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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“That was a good book! Sun Hwa loved it!” Bom said cheerfully, as if to prove that there was no exaggeration in what was written on the promotional banner. Juho also remembered getting a text from Sun Hwa after the book’s release, which had been significantly longer than the other texts.
“How about you? Did you think the book was funny at all?” she asked, looking at Sung Pil. At which, he gave a delayed answer, “I think the book thief stood out to me the most,” turning a comedy into a tragedy. Walking past Bom, who looked like she had a lot to say, Juho, who had a certain book in mind, walked further into the bookstore. There was no telling what would happen if he were to stand in front of the golden books any longer.
“Here it is: ‘The Winner of the Rookie of the Year Award.'”
Author: Sung Pil. Instead of his real name, Pil Sung Choi, he had come out to the world with an alias, Sung Pil. Upon seeing his books on display, Bom walked toward them as if glad to see them. Because the publisher was quite prominent, the books were being displayed in a fairly visible spot in the store. The names of the judges were also visible, particularly Yun Seo Baek’s.
“‘Gingko Tree.’ The first unanimous nomination since Yun Woo! Critically acclaimed by the judges of the contest,” Bom said, reading the promotional banner for the book out loud, just like she had done with Juho’s. Looking at Sung Pil, Juho was greeted with a surprising sight. For the first time, Sung Pil seemed to be bashful. As Juho stared intently at him, Sung Pil’s distinctively thick eyebrows squirmed, and he said, “… I’m just not used to seeing this,” which appeared to be true.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you like that, either,” Juho said. That time, Sung Pil asked Juho, “What did you think?”
“It was good. Well-written.”
The lack of hesitation in Juho’s answer felt somewhat insincere, which caused Sung Pil to narrow his eyes at him. However, Juho was sincere in his answer. The book was actually good and well-written. Knowing how much time Sung Pil had spent polishing the story, Juho wasn’t surprised to see how successful it was becoming. On top of that, his age made it an even more impressive achievement. Only then, did Juho start making sense of how Yun Seo had reacted to his interest in the book. At that moment, somebody came up next to Sung Pil and said, “‘Scuse me.” Then, reading the promotional banner as Bom had done, he picked up a book. At which point, Sung Pil took a step back, pretending not to mind the man’s response to the book. Bom acted similarly. Then, flipping the book, the man started reading the testimonials in the back, and just like that, he walked away.
“Is he buying it?” Sung Pil asked, sounding confused and looking toward the cashier counter.
“I think so…! Congratulations!” Bom said, clapping quietly. Then, Juho called to his new author friend as if trying to stir him up, “Sung Pil.”
That time, Sung Pil’s face started twitching from the corners of his mouth. He had to be experiencing a certain degree of joy, with which Juho, too, was well acquainted. For an author, seeing somebody buy their book brought them enormous joy. Seeing his friend’s innocent response, Juho couldn’t help but wonder if he had been the same way in the past.
“Our professor was saying a lot of good things about you today.”
“Yeah. He was saying, ‘This gentleman, here, has recently made a successful debut as an author by unanimous nomination in a literary contest,” she said, mimicking the professor. Unfortunately, Juho had no point of reference to determine how good or bad her impersonation of her professor was.
“Is that person looking in our direction?” Bom asked. At which point, Juho looked around cautiously. Although they weren’t exactly loud, lingering in a spot in a bookstore, let alone in front of a certain book, tended to draw attention. Fortunately, since it was a weekday, the bookstore wasn’t all that crowded.
“You guys are buying books, right? Let’s all go and grab one.”
With that, the three scattered in different directions. Initially, they all lingered around the domestic literature section. Then, Bom moved to technical literature and, after that, to the humanities section. From that point on, after learning and experiencing various things, she would eventually come to create a style that was unique to her, just like all other authors. Being aware of that, Bom didn’t rush the process either. Then, as Juho entered the international literature section from the guidebooks section, he reunited with his two friends.
“That was fast.”
“I already had a book in mind.”
Seeing that Bom had picked two books and Sung Pil one, Juho thought for a brief moment and picked up a book from the international literature section, which happened to be a novel that Kelley Coin had criticized harshly.
“Let’s go over to Juho’s,” Bom suggested as they came out of the store after paying for their books.
