Chapter 35: The Hidden Devil is an Excellent Teacher and the Mom takes the Queen of Spontaneity to the Child’s Fan Signing             
Changmin had no clue why he even bothered helping her. He suspected that in his previous life, he had committed too many sinful acts, so this was his way of compensating for his past actions, this being finding classmates to help Shiori plan for the class’ booth at the Spring Festival. He managed to convince two of his fans to come to the meetings and a keen, studious girl, who wanted bonus marks, to join.
The next meeting, Shiori had not expected to find anyone other than Changmin. She halted at the sight of three extra beings and Changmin. They were all sitting facing each other and even formed a rectangle with the desks. Changmin, who sensed her bewilderment, notified, “They’re your classmates, who’ll help you with the planning. I suppose you’ll need to introduce yourselves. Why don’t we start with you?”
“No,” the girl wearing thick, brown square glasses muttered, “other ladies can go first.”
“I suppose someone is too chicken to do anything, so I’ll just say her name. Ugh . . .” Changmin looked down at his attendance list. He had put a checkmark next to the three students’ names so he would know who was helping and who to give bonus marks. “Ms. Kwon Bora.”
Changmin’s fans giggled, while Shiori felt guilty. Changmin was only adding more pressure to her life. This project was becoming more and more of a burden. She understood that he was trying to help her, but it was unnecessary to find strangers and coerce them to assist her. Although Changmin noticed her dismay, he directed his attention to the other girls and asked, “And your names?”
“Aww, sensei,” the tall girl with dyed, curly blonde hair moaned. “You don’t even remember me? I’m Dong Ayaka! You know, the mixed girl from Korea.”
No, Changmin did not recall. He only remembered her wearing extremely short skirts and that was because the teachers were always complaining about her hair and her provocative attire. With her, even classy uniforms could become sleazy.
The other girl, a Japanese pop fanatic, was overtly exhilarated. “Hi, peeps! I’m Jang Tomoko and I’m here to capture all of Changmin-shi’s expressions,” she chirped. “I swear he can be a model or an idol or even . . . a god.”
“I decline your offer, thank you very much.” Changmin butted in. “I also prefer that you call me, sensei. I think your parents have taught you better than that.”
“Oh, Changmin,” Tomoko begged. “I love it when you’re mad. Perfect for modeling.”
So, clearly she’s deaf or she has selective hearing, Changmin thought. Hoping to ignore her absurdness, Changmin instructed, “So, why don’t we start to plan for the Spring Festival?”
“What about the winter one?” Ayaka chirped. “Why are we planning for the spring one before the winter festival?”
“W-what winter festival?” Changmin questioned. He had never remembered anything associated with a winter festival.
Tomoko cheerfully clarified, “It’s that day before winter break, where all of us don’t do anything. Teachers have a day off, and so most of them just go away.”
So, that was why their school always seemed to end earlier than the other ones, he mumbled in his head.
“And,” Ayaka added, “It’s when all of the guys from Takahashi High School join with us to make the Winter Festival! Oh, they also come in spring too, just for your information.”
“Well, the reason that I said to plan for the Spring festival was that the Winter Festival focuses on the arts and performances.” Shiori bit her lip, arguing, “And, no one in our class would want to sing or even act.”
“That is like so true,” Naomi agreed. “Our class is like dead fish. No, sashimi on a plate.”
Changmin was dying to add on that dead fish was essentially like sashimi, which would have highlighted her redundancy. However, he retained his silence. He didn’t want another student to cry about how insensitive he was. He also didn’t want to receive that extra lecture from the crinkly, female principal. That usually lasted for at least two hours.
Tomoko unexpectedly winked at him. “You know . . . I’ve been dying to hear Changmin’s singing voice. I bet it’s hot!” she chanted.
“No,” he refuted, “I will not sing. I can write lyrics for a song though.”
“But if you don’t sing, who will?” Tomoko pestered. “It’s not like any of us can sing!”
Shiori meekly announced, “W-well, maybe I-I-I could try. I did choir in elementary school.”
“Didn’t we all do choir?” Ayaka posed.
Then, there was stillness to their meeting. Silence meant that there was an obstacle, and there certainly was. All of them were thinking of possibilities to solve this problem in their minds until Tomoko stood up and proclaimed, “We could, we could get a celebrity to sing for us! Anyone have any connections to the entertainment world?”
