Track No. 02 – Twinkle (2)
Perhaps on the first day, she had just been intimidated by the atmosphere that she had encountered for the first time. Within a few days, she showed the side of a normal high school girl who was amiable and outgoing, and had created a natural talking relationship with the girls in our class.
On top of that, what took me by slight surprise was that Kim Ahyoung also showed considerable enthusiasm in her studies.
Although not even a week had passed since her transfer, and she had never properly attended school before, she could not be free from the term finals that were not far away, since she was also a student. However, Kim Ahyoung seemed to enjoy this situation that one could consider unfair. The sight of her sticking right next to the teacher or her classmates to ask questions was a sight that could be seen often, right from the day after her transfer.
If the situation above wasn’t the case, Kim Ahyoung would put her earphones on and listen to music alone; this was the one moment when nobody in the class interrupted her. It seemed that everyone had agreed upon the fact that they should not bother an international pop star while she was listening to music. To be honest, when I saw that, I thought that maybe it wouldn’t be too bad to become famous. It wasn’t often that one could experience another person respecting one’s private time.
Perhaps because I was exhausted by the commotion that continued for days, I oftentimes collapsed onto my bed when I returned home late from cram school.
Today as well, the finals practice questions that the homeroom teacher gave us to finish until tomorrow remained unfinished, but my fatigued body stuck to the comfortable blankets and refused to separate from them. Of course, yesterday, when I had to return from exercise, was more tiring than today, but the past was just the past. All I could do was stretch my arm to take out the CD player from the set of drawers beside my bed.
When I pressed the play button, grand orchestral music rolled out immediately. It seemed to fade out in an instant while the piano solo replaced it, and a girl’s voice was quietly placed on top. It was a young voice, but it could be instantly recognised that it was the voice that I had heard today as well.
The voice whispered as if it was tickling somebody, then exploded powerfully at the refrain. The resonant singing ability held a different charm from the earlier voice. I licked my dry lips and took out a music album from one of the drawers.
The album that I had listened to just once, after receiving it as a gift four years ago, was still as good as new. Even though, of course, the lack of fingerprints on an object symbolised just that much ignorance.
On the album cover, a girl with a bright expression was smiling while her blonde hair hung loose. Underneath it, a brilliant cursive engraved in intaglio caught one’s eyes.
A musical prodigy, born between a famous Korean composer father and a famous English pianist mother, who had been called a genius since young age.
It was the first album of Angel0, Kim Ahyoung.
She had been riding on fame even before her debut, being called a prodigy in her early days because of her beautiful appearance and outstanding skills. Although she received more attention from our country early in her career, as half of her blood was Korean, her multilingualism was not only limited to Korean and English, her appearance was said to be the advent of an angel, and her singing ability that the sky had gifted her with made her a worldwide star in a flash. Now, due to her endless activities, she had climbed up to a position where she was competing side-by-side against internationally recognised top singers.
In the beginning of November, the news that she was a fixed nominee for a few authoritative music awards this year as well was spreading quickly.
No more than two weeks ago, Kim Ahyoung announced a hiatus out of the blue.
Since it was Kim Ahyoung, who had held a concert the very day before, the announcement of her indefinite hiatus was enough to push the world into shock. Soon, press interviews around the world relayed the news live, but Kim Ahyoung merely confirmed her hiatus by saying that she would take some time to recharge.
It was obvious that the mass media was stimulated by her transfer to our school not long afterwards. Meaningless speculative articles and rumours of all natures regarding her hiatus and transfer spread, but Kim Ahyoung’s side did not pay a hair of attention. When many conspiracy theories circulated, our school merely replied by repeatedly saying that “her father wished to send his daughter to alma mater, which was our school”.
As such, Kim Ahyoung was enjoying her school life as normally as possible. My normal and cozy school life would be maintained by concentrating on my studies, rather than taking an interest in gossip and laying about.
I once again organized everything into the drawers and sat in front of the desk. I was just looking through my bag and taking out a sheet full of questions when I suddenly felt my phone vibrating.
Why did these things only happen when a student decided to study?
I answered the phone with deploration.
It was a familiar woman’s voice. However, she was talking jabber. When I stayed silent, subsequently once again.
I was wondering how I should respond when that mysterious sound echoed again.
「Whoa, awesome. As expected of my little brother! How did you understand a Finnish greeting?」
(TL: Koreans commonly refer to their cousins as if they are siblings. This also applies to co-workers.)
When I imitated her word like a parrot, a speech of praise towards me, together with a cheer, came through the earpiece. When I checked the screen of the phone, I noticed that the arrangement of the telephone numbers were strange and unfamiliar to me.
