Yuyu, who had come to meet me four days in a row since Monday morning, was nowhere to be seen.
Although I waited for a while just to be sure, she didn’t show up, and I ended up going to school alone in the pouring rain that hadn’t let up since yesterday while feeling an unidentifiable, ominous premonition.
And when I set my foot inside the classroom, that premonition became a reality.
I greeted Sega who sat behind me as usual, but his response was somewhat awkward. I sat down in my seat, wondering why; however, I felt out of place right away.
There were eyes on me, and it wasn’t just one person.
Wh-What is this?
Almost a majority of the people inside the classroom were looking at me right now. Their gazes weren’t particularly malicious. Rather, they were close to being curious stares.
As I looked around the classroom in confusion, one sight came into view.
A group of girls were crowded at Yuyu’s seat, where she was always by herself. Smiling strangely, all of them were looking at my face.
And among them, Yuyu was looking at me with a blush on her face.
“Ahn~ Kyeong~ Hyun~”
A boy, who was in the same class as me last year that I haven’t really talked much with, approached me with some other guys. My body involuntarily got goose bumps from his slimy voice.
“I can’t believe you’re doing this to us, man. Grr, you son of a gun.”
“…What are you talking about?”
“I heard you didn’t even tell Sega. He must be disappointed.”
“Well, I wouldn’t go that far.”
Sega replied, smiling bitterly from the back. Still, I couldn’t understand what was going on.
“So just what is this all ab—“
“You’re dating Yuyu, right?”
My heart felt like it stopped at those unexpected words.
“I was talking to Yuyu earlier. She said you two are dating.”
My speech involuntarily became similar to that of Yuyu’s when she’s tongue-tied.
“She came in early in the morning and asked me if you were here yet. When I asked her why, she replied it was because she was curious since she’s your girlfriend.”
While listening to Sega explaining the situation calmly, I thought to myself:
What the hell is she doing?!
“Man, the top two of the school going out with each other? I guess it’s nice since you’re both in the same league?”
“What do you do when you’re together? Just study? I can’t imagine what you would do when you’re on a date with a girl.”
“H-How far have you gone? Don’t tell me you’ve already kissed. Say it’s not true!”
“No, they say it’s always the quiet ones, so he must’ve already…”
“I’ve always believed in you! I knew you weren’t gay!”
The whole classroom became chaotic. Even the guys that I’ve never really talked to before came up and started commenting.
“I think everyone’s interested because there hasn’t been a class couple until now.”
I couldn’t even hear Sega’s voice properly.
My mind was swarmed with queries. I couldn’t comprehend why this kind of situation was unfolding at all.
Just why did Yuyu start all this?
Keeping my usual low profile, I’ve always taken meticulous caution in order to be able to attend school in quiet. I’ve kept myself distanced from complications before they rise well in advance, and made continuous effort so that I’d be able to study in peace, staying away from trouble.
Thanks to that, I was able to spend my school life quietly in peace until now. Without getting entangled in a complex web of relationships inside the classroom, without getting swept along by the commotion of the hot-blooded youth, I had created an optimum environment that I could spend time in simply studying.
But now, my school life was getting turned completely upside down.
Biting my lips, I stood up from my seat.
I wasn’t going to sit still. I’ll definitely lose it if I don’t give her a piece of my mind this instant.
“Ah! Glasses is heading over to his lover!”
“Ooh, what a lucky guy, ooh.”
Pushing my way through the boys surrounding me, I tried to get closed to Yuyu.
Yuyu, who usually didn’t have friends, was presently surrounded by a large number of girls.
“Yu Yuyu, let me know if Glasses tries to do something weird to you. I’ll make sure to teach him a lesson or two.”
“O-Okay. B-By the way, I don’t like being called by my full name, so please call me ‘Yuyu’. Glasses calls me that, too…”
“Ah, really? But I see that you call him Glasses as well, Yuyu. That’s funny.”
“Say say, what is he like when you two are out alone? Is he still taciturn like in class?”
“Oh oh, you two are all lovey-dovey when you’re alone together, aren’t ya?”
