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A Thousand Faces Chapter 40

Updated: Feb 15

As the shooting of the fourth mission approached, the judges gathered in the production team's office. 


Park Jun-gil seemed eager to show them something. 


"I believe you all understand that this mission will be the highlight of the show. Right now, the NK rookie team is working with Han Junwoo..." 


As Park Jun-gil spoke, Jo Sungrae nodded as if he already understood. 


"Do we really need an explanation? It's obvious. No matter how good those kids are, they can't match his level." 


"That's true, but there's more to it." 


As he projected the screen, Park Jun-gil implied that wasn't the only issue. 


Pressing the remote control, a video appeared on the screen. 


"You should take a look at this. The practice session went over sixteen hours, which is quite long, but..." 


At that, the upper bodies of the three judges leaned forward in unison. 


They had been curious about Junwoo's whereabouts since the third stage performance. 


With a mix of certainty and eager anticipation, the judges were half-expecting to see something predictable yet were also excited to discover something new. 


Park Jun-gil, aiming to show a highlight where Junwoo was giving an acting demonstration, began fast-forwarding through the initial scenes of Junwoo directing his team members. 


"I've selected some key moments. Considering we worked through the night, it was quite a struggle," he remarked. 


"What are you doing? Why are you skipping that?" 


"Can you rewind that quickly?" 


Uh... Park Jun-gil, momentarily embarrassed, fell silent. Why were they so excited about this...? 


The judges looked ready to snatch the remote control from Park Jun-gil. 


"Just rewind it. That's all you need to do." 


With an awkward motion, he rewound the footage. He had thoughtfully selected these moments after working through the night. 


Upon watching the replayed scenes, the judges were speechless. 


They had expected the skilled newcomers to be outshined in acting, but that didn't seem to be the main point. 


'What exactly is happening here?' 


The most intense reaction to Junwoo's peculiar behavior, setting up an impromptu filming set in thin air, came from Gu Daewon. 


Next came Junwoo's acting demonstration and the scenes with Shin Dami. 


The three judges were so engrossed in the screen, as if not wanting to miss a single moment. 


But at some point, Park Jun-gil began to feel puzzled. 


He alternated his gaze between the judges and the screen. 




Park Jun-gil noticed that the judges' eyes were now following Shin Dami, not just Jun-woo. 


These were the same judges who had been constantly asking about Junwoo, wearing their curiosity on their faces. 


They had never shown much interest in the other NK team members or anyone else. 


Watching Shin Dami, the judges seemed to have discovered something new, leaving them speechless. 


As the video ended, Jo Sungrae shook his head in disbelief. 


"That wasn't the end of it..." 


He was disappointed in himself for carelessly estimating Junwoo's limits. The acting was so transcendent that he only thought about the performance itself, never considering the depth and detail of the acting Junwoo displayed, nor what kind of thoughts inspired it. 


When rumors about Junwoo spread in the industry, and someone asked Jo Sungrae about Junwoo, he mentioned that Junwoo's acting and interpretation skills were beyond evaluation. Now, he's not so sure. 


The verification site for the fourth mission is about to start. 


'I can't wait to see the work that kid has created.' 


The fourth mission is far more influential and significant than anything before. 


Up until now, it has just been about showing brief performances on stage, but this time, they're asked to create their own artistic works. 


This stage involved the participants using what they had shown in previous missions to create and present a consolidated work. 


This work wouldn't just end with being evaluated. 


The production team was planning to monetize these creations beyond the broadcast. They were even planning to turn the winning team's short drama into a real drama involving actual drama production teams and actors. 


However, in Jo Sungrae's opinion, that wasn't what mattered. 


'This can't be fully captured by a broadcast.' 


That kid is going to become a star at an unprecedented pace. 


The public will surely cheer for the acting prodigy Han Junwoo. But they won't fully grasp the extent of his genius. 


Just like everyone here before they saw this practice video. 


Even if they see it with their own eyes, it's unbelievable, and even if they're begged to believe, they might find it impossible. Thinking this far, Jo Sungrae couldn't help but feel a pang of regret about the practical issues that were bound to arise. 


With over 50 years in broadcasting, Jo Sungrae knew this all too well. 


The moment this broadcast goes live, there will be a rush to sensationalize it and paint it provocatively. 


The mysterious image of a young genius with unbelievable talent. 


