Jaekyu starts wondering if things would have been different if he didn't find Jinsoo's diary. He wouldn't have written the letters, they wouldn't have stayed in school for the Christmas break, Kim Yohan wouldn't have started the game. They wouldn't have killed him. He used to think that they were all guilty of his murder but as time went by, he came to the conclusion that he is the only one responsible for Kim Yohan's death and for them turning into monsters. He is the most sinful one in the end.
It starts to obsess him when Susin High reopens a month later and they reunite; Chihoon who isn't ignoring him anymore but is only greeting him with a nod when they bump into each other in a hallway, Mooyul whose face darkened and whose grades are going down, Eunsung who is really good at pretending that nothing changed, Youngjae who refuses to talk about what happened and is becoming an even bigger bully, Kangmo who stopped taking pictures but started reading about serial killers, Mireu who enjoys his popularity by telling their story to whoever is willing to hear and Yoonsu who isn't here anymore.
People stare at them a lot - so much that sometimes Jaekyu is scared Youngjae will loose it -, calling them names when they aren't there, joking about them turning into serial killers too, discussing the articles or reports appearing in the news after the break and this is when Jaekyu starts to feel guilty. The guiltiness begins to eat him up until he is left empty.
He hated being ignored - being a ghost in the school, being reduced to his marks and nothing else - but becoming the center of attention is far worse. He is realizing it now. He wishes he could be popular like Mooyul or Mireu; because of his personality, because of his looks, but no, he became popular because he underwent a serial killer's sick game.
He never wanted things to go so out of control, them to go that far. He wanted to scare them a little - all those shallow jerks he hated -, to made them realize their cruelty and what they did to Jinsoo - what they were doing to him - but he never planned for them to suffer that much. Because what they are living right now is far worse than what they survived a few months ago.
Sure, it had been hard and nerve-wrecking to fight Kim Yohan but it is way more difficult to live as a killer.
The hardest is for Mooyul, Jaekyu knows, because even though they all did what needed to be done, Mooyul can't live with himself now. He can't look at himself without the terrible word "monster" popping out in his head. None of them can, but Mooyul more particularly. Kim Yohan would have say that it is a natural consequence of his hero complex, but Jaekyu is convinced that it is because he can't bring himself to accept Kim Yohan's win.
For Jaekyu, guilt is the worse thing. All of this started because of him and they all know it, even if they are nice enough to keep it to themselves. But how long will they keep being nice? He is almost surprised no one came to yell at him or even try to make him pay - Eunsung maybe - but they are all so busy trying to deal with their own problems and with the image of Kim Yohan smiling at them before dying that none of them even has time to think about him.
He decides to get rid of Jinsoo's diary at that time. At first he wants to keep it, - to remember forever what happened -, he even contemplates continuing it with his own story but when the idea of having Jinsoo's thoughts locked up in his drawer makes him shake and cry with guilt, he chooses to destroy it.
But first, he gives it to Mooyul for him to read it. Mooyul looks at him with big eyes and an expression that is asking "why?" but Jaekyu just shrugs; "I thought you would have wanted to read it before I threw it away."
Mooyul's brows furrows and he bites the nail of his thumb - a habit he caught recently -, Jaekyu notices. "Why getting rid of it?" The real question is: "do you want to forget so bad?" but it has become a tacit rule not to talk about it explicitly.
Jaekyu wishes he could explained what what is going on with him to Mooyul. He would have done it before because Mooyul used to be strong and understanding and he would have comforted him and found the right words to help him. But Mooyul isn't the Mooyul from before anymore. So Jaekyu lies. "Well, you know- In case the police comes to ask questions again, we should destroy it." His voice comes out way more shaky than he intended to but Mooyul doesn't point it out. He isn't really paying attention to anything lately anyway.
"Okay then, I'll read it."
