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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“Long time no see.”
“Yep, been a while.”
“How’s life in the mountains?”
“Oh, did you get to say hello to Madame Song?”
“She seemed busy.”
As if he had been used to San Jung’s brief answers, Sang Choi kept asking her questions back to back. They seemed close to each other.
“Did you see Yun Woo?” Sang asked as if talking about an indigenous product, and San Jung chuckled quietly.
In order to steer the subject away from him, Juho spoke up.
“Where are the rest?”
“They’re almost here. Dong Gil and Seo Joong are coming together, and Joon Soo and Geun Woo are doing the same. So are Dae Soo and Mideum.”
“Everyone’s coming in pairs.”
“Because they live close to each other. We’re the only ones who came by ourselves.”
“Maybe I should come with another person next time.”
“What does that mean?” Sang asked as he picked up the water cup next to his utensils, and Juho answered ambiguously, checking the time. It was almost time.
“Oh, man! What a sight!”
At that, Juho turned around toward the source of the voice. It was Seo Joong and Dong Gil. That day, Seo Joong was wearing fluorescent-colored sweatshirt and pants.
“I see that you dressed up a little bit today.”
“Right?! But SOMEBODY keeps talking about adding fluorescent colors to his list of things he dislikes.”
“I already did.”
Then, the two sat between Sang and San Jung. Dong Gil sat next to Sang, and Seo Joong audaciously struck up a conversation with San Jung, who was sitting next him. Dong Gil and Sang also exchanged brief greetings with each other.
“How’ve you been?” Dong Gil had asked San Jung, but the answer came from Sang.
“I’ve been good, as always. I take good care of myself.”
“I see that you haven’t changed one bit.”
While Dong Gil and Sang conversed, Seo Joong talked to San Jung, swinging his fluorescent sleeve about.
“San Jung! Can we PLEASE have you more often??”
“Sure. I’m not all that busy anymore, so feel free to come by whenever you want to.”
“Really!? Wait, but there are snakes there.”
“There are, indeed.”
At that, the room grew all the more boisterous, unlike just a moment prior, when the room would sink into silence at every opportunity. Soon, the rest of the group arrived.
“Whew! The room’s filled to the brim with authors!”
“Great to see you all!” Dae Soo said in high spirits, and Mideum, who greeted the others simultaneously with her, looked at San Jung and Yun Woo in turn with sparkling eyes.
“Been a while, everyone.”
With that, Joon Soo and Geun Woo arrived. Each of the four authors sat between San Jung and Juho, with Geun Woo sitting to the right of Juho, then Joon Soo, Mideum, San Jung, and Dae Soo, who sat closest to her. The round table was now fully occupied, and everyone exchanged brief greetings with each other.
“All right. Should we order, now?” Dae Soo asked, and each ordered their food and drinks accordingly. Soon, plates of hot food filled the once empty table. Having ordered the same dish previously, Juho took a bite from his chicken, which tasted just as pleasant as last time. With the exception of Juho, the eight authors each conversed with one another about different things.
“How is it that you look worse and worse every time I see you, Geun Woo?”
“That’s because I’m writing. I haven’t been getting a whole lot of sleep, lately.”
“What? Were you always that sensitive? Have you been feeling under pressure?”
“Of course! I’m not as bold and daring as Dae Soo.”
Then, Mideum chimed in, taking swigs of her beer, “That’s because Geun Woo was born looking depressed. C’mon, Dae Soo. You know better.”
With that, Geun Woo’s naturally gloomy face grew all the gloomier. Then, Joon Soo intervened on Geun Woo’s behalf, knocking lightly on the table three times.
“Cut him some slack now, will ya? Mideum, you should slow down with your beer. Geun Woo, why the long face when you have a plate full of amazing food before your eyes? That’s no way to show respect to the food or the chef.”
Chewing on his food, Juho looked the other way, to where Sang had just started talking.
“In my opinion, your writing is way too rigid. There’s not enough love and romance.”
“You really have an eye for things like that, Sang. I agree. Your writing’s just way too cold. Why don’t you write something more heart warming? Think outside of your comfort zone every now and then, you know?”
“You do realize that my recent book was an experiment, right? Get off your high horses, why don’t you, you two?”
“All right, look, Uhm Dong. Seo Joong has a point. You do tend to focus on yourself a tad too much. Do you know what I mean?”
(TL’s Note: Sang seems to call Dong Gil “Uhm Dong”, which means ‘a cold winter,’ fitting for Dong Gil’s personality.)
