it’s a no matter what.”
“Who are we talking about here, Baekhyun?” Junmyeon asks.
“Ahn Rian.” Baekhyun says this the moment he notices he’s still under the rain, drenched. He forgot. The rain felt normal on his skin.
“Ah,” Junmyeon exhales in realisation. “She seemed like the most sensible one. I’m not surprised.”
Now that Rian was no longer in his sight, Baekhyun slowly trudges over to the apartment lobby, locking his car on the way out. He keeps Junmyeon on the line, but he remains wordless. Baekhyun isn’t in the position to agree.
“How’s Joohyun?” Junmyeon speaks up once more. “Is she still stuck onto you like gum?” He laughs, content with his lame metaphor.
“She’s alright.” Baekhyun replies absentmindedly. As he reaches the lobby elevator, the increasing golden numbers on the panel snatches his attention. The elevator is climbing, which means Rian is inside.
“So you’re going to return to being a bodyguard after this? Or do you want to pursue something else? I remember you were quite interested in music back in the days.” Junmyeon reminicises in all seriousness. “Let me know, Baekhyun. I owe you one now.”
The elevator stops on the 11th floor—Rian’s floor.
“You sound like you can grant me any wish.” he says, chuckling momentarily.
“You know I’m bloody capable!” Junmyeon remarks enthusiastically. Kim Junmyeon, he’s been disconnected with his family for as long as Baekhyun can recall, but that didn’t stop Junmyeon’s funds from coming through. His grandparents would send him generous amounts weekly, and he’d use the money wisely without declining. Unlike other problematic households, Junmyeon serves well as a quiet son, as well as a peacemaker. The guy doesn’t have a speck of dust or dirt on him.
“I’m still thinking about it.”
“Just don’t take too long like you always do.” Junmyeon replies with a playful groan. “Sometimes, you just need to do the first thing that comes to mind.”
“Really appreciate your wise words, old man.” Baekhyun grins, stepping into the elevator. “Elevator’s here. I’ll talk to you later. Save your boasts for the next time we talk.”
“You’ll hear from me soon.” Junmyeon says.
Before Baekhyun could fit in a reply, the doors shut in preparation to travel upwards. In seconds, the elevator climbs floors, and the line disconnects.
Entering his familiar apartment without any disturbance, Baekhyun smacks down his keys beside the door before heading straight into his bedroom, eager to change out of his damp clothing.
“Did you get hit by the rain?” Joohyun gasps at the sight of him. She’s by his desk. “You’re soaked.”
Baekhyun furrows his brows at the unexpected guest. “Joohyun?” He inspects his own bedroom before exhaling slowly, containing his annoyance. “Is it normal for you to be wandering around someone else’s bedroom?”
“What do you mean?” Joohyun bats her long lashes innocently. “I used to live here, Baekhyun.”
“Used to.” he exaggerates.
“Should I cook dinner?” Joohyun dismisses. She walks up to his chest before casting her gaze upward when she doesn’t hear an answer. Placing a hand against his forehead, her expression breaks down into a frown. “You’ll catch a cold, Baekhyun. Take care of yourself.”
Baekhyun tears her hand away from his face. “No need to have your hand on me to express your worry, Joohyun.” he warns in a soft tone. “How long have you been here?”
“Not long!” Joohyun beams, tucking her hands behind her back. “I thought you would’ve changed your password but you didn’t.” Swaying her body, she twirls around him contentedly before stopping in front of him. “It’s still our birthdays combined.”
“It’s a hassle to change.”
“True!” Joohyun agrees. “You’re forgetful when it comes to things that aren’t related to work.”
“What do you want for dinner?” Joohyun cuts in either unintentionally or perhaps, intentionally. “How about your favourite, tangsuyuk?” She taps her chin with her pastel nail whilst peeking out to observe his empty kitchen. “Do we have ingredients? I don’t remember leaving any.”
“Tell me why you’re here.”
