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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
Juho replayed what he had just heard in his head: “It’s not selling.” For those who set their triumph on how their book was selling, there was no clearer reason for quitting. Neither Yun Seo or Geun Woo criticized or urged him on. He hadn’t done anything wrong. As long as there was a viable alternative, choosing a different path was his freedom.
In order to lighten up the atmosphere, Yun Seo said cheerfully, “Why don’t we have a barbecue tonight? How does pork belly sound?”
“Sounds great, Mrs. Baek! Should I go out and get some?” Geun Woo agreed.
While the man dropped his head slightly, Juho smiled quietly.
“Today must be your lucky day, Juho. You get to stuff yourself with pork belly tonight.”
“I must be blessed.”
“Every one of Mrs. Baek’s guests is blessed with food.”
“Very true,” said Geun Woo, preparing to go out.
Juho eyed him to see if he should come along, but Geun Woo waved his hand in denial. Suddenly finding himself with nothing to do, Juho decided to borrow a laptop to work on revising his short story. As he plugged his flash drive into the laptop, he heard the sound of footsteps behind him. Looking back, the man and his hair came into view.
“Is there something you need?”
“Oh, no. Since I met Yun Woo, I just thought I should try to strike a conversation while I’m here.”
Juho looked at the laptop once and turned around.
“Sounds good. I was starting to get bored with Geun Woo gone.”
“I’m sorry about earlier,” said the man, scratching his head bashfully. Juho waved his head in denial.
“Should we talk elsewhere?”
“No, this is fine.”
“Would you like to sit here?”
The man quietly shook his head. Unfortunately, there was only one chair in Geun Woo’s studio, forcing him to remain standing. Because the man gave his answer, Juho didn’t force himself up from his seat. Leaning against a bookshelf, he looked at Juho intently, and Juho, too, turned the chair in his direction and faced him.
“You’re young,” he said. Juho pretended to rise from his seat. Smiling, the man waved his hand, gesturing Juho to hear him out. “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“How is it?”
“What do you mean?”
“Where you’re sitting?”
By reflex, Juho’s eyes moved to the chair. He probably wasn’t talking about the chair either. ‘He’s probably asking about what it’s like to be Yun Woo,’ thought Juho.
“A person adapts to their place no matter where they are,” said Juho. For that very reason, people tended to desire to move up to somewhere higher.
“I wish I could say the same,” his hair moved about slightly. “Do you think I’ll adapt to where I’m at?”
Not knowing the answer he was looking for, Juho smiled quietly. As if the man wasn’t expecting an answer himself, he changed the subject.
“I enjoyed ‘The Sound of Wailing.’ It made me realize what Yun Woo is capable of as an author.”
“For how long have you been writing?”
Juho hesitated for a moment. ‘How long have I been writing?’ He wasn’t sure how long he needed to go back. ‘Do I include my past or only up to the time when I used to write like it was a habit? Maybe when started writing ‘The Trace of a Bird?’
“I’m not sure,” Juho said ambiguously.
“You wrote ‘The Trace of a Bird’ at sixteen, so it must be… two to three years now?”
“Probably.” In that case, what the man said would be accurate. “How about you?” Juho asked.
He hesitated, but unlike him, Juho waited for his answer patiently.
“A lot longer than you have,” he said timidly as if he barely managed to give the answer.
“That you’ve been writing a lot longer than I have. Writing’s no joke.”
“… I agree. It’s not, but I loved every bit of it… Well, what can I do? It wouldn’t sell,” he added, sounding dejected. “It must be nice being in your place. You really solidified your place as an author with your most recent book, right? There’s not a single person in this country who doesn’t know your name.”
“I’m not sure. I don’t think there is such a thing as solidifying a place in this field. I need to keep going.”
“I think you can relax a little bit. Everyone’s praising your work. At this rate, anything would sell as long as it has your name on it.”
“Thank you for your kind words,” said Juho, smiling.
The man’s hair moved along with his head, revealing his eyebrows. His forehead appeared to be furrowed. With a sigh, he said, “You’re amazing…”
“… But keep your eyes peeled,” he added, somewhat maliciously.
“What should I be on the lookout for?” Juho asked quietly.
“Ending up like me,” the man answered with a calm voice.
Juho thought about the meaning behind those words. ‘Ending up like him. Is he talking about quitting or the book not selling? Maybe he’s talking about being forgotten?’ It was somewhat humorous. Juho didn’t even know his name. Besides, he had had experienced it all. Ignoring the man’s warning, Juho tried to see things from the man’s point of view. It was a small, small world. His hair hindered the view. He couldn’t see anyone but himself. As Juho took his time before giving an answer, the man’s brow furrowed again. Juho stared at him intently.
“I’m back!” a loud voice came from outside. It was Geun Woo, and Juho’s eyes met the man’s.
As if nothing had happened, they went out to greet Geun Woo and the pork belly he had brought back.
On his way in from the watering the garden as per Yun Seo’s suggestion, Juho decided to visit the familiar sound of the barking dog in the distance. It lived not too far away.
Low and resounding. It drooled and barked viciously. Next to it, were his empty food bowl and a doghouse made of blue plastic.
“You’re a lot dirtier than I’d imagined.”
