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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“Wanna read this?” Sung Pil said, grabbing a magazine and offering it to Juho to read while they waited. Although Juho took it from him, he didn’t read it. Then, with a cheerful jingle, the number changed on the LED display. As different people came to the bank and waited with a goal in mind, the tellers called each and every one of them without fail.
Despite the bank smelling like disinfectant, Sung Pil didn’t seem to mind it one bit. Juho found it quite intriguing that Sung Pil was able to blend in in a place like that bank. Sung Pil seemed like he was so used to the place that he couldn’t even notice the smell. Juho inhaled deeply, hoping to get used to it. However, it seemed like it wasn’t going to be that simple. ‘I wonder if the bills smell like this,’ Juho thought to himself. The money counting machine worked busily and loudly. Everyone on the opposite side of the teller windows was waiting with a numbered ticket in their hands.
“What is?” Sung Pil asked, looking at Juho like somebody who had never been to a bank.
To which, Juho said, ignoring the look he got from Sung Pil, “I wonder if this is what your room is like.”
“Not even close.”
Juho felt like he’d discovered a new way of looking at the bank. ‘What did he see here? What did he write?’ Considering the nature of the place, it had to be about money. In that case, what could Sung Pil have seen in money? What had been his perspective when he had observed the place? After immersing himself in thought for some time, Juho felt an urge to use the bank as the setting of a story.
Looking down, Juho checked his ticket. There were about twenty people ahead of him still. However, there were people who didn’t respond to the teller calling out their number. After a customer had finished their business, the teller would proceed to call the next number, and the person after them would rise from their seat and prepare themselves to walk up to the teller calling their number. Meanwhile, Juho heard the employees guiding those people confused about where to go. Despite the endless stream of people that kept pouring into the bank, Sung Pil sat quietly on his seat, making it obvious that he was there with a purpose different from those of most people around him.
“Your turn,” he said, and with the numbered ticket in his hand, Juho pulled down his hat and walked toward a teller, who struck up a conversation with him.
“So, you’re friends with Sung Pil?”
“Yes. He comes here often, right?” Juho asked, leveraging his relationship with Sung Pil.
“He used to come every day at one point. He seemed kind of suspicious at first, but now, we even have lunch together. He helps us clean up from time to time before we close too,” the teller said with a smile, and added, “Your PIN, please.”
Then, after entering his PIN on the device to his left, Juho pressed the green button and asked, “Do you know what he comes here for?”
“I was told that he’s working on a novel? We do occasionally interview students who are looking into different career paths around here, but there’s never been anybody like Sung Pil.”
Juho wasn’t surprised by the teller’s answer. Imagining what the situation would have looked like, Juho couldn’t help chuckle. Sung Pil had to have been in an awkward situation at some point, and being the dry person that he was, he most likely would have responded to a situation like that in a brusque manner. Then, as the teller held out a sheet of paper for Juho to sign, Juho winced, thinking that they were asking for an autograph.
“Did you guys go to the same school?”
“No, but we do have similar hobbies,” Juho said, signing the paper and handing it to the teller, who took it from him and nodded, gesturing that everything was in order. At that moment, as Juho looked up inadvertently, the teller checked the young author’s face, looking as if something had been bothering them since they had first started talking.
“So you two write together…” the teller let out. At that moment, as Juho locked eyes with them, he sensed immediately that his cover had been blown.
At that, Juho sprung up from his seat with widened eyes. The teller traced him with their eyes with a look of shock on their face, forgetting to call the next number. Then, Juho walked toward Sung Pil and raised him up from his seat as the teller fixed their eyes on the young author.
“All right, I’m done.”
“You got caught, didn’t you?” Sung Pil said, getting ready to leave in a rush. Unfortunately, it was too late.
“Aren’t you a writer?” somebody asked.
At which point, everyone who had been looking at the magazines, their phones, or the advertisements for the bank’s installment savings accounts turned toward where the voice had come from. Waiting was a tedious process, and the young author’s appearance at the bank was more than enough to draw attention.
“It’s Yun Woo!” another teller shouted from the other side of the teller’s window.
