Chapter 65

Saying the actual lines shouldn’t take more than three minutes. She just needed to imagine that there was a fellow actor next to her, there to respond to her lines. Right, she needed to imagine. This wasn’t a cafe, but a stage. There’s a spotlight above shining directly onto her. The doors to the auditorium opens, with the audience coming in one by one. Right now, they were still preparing. Not many people cared about her on the stage.

Right, there was no need to be nervous. Everyone was looking at the pamphlet right now. She could see the children as well as the adults. Let’s breathe a little bit.

Wait, the air smells like coffee?

No, start over, start over.

This is a stage. The people in front of her were here to watch her act. She couldn’t afford to disappoint them. She’s already practiced, so she just needs to act it out now.

‘Wait, did I even practice?’

Yoonjung sighed. She could feel a few people glancing at her. Then again, all she did till now was stare at the cafe for five straight minutes. If she delayed any more, she really wouldn’t be able to do it. Yoonjung bit her lips before saying her first line.

“S-shouldn’t you at least try to introduce yourself if you move into the neighborhood?”

She needed to become a mean old lady who lives downstairs. She needed to become annoying and grouchy. A conceited lady that has no filters on her words.

But by the time Yoonjung’s voice reached her ears, she could only swallow nervously.

She was too quiet.

Too quiet to even be heard. When she turned around, only the man right next to her was staring at her with a ‘what?’ face. She didn’t even manage to grab people’s attention. As soon as that thought hit her, she felt the blood drain from her face.

Why? Why was she like this? She couldn’t understand it. She’s already performed in front of people several times. Not much had changed, so why did this take so much effort?

Her voice was getting buried. Buried by the air, the footsteps, and the voices around her. She wasn’t able to reach out and speak to the people in front of her.

For now, she finished her lines. She finished them, but… She didn’t feel good at all. It felt like she was just talking to herself. People were looking at her, sure, but they all looked confused.

She wanted to explain this was a play. She wanted to explain her role, and what type of a personality her character had.

‘This isn’t right.’

This wasn’t right at all.

* * *

Yoonjung came back inside. She looked far less energetic than usual, which only managed to worry the club members more.

“How was it?” Miso asked.

The instructor looked like a mean boss, especially with that beige mug in hand.

“I was just… disappointed.”

“At what?”

“At myself.”

Yoonjung hunched her neck as she spoke. After sighing deeply, the girl flopped over the table.

“You couldn’t make yourself heard, right?”

“Yes. I tried to perform like normal, but no one bothered to listen. No, I don’t think they could hear me to begin with. Some of the people right next to me responded, but most people just glanced for a second and looked away. Man, it felt awful.”

Yoonjung frowned.

“You learned well, Ms. president. This isn’t a stage. There’s no microphone or anything to help you here. Here, your voice is very small. As a matter of fact, it can become even smaller depending on how strong the wind is. This place is very, very unsuited for performances.”

After speaking, Miso pointed at the next person. It was Dojin.

“I tried to get the first years going after all the second years, but that’s a little unfair, isn’t it? Let’s switch it up. Dojin, you looked a little too relaxed just now. You didn’t think you’d go next, did you?”

Maru had to say… The woman was really good at mind games. Dojin stood up from his face with a dumb look. He ran outside with his script in hand, but he didn’t look good at all.

“Watch. This time, he’s going to start shouting as much as he can, and run out of breath in the middle.”

Miso was a prophet, predicting precisely how Dojin would perform.

* * *

“Huff, huff.”

Dojin bowed, feeling the people in the cafe glaring at him.

‘God, this is so embarrassing. So embarrassing!’

His face felt like it was burning. He started off pretty well, raising his voice like Miso told them to. He managed to grab the audience’s attention.

The problem came afterward.

Breathing.

Normally, he would be able to say ten words in one breath. But right now, each breath was only able to give him around 3 words. He felt for the first time the feeling of one’s lungs shriveling up as it gasped for air. The air felt incredibly heavy around him.

Eventually, his head started spinning from the lack of air. He couldn’t even pay attention to the audience any more. All that he could think of was to finish his lines as fast as possible, and go back to his seat.

“This time, we managed to see two instances of what not to do. At first, Dojin didn’t even think about the volume of his voice, and ended up speaking like a little mosquito. Next, Dojin didn’t even bother controlling his breathing, and gifted his audience with disgustingly bad breathing rhythm and an incredibly loud voice.”

Dojin sat down next to Yoonjung silently. The girl looked at him warmly. It almost looked like she was telling him ‘you’re just like me, aren’t you?’.

“Now, next up…”

Miso ignored the two fallen soldiers next to her, and pointed at her next target: Geunseok.

* * *

By this time, the customers started to notice that something was up. Some of them were even heading out to the terrace to get a good view of what was happening.

Geunseok happened to be the one to go as they gathered on the terrace. He stood up from his seat confidently, and walked outside. Maru stared at the boy for a little bit, before taking his coffee cup back to the counter. He handed the cup to the owner of the shop before asking, “Can I order some lemon tea?”

