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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“Oh, man. This is almost too good to keep it to myself.”
“Please try not to go around starting a rumor.”
“You gotta admit it, though. I think your teacher has a valid point, too.”
“That is true,” Juho said, with a mouthful of abalone. Similarly, a shrimp went into Sang’s mouth before anybody even realized it, and he was chewing it despite the young author staring at him. By the time the meal was coming to an end, the romance writer brought up the reason for going all the way to San Jung’s house in the middle of nowhere. After explaining what he wanted to interview her about, he brought up the name of a professor with whom San Jung was acquainted.
“I was wondering if you could introduce me.”
“I don’t have a reason to say no. Although, you could’ve just called me for something like that.”
“C’mon now, San Jung. If I were to call instead of visit you, when would we, or anybody for that matter, ever have the opportunity to see each other’s faces? We live in a world where most things in life can be taken care of with just a few mouse clicks. Relationships are growing less and less significant, and that’s a sad reality.” Sang made a surprisingly moving remark. However, San Jung knew better.
“You’re here to get data from me, aren’t you?”
“Just a quick look while I’m here.”
Meanwhile, letting the two authors converse, Juho was looking out the window at the mountain. What looked like a black plastic bag shone among the trees.
At that moment, Sang blurted out all of a sudden, as if exposing a massive piece of information, “San Jung, did you know that this kid is already thinking about his next book?”
“Already?” San Jung asked, taken aback. Because she was in the habit of writing over a long period of time, she appeared to be impressed by the pace at which the young author wrote.
“I thought of something I wanted to write about. Whether it’s something worth publishing or not, we’ll have to see.”
“It’s about love,” Sang interjected, and San Jung took turns looking at the romance writer and Juho.
“Love? After winning the Nebula? Not bad.”
“You think so?”
“Have you ever been in love, though?”
As San Jung asked, Sang interjected yet again, answering on Juho’s behalf, “He has, apparently, but he doesn’t wanna talk about it. He’s a cheap shot, that one.”
“He’s around that age. It makes sense that he’d be sensitive about it. Does that mean you’re dating right now?”
“No, he isn’t. If he had a girlfriend, do you think he would be here eating some abalone with us?” Sang said, pointing out the answer precisely. Just as he had said, if Juho really had a girlfriend, then he wouldn’t have had the reason to go to a theme park with Sang.
Then, Juho opened his mouth and changed the subject, “Well, it’s still in its planning stage.”
“You’ll draw a lot of attention,” San Jung said, sharing her experience shortly after. She, too, remembered being caught off guard by the kind of attention she and her writing had received after winning the international award in Italy.
“The award changed everything, including the sales figures. That’s how much power an award carries, and I can only imagine how much worse it will be for you since you’re carrying all those titles already. Drawing attention will be inevitable.”
“That sounds… cumbersome.”
“You don’t even have to try to outdo yourself, but you cannot backslide. You know that, right?” San Jung said dispassionately. Although Juho was already aware, he paused briefly in order to think of a response, but gave up shortly after, smiling.
“It still doesn’t change what I need to do.”
San Jung nodded at the young author’s response.
“If you need anything, don’t hesitate to call me, like this guy.”
“Let’s all go to the ravine. How’s that sound?” the romance writer said, resting his chin on his hand as if not fond of conversations about awards. Although the suggestion came out of nowhere, they had already eaten, and Sang had gotten all the information he needed from San Jung, which meant the only thing left to do was to have fun. With that, everyone rose from their seats and prepared to go out.
“The water’s crystal clear,” Juho said, looking into the serene creek flowing underneath a small bridge in the mountains. A large rock in the middle was splitting the stream in two. Then, coming down from the bridge, the three sat on the rock. Small fish were clearly visible in the water, and a frog jumped across the water in the distance. The peaceful stream carried all sorts of sounds made by different lifeforms along with it. In the end, Juho couldn’t resist taking his socks off and dipping his feet in the water.
