Jiyoon opened her eyes before her phone alarm. For some reason, she felt good on days like these. Jiyoon turned off her alarm that rang a beat late and got off her bed. A cold sensation sprang up from her feet. Her drowsiness disappeared.
“You’re up early.”
She scooped a bowl of rice beside her mother who was preparing breakfast. If it was a few days before, she would have prepared two bowls of rice, but now she had to prepare three.
“He’s out jogging. You can scoop his as well.”
Her dad, who was working abroad in Japan, had returned recently. She had cleared up her misunderstanding with her mother and the absence of her father was filled in. After the small joy she longed for so much was achieved, Jiyoon was experiencing a new life every day. First up, she stuttered less. She always stuttered when something didn’t go as she expected or when she was talking to a stranger, but she was much better now. She herself could feel that her bad habits were going away. Though, it wasn’t that they had completely disappeared, and she still stuttered from time to time, but she no longer stayed quiet without being able to express her opinions.
“You should eat and go already. You’ll be late.”
She sat down and quickly finished her breakfast. She took her time since she woke up earlier than usual and now she was running out.
‘I won’t be late, will I?’
She took her bag and quickly left her house. She greeted the apartment security who was sweeping the grounds and quickly walked along the road that crossed the entire apartment complex. She checked the time with her phone from time to time and she thought that she wouldn’t be late. She crossed the pedestrian overpass and walked along the road and turned right on the junction where the big bookstore was.
“You’re just in time.”
Aram was waiting for her there. She tapped on the back of her bicycle. Jiyoon smiled and sat at the back before grabbing Aram by the waist.
“Here I go.”
Jiyoon had ridden on the back of Aram’s bicycle ever since she was late to school last time. Although she said that she could just leave home at an earlier time, Aram told her to not talk back to her and do as she said. She said something strange along the lines of ‘it’s for my exercise so you don’t have the right to refuse,’ or something like that. The headwind brushed past her ears. The scenery changed quickly, and they soon arrived at an 8-lane road crossing. Jiyoon looked around. It should be around time.
“Wait for me!”
A loud voice could be heard from afar. It was Bangjoo, who was riding his bicycle at full speed. After discovering that their way to the school was similar, Aram decided on a time to meet up here. The go-to-school club was successfully formed under Aram’s not-so-order that the first years should stick to each other.
“Joohyun-unni is not doing the radio today,” Aram, who had an earphone on one ear, asked Bangjoo.
“She took a day off since she has a schedule elsewhere,” Bangjoo replied. He was wearing an earphone as well.
“Oh, I was worried that she was sick.”
“My sister, sick? Not happening. She’s too healthy for her own good.”
“Geez, to think that there’s such a brother under that delicate sister. I really don’t understand what happened.”
“Delicate? You must mean tough.”
Jiyoon smiled slightly as she looked at the two. The two had identical personalities. Both of them liked to exercise, both of them were cheerful, and both of them had a loud voice as well. Oh, and they both liked their ‘Joohyun-unni’.
Although Bangjoo sounded fed up whenever someone talked about Joohyun, it was obvious that he cared for her a lot from how he listened to the live radio every single morning. He was probably just embarrassed to admit it.
Aram had a little brother as well, and as they were far in part in age, the little brother was going to enter elementary school next year. Aram sometimes talked about him and about how cute he was since she had looked after him since he was a little baby.
‘Perhaps that’s how Joohyun-unni sees Bangjoo?’
Jiyoon chuckled out loud as she found the two quarrelling to be so fun. When she did, Aram glared at her.
“Why are you laughing?”
“Nothing, I just… thought you two suit each other.”
When she said that, the two of them retorted at once.
“What? Me? And her?”
“Lee Jiyoon. There are things you shouldn’t say.”
Jiyoon even thought that the way the two got angry was identical as well, but she did not dare voice it out loud. It was obvious that Aram would tease her for the rest of the day if she did.
“I heard that we’d be making the props today and starting practice according to the movement lines. I wonder how that goes. Jiyoon, do you know anything about it?”
Aram’s voice could be heard over the wind. Jiyoon replied in a slightly loud voice.
“We’ll probably be putting everything we did until now into one piece. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing new!”
Although she wasn’t entirely sure, she thought that she was right. Watching the passing by buildings as well as Aram who was pedalling hard, they soon arrived at school. They got off the bicycle and bypassed the scary-looking head-of-the-year teacher. Although she was a little worried about getting caught since her hair came below her shoulder, she fortunately wasn’t caught.
“I’m going then.”
