Chapter 329

“There’s a week left now. The day after the festival is the last day of school, and then there’s Friday and Saturday will be the preliminaries. Let’s keep up the pace until the last day. We’ll do two practice runs a day until Saturday. Other than that, we’ll make up for our respective weak parts.”

“Isn’t two runs too little?” Aram raised her hand and asked.

“We’ve got the movements and lines down, so I think two runs will suffice. What’s important is that we don’t lose our pace. I think it’s better to finish things off in a way that we don’t forget what we’ve practiced rather than stretching our limits and practicing too much. I’ll also make sure that practice doesn’t go over 4 hours. Instead, we’re going to wear the stage costumes the whole time, so you have to get them ready, okay?”

“Yes!”

“Are there any questions?”

“What happened to visiting the theater?” Jiyoon asked in a calm voice.

“We’re going to go today. Like last year, it’ll take place in Anyang City Center. If we go there now, there will probably be badminton courts set up. We’ll go and see for ourselves how wide the stage is, and what it feels like to stand on stage.”

“It’s not the finals even if we pass the preliminaries right?” Bangjoo asked.

“Yeah. The Gyeonggi province will hold two rounds of preliminaries. First is the southern Gyeonggi province, then the Gyeonggi province as a whole, and after that is the nationals in the minor theater in the Seoul Arts Center.”

“The Seoul Arts Center? It’s held in Seoul?” Aram spoke in surprise.

“Yeah. It’s the minor theater, but it’s still the Seoul Arts Center.”

“Have you been there before?”

Hearing that question, Daemyung made a bitter smile. Last year, they didn’t even pass the preliminaries in the Summer. They never got close to going to the Seoul Arts Center.

“No, I went there to sightsee before, but I’ve never been on stage since, in the winter, we got the gold prize.”

“Gold prize is first prize, right?”

“No, first prize is the grand prize. It was taken by Myunghwa High.”

Daemyung looked at Maru as he spoke. The day everyone put in best their effort to get the gold prize, Maru was looking up towards them from the audience seats. He always felt sorry towards Maru whenever he thought back to that incident. The one that saved their props and stage sets and enabled them to do the play was Maru after all.

“What is it?’

“No, it’s nothing.”

Maru yawned and stretched his arms out. Daemyung had a look at the clock in the classroom. It was 8 p.m.

“Thanks everyone. We’ll call it quits for today.”

He clapped twice to signal the end of practice. He was at a loss on what to do when the majority of the acting club members were in his 2nd year, but now, they were forging ahead with the help of the first years. Of course, Dowook was doing well as well. Although he complained a lot, he did not loiter about. He also had some competitive spirit in him and sometimes talked about getting the grand prize.

There was no need to talk about Maru. He was the pivot that gathered everyone together. If he just went ahead by himself, the play, which was a combined effort, would have been ruined, but Maru leveled himself with the first years that were still lacking and helped them out in parts where they were stuck, keeping the ship, that is, the play, from sinking.

This was something he knew since he watched Maru from the side. The first years were at ease when they practiced with Maru. Maru was helping them get immersed in acting.

After the movie and the drama shoot, Maru’s acting became more leisurely. The Maru that Miso mentioned, who would easily get excited once he’s on stage, would probably not appear again anymore.

On one hand, he became curious. He wondered what Maru would be like if he released his full potential and didn’t just level himself with the first years. He would be able to see Maru on stage again with the preliminaries this time.

Daemyung still remembered the ‘youth’ played by Maru last year. Back then, Maru popped out on the stage. There was no other suitable description than ‘popped out’ to describe that situation. It had been more than half a year since then. Ever since the winter preliminaries, they had never stood on stage together again. Daemyung really looked forward to what kind of appearance Maru would show him on stage.

“Ah! Seonbae!”

Just as he was about to pack up and go home, Aram grabbed Jiyoon’s hand and stood in front of him. Daemyung blinked several times as he looked at Aram.

“Yeah?”

“Please take Jiyoon home for me. I have something to do today, so I’ll have to go in a different direction. It won’t even take 20 minutes of your time.”

“M-me?”

“Yes. You’re the club president, aren’t you? You should take care of your members.”

“Doesn’t Bangjoo go the same way as her?”

Daemyung turned around to find Bangjoo. At that moment, he saw Bangjoo who was being dragged by Dowook outside the classroom. He flinched and looked for Maru this time. He couldn’t be seen either.

“Anyway, it’s dangerous at night, so please take care of her for me.”

“Aram, if I take the bus….”

Before Jiyoon even finished speaking, Aram rushed out of the classroom. She didn’t forget to leave behind the words ‘you two are the main characters during the festivals so get close’.

Daemyung gulped. He didn’t know what to do in a situation like this. Jiyoon might misunderstand if he told her that he’d take her home, but it was too dangerous to let her go home by herself at this hour. He was agonized about what to do.

“Um… seonbae.”

“Y-yeah?”

“I want to repay you for consulting me last time… if it’s okay with you, w-won’t you go watch a m-movie with me?”

Daemyung looked at Jiyoon dazedly. Having finished speaking, Jiyoon was fidgeting. Her eyes were at a loss on where to look.

“A m-movie?”

“I-if you don’t want to, then that’s okay too!”

“No, I, I mean….”

A movie? As Daemyung had no experience watching a movie together with a girl, this offer was too big. He didn’t even know how to answer. What kind of answer should he give her? Say yes? No, she probably offered out of courtesy, so wouldn’t Jiyoon be at a loss instead if he just accepted without knowing how she felt? He should refuse here now, right? That was the right thing to do, right?

He really wanted to go… but that wasn’t probably what she was intending. He thought that refusing was the right thing to do.

