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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“And, that’s all for the day.”
“Good job, everyone.”
At the end of filming, the set was filled with the sound of the filming crew acknowledging each other for their hard work, and one of them was Ji Hye Goo, who made her way to her van while drying her hair with a towel. Then, as soon as her back hit the soft backrest of the warm, cozy van, the actress let out a deep sigh, filled with a sense of relief and accomplishment.
“Ji Hye, you were amazing til the end,” her manager, who had been waiting for her in the car with the heater turned on ahead of time, said while sticking his thumb up. That day was the last day of filming, and next to the actress, was a pile of crumpled up scripts. She had always given it her best in an attempt to get that perfect take and she had always wanted to be the best there was. She wanted to be able to express a wide array of emotions, and as an actress, that desire had become something natural and, in some ways, even obligatory.
“I’m pretty happy with how things turned out today, too,” the actress said playfully, and the manager played along with a smile.
“Yun Woo must have been a big help.”
“Mr. Woo is seriously an incredible author. He’s astounding,” Ji Hye said as she picked up a book from under the piles of crumpled up scripts. It was a literary magazine, written by nine authors, on the subject of death. It was a collaboration of some of the top authors in Korea. From San Jung Youn, who was the very first recipient of an international award in Italy, to Joon Soo Bong, who was on the rise as of late, the list of authors included some of the most famous and familiar names in Korean literature such as Seo Joong Ahn or Dong Gil Uhm, the youngblood of detective novels, Mideum Choo, and the leading figure of Korean horror novels, Dae Soo Na. On top of that, the list went on with the most recent winner of the Dong Kyung Literary Award, Geun Woo Yoo, and the name of the person whose thoughts alone made the hearts of many jump, Yun Woo.
‘The Beginning and the End’ contained Yun Woo’s piece by the name of ‘River,’ which was often credited as the piece that showed up those who looked down at the young author. It had successfully managed to remove most preconceived notions about the young author, leaving numerous critics and fans impressed. People either grew fond of Yun Woo or deepened their preexisting affection for the author, and it was the same way for Ji Hye. Yun Woo’s writing had a powerful impact on her acting. During the filming of a scene where she had to portray death, she had always brought a copy of ‘River’ with her, constantly thinking back on it on set. Ever since reading the short story, her portrayal of death had improved significantly.
Every time she read ‘River,’ she always felt something welling up from within, making her shake her head violently in order to shake it off. It made her feel as though she knew what death really was, as well as the reason for her birth and the direction she was headed to in life. It allowed her to indulge in her arrogant yet blissful delusion, all without a sense of guilt.
Yun Woo’s writing was comparable to a skilled actor’s performance. The audience would receive the emotions expressed by the author with their hearts open. When he breathed, the audience breathed as well, and when he died, the audience shed tears of sorrow. The readers were able to understand and accept his stories, being closer to them than anybody else.
“Sigh,” the actress let out, patting her hair with the towel. The cloth absorbed the moisture in her hair. Yun Woo had been of incredible help to her, and thanks to him, she had been able to die better than anyone else and finish filming in one piece.
“You can read that book now, right?”
At the manager’s question, the actress smiled brightly. The novel he had published within a year of teaching the actress about death. The very book that shattered the worries of those who had doubted him. The book responsible for placing the author in the middle of all sorts of horror stories. ‘Sublimation,’ AKA The Black Book. The publishing company had revealed that the author had been part of designing the famous black cover. Although she had bought it the day it was published, she had been putting off reading it in order to focus on filming. After comforting herself repeatedly that she’d read after filming had ended and that that day wasn’t far away, she had endured as though going through a miserable diet routine.
Now, the day had finally come. After drying her hair, Ji Hye went out in order to say goodbye to the filming crew once again and finalize her future schedule with them. Then, as the actress enjoyed her long-anticipated book, the van took her home after everything had been put in order.
The first thing that came to her attention was the insatiable fire, despite it having swallowed everything around it already. In the moving car, Ji Hye turned the pages skillfully. Even without readers having to make an effort to concentrate, Yun Woo’s writing tended to guide them naturally. Yet, determined to not miss a single word, the actress read through the novel cautiously and intently while the van repeated the process of stopping and moving.