“So refreshing,” he said with his feet in the water up to his ankle. The water flowing through between his toes gave him chills. At that moment, he saw a leaf being carried along by the current. Despite his efforts to catch it with his feet for the heck of it, the lone leaf gracefully escaped the young author’s grasp and flowed away. Upon kicking, the water splashed in all directions.
“You behave, now.”
“Come dip your feet in the water.”
“No, thanks. It’s way too cold.”
Sitting on top of a mat, the two older authors seemed like they had no intention of getting up. Nevertheless, it was apparent by their expressions that they were enjoying the moment. Then, as Juho dipped his hand in the water and flicked it in their direction, Sang took a branch that was lying around and chucked it into the water, making a big splash.
“Wow, that’s some payback. You didn’t even move an inch.”
“Retaliation with no repercussion. That’s what I believe to be of true revenge.”
“Attaboy,” San Jung said, taking a hard-boiled egg she had brought from her house and smashing it against the romance writer’s head.
“Are you serious!? First, the water, and now, this!?” Sang complained, but to no avail as neither of the authors was listening to him. Then, San Jung put the entire egg into her mouth and began to chew, giving off a subtle egg smell. Shortly, after opening a can of soda, she handed it over to Juho.
“Can I have one, too?”
Sang picked up an egg. Then, spotting a dragonfly on the rock, Juho stared at it intently. It had what looked like a fly in its mouth, and turning it to and fro with its front legs, the dragonfly chewed away at its prey. At that, Juho became curious about just how many things were eating something else in the mountains at that moment.
“Hey, Juho, come eat.”
“All right,” Juho said, climbing onto the rock with his wet feet and taking the egg from Sang, which he had boiled himself. Because it was already well seasoned, it didn’t need salt. Meanwhile, the sound of flowing water came from all directions.
“Let’s build a tower,” Sang said, picking up rocks around him and stacking them. Similarly, Juho looked for rocks that were flatter, not too big or small. Meanwhile, Sang stacked the rocks on top of each other with ease as if putting together a puzzle, and with a rock about the size of the joints on his finger as the last piece, the romance writer completed an eight-tier, stone tower.
“Are you gonna make a wish?”
“I don’t make wishes to other people.”
“Then, don’t mind if I do,” San Jung said, closing her eyes and putting her hands together, resembling a position of prayer. Then, she made a wish out loud, “Help me lead a long life writing novels.”
As she moved her hands, her black sleeves also moved down her forearms. She was smiling, and being in the daylight rather than the dark made it a whole lot easier to see her face. Then, Juho looked up to the clear sky. The weather was perfect, and where they were couldn’t be any more peaceful. The clouds floated by. As the young author inhaled slowly, the distinctive scent of the mountains came at him.
“Huh?” Juho let out upon feeling something on his forehead. When he closed his eyes by reflex, he felt the weight on his forehead even more. What he saw before closing his eyes was a black object, which had moved as if alive. At that moment, a commotion broke out next to the young author, along with what sounded like the tower toppling over and eggs shattering as they fell on the rock. It was all done by Sang Choi.
“A bug!” he said, blurting out the name of the creature moving about on Juho’s face. However, unlike the frightened romance writer, Juho slowly raised his hand, took the insect off his forehead, and placed it on his palm. The insect crawled on to his palm willingly. Contrary to the peaceful young author, Sang was gasping for breath, hyperventilating.
“Get that thing away from me!” he said in an almost-desperate voice, looking deathly pale. Then, smiling, Juho opened up his palm as if showing what was in it. As the insect flew off, the romance writer screamed ghastly yet again. Thankfully, instead of landing on him, the insect came right back to Juho and landed on his arm.
“It looks pretty,” San Jung said in a calm tone of voice. Only Sang had a miserable look on his face. At that moment, searching desperately for a deity, whom he had recently treated as merely another person, Sang began to make his wish in a hurry.
“Please let me live in a world without insects!”
Unfortunately, the stone wishing tower was no longer there, and the insect began to crawl about Juho’s arm as if trying to make its presence known to the frightened romance writer.
