Chapter 79

“You managed to see it to the end, huh? Getting your own play performed, that is. How did you manage to persuade the director, anyway? You probably just begged him until he gave in, right?”

Miso and Ganghwan were sitting together in a cafe near the theater.

“Begged? No way, he jumped at the idea. Plus, a true artist shouldn’t care so much about money. Don’t worry, things went well with the director. Plus, you saw how many people there were in the seats.”

“You know no one’s going to watch this play once they learn what it’s really like.”

“Do you really think so?”

Ganghwan was confident. For sure, the play didn’t have any faults in it. The actors acted very well, and the props on the stage were very well-made. The play managed to invoke feelings in the audience very easily. The only problem was, again, the amount of painful feelings it invoked.

“This play isn’t for everyone, I know. To begin with, I don’t even have enough talent to make a play that could satisfy everyone.”

“Not enough talent? Do you really think you have the right to say that? By the way, what happened? You used to hate homeless people before, but you were almost defending them in this play?”

“I mean, they say the more you know, the more you see. I lived like a homeless person around three months before I started preparing for this play. The first month was dreadful. The fact that my body hurt wasn’t that much of an issue, the people were.”

“People?”

“Yeah, the people. The characters like Mr. Kim, Mr. Lee, and Mr. Park aren’t the only types of people who are homeless, after all. Most of them do nothing but bother and annoy you, and commit all sorts of crimes. They all gave up on their lives, doing nothing but drink with the money given to them.”

“So, you decided to idealize them for this play?”

“No, I didn’t. The character I played exists in real life.”

Ganghwan took out his notebook, Miso knew what it was very well.

“From the second month, I met people who were very different from the stereotypical homeless people I knew about. People who desperately struggled to recover, despite hitting rock bottom. Those who wanted to go back into the warzone that was society. When I started talking with a lot of them, I had to wonder why they were homeless to begin with. Once I gathered up their stories, I ended up coming up with a decent character.”

“Man, what a weirdo. I feel sorry for the people who were worrying about you once you went off the grid.”

Ganghwan shrugged with a smile.

“So, what did you want to ask of me, Ms. Yang Miso?”

Miso stretched her neck forward to Ganghwan.

“I want you to mentor someone.”

“Mentor? What are you talking about?”

Ganghwan stared confusedly.

“You’ll see soon. This isn’t just a request from me, but from Junmin as well. Well, I guess it’s more of an order from him?”

* * *

Three people were sitting inside a cafe at Suwon.

“Alright, say hi.”

Maru looked at the man in front of him. The man was probably dragged here by Miso, seeing by his awkward smile.

“Hello, I’m Han Maru.”

“Nice to meet you. I’m Yang Ganghwan.”

Yang? Maru took a look at Miso. Yang Miso… They weren’t family, were they?

“He’s a friend I met through acting. He’s also going to be your mentor from hereon.”

“Mentor?”

“Oh, so that’s him?”

Maru and Ganghwan both exclaimed in surprise. It looked like Ganghwan was dragged here without any explanation as well, that was kind of like Miso.

“I don’t know what you talked about with Junmin, but I heard you said you were going to focus on acting for the next three years? Might as well learn it properly then, right?”

Maru nodded in understanding. He did say he would study using related texts, but self study was difficult. Having an experienced teacher would help quite a bit.

“Well, that’s how it is, so go on and shake hands.”

Miso grabbed Ganghwan’s arm and stretched it forward. Maru grabbed the man’s hand and shook it lightly.

“Well, I’m leaving now. I gotta introduce the others to their mentors too.”

“The others?”

“Geunseok and Daemyung. Junmin’s the type to go all out when he makes his mind to raise some kids, so I need to talk to them.”

Miso stopped herself before she went out and turned back to the two of them.

“Anyway, you guys look pretty nice together. An adult weirdo and a kid weirdo.”

Weirdo?

Maru looked at Ganghwan. His face was pretty angular, which made him look pretty masculine, but overall he just looked like a nice person. His mouth and eyebrows was a testament to just how much he smiled in his day-to-day life. This person was a weirdo?

“Why are you a weirdo?” Ganghwan asked.

“What?”

