Chapter 117

“Stop.”

The children let out deep sighs as they relaxed; the last run through had ended. Ganghwan gestured for everybody to gather in one place. Like always, the practice would be concluded by everybody reflecting back on their own performance.

“I wanted to use stronger intonations to speak louder, but it didn’t go as I wanted. It was hard to control my breathing as the pronunciation became stronger. Anyway, it was hard.”

“Even if you gather strength in your stomach to voice out the sounds, in the end, the voice is formed by your mouth. If the form of the vibration is changed, then the balance will break. It would be nice if you could overcome it by controlling your breath, but if it’s hard, it should be better to give a point to one word, rather than emphasizing the entire speech. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“I’ll try it once.”

“Good, next.”

Ganghwan looked at a girl standing next to them. Lee Yoojin, she attended Bosung Girls High. She received an Excellent Acting Award at the Youth Theater Festival that was held this year. Her team performance resulted in the Best Acting Award just short of the grand prize, but individually, her acting was superior to everybody else here. She’s already made her debut through the TV as well. Despite being a minor role, the experience she gained from working together with professionals couldn’t be ignored.

“It felt good because a lot of my nervousness disappeared. I could see more of the stage too. I was only able to see the center of the auditorium yesterday, but today, I was able to see the sides too.”

“Good. The fact that your field of view widened means that you’re more relaxed. Was there anything you didn’t like about your performance today?“

“Nothing in particular.”

“You’re confident, I like it.”

In the end, they were the first ones to see their own acting. It wasn’t possible to please others if they themselves weren’t pleased with their own performance, actors had to carry a bit of arrogance that came from believing that their acting was the best. It was a world that they couldn’t survive in by just being flung around.

“Is there a role that you’re aiming for?”

“I would like Seulmi.”

“Hm, the female lead. The competition will be fierce.”

She could be called the protagonist of the scenario, ‘Year 3 Class 3’, that had been chosen for the practice performance this time around. In addition to Seulmi, there was the class president, teacher, and Chuljin. These four characters made an appearance in all the scenes. Ganghwan went a step further and extended the script for these four characters while creating a point of conflict amongst them.

Twelve students were participating in the play and there were four major roles, the auditions starting tomorrow would be competitive. The students that were here were all greedy for acting, nobody was doing it half-heartedly. On top of that, Yoojin, who already starred in a TV program, had been gunning for the main role.

Look at their eyes.

There were five girls out of the twelve students. The five of them had to fight for two main roles, Seulmi and the teacher that could be played regardless of gender. It was obvious that they all wanted one of the two.

It’s going to be fun.

Ganghwan went across the four remaining girls and asked.

“Is there anybody else who wants to play Seulmi?”

Three people immediately raised their hands. The one person who didn’t raise her hand said that she wanted to play the teacher.

“4 people. Are all of you confident?”

“Yes.”

Nobody backed off. Everybody had an expression that showed the role was theirs. As I thought, kids these days are scary.

“Good, then Seulmi will be the first role that we’ll be auditioning tomorrow. Everybody should come prepared. Let’s see who best fits the role of Seulmi. Ah, I won’t be doing this evaluation by myself. You’ll be doing it as well. However, my evaluation will carry the most weight.”

“How will the evaluation process be done?”

The one who asked the question was Maru. Ganghwan spoke as he stroked his chin.

“It won’t be split into detailed categories. You’ll be stating your impressions, while I’ll be giving the overall score. It’ll probably be fun. You’ll get to be the judge while also being judged.”

Ganghwan took out his phone and checked the time. It was almost time to wrap up.

“Good work today too. Pack your stuff and let’s leave.”

“Thank you for your hard work!”

The children stretched after giving a short bow.

“Han Maru.”

Maru was preparing to go back with her, but looked back after being called. Ganghwan made a hand gesture. I wonder what it is.

“You have time today right?”

“Huh? Why are you asking?”

“Don’t ask. Do you have an appointment?”

“No, I don’t have any appointments.”

“That’s good.”

Ganghwan took out his phone and made a call somewhere. He had a bright expression as he took the call. His first words were, “Senior Junmin.”

“Teacher?”

“Senior, I’ll be leaving with Maru right now. Yes, yes. I’ll see you in front of Teacher’s house. I’ll be there soon!”

Ganghwan ended the call and walked towards the door.

“What is it?”

“We’re going to have to go somewhere together.”

“Where?”

“To the house of a teacher who I respect.”

“Huh?”

