Chapter 137

Moonjoong looked downwards as he chewed on the candied ginseng his daughter sent him. Dalgu, who had gained a lot of weight recently, was begging for food below him. So even animals know what was good for the body, huh.

“Dalgu, you fool. You have too much heat in your body. This won’t be good for you.”

Moonjoong didn’t actually know that with certainty, but that didn’t change the fact that he wasn’t going to share his food. He did feel bad about just watching his dog walk away sadly though, so he gave the poor thing some dog food. As he watched his dog eat with a smile on his face, he noticed someone outside his door. The person had a confused expression as they pressed on his broken doorbell. Moonjoong looked through the door in confusion at the spectacle.

“What the… what’s he doing here?”

Moonjoong went to greet the man, neglecting to even put on his shoes. The wind from outside was terribly cold, but he didn’t even feel it from how surprised he was right now.

“My, aren’t you a pleasant surprise.”

“Haha, Moonjoong!”

The person in the grey coat was Yu Chulmin, Moonjoong’s old friend. He stood in front of an expensive-looking car parked in front of his house.

“What brought you here all of a sudden?”

“Nothing special. I just wanted to see if my dear friend was still alive. I’ve been telling myself to go see your plays, but I never did find the time.”

“So that’s why you came all the way here so early in the morning?”

“Of course.”

Moonjoong brought his friend inside with a happy grin. Dalgu stopped eating its food and immediately ran over to Chulmin happily.

“Oh, so you remember me, huh?”

Chulmin rubbed the little dog’s head.

“Here, here. Take a seat. Did you have breakfast?”

“Not yet.”

“Your wife didn’t make you anything?”

“She never makes me anything anymore. She’s gone to Jeju island with her friends, actually.”

“What stamina.”

“Indeed.”

Moonjoong scooped up a bowl of rice, some soup, and some side dishes as well. It wasn’t anything very fit to serve a guest, but Moonjoong knew very well that his friend wouldn’t care.

“It’s been a while since I last had a meal at your house.”

“It really has been. To think that I used to see you so damn often forty years ago, too.”

“Too often. Way too often.”

Four decades ago, the two of them worked in the same movie company. Back then, movie companies produced movies like crazy. They even hit 200 movies released in one year back then. After all, movies were the best form of entertainment anyone could experience without a TV. The two worked as extras for various movies during that time. Of course, they weren’t paid well at all.

In those times, actors were treated horribly. Even more so for actresses, they had to do very shameful things in order to get into a film. In the end, the two of them left the industry to go into plays. They made a theater company. More and more people started coming and before they knew it, they were even taking on sponsors.

That was around the time when TVs became more commonplace to the people. Movie companies started going out of business left and right, while more and more actors started joining their company. That was also when Seoul university relocated closer to Gwanaksan, more artists started gathering towards that area as a result. The two of them decided to move as well. That’s where Marronnier Park now stands and became a safe haven for artists nowadays.

“Gosh, we suffered quite a bit back then, didn’t we?”

“That we did. Do you remember? We tried making the stage by ourselves, but all we ended up doing was ruin the floor completely.”

“Of course I remember.”

Moonjoong watched as his friend wiped his bowl clean.

“Wait a second.”

Moonjoong brought out his candied ginseng.

“This stuff’s been slathered with honey and it tastes quite amazing.”

“Oh, that sounds so expensive.”

“It’s from my daughter. Try it.”

“Hey, you should keep stuff like this for yourself. Don’t be sharing it willy-nilly just like that.”

“I have too much.”

Moonjoong actually had very little of the stuff, but he wanted to share the good stuff with his friend who worked with him for most of his life.

“Well, thanks for the food, then.”

Chulmin smiled as soon as he put a piece of the ginseng in his mouth.

“Want more?”

“One’s just fine, thank you.”

Moonjoong put away the ginseng somewhere else with a nod, Dalgu started sniffing the thing curiously.

“Can dogs eat ginseng?”

“Probably not.”’

Moonjoong took the ginseng and put it out of Dalgu’s reach. He had to wonder sometimes just who the dog took after to become such a glutton.

“So, mind telling me the real reason why you came here? You couldn’t have just come here to see me. You’re too busy for that.”

“Well, I really did come here to just see you. Plus one more small thing.”

