Chapter 184

“Where’s Senior Moonjoong, by the way?” Maru asked as he sat down.

“He said he needed to think, so he went out,” Suyeon answered.

“At this time?”

Was the man walking on a mountain at one in the morning?

“I think he just wants to organize his thoughts from somewhere quiet. More importantly, how’s the gamjatang? Good, right?”

“Bit salty for me.”

As soon as Maru responded, Gwak Joon followed up with ‘definitely salty’. Suyeon’s eyebrows rose up a little bit.

“Don’t eat it if you don’t want to. You know you look like an asshole if you complain about food though, right?”

Suyeon smirked. Gwak Joon immediately got up to grab cereal and milk from the fridge.

“Want some?”

“Yes please.”

Maru would gladly eat blocks of salt if it was for ‘her’, but definitely not for Suyeon. He poured the cereal in milk and topped it with some almonds.

“You’re too much.”

“I hear that a lot. Let’s go upstairs.”

Gwak Joon told Geunsoo that he would be taking Maru for the time being. Geunsoo tried to get up as well but sat back down upon receiving Suyeon’s glare.

“Ugh, the men here are all just...”

Maru and Gwak Joon got to the second floor, leaving Suyeon to fume by herself downstairs. They entered a room that was a distance away from the staircase.

“Come in.”

Maru followed the man inside, there were two desks and a single bed inside. One of the desks matched the overall design of the villa and the other one was a well-used, beaten steel desk.

“I can’t write if I’m not on that desk,” Gwak Joon said, pointing at the steel desk.

He seemed to be the type that couldn’t work without certain things, Maru encountered such people in his officer worker days as well: the employee who became nervous without her doll on the desk, the supervisor who needed to have his family picture on the table, and the vice president who always needed to sign contracts with a fountain pen.

‘It’s almost dreamlike, but I did live through those moments.’

Maru briefly recalled faint memories of those people before they faded away as quickly as they came. He looked at Gwak Joon’s desk with a sense of deja vu as a result, he could feel the author’s energy almost emanating from the table. The post-its that were stuck all over the table, the edges that became blackened from overuse, the drafts that were strewn all over it, and the laptop…

“You were writing a novel?”

“When I can’t type on the laptop, I escape to paper. It does make for a nice change of pace.”

It was an interesting use of the word ‘escape’ for Maru, he nodded as he walked towards the windowsill with its opened windows. The wind blowing inside was cold, but the air coming from the mountain was very refreshing.

“This is a good place to write.”

“Yes, I agree.”

They didn’t continue their conversation until after they both finished eating.

“That part from before… Did you think of it on the spot?”

Gwak Joon asked as he put the empty bowl on the wooden table.

“No. I started thinking the part needed a fix on my fifth read. It’s not weird without the fix though.”

“No, that part you caught is definitely a mistake.”

“A mistake?”

“A mistake that happened when I exchanged drafts with the editor, the final draft was one where the daughter hangs off of the grandfather. It’s written a little less dramatic than the way you put it though, I didn’t want her approaching a bloody old man for the sake of survival.” “I see.”

For sure, having the daughter scramble backwards out of fear would be more realistic than her hugging the old man’s waist.

“But by mistake, you mean...”

“They ended up printing from one of the past drafts. It was a mistake. Well, my mistake. I should’ve read it one last time before I gave the go-ahead for the print.”

“Can you fix it on the second print?”

“There’s no way my work would get a second print. The world of novels is a very competitive place.”

“But don’t you think you might get a chance if your movie succeeds?”

“That would be nice. I would be able to focus solely on writing if it did. I thought it was funny hearing that you needed money to write in the past, but I’m really suffering because of it now.”

Maru knew that many authors had trouble earning money. It would be best for the author to live solely off of money from their publications, but he did hear that most authors worked multiple jobs to survive.

“For sure, opening other people’s wallets is a very difficult thing.” “You sound like a know-it-all.”

“I worked part-time in the past.”

Among other things. Maru glanced at the post-it notes on the steel table, they must be ideas for Gwak Joon’s next projects. The notes were filled with odd scribbles. “Gun”, “Yum yum yum”, etc... What would he do there? Stuff like that.

“Were you writing your next novel?”

“Novel? No way. I was just scribbling my daydreams.”

“Twilight Struggles was almost too good to be just called a daydream. I did read it ten times after all.”

Gwak Joon smiled lightly at that, Maru felt as if he just caught something rare from the man.

“You were auditioning, I heard?”

“How did you know?”

“Mr. Moonjoong told me that he had a kid he wanted to work with.”

