Chapter 81

“Geunseok.”

“Yes.”

“C’mere.”

Geunseok walked towards Miso. He didn’t make any mistakes here, the run just now was pretty perfect. His lines were spoken with proper articulation, and he didn’t forget any lines either. What was she going to criticize now? He’s only been criticized recently, so he walked up to her with a heavy heart.

“What’s up with your expression?”

“I was thinking of what I did wrong.”

“Who said you did anything wrong?”

“Then...”

Miso pat the boy’s arm with a smile.

“Good job. You worked hard. What do you think about your acting from just now?”

“I don’t think I did anything wrong.”

“Satisfaction?”

“...I think I did a good job. I’m satisfied.”

“Good. That’s good enough. You just need to work on the details now, since there’s nothing more to touch in terms of general skill. Just keep working hard like this from now on. Good work.”

He hadn’t heard any praise from Miso in a very long time. Geunseok was unable to hide his smile. There probably hasn’t been a point until now when he looked at instructor Miso this comfortably during the preparation of the People of Dalseok-dong.

“How’s mentoring going?”

Geunseok was assigned to a personal mentor after signing that contract with Mr. Junmin. He was assigned to a female actor who was 27 years old, and spending time with this woman was the happiest time in his life. The actor trusted him and only complimented him. He’s also seen this woman several times on TV. Not that she was incredibly famous, of course.

“It’s good.”

“Wow, well, you look ridiculously happy. She’s a good teacher, so work hard with her. She should be able to fill in the details that I can’t touch.”

“I understand.”

“Let’s try to refine your acting a bit more from here. You can go back now.”

Geunseok stepped back, he felt confident now. Not only had he earned praise from his mentor, but also Miso as well. He was improving.

“Geunseok, you got a call.”

Yurim gave him his phone that he set on vibrate, Geunseok took the phone and picked up the call.

- Geunseok, is that you?

“Ah yes, it’s me, instructor.”

- Just call me big sis. How’s it going, by the way? Did you get scolded by instructor Miso?

“No, she said I did good. She said I should focus on the details now.”

- See? I told you. You’re doing well. You’re growing as a person.

“...Thank you.”

His nervousness all fell away. His stress was gone, too. It felt like he could practice a few more times, even.

- Don’t work too hard. You’re talented. You should be able to reach the top even if you take it slow. I’m not exaggerating here. You know that, right?

“Haha, you’re embarrassing me.”

- No way. Anyway, Work hard. I’ll see you this evening.

Geunseok hung up. He could picture the woman on the other end of the phone in his head, a woman far more mature than any of the other girls in school. That cute yet mature woman who he called a big sister treated him like a friend. She even gave him advice with a very soft-spoken voice, very different from instructor Miso.

‘That’s right. I’m not bad at acting. It’s just that my instructor was unskilled till now.’

Finally, he met a real teacher, a charming one at that. Geunseok took a whiff of himself subconsciously. A little sour, probably from the sweat. He should take a shower before he goes to see her.

“What did instructor Miso say?” Yurim asked.

Geunseok responded with a smile.

“She said I was perfect.”

“Wow, as expected.”

“You did good too. You’d do better with more practice, though.”

“Really? Oh, Geunseok. Do you want to practice with me at dinnertime? Mom gave me more allowance, so we can eat something nice too.”

“Well, that’s nice, but I have to do something.”

“Something? You’ve been really busy lately.”

“Sorry. We can go see a movie during the weekend though. How’s that?”

“Really?”

Geunseok pinched Yurim’s cheek lightly, the girl smiled brightly in response. Geunseok realized that he didn’t feel much excitement anymore when he looked at the girl’s face. Yurim’s face was overlapping with that of the female actor. The actor looked somewhat soft but somewhat feline at the same time.

‘Well, Yurim cares about me, though.’

A few months ago, when Maru flipped the club completely, Yurim stopped him when he ran out of the chapel. He was very thankful back then, and he thought Yurim was the only person who understood him in the world. But…

“Why are you staring like that?”

“Oh, you were just so pretty.”

“W-what the. Why are you being like that all of the sudden?”

Geunseok grabbed Yurim’s hand for a second before letting it go. He didn’t realize it, but he was essentially getting insurance right now. Insurance for when he would fall again.

“Hehe.”

Yurim looked at Geunseok with a bright smile.

* * *

Miso looked at the two lovebirds in front of her for a second. Geunseok was incredibly relaxed compared to usual. Then again, this was the first time Miso complimented him in a very long time. Miso called actor Suyeon again on her phone.

“Yes. Ms. Suyeon?”

- How was he?

“It worked very well. It’s almost like he’s about to pass out from happiness.”

- That’s good.

“But is this okay? This will only make him weaker as a person.”

Even if humans were intelligent animals, their nature and personality could change drastically from how they were nurtured. Geunseok was raised with his parents’ intense attention and intervention, Miso had already heard about this from Geunsoo. Sometimes, there are parents who try to project their dreams onto their children. They don’t consider their children to be independent human beings just like themselves. In other words, they only saw their children as dolls.

‘Praising when their kids study well, punishing when they don’t. Justifying all of it by saying it’s all for them. It’s a disgusting cycle.’

Miso’s family was a mess. Her father was missing, and her mother was sick. Back in the day, she used to get so many calls from debt collectors that answering phone calls became a fear of hers. Even when she told them she didn’t know where her dad was, all she got, in turn, were threats of death and insults. In an environment like that, Miso had no choice but to grow up strong. She didn’t have the luxury to pay attention to how others thought of her.

Despite this, Miso never resented her mother. She’s insulted her father day and night, of course…

Even though her mother was sick, she had a strong mentality. Miso never saw her crack under any kind of pressure. Her mother used to tell her that she respected her decision often as she grew up.

