Chapter 106. Return


I returned the crystals to where they belonged, then headed to Gwangmyeong City Hall.
There, we surprisingly received a warm welcome. It seemed Asura was quite the tyrant, as the residents rejoiced in finally getting freed.
When I talked to them about it, they told me Asura led many to their deaths because of his obsession with mana crystals.

In any case, on the night that Asura disappeared, everyone gathered at the abandoned building and held a party.
Gwangmyeong City Hall’s residents brought rice and meat, and we sat around a campfire, eating and talking happily.
Of course, I left as soon as I was done eating.
I just didn’t feel like I belonged.

“…Here, Kim Hajin, take it.”

But Yi Yeonghan handed me a bowl of porridge.

“What’s this?”

“For Yoo Yeonha.”

Although the curse was lifted, Yoo Yeonha had yet to recover completely. Currently, she was sleeping in the tent.

“…Why are you giving it to me?”

“The other guys are busy talking.”

Yi Yeonghan pointed at the campfire, where Kim Suho and Chae Nayun were talking with Asura’s past subordinates. The topic must have been funny, as even Shin Jonghak was laughing as he listened in.

“Ai, we’ve heard the news from Seoul. Currently, Seoul is split into several factions. Gangnam is divided up between Shin Myungchul and Chae Joochul, while Gangbuk is….”

“How is Shin Myungchul’s reputation?”

Shin Jonghak asked.

“He’s a great person who brought peace to the Gwanak region.”

“Haha, I see.”

It seemed he enjoyed hearing them praising his grandfather. Hearing this, Chae Nayun also asked brightly.

“Then what about Chae Joochul?”

Chae Joochul the Immortal. He was Chae Nayun’s grandfather and one of the strongest people in this world.
But contrary to Chae Nayun’s expectations, she received a negative response.

“He’s not trustworthy at all. I stayed in Seoul for a bit, so I know. He’s… sly, like a snake. He’s surely going to do something huge in the future.”

“….”

Chae Nayun’s expression stiffened.
Indeed, Chae Joochul wasn’t a strictly kind person by my setting.
I took the porridge and went into the tent.

“Hey, I brought food.”

Yoo Yeonha, who was lying still on the bed, raised her upper body as she groaned. She looked a bit disappointed when she saw that it was me, but she tried to not let it show.

“You’re pretending to be sick, right?”

“Yes? Ah, no, I’m still enervated… uup.”

I shoved a spoonful of porridge into her mouth. Yoo Yeonha nibbled on the porridge with a confused look.
She really ate like a kid. After chewing about ten times, she looked at me and frowned.

“What is it?”

“What.”

“…Why are you doing this all of a sudden?”

Yoo Yeonha looked sullen.

“Didn’t you say you could barely lift up your hands? So I’m feeding you.”

“But that was….”

It was probably a ploy to attract Shin Jonghak. I grinned and took another spoonful of porridge.
—Kyahaha.
At that moment, Chae Nayun’s laughter rang out from outside the tent. I turned around, startled by the sudden noise.

“Ah, wait, wait! Ah!”

When I turned back around after hearing Yoo Yeonha’s indignant shouting, I saw her porridge pasted around her mouth.
Oh, she didn’t have it opened.

“Open your mouth, would you?”

“What? You’re saying this is my fault?”

“….”

I scratched off the porridge smeared around her mouth with the spoon, then returned it to her mouth. However, Yoo Yeonha kept her mouth shut tightly and glared at me.

“You don’t want to eat? You’ll starve to death, you know.”

“No, it’s just that… it’s not very tasty. Don’t you have something other than porridge?”

“I have one ramen left.”

Immediately, Yoo Yeonha swallowed hard. But soon, she put on an unenthusiastic look and pretended like she would eat it reluctantly.

“…Then I’ll take that. This is too bland.”

“I’ll make it for you if you finish this.”

Then, Yoo Yeonha opened her mouth and started eating again.

“Instead of staying cooped up in here, why don’t you come out and talk?”

“I don’t have the energy to~”

Yoo Yeonha fell back down on her back and pulled the blanket over herself.
Since it looked like she didn’t want to go out, I got up to leave her alone.
But at that moment, her soft voice rang out.

“Um…”

“Yeah?”

“…Thank you.”

She whispered carefully and sincerely.
I simply nodded in response.

“It’s good that you know.”

“You always end up helping me out.”

“Right? When are you going to pay me back?”

Yoo Yeonha smiled and replied softly.

“Hey, don’t you think we can become good allies?”

Allies….
Becoming Yoo Yeonha’s ally was an easy way of living a comfortable life. She would become a top-tier CEO in the future, who would own prominent corporations in fields such as magic engineering, pharmaceutics, guilds, auctions, and weapons.