Jaekyu still remembers how he felt when he first read Jinsoo's words; the terrible expression of a teenager's desperation and his silent cries for attention. During his first months at Susin, it helped him a lot, knowing that someone sustained the same pain as him, that he wasn't the only one feeling like an outcast in this too shiny and secured school. Some nights, he even considered killing himself too, just like Jinsoo, jumping off the roof. He was hoping that maybe if two students killed themselves the exact same way it would change something but he gave up halfway when he realized that none of them were probably aware of their wrongdoing. He was really proud of his idea at first; sending the letter to make them interested, to scare them, to make them questions themselves.
Now, he hates himself for doing it. It was a child's game at first - a few letters in black envelopes - and then it became a survival one.
He is eating at the cafeteria while reading his notes for the next class when Chihoon sits in front of him. Chihoon never sat in front of anyone before. He isn't even eating, he is just staring at him with his cold eyes which always make Jaekyu squirm in his seat.
"Hey-" he tries but Chihoon cuts him off before he can continue.
"Why did you give Jinsoo's diary to Mooyul?" He asks and Jaekyu can't tell if it's supposed to sound accusative or not.
"Because I want to get rid of it. I thought Mooyul would have wanted to read it before that." He looks around, checking that no one is eavesdropping. Chihoon is still staring at him and it makes him quite uncomfortable.
"Are you stupid?" He says next and when it is usually rhetorical question in other people mouth, with Chihoon it sounds like he is actually expecting an answer. "Don't you see that Mooyul is currently having trouble to deal with what happened? Why would you give him something that will make him feel even more guilty than he already is?" Chihoon's voice is calm - as always - but Jaekyu can sense the concern in his tone. Chihoon's voice became way more emotional after Kim Yohan.
"We are all having a hard time. We should put an end to it by destroying the diary. It is what started it." I started it.
"It's not your fault, Jaekyu." He wants to snort at that and he hates Chihoon for always being able to read him so easily.
"It's not the point. We aren't all like you. We can feel emotions." He spits, louder than he should. He doesn't want to hurt Chihoon but it's just too much. Too unfair, that Chihoon is the only one allowed to keep living his life peacefully when they're all falling apart.
When Kangmo offers to meet up, Jaekyu wants to refuse. He doesn't feel like reviving memories he had troubles to forget, but then Eunsung says that it has been almost a year since Yoonsu died and he can't refuse. He didn't realize how fast time passed, that it has been almost a whole year since they played the game.
When he looks out the window of the school, he sees that it has been snowing - maybe for a while now since the snow is so thick - and his eyes can't help but wander around the statue. The school didn't repair it since it broke last year and Jaekyu likes to think that it is the only mark left of what happened. Most of the students never heard about their teacher dying right there and staying hidden under the snow for days. It still makes him sick when girls sit there to eat lunch and laugh in the summer. But now the snow covered everything up again and it feels like yesterday since he was sending the letters and spying on them to see if they received them well.
"I'm not staying for Christmas break," Youngjae states as soon as they are all reunited in Mooyul's room.
"I heard that some students want to stay because they are curious about what happened. They want to have a good scare." Mireu explains, laughing and he's the only one. Jaekyu wishes he could laugh that easily but images of dead bodies and Kim Yohan's words are still vivid in his mind.
Eunsung snorts. "They're fucking stupids." She is sitting next to Mooyul on the bed and yet he isn't looking at her. It's like he stopped acknowledging other people's existence a long time ago. It's both scary and greatly sad, Jaekyu thinks. Maybe Kim Yohan ended up succeeding in suppressing the last bits of his sanity.
"What are you going to do with the diary?" It's Chihoon's disinterested voice directed to both Mooyul and him.
"What about the diary?" Youngjae asks, looking suddenly worried, eyes fluttering and glancing carefully at him. His relationship with Youngjae got worse after they were rescued. He blames it on the fight they had during the Christmas break, when they both became aware of how much Kim Yohan was fucking with their brains and that they were both very capable of killing someone. Both of them can't look at each other without remembering it and Jaekyu still has the scars of the punches he gave him on his hands.
"Jaekyu wants to destroy it." Chihoon answers and Eunsung stands up from the bed at that.
"What? Why? Suddenly?"
"Yeah, I think it might be dangerous if the police finds it." He lies again but it makes Youngjae jump on his seat.
"You're right!" He exclaims but Eunsung stops him.
