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A Thousand Faces Chapter 45

Updated: Feb 22

Last night. Park Jun-gil secretly headed to a private room. 

 

It was a summon from Daemyoung. 

 

Park Jun-gil recalled the last time he faced Kang Geonim. 

 

'The more I think about it, the more I need to keep that guy close to my son.' 

 

The chairman's order to deliberately pair him up with Kang Hyeok. 

 

Back then, no one knew things would turn out like this. And the chairman likely didn't either. 

 

During that time, it would have been impossible for Park Jun-gil not to hear about how Han Junwoo had made his presence known. It had been oddly quiet until now. 

 

Park Jun-gil stood in front of the sliding door, nervously swallowing his saliva. 

 

Opening the door could be akin to walking into a storm of flying dishes. 

 

The moment he cautiously stepped in after sliding the door open... 

 

"...!" 

 

"You've arrived. Please, have a seat." 

 

It wasn't Kang Geonim who was sitting there, gesturing to the seat across from him, but his secretary. 

 

He had seen him before when he visited Daemyoung. 

 

Maybe that's a relief. Park Jun-gil breathed a sigh of relief. 

 

The secretary, neatly dressed in a suit, subtly pushed up his glasses. 

 

He had been regularly reporting to the chairman about the progress of the program. 

 

It was inevitable. More than Kang Hyeok's name, it was the boy named Han Junwoo who had to be mentioned. 

 

The growing presence of this kid day by day, information about companies eyeing him with interest and licking their chops. 

 

And the subtly distorted expression on Chairman Kang's face. 

 

'Just observe for now.' 

 

But the chairman didn't give any specific instructions. This was a new side of him he hadn't seen before. Soon, the secretary seemed to understand the chairman's intentions. 

 

Park Jun-gil roughly guessed why he had been summoned. He had already been passing on information about Kang Hyeok as it came. Probably this time too, 

 

"You called me here because of the Han Junwoo issue, right?" 

 

"Yes, that's correct." 

 

"I know he's an existence that greatly bothers the chairman. But we also," 

 

"No, not exactly." 

 

"Pardon?" 

 

"At first, he seemed annoyed, but now it seems like he's actually interested." 

 

Park Jun-gil's eyes widened in surprise. 

 

"...In Han Junwoo?" 

 

"From a certain point, the chairman himself started asking about that kid's whereabouts. If he had wanted, he could have easily gotten rid of such a kid a long time ago, in one way or another. Especially since it involves Kang Hyeok." 

 

The secretary, having observed Junwoo's achievements, thought to himself. 

 

To stand at the center like that without any backing or investments. Even Kang Hyeok, who had received immense support, couldn't achieve that. This boy's presence might be enough to quench the thirst that Chairman Kang's son couldn't satisfy. 

 

"If he's interested, then what...?" 

 

"After the program ends, we plan to acquire the agency that Junwoo belongs to." 

 

Park Jun-gil was taken aback. 

 

"...Acquire?" 

 

The idea of buying an entire company just to acquire one person was on a different scale entirely. 

 

"It's easier that way. So, we would like the program side to maximize his potential. Of course, this doesn't mean to neglect Kang Hyeok." 

 

"Yes. We are doing our best on our end as well." 

 

"But speaking of which, there is actually another presence that's troublesome." 

 

The secretary began to delve into the main topic. Park Joon-gil was suddenly enveloped in a sense of unease. 

 

"There's this theater owner, Joo Mansik, acting like that boy's father." 

 

"Yes, I'm aware of him," 

 

Park Jun-gil replied stiffly. 

 

"...Do you plan to ruin Joo Theater?" 

 

"That's part of the plan. Are you also aware that this person used to be a member of the National Assembly?" 

 

Park Jun-gil flinched. 

 

"I wasn't aware of that part..." 

 

The secretary remembered what Chairman Kang had said. 

 

'A person who's hit rock bottom and is in total disarray loses the will for revenge or anything else.' 

 

Having observed the chairman closely for years, the secretary knew exactly what needed to be done. 

 

Merely applying pressure would only provoke more trouble – it was clear that more drastic measures were necessary. 

 

The root had to be completely burned away. 

 

"For now, just be aware. As for the program side, just make sure that the kid doesn't catch wind of any of this. Create a pretext to cut him off from external news, or maybe set up some overseas schedules for a while. You know what I mean?" 

 

Park Jun-gil's face was engulfed in shock at the secretary's startling words. 

 

The plan was not just to destroy the theater, but also to fabricate past political corruption of Joo Mansik, branding him so he couldn't start any business or venture again. 

 

The intent was also to spread rumors that there had been underhanded dealings in the establishment of Joo Theater and in the recent casting of Gil Junho. 

 

"Do we really have to go that far...?" 

 

"It's cleaner this way, less likely to cause problems later." 

