“Thanks. I was a bit embarrassed after asking, but I feel really good now that I actually got a schedule with him. Well then, see you at that time.”
Sungjae drove off while smiling.
“That went well.”
He called the elder at the restaurant, and was given the reply that he could visit whenever he wanted. He even was told that it would be fine to visit tomorrow. He was a little worried that he might be inconveniencing him, but he was told that he was actually rather welcome since elder Yoon was taking a break from work. Things led to one another and president Lee Junmin and Ganghwan got involved in this as well. When he told Sungjae about it, he seemed rather happy. It seemed that he was a fan of a lot of people.
Maru threw the hat in his hand in the air once before catching it again. He got an autograph on the hat Sungjae was wearing.
“I guess this should calm her down for a while.”
This was a magical item that would turn his coquettish little sister into an obedient one. He even had Sungjae write ‘Bada, do well in your studies’ on the inside of the hat. It would be great if she was touched after seeing it and actually end up going to a good high school.
He thought about going home before walking to the convenience store right across the street. He wanted some coffee. He saw the part timer flinch before standing up. He felt sorry for some reason.
He brought two cans of coffee to the counter. The POS device created beeping sounds.
“That will be 1000 won.”
“You’re the one, right?” The part timer asked.
Maru smiled awkwardly before grabbing the coffee. The part timer told him that she’d put them in a bag for him before rummaging below the counter.
“I don’t need one.”
He took the coffee and left the store. He turned around just in case, but he saw the part timer staring at him. When they met eyes, they both smiled awkwardly and nodded.
‘So there are people that recognize me.’
That was the scariness of the media. No, perhaps it was the power of a popular drama? It felt rather strange to have a total stranger recognize him first and talk to him.
He grabbed the door handle and twisted it. The lights in the living room had been turned off. His mother was working at the supermarket so she would come home late, and as for Bada… was she hanging out with her friends?
Just as he took a step into the living room after taking off his shoes, Bada’s door suddenly opened. She was fuming as she approached him.
“What is it?”
He was rather confused, so he asked first.
“It’s not fake, is it?”
“What’s not fake?”
He had no context to work with here. Bada went back to her room in frustration before coming back out again with a laminated autograph.
“I mean this.”
“There are fake autographs?”
Maru took out the hat he brought and gave it to her. He was originally going to have her write a contract saying that she would be obedient for the next three months, but he subconsciously handed it to her when he saw her so depressed.
“Try flipping it around.”
Bada’s expression brightened instantly. She grabbed the hat with both of her hands and hopped into her room. Was it that good? He then remembered the news about a middle school girl fainting and being carried away by the ambulance during an idol concert. She wasn’t going to faint, right?
He went to his room and changed his clothes. His sister’s room was slightly open, but it was strangely quiet. He sat down on the sofa with a yawn when Bada came out dejected again.
“Where’d you get this?”
“Don’t lie to me. When you think about it, it doesn’t make sense. Let’s leave aside the tickets from last time. But this hat just doesn’t make sense! I mean, this is indeed the hat that Sungjae-oppa wears after concerts end. It is, but that’s even more strange.”
You are more strange for knowing when he wears such hats - he held back his words since Bada looked depressed.
As she was a rather hyperactive girl, she often came home after a fight. Even boys wouldn’t fight as often as her. When she was young, she had to make the other party bleed before coming home satisfied, but she became more girly ever since entering middle school.
However, it wasn’t like her personality would go anywhere. Once she started a fight, she would not back down at all. Even if she did something wrong, her expression would be daring. Yet such a girl was talking with a worried expression, not to mention her depressed demeanor.
“The girls… are teasing me saying that it’s fake.”
After pouting, Bada calmed down. Her lips trembled before she sniffed.
Maru gulped. If he was allowed to choose the most nervous moment of the year, he would choose this moment. His sister was about to cry!
“Hey, hey, hey. What is going on?”
Was this the sensibility of girls? Perhaps emotions welled up inside her without her being able to express them? He first gave her some tissue.
“Were you sad because someone said it was fake?”
“No, but she really… I was… ugh….”
It seemed that something happened at school. She usually didn’t act like this when she fought boys, so it seemed that some trouble had occurred with other girls.
