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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“I’m sure you must know something? Anything?” Juho asked, looking at the iced Americano in the editor’s hand. However, Nam Kyung shook his head, responding to Juho’s question with another set of questions, “What’s with you, though? Why are you so interested?”
Shortly after, Nam Kyung lowered his head, looking like he had had an idea, and whispered, “Is this about Mango?”
“I can’t say that you’re entirely wrong.”
Mango was an aspiring writer they had met at the signing, and she was also one of the contestants of the contest hosted by Zelkova. Juho couldn’t deny that her existence influenced his decision to come to Zelkova. Then, with narrowed eyes, Nam Kyung asked, “There’s something else, isn’t there?”
“Another acquaintance of mine made a submission for the Rookie of the Year Award.”
“… What?!” Nam Kyung said, taking his mouth off of the straw. “Who?”
“A really talented writer.”
“No, no. That’s not what I’m asking. He’s a talented writer?”
“Yes. I can definitely see him becoming an author someday.”
At that, a look of interest appeared on the editor’s face.
“Is that so? What are you guys? Friends?”
“It’s a secret.”
Then, letting out a long groan, the editor replied, “C’mon! We’re keeping secrets now? If what you said is true, it means that friend of yours will end up working with us someday, doesn’t it!?”
“In that case, I suppose I don’t have to explain any further.”
“You tend to wanna know things like that soone! Don’t you know!?”
“Of course, I do. Why do you think I’m here?”
The results, obviously, were still a mystery to Nam Kyung, who was chewing on his straw, tantalized. As if anxious, the editor repeated the process of taking his phone out and putting it back into his pocket, rubbing his temple with his fingers and resting his chin on his hand. Then, looking around cautiously, he said, “I do know this one thing.”
“Yes?” Juho said as he drew closer to his editor.
“It seems like there’s one contestant who’s received a unanimous nomination,” Nam Kyung whispered, covering his mouth.
‘That’s a word I haven’t heard in a while,’ the young author thought to himself.
“That’s right. I don’t know who it is or what kind of story it is, but the judges all picked that one particular submission, which means…” Nam Kyung paused, squinting his eyes, and added, “They’ll probably receive the first Rookie of the Year Award since Yun Woo.”
“There hasn’t been a winner since you won that award, all the way up to last year. All the rookies so far have barely cut it, and the standards have definitely gone up since you won,” he said, opening the lid of his cup and pouring the ice into his mouth.
“We’ve been getting a lot of submissions from students too. At this point, it’s pretty much proven that it’s impossible to have your skill at that age. Sure, being younger definitely gives one an advantage, but that only applies when the quality is there. Since you won the award, there hasn’t been a single winner who’s a minor,” Nam Kyung said, the ice crunching in his mouth.
“Then, out of nowhere, this one contestant gets nominated by unanimous decision. Wait a minute… You don’t think we’re talking about the same person, do you?”
It wasn’t hard to picture Sung Pil making his debut as an author after getting nominated by unanimous decision. From then on, the room sank into silence as the two immersed themselves in thought. Then, Nam Kyung broke the silence, pounding on the desk, “Hope Mango doesn’t get her feelings hurt.”
If what Juho was thinking was actually true, it meant that Mango would have to remain an aspiring writer a little longer.
“But we don’t know what her piece is like. At which point, there’s only so much we can do.”
“There are over fifteen hundred submissions for the Rookie of the Year Award alone.”
Nam Kyung didn’t know any of the names of the contestants or anything about the stories they had written for that matter. Each contestant had had their own life story when they had made their submission. Unfortunately, only one was chosen to be the winner.
“If you’re that curious, why don’t you try Mrs. Baek? She’s one of the judges this year,” Nam Kyung said.
“I’m planning to go see her today, actually.”
“Huh. That was quick.”
Then, checking the time, the editor rose from his seat. The two went outside to the quiet street for a walk. Aside from the people who were going and out of the building occasionally, there was hardly anybody around. The contrast was quite stark with a certain time in the past. Only then, did it occur to the young author that the street could be that quiet and uneventful.
“Pretty quiet today,” Juho said.
“It’s a weekday.”
The streets tended to be much quieter during the week. Then, as the the publisher’s building appeared in the distance again, the two stopped in their tracks to catch a cab.
“Would you like some books while you’re here? You’re free to take whichever books you want.”
“It’s fine. I better get going. I wouldn’t want us to get surrounded by the crowd. Besides, what if somebody sees me and decides that they want to shout my name out loud?”
“That’s when you get in that taxi and make a run for it,” Nam Kyung said playfully. At that moment, Juho’s concern became a reality as somebody shouted his name out loud.