"I don't think so. We should keep it. To remember." Her voice is dark once again and Jaekyu shivers. Eunsung's voice is dark a lot lately.
"Let's vote," Chihoon offers and it's almost unanimous. Only Kangmo and Eunsung oppose. Mooyul says that he read it and since all their names are mentioned inside, it is indeed dangerous. It's funny how everyone shut up after that, like Mooyul still has some sort of wisdom they should listen to when he is really just as fucked up as them.
"You shouldn't have read it." Kangmo says when he takes it off his drawer. "I really don't want to know what's inside."
"Me neither." Eunsung mutters, more to herself than to them. Jaekyu wants to object that if they paid attention to what's inside maybe none of this would have happen but it's too late anyway so he just keeps quiet.
Since they can't burn it, they tear it apart and each of them take some pages to throw out in different trash cans back in their hometown. Mireu jokes they are really shitty friends to Yoonsu, screwing up their reunion in his honor to destroy a diary and all.
Mooyul apologizes just before they leave for Christmas break. He says he finished the diary and he needs to say sorry even though he knows it's too late. It's too late for everything anyway. Jaekyu thinks that Jinsoo would have liked it - Mooyul's apology.
It's strange how a year ago, Mooyul would have take the contents of the diary quite rationally, saying that they are the words of a depressive teenager and get away with it, but now he comes to say sorry. It's the only thing Mooyul is doing lately; apologize. He understands that he doesn't have any more rights to pretend to be trying to save people or to help them and all he can do is feeling apologetic for it.
Some of the students who stayed during the Christmas break try to call the spirits of the people who died at Susin High and the teachers forbid any gatherings of more than two people after 11 p.m. after that. Apparently it turns out that one of the students fainted and they had to call a doctor. Jaekyu hates how much the students seem to enjoy their story and transform it into one of Susin's legend, along with the one about the girl who killed herself.
Because they are everything but legends.
Mooyul whispers to him in hallway a few days later that he saw the monster in the corner.
"What? Where? You know it doesn't exist," Jaekyu answers, frowning and scrutinizing Mooyul's face but he insists that he indeed met him during the holidays, back at home.
It's around that time that Jaekyu becomes aware that Mooyul is slowly loosing it. He already sensed something was wrong with Mooyul after they killed Kim Yohan and he planned with Chihoon what they were going to say to the police. Since then he noticed that he was slowly falling into depression, but now it's something different.
He asks if he took drugs, but Mooyul says he didn't and Yoonsu never needed drugs anyway. Mooyul just put a face on his guilt and it's the monster in the corner. It's easy like this.
He considers talking about it with Chihoon but he wouldn't understand. Or maybe he would, too well, but would be oblivious of what they should do and wouldn't be bothered anyway.
The teasing gets worse on Mooyul from that point. People are mocking his downfall. He used to be a great student, one of the best, and now he barely manages to complete his tests. The teachers scold him a bit - but not too much because they know what happened -, his father a lot - but then again his words don't have that much impact on Mooyul anymore - and the students are the worst. They come up with names for him, make fun of his results, of how tired he looks. They don't even stop when Mireu threaten to kill them if they don't shut their mouth quickly.
Jaekyu wants to help, wants to understand what is going on in his head. He wants to grasp what made the over confident Mooyul who told them to lie to the police turn into this weak kid who can't deal with his own emotions and who is slowly going insane. "He's just scared of the monster Kim Yohan awakened," Chihoon comments and Jaekyu bites back that it's easy for him because he isn't the one who pushed him off the roof.
Around that time, the reporters get interested in their story again. It's a pretty good one after all; a suicide, a murder and a serial killer playing with the smartest students of the country. A documentary is broadcasted on TV about them. They even managed to gather information about their private lives; Mooyul's mother death, Yoonsu getting kidnapped when he was young, him coming from a modest family. Everything is here. It makes him sick. That night Kangmo and Eunsung break into the security system to deactivate the television reception in the school.
Mooyul knocks at his door one night and complains he can't sleep because of the monster in the corner. His eyes are unfocused and his face paler than ever.
