The first thing that invaded Yurim’s nostrils upon walking in was the smell of paint, the type of smell that would nauseate you if you smelled it for too long.
Soyeon exclaimed in surprise behind her, Yurim would’ve done the same under any other circumstances. The wall was colored in sky blue paint, the traces of fire completely disappeared in just a day.
Instructor Miso appeared behind them, the woman was looking at the wall with pride.
“What happened?” Soyeon asked.
“Humans are amazing creatures. We managed to clean it all up in a flash. I did get a lot of help, though.”
Right then, several people entered the auditorium with a yawn. Joonghyuk, Minsung. Taejoon, Daemyung, Dojin and Geunseok were there as well. All of the male club members were there except for Maru.
“Yawnn. You came.”
They all looked tired, their clothes were a dead giveaway of how their days went yesterday. They were spattered with drops of paint. Blue, white, blue. The fact that the auditorium returned to normal in a day wasn’t magic, it was hard work.
“You stayed up all night?”
“We didn’t go that far.”
Joonghyuk responded with a smile to Soyeon’s worried question.
“We just didn’t sleep until it was pretty late.”
“3am, was it?”
Minsung and Dojin exchanged words casually. 3am. while Yurim struggled with insomnia, the two of them were working hard.
“Are you okay? You have paint on you here.”
Yurim stepped towards Geunseok. The boy looked just as tired as everyone else.
“You think? I almost stayed up all night.”
Geunseok stepped away to the windows with an annoyed look, Yurim’s heart dropped inside her. She quickly smiled and followed the boy.
“Y-you were tired, weren’t you?”
“Are you trying to make fun of me? Can’t you tell just looking at me? I was stuck here cleaning and painting all day. Fuck. It wasn’t even my fault, and I ended up wasting a day. I don’t know which bastard did it, but if I catch him…”
It was easy to guess where the sentence was going. Her stomach hurt. What if he learns that she was the one that did this? A cold shiver that started from her feet climbed all the way up to her head. He couldn’t know of this. If he did, he would absolutely hate her.
‘No. I can’t. No. No.’
Her heart was thumping. They needed to talk about something else. She thought desperate for a while before coming up with a topic he would like.
“Is… that instructor a good person?”
Yurim felt her body stiffen. Inside, she’s already come to accept that Geunseok no longer liked talking about ‘Yurim’, but enjoyed talking about ‘Suyeon’ instead. She’s been trying to avoid that topic because she knew how Geunseok would react to that word.
A scream echoed inside her ears, she slowly looked up to the boy’s face. He was smiling now, the smile was sharp enough to cut her emotions into pieces. It ripped her apart, her head completely blanked out. She didn’t know what to say. She didn’t know what kind of a face to make. All she could do now was listen as Geunseok talked gleefully about his instructor.
“She’s great. She tells me everything I need so kindly. And…”
His voice was ringing around in her ears. Yurim felt a little sick, so she grabbed the windowsill to try and support herself. At some point, the boy’s started settling into her very own being. At that point, she realized. The moment she’s away from Geunseok, she would suffocate. It felt like such an amazing shackle when he actually paid attention to her. Without it, it just made her feel lonely and desperate for attention. Worst of all…
“I… see. Your instructor’s a really good person.”
She needed to speak things that made her stomach twist with a smile. If she frowned here, Geunseok would glare at her. She looked down with a smile, it was hard to control her expression.
“Now then, girls! Help us finish up. Let’s throw out the trash and clean up.”
Iseul was the first to start cleaning energetically. Yurim ran over, she couldn’t bear staying with Geunseok right now. The others arrived as she worked. By 11am, everyone with the exception of Maru was here. They cleaned up all the way till 12. Thanks to the boys completing the brunt of the work last night, they finished up quickly.
“You slept at school last night?”
“Yeah. Ugh, I feel so stiff.”
“You should’ve called us. We would’ve helped you.”
“How could we? We had to sleep in the classroom.”
“What the, you’re looking out for me now cuz I’m a girl?”
“Because I’m a gentleman!”
Iseul laughed at Dojin’s response. Yurim felt her stomach twist. Here she was struggling with worries and these two had the gall to play around?
“Yurim, are you okay?”
It was Soyeon, this girl looked so fake with her worried expression. A thought that the girl truly cared for her and that this expression wasn’t fake at all floated up in her mind, but it was quick to dissipate. She was a traitor, after all.
“So what if I’m not okay?”
“…Did something actually happen? Why are you so cold?”
“Think about it. Do I really have to explain everything to you? You’re too much. Are you even a friend?”
She felt a little good inside to let that out. Soyeon looked down sadly, the girl looked like she was about to cry. Yeah. Go on, do it. You deserve it, traitor.
Yurim regretted her words almost immediately though. She grit her teeth, Soyeon didn’t deserve any of this. Soyeon never even did anything wrong. She was only being so mean to Soyeon right now because of the suffocating feeling she’d feel if she didn’t.
‘Don’t talk to me. Don’t worry about me. Please don’t… act nice to me.’
