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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
After a quick walk around the neighborhood, Juho returned home. Because he hadn’t been able to go out for morning exercises as of late, he wanted to keep himself moving. As he went into his room after taking a shower, he saw the manuscript on his desk, waiting to be translated.
“‘Belongings,'” Juho read the title of the book that he was about to translate for Kelley Coin’s Korean fans out loud.
He was already familiar with the book and with the protagonist named Bill, the thief. The story took off from his point of view. Bill was the leader of the pickpocket gang who lived off of stolen goods, and while he was an incredibly pretentious person, he was also ambitious.
The aspect that showed Kelley Coin’s voice the most was the environment, the fictional space where the protagonist lived in, which was divided in three sections.
Bill lived in the slums, where the people had a less than average quality of life, breathing the polluted air. It was filled with dark alleyways, sewer rats, poverty, neglect, deficit and criminals.
On the other hand, the entirety of Bill’s prey lived in a wealthier part of the town, where people lived abundantly with money, comfort, and happiness. The wealthy often spent most their time getting together and their tea sipping graciously while playing with their cats. Most of them were wasting their lives in laziness or weariness of those living in the slums.
Lastly, there was Utopia. Located in between the two parts of the town, this was Bill’s work place, and the only place where the poor and the rich came together. Nobody was against the tourist attraction that was Utopia, and it was a place filled with beautiful views and plentiful music, as well as dreams and hopes.
The place was often crowded with those seeking comfort and romance, and Bill hid amid those people, stealing their money and happiness.
Lately, to help with his translation gig, Juho had been reading Kelley Coin’s books often, including interviews and TV shows. In one interview, Coin described his own books as such: “Those who have never sinned in their lives will never be able to identify with my books, and those who have never been hurt will find my books boring.”
All of his books implied that humans were both perpetrators and victims of their own crimes. Therefore, they had the freedom to accuse each other mercilessly. It also implied that humans had the right to confront the wrongs of their own, because they were capable of hurting and being hurt by each other. Reading that statement had helped Juho better understand Coin’s point of view as a writer.
The author had wanted to make Bill, the protagonist, both a perpetrator and a victim, while keeping his actions from justifying his crimes. Because of that, Bill met his demise as an empty-handed thief who had lived his entire life stealing from others.
Juho followed through the text according to how his head was interpreting it, picking apart tens of different meanings contained within a single word. Unlike usual, he had to read with a different standard: as close to how it was written and as Coin-like as possible. As the standard changed, the choices he made also changed with it, and as he made different choices, they also yielded results different from the usual.
Bill was both pretentious and ambitious, and he desired to stand on top of others. Sadly, his dream was never realized.
At the same time, he was timid and cowardly, and it was crucial that Juho saw things from the characters’ point of view, like Bill’s.
Then, Juho placed his hands on the keyboard and started translating the sentences in the book. Although the outer shape of the words was changing, the meaning within stayed intact. He focused on the fact that he had to take the readers into account. It was an sentiment that had become natural to him, making it difficult for him to recognize it. Since the book had to be easy to read, he had to actively avoid using overly difficult words or twisting sentences around excessively, all the while maintaining the author’s intent. At the process that was jarringly different from writing, Juho couldn’t help but chuckle and be joyful at the same time. As he saw how the author approached writing and went about unfolding the story, Juho felt Dong Gil’s advice becoming more and more tangible.
As he acquainted himself with the book slowly, Juho thought of and acknowledged Coin in his mind, remembering that the book had been written by him and recognizing that a translator had no right to invade the realm of the author’s creativity.
Juho kept his eyes fixed on the screen. There was no need for a dictionary. As he thought of a slew of definitions after reading through the words, he went with the most fitting ones. Focusing on what each of the sentences were conveying, Juho doubled-down all the more in reading and writing.
‘Click,’ the device made a sound as it moved.
Then, Susan made an appearance in the book as Bill declared the end of their relationship.
“I’m leaving you,” Bill said, and Susan asked why, but he gave no answer.
Struggling to understand Susan’s character, Juho’s hands came to a halt.
Having been Bill’s significant other since before the beginning of the story, Susan made a very brief appearance in the book and parted ways with Bill early on, never to be mentioned again until the story reached its climax. Then, she returned all of a sudden as Bill was at the verge of his death, staring blankly at him without even trying to help, ridicule, or criticize him. Simply, she let him go and stayed with him until the very end.
‘What does this mean? What do I make of this character?’
There were a number of interpretations of Susan’s character, and Juho hesitated to make a choice. Then, he thought of a standard one and began to write out what he knew about the character.
‘Susan. The author’s mother in real life. Appears frequently in Kelley Coin’s stories, mostly as a figure of power and influence. Guide. Often someone who’s yearned for, but a figure of terror and domination in some books. She takes on an entirely different shape in this book, and she’s the haziest and vaguest character by far in all of Coin’s books, resulting in countless interpretations.’
In the end, there was no concrete role that she was serving in the book. Coin had been giving Susan a different shape in every book, but what would that mean for Susan in ‘Belongings?’ She wasn’t a figure of terror for Bill. On the contrary, they were lovers.
‘What does that mean? What’s her purpose as a character? What kind of role did Coin give her?’
Juho flipped through the pages back and forth. She only appeared briefly in the beginning and the end of the book, all without any description on her appearance or her thought process. It was hard to get a grasp of her.
“Maybe I should try meeting her.”
As Juho was about to close his eyes, he stopped as he was reminded of another author all of a sudden, Mideum Choo. She had a keen interest in Juho’s writing process, and she had had a hard time understanding his method despite his explanation. She had once compared his process to a ghost.