As if she expected him to say, Joohyun faces him with an obscure expression. “I saw that girl, your student, the one who lives in this apartment, back at my company.” She folds her arms against her chest, exhaling. “She auditioned.”
Why would she?
If she was to get caught for underage drinking and using fake identification…
“She might pass it,” Joohyun wears a worried guise. Something he should be wearing, but instead, she is. “I popped into the door she came from and a judge there is a close friend of mine. They briefly told me about her and her arrogance towards our temporary director. Despite that, they found her quite charming, since she’s pretty and all…” she trails off. “Don’t you agree, Baekhyun? You think that too, don’t you?”
Confused, Baekhyun arches a brow. Knowing Joohyun, she’d never mention another girl’s name in their conversations. “I agree.” he plays along. “From a model’s perspective, what do you think?” Baekhyun questions further, hoping Joohyun would react in a way he’s familiar with.
“I also agree,” Joohyun replies unexpectedly with a grin. “She’d make a wonderful celebrity. She has a unique face, unique personality, and she’d adhere to the rules well.” She peeks at her own nails, acting like she’s observing them to mask her insecurity.
Baekhyun chuckles inwardly at her bizarre prediction. Rian doesn’t adhere to any rules. Not unless she makes them herself.
“I don’t know if she’d survive Miracle Entertainment’s training though.” Joohyun huffs and peers up to him with a pout. “I heard it’s super tough.”
His finger twitches at the sound of the rumoured intensity of training. Baekhyun recalls the moment Joohyun utters the famous company—Miracle Entertainment. He’s been out of the Hallyu scene for too long, especially when it’s his primary job to be completely aware.
“She’d come out on her own if it’s unbearable.” Baekhyun deflects. “It’s not our concern.”
“Are you sure?”
“No, it is your concern, Baekhyun.” Joohyun retorts. For a moment, silence consumes the air. That’s when his brows furrow at the divulgence coming from his childhood friend and the girl who won’t stop chasing his affection. “I’ve seen you take her home a few times. I know you don’t think of her ordinarily.”
Denial is a choice, and it’s a choice he can’t make.
Baekhyun, crossing his arms, strides over to his closet encased by full length mirrors. He observes his own reflection, and what all he sees is pure disaster. His deep brown hair is now frizzy, strands clumped together while his entire attire is damp, the material stuck onto his skin unpleasantly.
Eventually catching onto Joohyun’s reflection, he finds the need to finally reply. “She’s worth it.” he states boldly, however, also gently. His voice will never be his bullet. It’d always be his words.
Immediately, Joohyun’s guise crumbles at his answer.
“I understand,” Joohyun continues with a face free from negativity, recovering from the breakdown. She’s grinning again. “I’ll take care of her too.”
Baekhyun stops raking through his hair to lock eyes with the Joohyun reflected in the mirror. “You don’t necessarily have to.”
“If she’s someone you care about, I care about her too.”
Frankly, Baekhyun wasn’t sure if he could ever step in Rian’s way again—he made his choice to stand back, avoid consequences, refrain himself from the dangerous feeling. But when there’s a potential stalker tailing her, the most difficult thing is to stand back. In this case, if Baekhyun thinks realistically, more surveillance could ease problems.
“Do you mean that?”
“Of course, Baekhyun.” Joohyun says slowly.
He’s doubting her.
Joohyun was right, he did change.
On his way to work today, everything was perfect, every part of his morning went smoother than usual. Warm beams of sunlight kissing his skin woke him up instead of his obnoxious alarm, the eggs he cracked open for breakfast had double yolks in it, a parcel was sitting by his doorstep as he left the house, and the road was surprisingly free of congestion. It’s one of those days for Baekhyun, where everything feels just right.
All was perfect except the fact Rian became unrecognisable, and it’s been a week since that incident.
“Ahn Rian,” Baekhyun called according to the morning roll.
There was no answer, only students mumbling amongst each other.
