Chapter 110

Wednesday. The middle of the week. As expected, there weren’t many people walking around in the park, as if to show that the weekend was still far off. Daemyung walked into a convenience store to take shelter from the cold wind. His eyes immediately wandered to the snacks and cup noodles, but he couldn’t grab them because of his coach’s instructions. So instead, he opted for a warm drink. The door to the convenience store opened, and a couple around his age walked in. Daemyung walked to the corner of the eating area, feeling self-conscious for some reason.

‘How nice.’

There were three girls in the club, but he’d never hung out with them outside of club activities.

‘They all have their matches as well.’

Geunseok and Yurim were a public couple, and Soyeon and Taejoon liked each other. Iseul… was hard to approach, so he’d pass.

‘Come to think of it, they were setting up something for Taejoon, weren’t they?’

Iseul had decided to help Taejoon after watching the boy struggle for all this time, saying that she’d pick a day to invite the two of them to her parents’ restaurant. Daemyung didn’t know the specifics of when it would happen, though. Maybe it’d be on a Sunday, when there was no practice? As the couple in the convenience store walked out, Maru walked in.

It looked like it’d gotten even colder out there. Daemyung felt he got a little colder when Maru walked towards him.

“Cold, right?”

“Pretty cold. Did you see it snowing outside?”

“Really?”

Indeed, it was snowing outside. Daemyung could see the couple smiling at each other through the window. They must be on a date. How nice.

“Hey man, there’s nothing wrong with experiencing the first snow of the season with a guy.”

“Yes there is...”

“Hmm, you planning on getting a girlfriend now, Mr. Daemyung?”

“W-what? No way? Someone like me has no chance.”

“Oh, to be young.”

Maru bought himself a piece of bread and milk before coming back.

“Did you not eat yet?”

“Yeah. I forgot to eat dinner. You’re not gonna eat?”

“I’m fine.”

Daemyung looked at his stomach with a smile.

“The coach told me to lose weight, so I’m going to try and shave five kilos.”

“Must be hard. Want cup noodles?”

Maru ate his food with a slight smile. Daemyung looked at Maru carefully. His target of observation for Miso’s homework was Maru, but he was pretty much done at this point, so he didn’t need to observe the other boy.

“Don’t look at me so intently, you’re going to make me fall for you.”

“F-fall for- what?”

Maru continued eating, ignoring Daemyung. He must’ve been pretty hungry.

“My head was spinning from how hungry I was. Are you really not going to eat, though? If you try to lose weight so quickly, your body’s not going to enjoy it. You gotta be slow with this stuff.”

“It’s okay, I had an egg already.”

“Really? That’s enough?”

“Probably not, but I’m gonna try my best.”

“Want cup noodles?”

“Stop saying that, you’re really making me hungry.”

Daemyung glanced at the cup noodles section one more time before shaking his head. A single cup noodle had at least 400 calories. He would need to walk for at least 40 minutes to burn all of that off. 5 minutes of happiness for 40 minutes of pain… Daemyung knew it was a bad deal, but his mouth just kept watering regardless.

“Is your observation period almost over?”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

Daemyung took out his diary.

“Did you even have anything to write? I’m a pretty simple guy.”

Maru extended his hand, and Daemyung handed him his diary.

“I didn’t write much.”

“Really?”

Maru started flipping through the diary with a hand on his chin. For some reason, Daemyung felt like he was getting his homework reviewed by a teacher. Maru was reading the pages with a lot of focus. It honestly made Daemyung feel pressured. Right then...

“This...”

Maru was pointing at a particular point on a page. Daemyung leaned to take a look, then took the diary out of Maru’s hands.

“T-these are just personal thoughts. Don’t worry about it.”

“But you still got those feelings while you observed me, didn’t you?”

“It’s all just random bullshit. Really. I just forgot to throw it away.”

That was a section Daemyung hadn’t planned on showing Maru, he shouldn’t have passed his diary over so casually.

“Something I shouldn’t have seen...”

“W-w-what?”

Daemyung stuttered. He felt like he got found out-- no, he got found out. Had he been that obvious?

‘Then again, even I would get suspicious.’

He should’ve just laughed it off. Why did he have to act so suspiciously? Daemyung tried to laugh it off, but Maru wasn’t one to let him go just like that.

“I’m not trying to scold you or anything, I just want to know how you see me as a person.”

“...I really just wrote that for no reason.”

Maru looked absolutely serious. In the end, Daemyung had no choice but to hand over the diary again.

“I just wrote it for fun. Don’t read into it too much or anything.”

“Wait.”

Daemyung closed his mouth tightly. Was he mad? Then again, he did write something that could be pretty offensive in that notebook. Daemyung deeply regretted writing it down in his notebook. As expected, Maru had a pretty deep frown on his face, which was enough to make a chill run down Daemyung’s spine.

The boy was reading through Daemyung’s writing with intense focus, even going over the same pages repeatedly. Maru really was reading the notebook as if he was reading a novel.

‘Maybe he isn’t mad.’

Daemyung realized that Maru’s frown wasn’t actually directed at him. Once Maru finished reading, he closed the book.

“M-Maru.”

“So this is what you thought when you looked at me?”

“No, I...”

“I’m not mad, so just tell me honestly. I just want to hear what you have to say.”

