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Loser

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Yeo Changgu was, what most of the talented students in prestigious Cube Academy called, a loser. He wasn’t tall like Jung Wooseok, he wasn’t cute like Jo Jinho, and he wasn’t a foreign beauty like Yanan and Adachi Yuto either. He could hardly gain attention and control like Lee Hwitaek and being as charismatic and charming as Kim Hyojong and Kang Hyunggu or outstandingly gorgeous as Ko Shinwon was simply out of the question. He didn’t have the favourable smarts while maintaining his good looks like Yang Hongseok as well. He was probably the most boring and average looking person among his peers of good-looking angels or attractive personalities.

He felt judged. Thoroughly, as he walked into school every morning, head kept down and a tiny frown on his face. He thought there was nothing special to him. Until one day, he opened his locker door and 9 letters fluttered out from the confinements of the metal space. It made quite a ruckus as every students turned their heads to watch the flustered boy scramble to pick up the letters.

At his seat, his hands fumbled to open one of them, his breath hitched when he read the words. It was a love letter, written so sweetly and carefully, with hints of shyness in it and specifically meant for him. It was written at the top with shaky handwriting, Yeo Changgu, and a tiny smiley face. Changgu felt the heat rising to his ears as he read through the letter at least five times, hoping to spot a joke somewhere but it felt real. There was no signature but just a H written hastily at the end

Yeo Changgu had a secret admirer.

Scratch that, he had nine as Changgu opened the other letters, all addressed to him. They all had different handwritings and meant almost the same thing as the first letter, with varying personalities written in there but at the end of each letters held different letters. Well, some of them. There was a W, a J, three more H’s, an S and two Y’s. It was driving him deeper into confusion as he tried to make out of those initials. Maybe they’re initials. But it’s impossible for him to get a secret admirer, much less nine.

Maybe it was just a prank. Just to get him riled up. Changgu shoved the letters into his bag roughly and tried to keep his mind off those letters for the rest of the day. And he could have completely forgotten about it if it wasn’t for Hyunggu who sat next to him in Maths class, much to his surprise.

“Sorry, seat taken?” Hyunggu smiled brightly as he removed his backpack from his shoulder. Changgu shook his head, a small blush on his face.

“N-no,” he stuttered out. Hyunggu looked way too pleased at his answer as he arranged his pencil case. Changgu looked at Hyunggu’s hands, amazed at how perfect and flawless they were. The teacher entered and Hyunggu flipped open his notebook.

Wow, for such nice hands, his handwriting was sure ugly. But familiar somehow.

Changgu brushed it off and went to do his own notes. Maybe he was just imagining it but didn’t one of his letters have that familiar scrawl?

~~~

Changgu’s lab partner was Hongseok. The teacher paired them together at the beginning of the year much to the classroom’s groans and whines cause face it, why do the experiment when you have a genius like Hongseok do it for you just fine? All you had to do was just copy and paste.

But Changgu did not want to feel like a burden to Hongseok, making him do all the work. He offered help more often than once and felt especially satisfied whenever Hongseok gave him that gentle and grateful smile as they worked together like a finely tuned machine.

“So, anything new today?” Hongseok asked as they grabbed their lab equipment and set them on their shared table. Changgu’s mind flashed back to the morning when he received the letters, but he shook his head with a hesitant smile. Hongseok raised an eyebrow but let it slide, grabbing Changgu’s hands to guide the scalpel cleanly down the dead rat’s stomach.

Changgu struggled to stop blushing as Hongseok moved to write their observation in his notebook. Unconsciously, Changgu’s eyes followed the smooth movement of Hongseok’s hand and took note at how neat his handwriting was, as if it was typed out. Thinking of it, he remembered that one of the letters he received look typed out if it wasn’t for the tiny smudge on one of the words. Was it Hongseok who sent one of the letters?

There are a lot of students with neat handwriting, Yeo Changgu, the boy told himself and Changgu felt like he should stop being ridiculous. It was impossible that a genius like Hongseok would like an average grade student like Changgu.