"Sometimes, I feel like everybody knows." Mooyul whispers that night, next to his ear, shivering and Jaekyu knows exactly what he means. The undying guilt that makes him feel like everybody can tell he's a murderer, that he's different, that he is indeed a monster too.
Jaekyu likes to think that they are slowly recovering and Mooyul, too. Maybe he lost a bit of his sanity, maybe he isn't the Park Mooyul he used to be and won't ever be, but they are still alive and having each other back. Kim Yohan's ghost is still there too but he is a little bit more transparent now. He probably won't ever disappear but he hopes he will get clear enough so he can see through him.
When a new transfer student joins, it's surprisingly Chihoon who notices him first. He tells Jaekyu but he doesn't really listen at that time; he has to take care of Mooyul who needs him more than Chihoon. They are working together now. Or more like Jaekyu is working and Mooyul is looking out the window, sometimes smiling at nothing, sometimes with a blank stare that makes Jaekyu worry. When Mooyul is feeling too anxious and is crying that the monster in the corner keeps haunting him, he stays with him for the night.
So he doesn't notice the new transfer student. He should have though.
They finds out he's Kim Yohan's old patient when he corners Kangmo in the library and forces him to tell him who are the ones who killed Kim Yohan.
They all meet in Mooyul's room later that night, ignoring the cameras and the punishment about to come if they are caught meeting after the curfew and listen to Kangmo's story. Youngjae is shaking by the time he stops talking and Mireu looks like he is about to go kill him right away.
"He said he wants revenge. He was getting counseled by Kim Yohan when we killed him, he didn't manage to finish his treatment." Kangmo breathes out, eyes on the floor. Mooyul is shivering beside him and Jaekyu applies a comforting hand on the small of his back.
"How does he know we killed him though?" Eunsung inquires, probably already thinking about the best way to get out of this. Usually it would have been Mooyul's role but Mooyul is too scared to think properly.
"He probably figured out that Kim Yohan falling off the roof while the persons he tortured were watching couldn't be an accident," Chihoon explains like Eunsung is just being stupid.
"Why coming here then? Did he really got accepted in Susin to kill us?" She sounds bewildered but none of them answer because they all know it's totally something Kim Yohan or Junghye could have done.
They watch him for a while, following him in the hallways, sneaking in the teacher office's to look at his records. There isn't much in there. Nothing about him being in contact with Kim Yohan. He is indeed a good student, the teachers like him and it's terrifying how much he reminds them think of Junghye. He is all bright and normal and if they didn't know better, they wouldn't have been able to tell that he is on Kim Yohan's side.
It is Mireu who evokes the idea first, "We should confront him." Eunsung glares at him. "Seriously. We need to know what he's up to. That's the only way. Besides, he's alone and we're many." He tries to sound firm but his cracking voice betrays him.
"Kim Yohan was alone too." Kangmo states rather matter-of-factly and Mireu shuts up.
Mooyul can't sleep at all that night and Jaekyu neither. Whether it's out of fear of what the new student might do or if it's because they are thinking about what they should do to get rid of him, none of them can tell.
Chihoon plans everything out. From where and when they should meet him to how they should kill him.
It should have worked because it was Chihoon's plan and his plans are usually the best ones but it doesn't. Nothing go like they hoped for. Later they'll blame it on Mooyul and Jaekyu will answer that it was just the monster in the corner who did it. Because Mooyul didn't have a hold of himself anymore at that time.
They meet him on a Saturday night. They chose Saturday because it's the only night of the week when the students don't have to get up early in the morning and are usually sound asleep pretty fast, exhausted by the long week of work. It's Mireu who corners him in the cafeteria to tell him to show up to the clock tower that night. The student just smiles and nods, like he was waiting for it.
Chihoon chose the clock tower because it's the only place without cameras and enough far away from the school not to be seen. Mireu jokes that Chihoon is just being dramatic and maybe he is, but none of them dare to change the location anyway.
He shows up right on time and the night is so dark that if not for the flashlights, they wouldn't see a thing.
After that, Jaekyu's memories aren't so clear. It's all flashs and static images and an utter confusion. It's better that way, better for him, better for all of them.
