16: I’m Glad

Yooji: Love is War

               There were only ten minutes left before my first class starts and I was still at the school grounds, almost flying my way to our room at the speed I was running. My professor for that subject was not terror nor strict about punctuality so I was sure I wouldn’t be reprimanded, but I didn’t want to taint my otherwise clean record.

               I cursed under my breath as I thought back about what exactly caused me this situation for the first time.

               It was already around midnight when we came back from training camp. Exhausted by the long drive, I drifted into sleep the moment my body touched the soft and warm mattress of my bed. My alarm probably didn’t go off or I didn’t hear it ringing and ended up sleeping in by mistake.

               I was watching my feet to avoid tripping, resulting in me failing to notice the person ahead who was probably not paying attention either until we collided.

               “!” The stranger hissed as coffee spilled all down the front of her body.

               “I-I’m sorry!” My eyes went wide as I lifted my head to look at the person I just slammed myself into. “I didn’t see—”

               My words died down in my throat as I slowly recognized the stranger before me. Short blonde hair, falling majestically over her shoulders, dark brown eyes that seemed to the air in my lungs the longer I stare at them, lips so pink that complimented her light skin tone so well that it made her even more gorgeous if possible.

               Ryujin.

               Realizing I was gawking like a fool, I cleared my throat and stuttered out another apology. “I’m really sorry. I didn’t see you comi—”

               “It’s fine, Jimin.” She gave me a warm smile that made my heart thumped faster than normal. “It is my fault I wasn’t looking where I am going.”

               God.

               She was really kind.

               “B-But I got you soaked...” I pursed my lips anxiously, eyes on the big wet mark on her uniform. “How are you going to attend your classes now?”

               I watched as she pried the wet blazer that was now clinging to her away from her skin before she pulled out a handkerchief from her pocket and proceeded to wipe her arm which was also smeared by the coffee.

               “I have an extra uniform in my locker. You don’t have to worry about me.”

               I sighed in relief.

               Ugh.

               What an embarrassment!

               “More importantly, why were you running?”

               My body went rigid upon hearing her question.

               .

              The reason why I bumped into her in the first place completely went over my head.

               I glanced down at my wristwatch to check the time.

               Five minutes left.

               “I-I have to go.” I bent my body downwards. “I’m sorry again.”

               I was about to take a step and make a mad dash toward my room when a warm hand enveloped my wrist gently, effectively stopping me. “Can you spare me a minute of your time?”

               Her touch sent a gazillion volts of electricity all throughout my body I almost jumped.

               You know what?

               One tardy record wouldn’t kill me.

               This matter at hand was far more important.

               I huffed a breath to make myself appear calm before turning around to face her.

               “Do you need something?”

               She scratched her head shyly, her eyes looking everywhere but me. “I’m just curious if you’re free later after school?”

               Oh.

               A lump slowly formed itself in my throat.

               Don’t tell me...

               “Why do you ask..?”

               Her eyes snapped up, an abashed smile crawling its way on her lips.

               Good lord was she so attractive.

               “There’s this amazing ramen shop nearby.” She quickly passed her fingers through her hair; the gesture oddly reminding me of a certain person. “I was wondering if you would like to come and eat with me?”

               My world stopped.

               Hold on...

               Did I hear that right?

               Or had I suddenly acquired some kind of an ear problem and was just making things up?

               Ryujin was asking me out.

               That was what her question meant, wasn’t it?

               Whatever happened to her that made her finally see me as someone worthy of her time and attention...

               I brought my gaze up to see a nervous expression on her face, fingers fidgeting with the cup of her coffee as she patiently waited for my answer.

               “S-Sure.” Her smile broadened, including the small dimple on her upper cheek. “I’d love to.”

               We stared at each other for a while.

               The noises around us suddenly were muted, nameless faces blurring in the background. At this very moment, she was the only one I could see in 4k and the loud beating of my heart was all I could hear.

               I had known Ryujin for the longest time, but I had never experienced admiring her face at this distance until now and boy was it a whole world better.

               Our moment was cut short when the bell blared throughout the corners of the campus.

               Ah.

               I was really late now.

               “Let me walk you to your room.”

               “It’s fine,” I said, shaking my head in kind. “Besides, you have class too, you know.”

               “I know my priorities well and my class for sure isn’t the one on top.” She offered her arm for me to entangle mine. “Shall we?”

               I bit back a grin.

               The opportunity was already presenting itself on a silver platter and I wasn’t that dumb to refuse.

               My mouth twisted into a smile.

               “Alright.”

               Series of murmurs filled my ears as we walked arm in arm, all implying the same thing.

               “Are those Ryujin and Jimin?”

               “Why are they together?”

               “Are they dating?”

               A smile threatened to break out of my face, very pleased at the words I was currently hearing.

               I never really liked being the center of attention.

