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Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“How are things going?” Bom asked amid the noise that filled the classroom. While turned to look at him, Juho remained focused on the manuscript on his desk.
“Hard to say.”
“Yet, you’ll probably end up writing something that will blow everyone out of the water.”
“I sure hope so.”
Then, Bom rolled her eyes around for a little while and said, “I saw somebody crying while reading my story.”
At that, Juho looked up and saw an expression that was somewhat bashful, but proud. It was a feeling that he understood wholeheartedly. Some authors even made it a goal of their work, which only made sense considering how powerful of an experience it was to know that their work had become the source of their readers’ tears.
“That’s great!” Juho said genuinely, and just like he had said, Bom really was a great writer. At his compliment, she turned bright red from the neck up.
“No, no, no. You shouldn’t be the one to tell me something like that. It’s embarrassing. Besides, it was my mom. My mom was crying while reading my story, and that’s because she’s my mom,” Bom said, looking down and waving her hand in emphatic denial. However, she had to know that who the subject was was of very little importance in the matter.
“It felt good, didn’t it?”
“Wasn’t it a touching moment?”
Then, thinking and rolling her eyes around for a brief moment, Bom smiled again. And from then on, that smile remained on her face.
“Was it a touching moment for you, too?”
At her question, Juho thought back to the time when he had felt a similar joy. It was quite some time ago.
“I was way too excited. It was kind of embarrassing.”
At least until his readers began to turn their backs on his work, which was an emotion Bom was yet to experience. If she were to keep on writing, she was bound to experience it herself, eventually.
“I want to give writing a try…”
Then, Juho looked at Bom, who seemed to have made up her mind to become an author. She was mesmerized the moment she realized the power in her writing. It became a dream and a goal. Then, after a brief pause, she added, “… but I don’t dare think about becoming like you.”
After all, she was well aware that it would be impossible. Although her voice wasn’t all that loud, Juho heard it quite clearly in midst of the commotion in the classroom.
“So, I want to start writing and to learn more.”
She had made her choice.
… and Juho answered briefly. Juho was going to root for her, whether she would achieve her goal or not, and as if satisfied by his brief response, she turned around with a short word of encouragement to Juho, her long hair moving ever so slightly. She would choose to go in the direction that she had said she would.
In the midst of the noisy classroom, Juho looked down at his manuscript paper. Another writing style was also proof that he really did come back from the dead and that his past had not been an illusion. The writing style of a boy who had been embarrassingly excited. The writing style of a middle-aged, alcoholic man.
There was a time when Juho was told that his writing was like wet, heavy sand, fresh out of the water. The water kept the grains from flying off. Then, at the sudden caw of a crow, Juho looked toward it as it peeked its head above the window. The crow was a grisly creature that would show up out of nowhere and observe the young writer, and to that day, Juho had never seen it fly.
Then, he remembered the reader who told him about the sand. In a place filled with books, she had expressed the sincere hope that he would write another story. At that moment, the bell rang, yet the students remained just as boisterous. Juho picked up his pen since there was nothing left that would bother him.
“Let’s have some fun!”
“Let’s have a good time!”
A series of voices sounded from the crowd. The school festival had begun, and unlike usual, the building had been decorated elaborately with all sorts of colors and shapes. People of all ages came in and out of the gate, looking all the more lively. Unfortunately, there were bound to be those who were being exploited for labor behind the scenes. Seo Kwang and Sun Hwa were busy cooking up a concoction fittingly called “toast with the devil’s jam,” and Juho, too, wasn’t exempt from having to participate since his class had decided to get involved in the festival. On the crudely-made picket sign in his hand, there was a glued piece of paper that read “wholesome cocktails.” Contrary to what the name suggested, the reality was that the cocktails were no more than non-alcoholic soft drinks.
Juho walked around the entire first floor full of freshmen experiencing the school festival as high school students for the first time with the picket sign in his hand.
“Juho!” a voice called out for him.
When Juho turned toward it, it was none other than Bo Suk, except she was covered in what seemed like blood.
“Whoa, that looks real!”
“Right?! It’s my middle school uniform.”
Just like her face, her uniform was covered in what had to be either paint or some sort of makeup product.
“I’m also in charge of dances in my class,” she said.
“But what’s with the costume?”
“Our theme is ‘Dancing with Monsters.'”
