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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
Juho walked up a long hill. Although the incline looked quite steep from afar, in reality, it wasn’t as bad as it looked. However, if one were to turn back, they would be greeted with an intimidatingly steep incline once more. Looking at the grass growing out of the cracks of the buildings around him and from the ground, Juho made his way up the hill he had climbed a number of times already. Then, a beast cried out in the distance.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Baek.”
Juho heard a thin voice speaking near Yun Seo’s house. Then, at the sight of a man with both of his hands full of things lowering his head, Juho stopped in his tracks. In front of the man, was Yun Seo.
“You take care of yourself.”
Although Yun Seo calmly accepted the man’s goodbye, it was undeniable that she, of the two of them, was the one in pain. Her neck and shoulders looked quite tense, as if desperately holding something back. It wasn’t clear whether it was anger or tears she was holding back. Then, as the man turned around with a clear look of guilt on his face, Juho locked eyes with him and saw reluctance in his gaze. However, it wasn’t long before the man looked away, and Juho let him through. The man had the look of a person bidding farewell.
“Hello, Mrs. Baek.”
“Good to see you, Juho,” she said, greeting him just as calmly as when she had said goodbye to the man.
“Who was that?”
“A former pupil of mine.”
A former pupil. It implied that the man was no longer her pupil. After brief contemplation, Juho decided to ask no further, and looking at him, Yun Seo put on the same, welcoming smile she always wore. However, something made it feel out of place, like she was glad to be in the situation she was in.
“Go ahead and take a seat. It’ll only be a minute.”
The reason Juho was visiting her house was a gathering at Madame Song’s restaurant. To be precise, they were gathering to celebrate Juho winning the Nebula Award.
Then, coming back out shortly, Yun Seo said in a relaxed tone of voice, “Hyun Do says he’s almost at the restaurant.”
“… We better hurry, then.”
In the end, the only person in a hurry was Juho.
“Madame Song seemed to be in a good mood, too,” Yun Seo said. According to her, she had visited the restaurant after her novel had been published, and because of that, the two weren’t as delighted to see each other as they would have usually been. Still, it was obvious that they were very close friends. She enjoyed her favorite pork dish, and like an author who had earned her sabbatical, Yun Seo also enjoyed a glass of wine without guilt.
“How are you feeling?” she asked, carelessly.
“Good,” Juho answered briefly, mirroring Yun Seo’s brief question. Nevertheless, it was an honest answer. Winning one of the most prestigious literary awards in the world was an accomplishment in and of itself, and there was no reason not to feel good.
“I can tell! You definitely look better.”
“Yes, you look good.”
Contrary to Yun Seo’s assumption, Juho was looking better because he had been getting more sleep lately. Since he wasn’t working on anything in particular, there were fewer nights where he stayed up, unable to put his pen down.
“You helped tremendously, Mrs. Baek. Thank you.”
“Oh, I barely did anything to help,” Yun Seo said, waving her hands in denial, but Juho was genuinely grateful for her. There was a reason he looked up to her as his teacher, and she had definitely played a big part in making the life Juho was leading in the present possible.
“This is the person you should be grateful to,” she said, spreading her hands and pointing to the seat next to her. As Juho’s eyes followed the direction to where her hand was pointing, he saw a gentleman with only half of his hair grey.
“I’m the one who barely did anything. It’s not like we see each other often, either,” Hyun Do said, with a calm, peaceful expression on his face. Just like he had mentioned in his speech, Hyun Do was the person who had directly influenced Juho to write ‘Language of God.’ As the young author thanked him, the literary great simply gestured with his hand, urging him to keep eating.
“Did you find a good spot for your trophy?” she asked, and Juho remembered the trophy rolling around his room.
“Yes, it’s on top of a pile of manuscripts.”
“Huh! What kind of manuscript?”
“Just some things I’ve been working on here and there. I use them as scratch paper. The trophy’s got some weight to it, so it’s perfect to keep the stack in place.”
Just like Juho had said, the trophy was being put to good use by keeping his stacks of paper from flying off the desk. Then, chuckling quietly, Yun Seo said, “That sounds like a good spot, all right. It’s better than collecting dust elsewhere.”
