Another from the latest flashfic round.
Prompt: Sejong Taewang [Wikipedia], "time travel"
Author's Note: I apologize for any infelicities in the setting; it's been some six years since I've visited South Korea and I'm not up to date on the culture, although I did, indeed, drag my mom to Kyobo Mungo as many times as she would stand for it.
Eun-hee's friend Bora was supposed to have met her at Kyobo Book Center fifteen minutes ago. Late as usual. Eun-hee tucked herself between two shelves of excruciatingly tedious-looking monographs and texted Bora, just to be sure. A harried woman glided past her, then frowned at Eun-hee until she made way for the woman to peruse the shelves' offerings.
Grumbling a little, Eun-hee gave up on lurking between the shelves. She texted Bora to meet her near the area selling stationery supplies, then strode off, dodging a giggling group of students and a couple not much older than herself. She could always use more notebooks, and she liked the cute little erasers that came in every shape imaginable.
Eun-hee browsed the notebooks on offer. Humming happily to herself, she picked out a selection with adorable drawings of flowers and fruits, or cartoon animals, and erasers to match. She was considering restocking gel pens when it occurred to her to check her purse to see if she'd brought enough money.
Frantic digging turned up her transit pass, that grotesque (and hopefully fake) turquoise-dyed rabbit's foot an English tutor from Stateside had given her, a sad assortment of loose change, a crumpled memo note from her mom reminding her to restock on ginger, that green crystal earstud she had thought she'd lost, but no wallet. Eun-hee cursed under her breath, furtively set down her pile of loot on one of the counters, and began digging again, just in case she'd missed it somewhere obvious.
"Excuse me," said a gravelly male voice.
Eun-hee looked up at the ajeossi in dark turtleneck and slacks who had come up beside her and who was rubbing his chin as if he wasn't used to it being shaved. "Oh, I'm so sorry," she said, and began to scoot out of the way.
"No, no, Miss," the ajeossi said. He was smiling at her, not in a creepy way, but like someone who had discovered a hilarious secret and wanted to share it. He dug in his pocket, then held out three 10,000-won bills. "I have more of these than I could ever possibly make use of. It's like the supply is infinite."
Eun-hee blinked. Was he offering her money? And what did he mean, infinite supply of 10,000-won bills? She was too flabbergasted to be offended. "No, it's all right," she said, as politely as she could manage. "My friend will be here soon. I can borrow some money from her."
"Please, Miss," the ajeossi said. "I can't think of a better use for a few spare 10,000-won bills. I like to see someone with a love for writing." He deposited the bills on top of the pile of notebooks and smiled again, then walked off, soon vanishing into the crowd.
Eun-hee snatched up the bills and started after him, only to be blocked by shoppers. While waiting for the foot traffic to clear, she smoothed the bills with her thumb and examined them more closely. Maybe he'd been trying to pass off counterfeits?
Her gaze snagged on the portrait of King Sejong the Great at the left of the bill. Wait a moment...Mentally, she subtracted the facial hair and reimagined him in modern clothing, like a turtleneck. The face was a perfect match.
Well, if the inventor of the Korean alphabet wanted her to have some notebooks and study hard, who was she to say no? Shaking her head in bemusement, Eun-hee retrieved her stack of notebooks and erasers and headed for the counter to pay up.