Chapter 124

* * * *

“Hmm, this one or this one,” Bada said as she happily contemplated between the snacks, eventually choosing the chocolate flavored snack.

Bada shrunk back from the sudden gust of cold evening wind as she walked out of the convenience store, with her snack and Maru’s ice cream cone in hand. As she was telling herself to quickly get back home, she saw a figure across the street walking with his sleek bicycle.

“Oh!” Bada involuntarily shouted.

She didn’t know him well, but she recognized his face. Dowook stared at Bada for a while before realizing who she was.

He let out an “Ah” himself.

“You’re Maru’s sister, right?”

“Yes, and you’re brother’s friend, Dowook, right?”

“Yeah.”

She recalled being saved by Dowook and the awe-inspiring roundhouse kick he gave that weirdo bully in Myungdong. Bada recalled this older brother’s full name, Kang Dowook. Maru told her to hurry and go home that eventful day, so she never had the chance to thank Dowook personally.

“Thank you for your help that day.”

“No worries. I wanted to give him a piece of my mind anyways.”

“Do you live nearby?” Bada asked.

“No. I came to meet a friend.”

“My brother?”

“No.” He kept his answers short. It was awkward enough for Dowook to be receiving thanks, so he wanted to end the conversation as soon as possible.

“I’ll see you around.”

“Oh, okay,” Bada responded in surprise as Dowook passed by with his bicycle in tow. Bada felt that Dowook’s personality was as cold as the sharpness of his eyes.

Just as Bada started to head home, she looked back at Dowook’s receding figure and remembered what her mother said about receiving help from others, ‘A responsible human being always pays back for the help received.’

Bada rushed back into the store, grabbed a hot drink, and ran towards Dowook.

“Um, here! Please take this,” Bada quickly said as she handed the confused Dowook a warm canned drink.

This fulfilled her obligation as a responsible human being. Relieved of her obligation, Bada turned back only to immediately feel a tapping on her shoulder. As she turned around, she heard Dowook say,

“I don’t like Red Ginseng.”

Dowook tossed the canned drink back at Bada. The surprised Bada somehow caught the tossed can but immediately replied back,

“Just drink it. It’s a gesture of appreciation.”

“You drink it,” Dowook snapped back.

Dowook lightly jumped onto his bicycle and powerfully pedaled away, quickly becoming a dot and then disappearing from the street. Bada stuck her tongue out in his direction and put the canned drink into her plastic bag.

“Hmm! As if I care if you drink it or not!”

* * *

Dowook stared at the blank letter on his school desk. His thoughts flooded onto the pages when he wrote his first letter to his sister, but he was truly at a loss for words right now. He recalled how each word was filled with sorrow, hate, and disappointment. The words rushed out onto the paper. He also recalled how each word helped him slowly release the pent-up frustration he carried around all these years. That was the first letter. This letter seemed infinitely more difficult.

He didn’t expect much from his sister. It wasn’t his sister’s fault that the accident happened and that he needed to go through a period of grueling physical therapy. He never blamed her for the accident, but he did hold her absence against her. All he wanted was someone to talk to.

However, his sister chose to leave the house. She ran away from the mother who blamed her and the father who gave her pitiful glances. After she left, Dowook spent his days retraining his muscles on the physical therapy machines at home, laying on the cold gym floor while his classmates enjoyed PE, and could only look at the backs of the neighborhood kids who went out to play. He naturally became an outsider at school and didn’t smile or laugh even once up all the way up to 5th grade.

Dowook started bicycling after his schoolteacher mentioned that it would help reinforce his muscles. Once he started seeing improvement, Dowook started playing all the sports that he missed. Immediately, his muscles started growing and eventually, bulging. He also started growing taller. Then came middle school. Due to his outsider status in elementary school, Dowook didn’t have any prior friends to hang out with, so he started hanging out with the wrong crowd. They made him feel powerful, as he was now on the side of the oppressor rather than the oppressed.

Thinking up to here, he picked up his pencil and decided to write about the past 10 years. Just as he was finishing the first sentence, a clanking noise resounded out from a can that landed on the corner of his desk. It was a Red Ginseng canned drink. Dowook raised his eyes toward the person whose hand was still on the can.

“Delivery~” chimed Maru with a grin.

“Delivery?”

"Bada came back late last night from the store huffing and puffing about you denying this drink, so I came to deliver it myself.”

"Ah…”

"Are you allergic to Red Ginseng?”

"No. I just don’t like it.”

"Then drink up. That poor little kid put in a lot of thought to give this to you.”

As soon as Maru finished the sentence, he opened the can and put it in front of Dowook. Dowook knew Maru was bullheaded, so he just sighed and resigned himself to drinking the canned drink. He one-shot the drink and handed the empty can to Maru.

