Chapter 33

Hyehwa station. It’s been a while. The streets were filled with the gentle breeze of May. He could see people walking around with light clothes. Were they actors or audiences? Maru wasn’t sure. He could see a man walking around with a guitar on his back. The man sat down next to a cafe and started playing like that was his stage right there.

The guitar’s noise didn’t travel very far, especially without an amp. People still flocked around him regardless. The man’s melodic voice had quite the strength to it. Various students, couples, and individuals were flocking around him.

“Want to listen?” Miso asked. Maru nodded.

The man’s music was good enough to pay to listen to. The man was surrounded by a massive crowd in no time. After finishing his first song, he gave the crowd a short bow. This definitely wasn’t his first time. The crowd opened up their wallets as the man opened his case towards them. Maru took out a thousand won, too. One of the kids even gave the man an unopened pack of bread on his hand.

“Thank you.”

The musician took a bite of the bread, giving a curt nod towards the kid. Someone else gave him a drink in response.

“Man, I’m lucky today,” the man laughed. After finishing his food, he started his next song.

He was playing purely using his fingers and voice, unaided by any devices. After singing four more songs, the man stood up from his spot.

“The next performance will be at Maronier park.”

He left with that, bringing a part of the crowd behind him like rats following the pied piper.

“Shall we go?” Miso asked.

“Where?”

“What else would we do here other than to watch plays? Let’s just watch a short one.”

Miso tried to drag Maru away by his arm again. Maru removed his arm from her grip carefully before walking by himself.

“You’ve got quite the personality, huh?”

“I don’t like being dragged around.”

“Even if you were dragged all the way here already?”

“We could go back, then.”

“...Tsk. You talk too well.”

Miso stepped forward first. There was quite a crowd in front of both of them. It was a warm Saturday. It was inevitable that lots of people would come out to play. But as the two of them stepped towards one of the smaller theaters, a voice called out to them.

“You’re here to watch plays, right?”

The voice was from a handsomely-dressed man. Probably a college student. He had a few tickets and pamphlets in his hand.

‘A part-timer, huh,’ Maru noted.

One of the few regular things you would get to see at Hyehwa station. Some of it was done by the youngest member of the troupe, but most of it was done by hired part-timers. Maru knew about them pretty well. Since their pay rate depended directly on their sales, they would often stick to you like leeches.

“This is a play that our theater is host...”

Right when the man said about this much, Miso grabbed the man’s shoulder and pushed him away.

“We’re both in the same line of business. Can we not?”

The man shut his mouth with a frown. He looked like he stepped on feces. He dusted off his clothes and walked away muttering ‘freaking unlucky’.

“What? Unlucky?” Miso snarled.

“Just leave. Don’t bother my work. Jeez.”

The man stepped off after giving Miso a short glare. Miso opened her mouth for a second with an angry expression but stopped herself after a glance at Maru.

“Ugh, so many delinquents around here nowadays,” she said instead.

“Don’t worry about it. He’s just trying to make money.”

“Right. Trying to make money. That’s why I’m being so understanding. But that doesn’t mean… wait, did you come here before?”

“A few times.”

Maru answered lazily before turning to look at the man again. He was approaching a few female students with a bright grin on his face. He was beginning to explain with a bunch of gestures, halting the students’ movements.

“He’s got one, that bastard,” Miso said.

Maru took another look at the man and the students. The man was using more forceful words by the second. He could feel the students getting more troubled as well. The man showed them the tickets. He didn’t seem to be planning on letting them go unless they bought it. In the end, the students whispered together for a second before reaching for their wallets.

Maru headed over to the group. It wasn’t bad for them to get introduced to plays this way, but… He didn’t like how the guy was doing it. Threats were a no go.

“Just go buy the love tickets.”

“Excuse me?” the students responded.

Maru could feel the man glaring at him.

“Students get to watch at a cheaper price. You should check them out.“

“Ah, thank you.”

The girls shuffled away towards the way Maru pointed. They didn’t stop even when the man shouted ‘hey hey, come back, we have better things here’ at them.

“Damn it. Had to get a few idiots blocking my way.”

The man stood in front of Maru.

“You here to sell tickets as well?”

“Nope.”

“Then what are you doing? Why are you blocking my sales? Are you from a different theater? No, there’s no way. You’re just a high schooler. Fuck.”

“Please why your language. And there’s nothing good about forcing your tickets onto poor students.”

