9: Conflicting Thoughts

Yooji: Love is War

               I chewed on my lower lip, eyes unconsciously studying Minjeong skillfully spin her pen with her long, slender fingers, brows furrowed, a serious expression on her face, was slightly moving as she soundlessly read through my notes from one of my classes.

               Something was different about her.

               I mean, she was still the same Minjeong.

               Lazy dark eyes glistening with mischief.

               Same infamous y smirk—wait, did I just say y?

               Scratch that.

               Same infamous smirk, same ability to annoy me with anything she does, and her obvious amusement over it, but something was different.

               Maybe because for the first time, she was showing me a side of her that people, including myself, didn’t know. Seeing her appear student-like for once was kind of weird in a way that had me thinking if she was turning over a new leaf.

               But that was reaching, wasn’t it?

               I don’t think that’s even in her vocabulary.

               “Like the view, babe?”

               I fought the urge to roll my eyes.

               Despite having the devil with me for more than a week now, her out-of-the-blue flirty remarks still wouldn’t fail to raise my blood pressure.

               “What view are you talking about?”

               We had been in a secluded part of the school’s library for about an hour now and my was suffering dramatically. The chair that I was sitting on was becoming more and more like a rock as more minutes go by.

               I cast an eye over her again.

               I don’t know what to feel about this.

               She wasn’t going through my notes because she wanted to stuff more knowledge inside her head, but because she insisted on helping me with my project in Math despite my initial strong refusal.

               Apparently, the bags under my eyes had gotten bigger and darker over the night and according to her, she didn’t like the idea of me overworking myself so she offered to do at least one of my requirements.

               Of course, I opposed it at first since the last thing that I wanted to happen was to owe her a favor. However, the desire to relax even just for a little while triumphed over my towering pride.

               “Is this all the notes that you have?” She briefly looked up to me while flipping the pages.

               “More or less.” Some actually were in my phone, but I don’t think she’d be needing it for the project.

               “Then we can leave now.”

               Huh?

               “You have finished already?”

               “It’s just Math.” She shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly. “There’s nothing to study that much.”

               I scoffed.

               The arrogance that this girl had was over the roof.

               “Oh...”

               “It’s only the formulas that I need to memorize,” she added on. “Math is the easiest subject because it’s straightforward. There is only one answer. 1 is 1 and 4 is 4.”

               Right.

               ‘Cause, that statement coming from the person who had aced the Math Quiz Bee for three consecutive years would make it believable.

               “So, when can I expect you to finish it?”

               “By Friday.” She closed my notebook; then in a confident tone, “Don’t worry, I’ll make it so you’ll receive the highest grade.”      

               Oh, she would alright.

               “You should,” I said flatly. “Because I don’t settle for less.”

               She rested her elbows on the table, placing her hands with the tips of her fingers together.

               “You mean to say, you only want what’s best?”

               “That’s exactly what I mean.”

               Amusement clouded her eyes as she slowly nodded her head.

               “That makes sense.”

               My eyebrows scrunched in confusion.

               “What’s that supposed to mean?”

               “Because you want me.” She threw me a flirty smile while suggestively wiggling her eyebrows.

               That rendered me stunned for a while.

               I want her...?

               The words that I knew should’ve just stayed in my mind were already out of my mouth before I could stop myself.

               “You’re Minjeong, not Ryujin.”

               Her face fell instantaneously.

               A moment of silence emerged between us.

               The air surrounding us grew heavy.

               I swallowed.

               “I-I mean—”

               She lifted herself off the chair and leaned over close to my face with her eyes staring straight into mine.

               “I am the best, Karina,” she basically growled under her breath. “And I’ll make you acknowledge that no matter what it takes me.”

               K-Karina?

               I could only stare through perplexed eyes as she wordlessly grabbed her bag and marched her way out of the library.

         








               Impatient, just say it
               Still waitin’, for another round
               New faces, I'm racin’
               I’m fine but I’ll never make it home

 

               I really need to learn how to filter myself every so often.

