Chapter 73

In the streets, a cold wind blew. A small store could be seen under the blinking lights. In front of the lights was a small table, and in front of that, a young man passed by.

The young man had one hand in his pocket, and his other fiddling with the phone. Under the blinking lights, the man looked around for a bit before eventually looking at the front.

After staring for about three seconds, the man finally spoke.

“Um, who are you guys looking at?”

After looking around confusedly for a few more seconds, the man eventually pointed at his own face.

“Me?”

The man walked sideways like a crab, after exclaiming with a surprised look. After disappearing from the view, the man’s head poked back out to ask ‘Really? Me?’ one last time before disappearing.

* * *

Maru could only be described as a natural once he was on stage. After exiting the green tape, the boy waited for his next scene very calmly.

‘Hah… How do I get him to be desperate?’

Three weeks ago, Junmin gave her some insight into Maru.

[Maru’s not the type of person who’d move from outside influences. He needs an internal motivator, he’ll only display his true worth when he finds the motivation. So I’d suggest that you stop talking to him for now. Just watch.]

Miso asked what would happen if Maru decided to do something else after that, but the man just responded with a ‘well, that’s just life’.

‘He’s a good guy, but he’s even more stubborn than me when it comes to recruiting actors.’

Maru shone like a star as soon as he started acting. It was hard to see right now, but it still was a very clear difference from the other actors on stage. Then again, even Junmin had recognized Maru’s talent.

‘He said Maru was amazing.’

The weight behind Junmin’s words was different. Just as how a flower described as ‘beautiful’ carried a different weight between a person who saw it for the first time, and a person who saw it for the hundredth time. Junmin praised Maru as ‘amazing’. Just what would Maru look like, then, if he got proper practice?

‘If only something would happen to shake that kid...’

Miso nervously bit her thumb. She found a diamond in the rough, but she couldn’t touch it. It was driving her crazy.

“Next!”

Miso decided to focus on the run for now, they only had two weeks. After that, they needed to act out their play at the festival.

* * *

“Good work. Make sure to stretch before you sleep. Also, gargle with some warm water as well, and try to avoid hot water. It’ll dry your skin too much. We have two weeks left, so maintaining your health is just as important as practice. Got it?”

“Yes!”

“We’re definitely going to the finals in the winter. Alright, off you go.”

Miso put a hand forward saying ‘Blue Sky’, to which everyone else responded with a ‘fighting’. With expressions of having completed another satisfactory day, the club departed one by one.

“Alright, let’s go.”

Maru stepped out first with his bag, Dojin and Daemyung followed him down the stairs.

“Neither of you got scolded today, huh?” Dojin said with jealousy.

Today, Dojin managed to do his hundred pushups. Fifty for every time he made a mistake. It wasn’t such a horrible day for him in that regard, actually.

“Well, Daemyung aside… Maru, are you getting tutored or something?”

“No way, my character is just easy.”

“Heh… That character definitely isn’t easy, the way I see it. Right, Daemyung?”

Maru waved away the two’s curious looks.

“You’d be better than me if you took my character.”

“No way.”

The three of them said their goodbyes to their seniors as they left, leaving the school grounds. Dojin and Daemyung turned left here, to get to the bus station. Maru was just about to head off to the right on his bike.

“Maru.”

Maru got off the bike after hearing someone call for him. It was Joonghyuk. Did something happen? The boy clearly ran over here to speak to him.

“Let’s talk.”

“Sure.”

“We can do it while we walk. Do you live this way?”

“Yes. What about you?”

“Me too.”

The two of them walked next to each other. Maru looked at Joonghyuk as he pushed his bike with one hand. The two stopped talking to each other one on one after their conversation about what happened at the beginning of the last semester. After walking silent for a few minutes, Joonghyuk finally opened his mouth at a red light.

“Acting… Are you okay with it?”

“I’m trying my best not to be a drag.”

“Drag? No way.”

Joonghyuk looked up at the sky for a second, making Maru look up as well. The moon was shining brightly. Maybe it was a super moon? They could even spot the craters on it.

“A year ago, when we weren’t even able to participate in the competition due to the fire… Yoonjung and Danmi cried a lot.”

“I’m surprised to hear that even Danmi cried.”

“Right, I was surprised too.”

The light turned green.

“I thought a lot back then. Props are just as important as the acting. That’s why I tried to be a stage manager when I went into my second year. Though that idea obviously failed thanks to instructor Miso. In any case, I made up my mind to help these friends not cry next time. No matter what happens, I’d take them to the finals.”

“But it didn’t work out.”

“That’s right. Well, at least we got to the prelims, so it’s a lot better than last year. Honestly, if Geunseok didn’t cry that day, Yoonjung and Danmi would’ve. They were holding back trying to cheer Geunseok up.”

Maru smiled awkwardly, imagining his two seniors crying in his head.

“Once we become seniors, we won’t be able to focus on plays anymore. Everyone wants to stay in the club, sure, but we wouldn’t be able to invest as much of our time anymore. We need to start getting licenses and look for jobs. Plus, three of us are looking to get into college. This is probably our last chance at fully immersing ourselves in the club.”

“What about you?”

