There were never days where Changkyun was ashamed of his heritage. In fact, he was always proud to be what he was: Korean. He was born in Gwangju, belonged here, in Korea, had Korean blood flowing through his veins.
The fact that he wasn’t raised in Korea didn’t change that. He was still taught Korean, still followed Korean traditions. He made kimchi with his mother, bowed to any Koreans he met, spoke fluent Korean.
So, yes, there were never days where Changkyun felt as if he wasn’t Korean or felt as if he wanted to be American or Israeli. No matter what happened, he was always proud to be Korean.
That was why he absolutely couldn’t understand why people were giving him shit for ‘not being Korean’. Both of his parents were Korean, he was born in Korea, he spoke fluent Korean, ate Korean food, lived in Korea; what part of him wasn’t Korean?
Changkyun let put a ragged sigh at the thought. All day, left and right, he was reminded of the fact that he wasn't raised here, only moved here a couple of years ago, didn't belong here .
It started to gnaw on his nerves.
“Oh, look who it is, Mr. Foreigner! You need to go back to where you come from. Korea is for Koreans, you know?” Changkyun is pulled away from his thoughts by the student yelling from behind him. Just from his voice, Changkyun could already tell it was Kim Dongyun, one of his classmates
Changkyun scowled at that, hands curling in his hoodie pockets. He didn’t stop for Dongyun, though and, instead, answered loudly “I came from Gwangju.”
The other two lackeys with Dongyun didn’t seem to like that because the two of them sped up, suddenly blocking Changkyun’s path.
Changkyun honestly wasn't surprised to see Go Sunghyun and Chang Junhyung. The two always followed after Dongyun, always did what he wanted. There was something in their expressions today, though. Something a little bit darker than usual.
When he considered what he should do, the thought of crossing the street and entering the convenience store there flitted through Changkyun’s mind. The three of them wouldn’t try anything in a convenience store, especially with the employees in there.
Sadly, he was sure that the store was closed. Though the lights were on, it was already eleven at night and he doubted any store would be open at this time, especially a family owned convenience store.
Dongyun purposely bumped into Changkyun’s shoulder as he walked past, situating himself in front of Changkyun and pulling the poor kid out of his happy thoughts of escape “What did you say, foreigner?”
Changkyun let Dongyun do whatever he wanted, too tired to deal with him “I said ‘I came from Gwangju’. My mother gave birth to me there.”
Dongyun laughed almost haughtily at that, hand raising to pat Changkyun’s cheek “I didn’t know foreigners lied too.”
That was stupid. Of course, foreigners lied. Foreigners, like everyone else, were human. Humans lied. Changkyun didn't say that, though, weary of what Dongyun was up to.
If Changkyun had to guess, he would say that, most likely, the reason Dongyun was so upset was because of his lower school rank and because of the fact that Changkyun was now at the very top of that same ranked list.
The last thing Changkyun wanted was to be punished for the fact that he studied more and tried harder than most of the other students.
“Okay, whatever you say.” Changkyun pushed Dongyun’s hand away, trying to keep a scowl off his face “Listen, I don’t want any trouble.”
Dongyun didn’t like that response and his fist flew forward. Changkyun suddenly found himself doubling over, a blunt kind of pain radiating from the side of his stomach. He coughed a little despite the fact that there was nothing for him to cough up, arms wound tightly around his midriff.
There was a hand on Changkyun’s head, most likely Dongyun’s “You listen, okay? I don’t like you.”
Changkyun could tell. He didn’t say anything though and, instead, tried to focus on keeping his breathing even to calm the pain he currently felt.
He had known for a while that something like this would happen, that, eventually, Dongyun would explode. Not exactly literally but Changkyun knew that Dongyun had a breaking point.
Usually, Dongyun would keep his bullying to a couple of nasty jeers in the hallways of school or maybe even harassing Changkyun on the walk home. It wasn't anything Changkyun himself couldn't ignore. It had never been anything bad like this.
Changkyun wasn’t aware what had finally broke Dongyun, maybe it really was the school ranks, but he’d at least anticipated some sort of climax to Dongyun’s bullying.
“I don’t like you because you don’t belong here.” Without warning, Dongyun’s hand pressed down on Changkyun’s head.
Changkyun, unable to hold his balance, fell forward, head hitting the pavement and world spinning if only a little bit. The throbbing wasn’t just on his stomach anymore. It was also on the left side of his face where he had fallen.
Dongyun just laughed and his two friends backed him up, one of them even going so far as to grip Changkyun’s elbow and pull him up that way.
“I belong here just as much as you do.” The words left Changkyun’s lips before he could stop himself, irritation finally bubbling past a breaking point. “Don’t use the fact that I wasn’t raised here as an excuse to bully me just because you’re jealous I’m getting better grades than you.”