The other girls shook their heads, while Changmin was debating if he should admit that he knew someone closely associated with the entertainment world. He, though, didn’t want girls to be begging him for a particular artist’s signature, phone number or address. Favours were meant to be unreturned, and if one deed was granted, another had to be. That was fairness. Wait, that was if he believed in fairness, which he didn’t, so, everything was going to be all right.
“Yeah,” he coolly replied. “I probably know someone that could help us out.”
That someone happened to be Jaejoong.
“Jaejoong, I can’t believe you were able to get us into Yumi’s fan greeting!” Kannei had repeated this phrase, or at least used several variations of this, over the past hour.
Yes, he couldn’t believe that he was here and that he had to kindly ask Yumi’s manager to let them in. He really shouldn’t have bothered with the begging. Then why did he? Seeing Kannei’s cheerful smile, he too couldn’t resist a grin. She was like Yoochun, whose expressions were too readily painted on his face. Easy to read, easy to know, easy to like.
Jaejoong pinched her cheek before saying, “Believe it, mochi.”
“Ow, do you really have to pinch me every now and then?” She shot him her infamous glare while rubbing her cheek with her sleeve.
Already ahead of her in the line, he turned around to arch his back forward while placing his arms on his hips. “Do you really want to know why?” he asked.
When she nodded, he extended his right hand and squeezed her cheek again. Then, he marched ahead, laughing his head off, whereas Kannei chased after him, yelling, “Hey! What was that for?”
“Pinches are how you’re going to pay me for helping you,” Jaejoong cackled.
“I never asked for your help,” she argued.
“Too bad,” he scoffed and opened a metallic door for her.
When Kannei realized that they were not following the crowd to line up, she asked, “Jaejoong, where are we going?”
Stepping on the second step of the stairs, he answered, “Backstage. Where else?”
“Backstage? H-how did you—“
“Shush,” Jaejoong instructed, “Just stay here and I’ll be back.”
He walked around the area, where everyone was running back and forth to prepare for the fan meeting. No one had even noticed a stranger’s appearance. Even as he opened Yumi’s dressing room after a knock, no one had stopped him.
“What are you doing here?” Yumi shrieked when she saw Jaejoong in the mirror. “Don’t scare me like that.”
Jaejoong pulled a photo of Yumi from the pocket of his leather jacket and then placed it on her table. “I’m here as a fan,” he noted with a gentle smile. “I told your manager already that I’d be here. My friend actually wants to—“
“No, but why do you ask?”
“Because . . . there’s a girl at the door.”
Now, his eyes shifted in that direction and he immediately lectured, “Kannei! Didn’t I tell you to wait?”
“Yes, but it seemed fishy,” Kannei muttered. “I-I-I didn’t know that you actually knew . . . her.”
It was obvious how nervous Kannei was. She was playing with her fingers, swaying her shoulders, and positioning her head low. Jaejoong couldn’t resist chuckling at this sight, yet he still pushed the reluctant Kannei towards Yumi, who was sporting one of the harshest glares.
“Yumi, this was the friend that I was talking about,” Jaejoong stated with his hand resting on Kannei’s back. “She’s called Kannei.”
Kannei’s hand trembled as she initiated a handshake. “N-nice to meet you,” she stammered.
Yumi’s eyes softened and she flashed a professional smile. “No, it’s my pleasure to meet you,” she uttered while shaking Kannei’s hand. “I was just about to sign this for Jaejoong, but I’ll put your name on instead. How do you spell it?”
“I can show you how to write it . . . if I had another sheet of paper,” Kannei murmured.
Jaejoong lifted the pen from Yumi’s grasp and said, “Here, write on my hand instead.”
“You sure? It’s permanent—“
He tugged at her face again before adding, “Silly, we’ve done this before.”
“Ah! You’re right.”
She grinned so widely that her eyes had closed and her dimples seemed stretched. This made Jaejoong’s lips curve upwards, whereas Yumi’s frown resurfaced and even deepened once Kannei held onto Jaejoong’s hand. Jaejoong instinctively noted how dry her skin was, and if it were before, he probably would have pulled away his own hand to prevent excessive friction from forming, yet this time, he grasped onto her hand more tensely. Dry and cold seemed pleasant for his soft and warm palm.
“Here you go!” Kannei said and pointed to the ink on his skin.
In a monotonous tone, Yumi murmured, “Interesting kanji. Foreigner?”
“Yes, my accent probably gives me away too.”
