“Yeah. I’ll be going back late after hanging out with some of my friends. I might go back tomorrow. No, mom. Your daughter isn’t that bad. What? Okay. Alright, don’t forget to lock the door.”
Yoojin hung up.
“Your parents must be worried sick about you.”
“What the heck are you saying? They have such a capable daughter.”
Maru clicked his tongue and looked away.
They were inside a bus. Although the decision to go to Seoul was rather sudden, there weren’t any problems. Yoojin checked the time on her phone. It was nine minutes to eleven. The day was almost over.
The bus was filled with people dozing off. Yoojin liked this kind of scene. That was because she felt like it was a moment of break for the people who had spent their days to the fullest. It was quiet and cozy. She liked silence better than bustling activity.
She turned her head a little and looked at Daemyung and Maru. She was able to get a seat because the two of them, being boys, gave up the seat for her. The two were talking seriously about acting. She then turned around to look outside the window, pretending not to focus on their conversation, but her ears were perked up. She felt like they wouldn’t talk anymore if she looked at them.
“Then you decided on the setting and the characters?”
“Yeah. But it’s not 100% decided yet. Gwak Joon-hyung told me that the structure of a story can change at any time. He said that it was important for me to be as free as possible when writing since this is my first work.”
“So I guess it’ll take some time if you want to transcribe it into script form then.”
“I never planned to finish it quickly anyway. I should take my time, learning about various things.”
“Still, I guess things turned out well. I was worried since Joon-hyung has a stiff side about him and thought that he might not help you.”
“I was really nervous when I first sent him the message. I was even more nervous when he told me that he wanted to see me. But when I met him, he wasn’t actually that scary. Though, he does look like the type of person you wouldn’t want to talk to. Haha.”
Yoojin couldn’t help when she heard the name ‘Gwak Joon’ and interrupted.
“Is the Gwak Joon you’re talking about the Gwak Joon I know? Is that how it is?”
“Who’s this Gwak Joon and who’s that Gwak Joon?”
“Don’t pretend to be ignorant in front of me. Are they really the same? Are you really talking about the original author of our movie?”
“And Daemyung is studying under such a person? Is he what, a disciple or something?”
Hearing that question, Daemyung waved his hand in a fluster.
“What disciple? It’s nothing so grand.”
“If he’s teaching you, and you’re studying under him, that makes you his disciple. Wow, you guys are quite good.”
Yoojin pondered as she tapped on her lower lip with her index finger. From what she saw of Gwak Joon, he was the type of person that was hard to approach. He was wearing black glasses, a black t-shirt, and black pants. Even though the weather was hot, he was wearing all-black, and his eyes were very desolate. The only people that talked to Gwak Joon during the read-through were Moonjoong, the director, and some of the journalists who had to get an interview from him. Yoojin briefly watched him doing an interview with a journalist, and never did she see such an insincere interviewee.
To the question, ‘how do you come up with the storyline’, he answered, ‘to the best of my abilities’; to the question, ‘how do you come up with characters’, he answered, ‘with all of my effort’. According to the proverb ‘good answers come from good questions’, those questions weren’t good questions at all. After all, they were bland and ordinary. However, what was up with those answers?
Yoojin overheard the journalist muttering ‘does he think he’s Hemmingway or something?’ after the interview.
It would be bad to evaluate a person just based on that, but Gwak Joon definitely wasn’t the type of person who would talk about literature with just anyone. And here, Daemyung turned out to be such a person.
‘Maru is one thing, but perhaps he too….’
She overheard their conversation and found out that Daemyung was writing a story, and was even preparing a script. Maybe it was a movie? Or a drama? No, it was highly probable that it was a play. He was writing such a thing at such an early age.
Perhaps the reason Maru’s acting skills improved so much was because he had a friend like this close to him. Now that she thought about it, there were always amazing people around Maru. He seemed to be acquainted with Joohyun, Suyeon, Geunsoo and even Moonjoong. That was despite the fact that he was a high school student who had never participated in filming a movie or a drama. How did he come across such people despite having no relation to the field at all? Perhaps it was thanks to his company’s influence?
‘Should I find a company soon as well?’
Her mom’s advice was that she should gain more experience and further her career before entering a company since the first contract was very important. She said that there were numerous performers who never saw the light of day after signing a contract when they were still nameless.
However, seeing Maru, entering a company didn’t seem like such a bad idea. Good companies had good actors, and she would naturally gain the opportunity to meet those people. Those encounters would widen her vision, and her widened vision would enable her to act better.