As soon as he had said it, Changkyun regretted his words. He wanted to take every single letter and shove it back into his mouth, swallow it whole, never have it see the light of day. Though they were true, Dongyun wasn’t exactly pleased by them. In fact, Dongyun looked absolutely infuriated.
Before Changkyun could even brace himself, Dongyun’s fist found its way to Changkyun’s cheek. The next one was into his stomach again. There was a kick to what felt like his kneecap. Over and over, hit after hit. Changkyun’s body crumpled under the pain of it all.
Dongyun only finally relented when Changkyun fell to his knees, rough asphalt only adding to the pain that seemed to radiate from his entire body.
“You don’t fucking know anything, you dumbass foreigner.” Dongyun spat and Changkyun was glad it didn't hit him at all. “Think you're so smart--”
“Hey, what the fuck!” There was a sudden shout that made Changkyun’s heart leap up into his throat.
Dongyun and his friends didn't even hesitate. They heard the voice and ran as quickly as they could, not even sparing Changkyun a glance. What cowards. If they were going to beat Changkyun up, at least own up to it, not run like chickens.
It irritated him. He could be dying for all they cared. Changkyun spat at the ground, his spit crimson and dark against the sidewalk. He hated the three of them.
“Oh my god, kid, are you alright?” Whoever had yelled out seemed to scramble across the empty road.
Changkyun slowly stood, careful not to put pressure on anything that hurt, before glancing at the approaching stranger.
He looked a little handsome despite the unflattering light of the lamppost beside them and he seemed kind enough. In fact, Changkyun sort of felt like the stranger was less of a stranger and more of a familiar face.
“Kid? Did they beat you up that bad?” The stranger was looking Changkyun up and down as if assessing the damage before clicking his tongue “C’mon in, we need to get you iced down.”
Changkyun wondered if he really did look that bad. He touched his finger gingerly to a particularly painful part of his lip. It stung. In fact, his entire face stung. His entire body stung. Especially that knee that got hit a couple of times during the endeavor. Dongyun definitely knew how to pack a good hit.
The stranger looked even more concerned at Changkyun’s silence “Hey, hey, kid, did you get a concussion or something?”
“My name is Changkyun, not kid.” He had impulsively muttered, not even worried about who this person was or what their intentions were.
The stranger's face scrunched up at that but he introduced himself regardless “Lee Jooheon.”
That name was familiar. His face was familiar too. It really was. Changkyun could feel as if he knew this man, like they had met before under different circumstances. He just couldn’t pinpoint how or where.
“Do I know you?” Changkyun finally gave up trying to guess and, instead, actually asked, eyes roving quizzically over Jooheon’s features, head tilted a little to the side.
Jooheon rolled his eyes at the question and grabbed Changkyun’s hand and started to walk to the convenience store across the road “This is not the time to be cute and flirty.”
Changkyun was not being cute and flirty. He honestly felt like he knew Jooheon from somewhere. Though, if he was being honest, Jooheon was rather cute and, if Changkyun hadn't felt like he got run over by a car, he might've tried something.
Distracted by the unexpected situation, Changkyun had forgotten about most of his injuries. He was mostly intrigued by the stranger and by the fact that said stranger was willing to help him.
He was given a painful reminder of exactly what injuries he had when he stepped forward to follow Jooheon. As soon as he did, a stabbing pain zipped up his leg.
“Wait, wait, ow, ow.” Changkyun cried out, pulling his hand back in one swift jerking motion. He quickly crumpled down, the pain in his knee too severe for him to even attempt to walk with that leg.
The unimpressed expression on Jooheon’s face morphed into one of deep concern “Shit, did they sprain your leg or something?”
“One of them kicked my ankle.” Changkyun completely sat on the sidewalk, legs spread out onto the road “And I think one of them hit the same knee twice.”
“Both on the same leg?” Jooheon looked absolutely livid at that, eyes suddenly looking to the direction Donghyun had ran in “What absolute fuckers.”
“Here, if you lean on me, we can hobble over to the store. You need to get those iced.” This time, instead of just taking Changkyun’s hand, Jooheon offered his which, of course, Changkyun gratefully took.
It was easier to stand than Changkyun had thought. It was like balancing on one leg. He was a little wobbly at first but, with Jooheon’s hand, he managed.
Jooheon had then crouched down a little so that Changkyun could secure a grip around his shoulders. Jooheon even put his arm around Changkyun just in case.
It was probably a little funny, the two of them struggling to cross the road. Changkyun himself would've laughed if he wasn't in absolute pain.
“Thanks, by the way.” Changkyun muttered to Jooheon, sounding almost like it was just a simple side note.
Jooheon shook his head “It's no problem, man.”
“You probably didn't deserve this.” Jooheon then added, tone sympathetic and expression a little angry “You look like a sweet kid.”
Changkyun smiled at that, the first time all day. He wouldn't say that hearing those words were worth getting beat up over but, honestly, he could at least appreciate it.