“Wow, how troublesome. That makes me nervous already.”

“Nervous? You don’t seem like the type that gets nervous.”

The man glanced at Maru through his horn-rimmed glasses, he had very good senses. In the end, Maru gave in and told the man he wasn’t nervous at all.

“The delinquent role, correct?”

“Yes.”

“Are you preparing for it in any way?”

“Other than reading the book? No. I don’t even know what to prepare for since I know nothing of auditions.”

The number of people he would be auditioning in front of, how many lines he’d need to act out, if he needs to mix in movement… He knew none of it. He knew he’d have to pay attention to it one way or the other, but he was busy enough as is with the acting club.

“I don’t know how auditions work either, so I can’t tell you much on that front. I can, however, tell you my thoughts when I wrote your character though.”

Gwak Joon sat on the table and motioned Maru close to him, he picked up one of the notebooks on the corner of the table.

“This was what inspired me to write Twilight Struggles.”

It was a little scrap of an article from a newspaper, a case of murder. Maru remembered it, it was about a young man who planned out his parents’ murder during desperate times amidst a financial crisis.

“Do you know the backstory of this case?”

“Wasn’t he caught? I know he had to serve his sentence.”

“That’s the end result, but the story that took place to the end was incredibly sad. The mother called the insurance company when she was stuck in her flaming house at her last moments. She checked that her son would receive the money on her death. She apparently sighed in relief when she got confirmation.”

“......”

“That’s what made the insurance company wonder if this was a fraud. They launched an investigation and that’s how they found out that this was first-degree murder.”

It was a heavy story. The son sold his parents to survive while the parents worried for their child until the very end.

“That’s when I became curious. Would all parents sacrifice themselves for their children? How would parents that gave away their everything to let their children live on feel? What if they regretted their decision?”

“So that was the start of the novel.”

“That’s right. ‘Twilight Struggles’ is a novel that had all familial love stripped away from it. There is no joy in this novel. Everyone walks to their own path of self-destruction until the very end. But there is one person who smiles at the end.”

“The… old man.”

“That’s right. As a result, the movie I envisioned was something absolutely filled with madness. I hoped that all of the characters would be overtaken by insanity. The moment an old man’s hope in a crumbling gray city shatters, the movie starts accelerating to its eventual doom.”

Gwak Joon flipped the page on the notebook, he flipped through several pages of scribbles before reaching a certain page.

“This is the delinquent.”

There was just a single word and a drawing on that page. A revolver and a word reading “trigger” below it.

“I spoke with the scenario writer and the storyboard author. The delinquent appears for thirty seconds in the movie and his lines are only ten seconds long. But that thirty seconds is critical to the movie’s story.”

Gwak Joon raised his head, his eyes were filled with confidence for his story.

“I told everyone who joined this project to give these thirty seconds to me because this is the moment that blows life into this story. As I wrote this book, I spent a full month editing the delinquent’s lines. I wanted to keep working on it, actually. Even now, I still want to keep working on it. That’s why I want the actor for this role to be crazy, like me.”

Maru was faced with a passionate soul. The man looked like a crow on the outside, but inside, the man was like a molten core. His fervour was almost palpable. Then again, that was probably why he could write a novel like this in the first place.

“It’s an important hint, isn’t it?”

“Consider a gift from a like-minded person. I judge people purely based on their first impressions. I don’t believe second or third impressions truly matter. In that sense, I like you. I’d like to see you act out that scene.”

“But you don’t know much about me at all.”

“I just said, I judge people based on their first impressions.”

Gwak Joon handed Maru his notebook.

“Read this. And try it. There are lots of people downstairs you can ask for help from in terms of the audition. I don’t particularly like the woman, but she is very talented.”

Maru nodded.

“Can you just give something like this to me, by the way? Don’t you need this?”

Gwak Joon raised a finger to his head and poked it.

“It’s all in here. The paper was only necessary to organize my ideas.”

“...Ah, yes.”

Maru couldn’t even say anything in response with how confident the man sounded. He took a look at the notebook before realizing there was a familiar ‘S’ logo written on it, it was from Seoul university. Flipping the notebook, he realized it was from the law faculty.

“Um, this school...”

“I lost interest in the middle, so I dropped out.”

“Dropped out of Seoul University’s law school?”

“Why?”

Maru looked at Gwak Joon with a slight smile, perhaps this man’s writing was filled with madness because the man himself was slightly crazy.

‘To think he’d drop out of a dream school for practically everyone in Korea...’

The world really was unfair. How could it just give all the talent in the world to someone like him?

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