The voice sounded urgent. Maru, who was relaxing on his seat after drinking coffee first looked at the time. 10 minutes remained until the 5th period. He hung up on the phone and left through the back door. He climbed down the central stairs and arrived at the first floor before leaving through the left door of the building. He went past the cafeteria and headed towards the back of the school. He saw three people from the acting club there.
Before he even asked what was up, the distinct smell of oil-based paint tickled his nose. He frowned and approached the container. The first things he saw were the costumes colored in black and green. He also saw the despairing Daemyung, as well as the uneasy Jiyoon and Aram duo.
“I don’t think this was a result of a spill.”
Hearing his words, the three of them nodded. At that moment, Dowook and Bangjoo arrived at the container as well. Both of them were panting.
“Maru, you’re here.”
“Ha, shit. Bangjoo and I made rounds just to see if the fucker that did this was still nearby, but we came up with nothing.”
Maru nodded and first left the container. He was in there only for a brief moment but he felt dizzy already.
“For now, put those costumes in the container.”
Daemyung sighed as he did as Maru instructed him to. Maru looked at Daemyung before stepping on the latch of the door and climbing to the top of the container. Right now, he had to ventilate the container. He opened all the ventilation latches on the corners of the container. These were usually closed to block off rain.
He then jumped off the roof. He did all he could right now so now he had to know what happened.
“I’m sorry, seonbae-nim. I should have closed it when I saw that it was open.”
“No, seonbae. I had Aram leave this place with me even though she said that we should protect this place. I’m really sorry. Really….”
Jiyoon and Aram looked down and apologized. Daemyung stepped in.
“These girls didn’t do anything wrong. It’s my fault for leaving them open for ventilation. I shouldn’t have left this place….”
Maru stared at the apologizing trio before sighing.
“The one that did this is not you guys so why are you the ones apologizing? And if there’s a responsibility, it lies with all of the acting club, so you don’t have to apologize to me either. Aram, Jiyoon, and Bangjoo, you three should go to your classes now. The next period will start soon.”
The first years hesitated, but when Maru urged them on, they returned to their classes, albeit reluctantly.
“What are you going to do? This is a mess.”
Dowook clicked his tongue and looked inside the container. It was definitely a mess. Since it was done with paint, paint thinner should be able to erase them, but it was unknown if the costumes with distinct color could be saved or not. The props were in a horrible state as well. The traditional paper lamp was clearly beyond salvageable, while things like wine glasses, small dolls and cigar pipes could be cleaned up. However, it was unknown how many of these they could salvage.
“The costumes are the problem.”
Maru scanned the container again with a bitter expression. For a work done in a short period of time, it was actually quite thorough. There weren’t any empty paint cans on the floor.
“How long did you leave this place for?”
“Around 15 minutes?” Daemyung replied with uncertainty.
15 minutes. Since Aram and Jiyoon seemed to have visited this place during that time, it meant that this place was vacant for around 10 minutes.
“I guess it doesn’t take that long to make it like this.”
“...Should we tell a teacher?” Daemyung asked carefully. His expression was filled with guilt.
“We should tell teacher Taesik, but it would do us no good even if we tell someone else. No, we can’t tell them. This country is quite messed up. When something happens, the first to be interrogated is the one that saw losses through that incident, not the one that caused it. Once the teachers find out that the container has become like this, it’s obvious that they’ll scold us for not managing it properly and use it against us. I’m not really into that, so we should take care of this ourselves.”
“Sorry… just because of me.”
“I just said it’s not because of you. The fucker that did this is the problem, not you. If it’s considered fair for it to become like this just because the door was open, then why would thievery be a crime? Don’t mind about that and let’s think about how to solve this problem. For now, let’s close the door since the ventilation holes are open.”
Nothing good would come out of everyone knowing what happened here. Just as Maru was about to close the door, the empty spray paint canister entered his eyes.
He didn’t have the time to have a close look at things, but now that he saw the spray paint can, he saw a green handprint. It was from the waterproof paint. Maru then glanced at the floor of the container. The culprit had splashed the costumes and the props on the wall and the paint had splashed back onto the ground. Maru lifted his feet up to check his own shoe. He saw waterproof paint on it. It was obvious. Although it was only a little, the paint that splattered on the ground got on his shoe.
“Daemyung. You went inside the container, right?”
“Yeah. I did.”
“Have a look at the sole of your shoes. Do you see any paint?”
“Huh, yeah, there is!”
Maru had a look at the work gloves next to the spray paint can. Green paint was everywhere on it. It seemed that the culprit first put the gloves on, and poured out the contents of the paint bucket inside the container. Then, he or she should have stepped backwards while pouring out the paint, noticing the costumes at the top. It should have been a little dangerous to try and paint those by pouring paint from the bucket. Then, finding the spray paint cans, the culprit should have returned to spray the upper walls with spray paint.
Maru first left and closed the door. Then he had a close look at the asphalt floor that led to the container. As he had expected, traces of green paint could be seen. They should belong to Daemyung, Maru himself, and the culprit.
“Let’s go back as well. The 5th period is starting soon.”
Maru took his two friends inside. There was less than 3 minutes until the next lesson.
“Just who in the world would do that kind of thing?”
