blushing. Which meant that it was something that was hard to talk about over the phone or something she didn’t want someone else touching. I figured it out.
Narae apparently realized what I was thinking.
“What’re you thinking right now, you pervert! Y-you have a death wish or something?!”
“But what did I do?”
All I did was—ah. It’s not like I thought to myself, “Does that mean Narae has on the same underwear as yesterday?” or anything like that.
“Y-you’re making a lewd look!”
“Aren’t these the eyes of an innocent child?”
I told a small joke to lighten the mood.
I had no idea when Saehee got here, but the three silent stares left an irreparable wound on my delicate feelings.
“Sunghoon, I don’t think that’s right.”
Shut up, Tiger.
With Narae out of the house, I decided to clean the house. Rangii and Saehee were here too, but it was a teenage boy’s desire to clean up the house where Narae would be staying. I cleaned the house everyday anyway, so today I was going to go out of my way to clean under the sofa, the windowsill, the windows, the bathroom, and the sink. That should be enough. But there was a person—no, a phantom, who was going to against my plans.
“Play with me.”
For a while now, Rangii had been lazing around with her head resting on my lap. You brat. Are you possessed by the ghost of a kid who never got to play or something? Although there truly was a ghostly presence very close to me.
“You appear to be in a bad mood, Young Master.”
You’re sure quick to notice these things when your eyes are glued to the TV watching anime, Saehee.
“Can’t you watch TV with Saehee?”
“I have the most fun when I play with you.”
That was an appreciated, yet useless, thing to say. I had no choice but to play with her after she said that, but since I already made up my mind to clean, I decided to play with her after I was done.
“I’m busy right now. I have to clean.”
The two phantoms looked as though I’d just broken some taboo by saying that.
Rangii’s jaw dropped, and Saehee’s eyes widened when she turned to looked at me. What’re those reactions for? Is it that weird for me to say I’m going to clean?
“Isn’t that what Saehee does?”
“Please ask me to clean the house instead, Young Master. There is no need to change the subject through such sly means.”
I decided on who to argue with first.
“I’m not trying to change the subject. And these days, men do cleaning too.”
And not just clean, right? Some men do all the housekeeping. Like me. It’s not like we live in an era where women have to raise cattle, so why is this such a shock? (tn: Reference to Korean comedian, Park Young Jin.)
“I’m the one who normally does the chores here.”
Something about seeing Rangii look so genuinely awed made me feel proud.
“That would explain why this house is so filthy.”
I felt like my patience had grown a little when I didn’t react to Saehee’s casual insult.
“The point is, that’s why I can’t play with you. Okay?”
“Then I’ll clean with you.”
Rangii was practically shouting, “Aren’t I such a good girl? Then you should pat my head. Or hug me!” with her whole body, but all I could give her was a distrustful gaze.
“…What’s the matter?” she asked.
Yeah. After some more grooming, she might end up becoming a great conversationalist. …Or maybe not. If her growth takes a wrong turn, then she might end up like Saehee. Just stay like this.
“Have you ever cleaned before?”
“A long time ago, I was trying to lie down to sleep, but a hill was in my way so I swept it away with my tail.”
The scale is too big! Uselessly big!
“That is not considered cleaning,” Saehee said.
“Then I haven’t. But I’ll work hard to learn if you teach me.”
What should I do? It didn’t seem like a bad idea to use this opportunity to teach Rangii how to clean. She seemed like a quick kid who’d benefit from even a bit of instruction. Hm… All right. It might take a while, but I decided to think of it as an investment.
“Then let’s do it together. That way you can learn how to clean. Are you going to keep watching TV?”
I directed this pointed remark at Saehee, who was still fully focused on her anime.
“I believe it would be beneficial to learn more about modern society’s common sense.”
Your conception of common sense is so different from everyone else’s that it’s scary.
“Then shouldn’t you watch the news?”
“It is boring.”
“It is the day time.”
“How about a variety show?”
“Are you talking about playing house?”
Apologize, dammit. Apologize to all broadcasters.
“What is it? Do you want to say that my tastes are childish? I see that you are a human most insensitive to the cultural diversity within society.”
I didn’t argue back. Since I doubted I could win.
Unlike Saehee, who was busy having fun, Rangii was surprisingly helpful. All Rangii did was move stuff so it wouldn’t get in the way of the vacuum cleaner, but she was at least better than Saehee who complained that it was too loud, put on headphones she took out from somewhere, and kept her eyes glued to the anime on the screen. When I handed Rangii a clean rag, she happily helped wipe down the floor, the window sills, and the windows as well. In contrast to Saehee, who simply raised her feet when I began cleaning the floor next to the sofa, Rangii was a really, really good kid.
“What is it? Why are you looking at me with those rotten, lifeless eyes?”
That was really hurtful.
With the laundry in the wash, I decided to end my impromptu cleaning session. Rangii and I lay down together on the newly cleaned living room floor, catching our breaths.
