Chapter 46

You’re still going to regret it, but that’s just life.

“Yo, head.”

“Yes?”

“Why are you so dazed?”

“I’ve been thinking.”

“You think too much.”

Miso threw him a drink. The club members went through two more runs after Maru talked with Geunsoo at the rooftop. They didn’t make a single mistake in either of them. Confidence was starting to appear in their voices, and they struggled less in their blocking.

One step closer to perfection.

After the two runs ended, it was time for dinner. Geunsoo and Soojin decided to treat the entire club out to a meat buffet. The students sucked in meat almost like a vacuum.

Maru was busy cooking meat up for his friends, which disappeared almost as soon as it was cooked. Miso crept up next to him, curious about what happened between him and Geunsoo at the rooftop.

“What did Geunsoo tell you?”

“He told me to keep thinking and hesitating. But he also told me I’m going to regret it anyways.”

“That lunatic is saying some dumb stuff again.”

Miso clicked her tongue in annoyance. When Maru stared back, Miso turned away dismissing it as nothing.

Maru could see the club members behind Miso. Though they were all happily eating the meat on their plate, there was a small air of nervousness among them.

“Don’t take his words too seriously. He’s a complete lunatic. He doesn’t think like us normal people at all.”

“You don’t seem very normal though, instructor?”

“Again with your argumentativeness. Can’t you just say ‘yes’ once? Are you going through puberty or something?”

“Who knows. Maybe I’m going for a second round?”

“What?”

“Hahaha.”

Maru grinned as he flipped some more meat. There was really only one reason why he hesitated so much in jumping into things.

It was because of his wife and daughter of the future.

Despite the fact that he could barely recall their names or what they even looked like, he still loves them all the same.

The emotions were all there, even if the information wasn’t.

But he recalled ‘that woman’ telling him that when the time came, he would definitely remember. So he needed to be ready. He didn’t want to make his family live in poverty.

The saying that ‘you can be happy as long as you have love’ was true. But if there was more money involved in the story, you could become ‘even’ more happy. That’s just how capitalism worked.

Most family feuds start with money. It was the same in his previous life. His family wasn’t in poverty or anything, but they weren’t able to live a particularly luxurious life either.

It was high time he tried living the middle class life. He didn’t even dare think about trying to become filthy rich. He just didn’t want his children to suffer from the lack thereof.

“Making money with acting must be hard, right?”

“......”

Miso frowned as she stopped herself from putting a lettuce wrap into her mouth.

“Would you like to hear the reality of it, or the ideals?”

“Well, they say hearing the worst of it first is always for the best, but… Tell me the good side of it first.”

“If you become an actor in a popular theater company, a large salary will accompany your acting. Especially if you land a role as a main character. Plus, you have a very good chance of being spotted by movie directors or managers of large entertainment companies. You could go into movies, dramas, teaching, whatever you want. There’s a bunch of things you can do to make money.”

“That really does sound ideal. The reality, then?”

Miso stuffed the wrap into her mouth. She glared ferociously at the patiently waiting Maru as she chewed.

“Most theater companies are actually very close to being bankrupt. While the ideals apply to the popular theater companies, most of them struggle to get by. The smaller ones end up doing volunteer work or plays for children most of the time. They can’t pay for their theater otherwise.”

Miso took a glug of her soda angrily.

“A lot of the time, you might not even get paid,” Geunsoo butted.

Miso glared, saying ‘buzz off’ from the side, but the man just ignored her completely.

“What’s the first thing you think of when you think of a safe job?” he asked.

Maru found himself saying ‘government worker’ almost without hesitation.

“Ding ding ding, correct. That’s exactly the answer for actors as well. Government funded theater companies. As long as you don’t do anything incredibly crazy, there’s no worry of being fired. But the number of actors who try to get into those jobs… well, there’s probably more of them than there are grains of rice in this rice bowl.”

Geunsoo took a deep breath before continuing.

“You’re lucky if you manage to get into a government funded theater company. It’s quite literally a dream job. But getting into it is harder than getting into a popular theater company. Now, let’s really talk about the reality of it.”

Geunsoo clapped his hands together. Miso was still glaring angrily, but he continued ignoring her.

“90% of the time, you don’t even think about getting paid well. What happens to most newbie actors is that they start from the very bottom from Hyehwa station.”

“Very bottom?”

“Yes. The theater calls these newbies ‘actors’ on paper, but these guys are just unpaid interns there to do the cleaning in reality. Well, they do feed you at the very least. But you have to be ready to be worked like a slave when you’re applying for a theater company with no experience. Hell, some of these companies might even disappear without a trace before you get a chance to be paid.”

“Hey, they aren’t all like that. Don’t scare the poor boy,” Miso countered. But there was a distinct lack of confidence in her voice, contrary to her character.

