Chapter 187: Chapter 187
A calm voice continued.
“It’s a little different from self-justification. Self-justification begins with the desire to believe in yourself, at least in your own right; however, he doesn’t.”
“That means…” with that said, I leaned myself a bit toward him. Eun Jiho kept on his words.
“I don’t get him at all. He’s too agile for me to get the hang of him.”
I furrowed my brows, and so did Eun Jiho as if he felt painful too. He continued his remark.
“I’ve tried to have a conversation with him, but he surrounds himself with a number of layers, some kind of a defense system. The system has the ability to answer even all kinds of questions properly to make them look like what he wants. His brain can run a lot of systems like that simultaneously and still maintains his everyday life as if nothing is happening.”
“Though I try to approach him through conversations, it never works. He speaks this way and that way; still, what he says makes sense but sounds a little strange. It’s not cohesive, you know, as if a machine just chooses a proper answer to the situation. There isn’t any true heart in them, at least, from what I see.”
After the remark, Eun Jiho swallowed his breath in pain then slowly spat out a sigh.
Khoff! With a cough, he turned his head to cast a glance at the air.
“I think he considers himself as the most unacceptable person in the world,” said Eun Jiho at a slow pace.
“Wasn’t he so calculative, but meticulous, affectionate, and generous too? You also have sensed those sometimes, haven’t you?”
I just nodded in silence.
I did feel those before. From Jooin’s certain action, there existed his sharp side that suddenly appears like a monster inside a nightmare after rending his usual, gentle and generous character.
Sweeping his hair back, Eun Jiho continued his words.
“And the fact that he always marks the wrong numbers in every subject test, he’s doing it in purpose. Or else, it doesn’t make sense that he always commits the same mistake, does it?”
I often wondered when Woo Jooin ran toward me and cheerfully spoke about his mis-numbering in the test sheet after the exam. At some point, I even thought that Jooin might have attempted to mismark the answers in every subject test intentionally, so that he could change his GPA for me to not feel small.
Biting my lips tightly, I waited for Eun Jiho to continue.
“He does not even want anyone to know how smart he is, which looks almost desperate. Maybe it’s either the two; he detests the fact that he is just too smart or fears if others may exploit him again once they find out that he has a long head.”
“He doesn’t look into himself nor does he try to do that. He’s just terrified of revealing himself straightforwardly to others. Considering himself as the most unacceptable person in the world, how can he show his true color to others?”
A catastrophic silence hung inside the room for quite a while. I didn’t know what to say, so I just raised my hand and put it on my cheek while standing still.
How long did the silence take place? Eun Jiho then broke the ice. He finally directed his jet-black eyes on me and quietly detached his lips.
“I didn’t bring this up for you to sympathize or take care of him more…. as you already would have a hunch.”
“I just want you to… geez… Khoff! Khoff!”
Heaving a sigh, Eun Jiho coughed again. ‘It has been quiet for too long,’ I thought. Looking at him bursting into a cough, I felt myself losing my vigor. I stretched out my hand and tapped his back.
When he got over his cough, at last, he raised his head to see me. The glare inside his coal-black eyes was so desperate that I felt him a little bizarre.
His voice then scattered away heavily to the bottom of the room.
“In some way, you are the only person whom Woo Jooin saved with his superb memory that he loathes.”
* * *
The garden in Eun Jiho’s mansion looked like the way I imagined, which was an irregular mockup under the sparkling sunset. Snake-like bent bushes, coniferous leaves rising sharply into the sky, and outlandishly colorful rocks placed here and there… A pool of broken sky was on the lake that had a few caved-in parts.
Looking at the scenery with my hands shoved into both pockets, I took my step at a slow pace. Eun Jiho was still under the cold, so it was only me who walked alone the vast garden.
Recalling the conversations that I had with Eun Jiho, I grimaced. Usually, I understood his remarks clearly. We also had many things in common such as our characters and preferences; however, when he talked about something like that, Eun Jiho truly felt like a different person.
The only person whom Woo Jooin saved with his superb memory…
What passed by my sight was the memory of that cold and snowy winter day.
Eun Jiho was walking with Yoo Chun Young’s coat around his shoulders while feeling better in the freezing cold, whereas Yoo Chun Young moved his steps with an expressionless face regardless of the snow falling on his short-sleeved shirt. Eun Hyung was concerned about the shoes I was wearing, and Ban Yeo Ryung walked beside me while holding my arm tight. She was wearing the school uniform even until that evening. The memory that I finally reached after rewinding those scenes was myself sitting crouched in front of Woo Jooin’s house.
When everything, that I had believed to exist forever and to be part of me, vanished without a trace and only the voices of the ruins and the unknown were left behind, I finally confronted the horror and despair of complete solitude.
In front of Jooin’s house was the place where I was just sitting crouched as I refused to check the last clue by my own hand. When I heard Jooin’s voice at first, his face was dimly visible that I thought if it was all just a dream.
‘That day, I called you for six hours.’
The day before the high school entrance ceremony, he said those words to me under the sparkling sunset.
Jooin never told the other kids that he misnumbered the answers in every subject. It was when Eun Jiho said, ‘It ain’t your true ability,’ that Jooin finally confessed to only us what he actually did.
Woo Jooin’s character that others regard would be different. They would think him as a normal, popular, and a naïve boy who always made others smile from his grin and had bright air floating around him as if he just got out from a fresh morning kitchen. Perhaps that was what Woo Jooin might have expected from others to perceive him.
What would it mean if he could not love himself regardless of the everyone’s sweetheart look that he acquired from others?
‘I never saw a kid as creepy as you are! Don’t look at me like that! As if you know everything!’
He couldn’t reveal the true color of him, but just surrounded himself with layers of answering machine-like things in discomfort to hide inside.
I clenched my fist.
‘I don’t get him at all.’
Eun Jiho’s words reverbed around me and were quietly fused into the evening sky. I suddenly paused my steps.
There was a shallow puddle right next to my foot. Dropping my gaze at the plash, I detached my lips.
“I… kind of get him…”
I murmured to myself with downcast eyes.
Article 17. A Courage Test is Essential in Summer! (Part 2)
It was eight in the evening, but I felt a little strange to find many houses with no lights turned on. When Ban Yeo Ryung and I entered a dark alley, we began to walk while closely attaching our shoulder to each other’s.
She was tightly grabbing my arm with a rarely pale face.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“It’s just too dark that I’m a little scared.”
With that said, Ban Yeo Ryung closed her pale lips. Standing side by side in a dark alley, something struck me as I looked at her downcast eyelashes.