Meanwhile, the teller who Juho had talked to was telling something to their superior. And in no time, a crowd surrounded the young author and his friend.
“‘Scuse us, comin’ through.”
It being a public place, Juho didn’t want to cause any trouble. Despite the commotion, Sung Pil looked completely unaffected by what was happening around him.
“Could I get your autograph?”
“Could you take a picture with me?”
“Could we shake hands?”
Thankfully, the friendly security guard came to the rescue, trying to keep the crowd under control, giving Sung Pil and Juho enough time to escape. However, people started pouring out of the bank shortly after.
“Let’s go this way,” Sung Pil said, leading Juho to a narrow alleyway nearby. Soon, they were quite far away from the intersection in front of the bank. Now, they were surrounded by restaurants with metal tables set up outside. They seemed like places that would be booming with people at night rather than during the day. Sung Pil seemed to know his way around the area. With that, as the two stopped quite a while later, Juho took his hat off, brushed his hair back with his hand, and put it back on. He was starting to get sweaty.
“You really are popular, aren’t you?” Sung Pil said, looking at him as though deep in thought. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen the bank get that crazy,” he said.
“Maybe I should’ve taken you there earlier. I would’ve been able to approach my writing from a slightly different angle.”
“But you’ve already submitted it,” Juho said.
“Bummer,” Sung Pil said. However, he didn’t look all that disappointed. The manuscript was no longer in his hands, and the only thing Sung Pil could do was wait for the judges to read it.
“Who knows? You might have time to make changes if you get nominated.”
“I’m confident with my writing as is,” Sung Pil said. At that moment, children’s laughter came out of nowhere. It sounded all too out of place. Looking around, Juho asked, “Is this one of the places you were inspired by?”
“Yeah. How’d you know?” Sung Pil asked. Instead of giving him an answer, Juho looked around their surroundings. One of Sung Pil’s greatest strengths as an author was his ability to describe places in reality in meticulous details, giving readers the impression that they were actually in that city, that street, or in front of that store. The realism made the overall writing more convincing, and it made little sense that such a talented author would limit himself to using only the bank as the setting in his novel.
Juho felt as though he had become a character in a novel of which he didn’t even know the title, and something about that made his heart beat faster. It would be fun if he could face the characters created by Sung Pil.
“Interesting,” Sung Pil murmured, turning toward Juho.
“That you’re here,” he replied, staring into the air as if thinking about a particular scene in his novel. Then, a cat peeked its head out from underneath the car, jumping up to the wall near it shortly after. Juho followed as Sung Pil started walking, noticing the rusted metal parts and concrete debris.
“Back at the bank, I realized just how far apart we are as writers with every fiber of my being,” Sung Pil said.
‘Is he getting discouraged?’ Juho wondered and looked at his friend.
“But I’ll catch up to you one of these days. I’ll be a much better writer in the near future. I promise you that.”
Of course, Sung Pil wasn’t the type to get discouraged easily. If he had been, he wouldn’t have called Yun Woo a rival right off the bat. Despite experiencing the gap between them as writers with every fiber of his being, Sung Pil wasn’t about to let up any time soon. Although some would consider his tenacity recklessness, Juho applauded it, rooting for him. Besides, Juho recalled having had the same emotional experience in his past life.
“Should be doable, right?” Sung Pil asked.
Juho sincerely hoped that his friend would catch up to him one day. At the same time, part of him wished that Sung Pil never would. It was an emotion difficult to describe, and the young author didn’t bother trying to bring it up.
“I’ll be rooting for ya,” he said, remembering Mango’s face. Then, a smile similar to Mango’s appeared on Sung Pil’s face.
From the noise coming from the neighboring room, it was clear that they were vacuuming their place.
In a micro-apartment, which had been built for people preparing for state exams, there was hardly any space in the room. Getting out of bed, one was immediately greeted by a wall, and the exit was one step away. When looking to either side, the desk and the laptop became visible. That was the place in which the man had been writing.
“Gettin’ hungry,” the man said as he sent the final draft to Zelkova. It was a contest widely considered as a gateway for aspiring authors, the same competition in which Yun Woo had competed and earned the title of youngest winner.