“I can help you hit it off with Nayun.”

“…What? I don’t need something like that.”

“Eh? You really changed ship?”

Yoo Yeonha suddenly raised her upper body again.

“Change ship?”

“From Nayun to Rachel.”

“What? No, it’s neither of them. I can’t afford to like someone right now.”

“Come on, don’t lie.”

Yoo Yeonha gave me a mischievous look as though she was saying she knew everything. I stared back at her, then nodded.

“…No ramen for you.”

“Eh? W-Wait!”

I ignored her and left the tent. I then went to Yi Yeonghan.

“She said she doesn’t eat porridge.”

“Huh? Really?”

Yi Yeonghan tilted his head and went into the tent.

—Yoo Yeonha, why aren’t you eating? Don’t have an appetite?

—E-Eh? Ah… well, um… ramen…

—Ramen? Kim Hajin said he’d make you ramen instead? But I thought you didn’t like ramen.

—Eh…? Oh… right….

—Then just rest for today. You don’t have to eat.

—…I don’t like you, Yi Yeonghan. I’m serious.

—W-What? Why?

—Get out. Just get out.

Eavesdropping in on their conversation, I put a pot on the burner and began to boil water.
Yi Yeonghan then came out of the tent and asked.

“Kim Hajin? Why are you boiling water? Yoo Yeonha says she doesn’t eat ramen.”

“Did she?”

At that moment, Yoo Yeonha peeked her head out of the tent and blurted out angrily.

“Leave him be. He saved my life. It would be rude to decline his offer.”

“…What’s up with her?”

In the end, Yi Yeonghan backed down, and I finished the ramen under Yoo Yeonha’s watchful eyes.

“Enjoy.”

“Thank you.”

Yoo Yeonha took the ramen into the tent with a happy face.
I glanced around my surroundings, then got on my bike, after which Kim Suho discovered me.

“Hajin, where are you going?”

“Oh, there’s something I need to bring.”

In this world of the past, there were things I didn’t make use of in the original story. Although I made note of them in my settings book, I didn’t have the chance to utilize them when I was writing the actual chapters.
Since a few of them would come in handy, I planned on bringing them back.

**


In the past of 1972, we trained and sparred to becoming stronger. Without having to stay in the uncomfortable, abandoned building, we lived with Gwangmyeong City Hall’s residents.

For the two weeks we stayed here, magic power explosions occurred occasionally, and monsters attacked from time to time. However, we worked together with the residents to resolve any troubles.

Of course, some of Asura’s subordinates, who performed all sorts of misdeeds, were chased out through voting. Under Kim Suho’s leadership, evil practices and that hierarchical system were abolished.

In any case, after spending so much time together, Kim Suho and the others grew very close with the people of the past.
Yoo Yeonha was constantly on the lookout for someone who would become the ancestor of someone famous, Chae Nayun played with the kids every day, and Shin Jonghak formed a crew of his own with a crowd that looked quite strong.
As for Kim Suho, he helped the residents to create several facilities and renovated the existing ones.
Everyone spent their time laughing and having fun.

However, I couldn’t enjoy things as much as the others, as some of the people I killed remained dead.
I didn’t know whether the residents were unaware of it or if they were pretending not to know, but they treated me kindly.

“Huu.”

Time passed by in a breeze.
Currently, I was sitting on a barbershop chair, surrounded by many people.

“This is great. My hands were itching every time I saw your hair.”

“Yeah, it was the perfect length two weeks ago, but now it’s way too long.”

That comment was from Chae Nayun.
I smiled and nodded.
I looked around, wondering if it was okay for a barbershop to be in the middle of the road. Kim Suho and Yi Yeonghan, Chae Nayun and Yoo Yeonha, Shin Jonghak who had his arms crossed and glanced at me, and finally, many people of the past.
Quite the crowd had gathered to see my haircut.

“By the way, can you leave a little bit of his beard?”

Chae Nayun asked on her own.

“Hm? Why? I want to shave it entirely.”

I asked as I rubbed my beard. I had the feeling Evandel would be shocked if I went home like this.

“I think you’d look better with some of it left.”

“Nayun.”

At that moment, Yoo Yeonha spoke to Chae Nayun with a smile.

“What does it have to do with you?”

“…Eh?”

Chae Nayun fell into a daze. Yoo Yeonha continued with an even bigger smile.

“I’m genuinely curious. Why does it matter how he looks?”

“W-What? I’m just trying to recommend a better path for him.”

“Mm~ is that why you went on a drive with him last week~?”

“…What?”

Shin Jonghak’s eyes suddenly flickered coldly.

“T-That was because we were in charge of getting food! W-What are you trying to say!?”