They were supposed to kill him coldly and cleanly, like they did with Kim Yohan; it was Chihoon's plan and they all agreed. It would have worked if the transfer student - Jaekyu can't remember his name - didn't try to mess with Mooyul's mind. If he didn't call him a monster, didn't remind how he was the one behind everything, how he was Kim Yohan's biggest hope, Mooyul would have stick to the plan. But Mooyul was struggling enough, he was unstable enough and he couldn't take it. Mireu and Chihoon tried to stop him, to calm him down, even Eunsung - panicked and shocked at seeing Mooyul with blood shots eyes, screaming his lungs out - tried to tell him to keep him quiet. Mooyul didn't listen, of course, instead he tore an entire piece of flesh out of Youngjae's arm with his teeth as they tried to contain him. "Fuck, this son of-," Youngjae cursed, horrified and disgusted but was interrupted by Chihoon who told him that they didn't have time.
The transfer student laughed at him then, at how pathetic and messy they were and said he was almost disappointed. Jaekyu lost it at around that time. It wasn't supposed to happen like this, out of anger, so sloppily and desperately but it did. Jaekyu was on him in a split second and before any one of them could react, his head was smashed in the snow, body slowly loosing its strength and the last bits of life leaving him. Jaekyu knew what he was capable of since that fight with Youngjae, since he chose himself as the most sinful. He knew deep inside that his monster was way worse than Mooyul's one because he had the coldness and the calmness of one, while Mooyul was too bright and too dense for it.
Jaekyu didn't do it to protect Mooyul, or maybe he did, so he wouldn't have to bear the burden of another murder on his shoulder, or maybe he did just because he was able to, because he lost it so fast that it was terrifying.
The hours that follow consist in carrying the body and burying it in the ground, in the forest near the school, where no one is ever going and where it will only be found in months from now - if ever found. They don't speak during that time. Eunsung leaves before them with Mooyul, whose eyes have the blankness of a dead, and she doesn't say anything when Jaekyu tells her to go and that he will take care of Mooyul after they are done.
He holds onto Mooyul tighter than ever that night and head nuzzled in his neck, he tries to fall asleep. The monster in the corner haunts him in his dreams and he wakes up exhausted to watch Mooyul pack his suitcase in silence, movements almost robotic.
The snow is bright and soft under his feet and Jaekyu can't believe he really traveled half of the country to meet Mooyul. It has been a long time. About five years. They all moved on after Susin High, after everything they lived together.
Most of them are still seeing each other; Mireu is always dropping by his apartment to say hi, to invite him for a drink. Once every three months they meet over a dinner, mostly because Eunsung usually insists, saying that she needs to know how everyone is doing. The truth is that if they are all coming, it is because they are linked together by something so strong that even time can't cut it. They are sharing a heavy secret and even years after they still feel like they are only ones able to understand each other.
Susin High had been great for them; they all entered good universities and now have well-payed jobs. Kangmo is even working at Susin as a teacher. They all fulfilled the dreams of their parents. Even Eunsung reconciled with her mother after she got accepted to one of the tops schools. It is almost funny seeing how proud their parents are as they are so oblivious of their children's true selves; their hideous and hidden side.
The only one they lost contact with is Mooyul. After Susin, he left without a goodbye, without a word and when Jaekyu tried to call him or his father; nobody ever told him where he was.
It took him five years to actually decide to go find him. They all talked about it several times but they were all busy and they knew Mooyul was probably trying to forget them and they should respect that.
But now, he needs to see him again. He needs to know how he is doing.
It takes him long months and hours of research before he finally gets someone over the phone who tells that there is indeed a Mooyul living here - working at the convenience store - and he is young and smart enough to be the Park Mooyul he is looking for.
Jaekyu never imagined it would be Mooyul who would escape first. It was way easier for all of them to pretend like nothing happened and follow the path offered by the school. But again, Mooyul was probably the one who lost the most in this and the one who has never been able to recover.
