.

A fierce wind hit the back of my ear. Yi Ruda’s bright golden hair fluttered in front of my sight. As if she also realized her physical limit, she breathed heavily. She then asked me with a glance.

“… Are they still after us?”

“Let… me check!”

After the sprint, even Yi Ruda stuttered her words with a constant gasp, and so was I, hardly letting out my voice. However, I squeezed out my last strength to put out my words and looked back. Argh! I drew in my breath.

Where we were running along was inside the sophomore building. Since I went through the incident that Hwang Siwoo caused, I didn’t want to come into this place; however, it happened when I followed Yi Ruda.

Sophomores used the cafeteria earlier than us; therefore, the sophomores who just finished their lunch crowded the hallway. No one in the crowds had fancy hairstyles like the Four Heavenly Kings or purplish-black hair like Ban Yeo Ryung. At least they weren’t wearing wigs; none of them came into my sight so far.

When I slowed down without a word, Yi Ruda also turned back to check if things were okay. As if she also realized we ditched the tail, her steps came to a halt too.

Phew… She wiped out the sweat falling under her chin then smiled at me.

“See? I told you to believe me!”

I nodded. Making her my guide was such a splendid decision. She didn’t even hesitate for a second to move around.

Only three weeks had passed from the entrance ceremony, but Yi Ruda knew the school like the back of her hand. How many hallways, byways, and corners did we pass… It seemed countless.

I dabbed my forehead to wipe the sweat.

“Th… phew…”

Before I tried to say my thanks, I leaned on the wall out of strength.

A few sophomores wandering the hallway seemed to have a strange gaze at us, so I grabbed my gasping throat and pulled Yi Ruda’s sleeve. It was a gesture to get out of this place.

To be honest, it was hard to catch up with Yi Ruda’s adroit escape route with a regular brain; however, if the chaser was Woo Jooin, it was a different story.

Woo Jooin was brilliant enough to distinguish a pack of cards, a standard 52-card deck without jokers, just by the worn-down patterns on the back of the card. He was such a genius; it would be possible for him to guess our escape route soon.

Gosh… As I disheveled my hair with a random scratch, Yi Ruda pulled me to the end of the hallway. She then opened a door which was, surprisingly, an empty classroom. From the outside, it didn’t look much different from other classrooms, so I never thought it would be empty, but when inspecting it, I saw that there were no writing tools or books on the desks.

How did she find an empty classroom? When I looked at Yi Ruda in wonder, she swept her wet hair back and responded to my gaze.

“It was a classroom for math specialists until last year, but since the sophomore teacher’s room moved to the first floor, the math specialist class took the space. That’s why this classroom is empty.”

“How did you know that?”

“Hmm… it just happened,” she then smiled with a wink.

The thick pink curtains covered the whole windows; the classroom sunk inside the dark. Golden sunlight penetrated through the curtain gap with specks of dust fluttering around. The silence prevailing in the room relieved my heart at last.

Phew… I caught my breath while sitting right below the window near the hallway. Yi Ruda came next to me and sat down with a deep sigh.

We remained speechless as we adjusted our breath for a while. As I tried to check the text by opening my phone, Yi Ruda called my name. I raised my eyes to glance upon her.

“Donnie.”

“Huh?”

“Hmm… I hope you don’t mind.”

“No.”

She bit her lip a few times as if she was hesitating to continue. Then she raised her blue eyes to look at me.

“I think… um… you and your friends are sharing a weird friendship… like not normal, you know?”

“…”

“Well, I never saw you guys in a close distance, so it might sound strange, but that’s how I feel. If you deny, just ignore my words and treat them as bullshit.”

Looking a little embarrassed, Yi Ruda then touched her curly hair on her forehead. I just stared at her quietly while she did so.

I didn’t know what to say. As I kept my gaze at her for a while, Yi Ruda opened her mouth again while thinking I was expecting her to keep on.

“The reason I’ve thought like that is…”

She stopped for a moment then lifted her head to look at the ceiling.

“You know, friends are those who smile when you smile and cry when you cry. Of course, you always looked happy and never looked awkward with them. I can see that you guys look more natural together from the times you shared, but…”

She was at a loss of words for a while, so I nodded as a sign for her to continue her words. Yi Ruda then heaved a sigh and began to talk again.

“You never try to talk about your difficulties. Well, maybe you don’t want them to worry about you, but I feel like you don’t want to bother them. That’s not something natural in a normal friendship, I guess.”

“I don’t want to bother them…” I said.

Feeling a little perplexed, Yi Ruda continued, “What I want to say is that, your attitude… generally, friends worrying about each other isn’t something bothering, you know? That’s what friends are for, but you try to avoid them so deadly.”

I blinked my eyes twice. It’s true. If something big and serious happens to me, it is natural to talk about that with a friend. As a person, I would like to share some happy things to celebrate together and troubles to cheer up. We all need someone to hear our stories and stay by our sides. No wonder.

However, the reason I didn’t tell them about the car accident, although it was obvious that they would get even angrier if they knew I hid that incident to them…

Gosh… I frowned. While Yi Ruda stared at me with a worried expression, the hallway outside seemed to be filled with the busy school vibe. Sigh. Looking in front, I covered my mouth with both of my hands. Then for quite a while, I sat like that in silence.

It was exactly what she said. I didn’t want to make them worry about me because it seemed like I was bothering them. They were too overwhelming for me, and I should be grateful to have them as my friends. For this reason, I didn’t want them to worry about or get hurt because of me.

My heart felt as if it got penetrated right in the middle. Someone saw through my mind, which I hardly understood; it made me feel miserable, but at the same time, I did not feel so upset.

It sure was pathetic but, for real, I didn’t hate Yi Ruda or so. While looking at her blue gaze at me, I fell into thought.

From the very beginning, I showed her the bottom of my heart. That was why I opened my mind and became myself in front of her. I couldn’t turn uglier anymore to Yi Ruda.

Ever since I decided not to be friends with Yi Ruda, I revealed the selfishness laid inside the bottom of my heart to her.

After a moment of hesitation, I gave out a smile.

Then I asked, “Yeah, you can really tell that I’m a weirdo?”

“…”

“True. If friends are there to share all the difficulties, they and I aren’t friends because I don’t talk about such things.”

“Why? They aren’t trying to avoid your stories, right? As far as what I see, their anger shows that they are fully ready to hear from you, right?”

“The problem isn’t them, it’s me.”

I slowly breathed in and lifted my hands to cover my face. Oh, gosh… I truly felt miserable.

I continued, “I… still can’t believe they are my friends.”

“…”

“I’m lacking too much confidence, but it’s something that I can’t help. Three years have passed, so I thought I’m fine now, but if something serious happens, I still can’t say a word to them. Making them worry about me seems to be wasting their time. Do you know how I feel?”

Looking complicated, Yi Ruda just stared at me. I sat still while facing her deep blue eyes for quite some time. As I considered, I had no one else but Yi Ruda to talk with honestly about such things. How could I confess this pathetic story to someone…

It was at that very moment when I thought so.

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