Chapter 68

Maru felt pretty odd. It was like feeling the reminiscent of meeting a friend he knew on the street, but he was unable to remember the friend’s name.

“...Hey.”

Dowook greeted him on the street awkwardly, Maru blinked a few times in confusion before passing by. He heard a ‘hey!’ come from behind him, but he decided to ignore it. Watching a guy who was always annoyed with him suddenly smile at him just felt way too weird. It felt like someone was tickling his nose with a feather.

He parked his bike and tried to dash inside, but Dowook caught up faster than he thought.

“You’re just running?”

“The Dowook I know isn’t the type to greet me with a weird smile like that.“

“...Ugh, fuck.”

“Yeah. Just swear instead. That’s a lot better.”

Maru changed his shoes into the indoor ones with a smile. The two of them merged with the massive crowd of students to go up the stairs. Their class was, as always, right next to the stairs on the second floor. Maru stepped towards the door, wishing for another good day, but a group across the hall caught his attention.

The kids who were grinning at each other, spitting out the window. It was Changhu, the delinquent of his class, with the other delinquents from other classes. Dowook frowned as he noticed them, too. Changhu turned to look at the two of them.

The boy’s mouth moved a little. Maru couldn’t hear the him, but the boy was probably telling them to fuck off. Maru stopped Dowook from stepping forward.

“Pigeons don’t belong where crows hang.”

“.......”

“Didn’t you say you were done with the childish stuff? Just ignore them. It’s not like him staring at you is going to do anything.”

Maru waved his hand with a grin at the Changhu gang as he said this. The kids on the window looked away, with ridiculing smiles on their faces.

“Doesn’t your pride get hurt when they do that?” Dowook asked, after they entered class.

“Your pride isn’t something so easily wounded. It isn’t even worth having if even kids can trample it.”

Dowook clicked his tongue in annoyance and went to his seat. The boy didn’t get as annoyed as he did in the past, probably a sign of maturity.

“What happened?” Dojin asked.

“Nothing special. Did you memorize your lines, by the way?”

“Of course I did. I don’t want to die, you know. What about you?”

“I don’t have anything to memorize, dude. It’s just three lines.”

“True that.”

The club members became even more serious with acting after their evening in the cafe. Their method of practice had changed as well.

Maru looked at Daemyung, who was speaking his lines out loud from his seat. His friends were all listening to him. Maru and Dojin decided to move up to watch as well. Daemyung’s small voice started getting louder in response.

“What did I tell you? I told you that the new guy was really strange. Just you watch. That guy’s definitely going to cause trouble for himself. By the way… Are you really going to finish all that food by yourself?”

Daemyung turned to look at his friends after speaking about this much.

“It’s good, but...”

“Is there something off?”

“Your expression is a bit too strong, I guess? I can focus, but it’s not funny.”

“Really? How about this?”

Daemyung changed his expression a little bit, earning approval from his friends.

“Well, you’re working hard,” Maru greeted.

Only then did the boy respond to the two of them with a greeting on his own. He seemed way too engrossed in his practice to even notice. What amazing focus.

After the cafe test, it became standard for the club to practice in front of an audience. Daemyung, in particular, was asking his friends to help both in the morning and lunch. It was a good way of getting pretty direct feedback, Maru had to admit.

‘He’s really focused when it comes to acting.’

Since the boy started taking practice so seriously, his friends were taking it seriously with him. Thanks to media nowadays streaming movies and dramas left and right, these kids had an eye for decent acting. They could easily catch if something was awkward or if something was good. Sure, they weren’t professional critics or anything, but they had no trouble pointing out basic mistakes.

It was like how someone said the line between porn and art was clear once you actually saw it. It was the same with these kids.

“I-is that so?”

Daemyung quickly jotted a few things down on his script. At moments like these, he really seemed like a pro actor.

‘Most people just end up confusing themselves when they get so many different opinions thrown at them, but it doesn’t look like Daemyung would do that to himself.’

If you really wanted to improve, you had to first filter opinions and reviews to find the truly useful ones. Otherwise you’d end up straining your body too much and end up self-destructing.

“Thanks. Can you help me again at lunchtime?”

“Any time.”

Maru noticed that Daemyung’s friends were starting to feel a little proud of what they were doing. After all, being put in a position to be able to judge was pretty satisfying. Since the right to judge was usually granted to those in positions of power.

Of course, these kids probably didn’t even realize that.

“You might actually get that main role when you’re in second year,” Dojin commented.

Maru peeked a little at Daemyung’s notes. Indeed, the entire script was filled to the absolute brim with notes.

“It’s fine if I don’t get to the Seoul Arts Center, but I do want to go to Dream Hall, after all.”

The nationals in summer were held in the Seoul Arts Center, while the winter competition was held in a place called Dream Hall. In terms of size, Dream Hall was much bigger, since the students would perform in a massive theater that could seat more than a thousand.

“Dream Hall… was pretty cool.”

Maru had to agree with Dojin. Miso took the lot of them there a few weeks ago to try and give them motivation. The club members spent a few minutes on stage looking down at the audience seats there.

‘It did feel pretty electrifying.’

The entire auditorium was split into two floors. The air of the entire auditorium was enough to make even Maru get excited, not to mention the club members. As a matter of fact, Maru did remember seeing a fighting spirit start to burn in their eyes back then.

