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The Great Storyteller (Web Novel) - Chapter 194: Burning Away (4)

Chapter 194: Burning Away (4)

This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog

Translated by: ShawnSuh

Edited by: SootyOwl

Involving a man and a woman, the waltz was one of the standard social dances in the nineteenth century. Typically danced to a comfortable tempo, the people danced in circles that were, simply put, relaxed and sophisticated.

“Why are we dancing?” Juho asked.

“It’s part of my daily life.”

Mideum was already immersed in her character. The student majoring in dance was both the detective and the narrator of the story. Despite the epic waltz music Dae Soo had put on in the background, Juho stood still, like a statue.

“What kind of character is she?”

“Outgoing and with a strong inclination toward justice. She’s a great dancer, too.”

“What about her dead friend?”

“The second best.”

“And the culprit?”

At that, Mideum laughed and said, “Who knows?”

That was the only answer she could give since she was yet to find the culprit.

“Tell me what the dance studio looks like.”

“There are mirrors everywhere so that the students can see what they look like when they dance.”

From then on, Mideum went on in great detail about the interior of the studio, from the square-shaped floor to the mirrors surrounding the studio, the teacher, her two older couples, a younger couple learning as a hobby, and finally, the protagonist. The studio was located in a basement, which made it less susceptible to intruders. On the day of the crime, the protagonist had the key on her in order to use the studio on her own, turning everyone else into suspects. Everyone was looking for the culprit, and she saw a red fire extinguisher in the corner of the studio, collecting dust.

Her dance was quite revealing of her state of anxiety, and like the detective in the novel, she had the ability to look at things from the most objective point-of-view. At the same time, there was a fiery desire for revenge hidden within her.

Juho imagined the look on the six students, and the six pairs of legs, the sounds of the dancers’ feet stomping the floor, and their costumes, which accentuated their choreography. There were mirrors all around the studio reflecting every one of the dancer’s moves as they danced to the loud music in the background. Juho, too, moved his feet according to the music, and found his foot under Mideum’s.

“Didn’t you say she was a great dancer?”

“I sure did.”

“And her dead friend was the second best?”

“Yep.”

Although the pain in his foot was quite distracting, Juho tried to focus in acting out the scene. Twelve eyes, sixty toes, and mirrors that reflected every little thing.

Then, Mideum briefly stepped away from Juho, spun in place, and returned to Juho, murmuring, “Natural pivot-turn, Rudolph-Ronde, reverse-pivot.” It was the name of the dance move in her novel. However, it had actually looked very different. While Mideum leaned back, Juho clenched his teeth and supported her with every bit of strength in his body. His hands shook.

‘What am I writing?’

Juho had come to Dae Soo’s office for help because his story shook at its foundation. The very existence of the culprit had a destructive effect on the overall structure, muddying up the plot. Then, Juho decided…

‘Eh. Might as well catch the culprit.’

Rather than catching the culprit in his novel, the young author blindly hoped that he would find some sort of inspiration as he helped Mideum catch the culprit in her novel.

“Ow!”

“Sorry.”

That time, it was Juho who stepped on Mideum’s foot. Then, the time came for him to decide how he would go about catching the culprit. Juho looked down while still dancing. He had two legs and ten toes.

Although in a gorgeous looking dress and tuxedo, the dancers didn’t quite fit them. While the red fabric danced along with the dancer wearing the dress, the men in their suits didn’t look as impressive, giving the impression that they had rented theirs. With the exception of the students in the hobby class, who watched the practice while looking depressed from their lack of progress in losing weight, everyone else had been practicing for the amateur competition.

The class schedule was written on one of the walls. While some wore clothes that were stained, others wore shoes that they had borrowed from other people, after forgetting to bring their own. The person with the ambiguous alibi was dancing with the witness, who had witnessed something suspicious about their partner.

The music filled the room, and people danced in circles. When Juho looked in the mirror, he saw a reflection of himself dancing with the protagonist. The mirrors reflected every little thing in the room, especially the movement of the dancers. ‘Who’s the murderer?’

“I have no idea.”

“C’mooon!”

“I told you, I’m not a detective.”

For that reason, Juho decided to take a blind guess.

“It’s not the narrator, is it?”

At that, the corner of Mideum’s mouth turned up, indicating that he was wrong.

“What made you think that?”

“She has a clear motive, like jealousy, for example.”

It was conjecture based on the fact that the friend had been the second best dancer in the class next to the narrator, and Mideum delighted in Juho’s inaccurate guess.

“Unfortunately, the detective can’t be the culprit at the same time,” Mideum said, stating one of the general rules in detective novels. There were rules made by some of the greatest detective writers in history, and when they were broken, the novels quickly lost their charms, and the detective work became lackluster. Of course, the detective novel wasn’t a sport, so readers didn’t have to worry about being disqualified or getting a yellow card. It was for that reason that there was an increasing number of authors who were trying to break away from the cliches of the genre.

Then, Juho thought back on the rules he knew vaguely. ‘Do not make twins or the servant the culprit. Don’t obsess over descriptions. The detective shouldn’t be the culprit. There cannot be more than one detective. The culprit must have made an appearance from the start, and the culprit has to be a character of significance.’

“Do you have an idea now?” Mideum asked.

“Would you care to enlighten us, Mr. Detective?”

“I told you, I’m not a detective!”

Juho was an author incapable of any detective work. However, he did have an idea of what was happening around the world, and right before his eyes, was the very creator of a story that was worth exploring.

Then, Juho said, “It’s the teacher, isn’t it?”

At that moment, the music stopped abruptly, marking the end of the awkward dance session. Juho looked intently into Mideum’s eyes right in front of him.

