The Great Storyteller Chapter 296
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
Waking up, Juho rubbed his tired eyes. Then, while still laying on his bed, he reached with both of his arms toward the ceiling in order to stretch, noticing a knot on his right shoulder. The cause of the pain was quite obvious.
Feeling like he’d never get out of bed in that state, Juho sat up and looked at the book that was resting above his pillow: ‘The Full Moon.’ Since he finished writing ‘Alexandria,’ he had been reading ‘The Full Moon’ on a daily basis, and needless to say, that day was no exception. Reaching for the book, the young author opened it. Since he had already read the entire book, there was not a single place in the book that wasn’t familiar to him, no matter where he opened it.
“I better eat something,” he said, putting the book down, hungry. While eating, Juho took his phone out and started looking through the list of articles about him on the internet. There were also countless reviews of the signing event. Choosing one at random, Juho logged into a blog, which had a post titled ‘I saw Yun Woo today!’ that contained a series of pictures of the young author from various angles, from him signing, to looking down and shaking hands with readers. The banner in the background was quite captivating.
“Huh. I guess the first person in line wrote a review of his own.”
The fan’s review had a detailed description of the event. It was through that review that Juho learned that the fan had actually woken up at four on the morning of the signing to pack breakfast. The post also contained pictures of the fan on their way to Gwanghwamun. Because it had been early in the morning, a lot of the pictures had been taken in the dark. Each of the photos had a brief description below it. Then, after a series of photos, came a long, in-depth review of ‘Alexandria,’ which was Yun Woo’s first attempt at a cheerful, humorous story.
‘Alexandria’ had an uncanny resemblance to his debut title, ‘Trace of a Bird.’ Those who missed the young author’s writing style of his earlier days found his new book to be a welcoming addition. On top of that, the two short stories included with ‘Alexandria’ were doing incredibly well among those who preferred the young author’s more recent style of writing. ‘Alexandria’ and ‘Trace of a Bird’ were completely different in terms of feel and style, and readers seemed to have noticed the difference. The secret behind Yun Woo’s writing style had always been a mystery to his fans. Suffice to say, they were anxious to know what it was.
“To my disappointment, I got the news that Myung Joo Mu showed up at the bookstore right after I left.”
The review was heading in the direction of the fan’s compromise for having been the first person in line and getting to interact with Yun Woo at the signing at the cost of missing out on seeing the actor in person. The story about Myung Joo wasn’t difficult to find by any means. Those who hadn’t been at the signing at the time of the actor’s appearance were envious of those who had been at the scene and seen him. Myung Joo was one of the most highly-valued actors at the moment, and it made sense that people were taking so much interest in his appearance at the signing. With that, Juho scrolled down through his screen until coming across a certain word. In fact, the entire title of the article was quite eye-catching, which read, ”The Competition Will Be Fierce This Year,’ Zelkova Publishing Speaks Up About Their Annual Contest.’
Upon reading the title, Juho immediately thought of a certain competitor from that same contest: Mango. At the same time, he thought of another acquaintance of his.
“Been a while since I saw him.”
After some thought, Juho sent him a text: ‘Wanna get some morning exercise for ol’ times sake?’
“Been a while,” a voice told Juho, reminding the young author of just how long it had been since he had heard that voice. Similarly, Juho hadn’t been to the park for about just as long. Upon turning back, Juho saw his friend sporting his distinctive eyebrows, which were now darker than ever.
“How’s college?” Juho asked.
“It’s all right.”
Sung Pil had been accepted to a university as a creative writing major, which was the same major as Bom. Judging from his tone, Sung Pil didn’t seem like he was enjoying the college life all that much.
“You don’t sound all that excited. What’s keeping it from being good?”
“I’m just not used to being part of a group,” Sung Pil replied. It was no surprise that he would find it uncomfortable being surrounded by peers his age and upperclassmen all at the same time.
“Well, how’s that been?” Juho asked, and as he was stretching, Sung Pil told his friend all about his life as a college student, from getting invited to join a club by the student council, to the class president and their often-inaccurate announcements, and a certain T.A. who was slow to communicate with students, bringing disadvantage to them.
“Do you have to go to a lot of outings?” Juho asked.
“Have you made any new friends?”