“Me? Well, our family runs a store, so I’ll just take over. Iseul is probably thinking the same, right?”

“Yes. Iseul wants to take over her parents’ restaurant.”

“Honestly, I couldn’t imagine her doing that for my life.”

“I agree.”

Iseul was pretty enough to look like a movie actor. To think she would don an apron and work in a restaurant…

‘Wait, maybe this could work.’

A restaurant with a pretty woman running it… It sounded like a great opportunity to make money. Maybe Maru could ask to work together in the future? As he was thinking about such things, Joonghyuk suddenly stopped walking.

“I want you to be the club president next year.”

Maru stopped his bike to look at Joonghyuk. In truth, Joonghyuk had hesitated for a long time before he could say these words. It wasn’t a particularly difficult thing to say, but in front of Maru, he hesitated.

“I thought of this for a long while. It’s not something that I just came up with either. All of us second years think you should be the president. We wouldn’t have said a thing if you kept being on the sidelines, but… Now that you’re participating, I think you should be the one taking over.”

“I’d recommend that you ask some...”

“Of course, if you refuse, I’ll ask someone else. We aren’t forcing this on you.”

“Why me, then?”

“Because you were the only one who could say the right words for the club.”

“I was just being arrogant back then.”

“I heard what happened from Taesik. Oh, of course, I pressured him until he told me. He wanted to keep it a secret.”

Joonghyuk overheard Taesik talking about Maru at some point. Afterward, he kept trying to get information from the man. In the end, he discovered how Maru took on the role of a villain for the club. Of course, he had an idea that this was the case from the beginning, but he only realized that this was the truth thanks to talking with the advisor. Joonghyuk told the rest of the second years about this, he thought they deserved to hear about this.

As a result of his actions, they had the idea of making Maru the president for next year. Once they become third years, they wouldn’t be able to work with the club anymore, so it has become a tradition for the club to choose a new president around this time.

“...You should definitely recommend the position to someone else, then,” Maru said.

Joonghyuk shook his head.

“If it was in the past, I definitely would’ve. Since you were always the spectator. But that’s not the case anymore. Aren’t you getting more serious about acting?”

Just before summer, Maru was more like an audience member in the club. Someone who did participate, but not by much. All of that changed in the fall. At some point, Maru started acting himself, and involved himself pretty deeply within the club as well. He had changed. Sure, Geunseok and Daemyung showed talent as actors, but Maru far outclassed the two in pretty much everything else. The boy even reminded Joonghyuk of his elder brother at times.

‘No, Maru’s pretty comparable to those two in terms of acting as well.’

Just looking at Maru's performance would set the scene for the play splendidly. Plus, the way he was so natural on the stage allowed even the actors to become engrossed into the play. There was something about him that attracted attention.

Maru was mature, good at acting, and his words often carried weight. Who could be better at assuming the role of a president than him?

“I’m not telling you to make your decision right now. I just wanted to let you know that this is what the club is thinking.”

Joonghyuk pat Maru’s shoulders a few times before turning away. He wanted Maru to be president, but who knows what might happen? All he could do now was wait.

* * *

“President, huh.”

The one thing Maru wanted to become in his previous life, just thinking about it made him laugh a little bit. Maru shook off the excess water from his hair and sat down on a chair. Any other time, he would’ve just refused Joonghyuk right there and then, but he couldn’t do that today.

“Talent...”

Three weeks ago, Maru ended up seeing inside Junmin’s mind.

[This guy has talent. Enough to make me want to raise him. But he has no interest himself.]

Three weeks ago, Maru tried searching for Lee Junmin on the internet to no avail. Same with JA Production as well. To begin with, searching for Lee Junmin only gave him results about an idol with the same name. But once he dug a little bit further, he could find the man in certain celebrity articles. He wasn’t mentioned a lot, but whenever he was, the nickname ‘maestro’ always followed.

Maru realized that this man was much more famous than he initially thought. The man was a producer, one that dug up famous newbies all the time. One of the articles even mentioned that the female lead of the most popular drama on TV right now was raised by him.

The man wasn’t very famous amongst civilians, but in the acting scene, he was pretty much Midas. That very man thought Maru was talented. Thanks to that, Maru ended up thinking and thinking for the past three weeks. He was given a choice. A choice he didn’t have in his previous life.

“What happens to my future if I choose this path?”

He wouldn’t be a road manager or an office worker, that much was certain. There was merit in becoming an actor, yes. But at the same time, he was nervous. He already experienced failure many times in life.

“I guess I’m just old, huh.”

And one more thing.

“I should’ve asked her for her phone number.”

He didn’t know what would happen to his and her future if he made this decision. These were the two things he was nervous about. He couldn’t take care of his nervousness just yet, obviously, but he could somewhat make do with what would happen between him and her. As long as he could come to meet her earlier this time…

‘I’ll make you happy this time.’

Maru wanted to give her the gift of a bright life. Especially because of the dreams she had to give up on in the previous life for their family. In that case… In this life… Maru wanted to give her the world that she wanted, a world where she could do anything she desires.

“I should meet her first, though.“

He needed to show the others she was taken before anything else.

“She’s way too pretty for her own good.”

Maru realized right then, that the ship that was his life just took a slight turn.

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