“I don’t have a problem with that,” Juho said, and Sung Pil agreed. Then, she added, “With alcohol.”
“Alcohol?” Juho asked. Meanwhile, Sung Pil nodded and welcomed the idea, saying, “Sure.”
Before long, Bom and Sung Pil seemed to get closer. In the end, they made a stop at a neighborhood grocery store to buy bottles of soju and beer. Upon arrival, as soon as the table was set up, the two started guzzling down their drinks. Although Juho tried to keep them from drinking too fast, his efforts went in vain. Soon, Juho gave up and let them be. With alcohol in their systems, Bom and Sung Pil started talking to each other more and more.
“You know what’s the worst? Group projects. I just can’t trust people anymore.”
“I understand,” Sung Pil agreed with Bom. While Juho was sipping his can of beer, the two emptied three bottles of Soju in the blink of an eye. Seeing his friends’ impressive drinking ability, Juho couldn’t help but be astonished.
“Guys. Slow down,” Juho said in a concerned voice. At which, Bom waved her hand in denial and said, “What are you talking about!? This is the perfect pace!” and proceeded to mix the soju and the beer to a very specific ratio. ‘You really learn all sorts of things in college,’ Juho thought to himself.
“Eh, whatever,” Juho said, reaching for the piece of whelk in the appetizer plate. At that moment, Sung Pil said out of nowhere, “I’m finally in the same world as you.” There was a potent smell of alcohol in his breath.
“Is this your first time at my place?” Juho asked. At which, Sung Pil replied, “I’m talking about the literary world.” Although his eyebrows looked like they were much closer to each other than usual, Sung Pil was staring intently into the chunks of seasoned whelks.
“I wanna write better than you and I want you to look up to me one day. But we’re friends, and friends need to treat each other equally. You know what? Maybe there isn’t such a thing as better or worse. But what’s even funnier is that I still wanna beat you. In that case, what would it mean to beat you? What would that look like?” Sung Pil said, looking and sounding completely sober. However, there was one part of his body that indicated to Juho that he was drunk. Sung Pil’s ears, which peeked through his short hair, were burning red. Then, the rookie author started rambling on some more, “You’re just too good of a writer. You comforted me when I most needed, and nobody’s ever approached me the way you did. I wanna be able to do that too, but that isn’t to say that I wanna be like you. I just want my writing to have an impact on your life somehow. Oh, am I getting ahead of myself here?”
“I think you’re drunk. You should stop,” Juho said, snatching the cup from Sung Pil’s hand as he was bringing it up to his mouth. The distinct whiff of alcohol rushed into Juho’s nose, making him cringe against his will.
“Wow! I didn’t know you could drink like that! Here, have some more,” Bom said, filling Juho’s cup. Although she had had less to drink than Sung Pil, she seemed to be in a great mood still.
“I’m just so happy.”
Then, covering her face with both of her hands, she said, “That all of my friends are making it. I just want everyone to be happy, you know? Together.”
“You’re drunk too, huh?”
“No, I’m not,” she said, guzzling down on her alcoholic concoction. Then, picking up her chopsticks, Bom brought them to the plate to snatch a piece of whelk, but they seemed to be dancing around her chopsticks.
“You know what? From now on, I’m going my way too,” she said, glaring at the piece of whelk she had finally managed to pick up with her chopsticks. However, it seemed like she was about to drop it at any given minute. At that moment, a shadow cast over Juho.
“Jeez! You scared me!”
It was Sung Pil leaping across the table. Although all the food and drinks on the table were intact, the piece of whelk that had been hanging precariously by the ends of Bom’s chopsticks fell to the floor.
“I’m not runnin’. I’m not goin’ anywhere,” Sung Pil said, sitting next to Juho.
“You’re not running?”
“That’s right. When the day comes that we have to face each other, I’m not going down without a fight,” the rookie author said, as if imagining a sword fight.
“Promise me that you won’t back out. That you won’t go easy on me,” Sung Pil said, demanding the young author make a promise.
“What are you talking about? What? You want me to thumb wrestle you or something?”
It seemed like Sung Pil became even more uncomfortable to talk to when drunk. In the end, Juho gave in to the pressure and nodded.
“All right! Would you stop drinking now? Look at you getting all drunk in the middle of the day.”