“I’m a model student with a heart of ice, but my blood runs hot when it comes to my girl… T-That sounds pretty nice.”
“U-Um… G-Gee, I can’t say…”
“Ahaha~ You’re surprisingly cute, Yuyu.”
“By the way, Yuyu, I’ve always been curious… Haven’t your breasts gotten larger than before? Is there some kind of a secret to it? D-Don’t tell me it’s because your boyfriend has been fondling them… Kyaa~”
…I, I can’t cut in on their conversation.
If I cut in recklessly, I might get detained by the girls and be hit by a barrage of questions. Even just imagining the situation send shivers down my spine.
‘I' got to do something…!’
Having grown anxious, I made up my mind to confront this head on.
After breaking through the crowd of girls to reach Yuyu, I’ll pull her out of the classroom right away without giving them any opportunity to ask me questions!
Shouting her name, I immediately moved towards where she was sitting.
The girls were surprised by my sudden intrusion, and Yuyu was staring at me with her eyes wide open.
I didn’t say anything further and grabbed Yuyu’s arm. I reckoned that everyone’s attention in the classroom was on me, but there was no helping it now.
At the moment when I made Yuyu stand up in order to pull her out of the classroom…
“The homeroom teacher’s coming…!”
A short yell was heard. At the same time, the classroom turned into chaos momentarily.
The girls surrounding Yuyu quickly returned to their seats. The guys who were surrounding my seat did the same as well.
And all of their eyes were on me, who had frozen still with my hand holding Yuyu’s arm.
The stern-looking teacher stepped into the classroom, and almost simultaneously I let go of Yuyu’s arm.
Receiving the teacher’s cold and every classmate’s curiosity-ridden stare, I returned to my seat.
And after the morning assembly was over…
“Ahn Kyeong-hyun, come to the student council room after you’ve eaten your lunch.”
…I want to die. This is the end of my school life.
I looked for a chance to talk to Yuyu in private whenever it was breaktime, but it was difficult to find the right timing to drag her out with so many people watching.
In the end, I was able to drag Yuyu out of the classroom only after the third period was over.
“What in the world were you thinking?!”
I shouted at her as soon as we arrived at a remote location where people didn’t pass through.
Yuyu’s body cowered, but she bit her lips and raised her head right away.
“W-What do you mean?”
“You know what I’m talking about!” Flabbergasted, I raised my voice again. “Why did you tell them that we’re dating?!”
“B-But it’s the truth! There’s no need to hide it!”
“What?! That’s not…!”
I could feel my blood pressure rising from her absurdity.
Even if it’s true that Yuyu and I were really dating before, we had been keeping it under wraps until now.
Yuyu had told me that she had kept our romantic relationship a secret because it was embarrassing. It had seemed to me that Yuyu didn’t have any intention to tell other people about the fact that we were going out.
It was the same for me. Dating itself was an inconvenience to the school life that I was aiming towards, and if other people found out about it, I’d become the center of attention and receive their unnecessary interest. A far cry from the quiet school life that I wanted.
Therefore, we don’t tell other people that we’re dating. Although this is of course on the premise that we were going out before is true, I’m sure we were of the same opinion in regard to this matter.
“Why are you telling other people now?! We had been keeping it a secret so far!”
“B-But, yesterday you…!” Yuyu tried to say something, but she closed her mouth, then she averted her gaze in an expression with mixed emotions and mumbled, “I only wanted to tell other people about it to let them know that I’m going out with you.”
I was lost for words. A maiden’s heart was beyond my realm of comprehension.
“…That’s just your self-assertion.” Frustrated, I opened my mouth. “If it isn’t true… that we were dating before, what are you going to do? What happens if I have no memory of us being together when my memories return?”
Do I explain to the other guys that Yuyu took advantage of my amnesia and lied to them? Just thinking about it gave me a headache. Not only that, I don’t know what sort of gossip will spread about Yuyu and me afterwards. This was not a viable option.
Do I just tell them we broke up with each other? Even if I do, a bothersome situation is bound to occur either way.
“T-Then…” Yuyu’s face turned bright red and she looked up to me, “W-We just have to keep dating.”
