Chapter 34

Plays were definitely more unpopular than movies. Movies you could watch anywhere. They were cheaper. Sometimes they were easier to understand as well. Because of this, plays became a pastime that no one particularly cared about.

Some people never even watched a play in their entire lives. There were just too many other things to see, namely movies. But Miso was sure that a single play would be all it takes to make a person enthralled with plays.

‘Plays have their own charm. It’s fun. You can’t deny that.’

Miso glanced at Maru a bit. The boy was thoughtful. Brave. Hard to handle. But also confused. At least, to Miso, he was. She didn’t know what the boy was conflicted about. The boy was pretty studious, as far as she could see. He would finish every task Miso would give him, and he was never late to club meetings. He was fast and efficient, like many adults she’s worked with, in the past.

Righ. An adult. Maru was acting like an adult. Almost like he was one his entire life. He interferes with other people’s lives plenty of times, but never crosses a certain line. He never gets mad, and takes care of problems calmly. He has backup plans as well. Just like when he stepped forward to get hit by that student earlier.

Maru… didn’t have any drive. He was at an age where he really didn’t have anything to lose at all. The age where he could do anything he wanted without any big consequences.

That was what made a person’s teenage years so bright. Because they could do as they pleased with little to no consequence. But Miso wasn’t able to see this light from Maru. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. People all have their own ways of living their lives, and Maru had clearly found his own. The first thing Miso felt when looking at Maru was ‘balance’. The boy was relaxed enough about life to be able to handle just about anything. Like a boulder that could withstand the strongest of storms.

Of course, she might just have been imagining things. While she thought she was pretty good at judging people, this didn’t mean she trusted herself completely. There was a need to watch the boy further.

Well, at least she knew Maru was a good kid at this point. And that he was quite a character. The only worrying part of it was…

‘His balance.’

Miso couldn’t help but think that this balance of Maru’s would only help him in the long run. Plays required actors to keep changing themselves. To keep adapting to their new characters and plays. It was a challenge. Acting is an art of challenging oneself. The polar opposite of who Maru was. Would the boy have the courage to keep on facing new challenges?

‘I’m overthinking things again.’

Miso shook her head. She was thinking too much, especially when the boy wasn’t even willing to act yet. Right now, all she wanted to do was to make the boy passionate about plays.

‘I know for sure that you like plays.’

“Pft.”

Miso raised her head after hearing the laughter. The actors were putting on a comedic show on the stage with a lottery ticket. Maru was laughing when the play intended for him to laugh.

‘He’s definitely used to watching plays.’

Miso looked down at the sitting audience. The people were trying their best to hide their laughter, worrying that they might disturb the actors if they got too loud. It was inevitable. Miso acted the same way when she watched her first play. She was at the front rows at the time, a place where she could see and hear everything from the actors. Everything from the beads of sweat perspiring from their heads to their exhausted huffs. She was so sure at the time that the actors could hear her if she talked. That’s why she tried her best to stay quiet in her seat. She grit her teeth to stop herself from laughing, and pinched her thighs when she wanted to cry.

Her friends were the same. They tried their best to stay quiet in their seats as well, trying not to appear rude to the actors.

‘Come to think of it, that crazy bastard was different.’

She thought of a particular person in her head. The boy who burst out laughing at comic scenes, and cried his eyes out at sad ones. Watching him at the time made Miso feel very ashamed. She knew better now though. That the boy made a better audience than anyone else in the theater.

“Hahaha!”

Maru started laughing a little bit more loudly, watching a particular actor on the stage. Miso could tell that the actor was getting visibly more excited by the boy’s laughter. Reactions from the audience were like fuel for the actor. And when the audience reacted strongly…

“Now! Let’s decide who’ll take the money for this ticket!”

The actor would act more with more passion. Miso put aside her thoughts for a second. She didn’t want them getting in her way of the play.

* * *

The actors finished their curtain call after their play and were greeted with a round of applause from the audience.

