The sound of the bell rang from the ceiling.
“Have a nice lunch.”
Once the teacher left the room, the students all bolted for the front and back doors. They shoved each other, moving several times faster than usual.
Today, the cafeteria served fried chicken. The students all rushed there with as much strength as their legs could muster. Maru only stood up from his seat after some of the students disappeared.
“Well, that was terrifying.”
“It’s not like the fried chicken would stop being fried chicken if you were late. Wonder why they’re in such a hurry.”
Maru motioned Daemyung over, who walked over with a script in hand.
“Planning on practicing on the way over?”
“Yeah. I can’t waste time.”
What a guy. Since when did he become so diligent again?
“Your script is going to fall apart into rags at this rate.”
As he said this, Dojin ran over to grab his own script as well. How troublesome, the two of them made even Maru itching to practice.
“Actor Han, Actor Park, please. Let’s try to focus on food during lunchtime.”
Maru dragged his friends by their shoulders outside. By the time they got to the cafeteria, all the running kids were neatly arranged in a line. Be it the past or present, it appears Koreans really went crazy for fried chicken.
Someone greeted them from behind, it was Iseul. The people around her were wearing gray shirts from other clubs, while Iseul was wearing Blue Sky’s T-shirt. Just like the three of them.
“Oh, I look better here!” the girl noted, stepping towards them.
Daemyung moved away from her slightly in response. No one noticed because it was so slight, but Maru realized right away, being next to the boy.
‘What a softie.’
It didn’t look like Daemyung was awkward because he liked Iseul, rather his unfamiliarity talking to pretty girls. He was so casual with her when they practiced, too. He was probably just bad with actual social settings.
Maru pushed the boy towards the girl, away from him. Daemyung desperately sent signals for him to stop, but Maru just grinned even more in response.
‘This is all for the future, buddy. Girls aren’t people you should just avoid. They’re supposed to be people to get used to.’
Daemyung’s face reddened almost immediately. Come to think of, it was pretty strange watching this guy become so confident on stage.
“How’s practice going for you guys?” Iseul asked.
“Perfect as always. You?” Dojin responded.
“Same old, same old. I’m just trying to make it fun for myself. And you, Daemyung?”
“M-me? W-well, I think it’s going well. Still need a lot of work, though.”
“Why so humble all of the sudden? You were great last time,” Iseul said, nudging Daemyung a little.
The boy could only laugh saying ‘was I?’ under his breath.
“And Maru… You’re probably doing fine. Right?”
“I’m trying the best I can.”
“Best? Haha. Doesn’t sound like you.”
“What sounds like me, then?”
“Trying as little as possible to get by?”
“You got me.”
The line got shorter while they talked. Once they actually entered the cafeteria, they found another group wearing the same shirt as well. The three guys from the design class, and one more person. Taejoon.
“Hello, men!” Taejoon greeted, getting the attention of everyone around him.
The attention made him silent, as he nursed an embarrassed smile.
‘He’s the type that likes to be loud, but also gets easily embarrassed,’ Maru noted.
“What are you doing here?” Iseul asked.
“What about you, then? What are you doing here?”
“Well… ok, fine. You got me there.”
Maru sat down on the table, greeting the design kids appropriately. Geunseok and Yurim waved back lazily, and Soyeon told him to enjoy his meal. It didn’t look like they were still mad about what he did back then, but they didn’t seem to want to be close with him at all.
Maru was completely fine with that, it would honestly be a bit annoying if they tried to get overly friendly with him instead.
“This feels lIke I’m chewing on rock,” Dojin commented next to him, biting into his chicken.
‘They had to fry chicken for a thousand people, of course it’s going to be like that.’
Maru was reminded of his times in the military, specifically that time they served fried chicken one day after the news of an avian influenza outbreak. The fact that the flavor of chicken from that time overlapped with the flavor of this chicken probably meant that the food here was really bad.
“This tastes good to me, though.”
Daemyung was pretty much licking the bones completely clean, Maru decided to give his chicken to Daemyung as a result.
The club met outside after lunchtime, every member was holding a cup of hot chocolate in their hands.
“We start blocking today, right?”
It’s already been two weeks since they were given their scripts. By this time, the club members were strictly off book. Today, they would start moving according to the positions Miso assigns them to, and then say their lines.
Standing still and saying your lines was a completely different thing compared to actually moving around saying it. Walking and talking at the same time was a surprisingly difficult task. Maru understood completely, having actually seen the club do it multiple times.
Right then, he could feel the eyes of the club shift over to him.
“Don’t worry, I won’t be a bother.”
He didn’t say he’d try not to be a bother, trying to imply that he wouldn’t fail. At times like these, it was just better for him to say he wouldn’t do something for sure. Plus, Maru had practiced enough to be sure of not making a mistake.
“I’ll see you guys later.”
With that, the club split up. After school, they would meet again in the auditorium.