“Cleaning is harder than I thought.”
Rangii sounded happy when she said that, and I patted her head.
“Being in a clean house is its own reward,” I said.
“I think so too. It feels like I’ve driven out the noisy rabble from my front yard.”
That was a strange comparison to make, Rangii. That aside, after all the exercise from cleaning, it felt a little warm. Actually, it felt hot, extremely hot. To the point where sweat went down my back. Normally I’d turn on an electric fan and cool off with that, but Narae was going to be here soon. I didn’t want to stink of sweat when I was with the girl I liked. I should just take a shower.
“I’m gonna go take a shower.”
“What’s a shower?”
“He is speaking of washing his body with falling water.”
You sure are good at giving explanations while watching TV with headphones on.
“So you’re saying you’re going to wash yourself? Then I’ll bathe with you too.”
“I taught you how to wash yourself yesterday.”
She made a face as if saying “Shoot!” and flinched before saying:
“…I can’t remember.”
She looked away and gave an extremely obvious lie. Hey, you brat. If you’re going to try to trick someone, then do it right. But still, maybe it was a good idea to have her take a shower too. Since washing yourself off with cold water is a good way to deal with the summer heat after physical exercise.
So I said the name of the phantom who originally took care of Rangii.
“If I get water on me…”
I cut Saehee off.
“I’m taking a shower first, so you do what you want.”
Before Saehee could say anything, I rushed into the bathroom and closed the door. It was a good thing I always kept spare underwear in the bathroom. I took off my clothes and took a relaxing shower.
It had been a short time since I vacated the bathroom for Rangii, who looked disappointed, and Saehee, who glared at me, to use, when Narae returned with a travel bag. Along with the bags from yesterday, that made three bags total. …How long do you plan on staying here? I’d welcome you with open arms, but I don’t know how long my sanity will last given the romantic tension I feel when I’m living with Narae, a girl whom I view as a member of the opposite sex.
“What? Got any complaints?”
I could only give an insincere answer while facing Narae’s fierce stare.
“Your eyes say you do.”
“It must be your imagination.”
“No, I don’t think so.”
As my childhood friend, she was adept at knowing what I was thinking. And the moment that I thought to myself if only she would also notice my feelings for her, this happened:
“I forgot to bring a change of clothes with me.”
Saehee’s strangely loud voice scared me, and I turned in her direction.
“Y-you idiot! Don’t look!!”
Narae grabbed my head with her hands, and then:
She forcibly turned my head back. Even while suffering the pain of what felt like having my neck snapped, I saw her. I saw Saehee without even a pair of panties on and making no attempt to hide her soaking-wet body. But I was too busy focusing on the god of death, Yama, who hath descended before me to worry about the glimpse of Saehee’s naked body that I’d gotten.
“W-what are you saying?”
“Don’t peak at a woman’s naked body!!”
When I saw the suitcase fly at me, two thoughts came to my mind. Why the heck are you getting upset, Narae? And…
“My apologies, Narae-nim. This was my mistake.”
Did Saehee do all this on purpose?
“Would you please go grocery shopping for dinner?”
Saehee’s request prompted me to put down my book. It was right in the middle of the scene when Terryman confesses his love for the journalist girl, but I could always read the rest later. Because at least a book wouldn’t dig a trap just because I didn’t listen to it. (tn: I’m pretty sure this is a Kinnikuman reference. I’m not sure.)
“What should I buy?”
“I wrote it down for you and your terrible memory, Young Master.”
Saehee-nim, with her excellent memory, spoke kindly to me and handed me a note. Let’s see… Green onions, onions, garlic, lettuce, pepper, nine pounds of pork belly.
“What is the problem, Young Master?”
“How many mouths do you plan on feeding for you to want nine pounds of pork? Actually, before that, didn’t we have meat for lunch already?”
“Are you dissatisfied?”
I backed off a bit.
“No, that’s not what I mean. I guess I’m saying that I’m worried that eating so much meat won’t be good for our nutritional balance.”
Plus I was starting to get tired of eating so much meat.
“I am keeping a close eye on nutritional balance. There is no need for the Young Master to worry.”
Ah, is that so.
“But if we only eat meat then we might have indiges—”
“Are you unaware of meat that is easily digested?” (tn: A reference to the Naver Webtoon “The Sound of Your Heart” which is actually being officially translated)
That’s not what that means.
“But above all else, the Master enjoys meat.”
Of course the tiger phantom would like meat. There was no helping it. It was an embarrassing reason, but I explained the reality of my situation.
“I don’t have enough money. I won’t be able to make it to the end of the month at this rate.”
“Is that so?”
I was painfully aware of the fact that if I kept using up my money at this rate, I’d end up starving by the end of the month. Since I didn’t know when my parents would come back, it was best to save money. Definitely not because I was tired of eating meat.
Saehee suddenly took out a wallet from within a scroll and handed me two 50,000 won bills (tn: About 100 USD total).
