Maru could barely remember how he got to school the next day. Before he knew it, he was already sprawled out on his table. Dojin was snoring away right next to him. To his front, Daemyung was completely passed out too.
“Wake up, you lazy idiots,” the teacher said, walking into the classroom.
It was time for their logic gate class. Maru woke Dojin up. They needed to stay awake for four hours until lunchtime. Was that even possible...?
‘I need to study...’
Maru’s eyes were drooping down already. Life… wasn’t very easy to try to take control of.
* * *
“I did it,” Dojin said, as soon as the fourth period ended. Maru lowered his head muttering ‘nap time’ to himself.
“You two alright?” Daemyung said, stumbling towards the two. Yesterday, Miso gave special training to him. Making him run and jump all over the place…
‘Maybe she was just trying to make him suffer.’
His thighs were still hurting. He should probably rest for the rest of the day.
“I’m doing sort of fine. What about you, Daemyung?”
Daemyung pointed at his foot. It was shaking violently.
“So, on that note...”
The boy smiled.
* * *
Maru and Dojin stood side by side next to Dojin. They were trying their best to support their friend in walking to the cafeteria. The line was already long. Maru could see a few familiar first years in the line posed similarly to him. Stooped low with hands massaging their thighs constantly.
“Geunseok,” Maru shouted. The boy looked back with a smile.
They were feeling a strange sense of camaraderie together. The boy smiled quite easily outside of the club room. It just goes to show how serious he was about acting.
‘What about me?’
It’s been four weeks since he started living his life again. He’s adapted very well. Well, it’d be better to say he’s accepted his new life pretty well. To say he adapted would be to say that he’s melded into his life. He hasn’t managed to done that before.
It couldn’t be helped. He was still 45 years old, after all. Although he couldn’t remember most of his memories, the experiences were all still there. A high schooler’s body, and a 45 year old’s mind. He looked at Dojin and Daemyung. These two were definitely his friends. But… in reality, he wasn’t looking at them as equals, but as little kids he was looking after.
Was that a bad thing? He hadn’t the faintest. He’s never experienced this before. He couldn’t ask for advice about living twice in the world. In the end, he’d have to try to find the answers himself. Only when he reached the age of 45 again would he be able to say,
“Ah, I’ve lived a good life.”
“Hey, let’s go,” Dojin waved. The line was moving in front of him.
Right, for now, he’d just keep on moving.
* * *
Classes were over. Maru had no idea what he learned today. Or what he did at all in school for that matter.
“Yaaawn,” Dojin stretched, “let’s go home. I’ll treat you to some fries on the way back?”
“Daemyung! Let’s go!”
The boy at the front struggled to stand up from his seat.
“Dude, how did you even get here this morning?”
“I didn’t want to get scolded. The teacher’s too scary. Just ran my ass off as fast as I could. Hehe.“
Dojin grabbed Daemyung’s bag for the poor boy. The two of them exited through the door talking about the pain they experienced the previous night. Just as Maru was about to leave with them, though, he heard a voice behind him.
“Hey, give me some cigs bro.”
Laughter came shortly afterwards. Maru turned around. He noticed that Changhu and his friends were surrounding Dowook’s desk. The two got along well before, but after that one day they became complete enemies.
Changhu’s gang looked very bright. They didn’t have expressions of bullies. They looked like friends asking for something from another friend. Maru didn’t like that. Some of these guys were clearly following Changhu without the faintest idea of what they were doing. It was incredibly irritating to look at.
“Come on man. Just one cig.”
Changhu kicked the table lightly. Dowook looked up at the other boy before whispering ‘I don’t have any’ under his breath.
“Bahaha, just tell me straight then, dude. Why act so scared?”
A pack of cigarettes dropped on Dowook’s desk.
“Here, smoke some of this and stop acting like a pussy, alright? You were a good kid, weren’t you? Don’t bully him guys, ok? He’s a good guy.”
The kids around Changhu started laughing under their breaths.
“Dowook. We really gotta get along, yeah? The girls back at the park are looking for you. So come on, man. You know what I want, right?”
Changhu pushed the pack closer to Dowook before walking off.
“Alright, see ya.”
Maru looked at the boy curiously.
“What?” Changhu said.
“...Be careful, okay?”
Maru pat Changhu’s back lightly, causing the boy to let out a short snort before leaving. The pack of boys each glared at Maru before leaving themselves.
This used to looked so cool to him back in the day, he remembered. Belonging in a “cool kids group” felt like the best thing to do. Then again, there were always the “cool kids group” that he wanted to be in as he was growing up. When he was a college student, it was a good college. When he was preparing to get a job, it was a corporation. When he was an office worker, it was to be a manager.
