Chapter 143

The stage was a lot of fun for sure, Maru felt a lot better just saying his lines. Whenever a new reaction from the audience hit him, it felt like more and more of his senses were being liberated.

“It looks like I’ll have to go back inside.”

He gave a slight bow before coming back off stage, he nodded at the club members before grabbing a water bottle on the floor. He was wearing very light clothes, but he was still very sweaty inside.

“Not much left.”

Miso told them to focus until the end, the play was quickly reaching its climax. Since the characters never really went through a big conflict, the climax wasn’t particularly tense. It was just a traditional comedy. The play would be considered a success if the audience was smiling until the end. Maru could hear Geunseok speaking on stage. Despite playing a character with no real traits, Geunseok could still attract attention to him. The boy’s voice was trying its utmost in order to not get buried by the other kids around him.

The quality of the play was going up, purely thanks to Geunseok’s work.

* * *

“They’re good.”

“Yeah.”

“Didn’t Woosung High fail the prelims last summer?”

“Yeah, that’s what I heard.”

She was whispering quietly with Yoojin while looking at the boy in front of her. The boy on stage was tall and had very well-defined features. The boy’s charming voice and energy were almost incredible. That wasn’t all. His acting was so natural that the character he was playing almost felt real.

“I wonder why they failed?”

“My senior watched the play, and… Apparently they made a mistake?”

“Mistake?”

“Yeah, apparently it was from the tall kid, so… Probably him?”

“Maru’s tall too, though.”

“Maru didn’t participate in the summer competition.”

“Really? So he only started practicing in Fall?”

“Pretty much.”

“That’s surprising. Really surprising.”

Yoojin rested her chin on her hand. It really was surprising. Looking back, Maru told her that he worked a part-time job over the summer. Meaning, he didn’t practice at all. He only started practicing in the Fall, so… four months. In any case, the people on the stage left and the stage turned blue again.

“Maru’s coming,” Yoojin noted.

Maru stumbled out from behind the curtain. He carefully walked to the center before looking around, as if he was about to tell them a secret. His movements were well-rehearsed and flowed well.

“The tall kid is better at acting for sure, but my attention is drawn more to Maru. Is it the lights?”

“Don’t know.”

She was curious about that as well. She came to see Maru as a fan of plays, not as his lover. Maru was standing in front of her, speaking calmly and easily on stage. His character was unique for sure. It only made sense that he would attract attention, but was that really all there was to it? His character was unique, but not to that extent. There were plenty of other characters in the play who looked nice as well. It wasn’t like Maru was significantly better at acting than everyone else, either.

So what made him so much more charming? She thought it was simply because she liked him, but Yoojin felt the same way as her. There had to be a different reason.

‘Tone? Expression? Or synergy with his character?’

What was it? She felt herself getting nervous by the second, she didn’t want to lose to Maru in terms of acting. She was Maru’s girlfriend, but she also didn’t want to lose. Especially not as an actor from Myunghwa high.

“I can’t read the judges’ minds, but they’re going to do pretty well, I’m sure of it.”

Yoojin sounded confident and she had to agree. She’s followed her dad to watch many plays in the past and she had felt what she’s feeling now whenever she looked at good actors. She put a hand over her chest, she could feel it beating.

‘He’s good. I’m not going to lose, though.’

It suddenly occurred to her that she’s never thought this while she practiced with Maru.

“Yoojin, what was it like practicing with Maru? Was he like this?”

“Mm… Not at all. He’s completely different. Maru’s very boring when he practices. Not in a bad way. He’s really good and well-balanced. Very good to practice with. But it feels like he’s always missing something.”

“What about now?”

“You can see for yourself, he’s very different. Maru on the stage looks… kind of dangerous. It feels like he’s walking on a tightrope. You get dragged into focusing on him, because it almost feels like he’s going to make a mistake. More than anything, you can see him having a huge amount of fun. You smile before you even realize it.”

That was it. She nodded in agreement. Maru had life on the stage, unlike during practice. It almost felt like he was going to charge into the audience right now. Looking at that just made her start focusing on him. His acting was exciting, to say the least.

“Woosung high. I’ll have to tell my seniors about it.”

“Me too.”

She balled up her hands into a fist. What would Maru look like when they got on the stage together? She looked forward to it. She wanted to see the actor that was Maru as soon as she could.

‘What the, he’s pretty cool.’

She turned to look at Yoojin for a second.

“What is it?”

“No, it’s nothing.”

“Maru’s cool, right?”

Yoojin smiled oddly. That surprised her. She almost denied Yoojin adamantly. No, she almost told Yoojin to stop looking at Maru so positively. She felt her cheeks redden, so she quickly turned away. She was still looking at the stage, though. She didn’t want to miss it.

