“Til next time.”
The chairman got into his car after shaking hands.
“So it went well?” Lawyer Park asked.
Junmin nodded with a smile.
“But why is Lee Junmin of all people taking the time to take care of little kids?”
“The more time an investor spends on his investment, the more he’ll get out of it.”
“You think Maru has that much value?”
“There’s that and I didn’t want to lose Geunseok so abruptly. It’d be nice to see both brothers become a pair of stars in the Korean entertainment business, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Ugh, again with that habit of yours, you were like that since college. Then again, you always liked to profit off of other people’s success.”
“I mean, the only thing I got out of my fifteen years of acting was just debt. That’s when I realized that I couldn’t make it big by myself.”
He realized a long time ago that he had no talent in acting, the reason why he tried it regardless was because of false hope. He has spent his mid-thirties struggling to make it big. He realized his foolishness when the theater company he worked at crumbled to the ground.
“Why don’t you travel and get some rest now? I’m sure you have more than enough money at this point.”
“Nope. I don’t want to retire yet. There are still so many things I haven’t done.”
“You’re still greedy, after producing so many big stars in Korea?”
Junmin nodded. Money no longer motivated him, it didn’t matter if he threw away all his money to get what he wanted.
“There are many people who are good at acting. They’re all great, but they don’t meet my requirements. They’ll never meet it.”
“...I think that person’s still got you in her grips. What was her name again?”
“Right. Her. I remember that time. It was around now. You were laughing like a madman, telling me you finally found it.”
“Right. She was the one person who really met my standards. Someone who could’ve become a true star.”
“I don’t want to bring up a dead person, but I was curious from the beginning. Did you like her?”
“...She liked dogs very much.”
“So that’s where your love of dogs comes from. Is that why you’re still single?”
“Hey, get married already. Don’t get tied down to your past so much. Her acting back then was probably amazing, but was it amazing enough for you to think about it even now? Memories are always beautiful. It can’t be helped that the Haejoo of your memories is better than everyone you’re seeing now. You’re past the age to be chasing after dreams. You should come to an agreement with yourself and enjoy life a bit more.”
“So, that’s why you keep calling me on your anniversary, to keep telling me you’re tired as hell?”
“Ugh, you and your memory.”
Lawyer Park stepped onto his car.
“It’s all subjective in the end. I don’t think there’s an actor who can charm everyone. Lower your hurdles a little bit. Make yourself comfortable.”
“I must look horrid if you, of all people, tells me that.”
“You only just realized? You’ve raised so many people over the past two decades. Just grab anyone on the street and ask them. Ask them if the people you’ve raised are average. Everyone’s going to say that your people are fantastic actors. So stop chasing after your memories. You’re amazing enough as is.”
Lawyer Park left, waving his hand through the window. Junmin watched the car get further away from his vision as he muttered.
“But friend, I’ve already seen it. I know what acting that can caress a person’s soul looks like. As you said, it could just be a ghost of my memories. But I can’t forget it. The play on that day, her acting on that day… I can’t help but chase after it, even if it’s but a ghost. I still haven’t stepped a foot away from the auditorium since that day.”
Junmin pressed down on his hat before walking away.
* * *
They arrived at Juwangsan National Park at around 1am, Geunsoo turned his car towards the still-lit villa.
“We’re here. You must be tired.”
“The one who should be tired is you.”
Maru followed Geunsoo out of the car into the villa. He could feel that there were people inside it, but there was no one in sight. The TV on the first-floor living room was making noises by itself.
“They must all be on the second floor.”
The two of them put down the food they bought on the way before walking up, they could hear noises coming from the room right next to the staircase. A voice of a woman. Geunsoo knocked on the door. A few seconds later, the door opened roughly. A blast of heat hit Maru on the face immediately. Heat not from a heater, but from a person’s energy.
Suyeon greeted them with a smile, her eyes glided down to the side onto Maru. Her smile deepened.
“Yes. Well, hello.”
“You’re still not cute at all.”
Maru dodged Suyeon, who tried to pinch his cheeks lightly.
“Expensive as always. Well, come inside.”
Suyeon smiled as if she was used to this sort of treatment. Inside the room, there was a man with very short hair. In front of the man was a can of beer and a notebook, he raised his horned glasses to look at Maru.
“Who are you?”
Geunsoo was the one to answer that question.
“Mm, a complicated youth!”
Geunsoo spoke as if he was in a play.
“Did you two finally start to get along?”
“Nope, this author still hasn’t told me his name. Isn’t that a little too much, Mr. Geunsoo?”
“He’s just like that, so please be understanding.”
Geunsoo sat down next to the author, Maru sat there as well.
“What were you doing, by the way?”
“That woman was asking me to review her character, so I was watching.”
The man spoke with a very bored tone.
“I’m not ‘that woman’. I’m Kim Suyeon, I told you so many times already, Mr. Author.”
“Geunsoo’s here so I’ll be taking my leave.”
Suyeon blocked the door when the man tried to stand up.
“I’d like feedback from the author, please.”
“I told you already. It’s all good. I don’t know much about acting. Why is a professional like you trying to get feedback from me? Just do what you want.”
Maru smiled a little watching the two, watching Suyeon’s desperate behavior was a little amusing to him.
“Just help her out, why don’t you? You might end up working with her.”