“Ji Hye, we’re here,” the manager called to her upon arriving at the parking lot, which had taken them two and a half hours to do. However, the actress gave no answer.
“You go on ahead.”
As the flustered manager looked back in her direction, he saw that the actress looked extremely bothered, unlike her usual self. The manager had been working with her for a decade, and just like her widely-perceived image of being positive and healthy, Ji Hye Goo, one of the top stars in Korea, was as wise as her name. Well versed in interpersonal interaction, she never gave into anger or annoyance easily, and while she was friendly, she was never excessively so.
(TL’s Note: Ji Hye means wisdom in Korean.)
However, there had been rare occasions when Ji Hye had worn that expression on her face. It had happened when she hadn’t been treated fairly or had been disrupted in the middle of a performance. During an informal occasion, Ji Hye had shared that she had lingering displeasure within her of when she couldn’t express her emotions to the degree she had in mind, and the manager had interpreted that as her feeling bothered, a feeling that rose up when a straight line got crooked. After a messy coloring job that neglected the perfect outline of a circle or after finding a tiny speckle on a white garment. Something that came from the very first handprint on a new car or from an mismatched pair of chopsticks. They all accompanied a sense of displeasure, and having worked with the actress for the last decade, the manager knew instinctively that that was what she was feeling. She had been bothered beyond belief by the voice coming from elsewhere, pulling her out of her immersion of the scene in the novel.
“Is everything OK?”
“I’ll come out after I’m done reading,” she said in a calm tone of voice. However, when the manager studied her appearance, she was quite tense, all while wearing an expression that was the polar opposite of ‘Sublimation,’ the novel she was reading. She looked like she was never going to put the black book down, and without saying anything, the manager got out of the car with the key still left in the ignition. With the manager gone, she was all alone and she didn’t come out of the car until the sun had completely set and risen again the next morning.
“Ha,” she let out as she closed the book. ‘What’s this ending? I don’t get it. I don’t get what Yun Woo did here.’ She realized that she had been influenced by the author without a clue as to how. The book had somehow managed to overwhelm her completely even before she had read it. Then, remembering the last scene she had just filmed the night before, a sense of relief sank into her, followed by the thought of the satisfying portrayal of death, which was still fresh in her mind.
Yun Woo’s writing was like a performance from a talented actor. An image of an empty, well-lit stage popped up in her mind. The talented actor had left without even a goodbye. Then, another actor appeared onstage, an actor who was slightly older and carried a weightier presence. However, that actor was nowhere near as calm or graceful as the previous actor. On top of that, he had a nonchalant and shameless attitude about him. Shallow, and indecent. Yet, he was a good actor. A famous actor. The distinction between the two became fuzzier and more difficult. What set them apart from each other? What separated before and after? There was no way to know. Were the two actors inherently different? Were they different actors? What if it was the same actor all along, tricking the audience with his skills, which were beyond comprehension? What if it was a performance that tricked even the actors? Ji Hye’s heart began to beat faster, and the fact that she could no longer decipher it came with a sense of pleasure. Then, she covered her face with her hands, feeling like she would cry at any given minute.
“I am me.”
What sounded like an excuse came out of her mouth behind her hands.
“I’m serious. All you gotta do is write.”
“No. You, of all people, have no right to tell me things like that. I find it rather arrogant. Kind of like Yun Pil.”
“So, you agree that Yun Pil is arrogant?”
Burying her face in her hands, Mideum groaned in pain, and after having been summoned somewhat against his will, Juho was now dealing with her. He was well acquainted with her drunkard-like words by that point.
As he stared at her for a brief moment, Dong Gil asked while wearing his usual, cold expression, “So, you wrote this ending, right?”
“Who else? It was published with Yun Woo’s name on it.”
“I’m just having reasonable doubt.”
“I understand,” Juho said calmly, and at that, Dong Gil’s expression softened up a bit.
“I know that you don’t really have a reason to pull of something like that. I mean, it wouldn’t make sense to hire another author when you’re near the very end of the novel.”
“So, does that mean you have a split personality?”
There was no end to Dong Gil’s doubt, and unfortunately, he wasn’t the only person who responded that way. In reality, there had been all sort of horror stories, which were far worse than Dong Gil’s conjectures, floating around the internet. Yun Woo, sublimated.
