Chapter 177

“We came because of her!”

Maru looked at the numerous shoes that were suddenly in front of him. He couldn’t raise his head, so he didn’t know who had arrived. He could only infer from the voices and legs that these were girls.

“U-um, we’re not bothering you, are we?”

From what he could hear, the girl sounded nervous. Maru thought that she might be one of the first years who visited the club two days ago.

“Oh, they have posters here. It has chocolate, too.”

Maru remained silent, the girls chatted a little more before grabbing a poster for themselves.

“Wow! Thank you!” Bangjoo excitedly dove and prostrated himself before the girls. Even Maru was surprised at that. To think Bangjoo would go so far… he hadn’t expected it at all. Maru rose slowly and took out a piece of chocolate for each of the girls.

“Wow. You’re giving them to us?”

Of course, he didn’t speak.

“Must be one of those silent performances.”

“Wait, then what about this senior?”

It seemed that the girls had misunderstood Bangjoo, the boy nervously stood and returned to his spot. He made a distraught expression that seemed to win the girls over.

“Haha, that senior’s hilarious.”

“Did you see how he was glancing at us nervously?”

The girls had infectious laughter, and one by one, other students started crowding around the acting club.

“What the—what are you guys doing?”

“Hey, try taking a poster from here. It’s pretty hilarious.”

“What’s hilarious?”

“The frog!”

“What?”

The students each took a poster with bewildered looks. Maru glanced at Bangjoo and the boy peered back at him like a frightened puppy.

“Just do it!”

“Okay!”

The encouragement worked, Bangjoo leapt into the air. His jump was incredibly high, like some sort of martial arts instructor, before coming back down onto the floor. The students around them clapped, impressed.

“What the—?”

“I think they’re doing something over there.”

“Hey! They’re doing something over there!”

The students congregated in a flash. Bangjoo started jumping repeatedly, smiling, and Maru did his best to pantomime a frog as he handed out pieces of chocolate. Before they knew it, the box of posters was completely empty. At this point, even the teachers were watching their performances out of sheer curiosity.

Some of the girls even poked his body nervously. The boys just smiled from afar, but the female students were getting braver.

“You aren’t going to move even if we do this? Or this?”

Iseul popped out of nowhere as the number of students like this grew, she put her chin on top of Maru’s curved back.

“Hey, take a pic of me, please.”

Iseul was lightening the mood. With that, they thankfully managed to ingrain the acting club into the minds of the amassed students. It was a success, for sure.

“Is this good enough?” Iseul whispered.

Maru gave her a silent thumbs-up, Iseul was beautiful and her doing this was even causing some of the boys to take pictures.

“It’s the acting club.”

Taejoon joined in as well. With the two of them guiding the atmosphere, more students began taking pictures. Despite the event being nothing special, the students were still enjoying it to their fullest.

“We are the acting club! Our clubroom is next to the central staircase on the fourth floor! Please come whenever! We’ll have our arms open at all times!”

Bangjoo started promoting the club, he and Maru had discussed beforehand the use of loud voices to announce their presence once enough people gathered. Bangjoo’s voice rang throughout the school.

* * *

“Did you see what happened during lunch?”

“Ah, the acting club?”

“Yeah. I thought there was an accident! There were so many people.”

“Me too.”

Jiyoon had a slight smile. School was finished, and everyone was talking about the acting club. For some reason, she felt her heart flare up with pride.

‘I think I helped.’

Jiyoon held a registration form in one hand, it was the form she had decided not to turn in after filling it out. She would’ve just gone back home if nothing happened, but she did end up seeing something. It was the members of the acting club smiling joyfully, surrounded by people. They weren’t on a fancy stage or anything, but the air was hot with passion at the time. After seeing that, she decided to take the chance.

She might not be of any help, she might even be called a hindrance. Even if she couldn’t do it, it was the first time she had something she wanted to do. She had gone so far as to refuse her friends’ offer to watch a movie for this, she walked up to the fourth stair in anticipation and nervousness. Each new step she was taking only added to her anxiety. Why was turning in a simple sheet of paper so nerve-wracking?

