Whenever Dojin asked for a show from each one of them, the kids would respond with a random dance or an impression . The group around Dojin started laughing . Maru found himself smiling as well when he saw the others laugh as well .
Sure these kids were a bit behind in terms of grades and studying, but to most adults, these kids might seem like a problem in society . But so what? Grades didn’t reflect a person’s personality . Though… it wasn’t like he was saying all kids with bad grades were good people .
“Hey, give me one too . ” said one of the kids at the back of the class . Dojin ignored the boy with a smirk .
“Come on, man . Don’t be so stingy . ” the boy whined .
“Shut the hell up . Go buy your own . ” Dojin sounded unusually angry . The boy on the other side just responded with a shrug .
“Pft . Trying to look cool? You could’ve just said no . ”
“Looking cool my ass . ”
Sparks almost seemed to be flying between those two’s glares . But the tension didn’t last long . The atmosphere calmed as the other kids walked into the class . Maru took a look at the kid at the back .
The boy’s name was Kang Dowook . He used to sit at the front, but after a few days he stole someone else’s seat and moved to the back . The victim, of course… had to sit in the front . Dowook took a seat from one of the more ‘meh’ looking kids in the class .
You know the one . Almost every class has one . Guys who aren’t that good at studying, but not that good at socializing either . Within the archetype of those only capable of responding .
Maru looked over the class one more time . If no one became friends with that guy in the front… He would definitely end up becoming the ‘butler’ of all the bullies in the class .
‘Oh, I remember . ’
The official butler of the class . That must’ve been the guy . In his memories, he could remember a kid that everyone in the class used to leave their work to . They always ‘asked’ him to do it, but it was nothing more than a thinly veiled threat . Maru observed passively . He couldn’t even remember that boy’s name or face, only of his annoyance of the situation back then . Not that he did anything about it though .
It was a personal problem, after all . At least, that’s what he thought at the time . He could remember people talking about the guy during a few of the reunions where rumors that he got into a big company surfaced .
“Hey, doesn’t Minji have a really nice body?” one of the boys in the class said .
“Ah crap, I almost caught the boss yesterday too . ” another one of the kids shouted from the other side of the class .
“Wanna play basketball after class?”
“What’s on the lunch menu today?”
The classroom was increasing in volume, but the boy at the front was just staring forward quietly . He wasn’t listening to music or reading either . His occasional glances to the class indicated his desire to join the conversation .
‘I have to act now,’ Maru thought to himself .
He needed to make his move while the other kids were still unfamiliar with the boy . If the boy were to be marked as a “class idiot” . . . then no one would even want to hang out with him . Lest the same happens to them .
“You know any other places to grind? The skeleton compound no . 8 is garbage . Has too many people as well,” one of the boys complained .
“I told you, there’s literally no better place . ”
The lone boy in the front chewed his lips for a second, almost as if he wanted to say something . But… in the end, he lowered his head with a deep sigh .
Maru sighed from the back at his seat as well .
“What’s up?” Dojin asked, head up from his comic book .
“Hey, Dojin . ” Maru said .
“Us guys need to help each other out, right?”
“The hell are you talking about?”
Dojin looked at Maru with a confused expression . Maru grinned back and stood up from his seat, as he made his way over to the first row .
* * *
Park Daemyung wanted to live brightly as his name suggests, but that was never the case since his time in elementary school .
“Hah! You look pretty funny, don’t you?” one of the kids said to him back then .
Daemyung’s entire life changed from that one sentence . He could still remember it clearly . He stopped talking as much after hearing that from a friend back in third grade .
Why was he so sensitive to about that? After a point, everyone in the class had started pointing out his goofy looks, he remembered . People stopped calling him by his real name . That was when he accepted his ugly appearance . He kept his head low for the rest of elementary school until he entered middle school . Spent middle school without talking much as well . He was bullied then, too .
Daemyung hated his face . His cheeks were puffy like a frog’s, and his eyes and forehead were abnormally small . He started talking less and less, but the bullying only got worse and worse . Daemyung went home immediately after his middle school graduation . He didn’t want to hear the joy in his peers’ voices .
‘I can’t keep living like this,’ he thought . From then on, Daemyung was set on changing himself . That’s why he decided to go to an engineering school instead of a normal one . Perhaps his personality would follow the change in environment .
‘And… I wouldn’t have to meet the kids from middle school if I went to an engineering school,’ that was his intention at the very least . His mother wasn’t vocal about his choice . That was her way of telling him she knew of what was happening to him at school .
And then… the first day of school . He wanted to hang out with the kids with a strong greeting, but nothing of the sort occurred .
‘S-scary . ’
The engineering school kids were something else . The boy next to him brought a pack of cigarettes on the second day . One of the other ones was excitedly talking about where to buy alcohol . Everything felt unfamiliar and scary to him . Almost as if he would be punched if he spoke a word .
And then there was this as well .
“Hey, let’s switch seats,” one of the more aggressive looking kids asked him to change seats with Daemyung . The boy took his bag and quietly moved up to the front without saying a thing .
“What a freaking coward,” he could hear behind him .
Right there, Daemyung felt his middle school nightmare reappear . No, he felt something even worse this time: the contemptuous gaze of the delinquent’s friends upon his back .
Why did he decide to come to an engineering school again? He should have just stuck to normal schools . Maybe he could have become friends with normal kids if he went there?