I respect your decision.

Her mother respected her. Miso could only learn how wise her mother was after growing up. Her mother accepted that Miso was different from her, despite being her flesh and blood. How amazing was that? Wouldn’t any person feel a certain feeling of possessiveness over their child, especially if they raised that child, fed that child, and taught that child for all of the child’s life? Miso’s mother wasn’t like that, though. She didn’t use the fact that she raised Miso as justification to take control of Miso’s life. After realizing what an amazing thing that was, Miso started respecting her mother more than ever.

That’s why Miso could understand Geunseok. When a parent cares a little too much about their child, they fly right over their children’s heads like a helicopter. Without realizing what kind of pressure doing so would be put onto a child.

‘He’ll have to harden himself.’

Miso knew her limits as an instructor, it’s not like she got the right to teach others just because she was an adult. It was Geunseok’s parents’ fault that he became this way, but the boy continued this behavior by his own choice. Miso knew very well that the boy had a problem, but she also knew that she couldn’t solve it for him. There were very few people who could fix Geunseok’s personality.

‘Either himself, or those very close to him.’

She tried telling him once to not find motivation from others, but from himself instead. The response she got back was a cold, silent expression. After seeing that, Miso gave up on the boy completely. It was all up to actor Suyeon now. How would that woman go about trying to fix Geunseok? She had no idea.

- Excuse me?

“Ah, yes. I’m here.”

- Sorry. I thought you hung up because you didn’t say anything. Anyway, leave it to me. If you take candy away from a child, he’d do nothing but cry. That’s not smart. You have to give him something else. Eventually, after enough iterations of switching, he would stop crying with anything in his hands.

“Alright. Senior told me to leave Geunseok to you, so I’ll do exactly that. Please treat him well.”

- Don’t worry. Ah, Ms. Miso, do you know actor Yang Ganghwan?

“Of course.”

- Um, could you set up a meeting with me and him next time? I’d like to meet him at some point.

“Alright. I’ll try contacting him.”

- Yes, thank you. Ah, I have to start filming now. I’ll see you next time.

“Yes.”

The woman was much younger than Miso, but also much more successful. Miso heard a while ago that Suyeon would be starring in a lead role in a small miniseries at some point, even.

‘Senior Junmin chose her, so things should go well.’

The guy was a real talent at handling people, after all. Miso clapped her hands towards the resting students.

“Now! Back to practice! Ready up!”

* * *

Maru got a call on the way back home after practice, it was from Ganghwan. The guy hung up after telling him to come to a restaurant near the school, so Maru had no choice but to go. As soon as he arrived, Ganghwan said some nonsense about being unable to act without meat and fed Maru.

“Why do you act?”

Maru swallowed the pork belly in his mouth before answering.

“Didn’t I answer that question already?”

“Because you need to?”

“Yes.”

“You never felt passion or any heat when you acted, right?”

Passion, huh. Unfortunately, Maru didn’t feel it just yet. Why would he feel passionate during practice, anyhow?

“Would things change on stage?”

“No. The stage only brings upon an annoying sense of nervousness. On stage, you only become colder, not hotter.”

“Is that really something appropriate to say as an actor?”

“I think those that get excited on stage are unfit for acting.”

“So when are actors supposed to get excited?”

“Well, you see...”

Ganghwan slowly tried to change his topic.

“I still can’t forget my first act. It was one done at the school. I didn’t even have many lines, but I still made a mistake. I thought I was going to die of embarrassment, even though there weren’t even that many people in the audience. My head completely blanked out on me, and I couldn’t even say anything, even after all that practice. We still managed to finish, and I went down the stage...”

“Did you get hot?”

“Nope, I cooled down like a corpse. Why? Because I wasn’t satisfied with my act. That’s when I made up my mind. I wanted to experience what it felt like to act perfectly and be satisfied with my own work. My chance came pretty quickly. I entered a teenage competition hosted by the city. I worked my ass off and performed to the end without a single error on stage, and as I went off the stage then...”

“Did you get hot?”

“Are you a parrot?”

“Did you feel the heat?”

“Ugh, never mind. I was walking down, and my legs just gave out on me. And then, nothing. I couldn’t even remember what I just did. That was all.”

“So where am I supposed to find satisfaction, then?”

“Plays themselves won’t give you satisfaction, the same goes for practice. But you see, after that moment, I was getting a drink for myself in the waiting room, right? A girl from the previous play walked up to me right there. She said I was handsome, and asked for my number. That’s when my blood really started boiling! Thus, my reason for acting was born. To look good in front of women!”

Ganghwan flipped some meat on the grill with a grin.

“Motivation is never constant. It’s not anything simple, either. So don’t try to find it. You’ll find it at some point as you focus. By that point, you’d be able to say this: Eureka! So this is what I was acting for all this time.”

“But without motivation, I can’t keep acting.”

“No, that’s not because you didn’t find motivation.”

It’s because you were searching for a reason not to act.

Ganghwan’s words embedded themselves deeply into Maru’s mind. He could somewhat understand what the man was trying to tell him.

“Did I look lost?”

“Kind of, yeah. You’re way too mature, that’s your problem. You only act after calculating everything. Sometimes, though, it’s better for you to become a kid that watches Sesame Street.”

“Sesame Street?”

“You know, just being able to enjoy something without having to think about it.”

Maru took a look at the lettuce wrap Ganghwan wrapped for him before putting it in his mouth. He spat it out immediately, it was filled with chilies and garlic.

“Just like that.”

“What the hell do you mean, ‘just like that’?”

Maru quickly picked up all the meat off the grill and put it in his mouth.

“That’s right, you got it.”

Being with this person made Maru a little childish. That was what he realized after three weeks of being with Ganghwan. That… wasn’t such a bad feeling.

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