Bada wiped her tears with the tissue. From how she wasn’t sniffing anymore, she seemed to have calmed down. All sorts of things arose in Maru’s mind as he looked at his sister’s sealed lips. Was she being bullied? Were there delinquent girls bullying her?
Although he quarrelled with her a lot, she was still his sister.
“If you can’t tell mom about it, then try telling me first.”
He was truly worried for her when he said those words.
When he did, Bada raised her head up before looking at him in a strange way.
“What the heck do you mean? It’s nothing like that.”
Bada sniffed in her snot before speaking. Her expression clearly spoke ‘who are you to worry?’. Maru clenched his fists slightly. If he didn’t have a sister, but a brother instead, he would’ve smacked him first.
“Then why are you crying? You surprised the heck out of me.”
“Because I’m frustrated!”
“I didn’t make you feel frustrated though.”
He was really annoyed now. He regretted worrying about her at all. Ah, that’s right. The fact that he cut off all communication with her was probably to protect his own feeble heart. Maru sighed.
“Well then, sum it up for me. What do you want me to do?”
“Prove to me that this is real.”
“...Give it back to me. All of them. Right now.”
“They’re fake after all, aren’t they? You just signed on whatever item you saw fit and brought them to me, didn’t you? This hat too.”
Bada waved the hat he brought in front of his eyes. He was reminded of Sungjae’s smile as he gave him that hat. He felt sorry, again and again.
“What are you going to do if it’s fake?”
“I’m going to kill you, for real.”
He crossed out the option to say that it was fake. She was someone that really went through with her plans if she said so. He could still remember her throwing a remote control at him because he ate some snacks in front of her. It was fortunate that the item nearby was a remote control. If it was a fruit knife or something, he would probably be smelling incense behind a portrait right now.
“Wait a minute.”
So this was how he was going to use up the favor he just got? Maru called Sungjae. His business was simple. Sungjae just had to let his sister hear his voice. Of course, this was only possible with Sungjae’s permission. Also, the other precondition was that his sister’s lips had to be sealed tight. If it was found out that a singer, who was supposed to be managing his image, had a phone call with a fan, he didn’t even want to imagine the consequences.
“Is it fine to accept it so easily?”
-It doesn’t matter. We’re on a break anyway. It’s just that, you gotta remember that your sister can’t talk about it to someone else. It’s not about me. Your sister might get into huge trouble.
Perhaps one might ask ‘what’s so bad about having a phone call with a singer?’. Maru would’ve thought Sungjae was overreacting if he didn’t see the news a few days ago.
A girl was beaten up because she hugged a popular idol and was taken by ambulance to the ER. Back then, he realized that obsession went beyond common sense.
Maru took his phone off his ear and looked at his sister.
“Promise me one thing.”
“Don’t boast about it to your friends. Can you do that?”
Bada made a confused expression, but she still nodded.
“If someone asks you about the items, tell them that I got them because I know an insider, okay? Well, here you go.”
“Who is it?”
Maru handed over the phone before going back to his room. A while later, he could hear hopping noises on top of cheerful screams.
* * *
Anyang 1st street. Maru was really glad to see the practice room building after such a long time. But just as he was about to enter the building,
He turned his head around when he heard someone calling out to him. Sooil was waving his hand at him as he was walking.
“Oh this? Some snacks.”
Sooil shook the plastic bags in each of his hands with a joyful smile.
“It’s mysterious how you don’t gain weight when you eat like that.”
“It’s fine because I move just as much. Rather than that, which floor is it?”
Maru pushed on the glass door as he spoke.
“It’s on the first bas.e.m.e.nt floor, room 205.”
The moist air unique to old buildings was circulating throughout the staircase, but it would change once he arrived at the practice room. When he went half way down the stairs, he heard some sounds already. A band accompaniment, and the singing of the singer, as well as the shouts that could be heard throughout. Although the practice rooms had been soundproofed, the rooms were so closely attached that sound could still be heard anyway.
“That’s a nice atmosphere.”
Sooil waved around the plastic bags before following him. Maru slightly pulled on the door that said 205.
Inside was Ganghwan, who was doing a handstand.