The school year was slowly wrapping up.
It was a week before graduation. There was no homework or projects. Students’ backpacks were empty of papers. Some of them didn’t even bother to bring them at all. Others vowed not to come back to school until graduation, which earned them another round of detention.
Kris and Jungah were walking back from school. They were headed to Kris’s house with a tub of ice cream. Their hands were intertwined and gently swinging back and forth between their legs.
Kris held up the bag with the tub of rocky road in it. “It’s melting. You should eat it now.”
“We don’t have a spoon right now.” Jungah pointed out.
“You should still eat it.” He teased. “What am I? A dog?” She snorted.
Kris jokingly swung the ice cream towards her. Jungah lightly punched it like it was punching bag. “Get that away from me.” Kris laughed loudly. Jungah couldn’t help but smile along. She shook her head with an expanding smile. He mumbled cute, sweet things to her and kissed her forehead.
Jungah blushed and whacked his arm, “Don’t do that in public.”
“But I can do that in private?” Kris questioned.
“Shut up!” She hissed and kicked the brick wall. He laughed at her flustered reaction.
*Ke-ai.* Kris thought. Smiling, he faced forward. Abruptly, he stopped short. Jungah halted also. She looked up at him. His expression was pale, and he wasn’t smiling anymore.
*What is he staring at?* Jungah turned her head. She saw five males standing several feet away. They were wearing casual outfits, but something about them seemed daunting and out of place. Their eyes were intense and disarming, and they were staring straight at Kris.
Kris wouldn’t look away either. *What are they doing here?* He wondered what the rest of Exo-M was doing in South Korea.
“Kris.” Jungah shook him out of his daze. Instantly, the five gazes turned to her.
“Do you know them?” She whispered in alarm. She didn’t like the way they were juding her. Their eyes seem to penetrate into her personal space, and she didn’t feel comfortable around them.
Kris turned to Jungah with a soft expression. He held out the bag of ice cream, “Can you go to your house first and eat this?”
“By myself?” Jungah asked in disbelief. She glanced at the males then looked at Kris. She lowered her voice, “Will you be okay?” He gave her a small, pallid smile with a reassuring nod. “They’re friends from China.”
“Oh.” Uncertainly, Jungah took the bag. Kris touched her cheek.
One of the males raised an eyebrow and met eyes with the taller one.
“Go home. I’ll call you.” Kris whispered. Jungah nodded. She glanced at the foreign boys one more time then walked away.
“Kris-“ Luhan began.
He held out a hand with a steady gaze on Jungah. *Not until she’s completely gone.*
Jungah started to turn the corner. She paused and turned back around. Kris gave her an encouraging nod. Jungah finally vanished.
Kris turned back to his friends. After an indefinite pause, Lay spoke in rapid Chinese, “What the hell are you doing?”
“Come up first.” Kris led them towards his place.
Xiumin and Luhan glanced at each other. Xiumin shrugged, stuck his hands in his pockets, and followed Kris. The others followed along without a choice.
Kris keyed in his password, which he had recently changed to Jungah’s birthday that was also the same day they had begun to go out. The door clicked open, and he strode inside with Exo-M on his tail. Tao shut the door. Kris tossed his empty backpack on the couch and tugged his tie lose.
“Wow, look at you, duizhang. You suit the high school uniform pretty well. You could’ve fooled me as a high school student.” Xiumin amiably grinned. He walked up to his leader and touched his tie, “I have something like this, I think. You think I can pass for a high school student, too?”
“Enough with the stupid tie!” Lay snarled. His eyes pinned Kris. “Who the hell was that girl?”
“Language, Yixing.” Kris calmly reminded.
Lay stared at him, “So it is true. You have a girlfriend?”
“Duizhang is in love?” Tao blinked.
“How did you know?” Kris narrowed his eyes.
“Liang knows.” Chen whispered. “Liang?!” Kris’s mouth fell open.
“Cheng told him.” Luhan revealed. Kris balled his hands into tight, tense fists. *Damn him.*
“Liang isn’t happy, Kris.” Lay said. “Now he knows why you bailed out on all those meetings and avoided his phonecalls.” Kris gritted his teeth with a grim expression.“Frankly, I’m disappointed, too. All this just for a girl?” Lay shook his head. He couldn’t understand love, having never experienced it once himself. “Don’t forget what your priorities are, Kris. You’re our leader. Don’t let us down.”
Kris looked at him with unreadable eyes. He wasn’t angry, but he wasn’t happy with the way his best friend was acting either.
Xiumin broke the apprehension, as always, “Chill, Lay. If duizhang wants to love, let him love. Who says leaders can’t love?” Lay shot him a death glare. Xiumin innocently shrugged, “Anyone deserves to love, Lay. Even gangsters.”
“Coming from the guy with one too many one-night stands.” Chen snorted.
Tao snickered. Luhan laughed loudly. Lay shook his head, and even Kris managed to smile a bit.
The tension was broken.
“Do you have anything to drink? I’m thirsty.” Xiumin said. “Help yourself.” Kris nodded to his kitchen.
Xiumin left and came back with six beer cans. He tossed them in separate directions, and opened one for himself. Xiumin sprawled on the black couch and took a sip of the cold beer. “Alcohol is good anywhere.” He looked around the condo then out the window to the landscape of Seoul. “Man, I don’t even remember being in Korea, although I’m a full-blooded Korean myself. What about you Chen?”
Chen quietly looked away. He didn’t like to think about his hometown. It brought back bad memories of being abused, hunted after, and sold like an animal.