~~~

Changgu knew that he wasn’t clumsy. But he gaped up at the guy who sneered at him, his butt hurting from where he fell to the ground. Everyone watched the interaction between Changgu and the other boy with shocked silence. “Watch where you’re going, loser,” he barked before spinning around, only to bump into a tall, threatening figure.

“You’re the one who made him fall,” Jung Wooseok said lowly, almost growling. His fringe made him seem more frightening as he glared at the guy who shook in his knees. “And you’re blaming him? Apologise,” he commanded. The guy bowed and hastily shouted an apology to Changgu before running off in embarrassment, the students laughing quietly at his lost ‘intimidation’.

Wooseok bent down to help Changgu gather up his things as the students went off with what they were supposed to do. “T-thank you,” Changgu muttered as he tucked his book safely in his arms. Wooseok’s smile was tiny, almost timid as he offered to walk Changgu to the cafeteria where he had his lunch usually. Changgu was in no position to say no but he couldn’t help to smile at how Wooseok’s personality did not match his outer appearance around 95% of the time.

It reminded him of the letter that seemed to have difficulty conveying their feelings, but it did in the end. And ironically, the initial at the bottom was a W. It could possibly be Wooseok right? But Changgu didn’t want to jump into conclusions so quickly.

~~~

Changgu hated being too nice sometimes but he hated the idea of disappointing his teachers even more so there he was, carrying a stack of books that blocked his view as he struggled to get down the stairs. As he moved down, his feet seemed to touch only air and he stumbled down the stairs, the stack of books running after him like an avalanche.

“Shit dude, you okay?” a concerned voice spoke up. Changgu wanted to die when he realised who witnessed his embarrassing fall. The foreign duo, Yanan and Yuto.

“I’m fine,” he scrambled to his feet, but he collapsed with a high-pitched whine when he felt a searing pain on his ankles.

“You’re hurt!” Yanan exclaimed in alarm. Yuto wasted no time in picking up Changgu and running towards the nurse’s office while Yanan stayed behind to collect the fallen books. Yuto ignored the string of Chinese curses from the Shanghai Prince as he yelled at Yuto to wait for him.

Yuto stayed with Changgu as the nurse patched him up and Yanan came in afterwards, looking grumpy but overall worried. Changgu apologised for troubling them but the reassuring words, a bit chunky from not grasping Korean well enough yet, comforted Changgu. He promised to treat them Korean hotpot later which caused Yanan’s eyes to light up.

The nurse shooed the duo away to let Changgu rest and they left but not without leaving some protest, mixing up some of their native words. Changgu remembered two words that didn’t sit well with the Korean hangul in two of the letters, but he knew enough that they were Chinese characters and Japanese kanji. Maybe?

Nah. There were lots of other Japanese and Chinese students in the school. Could be anyone.

~~~

Despite the pain he felt on his legs, Changgu managed to survive the rest of the day and couldn’t wait to return home. Until he remembered that he had something to do for the afternoon. Limping to the student council’s office, he entered after knocking.

“You’re here,” Hwitaek, or Hui as most called him, smiled but then turned worried when he noticed the patches on Changgu’s legs and arms. “What happened to you?” he gasped.

Changgu smiled sheepishly. “Fell down the stairs,” he replied. He reassured Hui that he was fine, and the boy hurried him to take a seat. “So… what do you need me for?” he asked with his usual pleasant smile.

Hui’s smile reminded Changgu of warm summer thoughts during wintry seasons, one of the features the younger adored other than his well-liked personality. The busy student council president pulled out a stack of papers and flipped through them quickly before stopping on a page and slowly flipped them back to the page he really wanted.

“Right, you know that there’s a festival coming right up for the school fundraising goal, right? Three months to be exact,” Hui started. Changgu nodded. Of course, the festival was all everybody had been talking about for weeks. Every student was involved. Well, except for Changgu. He was yet to decide on which program to help and the one he wanted to do was so popular that the volunteer list was full.

But of course, it was the school play. Ko Shinwon was a sure student to be one of the volunteers (meaning being the lead actor and self-assigned director) and everyone loves Ko Shinwon. So even if they sucked at acting, being in the same program as Shinwon would be everything to them, especially the girls. Other than the fact that Shinwon would be involved in the program, Changgu had an immense passion for acting… If he tried… And, if he hadn’t been sick that day when the sign-up sheet went up.

