Chapter 168

“The acting club, right?”

“The senior at the front was really handsome.”

“Tall, too.”

“Will it be fun?”

“Don’t know. But they said it was hard, right? A big time investment.”

“Hmm, maybe we should just go with something simple, after all?”

“Maybe.”

“Do you still want to visit? Acting sounds interesting.”

“Should we?”

The girls decided to give the acting club a visit after school. They weren’t interested in joining, but were curious enough to take a look. Acting. The girls wanted to see what this was all about.

“Lee Jiyoon, want to come with?”

The girls turned to look at Jiyoon, who was sitting quietly next to the window. They’ve grown acquainted with one another during their week together. By now, everyone had some sort of an idea of what each other were like. Girls who were tomboyish, girls who were talkative, girls who liked to talk behind other people’s back. According to this metric, Jiyoon was classified as the ‘quiet girl’.

“Me too?” Jiyoon whispered.

The girls surrounded the girl with a grin, Jiyoon widened her eyes in surprise. She looked more like a baby than a high school student right now. Her cheeks were round and soft-looking, and her eyes were large. Combined with her tiny figure and her bobbed hair, she was already being called ‘round’ within the class.

“Yeah, you. Are you busy?”

“No.”

Jiyoon shook her head sideways.

“Let’s go, then.”

The girl was just adorable, she was the type of person that made anyone want to care for her.

“I wish I had a sister like you, Jiyoon.”

“Someone I can go buy clothes with.”

“Hey hey, forget it. Siblings hate each other the moment they’re born. I’d rather… have a daughter like Jiyoon.”

Jiyoon looked down when the girls laughed amongst themselves, she must be embarrassed.

“Hey hey Jiyoon, mom’ll treat you well, so will you be my daughter?”

Jiyoon shook her head, making the girls all laugh loudly.

“Oh, class is about to begin.”

They all collectively returned to their seats after looking at the clock.

* * *

Jiyoon put the paper down on the desk, she rubbed the words ‘acting club’ on it carefully. She could feel the texture of the hard paper under her fingers.

‘This is… that acting club.’

Jiyoon saw a play in the civic hall with her friends at Anyang last December. She wasn’t interested in acting, it was just that her friend’s sister was acting and she couldn’t refuse her friend’s request.

The weather was pretty cold, she remembered.

Her friend had brought a ton more friends with her, Jiyoon honestly wasn’t a big fan of the loud noise. She stayed in the end because her friend had asked to watch the play. Thankfully, she didn’t have to stay long, since her friend’s sister’s play was up first.

- There are so many people.

- Eh! I know that person! I saw him on TV!

- Me too, me too!

It was an odd feeling. She heard it was a high school competition, but there were so many people. Were they all like this? Jiyoon held her breath as the play started. She was at the furthest seat from the theater, so she couldn’t look at the actor’s faces, but that no longer bothered her by the end. Looking at the people go back and forth on stage, watching people who weren’t much older than her act like that… was pretty amazing to behold.

Every time the light went off and the music switched, a change happened on stage. Jiyoon couldn’t stop her jaw from dropping every time. It was a completely different experience from watching a movie. She found herself watching the stage nervously. She clapped in joy when a scene completed perfectly, she gripped her fist tightly whenever the actors made a mistake. By the time the play was over, she was completely exhausted.

- Cool, the play’s over. Let’s go, guys. I’ll get you something tasty.

When Jiyoon’s friend left with everyone else, Jiyoon headed back inside. She figured that they might just forget she was there. Plus, she didn’t want this excitement in her chest to leave. She sat down quietly at the end of the theater. She wanted to go to the front, but she couldn’t see any seats open. The lights went off quickly and the play began. Which play was next? As she looked at the stage, she couldn’t help but notice the name ‘Woosung Engineering High’ appear. She was shocked, that was the school she was supposed to be going to. She sat there feeling an odd sense of nervousness. Right then, she saw two grandpas behind her. She did notice there were empty seats, but she still asked them if they needed a seat.

- I’m fine.

The grandpa spoke with a very kind voice, Jiyoon nodded and looked forward. The play was starting. From the very beginning, it made her laugh. To begin with, she was a fan of comedies rather than tragedies.

‘Amazing.’

Were they not nervous? It wasn’t just one or two people watching here. The actors made no mistakes under everyone’s watchful gaze, Jiyoon flinched in shock when she tried to imagine herself on the stage for a second. Just imagining it was this difficult. How bad was it to actually be on stage? It was amazing. She put her hands together as she watched the play, she had no idea plays could be so fun. It was so breathtaking, she literally forgot to breathe at one point as she watched the play go on.

Right then, the lights suddenly turned blue. A new character popped out on stage, he literally popped out. The man jumped to center stage, threw his hat upwards and caught it before finally introducing himself. She was wondering what he would do. As a matter of fact, she was incredibly surprised to find that the man was talking straight to the audience.

He was so natural at it that Jiyoon almost thought the play was over, but it wasn’t. The man on stage was reviewing the other actors with a very playful voice. Jiyoon couldn’t help but think back to the kid’s play she saw a few years back. A monster wearing a very scary mask came up on stage and a pretty lady stepped up with a microphone as well.

- Kids! If we want to punish this bad monster, we’ll need your strength! Let’s call for a hero who can save our princess here!

She looked for a hero as she sobbed, she still remembered this moment because her mom always teased her about it.

Looking at the man on stage right now reminded her of the woman from back then. An actor who was in the play, but who also wasn’t in the play. Though she couldn’t see the man’s face, she was sure he was smiling right now.

If only she could see at the front…

In a flash, the man vanished behind the curtain. Again, the story returned to the people. The story continued as naturally as it stopped.

