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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“Been a while.”
“Long time no see.”
That morning, Juho got out of bed early in order to go to the park for morning exercises. Surprisingly, there was someone, who had arrived at the park before him, stretching at the entrance of the park. It was Sung Pil. Although Juho hadn’t seen him in a while, Sung Pil’s eyebrows were as thick as ever, and Juho was glad to see what seemed like an indication that his friend was well.
Then, the two jogged through the quiet park together.
“How’s writing going?” Juho asked as they ran through the usual route, his voice shaking with every step he took. The scenery filled with trees and green grass rushed past him.
“I’m still writing for now. Things are still in their early stages,” Sung Pil answered, his voice also shaking with every step.
In his past life, Juho didn’t read Sung Pil’s debut work because his writing career was beginning to fall apart around the same time. Therefore, there was no way to know if what Sung Pil was writing would be the same as that of the past. Besides, what was more important was the fact that he was still writing, regardless of whether he was writing the same story as before or not. As long as his debut wasn’t a coincidence, Sung Pil would be more than capable to accomplishing his goal of becoming an author. After all, his ability to write hadn’t changed.
“Can I ask what your story’s about?”
“It’s about a bank.”
“A bank?” Juho asked as he stared at a gingko tree in the scenery rushing past him.
(TL’s Note: In Korean, the word “bank” and “gingko (nuts)” are homonyms, hence Juho’s following thoughts.)
It wasn’t clear whether Sung Pil was referring to the tree or a building. However, considering his personality, it was likely that he would write about the tree. Honest, precious, strong roots, and reaching for the sky as it fought daily to grow straight.
For that reason, Juho asked, “You mean the tree, right?”
“No. The financial establishment.”
Sung Pil gave him a clear cut answer. The financial establishment. A bank was a place where money went in and out of, and people often sought its services for various reasons, like making deposits or getting loans. It was one of the most crucial establishments for those who lived in a capitalist society, and it was also a place where hope and despair coexisted.
“Huh. I guess that suits you too.”
At Juho’s remark, Sung Pil turned his head to look at him. In Juho’s eyes, Sung Pil hadn’t changed one bit since their first meeting.
“I remember you going to the police station to return some money you found on the street.”
“I sure did.”
“But why are you writing about a bank now?”
“I had some business that I needed to attend to there, and it just so happens that I had finished reading ‘Sound of Wailing’ around that time, so I found myself seeing the world around me a little bit differently from the book’s lingering aftereffect. Then, when I got to the bank, that was when things looked really different. For the first time, I saw the look on people’s faces while they were waiting for their turns with their numbered tickets, and that’s when I felt like I had to write about it.”
Juho was well acquainted with moments like that, when his head was filled with signals such as: ‘I have to write about this, what I’ve felt and seen.”
“I assume you went there often from then on?”
“Since I started writing, I’ve been going at least three times a week.”
“Did they try to kick you out or anything?”
“No. I just sit there quietly. If anything, I made friends with a security guard there. He’s quite experienced, and I thought he would be the one person who saw everything that happened in the bank, so I’ve been writing a story from his point of view.”
“That sounds interesting.”
As Juho was starting to run out of breath, he found himself chuckling at the same time with every exhale. He was looking forward to Sung Pil’s story, and for the first time, he was glad that he hadn’t read it in the past life. Back then, he had felt nothing more than childish jealousy for Sung Pil, who was the next rising star after Yun Woo. Unlike himself, who had been at the lowest point of his life, Sung Pil had been making his presence known consistently in the literary world, and Juho had been less than willing to read the new author’s book. Instead, he had watched quietly from the distance.
However, things were different in the present. Now, Juho was rooting for the birth of his friend’s debut title.
“You’re in it, too.”
“Yeah. A version of you in that interview.”
Slightly confused, Juho looked at Sung Pil, who remained calm.
“Interview? As in the one from the school festival?”
Then, the face of the monkey-like Newspaper Club member rushed past Juho’s mind.
“There’s an author who comes to the bank.”
With that, Sung Pil began to talk about his story, which was yet to be finished. A customer and an author.
“I drew inspiration from your interview.”
Juho’s eyes moved busily as he immersed himself in thought.
‘I’m in his story? Me? In that interview?’
Rather than describing him more concisely and directly, Sung Pil was intentional about describing the Juho from the interview, and he was not the type to beat around the bush.
“Is that different from how I am at the moment?”
At Juho’s question, Sung Pil smiled affirmingly.
“You really sounded like an author in that interview.”
Juho felt like he was gasping for breath all of a sudden.
“You have clear opinions and values on writing, and there is a definite standard that you use to discern what you can share and what you can’t. The person in that interview was Juho Woo, the author of ‘Grains of Sand,’ unlike you, who’s not fazed by anything.”
“Well, I’m grateful that you see me that way. That interview must have left quite an impression on you, huh?”
“Enough to remember it while I write.”
Sung Pil was writing his debut title, and the fact that there was a story within him that was flowing out of him was only natural. If anything, it was closer to being evidence that he was on the right track. On the other hand, Juho found it odd that he was in the middle of his friend’s story. Growing curious about the author in Sung Pil’s story, Juho asked him, “What’s he like?”
Then, after thinking for a brief moment, Sung Pil answered calmly, “He’s an adult. Cold and level-headed. He’s a large-figured man. I don’t know, but I had an image of a hunter for some reason, the kind that wouldn’t be afraid to dance with a bear in Russia.”
Juho chuckled as the character’s description grew further away from his own, and Sung Pil added as if to apologize, “It was just inspired by you.”
