Chapter 262

“I never thought I’d see you here, senior.”

Dongwook, who was smoking in the smoking area of the building, turned his head around when he heard the familiar voice. A man dressed in a suit was waving his hand as he approached him. What entered his eyes first was not the man’s face, but the watch on his wrist. As his job required him to interact with celebrities, he was used to seeing brand-name items, and he was able to tell that the approaching man’s watch was a very expensive brand.

“Uh, yeah. Long time no see.”

Dongwook smiled stiffly as he looked at the man.

“How long has it been? Have you been doing well?”

“Well, I’ve been doing okay.”

He wanted to act boldly in front of this man, but he couldn’t because of the brand-name watch on his wrist.

“It’s been what, 10 years? No, it should’ve been more than that. I heard rumors about you. I heard you became a journalist at a TV station after you passed that extremely hard exam. Right?”

His junior scanned him from top to bottom as he said those words. His gaze reached Dongwook’s tattered shoes and the no-brand coat that he bought from the streets, and Dongwook declined replying by turning away slightly.

His junior smiled faintly after licking his lips.

“Senior. Here’s my business card. Call me up some time.”

His junior, who was very quick-witted and considerate, turned around and left. Dongwook sighed as he saw his junior’s business card. 10 years ago, they were close like brothers. He could barely remember that they talked about their bright future over a drink. Dongwook agitatedly sucked on his cigarette because he was frustrated at the fact that he couldn’t even talk with the guy properly due to his embarrassment. TV journalist. If he had that title, he might have acted close to that guy and maybe they would’ve gone out to a meal tonight.

‘It’s all pointless.’

He only lamented for a brief moment. Dongwook thought to himself that money made people look like proper people as he rubbed his cigarette off on the ashtray. He picked up his notepad and returned to the conference room with his camera. Only a few companies were permitted to film the read-through. Internet journalists like him had to wait until the end and take photos of the actors at the very end when they were leaving.

‘Anyway.’

Dongwook’s eyes followed one youth. He seemed to be a high school student. The way he flipped over the pages of the script as he leaned against the wall was quite a picture to look at. His eyes and lips showed an indifferent expression. It wasn’t that he was peerlessly handsome, but he had a good face for an actor.

Of course, that wasn’t the reason he grabbed Dongwook’s attention.

‘I can tell from looking at him.’

Acting was a field where it was hard to objectively evaluate others. It was a form of art, yet it did not have any specific standards of evaluation. Despite that, people still evaluated actors on their acting skills. Dongwook was the same. He could evaluate actors with his ‘I can tell from looking’ standard.

“You did well back there.”

Dongwook sat next to the youth.

“...Thank you,” the youth nodded his head once before looking at his script again.

Dongwook inwardly found him precocious.

“I haven’t seen you before. Which company do you belong to? Or maybe you don’t have one yet?”

The youth did not reply to his question and just stared at Dongwook. He seemed wary of Dongwook. Dongwook immediately took out his business card from his wallet. This was the master key to getting kids to talk - the journalist business card. He secretly covered up the name of his company with his thumb. As this country’s education focused on teaching courtesy, they taught that it wasn’t polite to return a question with a question. Youths would begrudgingly reply first if he showed them his business card like this, ten out of ten times.

The youth looked at his business card.

‘That should be enough.’

Just as he was about to retract his hand back, the youth nicked the business card out of his hands. This was the first time such a thing happened, so Dongwook blankly looked at the youth.

“Mint News? Which company is this?”

That was his first question. Dongwook felt as he just received a smack on the back of his head. He never knew that this kid would be as bold as to steal the business card off his hands. What was more absurd was the youth’s words.

“You were giving me this, right? It’s a business card.”

Dongwook barely smiled with his twitching lips as he nodded his head. That was the entire purpose of a business card, so he couldn’t say no.

“Mint News… is relatively well known around here. Do you not know?”

“Is that so? A news company, huh.”