“You may start taking pictures now! Please take many of them and promote us if you could!”

A photo session finally came around after the lights turned on. Some people were taking pictures enthusiastically, while others just left. The girl who had been handling ticketing, in the beginning, was handing out surveys at the exit.

“If you bring this to us after filling this out, we’ll give you a discount. You can also fill the survey out online. Everyone counts, so please fill it out!”

Only about half of the audience took the survey sheet. Half of those threw away the survey sheet straight into the trash can. The girl took back the uncrumpled survey sheets with a smile.

“Ten people took it this time. It’s a new record!”

Ten out of seventy. It wasn’t that many at all, but it was clearly enough to make the girl excited.

“How was it?” Miso asked.

“It was fun. It’s been a while since I last saw one.”

“A while?”

“Yes. About twenty...”

Maru coughed after realizing his mistake.

“Two years. I haven’t seen one in over two years.”

“Didn’t you say twenty?”

“No way, you must’ve misheard me.”

“Alright, fine.”

The theater was completely empty by then. Miso walked up to the front of the theater to one of the seats. Maru sat down with her. After a moment of waiting, the actors approached them.

“Senior, you’re here? Especially now?”

It was the actor who played the father role. The other actors seemed equally excited to see her. Well, all but one, actually.

“W-welcome!”

One of the male actors was clearly very nervous. Miso smiled at him, saying ‘it’s about time we got a little closer, isn’t it?’

“You guys all seem to be doing well. It was fun.”

“Well, you taught us, after all. But really, why are you here? Did you come to buy us food?”

“I’d have come later if it was for food. It’s actually...”

Miso stopped talking to stare at Maru.

“What is it?”

“Do you want to try going up?”

“Up where?”

“The stage, obviously.”

Miso pointed at the stage that the actors were on just a moment ago. The actors nodded collectively before stepping aside for Maru.

“She has her eyes on you, huh?”

“Poor kid.”

“Good luck.”

This must’ve happened a few times in the past. Maru turned to look at the actors. They were taking their seats in the audience. Then… The actor was?

“Go up.”

Miso kept motioning for him to go up. How unlucky. Maru hesitated for a second, but climbed on stage anyway. There was no real reason for him to refuse her.

The stage looked a lot larger once he was on it. The audience seats looked a lot larger as well.

“How is it?” Miso asked.

“It’s bigger than I thought.”

“Right? It looked a lot smaller down there, right?”

“Yes.”

Miso nodded proudly.

“Keeping the stage occupied is our job. If that stage looks empty to the audience, it means that the actors aren’t doing a good job.”

“I see.”

Maru could see it. He’s never gotten the sense that the stage was empty during the play. In a way, Miso was praising her juniors for their skill.

“Well then,” she started.

Miso threw Maru a script, which he received with both hands.

“Lights, please.”

One of the actors stepped into the lighting room. The theater started turning dark, and a spotlight turned on where he was standing.

“Want to try reading?” Miso asked.

“Here?”

“Yup.”

Maru stared at the lines for a second before asking a question.

“Why?”

“...Can’t you just do the thing?”

“I need a reason to do it.”

“But you always did it back at school.”

“That’s because it helps with practice for the other students.”

He was thankful that she took him out to watch a play. He hadn’t laughed like that in a while. But he didn’t see why he had to read for her on the stage though. His only observation was Miso’s strange insistence for this.

“You really don’t like to lose, do you? Damn high schoolers.”

Miso turned to her juniors with agitation. But...

“Good job!”

“Yeah, show her!”

“Nice!”

They must’ve suffered quite a lot from Miso. They only shut their mouths when Miso cursed ‘you god damn idiots’ under her breath.

“This is an extension of club activities as well.”

“I’m a stage manager.”

“Your job is to convey your emotions about this to your other members. Is that enough?”

No, it really isn’t enough. Maru just opened the script regardless, unwilling to extend the argument any further. He’d rather go back to school, so he took a deep breath before reading the first line.

“It was his fault.”

The reading began.

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