Chapter 107

Junmin walked into a building at Hyehwa station, with some honeyed water in hand. He stepped onto the elevator. Inside this building was a practice room that was exactly the size of the Myungdong Art Theater stage. The theater had a practice room underground, but it was much too small for its intended use.

When he entered the practice room, he could see many actors already practicing by themselves. There were quite a few of them, actors that already made a name for themselves in smaller theaters, and actors you could only see from very expensive theaters. They made sure to select the truly talented actors to commemorate the opening of the theater.

The one who cast them, to begin with, was Junmin. He was probably working harder on this play as a casting director than on any others to try and make it a success.

“Coffee, so early in the morning? You’re going to ruin your stomach.”

An old friend of his greeted him, pointing at a seat. Junmin scanned the actors once more before sitting down.

“It’s not coffee, just honey water.”

“Honey? Let me try some.”

His bearded friend extended his hand with a grin on his face. This happened all the time, so Junmin didn’t even respond. This guy was the director of the play and a good friend he’d worked with many times over the years.

“How’s the play going?”

“Just a few months ago, the newbies weren’t able to handle the veterans at all, but...”

“Newbies? They’re pretty popular in their respective theaters, you know.”

“Everyone here is. Anyway, they’re making jokes together nowadays and everything. Then again, it’s been four months, so I guess it’s about time they got used to each other.”

“That’s good.”

“Just thinking about the amount of work I did because of you, then… Ugh. Making these guys mesh well together was a disgusting amount of work.”

“I brought you an all-star team, though, only because I knew you could make them work together.”

This was a room full of veterans, each and every one of them had their own quirks. Lots of them were starring in movies and dramas as well. Normally, it was impossible to cast even one of these people in a play. But with the reopening of the Myungdong Art Theater being as special as it was, many actors volunteered to act in its opening play. Junmin had selected the most talented actors of the bunch, and that was exactly who the people in front of him were. It would probably be near impossible to get a cast like this ever again, at least anytime within the next decade.

“Ah, you’re here.”

An older actor walked over to the two of them with a bag on his back. This man was an honorable senior of Junmin and his director friend that they would have to pay respects to even after passing the age of fifty. The two of them stood up from their seats immediately.

“Sit, sit. I didn’t greet you two to be paid respect.”

Junmin quickly brought out a chair for the old actor, the actor smiled before taking his seat.

“You must be suffering quite a bit in preparation.”

“Not at all, sir.”

“Suffering? Not at all.”

The man who Junmin was calling “sir” was Yoon Munjoong, an actor who turned sixty five just this year; a man who had the most influence in the industry during the 80s. The man retired in the late 90s, but came out to act due to Junmin’s request.

“Teacher.”

“Mm?”

“Is there anyone that catches your eye here?”

Munjoong laughed at Junmin’s question.

“They all look great.”

“If anyone catches your eye in particular, though, please let me know.”

“You probably have better eyes than me.”

“Don’t say that. Please tell me, I heard from this guy that someone caught your eye...”

Munjoong was one of the few actors that Junmin really looked up to, knowing an actor that this man had his eye on would be very helpful for Junmin.

“If I really had to pick someone out...”

Munjoong’s eyes turned to a corner of the room. This play had about thirty actors in it. Considering how the stage could only take about ten people at a time, it was an incredibly large number of people. Due to this, the actors mostly practiced in teams during practice sessions. Most of the talented ones practiced in the middle and the less experienced people naturally ended up in the corners.

Minjun’s eyes followed Munjoong’s, into the corner where several young actors were practicing together. His eyes focused on one man in particular, the one that was making big gestures in front of the mirror with a frown. Someone Junmin knew very well himself.

“How is he? You had your eyes on him as well, yes?”

“Oh dear. It does feel great knowing that we had our eyes on the same person.”

“Is that so? Hahaha.”

Munjoong stroked his beard lightly before continuing.

“That young man… I like the way he goes about practice. He knows how to think and how to act. His concentration is quite amazing, as well. It’s almost like he forgets everything around him when he becomes immersed in the play. If I was still running a theater company, I would’ve scouted him for sure.”

Junmin nodded. Indeed, focused was one of the correct descriptors for the man they were looking at.

“I heard he was doing independent movies now?”

“He starred in one already, and he’s now shooting his second film with the same director.”

“Is the director someone you know?”

“Yes, I’ve met him several times. Ah, he’s also worked with director Yoo.”

“You mean Chulmin? Why?”

“The current director he’s working with was good friends with director Yoo Chulmin, the man caught director Yoo’s eyes when they met.”

“Hah, that guy? I thought he was busy since he wasn’t coming to any of the association meetings, so this is what he’s been up to.”

Director Yoo Chulmin was the owner of Sky Theater, which was one of the most famed theater companies in South Korea. Right now, he was also the chairman of the Korean Acting Association.

“And here I thought I was the only one who found a diamond in the rough. Everyone’s had their eyes on him already, huh,” Munjoong muttered.

The man told Junmin to raise the actor well before standing up from his spot. As the man walked away to the exit, Junmin could visibly see the actors tense up in nervousness. That was understandable. The old man may have look very lax and kind right now, but he became venomous and terrifying during actual practice. Junmin’s director friend, in the meantime, was still looking at the actor the two of them were looking at seconds before.

“He’s that talented?”

“Of course.”

“Hm.”

“See where you can go with him. It’s probably going to be difficult to see him in plays from now on.”

“What, you planning on taking him to Chungmu-ro?”