When she came up to the fourth floor, Jiyoon was greeted with an empty hallway. Why? So many people had been there earlier, but she was the only one in the entire hallway now. Right then, the club room opened and a tall senior walked out. It was Geunseok.

“You’re...”

Jiyoon felt a chill as he directed his gaze onto her.

“What, you’re thinking of joining?”

“What?”

Jiyoon hid the registration sheet behind her, Geunseok seemed greatly disappointed for some reason.

“Why are you hiding it? You’re registering as a stage manager, right?”

“I-I… want to be an actress...”

“Actress?”

The sound of him laughing pierced deep into her ears, It felt like a massive wall was rushing towards her. Jiyoon took a step back without realizing it.

“Well, I suppose you can, since this is just a high school. But it’d be quite troublesome if you can’t even say a single word on stage.”

“Can’t I just try hard?”

“Ah, right, right. Trying hard. Sure, sure. Well, give me the form. We can think about that later. We just need members right now.”

Jiyoon glanced at Geunseok, the boy appeared incredibly annoyed to have to deal with this. He extended his hand to her as if the only thing he wanted from her was the form.

She thought back to the play she saw in December, the actor who cheerfully talked to the audience from back then… He was unique and Jiyoon was absolutely a fan of his acting, he had instilled a spark of interest in her for acting. The seniors of the club told her that Geunseok was the best at acting, so the person in question must be him.

‘So his acting is completely different from his actual personality.’

She felt depressed all of a sudden, hearing that she wouldn’t be able to succeed from her idol sapped her energy. Her past bravery suddenly seemed so foolish.

“Hand it over. I’m busy.”

“Ah, uhm...”

She shook her head as she took a step back. She was suddenly afraid, observing how different the acting club was in reality. She even felt a little betrayed, thinking that the shining stage was really like this.

“This is precisely why you can’t do it,” Geunseok commented.

Jiyoon flinched.

“Your actions right now are the reason why you can’t succeed as an actress. Why are you so annoying? Trying hard? Why don’t you just think for a second? You think trying hard solves everything? I can just tell what you’re going to be like when I look at you. Do you think you’ll be able to stand on stage? When you can’t even talk to me right now?”

“That’s...”

“That’s why I’m telling you to give up and become a stage manager instead. Your hands look nice. Do you sew? Sewing is good for a woman. Don’t try to succeed in something you have no hope in.”

Geunseok stretched out his hand as he took a step forward. Jiyoon stepped back, shaking her head.

“You’re annoying. Just leave. Stop being so iffy. Are you trying to pull a prank on me or what? I knew you’d be trouble since I first saw you. I remembered your face even though I didn’t know your name. You were annoyingly introverted. Can you even survive in society like this? Or make friends? You’re pathetic. I’m only giving you this advice right now because I want to give you a chance. You need to fix yourself. Fix your entire personality.”

When she heard the word ‘advice’, she felt a burst of rage. How was any of this advice? There was no way those words were meant to help someone. Were hurtful words like that advice? Jiyoon was furious. For the first time, she felt angry enough to talk back to someone.

Why was she so mad? Ah, after a bit of thought, she got it. Pathetic. That word kept spinning around in her chest.

“...I’m not pathetic.”

Geunseok smiled mockingly.

“That’s what they all say. I gave you a way to fix yourself. You just have to go ‘ah, I get it’, and do it. Tsk.”

“So becoming a stage manager is that method?”

“This is why idiots are so annoying to deal with. You’d be able to learn something if you work as a stage manager. You can use that experience to become an actor next year.”

“But you just told me trying hard wouldn’t do anything.”

“Well, I guess you’ll stay as a stage manager then.”

“What about my dreams of being on stage?”

“What the hell would I know about your dreams? Hah, you’re hilarious. Why don’t you try becoming a comedian instead? You’re clearly talented in that department.”

“.......”

Her throat became dry, she didn’t know what to say. She knew he was being unfair, but she couldn’t say anything to refute him. She felt like she was about to go crazy with resentment. She felt like she would cry if she stayed any longer, so she decided to give up. She definitely didn’t want to go to a club with someone like this in it, she didn’t even want to say farewell to him. Instead, she just turned around to leave.