The meal with Yun Seo and Hyun Do was as warm and smooth as it could be. Amid the calm atmosphere, Juho was able to release some of his pent up excitement.
There were still people chanting Yun Woo’s name, and more people kept searching for that name on the internet. Meanwhile, new articles kept turning up on regular basis, talking about the significance of the award Yun Woo had received, how big of a challenge it was to obtain, how great of an author he was for achieving just that, and how the world viewed the young author and his works. Along with the colorful adjectives, the articles were multiplying, each backed up by as little as a single statement made by a relevant expert. The fans were going wild, calling their favorite, young genius a hero. There was even a time that Juho read somebody’s comment on the internet saying that he had brought them a breath of fresh air while they lived in a world filled with suffocating uncertainties. Many were comforted by the confident statement he had made through Coin at the award ceremony.
It was all too familiar to him. He had heard the acclamations of his fans and had received their affection in the past. However, when he had come out with a new book, those same fans who had cheered for the young author had all turned their backs on him, without hesitation. With that experience in mind, Juho reminded himself that he couldn’t afford to slip back into alcoholism.
“Would you like more to drink?” Yun Seo asked, and seeing as though his cup was empty, Juho nodded willingly. Once the cup was filled, Yun Seo changed the subject, “Six people quit this month alone.”
At that, Hyun Do turned his head to look her, and Juho remembered seeing one of her former pupils on his way out before coming to the restaurant.
“Since last month, twenty people started doubting their enrollment, and they’re still contemplating. Every single one of them is unemployed now, having quit their corporate jobs to pursue their passion before all this.”
“Why? Do they not want to be taught by you?”
“No. They are saying that they can’t possibly write a piece like ‘Sublimation.'”
As he drank slowly, Juho said, “Isn’t that natural?”
“It is, and that’s what I’ve been telling my pupils all these years, but then, you came along, the young, genius author,” Yun Seo said, finally bringing up what she was desperately holding back. The reason the man Juho had seen upon arriving at Yun Seo’s house left was Yun Woo.
“The genius they all thought would eventually disappear from the face of the Earth has risen to worldwide prominence. Of course, they would be conscious of the author. There are so many kids who have their eyes fixed on you, all the while sacrificing time to write.”
“Your identity is a puzzling one.”
A genius. That was the title that everyone associated him to. It was understandable when considering how dubious of an identity Yun Woo was. Although capable of seeing only what was on the surface, the fans were sharp and accurate. The shell that Juho was hiding behind wasn’t capable of writing a piece like ‘Sublimation,’ and neither was a boy. The wall of common sense was simply too thick for the fans to get any closer to the truth, and frankly, everyone was wandering aimlessly before the seemingly impossible obstacle. There was no way around it but to admit that the young author was a genius, and many had to have found the reality mortifying. However, the young author had no intention of tearing down that wall for his fans.
“I guess I really am a genius, it seems like.”
At Juho’s remark, Yun Seo chuckled quietly while moving her knife. There was no trace of resentment in her eyes.
“But five of them began to approach writing with a very different attitude from before, and it’s all because of you.”
At the sound of the last few words at the end of her sentence, Juho thought back on the faces of the people who had passed by him near Yun Seo’s house. Every single one of them had had a smile on their face, and it felt as though the man he had seen earlier had been part of that group.
“I think they’re flippant.”
“No, my stories.”
Despite their influential nature, Juho found his stories flippant and imprudent, stirring the pot needlessly. They caused trouble and interfered with people’s lives whenever they felt like it, like a playboy whose only way to satiate his desires was to remain involved in messy drama.
“That’s an interesting way to put it,” Hyun Do said, his gray hair covering his eyes halfway.
“Just because something’s colorful and well-decorated, it doesn’t always mean it’s beautiful.”
Colorful and well-decorated. They were some of the more commonly used adjectives when describing Yun Woo’s books. Although captivating, there were also cases where they shone too brightly, putting a frown on the face of the person looking at them.
“Same goes for new things.”
Since coming out with ‘Sublimation,’ Juho had been getting feedback that the novel was new and original.
