Chapter 129

“Alright, we’re done!”

“I’ve always felt this, but it feels like our instructor is always the most excited when practice is over.”

“Of course. This is work. You’ll understand once you get older. No matter how much you like something, once you start accepting another person’s money for it, it becomes harder.”

“Like forcing yourself to do homework?”

"Bingo.”

Everyone started laughing at Ganghwan’s words. 9:30pm. The amateur acting practice session finally concluded.

"How did you all feel about today’s practice? Have you all gotten used to your characters?”

"Not yet. I’ve definitely memorized all my lines, but it’s not coming out the way that I want.”

"I get confused with the character I’m playing in my school’s acting club. Our school’s play is also set in a school, so I get some parts confused between the two.”

"It’s difficult since we have to decide ourselves on a whole host of things.”

Everyone started voicing out their frustrations. Ganghwan nodded in understanding.

“As you guys mentioned, doing two plays at the same time is difficult. Even a seasoned veteran chooses to do only one play at a time if he or she wants to really get into character, but you guys are young and trying to do two at the same time. Obviously, it’s difficult.”

The members who related to his words started nodding their heads in agreement. Maru nodded his head with the others but didn’t feel confused like the others. Strangely, he found it easy to absorb and become each character. When focused, like flipping a switch, he could put on the character like how one puts on clothes and truly become that character.

Maru’s main concern was that the scattered practice times may affect the overall plays themselves. His acting was still unrefined. Until he proves to himself that he can do one role and play perfectly, he’ll keep feeling this way.

"Still, your difficult experiences now will bear fruit later. Being young means what! It means your mind can absorb everything, right? Get to my age and you become a sad animal that only has the mental capacity to do one thing at a time.”

“Instructor, you’re only 31 this year.”

“That’s right. You’re not even old and yet you keep saying you are.”

“Boo~”

The girls cupped their hands around their mouths as they started booing. Ganghwan tried to retort by saying, “The difference between people in their teens and in their 30’s is like heaven and earth,” but the students were having none of it.

"Man, youngsters these days.”

Ganghwan couldn’t help but laugh out loud after saying a commonly spoken phrase from the truly older crowd.

"Does anyone need to get back soon?”

Everyone shook their head because they knew what was coming next.

“Then, should we get something to eat?”

“Sounds good!”

Since 7pm, they moved around for two and a half hours. At an age where anything seems edible when hunger strikes, the students were famished after expending their mental and physical effort during practice. Even Ganghwan spent a lot of energy giving advice.

“My wallet is not as happy as it used to be, so let’s be satisfied with hamburgers.”

"What about fries?”

"I can cover up to there. I’m deciding on the menu though.”

They weren’t the type of students that would let him off that easy.

"I want a shrimp burger!”

"I want a marinated beef burger!”

"I want that new burger that just came out!”

After seeing the talkative, elated faces of his students, Ganghwan resigned himself to his fate and walked outside while shaking his head.

"Hey, I need a helper! One of you needs to help me carry the food back.”

As he was gesturing for volunteers, Maru got up and followed him out. As they were leaving the hall, they heard, “And ice cream too!”

“They said ice cream too.”

“In this freezing weather… strawberry or chocolate flavored ice cream?”

“Let’s go with strawberry.”

“Isn’t it usually chocolate?”

“I like strawberry.”

It’s what she liked too.

Both entered the fast food restaurant next to the theater. As the restaurant was situated at the heart of Myungdong street, it was crowded inside. They weaved through the crowd and put in an order before sitting down.

"Your expressions have improved a lot. It’s good to see that you’re putting a lot of thought into the details, even your finger movements.”

"I’m trying to be purposeful and aware of all my movements, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.”

"Of course, it’s difficult. How old are you right now?”

"Seventeen I believe.”

"If you’re seventeen then you’re seventeen, what’s with ‘I believe’. Regardless, did you ever consider the angles of your spoon when fitting it into your mouth in the last seventeen years?”

"No, I don’t normally think about those things.”

"Exactly. We actually do most things subconsciously. Especially those things that we do every day. We also start to daydream and think of other things when doing something that we do repeatedly. Our body is like a fine-tuned machine that automates processes.”