“If you require money please tell me, Young Master who struggles to survive.”
“Where did you get that money from?”
“Long ago I bought some land in Myeong-dong.” (tn: an area in Seoul)
So you’re a rich landowner?
“Please use the rest as pocket money, Beggar-nim.”
“…Do you mean it?”
The corners of her lips rose just a little.
“Yes. Please feel free to buy an adult magazine and pump that iron, Young Master.”
I got a shopping basket and talked to Narae and Rangii while they were engrossed in playing a board game.
“I’m going to go shopping for a bit.”
I got a bad feeling when I saw Rangii’s eyes light up.
“Don’t follow me.”
Of course, if that had worked, then she wouldn’t be Rangii.
“No! I want to go too~ I had so much fun yesterday because of all the interesting things.”
Rangii wrapped her limbs around my leg as she said this and rubbed her cheek against it. I want to bring you with me too, but I’d have to find a place to hide my face out of shame while you were busy having a fun time.
Taking her outside wasn’t a big problem in itself; the problem was my mental health. I felt bad, but I had no choice but to refuse her cutesy yet not-so-cutesy demand. Can’t you be cute in a more normal sense?
“Stay at home today.”
Rangii’s ears drooped, and she sucked on her finger.
“Then how about I go?”
Even in a time like this, Narae-nim’s fantastic proposition sent sparks flying in my head. I-I-I’m going shopping with Narae? Isn’t that a romantic milestone done by newlyweds?! Walking arm in arm, saying, “What should we have for side dishes today? I’m having you. Oh my…” Uwaagh, no! What in the world am I thinking right now?! While I was busy with my R-18 delusions, Rangii puffed out her cheeks in a pout and sprung at Narae.
This took Narae by surprise. Even I was surprised when I saw Rangii wrap her legs around Narae’s waist and clutch at her breasts…puhagh! I was close to spurting blood from my nose. The stimulation of seeing Rangii’s hands failing to contain all of Narae’s breasts, with their shape constantly shifting and even sticking out of the little girl’s uneven grasp, was too strong!
“If I can’t go, then Narae can’t go!”
“Wait, Rangii! Let go first and then…ahh!”
This seems like a scene restricted for those 18 years and over. For Narae’s sake, I beat out my lust and turned around
“I-I’m going to go.”
“Okay,” Rangii replied.
I hurriedly put on my shoes when:
“…Huweh? Something doesn’t seem right.”
I ran away before Rangii realized what happened.
I had 40,000 won left after buying all the groceries Saehee wrote down (about 40 USD). Although to a high schooler like me this could be called a huge amount of money. Because I take care of all our living expenses, this sadly doesn’t feel like a lot of money. Of course, compared to my pocket money, this is huge. I guess this could be called the feeling a bank teller gets his paycheck. Maybe?
Anyway, the fact is that I got some unexpected money. I wondered what I could do with this money so that people would start talking about how wise the Kang family’s son was, when I saw a doll store that I would normally have ignored without a second thought. I was greeted by the nauseating sight of a couple browsing through the dolls.
Couple Hell, Single Paradise (tn: apparently a Korean Internet meme).
Even though someone is unable to properly confess to the girl he likes because of a tiger, those two stuck fast to each other even in this heat. The man bought the woman a doll, and the woman thanked him and smiled happily as they walked out of the store.
I sighed, feeling sorry for myself as I wondered when my youth would finally begin, but I stopped in my tracks.
Yeah. What if I use this money to buy a doll as a gift for Narae? She didn’t play with dolls even when she was young, but she’s still a girl. At the very least, she shouldn’t hate it. Even if this is from out of nowhere, it should be okay. Great. I’ll buy her one. Narae might even thank me and give me a small hug…
I had a vision of Rangii with her arms in the air as she stuck fast to me.
…Wait, why’re you bothering me even in my daydreams? I shook my head and tried to erase Rangii’s sudden appearance. But, as is just like her, she stuck around. Fine. I’ll buy one for you, too. I mean, you did help out with cleaning this morning. Good deeds should be rewarded.
I went inside the store. I answered the store clerk’s greeting with a slight bow and looked around at the dolls. What kind of doll should I buy for Narae and Rangii? Hm. Yeah. Since Narae’s a member of the Bear Tribe, I’ll buy her a bear doll; and since Rangii is a tiger phantom, I’ll buy her a rabbit doll. Not because a tiger doll is expensive. I found reasonably priced dolls and got them gift-wrapped…
“Gift wrapping costs an additional 5,000 won.” (about 5 USD)
“Please put them in a bag.”
Actually, I put them in the bag and left.
…But the thing is, I feel like I’ve forgotten something. Could it just be my imagination? I felt like something was off while heading home.
…This was a taste of the happiness that I’ll feel if we get married. Wouldn’t life be worth living if a wife like Narae and a daughter like Rangii came out to see me?
