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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
Although the book cafe would normally turn into a bar in the evening, Seo Kwang’s mother decided to close the shop early because of a prior engagement with her parents. And knowing that, with his mother’s permission, Seo Kwang had reserved the shop to celebrate the accomplishment of his friend in the form of a party. Each of them having come with food and drinks, the club members were ecstatic about the rare occasion. With the candle on the table at the center as the only light source, the club members enjoyed the cozy warmth along with all sorts of food and snacks, carried away by the intoxicating atmosphere of feeling like adults who were celebrating over drinks.
“I knew you had it in you. This is my friend!” Seo Kwang shouted, followed by Bo Suk’s, “And my hero!”
The club members celebrated boisterously, as if letting out all of their pent up frustrations. Then, stuffing his mouth with fish sausage, Seo Kwang asked Juho, “How are things going with the new book?”
“It’s going through revisions. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to make it today.”
The manuscript was in Nam Kyung’s hands, and the editor would bring up comments on places that were ambiguous or dragging on. The process was more heartbreaking and undesirable than anything. On top of that, Nam Kyung, being the perfectionist that he was, tended to be relentless with his comments. While that meant that he had a sharp eye for compositions and that it would ultimately result in a better product, Juho couldn’t deny that it was among the most painful processes of all.
“I needed a place to breathe.”
“Well, you’ve come to the right place, my friend.”
“Yeah! That’s right!” Sun Hwa agreed emphatically. “Besides, Baron’s here, too!” she added, looking in his direction.
Juho, followed her eyes and saw the graduate, drinking his orange juice quietly. The club members were incredibly excited to see Baron after he had graduated.
To which, Baron responded brusquely, “It hasn’t even been that long.”
“Oh! C’mon, now! Emotions are always stronger than time,” Seo Kwang said.
“And that’s why time flies by when things are good, and long and tedious occasions feel like an eternity. In that same way, time goes slower when we wait for something, but it goes by twice as fast the day before an exam,” Sun Hwa added. While Bo Suk clapped quietly at her rather profound remark, Baron couldn’t help but smile.
“You just wait ’til next year, when the freshmen start coming in. I promise you, it won’t even occur to you to think about me. Memories are weaker than time.”
“Wow, good one.”
“If anybody were to listen to our conversations, they would know immediately that we’re in a Literature Club,” Bom murmured. Then, she shouted, “But in here, it doesn’t matter who’s weak or strong!”
She appeared to be in high spirits. Sun Hwa, who was also in high spirits, asked the freshman to put on some background music. Meanwhile, Juho saw the potential customers looking into the shop through the window to see if it was open, and turning back soon after, realizing that it wasn’t. For the sake of letting the girls have their fun, Juho decided to keep it a secret from them. Then, putting a piece of sweet and sour chicken into his mouth, Juho watched the club members breaking out into a dance frenzy out of nowhere.
“Juho,” Bo Suk called for him, observing him. Juho felt her gaze from time to time.
“I have a question.”
“What is it?” Juho asked as an affirmation, bringing his cup up to his mouth.
“How are you so calm?”
“Yes. Not only did you manage to win that award over all those incredible authors, but you’re also being recognized as a translator for translating Kelley Coin’s book. On top of that, you wrote a short story that everyone recognizes, ‘River.’ And now, you’re getting all the attention because of your upcoming book.”
“Is that right?” Juho said, drinking his soda.
“See? You’re so calm, even now,” Bo Suk said, fixing her eyes on him, looking attentively at his every movement.
“I see. So, it sounds like what you really want to know is what I’m like internally, am I right?”
“Then, there’s a better way to find out than asking questions.”
At his response, Bo Suk’s eyes sparkled with curiosity, and Juho decided to teach her how Literature Club members could explore their minds when writing.
Empathizing allowed a writer to understand their subjects at their hearts, even up to the effervescence of the soda in Juho’s cup. The effervescence was filled with joy at the sight of the kids who are also filled with joy, and it also felt joy for Juho winning the grand prize and becoming the translator of the year.
“You’re not gonna tell me, are you?” Bo Suk asked, pouting.
To which, Juho said, “Words are stronger than emotions. One may be sad, but they can always say that they’re happy, even when they’re anxious and insecure.”