“No offense, but I don’t think you should be the one to tell me that.”
“You’re still writing that weird list, aren’t you? Why don’t you focus on me while you’re here? Sang Choi’s top favorites list. You have my permission to start writing at anytime.”
“No, thanks. Your books aren’t exactly my type, either.”
Unfortunately, there was no one in the room who could intervene for those three authors. At that time, Juho looked straight and saw San Jung, who had been quietly enjoying her food, much like him. While she was a woman of few words, she didn’t seem all that uncomfortable either. Having ordered a thick, well-done steak, she cut herself a big piece and put it into her mouth, chewing it slowly. Then, taking her wine glass, she chugged the entire thing. At that, Juho remembered Geun Woo telling him that she liked to drink.
When he looked at her, a strange feeling came over Juho. It was as if he wouldn’t be able to remember anything about her but her dark shadows when he turned back. The steak she had been cutting, her wine, red lips, black clothes. There were only fragments of her that he could remember, and they were nowhere near whole enough to represent her as a person. With that, Juho struck up a conversation with her.
“Are they good?”
Taking turns to look at her steak and wine, she asked, “Which one?”
Then, San Jung put another big piece of steak in her mouth, as if trying to prove it to Juho. She chewed slowly, and Juho saw that the redness of her lips had faded ever so slightly, making her appearance fuzzier.
“Trade? Would you like a piece?”
“I’m OK. There’s no plate or anything, so it’d be a hassle.”
Without offering again, she went back to cutting her steak. That time, she made Juho a question first, “In what environment do you usually write in?”
“Environment as in… environment. I write in the mountains. I moved to a completely secluded place just so that I can write. How about you?”
“I write in my room, at an ordinary home.”
“Is it big?”
“Kind of small, and it’s getting smaller, actually.”
“Because of what?”
“Because of paper.”
Then, she chugged her wine. Although she had been drinking it quickly, she didn’t seem like she was getting drunk.
“Can you write where there’s a lot of noise?”
At her question, Juho shook his head and said, “Not at all. I still have ways to go, so I go through quite a bit of ups and downs. I tense up when I need to focus and I struggle to keep the flow steady. Although, I’ve gotten better as of late.”
He had been writing at the Literature Club, and because he had gotten used to writing with other people around, he found himself growing fond of such environments.
“What about you? Can you write in noisy environments?”
“Not at all. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why I write in the mountains.”
“Is it quiet there?”
At that, San Jung shook her head.
“It’s just as noisy, if not noisier than the city. The only difference is that the noise is not made by people.”
There were all sorts of lifeforms in the mountains, from trees to insects, animals, and reptiles. It only made sense that there would be that much sound.
“That’s why I get scared sometimes, because I can’t tell where those sounds are coming from or who or what is making them, so I end up giving into my imagination, which is, simply put, not helpful. There are times when I feel like I’m being ostracized by other animals in the mountains, just like how it is in your book. I ask myself: ‘What if I’m the only one who can’t understand them? What if I’m the only one who’s hearing it as a meaningless noise, nothing more than mere wind?'”
She had made a reference to ‘Language of God’ and the animals who had attempted to ostracize humans by using a language that humans wouldn’t be able to read or understand. Then, she looked at him intently and said, “I wonder if you’d be able to understand what those sounds are trying to say.”
“I doubt it.”
At that moment, the sharp sound of someone inhaling resounded in the room and forced everyone to turn toward its source. It was Mideum, who was wearing a big smile on her face while looking at Juho and San Jung, a sign that she was excited, and her eyes sparkled with curiosity. However, she wasn’t the only one interested in their conversation. All of the other authors in the room had been listening to Juho and San Jung’s conversation intently.
“What is it?” Juho asked.
“Oh, nothing. I just noticed that San Jung and Yun Woo were having a conversation.”
Mideum’s voice shook, and it was obvious that she was suppressing her emotions. It was a familiar reaction.
“But you’re all talking, too.”
“And you’re Yun Woo, and she’s San Jung.”
In the end, she gave into her excitement.
“Yun Woo, who has written nothing but steady and upcoming bestsellers, and San Jung, the backbone of Korean literature, are having a conversation! Right before my eyes! Not just about anything, but about each other’s books! A summit between Yun Woo and Won Yi Young!”
The table shook as she moved enthusiastically, and Dae Soo kept her from standing up to give a passionate speech. Handing her a glass of beer, she said, “Relax. Here’s your beloved drink.”