“There’s this person I go to class and eat with, but I don’t feel all that close to him.”
“There are relationships like that too. How’s writing been going for ya?”
“Writing?” Sung Pil asked, moving his thick eyebrows, which looked like streaks of ink.
“The story you submitted to the contest?”
After finishing the story he had been working on for the last two years, Sung Pil registered for the contest that year, which was hosted by Zelkova. Aside from a general idea of the plot, Juho knew nothing about the story.
“I’d say it’s the best one of all the stories I’ve written so far,” Sung Pil said. His story had gone through countless revisions. Walking slowly, the two kept the conversation going.
“It’s about a bank, right?” Juho asked.
In order to write a story about a bank, at one point, Sung Pil had visited the neighborhood bank on a daily basis.
“Did making all those trips to the bank help?”
“The bank did all the work for me,” Sung Pil said with a blank expression on his face. Looking at him, Juho was reminded of a certain author who had recently left on a trip to Russia. Talking to Sung Pil gave Juho an idea of how Dong Gil must have felt. Then, Sung Pil started walking faster, and before Juho knew it, he found himself jogging as he tried to match Sung Pil’s pace. Since it was early in the morning, there wasn’t anybody around.
“Do you still visit the bank?” Juho asked.
“Sometimes. School’s kind of far, so I can’t visit as often.”
As Juho started running faster, Sung Pil matched his speed without a problem. Juho felt comfortable, and he wasn’t about to run out of breath. He saw the scenery rushing past from the corner of his eyes.
“What about you?”
“What?” Juho asked, caught off guard by Sung Pil’s unexpected question.
“How was the signing?” Sung Pil asked.
“Oh, right,” Juho replied, slowing down his pace slightly. “I was so beat the next day that I could hardly get out of bed. My ears were ringing, and I was hurting all over, from my head to my shoulders to even my cheeks,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sung Pil looked intently at the young author, as if expecting Juho wasn’t quite done.
“If I was that exhausted from sitting down and moving my wrists, I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for those readers waiting in line for hours on end. At the end of the day, though, I had fun and I learned a lot. I got a glimpse of just how far my books reached too.”
“It seemed like there were a lot of people there,” Sung Pil said, looking as if thinking back to a picture of Gwanghwamun in an article he had come across on the internet.
“There were,” Juho said briefly, adding shortly after, “And one of your rivals was there too.”
Despite feeling Sung Pil stare in his direction at the word ‘rival,’ Juho looked straight ahead.
“She was an aspiring writer, who made a submission to the same contest as you. She really likes mangoes apparently,” Juho said, struck by the thought that he should have asked about her story.
“She seemed like she was in college. You don’t think she goes to the same school as you, do you? Maybe she’s an upperclassman in the same major.”
“There’s only one person I consider my rival,” Sung Pil said in his low, resonant voice. Remembering their unforgettable first encounter, Juho asked knowingly, “Who?”
“You,” Sung Pil said honestly. To which, Juho replied after a brief pause, “… Interesting.”
From then on, the two ran without saying anything to each other for a while. After the trail followed up the hill in an upward and downward incline, it curved sideways before it straightened up again. Leading up to that point, Juho had heard snapping sounds coming from below him as he stepped on branches on the ground.
“Don’t worry. I understood you loud and clear,” he said.
Then, by the time they started running up the hill, Juho heard Sung Pil’s voice, which sounded neither angry nor pretentious, say, “You’re keeping me in check.”
“Haha,” Juho let out. He simply couldn’t help himself, and eventually, his sides started hurting.
“You’ve always been quick to catch on,” he said.
Sung Pil was about to become an author who wrote quality books. In the past, while Juho had fallen away from the literary world, Sung Pil had been in his prime, which Juho still remembered vividly to that day. That memory was still very much intact deep within the young author’s heart. At that moment, a vending machine appeared in the distance.
“Let’s do it.”
Sung Pil never turned down a race. If anything, he seemed to welcome it. Then, Sung Pil posed a condition for the race, “Loser grants the winner a wish. How’s that sound?”
“All right. Hope you know what you’re getting yourself into,” Juho said.
