Chapter 585

“Nice place.”

“A friend of mine told me about it.”

Maru looked around the café. There were shelves with books on them, ranging from liberal arts books to comic books. There was a faint smell of coffee in the air, as well as the smell of something sweet. It seemed to be milk tea. The music playing inside the café was very faint, and one would miss it if they didn’t focus on it. As for the interior design, there was no sense of uniformity other than the color. Square tables, round tables, and even triangular tables that they got from god-knows-where. There were many different kinds of spots where people could sit down and enjoy reading a book.

“Don’t girls around your age prefer louder places? Or a board game café where you can enjoy yourselves?”

“It’s not always like that. Maybe it’s because of the atmosphere here, but we end up talking about what we usually wouldn't. I like that sense of unfamiliarity here,” Yuna replied.

Bitna took out a book as soon as she came to the café. It was a thin essay. It was about travelling on a bike. Although half of the book was filled with photos, Maru thought that a child wouldn’t enjoy something like that due to the nature of the writing, but Bitna kept reading calmly. She had a higher concentration than most others of her age. Usually, children like her would get fed up with any kind of reading after ten minutes and would look for dolls or something.

‘Dolls?’

Maru tapped on his arm and focused on his thoughts. Why dolls of all things? He was reminded of a teddy bear as though he had experienced it for himself. Just as he was entrapped in a strange sense of déjà vu, 

“Seonbae-nim?”

“Ah, what is it?”

“Nothing. You seemed to be engrossed in something. I interrupted you, didn’t I?”

“Nah. I was just distracted. Shall we eat something for now? They seem to sell some simple meals here.”

“Actually, the bagels here are one of the reasons I come here all the time. They’re really good.”

“What would you like to eat, Bitna?”

Bitna took her eyes off the book and said ‘anything that doesn’t have olives’.

“Do you not like olives?”

“They don’t smell good.”

“It’s not good to be picky with food.”

“Mom tells me that too, but isn’t it worse to force myself to eat something I don’t like? I become happy when I eat what I want, but it makes me feel bad if I eat something I don’t like,” Bitna replied clearly.

Her way of expressing her thoughts was really refined for a girl of her age.

“Looks like I wasn’t thinking far. Then I’ll order something without olives for you. What about you, Yuna?”

“I’ll go with you to order. I need to pay too,” Yuna said as she took out her wallet from her bag.

“I’ll treat you.”

“Oh, no. You came all the way here for me.”

“It’s just a few bus stops away. Let’s go for now. I’m a bit hungry since I haven’t had dinner yet.”

They walked over to the counter.

“I’d like an onion bagel and a cup of black coffee. Yuna, you can order yours.”

“I’d like a cream cheese bagel and a blueberry bagel. As for drinks, a grapefruit juice and a chocolate latte.”

Upon order, Yuna quickly took out a 10,000 won bill. Maru said that it was okay, but Yuna just shook her head and did not take back the bill.

“I’ll pay with this card.”

He gave the store owner his credit card and took the bill from Yuna.

“Does this satisfy you?”

“Yes.”

“Also, if an adult says they’ll treat you, just accept it. It’s one of the privileges you have when you’re young.”

“An adult?”

Yuna stared at him strangely before nodding in acceptance. I guess you’re an adult, too, seonbae-nim - she said to herself. Maru smiled awkwardly. After waiting for a while, they got the food they ordered and returned to their original table with the tray. Bitna was still focused on the book she had chosen.

“How’s the book?”

“It’s fun.”

Bitna closed the book and quietly placed it in the corner of the table.

“Isn’t the bagel too big for Bitna to finish by herself?”

Maru looked at his own bagel as well as his palm. The owner here seemed to be very generous, as the bagel was pretty massive. Since it was bigger than what would suffice for a meal, it would probably be hard for Bitna to eat it all.

“It’s fine. She has a good appetite. Bitna, you can eat all of that, right?”

Bitna did not speak and just started eating the bagel with her two hands. Maru was reminded of a hamster nibbling away at some pumpkin seeds.

“Should we talk while we eat? I feel hungry after seeing Bitna eat.”

“Yes.”

He split the bagel in half before taking a bite. A smile appeared on his face, since the taste wasn’t too stimulative.

“It’s good.”

