Chapter 164

Miso left. The smile she showed him before stepping out seemed hollow, she seemed dissatisfied that they weren’t able to immediately take care of this incident. It’d be easy to make Yurim confess, it’d be easy to make the girl tremble in fear. The problem wasn’t that, it was the fact that the nationals were just a week away. Yurim needed to keep her spirits up until then, for both him and the club.

“But why did she start the fire?”

Yurim’s motivation was still a mystery to him. What led her to starting a fire? Without any evidence, he couldn’t figure out why. Her plans were too elaborate to be dismissed as a simple mistake. She made up her mind to start a fire and she did it. Why?

Cold wind seeped in through the open window, people often said the day after snow was a little warmer, he didn’t agree. The wind was cold enough to give him goosebumps, but he opted to keep the window open for now.

‘Just don’t think about it. No way to tell what the other person’s thinking.’

Maru instead decided to think about what to do from now on, he had asked his sister to bring a few scripts. Looking at them now, he couldn’t help but laugh a little. They were useless to him now. In just a few days, the two plays he’s prepared for for several months will end. He couldn’t get on stage, though he might be able to at least watch it.

He did feel very disappointed. If he didn’t feel any disappointment after being unable to perform for something he’s been preparing for months, he might as well be Jesus. He was able to accept what happened easily enough though. Stuff like this just happens, maybe it was even fate. He didn’t believe in such a thing in the past, but after an encounter with god… well, it was a lot easier to believe than before.

‘I want to complain though.’

Did you really have to do this, god? In the end, he was the one who made the conscious decision to jump into the fire. But what if god made him remember to take his phone as he got out? What if god stopped Yurim from setting a fire to begin with?

“Yaawn.”

People stuck in a room by themselves become one of two things, they either achieve enlightenment or they go crazy. In the end, the only thing you can do by yourself is to think. Well, daydreaming, really. The play was over and the lights were out. The actor lost his job, so now he needed to move on. Should he try harder to figure out Yurim’s motivations? No, never mind, he wasn’t a fan of looking for a needle in a haystack. He finished his book as well and the TV was boring. So then…

“I should sleep.”

Truly, a fitting choice. The hospital bed felt a little harder than usual under him, perfect. He had gotten used to sleeping on hardwood floors. He could only sigh when he thought about what to do after this, but for now, he decided to simply not think about it. Just as he closed his eyes, the door to the room opened. He opened his eyes slightly. As soon as he saw who entered, he got back up.

“Sir.”

It was Moonjoong. The man looked incredibly stylish in his fedora and trench coat.

“No need to get up.”

“I’m not that sick, sir.”

Maru returned to his sitting position on the bed.

“Your face looks healthy, thank goodness. You’re healing up well?”

“Yes. They said I’d need to be here for two weeks, but I think I can get out before then.”

“The heavens must’ve helped you. I thought you went crazy when I heard the news from Junmin. To think you’d just jump into a fire...”

“It does sound crazy without context.”

“Haha.”

Maru offered the man a seat and took out a drink.

“How does sikhye sound?”

Maru gave the one drink he’s been saving up to the man. After taking a sip, Moonjoong opened his mouth.

“You must be disappointed after all the work you’d put into the plays.”

“It can’t be helped. I’m trying to move on, since my feelings wouldn’t change anything.”

“You’re right. Disappointment does you no favors.”

Moonjoong nodded in agreement.

“So what will you do now?”

“I was about to sleep, actually. There’s not much to do here. I brought a few scripts here out of habit, but there’s no point in practicing anymore.”

Maru turned to look at the script next to him, prompting Moonjoong to grab them.

“May I?”

“Of course.”

Moonjoong looked at the scripts for quite some time.

“You’ve put a lot of effort into analyzing your characters.”

“I don’t know much about acting, so I gave my all into the one thing I knew best.”

“How was it?”

“It was easy at first. Since I just needed to think about the type of person my character was.”

“But then?”

“It got harder the deeper I got into it. That’s when I realized complex characters aren’t created overnight. It felt like I could write a book purely based on my analysis.”

That was when Maru really felt like there was no end to this. The moment you start working towards creating a meaningful character, a whole world opens itself for you to explore. Maru had quite the fun time navigating through these worlds in front of him.

“It’s very fun to think about characters,” Moonjoong put down the script with a beaming smile, “but try not to delve too deep into it.”

“Why?”

“Because people aren’t machines. The characters we act are too dramatized to exist in real life, but in the end they are human too. Thinking about the place they were born in, the people they met, the things they like is good for studying. But on stage, a vast majority of those things won’t matter at all. The only thing that remains are the character’s personality that grabs the audience’s attention and the character’s greed that drives the play. That’s all. Because in the end, everything about a character points to their greed. The ultimate point of character analysis is to use the character’s greed in such a way that it shocks the audience. At least, that’s what I think.”

“Greed...”

“Of course, this is just my opinion. Other people probably don’t think the same way. So make of it what you will and come to your own conclusions.”

Moonjoong laughed before taking out a book.

“Here, read this.”

It was a book with a white cover, titled ‘Twilight Struggles’.

“This is...”

“I’m going to be in a movie soon and this is the source material..”

Many movies were adapted from books, so this didn’t come as a surprise. Maru was curious about why he was given this, though.

“We need an actor.”

“Excuse me?”

“A side character. One that might as well get erased during the editing process.”

“That means...”

