Chapter 158

“It’s five.”

“That it is.”

Maru watched as she peeled an apple next to him. She was carefully moving her fruit knife with squinted eyes, but she peeled more fruit than skin.

“It’s hard.”

She put down the apple she just finished peeling. It was completely uneven. Maru smiled as he looked at the fruity sculpture, she pouted angrily.

“Don’t smile. I worked hard on that.”

She cut the apple into bite-sized pieces and placed them onto the plate in front of her. He didn’t want to bother her, so he stayed silent. Her hand slipped a little as she cut one of the apple pieces. The plate leaned sideways a little bit, but she regained her balance just in time.

“...Ha, haha.”

She smiled awkwardly.

“Give that to me.”

“I’ll do it.”

“I feel nervous just looking at you. Give it.”

He took the plate, knife, and apple from her hands. As a Korean husband in a Korean family, he learned how to cut apples nicely for ceremonies years ago. She complained as she watched Maru peel the apple smoothly.

“Why are you good at doing that?”

“Men who can cook are what’s hot nowadays. I’ll make you some good soup when we get married.”

“...Crazy. You’re crazy.”

“You don’t seem to dislike it, though?”

“I do. Satisfied?”

Maru was speaking playfully, but he was doing this to lay down the groundwork. So that she could accept his proposal easily when the time came, even if that was still very far along the road. He cut the apples into bite-sized pieces before giving it back to her.

“It’s pretty late. Shouldn’t you go back home?”

She’s been here with him since morning. He was happy that she was with him for sure, but the sun was setting now. Combined with the snow, it would honestly be best if she left as soon as possible.

“It’s already dark.”

“It’s going to be hard to ride the bus because of all the snow. You should take a taxi.”

Maru extended his hand out towards his wallet. It’d probably cost her quite a bit to go all the way back home on a taxi, but she snatched his hand from the air before he could actually grab it.

“I came here because I wanted to.”

She grabbed her scarf as she finished her sentence, Maru nodded with a smile. Good deeds didn’t always come off as such. If his actions hurt her pride, then it was for the best that he stop.

“Buy me some expensive porridge next time you come then.”

“Your stomach isn’t even hurting. Why would I get you porridge? Just have some fruit. And… It’d probably take you forever to finish this, so don’t even think about eating anything else.”

She spoke as she took a look at the pile of fruit baskets next to him. Among all the small ones was a massive one sitting in the middle, like an ostrich egg sitting next to chicken eggs. It was the basket from Junmin.

“You should take that.”

“What are you talking about? It’s a gift. You should eat it thankfully.”

“This is more than enough for me already. It’s going to rot just sitting her. I don’t want to waste food.”

“Take it to your home.”

“My family doesn’t like fruits that much.”

Maru stood up on his okay leg.

“You should sit.”

“I’ll see you off to the entrance.”

Maru held the crutch in one hand and the fruit basket on the other hand.

“Seriously, it’s fine. Eat it yourself.”

“Give it to your mom at home. She likes pineapples and plums. This basket is filled with it.”

“...How do you know that?”

“...You told me last time.”

“I did?”

“On the bus. You mentioned it in passing.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

Maru sighed internally as he motioned her outside. Just as he stepped outside of his door, she snatched the basket away from his hands.

“It’s heavy. I’ll hold it for you, so give it back.”

“It’s fine. You look super unstable from the back, did you know that?”

She supported his now-empty arm from the side, she shrugged with a big grin.

“You aren’t going to get this kind of support again once you get better.”

“I better stay hurt, then.”

Maru stepped forward with a similar grin.

* * *

She told Maru to step back inside from the bus station. It was snowing hard and the amount of snow gathering on his shoulders was starting to get ridiculous.

“You’re going to get sick.”

“Not with this, I won’t.”

“You’re sniffling already.”

The bus came right then, she pushed Maru away one last time before getting on. The boy kept staring at her even after she got on. He would turn into a snowman at that rate. He finally started moving when the bus started moving. He looked so fragile, walking in the snow with a clutch like that.

[Be careful, I’ll be back again.]

She sat down after sending the message.

“What do I tell mom, though?” she said, staring at the giant fruit basket in front of her.

* * *

‘It’s cold.’