“You’re really adorable, did you know that?”

Yoojin pinched her cheeks with a grin. She put on a small frown on her face. Right then.

“By the way.”

“Mm?”

“I’m not the type that gives up even after seeing a goalkeeper.”

Yoojin looked back at the stage after saying that. She widened her eyes in surprise. The girl said something pretty cryptic. She could only tell herself that Yoojin was talking about something else, but she was staring very intensely at the stage right now.

“He’s mine.”

She realized what she said only after it got out of her mouth. Yoojin put a hand over her mouth with a grin. That’s when she realized, she’s just been played for.

“You...”

“Shh. The play’s still going on.”

“...I’ll see you after the play ends.”

“Any time. I wasn’t lying about that last part though.”

The girl looked confident, she didn’t look away. They glared at each other for a second before looking away.

“Come on, what about loaning him out?”

“No.”

“So you guys ARE going out then, aren’t you?”

“That’s...”

“You need to get lessons on dating. You’re totally a newbie in that area, aren’t you? I couldn’t help but tease you.”

Yoojin grabbed her face before snapping it back towards the stage.

“Your boyfriend’s about to leave the stage.”

She wanted to say something, but she lost the motivation after seeing that grin on Yoojin’s face. She should just focus on watching the play.

* * *

"Looks like we got a winner here.”

“Right?”

“Wow. A comedy. And it doesn’t suck, either. It’s been a while since I’ve seen that.”

The judges nodded in unison. The prelims would continue until the next week, but they would be hard-pressed to find any teams better than Woosung High.

“So it’s Myunghwa High and Woosung High, then?”

“Myunghwa High didn’t even go yet, though.”

“The kids from that school are very good, remember? I went there last time since I had business at the school, and wow… Their practice room is better than most theaters in Hyehwa station, they even have their own dressing room. The school’s going all out with them.”

“Makes sense. They’re famous for their acting club, after all.”

“The prelims should be nothing for them.”

Everyone nodded yet again.

“But disregarding that for a second, Woosung High really prepared a lot for this.”

“Yeah. I heard one of their graduates is their instructor?”

“Miss Yang Miso.”

“Ahh, I know her. She’s very popular at such a young age. She used to be a powerhouse in the Blue Sky theater. So she decided to become an instructor, huh?”

“She probably had a change of mind. It does feel nice seeing a school that used to be famous start to climb back up like this.”

“Haha, don’t try to score them too well though because of it.”

The judges finished their conversation with a smile. At the same time, the play ended. The young club members started to come out one by one for a curtain call.

“That one was really good,” one of the judges said, pointing at a tall boy in the group.

Everyone else nodded in agreement.

“And him… we’ll have to watch him, but he does have great potential. It’ll be fun to watch him.”

The odd character that started talking to the audience out of nowhere. It was a character that could’ve gotten completely ruined, but the boy handled it very well. The judges were able to have a nice time watching the play thanks to it.

“Really? I don’t know. It just felt like I was watching a kid who was unable to control himself.”

“It does kind of feel like that too. He’s like a diamond in the rough? He’s good to watch, though, since the tall boy supports the rest of the play so well.”

“That’s true.”

By then, the club members finished their curtain call. The judges put down their pens and clapped with the rest of the audience.

* * *

"Good job.”

Miso comforted the club members who returned to the dressing room. She was very satisfied. The club did very well. The judges probably had nothing bad to say about them.

“Phew, it’s over.”

“No mistakes. Hah...”

The kids finally started relaxing a bit.

“Good work. The next team will come in soon, though, so let’s get ready to leave.”

Miso wanted more time to talk, but the situation wasn’t so good. They couldn’t take up the space for too long, given the nature of the event. In the end, they had to get out carrying props without even being able to erase their makeup.

“We have to use these props again, so careful!”

It only felt like their work was truly over when they carried everything outside.

“We did well, right?”

“Yeah, we were awesome.”

Miso called the club members closer.

“We’ll have to wait for the results, but I don’t think we’ll fail at all. We can worry about that when we actually get into the nationals. So let’s go straight back to practice!”

The kids all nodded at the word. They probably felt it at the stage themselves, the power of practice.

“They’ll announce the results next week. Three days later, we’ll go into regionals. Ten days later would be the finals. We don’t have a lot of time.”

Miso wanted to let them go more than anything else just for today, but she didn’t show it. It wasn’t over just yet.

“Let’s review our work when we go back to school. Think of what you did well and what you did wrong on our way back.”

“Yes!”

“I’ll say it again, but you guys did tremendously well today. This is only the start though, so stay nervous.”

“Yes!!”

“Good, let’s get going. From here on out, it will be a race against time.”

Miso looked back at the city hall, she could feel the kids staring at it with her from behind. Finally, they managed to move forward by one step.

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