               With Ryujin though, I figured I didn’t really mind.







               I was marked late for the first time since I attended school.

               Do I care?

               No.

               Not even the least bit.

               The reason was worth it, after all.

               “Gosh, the whole school is talking about the two of you,” Aeri said while twirling the straw of her caramel macchiato. “What a way to start the week.”

               “Indeed.” I nodded. “It was so unexpected, but welcomed nonetheless.”

               “She asked you out on a date, huh?”

               I steeled myself from beaming.

               Well...

               “She didn’t say it is a date.”

               I held the cup of my usual iced americano to swing it back and forth moderately, entertained at the satisfying sound the cubes of ice were making.

               “She invited you to eat ramen together,” she remarked. “That’s the same thing, Yooji.”

               “You think so?”

               She rubbed her chin thoughtfully.

               “It could also be a platonic date though.”

               I frowned.

               Give it to Aeri to be the most confusing person in existence. One second, she was giving me hope, and then the next, she was crushing it.

               “Let’s say it is a date date.” I looked at her expectantly. “What would happen to your deal with Minjeong?”

               I blinked.

               Once.

               Twice.

               I could not answer right away

               Right.

               I forgot about that.

               We had two more weeks left before our deal was up.

               However, now that Ryujin seemed to be interested in me, I don’t think I would still be needing her help. There was no point anymore.

              “I’m not sure.” I shrugged. “If this date isn’t a one-time thing, then I would have to call it off.”

              “Oh, no.” Aeri eyed me disapprovingly. “You know her, Yooji. She will never let that happen.”

              My eyebrows knitted together.

              I don’t like where this was going.

              “Ri, I know this whole dating thingy with her doesn’t involve real feelings, but I will never let myself be a freaking cheater.”

               It wasn’t only because of my morals.

               I couldn’t do that to Ryujin.

               She didn’t deserve that.

               “What are you gonna do then?”

               “I’ll talk to Minjeong. If she is really in love with me, she will let me go.”

               I knew she wouldn’t make it difficult for me.

               She once said that she’d do anything for me, after all.

               “Girl, you got yourself in a really complicated situation,” she commented in between her chuckles. “The Kim siblings liking the same person is something I never imagined.”

               I was in the middle of slurping my drink but stopped halfway when I heard that particular word.

               Siblings...

               “Hey, Ri.”

               She raised a curious brow at the sudden change in my tone.

               “Yes?”

               I contemplated whether or not I should voice out my thoughts.

               Aeri might take it the wrong way and would think of me as someone who was sticking her nose to where it didn’t belong.

              Well, I guess that was basically what I was doing.

               In the end, I allowed myself to take the risk.

               “You see, Minjeong told me about her older sister who passed away years ago.” I studied her face to see her reaction, but she remained poker-faced. “Do you know anything more regarding that matter?”

               Aeri stared at me blankly.

               “You’re asking because?”

               “I-I’m just curious.” I gulped, not used to this side of her. “I mean, it’s fine if you don’t want to answer.”

               With a heavy sigh, she reclined in her chair.

               “It was a car accident.”

               Oh.

               It was an accident.

               An untimely death.

               Something no one was prepared for.

               “Minjeong was really close with her,” she continued. “One could’ve easily mistaken them as mother and daughter because aside from the huge age gap, they also resembled each other so much. She was Taeyeon’s baby.”

               Taeyeon.

               That was her name, I see.

               It was somewhat familiar.

               “I could tell she was with the way she spoke of her.” I looked out at the window of the coffee shop, mind wandering someplace else. “She must be really devastated.”

               “Devastated was an understatement.” There was something in the way she said those words that caught my attention. “Because she was there to witness how her sister took her last breath.”

               My hand almost dropped my drink on the floor.

               I regarded Aeri with an aghast look etched on my face.

               Minjeong was there...

               Oh my god.

               She was just ten years old at that time.

               Damn.

               How traumatizing it must have been.

               “That girl is an expert when it comes to hiding her feelings,” Aeri said. “But trust me, she is a very vulnerable person.”

               Vulnerable.

               ...that devil incarnate?

               I opened my mouth to ask her to provide more details when my phone lit up on the table.
 

          1 Message: Cruella de Vil
 

               Speaking of.
 

Cruella de Vil:     Got anything to do later?

Jimin:     Why?

Cruella de Vil:     Let’s go out on a date.

 

               I sunk my teeth on my lower lip.

               It was impossible.



Jimin:     Sorry. I have something to do later.
                  Maybe next time.

 

               I quickly shoved my phone inside my pocket.

               Tough luck, Minjeong Kim.

               But I would choose Ryujin over anything else.





         

               After our last class this afternoon, I spent the remaining time in the library while waiting for the clock to strike five; that was the time Ryujin said earlier because according to her, she still had to do something as the president of their section. Almost all of my classmates including Aeri had already gone home while I, was still here eagerly awaiting my meet up with the subject of my affection.

