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A Thousand Faces Chapter 37

Updated: Feb 12

"Hey, are you listening? You're not in a position to judge or say anything. That's what we're saying." 

 

Junwoo, who was chattering nearby, didn't take his eyes off Shin Dami. 

 

Suddenly feeling his intense gaze, Shin Dami was flustered. 

 

'What, what's this...?' 

 

Junwoo had been confused about something for a while. It was, 

 

"Why are you just standing there quietly? You're the best at this among us here." 

 

"...What?" 

 

At those words, the actors boasting about their spittle-flying skills suddenly fell silent. 

 

"Why are you just watching kids with no skills strut around?" 

 

"What did he just say?" 

 

"Kids with no skills? Me, strutting?" 

 

Junwoo didn't have any second thoughts. 

 

He was genuinely curious. 

 

To Shin Dami, who was blinking in confusion, Junwoo said, 

 

"I saw your performance in the third round." 

 

Shin Dami's heart pounded. She had never felt this way before. 

 

Junwoo remembered Shin Dami's acting from the previous one-on-one team mission. 

 

She didn't reinterpret the role like others, nor did she add any flair to her lines, simply delivering them straightforwardly. 

 

'But it was different.' 

 

How much could an actor refine and embellish a character? 

 

It wasn't a matter of the actor's intention, but rather their presence. 

 

Some actors could bring the same lines to life more vividly. 

 

She wasn't exceptionally beautiful, nor did she have any remarkable, unique features, but Junwoo saw something in her. 

 

She possessed a strength that others didn't have. 

 

It was a natural intensity inherent in her as an actress. 

 

While the judges praised her remarkable acting skills, they also added, 

 

"The fact that you didn't change the character with your own interpretation was a bit disappointing." 

 

He added 

 

Jo Sungrae couldn't shake off his uneasy expression as he put down the microphone. Probably, they didn't realize it. They couldn't find a basis for their praise beyond 'acting skills.' 

 

Because there was something there that couldn't be confirmed. 

 

'What is this nagging feeling?' 

 

Junwoo scrutinized Shin Dami's face, then tilted his head in puzzlement. 

 

"Hey, I'm talking to you. Where are you looking? What is he doing...?" 

 

As he was treated like an invisible person, Choi Han-gyeol's face turned bright red with anger. 

 

But Junwoo had already lost interest in that direction. 

 

Step by step. 

 

Junwoo suddenly started to step backwards. 

 

Without taking his eyes off Shin Dami. 

 

'What is he doing...?' 

 

Shin Dami blinked rapidly. 

 

Then, step by step, Junwoo slowly walked forward again. 

 

Like a camera zooming in and out. 

 

Junwoo repeated this process several times, each time from a different angle. 

 

And finally, 

 

Stop right in front of Shin Dami's nose. 

 

"I get it." 

 

Her face was colored with confusion at his inexplicable behavior. 

 

Junwoo seemed to have resolved his unease and returned to his original spot. 

 

"You've never played a lead role, have you?" 

 

"A lead role...?" 

 

"It's quite strange. The feeling is completely different when it's a close-up shot compared to a full shot." 

 

Junwoo's lips curled up as if he had discovered something interesting. 

 

"You've always just been part of the backdrop, right? Because of some people." 

 

Choi Han-gyeol's eyes began to waver. 

 

"It was instinctive for them to sense that and deliberately suppress your presence. Telling you not to stand out." 

 

For a moment, silence enveloped the practice room. 

 

All the things that had happened between them since they met at the agency and became actors. The same scenes flashed through their minds, explaining the sudden quiet. 

 

"It must have been strange for you. Not trying to stand out, but still drawing attention. And the others kept criticizing you. You probably saw it as a weakness and chose roles that would keep you in the background." 

 

Choi Han-gyeol suddenly felt intimidated by the young person before him, realizing he saw those moments just by moving a few steps. 

 

"But I don't plan on continuing that way." 

 

All judgments had now been made. 

 

Then, one of the team members spat on the practice room floor. 

 

"Give me a break, this is ridiculous." 

 

Fidgeting, the guy walked over to Junwoo, hands shoved in his pockets. 

 

"Hey, kid. Do you think you know her better than us? We've been trainees for over five years. Yeah, you're right. She's been just a backdrop. But did you ever think why that is?" 

 

However, Junwoo, having already reached a conclusion, had no intention of dragging out the conversation. 

 

"We'll center the performance around her, and the rest of you will adjust. Is that okay?" 

 

"Me, the rest?" 

 

"What is he even saying?" 

 

Junwoo continued speaking. 

 

"Just think of it as doing a proper one-man show for once." 

