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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“You’re staying for dinner, right Juho?”
“That sounds great.”
“I’m stuffed. Can we not talk about food?”
“That’s what you get for snacking right before the meal, Geun Woo.”
“I’m thoroughly regretting my decision, Mrs. Baek.”
They were eating fruit together while Geun Woo sat there, quietly holding a fork with a piece of fruit on it. At that moment, the doorbell rang.
“Who could that be?”
“I’ll get it,” said Geun Woo as he sprung up from his seat.
Yun Seo seemed puzzled by the unexpected visitor. As the doorbell stopped ringing, the sound of footstep drew closer.
‘Who is this?’ Juho turned around at the sound of an unfamiliar voice. A man with bushy hair was standing next to Geun Woo, holding overstuffed plastic bags in his both hands. Yun Seo stood up and greeted the man with joy.
“Oh my! It’s been so long!”
In the past, he seemed to have been Yun Seo’s pupil. As Juho quietly stared at them talking, his eyes met the man’s briefly. At the sound of Yun Seo’s voice, the man turned his gaze back in her direction.
“What brings you here?”
“I apologize, Mrs. Baek. I should have let you know ahead of time.”
“Don’t worry about that. It’s been ages!”
While they greeted one another, Juho walked over to Geun Woo and stood next to him. Having finished greeting Yun Seo, the man looked in Juho’s direction.
“I see that you have a young pupil?”
Yun Seo stared at Juho intently, silently communicating that she would speak accordingly depending on how he decided to introduce himself. Although unclear, the man seemed to have been one of her pupils – an author. Juho contemplated his options for a brief time and remembered the conversation he had had with her earlier that day. “Face it.” With that, he came to a decision.
“Hello. I’m Yun Woo.”
The man gave no answer. He appeared flustered, with his eyes and hair shaking.
“My real name is Juho Woo. Please call me Juho.”
As Juho introduced himself, the man finally came to his senses and introduced himself. Juho had no recollection of ever hearing his name.
“What are the odds? I didn’t think I’d meet you here.”
“I do ask that you keep it a secret.”
“So what have you written?” Juho asked.
“It’s been long out of print. You wouldn’t know even if I told you,” said the man, smiling bashfully. He seemed to be embarrassed of his own work for some reason.
“Please, you don’t have to be so formal with me.”
“I appreciate that.”
Despite his answer, the man didn’t seem like he intended to address Juho any differently. Juho pretended not to notice.
“Well, come on in!”
Yun Seo welcomed the man inside to show him around the house along with Geun Woo and Juho. With longing eyes rather than happiness, the man looked around at his surroundings as he walked beside Yun Seo. Juho studied him quietly. His steps appeared somewhat unstable.
“Nothing’s changed around here.”
“What is there to change? How’ve you been?”
“I’ve been well,” he answered briefly. Tactfully, Juho stepped back to give them space. They seemed to have something to discuss. Geun Woo followed him.
“Why did you come out Geun Woo?”
“I wanted to bring them some tea.”
“I’ll do it.”
“Thanks. Do you mind boiling the water then?”
Geun Woo took out the tea leaves from the shelf while Juho filled the teakettle with water and placed it on top of the stove.
“Who is he?” Juho asked, thinking about his bushy hair.
After a brief time thinking, Geun Woo answered, “I don’t really know either. He debuted not too long after coming here, and then left right as he debuted. I haven’t seen or heard of him since then. Who would’ve thought he would just appear like that out of nowhere?”
Because he didn’t explain in such great length, Juho too asked no further. There were many authors who studied under Yun Seo who became famous, but there were also countless others who never became known. All of the man’s classmates who studied under her had left. Debuting and publishing a book alone didn’t justify an author’s career in perpetuity. If anything, a perilous journey awaited once a book had been written. The fact that there were those who were successful also meant that there were those who failed.
“Speaking of which, are you going to be OK?”
“What do you mean?”
“Revealing your identity like that?”
