Chapter 108

In short, there were now four empty seats in the class. The bullies tried to transfer, but the school decided to expel them in the end. Byungsoo told Maru privately that in truth, he felt a little disappointed by the result.

[I did want this, but… It doesn’t feel like we won.]

A 20 hour volunteer work turned into an expulsion in just a few minutes. The intended result was achieved, but Byungsoo probably didn’t like how they achieved it. After all, if it wasn’t for Maru’s intervention, the school never would’ve acquiesced.

“The Hanja teacher will take an indefinite break due to a private reason. He seems sick, so be sure to write him a letter.”

The Hanja teacher would probably have to give up on education completely. This was a private engineering school. His relationship with the chairman was ruined for good, so he probably couldn’t continue working here. According to lawyer Park, the chairman was just cutting off his tail. The man probably suggested to the teacher to quit quietly while he still could.

“I heard the Hanja teacher was super corrupt.”

“Maybe that’s why he got fired?”

Maru had to wonder just who was spreading these rumors among the students. Sometimes, they were scarily accurate to what really happened. In the end, the classroom was still as lively as ever, no one even cared about what happened to the bullies. Then again, the people who would care got expelled, too.

The boy called Gijung who used to get bullied by Changhu was still as quiet as ever. He did seem a little happier though, thankfully. The boy was starting to come back to class after break time with a smile on his face.

Despite all that, the relationship between the victims and the rest of the school wouldn’t improve by much any time soon. Most students probably thought of them as snitches at this point. Plus, everyone was in their own social circles already, it would be difficult for the victims to try to get in there.

‘But then again.’

It looked like the victims went on to form their own social circle. A good sign. They would probably maintain a very good relationship together for a very long time.

Maru’s eyes met with Gijung’s. Maru shrugged, causing Gijung to look away with a bit of shock.

“Hm.”

Maru told them multiple times that he was only helping them for the acting club, perhaps that’s why Gijung looked so shocked. He didn’t do all of this for a reward or anything, but that kind of reaction was still a little troublesome.

‘Byungsoo was like that, too.’

The other boy gave Maru a bit of a forced smile the last time they met. The boy practically ran away as soon as he saw Maru, making Maru wonder if he did something wrong.

“Wonderful. The class looks so nice now,” Dojin said, looking at Changhu’s seat.

“I heard one of the kids in that group had ties to the chairman, I’m surprised that the chairman cut them off. I wonder if that guy’s actually a nice person?”

Dojin popped some candy in his mouth with a grin, Maru decided to leave the boy be. If he revealed the truth here, he’d be chased by Dojin for the next several days for details.

“I kind of feel sorry for the bullies.”

“Oh, you big softie, you.”

Daemyung was commenting as he looked sadly at the empty seats. Apparently, if you get expelled by the school, you’d have it on your record for the next two years. They’d probably have to study independently and do a test through the government to get a high school diploma. Only then would they be qualified to take the college entrance exams. At that point, they would be able to go around telling people that they dropped out of school instead of talking about what really happened.

“You don’t have to worry about it, they probably already hired good tutors to study. Maybe they’re even planning on doing international study. You know they’re all filthy rich.”

“T-that’s true. But… That guy worries me a bit.”

“Hosung?”

Daemyung nodded. There was a kid named Hosung in Changhu’s group. Unlike everyone else in that group, he alone seemed to have come from a poorer family.

“It’s totally his fault for acting like that, to begin with. Daemyung, this is just karma. Ignore it and move on. Man, you’re too kind.”

Daemyung smiled awkwardly. The boy was right though. Since Hosung wasn’t blessed with money like the others, he would have to work very hard by himself. That would be no easy feat.

“I really have to earn a lot of money.”

“What the hell?”

“Money?”

Maru told the two of them to think about what they want before falling over on his desk. Finally, he would be able to rest a bit. He was still busy for the rest of the week, but at least this was one thing off of his list.

“I’m sleeping.”

“Fine, fine. Sleep!”

* * *

“Maru’s… a bit weird.”

“Hm?”

Daemyung asked what was up as he passed a cup of hot chocolate to Dojin. Maru? Weird?

“He’s been a really cool guy from the day I met him. He also thinks really differently compared to all of us.”

“So?”

“It feels like there’s a distance between the two of us.”

“Well, he’s busy. He goes to a lot of places for acting. Maybe it’s because of that?”

“Well, there’s that, too, but… How do I put it? I feel a bit annoyed when I look at him.”

“Annoyed?”

Daemyung stepped sideways, dodging a female student running towards him. He almost spilled his drink. Daemyung took a sip from his cup before it spilled over before sighing.

“I get that he focuses on something a lot if he puts his mind to something. I also get that he cares a lot more for people than he likes to let on. After all, our relationship could only improve like this thanks to Maru.”