“I wonder why Liang didn’t just send me here himself. I’m Korean. I’m one of his loyal goons. I can kill a man in a split second.” Xiumin shrugged and sipped his beer.
“Probably because you would spend all the money on girls and drinks.” Luhan chuckled with a wink.
“Probably.” Xiumin agreed. Luhan looked up at Kris who was absentmindedly staring out the window. He had placed his beer on the table and was stroking his silver ring with a look of softness. “You know,” Luhan whispered, “I’ve never seen Kris look so…gentle before.” “Didn’t you hear? He’s in love.” Xiumin chuckled.
“Who is your girlfriend, gege?” Tao asked.
“If he tells you her name, will you know? Idiot.” Xiumin snickered.
“It doesn’t hurt to know though.” Tao shrugged.
“…Jungah. Her name is Han Jungah.” Kris answered.
“Jungah. Cute.” Xiumin chugged the remainder of his beer and crushed the can. He set the empty can on the table and blinked up at Kris, “If I dress like you and enroll in your high school, do you think I can find a pretty high school girl for myself, too?”
“You’ll scare them away with you Baozi face.” Luhan stated.
“Yah!” Xiumin went on a rampage of curses. He never liked that nickname that Luhan had bestowed him with.
“Does she know?” Lay asked, out of the blue. Kris leveled his gaze.
“Does she know who you really are? A twenty-one year old drug dealer? A gang member? Our leader?”
Kris averted his gaze towards the floor.
“Hey, he doesn’t have a reason to.” Xiumin defended.
“Yeah, he does. It’s called honesty. Girls like honesty. You should know by now, Xiumin.” Luhan shook his head.
“Hey, I know girls like the back of my hand, and they don’t like honesty at all. Remember the girl I met in Taiwan? I was honest with her. I told her the truth. That she has a pug nose, and if she fixes it, she would look better. Guess what she did? She slapped me in the face and took a cab home without letting me explain.” Xiumin shook his head and looked up at Kris, “You did the right thing, duizhang. Don’t tell her anything just yet. Once she finds out you’re a drug dealer, she’ll break up with you. That happy aura around you right now will disappear just like that.” He snapped his fingers. Kris swallowed hard. *I don’t feel like I did the right thing. The more I keep things from her, the more she’ll hate me. She’ll be in even more danger then.*
“Xiumin!” Luhan shot him a look to shut up.
“I’m being straightforward because that’s what friends do.” He shrugged.
Luahn shook his head and rolled his eyes. Sometimes, his best friend could be dense, and that’s what piqued Luhan the most. He was a patient guy, but when Xiumin gave off the worst advice like this, he wanted to slap the baozi’s dim head.
Kris straightened up, “When are you all leaving back to China?”
“Don’t get your hopes up. It’s not anytime soon.” Lay crossed his arms, “Liang ordered us to stay here. Since you are apparently so busy with your new love life, the rest of us were sent to finish the job for you.”
Kris furrowed his eyebrows, “I can accomplish this assignment myself. Graduation is a week away. After that, I can-“
“There is no time.” Lay impatiently said. “We have to find the culprits who duplicated our drugs soon. They’ve been gaining immense profit. All that money could have been ours.”
“There are more important things than money, Yixing.” Kris growled.
“And friends are one of them, right?” Lay gave him a hard look. He set his half-filled beer can on the table and stared at Kris, “Don’t forget who you really are, Wu Yi Fan. You’re not a high school student. You’re one of us. Don’t ruin this just because of a worthless girl.” Lay left the condo. Chen followed suit without a goodbye.
Xiumin clapped Kris on the shoulder and patted it twice, “Don’t mind what Lay said. You know he’s a grumpy old fool. Deep inside, he wants you to be happy.” Xiumin headed to the door, stopped, and looked back.
Kris looked up. Xiumin put two thumbs up with a wide grin, “I approve.” With a wink and a wave, he left.
Luhan chuckled with a shake of his head, “That baozi head.” He smiled up at Kris, “But he’s right. Don’t let Lay get to you. We’ll be staying at a nearby hotel so that we don’t bother you and your girlfriend.” Luhan winked and headed out.
Tao looked at Kris, “Gege, I just have one thing to ask…”
Kris gazed at his younger brother.
Tao rubbed the back of his neck, “When it’s time for us to go home…will you come back to China with us?”
Kris stared at him in surprise. He was stunned by the question. He actually hadn’t thought of that. Ever since he met Jungah, time seemed to have stopped. He hadn’t realized that he would have had to go back to China one day.
Just by Kris’s silence, Tao could tell that it was complicated.
Tao squeezed Kris’s arm and nodded in understanding. “Whatever you choose, gege, I’ll support you. Xiumin gege was right. Anyone deserves to love. You deserve to be happy.”
Kris softened. It warmed his heart when his didi said heartwarming things like this. “Xie xie.”
Tao nodded. Then he headed out the door and was gone.
Kris sank onto the couch with a sigh. He glanced at all the beer cans around him and shook his head. *Lazy bastards. They should’ve cleaned up after themselves.* Kris’s phone alerted him about a new text. He opened up the message.
‘Is everything going all right with your friends?’ – Jungah.
Kris softly smiled. He texted back. ‘It’s fine. They just left. Get ready. I’ll come pick you up right now.’
Kris got up, grabbed his jacket and car keys, and left the house.
The business and his friends could wait for now. What was most important to him at that moment was Han Jungah.