"What are you doing. Not killing anyone?!”

    I dragged myself back to the present at someone's urgent shout. Onscreen, a shooting game was going on. Someone yelled in my headset that the enemy had appeared. I immediately grabbed the mouse. I shot like crazy. The opponents I shot fell like dolls without stuffing. I moved the mouse and looked around the map. There was a railway track right through the center of the map, and to either side of the track there were large metal containers stacked all around. It looked just like the container town at Songju Station.

    I changed my weapon. It was a machine gun that could shoot continuously. In the distance, an enemy wearing a black bandana appeared. I aimed my gun, but for a second he looked like someone I knew. The enemy was knocked out in a single blow. I didn't think twice about shooting every single one who appeared. Unconsciously, I started thinking of the hyungs. I laughed. Come to think of it. They were a little similar. I took out each one and advanced. I shot every enemy that came from the containers. For a moment, I looked down at one of them on the ground. I thought to myself, is that Namjoon hyung, and in that moment someone's bullet hit my shoulder. I used the mouse to look up and saw an enemy holding a gun. It was Seokjin hyung. All at once, my rage boiled over.


    I looked down at the kid eating ramyeon in a hurry. He was eight, maybe ten years old. He looked up at me sometimes as he scarfed down the warm rice and noodles. I asked his name and he'd told me it was Woochang. Song Woochang. He spilled some ramyeon broth on his dirty t-shirt and, wiping at it with his fingers, muttered that he was going to get scolded by his grandma again.

    The first time I saw Woochang was around two months ago. I was coming back from the gas station, and I saw him standing in front of the container behind mine. At the time, I thought he had come through looking for a shortcut to get out of Songju Station. The container town was no place for a kid to live. But a couple weeks later I saw him in the empty lot next to the containers, kicking an old soccer ball around on his own. And since then I'd run into him several times. He was always wandering around by himself. Wearing the same shirt. Same pants, same sneakers. It was obvious that he didn't have an adult to take care of him. I couldn't do anything about that. I had my hands full taking care of myself. I always passed by and pretended not to know him.

    When I left the gas station and headed back toward the container town today, it was just a little past eleven at night. As I rummaged in my pockets for my key. I saw a crouching shadow. It was Woochang. I could have ignored him like I always did. I could have found my key. Opened the container door and gone inside to make myself ramyeon and sleep but I couldn't do that today. I didn't want to.

    I looked up at the sky. It had been gloomy all day. The night sky was full of gray clouds. I couldn't see even a single star. Suddenly I felt hungry. If I remembered right, I only had one ramyeon left in the container. I didn't have any in stock and I didn't have enough energy to stock more. Those were my circumstances. I looked down at the key I'd taken out of my pocket. I remembered the scenery I'd looked back on as I left the countryside. I thought of the words I'd written on the bus window.

    I walked toward Woochang.


    My entire world changed again after my nineteenth birthday passed. I was no longer a ward of the state and I couldn't stay at the orphanage I looked for my own place with the money I'd saved from working part-time jobs and from the stipend I got when I left the system. I couldn't bring myself to look near Two Star Burger. I tried going around near Songju Station, but there wasn't much difference. In the end, all I could do was walk up the slope. It was a rooftop room at the very end of a dead-end street.

    I dragged my thunking suitcase up the iron stairs. I had spent more than ten years at the orphanage, but I didn't have that much stuff all I had to do was organize a few articles of clothing and pairs of shoes and arrange the furniture I'd bought at the recycling center.

    But moving is still moving. So by the time I could stretch out. It was already night even in february, there was sweat on my back. When I opened the screeching iron door, a cold late-winter wind blew in. I went out and leaned on the banister. I looked down at Songju. I tried to guess where the orphanage was. I followed the river along to the left. Then to the left of the clover-shaped sign among all the neon and lights. I couldn't make the orphanage out.

    I lifted my head and looked up at the rooftop room. It was small, barely one room. It was shabby and poorly kept up. Hot as a sauna in summer and made cold by drafts in winter but it was the only place in the world that was mine. A place where I could be myself. A place where I could be foolishly afraid. Or have hope that others would sneer at. Somewhere I could laugh all I wanted and cry all I wanted.

    "Let's do well!' I shouted toward the room, this place at the top of the city, nearly touching the sky, would be my home from today onward.


    I thoughtlessly ditched school, but truthfully I didn't have anywhere to go. It was hot, I had no money, and I had nothing to do. It was Namjoon who said we should go to the beach. The younger kids seemed excited, but I didn't particularly feel like it, nor did I dislike the idea. "Do we have money?" At my question, Namjoon made everyone shake out their pockets. A few coins, a few bills. "So we can't go." The one who said we could just walk was probably Taehyung. Namjoon made a face begging them to reconsider, but the kids just chattered away, laughing and pretending to roll around on the road before starting to walk. I wasn't in the mood to talk back, so I just fell behind. It was midday, so even the gingko trees couldn't provide shade, and the cars kicked up dust as they passed us on the sidewalkless road.

    "Let's go there." It was Taehyung this time too. Or was it Hoseok? I didn't care, so I didn't look carefully, but it would have been one of them. I had been walking along with my head down, kicking the dirt, but when I almost collided with someone I lifted my head. Jimin was standing there as if frozen in place. The muscles of his face trembled as if he had seen something terrifying. He was staring at a sign that said "Flowering Arboretum, 2.2 kilometers."

    "I don't want to walk." I heard Jungkook's voice. Sweat dripped from Jimin's face. His face went pale, as if he might collapse at any second. What is this? I had a strange feeling. "Park Jimin." I called, but as I expected, he didn't budge. I lifted my head again and looked at the sign.