Then, Juho picked up his phone and called her. After the signal sounded a few times from the receiver, it stopped all of a sudden, and…
… a rather low voice answered. She had to have just woken up.
“I wasn’t expecting you at all at this hour. What’s up?”
“It’s lunch time.”
“Well, it’s bedtime for me.”
“I’m on my way to go see a ghost.”
“You asked me to let you know when I’m on my way to go see one.”
When she found out that Juho was both Yun Woo and Won Yi Young for the first time, she was ecstatic and had asked him to let her know when he was on his way to meet with a “ghost.” Needless to say, her excitement made it nearly impossible for her to carry a conversation.
“I’m in a bit of a hurry myself. It seems like I woke you up, so I’ll let you go back to bed. Bye now.”
“But you woke me up!”
With that, Juho hung up the phone, set it on silent and went back to work. Kelley Coin. Bill. Susan. Pretentious and ambitious. Timid. Perpetrator and victim. Poor and rich. Utopia. Thieves.
Juho closed his eyes and calmly imagined. Even if he were to meet with Susan, they wouldn’t be able to have a coherent conversation, in which case, it would be better to talk to Bill. Made entirely of Coin’s sentences, neither of the characters had been created by Juho.
‘I will NOT try to change Bill in any way. Everything has to go according to how Coin intended,’ Juho reminded himself.
‘Stench. Darkness. A gathering of people who have nothing to lose.’
Juho imagined the place in his mind according to Coin’s description in the book. There was a withered tree and a mouse pinkie, lost and shaking uncontrollably.
“I don’t think we’ve met.”
Juho looked behind him and saw an untidy man who reeked whenever he opened his mouth, which was filled with yellow teeth.
“Nothing unusual. There are always new people here.”
“Huh… You sound like you’ve been here before.”
With that, Juho thought for a brief moment and said, “Let’s just say that I have experience with the place.”
The man stared at Juho’s face intently and nodded light-heartedly. Although Juho found his gesture incredibly offensive, he overlooked the man’s unpleasant attitude as he was looking to get something out of his visit. Then, the man plunked down on the ground. He was alone, filthy, and shaking. His appearance was no different from that of a mouse. At that moment, a smell Juho was well acquainted with peeked through the man’s filthy stench.
“Had yourself a drink, I see?”
Bill chuckled and answered, “That explains how I’m seeing you. You’re nothing but an illusion. You’re old and filthy and don’t even get me started on the smell. I can’t stand the sight of your mouth whenever you talk. It bothers me that you’re missing your teeth.”
That had to be Juho’s appearance in the man’s eyes.
“Is that all?”
Bill looked up, and their eyes locked.
“I’m surprised that you’re still alive.”
“Proud to be.”
Then, the smile faded from the man’s face, and he examined Juho up and down, snickering. His attitude was rather similar to his creator’s, Kelley Coin.
“You got nothing to offer,” the man said, and he was quite accurate. Juho had nothing to give him because he had been created by another author.
“Whoever said anything about giving you stuff?”
“Are you planning on stealing something then? Are you a thief too?”
Juho took his notepad out of his pocket. It was filled with numbers and letters.
“Here’s the phone number. He might have what you’re looking for, and you’ll be able to talk with him.”
Bill caught on to Juho immediately.
“Are you going to speak well of me?”
“That depends on you. This is a trade, after all.” Then, Bill’s gaze turned into a fierce, murderous glare. Juho smiled, adding, “There’s no need to force yourself. I’m not the only person who’s got something to lose.”
Then, he threw himself on his back all of a sudden, and his dark colored skin became visible from underneath his thin shirt. A mysterious flake fell from his belly as he scratched it.
“How about you go wash up?”
“Why, I’d love to. If there was any water that is. Water’s valuable around here, but on the flipside, we got plenty of fire. This place is full of psychos anxious to watch the world burn.”
Then, emphasizing that all water had evaporated from the face of that town, he added that he couldn’t figure out if he had ended up with his current appearance because of the lack of water, or it had been his appearance that had led to lack of water.
“You used the word, ‘trade.’ What is it you want?”
At the question he had been waiting for, Juho opened his mouth and answered, “Susan.”
After Juho’s answer, Bill wavered, murmuring the name repeatedly, “Susan. Susan. Oh! how I miss her.”
“Where is she?”
“Who knows? We’re not together anymore,” he said as he searched through his pockets, but soon gave up. Juho knew exactly what the man was looking for. It was alcohol. He was looking for alcohol to drink his sorrows away.
“Why did you break up with her?”
“‘Cus I’m a thief.”
At that moment, the mouse moved its long tail.
“Have you ever been to Utopia?”
“You mean the tourist attraction? Not yet.”
“That place is brimming with happiness. From exciting music to the welcoming scent, they lack nothing. No deficit or disease of any kind.”
“But they have thieves?”
At Juho’s answer, the man chuckled, and his body shook slightly.
“There are thieves indeed. Utopia doesn’t discriminate.”
Utopia was a free, non-discriminatory place.
“I usually steal money, but to be frank, that’s all there is to steal. You can’t put things like music or scent in a bottle.”
Despite knowing how dull of a question he was about to ask, he blurted it out anyway. Juho couldn’t afford to judge anything for himself.
“How does it feel to steal from other people?”
“That’s the dumbest question I’ve ever heard so far.”
“That’s a shame, but I must know.”
Then, the man searched through his pockets again in vain.
“Well, obviously, you feel like you’re better than them,” Bill said, brushing down his face with his empty hand.
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