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A Thousand Faces Chapter 4

Updated: Dec 21, 2023


It was the first night of the school trip. 

  

The instructor found themselves alone in their room after wrapping up the day’s agenda. 

  

Bam! 

  

The door swung open, not gently, but with a forceful kick.  

  

The instructor, puzzled by the sudden intrusion, found themselves face-to-face with a student, his appearance disheveled. 

  

...Who are you? 

  

The face of the student who appeared abruptly was filled with annoyance and fatigue. 

  

“The kids don’t want to share a room with me. It’s frustrating.” 

  

From this point on, everything that will unfold will be solely his responsibility. Trying to paint the incident as a mere accident resulting in death would be an attempt to shift blame onto the school for not properly taking care of the students—a scenario he wanted to avoid. 

  

He didn’t want lingering remorse over the loss of life. 

  

Dealing with the issue caused by the troublesome student, an issue entirely beyond the school’s control, needed to be managed without a hint of outside involvement. 

  

Junwoo glanced over his shoulder. 

  

“...Maybe I should just burn it all down.” 

  

The words he muttered left the instructor speechless. 

  

Despite sounding like a childish boast, there was a genuine mix of sincerity in his face, contemplating the idea seriously. 

  

The instructor refrained from mentioning that he intentionally let it be heard. 

  

“What do you think?” 

  

Junwoo stared at the instructor as if seeking an answer. 

  

There was a faint upward curve to Junwoo’s lips, suggesting an almost playful delight in the situation.  

  

The instructor instinctively sensed danger. 

  

Junwoo laughed heartily at the instructor’s foolish appearance. 

  

“Oh, it’s just a joke. Is it okay if I stay here?” 

  

Without bothering for a response, Junwoo slid his hand into his pocket, striding confidently into the room, fully clothed, but leaving muddy tracks across the floor.  

  

‘I’m sorry. I’ll clean this up later.’ 

  

Junwoo apologized to himself. 

  

This is still not enough. Shall we push it a bit further? 

  

The instructor’s face, initially pale with disbelief, now flushed red. 

  

“What exactly do you think you’re doing?”  

  

“Is it not allowed?” 

  

“Are you joking right now? Who’s your homeroom teacher? Bring him here now.” 

  

“Fine. But that teacher hasn’t treated me like a human ever since I hit him not too long ago. He won’t come even if you call.” 

  

It wasn’t entirely untrue, and Junwoo felt a bit embarrassed. 

  

Hit a teacher...? The thought was unbelievable for the instructor. After all, Junwoo was just a middle school student. 

  

“This isn’t a place where students can casually enter. Can you leave quickly?” 

  

“Oh, I guess I should get some sleep then.” 

  

Ignoring the instructor’s words, Junwoo sprawled out in the middle of the room. 

  

“Can’t you hear me? Uh...” 

  

“Excuse me, could you turn off the lights, please?” 

  

With his eyes already closed, Junwoo gestured to the instructor. 

  

“This is not acceptable behavior from an adult...!” 

  

It was the first time the instructor had ever been treated like that by a student. He reached out to remove Junwoo when his words were not enough. 

  

Thud. 

  

“Do you want to die?” 

  

Junwoo shrugged off the hand and adopted a hardened expression. His earlier tone was gone. 

  

The instructor glanced at Junwoo’s tightly clenched fist on the opposite side. It seemed like he might thrust it into his face at any moment. If he provoked him further, there was a chance that a student might retaliate with a punch for the first time in the instructor’s history. 

  

If he kicked out such a troublemaker, it felt like things might really spiral tonight. Frankly, he lacked the nerve to kick him out now. Perhaps it was wiser to let him crash here for the night. 

  

“Could you step out for a bit? I can’t sleep with anyone else around.” 

  

Junwoo, who had closed his eyes again, said. Junwoo had already pulled the instructor’s pillow over as if it were his own home and was ready to sleep. 

  

Even though the teacher’s image at school wasn’t great, it wasn’t a complete mess like this. Still, it was fortunate that he was an adult and an instructor. Hopefully, he could show some leniency, given the other unruly students he’d handled before. 