Unable to endure it any longer, Chae Nayun shouted. Yoo Yeonha backed off as she moved her eyebrows up and down. Meanwhile, the surrounding residents smiled.

“Then I’m starting~”

The barber started to cut my hair. A scissor grazed my head, which became lighter as my shoulder-length hair was cut off.
I slowly enjoyed the moment. The laughter of the residents, the light breeze, the warm sunlight, and…

“He doesn’t look all that bad, eh?”

“Of course! He’s the one who drove away that tyrant, after all.”

“But what did he defeat him with? Not even Dongsuk could do anything against him.”

The view of the past that would soon disappear.

“Alright, done. Now it’s time to shave.”

The barber finished cutting my hair and took out a razor. I was startled as he brought it up to my face without any shaving foam.
Srrk, srrk— However, feeling the barber use his magic power in place of a shaving foam, I calmed down and trusted myself to him.
Soon, the shaving ended, and the barber gave me a mirror.

“…Oh?”

When I looked at the mirror, I was surprised.
I wasn’t even sure if I was looking at myself, and I was clearly not the only one who felt this way. Chae Nayun, Yoo Yeonha, and even Kim Suho were looking at me in awe.
A clean pomade style hair and a light beard like that of a Western model.
My eyes naturally turned to my smartwatch.

[Buff – Master Barber’s Touch]
[Temporarily increases the invariable charm stat by 0.5 points.]
[Duration – 4 weeks]

When I saw this alert, I shot up and asked the barber respectfully.

“…May I ask your name?”

“Haha, do you like it that much? The name is Kim Woosuk.”

“Kim Woosuk…. Do you perhaps have a son?”

“I do have an eight year old. His name is Kim Hojin.”

Kim Hojin. If he was alive in the present world, I would have to visit him when I wanted to cut my hair, as Gifts were often times hereditary.
I grabbed Kim Woosuk’s hands and bowed.
Then, I looked around.
A mother waving her hand with a child in her arms, elderly people smiling in delight, and young men and women who were giving me respectful gazes.
I also bowed to all of them.

“Thank you for everything.”

Getting my hair cut was the last business of the day. No, of the past.

“No, we should be thanking you instead.”

“Goodbye~”

“Will you come by again?”

“These young men and women will do great things in the future. I’m sure we’ll be able to see them in the newspapers.”

We didn’t explain much to the people of the past. They didn’t know that this was the world of the past, or that they were just records.

“Then….”

I turned to Kim Suho and the others.
Now, it was time to do what we needed to do.
Kim Suho and the rest of the party nodded with a somewhat sad smile.

“We’ll go get them.”

“Yeah.”

They each went to retrieve a crystal, and I entered Gwangmyeong City Hall. After slowly climbing the stairs, I sat down on the rooftop floor.
Then, I looked up at the sky.
The sun was halfway down the horizon.
The world was dyed orange by the beautiful sunset.
As I waited for the others to come back, I leisurely watched this beautiful scenery.

Soon, the northeast water tower’s purple light disappeared.
I could see Yi Yeonghan climbing the south steel tower.
The fragments of the past were slowly coming together.
After about ten minutes, I felt a presence behind me.

“Take this, Kim Hajin.”

The first person to come back was Shin Jonghak. He threw the crystal at me casually and went back down. There, his lackeys (fan club members) were waiting for him with eyes full of tears.

“Yo~ Kim Hajin!”

A loud voice rang out from below.
Yi Yeonghan threw the crystal up from the ground, which I caught.

“Thanks.”

Next was Yoo Yeonha.
With the clacking sound of her high-heels, she walked up to the rooftop.

“Where did you get those high-heels?”

“They were gifted. I’m quite popular, you see.”

Yoo Yeonha approached me and handed me the crystal.

“Oh, by the way…”

As I received Yoo Yeonha’s crystal, I asked what I was curious about for some time.

“While you were under the influence of the curse… you didn’t enjoy it or anything, right?”

“…What do you mean? Why would I enjoy it?”

“Huh? Oh, um, nevermind. Just ignore what I said.”

In truth, there was a setting I got rid of.
[Yoo Yeonha likes being bullied.]
It was never mentioned in the actual story because it felt too strange and the opportunity never came up, but I was curious if the setting made it in in this world.

“Anyways, I’ll be going now.”

As Yoo Yeonha went down, Kim Suho came up.

“Kim Hajin! Here you… Huh?”

“Come down with me~”

“I want to be with Hajin. Ah, hey, what are you doing?”

Kim Suho was dragged away by Yoo Yeonha as soon as he gave me the crystal.
The final crystal arrived three minutes after Kim Suho disappeared.

“I’m here, Kim Hajin.”

Chae Nayun trudged up to me and handed me the crystal.
With this, all six crystals maintaining the past had been gathered.

“Are you going to destroy them now?”

