Chapter 72

"Things are starting to look red.”

“Dang, so it’s autumn already.”

Daemyung and Dojin spoke as they walked in front of the school. It was a Sunday. While other students were just messing around in school, the acting club came to school for practice.

“The competition isn’t very far away now.”

Dojin sighed at Daemyung’s words. It was October 27th. 2 weeks away from the competition. Despite this, Dojin felt like his acting was stagnant.

“God, feel like I’m going crazy. I got criticized yesterday, too.”

“You’ll get better.”

“Oh, and you must be feeling very relaxed, huh? Because you passed?”

“I-I guess?”

Two days ago, the club went through three full runs after school. Repeating an hour long play over and over again three times in a row was very tiring for the students. Plus, every time they finished a run, Miso’s criticism would ring upon their ears. It was enough to give some of the students a stomach ache from the stress.

“I don’t even get stressed from studying, jesus.”

“Just means you’re working that hard.”

“True enough, hah. But you kept passing and I keep failing.”

Dojin was kind of jealous of his friend’s ability to maintain his smile, as it was a common occurence to receive a scolding in the club. He actually kind of felt bad when he didn’t get scolded. There were actually only three students that never got scolded by Miso during practice.

First off, there was Daemyung. The kid just completely changed character as soon as he got on stage. The guy actually kind of looked savage on there.

Second off, Joonghyuk. His acting was good enough for Miso to let him off the hook. The dude managed to play his role very well, as a weak husband in the play. He looked like he’s been practicing for months, as a matter of fact.

‘Well, I guess his personality was similar to his character to begin with.’

And last up,

“We’re late, might have to run.”

Dojin saw Maru waving at the two of them from the entrance. The two of them started making a run for it.

‘He’s the most mysterious one of them all.’

Maru was also one of the three that never got scolded. He was only in a few scenes with a few lines, but Dojin’s impression of Maru’s character had completely changed in the last few days. Most of the club probably thought the same, as a matter of fact.

“What time is it?”

“8:57.”

“Oh crap, run!”

Dojin ran into the school building with his outdoor shoes still on. Daemyung and Maru followed close behind him, Miso was not a fan of tardiness. Last time, the woman made them duck walk around the field ten times just for being a minute late. The group ran up the stairs as fast as they could, making the halls echo with their footsteps.

Finally, they managed to reach the 5th floor. Dojin ended up clenching his eyes as soon as he opened the doors to the auditorium.

“Oh, nice. Late yet again. The three of you over there, ten laps around the field. No duck walking this time, we don’t have time.”

Hah… At least this wasn’t a duck walk this time.

“What are you doing? Run!”

“Yes!”

As they ran down the stairs, they found Yoonjung and Danmi coming up with a stiff face.

“...Is she there?”

“Did you ever find her coming late? I think she might be coming down looking for you.”

“Agghh! We’re screwed!”

Yoonjung and Danmi ran up hurriedly, Dojin shook his head looking at the two. Miso was even more torturous and cruel towards the second years when it came to punishment.

“Come on, let’s run.”

Maru jumped down the stairs, making Dojin follow behind him.

* * *

Practice began at 11am. Miso decided to dedicate an hour for physical training, saying that the club was being too lazy. As a result, Maru was leaning on the walls huffing madly.

‘This feels like I’m back in the military...’

He could almost hear the faint sounds of whistles blowing in the background.

“Get ready!”

“Yes.”

The club members stood up immediately. Miso would only work them harder if they looked tired, so they needed to move it. Miso opened her steel chair in the middle of the auditorium, and the club members lined up outside the green tape.

Maru was on the left side of the tape. Some things had changed since they started practicing three weeks ago. One of them was when Maru started, he would appear in the very first scene. Of course, he still didn’t have many lines at all.

“We’re doing this from start to finish with no breaks. If you make a mistake on stage… Well, I trust you’ll be able to handle it. We have two weeks left until we get on stage for real. Making a mistake should be impossible. If you do so regardless, you’ll have a lovey-dovey time with me, so be prepared, got it?”

Maru heard someone swallow right behind him. A one on one with Miso? Just thinking about it was terrifying. The woman was becoming more and more hysteric as time went on. They couldn’t even joke with her at this point, it only goes to show just how much this play meant to her.

Miso was the captain, the captain of a ship called Blue Sky. In its first voyage, the ship was stopped right at the docks. That must’ve hurt her pride a lot, enough to make her cry like a baby in front of Taesik. This was to be Blue Sky’s second voyage, she probably wanted the crew to be ready enough to weather any kind of storm.

“Geunseok!”

“Yes.”

“You know what I’ll do if you make a mistake again, right? We’ll abandon you. I’m not joking.”

“I’ll do well.”

Miso was especially vicious towards Geunseok. She probably wanted to make the boy as strong as he could get during this practice. She would cut out any praise, and beat the boy as much as she could.

Thanks to her tough love, Geunseok had grown pretty vicious himself, in a good way. He was still craving praises, but he wouldn’t overtly ask for it anymore. As soon as he finds another reason to act, surely he would become an amazing actor.

‘That is, only if he finishes his play properly.’

