“Goodbye to this place
that we grew attached to
Let’s move now
to a higher place.”
Madness arrives in the form of packing boxes, college registration, and the impending release of Rap Monster's mixtape. In the midst of Japanese translations and Red Bullet concerts bracketing the month of March, their managers announce that they are moving.
Sure, yes, it's a monumental dream come true. No more communal bunks, no more cramped kitchen, no more musty ondol or piles of shoes outside their door. But, the logistics of packing the accumulated belongings of seven people within a time frame diced up by classes, choreo practice, and concerts seems like a task worthy of Hercules.
Add to this a text from Minyeong about an impromptu inspection, and Namjoon thinks his head might explode.
The dorm buzzes with activity as Namjoon minces through a labyrinth of boxes, a notepad in one hand, his phone in the other. Seokjin and Taehyung huddle in the kitchen, bubble-wrapping bowls and plates. He motions for them to follow, and they do, squeezing around the barricade of boxes to join the others in the bunkroom. They walk in on an argument between Jimin and Yoongi over what constitutes a keepsake versus what is trash. So far, stuffed animals have made the cut, whereas movie stubs and delivery menus have met with the garbage bin.
“Hey, guys,” Namjoon says. “Minyeong-nim's on his way over.”
They all tense, each for different reasons. Taehyung growls, “Why him?”
Seokjin's eye twitches as he answers, “You know why.”
Namjoon doesn't know the specifics of what happened after Tokyo, but he can guess this means Seokjin finally told Taehyung about Minyeong's visit in Singapore and his vague threats to expose them.
“So...” Namjoon continues, “I'd like you all to go for coffee. Hang out a while, get dinner, wait for my all-clear. Okay?”
Yoongi purses his lips. “What are you up to, Joon?” he asks.
“I want to meet with him alone,” Namjoon says. “To find out what he knows.”
Namjoon fully expects a conflict over this. He's outlined a dozen responses to their possible objections, so he's vaguely disappointed when they all just readily agree.
Though perhaps he should have guessed. It's mid-March. The cherry blossoms have burst into fragrant brilliance, and they've been trapped indoors for days, elbows-deep in packing crates.
So they bustle into the stale hallway, leaving Namjoon to wait, bouncing on his heels for a bothersome stretch of minutes before Minyeong finally arrives.
Park Minyeong is not a tall man. But as he slips from his shoes in the small foyer, Namjoon notes that he tends to inflate himself into the available space. He angles to greet Namjoon, chin raised, chest puffed, and then pauses to tilt his head.
“The others have gone out,” Namjoon says in response to Minyeong's unspoken question. Minyeong's jaw tightens. His nostrils flare. Namjoon understands that Minyeong must adjust his tactics, which is what Namjoon wants: a one-on-one conversation, man to man.
“Ah, well,” Minyeong says, stepping past Namjoon into the kitchen. “They aren't necessary to my mission today.” He peers into boxes, nodding to himself as he moves into the common room.
“And what is your mission, sir?” Namjoon asks.
Minyeong riffles through the box of receipts Hoseok had been organizing. He smears his finger along the top of the TV and rubs the dust into his thumb. He says, “I'm checking your progress. Seems you have a long way to go. Will you be ready by the 26th?”
“Of course, sir,” Namjoon answers.
“Of course,” Minyeong echoes, but the phrase sounds acidic on his tongue. He brushes into the bunkroom, hands laced behind his back, hunting for something to criticize. If he finds evidence of them slacking, he can report back to Bang PD that he had to crack the whip to get them moving.
But Namjoon knows that they are, in fact, ahead of their schedule. They followed Hoseok's suggestion, concentrating their efforts on getting from point A to point B, knowing they'll have more time to unpack later. They worked long into the night since Friday, moving most of their personal belongings into the new dorm before dawn.
Still, Minyeong glowers, like he smells something foul. Probably the ondol, Namjoon thinks, which reeks of onions and feet, and will be one of a thousand things he won't miss about this place.