“Should I go to JA?”
“What’s that all of a sudden?”
“I think that’s your secret.”
“I don’t get what you’re saying, but do whatever you want.”
Seeing Maru ignore her, Yoojin pouted.
Maru looked outside the window before pressing the stop bell. It seemed that they had arrived. She followed Maru as he got off the bus. Maru left the big roads with the big buildings on it and walked towards the place with small houses. He went even deeper and eventually arrived at a road where even streetlights were rare and old commercial buildings were standing right next to each other.
Maru’s walking pace was quite fast and he was always quite far ahead. Yoojin thought that this was an opportunity and talked to Daemyung.
“Why are you so startled?”
Daemyung smiled awkwardly. Yoojin thought that this guy was really honest.
“Have you ever seen Maru practice by himself?”
“His skills suddenly got better, you know? I’m wondering if he was receiving lessons outside of school or something.”
“Well, I haven’t heard him mention such a thing before.”
“Really? Then what the heck is it? Anyway, I’ll tell you my assumption.”
Yoojin told Daemyung the reason that she thought Maru’s skills improved so dramatically - that he had good friends around him, and that he had people he could learn from. Daemyung nodded after hearing her words. He seemed to agree with her words. However, he spoke differently.
“It’s true that there are a lot of amazing people around Maru. But if you ask me if they helped Maru improve, then I would say no. The order of events are different.”
“The order of events are different?”
“Maru originally didn’t have any interest in acting at all. When he first came to the acting club, he said that he wanted to be a stage staff. Indeed, he had never done any proper practice until the end of summer vacation in his first year.”
“Then what made him do acting? I thought he didn’t have any interest.”
“I don’t know what exactly changed his mind. However, it is true that the instructor tried to persuade Maru to do acting. She must have seen through Maru’s talents. After that, he met president Lee Junmin. So strictly speaking, it’s true that he became more proficient thanks to those people, but you could say that he already had a talent large enough for them to take interest.”
“Then what? A guy that had no interest entered the amateur acting class after just half a year of practice?”
Yoojin sighed, feeling powerless, and looked at Maru’s back. In the amateur acting class held in Myeongdong, he won the role of the main character. He was so good that everyone else admitted their loss. But now, Daemyung was telling her that that was the result of half a year’s worth of practice? But just then, the words Maru said to her popped up in her head.
-The method to improve? You have to be born again.
Maybe he said that to express his innate talents.
“He’s so cocky! That makes him a genius!” She said it out loud because she felt a little frustrated.
Maru, walking at the front, frowned as he turned around.
“What is it now?”
“I’m saying that you have it good!”
“I hear that all the time,” saying that, Maru turned left.
“Some spend five years to reach this point, but someone else just catches up within one year. Isn’t that too unfair?” She asked Daemyung.
“W-well. I never felt that it was unfair.”
“Because Maru puts in more effort than me. He practices more diligently than me. Of course his skills are good. Yes, there may be some talent involved. However, no matter how talented a person is, there is no result without practice. Maru did everything in his powers to study and practice. If you get the opportunity, try reading Maru’s script once. You’ll see the traces of all of his thoughts crossed out, then rewritten, crossed out and rewritten again. I can’t imagine the amount of time he invested into studying the script.”
“...I can’t deny that.”
Yoojin thought back to Maru’s script that she had chanced upon while preparing for a play with Maru in the Myungdong Theater. He analyzed every single character in depth, and just the sheer quantity made her dizzy. Nothing in the script was written without going through his thoughts. Just thinking about how much analysis he had to do in order to create something like that made her dizzy.
She was grumbling that Maru had all the talent, but she didn’t actually mean it. No matter how much talent one had, not polishing those talents would make the talent stale. This was easily proven when looking at the lives of those so-called geniuses known to the world. Only the ones that polished their talents rose to the ranks of geniuses.
“But still, he’s so dislikable. He’s too good.”
Maru stopped in front of a restaurant. It was a very shabby-looking restaurant. When they went inside through the wooden sliding door, a spicy air assaulted their faces. Yoojin coughed before looking inside. There were people who looked like salarymen. There were green bottles on many tables as well.
“I’m here,” Maru greeted as he entered.
The middle-aged man, who seemed to be the owner of the store glanced at him before pointing at an empty table with his chin. Maru smiled and sat down at the table.
“What is this place?” Yoojin asked.