               I was nervous and excited at the same time.

               This ‘date’ was planned without prior notice so I wasn’t able to prepare myself.

               The things that I must and mustn’t do and say.

               The same situation that day when Minjeong fooled me into thinking that her sister was inviting me over a cup of coffee was happening again.

                So, I told myself the same two words to calm myself.

                Be yourself.

                As the students continuously passed by me, the conversation that I had with Aeri came knocking on my mind.

                I had said this a lot of times already but that devil was really mysterious.

               Ever since the training camp, my perception of her had changed drastically.

               She wasn’t just a cunning individual who would do just about anything to get what she wanted.

               No.

               She was so much more than that.

               Five minutes before five, I took my leave and proceeded to make my way to the main gate with a spring in my step. When I arrived there, her blonde hair was the first thing I saw as it was sticking out like a sore thumb among the sea of black. Her eyes were gingerly scanning the crowd and when our gazes crossed, a smile graced her face almost instantly.

               “Hey.”

               How was it possible that despite the hot weather earlier at noon, she still seemed so fresh as if she didn’t release even a single drop of sweat.

               “Hi.” My hand instinctively reached out and pushed a strand of my hair behind my ear. “I hope you didn’t have to wait long.”

               “No, not at all,” said Ryujin while shaking her head. “I just got here myself actually.”

               Really now...

               “Oh, that’s good to know.”

               She smiled. “Let’s go.”

               Unlike a while ago which was as if the sun was just an inch away from earth, it was now a foggy, cloudy afternoon, a dark veil hung over the top of the buildings around us.

               My date companion was in high spirits and would ask me casual questions from time to time.

               As for myself, well, I was as silent as the grave; only opening my mouth when a verbal answer was necessary since the heavy pounding of my heart against my chest refrained me from speaking normally. I don’t think that was even achievable when the person I was conversing with was someone I had been crushing on all my life. I couldn’t even think properly. The current situation of my brain was similar to that popular SpongeBob meme.

               “Everything okay?” The apparent worry lacing her voice pulled me out of my thoughts.

               “Yes,” said I. ”I’m just nervous.”

               “Don’t be,” she answered. “It’s just me.”

               You don’t understand...

               “That’s the thing.”

               I could feel her curious stare at me.

               “What do you mean?”

               “You are the embodiment of perfection.” I steered clear from her stare. “Of course I’d be nervous.”

               Her brows lifted and her chuckle was deep and warm. “That’s not true,” said she, her tone light. “Nobody is perfect.”

               “You’re nobody then.”

               She erupted in a round of laughter, making my insides tingle because of how euphonious it sounded. This girl was an amazing dancer who could also produce such a pleasing tone. Or maybe I was just being biased.

               Just then, I remembered something really important. Anxiety began to bubble up in my chest.

               “Ah, Ryujin?”

               “Hm?”

               “About what your sister said the other day—”

               “Don’t worry,” she interrupted softly. ”Minjeong already explained everything to me.”

               My eyes widened.

               “R-Really?”

               “Yes, really,” she confirmed. ”She told me she was just messing with you.”

               Oh, thank god.

               I was worried for nothing. Minjeong Kim had done something right for once in her life.

               Hallelujah!

               “You don’t like the idea of dating my sister?”

               I gazed up at her.

               The expression on her face gave away nothing so I wasn’t sure why she was asking me that question.

               “Not exactly,” I mumbled. “It’s just that I like someone else.”

               She hummed.

               No one spoke anymore after that and continued our walk in silence.

               After a few more minutes, we had reached the ramen shop she was referring to. There were a lot of customers inside I was afraid there were no more available seats.

               “I reserved us a seat earlier,” said Ryujin before holding my arm to guide me towards the two vacant stools in front of the chef who smiled upon seeing my companion.

               “Is that the one you have been talking about, Rj?”

               Ryujin’s face flushed.

               “Yes, uncle.”

               They knew each other?

               “You weren’t exaggerating.” The old man stared at me. “She really is beautiful.”

               What...

               What were they talking about?

               “Of course, she is,” she replied, looking so proud for some reason before turning to me. “What would you like to order?”

               “O-One bowl of tonkotsu ramen.”

               “You heard the lady, uncle,” said Ryujin to the old man.

               “Then the usual for you, I suppose?”

               At Ryujin’s nod of confirmation, he turned around and began preparing our order.

               “Are you a regular here?” I asked.

               “Yes. This is my favorite ramen shop.” She lowered her head. “I hope it does suit your taste.”

               That was for sure.

               If it didn’t, then that was my fault.

               “We will see.”

               Conversation flowed between us naturally as we wait for our food. The nervousness that was sitting upon my stomach earlier was now nowhere to be found as Ryujin was really good at making me feel at ease around her.

