After taking a shower, Maru poured some green plum concentrate in a cup of water before bringing it to the living room.
He opened the veranda and went outside.
“It’s pretty quiet.”
For some reason, the lights were off all the way from the distant apartment complex to the residential area nearby.
It was 11:40 p.m, pretty early for everyone to be sleeping, but for some curious reason, other than the street lights, shop signs, and car headlights, there was no other source of light.
When he turned his head just a little, he saw the streets, which were bright due to the lights.
He observed the boundary between blocks which looked way too distinct.
The stage and the audience seats – Maru was reminded of that place, which he had become familiar with now.
Eventually, the lights along the streets started turning on.
It seemed that there was a temporary blackout.
He brushed the droplets of water on the surface of his cup and shook them off the veranda before turning around.
Thinking that he should watch one last video, he sat down on the sofa and played the video.
The contents of the video hadn’t changed for the past few videotapes.
What was different was that the videos, which were taken every two weeks or so, were now taken every three – or even two – days.
Most of it was about some chatter between the members of the troupe, practice, as well as Haejoo and Junmin’s lecture.
-You need to show yourself a little more.
Maru put down his cup.
Junmin’s words sounded a little different right now.
There was even a hint of anger.
I was mistaken because your character keeps being reflected when you are acting.
You aren’t hiding anything, so everything about you is being reflected on the character you’re playing.
-I’m not hiding anything.
-I thought about it.
No matter how bright a person’s nature is, is it really possible for that nature to protrude out in every single act? It’s natural for some traits, or habits to show.
Of course, there are other characteristics that show as well.
However, if it shows in every single act, even when acting another emotion, don’t you think it’s not being done subconsciously, but consciously?
-Are you saying that I’m intentionally ruining my own acts?
Haejoo glared this time as well.
The two seemed to be the only people in the practice room, as it was silent otherwise.
Just as the motor sound from the camera filled the audio, Junmin spoke again.
-You definitely have the skills to do better.
It might look awkward because your unique character shows through in every single role, but once you take that away, I can’t find any flaws.
-Oppa, you know what you’re saying, right?
-If I am wrong, I will kneel and apologize to you.
But from what I saw, you aren’t someone who would repeat her mistakes.
I was convinced when I first saw you during the street performance that you were a gem; a gem undiscovered by any other.
The actress that made me fall for her in that instant keeps being awkward on stage? At first, I thought your acting method was wrong.
That’s why I tried to fix it.
After some time, however, I realized that fixing it was no good.
Because there was nothing to fix to begin with.
Junmin had no hesitation as he said those words.
It wasn’t stubbornness.
It was conviction.
Maru was rather surprised by that conviction.
What did president Lee Junmin see from Jung Haejoo back then to be so sure?
‘Well, he is someone who could chuck 300 million won to a high schooler, so he must be rather extraordinary.’
Perhaps Junmin had the ability to see something that other people could not.
Whether that was intuition based on logic, or something spiritual, Junmin probably had some kind of evidence he could base his conviction on.
Maru was curious about Haejoo’s reaction to that.
Being the target of other people’s expectations wasn’t entirely a good thing.
To a certain extent, it would increase her motivation and pride.
There were many people that overcame their despair and gained courage from a simple ‘you can do it’.
However, too much expectation would erode away at their hearts.
The moment they doubted that expectation, the target of the expectation might fall into a state of self-loathing.
They would hate themselves for not being able to live up to those expectations, and would ultimately end up despising those that had high hopes of them.
Expectations were like fertilizers.
A moderate amount would accelerate the growth of a plant, but too much would make the soil rot.
A plant rotten at the roots was bound to die.
-Oppa, you see me too clearly every time.
Even though my body isn’t made of glass, you see through me too well.
I’m angry about that.
It makes me realize that you will never change.
Haejoo spun around on stage before speaking.
-Do you know? There’s another me inside me.
A me fully immersed in acting.
If I borrow her power, I will be able to do better.
Just like… the first day you saw me.
There was a gap in her words.
It seemed to signify some sort of event, but Maru focused on Haejoo’s confession first.
A me inside of me.
‘She’s the same as me.’
Maru turned up the volume.
-Oppa, tell me honestly.