“Well, I wasn’t lying or anything. He’s one of Mrs. Baek’s pupils, so I’m sure he wouldn’t go around telling people,” Juho answered with a shrug.
“I guess that’s true.”
“It’s fine. I don’t want to be too too anal about this either. Besides, what is there to lose? At worst, I’d live the life of a superstar.”
“Did you just call yourself a superstar?” asked Geun Woo, leaning against the wall as they waited for the water to come to a boil. They didn’t say anything else to one another. Geun Woo prepared to pour the water over the tea leaves in the cup.
“So, I heard that Joon Soo showed you his studio?” he probed as the cups clattered.
“Yes, he did. There were a lot of poems,” said Juho.
“I heard. I also heard that you can recite Chinese Poems?”
“Yes, I can. Would you like to hear it?”
The water started boiling.
“Seems like they’re going to be talking for a while. C’mon, let me show you my studio this time.”
Juho understood the intention behind Geun Woo’s words. He wanted to let his teacher and her old pupil have time and space to catch up. Juho had intended on doing the same. However, from Geun Woo’s point of view, Juho was probably someone he had to take care of. Still, it was better than not doing anything at all.
Juho willingly played along.
“It might not be as impressive as Joon Soo’s,” said Geun Woo, pouring hot water into the cups. The fragrance of the tea spread about the kitchen. Asking Juho to wait, he took the tea set on a tray to Yun Seo and her guest.
With an odd sound effect, Geun Woo opened the door to his studio. Compared to Joon Soo’s, it was rather ordinary. Along with a wooden desk and a laptop, there were shelves filled with books and various research data. It was apparent that the room belonged to a writer.
“It’s quite ordinary.”
“That’s the best kind.”
“I think I’d be able to focus better here too.”
“This is where I wrote my debut title,” said Geun Woo with confidence. Reacting half-heartedly, Juho examined the bookshelf. There was data on cannibalism on one side.
“Can I take a look?”
“Yeah, sure. Go for it.”
Juho pulled a book out from the shelf. It was a study on the methods and results of cannibalism. The index alone revealed a shocking diversity of ways a human consumed another one of his kind. As he turned the page, a picture came into view. With his mouth agape, a half-naked person was holding a large piece of meat in their hands. There was an arm and a leg around them, presumably a person who had lost their shape after being eaten. As he looked intently into the cannibal’s eyes gaping open as wide as their mouth, Juho forced himself to turn the page. If he kept staring, he would have brought the cannibal into the room. It wouldn’t have been safe by any stretch of the imagination.
The history of cannibalism was as long as the history of mankind itself. The beginning of the book was about stories of cannibalism. When a tribe conquered another tribe in war, the conquered tribe was often consumed as food as the conquering tribe celebrated its victory. Cannibalism had been a form of religious and of ancestral rituals for many tribes across the globe. There was also a part in the book that discussed the prion disease, Kuru, in great detail.
Juho turned to the next chapter. Cannibalism had also taken place among the stranded as a means of survival. It also took place during war as a result of the scarcity of food. The content of that chapter was a bit more convincing than of the previous chapters. ‘Yeah, it makes sense that people would eat each other in this scenario.’
The next chapter discussed motives of those who practiced cannibalism rather than any practical reasons.
‘Just because they wanted to.’ It was a behavior commonly found in bizarre homicide cases. Sexual fantasies, preferences, damaged corpses. It was all unethical. Feeling uneasy, Juho quickly turned the page and reached a section that discussed a scholar’s argument: ‘Cannibalism does not exist.’ They claimed that the evidence for cannibalism was generally insufficient, and that it was no more than mere imagination. However, it didn’t make Juho feel better, not one bit.
‘If their lives were at stake, would a person eat another person?’ Juho thought. ‘What if I was in that situation, and there was a person in front of me?’ He remembered the picture of the cannibal with his mouth agape. ‘Am I capable of becoming like him?’ Juho wondered.
“Gruesome, huh?” asked Geun Woo as Juho closed the book.
“It really is. I now have a newfound respect for you for wrestling with something like this.”