‘That’s who I wanna be,’ the man thought to himself. He wanted to be just as successful as Yun Woo. Instead of the the micro-apartment, of which he had long grown tired, he wanted to move into a mansion, something he thought Yun Woo would live in. Then, the man loosened up and fell backward onto his thin mattress, which provided little cushioning, barely absorbing the impact of the fall.
“It doesn’t even have to be fancy,” he said quietly. All he wanted was to debut as an author and see his writing get made into a book. He wanted to see it with his own eyes and he was willing to do just about anything to achieve that goal. At that moment, the man remembered the conversation he had had with his mother over barbecue.
“I think you’ve worked hard enough,” his mother had said. However, the man hadn’t been able to contradict his mother because he had been telling himself the same thing.
“Do you think I should stop now?”
There had been pieces of meat burning on the grill. Although it had been a while since he had had a decent meal, the man simply hadn’t had the appetite, feeling as if his stomach had already been full from resentment, sense of defeat, and the harsh reality. Since graduating from university and serving three years in the military, he had spent three years fighting to achieve his goal. He was living in an age where people lived up to a century, and he had reached his limit at the three-year mark. What was even more baffling was that he never seemed to have enough money for anything, whether he worked or not.
He had been well aware of the challenges that came with pursuing a career as a writer. Nevertheless, that hadn’t stopped him. He wanted to make a living as an author, writing books that made people laugh and cry, leaving traces deep within the hearts of his readers. However, the reality had been far from his wish. His writing had never seen the light of day, never to be read by anyone, let alone leave a trace. Upon looking away from the pieces of meat burning on the grill, the man had locked eyes with his mother, who had looked at him with eyes filled with guilt and sorrow. Although he had wanted to give up, the desperate desire in his heart to become a writer had kept the words from leaving his mouth.
“Let me try just one more time.”
The man had been living off of the money sent to him by his mother. Because of that, the man had had to plead with his mother to go on and had to get her permission. He had been fully aware of how shameful it had been to do so. However, the truth was that he knew nothing about what it felt like to get mooched on by his own family, which had allowed him to beg and to take the opportunity at hand to convince his mother one last time.
“OK, just this once,” she had said reluctantly, sounding exhausted. From then on, the man moved into the micro-apartment in order to focus on writing, day in and day out. Eventually, his efforts bore fruit. He was delighted that it had turned out far better than any story he had written up to that point. The moment he completed his last sentence, he realized that the journey leading up to that day hadn’t been entirely depressing, even if it turned out to be a failure in the end. While he was relieved by the realization on one hand, he also felt mortified by it on the other. Nevertheless, the man considered himself lucky that he was able to pursue his dream. With that, he submitted the finished draft to the contest.
At that moment, his stomach started growling. He was getting hungry. Thinking back to the meat that had burned on the grill, the man regretted not having stuffed himself when he had had the chance. However, there were times when regret served as an indicator that life was better than what it used to be. In order to feed himself with instant noodles and Kimchi, which were both provided by the building’s management, the man exited his room, realizing just how warm the Sun was that day. While eating his noodles, the thought of paying Zelkova a visit occurred to him, wanting to see the publisher that would determine his fate with his own eyes. Besides, it had been a while since he had gone out.
“Might as well get some fresh air while I’m at it.”
The man was down to his last option. He had to prepare himself, whether things worked out in his favor or not. He couldn’t afford to sit still. Rather, he had to work just as hard as he had been up to that point. In order to cover his greasy hair, the man looked around for a hat. Although there was a public shower within the complex, it was far too inconvenient.
“Now, where did I put that hat?”
Then, spotting his gray hat in the corner, he grabbed it and put it on.
Curious of who the winner of the contest would be, Juho paid Zelkova a visit. Although the results would come out soon, Juho secretly hoped that he could find out beforehand.
“Sorry. I got nothing.”
Unfortunately, the young author’s hopes went in vain. Meanwhile, Nam Kyung sipped on the iced Americano that Juho had brought him.
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