Chapter 99

As the group of girls walked to a karaoke bar, they started hearing swears coming from somewhere behind them.

“Hey hey, don’t look back. There are some weird people behind us.”

Bada nodded. This was a foreign town for her, she didn’t know what kind of people lived here. In the past, she once got hit by a lady just because their eyes met. She remembered going back home crying at the time, and her brother ran outside shouting in anger.

‘He was really impatient back then.’

Just a year ago, her brother was a very selfish villain, but he’s changed a lot since then. Almost a different person now. Honestly, that was the only reason why she bought him a gift today. Bada looked down at her bag. There was a pair of shoes she bought for her brother. She noticed how he still wore those shoes of his that were turning into rags at this point. Even when mom said he should buy a new one, he said he’d only do that when the soles fell out.

‘The way he spent money changed, too.’

Her brother, who used to beg for expensive shoes and clothes, started buying clothes from cheap stores. Even when she went to Dongdaemun market with her brother, he grabbed a piece of clothing from a street seller saying “this stuff looks durable”. He really looked like an old man back then. Especially since the clothing he picked out looked like hiking clothes that their dad liked to wear. Do all men turn into dads or something as they age?

‘Hold on, was his shoe size 270? I don’t remember.’

She checked this morning for sure, but she couldn’t remember all that well. So she just decided to pick a decent one.

“God damn it, if it wasn’t for that bastard...”

“It’s okay, we can just beat him up some other time.”

They could hear swears from behind them again.

“Aren’t they embarrassed?”

“Yeah. I guess guys think they look cool when they act like that.”

Her friends laughed amongst themselves quietly, they had boys like this in their classes as well. The kids that liked to swear day in and day out. Bada swore too, but not in public like this.

“Let’s leave.”

Bada pushed her friends’ backs, she wanted to sit down somewhere. Her friend pointed to a building with a sign on it. Ah, student discount, there it was. That must be the place.

“Han Maru, that fucking son of a bitch.”

Just as she was about to enter, she heard someone swear again. Bada flinched. That was her brother’s name. She tried to ignore it and go inside, but alas, she already looked back.

“What?”

There were four boys behind her. They didn’t look very mean or anything. Somewhat handsome, actually. But judging from the way they spoke earlier, they probably didn’t have great personalities.

“What are you looking at?”

The boy at the front glared, Bada turned around to get on her way. She was a bit afraid. If she got away here, she’d probably be able to get away with hearing a few bad words. Her friends were trying to pull her away as well. Bada nodded and started stepping down the stairs.

“Wow, what a fucking day. First Maru, and now some little brats are glaring at us?”

Again, her brother’s name. If it was a year ago, Bada would’ve stepped down without thinking another thing. But right now, she wanted to do something. Of course, these boys might not be talking about her brother. Han Maru wasn’t a common name, but there could always be others of the same name, after all. The reason why she was annoyed regardless was because of how kind her brother’s been to her in the past year. Bada glared at the boys behind her with a frown. She didn’t want to pick a fight, but she felt like glaring was warranted.

“Oh?”

The boy in the front grabbed her left arm with an annoyed look. Bada tried to pull away, but the boy dragged her outside anyway.

“Bada!!”

“Let go of her!!”

For a moment, Bada was proud of having such good friends. She was in danger, but they were trying to help her regardless. Thanks to that, she didn’t feel so scared. As a matter of fact, the boys in front of her almost looked comical.

“You bitches. Did we beat you up or something? What are you shouting for?”

The boy who grabbed Bada shouted. Bada’s friends closed their mouths but didn’t leave Bada.

“Let go,” Bada said.

The boy didn’t let go.

“Why did you glare?”

“Because you kept swearing behind us. So what!”

“What the hell does this bitch think she is?”

The boy raised his other hand at her. Bada flinched but didn’t close her eyes. She was Han Bada, you know! The one girl who even got into fistfights with boys! The boy who was holding her frowned even deeper. Bada could feel her body get pulled forward right then. The boy was tugging her violently towards him.

Bada didn’t fall, but the paper bag in her hand ripped from the sudden shock. The clothes and shoes she bought rolled all over the floor.

“You!”

Bada felt anger rise straight up to her head, the present she bought for her brother was getting dirtied to bits.

“You? How cute. Do you really have a death wish?”

The boy raised his hand, this time with the intent to actually hit her. Bada jumped forward in anger, she’s fought with her brother multiple times. She could handle this. Thinking that, she headbutted the boy’s stomach. Bada fell on the floor, and the boy fell back on his butt.

“B-bada!”

Her friends helped her up immediately. Bada got up, still huffing. The fear in her head completely disappeared after she actually attacked him.

‘What the.’

The boy fell backward, just like that? The boy stood up, swearing at the friends around him, he seemed to be really mad. Bada looked around. She’s retaliated, so it was time to look for help from adults now. She looked around quickly. Ah, there was an older man looking at them from a nearby convenience store. Perfect. Just as she was about to shout for help, though, the man turned around with a shake of his head. Was he thinking that they were friends?

‘Oh no.’

She could see the boy step closer. He had his fist balled up tightly, too. Would getting hit by that hurt? She started feeling sorry for her friends. She should’ve just tried to be quiet.

