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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
Having left the house early in the morning, Juho arrived at the park and took some time to stretch. There was nobody around, and that time, he was the first one to arrive. The other two would arrive at any minute. Then, opening his stance out to his shoulders’ width, Juho stretched his sides. A rotated world came into view. Everything was in their rightful place. At that moment, he saw a silhouette approaching him, and in order to greet the familiar figure, Juho straightened his back and opened his mouth… He tried to, anyway.
“Hey,” the figure greeted him in a calm tone of voice.
‘There’s no way he doesn’t know where I’m looking,’ Juho thought. Then, the wind blew against the figure’s face, blowing on the messy bangs that were covering his forehead.
Then, Juho asked Sung Pil once again, “Where are your eyebrows?”
There was nothing but flesh where his eyebrows were supposed to be. His thick, trademark eyebrows had gone missing, and it was in that state that Juho’s friend had come out to join him for morning exercises. Juho had never experienced anything like it.
“I shaved them.”
“You shaved them?”
Apparently, Sung Pil had shaved his perfectly fine eyebrows. Thanks to that, it dawned on Juho just how big of impact eyebrows had on one’s appearance. There was not a trace of shame or embarrassment on Sung Pil’s face. He seemed to have accepted the fact that he was responsible for his decisions. On the other hand, it was a good thing that his eyebrows hadn’t been shaved by another person, against his will. Did something cause him to resent his distinctive eyebrows?
“Why?” Juho asked for his reason.
“Because I couldn’t write.”
After the rather author-like answer, Juho couldn’t say anything in response. Then, his memory of the older Sung Pil crossed his mind. Although it was different from his current face, which lacked eyebrows, he still looked the same. Whether or not he had eyebrows, Sung Pil was Sung Pil. Juho looked intently at his bald face for a brief moment.
“Why couldn’t you write?” Juho asked, and just like previously, the answer came quickly.
“Because of Yun Woo.”
It seemed like Juho was at least partially responsible for the loss of Sung Pil’s eyebrows. As their eyes locked, Baron’s voice sounded off.
“You guys are early.”
Coming from behind, Baron was yet to grasp the situation. While Juho greeted him awkwardly, Sung Pil turned toward him, and Baron looked intently at something past Juho. Then, there was an awkward silence.
“Are you trying to be a rebel?”
At that, Juho couldn’t help but burst out laughing. It seemed like the morning exercise wasn’t going to happen. However, the weather didn’t allow them to stay out chatting for an extended period of time, so Juho took them to a nearby twenty-four-hour cafe. Located within the neighborhood, the cafe was quiet.
“It’s warm in here.”
The three took their seats, each with a cup of warm beverage in their hands. Because it was early in the morning still, the cafe was mostly empty. However, there were people making quick stops to buy a hot cup of coffee, such as the owner of a dry cleaner’s nearby, a corporate worker wearing a coat, or a university student wearing a padded jacket over their pajamas. After looking around the interior of the cafe for a little while, Juho opened his mouth and asked, “So, going back to our conversation earlier, you shaved your eyebrows because of Yun Woo?”
“Yun Woo? What’s he got to do with anything here?” Baron asked, and not knowing the answer himself, Juho shrugged. In the end, their eyes turned toward Sung Pil, who was drinking his chocolate mocha with a blank expression on his face, all the while missing his eyebrows.
“No, I shaved my eyebrows because I couldn’t write.”
“And the reason why you couldn’t write was Yun Woo, right?”
“Yep,” Sung Pil said, correcting even the seemingly minuscule difference.
“Why? Did he pick on you or something?” Baron asked, resting his chin on his hand while still looking intently at the missing eyebrows behind his bangs.
“No, he encouraged me if anything.”
Encouragement. That was what had made Sung Pil a Yun Woo fan. He had previously shared with Juho that he had felt comforted by Yun Woo’s writing.
“To tell you the truth, I finished a story recently, although it’s the first draft.”
“You mean the story about the bank?”
“Oh! That’s something to celebrate,” Baron said.
However, Sung Pil answered indifferently, “But I’m not very happy with how it turned out.”
“It’s missing something.”
“Well, it is the first draft. You can always improve on it as you revise.”
“No, that’s not what I mean,” Sung Pil said, and after a brief pause, he added, “I read ‘Sublimation.’ I was shocked.”
At his response, Baron looked intently at him for a little while and nodded quietly. Just from the sound of the word sublimation, he was able to get an idea of Sung Pil’s situation. Then, he looked at Juho, who was listening quietly, without responding in any way.
“Fire was terrifying, and sin still exists, yet I couldn’t figure out what. In the end, the book just ends while leaving the readers crippled with terror. It doesn’t comfort them in any way. Instead, it drives them into a corner with nothing but ambiguous, undecipherable emotions. I couldn’t believe he wrote that after ‘River.'”
“I agree. That ending was really something,” Baron murmured.
“How’s Yun Woo able to write like that? When I read my manuscript after reading ‘Sublimation,’ it just felt like trash.”
Juho felt the heat coming up from the mug within his hands, and Sung Pil’s low voice reminded him of the conversation he had had with Sang not too long ago. The romance write had said that there had to be aspiring writers who had given up on their dreams.
“So, are you gonna give up?” Juho asked in a calm tone of voice.
“No,” Sung Pil said emphatically. Despite the frustration that drove him to shave his eyebrows off, he wasn’t willing to give up. Unfortunately, his bald face made it somewhat difficult to take him seriously. Then, Sung Pil looked down and said, “It’s strange. There are no scores or right answers in writing, yet you just know when someone’s better than you. It was frustrating. My mind was in utter chaos, and I couldn’t write a word, so I tried looking for ways to divert myself.”
