Chapter 296

Lettuce and tomatoes could be seen between the two sandwich breads. Thinking that there was quite a lot, Maru took a bite. The crunchy feeling definitely felt good, but it was too ‘clean’ tasting and it didn’t taste like much. Eating the sandwich in his hand, he looked at Joohyun.

“So in the end, both observation skills and expression skills are important. 

The students who were focusing on Joohyun's words all nodded. It had been around an hour since she started talking, but both Joohyun, the one speaking, and the club members were showing an incredible amount of concentration and were not going off track. Joohyun explained to them what being an actor was, as well as what acting is based on her own experiences.

Another thirty minutes passed while they listened to the vivid experiences. Joohyun ended her speech with ‘you’ll receive as much as you practiced’. The moment she laid back on her chair after heaving out a deep breath, one of the people in the café quietly approached her.

“I was waiting because it looked like you were doing something important. Uhm, excuse me, but can I take a picture with you?”

It was one of Joohyun’s fans who had recognized her. People inside the café started gathering around one by one due to the commotion. Joohyun did not get flustered and just smiled back at them as she took pictures with them and gave them autographs.

Meanwhile, Maru went to the counter and ordered some drinks for takeout.

“Is she Ahn Joohyun?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, my.”

Even the store owner left the counter to get an autograph. After a round of commotion, the group left the café while being seen out by the owner.

“Ahn Bangjoo. Have a talk with me,” Joohyun said to Bangjoo.

“Right now?”

Maru pushed Bangjoo’s back since he seemed rather hesitant.

“Go ahead. Practice is over now.”

Bangjoo politely greeted everyone that he’d be leaving first and disappeared along with Joohyun.

“Let’s finish up here for today. You guys should go back home.”

“Thanks for your work.”

“We’re off!”

Jiyoon and Aram crossed arms as they walked together, and Dowook soon disappeared on his bike.

“Be careful.”

“You too, Maru.”

Daemyung and Maru separated as well after talking about practice for just a little longer.

As quite some time had passed since they met Joohyun, the skies were pretty dark. The streets were filled with the light of street signs and all sorts of smells of food. Maru became somewhat relaxed due to the familiar night air.

Just as he was walking past a shoe store with a lot of students, his phone started ringing. The caller was Junmin.

“Yes, president.”

-Where are you right now?

“In Suwon.”

-Are you far away from Suwon station?

“No, I can get there in a few minutes if I get a bus.”

-Then come to Suwon station. There should be someone waiting.

“Someone, you say?”

-He’ll tell you the specifics. Also, you’ll be receiving a phone call so don’t forget to take it.

Junmin then immediately hung up. Some thumping sounds from music could be heard in the background, and Maru was not able to guess where he was. An adult establishment? A night club? He didn’t even get to ask what it was about since it sounded like he should hurry. Maru got on the bus even while being a little confused. He got an empty seat at the back and was looking at his phone. Just then, his phone started ringing, just as Junmin said.

“Hello?”

-Is this Mr. Han Maru’s phone?

“Yes. I’m Han Maru.”

-Oh, alright. You got a call from your president, didn’t you?

“I did, but I didn’t get to hear what it was about. What’s it about?”

Just in time, Suwon station could be seen ahead. After a buzzer sound, everyone stood up. As this was a full bus, Maru wasn’t in a situation where he could stand up while he was still on his phone. He told the other party that he’d call right back before standing up. When the bus arrived at Suwon station and opened the back door, there was a small turmoil.

“Hey! Get on after we get off!”

“You guys are really impatient.”

As it was rush hour, the bus spat out people from both the front and the back, and people got on from both the front and the back. Maru barely managed to get off the bus among the crowd of people that were rushing to get on. It was understandable that they wanted to go home early and rest, but who would be blamed if someone got hurt because of their actions?

Watching the bus take off with full passengers again, Maru redialled the phone number that he received before.

-Are you at Suwon station?

“Yes. I’m right in front of it.”

-I’m sorry, but can you wave your hand for me?

Maru waved his hand above his head beneath the pedestrian crossing in front of Suwon station. When he did, one of the cars parked on the side made a horn sound before approaching. It was a black middle-sized car.

“Mr. Han Maru?” The man asked with a smile as he got out of his car. The man, who seemed to be in his mid twenties, was wearing jeans and a hoodie.

“Yes. I’m Han Maru.”

“Looks like I was right. Should we go to a nearby café first?” The man spoke as he looked around.

“But you can’t leave your car here.”

“What?”

“The crackdown here is no joke. 30 minutes after your park, you’ll get a parking ticket, and if you’re unlucky, they’ll tow your car.”

Maru pointed at the car as he spoke. The traffic situation in front of Suwon station was very complex thanks to some traffic construction, especially since the construction was blocking three of the eight lanes. Thanks to that, cars parked here illegally were generally towed away immediately.