“Miso’s just making fun of me when she calls me a weirdo. Why is she calling you a weirdo now?”

“She’s just making fun of me, too. A weirdo? No way. I’m perfectly normal.”

“Right?”

“Yes.”

“That’s good. I only talk to normal people. In any case, I only know your name right now, so I have to wonder what else I’d like to know...”

“Before that, you’re okay with this?”

“With what, teaching you?”

“Yes. You didn’t seem to know about this at all.”

“I knew I was going to mentor someone before this. Rather, did you know about this? That you were going to be mentored?”

“I wasn’t told anything until just a few minutes ago.”

“That sounds like Miso, alright. In any case, I’m going to be your mentor from now on. Ah, don’t think of me as anyone special, by the way. I don’t have some magical knowledge that’s going to turn you into a fantastic actor or anything. I can only throw you a few tips here and there. Don’t expect anything special, ok?”

Ganghwan grinned as he spoke. Right then, a certain memory replayed itself in Maru’s head. He was recalling something about the man, which made his head throb a bit.

‘This person, too...’

Ganghwan was an actor known as a very good friend of Hong Geunsoo. He never appeared on the big screen, but still managed to earn himself immense fame regardless. He managed to get both a lot of criticisms and praise, being a person who liked playing characters that reflected the dark side of society. He was especially famous for his ability to engage a character in the play like no other. As a matter of fact, many of his audiences liked to call his plays a ‘painful play’.

‘Huh, I know a lot about this guy.’

Where did Maru get this information? Surely not from the news. He probably didn’t read it from any magazines either, given how busy he was at his job.

‘...My wife, maybe?’

That was the most likely explanation. Or maybe he heard about it when he was a road manager? In any case, this was a famous person. That much was certain.

‘Ah.’

He remembered one more thing. This was the person who dragged the 44 year old Hong Geunsoo back into the world of stage acting. He remembered that interview with Hong Geunsoo on TV, even. As he recalled, Geunsoo said that he would ‘gladly go back on stage’ if the request was from Ganghwan.

“Um, do you happen to know Hong Geunsoo, by any chance?”

“Geunsoo? Ahh, I completely forgot. You were from Blue Sky. Yeah, I’m an old friend of his.”

The man made a comfortable smile as he said the word ‘friend’. They were definitely good friends.

“Care to grab something to eat as we talk? I’m hungry.”

The two of them walked out, and went to a restaurant nearby. After ordering a lunch special, they started talking again.

“How did you get to know Senior Junmin? He doesn’t like dealing with any average kid with those eyes of his.”

“Our instructor invited him to watch us secretly, and we acted in front of him for a brief period of time.”

“Ah, so that’s where you got in his eye. That guy’s still so greedy, even at his age. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him rest. He’s always out there managing and training someone. Pretty amazing. Anyway, what’s your game plan for now? Probably getting a bachelor’s in acting?”

Maru shook his head.

“I have no intention of going to college even if I keep doing acting, I want to learn in the industry.”

“Really? No college? No way.”

“Is that strange?”

“Very odd. Senior is notorious for raising kids like you for acting. He likes to say the earlier you teach them, the better. But whenever he picks up a kid around your age, he always tells them to do one thing, which is going to college. It doesn’t have to be for acting or whatever. Social Sciences, Philosophy, etc. He just wants his students to widen their worldview in school.”

That made sense to Maru, but he wasn’t one of those kids that Ganghwan just described. To begin with, the contract he signed with Junmin was something completely different.

“Also, ‘if I keep doing acting’? So you might give up in the middle?”

“Yes. I only agreed to act until the end of high school for now. After that, Mr. Junmin will decide if he wants to continue the contract. Otherwise, it’s all over. I thought this would be good for me, since I wasn’t sure of acting either.”

“...That’s really odd. He decided to take in someone like you? Did he change? Did Junmin suggest you do this?”

“No, this was a condition I set for him.”

“Y-you set it for him?!”

Ganghwan’s jaw dropped.

“So Senior didn’t tell you to do this, you just told him that you were going to quit if you didn’t like it by the end of high school?”

“That’s right.”

“And he just took that?”

“That’s why we’re here, isn’t it?”

“I’d find it easier to believe had you said that the sun was rising from the west.”

