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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“Sigh,” Juho let out deeply while massaging his tense shoulders. Feeling dazed after writing intensively, Juho stared blankly at the edge of his table. Then, he felt a burning gaze on his face. It was from the twins.
“What kind of piece did you write this time?”
At that, Juho looked down at his manuscript filled with words.
“A failure,” he answered briefly, and a blatant look of distrust appeared on the twins’ faces. Unfortunately, he was telling the truth. It was a short piece about fingernails, which was about a protagonist waking up in a world where devoid of the concept of fingernails.
“‘Fingernail’ is a word that refers to a rigid surface made of keratin on your fingertips,” Juho said, spreading his fingers simultaneously. The twins fixed their eyes on them. “The characters in the novel don’t mention anything about them.”
In the world in which the protagonist found himself upon waking, the only thing that had changed from reality was the nonexistence of fingernails. Nobody took interest in the tiny, minuscule object at the ends of their fingertips, and just like everyone around him, the narrator lived on in peace. Then, exactly a decade later, the narrator noticed the subtle change that had been hiding in plain sight. With the exception of the narrator himself, nobody else knew about the existence of fingernails or even brought up the word.
“But it’s part of their bodies. Fingernails are one of the protective tools our bodies possess,” Gong Il said. Fingernails were tiny shields essentially, which fought on the frontlines in order to protect their owners from getting hurt when they came into contact with objects.
Then, ‘Kong Pat’ said, “Maybe they thought it wasn’t significant enough.”
“Yeah! Man, no wonder we click!” Seo Kwang said from the side, laughing.
Then, resting his chin on his hand, Juho brought up a question regarding his own story, “What kind of meaning would fingernails take on in that world?”
That time, Bo Suk burst into laughter. In a world where fingernails were neglected, how would nail clippers have developed? As long as there was something growing at the end of one’s fingers, there had to be an invention that came about in order to keep that growth under control.
“Maybe an average trash can? If it’s something that nobody pays attention to, then it’s not going to be treated with any respect either,” Bo Suk said, but Seo Kwang shook his head. Before anybody realized, he had stopped writing and fallen deep in thought.
“No, no. We hardly even recognize dead skin on our own bodies, but we don’t feel like we are taking out the trash when we bathe. The way I see it, they might be luxury goods that sell at ridiculous prices.”
“No way. How can one be indifferent when it comes to spending?”
“That’s where the word ‘squander’ comes in. If it was a scenario where the price of one’s decision came back in the far, distant future, it would be more than possible. Think about all the pollution that’s taking place around us. Yes, it’s alarming, but disposable goods are far too convenient.”
“But they’re still not the same as luxury goods.”
“Well, yeah. True. But it’s just a thought.”
“Does that mean they don’t even have things like nail art?” Sun Hwa interjected, and Juho nodded slowly.
“Nope. It’s a world where colorful nails are unthinkable. You won’t find them anywhere in that world.”
“I mean, it’s not like they would make trash look all pretty or anything, right?”
“Why not? There’s graffiti. Paintings on walls,” Juho said.
“Fingernails are even less significant than walls in the story,” Bom said quietly.
“I do feel kind of bad for fingernails though. They might be small, but life would be so much more painful without them.”
At that, Juho chuckled quietly and explained the secret behind fingernails within the story, “People in the story have really strong fingernails, so nobody’s worried about hurting their hands. They don’t know the pain of losing their nails.”
In that case, it did make sense that those people would think so little of their fingernails. The club members began to understand the world of Juho’s story little better.
“How interesting! That sounds amazing! I don’t get what makes it a failure.”
“Because there are nail clippers.”
After his response, Sun Hwa furrowed her forehead, and Juho added, “The way I see it, people in the story’s world have to have something much more advanced than nail clippers. If they want to clip their nearly-indestructible fingernails, then the tool they cut their nails with has to be just as strong. BUT, that means people are aware of how strong their nails are, in which case, they should be aware of how incredible their nails are as well.”
Something didn’t quite add up. Of course, it was always possible to add a lengthy backstory as explanation, along with sentences that would fill the gaps between nail clippers, fingernails, and people.
“For example, making the origin of nail clippers a mystery, just like fingernails. People just find them on their fingers after they’re born, and nobody knows how they came about.”
“That might work.”
“Yeah, that sounds good. It’d be interesting to include things like: evolution vs. creation of nail clippers.”
The club members focused on the scenario as if they tried to figure out the answer. Unfortunately, that was the very problem Juho was wrestling with. What he really wanted to write about had nothing to do with someone who understood the significance of fingernails or the evolutionary theory of nail clippers. It was supposed to be a story about arrogant people who had eliminated fingernails from their lives.
“There’s no way around this. It’s a failure.”
“But what are we supposed to do if you consider something like that a failure?” Kong Pat said, and Seo Kwang looked at him with blatant mockery.
“You got guts comparing yourself to this guy, you know that?
“… I’m sorry. I got carried away.”
“Yeah, that’s right. ‘Know thyself’ is the single most important phrase to remember when writing,” Seo Kwang said, despite being the person who wrote the least in the entire club, and Sun Hwa looked at him with disgust.
“The portrayal in this scene, though, is really hard-hitting,” Bo Suk said with the manuscript in her hands. The part of the story she was pointing to with her fingernails was the scene in which the protagonist found himself perplexed by the peculiar state of his body, his fingers, in particular when waking up in the morning. However, upon realizing the lack of any noticeable difference in his appearance, the protagonist eventually lost interest in the mysterious change in his body. The twins stared intently at that particular part of the story.
“It must be something about talented writers. Being able to write a scene that is completely unrealistic, yet making it sound completely convincing, as if they themselves went through it at some point.”
