Chapter 89

The entire club lay down on the floor huffing. Maru, of course, was one of them. His body was emanating enough heat to make the cold wooden floor below him feel welcoming.

“It’s winter, and yet...”

“We didn’t even turn the heater on but it feels so hot...”

“Huff, huff. Feels like I’m in a sauna.”

The club members all commented.

“Tick, tock. The clock’s ticking, ladies and gentlemen. We have exactly 48 seconds left, so you better start focusing again,” announced Miso, causing the club to groan in pain.

A single minute for them to rest was a little too much.

“How many more sets from now?” Taejoon asked.

The boy was frail from the start, but he looked pretty healthy at this point. The same went for the other members. Even Daemyung and Soyeon both lost a noticeable amount of weight.

“3 sets.”

“Gasp.”

“Alright, 27 seconds left. Get up, all of you.”

Maru slowly stood up from the floor as a single bead of sweat dripped off of his chin. There were only two days left until December, and yet he could still sweat this much… He turned to take a look at the window behind where Miso was sitting. The bare trees outside were shaking vigorously from the wind. The news stations all warned of cold wind today, but the auditorium didn’t seem to be affected by it one bit.

As soon as he wiped off the sweat on his brow, Miso said there were only 13 seconds left. She was looking at her stopwatch with a devilish smile on her face.

‘Miso’s smile. Pft.’

As soon as he thought that far, Miso snapped her finger.

“Begin.”

The club members started doing push-ups right away. The girls had their knees on the floor, while the boys were doing full push-ups, all to the beat of Miso’s claps.

‘Thank goodness my physique got better in this life.’

Maru didn’t know if this was a gift in this life, but his athletic abilities were improved quite a bit in this life. But even with it, Miso’s training was still very brutal.

Jumping jacks, side lunges, jumping squats, push-ups, crunches, flutter kicks… Miso often messed with the number of reps per set, which only made things more difficult.

Each set took them around 7 minutes. 7 minutes of hell.

“Stop.”

Another set ended with a short burpee test. Maru and the others all lay down again huffing. The sweat on their faces started flowing again.

“I don’t know if I’m doing acting...”

“Or if I’m in an exercise club...”

“I’m dying.”

“The sky is spinning.”

“I want to throw up...”

“Please throw up somewhere else...”

Everyone was complaining. Whenever they started getting used to the new routine, Miso would spice things up. Maru could only admire Miso’s demonic talent whenever he saw her do this. This was even worse than the physical training in the military, at least the drill instructors there allowed them more time to rest.

“You guys might be wondering why we have to go this far just for acting. Of course, you might not need this training if you’re not a pro actor. Other instructors wouldn’t be doing this for sure. But you guys know already that I hate doing things incompletely, right? It’s always a go big or go home for me. You know that, right? Guys?”

“...Yes.”

“I told you you’d only be able to act well if you could control every muscle on your body, from your toes all the way to your hair, right?”

“Yes.”

“Alright, stand up then. You have 12 seconds.”

“Hah...”

“Okay, who sighed just now? Raise your hand.”

Dojin flinched before nervously raising his hand.

“Go run two laps on the field after this set. If you have the energy to sigh, might as well spend it on your feet.”

“I-instructor.”

“What? You want four laps?“

“No!!”

“Okay! Get on with the set, then!”

The club member snapped back to exercising with Miso’s scary shout.

“You guys went all out today too, huh,” Ganghwan said as he drove.

“Do all actors do this?”

“Theoretically speaking, Miso’s right. Actors on stage need to have a lot of stamina. They also need to be able to move their body really well.”

“So all of this does have meaning.”

“That’s right. Well, it does feel like she’s going a bit overboard, but don’t worry. You’ll get used to it. She shouldn’t come at you guys any harder than this either.”

“That would be nice.”

“But then again! She might actually make it worse, too. This is Miso we’re talking about, after all.”

Ganghwan grinned. But… if they exercised more than this, the club would soon turn into an acrobatics club instead of an acting club… Maru could only hope that wouldn’t happen.

Maru took a look out the window, he could see the dark, wintery scenery pass by. For the past month, he started following Ganghwan all the way to Anyang every day. Today was of no exception. After maneuvering through several small streets in the first district of Anyang, their car came to a stop. The two of them got off and went into the building in front of it.

They were headed to the basement floor, which was partitioned into many soundproof rooms. It was a series of paid practice rooms. When Maru paid more attention, he could faintly hear the sound of drums and guitars. It sounded like about four different bands were practicing here.

“Let’s go inside.”

Ganghwan opened the practice room marked 205, revealing what was inside. An entire wall of the place was covered by a giant mirror. The floor was matted with something soft, like sponge. On the left side was a clock and below it was a sentence written, ‘a line practiced once is different from a line practiced ten times’ in ink. Maru realized from the moment he first came here that this place belonged to Junmin. Because on the back of this place was a picture of the man glaring.

“I think this every time I come here, but I think that teacher has a really odd preference for things.”

“You’re talking about that picture, right?”

“Yes.”

“You’ll start welcoming him at some point. He’s like the identity of this place.”

When the two of them entered, several people waved their hands towards them.

“Bro, you’re here?”

“Yup. Did you guys eat?”

