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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“We all gotta take good care of our health,” Joon Soo said amid the group of authors discussing the subject. Meanwhile, the debate on whether or not they should go somewhere else for a second round was still ongoing. They were all quite tenacious. And, as her patience grew thin, Mideum dragged Juho into the discussion, asking, “Hey, are YOU coming?”
Although he wanted to spend time with his fellow authors, whom he was seeing for the first time in a long time, Juho was also anxious to start working on the idea that had just come to him. In the end, after some thought, Juho reached a conclusion, “I think I’m calling it a night.”
“Ugh!” Mideum let out, grasping her chest with similar expression to the one she wore when she wrote.
“Wise choice. You have work to do,” Dong Gil said, looking at the young author with a look of satisfaction. Juho responded with a shrug. At that moment, what felt like an endless debate had taken an unexpected turn. A scream came from somewhere nearby. When the young author looked toward the source of the sound, he locked eyes with the person who had screamed.
“Yun Woo?” a voice unfamiliar to Juho said, sounding more astonished than doubtful.
“It is Yun Woo!”
At that moment, Juho realized that he wasn’t wearing anything to hide his face. However, none of his fellow authors had pointed that out because they were all preoccupied and for different reasons.
“Uh-oh,” Seo Joong let out quietly, but nobody objected since all the other authors had the same thought.
“I see Joon Soo Bong, too!”
“That’s Seo Joong Ahn!”
It wasn’t long until the scream attracted more people. When there were a handful of them in the same place, fans were bound to recognize them eventually, whether the authors wanted them to or not.
“Oh, wow! It’s really Yun Woo!”
“I’d never seen him in person!”
Of course, Yun Woo was the most popular name among all of the authors. Then, the young author looked at Geun Woo, who was standing next to him.
“Must be nice being popular,” Geun Woo said and walked away. Soon, he, too, would be in a similar position and find himself going through similar troubles to those of Yun Woo. There was no doubt that he was going to succeed as an author, and his writing and his career, which had been on a steady rise, made that prediction all the more convincing. That was also the reason why his fellow authors often poked fun at him. If he really had lacked the potential as an author, then nobody would have actually thought of making fun of him.
“Could you take a picture with me?” the person who had screamed a moment ago said.
“Sure, no problem.”
Another round of joyful screams came from the same person at the young author’s affirmative answer. At the unrelenting reaction of the fan, Juho couldn’t help but chuckle.
“Pardon me, you’re Dae Soo Na, right?”
Meanwhile, other people started talking to Juho’s fellow authors. The contrast in their reactions was quite apparent. Although they started screaming right off the bat upon seeing the young author, the fans politely confirmed the other authors’ identities with them. After taking the picture, the fan asked, “You guys are from the Death Club, right? Were you guys having an outing?”
The Death Club. Due to the topic the writers had shared for their literary magazine, ‘The Beginning and the End,’ there were a handful of fans who addressed the club by that frightening name. However, none of the authors there had heard it in person prior to that day. Nevertheless, hearing it from a reader made it quite a memorable experience. Juho looked toward Joon Soo, who appeared to be smiling but not exactly welcoming the situation.
“We were. We just ate together.”
Although he had already made that assumption when he had asked the question, the fan exclaimed, taken aback by the author’s confirmation. Perhaps, he was just astounded by the fact that he was even talking to Yun Woo. The young author simply couldn’t wrap his mind around why it was such a big deal for his readers to interact with him.
“I love your books. I hope you keep writing!” the fan said, moving aside to let another person have the chance to interact with the young author. From then on, the pattern repeated itself a few more times. That wasn’t to say that people were all saying the same thing, however.
“Are you a regular at Madame Song’s?”
There were questions that were more personal and friendlier by nature. After some thought, Juho gave an affirmative answer.
“You see, I’m also a regular.”
“I like the food here.”
“I know! I love the food here! What’s your go-to dish?”
“I usually get their chicken.”
“Oh, my gosh! Me, too!” the fan said, sounding ecstatic that they shared something in common with the young author. Then, Juho noticed that the crowd taking pictures of them had grown noticeably larger, along with the crowd surrounding him and his fellow authors.
“Well, we better get going now,” one of the authors said in an attempt to get out of the situation with the rest of them. Then, having spent some time signing autographs for her fans, Dae Soo walked over to Juho and said, “Man, I feel like a star! All thanks to Yun Woo!”
“You already were one, though.”
“That’s true,” she said humbly. In the end, the long debate came to an inconclusive end, and the authors each went on their ways. Juho was dropped off by Dae Soo in the same way he had arrived at the restaurant.
“Break a leg.”
“All right. Drive safely.”
With that, the young author went inside, imagining Dae Soo’s car fading into the distance. The elevator moved up unhurriedly. Upon arrival, Juho knew exactly what to do as he was greeted by the familiar view of his writing space. The bookshelf on the left side of the room, which was originally intended for storage space for his manuscripts, was filled with some of his favorite reads, his novels, reference data, history books, philosophy books, and science books. Juho had given up on trying to organize and distinguish the manuscripts long ago. There was simply too much to read through one page at a time. In the end, he had to resort to using another room as storage space for the countless sheets of manuscript paper.
Sitting at the desk, Juho took the notepad out of his pocket and revisited the list of clues in his head, the first one being the young author’s old classmates, who were preparing to embark on a new journey after graduating from school. Neither Juho nor the classmates had to dress in their uniforms for school anymore, and when that realization occurred to him, he had found himself wanting to write a story that took place at a school.
