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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
The car shook, but Juho’s butt had grown numb from the vibrations long ago. Everytime Dae Soo moved her hands, the car tossed Juho’s body left and right, making for a fantastic ride that combined the driver’s reckless driving with the unpaved road. When Juho looked at Dae Soo in the mirror, he thought she seemed to be in a good mood.
“Do you mind driving a little safer?”
“Blame it on the road. It might not seem like it, but in the last twenty years, I’ve never gotten into an accident.”
While the car shook him busily, Juho rubbed his arm as it bumped against that of another person, one with a displeased look on his face. It was Sang Choi. Thinking back to the time when Juho had greeted him in front of Dae Soo’s office with a lunch box in is hand, he asked Dae Soo, “Remind me again why Mr. Choi’s here?”
“I don’t know. I guess he wants to show the world how much time he has in his hands.”
At the absent-minded remark, Sang answered with a genuinely confident look, “It’s not like that. I just happen to stumble across an interesting subject.”
Then, he closed his lips tightly, as if he had no intention of explaining what was so interesting. Juho, too, didn’t bother to ask, but he had noticed the burning gaze that he had been feeling on him from time to time long ago. Then, the car shook again, and the lunch box on Sang’s lap clattered about, making Juho wonder if the food inside would maintain its shape.
After concerning himself with the state of Sang’s food inside the lunch box for a brief moment, Juho took his phone out. Although the screen shook with the car, it was filled mostly with news of Yun Woo’s books selling at an increasing rate and of his recent short story. People were busy comparing the nine authors. At that moment, a head appeared from his side out of nowhere.
“People are so envious of your wealth,” Sang said, reading the comments on one of the articles. Juho had a successful career at an early age, and there were countless comments of a similar nature. Some even attempted to spread a story of mysterious source, claiming that Yun Woo was buying off all of the most expensive land in Gangnam. Although stories like that had always existed throughout the young author’s career, under no circumstances did he offer any explanations. The rumors tended to repeat the process of hyping him up and dying down.
(TL’s Note: Gangnam is considered one of the richer parts of Seoul, South Korea, which means the land there would be significantly more expensive than in other areas of the country.)
Reading a post that even included pictures of a mansion only the richest of the rich would be able to live in, Juho couldn’t help but chuckle. While seemingly absurd, they were establishing somewhat of a basis for their conjecture regarding Yun Woo’s wealth. While comparing the young author to other world-renowned authors, they were ranking all of those authors based on their wealth.
“Too bad I don’t actually live in a mansion like that,” Juho said, remembering a mansion near his school. To which, Sang said, “C’mon. Don’t be so modest, now. You’re loaded.”
“And how would you know?”
“Isn’t it obvious? The whole country knows that your book sold over a million copies only two months after its release. Of course, sales aren’t everything for us writers, but that doesn’t change the fact that your books have sold at an incredible rate. The more books you sell, the more money you make. On top of that, it’s not like you’ve only written one or two books. And you have a significant fan base overseas, which would only multiply your profits. ‘Language of God’ is still doing well, isn’t it?”
Recently, the Dong Baek Publishing Company had put out the entire series of ‘Language of God’ as a set. Consolidating the series into a total of four books by combining thinner volumes together, the company gave the books entirely different appearances, from the quality of the paper to the cover designs. Those who took their fandom further than just being fans of the book to being fans of the world within the series didn’t hesitate to buy the new edition of their favorite series. Fans across the globe were no exception. Because the novel was under a category they had already been familiar with, not to mention its quality and originality, the international fans welcomed the novel enthusiastically. Just as Dong Baek had predicted, genre novels tended to sell uncontrollably once they started selling.
“Speaking of which, how come you’re living in the same place, still?”
“I heard from Mideum. It got brought up in our last meeting too, right? Your writing space. A small room. Why don’t you move to a bigger space?”
“Hey, Choi! That’s enough!” Dae Soo intervened in order to keep Sang from going any further.
But he said with a shrug, “Well, he just won’t answer if he doesn’t feel like it, right?”
“How did you become so mature?”
“Just like everyone else.”
It wasn’t all that difficult of a question to answer. There was no sad story like having to grow up quickly in order to pay off a family debt, or getting all of his money taken away by a father addicted to gambling. The current house Juho was living in was in a convenient location for him as a student, and there was nothing inconvenient about it in particular, either. Besides, Juho, having lived in it for a long time, had grown attached to the house. After discussing it with his parents, Juho had decided to live in the same house, at least until he graduated. Also…
“I don’t have all that much money.”
… The young author wasn’t as wealthy as others imagined him to be because he had spent every penny he had made from his books.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“That, I don’t really feel like explaining.”
With that, Juho clenched his lips tightly and redirected his attention to his phone, ignoring Sang’s repeated calls for him. Juho had spent every last penny in donations, and the reason for that had nothing to do with him wanting to go back to being homeless like in the past or not wanting to repeat the mistakes of the past. He had simply wanted to do it.
After coming back to life, a voice resounded in his head whenever he thought about death. It was a scream. Juho couldn’t be more thankful that there had still been someone who had screamed for him as he had fallen in the river. He was grateful that there had been a person who had cared for him. People weren’t made to live in solitude.
Yun Woo’s money had been going toward those who were suffering from disease, poverty, violence, deprivation, historical accusation, war, disability, alcoholism, and prejudice.
