-I decided to take him in for the time being. I guess I’ll have to first calm him down before thinking about what’s next. Anyway, thanks. I was able to save my brother thanks to you.
Maru closed his phone. Although nothing was ‘solved’, it seemed that he had prevented things from becoming a huge issue. He could leave the rest in Geunsoo’s capable hands.
‘I really wish he gets it together this time and lives a proper life.’
Although people did not change easily, they were just as prone to change after a dramatic experience. Violence wasn’t a positive experience, but it was plenty sufficient to give him a reason to look back at his life.
“What is it?”
Bada was energetic even though it was the morning. Maru stared at the piece of paper that his sister held out to him. It was a piece of paper a little smaller, but thicker, than an A4.
“I heard from mom that you’re shooting a movie.”
She pushed the paper into Maru’s hands.
“You want autographs?”
“Joohyun-unni and Suyeon-unni!”
The information regarding the movie from the original work ‘Twilight Struggles’, titled ‘Who Gave the Elder His Hammer’, was released onto the internet yesterday. This seemed to be a method to attract attention from potential audience by leaking some information one month prior to the press release. The general outline of the story and the cast was revealed to the public.
“Senior Joohyun seems really popular with girls.”
“You’ve talked with her, oppa?”
Her eyes looked resolute. It was likely that she would ask something unimaginable if he revealed that she was the sister of a junior of his at his school club.
“No, of course not.”
“Well, she is a superstar after all. Oppa, you should do better and get closer to her. You should take a photo with her as well!”
“Unfortunately, I won’t get to meet her during shooting.”
“What do you mean, why? There’s no way an extra like me has a scene together with her. I’m just a role that disappears after a single shoot.”
“What… you’re just a filler?”
“Yes. I’m a filler.”
“What about the autograph then?”
She looked pretty dejected. Maru had difficulties saying ‘I can’t be bothered’ to her face.
“I’ll do it on one condition.”
“When do midterms start?”
His sister avoided meeting his eyes as she spoke. As far as Maru knew, she was hanging out with her friends at a noraebang until late into the night yesterday. When Maru looked back at her, Bada made an awkward smile.
“Hey, didn’t you write ‘my aim is Seoul U’ on your wall?”
“I can do well starting tomorrow!”
“What about today?”
“The god of guessing will help me.”
“Did you not study for it at all?”
“I did… a little.”
Maru sighed after seeing his sister laugh awkwardly. Playing around was important for people her age, yes. After all, it would be a college exam hell once she went to high school. However, she was aiming to get into a good high school and Seoul National University. Yet, she still had the audacity to go to a noraebang the day before her test?
“The reason I let you have free rein without saying anything is because I trust that you can take responsibility for your life. You know that, right?”
“So show me then. If you enter the top 5 in the midterms, I’ll get you the autograph of any actor you want.”
“That’s a little….”
“And also, didn’t you like TTO?”
“I do! It’s always been my dream to go to their concert once!”
TTO was a famous idol group that’s been taking first place for the past 3 weeks in a popular music TV program. Maru found out that his sister liked them after seeing his mother and Bada quarrelling over removing posters and whatnot.
He was aware that progress was better than results, but he also knew that sometimes it wasn’t that bad to motivate her using results. Moreover, this was the midterms of her 3rd year of middle school. It would be nonsensical for her to not focus on studying when she was trying to get into a good high school.
“How about some concert tickets for that?”
“You said there was one during the summer holidays. I thought you had a fight with mom for that.”
“Yeah! But she said she’ll never let me because it’s dangerous.”
“I’ll persuade her for you. As long as you get within the top 5.”
“...Are you for real?”
“Can you do it? You’ve been playing around until yesterday.”
“I can do it! No, I will do it. Just watch me. If I do, you’ll really have to get the tickets and mom’s permission, okay? I will not let you go free if you lied to me!”
Bada put her backpack on and left the house with large strides.
“Hooray idols, I guess.”
He experienced for himself the power of the great idols. Midterms on a middle school level weren’t that difficult so she would score well with some last-minute revision. Once she realized that she could do it, then she would be able to take care of herself.
Maru turned off the lights and the gas in the kitchen before leaving the house. The wind was quite warm. It seemed that summer wasn’t that far. On his way to school, Maru came across a CD store that just went out of business. Although people lined up outside this store whenever a new CD album was released during his middle school days, people no longer visited this place, and it seemed that its business was doing bad. Thanks to new technology satisfying the needs of the people much faster, old technology was phasing out and people accepted it as the norm.
In front of a banner advertising discounts on CDs was a lonely life-sized idol cutout. He was reminded of the day he talked about idols with Ganghwan. Ganghwan made a bitter smile, saying that they were an inevitable part of cultural business. The symbiotic relationship was gone and all that was left was competition. There was a limited amount of pie in this small land, yet people struggled to scoop every last bit out. Ganghwan used the analogy of survival when he explained the reason why actors should act like one. In terms of controversy, it was hard to win against idols. Fandoms were stronger on their side as well. As such, the only way to win against them was through acting alone, so he said that it might seem foolish, but it was the only way.
However, at the end of that, Ganghwan also said these words: that the reason for them to be feared is because they had amazing skills.
Maru sped up on his bike after staring at the cutout figure for a while. Although it didn’t feel that real to him, he thought that he would one day be able to understand what Ganghwan was going through.
* * *
Kim Dongwook, an entertainment journalist for an internet news company, approached manager Yoo who appeared in front of the convenience store outside the TV station. Manager Yoo tried to run away, but Dongwook was a step faster.
“Don’t be like this. We don’t amount to this much, do we?”