At his mysterious answer, Bo Suk stared intently at Juho.
“It seems to me that you’re stronger than emotions.”
At those glittering words, Juho simply smiled awkwardly.
In the meantime, having gone home after his visit to the print shop, Nam Kyung hadn’t been able to leave his car for several hours after giving into the temptation of reading Yun Woo’s manuscript upon arriving at his home’s parking lot. It was already dark out, and when the editor checked the time, it was 4:00 a.m. His neck and shoulders felt tense, and his eyes dry. His chest felt tight, and he felt his body stiffening up while he read.
“Sigh,” he let out a long, heavy sigh.
Then, relaxing his tense body, he tried to organize his mind, scattered about by the storm within. However, realizing that it wasn’t going to happen, he gave up.
“What did I just read?”
What had been clear as day while reading had evaporated the moment he looked up from the pages, like a mirage. Yun Woo was like smoke. After writing ‘River,’ the young author had brought back yet another piece of writing, which was, to say the least, baffling.
“Is it falling apart, or did he mangle up the whole thing intentionally?” Nam Kyung asked himself, putting his hand on his forehead.
“I don’t think this will work,” he said.
Those were the very first words to come out of his mouth as soon as they met. Looking at the editor’s face, Juho noticed that he had a haggard look about him, which told the author how much he had wrestled with his mind until reaching his decision.
“In what ways?” Juho asked, and instead of giving an answer, Nam Kyung stared intently at the young author’s face.
“You should know. Why do you think it’s not gonna work?”
“It has to be the ending.”
As an author, there was no way Juho didn’t know the flaws of his own work. From the weakest part to the most emphasized, the climax, and the scenes that evoke the most desperation, an author was bound to know their work inside and out. Nevertheless, they would lose sight of their flaws while they were busy looking around for incoming danger. After all, they were the creators of their own craft. As an editor, it was also Nam Kyung’s job to correct an author’s path in their creative endeavor. However, that was also what made his job difficult at times. Never had he came across such writing in his career.
“Do you have any idea how lost I was?”
Because it was going to be the piece to follow ‘River,’ Nam Kyung had prepared himself internally as he received the manuscript from the author. When he read the first page, he had felt immediately confident. Fire was a fearsome being in the novel, and the deeds of those who had been affected by the fire were just as fearsome. In what felt like a parade of rage, terror, and doubt, the editor couldn’t hold back his excitement. That was until he reached the last ten of the two hundred pages, which he had waited for anxiously.
“Frankly, I have no idea how you were able to write that part, Mr. Woo,” Nam Kyung said honestly, and Juho simply listened quietly. “I just can’t seem to justify it, no matter what theory I use. At first, I just read through them candidly. I thought the scene where all of the characters get jumbled up and become indistinguishable was outstanding. It was to the point of losing the ability to think clearly.”
However, something had bothered the editor, tugging away at his heart. Something wasn’t right. Even though all of the characters were becoming one, there was nothing about it that felt alien or out of place. In fact, it felt completely natural. Typical Yun Woo: pure and colorful. Despite the appalling, sludgy, and damp content, everything felt natural.
“Then, I realized what had changed. It was sneaky of you, but I did notice a change in between the characters. Although, I have no idea if this is even possible to execute…” Nam Kyung said, looking straight at Juho.
At his answer, Juho nodded, quietly.
“Because everything changes at the end.”
In the novel, everything and everyone changed in the end, from the culprit to the hero, the narrator, and the author. To be more precise, it wasn’t the direction that Juho had intended from the beginning. Being shapeless and uncatchable, water took the shape of the container it was in. In that same way, the readers would feel as though things had changed, as if betrayed. And just as Juho had thought, Nam Kyung had a sharp eye for compositions.
At that moment, Nam Kyung slammed his hands on the table and jumped from his seat, saying, “It’s not that simple. This, this is strange. How can a piece of writing change like that, as if written by someone with a split personality? How could something that should stay consistent from cover to cover in a book, fall away all of a sudden at the end? And why do I find it so charming?”
It was as if…
“Another person wrote it, I mean,” Nam Kyung paused briefly in order to correct the blunt remark he had blurted out by reflex. However, Juho had heard him clearly. As the young author smiled, the editor let out a sigh and added, “OK. Honestly, I doubted for a split second that another person wrote the last ten pages, no more, no less. I thought it was the most logical explanation, although it wasn’t long after that that I realized that you wouldn’t have a reason for it that would benefit you in any way.”
