4: Challenge

Yooji: Love is War

               I went straight to the music room right after our last subject for the morning ended.

               The excitement of finally having to play the keyboard again and be in my comfort zone was overbearing I practically forgot to bid Aeri my goodbye when I left.

               Even though I wasn’t able to attend yesterday, my co-members filled me in on what happened in our group chat last night, much to my delight. Fortunately, I didn’t miss anything important except, of course, the fun.

               The music club had around fifteen members.

               Four seniors including myself, seven juniors, and four freshmen. I wasn’t that close with them, but they were all nice people to hang around with. Though sometimes, they could be a bit weird. And by weird, I meant they tend to treat me as someone above them as if I was a special person of some sort. I don’t really mind but it gets uncomfortable sometimes.

              They were already playing their respective instruments when I stepped inside the club room. Some of them looked up, nodding to acknowledge my arrival, albeit awkwardly for some reason, some did not bother at all, and here was Yeji, one of our bassists, who almost threw her bass out the window to dash toward me with a huge smile on her face.

               “You are finally here!”

               Yeji was the closest thing to a friend that I had in this club.

               She was cool and doesn’t pry into my personal life. Like me, she’d preferred our relationship to be strictly clubmates.

               She was like a breath of fresh air.

               “What’s with the overreaction?” I gave her a quizzical look. “I was absent only for a day...”

               “It felt like an eternity with how boring these people are,” she said unapologetically loud, earning an amused cackle from me.

               See?

               Cool person.

               “You are so full of , Yeji,” I remarked jokingly, walking past her to the far corner of the room where my keyboard was situated.

               Ah, it had only been a day, but my fingers were itching to touch the keys already and play the afternoon away.

              I was more used to playing the grand piano since it was the first musical instrument that was introduced to me. This keyboard that I had right now, I started playing it when I first joined this club, bought it with my own money because there was no way I could bring the grand piano with me, right?

               Yeji followed, settling herself on the chair beside the keyboard before gazing upon me, eyes fixed, like she was studying me.

               Okay...?

               What’s with her?

               “There are rumors going around...” she began slowly, gauging my reaction. “About you and the Minjeong Kim.”

               I froze on my spot.

               What....?

               “Why do you look surprised?” she asked while chuckling. “According to the rumor, you were in the library with her yesterday. Did you expect nobody would be suspicious seeing you two together on the same table when your dislike toward Minjeong Kim is known to the whole school?”

               Ugh.

               I completely forgot about the part that people would talk.

               Why did that devil not saying anything?

               “Oh...” I racked my brain for an excuse that wouldn’t sound lame. “W-Well, see here, our families are actually acquainted because of our similar backgrounds. I was just forced to talk to her, was all.”

               She shrugged.

               “You have no business explaining yourself to me. I just thought you’d want to know.”

               I smiled at her nonchalance. If she was another person, she’d probably be up in my right now, pressing for juicy details.

               That’s the thing why I only had Aeri as a friend. The majority of the people around me only see me as some sort of entertainment.

               Not that I care.

               Yeji went back to her usual place when our club’s president finally turned up. She was grinning wide as she took her place in the middle, acoustic guitar cradled in her arms.

               “Good afternoon, guys.” She glanced around the room, stopping when she spotted me. “Our dear celebrity is here this time, I see.”

               Laughter erupted in the room.

               Blood rushed up to my face.

               Did she really have to say that, oh my god.

               “Shut it, Chaewon,” I said.

               “I’m just kidding.” I saw her smirk as if she knew something controversial. “Y’all can go back to whatever you were doing.”

               Thank god.

               I thought she’d drag the teasings further. We were just the same age but she had this habit of acting like some old hag playing around with teenagers and while it was entertaining sometimes, it’s different when I was the subject of her playfulness.

               She was still a cool person like Yeji.

               My hands unconsciously pressed some keys on the keyboard when the room was submerged in all kinds of musical sounds.

               Days like this when there were no upcoming events in our school to perform in, she was allowing us to do what we want as long as we’d always leave room for practice and not make a ruckus.

               This was the reason why I joined this club in the first place. The atmosphere was just so chill, so carefree. They just let me be, convinced that I was already the best that I could be.

               Unlike when I was with my mentor my parents assigned to me when I began participating in competitions.

               The constant pressure, the endless need to do better.

               This club was like an escape for me.

               I spent my lunch break playing some random songs; making sure my fingers wouldn’t go stiff just in case, with occasional chatter here and there with my co-members about music. All of them seemed to give me a look; the same one the president was sporting earlier, but I chose to pretend not to notice it.

               It was probably because of what Yeji told me and rumors in school would usually die down if nobody from the involved parties would acknowledge it.

               Ten minutes before my next class, I was already preparing to go back to my classroom. Nothing left to do here, anyway. Smiling to my co-members, raising a hand to Yeji before taking my leave.

               Walking along the hallway, I couldn’t help but think about the rumors surrounding myself and the devil while ignoring the students around me.