[We have three months left.]

He recalled Miso saying.

“Three months.”

“Yeah, three.”

Dojin put down Daemyung’s script, and grabbed his own from his seat.

“Daemyung, can you help me practice?”

“Of course.”

The two were, as always, very hard at work.

“Work hard.”

“What about you?”

“I’ll do enough to look good, so don’t worry.”

Maru took out his book after returning to his seat. It would be rude for him to just join in casually when the two of them were so serious about this. He would help them out if they needed a practice partner, but for now, it looked like they were doing pretty well by themselves. At times, the two of them were even going as far as to act out other people’s lines.

If the practice for their first play was sort of forced by Miso, this second play was entirely filled with their own motivation and desire.

‘They’re going to improve fast.’

People who were motivated often achieved more than what even they thought they were capable of. Perhaps the club really might be able to perform in Dream Hall this year.

Maru closed his novel with a sigh, and took out his own script. He should at least try to put in an effort. Just because he was only there for the ulterior motive of romance, it didn’t mean he could be lazy.

Just because he couldn’t be a reliable support for the club didn’t mean he had to be a complete letdown. In that case…

‘I should at least be better than average.’

Since the character himself had very few lines, he would probably get by even with little practice.

“Oh, you just moved in? Welcome, welcome.”

Maru went straight into practice, with his pencil tucked a little into his mouth.

* * *

“Did you guys drink together?”

“I made her drink quite a bit, but she was fine. She has a strong tolerance.”

“Dude, I told you. You have to mix coke for it to really work well. Or just make her drink something sweet. It costs a lot, but that’s the way to go.”

“Next time. My wallet isn’t looking so good.”

Changhu split up with his group after checking the time. The lot of them had a party with the girls from the neighboring school yesterday, but no one managed to get anywhere.

“Hah, she was pretty, too.”

“The girl who was smoking that whole pack?”

That was the first thing Changhu heard when he stepped into class. It didn’t sound like any casual talk from a student. Ah, it was the acting club kids practicing again.

“They try so hard,” he commented.

“Maybe I should’ve gone to the acting club. The girls there were pretty.”

“Oh dude, yeah. Pretty sexy.”

“The senior who came to our class last time was super cute, too.”

“Not my type.”

Changhu sat down on his seat with his hands in his pockets. He could feel the two cigarettes he brought from home inside them. Since one of his friends had a lighter, he had to make do by smoking it during lunchtime outside school. There were still fifteen minutes till class started and since he stayed up late playing video games last night, he got ready to nap.

“Hey, be quiet. You’re fucking loud.”

Of course, he didn’t forget to say something to the two kids out in front. Daemyung was a total coward, so he shut himself right up when Changhu just glared. Dojin, though, really needed some verbal communication to understand.

Ah, silence. Very peaceful. Perfect for sleep.

But just as he was about to drift off into dreamland, he started hearing something annoying again. It was Daemyung and Dojin. They were quieter than before, but they were talking.

‘Those bastards...’

Did they really have to annoy him? He was tired. When he raised his head, he could see the two still practicing.

“Hey! Couldn’t you hear me?”

Daemyung flinched and shut his mouth immediately, but Dojin just smiled in annoyance.

“What, did you buy up the entire class or something? We lowered our voice, so just go to sleep, why don’t you?”

“Hah, fuck. Your voice is still loud, so why don’t you shut that stupid mouth of yours?”

“God damn, do you think we’re in a library or something? Just put on your damn headphones if you’re so bothered.”

“You son of a...”

Dojin was an annoyance to Changhu from the start. Changhu tried to go light on the guy since he looked like he was a delinquent in the past, but there was no helping him now. The boy gave a few of his friends around him a quick glance. There were four friends of his in this class. All people he was friends with since middle school.

“You’re acting out too much, especially when you’re smaller than my fucking dick.”

“Hah, are your guys’ dicks a 170cms or something?”

Dojin didn’t miss a single beat. Changhu was not a fan. The guy really needed a lesson. Of course, he had no intention of starting a fight in class. This school has too many crazy teachers.

Instead, he would try to annoy the kid a little bit.

His friends all started walking forward with him. The kids around Dojin and Daemyung all stepped back nervously.

“You should speak a little gently, don’t you think, Dojin? You’re not a delinquent, are you?”

“No, you. Also, what do you think you’re doing? You going to hit me? You want to become pandas together? Is that what you want?”

Changhu signalled his friends. Dojin was the type to hit back, so hitting was a no go for now. Daemyung on the other hand, was a perfect target.

“Daemyung… Did I do anything to make you mad before?”

But just before Changhu could get any further,

“Guys, the teacher’s coming,” someone said.

It was Maru, who was looking outside through the back door.

“I’ll have a word with you next time,” said Changhu, returning to his seat.

Not even he wanted to go at it with the teacher who always had a PVC pipe handy. But even after a minute of waiting, nothing happened.

What the?

Changhu turned to look at Maru in confusion. Their eyes met. And…

Maru just shrugged with a grin.

“Sorry, think I saw wrong.”

Changhu felt his lips twist a little bit. His mood was totally ruined for the day, he just knew it.

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