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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“You must be referring to Yun Woo.”
“Yes, Yun Woo,” the classmate reaffirmed, his eyes sparkling with interest.
He seemed ready and determined to write down whatever response came out of Juho’s mouth. As the room grew silent with the absence of the keyboard sound, the whirring sound of a heater came to life again in the distance.
“I’m not sure.”
“I’m sure you think about him. You guys are the same age and active in the same field. He’s also in a vastly superior position.”
Juho had been thinking about Yun Woo. After all, they were the same person. As the silence prolonged, a puzzled look appeared on the classmate’s face, and he asked, “You’re not going to tell me that you don’t know who I’m referring to, are you?”
“I do know the author you’re referring to.”
“Have you not read his books?”
The monkey looked all the more confused.
“I think he’s one of the most popular authors around.”
Yun Woo was the most popular author at the time. However, the classmate seemed unsatisfied with Juho’s answer.
“Surely you have more to say.”
“Yes, something with bit more punch.”
More punch… Juho took his time to give an answer.
“Sometimes, I wonder if he’s actually putting his all into his books.”
“I’m talking about Yun Woo. ‘The Trace of a Bird’ was his debut title, so there’s no point in complaining about a book that had already been written. On the other hand, an author shouldn’t run away from his own work. His sophomore title, ‘The Sound of Wailing,’ was a slight improvement from its predecessor, but the author still got a ways to go. It bothers me that there are places in the story where the dynamics could have been kept under better control. The son and the clown left me with more to be desired. I wish the son had more presence. Meanwhile, the clown had way too many things to say. If the ending had packed a bit more punch, I reckon it would’ve been a significant improvement to the overall balance of the story.”
“Hold on, hold on. Stop.”
The monkey suddenly stopped Juho, waving his hands in a hurry. He must have not written anything that had just come out of Juho’s mouth.
“C’mon, I thought this was what you wanted,” Juho said silently.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m giving you my opinion on Yun Woo.”
“What?! Are you trying to start an anti-Yun Woo movement?”
The classmate chuckled and said, “Do you know how many Yun Woo fans are out there?”
“At least I’m being honest.”
“That’s what makes it worse! How could you say things like that to our Yun Woo?”
“Our Yun Woo?”
Ignoring his question, the monkey glared sharply at Juho.
“I’ve yet to come across someone who talks smack about Yun Woo. You’re bothered? What about him and his books could possibly bother you? He’s a genius, you know.”
The classmate seemed to be clueless about what Juho was talking about. After all, those were things that would only be noticeable to him as the author. He knew that he could have done better and he didn’t plan on being content with the title “genius.” He was determined than ever to get what he wanted.
It was an Achilles’ heel that had been uncovered by Juho’s greed as an author.
“Yun Woo’s works are perfect,” the monkey said, and Juho chuckled quietly.
“I thought you wanted something that packed more punch? I gave you what you asked.”
“No, that’s not what I was looking for.”
“Something more light-hearted, like rivalry, or something like: ‘I want to be just like him when I’m older.'”
“You seem to be have trouble making up your mind.”
“Well, it’s just that your response was way too strong.”
Juho pondered for a brief time and said, “I think he’s a good author.”
Just like that, the interview came to an end.
“OK, I’m going to take some time to organize the content of the interview,” the monkey said.
After watching quietly for some time, Juho remembered the balloons that he was supposed to be blowing up and made his way back to the classroom, all the while, curious about the door being slightly open.
An icy cold breeze rushed past Juho’s cheeks. The air felt colder in the park than in the areas around it. Maybe it was because the place was surrounded by trees. White smoke puffed out of his mouth steadily as he ran.
After running a lap around the park, Juho sat on a bench to rest.
“It’s cold today.”
He felt the sweat cooling down, taking his body temperature with it. At that rate, he would catch a cold. Not wanting to head back home just yet, he decided to look for somewhere warmer. ‘Where should I go? A cafe? A restaurant?’ He looked for a building that would protect him from the cold.
As he walked slowly, a pyramid-like structure came into view. It was the botanical garden he had gone to with Nabi, the publishing agent of his first book. The pots outside were covered by a straw mat. Unlike in spring, there were no leaves or flower.
“Should we go to the botanical garden?”
“It looks like it’s closed. Let’s just go to the cafe.”
A couple conversed as they turned around at the entrance. The botanical garden gave off a sense of stillness and made people hesitate to go in. It seemed as if everything had fallen asleep.
Juho flung the door open. In the past, he had experienced life as a starving, homeless man. At the time, he would frequently seek shelter in the botanical garden to keep himself warm in the winter, and the door to the garden had always been open.
“Nice and toasty as usual.”
As he opened the door, he was greeted by a wave of warm, damp air washing over him. The very first thing that came into view was a split road: Cacti to the right, and various tropical plants to the left.
Since he was planning on sitting down and resting, he took the path to the left and was immediately greeted by its distinct, damp-smelling air. Juho looked up to the trees that stood tall. The branches were tangled together and made it nearly impossible to distinguish the trees apart. ‘I’m sure there’s someone who can name every one of these trees and plants here, just like how I can with novels,’ Juho thought.
After he walked through the windy trail, the sound of running water became audible. It sounded somewhat artificial. Soon, a pond with a small waterfall at the center appeared. There were about ten rather large carps swimming in the water. Juho walked over to the bench on the other side of the pond and sat down.
Quiet. There was nobody around. The warmth and the sound of running water were the only things in the air. The place had a soothing effect.
Juho revisited his memory of what had been happening at school lately. The classroom was decorated with various shapes and colors, having little resemblance to its usual appearance. The lockers were covered in balloons, and a white line had been drawn across the center for the dart throwers. All the desks were moved to the hallway, while various prizes were spread about on one side of the classroom.
