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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“You? You were?”
“Yes, it was actually a lot of work. Having to play detective and dance and all.”
“I’m not quite sure what any of that means, but how interesting!”
It was Yun Woo’s personal life, and curiosity and interest were bound to follow. Although Jung Eun hoped the author would be a little more specific about his life, Yun Woo went no further than he had done. Feeling somewhat unsatisfied, the designer fiddled about with her well-decorated nails, complete with geometrical patterns and stones, feeling their textures. The parts that were glued onto her colorful nails sparkled brightly, and they were quite beautiful. It was out of those very fingertips that her designs would flourish. Then, taking the notebook out of her bag, which she had prepared ahead of time, she asked, “So, does that mean the chaos within the novel was intended?”
She was referring to her experience reading the novel, which had left her as though she were lost in the middle of nowhere, making her wonder if that had been the intent of the author. Then, after a brief pause, Yun Woo said, “Hm… I think ‘imprecise’ would be a more accurate way of describing the novel.”
“Imprecise? What’s the difference between that and confusing?”
“First of all, there’s the reading experience. The readers should be able to read through the novel uninterrupted.”
Just like the young author had said, Jung Eun had been able to read through the novel without losing her concentration. The novel read seamlessly, and her experience of having read through the entire manuscript the moment she took it from Nam Kyung’s hands was just further proof of that. Despite a reading experience that had felt chaotic, she had been able to read the novel with intense concentration.
“I mean, it’s not the most complicated plot.”
It wasn’t that the novel was convoluted. The lack of any labels or clear boundaries within the novel had simply made it unclear. At that moment, the reason for why she had been struggling so much with coming up with a design for that particular project began to dawn on the designer. Then, the young author said, “That novel is like a padlock. Only after you open up the plot, can you see what’s within it.”
“What’s in it?”
“The fact is that you can’t know what’s behind the padlock until you see it with your own eyes. Even if a person next to you were to whisper the answer, the box would be nothing more than a mere box. On the other hand, if one believes that it contains a deity within it, the box becomes something that they won’t even dare touch.”
“I think I’m getting the gist of it, but I’m still not quite sure what you’re trying to say.”
“It’s still confusing, right?”
‘Is this really what a conversation with a teenager sounds like?’ Jung Eun thought to herself.
An image of Yun Woo popped up in her mind. He was wearing a pair of glasses and dressed up in a suit. While his downward glance gave off an intellectual vibe, his smile was accompanied by dimples and beaming eyes. The bags bulging ever so slightly under his eyes were telling her that he was still young. Then, while jotting things down on her notebook in search for keywords, she made a rough sketch in order to give the image in her head shape. A lightly-drawn circle. It would soon become Yun Woo’s face.
“It seems like we’ll have to go on for quite a while longer. Why don’t we discuss this in person?”
Then, the designer’s hands came to an abrupt halt.
“Wait, are you serious, Mr. Woo?”
“Yes. To tell you the truth, I’m near your office at the moment. Oh, also, do you think you can do me a huge favor? I forgot my wallet at home. Do you think you can take some cash out on your way? I think there’s a bank nearby.”
Cash? Jung Eun blinked in confusion. Money? Yun Woo? Her mind filled up to the brim with questions as the image of the author in her head evaporated all at once. Suit, glasses, intellectual demeanor. All of it.
“Yes?” Yun Woo answered. He really was Yun Woo, and the fact that the editor in charge of him had brought her to where she was made that an undeniable truth. She remembered receiving the manuscript from Nam Kyung vividly. Yun Woo’s manuscript, at that.
‘He forgot his wallet? How did he manage to come all the way here, then?… It has to be a lie,’ the designer thought to herself as a painful memory rose up to the surface of her mind. She still remembered having lost fifty dollars to a man who claimed to have left his wallet in the cab. People often tended to fall for such obvious lies, and doubt began to sprout in her mind.
“So…” Jung Eun repeated herself absentmindedly as the realistic possibility managed to get past the thick wall of questions in her mind. ‘This is not Yun Woo. He might not be him. What if Nam Kyung’s the one behind all of this? What if he’s the one who’s making me talk to some fraud? Even the manuscript could be fake. Considering his job, he has to know at least one or two people who are decent writers.’