“Like ‘River,'” Gong Il added.
“Maybe,” Juho said carelessly, and with the exception of the twins, everyone fixed their eyes on him.
“Are you sure you’re not from another world or something?”
“You got me,” Juho said, taking the manuscript back from Bo Suk.
“We all come from our mothers’ wombs, and maybe those, too, can be interpreted as other worlds completely isolated from the world outside them.”
“Oh, the power of literature,” Sun Hwa let out as Juho created whole worlds with mere words.
Then, Gong Pal asked, “So, what are you gonna do with that piece?”
“Put it in a box,” Juho said. The piece would end up in one of the stacks of boxes that towered over Juho’s height as the newest addition to the countless failures that Juho had gone through.
“How’s the transcription going?”
“Oh, it’s going well.”
After finishing ‘Grains of Sand’ without trouble, Gong Pal chose ‘Sublimation’ as his next project. Although Gong Il had chosen ‘Sound of Wailing,’ she had been scolded by Mr. Moon, who had told her that it wasn’t good to transcribe books written by the same author over and over again. As much as his words had been directed at Gong Il, they applied to Gong Pal just as much, and the twins both made up their minds not to transcribe books written by Yun Woo for a while after they had finished.
When Juho asked Gong Pal about his progress, the freshman told him that he had just passed the beginning of the main event. Then, after hesitating briefly, he said in a whisper, “To tell you the truth, I tried transcribing the end first.”
“I understand,” Seo Kwang interjected.
“The conclusion of ‘Sublimation’ is like a chuck flap tail beef, so to speak.”
Not knowing what chuck flap tails were, most of the club members couldn’t understand his reference. When discussing the best-tasting cuts, chuck flap tail would often come up as the best cut for grilling. It was also known for its value, as one cow was capable of producing only five kilograms of it.
While Seo Kwang was occupied with giving a speech on the marbling of the cut and how juicy it was, Juho asked Gong Pal, “So, how was it working your way down from ‘chuck flap tail?'”
“So…” Gong Pal hesitated. In the end, failing to find the right words to describe the flavor, the freshman said, “For one, it was definitely worth the title of being the best. And…”
“That nothing would be anywhere near as good, no matter what I put it in my mouth,” Gong Pal said, his eye moving busily. “I wanted more people to appreciate how incredible it is.”
“I see,” Juho said, nodding.
“It’s damp here.”
Juho was met by a damp, moist air and a sweet fragrance as he opened the glass door to the entrance of the botanical garden. As for the sweet fragrance in the air, it wasn’t all that difficult to figure out the source. The garden was blooming with flowers, which had been hiding during the winter and budded after the harsh weather had passed. After looking briefly at each of their unique shapes and colors, Juho made his way further into the garden.
“Hello,” Juho said, seeing Nabi, who he hadn’t seen in a while, as he opened the door. Nabi also greeted the young author gladly. Looking just as confident as ever, she was dressed in her professional attire, impeccably groomed. On the table, were her phone and two cups of coffee.
“I’m seeing more flowers in the garden.”
“I saw. The butterflies should be getting busy right about now.”
Seeing Juho sitting down, a confident smile appeared on the agent’s face.
“I’m sure you already know that sales of ‘Language of God’ have been skyrocketing, am I right?” she asked, looking like she was in a great mood.
“Yes. It’s because of the Annular Award, right?”
“Thirty copies are being sold every minute on the internet as we speak.”
As the words ‘Nominated for the Annular Award’ ended up on the book’s cover despite it having already been a bestseller, ‘Language of God’ had been selling at twice the rate that it had sold previously.
“The Annular Award is given by professionals rather than readers, so the fact that your novel was nominated for it essentially means your work is being recognized by the committee. It’s like slapping a phrase on it that says, ‘This great book will help improve your life.'”
Like sneakers worn by professional athletes or makeup products used by celebrities, consumers knew immediately, even before learning of what the product was made or how it was made, that: “This is a good product.” In that same manner, books were no different. His novel had been recognized by the judging committee of a internationally-recognized literary award.
With obvious joy still in her voice, Nabi said, “Your popularity is through the roof in the US, and everyone’s desperate to import books with the name ‘Yun Woo’ on it. I’ve never seen anything like it. We’d always worked our butts off just to be included in the fraction of a percentage.”
Translated literature only took up a 2-percent portion of the entire literary market in the US, and a number of countries competed fiercely against one another in order to be included in that seemingly insignificant figure. Then, Nabi remembered working restlessly in order to push through that narrow threshold of the US literary market. More accurately, for Korean literature to make it through.
“Nothing like this has ever happened before,” she said with a trace of sorrow.
“Your books are selling out everywhere, and it’s hard to keep track of how many bookstores are selling out. Have you heard of a Korean novel selling out in bookstores overseas? On top of all the daily additional orders, there’s more being printed in every country we’ve exported to.”
Simply put, it was selling like there was no tomorrow. The power of the Annular Award, which was one of the four major, internationally-recognized, science fiction literary awards, was astounding. On top of that, combined with the uniqueness of the young author, the synergistic effect just yielded even larger figures. According to Nabi, her agency was pouring all of their resources into their first world-renowned author. Despite sounding like she was complaining about how busy she was with all the interview requests coming in from all over the country and overseas, there was a smile on her face. Never in his life, did he take so much interest in the occupation called ‘publishing agent,’ and considering her personality, there was nothing she wouldn’t like about her job.
“There are videos of famous critics admiring ‘Language of God’ floating around the internet, even with Korean subtitles. Both doubting and astonished that you actually created all those languages,” Nabi said, her eyes sparkling with dangerous determination.
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