Chapter 87

After the meal at the restaurant, the second years gathered to rest up and chat at Danmi’s house.

“So, we’re basically a little worse than Maru?” Yoonjung said, lightly tapping her teaspoon.

She would’ve been completely fine with the fact had it been someone else in the club. After all, the rest of the first years worked just as hard as them, but Maru was different. He only practiced for two months. Hearing that Maru was more capable of getting people’s attention than the rest of the club frankly made Yoonjung a little disappointed.

“Isn’t that a good thing?” Joonghyuk asked.

“It is,” Minsung answered.

Yoonjung pouted for a second before letting out a short laugh.

“Yeah! I’m kind of jealous, but this is good for the club anyway.”

To begin with, they wanted Maru to be the future president. For him to be good at acting was just an added bonus.

“I’m going to teach him everything, starting tomorrow. Everything! I’m a bit jealous, so I might as well go all out, too.”

“Ugh, she’s at it again.”

“I mean, you know she does this pretty much every day.”

Danmi and Minsung smiled lightly. Right then, Joonghyuk shook his head and stopped Yoonjung.

“You might want to leave that for later.”

“Why?”

“We didn’t get an answer yet. Don’t you remember me telling you that Maru didn’t seem too fond of the idea?”

“Oh, you’re right.”

Yoonjung took a little sip of her now-lukewarm cocoa.

“I wonder when he’ll answer.”

“Who knows.”

“Should I ask?”

“I feel like he’d just refuse if we did.”

Yoonjung nodded. Maru would probably refuse them if they were to be persistent.

“Who were you thinking of if Maru refuses, by the way?” Yoonjung asked, looking at the other three.

Joonghyuk shook his head. He didn’t seem to think of anyone just yet. Danmi said Iseul, and Minsung said Geunseok.

“Geunseok?”

“He seemed pretty weak-minded during summer, but I feel like he’s grown a lot through this play.”

“Yeah, that’s true. What do you think, Joonghyuk?”

“That wouldn’t be a bad idea if Geunseok keeps growing like this. I don’t know if the other kids would follow him, though.”

“The first years… they probably don’t all get along, do they?”

Minsung answered Yoonjung’s question.

“I think mostly everyone forgot about what happened at that time, but Maru and Geunseok are definitely an issue. Maru did call him out back then.”

“I don’t want to think about that time, honestly. I feel embarrassed as a senior,” Danmi said. Her eyes were drooped slightly.

“Agreed,” Yoonjung said, raising her hand.

The four of them still remembered what Maru had done very clearly. After all, Maru did what was supposed to be their job. But none of them were able to open their mouths at the time. Because they knew precisely how the club would fall to ruin if they did.

“He’s just mature. Plus, we all know that wasn’t an easy thing to do,” Joonghyuk said.

It was thanks to Joonghyuk that the rest of the second years got to know about what happened.

“He took responsibility for something he had no part in. Despite knowing he’d antagonize everyone.”

“Things are fine now, but I still can’t look at Maru straight. I just feel so guilty near him.”

Minsung and Danmi probably weren’t the only ones that felt this way.

“I should apologize properly after this play.”

“Why not now?”

Yoonjung shook her head vigorously.

“Now’s not the time. I don’t want to ruin the mood by bringing up the past. I want to formally apologize when everything’s over.”

“Oh? Look at you, thinking before acting for once.”

“What, did you take me for an idiot during all this time?”

“You weren’t?”

Yoonjung pinched Joonghyuk with a slight grin.

“In any case, this is the last time we’re meeting like this, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.”

Whenever the club finished a play, the second years would gather at Danmi’s place to have a little tea time. To organize what happened in the day, and to talk about the things that they did right, and what they did wrong. Yoonjung forced a smile as she opened her mouth.

“We can still meet up and talk. Well, I guess we won’t be talking about acting, though.”

“Right.”

They all liked acting, but to them, this was just a hobby. There were still jobs and schools to look forward to after high school for them, so it was inevitable that they would work a lot less in their third year. Yoonjung, too, had to start focusing on studying for her dream college. It was time for her to leave the stage and come back to reality.

“Oh, that’s right Danmi, you were looking for an academy?”

“Me? I already found one.”

The conversation naturally headed elsewhere. The four people left their regrets behind them as they continued onwards with smiling faces.

* * *

“I’m going to try harder,” Daemyung said in the bus.

Dojin asked what was up with a surprised expression.

“I want to be an actor. Well, a director.”

“Really?”

Dojin was a little surprised. He knew Daemyung took this seriously, but he didn’t realize just how far the boy was thinking.

“To be honest, I also met someone nice that made a promise with me.”

“What kind of a promise?”

“Promise for support. He said if I go to college for the arts or anything related, he would pay for my tuition. But I’d have to work on acting for one year in a theater company of his choosing.”

“Woah, when did that happen? Dang, you’re a total pro, aren't you?”

College tuition was no joke, and this person Daemyung mentioned was apparently willing to pay for it. To be honest, Dojin was kind of jealous.

“So, you’re going to become a star when you graduate?” Dojin asked, poking at Daemyung’s belly.

The other boy denied it with a smile, of course.

“Daaang, Daemyung. Don’t you go ignoring me now once you get famous, alright?”

“O-of course.”

“Should I get your signature, just in case?”

“I don’t have one, though.”