“What is that?”
Rangii asked this while pointing at the white bag I held in my hand.
After giving a short reply, I put away the groceries in the kitchen and handed the dolls to Narae and Rangii.
Narae held the doll and looked happy yet surprised, and Rangii a broad smile spread across Rangii’s face. When I saw their reactions, I couldn’t but smile too.
“W-why’d you buy me this?”
“I mean, no real reason. I happened to think of you on the way home and…”
I’m sorry I couldn’t think of anything cool to say.
“It’s a present! It’s a wedding gift!”
“It’s not a wedding gift.”
Especially when I could respond to Rangii’s nonsense immediately. Their happiness was infectious. Ah, this is so nice…
“Do you have nothing for me?”
I was able to think to myself, “Crap!” even as Saehee made me jump in surprise. Yeah. The reason why I felt like something was off. It was Saehee. I cautiously gave an excuse as heavy drops of sweat fell down my back.
“I know. I know that such cute things do not fit me. I will prepare dinner.”
…In the end, in an attempt to make peace with Saehee, I made dinner and cleaned the table as well.
“This tastes awful.”
…It’s cold. It was July, the hottest month of the year, but I was woken up from my sleep again by the cold. My whole body was shaking from the deathly cold I felt on my belly. I opened my eyes and looked down.
“Have you awoken?”
Yesterday evening. The phantom who made it clear with her every action that she was upset looked at me with her eyes shining and her hands against my chest.
It was a strangely erotic position to be in.
“…What’re you doing?”
“There is something I must urgently do.”
I took out my phone and checked the time. It was three in the morning. Even if you have something to say, there’s no reason to say it at this time.
“Tell me tomorrow…in the morning. I’m sleepy.”
“If not right now, I could not hope to avoid the Master’s eyes.”
“And what do you have to tell me that Rangii can’t know?”
A smile tugged at the corners of her lips.
“I said there is something I must do, not say, Young Master.”
You’re going to do something?
“Please do it tomorrow. I’m going to sleep, so get off.”
Saehee ignored my words entirely, leaned forward so that her face was right in front of mine, and said:
“I do not know why my Master would become enamored with a piece of scummy trash such as yourself, but I truly wish I could kill you, Young Master.”
A chill ran down my spine.
“…Are you being serious?”
“Of course, Young Master. My hatred for you is on par to your stupidity.”
Saehee smiled as if her heart were nothing more than a block of ice and grabbed my neck with one hand.
“Although ending your life now would aid the Master, I cannot do so as I do not wish to see the Master’s in such pain for a second time. I truly hope you view your continued life as the Master’s kindness.”
“It would be best to remember my words, the leech-like Young Master who only continues to live because of Master’s kindness. How the Master must have felt while waiting for four thousand years for you, the great happiness she must have felt because of you, and how she must have felt when she followed you to Seoul. So please act according to those thoughts. Think and think and I truly hope you do not forget to think.”
I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move even a finger. I lay there mute, as if being crushed by a boulder, when:
“Ah, and please do not be too upset about my erasing your memories of this night’s events.”
Saehee, in all her scornful rage, blocked my vision with her hand.
“Because this is simply my catharsis.”
Were you that upset after I didn’t buy you a doll?! You’re rich, so what’s the big deal?!
As dozens, hundreds of hands seemed to cover my eyes, the last thing I felt before passing out was the strange feeling that this seemed unfair.
The sunlight streaming through the window woke me up. Uuugh. I should install some curtains. I moved around on the bed to avoid the light and curled up into a ball. Especially after last night…huh? What happened last night…ah, right. I had a strange nightmare that kept me from sleeping soundly. Why am I even thinking about this? The time that I’m spending thinking is just more time when I’m not sleeping.
I heard the door open.
“Sunghoon! It’s morning!”
…Actually, I heard Rangii’s voice. I cracked opened one eye and looked towards the door. Rangii, wearing the same hanbok as yesterday, entered the room and ran towards me, her feet pounding against the floor. …Actually, maybe pattering would fit better. Because she was turning round and round in the middle of the room.
Geez. Little kids are so full of life. But at my age, mornings are a pain.
“Yeah, it’s morning…”
And I drifted off back into dreamland.
I let out a sound to make it amply clear that I was sleeping:
“But I’m sleepy.”
“Don’t you have to get up early so we can go on a date?”
I half woke up when she mentioned a date.
“What do you mean, a date?”
I kept my body curled up under the covers.
“Today, Saehee told me that a man and woman who are in love go on things called dates.”
The moment she mentioned Saehee, I felt an inexplicable chill. Why was that? Ah, maybe it was because Saehee told her something strange just to mess with me?
…Well, the only thing that mattered right now was that Rangii was trying to get me out of bed.
“Yeah, yeah. Kids who’re going out go on dates too. So let me go on a date in my dreams.”
People who need a lot of sleep have it tough in the morning. So long as a crazy incident like what happened yesterday didn’t repeat itself, I had no reason to get up at this hour.