“Anyways, we want you to take part in the drama for the school fest,” Hui said, startling Changgu.

“W-what?” he spluttered.

Hui gave an amused smile. “The director, which is our Ko Shinwon himself, has high expectations and well, it seemed like his expectations were not met during auditions and personally demanded that you must take part in the play,” he answered.

Changgu’s head swirled. Ko Shinwon, handsomest student in school, one of the unrivalled popular guys, wanted him to take part in the play? Personally? Changgu stuttered out a pathetic excuse but Hui shook his head. “He’s insistent on it and you know how impatient he gets,” he sighed but there was a hint of fondness for the short-tempered man. “And… you’re supposed to report to him at the school theatre in 20 minutes,” Hui checked his watch.

Changgu scrambled to his feet, ignoring the protests of pain on his legs as he rushed to the school theatre. The school was big, and the theatre was on the other side of the building. Meaning it would take around 30 minutes to reach there with his leg condition. In his haste, he bumped into a blonde figure, near toppling over if it wasn’t for the quick-moving Kim Hyojong.

“Woah, where’s the fire?” Hyojong joked as he patted Changgu’s shoulder. Noticing the slight angle that Changgu bent, his eyes drifted down to the bandage on the limbs. “You’re not supposed to run with your legs like that,” he looked worriedly.

Changgu gave an embarrassed smile. “Well uh… I need to rush to the theatre to meet Shinwon in…,” he checked his watch, “ten minutes!” he yelped, about to rush off when Hyojong stopped him.

“At this distance? With your legs?” he gasped. “Take your time, dude. I can calm down Shinwon for you if you want to. I’m pretty good at that,” he smiled proudly at himself. Changgu gave a soft smile. Of course, being one of the most laid-back kids in school, Hyojong could calm anybody down with his easy-going personality and bright laugh.

“Okay, I guess,” Changgu agreed willingly. Hyojong grabbed his arm and they both walked to the theatre. Changgu enjoyed Hyojong’s company, the boy rattling off about something that happened that day. Eventually, they reached the theatre and entered, to meet Shinwon pacing around in agitation.

“Yo, Mr Director,” Hyojong called cheerfully. Shinwon’s head snapped up and his eyes met Changgu’s. Changgu nearly expected a scolding but the model-like male gave a relieved sigh. Well, that was unexpected.

Shinwon walked up to him and hugged him tightly, catching Changgu even more off-guard. “Thank goodness you’re here,” he exclaimed. Changgu hesitantly patted his back and Shinwon stepped back. The smile remained on Shinwon’s face as he turned to Hyojong. “Thanks for bringing him here, hyung,” he said gratefully. The older male blew him a kiss before leaving them with a light skip in his steps.

Changgu was dragged towards the front of the theatre, shying away from the curious looks from the students involved in the school play. A script was placed into his hands and Shinwon looked very much eager to get started. “I’ve decided to let you play the main male lead,” the taller of the two said.

“W-what?” Changgu spluttered out. Shinwon repeated his statement, remaining patient (which was unlike himself, really) as Changgu let his words sink in. “I thought you would be the main male lead,” he frowned.

Shinwon gave a dramatic sigh. “I would but since I’m a director, I don’t have time to act at the same time. I need to make sure everything is perfect, you know,” he suddenly placed his hands on Changgu’s shoulder and stepped close.

Changgu could see the light dusting of freckles on Shinwon’s cheeks, the little honey coloured flecks in his eyes and he gulped. Shinwon, the school hottie, was way too close but Changgu couldn’t find it in himself to push the taller away. “You’re the perfect man for the job,” Shinwon said in a low tone.

“But, I don’t think I can act that well to be in the main lead… or any parts in general,” Changgu looked unsure, voice trembling slightly. Shinwon scoffed.

“Nonsense!” he exclaimed loudly, making the students nearby look up at them. Realising his loudness, Shinwon coughed and lowered his voice. “I know a good actor when I see one. I saw you the other day. I was impressed,” he smirked.

