Chapter 29

The first thing that greeted him was heat. The next was the 11 sets of eyes staring at him. Maru shrugged before saying his greetings to Miso.

“Hello.”

“Yeah.”

The answer was short, but he was used to it. Maru stepped up to one of the audience seats, where all the drinks for the actors were located. He sat down there with his book. He could see the actors here from this spot.

Maru turned to his left where he could see the props that were supposed to be used in this play. Sofas, tables, tablecloths, wooden plants and etc…

“Ah ah ah ah. Lower your voices a little. More strength in your abdomen. Really make use of your diaphragm. Imagine for a second that you’re looking inside yourselves. When you’re opening your mouth to go ahh, you can see your vocal cords open. The air would pass through it from your stomach all the way to your mouth. Don’t let any of the air out, though, just the sound. Try to drag out all the sound you can from your belly,” Miso said, grabbing at one of the students’ stomachs.

She held one hand over their stomach and one hand over the parts where they were messing up. Each time the club members would correct their position and try again. Maru could easily see the difference from the first time they practiced together.

First of all, the club members were way more composed. Their voices weren’t trembling either. It was deep now. All thanks to practice.

“Good, now walk fast.”

The students formed a circle together as soon as Miso said the word. They started walking as if they were trying to catch the person in front of them. They were quite fast, actually.

“Try to remember how you’re moving right now. Feel exactly what muscles you’re using with each step. Remember how you’re taking your breaths. Imagine that there’s a camera filming your head from the top, like a 3rd person point of view.”

After around five minutes of this, Miso clapped her hand, “Slowly.” The students slowed down almost as if they were shooting a slo-mo video. This wasn’t anything new to Maru at this point, though.

He’s seen a lot of this when he was a road manager. It was pretty typical for actors to do this kind of stuff. After all, body language was very important to them. He could still remember an inexperienced actor being scolded over it.

Maru’s tried that type of practice a long time ago as well. He just kind of joined in when the actual actors were practicing out of curiosity. He didn’t learn a lot, of course. Especially because he didn’t know their instructor for too long. He did hear about what the man was doing by the time he found a company to work for, though. The instructor became a salaryman at a company, just like himself.

“Don’t move your fingers or toes! Make every bit of movement meaningful! This is important right now. You don’t want any wasted movement when you’re acting. You understand?”

“Yes!!”

The club members were moving very slowly despite their quick answer. They were probably going to go at it for around ten more minutes. Despite its appearance, moving slowly like this consumed a lot of energy. An example of this was to stand at position for a length of time in the military.

One by one, the students started frowning. They sometimes even lost their balance and broke the circle at times. Every time they did this, Miso shouted at them angrily.

“Focus!”

She was a total lioness. Maru opened his book and started reading. There was no way he’d allow himself to get involved in that training routine anyway. After a few more minutes of this, they all stood in a line again. Miso allowed them 15 minutes of rest.

Maru closed his book and looked forward. He could see the club members desperately competing for water. He threw the one in front of him towards Dojin.

“Oh my god, it’s so bad!”

“You’re still alive, at least.”

“Huff, huff.”

Even Geunseok was huffing in pain from all the training in the morning. Yurim was fiddling with her phone even during recovery. At this point, it was almost an extension of her.

“My legs hurt,” Soyeon said, massaging her calves. She was noticeably thinner than before. She was still a little chubby, but she looked a lot more agile now.

Iseul and Taejoon still looked good as always. Oh, correction. Taejoon wasn’t as handsome with all the exhaustion in his eyes. The boy had surprisingly little stamina despite his physical build. He was doing even worse than Daemyung, which was saying something.

‘Is this a camp for dieting?’

No matter the intention, there was no doubt that this training routine was effective on weight loss.

“I thought I was going to get a cramp in my left leg.”

“Just ignore it.”

“Ugh, what happened to just being stage managers for our second year?” Minsung said towards Joonghyuk. They claimed to be managers for the second year, but they themselves were participating religiously in Miso’s training. Both of them managed to snatch pretty good roles for themselves. The main character’s father and uncle respectively.

“Ugh, Danmi, can you massage my legs? They hurt.”

“Shush, I’m tired too.”

“Oh gosh, you’ve turned so cold.”

Yoonjung and Danmi were talking together as well. They were all radiating with heat. Maru weaved through each of them, handing out cold water and snacks as required.

“Niceee, Mr. Manager,” Yoonjung commented.

At one point, that’s what Maru’s title had become. Not even he could remember who called him that first. It was a joke at first, but everyone became used to calling him like this now.

Manager. He didn’t think he would be referred to as such again. It was pretty strange.

“Work hard, okay?”

“We will. There’s not much time left.”

Break time was the only time that Maru could mingle a little bit. It was also the time Maru could use to figure out what the club was learning right then. The club members weaved their complaints about the intensity of the training along with their praise of her. Then again, even Maru could tell how good Miso was at her job.

“We’re going to do readings!” Miso shouted from the back.

The club members took their scripts and ran over. Maru looked at them for a little bit before taking out his book again.

