School. Byungsoo could see one of the teachers frowning as he stood at the front gate. The man was beating several students with a stick with all his strength. Ah, yes. A typical morning at an engineering high school.
Byungsoo took a deep breath before walking into the gates. He’s never gotten scolded by the teachers in his life, perhaps the teachers didn’t even know someone like him existed. Such thoughts made him a little depressed. This feeling wouldn’t last long, though. Such casual feelings would disappear once he enters the classroom.
Some kids approached him as soon as he entered. They didn’t bully him or anything, but they always wanted something from Byungsoo. Byungsoo took out his English homework for them. They took it and left without even saying thanks, he was used to this sort of treatment at this point. Eventually, the kids finished copying his homework and left, leaving his own homework all dirtied up on a desk a few meters away. Byungsoo picked the notebook up and put it back on his desk, the other kids would come to take it away later anyway.
At the same time, something similar was happening on the other side of the class. Byungsoo took a look at the kid with glasses who was looking down at the desk, the kid turned to look his way. Just a few days ago, Byungsoo chose to ignore this kid when his eyes met. Because of that little pride he still had in his heart, the belief that he was better than this kid still.
The two silently exchanged greetings with each other. If there was one thing that he learned from Maru, it was that he had comrades. They no longer ignored each other, instead forming an understanding with one another. They didn’t share pain with each other, but rather strength. The kid with the glasses was called Jinho and this kid might very well become Byungsoo’s first real friend in high school.
* * *
One should never rush work. Instead, he should always go about it calmly and carefully. Maru knew very well that what he was about to do should be done very, very carefully. There could be no emotions attached. Thankfully, Byungsoo, Jinho, and all others involved understood this as well.
“Byungsoo, throw this away for me.”
More trash got thrown his way today. Byungsoo wasn’t even mad, he just picked up the trash as usual, and threw it away. Thinking none of this would change tomorrow made a feeling of anger flare up within, but the fact that he was at least able to prepare for tomorrow made it all bearable.
‘No, this isn’t right.’
[You’re not trying to endure your way through it. Remember that. You need to remember everything about how people treated you. You can even take notes. You might want to swear, or you might want to cry when you look at your notes, but this is essential. I’ll tell you this again. You’re not just enduring it anymore, you’re also collecting evidence.]
Byungsoo remembered the name of the kid who threw trash at him, the kid who made him do his homework, and the kid who always hit him for no reason.
[Change never happens in an instant, people can’t change with the snap of a finger. They only pretend to change in order to avoid adversity. But, there is one time when a person really does change, when they’re driven to a corner. They need to survive, after all. That’s when people really change. So don’t try to rush things. Though it sounds ridiculous, you did manage to come here safely after all this time, after all.]
Come here safely. Byungsoo remembered getting really surprised as he talked with Jinho, the other boy had been considering suicide many times before. Whenever he looked out the window, as a matter of fact.
[The funny thing is… I can’t die, since I’m afraid people will think I’m pathetic if I kill myself. Pathetic, isn’t it?]
Byungsoo disagreed almost immediately, he remembered some other kid Maru found saying he couldn’t kill himself because of the porn stash on his computer. It almost made him laugh, but it also sent a chill down his spine. So everyone’s considered suicide at some point, after all.
Lunchtime. Byungsoo quietly ate lunch with Jinho before coming back to class. The others were laughing and pointing at the two of them, talking about how likes attract likes.
12:40pm. Byungsoo and Jinho exchanged looks before stepping outside, they were headed to the auditorium on the fifth floor. The place was usually occupied by the acting club and no one else, making it a good place to meet up. Byungsoo looked around for a second before carefully entering the auditorium.
“Oh, you’re here.”
Inside, there were around fourteen people. All students who got bullied by Changhu and his friends. Byungsoo greeted the teacher next to Maru first, it was the acting club’s advisor, Mr. Taesik. Thinking about how a teacher was on their side gave strength to Byungsoo.
Maru and Taesik were quietly talking with each other, this was already pretty amazing to Byungsoo. To be quite honest, he didn’t think Maru would put this much work into all of this for them. Watching Maru work honestly made Byungsoo question if the boy really was a high schooler. Byungsoo leaned forward, trying to listen in on the two’s conversation.