  

Resigned, the instructor finally headed out, and as soon as he did, Junwoo sprang up.  

  

Click. 

  

Junwoo locked the door and began searching the room as if looking for something. 

  

“Should be here somewhere,”  

  

A large basket in the corner drew his attention. He swiftly lifted the cloth that covered it. 

  

“Found it.” 

  

The basket was filled to the brim with various bottles of alcohol and cigarettes stolen from the students. It was more than expected, and Junwoo was slightly surprised. 

  

“Will you look at that,” 

  

Among them, there were even bottles of spirits with an alcohol content exceeding 40 degrees. 

  

Junwoo upended the basket. 

  

He flung the window open, emptying the alcohol into the rain outside. It felt like a bit of a waste, but he couldn’t possibly down all of it here. If Ilnam caught sight of this, he might regret not passing away earlier. 

  

He scattered the bottles on the floor. The remaining alcohol poured out onto the ground through the entrance. 

  

Had he gone overboard? Junwoo scratched his solar plexus. For a middle schooler, he’d consumed quite a bit on his own. Well, better safe than sorry. 

  

Swish. 

  

What was that?  

  

Junwoo turned his head towards the window. 

  

It seemed like something had just passed by. Approaching for a closer look, there was nothing. Apart from the trees swaying vigorously in the pelting rain, there was no sign of movement. 

  

“Must be the wind.” 

  

Well, in this weather, it’s unlikely there’d be anyone wandering around outside. It’s probably just my imagination. 

  

Junwoo picked up one of the scattered bottles on the floor. 

  

It was a bottle of liquor with over 40% alcohol from earlier. There was about half left, making a sloshing sound. 

  

Before stepping out, Junwoo took a distant glance at the chaos he’d caused. It was a total disaster. He couldn’t summon the will to figure out where to start cleaning. 

  

Nevertheless, he didn’t touch the bed and blankets. He couldn’t bring himself to go that far. The image of the shocked instructor, seeing the mess created by one troubled student, flashed through his mind. 

  

“This really turned out to be a mess...” 

  

Junwoo scratched the back of his head. It was unavoidable. 

  

He wished that the blame wouldn’t fall on the instructor once everything settled. Sneaking into the room, stirring up trouble, breaking the rules, slipping away from the accommodation—every bit of it was Junwoo’s doing. 

  

A real troublemaker. 

  

He hoped for that outcome. Yet, as he mulled it over, a bitter taste settled in. 

  

It was inevitable. He had chosen this path because it seemed easier despite the consequences. 

  

*** 

  

Dressed in a raincoat, Junwoo peered over the cliff. 

  

... It’s higher than I thought.’ 

  

The current below surged with force. A fall from here would likely be fatal. 

  

Junwoo securely tied the rope in a concealed manner to a protruding point below the cliff. 

  

The wind intensified. Junwoo furrowed his brow. Unpredictable weather had been his sole concern, but this was worse than expected. Junwoo pulled the rope tightly. He wasn’t sure if it would hold up well. 

  

“...Guess I’ll have to leave it to chance.” 

  

At that moment, a distinct crunching sound reached his ears. 

This wasn’t good. Someone in a black raincoat was approaching the cliff. 

  

On the one hand, the person held something bulky, which looked ominous. The rain affected the visibility. Junwoo hastily pressed his rain hat down low. 

  

What’s going on? But there’s something about this person’s walk that feels familiar. It was just as he was about to quickly move away before getting closer. 

  

“Junwoo. It’s Dad.” 

  

It was Ilnam’s voice. 

  

Surprised, Junwoo opened his eyes wide. 

  

“Dad?” 

  

“Did you enjoy the trip?” 

  

“How did you get here?” 

  

Unbelievable. Given the circumstances, taking a plane or a boat while being pursued wouldn’t have been easy. 

  

“Seems like you’ve been underestimating your old man. What can’t my son do when he’s out to die?” 

  

Ilnam chuckled. 

  

I couldn’t help but laugh—it was all so absurd. 

  

Adding to that, I’d had this nagging feeling of being watched for a while now. When did he start observing? 

