“General manager Park, it’s been a while.”

“Director Kim, you look good these days.”

“Not at all.
I’m tired to death.”

“Aren’t you going to start shooting a film soon?”

“It’s usually harder before the shoot.
You know it too, don’t you? It’s a pain in the ass to flesh out the project.”

Director Kim Chiho sat down after shaking hands with general manager Park.

“It’s cold outside, isn’t it?”

“Don’t even start.
I drove my car here, and it was so damn slippery.
The snow that fell yesterday froze up.
You should be careful when you drive too.”

“It’s not me who should be careful; it’s the chauffeur.
Here, have some of this.
It’ll warm you up.”

It was sake contained in a white ceramic pot.
General manager Park put a sake glass in a square box made of hinoki wood[1] and poured the sake so that it overflowed from the glass.
Kim Chiho picked up the glass along with the box and brought it in front of him.

“First, drink from the glass and then you should drink what has pooled up in the wooden frame.
It tastes great when there’s a scent of cypress in it.”

Chiho lifted up the glass, that was wet on the surface due to the alcohol, and gulped it down at once.
The smell of the heated alcohol as well as the heat from drinking it rushed down his throat.
It was sweet, but his throat hurt as the alcohol content was pretty high.

“When are you starting the shoot?”

“I already rented a set of buildings in Gapyeong, and I’m going to start as soon as the renovations are done.
Even if I use computer graphics for the building collapsing scene, I can’t use CG for all of the explosion scenes as well.
Actually doing it is much better.
That’s why I’m putting a lot of effort into safety so that we don’t get any injuries.
Safety is important after all.”

“Of course it is.
You’ll be in big trouble if people get injured.
The young master will be there too after all.”

Chiho nodded.

“How was he? I heard you did an audition.”

“I did it out of formality, but he was unexpectedly good.
I thought he would be a complete newbie, so it put me at ease knowing that he’s actually pretty good.”

“The chairman will disown his own family if they’re incompetent.
He’s exerting some of his power because the young master is pretty decent.”

“Yes, I’m sure that’s the case.”

General manager Park took out a box from his bag.

“Also, take this.”

“What’s this?”

“It’s a gift for you, from the chairman himself.
Do you remember how he said that your arm looked a little desolate last time?”

Chiho recalled his meeting with the chairman two months ago.
Actually, it wasn’t much of a ‘meeting’ since the only thing he did was enter his office, greet him, and leave.
The chairman, who was drinking quietly, waved at him to leave as though he was done seeing his face, so Chiho lowered his gaze as he walked backwards.
He did hear the chairman mention something about how his hand looked rather empty.

“Take it.
My arm is starting to hurt.”

“There’s no need to go this far….”

“Hey, fella, you should take it when you’re given the chance.
Even without this, the budget for the film is mostly from us, the YM group, isn’t it? It’s the chairman’s money anyway, so giving you an extra gift doesn’t change things in the grand scheme of things.”

Now that he heard that, he felt like it was true.
Chiho carefully accepted the box.

“What are you doing? Open it, I want to have a look at it as well.”

“Shall I?”

Although he felt rather iffy before he received it, he was excited now that it was actually in his hands.
It was a gift from YM’s chairman himself, so there would be little chance of him getting into trouble for this.
Now that he was confident that he could take the gift safely, he felt bliss rising up from his fingers as he opened the package.

“Whew, director Kim.
Are you sure you can go around wearing that?” general manager Park said while clapping in exclamation.

Chiho picked up the watch that was placed on the blackish-brown velvet pad.
On the face of the watch was a simple logo that started with P.
He gulped subconsciously.

“Put it on.”

“I’m afraid that I might get it dirty.”

Although he said those words, his hands were already reaching out for the watch strap.
He took off the crappy electronic watch he was wearing and put on the new watch.
Even though the only thing that changed about him was the watch, he felt like his class had risen by several levels.

“Director Kim, it looks good on you, eh?”