Then, the end of ‘Sublimation’ came to her all of a sudden. The ending that gave off the strangest feeling that it wasn’t written by Yun Woo. Things hadn’t been adding up all along. ‘C’mon, a spy movie? Really?’
She no longer planned to address the person on the other end of the line, Yun Woo. Then, she looked in his editor’s direction, where he stood next to a gingko tree with arms crossed, without a clue as to what was taking place within the booth.
“Thank you,” Yun Woo’s voice reverberated in her ear. They were the same words in the same tone to the ones she had heard from the video of Kelley Coin’s recent interview. But was it really him? Was it really the same one she had heard on the internet? Suddenly, she couldn’t remember the video she had watched more than thirty times or the voice that supposedly belonged to the mysterious young author. Everything had evaporated, leaving nothing behind.
“Is this really Yun Woo?” she asked the silly question, and the reverberation of her flustered voice returned to her ears after having echoed throughout the booth.
The booth felt suffocating, and the cars rushed past it. What was the truth?
It was a lie. He wasn’t Yun Woo, after all. Upon reaching that conclusion, another question rose to her mind: ‘Does that mean none of our conversations nor everything that I’ve been getting impressed by so far was real?’
“… about having suggested talking on the phone call after watching a spy movie,” the calm, serene voice added.
“… Pardon?” Jung Eun let out. “… This really is Yun Woo, right?”
“Yes,” the brief answer sounded from the receiver.
“You mean, you never watched a spy movie?”
“What about the money?”
“My wallet is safe and sound in my pocket.”
“… Wait, hold on. What is this about?” she let out as though about to vent angrily at any given minute.
Then, Yun Woo added, “This is what that novel of mine is like.”
The moment those words entered the designer’s mind, the only thing that remained within it was a deep sense of pleasure. Then, she looked in Nam Kyung’s direction once again. That time, she locked eyes with the familiar face as he smiled and waved. Jung Eun had been working with the editor for quite some time now. However, everything had dispersed into thin air, like smoke, including the trust she had built with the editor throughout her career.
After the thoughts had already entered her mind, she wasn’t able to trust Yun Woo’s answers entirely. There was nothing around her that would prove that she was talking to Yun Woo, not anywhere. That’s what the novel, ‘Sublimation,’ was like. As she remained silent, the voice spoke up from the receiver.
“Now, I’d like to ask you a question as well,” the voice said. “Are you really the designer?”
They had been strangers to each other, and she was just another stranger, locked away in a box.
“Yes. This is Jung Eun Kong, the designer.”
However, there was no evidence that would offer any final explanation. She had no other option but to hope that the voice would trust her.
“This novel is about self-identity, isn’t it?” she asked, finally grasping something. The realization came with a breath of fresh air. ‘Finally!’ Once the keyword rose to her mind, she made a quick sketch of a box with the front and the back burnt away. Her nails sparkled with every movement of her hand, and it was unquestionable that those colorful nails belonged to her.
“Are you still confused?”
“I gotta tell you. That was such an effective description,” Jung Eun said, winding down.
“I’ll arrange a meal with you, soon. I’ll see you then.”
“… Can you afford to show your face?”
“Yes. You’ve been designing the covers for my books, so I wanted to show you my appreciation for your work. I know a place. When would you prefer to meet?”
After a brief time thinking, the designer answered, “Why don’t we meet after I finish this project? I just have way too many ideas at the moment.”
A number of good ideas came to her, and the focus of the design became more defined. As things became clear, Jung Eun felt like she had come across the answer rather than a clue, and she found herself in high spirits.
“Is there an image that you had in mind for the design of the cover?” she asked. If the author had an image in mind, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to reflect it broadly in the design.
“Let’s see…” Yun Woo said, dragging on. The designer waited patiently for his answer, anticipating what it would be. “A crow.”
It was an answer that was both random and Yun Woo-like. After all, birds were like a symbol for him. But why, of all birds, a crow?”
“Why?” Jung Eun asked.
To which, Yun Woo answered light-heartedly, “Because it’s about self-identity.”
At that, the designer asked no further questions. Rather, she listed the characteristics of the bird in her head. Black feathers, ominous, wings, soaring. Her premonition told her that a good product was at hand.
