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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
From a purely aesthetic point of view, Yun Woo’s books were beautiful. From the curves to the lines and angles, everything was perfect, pleasing to the eye, and impressive. Among the many aspects of the books that contributed to their beauty, what stood out the most were the cover arts, which were designed by the designer responsible for all of the cover arts of the books published by Zelkova, Jung Eun Kong.
Working late into the night, Jung Eun had been looking into the monitor in the office, alone. The screen was filled with news of Yun Woo’s upcoming book, ‘Sublimation.’ As an author, there was no way Yun Woo would be unaware of how ‘River’ had been received. However, the author kept writing as if none of it mattered.
Yun Woo was coming back with a new book a lot sooner than she had expected, and just like the previous book, she was working on Nam Kyung’s request for cover designs, which she had taken up gladly. After reading the book, the designer came up with different designs accordingly. Then, the samples were sent to the publishing company. Once again, she was designing a cover that would be wrap around a Yun Woo book.
When designing for Yun Woo’s books, Jung Eun tended to focus on the content of the book in order to think of a design that would allow people to get an idea of its overall atmosphere. Designing a cover also came with a lot of contemplation and decision making. What is the author trying to say? What are the goals of the characters? Whether she chose to go in a direction that accentuated what the story emphasized even more or in a direction that encompassed the story. Whether she chose to blatantly expose the message being conveyed by the story or to hide it. No matter what the decision was, she couldn’t afford to overlook her choices. There was a difference between charming people and deceiving them.
“Sigh,” she let out, dropping her head. Yun Woo’s fans were in the middle of celebrating the news of his upcoming book, filled with joy that they got to see yet another book from their favorite author. Normally, Jung Eun would be one of them, working busily with a sense of superiority in her heart that came from knowing that she had access to Yun Woo’s novel before anyone else. However, something wasn’t right. The despair she was feeling was quite out of place. Although wrestling for an idea was an everyday task for her, she had never felt so lost in the past. At least, not in a very long time.
Jung Eun looked at Yun Woo’s manuscript on her desk. ‘Sublimation.’ It had a good vibe to it and it stirred up a sense of anticipation. Yun Woo’s writing had always been able to satisfy the readers who had longed for his books. That was, until she reached the very end of the story. Although the ending itself wasn’t strange by any means, it came to her as a shock, as if she had been hit in the back of her head. It was completely unexpected. Although it was an ending that betrayed its readers while they had been busy figuring out who the culprit was, a sense of admiration welled up before that of betrayal. She felt overwhelmed by the conclusion that was far beyond all expectations.
On top of that, the ending yielded a rather bizarre reading experience. It was immersive, and as all of the characters became one in the novel, she, too, was among them. She felt as if sinking into the book’s sludgy and damp atmosphere. Then, by the time she came out of it, there was nothing left.
Nothing. It left her clueless as to how she should proceed about designing its cover. It was hard to decipher the central message of the novel. Fire, the arsonist, firefighter, growth, narrator, doubt, innocence, the culprit, subject. Everything was in a jumbled mess, unable to find their places. It was like a labyrinth, and she, a competitor who had misunderstood the rules of the game. Everything felt foreign. Covering her head with her hands, she let out with a sigh, “OK. First, an image that has to do with fire.”
After all, she had work to do. Being lost didn’t mean that she could dwell in cluelessness and give up. At the same time, she knew, by instinct, that whatever was about to come out would be less than satisfying. Staring into the bright monitor, which was the only light source in the entire office, Jung Eun typed “Yun Woo” on the search window. News of his new book. His voice. Interview. Kelley Coin. Then, after only a few clicks, she played the video of Kelley Coin’s recent interview, which she had watched at least thirty times. Everyone was waiting desperately for Yun Woo’s new book, and that meant she didn’t have much time. She had to design a cover that would fit his writing well. Yet, she was still clueless, and remained so for quite a while longer. Then, the video came to an end, and a car’s horn sounded from outside, followed by a siren and shouts from unknown sources. As a final touch, a dog’s bark.
“Maybe I should ask,” she said. She had to reach out for inspiration, and she was in desperate need of hearing the author’s voice. Then, she made up her mind to give Nam Kyung a call upon sunrise and ask for some face-to-face time with the author.
“If he says no, then I’ll at least ask for his email address,” Jung Eun said, her eyes sparkling with dangerous determination.
“I hate to tell you, but Mr. Woo declined.”
At Nam Kyung’s answer, the designer froze in her place. It was more painful that she had thought. While she clasped her chest, she took a deep breath, and seeing as though she wasn’t taking it well, Nam Kyung opened his mouth while wearing a concerned look on his face. Then, Jung Eun waved her hand, gesturing that she was OK.
“Then, can I have his email address, at least? If you want my design in time, you have to help me with that.”
As the editor hesitated, Jung Eun began to wonder if she was asking for too much. The person she was trying to meet was Yun Woo, the anonymous, genius author. It was the mysterious author she was daring to meet with her attempts, and she couldn’t afford to let up. There was work to be done. Bills needed to be paid. And most of all, she was responsible for her work. Besides, if she were to be frank, she was desperate to meet her favorite author. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Although she wasn’t explicit about it, she was growing quite anxious.
Then, Nam Kyung said, “I’m sorry. I can’t give you that information, either.”
It was hill after hill. At that moment, an image of Yun Pil, the arrogant and unlikeable character in the Dr. Dong series came up in her mind.
“Mr. Woo seems to be completely oblivious to the importance of…”
That time, Nam Kyung raised his hand, and Jung Eun stopped talking with her mouth still open.