In high school, this group would be the group of delinquents that established their rules purely through intimidation. Of course, some people may disagree, but… most people would rather belong to that group rather than be bullied by it.
Dowook stood up from his seat. The package of cigarettes were crushed by his grip. He breathed for a bit before opening the cleaning cabinet from the back of the classroom. He took out a wooden broom, and tried to leave the classroom with a pale face. Maru grabbed the boy before he passed.
“Let go of me.”
“You planning on fighting them with that thing?”
“You want to fight me first?”
“Come on, man. You’ve been so patient. Why stop now?”
“Patient? Fuck, fine. I tried to be patient. I tried to study and go to college. But I can’t just sit and watch those fuckers stay like that. I need to fuck them up.”
Dowook tried to slap away Maru’s arm, but Maru only strengthened his grip. The boy frowned, and tried to exert more strength. He just couldn’t do it though.
‘I mean, I was pretty strong since childhood.’
Maru looked straight at Dowook.
“You feel sick of being made fun of?”
“Fuck, you think I wouldn’t?”
“Stop swearing. You cuss way too much.”
“Fucking hell! What the hell do you want?”
Dowook gripped Maru’s collars with a shout. Maru shrugged. “Weren’t you reflecting?”
“Did I see wrong? Were you just being patient because you didn’t want to bother with them?”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“That’s the stuff you used to do, isn’t it? What they’re doing to you now.”
“Dojin’s told me once that he keeps dreaming of his victims at night. And that whenever he’s alone in his rooms, he can hear their voices in his ears. Isn’t that the same for you?”
Dowook’s eyes shook for a second as a word bubble popped above his head.
[How did this guy know?]
The boy was surprised. Rightfully so. Maru’s been getting incredibly good at reading people over the last few days. The biggest difference he’s seen in Dowook was the fact that the boy couldn’t look straight at Daemyung.
Probably out of guilt, no doubt.
Dowook was definitely changing. He still spoke the same way, but his treatment of others was different. The other kids in the class even started speaking with him. This was good. He was realizing what was previously wrong with his personality. Maru had been confident that the boy would be able to make new friends in the near future.
But not if he goes off to beat up Changhu with that broom. Definitely not.
“What are you talking about?” Dowook asked.
“I saw you talking and smiling with other kids this morning.”
“I don’t think you’re a good guy. But you’re not bad either. I think you can change.”
This was how Maru felt so far about the boy. Dowook seemed to understand it as well. The boy shook Maru off one last time with an annoyed look. He let go this time. Dowook didn’t look like he was about to run off anymore. The boy threw down his broom on the ground.
“Stop lecturing me. It’s annoying.”
“Sorry about that.”
Dowook left the room with a shake of his head. Maru grabbed the broom on the floor.
“Couldn’t even clean?”
But just as he was about to get out after putting the broom back… His phone started ringing. Maru didn’t pick up. He had a very bad feeling about that phone call and made his way towards the exit of the school. Unfortunately, he ended up seeing something he shouldn’t have on the way.
“Where do you think you’re going, bud?”
Daemyung and Dojin were looking at him with a despondent expression. Miso’s smiling face never looked more devious.
* * *
Maru smiled bitterly, looking at the rest of the club members at the auditorium.
“You didn’t answer my calls, I noticed?” Miso asked.
Maru looked away for a second as he answered.
“I have bad ears.”
“Oh really? Want me to fix that for you?”
“That’s a little...”
“Take my calls from now on. Alright?”
The woman truly sounded like a demoness right about now. The club members were standing in a straight line with Miso looking over them.
“How does your body feel? With how much I worked you yesterday, a little stiff I should hope?”
‘Little stiff’? That was a bit of an understatement.
“This is because you were using muscles you don’t often use. You just haven’t trained enough.”
Well, that sounded suspicious. Maru was deeply considering whether coming to this club was a good idea. He came into this club to become a casual member, not to get trained by some crazy lady.
“We’re training again. Training your voices are fine for now. I feel like I expected too much out of you yesterday. Today, we’re going to make your bodies move more flexibly. We’re going to free up your bodies from various habits it’s built up so far. Understood?”
“Why so quiet?”
Miso’s expression changed right then.
“There’s something I need to do first though.”
She glared at the club members intensely before speaking again.
“We need to weed out the fakes. This is going to be difficult even with the serious kids.”
She looked more serious than she ever did.Previous Chapter Next Chapter