He then raised his left hand to eye level and his right hand at chest height.

"The left hand is the area where I’m conscious of and the right hand is the subconscious area. Most of our body movement happens in this subconscious area, so if we need to bring our consciousness to this area…”

He slapped his hands together.

"There’s going to be a shock to the system. Even those things we did well subconsciously start becoming difficult. Once we start bringing our consciousness into the realm of actions that were previously done subconsciously, we start to question ourselves, ‘did I always do things this way?’. Since the brain is asking a question towards the body that has always done it a certain way, confusion ensues. For example, how do you breathe and when do you blink your eyes?”

He smiled as he asked. Hearing this, Maru started becoming aware of his breaths and annoyed by his blinking.

“You said something unnecessary to prove your point.”

“A student’s pain is this instructor’s happiness.”

"Oh gosh.”

"Think carefully before moving. You first need to observe. You can record your movements and see the tendencies that you have. Once you start recognizing these tendencies then you’ll be able to start controlling your bodily expressions.”

He stated the major points and the road towards them, but he left the rest to be done by Maru. Ganghwan would put the spoon in your hands, but the person with the spoon had to grab it with the right amount of force, guide it to the food, and then bring it back to eat it. Of course, while finding one’s way through this path, there could be a patch of thorny bushes to go through or a steep cliff one had to miraculously clear.

"Your order is ready!”

Since the order was for 12 people, there was a lot to carry. With numerous bags in hand, they went to the theater where the students eagerly greeted them. With a proud face, Ganghwan expected some praise but was largely ignored as the members devoured the food.

"Hey, at least say thank you.”

“We’ll eat well!”

“Instructor, you’re the best!”

“… it’s not the same when you ask for it,” murmured Ganghwan as he joined the students.They talked about each other’s school plays, what types of practices they were doing, what roles they were playing, and other related subjects.

“When are your preliminaries?”

“This Sunday.”

“Woah, you only have three days left. Ours is the following Sunday.”

“How many teams are participating in this region?”

“I think a little above 18.”

“Wow, that’s pretty competitive.”

With the Kyoungkido province being so large, the preliminaries were divided between north and south with the south already sporting more than 18 teams. After the contenders come out of the north and south, two teams would come out of the province as representatives. There would be two representatives from Seoul, two from Kyoungkido Province, and one each from the other provinces. 16 teams in total would compete in the nationals.

“I guess we’re competitors now.”

Everyone nodded at the short haired girl’s words. They were talking and laughing together while preparing for this play, but once they turned around, they’d be competing against each other in the prelims.

They were all 1st year high school students.

Though they just started acting, they each had their own levels of passion and skill. This was why they were all able to come together here, being hand picked or referred.

“Our region has Myunghwa High, so it’ll be hard to even get through prelims.”

“That’s true.”

Maru noticed that the name of her high school became the main topic of conversation. They recently won the summer nationals. Myunghwa high had a storied history. The Woosung high acting club won nationals in each of the first three years since its creation but hadn’t won since. However, the neighboring Myunghwa high were like seasoned hunters. They didn’t have as much luck in the winter nationals, placing second at best, but were regular podium visitors in the summer nationals.

Even Miso mentioned that it would be easier after going through Myunghwa high.

“By the way, why isn’t she here? Did she skip this to join her school’s practice?”

“She had something come up. It’s not practice,” replied Maru on her behalf.

“What came up?”

“Something personal.”

“C’mon. You’re protecting her with excuses, right? Just because you’re together?”

“If you really want to know… today’s the anniversary day of her father’s passing. She didn’t come because of that.”

“Ah…”

The short-haired girl who was speaking so brashly suddenly closed her mouth and had an apologetic expression on her face. The light-hearted laughing and talking suddenly became silent.

“You guys finished eating? Let’s clear this out.”

Ganghwan broke the silence. His words came at just the right time, allowing the students to forget the awkwardness and resume their lively talk while picking up their trash.

As Maru was picking up his trash, the short-haired girl approached.

“I’m sorry.”