Did this human really just call me from Finland?
I pretended not to feel anything and grumbled into the phone.
“Finnish or Danish or whatever – why should I care? Do you know what time it is now?”
「Where are your manners to your older sister, who even took the effort to call you via an international call from the hotel? Do you wanna get scolded?」
“Do you wanna get scolded by auntie because you called at 1 a.m.?”
「So petty! Don’t tell on Mom!」
One could easily win when they seized the opposition’s weakness.
“You went travelling in secret again, didn’t you?”
Sangah-noona answered obediently, quickly disheartened by my criticising manner of speech. At any rate, she called for a good cause, and I didn’t feel very good listening her respond with this kind of attitude either.
As a kind younger brother, I decided to cheer her up.
“So you wanted to boast about it? Finland is awesome?”
「Yeah! It’s seriously like heaven here! This is the promised land of metal! The you in my fantasy!」
(TL: “The you in my fantasy!” is a reference to a well known 90’s song by Seo Taeji.)
I really did not agree with the last statement.
I could tell how excited noona was from how the tone of voice rose rapidly. She was a high-tensioned person to begin with, but I could feel that she was having fun just from hearing her voice over the earpiece.
Finland was a place that was often mentioned when I talked with Sangah-noona. I was never the expert in it, but noona would always excitedly spill out an ode to that country of rock.
I quickly asked, in order to seal Sangah-noona’s mouth as she started to rattle on and brag about her plans one by one.
“Are you travelling with your band people again?”
「Yeah. We met up with a few other band people over here and drank ‘til dawn! Everyun’s knocked out. I’m the first to wake up. Just now!」
Ah, my head. Though, it should be okay since she wasn’t the type to show bad drinking habits – I knew since I had cleaned up after her multiple times – I offered a moment of silence for the people who had collapsed in front of Sangah-noona’s drinking capacity, which was said to be undefeatable even by men who had a fair tolerance against alcohol.
Oblivious to my thoughts, Sangah-noona let out a silly laugh that seemed to show her happiness: 「Hehehe.」 It was clear that she was calling while she was still hungover. Don’t go all drunk-crazy on a minor, woman.
“It’s past midnight here. Time for good children to go to bed.”
「It’s not even five over here. But it’s already dark! So there ain’t much difference from there. It’s dark all the same.」
No, there are a lot of differences.
「So anyway, we’ve decided that we’ll go see a dinosaur after lunch tomorrow!」
「Yeah. Apparently dinosaurs perform here.」
I changed my voice into one with a depressing tone.
“I’m sorry, noona. I didn’t know. You sound like you’ve been through a lot.”
「Don’t treat me like a madman! What I’m saying is that there’s a band called Heavy Saurus here! Though, it’s a project band!」
So, to summarise Sangah-noona’s explanation that continued on and on, it seemed that famous musicians were gathering to dress up as dinosaurs and play rock music to children. They were also performing only during the day, and limiting the volume for the wellbeing of the children’s ears.
The question why? automatically popped into my head, but it seemed like it was the country of rock, after all. They were even providing the children with prerequisite learning.
「It’s so awesome here! I wanna live here!」
“Settle down well.”
Sangah-noona once again began to scold me with an agitated voice at my cold response. The current drift of world affairs this, kids these days that. To summarise again, she was complaining how could you do this to me, your older sister.
Sick of listening to Sangah-noona whine, I changed the subject with another question.
“Noona, didn’t you say that you have a concert planned for next month?”
「So that old man…… Yeah! There’s a month left.」
She was easy to deal with. Though, perhaps it was because I was her younger brother.
「It’s like celebrating New Year’s Eve, though it will be held on the 30th, which is three days earlier! You could call it a New Year’s Eve’s Eve’s Eve celebration.」
You mean New Year’s Eve’s Eve.
“But, what are you doing in Finland?”
「Playing. No, watching performances. No, I’m studying! Musical studies!」
There was no use for fixing her answer three times.
Being consistent with my silence for a while, I shifted my gaze to the printout. Around the time I had finished solving question 2 in my head and provided an answer, she returned an apology in a depressed voice,
“So when are you coming back?”
“I’m hanging up.”
「No! No! Don’t hang up! I’m returning on the flight on the 1st! It’s okay!」
I sighed deeply at Sangah-noona’s desperate answer and continued.
“Noona. It’s true that I don’t know anything about concerts, but can you do that?”