“How much longer are you going to sleep?! When a certain someone’s been preparing breakfast since dawn!”
However, a crazy incident did seem to have occurred. I jumped out of bed and begged Narae, who was leaning against the doorway, to spare me.
A bright smile lit up Narae’s face.
“If you’re not fully awake, I can help you.”
I fully woke up after seeing her in an apron. But if my eyes aren’t mistaken…?!
“Wh-who’s naked?! I obviously have clothes on!”
Narae blushed and did a spin. Ah, because she was wearing a small tank top and hot pants, I mistakenly thought she was naked. The strength of the human imagination is frightening. And Narae’s kick hurt.
“Hm? What’s a naked apron?”
Nibbling on her finger, Rangii made a question mark with her hair and asked me a question while I was being stepped on by Narae. I didn’t need to answer, however.
“A naked apron is when a woman—or a man—wears nothing but a small dress which is normally used as protection for clothes or as an added decoration.”
Because Saehee answered for me.
“Have you awoken, Young Master?”
I got a splitting headache the moment I saw Saehee. Maybe because I had to walk on eggshells around her last night?
“Rather than awoken, I got woken up.”
“Breakfast is almost ready, so please get ready to eat.”
I just realized that a delicious smell was wafting through the house.
“You would make a good match for Baduk.”
I scratched my head at Saehee’s insulting compliment.
After a quick wash, I had a towel around my neck when the bathroom door swung open. It was Rangii. How could this brat just open the bathroom door willy-nilly like that? Actually, maybe it was my fault for not locking the door.
“What is it?”
“Saehee told me to wash my face.”
You look pretty happy for someone who just got told to wash herself.
“All right. I’m all done, so I’ll get out.”
“Huh? Weren’t you going to wash me?”
What nonsense was she saying now?
“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.”
Rangii smiled delightedly at me even as she said something utterly ridiculous, but I kept myself from giving her a bonk on the noggin. No matter the reason, solution, or the process, I couldn’t 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.
“Okay. I’ll fall for your trick just for today.” (tn: Sunghoon is speaking in Rangii’s older style of Korean)
“Huh? You’re copying me.”
Rangii said this while running towards me, and when I had her stand by the sink…I realized she was too 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 forwards.
“…Your hair’s really long.”
I gathered Rangii’s hair and kept it bunched up loosely with a towel.
“Hehehe, I’m proud of my hair.”
You could be a bit prouder 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 we were done, I went out to the living room to find a huge Korean meal awaiting. I noticed that the table was set with side dishes that couldn’t possibly have come from the groceries I bought yesterday, so I asked Narae:
“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 actually happened? Ah, Mom. I must have saved the world in my previous life. Am I allowed to be this happy?
“I see that you have completely forgotten that I went as well.”
I didn’t forget; I ignored that on purpose.
“How did you know that?”
“Anyone could tell by the contented smile on your face as you looked at Narae-nim.”
“…I’m really sorry for that.”
“Don’t have weird thoughts while you’re looking at me!”
“Do I really look like someone who’d think things like that about anyone?!”
I tried to get Narae to reevaluate the human known as Kang Sunghoon, but…
…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 the most natural thing in the world.
Rangii’s ears pricked up. I knew there was no point in trying to get this point across to her, but I tried anyway.
“Why’d you sit here?”
“When I was eating by myself yesterday, I realized that eating with you was more comfortable, so I decided I was going to sit here.”
Narae gave a short laugh.
“What, isn’t that okay? Since she’s cute.”
And there was the kill shot.
“Kind of like a nice father-daughter relationship.”
And now she even dug my grave.
“I believe the Young Master will make a wonderful parent in the future.”
I don’t want to receive those kinds of distant compliments at 17 years old.
“It must be because you are a helpless lolicon,” Saehee continued.
“Stop saying that. If anyone heard that, they’d think I really am a lolicon.”
“Sunghoon, I want to eat that.”
In the midst of this conversation, Rangii had at some point taken a bite of rice and, while chewing, she pointed at the far away vegetables. Try and read the mood.
After I was done watching over Rangii’s meal, I brushed my teeth and lounged around while watching TV. On the news, the weather forecast said that it was going to rain tonight. Hm. Was it going to get a little cooler? The heat wasn’t too bad in the house because the breeze hit my house nicely, but the weather getting cooler was a good thing. Ah…I want to install an air conditioner. But 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 and being forced to study like my friends.
My parents are strictly laissez faire when it came to studying. Sometimes I can’t help but worry when I think about that, but youth has to be enjoyed!
“Coffee or tea?”
I was caught off guard by the sudden English I heard while I was busy not studying, but because she used vocabulary even an elementary schooler would know, I quickly regained my composure and answered:
“Please give me coffee.”
“Do you like coffee?”