“Don’t be too lonely, alright? Haha,” Dojin told him as he walked away.

Loneliness was a feeling one could only experience after having belonged to a group. Maru did feel a little excluded sometimes, but never lonely. After all, he’s never felt that same heat and passion the other club members felt. There was no way he could put himself on the same level as them.

He could hear the lines of each member hit his ears as he read. The play they were putting on this time was something called the ‘Warm Table’. A play that Miso brought in herself. It was about a play that dealt with problems that teens of their age might have. There were two scenes in the play in total. The inside and outside of the house where the story took place. Maru remembered building the props for both of those things before.

Ah, he was getting distracted again. Back to reading. The voices of the club members were starting to fade into the background of his consciousness. He realized this only recently, but he found that his focus improved a lot whenever he was reading.

Only towards normal books, though. He’s tried it for both math and english textbooks, but the focus didn’t come to him with so many weird letters and numbers involved.

“I should be able to get a full score in Korean literature though.”

He flipped the page with a small smile creeping on his face. The actor’s autobiography was describing the kind of life being the actor would lead, and what kind of roles he took. It was written well enough for him to keep enjoying the book as he read.

At one point, he reached a sentence that he resonated with quite a bit.

- I had no idea my life would turn out this way. Before I got my first role, I thought that I would become a used car salesman in the future. To think I would become an actor… Life really is a strange thing.

The writer was right. Life was a strange thing indeed. You could never know what might happen tomorrow. Despite the mystery of tomorrow, all of us kept whipping ourselves onward to make it more comfortable. So that the me of the future could live a better life than me of the present. He continued to read a few pages afterward before someone called him out again.

“Han Maru.”

It was Miso. Maru put down his book and walked towards her.

“Yes?”

“Try reading this.” She threw the script his way. It was one of the lines from the main character, where the character would monologue after having an argument with a friend. Maru started reading.

“I know what I did was wrong. But what he did was no better. He shouldn’t have gotten angry over something so small.”

He read slowly. Miso occasionally called him out to do readings like this. He still had no idea why. Perhaps she was trying to show a bad example of reading by using him?

“Good. Give it back.”

“Alright.”

Maru handed the script back to Miso and went back to reading. By the time he was finished, he looked up at the clock again. It was almost five already. Ten minutes away from when he could leave. He started packing. He put his water bottle and the book went back in his bag. The club members were still busy practicing in front of him.

“Look forward, not at the ground! Are you trying to show the audience what the top of your head looks like or what?!”

Miso was still shouting. Soyeon’s head jerked up in response. A little too much, though, earning another ‘tch’ from Miso. Maru couldn’t help but be amazed at how good Miso was at teaching. She really was keeping her word about acting. About how a person could only act well if they were crazy for it.

“To truly be crazy at something is not to just enjoy it, but to constantly be focused on it… Was it?”

Maru looked at the club from his seat, wondering where they were looking to do with their lives. How much would it help in life to be crazy for acting? Maru started calculating in his head. No matter how much he fiddled with the variables, he could only see a failed life in his head.

‘I’m going to turn into a total pessimist like this.’

He was aware of how cold and calculating he was becoming as a person. It was embarrassing, especially when he looked at the fiery club members in front of him. Even now, his brain was telling him to use this time to study more English, to study more math. Use this time to stu…

Slap!

Maru slapped himself. He felt like he couldn’t shake himself out of that sinkhole in his head otherwise. Thing was…

“M-Maru, dude.”

“What’s wrong?”

He slapped too hard. Everyone was looking at him, including Miso. He smiled a little awkwardly in response.

“There was a mosquito.”

Mosquito in April… It was a stupid excuse, but at least it’d work.

“Oh, what the heck.”

“Man, you surprised it.”

“You went at it a bit too strong there, didn’t you?”

The club members responded with a smile. Maru just kept his mouth shut with a grin. The clock reached 5. He stood up from his spot almost in a knee jerk reaction. He put his bag on and turned to Miso. He was waiting for the same old words to come out of her mouth.

“Dinner time. First years, go buy some food outside.”

Miso took out a few bills from her wallet and handed it out. The first years all streamed out of the auditorium together, while the second years started talking about the script amongst each other. Everyone seemed to be trying to take a break, one way or the other.

Even Miso was pretty much lying down against her chair. Maru approached her after waiting for a little bit.

“I’ll be heading out.”

“......”

Miso didn’t respond. Was something wrong? Maru decided that she was just too tired to respond, and turned to leave. But just as he creaked the door a little bit, a voice came from behind him.

“Going home?” asked Miso. When did she get there? The woman walked through the door first before him. Maru nodded as he headed for the stairs.

Only thing was… Miso was following him as well. About halfway down, Maru turned to look up at her.

“Do you have something you need to talk about?”

“...Tsk.”

Miso turned away with a click of her tongue. She seemed to want to say something, but closed her mouth right after opening it. Just what was she up to? Maru bowed to her once more before walking away again. Whatever it was, it probably wasn’t important.

But after the third step he took,

“Hey,” Miso called out, “we need to talk.”

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