Lee Sunji, Maru’s mother, woke up as she turned off the alarm from her phone . Her husband was away on the night shift . She folded her sheets and walked out into the kitchen with a stretch . Today was the day when Maru and Bada would start school again . Maru, in a new school, and Bada, in a new classroom . She thought of her two sleeping children as she took the pre-soaked rice from the night before and put it on the rice cooker . Right then, Maru walked out of his room without any signs of fatigue .
“You’re awake, mother?” he said .
“ . . . What?” Why was he sounding so polite all of the sudden? Sunji stared at him for a second in surprise .
“Ah, you’re up . ” Maru immediately spoke a lot more casually as he turned in nervousness .
“Of course I am . I have to make breakfast . Why are you up so early?” she asked .
“I think I just got… nervous . ” he confessed . Sunji wondered what happened to the boy for him to try to be so polite . Was he trying to change how he spoke since he was now a high schooler? She was as humored as she was prideful .
“Go wash up, it’ll be awhile before the food finishes . ”
“Yes, I mean, sure . ”
Sunji wore a curious look as her son entered the bathroom .
* * *
“How awkward . ” Maru muttered to himself quietly . His memories were mostly gone, but he did still remember a few things . It felt a little strange to talk with his mother with such a casual tone . Though… when did he decide to treat her more respectfully again?
“I think around the time when I first got my check, huh . ” He found himself speaking more politely to his parents when he realized how difficult it was to actually live in a society .
“Mother . Mom . Father . Dad . ” Maru found himself growing accustomed to speaking like this faster than he had thought . Alright, perfect .
He washed his face and hair . He found himself smiling when he realized it took more than 20 seconds for the water to heat up . It was stuff like this that really made him realize he was back in the past . Maru walked out of the bathroom to discover his mom making some soup . He could understand now why moms were able to wake up so early to cook breakfast all the time .
They simply wanted their children to have a good day . No more, no less .
“Need help?” looking at her cook all the food made him want to help out a little .
“I’m good . You know stuff like this won’t actually make me give you a larger allowance, right?”
“How’d you know?”
“Because I’m your mom . ” she answered in an obvious tone .
Maru opened the fridge trying to hold in his laughter . He could see dad’s beer and mom’s plum and raspberry extracts inside . He forgot how much he missed seeing this . His mom looked at him with a surprised face when he started mixing some of the syrup with water to drink .
“I thought you hated stuff like this . ” she said .
“Did I?” he asked back .
“You always ask for soda instead whenever I made you one . ” oh, right . He did . He used to hate how it made warm water taste weirdly sweet and sour . He decided to make up a quick excuse to cover it up .
“My tastes probably changed . ” Maru silently exclaimed in joy as he took another sip of the drink . He couldn’t really explain it, but this syrup stuff was really good for men, he felt .
“Oh dear, look at the time already . Go wake Bada up . ” mom asked . It was already 7:00am . About time to start getting ready for school .
“Sure . ”
“Don’t kick her again . ” she warned .
“I know, I know . ” Maru waved her off casually as he entered his sister’s room . The girl was curled up in her blankets like a caterpillar .
‘Come to think of it, we never talked after that point . ’ he thought .
His sister went through a divorce once in the future . It was a common occurence back then, but he’d never imagined his own sister to go through it . He used to meet up with his sister every once in a while and watch movies together back in college, but they stopped talking after his sister started living on her own . He’d just maybe see her face at family gatherings? He didn’t have a bad relationship with her, but it wasn’t great either . Just… average, he supposed .
She just completely disappeared after her divorce, though . She would call the family whenever a family gathering happened . The last he heard about his sister was when his mother told him about how she was meeting a new man . Maru hesitated for a second when he thought about what he would call his sister . His 45-year old self would just refer to her as ‘you’ most of the time .
‘But the me of now . . . ’ For the Maru of the freshman year of high school… he could only recall a single name .
“Fatty . ” he said as he kicked the girl’s foot lightly . He immediately felt bad about doing it, but he couldn’t change his habits so easily right away . That’s right . This was the Maru of high school .
“Ah… What the hell?” Bada glared at Maru with a half-opened eyes before burying her head back into the pillow . Maru thought about kicking her again, but decided to just lean over to her face instead .
“Wake up, it’s morning . ”
“Ah, damn it . ”
Maru took a close look at his sister’s face . So this was what she looked like . He couldn’t remember his sister’s future face very well . Maru poked the girl’s forehead . He couldn’t resist . She just looked cute .
“Ah, damn it! Now you’re poking me, too?!” Bada stood up as she shouted angrily . Maru escaped before the girl got any louder . Her bad temper was the only thing that stayed constant throughout that girl’s life .
‘Ah, that must be it . That was the reason behind her divorce, wasn’t it?’ he thought as he ran away .
Maru sat down on the table as Bada walked out with a sour look .
“Ah, mom, he keeps hitting me . ” she complained .
“Wake up on time, then . ”
The mom retorted with ease . Bada, knowing that she couldn’t beat mom in an argument, just headed to the bathroom with a pout .
“You kicked her again, didn’t you?” she asked .
“Nope . ” of course, he denied it . It didn’t really work though .
“Why can’t you be more friendly with her? You used to walk around everywhere with her hand in yours back in the day . ”“I did?” Maru tried looking back in his memories . Did that really happen? He could somewhat remember himself walking around town with his sister’s hand in his . They used to go to arcades and go into the mountains together .
‘Right… and then I ended up losing her once . ’ Maru ended up smiling when he remembered the memory .
“What is it?” mom asked .
“It’s nothing . I just remembered something old . ” he paused for a second as if he was still thinking about it . “You know, when I lost Bada . ”
“Ah, then . ” she seemed to remember as well . “You cried a lot back then, since you couldn’t find her at all . ”
“Of course you did . Anyway, here, have some food before you go . You got your bag, right?”