“It shouldn’t be a prank. If that person went as far as to spray paint everywhere, then there must be a motive behind it.”
“...,” Daemyung silently stared at Maru. Maru smiled back.
“What, do you have someone in mind?” Dowook asked. Someone in mind? There was one likely culprit. Maru turned around right in front of his class and went to the design department class. As the 5th period was about to begin, everyone was in their classes. After having Dowook wait outside, he took Daemyung inside. He saw Geunseok near the window. Geunseok was calmly looking at them. Maru grabbed Daemyung who kept giving glances to Geunseok and walked towards Soyeon.
“How have you been?”
“What’s up, you two?” Soyeon chuckled. Although she left the acting club, she still hung out with the 2nd years from time to time. Though, with the start of May, it was hard to hang out with everyone since they started practicing.
“We had some business here.”
“Business?” Soyeon tilted her head. Maru smiled at Soyeon and naturally glanced at Geunseok. Geunseok was still looking at him with a relaxed expression.
“Nah. See you later.”
“What is it? What’s going on?”
“I’ll tell you later. Don’t do anything dangerous with Taejoon, alright?”
They left the design class, leaving the grumpy Soyeon behind. At the same time, the bell rang. Returning to their own class, the three sat down.
“It’s not Geunseok? There’s no way he could act so calm after all we did to him,” Daemyung frowned as he spoke. Maru shook his head and replied.
“No, it’s the opposite. He’s practically telling us that he did it.”
“Why is that?”
“He’s good at acting. Even instructor Miso said that he’s the best when it comes to acting natural.”
“That she did.”
“That’s why he’s suspicious. He can’t be leisurely smiling at us like that. He has so much pent up against me, so he can’t smile back at me. Do you remember what happened when I went to the design class last time?”
“Oh, that time… Geunseok ended up crying in front of his classmates.”
“The guy whose arrogance pierces the sky looking at us with a smile after all the things he went through. He probably had his vengeance.”
“Did Geunseok really do it?”
“We’ll need to see for sure.”
“His shoes. He seems confident in not having it on any of his clothes, but let’s see if he took care of his shoes as well.”
“What if there’s nothing?”
“We can’t screw him with just circumstantial evidence.”
“It’s just an expression.”
Maru put his chin on his hands and tapped on the desk. Treating students like how students should be treated and treating adults like how adults should be treated. Treating people according to their social status was natural for not just Maru, but for all adults living in this era. A rule for superiors should be applied to superiors, and the rule for subordinates should be applied to subordinates. The amount of responsibility shouldered by people of different social status was of course different. A mistake from a director-level personnel and a mistake from a new employee. Those two were very different. In the same sense, the wrongdoings of a student who was still learning was different from a fully-grown adult with legal responsibilities. It wasn’t about the severity of the crime, but more about sympathy, or perhaps about whether there was room for forgiveness.
After all, it was written in the law.
The suspect is young and has no prior cases of committing a crime, so his sentence is reduced.
Geunseok was a horrible guy. However, treating him horribly just because of his nature was something embarrassing for an adult to do. Though, he had a high school student’s body, so they were both kids in a sense, but Maru’s inner nature was that of a ‘good old man’ who could treat some minor things as just a foolish mistake from youth.
However, for this incident, he crossed the line. In Maru’s mind, Geunseok was on probation. He could have crushed him even harder that day, but the reason he didn’t go all the way was because of his sense of guilt as an adult that could not guide the younger generation properly as well as his expectation that he would change his mind for the better.
Despite that, his expectations were betrayed nicely. It was quite painful. Perhaps others might call him childish. He had no confidence to say anything up front so he sprayed paint behind everyone’s back. Yes, those were childish actions.
Childish actions from a child.
Maru stretched his arms out. Things would only even out if he showed what adults could do when they became childish, no?
“Let’s get the soles of his shoes first. If there’s nothing, we’ll conclude by properly locking the container in the future….”
“And if we find something?”
“Then it’s overtime.”
At that moment, Dowook clenched his fist and spoke.
“I have confidence if it’s about beating him up.”
“We can’t do that. Do you want to transfer schools with him?”
“Ah, right. What are you going to do then?”
“I’ll be very childish. Like, very, very childish.”
Maru smiled. At that moment, the front door opened and the teacher entered.
“For now, look front. You guys need to attend your classes.”
Dowook and Daemyung nodded and looked at the chalkboard. Maru fidgeted and fell into thought.
* * *
Geunseok giggled after seeing that Maru and co. left without doing anything. He thought that they must have come here looking for trouble, but returned after seeing that he was acting so calm. He was in a hurry when he poured the paint, but he didn’t hastily pour them out so that none of it got on his clothes. He didn’t leave any evidence behind. Nonsensical stuff like fingerprint recognition would not be used. In the first place, they wouldn’t call the police for something like that.
‘And if it’s that bastard, he won’t tell the teachers either.’
There was no way Maru would blow this out of proportion since he was well aware of the circumstances that the acting club was in. As such, this incident would end very quietly. They must feel frustrated, but what could they do? There was no evidence.
Geunseok felt that class was very enjoyable for the rest of the day for some reason.
 If you didn’t know already, Korean schools have 4 periods before lunch (50 minute lesson 10 minute break), and up to 3 periods after lunch. So the 5th period is always the period right after lunch break.