“Of course we did.”

“What about mine?”

“You should take care of that yourself. Maru, hi!”

“Hello.”

Maru greeted the people sitting in front of him in a circle. There were two men, and three women, all of them within their twenties. Of them, the oldest was the person who called Ganghwan a ‘bro’, Yu Dongjin. The man was about 25, if Maru’s memory served correctly.

“Shall we begin?” Dongjin said, standing up.

“Well, you’re pretty fired up today. Are you doing something with your girlfriend after this?”

“Dang, bro. You might as well set up a tarot shop at this point.”

“Hah.”

Ganghwan took off his jacket, Maru followed suit. Ganghwan threw his jacket in the corner of the room before calling everyone around him.

“We’re starting in two days, so don’t let your guard down.”

“We’re already nervous as is, haha,” a short-haired woman responded.

“Good. If you can laugh while being nervous, that means you’re at peak condition. Let’s do a light reading before doing a run.”

The actors split up into different parts of the room after nodding. Maru moved back to where the audience would be himself, with a notebook in his hand. For the past month, he would alternate between three different things at this place. First, the production of a play in the hands of pros. Second, he checked how different actors practiced. Lastly, he practiced for a short monodrama he would be performing right before the one these people were working on.

Maru’s homework was to improve on his influence on the audience and improve his ability to communicate with them. Two months ago at the festival, Maru showed Ganghwan a little glimpse of his talent.

[In the end, actors get better with each play they perform.]

Ganghwan’s solution was simple. It was to raise Maru’s skill by putting him on the stage as many times as possible. There was one more thing, of course. It was to never get drunk on the sensation of acting on stage.

Maru personally thought he never got “drunk” at the festival. As a matter of fact, it felt like his senses were heightened when he stood before the audience. He thought he acted as calmly as possible, but Ganghwan clearly disagreed.

[Want me to show you Miso’s video again?]

Maru could only bitterly smile. Indeed, there was a very clear difference between the Maru during practice and Maru on stage. He seemed freer on the stage. That ad-libbing he did with the kid must’ve come from that feeling of liberty he felt. He even forgot a few adjectives in his lines at certain points.

[That ability to improvise isn’t bad. It’s actually a very good thing. But you have to remember, you’re still an actor in a play. You need to connect with the other actors. You talked with the kid in the audience that day, right? It went well, thankfully, but what if the other kids in the audience started trying to talk to you? Did you think about what would happen if you continued to improvise there? Or did you just do it for fun? This is important. If things went wrong during your ad-lib, everything might’ve fallen apart in the play. Just because it worked well once doesn’t mean it would work well twice, either.]

Conversing with the audience was important, but working with the other actors was more so. This made complete sense. If the other kids started getting rowdy after his scene, the play would have completely fallen apart.

[Plays are done by people. What’s important is that it’s done by multiple people.]

Maru completely forgot that this was a team game. He recalled a time when a new employee did something without permission when he was still working at a company. Thankfully, nothing big happened, but that didn’t make the new employee’s actions right. Of course, the new employee was punished for what he did. Maru was the person to tell the person that this was a team game, as a matter of fact.

If a talented individual goes on to do something by themselves, everyone else involved would be stressed out. Even if nothing bad happens as a result.

[But if you get the ability to just completely overwhelm both the audience and the actors, then no one would mind even if you did a one-man show. But you’re not that good yet.]

“Plays are done by people in the end, and yet I...”

“What are you talking about?”

“It’s nothing. I just thought about a few things.”

“Hah. Anyway, monitor our run well. Try to see from multiple angles about how this play will go. Remember the expressions and gestures the other actors make, and try to see the difference between the emotions that words can convey, and emotions that gestures can convey. I can’t explain everything for you, so you’ll have to take notes on the stuff I don’t just straight up teach you. I trust you can do that much.”

Ganghwan always told Maru the same things. The man always started daydreaming out of nowhere and explained to Maru what he daydreamed about. He was a bit odd in that sense, but despite that, the man still made a very good teacher. He was very different from Miso. If Miso worked from a set manual, Ganghwan tried to make his student learn through observation.

In the end, if you were stupid, you would learn nothing from Ganghwan. That’s why Maru always needed to be careful. He could never know where useful information would come from.

“Guys, let’s begin! We might as well eat right after this, too!”

“Bro, I told you we ate!”

“Yeah? Might as well eat again!”

The play began once the music started. This play was composed of three different stories involving three different lovers. It was filled with hugs, kisses, and quite a few sexual innuendos as well. A play that only those above 18 years of age could watch. Not even Maru could watch it until next year.

Then again, he was already 45 inside.

Maru walked around the practice room quietly as he observed how these people acted. Watching people act from the perspective of the audience, the actor in the waiting room, and the actor at the side curtain was very different. Then again, Ganghwan did tell him already that distance always had an effect on how easy it was to deliver emotions.

“Okay.”

The run ended after about 70 minutes. Maru gave the actors some drinks as he asked them some questions. The actors told the boy their thoughts. After a month, they got used to this behavior from Maru.

Through these answers, Maru began to learn what acting really was about.

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ensj's Thoughts

In the line ‘Miso’s smile. Pft,’ it's a joke on Miso's name where 'smile' can be read as miso.