               What could it be?

               Surely, they wouldn’t come up with an absurd idea that we were dating, would they? I mean, we were dating, but it was all just a part of the deal. It shouldn’t count, right?

               Was Minjeong aware of this?

               Did she even care?

               “Hey, Jimin!” a chirpy voice called out from behind.

               I turned around, almost stumbling when I realized just who was the person in front of me.

               “R-Ryujin...”

               “I didn’t see you in the cafeteria,” she said when she caught up with me, slowing down to match my pace. “On the way back to your class?”

               Wait.

               Wait...!

               Oh my god.

               “Oh, yeah.”

               Really, Jimin?

               Now that the chance presented itself for you to talk to your long-time crush, your vocabulary suddenly was limited?

               “How are you, by the way?” she asked, eyes on my knees. “Do they still hurt?”

               “I’m fine. They are all healed now.” I forced a genuine smile despite my nervousness. Having her this close to me had me knocking the air out of my lungs.

               “I was so worried, you know? I really wanted to take you to the infirmary myself to make sure you would be taken care of.” She rubbed her nape, head lowering. “But I do not have the courage to disobey my sister’s order.”

               I stared at her, eyes wide.

               If Minjeong Kim didn’t intervene that day, I could’ve had an alone time with Ryujin...?

               There it was again. The sudden urge to erase that devil off the face of the earth. She just really had to be there to foil my chance!

               “Thank you, Ryujin.” I bit my lip to stop myself from smiling too much. “You really are a kind person.”

               “You are exaggerating.”

               “But it’s true,” I insisted. “You are kind. The kindest person ever I have met.”

               She just gave me a shy smile, choosing not to respond, continuing to walk alongside me in silence.

                I could feel curious gazes directed at us, could hear loud whispers, probably wondering why Ryujin and I were together. This was the first time that we were seen together as she was always with her friends, so their reaction was expected I guess.

               Rumors were going to spread like a wildfire after this, for sure.

               We parted ways when we reached her classroom but not before saying something that turned my world upside-down.

               “I know it’s not my place to say this, but while you look really good with make-up on, I prefer you barefaced.”

               Lord, you can take me now.







               What happened moments ago was more than enough to put me in a good mood for the whole day. Aeri was weirded out, asking me the reason for my sudden cheery behavior. I really wanted to tell her right away, but I held myself back as we were still in the classroom with blabbermouth students in the background.

               I actively participated in every discussion for the rest of the day. Answering with enthusiasm every time our Instructors would ask the class some questions, would even correct them if I noticed even the tiniest bit of flaws in their lessons.

               By the end of our last subject, Aeri was already seated next to my table, eyeing me as if I was a criminal that she was about to interrogate.

               I waited until we were the only ones left in the room.

               “So?”

               “I was with Ryujin earlier.” Her eyebrow raised in curiosity, urging me to continue. ”She had noticed the change in my face.”

               “That you are now putting some make-up on?”

               “Yes. And she said that I was beautiful...” I choked back the delirious scream that was threatening to escape my lips. “But she prefers my bare face.”

               Aeri looked like she wasn’t impressed.

               “That’s it?”

               “What do you mean that’s it?” I asked, appalled at the lack of response. “That’s progress! That’s like the first time she complimented me for my appearance. It has been always just my brain. I mean, I guess being praised for my brain was better. But really, I was already beginning to assume I wasn’t attractive enough for her physically.  Hearing her say those words was just so... fulfilling.”

               I heard her sigh, dropping her elbows on the table to place her chin on her palms.

               “Progress, huh?” she mumbled. ”Well, sure that is progress. Though, with the way you were acting earlier, I thought she asked you out on a date or something.”

               The thought made me blush.

               Date with Ryujin...

               That would be really fun.

               “We will get there.”

               That was if Minjeong would keep her word.

               “It seems like you are forgetting that you are currently going out with her sister.”

               My mood turned sour at her uncalled-for reminder.

               “We aren’t really dating, anyways.” I shrugged. “It doesn’t matter.”

               “Yooji.”

               “What?”

               “Whether or not you are really dating her, a deal is a deal. You gave her your word and you should uphold it no matter what happens. Do not even think of trying to trick her.”

               I shifted on my chair as I look at her face carefully. It was rare to see her like this.

               “What are you saying?”

               “She’s someone you shouldn’t mess with.”

               “I know that, Ri,” I replied.

               “You don’t,” she countered, emphasizing the last word. “Trust me, you haven’t seen anything yet.”

               I haven’t seen anything yet...? Did she mean to tell me that Minjeong was way worse than what she was showing me?

               If so, then how worse could she get?

               “Fine. I’ll be careful around her.”

               Her expression suddenly turned playful. “Just enjoy, girl. You will be dating the Minjeong Kim, after all.”

               “What is there to enjoy?” I scoffed.

               “, have you seen how pretty she is? People would kill just to be in your place, Yooji. You don’t know how lucky you are!”