You fell for me at first glance, didn’t you?
-I didn’t look for you for such personal feelings like t….
-Really? Do you really think so?
Junmin made a difficult expression and looked at the camera.
It seemed that he remembered that they were shooting.
-Oppa, what did you see in me that made you think I’ll become a star?
-I can just tell.
-It’s hard to describe with words.
But I can tell.
I can see what that person’s talents are like, how far they will reach, and things like that.
It’s like magic from fairy tales.
-Perhaps that’s what it is.
Haejoo closed her eyes.
-At first, just feeling the existence of this girl inside me gave me a hard time.
As I got used to it, I became able to move together with this girl.
When I close my eyes like this, I can feel my consciousness sink into the depths.
In those depths, there is a very dark curtain, and once I cross that curtain, there’s a stage just for me.
That girl is there standing on that stage.
She’s sleeping there.
I can borrow her power in that state, but that shouldn’t be enough to satisfy you.
So I need to wake her up.
I need to talk to her, share my consciousness with her and act together.
Haejoo, who was running around the stage, stood in the center.
She slowly kneeled and sat down.
The lights were fixed, but for some reason, it seemed to turn bright around her.
Haejoo put on a tragic smile.
Her gaze was looking in the distance, but her body was fixed there.
He could tell that at a glance.
On stage, Haejoo was always bright.
The pink energy that circulated around her was like a paint that couldn’t be removed, but for that moment alone, it dissolved into nothingness as though it came into contact with paint thinner.
Conversing with another, inner self.
That should be the identity of that thinner.
The person changed.
The woman who always had a smile on her face disappeared and Haejoo put on a very thick smile very lightly.
Her clear eyes changed and seemed like the faint moon hanging behind the mountain, and it felt like he would get sucked in if he kept staring.
Her casual shake of the shoulder showed the extremes of a curvature that only women could show off, and her legs hid the secret between them, yet was still very provocative.
Rather than a miserable woman selling her body in the red-light district, she looked like a high-class courtesan working in a luxury restaurant.
In that state, Haejoo said her lines.
The words that escaped her round mouth likewise formed a round shape and jumped around the stage.
Maru subconsciously gulped when he heard the sweet voice knock on his ears.
It was a voice that too easily stimulated the desires he hid deep inside.
Haejoo raised her hand.
Just like a butterfly with a ripped wing, the courtesan that tragically longed for her beloved just looked into the distance, calling out his name again and again, her body unable to move.
Desperate, yet not desperate, affectionate, yet not affectionate.
Haejoo interchanged between a seductive courtesan and a devoted girl before returning to ‘Jung Haejoo’ again.
This wasn’t something he should watch for free.
The only thing he could do was to applaud, and he felt that it was such a pity that he could not reach out to the woman inside the video.
What would Junmin have felt after seeing such an act up close? Probably overwhelmed?
-I knew it.
You are still, and you always will be, perfect.
Those were Junmin’s words.
* * *
“How is it?” I asked as I feigned calmness.
Junmin’s request was simple.
It was to show myself a little more.
Not hiding it, but showing it even more.
I shook off my embarrassment and poured out all of the desires boiling inside me.
Even though the air conditioning was on in the theater, my clothes were drenched.
“Unni, you looked like a completely different person,” Joohyun replied first.
She was such a thankful girl who joined practice all the time.
I looked next to her.
This person’s answer was more important.
“It wasn’t perfect, but you broke the frame.
It was good, I mean it.”
When a compliment, which I had never heard from Junmin’s mouth since the start of practice, escaped his mouth, I felt my legs go loose.
I tensed my shaking knees and ran to Junmin.
Just like that,
I then hugged Junmin, who tried to dodge.
My legs gave up at that point.
“Unni, aren’t you being too bold?”
Joohyun’s tone seemed calm, but her face was red.
Joohyun left the theater, saying that she wanted to go to the bathroom.
“Wh-what are you doing all of a sudden?”
“I just wanted to do this.
Why, can’t I do it?”
“No, it’s not that you can’t….”
“It’s been months.
You gave me a compliment for the first time in months.
Don’t you think I’d be happy?”
“But even so, there’s a kid watching.”
“Are you shameful of me?”
“Of course not.”
