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A Thousand Faces Chapter 11

Updated: Jan 4

A hint of tension crept into Choi Jaemin's voice on the other end as if expecting it. 

  

- You've thought well. I will fulfill all the conditions you mentioned back then. If the child has any additional requests, I'd like to discuss them as well. 

  

Saying he'll agree to everything. It shows how much he's unwilling to give up. 

  

"Yes, let's discuss that later with him." 

  

-Is tomorrow a good time? Since you're coming, I'd like to see you act with our script. 

  

"Acting right away?" 

  

He hadn't said anything to him yet. To ask for acting right away, even Mansik, who hadn't thought that far, looked uncomfortable. 

  

-Oh, don't feel too pressured. You can take it as an opportunity to see the inside and check if our company is a good fit for the kid's practice. Just come comfortably. 

  

Choi Jaemin spoke as if he had already signed a contract. He was that confident. It was unprecedented for him to accommodate conditions to this extent for a raw beginner. Among aspiring actors, no one dared refuse an offer presented first by Choi Jaemin. 

  

Mansik felt awkward. 

  

I should probably go with him...' 

  

The contract can wait. It's clear that this experience will be helpful to Junwoo. Mansik was curious to see how he would react to being in an environment with a large LED screen, state-of-the-art cameras, and sound systems after only being in a quiet rural area. He might even develop unexpected ambitions. These are things he's never experienced before. 

  

The decision can be left to him later. 

  

*** 

  

Junwoo and Mansik sat in a restaurant. 

  

"Why aren't you eating?" 

  

Junwoo, with his mouth full of rice, asked. 

  

The doenjang stew in front of Mansik was getting cold. 

  

Mansik was racking his brain. No matter how he thought about it, it didn't seem like the kid would come to Seoul willingly. He'd probably just say he'd read the script here instead. It was a no-brainer. 

  

"Surely, things would change if he goes there in person. How should I persuade this guy?" 

  

Staring intently at Junwoo, Mansik narrowed his eyes. 

  

Junwoo, as if to say there was some issue, showed interest only in the doenjang stew in front of Mansik. 

  

"If you're not going to eat, I'll have it." 

  

Quickly, Junwoo brought the stew before him. 

  

"Oh... go ahead, eat. Do you want to order anything else?" 

  

"No, I'm good." 

  

"But why am I paying so much attention to this kid?" 

  

Mansik felt like he was the boy's manager at the moment. 

  

"Well, I've been thinking about it," Mansik finally spoke. 

  

"Have you ever been to Seoul?" 

  

"No." 

  

"If you haven't been to Seoul, what have you been doing all this time? Have you at least traveled anywhere else?" 

  

"I haven't traveled before." 

  

"Seriously? You've never been on a trip? Why have you been missing out on all the fun...!" 

  

No, that's not it. I almost went off on a tangent. Mansik, having regained his composure, continued speaking. 

  

"Hmm. Have you heard of the 63 Building? It's in Seoul. If you see it, you'll be amazed. It has a whopping sixty-three floors."  

  

Mansik, who was usually reserved, was acting animated, counting on his fingers. 

  

"Quite impressive." 

  

Junwoo just looked a bit puzzled, offering no particular reaction. Mansik felt a bit awkward. 

  

"Well, anyway, what I mean is, I have to go to Seoul briefly tomorrow. If you're bored, how about we go take a look? It's on a whole different level than the rural scene here." 

  

Mansik started talking about places like Myeongdong, the Han River, and other things that might catch his interest. When Mansik finished talking, he anxiously observed the guy's reaction. 

  

"Do you want to send me there?" 

  

"Oh, no, just go check out Seoul or something." 

  

"It's a shame. It always happens when you get greedy." 

  

"What?" 

  

"What's going on? Did you know everything?" 

  

Have you overheard our conversation, or did you personally meet Choi Jaemin without me knowing? Mansik was perplexed. In contrast, the guy was casually eating his meal with an indifferent expression. 

  

Junwoo couldn't help but be curious, even though he wanted to remain oblivious. Recently, whenever he saw Mansik, a face filled with worries and sighs that didn't seem to have an answer, he had noticed it a long time ago. 

  

Mansik sighed deeply, resigning himself to the situation. 

  

'I should have said something first if I knew it would be like this.' 

  

Mansik had such thoughts as he wondered if he would yield a bit if Junwoo made a request. 

  

"So, are we going to Seoul tomorrow?" 

  

"What?" 

  

Mansik naturally expected him to refuse. He was puzzled by the unexpected and smooth agreement from Junwoo. 

  

Junwoo was someone who never did what he disliked. It was unusual for him to listen so well. 

  

"Ar-are you really going?" 

  

"If I go, I'll go." 

  

"Do you have any place you want to visit?" 

  

"No, not really." 

