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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“I think that’s a wise choice.”
At the young author’s affirmation, a subtle smile appeared on Dong Gil’s face, and the aggressive look that had been on his face was no longer.
“I’m used to it.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m used to seeing myself getting swayed by the works of authors around me,” Dong Gil said and added, “But I bet you’re not.”
Then, blinking awkwardly, Juho said, “You sound like Seo Joong.”
“That’s some strong language, don’t you think?”
Despite Dong Gil’s response, Juho kept the same look on his face, as if taunting him. Then, taking a sip of his green tea, the young author asked, “How was my book?”
“Yours was more like Seo Joong’s writing. It had a flippant side to it.”
When the young author remained silent, as if having taken offense to his harsh criticism, Dong Gil added, “Might I add, Seo Joong’s is on a-whole-nother level. Your style is charming, but that friend of mine? Not even close.”
It was hard to tell if he meant it as a way of comforting Juho or insulting Seo Joong.
“Do you know why I was influenced by Seo Joong?”
At that, Juho turned his eyes to look at Dong Gil. The young author was well aware of the answer.
“Because you wanna outdo him.”
Seo Joon’s talent had stirred up a competitive spirit within Dong Gil’s heart.
“Joon Soo seemed to think that you’ve come across something incredible and exciting. But I have a slightly different view.”
“It’s not the book that caused it. It’s you. Both you and Seo Joong tend to reflect on yourselves almost excessively.”
Dong Gil wasn’t exactly wrong in the way he described Seo Joong and Juho. ‘The Full Moon’ was a great book, enough to pull the young author to the depths.
“‘The Full Moon’ is an amazing novel. I’m sure he was moved after reading it. At the same time, you were arrogant enough to think that you could catch up to Mr. Lim. It’s always the top percentile students that compete for the number one spot. There’s nothing more upsetting than losing that award you were so certain you’d win.”
“I wasn’t really thinking in terms of rank,” Juho said.
“Neither was I. It was just a simple metaphor. There’s a big difference between first and second places,” Dong Gil said as he rose from his seat. Observing his movements, Juho asked, “Well, what about you? Have you ever felt that competitive?”
“I have. In fact, I’m sure most writers would have had similar thoughts, wanting to write better than that one person. But in most cases, that’s about the furthest most writers are willing to go. They all eventually go back to their old ways.”
No matter how competitive authors felt, they never let themselves get carried away by a book to the point of losing track of what they had been doing up to that point. Juho was able to figure out that Dong Gil was talking about Seo Joong from the expression on his face, which tended to show itself whenever he was talking about Seo Joong. Juho felt pricked in the heart for some reason. Meanwhile, Dong Gil walked past the young author and toward his desk.
“It looks neat.”
“I cleaned the room just yesterday.”
“A page of some manuscript couldn’t hurt.”
“Trust me. My editor-in-charge would NOT like that. He prefers me to keep my manuscripts organized and in one place.”
A metal pen holder with pens and pencils, a multipurpose bookshelf filled with notebooks and research data, a desk lamp, a mini-humidifier, multivitamins that he’d received as a gift, and red ginseng pills. Strange decorations he had bought on his way back from the States, a computer, a fax machine, and a plant, the name of which he didn’t even know. Juho followed Dong Gil’s eyes.
“You know, it’s hard to imagine that this is Yun Woo’s room.”
“What makes you say that?”
“It’s not decorated at all, not a single poster or anything. It’s as if all you do is write.”
The room was far from what most people imagined the young author’s room would look like. Then, shrugging while Dong Gil wasn’t looking, Juho said playfully, “Didn’t you know? I’m somewhat of a goody two-shoes.”
However, Dong Gil didn’t laugh at the young author’s playful remark. Instead, looking around the room one more time, he asked, “You’re facing challenges that are completely different from before, aren’t you?”
“I sure am. It’s my first time on my own.”
“I’m talking about your readers.”
Instead of giving him an answer, Juho remained silent and listened, a nonverbal gesture for Dong Gil to keep talking.
“You’ve reached a place where you have to come face to face with your readers’ opinions of you. But that isn’t to say that that’s entirely good or bad. After all, if there are good opinions, there are bound to be bad ones too.”
“I’m slowly getting used to it.”
