Chapter 74

She opened her eyes as she fumbled her toes that snuck outside her blankets. Grabbing her phone to notice that it was only 8AM, still 3 hours away from her meeting time.

“Ugh, so cold.”

Maybe it was time for her to get a new blanket. This summer was way too short, as always. After five more minutes of fumbling around in bed, she started humming to herself a tune that her dad frequently used. Thanks to that, she found herself humming it quite often as well.

She made sure not to do it in front of mom, though. Her mom always made a sad expression whenever she hummed. After a few more minutes of rolling around in bed, she stood up with a groan. It was 8:20AM now. She took the leftovers from yesterday and put it in the microwave. Mom seemed to be sleeping still, so she had to take out her food seconds before the microwave dinged. She snuck back up to her room afterwards and found herself a few acting videos that she saved from yesterday, turning them on.

She directed her attention to her monitor as she ate. Watching people act was always fun, even if it was a play done by students. After about thirty minutes, the play ended. She put down her food and clapped lightly.

“They’re good.”

But we’re better. She closed the window with a grin, before turning on her own blog. All the other kids asked her to use Cyworld, but that just didn’t fit her tastes very well. Instead of looking at walls of text that were glowing from the stickers decorating it, she was a bigger fan of normal blogs. Plus, normal blogs were where most professional actors gathered to begin with. There were a surprising number of blogs run by them.

The girl browsed stories about reviews, what happened during prep time, and what happened with the audience as she drew out her own dream in her mind. She, too, would eventually become someone else’s role model, just like them. Click, click. As she clicked her way across other blogs, her eyes eventually settled on a familiar one ran by a familiar ID.

Maru.

“Ah.”

It’s that blog from before, isn’t it? The blog titled, “Life, Once Again”. She left a comment there before, perhaps there was a response waiting for her? When she opened the blog, she realized that she did indeed get a reply back.

- We decided to compete in the winter competition as well. Maybe we can meet there, if we get past the prelims? Good luck, Black Swan.

The girl smiled happily. She also noticed that there were a few more blog posts here. Whoever ran the website must be a diligent person, taking into consideration the consistency of posts.

- Good luck. But we’ll get first place for the winter competition as well.

Just as she was about to submit, she stopped herself. She sighed once before putting her hands back on her keyboard.

“I sound too rude.”

- Good luck. Hopefully, we can meet at the finals!

She didn’t want to antagonize her first blogging ‘neighbor’ right off the bat. After posting her comment, she stood up from her seat. It was about time for her to go out.

* * *

Junmin asked a friend of his to watch his house. His friend liked dogs a lot, so he trusted the person to treat them safely. Junmin had a dream of retiring in the countryside where he could live completely free with his dogs. He had the money to make his dream come true, but for now, he had too much greed for his job.

It was a Sunday morning. Normally, he’d spend the day doing nothing with his dogs, but today was different. He put an earphone in one ear as he got on the subway. He had an old notebook in one hand, and a custom-made pen on the other as he started observing the people around him.

If he was told to pick one place in South Korea where the ‘faster faster’ culture was at its bottom, he would pick the subway running at 11am Sunday on line 3. It felt like there were some people in the subway, but reality proved otherwise. Everyone moved at a crawling pace like a bale of turtles. For example, just look at that woman standing in front of the subway door right there. Her neck refused to move for five straight minutes now. The teen sitting next to her was reading a novel very diligently. He too, barely moved.

On the other side of the subway was a female college student, who was sleeping while grasping the pole next to her tightly; no movement from her either. It was odd. Inside the fast-moving subway was nothing but silence.

Rumble rumble. The sound of the subway wheels rolling across the steel tracks sounded almost like a person’s heartbeat. Hearing it comforted Junmin very much. He was a big fan of this moment, actually. Whenever he needed to think, he always rode on this subway on line 3 around this time on Sundays.

He opened his notebook, the one he carried since the first day he joined the world of acting. He’s changed out the paper in this notebook countless times already. In fact, one of his cabinets at his house was filled with these papers. They were essentially a pure distillation of all his thoughts.

Today, Junmin got on the subway because of a certain problem. It wasn’t anything important. As a matter of fact, he could just make the decision right then and there. But instead of doing so, he decided to get on the subway.

‘He was pretty bold.’

Junmin thought back to a meeting from yesterday.

A call came through his private phone, not his work phone. It was Miso. When he picked it up, Miso asked him if it was alright if she gave his phone number to that kid. She sounded just as confused as he was.

That kid.

Junmin thought of Han Maru immediately and said it was alright. Shortly after, he got a call. From Maru, obviously. The student asked him if he could spare some time for a meeting. He allowed it. He was rather curious about what the boy had to say after a full month. Did something change?

They decided to meet at the cafe where they first met. When he arrived at around 3pm, he found the student seated.

“It’s been a month.”

