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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“It’s Finally Out! The Literary Magazine ‘The Beginning and the End.'”
“‘The Beginning and the End’ Marks the Highest Daily Sales in the History of Korean Literary Magazines. The Resurrection of Literary Magazines.”
“Yun Woo, the Shining Star Among the Veteran Authors. The Significance Behind His Portrayal of Death. The Awe-Inspiring Capacity of the Young Author.”
“Yun Woo’s New Short Story, ‘River,’ Delivers a New Wave of Shock. What Are Some Things that Can Be Achieved Through a Short Story?”
“Yun Woo, Arguably the Most Distinguishable of the Nine. A Closer Look at the Critically Acclaimed ‘River.'”
“The Battle between San Jung Youn and Yun Woo. Yun Woo Wins? Fans React.”
“The Critic, Pyung Jin Lee, Discusses the Difference between San Jung Youn and Yun Woo. The Perspective on Death, and the Gap between Ideals and Reality.”
“Critics Deem Yun Woo’s Recent Work, ‘River,’ His Deepest Work Yet.”
“‘The Youngest to Debut as an Author.’ A Closer Look at the Genius Author’s Portrayal of Death.”
“The Once Dwindling “Yun Woo Fever” Strikes Again, Passing San Jung Youn and Joon Soo Bong’s Close Pursuit.”
A bicycle rushed past like wind behind Juho, followed by an excited child with a kite in its hand and its parents.
Standing at a spot on the bridge from where the Han River was visible, Juho opened the literary magazine that Dae Soo had sent him. While the gust of wind blew against the pages, Juho maintained a safe distance from the rail, which was about three steps away.
First, he looked at the table of contents, where the titles of each piece were listed along with the authors who wrote them. The magazine started off with Geun Woo’s piece, followed by Mideum, Dong Gil, Seo Joong, Dae Soo, Sang Choi, Joon Soo, San Jung, and lastly, Yun Woo. Although it wasn’t clear as to how the order had been decided, it bothered Juho slightly that he was at the very end. With the special condition of writing about a shared topic as a group, being the last in line was a disadvantage because there was danger of readers growing more familiar with the content.
‘What if it gets buried?’
“Dad! The string’s all tangled up!” the child shouted in the distance while flying its kite, and the lone kite in the sky plummeted to the ground. After looking at that for a little while, Juho redirected his attention to Geun Woo’s piece. Something welled up from within him, as it was their first time reading each other’s works. The other authors had to be doing the same thing, looking at the newly published magazine in their respective places.
“Ha…!” Juho let out by reflex after reading Geun Woo’s piece. It was depressing.
The fact that the magazine started off with such a depressing piece accentuated the nature of the magazine, which was on the subject of death. Geun Woo’s portrayal of depression was addicting in a way that was unexplainable, making the readers want to read on.
Then, the Mideum’s piece followed after it, bringing about a complete change in mood. There was a strong element of humor, and with the author being a writer of detective novels, the plot centered around a mysterious death. It was entertaining. Considering the unique characters and friendly plot development, Mideum’s piece had to be the most appealing to the masses. She was an author who was very well aware of the charm in her writing style.
Next, came the section where the magazine transitioned from Dong Gil to Seo Joong. Just like their personalities in real life, there was a stark contrast between their writing styles, and it was satisfying to see such polarizing styles back to back. A heat that peeked through the greasiness. Or the savory that followed after sweetness. The flavors of the two pieces weren’t merely sweet or salty. They were overwhelmingly so. While one was rigid and the other mushy, they were both outstanding in terms of their skills, balancing each other out.
Then, there was an unpleasant stench of mold. Thankfully, the source of the odor became clear when Juho read the next piece. Casu Marzu. It was rotten cheese that was fermented by placing live maggots in it, which had the surprising effect of giving the cheese a softer texture. Although most people would find it repulsive and nauseating, those who developed a taste for the cheese couldn’t stop craving it. Because the cheese was prohibited from being sold in public markets due to the food safety and hygiene laws in various countries, the Casu Marzu was sold in the black market. It was a delicacy for many, to the point where they would prioritize getting their hands on it despite the law or the maggots living within the cheese. It was a piece that reminded Juho of a strong wine.
