Chapter 27: The Hidden Devil Helps the Nerdy Girl and the Free Spirit Goes to the Park
It was a teacher’s duty to rescue a student in trouble, yet Changmin always acted like nothing was strange at school. Although he knew, no, all of the teachers knew that bullying existed, none of them ever revolted the bullies. Who could tell who was telling the truth, especially with girls? Victims could be bullies and bullies could be victims. It was better to leave everything for nature to decide. Essentially, it was the survival of the fittest.
Changmin had just finished his lunch with Ken when he witnessed three girls cornering Shiori. He didn’t know, but he had already rushed to the scene, demanding, “What are you girls doing?”
The girls instantly scurried away, petrified by his presence.
“T-t-thank you,” Shiori stammered.
He stared at her, wondering why she seemed so weedy. He was sure that she had some courage. She had the courage to confront him and to guard his secret. “Shiori,” he stated, “you’ve got to stand up for yourself.”
She simply grinned while scoffing, “What difference does it make? Will it go away, sensei, if I told them to stop?”
“You could give them a beating,” he joked. “I won’t tell a soul and I won’t punish you for hitting them.”
Shiori shrugged her shoulders and scowled,“You joke too much, sensei. Maybe if—“
She suddenly ended her sentence when she saw what was hanging from Changmin’s hand, a red polka dotted lunch bag. “What’s wrong?” he unexpectedly asked in a warmer tone. Her eyebrows furrowed as she pointed at his bag. “This? This was my lunch,” he explained.
“Wh-where did you get it?” she squeaked.
Changmin replied, “Ken. Why?”
When Changmin said that name, she felt her heart shrivel. His answer was the end of it all. Even after all she had done, it was still contemptible. It was then she wished that she had never met him and that they had never become family. She also wished that she had not tried to be the perfect sister. That proved to be deadly for her.
“Give it back,” she urgently begged, grasping the edge of the fabric.
“Why?” he regurgitated.
Almost choking up, she mumbled again, “Just g-give it back.”
Changmin, however, answered,“If you tell me why, then I’ll give it back.”
“Because,” she slowly murmured, “because once you give it back, I can give up.”
“Give up what?”
Before she could respond, someone else was walking towards them. It was Ken.
“Yeah, Changmin!” Ken foolishly laughed. “You forgot to give me back the—“ He couldn’t say anything more when he saw her, Shiori dazing at him with watery eyes. “Shiori . . .” he called out.
Changmin, completely confounded by this situation, could only watch. There wasn’t much to say. Shiori too thought there was nothing to say. She only snatched the bag from Changmin’s loose hand and walked away.
“What’s going on?” Changmin glared at Ken. “What’s going on between you two?”
Ken just sighed, “It’s complicated and it’s none of your business.”
For some reason, Changmin felt a sense of responsibility, so he followed her. Was it out of duty that had propelled him to chase after her? He didn’t know, but he knew that he had to find an answer. He always needed to solve a problem.
Inspiration was easy to acquire and easy to miss. For Yoochun, his inspiration, these days, came from simple images, images that he observed of other people. He was unable to become musically aroused by his own life for it stalled his own creativity. His dismal life where nothing happened. Nothing striking. Nothing amusing. Just melancholy.
He, thus, created a spectacular plan. He would become inspired by others. It seemed too simplistic, but for him, it was sublime. At least, he didn’t have to revisit his irksome memories. So, he developed several excursions. He had visited many places, such as the museum, a local university, the shopping mall, for his people watching, yet none of the people he saw caused him to have, what he called an eureka moment. This was when his pen would launch to its greatest speed and he would write away.
This time, he needed to be at the right location. He had spent practically the whole morning searching on Google for places that he should visit. In the end, he looked out the window and saw a patch of green. That created a spark, which led him to drive to a park nearby. Once Yoochun arrived at the park and parked his car, he found the perfect spot for his task. It was a wooden bench in front of a children’s playground. There was no one else occupying that bench that afternoon, which made him feel fortunate to be alone. He could watch the children frisk in the sand as they played tag or he could see the interaction between a parent and a child. Those were innocent gestures, ones that evoked happiness, a feeling that he had missed.