I was at a loss for words again.
I can’t comprehend what this girl is saying.
“I-Isn’t it fine? There’d be no need to give them a complicated explanation, and they’re all being supportive, so why don’t we just keep dating?” Shrinking back, Yuyu continued while forcing a smile, “Then we wouldn’t have to worry about people around us, and studying together would be much easier. I’ll lend you more course materials from the academy, so let’s just keep…”
Interrupting her unexpected reply, I raised my voice.
“Just what are you saying right—”
At that moment, a loud melody rang out from somewhere. It was the sound of the bell that notified break time has ended and that fourth period was starting.
“O-Oh no! We have to get back quickly!”
After shouting those words abruptly, Yuyu left me alone and started running.
“Yu Yuyu! Wait!”
“I’ll go on ahead! You should hurry as well!”
Despite my attempt to stop her, Yuyu ran off like the wind by herself. Although she didn’t seem to have a good athletic ability, her escape was in the wink of an eye.
“What the hell…”
I couldn’t understand why Yuyu was being like this.
Isn’t she supposed to be trying to prove that she’s my real girlfriend?
And here I was, dating her like I have done so far in order to regain my memory.
“Why is this happening to me…?”
I stood there vacantly when I should be returning to my classroom.
The mock exam was tomorrow, but I couldn’t remember anything about what I’d learned, and only the number of incomprehensible events was increasing with each day.
The situation was getting way out of control, and I had no idea how I’d turn things back to normal.
And when lunchtime rolled around, Yuyu did something unpredictable again.
Unlike what other students had anticipated Yuyu to do, which was for her to start talking to me, she stood up from her seat and struck up a conversation with Sega sitting behind me in a nervous voice.
“…What is it?”
“W-Would you like to have lunch with us? With me and Glasses!”
Yuyu stuttered to Sega who was staring at her quizzically.
What the hell are you doing?!
My eyes widened at the totally unexpected development.
I quickly tried to tell Sega that he didn’t need to, but surprisingly he gave a small smile and nodded his head.
“Sure. It’s been a while since I’ve had lunch with Kyeong-hyun.”
With that reply, Sega apologized to the other classmates for the inconvenience and placed the desks end-to-end, creating a spot for us to have our lunch in an instant. It was done with all too swift precision that I had no chance to stop him.
Perhaps due to Sega’s grandeur, the people who were bothering Yuyu and me during every break time no longer approached us. Although there were furtive glances our way, they had begun preparing to eat in their respective seats.
Looks like I have no choice but to have lunch with Yuyu and Sega today.
Helplessly, I placed the lunch that Yeon-hee had packed for me in the morning down on the desk. Yeon-hee followed suit with the lunch that she’d probably prepared herself, and Sega took out his.
“Your lunch looks wonderful…”
Yuyu widened her eyes at the contents of Sega’s lunchbox.
It has always been like this but Sega’s lunch is packed in elaborate balance with dishes of culinary arts that you’d see at traditional Korean restaurants. If Yeon-hee were to prepare that kind of lunch, she’d have to wake up at least an hour early.
“We have a personal chef at our home. Help yourself if there’s anything you’d like to try.”
“I-Is that okay?”
“Hey now, Yuyu…”
Despite by dissuasion, Yuyu ate a sidedish composed of various vegetables wrapped with a slice of beef with her chopsticks.
“I-It’s delicious! It’s pleasant to the eyes and on a whole different class than the lunch that I made…”
“Do you prepare your own lunch? I find that incredible.”
“It’s nothing of the sort! I made one for Glasses before, but I was a bit embarrassed of how it didn’t turn out so well…”
“Still, I’m sure Kyeong-hyun liked it, though he may not have expressed it clearly.”
…They’re having a cordial conversation!
It felt like an ideal conversation between a ‘girl who’s meeting her boyfriend’s friend for the first time’ and a “boy who’s meeting his friend’s girlfriend for the first time”. Their topic was unusual, but the mood was great.
“So the two of you have been eating together during lunchtime?”