The youth couldn’t look more natural as he took out his wallet and put the business card inside it after looking at it for a while. His actions were smooth and refined as though he was already used to such a thing. Usually, kids around his age would just stand there doing nothing because they did not know what to do with it, or just rudely stuff it inside their pockets, but this fellow was clearly different.

“So you seem to be a journalist.”

“Well, yes,”

“Are you here to interview sir Yoon Moonjoong?”

“Yeah, well.”

Somehow, he was no longer the one asking questions. Dongwook gave the nodding youth a question. After all, it would be a loss on his side if this was the direction the conversation was going.

“Rather than that, I thought I asked you. Which academy do you go to? Or maybe you belong to a company?”

Dongwook was not interested in already popular stars. It was too easy to write articles about them. After all, cameras followed them everywhere. However, it was incredibly difficult to find any valuable news from them. The entertainment companies protected their contracted stars very meticulously and did not allow bad news about them to be written, and the stars themselves never did deeds that might be controversial. In the end, the only valuable news regarding stars would be news about their marriage, the release of their new work, or their good deeds. In other words, those news would act in their favor. The customs in this industry meant that those kinds of news were given to select news companies or journalists that the entertainment company had a contract with.

A beautiful flower would have attracted many bees to it, and it would be hard to get any honey from it. As such, journalists that did not belong to major companies looked for new actors that had potential, but did not blossom fully, and tried to make connections with them early on. They would write good articles about those young people with good potential, and become close to them through that. Once that youth becomes a star, the journalist that made early connections would use their friendship to get good articles from them.

In Dongwook’s eyes, the youth in front of him had enough attraction. His potential was proven with the act he did during the read-through. Those with potential would immediately grab attention from the public with the right opportunity. He didn’t look that bad, and his indifferent image seemed like he would be popular with the girls. No, Dongwook predicted that this boy would lead a noona brigade. In any case, he judged that this boy would become popular, meaning that it wouldn’t do him bad to get close to him now. He first had to find out if this guy belonged to a company, or just passed the audition without a company backing him. If he did not belong to any company, it would become easier for him to become close to this guy. After all, no one would have told him about how to act in front of journalists.

“So you want to know where I belong to?”

“Huh?”

Dongwook blinked and looked at the youth. Usually, even the most wary people would answer obediently. After all, there was nothing harmful about it. Despite that, this youth did not answer him. In fact, he squinted his eyes as though he was trying to probe Dongwook out.

‘This boy….’

Dongwook judged that this boy was someone with society experience. At the same time, he was sure that he belonged to a company. He should have been educated not to answer questions asked by journalists.

‘But at the same time, they are told something else as well.’

They had to be vague about any answers, but had to act kind. Performers were not supposed to get in a bad relationship with journalists in any way. Especially if new. The companies always taught not to get on the bad side of journalists.

As such, simple logic told Dongwook that he would soon be able to eek out some information from him, yet,

“I’m just a newbie actor that’s aspiring to make a living out of it.”

“Uh, well, okay.”

He felt like he was talking to a wall. Dongwook never thought that he lacked qualifications as a journalist. He always made the other party talk through a suitable mix of the carrot and the stick. If even that didn’t work, he would persistently annoy the other party until they talked. But what was it with this boy? He drew a clear line from the get go, so he couldn’t ask him anything. This didn’t mean that he was being rude either. He humbled himself with his words and answered properly. There was nothing for Dongwook to nitpick about him.

Ehem, you were good back there.”

“Thank you, though, I think you told me that just a moment ago.”

“Is that so? My memory is failing me these days. But what do you think about the atmosphere? From the looks of it, it looks like this is your first time participating.”

“It’s good.”

“Ah, okay. Is there a senior actor that you respect among those present?”

“I respect sir Moonjoong.”

“Okay. Sir Yoon Moonjoong is definitely worthy of respect. He’s a legend in this industry, isn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“What made you start respe….”

