“A fan? Of mine?”
Maru looked at the two people as he ate the sliced cake with cashew nuts on it. Seeing Joohyun, Yoojin had a passionate smile on her face that was never seen from her before. From how her hands were shaking on top of her knees, it seemed that she was excited by no small amount.
“That was unexpected. There aren’t many in the younger generation that like me.”
“No way! I like you to the point that I’ve collected all the magazines that you did interviews with. I even remember what you said in QC.”
“QC? You mean that?”
“You really have it? Even I don’t have one…”
“During the interview, you…”
“Told the media ‘fuck you’?”
“Yes! I was so refreshed by those words so I never threw it away. You were so cool, unni.”
“You’re embarrassing me.”
Hm, Maru didn’t know what that was about, but he tried to stand up so as to not bother the two. Both of these women weren’t ordinary. It would be a pain for him if he got involved. However, as soon as he tried to lift himself up from the chair, he saw Joohyun staring at him.
“I’m planning to go somewhere else so you can have a nice talk together.”
“It’s fine, you can stay here. Or perhaps you’re not comfortable with me?”
“Well, I kinda am.”
The other party was a top-tier star. Thanks to that, he could feel an uncomfortable amount of gazes hitting the back of his head. Some were even approaching them. No matter how much he didn’t care about other people’s opinions, he wasn’t capable of eating comfortably in the middle of attention from over a hundred people.
“That’s not good.”
Joohyun covered the part above her chest and stood up. Then, she said to everyone around.
“I apologize, but I’m here on a private matter today, so don’t mind me and do your business as usual. You know what I mean, right?”
A crisp voice resounded out. Everyone returned to their seats as though they were possessed by something. Although some of them were still giving them glances, it was solved with a glare from Joohyun.
Everything quietened down in less than a minute.
“Is that enough?”
“Unni, that was so cool.”
Maru smiled bitterly and sat back down again. A top-tier star sure was different. It seemed that anyone who reached the top of their field, regardless of what their field was, had a unique charisma to them. On top of that, Joohyun was known to express what was on her mind without restraint. No one here would want to get an earful from her just because they pissed her off.
“But hey, you look like someone I know. Who was it again?” Joohyun asked as she looked at Yoojin.
“Oh, you’re probably referring to my mom. Choi Jung’s Hair. Do you know about it?”
“Oh! You’re that unni’s daughter?”
“No wonder you looked familiar. An aspiring actress huh. Are you cast in this movie as well?”
“Yes. Though, I’m an extra…”
“Really? Congratulations. I was obediently going to school when I was your age. You’re something.”
“You swept the awards by storm on your debut though, unni. Compared to that, I’m nothing.”
“No way. You’re so pretty. If you have acting skills down, then you’ll become bigger than me.”
“Not at all. How can I become bigger than you, unni? Heheh.”
Heheh? Yoojin had become completely defenseless. It seemed that Joohyun wasn’t as simple as an idol-like figure in Yoojin’s mind.
“Uhm, unni. Can we take a picture together?”
“Wow, thank you. Hey! Han Maru!”
Maru grabbed the phone that was flung at him. She really was careless. Joohyun put her arm around Yoojin’s shoulder, while Yoojin reached out and hugged Joohyun’s waist.
“Here it goes. Say cheese.”
After taking about three photos, Maru gave the phone back to Yoojin. Yoojin received the phone as though she was handling her family’s hereditary treasure.
“Han Maru,” Joohyun called out to him.
“I’ve seen your audition tape. You were good.”
The flattery was rather unexpected, so he was a beat late in saying thanks. The conversation they had on the school stairs that day was a little emotional so he felt that he would feel uncomfortable with her, but there was nothing like that. In fact, Joohyun looked at him with a smile as though she had found an interesting creature. Maru was very uncomfortable with that gaze. Yoojin seemed to have finished checking on the photos as her ears were perked up, listening to Joohyun’s words. It seemed as though she would listen to any of Joohyun’s words.
“I was a little surprised. I don’t give advice like that often. Just as I detest others interfering with the things I do, I don’t really like interfering with other people’s lives. But when I looked at you, you looked like you just needed a final push. That’s why I said a few things back then. Though… from what I saw in the tape, you only took in the parts you needed and threw away the parts you didn’t.”
“Is that how it seemed to you?”
It wasn’t that Maru proactively tried to change something about himself. He just acted as normal. To a certain extent, he agreed with Joohyun’s words that he should get to the bottom of his emotions, but he did not see the need to put it into action. That was because… he already had a taste of what it was like at the bottom, no, an even deeper abyss than that. Death, that felt like something the word ‘brutal’ or ‘tragic’ couldn’t even begin to describe.
“It wasn’t? I thought my advice to release everything you have worked on you. The act you did in front of the camera had depth to it that is hard to find from people of your age, so I thought that you had a moment of epiphany.”
“That advice was definitely useful, but it wasn’t that practical in my case. I just acted as I normally did.”
“Really? That’s strange. You were different from the time I saw your stage last year.”
Different - Maru closed his mouth and thought about that word for a while. He was reminded of that peculiar moment back at the audition. The frustration about the unfairness of being driven to death welled up inside him and he released it in the form of acting. It was quite an honest self-confession, and he had never expressed his honest emotions like that other than when he had a drink with Moonjoong. Oh, there was one other occasion. It was when he confessed to her. However, the quality and level of emotions he expressed in those two occasions were drastically different to what he showed in the audition. His inner thoughts that he expressed to Moonjoong and her were pure. There was no malicious intent. To compare it to color, it was close to ‘white’.