“I wonder if it’s okay to walk around wearing this….”

“The chairman gave it to you.
You should wear it.
If you’re so hesitant about it, then you should make the film a great hit and then wear it proudly.”

“I should do that.
I would feel much better if I put it on after putting all of my efforts into the film.”

He took off the watch and put it back in the box.
As for the old electronic watch that protected his wrist for many years, he put it in his pocket.
He felt iffy now that he thought about putting it on again.

“I’m not telling you to support him openly.
The chairman doesn’t want that either.
It’ll be fine as long as you become a foothold for him to rise up.
You understand?”

“Of course.
I gave Mr.
Kang Giwoo a good character and good scenes so that he will become successful in the future, so don’t worry about it.”

I guess I should leave it to you.
Oh, you should drink the pooled sake.
Since you opened the gift and all, let’s toast in hopes of a great hit.”

He raised the hinoki cup.
They toasted lightly before he emptied the contents in his mouth.
Even as he drank, his eyes were fixed on the watch box placed on the table.
The sensation of the leather that wrapped around his wrist for a brief time was still vivid to him.

“You seemed to have taken quite a liking to it, huh?”

“Eh? Ah, yes.
I mean, when would I get to wear a watch like this? I can’t help but be drawn to it.”

“I’ve never received such a gift either.
I guess it means that the chairman just has that much hope for you.”

“I’m touched.”

“Who knows? He might bestow you another gift if you are successful with this movie and the young master receives more attention from the people.”

He waved his hand in denial, saying that he didn’t think that it would go that far, but inside, he was high up on the moon.

He thought back to when he first met general manager Park.
Chiho just laughed when he asked him if he had any intentions of doing a film that was on a bigger scale.
In this industry, scale meant money, and he was not a director that was well-known enough to receive such a big investment.
Although he did have a scenario for a disaster film that he made before, it had long been locked up inside a drawer somewhere because of financial problems.

“Let’s just cast one good child actor.
If you do that, the investment problem will be fixed.”

That led to the current situation.
At first, he felt like he accepted an unjust deal, and he couldn’t sleep at night because he felt like he had sold his soul as a man of film, but that only lasted a week.
After the promised support and investment became a reality, he became so busy that sleeping was no longer a concern.
He was introduced to a famous camera outsourcing team that was known for being hard to get into contact with, and he managed to form a team with a sound director who was known for being incredibly good at picking up ambient sounds.

After he formed what he thought to be a team of his dreams, he was then introduced to actors who he always wanted to work with.
He liked Lee Hyuk from Soul Entertainment, who regained the spotlight last year as an actor, but above all, he couldn’t help but clap when he heard that Ahn Joohyun was the main heroine.
When he heard that she accepted because she found the scenario good, Chiho felt like he had the world to himself.
Proud actors and actresses didn’t move based on money after all.
It was entirely up to the scenario to move such people.

“Good luck.”

General manager Park’s words woke him up from his thoughts.

“I will do well.
This is the opportunity of a lifetime after all.”

“I like that attitude of yours.
Also, did you finish casting the actors? I did hear that you finished casting the main ones.”

“The important roles are all settled.
We already adjusted the schedule, and as I told you before, we’ll crank in once the building gets renovated.”

“There won’t be a problem with any of the actors right? I saw on the news before that a film became controversial after one of the actors got caught while illegally gambling.
And it was a supporting character too.
This work concerns our young master, so both you and I will get into trouble if something goes wrong.
You have to watch out.”

“I’ve asked reliable people to do the casting, so you don’t need to worry.”

Chiho remembered the many actors that he saw during the audition.
There was a girl that caught his eyes among the mediocre bunch.
The moment he saw her act, he felt that Choi Gyeonmi’s eyes were still as sharp as ever.
He admired her for managing to find such good talents every single time.

“Something interesting?” general manager Park asked after seeing him smile.

“I found a really good one during the audition.”

