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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
A car zoomed past. Juho was out on a major street in front of his house, waiting for Joon Soo.
“Is a bottle of water really all I need to bring?” Juho said, fiddling with the water bottle in his jacket’s pocket. They had decided to go hiking at the mountain near Yun Seo’s house, and because it wasn’t too difficult of a hike, Juho was told by Joon Soo that he wouldn’t need to prepare a whole lot.
There wasn’t any particular reason to their hike. It was purely accidental. It was their means of celebrating having finished writing. Every author in the club had finished writing their respective pieces on death, and the literary magazine, ‘The Beginning and the End,” had officially gone into production.
Because he had been wrestling with his piece for an entire month, Juho had expected to finish last. However, he was proven wrong by San Jung, who was known to take her time writing.
One of the reasons that the magazine had been drawing so much attention had to be that she was coming out with yet another piece within a year of her new book. Juho remembered her black clothes, and the lingering impact of the short story he had written came rushing back.
At that moment, the honk of a horn sounded out, and when Juho looked up, a familiar-looking car was parked in front of him, with Joon Soo in the driver’s seat.
“Lost in your own world, I see?”
“I guess so. Been a while.”
With that, Juho got in the car. Because Juho had kept his phone off the entire time he had been writing, it was their first time seeing each other since the meeting at Madame Song’s restaurant. Although the interior of the car wasn’t all that different from the last time he was in it, the car did feel different since Juho was sitting on the passenger’s seat, unlike last time, when he had sat in the back.
“Going home was a breeze, thanks to you,” Juho said, remembering the last time he had been in Joon Soo’s car.
Wearing a welcoming smile, Joon Soo replied, “That’s good to hear. How’s writing? Did everything turn out OK?”
He made the questions as if curious about Juho’s piece, and because Juho was interested in Joon Soo’s piece himself, he didn’t try to change the subject.
“I can’t share that with an enemy.”
… Of course, he wasn’t so naive as to share information with a competitor, either.
“Well, that didn’t work,” Joon Soo said, focusing on driving.
After looking out the window for a brief time, Juho opened his mouth and asked, “What about everyone else? Have you heard anything?”
“I don’t have any details, either, but I do know about Choi.”
“That’s makes sense, considering how confident he is,” Juho said, remembering Choi’s naturally confident expression. From what Juho heard from Joon Soo, Sang Choi had implemented the widely identified subject of “death with love” into his piece, which made a lot of sense, considering that he excelled in writing romance novels. He was already famous for his stories on interpersonal relationships, which unfolded as the plot jumped back and forth between the boundaries of sentimentality and rationality,
“The main plot is about two people who go on a trip, right?”
“Do you think it’s going to be a romance novel with an added element of thriller? I think Mr. Choi would excel at writing a story like that.”
“We’ll have to find out when the magazine comes out, but from what I heard from him, apparently, there are elements of death throughout the course of the trip.”
Death was related to more destinations than one realized.
“Even the protagonist’s birthplace belongs to someone who has already died.”
“I think Choi’s portrayal of death will be refreshing.”
“Refreshing? That sounds a little odd when used in the same sentence as death.”
“He’s good at coming up with odd things… like that.”
Although Juho had never read Sang’s books himself, he found himself looking forward to them, and as Joon Soo turned the steering wheel, Juho asked, “So, what kind of novel did you end up writing?”
Then, as Joon Soo’s body tilted to the left and back, Juho added, “Mr. Joon Soo Bong, the new, hottest author.”
At that, his welcoming smiled faded away. Juho had never seen him furrowing his brows up to that point, and Joon Soo seemed blind-sided.
“I would’ve never thought that I would hear that from Yun Woo.”
His recent book had made an appearance in ‘The Great Book Club’ on TV, which had had skyrocketing viewership after the special episode on Yun Woo. There had been multiple occasions where a book that had appeared on the show had reached the bestsellers’ list, but none of them were as drastic or explosive as Joon Soo’s books. The fans cheered on as the ill-fated, yet skilled author climbed his way up the bestsellers’ rankings. The intricate sentences and poetic nature of his stories grew massively popular and sold at an increasing rate. The weekly bestsellers’ rankings had been entirely occupied by San Jung, Yun Woo, and Joon Soo.
“‘I Remember the Lightning from that Day’ has been doing especially well, right?”
“That’s right. When it first came out, it was one of the books that got pushed aside because of Yun Woo’s books.”
Unfortunately, Joon Soo’s book had been first published around the same time as Yun Woo’s, and in the end, it had received significantly less attention. However, things were different now, and his book was finally seeing the light of day, following in second after San Jung’s book. He had surpassed Yun Woo in the weekly totals.
“I remember the time when you were confident about the book because it was your ninth one. That was really strange.”
“Right? I’m telling you, the number three really serves me well!”
With that, he flicked the steering wheel with his finger three times. Then, Juho recited the title of an article he had seen recently: “‘Yun Woo Pushed Aside by Veteran Authors.’ What is your opinion on that title?”
“Hm. I think it’s quite provocative. It doesn’t sound all that convincing, either. Whoever wrote that article couldn’t have seen you in person, you know?”
It was a rather honest answer, and with his distinct, welcoming smile, he added, “Although, I can’t say that it’s entirely inaccurate.”
The words contradicted the expression on his face. He had to be a lot more passionate about his work than he had been letting on.
“Well, this time, we’ll get to find out if that provocative title was actually accurate or not, right?”
At that, Joon Soo chuckled quietly.
“You really are grounded. You’re not swayed by anything.”
“That’s not entirely true. I got distracted while I was writing because I was curious about what the other authors were writing, and that includes you, Joon Soo.”
