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A Thousand Faces Chapter 16

Updated: Jan 11

"You want to appear on the program? Why all of a sudden?" 

  

Mansik was taken aback. It wasn't like Junwoo to act so hastily. It was unlike him to decide to appear on the show without any information, not knowing what they wanted. It wasn't typical of him. 

  

"I got curious. To see if it's different from back then." 

  

Mansik didn't ask about 'back then.' He just wanted to double-check if what he had heard was true. 

  

"Are you serious?" 

  

"Are you going to stop me?" 

  

Blink. 

  

Junwoo's expression seemed to say, "What's there to worry about?" 

  

Mansik felt an unfamiliar emotion. It was the first time this guy had brought up something he wanted to do in front of him. 

  

Suddenly, all the concerns he had been harboring became blurry. 

  

"I won't stop you. What can I do if it's something you want to do?" 

  

"What about you, Mister?" 

  

"Huh?" 

  

"You always ask me. Don't you have something you want?" 

  

"For me, well, there's nothing more to wish for right now." 

  

"How much was the prize money?" 

  

"A hundred million? Around something like that. Why do you ask?" 

  

"If I win that, I'll give that amount to you, Mister." 

  

"Huh." 

  

Mansik let out a satisfied chuckle at Junwoo's self-assured attitude. 

  

"Do you have that much confidence? If you act like that on the broadcast, won't you hear complaints? And why would you give it to me?" 

  

"I know you went through a lot because of me." 

  

"Yeah, I thought I was going to die answering the phone. I should change my number or something." 

  

"No, I mean when we were preparing for the performance. The venue was small compared to the number of people coming, and it was beyond your ability to handle it alone." 

  

'I wonder if he knew. I tried not to show it, but there was no way I could hide it from him.'  

  

"You're not going to keep doing theater here, are you? If you want to grow that much, you need to move." 

  

Junwoo added a playful tone, 

  

"Geez. I can't argue with that; it's not entirely wrong. Anyway, you know you can be a handful sometimes, right?" 

  

Mansik also smiled and said. He knew that Junwoo was saying that on purpose, to not put any pressure on Mansik. 

  

Seeing them talk about the prize made him wonder if winning was his main goal. 

  

"But why the sudden change of heart? You suddenly want to aim for the championship?" 

  

"Oh no, it's not like that. But since we're doing it, I might as well aim for the money, right?" 

  

"If those kids pull some tricks, you might not even get a single scene of your acting on air. Or maybe try to handle it delicately." 

  

"It doesn't matter. I just find it interesting." 

  

Junwoo recalled a moment from the past for a brief moment. 

  

On the day that Junwoo had a successful performance in his previous life, a party was held in the living room. 

  

Amid the praise from his drunken fathers, who said, "Our son is a candidate for best actor," young Junwoo, with a strange look on his face, could not take his eyes off the TV for a long time. 

  

Actor Kingdom. A program where aspiring actors from all over the country gather. 

  

The man's overwhelmed face as he raised the championship trophy high above his head on the stage in the final episode. 

  

That scene was still as clear in his mind as if it had been photographed. 

  

Junwoo smiled faintly as he thought of that time. 

  

'He seems genuine.' 

  

Mansik thought to himself as he watched Junwoo. 

  

Besides the anticipation that he could genuinely enjoy acting, he seemed to have no other interest. In the midst of aspiring contestants risking their lives to compete, having such an approach was quite unique. 

  

Mansik shook his head. 

  

After all, competition or stepping on someone to get ahead didn't suit him. 

  

"I would love to see it, but it's only possible for kids who are evenly matched." 

  

Mansik continued. 

  

"Well, we don't have to go along with their way. I'm not really worried about what those bastards will do, but since there's no limit on the number of participants if you really want to…" 

  

"Just write it?" 

  

"Yeah?" 

  

"What's the harm, Mister? If you just go along with what they say." 

  

"Hey, why do you care about that!" 

  

Mansik retorted. Jun-woo, unfazed, asked again. 

  

"So, you don't have any issues with it?" 

  

"Well, it's not that I don't have any issues, but it's not something you should worry about..." 

  

"Alright, then." 

  

"What? Hey, will you be the bait just because those brats want it?" 

  

"Yes, that's good. I'm good at that." 

  

Jun-woo smiled broadly. 

  

"Good at what?" Mansik was confused. Before he could ask, Jun-woo said nonchalantly. 

  

"How you start doesn't matter." 

  

*** 

  

COEX. 

  

Today, this place was packed with an enormous crowd. 

  

Right here was the starting point of the program, the scene of the preliminary auditions. 

