Chapter 67

"Be careful going in!”

“Yes!”

The kids went back inside with a bow. Miso stepped back inside the cafe with a sigh.

“They’re gone?”

“Yeah. Thanks for today.”

“I mean, this isn’t the first time. Here, have some dinner while you’re still here. I want to talk to you for a bit, too.”

“Of course, but before that.”

Miso stepped out onto the terrace for a moment. The sun had set, and the terrace was painted by a variety of colorful lightings from signboards of nearby stores.

The wind was a bit cold, it was truly the beginning of autumn. There weren’t that many people left in the terrace, either. They must’ve left to find some place to eat. Miso turned to look at the table at one corner of the terrace, there was a man in his fifties watching the people on the streets with a slight smile. The only thing he had on his table was a cold coffee, an old notebook, and a custom cigarette box made out of wood.

“How was it?” Miso asked.

She couldn’t see the man’s expression due to his hat. Was he satisfied by them, or not?

“Reminded me of the old days. It was nice. We used to do the same thing at subways. More often than not, people used to look at us very weirdly. There’s a higher risk of doing it in a subway, actually. After all, if you do it well, you’ll feel happy until you get to the destination, but… If you make a mistake, you’ll have to deal with it and the audience to the end. It’s incredibly torturous.”

The man took off his hat. His thick eyebrows, sharp nose, and a very defined jawline made for a very strong expression. Miso smiled, and bowed once again in greeting.

“I see you’re still wearing that flat cap.”

“It’s basically my trademark. I can’t just give it up willy-nilly. But to think you’d call after such a long time just to ask me to take a look at a teen actor… You’re a little too much.”

“That’s why I said sorry. Do you want me to say it again?”

“Shush. That’s enough.”

Miso sat down across from the man. They were long time acquaintances, since Miso’s started acting, as a matter of fact. The man was a senior in the acting business, but Miso never thought of the man as something difficult to deal with.

‘Then again, that’s what everyone thinks.’

The man had a gentle nature to begin with. It was to the point where his friends often said that if he shaved his head, he’d be just like a typical monk.

“This is a nice place. I can tell the owner put a lot of work into it,” the man said, looking down at the flower pots under him.

Indeed, the flowers were all real, not fake. Miso knew very well that her friend worked very hard every day to keep those flowers healthy. As the man said, there was a lot of work going into this cafe.

“It’s a bit cold, would you like to go inside?”

“Mm, I’m fine. This is good for me. It’s decently cold, decently loud, and got a decently nice view. Look over there, that puppy is very adorable.”

The man was pointing at a small pet shop from across the street. A small Shih Tzu was leaning with its front paws against the glass with their tongue sticking out. Several passersby on the streets were stopping to take a look at the puppy as well.

“You’re not planning on buying a dog again, are you?”

Miso knew very well about how many dogs lived in this man’s house. The shock from her first visit was still fresh in her memory. The man’s house was… put shortly, a complete mess.

“I’m not buying. I’m going to take it in with love.”

“You look like you’re dripping hearts out of your eyes.”

“Hearts? Mm, you must’ve entered a relationship, Miso.”

“W-what?”

“You used to say things that were much more offensive in the past, but since yesterday, your words became more gentle than before. I can say with certainty that you’re seeing someone right now, Miso.”

“.......”

The man was too good at reading people. That’s right. This wasn’t the only reason why people called this man a monk. It was also because of his eye for noticing things.

There were many actors that didn’t know this man. But of the ones that did, there wasn’t a single one of them who were left unnoticed by the big management companies.

As a matter of fact, he was also known as a maestro of finding talented actors.

“We can leave the private stuff for later. Right, so of the twelve kids you’ve shown me, who do you want to introduce me to?”

Lee Junmin. This was the name of the man who Miso invited to this cafe today.

* * *

The first thing Maru got greeted with when he entered the door was the sound of sizzling.

“You’re home, brother?”

Bada stuck her head out from the dining room, holding a piece of lettuce in one hand.

“You’re eating meat?”

“Ya, come eat. It’s super good.”

Maru quickly changed in his room, and headed to the dining room where his family was grilling meat on the table with a gas burner.

“You’re late.”

“Practice got a bit long. What’s up with the beef?”

Maru turned the package of beef around to look at the price tag. It was a grade 1++ beef. The type of stuff that went for 7,000 won per 100g.

“Did something happen, mom? Why’d you buy something so expensive?”

“Why would I buy something like this? It’s a gift.”

“A gift?”

“You didn’t get the call?”

“What call?”

Maru took out his phone, remembering that he put it on silent mode when he was at the cafe. When he opened it, he noticed one missed call on his screen.

“The manager?”

It was from the manager of the gas station. Maru turned to look at his mom.

“Did the manager give us this?”

“Yeah. He asked us for our home address a moment ago. He wanted to say thank you, since he couldn’t contact you.”

“Is that so? I wonder what happened. He didn’t say anything else otherwise?”

“Nope, he just dropped this off to us.”

Maru decided to call the manager for now.

“Hello? Manager?”

- Oh, is this Maru?

“Yes.”

- Did you enjoy the meat?

“We’re just about to start eating. But what’s up with this all of the sudden?”

- I wanted to thank you. I was wondering what I should get you, but I realized there was no greater gift to a teenager than meat. Why do you ask? Do you not like it?

“It’s hanwoo. Of course I’d like it. It just felt weird to eat it without knowing the reason why.”

- Hm? Did my son not tell you anything yet?

“Excuse me?”