“There’s never been an ending like it.”
“I don’t think I’d ever been that shocked.”
In other words, that also meant that Yun Woo had abandoned his traditional style.
‘Sublimation’ was a novel that was still just as polarizing as when it was first released. Both Dong Baek and Zelkova Publishing Company were still receiving daily emails from professors, journalists, and critics wanting to meet Yun Woo in person. Unfortunately, offering no explanation, Yun Woo had turned every single one of those requests down. Meanwhile, he was also being told constantly that reporters and journalists were contacting his publishing agency in attempts to interview the young author.
“Some professors are flat out saying that they found ‘Sublimation’ to be unacceptable.”
“Yes, so I’ve heard.”
“And in the meantime, you won one of the most prestigious awards in the world.”
Things were getting rather complicated, and at the center of that contradiction, was Juho’s work.
“In front of Yun Woo, the intellectuals can’t seem to voice their opinions as openly. I gotta admit, it brightens my day when I see the looks on their faces,” Yun Seo said while scrunching up her nose, for some reason. Strictly speaking, the Nebula Award was given to ‘Language of God,’ both as an award and a mark of recognition. Yet, the honor was transferred to the author just as intensely, and that was inevitable. Just as food came in through the mouth and got broken down and distributed through the body, there was no way to prevent that from happening. The acknowledgment of a piece of writing became an acknowledgment of the author, and the acknowledgment toward the author became an acknowledgment of the most controversial piece of writing at the time. The phenomenon that dictated that one successful piece written by an author had the effect of boosting sales for all the other pieces written by that same author worked much in the same way.
“You said your writing was flippant?” Hyun Do asked.
“So to speak.”
“It’s definitely true in some aspects,” the literary great said as if backing off. However, he wasn’t ready to let up anytime soon. “Everyone seems to go into a frenzy when they hear the name Yun Woo. It’s hard to say that it’s serious. It’s unreasonable and debaucherous.”
“If you put it that way, Mr. Lim…”
“It’s because there’s too much going on on the surface.
Juho felt pricked in the heart from Hyun Do’s remark. ‘I’ll make sure you know why you’re feeling that,’ a voice echoed in his head. People went wild, applauding an author they hadn’t even seen. However, in reality, Juho was less than impressive. All he did was sit in his dusty room with his greasy hair writing, focusing only on his own emotions. It was like there was a middle-aged man in the young boy’s body.
“That wasn’t my intention.”
“I’m pretty sure it wasn’t,” Hyun Do agreed.
“Pardon?” Juho asked, caught off guard by his answer.
“Because that decoration came from those around you.”
“From the point of view of the person who’s doing the decorating, it all just looks pretty.”
Hyun Do wasn’t rebuking the young author. He was simply explaining what was really happening, reminding Juho that he was the only person who felt that his writing was flippant, therefore, doubting the sincerity of his work unnecessarily. Novels were made up things from the start. However, there was truth in them, and Hyun Do had learned that over time. He used to be just like the young author.
“Fyodor Dostoevsky was on death row.”
Edgar Allen Poe struggled with debt, and Honore De Balzac was a glutton. Mark Twain was dissatisfied with the size of his genitals. Shakespeare did everything he could to avoid paying taxes, despite his wealth, and F. Scott Fitzgerald had a serious obsession with feet. There were also authors who suffered from mental breakdowns, as well as those who spent the rest of their lives relying on alcohol. Although each of the countless authors had led a life nothing short of a trainwreck, their fame still remained intact to that day.
Whether or not some of the greatest authors in history had led good lives was debatable. Many of them were terrible parents, neighbors, or citizens. Yet, they were all magnificent writers. The stories written by those authors were both groundbreaking and beautiful. The gap between the authors’ personalities and their works had always been there, and that was truly mortifying.
“None of those authors were even remotely as great as the pieces they had written. Every single one of them met an unfortunate end, as if paying for their previous sins, like being eaten alive by their own craft,” Hyun Do said, bringing his glass filled with water up to his mouth.
“Personally, I’m doing everything I can to not end up like them.”
Hyun Do’s straight posture became more apparent.
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