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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
As Juho wrote the very last word in his essay, a gust of wind blew all of a sudden, blowing against Juho’s paper in the gazebo. Then, holding onto those pages, Juho looked up and felt the wind in a daze. It was the very first time he was able to concentrate from start to finish in a contest.
“How’d you do?” Sung Pil asked, and Juho grew curious about whether or not Sung Pil saw him writing and of what he might have thought. Maybe it was already part of the book that would be announced to the world for the first time.
“I think I did all right.”
Sung Pil smiled at Juho’s light-hearted answer.
“So, it went well,” he said with certainty.
“What makes you think that?”
“Because I saw it with my own eyes,” Sung Pil gave a rather author-like answer, and Juho rose from his seat, saying, “You got me.”
“Almost unfairly good, maybe?”
“… That’s a shameless answer.”
Then, Juho looked down at the essay in his hands of which he was quite proud, asking, “What if I get first place?”
“I’m a contestant too, you know.”
Sung Pil reminded Juho of his existence, and his distinctively thick eyebrows twitched. Truth be told, Juho didn’t need to be reminded of Sung Pil’s existence, nor of his skill.
“Well, let’s go submit our essays then. What’s the time?”
Then, Sung Pil checked the time.
“We have plenty.”
With that, the two went back the way they came from, and the air sank back into silence, absent of cars or other pedestrians. As Juho read the handout while walking, Sung Pil stared at him intently. Then, he opened his mouth all of a sudden to say, “So, there’s something I’m curious about.”
“Yeah?” Juho answered with his eyes still on the handout.
“Are you planning on not going to the award ceremony?”
At that, Juho looked up from the handout and looked at Sung Pil for a brief time. Soon, he went back to looking at the handout, and written at the bottom of the page in bold, he saw: ‘Contestants are encouraged, but not required, to attend the award ceremony. However, the award will be nullified with the absence of the awardee.’
“What makes you think that?”
“You left ahead last year too.”
“Oh, are you talking about Joon Soo Bong’s lecture last year?”
Sung Pil nodded. Back then, Juho had chosen to leave early instead of attending the remaining events scheduled for after the contest that day.
“I gotta hand it to ya. You’re quick.”
Juho complimented his friend with a smile.
“Are you planning on leaving even if you win?”
Juho’s reason for taking part in the essay contest was simple: he had wanted to. It didn’t mean that he was looking to win an award. Simply, he wanted to compete in an essay contest as a proud member of the Literature Club, and he wanted to try writing in a new environment. In other words, he wanted a different experience, and unlike in his past life, he had a hunger to write.
He was Yun Woo as well as Won Yi Young, who were both professional authors with published works. The only qualification for being in the contest was that the contestant had to be a student in high school, so while Juho didn’t violate the rule, the contest was strictly for amateurs, putting Juho in an awkward category. For that reason, he had chosen things carefully and according to his own standards.
“Well, the results aren’t out yet, so let’s not celebrate too soon.”
“You’re right. We still have to submit our essays, too.”
By the time they were almost at Garam Hall, Sung Pil suggested, “Bet?”
When Juho looked ahead, the distance wasn’t nearly long enough to race. Then, Sung Pil shook the sheets of paper in his hands.
“You mean in writing?”
“Yeah. As soon as we submit, they’ll evaluate our essays, and the results will come out by the end of lunchtime, so let’s make a bet on whose name gets called out first,” Sung Pil said in a serious tone, and he didn’t seem like he was looking to lose either, so Juho accepted his challenge willingly.
“Let’s make it two this time.”
“Raising the stakes, I see.”
From then on, the two went into the building while conversing light-heartedly. By the time they entered the lecture hall, there were quite a few people who had already arrived. Then, Juho and Sung Pil went on to submit their essays together.
“Where should we go for lunch?”
“I saw a noodle shop nearby.”
“OK. Let’s go.”
The professor looked toward the sound of the T.A.’s voice, who was bringing a stack of essays. The contest wasn’t all that big, and because all of the contestants were high school students, the judges rarely read through an essay from beginning to end. In most cases, judges were able to gauge the writer’s skill by reading the beginning of the story’s plot.
Professor Hwang was sitting in front of five other judges, consisting of one author, who was an alumni of the university, and four other professors. Then, Professor Hwang looked at the professor sitting across from her. His books weren’t very popular, and it was likely that most of the contestants would find his name obscure and unfamiliar.
“OK. Shall we?”
With the professor’s words, the judges each picked up an essay simultaneously. Being the author’s first time judging an essay contest, the author looked through the essays with eyes filled with anticipation, and Professor Hwang sighed mockingly, reminiscing about the old days when hope had still existed, like within the author.
Being oblivious to Professor Hwang’s sigh, the author, like the other professors, focused on the evaluations, and Professor Hwang played along, reading through the essays page by page. Most of them were crude and lacking, and that was only natural. As their job required the professor to read through thousands of essay pages of similar quality, the pages flipped in a mechanical manner.
Then, by the time the professor had just made it past halfway through the stacks of essays, she sensed that something was out of place. While sorting out the essays that were tolerable from those that were unreadable, there was one essay in particular that had grabbed her attention. It was written by one of the handful of kids who had come all the way from Seoul.
