Jiyoon was depressed from the start and ended up crying. Maru poked Daemyung’s waist. Her boyfriend was supposed to help her out at times like this, right? He dragged Daemyung who wouldn’t budge and had him sit next to Jiyoon. Aram winked before pushing Jiyoon to his side. The two were now right against each other. Even Jiyoon, who was sniffing, realized the situation she was in and looked at the floor. Maru watched the two for a moment before leaving with the excuse that he had to get some fresh air.
“I don’t see anywhere we can go to either.”
Although they gathered to celebrate their silver prize, the essence was to console their failure to advance. He called Daemyung after separating from Sooil and heard that they were already gathered, which made him go to Suwon immediately. They were in a noraebang when he made the call, but they had switched places to an all-you-can-eat BBQ restaurant. It wasn’t bad since it was dinner time, but it was always the noraebang or a meat buffet. There were a lot of new buildings, yet the number of places that they could go as students kept decreasing.
“What are you doing?”
He turned around to see Aram.
“I’m getting some fresh air. What are you doing out here?”
“I left to give them a good atmosphere.”
“Are those two doing well?”
“I don’t know. Jiyoon was just looking at the floor until I left. Well, they should be doing well about now. After all, we got out of their way. But why the hell are those two not coming?!”
Aram turned around and had a look at the stairs. At that moment, Maru heard a laugh and saw Dowook and Bangjoo coming down. They looked like they were having tons of fun. Now, everyone except Daemyung and Jiyoon had left.
Maru looked at Aram and asked.
“Did she cry a lot before I came?”
“You mean Jiyoon?”
“No. She kept being depressed and just started crying right now. I thought that she’d cry a lot since she’s a crybaby, but you know what? When I saw her crying, I wanted to cry with her as well. I mean, if I was just a little bit late, I might have pushed Daemyung-seonbae away, hugged her, and started crying.”
“Watching those two was funnier than any comedy I’ve watched,” Dowook said with a giggle.
Bangjoo also nodded his head in agreement.
“Hey, let’s go there.”
Dowook hooked his arm around Bangjoo’s neck and headed to the arcade nearby.
“I think we did pretty well, but we still failed. If we were supposed to fall, I’d rather have us be last. I wonder why they placed us third to make us feel horrible instead,” Aram said.
“At least we got silver. That’s another line on our school report. You’ll be able to say a few more lines at your university interview so it’s not entirely a loss.”
“If you put it like that, then maybe, but still, it’s disappointing. If we got gold, we’d be performing in Seoul. I was going to tell mom to bring a camcorder if we went to Seoul.”
Aram clicked her tongue in disappointment.
“Try hard next year.”
“You should try hard next year as well, seonbae.”
“I’ll be in my third year next year. Even if I put my name in the club, I don’t think I’ll be able to participate. Just like the current third years.”
“What the heck is up with that? You and Daemyung-seonbae should stay until the end. You should still come even if you’re third years. Is uni more important or the acting club?”
“Is that even supposed to be a question?”
“What’s more important? For me, it’s the acting club.”
Aram said that with pride. She clearly said it as a joke. Maru felt rather good that she wasn’t acting dejected.
“Fine, you can bury your bones in the acting club. I’ll be going to uni.”
“Geez, aren’t you too much? Maybe I shouldn’t have come to the acting club and should’ve gone to an athletic club instead.”
Aram had stretched her arm out and pointed at the punching machine in front of the arcade. Dowook was inserting money into it while Bangjoo was getting ready to hit.
“Let’s just watch that.”
Maru also nodded and walked towards them. Bangjoo exercised his wrist before punching out with all of his power. A leather-popping sound could be heard before the score started going up.
“Wow, Ahn Bangjoo, you’re quite strong,” Dowook said as he checked the score.
“This is nothing. Maru-seonbae, you should do it as well. You too, Dowook-seonbae.”
“Nah for me. You energetic boys can do it.”
At that moment, Dowook, who was jumping on the spot, jumped up and kicked the sandbag upwards. It seemed that the notice ‘don’t kick’ didn’t enter his eyes.