“It’s Yun Woo!”
Until Juho heard Nam Kyung flustered voice, the young author was under the impression that he had been hearing things. Fortunately, there was nobody else around when he looked around. As the voice scattered into the air, the person to whom the voice belonged approached Juho and the editor in haste, wearing a look of disbelief.
“You really are Yun Woo, right!?” the man asked. His gray cap, which looked a tad too small for the wearer’s head, caught the young author’s eyes.
“Yes, I am. Pleasure to meet you,” Juho said, well acquainted with encounters like that by that point. Meanwhile, the man still looked like he couldn’t believe things, as though having come face to face with his destiny.
“Au… Could I …”
“Would you like an autograph?”
With that, the man went through his bag without a delay and pulled out a stack of manuscript paper, a lot of which seemed to have been used. Flipping through the pages in a hurry, the man finally found a clean page. Of course, at the sight of all that, Juho couldn’t resist asking, “Do you write?”
“Yes. I’m an aspiring writer. I’ve recently made a submission to the contest too,” the man said with an hesitant smile.
From Mango to Sung Pil, and now, the man in a gray hat. There was only one explanation for why Juho was running into aspiring writers so often: to have other writers as colleagues. Taking the stack of manuscript from the man, Juho signed his autograph on it.
“What brings you here?”
“I wanted to visit Zelkova,” the man in the gray hat said awkwardly. The dark patch on his chin was telling Juho that he had not shaved.
“Were you on your way there?” Juho asked.
“Oh, so you’ve already been there then.”
At that, the man smacked his lips for a brief moment, as if having a lot to say. However, what came out of his mouth was a rather short sentence, “No. I think looking from afar is quite enough for me.”
It was an excuse similar to one Juho had previously used. After signing, Juho closed the stack of paper out of habit. Of course, reading what it was also part of that same habit. As the man in a gray hat reached out, expecting to get it back from Juho, he was caught off guard by the young author’s question.
“Would you mind if I read it?”
After some contemplation, the man nodded affirmatively, and Juho saw his editor, who was standing behind him, taking interest in the matter. Not minding whether the editor was reading over his shoulders or not, Juho read through the words on the pages of the manuscript. It was the beginning of the story, just enough to get a feel for the direction in which the story was headed. Seeing as though it was keeping the young author guessing, the story seemed quite promising, making Juho want to read more of it.
“You know what? I’m genuinely curious about what happens afterward,” Juho said. At that, a strong emotion welled up on the man’s face.
“That’s the one,” he said, clearly sounding excited. “That was my submission.”
Hearing that, Juho thought of his friend and Mango.
“This is my last hurrah. If this falls through, I’m gonna have to look elsewhere,” the man said, sounding like he was pleading for something. “Do you think I have a chance of winning?”
The question came to Juho as a heavy burden, and the autograph on the manuscript felt irrelevant all of a sudden. The man had specifically described his writing as being his last. Although Juho had no clue why that had to be, he did know that he wanted to read the rest of the story and understand it. Then, the man repeated himself, asking, “Do you think I have a chance?”
It was a question Juho couldn’t give an answer to. Not only was he not a judge, but he hadn’t read the entire story, either. It wouldn’t be fair to take sides. Them, Juho locked eyes with the man in a gray hat. Although his eyes looked nothing like Sung Pil’s or Mango’s, he was certainly looking in the same direction as the two.
“Uh-oh. That’s our cue. We better get going, Mr. Woo,” Nam Kyung interjected, looking over the man’s shoulders. There was a crowd of people, who seemed to be getting a tour of the publishing district, approaching them. As Nam Kyung grabbed Juho by the arm, the young author said to the man in a hurry, “Good luck. I’ll be rooting for you.”
At which, the man looked down briefly and replied with a satisfied smile, “Thank you.”
By the time Juho looked back, the man had long blended into the crowd. Nevertheless, his gray hat made him relatively easy to distinguish from afar as he was the only person wearing it. Juho stood in his place, watching him until he had completely disappeared into the distance.
“I’m here, Mrs. Baek.”
Juho arrived at Yun Seo’s house, his mind still lingering in the encounter with the man in the gray hat. On his way there, Juho asked himself if there was any way he would have been able to offer a better answer to the aspiring writer’s question.
In the end, Juho never reached an answer. Knowing that they would most likely never cross paths again, Juho couldn’t help but feel a little sad, almost to the point of wishing that the man in the gray hat would win. At which point, the image of Sung Pil’s and Mango’s faces lingered before the young author’s eyes. The clutter was proving to be quite bothersome, making Juho anxious to know who the winner was even more, just so he could get out of that state of mind.
