“You know, this feels a wee bit weird….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk looked down at the clothes draped over his body and formed an unreadable expression.
It just felt weird to wear a business suit like this when he was so used to wearing tracksuits almost all the time, and perhaps unsurprisingly, his body was reacting in a weird way, too. Every time he moved his shoulders, he’d get this sensation of something getting in his way and that left a sour taste in his mouth.
A little while ago back at home, he tried to resist, asking his family if it’s possible to wear something else, but he had to kneel in defeat at his mother’s back smashes as well as Yi Ye-Won’s constant nagging.
He thought that if he heard any more of her nagging, blood might start leaking out from his ears next.
“Besides all that, why the hell is that girlie beginning to resemble her mother more and more every day?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
He couldn’t quite remember if Ye-Won was prone to violence in the beginning, but now her hand would shoot up to slap people in the back at every opportunity she’d get.
It was supposedly ‘Like mother, like daughter’, but was there a need to resemble each other in that regard, too?
How would she even get married at this rate?
‘In the end, that’s the only way left, is that it?’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Here was Yi Ji-Hyuk, not even thinking about Choi Jeong-Hoon’s feelings as he drove a large stake with a tag saying marriage partner candidate into the poor man.
“Hmm….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
He took a look at his own reflection in a large mirror installed in the street, and shrugged his shoulders despite the lingering sensation of awkwardness.
“Well, it’s true that I do look better.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
The tracksuits get-up might have become quite a familiar sight to him, but that didn’t mean he was going to deny the fact that he now looked at least one percent better than his usual self.
“Although, it’s still too uncomfortable and all.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
He was still debating between his appearance and comfort even now.
Were there really no cool-looking clothes that also happened to be comfortable?
When his phone went off, he answered it without a moment’s hesitation.
“Hello?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
– “Uh, Ji-Hyuk-ah. It’s me, Chang-Hyuk. When will you get here?”
“I’m on my way now.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
– “…..Oh, really?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“What’s wrong?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
– “No, it’s like, you were late by over one hour so I was wondering if something had happened to you, that’s all. Like, if you had changed your mind and decided to not come.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“Nah. I’m almost there. Don’t you worry and wait a little while for me.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
– “O-okay.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk ended the call and stuck a cigarette between his mouth.
“Well, since they can’t wait to see me, how can I not grant their wish?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
While whistling loudly, he began walking to the venue.
“Is he coming?”
“Yeah.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
Choi Chang-Hyuk’s reply caused the complexions of the gathered men to go ever so slightly pale.
“….He doesn’t have a reason not to come, right?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“T-that’s true, but….”
This whole reunion thing was started by Yi Ji-Hyuk, so him not showing up would be even stranger. Everyone present knew this, but they couldn’t let go of that slender glimmer of hope until now.
“It’s supposed to be better to get punished first, so it would’ve been so much nicer if only he arrived on time.”
“You’re so right, man.”
Once their voices grew louder and they began to grunt noisily among themselves, ladies accompanying them began to mock the menfolk next.
“Hey, you lot. Do you really find Ji-Hyuk that scary?”
“Did she say something?”
“Let her be. What would women know of true terror?”
“It’s you guys who are weird. It’s not like Ji-Hyuk went around tormenting everyone, is it? He wasn’t like that. Besides all that, you are all adults now, so what’s up with all this fuss, acting all scared and shivering like wet dogs?”
Those words caused Choi Chang-Hyuk to burst into a cynical laughter.
“Hey, she said ‘adults’.”
“If he was someone who cared about stuff like that, then we wouldn’t have been worried.”
“What would women know, really?”
“….Just what did Ji-Hyuk do to you, anyway?”
Choi Chang-Hyuk quietly sighed before opening his mouth.
“You see, this guy named Yi Ji-Hyuk? Simply put, he’s like the non-aggressive monster existing within the school.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“Non aggressive monster, now that’s a good term.”
The woman asking the question, Choi Seon-Mi, tilted her head.
As far as she could remember, Yi Ji-Hyuk never did anything to get noticed back in school. No, he simply secluded himself in the corner at the back of the classroom and dozed off, then dozed off some more, before dozing off even more….
‘….Yeah, he was pretty noticeable.’ (Seon-Mi)
She thought that he was like that due to how he dozed off so naturally, but now that she thought about it some more, she couldn’t remember anything about him besides his sleeping figure.
“Even then, it’s not like he harmed you guys or anything, right?” (Seon-Mi)
“Harm?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
Choi Chang-Hyuk beckoned at someone and called him over.
“Hey, Gwon-Seok?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
A kid named Gwon-Seok raised his head.