“Then what do I do?”

Maru wondered why he was asking him. He replied to the man who was slightly panicking.

“There will be some room if we go just a little further, so let’s go there.”

“Shall we?”

The man smiled and got in the car again. Maru also got in the passenger seat. It seemed like it was a new car as the smell from the air conditioner was quite intense.

“Please allow me to open the windows.”

The man turned off the air conditioner and opened the window. After going past the station, the car turned right. As that place was quite far away from the commercial district, the traffic situation was much better.

“That looks like a good place,” the man pointed at a café to the right and spoke.

While he looked for a place to park, Maru was looking at the piece of bread next to the gearbox. The surface of it was dried out as though it was left out after just one bite. Next to that was a pack of soybean milk that he hadn’t even started drinking.

“Have you had dinner yet?”

“Eh? Ah, not yet.”

The man smiled awkwardly.

“How about we go to that Gukbap place rather than a café? I think that looks like a better place to talk.”

“Shall we?”

The man visibly brightened up. Maru looked at the man with pity, thinking that he should at least eat while he was working. After getting out of the car, the two went through the entrance which had a big boiling pot right next to it. As this place had a shabby sign and was located pretty far away from Suwon, Maru thought that there wouldn’t be that many people here, but unexpectedly, there were quite a lot of customers.

“We have an empty table on the second floor.”

They were guided by an employee to the 2nd floor. When they sat near the window, one lady immediately brought them wet towels and a bottle of water.

“We only have seolleongtang[1] on our menu. Do you want two portions?”

“Yes, please.”

Maru replied in the man’s stead since he looked like he was refraining from speaking as much as possible. The man poured some water before giving it to Maru. Maru felt rather unpleasant since the older person here was acting like the inferior person. Maru took the kettle away from the man and poured the man a cup.

“Thanks.”

The man quickly drank the water. After drinking, he heaved out a deep breath.

“Ah, that’s right, this isn’t the time for this.”

“Uhm, you can take your time and talk about it after the meal. If you aren’t busy, that is.”

“I have plenty of time. I was just worried that you….”

“I’m fine. Rather than that, I didn’t get to know your name yet.”

“Ah, that’s right!”

The man rummaged through his chest pocket, but seemed to have realized something as he reached out to his bag. He was quite fussy.

“Here.”

He held out a business card with both of his hands. A business card? Maru also received the business card with both of his hands. The first thing that caught his eyes were the words ‘JA Production’. So he belonged to the same company? His name was Lee Byungchan, and there was his phone number as well.

“My name is Lee Byungchan, and I’ll be your manager starting today. I’ll be handling your complaints and your schedule or things like that and I’ll try to solve them as quickly as possible.”

Just then, the seolleongtang they ordered came out. Byungchan’s eyes were dazing out as he looked at the food.

“Uhm, you should eat.”

“Okay then!”

He took a deep scoop out with his spoon. He even held his breath as though this was his first meal of the day. He was practically drinking everything in front of him. Maru poured some of the sauce from the kkakdugi[2] before he mixed it in with the rest of the bowl. The thick and warm soup was perfect for his tastes. Perhaps it was because he had a sandwich for dinner, but he felt hungry as well and ate his meal while not minding about Byungchan.

“Phew, that was good.”

Byungchan made a satisfied smile. Maru also put down the spoon.

“I was feeling dizzy because I hadn’t had proper food in a long time. This makes me feel better.”

“Looks like you were busy.”

“Yes. Today’s the first day I started this job, so everything feels so new to me. I was originally an aspiring actor, but things didn’t go that well, perhaps due to my lack of skills. I was feeling pathetic while my parents were worried about me, and I coincidentally became a manager. Oh, sorry for talking about boring stuff all of a sudden.”

Haha - Byungchan scratched his head as he laughed awkwardly. Maru knew that people at his age had it hard, so he liked how this man could smile about it.

“Oh, that’s right. The reason I came here today is to greet you and get to know you, but there’s also something we must do.”

“Something we must do?”

“Yes. I didn’t know if you’ve heard about it from the president or not, but there’s a drama that….”

“Yes. I’ve heard about it. I thought it was up in the air because I didn’t get anything back for a while.”

“The thing is, there’s a schedule for it tomorrow.”

Byungchan carefully took something out from his bag. It was a stack of A4 papers. On the top, it said ‘Youth Generation’.

“You know it, don’t you? It’s a youth drama that just started airing yesterday.”

“No, I don’t really watch TV that much.”

Hearing Maru’s answer, Byungchan blinked several times. After staring absentmindedly for a while, he started laughing awkwardly as he tried to switch the topic. Was ‘not watching TV’ something to be so surprised about?