From then on, Bom fell asleep, and Sung Pil started mumbling gibberish. And after some time, in the evening, the two started to sober up. Meanwhile, Juho read the book he had bought at the bookstore, realizing just how accurate Coin’s criticism of the book had been.
For his friends who were struggling with the effects of the alcohol, Juho made each a cup of honey water.
(TL’s Note: Honey water is a common folk remedy in Korea for preventing or curing a hangovers.)
“Feel better now? Do you think you can get home?”
“I’m good,” Sung Pil said with his usual blank expression. The distance between his eyebrows had returned to normal, and neither were his ears burning red.
“Do you even remember what you said?” Juho asked. At which, Sung Pil looked straight into his eyes and replied, “I do.”
Yet, there was not a trace of shame or any kind of emotion on his face for that matter. In the end, Juho decided not to get into details. Soon, after walking his two friends out and seeing them leaving in a cab, Juho got back home. While cleaning the table and the leftover alcohol, Juho poured the remaining Soju in one of the cups into his mouth.
‘I wanna beat you.’ Sung Pil’s words echoed in Juho’s ears. Juho had only one response to them: “And I, you.” Then, Juho poured himself another drink.
“That’s the stuff!” Nam Kyung exclaimed, feeling the alcohol going down his throat. He was having a drink at a street bar on his way home from work.
“OK. As Yun Woo’s editor-in-charge, what did you think of today’s meeting?” Mr. Maeng asked as Nam Kyung poured another round of alcohol into his mouth. While waiting for Nam Kyung’s answer, Mr. Maeng slurped on the noodle soup.
“You’re talking about the idea of involving the previous award winners in the event, right?”
Although that had been somewhat of an ongoing tradition, it had come to an abrupt halt with the appearance of Yun Woo. However, during the meeting, an idea had come up to leverage the literary award exhibition to bring back the old tradition. The fact that the book of the recently debuted author was drawing significantly more attention than expected had also played a role in it. However, the conflict lay in the nature of the event and Yun Woo’s position.
“We are essentially revealing the authors’ writing space to the public.”
Nam Kyung nodded at Mr. Maeng’s summary of the idea for the new event. The point of the event was to show people how an author went about writing a book.
“But the thing is, the idea was to bring the winners of the Rookie of the Year together,” Nam Kyung said.
“And Yun Woo’s one of them.”
“Which means, if it were to happen, Yun Woo’s writing process would get revealed to the public.”
“It’s definitely not something that happens every day,” Mr. Maeng said.
“I think that’s an understatement.”
“Which is why we’re approaching this with as much precaution as possible.”
Nam Kyung let out a sigh. Yun Woo had always been a tricky figure. Despite being one of the most prominent figures in the world, he was far too young. On the other hand, despite being far too young, he was one of the biggest names in the world. The young author stuck out like a sore thumb no matter where he was.
“I’m not gonna lie. Even the thought of it stirs up my interest,” Mr. Maeng said, pouring Nam Kyung another drink, which Nam Kyung poured right into his mouth. If Yun Woo were to participate, fans would be able to see his writing process with their own eyes. There was no doubt that it would be successful, and the company was also confident in its success.
“I mean, it’s more like a reenactment of the authors’ writing process. It’s not like they’re actually writing, so I think it’d be OK to have Mr. Woo there. Besides, it should be a safe setting, so we won’t have to worry about any trouble.”
It was a safe event that couldn’t possibly damage the young author’s reputation in any way.
“Of course, that isn’t to say that I doubt his skill. I’m just saying that there’s no risk for any potential danger.”
If anybody, the editing department was confident in the young author’s skill. However, people tended to talk him down at every opportunity that came their way. After all, the downfall of a genius carried quite the shock factor.
“But this is Yun Woo we’re talking about. Even the story he’d showcase at the event would draw quite a bit of attention,” Nam Kyung said.
“OK. How about this? What if we work with materials that have already been published?”
“We can’t back out now. The bullet’s already left the gun,” Nam Kyung said. Then, smacking his lips, Mr. Maeng added, “Well, I suppose we can only get so far discussing this between us without knowing where Mr. Woo stands. Personally, I really hope Mr. Woo participates because, frankly, I wanna see him write. I wanna see what it looks like when Yun Woo writes.”
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