"Done?”

"Thanks~ Is that the letter you’re writing for your sister?”

Dowook hid the letter from Maru with his arms. He knew that Maru was a trustworthy, good guy, but he still didn’t want to show him the embarrassingly emotional letter.

"Hey, write it nice and clear. I’ll make sure she gets it.”

"Yeah.”

“Older sister Soojin was relieved and happy to receive your last letter.”

"…”

Maru gave a refreshing smile. He’s changed, Dowook thought. It’s as if a heavy burden has been lifted off his shoulders. His relaxed demeanor and facial expression seemed to proved that something good happened recently.

"Ah. Dad asked me if you were planning to work this winter break.”

"Unfortunately, I’ll have to pass. Something came up.”

"Yeah? Dad’s going to feel sad. He was really looking forward to it.”

“Let him know that I’ll come visit in the near future.”

Maru picked up the empty can and walked back to his seat. As Maru casually opened up a book, Dowook couldn’t help but look back and think of how his life changed because of Maru. If it wasn’t for him, he may have been dismissed from the school like Changhu.

Dowook focused back on his letter and started to write. He finished writing as the bell rang to signal the end of the lunch break. All that needed to be done now was the delivery, but Dowook felt something was missing.

He shook his head and started writing another paragraph,

‘I’ve made a good friend at school, so school life hasn’t been too bad.’

* * *

“I want a girlfriend!” Dojin shouted.

“I knew you were going to say that,” Maru replied.

In the last period of the day, the teacher talked about his first love experience. The juicy bits of his story made all of the class students hang on his every word, enough so that they wouldn’t let him go even after the final bell rang.

“Spring will come for me too, right? I’m surrounded every day in a field of sausages. When will my day come?”

"What about Iseul?”

“… hey, why did you bring her up all of a sudden?”

Oho, look at this. The only single girl I recalled around me was Iseul, so Maru threw out her name. Who knew that it would garner such a wonderful reaction from Dojin?

"If you like her, just tell her straight up like a Korean man. Like Taejun.”

Ever since Taejun and Soyeon successfully became a couple at the soup restaurant event, Dojin seemed to fall under the spell of the dreaded ‘solo disease’. He acted like his innards were painfully twisting whenever he looked at the two couples in the acting club. Maybe it’s not a ‘solo disease’, maybe he’s just a delirious animal. Maru looked at Dojin and asked,

"Iseul’s doesn’t look good enough for you?”

"Not good enough?! She’s pretty!”

"Then her personality?”

“She’s nice and sweet, and cute too!”

“I don’t think being cute is part of one’s personality but whatever. So, you like her then.”

“Well, I’m not sure if I like her… hey! Why are you steering the conversation this way?”

“You don’t have to look that far to make a girlfriend.”

“… you’ve magically become an omnipotent love guru now, aye? What about you?”

“Me?”

“Yeah, you! You and I are in the same field of sausages, man.”

It was then that Maru’s cell phone rang. He flipped the phone with his thumb and silenced Dojin for the moment.

“Hello?”

-Is this Han Maru?

"That’s right. You should know from my voice.”

-Oh, so it is you. You sound different on the phone.

The person on the other line was Yoojin. Just when Maru was about to ask why she called, Dojin rushed close to Maru like a starved beast.

-You still there?

“Yeah, talk.”

Maru could see Dojin’s eyes on the precipice of releasing a cascade of tears.

Having heard a female voice on the other line, Dojin put on a frown that reflected the deepest sense of betrayal from his fellow man.

-Do you have the script nearby?

“I do.”

Then turn to page 27 where bully number 2 and 3 come out.

Maru slowly closed his eyes and reopened them. At this point, he already memorized the whole script. The scene in question was right after the student representative was beaten up by the class’ bullies. Chuljin and Seulmi just stepped into the classroom and were about to ask what happened to the student representative…

-What’s your interpretation of your line? How are you going to deliver it?

“What?”

-I’m not certain on what’s going on emotionally for you in that scene.

Maru pushed Dojin away and started to visualize the entire scene. Previously, Chuljin tried to befriend the student representative, but their underlying envy of each other became a barrier that caused an argument. Right before the scene in question, the student representative tried to hang out with the bullies, only to be ignored and then beaten up. Having seen this unfold, what would Chuljin be thinking? He’s probably thinking of getting back at the student representative, making this scene into a larger issue for the rep, right?

“The student representative sure is something, huh? Getting all friendly with you guys without reason,” Maru stated his lines unabashedly to Yoojin.