Maru wanted to cross his arms for warmth. He couldn’t let go of his clutch, so he opted for putting his hand in his pocket instead. His clutch hand was cold. Alas, small sacrifices were necessary for the greater good. Maru thought about taking the elevator back up, he decided to exercise a little since he had the chance. He hopped up the staircase using his one good leg. He’s felt this over and over again, but his body really did get a lot better. His injuries were only minor because of how fit he was.

‘Well, I wouldn’t be involved with this in the first place in my past life.’

Maru stepped up to the fourth floor, he wasn’t feeling much pain in his leg anymore. He went back into his room and lay down. The exercise was good, but laying down felt best. He turned on the TV with the remote on the wall. He was using the entire four-person room by himself, so he could turn on whatever he wanted. A privilege he was quite fond of having.

He turned on the news, South Korea was getting rowdy again with all sorts of events. He put his pillow behind his back and looked out the window. It was still snowing as hard as ever. Would people even be able to drive in all of this snow? Even the news outlets spoke of the historical blizzard. There was also news about firefighters not even being able to extinguish the fire at a mansion because of all the snow, an unfortunate combination of a natural and human disaster.

“In any case.”

Maru started thinking as he crossed his arms. The fire on the fifth floor, there was no way it was natural. Miso said she found a tube of glue. No one in their right minds would purposely throw a flammable material like that next to wooden props on purpose. There was also no way for that tube of glue to set itself on fire.

So, the fire was intentional.

Moreover, it was during winter vacation. At the time of the fire, there was no one in the school other than the acting club. Though there could always be someone who was hiding in one of the classes before they left.

‘No.’

In the end, the first suspects were the acting club members. Who set the fire, and why? Maru scratched his head. There were many teachers who didn’t like the acting club. Was that reason enough to commit arson? Especially when the fire was incredibly damaging to them? To begin with, the only reason why the faculty disliked the club in the first place was due to a fire.

“Can’t be a teacher.”

The best way to figure out the intent of a crime was to figure out what someone wanted to get out of it. Maru thought for a few minutes before sighing in defeat.

“There’s no reason why anyone would start a fire.”

No one could gain anything from a fire. Was it just a prank then? No, it couldn’t be. The fire was definitely well-planned. It was done by someone who knew exactly when the club met and when they left, they even chose the day before the competition to start the fire. Clearly they knew exactly what the club was doing.

Maru briefly thought of a different school. Perhaps this was the sabotage attempt from a different school. But if any student wanted to sabotage a school, they would’ve chosen Myunghwa High.

“Hah, and the police likely won’t investigate anything either.”

The school knew there was a fire, they just didn’t want to make the news big. A school with a pyromaniac? It would damage the school’s reputation immensely. Coupled with the bullying incident… the school would cross a point of no return. If the police don’t get involved in this matter, then catching the criminal would be up to the school and the club. The school definitely wouldn’t try to get involved, so in reality, only the club would be the ones to investigate.

‘It’s not like we really have to find the criminal, but...’

It would be fine to brush it off as a simple accident, especially since the incident was contained. The problem lay in the possibility of a recurrence. If something like this happens again, things could get very bad for the club.

They were able to keep this under wraps thanks to mutual agreement between Miso and the school. The acting club had to lose a few things, but it wasn’t anything too big. But what if the same thing happened again? The school could make one of two decisions. They could call the police, or…

‘Get rid of the problem entirely.’

If the school decided there was a pyromaniac going after the acting club, the easier solution would be to just get rid of the acting club instead of trying to find the criminal. They could turn the auditorium into a gym in the process as well. They wouldn’t be losing out on anything.

‘As long as I can learn their intent...’

The intent of the crime. What one could gain from that fire. Maru smiled bitterly and grabbed a notebook, he put his book down for a second.

“I can only hope it’s not true, but...”

It couldn’t have been done by an outsider, it had to be done by a club member.

‘Why did god have to make my ability so tricky to use?’

He would’ve gone straight into finding the perpetrator if he could read everyone’s minds, but he had his restrictions. He needed to look them in their eyes and they needed to be thinking about him.

“Can’t be the guys from the morning.”

Dojin, Daemyung, Miso. Their minds were filled with worries over him when their eyes met. Won’t the perpetrator think something more along the lines of ‘I failed because of him’ instead?

So those three were out, he wasn’t able to check the others because of how busy he was. For now, he started writing down a list of the club members’ names.

“Hold on.”

Maru frowned.

“I might end up being a total whistleblower if things get bad.”

He had a feeling that this might get out of hand.

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