“Right?”

Yuna replied almost at the same time as he spoke. Maru smiled and looked at Yuna.

“So you are an aspiring actress?”

He asked a question first. Since he was looking for a question that wouldn’t make her feel uncomfortable, he naturally had to talk about acting.

“Yes. Bitna is my senior in that regard. I wanted to act after seeing Bitna acting.”

“Bitna is pretty good too. You are in the acting club at Myunghwa High, right?”

“Yes.”

“Myunghwa High is known for being pretty strict. How is it?”

“It’s harder than going to an acting school, but it’s just as much fun. The seniors treat me well, and it’s fun to try and put on an act together with my friends. You are….”

“I’m also in the acting club. At the school that’s always 2nd place thanks to Myunghwa High, that is.”

“Oh, you mean Woosung High?”

“Yes.”

“The seniors told me a lot. That we should just watch out for Woosung High in Suwon. As for the nationals, it’s Hwasoo High and Jinwon High.”

“Tell your seniors to go easy on us. I want to touch the trophy at least once before I graduate.”

“...Uhm, I’m not exactly in a position where I can say something like that.”

Yuna became stiff. She really couldn’t take a joke.

“I was just joking. We got a bunch of new kids this year, so we won’t slip before the nationals like last year.”

“Are you going on stage as well?”

Yuna’s voice clearly went up a pitch.

Maru shook his head.

“I’m just a staff. The performance will be done by the 1st and 2nd year students.”

“Why aren’t you in it?”

“Because I don’t exactly have enough time. I don’t want to do things half-assedly when everyone else is trying their best.”

“Oh, I see.”

“How about you? Are you going on stage?”

“Yes. I was lucky.”

“I don’t think there’s luck involved when it comes to performance.”

Yuna stared at him in a daze for a while before smiling, however, she soon covered her mouth and calmed down her expression. While the conversation was stopped, Maru reached out to his bagel. As he was enjoying the faint smell of onion from the bread, he saw a pair of clear eyes staring at the bagel.

“It’s onion-flavored. Do you want to try it?”

Bitna immediately replied yes. When Maru had a look at her plate, the large bagel was nowhere to be seen. Did she finish it off while they were talking? He did just hear that she had a big appetite, but he didn’t know she would eat this much.

‘Well, she did finish a lunchbox made for adults by herself during shoots.’

He ripped a chunk off the bagel and gave it to Bitna. She started eating it as though everything that didn’t contain olives was okay. Maru thought that parents weren’t lying when they said that they were full just watching their children eat. As Maru didn’t feel hungry anymore, he gave Bitna the rest of the bagel as well. Bitna accepted it and immediately started eating it. The little glutton only seemed satisfied after that.

“You got some on your mouth.”

Yuna wiped Bitna’s mouth with some tissue. While siblings close in age fought each other all the time before getting close in their later years, there were many cases where the older sibling would become a secondary parent for the younger sibling with siblings who were far apart in age like these two. Maru thought about Bada before snorting. If Bada treated him nicely now, he would doubt her instead, wondering what she wanted from him this time.

“Bitna has it good, having a sister like her.”

“Yes, that’s right.”

The honesty of children made him emotional from time to time. Everyone had a time when they were honest with their feelings without calculating what others would think about. Only after enduring the hardships of life did they realize that being honest was a weakness, not an advantage. That would be the moment when a child grew up and became an adult.

“You’re different from how I imagined, seonbae-nim,” Yuna said in a daze.

After saying that, she got startled by herself and no longer spoke.

“If you say that, I can only ask what is so different.”

“Uhm….”

“If you don’t want to talk about it, you don’t have to.”

“It’s not like that.”

Yuna started fidgeting with her fingers on the table.

“I watched your acting in The Witness. To me, it came as a shock. You seemed to be around my age, so how can you act so well? I really thought a lot about it.”

“That only looked so good since Joohyun-noonim was there to back me up. It’s because the receiver was so good that such freaky acting looked good.”

“...I also watched your scene in Twilight Struggles.”

Maru then replied while sipping on his coffee.

“That shouldn’t be available to minors though.”

“I only watched a short clip on the internet.”

“You mean, my scene?”

