Chapter 97

Bada’s eyes met with that of the scary person in the waffle shop.

‘Whoa…’

So that must be what delinquents look like. Bada was pretty headstrong back in school, but this time, she had to avert her gaze.

“I wonder if he heard us.”

“He’s still looking at us.”

“I told you to speak quietly.”

Her friends lowered their voices as well, at least the man couldn’t do anything to them in the store.

“Here you go, your waffles are out.”

The employee handed them a paper bag. Bada took it and quickly walked outside. After the group exit the store, they quickly moved as far away as they could.

* * *

“My god.”

Did he look like he was gonna to bite them or something? Those girls were looking at him like a hoodlum. Then again, his eyes did look pretty fierce, what with them being stretched out so wide. It was something he inherited from his mother.

“Here’s your waffle.”

Dowook took the waffle and stepped outside, his dad was waiting after finishing the call.

“She’s at that cafe over there.”

“Who is it?”

“Let’s go.”

Dowook noticed an awkward smile from his dad. Just who was it? His relationship with his dad improved recently thanks to Maru. As a matter of fact, they were even going on fishing trips quite a bit. They didn’t talk much, but that was fine. Dowook didn’t expect a ten-year gap between them to be closed so quickly.

‘I guess that’s why I can understand him not talking to me about this.’

Dowook stepped forward, following his dad into the cafe.

* * *

“So this is what it looks like when you eat normally.”

Ganghwan grabbed a piece of beef, put it in his mouth, and chewed.

“But sometimes, people eat like this, saying that they’re just trying to act.”

Ganghwan dramatically picked up a piece. His elbow was pointing to the sky, making him look very uncomfortable. He looked at the meat he picked up for a brief moment before putting it in his mouth. The highlight was him letting out a loud “mm” as he chewed loudly.

“No way,” Maru said, eating a piece of meat himself.

“Doesn’t seem real, does it? But there are actually a lot of people who act like this. Help me out here, Senior.”

“There’s a lot of those, yes.”

Junmin took a sip from his shot of soju, Maru thought that was an amazing feat in itself. The man was already taking his sixth sip from his tiny glass.

“People act awkwardly when they’re incredibly nervous. Like in the military… you wouldn’t know since you’re still too young, but people turn into idiots as soon as they step into foreign territory.”

“I see what you mean.”

Junmin’s words came to him very easily, he’s seen many people who act incredibly strangely in the military as well.

“See my ass. Say that after you go,” Ganghwan laughed.

“In any case, actors have to work from an uncomfortable position. They have to keep in mind how they act, but when they become too aware of their actions, they can’t act well. But if they try to act too casually, they make simple mistakes. They need to control themselves, and at the same time try to act naturally. It’s a strange profession.”

“How are you at doing that, Coach?”

“Me? I’m… just a noob, really.”

Honestly, Maru thought that at Ganghwan’s level, it would be okay to not try so hard. After all, the man was skilled enough to act in a play with his name on it and receive good reviews. That was no small feat.

‘In that sense, Junmin is…’

Maru turned to look at Junmin. This man in his fifties was pretty well-known throughout all of the industry. As a matter of fact, the man was even directing the first ever play of the Myungdong Art Center. In the world of acting, Junmin was a colossus.

“If you’re a noob, then I might as well stop calling myself an actor altogether,” Junmin said with a smile.

“Oh, come on, Senior. Well, I guess I’m a bit better at acting than you.”

Ganghwan easily said words you could only say to a good friend, Junmin took those words in stride as well. The two very clearly had a very good relationship.

“I am better than a no-name actor, for sure. I used to dream of starring in a play myself, but I’m doing something completely different nowadays. I don’t regret the decisions I made, but I do like to think of the ‘what ifs’ often.”

“Call me anytime you want when you want to act, I can easily give you a role as something like villager 1.”

As Ganghwan filled Junmin’s shot glass with a smile, Maru flipped the meat in the meantime so that it wouldn’t burn on the grill.

“You should try to learn a lot from Ganghwan. He likes to say silly things, but he’s very talented in terms of acting.”

“Yes.”

Right then, Junmin grabbed his phone and stood up. After saying a few words, he gave Ganghwan a few glances.

“Stay here for a bit. We’ll be back real quick.”

The two of them left the table for a bit. Maru thought back to the conversation they just had and started filtering it for useful information. As a forty-five year old man, Maru couldn’t agree completely with what the two men had just said. As he organized his thoughts, he could hear a loud noise come from behind him. Voices of several men and women were making the restaurant get louder, ruining the peaceful meal Maru had until now.

“Big sis is paying!”

“Ohh! You’re the best, sis!”

“Can we order, please?!”

The group headed into a private room. Maru chose to ignore them as he continued grilling.

* * *

“Hold on, is that Maru?”

“Oh, it is.”

One of Changhu’s friends pointed towards the hall. The group could see Maru grilling by himself on a circular table.

“What a pleasant surprise.”

As they watched, an older man wearing a hat and a younger man sat down next to Maru.

“Is that his dad?”

“Probably.”

Changhu stared at Maru’s back for a while before nudging his friends with a grin.

“Yo, let’s go earn some cash.”

“Cash?”

His friends quickly caught onto what Changhu was talking about.

“Sis, we’ll be back real quick. We’re going to chat with a friend.”

“Friend?”

“Yeah, that guy over there. We’ll be back quick.”

Changhu walked towards Maru with his friends and tapped Maru’s back in a friendly manner. “Maru.”

The boy had been pretty rebellious in the beginning, but he was docile now. Maru turned back to look at Changhu.

“Yeah.”

The boy didn’t look very surprised. Changhu was very dissatisfied with Maru’s expression, but he decided to carry on with a smile on his face.