「I came because it’s all manageable. This noona ain’t an amateur, after all. My younger brother doesn’t have to worry about a thing! Plus, there isn’t much difference since the last concert. The new song is also still in development.」
If my memory was correct, her last concert was held almost a year ago. The awkward laugh that followed concerned me.
「No, no. I didn’t call you to be interrogated by you like this!」
Sangah-noona ceased her laughter and lowered her voice.
「I’ve got something to ask you.」
“What is it?”
「What do you mean that?! Apologise to my love!」
Sangah-noona is Angel0’s fan. She nicknamed her ‘my love’.
She was always showing her passionate love by doing things like concentrating on propagation by always giving Angel0-related products to people around her, and singing Angel0’s songs during her concerts, with personal remixes of various styles.
In fact, it was strange that she had only called now, when a few days had already passed, since even if she was in Finland, news of Angel0, which was worth top news material would have been around.
「I was just roaming around the hotel drunk, and guess what I find – my love on the newspaper that was written in unreadable letters! We actually came to Finland because of the shock of Angel0’s hiatus. My gang wanted to wake me up. I guess nothing caught my eyes, since I’ve been drinking non-stop after coming here. So I just grabbed onto a random passer-by and asked in body language. Angel0 in Korea? Yes, Angel0 in Korea!」
(TL: Italicized part was in English.)
Don’t roam around drunk in a foreign hotel! No, don’t drink for so long in the first place! You obviously couldn’t see, because your eyes would’ve been filled with alcohol, and not tears! Also, English is the world’s common language, not a body language! Are you a primary school kid?! Is that the best you could do?!
Which was shortened into,
「Don’t talk like my mom!」
A headache started up when I realised that this situation would be the trial version of my aunt. On the contrary, since she was a woman who hardly stayed in her house, I might have been the one who was suffering the most. Dammit.
“She’s in my class.”
「I love you!」
「So you can do me a simple favour, right, oppa?」
“Why am I your oppa?”
「Bring her to our concert! Please!」
“If we were that close, I would’ve already received a signed CD and bragged to you.”
To be honest, I was just rubbing my chest in relief. Although it wasn’t a CD, I had a poster that I had signed, to give Sangah-noona.
「Then become close to her by the end of this month.」
“Easier said than done.”
Without even knowing my good intention of secretly preparing a gift for her, Sangah-noona said something absurd without changing her tone. What would happen if noona met Kim Ahyoung in real life? I chuckled as I imagined noona running straight to her.
「Ah, I gotta hang up.」
Sangah-noona, who was saying things like I had no courage or that I was unmanly, suddenly changed her words. I could faintly hear someone calling noona over the phone. It seemed like other people were looking for noona.
「I think the other people woke up. I better wake Jinhee up, too. Whoa, I feel like the phone charges are gonna be high. Also, you gotta bring her to the concert, okay? I’ll call you as soon as I arrive in Korea.」
She hung up without even waiting for my answer. After gazing at the screen, which showed quite a long call time, I folded my phone loudly and put it down.
I always felt exhausted after a chat with Sangah-noona. However, that feeling included a pleasant tiredness. Noona was the most free-looking person I had ever known, and whenever I listened to her playful voice, I felt as if I was being assimilated to it.
Though, I couldn’t stop my sigh from escaping at the reality that I had not even touched question three, much less the rest of the questions.
♫ ♩ ♬ ♪
Although it was a settled conviction, I was sure that the bastard called time was apathetic to human affairs. One could learn that from the fact that exam period had arrived, regardless of the various big and little things. Just because our class kids were together with a superstar did not mean that we would be freed from that pressure. After all, the superstar herself could not avoid it.
The fourth day of exams.
When I finished the sundry job that the homeroom teacher had asked me to do and returned to the classroom, only my backpack remained on my desk.
Our school did not enforce cleaning duties during exam period. Instead, the class rep and the vice class rep did a quick sweep, in turns, and today just turned out to be my turn. I recalled Kyungho leaving after the exam while smiling.
Although, normally, my irritation would have boiled a little when I saw this empty classroom, my mood today was not bad at all. More than anything, it was because I had done well on the tests today. On top of that, the fact that the remainder of the tests I had were only on the subjects that I was confident in made me even more positive.
I wiped the board and got rid of the pieces of paper that had fallen on the floor and stood out. As I looked around the classroom, something caught my eyes.
It was a pair of earphones that was sticking out of a desk.
These sorts of things happened sometimes. Cases when people accidentally just left their belongings there out of habit, in a seat that did not belong to them. Since we changed the seating plan every day during exam period, it took a little while for me to remember who had sat there today.
It was Kim Ahyoung.
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