 

It seemed like the others were already out of Junwoo's consideration. 

 

From the beginning, he hadn't considered any of the points raised by Choi Han-gyeol a few minutes ago. 

 

Shin Dami was utterly taken aback by these words she was hearing for the first time. 

 

She was being persuaded without realizing it, drawn in by Junwoo's straightforward answers, especially since it was Junwoo saying them. 

 

"A one-man show...?" 

 

"Yes. Just do what you've been doing. I'll take care of everything else." 

 

It was as if they were in a world of their own. 

 

The other three were left dumbfounded. 

 

"Who have we been talking to since a while ago?" 

 

"Hey, listen. Don't you care about our opinions? Who said we'd do as you say?" 

 

At that moment, Choi Han-gyeol, seemingly feeling wronged, pointed at Shin Dami. 

 

"Let's hear it. How is she different from us?" 

 

"Bro, why are you doing this? If you get caught up in arguing with her, you lose." 

 

"Just wait a second." 

 

Choi Han-gyeol was more serious compared to the other two. He at least understood that those words weren't just thrown around lightly. 

 

Finally, Junwoo turned his head towards them. 

 

"Based on individuality, my style should be more distinctive. It's already been proven several times. I didn't get those awards for nothing. But why a one-man show with her?" 

 

Junwoo narrowed his eyebrows. 

 

"Try saying no to this one, too." 

 

"Yeah, I know. But…” 

 

Junwoo shook his head. 

 

"I'm sorry, but I'm not really interested." 

 

"What?" 

 

"It seems more like a limitation than individuality. Your acting style is set in stone. Why should I go out of my way to accommodate that when there's a better approach here?" 

 

"Huh." 

 

Choi Han-gyeol let out a hollow laugh. 

 

His lips quivered as he turned his head away. Junwoo had touched a nerve he had been ignoring. 

 

The roles that had won Choi Han-gyeol awards were those of chaebol (wealthy conglomerate families) heirs. 

 

Since then, the chaebol image has stuck to him like a label in every advertisement and role he took. 

 

Though he had to accept the constant media praise like 'perfectly embodies the role, never disappoints,' he had harbored a simmering dissatisfaction. And now, Junwoo had pinpointed that exactly. 

 

"Fine, let's say you're right. What about you? Are you just going to run your mouth?" 

 

For someone on his first shoot, he was so confident. Curious to hear his response, Choi Han-gyeol crossed his arms. Gulp. Swallowing his saliva, Choi Hagyeol's legs started to shake. 

 

Junwoo was so astounded by their reaction that he wondered what they were even talking about. 

 

"If I just stay silent, it'll be a disaster." 

 

Didn't he say it earlier? He would take care of everything else. 

 

Junwoo began to explain his plan as if he was effortlessly reciting a script he had already prepared. 

 

He covered everything: location, timing, story, dialogue, direction, camera techniques, composition, blocking, and so on. 

 

All of it revolved around Shin Dami at the center. 

 

The faces of the other actors turned pale. 

 

'Did he come up with all that in such a short time?' 

 

"Did he meet her before? How can he pinpoint her characteristics so accurately...' 

 

Choi Han-gyeol's ridiculous plan. To solve the doubts about Shin Dami. Junwoo had been thinking about the filming direction for a while. But the problem was that he was the only one who could hold the camera. 

 

"That's why I said it. She needs to be the center." 

 

Placing Shin Dami in front of the camera and blending her with the others was Junwoo's role. 

 

It wasn't a time to ponder about acting. 

 

Only then did they recall Gil Junho's words. 

 

'If you want to survive.' 

 

'Better avoid that kid if you can.' 

 

*** 

 

Shin Dami's heart was racing. The idea that someone five years younger than her was awakening her potential felt incredibly uplifting. 

 

'Me as the lead...?' 

 

Her colleagues at NK and the acting coaches at her agency had always pointed her out as the problem. Until now, her assigned role had been to support the lead from behind, a role she had always succeeded in. The leads, enhanced by her presence, shone brighter due to their chemistry. Trapped in that mold, Shin Dami had always felt diminished. 

 

At first, she thought the kid was just trying to help her. 

 

Younger ones are often softer at heart and high on the hero complex. 

 

But it didn't quite seem that way. 

 

'We'll center the performance around her, and the rest of you will adjust. Is that okay?' 

 

At that moment, Shin Dami found herself nodding slightly without even realizing it. 

 

In Shin Dami's heart, a sense of excitement she had never felt since she started acting was blossoming. 

 

It was neither patronizing nor favoritism. 

