Chapter 23

“What’s wrong with my resolution?” Daemyung asked.

Maru answered after a brief pause.

“I’m aware that you’re conscious about your appearance and I’m not going to say that your looks don’t matter, because they do. It is very easy to capitalize on your looks after all,” Maru continued, “I agree that you should try to change yourself, but you shouldn’t limit yourself to appearances. You said video games were a form of escapism for you earlier? Perhaps. But it’s also a part of you, something you’ve invested a significant amount of your time on. It’s fine for you to think you should focus more on sports, however it’s not fine to make that decision on impulse. If people make fun of you for being skinny later down the line, you’ll try to fatten yourself up again. Either way, there is no happy ending.”

Maru paused for a second. This was a pretty difficult subject to talk about. There was no right answer for anything. It wasn’t like Daemyung could live in ignorance of the views of society. That didn’t mean he should mold himself in accordance to others’ ideals. Daemyung needed to find a balance, and maintain it. This wasn’t something that could be explained in words. It was something a person had to experience for themselves.

“Daemyung.”

“Yeah?”

“Just follow these three things. Firstly, don’t look down on yourself. If someone else says derogatory words towards you, just tell them to stop. Second, start praising yourself more. Even for the small things. Last of all, and this is what instructor Miso said as well. Be conscious of your voice. Speak loud enough for you to actually hear yourself clearly.”

“...Uh, sure. I will.”

“It’s a random thing I came up with on the spot. You don’t really have to follow it by the letter.”

Maru looked up at the sky for a second. He’s made that advice based on his life experiences and his readings from, but he didn’t know if this was actually good advice. At the very least, Daemyung looked more relieved about himself than before.

“Do you think I can do it though? Do you think I can become that confident?”

“I told you, didn’t I? People don’t change quickly. All that matters is that you actually try. You’ll see if you’ve changed or not if you look down the line later in time.”

Maru pat Daemyung’s back lightly. He was used to giving advice. He’s done it a lot in his past life. All that experience was helping him out in this life as well.

“Let’s go. It’s cold.”

“Okay.”

“Yo Dojin! Let’s leave!”

“Sure!!”

Despite the cold weather, he left with a warm feeling in his heart.

* * *

Daemyung walked back into his house. The kitchen lights turned on as he walked in. It was his mother.

“You’re back?”

“Yes.”

“It’s late. Go to sleep.”

“Alright.”

Mom turned to step back into her room. Daemyung called out from behind her.

“I’m going to change.”

It was a resolution of sorts. It was embarrassing, but he wanted to tell his mom that at the very least. He could remember his mom crying when she found about him getting bullied. She was even fine with him transferring to a worse school than the one he was originally set on going to.

‘Mom must’ve had it hard as well.’

He could see it now. How much his mother had cared for him.

“Y-yeah.”

Mom stepped into her room with a bit of a confused expression. Maru previously mentioned that change was difficult.

‘Even so...’

12am. He would’ve stayed up gaming normally, but he decided to sleep. It wasn’t like he was giving up on games or anything. He just decided to turn it into a healthier habit. Balance was important.

“Work hard, me.”

* * *

“I need to apologize to him,” Dojin said.

The two of them spoke a little bit more after Daemyung left. Dojin was feeling apologetic for his friend. That was the reason why he left his place to begin with. He was the bully, and Daemyung the victim. They might have gone to different schools, but that didn’t help with the guilt.

“Just apologize, then.”

“...It’s embarrassing.”

“Hesitating is even worse. Besides, you’re going to do it anyway, right?”

“I should.”

“Just apologize and cheer him on.”

“Damn it, I poked his sensitive spot because I was a little pissed off. Damn this stupid mouth of mine.”

Dojin walked back home in anger. Maru donned his hood and started his ride back home. It was pretty late. By the time he got back, it was already 1am. He washed his hands and stepped back into his room.

But right before he could hit the hay, a knock on his door could be heard.

“Maru.”

It was his dad. Maru got back up to try to open the door.

“If you’re going to drink, at least learn how to drink from your dad.”

With that, the man walked away. Maru stepped back into his bed with a grin.

‘He’s just like me.’

He could hear the clock ticking near his bed. Maru closed his eyes. There were lots of things that happened today, at the same time it gave off the feeling that nothing happened. At least he was sure that he didn’t spend the day in vain.

* * *

Maru’s phone vibrated with a ding. Maru opened his phone for a second and closed it again. A call? This early in the morning? He tried to go back to sleep after hanging up, but the phone started ringing again. This time, he took the call with a sigh.

“Hello…”

- Wake up, Han Maru!!