“Thank you for your cooperation.”
“No, thank YOU.”
Then, she realized that it was time for her to hang up. ‘When will I hear his voice again after I hang up? Will I really meet him in person? Maybe that was also a lie,’ she thought to herself. In that case, this really would be the end.
Yet, she felt no lingering attachment because of her unexplainable faith that Yun Woo would keep writing, and that she would be able to hear his voice once again if he did.
“Please keep up the good work.”
“Yes, ma’am,” the author answered in a calm tone of voice. Waiting patiently for his goodbye, the designer held on to the receiver. “Oh, I’ve been meaning to bring it up for a while now, but I like your nails.”
“Take care, now.”
“Wait! Hold on! Mr. Woo!”
Just like that, the phone call came to an end, and after staring at the receiver in a daze, she ran out of the booth and looked around frantically. The streets were quite crowded, and she didn’t know what Yun Woo looked like. In other words, she would never find him, no matter how hard she looked. However, she still couldn’t stop looking.
At that moment, a person in comfortable attire came out of the convenience store with a black plastic bag in their hand. ‘Is it him?’ she wondered as yet another person wearing a hat walked out of the other convenience store right next to it. In the end, she turned around and charged toward Nam Kyung.
“Mr. Woo complimented my nails!”
“Wha? Oh, uh, that’s great!”
“No, no, that’s not that I’m saying!”
From then on, Nam Kyung had to put up with the designer, without a clue as to what had happened that day.
“Man, it came out great!”
Agreeing with Mr. Maeng, Nam Kyung picked up the book in order to check how it had turned out. A lot of work had gone into the making of that book.
Made of a reflective material, the book was black all around, and the title, ‘Sublimation,’ was written at the top, like smoke. The black cover of the book gave off the impression that the readers were about to be part of something greater than normal, as if looking at a closeup image of an object. While it looked like a house that had burned down, it also looked like a pile of ashes. The true identity of the ominous color revealed itself when one looked at the cover designs as a whole. Opening the book, Nam Kyung flattened it so the front and back covers showed one image. It was a pair of eyes. More specifically, a crow’s eyes.
“This… Is what makes it.”
Since the the black cover carried such an unmistakable presence, the meeting went on for a relatively short time. The publishing company had intentionally spread the news that Yun Woo had personally taken part in designing the cover for his novel this time. While most fans’ expectations were through the roof, there were also voices of concerns: ‘Will he be able to outdo ‘River?’ What if he’s reached his limit? Shouldn’t he have taken a longer break? What if we’re disappointed?’
However, Nam Kyung took no interest in such matters. After reading the novel, he knew immediately that Yun Woo was like an ever-flowing stream of water.
When he flipped the book, the reviews came into view, and among them, was a review by San Jung Youn herself, who had described the book as having the power to stir up doubt within the hearts of its readers. Doubt of their own existence.
“The number of preorders is beyond what we’d imagined. We just started printing another fifty thousand copies, and the book isn’t even out yet.”
“I told you, fifty thousand was way too little to start with. Yun Woo isn’t just a popular author.”
Considering the average two to five thousand copies the first print of a novel got, fifty-thousand was a massive number. It was a number that could only be seen next to the names of the top authors in the nation, or of internationally-recognized authors. However, the author responsible for this number was Yun Woo, whose novel ‘Sound of Wailing’ had sold more than two million copies in the last year and a half. If sales overseas were brought into the equation, the number grew into an astronomical one. The ‘Language of God’ had exceeded the sales of the first Korean novel that had been published in the US by a significant margin, following after ‘Sound of Wailing’ at thirty thousand copies, and ‘Trace of a Bird’ at twenty thousand copies. On top of that, Yun Woo’s books were still in print.
“Well, we couldn’t really do anything about it. If we invest too much on the first batch, we’ll have less money to spend elsewhere.”
“That’s what I find frustrating. I mean, Yun Woo’s books practically advertise themselves. It costs us hardly anything.”
“We should suggest printing twice the amount next time,” Mr. Maeng said in order to calm Nam Kyung down. Then, taking a deep breath, the editor brushed his fingertips down the book’s cover.
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