Chapter 94

“How’s the People of Dalseok-dong?”

It was an odd question, coming from a person who was laughing at a TV show while eating dinner. But Maru still answered the question without missing a beat.

“We’ve been doing run throughs and are focusing on stage details right now.”

“How much does Miso engage herself in the play?”

“Not much anymore. She does seem to call people privately, though.”

“Well, spending 4 months on a single play is a very long time, after all. By then, even beginners will have figured out what they’re supposed to be doing.”

Ganghwan finished his soup with a loud noise.

“So, the finals are starting in January, right?”

“Yes. I think that’s what’s making things so slow for us.”

“Yeah. Miso definitely tried to rush things a bit for the December stuff. That extra month is just too big of a gap. Don’t let go of your nervousness, though. The moment you do, you’ll mess up the entire play.”

Ganghwan tapped his head a few times with his finger.

“By the way, why are we at Myungdong…?” Maru asked, putting down his spoon.

It was a Sunday morning. If it were any other time, he would be busy doing puppet plays with Soojin, but today he decided to come here with Ganghwan.

“Why do you think?”

“I have no idea.”

Ganghwan stood up with a grin. He paid for the meal and walked out with a toothpick in his mouth.

“Where are you going?”

“Follow me.”

Ganghwan didn’t tell Maru their destination often, neither was he fond of telling Maru what they were going to do. When they first went to the practice room in Anyang, he just told Maru to get in the car. As Maru followed Ganghwan on the road, he slowly realized where they were headed today. There was an old building in front of them, in the middle of the forest of buildings. A building filled with memories of the past.

Myungdong National Theater.

“National Theater?”

“No, it’s an art theater now. They finished restoring it last month. They’re performing the first play in this building today.”

For whatever reason, Ganghwan started fixing up with clothes after throwing away his toothpick.

“You know, looking at that place makes me feel all respectful for no reason. It almost feels like I’m going to go meet my father-in-law.”

“Have you ever met your father-in-law?”

“Of course not. I don’t even have a girlfriend. It’s just a figure of speech.”

Right now, it was December of 2003. The building was bought by the Korean Tourism Board in 1998 from a finance company. According to Ganghwan, many actors and theater companies attempted to buy this building before the government made their move.

“It’s been five years since the construction started, looks like they did a great job.”

“The outside didn’t change much though, right?”

“The base of the building is the same, after all. Most of their work was spent reinforcing the walls and stuff.”

The first floor was filled with people looking around the theater, there were also a lot of people looking at the pamphlets with an excited look.

“Let’s go down.”

“Down?”

The two of them took the elevator down from the lobby. The first thing they saw as they stepped off of the elevator was a storehouse filled with costumes, they could hear a piano playing from somewhere as well.

“I’m here.”

Ganghwan was entering the practice room of the Myungdong Art Theater. It was a bit small for a practice room, actually. It did have a mirror and everything, but the table on one side of the room made it a bit difficult to actually practice. Maru noticed a familiar face sitting at the table.

“Oh, you came empty-handed?”

It was Junmin. Next to him were two men in coats with a lot of pockets.

“Empty-handed? No way, I have a gift right here.”

Ganghwan pushed Maru forward after he spoke. Maru began with a greeting for now.

“Hello.”

“It’s been a while.”

“Yes, it has.”

Junmin held up his hand briefly, the two of them waited a few steps away from the table.

“Check the lights in row C again during the technical rehearsal.”

“Sure.”

“Take a look at the tape in the storage room as well. Apparently the labels became hard to read.”

“We’ll replace them.”

Junmin seemed to be talking to the stage technicians. In particular, he was talking to another elderly man around his age, with a younger person nearby frantically writing down notes. They were probably a student and teacher. The younger man looked very young, actually. Young enough to be a freshman at a college. He was either working in the industry at a very young age or just looked really young.

“There’s a generational change happening in this business as well,” Ganghwan whispered.

Plays. Plays sounded a lot more intimidating than normal movies. If movies are something you could just watch on any particular day, plays were there for special occasions. Maru assumed the rest of the general populace had similar thoughts. The numbers were more than enough proof as a matter of fact. Plays were not only more expensive than movies, they were harder to justify watching as well.

“That’s why the reopening of the Myungdong Art Theater is so meaningful. It’s the reopening of a building whose sole purpose is for plays. If this ends up going well, Myungdong will turn into a Mecca of art once again.”

Ganghwan smiled mysteriously. Despite being someone who often made very lighthearted jokes and some very dumb things, he wasn’t someone who could be taken so lightly. A dreamer. That’s what the man seemed like, at least to Maru.

‘A dreamer who turns their dreams into reality.’

In the future, this person would bring a top star known as Geunsoo back into the world of plays. Maru could somewhat remember the tickets at the time getting sold for up to 400 dollars at the time. His wife pretty much sang about wanting to watch this play as well. He could remember the news at the time, too. About how all of the younger generations were starting to flock to theaters because of these two.