“Th- that’s right. There’s really not much to see on TV these days. A- anyway, it’s a drama airing on KBS, and season 3 just started. The actors in season 1 did so well that it became a drama that somewhat became an entryway to becoming a star.”

“Ah, okay.”

Maru remembered something. It was one of the dramas that his sister recommended him to watch.

“And you’ll be appearing in it as an extra tomorrow.”

“Huh? Me?”

This time, it was Maru’s turn to be surprised. If it’s a drama that’s already airing, the entire cast should have been decided already. But he suddenly had a role in it?

“Uhm, the thing is….”

Byungchan became hesitant as he avoided direct eye contact with Maru. He was the type of person who didn’t like talking about the bad things. People like them couldn’t easily make lies either. Maru thought about a few potential reasons and then talked about the most common reason for such an event.

“I’m a filler, huh?”

“Ah, yeah, well… it’s like that. I had a brief look at it, but your role is to stop others from fighting and get hit once. You have a few lines as well.”

Byungchan spoke as he flipped through the script. The directions read ‘glaringly after getting hit’. Maru nodded his head. This kind of thing was commonplace when he was a road manager in his previous life. There were lots of free actors in Daehak-ro, and producers used them as cheap replacement actors.

‘If there’s something different, it’s that Junmin put me in there, huh.’

There was no way a drama producer suddenly went ‘I need to put this kid named Han Maru in’. It was probably Junmin who had grabbed the opportunity to try and send Maru into the empty spot. It was plenty doable if he was acquainted with the producer. There wouldn’t be any big problems since it wasn’t any of the main roles either.

Just as he was thinking about that, Maru ended up seeing Byungchan’s eyes as he read the script. They were filled with longing as though looking at an old love. He was someone who had given up his dream of becoming an actor to become a manager, so it was quite understandable.

“...Oh, are you finished?”

“Yes.”

“Th- that’s what’s happening. But the shoot is in the morning, so you’ll have to be absent from school… are you alright with that?”

“Half a day is fine. I won’t have any problems even if I miss out a little.”

“Ah, okay.”

“But let me ask you a favor.”

“Yeah, sure! Go ahead.”

“Please don’t be so polite to me. We’ll be seeing each other a lot in the future.”

“Eh? Sh- should I?”

“Yeah. I’ll call you hyung as well.”

“That’s better for me. Ha, haha.”

Just as he was scratching his head, Byungchan flinched before putting his hand inside his pocket. It seemed that he got a call.

“Wait a moment, please. I mean, not please. Yes, yes, Mr. Sooil. Ah, yes. I’ll look into the schedule and call you back right afterwards. Yes, yes. Please rest at ease.”

After the call, Byungchan sighed.

“You look busy.”

“Yes, I mean, yeah. I’m not a manager for just one person.”

“You’re in charge of multiple people?”

“Yeah. I was put in charge of students who have less work than proper actors. But JA actually has quite a lot of student actors in it. There are many people like you who are acting while still going to school.”

“Really? I didn’t know how many people there are in the company that are near my age. So the one named Sooil is similar to me in age?”

“Yeah, he’s a high school student as well. But he’s a little picky, or should I say he differentiates his public and private lives too much? It’s a little scary to be at ease around him.”

Byungchan smiled faintly. Maru knew how he felt. Road managers were absolutely weak compared to the people they were in charge of. If the person they are in charge of is young and popular, they would even feel a sense of shame. That kid is earning in the hundreds of millions at his age, yet here I am driving away at the wheel - that was the basic outline. It couldn’t be helped that the brighter the light, the darker the shadow became.

“You can be at ease around me. Both of us have it hard.”

“Thanks. Phew, actually I almost ended up crying when you told me that we should come here instead of the café. Thanks a lot.”

This fellow had a good smile. Maru felt that it would be okay to be close with this guy if this guy was his manager.

“Should we get up? I need to get going.”

“Okay then.”

Byungchan stood up after emptying the water in his cup.

‘But wait, do managers carry around business cards?’

Maru thought about the business card in his wallet.

Well, it wasn’t a big problem. Maybe the president made one for him.

Leaving the building, Maru was driven to Suwon station by Byungchan. He looked like he was about to drive him home, but Maru wanted to send him off because he looked very tired.

“Then you should get going, hyung. Also, get some sleep. You can’t be driving while you feel sleepy.”

“Alright. You should be careful as well.”

Byungchan, who closed the window and was about to depart, rolled down the window again.

“Please take care of me in the future!”

“Okay.”

Byungchan waved his hand with a smile.


[1] Ox bone soup

[2] Cubed radish kimchi

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KTLChamber's Thoughts

Dammit, I didn't realize that I messed up release timings and released two for the free readers.

I didn't have any chapters in stock, so I did this in a hurry. (and it's freaky long too... nearly 3k words)