Love for Love's Sake - Chapter 6
Following the unclear and ominous message, everything happened quickly.
This time, a translucent shadow extended from the bus ceiling. The ashen shade, like vines, descended and entangled the arms of the students passing by Cha Yeowoon.
A male student who was passing by chatting stopped as if someone had grabbed him. As he brushed off his arm and looked to his side, his eyebrows twitched. His initially displeased expression soon turned into an unpleasant smile.
“Oh, who’s this? Cha Yeowoon?”
The tone sounded almost like a street thug. Thug A, B, and C surrounded the area where Cha Yeowoon was seated.
Cha Yeowoon didn’t react. He didn’t move or make a sound as if he couldn’t hear them.
The bully at the front of Cha Yeowoon leaned in. The way he gripped Cha Yeowoon’s shoulder didn’t seem right.
Naturally, I decided to intervene. When I raised my voice from behind, the attention of the three thugs shifted to me.
“Hey? What is it, bastard?”
The guys who seemed ready to retaliate instantly shut their mouths.
“Why is it so noisy?”
I suppressed my voice as much as I could. When I stared intently, Thug A lowered his gaze.
It was like my time in high school…uncomfortable nostalgia resurfaced.
Although I didn’t go around beating children, maybe because of my intimidating appearance, I often ended up in altercations. At that time I also had a bad temper and hadn’t even considered the option of overlooking it.
“We were just talking a bit, what do you mean noisy…”
Thug A apparently thought he couldn’t back down and tried to say a few more words.
Instead of paying attention to Thug A’s nonsense, I read the name tag pinned to his chest.
Tak Jungyeong flinched.
That was it, and the bus suddenly became silent.
Why all this fuss? Rather, I was the one who felt flustered. I didn’t mean to tell innocent children to be quiet. I felt apologetic.
With everyone packed tightly like bean sprouts in the narrow space, the silence became suffocating.
Anyway, the inside of the bus remained eerily quiet until we arrived in front of the school. Fortunately, it wasn’t far away. The students quickly disembarked, and Cha Yeowoon and I somehow found ourselves among the last to get off.
I walked a bit apart from him. I thought it wouldn’t be a good idea to act like we were close after having caused a scene earlier.
Cha Yeowoon, who had been glancing around at the students getting off the bus, spotted me.
Our eyes met. He stood still in place. I thought maybe he was waiting for me to approach, but I didn’t.
He frowned when he saw me suddenly feigning ignorance. Confusion flickered in his eyes.
Then he bit his lip, turned, and walked away.
I watched his retreating figure and waited.
[ 1m to Love Supremacy Zone. ]
First guess. The ‘zone’ didn’t seem to be as large as I had thought. It was roughly within a radius of about 50 meters from Cha Yeowoon.
Second guess. Given that Cha Yeowoon currently held a negative perception of me at a favorability of negative 10, being near him might result in unfavorable outcomes.
Third guess. So, if Cha Yeowoon started to like me, would good things happen?
The third guess was something I would have to investigate.
* * *
First and foremost, as a new student, I should do what students were supposed to do.
I may not know how long I would be 19, but my philosophy had always been to do my best in the tasks at hand. Including not only the matter with Cha Yeowoon, I also needed to adapt to my new school life.
Perhaps I was early, but there weren’t many students in the classroom at this time. When I sat down next to my glasses buddy I had seen on the first day, his eyes widened inside the glasses frames.
“Who’s the top student in our class?”
Who was the top in this school? When it sounded like I was making a declaration of war, Glasses’ shoulders slumped in response.
Glasses answered timidly. He was the top student around here?
“Don’t those who are good at studying usually sit in the front?”
“Our seats were chosen by drawing lots.”
Despite the hesitation in his voice, a response came immediately. It seemed my seat selection might be excellent in that case.
“Really? Then can you teach me how to study?”
“Yes. You, Gyeonghun.”
Ahn Gyeonghun. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the name tag, which seemed like it was created by the author without sincerity.
“I’ll count on you.”
Of course, Ahn Gyeonghun wasn’t smiling.
* * *
My eyes twitched. However, I was more concerned about the math problem in front of me than the children who were glancing at us.
Nevertheless, I couldn’t completely ignore the fact that someone was staring right in front of me. When I raised my head after placing my mechanical pencil down on the desk, Ahn Gyeonghun quickly averted his gaze.
“I won’t bite. Stop staring and just talk. Aren’t we friends?”
Friends. Emphasizing the word, I pointed at Ahn Gyeonghun with the mechanical pencil. His cheeks subtly reddened.
“…You’re good at studying, so I was surprised.”
