Chapter 118

“Teacher, you prefer black right?”

“I like variety.”

“Then I’ll buy something like citrus tea.”

Ganghwan went inside the convenience store, then came back with a coffee and a citrus tea. He got in his car and handed the citrus tea to Junmin, who was sitting next to him.

“It’s quite chilly.”

“It’s because it’s winter. At least it’s not snowing. It’s cold enough, but if it snows on top of that, ugh.”

“A young guy like you shouldn’t be complaining about the cold.”

“Senior, just because I’m younger doesn’t mean I’m more resistant to the cold.”

Ganghwan sipped on the coffee and looked at the clock. It had been 20 minutes since they left Moonjoong’s house.

“Should we start heading back?”

“Let’s wait for 10 more minutes.”

Junmin crossed his arms and leaned on the seat. It looked like he would fall asleep as soon as he was left alone.

“You can’t fall asleep.”

“I won’t.”

“Anyhow, it’s unexpected. I wonder why Teacher wanted to meet Maru.”

“I didn’t tell you?”

“What?”

“It looks like Teacher will be taking in students again, like he did in the past.”

Ganghwan’s eyes became round.

“Is that true?”

“Yeah. Not big kids like you, but it seems like he wants to pick and teach a kid with potential. I sent him the list of candidates earlier today, and for some reason, he chose Maru.”

“I heard they met each other before, could it be because of that?”

“He’s not a person who would arrange a meeting just because he met somebody by chance.”

“That’s true, anyway, it looks like he favors Maru quite a bit.”

“It’s because he’s talented, charming, and determined. There used to be times when he would be flustered, not knowing what to do, but it recently disappeared. He doesn’t have any flaws to pick at.”

Ganghwan nodded at the fitting description.

“Is there anybody that you wanted to be chosen personally? If you were the one who organized the list, then there must’ve been a few that you liked.”

“I wonder. I have too many students that I’m already taking care of, for me to pay attention to others. If I had to choose one, it would have to be Maru, but even then, what I saw was only a possibility, not a guarantee.”

“You become too strict when you start judging people. You just need to say that you want Maru to be chosen.”

“I realize this whenever I work, but in this field, it’s important to draw a line between work and personal relationship. After all, my work is basically managing people. I’m bound to make a loss if I operate based on affection.”

“Somebody like that donated 300 million won?”

“That’s how investment works.”

“Invest in me too please.”

“Are you in need of money these days?”

“It’s a joke.”

Ganghwan knew that if he asked sincerely, Junmin would offer him an enormous sum of money without hesitation. However, Ganghwan had no thoughts of making a request like that. Even if he became penniless, he vowed to never ask others for a helping hand. Money was something that could be earned and lost, but the moment you lost a person, it ended there. Relationships were something that couldn’t be recovered. Instead, they had to be forgotten and started over from the beginning. A ripped piece of paper remains ripped even if it was pieced back together.

He would live the same life regardless of whether he had money. Ganghwan saw countless people whose relationships had broken down because of money related problems. He’d learned enough lessons through them.

“Senior.”

“What?”

“Please take care of me next year too.”

“….It seems like next year will be tiresome as well.”

***

Maru knelt on his knees.

“I don’t have a knack for speaking, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get the meaning across, but…”

Maru paused and organized his thoughts. Everything should be looked over at least twice before being spoken out. He opened his mouth after composing his thoughts.

“It might sound absurd, but… I had a certain dream.”

“Dream?”

“Yes, it was a really vivid dream where I grew up, got married, and lived a regular life before eventually dying.”

“Hmm.”

“I have trouble believing that it was a dream because of how clear it was. After having that dream, the direction of my life took a turn. You told me yesterday that I was well-mannered, but a lot of that is because of the dream. In the dream, I was 45 years old and the head of a household.”

Maru spoke as truthfully as he could while mixing in a few lies. His feelings grew complicated as he spoke. He could never grow used to remembering his death, as well as the family that he left behind in that life.

“I can tell you’re serious by your expression. Continue on, let’s hear the rest.”

Moonjoong’s eyes became calm, Maru told his story more carefully after seeing his attitude.