Dojin continued with a hint of embarrassment, Daemyung started feeling a bit embarrassed as well. This guy said too many cringey things whenever they talked. Well, that was his charm, Daemyung figured.

“But if you look at him, you’ll notice that there’s always a reason why he does something.”

“Well, he’s only doing something because he has a reason.”

“Ah… Damn, this is so hard to explain. It just feels like he’s a bit up in the air. He’s always busy and hardworking, but he has no motivation. No, he has motivation, but… Yeah! He’s just circling around!”

“Circling around? Maru?”

Daemyung thought for a second. Maru? Circling around? Sure, he was doing that at the beginning of the school year for sure. He was always sitting at the edges of the club, never getting himself deeply involved. He was studying Chinese, CAD softwares, and sometimes even study guides for government employees. But recently, Maru was focusing solely on acting. How was that “circling around”?

Then, Daemyung came to a stop. Maybe Dojin was onto something.

“I don’t know if it’s because I’m weird, but that’s what I feel whenever I look at Maru. He seems motivated but it doesn’t make sense why he’s motivated. It makes sense when I compare him with you. You’re clearly working hard because you desperately want to get good at acting, but Maru doesn’t give me that feeling at all. Even when he’s working even harder than you. I might just be worrying too much, but… It feels like the more I know about Maru, the further I get from him.”

A single word crossed Daemyung’s mind.

“Empty...”

“......”

With a short exchange of glances, Daemyung realized that this one word explained everything Dojin was trying to say all this time.

* * *

Maru felt exhausted. He was glad that there was a heater running right above him. The school finally decided to unseal the heaters when the weather became cold. Thank goodness. Looking around him, he noticed that Dojin’s seat was empty. He couldn’t see Daemyung either.

“Did they leave to get snacks?”

There really weren’t other places to go at this time. Maru yawned as he took out his phone, his mailbox was completely empty. In the past, when he really was this young, he used to text his friends nonstop. But as he aged, he grew tired of even asking for an update or making small talk with them. His tendency to call people instead of messaging them probably contributed to his empty mailbox, too. But there was one person he always looked forward to getting messages from.

Her.

He wasn’t even able to send her a message with how busy he’s been.

“What’s up?” he said, sending the message.

A reply came in just a few seconds.

[Waiting for food.]

Ah, right. She had quite an appetite. He recalled how she used to frown often whenever she got a new role in a play, the new memory lightened his mood even more.

“Do you have time on the weekend? I still haven’t gotten my money back.”

Again, a beep.

[We only have two weeks till the prelims. No time to play! Are you practicing well?]

“Well, you know.”

I’m working hard, just for you. Maru couldn’t bring himself to actually write that, so he just told her he was being lazy.

[Lazy? Wow, so confident. Well, we’ll be taking first place in the winter nationals, so just you watch! Plus, we see each other three times a week already. Do you really have to ask for money through the mail? Don’t you try anything weird, now.]

“Weird? No way.”

Maru dropped back down on the desk after responding, “ok”. He’d be seeing her again today as well. She was hard at work, even in the amateur classes. Her motivation was almost blinding in his eyes.

‘Come to think of it, I need to be careful of him.’

Her charm was already starting to attract the attention of a few boys in their class.

“Why couldn’t she just be a little pretty?”

Maru got a little worried, thinking that someone might steal her away from him. He thought of the future after high school, before shaking his head. He didn’t want to think about such things right now.

‘If she really does get together with someone else, then I...’

The door behind him opened, cutting Maru’s thoughts right then and there. It was Dojin and Daemyung. Strangely, they didn’t have a smile on their faces.

“Did something happen?”

“No, it’s nothing.”

What happened? Maru looked at the two with curious eyes.

* * *

Miso absolutely wasn’t a fan of the extra one month given to them. She had created a schedule to try and make the club feel as nervous about the play as possible, but the extra month ended up ruining everything. They started practicing in August. They started doing runs in September, and they held the play at the festival in October to figure out extra problems. The plan was to enter the prelims perfectly in November. Miso’s plan was perfect, but…

“We’re getting lazy.”

They were entering their fifth month of practice. Even pros only practiced for up to 2 months. Especially because extra practice could sometimes negatively impact a play, but they were entering their fifth month at this point. Everyone was visibly lax at this point.

“Everyone, come around.”

Miso gathered the students around her.

“I’ll give you guys homework.”

“Homework?”

“Yeah, homework. You guys need something a little extra.”

They all looked at each other after hearing the word “extra”. Miso snapped her finger before continuing.

“Prepare a short one-man play. Your play will be about the person standing to your right. Observe your target carefully before making the play. It doesn’t need to be anything special. You’re just going to be imitating your neighbor.”

“What?”

The club members looked at Miso in confusion.

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