“That was a joke, bro. Tell me once you get famous. I’ll get your signature then.”

Daemyung nodded a little shyly. For someone who had such a big presence on stage, he was quite shy in real life.

‘But… At the same time, I guess he’s already preparing for his future.’

Dojin took a look at himself reflected through the window of the bus. He was a middle school delinquent that barely made it into an engineering high school. He fixed his behaviour and tendencies, but the question remained, for how much longer would he enjoy himself like this?

To be honest, Dojin looked down on Daemyung. Right now, hearing this good news from the other boy just made him jealous. As a matter of fact, a part of him even wished Daemyung to fail.

Stop it, Dojin. You’re being pathetic.

It felt like both Maru and Daemyung knew exactly what to do for their future. Neither of them seemed to have any hesitation or fear in the way they acted. They were very different compared to him.

“Work hard. Maybe buy me a house when you get really rich?”

“Ha, haha.”

Dojin swallowed a bitter smile. What did he manage to achieve at the end of his first year of high school again? What will he achieve in the next two years, even?

‘I guess… I’ll go to college.’

He’d feel like even less of a man if he couldn’t even go to a college that everyone else went to. All of a sudden, Daemyung felt so very foreign to Dojin. To think there were already people who had expectations of the boy…

“We’ll have to work hard for the winter competition, right?” Daemyung asked then.

“Eh? Yeah. Of course! Damn, you’re a total pro now, thinking that far already.”

“I-I’m not.”

Dojin pat Daemyung’s shoulder with a grin. But inwardly, he didn’t feel so great inside.

* * *

Iseul looked at Taejoon. The boy was as red as a beet. Any other time, she would’ve made fun of him, but not today.

“You like Soyeon?”

“...Yeah.”

Oh dear. The two of them often stayed behind to practice together for the grandpa-grandma role. To think they’d develop feelings this way…

“Does Soyeon know?”

“No, she’s not even looking at me.”

“Idiot, she’s intimidated by you.”

“Why?”

Taejoon looked at Iseul like a lost puppy.

“Have you never dated a girl before?”

“No.”

“Seriously? With that face?”

“I don’t know, I’ve never been close with girls before. Anyway, help me. I want to be close to Soyeon, but she won’t even look at me.”

“But you guys practice so much together.” “She always leaves right after practice.” “Really? She must hate you then. The end. Bye, I have work.”

“Come on, please.”

Taejoon was even grabbing onto her clothes now. Iseul shook her head.

“Fine, just wait. I’ll have to call the others first.”

Iseul took out her phone and messaged the rest of the club. But just before she hit send, she noticed two pretty iffy names in the message group. Iseul took out Yurim and Geunseok’s name off of the list before pressing send.

“Try being friendly first. You can do that at least, right?”

“.......”

“Ugh, that face is totally wasted on you!”

Iseul pressed the bell on the bus with a frustrated sigh.

* * *

- Good work.

Geunseok smiled looking at the message from Suyeon. Finally, it felt like he met a coach who actually cared for him. She was pretty, even. Just being near her made him feel like a mature adult.

“Who is it?”

“Mm? Just someone I know.”

“Someone you know?”

“Don’t worry about it. Anyway, weren’t you tired today? Instructor Miso didn’t let you go today.”

“Ugh, yeah. My throat is completely gone. I think I might even lose my voice tomorrow.”

“Drink warm water before you sleep, alright?”

“Okay.”

Geunseok and Yurim walked to the bus station together after the meal at the restaurant. They lived in opposite directions, so Geunseok planned on walking to the station on the other side in a minute. Right then, Yurim grabbed his arm, and kissed his cheek. Geunseok looked at the girl with a surprised expression.

“You were cool today. The instructor only talked about Maru today, but I think you did better. Work hard, okay?”

Yurim got on her bus with a smile. Geunseok touched his cheek for a few seconds before crossing the road with a happy smile. To be honest, he did feel a little bad when he heard Maru was good at getting attention. To think someone who didn’t even practice would have such talent… Yurim must’ve caught onto how he felt, which would explain that kiss. It definitely helped.

“You think I don’t have talent, huh?”

Geunseok rolled up his hands into a fist. So long as there weren’t any strange audience members like last time, he would be able to shine more than anyone else on stage. He was working hard, and he even had talent. The ability to converse with the audience? He didn’t even need such a talent.

‘I’m going to crush the audience with my talent.’

The audience only existed to view his acting, conversing with them was meaningless. To begin with, how would he even try to get feedback from people who could do nothing but watch? Geunseok felt Miso was pulling words out of her ass at this point. The only thing an actor had to do was to act good enough to crush any opposition from the audience.

‘Once I put them under my feet, the only thing that’ll come my way are their praises.’

Geunseok imagined himself as a star on the stage, one that only received bright words of praise from the audience.

“This is only the beginning.”

With that contract from Junmin, he would major in films during college. After college, he would enter a theater company, where he could truly start spreading his wings. His plan was flawless.

Geunseok took out his phones with a smile. Yurim and Suyeon. Two different, charming women were sending attention his way.

‘Good. Very good.’

His relationship with Yurim was only improving by the day, too. Geunseok got on the bus, thinking he should treat her better next time.

October 27th, 2003.

The Arts festival ended. And…

There was a month left until the winter nationals would begin.

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