Chapter 123

* * *

“So you guys had an argument?”

“A little bit. I should apologize first, right?”

“Apologize if you mean it.”

Inside the swaying bus, she was recounting what happened in her class to Maru. The argument started when her friend borrowed her manicure. Even close friends have these moments, no? She felt like she needed to say sorry but dreaded taking the first step. She felt some of that dread lift off her shoulders as she spoke to Maru. She now felt that she could approach her friend.

“There’s nothing more than this, right?”

“It’s not like I’m person who dutifully stores past slights. This sort of thing rarely happens. I usually resolve it right then and there.

“Yeah, you do tend to do that.”

At that moment, the bus came to a screeching halt. Her body started to sway to the point of losing control despite tightly grasping the overhead handle. Right when she was about to collide with the guy next to her, Maru grabbed and supported her arm.

“Be careful.”

“… uhuh.”

She looked at her right arm. Maru, who was looking out the bus window without a care in the world, steadfastly held and supported her. She felt like there was a safety net wherever she went with him. It was these little things that Maru was always good at.

“Karaoke this weekend?”

“I can’t this weekend. I have practice. Doesn’t Woosung have practice too?

“Yeah, but I can just say I’m sick.”

“Ugh, it’s one week before preliminaries. At least show some effort.”

“I’m actually putting in a lot of effort, but you know sometimes too much effort causes bodily harm. It’s just as important to get some rest.”

“Then rest at home yourself instead of causing trouble for others,” she playfully said while letting out a laugh and sticking out her tongue.

Maru really did have a direct way with words, but that’s what made it easy for her to talk to him. It seemed like yesterday that they first met, but she felt that their relationship extended far before then.

With Maru supporting her arm, she didn’t worry about the bus swaying. She took this bus to Myungdong 3 to 4 times a week. Without fail, Maru was always with her, as if he and she were attending the same school. She glanced at Maru and noticed his light pink lips curved upwards into a smile.

‘He’s changed a bit recently.’

She noticed that he previously acted cold to every other amateur acting group member except her. Maru was like a government employee who limited his words and actions to limit personal exposure.

However, the Maru now opened up and joined others in conversation. She knew how talkative Maru was, so it didn’t come as a surprise when Maru immediately started getting along with others in the amateur acting class.

She felt deep down that Maru always truly listened. Her heart stirred whenever she talked and looked into Maru’s calming eyes. Maru was like a professional psychologist, listening wholeheartedly and sympathizing with empathetic nods.

“What?”

“Nothing. You’re smiling more often now.”

“Have I?”

He didn’t seem to realize the change himself. When he lifted his hand to his face in thought, she saw his surprisingly toned neck. She felt it every once in a while, but Maru really had a developed body, being 178cm and all.

“Have you been working out?”

“Just some boxing with my dad here and there.”

“Wow, boxing?”

“My dad was an amateur boxer. He won quite a few times too.”

“Really? That’s amazing. Have you ever competed?”

“Just sparring.”

“Oho! You must be pretty good at fighting?”

“If a fight breaks out, I’m the first to run away,” Maru replied as he broke out another smile.

She really liked this about Maru. He didn’t put up a fake bravado front nor did he take every chance to complement himself like other guys. Whenever she saw this side of Maru, she could picture him saying ‘So what?’ It was tiring to be around guys who flaunted their fighting prowess. It’s not like being good in fights or hurting others is a good thing.

“Have you ever fought with your classmates?”

“Nope, not once. I’m too scared and cautious to let things get to that point.”

She saw Maru flex his shoulders subconsciously. She asked half-jokingly,

“If I get implicated in a fight, what are you going to do?”

“Knowing you, I don’t think you’d ever let yourself get in that position.”

“If, what if it happens.”

“Then I’ll work it out with all the parties involved and try to bring a non-violent resolution,” Maru stated with a smirk as if pleased with his answer. She saw this and poked his side, only to see Maru avoid her by twisting his body.

They didn’t talk much after that. Everyone on the bus must have been tired too as it was silent inside. The only sound came intermittently from a couple girls talking at the back of the bus. She heard the bell for the next stop and saw out the window. Maru’s stop was the one afterwards.

“It’s your stop soon.”

She extended her arm and pressed the red button to signal for the next stop. A notification went off in the bus to signal that a passenger wanted to get off. There were only a few blocks left before Maru gets off. As she was mentally preparing some parting words, Maru turned his head and said,

“If a fight ever were to break out, I’ll stand in front and take everything… you make sure to run away. If you can, call the police too.”

Maru’s gently patted the pink hat atop her head and then got off the bus. She peered out the window and caught Maru waving his hand with a large grin on his face.

* * *

“Hmm.. The Youth and Chuljin.”

The preliminaries were a week away. If they made it to regionals in January, that meant that he would have to act in two plays, ‘People of Dalseokdong’ and ‘3rd Year Class 3’.

Having had ample time to prepare, Maru had a good grasp of the teenage character he needed to play in Dalseokdong. The character connected the separate acts of the play by helping the audience organize their thoughts and catch their breath. Thus, overacting and sticking out like a sore thumb should be avoided. After reviewing his Dalseokdong lines once more, Maru picked up the script for ‘3rd Year Class 3’.