The voice was loud enough to make his ears ache. Maru moved his phone further from his ear after a moment’s hesitation. Who the hell was this? It was 8:43am on a Sunday. Practically dawn. Who was crazy enough to…

Ah, Yoonjung. That makes sense.

“Yes, I’m awake, senior.”

He rose up from his bed, still unable to muster enough strength into his voice to make him sound like anything other than a sickly patient.

- Come to school.

“Pardon me?”

- Come to school.

What the hell? Maru checked the day again. Right, it’s a Sunday for sure. Definitely not a day a student goes to school.

“It’s a Sunday, though?”

- Yeah.

“Yeah?”

- I know. Come to school, okay? You can, right? You don’t go to church? You don’t seem like a religious type. Right? Right? Right?

Maru wanted to tell her to take a step back and breathe for a bit, but chose otherwise.

“I’m going to church.”

Of course, the Han family had been atheists for generations. But today especially Maru felt like he needed Jesus’ blessings.

- Really?

“Yes.”

- When does it end?

“Eh...”

When did his wife come back home on sundays again?

“After all the afternoon sessions, around 2pm? Or 3?”

- So late.

“Yes. I don’t know what it is, but I’m sorry.”

Maru grinned victoriously. He had no intention of going to school on a Sunday and he wasn’t dumb enough to sacrifice his break to school activities. But just as he was about to hang up… his sister stepped into the room with a shout.

“I’m going out to meet friends! Mom and dad went out to do something a moment ago. They left 20 thousand won, so I took half, okay?”

The door closed with a bang. Maru put his phone back on his ear with an annoyed face.

- What was that about church again?

Maru replied with a sigh.

“5th floor auditorium?”

* * *

Maru arrived at the school, still struggling to wake up. School? On a Sunday? Ridiculous.

"Ugh.”

The school was quiet. There was no way engineering students would come to school on a sun...

Oh, there goes one. And another one. There was quite a lot, actually.

“Eh?”

There was a boy running past him with a guitar bag, and a girl running across to meet her friends in baggy pants. There were more in the field as well.

“Huh.”

Students, on a Sunday. It looked like they were all here for club activities. He could make out the music club, the dance club, and even some of the sports clubs with their advisors. Interesting, he didn’t think people were this committed to their clubs.

“School on a Sunday...” he heard someone say behind him.

It was Dojin. Maru smiled tiredly back at the boy.

“Well, they told us to come, didn’t they?”

“Ugh, I definitely wouldn’t have done this if I knew it was gonna be this bad.”

“You can still change, you know. Want to?”

“No man, I was just complaining a little. We haven’t even begun our club activities yet. Plus… girls, you know?”

Dojin walked in through the gate with a small grin. Maru shook his head as he followed inwards. The two of them walked up the stairs quickly, up to the auditorium. They stiffened up when they heard a few shouts coming from inside.

“Gaaah!”

“Aaaahhh!”

Maru didn’t dare open the door. Dojin agreed with that sentiment.

“I wonder what that sound is?”

“Dunno.”

“Want to just leave?”

“I’m going in if you’re going in.”

The two of them opened the door bitterly.

“Oh, you’re finally here.”

Miso greeted them in her black gym clothes.

* * *

“Ahhhhh!”

“Louder!”

“Aaahhhhh!”

“Don’t scream. Pull it out from your diaphragm.”

The club members were projecting their voices into the auditorium. Though it looked closer to screaming at this point than anything. All 12 of them were here in the hall.

“Starting with Joonghyuk, then we’ll start moving left down the line. I’ll be on the other side. Open your mouth widely, try to clear out your throats as much as possible, and put some strength into your abdomen. Don’t try to squeeze out your voice. Push outwards with the air in your stomach,” Miso continued as she walked away, “I’ll punish you harder if you make weird noises, so do your best.”

Miso posed comfortably when she reached the other side of the hall. She shouted ‘start!’ from across the hall. Joonghyuk began with an ‘ahhhh’. This was the sound Maru heard from outside the door. Now, Maru was a part of this madness.

‘You received a quest to satisfy the demon king, Miso.’

Shouting? At this time? Maru kept his mouth wide open for now. He’s picked up a thing or two from his time as a stage manager back in the day, so he was planning on trying some of them out for this.

“Next!”

Miso’s voice sounded like she was speaking right next to them even from afar. Minsung was the next to start, but as soon as he started,

“Louder,” Miso said.

The boy’s voice got a little bit louder. This continued until they reached the final one, Iseul.

“Good!” Miso shouted.

Was this it? But right then…

“All of you, duck walk over to me. Right now,” she said with a smile.

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