“Just because he was born with the best back in the class, he had to endure one whole year sitting in front of Yi Ji-Hyuk with a straight back. Thanks to that, he now can’t bend his waist forward anymore.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“You think that’s all? Hey, Jong-Hyuk?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“….No, don’t do it, man.” (Jong-Hyuk)
“Jong-Hyuk over there had to scale the school walls several times in a day just to get Ji-Hyuk his cup ramens. And now? He’s a pro parkour athlete.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“I said, don’t.” (Jong-Hyuk)
Park Jong-Hyuk wiped away his tears.
“…You think they are the only victims? What about Ji-Hyuk’s designated homework specialist to his waterboy? Hell, he even forced someone to choose music for him!” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
Choi Seon-Mi tilted her head even more as if she just couldn’t understand it.
“You are all built pretty big, yet you did everything Ji-Hyuk asked of you? But why did you let him roll all over you? You could’ve just gotten angry once and that would be the end, right?” (Seon-Mi)
The men broke out into a chorus of loud laughter. Some even began to shed tears while pointing at Choi Seon-Mi.
“She really doesn’t know anything.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“Ng? About what?” (Seon-Mi)
“Do you know why our school didn’t have any bullies whatsoever?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“When we were freshmen, there was this time when the third years summoned some boys and told them to go collect money.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“Ng? Something like that happened?” (Seon-Mi)
“That’s right. But then, the bullies disappeared on the same day.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“You see, they made a mistake and chose Ji-Hyuk as their first victim.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
Park Jong-Hyuk slowly shook his head.
“They showed up during the lunch break. And when they saw a kid sleeping right at the back of the class, they probably figured he’d be an easy mark.” (Jong-Hyuk)
“What happened afterwards?” (Seon-Mi)
“They were supposed to take him to the school gym and rip some money off of him, but then, Ji-Hyuk said this while smiling, how much did they say you must collect?” (Jong-Hyuk)
“And then, the third years had to vomit out ten times that amount. He was living off of that for the next month or so, looking really pleased with himself.” (Jong-Hyuk)
Choi Seon-Mi scratched her cheek, still failing to understand anything.
“Even so, they are supposed to be bullies, so did they willingly give up their money?” (Seon-Mi)
Choi Chang-Hyeok decided to help her with understanding the situation.
“Well, if you wanna label that willingly, sure, go right ahead. They coughed up after being hospitalised, so…” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“It took about ten days of solid beating to get to that state, didn’t it?” (Jong-Hyuk)
“Right. Back then, the older brother of Min-Cheol, who was one of the third year seniors in question, was probably the last one to hold out, before getting carried away to the hospital after he got beaten up real bad.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“He, he got taken to the hospital for real? But no one sued Ji-Hyuk after that?” (Seon-Mi)
Choi Chang-Hyuk shook his head.
“How can anyone sue him when there were no external wounds?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“No external wounds? But how? You said he beat them up?” (Seon-Mi)
“One of the things Yi Ji-Hyuk was really good at was to inflict you with pain so bad that you’d start crying, feeling like you’re about to die, but then afterwards, there wouldn’t be any visible injuries left on you.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“….B-but, that’s not…” (Seon-Mi)
Choi Chang-Hyuk looked horrified just from imagining it and carried on.
“People who didn’t personally witness how badly those third years got beaten up would never know. That guy, he’d go around beating them up with no reason whatsoever. Like, during the breaks he’d start hunting them down because he didn’t feel happy, or after eating cafeteria lunch while complaining about food tasting like sh*t, or during the mornings because the weather happened to be cold, or because he was feeling sleepy.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“How can anyone beat people up with those reasons??” (Seon-Mi)
“That’s why he’s a lunatic.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“You girls, you’re only saying those things because you never witnessed Ji-Hyuk going to the third year classrooms to beat up those hyungs. Sure, no one in our class got physically hurt by Ji-Hyuk, but there’s a reason why everyone starts to freak out when you mention anything even remotely related to him. I mean, you’re busy worried that one mistake and you’d end up the same as those bullies, so if it was you, you think you can talk to that guy without wetting your pants??” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“But, why didn’t I know about it?” (Seon-Mi)
“Because, no one spoke of it, that’s why.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“Why not?” (Seon-Mi)
“….If it was you, you think you’ll be walking around announcing to everyone what Ji-Hyuk has done?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“No, I won’t.” (Seon-Mi)
“That’s right. And that’s why no one said anything.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
Choi Seon-Mi’s jaw dropped pretty low.
If this was all true, then that basically meant Yi Ji-Hyuk had been ruling over at least half the school completely unbeknownst to the girls.
“It wouldn’t have been as bad if he only tormented the seniors. Do you remember there used to be a guy named Baek Yong-Gi among our classmates?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“That’s obvious. That guy, he was walking on the corridor during a break one day and ended up brushing his shoulder with Ji-Hyuk. And you know what, he muttered out, ‘Watch where you’re going, punk’. Which sounds exceedingly normal and also in some ways, pretty ballsy thing to say, right?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“After that, he really, really spent the rest of his days very cautiously. No, seriously, he became very cautious about everything in life afterwards. But then again, even I’d have become overly cautious if I ended up in that state just because we happened to bump shoulders on the corridor.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
Choi Seon-Mi was curious about what ‘that state’ actually entailed, but she couldn’t bring herself to ask.