“Yes. I’ll introduce myself again, since I didn’t introduce myself properly then. I’m Han Maru.”

Right then, Junmin got a very odd feeling. It didn’t feel like he was talking to an immature student, but rather a very experienced businessman. Maru sat back down after a curt bow. Junmin, for some reason, felt like he needed to prepare some documents for this meeting.

“We could’ve just done this through a call. I’m very grateful you decided to meet up in person.”

“No, it’s fine. I usually talk about important things in person. Plus… I was interested in seeing you again.”

“Is that so. That’s good to hear.”

“Would you like some tea?”

“I’ll get some after we finish talking.”

The boy wasn’t stiff when he talked. His way of speech was borderline rude, but he managed to circumvent that with his expressions and gestures. Was he born with this, or did he learn to talk like this from someone else? In any case, this wasn’t how most high schoolers talked. Two weeks ago, after meeting Maru, Junmin met Daemyung and Geunseok separately.

He was interested in those two students as well. After all, he didn’t dig up talented newbies just for money. At this point, he didn’t even need money anymore. There were two reasons why he didn’t stop raising newbies. First, it was because he enjoyed the work. He thought it was a blessing for him to be able to enjoy it. As a person who thought work was what made humans human, Junmin didn’t want to stop working until his body couldn’t hold up anymore. Second, he did this because he wanted to prove himself. Junmin was a fan of being looked up to. That was why he always described himself to be ‘greedy’ to others.

He had no intention of wanting to be seen as noble or humble. No, he just wanted to be respected for his talent. Junmin loved his nickname as the maestro. He didn’t want to give that up just yet.

At one point, he visited nearly every theater company across the nation in his search for newbies. He’s toned it down a notch with his age now and all, but that didn’t mean his passion waned. He was still very much willing to show his abilities when the opportunity presented itself. Therefore, it was inevitable for him to meet with Geunseok and Daemyung. Of course, the fact that these were Miso’s students also had a lot to do with why he met them. Miso was similar to him, and he trusted her judgment due to that.

In any case, his meeting with those two students went fairly well. They were incredibly happy to find out that he was giving them a chance. They said they would try their best when he asked for a small display of their talent. They would try their best as long as they were given the chance.

On the other hand… The student in front of him now was a little bit different.

“I want to know if you’re capable of handling the risk of me jumping into the world of acting because of you. If you can, I’d like to sell my youth to you.”

That was an interesting suggestion. At first, Junmin could only laugh at the boy. Whenever he talked to a newbie actor, they all said the same thing.

Please, give me a chance.

That was exactly what Junmin provided. He gave them a chance, looked at their talent, and then led them on wherever they belonged. If they didn’t have that talent? Well, unfortunately, he would have to let them go. What this kid was saying though… was very different. If he were to interpret it differently, the boy was basically saying this:

I’ll make use of that chance you give me, so you should take responsibility.

“Haha...”

Junmin stroked his chin, the back of his neck was tingling. This was a good sign. It was a sign of something new. Something to break the dull repetitive cycle in his life. Repetition, to him, was equivalent to death in life. After all, what use was life when tomorrow looked exactly the same as today? In that sense, Maru’s suggestion was incredibly fresh to him. It was the type of suggestion that would make his today, and his tomorrow different. That was also the reason why he was unable to refuse Maru outright.

“You want me to buy your time.”

“Would that be possible?”

“What’s making you this arrogant, to begin with?”

Junmin decided to abandon his manners for a second, since he had the advantage in this situation. After all, they weren’t speaking to each other as equals right now.

“Don’t you want me? If that’s just an assumption of mine, I’ll apologize right now and leave.”

“......”

“If that isn’t the case, and if you’re really tempted to take me in, I’d like you to buy me with a fairly high price.”

“High price?”

“Yes.”

“How much?”

“I won’t ask you to take care of me until the end of my life or anything. I just want you to give me enough money to have a three-person family settle in. Ah, of course, this is only if I fail in this acting business.”

“Be more specific.”

“2 billion won.”

“Hah!”

Junmin could only laugh at that number. Well, it wasn't like he is incapable of giving it. He could easily get that much money if he sold one of his buildings right now. He could even make that money back right away if he introduced a decent actor to a big management company right now.

“Billion, billion. Do you think that amount of money is a joke? Did you watch too much TV?”

“No. I’m well aware that it’s a ridiculous amount of money. After all. 99% of our population dies without ever earning that much money.”

“But you still want it?”

“Yes. Only if you value my youth that much.”

“Hah, and you think I’d actually take you up on that offer?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re still here.”

Junmin could only laugh.

- This station is Chungmuro. The doors are on your…

Junmin came back to reality as he looked down at his notebook. Inside it, he wrote a single name: Maru.

“Han Maru, huh.”

Junmin got off the subway with a nod. He’s finished thinking. He just needed to tell the boy his decision.

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ensj's Thoughts

Cyworld is a Korean SNS.