Chapter 580

Shit, shit, shit - that word kept reverberating in his head. Why was this happening? His heart was racing without his consent. It was good that it was pumping out blood, but it was clearly overdoing it. He could feel his blood wildly circulating around his body. Thunderous noises echoed inside his body. He could hear loud thumping noises as though his heart was beating right next to his eardrums.

He emptied a whole 500ml bottle of water to suppress his nervousness, but his mouth became dryer instead. Did he even drink any at all? Chihwan looked at the empty water bottle in his hands in vexation. Was there only half of it left?

“Hey, when are you going to start?”

“Let’s get started already.”

His colleagues jokingly commented. Although they were just acting like usual, their words made him even more chaotic today. Their words were stretched out like an audio clip from a stretched videotape. After that, the noise slowly died down. The voices of his friends became smaller and conversely, the noise of his heart became louder to the point that he thought it was about to jump out of his mouth.

Chihwan bit on the flesh inside his cheeks and went back to the platform. The hall he thought he had gotten used to felt so unfamiliar as though this was the first time he came here. The reason was probably those ‘eyes’. Dozens of pupils looked right at him; the biological organs mixed with black and brown felt like they were sticking all over his body. He was suddenly reminded of when he saw a cockroach at home while he was alone. He was well aware that the small insect wasn’t a big threat to him, but when the glossy back shell twitched, it made him startled nonetheless. He felt sorry towards his seniors and colleagues, but he felt like he was standing amongst dozens of cockroaches right now while being barefoot.

‘It wasn’t like this before.’

When he took the club entry audition as well as the film production club’s audition, he was shaking as well, but he didn’t feel ‘afraid’. He knew that everyone was human and like him, just students, so he felt ‘embarrassed’ at best, but he never felt like he was afraid or wanted to run away. If he disliked standing in front of people, he would’ve never opted to enter the acting club in the first place.

‘Then why?’

Fear? That wasn’t the right word. Disgust. The emotion he felt at the center of dozens of gazes was something unfamiliar and horrific. Nothing had changed from the times he was practicing, so what was making this so hard? He looked at the faces of his friends. They weren’t monsters with disgusting faces, nor did they provoke any kind of negative emotions in him. They were just colleagues he liked. However, why was it that when he looked at his colleagues, who had taken a step back and became the audience, his stomach started to ache and his vision became dark?

Let’s try standing for now - Chihwan stood at the center of the stage while trying his best not to be conscious of those gazes. Maru stepped back.

Various gym equipment, such as dumbbells, barbells, and benches were taking up one corner, so the platform should have seemed small, yet it looked endlessly wide today. It was as though space itself had some sort of life energy and expanded itself causing Maru to look so distant. However, regardless of the wideness of the stage, the distance between him and the audience looked strangely close no matter where he was. Was there a need to watch from up close like this? - he had this question.

Chihwan looked down at his palms. They were wet with sweat. He wiped his hands on his pants and took a deep breath. He tried fooling himself to think that this nervousness was only temporary, and that he would soon adapt to it once he started speaking. He closed his eyes and opened them again.

The gazes had become even closer to him. Their pupils were even clearer to his eyes. They were chatting amongst themselves, and it ticked him off so much. Shut up - he wanted to say.

It was all messy. The noise was bad enough that he couldn’t concentrate. His heart was messing up his focus from the inside, while the chatter from the others was disturbing his heart even more. At that moment, Chihwan realized that he had forgotten his line. The lines that filled his mind until just 10 seconds ago had disappeared in the blink of an eye. He felt as though his mind was refusing to think and was just meaninglessly processing the information gotten from his eyes. I must remember - he tried to get himself together, but his blank mind did not give him his lines.

“Aren’t you going to start?”

Aram’s voice could be heard.

“I am. I am going to do it.”

“It’s been a minute already. If we need to wait, we can always see Maru-seonbae’s acting first.”

“No! I can do it.”

