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Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“You seemed unstable from the first time I saw you.”
They met while the man was on the verge of giving something up. From the beginning of their encounter, he was cornered to the edge of a cliff. That had to be why he had done something so foolish. An author giving up writing. An author praised as a genius. One who stood on the edge of a cliff tended to lose their footing easily.
“That’s right,” he admitted in a weak voice. His emotions seemed to be rather unpredictable. “I was forced to quit because my books weren’t selling,” the man explained as if giving him an excuse. “People only look for Yun Woo and his books. They only talk about him. My books are collecting dust in a corner of bookstore, rotting away. It’s nothing like your fancy book. That was it. That was the result of my work.”
Countless books had met the same unfortunate fate. Even books written with every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears ended up getting lost and forgotten.
“You’re young. You haven’t even been writing as long as I have. You didn’t even have to try as hard as I have. That’s why I can’t accept this reality. It makes no sense.”
“So, what will change if you steal my flash drive?”
“Nothing…” he murmured. “I wanted to see you getting angry at the very least. I desperately wanted to see you getting anxious. I wanted to prove to myself that I’m not the only person who felt this way.”
Unfortunately, things had not turned out the way he had hoped, just as how Juho had hoped for a ghost or a dog that hadn’t really existed.
He may have given up writing, but Juho was still an author.
“This was never something worth competing over,” said Juho, still smiling. “This was your choice.”
Giving up had been his choice.
“No,” the man denied.
“Who told you to give up then?” asked Juho.
“The world,” said the man. If that had been true, he had been fighting an opponent that he couldn’t beat. Had he been overcome, or did he announce an opponent he knew he didn’t stand a chance against so that he could give his decision meaning? He was playing his own god. Much like God, words provided a reason for those in need of one, all without revealing themselves.
“So where is it?” Juho asked calmly. Though he wasn’t explicit, the man understood immediately.
“What did you do with it?”
“Did you check the backyard?”
“There are a lot rocks there, so I picked one up.”
Juho pictured him crushing the flash drive with a rock in his hand.
“Did you break it?”
“Completely. I threw it away.”
“Down the toilet.”
A cruel fate. Kidnapped, damaged and then disposed of. By that point, the remnants would be floating down the Han River somewhere.
“What if it had clogged the toilet?”
“It was too small for that.”
The room fell silent, and the air became damp. He was overcome with the realization of having committed something irrevocable. Juho looked up at the ceiling for a brief moment. It had to be dark out at the point. At that moment, an intoxicating smell came into the room.
“If I were you, I’d have waited until after dinner.”
“It’s your last.”
“… My last?” he asked, looking perplexed.
“Are you telling me that you’re not smelling this?”
By reflex, the man inhaled at the word ‘smell,’ clumsily and awkwardly as if he had never done it before. Only then did he finally realize that he had been holding his breath. His senses returned, suffocating him with realities that he had wanted to avoid all along. He stared at Yun Woo standing in front of him.
The young author asked him mercilessly, “Where are we?”
‘Mrs. Baek’s house.”
“What have you done?”
‘Thud.’ He felt his heart drop. His hands started to shake.
“What have I…” With all the discontentment aside, he started to see things more clearly. Dark emotions were flowing about him, and he couldn’t do anything to resist them. ‘Where am I? What have I done?’
“Now you seem to be aware of your surroundings. You used to be an author you know,” said Juho, emphasizing the fact that he was no longer an author. The man felt vulnerable to those seemingly ruthless and forceful words as they coiled around him like a snake. He felt exposed and powerless.
“Now, think again.”
“… about what?”
Like Juho had said, he thought about himself. ‘I’m an author, no I used to be an author. It was my choice to give up writing. Nobody forced me to quit. This world has nothing to do with it.’
“Pathetic,” he said, smiling. He had been feeling that way since well before he met Yun Woo in person. He felt chills running down his spine. “I didn’t want to write anymore.”
His joy of becoming an author was short-lived. There was a sea of well-written books around him, making him focus on his weaknesses. He couldn’t think of a way to compete. It was during that time of his life that Yun Woo appeared. His writing was both colorful and beautiful. It almost felt like his book was the only book existing under the sun. His book had been on a different level, and the contrast was rather striking. Though much younger, Yun Woo was much more skilled as a writer than he had ever been. A child had surpassed him. He had reached his limits and he couldn’t go on any longer. He lost the will to fight.
“I lost my awareness of my surroundings long ago.”
He had turned his eyes away from himself. In order to avoid his own stench, he had been holding his breath. The world had become smaller and smaller. It made sense that he couldn’t go on writing. He had given up and reached for whatever reason that he could grasp and cover himself with it. However…
“I still couldn’t hide from you. You’re simply too big and shiny.” He paused, “But when I saw you here… you were writing in the same place where I was giving it all up. That’s why I did it.”
He looked at himself in the mirror. His eyes were covered by his bushy hair. He had come to visit his teacher in that untidy appearance. He felt miserable, and nobody had made him that way but himself.
“… Mrs. Baek.”