“Hey, don’t break it.”
Maru gave an awkward smile to the elderly that slowly walked out from the arcade and bowed in apology. He played with the whack-a-mole machine which was outside the arcade as well for a while before looking at his watch. It had been around ten minutes, so it would be fine even if they went back in.
“I’ll go back first then.”
Aram walked into the building. Dowook and Bangjoo were absorbed in a fighting game. The two really got along.
‘Looks like everyone is okay.’
As the acting club started off the year with a lot of trouble, it seemed that the shock from not being able to advance was quite small. Although they practiced very hard, it was nothing compared to last year. After all, they stayed behind at school until 10 or 11 at night to practice last year.
“Bangjoo, I’ll kill you if you press the button.”
“Seonbae-nim. You can’t do that in a game.”
Just as Maru chuckled while looking at the two fighting, Aram came back down. When he asked why with his eyes, Aram smiled awkwardly.
“I went up at the wrong time.”
“I went up and the atmosphere was so pink, that I didn’t dare interrupt them.”
“Aha, that’s how it is, huh.”
Maru grinned before walking up the stairs. There were three kinds of joys in life. One was eating delicious food, another was watching a fire by the river, and the last one was to interrupt a lovey-dovey atmosphere.
“They should do it moderately. We haven’t even started grilling the meat yet.”
He gestured to Aram to follow. Aram raised her thumb before following him. They went to the buffet on the 2nd floor. Somehow, Dowook and Bangjoo had finished their game and were right behind them as well.
As he went into the restaurant, he saw the two people stuck right against each other at the table next to the window. They were talking about something as they looked into each other’s eyes. Like Aram said, the atmosphere was pink.
“Take out your phones, let’s go,” Maru smiled as he spoke.
* * *
“Go home carefully. Well done everyone, and see you after the holidays.”
After waving his hand at the four people who walked in the opposite direction, he looked at Daemyung next to him.
“You’re still pissed?”
“Did you erase the picture?”
“I told you several times I deleted it.”
“I hate you.”
“Are you two in taboo love or something? What’s there to be so surprised about? Seeing you surprised made me want to record it just that much more. Your expression was just that good.”
“Haa,” Daemyung sighed and shook his head.
Such a young man was sighing, so Maru slapped his back. Daemyung gasped before twisting his body.
“But still. It’s good to see everyone in good spirits. I was worried that they would look like they were about to die like we did last year,” Maru spoke as he reminisced about last year.
They couldn’t even talk to each other properly, and could only awkwardly smile at each other. Just thinking about it made him smile bitterly. Meanwhile, the atmosphere this year was much better since everyone talked about what was on their minds.
“That’s true,” Daemyung spoke with a smile as well.
He seemed to have thought about last year’s events as well.
“What are you going to do about winter?” Maru asked.
Daemyung didn’t reply immediately. He had no intention of urging him to answer, so he just walked quietly. It was 8 p.m. Their shadows stretched out under the yellow street lights. Maru pushed Daemyung into a pojang-macha they came across.
“Let’s get something to eat here. Excuse me, ma’am, please give me a portion of tteokbokki and soondae.”
He scooped some eomuk soup into a cup and gave it to Daemyung. Daemyung received it with a smile.
“You were good at bowling back there.”
They thought about where to go after the buffet and Aram recommended bowling, so they went to a bowling club. As everyone was a newbie, they didn’t worry about the average and just rolled some balls in teams of three. Aram and Daemyung were pretty good. The best picture of the day went to Daemyung scoring a strike and doing a high five with Jiyoon.
“I was lucky,” Daemyung said as he ate some soondae.
They talked about Jiyoon for a while. Even though he never talked about her until a while ago due to feeling ‘sorry’, he was implicitly boasting about her now. They were a nice couple, so watching them was pleasant as well.
Just as Maru ate a piece of eomuk, Daemyung put down the toothpick and spoke,
“Maru. You’re planning to not participate in the acting club after the holidays right?”