  

“Most fathers would say this or that.” 

  

“Don’t worry. Dad’s got it covered. But, will that hold up?” 

  

Ilnam passed by Junwoo and headed towards the edge of the cliff. He examined the secured rope and licked his lips. 

  

“Sometimes, it seems like you’re being too reckless. That’s why I can’t just sit at home and cheer you on.” 

  

In Ilnam’s hand was a mooring rope, complete with a handle at the end to prevent slippage—a tool used to secure a boat. He mentioned he got it from somewhere. 

  

While Ilnam was adjusting the rope, he spoke. 

  

“Seems like the fog’s thicker now. Or perhaps, have we turned into real troublemakers without your dads knowing? They say parents are the last to know about their kids.” 

  

“Come on, it’s not like that.” 

  

Ilnam laughed. 

  

“Hmm. It’s a shame to waste such talent. I didn’t want to say this, but no matter how you look at it, our son seems to be naturally inclined towards trickery...” 

  

“Dad.” 

  

Ilnam chuckled. 

  

“It’s a joke. Still, there’s nothing like getting drunk in the rain.” 

  

“I didn’t drink.” 

  

“Don’t try to deceive me. Even if others are fooled, did you think I wouldn’t spot the difference between real and fake intoxication? I’ll let it slide just for today.”  

  

Was I that lost in it? I hadn’t anticipated he’d witness the whole act. Ilnam gripped Junwoo’s cheek. Snap out of it! 

  

“...” 

  

Having given up on further explanations, Junwoo looked behind. It had already been over two hours since he disappeared. Junwoo, seeing the moving flashlight in the distance, slowly took off his raincoat. 

  

“Now you need to leave. Thank you, Dad.” 

  

“Yeah, son. Any last words before you die?” 

  

“Why do you have to be like this, seriously.” 

  

It was a joke until the end. He knew it. He was making an effort to relieve his own tension. 

  

No matter how much he trusted his son, in Ilnam’s eyes, he was still just fifteen. Even though he didn’t show it, there was a bit of concern on his face. 

  

For Ilnam’s sake, he had to wrap things up nicely. 

  

*** 

  

The flashlight beam danced around until it settled on one spot. 

  

“Over here! I found him!” 

  

A teacher who had finally located Junwoo shouted. 

  

At the cliff’s edge, even from a distance, Junwoo was soaked through, barely keeping his balance, shivering uncontrollably. 

  

Trembling 

  

“Han Junwoo! Hey, you little rascal, why aren’t you coming here?” 

The teacher shouted from a distance. Junwoo, who had become completely drenched, turned around discreetly. His slightly open mouth and nearly closed eyes gave the impression of a wholly exhausted face. To onlookers, Junwoo seemed unaware of his current location, appearing utterly disoriented. 

  

“That’s enough! If you go any further there...” 

  

The rainstorm raged fiercely in the darkness. The edge of the cliff was indiscernible in the blackness. It was a precarious situation where one couldn’t approach without careful consideration. 

  

Ten steps forward. 

  

Counting the distance, Junwoo treaded cautiously, advancing slowly. 

  

A crowd gathered, drawn to the thrilling spectacle. Even those who were indoors couldn’t peel their eyes away from the unsettling scene outside, pressing against the windows. 

  

Junwoo turned around, scanning through the people observing him. 

Nearly thirty. Just a bit more. 

  

The pouring rain created a symphony of sound around him. 

  

Junwoo stepped onto the edge of the cliff. 

  

This should be enough. It was time to end it. 

  

Now, he could break free not just from the fathers but also from his rogue-like past. 

  

He had expected a sense of liberation, but as he neared the edge, it felt oddly unsettling. Junwoo drew in a deep breath. 

  

Junwoo took a deep breath. 

  

Thud.  

  

The bottle slipped from his hand. Feigning dizziness, Junwoo loosened the tension in his body completely. 

  

Whoosh.  

  

One leg lifted off the ground. 

  

Distant screams and shouts faintly echoed. 

  

'It’s done.’ 

  

In an instant, Junwoo disappeared from sight. 



Author's Note

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