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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“Well, good luck with that,” Juho said to the anxious, yet defiant fan, then looking ahead. At that moment and just as he was about to check how much time there was left until the start of the concert, his phone began to vibrate. Geun Woo was calling.
To the brief question, Juho answered, “Yes. I’m waiting in line.”
Soon, Juho received a text from Seo Joong…
‘It’s crowded, huh?’
‘Yeah, it makes me wonder if there will be enough seats for everyone.’
… followed by Mideum.
‘We’re in the seminar room on the same floor. We’re all in the same message group.’
‘You don’t seem all that nervous,’ Juho said. Then, Joon Soo replied, ‘Geun Woo just took two doses of sedatives.’
When Geun Woo’s pretentious message followed after Joon Soo’s, Juho looked away from his phone, which vibrated restlessly. It was almost time to go in.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please make your way into the hall by the order of your seat!”
Listening to the usher’s instructions, Juho went into the concert hall. The frontmost seats were eye-level with the stage. The interior resembled a lecture hall, and there was raked seating like at a movie theater. There were eight chairs on the stage, with a water bottle placed next to each of them. Thinking about the authors who would be sitting there, Juho took his seat at the center of the frontmost row, which was at a distance where he would be able to lock eyes with the authors onstage. The hall was filled with excitement and anticipation, and having come on his own, Juho took a deep breath, letting the atmosphere carry him along. There was a thrill in the air, and Juho felt the affection of the fans toward their favorite authors and how much they anticipated meeting them.
At that moment, the light turned off, and bright spotlights illuminated the stage. Then, from behind the stage, the authors began to make their appearance one by one. First in line, was Seo Joong, who was in appropriate attire for the first time. At the author walking out to the stage, light-footed, the crowd cheered and applauded without holding back.
Then, the rest of the authors followed him. Dong Gil, Sang Choi, San Jung, Joon Soo, Geun Woo, Mideum, and Dae Soo. The hall quaked with the applauding fans, and Juho felt his body vibrating from it. Although all eight authors were onstage now, the applause continued until Dae Soo opened her mouth to speak on the microphone.
“Hello, I’m Dae Soo Na.”
Then, the rest of the authors each gave a brief self-introduction. Having spoken last, Seo Joong said, after introducing himself to the fans, “Unfortunately, Yun Woo wasn’t able to join us today.”
With that, the crowd went wild with disappointment. The sighs of three hundred-fifty people was just as powerful as their shouts.
While blending in with the crowd, Juho locked eyes with Seo Joong.
“BUT, he might still be watching us from somewhere. Who knows? Maybe he’s just behind the stage, or blending in with the crowd. You never know who you’re sitting next to.”
The crowd laughed quietly, and although they understood Seo Joong’s remark as a joke, they turned to look at each other. Juho, too, looked at the person sitting next to him and exchanged a brief pleasantry with an older gentleman wearing a fedora.
“All right. We will now begin the concert with the authors of the literary magazine ‘The Beginning and the End.'”
The concert was hosted by the authors autonomously, with minimal instructions from the backstage, which was invisible from the audience. It was casual, and the biggest advantage of how the stage was laid out was that it allowed for the relationships and dynamics between the authors to transfer directly to the audience. Even while onstage, they behaved just as they always had.
In the beginning, the authors took some time reciting the most memorable parts of each other’s works. While the crowd thought Dong Gil was joking about Seo Joong’s books when he started every sentence with a phrase like “What made it tolerable, though…” or “The saving grace of… ,” the wrinkles on his brow proved otherwise.
Then, the authors moved on to discussing the magazine. Rampant with harsh, blatant criticism, the segment kept the audience on their toes. While it was clear that Mideum and Geun Woo were hurt, the rest of the authors skillfully analyzed each other’s works, presenting opposing arguments while disagreeing or agreeing with each other.
“Mr. Bong’s sentences were outstanding. I don’t know how many times I found myself impressed. I’d go as far as saying that he sets the example on the utilization of certain sentences and of appropriate use of figure of speech.”