“Mr. Woo prefers the phone as his primary source of communication.”
As the editor’s words registered in her mind, Jung Eun closed her mouth. A phone call with Yun Woo. It was a much greater yield than an email. Then, covering her mouth, the designer nodded repeatedly. There was something inherently different about an author who consistently wrote amazing novels. Then, unable to control her excitement, the designer said, “Yeah, that makes sense. I never thought I’d be able to see him so easily because I have the ability to portray the image that resides in my head onto paper at my disposal. Even if Mr. Woo was wary of me, I would have nothing to say.”
“No, that’s not it,” Nam Kyung said emphatically while his glasses shone. “Mr. Woo’s not that serious.”
“The reason he prefers to talk on the phone is that he watched a spy movie last night.”
“… A spy movie?”
“Yes. He wanted to experience what it was like to talk to someone without knowing their face, indirectly. He also said that it was not every day that he got to do something like this. The way I see it, I’m sure he’ll apply the experience to his novel, somehow,”
Jung Eun was doubting what she had just heard. What the editor had just told her was that the anonymous, genius author offered a phone call as the main source of communication for a reason that had nothing to do with keeping his identity hidden, but instead, to keep her identity hidden. After thinking of words to describe her feelings for a little while, she gave up and asked, “What’s Mr. Woo like as a person?”
As Nam Kyung moved his head, Jung Eun saw his eyes behind his shiny glasses.
“I’m not sure,” the editor said, handing a piece of paper over to her. As soon as she took it from his hand, Jung Eun checked what was written on it. Along with that day’s date and a time that would come in thirty minutes, there was the name of a place she was also familiar with.
“What is this?”
“This is the process you’ll have to go through in order to speak with Yun Woo on the phone.”
With that, Nam Kyung rose from his seat and asked, “Shall we?”
Feeling both impressed and slightly confused, the designer packed her belongings and prepared for what had to be the most unique meeting.
The place they were headed to was in front of a payphone booth on the street, which was about a ten minute walk from the office. The town office was only a few steps away from the booth, and across that, was a convenience store, which was next to another convenience store of a different brand. Because the place was near her work, she was quite familiar with the area, but she had no recollection of ever using the payphone.
Jung Eun had a vague memory of standing in line to use the payphone, of which she also remembered waiting anywhere from ten minutes to an hour. During a time where there was no way to talk to someone else without seeing them in person, there had been no other way to communicate with others. Since then, times had changed, and even the booth had a different look to it. It was much better-looking than before, and it was also designed to be used as a shelter in times of danger. However, nobody cared to use it. A car zoomed quickly past the other side of the booth, without regard or hesitation.
Then, as Nam Kyung entered the booth first, Jung Eun knew by instinct that that was where they were going to be talking to Yun Woo. After sliding his card into the phone, Nam Kyung punched in the PIN, and then the phone number. Whether he was calling Yun Woo or another person was unclear to her. The only thing she could do was try to remain calm and relaxed, preparing herself as she was about to hear Yun Woo’s voice.
“Yes. Hello, Mr. Woo,” Nam Kyung’s voice sounded.
Yun Woo had to be on the other end of the line. As Jung Eun stared intently at the receiver in Nam Kyung’s hand, she heard the editor talk into it a few times. Then, after setting the receiver to the side, he came out of the booth, and as if taking turns, Jung Eun went into it without hesitation and picked up the receiver. It was quite hefty, making a sharp, metallic sound as the long cable unwound itself. The faint sound of breathing came from the receiver.
Low and calm. That was her impression when hearing Yun Woo’s voice for the first time.
“Hello, Mr. Woo. I’m Jung Eun Kong, the designer in charge of designing your book’s cover.”
Her voice resonated throughout the booth as she spoke, sounding as if it belonged to another person.
“Yes, hello,” the low, and calm voice answered. “I’m Yun Woo. Pleased to meet you.”
“The pleasure is mine, sir.”
“I’m sorry that we have to talk in such a bizarre setting. I’m in a bit of a circumstance. I hope you understand.”
“Oh, no. I was already told about your circumstance, Mr. Woo. Not a problem.”
A spy movie. Although she was still entirely clueless, the designer willingly went along with the author.
“It’s as if meeting a person from legend.”
At that, a burst of laughter sounded in the distance. Yun Woo was laughing.
“So, you really are real.”
“Yes, thankfully. It allows me to write more.”
Sensing that she had made an unnecessary remark, Jung Eun explained in a hurry, “You see, I’ve made a sketch of you based on how I imagined you’d look. I think that had something to do with what I said, haha.”
“Huh, interesting. What do I look like?”
“Incredibly handsome. There’s also a female version, as well as a version of you with long hair.”
Then, as the conversation cut off for a brief moment, Jung Eun set all of her thoughts aside and changed the subject altogether.
“I read your recent work very intently. I don’t know what to say other than that I’m impressed.”
“Thank you,” the author answered in a similar tone of voice to the one she had heard in the video. He was Yun Woo, and suppressing the excitement welling up from within, Jung Eun kept the conversation going, and things lightened up gradually. Then, by the time she was thinking about getting to the point, Yun Woo beat her to it and asked, “What are you confused about?”
“All of it,” she answered without hesitation. Since the central message of the novel wasn’t clear to her, it didn’t matter how much she understood everything else in the novel. The extent of her understanding of the novel was limited to the information on the surface, such as the fire and the characters. There were different shapes to the fire, and in that same manner, there were many different faces to the characters within the novel.
Then, the voice from the receiver validated her confusion and said, “I was confused myself while writing.”
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