He remembered being in doubt even as he was blowing up his balloons. However, the result wasn’t half bad.
Despite it being the weekend, there were bound to be students who had to go to school in order to finish decorating the classrooms. The school festival was just around the corner.
In a daze, Juho looked up at the banana leaf above his head. ‘Is that where bananas would be hanging?’
‘Click!’ a shutter sounded off suddenly.
Juho slowly turned his head toward the source of the sound and saw a student holding a camera. Judging from the uniform, she went to the same school as him.
“Did you just take a picture of me?”
“Yep,” she answered light-heartedly. Thinking it over briefly, she asked, “Is there a problem?”
“I’d appreciate if you deleted that picture.”
“Sure. No problem,” she said light-heartedly once again. Approaching Juho, she showed him the step-by-step process of deleting the photo. “Will that do?”
Hoping she would go on her way, Juho looked up at the banana leaves. ‘Maybe it’s not a banana tree at all. It would’ve been nice if they were labeled,’ he thought. Despite his wishes, the tree stood tall in silence.
“Hey,” the girl with the camera called for him.
“You’re Juho Woo, right?”
Although they had never met, she knew his name somehow. Juho realized that it had been happening more frequently as of late.
“Have we met?”
“No, but I’ve read your work, ‘Grains of Sand.'”
“Ah, right. Thanks.”
At Juho’s response, the girl approached him in a friendly manner.
“You’re such a good writer. I don’t know if I’d be the most qualified to judge since I hardly read on my own, but there was not one bit that felt awkward. I read it from cover to cover in a single breath. This is the second time that’s ever happened to me.”
“Who was your first?” Juho asked.
“Yun Woo’s book. You’ve heard of ‘The Trace of a Bird,’ right? It was my sister’s book. She wouldn’t stop talking about it, so I read it just to shut her up, but I ended up staying up the entire night reading it. I was so astonished that there are people in this world who are capable of creating something like that. That goes for you, too.”
She was rather talkative. There was no trace of shyness in her, and Juho nodded quietly as he felt her gaze on him.
“But you’re not a fan of Yun Woo, are you?”
Juho locked eyes with her.
“I don’t dislike him. Who told you that?”
“C’mon now. Don’t worry. I like his book, not Yun Woo himself,” she said confidently.
Holding back his urge to chuckle, Juho answered, “I’m serious. I don’t dislike him.”
She sneered at his denial.
“Was that why you were so critical of Yun Woo in the music room?”
“A-ha! So, you were the one eavesdropping.”
She had to be the person responsible for leaving the door open.
“Yep,” she admitted without hesitation. Juho, too, had no intention to question her motive. As he remained quiet, she parted her lips and asked, “Then what is it? If you don’t dislike him, why were you so harsh in your criticism?”
“Was I? I was just sharing how I felt.”
“What’s the difference?”
“It’s in there, somewhere.”
She kept trying to talk to him, and Juho became certain of something.
“Is there something you wanted to say?” he asked.
“… So… ”
She slowly opened her mouth. In most cases, one talked to someone they had never met when there was some need. Being someone who spoke to people frequently, Juho was well aware of that.
“I know that you’re already a good writer.”
“Yes, I am.”
“How did you come up with the title ‘Grains of Sand?'” she asked, looking like she was holding something back.
Unlike the monkey, who had asked him about the protagonist or the significance of the sand, the girl was asking a much simpler question.
‘Why is she asking that?’ Juho wondered, but he decided to answer her anyway.
“I didn’t come up with it.”
“Somebody else came up with it.”
An apparent disappointment washed over her face. “That can’t be right…” she murmured. “Do you know how long I’ve been shivering in the cold?”
“I’ve been following you. I was waiting for the right timing to approach you.”
“Were you stalking me?”
“No, I happen to see you at the park, so I followed you.”
“What’s the difference?”
“Destiny,” she answered briefly. “For goodness sake, aren’t you cold!? You were jogging forever!”
“Why do you think I’m in here?”
“Sigh, what a letdown. I thought you’d be my destiny.”
The corners of her mouth turned downward into a sad frown.
“What’s the matter? What was it about the title?”
At his question, the sadness on her face faded away quickly.
“… so, I was quite fond of the title. It summarizes the book nicely. So…” She hesitated, fiddling with the camera in her hands. “I’m in the Photography Club. I just came from school after helping out my clubmates with the decorations. Our club is doing a photo exhibition, and I need a title for my photo. But…”
She hesitated once again.
“You still haven’t decided on a title? The festival is the day after tomorrow!”
“That’s why I’m wondering around the park, hoping I’d find some ideas!” she snapped at him angrily. Juho came to grasp her situation. “And then I met you. Of course, I’d think that it was destiny.”
“Is it that obvious though?”
“And now, you’re telling me that another person essentially named your book.”
Wearing a depressed look on her face, she looked down at her toes. The air grew heavy with silence. The once talkative girl was nowhere to be found. Juho turned his eyes back to the banana leaves.
“Ah…!” she exclaimed in realization.
‘Did she come up with a title?’
“I’ll have another person come up with a title too!”
‘I guess not,’ Juho thought.
“That’s what you did. I should do the same!”
“Well, I guess there’s no reason you can’t or shouldn’t.”
Her eyes sparkled.
“So, I know we just met.”
“But I have something I’d like to ask you.”
“I think I have an idea, so I’d rather not.”
“Are you hungry, by any chance? Are you craving anything? Would you be uncomfortable eating with someone you’ve never met before? Oh, yeah! How about this? I’ll pay you for naming my photo. I happen to have some cash on me.”
“That, I have plenty of.”
“Right, I thought you looked like you’re pretty well-off. So, what do you think?”
That time, Juho couldn’t resist his urge to chuckle.
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