  

"Then why?" 

  

The boy looked like he had no ulterior motive. It seemed like he was doing it solely because he wanted to. 

  

Mansik was a little worried. He was concerned that his words might hurt Junwoo's feelings. He had said it in jest, but he was worried that the boy might think that he was doing this because he needed professional training. 

  

He was already well-rounded. There was no need for improvement in terms of directing or acting. 

  

"It's not because I want you to improve your skills further." 

  

"Yes, I know." 

  

"I'm talking about that company. It's more than anything you can imagine. Think carefully. Even if I don't know your situation, they may be able to help you later." 

  

"..." 

  

"You need to meet people who are at your level, at least. Not here. And so what if you're a good actor? There are only rookies here, so you're lucky if you don't mess up the stage. And what do they even know?" 

  

Mansik felt a twinge of guilt at the thought that he was being condescending to his actors. But he wasn't wrong. This place just didn't seem like a good fit for the kid. 

  

"So where is it?" 

  

"I can't tell you directly. It's called NK Entertainment, anyway. But if you go there, there might be guys who can recognize your true value." 

  

Junwoo nodded. 

  

"...But are you really going?" 

  

Mansik still couldn't shake off his doubts. 

  

"There's no need to be so formal. Did something go wrong with the stage set or something?" 

  

*** 

  

NK Entertainment. 

  

Junwoo, wearing a hat, looked around the interior. 

  

"Well, it's certainly nice." 

  

Even considering that it was 20 years ago, the place was filled with state-of-the-art facilities on every floor, as befitting a top entertainment company in South Korea. 

  

Mansik was more excited than ever, even though he had been the one to offer to show the boy around. 

  

Throughout his time here, he felt that way. 

  

"Oh, look over there, the production studio. I've seen it on TV. And that...!" 

  

"Why are you so surprised? You're not a country bumpkin, sir." 

  

When they received guidance and arrived in front of the conference room, Mansik was more nervous than Junwoo. 

  

"Do we go in here?" 

  

"Yeah, that's right. Let's go. Anywhere is fine." 

  

Mansik took a deep breath and shook his hands as if he were doing some warm-up exercises. The employee who had guided them to the conference room looked puzzled. 

  

He had been told that the audition was for a child, but now he wondered if he had misunderstood. 

  

Surprised by Mansik's attempt to go in with him, Junwoo stopped opening the door. 

  

"Shall we go in together?" 

  

Junwoo blinked. 

  

Oops. He was so tense that he almost naturally went in side by side. 

  

Feeling awkward, Mansik took a step back and opened the door. 

Junwoo entered the conference room alone. 

  

On the other side of the long table, Choi Jaemin and another person sat side by side. 

  

Even though Junwoo knew Choi Jaemin, he was slightly surprised when he saw the person sitting beside him. 

  

Gil Junho. The top actor of NK Entertainment. Well, he wasn't a top actor yet, but he was a well-known actor to anyone who loved movies. He looked younger than Junwoo remembered. 

  

"He brought him here on purpose." 

  

Junwoo knew Choi Jaemin had not brought Gil Junho to this meeting by chance. He could tell by the way Choi Jaemin was smiling; he was clearly aware of Gil Junho's presence and was trying to make a good impression. 

  

"But seeing him like this is still amazing." 

  

Gil Junho was the emperor of supporting roles, stealing the spotlight even from the main characters. This was the time when he was at the height of his fame. 

  

"I've been waiting for you, student. Please, have a seat." 

  

Choi Jaemin gestured to the seat across from him. His face was full of interest as he looked at Junwoo face to face. 

  

"What's your name?" 

  

"...I don't have one. But I'm thinking of creating one soon." 

  

"No name? Is he already thinking about his stage name?" Jaemin thought back to the countless aspiring actors who had stood before him, all trying hard to make their names stick.  

  

"He's not even nervous." 

  

I guess it's possible that he doesn't even know himself after living in that place. 

  

Choi Jaemin continued to speak nonchalantly. 

  

"Okay. We can get to that stuff later. I really enjoyed the performance. It was amazing. When did you start doing theater?" 

  

"...The performance was two weeks ago, so it's been about two weeks." 

  

"Oh, haha. I saw that performance too, but I'm asking when you first started doing theater." 

  

"Yes, that was my first time." 

  

Only two weeks? What was this? It didn't seem like he was lying, but he wasn't really trying to sell himself either. Choi Jaemin swallowed hard at the unexpected answer, trying to hide his surprise. 

  

"...Our agency is planning a movie right now." 

  

Swoosh.  

  

A script was slid across the table in front of Junwoo. 

  

"Miracle Switch." 

  

It was a movie he knew. Junwoo remembered the time he had watched this movie alone in a movie theater in his past life. 

  

The script was about a middle school student and a 40-year-old teacher whose souls were switched. 