“Is it an important role?”

“It’s going to be a minor one, but I guess you could call it important since it will ignite the mood before the main scene.”

“Looks like luck is with you.
You have all the support you want, and you even like the actors who came for the audition.”

“I can’t deny that.”

“Is it a man? Or a woman?”

“It’s a girl, she’s in high school.”

“She must be cute then.”

“Well, she does look cute, but you wouldn’t think that once you watch her act.
She plays a character that gets squashed under the debris, but her eyes and screams.
Man, she wasn’t ordinary.”

“The extras have to do well for our young master to shine.”

“Of course.
The film would look less complete if there’s a hole in it.
Only after the foundational work is done properly can the main actors play on top of it.”

Han Gaeul, was it? Chiho thought about the girl who heaved out a heavy breath after finishing her act.
She would become big as long as she found the right opportunity.

“Well then, I think we’re done with talking about work, so let’s eat comfortably.”

“Oh, please go ahead,” Chiho said as he picked up his chopsticks.

* * *

“Oh, seonbae.”

Maru gave a plastic bag to Aram, who looked at him in puzzlement.

“What is this?”

“Some food for everyone.
How’s practice?”

“We’re just about to start.
Watch us while you’re here.”

“What about Daemyung?”

“He’s fallen ill.
That seonbae, he’s big, but he’s actually pretty weak.”

“It’s you who’s way too healthy.”

Maru looked at Aram, who was wearing a half-sleeve shirt.
It was December too.

“It’s fine since I’ll be sweating once I start running.”

“If I was your junior, I would’ve quit the acting club already.
I can imagine the pains they would have to go through.”

He opened the door and went inside.
He saw first-year students strewn across the floor, panting heavily.
They were probably practicing in preparation for the national competition in winter.

“What brings you here?” Miso asked from the chair.

She was covering her lower body with a blanket.

“I had nothing to do.”

“Did you finish your shoot?”

“That finished last week.
I did leave my house because I felt itchy staying at home all the time, but I didn’t find anywhere suitable to go.
So I ended up coming to school.”

“Don’t you think that sounds way too tragic for someone of your age?”

Anyway, is your body okay?”

“Apparently, nothing really changes much just because I’m pregnant.
Maybe it’s because I’m only a month in,” Miso said, stroking her stomach.

“Be careful now.
They say prenatal education is very important.
You should use good words and refrain from getting angry.”

“Now that you said those words, I think I’m starting to get pissed.”

“I told you, it’s not good for prenatal education.”

Maru sat next to Miso.
As soon as Aram returned, the members of the acting club started stretching again while groaning.
Aram trained them even more harshly than Miso did.

“You guys picked a great club president.”

“She’s a devil too.”

“I wonder what you meant by ‘too’.
It feels like I’m one of them.”

“Of course not.
You’re just imagining it.
Oh, what did you go with for the prenatal name?”


Miso chuckled after saying those words.

“It’s the dad’s work.
My naming sense isn’t like that.”

“Why? I quite like Snowball.
Snowball, I hope you grow up a lot and become a good person like teacher Taesik, okay?”

“Oho, so I’m not a good person?”

“The baby’s listening.”

Maru opened the bag and took out a gift packaged in wrapping paper.

“What’s this?”

“I came here to give you this. It’s shoes for a baby.
It’s a color that suits both boys and girls.”

After accepting the gift, Miso patted Maru on the head.

I’ll use it well.”

“Please tell him or her that it’s a gift from Maru-ahjussi and that he’s expecting a gift in return.”

Maru picked up his bag and stood up.

“Then I’ll leave now.”

“You should watch the practice while you’re here.”

“Actually, I have somewhere I need to go.
I only came here since it was on the way.”

Maru said a word of encouragement to the others before leaving the hall.

[1] Japanese cypress.

[2] I have no idea how to translate this.
쑥쑥이 is a written movement description (like onomatopoeia but not quite), for growing up.

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