Maru took his lips off and looked at her as if nothing had happened. Her eyebrows shot up to the sky, fell back down, and then shot up again.
"Are you crazy?"
She didn't say anything for a moment. Her lips twisted for a second before opening back up again. She looked very, very surprised.
"Who told you to do that?!"
"I really took my time with it on purpose. I tried to give you as much time as I could."
"Are you really saying that right now?"
She shook her head sideways.
"T-they didn't see, did they?"
"Who? Your club members?"
She nodded lightly. Maru looked behind him, he couldn't see Yoojin anymore. She probably left after seeing what was going on. In any case, they were alone.
"There's no one."
"What? You don't like being seen with me?"
"Of course I do!"
Her frown was deepening the more he asked her. He wanted to tease her a bit more but decided to stop there though. He didn't want her to cry further, so he took out the gift in his pocket.
She looked at his gift once and at him once.
"It's heavy, take it."
"What is it?"
"Merry Christmas. It's a gift from Santa. I'm not supposed to give them to kids who cry, but I'll make an exception. I'm a very nice Santa."
Maru wiped her eyes with his jacket sleeve, she stepped back with a flinch.
"Want to blow your nose, too?"
She wiped her eyes as she sniffled, she resembled a squirrel washing its face in the morning. As weird as it sounded, she was really fun to tease at her age. What happened during the next eight years? What turned this girl into a vixen who waved a condom at him with a grin?
‘Maybe it’s her mother.’
Maru’s ears tickled for a moment. Was someone swearing at him from afar? She opened the box he gave her. He looked at her carefully. She still had a frown on her face, but her eyes were clearly smiling. Maru took out one of the couple rings and grabbed her hand.
“W-what are you doing?”
“We need to see if it fits.”
Maru put it on her ring finger, the itty bitty rabbit ring fit perfectly on her. She raised her hand up to observe it a little more carefully.
“It looks good on you.”
“I look like a kid.”
“Don’t you like this kind of stuff?”
She couldn’t refute him. She took off her ring with an annoyed look.
“Our school bans accessories.”
“That’s a shame.”
Maru put the other ring on his finger. A grown man, wearing some rabbit-shaped ring… It was a bit hilarious to think about, but at least they were connected through it.
“You’re going to keep it on?”
“Might as well since I bought it.”
“You don’t look good with it on.”
“It’s a sign that I’m taken.”
Her face reddened immediately.
“Everyone says couple rings work better the more childish they look, so this is a really good one.”
“I’m not going to wear it.”
She handed the ring back to him.
“Well, I should give it to someone else then. It’d be a shame to throw it away. I wonder if Yoojin would like this.”
Maru put the ring back in his pocket and looked at her. She had a scary expression on her face. Maru smiled as he took the ring back out.
“I’m telling you this again. I’m yours. Don’t worry or be suspicious of me. I don’t want to force your expectations of me back on yourself though. You do whatever you want. I want you to like me and only me for sure. I’m not going to force that on you.”
He carefully put the ring back on her finger. This time, she was quiet as he put it on.
“I’ll just have to work a little overtime making sure your heart doesn’t get stolen by someone else.”
He turned the ring a little so that the rabbit would be on top before letting go. She brought her hands to her chest. She was looking at the ring.
“I’m sorry if I was being too forceful. I won’t do it again.”
It was true that Maru was desperate to have her. He was lying when he said it would be fine for her to have her heart stolen by someone else. That, of course, was a white lie. He didn’t want to ruin the relationship by being too desperate. He handed her the perfume after, she didn’t say anything still.
“Merry Christmas again. I hope you like the perfume.”
He did come on a little strong at a girl who’s never dated before, maybe he was the one who was too worried. Perhaps he should’ve taken his sweet time? Well, whatever. He didn’t have any regrets. Maru decided to head off though, he didn’t want to become too nervous in front of her. Maru turned back slowly, but a hand grabbed him before he could walk away.
It was her. She pulled him back and grabbed his collars. Before he even realized, they were staring at each other face to face.
“Stop doing whatever you want.”
Her lips closed over his, it was a surprise for Maru this time around. Looking at her expression relaxed him immediately though. In fact, he even wanted to burst out into laughter. Her eyebrows were wrinkled because she clenched her eyes tightly. He thought about putting a tongue in there but quickly abandoned the thought, he didn’t want to get slapped. He put his hands around her hips, it took his everything trying to stop them from moving a little further down.
She snapped her head back with a loud huff, her face was completely red. It looked like her face was close to exploding, so Maru tried poking it.
“Hah, hah, hah.”
She was huffing like she just ran in a marathon. Maru smiled as he let go of his hands around her, she didn’t step back.
“There’s one thing I want to make clear.”
She sounded a little mad.
“What is it?”
“I like the ring, for now.”
“I also like you too.”
The little string of nervousness snapped in his chest with that making Maru sighed subconsciously.
“I’m also going to return what you said right back at you. You should go meet other women, too! I’m going to work hard too. So that you’ll continue to like me.”