The owner was not nice, and this place looked like a mess as well. The TV hanging on the wall was broadcasting the news, and people shouted various things while looking at it. This place seemed like chaos.
“He cooks some amazing Jeyuk-bokkeum here. Excuse me, three portions of Jeyuk-bokkeum for the three of us.”
The store owner stood up slowly and walked towards the kitchen. Along with a sizzle, white smoke started coming up. The spicy air inside the restaurant seemed to be from the Jeyuk-bokkeum.
“Why did you bring us to a place like this?”
Yoojin frowned because her eyes felt prickly. The smoke was intense. The customers sitting near the entrance opened the sliding door and shouted ‘Hey, owner! There’s too much smoke!’ It didn’t feel like he was upset or something. After all, he had a smile on his face.
“Go take a breather outside,” that was the owner’s reply.
“It’s good here.”
“What? This place is good?”
Seeing Maru smile, Yoojin then looked at Daemyung. She expected that Daemyung would say something about this strange restaurant.
However, Daemyung seemed to be on Maru’s wavelength.
“It smells good.”
“I don’t mention this place to anyone. Actually, a bottle of soju is perfect with the Jeyuk-bokkeum, but the owner here is a law-abiding man.”
“How dare you call me owner when you’re just a spring chicken?”
The owner of the store smacked Maru on the head before putting the Jeyuk-bokkeum on a grill on the table.
“You should really stop coming. Young people like you don’t belong here.”
“I’m here to raise your sales.”
“I don’t need your money.”
Snorting, the store owner then sat down on an empty chair. Yoojin couldn’t get used to the mood of this store. The air was mixed with the smell of food, alcohol and sweat, making her feel dizzy, and it was very noisy as well. She had a hard time getting her voice through to Maru and Daemyung.
‘And he’s not acting nicely!’
The first thing that Maru did after the meat arrived was to scoop some rice from the rice cooker, and get some Kimchi and pickled radish from the fridge.
“It’s all self-service?”
This was a cultural shock for Yoojin. This was something unimaginable in stores that she visited with her mother. Even the stores near her school that she went to with her friends weren’t as bad as this.
“Don’t tell me we have to do the dishes as well?”
“We do, if the owner tells us to. Hey, hey. It’s cooling down. Daemyung, eat a lot. Yoojin, you shouldn’t eat that much. Oh wait, you’re the one buying right? I guess you should eat a lot too then.”
Yoojin looked at Maru and Daemyung with flabbergasted eyes. They could eat at a place like this?
“Hey, Park Daemyung. You okay with this?”
“Yeah. I think this place is good. It’s filled with vitality.”
“Oh my word.”
Yoojin had a look around again. There was not a single woman. Obviously, very few women liked this kind of environment. Yoojin flinched and put her nose against her sleeves. It was reeking of meat already.
“I told you it’d be better for you to go home.”
“You’re doing this on purpose, aren’t you? Is it because I’m annoying you? Is it?”
“Do you take me for a petty person? Or do you think I care that much about you? Just shut up and start eating. Tell me what you think afterwards.
Maru was holding out a sesame leaf ssam. She was about to refuse out of spite, but she felt that she would lose just by saying those words since Maru had an evil smile on his face. Yoojin narrowed her eyes and put the ssam in her mouth after picking it up with her chopsticks.
She thought of one thing when she ate it - she would never say that it’s delicious. She had the confidence to say that her taste buds, trained from visiting numerous famous restaurants, would not lose to something like this.
Yoojin became silent. Then, she looked at Maru. Maru made a satisfied smile before speaking,
“One of the reasons I don’t hate you that much is because there are no falsities in your expressions. Daemyung, look at her face. She’s quite something to look at since she’s fighting her inner demons. I’m not expecting you to say that it’s delicious so just keep eating. You must be hungry because you haven’t had dinner yet.”
Yoojin turned her head around and sighed. Then, she picked up the chopsticks before speaking.
“Excuse me, manager. Please give us one, no, two more portions of Jeyuk-bokkeum.”
This was the first time she resented her taste buds for being so honest.
Seeing Maru with a victorious smile, Yoojin picked up some meat. Well, she had to fill her stomach first.
“...It’s not good at all.”
Realizing that those words were useless defense for her pride, Yoojin decided to give up.
Let’s just eat. Food is innocent, after all, right?
“But I heard that meat has high calories,” Maru sneaked that line in there.
He was really hateful until the very end.
Looks like Maru considers Daemyung as a close friend! Also, I can see people will be more annoyed by Yoojin now, since she decided to butt in...