Miso sent them the ready signal as she watched the clock, this was the beginning of the run. Maru’s eyes met with Miso’s briefly. For some reason, looking at them made him think about what happened right before they went into practice.

* * *

Maru carefully observed the man in front of him. He wore a flat cap, sitting with a little poodle on his lap, and looked close to being fifty.

“Senior, you aren’t supposed to bring a dog here.”

“But there’s no one who can take care of it. I asked you, but you refused.”

“We can’t have dogs in our house.”

“Then don’t even complain. You expect me to just leave this little thing alone in my house? Look at it, the poor thing can’t even move properly.”

The man patted the poodle lightly as he spoke.

“He’s always like this, you’ll have to understand.”

Miso shook her head annoyedly.

“So why did I come here again?” Maru asked.

“I told you. I wanted you to meet someone.”

After looking at the poodle for a few more seconds, the man left the puppy to a staff member nearby. As soon as the dog disappeared, his previously tender expression grew serious.

“Name?”

“It’s Han Maru.”

“Nice to meet you. I’m Lee Junmin.”

“Nice to meet you.”

The two of them briefly shook hands. Maru noticed that the man had a very thick, vibrant voice. Probably the result of practice.

“You look a little confused.”

“Well, instructor Miso dragged me here without telling me a thing.”

“Me too. She treats her seniors too badly.”

“I understand that sentiment.”

Junmin smiled happily at that. Seeing how the man still maintained a polite attitude despite speaking to a junior of Maru’s age, he was probably a businessman. Junmin handed Maru his business card.

“JA Productions?”

Maru instinctively reached for his own business card.

‘Oh, right. I don’t have one.’

The business card on the table had two things on it. The name ‘JA Production’, and Junmin’s name. A production company… Seeing as how Miso seemed to be involved, it was likely related to acting. Maybe a management firm?

“I think I deserve an explanation from instructor Miso.”

“No, I can explain it. I’m a bit surprised myself, but I think I know what’s going on.”

Right then, Junmin’s phone rang. The man answered the call with annoyance and spoke angrily. Maru made out a few words about plays, times, and locations. After giving a few instructions, Junmin turned off his phone.

“I apologize.”

“It’s fine.”

“Now, allow me to explain. You performed at a cafe a while back, yes?”

“Yes.”

“I was there that day. I saw you and your friends act, because my little junior here called me out.”

“You were there to see us?”

“That’s right. Miso told me to help out one of the twelve kids there. She looked very confident.”

“Could it be, that one kid was...”

As soon as Maru said that much,

“I said I was surprised before, right? It was because I saw you. I actually had my eyes on two different kids. I was going to tell Miso this today, but it looks like she was in too much of a hurry.”

Miso frowned.

“You didn’t have your eyes on him, senior?”

“Yeah. I was looking at the others.”

“No way.”

“I hate to say it, but I didn’t feel much from this friend when I saw him the other day. He was neat, but he’s still an amateur.”

Maru realized this was a meeting made from a mistake.

“So I can leave, then.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright. I’m actually relieved.”

“Relieved?”

“Yes. Chances only belong to the desperate. I’ll leave, then. Thank you.”

Maru stood up from his seat and left.

* * *

“Senior.”

Miso couldn’t stop Maru from leaving. Her senior had told her that he had his eyes on two students. She thought one of them would be Maru for sure, but…

“You haven’t changed, have you? I was wondering why that kid was here.”

“Senior, he’s talented.”

“I know.”

“What?”

He knew, but he still sent Maru back?

“Why?”

“Before that, let me just ask you one thing. Do you think I have an abundance of free time just because I treat you well? Free enough to make time during a weekday, in the morning at that?”

“...I’m sorry.”

“Well, hearing that feels good, at least. You’re forgiven.”

Junmin smiled happily, making Miso sigh.

“Why didn’t you tell him anything, then?”

“I only raise pros. I only work with pros as well. Geunseok and Daemyung, was it? I saw talent in those two. But not him.”

“He has talent, but he also doesn’t?”

“Yes. Right now, at least.”

“Right… now?”

Junmin took a sip of his tea.

“That kid is definitely eye-catching. He was probably born with it, or was gifted that talent by god. When he was talking that day, I noticed the entire cafe looking at him. It was pretty amazing to behold. I almost clapped, actually. If he has enough talent in acting, then… He would really make it big.”

If those words came from anyone else, Miso wouldn’t have believed them. But this was her senior that was talking. The “maestro” as the community called him. Plus, this man was always scouted into judging for auditions whenever the production team needed actors for a massive project.

“So why? Isn’t that enough?”

Junmin laughed at that.

“I became even more confident of my decision after meeting him.”

“Confident?”

“That’s right. That kid, Maru, isn’t desperate for acting. Of course, his freedom is probably what made you greedy, but that kind of a personality doesn’t work in the world of the pros. If he isn’t desperate enough to climb the ladder with bleeding fingers, then… I don’t want to work with him. Plus, he didn’t seem to even want to work with me from the start.”

Junmin got back to drinking his tea as Miso looked down with a frustrated sigh.

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