               The way her body was facing me, regarding me with utmost interest.

               The occasional accidental bumping of our knees.

               The random tossing of compliments.

               It was as if she knew exactly the way to my heart.

               “What is it that you like the most about music?” she asked, elbows propped on the table.

               I didn’t have to think about my answer for long.

               “I guess its capability to speak exactly what I feel inside.”

               “I agree. Music is a universal language, after all.”

               My heart warmed up at her sentiment.

               “You know, I find it difficult to express myself into words and way easier through music.”

               She stared at me.

               “It’s a good thing I am into music as well.”

               I stared back at her.

               “Why?”

               “Because I’ll be able to communicate with you using your preferred language.”

               I choked on nothing.

               Thankfully, our order was finally served before I could embarrass myself even further.

               God.

               I didn’t know she was this straightforward.

               My heart wasn’t prepared for that!

               “By the way,” she cleared . “Are you aware of the upcoming dance competition that will be held in our school?”

               I gave her a quick nod while stirring my ramen using the chopsticks. The smell it was emitting was making me drool figuratively. I was sure it tasted just as good.

               “Are you going to watch the performances?”

               “Of course, I am.”

               “I could reserve you a seat in front if you like.”

               I froze.

               Holy crap.

               I could’ve sworn my eyeballs almost popped out of their sockets upon hearing her offer.

               Good thing I managed to suppress my emotions and thus she wouldn’t have to see me embarrass myself for the second time around.

               “S-Sure. Why not?” I pretended to be indifferent about it even though I was already rejoicing inside.

               Having to watch her close would be... such an honor.

               She clapped her hands enthusiastically.

               “I’m looking forward to seeing you there.”

               “Good luck.”

               A playful wink was given my way before she focused her attention on her food.

               Needless to say, I consumed my ramen with a huge smile plastered on my face.







               It was already dark when we got back to school. It took us a while since I asked for another bowl for it was really delicious. Ryujin just watched me amusedly as I finish my food. I was so conscious under her stare that I uncharacteristically eat modestly.

               “Thank you for today, Jimin,” she said when we arrived at the parking lot.

               “Thanks to you too,” I answered. “I had fun. That ramen is the best ramen I have ever tasted in my life.”

               She seemed pleased with what she heard.

               “That’s a relief.”

               “Take care on your way home.”

               The sweet chocolate gaze softened and a smile touched the corners of .

               I could feel myself melting at the sight.

               , she was so beautiful it was unreal.

               She took a step forward until we were close enough to smell each other’s scent.

               I held my breath.

               Then, I felt her lips pressed against my cheek.

               “You too.”

               My soul left my body.

               Holy .

               Holy ..!

               Did she just...

               Oh my god.

               “What do we have here?” Someone spoke, putting a sudden stop to the hyperventilation I was experiencing because of the unexpected gesture. “The Mary incarnate Karina Yoo is actually into public display of affection?”

               Slowly, I craned my neck to look at the owner of the familiar voice.

               There, stood Minjeong Kim.

               A playful smirk dangling on her lips.

               “And Rj, damn sis, didn’t know you had it in you.”

               Silence.

               Ryujin was just looking at her feet while I seemed as if I lost the ability to talk.

               “Oh? Why do you two appeared as if you’ve seen a ghost?” She let out an amused chuckle. “I know I have a pale complexion but come on now. I am too attractive to be one.”

               Another minute of silence.

               I couldn’t say anything for some reason.

               It felt as if I was caught doing something immoral.

               “Here.” She tossed something in the air which Ryujin caught swiftly. “I know you didn’t bring your car with you. Make sure to take her home safe and sound. School will be boring if she’s not there to make it entertaining.”

               I finally found my tongue to speak.

               “What?”

               I thought she would bring me home.

               That was what she said through text earlier!

               “Your ugly fuming face every time you’re pissed off of me is actually ridiculous it’s one of the things I look forward to every day.”

               I scowled.

               This jerk!

               Just as when I was finally seeing her in a different light, she just had to behave like this.

               “How about you?” Ryujin chimed in. “How are you going to get home?”

               “I have my ways.” She shrugged. “You two should go before I do something I would probably regret.

               She said the last part in a volume so low I didn’t catch it. I would have asked her to say it again, but Ryujin was already heading in the direction of the familiar black GTR.

               “I’ll see you at home.”

               I was about to follow suit but a loose grip on my hand stopped me from taking a step.

               “Hold on.”

               I raised an eyebrow, urging her to talk.

               “Are you happy?” she asked, her voice hardly above a whisper.

               My eyes scanned her passive face.

               Where did the question come from?

               Although confused, I still answered honestly.

               “Very.”

               She smiled.

               It was an asymmetric smile with an expression of deep stoicism pasted over the top, but also joy, and a measure of contentment to it.

               “I’m glad to hear that.”

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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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