When he asked back in surprise, he could hear the other side getting a little noisy in the background. He could somewhat make out the manager calling someone over hurriedly. Soon, he could hear a ‘here, take the call’ from the other side.

- Ugh… seriously.

“Who is this?”

- ...It’s me.

The voice was a little murky, and also pretty rebellious. Maru knew this voice very well.

“Dowook?”

- Yeah.

“Why do you...”

- This is my dad’s phone.

Maru understood everything after hearing that one sentence. The manager was having trouble conversing with his son, who liked looking at bikes. He had a pretty good idea that the son in question would be Dowook, and now receiving confirmation from the person in question.

‘Looks like things got solved pretty well.’

He remembered the time when Dowook tried to cheer him up with some peach tea in class. Was that how he thanked people? That was pretty cute.

“Did you make up with your dad?”

- Make up? We never fought to begin with.

“You know what I mean. Well, it’s good that you made up with him.”

- …….

“Did you look at the magazines? They looked expensive.”

- I-I saw.

“Damn, I’m jealous. You have a good dad.”

- ……

“Treat him well. He probably suffered a lot inside.”

- I know, dude. Jeez.

“So long as you do. Ah, I was actually curious about something.”

- What?

“Why did you say you didn’t have a sister before?”

- ...Because she might as well not exist.

His voice dropped a tone immediately. His family seemed to be going through quite a lot over there. Maybe Maru shouldn’t have asked about that to begin with? Maru just thanked him for the meat really quickly.

- Dad wants to talk to you.

“Sure.”

The manager started excitedly talking about how his relationship with his son was restored thanks to Maru’s advice. Relationships between fathers and sons were strange. As they grew old together, their relationship became somewhat strained. The sons only tried to restore their relationship upon empathizing with their fathers.

- I’ll see you next time.

“Yes.”

Maru returned to the dining table after finishing his call. Because fathers were often the ones who had to wage war with the outside world, households often relied on mothers for support. That’s why some of these men could never manage to become a proper father and were forgotten by their children.

In that sense, the amount of work the manager put into this was incredibly admirable. He managed to achieve a perfect work-life balance. For a moment, Maru wondered what Dowook’s mother and sister did in his head, but decided not to think about it. He didn’t want to interfere with someone else’s family life.

Maru watched the meat cook for a second before standing up again. He took out a single-use plastic wrap from one of the drawers.

“What are you taking that out for?”

“I want to save some for dad.”

Mom smiled victoriously.

“I already packed the food. Don’t worry about it.”

Mom pointed at the little bag of meat lying on the countertop.

‘I guess that’s why she’s the wife.’

Maybe Maru didn’t need to worry so much about dad’s health. In that case…

“Mom, did you get your results back yet?”

“Why are you so worried, Mr. Maru? The doctor said I have no problems. He said my wrist would get better with rest, too. I’m going to go to work after some more rest, so don’t you worry.”

“That’s good to hear.”

“You worry too much. Mom is super healthy!”

Mom flexed her biceps as she said so, which made Maru smile a little bit.

* * *

The girl looked out the window at the bright, shining stars in the night sky. Maybe because all her neighbors decided to turn off their lights tonight?

“It’s big.”

The news stations all said that Mars would be particularly close to earth today. Indeed, the red dot shined particularly bright in the sky.

“I wonder if I can take a picture.”

She tried taking a picture with her foldable phone. But unfortunately, the camera captured nothing but a blurry brown sky. She wanted a closer picture. The girl looked up at the sky for a second before turning on her computer.

While it booted, she grabbed her script to take a look at it. She could pretty much recite all of her lines in one go now, but she still looked at her script whenever she could.

“Hm, hm hm.”

The girl flipped through the pages humming as her computer booted up. She redirected her attention to her monitor after the wait and clicked around a few times to find acting related blogs before finding a new blog on her screen.

The blog in question was titled ‘Life, Once Again’ loaded on the top of the screen. It was filled with diary-like posts that were updated every day or two. After clicking one of them in curiosity, the girl exclaimed to herself in pleasant surprise.

“He’s in the acting club as well.”

Occasionally, he was uploading writing about his acting club. That was a pleasant surprise for the girl.

“Hello, I’m in an acting club as well. Let’s meet in the Seoul Arts Center in the future!”

She left a comment in the form of a greeting before closing the tab, and turning on some music. She grabbed her script, and pushed her chair to the corner.

“Hm hm. Ah ah!”

After loosening her voice a little bit, the girl walked around in her room, treating it like a stage. The girl looked as happy as she could be, performing her own little play in her room.

* * *

Maru noticed a comment on his blog when he came back to his room after dinner. A comment… on a personal blog like this?

“Is this an ad?”

He clicked the comment thinking this.

- Hello, I’m in an acting club as well. Let’s meet in the Seoul Arts Center in the future!

A normal comment? That was surprising. How did she manage to find this blog? The user’s id was Black Swan. He did feel thankful that this person spent some time on this site.

“Let’s work hard.”

Maru closed the window and pulled out his math textbook. He did make up his mind to do acting, but this was only to meet her. He couldn’t just leave normal studying in the dust.

“...Why couldn’t god give me an ability to be good at studying? I wonder why I can’t understand a thing when it comes to this...”

What’s black are the letters, and what’s white is paper. Maru understood very little apart from that. He picked up his pen with a deep frown on his face.

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ensj's Thoughts

Hanwoo is a breed of Korean cattle that’s incredibly expensive. Think of it like Wagyu.