  

Flap.  

  

The banners lining the back wall swayed in the wind. The sheer size of them was truly exceptional. 

  

"Actor Kingdom: The Birth of a Star" 

  

The audition venue was on the second floor of the broadcast studio. 

People who looked like participants were waiting, each holding a number plate. 

  

They were not just aspiring actors. Everyone from ordinary people to rookie idols, SNS celebrities, and unknown actors were bustling around, hoping to appear on TV. 

  

"Okay, please don't crowd here and move to this side." 

  

The employees, equipped with headset microphones, moved confidently, their eyes fixed on the script they had brought with them. 

  

"Just say it the way you memorized it. Got it?" 

  

"Sigh... Let's just try not to get nervous, please." 

  

Families and friends who came to cheer. 

  

Some people were taking deep breaths while stretching, while others were memorizing their scripts with a look of determination in their eyes. 

  

"..." 

  

Amidst the bustling scene, Junwoo stood alone. 

  

It had been a while since he had been in such a crowded place. 

He could hear the voices of people passing by. 

  

"Sigh. I'm so nervous. Once we make it to the main stage, we can at least be on TV, right?" 

  

"Hey, don't be nervous. If not you, then who will go out there? Now you're really standing in front of the whole nation." 

  

Standing in front of the whole nation. 

  

Certainly, the scale was different. Writing a few articles after the performance with Gil Junho and going on air directly are two different things. 

  

A slight nervousness. But now, strong emotions like that are pushed aside. 

  

Swoosh 

  

Junwoo looked around the bustling scene. 

  

The earnestness echoed everywhere, participants putting their all into their dreams. 

  

The scene was filled with the hot passion of those who aspire to be actors. 

  

'Since I had been acting almost in hiding all this time, this was the first time I had felt this way.' 

  

Twinkle. 

  

Interest sparked in Junwoo's eyes. 

  

The preliminary audition is conducted with very brief improvisational acting. 

  

This is because a large number of people need to be selected in a short amount of time. 

  

On-site, participants are given two random keywords, 'role' and 'situation.' They must then perform about a minute of improvisational acting based on those prompts. 

  

For example, if given the two keywords "fallen artist" and "confession," participants had to quickly create a scene with the corresponding lines and emotions. 

  

The key points were understanding, depth of acting, and diversity. 

  

The difficulty was quite high because the number of participants had to be drastically reduced for the finals. 

  

Participants were scattered around the room, sitting on the floor with scripts in their hands, practicing their lines. Some were even trying to rehearse their lines with people they had just met. 

  

The high expectations of the judges, the pressure of the competition, and the sound of other participants' preparations overwhelmed some participants, and they were already starting to feel scared and cry. 

  

'They all seem busy.' 

  

Junwoo was empty-handed, simply walking through the crowd, observing them with interest. 

  

Even though he hadn't done anything yet, every scene and sight stimulated Junwoo's curiosity. 

  

The place where his steps came to a halt was in front of Hall B. 

Upon seeing Junwoo waiting at the door, Yoo Sang-jun smiled and approached. 

  

"Welcome, student! Shall we head this way then?" 

  

Yoo Sang-jun took the lead and entered the building with a smile. 

  

Meanwhile, in the conference room attached to the broadcast studio, the production team of W Broadcasting was gathered. 

  

Led by Park Jun-gil, the production team members were in the meeting room, creating a narrative for Junwoo that would grab attention in the first episode. 

  

"The show will start with the finals, but we plan to pre-record interviews with a few selected participants in addition to the pre-screening videos. First of all, the participant we should focus on is this kid." 

  

Click.  

  

The remote was pressed, and Junwoo's photo appeared on the screen. 

  

"As soon as the first episode airs, the marketing team will start working on various communities. We will create narratives based on the story of this child before Kang Hyeok makes his full appearance..." 

  

Thud. 

  

The door suddenly swung open, revealing Yoo Sang-jun and the kid they were just talking about. 

  

Thud.  

  

The voices that had been echoing in the meeting room came to a sudden halt. 

  

The room fell silent, and Yoo Sang-jun seemed to realize his mistake. He started sweating profusely, but he tried to keep a smile on his face. 

  

"Ahem… This is Han Junwoo, the one I mentioned. Please come in." 

  

Yoo Sang-jun placed his hand on Junwoo's shoulder. 

  

Junwoo nodded his head lightly and scanned the people in the meeting room. He could see the expectation in their smiling faces. 

  

"Oh! We've been waiting for you, Junwoo. You're a huge celebrity these days. I wonder if we should get your autograph or something, haha." 