“Y-Yeah. Gosh, being found out sure is embarrassing…
I silently ate my lunch, watching them talk back and forth in such manner with mixed emotions. Since I don’t acknowledge that I had been dating Yuyu, it was difficult for me to carelessly join in on the chat.
But at the moment, Sega spoke in a calm voice.
“The reason why you’re making your relationship public and arranging this occasion with me is probably because you’re aiming to further substantiate the relationship between the two of you. I’m sure everyone understands Kyeong-hyun is your boyfriend now.”
Yuyu’s face stiffened slightly at his words. I also realized the nuance behind Sega’s words and swallowed my breath.
Sega had likely noticed that this revelation had nothing to do with me and that Yuyu had acted all on her own. By revealing in secret that he is aware of the truth, he’s admonishing Yuyu not take it too far by herself
“But having gained official approval from others also means that your relationship is no longer just between you two. Both of you will have to take care to have a responsible relationship.”
Speaking such insightful words, Sega looked so mature.
“…Hey Sega, do you have a girlfriend?”
I asked him out of the blue.
“Then have you had one before?”
“Nope. You should know this, too.”
Yes, that’s how it was according my memory.
“You really have no plans on getting a girlfriend?”
“A-As I thought, you’re after Glasses because you’re really a ho— Kyaa!”
Before Yuyu could finish her drivel, I stepped on her foot to shut her mouth.
“Of course not. I’m a normal male.”
Sega answered her, smiling bitterly.
“Then why aren’t you getting a girlfriend? If it’s you, I’m sure you can pick and swap as you please.”
Sega stopped moving his chopsticks and fell into a moment of thought.
“Although I’m interested in the opposite gender as a man, I have no desire of dating multiple women.”
“If I can meet a woman that I find to be the best for me and solely love that person—that one person in my life—I think that would be enough.”
After saying that, Sega bitterly smiled once more.
“I’m not really looking to date anyone until I find that person.”
I looked vacantly at Sega who had finished speaking.
Sega titled his head as I stared at him still without words.
“…N-No, it’s nothing.”
Wh-What is this…
My faux-homosexual friend is looking so cool right now…
“What a world of difference to some three-timing boy I know… Ow!”
I stepped on Yuyu’s foot again for her mumbling.
That’s a yet unconfirmed fact! Don’t make a comparison like that! It makes me seem like a really terrible guy!
I turned my attention to Sega who was looking strangely at me.
If I was really three-timing, I’d be overwhelmed with shame standing before this guy and would probably have to kneel down and start confessing my sins. …Not as a joke, but for real.
This guy was living with such firm beliefs, while I was spending my time being pushed around at the mercy of these girls.
“What is it?”
“If I told you that I’m three-timing… that I’m dating not only Yuyu but other girls as well, what would you think of it?
Yuyu stared at me with an expression of surprise, but I disregarded it and kept looking at Sega.
“Three-timing, huh?” Sega thought for a moment. “That’s an interesting story.”
“Of course, I’m not saying that I have the skills to date three girls at the same time…”
“Well, if it’s you, I think you have sufficient skills to do so.”
“Wh-What are you talking about?”
Not knowing if his comment was serious or a joke, my face turned red.
“I don’t think it’s particularly bad.”
“Even if you are dating three girls at once, I don’t think that is particularly bad.”
His response was unexpected.
“But there’s no way that would be socially acceptable… And if we consider from your view of love as a standard, then three-timing is out of the question.”
“Things like social norms are not important, and everyone has their own method of dating people. The choice is yours to make to three-time. That is, if you can manage the consequent responsibility. No matter what others may say, I think it’s okay as long as you walk down your own path.”
Suddenly I realized what Sega was saying similar to what I’d said to Ka-ryeon yesterday.
‘If you can endure everything you’ll come across on the path you’ve chosen, you have nothing to be ashamed of no matter what others may say,’ is what I had said to her.
“There would of course be problems along the way, but…” Sega paused for a moment. “You won’t have regrets if you can act like a man.”
“Act like a man? You mean I should be sincere and honest?”
“You don’t need to go that far. Sometimes it’s necessary for a man to be duplicitous.”
