There has never been a time when the lyrics of the song “It Can’t Be Real” sung by the singer Lim Jeonghee have resonated so deeply with me.
“Seriously, this can’t be real!”
“Father, since a while ago, Sangseung keeps repeating that this can’t be real.”
“Hehe, what can we do about it?”
“You brat! Sangseung, what will you do if you lose your mind?!”
The voices of the surrounding characters sound blurry as if they were underwater.
That’s right, it doesn’t make sense that I have to write an alternative history novel with my bare body.
I’m just a writer who makes money by selling stories.
I’ve never experienced anything like a war, not even once!
The only thing remotely related to war is that I went to the army, but every male also goes there at some point!
Does it make sense to drop me into stopping the Imjin War within 10 years?
Even if an elementary school student were to write a story, they would create a more reasonable background than this!
Ah, am I cursing at my fellow writers at the same time?
Anyway, this is a nightmare! A nightmare!
“Sorry…, but I’ll rest for a bit.”
My mother held my arm tightly with a worried expression.
“Yes, rest well.
Sleep is the best medicine when you’re sick.”
When I wake up, it has to be my real room.
No, it must be my room!
A few days have passed like that.
Honestly, I don’t know how much time has passed.
No matter how many times I open my eyes, it’s not the ceiling of my room.
No, now, even if I close my eyes and imagine the ceiling of my room, it feels unfamiliar.
Ridiculously enough, the ceiling I see with my eyes feels familiar.
“Sangseung, are you awake?”
The face of “mother,” who is much thinner than when I first saw her, makes my head more complicated.
“Mother, how many days have passed since I first opened my eyes?”
“Let’s see, today would be the fifth day since you regained consciousness.”
Five days? Although I hate to admit it, it seems it’s time to acknowledge it.
I certainly fell into the beginning part of the damn novel I was about to write.
I’m so sure because my current situation is similar to the beginning of the novel.
Also, the background is the same.
The setting is the period that can be considered the worst generation in the Korean Peninsula, where people spent most of their lives in the throes of war, from the Imjin War to the Qing Invasion.
This was surely the best background for a novel.
And if I were a writer, I would probably set the protagonist’s age to be around twenty when the Imjin War broke out.
And at the time of the Imjin War, twenty-year-olds would be the ideal age to roll around on the battlefields during the Japanese invasion and later during the First and Second Invasions of the Qing.
Of course, if I were a writer, this setting would be optimal, but from my standpoint, as someone who now has to write an alternative history novel with my body, it’s a background that makes me want to curse.
My mother, startled, looks at me.
If I have to live in this world from now on, these people are no longer “characters” but my family.
I need to pull myself together.
“Ah, suddenly, my head hurts.”
“Aren’t you hungry? You haven’t eaten a meal in the last five days.
Try eating some rice porridge.”
My mother cautiously held out a bowl of white porridge to me.
My body instinctively reacted to the sight of the food, even though it was just this simple dish.
Looking at my mother’s face, she also seemed to have been starving for days.
“Did… you eat, mother?”
“This mother feels full just by seeing you eat.”
“I wish we could eat together.”
“Alright, let’s eat together with this mother.”
I lifted my spoon after checking that my mother had scooped some porridge.
Surprisingly, the porridge was lukewarm.
Just the right temperature to eat.
Could this be a coincidence?
It couldn’t be.
In this era, there were no thermos rice containers, and she wouldn’t know when I would wake up and look for food, so she must have been continuously preparing porridge.
In a way, this can be considered luxurious.
While I was emptying the bowl, the door to my room opened, and a cute little girl appeared with my grandfather.
“Mama! Where’s oppa?”
With chubby cheeks and distinct facial features, the little girl looked like a child model from a commercial.
“Your sister, Soyul.”
I have a sibling?
Well, in this era, it’s best to have many children.
The child mortality rate is high at this time, and my parents are still young, so it wouldn’t be strange to have siblings other than Soyul.
“Do I have any other siblings?”
Why isn’t she saying anything?
The little girl got out of our grandfather’s arms and hugged me.
With big, round eyes and chubby cheeks, she is quite cute.
Maybe, during the past five days, I might have seen the little girl.
However, I might not have noticed her because I was denying reality.
“Ahaha, I’m relieved to see you eat now.
My sweet child, you’ve been through a lot.”
“Still, the doctor said you still need to rest, so let’s step aside for now.
Soyul, come here!”
As grandfather called her, the little girl left my arms and ran to hug him.
“Sangseung, take good care of yourself.”
As my grandfather stood up from his seat, my mother reluctantly left her seat as well.
As my family disappeared, I faced reality once again.
I have to write an alternative history novel with my bare body now.
It’s a dog-like difficulty, starting from the point where the Imjin War, one of the biggest wars in the history of the Korean Peninsula, is just 10 years away.
I came to understand why the character Joker in the movies laughed like a madman, even in situations where he should be angry.
It felt like hell inside, but there was no way to change the situation, so all that came out was laughter.
I couldn’t stop the laughter that kept coming out.
But then, a familiar voice came from outside the room.
“Father, is Sangseung completely losing his mind?”
“Don’t you remember what they said, boy? At first, he’ll be very confused, and all we have to do is watch.”
Hey, my grandfather and mother can hear you, you know?
But the anger evaporated much more quickly than I thought.
After eating well, sleeping well, and waking up, the intense anger that seemed to consume me melted away like snow.
With the anger gone, what remained was an objective view of the situation.
And I thought and thought again.
Our history teaches that the Imjin War was a victory for Joseon.
Even without national pride, it’s somewhat acknowledged.
War, after all, means the use of force by a state to impose its will on its opponent.
Japan wanted to swallow Joseon, and Joseon wanted to keep that from happening.