“You girls, I’m telling you, you really had it easy during your school life. Us guys couldn’t even breathe.”
“Hey, you all remember that geezer, Man-Shik? He was the dean of students but he suddenly got transferred to another school, remember? The story goes, he got on Yi Ji-Hyuk’s nerves and ended up getting all his private affairs exposed to the public and his life was threatened or something.”
“No way. He was a high school student back then….” (Seon-Mi)
“Even as a middle schooler, he was famous for beating up high school students and college kids. So as a high schooler, sure, he could’ve taken on a teacher, no problem.”
“….I just can’t wrap my head around this. Like, not at all.” (Seon-Mi)
“Okay, fine! To put it simply…!” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
Flames were lit up in Choi Chang-Hyuk’s eyes as he continued on.
“Unlike how you girls saw him, Yi Ji-Hyuk is like a walking, talking time bomb ready to go off from our perspective! If you make a mistake and get tangled up with him, he’s gonna rake you over the coals for one week straight, and if you get angry and decide to fight back, then he’s gonna beat you up for one whole week! He’s that kind of a man!” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
Park Jong-Hyuk hurriedly followed that up.
“The only plus point was that he didn’t take our money, that’s all. But that didn’t mean he didn’t rip off other people, though. No, no, no. He’d somehow cotton onto where those hot spots favoured by the local hoodlums were, those spots where they mug people and stuff, and deliberately go there to beat them up and take their money, instead.” (Jong-Hyuk)
“If he acted like a real bully, then yeah, we might have reported him or something, but he never did anything truly illegal, know what I mean?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“Mm, well. In that case, if you didn’t provoke him, everything would be fine, right?” (Seon-Mi)
Park Jong-Hyuk smirked derisively.
“You think you can live off only on water?” (Jong-Hyuk)
“Do you know how difficult it is for a person to walk on a straight and narrow path? You see, Yi Ji-Hyuk is a kind of person that…. when a biker gang drives past his house, he’d complain about the noises they made, get on his bicycle and chase after them to their meeting spot, and then proceed to wreck all of their bikes.” (Jong-Hyuk)
“T-they wouldn’t let him off, would they??” (Seon-Mi)
“They wouldn’t dare.” (Jong-Hyuk)
“If only he could be reasoned with, none of us would be like this. No, the problem is, logic and common sense just don’t apply to him, that’s what. Trying to stay out of his path and not get on his nerves is far easier said than done.” (Jong-Hyuk)
Choi Seon-Mi could only nod her head. She still couldn’t understand everything being said here, but at least she did get that the boys had a really hard time because of Yi Ji-Hyuk.
“….We simply didn’t mention anything to you girls because we thought this is not something to be shared.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
Choi Chang-Hyeok groaned heavily.
“After graduation, I figured we’d never run into each other again, but to think, I was unlucky enough to run into him.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“Well, in that case, you can just not see him again, right? You can just stop with this class reunion stuff, right?” (Seon-Mi)
“….You do that, then what will you do if you run into him in the middle of a street later? Do you have any idea how small minded he is? Until you emigrate out of South Korea, you can never relax. If that’s the case, then it’s just better to face the tide head on.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
….Is everything I’m hearing right now happening in reality? (Seon-Mi’s inner monologue)
Choi Seon-Mi ended up chuckling to herself.
“I don’t get it. Ji-Hyuk was always pretty popular with girls back then. I mean, he’s not that bad of a looker, right? No, you could even say he’s pretty good looking….” (Seon-Mi)
“You’re all crazy.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
Choi Chang-Hyuk could only shake his head.
If only these girls had tasted the agony of getting tangled up with Yi Ji-Hyuk, such thoughts would go flying right out the window. What an unfortunate thing this was, not being able to show what Yi Ji-Hyuk was like during his student days to these girls here.
“Okay, so what’s he doing these days?” (Seon-Mi)
“I hear he’s working as an ability user.”
“Wow, in that case, he must be making pretty good money, then. I hear that most ability users make more than specialist professions.” (Seon-Mi)
“He’s already tasted success in life even though he’s still so young.”
Choi Chang-Hyuk’s expression crumpled unsightly.
“Hey, you lot. His job requires him to put his life on the line, so how can you say he’s successful when no one can even tell when he’ll die? It’ll be over if he dies, you know?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“H-hey, aren’t you being a bit too much?” (Seon-Mi)
“Too much of what? Every ability user, let’s be honest, they have to risk their lives all the time.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
The atmosphere cooled down a little just then.
< 362. I better stop being jittery -2 > Fin.