How should I answer Narae’s question? I don’t like coffee, but would it be okay to say, “I don’t like the type that’s purely bitter. I prefer coffee that has at least a hint of sweetness”?
Narae eyed me like a cat and, with a foreboding smile, she went into the kitchen. What, did you think I was going to ask her what kind of coffee she was making? The only coffee I know is the one from the vending machine. That aside, there really was nothing to watch on TV. All the programs on in the morning were unoriginal and mind-numbingly 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.
A crystal-clear, pretty shriek pierced my ears, and as I turned my head, I saw Rangii flying with her body outstretched. Correction. She was flying at me.
It was too late to catch her, so all I could do was stick out my arms, but she landed on the sofa with her chin resting in my lap as if this had been her aim.
“You scared me! What’re you doing?”
“Saehee and Narae are fighting over something weird, so I ran away.”
I turned my head to look towards the kitchen. Although I couldn’t see them, I could just make out their voices.
“Utterly 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?”
“Sunghoon, you’re too cold sometimes. How can you act like that when your lover has come to you to express her affection to her future husband?”
Isn’t it natural for my reaction to you to be set to absolute zero? Rather than say this aloud, I changed the subject, because it was clear to me that she’d just ask what absolute zero was. I’m not a good student.
“Yeah, yeah. You wanna play?”
“…I don’t like that even more for some reason.”
What a sharp brat.
“But that’s all right. 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 lap 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.” (tn: means the gentlest ones turn out to be the most dangerous)
“…Is that what the saying has become?”
Are you trying to say that it was originally like that?
“I rarely sleep in the morning.”
That was a lie.
“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 sedative? Ah, by sedative, I mean a medicine that makes you sleepy.”
“Uuu. I know that much.”
Does she not like being treated like a completely clueless child? Rangii flailed her arms and legs, and she shook her body from side to side. She was acting just like a child. Rangii used the momentum 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?”
Rangii was deep in thought for a moment before saying:
“It’s probably because when I’m with you, this place gets warm.”
Rangii put her hand over the left part of her chest.
“When my body, my soul, my everything is touching you, smelling you, feeling you, this place gets warm. With every day that goes by since we met, this feeling gets bigger and bigger. I don’t really know what this is, but this very warm, tender, and slightly sad place…I don’t really know. What do people call this feeling?”
She was asking in earnest, her innocent yet serious eyes imploring me for an answer. 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 face disappeared and was replaced by a joking expression.
“So that’s why I’m going to do this.”
Rangii lifted up my t-shirt, buried her face in my belly, and put her hand around my waist.
I couldn’t see her face, but I could guess what kind of face she was making based on the excited wagging of her tail. Are you smiling, you brat? Smiling…very happily, by the looks of it.
“…But this is a surprisingly tasty looking, plump belly.”
She mentioned something I was worried about without a second thought.
“Hey, you brat.”
“Is it okay if I take a bite?”
“Just one bite…”
“I said don’t.”
“One bite or not…”
I instinctively grabbed Rangii’s tail after she bit my belly.
“I said don’t bite!”
“T-touching my tail is cheating!”
Are you an alien that transforms after you see the full moon?! (tn: Dragonball reference)
“…Hey, what’re you doing?”
Crap. Narae’s voice, even more chilling than absolute zero, brought me back to my senses. 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.
“Y-you see, Rangii 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?”
“…Sure. I’ll eat it later. Thoroughly, making sure to chew with every bite.”
No, in times like this, please refuse. Still, she didn’t seem to be too upset, because she took a seat on the other side of Rangii and handed me the coffee.
“Ah, thank you,” I said in English.
I planned on taking this opportunity to recover my cool, but when I took a drink of the coffee……
“What, is it weird?”
“No, it’s not, but…”
The teacup was familiar, but the contents were a new sight. The color was different. A wholly different color from the coffee I drink. I remember seeing on TV once that this is called brewed coffee.
“Was there this kind of coffee in the house?”
There wasn’t. Definitely not. The only coffee in the house was the box of 100 individual packets of instant coffee mix. Don’t say I have cheap taste! If you have something to say about instant coffee, then I’ll tear open a packet and pour the contents down your throat along with some hot water!
“I brought it along with everything else yesterday. I really like coffee.”
Did she bring the coffee beans along with her bag? I had no idea she liked this kind of coffee.
Narae savored the coffee’s aroma and took an elegant sip.
…Seeing this new side of her made my heart skip a beat. So I can see her make this kind of face, too. Seeing such elegance and class overflowing from Narae, I couldn’t help but take up this new challenge, and I brought the cup to my mouth.
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 had a secret crush on, was the one who asked. I did my utmost to control my face and spoke.
“There is no way that kind of coffee could be good.”
I didn’t say that. Narae’s face changed in an instant back to its usual expression, and she stared at the person behind us. Saehee held two teacups and walked towards us. Hm? Why two?
“Please drink the coffee I brewed, Young Master.”