“Then do you like me?”
I said those words because I wanted to see Junmin panicking, but Junmin spoke in a firm voice without any fluctuations in his expression.
“What are you going to do if I say I like you?”
I was waiting for those words.
I tip-toed and put my mouth against his.
He awkwardly put his hands around my waist, and I had to pull his hands for him.
“That wasn’t your first kiss, was it?”
“Think whatever you want.”
“It’d be great if it was, but it doesn’t seem to be.”
The man who appeared out of nowhere.
The man who kept watching wordlessly and ran away when I talked to him.
The man who taught me in this strange relationship of teacher and student.
When was it that I started liking him?
“Shall we get married?” Those words escaped naturally.
“Sure,” Junmin also said nonchalantly.
We stared at each other’s face for a while before kissing once again.
“Are you serious?”
“If you’re okay with it.”
“You know that we’re twelve years apart, right?”
“Actually, it’s thirteen.”
“People around you will swear at you for it, are you okay with that?”
“It doesn’t matter to me.”
“I don’t care either.
So we’re really getting married, okay? I’m not joking.”
“I don’t like jokes in the first place.”
I let go of my hands that I put around Junmin’s waist.
It was a curious feeling.
It was curious that I came to like a man who was much older than me, but it was even more curious that I wanted to live together with this man.
When people around me got married after dating for a few months, I thought that their courage was incredible, but now that I was in a similar position, I could understand them.
This man is enough.
An indescribable sense of fulfillment filled me up and became impenetrable by fear and worries.
I only thought about the happy days that I would have in the future with this man.
“But we should try dating at least, right?”
“Can I get a refund if I don’t like it?”
“Honestly speaking, I think I’ll be very sad if I get refunded.”
Junmin made a difficult smile.
I just found his expression too adorable.
I put my hands on his face and spoke,
At that moment, we exchanged a long conversation with things other than words.
Destiny – I became drunk on that word.
“Uhm, can I go in now?”
Joohyun’s voice could be heard.
I chuckled and left the theater while grabbing Junmin’s hands.
“Joohyun, let’s grab something good to eat.”
“Forget about that, what was that just now? Are you two dating?”
“I’ll tell you that as we eat.”
I took Joohyun, who was nagging me to tell her what happened, outside.
It was raining outside.
It was the rainy season.
Joohyun opened an umbrella and walked forward.
“Let’s use one together.”
I had an umbrella but didn’t bring it with me.
I went under the umbrella that Junmin put up and walked next to him.
“Ah, there’s one thing I have to tell you.”
“What is it?”
“You have to quit smoking.”
“That’s a bit….”
“Then I’ll start smoking as well.”
“You have to look after your health.
You aren’t young, you know?”
“It’s sad that I can’t retort.”
I boldly hooked my arm around his.
It felt like the statue of emotions I’d been secretly carving over the past few months during practice was finally completed today.
“Oh, you know that I don’t have any parents, right?”
I don’t have any either.”
“Looks like our wedding will be a small one.”
Joohyun, who was nagging them to come faster, crossed the road.
The green light was flashing.
“You’ll get wet.”
“This is youth.”
I ran while looking at the flashing green light.
The splashing beneath my foot was cheerful, and the sound of the rain hitting my head made me smile.
Just as I was feeling that everything was going to go well, I saw Joohyun’s face, who was on the other side.
Joohyun, who was stiff with her eyes wide open, threw the umbrella and reached out to me.
Why? – before that question even came to mind, someone strongly pushed me from the back.
I was pushed forward and ended up on my knees.
Just as I grumbled about how my knees were hurting after being scratched on the asphalt,
Thud – a heavy sound could be heard.
It was an unpleasant sound I’ve never heard before.
I quietly stared at my scratched knees in a daze before slowly turning my head around.
A truck, with an ad for frozen dumplings on one side, had crashed into a commercial building.
People were screaming.
Screams gathered on one side, and my eyes naturally headed that way as well.
Pitter, patter, the sound of the rain hitting my head vanished.
The rain that muddled my vision couldn’t be seen either.
There was only one thing that entered my eyes.
“No,” I said as I looked at the blood being washed away by the rain.
 “Gisaeng”, wikipedia for more details.
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