“A-ha! Here comes the wine.”
The wine that popped up in Juho’s mind finally appeared in the following piece written by San Choi. Filled with self-love, he was an author who was quite sensitive to the relationships of others. Love was the most potent emotion that could occur from interpersonal relationships, and that was also where death existed. Not only was the wine strong, but it was also quite bitter. It was a magical elixir, capable of calming a storm of emotions while allowing its drinker to neglect the reality they were facing.
By the time Juho’s body and mind began to grow hazier, Joon Soo appeared, and the readers who had been indulging in wine tensed up at the sudden appearance of an intimidating father, finding themselves in places like a conference room or a classroom. The air was cold, and Juho felt pricked in the heart. It was a rather heavy and serious piece. By the time the stench of alcohol had left the body, Juho felt the tightness of a formal attire on his skin, and responsibilities like assignments, homework, and projects rose to the surface of his mind.
“How Joon Soo-like,” Juho let out, snapping out of the debauchery. The party was over. Then, when he flipped the page, a title written in dark ink appeared. ‘State of Ecstasy.’ That was San Jung’s choice for the title.
At that, the list of novelists who had ended their own lives rushed past Juho’s mind. An artist who jumped into the river after being overcome by a sense of self-destruction. A great storyteller. Without even mourning the passing of their creators, stories written by such writers were still just as popular as when they were first published.
However, San Jung’s book was different. It had yet to reach that point. Like a kite with tangled up string, she had never been able to reach the top before her string broke.
As the gust of wind blew against the pages of the magazine yet again, Juho applied more pressure through his hands and read on carefully. It was a story about a man who was stranded, exhausted, and wrestling with the temptation of death. After fighting against the formless enemy, the man fell into a state of ecstasy with death, which took shape of a person.
Ecstatic. It was just as the title had suggested. Juho didn’t want to miss a single word while he read. Much like Juho, San Jung’s portrayal of death was quite explicit. However, there was a difference. Jumping back and forth between the boundaries of reality and fantasy, she had portrayed even something like that as an illusion. It was closer to idealism than rationality, and that was where the difference between the two authors occurred.
Juho breathed slowly, and without even reading the last piece, he closed the magazine. While he felt hazy after reading about death for an extended period of time, there was a sense of satisfaction within him. The magazine was quite a treat.
Then, he looked up at the sky, where a kite was flying. It was the very kite that had plummeted to the ground when the string had tangled up. Now, it was flying high in the sky, and following its father’s advice intently, the child clasped on to the string. Then, the child shouted, “I’m gonna make it go higher!”
The child believed firmly that there would be a next time. Juho listened quietly to the joyful sound of the child’s laughter.
Thinking of San Jung, he asked himself, ‘Will she make the same choice? Has she read my piece?’
At that moment, his phone began to ring.
Then, Dae Soo’s voice, which was calmer than usual for some reason, sounded from the receiver.
“So, San Jung asked me to talk to you.”
“What is it?”
Then, it dawned on Juho that he didn’t have San Jung’s contact information.
“She wants to see you.”
“As soon as possible. At her place.”
“She wants to invite you over to her place.”
‘Her place as in… her house in the mountains?’
“You mean, the place in the middle of the mountains?”
It was the very place where snakes were a common find. Dae Soo gave him an affirmative answer, and while Juho had been caught off guard by the sudden invitation, he answered calmly, “Sure. How about tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow? Isn’t that a weekday? Do you not have school? Is it your school’s anniversary or something?”
“No. I’ll just skip.”
In Juho’s mind, there was a lot more to get from a visit to San Jung’s studio than to being at school, so needless to say, the choice was obvious.
“Man, that’s one ballsy decision for a high school student in Korea!”
“It’s OK. It won’t be that big of an issue as long as I have my parents’ consent.”
