March 13th, 2013.
It was a piece of memory from a long time ago, a childhood story.
I still longed for it, because it was the only birthday I had where everyone was present.
Grandpa, Dad, Oppa, and even Mom. I wanted to see what happened on that day once more. I wanted to engrave it into my head, so that I could remember it for the rest of my life.
Would it work?
I wasn’t sure at first, but when I adjusted the time capsule’s clock next to Kim Hajin…
I was suddenly engulfed by white light.
Before I noticed, I had become my younger self and was staring at a familiar garden, where a birthday party was happening. There were balloons anchored to the ground, and on top of a big table was a cake with cartoon characters and all sorts of delicious food.
At that moment, a large hand touched my shoulder. Startled by the weight of the hand, my body became stiff. Then, the kind voice rang out once again.
It was the voice of a man who had yet to pass through puberty.
But I knew all too well whose voice it was. I barely managed to hold back my tears.
Today was a good day. I didn't need to cry.
“…Un, Oppa. You’re here?”
My tongue didn’t move as well as I wanted it to, but I decided to ignore it.
Oppa kneeled down and snickered.
“Guess what present I got for you.”
Oppa made a flustered face.
An electronic car for children.
I knew he spent three months' worth of his allowance to buy it.
“Uh… did someone tell you?”
Taken aback, he smiled wryly. I ran into his embrace.
He looked a bit disappointed that I found out about his present, but he smiled and lifted me up.
“I’m the one who should be thankful.”
Then, the front door became noisy.
Still nestled in his arms, I looked past his shoulder. Dad came with Grandpa.
“Aiya, my little babies.”
Grandpa approached us, smiling kindly. Oppa handed me to Grandpa. Grandpa’s chest was harder and heavier than Oppa’s.
“Happy birthday, Nayun.”
“Thank you, Grandpa.”
Grandpa looked a bit surprised. It was probably because I was scared of him when I was young.
Grandpa stroked my head and put me down.
Standing on the grass, I looked ahead.
My heart trembled and my hands were sweating.
Along with a light breeze… that person finally appeared.
With a white jade-like skin and brown hair that was long and feminine unlike mine… Mom was walking in from the front door.
I called her for the first time in a long, long time.
I could feel my face contorting. My lips were probably bulging out unattractively, and my eyes were probably half-distorted. But just calling her name wasn’t enough. I ran with all the power I could muster and leaped into her embrace.
A delicate fragrance seeped into my body.
A voice I had long forgotten permeated my ears.
I cried and cried again, so much so that I couldn’t open my eyes.
I sat down at the head of the table still in Mom’s embrace.
Dad spoke worriedly.
“Nayun, why are you crying? Are you hurt anywhere?”
“Leave her be. She’s still a child.”
I barely managed to stop crying after about 5 minutes. That was how long it took me to realize that this wasn’t reality.
It was too precious of a time to waste away crying. I wiped away the tears in my eyes and looked at the cake in front of me.
Grandpa waved his hand, lighting the candles on the cake.
“Nayun, blow on it and make a wish.”
“Yeah. When you close your eyes and make a wish as you blow your birthday cake candles, your wish will come true.”
I closed my eyes.
I didn’t wish for anything excessive, just that I would remember this moment for the rest of my life.
I blew on the candles, then opened my eyes.
Clap, clap, clap—
Everyone clapped and wished me happy birthday. Inside Mom’s embrace, I held onto her hands and smiled brightly.
“Here you go, a scooter!”
“Oh? When did my grandson get so much?”
“…It’s because you give him too much allowance, Father. You shouldn’t spoil him so much.”
“Ha, are you complaining because I didn’t give you as much when you were his age? What do you think, Daughter?”
“I… Here, Nayun! It’s the penguin with glasses~”
Mom changed the subject and gave me a Pororo plushie. I remembered reminding Mom that this penguin was called Pororo.
But now, I couldn’t say anything because I had a lump in my throat.
The surroundings were already turning white, almost as though ink was coming off a painting.
Time was up.
My heart felt like it would burst, and the tears I held back were beginning to flow.
Still hearing the loving voices of Mom and Oppa, I closed my eyes.
…Soon, the world became silent.
Chwaa— Then leaves rustled.
When I opened my eyes, I was inside a mountain.
I stretched, unable to think about anything.
Now, it was time to go find Kim Hajin.
Chae Nayun reached her hand out to me, and I stared back at it. Was she trying to help me up? I took her offer.
When I got up, Chae Nayun gave me a renewed look.
Chae Nayun handed me the time capsule.
“The time capsule?”
“I used it once, but it looks like it’s still here.”
I checked my smartwatch to find out why.
“…You take it.”
“Huh? Why? You should use it this time.”
Perhaps because it was brought to the present from the past or perhaps because it was already used once before, the time capsule had something called a ‘required magic power amount’.
15,000 units of magic power were needed to fully charge it, meaning that one’s magic power stat needed to be 15 to use it once. Afterwards, the required amount would double, making it practically impossible to be reused.
It went without saying that it needed to be charged in one go by one person.
“No, you should use it later when you want to see them again.”
“No, I can’t. It’s your turn to—"
“I told you.”
I interrupted her.
“I’ve never met them before.”
Immediately, Chae Nayun shut her mouth.
“So you use it, okay?”
Chae Nayun retorted half-reluctantly, half-gladly.
With a grin, I turned around and started going down the mountain.
“Ah, hey, where are you going?”
“I’m tired. I’m going back home.”
Chae Nayun ran up to me and grabbed onto my sleeve. When I looked down at my sleeve, she pulled her hand back.
“W-Why? Why are you going back now?”
“Because I’m tired. Aren’t you? Because I sure am.”
“I’m not coming. I’m going back home.”
At my resolute refusal, Chae Nayun turned around pouting.
At that moment, my smartwatch rang.
[Here’s my account number. I’ll pay you back as soon as possible.]
It was Tomer.
Before I came here, I wrote a promissory note for Tomer. I even added the fearsome ‘magic power contract’ on top of it.
Using my smartwatch, I transferred money to Tomer’s account.
Then, I called Chae Nayun. She suddenly turned back around with a mischievous smile on her face.
“Yeah~? You’re coming~?”
“No, tell the other guys that I’m going back.”
Her face contorted like an ugly newspaper.
“See you later.”
The moment I turned around, I got an alert from Violet Banquet.
Tomer had transferred the fee, which would be converted into points for Violet Banquet and transferred to me when I gave the information.
I sent the information to Tomer.
[Fernin Jesus changed his name to Agus Benjamin…]
I descended the mountain as I wrote the reply.
When I arrived at the foot of the mountain and was about to take out my bike, I received another message.
[Thank you so much for today. ㅋ]
[It feels like I received something precious ㅋㅋ]
[I’ll treat you to something good later ㅋㅋㅋㅋ ^-^]
It was a message from Chae Nayun.
“…She sure sounds affectionate.”
What past did she see? I wrote the reply with a smile on my face.
I returned to Cube. Although I experienced 90 days in the past, only 7 hours had passed by in reality.
Standing in Cube’s central park, I stretched and took in the ocean breeze.
For some reason, I felt relaxed. This place seemed to have become my home.
I turned on my smartwatch as I walked back to the dorm.
[Blessing in Disguise increases your stats by 0.005 points!]
[Blessing in Disguise increases your stats by 0.005 points!]
[Blessing in Disguise increases your stats by 0.005 points!]
[Your luck activates! By consuming food rich in mana, all stats increase by 0.01 points!]
I went through the backlog of alerts from the past 90 days.
Afterwards, I checked my stats.
[Strength 2.970 (+2.970)]
[Stamina 2.980 (+2.980)]
[Speed 4.685 (+4.685)]
[Perception 5.620 (+5.620)]
[Vitality 3.070 (+3.070)]
[Magic power 2.005]
“Oh, I’m at full power.”
The numbers in parenthesis were temporary stats gained from Energy Conversion. Thanks to staying in a mana-rich area for a long time, it had filled up to 100%.
Just looking at it put a smile on my face.
At that moment, I saw someone running toward me from the distance. A blonde girl wearing headphones, a sweatshirt, and sweatpants.
It was Rachel.
But I couldn’t help but doubt my eyes when I saw her.
“…What’s up with the color of the sweats?”
Her sweatpants were spinach-colored, while her sweatshirt was bright blue. She was well-dressed for the karaoke, so did she just put on whatever for running?
I didn’t make such a detailed setting, so I had no way of knowing. I remembered writing that she grew up in a sheltered environment, but that was obvious as she was a princess.
Soon, Rachel’s running speed slowed down. It seemed she discovered me.
