Chapter 27

“I honestly want to make this club great again. I need to get the people who are truly serious in that case. Understand?” she continued after a brief pause, “High school clubs are usually for casual things, I understand. But not here. Not as long as I’m here. I only want the crazies. I want the ones who are really crazy for acting. Otherwise you might as well just give up entirely.”

Her words had strength to it. A different kind of strength from a typical leader. Miso was a tyrant. She was trying to take over the club entirely. This was wrong, especially since this was coming from a person unrelated to the school. But… When Maru turned to look at the second years, he noticed that they had their mouths closed. Even Yoonjung. Did they talk about this beforehand? Or…

The second years might actually like Miso. She was a tyrant. One that was determined to make the club members suffer. They experienced it last Sunday already. There was probably only one reason why they tolerated Miso’s tyranny despite all else.

The woman was talented.

She started with a club that had nothing, and took it to first place at nationals. Not only that, she became an instructor for a university club, even. The second years might not like the way she did things, but they had no doubts about her abilities. Because they were crazy, they were crazy enough to stay with the club even when everyone else left. They cared a lot for the club, more so than anyone else.

Maybe Miso and the second years recognized that they both loved the club more than anything else. That might be the reason for their acceptance of her way of teaching. They moved to the left without another word, with Miso standing in the middle of them and the first years still standing to her right.

“I’ll say this again. Sunday was just a hint of what you’d get out of me. That was about the worst you’ll get out of physical training. But you’ll definitely need to be prepared. I have quite the personality, as you may have realized by now. Despite this pretty face of mine.”

Miso grinned. This woman was definitely pretty. She was expressive, and she even had a good body. But no one in the room thought that the woman looked pretty right now. Maru looked around him. To his expectations, everyone’s bodies were stiffened up even more than usual.

Except for one person.

Geunseok stepped to the left before Miso even managed to finish. He looked at Miso without another word. Miso nodded.

“Those of you who are thinking of working with me, be prepared to sacrifice your weekdays and your weekends. So think carefully. You really don’t want to be here to be casual. I don’t want people who are crazy in acting to become an actor.”

Miso looked to her left.

“I’ll torture the people to my left. Same for the stage managers as well. After all, just because you signed up to be a manager once doesn’t mean you will always be a manager in this club.”

And then to her right.

“I’ll ask for small tasks from the people to the right. Hey, can you do this? What about that? Stuff like that. I promise a fun high school life from you. I’ll let you watch plays every once in awhile as well. Sounds good, right?”

Her face wore a smile, but her eyes weren’t. She was making her position very clear to the students. The people to the left were the ‘real’ club. Everyone else were only here for the sake of it.

The first years exchanged their looks. Daemyung and Dojin looked at each other as well before turning to Maru.

“I’m doing it. Daemyung is going to as well. You too, right?”

“Dunno.”

“What do you mean, dunno?”

Dojin walked over to the left with a deep breath. Daemyung scrambled over as well. The first years began moving one by one to the left. Iseul moved, then Taejoon followed. Yurim seemed hesitant at first, but ended up following her friend Soyeon to the left. Maru was the only one left.

He looked over for a second. Everyone in the club was looking at him expectantly. Plays. He actually quite liked plays. He’s seen a countless number of them when he was a road manager. He’s even asked several personalities about becoming an actor in the past. He was interested for sure.

‘So why...’

Maru looked inside himself for a second. Just how did he want to live? The club would be fun. The people were great. He’d be able to be with his friends. But would it be a good thing to lose so much of his time to the club? He looked over at his two friends. They probably didn’t know how difficult life would get after this.

College degrees didn’t matter for squat if you didn’t come from a big one, and you had to learn random words from different languages for the slight chance you could use them.

Learning that you couldn’t become an employee of a company even after suffering for weeks as an intern, and realizing how stupid and unreal ‘dreams’ were in the end.

That was the kind of life waiting for his friends.

Even now, Maru was trying his best to study right after school. It wasn’t like he was trying to succeed as a scholar. He didn’t even have the brains for it. But he did know the amount of choices good grades would provide for him in the future.

That’s right.

He knew.