“Sounds like you have experience?”
“A few times. I was writing back then.”
“OK, then. I’ll go ahead and deliver this endearing news to San Jung. Oh! While we’re at it, what do you think about staying there for a few days? Say… a couple nights?”
“As long as the owner is OK with it.”
At that, Dae Soo let out a hearty laughter, satisfied with Juho’s answer.
“I’ll be there too.”
“As your guardian. Besides, it’s interesting. San Jung? Inviting Yun Woo?”
Dae Soo’s excuse to join as a guardian was rather obvious. She simply wanted to look around. Then, she hung up after telling him to meet her at the office by a certain time to carpool. After staring at the river for a little while, Juho turned around and locked eyes with a man.
Although Juho had no recollection of ever meeting him, the man was staring intently at him. For a brief moment, Juho wondered if the man had heard him talking on the phone, but there was quite a bit of distance between them. And because they were on a bridge, the wind was rather strong, so it was unlikely that the man had heard Juho while he had been on the phone.
‘Maybe it’s a coincidence… But there is no such a thing as a coincidence.’
While Juho was immersed with seemingly unhelpful thoughts, they crossed paths with each other, and soon, Juho forgot about him.
The man stared intently at a student who had just walked past him. He had been watching the student from the moment he opened the magazine. The student was quite into what he was reading. As if there were all sorts of emotions in the book, he was reading with his entire body while adjusting his poise from time to time.
For that reason, the man reached the decision to make a final stop at a bookstore to see for himself what the student had been reading.
Finding the magazine at the bookstore was not difficult since it was being displayed in the most visible spot. Without hesitation, the man picked up a copy and headed toward the corner of the store, where the shelf for the technical books was, and plunked down in front of it, hoping nobody would come near him.
He examined the magazine called ‘The Beginning and the End.’ Although he had been under the impression that it had been a novel, he came to learn that it was actually a literary magazine. There was band wrapped around the magazine with the phrase ‘All profits will be donated’ written on it, but the man paid no attention to it. All he wanted was to be able to enjoy the book as much and as lively as the student he had met on the bridge.
Then, when the man opened to the first page, a word stood out to him: Death. At which point, he couldn’t help but chuckle.
‘What are the odds of reading something like this on this day?’
“I killed a person,” the man said light-heartedly, as if reading the book out loud. He had killed a person three hours before, and while walking aimlessly, he ran into a student. Then, he decided that he would read what the student had been reading. If only he had known what the book was about.
Dumbfounded by his choice, the man opened the book. Although it was quite a depressing read, it was nowhere near as depressing as the situation he was in. Next, was a detective novel, which he swiftly skipped over. Each of the following pieces was just as uninteresting as the last, and the man found them unrelatable. As he flipped through the pages meaninglessly, he found himself getting angry all of a sudden.
None of the writers understood what death was, and the man found their portrayals of it to be insignificant, especially the piece called ‘State of Ecstasy.’ He was quite bothered by it, to the point of feeling annoyed.
‘How can one write something like this and grow popular? How can they make money with something like this?’
The world was a rather unreasonable place. Then, it dawned on the man how the student had been able to enjoy what he had been reading so much. The student had to be too young to realize that the lies he was reading were untrue. He had been deceived.
Annoyed, the man flipped to the last piece and saw the name Yun Woo. It was a name he was also familiar with. Looking to ridicule the young author, the man read on.
“Sir, you can’t read here.”
Despite the employee’s voice, the man didn’t move a muscle. From then on, the employee called for the man several more times, but the man sat completely still in his place, and as the situation grew into a commotion, people in the bookstore began to stare in the man’s direction. He was holding desperately to the last page of the book, crumpling it.
At that, the man’s mouth parted open ever so slightly, and he let out a faint moan. His voice cracked dreadfully, and his heart throbbed as if it would jump out of his chest. He couldn’t say a word. Then, looking up, he locked eyes with the employee, who looked extremely displeased while looking down at him with eyes filled with disgust.
Then, the man wept.
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