At that moment, a dog barked in the distance, and hearing that well known sound, Juho felt a little calmer. Then, the door opened, and Joon Soo, who Juho hadn’t seen since the outing at Madame Song’s, came out to greet him with a glad smile. However, Juho stared intently at him and asked out of nowhere, “It was you, wasn’t it?”
“What are you talking about?” Joon Soo asked, caught off guard, clueless.
“Mr. Lim?” Juho said, giving him a subtle hint.
Joon Soo had been the one to inform Hyun Do about Juho, which had caused Juho to receive an unexpected call from the literary great.
“Do you have any idea how taken aback I was? I couldn’t even answer the phone, either.”
“Sorry, it just kind of came out while we were eating… Wait, you couldn’t answer it?”
“I was in the middle of writing.”
“That’s unfortunate. But in my defense, I only said as much as I heard from Dong Gil. Besides, Dong Gil’s not the type to rave on about something like that, you know? What I’m trying to say is that I know practically nothing. Anyway, let’s go inside!” Joon Soo said.
It being the space where she taught her students, Yun Seo’s house was spacious, comfortable, and always well-maintained. Sitting at the table, which he hadn’t seen in a long time, Juho asked, “Is Mrs. Baek not home?”
“She’ll be here in a minute.”
“What about Geun Woo?”
Going into the kitchen, Joon Soo brought out a couple of cups. Then, going back into the kitchen, Joon Soo asked as he checked the refrigerator, “We have some mangos. Would you like some?”
“Mangos, huh,” Juho answered, his voice gradually sinking.
“Oh, do you not like mangos?”
“I do. I’m just not in the mood today, I guess.”
“… Still a little confused, but if you say so. Oh! I really enjoyed ‘Alexandria!'”
“How was it? It didn’t turn out too bad for the amount of time I spent meandering, right?”
“It turned out incredible! Very, very interesting read. It felt like I discovered Yun Woo’s unique sense of wit,” Joon Soo said, tapping a mug three times. There was clattering noise mixed in between his words. Bringing out what he described as Schisandra tea, Joon Soo brought a tray out to him. The house felt quite cool since the hallway was well ventilated.
“You must’ve been busy. You’re a celebrity.”
“You’re asking me? What about you?”
“I’ve been busy with a manuscript gig. I was taking a short break.”
“I’ve been the same, more or less.”
Then, Juho brought up a thought that had occurred to him, “Oh! I heard your book’s getting released in the US! Congratulations!”
“I’m sure it’ll do well.”
“You know what? That sounds really good coming from you. You sold the entire first edition within two months.”
Joon Soo was referring to ‘An Insect Leaves No Trace,’ which had drawn massive attention for the printing of its first edition starting at a whopping one million copies. Now, only two months later, the second edition was already in print. Meanwhile, seeing as though Juho wasn’t showing any response, Joon Soo said, “But it seems like you haven’t changed a bit.”
“There isn’t really a reason to.”
“Honestly, if you’re doing that well, it couldn’t hurt to enjoy yourself a little bit, don’t you think?
“Joon Soo, you know we don’t get luxuries like that.”
As soon as an author let their success get to their head, they quickly found their success threatened by other writers who wrote pieces that were just as, if not more, competent. The moment they stopped moving forward, everything became the past, and authors, of all people, had to be well aware of that. Then, a thought occurred to the young, ‘Maybe rooting for those aspiring writers is all I can do because I, myself, am an author. Maybe I’m keeping them in check.’ Then, seeing Joon Soo looking into the distance as if lost in thought, Juho asked, “Why? Did Geun Woo write something mind-blowing?”
Juho was aware that Geun Woo was in the middle of writing a story, and the young author was also aware that the story was about him.
“Yeah, he did,” Joon Soo said without hesitation, catching Juho off guard.
“… Did he?” Juho said, studying Joon Soo’s expression. Because of his mouth, which naturally curved upward, Joon Soo appeared as if he was always smiling, making it hard to distinguish if he was joking or if he was serious at times. Yet, there was a part of Juho that was accepting the statement as truth. He knew that Geun Woo had what it took to be able to pull off a story like that.
“Sigh,” Joon Soo let out. The red liquid in the mug had somewhat of an alarming look to it.
“Seems like our club is going international.”
“That would be great,” Joon Soo said, sipping his tea. From then on, the two authors drank their tea in silence, each retreated into his own mind. Meanwhile, Joon Soo stared at a leaf, which was blowing gently in the breeze. “This takes me back to when you first debuted.”
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