As if it understood him, the dog barked all the angrier. Juho plunked himself down in front of the dog and stared at it intently. It paced back and forth, moving its tail frantically. Soon, it too plunked down with its stomach facing the ground. The shadows were growing bigger and bigger. Though it was bright out, the ground was already preparing for night. A forest of buildings became visible in the distance. Because the dog looked like it had come from the countryside, the scenery made for an odd experience. Juho started to feel hungry.
“Aren’t you hungry?”
The dog didn’t even bother to bark anymore. It simply moved its tail about lazily.
“I guess you’re quick to adapt too,” said Juho as he rose from his place. As he got closer to Yun Seo’s house, the intoxicating aroma of grilled meat tickled his nose. He hurried his steps.
“Where were you?” asked Geun Woo from the wooden bench.
“I went to go see the dog.”
“Oh, right,” he said, nodding. “You made it just in time for dinner.”
“I could smell it all the way from where I was.”
Juho looked around as he sat on the wooden bench. The man was nowhere to be found.
“He’s probably still inside. He said he wanted to help prepare it,” said Geun Woo.
“While you’re chilling out here?” asked Juho.
“I’m being ‘tactful.’ This is probably his last meal here.”
‘Last meal?’ Juho’s puzzled look questioned Geun Woo. “What do you mean? It’s not like Mrs. Baek wouldn’t let him visit or anything.”
“Yeah, but it kind of turns out that way. People who’ve left willingly hardly ever come here to visit. Some people send her a text from time to time, but even then, it doesn’t last long.”
Though it wasn’t anything new, Juho couldn’t help but feel bitter. ‘Why do things have to be that way? Do people just naturally grow distant from one another when they stop talking or writing?’
“So, try to visit often. There’s only so much we can do between Joon Soo and I.”
Silence. In contrast with the blue sky, the roof of the house was already in shadows. As he sat there enjoying the welcoming smell of Yun Seo’s cooking, Juho suddenly sprung up from his seat. Geun Woo looked at him with puzzled eyes.
“What’s the matter?”
“I forgot something.”
“At the doghouse?”
“In your studio.”
Geun Woo waved his hand, gesturing him to make haste.
“Fetch me a cup of water on your way back, will ya?”
With Geun Woo’s permission, Juho rushed inside and opened the door to Geun Woo’s studio. Walking past the shelves filled with books and data, he made his way towards the desk. The laptop was still in place. Only, it was the only thing still on the desk.
‘It’s gone. I could’ve sworn I’d plugged the flash drive in here!’ Juho searched around the desk, but to no avail. His flash drive was nowhere to be found. ‘How is it not here? Did I leave it elsewhere?’ He tried to trace his memories, but the studio had been the first place he’d thought of.
Juho brushed his hand down the side of the laptop.
“Where could it be…”
His dry voice dissipated into air. ‘Where are you, flash drive!?’ In it, was the first draft of ‘Grains of Sand’ and a full-length novel he had just started writing. Once he realized that the flash drive was not in the room, he tried to remember the things that he had come in contact with. He pulled out the book he was looking at earlier and looked under the door. Nothing. He looked underneath the chair. Nothing.
He reached into his pockets. Empty. He couldn’t find it in the places he was certain he would.
Juho couldn’t do anything but murmur. ‘Where could it be?’ He calmly retraced his steps. ‘I bought some bread from the bakery, and then I got a call from Mrs. Baek. It was still in my pocket then. When I came here and talked to Mrs. Baek, it was still in my pocket. The only time I took it out was when I wanted to get some revision done on ‘Grains of Sand,’ when Geun Woo went out to buy some meat.’
“So it has to be after that…”
Standing in his place, Juho quietly looked around the studio. Nothing was out of place, except for his flash drive.
“I was wondering where you went. You’re still here?” asked Geun Woo. He wiped his mouth as if he had already drank his water. “What are you doing standing? You said you forgot something, didn’t you?”
“You haven’t found it yet?”
“Unfortunately, no,” Juho said, chuckling.
“What did you forget?”
Juho brushed across his empty pocket.
‘What if things get out of hand?’ a thought crossed his mind. With Yun Seo’s guest over, nothing good would come from blowing things out of proportion.
“It’s nothing important.”
“Tell me, so we can find it before dinner time. Don’t regret it later.”
The word “regret” coming out of his mouth carried much more power than usual.
“So…” Juho hesitated, scratching his head awkwardly.
“What is it?”
“My flash drive…”
“…” Geun Woo’s expression grew darker by the seconds.
“You don’t mean the flash drive you mentioned earlier, right?”
“Where did you last see it?” asked Geun Woo, wearing a serious expression.
“Right here,” answered Juho, also looking serious.
Geun walked around his studio once. Nothing was different from what he had seen earlier. If anything, it was cleaner. The chair was tucked under the desk with the laptop placed dead center on it. All the books were in their rightful places.
“It has to be when you wanted to use my laptop.”
“But where’d it go?”
“It’s a mystery.”
“A secret room, perhaps?”
“The door was never locked, so I doubt it.”
“But there’s no body.”
“It’s been disposed of.”
“So-to-speak. In that case, knowledge of the culprit’s identity would be of urgent need.”
“I have an alibi.”
“Me too, if dogs could testify.” With those words, they wrapped up their petty word play and started searching the studio thoroughly.
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