“Yes. After I saw that, I became sure that your acting wasn’t due to a coincidence. Unlike that rough, violent acting you showed in The Witness which even contained a hint of craze, you looked very cynical and evil in the film. It might sound similar since the words I used are all used negatively, but you understand the slight difference when you’re acting, right?”

She seems passionate - Maru thought as he looked at Yuna, who spoke clearly. He could see her mindset towards acting from this conversation alone.

“Oh, sorry about that. I guess I sounded quite strange since I said that all of a sudden. It’s a bit rude too.”

“It’s not rude at all. It’s not like you did anything wrong.”

Maru put down his cup before continuing to speak,

“So you thought that I’d be cold and stiff since all my roles are like that, and were disappointed to see that I’m actually quite ordinary?”

“Of course not! Of course I’m not disappointed. I know well that people acting an evil role aren’t evil at heart, so I wouldn’t think like that.”

Yuna grabbed her cup with both of her hands.

“I was just curious about how you could show such a performance.”

“You’re doing pretty well in your acting club though, aren’t you? You managed to win a role too. I think you’re doing plenty well.”

“No. I have never had confidence in my acting skills. I was told reasons for that at the academy as well - that my expressions are boring. Of course, I have never thought that acting was hard. It’s always enjoyable and fun. I think that I’ll never get fed up with it.”

“Really? That’s amazing.”

“What?”

“Should we ask Bitna about it then?”

Maru turned around to see Bitna. She was reading the travel essay after finishing her food and raised her head when Maru looked at her.

“Bitna. Did you always find acting fun? Did you ever think that it was not fun?”

“I can’t lie, right?”

“If you want to, you can, but I hope you can be honest right now. Your sister is listening as well,” Maru said as he pointed at Yuna.

Bitna licked her lips before looking at Yuna and speaking.

“It’s not always that fun. There are times when I want to stop because it’s hard.”

“Do you hate acting?”

“No, I don’t hate it.”

“But it’s not always fun, right?”

“That’s right.”

Maru then looked at Yuna again.

“Have you really never ever hated acting even once? No, let me change that question. Have you never  felt afraid of acting?”

Yuna’s expression stiffened after hearing that question. She rested her lips on her right hand, unable to speak.

“In my case, I had fun when I first got on the stage. I was excited. So this is what acting is about! I felt like I was going to get addicted. However, from some time onwards, I found out that I can’t control myself. Actually, no, I only found out because someone else told me about it. That’s when I realized. Oh! I was showing a performance without proper control over myself. When that realization popped up inside me, I thought of a question that should come before that. Is the acting I’m showing really satisfying the standards that I’ve set?”

“The standards that you’ve set….”

“I was originally someone who was generous to myself. Whether it’s studying or sports, I always found a suitable middle point. That’s the only way I can receive less stress. If I lower the standards even further, I wouldn’t receive any stress at all.”

Yuna’s gaze lowered even more. Maru tapped on the table. Yuna, who lowered her head with a low groan, raised her head again.

“I’m not telling you this to be mean to you. You might actually be right. I mean to say that you might be in love with acting at every single moment. I wish I was like that. That would be a blessing after all. Unfortunately, it’s generally not like that, so I can only think my way.”

“Am I wrong?”

She looked like she did something wrong. Maru grabbed the handle of the coffee mug and spoke,

“When you say that you like every facet of something unconditionally, is that really liking that something? What do you think?”

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KTLChamber's Thoughts

Man, this chapter just dumped me with so many things to think about....

"Do you always find what you're enjoying, fun?"
"Do you ever feel afraid of what you enjoy doing?"
"Is it really 'liking' something when you like 'every single aspect' of that thing unconditionally?"
"Is the thing I'm doing fulfilling the standards that I've set for myself? Am I sure that I'm not making compromises?"

These are all questions I don't want to ask myself.... I want to run from them, if you know what I mean....

Also, I don't understand the payment part.

So Yuna just paid more to Maru than what she would pay for the meal? If she paid the counter 10,000 won, she would have gotten back some change (assuming it the subtotal wasn't exactly 10,000 won), but she ended up giving that money to Maru, instead, who paid for the exact price with his credit card....


Editor's Note:
Sheesh this chap. Been a while we got hit with life lessons. Honestly is a weakness and the whole liking thing. Author really is brutal with the real truth.