And in the end, Japan failed to swallow Joseon, and Joseon successfully repelled Japan’s invasion.
Just by looking at this fact, the Imjin War was indeed a victory for the Joseon.
But then came the question.
Would anything change if I struggled in a war we would eventually win?
Wouldn’t it be enough to just breathe and go to Jeolla Province to hide when the Japanese come over to invade?
Ah, in the last years, we might have to move again because of the Orangkay coming back!
Still, I don’t have to go crazy like the main characters in alternative history novels and carry everything on my own.
I don’t even know if I can sell this novel or if people will like it or not.
Ah, forget it! Let’s take a break!
Then, I heard a ringing in my ears.
It was like the ringing was asking if that was enough.
To be honest, I wasn’t completely without fear.
I studied the Imjin War to write a novel about it.
Over a million Joseon people suffered in the Imjin War alone.
And the Gyeongsang Province area, including Ulsan where I am, was said to have suffered tremendously.
During the second battle of the Siege of Jinju Fortress, known for the greatest casualties, the Japanese killed everyone in the fortress, and it is believed that the number reached 60,000.
It is said that not even a single living dog could be seen in Jinju Fortress that day because the Japanese killed so thoroughly.
It was cruel, but this was also the nature of the Japanese in this period.
In the Warring States period, if a daimyo surrendered, they were spared, but if they chose to fight and lost, they were annihilated – that was their rule.
Could I guarantee that none of my family members would choose to fight to protect our country?
And wouldn’t I regret it if my close friends died as well?
As my worries swallowed me, I became fed up with everything.
“Ah, I don’t know.
I’m not feeling well right now, so I’ll decide after taking a break!”
Again, I heard the ringing.
As if my choice was wrong, the ringing continued to torment me.
I’m going to fix this damned ringing somehow!
And time went by.
The fear of the approaching future, and the despair of knowing I couldn’t escape it, made me depressed.
Should I just give up? Teacher Ahn said it would be easier if I just gave up…
“…Should I just die?”
The best way to commit suicide would be by getting hit by a truck, but unfortunately, that method doesn’t exist in this world, so traditional hanging? That seems a bit painful, though!
Is there no other way?
Then, by chance, I saw a rice bowl.
A rice bowl made of pottery.
It might be painful if I broke it and stabbed my carotid artery, but wouldn’t this nightmare end?
The thought was long, but the action was short.
As I grabbed the broken bowl, red blood flowed out.
But the pain was surprisingly not severe.
It felt like something in a dream.
Now all I had to do was stab my carotid artery with it.
Damn, it’s noisy! I’m finally saying goodbye to this annoying ringing!
The moment I held the broken bowl, the door burst open.
“Sangseung! What’s going on?”
My mother’s face was as white as if she had seen a ghost.
How did my mother find out? There was definitely no one in the room.
Was this just a coincidence?
Then, my mother suddenly hugged me tightly.
“Sangseung! What am I supposed to do if this damned mother loses you too?”
“You might not remember, but you had two more siblings besides Soyul.
But I had to bury both of them in my heart.”
I don’t know the pain of a parent who had to send their child away first.
But if I also left by committing suicide, my mother might be shattered.
First, I had to deal with this situation.
“I dropped the bowl while cleaning it up because I suddenly felt dizzy.”
“Is that so? But still, you should call Gang Cheol for things like this!”
“… I’m sorry.”
That’s how my suicide attempt ended, with new information about my siblings that I could hardly remember.
After the suicide scare, I thought about my reality again.
What would the ending be if I were to write an alternative history novel with my body?
How did other alternative history novels end?
There were novels where the protagonist dies and then returns to the original history, and there were endings that summarize the protagonist’s life through an epilogue.
Well, it’s up to the author, but in the worst case, there’s infinite regression or, even worse, cases where I’m born into the next generation and inherit the consequences of my actions.
There is a possibility of this happening.
I had another novel in mind besides the one related to the Imjin War!
What if I’m reincarnated into the era when I was going to write Joseon Mafia after messing up my life from the Imjin War to the Qing Invasions?
If I do it wrong, I might have to write about the American Wild West with my bare body, right?
Suddenly, it feels like all the blood in my body is being drained through my palms.
Wow, suddenly, my palms feel like they’ve been burned by fire!
Is this what they call realism?
Oh, no! I may have a lot of experience with keyboard battles with those damned haters, but I’ve never had a physical fight in my life!
Would it be better to fulfill my destiny in this era?
As I thought about the worst-case scenario, I finally came to accept this situation.
Since I’ve already fallen into this era, it’s better to make the best choice rather than the worst one.
Although the Imjin War is a war that Joseon won, considering the damages sustained by Joseon, it’s a war that’s embarrassing to claim as a psychological victory.
If I were to write a novel, I would have written about the protagonist changing the historical tragedy into a happy ending through effort.
Now, I’ve decided to write an alternative history novel with my body.
If I’m lucky, I might be able to return to my original self at the end of a happy life and write a fantastic novel, so I’m really going to do my best.
And fortunately, if my thoughts are correct, the difficulty and even the genre of the novel I’m going to write might change.
“Indeed, life should be eaten raw like fish.”
 I can guarantee you that you have heard of this song before.
 Sangseung used the term “오랑케” to describe the invading Japanese.
It was a term widely used by Koreans during that era.
It is believed to have derived from the Korean reading of the two Chinese characters 王劍, sometimes used in historical texts to write “Japan” or “Japanese.” In the Korean reading, 王 can be read as “O” or “Wang,” and 劍 can be read as “Lang” or “Gim.” Combined, they form “O-lang” or “Wang-gim.” The term is then suffixed with “-kay,” which is a diminutive (or belittling suffix) in Korean, hence “Orangkay.”
 The infamous Truck-kun.
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