Chapter 32

“I told you, I’m fine.”

“Please take it.”

“Come on, teach.”

Miso sighed as Taesik stuffed the envelope in her coat pocket.

“I can earn enough money on my own.”

“I know you earn enough money, instructor Yang. But that’s a separate matter.”

“It was so much better when I was just a student, things are so awkward now.”

Taesik smiled. Miso put the envelope in her pants pocket, thinking that she really couldn’t beat this teacher.

“I know you don’t earn this much, teach. It’s ok, seriously.”

“I live alone, so it’s fine. Plus, I saw everything. You spend a ton of money feeding the kids.”

“I told you not to worry about it. You know it’s going to cost me much, much more if you were paying me properly, right?”

“That’s why I’m very thankful. I was feeling very sorry when I first called you. I thought I was taking your time, especially since I knew there were other clubs that wanted you. Ah, speaking of which, I saw that college play of yours last time. The one you produced. It was very good.”

“Oh, you did? You should’ve told me. Don’t tell me you bought the ticket?”

“Of course I did. The play deserved a proper payment.”

“Ugh, when are you ever going to make use of your student?”

Miso scratched her head. She was reminded of high school. Back when Taesik and the club members were all new to the school. Many things went badly for them, which made school difficult, but thanks to that one crazy guy, they managed to pull off their play nicely.

What would things have been like if she didn’t join the club then? Her life would definitely be a lot more boring compared to now.

“Do any other former club members come by every once in a while?”

“Of course. They’re all doing very well. I’m proud.”

“Of course they would be. They’re your students. But by the way, teach?”

“Yes?”

“Can’t you do something about that style of yours? Especially the way you talk.”

“Is there something wrong with it?”

“You sound so old talking like that. You’re not even 40, but you sound like a grandpa.”

“38 might as well be 40 at this point.”

“Ugh… at this rate you’re never going to get married.”

“That’s unfortunate.”

Taesik seemed more composed than ever. Miso took a look at the man’s clothing. He was wearing a very old jacket with stained jeans. Under the jacket she could see a knit sweater that grandpas often were to hikes.

“Do you even have a girlfriend?”

“Hum, hum.”

“I knew it. You’re going to regret it, you know?”

“I’ve thought this 13 years ago as well, but you’re very difficult to deal with, instructor Yang.”

“Why?”

“You don’t hesitate to hurt people. Well, enough about me. You should keep teaching the kids. I haven’t seen kids this motivated in a while. The props are incredibly well made as well.”

“The props were done by Maru.”

“Maru?”

“Yeah. Speaking of him, he’s kind of weird. He definitely doesn’t act his age.”

“He is a lot more thoughtful than others. Very polite as well. Well, not polite. He’s...”

“Considerate. He makes me feel like I’m drinking with a person that’s hard to deal with. He always seems to be troubled about something, and he always looks like he’s experienced everything before.”

“He’s just a lot more thoughtful than most students.”

“He’s way too thoughtful. You should talk with him sometime. It really feels like there’s an old man hiding inside of the kid.”

“That’s a little...”

“That’s exactly what it is.”

Miso took out her phone. The school bell rang, signaling an end to the school day. It was time to meet the kids again.

“I’ll get going then.”

“Sure. Good luck.”

“Don’t worry. Also, you really have to change out of those clothes. Got it?”

“I’ll think about it.”

“Don’t just think about it, just do it!!”

“Fine, fine. Just get going.”

Taesik waved her away. Miso shook her head. A freshman acting like a 50 year old, and a 30 year old was acting like a 60 year old. What the hell was this?

‘Ugh, I’ll just buy him something myself in the future.’

Looking at the man just made her feel frustrated.

‘He looks really cool if he just pays attention to himself.’

Taesik was the star of the school just 13 years ago. His looks, accompanied with his smile and speech… He was every high school girl’s crush. Miso turned back once again. She could see Taesik smiling at her, in that incredibly old jacket of his.

“Sigh.”

The years really haven’t been kind to the poor man.

* * *

Miso looked a lot worse than usual today. Maru tried to slip out of the auditorium when she wasn’t paying attention, lest he were to incur her wrath as well.

“Han Maru!”

Oh boy, it was too late. What was she going to say this time?

“Wait right there. You guys stay here practicing your lines. You better not make a mistake by the time I come back, got it?”

“Yes ma’am!”

“Good.”