‘Therefore, I plead you to share more about your work.’
At the subtle, yet unmistakably clear message, Joon Soo let out a sigh as if giving in and said, “I’ve been writing about powers.”
“There are all sorts of powers in this world.”
“More specifically, political. It’s about the life of an ordinary citizen who’s helpless against the national authority.”
National authority. Ordinary citizen. They were rather plain-sounding words.
“Is it about resistance?”
“Is it about fighting something greater?”
“No. The authority gets exerted strictly in one direction, and no citizen can stand against it.”
“What about the ordinary citizen? Do they die?”
“No. Nobody dies in this piece. It just doesn’t call for any deaths.”
With that, the car came to a stop, and before Juho knew, they had already arrived at Yun Seo’s house.
“It’s a scenario where things like freedom and rights have been long dead.”
It was a very Joon-Soo-like approach, heavy and serious. He was portraying an imbalance between individual rights and the national authority.
“That’s rather provocative.”
“That’s what death is like.”
Then, Juho unbuckled his seat belt, and as he was about to get out, Joon Soo asked, “Am I still your enemy? Even when I came clean?”
“Of course. I’ve realize now that you’re much more threatening of an enemy than I thought.”
“That’s disappointing. Not even a snippet?”
As Juho opened the door, a fresh, cold air rushed into the car. Then, he decided to be a bit more generous toward the author.
“It seems like we’re opposites, you and I.”
In Juho’s writing, there was no such a thing as a nation or an authority or any sort of big background. Simply…
“My story is about a dying person.”
Juho was intentional in his choice to leave out any cumbersome decorations or details, and simple stories like that tended to reveal the author explicitly, from their skills to emotions, thoughts, goals, and the messages they were trying to convey. Although there was no way to know whether the story would turn out to be a letdown or be able to move the hearts of its readers from within, Juho wrote without second guessing himself.
Looking at Joon Soo, he said, “In any case, I really worked hard on it.”
With that, he got out of the car, and Joon Soo stayed in his seat in order to park, letting the young author leave. Left alone in his car, Joon Soo replayed the words that Juho left behind in his head.
“It kind of scares me that he worked so hard,” he said to himself with a chuckle, flicking the steering wheel three times.
“Hello,” Juho greeted Yun Seo, who stood by the entrance of the mountain. Dressed in simple hiking attire, she greeted Juho with a welcoming smile, as she always had.
“Hey,” Geun Woo greeted Juho, waving his hands while wearing miserable look. It was obvious that he had been dragged out of the house against his will.
“I heard that you’ve been working on something with other authors?”
“Yes. I’m sure everyone knows by now.”
Thanks to Mideum, the literary magazine Juho had been working on with his colleagues had become a widely spread news. Rumors circulated among the fans, such as:
‘Apparently, a bunch of authors got together to publish a literary magazine, and it turns out that Yun Woo is a part of that, including a handful of Yun Seo Baek’s pupils. The word is that they are all comparable to each other when it comes to writing.’
“Geun Woo had been looking like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders, saying that he had no idea of what to write in the midst of all those talented authors.”
“Oh, c’mon, Mrs. Baek! I wasn’t THAT bad.”
Although he declined Yun Seo’s claim, a pair of dark circles under his eyes were telling Juho that the anxious author wasn’t getting much sleep still.
“You didn’t give up, though.”
“Thank goodness. Otherwise, I’d be stuck in my room to this moment.”
The fatigued look on his face only added weight to his statement, and looking at Joon Soo, who joined the group after parking his car, he said, “You must be having the time of your life, Joon Soo.”
At that, Yun Seo smiled brightly, adding, “I bet! Good things are bound to come to good people. We even bought a cake to celebrate.”
“I knew things will turn up for ya.”
While his teacher and colleague were genuinely celebrating his success with him, Joon Soo was wearing an awkward expression on his face, as if unfamiliar with the situation.
“Man, what I would give to be famous!” Geun Woo exclaimed.
Although there had been honesty in voice, he looked rather exhausted, so Juho asked, “Do you think you’ll be able to survive the hike?”
“Don’t you underestimate my endurance.”
With that, the four set their feet on the hiking trail at the mountain near the neighborhood. Walking past a set of exercise equipment, they took the side route before reaching the paved trail and climbed a steep set of stairs. When Juho observed the three walking ahead of him, he saw Geun Woo and Joon Soo were keeping a steady pace while Yun Seo walked ahead of the group. It was a moment when her endurance truly shined.
Then, a rock appeared in between the stairs, but the three kept on climbing, stepping on it like stairs. A tree root next to it had lost its distinct, natural pattern, as it had been treaded over the course of time.
The daylight revealed the mountains in their full splendor. There were tree branches that had been broken off, and occasionally, plastic bags that flew about. After stepping aside and letting other hikers through, the four resumed their hike.
“Are you all doing OK?”
“Yes, don’t worry about us,” Juho answered confidently.
At that moment, a sign that explained what was on the other side of the hill appeared.
“There’s a buddhist temple nearby, and they hold a lotus lantern festival there on his birthday,” Joon Soo said, followed by Geun Woo, who added that their food was a delicacy. It was clear that the three were frequent hikers of that trail.
After climbing a little longer, a neighborhood with buildings the size of ants in the distance came into view. While Juho looked out into the distant view, Yun Seo said, “Should we take a break?”
Having arrived at the midpoint of the trail, there were plenty of places to sit and rest since the the terrain was mostly rocky. There were vendors here and there, selling snacks like cup noodles and ice cream, as well as other hikers who were resting either on their way up to or down from the peak.
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