Jiyoon waved her hand to Bangjoo who walked to the mechanical engineering department at the end of the corridor, saying ‘bye’.
She then followed Aram into their own classroom. Her classmates waved their hands saying hello. Jiyoon hung her bag on the desk at the very back, which was her seat. She sat at the very front up until middle school, but she somehow ended at the back seat due to the friends she made in high school. In the eyes of adults, they would seem like problematic kids, but Jiyoon discovered that the reality was different from what it seemed. They had rough mouths, but that was it. They were different from the so-called ‘bullies’ shown on TV. They were just awesome people who had a strong opinion and could not stand injustice.
“Jiyoon, you should eat this!”
A tall fellow threw something at her from afar. When she caught it, she found that they were cookies packed in a plastic bag. Jiyoon smiled. Her classmates did not have textbooks in their bags. Instead, they had comic books, cosmetics and food. Jiyoon did not have many opportunities to read comic books, but she read them quite a lot recently thanks to her friends. She liked stories about confident and brave heroines rather than those featuring delicate girls. She sometimes resolved to act like one of them, but whenever she closed the book, she returned to normal and rarely ever took action. The book she was reading now was a school romance book. The story was about two ordinary students falling in love secretly. Every time she flipped over a page, she imbued her own emotions into the book. The world made of lines and dots expanded and felt like the real world. She would be the heroine, and Daemyung would be the protagonist.
Whenever she did that, Jiyoon became startled all by herself and closed the book before opening it back again with a smile on her face. They say unrequited love was a painful thing, but Jiyoon was experiencing the exact opposite. Though, it would be a different story if the current situation dragged on for a long time. For now, she felt very happy.
Jiyoon became startled and closed the book. The time was right after lunch. She was fantasizing to herself while looking at the comic book with a drowsy body when she heard that voice. Jiyoon smiled back at Aram, who was looking down at her with crossed arms.
“I’m very suspicious.”
“A, about what?”
“You’ve been reading that book for days now. With a bright grin on your face too.”
“I’m suspicious. Veeeery suspicious.”
With a suspicious smile, Aram suddenly turned around and started walking towards the others. At that moment, Jiyoon felt a tingle on her head. With a newfound strength that came from an unknown place, she pulled on Aram very strongly. Aram swayed a lot but she soon gained balance with her superior motor nerves.
“I, I’m sorry.”
“You’re quite strong.”
Aram glanced at her friends. Jiyoon shook her head with all her might. If Aram told them about it… she didn’t even want to think about the consequences. Those friends were the same ones that made her ride Aram’s shoulders around the school for ‘fun’. It was unknown what they would do if they found out that she had someone she liked.
Aram dragged a chair towards her as though she was some kind of investigator. Jiyoon was unable to look at her eyes.
“Now I’m 100% sure. Who is it?”
“Wh, what do you mean?”
“Then I’ll say it to all of them, okay? Once that happens, you’ll be forced to confess….”
Jiyoon reached out and covered Aram’s mouth. The others who were chatting amongst themselves looked towards them. Jiyoon laughed awkwardly and fidgeted. Only after the gazes dissipated did Jiyoon sigh and let go of Aram.
“How did you know?” She gave up and asked first. When she did, Aram grinned and spoke.
“What, so I was right?”
‘I was fooled!’
Jiyoon pouted and looked at Aram with wronged eyes. However, despite her expression, Aram pressed on.
“So, who is it? Tell me, tell me.”
* * *
To drive out the drowsiness, Maru went to the school cafeteria to get a cup of coffee from the vending machine. Thinking that vending machine coffee was the best, Maru took the empty cup and returned to the third floor, where his class was. The electrical engineering department was right in front of the central staircase. In front of the class which reeked of boys due to the lack of presence from the opposite sex, he saw two girls waiting outside. As everyone was sleeping on their desks, the class was quiet even though two girls were peeking inside.
‘Why are those two…’
Maru silenced his steps and approached them from the back.
“I don’t see him though.”
“Aram, let’s just go. This is a 2nd year class room.”
“So what if it’s a 2nd year class room? It’s not like we’re committing a crime. Rather than that, where is Daemyung-seonbae?”
Aram seemed to be enjoying herself to the fullest, while Jiyoon seemed to be very uneasy. Although it was a short conversation, it was enough for Maru to deduce what was going on. After all, there was only one reason Aram would bring the uneasy Jiyoon looking for Daemyung.
“What are you doing?” He voiced out from behind. Both of them were startled out of their wits and turned around.
“Ah! That startled me. What’s up with you?” Aram widened her eyes and asked. She looked as though she would hit Maru at any moment.