               This tendency that I had to say the things that was on my mind out loud would surely put me in danger one of these days.

 

               Sixth street for the occasion
               Can’t take all of the changes
               Blue moon, in different phases
               Blue moon, in different places

 

               What I said earlier was the reality that we were both aware of. But I knew to myself it was uncalled for especially since I agreed to never mention Ryujin’s name in her presence. It’s just, some part of me sensed the strong need to clarify my feelings so she wouldn’t get the wrong idea.

               That it was still Ryujin.

               Only Ryujin.

               And it’d never be her.

 

               Three hours, three months away
               Going back but not the same
               I don’t want you to see me

 

               I had known Minjeong for almost half of my life and that was the first time I had seen her like that.

               Any kind of human emotion was drained out of her face.

               Eyes devoid of the usual sparkle they held.

               The arrogance she always exudes was replaced by that of a wintry aura enough to make the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

 

               ‘Cause I’m not what I seem
               Always there to relieve it
               Do we say what we mean?

 

               She seemed so enraged.

               ...and being on the receiving end of those icy stares wasn’t exactly the best thing in the world.

               I frowned when I felt somebody yanking the earphones from my ears.

              “Zoning out again?”

               Oh.

               It’s just Aeri.

               “I’m not zoning out.”

               “If staring at the wall for a long time with a dumb look on your face is not zoning out then I don’t know what is,” she deadpanned as she pulled her chair closer to mine.

               Fine.

               That damned devil was the one to blame!

               Seriously, I could never read what’s going on in that twisted mind of hers.

               How could she annoy me then proceed to act as if I had wronged her in an unimaginable way possible?

               And what’s with Karina?

               A nickname derived from my baptismal name?

               “Aeri, how well do you know Minjeong?”

               Her eyebrows shot up in genuine surprise, her lips forming a small circle.

               “You’re interested in her now?”

               “No!” I denied it as fast as I could. “I-I’m just wondering...”

               She regarded me with a suspicious look, eyes squinting in scrutiny.

               “Wondering about what?”

               I paused, choosing the right words carefully.

               “If she’s the type who gets angry easily.”

               “No.” She shook her head. “She’s always calm and collected. She only has one emotion most of the time and that is bored to death.”

               Everyone and their mama knew that for a fact.

               What they didn’t though was Minjeong whenever it’s just the two of us alone together.

                It’s like she’s a different person.

               “Okay...” I mumbled, mind busy coming up with a plausible reason to explain her behavior earlier.

               Did she get mad because I compared her to Ryujin?

               Was that it?

               If my assumption turned out correct, that meant despite being the universe’s favorite, she still had some insecurities in her body.

               Wow.

               That’d be mind-blowing.

               “Why’d you ask?”

               “Oh, nothing.”

               A lie.

               Of course, I wouldn’t tell her how that devil’s apparent split personality had been messing with my head for a while now.

                I don’t want anyone to know that I had been thinking about her because that wouldn’t make sense at all. Everyone knew of my dislike towards her and I couldn’t imagine what would they think if they found out about this... dilemma.

               “How are you two, by the way?” Aeri had her eyes cast downward and missed the uncomfortable grimace on my face.

               “W-We’re okay.” I guess?

               Aeri raised an eyebrow, looking as if she was expecting me to say something more.

               “How is she as a girlfriend?”

               I almost choked on my own saliva.

               “What?” I squeaked before clearing my throat. “I mean, what did you say?”

               “I am asking if you already changed your mind about my cousin.”

               “Nah,” I said, rolling my eyes. “She’s still annoying.”

               Aeri hummed. “Are you sure?”

               “Of course!”

               She gave me an unconvinced look, causing me to raise my hand in surrender.

               I guess I had no other choice but to spill the beans. After all, nothing gets past her. I’m sure she was bound to find out sooner or later.

