Chapter 170

“The tteokbokki here is great, I’m telling you.”

Jiyoon followed her friend to a restaurant. It was a small one that was a bit of a way from school. The walls were decorated with childish drawings, it was a calming place.

“You’re surprisingly good at finding places like this.”

“Finding good restaurants is a responsibility of any good student!”

Jiyoon laughed along quietly with the rest of her friends, before ordering tteokbokki, kimbap, and instant noodles. Her friend suggested they pay in advance. Jiyoon quickly took out her wallet as well.

“You don’t have to pay, I told you I’d buy for you, remember?”

“But...”

“Just pay for my food next time. Alright, the rest of you, pay up.”

Jiyoon’s five friends paid up. Jiyoon tried to sneak in a thousand won, but her friend caught on and slapped her hand away. In the end, her bill was returned to her wallet.

“The acting club did look fun.”

“Oh, yeah. The album they showed had a ton of fun pictures. I wanted to join in!”

“Me too, me too.”

Their topic of conversation quickly shifted towards that of the acting club. Jiyoon picked up a steaming piece of rice cake as she listened in.

“But I don’t know about the time investment.”

“The handsome senior said they were going to lessen it, though?”

“Well, they’re still going to meet up more than other clubs, right? Going to school on the weekend… ugh.”

“Really? I think it might be pretty fun.”

“You’re thinking of joining?”

“Nope.”

“What the, I thought you would.”

“I’m just sharing my opinion.”

While her friends were giggling amongst themselves, Jiyoon took a small sip with a slight nod.

“Jiyoon, come on, say something.”

“Yeah, you’ve been quiet for a while now.”

Jiyoon smiled nervously when everyone suddenly started looking at her.

“Is the talk about the acting club boring?”

“No! Not at all...”

“Then why aren’t you talking? Are you bored?”

“...I couldn’t find the right time to jump in.”

She fumbled with her fingers as she talked, she didn’t dislike talking at all. In fact, she wanted to try gossiping really hard like all the other girls. The problem was that she never knew where to start.

“Couldn’t find the right time?”

“Yeahh.”

“Hah. Just talk. It’s not like you’re presenting.”

“Right, right.”

“But...”

She was like that from a young age. Whenever it was her turn to talk, her head would turn completely white. Not one of her friends made fun of her for it, but if she had bad friends… she didn’t even want to think about it.

“Ugh, you’re worried about something so pointless!”

“Hey, but it’s really like Jiyoon though! So cute!”

“So that’s why you’re quiet all the time?”

Jiyoon nodded, her friends laughed loudly around her.

“Then again, it’d be odd if Jiyoon suddenly started talking a lot.”

“Alright, I’ll talk more in her stead then!”

“You need to talk less. If you just talked a little less, you’d have a boyfriend already.”

“What the, you’re taking it there now? Do you have a boyfriend?”

“Our class doesn’t have any lookers. They’re all stupid!”

“I kind of get it. There’s four of them, and thirty of us. It’s only obvious that they’d feel self-conscious.”

The talk shifted over to boys. There were a total of 35 students in the second design class. 31 of them were girls, and 4 were guys. A week had already passed, but the boys couldn’t properly settle into the class. Their table started getting noisy again, so Jiyoon hid in all of the noise. She was happy with staying quiet for now. Her friends were talking about some of the handsome guys in class. But in the end, everything circled back to ‘there’s no one good in our class’.

“Come to think of it, that senior in the acting club was really handsome.”

“Tall, too.”

“He has a great body, too.”

“Oh my gosh, you pervert.”

Jiyoon thought of senior Geunseok. The one that was really confident as he talked.

“He’s kind of annoying though.”

“For sure.”

“He must think he’s a prince. 100%. Looking at him gesture at the other two to praise him was so irritating.”

They laughed for a bit before turning to Jiyoon again, Jiyoon widened her eyes like little plates.

“Jiyoon.”

“Yeah?”

“What do you think of that senior?”

“Me?”

“Just for fun. And also, maybe someone you like in class?”

Her friend handed her a spoon like a microphone, Jiyoon just bit her lips nervously.