Dojin squinted his eyes and asked Maru, “The hell’s going on?”

Oh. I see. It’s like that. You changed the lines a little too.

“It’s after they’ve just had an argument, right? Chuljin’s probably not too happy with the student representative. It’s the perfect scenario: he wants to look down on the student rep, this situation falls into his lap, and his girlfriend is standing right beside him. Chuljin’s probably ready to pounce and take advantage of the situation to get back at the rep.”

-He’s that type of character? Isn’t he a well-rounded guy?

“He often says that he’s lonely. How would he feel if the representative approaches even his set of shallow friends and tries to befriend them? Wouldn’t Chuljin feel disgusted that the representative, who seems to have it all, would even take away what little bit he has left? That’s what I think, so I changed the lines accordingly.”

-Oh~ So that’s how it is. That’s pretty impressive Maru!

“It’s not really impressive. Are we done here?”

-No.

“There’s more?”

-I feel like I won’t truly get it unless we do it face-to-face.

“Then I’ll see you tomorrow.”

-Okay. Did you make notes regarding the characters in your script?

“Somewhat.”

-Can you show me?

“There’s no reason I can’t.”

-Great. I’ll see you tomorrow. See you later, boyfriend~.

The way that Seulmi said ‘boyfriend~’ was how she practiced for the play.

As soon as Maru hung up the call, Dojin shouted,

“You bastard!”

“What’s up with you?”

“You’re going to escape the field by yourself? What about Daemyung? What about me?”

“We were just going over our lines for the play.”

"She said boyfriend!”

"Haa,” Maru let out a long sigh.

How can Maru calm down this fiendish, tunnel-vision animal? He gave a quick chop on Dojin’s Adam’s apple with his hand, sending Dojin back a few steps with a sudden ‘Keuk!’ sound.

“Those who are thirsty should dig their own well. It’s not a saying for nothing.”

“… where’s the well?” Dojin croaked out.

“Somewhere.”

“Damn it!” shouted Dojin.

Maru ignored Dojin’s howls and calmly started reading his script.

* * *

“Han Maru.”

Today is Miso’s off day. After finishing his run, Maru was catching his breath when Joonghyuk called him over. He told Maru that they should speak in private, so they went outside.

"So, what we talked about the other day. You should have an answer now, right?”

"About being the President of the club?”

"Yeah.”

"I don’t think I’m the right person for the position.”

"Alright. I’m sorry if I put any undue pressure on you.”

"But, I would like to recommend someone.”

"Who?”

"Daemyung. He’s a responsible guy who’s passionate about acting. I’m certain the others will understand and agree.”

"Hmm, I agree with you that he’s passionate and responsible, but he lacks the disciplinary leadership to whip the younger incoming students into shape.”

"Senior, you’re considering Geunseok, right?”

Joonghyuk gave a brief nod and replied,

“He seems to have matured greatly since the beginning, plus he’s good at acting. He’s dead set on becoming an actor and has the charismatic presence to get the job done for the club.”

The stone statue-esque Geunseok versus the round ball of Daemyung. Since Joonghyuk prioritized discipline over every other quality, I guess it’s going to be the statue that wins out against the ball.

"Geunseok’s a great choice, too. My only concern is that he lacks the motivation and responsibility to carry on.”

"Us second years are discussing the same thing. Normally, you guys should decide who the next president should be, but we have a club tradition of upperclassmen actively vouching for and solidifying the next president. I guess we’ll have to choose between Geunseok and Daemyung.”

"Wait, what about Dojin? I’m certain he can take care of the underclassmen.”

"Yeah, sure. He’ll probably start hanging out with them. Just look at the current president. That’s why this responsibility fell to me.”

It was an apt comparison without fault.

Joonghuk continued, “I get what you’re saying about the others. Let’s go back inside.”

"Yes,” Maru respectfully replied.

The reason Maru declined the president’s title was simple. It didn’t make sense to wear the emperor’s cape if it couldn’t protect the wearer from anything. Plus, constantly monitoring other people didn’t fit with Maru’s personality.

"How’s preparation going for that separate play of yours?” Joonghyuk asked.

"We’re constantly practicing, but I’m not sure if it’s going well. My ability is so low, but I went ahead and signed myself up for two plays. It’s a headache.”

"Don’t discount your ability. Blue Sky has over 10 seniors who’ve gone on to become successful actors. Furthermore, in the future, who knows? Maybe Geunseok, Daemyung, and you will be next.”

"That would be great. We’d also be fairly well off by that time, too.”

"Yeah, that would be great.”

The silly, dream-like subject matter was too whimsical to continue with a straight face. They chuckled together before entering the auditorium.

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ensj's Thoughts

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