“That teacher wants to meet you. Bastard, you’re pretty popular. You probably don’t know because you’re young, but he’s called Yoon Moonjoong…”

“Ah, it’s that elder?”

“You know him?”

“Yes, I met him by chance when I went volunteering at a nursery.”

“I see, so that’s how he knows you. Anyway, let’s go.”

“Right now?”

“Yeah, right now. Stop talking and follow me.”

Maru scratched his eyebrows. It wasn’t that he had other plans, but going to the house of somebody he’s only met a single time bothered him. On top of that, it was somebody who Ganghwan addressed as teacher. It looks like Teacher Junmin will be joining too.

-He was a super popular actor back in the days.

Maru remembered the words of the director from yesterday. It appeared to be true.

“Can you give me a moment?”

Maru went out the exit and looked towards the bus station. She was standing there while looking around, she didn’t get on even when a bus that headed towards her house had arrived.

I forgot.

He had made a promise to go back together. Maru felt sorry while running towards her.

“Where were you? The bus already left.”

“Sorry, I have an appointment.”

“An appointment?”

Maru pointed at Ganghwan who was walking towards a black car.

“With the teacher?”

“Yeah, he suddenly wanted to take me somewhere.”

“Ah, you should’ve told me earlier if that was the case.”

She pouted.

“Sorry.”

“You were the one that wanted to go back together. Whatever, it’s fine. It’s not like we went back together before anyway. You can go.”

It was extremely uncomfortable. If he turned around like this, it was clear she would nag at him later. He knew from his numerous experiences. What should I do..

“Follow me.”

“Huh?”

Maru grabbed her hands and walked towards Ganghwan’s car. Ganghwan opened his eyes wide as he looked back.

“Huh?”

“Coach.”

“Uh, yeah.”

“I have a request.”

“People without girlfriends are going to be too lonely to live.”

“Don’t be like that, it’s too late to send a girl back by herself. I planned to take her back home but I can’t do anything about it because of the appointment.”

“Yeah, yeah, you’re the best.”

They were on their way back to Seoul after going to Suwon from Myeongdong. It was almost 10pm. Ganghwan stepped on the gas after getting on the Gyeongbu Highway.

“I can’t believe I’m acting like a chauffeur for a kid at this age. It’s sad.”

“I’ll introduce a girl to you next time.”

“What, really?”

“If possible.”

“I have faith in you.”

Ganghwan’s mood did a 180. Maru knew that Ganghwan wasn’t behaving like that because he was lonely, it was just a habit. He never once saw Ganghwan go out of his way to attempt to be in a relationship, acting always came first. That’s why Maru was curious how Ganghwan would react if he really did introduce a girl to him.

“Anyway it’s getting pretty late, will you be ok? Teacher said it’s fine if we meet at a later date.”

“They say to take the iron out while it’s hot. We might as well go since the situation is already like this.”

“What about school?”

“Please take care of me.”

“….”

“I already let my mother know that I won’t be able to go back home tonight.”

“You need to respect your coach a bit more. I’m going to tell you right now, but I’m not your chauffeur.”

“I know, but I believe that you’ll take me to school. You know Suwon’s a bit too far from Seoul. I’ll spend a night at the elder’s house before going back down.”

“You’re really shameless, asking to sleepover at a person’s house you’re visiting for the first time.”

“The situation calls for it, and I already received permission.”

“What? When?“

“Earlier through the phone. I asked if I could spend a night because the distance was too far.”

“Meticulous kid.”

“I’ll take it as a compliment.”

Ganghwan clicked his tongue and turned the steering wheel.

Ganghwan turned off the engine of the car that was parked in front of a house. There was a pine tree in the courtyard that looked over the house, with an old chair in front of it. A pathway built out of pebbles led to the residence. It felt more cozy than elegant. The steel door attached to the wall was slightly open. Ganghwan couldn’t find a doorbell no matter how much he looked, so he ended up making a phone call outside the door.

“Yes, senior. I’m here. Ah, you want us to just come in? Yes, okay.”

It appeared that permission had been granted, Maru took a step inside the door. The sound of pebbles being stepped on could be heard, followed by faint barking from inside the house. A savory fragrance wafted over.

“It’s meat and pine mushrooms. As expected, beef goes together the best with pine mushrooms.”

Ganghwan hummed as he opened the door to the house. Maru took another look at the old chair that was left by itself in the courtyard before going in. As soon as he was inside, the strong scent of beef filled the air along with the smell of the pine mushrooms.