               “Minjeong pays attention,” I started as my mind unconsciously drifted to that person. “She knows a lot of things about me. My favorite food, my genre of movie, how I hate shredding the crab of its meat because it gives me cuts on my fingers, and everything there is to know about me. She even gave me an iPod nano containing her playlist because we share the same music taste.”

               Aeri stayed quiet. I could tell she was thinking about something by the way her nose scrunched up, her fingers reaching up to twirl a strand of her hair.

               “So that is hers?” she said, pointing to the blue device on my desk.

               I nodded.

               Well, it was basically mine since she said she bought this for me.

               “I see.”

               “She’s something else,” I said absentmindedly, regretting it immediately because of the sudden serious look Aeri gave me.

               Oh, no.

               “Do you still hate her?”

               The unexpected question caught me off guard.

               It took a whole minute before I managed to recollect myself.

               “W-What?” I let out a chuckle, cringing at how fake it sounded in my ears. “What’s with the question?”

               Aeri wasn’t having any of it.

               “Just answer it, Yooji.”

               I lowered my head, finding the floor suddenly interesting.

               “Yes or no?” she pressed further.

               “Aeri, seriously—”

               “You don’t hate her anymore.” It was more of a statement than a question. “You just don’t want to admit that to yourself because you are so used to hating her already.”

               “That’s impossible—”

               “Spending a week with her was enough to make you realize that she isn’t the Minjeong Kim you made yourself believe she is. That she is more than just the lazy, cunning, and arrogant person she is known as. That she is capable of being a decent person when she’s with you.”

               “T-That’s—”

               “You only forced yourself to turn a blind eye because if you didn’t, then you wouldn’t have any reason to hate her anymore and that would crush your pride.”

               “That isn’t the reason why I hate her!” I raised my voice, my jaws going rigid, both hands clenching on my lap.

               The entire class turned to look our way, clearly surprised by my sudden outburst. Aeri palmed her face as she shrank on her chair while I glared at anyone who was still watching us until we were free to converse again without an audience.

               “Then what?” Aeri asked, one eyebrow raised.

               I narrowed my eyes at her before turning away, avoiding her gaze.

               “I-It’s because she’s a constant reminder that I will never be the best.”

               “You and I both know that’s bull, Yooji,” Aeri said poker-faced. “You know you can’t hate her for something that is clearly not her fault that’s why you made yourself believe that she was the worst person you have ever known.”

               I pursed my lips.

               From her perspective, that was what I had been doing?

               “Minjeong is cunning only if she knows it is needed. She doesn’t do it just because she wants to. She may come off as arrogant to you, but trust me, that’s just how she normally is. She doesn’t even care one bit about her achievements nor does she care about winning or losing.”

               My body went stiff, the last sentence ringing in my ears.

               She doesn’t care about winning or losing?

               All this time, it was just a one-sided competition?

               That it was just me who sees her as my archenemy?

               .

               Of course, I knew.

               How could she see me as her archenemy when she’s in love with me?

               Aeri stood up and began shoving things in her backpack before throwing it over her shoulders.

               “Come on,” she said. “I don’t think prof is going to show up.”







               I’m not sure how I managed to trail behind Aeri on the way to my favorite coffee shop when I wasn’t in the right state of mind. I probably bumped into a small number of people in the process.

               I hope Aeri apologized on my behalf.

               Even when we were already seated at our usual table and my go-to drink right before me, I still couldn’t focus on what’s happening around me.

               I couldn’t stop thinking of what Aeri had told me.

               Do I still hate Minjeong?

               The competitive part of me would say yes.

               As per Aeri’s words, that was what I made myself believe, and I think there’s some grain of truth to that.

               On another hand, the sensible, rational part would like to beg to differ.

               She was still annoying yes, but she was also... damn.

               She cooks for me, drives me to school, takes me out on dates, watches my favorite movies with me, compliments me any chance she gets, helps me with my studies.

               How could I hate her any longer?

               Her soft side that she only shows around me was basically just begging me to stop hating her already. That I shouldn’t be hating on her in the first place because I didn’t know her that well before this whole deal happened.