Ah, is that vending machine coffee? I felt bad for Narae, but my sense of taste wasn’t mature enough to be able to drink that herbal medicine-like coffee. I put down the cup Narae gave me on the table for now, took the cup Saehee had, and…
I practically heard Saehee say, “You fell for my trap!” just by seeing her sneer. She got brewed coffee too?! The color and smell are even darker! It looks like it’ll be even 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 Rangii, who was busy up until now burying her face in my belly and making a weird growling noise, took the cup from my hand before I could tell her not to, and:
She drank the coffee.
The coffee cup flew into the air. All the hair on her body stuck up. Narae’s mouth was slightly agape in surprise. Saehee caught the cup in a moment.
“Agh, it’s hooooooot!!”
In place of Rangii, I drank the coffee with my skin.
What did I do to deserve this?
After I took a shower to wash off this morning’s unfortunate accident, I saw Rangii standing outside the bathroom, unable to do anything except fidget with her fingers. I didn’t get too hurt thanks to Saehee quickly bringing me a damp towel, but she must have felt guilty that I almost got burned because of what she did, because she looked particularly subdued.
The tail and ears that she was so proud of were now drooping lifelessly; she looked like a dog that got yelled at by its owner. This wasn’t like Rangii at all.
“Um…are you okay?”
Rangii asked me this while searching my eyes. When I saw her continue to look into my eyes despite bowing, I almost laughed despite myself. The heck, you brat. How can you be so adorable?
I wanted to see this side of her for a little longer, so I intentionally gave a short reply.
Her face took an even gloomier turn.
“I-I didn’t know it was so hot and bitter. So, so……”
Wait, what? She started by making childish excuses? If I don’t fix this habit of hers right now, then she’ll grow up to become an adult that only knows how to make excuses. I glared at Rangii to prepare her for a serious reeducation.
“So you see, it’s not my…”
I dialed up the intensity of my glare to eleven.
Ah, I made her cry. …Was my frown really that scary?
I put my hand on top of Rangii’s head as tears formed in the corners of her eyes.
“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 something so basic? I must have been imagining things when I heard Saehee’s voice saying, “There was no need to teach her that.”
Rangii tilted her head to the side and repeated 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 was still a little kid, I could put that lesson off until she was a little older.
“That’s all you have to do.”
Rangii nodded, clenched her fists as if firmly resolved to do something, and took a step back. Okay, she’s probably going to bow in apology, right? Except I was completely, totally wrong. Because she kneeled, put her head to the ground, and kowtowed!
“My incompetence caused me to inconvenience you, Sunghoon-nim. I will accept any punishment you give, so please punish this lowly wife as you see fit.”
My jaw dropped and it refused to close. Uh, excuse me? Are you really Rangii? Are you sure you aren’t a phantom who put on a Rangii mask…no, she was always a phantom. Hey! What’s wrong? Why’re you acting so out of character?
Caught off guard, I saw that Rangii was waiting for me to respond, so I ushered Rangii to get back up.
“E-enough, you don’t need to give such a serious apology. Get up. I’ll let you off this time.”
“But didn’t you say I had to apologize with all my heart?”
“What you did was going too far. Now I actually feel bad.”
Rangii, who had been so downtrodden until just a moment ago, looked at me with light sparkling in her eyes. H-hey. Why’re you suddenly acting like that?
“Do you really feel bad for me?”
“I think you’re missing the nuance of what I said, but I do feel bad. You got down on your knees over something so trivial.”
“Then instead of apologizing to me, could you listen to just one of my requests?”
Stop! You brat! Have you even noticed that you’re being way too selfish right now? I know it’s only natural for kids to be self-centered, but isn’t this going too far? Except she used those impossibly adorable hands to squeeze my own, and when I saw that expectant glow in her eyes, I couldn’t say no. Ah, Mom and Dad. How could you two have punished me without hesitation whenever I threw a tantrum? …Just what am I thinking? That was probably because I wasn’t as cute as Rangii. Since they definitely favored cuteness over ugliness.
“Okay. But just so you know, I won’t listen to one of these kinds of requests again.”
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? Wait, I remember you talking about that when I was half asleep. What else did she say about a date when she was waking me up?
“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 what it was?
“Not that. I mean why a date all of a sudden?”
Actually, I think I know the reason.
I asked Rangii:
“The meaning of the word date. Who told you that?”
“Saehee told me this morning…oh shoot!
Rangii covered her daintily open mouth as she stared at me, but it was already too late. And I said:
I said this with a wry smile, which made Rangii throw her hands up in the air in anger.
“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 that’s how you become a villain.
“Is that not irrelevant to you, Young Master?”
Saehee popped up behind Rangii. But for some reason, it seemed like she was keeping her distance. She was maybe five steps away from us.
“…What’re you doing, standing over there?”
“I kept some distance to not surprise the cowardly Young Master.”
“I’m so thankful I could cry.”