She spat out her words before finally stepping back.
“By the way, you...”
“H-how many times have you kissed people?”
“Would you believe me if I told you that it was my first time?”
“T-then how were you so natural with it?”
“Men like to study stuff like this, you know.”
Maru gestured for another kiss playfully, her hand immediately flew to slap his lips. It kind of hurt.
“Says the lady who just gave me a passionate kiss mere seconds ago. You even grabbed my collars. Are you into that stuff?”
He hugged her without permission one more time. Her round head only reached up to his chin. She had such a wide forehead.
“Thanks for being jealous. Thanks for telling me that I’m worth something to you. I was actually nervous that you didn’t really care for me.”
It was better to be frank, at a time like this. Maru decided to tell her the truth without hiding anything. It might burden the listener a bit, but that was exactly what Maru wanted. It was mean if one were to think about it, but Maru wanted to imprint as much of himself as he could in her mind.
“It’s unfair… How good you are at talking.”
She reached out to grab his coat for the first time, she didn’t seem to have the courage to actually hug him just yet. He did feel slightly greedy, but he decided to stop it here. He was glad she already had the courage to kiss him.
“Merry Christmas,” she said.
It would’ve been nice if this continued for a bit longer. Unfortunately, their sweet time was interrupted by a text message. She raised her head and Maru let go of her. She took out her phone to check the message.
She inhaled sharply before looking around like a meerkat. She was incredibly alert, her cheeks were turning completely pale in fear.
What did she mean? She handed the phone to him with a frightened expression. There was a very short line written on the screen.
[Try not to bump your teeth. It’s absolutely embarrassing.]
One of his cheeks twitched. This didn’t feel good. He raised his eyes to take a look at the sender of the message.
‘Ah, dear mother-in-law.’
He swallowed nervously as he looked around. Was she still around looking at them?
“Y-your mother saw us?”
“Can’t you tell?”
“It’s your fault!”
“...I’m leaving. Good luck.”
He was serious. Reincarnation or not, there were still people he didn’t want to have to deal with. One of the worst amongst those people was his mother-in-law. She was a good person, of course. One of the nicest in fact. She was someone who cared about her daughter’s troubles very much.
At the same time, mother-in-law positively loved to tease people. If she finds out her daughter got a boyfriend… well, he need not imagine the consequences. She’d be smiling in front of you as she asked you some incredibly embarrassing questions. He still remembered the first time he went to her wife’s house, the first thing his mother-in-law asked him was if he was carrying a condom.
Maru turned back and tried to leave, consumed by his survival instincts. She didn’t let him go. As a matter of fact, she was smiling with vengeance on her face.
“Can you let me go?”
“Hmph, don’t want to.”
“I’ll do good from now on. Please?”
His neck was starting to tingle. This was bad. He started looking behind him slowly, there were Yoojin and a pretty woman in her early forties.
“Nice to meet you.”
Winter. Was this what frogs feel like in winter when they wake up for a moment during their hibernation only to be confronted with a snake? He could almost hear someone from the distance welcoming him to hell.
* * *
“Everyone’s here, right?”
“We’re leaving. Make sure you didn’t forget anything.”
She checked her belongings again at the president’s behest. She wasn’t missing anything. Thank goodness.
“Phew, it’s over for now,” her friend commented.
She nodded with a big sigh. The prelim was hard, but that weirdo made her feel even more nervous.
Her friend must’ve seen the perfume in her bag. She was curious, so she took it out as well. The bottle was shaped like a droplet.
“What is it?”
Her friend looked curious. She took off the cap and tried spraying a little on her wrist. She’s never used a perfume before, but she knew roughly where she was supposed to spray.
“Mm, it’s good.”
Her friend responded first. She closed her eyes as she took another whiff. The scent was incredibly fresh, like a breeze passing right under her nose. It wasn’t strong at all, she liked it.
“Doesn’t this fit guys more though?”
“I think so, but I still like it.”
“Who did you get it from?”
She just smiled in response.
Her friend only seemed more confused.
* * *
“Yes? Ah, yes.”
He was uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. Sure, the cafe they were in was nice, but his future mother-in-law… Plus, the reason why they were sitting together was that she saw them kissing… This couldn’t go well for him.
“I’m not going to scold you, so relax a little.”
“Y-you don’t have to be so polite, ma’am.”
She was just coming right in. Maru decided to put on a fake smile. He couldn’t smile in any other way. Their coffee arrived. The drink was a welcomed change to their silence, but Maru wasn’t able to even take a sip. She threw him a question just as he grabbed his cup.
“Alright. So, what did you like about my daughter? I hope you can be honest and persuasive. Don’t give me a bad reason.”
Mother-in-law grinned. She was pretty, but that’s not what’s important right now. If he didn’t give the woman the right answer… He’d have a bad time.
“Can I think for a bit, please?”
He needed to take care. It seemed that Santa decided to give him a box of coals, just because he decided to tease his girlfriend.Previous Chapter Next Chapter