“If possible.”

“Well, this is you talking, so I’ll assume that’s exactly what’s going to happen for now. Hong Geunsoo, is it?”

The director looked at the clock for a second before standing up, the man was probably about to start practice again. Junmin told the director about a few changes regarding the play before standing up to leave himself.

The street outside the building was incredibly breezy. Junmin observed the empty road in front of him briefly, before answering a call from his pocket. It was Munjoong.

“Yes, sir.”

- I see you left already, you’re very busy.

“Haha, I could go back up again if you have something to say to me.”

- No, no, you’re fine. I can just tell you over the phone. I just wanted to ask if you’re still digging for young talents.

“It’s my job, so yes, I am.”

- Is there anyone special? I’d like someone in either middle or high school.

“There’s a few. May I ask why you’re asking?”

- Taking up acting again was giving me a pretty big hit of nostalgia. It’s nice living a lax life as someone who retired, but it does feel like I retired a little too early.

Junmin caught onto what Munjoong was trying to hint at immediately.

“You want to raise newbie actors again, sir?”

- You catch on quick.

“Really? Teacher, if you really do this, literally any actor, no matter how young or how old would ask to be taught by you.”

- I don’t like things to get that loud. I just want to teach young kids in my spare time, kind of like a hobby.

“I see. I understand. I’ll send you a list quickly.”

- That would be nice. Bring me some of the smart ones, please.

“Um, sir...”

- Hm?

“Are you perhaps thinking of starting up your theater company agai...”

- No, not that far.

To Junmin’s disappointment, Munjoong hung up promptly after that. Back in the day, Munjoong’s theater company had a reputation as one of the two most famous theaters in Hyehwa station; even Junmin had tried to get into the company in the past. He hoped for a second that the theater company of his dreams would be revived, but unfortunately, that didn’t seem like it would happen any time soon.

“Even so...”

At least the man was willing to raise young actors. There were a lot of actors nowadays, but there weren’t any that were talented enough. Plus, idols were starting to use their popularity to nudge their way into the world of acting as well. The world was quickly entering an era where actors had to truly show their worth.

“Kids, huh.”

Junmin had quite a lot of young actors around him at the moment. Who should he choose out of them? He should probably call his senior later to see how many people the man was thinking of teaching as well.

Right then, Junmin’s phone rang. He looked at the number on the phone curiously before taking the call.

“Lawyer Park? Is something wrong?”

- I called because of that kid you introduced to me, I felt like I should at least make a short report to my client.

“Ah, Maru?”

Junmin thought back to the boy’s ever-bored expression. The boy looked like he was starting to develop a serious interest in acting, but before he really managed to get into it, he got himself involved with an odd case.

School violence. Maru called a few days ago, claiming that the acting club was involved as well. The boy’s request was short, but that didn’t make it any less bold. The boy wanted to be introduced to a lawyer.

It was Junmin’s job as a producer to help an actor focus solely on acting. He had a good impression of Maru as well, so he easily accepted that request. Lawyer Park was the person he ended up introducing to Maru.

“How did it go?”

- It was simple. I was preparing a lot since you asked me to help him, but he came in with a ton of evidence from the start. He knew some of the lingo as well. He understood my words better than most adults, which felt a bit odd.

“The boy’s like that, yes. So, did it end up going well?”

- For now. Then again, just our law firm’s name solves most of our problems.

“Ugh, again with that bragging. Anyway, what about your pay?”

- It’s 120 thou per hour. Are you really willing to pay?

“...That’s a bit.”

- That was a joke. Consider this just one of those friend things, pay me back with actor Jung Woosung’s signature some other time. My daughter is a big fan.

“I’ll do that.”

Junmin hung up promptly.

* * *

Maru stood up from his seat after bidding farewell to lawyer Park, today should be the last day he would have to visit this law firm in Seoul.

“How bougie.”

The building that held the most influential law firm in the country looked much fancier than even the buildings around it, for whatever reason. This was a place full of lawyers who took a million won as base pay, with half a million as hourly rates. A true holy land for lawyers.

“Names are scary indeed.”

The moment Maru heard about the school committee’s decision, he went to work. He thought about making a report to the ministry of education, but that would be complicated. The government wasn’t especially good at their job when it came to things like this. Maru wanted to finish this off as fast as he could, so he got some help.

He didn’t want to ruin the acting club’s reputation by stepping forward, so he started off by using one of the victims to send threats to sue towards the principal and the chairman of the school. Lawyer Park sent a warning to the chairman in the very beginning, but there seemed to be a miscommunication between him and the principal. So while the chairman stepped back into the shadows, the principal simply worked as he always did.

The committee members probably laughed when they saw the threats to sue as well. They were composed of well-off parents, after all. The name of the KY law firm changed everything though. There was only one thing the school could do when faced with the biggest law firm in the biggest nation.

A white flag.

Plus, one of the victims’ parents was actually one of lawyer Park's high school friends. They rekindled their friendship through this case, and lawyer Park motivation shot up as a result. The school surrendered fairly quickly, which marked an end to Maru’s meetings with lawyer Park.

‘The change should be reported tomorrow.’

The bullies should receive word about the new decision tomorrow. They should be facing a transfer at the very least.

“A power behind a name...”

This was why a person needed to become famous before doing anything else, power followed fame. If Junmin didn’t help him, things would’ve been very troublesome for Maru.

Maru turned around from the building with a bitter smile. The law was scarier than violence and money was scarier than the law. But in the end, connections were the scariest above all else.

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