“Did you try talking about it in the faculty meeting?”
“The faculty’s trying to improve the school’s reputation, so they’re trying to get rid of as much school violence as possible by next year.”
“What about right now?”
“It looks like they’ll open a meeting on mitigating school violence, no matter how I look at it. It’s unfortunate, but they’ll try not to let this go any higher than that. School parents get very, very sensitive over news like this after all.”
Something wasn’t right, the two didn’t have a very bright look on their faces.
“But if they hold a mitigation meeting, everything’s just going to end after some short volunteer work.”
“Indeed. No school wants to expose their dark sides to the public. They’ll try to downplay everything as much as possible, I don’t think anyone will get expelled or transferred.”
“What happened at the last mitigation meeting?”
“Like you said, it just ended with simple volunteer work.”
“I see. Thank you for listening to my request.”
“I have my debts to pay still, but it looks like this is about as far as I can go. If I tried to intervene here, the rest of the faculty’s just going to use it as a chance to drag down the acting club further.”
“Right. I don’t want that happening either.”
“But when did you prepare all of this to begin with? You even managed to get legal paperwork?”
“I was recently introduced to a lawyer from someone I know, I might as well go big since I decided to start something.”
“You must be busy. With this, Myungdong, and even the stuff from the acting club… Don’t overwork yourself.”
“Of course. Ah, besides that, I heard some rumors about a marriage this year?”
“Haha, oh you.”
Byungsoo said his farewells as Taesik stood up and left the auditorium. It felt like things would’ve been very different for him if someone like that had been his teacher.
“You guys wrote your stuff?”
Everyone handed Maru a sheet of A4 paper. There was a list of everything that happened today written on those papers. Maru took it and carefully put it in a plastic case.
“As you heard, things would just end with volunteer work if we tried to take this to the school. Some of the delinquents wouldn’t even be punished either.”
One of the kids spoke in a defeated tone. Byungsoo knew this kid as well, he’s gotten beat up with the kid in the past.
“We have to take proper steps with these things. People in power like it when you take things step by step. In this school, the people with the most power would be the principal. Nothing good would come from offending someone like him, so we need to start off with a mitigation meeting no matter what. We can see the results from that before making our decision.”
“Right. A decision you guys will be making.”
Byungsoo blinked. Them? Make a decision?
“The school would have to open a mitigation meeting whether they like it or not, with solid evidence like this. They’ll have to call on everyone that’s listed on this paperwork, you guys will be questioned as well in that process. What’s important here is that you guys be completely truthful.”
“Once that ends, the school will come up with a punishment. Anything ranging from a simple scolding to a full-on expulsion. Once they come up with a punishment, that’s when you make your decision. Whether you want to stop there, or...”
“We can turn this into a full-blown lawsuit.”
* * *
“Where the hell have you been going recently?”
Maru just smiled at Dojin’s question, he’s never wanted to have duplicates of himself so badly.
“We’re going to a karaoke bar in the weekend. You should come.”
Maru could only apologize.
“Let’s go play when I’m done with all of this.”
“What in the world are you doing?”
“Can’t say. Secrecy’s important here.”
“What are you even going on about?”
Dojin seemed incredibly confused. Maru said his goodbyes to his two friends and went to the boxing gym in town. He could see the others waiting for him already.
“Why didn’t you go in without me?”
“It felt awkward to just go in by ourselves.”
“Come on, guys. It’s been three days. We might as well get used to it at this point.”
As soon as they entered, they were overwhelmed by the smell of sweat. Maru gave his greetings to the trainer in the corner.
“I’ll leave them to you, as always.”
“Ah, right. My father wanted to know if you had time in the weekend...”
“Why wouldn’t that guy just call me directly? Why does he need me for the weekend?”
“BBQ and soju...”
The man cut Maru off, saying ‘I’ll be there for sure’. The trainer here was a friend of his dad from dad’s amateur boxer days. When Maru explained what happened at school to him, the man told him to bring the kids here ‘no matter what’. Thankfully, the price for all of this was completely free.