It was quite an eccentric setting. Then, Juho saw that Bo Suk was also wearing a band with a promotional phrase across her uniform. She, too, was responsible for advertising for her class.
“You should come too, Juho! Come dance with me!”
“No, thanks. I’ve had my fill of dancing.”
Then, Juho felt the top of his foot getting sore.
“Speaking of which, if you ever get thirsty walking around, come to my class.”
“You mean the cocktails? Are you guys serving alcohol?”
“No way. It’s just soft drinks with a touch of something.”
“I’ll be there!”
Bo Suk smiled brightly, but despite her intention, her smile gave off a rather grotesque expression, especially with the red substance painted all over her lips. Then, before parting ways, Juho added, “I enjoyed your piece.”
“… Thank you. I mean, I still have a ways to go, but thank you!”
Again, despite her intention, her sparkling eyes conveyed a message that was quite different from the one she was trying to convey. After coming down to the first floor, people looked at him oddly as he walked around with the picket sign on his shoulder. Aside from shouting “Cocktails! Come get your cocktails,” there were no other activities involved in his role. Although he wondered very briefly if he should have worn makeup like Bo Suk, he quickly reached the conclusion that he would rather not.
While walking through the hallway toward the entrance at the first floor, Juho saw that there was a sociable-looking male student with a striking resemblance to a monkey, shouting, “Get your newspaper!”
The volume of his voice was rather impressive. Then, as Juho approached him in order to get a copy of the newspaper for himself, the monkey-like student recognized him and said, “Why, who do we have here? It’s Mr. Woo!”
“What’s with the formality? Just call me by my name,” Juho said, feeling uncomfortable.
“Oh, that’s no way to treat a former interviewee,” the monkey said, looking at the picket in Juho’s hand.
Then, taking the newspaper from the monkey’s hand, Juho advertised for his class, “If you ever get thirsty at any point, come by.”
“Do I get a free drink if I mention your name?”
“I doubt it. My name wouldn’t be worth enough for that.”
“Then, I’ll pass,” the monkey declined rather emphatically. However, since Juho wasn’t trying to make a profit, the way people responded to his advertisement didn’t really matter.
Then, in order to take a quick break, he put down his picket sign, took a seat somewhere, and opened his newspaper, which contained news about the school, along with a directory and a list of sceneries found throughout school, done through a collaboration with the Photography Club. From night views from late night study sessions to flowers and classrooms, there was quite an array of pictures in the newspaper, and of course, the names of the photographers were next to each of the pictures. Among them, was a name Juho was also familiar with, one that had been next to a picture of a frog.
“It’s different from last year. Are there no interviews this year?”
At Juho’s question, the monkey stopped handing out newspapers and turned his head to Juho, glaring fiercely at him for an unknown reason.
“That’s because SOMEBODY wouldn’t write again.”
“But there’s no one else at school who would interview me aside from you.”
The monkey clenched his lips tightly in response to that, and as Juho blinked awkwardly, waiting for elaboration, the monkey added, “You know, I believed wholeheartedly that you would write the best piece of writing this year.”
“But you know what your answer was when I went to you? ‘I’ve got nothing to show you.'”
Juho had no recollection of saying anything like that. It had to be the creative touch of the Newspaper Club.
“And just like that, the three-part interview I had been planning went down the drain.”
‘Well, you’re the only one who planned for it and celebrated way too early, so what more do you have to say?’ Juho thought, deciding not to say it out loud.
And the monkey kept on with his resentful remarks, “If you’re an author, shouldn’t you be writing constantly? I wouldn’t really know since I’m not one, but it’s still your club activity. How is it that you’re so free-spirited? Shouldn’t you have a stricter routine? I mean, how else would I find a consistent topic for my interviews, am I right?”
“I need to go,” Juho said, realizing that there wouldn’t be an end to his story. Then, picking up the picket sign and with the rolled up newspaper at his side, Juho left the scene in a hurry, ignoring the voice calling out for him.
When Juho came out to the schoolyard, there was already an enormous crowd, and within it, were the Science Club members selling cotton candy. Judging from the long line, they had to be quite popular. So, Juho took the opportunity to carry out his obligation of advertising for his class, “Cocktails! Come get your cocktails!”
Although he modeled his approach after the monkey by shouting louder, people in line only glared at him for a brief moment and went about their business.