Meanwhile, the emotions that welled up inside him during the audition was ‘pitch black’. Those dark emotions were things that even he couldn’t describe properly. Releasing those emotions without filter was something like a gamble on Maru’s side as well. An act was supposed to be an act. What people wanted from actors was realism, not the truth. It had to be an act full of malicious intent, not malicious intent itself. That was why he concentrated not to break the boundaries of acting at the same time he released those depressing emotions. When he had the pent up frustration and rage that he felt when he reminded himself of his death under his control, albeit with difficulty, he felt a completely different existence of rationale. It was a peculiar experience. It felt as though there was another cold-minded, rational existence of Han Maru that was watching down on the grievous, screaming Han Maru. Thanks to the existence of that rationale, Maru was able to camouflage his experiences as acting.
“Perhaps it really was different.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“It’s a little hard to explain it in words, though….”
Maru then had a glance at Joohyun’s expression. He was expecting an answer on the lines of ‘that’s fine then’, but Joohyun’s eyes were saying ‘go ahead, say it’. He even saw that he had Yoojin’s full attention. Maru smiled bitterly and expressed what was on his mind.
“Until now, there was no need to face my dark side when I did my acts. There was no reason to give them a glance. Moreover, when I stood on stage, I had a nice sense of tension around my body so I did not have any leisure to think about anything else. I had fun just unfurling the things I have prepared. Though, my instructors thought that I was going overboard and that I should restrain myself. And yes, I agreed with them.”
“I understood that much. I heard about it last time as well.”
“But the audition this time was different to that.”
“Yes. The movie has a script already, but the audition was mostly about free acting.”
“Yes. I was thinking about what I should do, and I was reminded about the dark side of me that I never gave a glance at. I didn’t want to look at it, but I realized that showing that side of me would be better in gaining points. That’s why I tried. It was a bit of an adventure. When I uttered those words, I felt that my heart was becoming more and more urgent. The moment I thought that my emotions would go out of my control, I peculiarly felt another presence of myself that was calmly watching my boiling emotions. After that… everything was smooth. I was emotional, yet calm. It sounds a little weird to put it like that, but anyway, it felt something like that.”
After saying those words, Maru shrugged. It felt complicated now that he expressed the complicated vortex of emotions he felt back then into words. It couldn’t be clearer at that specific moment, but it became more complicated when he put it into words.
“Another presence of self watching over the uncontrollable self. You… say some interesting words.”
Joohyun didn’t seem to have anything more to ask and stood up. After being dazed for a moment, Yoojin followed suit.
“Then I’ll keep watching you in the future. That feeling you have, don’t forget those emotions and try to bring it out.”
Hearing those words, Maru nodded slightly.
“You’re going?” Yoojin asked Joohyun.
“Yeah. They should be busy on the other side too. What, do you find it a pity?”
“I like honest kids.”
Joohyun pinched Yoojin’s nose.
“See you later. I’ll visit the hair shop some time.”
“Then Maru, take care.”
“Yes. Please take care.”
Joohyun turned around. Only then did Maru notice that the back of her dress was wide open until the waist. Such a dress at an occasion like this - Maru thought that she was quite bold indeed.
“Urgh, pervert. Don’t look at her like that!”
Yoojin opened her hand and blocked his vision. Maru thought that she was going too far to prevent what his instincts were telling him to do. Maru moved sideways to see Joohyun walk away. At that moment, Jiseok walked up to Joohyun from the other side. It seemed that he was doing something else until now.
That was from Yoojin who saw Joohyun and Jiseok together. The two seemed to know each other as they had a light hug after waving hands at each other.
“Why are you so surprised? I think it’s more of a greeting.”
Joohyun and Jiseok’s hug wasn’t a deep one like that of a man and a woman but more of an expression of saying hello. Joohyun talked a bit with Jiseok as though she had met a cute little brother before waving her hand and moving on.
As soon as Jiseok came to his seat, Yoojin pried.
“What is this? How are you related to Joohyun-unni?”
“Oh? I belong to the same company.”
“What? You belong to Yellow Star?”
“Really? But I heard that only bigshots can go there.”
“Is that so? And I guess that makes me a bigshot too then? Hahaha.”
Jiseok laughed heartily while scratching his head.
“I can’t believe that you belong to that company.”
“Why? Maru belongs to JA productions too.”
Yoojin then glared at Maru. Maru shook his head at first, but Yoojin’s gaze did not leave him.
“He’s close with president Lee Junmin. I heard from Maru that he signed a contract with him.”
“Like I said that’s…,” Maru was about to explain but he decided not to. It was half right and half wrong, also he didn’t care what these two thought about it.
“No way. The two of you belong to two of the three big entertainment companies?”
Yoojin frowned as though she was wronged. Maru sighed and drank a sip of the grapefruit drink he had brought.
‘Is this a conversation for high school students, you people? You’ve all been corrupted by capitalism. You should talk about hopes and dreams instead.’
“I don’t have a company I belong to yet!” Yoojin spoke with frustration.
* * *
“...He said the same thing as she did.”
Outside the restaurant, Joohyun turned around to look at the table Maru was sitting on. She felt strange. The two were so similar that she had the misconception of hearing her voice on top of Maru’s. After watching Maru for a while, Joohyun made a slight smile. The smile was a little sympathetic.
“Don’t you die early. It might traumatize me.”
Joohyun spat out a short breath before going to where the director was.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Maybe the one Joohyun is speaking of is Haejoo from a few chapters ago?