[I actually have some debt towards your dad in the past. I paid him back, but I’m still very thankful for what he did. After all, half of this gym was funded by him.]
“Make them a little more energetic, please.”
“Energetic, you say? Well, if they just learn how to get hit, they wouldn’t lose in a fight anymore. I’ll fix them up real good, so that they start beating the bullies before anything.”
The kids started moving at the trainer’s words. Even if the bullies get punished, the root of the problem wouldn’t be so easily changed. In the end, the person has to be fixed from the ground up. Maru wanted to help these kids as much as he could.
‘I do feel sorry for them regardless.’
He didn’t start this because he felt sorry for the kids that got bullied. In the end, he started this to solve his own problem. Changhu was sure to hurt the club in the long run, especially since he actually knew how to use his brain. Honestly, if it wasn’t for Changhu, Maru wouldn’t have stepped in at all. He wasn’t immature enough to extend his hand out to those he wouldn’t be able to help for sure.
‘But I started this already.’
If he started something, he might as well end see it through to the end. That’s how Maru worked. The fact that Changhu touched his sister became another motivating factor for him. Trash that dared hit women just needed to disappear, at least in Maru’s head. He wouldn’t even try to scold trash like that, trash like that would only learn once they got a proper beating.
‘Might as well give them one, then.’
Maru realized that his sense of justice was pretty much ingrained into his personality. Even when he quit his company, he exposed all of their dark deeds beforehand. He didn’t like to get into action for many things, but he was the type that had to do something once he unsheathed his blade.
Maru stepped back out after saying goodbye to the trainer. Delinquents were only scary because they knew how to use violence. Once you believe you can resist their violence, they become trivial matters.
‘He’s a bit odd, but I guess that would be better for the kids in the long run.’
In the end, fear was subjective. Once these kids experience what punches from a real boxer is like, they’d naturally gain resistance to delinquents. It may be difficult for them at first, but surely they will grow in the future. The body was honest in that way. If you put in work into your body, it would pay you back in equal amounts of muscle. And these kids… After hitting rock bottom, they would try to climb back up with all their strength.
But if they give up there? Well, in that case, not even Maru could do anything. He didn’t have a way of helping someone who would willingly jump off a cliff.
“They should do well, though.”
In the end, you start feeling like you’re getting bullied if you get swept up with the rest of the class. These kids don’t get bullied because there’s something wrong with them, they get bullied because that’s just what happened as the class went on. That’s why most kids in class would feign ignorance when they get asked about bullying in their classes.
They were unaware that they were even bullying someone in the first place. In that case, Maru would have to let them know. Let them know that the person they treated like air were human beings, just like them.
“Oh boy, look at the time.”
Maru could just imagine Ganghwan annoyed look from waiting for him. It was the day of the amateur acting practice, he needed to run to Myungdong right away. Sure enough, he could see Ganghwan fiddling with his phone with a deep frown at their meeting spot.
“Sorry, I’m late.”
“Oh, so you’re well aware of that, huh?”
“We’re late, so let’s just go.”
“God damn it, if I wasn’t being paid for this, I’d just…!”
“I’ll try to find a girl for you to go on a date with in the near future.”
“...Dear disciple, please get in the car.”
Ganghwan even opened the door to the car for him.
“We’re getting our parts today, right?”
“Yeah. Everyone’s in an acting club already, so they know what they’re supposed to do.”
Maru smiled brightly, thinking of the Myungdong Art Theater.
“Why the hell are you smiling like that all of a sudden?”
“What, I can’t even smile?”
“Ugh, kids these days. Speaking of which, you seemed to be good friends with a girl there last time.”
“Of course. I was looking around for cute female instructors as well in the meantime, but they all turned out to be really old. Hah...”
Maru turned away from Ganghwan to look at the window. “She” was in the amateur class with him. Of course, this wasn’t luck or anything. Maru asked Junmin to put her in, a good use of his power.
“I wonder when I’m going to get an SO.”
Ganghwan hummed to himself an unknown tune.Previous Chapter Next Chapter