After that day, the delinquents all became quiet. They were glaring harder than ever before, but Byungsoo got used to those glares very quickly. He’s learned that glares don’t hurt, no matter how much you receive them. As a matter of fact, looking back at these delinquents just reassure him of his victory. They all looked visibly worried at this point.
Like Maru predicted yesterday, they were all called out to speak with the teachers. They were getting interviewed so that the teachers could make sure they were getting the truth from both sides.
What really surprised Byungsoo was how the disciplinary teacher took it. All this time, he thought the disciplinary teacher came to school to beat up kids, but that scary teacher was listening to his story quite seriously. The man even commented that ‘kids with no chance at redemption like that need special punishment.’
Of course, not all teachers were like this. All the other teachers in the mitigation meeting only pretended to understand Byungsoo, while trying to downscale all of this as much as possible. Looking at these people's work made Byungsoo very surprised. He even told them that he was considering suicide and all these people told him was ‘but they’re friends, so you should be understanding’. Listening to them made Byungsoo think back to something Maru told him.
[In the end, school is also a form of a business. Businesses only work when people actually come to it. In order to make people come, you need to have a good reputation. In that sense, our school has every reason to shake off any rumors involving delinquency. That’s why a lot of the teachers will try to hide that this bullying stuff ever happened.]
Maru did warn that the teachers would try to downplay everything, but actually seeing that happen in front of him just made Byungsoo laugh in dejection. He didn’t hate the teachers for what they did, though. As he prepared for all of this with Maru, he’s thought a lot about this. His other friends probably did the same.
‘Everyone has their own sense of justice.’
Some teachers think justice is to fight for kids like them, some teachers think justice is to work hard for a promotion or to work for their own family. Everyone has their own reasons for working the way that they did. Byungsoo’s learned that at this point that everyone has their own reasons for living the way they did. At the same time, he’s realized that he would need a more solidified worldview for himself.
‘Other people’s perspectives are, in the end, their own.’
Just because Byungsoo understood why people did the things they did didn’t necessarily make him agree with it. Byungsoo shook his head when the teachers told him to let this pass easily, they frustratedly told him to think about the future instead of focusing on getting instant gratification. Hearing that made Byungsoo’s opinions even more set in stone, he said on the spot that he wanted to see the bullies get punished. That his thoughts on the matter wouldn’t change no matter how much they tried.
He didn’t sound that cool at the time, of course. He was actually stuttering and everything, but that didn’t make him feel any less proud of saying what he said. For the first time in a long time, he managed to say his opinion to someone else.
Byungsoo saw one of his other friends being called into a teacher’s office on his way back to class. Another one of his comrades in arms. He recalled smiling at this friend as he passed by. He realized then, that he finally had enough confidence to start cheering other people on. Just this realization was enough to change his life for the better, he actually started enjoying school a bit more.
“Yo, weren’t my punches pretty great yesterday?”
“Yeah bro. There were some nice sounds coming out of those mitts. Are we doing roadwork again today, by the way? Doing that always makes me want to throw up.”
“Obviously. If we try to skip it, the trainer’s going to kill us.”
He’s finally gotten a friend to talk to during break times as well. It was just one person, but a friend was still a friend. The fourteen friends he met during this time felt especially precious to Byungsoo. Not just because they shared a common pain, but because they were all fighting the same battle. Without it, they wouldn’t be as close as they are now.
Lunchtime. Byungsoo stopped heading out of the classroom in a hurry, he’d casually waited for his friends in other classes before heading down happily. The gazes from other students around him… felt normal, surprisingly enough. To be honest, he was a little scared at first. He thought he’d get bullied by the class for selling out a delinquent in his class, but the reactions he got from his classmates were very, very normal. They just didn’t care. Apparently it was the same in the other classes, too.
There, Byungsoo and his friends learned one more thing, people wouldn’t care about others if they weren’t involved. Byungsoo thought back to his middle school days as well. Back then, there was a kid who was a little slower than others. He didn’t actively bully the kid, but he and his classmates teased the kid about it.