               I rolled my eyes.

               Lucky?

               More like unlucky.

               “Why don’t you date her then?”

               “No thanks,” she was quick to answer. “She’s attractive yes, but just thinking about us dating is enough to send goosebumps all over my body.”

               I was about to say something when my phone vibrated.

 

          2 Messages: Cruella de Vil

Cruella de Vil:     Meet me at the parking lot
                                  Don’t take too long :*

 

               “Let me guess,” said Aeri after I put my phone down. “It’s Kim, isn’t it?”

               I nodded begrudgingly.

               “She is asking me to go to the parking lot.”

               “What are you waiting for then?” She stood up, slinging her backpack on her shoulders. “Go ahead and get laid.”

               “Get laid wha—” I stared at her as if she had grown another head.

               This girl and her loose mouth!

               She was laughing maniacally, looking like she was having the time of her life.

               “You better stop now or I’ll kill you.”

               “As if you can,” she remarked, dismissing my threat. “Seriously, go ahead. Don’t keep her waiting.”

               “Thanks. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

               “Uh-huh.”

               I watched as she made her way to the door and was about to get ready to leave as well when she spoke again.

               “Don’t forget to use protection, ‘kay?” Then she hurriedly disappeared from my sight.

                Oh my god.






               I didn’t have a hard time searching for the devil when I arrived at the parking lot since she was already there, arms crossed over her chest while leaning against her black GTR, and her head kept on turning back and forth as if she was looking for someone.

               After making sure that there was no one around, I made my way toward her whose face brightened up upon laying her eyes on me.

               The diamond earring on her left ear sparkling under the ray of the sun caught my eye.

               Okay I’m not gonna lie, she looked really y right now. Her boyish charm was really... something else.

               “Ba—” she tried to say but I was fast to place a finger on her lips to stop her.

               “I thought I told you not to call me pet names?” I hissed.

               She raised an eyebrow before grabbing my hand, pushing it down to intertwine it with hers.

               “Here’s a trivia: it will be more effective to use your lips to shut me up instead of your finger.”

               Goosebumps erupted all over my arms.

               My god.

               “S-Shut up!”

               She was staring at me with that infamous smirk plastered on her face, eyes brimming with mischief as her hand squeezed mine.

               “Damn it, why are you so adorable?”

               I snorted to hide the fact that her compliment was getting me flustered.

               Why did she have to be so.... straightforward?

               Wasn’t she ashamed of blatantly expressing her thoughts?

               “What do you want?” She merely laughed at my poor attempt to swerve the topic.

               “I’ll be taking you out today.” I was about to say something to oppose her, but she quickly added in a firm voice, “And you can’t say no. Time is running, Jimin, and I don’t plan on wasting it.”

               I scowled.

               Do I have a choice?

               She was smirking again when she opened the door for me and I didn’t want to do anything else other than wipe that annoying expression off.

               “Just make sure you will bring me somewhere where no one will recognize us.”

              She closed the door, going around the car to the driver’s seat. I scoffed while waiting for her to get inside.

               “Just relax, okay? I have no plans on breaking our agreement.”

               “As you should.” I looked out the window.

               I heard her chuckling before she stepped on the gas. She was a fast driver which was not surprising. I would expect that aside from being a devil, she was a daredevil as well. Surely, she wouldn’t crash the car... right?

               “I heard you were with my sister earlier.” She had her eyes on the road, her lips pursed. “You two were the talk of the campus.”

               I smiled unconsciously upon remembering what happened earlier today.

               “We just walked alongside each other, that’s all.”

               “You must be overjoyed.” I turned to her, fully expecting a sly grin on her lips, but her face was passive, devoid of any human emotions.

               I couldn’t read her.

               “Is that a problem?” I asked in a challenging tone.

               “No.”

               “Then don’t ask about it.”

               She was silent for a while which had me thinking the subject was done, but when I was about to pull out my phone to entertain myself, she decided to open .

                “I will not restrict you from doing what you want. around with my sister, sure.” Her grip on the steering wheel tightened, coloring her hand a lighter shade of white. “But when we are together, I want you to focus only on me. No Ryujin, no anyone else. Just me. Is that clear, Jimin?”

                I was about to protest but she didn’t give me a chance.

               “This is only for a month. I know you are more than capable of pretending you have eyes only for me.”

               My jaw dropped.

               Did she just lowkey accuse me of being a pretentious ?

               “What? You can’t?” She smirked.

               Ah.

               I get it.

               She was trying to push me over the edge to get the answer that she wanted.

               So, this was how she plays, huh?

               Dirty.

               Fine.

               If she thought I was going to back down from a challenge, oh, she was so wrong. I know I was always losing against her, but this time, I would make sure that an interesting plot twist would happen.

               “Whatever game you are playing, I want you to know that I am going to win it.”

               Her smirk widened, eyes gleaming in delight.

               Okay, that was not what I was expecting to see.

               “Attagirl.”

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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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