    "Hey, it's so hot, why would we go to an arboretum? Let's go to the beach," I said, as if dragging my feet. I didn't know what kind of place the arboretum was, but it didn't seem like somewhere we should go. Whatever the reason, Jimin's expression was strange. "We don't even have money." Hoseok replied, "that's why we're walking." And Taehyung added, "if we just walk to the train station we can probably make it." Then Namjoon said, "instead we'll just starve at dinner." Jungkook and Taehyung pretended to cry, and Seokjin hyung laughed. Jimin only started to move again once it had been decided that we would take the road toward the train station. Walking with his head down and his shoulders trembling, Jimin seemed like a small child. I looked up at the sign again. The characters spelling "Flowering Arboretum" were gradually getting further away.


    The Notes 1: 花樣年華 [The Most Beautiful Moment in Life]


      Hoseok arrives back in Songju which he left Songju a month before because his ankle was injured and he couldn’t work or dance. On that day, he had been waiting for the other boys to contact him. He realized that he always contacted them first, but did not want to this time. He remembers how he met Yoongi that night. On a whim, he packs a bag and decides to leave Songju for the first time in his life. But his mind was still there. He ends up in a larger city and gets a room at a guesthouse. He wanders around the first two days, and on the third day he ends up at a Citizen’s Hall’ where dancers are rehearsing. He watches a man dance and feels many emotions from his performance. A staff member asks him to leave because outsiders aren’t allowed in rehearsals, so he goes back to the guesthouse and thinks about the performance alot. He receives message from Jimin but he does not respond and neither do the other boys.

      Hoseok watches the rehearsal the next day secretly, and then he comes back for the performance the next day. He notes that the man he saw at rehearsal didn’t perform. Later, Hoseok helps the staff to move stage equipment onto the train. The staff member recognizes him and sits next to him, revealing that the man Hoseok saw is their artistic director who used to be a dancer, but he was injured and couldn’t perform again. Hoseok ends up tagging along with the group and goes to three other cities with them. The director finds out Hoseok is also a dancer. Hoseok recounts how he got into dancing when he was twelve and his friends had dragged him up on stage. Hoseok thinks about how dancing makes him feel refreshing and rewarding because he could be happy and free. The director tells him that you have to go to your lowest low , escape it so that you can find your driving force, and hold on to it. Hoseok thinks a lot about those words. He also comes to know that the director is from Songju. Hoseok recalls the fireworks he saw from his orphanage and later from his apartment.

      Hoseok turns down the offer to join the dancers on tour and decides to go back to Songju. He thinks that he might have not hit his own psychological low point yet, but maybe Yoongi had the day that Hoseok abandoned him when he was in despair. He messages Yoongi to ask if he’s okay. Yoongi responds with a music file the next dawn. Hoseok listens to it and thinks it's the most beautiful song Yoongi has ever made and resembles Yoongi. Yoongi asks Hoseok when he’s coming back. Hoseok returns to Songju and sends a message to the group chat asking them how they are and telling them he’s back. Hoseok thinks of the day he left Songju and how his ankle isn't the only thing that has healed since then.

    • HOSEOK YEAR 22 MAY 22:

      Hoseok calls Jimin to leave the lodge. Jimin takes a look at the mess they had left behind and starts walking outside. As he walks, Jimin realizes that the beach was the same one they had visited when in school. He calls out to Jungkook to share his discovery but Jungkook was already sprinting ahead. He thinks that Jungkook has grown up from the boy who used to lag behind and look up to others. He reaches the intersection- left will take him to the train station and right towards his house. Jimin realizes he has to confront his parents someday and own up to his lies and fears. He sees Yoongi exit for the left and turns right. Hoseok calls for him, but Jimin tells him that he is going home now.


      The 7 of them ditch school to go to the beach. Jungkook feels his emotions rise up on seeing the ocean. They decide to walk towards the rock on the beach, 3.5 km away. The myth was that if people stood up on the rock and shouted their dream while facing the sea, it would come true. Yoongi is reluctant to go but Taehyung starts walking ahead.Jungkook recalls an earlier day when he had asked the others about their dreams. He wonders why if none of them had any dream as such, were they walking so far in the heat towards this rock.

      As they walk, Jungkook gets scolded by Yoongi for the marks on his fingers. Yoongi tries to keep up a conversation by asking for Jungkook’s dream. Jungkook instead asks the meaning of a dream. Yoongi and Jungkook bond over this conversation. Jungkook looks at the marks on his fingers and remembers all the times he cut himself with a knife. Jungkook mentions how cutting himself helped him feel more awake, especially when he felt hollow.

      The 7 of them reach a place with a lot of pebbles scattered around, wondering where the rock had gone. They give up searching further, and later find out that the rock had been obliterated because a high end-resort was going to be constructed at the beach. The rock would have obstructed the view from the first and second floor. They look around to find yellow bands and excavator machines, signifying development. They try to cheer each other up by saying positive things like the rock wasn’t real anyway, but all of them are disappointed. Jungkook sees Yoongi trying to bite his nails, and shouts to stop him, but the drilling noise in the background interferes. As the drilling noise continues, Jungkook asks Yoongi , “ Do you want to give up on this world too?”. They shout at each other but can't hear. Taking light of this situation all 7 of them scream their dreams into the sea, competing with the drilling noise.
      The noise ends abruptly, leaving them in silence, with Jin’s “Please!” being heard loud and clearly. They decide to commemorate the day by taking a photo against the beach. Jungkook asks Jin for the photo, and Jin hands him over by scribbling the date on the back. Seokjin assures Jungkook that the dream he yelled out will come true.Jungkook asks him if he knows what it is, but only gets a tap on his shoulder as they walk ahead.