Maru thought she was kidding at first. Everyone did. But watching her face stiffen up by the second she made all of them start duck walking towards her automatically. 60 meters. It was pretty far. When they managed to get all the way to her, Miso spoke with a clap.
“Now, go back. But this time, loosen up your joints.”
Miso demonstrated this herself. With every step, she shook her wrist and ankle a few times. After every three steps, she stretched her neck as well.
The club members all went back as she instructed. As soon as they all got back, the shouting practice resumed.
“Shout with that feeling of keeping your throat completely open.”
Ah yes, that mysterious feeling. Maru was reminded of an instance in his company when the advertiser came to him with a picture and said ‘I want something that feels like this’.
The shouting frenzy proceeded with Joonghyuk at the forefront. Everyone was a little bit louder this time. The shouts continued all the way back to Iseul, and the entire club looked at Miso with a confident look. And the response was…
More punishment. Maru thought that the woman was just trying to put them in their place for now. She’d probably stop after everyone got kind of tired.
It didn’t take long for him to realize this wasn’t the case, though.
* * *
“Huff, huff, huff...”
Beads of sweat were dripping from his forehead. Miso truly looked like a demon to Maru from afar. The woman gestured for them to come closer. The four left behind in the pack, including Maru, completed their duck walk just barely.
Their eccentric training had gone on for a full hour at this point. The cycle of shouting and duck walking became duck walking over and over again at this point. No more shouting, just duck walking.
“Duck goes quack quack. Chicks go?!”
Joonghyuk, Taejoon, Maru and Geunseok were truly trying their utmost. Starting from the 50 minute mark, the only thing that fueled their walks was their will. Even Maru’s quads trained by daily bike rides were suffering from duck walking this much at this point. The four of them barely reached Miso with loud huffs.
“Nice eyes, boys.”
Miso smiled at them. Just what was this woman? Maru grit his teeth to stop his legs from shaking any more.
“How is it, still doable?”
They didn’t sound so confident anymore. Then again, it’s been a full hour of walking.
“You can sit now. And the rest of you, looking at the wall!”
Miso shouted across the hall. Her voice loud as usual. The other kids that tapped out in the middle turned to look over to her.
“Run over here!”
The other club members ran over hurriedly. They all looked at the tired four with a sorry look.
“Guy who gave up first.”
Daemyung responded loudly from nervousness.
“We have some sports drinks next to the door. Bring them in.”
Daemyung ran over to the back door. Maru watched him in his exhaustion. He’s never seen the chubby boy run that fast.
The club members shared the drinks among each other. Finally, a moment of rest. The last four were massaging their thighs as they moaned a little in pain.
“I’m going to say a few things. Answer accordingly, understand?”
“What festivals did you go to last year?”
“We went to the one hosted by the city, and the one hosted by Kangwoo university.”
Yoonjung responded. She looked like a real club president with her response.
“What about regionals?”
“...We didn’t go.”
“You mean you couldn’t?”
Yoonjung bit her lips. She seemed to want to say something in protest.
“Don’t you think the first years deserve to know what happened to make such a famous club fall down to the depths like this?”
Yoonjung sat down. Miso sat down on her foldable chair as well.
“Hey, you, first years.”
“Do you know how many theater festivals there are for teenagers in South Korea?”
No one answered. Maru had no idea either.
“Really? No one? Even a guess is fine.”
Geunseok quietly raised his hand.
“I knew it. Go on, tell me.”
“There’s the national theater festival, first of all, funded by the Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Education, and the Arts Council Korea.”
“There’s also festivals hosted by universities. The ones hosted by Kangwoo, Hoecheon, and Jookyung University are quite famous.”
“There are also citywide and regional festivals hosted for the sake of the national festival.”
“Pretty good explanation. Good job,” Miso clapped. The first years followed up with their claps as well.
‘He’s different for sure,’ Maru noted.
As expected of the guy who came to the school specifically for the theater club. Geunseok looked like a guy who’d make it big as an actor.
‘Then again, I don’t think I’ve heard of an actor by his name in the future?’
He’s heard of Geunseok’s brother more times than he could count, but nothing about Geunseok. What happened to him?
Maru shook his head. He didn’t want to think about it. Perhaps with the addition of Maru into Geunseok’s life, the boy’s future could change just by a little bit. Not by a lot, obviously. But a change was a change regardless.
‘If I can...’
If the boy ever ends up needing help… Maru wanted to be there to do so. The job of an adult was to help kids reach their dreams. Their eyes met for a second.