I bowed lightly when she came close. She took off her headphones and smiled.
“It’s been a while, Rachel-ssi.”
“Did you come back from England?”
I planned to head off since I didn’t have much to say, but her sweats kept bugging me.
I let out a dry cough and asked carefully.
“…Do you usually wear sweats when you run?”
Rachel made an embarrassed face and asked shyly.
“Are they okay?”
“Well, um, this is a bit embarrassing, but I’ve never chosen my own clothes before… my attendant usually picks out my clothes.”
Rachel spun as if to show off her clothes. But it was just too unfashionable.
“Since I’ll be an adult soon, I’m putting more effort in choosing my clothes.”
She sounded unconfident in her fashion sense, and rightly so.
I scratched my neck and muttered.
“Um, I think you should just wear what your attendant picks out….”
“…Does it stand out.”
“Yes, a lot.”
She scanned her clothes, then nodded as though she came to a decision.
What was she planning to do?
I watched her with interest.
Almost as if she thought up a brilliant idea, Rachel suddenly bent down and pulled up one leg of her sweatpants. Then, she looked at me asking for confirmation.
“How about now?”
It seemed she misunderstood what I meant by standing out. Perhaps it was a problem with her Korean.
“Just wear what your attendant suggests.”
Rachel looked a bit disappointed at my reaction, as she glanced at her legs for a moment, then pulled up the other leg of the sweatpants.
“Pull them both down.”
Rachel pulled her sweatpants back down.
I breathed a sigh of relief and asked.
“Are you out on a run?”
“Yes. Hajin-ssi must have… come back from a barbershop. You have a beard now.”
“Yes? Ah, well, yeah. I’m going to buy some fried chicken and go back.”
“Yes, fried chicken, jokbal, bossam, and pizza.”
Rachel tilted her head.
I gave a brief explanation.
“I eat a lot.”
‘Me too…’ Rachel murmured softly to herself and smiled.
“Then I’m going to go run some more.”
“Yes, good night.”
With that, Rachel went off running, and I watched her for a moment before walking to the cafeteria.
I returned home with both hands full of food.
But when I opened the door, Evandel didn’t run up to me as I expected her to.
Feeling somewhat odd, I walked into the living room. Then, I was slightly startled.
I was met with quite a strange scene.
Hayang was staring at me from the highest point in her cat tower, and Evandel was sleeping hugging the tower’s pillar.
By the looks of it, she was trying to get Hayang to come down and fell asleep after exhausting herself out. Judging by the mess on the floor, there seemed to have been quite a chase between the two.
"They're still fighting, huh.”
I approached Evandel laughing, then took a fried chicken leg up against her nose.
Evandel’s nose wiggled.
Then, she opened her mouth wide.
And bit down on empty air.
Nyam, nyam. When she couldn’t taste anything after chewing over and over again, Evandel frowned strongly.
At that moment, Hayang jumped down from the cat tower.
Hayang’s paws struck Evandel’s head, and Evandel’s eyes shot open.
She grabbed onto her head and groaned.
She then discovered me and scurried back to the wall.
“What do you mean.”
“Who, who is it!?”
“…It’s me. Hajin.”
Evandel began to dissect my face with her sleepy eyes.
“Yeah, I had my hair cut. Come here, I brought fried chicken.”
“Bossam and jokbal too.”
Evandel muttered in a daze as she approached me. I knelt down and held my hands out. A small child waddled into my embrace.
There was something I always wanted to do.
I rubbed my beard against Evandel’s cheek.
“Ah, aak! What is it? No!”
Startled, Evandel tried to run away, but it was too late. I was seeing her for the first time in 90 days. Without a doubt, I missed her a lot.
I continued to rub my beard against her. Her soft skin felt nice against my prickly beard. Evandel resisted, even trying to shove her hand into my mouth and nose, but I didn’t stop.
Then, Hayang approached us.
She sent us a weird look, so I stopped rubbing my face against Evandel.
Hayang stared at the back of Evandel’s head and raised her paw.
Just when I was wondering what she was up to…
Hayang smacked Evandel’s head and ran away.
“Ahhk! Uuu… Kim Hayang! You get back here!”
Evandel began to chase Hayang furiously. However, Hayang had reached the peak of the cat tower in the blink of an eye.
Evandel began to shake the tower with all the strength she could muster.
“Get down, get down, get dooooown here—!”
I finally understood what I saw when I got home.