Chapter 191

It was 2am when he woke up. Maru picked up his clothes, thinking back to his days in the army. He was greeted by Gwak Joon outside.

“Leaving?”

“Yes. You weren’t sleeping?”

“I told you, I’m a night owl. I write better at night.”

He was holding a cigarette butt in his other hand.

“I’ll see you next time. Be careful.”

Gwak Joon raised his mug at Maru as a form of goodbye.

“Wow, what a sight. He's actually saying goodbye?”

Geunsoo commented as he stepped up with a yawn, he looked exhausted.

“Will you be alright on the drive?”

“What, you scared?”

“Yes. I’m too young to go.”

“Haha, don’t worry. I’ll keep the windows down on the way.”

“...With this weather?”

“I thought you didn’t want to die?”

“I might freeze to death.”

They headed downstairs with a smile, where they were greeted with two mugs and a bottle of hot chocolate in the kitchen.

- Have some.

It must’ve been prepared by Suyeon.

“Let’s have a cup.”

The two of them shook off their sleepiness with the hot liquid and headed out, there’s nothing better than a warm drink to chase away the cold after all. It wasn’t windy, but the air was cold enough to make their skins feel like it was about to freeze over.

“This town is unreasonably cold.”

Geunsoo revved up the engine, the heater started releasing hot air.

“You should sleep.”

“When I’m sleepy. We can talk in the meantime.”

Geunsoo stepped on the pedal with a smile. After several minutes of driving on a dirt road, they finally reached an asphalt road.

“I hear it’s impossible to get in an accident even with your hands off the wheel if you’re on the autobahn,” Geunsoo said, taking his hands off the wheel.

The road ahead of them was completely empty. They could really be safe driving like this, at least until they got to the highway.

“If only life was like the autobahn, isn’t that right?”

“Life would be boring without any twists or turns on it.”

“That’s true, but sometimes I want to just drive on a straight road.”

Geunsoo looked into the distance dumbly, he seemed to be thinking about something.

“Is something wrong?”

“Wrong… I guess it is if I think of it that way, but it also isn’t if I don’t. Well, let’s say something’s wrong though.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“Oh, of course, sir. I’d do anything to be consulted by Doctor Maru.”

The two of them exchanged a small laugh at the same time.

“It’s my brother.”

“Geunseok?”

“Right. I’m a bit worried if he’s doing well.”

Geunsoo tapped away at the wheel with his index finger.

“Why don’t you ask?”

“I’m not a very friendly older brother. I’m just incredibly concerned with my own work.”

“I don’t think that’s the case.”

Geunsoo was the one person who truly cared for Geunseok, he was the only person who came to see Geunseok’s performance. There was no way a person like him could be cruel.

“I went home a few days ago to see dad. To make a report.”

“A report?”

“A report of my success. I think he was satisfied, given that he actually sent me off.”

“I thought he was very strict...”

“I don’t know whether to describe him as strict or if he just has a very clear worldview. He’s a stubborn person, but he isn’t that horrible in reality. He was a bit cruel when I was young though. I said I wanted to do something I liked and he did everything in his power to try to stop me.”

“But you ended up doing it anyway, I guess you do take after him in that regard.”

“The stubbornness just runs in our blood.”

Geunsoo smiled self-mockingly.

“I started thinking about what I wanted to do in life after high school. College was too much for me. I didn’t have the money. I thought for a while about what I could do. Eventually, I went to Senior Junmin and just asked him to raise me.”

“...That’s pretty remarkable. In the bad sense of the word.”

“I was scared at the time. Once I stepped outside my home, I was immediately faced with reality.”

“You didn’t even have a place to live.”

“That’s right. At least in high school, I had a roof over my head. I had meals and I had a bed to sleep on. But once I was outside, I had nothing. I chased after my dreams. I only realized once doing so that dreams were only meant for people who had the money to chase after it.”

“So that’s why you invaded Senior Junmin’s place?”

“Invade? That’s a strong word. I just politely caused a scene at his house.”

“Instructor Miso went into a factory to fuel her dreams.”

“She’s too much of a realist. The romanticist inside of me can’t stand her.”

Geunsoo quietly muttered ‘but that’s what makes her so smart’ immediately after saying that.

“I spent a bit of time as a homeless person before Senior Junmin took me in. Every morning, the words my father said to me chips away at my heart. I understood why he was so against me chasing after my dreams.”

“It’s difficult for artists to make money after all.”

“That’s right. No parent would gladly allow their child to throw themselves into a fire.”

“So you matured then.”

“Haha.”

What would Maru have said if his daughter said she wanted to be a singer? Moreover, if she tried to put aside her studies for it? He would’ve told her to stop immediately if she didn’t have the passion to work on her studies as well. Although if she was able to work hard on both and succeed on both at the same time… She would’ve been a genius.

Parents often take two routes and start comparing the two. Which route was a safer route to success? The moment they put the question in their minds, their heads freeze over. The answer is set.

In the end, it becomes a matter of compromise. If the child is still set on taking the hard route even after learning the parent isn’t able to support them, then all the parents can do is to let the child go. It’s not easy, obviously. There are many, many horrible things in society, there were more than plenty of examples of people who were crushed while chasing after their dreams. Having seen all of this, the parents can’t help but worry about their child.

“Father must’ve had it hard as well. Since his oldest son went out of the house just like that. Well, he might’ve been fine, but… I think I made things needlessly difficult for Geunseok.”

“You think your father had been extra hard on Geunseok?”

“That’s right. That’s why I feel sorry for my brother.”

“Now that I look at it, you’re a total saint.”

“Me?”

“Yes. I would’ve just cut ties right there.”