Lifting his gaze from the clipboard gripped in his hand ceased the chatter in the room and prompted every student to meet him in the eyes. Rian, on the other hand, did neither. She secluded herself from the class by staring out the window. Her gaze didn’t waver. One hand was below her chin as music played in her ears. Baekhyun can read her like an open book—her hair was down and she was tapping her feet to the rhythm. Not too long ago, she’d have her hair up while listening to him attentively.
“Rian is here, Mr. Byun!” Kim Yerim had to respond for her sake.
To think she’d coolly let go was his own misunderstanding.
To think time would heal everything was his own misunderstanding.
But is that what he wants? For time to work its magic and for her to let go like nothing happened?
Exhaling a dejected sigh, Baekhyun shuts his laptop lid with force and brushes his hair back in utter frustration. He can’t understand himself and it’s driving him and his mind crazy. He’s knotting himself in questions he can’t answer.
“Why the long face, Mr. Byun?”
“There’s someone in my mind.” Baekhyun straightens his back and grins at his unexpected visitor in his office. He didn’t even hear her entering the classroom. That says a lot.
“Is it about Mr. Kim?” Miss Seo asks warmly with a hand against her hip. She’s the second Joohyun who happened to enter his life. Not in the sense of her wanting to be interlaced with him romantically, but her actual name is Joohyun—Seo Joohyun. She’s made of elegance and sophistication, which is quite a suitable impression for the principal of the school. “I heard he was discharged.”
“He was.” Baekhyun confirms as he removes the golden frames away from his eyes before standing up to lean against his own desk. “He called me about it yesterday, actually.”
“Did he mention an exact date?” Miss Seo inquires softly.
“No,” he replies. “Soon though, I assume. And you’d be the first person to know.”
“I see…” she trails off before putting on a genuine smile to start. “You see, Mr. Byun, I came to see you for two reasons.”
“Let’s hear them, Miss Seo.” Baekhyun plays along as he crosses his leg over another while resting against his desk. “What are they?”
“I want to offer you a permanent full-time job here.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that.” Baekhyun declines immediately while maintaining his calm exterior. His smile almost fell at her proposal. “I better go back to my original job.” He releases a half-hearted chuckle. “I’m not suited to be a teacher.”
“That’s nonsense, Mr. Byun.” Miss Seo folds her arms against her chest. By doing that, her arms cover the dainty sapphire jewel hanging around her neck. “You worked as a bodyguard before this, am I right?” Her wide eyes and raised brows don’t go unnoticed. Seemingly, she looks as though she can’t grasp the correlation between his original job and his teaching degree that never came into use until now.
“Right, under GDX Entertainment.”
“That’s a part of the Big Three,” she gasps at the revelation. “That’s incredible.”
“I’m nothing compared to a school principal.”
Miss Seo giggles at that. “There must be no way to stop you then, Mr. Byun.” she coolly admits. “I won’t convince you otherwise.”
“I appreciate the offer, Miss Seo.”
“Now,” Miss Seo exhales. “Will you announce the final exam results after the students return from their breaks?” She extends her arm to offer him an A4 sized brown envelope tied off in a red string.
“Does this not go on the dashboard?” he asks, accepting the envelope with his hand.
“Normally, it would.” Miss Seo nods. “But I’d like to respect my students’ privacy—and it’d be a nice opportunity for you to wrap things up with the students.”
Baekhyun stops for a minute. “It would be,” he says after a while.
Slowly but surely, after an alarming signal of dismissal, innocent smiles are plastered onto the students’ faces as they walk, skip or run into the classroom in time for their last period. Youth is beautiful, and it’s an unchangeable gratifying perception. It’s an odd timing, but this is when Baekhyun feels as though studying for four years was worth it. Till this day, he still doesn’t know why he forfeited the idea of teaching and weaved into the art of martial arts to protect celebrities.
With the promising envelope tightly gripped into his hand, Baekhyun stands behind the podium. From there, no further actions are required to quieten the class. The students’ obedience is handed to him effortlessly and it never fai