“Force? Me? Hah. You call a nice introduction like that a forceful one? Huh? Huh?!”

The man poked Maru’s shoulders a few times. A word bubble popped out when their eyes met.

[Fucking turd.]

Well, there really was no need to see it.

“I’m sorry for being a little turd. In any case, I would actually like to apologize for interfering with your business.”

Maru bowed. He wasn’t planning on saying this much in the beginning. He was just planning on walking away after getting the girls away. But the more he talked, the more annoyed Maru became. Why was he getting so annoyed over this? This wasn’t the type of thing that should bother him this much.

“Hah, just leave. You’re annoying me.”

“Just don’t be so forceful. What if they never come here again?”

“I get it so leave. Fucking...”

The man raised his fist. Maru wasn’t too surprised. The first thing that came to his mind was ‘I’ll just report him if I get hit’. The classic method of defense against older men. He stepped forward, taunting the man to punch. The man was the one who became more troubled by that. He walked away with an annoyed face, looking for a new place to sell tickets.

“You’re quite a piece of work, did you know that?” Miso said.

Maru had to agree with that one. He really didn’t expect to be doing that. That wasn’t something neither his younger or older self would’ve ever thought about doing. So what was that? What made him so annoyed at the part-timer? He couldn’t really figure out why and thinking about why just made his head hurt more.

‘Did something happen in the future?’

His memories were just getting hazier. Watching them just sink underneath like that in real-time made him feel a little scared sometimes.

‘At least I can remember them at crucial moments.’

“Let’s go.”

“...Sure.”

* * *

The place Miso lead him to was a small theater located on the second floor of a building. The theater’s name was Blue Sky.

“Blue Sky?”

“Seem familiar?”

Miso smiled mysteriously as she stepped in. When Maru followed, he was greeted with a line of people next to the entrance. He could hear a few voices from inside.

“We’ll be accepting those with assigned seats first. I’m sorry for the wait this might cause.”

A lady was guiding the crowd with a smile. She seemed to be in her mid-twenties.

“Let’s wait a bit. We don’t want to bother the audience.”

“Sure.”

Miso was very forceful a lot of the times, but when it came to her work she was more serious than anyone else. Eventually, they were next in line.

“Senior!”

“Hey.”

“It’s been too long.”

“Too long? I was here 2 weeks ago.”

“But I wasn’t here then. Are you here for someone?”

“Nah. I’m here to show this kid a play.”

The woman’s eyes landed on Maru, who responded with a curt nod.

“He looks nice. Who is he?”

“I have no idea.”

The woman made a confused look for a second.

“You got any seats left? We’ll stand in the back if not,” Miso continued.

“We’ll probably have a few available.”

“I’ll wait, then. I want to check if you’ll get any more customers.”

“Ok.”

Maru stepped into the theater with Miso. It was dimly lit with darkened lights. There seemed to be around 70 seats in the entire theater packed into the building. It wasn’t possible to sit comfortably, but that was what made theaters charming.

“Please stop eating once the play begins. We’ll give you plenty of time for pictures after the play as well, so please refrain from that during the actual play. These are rules that are meant for you to enjoy the play to the fullest, so please understand.”

The lady at the line started talking on the stage. The audience started putting away their food immediately.

“We don’t have any spare seats.”

“I can watch standing.”

“Yes, let’s. This can be pretty fun, too.”

Miso seemed strangely excited. She actually felt quite a bit different compared to her usual self when she came to Hyehwa station. More… excited? Kind of in a way that kids were excited. The lights started to dim in the theater, signaling the start of the play. Right then, someone came up to the two of them to talk.

“You’re here.”

“Yep.”

Maru took a look at the man talking with Miso. He couldn’t make out much of the man’s face out of the shadow.

“Alright, I’ll see you later then.”

“Where are you going?”

“The director wants to see me.”

“Ugh. You’re a total star now, aren’t you?”

“Psh, this is nothing. Who’s the kid?”

“Who knows, a future coworker?”

“Hm, is that so?”

Maru squinted. His eyes were starting to adjust to the dark light, but before he could make out the man’s face, he stepped away from sight.

“Sorry you have to work with Miso. She’s a piece of work,” he said before leaving.

Maru couldn’t help but snort a little. Miso opened her mouth to say something, but the play started by then.

“It’s starting.”

“Shut up and just watch.”

“Alright.”

Ding.

The spotlight turned on with a ding of a bell.

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