Changgu’s face burned. “Wait, you saw me acting out to Hamlet?” he gasped. Shinwon nodded. Changgu was ready to die from embarrassment. There was a time he acted out to Hamlet to get a better understanding of the literature and he had done it in an empty room, hours after the school bell rang signalling the end of school. He hadn’t expected Shinwon to see him. How mortifying.

Shinwon seemed to think otherwise. “Please,” he begged with puppy eyes. “None of them are as good as you and I need a male lead now,” he whispered so he wouldn’t offend any of the male students nearby. Little people could resist Shinwon’s puppy eyes and it seemed that Changgu was not one of them.

“I-,” he hesitated before giving a resigned sigh. “Fine,” he relented. Shinwon perked up and hugged him with a squeal. Changgu stumbled back slightly at the sudden hug, face turning even redder at the attention Shinwon bestowed upon him. When the older stepped back, he directed the younger to someone sitting on one of the theatre seats, warming out their throat.

“Jinho hyung,” Shinwon sang as he plopped Changgu down. Changgu shied away when Jinho, the student which the whole school voted as the cutest, gave him a bright smile. “This is Changgu, as you know,” Shinwon winked. “Changgu, Jinho hyung.”

Changgu thought that the introduction was unnecessary. Everyone knew who Jinho was. Cutest vocalist to ever exist, a charming persona, and the friendliest student in the whole school. Another example of a popular student. “He’s in charge of the singing so he’ll guide you with the songs,” Shinwon said before bouncing away to probably yell at other students.

Director’s perks.

Changgu watched him leave before turning to Jinho who still had that smile on his face. “So Changgu,” he started, a sweet lilt to his voice as he scooted closer. Changgu gave a tiny gulp as the shorter student took the script and turned to the first page. He tried to concentrate but who could with Jinho hyung smiling at him with that cute dimples and attractive eyes?

It was going to be a very long three months.

~~~

The letters never did stop. Day by day, he would expect 9 letters in his locker, no more and no less. Maybe it was a genuine thing. Who the heck can keep up a prank for three weeks? The letters still had those various personalities and Changgu didn’t really have the time to find out who were his secret admirers. Not with the play preparation going around.

Changgu wasn’t exactly an attentive person. Hyunggu often sat next to him in classes they had together, smiling brightly away and chatting about the random things he did and what not. Hongseok touched his hands often, sometimes unconsciously as they worked on assignments and asking about his days in between.

Wooseok was like a giant puppy. It became natural to see the tall boy eagerly waiting for him outside his classroom ever since the ‘bully’ incident. He seemed to know Hyunggu and Hongseok as well, smiling at the two fondly. But Changgu merely assumed that it was one of politeness and friendliness.

“Hey, how’s your leg?” Yuto asked. Obviously, Yanan was by his side, a grin on his face. The foreign duo did not have to check on Changgu since his legs were now fine after two weeks or so. But it was sort of comforting knowing that they were looking out for him even if they didn’t have to. Changgu smiled and assured them that he was fine.

“You’re still up for hotpot, right?” Changgu asked. Yanan and Yuto nodded eagerly but when they went out after school that day, both chipped in to pay for the meal despite the older’s protests. It was hard to argue with the stubborn kids and Changgu eventually relented, much to their delight. They talked, throughout ‘dinner’ as they called it, and Yuto and Yanan seemed to know about the people Changgu talked about, personally even: Hyunggu, Hongseok, Wooseok, Hyojong, Hui, Shinwon and Jinho. But Changgu assumed they knew because the seven were popular. Popular would mix with popular.

Hui and Hyojong came by the theatre often, just to check on how the play was going. Hui, because he was the student council president. He was supposed to check. Hyojong didn’t have to but he liked playing with Shinwon even when Shinwon grumpily told him to knock it off. Both liked talking to Changgu and Changgu liked talking to them too when they asked how it was going on his end. Nice guys, really.

Jinho was sweet. Like super sweet. Sure, on bad days, he could be a real grump but whenever he was around Changgu, there were always flowers and rainbows. Changgu got over his nervousness as Jinho guided him with the songs. Shinwon praised him during rehearsals and even when Changgu screwed up, Shinwon didn’t get mad, instead shouting, “You’re doing great. Just keep improving.”

