Chapter 101

“That crazy son of a...”

Changhu couldn’t even laugh at how ridiculous this is. Did Maru even know where he was right now? The boy was staring at Changhu’s victim intently, which irritated Changhu to no end. In the end, he leaned towards the idiot in front of him and whispered.

“Don’t mind that kid and go back to your class, okay?”

“...Okay.”

“Nothing happened today. You should know that though, right?”

The idiot nodded, and Changhu pushed him away with ease. Thankfully, idiots like him were easy to silence. Changhu knew very well that speaking in a roundabout way instills greater fear upon them. The idiot disappeared off to the other side of the school.

“You have business here?” Changhu asked.

“You’re going all out, huh? I thought you were just a show-off, but you’re just a complete asshole.”

“Hah, you son of a...”

Changhu glanced behind Maru. He needed to check if the other boy brought friends along. It didn’t look like he did.

‘Fucking poser.’

Changhu gave his friends a few glances as he walked towards Maru, he didn’t want to fight. He was just going to scare the other guy. Just as he got about two meters away from Maru, the boy opened his mouth.

“I came to get my money back.”

Changhu stopped walking.

“Money?”

“Yeah. Money.”

“Ahh, that hundred thousand?”

Changhu started laughing with his friends around him.

“What, you came here for money?”

“What else would I be here for?”

“Motherfucker, you’re way too unpredictable.”

“I’ll keep it short. Give me my money back.”

“Hundred thousand won… Yeah, I did borrow it, but… I don’t want to pay you back. So stop being so petty about it. We’re friends, aren’t we?”

Changhu lightly pushed Maru’s shoulder with a smile.

“Didn’t you have a lot of money anyway? Why do you even care about chump change like this?”

“Don’t change the topic. Give me my money back.”

“Don’t want to.”

Changhu grinned. He did have the money, but he didn’t want to give it away.

“Do you do this to other kids as well?”

“Why would you care? What? You want to join them?”

Changhu pushed Maru one more time and turned away.

‘This kid doesn’t fear fists.’

He realized that in the bathroom last time. That kid doesn’t like to get violent, but he was the type that lays the smackdown on one person exclusively when he got in a fight. Changhu knew very well that Maru’s target would be him, so he didn’t want to instigate a fight just like that.

“So, you don’t want to pay me back?”

“Think what you want, do what you want. Snitch on me if you want, I’ll give you your money back then. I’m sure you won’t do something so childish though, right?”

“I’ll ask you one last time. Think carefully before you answer. You asked for a hundred thousand won, and I gave it. You’re saying you’re not going to pay me back?”

“Motherfucker, do you really have to make me say it twice? I’m not going to give you your fucking money back.”

Right then, two more people appeared behind them. It was Daemyung and Dojin.

“What the hell’s going on?” Dojin stepped forward with a glare.

Of all the people to appear, did it really have to be that guy? Dojin was harder to mess with than Maru. The guy was most definitely someone who played around back in the day. He also seemed pretty good at fighting, too. Changhu didn’t like to mess around with people who were capable of fighting back.

‘I’ll have to beat him senseless if things go wrong, though.’

It was a good thing Changhu was with his friends. He might as well really scare these kids while he still could.

“If you want a fight, come at us. But we’re going to spread bad rumors about your pretty club. We’ll tell the teachers, too.”

“You’re a fucking child.”

Dojin stepped forward, gritting his teeth. Changhu stepped forward as well, he knew the other guy wouldn’t be able to hit him anyway. He confirmed it last time, too. The acting club seemed like a very precious place to Dojin. Plus, it wasn’t like getting hit would kill him or anything. If Changhu could have more fun at the expense of some pain, he would get hit in a heartbeat. Changhu turned his cheek, taunting Dojin to hit him. Dojin, of course, could only fume.

‘As I thought.’

Changhu grinned. It was very obvious at this point that the acting club was these kids’ weak point.

“Let’s go.”

“Hey! Han Maru!”

Maru retreated without another word. Dojin ran towards the other boy with angry huffs. Daemyung stepped away quickly as well.

“Coward.”

“What do we do if Maru snitches?”

“Don’t worry, he won’t. Fucker has pride for some reason.”

“Does he?”

“Plus, even if he does snitch, we can just tell the teacher it was just a simple misunderstanding. Teachers hate having to deal with trouble, so they’ll just pass it off as well, 100%. Remember what middle school was like? It’s the exact same here.”

“You’re right, Changhu.”

Changhu grinned, messing with people’s weak points was always cathartic for him. The knowledge of being able to treat them however he wanted made him feel like he was the top of the world. As a matter of fact, he could feel no greater joy when he beat someone up, and all the other party could do was stare lifelessly like a broken puppet.

“They should be quiet now, too.”

* * *

“You shouldn’t have come.”

“You would’ve been in big trouble if we weren’t there, you know that?”

“No way.”

“Anyway, why were you there to begin with?”

Maru scratched his eyebrows at Dojin’s question.

“Might as well finish what I started.”

“What?”

Dojin looked at Maru with a confused expression.

* * *

Byungsoo from class 2 was spending most of the day watching the clock again. He couldn’t wait until the last class was over.

“Hey, let’s go to a PC bang.”

“Didn’t you want to go play billiards?”

“Screw that, let’s go to an AYCE bbq. I’m hungry as balls.”

All the other kids were talking about going places in groups. Byungsoo wanted to be one of them at one point, but not anymore. Nowadays, the only thing he could think about was going home as quickly as he could.

“Hey, Byungsoo, go clean that blackboard eraser for me.”