Maru was talking very quietly. Unlike usual, his voice lacked confidence. The boy had always seemed to have the confidence to come out on top in any given situation, almost like an old man, but not anymore. Daemyung realized right then, Maru really did need his opinions. In fact, he didn’t even need to make his words sound better. It would be best if he was honest with Maru right now.

“This is something I thought of with Dojin last time.”

“Dojin?”

“Dojin felt the same thing as me. I realized my feelings weren’t wrong when I actually started observing you. I tried asking the other kids to make sure and they told me similar things.”

“If even the others felt this way, then this might as well be a fact about myself.”

“It’s just a feeling in the end, but...”

Daemyung fidgeted for a second before making up his mind. Maru always helped him out with his problems. This time, the other boy was the one who needed his help. He felt it was his responsibility to help the boy out as much as he could.

“I’d like to say some things if you don’t mind listening. Again, this is just an observation. Do you remember when you first talked to me in class?”

“Of course.”

“I’m thankful you did that. If you didn’t, I might be a victim of bullying by now, just like Gijung.”

“Well….”

“In any case, you’re a nice person who likes to help troubled people out. But recently, I started thinking that you’re not just nice. This is just me who thinks this, but I think you have a specific rule for helping people.”

“Rule?”

“First, you can’t get impacted negatively from helping someone out. Don’t get too offended, this is just an observation like I said.”

“Alright. Please continue.”

“Remember when we hung out together after your summer job at the gas station ended? And some people got into a fight where we were?”

“Of course.”

“I thought you’d stop them right there, but you just decided to leave instead. There’s been a lot of moments like those, actually. You do help people, but you never step in if you think you’re going to be affected.”

“Mm. That’s right.”

Maru didn’t disagree.

“I think you’re pretty amazing, regardless. Most of us usually don’t decide to help people at all.”

“Thanks for the compliment, but that’s not what I want to hear right now.”

“Y-yeah.”

Daemyung opened the diary and started reading everything about Maru from it, reading it reminded him of exactly what had happened in all of those moments.

“Back then when you saw the kids getting bullied, you didn’t help them. I heard you only helped them because of Changhu. Is that true?”

“Yeah.”

“The Han Maru that I’ve observed never does anything that would harm him, he’s not really a figure of justice. But strangely, this rule doesn’t actually apply when it comes to acting. Remember when you shook the club upside down that one time?”

“Oh, that?”

“I asked Mr. Taesik about what happened.”

“You worked hard for this, didn’t you?”

“It’s homework, after all. You know my dream is to be a director. I think studying actors in detail is good practice, so… Hm, hm. In any case, you shook up the club, despite knowing that you would be impacted negatively as a result. Same with how you always did the menial tasks for the club. Whenever something involved acting, you really went out of your way to do certain things even if it would be bad for you.”

“Right.”

“That’s when I started thinking, maybe acting has some great meaning to you. But that makes something else even stranger. You said at the beginning of the school year that you weren’t interested in acting, that it wasn’t worth investing time into. That was why you always skipped practice, but you’re working harder than anyone now. That’s when I realized that maybe you were trying to get something out of acting, and that was why you were trying so hard.”

That’s when Maru closed his mouth and the boy nodded in agreement silently.

“That’s when I started looking back on your character. You studied really hard when school started. But now, you’ve started skipping homework and you’re focusing most of your time on your scripts. You’re working very, very hard on acting, but I couldn’t help but get the feeling that… You might give up on acting very easily.”

Maru focused most of his time on acting when December came. He’d even used most of his time on the weekdays to work on acting, while weekends were reserved for practice in Myungdong. Clearly, the boy was dedicating most of his life to acting right now. But… Daemyung couldn’t shake off a certain feeling. Was Maru trying this hard for acting because he truly cared for it?

Looking at the boy again with that in mind made Daemyung come to ‘that’ conclusion. Empty. No matter how you tried to spin it, it wasn’t a very nice thing to say to someone. That was why Daemyung had snatched the diary from Maru’s hands in the beginning.

“And the conclusion is?”

“What?”

“If you’ve observed Han Maru this much, you must’ve come to some sort of a conclusion about your character. Some sort of a theme that you can use for the character. Am I right?”

“Ah, yeah…. yeah.”

“Can you tell me about it?”

Daemyung hesitated for a bit before opening his mouth.

‘There’s two versions.“

“Two versions?”

“Yeah. The first was to portray you as a hardworking actor. A character that manages to do just about anything he wants, as long as he makes up his mind about it. A character that’s strong and kind at the same time.”

“I suppose what I’d want to listen to would obviously be the second one.”

Daemyung nodded. Honestly, he’s only thought about the second one. He didn’t really want to talk about it and he wasn’t confident that he would be able to act it out that well either. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a choice to stay silent since the boy wanted to hear about it.

“The second...”

Daemyung opened the last page of his diary.

“I thought about what you ultimately want to get through acting and what you would be like if you lost that thing.”

Daemyung carefully continued speaking.

“This might just be my imagination. Maybe I’m thinking too much. You can insult me if you want; after all, I’m saying stuff like this when you’re putting your all into acting. But I really can’t shake off this feeling. Ah, there’s one more thing. I came to this conclusion after thinking about the previous two things I mentioned, but… It really feels like you’re acting a character called Han Maru.”

Saying this was bound to make Maru mad, Daemyung thought.

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