Chulmin took a sip of a drink Moonjoong gave him.

“Do you have time?”

“Time? What time?”

“Time for a project.”

“Project?”

Chulmin nodded.

“You have no idea how happy I was when I heard you were going to be on stage again.”

“That’s because Junmin begged me to come back. Plus, there was a great meaning behind it. I mean, it’s the reopening of the Myungdong Art Theater, after all.”

“That doesn’t change the fact that you’re back on stage. I’ve started hearing some good rumors about you coming from the younger folk, too.”

“The younger actors just have a good impression of me is all.”

“Don’t be so humble, I know your skills better than anyone. You were nominated for the position of Chairman of the National Theater Association even before me, remember?”

“That’s so long ago. Plus, they were just asking me that in passing.”

Hearing the current chairman of the association say something like this was rather embarrassing for Moonjoong.

“In any case, how was acting after years of retirement? I don’t even know what acting is like anymore since I haven’t done it for so long.”

“Haha, don’t joke like that.”

Chulmin smiled playfully. The man wasn’t wrong, though. As the Chairman of the National Theater Association, a social worker, an advisor for playwrights, and a college professor, he was simply too busy to do anything else. That was why Moonjoong didn’t even feel bad when Chulmin told him that the man was too busy to see his plays.

“Alright, stop changing the subject and just tell me. How was acting? Isn’t it more fun than just teaching? I heard you’ve been smiling all the time in the practice room.”

“Now I’m getting curious about just who your source of information is. Is it Junmin?”

“He’s one of them, sure.”

“Don’t force people to do too many things for you just because you’re a chairman, you hear?”

Moonjoong closed his mouth for a second to think. Indeed, acting again was very fun. Watching the passion of the younger actors, experiencing new technology on the stage, and looking at the audience members again. Everything felt new to him and that came as a very fun, fresh experience.

“It was fun. I guess acting really is the perfect job for me.”

“That’s why I brought this up in the first place. Why don’t you try acting in a movie?”

“A movie?”

“The script, the cast, the investors. They all want you.”

A movie… When was the last time he shot a movie? He left the movie business to go into plays. After making his name there, he went back to shooting movies and starred in over 50 movies. That was when he was in his forties, it’s already been three decades since.

“Why are you dragging out someone that’s been forgotten?”

“I told you. People know that you aren’t dead anymore.”

“Oh, dear.”

“It’s not anything with a high budget, but the people behind you will be fantastic, I guarantee it. So how about it? Don’t you want to show the young ones that the old guys are still going strong?”

“...Why are you talking about that now all of a sudden?”

“Because I’m that investor.”

“Hah!”

“I’d like to see you on screen again.”

“You...”

“I’ll send you the synopsis by today. The script, too. You’ll probably want to meet with the scriptwriter and the director as well.”

“I didn’t tell you I was going to...”

“I’m going to pretend you said yes. See you. The food was really good.”

“Hey! Hey, stop right there!”

His friend took off just like that. Moonjoong tried to catch up to the man, but Chulmin just jumped into his car shouting, ‘No need for farewells!’

...Then, the man got off the car and came back to the doorstep.

“Actually, come with me.”

“...You haven’t changed at all, have you?”

Even while saying that, Moonjoong grabbed his jacket. He was leaning towards saying yes to his friend’s offer already, he knew his friend wanted the best for him. Moonjoong trusted Chulmin, which was why he didn’t need to hesitate on trying to make a decision.

Moonjoong got inside Chulmin’s car. He thought he would be alone with his friend, but there turned out to be someone else in there. A young man with a very well-defined face. Someone Moonjoong knew very well.

“Hello, sir.”

The young man greeted him very politely.

“Ah, so it’s you, Geunsoo.”

“Yes.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I got hired as a temporary driver,“ Geunsoo said with a grin.

Moonjoong couldn’t help but glance at Chulmin.

“Are you at least paying the poor kid?”

“What, you think I’m a CEO of a black company or something? Geunsoo, am I making you do this for free?”

“No, sir. I’m learning a lot.”

“See? Why are you making me out to be the villain, when I’m so kind?”

Moonjoong and Chulmin burst out into laughter together, Moonjoong hadn’t felt like this in a very long time.

“Let’s go.”

