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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“Thank you, Madame Song!”
“We’ll come again soon!”
The authors took turns thanking Madame Song on their way out, and as Juho bowed to her, she said, “I can’t remember the last time I had this many authors at my restaurant at once! It was so wonderful. Feel free to come whenever you’d like!” Then, before going their separate ways, the nine authors conversed a little longer in front of the restaurant.
“Well, we should probably get going.”
“Aw, do we have to? Can we go to karaoke or something?”
“Hello? We have an underage boy and a mountain hermit in the group! Besides, we’re planning on meeting again.”
Juho heard Dae Soo and Mideum’s voices. Mideum seemed to be feeling dissatisfied that the only thing they did collectively as a group was have a meal, and truth be told, it was nearly impossible to have everyone come out to the meeting. As someone who lived in the mountains, San Jung seemed rather sleepy, yawning quietly. Seeing that, Juho asked, “You’re not going back to the mountains, are you? Where are you staying?”
“A hotel,” she answered briefly and, looking around, added, “You know, the city is just as bright as I remember it when I used to live in one. The sun has probably set in the mountains a long time ago.”
“It’s your bedtime, isn’t it?”
“Yep. I would have gone to bed a while back, by now,” San Jung said, yawning yet again. Her lips weren’t as red as when Juho first saw her, and as he stared attentively at her fuzzy appearance, she asked a question out of nowhere, which Juho answered in a delay.
“You said you were confident, right?”
“Earlier, in the restaurant.”
As Juho remained quiet, she added, “So am I.”
She was calm. If there was such a thing as win or lose in art, which had no rules or points to keep track of, it would be determined by emotional scale: a measurement of how much an author moved their readers with their writing. While abstract and subjective in nature, there were no arguments between opposing opinions as people were either moved, impressed and captivated, or uninterested or bored. There was no misjudgment, either, aside from pure honesty.
Amid the strange experience of seeing San Jung in the bright city lights, Juho asked himself, ‘Would I be moved by her writing, and would mine move her? What kind of piece will she end up writing, and what will I?’
As Juho stared intently at San Jung while surrounded by complicated thoughts, Mideum interjected, excited, “I’m here, too!”
Then, the sound of frivolous laughter resounded. It was Seo Joong, who had a toothpick in his mouth. His fluorescent-colored sweatshirt and pants shone all the brighter under the street lights. Perhaps, it was because Dong Gil was standing next to him, relatively better dressed.
“Yeah! We’re still here. Yun Woo isn’t the only author around here, you know.”
They were some of the most prominent authors in the country, and Juho felt that writing about a shared topic with them would be a fun experience.
At that moment, a voice said, “‘Scuse me.”
When he looked toward the source of the voice, he saw two women locking arms with each other. Then, one of them asked San Jung cautiously, “Are you San Jung Youn by any chance?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Oh, my gosh! We’re such big fans!”
With that, the two covered their mouths with their hands, unafraid to show that they were her fans. Then, riding the wave of confidence after recognizing San Jung, they asked Dae Soo, who was standing next to her, “And you must be Dae Soo Na, right?”
As Dae Soo nodded affirmingly, the two stamped their feet with excitement, and while exclaiming repeatedly, they looked at all the other authors around them. Mideum, Dong Gil, Seo Joong, and Sang Choi. They seemed to know them all.
From the moment the two women recognized San Jung, Juho took a step back and hid behind Joon Soo and Geun Woo, joining unintendedly the group of less popular authors.
While watching his fellow authors giving autographs to their fans, Geun Woo said, “You know Joon Soo, I’d love to be part of that group.”
“I’m sure your time will come,” Joon Soo said, patting Geun Woo’s back with a gentle smile.
“Joon Soo’s right, Geun Woo. Enjoy your peaceful life while you still have it.”