“I also think you have. In fact, you’ve adapted without even breaking a sweat. But I’m sure ‘The Full Moon’ made you think after you finished reading it, something like: ‘Who would be happier? My readers or Mr. Lim’s?'”
It was proof that the young author had started being conscious of his readers, which was both a benefit and a loss. As an author, Dong Gil was significantly more experienced than Juho.
“Is this coming from experience?” Juho asked. After which, the young author saw the corner of Dong Gil’s mouth turning up slightly.
“Of course. That’s where my hopelessness comes from. Your books made me think it too. ‘Trace of a Bird,’ ‘Sound of Wailing,’ ‘Language of God…’ And it wasn’t just your books, either. For example, the way you answered the interview questions, those answers all caused excruciating pain to your fellow authors.”
“And how did you overcome that pain?”
“There was nothing to overcome. Seeing your colleague making it is definitely good news. In which case, my emotions are just a burden that I have to carry on my own.”
Even if the two authors were to burn the bridges between them, as long as both of them remained authors, they were bound to face each other again at some point. In the end, there was no way to sever the relationship.
“So, it seems like a wound only time can heal.”
“That’s right,” Dong Gil said as Juho brought up what he had been meaning to say all along. “Seo Joong is back in his hometown right now. By the time I’m back from Russia, he’ll probably be shooting pool on his own, looking like a bum.”
At that moment, the name Alexandria came up in Juho’s mind. Although it was brief, his mind was filled with thoughts of the protagonist of his new story. It was a good sign. From then on, the two authors talked about Dong Gil’s trip to Russia, from the cities and bookstores and the wild nature he was planning to visit, to the country’s history and the people he was planning to learn about. Dong Gil was very much looking forward to his trip. As he rose from his seat, Juho also rose in order to see him out. Since it was well into the night, there wasn’t anybody around. Juho looked at Dong Gil’s dress shoes, which were well polished, unlike the sandals he was wearing.
“Get home safe, and have a safe trip.”
At Juho’s goodbye, Dong Gil placed his hand on his car’s door and said, “You too.”
Although it wasn’t clear what he was telling Juho to be safe from, Juho replied affirmatively. Maybe it was from his competitive spirit stirred up by ‘The Full Moon.’ Juho stared at Dong Gil’s car as it faded into the dark street. Being out in the dark on his own, the night sky felt even darker than usual. Then, making his way back home, Juho breathed out, “Sigh…”
The faint light from the nearby store lit the dark street. On his way home, he thought about Alexandria some more, wondering what kind of thoughts she would have walking through a dark street. At that moment, he felt a sudden craving for something cold.
“Ice cream, it is.”
Juho walked toward the dim light, which was lighting the surroundings. As he came out of the dark, a person who had arrived ahead Juho stopped in their tracks as they were going through the freezer outside of the store.
“It’s Yun Woo!” the shadow said.
“Hello,” Juho said, greeting his fan naturally. It wasn’t his first time coming across a reader that way. Meanwhile, the young author was barely holding on to the thoughts of Alexandria in his mind.
“What are you up at this hour?”
“I came out for a walk,” Juho said.
“Ah, late night walk.”
Then, the person glanced into the store and gestured for somebody to come out. After which, a child walked out and said, “Yeah?”
It wasn’t long before their question turned into an exclamation. After exchanging a brief greeting with the child, Juho remembered why he was there in the first place and walked toward the freezer. Then, taken aback by the presence of their favorite author, the readers said in turn, “I’m a fan!”
“I’ve read all of your books!”
As their voice registered in Juho’s mind, the thoughts about Alexandria drifted away even further. Feeling an iciness on his fingertips, the young author said, “Please, pick anything you’d like. It’s on me,” and passed the basket next to him to the readers.
“I’ll just take this one then.”
“I’ll have this, too.”
“Don’t be shy! You said you’ve read all of my books!” Juho said, grabbing ice cream and popsicles by the handful, filling the basket. Considering how late it was, there were only so many he could choose from. While the young author went inside to pay for them, the readers waited for him outside, holding a black plastic bag filled with ice cream and popsicles. Meanwhile, the young author remembered what he had talked about with Dong Gil: ‘Who would be happier? My readers or Mr. Lim’s?’
“Can I ask you guys something?” Juho asked the readers. It was a question Juho received a lot.