Geunseok looked over in confusion, to which Maru responded with a shrug.
“Obviously, the goal of all acting clubs in the country is to go for the nationals. The main festival happens during summer, and they hold regionals before that. Gyeonggi-do here will be split into four different city-wide festivals. In other words, you have to get first place in the city festival to qualify for regionals, then you have to get first place in the regionals to go to nationals. This all begins around June. Anyone know what month this is?”
“It’s going to be hard. March is almost over, so we only have 2 months to practice.”
The second years turned wide-eyed.
“W-we’re going to nationals?”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
Danmi reeled back in surprise. Maru could see Yoonjung clench her fists in the corner of his eye.
“Um, instructor...” Joonghyuk raised his hand.
“We have no third years.”
“I know. It’s just going to be the twelve of you from here on out.”
“Anyway. Back to the main story. Let’s talk about how the club became like this. I can explain it since I’ve heard the story from your advisor, but… What do you think, second years? Would you rather explain it yourselves?” Yoonjung was visibly deflating in the corner. Miso continued, “You should do it, right? I’ll explain what this club was first.”
Miso pointed at the group of first years before beginning.
“Now then. Let’s start. Blue Sky. The name was chosen by our teacher Taesik. It’s been 13 years already...” she had a nostalgic look on her face.
Miso looked over the auditorium once again. Maru could instantly tell she had been in the club at some point as well.
“Ah, I forgot to tell you, didn’t I? I’m your senior. I was in the first generation of the club. You guys… would be the 13th.”
As he thought.
“We were all first years back then. New teacher, new students, new building. Everything was brand new. The club was made by students back then as well. That’s how the club began. Though the teacher helped us out a lot as well. Speaking of which, did you know that Taesik just doesn’t age? He looked the same back then as well.”
She seemed to have entered her casual mode. The kids sighed in relief before starting to relax in their seats.
“I had no intention of joining the acting club back then. I was consumed by drawing. I wanted to be a shoujo mangaka back in the day. I sketched people when other kids were drawing apples. In any case, I was doing all that when some crazy guy came over to me and said ‘let’s do acting!’ He was crazy. Absolutely insane. He tried to recruit his entire class.”
Miso shook her head with a smile on her face.
“In any case, Blue Sky was created under him and the teacher. Funnily enough, the guy recruited only the craziest people for his club. It was chaos. Except during practice. We were more serious than anyone else when we practiced.”
She walked away for a second, returning with an album minutes later. It was the album for the first generation of the club. Miso opened the album with a ‘ta-da’. The book hadn’t aged well. Some of the pictures were torn, and others had turned yellow. Miso picked out one of them in particular.
It was a picture of 17 people standing on stage with bright smiles plastered on their faces. They had a big medal in their hand, and behind them was a sign saying ‘Congratulations on winning nationals’.
“You got first place on your first competition?” Geunseok asked. Miso nodded.
“The reason you go to competitions to begin with is to win. Participate to make memories? Cut out that bullshit. I told you, didn’t I? That one crazy guy gathered all the crazies in the club. I guess you could say I was one of them. In any case, we worked our butts off trying to get first place for that competition. We worked during class, we worked after school. Even during weekends were no exception. Sure, studying was important, but acting came first. We practiced after lunch, we practiced up at the rooftop if we got yelled at by the teachers, we lost our voice shouting too much in the school field. Some of us got our hands cut making props for the stage.”
She was turning more sentimental by the minute.
“Back then, we asked for a bunch of help to the other acting clubs nearby. Not a lot of them took us seriously. Especially that all-girl’s school nearby. Their club was pretty famous too. When we went to ask their advisor for well, advice, the guy just told me that amateurs like us would never get anything done. So we had to show it to the guy.”
Miso showed them the picture again. The smiles of each person in there seemed truly pure. Maru looked at the picture dumbly. The power emanating from the picture was quite something. Even after the passing of 13 years.
“That was what Blue Sky was made of. The crazies left after that, so we couldn’t get first place for our second year, but we still got an honorary mention. But then...”
Miso’s face stiffened as she looked over the second years.
“Now I come back to see the club like this.”
She looked at Yoonjung annoyedly.
“Explain. To the first years.”
Yoonjung stood up, garnering the attention of the room. Her usual energetic self was nowhere to be seen.
“I should’ve told you before. Sorry for being late about it. I told you before, right? That all the seniors and the second years quit except us.”
She sighed before continuing.
“The reason why they all quit… was because of an incident.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter