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Maru’s ears itched for some reason . Was someone insulting him behind his back? He stood up from the bed with a stretch . The view outside the window was like a canvas, everything was so white the grey road that the shovelling truck swept was looking alien .
“Laziness is good . ”
Looking back, he’s tried hard enough already . He was way too busy for a normal high schooler, maybe this was god’s way of giving him a break . He might as well take full advantage of it . He reached out to pick up a banana, eating a tropical fruit in the middle of winter . . . What an odd situation . He picked up his book as he ate . Just about everyone who would come to visit him already left . He told his family to not worry about him, so he should be free all day . After turning a few pages, Maru looked up from his book .
‘I wonder if she’s doing well . ’
1pm . About the time where everyone was together, Miso might’ve already started talking . Right now, she had to play the bad cop . After all, people hated being the target of suspicion . Having to take on this role was no easy burden for her . It would’ve been better for Taesik to have taken this role, actually . He was the advisor of the club and Miso was technically an outsider .
Emotionally speaking, Miso was a lot closer to the club . In terms of asking such questions, Miso was definitely the person for the job . Plus, she cared about the club more than anyone else . She probably felt personally responsible for what happened, but that didn’t change the fact that Maru was sorry for making her do this .
“ . . . Ah, is she actually insulting me behind my back?”
That would explain the bad dreams he had last night, he could just see Miso gritting her teeth in his head . But so what? That was her job as an adult .
“ . . . Being a kid is the best . ”
Maru took a bite out of his apple .
* * *
Daemyung first wondered why the second years all came back with a frown . Just what did instructor Miso ask them? He only realized now why the second years all looked so annoyed and slightly offended a few minutes ago .
“I’m suspicious of Maru . ”
He legitimately couldn’t understand what Miso said . Did he hear her wrong? No, judging by her expression, he clearly didn’t .
“What do you . . . ”
“Maru was the one who was on the 5th floor when the fire started . You know what the implications are . ”
“Instructor . ”
“Be honest with me . Aren’t you suspicious?”
Daemyung liked instructor Miso, she was always very passionate and he respected that . He always enjoyed her difficult and strict practice sessions because he could feel her passion . He’s never seen her badly once in her life . But right now… he despised her for the words that came out of her mouth .
“Are you being serious?”
He’s never gone against an adult, he’s never refuted what an adult told him . He used to always think adults were always right . But what’s this? Did instructor Miso really suspect Maru? He was confused . Here he thought she would always support him .
“Yeah . It just makes sense . You guys were on the first floor and Maru was on the fifth floor . A fire started . What does that make you think?”
Miso crossed her arms . Did she really think that? She was truly worried about Maru just yesterday, she even said that it was a relief that Maru didn’t get really badly hurt . She was also truly mad at Maru, mad at him for being reckless .
Could a person like that change her behavior just like that? Was she really speaking the truth? She usually didn’t talk like this either . She wasn’t the type to call in people one by one to interrogate them, she was the type that spoke her thoughts and asked the same of others . If she was really suspicious, she would’ve asked Maru on the spot yesterday at the hospital . If he said no, she would’ve just dropped it .
A person like that… calling people one by one to talk in secret? That wasn’t the way she worked . Instructor Miso hated doing tasks that took a lot of work . This type of strategy, this roundabout way of reaching their goal rather than running straight for it… The one who usually worked like this was…
“Um, instructor . ”
“Can I make a call?”
“Maru . ”
“I won’t tell him what you told me . I just want to ask him something . Is that fine?”
“S-sure . ”
Daemyung walked to the corner of the room before calling Maru, who picked up the call with a dazed voice .
“Hey Maru . ”
“Can you be honest with me?”
- If you’re asking me that with no context at all, I’m going to have to tell you no .
“I hope you can still be honest . ”
- What’s this about?
“You asked instructor Miso to do something regarding the fire, didn’t you?”
He didn’t get a response back for a while . Did he get the wrong impression?
- Man, I keep noticing this, but… You’re really sharp .
“Does that mean . . . ”
- You got it . I think you know why as well .
“Y-yeah, a little . ”
Maru must’ve wanted to believe that it wasn’t a club member who started a fire as well, but he needed to prove that was the case first . Daemyung understood that feeling all too well . In fact, he completely agreed with finding evidence instead of just blind faith . Assumptions made about him were how he was hurt by others until middle school, after all . He’s fat and slow, so it’s okay to bully him . It’s okay to bully him because he’s ugly . Daemyung grew to hate assumptions because of it .
“There can’t be anyone in the club who did it though, right? That doesn’t make sense at all . ”
He thought he’d get a response quickly, but Maru stayed silent for a surprisingly long time . That could only mean one thing .
“Wait, do you actually . . . ”
- Please play along with my game for now . I do have a proper plan in mind .
“Do you actually think one of us did it?”
- I’m just being open to all possibilities . I don’t want to be blindsided .
Maru sounded almost pained when he said that . Did he go through something in the past?
“Alright, fine . I’ll keep quiet for now . ”
- Thanks .
“But tell me next time . I don’t know if I can help but… I really don’t want to get tricked by a friend . ”
- Yup, got it .
Daemyung hung up and started thinking . Did Maru already have a suspect? Or was he really just being open to all possibilities? How was he planning on finding the perpetrator anyway? He only had questions . Then again, he was never able to figure out Maru’s plans until the boy was completely finished . That was the case with what happened before their summer vacation and that was the case with the school violence incidents as well .