But her consideration for me was rendered meaningless when she moved to stand behind Rangii in the blink of an eye. I shouldn’t react to every little thing. I should be used to this by now.
“But what do you mean that doesn’t matter? Are you telling me that when I remember the first date of my life, it has to be with Rangii?”
“Is this your first?”
Why’re you choosing now to smirk at me?
“This is my first date too!” Rangii said.
“For me as well,” Saehee followed.
I don’t want to share a moment of comradery with a couple of phantoms over something so strange.
“But Saehee. You’re so ol—”
“That is enough, if you please.”
“Ack, Saehee are you upset?” Rangii said.
“I am not.”
…Oh yeah, talking about your age is taboo.
“Anyway, I want to go on a first date with Na—”
Even I had enough sense to not say Narae’s name.
“…I mean, wouldn’t it be best to go on one after I’ve prepared?”
“Excellent use of that dimwitted brain of yours.”
The way Saehee looked at me, as if she could see through everything, annoyed me.
“Then, instead, how do you feel about playing with the Master and coming back later?”
“Explain to me the difference between that and a date.”
“A date is a date, and playing is playing.”
All she did was repeat the same words, but there was an inexplicable persuasiveness in what she said.
“A date! A daaaate!”
When I saw Rangii spinning in circles like a native Amazonian, I considered simply doing as she wanted. But wouldn’t it be a bit pathetic if my first date really were with Rangii? As I thought hard about this fact, Saehee spoke to me.
“Young Master. I truly hope you will think about the Master’s feelings.”
Something about what Saehee said…weighed on my mind. Rangii’s feelings. …Right. She may have been dancing around me like I was a human sacrifice meant to bring forth a date, but she also spent who knows how many centuries doing nothing but watch the world, not participate in it. I’d feel bad if I didn’t play a little with her.
“Okay. Let’s go.”
Her dance morphed into one of victory, and she became even more energetic. Thank goodness we had this whole house to ourselves. 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 additional unwanted houseguest whom I have a secret crush on, slide into my field of view.
Narae had apparently been cooking something, because she walked out of the kitchen wearing an apron. For some reason, I got goosebumps when she favored me with a happy smile on her face and a kitchen knife in her hand.
“I came out because I heard something about a D.A.T.E. so what were you talking about without me?”
Was I imagining things? The moment Narae began to speak, it seemed like the kitchen knife gleamed in the light.
“I-I don’t know why, but Narae’s scaring me,” Rangii said.
You feel that way too? I’m glad to hear that. That means I wasn’t misreading things.
“The Master and the Young Master were discussing going on a date.”
Saehee did me the favor of explaining the situation, but she looked more nasty today than ever. Narae’s face froze after she heard what Saehee said, and then she stalked towards me. With the kitchen knife in her hand.
Rangii’s tail shot out in surprise, and she hid behind me. Oi! Miss Great Phantom! Why’s a great phantom scared of a kitchen knife? Also, you little brat! Stop pulling on my clothes! Otherwise, how am I supposed to dodge?!
“No, we weren’t! We were just going to play, not go on a date!”
Narae stabbed me through the chest out of anger. …With her finger.
“Did you think I didn’t already know that?”
Huh? Then why did you get so angry?
“What’re you getting so defensive about when all you’re going to do is play? We played together a lot when we were kids, didn’t we? You even stayed over at my house once!”
I felt a clash of cultures within my head when I saw Narae talk about those events from the past even as her face glowed bright red from embarrassment.
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.”
Narae went “Hmph,” ignored me, and spoke to Rangii who was trembling behind me.
“Then Rangii. Can I tag along?”
Rangii nodded her head emphatically and answered.
“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 still felt a little disappointed. Maybe this was the complicated nature of a man’s heart.
“But one more thing.”
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?”
“My apologies, 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 trying to use my words against me?”
“If that is what you heard, then I apologize, but I was merely speaking the truth. But above all, as I must attend to the Master and the Young Master, I cannot remain in the house.”
“Isn’t there no 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 you, Narae-nim, with those massive lumps of fat attached to you, would be the tired one.”
Ah, there they are. Cracks formed in Saehee’s expressionless face, and veins showed through Narae’s forehead. I took a step away from the natural disaster forming in front of me and leaned forward to whisper into Rangii’s ear:
“They’ve been like that since this morning. What gives?”
“I-I don’t know either. Ever since I got up, they didn’t look like they were getting along.”
“I believe you have misunderstood something, Master. We got to know each other quite well while shopping for groceries, and we are already getting along so swimmingly.”
“Yeah, Rangii. We’re getting along. The problem’s that we get along so well that we fight.”
Ah, Rangii. She was scared. What did those two talk about while they were out? …I shouldn’t ask. I had absolutely no interest in playing marbles with an active grenade.
“Rangii, want me to read you a book in my room?”
So we should run away.
“Yay. That sounds like fun. L-let’s hurry and go.”
I ran away to my room while holding Rangii’s hand.