“Should I be scared of what’s to follow?” Joon Soo said with a pleasant smile. While the two were similar in many ways, they were also different in just as many ways. Although their topics or directions had a lot in common, there was a stark contrast in the way they went about expressing themselves. They both had a style that was serious and heavy, but one of them was concise, while the other was intricate.
“It’s nothing big, really. I was just thinking that it might not be the most efficient delivery mechanism.”
Therefore, Joon Soo’s style was inefficient in Dong Gil’s eyes. Then, remaining unfazed, Joon Soo opened his mouth and said, “I think otherwise. If anything, I find your style of writing more excessive, leaving out all emotion and rhythm in your sentences.”
As a poetry lover, Dong Gil’s style was simply too practical in Joon Soo’s eyes, and just as it had always been, there was no way to discern who was right. At that moment, Sang Choi interjected into the ongoing debate.
“How about me? What are your opinions of my work?”
At that, Mideum and Geun Woo looked at Sang, who was brave enough to ask for criticism willingly, with respect. He looked quite confident. Then, Dae Soo took the opportunity to speak.
“First off, it was nice and sweet. I think it really accentuated the positive aspects of the emotion, which is love. It made me want to fall in love with someone, and I found a lot of joy in seeing how the two characters complimented each other in their relationship, like a jigsaw puzzle. It was very immersive. However…”
She added, “I did wonder if it was clouding the author’s portrayal of death.”
In Dae Soo’s eyes, Sang’s interpretation of death was, simply put, bland. However, Sang stood his ground.
“You gotta understand something, and that is that the blandness of my piece was the result of careful calculation.”
‘Is he admitting that his piece was too bland?’ Juho asked himself, chuckling.
“I also have something to say about your piece. Did you have to make it so creepy and damp? It’s something that can only be enjoyed by those who can withstand it.”
“Sounds like I did something right.”
To Sang, Dae Soo’s style was too potent. The two debated for a while, and eventually, Geun Woo opened his mouth timidly to interject, “I, personally, learned a lot from Mideum’s piece. I think it was the piece I was most at peace with while reading.”
“You’re too kind,” Mideum said, smiling shyly.
“I loved the balance between the depressing and dry elements. It definitely wasn’t something you see everyday.”
Of course, not everyone was looking to talk each other down, and the variety in dynamics made the concert a rather entertaining experience. Immune to the edgy criticisms between authors, Juho watched and listened in peace. That is… until his piece was mentioned.
“OK, last, but certainly not least, let’s move on to discussing Yun Woo’s piece.”
At that, the crowd lit up, and the authors’ eyes scanned past Juho as they pretended to look around the crowd.
‘They didn’t tell me anything about mentioning me or my piece?’
Then, everyone onstage brought their microphones up to their mouths in preparation. It was hard to imagine that, even up to a moment ago, they had been fighting fiercely with each other.
“Yun Woo’s portrayal of death was very explicit. The plot, itself, is about a person on the verge of death,” Dae Soo started out with something that had to be well known to every fan of the young author. The authors took their time in getting their hands on their prey, and Dong Gil added what sounded like a personal remark.
“I’d like for us to focus on WHERE the main event took place. The protagonist drowned, which means it was water that was responsible for the death of this individual. As soon as I read this piece, I called Yun Woo.”
At that, quiet cheers sounded from the audience. The fans were envious of Dong Gil, who had the liberty to call the mysterious young author whenever he wanted. However, Dong Gil paid no attention to the crowd’s response, adding, “And I asked: Why did you make him drown? Why water?”
The audience listened to him intently, and just like Dong Gil had said, he had called Juho, and Juho had answered. Dong Gil had asked about water being the medium to the point of obsession. His perception had been rather impressive.
“Uh… I don’t remember hearing about this,” Seo Joong murmured, but nobody answered as they were focused on Dong Gil’s story about Yun Woo.
