Chapter 64

Maru didn’t believe in soulmates. He had believed that relationships always came to an end. If a couple couldn’t release the stress and anger building up between them, their relationship is doomed to collapse.

That was… until he met her.

* * *

“What’s up with him recently? Is he in love? Is that it?!”

Daemyung shook his head as he looked at Dojin. Clearly, Maru was acting strangely today, but he didn’t think it was because of love.

‘Then again, Maru definitely looked odd this morning talking to those girls.’

The first thing Maru did after coming to Hyehwa station was to go talk to those girls. Daemyung had no idea what the other boy talked about, but he did notice that the boy was incredibly agitated for some reason.

“We should visit Blue Sky now,” Miso said, gathering all the club members together.

Blue Sky?

Daemyung looked down at his jersey. Did she mean the place where the jersey was made or something?

A few moments later, Daemyung learned that a theater called Blue Sky existed near the station. He even got to exchange a few words with the actors. The words from actual pro actors spoke pretty deeply to Daemyung. At some point, he stopped treating acting as a hobby, and started treating it as a real passion.

He didn’t care all that much about being the main character, instead placing his care on the completion of a play. At every chance he got, he started taking notes of what Miso wanted out of the club. Instead of acting, what he wanted to work on was staging a play.

‘It’s not like I want to stop acting, but...’

Main characters were amazing for sure. They managed to enthrall an entire audience when they did their job well. But at the same time, Daemyung found himself developing respect for stage managers who managed to actually “make it all happen”. Like the audio and lighting technician who managed everything from the operating room. Daemyung had a certain respect for the man capable of enhancing the quality of the play without even being on stage.

‘Some day, at the Seoul Arts Center...’

Once again, the desire to stand at the nationals started flickering brightly inside Daemyung’s chest.

* * *

“This is our new script. We’ll be practicing with these from now.”

Miso handed out the new scripts first thing after coming back to school. Maru glanced over at the new script in his hand. In the past, he would’ve just skimmed the entire thing before closing it. Because he didn’t need it. Because it wasn’t important at all. Not anymore. This time, he read each and every line with more focus than before. Not because he was coming out on the play.

Meeting her… made Maru think about a problem. He decided that the best way to solve this problem was to take up acting.

‘My path has changed.’

The first time he met her was after he graduated college. As a failing road manager and a failing actor. The odds of it were incredibly low. As a matter of fact, it was practically a miracle. He managed to meet his wife amongst countless other actors, even falling in love. What else could that be other than a miracle?

In this life, though, things were a little bit different. He did manage to meet her. In high school, no less. Was this simply by chance?

No, Maru didn’t think so. He believed it to be the result of his brain working overtime to make a certain possibility into a certainty.

He may have forgotten about her, but his heart told him to join the acting club. His heart told him to stay despite all that’s happened, and thanks to it, he managed to meet her. Not as a road manager or an actor, but as two actors stepping into the world of acting.

Things were different now. Due to that, he would have to make several new arrangements. Maru didn’t want to let her go. He wanted to start a family with her again, make love with her again, and meet their daughter again.

What would he need to do for that to happen?

‘Rather than try to chase after money, I’d have to win over her heart. Well, if I can achieve both, that would be ideal.’

He would throw away his bus driver life to the side, and start up an entirely new life. He needed to prepare for a new life where he still maintained good relationships with her. At this point, acting was pretty much a requirement for Maru’s life.

‘My wife is an actor to the core.’

She is an actor now, and she will still be an actor at the age of 26 when they’d meet for the first time. Right now, in high school, she is still an actor. In that case, what would be the easiest way for him to approach her?

To do acting.

The more points in common they had, the closer they would be able to get.

‘...It’s pretty creepy, isn’t it.’

For a second, he remembered what his first love felt like, but as a forty-five year old man… It was a bit difficult for him to try to fall in love like a normal teenager. Especially when he thought of the concept ‘platonic love’ as something nonexistent. But it wasn’t like he didn’t love her despite this. It was just that he wanted her more than ever.

‘Come to think of, she still looks as pretty as ever.’

Being able to see his love’s face at two points in time at once was the greatest gift to him. Maru had worried about many things as he started his life anew, but as soon as he saw her little face, all those worries melted away.

Just thinking about her made him smile. He couldn’t help it, it was pretty much biological. Kind of like how people laugh when tickled. To him, just thinking about her made him smile.

“Han Maru!”

“Yes, yes?”

“I’m a bit happy I managed to finally catch you daydreaming, but can we focus, please?”

Maru scratched his eyebrows. Miso must’ve been explaining something while he was thinking. Maru stepped into the group of club members quickly.

“I’m sorry.”

“Looks like something good happened recently. Why don’t you spill the beans? I, for one, want to know what made you smile like an idiot over there.”

“It’s nothing.”

Right then, Dojin raised his arm with a shout.

“He’s got a crush on a girl!”

“He asked a girl for her name this morning.”

Even Daemyung was butting in.

“Oho…. teenage romance, is it?”

“Haha. Ha. Haha.”

Maru could only laugh in response.

“Good times. Right. At your age, you guys really need to try loving, and get your hearts broken. That’s how you get hurt less by love when you become adults. But for now, let’s focus on the lecture, okay?”

“Yes ma’am!”

Miso waved her hand in satisfaction, and opened the script in her other hand.

