The sky was getting to the point where he could see the moon . Right next to, a little red star burning brightly .
“Must be Mars . ”
“Nah man, looks like a satellite . ”
“No, that should be mars . ”
2003 was the year when Mars came especially close to earth . Maru remembered this only because of a certain memory he had with a friend from high school .
[Isn’t it so cool that that red thing over there can come closer to us or go away as much as it wants?]
He thought of the conversation every once in a while even as he aged . He had no idea if the person was a guy or a girl, if he was even friends with that person or what . He could only remember that it was night when this conversation took place .
“Man, thinking about that instructor’s making me annoyed again . ”
“Ah… you’re right, we have to see her more from now on . ”
Dojin and Daemyung sighed . They didn’t seem to hate Miso, but they definitely disagreed with the way she taught . Then again, they got hit by her at least once .
“See ya . ”
“Bye . ”
Maru crossed the street away from the other two . He got on the bike and was ready to pedal . He should’ve brought gloves . The air was really cold now that the sun had set .
Right then, a bike passed by . It was a road bike . A yellow one .
He was here all the way up until now? He wasn’t that good of a friend of his, so he pedalled slowly . Right then, Dowook stopped right in the middle of his tracks . Did he have something to say? Well, the boy wasn’t saying anything, so Maru pedaled past him . But after a few minutes, Dowook started biking right next to him side by side .
“What, you have something to say?”
“ . . . . . . ”
Dowook didn’t say anything . He did want to say something, though . Maru squeezed his breaks and came to a halt . Dowook did the same .
“ . . . . . . ”
“What, you nervous?”
“Ah, you son of a… I really don’t like you . ”
Dowook glared for a second, but looked away pretty quickly with a sigh .
“Those clothes . ”
“Did they get fixed?”
“The ones your friends put holes in?” “Friends my ass . Anyway, what happened? I heard it was stuff like dresses . ”
“We tried to fix them up as much as we could . Don’t worry about it . ”
Right then .
[And here I was worried about how bad it was . Damn it, I worried over nothing . ]
A word bubble popped up .
“Worry my ass . Fuck . ”
Dowook looked up at the sky frustratedly as he swore a little more .
“As long as there weren’t problems . Get going, then . ”
The boy turned away with his bike . Presumably back home .
“Did you follow me to ask about that? Hold on, did you wait?”
“Fuck off . ”
Dowook pedalled away . The bike disappeared out of Maru’s sight pretty quickly .
‘He must’ve been feeling a lot of stuff recently . ’
People tend to think a lot when they’re alone . Dowook had been alone for a very long time in the last week . At least that’s how it seemed to Maru . He’s never seen Dowook talk to anyone, even during lunch or break time . Even his old friends had cast him out of their group .
“Well, that’s just karma . ”
He wouldn’t be in this position if he spent his time helping others . Though… his situation would probably improve for the better if Maru decided to help .
“Hm . ”
Maru thought of Dowook again . The boy wasn’t a bad kid . Maybe he should help?
* * *
Bada heard the front door open as she was watching TV .
Instead, it was Maru . The cold air came into the house with him .
“Close the door, it’s cold . ” Bada said .
“Sure, sure . ”
Maru closed the door without a word of complaint . That was weird . He shouldn’t be this kind . Normally he’d say something like ‘you close it’ or something out of spite . Sure, there were times when he acted kind . But that was usually after he got his allowance or when he had food with him . Nowadays he acted kind at all times . It was really strange .
“You have dinner yet?”
Again with that! Why was he feeding her, even? He should be asking HER for food! Asking for a bite when she ate instant noodles!
“I didn’t have anything . ”
“I’ll make you something . Just wait . ”
He stepped into the kitchen as if it were the most natural thing for him to do in the world . Bada watched him before taking out her phone . She opened the cover and started texting her friend .
[Hey, it’s weird if your older brother starts acting nice, right?]
The answer came surprisingly quickly .
[100% . ]
[What if he keeps being nice to you?]
[He’s done something really bad . 1000% . ]
It was just as she had feared, but her brother didn’t do anything wrong . He even gave her his allowance sometimes .
[But what if he did nothing wrong?]
[That kind of a brother doesn’t exist . ]
It was a pretty firm response . All of her other friends responded the same way . That is: big brothers were their arch-nemesis . Bada agreed with the sentiment completely . At least, she did until last month .
Her brother was humming in the kitchen as he cooked . Where did he learn to make food anyway? He made soups and whatnot like he did it for years . Even mom was starting to cook less now . She looked like she hoped Maru would cook dinner from now on . It was understandable .
Big brother’s cooking was actually tasty .
“Want stir-fried pork?”
“Y-yeah . ”
He found where the meat was in the fridge right away and got to cooking . That was strange . How did he know exactly where the meat was? This is almost like…
‘Mom . ’
Things were only getting weirder by the second . Why couldn’t he just call her a fatty like before? Right then, a message arrived from one of the girls she asked the question to . Not really a friend or anything, just an acquaintance .