“This will go well.”

“Hah, that makes me pretty confident, actually.”

Ganghwan bumped Maru’s arm with a grin.

“I’ll leave it to you, then.”

“I’ll wait for you at the final checks.”

The two people at the table finished talking at this point. Ganghwan greeted the old man in the coat first. Maru followed suit.

“Ah, actor Yang, it’s been a while.”

“I’ve been busy.”

“I heard. You were missing for three months? You should really stop that kind of stuff. Stop making the people around you worry like that.”

“Yes. By the way, you’re planning on permanently moving here now?”

“Yes. The new equipment was way too tempting. It’s great over here, though. Come to the stage some time. The lighting and sound equipment is absolutely top-tier.”

“I can just take a look at it when I come to act.”

“Can you even do that? There are so many reservations here right now that even a team from Broadway would have to wait a full year.”

“It’s that bad?”

“Just means everyone was waiting for a very long time.”

The two of them shared a deep look before exchanging a short handshake. In the meantime, Maru exchanged greetings with the younger man from before.

“Ah, who’s this one, by the way?” the older man asked.

“A young sprout.”

“A sprout? Were you old enough to be growing one of those?”

“I’m old now, too.”

“If you’re old, then I’m already sitting in my grave. Ah, you should properly exchange greetings, then. You might meet each other in the future.”

The old man grabbed the young man and pulled him in, the young man looked at Maru in a slight daze. Maru waited for the man to extend his hand, but after receiving no response, he decided to extend his first. It was a little rude of him, but what could he do?

“Hello, I’m Han Maru.”

Only then did the young man grab Maru’s hand with a little “ah”.

“Hello, I’m Yoon Mintae.”

“Hey hey, Mintae. Why are you using both of your hands? You’re obviously older.”

The older man pulled Mintae back, making the man smile awkwardly.

“Anyway, I’ll see you later, actor Yang.”

“Yes, see you later.”

The two men disappeared with a curt farewell. Maru looked at the hand Mintae grabbed just now. It felt a little strange, almost as if they really were going to meet again, as the old man said.

“Hey, you two. Stop standing around in a daze and come over here.”

Junmin tapped at the table with his pen.

* * *

Bada changed her clothes before opening her brother’s room.

“He’s not here again.”

She stopped seeing her brother as of recently. He started coming back home past 11, and he went out in the morning on weekends. They lived together in one house and yet she hadn’t seen his face in close to three months. It was an odd feeling, to say the least.

Bada stepped inside and took out a book called ‘The Habits of Life’ from the bookshelf. She opened the middle, and found several 10,000 won bills inside it.

“Thanks, brother.”

- If you need money, just come here instead of going to mom. Just write down what you used the money for.

Bada smiled, recalling her brother’s angelic words at the time. Just a year ago, her brother was an evil incarnate. He would scream for snacks, and they would fight almost daily over the computer… They were rivals of the century at the time. But nowadays, her brother turned a completely new leaf. She used to be a little weirded out by this change, but she was used to it now. She even started bragging about her brother to her friends.

Bada took her money and wrote down “going around Myungdong with friends” on the post-it note inside. She returned the book to the bookshelf. Right then, her phone rang.

“Yeah, Hyeji?”

- We’re at the station. Come out!

“Yeah! I’m coming.”

She decided to go after hearing about lots of pretty clothing stores in Myungdong. This was her first time visiting the place, so she was a little bit excited. Before going outside, she opened her little wallet. She could see the money she collected for clothes, as well as the money she took from the bookshelf inside it.

‘Mm.’

Maybe she should buy something for her brother, too. She’d have less money for clothes, but she wanted to give back to her brother at least a little bit.

“Myungdong, huh.”

Bada ran towards the station with a grin on her face.

* * *

“Really?”

Changhu nodded at his disbelieving friend.

“Yeah. I asked big sis Gongsoon to come and she actually came.”

“Wow, Changhu! You’re talented!”

“You know I’m good at talking, it’s all good as long as I say whatever she wants to hear.”

“You think you can get her? Hm?”

“She’s not that easy, unfortunately. She’s fun to play with, though. She has a lot of money, too.”

“Dang, people with money are the best.”

Changhu stopped his friend from talking right then inside the PC bang, he put out his cigarette before taking the call.

“Ah, sis. Yeah. Of course, I’m free. Come over? Really? You’re free today? Of course, I’m coming. You have friends? Can I bring mine? Yes, yes. You’re paying? Wow! You’re the best, big sis. I’m coming right now. Where should I go?”

Changhu turned off his phone after a long call.

“Yo, let’s go to Myungdong.”

“Why?”

“She’s asking me to come. We might get lucky if we do well today.”

“Us, too?”

“Of course, you’re my bud!”

“Ya!”

The three of them walked out of the PC bang quickly.

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