Sora looked in front of her.
Maru was cutting up a hamburger steak with his fork.
He was using the side of the fork so it was being crushed.
There was a knife right next to the hot stone plate, but he didn’t even look at it.
“Don’t you feel uncomfortable doing that?” Sora asked as she pointed at the knife with a fork in her hand.
“This is easier for me.”
He used his fork to cut it until the end.
He strangely seemed like her father when it came to being stubborn in the weirdest ways.
Even though her mother gave her father a specialized knife to cut raw chestnuts, he was always adamant on using a fruit knife to do it.
He looked like a child when he smiled while boasting the smooth-looking chestnut.
“A knife should be much easier to use though.”
“Don’t you ever nag Ando like that.
Ando might run away from you.”
“Ando-seonbae probably uses a knife though.”
She used her fork to pick up a piece of cut meat and put it in her mouth.
The hot meat juice flowed down between her teeth.
Eating delicious food was a joyous thing.
“Anyway, why did you act like that during the interview?” she asked after emptying her plate.
“What do you mean?”
“Of course I’m talking about your attitude.
I also noticed that she had other intentions at the end.
But I didn’t notice anything before that, yet you acted cold to her from the moment the interview started.
Did you hear bad rumors about her beforehand or something?”
“No, that was the first time I came into contact with her today.”
Maru sipped some water.
“Then why did you act like that?”
“A man’s intuition?”
“I’m half serious though.”
“Then what’s the other half? I’m asking because I’m really curious.
That journalist looked really angry, but she smiled in the end.
It was probably because of that last question.
Just what was that?”
Maru acted uncooperative from the start of the interview.
She would understand if Maru was some psychopath, but he wasn’t, which made it stranger that he was avoiding the point of the questions and giving vague answers the whole time.
If journalist Koo Yura didn’t mention the relationship between JA Production and the journalist that participated as a judge, Sora would have scolded Maru for giving nonsensical answers.
Maru pulled out a napkin and wiped his mouth.
“I wouldn’t say this if it was anyone else, but you’re related to this, so I guess you should know about it.
There’s one person among the judges related to my agency.
Well, from another perspective, there might be more than one?”
Sora was about to ask ‘what about it?’ but then realized the severity of the situation.
She realized what journalist Koo Yura’s intentions were by asking that question, and why Maru was acting on edge the whole time.
“So we got the grand prize because you were….”
“The journalist’s intention was to make us think that way.
Even you, who’s directly involved in it, thinks that way.
What would other people think when they saw it?”
“They would think that there is some form of cheating going on.”
“Seonbae, tell me the truth.
Is it just like she is suspecting, and this grand prize we got is related to you?”
“What are you going to do if I say yes?”
Sora tensed her eyes.
“I’m going to call the city hall right now and tell them that there was something wrong with the results.”
Sora didn’t plan to stay still when she found out.
She wasn’t doing it for the sake of justice; it was for the sake of her pride.
She couldn’t care less about a prize that she got through someone else’s name value.
“It’s that journalist’s intention to make us act like that.
Don’t get excited.
You did win that prize with your skill.”
“I mean, think about it.
There are six total judges.
There’s only one journalist related to JA.
Do you think he would have the authority to choose who gets the grand prize as he wished?”
Then why did that journalist ask something like that?”
“I’m not sure about the details, but it must have been at the request of someone who does not like JA.”
Maru stood up.
Sora also got her wallet and walked over to the counter.
She paid with her card before leaving the store.
It was even more delicious because the food was free.”
“But are you sure this is enough for casting you?”
Sora took Maru to the fruit juice store right next door.
While they waited for their order, they continued talking about what they were talking about earlier.
“There’s something I haven’t heard from you yet.
How did you immediately notice that the journalist approached us with bad intentions?”
“I was actually bothered by the fact that a famous movie magazine wanted to interview us in the first place.”
“Why? We got the grand prize, so an interview doesn’t sound that far-fetched.”
A store employee handed them their fruit juice in plastic cups.
Sora gave the strawberry juice to Maru.
“I’ll have to answer your questions if I drink this, right?”
“I’m going to ask even if you don’t drink it.
You know I can’t hold back my curiosities.”
She looked at Maru, who clearly seemed bothered.
Maru took a sip of the strawberry juice before speaking,
“This is the first time the film festival took place.
And it was on a city level too.
Do you remember how the mayor acted that day?”
“Do you mean how he visited midway and disappeared after a few words?”
If it was an important event, there’s no way the mayor would act like that.
Although it is called the first film festival, it’s uncertain whether there’ll be a second one.
It might be a one-shot event.”
“I’m saying that it’s not a competition that’s weighty enough for a famous magazine to talk about it.
It has no power, and the money invested in it was minimal too.
You can see just how half-assed it was from seeing how there was a whole two months of delay because they were lacking manpower.”
“Is it really an incredible feat to win a grand prize for an event that was obviously held in a hurry? To the point that it’s worth a three-page long interview? The youth acting festival is much bigger in scale compared to the film festival this time, but there wasn’t a single time when a major magazine interviewed their winners.
Only someone from the local newspaper will take a photo and write a few lines.
That would then go on the internet, and no actual news would be released on paper.”
“That’s true, but didn’t you go too far by suspecting her just based on that?”
“Her questions were obviously suspicious.
When she was addressing you, she earnestly asked you about the film festival, but when she talked to me, she suddenly talked about dramas.
That much is understandable.
It’s not weird to ask me for a status update.
However, don’t you think it’s strange for her to keep digging into that? The way she flattered me also made me suspicious.”
She did ask you some questions that were far from the point.”
“I would understand if the interviewer was unskilled, but it doesn’t make sense for someone who is meticulous enough to do some background digging to keep asking strange questions.
