Dowook stared at Maru . The dude was going to sleep with earphones on . Just what was up with him? He wasn’t picking a fight or anything, just offering some sensible advice instead . . So why?
“Fuck . ”
He was only becoming more confused the more he thought about it . Dowook chewed on his pencil in annoyance . Not that it brought him any sort of relief .
* * *
The classes for their day were over . For the first time, the kids were allowed access to the Electrical Engineering labs in the school . First time in this life, at the very least . Maru has definitely been here in the past . Not that he could remember it . It was a place where they soldered equipment together .
“That smelled really bad . By the way, I heard that soldering apparently kills your semen?” Dojin noted as they walked out .
“Really?” Daemyung frowned . Dojin cracked a dumb joke and laughed by himself .
It was a familiar joke . Maru felt pretty sure he’s heard it in his previous life . He momentarily as he turned the corner to a different corridor with his two friends . Joonghyuk was walking towards them from the other side .
“Hello, senior . ”
“Ah, back from soldering?”
The three nodded . Joonghyuk informed them of a random soldering advice before going back on his way . Maru decided to follow behind Joonghyuk after sending his friends off first . Dojin was a little confused, but didn’t question it .
“Senior,” Maru called out .
“Oh, Maru . You’re still here?”
“I have something to tell you . ”
Joonghyuk brought Maru to the deli down on the first floor along with him . He bought hot chocolate from the vending machine for the both of them .
“Here, drink . ”
“Thank you . ”
They sat on the bench next to the deli . Students were running past them towards the deli from their respective classes . The foyer quickly filled with the chatter of the students . Maru could hear the occasional yells from a teacher as well .
“So? What is it?” Joonghyuk asked after the crowd thinned a little .
Maru put his cup of hot chocolate on his lap . He told Joonghyuk about his discovery from the previous day .
“So the cigarette burns were from the kids from your class?”
“Yes . ”
Joonghyuk sighed as he scratched his nose in irritation . A moment of silence passed . All the kids were gone now, too . Joonghyuk gestured to go outside . Maru complied .
They could hear a few more kids outside . Maru could make out that some of the sounds were from the soccer players next to the basketball court .
“Did you tell anyone?”
“No . ”
“So it’s just you and me who knows about this?”
“Yes . ”
“Let’s keep it this way, then . ”
“Alright . ”
Maru wasn’t surprised . That was pretty much the response he was expecting . Joonghyuk seemed to find the compliance surprising, though .
“You aren’t saying anything about it?”
“I mean, this is the right thing to do . ”
“Oh, is that so?”
“You told us, didn’t you? We have a bad rep . It’s better to keep quiet for such a small problem . No need to hurt the club for it . ”
At least, that’s what Maru thought . He seemed to be right, thankfully, seeing from Joonghyuk’s nod . Their eyes met for a second, which prompted a word bubble to appear .
[He’s thoughtful . ]
Bah, of course I am . I’ve lived decades longer than you after all .
“And Yoonjung . . . ”
“Never thought about telling the president from the start . ”
“Felt like she’d charge into the class or something . ”
“Yeah . She’d do that . ”
Joonghyuk crumpled the cup in his hand . He shook his head firmly when Maru offered to throw it away .
“I didn’t recruit more members to get myself a servant,” he threw the cup away, “and stop being so stiff all the time . It’s getting on my nerves a little bit . ”
“Alright . ”
“Do you have any siblings?”
“A younger sister . ”
“You look responsible . You act the part as well . ”
That was a surprise . Maru hadn’t expected that at all . The guy made a pretty firm judgement about him from just a few days of interaction?
“You’ll help the club quite a bit, I think . ”
“No way . ”
“I’m not joking . Group mentality is the most important thing about an acting club . The club needs foundation . Especially as a club that requires various types of people . ”
Joonghyuk appeared to be thinking about something, noted from his expression visibly turning sour .
“Can I ask you something?”
“Go on . ”
“How did Yoonjung become a president?”
Joonghyuk laughed at that . Almost as if he remembered something he forgot about .
“She wanted to do it . ”
“ . . . That’s it?”
“You’ll see what that means in the near future . She’s a weird kid . ”
He seemed entertained just thinking about her . Then again, Yoonjung really was quite the character .
“Can I ask you something else?”
“Is it about the third years?”
A soccer ball flew up high in the sky with a bang . Maru could hear the kids shouting in excitement from across the field . Joonghyuk was looking up at the school building bitterly when they heard a voice calling them out from the windows .
“Yo, Maru! Ah, senior?”
It was from the second floor . Dojin and Daemyung were looking down at them from the class .
“They’re waiting for you . ”
“Ah, yes . ”
“We’ll talk about the third years next time . You should go . ”
Joonghyuk walked back inside with a wave .
“Thank you for the hot chocolate!”
“Sure . ”
Maru turned back after taking the last sip from his cup .
* * *
There are certain things in life that causes realization to dawn upon a person out of nowhere . Stuff that just shakes the person’s entire worldview to a certain degree .
This was the case for Dowook . He used to smoke, crack dumb jokes, and go to the PC bang every day . He’d go home and eat before falling asleep . The next day he’d go back to school and the process would rinse and repeat .
But all of that has changed because of one little thing .
“Let’s go . ”
“Ah, yeah . ”
Dowook watched as Daemyung and Dojin walked away from the windows . His eyes met with Daemyung for a second . The other boy flinched away from reflex .
‘Fucking annoying . ’
It was getting on his nerves . He used to not care about looks from people like Daemyung . There was no reason for him to pay attention to losers . But…
[Turns out that skinny bitch had a friend though, huh?]
[Retard . ]
He lost his friends in a single day . They all chose to stick with the beanie . Childish bastards .
But in that case… What about him? Was he childish too? The thought just popped up in his head out of nowhere . He tried to ignore it, but the question refused to go away .
Are you any different from them?
Dowook felt a foreign emotion rise up from his chest . Embarrassment . He was embarrassed . He couldn’t raise his head from the table as soon as he sat down . He couldn’t stop thinking of the times he would laugh when he hit someone . Flashbacks of the times he took money from other kids in middle school resurfaced . Those events were starting to feel incredibly embarrassing .
No, it was more than embarrassment . It felt pathetic . Why did he even put in the effort to annoy people again? This morning, he asked one of the loser kids if he could copy their homework . That much was fine . The question of ‘How are you different from the other punks?’ lingered around in his head, but he ignored it .
But when the English teacher picked up that stick, he started thinking again . Before, he would have just laughed at the thought of the loser kid being beaten to a pulp . But not this time . The doubts he faced were bothering him too much .
So he ended up lying . Not to avoid responsibility, but to take it instead . It didn’t change anything, of course . Not even after school ended .
Well, one thing was different . His legs still hurt .
He felt like thinking about the question more would just make him explode . Why was this even happening to him?
Even feeling irked about it felt childish . So what? It was his burden to live with, he guessed . Fuck . He decided he’d feel a little bit better after getting out . He’d go back home, catch up on some sleep, and he’d walk out feeling all better . Friends? He could just make new ones . Not like they were the only smokers here . But in the end, he looked back at his class . He knew . He knew that what was really childish wasn’t the question . It was him .
“Fucking hell, it’s all his fault . ”
Maru’s image floated up in his head . If it wasn’t for him, Dowook’s life wouldn’t have changed at all .
In the end, he walked out of the classroom scratching his head . It felt like coming to school tomorrow would be really scary for him .