“I was married and had children in that dream. Then…. I died from an accident. I had a billion different thoughts after waking up. I wondered if I could keep living like this, without aim, and my attitude changed since then. I’ve decided to do my best for the people I loved and to prepare for my future. The influence that one dream had on me was massive.”

“And so you decided to take up acting.”

“That’s right.“

“I heard from Junmin, he said you wanted 300 million won?”

“Yes.”

“I thought you just wanted to strike it rich, but it seems like that’s not the case. The 300 million must be something like an insurance for the future.”

“Other people might’ve laughed at me if they heard the request. After all, a mere third-year in high school was asking for 300 million won. However, I needed something that I could be sure about.”

“You had a lot of fears.”

“Yes.”

“It’s only natural to be scared if you really did experience something like that, a man who shoulders the weight of his child can only be scared. I was like that too.”

He felt anxious just thinking about the daughter that he’ll have in the future. He wanted to prepare everything for the child whose face he couldn’t even remember, and for that, he needed money.

“You can’t help but be greedy for money when you’re the head of a household. After all, money is required for a minimal amount of happiness.”

Moonjoong emptied his glass, and put the glass aside.

“Okay, I understand that you asked for money because you were scared, but this can’t be called a problem. Didn’t you say that you had some concerns?”

“I only started looking back at myself recently, and my thoughts became complicated. It was fine up to the point where I chose acting and asked for money. The problem is that my interest in acting is growing.”

“It’s a problem that you’re interested in?”

“Yes, if it was just slight interest that improved my focus, it would be fine, but the problem is that the amount of interest is growing without stopping. At first, my plan was to practice for 3 years and give acting a shot. If my skills weren’t up to par after the 3 years, I was going to give up and go back to the plans I had before. Then it would’ve meant that I made 300 million in 3 years, which is a pretty good deal.”

“But your concern now is that you’ll still have feelings for acting even after the 3 years?”

Maru nodded in response. It was a problem that was simple, yet important. Forty was an age where you no longer felt temptation. He’s definitely passed that age before. Back then, he gave up everything and only lived for the sake of his wife and daughter. He never wavered and reduced the time he spent on hobbies, so that he could deposit money into an account under his daughter’s name. He thought it was the logical way to live.

However, the now young blood in Maru kept tempting him. He could imagine himself continuing to attempt acting even after hearing that he had no talent.

Looking at it now, that future appeared sweet. The face of himself challenging his limits accompanied by his spirit and dreams. The twenties was an age that shined brilliantly with vigor. If he didn’t know the future, he would have been able to lead a life like that.

However, the problem was that he knew.

He found out.

He ended up knowing.

The job market would continue to freeze over. If employment was easy, he wouldn’t have had to become a bus driver. He could vaguely remember society’s atmosphere back then. The unemployment rate definitely wouldn’t decrease, if anything, it increased.

If it was 300 million won, he might be able to try something.

If he gave up after being told that acting wasn’t his forte, anything was possible.

As long as he could give up.

“I don’t want to lose the girl I love, nor do I want to make it difficult for her. This might sound premature, but I also don’t want to raise my child in a lacking environment. My concern is the attitude that I should have towards acting.”

Maru stared at Moonjoong, wondering what kind of answer his insight will result in.

“It seems like a concern is giving birth to more concerns.”

“…”

“There’s nothing that can be done about that, concerns build on top of each other. In the end, it grows to a size that people can’t handle.”

“That doesn’t mean that you can live a life free of concerns.”

“That’s why a concern is a concern.”

Moonjoong laughed.

“Unfortunately, I can’t give you an answer to that type of concern. I’m sorry that I can’t be of help.”

“….”

“However, I can offer a piece of advice.”

Advice.

Maru corrected his posture once more and listened.

“Don’t look at the world as if it’s a scenery, but rather face it like reality.”

“Face it like reality….”

“I can empathize with your feelings after listening to your story. I can also tell how realistic that dream must’ve been from your actions. I’m sure you must be worried about the girl you’ll marry, the family you’ll make, as well as the child that you’ll have. While your life is filled with these worries, you’re taking a step back to observe everything as if none of it has anything to do with you.”

“You’re telling me that I’m taking a step back?”

“Aren’t you nowhere to be found in any of the things you spoke about?”