* * *
Dojin noticed someone annoying once he entered class. It was Changhu and his group of friends, sitting at Maru’s seat. Dojin spoke up first with a frown.
“What do you think you’re doing.”
“Well, I just wanted to talk.”
“Can’t you just fuck off?”
“Can you shut up, Dojin? I’m not trying to talk to you.”
Maru stopped Dojin from stepping forward, Dojin didn’t take too kindly to that.
“Maru, guys like that learn through beatings.”
“Stop it, and go to your seat. You’re not a kid, stop trying to solve things with violence.”
Calm down. Maru pat Dojin’s shoulders a few times, making the guy step back with a glare. Daemyung stood next to Maru with a nervous face. How brave of the boy.
“So, what do you want to tell me?”
“Well, I just wanted to get along, you know?”
“Nice. I hope we can, too.”
Maru extended his hand, catching Changhu off guard.
“What the hell are you?”
“What do you think? I’m Maru.”
Changhu watched Maru’s hand and face repeatedly before standing up. Dojin was about to shout again, but was stopped by Maru. Changhu grinned seeing that.
“Good good. Dojin, you should really learn from Maru. You have no sense at all.”
Changhu walked back to his seat after giving Maru a few pats on the cheek with the back of his hand. Man, he’s learned a thing or two from movies, hasnt he?
Maru actually had to stop himself from laughing out too loud. But right then, Dojin grabbed his shoulder and pulled him back.
“We need to talk.”
What was up with this guy, now? Maru stepped out into the hall, scratching his face. Daemyung followed the two of them with a troubled expression. Fifth class had yet to start just yet, so there were a lot of students still outside.
Dojin spoke in a hushed tone amongst the other noises around him.
“Have you no pride? Why did you just sit taking it?”
“Why are you getting riled up again? Just endure it.”
“No, dude. I can just ignore it if he was just bothering me, but… Ugh, it’s so annoying, what he does. Trying to bother literally everyone around him.”
Dojin seemed ticked off about what happened this morning, especially from seeing his eyes glance over at Daemyung for a second. He was probably worried about the boy after what Changhu did.
What a nice guy, he had every right to be angry. After all, in terms of the animal kingdom, Changhu wasn’t even a hyena. Closer to a wild dog, actually. The type of animal that attacks everything from insects to animals in a pack, but wouldn’t dare to approach the real predators. The guy probably didn’t even know how to act in front of someone that was actually strong. Guys like them were surprisingly easy to deal with, actually. You just need to bite back a little bit.
Just one fight is enough to solve the issue, but…
“Still, be patient.”
“Why? Are you...”
“If you’re going to be childish and ask if I’m scared, I’d stop right now.”
“Dojin, we only have three months left.”
“Don’t you want to go to Dream Hall?”
Maru turned to look at Daemyung, to emphasize his point a little bit. The acting club already had a bad track record, especially when taking note of the fire incident in the auditorium. Thankfully, Taesik managed to cover it up as an accident that happened due to an argument between the students at the time. But due to this, the faculty ended up getting a bad opinion of the club. The reduced budget for the club was evidence enough.
What would happen if another fight broke out now? Surely, one of the faculty members would step up to say something. Especially the hanja teacher. After all, he was the person who came to the club room most often to complain. The man would be the first to try to hurt the club when he got an opportunity.
Standing out right now was an especially bad idea, with the competition about to start so soon. Maru would’ve done something himself if it wasn’t for this. But right now, ignoring the group was the best thing he could do.
“You know Changhu tries to look good in front of the teachers too.”
“If things get bad, we’re both going to get beat up by the teachers, but the club’s going to get hurt as well. The school’s going to try and disband us by pointing out our violent tendencies.”
“No buts. Did you forget that we need the school’s permission to go to nationals? Who knows what might happen if you get into a fight? If you can ignore it, just ignore it.”
Dojin finally seemed to understand what was happening, the frown on his face melted as well.
“Delinquents would beat up students at school, all the while looking all nice and sheepish in front of teachers. Not even our homeroom teacher thinks well of our club, so just endure it. And...”
Maru glanced at Changhu through the window for a second before lowering his voice.
“If he comes in to hit you, just take it.”
“The dogs that bite don’t bark first, it’s the same with delinquents. The guys that are really screwed up wouldn’t even say a word, they would just swing the chair at your face. The guys that talk only fight when they really have to, because they’re scared. If you just act like you’re willing to take the punch, he’s going to walk away.”
“...Maru, were you a delinquent or something in middle school?”
“I’m a well-mannered citizen. Don’t be turning me into something weird now.”
You’ll understand soon enough how stupid it is to fight with fists later on, buddy. Maru dragged his two friends back into the class.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Military service is mandatory in South Korea, which is why Maru occasionally thinks back to his military days. Every man in Korea is required to serve for around 2 years.