Though it was just an hour-long play, the story developed quickly. The entire play dealt with the struggles that happened within the confines of classroom 3. The main storyline was about the disagreements that started due to a few classroom bullies and the ensuing story toward resolution. The Class 3 student representative wraps up the play after exploding his frustrations on the homeroom teacher. The play doesn’t neatly resolve any issues. The main focus is on the commonly arising situations in the modern Korean classroom, a reflection on the larger issues plaguing Korean society. Through this play, Maru was again reminded of how the emotional unraveling of a storyline could change 180 degrees based on the director’s intention.

“This story was originally about growth and development.”

The original storyline neatly resolved the issues and struggles of youth in ‘3rd Year Class 3’ and brought peace to the classroom, much like the first play in the amateur group, ‘The Cozy Table’. However, the play was now more nuanced and interpretive.

Ganghwan seems to have really taken creative interpretation to heart on this play. Maru had to acknowledge that this form of creative interpretation was mild compared to Ganghwan’s ‘Human Repayment’, where the heavy topic of suicide was dealt with. Just thinking about it made Maru’s skin crawl.

Maru tried spitting out Chuljin’s lines while flipping through the script. He wanted to get into character rather than memorize lines. Memorizing the lines was just a point Maru needed to get to. It was more important for Maru to understand the emotional development and direction of the story and to naturally bring forth the dialogue that matched the appropriate scene.

This was also what Ganghwan expected of Maru. Either the actor or the director must take the interpretive lead. Since Ganghwan stated “You guys should show me your personal interpretion,” Maru understood that he didn’t need to strictly stick to the lines on the script.

“A student who is outwardly bright and cheerful,” Maru murmured.

There’s a student like that in every class, someone who easily fits into any social circle, and the person students half-jokingly choose as their class representative. This outwardly carefree character named Chuljin had a private side too, like anyone else.

Although the character of Chuljin could be close and friendly in any clique, the character was skeptical of these shallow relationships. Ironically, Chuljin’s closest friend in the class is the class representative. From Chuljin’s point of view, the class representative seemed like a free spirit due to his deep devotion and friendship to a handful of classmates.

Just as Chuljin envied the class representative, the class representative envied Chuljin’s ability to get along with the bullies in the classroom. These unspoken thoughts and the absence of understanding among the main characters slowly evolved and nurtured a powder keg that threatened to explode into violence.

“And then there’s Seulmi.”

Among the characters in the play, she was the only one that didn’t have a conflicting outer and inner self. Seulmi’s courageous conviction made it so that she couldn’t bear to see any slights or ignore bad actions. This heroine-like personality of hers often led Seulmi to cross the line of what was appropriate, putting herself in the middle of a conflict.

Then there’s the standard bad homeroom teacher who didn’t even make the effort to memorize the names of his students. He was the first to think of an excuse and to point fingers at students whenever a problem arose. This homeroom teacher amplified the conflict among the class representative, Chuljin, and Seulmi. An amateur actor who had an abrasive, bitter outward appearance took the role as the homeroom teacher.

Along with these four main characters, the group of bullies and teacher #2 rounded up the cast of ‘3rd Year Class 3’. As Ganghwan mentioned before, the importance of developing the main characters led to more scenes and lines for these 4 actors compared to the eight others in the amateur acting group. The increase in his character’s screen time led Maru to color a large part of the script with his orange highlighter.

“Phew.”

The first thing Maru did after receiving the script was to highlight his lines and his character’s influences on others with an orange highlighter. For the first time, Maru felt the importance of his character after seeing the sparsely separated black characters trapped in an orange highlighted jail. At the same time, Maru was greedy. Had it been a couple of months ago, he would have run away from this level of commitment. However, the current Maru was glad for the opportunity to stand on stage longer and tell his story to the audience.

Maru got up with the script in hand. To save time, Maru decided to focus on 'People at Dalseok-dong' at school and '3rd Year Class 3' at home.

“I laughed and talked with others so much but yet I’m all alone again. Is this some sick joke? Am I really the person who was so affable just a while ago? Why don’t I have a friend I can speak to without concern,” Maru read the lines of Chuljin who is speaking his thoughts aloud in the empty classroom before Seulmi walks in.

“Both of the characters look at each other briefly before ignoring the other. The class representative is the next to come in and frowns upon seeing the two other students.”

The class representative, who secretly likes Seulmi, eventually finds out that Chuljin and Seulmi are dating each other. This realization leads to a confrontation with some classroom bullies and quickly escalates into the main conflict point in ‘3rd Year Class 3. The audience should start to feel a sense of nervous foreboding.

Maru read the script notes that detailed some rushed footsteps coming from off stage. This gimmick and the acting needed to mesh well together in order to build the appropriate tension for the audience. Maru walked around his room while reading the script. He couldn’t get into the character of Chuljin by just reading the lines, he needed to understand and become Chuljin himself.

It was at that moment.

Maru saw his sister silently open his door and peek in. She didn’t open the door haphazardly like she did before.

“Big brother, what are you doing?”

“I’m reviewing a script.”

“Are you busy?”

“Why?”

“You have time to eat some snacks together, right? I’ll gain weight if I eat by myself, so let’s gain weight together, yeah?”

“It’s past 11.”

“But I’m hungry…” Bada pouted.

“… Okay, then I’ll have some ice cream. You’re going to get it right?”

“Yeah, I’ll get it. Wait here, I’ll be back soon!”

Maru could hear his sister’s scurrying footsteps reverberating across the floor. A smile crossed his face as he laid down the script.

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

ensj's Thoughts

These chapters were translated by PlumpCat99, while ensj was out on personal business.