Happiness was ephemeral for a little boy tapped Yoochun’s knee, which prompted Yoochun to frown. He was never particularly fond of children. Children tended to scream and he could not tolerate obstreperous children. Fortunately, the boy was polite enough to ask in a calm voice, “Mister, is there someone that you’re looking for?”
“No,” he glanced downwards to speak to the boy.
The boy appeared to be about four years old. He was tall though for his age and had large, hazel eyes, which reminded him of her. The boy also had a pale complexion, matching his scrawny arms and skinny legs. Hence, he was not adorable; instead, he looked a bit ghastly, grisly but kind, which was probably due to his button nose.
“But you keep looking over there.” The little boy pointed his finger at the playground full of kids.
Yoochun decided to tease, “Didn’t your mother teach you never to speak to strangers?”
The little boy sulked by pouting his lips and nodding. “Yes, but I thought you needed my help,” he muttered.
Even a child could identify his loneliness, and so he laughed. He laughed at how the people around him, the ones who were adults, could not even sense his true sentiments. “Sure, I need your help,” he suddenly suggested. “Why don’t we ask your mom if you can help me?”
“Okay!” the child boldly grinned and sprinted across the playground. On his way though, he tripped and fell on the pavement.
Yoochun rushed to the boy’s side and immediately asked, “Are you okay?”
The boy gleefully nodded. “A scratch won’t hurt me!”
Then, he dashed off again. Seeing such a cheery child, Yoochun couldn’t stop himself from grinning. This kid, he thought, could be okay. Then, he corrected his thought. This kid was a good one.
Yoochun’s grin, however, disintegrated into a frown when he recognized who the child brought along. How could this be? How could it be her? Then, he remembered what Rhett had said a long time ago.
Yoochun couldn’t believe that the five of them were at Tokyo Disney Land. Of all the places, Rhett had wanted to celebrate their high school graduation by hanging out at the world’s happiest place. Why had Rhett gotten to pick the place? He had won a game of rock, paper, and scissors. Rhett, who usually lost at games of chance, had won this time.
Great, Yoochun muttered in his head. Just great. Hanging out with four other guys . . . at a kid’s amusement park.
Yoochun leaned against a metal railing and sighed. “Yeah, Yoochun,” Rhett tapped Yoochun’s shoulder and asked, “what’s wrong? I thought you liked amusement parks.”
Handing Rhett a glare, Yoochun grumbled, “Not this one. Disney is for kids. We’re not kids anymore.”
“I wish we could be though,” Rhett sighed this time. “To tell you the truth, I never really got to enjoy my childhood. It’s my first time here.”
Yoochun’s eyes widened. “You’re kidding!”
Rhett shook his head and lightly chuckled. “I’m serious,” he replied. “I never even got to go on that ride until today.”
“You mean . . . it’s a small world?”Yoochun confirmed while pointing to the entrance ahead.
Rhett let out a warm grin, along with a nod. “I think that . . . might be one of my favourite rides,” he confessed.
“How come?”
Rhett cleared his throat, and pressed his back against the railing. Looking up to the sky, he noted, “Because . . . it reminds me of how close people can be, how . . . even just meeting someone can be special, kind of like fate.”
“Man, Rhett, you’ve been watching too many dramas and reading too much shoujo manga,” Changmin chirped from behind.
“No! I don’t!” Rhett barked back.
Changmin snickered, “R-r-right. I totally know that you’re a fan of Boys Over Flowers . . .”
Yoochun was left watching his two friends bicker, but he remembered thinking of how . . . the five of them meeting each other was something like a miracle.
Then, meeting her here was . . . meant to be. It was truly a small world after all.