Ganghwan pulled out his phone and quickly typed a number. Then, he started with “yes, Senior. It’s me, Ganghwan.” He must be calling Junmin. After nodding a few times, he turned to look at Maru incredulously.

“Yes, I understand. Yes. I’ll come visit soon.”

Ganghwan ended the call before speaking again.

“Yeah, you’re totally a weirdo.”

* * *

‘300 million won, and third year of high school…’

Ganghwan could do nothing else but stare at Maru. The high schooler was eating the grilled fish in front of him pretty cleanly. A high schooler like this… talked about a 300 million won contract?

“You have courage. 100 million per year? As a 17 year old? Do you really think you’re worth that much?”

“No.”

Oh? Look at the kid. He was speaking with complete self assurance.

“And yet you asked for that much money regardless?”

“Yes.”

“Did you not want to do acting?”

“That’s not it at all, I did want to try acting. I wanted to see if my talent was the real deal, after being told that by people around me.”

“Despite that, you asked for 100 million.”

“It was 2 billion at first.”

“.......”

“What is it?”

“I was just wondering if the value of won dropped like a rock when I was homeless. That’s not it, right?”

“Of course not.”

“Wow, 2 billion… How much did I have in my bank again?”

Ganghwan stared intently at Maru. Just what was this kid? He could tell the kid was being serious with his words. Plus, Junmin wasn’t the type to go along with jokes.

‘He must’ve liked this kid a lot.’

Ganghwan didn’t believe that human lives were worth more than money. Money was always above humans, that’s how capitalism worked. He learned this the hard way when he spent his time being homeless. Money made the world go round, money let humans live, and money killed humans with the snap of its fingers. 300 million won… That was enough money to kill several people. He recalled seeing news about a case of someone committing suicide over 2 million won in debt a few days ago. 300 million was an absolutely ridiculous amount of money, money that Senior decided to throw at this kid.

“Do you act for money?”

“I do want money. I already earned that 300 million already as well. I plan on focusing for as much as I’ve been paid.”

Maru put down his chopsticks.

“Did what I say about acting for money annoy you?”

“No, not at all. It’s not like I expected to meet a saint when I came here. Everyone works for money. But… I’d like you to know that money can’t be a motivator in your life forever.”

You can start something to earn money. That was fine. You can focus on earning money forever in your life, too. That was also fine. But at some point, you would discover some other motivator other than money. Ganghwan experienced this, so he knew it well.

“Why do you act, coach?”

“Me? To earn money.”

“That doesn’t seem to be all, though?”

The boy was smiling lightly, Ganghwan scratched his nose. It felt like this kid was reading his mind.

“You’ll see when you start acting yourself. Everyone's the same, be they authors, singers, or comic artists. They might all start their jobs in hopes of earning money, but they’ll all end up working for a single goal in the end.”

“What’s that?”

“Having your voice heard, that becomes everyone’s ultimate goal.”

The two of them walked out after their meal, Ganghwan still didn’t have Maru completely figured out. At least he didn’t dislike the boy, he would’ve just been annoyed if Maru tried to put on a facade instead of being honest.

“By the way, about what you said about being homeless...”

“Oh, that? I was lacking notes when I went to prepare for my play. So I went to collect notes. Write some stuff about my own feelings too. Nice, right?”

“Ahh, so you went for a few days...”

“Days? What are you talking about? I’ve barely learned anything after three months. I had to stop after that since we needed time to actually prepare for the play.”

“...Three months?”

“What?”

“Do most people go that far?”

“Probably?”

“You went back home at least, right?”

“No. Why? Did a homeless person have a home to go back to?”

“So you were sleeping outside for three months...”

“Yeah.”

“......”

“What?”

“You’re weird.”

“Me? No way. I’m normal as normal could be, at least compared to you. What kind of a person asks for 2 billion won up front? I’d be way too embarrassed to ask that as a price.”

“I think I’m completely normal compared to someone who chooses to be homeless for three months just for experience. Such a dangerous thing is...”

Ganghwan looked at Maru with a frown, causing the boy to do the same. Right there, the two of them thought the exact same thing about each other.

This guy’s kind of weird.

Really weird, actually.

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