  

One of the team members greeted Junwoo in an overly enthusiastic way. It was a treatment that would only be valid until he was used up and discarded. 

  

"..." 

  

Junwoo didn't show much reaction. Yoo Sang-jun thought- Perhaps it's his first time in such a situation, so he's tense and stiff. He lightly tapped Junwoo's shoulders with both hands. 

  

Tap, tap. 

  

"It's okay. Don't be nervous, just relax. Make yourself at home. Seriously." 

  

"Sure." 

  

Swish. 

  

The constant patting had been bothering him. 

  

Junwoo smoothly pulled away from Yoo Sang-jun's touch and casually took a seat in the chair. 

  

"Now you can relax." 

  

"...Ahaha. Well, that's a relief then." 

  

Yoo Sang-jun felt a bit awkward. 

  

"What's this? It's not the feeling I had in mind." 

  

As he tilted his head, 

  

Snicker.  

  

Team leader Park Joon-gil couldn't help but curl his lips at the sight of Jun-woo in person, who was more satisfying than he had expected. One of his two slightly visible front teeth was a gold tooth that sparkled. 

  

'His looks are looks, but his atmosphere is… He's too good to be used simply for attention-grabbing purposes.' 

  

Park Jun-gil sighed with regret. But he was sure that the reaction would be positive. He thought the ratings might even be higher than he had expected, and he prayed that this kid would do his job well. 

  

The other team members were also thinking similarly, their eyes shining with excitement. Everyone in the room was eagerly imagining how their plans would play out with the kid in front of them. 

  

"..." 

  

Sitting in his chair, Junwoo stared at the screen, which displayed his face in large letters. 

  

Below is a detailed description of the story the production team created. It was a story that the participants were not supposed to know about. And in it was the name Kang Hyeok. 

  

"Oh," 

  

One of Junwoo's team members belatedly noticed Junwoo's gaze and quickly pressed the remote control button. 

  

Click. 

  

As the screen went dark, silence filled the meeting room. 

  

Team members exchanged glances with each other. 

  

"Ahem. Hm!" 

  

Yoo Sang-jun quickly shook his head. 

  

"He probably hasn't seen everything." 

  

He contemplated a vague response in case the kid asked about what he had just seen. Cold sweat ran down his back. 

  

"Ah... Junwoo, right? Actually, we were discussing how to effectively showcase Junwoo's talent on the broadcast." 

  

"Yes." 

  

Junwoo answered the question in a perfunctory manner, then scanned the people in the meeting room. 

  

The man sitting at the end of the table was wearing glasses. Unlike the other people, who were clearly using him, the man showed a different kind of emotion. His eyes flashed as he entered the meeting room. There was greed and curiosity about Junwoo in his eyes. Who is that man? 

  

Yoo Sang-jun started to squirm. 

  

'What's on his mind?' 

  

'I couldn't understand what this child was thinking, just sitting there quietly, waiting for something.' 

  

Junwoo gave a brief glance toward the awkwardly standing Yoo Sang-jun. 

  

"But why are you just standing there like that?" 

  

Junwoo furrowed his brow slightly. 

  

There was a momentary silence. The pressure to quickly provide some kind of explanation to Yoo Sang-jun and the team members was palpable. 

  

In that brief pause, no one spoke up. Instead, they observed Junwoo as if waiting for him to say something. 

  

'Didn't someone say he was a naive child raised in the countryside?' 

  

They were a bit taken aback, realizing he wasn't the type of person they had imagined. 

  

In this competitive program, the battle for information and connections was crucial. Depending on how well you could ride the wave, even if your skills were a bit lacking, you could continue to appear on broadcasts. 

  

In contrast, this person didn't show any signs of seeking special favors or trying to impress. Instead, there was an attitude of having no regrets. 

  

They expected to see a naive child, bewildered and excited to receive special treatment from the officials of a large-scale program. That's what all the protagonists who graced the first episode had been like so far. 

  

Strangely, it already felt like they were being held back by that person. 

  

The man at the end of the table raised his glasses with an intrigued look. 

  

'What are we supposed to do about it?' 

  

In fact, Junwoo had no interest whatsoever, except for wanting to quickly return to the scene. 

  

It was puzzling why everyone seemed to be hesitating and murmuring when he was more than willing to respond to the carefully laid-out plans. 

  

Compared to what was happening outside, this place seemed dull and uninteresting to Junwoo. 

  

He wanted to finish quickly and go back to explore what he hadn't been able to see earlier. 

  

Sensing that Park Jun-gil was the top dog here, Junwoo redirected his gaze toward that direction. 

  

"So, what do I need to do?" 

 


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