I had never paid any attention to anything else other than my studies.
Striving hard to reach the top had always been in my mind ever since I was very young.
It was what my parents had instilled in my brain, after all.
There were instances though, when I couldn’t help but to wish I had a normal childhood; where I was able to play outside with other kids my age, scrape my knees and elbows from running around recklessly, had myself smelled like the sun, and everything a person would only enjoy in their childhood.
Then again, I figured it was normal.
That’s what made me a human being, after all.
We were never be contented.
This changed, however, when I first came across Ryujin Kim when I was in fifth grade.
The me who only had an interest in academics found myself crushing on the short-haired girl hard.
It was inevitable.
Ryujin Kim was the embodiment of perfection.
She was kind, gentle, beautiful, warm, smart, the type that anyone would want to introduce to their parents.
I never acted on my feelings though, and would only admire the girl from afar. It was better that way since rumors had it that Ryujin does not date and was totally in love with dancing. Something as trivial as dating was never on her priority list.
Good for her.
Bad for me.
That didn’t stop me from supporting her passion though.
I would always watch her dance performances whenever there was an event in our school, cheer her on until my throat hurt, and if I got lucky, I would be able to congratulate her personally wearing the biggest smile I could muster. Even though I wasn’t getting anything in return from doing it, it didn’t matter to me.
“You know, if I were Ryujin, I’d be creeped out if I catch you doing whatever you are doing right now.” I heard Aeri said while I was busy staring at Ryujin talking animatedly with her group of friends.
“Thank god you are not her then.”
“Just approach the girl and ask her out for goodness’ sake.”
“That’s unnecessary. I’m okay with what we have right now,” I said, eyes still on the unsuspecting girl.
“, you guys have nothing.”
I blinked before shooting her a glare.
“I know that and I don’t care.”
“You don’t care about what?” someone chimed in. I didn’t even have to check who it was because the familiar smell that invaded my nose was enough to identify the uninvited guest.
“What are you doing here, Minjeong?”
“Aw, don’t you want to see me?”
“You know how much I hate that annoying face of yours,” I deadpanned. “Why bother asking?”
“Who knows if you changed your mind about me and finally realized how amazing I actually am.” Minjeong turned to Aeri who was watching us amusingly. “Right, Uchinaga?”
“Well, this friend of mine here still hates the outta you, Kim. She’s stubborn like that.” I threw her dirty looks for her shameless betrayal.
“That’s too bad then.” Minjeong shrugged. “Ryujin actually sent me here to give you a message she can’t tell you personally. I guess I should get going now.”
Upon hearing the name, I was quick to grab a hold of Minjeong’s arm to stop her from leaving and forced her to sit down beside me again.
“Damn, you don’t have to be so aggressive, babe.” A sly smirk appeared on her face, her eyebrows wiggling. “You just have to admit that you really want me here and I’d stay.”
“Cease your nonsense and tell me about the message you are talking about,” I whispered harshly, my hold on her tightening in a threatening manner.
“Ow! Ow! Okay! Geez, you are so violent!”
She rubbed the offended spot soothingly before speaking, “Ryujin said she wants you to meet her at your favorite coffee shop after school. I don’t know why so don’t ask me.”
Wait, hold on.
What did she just say....?
It took a while before I was able to process the words in my brain and when I did, I almost screamed at the top of my lungs.
Did Minjeong mean what I thought she meant?
Or was I assuming?
I chanced a glance at Ryujin who was happily conversing with her friends and wondered if she had always been that shy that she couldn’t tell me herself.
“A-Are you serious?”
“Of course, I am.”
“You are not ing with me right now?”
“I am not ing with you right now.”
I looked at Aeri who was looking at me with pride brimming in her eyes as if saying: you made it!
“Will you go?”
“Oh, um, s-sure,” I stammered. “I’ll be there.”
“Great! See you around then.”
I watched as Minjeong made her way out of the cafeteria with a big grin plastered on her face as if she was joyful, something that occurred rarely, not even when she was hailed as the top student of the country. To see her in that state, I briefly endeavored to figure out if what she said about her being in love with me was merely a lie.
Because if it wasn’t and she was serious, why would she be happy about the thought of me going on a date with her sister?