“…I don’t quite understand.”
As I said that, Sega smiled.
“I believe that’s the first time I’ve heard you say that.”
Sorry but recently there’s been a lot of stuff I don’t understand! I’m really at my wit’s end lately!
“But it sure is refreshing.”
Said Sega who had started eating his lunch again.
“It’s been more than a year already since I’ve known you, but I think this is the first time we’ve had a profound discussion like this.”
“I-Is that so?”
“Yes, quite so. …After all, you weren’t very interested in other people.”
His remark weighed on my mind, but Yuyu was nodding her head next to me as though there was a part that she agreed with.
“You’ve changed a little, though I don’t know the reason why.”
While saying that, Sega's attention shifted towards Yuyu who became wide-eyed. Sega smiled back and resumed eating his lunch again.
“That reminds me, Kyeong-hyun, are you sure you should be eating while talking leisurely like this?”
“If I recall, our class teacher told you come to the student council room after you’ve eaten your lunch.”
…I totally forgot about that!
“…Pardon my intrusion.”
Having come here running after gobbling down my lunch, I nervously opened the door to the student counseling room.
Different from regular classrooms, the interior of the counseling room was of soft pastel tone to make people feel at ease. However, due to my situation being as it is, my mind wasn’t at ease at all.
“Did you call for me, Mr. Kim?”
I asked the homeroom teacher sitting on the sofa, who always had a temperamental look about him. Frowning, he opened his mouth.
“You don’t have to be so formal with me when we’re alone.”
He cast a cold stare behind his glasses with a stern voice. I flinched involuntarily, but I let out a sigh and sat on the opposite side of the sofa.
Uncle Muhyeok, the homeroom teacher sitting across from me, was our guardian.
“Are your studies going well?”
“And how’s your little sister?”
“She’s fine as usual.”
The conversation was curt, but our conversations had always been like this.
As an old friend of our dad, he was the person who became our guardian when our dad who had no relatives passed away.
But since we mostly take care of ourselves, the only things he helps us with were legal matters. No financial support or anything of the sort.
“You’re always taking care of yourselves. Sorry for not being able to help you that much.”
“N-No, not at all.”
I knew that he had no time to spare since he was taking care of his stroke-stricken mother by himself. Nevertheless, it was thanks to him resolving our inheritance problem and other complicated issues that my sister and I were able to live together. I was certainly grateful.
…Our relationship is really awkward, though.
“I called you here to discuss a certain matter.”
He cut straight to the chase.
“I saw it this morning. What’s your relationship with that girl?”
Sure enough, it was about what happened in the morning.
‘That girl’… He’s not even calling her by her name, huh.
“You’re not dating her, are you?”
I was in a predicament.
There was no way I could explain to this strict person that I had actually lost my memories and that I was temporarily dating three girls due to the suspicion that I had been three-timing them. Furthermore, I couldn’t just affirm his question for the moment and move on while it was uncertain that I had been dating Yuyu for real.
“I’ve told you time and time again.”
I didn’t know how he took my silence, but he said in a stern voice.
“It is a student’s duty to study. Getting distracted by romance and neglecting one’s studies is something foolish children do. You must never be like them.”
A strict lecture with no room for backtalk.
If it wasn’t for my penchant for academics, I would have been considerably stressed out due to this person. Even I find him hard to bear, so I can only imagine what it must feel like for other people.
Erring on the side of caution to smoothly pass over this situation, I opened my mouth.
“…It’s fine, uncle. We don’t really have that kind of relationship… We just study together sometimes.”
I left out some of the stuff, but it wasn’t so much as to call it a lie.
“You know too that she’s ranked second in our school … Studying together is quite beneficial.”
I told him while selecting the right words to his liking.
But he just knit his brows.
“Not with that girl.”
“She probably seduced you like a slithering serpent she is because she knew you wouldn’t approach her first.”
That expression echoed inside my mind.
“That girl had always been the top student since middle school. But from the time that she entered the same high school as you, she got pushed back to being second place all the time.”
“What does that have to do with…”
“She approached you to make your grades drop so that she can take the first place for herself. Don’t fall for it. …Women are always that.”