When Jaekyu enters the shop, he doesn't recognize him. His hair are shorter, he is skinnier and he lost all the teenage features he used to have. He is looking like someone else. A stranger. Not like first class student Mooyul, the Mooyul who dated Eunsung, the Mooyul who had a hero complex and was promised to a great future. He looks like any ordinary citizen and Jaekyu realizes that it is probably what he was looking for by coming here.
"Hi," he says softly, coming closer to the counter, searching in his eyes something that would tell him that the Mooyul he knows is still there.
"Jaekyu?," he asks instead, surprised, shifting on his feet, uncomfortable. "What are you doing here?"
"I came to see you. See how you were doing and all. The others have been wondering too," Jaekyu replies to ease the tension but Mooyul's expression darkens at that. He looks away, sighing and Jaekyu isn't sure it's out of annoyance or anxiety.
"Please leave." He mutters then, pretending to look at his hands. "I came here to-," their eyes meet for a split second before Mooyul looks away, "To forget about Susin, about the others, about you. So I'm asking you, please leave. Don't make it even more difficult." His voice cracks and he coughs. Jaekyu would have maybe left in any other occasion but he just spent ten hours in a car and thirty minutes walking in the snow, he can't give up now.
"Just a few hours, Mooyul." He pleads and an hesitation crosses his face.
"A few hours," he repeats and it is an agreement.
Mooyul didn't change that much. He is maybe less brave than he used to be before Kim Yohan and less depressed than he used to be after, but he is still Mooyul, with his gentleness and huge smile. They talk for a while, about their lives, about the other lives, "you should come to one of our gatherings, you know", Jaekyu offers even though he knows Mooyul will never come and about Kim Yohan - a bit.
Mooyul congratulates him on his success in college and on his job - he's a lawyer now - and he doesn't really manage to hide the slight sadness lingering on his face. He would have loved to become a successful and acknowledged person. He's probably regretting his choice sometimes; having to live so far away, on his own, with the salary of a convenience store worker and with people looking down on him because he didn't do any studies. But it was the only way he could have survived and Jaekyu knows it. He doesn't blame him. He wouldn't have endured staying with them, having to deal with the social pressure, having to lie everyday to everyone.
Jaekyu misses him, even if he doesn't say it out loud. When he saw Mooyul's face and heard his voice again, a familiar warmth spread through his body. It's the same voice which calmed him down during that Christmas break when things were being too hard and when Kim Yohan was asking him to choose who was the most sinful one, it was Mooyul's voice in his ear and his hand on his shoulder that made him go through it. For a moment he remembers them playing in the snow, years ago, enjoying their freedom, thinking that they won over him. It was one of the rare moment of euphoria and of real laughing they ever shared together. Before and after that, it has only been tears and pain and the fear of having their monsters awaken again.
People used to say that Mooyul and he were opposite. Jaekyu never thought so, because he saw Mooyul killing Kim Yohan and almost killing Youngjae and he saw himself killing the transfer student. Since then, Jaekyu knows that they are exactly the same. Maybe Mooyul is more dangerous - more fit to become a monster - but he can tell that he, himself, isn't better.
Mooyul accompanies him back to his car in silence, probably thinking about what he should say, not to make it awkward, how to tell Jaekyu to not come back again, to not make things more difficult. Jaekyu doesn't want to hear that so instead he wraps his arms around Mooyul and hugs him tight to his chest. By the gasp he let out, he can tell it's probably the first human contact he had in years. Out of fear of letting his instincts won if he ever got too close to someone, probably. Mooyul tries to push him away but he resists, pressing himself against him, trying to feel his warmth, the heat he used to radiate despite the thickness of their coats.
When Mooyul tries to speak again, he presses a kiss to his cheek where it is cold but still soft and another down his neck where it is hot and his veins are pulsating. This too, brings back memories.
He takes a good look at Mooyul's face; his plump lips, his straight nose, his black hair falling on his forehead, the frown that appeared over the years between his brows. He tries to remember everything within a few minutes because he knows Mooyul won't allow him much more time. Then he gets in his car and starts the engine, muttering a goodbye Mooyul will never hear and drives away from that lost place; back to Seoul, back to his office where he spends his days defending people like him while pretending to be different.