“Oh, right! Of course,” the readers said with a puzzled look on their faces, as if wondering what kind of question Yun Woo would have for them.
“Have you two read ‘The Full Moon?'” Juho asked, his voice trembling ever so slightly.
“‘The Full Moon?'”
“Yes!” the child answered, unlike the adult who appeared to be confused.
“What did you think?” Juho asked, and the child paused briefly, as if thinking about the young author’s relationship with the literary great. Then, they answered shortly after, “It was super awesome!”
The child’s thought on the ‘The Full moon’ was short, yet direct. Hyun Do’s new book was worthy of being considered the best, which meant no other would be above it.
“Can I ask something too?” one of the readers asked, standing a few paces away. At that moment, Juho knew by instinct that he had been influenced by a similar remark before he had started writing about Alexandria. It felt as though something awoke within him under the full moon. However, as if oblivious to the young author’s thoughts, the reader asked more or less the same question, “When are the short stories coming out?”
They were obviously looking forward to the short story. Since it had been over a month since he had stopped making progress with the story, Juho couldn’t answer their question immediately.
“Sorry, I don’t know the exact date.”
“Aw…” the readers let out in a groan. The dark street sank into silence, only to be broken by the rustling sound of the plastic bags reminding Juho that the ice cream and popsicles were melting. It almost felt as if they were rushing the young author. Then, looking up, Juho locked eyes with the two readers. The top half of their faces were covered in shadow. For some reason, Juho remembered having a similar feeling when he met with the certain reader. Alexandria was the young author’s response to his readers’ desperation for the release of the short stories. The scholastic setting had been quite appealing to Juho, and he was happy that there were readers who waited for him.
“Well, we’ll be waiting.”
With that, the readers went on their way, and Juho also turned around. ‘Who would be happier? My readers or Mr. Lim’s?’ It was a rather shallow concern. The state of the readers was far from the image the young author had had in mind. They were more concerned about their ice cream. If Juho hadn’t come across them, it wouldn’t have occurred to him that his readers’ concerns were nothing like his. His throat felt itchy for some reason. After all, there really was nothing to overcome.
Upon returning home, Juho slammed the door shut, rushing to get inside and into his room. Then, taking the box under the desk, he flipped it upside down, pouring everything within it out on the floor. They were the pages of manuscript that were once scattered around the living room. There was something he was looking for: a story so heavy that readers would find themselves sinking into the ground before they even realized it. After scavenging through pages and pages of manuscript, Juho saw a particular word from the corner of his eye.
A book thief. It was a story about a disgraceful thief whose future didn’t look so promising. Then, picking up the remaining pages of that particular manuscript, Juho sat in front of his desk. It was a story about himself. Considering how much he had been writing, it made sense that he would end up writing about himself at some point. If he had never read ‘The Full Moon,’ it would’ve never occurred to Juho to even write a story about some thief. It was the moment when his month-long writing frenzy turned out to be very rewarding. Without it, Juho would have written something lukewarm and less than interesting, leaving nothing for the readers to look forward to.
Thoughts drifted away against his will. His competitive spirit and desire to write better than ever, of wanting to impress and deeply move his readers. All those thoughts started fading away, making room for thoughts of Alexandria.
“Welcome back, Alexandria,” Juho said as he picked up the pen.
“Thank goodness you started writing!” Nam Kyung said, sighing a sigh of relief as he sank into a chair and carelessly put his phone on the young author’s desk. The story about Alexandria had started moving forward again. The editor had no doubt that Yun Woo’s cheerful story would be completed this time. Nam Kyung thought back on the pages of a manuscript he had read in the young author’s living room. Despite some inconsistencies within it, they were still incredibly well written, especially the segment about the book thief. A man, who seemed like he had been evil since birth, grows up to be a book thief. It was obvious that he wasn’t going to be well off. Despised by those around him, the thief gets himself into debt. When reading about him, Nam Kyung couldn’t help but miss Alexandria, who was just the opposite of the thief. Then, with the intention to strike up a conversation with Mr. Maeng, whose desk was next to his, the editor said, “I’m telling you, Mr. Woo really knows how to bring the most out of any characters.”
“Is that so?”
Hyun Do had replied, and recognizing his voice, Nam Kyung jumped from his seat.
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