Geunsoo turned to look at Maru.

“Until recently, I thought Geunseok was a necessary person in the acting club. Despite all the happenings between us, the boy was still very invested in acting. That’s why I supported him when he became president.”

“But then?”

“Several distasteful events happened recently. Some of his actions I can understand. But the rest… he crossed the line like it was nothing.”

“Geunseok?”

Maru nodded.

“My rule in life is to try not to even interact with bastards that hit women or ignore words that people mustered their courage to say. Geunseok crossed both of them. I thought he was just immature in the past. Not anymore. He’s twisted to the core.”

“...That’s very disappointing to hear.”

“I’m sorry. I’d rather not lie about something like this if I can help it.”

“I know. That’s why I’m thankful. White lies are always easy to say.”

The car passed through the toll gates, Geunsoo opened the windows a tiny bit. The sounds of the trucks passing by were accompanied by the cold air.

“You said Geunseok left the club?”

“Yes.”

“By himself?”

“I got the news out of nowhere as well. He said he wasn’t interested in such a thing.”

“Hah. And here I thought things might’ve changed. In the end, he’s still in father’s grasps.”

“That’s probably what’s easy for him, because there’s no pain involved.”

“Would you take my brother if he comes to join the acting club again?”

“Do you think there’s even a chance of that happening? He did say acting was boring.”

“Just as a hypothetical situation.”

“...He’ll have to apologize to many people if he decides to. But I’m personally against it. I’d welcome him with a forced smile if I have to. I don’t think it’d come to that.”

“I’ve felt this before, but you’re way too cold.”

“I thought I gave people plenty of chances before finally giving up on them. But why are you...”

Geunsoo shrugged. There’s definitely something going on though…

“You’ll see once you go to school. Or not.”

“What?”

“I didn’t have any say in this, by the way. Blame Senior Junmin, if anything. He does odd stuff like this sometimes.”

“What are you...”

“He told me he had a talk with my father. And father actually allowed Geunseok to continue acting.”

“Ah, I see why Geunseok gave up all of the sudden. So his father found out. But why the sudden change?”

“No idea. Both my father and Senior Junmin are the type that house thousands of snakes inside them. There’s no telling what they’re thinking at all, but I’m sure they have their reasons.”

“I have a feeling this will get annoying.”

“I think Senior Junmin has taken a massive liking towards you. He made an odd expression when Mr. Moonjoong kept talking about you… and then this.”

“He’s pushing Geunseok because he likes me?”

“Can’t be all of it. I think he didn’t want to let Geunseok go just like that. I guess… a win-win strategy if anything?”

“I’m not getting anything out of this though.”

“Mm…. good luck. I have no idea how this will go, personally.”

“I’ve no plans on being friendly with him even if he pushes his way back. It’s petty to use club politics against someone, but I will if I have to.”

“Hey, hey. Stop being so scary. He’s still my brother, you know?”

Geunsoo smiled awkwardly. So blood really was thicker than water, wasn’t it? To think how Geunsoo could still smile like that after being looked down on by his brother for all those years.

“I won’t be nice to him, but I won’t cast him out so quickly. Though… I don’t think the other people in the club would welcome him either.”

“R-really?”

“Yes.”

Coming back to the acting club? Maru had no intentions of letting the boy back in. Thinking of what happened between Geunseok and Jiyoon, Maru was prepared to do anything to keep the boy out. He didn’t want any internal conflict within such a small club. Denying Geunseok’s entry was the best decision for Maru.

“Well, that’s too bad. But acting is all about teamwork, so I get it.”

“Right. We have it hard enough as is. Any more conflict would end everything.”

“So it’s over. My brother has nowhere to go. I suppose he could rely on a place outside of school if he really wants to take up acting as a career though. He won’t be able to go to tournaments, but so what? Right, right.”

“It looks like you’re trying to persuade yourself.”

Geunseok smiled lightly.

“Ugh, my poor brother.”

“You’re not going to persuade me with that. I’m not going to let him in.”

“Oh, that didn’t work. Well, whatever. Tsk, and I made the club, too.”

Maru shook his head looking at Geunsoo.

“There’s nowhere for Geunseok to go. Unless there are two acting clubs in the school.”

“...Oho.”

“What do you mean, oho?”

“That sounds pretty likely.”

“Two clubs?”

“Even back in my day some of the bigger clubs were partitioned. Isn’t that the case now too?”

“Well, yes… There’s a few.”

“The acting club can do that, then.”

“What?”

Geunsoo smiled. He was smiling a lot like Junmin, actually.

“You’re planning something with Mr. Junmin, aren’t you?”

“What? Planning? Me?”

“You weren’t saying all that just now for no reasonthing, were you?”

“No no, of course not.”

“So why are you smiling?”

“Well, I’m just happy.”

“...I’ll hope this is just a freaky coincidence.”

“Don’t worry.”

Geunsoo didn’t sound trustworthy at all. The man drove for a while without speaking a word more, Maru too just watched the scenery pass for a while. Just as he was starting to get sleepy…

“Odd, isn’t it?”

“What is?”

“It became like this in the end. The boy who was iffy about taking up acting is already auditioning for a role.”

“True.”

“I told you, didn’t I? The monster of acting swallows up the people it takes a liking to. How does it feel to be halfway inside already?”

“It’s fun. Also nerve-wracking.”

“Very good.”

“I won’t get swallowed up just like that. I’ll try to tame it. And sell it. I’d like to take over acting completely.”

“Hey, give me a piece of that cash if things do go according to plan.”

“I’ll make you a regional president or something.”

Maru closed his eyes with that, the hum of the car lulled him slowly to sleep.

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