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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“I should’ve just stayed home,” Sung Pil murmured, letting out a small sigh. No matter how hard he tried, his queasy stomach kept him from paying attention in class. Feeling like throwing up, he walked out of the classroom and sat by the stairs. Although he had felt fine when he had woken up that morning, reading a certain book just before breakfast had proved troublesome. Despite feeling like the words had kept floating about before his eyes, Sung Pil simply hadn’t been able to put the book down.
“I drank way too much yesterday,” he said, regretting his decisions from the day before. The physical education majors were playing soccer in the distance, shouting something. The sight of the ball rolling across the field alone was enough to make Sung Pil feel even more nauseous. He massaged his temples in an attempt to improve his state, but to no avail, which inevitably put him in a bad mood. At that moment…
“Hey! You’re that Sung Pil, aren’t you?”
… Somebody called to the rookie author. When he looked back, he saw somebody with a bushy bleached hairdo, an upperclassman who Sung Pil barely knew.
“Heard you’re friends with Yun Woo?” he asked in a friendly manner, and Sung Pil was very well aware of why the upperclassman was even talking to him. As if completely oblivious to the apparent look of suffering on Sung Pil’s face, he walked toward the rookie author and stood in front of him. Looking up at the upperclassman, who was standing against the Sun, was quite daunting in the state Sung Pil was in.
“Let me talk to him on the phone, will ya?” the upperclassman asked. At which, Sung Pil couldn’t help but furrow his brow, feeling provoked, all without a way to control it. It wasn’t just the hangover, either. He remembered the book he had read that same morning. In it, was a sense of inferiority and defeat. Sung Pil was well acquainted with the emotions within the book, and the entire story felt like he’d been reading about his own life. Geun Woo’s writing had caused the rookie author to reflect on everything he had gone through up to that point in his life.
“Weren’t you talking trash about me not too long ago?”
“Saying that I was taking advantage of Yun Woo?”
The upperclassman had been among the group of people who had insulted the rookie author for his friendship with Yun Woo. As if feeling exposed, he brushed his hair up with his fingers, which was much too stiff and messy to keep in control.
“That wasn’t me,” he said insincerely and without a care in the world. Sung Pil remembered having had trouble tolerating a situation like that when had was younger. He couldn’t ignore it, either. He hadn’t been able to stand people whose words and actions weren’t in sync with each other. Their presence alone had often been highly bothersome. Now, for the first time in a very long time, he found himself revisiting those emotions.
“No,” Sung Pil said, deeply annoyed.
“I’ll throw up on you if you keep bothering me.”
However, the upperclassman didn’t let up despite the rookie author’s warning.
“Must be nice having Yun Woo as a friend.”
“Yes, quite so.”
“Does he ever buy you stuff?”
At that moment, Sung Pil sprung up from his seat. He had no time or energy to deal with the insensitive upperclassman. As Sung Pil wretched toward him, the upperclassman leapt back, frightened. In the state Sung Pil was in, throwing up was as easy as shaving his eyebrows off. Fully intending on vomiting all over the upperclassman, the rookie author charged at him. At which, the upperclassman kept backing up until he fell on his back, making a scene. Looking down at him, a thought, which felt more like the book talking to him, occurred to Sung Pil. It said, ‘This is why you don’t get along with others.’
“Here, I have some tissues,” the upperclassman said as he got back up and took a few pieces of tissue out of his bag, which was something he would have more need for if Sung Pil were to vomit on him. Looking at the crumpled up tissues in the upperclassman’s hand, Sung Pil couldn’t help but feel empty inside. Letting out a small sigh, he took the tissues, almost as if snatching them.
“I better drink some water.”
Walking out of the campus, Sung Pil made his way to the convenience store. Although he didn’t want to eat or drink anything, he needed something with which to comfort his stomach. After pretending to retch, he was actually starting to feel like vomiting.
“Maybe I should just take something instead,” he said, changing direction midway. Since neither of the places was too far off, he decided to go to the pharmacy instead. Upon seeing him, the pharmacist offered him a hangover recovery drink and a can of some beverage, as if well acquainted with young, hungover customers like Sung Pil. He took the pill and swallowed it almost immediately.