“If you’ve made up your mind to be an actor, it might be good to get hands-on experience. Of course, there’ll be an audition. It’ll likely happen once the production crew comes together. Their name is Yongsoo. See if you like it.”

Moonjoong got up from his seat.

“You’re leaving already?”

“I just dropped by to give you that. You look healthy, so no reason for me to stay any longer. Do try to be more careful, if you don’t want to suffer in your old age.”

Moonjoong smiled slightly as he stepped back. Maru tried to stand up, but the man held his shoulders down.

“I’ll get going.”

“I’ll see you next time, sir.”

“Sure.”

The man finished off his last line as he stepped outside.

“It’ll be fun to work with you on the field. The movie industry has its own charms. Though, I suppose it’s also a lot more bitter as well.”

Maru bowed at the closing door with the new book in hand.

“Did you throw me this because I was complaining so much about not having work?” Maru said, looking out the window.

It felt like he could see the God of Fate winking at him. He opened the book in front of him. The moment he saw the name of the author on the first page, Maru gasped in surprise. He knew the author of the book. Not personally, of course. Just that he recalls a movie of the same name doing well in the box office. This happened in his thirties though, so it will be a while away.

“...Why couldn’t you just let me remember a winning lottery ticket number?”

Or a company whose stocks would go through the roof? Maru thought of the 300 million won he owned. Thinking about it did make him happy, but it also made him feel a little frightened. He took a look into the real estate industry for investment. He only took a look to get a feel for it, because he needed to be a legal adult to be able to invest, but then… the real estate industry took a dive to the floor. So he opened a Cash Management Service account with a bit of his money to play around, but the bank where he opened the account closed down suddenly. The media was still going wild with those news. So after that, he just decided to keep his money in his savings account. Those two events were probably a sign from god that investment wasn’t worth his time.

Of course, it might just be coincidence. He was still thinking about investing in his later years, but that was not a worry for his younger self. He might as well think about doing this when he turns 45.

‘Besides that, a movie, huh...’

He started acting because of her. Now, even without her, he found acting fun. Movies are different from plays, it did garner some interest from him. He’d need to pass the audition first of course, at least he had all the time in the world to prepare. Maru opened the first page of his book, he needed to figure out what the book was even about.

* * *

The fifth floor auditorium was now off-limits, that wasn’t much of a surprise. It was still depressing to think about how he’d never be able to go back there again. Daemyung looked at the calendar, the nationals were just a day away now. Miso concluded that the perpetrator wasn’t in the club, Daemyung felt a little bit hurt inside when he heard the rest of the club saying mean things about Miso behind her back. Thankfully, Yoonjung quelled the situation by saying instructor Miso was just doing her job. It was also good that the nationals were so close. The mood of the club quickly returned to normal because of how busy they were.

‘What was instructor Miso and Maru trying to do, though?’

Maru just told Daemyung that it wasn’t the right time yet whenever he asked about it. Daemyung knew that the boy figured something out already, but just didn’t tell him about it for a reason. Maru did promise to tell Daemyung what happened when all of this was over and he was happy with that.

“So it’s tomorrow.”

He wasn’t nervous for some reason. Was it because he’s acted in plays several times already? If he got on the stage right now, he was confident that he could finish without making a single mistake. He got a few calls before bed, from other club members and Maru. They all told him to work hard. When he promised Maru he’d ‘work even harder for Maru’s sake’, the boy just told him to not make any mistakes with a laugh.

In any case, he was in peak condition. Like always, Daemyung got into bed at 12am. He drifted asleep very quickly.

* * *

“I don’t think this will disappear,” Maru exclaimed in front of a mirror.

There was a scar on his forehead, a faint line running above his left eye. Thank goodness his hair would be able to cover it up easily.

“Let’s go, brother.”

“Sure.”

It was finally his discharge date, Maru left his room for the past two weeks behind and went back home. Laying down on the hardwood floor, Maru thought to himself.

‘Home is best.’

His legs were fine, they healed up very nicely. He decided to keep the cast that was split in half, it felt like a waste to get rid of the writing on it. So this is what they meant about getting emotional over random things in old age.

He looked at the calendar on the wall, there were two red circles on it. Not birthdays, but the dates of the nationals and the performance of the amateur acting club. Both of them ended in early January. He wasn’t able to participate, but he did have a great time watching it. They all did very well. Enough to cover for his absence perfectly.

“Third place.”

They weren’t able to take first or second place in the end. As always, Myunghwa High took first place. Second place was taken by Yoojin’s Bosung High.

‘Better than nothing, I guess.’

It was still a great achievement for Woosung High to get a prize, even if the prize itself inspired great anger and disappointment from Miso. The amateur acting class ended its performance well, too. Many of the students from the class got noticed by industry professionals thanks to it. Baekjoon, as a matter of fact, got casted for a movie on the spot. It was as an extra, but it was still something to be congratulated for. Yoojin told him she might get contracted with an agency as well.

“So it’s all over for now.”

He wasn’t able to participate in any of these despite having prepared hard for it. He acted as calm as possible, but his disappointment lingered nonetheless.

“Brother! Come have dinner!”

“Sure.”

He might as well eat first. Maru took out the voice recorder from his bag and put it on his desk. The festival was over, and there was a debt to collect.

“I wonder how she’ll come out.”

There was a saying about how a person’s words could either absolve them of all debt or add another million dollars to it. Yurim’s fate would be decided on how she responds. Of course, there was no reason for her to be completely forgiven. Because with all things considered, Maru was actually very frustrated about having to waste two weeks in bed.

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