  

Jaemin was relieved to see Junwoo staring intently at the script. He was clearly interested. 

  

"I'd like to see you act before we discuss the story in detail. Even for a moment." 

  

"Here?" 

  

Junwoo turned around with a curious expression on his face. 

  

'...' 

  

Outside the meeting room, the silhouette of Mansik, clinging to the door like a cicada, trying to eavesdrop on the conversation, could be seen. 

  

Jaemin was full of anticipation at the thought of seeing the same performance he had seen that day right here in this room. 

  

Gil Junho, who was sitting next to him, was the same. 

  

He was an actor from Geojedo, South Korea, who had come up from the bottom despite his difficult family circumstances. At first, no one wanted to use him. After several years of struggle, he began to gain attention after being cast in a supporting role in a small drama. He now holds the title of "Emperor of Supporting Roles."  

  

He had been treated well in this industry and had experienced all sorts of people and aspiring actors. 

  

In recent years, most of them were the ones who clung to him, saying they respected him and wanted to see his acting just once. But the guy in front of him didn't even look desperate. 

  

It was a mystery. The Choi Jaemin he knew was the kind of person he should have kicked out of the building and prevented from ever setting foot in this industry again. He was surprised that Jaemin seemed to think such things were not important. 

  

"How much are we talking about?" 

  

Junwoo casually flipped open the pages that Jaemin mentioned. 

— 

{p.34 

  

Scene 14: School Hallway 

  

The hallway is bustling with students laughing and talking. Here and there, students are seen skateboarding, reading books, and more. Taekyung, standing in the hallway, is looking around, trying to figure out what is going on. The camera slowly follows Taekyung (with Youngsik's soul inside) and captures his expression. Taekyung is very confused and flustered. 

  

Taekyung: Why am I here…Oh, what's wrong with my voice?** 

The dialogue continued after that. Jaemin clasped his hands together. 

  

"Well. It's not that hard, is it? Can you do it?" 

  

"..." 

  

Junwoo glanced around the meeting room with a smirk for a moment. 

  

"The lines here aren't suitable," he said. 

  

"Why? Is there a problem?" 

  

"I can't fill the lines." 

  

"Yes?" 

  

"The ambient noises mixed with the lines. There's none of that here." 

  

Jaemin narrowed his eyes. What is he talking about? Is he making unnecessary excuses because he lacks confidence in his performance? 

  

"Hmm. Are you saying that it's impossible because of the location? That's just a matter of the student being able to focus well. Everyone practices in a quiet place like this." 

  

Junwoo hesitated for a moment, wondering where to start. 

It was more difficult than he thought to explain what he felt instinctively in words. 

  

"It's not about focus. It's about the dialogue. The dialogue here should stand out against the background noise of skateboard wheels, laughter, teasing, whispering, footsteps, the sound of a ball bouncing in through the window, and other noises. If it doesn't, it will be meaningless. It will be a completely different scene."  

  

Noise in the dialogue? Jaemin had never heard of such a thing. What difference could it make? 

  

"... I'm having a hard time understanding what you're saying. Why is it like that?" 

  

Jaemin was still struggling to understand when... 

  

Gil Junho, who had been listening quietly to Junwoo's words, tilted his head. 

  

His face looked troubled. 

  

Then, as if he had to check something right away, he took the script that was in front of Junwoo. 

  

He started looking through it. 

  

Surprised by his sudden change in attitude, Choi Jaemin whispered. 

"Why are you doing that?" 

  

Gil Junho didn't have the mind to answer. After looking through the script several times and pondering, Gil Junho made a surprised face as if he had realized something. It was the first time Jaemin had seen Gil Junho like this. He suddenly remembered the theater director who had been overly confident about the student. 

  

"He wasn't just talking, was he? He must be something special." 

  

Jaemin became even more greedy. He had to see the student's acting in this place, no matter what. 

  

"I don't really know what it is, but… even if it's a bit of a lacking environment, can't we just give it a try? Let's just think of it as a simple audition or reading." 

  

Audition. That's right. 

  

Junwoo finally realized why he was sitting there. He actually wasn't that interested, so he hadn't given it much thought. He had just agreed because Mansik looked so happy. 

  

"I'm asked to act again." 

  

Junwoo grabbed the script again. 

  

"Oh, I didn't know. Can I just sit here and do it?" 

  

It was a scene that required a partner. In front of him was Gil Junho. Memories of seeing him in movies. The sight of him receiving awards on TV. The futures of Gil Junho that only Junwoo knew flashed through his mind. It was a moment he had never thought of before.  

  

"It might be interesting." 

  

Having come without much thought and unexpectedly encountering an unfamiliar person, Junwoo was feeling a bit intrigued. 

  

"It would be better to practice together. Do you happen to have another script?" 

 

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