And that was the reason for his hesitation. If he didn’t know all of this, he would have stepped to the left right away. To make all those wonderful memories with his friends. He would’ve spent his time working his ass off to try to become an actor. But even now, he was weighing his options carefully. He was thinking about how much good this would do him.

Even though he didn’t want to. He couldn’t help it. He’s cried too much suffering from society trying to feed his family in the past. Thanks to it, there was a module in his head that did all his calculations for him.

He didn’t want to do it.

He wanted to just jump in there for a year.

[Daddy, can you buy me that? Please? Ah… No, no. I don’t actually need it. I don’t need it.]

What day was it again? Christmas? Her birthday? He recalled his daughter’s exact words as she looked at something with desire. The first thing Maru thought of at the time was his empty wallet and his wife’s warning of ‘raising the rent’. He didn’t say anything and just looked down at his daughter.

The poor girl caught onto his thoughts far too quickly. It was less painful for him to suffer a beating from his boss instead. Looking at such a little girl having to shake her head with such a knowing look made him feel like the world was falling apart.

He was living in the present.

But his mind was still stuck in the past. A constant reminder of his future.

The woman said to him that he could meet his wife and child again. His past came crashing back down on him. If he didn’t want to repeat his poor life again, he would have to try hard. He’d have to invest a lot in order to succeed in life.

What he needed to invest was time.

“Well, we’ll say this is it, then,” Miso turned her back on him.

The first years all looked at him strangely. Right, this was fine. He would give up a little bit of fun in the present to gain a greater happiness in the future.

Maru… did not move from the right.

“Now, Maru,” Miso said.

“Yes.”

“You can leave now.”

“...Yes.”

He waved goodbye to his two dumbfounded friends and slipped out. What he wanted to do, he had no answer for. He was just getting chased around by the idea that he couldn’t ‘waste time’.

A fun life…

Maru scratched his eyebrow. It felt like something was burning inside him, but maybe he was just imagining things.

Probably.

* * *

Maru sat down on his table after getting dinner. He felt like a third year already. He didn’t like math or English very much, but studying it constantly at least allowed him an understanding of it.

‘I guess they were right when they said you study with your butt,’ he found himself thinking.

He looked at the clock after a while of studying. It was 10pm already. His phone beeped right then. Two text messages.

[You damn traitor!]

[Maru, this really hurts.]

They were from Dojin and Daemyung respectively. It must be over now. Today was probably bad for them as well. He would expect no less from Miso. He sent them a text telling both of them to rest before coming out to the living room. His sister was watching TV. She glanced his way for a second, did she want to say something?

“You want to use the computer?”

“No.”

“Are you hungry?”

“No!”

That temper of hers again. His father wasn’t back yet. He was at his second night shift. Mom was out at her friend’s place working. Something about building cars? Maru didn’t quite know what she did. All he did know was that all of their money was being invested right back into this household.

He didn’t know when he was young. He just thought this kind of stuff was just… obvious.

Of course the fridge would have food. Of course the house would always be warm. Of course his parents would provide for him. But… They weren’t such obvious things in reality.

He recalled the phrase ‘equivalent exchange’. This was what the house was. All the comfort he was experiencing came out from an equivalent amount of work.

“Do you want juice?”

“Oh my gosh, stop it!!”

His sister passed by him into her room after looking at him like an alien.

“Puberty, huh.”

Maru stepped back into his room with a cup of juice in hand and started studying again. He would ask the smart guy about the parts he didn’t understand tomorrow. His pen moved smoothly over his book. Right now, he didn’t understand whether the decision he made today was the right one or the wrong one.

“I’ll be able to tell far in the future.”

Maru studied for another hour before standing up with a stretch. He exercised for a few minutes before returning to his room.

It was a productive day. As a matter of fact, he probably couldn’t have been more productive. So why…

“Why am I sighing so much?”

Click. He shut off the lights in his room. Maru lay down on his heated mattress. Right as he was getting ready to sleep, he noticed a small light on the wall. It was a glow-in-the-dark sticker, shaped like a moon. Something he put up in the past.

[Moon is cool because it shines.]

He recalled saying. But he knew better now.

“The moon is a pitiful thing. It can’t shine by itself.”

The moon only shone next to someone brighter. Maru closed his eyes.

That night, Maru dreamed, looking up at the moon above him.

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