“Teacher!”

“A pleasant guest is here.”

Moonjoong and Jumin were sitting on the floor. He wondered why they left the perfectly fine sofa to sit on the floor, but it was because they were lighting up the stove in front of them. The beef and mushrooms were being cooked on top of the small stove.

“Hello.”

Maru bowed in the direction of the two teachers.

“Welcome, it was an unreasonable request, but thank you for agreeing to it. Come sit, let’s talk after eating.”

“Yeah, yeah, let’s listen to the teacher and eat first.”

Maru placed down a drink set that he brought as a gift by the entrance.

“You’re empty handed?”

“Haha, teacher. I’m the gift, you’re being too stingy when we haven’t met for a year.”

“Tsk tsk, you can’t help but hate him.”

It looked like Moonjoong and Ganghwan had a good relationship from the level of friendliness they showed. Maru grinned and took a seat.

“Maru.”

“Yes.”

“Do you like pine mushrooms?”

“Of course, I can’t eat it because I don’t have any.”

“Haha, that’s good.” Moonjoong laughed out loud. Judging from his face that had a red tint, it appeared that they already had a drink or two. As if to prove this, there was a ceramic bottle next to the box of mushrooms, with the words Andong Soju engraved.

“Hey, come here and flip over the meat.”

“Yes, Teacher!” Ganghwan answered merrily.

“We’re going to go out for some fresh air.” Junmin took the drunk Ganghwan out with him. Ganghwan wanted to stay inside because it was cold, but Junmin brought him out.

“Who did you learn how to drink from?”

“My father taught me.”

“Good job, it’s good practice to have your first drink with an adult. If you make a mistake with the first drink, you won’t know the true taste of alcohol.”

Maru kneeled and held out his cup. It was already the third cup.

“This is the last cup.”

“Thank you.“

The soju flowed out and made a circle in the cup. It was Maru’s turn to take the ceramic bottle and fill Moonjoong’s cup.

“You don’t need to force yourself to drink it.”

“It’s a precious drink, I can’t waste it.”

“Hut hut, this child.”

The two people quietly emptied their cups. Maru placed some meat and mushrooms on top of the empty grill.

“What made you start acting?”

Maru took a moment to think, and spoke truthfully.

“I’m not acting because I like it. I’m doing it to earn money.”

“To earn money… Good, that’s good. I was like that as well. I wanted to become a singer at first, but my father said he would break my legs if I became an entertainer, so I ended up becoming an actor instead. It’s strange, they’re both occupations that deliver joys and sorrows to others, but one has a higher status than the other.”

“I heard it was like that in the past.”

“Everybody’s trying to become a singer now. It’s a good job. People shouldn’t be treating it so disdainfully.”

Maru took notice and filled up the glass again. Moonjoong drank a bottle and a half by himself, but he was perfectly fine, he has amazing alcohol tolerance. Maru thought as he put aside the bottles.

“I heard you were late because you wanted to take a girl home.”

“Yes, I was scared of sending her back alone. I’m sorry.”

“No, no, I was the one that made the request, so there’s no reason for you to be sorry. She must be a precious friend.”

“She’s somebody who I’m giving all of my heart to.”

“Hut hut! You’ll get headaches later if you start talking about love at such a young age.”

“I think so too.”

The flow of the conversation was comfortable. As expected, a quiet seating like this suited Maru more than mindlessly talking with other kids. The sizzling of the food being cooked, Moonjoong’s soft laughter, as well as the occasional sound of the wind blowing through the window created a tranquil atmosphere in the living room.

“Is the reason you’re acting because of that girl?”

“…..Was it that obvious?”

“How would I not be able to tell when such a clear child starts grinning nonstop when talking about her. So it’s for love. That’s also good.”

Moonjoong made a pleased smile and turned towards Maru.

“I felt this when I first met you, but you’re really mature. However, it’s almost weird because the maturity seems so natural. When I look at your peers, I can roughly tell what kind of life they’ve been living, but it’s different when it comes to you.”

“….”

“The reason I wanted to meet you tonight isn’t anything special. I just wanted to know a bit more about you. Would it be possible to tell me about yourself? Anything is fine. If you have any concerns, I can listen to them as well. The wits of an old man can sometimes become medicine.”

Concerns.

Maru put down the chopsticks that he had been holding. It wouldn’t hurt to talk about some of the things I’ve been worried about to a senior in life.

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ensj's Thoughts

These chapters were translated by Eunc, while ensj was out on personal business.