She sat down next to me with her knees together.

“Yeah, get ready.”

“Can I watch?”

“Sure.”

I put the crystals on my palm. Then, I infused Stigma’s magic power into them. In an instant, the tattoo on my upper arm glowed blue, and the crystals infused with magic power fused together, forming a small sphere.
I held the crystal with my thumb and index finger, then lightly squeezed it.
Clang—
A clear, sharp sound rang out, and the crystal disappeared into purple dust.
Change was quick to happen.
The scenery began to disappear.
The sky shattered.
The past broke down.
I calmly watched the recorded world of 1972.

“Hey.”

Chae Nayun suddenly asked. Just like me, she was watching the disappearing sky.

“Is this what it means to forget?”

“…What are you talking about.”

“Nothing. I was just wondering if forgetting meant that the person disappeared from my heart like this.”

She sounded calm. Her eyes were red as she was clearly thinking about her family, but she didn’t cry.

“How would I know? Why are you asking about that all of a sudden?”

“…No matter how much I try to remember, I can’t recall Mom’s voice anymore. Her scent, the happy days we spent together… I can’t remember them well. It’s like they disappeared.”

I turned my head to the side, as did Chae Nayun.
Since I’ve never experienced anything like it, I chose my words from a book I once read.

“Don’t worry about it too much. You can’t smell anything from a flower that doesn’t wither.”

“…What’s that. So cringy.”

“It is what it is.”

Being worn-down and partially forgotten helped make memories precious.

“Hmm.”

…But it seemed I failed to make her empathize.
I took something out from my pocket and gave it to Chae Nayun.

“Here, you can have this.”

“…Eh?”

“It’s a ticket.”

Chae Nayun tilted her head at my explanation.

“A ticket that will help you see flowers for a while.”

I felt my fingers curl up at my own words.
In any case, what I gave to Chae Nayun was a time capsule.
It was small box with a lock and an analogue clock marked 01/01/2018.

“What’s this?”

“A time capsule. You know what that is, right?”

“…Do you think I’m stupid? Of course I do.”

This was one of the items I made note of in my settings book and never utilized. It took me a whole day’s worth of Stigma’s magic power to find it using the Book of Truth.

“But what is it for? And why are you giving it to me?”

“You see the number there? You can change it and go back to that time period for a while. More precisely, you’re looking through the memory you have of that time, buried deep inside your subconscious.”

“….”

Chae Nayun widened her eyes and stared back at me. Then, she blurted out a single word.

“…Really?”

“Yeah.”

“Why aren’t you using it instead?”

When she said that, I felt a tinge of pain in my heart.
In truth, I planned to use this for myself.
One day, perhaps five or six years later when my parents’ voices and appearances were getting faint, I planned to use it to grab onto my fading memories.
But now that I thought about it, bringing an item from this world back to the present would surely cause some sort of a problem. Since that was the case, it was better to let Chae Nayun use this consumable item.

“I don’t even know my parents’ faces, so there’s no point in me using it.”

Without any other choice, I made up a good excuse.
Chae Nayun looked at me intently, then put the time capsule down.

“…Then I won’t use it either.”

“What?”

“It’s cowardly. Either we both use it, or we both don’t. That’s honor.”

I was stunned. I even felt a bit angry. I pushed Chae Nayun’s temple with my finger.

“…I should really smack you.”

“What? Are you crazy? Fight me then.”

Chae Nayun raised her fists and took on a boxing posture.

“Shut up and just use it. You’re going to regret it otherwise.”

“….”

Chae Nayun pouted and picked up the time capsule. Despite what she said, it seemed she didn’t want to give up on it so easily.

“Where do you want to go?”

“…To 2013.”

Chae Nayun changed the numbers of the clock.

“March… 13th.”

“Why then—”

Plop.
Before I could finish asking, Chae Nayun disappeared without leaving behind a trace. Almost like magic, or perhaps a miracle.

“…Hm.”

Suddenly, I was alone. I stretched and turned my gaze.
Other than me, everyone else seemed to have gone back to the present.
Half of the world was dark.
The sky was blurry, but pieces of the setting sun still shone down on me.
Even a crumbling world was beautiful.
Inside the slowly disappearing world, I closed my eyes.
The ringing of the crumbling world seemed to ring my heart as well.
Once I opened my eyes, I should be somewhere back in the present world…

“Hey, Kim Hajin!”

I opened my eyes at the sudden ringing voice.
I quickly looked around my surroundings.
It seemed I was back in the present as I could see the scenery of Wind Mountain.
With my eyes half-closed, I looked up at the person who called my name.

“There you are~”

Green vegetation, clear mountain wind, and gem-like sunlight.
Inside this beautiful scenery, Chae Nayun was smiling brightly.

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