~~~

Three weeks, two weeks and one week left, the play was already perfect. Everyone knew their lines, there wasn’t any prop mishaps, and nothing could go wrong. Well, Shinwon didn’t like to jinx it so he just said, “Don’t hurt yourself and just break a leg,” firmly before dismissing the now tired casts for a good evening rest.

Changgu stayed behind, reading the script one more time and giving another sigh. Being the main lead, and so suddenly too, was tiring. Moreover, he still hadn’t even got started on who sent the mysterious letters despite being so curious. “You okay?” Jinho asked.

Changgu nodded. “Yeah, hyung. Everything’s fine,” he said tiredly. But Jinho could tell that the younger was nervous. He sat beside the younger and squeezed his hand.

“You’ll do amazing. Don’t worry,” Jinho assured him. It was nice to have someone putting lots of trust in him.

“Yeah. And Jinho hyung’s words are always pretty much accurate,” Shinwon’s voice interjected from above them, where he leaned his arms on Changgu’s seat, one step higher. He climbed over the back seat of the chair and fell heavily on Jinho’s lap, apologising when Jinho wheezed from the sudden weight. The taller leaned into the oldest naturally as he smiled reassuring at Changgu. “I chose you for a reason. Right, Jinho hyung?” he smiled. Jinho nodded in enthusiasm.

Changgu could only see how the duo fitted well together. Both musical enthusiasts and worked well together like a well-oiled machine. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they were both dating. It made Changgu jealous for some reason; having the reassurance that they would have someone they could count on.

The theatre door opened and Hui entered, followed by Hyojong. “Hey guys. I need to make sure every student left,” Hui spoke up cheerfully.

“Hey, Hui, Hyojong,” Jinho nodded to them in a friendly greeting. Hyojong made himself comfortable on the seat beside Changgu while Hui leaned on the seat where Shinwon previously stood.

“How’s the play getting along?” Hyojong asked. Changgu watched as Hui reached down to tuck a piece of Shinwon’s stray hair that fell behind his ear before realising that Hyojong was talking to him.

“Oh… uh, it’s going well,” Changgu smiled shyly. Hyojong looked happy with his answer as he shifted his position to lie his head on the younger’s shoulder. Changgu didn’t think much about it, or just didn’t want to overthink it as his heart did a tiny flip.

Shinwon cleared his throat. “So you don’t have any problems, right? We should pack up,” he reminded before getting off Jinho’s lap with a grunt. Changgu accepted Shinwon’s hand and pulled himself up. He almost missed the way Shinwon’s hand lingered for a few moments too long before dropping to help Jinho up but he assumed that it was something else, whatever the something else was. Hyojong immediately latched onto Jinho, affectionately rubbing his cheeks against the oldest as the five head out of the theatre, just to bump into Yuto and Hyunggu who had Wooseok tucked into a head lock, ruffling his hair playfully while Yanan and Hongseok laughed.

“Hey guys,” Hongseok smiled brightly. Changgu didn’t expect that all nine of them knew each other. But then again, they were all popular. Likes attracted likes even with their different charismatic personalities. It made Changgu feel left out as some of them started rough housing while the others giggled at the silly antics.

There was a warm arm around his shoulder and Changgu jumped slightly at the sudden skinship. Yanan smiled at him, all adorable and pure, and Changgu felt himself relaxing as the ten of them walked out of the school. Changgu had expected to go on his separate ways once they exited the school gates when Hui suddenly announced that they should get ice-cream. His treat, of course.

Changgu found himself being dragged along and watched as Wooseok sneakily took two expensive World Cone even when Hui said that they could have only one. He laughed at the sight of Shinwon taking a huge bite of Yanan’s ice-cream, effectively taking away the chocolate bit, which made the Chinese boy whine and hit him. He gave an offended gasp when Hyunggu suddenly swiped ice-cream onto his cheeks and the younger merely fell onto his firm chest into a fit of giggles.