Geunsoo pulled the man back as well, the man glared at Geunsoo before sitting back down.
“Alright then. Since the three of you are all here, please give me some feedback. I wanted to act out this bit right here.”
Suyeon opened the middle of the ‘Twilight Struggles’, she was pointing at the line of the second son’s daughter. Maru could remember the scene almost immediately, it was the result of reading the book ten times already after all.
Suyeon took a deep breath before collapsing down on the floor. She had an incredibly scared, frustrated look on her face, making it almost seem impossible that she was smiling a moment ago. She scratched away at the carpet below her as she slowly opened her mouth.
“...Grandpa, please don’t. Please? Please just calm down. There has to be a misunderstanding. Grandpa, grandpa! Agh!”
Suyeon moved backwards as if she just witnessed a massive snake in front of her. Maru could imagine a scene of an old man striking his dead son with a blunt tool once again. Crack. Crack. Crack. He could hear the horrible noises in his ears.
“Dad! Dad! Dad!”
Suyeon started crawling forwards again, pretending as if she was trying to help someone up. Surely there was a corpse in front of her right now, her expression was colored with desperation and fear. Terrifying, odd noises squeaked its way out from her open mouth. Her abnormal breathing, her trembling eyes, and her lost hands… She hugged the corpse in front of her before abruptly raising her head. She then fell back, as if she was hit by something.
A person without talent was sure to fail if they relied on relationships to move up in the world, but Suyeon was different. Setting aside the rumors about her, her acting skills were very real. She stood up from her spot after a short moment, she took a few seconds trying to calm herself without saying anything. Her hand on her chest was trembling slightly.
“How was it?”
Suyeon managed to open her mouth tiredly. Maru looked at the author, the man said ‘very good’ with a bitter smile.
“I told you, didn’t I? You’re a professional. It was flawless in my opinion. So asking for my feedback is pointless.”
“I don’t think so.”
Suyeon was speaking confidently again.
“You see, people are very good at judging art even if you don’t teach them about it. They have an objective standard for what good art looks like. I’m asking you, the author, as a result. Did my acting just now satisfy your standard? You said trying to get feedback from you was pointless? No way! I can tell from your face that you think my acting is bad.”
Maru had to change his impression of Suyeon right there, she was greedy for success and she was talented. She was showing him right here that her eating up other men, in the end, was just one of her abilities. Of course, this made him want to distance himself from her even more. He did realize though that he should probably maintain a good relationship with her. After all, who knows when they might end up working together?
“You’re very persistent.”
“You just realized?”
The man raised his book with a shake of his head.
“The daughter of the second son realized throughout the conversation that she would likely die with her father. That’s why she’s desperate. I don’t know how to put it, but you’re missing that. It looks very uncomfortable to look at your acting, but I can’t sense desperation from it. That’s all I can say.”
Suyeon put on an incredibly satisfied smile.
“See? You can do it if you try.”
“Can we rest now? I’ve been stuck here for an hour already.”
Suyeon stepped out with a nod, Geunsoo and the man followed behind her. The room was empty, Maru picked up the book from the floor and read the part Suyeon acted from again.
“What is it?”
Maru reflexively looked up, the man was looking at him from the doorstep. Didn’t he walk down with Geunsoo?
“You look dissatisfied.”
“It’s not much.”
“So just tell me. What is it?”
Maru thought for a second, it was probably very rude to criticize someone else’s creative work. Especially when said criticism came from a high schooler, he should just say something else here.
“I hate it when people make up words to avoid answering properly.”
Maru smiled bitterly and closed his book, so this was someone who only preferred honesty, huh.
“I just didn’t really like this part.”
“‘She hugged the corpse on the floor shouting father.’ This woman saw her grandfather murder her father cruelly. She even saw the man continuously strike her father’s corpse even after death.”
“The woman wants to live. She has enough judgement to be able to speak even after witnessing a murder. There’s even a scene of her trying to persuade her grandfather just before this one.”
“I found it a bit odd for her to hug her dead father when her life was in her grandfather’s hands. I wondered what it would look like if she grabbed his pants and shouted grandfather instead… It’s nothing big.”
The man stretched out his hand as soon as Maru finished, he seemed to be asking for a handshake.
“I’m the person who wrote this book.”
“Ah, yes. Mr. Gwak Joon, right?”
That was the name on the book’s cover.
The handshake was very sudden, but Maru accepted it regardless. Right then, he heard a banging noise from downstairs. It was Suyeon.
“What are you doing upstairs?”
“We were just about to get down,” Gwak Joon responded.
Suyeon glared at Gwak Joon before turning to Maru.
“Maru, this person’s very cheap. He still hasn’t told me his name after all this time.”
“What? But the book...”
“That’s his pen name. What an odd author, don’t you think?”
Maru looked at Gwak Joon confusedly. He could see the man put an index finger over his lips behind Suyeon’s back.
“You’re totally being played.”
“What are you talking about?”
He could smell a spicy aroma from downstairs when he stepped out, his stomach was starting to churn in hunger.
“Did you eat?” Gwak Joon asked.
“Let’s eat first. I’m a night owl so this is about the time I wake up. How about you?”
“I’m the same.”
“Alright, we can talk after the meal then.”
Suyeon followed behind them with an annoyed shake of her head.Previous Chapter Next Chapter