“Then, he said in a tone that was as light-hearted as ever: ‘Just because.'”
At that, Geun Woo let out, disappointed, “What? That’s it?!”
And Dong Gil answered with a cold expression on his face, “That was it. Yun Woo didn’t explain himself, and I don’t see that in a negative light. I believe that forcing the story to have one, single meaning takes away from the reading experience, and I think this is especially true of Yun Woo’s piece. I’m sure he, himself, knows this well.”
Unfortunately, Juho had only given Dong Gil such an answer because he hadn’t been able to figure out a way to avoid saying that it had come from experience.
“So, this is my interpretation of his piece. As you know, it was very explicit and detailed in the description of one’s terror of water rushing into their body and the pain of suffocating. Although I, myself, have never drowned, I was still able to relate to his portrayal of death because it bears a lot of resemblance to the terror any adult feels at some point in their lives when being part of a society.
At that, Sang nodded affirmingly.
“Water carries a slew of meanings. One may perceive deep water as dark and cold, but it’s a place that’s brimming with life. It can also be treated as a figure for the cruel world as well as a mother’s womb, all at the same time. It’s both realistic and idealistic. Yun Woo managed to control and portray the many meanings that water carries, and he did so in the most outstanding manner, which is why we find ourselves reading his piece repeatedly, despite how uncomfortable it makes us feel. Most people will not be content with reading through ‘River’ just once,” Dong Gil said fearlessly, and the crowd applauded him for an unknown reason.
Then, Sang interjected quietly, “As for me, I found that pun… I mean, Yun Woo’s writing, pretentious.”
Although he was filtering his words because he was onstage in front of his and Yun Woo’s fans, there was a strong sense of self-awareness in his tone.
“Yes, I agree.”
At the authors agreements of Sang’s remark, Juho chuckled. ‘Pretentious, huh?’
Then, Dae Soo went on to explain, “Not everyone here might know this, but the decision to publish the magazine happened very quickly in the first place, and it was an impulsive one at that. In those moments, there was competitiveness, respect, and confidence for each of our own works, and it was in midst of that subtle mind game that we decided on the title for the magazine and its topic. Yun Woo was also there.”
Just as Dae Soo had said, Juho had also been at the scene.
“Geun Woo, here, may be the least experienced among us, but we all know that Yun Woo’s only eighteen years old. Us authors tend to reveal our true nature when it comes to writing, and nobody cared about things like experience or age, or left room to consider the idea or yielded to others. If you’ve read our magazine, you know what I mean. We were all sincerely desperate for attention when we wrote it.”
At that, the audience broke out into laughter, but it didn’t last long because of what came out Sang’s mouth.
“Yet, this punk, I mean, Yun Woo, isn’t intimidated by anything. Nothing fazes him. On top of that, he had no respect for the veteran authors. There was nothing but death in his piece, and if it had stopped there, I would have been more willing to put my feelings behind me. BUT, he goes the extra mile and picks a fight with other authors, saying: ‘You probably don’t have what it takes to write like me, even if we were writing about the same topic. Only I can write like this and only I can express things the way I do. Only my writing is capable of delivering such emotions, and whether you’re an adult or not, your writing is nothing but an ornament, an ornament that accentuates my work. Do you understand?'”
With that, the hall sank into silence. Sang had gotten quite worked up as he ranted, and Juho couldn’t help but feel wronged.
‘But I never said anything like that.’
“But what really rubs me the wrong way is that Yun Woo never said any of those things explicitly. It’s just my personal, emotional interpretation. He has no regards for his fellow authors, and nothing or no one else matters, except for himself and his own works.”
Sang couldn’t have been further from the truth, and Juho was quite bothered by what he had said. Nobody knew how much he wrestled between veteran authors who had been writing for two decades. Although Juho tried to communicate his sentiment with his eyes, Sang was too self-absorbed at the moment to lock eyes with him.
‘Sang Choi, of all people.’
It was a comment that Juho would have much preferred to hear from somebody else.
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