“It was rough, yeah,” Geun Woo answered light-heartedly. “There are still things like human placenta or capsules made of human flesh floating around the world. The root of cannibalism mostly comes down to faith. People eat other people just because they believe that it’ll make them look and feel younger or, simply, more attractive.”
Human beings were capable of consuming their own kind for such trivial reasons.
“It means that they don’t view people around them as their own kind. That’s what makes it all the more atrocious.”
The reason why the subject of cannibalism accompanied such a strong sense of uneasiness was simple: people being treated like meat. From the fear of becoming like the man in the book, Juho felt his conscience trying to deny him. The book ended up back in its place on the shelf.
“What’s interesting though,” added Geun Woo, “is the so-called devoted sons that appear throughout fairytales and the history of Korea.”
The atmosphere took a turn for the better, lighting up the room. The light from the window started to illuminate the room. Devoted sons. They carried a positive feeling.
“That… is true…!”
Juho thought of the tale of a son who saved his dying mother, feeding her a chunk of his thigh. At one point in history, the scarcity of food had forced children to resort to cannibalism. It almost sounded like a traditional fairy tale.
“They taught you that in school, right?”
“Yep. I don’t really remember when I learned it, but it’s definitely in my head.”
“The subject appears much lighter in that light.”
“I think it makes it more distant than lighter.”
Juho felt the relevance of the subject reducing to that of a bedtime story. The image of cannibalism crossing over from the past to modern history began to grow distant again. Yet, he didn’t bother to chase after it.
“Well, it doesn’t matter,” Geun Woo said indifferently. “Don’t think about it too much. It’s almost dinner time.”
“Don’t worry. I wasn’t taking it too seriously.”
“Are you sure? You looked like you’re about to run out of the house to write.”
War. Cannibalism. Those who didn’t believe them. Having rolled those keywords around in his head, Juho decided to set them aside for the time being.
“I’m not really getting anything out of it at the moment.”
“Huh. You kind of sound like you’ve been working on something… It hasn’t even been that long since you’ve written your second book!” he said, looking surprised.
“Yes, I’ve been working on two separate stories,” Juho answered nonchalantly.
“I’ve been writing while going back and forth between school and home.”
“Well, I guess you’re not Yun Woo for no reason. You’re seriously fast,” said Geun Woo. After a brief time thinking, a puzzled look appeared on his face. “Can you write at school?”
“There are computers,” said Juho, showing the USB-drive in his pocket. “I keep it all in here.”
“Great world we’re living in.”
“I agree. I’m glad we don’t have to write by hand anymore.”
Writing a full length novel by hand. His wrist hurt at the thought alone. He was definitely living in an age where it was much easier to write.
“I’ll get it.”
Having sat closer from the door, Juho stood up to answer it. It was the man with the bushy hair.
“Mr. Woo, I didn’t know you were here in this room,” he said, still insisting on addressing Juho formally.
‘Should I ask him again?’ Afte contemplating it, Juho answered instead, “Yes, I’ve been hanging out here with Geun Woo.”
“How’d it go with Mrs. Baek?” Geun Woo asked.
The man answered with a tired smile, “It went well. Thanks for giving us space.”
“Of course. It’d been a while, so I’m sure there was plenty to talk about.”
The three headed for the living room where Yun Seo was sitting. At that moment, Juho saw regret in her face. ‘I wonder what they talked about for her to make that face?’
As Juho wondered, Geun Woo asked, “Are you here to write?”
He gave no answer. After contemplating it for a moment, he opened his mouth and said, “I’m actually thinking about stopping.”
Geun Woo blinked awkwardly at the bitter-sounding words. Without saying anything, Yun Seo sat there quietly. No one seemed to have expected such an answer.
“It’s not selling.”
A brief answer. Geun Woo let out a sigh. He was well-acquainted with the scenario.
For that reason, Geun Woo knew that nobody would be able change the man’s mind, even if they were to force him to write. A story came to its genuine fruition only when it was written of the author’s volition.
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