‘I just hope he doesn’t use himself as a target . ’
Maybe Maru didn’t even care about becoming a target of hatred . Daemyung started thinking . Creating a situation where you become a target of suspicion and using that? He wouldn’t even think about doing such a thing, personally . But Maru did, he differentiated between what and what not to protect . Then, it seemed that Maru classified himself as something he didn’t have to protect, he would protect those around him rather than himself . That behavior has lessened recently, but it definitely hasn’t disappeared . In fact, he still looked like he was working very hard for someone . Though Daemyung wouldn’t know who that someone was until Maru talked about it .
“Looks like you heard everything from him . ”
“ . . . Yes . ”
“Please play along for the time being . We might as well finish this now that we started . ”
“Do you think the perpetrator is in the club, like Maru?”
“No, I don’t . ”
Miso seemed confident .
“Now . Bring me the next person . Two left now?”
“Yes . ”
“That Maru’s definitely working me to the bone . I’m going to tease him a ton when I go visit him . ”
“He’s still a patient, so please be gentle . . . ”
Daemyung smiled awkwardly . Just before he walked out, he turned around to ask a question .
“No one’s been suspicious yet, right?”
“Of course . ”
“That’s good . ”
Daemyung gave a glance at Geunseok as he stepped back into the auditorium . Geunseok got up to go to speak with Miso next .
* * *
“Yes . What do you think?”
Geunseok closed his mouth . Maru? A fire?
‘Well, it’d be good to hear, honestly . ’
He really didn’t like Maru, the boy was annoying from start to finish . It’d be great if someone like that was the perpetrator, but he had to shake his head in disagreement here .
“He’s a bit annoying, but I don’t think he did it . ”
“Yes . ”
“Alright . Anyone else you’d be suspicious of?”
“I don’t really know . But I hope you know that I didn’t do this . You should know that I’m working very hard for the club . ”
Miso nodded, gesturing for him to get up .
“Yurim’s the last one, right?”
“Yes . ”
“Bring her over . ”
Geunseok came back to the auditorium, none of the club members were talking . Then again, they were all pretty shocked by Miso . There was no reason for any casual conversation to be taking place . He called out to Yurim, the girl flinched like someone who just got woken up .
“Why are you so surprised? You’re next . Go . ”
“ . . . Okay . ”
Yurim barely managed to stand up, she shook off Soyeon when the girl tried to help her . Did they fight? Yurim walked out of the auditorium with a dark look .
* * *
Yurim felt even more nervous than the first time she got on stage . What was instructor Miso planning inside? No one told her what had happened . But, given their expressions, it couldn’t have been anything good . She opened the door, instructor Miso was sitting down with her arms crossed . There was a chair in front of the instructor, so Yurim took a seat before anything else .
“I’ll make this quick . Just listen to my opinion and tell me what you think . ”
“Yes . ”
“I’m suspicious of Maru . ”
The hair on her arms stood up . What did Miso mean by that? She looked at the instructor with trembling eyes . Why was the instructor suspicious of him?
This was a chance .
She was sick of feeling so nervous, she wanted to be done with this . It felt like she would go insane if this dragged on for any longer . Miso was suspicious of Maru, agreeing with that outright would make her look suspicious . Maybe she could imply her agreement a little bit instead?
There was no proof that she did it anyway . Right . If she says it might be Maru here… the nervousness inside her disappeared . This was a chance . A chance granted to her by the heavens .
“What do you think?”
“Um… I . . . ”
She felt conflicted, but her feelings quickly got swept over by the desire to feel comfortable again .
“Maru’s suspicious for sure . I’m not saying he did it of course . It’s just… anyway, there wasn’t a fire until we came down, but the fire appeared when he went up . ”
“Right? I thought so too . ”
Miso immediately put a small smile on her face, the woman was clearly a bit happy to hear this . Maybe this would go over more easily than Yurim first thought?
“Do you think the same way as me, instructor?”
“Mm, yes . Pretty much . ”
“Maru hated acting at first . He just joined out of the blue . Plus, remember when he said those mean things to all of us? He might actually be a bully inside . ”
Yurim closed her mouth in surprise . Maybe she went a bit too far here? Thankfully, instructor Miso was still smiling kindly .
“I heard your opinion well . You can go now . Do keep this to yourself though . ”
“Of course . ”
That’s good, instructor Miso was suspicious of Maru . Yurim really might’ve let out a smile if she wasn’t still in front of the woman . Instructor Miso stepped back into the auditorium after a brief wait .
“Good work, guys . You can all go home now . See you in two days . ”
Everyone got up with dissatisfied expressions . They all left the auditorium one by one with their bags . Yurim approached Geunseok, but the boy left telling her that he was busy .
‘Can’t be helped . ’
If she pushed the boy further, he’d hate her . She ignored Soyeon calling out to her and walked to the bus station . She really wanted to sleep, it felt like she could finally get some good sleep for the first time in a while . Right then, she got a call .
- Yurim, where are you?
“I’m at the bus station . ”
- Can you wait? I want you to go somewhere with me .
Instructor Miso’s car rolled right up to her .
“Get on . ”
Yurim got on and the car took off immediately .
“Instructor . ”
“Where are we going?”
“Hospital . ”
The hospital? Were they planning on punishing Maru? Good . She was starting to look forward to getting there now .