Looking back, he definitely took part in bullying. Perhaps that kid was getting beat up where he couldn’t see as well. But at the time, Byungsoo didn’t have any interest in the kid at all. He just threw a joke or two about the kid every once in a while, because everyone else was doing it.
That’s right, he didn’t care at all at the time. In the end, the kid was like a prop on a stage, something that he actively ignored.
‘It must be the same for them, too.’
His classmates probably thought the same. There probably weren’t many in his class who were bullying him for the sake of bullying.
That didn’t mean he forgave them for their actions, of course. They knew he was getting bullied, but didn’t do anything about it. He did, however, stopped blaming them for everything. He realized how pointless it was to try to shift blame onto other people. In the end, problems could only be solved if you came to face it directly.
[If you can dodge a problem and have it be solved, just dodge it. But if you can’t, in the end, you’ll have to face it. No matter how much you dodge it, eventually, that problem’s going to come and catch up to you.]
That was another thing Maru told him. Of course, Byungsoo didn’t believe Maru’s words all the time. In fact, he disagreed with Maru often as well. Whenever that happened, Maru took his words into account and came up with a different decision. Byungsoo could sense a lot of experience from the boy in those moments.
At the same time, he felt very foreign to Byungsoo. When he asked around, he found that all his other friends felt the same way as well.
“Doesn’t Maru always talk like he’s not involved in something?”
“Yeah. He treats certain things like he’s not involved in it at all, despite being the one to instigate this in the first place.”
Maru was always very calm in nature, adding a sense of maturity which made him seem much older than he actually was. The boy had a very good head on his shoulders. But strangely, Byungsoo didn’t want to become the boy’s friend at all. Was it because of the boy’s ever-bored expression? Or the boy’s confidence?
For sure, Maru was a great ally to have. But that’s all there was to it. Something made Byungsoo very sure that the two of them would never get very close.
‘I guess it doesn’t matter that much, though.’
To begin with, Maru had no reason to hang out with kids like him in the first place. Byungsoo’s learned through all of this that Maru was shouldering expectations from a lot of people. The boy received calls all the time, mostly from adults.
Even Maru’s school friends seemed amazing. Then again, everyone in the acting club looked very quirky and charming. Again, Maru… had no reason to be with them. Regardless, Maru had some sort of an aura about him that made him hard to approach.
Not his talent, or personality. Just something odd that made him hard to befriend. The others thought the same as well.
“Maru’s kind of… It feels like he’s there, but also not there? It's a bit hard to describe.”
“Yeah, he’s a good guy, but...”
The others didn’t think deeply about it. Regardless of what Maru was like, the fact that the boy was their savior didn’t change.
* * *
“You’ve been yawning a lot recently.”
Dojin looked around for a second before leaning towards Maru.
“You’ve been together with the bullied kids recently, I noticed. Were you the one that made them do all of this?”
“I only helped them a little.”
“I knew something was off.”
Dojin handed Maru a cherry flavored candy. Maru took it and popped it into his mouth. Perfect timing, he was craving the sweet stuff just now.
“Is this because of Changhu?”
“For now, yeah.”
“You’ve really made up your mind, haven’t you? But wouldn’t this be dangerous if he finds out? You know he gets really petty with stuff like this.”
Dojin pointed very carefully at Changhu, Changhu and his friends have been getting called out to the faculty offices almost daily in the past few days. Because of this, pretty much every student in the school knew what was happening at this point. No matter how quietly the teachers tried to handle things, the rumors still spread like wildfire.
“I’m not doing anything that’d make me visible, so don’t worry. Plus, Changhu probably doesn’t even have time to think. His parents should be receiving a call sooner or later.”
“God damn am I glad to be your friend. You cruel bastard.”
“Cruel? No way. This is just karma.”
“So this is why you’ve been so busy recently.”
“It’s almost all over, so I can finally breathe a little.”
“Here, eat this.”