He quickly opened the script he was holding in his left hand and checked the lines. The moment he flipped over the page and found the first line, nay, the colon after the name of the character that he was playing, he suddenly remembered all the lines afterwards. He didn’t know why he forgot such a simple line. He sighed in relief and looked forward again.

‘No way.’

Was there a problem with his brain or something? The moment he became conscious of the gazes again, the lines he remembered literally 0.5 seconds ago with confidence disappeared from his mind again. He hurriedly opened the script again. He chased the lines with his eyes and memorized them. He remembered all the lines again. He could probably sing them as well.

“Are you going to do it while looking at the script?”

One of his colleagues spoke out. Chihwan said ‘no way’ and closed the script with confidence. A black curtain enveloped his mind again. He felt ashamed. He even felt relieved that this wasn’t an actual stage.

‘I can’t do it.’

He realized just how pathetic he was. He thought that he had done plenty of practice over the past two weeks after his role was decided. Even with tests, he would score above 80 points if he studied the night before, but he had practiced the lines for two weeks, so he felt that it would be stupid to not be able to do them.

Yet, he was the stupid one.

He realized that gazes were heavy. He felt firsthand the dangers of going on stage. In his current state, even if he read the lines out loud while looking at the script, his voice would probably be shaky.

He was about to apologize and stop, when,

“Mr. Hwang? There’s no man with that name here. I don’t dare lie to you, officer. Dangerous people, no, miscreants like independence[1], I stop them from coming to this area in the first place.”

Maru read the line without any fluctuations in his voice.

“If you can’t remember your lines, say them out loud. If you really have practiced properly, your body will take over once you start. That is, ‘if’ you have practiced to the point that your body remembers it.”

“Maru-seonbae, I’ll just….”

“Do it. Try reading them out loud.”

“I’m sorry. I can’t do it.”

“So you did it so many times that you know whether you can or not before you even try? I still don’t know until I try, you know?”

Chihwan looked into Maru’s eyes. He wasn’t speaking in a scolding voice. He was talking as though he was stating the obvious.

Chihwan clenched his teeth until his teeth started aching before saying his lines out loud. He just said his first line, but his lips and tongue had followed up by themselves. His mind was still dark, but his tongue and vocal cords were saying the right words as though they knew what they were supposed to do.

When he finished one line, Chihwan felt that something had changed. It was the gazes. The gazes that looked at him no longer disgusted him anymore. Even though all he did was finish just one line, his heart became calm. The nervousness he felt until now seemed like a lie and his body relaxed. He felt light as though he had lost some weight, and the endlessly wide stage became narrow again.

I can do it - an endless stream of confidence filled the parts where nervousness left. His mind started working. He could remember all the lines clearly as though he had scanned them into his brain. He could practically read the lines off the script in his head.

“Seonbae-nim.”

“What?”

“C-can I do it now?”

“We never stopped you. Take a deep breath like you usually do.”

He breathed in deeply just like Maru said.

“Breathe out lightly.”

He breathed out with the thought that he was leaving half of his breath inside his lungs.

“Your lines?”

“They’re perfect.”

“Then I guess there’s no problem.”

“Watch me. I’m going to do really well.”

“Just start already.”

Chihwan stomped one foot and stood at the center of the stage.

* * *

“He’s the type to do great in front of other people,” Daemyung said after watching Chihwan’s performance.

He seemed nervous at first, but the atmosphere around him changed after Maru’s short advice. Chihwan did well to express ‘Mr. Baek’ who secretly helped out the independence fighters. During practice, his character felt lacking since his unique cheerfulness kept showing in his performance, but he showed a heavy act that made the audience feel just how dire the situation the character was in.

“He has power,” Bangjoo said.

That was a really suitable expression. Chihwan had a power that ruled over the stage. Thanks to his loud voice, his lines were refreshing and clear. On stage, pronunciation and voicing were the two most important things. As acting was a way of transferring information to others, a solid foundation gave a sense of depth to acting.

“Yeah! Wasn’t I great just now?”

“Ahn Chihwan, not half-bad, eh?”