She wanted to cry. How did this happen? How did she become so twisted? Why couldn’t she fix herself even when she’s aware of all her flaws? Yurim wasn’t able to keep going without blaming other people. She balled up her fists and looked forward. Thankfully, Soyeon stopped talking to her. Though she couldn’t tell if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
“Good work. I tried to get this done by myself yesterday. It was way too hard, which is why I called all of you here. Thanks for coming.”
“It’s our club room. It only makes sense we’d look after it.”
The boys nodded in agreement. Miso told them she originally tried to do this with Daemyung alone. They realized they needed more people, which was why they called out the other boys.
“Let’s eat first. We can talk after that.”
Instructor Miso was frowning when she put the word ‘talk’ in her mouth. Everyone became a little bit quiet. What did she want to talk about? They all tried talking about it as they ate. When they finished eating, the instructor gestured for them to get close to her.
“What I’m about to say now isn’t good for anyone of us. But we have to go over it, so listen well.”
Yurim felt herself becoming nervous. This atmosphere, those eyes… She could tell what instructor Miso was about to say.
“You probably all know this, but this fire was intentional. A fire couldn’t have started on its own in the auditorium, so it had to be done by someone.”
Silence. Yurim couldn’t hear anything other than the instructor’s voice. The air around her felt like lead, weighing down on her.
“There was fire and there were damages that resulted from it. We can’t just let this pass.”
Instructor Miso looked around the auditorium silently, the other club members looked around as well. Yurim, on the other hand, just stared directly at the floor.
“I heard recently that they’re going to renovate this place soon. It won’t be the acting club’s anymore. It’ll be the baseball club’s training room.”
“So next year…”
“We’ll have to work in an empty classroom. Well, we can practice anywhere. The problem is that we’ll run out of place to store props. How’s the fourth floor clubroom? Is it still full?”
“It’s only been getting fuller after you graduated, instructor. We have a lot of things we don’t use, but it’s not like we can throw them away.”
Instructor Miso nodded with a smile.
“Thanks for putting it that way. In any case, we have to leave this place, so start thinking about that. Ah, that’s not what I wanted to talk about. Sorry, I really don’t want to talk about this either, so I keep changing the topic.”
Instructor Miso sighed. Her eyes turned sharp again.
“Only the acting club was in the school when the fire happened. You should know what that means.”
So it’s come to this. Yurim wasn’t able to even look at instructor Miso, she might pass out if their eyes met.
“I’ll cut to the chase. It’s only logical to think that the one who started the fire is one of us. Right?”
No one responded. Why would they? No one wanted to admit there was a criminal among them. Yurim hoped that this awkward atmosphere would dissipate quickly. That they would quickly dismiss such a thought as immoral. But.
“There’s definitely someone among us. We need to find out who it is.”
Instructor Miso stood up with that, she walked outside the auditorium. Before she left, she quietly uttered a few words.
“One by one, in that order you’re sitting in, come to the classroom in front of the auditorium. Got it?”
Instructor Miso was speaking with an incredibly scary glare. Yurim shivered. Did the woman find something? Did she have a suspect already? The doors closed. The club members stayed silent for a few minutes, Yoonjung was the first to stand.
“I’ll get going first. We’ll go in the order of the people to the right of me. Got it?”
The girl was clearly forcing a smile.
“I’ll be back.”
Yoonjung took her first steps with a concerned look.
* * *
Miso sat down on a chair, waiting for a student to enter. She already had an idea of who might come first. Yoonjung, the club president. The door opened with a creak. Indeed, it was Yoonjung. But right now, the girl wasn’t smiling.
“I’ll be direct. Did you start the fire?”
“No, I didn’t.”
Yoonjung waved her hands in surprise. That was the right reaction. No one could remain calm if they become a target of suspicion.
“Is that so?”
She noticed the girl ball up her fists, her eyes were firing up with life. This one probably didn’t do it.
‘There’s no way kids like these would’ve started a fire.’
Miso wanted to believe that there couldn’t be a person who started the fire in the club, she wanted to believe that Maru was mistaken. She sighed before saying the sentence she prepared beforehand. What would this girl’s reaction be?
“I trust that it’s not you either.”
“What about Maru, then?”
“I heard he came out the last out of all of you. Isn’t that suspicious?”
“No. There’s no way he could’ve done that. And!”
Yoonjung jumped up from her seat with a frown.
“You know what he’s done… how could you get suspicious of him?”
This was the first time she’s ever seen Yoonjung react so strongly to something. The girl was usually so incredibly positive, but right now she was looking at Miso with disappointment. Those eyes of hers… Miso was glad to see it.
“So you think it can’t be Maru?”
“Anyone else you might think it might be?”
The girl sounded confident. Miso nodded.
“Alright, good. Go back inside. Keep this to yourself. I’ll trust that you’ll keep it that way.”
Yoonjung turned around with a saddened expression, Miso felt sorry that she had to burden the poor girl with something like this.
‘Han Maru, if you did this without giving it any serious thought, I’ll kill you.’
It was difficult to act suspicious of the club members. The thought of how Maru could be sitting in the hospital relaxing while she was doing this was starting to annoy her. She’d bother the kid at the hospital after this for sure.
“Alright, call the next kid.”
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