Just an inspiration. However, Juho had to force himself to ignore feeling pricked in the heart. At that moment, the rest area came into view in the distance, and Sung Pil made a suggestion before Juho even had time to speak.
“Loser buys drinks.”
As Juho agreed silently, the two sprang forward, clenching their teeth and running with everything they had. In the end, the victory went to Juho.
“Whew! I’m feeling drowsy. I could use a nap right about now.”
As they quenched their thirst while sprawled on the bench, Juho looked up at the sky while catching his breath. It was clear, and he was feeling drowsy after exercising rigorously in the quiet park. At that moment, a thunderous sound roared from the side, or more precisely, from the stomach of the person next to him.
“I’m getting hungry.”
Typical Sung Pil.
“What do you wanna eat?” Juho asked.
Although neither of them had agreed on what they were going to eat, they rose from their seats and made their way toward a hole-in-the-wall restaurant they had made themselves regulars of. It was a gukbap restaurant that sold ham hocks on the side. As they walked in, they saw a number of customers eating at their small tables without even looking in their direction, each concentrating on refueling themselves with the energy needed for the day. Walking past them, Juho and Sung Pil sat themselves at the innermost table in the restaurant.
“What are you getting?”
With that, Juho ordered two bowls of soondaeguk, and the server went into the kitchen after taking the order in a manner neither friendly nor abrupt. As a man paid for his meal and left the restaurant, another lady came out of the kitchen instead of the server, who had gone to clean the table. The two were each doing their jobs without saying anything, and it made the fifty year tradition of that restaurant all the more convincing.
Soon, the two bowls of soondaeguk made their way onto Juho and Sung Pil’s table, and they each put a bowl of rice into their soups.
(TL’s Note: Gukbap means rice with soup in Korean. Soondaeguk is a Korean soup with slices of pork blood sausage and meat and/or intestines.)
“It’s good,” Sung Pil said after a spoonful of soup, and Juho agreed quietly as the soup warmed up his stomach.
Then, picking up a piece of radish kimchi, he asked, “Where you are competing this year?”
“The essay contest?”
Sung Pil gave him no answer. Instead, he immersed himself in thought while chewing his food. Then, as Juho was about to go in for his third bite, he answered in a not-so-confident voice, “I don’t know.”
It was as Juho had expected. He was already in the middle of writing a story, and Juho was familiar with his desire to focus on writing.
“You’re planning on taking part in one, right?” Sung Pil asked.
“Yeah. I texted you. I looked up a few contests.”
Then, Juho told him the most recent contest he had come across.
“The 7th Literature Essay Contest.”
It was a contest hosted by a university in Gyeonggi-do, and it didn’t have such a long history or tradition. Juho was intentional about applying for contests that were mildly unpopular. Not only was the contest quite far from his home, it was also rather unorganized as it was still growing in size.
Because he had things to hide, Juho was always careful and deliberate about which contests he was applying to, and it seemed like “The 7th Literature Essay Contest,” would meet his standards.
After hearing Juho’s explanation, Sung Pil asked, “Is there a reason for why you chose that contest?”
Hiding the real reason, Juho said, “I just found it out of nowhere.” Then, he added in order to change the subject, “If you want to focus on writing your story, you don’t have to compete.”
Instead of asking a question, Sung Pil immersed himself in thought yet again. Meanwhile, assuming that he would be competing alone that year, Juho focused on eating his gukbap. He was well acquainted with an author’s desire to focus on their work.
“No, I’ll apply.”
Juho looked up at Sung Pil’s unexpected answer. He was chewing on a piece of radish while wearing a serene expression.
“What do you mean?”
“Because I want to be a better writer.”
At his straightforward answer, Juho barely managed to stop himself from saying Mr. Moon’s go-to phrase: ‘Not exactly wrong, but not exactly what I’m looking for either.’
Despite Juho staring at him intently, Sung Pil didn’t catch on, forcing Juho to ask, “Can you be a little more specific?”
“I want to observe you.”
Although his answer was much too direct that time, Juho understood where he was coming from.
“Because I’m in your story?”
A story about a bank.
“Yeah,” Sung Pil answered, eating a big spoonful of his gukbap. “I’m confident what I’m thinking is accurate.”
“Wait, I thought you were writing about the version of me in the interview from the school festival? If you want the interview’s content, I can just get you one.”
The version of Juho in Sung Pil’s story was that of himself in that interview. In that case, it didn’t quite make sense for Sung Pil to want to follow Juho to the contest.
Like previously, Sung Pil answered calmly, “I want to be a better writer.”
“I see,” after a brief silence, Juho answered as he had no choice but to answer briefly.
Ever since he started writing, Sung Pil’s hunger for writing had intensified significantly. Wanting to write and express himself better, he worked hard toward his goal, without trying to hide his desires. It was very Sung Pil-like. Like a gingko tree, his roots would only grow deeper as they absorbed massive amounts of water and sunlight, growing bigger as the tree spread out its branches.
Juho wasn’t particularly offended that Sung Pil was including him in his story, and he believed that what Sung Pil wanted to achieve by taking part in an essay contest was entirely up to himself. After all, Juho was always welcoming of new circumstances.
From then on, the two focused on eating their food, and Juho told him bits of information regarding the contest. The preliminary round was set to take place two weeks from that day, and the finals were set to take place at a university campus, followed immediately by the award ceremony.
“You’re gonna make it through the preliminary round at least, right? You gotta make it to the finals if you want to observe me.”
“I’ll just have to do my best,” Sung Pil answered honestly to Juho’s joke. Without being caught off guard by his abruptness, Juho drank from his cup. It was refreshing.
‘I better start preparing as soon as I get back.’
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