“… What made you think that?” the author asked, clearly flustered. Bingo.

“Am I right?”

“Nope.”

“Are you sure?”

“… I asked you a question! If you’re a detective, you gotta be able to back up your conjecture.”

“I noticed that you’re talking faster. Your eyes are moving busily, and your lips are tense, which all leads me to believe that you’re lying.”

“Are you probing me?”

“I wanted to know what it was like to sound like a famous detective,” Juho said light-heartedly and with a smile. At which point, Mideum grew impatient.

“Well, how are you gonna prove it? Are you planning on accusing an innocent citizen of being a criminal?”

At that, Juho was made certain.

“I’m the culprit.”

The mirrors reflected every little thing vividly: Juho dancing with the protagonist, students practicing for the upcoming competition, those who were dancing as a hobby, and lastly, the detective and the culprit. There were eight people in total.

Although Mideum had called herself the detective, the protagonist never did, and there couldn’t be more than one detective. Juho was merely a reader imitating a detective. He was fully aware that there was no room for him in the novel. In that case, who was he? What role did he serve and play? Was he a nobody? Mideum had clearly given Juho a role, and her putting out her hand was further proof of that. The waltz was a dance in which a man and woman danced together, and Juho was the protagonist’s partner, and the only person who could have danced with her in the setting described by the narrator was the teacher.

With the exception of Juho and the protagonist, there were six people. Eight, in total. Without even knowing, Juho had been playing the role of the teacher dancing with the protagonist. On top of that, if he had been the author…

“The culprit really is here.”

Although redundant on the surface, Juho was referring to reality rather than the novel. There was a culprit in Dae Soo’s living room, and it was none other than himself.

“Oh, c’mon!” Mideum let out, scowling. “What is this!? Does this have anything to do with you being Yun Woo? Is that how you’re able to figure it out like that?” she said, pulling her hair out for reasons different from before.

Meanwhile, Dae Soo simply watched, laughing heartily. In the end, it had been up to Juho to stop Mideum.

“Mideum, please. You won’t have any hair left at that rate. You wanted me to figure it out, didn’t you?”

“I told you to seize the opportunity, become the detective! With style! Without hesitation! Ugh, what the heck! Why do you always have to be right!? You should’ve just kept giving me wrong answers, so that I could AT LEAST have SOME confidence in my work! I got nothing out of this but wounds. Why!? Why is it that you know!? Was it… was it too easy? Is that what it was? Do I have to rewrite the whole thing?”

There was no need to rewrite anything. Juho had only been able to reach the answer because of the hint Mideum had given him: the dance. He had guessed, adding an explanation that would make sense, and most of all, Juho felt at peace because the author was right in front of him. However, no matter what Juho said, Mideum kept muttering, still looking upset.

“You know what? Yeah, I was too confident. I got cocky because of how successful the Dr. Dong series was. Don’t be content, just yet. Oh, no. You have a ways to go, my friend, because my readers are so much smarter than you!” Mideum said, as if about to rewrite her entire novel at any given minute.

Then, Juho asked Dae Soo, “What do I do?”

“Just let her be. If she misses her deadline, that’s on her,” she said indifferently and asked, “Well, what about you? Did you get anything out of this?”

At that, Juho took out his flash drive and asked without delay, “Can I use your computer?”

Then, giving him permission willingly, Dae Soo led him to another room in her office.

“You can work here. It might take some getting used to, but you’ll be able to work in peace. As for that troublemaker, she’ll calm down once I feed her.”

“Thank you.”

Then, as Dae Soo closed the door on her way out, Juho opened the manuscript at once, deleting everything he had written while obsessing over the existence of the culprit, which turned out to be about twenty-pages worth of material. Despite the seeming loss, he felt at peace internally, and everything became much clearer. What his novel, which pretended to a detective novel while hiding behind the mask of thriller, really needed was truth.

“A story about self-identity.”

Asking whether the protagonist was a criminal or a hero was not the right question. The answer couldn’t be found in other people. The proper question, which was the core of the novel, was: ‘Am I a criminal or a hero?’

Overseer, subject, me, myself, an individual. It was an existence that had many names, causing confusion in the young author’s mind. It was the story that he had thought of after meeting the man in front of the fire.

Juho had had a selfish perception of the other person, thinking that the man in the hospital gown had been a hero at one point and suspecting him of being a criminal in the next. Juho became Yun Woo, and Yun Woo became Yun Pil. ‘Who am I?’

The narrator of his novel was an adult who looked up to heroes while despising criminals. However, he had to be capable of being both a hero and a criminal and he needed to change. He grew mature as he aged.

Then, Juho kept on with the plot in his head and reached the end. It was the conclusion, as well as the climax. He wanted to remove the boundary between the narrator and the world outside of him, and before the appearance of a hero, the story came to an abrupt end before the culprit was caught. ‘Who am I?’ Juho decided to take a different direction in the way he portrayed the narrator, a contradictory one to his previous portrayal.

Juho brought all the suspects together, taking away their names. It was one of the more obvious boundaries that separated the subject from object. Parents, background, wealth, fame. Juho took everything away from the characters, one by one, until they were left only with their voices. They all shared mutual desires and opinions. They were innocent, and although they conversed with each other, it played out as a monologue.

‘Just a little more. What about using a mirror?’ Juho felt something heavy in his stomach. There had to be a little bit more. Otherwise, the story wouldn’t be enough to surpass ‘River.’ As greed began to creep up yet again, Juho took a moment to take a deep breath. He had to focus on his piece. ‘How can I write something that I’d be satisfied with? Good and bad deeds. Coexistence. Spear and shield. Contradiction. Two people.

“Writing style.”

It seemed like the perfect time to introduce his readers to a different style.

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