Track No. 02 – Twinkle (3)
When we were doing the morning seating check, she was definitely sitting in this seat. Now that I recalled it, those earphones also remained in my memory. They were undoubtedly the pair that Kim Ahyoung was using.
When I pulled out the earphones, a mp3 player followed, as if it was obvious. Although it was a famous product, it wasn’t in a great state, since it was an old product that had been well-known since I was young. It also had so many scratches here and there that it automatically made me squint. The expectation that Kim Ahyoung’s company would provide her with the newest product merely seemed to be a figment of my worldly imagination.
What kind of music does Kim Ahyoung listen to?
It was a sudden curiosity. Trending new songs like any other kids? Classical music from the influence of her mother? Or perhaps she only had her own songs in it.
I fiddled with the power button, which was worn out to the point that even its touch on my finger was faint. Thinking ‘It’s just out of curiosity’, I turned on the mp3 player.
An unexpected aggressive timbre dug into my ears, which had been swollen with unknown anticipation, like that of a primary school child opening an encyclopedia full of pictures. I pulled out the earphones right away, but the sound was already filling up the silent classroom.
It was band music that could only be described as clamorous. The sound of the guitar shot up, oblivious to the height of the sky, and the drums also felt as if they were mincing the inside of my head. I could only just make out that the vocal, whose voice was husky as if it was being squeezed out of the throat, was in English.
There was no beautiful piano melody that could not seem to separate from her voice, nor any brilliant orchestra tunes that had been based on famous classical music. There weren’t many differences even when I tried playing other songs. The atmosphere of the song itself was the only difference; they were all rock.
I quit looking through her mp3 player. It was similar to the feeling that I had felt some time ago, when I had used Sangah-noona’s laptop.
Why were these people so obsessed?
“It’s Crimson Glory’s 『Red Shark』.”
A girl’s voice reached my ears, together with the sound of the classroom door opening.
Kim Ahyoung’s flourishing, long blonde hair fluttered as she entered the classroom, wearing a maroon coat. Although her face was flushed red and her breathing was jagged, her gaze was glued to my hand.
It was the first time I had seen her cold gaze.
“Since you learned the name of that song, I don’t think you need to keep it on.”
As I hurriedly turned off the mp3 player at her quiet words, she approached me before I could notice and snatched it from my hand. Although her earphones flew in a wide parabola and hit Kim Ahyoung’s shoulder, she ignored it and held her mp3 player to her chest.
Shortly after putting it neatly away in her coat pocket, Kim Ahyoung took out her phone from her other pocket and contacted someone.
“I found it.”
After finishing the short, one-sided call, she stretched her arm and closed the open door. In the classroom where only the two of us remained, I merely fiddled with my fingers, avoiding Kim Ahyoung’s gaze. No sound came from the outside.
Kim Ahyoung’s gaze seem to turn even more fierce every time she blinked. I tried my best to think of an excuse, but the words just scrambled across my brain, unable to be arranged into a sentence that could be spoken. Perhaps she felt sorry for me, who was in a panic under the pressure of the atmosphere; Kim Ahyoung opened her mouth first, smiling slightly.
“What was the first song that you heard?”
“……I don’t know.”
Kim Ahyoung wiped the smile off her face at my answer.
“At least you’re honest.”
After mumbling dryly, Kim Ahyoung continued in a slightly more energetic voice.
“I’ll get straight to the point. What you have seen and heard in my mp3 player, do not tell anyone. If you do open your mouth, at that moment,”
Kim Ahyoung came closer without finishing her sentence. When she was close enough that our fields of vision were filled with each other’s faces, her breath reached me. I saw her eyes, which were turned up, disregarding the height difference between her and me. When her brown eyes, wrapped in those long eyelashes, captured me,
You’ll be finished.
Her slightly dry lips moved silently.
Tearing off her body, which had been glued against mine, Kim Ahyoung made a satisfied face. It seemed that she had enjoyed my stiffened expression quite a bit.
“I didn’t think that I’d be this stupid either. I was thinking that studying while competing was quite thrilling and enjoyable, but it seems like I was stressed as well. To think that I left this behind while thinking about tomorrow’s exam……Though it is unbelievable, what am I supposed to do when it has already happened? Of course, it is my fault that I left it behind, but I guess it doesn’t matter since it’s your fault for looking through it without permission. That’s right. You might ask why I’m reacting like this for such a small thing – for listening to some music. But, I could also ruin your life, since that’s a small thing to me. Imagine how I could do that by yourself. Though, you won’t need to if you’re always silent, like you are now.”
“……You don’t really need to tell me all that.”
“What’s that? So you can speak properly.”
I cut off her speech with my tongue which was still stiff and not working well. It was a rebellion that sprang out at her obvious threat. Did they call this sort of thing useless pride? Somehow entertained by my reaction, Kim Ahyoung laughed out loud.
“What I could do right now would be,”
Kim Ahyoung suddenly began to undo the buttons of her coat. When the front hem of her uniform was revealed, this time she moved her hands to the buttons of her blouse.
“What are you doing?”
Without even reacting to my bewildered voice, Kim Ahyoung undid the buttons on her blouse just like that. To my relief, she wore a white t-shirt inside. I slightly averted my gaze.
“Did you anticipate something? Don’t worry. I don’t go that wild.”