“It’s my class. Why are you asking that?”
“Don’t ‘aha!’ me. You’re looking for Daemyung?”
The two answered differently to the same question. Jiyoon looked as though she was about to fall into shock at any moment. She was quite cute when she made that expression. The urge to stand on Aram’s side and tease Jiyoon welled up inside his heart, but he decided not to since Jiyoon was such a good girl.
“He should be in the container. He’s probably cleaning up since he has to create the props starting today.”
“Is that so?”
Aram grabbed Jiyoon’s hand and ran down the stairs. Maru looked at the two and spoke to himself in a small voice.
* * *
Bangjoo was walking down the corridor when he saw Jiyoon being dragged by Aram by the hand.
“What are you doing?”
He asked in a loud voice, but the only reply he got was ‘mind your own business!’ Jiyoon looked at him as though she was asking for help, but he ignored her since it looked like it would be more interesting to leave Aram be. As there was still 20 minutes until the 5th period, Bangjoo went down to the school field. He looked to see if there was anyone playing basketball, but the only ones he saw were people he didn’t know. They seemed to be seniors. The soccer field was filled with people as well. He could see four balls flying into one goal.
He wanted to do some light exercise, but he didn’t see anything suitable. After contemplating for a while, Bangjoo decided to ride his bike around. Her sister had bought him an MTB when he entered high school. He looked up the cost out of curiosity, and almost fainted from the number of digits. As that was the case, he had to buy a thick chain lock used for motorcycles. He went to the bicycle parking which was to the left of the front gates.
He saw Dowook there. It was very unfamiliar to see him there sitting next to a bike with all sorts of tools. He only saw that seonbae sleeping all the time, and it was hard to talk to him since he gave off a scary impression, but after a while, he was able to talk to him comfortably as he knew that Dowook wasn’t a bad person.
“Yes. What are you doing here?”
“I rode my bike to school this morning and the tire got punctured. I’m fixing it right now.”
“You do that by yourself?”
“Oooh! Can I watch?”
“Do whatever you want.”
Bangjoo sat down next to him. Although he saw it last time, Dowook’s bike looked quite expensive as well. Dowook took out a wrench and a rubber pad from the pouch attached to the frame of the bike before proficiently removing the brakes and the front wheel from the bike. When those parts came off so easily, Bangjoo exclaimed out loud.
“Where did you learn to do all these, seonbae?”
Dowook then pointed at one of the bikes. It was Bangjoo’s bike.
“If you plan to keep riding that, then you should learn about bikes too. It’ll be nonsensical for you to not be able to do anything with a bike that costs several million won on the frame alone.”
Dowook seemed to be knowledgeable about bikes. He was able to tell the price of a bike just by looking at one.
“Can I learn things like that as well, seonbae-nim?”
“It’s not hard.”
“Then you should teach me.”
“It’s bothersome. Also, quieten down a little bit. I feel like you’re ripping my ears out.”
Dowook gave him the cold shoulder. Bangjoo did not give up despite that. He stuck by his side and watched every bit of Dowook’s movement. After wordlessly handling the tube for a while, Dowook sighed.
“I’ll teach you later so please stop staring at me.”
“Are you serious?”
Bangjoo laughed in joy. He heard Daemyung’s voice from behind.
He saw Daemyung who was holding clothes wrapped in plastic bags. His voice was a little weak, and that seemed to be because he was holding onto some heavy things. Bangjoo immediately stood up and received the clothes from Daemyung.
“Thanks. I was trying to do it by myself but it was a little too scary.”
“You should have called for me. I’m confident in using my strength.”
“It’s break time so I would feel sorry for calling you out.”
He was the club president alright. Bangjoo thought that those who fulfilled their responsibility were cool. Dowook took some of the luggage as well. It seemed that he had fixed his bike in that short moment.
“What are you going to do with all this?”
“I’m planning to take it to the 5th floor for now. Can you help me out a little?”
“You should have told us beforehand about this.”
Dowook walked forward. Bangjoo glanced at Daemyung’s face for a moment and smiled at him before following Dowook.
 In Korea, there used to be school regulations for hair (length, color, etc). They don’t exist anymore.
Do we have a new ship now? XD
Maru x GF - sailed
Daemyung x Jiyoon - pretty close to sailing
Dowook x Bada(Maru's sis) - ??
Jiseok x Yoojin - ??
Aram x Bangjoo - ??
Taeshik x Miso - sailed
Dojin x Iseul - sailed
Who among the "??" do you ship, if you do at all? What other characters from the novel do you ship? Who do you think Ganghwan will end up with? Tell me in the comments below!