Minyeong turns to catch Namjoon grinning. He snatches upon it like an owl seizing prey. “I fail to find humor in your lack of progress,” Minyeong says. “You'll need to clean this place once everything is moved, and with the number of boxes remaining, you'll need an extension into May to get it all done.”
“No, sir,” Namjoon answers, in a voice that seems calm. “We will meet the deadline of the 26th, and the dorm will be spotless.”
Minyeong glares at Namjoon, as if searching for a challenge in his words. Namjoon has observed Minyeong long enough to know that he needs only to answer his questions, to speak respectfully, and to volunteer nothing. Minyeong likes to ruffle them. He likes to see them flustered. Complaints and back-talk make Minyeong feel justified, and Namjoon knows better than to add fuel to that fire.
So he waits. Minyeong shuffles around in the kitchen, rummaging through cabinets, picking through bins. He inspects the bathroom tile. He lifts the toilet lid with his toe. He grouses over a dent in the common room wall, the remnant of a b-boy contest gone wrong. Namjoon weathers Minyeong's litany of remarks, fighting the urge to speak in defense of the others. He knows how futile it would be, so he follows, biting his tongue while biding his time.
When they return at last to the foyer, Minyeong hovers, picking at his nails. He says, “I will need to see the room manifest before the move is finalized.”
Ah. There it is. Namjoon says, “I have it here, actually.”
Namjoon passes the notepad to Minyeong, flipping past several scribbles of incomplete songs to the sketched floor plan of their new place.
Minyeong steps in, far too close, to study the sketch. “There are four bedrooms,” he says. “Why is this one empty?”
“We're using it for storage now,” Namjoon answers. “Once we've unpacked, we'll decide who gets it.”
“I see you've separated Kim Seokjin and Kim Taehyung,” Minyeong says.
“Yes, sir,” Namjoon says.
Minyeong coughs a small chuckle. He says, “I imagine they disliked that arrangement.”
They had. Taehyung had railed for days to share with Seokjin, but Yoongi finally silenced him by saying, “You don't get to room with the guy you're banging, Taehyung. At least not on paper.”
Seokjin consoled Taehyung by assuring him that they could swap with Yoongi whenever they liked. Plus Taehyung got to bunk with Jimin and Hoseok. The whole lot of them were loud, cuddly night people, so the compromise worked in everyone's favor.
But Namjoon says, “No, sir. Seokjin-hyung's a light sleeper, and Taehyung-ie talks in his sleep.”
Minyeong chews as he considers this. He says, “We have to look out for them, you see.”
Namjoon quells a small flicker of alarm. He asks, “What do you mean, sir?”
Minyeong runs his tongue along his bottom teeth. “They aren't like you and me,” he says. “They don't see the bigger picture. But you know how things can appear to an outsider's eye. How... treacherous it can be.”
A chill slides like ice down Namjoon's spine. Interesting choice of words, treacherous. Far more sinister than dangerous or uncertain. Far more pointed, and Namjoon understands the implication behind it. “Yes, sir,” he answers.
Minyeong pats Namjoon's shoulder as he toes back into his shoes. He says, “I will report your progress to Bang PD-nim, but nothing more.” As he opens the door, he adds, “For now.”
Once Minyeong is gone, Namjoon sends a text to the group chat calling everyone home. They return quickly, bearing Burger King for him like it's an offering.
Namjoon feels a sense of rightness as he ranges them around the common room, among the half-packed boxes of their former life. In so many ways, once they leave this dorm, they part forever from the childhood of their trainee days. So maybe it's wise to talk about their future now, as a safeguard against the things that may come.
Without preamble, Namjoon says, “Minyeong-nim probably knows about you two.” And then, before they can react, he moves from discussion to action. “It's time, I think, for us to implement some rules of our own, so that we'll be able to keep each other safe.”