Moreover, with his appealing personality, it was clear that they would drool over the chance to exploit the image of a genius high-teen star, bombarding him with advertising deals and other annoyances. 


That would be such a waste of precious time. The time that the kid needs. 


In truth, Jo Sungrae had no right to feel this way. He was just filled with regret. 


He should be paving the way for him, yet he was worried about the bothersome things that might trip him up. As someone who had devoted his life to the film industry, it was a bitter and regretful sentiment. 


While he was thinking this, Cheong Myeong suddenly said, 


"...But what will people start calling him, I wonder? I'm kind of curious now that it's come to this." 


Jo Sungrae was taken aback. It seemed he wasn't the only one having such thoughts. 


The only one flustered was Park Jun-gil. 


"Huh? What do you mean... If things continue as they are, it's a given he'll secure a top spot as an actor. With his skills and looks..." 


"It's just, when you think about the future. Actor Han Junwoo. Doesn't it feel a bit lacking?" 


Cheong Myeong tilted his head and chuckled lightly. 


It was a laugh borne out of the absurdity of finding himself thinking so far ahead. 


Cheong Myeong seemed to imagine Junwoo ascending to the ranks of stardom just like him. 


He had been relatively quiet compared to the other two judges when it came to Junwoo. 




Cheong Myeong, wondering why there were no answers, glanced around at the others. 


No one could respond to that question. They realized they didn't actually have any direct knowledge of the kid's dreams or goals. 




At the preparation site for the mid-evaluation of the fourth mission. 


Each team had finished filming their short dramas. It was a challenge for the participants who had never learned storyboarding. Still, somehow, they managed to complete the editing storyboards as well. 


The mid-evaluation was an occasion to spontaneously present the completed works on stage, fitting the live setting. 


This was because it was impractical to edit and finalize the storyboards of all teams into videos within such a short time. The purpose was to assess whether the works were worth the effort and time of professionals to be turned into complete video projects. 


At this stage, half of the compositions would be eliminated. 


Only the remaining half would be turned into video works for the final evaluation. 


Before the filming started, the set was bustling with activity. More cameras were set up than usual, a testament to the importance of this program segment. 


Park Jun-gil had stressed the need for thorough preparation, as this was a highlight of the program. 


A brief conversation was taking place at the judges' table in front of the stage. 


"This time, there will be quite a few eliminations." 


"Hmm. Indeed." 


"It's about time things got serious." 


Jo Sungrae was looking somewhere beneath the stage. 


'Why isn't he here?' 


His gaze settled on the NK Rookie Team gathered in one spot, but Junwoo was nowhere to be seen. 


Driven by curiosity, Jo Sungrae called Yoo Sang-jun over to the judges' table to ask. 


"Why haven't I seen Han Junwoo around? The evaluation is about to start, isn't it?" 


Yoo Sang-jun looked a bit embarrassed, as if he had forgotten to relay some information. 


"Ah, about that, the kid didn't take a role in this project." 


"What? He's not participating at all?" 


"Instead, he worked on the filming, directing, storyboarding... the overall production." 


"So, you mean he won't be on stage right now?" 


"Yes. That's correct, but," 


"Then why am I even sitting here!" 






Yoo Sang-jun blinked in surprise. 


"...I must have misspoke." 


"I don't understand it either." 


"Anyway. Why? Was he too busy with other tasks to have time for acting?" 


"Hmm. That doesn't seem to be the case… Actually, I did ask him about it." 


Yoo Sang-jun paused, recalling what Junwoo had said. 


"Just because…," he said. 


Jo Sungrae pondered over the meaning behind those words from Junwoo. A kid like him would surely be aware of how much the judges and everyone else paid attention to him. 


Could it be that he decided to forego a role to highlight the team members instead? 




Jo Sungrae looked somewhat annoyed. 


"No matter what, this isn't right. This isn't just a competition for work but an acting audition. I think the kid might have made a wrong call this time." 


"I still can't quite grasp what that kid is thinking." 


To Yoo Sang-jun, it seemed like Jo Sungrae was more disappointed than angry. 


"Hmm. Then where is the kid now?" 


"I'm not sure... He hasn't been seen since this morning, so I don't know." 




At that moment, Junwoo was in a meeting with Park Jun-gil. 


Park Jungil was nervously tapping his legs under the office desk. 