“And that’s how you came to shaving your eyebrows?”
“I thought I’d feel refreshed.”
“You do, so much so that you look cold.”
“But it made hardly a difference in reality.”
At that, Baron put his hand on his forehead, dumbfounded.
“You’re an oddball too, aren’t you?”
“I gotta admit, the lack of eyebrows really throws things off.”
“… Right. So, what are you gonna do? School’s about to start soon.”
“I’m sure my bangs will cover it up just fine.”
“I don’t think they’re doing as well as you think they are.”
“That’s OK. I don’t have friends, so I don’t have to worry about getting made fun of.”
“… Ain’t that a relief.”
Juho looked at Sung Pil conversing with Baron from the side.
“How about you, do you wanna meet Yun Woo?” Sung Pil asked, looking in Juho’s direction.
“Would you like to meet him?” Juho asked, but a stoic expression appeared on Sung Pil’s bald face, not even asking a question or trying to laugh it off like a joke. Then, Juho asked with a smile, “Do you wanna complain to him that you haven’t been able to write because of him and that you’re not satisfied with the novel you finished recently, and it’s driving you insane? So much so that you ended up shaving your own eyebrows off?”
After the question, he observed the expression on Sung Pil’s face.
“Do you wanna ask him about the ending of ‘Sublimation,’ and how it’s even possible to write something like that? If he’s hiding his age? If he has a ghostwriter? If he really managed to write that novel in a legal and legitimate way? Would you like to ask him what his secret is?”
“… No,” Sung Pil said in a delay. Nevertheless, it was an emphatic answer, and Juho was made certain by it. Sung Pil was doubting himself, and it had to have begun with the voice. Yun Woo had revealed his voice recently, and of course, his voice alone didn’t give enough information to enable one to figure out that Juho and Yun Woo were the same person. However, after that event, ‘Sublimation’ had been published, and Sung Pil had read the novel and its ending, which included a writing style that had an uncanny resemblance to Juho’s. Not only had Sung Pil read ‘Grains of Sand’ at Juho’s school’s festival, but he had also read a piece that Juho wrote in the Literature Club.
Sung Pil was quick to catch on to the meaning behind the questions Juho had just asked. Yet, he declined. Sung Pil didn’t want Yun Woo to reveal his identity in that moment, where they were: out in public.
“I’ll go see him in person.”
“By becoming an author.”
The internationally recognized author Yun Woo and an aspiring writer who was yet to even debut as an author. Unfortunately, Sung Pil’s lack of eyebrows got in the way of his lofty declaration.
“Yun Woo will head somewhere even further.”
At that, Sung Pil’s eyes widened slightly. Juho looked out the window and saw a bird flying by. Although he had no clue as to what kind it was, he was certain that it was flying past his sight.
Then, following his eyes and looking at the bird with Juho, Sung Pil soon nodded willingly. Yun Woo would go even further and soar up even higher. From under where his eyebrows had once been, his eyes burned with determination.
After walking around the park later into the day than usual, the three went their separate ways. Although there were pedestrians glancing in Sung Pil’s direction, there weren’t all that many who made a big deal out of it. Despite a group of people whispering to each other, Sung Pil paid no attention to them, and Juho applauded the aspiring writer, who was courageously confident. Then, after Sung Pil left and Juho was left alone with Baron, Baron asked, “What if you never see him again?”
To Baron, the conversation between Sung Pil, who was certain that he would be an author, and Juho, who knew he would become an author in the future, was filled with uncertainty. Looking at the bus stop in front of him, Juho saw countless people crossing paths. While there were people who needed to get off the bus, there were also those who needed to get on the bus, all at the same spot. To some, it was a destination, while to others, it was a starting point.
“That’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, he’s probably the one reader who’s closest from me.”
“Don’t you think Sung Pil would find that hurtful?”
“You seem to have already gotten close with him.”
“Don’t change the subject.”
Juho had no intention of doing so. Then, he looked at the bus as it took off.
“It’s fine. He’ll be an author, for sure, and he’ll meet Yun Woo too, eventually. I’m not sure what kind of conversation will take place then, but I’m sure he’ll find himself on his toes after seeing what kinds of books Yun Woo will come out with.”
“Aren’t you confident?” Although Juho denied it, Baron didn’t believe him. “I’m curious about his writing, too. I mean, shaving his own eyebrows off out of frustration? He can’t be in his right mind. Writing must be for the insane. Or people with split personalities.”
“Writing is for everyone. You’ve written in the past too, Baron,” Juho said honestly, and Baron raised both of his hands.
“Almost made a fool of myself there,” he said, waving his hefty hands and standing up straight.
“Your writing has a profound effect on many,” Baron added, looking in the direction Sung Pil had disappeared. “The ending of ‘Sublimation’ will be talked about for a long time. Heck, it might even end up in textbooks.”
Juho listened to him quietly.
“All the critics are raving about how great the novel is, but none of them can really offer any real explanation. They’re just saying, ‘What was thought to be an ideal has taken place like by coincidence.'”
Then, a motorcycle rushed past in front of them, roaring thunderously and making people around frown. However, in the middle of that, a whisper reached Juho and Juho only.
“You’re an incredible author,” Baron said in a serious tone. There was admiration, awe, and also a sense of concern in his voice. “If you ever find yourself struggling with something, let me know.”
For that reason, rather than denying it, Juho answered willingly. The traffic light changed from red to green, and because they were the only two people standing in front of the light, the cars stopped way past the white line where they were supposed to stop, looking to hog the road at any given minute. Then, as Baron took a step forward, Juho said, “Don’t worry…”
“… I have plenty of stories I want to write, still.”
Oblivious to what Juho had said, Baron crossed the street, and after watching him for a little while, Juho, too, turned around.
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