“Ugh, you bitch . Please? Just 500 won?”
“Fuck off . ”
People were swearing all around him . Just hearing those words made a chill run down his spine, especially since he never swore .
‘I have to spend three years like before again?’ he thought .
3 years of bullying in elementary school, 3 years of bullying in middle school . Did he have to live his life as a victim all the way through high school as well?
“You know any other places to grind? The skeleton compound no . 8 is garbage . Has too many people as well . ” one of the boys complained .
“I told you, there’s literally no better place . ”
He heard a few kids start talking about video games behind him . They were talking about a game he played . He also did know a better place to grind . If he opened his mouth now… could he make friends with them?
He didn’t end up talking to them . He was afraid of being treated coldly after approaching them . Plus, the kids looked like delinquents . They would surely ignore him if he tried to talk to them .
‘Yeah, maybe later . . . ’ he excused himself with a thought .
Daemyung knew very well that there would be no ‘later’ . But there was no way for him to overcome 6 years of bullying so quickly . It’s impossible, he found himself thinking . He could feel all the energy inside him stream out . Just like last time…
“Hey . ” he heard someone behind him . Someone calling out to his friend? In any case, it couldn’t be him .
“Ah, Daemyung, was it?”
Someone said his name? No one’s said his name since… Daemyung turned back in surprise . There was a pretty tall kid standing behind him . Han Maru, was it? He remembered because of the strange name .
‘This kid looks like a delinquent, too . . . ’ Daemyung couldn’t help but start worrying .
* * *
[This kid looks like a delinquent, too . . . ]
Yet another word bubble . Maru couldn’t help but laugh a bit in surprise when he saw the bubble . Just what about him made himself look like a delinquent?
“Park Daemyung, right?” he asked .
“Ah, yeah . ”
“You play World Crash?”
World Crash was the name of the game the other kids were talking about . And of course, Maru was familiar with this game as well . Why wouldn’t he be? Games were practically the only thing he did with his time instead of studying . He didn’t play this particular game much, though .
“Yeah, I do . ” Daemyung answered .
“What’s your level?”
“Me? 23 . ”
Oh boy . World Crash launched just 3 days ago . Level 23 already? Just how much did this guy play?
“Hey,” Maru called out to the three kids talking nearby . “You guys play World Crash too?”
“Oh, of course . We were just talking about that,” one of them answered .
“What’s your level?”
“15 . ”
“What about you guys?” Maru asked the two others .
“I’m 16 . ”
“14 here . ”
They all had lower levels than Daemyung . Alright, Maru’s set the boy up for a very nice play here . All Daemyung needed to do now was open his mouth .
* * *
Daemyung felt his entire body freeze up . The group of three was looking at him now .
‘Could it be . . . ’ He looked up to Maru, who motioned towards the three with his head . This guy… was he helping him? Why? There was no reason for this boy to help him .
‘Ah, he must be making fun of me . ’ Things instantly became clear for him . How depressing . They’d pretend to be his friends again before throwing him away . He’s experienced this several times in the past .
‘Of course it would be like that . ’ Daemyung glanced at Maru, who was still motioning him towards the group .
‘You… stop acting like a nice guy . ’
* * *
[You… stop acting like a nice guy . ]
Maru saw the word bubble as soon as his eyes met with the boy . So that’s what the dude was thinking now, with that depressed face of his . Maru didn’t feel any annoyance from the reaction, he just felt sorry . Just how much was Daemyung burnt in the past for him to respond to him in this manner?
The boy would surely live antisocially if left like this . Maru wouldn’t interfere if that’s what he wanted, but… if that wasn’t the case?
“Hey,” he called out .
“Are you doing this because you’re comfortable being alone?”
He leaned forward so that others wouldn’t be able to hear . Daemyung frowned angrily in response .
“A-are you making fun of me?” he said . He sounded clearly offended by the statement .
Maru turned to look behind him . The three kids were still looking at them .
“I didn’t barge in for nothing here, right?”
“I thought you wanted to talk with them? Sorry if I misunderstood . ”
“ . . . . . ”
“If you were just focusing on studying… Sorry about that . ”
Daemyung’s eyes were shaking a little . Maru already knew from the beginning that the boy just wanted to be friends with people .
“But… if not, why don’t you start talking with them for once?”
* * *
Daemyung looked away from Maru . Maru was right . He knew that Maru was talking because he just wanted to be nice, also that he was just lashing out because he decided to misunderstand the other boy’s intentions on purpose .
The group of boys next to him would lose interest soon if he just continued sitting there like that .
‘Is it fine if I talk to them? They won’t treat me weirdly again, would they? Is it really fine?’ all sorts of worries came up the more he thought . And he’s worked so hard to try to change himself .
‘Crap . ’ it was almost like he’s forgotten how to talk . He could feel an awkward air start to surround him . Oh gods, they’re going to make fun of him again…
“Are you trying to prepare for PT (personal training)? Why so worried? They’re all just kids . Just talk about video games . Stop thinking about how you’re going to act, just do it . ” it was Maru . He had no idea what PT meant, but he understood everything else .
Those words gave Daemyung courage .
“Skeleton compound no . 8 is good, but there are better places . ” he decided to continue off from where the conversation was before .
“Really?” the reaction was immediate .
“You play World Crash too?”
“What’s your level?”
Oh right, this was what conversations were like . There was no need to think . Daemyung instantly found himself becoming more comfortable .