“Most of these people throw away both time and money just to get a chance to be on stage. In the end, they either succeed, or leave the industry after suffering from burnout. A buddy of mine worked at a theater company until he was 35. He wasn’t paid for his first year, but he stayed just so that he could be on stage. He worked shifts at night and practiced by day. He gave up on his girlfriend, family, friends just so that he could stay at Hyehwa station. He staked his life on the business.”

“So, what’s he doing now?”

“He went into a factory. He must be working his ass off there still. But you know what? He still wants to do acting. That’s what happens to people who get consumed by acting.”

Geunsoo took a shot of soju as he spoke. Though his body reeked of alcohol, he didn’t seem the least bit drunk.

“I didn’t do acting because I wanted a secure future. I didn’t do it for money. I did it because that’s what got my blood boiling. Money? I didn’t care about money back then. But you do. In that case, I can tell you this. You’ll make more money from doing two part time jobs at the same time. Or just study. But I don’t think you’re that suited for that. I’d tell you to do anything you want if you’re just looking to have fun in high school. But you’re purely here to prepare yourself to make money. In that case, I’d try to stop you from going into acting. The acting industry is disgustingly difficult to succeed in. No one cares how much you’ve worked, or how good you are at acting. No one knows who’s going to succeed in this business. Looking for a stable pay in this industry? Hah, you’re better off trying to teach pigs to fly.”

Geunsoo took another shot of soju. Maru had to retract his previous statement. The man was definitely a bit drunk. His words were packed with grandeur, as he looked around all over the place in a daze.

“Smart people don’t buy lottery tickets looking for success. They buy it for a little bit of entertainment in their lives. Maru, you’re a smart kid, aren’t you? That means you need to think. You need to think about whether you’re in this club to make high school memories, or if you’re here to become a lunatic like the rest of us.”

Geunsoo gave Geunseok a little glance from his seat. He looked like he had a lot to say to his brother. Maru finally understood why the man gave his brother such a tense look during the dress rehearsal. He was worried about his brother following him in his footsteps.

After all, the man said himself that trying to find success in this business was akin to winning a lottery ticket. You needed talent, good looks, and luck.

Maru recalled the days he spent as a road manager. In those days, many of the actors he took care of gave up on the industry and went back to leading a normal life. Only a select few of them truly managed to make it big.

‘There sure were a lot of idols back then.’

Idols were all over televisions back in the day, and those were only the ones that were somewhat well off. 90% of them were unable to even get any screen time. As a matter of fact, there were up to 200 girl groups that debuted in a single year when he was a road manager.

‘There were a lot of groups that disbanded without succeeding.’

The memories were all flowing back again. The more he thought, the more they kept popping up in droves. Almost as if the heavens were telling him to live his life as he had done before.

“Well… having fun would be for the best, wouldn’t it?” Maru said.

It was a bit uncomfortable to see Miso’s face visibly distort in the background, but he decided to ignore it.

“I have no idea, kid. That’s your decision to make. You need to keep searching for what you want to do; when you do, just stick to it as much as you can. If the monster of acting ends up catching you, you might as well say goodbye to your normal life. The fact that Miso is attached to you is a sign that the monster noticed you already. Miso has a good eye for these things. You like safety, right? Then you should make your decision quickly. Prevent the monster from coming for you.”

Geunsoo collapsed on the spot after finishing his sentence. With that, the meal was pretty much over. They couldn’t continue with the man constantly giggling to himself on the floor. The club members walked towards the school with Miso afterwards.

“We’re sleeping at school tonight,” Dojin told Maru.

They only had a single day left until the competition. They were probably trying to save as much time as they could. Maru waved the group off as he pressed Geunsoo into Soojin’s car.

“Will you be alright?”

“This isn’t the first time this happened. I’ll be fine. This guy always tries to drink way too much when his tolerance is so low.”

Soojin lightly hit Geunsoo with a frown.

“You should be careful, too. Good work today.”

“Thank you. Take care.”

“Sure. I’ll see you in two days.”

The red car revved up and started moving. Maru watched the car disappear from his sight before getting on his bike. He felt a lot more clear minded now. Geunsoo’s words really helped.

“So this much should be fine for now.”

Doing puppet plays with Soojin, and staffing at the club.

“It’s not bad as a hobby.”

Thinking about it this way comforted him immensely. The fact that he still didn’t know where he wanted to go with his life bothered him slightly, but at least this was progress.

He started pedalling forward as he hummed to himself.

That night, Maru dreamed.

An actor in a black and white mask was bowing towards the audience on stage while the curtains were closing. And right as the curtains were about to fully close, Maru’s eyes met with the actor’s.

Maru could see the man’s lips curl up into a smile.

“You can make your decision, but I’ll be the one to give you the options to begin with.”

And, darkness.

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