“Hello, we’re Maru’s friends.”

The older man nodded quietly, and the other one greeted them with a smile.

“Oh, right Maru. I wanted to talk to you about something. Excuse me, we’ll talk to Maru real quick.”

He pushed Maru’s shoulder a little violently as he spoke, in an angle where the adults wouldn’t notice. Maru stood up after putting down his chopsticks.

“I’ll be back quick.”

It was nice that he was being so docile. Changhu headed to the bathroom outside the building with a smile on his face. He made Maru stand near the urinals as he surrounded the boy with his friends.

“Heey, Maru. It’s nice to see you outside.”

“We’re not that good of friends, but I’m glad you’re so excited about seeing me.”

“Hah, you like to speak pretty words, don’t you?”

Changhu slapped Maru’s cheeks lightly with the back of his hand, the boy seemed to have feelings of rebelliousness in his heart. These types tried to hit back when you brutally stepped on them. You had to slowly bully them into submission. Maru grabbed Changhu’s hand and slowly put it down, making Changhu smile.

“Maru, we’re friends, right?”

“Let’s say we are. What do you want?”

“Hah, you like to get to the point, as usual. You’re a great friend for sure. So, the thing is… We don’t have cash. You saw just now, didn’t you? We came with some pretty girls, but we don’t have any cash. The girls have money, but we have to save face, man. We just need enough money to at least buy dessert.”

Changhu sent glances at his friends. One of them blocked the door, and two of them stepped closer to Maru.

“We’re really good friends, so I’ll say this now. Lend us some money. You know that’d be best for you, right? You don’t want the adults outside worrying about you, do you?”

Changhu tapped Maru’s cheeks one more time. He was ready to punch Maru in his stomach if the boy refused him. Changhu was a fan of beating that spot because it was hard to see. Maru scratched his eyebrow calmly.

“So, how much do you need?”

Bingo.

“We’re friends, so I don’t want to take too much. I think just… 100 thousand is enough?”

“100 thousand won?”

“Yeah. That’s easy enough to get, isn’t it?”

“Hm, 100 thousand, huh.”

Maru muttered to himself as he took out his wallet. Changhu had to let out a whistle a little when he saw the contents.

‘…The hell is this kid?’

He could see several checks inside. Next to those was a thick stack of 10,000 won bills.

“You’re rich, aren’t you?”

“Sure. Anyway, we’re friends, so I’ll keep it pretty cheap, too. 10% interest, to be paid out in 10 daily installments. 11,000 won every day. Not bad, right?”

Changhu stared at Maru dumbly. What the hell was the guy talking about? 10%? Daily installments? What?

“Hey, this is cheap, you know. Normally you’d have to pay 20%, but I’m keeping it cheap because we’re friends.”

A small smile appeared on Maru’s face, the boy was handing Changhu a white check.

“You’re not taking it?”

“What?”

“If you don’t want it, sure.”

Changhu was rendered speechless for a second. Maru didn’t seem normal just now, either. But Changhu soon returned to his senses and pushed Maru back with gritted teeth.

“You bastard!”

Right then, Maru quickly dodged and grabbed Changhu’s wrist. The boy twisted his wrist, making Changhu shout in pain.

“Why can’t you just stick with one thing? If you want to play with money, go for that. If you want to bully people, just stick to that. Stop trying to confuse me by doing both. Also, stop acting so childish. If you need money, just ask for it. I’ll take an interest, but I can easily lend it to you. We’re friends, after all, right?”

“Ouch! Ouch! Fuck! Let go!”

“Stop shouting, you’re going to attract people.”

Maru let go of Changhu’s hand like he was throwing away a piece of trash. Changhu glared at his friends, but they were flinching in a bit of fear.

“Take this.”

Maru handed his money to a friend nearby.

“I don’t need interest, so just pay me back in due time. Also, let’s not try to ruin our relationship, yeah? I’d like to be on decent terms with you all as well.”

Maru headed out of the bathroom.

“Fuck, damn it.”

Changhu swore as he caressed his wrist.

* * *

“What happened?”

“They were asking for money.”

Maru came back and immediately started grilling again. There was quite a bit of burnt meat on the grill. Clearly, the other two men didn’t care for the food.

“So why are they glaring at you?”

Ganghwan asked, looking at the private room behind them. Maru told him it was nothing. He didn’t want to explain something so childish.

“Are you being bullied?”

“You realized just now? I’m a pretty famous victim.”

Maru casually continued cooking. The other two men smiled slightly before continuing their conversation.

‘Daily installments…’

The word brought back memories from his road manager days. That’s when he realized how many bullies there were in the entertainment business and how many poor actors wasted their lives away under them. He even met a person who lived solely off of giving loans with daily installments.

‘Maybe that's why I stopped working in that industry. Because I got sick of seeing that.’

Maru put down his chopsticks slowly before asking a question.

“I heard there were those in entertainment companies who liked to bully people with violence.”

“Of course. There’s trash no matter where you go.”

Junmin answered casually.

“Why do you ask, though?”

“I just thought of it.”

“It’s an unfortunate thing. Having your passions taken advantage of is one thing, but to be beaten up at the same time.”

Maru nodded before grabbing his chopsticks again.

“You aren’t asking why I’m not helping them?”

“People would’ve already helped them if they could be helped. The fact that no one’s helping them just tells me the mess they got themselves in goes very deep.”

“I keep saying this, but you’re brutally realistic.”

“That just makes life easier.”

“I still don’t quite understand you.”

“I just try to do some good where I can.”

“God damn, are you really a teenager?” Ganghwan asked, putting Maru in a headlock.

Maru didn’t answer that question.

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