Maru nodded in affirmation .
“Don’t get on your teacher’s bad side . Alright? Make some new friends, too . You only get your real friends in high school . ”
“I know, I know . I’m not a kid you know . ”
“Of course you are . Don’t hang out with weirdos, ok?”
Maru nodded with a smile . She was right .
Right now, he was just a kid .
* * *
“I’ll be back . ”
“Be careful of cars!”
Mom’s goodbyes never really changed . Be careful of cars . She started saying it after Maru’s grandfather passed from a car accident .
Maru opened the door and stepped out . The cold air of the morning whipped across his face . It was march . Getting a little warmer, but still closer to winter than spring . Maru walked down to the first floor and unlocked his bike from the stand .
“Haven’t seen this baby in a while . ”
A casual bike armed with a simple shift . Maru hopped onto the bike and started pedalling . The air between his fingers felt frigid . But even this made him want to shout in joy .
“I’m… really back . ” he muttered . An image of Mrs . Yu flashed over his vision for a split second .
‘Thank you for giving me this chance . ’ he prayed in thanks .
Maru stopped at a crossing for a second to take out his MP3 . It’s been a long while since he’s seen one . He plugged the earphones into the jack and started listening . Most were songs from singers in the early 2000s .
“This is good stuff . ” he found himself muttering . At least, it was far better than those so-called k-pop songs with english mixed all over the place . He much rather preferred listening to songs he could actually understand . Maru stepped on the pedal as he sang along to some of the lyrics .
“The love I have for you~”
After around 30 minutes of pedalling… He could see the school coming into view .
‘That still looks the same . Then again, it would be strange if it didn’t, huh?’
A rectangular complex made with brownish bricks . Right in front of the building was a small podium meant for the principal . The field in front of the podium was a little larger than your average school’s . There was even a basketball court in the right corner of the school . And for whatever reason they even had a little pavilion next to it as well . Around there was also a small water fountain . Maru would often get water from there during a game .
Maru walked over to the main entrance . He found more and more students around him in their personal clothes . He, too, was in casual wear as well . There was a time back when he would be jealous of all the uniforms the other kids would wear . He quickly realized how much better casual wear was as he grew up though .
As he neared the entrance, he started feeling a strange sense of nostalgia and fear creep up from inside him . He could see a familiar face standing in front of him .
‘The disciplinary teacher . ’ The bald terror was standing in front of the door with a scissor in hand . Maru found himself clicking his tongue in disapproval . He had bad memories of getting his hair cut by those scissors .
The horrible thing about them was the fact that they were dull, so your hair wouldn’t get cut off, they’d just get pulled off .
“Come on, faster! Hey, you! What’s that on your hair?” One of the boys got caught by the teacher . The boy didn’t seem like a first year . He waddled over nervously in front of the teacher .
“Hah, wax? Trying to look cool on your first day?” the teacher glared .
“I’m sorry . ” the kid mumbled .
“Three laps around the field and come back to me . Got it?”
“Yessir . ”
“I’m going light on you since it’s the first day, alright? Go . ”
“Yessir . ”
The boy threw down his bag and started running . Maru passed by the teacher as he observed the scene .
‘Our mental age is similar but I still feel weirdly intimidated by the dude . ’ he found . He really did feel like a freshman .
* * *
After locking up his bike, Maru walked up to the second floor where his class was . He walked into class 2 for electrical engineering with a sense of nostalgia . The real him had never come here in the past, but Maru was fairly familiar with this classroom . The quiet atmosphere with the cold air… The other kids in the classroom were looking around nervously with their hands in their pockets . Right now, there were a total of 7 kids in the class .
Maru scanned the room quickly before going back to his own thing . Though… that ‘thing’ only really consisted of reading manga and listening to music, really . He decided to sit in the middle of the class . He’s always sat around here in high school . It was a spot the teachers always missed, and he could get to the store during lunch faster .
‘Come to think of it, I never studied during school . ’
Woosung Engineering High School . This was the school Maru decided to go back in the past .
‘Middle school was spent lazily as well . ’
Study a bit, play a bit . One of those students that never really made big mistakes .
That was pretty much who Maru was . One of those kids who weren’t dumb, but not smart enough to get themselves into a decent school . He had gone to middle school with the dream of getting into a good high school, but changed his mind to face reality by the end of it .
‘I can remember all this really clearly . Are my memories changing?’ Maru recalled the time when he was speaking with his middle school advisor . He could remember it well . His 45 year old self was getting more and more faint as time passed . Instead, he would slowly become himself in 2003 . He could feel himself actively changing as time went on .
“So I really am starting over . ” he realized . Even so, Maru tried his best to remember his wife and daughter . Since the woman had told him he could remember a few key things, he didn’t worry about it too much . As he thought a bit about the past and the future… He could hear a few kids talking next to him .
“Did he check you too?” one of them said .
“Check? Oh, you mean having to take my shirt off?”
“Ah, so you got it too . ”
“I was pretty scared, to be honest . The guy next to me had a tattoo on him . ”
“What happened to that guy?”
“The teacher told him to get it removed . ”
“Damn though, engineering schools really are something else, huh . I feel like they’re treating us like criminals . ”
“Just because we aren’t as good at studying as the other kids . . . ”
“Seriously . ”
“You smoke, by the way?”
“Me? Hell yeah . ”
“God damn . Let’s be friends . You got one on you right now?”
“On the first day? Hell no . I’ll think about bringing some tomorrow . ”
“Fair play . ”
Maru grinned as he listened to their conversation . He recalled seeing something similar to this in his memory surprisingly well . One of the kids brought a pack of cigarettes to class on the second day and ended up getting hit by the teacher’s chalk . That must’ve been him .