“No offense, but I don’t find those words comforting at all,” Geun Woo said, rejecting Juho’s attempt to encourage him. What had started with two authors had now evolved into a handful of authors and the addition of a spontaneous photo session. Resolving not to go near them, Juho distanced himself from the group, and catching on to what Juho was doing, Joon Soo suggested, “Should we go on ahead?”
“But we didn’t even get to say goodbye to everyone.”
“It’s fine. Everyone tends to do their own thing at the end of every meeting. Let’s go.”
At that, Geun Woo agreed, and after sending a text on his phone, Joon Soo left without hesitation.
“Let me give you a ride. I’ll bring my car in a little bit, so wait here,” Joon Soo said as they came out of an alleyway. Although Juho respectfully declined, saying that he could catch the last bus back home, Joon Soon was adamant about not sending an underaged person home alone.
“I’ll get an earful from Mrs. Baek, otherwise. You saw that I didn’t drink earlier, right? I’m a designated driver, so you can rest assured.”
Because it wouldn’t have been proper to decline repeatedly, Juho willingly took up Joon Soo’s offer. With that, Joon Soo headed for a parking lot nearby, and Juho and Geun Woo waited for him under an orange streetlight. Although they weren’t all that far away from the restaurant, their surroundings were rather quiet, making their loud, boisterous day feel distant.
Then, as if feeling the same way, Geun Woo struck up a conversation with Juho, “Have you been working on anything, lately?”
“I’m always working on something.”
“So, nothing big, huh? I suppose that means you’ll get started on your piece for ‘The Beginning and the End’ right away?”
“Most likely. I’ll probably start mapping things out as soon as I get home.”
At that, Geun Woo gave him a small nod and chuckled as if dumbfounded.
“Wow. I wouldn’t have thought in my dreams that I would end up writing for a magazine with Yun Woo.”
Then, a small shadow of a moth rushed over the orange light.
“You make it sound like it’s a new development. How many meals have we had together, now?”
“Seriously. I don’t know why it feels so surreal. Maybe it’s the alcohol.”
“Are you drunk?”
“No,” Geun Woo said emphatically. Although he didn’t look drunk, his ears were glowing bright red. “You know, I’ve been working on something.”
“Yes, you brought it up at the restaurant.”
“Ask me what I’ve been working on.”
Juho decided to play along and asked, “So, what have you been working on?”
“Not telling you.”
At that moment, it occurred to Juho all of a sudden that Geun Woo was actually quite drunk. He had to be the type who grew gradually more inebriated over time.
“I’m kidding, I’m kidding,” Geun Woo added, laughing. “I’ve been working on a story about a guy with bushy hair.”
At the words ‘bushy hair,’ a face rushed past Juho’s mind: the author who had flushed his flash drive down the toilet. Having been an old pupil of Yun Seo, he was also a no-name author who had left the literary world, and Geun Woo had been one of the witnesses of the events that day.
“I’ve been getting hardly any sleep lately because I’ve been so occupied with writing.”
“Don’t you not sleep when you’re writing?”
“No, I sleep like a baby.”
“Is there something special about this piece, then?”
While Juho wondered what was keeping Geun Woo up at night, Geun Woo said, “You,” with his eyes were fixed on Juho.
“Yes, you. A coincidence. It tends to keep people on their toes.”
The orange streetlight made Geun Woo’s bright red ears even brighter, and Juho was also probably red in Geun Woo’s eyes.
“I was influenced by you. I never write this desperately. I’ve always written just enough to not grow attached to my work.”
At that, Juho remembered his first encounter with Geun Woo. He had been throwing away his manuscript.
“You mean you don’t write until you regret doing it?”
So, he had been regretting. The red-eared author chuckled and said, “In other words, not desperately. Regret follows you around no matter what you do to avoid it.”
The moth above their heads flew about busily, and its shadow flapped about.
“I’ve been writing about you,” Geun Woo said.
“And so had Joon Soo. When I read it, it was so unlike him. Rugged and incoherent. That’s why it’s sitting in his studio somewhere, most likely never to be published.”