“We’re not serious about it, so just answer as you please. Otherwise, it’s going to be too quiet.”

“Y-yeah.”

Jiyoon thought for a second before giving an honest answer.

“He’s probably really talented for sure. I mean, the other seniors did acknowledge as much.”

“That’s true. But what about his personality?”

“...E-everyone’s unique.”

“Oh? Look at you! You’re avoiding the question!“

Her friends grabbed her arms and started tickling her sides. Of all the weaknesses Jiyoon had, she hated getting tickled the most.

“I’ll talk!!”

She ended up squealing. Oh dear. She looked at the lady inside the kitchen with a flinch, the lady was looking at her with a small laugh. She was so embarrassed.

“The boys are all nice. But I don’t want to date anyone just yet.”

“Ohh, they’re nice, huh? Ms. Choi, what do you think?”

“Yes. It’s game over when a girl says a guy is nice! An even worse review than saying a guy is mean!”

Jiyoon closed her mouth with a slight frown.

“Alright, what about the three seniors, then?”

She tried to keep her silence, but a tiny jab on her sides caused her to raised the white flag. She really couldn’t handle tickles.

“They all seemed nice.”

She gave her friends a small glance after speaking. They were still glaring at her, they clearly didn’t like the answer.

“What if the tall one asked you out?”

Her friend suddenly asked the question. What the? She just sat there nervously, but her friend was only staring harder with an odd smile.

“Ooh, I want to hear this one.”

“Yeah, this one’s a must! How is it? Would you date him? Or will you reject him?”

She knew there were more tickles headed her way if she feigned ignorance. Her friends were creeping towards her, in fact. In the end, she answered honestly.

“I don’t want to date him.”

“Why?”

“...He doesn’t seem nice. W-well, that’s just my personal opinion. That might not be the case. N-no, not at all, actually. I’m sure he’s a good person.”

She was fumbling around endlessly, but her friends all nodded in understanding. She became sorry for that senior for no reason.

“Hoh. Finally, something bad coming from Jiyoon’s mouth.”

“So it’s confirmed! That senior is a bad person!”

Her friends were giggling, Jiyoon didn’t know what was going on. This was the first time she had such energetic friends in her life.

‘It’s not bad, though.’

Talking was still difficult and she didn’t like voicing her opinions, but she didn’t mind the noise. That’s because of her friends that were looking out for her.

“Are you guys going into the acting club, by the way?”

Her friends all simultaneously answered “no”. Jiyoon refrained from answering.

“Eh? Jiyoon, are you thinking about going in?”

“Really?”

Jiyoon shook her head, she didn’t make a decision yet. She did want to get on stage, but she was afraid of the amount of work she’d have to put in.

“Just do it. I’ll cheer you on.”

“Me too!”

She felt like courage swelling up inside her from her friends’ words. At the same time, she thought of something the other senior said.

- Ask yourself the question instead of others.

Did she really want to act? Jiyoon started pondering on the question seriously.

* * *

By the time they put the chairs and desks back in place, it was already 6 o’clock.

“Thank goodness so many people came.”

“15’s definitely a good sign. I think we’ll get 3 members for sure.”

It was a relief so many people came. It was still a mystery how many of them would join, but this at least meant that they had a chance.

“By the way, Maru.”

“Yeah?”

“Why didn’t you become the president? I heard from Joonghyuk that you were the first to be offered the position.”

“Oh, that?”

“Wouldn’t that have been better? I mean, Geunseok’s not bad, but...”

“I don’t want extra responsibility that comes with no benefits. It’s not like being a president gives you a ton of power. Plus, jobs like those are best taken by the people who want them.”

“A typical Maru response. But it just felt like Geunseok wanted to do whatever he wanted.”

“What’s so bad about that?”

“He said he was going to shorten practice time. He was also beating some of the students down before they even joined.”

Daemyung definitely must’ve gotten bad vibes, considering how seldomly he talked badly about people. Maru understood completely, Geunseok did say some pretty harmful things a while ago.

“But you can’t say he’s wrong.”

“......”