Yun Seo was standing quietly by the door. He recognized her presence from the intoxicating smell of grilled meat. Having confessed, he dropped his head.
Standing next to Yun Seo, Geun Woo added, “Both Joon Soo and I were struggling with our books not selling. Joon Soo is giving a lecture even at this very moment. I even threw my manuscript away, but you know what? We never tried to steal what belonged to another person and ranted about our situations. We still wanted to be authors, even if that meant our books not selling. We might not have been popular, but we were still authors.”
“… You’re right. I’ve been just hiding behind the title ‘author.'”
He had simply been dishonest about his decision to give up. He looked at Yun Woo and came to realize the person reflecting on those clear eyes. Yun Woo didn’t criticize him. The man didn’t see himself in those eyes. Yun Woo didn’t even think about someone like him. ‘What have I been doing?’ the man had reconnected with reality.
“I’m sorry,” he said in a cracked voice. He apologized in front of his teacher, fellow author, and Yun Woo.
“… I’m so sorry,” his voice wavered.
Juho was the only one standing with his shoulders wide open.
“It’s OK. You don’t have to worry about paying me back,” said Juho light-heartedly. He didn’t intend on blowing things out of proportion. Besides, he did manage to get something out of the experience: those who take from others. War. Death. God. The shape of the narrator began to take form slowly.
In the end, the man left without staying for dinner.
“Hey! You said you’d have eaten by the time you came back, right?”
Having greeted his mother, Juho walked into his room. Changing into his home clothes, he lay on the bed and felt his eyes getting heavy. Realizing how tired he felt, he let out a sigh. At that moment, the door opened.
“If you’re still hungry, do you want me to make you something?”
It was his mother. She was asking even though she was aware of the fact that her son had already eaten.
“It’s OK. I had a big dinner.”
“That’s good. Are you OK?”
After saying goodnight, she closed the door and left. Juho sat up from the bed and sat himself in front of his computer. In it, was the same content as the one in the flash drive. Bushy hair. Juho hadn’t recognized his name. He and his books hadn’t been very popular, making him give up writing. For that reason, he was moved to destroy something that hadn’t belonged to him. While thinking about him, Juho remembered the conversation he had had with Yun Seo on his way out.
“Do you think it will stay with you?” she asked. He had just eaten, so he rubbed his stomach by reflex.
“You mean the meat?”
Yun Seo laughed with relief.
“Do you think you can handle it?” she asked again, concerned. “If you can’t, you can always give it to me.”
“You make it sound like it’s an object.”
“It might as well be. If you keep it in you, it’ll eventually rot away.”
“I better digest it before it goes bad.”
Though Juho answered with a smile, Yun Seo didn’t let up.
“It must’ve been upsetting.”
“I definitely wasn’t happy.”
“Do you feel like you like this world a little bit less now?”
“Thankfully, it wasn’t to that extent. After all, it all happened because I was simply too capable.”
Looking in his direction, Yun Seo nodded, pushing him gently.
“Then go write. Don’t hold back.”
She knew well of the way Juho worked with his emotions. Before going on his way, Juho asked, “Are you OK, Mrs. Baek?”
The man had been her own pupil. Seeing as how her own pupil had spiraled down into darkness, she had to be in pain.
“I’ve seen this often. It is never easy, but I know that the pain won’t last forever,” she said with a smile.
Juho slowly rose from his chair and turned on his computer. The screen lit up, showing everything he had written up to that point. Everything had been intact with nothing missing or damaged. What the man had crushed and flushed down the toilet had been none other than himself as an author.
‘There had been a war, a war to take away from others. In order to take something that one didn’t possess, weapons had been made, and hearts had boiled in anger despite knowing that the outcome would be unfortunate and miserable. If there was a God…’
“If I were God.”
He would have been dying to leave mankind behind. ‘Don’t hold back,’ somebody had told him earlier that day. Juho calmly moved his pen. The protagonist wrapped in a luxurious fabric lived at a point in the history where there was no God. War had come to an end. God had left the world. Only stories existed in that world, and it was as if God had really existed in the past.
The beginning of the journey took place in his hometown. He, too, had parents who had raised him. They were beings who had birthed him into the world. Juho thought of the man’s bushy hair. He was someone who couldn’t accept the fact that he had given up.
The protagonist’s father had wrapped himself in fancy clothing. He was wealthy, but he couldn’t bear to be alone. He interacted with and made love to as many people as he possibly could. As a result, he had many families and offsprings.
“I’ll give you an allowance.”
As if by habit, the father always said that.
“You’re cowardly, father,” said the son, the protagonist.
In his eyes, his father was a coward. Because he lacked the courage to give something up, he ended up ruining countless lives, including his own. The son ended up alone.
The son was sensitive to language. He had his ears open to others’ opinions as well as his father’s. He thoroughly understood the situations he faced. He was being clothed, fed, and educated with his father’s wealth. With the exception of his father, the son expressed his anger to every single person around him. He grew less and less tolerant. Angry. Detached.
Then, he changed.
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