Miso walked over to the auditorium entrance where Maru was standing. She seemed to have made up her mind about something, which meant nothing but trouble to him.

“Um, what...”

“Follow me.”

“What?”

Miso grabbed his arm. She seemed to be planning on dragging him elsewhere. Maru had no intention of allowing that though. He didn’t like getting pulled away without a reason like this.

“Follow me.”

“Please tell me where we’re going.”

“Aha, so you’re planning on resisting, huh? You think I’m weak because I’m a girl? Just you watch, I...”

Miso pulled at his sleeves. She was strong for sure. Especially for a woman. But Maru didn’t even budge. He could easily take something like this. His body was almost abnormally strong compared to his past self. It was probably another one of the gifts given to him in starting his life again.

“Ughhh.”

Miso pulled harder.

“Um, you could just tell me...”

“Shut it. This has to do with my pride.”

Pride? Here?

Miso tugged him with all of her strength. She was getting weirdly competitive with this. Maru looked back. He could hear voices behind him. The club members were all looking at them with concerned expressions.

“Look away!”

Miso shouted. The club members instantly looked somewhere else. Kind of like meerkats. Maru stepped forward, shaking his head. This was making him embarrassed now.

“Don’t you dare move. I’m going to make you move by force.”

“You win, instructor.”

“Hey!”

“Let’s go.”

Maru stepped down, leaving Miso behind him. He could hear her huffing loudly, but decided to ignore it. He’s dealt with a lot of actors as a road manager in the past. One thing he’s learned about actors during that time… was that many actors had a very innocent side to them.

Innocence was a really good way of putting it. A lot of times, they were more childish. Acting is an art form where a person had to throw their all into a play. Shame has no experience in acting. That’s why a lot of actors have strange personalities. Strange enough for people to misunderstand that these actors were rude. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just meant that those actors are successful. Successful and skilled enough to make money despite their rudeness. Most unsuccessful actors acted as humble as they could. But actors with stable careers typically acted with pride.

Speaking of which, he recalled that Miso was a pretty famous instructor as well. She wasn’t even over 30 yet, meaning she had a very bright future ahead of her. That is…

She was talented, so she didn’t need to act humble at all, which lead to the development of a very stubborn worldview. You can’t just keep losing to people like her. They would keep sticking to you otherwise. The best tactic to take, then, was to either keep ignoring them or to just suck up to them. Out of those two, Maru decided to just ignore her. The effect was pretty immediate.

“......”

Miso came down the stairs with an annoyed look. She took a deep breath before walking over to the parking lot to Maru’s observation.

“Come on, get over here. I’m an adult you know. Follow me for once.”

“Where are we going?”

“I want to show you something.”

“What?”

“Hyehwa station.”

“The place with all the college theaters?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

“Why do you think?”

Miso opened the door of her car.

“Get in!”

* * *

Miso glanced quickly over at Maru. The boy was turning another page of his book. To think a kid would maintain his pace so well like this… It was almost frightening.

“What are you reading?”

“It’s an autobiography by an actor. It’s pretty fun.”

The boy didn’t even look at her as he spoke. He was deeply engrossed in whatever chapter he was on. Miso… honestly was a little bit greedy for Maru. If a normal kid acted like him, she would’ve just ignored him from the start. But…

‘To think he’d be able to read his lines so calmly, especially with that breath...’

One time when Geunseok was running late to the club, Miso let Maru read the other boy’s line during practice. It was a pretty long line, enough for a normal student to lose their breath in the middle of it. She was fully expecting Maru to lose his breath and stutter and everything, but then?

She found Maru reading the line start to finish without missing a single beat. His voice didn’t even shake during the reading. He seemed to be used to reading lines like this. This was the most important part. Imbuing emotions into those lines came later.

Breathing and diction are the two most important things for any actor. In that sense… Maru was a born genius. Miso was confident that the boy would catch the eyes of a judge during any high school competition if he practiced enough.

Thing was, the boy didn’t seem interested. No, that was wrong. The boy was interested. That was why he was here. He was feeling conflicted. About what, Miso wasn’t so sure. It was something clearly complicated though, far more so than anything a normal high schooler would deal with.

That’s why Miso decided to do this today. Leaving such raw talent just wasn’t her style.

“I’m going to drag that thing out of you.”

“Drag the what?”

“You’ll see.”

Miso stepped on the gas with a grin.

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