“Yes, sir.”

“So where are we going, anyway?” Moonjoong asked.

“There’s an event the director of the movie is involved in, so I was just thinking of dropping in for a chat.”

“An event?”

“A competition for the babies. It’s the nationals starting today.”

“I thought that was in summer?”

“That’s the one held by us. This one’s backed by industries and production companies. Much smaller than the one we hold.”

Geunsoo decided to butt into the conversation.

“But the industry rates the winter competitions with higher regard than the summer one. I don’t know if you remember, but I won in the winter competition three times back in high school.”

“I know, I know. You’ve bragged about it so much that I remember it by heart at this point,” Chulmin responded, clicking his tongue.

Geunsoo started coughing embarrassedly.

“You’ll see a lot of familiar faces once you’re there. We’re not actually going for the competition, but rather the drama production announcement meeting being held in the building next to it.”

“I see.”

“You should try watching how the younger kids act too if you have the time.”

“Younger kids, huh.”

Moonjoong turned to look outside the window.

* * *

"You didn’t forget anything, did you?”

“Nope.”

“Check again, just to be sure.”

“You look even more nervous than us for some reason, Instructor.”

“You’re literally the only person calm here!”

Maru watched as Miso walked away to somewhere else. Today was the day of the prelims, so the acting club was especially busy.

“Maru! Help me with this!” Soyeon called out.

Maru ran over. They needed to move their props over to the stage in Anyang. He put on the chair Soyeon was holding into a truck in the middle of the school field.

“Pretty much done, right?” Dojin asked.

The costumes were carried by the girls. They checked everything last night, so they definitely didn’t forget anything. Things should be fine as long as the props arrive safely at the stage.

“Careful not to break them. They’re made of wood.”

They tied the wooden props to the top of the truck under Joonghyuk’s instructions. In total, they had a building prop, streetlights, trash cans, a store, and a few desks to go in front of said store as well.

“Here, let me see.”

An employee of the moving company checked things over one last time before covering it up with a tarp and tying it all down with more ropes.

“Phew, finally.”’

The club members let out a sigh of relief. They’ve done this several times already, but they always got stressed anyway. They didn’t want their precious props breaking on them, after all. Unfortunately, it’s already happened twice to them so far.

“Please take good care of it, sir.”

“Of course.”

The truck left first. The club members split up between a taxi, Miso’s car, and Ganghwan’s car.

“You should just come in as our secondary advisor at this point,” Maru commented, getting into the shotgun seat in Ganghwan’s car.

“Hey, don’t say that. You’re going to jinx it. Oh, guys, it’s a little dirty, but please bear with me.”

“Yes.”

Indeed, the back seats were littered with Ganghwan’s clothes, scripts, and various tools. Daemyung, Taejoon, and Dojin carefully moved everything to the side before they settled into their seats.

“We’re leaving.”

Ganghwan pressed on the pedal as soon as he saw Miso leave. It was 11am when the club finally made their way towards Anyang. Maru took out his phone to read a message he received just yesterday.

[We’ll go easy on you for the prelims, so good luck. We’ll win at the finals though.]

It was her. Looking at the message just gave him strength.

“Nervous?”

“Yes.”

“Well, aren’t you good at lying. You don’t even feel anything, do you?”

“Am I that obvious?”

“Very. At least try to fake it better. I told you, didn’t I? You’re the type that gets stimulated on stage, so some nervousness beforehand is really good for you. If you go wild by yourself, that’s not acting anymore. If you want to communicate with the audience, you need to become calm on the stage.”

“I understand.”

Ganghwan started speaking to the kids behind him as well.

“And you guys need to stop being so nervous! Gosh damn it, what’s with you guys? The person next to me has the problem of being too calm and the people behind me are way too nervous. Come on, this isn’t like your second or third time on stage, is it? Hm?”

“...It is.”

“Oh, right. Sorry about that. I guess it’s right for you to be that nervous, then. You really can’t do anything about that.”

Maru knew Ganghwan wouldn’t stop talking there. Indeed, the man continued talking.

“Accept the fact that you’re nervous, though. This is a feeling you’ll have to live with forever, so learn to enjoy it. It’ll be a thousand times better than trying to suppress it. I promise.”

The three kids behind them nodded.

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