“As you saw this morning, the biggest difference between pros and amateurs are their reaction times. You saw how quickly the actor on stage changed his line as soon as one of the audience members sneezed, right? That kind of improv can only come from immense amounts of practice. It’s not at all something unprepared the actor just spit out. Improv is an incredibly difficult skill that can only come with experience. If you want to improv like that, you need to know the play pretty much in full. You need to know beforehand how your improv will change the play. How it would connect with the next scene, and if your fellow actor can even follow up on it at all.”

Maru thought back to the play in the morning. Someone in the seats sneezed loud enough to make his ears ring there. In that situation, the actor managed to incorporate even that sneeze into the part of the play and continued on. Almost as if the sneeze was a part of the play to start with.

“Of course, I’m not expecting something like that from you kids. You just need to be able to perform your play pretty well. I’m not expecting much more than that. No matter what the audience does, just ignore it. You can’t think about improv. Ignoring the audience is the best thing you can do right now.”

Ignore the audience. It was the biggest no-no for any pro, but for amateurs, it was a pretty perfect suggestion.

“And so,” Miso grinned.

Maru rolled his eyes a little. He knew what would be coming after that smile at this point. Even the club members were stiffening a little bit, trying to ready themselves for what would come.

“We need to throw away our shame.”

* * *

Throw away shame. Maru didn’t quite understand what that meant at first. Well, he had an idea, but this was far from what he had in mind.

“D-do I really?”

“Of course.”

Yoonjung looked in front of her. They were standing at an alleyway full of cafes, at dinnertime. There were tons of people walking in the alleyway, trying to enjoy the night air.

Currently, Yoonjung was standing in front of one of the cafes within the alleyway. There was an outdoor terrace with six tables laid out in front of her. The girl swallowed her saliva. Right now, no one was paying attention to her. They were all busy talking about their own lives.

But…

What if she starts saying her lines loudly in front of them?

‘Ahhh, what do I do?!’

She had just received her lines, without any chance to practice a single word. Trying to say lines that she had practiced was infinitely different compared to trying to say lines she’s never seen before. On a stage, an actor was in a contract with the audience.

The actor would perform, and the audience would watch. But this was a cafe. There was no such social contract present with the couples, salarymen, and the students there. Without such, Yoonjung couldn’t help but become nervous.

Her heart was starting to race. All she had to do was just spit out her lines, so why?

‘I’m scared.’

What if they decide to ignore her? Just that thought was enough to make her spiral into darkness. She knew that she just had to say her lines, but…

Gulp, Yoonjung swallowed her saliva.

Doing and knowing were two very different things, she realized.

* * *

He had to say, this was very much a Miso thing to do.

“They’re cute kids, aren’t they?”

“What the hell do you think you’re doing at my store?”

“Hey, don’t be like that. It’s a nice event. I’ll pay for the customers’ coffee too, so don’t worry about it.”

“God, you’re just… well, I guess the customers wouldn’t mind all that much. We’re stopping as soon as they become uncomfortable though. Got it?”

“Don’t worry. That’s never happened so far, you should know that.”

“That’s true.”

Miso was currently chatting away with the owner of the cafe happily at the counter. The club members all looked at Yoonjung, who wasn’t really able to do much outside.

The cafe was getting strangely nervous inside. Maru took a look at the other kids. They were all glaring at Miso woefully.

“...Man, how do people even do street performances?”

“That clown guy from a few days ago seems a whole lot more respectable to me now.”

Dojin and Daemyung noted. It was decided that the second years would be the first to go. It would’ve been less nerve-wracking if they went in pairs, but Miso forbid it completely.

Yoonjung, as the president, volunteered to go first, but… The result was as plain as day. She wasn’t even able to speak after five minutes. It was pretty understandable, considering the number of people sitting at the terrace and the number of people walking in the alleyway.

‘It’d definitely help her, though.’

Maru opened up a magazine as he ate some of the cake rolls the owner gave him. He didn’t feel nervous, for whatever reason. Going out to speak to strangers didn’t seem all that foreign to him, despite him never really doing it in the past.

As a matter of fact, he felt somewhat comfortable. Maybe this came from the time he worked as a bus driver in the past?

‘Whatever it is, it’s nice.’

He was able to enjoy all this in peace thanks to it.

Of course… the other kids all looked like they were about to die.

* * *

Miso glanced at Maru shortly. The boy was enjoying his coffee and cake like a normal customer. Very different compared to the other club members around him, or Yoonjung outside.

‘He was born talented.’

Nervousness wasn’t something a person could hide. Even experienced actors felt nervous from time to time. Why wouldn’t they? Especially with thousands of pairs of eyes staring at them.

But the actors were able to enjoy that nervousness. They were able to use that nervousness to fuel the performance of their play.

Miso often classified actors as people who were able to channel nervousness into raw energy. That was why she believed every actor needed to be able to handle nervousness to become the real deal.

“Is he a senior?” Miso’s friend asked.

She was thankful to know her. The woman always helped Miso out whenever she needed it. Miso shook her head in response.

“Nope, a total beginner.”

“But he’s still that calm?”

“That’s why I’ve kept my eyes on him.”

“...Think of the age difference, you goddamned cradle robber.”

“You!”

Her friend walked away with a grin while Miso turned to look at Yoonjung; she needed to focus on the girl right now.

“You better start as soon as possible. Trying to delay it is only going to make it harder.”

Opening your mouth, and finishing what you had to say. It sounds easy on paper. Not so much in real life. Miso glared at Yoonjung sharply.

“Let’s hope you don’t put your title as president to shame.”

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