Han Se-Yeon smirked deeply.
“Don't you know that we'll officially be adults starting from midnight today? Which means~, we are allowed to drink booze! I've always wanted to enter a pub on the dawn of the first day of my adulthood, you know!”
“…Sure thing.” Kang Jin-Ho was unimpressed, but Jeong In-Gyu and others were cheering loudly at what Han Se-Yeon had said.
What was so good about being acknowledged as an adult, though? Maybe they had no idea that being an adult also carried the hidden weight called responsibility that could crush you in the blink of an eye? Kang Jin-Ho just couldn't understand his friends’ reactions.
“Whatever, let's get going.” Kang Jin-Ho shook his head and followed after his friends.
A short while later…
Kang Jin-Ho squeezed his eyes shut while silently calling out to his mother.
'I'm stuck in a nightmare…'
He was witnessing the scene of a group of youths madly shaking their bodies around in an apparent attempt to dance without a single drop of alcohol in their systems.
Just what on earth had taken over them? How could humans be so excited by the mere act of singing through loudspeakers inside a closed-off room and go utterly mad?
Kang Jin-Ho's irises were quaking nonstop while taking in this crazy scene.
Was this how humans were supposed to have fun? Back then, Kang Jin-Ho had been paralyzed and had become a shut-in even before he had the chance to come into contact with the modern-day entertainment culture.
Then, he had traveled back in time to Zhongyuan where 'singing' usually was accompanied by gentle instruments like zithers.
No wonder he found modern entertainment so disorientating.
The last karaoke lounge wasn't like this, so why?!'
Kang Jin-Ho desperately refused their requests for him to come up to the stage and did his best to dig deeper into a corner of the room.
that was the best and the only form of resistance he could resort to.
The group had a roaring good time at the karaoke lounge, and they exited before the clock struck midnight.
Han Se-Yeon egged Kang Jin-Ho on.
He was dismayed by her.
Wasn't she tired or something? These kids had been madly dancing and singing for almost three hours straight now, yet they were still telling him to hurry up with nary a sign of fatigue? Even though Kang Jin-Ho had been sitting still, he seemed more exhausted than his friends.
He groaned, “Where are we going now?”
“They are going to ring the bell, right? We should go there and make a wish!”
“Come on, hurry up! You're always so slow!”
Kang Jin-Ho's friends dragged him to a location in the city teeming with a crowd of partygoers.
He cocked an eyebrow and scanned the ocean of people.
“Why are there so many people here?”
Park Yu-Min grinned and explained, “They are here for the striking of the bell, you know.”
“Striking of the bell?”
It's the ceremony to bid goodbye to the year that has been and to welcome the new year.
The bell will be struck 108 times at midnight to wish for another fruitful year.”
Kang Jin-Ho nodded while faintly recalling that such a ceremony did exist.
Didn't the people of Zhongyuan also hold some kind of ancestral rites to welcome the new year? Not that such things mattered to him, though.
“Oh, I see.”
He still couldn't understand why so many people decided to turn up for such a plain reason, though.
The folks of the modern era were no cavemen believing in superstitions.
In that case, did all these people come here because they really believed in the bell-ringing ceremony or just to have some fun?
Wouldn't spending the new year's day with your family and loved ones be more fulfilling than this?
Park Yu-Min tilted his head.
“What are you thinking so hard about?”
“It's nothing important.” Kang Jin-Ho shook his head, thinking that he shouldn't say what he was thinking out loud.
It would be akin to labeling everyone here as morons, after all.
So, he slightly redirected the flow of conversation.
“Do we really have to do this, though?”
“What do you mean? The striking of the bell?”
“No, not that.
I'm talking about us coming here to witness the ceremony.”
“Why not? Don't you think it's fun?”
Kang Jin-Ho asked with a tut, “What's so fun about it?”
It's the new year, right? People usually wish for something special and joyous to happen in the new year, don't they? That's why they come here, you know.
And then, they make their wishes.
Wishing for happiness and good fortune in the future.
And for their worries and hardships to disappear.
Something like that.”
“Mmhmm…” Kang Jin-Ho nodded again, recalling that he used to think that way in the past, too.
'I guess humans don't really change no matter how long has it been.'
He couldn't remember when it had happened, but from a certain point in time, Kang Jin-Ho had stopped praying or making wishes to God or other supernatural entities.
He believed that praying wouldn't solve any of his problems.
Still, there were times he dearly wished for a helping hand from a greater force than himself—even though he knew that praying was a waste of time and wouldn't help him in any way, shape, or form.
Maybe they are searching for something to comfort them.'
Perhaps the modern era was a lonelier place to live than the ancient times.
Park Yu-Min cried out.
“It's starting! Hurry, make your wish!”
“Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven…”
“Come on, make your wish!”
Kang Jin-Ho rubbed his chin.
“My wish, is it?”
“Yeah! You make it as the bell is struck!”
Do I have any? Not sure if it qualifies as one, but there is something I do want, so that should suffice.’
“Three! Two! One!”
The loud reverberation of the ringing bell rocked the landscape.
Kang Jin-Ho made his wish at the same time.
A 'wish' about something he had always been craving for.
'Let me live an ordinary life.'
Just like now…
It might get bothersome, and irritating things might keep cropping up, but…
As long as he could live like a normal human by laughing, crying, enjoying, wallowing, and…
The ringing of the bell continued to echo throughout the land.
For some reason, Kang Jin-Ho felt his heart at ease.
'This isn't so bad.'
Judging something he had no experience in was a totally different matter from having an opinion on things he already knew.
So, for the first time in ages, Kang Jin-Ho changed his mind.
Han Se-Yeon walked up to him.
“Did you make your wish?”
“What did you wish for?”
Just for things to continue they are.”
Han Se-Yeon sounded surprised.
“Eh? What kind of a wish is that? That's not even a wish, you know?”
Kang Jin-Ho crossed his arms in front of his chest.
“What about you, then?”
“You're not supposed to tell others about your wish.”
“Mmhm? Why did you ask me for mine, then?”
“I was just starting a conversation, you know.
But you just went on your own and told me.”
Kang Jin-Ho clicked his tongue in disbelief.
Why did it feel like she was always running laps around him?
He grumbled unhappily, “Just come out and say it, will you?”
I'll never tell you.
Not you, Jin-Ho!”
“Heh. Let's go!”
Kang Jin-Ho could only pout while watching Han Se-Yeon trot away from him.
After groaning, he walked up to his waiting friends.
Friends, peaceful days…
Those were things he had desperately wanted to acquire.
Things he dreamed of having one day.
And Kang Jin-Ho had them now.
Yes, it wasn't perfect.
He still had plenty of things to get used to, and he still had many more things to acquire.
'Just like this…'
A faint grin crept up on Kang Jin-Ho's lips.
A year had come to an end, and a new one was welcoming him with open arms.
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