               She was honestly someone everyone would want to date.

               If only I wasn’t into her sister, I would probably reconsider and just grab the chance already.

               Unfortunately, I was.

              “Why aren’t you drinking your americano?” said Aeri, interrupting my thoughts.

               “Oh, right.” I reached for my drink and carefully brought it to my lips to take a sip.

               “Are you okay?” Aeri gazed upon me with worried eyes.

               “Of course, I am.” I even smiled to convince her to believe me.

               “Sure—hold on, is that Kim?”

               I furrowed my eyebrows before following her line of sight and there she was sitting comfortably on her seat with one leg over another.

               She doesn’t have her blazer on and her hair was kind of messy; most probably because of her habit.

               ...and she was with a girl.

               They were sitting across each other, giggling about something I’m sure wasn’t funny with the girl occasionally leaning forward to touch here and there.

               What the hell?

               This womanizing !

               Forget what I said earlier.

               I hate her to death!

               I pushed myself up and out of the seat before making my way over. I even heard Aeri calling my name, but I paid her no mind. My mind was clouded with anger that when I reached them, I slammed my palms down on their table, earning collective gasps from them and the surrounding customers.

               I don’t even care anymore if people saw us together.

               What mattered to me right now was Minjeong.

               “J-Jimin?” Minjeong said, confusion all over her face. “What are you doing here?”

               “Karina.” I gritted my teeth as my eyes landed on the girl she’s with who was looking at me amusedly. “Call me Karina.”

               I don’t know why but seeing her with another girl looking so happy was maddening for some reason.

               She raised her brow. “What are you doing here, Karina?”

               “I should be the one asking you that.” I pulled the chair next to her and dropped myself, purposely ignoring the existence of the other girl. “Why are you going on a date with someone that isn’t me?”

               She just stared at me for a while as if her conscious brain was still in the middle of processing what I said while her subconscious already did.

               I gave her time.

               And when clarity finally came to her, a wide, teasing smirk adorned her sickeningly attractive face.

               “Are you jealous, babe?”

               My face burned as realization hit me like a truck.

               Did I really just act like a girlfriend who caught her partner cheating red-handed...

               “I-I’m not!” I said a little too loud, arms flailing around as I tried to explain myself. “I just don’t like the idea of you playing around with other women while our deal is still up and ongoing.”

               “Sureee.” She gave me a wink, obviously unconvinced by my explanation.

               “Why would I even be jealous?” I don’t even like you.

               “I don’t know, you tell me.” She turned to the other girl who I forgot was still here. “This is Yizhuo, by the way. The student council’s secretary.”

               Secretary?

               Oh.

               It’s just the secretary and not one of her women...

               Kill me now.

               “Hello, Jimin Yoo.” She smiled, extending her hand. “Pleasure to meet you.”

               I hesitantly accepted the kind gesture with my own.

               God, all that outburst for nothing?

               “H-Hello.”

               “I’m not dating Winter, don’t worry.” She made gagging sounds. “That’s just disgusting.”

               Winter?

               Was she referring to Minjeong?

               “Besides, she likes Ae—”

               Yizhuo was quick to clamp a hand over , stopping her mid-sentence.

               “Shut up, Kim!”

               Minjeong laughed loudly, her eyes forming into crescents. She was even clapping her hands repeatedly, a habit that I noticed she had.

               “Let’s eat lunch with them tomorrow, babe,” she said once her laughter died down. “Is that okay?”

               “O-Of course.”

                She beamed at me before facing Yizhuo again to talk about something.

               And that’s my cue to leave.

               I quietly slipped from their table, careful not to make any noise, and walked back over to Aeri who was watching me looking so entertained with the scene she just witnessed. 

               I just made a fool out of myself, didn’t I...?

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taglamig
Won't be able to update for a while. PH election is draining tf out of me. Not really in the right state of mind to write anything. Thank you :)
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