Changgu liked the happy vibe that spread around. He liked the loud laughter from Hui after hearing an amusing story from Yuto. He liked the way Hongseok’s hand brushed against his before gripping his wrist when he saw a cute puppy on the other side of the street. He liked the way Hyojong suddenly danced to the beat from a music store, making them cheer him on.

It made his heart flutter as they waved to him goodbye with bright energy. He kept a smile on his face as he plopped on his bed. It was a nice feeling that made his face flush. Changgu never had that much attention paid to him.

Which made him wonder what was so special about him. The smile slid off his face as he moved towards the mirror. Plain, old Changgu stared back at him. He was nothing special. A regular face among the crowd, more likely. The boy tried to find out what was so special about him. Maybe his smile? He gave a toothy grin but remembered that Hyunggu had a smile brighter than any sun. Maybe it was his eyes. But then Hui and Jinho had those cute eye smiles that could melt anyone’s heart. Maybe it was his height. Changgu stood up straighter but how could he compare to Yanan, Shinwon and Wooseok?

Changgu sigh. It couldn’t be his personality or his looks. He was too bland. He wasn’t mysterious like Yuto or cool like Hyojong or attractive like Hongseok. Why on Earth would they want someone the likes of him around?

Pity? Maybe.

He was just a loser after all.

~~~

The thoughts seemed to plague him the next day. He took the letters as usual, reading them without much thought. He seemed to be unaware of Hyunggu’s presence when the boy sat next to him. He spaced out during lab experiment, keeping quiet as Hongseok gave him the observations to write down. He nearly walked pass Wooseok when the bell rang for lunch.

Yuto and Yanan scared him when they suddenly tapped his shoulder and asked about his day. He answered dismissively before walking away, still deep in thoughts. Hyojong suddenly jumped onto his back but it didn’t shake him out of his haze. Hui didn’t talk to him, instead opting for a reassuring pat on his shoulder when he saw the younger.

Rehearsal was the worst. He screwed up too many times to be forgiven even though he did the rehearsals perfectly the day before. Shinwon was starting to get impatient and it wouldn’t be long before Jinho couldn’t calm the short-tempered man down. Eventually, Shinwon called for an early dismissal and sat Changgu down.

“What’s wrong with you?” Shinwon asked as they sat face-to-face on the stage. Changgu said nothing as he played with his shoelaces. Shinwon sighed before scooting closer to cup Changgu’s cheeks so the younger could face him. “Bad day today?” he asked.

Changgu shrugged, eyes darting away. Shinwon gave him a sudden hug, surprising the boy. “Don’t worry. You’re doing amazing. You’re already perfect,” he murmured. Changgu felt his burden lightening. Even if it was probably empty words, Shinwon made everything sound better. Changgu nodded as he buried his face into Shinwon’s neck.

That night, Changgu read the day’s letters again and felt slightly better when the word ‘perfect’ came up.

~~~

Changgu half expected to throw up at least five times on festival day. He sat in the classroom that served as the waiting room, trying not to sneeze as the brush tickled his nose. “Changgu-ya,” one of the girls in charge of passing message suddenly called to him. The guy doing his make-up took a step back to let Changgu answer to his name.

“You’ve got mail,” the girl bounced up to him with a pink envelope. Changgu waited until he was done so he could read the letter to prevent any makeup falling unto the paper.

It contained two lines. ‘Come meet us at the school rooftop after the play. And break a leg’

There was a cheesy heart at the bottom and it was unsigned. The sender used ‘us’ instead of ‘me’ and Changgu knew enough that the nine senders that have been giving him letter the past three months all collaborated into one. It gave him a tiny itch at the back of his head as if it was nagging him about knowing his secret admirers by that time, but he had no time to dwell on it. Not when he was going to be up on stage soon.