“You’re that author, aren’t you?” the pharmacist asked after staring intently at him. “You’re friends with Yun Woo, right?”
“Heard he’s a good writer. Is that true?”
The pharmacist chuckled, as if finding Sung Pil’s answer funny.
“It’s hard being around a friend who’s so successful, isn’t it?”
“I was like that when I was younger, too. I was an aspiring singer. You see, I had a rival.”
Sung Pil looked up at the pharmacist at the word rival. However, being completely oblivious about where the rookie author’s interest lay, the pharmacist kept on with his life story.
“I didn’t stand a chance against him. He’s still goin’ strong. Do you know that one singer? That’s my friend. You wanna see a picture?”
“Sure,” Sung Pil said, looking at the picture the pharmacist was showing him of someone who the rookie author didn’t recognize. The shiny jacket was about the only memorable thing.
“I went through some tough times. I was so jealous of his talent.”
“I see,” Sung Pil replied haphazardly. However, the pharmacist didn’t let up.
“I still found my own path, though. However, this friend of mine, he might be successful, but nowhere near as successful as Yun Woo. Something tells me that you’re in a much more difficult position than the one I was in.”
“Stand tall, young man. Don’t lose hope.”
Although Sung Pil couldn’t understand what the pharmacist was talking about, he gave an affirmative answer since he didn’t want to talk any longer. As he put the empty bottle in the trash can, the pharmacist asked, “You don’t think you could get me an autograph from him, do you?”
Feeling his patience reaching its limits, the rookie author said, “I’m throwing up right here, right now.”
“No way! Not here! There’s a restroom in the next building over!” the pharmacist said, handing Sung Pil a black plastic bag. Taking the bag, the rookie author made his way to the next building, feeling as though the world around him was spinning. After debuting and starting to make a name for himself, Sung Pil had just begun to realize what it meant to be part of the literary world. Yun Woo wasn’t the only talented author. In fact, there were a slew of authors who were significantly more talented than Sung Pil.
“Now, I see why you don’t drink,” Sung Pil said, stopping under a gingko tree on the street, burying his face in the black plastic bag and thinking that he’d feel better once he poured everything out. ‘I’m gonna start writing as soon as I sober up,’ he thought to himself. Of all books, Juho had lauded a book that had a massive lingering emotional impact, which made Sung Pil wonder if Juho had known about the effect of the book all along. ‘I can’t let success get to my head. There are so many more people who deserve to be more successful than me. If I wanna protect what I have, then I have to put up a fight.’
“One heck of a friend I have,” Sung Pil said, pouring everything out into the plastic bag, along with the sense of inferiority and defeat welling up from within.
“Hey,” an exhausted voice greeted Juho as he walked into the studio. When the young author looked down, he saw Geun Woo lying in the middle of the room.
“Are you sick?” Juho asked, and Geun Woo waved his hand weakly in denial. All of his things were scattered about the room as if he had been cleaning, which made the room seem quite untidy. Putting the gift he had brought for Geun Woo down, Juho added to the untidy state of the room.
“Brought you a bottle of wine.”
It was to celebrate the release of Geun Woo’s new book. The voice Juho had heard on the phone was nowhere to be found. Instead, the author was lying on the floor absentmindedly, like a marathon runner who just passed the finish line. Every time he inhaled, his stomach bulged up.
“Seems like you are in the middle of cleaning your room.”
“Yep. I wanted to organize the manuscript papers that had been stacking around the room.”
“Fine by me,” Geun Woo said, nodding willingly and getting back up to his feet. However, his hands were quite slow. Since they weren’t his manuscripts, Juho couldn’t even categorize them, which forced him to keep a similar pace to Geun Woo’s.
“Can you hand me that box over there?”
“The one next to it.”
Taking a large cardboard box, Juho handed it to Geun Woo, who proceeded to tape the bottom of it. The tape made a loud noise as Geun Woo pulled it away from the roll.
“Gotta throw everything out.”
Geun Woo had already thrown out most of his old manuscripts. Although there were some he would stare at intently, as if reminiscing to the time when he wrote what was on the pages, he started picking them up by the bunches shortly after and putting them in the cardboard box, almost as if finding them cumbersome.
“What if you lose an important piece of data?”