“What do you think it is? A beetle?”
“Not sure. I don’t see this one all that often, either.”
It had a blue tinge all around. Upon a closer look at the insect about the size of the joints on his finger, Juho learned that it had six legs, a pair of antennae and wings on its back. The young author couldn’t imagine the innocent insect having a whole lot of experience with the world, and for all he knew, it could even be a young insect. Yet, it had approached a human fearlessly. Those who didn’t know fear were capable of being brave at all times.
However, there were punishments for the creatures that didn’t have an awareness of danger. A shadow cast on top of the insect. It was Sang, holding a branch that was significantly thicker and longer than the other one. Then, in order to get the bug off of Juho, he swung his weapon sideways.
“That’s dangerous!” Juho said, snatching the branch with his hand, feeling the wetness of it. From then on, the two authors struggled against each other for a little while. The branch was held securely in both of their hands.
“It’s gotta be poisonous! That thing will kill you!”
“Oh, would you stop making a fuss already!? It’s actually kind of cute if you look closely. Here,” Juho said, putting out his arm with the insect on it. Unfortunately, that proved to be less than effective as the romance writer lost the little judgment he had left at the sight of the insect. There was a vivid look of pure, unadulterated terror on his face, and Juho secretly wanted to prolong the experience of seeing that look of sheer horror on Sang’s face.
As Juho approached him, Sang ran away even more frightened. His speed was quite impressive. If he was capable of getting up that quickly, he had to be making a big fuss about the water being too cold earlier.
“You didn’t move a muscle when I suggested dipping your feet in the water.”
“There won’t be a tomorrow if you take one more step from where you are.”
“C’mon, now. You don’t have to be that menacing.”
Juho decided that he would stop there. As if aware that the young writer had protected him from imminent death, the insect stayed close to him in a friendly manner. Then, when Juho reached toward it with his hand open, the insect responded to it immediately, crawling onto the palm of his hand. They were communicating and understanding each other as they got to know each other better. As San Jung looked intently at the insect, Sang moved toward her, about five paces away from the insect.
“You’re gonna get bit!” Sang shouted from the distance, but Juho paid no attention to him. The insect’s massive antennae, which were the size of its body, moved about busily, and the tickling sensation Juho was feeling on his palm reminded him that the tiny friend was very much alive.
“Do you think this is an eye or a mouth?”
“It’s an eye, isn’t it?”
“Right? I think so, too.”
“It’s poison, that’s what it is!” Sang shouted again, holding the same branch in his hands still. He was terrified that the hideous insect would fly in his direction. His eyes were fixated on the insect. Unfortunately, regardless of how grossed out he was, Sang had no choice but to look straight at the very subject of his fear. Considering how fast Sang’s heart had to be beating, the disconnect in his actions made Juho think that it wouldn’t be surprising to see the romance write suddenly fall in love with the insect.
“It’s still moving,” San Jung said, looking at the insect moving about in Juho’s palm. As it tried to crawl over to the back of his hand, he gently flipped his hand over in order to make it easier for his new friend.
“It’s really cute.”
“I’m gonna throw up,” the romance writer said, pretending to gag with exaggeration. However, Juho genuinely found his tiny friend adorable, and he remembered something Yun Seo had said previously: “It’s affection.” Juho was no different from the insect exploring his palm. Letting it wander around exploring, Juho, too, was trying to get something out of the insect.
“Is it cold?” San Jung asked.
“It tickles,” Juho said, honestly.
“That is gross,” Sang added despite nobody asking him. Those were the three different views on the insect. However, paying no attention to how it was coming across to the three humans, the insect kept moving its legs. Perhaps, Juho was like an enormous tree to the insect, an intriguing tree capable of moving its leaves and branches. Or maybe, the insect was wandering around in search for a new home. The insect peeked its head out between the young author’s fingers, moving what seemed like either eyes or nasal cavities. When Juho put some slight pressure on his hand, it backed up, making his giant friend proud.
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