“No, your accent is fine. It was your . . . behavior that gave you away.”
Yumi parted her lips to form a warm grin, which Jaejoong knew was nothing, but malevolence. That was exactly what he disliked about most girls. Girls often liked to indirectly criticize others in a sentence. Jaejoong, on the other hand, would have preferred if they showed their hatred for something or someone in public.
If this is the game she wants to play, then I’ll join.
“Yumi, thank you for letting us use your precious time. Kannei was just too happy to meet you, so I don’t see anything wrong with that,” Jaejoong remarked once they were about to leave.  
Yumi called out, “I didn’t say it was wrong. You’re too sensitive, Jaejoong.”
“The same goes for you, Yumi.”
Jaejoong had clung onto Kannei’s hand the whole time and he had forgotten about it until she shouted, “Jaejoong! That wasn’t very nice of you!”
Jaejoong couldn’t believe his ears. He was doing her a favour and now he was the criminal? Absurd.
“So what?”
“I’m guessing that she’s your friend. After all, she let us in, so you shouldn’t have said that.”
“But, she was being rude to you.”
“I know,” Kannei explained, “but, that doesn’t mean that we should start a fight. It’s better to have friends than to have enemies . . . and Yumi probably has more power than you, so—“
“That you don’t have to worry about,” Jaejoong cackled. “She needs my help and she knows it.”
“Jaejoong . . . are you . . . part of the mafia or are you just really rich?” Kannei verified.
Now, with that question, Jaejoong took the whole afternoon to explain to her how he became a makeup artist. He told her how he first helped his sisters dress up for their dates. Then, he worked as a hair stylist’s assistant before the owner of the salon realized that his makeup skills could be used for clients. A famous actress had recognized his talents, and decided to recommend him to become her makeup artist’s apprentice. He had to study fashion and cosmetic magazines, search for the latest colours and products, and practice on various subjects.
“So, what did success feel like?” Kannei questioned.
“It was . . .”
He wanted to say wonderful, or any other positive words, yet he always remembered that painful encounter.
“It was?”
“Nothing,” he ended up admitting. “Success felt like nothing. In fact, I felt . . . emptier like I had lost a purpose to working.”
Kannei unexpectedly asked, “Were you even working for yourself?”
Staring at her dark pupils, he didn’t know how to answer that question. Did he even like his work? Why did he try so hard in the first place? Just for his selfish mother? Just to be acknowledged by her or at least given an explanation for her disappearance? To ease his heart, knowing that his mother had to love him . . . just as how all mothers were supposed to love their children?
Gently, he shook his head. “No,” he whispered.
“Then, why are you doing this job?” Kannei continued to ask. “For the money? For the respect or . . . ?”
“I don’t know,” he sighed, “Why do you want to work then?”
“Realistically, I want to work so I can live the lifestyle I want,” she answered, “but, I don’t have to do what I like. I just want to do what I’m good at. The problem is . . . finding what I’m actually good at doing.”
Jaejoong had never been asked these questions nor had he ever talked to the boys about his concerns. In fact, this was the first time someone had ever asked him such a seemingly mundane question. Whoever said simplicity was worthless was wrong. Sometimes, the simplest tasks were the hardest to decipher or analyze and sometimes, there needed to be someone else to help the other understand what was happening. This helper happened to be Kannei.
“Jaejoong,” Kannei sipped her smoothie before affirming, “I think you’re perfect as a makeup artist. You catch onto details easily. You’re patient when you want to be. You’re hardworking and creative, but most importantly, you like helping others. I bet that you’re the happiest when you see your art come to life.”
He just looked at her, utterly speechless. Thinking deeply, he walked through all of his memories and then realized that she was right. He always smiled after his job. He wanted people to be beautiful and they were happy being pretty. He could give them what they wanted and they came for what they sought from him.
In this case, however, he wouldn’t give Kannei exactly what she desired, and so he retorted, “You’re wrong about one thing. I’m the happiest when I see people without makeup. The ugly truth.”
“Well, I’m not wearing makeup right now, so . . . I guess—“
“I can teach you to disguise yourself in front of others, but I don’t mind seeing you this way. It’s rather refreshing,” Jaejoong concluded.
Yes, it was refreshing to be witnessing a blank slate even with its faults. He wouldn’t mind this time, being the person to paint on this slate. He would, for once, paint it to highlight her personality. Kannei would be Kannei . . . just enhanced by Jaejoong, himself.