I felt the anger rising within myself.
“Uncle… No, Mr. Kim—” Even though it was him, I was angry. Yuyu is certainly a pain in the ass, but I’ve been eating and studying with her all this time. She wasn’t a stranger to me. I found it hard to simply overlook his comment. “Aren’t you being too harsh? No matter what it may be, treating a student that way is…”
I was aware of his disinclination toward girls.
He didn’t like Yeon-hee that much either, and instances of him discriminating against girls were common. When he talked about the upcoming mock exam last Monday, I was the only person that he gave words of encouragement to. He said nothing to Yuyu who was ranked second. That was probably because Yuyu was a girl.
Although he had a problem with his sexist mindset, I had tried to not think badly of him since he was our guardian. However, this was taking it too far.
“…What in the world are you saying?”
There was a look of surprise on the teacher’s face.
“You’re the one who told me that she had stolen your notes.”
Like a sharp spear from a sprung trap, the fragment of my lost memories pierced my heart.
“I was keeping quiet since you’ve told me you would take of it yourself, but… Did something happen?”
I couldn’t say anything back. To hide my trembling hands from view, I placed my hands down beside my legs.
“…Never mind, I won’t poke my nose into your affairs. I’m sure you’ll take care of it.” After clearing his throat, he continued while nodding his head. “I know you’re not the type to get deceived by a girl and neglect your studies.”
“What… are you…”
“I understand completely. Considering how that woman was, there’s no way you would do such a thing.”
“I’m talking about that wretched woman who used to be your mother… The one that ran away and left behind her husband’s son and even her own daughter.”
He blurted out as though he was fed up.
“That woman that your father married right after your mother’s death… I was against it from the start. I knew that woman well, and she was a loose woman. It was regretful that your father had to marry her because she was pregnant…”
He let out a long sigh.
“You see, from an early age, she had a taste for smart men. But your father wasn’t that kind of a person. Eventually, after living as she pleased, she abandoned her own daughter and eloped with a university professor. God knows what she’s doing now…”
“Your father’s health deteriorated after that and he ultimately passed away at a young age in the end. Having experienced that, for you to become bewitched and neglect your studies is—”
“Mr. Kim!” Grabbing my knees tightly, I shouted. “The reason why… I studied a lot and didn’t try to get a girlfriend… wasn’t because of that. I already forgot everything about that person. It’s the same for Yeon-hee as well.”
Desperately, I stressed my words.
“The reason why I’m like this now… is because I was dumped by a girl that I had a crush on in elementary school due to my poor grades. I hit the books after that and lost my interest in girls.”
“……” He watched me closely with his mouth closed. “I see. I’m sorry.”
And that’s how the conversation ended. Since I got a call on my cellphone afterwards, he didn’t say anything further and dismissed me right away.
I stepped out of the counseling room and looked for a secluded location. Although the Audiovisual Reference Prep Room was the first place that came to mind, I didn’t feel like heading there.
Eventually, I ended up outside in a quiet spot behind the school building. I leaned against the wall and looked up to the sky.
The digression had thrown me off balance, and I had said things that were unnecessary.
Like what I had said to Ka-ryeon last time, the incident in elementary school was nothing more than a phase. It wasn’t like that incident had a great influence on me or anything. But one thing led to another, and ended up saying that was the reason.
The disappearance of that woman who was my mother at the time didn’t have a great influence on me, either. Those incidents had by no means determined my life.
My current way of life was of my own volition. It wasn’t because of those traumas that I avoided girls and buried myself in my studies— I wasn’t a dramatic person like that. I had no interest in other things because I simply loved studying. This was the life I chose.
Was that the real case?
Did those incidents truly had no influence on me?
She should be in her classroom right now.
Was she lying to me? Was she deceiving me like that girl who had led me on with her real secret intent to exploit me, and like that woman who had married my father while hiding the truth that Yeon-hee was another man’s child? And what about Ka-ryeon and Yeon-hee?
Engulfed in the complex emotions that I couldn’t resolve, I leaned against the wall until the rings of the school bell.