"Does it go against fairness?" 


Junwoo asked with an innocent expression. That face made it even more difficult for Park Jun-gil. 


Park Jun-gil was sweating profusely. 


"Well, the thing is..." 


Junwoo had come to Park Jun-gil with a rather unusual request. He wanted to know why he couldn't be involved in the editing process himself. His barrage of questions about why he couldn't do it himself, or at least be present during the editing, left Park Jun-gil groaning. 


"Are you worried that the editing team might ruin your work?" 


"No, that's not it." 


Park Jungil didn't quite believe that. 


"I just want to try doing it myself this time. I've always just thought about it in my head." 


"Hmm.. How about we think about it after the mid-evaluation? Only half of the teams will go to the video work stage anyway." 


Park Jun-gil had given a rather implausible excuse. He hadn't even considered the possibility that Junwoo's team might not make it into the top half. Right now, Park just wanted to escape this awkward situation. 


But Junwoo, without a hint of doubt, said, 


"Oh, there's no chance we'll be eliminated, so don't worry about that." 


With that, he looked blankly back at Park Jun-gil, who closed his eyes in frustration. As if he hadn't known that already. 


Seeing Park Jungil's expression, Junwoo, undeterred, continued, 


"Then, let the editing team do their work, and I'll just rent an office and do it separately. We can use the editing team's work for the broadcast or whatever." 


Why is he so obsessed with this? What does he intend to use it for if it's not for the broadcast? 


Park Jun-gil wasn't the type to worry about fairness. What scared him were the potential consequences. 


By now, he had stopped doubting Junwoo's unverified abilities. 


Junwoo's confidence meant that whatever he was working on was bound to be a hit. Who was he going to put in a tough spot this time? 


Suppose a work completely crafted by Junwoo were to be revealed. Wouldn't the difference in quality compared to other teams' videos be staggering? What would that mean for the program? 


They had gathered experts from across the nation for this. This wasn't just about a dent in the pride of one or two people. The public would no longer be interested in Han Junwoo as a program participant but simply as Han Junwoo. 


He could almost hear the public outcry already, demanding why Junwoo hadn't been eliminated from the show yet. 


'But then again, if I think about it differently...' 


Could this program potentially give birth to a masterpiece? 


"Is it not possible?" 






He accidentally blurted out what he was thinking internally. 


"Oh, no, sorry about that." 


Park Jun-gil, unsure of what the right decision was, momentarily turned away. 


He was now at a point where he couldn't make a decision on his own. 




Back at the studio for the mid-evaluation, cameras were rolling, and teams were taking turns on stage. 


Then came the highly anticipated NK Team. 


They were pacing anxiously in the backstage waiting room. 


"Hey, where did he go? He's not answering his phone." 


"I don't know. We're about to go on. What do we do?" 


It was Junwoo who had instructed them on everything for this mid-evaluation – their movements based on the stage layout, their entry timings, everything. 


Even though Junwoo wasn't going to be on stage, the team members felt an inexplicable sense of unease. 


They almost felt like they would hear hallucinations of his voice demanding a redo if he wasn't there to watch their performance. 


Shin Dami took a deep breath in a corner. 


'I'm the real lead...' 


Her whole body trembled. It had been a long time since she felt this way. 


This was her first leading role, and she didn't want to mess up Junwoo's work. 


"Good evening!" 


Choi Han-gyeol's voice resonated powerfully throughout the studio. 


Like Shin Dami, the other team members were equally tense. 


Their performance was significantly more challenging than that of the previous team. 


The judges watched the team lined up on stage, unable to hide their interest. 


Not because they were exceptionally skilled, but because... 


'What are they trying to do, being so...' 


It was because, compared to the others who seemed more composed on stage, these members appeared the most nervous and fearful. 


The direction Junwoo had set for them was of an unprecedented and highest difficulty, something unheard of before. They were more nervous now than when they first showcased their acting skills at the NK audition in their youth. 


Shortly after, Shin Dami, who had the solo lead role, walked to the center of the stage. 


The numerous eyes of the judges, participants, and officials were all on her, standing alone on stage. 


She had never felt this way before. 


And then, 



Shin Dami almost let out an audible gasp. 


She had just locked eyes with Junwoo, who had been silently observing from the very back of the studio. It was unclear how long he had been there. 

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