“You were much better than during practice.”

“You were good!”

His colleagues applauded him. Even they, who had seen Chihwan’s acting before this, acknowledged his performance. Chihwan definitely shone on stage.

Daemyung put down his pen. He originally picked the pen up thinking that he should write down some things that he should point out, but he really didn’t have much to write. Chihwan’s acting just now was ideal and it felt like Chihwan had shown everything he could. The word ‘perfect’ could be carefully attached to him here.

“It’s your turn now, seonbae-nim,” Chihwan said.

Maru nodded and stood at the center of the stage.

Daemyung lifted his head and looked at the faces of his juniors. They seemed to be deeply impressed by Chihwan, who had unexpectedly put on a good performance. Moreover, they were personally much closer to Chihwan than Maru, so it was likely that they might give him a higher score. Some of them might even think that they should give Chihwan a higher score purely to one-up the seniors.

Daemyung sighed.

‘It’s always like that.’

Without Maru’s advice, Chihwan wouldn’t have been able to do anything. If Maru acted after that, he would have finished things while propping up his pride as a senior and put an end to things there.

Yet he did not. Maru probably wouldn’t care even if he was ridiculed by the others here. In fact, he might want that instead. After all, that would result in the first year students gaining more confidence and Chihwan improving further.

Maru was probably thinking that being ridiculed was just temporary.

“I’m starting.”

Daemyung nodded and crouched down to pick up his water bottle.

Chihwan had put on a good performance and Maru was next. Since he had achieved what he wanted to do, he would probably come down after putting on a decent show. Although it was only for two weeks, Chihwan had practiced properly. On top of that, he was in his best condition when he acted. Even if it was Maru, it would be difficult for him to show a better stage than Chihwan since he had never actually practiced.

He thought as such and sat back up again when he saw the faces of his juniors, who looked very serious. They seemed like they were faced with a serious problem. Daemyung hurriedly looked at the stage.

‘Ah.’

He subconsciously clenched the water bottle tightly. The plastic bottle made a loud noise as it crumpled. However, no one reacted to that.

All eyes were on Maru.

“Mr. Hwang? There’s no man with that name here. I don’t dare lie to you, officer. Dangerous people, no, miscreants like independence, I stop them from coming to this area in the first place.”

A man with an insinuating voice was rubbing his hands as he spoke. His voice was thin, and his waist was bent. He looked like he was willing to give the patrolling officer everything. The man who bowed his head towards an invisible Japanese police officer looked really pathetic.

“My good sir, I will report to you as soon as I find them. No, no, I will capture them with this body and soul of mine that I dedicated to His Imperial Highness and drag them to you. Why, yes, of course.”

The man who was looking ahead of him with a fishy smile slowly looked around him. His clasped hands twitched. His chin shook slightly and his healthy chin could be glimpsed at. Like a rat living with a cat, he walked around the stage while looking around everywhere.

It was tense. Daemyung wetted his dry lips with water again. The others also picked up their water bottles and drank.

“My word, my word, my word. I must be going crazy for sure.”

The man who was scurrying around the stage looked forward. His fear-stricken eyes could be seen by the audience. No one made any noise. Even Daemyung just watched the stage in a daze.

The moment his gaze intertwined with the actor’s, Daemyung felt the distance between him and the stage shrinking rapidly. It felt like Maru was standing right next to him. The nervousness that was contained in his every breath and action dissolved into his own body without filtering. Daemyung looked for his water bottle again, but sadly, it was empty.

“I find this horrific! I despise these days where I can be killed any day.”

He looked desperate. The man who rolled his back like a hunchback and opened his eyes in an afraid manner, didn't have any strength at all.

Chihwan’s acting of this part could be called reverent. He was grandiose and heroic. The man acted out by Chihwan was someone who could calmly accept death for the sake of independence. He felt like he would accept his fate while saying his lines in a calm manner. He had power, and the stage had vitality.