“Ah, yes. Sir.”
“Wow. I heard the rumors. I heard you’re finally graduating road and becoming a team leader.”
“What? Where did you hear something like….”
“I know my way round, you know? Here, drink this, it’s getting hot after all.”
Dongwook gave him a drink that he bought from the convenience store. Manager Yoo declined, but Dongwook forced it on him. Only when the other party drank this would he sense a feel of debt and talk about what he should and what he shouldn’t.
“Manager Yoo, I mean, team leader Yoo! I know that you had your share of suffering in this industry while I worked as a journalist, right? You know, our relationship isn’t that light at all!”
“I-is that so? But sir Kim, I’m not an official team leader yet, so please mind the way you call me….”
“Fine, fine. Looks at you, being all humble.”
Dongwook held the drink up to manager Yoo’s face and told him to drink some more. Manager Yoo seemed to have given up as well and just drank while sighing.
“I heard that TTO is doing really good these days. I was surprised. I heard that those girls outside the TV station are all here because of them, right?”
“Yeah, well…,” manager Yoo smiled when his artists were praised.
‘You still have a lot to go.’
This manager Yoo was weak to flattery. These kinds of managers did not last long. Stars were stars, and managers were managers. Despite that, there were cases where road managers mistook the artists’ popularity for theirs. This was the reason behind some news articles mentioning how managers mistreated their artists. However, he was the one wanting something from the other party here, so there was no need to mention that out loud. Dongwook pulled on manager Yoo’s sleeves.
“Come here, the shade is a little cooler.”
After hesitating a little, Dongwook spoke.
“I wanted to ask. One of your kids is preparing for a movie, right?”
“A movie?” Manager Yoo replied with a puzzled voice. However, Dongwook was able to catch a glimpse of manager Yoo’s lips twitching. TTO was a hot potato. Every form of media was talking about them. Even some local newspapers talked about them. Products advertised by TTO were always sold out, and every place they visited became a tourist hotspot.
Any news regarding TTO was especially important to the girls camping outside the TV station like what he was seeing now. They were the most hardcore fans who were able to utilize the money of their parents. Thanks to that, writing up news about TTO became the shortcut to getting ad revenue and hence the manuscript pay. However, as the company behind TTO kept an iron security around them, it was hard to get anything about them. Although all of their official schedule was revealed on the website, everything else was under tight security so it was hard to find any traces of them in this small land of South Korea. Some journalists went as far as to say that it was harder to track them than to track the president of the country.
Moreover, thanks to the Korean wave stemming from a Korean drama that aired last year, there was a demand for Korean idols in Japan. It was natural for TTO to be the vanguard. For now, they had a lower popularity than actual drama actors, but most people judged that they would take over sooner or later. Right now, it was still unknown when the Korean wave would end, so everyone was trying to make some money while they still could. The company behind TTO seemed to have realized that and hid every last bit of their artist in order to decrease image consumption. As such, TTO’s value kept rising by the day, and now they could be considered one of the top 4 idol groups.
TTO was a moving bundle of cash. Dongwook also wanted to jump on the bandwagon and reap some profits. There was an interesting market where just knowing TTO’s next schedule had value. He wasn’t able to understand the mindset of those that wanted to know TTO’s every single action, but he still jumped on the bandwagon because it made money.
He was waiting for an opportunity when he heard a great rumor. It was a rumor that a member of TTO was participating in the controversial movie ‘Who Gave the Elder His Hammer’. Although the cast was revealed on the internet, there was no member of TTO among them.
If it was true that a member of TTO was participating, he would be able to release exclusive news. ‘Exclusive’ was a magical word. It was especially powerful to him as a powerless internet news journalist. Although the three major news companies and TV journalists got monthly salaries for their jobs, an internet journalist like him without any power had very low base pay, so he couldn’t make a living off just that. This was why he needed an exclusive article.
Of course, 9 out of 10 times, the major news companies and TV stations took those exclusive news. Their manpower and financial power was something that minor companies could not hope to beat. However, sometimes, lady luck smiled their way, and now was precisely that case.
It was a coincidence that Dongwook had overheard that a member of TTO was cast in the movie. He was sneaking around in restaurants outside a TV station when one seemingly angry man shouted into his phone and that was related to TTO. Although it might just end up being a ‘rumor’ article, the fate of journalists was to take a jab regardless. Thanks to that, he was trying to eek something out from this foolish road manager.
“Am I wrong? I was pretty sure though.”
“N-no way. It’s not something I know either.”
“Yes, of course.”
“You’re not hiding anything from me?”
“How could I hide anything from you?”
“I guess you aren’t that kind of person.”
Dongwook patted manager Yoo’s back with a smile. Manager Yoo smiled in relief. Dongwook felt that now was the moment as he asked.
“But was Hyuktae always that good at acting?”
“Sorry? It’s not Hyuktae but Sungjae…,” realizing his mistake, manager Yoo shut himself up. Dongwook raised his thumb up.
“I’ll write it then, okay?”
Manager Yoo grabbed him and spoke.
“You can’t. If you do, I’ll be in big trouble. No, you’ll be in big trouble.”
“I do want big trouble though.”
Dongwook smirked and put a hand on manager Yoo’s shoulder.
 For those confused. ‘Twilight Struggles’ is the title of the book, ‘Twilight Years’ is the tentative title written on the script, and ‘Who Gave the Elder His Hammer’ seems to be the official title for the movie.
 Road manager. The manager that drives artists to events.
For a moment, I thought I was translating God of Music at the end there...
And manager Yoo... rookie mistake...