“Byungsoo, throw this away for me.”

Byungsoo silently got up to pick up the eraser and the piece of trash. Since when did he become like this? He felt a bit of anger flare up inside him, but he repressed himself. People were watching him. He quickly cleaned the eraser and threw out the trash before returning to his seat.

At that point… he was back to being invisible. He could see his two friends laugh together a bit of a way away from him. He used to talk to them a lot, but they wouldn’t even greet him now. How did this happen? Byungsoo shook his head. He should just stop thinking, thinking just made everything too painful. He gave up on thinking why no one liked him, he just tried to go with the flow as best he could. At least that way, the other kids didn’t torture him.

‘I wonder if things will change in my second year.’

Thinking that, Byungsoo hoped to himself that this horrid winter would pass. The teacher eventually came into the class and announced the end of the school day.

“I’m ending it early for all of you, so don’t do anything funny and go home.”

Byungsoo grabbed his bag as fast as he could and walked out, he didn’t even have anyone who’d call out to him anyway. His desk was like an island, an island he needed to escape from as fast as possible.

Byungsoo’s phone rang, it was from his middle school friend. He took the phone call with a little bit of excitement.

- Byungsoo! It’s been a while. How have you been?

“O-okay, of course.”

- You should call every once in a while, you fuck. How’s school? Does it have a lot of delinquents?

“No way, they’re all nice.”

- That so? Yo, the other guys all want to meet up soon, so how’s the weekend sound? You free?

“Course. Been a while since I saw everyone.”

- You should really give us a call every now and then. You don’t even come on the chat anymore! You should come over there too.

Byungsoo quickly hung up after saying “okay”. Immediately, the thought of middle school got him feeling a bit depressed. He used to have so many friends back then, too. But nowadays, he no longer frequented the messenger, because his friends tab was completely empty at this point. His middle school friends were all getting along with their new high school friends, and yet… He was getting bullied, like this. It wasn’t like he could tell his friends that either. What if they just turn away from him too, as everyone else did?

Right then, he got a new call. It was his mom. Byungsoo took the call with an annoyed face.

“What!”

- ...Mom might be a little late.

“You’re always late. You wanted me to eat instant noodles again for dinner?”

- I’m sorry, dear.

“Sorry my ass. I heard my friends’ moms all do a bunch of things for them. And here I am, doing all the chores, making all the food… What do you even do for me, mom?”

- Sorry, dear. Mom’s just…

“Stop it. Words are just words. No wonder you got divorced with dad.”

- ...You should buy something if you want to eat it. Mom left money on the dining table.

Mom hung up. Byungsoo stared at his phone dumbly for a second.

“.......”

He could think of nothing other than “I’m an asshole” right then. He was expressing his anger at someone completely unrelated. He started moving faster, feeling tears start welling up in his eyes. He was still in school and he couldn’t afford to show his weak side to his classmates, lest he get bullied even more. He ran down the stairs and quickly put on his outdoor shoes. The front entrance of the school was shining in front of him like a gateway to heaven, he needed to leave this hell. In the middle of walking, he suddenly turned around towards the bike stands.

‘Why are they...’

“They” were waiting at the front gate. The delinquent in his class, the guys who always liked to take money from him. They had pretty girls next to them. Byungsoo wanted nothing else than to pass those gates without a bit of fear, but he knew that was impossible for him. He pretended to unlock his bike as he glanced at the gates. As he tried to kill time waiting for them to leave, though….

“That’s not a very good place to hide.”

A voice came from behind him, Byungsoo turned away in shock. There was only a single type of people who talked to him in schools: delinquents. But… the kid behind him was someone he’d never seen before. No, actually, he saw the boy behind school earlier in the day.

“Why are you so surprised?”

“Eh, ah… well...”

“That bike’s mine, by the way.”

“Ah! Sorry.”

Byungsoo quickly let go. This was someone who talked with Changhu without a hint of fear. Probably a delinquent, in that case. That meant he had to lower himself as much as possible.

“Lee Byungsoo, right?”

“...Yeah.”

In the end, it comes to this, huh. Byungsoo thought of the 20 thousand won in his pocket. Would this be enough? But the kid in front of him ended up saying something completely unexpected instead.

“Can we talk for a second? Ah, that’s what the delinquents over there like to say, isn’t it.”

“.....”

“Anyway, I wanted to talk to you about something.”

The boy spoke, scratching his eyebrow. Byungsoo nodded, almost subconsciously.

* * *

“Instructor Miso, Maru...”

“I got a call from him. He has work, right? We were just going to finish with a simple reading session today, so it’s fine.”

Dojin stepped back with a loud shout of acknowledgment. Miso got a call from Maru just before she arrived at school, the boy apparently had business at Myungdong today. She would’ve rejected them if it were anyone else speaking, but she let Maru go. She knew the boy was very responsible about his words, so she trusted that the boy wouldn’t be wasting time.

“We need to go somewhere after we do our reading.”

“Where?”

“The theater where the prelims are held. It’s in Anyang. We’re all going to look around together, so get ready.”

“Yes!

“Good, get together, now.”

The club gathered at Miso’s gesture.

* * *

Byungsoo followed Han Maru carefully, it honestly didn’t feel good coming back inside the school building. As they walked towards the school store, they ran into some of the kids in Byungsoo’s class. Their eyes met, but nothing really special happened. It probably didn’t even register to the others that someone called Byungsoo even existed.

“Same class?”

“Ah, yeah.”

Maru nodded.

“Let’s get a drink before we do anything else.”

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