“Should we run?”

“L-let’s fight back.”

“Can we win?”

Pft. Bada almost laughed. She was thankful that her friends didn’t run away. They were even thinking of fighting! What brave girls.

“Hit us, I dare you! We’re not gonna stand still!” Bada shouted.

She raised her voice for a reason, the people around them started directing their attention towards them. The boys seemed a bit surprised, too. Bada remembered that advice her brother gave her a long time ago.

- The loud one always wins. If things go badly for you, just shout. I promise it’ll be helpful. Just don’t freeze up, that should be enough.

She didn’t know what he meant back then, but she did now. The eyes directed here were all on their side, she could see the group of boys start to hesitate a little. Just as she started to calm down, the boy from the start charged at her. Oops. She didn’t realize how angry this boy was. The boy’s hand got raised up, and Bada closed her eyes tightly.

Pow!

The boy flew back with a loud noise, he actually flew backward. Bada opened her eyes in surprise. In front of her was a boy she saw from the waffle shop, the scary-looking boy opened his mouth angrily.

“Well met. I was getting pretty pissed right about now, too.”

The scary boy turned to Bada for a second.

“They’re the bad guys, right?”

Bada nodded dumbly.

“I see. You can leave now.”

He didn’t seem to be helping her in particular. Really, he just seemed to have business with the group of boys here.

“Ah, what the actual fuck is wrong with today?!”

“Changhu, it’s so nice to see you outside of school.”

“Dowook, you son of a bitch.”

“Shut it. You better prepare yourself. There’s no teacher to hide behind here.”

The boy called Dowook ran forward after finishing. Bada exclaimed a little in surprise. Dowook managed to send Changhu flying again with a kick.

“W-what the.”

“Is he helping us?”

Her friends came over to ask if she was okay. Bada nodded.

‘In any case...’

It was a four on one, but the other three boys were just watching right now. Changhu was looking at Dowook nervously, too. Bada took a look at Dowook’s back. The boy looked pretty thin all over, but he did have massive thighs.

People started gathering to see what was going on. Some adults were beginning to intervene as well. And…

“Eh?”

“Oh! Brother.”

Bada’s brother was one of these people, the four boys ran away as soon as the adults started gathering. Bada snorted at them before turning to look at her brother.

“What happened? What’s up with your hair?” her brother asked.

Ah, her hair probably got messed up when she got caught earlier. She started fixing up her hair again. In the meantime, her brother turned to talk to Dowook.

“Dowook.”

“What?”

“Wait, you two know each other?”

Bada looked at the two boys in front of her in confusion.

* * *

“See you tomorrow. Be careful.”

“Yes, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Maru said his farewells to Junmin and Ganghwan before stepping into the convenience store where Dowook was.

“Thanks for before.”

He already heard what happened from Bada. Maru told her it’d be best to head home, so the girls already left Myungdong at this point.

“I was just annoyed, and they happened to be a good target. I wasn’t trying to help.”

“Well, you helped regardless. Did you eat, by the way?”

“No.”

“You should eat, then. There’s a kimbap place right there.”

“I’d rather have cup noodles. Are you paying?”

“I could, sure.”

“It’s fine. I don’t want to get anything out of you. It feels weird.”

“Weird my ass.”

Maru stepped out and came back with cup noodles and a few rolls of kimbap.

“So, what are you doing at Myungdong, anyway?”

“......”

Dowook didn’t respond and just silently ate the food in front of him. There must be something going on. For now, Maru opened a can of soda and started drinking from it. After finishing the cup noodles, he stared at the empty cup for a second before opening his mouth.

“Before I say anything else… Thanks for the thing with my dad. I can finally breathe easily at home now.”

“Good to hear. He’s a cool guy, so I hope you get along better with him.”

Dowook smiled. “Hah… Don’t you ever get worried about anything? I don’t get how you’re always so calm.”

“Something happened, huh?”

Dowook wasn’t the type to talk like this. He was a proud kid, so the fact that he was opening up this easily meant something really bad happened. Dowook fell silent again. After a minute of silence, he started off with an “if” on his mouth.

“If… If your sister, who was silent for a whole decade, the one person you didn’t expect to see for the rest of your life… If she appeared out of nowhere, what the hell am I supposed to say to her?”

“Sister?”

Maru started paying closer attention to Dowook’s words.

* * *

“I’ll be leaving. I’m sorry, dad.”

“Soojin.”

Soojin left the cafe biting her lips. She just sat there quietly for an hour, she still couldn’t forget the way Dowook was looking at her.

‘He still feels hurt.’

She shouldn’t have come, it would honestly be better for her to keep living in regret as she did now. Her brother grew a lot after ten years, she could barely recognize him. But as soon as she looked into those fierce eyes of his, she realized that he was her brother after all.

‘I’m sorry.’

Soojin started her car as soon as she got on. Today, too, she was running away. The names of countless kindergartens appeared on her head. She should volunteer during the weekdays as well so that she wouldn’t have to think.

Soojin’s red car slid down the road, making a rather depressing hum as it drove.

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ensj's Thoughts

Shoe size 270 is 10 in the US, 40 in EU.