“I just changed the writing style at the very end so that it would fit whatever was going on better,” Juho told the truth with honesty. However, the more the authors listened, the more bitter their expressions grew.
“If it was that simple, I would have been doing it already!” Mideum shouted, and Dong Gil stopped her emphatically because they were at a restaurant. Even though they were in a room, there was no promise that the walls would keep their voices from getting out if they kept raising them. Then, Juho cut a small piece of chicken and brought it up to his mouth. Contrary to what he had been told about getting a free meal, what had really been waiting for him at the restaurant had been an interrogation.
“Pyung Jin Lee’s been drooling all over your novel. He’s not going to critique it, apparently,” Sang Choi said with his mouth full.
“Why would he drool all over my novel?”
“Hello? Because what you wrote was out of this world! Yun Woo is a mystery to most people, and do you know how many people out there are prone to thinking that you have a split personality? Personally, I think you had some sort of trick up your sleeve, a trick that no one can know unless you tell them. When it comes to legality, I say we set it aside for now.”
At that, Juho quietly locked eyes with the author, and after a snicker, Sang changed the subject, “Anyway, that was a smart move you made, sending society such heartrending message after a piece like ‘River.'”
“Whoever said anything about a heartrending message?”
“Playing coy, huh?” Sang said, cleansing his palette with the glass of red wine.
“‘Live. Live on.’ That was the central message of ‘River,” he said, pointing at Juho with his fork. “And then, ‘Resist!’ That was the message that followed after the short story. Am I wrong?”
“Is that how you interpreted it?”
“Identity crisis, an ego gone astray, and the missing subject. Hell awaits those who doubted and argued, despite having wandered around the wilderness,” Sang said while narrowing his eyes, emphasizing the word hell. “A hell made of sentences that couldn’t have possibly been written by Yun Woo.”
Juho mashed a piece of chicken with his knife, making a soft noise as it rubbed against his plate.
“Do you doubt me as well, Mr. Choi?” he asked light-heartedly, and the romance writer shook his head in denial.
“No, I’m grateful.”
As he answered Juho in a calm tone of voice, all the other authors looked in his direction.
“‘An author writes a piece that brings up questions regarding his personality.’ You have no clue how shocking that would be to any author. Oh, no. Not you. You’d never understand. I’m sure there are a number of aspiring authors who’ve given up writing after reading your novel.”
It was a rather cruel remark. Yun Woo. Genius. Stellar. Mysterious. Those who were led to doubting their own identity by that mysterious existence soon found themselves in a swamp of despair.
“‘Sublimation’ is just the right book for this age. One of the reasons your readers are so obsessed with you is that they are able to relate to a story that is so terrifyingly unrealistic. Why do they relate to it? Because the terror in ‘Sunlimation’ isn’t very far off from the terror in reality. People living as cogwheels in this modern society are wearing out their identities, day by day.”
The room sank into silence, and Juho slowly raised his hand to scratch his neck.
“That’s an interesting way to look at it.”
“You’re a cheeky one, you know that? I just pray that there won’t be idiots who try to change their writing style because of you.”
At Sang’s remark, Mideum lifted her head as if pricked in the heart. Then, looking in Juho’s direction with narrowed eyes, she said, “Choi, isn’t he just like Yun Pil?”
“I’ve never read the series, so I wouldn’t know.”
Ignoring the apparent look of hurt on her face, Sang said, “I’m sure my writing will improve because of yours. After all, I am Sang Choi, the top.”
Listening to Sang’s remark, Juho felt like he had gotten a glimpse of how his writing affected his fellow authors. A piece of writing that had left its creator’s hand tended to grow in size, much like a lifeform. It felt like a lifeform that had borne out of thin air rather than that his own hands were selling it out to the world. As it caught people’s eyes, those lifeforms provoked emotions, and as an author, Juho couldn’t do anything to control that. He was powerless. Yet, he couldn’t help but smile ever so slightly at that sense of pressure.
“Now, I’d like to hear more about this alternate writing style of yours,” Dong Gil said quietly, wearing the look of a reporter staring at his prey right before his eyes. There was doubt and curiosity in those eyes that were yet to be appeased. Then, with an awkward smile, Juho spoke as sparingly as possible.
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