It was the explanation that made the most sense, and Juho understood where Nam Kyung was coming from. Then, as if giving up, the editor began to share his honest thoughts.
“Did it happen by coincident?”
“Was it a breath-of-fresh-air sort of situation while you were wrestling with it?”
“I wrote it just as I have always done.”
“Or were you starting to wear out?”
“I jog on a daily basis.”
At that, Nam Kyung let out a sigh.
“So, which one is it? The magical pen, time machine, or doping?”
“None of the above.”
“Then what is it?”
“I told you. I changed too, along with my writing.” Juho had no recollection of writing with a magical pen or being in a time machine or having used any sort of drugs. Then, putting on a smile, he asked slowly, “Would you like to know the secret?”
“… so there is something, huh?”
“Then, please,” Nam Kyung said, looking at the young author over his glasses.
Then, after the initial thought of dragging it on, Juho decided to cut to the chase, “I have two different writing styles. That’s all.”
At the baffling answer, Nam Kyung tilted his head, perplexed.
“Two. Different. Writing styles,” the editor said, furrowing his brow. Then, Juho picked up the manuscript that proved what the young author had claimed. At that, Nam Kyung froze in his place.
“Is that possible?”
“Apparently, as you can tell,” Juho said, drinking his tea.
“Huh,” Nam Kyung let out. From then on, he wasn’t able to say anything for quite a while. As the editor looked through the manuscript over and over, Juho waited patiently for him to finish. Then, by the time he started feeling dazed, the young author asked, “It doesn’t necessarily take away from the novel, does it?”
“… Hm,” Nam Kyung let out as he reconnected with reality. “… are you planning on coming clean about being able to write in two different styles?”
“I prefer not to give out too much information when it comes to my work.”
“Right. Yeah,” Nam Kyung concurred, nodding. Significance and symbolism. It was quite a Yun Woo-like decision, and Nam Kyung agreed with the young author that it would be better not to disclose information like that. Then, he thought about the possible consequences that would follow once the book came out to the world. “People will say all sorts of things.”
“I’ve been Yun Pil before. I’ve had worse.”
“People will start thinking that you hired a ghostwriter.”
“That’s nothing new, is it?”
“… You knew?”
As the editor kept wrestling with his thoughts, Juho asked, “Is there an issue with how the novel ends?”
“Are the sentences not strong enough?”
“Is having two styles distracting?”
“No, the contrary.”
“Is it too subtle?”
“I think you’d find yourself getting into trouble if you were to make it any more obvious.”
If Juho were to ask what the issues were, Nam Kyung wouldn’t hesitate to tell him. Out of place. Foreign. Chaotic. An ambiguity between coincidence and skill. Excellence. Strictly speaking, Yun Woo’s second style was fantastic, and there was a reason that authors romanticized the ability to utilize an array of styles at their disposal. Being able to write according to the overall flow while changing the ambiance was only possible in a fairytale. It was a skill most writers would go to great lengths to obtain, and the thought of it alone made their hearts jump. Being able to write beyond the boundaries of one’s self was the ultimate form of art.
“Sigh,” Nam Kyung let out, failing to calm his mind and simply scanning through the manuscript with raw emotions. The writing style didn’t change whenever the plot moved forward or depending on the characters’ points of view. However, at the end, at the very end, the writing style changed out of nowhere at the climax, when the message of the novel became the most apparent. It was the scene that would bring about serious doubt on the author, leaving readers to wonder: ‘Did Yun Woo come up with the ending and did he write it himself?’ The style couldn’t fit the overall atmosphere of the novel any better.
Even without fully understanding the situation, most people would be in shock. Some would start asking questions and begin to look for answers themselves as they wrestled with their minds, while others would list out absurd conjectures, lacking in any evidence. In the end, people would fall back into the routine of surrounding the mysterious author with all sorts of assumptions and doubts.
Then, Nam Kyung looked up, looking much more at peace. However, Yun Woo remained unafraid. After all, he was an author who was well acquainted with those types of circumstances.
“Maybe we should give it a go.”
Perhaps, it would be worth a try.
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