“We’re ready in twenty minutes. Get ready,” Jinho announced. He looked dashing in his suit, Changgu had to admit. But when was he never? Jinho’s eyes searched among the mass number of bodies and props before settling on Changgu’s. The younger could have sworn that Jinho gave a knowing smile before leaving the room.

~~~

Spectacular, show-stopping, out of this world. That was what Changgu felt as he stepped off the stage and entered the waiting room where everyone roared with cheers for a job well done. Praises and compliments were soaked up as Changgu smiled bashfully. Someone called out for an after party and everyone agreed.

Changgu remembered the letter and after making up an excuse, he ducked away. Shinwon and Jinho were surprisingly no where to be found among the crowd since they played the biggest part in ensuring the play was successful. Changgu couldn’t find it in himself to care. Well, a part of him was curious to know where they went but priorities first.

Make up free and in his casual clothes, Changgu climbed up the stairs leading to the school rooftop. His heart beat wildly as he finally came face-to-face with the rooftop door. His hands itched as he finally opened the door with a click.

Changgu’s jaw nearly dropped when he saw who stood in front of him, all holding red roses in their hands. Hui, Jinho, Hongseok, Hyojong, Shinwon, Yanan, Yuto, Hyunggu and Wooseok smiled at him, relief clear on their face as Changgu stepped further in, closing the door behind him. The rooftop was decorated with fairy lights and behind the nine boys was a huge round table to fit all of them. There was a silence between them despite the loud bustle of noises below them.

“So, um… congratulations!” Hui was the first to speak. To say he was speechless would be the proper term as he approached the boys.

“W-why?” his voice trembled slightly. Why indeed. He wasn’t special. He wasn’t popular. He wasn’t someone people would look twice at. So why did they all choose him? “Why me?”

Hyojong frowned. “What do you mean why? You’re amazing!” he exclaimed, stepping forward to hold Changgu’s hand. That encouraged the rest to crowd around him.

“You’re sweet.”

“You’re nice.”

“You’re absolutely talented.”

“You’re beautiful.”

“You shine like a freaking diamond!”

“You’re perfect.”

“You’re the one we want.”

“You’re the one we like most.”

Changgu always knew he was emotional. His mom told him so. His dad told him so. His siblings told him so. Teachers too and classmates. As the last two confessions, he started sobbing. There were light chuckles and kisses on his cheeks as the boys doted over him.

Hyojong led him to the table where food was already laid out, candles setting the whole mood perfectly. He was squished between Hui and Yanan who smiled victoriously at the other seven who groaned at not being able to sit next to Changgu.

“I don’t get it,” Changgu said quietly. The boys looked at him. “The nine of you like each other, right?” he looked at them. They all nodded, not sure with where he was going. “Why did you include me? Why… What… How…,” Changgu struggled to find his words.

It was Hongseok who calmly explained it to him. “Truth to be told, we never expected to take one more person in, you know,” he started. Changgu flinched. “We all liked you back then but then you were like that pure thing that we couldn’t touch. Like you’re way out of our league.”

Changgu bit back a bark of laughter. Him? Out of their league? Shouldn’t it be the other way round? But he let Hongseok continue. “It’s just like that you know. It’s unexplainable but we just liked you. You just felt so right. And we didn’t like the idea of you being with someone else. Call us jealous,” the handsome male chuckled.

Changgu was silent. It wasn’t one or two people who liked him. It was nine. And the nine loved each other as much as they loved him. And Changgu couldn’t stop his heart from fluttering too much. He almost expected for it to escape from his mouth into the night air.

“I can’t believe you guys fell for a loser like me,” Changgu bit his lips, in attempts to hide how flustered he was.

“If you’re a loser, that makes us even bigger losers!” Wooseok gave an offended gasp which caused the other eight to laugh. Changgu eventually cracked a smile and gave a short laugh.

“Now there’s the smile we all love,” Jinho said. Their attention was back on him as they all clambered to show their affection to him.

“To the group of losers who love Changgu so much that they literally want to faint when talking to him!” Hui cheered, lifting his wine glass filled with orange soda. The boys cheered, doing the same as they clinked their glasses together. Changgu fell into a fit of giggles as he took a sip of his drink, watching his boys (His!! It seemed unreal, didn’t it?) started playing with each other and fought for his attention.

That night, he received nine messages from the boys telling him to sleep well and that they loved him.

Maybe he wasn’t so much of a loser after all.