“It’s fine. I keep them separate from the manuscripts,” Geun Woo said confidently, laying on the floor again.
“Are you done? It hasn’t even been that long.”
“I’m tired. Let’s not worry about cleaning for now. Besides, I shouldn’t be cleaning when I have a guest.”
“That’s a decent excuse,” Juho said, sitting on the doorway while watching the dust particles sparkling in the sun and escaping through the open window.
“I just feel like I’ve used up everything I had.”
A breeze blew into the room through the window, blowing on Geun Woo’s hair.
“Did you read it?”
After a brief pause, Geun Woo asked, “What did you think?”
Looking at the bottle of wine he had brought, Juho replied, “Good enough to make me crave a drink.”
As if checking to see if the young author was telling the truth, Geun Woo looked toward the doorway at Juho, looking livelier than ever.
“I only had one though.”
“One as in one can of beer?”
“No, as in one glass. A glass of soju.”
“What? Who drinks like that?” Geun Woo said, chuckling. However, he didn’t seem particularly offended. Looking at his chest moving up and down, Juho asked, “That was me, huh?”
“The one with the iron stomach.”
“Haha! Did you recognize yourself?”
There were a variety of characters in Geun Woo’s novel: an idiot, a maniac, a romantic, a white supremacist, an enthusiast, and a genius.
“C’mon! A genius with an iron stomach? Really?”
Not only was the character the most peculiar, but he was also the most absurd, the most riveting, and the most colorful.
“But he’s a genius, isn’t he? Everybody wants to be like him.”
“He dies! From all the toxins that’d been building up in his body!” Juho said, Then, in a somewhat confrontational tone, he asked, “You held feelings against me, didn’t you?”
Geun Woo admitted quickly, saying, “Because you snatched my award right out of my hand! If it hadn’t been for you, I could’ve been the one presenting on that stage! Geun Woo Yoo, the winner of this year’s Rookie of the Year Award.”
“That’s not my fault.”
The genius with the iron stomach eventually died in Geun Woo’s new novel. Being inherently different from those around him, he believed that he was entirely made of steel. Falling on his face or running into something did nothing to him, allowing him to jump into a fire without a care in the world. Despite the extreme heat, he didn’t melt away. If anything, he remained solid. Simply put, he was invincible.
“How are you able to move on to another piece so soon?” Geun Woo asked out of nowhere, looking toward the ceiling and slurring slightly from lying flat on the floor.
“What do you mean?”
“I’m about to fall apart after writing just one eight-hundred-page book. But you, you don’t have that problem. Even as we’re speaking. It’s only been what? A few months since your most recent full-length novel? Not only that, but you wrote in front of a massive audience. Yet, you still have the energy to move around. When you said that manuscript was incomplete, I thought you’d lost your mind. I can’t believe you revealed a first draft to your readers!” Geun Woo said, shuddering at the thought of finding himself in Juho’s position.
“I’m telling you, you have a stomach made of iron. No wonder you’re so resilient, unlike me, who is squishy and weak. Man, I’m getting sleepy,” he added, letting out a big yawn, acting as if he didn’t have what it took to overcome his laziness, like somebody who had either just woken up or was about to fall asleep. At that moment…
“What are you talkin’ about? We’ve even eaten together at a restaurant.”
Another voice came from behind Juho. When he looked up, the person to whom the voice belonged looked down and locked eyes with him. It was Joon Soo, looking as kind as ever.
“He’s been cleaning his room for a week now,” Joon Soo said, letting out a small sigh. “Mrs. Baek keeps saying that I should leave him be and let him rest since he’s worked long and hard, but…” he paused, looking slightly troubled. “You gotta clean your room at some point!”
“Please, Joon Soo. Let me be.”
Paying no attention to Geun Woo’s plea, Joon Soo tapped the stack of boxes next to him with his foot, which came toppling over, vomiting its contents. However, Geun Woo didn’t move a muscle, and Joon Soo stared intently at him.
“Long breaks aren’t necessarily bad. Say… Thirty years? He wouldn’t have to sleep another day in his life. Just imagine how much writing he could get done with all that time in his hands.”
As Geun Woo snorted, his body also moved up and down.
“Don’t be silly now.”
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