“I swear, kids nowadays. All they care about is their phones,” Sang muttered, and holding back a chuckle, Juho read from the phone screen. Assuming that Yun Woo possessed substantial wealth, there were all sorts of opinions regarding the matter. It was easy to make direct statements while hiding behind anonymity, and it made for interesting writing material.
Unfortunately, the car was simply shaking too much for him to keep reading, and despite his willingness to endure it, he had to look up from his phone.
“Going over to San Jung’s is an adventure in and of itself,” Dae Soo said joyfully. She was a natural born driver. However, Juho began to feel like he might succumb to motion sickness if he were to stare at his phone screen any longer. With that, he opened the window, and the distinct smell of mountains rushed into the car. Because they didn’t leave until later in the day and the weather wasn’t all that great, it was already starting to get dark out, and being in the mountains meant that the sun would set even sooner.
Then, Dae Soo turned on the radio, and the news came up saying that a criminal on the run had been caught. The car shook all the more, and the mountains were as dark as ever. At that, Juho realized with his entire body just how isolated San Jung was from the rest of civilization. Finally, the car came to a stop when they reached a point where they couldn’t go any further in it.
“All right, time for some exercise.”
Getting out of the car, the three each put on their backpacks and headed into the forest. What was supposed to be a trail seemed like it had been paved by the feet of those who had been through it up to that point, and it was hard to distinguish the boundaries between the grass and the dirt. The signs that appeared from time to time were less than helpful as they pointed in ambiguous directions. Thankfully, it was clear that there was a buddhist temple nearby.
Juho observed Dae Soo, who led the way, and Sang from behind. Neither of them were fighting for breath, and Juho saw with his own eyes that Sang really had been taking care of himself, just as he had claimed.
“All right, I get that writing in mother nature is romantic and all, but this is just ridiculous!”
Nevertheless, he tended to complain quite frequently. Murmuring, he looked around at his surroundings, which were filled with trees and dirt.
“C’mon, Choi. Man up. Even Juho’s doing this.”
“Well, that’s him. I’m my own person.”
Despite Dae Soo’s provocation, it wasn’t until Sang complained some more that he walked in silence. Because he was in an unfamiliar environment, Juho felt that his sense of time had grown dull. He had no clue as to the direction in which or for how long they had been walking. The only thing he could do was to follow the two people in front of him.
“Are we almost there?” Juho asked.
“Yes, almost,” Dae Soo answered. However, they had to walk even longer.
By the time they had repeated the same conversation about five times, Juho wondered, ‘How long have we been walking for? Thirty minutes? An hour? Or maybe it hasn’t even been ten minutes. Am I tired, or still doing OK?’ It was all hard to tell.
At that moment, a rustling sound came from the side, and when he checked it, he realized that it had been made by a cat. Paying no attention to them, it sat and bathed in what little sunlight there was left. Feeling exhausted for some reason, Juho kept on walking quietly, with the sun already about to set.
At Dae Soo’s voice, Juho looked up to see a house built in an open space. The color of the house blended with the dirt around it, almost like a camouflage.
“Welcome,” a thin voice said. Just like before, she was dressed in black.
Then, Sang went on to complain meaninglessly, “San Jung, are you thinking about moving out of these mountains anytime soon?
“Who would’ve thought it’d be so laborious to go over to a colleague’s house?”
“Come on in and get some rest.”
With that, San Jung let them in, and the interior of the house wasn’t all that different from the exterior. There was a kitchen connected to spacious living room. There was a room, and books.
“There are a lot of windows here.”
“Yes. I had them built so that I can see the outside.”
As he looked around the house, Juho drank the beverage that San Jung had brought out. However, what had seemed like ordinary barley tea was not anything like Juho’s expectations. The bitter taste made it closer to medicine than water. Still, it was refreshing after that long hike. As he chugged the entire cup and sighed with satisfaction, he locked eyes with San Jung, who was staring intently at him. Then, wiping his mouth, he asked, “What is it?”
“Would you like more?”
“Yes, please,” Juho said as he pulled out his cup, and San Jung poured the liquid from the plastic bottle into it. The liquid had a yellow tinge to it. That time, Juho drank it slower.
“I see that there is a lot of paper here as well.”
“This place is more like a writing space than a home.”
“Feel free to look around.”
Looking at the books and manuscript paper on her workstation, Juho was reminded of his room for some reason. He was well acquainted with stacks of paper in no particular order on top of each other.
“That’s the study over there. I have even more books there. Next to it, is the kitchen.”
Looking in the direction of San Jung’s explanation, Juho grasped the overall layout of the house. It really felt like a dorm. Then, a medal in a small glass cabinet located next to a couch in the living room came into his view.
“That’s the international award from Italy, right?” Juho asked, and following his eyes, San Jung turned in the same direction.
“Yes, it is.”
“You were the first Korean winner.”
It was a widely recognized award. Given based on books that had been translated into English, the fact that San Jung had been chosen was nothing short of impressive. In the currently ongoing globalization of Korean literature, it was difficult to argue that San Jung had no influence in it whatsoever. It was through the very path that she had paved that exporting became a possibility.
“How did you feel when you received it?”
“I was happy. I felt like the entire world was recognizing me. Let’s say that it was the moment when all my hard work up to that point was finally paying off. But now, I don’t really care for it.”
As if proving her point, she reminisced with a dull, indifferent expression.
“How come? Is it because it has been a while?”
“No, time has nothing to do with it.”
“Then, what is it?”
Then, she looked at Juho with eyes that were as dark as her clothes.
“Because you’re here.”
With that, her dark, gaping eyes became fixated somewhere slightly deeper.
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