“…….”

“And plus, you aren’t an omnipotent child of god, one of the many who are walking along a narrow cliff called life. The same applies to me too. Nobody can be sure of their life, but here you are, trying to be responsible for everything.”

“But if it’s not me…”

“You said you had a girl that you liked?”

“Huh? Ah, yes.”

“From the way you described her, she seems to have some talent.”

“….She has more than just some talent, she’s the heroine.”

“Then let me ask you, you seemed to be serious about her. Are you planning on marrying her?”

“That’s what I’m hoping for.”

“Then it becomes easier. Hmm, it’s 12am, what time do kids sleep these days?”

“She’s probably still awake, she picked up when I called her before too.”

“Then give her a call.”

“A call?”

“Yes, a call.”

Maru showed a moment of hesitation before taking out his phone to call her. It rang a few times before she picked up.

-Why are you calling this late?

A tired voice could be heard. She might’ve woken up from her sleep to take the call. Maru looked at Moonjoong. He did as he was told and made the phone call, but didn’t know what to do after.

“Ask her.”

“Ask her what?”

“You know, the things that you’re worried about.”

-Hello? Maru, can you hear me?

Maru let out a sigh. He knew what to ask, but because it was so sudden, he had trouble speaking.

-I’m going to hang up!

“Wait.”

-Ah, I can hear now. So, what is it?

“Hey, just suppose, as a possibility.”

-Just suppose what?

“If the man that you marry has trouble earning money and goes around chasing after his dreams… What will you do?”

-What are you talking about this late at night? I’m going to hang up if you’re just making a joke.

“It’s not a joke, I wanted to hear your opinion. I’m serious, please believe me.”

-…..Really, what is it? I felt this last time too, but you’re weird.

“Sorry.”

-As always, you’re good at apologizing. Sigh…. So what’s the guy that I’m marrying like?

“Huh? Oh, let’s just say that he’s somebody you love a lot.”

-Somebody I love a lot? If it’s somebody like that, I’ll probably yell and nag at him and tell him to wake up. After telling him to act his age and to start thinking about his family, I’ll…..

“You’ll?”

-I guess I’ll just earn the money instead. You did say it was somebody I loved. My mom says this often, but love is being a bit happy when the person you love is hurt. If they get hurt, it means that you can look after them and help them. For that reason, he might be pathetic and frustrating, but… if I love him, I’ll just carry him on my back. Hey, maybe I should just make him be the housewife! Haha, he’ll have an apron on, and watch the kid. Meanwhile, if I become a popular actress, there won’t be anything to worry about. Not bad, right?

“Yeah, yeah, not bad.”

-I don’t know what the problem is, but I think it’s pointless to worry about something like that. The question itself is biased, if the guy can’t earn money, then the girl can do it. Do you think women are just parasites who leech off men? Now that I think about it, this is making me mad. Who was the one that told you to ask a question like this? I heard a voice next to you earlier, don’t tell me it was teacher Ganghwan? Was it?

“No that’s not it.”

Maru couldn’t hold back and broke out in laughter as soon as he answered. He was unable to answer despite hearing, “Hey!” from the other side of the phone.

In the end, she hung up the call. Maru could envision the nagging that he was going to hear tomorrow, but for now, he was enjoying it.

Maru looked at Moonjoong after barely managing to contain his laugh, Moonjoong looked back with a satisfied smile.

“When a concern remains a worry, it’ll look like a wall impossible to climb. However, if you collide with it, it often ends up not being much. The phrase, ‘Life is a tragedy from up close, but a comedy from faraway’, isn’t there for show.”

“It seems so.”

“The distancing is important, you can’t be objective from too far away, nor can you be emotional from too up close. The reason moderation is emphasized so much even in this day and age, is because it’s closely related to life.”

Moonjoong grabbed the glass that he put aside and signaled Maru to grab his.

“Let’s have another drink, the night is still long.”

“Yes, Elder.”

“Elder? Hut hut, good, it’s better than hearing something old-fashioned like Teacher.”

The concerns melted away with the glass and flew away with the fragrance of the alcohol. The only thing remaining was the bittersweet glass of alcohol that perfectly described life.

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KTLChamber's Thoughts

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