[Sounds like my older brother . He’s nice . ]
“ . . . No way . ”
Weren’t older brothers creatures that only existed to bother their younger siblings? Bada looked at Maru with disbelieving eyes .
* * *
‘What’s up with her?’
She was acting pretty normally for a few days, but now she was looking at him like he stole a toy from her . She looked almost offended by him . Did he do something to her? Was their relationship this bad from the start?
‘I suppose that’s why she didn’t tell me about her divorce . ’
He was way too uncaring of her in his past life, even though they were family . He deeply regretted it, which was why he decided to treat her better in this life . To become a brother who the poor girl could rely on when she had to face society .
‘I’ll treat you better . ’
Maru smiled back at his sister with a warm smile .
* * *
“He’s definitely gone insane, there’s no way about it . ”
Her big brother? Smiling at her for no reason? There had to be something wrong for sure . Bada decided to do something about it .
“Hey,” she called out .
“Why are you doing this?”
“Why are you treating me so well?”
“ . . . What?”
“Ugh, seriously . Just tell me if you did something wrong . I’ll forgive you . You don’t need to go this far . ”
This should be enough, right? At least, that’s what Bada thought . She was completely wrong, though . Her brother just looked at her with eyes of pity, and…
“I’ll give you a lot more meat from now on, I promise . ”
* * *
Maru looked at Bada as the girl walked over to the TV with her bowl in hand . As he thought, girls her age were just hard to predict and understand . He knew this all too well, from his experience being a father of one .
“I’m home,” mom said, walking in with groceries .
“I made food . ”
“I told you I’d make it . ”
“I know you wanted me to cook . If you want help, you can help me with the dishes . ”
Mom entered the kitchen with a smile, letting out an exclamation of surprise looking at the pork dish he cooked . Maru just smiled in response . He couldn’t just tell her something like “I used to cook it a lot when my wife was away” .
Maru went back to his room, and booted up his computer with his toe . He’s gotten totally used to the high school life now . He’s relearned how high schoolers acted by socializing with them, and got totally used to the era that was 2003 . No matter how a person looked at it, Maru just looked like a generic high schooler in 2003 .
* * *
Maru opened up the messenger app with his mouse . He didn’t really feel like playing games . He’s played too much of it in his past life . Maru greeted his friends through the app briefly before opening the web browser .
“Man, there used to be so many search engines back then . ”
It was the era before all search engines were unified under just one . Maru opened up a familiar one in his head and typed in ‘plays’ in the search bar . The first results were all about college plays . Maybe a few blogs as well . There weren’t many bloggers around this time . Maru decided to open one of his own after looking around a little bit .
Not for any big reason or anything .
He just wanted to keep a diary of sorts for his second life . After a bit of thought, Maru settled on a name for the blog .
- Life, Once Again
And his first post:
- Let’s live a fun, fulfilling life .
* * *
Daemyung paused for a bit in the middle of typing . It’s been about two hours since he started grinding in the game with his friends . He’s called them over to play once he realized that the popular hunting spots were mostly empty .
- God, look at all this exp .
- Money’s good, too .
- Just need to get the items now and we good .
He played the game with his classmates . He honestly enjoyed it quite a bit . But right as he was about to grab the mouse again, he was reminded of instructor Miso’s shout at him . That shout of hers that made him freeze up . His frozen self at the acting club overlapped with his current self for a second . He was too embarrassed to move .
- Yo Daemyung,
- You dead?
His friends were asking since his character wasn’t moving anymore . Daemyung took a look at his avatar for a second . He invested a lot of time into this character . He wasn’t the top 1% or anything in the game, but he was definitely up there . How could he not be? He’s invested money and time into this character .
“ . . . But that isn’t me . ”
That made him feel pretty bad about himself already . Why couldn’t his life be just like the game? Why wasn’t he rewarded instantaneously for all the work he put into life? Right as he was thinking this, a part of his mind told him to just keep playing the game . But for some reason, this thought just made him want to play even less . He turned off the computer after bidding farewell to his friends .
The monitor turned black, and the room fell completely silent .
To think just a moment ago, he was having so much fun with his friends… Daemyung stood up from his seat . He wanted to go somewhere . Right, Dojin told him he needed to exercise some more . He might as well . He put on his sneakers and started getting ready to leave .
“Where are you going?” his mom asked, in the middle of making some snacks for the night .
“I’m going for a run . ”
Daemyung realized that for a split second, his mom’s face turned into a smile . A smile that made him only feel worse about himself . So his mom hated seeing him be fat too .
“I’ll be back . ”
“Alright, don’t be late . ”
Daemyung stepped out with his phone and earphones .
* * *
“Don’t sleep too late . I know it’s the weekends, but that still isn’t a good excuse . ”
Dojin bid his mom goodbye as she stepped out for her night shift, then jumped into his room . A time without his mom in the house was a happy time . That is, porn time . He pulled one up that he received from one of his old friends . A familiar banner appeared in the beginning few seconds of the video .
“I guess the FBI watches porn, too . ”
Whatever . He could just skip this . His phone started ringing right then .