What could I say? The problem sheet in front of me was filled with circles. Ahn Gyeonghun seemed surprised after I had asked him to teach me but there was nothing to teach.
Of course. Even if I looked shabby now, I would be a graduate from what could be called a prestigious university in 10 years.
“Right? I was worried that my part-time job as an instructor a few years ago might have rusted.”
“No, well. Something like that.”
There was no law saying a loser would remain a loser forever. I was a living example of that.
After my grandmother passed away, I joined the army right after graduation, and after my discharge, I did all sorts of odd jobs to support myself. It was during my time in the army that I had started studying. I did manual labor during the day, washed dishes at night, and carried a book with me whenever I had free time.
Securing a scholarship, I managed to get into a decent university, and my situation improved because I was able to do private tutoring–which was a higher-paying job compared to physical labor.
In spite of all this, I was used to studying all night with the students taking the college entrance exams. Because of that, the mock test results according to the CSAT timetable had always been good.
“If it’s this much, do I need to teach you?”
“I thought no one would believe me if I said I studied alone.”
This time, I planned to improve my scores slowly to avoid suspicions. Anyway, now that my credibility had hit rock bottom, it was a good idea to have a studious and obedient friend by my side to ease this transition period. It was important to have someone around, after all.
Being 19 again, I wanted to find out what it was like to make friends in high school.
“I’m hungry after studying for so long.”
I stretched my arms, and my neck made a cracking sound. Ahn Gyeonghun flinched again. He wasn’t a bad guy, but he was startled easily.
“Let’s go eat lunch.”
As I stood up and gestured, Ahn Gyeonghun looked around nervously.
“Yeah. Do you usually eat with someone else? Then, let’s all eat together.”
“That’s not it…Can I really eat with you?”
Ahn Gyeonghun’s tone sounded strange. It didn’t seem like he was scared of eating with me; rather, it seemed like there were other concerns.
Was there a problem? Just as I was tilting my head, the bell rang, announcing lunchtime.
* * *
As I walked from the main building toward the dining hall, the students’ eyes followed us. Sideway glances as we walked past and sideway glances from behind. Eyes were fixed on us wherever we went. The goal of becoming a new person and living quietly seemed difficult.
“Do you happen to know more about Cha Yeowoon?”
For now, I decided to eat a hearty meal during lunchtime. Ahn Gyeonghun, who had been staring at the rice piled high on my plate, turned his attention back to me.
“Uh…I do know quite a bit.”
“Is Cha Yeowoon famous?”
Ahn Gyeonghun nodded his head. There was no hesitation in his action.
Well, if someone looked like Cha Yeowoon, they would probably be famous just for breathing. Even during my school days, the children would know the name of the good-looking students from the neighboring schools. Moreover, wasn’t Cha Yeowoon an athlete who was even featured in the newspapers? It would be strange if he wasn’t famous.
“Do the children bother Cha Yeowoon?”
Fame didn’t always come with positives. From my experience, being famous among immature children could be rather exhausting. Very much so.
Since it concerned the 2nd year students, Ahn Gyeonghun might not know. However, he immediately answered.
“The guys from track and field.”
“Why? Because Cha Yeowoon is the best?”
It made sense. Wasn’t it typical for the one who excelled overwhelmingly in academics to receive resentment from others, especially if they had a cold personality and a poor background? They were easy pickings.
“Friends should get along. Those children are really unbearable.”
I ate the last spoonful of rice while speaking.
It was important who you had around you.
If it wasn’t for the one person who took the initiative to bully Cha Yeowoon, he might have had a better time in school. He could have been more open with his friends instead of being defensive.
It was too easy for life to worsen at just the slightest malice.
“But it’s better not to get involved with them.”
Ahn Gyeonghun leaned toward me and whispered.
“Thank you for your concern.”
I genuinely smiled at Ahn Gyeonghun.
Following his warning, I didn’t intend to get involved.
I would just overlook it.
* * *
[ Favorability: -10 ]
Cha Yeowoon was irritated.
He wrinkled his brows, clicking his mechanical pencil. It didn’t seem to eject properly and appeared to have been jammed. Nothing was going right since morning.
When did it become so bothersome?
At the end of his thoughts, the image of the senior he had seen at the bus stop appeared. The lingering image of his senior turning away without approaching even when he had seen him.
Why all of a sudden?
Because of what had happened on the bus? That could be possible. Maybe his senior had realized that getting involved with him would be troublesome.
Wasn’t that only natural? A dry chuckle escaped his lips. It was always the case that getting involved with others would just lead to trouble.
Yeah, why did his senior even meddle from the start.
He pressed his fist against his forehead. The tip of the mechanical pencil pricked his eyebrow, but the slight pain somehow felt refreshing.