At that moment, he remembered back to March of last year. Back then, he had the victim mentality and couldn’t trust anyone even if they came to him with goodwill. He interpreted goodwill as malicious intent all by himself and isolated himself, and he blamed others for his isolation. That kind of bad cycle continued.

-But if not, why don’t you start talking with them for once?

Those words from Maru cut off that vicious cycle.

Daemyung clenched his hands and looked Jiyoon straight in the face. He always looked at the floor, he always looked elsewhere. Now that he thought about it, he was being rude to the other party by doing that.

Jiyoon had closed her mouth. She had shrunk back and her cheeks were blushing. Daemyung felt like he finally saw Jiyoon properly today. She might have asked out of courtesy, she might be expecting a refusal. However, for just today, Daemyung wanted to tell her what he was thinking. He did not twist the intentions of others and he himself showed his intentions honestly.

“...Today is a bit late, are you okay with that? If you’re okay with it I-I want to go.”

Why was it so hard to say those words? He felt even more nervous than when he first stood on stage. He could hear his heartbeat.

Thump, thump, thump.

It was loud enough that he thought that it might burst.

Jiyoon slowly looked back at him. Now, he would find out the answer. Jiyoon’s mouth curved into a soft smile. He saw that she was relaxing her shoulders. The small and feeble girl sighed in relief before replying.

“I’m okay with that as well. Oh, just wait. I’ll text mom for a bit.”

Jiyoon, who was usually slow in her actions, took out her phone on the spot and started texting. Daemyung had never seen Jiyoon act so quickly before. After typing a text message with her two thumbs, she sent the message before raising her head. Then, she suddenly grabbed Daemyung’s wrist.

Daemyung looked down at his hand. The delicate hand was grabbing his wrist.

“N-no! It’s not what you think!”

Jiyoon was startled and let go immediately. Daemyung also flinched as well. Right now, his heartbeat was coming out of his ear canals.

“Sh-shall we go?”

“Y-yes.”

Daemyung couldn’t look at Jiyoon in the face. Why did she do that just now? He thought about it, but he didn’t arrive at an answer. He felt good, but at the same time, he felt nervous. He felt like his head was about to burst already. What movie shall we see? What about the popcorn? Should I buy the coke? How about the time?

He climbed down the stairs in a dreamy state. He could hear the sound of footsteps following him from behind. When he went down to the third floor, Daemyung turned his head slightly. He saw Jiyoon, who was looking down at the floor with her hands locked. When the faint moonlight reflected against her hair, his head turned blank.

Daemyung reached out with his hand even knowing that he might regret his actions later. Even though he thought that he might roll around in bed in agony later, he still took action.

I must be crazy - he kept saying that in his mind and grabbed Jiyoon’s hand. His Adam's apple waved. He felt like he was sweating cold sweat due to the nervousness. He was worried that Jiyoon might retract her hand in surprise and then proceed to look at him with disgust.

Just as he came to himself and was about to say sorry, Jiyoon grabbed his hand as well.

They didn’t say anything for a while. Daemyung walked down the stairs with shaking hands. What he found out as he went down the stairs was that Jiyoon’s hands were trembling as well.

* * *

“...No way.”

“What the heck is this?”

“This is different from how I imagined it would go.”

Maru had a look at the three who stood there dazed, and then looked at the two people on stage, Daemyung and Jiyoon.

On the day of the festival, the acting club prepared a play on the right platform of the school field just as they had planned. They held the play at 1 p.m. since it was just after lunch, and people would be around the cafeteria. It was the golden hour.

Only the two main characters got stage costumes, and the others just went with casual outfits. Since the play’s story was that Romeo and Juliet had revived in modern times, they didn’t even need to care about the outfit. Other than that, it didn’t matter how this play turned out to be. After all, even Aram, the ‘director’ of the play, said that she was satisfied as long as the two were given an opportunity even if the play failed.

Yes. The play didn’t matter. As long as it created an opportunity for Daemyung and Jiyoon, it wouldn’t matter even if they screwed up their lines or their movements. It was even okay if their diction was bad. Of course, it was ‘called’ an opportunity, but it was more like teasing them.

“Hey, I’m envious!”

“What are you doing! Are you going to do it for real?”

“Since you’re doing it, let’s go with a kiss!”

Maru smiled when he heard the cheers and boos from the audience.

Ever since the play started, he ad-libbed his way to the end. They were just enjoying this, and there would be no problems even if they made a mistake, so everyone just laughed and enjoyed the show. Then, during the final moment, the club members all left the stage with the exception of the Daemyung-Jiyoon duo and shouted ‘kiss!’. Aram said that they should put an end to the play if it looked like things were getting too unbearable. Maru thought that she was reasonable and had a look at Daemyung’s expression as they shouted ‘kiss!’, but something completely unexpected happened at that moment.

Jiyoon, who was looking up at Daemyung’s face, tiptoed and gave Daemyung’s cheeks a smooch. Aram, who was expecting a laugh instead, reddened and fell into a panic, while Bangjoo and Dowook made somewhat relieved-yet-bitter expressions.

“Whew.”

Maru clapped and shouted ‘why don’t you just kiss instead?’ like the people in the audience. The two smiled shyly before holding a curtain call all by themselves. After signalling the end of the play, the two held hands and went into the school. 

Seeing that, Aram made an unrecognizable ‘huoh’ noise and collapsed on the spot.

“Aram.”

“...Yes?”

“How are you going to handle Jiyoon now?”

“I-I don’t know.”

“Sheesh. You should find a boyfriend soon as well. Youth is short.”

Maru patted Aram on the shoulder before shouting at the audience.

“The play is over!”

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KTLChamber's Thoughts

The ship hath sailed!

Editor's Note:
The fluff... my blood sugar... save me...