The professor hadn’t expected to come across something like that in an essay contest for high school students. The essay stood out amid all the others, which was revealing of its writer’s skill level. It was out of place and it was inherently different. Then, the professor flipped to the next page, and the next, trying read through them calmly.
The professor looked up at Professor Myung’s voice. Having taught the longest at the university, she grasped what the professor was feeling immediately, despite her trying to hide it. With a puzzled look, she asked the professor, “What’s the matter? You seem stuck for some time.”
At her question, the professor finally put down the essay that she had been reading repeatedly.
“I was just taken aback by something.”
Then, the professor shared a packaged version of the experience, and stopping what they were doing, the rest of the judges looked at Professor Myung.
“Taken aback? It’s not everyday that I see you taken aback by something, Professor Hwang.”
With that, Professor Myung took the essay from the professor. Willingly handing it over, the professor observed the veteran professor’s reaction quietly.
“Huh…!” Professor Myung exclaimed quietly, and her eyes sparkled curiously as she was intellectually stimulated. “This is definitely not the work of a high school student.”
At that, Professor Hwang brought up a name that raced past her mind.
“Could it be Yun Woo?”
Surprised, the author looked at the two professors in turn. Then, Professor Myung shook her head slowly, saying, “No. It’s different. The style isn’t the same, and the depth is nowhere near Yun Woo’s level.”
“But the only high school student who can write like this is Yun Woo. Especially considering the qualification of the contest, Professor Myung.”
“There are all sorts of people in this world, Professor Hwang,” she said calmly. “There might be another prodigy who is yet to be known to the world.”
‘Sure, if we can find one, that is,’ Professor Hwang muttered internally.
“There are probably only a handful of them, of course,” the veteran professor added as if she heard Professor Hwang’s internal voice, and the professor smiled awkwardly. “There’s always a higher ceiling, as well as a lower ground. Similarly, there’s always someone better.”
“Anyway, we should be thankful that we have a candidate for first place, and our job has become just a little bit easier. Now, let’s get to work, shall we?”
“May I?” the author asked, itching to read the essay in Professor Myung’s hand.
While the author was quite impressed after reading through it in no time, they both agreed that it had not been written by Yun Woo. Then, at the urges of Professor Myung, the author moved on to the next essay.
Just like that, the air sank back into silence, and the judges read through the essays quickly. Embarrassed of being overly excited and hastily mentioning the name Yun Woo, Professor Hwang looked around the room and saw the author sitting completely still, holding firmly to an essay while staring intently at it. At the strange sight, Professor Hwang let out a quiet cough, but the author was completely oblivious to it even as the professor coughed again for the second time. There was no progress, and Professor Myung, too, looked at the author as she noticed the strange sight.
Then, just as she was about to call for the author, the author spoke up, “You’re right, Professor Myung. There really are all sorts of people in this world.”
“What do you mean?” Professor Hwang asked, and Professor Myung also looked toward the author, who was wearing a stiff expression. As the author handed the essay over willingly to Professor Hwang without saying anything, the professor caught on to where the rookie judge was coming from immediately.
The professor was perplexed yet again by the skill level and depth of an essay that was supposedly written by a high school student.
Professor Hwang was well aware of that feeling. She had felt it when she had first started writing. Because she had yet to understand what writing was really like, the professor had been able to judge any book with ease, and it was easy to point out their flaws. However, the more she wrote, the more the professor came to realize how difficult writing really was, and judging a book was no longer a trivial matter. Simply, the professor was impressed. ‘How can one write and think of something like this?” There was no way to truly gauge the actual skill level of a writer, and the reason for that was simple: an author would be, inherently, a better writer than a rookie who had just started writing.
Just like that, time passed, and the rookie writer eventually became a professor at a university, dealing with students who were significantly less experienced. As a professor, the writer was able to have an objective opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of her students as writers-in-training, and things no longer felt like the past. Yet, the essay she was reading currently made her feel like she was stranded in the middle of the ocean, not knowing how deep it was or whether it had an end.
Then, the essay went to Professor Myung’s hands, and an expression similar to that of the author appeared on her face as she lost her composure after getting lost in its depth.
“Yun Woo?” she murmured, and sensing something unusual, the other professors examined the essay themselves.
“The structure, the sentences. It doesn’t seem like the writer had prepared for the contest, either. This is a short story.”
“How was this student able to write something like this in such a short time in an essay contest? This wouldn’t possible unless one’s in the habit of writing a significant amount on a regular basis.”
“The sentences are at a completely different level from all the other contestants.”
“Is this really Yun Woo?”
“No. It carries a different feel, even the sentences do.”
Then, there was silence. Although the essay was definitely different from Yun Woo, it was just as good as something written by a genius author who had been treated as a freak of nature in the literary world. His fame had been spreading throughout the world. However, it seemed like there was yet another person who matched Yun Woo’s skill. With that, the professor asked, “What’s the name?”
… and one of the professors read the name on the essay out loud.
No one in the room had heard of that name, and the judges thought simultaneously, ‘Will he be there at the award ceremony?’
“Well, let’s get to work, folks,” Professor Myung said, and the rest nodded stiffly, still lingering around the essay.
Although they all eventually moved on to reading through their stacks of essays, it was obvious that the name “Juho Woo” lingered in their minds.
In the end, an essay was chosen unanimously as the first place.
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