“Wouldn’t that make it worse?”
Despite Juho’s attempt at keeping Dae Soo from offering Mideum alcohol, the glass went to the excited detective novelist, and the room grew silent the moment she brought the glass up to her mouth, which was the very moment Dae Soo had been waiting for.
Then, Dae Soo continued on Mideum’s behalf.
“It makes sense for Mideum to be that excited. I was really curious myself when it came to the two of you meeting. Think about it. Changes are happening at bookstores that were filled with nothing but Yun Woo at one point. I heard that San Jung’s books are climbing up the bestsellers’ list at a frightening rate,” Dae Soo said playfully about the seemingly serious topic.
To which, Juho answered unhurriedly, “Yes, it’s true. I enjoyed her new book quite a bit myself. I was moved.”
“Oh, c’mon now. Don’t talk your way out of this.”
“Whoever said anything about talking their way out?”
“Aren’t you anxious? You thought you’d be at the top forever, but there’s someone chasing after you. Don’t you feel threatened?” Dae Soo asked, exaggerating, and just as she had said, Juho’s past self would have felt anxious and threatened.
Unfortunately, there were simply too many authors in Korea who were more than capable of taking his place at the top, and his insecurity had become a reality upon the release of San Jung’s new book, leading him toward the suicide of his writing career. It was in that very direction he had run toward, which, in hindsight, was obviously the path toward his downfall.
Juho thought back on the articles he had read in his past life at around the same time.
‘San Jung Youn Surpasses Yun Woo. The Power of the Veteran Author.’
‘Will San Jung Youn Be a Match for Yun Woo?’
‘Before Yun Woo, There Was San Jung.’
‘Where’s Yun Woo, the Face of Korea? Publishing Company Remains Silent.’
‘Who’s San Jung Youn? Yun Woo’s Reaction?’
The titles had been quite provocative and had shaken the young author’s heart relentlessly. As Juho remained quiet, Joon Soo intervened, moving his finger three times. At that, Juho chuckled by reflex, and everyone turned their eyes to him.
“Threatened by what?”
It was an answer that could be interpreted in multiple ways, and that time, Dae Soo remained quiet after Juho’s ambiguous answer. At that moment, Mideum, whose reasoning skill was less than impressive, interjected, “Are you saying that San Jung’s new book is not a threat to you at all?”
“Mideum, you even visited my school. You should know better.”
“If a single interview was all it took for me to know someone, I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to try to write about people.”
“I’m a rather simple person.”
Then, Dae Soo stopped Mideum, who was glaring at him fiercely and was about to argue back. Dae Soo was adamant about making sure the authors in the room didn’t share more than they ought to.
“Think about it. It’s not like I own the number one or anything. Anyone can have it, and it’s kind of misleading to say that one can take it away from another person.”
Then, another voice interjected, “Astounding.”
It was Sang Choi, who took the opportunity to share his experience.
“When I first reached number one on the bestsellers’ list, I would lose sleep every time I got pushed down to a lower rank. I was so disappointed.”
Disappointment. Juho was well acquainted with the emotion. It had felt like readers were no longer interested in reading his books. The lower the book had fallen in the rankings, the more the book, which had been written over a span of months or years, had felt like chewed up gum that had lost its sweetness. It had taken some time until he realized that what he had felt wasn’t the truth, and considering how much pride Sang took in his work, the experience had to have been even more painful for him.
“I’d figure that it’d be even worse for you.”
Sang said something similar to what Juho was thinking. It was as if he saw himself and Juho in a similar light.
“Yun Woo has been constantly turning up at the top, from his debut title to his sophomore title, ‘Language of God,’ and its offshoot volume. He was never threatened by anyone, and the dispute between Yun Woo and Won Yi Young proved that even further. You’ve always been competing against yourself up to this point, and then, San Jung makes an appearance.”
Her books were selling at an increasing rate.
“Her new book has already passed Yun Woo in the weekly bestsellers’ rank, and it’s very likely that the same thing will happen in the monthly, or the steady bestsellers’ rank,” Sang said as if trying to provoke Juho.
To which, he answered, “You’re probably right. Considering how powerful San Jung’s writing is, it’s very much possible.”
At that, Sang’s expression grew darker, as if he had tasted something rotten.
“No. Something’s not right. You should be falling apart. Anxious and on your toes. You should feel threatened, fighting desperately to protect your delusion. You should be making mistakes and bad decisions. THAT is what humans do.”
At that, Juho simply chuckled.
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