“You’re so impolite. Do you think seniors are a joke? Hey, what class are you in? Talk to me.”

Geunseok grabbed her shoulders.

“Are you trying to rebel?”

He looked terrifying, he was squeezing her shoulders harder and harder. She couldn’t say anything, she was paralyzed with fear. Right then, she felt someone put their hand on her back. She looked back sharply in surprise, Maru was reading her registration form.

“Your writing is quite pretty.”

“...What?”

“I’m jealous of people with good writing. I suck. Here, take this back.”

Maru handed her form back and Geunseok released her shoulders.

“Geunseok.”

“What?”

“If you aren’t thinking of working, just leave. I’ll take care of the rest.”

Jiyoon found herself hiding behind Maru, the two seniors glared at each other so intensely that she forgot to breathe for a second.

“Who the fuck do you think you are, trying to command me around like that?”

“If you don’t want to be told what to do, why don’t you work properly? Why do you have to be so half-assed?”

“Hah, look at you speak. Hey. Han Maru.”

“Don’t say my name threateningly and just work. You said yourself that you were here to consult potential members. So just do your job properly.”

“You son of a….”

The atmosphere was only getting fiercer. As Geunseok stepped forward to leer down at Maru, Maru tilted his head back to glare up at him. Jiyoon looked around. She needed someone to dissipate the situation, but there was no one in the hallway save for the class of third-years.

‘If something happens...’

She stared at the third-year classroom, she would run over there if things went awry.

“If you’ve made up your mind to do something, then take responsibility. If you don’t want to, then just don’t do it at all.”

“Are you crazy?”

“Don’t try to change the topic and answer me. Will you work properly, or will you just give up?”

Jiyoon couldn’t see, but she could somehow tell that Maru had a chilling expression on his face. Geunseok scowled at Jiyoon from over Maru’s shoulder, she flinched and looked down.

“Are you trying to look good in front of that girl behind you? Is that it?”

“You’re making my mouth hurt at this point. I’ll ask this one last time. Will you work, or will you give up? Just answer me.”

“Han Maru, you son of a bitch. You have a fucking weird fetish, don’t you? Sure the girl’s cute, but going that far? Fucking hilarious.”

Geunseok raised his hand to push Maru’s shoulder, but Maru swivelled at the last second and Geunseok’s hand swiped through thin air. When the boy lost his balance and stumbled forward, Maru grabbed his hand and pulled him back.

Jiyoon couldn’t help but think of a scene of a woodsman felling a massive tree. Geunseok collapsed forward awkwardly, making quite the noise. He looked up at Maru with a savage glare.

“Sorry. My neck hurt having to stare up at you like that.”

Maru was grinning.

“Y-you bastard.”

Geunseok threw his bag aside and sank into a charging stance. Jiyoon readied herself to sprint to the third-years, thinking that this was it. But before the other boy could start running, Maru opened his mouth.

“I noticed you’re the first in our grade. Your parents must be happy.”

“......”

Geunseok hesitated.

“You should know about what happened last year regarding school violence. The chairman and the principal are incredibly sensitive to it right now.”

“W-what are you talking about?”

“I’m just talking about the what-ifs. What do you think the school would do if you committed an act of violence? I don’t think they’ll take it lightly given what happened before, don’t you?”

“....You son of a bitch.”

“Hey, don’t get mad. Again, these are just the what-ifs. Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with boys growing up throwing a few punches around. It forms this wordless connection between them.”

Maru casually stepped forward and Geunseok took two steps back, the atmosphere had tilted in Maru’s favor in an instant. Jiyoon felt uncomfortable. Geunseok was obviously the rude one here, but Maru didn’t seem like such a good person either. He seemed like a very scary person who knew how to take advantage of other’s weaknesses.

“I heard you persuaded your parents saying it would be easier to go to college through an engineering school. Is that right?”

“....How do you...“

“Just found out as I spoke with senior Geunsoo. Ah, let me ask you one more thing. Do your parents know about you acting? I understand that senior Geunsoo’s pretty much a forbidden topic at your house. So how are you fine?”

Geunseok’s face swiftly paled as Maru took out his phone from his pocket.

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Chapter was edited by pugba.