Someone else jumped right onto their conversation in the middle. It was Daemyung, who handed them both a burger. The boy’s been gaining weight again after the club started training, apparently, Miso’s been making plans to make Daemyung lose weight for good in the near future.
“I just thought I wouldn’t be able to eat however as much as I wanted after this point. Hehe.”
“You’re going to get fat again. Control yourself.”
“I will, I will. I’m going on a diet tomorrow.”
“That’s what they all say.”
Dojin and Daemyung talked to each other with a grin. Maru, in the meantime, chewed the candy in his mouth before turning his attention towards the burger. On the weekdays, he had club practice and Ganghwan’s private lessons. On Wednesdays to Fridays, he had training for the Myungdong Art Theater. On Saturday he needed to go to Hyehwa station, and then back to Myungdong in the evening. Sunday was the same. As a matter of fact, he didn’t have time to meet Soojin for the past month.
‘Come to think of...’
There was that thing with Dowook as well, Maru wanted to help the guy if he could. Maru thought of his schedule for this week.
He’s learned a lot from Soojin. He didn’t want to interfere with her family life, but he did want her to come to an understanding with her brother if he could. He’s received a lot from her, so he thought it would be only fitting to pay her back.
Maru felt himself becoming busy, he spent too much time working nowadays. He wanted to go on another date with her as well, but he just didn’t have the time. To think he’d be even busier than his adult life back in the past… This was ridiculous.
Maru opened his eyes, hearing Dojin call out to him.
“You look tired man, you should sleep.”
“Yeah, I should. Wake me up when the teacher comes.”
Maru decided to sleep for now.
* * *
There was only one thing the kids wanted and that was to expel the bullies. They didn’t want anything else and that’s exactly what they told the faculty. Perhaps this was why rumors about this event spread so fast around the school.
The teachers were starting to get busier around the school. The bullies had to start talking a lot more, and the victims were getting calmer by the minute. Eventually, the parents were summoned as well. Most were mothers, but even dads decided to come occasionally.
Maru took a look at the people gathering outside. By the looks of it, the school was about to get very loud again.
“Should be alright, though.”
Maru licked his lips as he looked at his contacts. Recently, he’s come to realize why people in power were so desperate to keep their power.
* * *
Changhu’s trusted friend shook his head with a pale expression. This guy’s mother had a very good relationship with the chairman of the school, so Changhu expected good news, but… That was not the case.
“Dude, I thought your mom had power.”
“Well… she said it would be good for us to follow the school’s decision.”
“If this ends up going to court, then… We’d really be screwed. She said expulsion might be our best bet.”
“What? You gotta tell me more. What the hell’s happening?”
Expulsion? Best choice? What kind of bullshit was this? Changhu could feel the blood rush to his head. At the same time, he noticed Gijung reading a book at a desk. He knew he shouldn’t, but he couldn’t control himself right now. He ran forward and kicked Gijung as hard as he could. The boy fell backward loudly, attracting the class’s attention.
Changhu realized what he’d done, but the water was already spilled. He might as well finish what he started.
“You son of a bitch, try to be quiet.”
“You’re too loud. Dude, you think the class belongs to you?”
“Motherfucker, can’t we catch a break during break time?”
All the kids in the class said something to him. Even though they didn’t say anything to him in the past… Come to think of it, these were also the guys that Gijung exchanged greetings with every morning. Were they friends?
“This guy’s trying to survive, too. Just stop. At this rate, you really are going to get sent to a detention center.”
“Yeah. Calm down, tard.”
Changhu grit his teeth. He turned around, ready to beat up the guys who dared talk back at him, but he could feel his fist start loosening up once he noticed that there weren’t just a few people looking at him disapprovingly.
To be honest, Changhu didn’t have that much confidence in fighting. He’s also realized. Many of the kids in his class were actually very good at fighting, unlike him.
“Oh dear, our Changhu’s fucked, isn’t he?”
Dojin’s voice stabbed its way into Changhu’s ear. In the end, all Changhu could do was leave the class with a loud huff.Previous Chapter Next Chapter