At that moment, Juho remembered the stacks of manuscript paper in his room. What Joon Soo had written had to be of similar kind.
“What I’ve been working on is no different, and you know how things turn out when you’re unstable. It just doesn’t serve its purpose as well because it contains all the traces of you being swayed by those around you.”
“That’s why most authors tend to hide pieces like that in their rooms.”
“Well, I’m planning on publishing mine.”
Juho was caught off guard by Geun Woo’s answer. The inebriated author was planning on publishing his crude and unstable writing, and there were rare occasions when one’s apprehension moved the hearts of those around them. Although, there was no way to know how the piece would actually turn out until it actually came out.
“You’ll regret it.”
The result seemed obvious to Juho.
“I’m not afraid of regrets.”
“I like the sound of that.”
“Actually, I am… a little.”
“You would’ve sounded so much cooler if you hadn’t said that.”
“Yeah, I’m regretting it as we speak.”
That was the kind of person Geun Woo was, and apprehension portrayed by an author like him was a treat worth looking forward to. After all, he tended to excel in portraying such emotions.
“There’s Joon Soo.”
A light shone in the distance, and riding in Joon Soo’s car, Juho arrived home safely, going straight to bed as he returned well into the night. Regrets, death. Those two words lingered in Juho’s head, and in the end, it wasn’t until after he sat up and made a new addition to the towering stacks of paper that he went to sleep.
“The weather’s nice today,” Juho said, looking up at the blue sky, and when he looked down, a river came into view. The entire world was blue, shining mysteriously and full of life.
“Let’s go for a ride.”
“Want some ice cream?”
“All right. There’s a good spot over there. Oh, did you hear?”
There were quite a few people at the Han River. Those who were walking, eating, riding their bicycles or fishing. Juho had been sitting on the lawn, looking at the people around him. Because it was an open space, it was quite suitable for people watching. Of course, it was only fair that he was just as exposed as everyone else.
At that moment, an infant holding its mother’s hand walked past Juho. Looking like it was still learning to walk, the child moved his legs sluggishly, yet precariously, and the mother seemed like she was on her toes, worried about her child falling over. The people who walked past them smiled, and some even cheered for them. Then, a dog walked past them, with its tongue sticking out and with the corners of its mouth turned up as if wearing a big smile. With its dark, glassy eyes, the dog stared at the baby and its mother in the most cheerful and purest way. Nobody would be able to tell whether or not the dog was rooting for the infant, but there was no doubt that it was an adorable sight.
Then, a thought popped up in Juho’s mind.
‘Even things that adorable wouldn’t be able to avoid death, whether it was a dog or a person. As long as there is a beginning, the end is inevitable.’
For an unknown reason, he felt like he was the only person around who was immersed in dark thoughts. His state of mind was quite distant from his bright and cheerful surroundings. If only he wasn’t an author writing about death, he would have been able to root for the infant in peace.
‘The Beginning and the End.’ That was the name of a literary magazine that Juho and his fellow authors had agreed to publish as a collective effort. According to Dae Soo, every author involved in writing it had already started writing after finishing mapping out the plot for their respective pieces. Some wrote in hotel rooms, while others in offices or in the mountains.
Contrary to them, Juho hadn’t even started the process of mapping out the plot, and the reason wasn’t necessarily that he was complacent or overly tense. In fact, Juho had been approaching his piece with the same mindset with which he had always written.
He stared at the ever-flowing river, going on endlessly and without stopping. There had to be endless tales submerged within it, including his past. At that moment, Juho felt like he would be able to pull out the story he’d been looking for out of the water, but was soon struck by the sudden realization that he would never be able to get back out. And it was for that very reason that he chose not to go into the water. After all, there was a piece that needed to be written, and even more that he wanted to write.
“Besides, I’m not missing all that much.”
There was no need to map out a plot. And just like that, Juho placed his hands on his laptop.
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