“An energetic kid.”

She could hear one of the grandpas behind her say. She couldn’t see them well, but it was the one with the big beard. They were talking so quietly behind her, that she could barely make out their names. Chulmin and Moonjoong. In any case, Jiyoon could only agree to what that grandpa said. She couldn’t describe it well, but the man on stage was energetic for sure.

“Hah, stop dozing off and open your books.”

Jiyoon snapped her head upwards. When did her teacher come inside? She hurriedly pulled out a textbook from her desk. Sixth period was hanja.

“Why does that teacher look so tired?”

“I heard he just got back after sick leave.”

“Really? Is he sick?”

She could hear her friends talk next to her. Hearing that, she felt a little sorry for the hanja teacher. Was he sick?

“Hah.”

His throat seemed to hurt as well. Oh man, what should she do? She was so worried.

“No, I heard from a senior that he just messed up in school politics.”

“Politics?”

“Yeah. I don’t know the specifics, but he isn’t a great teacher. The senior told me he wouldn’t be surprised if the guy gets fired.”

“Really?”

Right then, the hanja teacher turned around and threw a textbook at the talking kids. The textbook bounced off a desk before hitting someone. Problem was, the book came flying at Jiyoon.

“Which idiot thought it was a good idea to talk during class, huh?!”

The teacher yelled with a scary glare, Jiyoon swallowed nervously. The man looked scary.

“Kids these days...”

The teacher was walking towards her, Jiyoon was just frozen there on the spot. The teacher kicked her desk with a big frown.

“Pick it up, dumbass. Are you trying to make me pick it up, huh?”

“Ah, yes.”

Jiyoon picked up the book and gave it to the hanja teacher. The teacher clicked his tongue before slapping Jiyoon’s head with the book.

“Kids these days… You just don’t have respect for your teachers. You always twist teachers’ pure intentions into something evil. Because of you...”

Jiyoon clenched her eyes. The book came at her again. Slap. It kind of hurt.

“Sit down!”

“...Yes.”

“Go sue me for violence again, why don’t you.”

The hanja teacher stomped back to the blackboard. Jiyoon had to hide her trembling hands under her desk, she almost cried.

“Hey!”

A shout came her way as she tried to calm herself, Jiyoon raised her head in surprise. The teacher was glaring at her again.

“Pay attention. Don’t look down like an idiot.”

Jiyoon tensed up nervously. If only she had more bravery here… If only she could tell him she wasn’t the one that talked.

Right then, a piece of paper floated in front of her. When she turned to look next to her, she could see the friend that was talking a few minutes ago looking at her worriedly. She paid attention to the teacher as she opened the paper. It was written ‘I’m really sorry’ inside. Jiyoon shook her head. They did nothing wrong. She was just angry that she didn’t have the courage to speak up for herself.

“Pictographs are...”

The hanja teacher’s lecture resumed. Jiyoon looked at the blackboard with reddened eyes.

* * *

“Ugh, so annoying.”

“You call that a teacher?”

Jiyoon told her friends to stop with an awkward smile. It’s already in the past, she didn’t want to think about it. Plus, talking about it more only made her ashamed of her cowardice.

‘If only I was a bit braver...’

Round. Kind. All words she had heard from her childhood, she wasn’t a fan of hearing them. When her cousin cried for her doll, she gave it despite her utmost reluctance. She did it because she was fearful of what the adults might say. What she heard after giving away the doll was ‘Jiyoon’s such an adult.’ She didn’t like hearing that either.

“Alright, fine. I’m buying tteokbokki for Jiyoon today!”

“Really?”

“Just for Jiyoon. You guys pay for yourselves.”

“Ugh, you cheapo.”

Thankfully, she felt calmer next to her friends. They walked up to the fourth floor through the central staircase. When they turned left, they found quite a few people. The classroom next to the staircase was marked with the words ‘Acting Club’.

‘So this is it!!’

She could feel the play from back in December come back to life in front of her, she tried to step forward towards the club before her friends.

“What the hell are you doing, blocking the road!”

Jiyoon flinched backwards, the hanja teacher was walking towards them with an angry frown. As soon as he took out his little whip, the people around the clubroom all disappeared. Jiyoon moved a bit slower out of fear, that must’ve looked annoying to the hanja teacher.

“You… from the morning, right?”

Oh dear. Jiyoon didn’t know what to do, her friends were looking at her nervously from nearby. She didn’t feel annoyed that her friends weren’t standing up for her, the hanja teacher was that scary.

“Acting club. Barbaric bastards. You’re thinking of joining? I knew it. You just looked like a delinquent.”

The teacher was walking towards her, brandishing his weapon viciously. Jiyoon couldn’t even move away. She just stood there fearfully as the teacher came closer.

By the time the sound of the whip got too close for comfort…

The door of the acting club opened and a boy walked out. He looked at the hanja teacher for a second before turning to her and scratched his eyebrows. Jiyoon recognized this person, one of the three boys from the morning, the one who stayed quiet.

Before the hanja teacher was able to say anything, the boy started whispering something into the teacher’s ear. Jiyoon was able to hear the voices thanks to being so close. The boy’s words were short. Something about a Lawyer Park? The color on the hanja teacher’s face drained from shock, the man quickly turned from a scary hunter to a scared victim.

“H-how do you...”

“Let’s keep things civil, shall we? Unless, if you want to lose your pension, do you?”

She could clearly hear that last bit for sure. The hanja teacher took a few steps backwards before practically running down the stairs, the students who had walked away previously all gathered back curiously.

“Hm, are you guys all thinking about joining? That would be nice.”

The senior spoke as if nothing had happened.

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