Then, Juho saw a familiar face standing in line giving off a inherently different glare, and who was taller than anybody around him by at least a head. Juho called out, “Baron!”
Hearing that, he looked toward Juho and raised his hand candidly in order to greet him. That’s when the cotton candy he had ordered came out, and taking his order, Baron walked out of the line.
“It must be nice being a junior, not having to worry about school festival and all.”
“No, it’s the juniors who are envious of the sophomores and the freshmen.”
It was common for the opposite parties to be envious of each other. Then, Juho took a piece of cotton candy from Baron’s hand and brought it up to his mouth. It was sweet and airy, and the sensation of it melting away in his mouth was a treat that Juho was experiencing for the first time in a very long time.
“Are you here to hang out?”
“Duh! I wouldn’t be here to study, now, would I?”
“Seems like things are going well with the preparation for the entrance exams.”
“I’m planning on applying early. Keeping a good school record takes time.”
“Oh-ho-ho. Look at you!”
“I have a long way to go still. SAT scores, my student record, and my art activity report.”
“You got this,” Juho said, genuinely rooting for him. At which point, Baron snickered, looking indifferent for some reason. Then, raising the picket sign in his hands, Juho said, “If you ever get thirsty, come and pay me a visit.”
“No need,” Baron said without hesitation. It seemed like Juho had no talent for advertising. Then, resting the sign on his shoulder, Juho said, “I really liked the cover designs this year, too.”
Despite being busy preparing for the entrance exams, Baron had volunteered to design the covers for his clubmates writing for the school festival, and Mr. Moon hadn’t stopped him.
Cover design was one of the crucial elements in a book. There were countless people who based their purchases on cover designs, which was the usual type of consumption among students who had little to no interest in literature. Baron’s designs were more than enough to captivate such readers. Beautiful and artfully summarizing the plot of the book. They stirred up the interest of those who saw them, and they were all the more essential for amateur writers such as the members of the Literature Club.
“It seems like they are growing more popular this year, too.”
“I liked Bom’s piece, in particular. She’s gotten a lot better recently.”
“Do you feel that way, too?”
“Yeah. She’s changed a lot since I did the cover design for her last year,” Baron said, ripping off a small piece of cotton candy. “I am kind of bummed that you’re not writing for the school festival this year. This is the last year I get to design your book cover.”
At the unexpected remark, Juho’s eyes moved on from the cotton candy to Baron, who was looking at the cotton candy himself.
“I didn’t know you were this passionate about cover design.”
“Your writing stands out.”
Ironically, the cotton candy in Baron’s hand had a presence that matched that of Yun Woo’s.
“The opportunity to design your book cover will… well, never come again, probably. Even by coincidence.”
Baron had also been a fan of Yun Woo, and there had to be joy in knowing that he had designed Yun Woo’s book cover. Unfortunately, Juho had decided not to write for the school festival as himself on the year Baron was graduating, and having been occupied with finding the culprit in his novel, Juho had been completely oblivious to the fact that it was Baron’s last year in high school. Then, after looking intently at him, he brought up a passing thought, “You never know.”
“You think so?”
“You’ll probably keep drawing, and I’ll keep writing, so the way I see it, there’s going to be an opportunity someday.”
Although Baron was about to graduate, it didn’t necessarily mean that it was the end for him.
“I guess you’re right. We first met after having graduated from something, too,” Baron said, looking back at the school building.
“I guess I’m the only one leaving, again,” Baron said, his voice slowly sinking. He had had a friend middle school who hadn’t been able to graduate, and Baron had been fighting bravely in order to keep himself from giving into his fear of standing out or shrinking out of fear of being alone.
“Are you still scared?”
“Yeah,” Baron said confidently, and after a brief thought, Juho asked, “Should we make a bet, then?”
“On whether you’ll end up alone or not.”
At that, Baron smiled brightly, showing his white teeth.
“And which side are you betting on?”
“That you won’t.”
“You see, I don’t think it’s gonna work,” Baron said, bringing the piece of cotton candy up to his mouth. “Because I was planning on betting on that, too.”
“That’s a shame.”
“I’m not falling for that again.”
“I was gonna ask you for some sponge cake.”
Then, Juho saw a tree behind Baron standing tall and still. There was also a sparrow sitting on its branch, looking attentively at the people waiting in line for cotton candy, amused.
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