“Because he’s a legend.”

“Ah….”

Dongwook barely stopped his smile from twitching. This wasn’t really unprecedented. There were some performers that replied with extremely short answers to every question. Those were the worst kind of interviewees that just cut the flow of the interview. The youth in front of him was precisely like that. A conversation required a topic, yet the youth ended all topics as soon as it was brought up. It didn’t seem like he was on guard or something. After all, he was giving answers. Was this his nature? Or was he acting a character? If so, then who created this character for him?

At that moment,

“I’m just not good around strangers. I’m not acting a character or anything like that,” the youth smiled as he spoke. Dongwook flinched because he felt as though this boy read his mind. Shamelessness was a necessary trait of journalists, yet his mask was broken for a brief moment.

‘He’s a strong enemy!’ That was what came to his mind. At the same time, this boy piqued his interest.

Usually, those who were bold in their actions were a huge scoop, or were nothing at all. Dongwook saw such boldness from this young fellow.

‘However, he’s nothing more than a high school student. You will have no choice but to tell me everything. I have tasted all that there is to this world. No matter how good you are at maintaining your poker face, I will dissolve it into pieces and…’

Just as he was thinking, someone approached the young man. This man belonged to a famous magazine company that was one of the parties allowed to take videos of the read-through.

“Uhm, excuse me, but can I ask you a few questions?”

This journalist seemed to be interested in this fellow as well.

‘Heh, hey, you won’t catch this guy’s heart like that.’

Dongwook waited for the new man to walk away after being flabbergasted by this youth and his short answers.

“Yes, sure.”

‘...What?’

The young man replied with a soft smile. The smile suited his rather cold image that he made for himself. The two exchanged conversations. The youth who answered with short sentences answered properly this time as though everything that happened before was a lie. In fact, he sometimes even gave hints to the journalist so that the two could talk some more.

“If there comes a day you become popular enough to go on the first page, I will put this interview there for you.”

“Why, thank you. I would be really happy if my name goes on QE some day. Though, it won’t happen anytime soon.”

“That sounds like you have the confidence to become successful with enough time.”

“A rookie cannot catch up to the experience of the seniors without a suitable amount of ambition.”

“Haha, you’re good with your words. What was your name again?”

“My name is Han Maru.”

“Okay, Maru. If we ever meet again, I will treat you to a meal.”

The interview ended on a good note. After the magazine journalist left, Han Maru started reading his script again with sharp eyes as though that warm spring smile had never appeared on his face before.

‘What’s up with this kid?’

Dongwook was flabbergasted. This young man wasn’t ordinary.

“Are you looking down on me because I’m from a nameless company?”

“I wonder who it was that wanted to be treated well by a nameless actor. Well, I can understand that journalist since he’ll work in my favor.”

“Geez.”

He couldn’t say that the boy was rude since it was him who used market logic to approach the boy first, and the boy just responded in kind. He started off with lies, so he couldn’t say anything even if he was looked down upon. This youth was not a kid, and it was his fault for not noticing that.

“I’m sorry. I’ll apologize first. Mint News is just an internet news company. I’m a pathetic journalist that works for it. The reason I approached you is because I thought that you had potential. Getting close to those with potential while they’re still new means I’ll see profit in the future.”

Who was he supposed to deceive now? They were both experts so he revealed his card first. If this youth was really an expert, then he would give back some kind of reaction. If this youth was not an expert and was just bluffing, then Dongwook would start coaxing him into speaking again.

And then,

“Am I worth investing?”

“...My eyes say so.”

The youth, Maru, closed his script and looked his way. He had a smile on his face. This meant that he was ready to have a proper conversation.

“I’m Han Maru.”

“And I’m Kim Dongwook.”

Dongwook shook hands with Maru.

He met a real expert this time.

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KTLChamber's Thoughts

Scratch what I said in the last chapter. I love it when Maru roasts anyone.