She spoke with a meek voice. He told her not to worry about it. It wasn’t like she was saying something wrong. She was just curious. Still, he was relieved to be amongst people who cared enough about others to apologize. The older generation might say ‘youngsters these days…’ but even younger people had to be differentiated on a case-by-case basis. There were young people like Changhu, but there were also people like this short-haired girl.

After cleaning up, everyone said goodbye to each other and headed out. It was the first time in a while for Maru to leave alone. As he was waiting for the bus to arrive, he heard an approaching mid-size vehicle honk its horn.

“Hey! Get in!”

Isn’t this the famous line for the notorious ‘Hey! Get in!’ playboy crew?

Maru gave a brief smirk before walking to Ganghwan’s car.

“What’s going on?”

“I’ll take you home.”

“You live in Seoul. I’ll just take a bus down.”

“When your instructor tells you to get in you should get in. I haven’t spent time with you in a while. I’m supposed to mentor you, but I seemed to have shirked some of my duties recently.”

“It’s already hard digesting everything you’ve taught me so far,” said Maru while getting into the passenger side seat and buckling up. Ganghwan checked his side mirrors and was about to take off when he heard someone knocking on his window. She was wearing a grey-brown fur coat. Her make-up naturally blended with her face and gave off an erotic vibe.

"Ganghwan?” asked the woman outside.

He looked at the woman with an awkward smile. He was part happy to see her and part not, it was a unique sight.

“Ah, yes. Ms. Suyeon. I didn’t expect to see you here.”

"You don’t have to use a respectful tone. I’m five years younger than you.”

"I still have my manners.”

Suyeon, the woman who Maru had never met, smiled blatantly at Ganghwan.

As if it didn’t feel right to be in the car, Ganghwan opened the door and got out.

"Let me have a word. I’ll be back.”

"Sure.”

For a guy who longed for a woman, Ganghwan didn’t seem very happy to meet this attractive woman. What type of person is she? Since he was in the car, he couldn’t really hear their conversation outside. The woman, Suyeon, seemed to be happy to see him but Ganghwan had on a forced smile. Did they have an awkward or embarrassing past? Or was there another reason?

Maru thought that the talk must have ended, as Ganghwan returned to the car. As he released the side brake and got ready to take off, the rear driver side door opened. With a shy smile, Suyeon got into the car. Ganghwan stared at her with a dumbfounded look. Maru thought, ‘they didn’t plan this?’

“We haven’t seen each other in so long. You’re just going to leave like that?”

“Oh. It’s just that, this guy right here, he has something really important to discuss with me. Really important.”

Ganghwan actively appealed on behalf of Maru. Maru felt like a product that was getting tossed around, but seeing Ganghwan’s nervousness, he decided to stay silent.

"Ha, I’m just joking. I just got in to see your face once more. Your car is really clean by the way.”

“I just had it cleaned. Ha Ha.”

“It’s a great car to take out for a spin.”

"No way. The shocks are so worn that you can feel every bump on the road.”

"Oh really?”

"Of course.”

"Do you not like me, by chance?

“What are you saying all of a sudden. Why would I dislike you, Ms. Suyeon. It’s just that it’s so sudden that I’m lost for words.”

"That still makes me a little upset. We haven’t seen each other in so long, but it seems like I’m the only one who’s excited. Ugh.”

"Let me treat you to a meal next time. I’m really busy today.”

Ganghwan gave Maru a look. Maru turned to Suyeon with an apologetic look.

"Then I guess it can’t be helped. But I expect you to treat me tomorrow.”

“T-Tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow doesn’t work either?”

She pouted her lips. Ganghwan, at his wits end, ultimately made an appointment with her. It was only then that Suyeon smiled brightly.

"But what’s the name of the kid in front?

"Him? His name is Maru, Han Maru.”

"Wow, that’s a really unique name.”

Since his name came out, Maru turned around and gave a greeting bow toward Suyeon. She waved her hands and smiled.

"I’m Kim Suyeon. I’ll see you later,” she said as she got out of the car.

As if afraid she might return, Ganghwan stepped on the accelerator and hurriedly left as if he was running away.

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ensj's Thoughts

These chapters were translated by PlumpCat99, while ensj was out on personal business.