Shouldn’t she be upset?
It didn’t make any sense.
Then again, this was Minjeong Kim I was talking about. The devil incarnate, so her confession the other day was probably just a load of bull.
When dismissal came, I could barely feel myself anymore. I felt like I would pass out even before I get myself to the meeting place.
Aeri, the ever-thoughtful friend offered to take me to the clinic because apparently, I was as pale as a ghost, but I refused, saying I couldn’t miss this once in a lifetime chance.
“Fine. Text me if you need me, okay?”
“I will.” I smiled. “Take care on your way home.”
I arrived at the coffee shop ten minutes before five. Ryujin wasn’t here yet, so I settled on a table near the entrance in order to easily be spotted once she gets here and patiently waited.
There weren’t many people in here.
Most of them were my schoolmates who probably wanted to hang out before going home, some had papers and a laptop on the table, and some were just here to read books while drinking coffee.
I took a deep breath.
What made Ryujin change her mind about dating? A thought that popped in my mind while trying to entertain myself.
She doesn’t date and I had never seen her with somebody all these years.
Did she wake up one day and suddenly found me attractive?
Or was she struck in the head and came to a realization that I was a good catch?
Whatever it was, I was glad it happened.
As the time passed, the anxiety bubbling in my chest was getting harder to ignore as I thought of different scenarios of how this date would turn out.
If it went well, would there be a second date?
What if I it up?
Would Ryujin be disappointed?
Or worse, would she hate me...?
Oh my god.
Don’t be such a pessimist!
I had been waiting for this!
As the ever famous advice goes; just be yourself!
A creaking of the chair in front of me had my head shooting up, smile wide, expecting to see the love of my life, but what greeted me instead was someone who resembled the devil. Someone who I despised the most. Someone who was born to piss me off.
My smile instantly faded.
“Minjeong Kim,” I muttered darkly. “What the are you doing here? Where is Ryujin?”
“Oh, her? She’s probably home by now.”
Her feigned ignorance had me fuming.
The urge to punch her face was too strong, but I held myself back as I do not want to make a scene.
“You heard me.”
“You said she asked me to meet her here!” When Minjeong responded with a knowing smirk, I slammed the table hard. “You ing tricked me!”
“I did,” she replied casually. “This is the only way to get you to meet me outside the campus.”
I should’ve known.
Minjeong was cunning who would do anything to get what she wanted.
She didn’t care about anyone else.
Only herself mattered to her.
She was dishonest, dirty, and a total scumbag.
How stupid of me to actually believe her words.
“I’m leaving.” I stood up and was about to bolt out of the damned place when Minjeong held me gently to stop me, giving me a choice to free myself if I wanted to.
“Jimin Yoo,” she mumbled, uncharacteristically soft. “Stay.”
“There is no way I’m staying here with you, ,” I spat out through my gritted teeth. “Get your filthy hand off me.”
She didn’t budge. “Fifteen minutes. Just give me fifteen minutes.”
“Goddamn it, Minjeong.” My eyebrows furrowed in exasperation. “You really think I would want to be anywhere near you after what you did? you!”
She let out a dry chuckle.
“This is what you want, right? A challenge? Isn’t this challenging? Or do you still find me boring? Do I have to be a dancer as well for you to find me interesting?”
I looked at her in disbelief.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
Had Minjeong always been this pathetic?
“You are an insufferable dip.”
“It has been years and it’s still my sister?” There was a hint of desperation in her tone as she stared at me with pleading eyes. “You know she doesn’t feel the same way. Why can’t you move on?”
“Even if I get over her, what makes you think I’d fall for you?” I gave her the meanest glare I could give. “You don’t play fair. You always use underhanded methods. Who in their sane mind would want you?”
“If I play fair, I would never win.” She bit her lip, her face darkened. “The only way to get you to like me is by doing this, Jimin.”
I shook my head. “No matter what you do, there is no way that would ever happen. The only emotion I feel for you is hatred, Minjeong Kim. Nothing more, nothing less.”
For a moment, I saw pain flashed across her face, but paid it no mind. My eyes must only be deceiving me. There was no way the Minjeong Kim was capable of feeling pain.
Ryujin still was not interested in me.