Then, the second was the meeting with a certain reader, who had been quite nervous and uncomfortable, unlike the attitude Juho remembered she had had when they met at the concert hall. However, the young author didn’t find her change in behavior strange. It was only natural that people tended to respond differently to different situations. Similarly, Juho had also been much more tense than usual. The young author remembered the reader’s intense gaze that had started from his face, gone down to his legs under the table and gone back up to his hands. Although it hadn’t been a cheap meal by any means, Juho had no recollection of what the food had tasted like. She had been looking at the young author as if having come across the hero of her time. On top of that, her entire body was showing her interest and affection toward him and his books, rooting for his decision to publish his short stories despite it being a delayed one. She had reaffirmed the young author, reminding him that he had made the right choice, and Juho had every reason to be grateful for her. That gratitude toward her challenged him to want to write even better every time he held a pen. The young author also recalled her having said, “I’m genuinely happy that you took your time with your decision…” Her answer had also implied that she had been glad that her favorite author had realized that it was better late than never. Then, after flipping through a number of pages, he came across the most recent clue, which had come to him that very day. A character who was yet to have taken shape was breathing within that notepad.
With that, the young author unhurriedly tied up all the clues into one, continuous line, taking everything he had learned and experienced up to that point into a stream of consciousness. Closing his eyes, Juho pictured the character, who turned out to be a lady well into her later years, staring into thin air. The old lady had no name, and despite her age, her past didn’t exist. She had come into existence as an old lady by necessity in order to reflect her creator’s hope. Whenever she smiled, her pink gums became visible. With her teeth missing in places, her mouth looked as pure and innocent as that of a child. Soon, she would be enrolled in a school.
Adapting to the new environment was bound to come with its challenged, like it always happened. The need to adapt arose throughout life. Being old meant being alive, and to be alive was to be able to think. To think and to want, striving to win against the challenges of life. Then, when she smiled again, all of her teeth were back in place.
“I’m illiterate,” she said in a calm tone of voice. “But I’m eager to learn.”
She wanted that opportunity earnestly. The world had changed significantly since she had been born. Not only had she found herself living in a different era, but also a different society.
“And now, I have that opportunity,” she said.
“That’s right. You do have that opportunity,” Juho answered.
“I wanna be better. I wanna know more,” she said. There were dark spots across her already-tan face. “I’ve always wanted to be better. And now, the era has finally caught up to meet my wish.”
“Have you ever been to a school?” Juho asked.
“Once, when I was very young.”
“If you had the choice, would you go back?”
“If I could, I would.” As her eyes quickly became filled with fear, she asked, “What does one do there?”
It was the fear of the unknown. Juho gave her a brief explanation of what school was. It was a place where children received a foundational education.
“You’ve heard of elementary schools, right? That’s the very first school most people attend.”
“And I’m sure I’m gonna be the oldest person there.”
“Probably,” the young author said.
To some, it would seem like the old lady was much too old to be in school to learn alongside other humans who had been born within the past decade. On the other hand, it might even seem humiliating to others. However, to those who didn’t or couldn’t move on from where they were in life, the old lady would seem like she was moving forward.
“Do you think it’ll be embarrassing?”
“Not at all,” Juho said, shaking his head confidently.
“And how would you know that, young man?”
“Because I went back to high school at a very late age.”
At that, the old lady looked up and down at the young author, from top to bottom. She was still skeptical of him.
“I can’t tell from your appearance. You’re not some con artist, are you? Trying to take advantage of old, helpless people?”
“Nope. I ask nothing of you,” Juho said, raising both of his hand in order to claim his innocence. Then, he briefly told her about his life as a high school student, focusing primarily on the positive. After that, she seemed to be more at ease. “It wasn’t long until I adapted to my new school life. It was significantly easier than I had imagined, too. Although, the classes were a tad boring.”
Then, Juho saw the old lady brush down her chest with her coarse, blunt hand.
“I think I feel a little better, but we’ll see how I feel before bed.”
Although she was doing noticeably better, she claimed that it wouldn’t stay that way.
“What if I get a head start?” she suggested. She was the type who put her thoughts into action quickly.
“What do you mean?” Juho asked.
“Reading and writing. If I start preparing now, I won’t be as far behind as everyone else.”
Behind her firm, stout appearance was a childlike heart. She feared change and struggled to adapt.
“If that’s what you want, nobody’s stopping you. A lot of people start studying ahead of time, in preparation for school, actually.”
“Is that so?”
“Yep. Everyone’s afraid of falling behind.”
“Do you think it’ll actually help to start early?”
“I doubt it. But, what I can tell you is that your preparation for school is about to get interesting.”
“I see… Well, I’m doing it anyway,” she said. Despite her stubbornness, Juho didn’t try to stop her. She would study and learn in preparation for school, only to find out how different school actually was. She was about to go through a series of events.
“Do you think it’ll be fun?” she asked in an awkward tone.
“No doubt,” Juho said confidently.
“Do you think the younger folks will like me?”
“If that’s what you want.”
The protagonist acted and competed in pursuit of her goal.
“So, it’s really up to me, huh?”
“Yep,” Juho said, and she nodded with satisfaction, smiling and revealing her gold teeth. After seeing her smile, Juho opened his eyes and saw a white light in front of him, warming his face. The Sun was shining on his face through the window. It was morning, and the Sun had already come up.
Then, staring at the light before his eyes in a daze, the young author thought about the short stories that were about to be published. Although unintended, there were mentions of school in both of them as memories of the past, passing by in the background. However, the role of the school was significantly different in each of the stories. Moving his pen, Juho organized the story that had just come to him. An old lady studying ahead in preparation for school. An elementary school. Adaptation and her struggle.
Of course, Juho wasn’t planning on writing a one-sided story. He thought of the scenes that would include peers who were, to say the least, out of the ordinary. With that, the overall plot had finally taken shape: the tumultuous journey of an old lady who earnestly wanted to learn to read and write. It was just what the young author had been looking for.
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