 

The things he said to their fellow actors weren't meant to be sarcastic or malicious. However, 

 

'Soon, I'll be a senior to that kid when he debuts...' 

 

Shin Dami thought she should mediate the situation a bit. 

 

She was a fan of Junwoo. And her admiration for him grew even more when he recognized her true worth moments ago. 

 

Based on her own experiences, the other three were ruthlessly cruel. Once they targeted someone, they would do everything to push them to the edge. They wouldn't leave any roots, knowing well that it might cause trouble later in any form. 

 

'Those greedy guys will never let me be the center.' 

 

Shin Dami was anxious, unsure of what they might do next. She feared they might sabotage Junwoo's career by complaining to Director Lee Jaewon or even Gil Junho, hindering Junwoo's chances in the industry. 

 

"But you know..." 

 

Suddenly feeling a surge of responsibility, Shin Dami thought she needed to turn the atmosphere around. 

 

"Thinking about it, it's still a team mission. Centering it around just one person doesn't seem right. Moreover, the judges might not understand if that person is me, not even Junwoo." 

 

Junwoo frowned. What is she saying now? It seemed like she was overthinking things unnecessarily. 

 

"That's why I'm saying this. Since it's a team mission." 

 

"...What?" 

 

"Since it's a team mission, you need to take charge and save the situation. They are getting cocky and thinking they are good because you're so subdued. It's a vicious cycle." 

 

Setting aside everything else, Shin Dami was already a step ahead regarding skill. 

 

Suddenly, he found himself missing his teammates from Team 9, including Kim Yoojin. 

 

At least they had the simplicity of believing in their ambitions and pushing forward. 

 

Choi Han-gyeol pondered over Junwoo's words. 

 

'Cocky? A vicious cycle?' 

 

Those words finally unleashed the anger he had been suppressing. 

This wasn't something he could just let slide. 

 

The recognition he received from the senior actors he admired so much, the pride of being part of one of South Korea's top entertainment companies... 

 

This was tantamount to tarnishing the reputation of their company. 

 

"What are you even doing?" 

 

But Choi Han-gyeol's anger wasn't directed at Junwoo; it was aimed at Shin Dami. 

 

Above all, what irked him the most was Shin Dami acting as if she was helping them, pretending to be something. 

 

"Are you just sitting there, listening to that crap?" 

 

"I'm so embarrassed." 

 

As Choi Han-gyeol began to speak out, the team members started to chime in one by one. But, 

 

"What am I doing? Honestly, there's nothing wrong with what I said. The ones acting embarrassingly against a kid are you guys, not me." 

 

Caught off guard by Shin Dami's unexpected retort, the team members momentarily wore faces of dumbfounded amusement. 

 

She had never been confident in her abilities before. Today, as her self-assurance solidified, all her pent-up feelings erupted. 

 

Eventually, the voices in the practice room grew louder and more heated. 

 

Unable to contain her anger, Shin Dami stormed out, and the practice session came to a halt. 

 

"I can't believe this. Hey. Anyway, we're not going to do as you say. We're going to follow Han-gyeol, so either follow us or find another team." 

 

Junwoo nodded in response. 

 

"Alright. It can't be helped." 

 

Junwoo had resigned himself to the situation. 

 

No, he only pretended to resign himself to the situation. 

 

Hadn't he already said he had the whole picture in mind? 

 

The filming was just a part of it. 

 

Swoosh.  

 

Junwoo shifted his gaze to the window in the corridor. 

 

The figure that had been there since earlier quietly disappeared. 

 

*** 

 

In the production team's office. 

 

Yoo Sang-jun burst open the door. His face set in a grim expression, and he quickly approached Park Jun-gil's desk. 

 

Park Jun-gil had instructed him to check on the situation with that team periodically. 

 

"Te-Team Leader...!" 

 

Yoo Sangjun's face was trembling with anxiety as if something major had happened. 

 

"What's the matter now?" 

 

"The practice session for Han Junwoo's team has been halted." 

 

"Halted? Why?" 

 

"That kid..." 

 

Yoo Sang-jun quickly relayed the situation. He explained how Junwoo had been brutally honest with the NK rookies, causing a stir, and now the rookies were on the verge of breakdown. 

 

"...What should we do? If it can't proceed like this..." 

 

"Hmm, really?" 

 

Yoo Sang-jun, unable to stay still, was in stark contrast to Park Jun-gil, whose eyes sparkled with interest. 

 

His demeanor suggested that a halted practice session wasn't a cause for concern. 

 

'Why is he reacting like that?' 

 

Then, Park Jun-gil shivered slightly. 

 

"You got the situation there on camera, right?" 



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