I can only conclude that she intended to do that from the start.
If she wasn’t there to play around with the interview, it meant that she had ulterior motives, so I naturally chose to dodge her questions.”
Looking back, journalist Koo had sharp eyes whenever she asked something to Maru.
She had a different presence about her when she was asking questions related to JA, and when she was asking questions about the film festival.
She didn’t notice it back then, but she realized the difference after hearing Maru’s words.
“Then what was that? She came to us for an interview because you’re in JA? Not because of the grand prize?”
Maru shook his head.
“That’s not entirely it.
What I’m saying is only an assumption and a prediction on my part.
Their editing team might have taken interest in future film people and asked journalist Koo to get coverage.
If someone asked her to do a personal favor midway, it would lead to our current situation.
Since they aren’t a magazine that can write just anything, the head editor should have given permission beforehand.
I can say with confidence that the magazine agency took interest in this matter.”
“If you say it like that, I don’t know which is the truth.
It feels iffy.”
“The truth is this: you splendidly managed to finish the film, and the grand prize certificate is hanging on the wall of the film production club.”
“And I have the prize money.”
“And that too.”
Sora puffed up one cheek.
She understood it vaguely, but she still had one more question.
“But if journalist Koo is suspecting of shady, behind-the-back deals, isn’t it better for her to go ask that journalist directly? I mean that journalist who is supposedly related to JA.”
Maru replied while scratching his eyebrows,
“It must have been difficult to face another journalist just like her.
Also, shady dealings are things that journalists belonging to the social department should handle, right? It’s not something a journalist who only interviews related personnel can investigate easily.
If Journalist Koo was requested by someone to do something that would eventually tarnish JA’s reputation, she probably thought that she should deal with immature students rather than a quick-witted journalist.”
“That sounds like a drama or something.”
You know in classrooms, people separate into factions and talk to each other cheerfully but also talk bad behind their backs.”
“There are girls who do that, but I’m not one of them! I would talk bad in front of them!”
“Yeah, if you’re going to talk bad about people, you might as well do it right in front of them.
Anyway, they gossip about unproven facts and giggle about it, don’t they? This is the same thing but on an adult level.
If there’s a difference, it’s that verbal rumors gain ground through text and that emotional fights become a fight of money.
There are a lot of similarities in student societies and adult societies.
It’s just a matter of how you package it.
The kids do it openly but adults hide it well.
That’s why kids have an easier time reconciling – they know what each other is thinking.
With adults, we don’t know what each other is thinking, so we become even more suspicious.”
“You’re still a kid too, so why are you using ‘we’ when talking about adults?”
“I’ve lived two more years than you, so treat me like an adult.”
Sora drank the juice and chewed on chunks of ice.
She thought that this was the last drink of its kind for the year.
The wind was getting chilly.
It was about time to say goodbye to cold drinks.
“But you know?”
“We did get the grand prize with our skill right?”
She accepted it, but it still nagged her like when she turned off the lights just before leaving the house.
“Just think about it normally.
Do you think an agency would try rigging a film festival that doesn’t even go on TV? I wouldn’t do that.
I would promote another actor if I have the time to do that.”
Don’t you think so too? – Maru asked her.
Sora smiled, responding ‘that’s true’.
“Now that I look at you, you’re quite pitiful.
It sounds like your agency doesn’t care for you that much.”
“They’ll probably give me help if I become bigger.”
Sora looked at Maru who was smiling bitterly and shook off her doubt completely.
* * *
“So it was like that after all.”
-I thought that it wouldn’t leak out, but I seemed to have been mistaken.
“From the way she mentioned JA directly, she sounded like she had a source that she could confide in.
I’m not sure if it was her individual action or whether the editing office gave her that instruction, but it seems pretty clear that someone who doesn’t like you had a hand in this.”
-You can’t say that for sure.
Maru kicked off the ground to push the swing he was on more.
“Then they wanted to put the blame on me? I’m just a kid who’s not worth that much.”
-You never know what will happen.
If there’s something I learned while working in this area, it’s that humans are very incredibly petty.
I said this before, right? You’re too clear when drawing the line.
Though, from what I hear these days, you seemed to have gotten softer.
Still, it’s not strange to say that there are people who find you an eyesore.
“If you say it like that, there are quite a lot of people that come to mind.”
-You’re still young, so why are you creating enemies already?
“We can’t be sure of anything yet.
Honestly speaking, you have a hundred times more enemies than I do, don’t you?”
He could hear a laugh over the phone.
“For now, I didn’t mention anything about that.
I also explained it to the girl that came with me, so there shouldn’t be a problem.”
-Tell her that she won it through skill.
She’s at the age where dreams should drive her to grow up.
There’s no need to show her the reality.
“Yes, that’s what I told her.
But I didn’t know you were so considerate of me.”
-Why? Do you not like it because I’m meddling with you?
“No, there’s no one who would refuse help.
I’m just thankful that you are taking interest in an ordinary actor like me.”
-I can’t have you be ordinary.
I have a reputation to keep up.
For now, catch up to Sooil in name value.
I’ll be able to give you proper support then.
-As for the journalist, I’ll look into it myself, so don’t mind yourself with her.
After staying silent for a while, Junmin laughed.
-I thought this the first time I met you, but you’re way too mature for your age.
You sound completely natural talking like this.
Why don’t you live a younger life? Think more about hopes and dreams.
“I’m only in my 3rd year of high school.
If I become any younger, I might as well be babbling like a baby.”
After listening to the president telling him to get some rest, Maru hung up after waiting for a while.
Maru pressed some buttons on his phone and brought up a photo.
It was a photo of the film production club holding the grand prize.
“The truth isn’t important.”
Rather than the harsh truth, the convenient truth was much better.
Maru got off the swing and walked towards the bus stop.
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