“Hm?”

The owner took the cup from Maru’s hand. Right then, Miso walked up to him from the back.

“What are you doing?”

“Oh, this kid was just asking for some lemon tea.”

“What?”

Maru grinned at Miso.

“I’m just trying to help people out. You must be feeling good after paying for everyone’s drinks, and the owner must feel good about selling a lot of drinks. Ah, the coffee was good. That’s why I wanted to try the tea this time.”

Miso sighed, and responded with a ‘do whatever you want’. The owner poured hot water into the mug with a grin.

“You’re pretty good, kid. It’s been a while since I’ve seen such an expression from Miso.”

“Thank you. By the way, when does this cafe close?”

“Usually by 10pm. Sometimes until 11pm, if regulars decide they want to talk with me for a bit. Occasionally until dawn if I don’t want to go back home?”

“Aha.”

“Why do you ask?”

“I wanted to come some time. It’s a nice cafe.”

“With your girlfriend?”

“Yes.”

“You better be holding hands by then. I’ll give you two a slice of cake as a gift.”

The owner smiled brightly before leaving. In the meantime, Maru took a look at the terrace from the counter. Geunseok was speaking outside. He was doing pretty well, actually. Well enough to make some of the audience take pictures.

“Here’s your lemon tea.”

“Thank you.”

“Oh, he’s doing pretty well.”

“Yeap.”

“You aren’t nervous?”

“Not really.”

“That’s good.”

The owner turned back after telling him a few words of encouragement. With that, Maru returned to his seat with his tea.

“You really feel comfortable enough to get that stuff?” Dojin asked dejectedly. Maru nodded.

“It’s free. You should get some too.”

“I might throw up if I drink anything now. Ugh, I’m so embarrassed.”

“Me too.”

It almost felt like he was looking at a pair of zombies. After observing the two for a moment, Maru started hearing a weak applause from the crowd. When he turned around, he could see Geunseok step back into the cafe with a weak huff. Quite a few people on the terrace were giving him applause.

“How was it?” Miso asked.

“I was nervous, but I don’t think I made mistakes. I threw away my nervousness and said my lines. I lacked air a little bit, but I think I finished well.”

“You got applause, so you did well. For your first time, that’s pretty good.”

Geunseok clenched his fist when Miso gave him her praise. Maru could easily spot it. It seemed that for this kid, praises were what gave him meaning in life. Nothing else would be able to satisfy him.

Some would call that unconfident, others would say the boy was incapable of self-love. He was just the type of person who would rot away in the corner alone without any praise.

Of course, this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. There was never a good or bad in how a person chose to live their life. Geunseok would, as a matter of fact, shine like a star as long as someone supported him. Of course, this only meant that he would have to work hard at maintaining his relationships.

Maru chewed on some of the bread on the table that no one’s touched.

“You did well, it was the best.”

Yurim gave Geunseok a thumbs up, further brightening the boy’s mood. On the other hand, Dojin and Yoonjung’s face only fell further. Yoonjung put up an awkward smile, and Dojin clawed away at his hair after glaring at Geunseok for a second. Right then…

“But… Do you think the people over there understood you?” Miso asked.

“Excuse me?”

“Being able to make yourself heard, and actually making the audience understand what you said are two different things. Geunseok, go ask that lady over there what she felt from your performance.”

“……”

Geunseok’s face immediately stiffened as he stood up. Miso gave him a strawberry tart, presumably to give to the woman. He walked outside with it, talked with the woman for a moment, and came back. Unlike before, he looked like he ate dirt.

“She said she didn’t really know. She forgot very quickly after hearing what I said.”

“Exactly. You didn’t make an impression at all. Don’t get too confident. The only thing you did up there was make an interesting speech, rather than actually act.”

“…I don’t think I can act without having done any sort of practice.”

That made Miso laugh.

“It’s been a full week since I gave you your scripts. Are you the type of idiot who doesn’t even look at the script if I don’t tell you to?”

“……”

“Do you think a full run is the only type of practice you can do? No, your practice should’ve begun the moment you received your scripts. Did you guys really think I gave you your scripts to use as decoration? Or are you going to tell me that you couldn’t practice because of the revised script I gave you? The only thing the revision changed was like one or two lines, and the order in which the characters appear. The main branch of the story is untouched. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even touch up your character at all, Geunseok. But you say you didn’t practice? Are you serious right now?”

“…I’m sorry.”

“You can have confidence, as long as you practice.”

The air in the cafe dropped by a degree. Dojin and Yoonjung straightened up on their seats as well. What seemed like a simple field trip was starting to change into something else.

‘That’s what I thought.’

Maru took a sip of his lemon tea. There was no way Miso brought the group here to simply play for a bit. The woman picked out her next victim with a glare.

“Daemyung.”

“Y-yes!”

“Try to do well.”

“……”

Daemyung stepped out to the terrace with a pale expression.

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