That was what I concluded when I left Minjeong in that coffee shop yesterday. I knew this, was fully aware ever since and never had I hoped Ryujin would reciprocate my feelings.
Who was I anyway?
I was just Jimin.
The never the best.
However, that tiny false hope that the devil incarnate gave me that I unconsciously held onto was enough to send different kinds of negative emotions through me.
I thought only Minjeong Kim had the capability to make me question my self-worth. Turned out, her younger sister also had that kind of ability. It runs in their blood, it seemed.
It was childish. It wasn’t Ryujin’s fault she was not the least bit interested in me.
Despite fully knowing that however, I couldn’t help but be frustrated for the first time.
What was wrong with me?
I was aware that I was attractive.
My long line of suitors was enough proof of that. Sure, I was always just the second, but was that not enough for Ryujin? I knew how to dance, plays the piano extremely well, and was intelligent. Maybe not as intelligent as her older sister, but I was intelligent. What was there not to like? Right?
Before I left for school the next day, I took my time to apply light makeup to highlight my features.
Since I was the type to stick with my principle which was to never chase people, I’d just do everything I could to make Ryujin chase me instead and pray to every god out there for my plan to succeed.
“We have arrived, Miss Yoo.” I shot our family driver a small smile before I hopped off the car to make my way to my classroom.
On the way there I spotted a certain devil incarnate together with a girl. I recognized her as the captain of the cheerleaders of our school. They seemed to be engaging in a flirty conversation based on their silent giggles and occasional touches here and there.
I unknowingly frowned at the sight.
Now that Minjeong realized she had no chance with me, she jumped to another girl?
She didn’t even try to appear sad or anything that would imply that her feelings for me were serious but what was I expecting?
Minjeong looked up just in time to catch me staring. A playful smirk worked its way on her lips before she returned her attention to her company.
The action put a crease on my forehead but I chose to ignore it, tearing my gaze away, and continued walking.
“What’s with that scowl on your face?”
Aeri questioned as soon as I entered the classroom. Girlie had her eyebrow raised, eyes narrowed.
“Nothing.” I plopped on the seat next to her and buried my face on my desk.
“Okay, this isn’t what I was expecting to see after your date with your long-time crush,” Aeri quipped. “Care to tell me what happened?”
Aeri just really had to remind me of what transpired yesterday.
“There was no date.”
I raised my head. “Minjeong Kim, that devil fooled me.”
“She what?” Aeri eyed me as if I had grown another head.
“It wasn’t true that Ryujin wanted to see me,” I grumbled. “It was only a lie that devil fabricated.”
I do not understand why Aeri looked so surprised by what I revealed when Minjeong was infamous for being a scumbag.
“Why would she do that?”
“Because she is the devil incarnate,” I replied, deciding to not tell what the actual reason was. “Enough about her. Have you seen Ryujin?”
“I have not. Why...?” I gave her a knowing stare and when she caught on to what I was trying to say, her eyes widened. “Oh my god? You finally put on makeup after years of trying to convince you? What goes on? Are you planning to seduce her?”
“I’m not planning to seduce her. I’m not that desperate.” I rolled my eyes. “My plan is to make her realize what she’s missing out.”
“And how do you know that will work?”
“I don’t.” I grinned. “But there’s no harm in trying.”
When the school bell rang at exactly noon, I excitedly pulled Aeri to the cafeteria.
Since Ryujin belonged to another class, this was one of the few times I would have a chance to see her, albeit from afar.
The usual table of Ryujin’s circle of friends was always surrounded by students who, like me, admired her and I do not have it in me to fight for a spot.
Just as I said earlier, I was not that desperate.
We settled on a table that was near enough for Ryujin to see me if she ever tried to look around the place.
I went to the counter alone to order since it was Aeri who did yesterday. I’d passed by Ryujin’s table so I wondered what I’d do to make myself noticeable.
She was busy stuffing foods in , nodding her head when her friends would ask her questions. It was rare to see that she wasn’t actively joining in the conversation.
Was she feeling okay?
As I was so preoccupied thinking of the possible reasons, I didn’t notice the protruding foot of that one student near me and the next thing I knew, I found myself carelessly tumbling down.