“Plus, if they got discouraged from joining from just that… It’s better that they don’t come.”

“Aren’t you being too cold?”

“Did you ever see me being kind?”

They stepped out of the classroom after tidying things up, Daemyung walked next to him after he grabbed his bag.

“Are you really fine with shorter practice times?”

“That’s up to the instructor to decide. It’s not something Geunseok can change.”

“But that’s what he said he’d do.”

“I’m sure president Hong can take care of it.”

Daemyung stopped Maru in his path as he yawned, the boy seemed agitated.

“Aren’t you a bit too calm about this?”

“About what?”

“Geunseok’s changing the rules however he wants.”

“Rules? We had rules?”

“No, traditions! Yeah, traditions.”

“If raising morale by staying together for a long time is just tradition, then it might be better for Geunseok to get rid of it. He didn’t say anything wrong.”

“That’s true, but...”

Daemyung frowned sadly. Maru thought about giving the boy a chance to think it through on his own, but felt he couldn’t leave it at that.

“Alright, I want to make something clear. You refused the offer to be president when it was handed to you, didn’t you?”

Joonghyuk offered Daemyung the presidency after the nationals and Daemyung refused. Maru didn’t know the reason, that was all he heard. Daemyung nodded slowly.

“I understand what you’re worried about. But I think it’s rather stupid that you’re trying to have your way, especially when you avoided the responsibility when given the chance.”

“I just… want the acting club to turn out well.”

Daemyung dropped his shoulders. What a nice kid, he’d basically be perfect if he was a bit more confident in life. Sadly, it seemed that all god decided to give the boy was a passion for acting and nothing for his manliness.

“Do you dislike Geunseok?”

“Not really, but,”

Maru cut the boy off before he could talk.

“Be honest with me. Don’t try to speak about it in a roundabout way.”

“...Honestly, I was really disappointed with the way he was shifting the blame during the summer prelims. I know some things happened afterwards and that he’s really good at acting. I know he’s talented, but I don’t really like him.”

“Then what should you do?”

“Eh?”

Maru scratched his eyebrows. High schoolers were at an age where they could start figuring things out about a person, they were at an age where they could start to detect problems like an adult. But what about the next step?

“If you don’t like Geunseok and his way of doing things, shouldn’t you have a vision about what you want to do yourself? If you just complain without having a plan in mind, you might as well be a child. It’s fine that you dislike his ways. But what about it? Are you going to tell him to leave?”

“That’s not right.”

“Then what?”

“...Praise him the right way?”

“Bingo.”

A smart lad indeed, Daemyung was following him well.

“Let Geunseok do what he wants. He’s not dumb either, so he won’t go too far. He was just saying stuff to make himself look good, not to flip over the club completely. I’m sure he’s not really thinking that.”

There was a kid begging for praises. If you praise him, he does a good job. If you complain about him, he gets angry and blames you. What should you do in that situation? Do you get angry at the kid? No, that’s a waste of both time and energy. There’s one thing you should do, praise him. Praise him to work harder and better, then the kid would work hard. All that’s left is to watch him from the back and reap the results.

“You’re right, but I don’t really like that method. It feels like… I’m looking down on him. I don’t like Geunseok, but… Ah, I don’t know. I can’t explain it.”

Daemyung’s lips curled downwards.

“Would you have done the same if I acted like Geunseok?”

“You wouldn’t do such a thing.”

“Just out of curiosity.”

Maru smiled. He already knew the answer.

“If you acted that way, I would’ve even gone to using my fists to make you come back to your senses. But I don’t care about Geunseok.”

Daemyung brightened in a flash. What an easy kid to read.

“Plus, you don’t have to worry about it. He’ll step up once the club activities start.”

“How do you know that?”

“Opportunists never do something that would so obviously harm themselves.”

Right then, they saw Geunseok walk up to them from the other side. Maru whispered to Daemyung quietly.

“Old sayings are almost always right. Think about what it means to give rice cake to someone you hate.”

Daemyung nodded.

“You guys aren’t leaving?”

“We are.”

Maru looked at the club sign one more time before turning away.

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