With that, as soon as Juho finished his sentence, the two bolted forward at their full speeds. Flexing their legs, the two ran as fast as they could, hoping that they would arrive before the other person. While they were running, Sung Pil’s appearance from the past flashed in Juho’s mind out of nowhere. When Juho had seen him from afar, Sung Pil had been much more mature, sturdier, and steadfast than his present self. At that moment, Juho felt something snatching at his ankle and sharp pain in his side. Clenching his teeth, the young author ran with everything he had.
“Agh!” Juho let out as he passed the vending machine, slowing down a few paces later. His lungs felt like they were about to explode.
“I win,” the young author said, pushing the words out through his throat, which felt like it was on fire. When he looked back, Sung Pil was bending at the waist, looking somewhat defeated. Then, he, too, looked up, still fighting for breath.
“All right, captain. What’s it gonna be?” Sung Pil asked.
“Oh, no. I’m not wasting this opportunity just to hear you call me that.”
Even if Sung Pil were to call him that, Juho knew that it wouldn’t make him feel good in any way. Instead, sinking on to a bench, the young author brought up his most pressing desire, “I wanna read your story.”
“That” Sung Pil said, moving his lips up and down as if it was hardly a challenge.
“At a bookstore,” Juho interjected. The young author wanted to read Sung Pil’s book at a bookstore once again. Then, as Sung Pil remained silent, Juho gave him an alternative choice, saying, “Or you can just get me a drink from the vending machine.”
“Go easy on me now. You’re a professional writer, remember?” Sung Pil said, brushing his short hair with his hand.
“What? I’m spending my wish on my friend’s success. You can’t get any mushier than that.”
Sung Pil sat next to Juho. Although their mouth felt quite dry by the time they caught their breaths, neither of them went for the vending machine. Instead, they leaned back on the backrest of the wooden bench.
“Should we go to a bank?” Juho asked.
Juho was still curious about Sung Pil’s story, and his desire to read it bothered him just as much as when he had had ‘The Full Moon’ before his eyes, but had told himself not to read it. What would Sung Pil’s story look like after having put two years into it? Thankfully, there was a way to get an indirect answer: visiting the place in which the book was centered ahead of time.
“I have to go to one anyway,” Juho said, and after blinking awkwardly for a brief moment, Sung Pil asked, “I can drink the water there, right?”
With that, the two rose from the bench and went to a nearby restaurant to have breakfast. Then, with Sung Pil’s guidance, the two walked unhurriedly through a street, which Juho had never been to, and arrived at a bank. There was a four-way intersection in front of the bank, which was full of street vendors selling metal sponges, various tools and green vegetables. Seeing as though there were also children who appeared to be in elementary school, there seemed to be a school nearby as well.
“Here we are,” Sung Pil said as he stepped into the bank with Juho. Although it was an ordinary-looking bank, there was a security guard who opened the door for them as they walked in. In his middle age and with his belly bulging out, the man gave off a welcoming vibe.
“Hello,” the man greeted pleasantly, and the two bowed subtly at him. Then, recognizing Sung Pil, the man said, “Hey! Haven’t seen you in a while!”
“Yes, it’s been a while.”
“It’s all right.”
The two talked candidly, as if a grandchild was visiting their grandparents. The conversation continued until an older lady came into the bank.
“How can I help you, ma’am?” the man asked in a friendly manner. Then, taking a numbered ticket for her, he guided her through the process of how to go about doing what she needed to do.
“You can get your tickets here. Are you here to get cash? You can get up to six thousand dollars with a debit card,” Sung Pil said.
“You almost sound like you work here,” Juho replied.
Naturally, Sung Pil led Juho to a seat close to the teller’s window. While they sat and waited patiently, a teller in a suit on the other side of the teller’s window greeted Sung Pil with his eyes. Sung Pil bowed back. Wearing a nametag on his chest that read, ‘Head Clerk,’ the teller walked upstairs. Then, another teller recognized Sung Pil as she came out to the waiting area and greeted him.
“Hey! Been a while!”
“Yes. My friend here had some business to attend to.”
“Would you like some snacks while you wait?”
With that, the teller exited the bank, waving at Sung Pil and Juho.
“We got us a celebrity here.”
“That’s actually pretty funny coming from you,” Sung Pil said in a calm tone of voice.