After hearing those words, Maru opened his mouth wide and bit a large chunk of eomuk. Daemyung was really quick-witted. When he kept eating without saying a word, Daemyung started eating as well.
Maru said nothing as Daemyung ate five pieces of eomuk. Daemyung, let out a deep breath through his nose and looked at him.
“Are you really not coming?”
“I will be going to the club. But I think it will be hard to participate as an actor.”
He felt this while preparing for the regional preliminaries, but he definitely didn’t have a lot of time. Junmin said something to him before he left today - that he needed proper, professional training. He didn’t have enough time as it was already with other practices and appearing in commercial works as minor roles and extras, and Junmin was saying that he needed to put an extra lesson on top of that.
“During the holidays, I will be able to digest that entire schedule, but I think it will be difficult once school starts again.”
Even during the holidays, where it would be normal for him to do nothing for the whole day, he had to plan his entire schedule. He was just that busy. Once school started again, he would have to be at school until at least five in the afternoon, so his available time would decrease even further. At the end of August, school would start again, and at the same time, director Joongjin’s movie would start cranking in. That schedule wasn’t set in stone, but he had to plan everything with that in mind. Moreover, there was that matter with the historical drama as well. Although they said that they would go over the more concrete details next week, he would probably end up doing it.
More work was piling, yet his available time was decreasing. In the end, he had to cut off some work and set his priorities straight, and right now, the acting club was at the bottom of his priority list.
“Well, I guess you don’t really have anything to learn from the acting club anymore.”
Daemyung nodded his head.
“Thanks for understanding. But it does feel better now that I’ve got permission from the club president.”
“No, I didn’t give you permission.”
Maru blinked several times as he looked back at Daemyung.
“You should continue coming to the club, but you can minimize your acting practice. It’s not that hard to come on Saturdays to practice, right?” Daemyung spoke with conviction.
His round eyes were very tense.
“You want me to do that?”
“I don’t think that will be any good.”
“Of course, I’m not giving you a role with a lot of lines. Instead, you’ll have to do a role that has less importance.”
“But for me to do that among the others that are putting their best effort in is just….”
“Hey, Han Maru.”
Daemyung glared at him. Maru flinched. It wasn’t that he never saw Daemyung being angry before, but this was his first time seeing him so serious.
“You should finish off what you started. They all came to the club because of you. If you suddenly quit and become a backstage staff, you’re being rude to the juniors. You know that, don’t you?”
Daemyung offered him a piece of eomuk.
“Also, I’m telling you to do it because you’re able to. You can do it. Honestly, you just came to practice because of everyone else’s practice, right? For the general picture. So come. You can do it. I guarantee it.”
Daemyung shut his lips and looked at him. Maru sighed a little before accepting the eomuk.
“And here I was just planning to take it easy, and you say no to that. What an evil president.”
“Well, I learned that from a certain someone.”
“The world must be nearing its end. Where did the generous Park Daemyung go and why is there a thug in front of me? Fine, I’ll do it. But I can’t guarantee the number of times I can come to practice. There’s a lot of things going for me right now.”
“I don’t care. You’ll still do well either way.”
“Where does your endless confidence come from?”
Maru smiled faintly. The equation of efficiency had been solved by the formula of passion. What people learned as they grew older was to quit as fast as possible. Like how people quickly cut ties with stocks once they start making a loss - people learn to give up after receiving a lot of damage. There were too many things on their shoulders to keep doing something vague.
He was going to prune the less important things out of habit, but Daemyung ended up sticking it back on with glue. Like this, he had no choice but to do it. He had to split up what little time he had.
“Damn, I liked you better when you were still naïve.”
Maru spoke as he dipped the eomuk in some soy sauce.
 Fish cake, often included in tteokbokki.
 Sometimes, toothpicks are used instead of forks in places like pojang-macha to eat tteokbokki and soondae.
What the hell is up with author's obsession with eomuk(fishcake) dammit...
I love fishcake. It's great.