The loud sound of myself crashing on the floor echoed throughout the cafeteria, momentarily silencing the chatters of the students.
I reached for my knees, kneading them gently to try to ease the tremendous pain that immediately enveloped me.
Loud murmurs eventually ensued around me, but that was the least of my worries.
“Jimin, are you okay?” I saw Ryujin extending her hand to help me up, worry clouding her eyes. I would’ve jumped in joy if it wasn’t for my current predicament.
I felt like the bones in my knees would crumble once I stood up, but I did not want to embarrass myself even further in front of her so I tried to stand up on my own, only to stumble.
Ryujin was quick to hold me in place.
“They are turning violet,” she pointed out while looking at my knees. “Let me bring you to the infirmary.”
I was about to protest, not wanting to bother her in the middle of lunch when I found myself suddenly being pulled harshly that I almost tripped again.
“No, I will bring her to the infirmary,” said someone whose voice sounded awfully familiar. “Stay here and finish your food.”
“Don’t make me repeat myself, Ryujin.” The subject of my affection could only lower her head.
“What? No!” I was quick to reject the devil as I yanked my arm hastily. “I don’t need your help of all people.”
Minjeong stared at me, expression unreadable. “I don’t care if you don’t,” she said before taking off her hoodie and went to wrap it around my hips.
“What are you doing—hey! Put me down!” Minjeong swiftly carried me in her arms before walking out of the cafeteria in hurried steps.
I tried to squirm my way out but damn was Minjeong so strong.
“I said put me down!”
I covered my face in embarrassment upon noticing that we were attracting quite the attention.
I couldn’t blame them though.
It was not every day you’d see the top students of Seoul High together, let alone in this kind of situation.
“They are staring at us,” I mumbled unconsciously.
“Let them stare.”
I bit my lower lip and finally let her have her way. It seemed like she was genuine in helping me after all, so, for the second time, I’d trust the devil.
We reached the infirmary in no time.
Minjeong kicked the door open, startling the nurse inside before she carefully placed me down on the bed as if she owned the place.
“Please examine her knees,” Minjeong ordered, voice monotonous causing the nurse to scramble on her feet.
I raised an eyebrow.
Was Minjeong always this influential?
The school nurse was afraid of her?
“These are only bruises,” said the nurse after she was done with my knees. “Cold compress will do the work, Miss Kim. Please hold on for a moment.”
“You can leave now,” I said once the nurse was out of sight.
She shook her head as she took her place beside me.
“I don’t want to.”
“But you have class.”
“You are way more important than my class.”
I gulped, avoiding her intense gaze.
The way she said it, it was as if she really meant it.
I knew better.
This was probably some kind of evil scheme Minjeong came up with to play with me.
I wouldn’t be fooled again.
“Here is the cold compress.”
The nurse held it out for me to take but Minjeong beat me to it; snatching the object carelessly before placing it on my knees with utmost care.
“Let me do this for you, please.”
How could I say no?
Even though I hate Minjeong, there was no way I could shut her out when she was acting like this.
The usual smug expression, the teasing smirks were nowhere to be seen.
Right now, it felt like I was with another person.
“Why did you trip anyway? You are so dumb.”
This was still the same Minjeong who was born to annoy me.
She let out a chuckle.
“You are adorable.”
I merely rolled my eyes to mask my embarrassment.
I wasn’t used to receiving compliments, especially if it came from my sworn enemy.
“Why are you doing this?”
“This.” I gestured my hands. “Why are you helping me?”
It took a minute before she responded.
“I already told you the reason, didn’t I?”
“Because you are in love with me?” I snorted. “I find that hard to believe. Especially since I saw you with another girl earlier.”
I didn’t mean to sound like a jealous girlfriend, but with how Minjeong was now giving me a knowing grin, I probably did.
God, kill me now.
“It is fine if you don’t.” She shrugged. “Because you will, eventually.”
“There is no need for that,” I replied. “I told you, I... I don’t like you, Minjeong. It’s your sister.”
I saw her clench her jaws.
“I know that.”
“Then why are you still doing this?”
“I am in love with you, Jimin.” She looked up, her eyes swarmed by different kinds of emotions that almost drowned me. “And I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon even if it kills me.”