On the other hand, Maru was, well, unsightly. The man on the stage was pathetic, ugly, and sometimes even disgusting. Heroic traits were all but missing. Despite that, the man still fought. Bowing to the Japanese authority was his battle, and selling his smile to the Japanese was his way of fighting. He always desperately survived, and helped out the independence fighters despite extreme fear. Even while helping, he despised the independence fighters. He cursed himself for not being able to live with the status quo. He resented himself for not being able to become a Japanese citizen.

“I may die without seeing independence, but I have faith; I have faith that there will be rest after this.”

When Chihwan said those words, Daemyung was reminded of the independence. He thought that it was the bright death of a hero who had brilliantly fooled the Japanese authorities.

And now, Daemyung was met with another scene where the man met his death that he so looked forward to. To him, independence might have been a cloud in the sky. It was just the death of a small, weak civilian man who could smile due to the fact that he no longer had to be afraid of the Japanese authorities.

The act ended.

Maru dusted off his pants as though nothing had happened and stepped down from the stage.

There was only one thing that Daemyung could do.

The simplest reason why mankind was given two hands: that is, to applaud.


[1] As strange as this might sound, the original doesn't make sense either… Replace it with ‘independence activist’. 

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KTLChamber's Thoughts

Author's notes (I thought this was pretty funny but it doesn't really have anything to do with the story itself)

I don't laugh wickedly.
I mean it.
Someone said in the comments: "The author must be laughing wickedly right now"

Me? Laugh wickedly?
No way. I'm but a gentleman. Ufufu. What do you mean a wicked laugh? Ufufufu. I don't know how to do something like that. Ufufufufu. I'm but a pure man ufufu, who's ufufu, far from being ufufu wicked.

* * *

When I get a comment I expect, I find it pretty fortunate.
I am an extremely normal man, so I don't have a strange quirk where I enjoy lashing out at the readers.
However, when I read the word 'cliffhanger' from time to time, it makes me wonder whether some reader somewhere might be shouting 'god dammit!' or something. However, my skills with writing aren't that good so I don't think I ever succeeded. Dang, I should strive to do better.

* * *

But sometimes, when I get a comment that's unexpected, it makes my heart race.
This is especially true when some sharp commenter suddenly writes 'doesn't that line bother you?' at a line I threw together to look like it's in a bunch of scraps, but actually turn out to be crucial in the story. When I see comments like that, I really, REALLY, want to delete that comment.

Insult me instead. Insult the writing. Do that, I can enjoy the comments... but I am going to hate you if you take away my joy of watching people's reactions after hiding what I want.

* * *

Also,
I think this is like the seventh time I said this, but this novel is the kind of novel that you read when you go 'oh, I have some time left over' after reading other novels. It's an extreme novel where I point the microphone and the camera at all the characters after all. There are many more interesting writings in [Korean novel platform]. Please find those gems. After that, you can just come here from time to time and take a glance at it. (It's important to take a glance at it! I'm someone who earns money through writing after all. haha.)
Translator interjection: So that's why we sometimes get introduced to some objects that sound so unnecessary... like the 'water bottle' in this chapter. It looks like author does put a little too much importance on a character's actions and not the plot in general. End of translator interjection.

* * *

Regardless of what everyone says, you're all correct.
This writing is fun, yet not fun; the progress looks decent, and yet slow as heck. That's why I hope you can look at the novel like you're looking at a box that contains the schroedinger's cat.

Who knows? A really rapid progress in the story might be waiting!

Probably!

(*probably = 'it almost certainly definitely won't happen' packaged in one word to use as an excuse)

* * *

I tried filling up the afterthoughts section today.

Ha! It's fun after all!
Even more fun than writing!

* * *
(doesn't concern English readers, but will translate for consistency anyway)
Lastly, I hope you can have the minimum amount of respect when you fight.
Watch your language okay? That's why you should use fluent words to pressure the opponent through logic.
The one who swears loses!

End of author's note.

Translator has nothing to say today, other than RIP Chihwan. Now, go run those laps...


Editor's Note:
Sheesh. I got goosebumps with this one.