You are going wild enough. I clenched my teeth at her trick. Though, I would be lying if I said that I, as a male, wasn’t secretly anticipating something. My face flared up.
“Anyway, this is about as much as I could simply do right now. Though it’s not particularly a preferable measure, it’s not anything I can’t do. That’s how bad my situation is. Even if I do it, there could be solutions such as you transferring into a different school or running away overseas, but there won’t be much effect. Since you’d be the guy who tried to rape Angel0. If you really want to become infamous like that, I will hand it over.”
Kim Ahyoung mixed in the joke that was in trend on the internet, lightly pulling on the collar of her blouse. Although I would have to shout “I don’t need it!” in response to play along, my back was too wet to do so.
(TL: Famous Korean meme, referring to a manhwa drawn by Kim Sungmo.)
“Now that I think, isn’t this the first time that we have talked properly like this? But to think that it had to be like this……I do feel a little sorry.”
No signs of regret could be found in the words that she spat as she adjusted her clothes. Regardless of my nerves, which were relieved in the atmosphere that was now somewhat relaxed, Kim Ahyoung crossed her arms, thinking for a moment.
“Yeah. This doesn’t really feel right. I’ll explain it simply. You like studying, right?”
It was a suddenly introduced question, but a simple one at that. The answer came easily.
When I answered concisely, Kim Ahyoung asked in a slightly surprised tone.
“You don’t like studying? You were always holding onto books, no?”
“I do it because they make me. There’s also no downside in doing it.”
Kim Ahyoung replied “I see,” and scanned me from top to bottom. What was up with this woman? However, that was only for a short while; she did not even allow me the time to say something.
“Still, you are able to say so to anybody. Do you like this? Yes. Do you hate this? No. But I can’t do that.”
I couldn’t understand the meaning of her words. When I kept silent, Kim Ahyoung added right away, probably realising that there wasn’t enough explanation.
“Because I’m a top star.”
Her eyes as she spoke were serious, but I made a dumbfounded face.
“Why? It’s the truth.”
Kim Ahyoung continued before I could say anything.
“There’s a thing called image, right? The more easily people like me are exposed to the public, the better we have to manage it. What you heard back then for sure wouldn’t fit the image of me that you normally had in mind.”
I nodded my head.
“See? I’m saying that that’s what’s dangerous. All the more so if you’re young or when you are direct with the public. Apparently, that’s what it’s like to be a public figure. An image that is different from usual undoubtedly creates rumours, and at the same time, you can’t know how a stretched imagination might change. It means that it is easy for the world to shake me.”
Kim Ahyoung quietly stopped her words there. When I was about to say something to find out what was wrong, the sound of someone coming up the stairs could be heard in between delicate breaths. Though, it soon died down and disappeared.
It was something that I had not noticed before she stopped her speech. Could she hear such a noise, even when she was the one who was talking? After casually showing her monstrous auditory acuity, she breathed once and started again as if it was nothing.
“Anyway, this is also a policy that my dad decided. Of course, there is also my personal reason. There isn’t a big difference just because I’m a top star. People all wish to protect what they have. I’m also like that. And that’s why I’m threatening you like this.”
Just then – perhaps somebody had dropped a mop – a lively sound that vibrated the floor rang out. I flinched and thought that it was some crappy timing, but it was possible that Kim Ahyoung had aimed for it. However, she had nonchalantly took out her phone and was operating it this way or that. It was a relief that she did not stop talking even while she did that, since I was too overwhelmed by this situation to say anything.
“Just now, I ordered some people to make it so that nobody could get out of the school. It’s simple if I tell them that there is an important track that I am currently working on. It would also appear on the newspaper or on news channels, but I can always cover that level of mass communication. Do you think that I’m overreacting over just an mp3 player?”
I was unable to open my mouth. It didn’t seem like Kim Ahyoung wanted my answer, either.
“I’ve already talked about image. And the ones who know about this mp3 is just the two of us. Since there is no way that I would say anything about this when not even my family knows about it, I will come to suspect you if there is any sort of a strange rumour. So you better be careful. I told you that this is a threat. Since it would look bad if I took too much time after calling them that I had found it, I’ll get going.”
Quickly finishing her speech, Kim Ahyoung spun her body around. Just before she opened the door, I managed to open my mouth, after licking my dry lips once.
“Hey, you see, I’m sorry for listening to it on my own accord.”
“It’s not something that can be solved by apologising. It’s also my fault for leaving it behind. Thanks anyway.”
After flatly replying to my apology, Kim Ahyoung opened the door and stepped out of the classroom. Her last words seeped in through the open crack in the door.
“Do your best in your exam studies, Jun.”
Kim Ahyoung in the screens, Kim Ahyoung that I saw in the classroom, and even Kim Ahyoung just now. To sparkle never meant only to shine.
I stood in the classroom for a while, dumbfounded, with my head in a state of chaos.
A few days later, an interview of Kim Ahyoung, explaining that she had caused a disturbance at school because she had lost a precious gift that she had received from a fan and apologising for the fuss, flowed out from the news. It was the first official interview in the two weeks since the high school transfer conference.
I closed my room door. The sound of the television that was coming from the living room could no longer be heard.
+ Author’s comment: Yay Track 2 is done!