 

"...But for the chairman, it's just another show. Is it because of Kang Hyeok?" 

 

"Well, that's something I don't know. I'm just acting according to the chairman's wishes." 

 

He seemed to have already made up his mind. It wasn't a consultation but an announcement. 

 

Sweat involuntarily formed in his palms. Is this situation getting too big? 

 

Throughout his broadcasting career, he had fought and dealt with all sorts of companies, but never had a conglomerate like Daemyoung been this aggressively involved. 

 

"It will be beneficial for you too. Joo Mansik will naturally fall out of favor with the boy. Just make sure the kid doesn’t find out. How would a young kid suspect that we're behind the leaked scandals?" 

 

"...He's smarter than you think." 

 

"Even so. He may have suspicions, but without solid evidence, he won't be able to do anything." 

 

Park Jun-gil found himself at a loss for words. 

 

Compared to him, the secretary spoke in a calm tone, as if these actions were straightforward and simple. 

 

'I bet Han Junwoo won't just stay quiet if he finds out...' 

 

Then the secretary mentioned investment funds, which seemed to carry an implicit threat of some kind of payback. 

 

Park Jun-gil realized why the chairman had been silent and unpressuring until now. It was as if he had been waiting for the right moment. 

 

*** 

 

Meanwhile, Joo Mansik received a call and was waiting for someone at the theater. 

 

With the broadcast approaching, many were becoming anxious. 

 

Unable to wait any longer, Lee Jaewon, the CEO of 'KOS', made a direct visit to Joo Theater. 

 

Realizing that not only himself but also several others were eyeing the situation, Lee Jaewon took immediate action. 

 

There was no more time to act through Park Jun-gil. 

 

Joo Mansik, visibly displeased just by his presence, offered a seat to his guest. 

 

It was his first time personally stepping in and seeing such a reaction to his presence, but he had anticipated it to some degree based on what he had heard. 

 

He brought with him a contract with such attractive terms that it was impossible to refuse. 

 

"This is an advertising contract offer from our company, KOS." 

 

Mansik casually glanced over the contract, wondering how many similar offers he had received by now. 

 

"KOS is an idol agency, isn't it?" 

 

"Yes, that's correct. But for this advertisement, we plan to tailor it completely to Han Junwoo. As you can see, the concept is reminiscent of the upcoming show 'Actor Kingdom'." 

 

"Hmm... it has a survival show vibe." 

 

"No. It's an opportunity to solidify Junwoo's image as an actor. With the ad being under KOS' name, viewers will start expecting more from Junwoo's talent rather than just his looks." 

 

Mansik nodded in agreement, but then added, 

 

"But why is that necessary? Won't the broadcast naturally reveal all that?" 

 

"This program is, after all, a battle of recognition." 

 

Recognition. It was an expected response and not something Man-sik could argue against, so he listened quietly. 

 

"Even if the situation turns around later, for now, the popular participants will be overshadowed by Junwoo's talent on the broadcast. According to the production team I know, they won't just let go of such a great spectacle. They'll capture the inferiority and despair of the other participants who have seen Junwoo's acting." 

 

"And what about that?" 

 

"The fans and related companies, as well as their agencies, won't just sit back and watch. Regardless of Junwoo's star quality or talent, they'll initially create a scenario to pour out criticism and negative public opinion." 

 

He wasn't wrong. But would Junwoo even care about such things... 

 

Mansik honestly disliked the idea. Junwoo already had limited time to focus on acting; he wouldn't want to be bothered by these additional complications. 

 

"Honestly, Mr. Joo, while I recognize your affection and ambition for Junwoo, don't you admit that you're not yet capable of handling such issues on your own? Our only goal in having KOS behind Junwoo is to shield him from public opinion." 

 

Mansik began to scrutinize the contract again. It was a one-time deal without a binding contract period, and there was no risk of loss or entanglement. 

 

"Moreover, signing with us will cut off the 'flies' who approach Junwoo for their gain, at least for a while. They would have to offer something significantly better than what we propose, which won't be easy." 

 

Mansik was filled with a mix of skepticism and curiosity. 

 

"But why would a major entertainment company like KOS go to these lengths? Just to clarify in advance, Junwoo has no interest in becoming an idol." 

 

"I understand,"  

 

Lee Jae-won replied, hesitating briefly. 

 

"...Honestly, a big part of it is wanting to make a move before anyone else." 

 

"..." 

 

"In fact, we've been considering expanding into the acting sphere." 

 

"Within KOS?" 

 

"Nothing is finalized yet. It's just a recent impulse I've been feeling." 

 

So that was it. Mansik nodded, having made his decision. 

 

This was an investment in the future. Importantly, there were no clauses in the current contract that would be burdensome later. 

 

Moreover, having recently spoken to Junwoo on the phone, Mansik was aware of Jun-woo's plans after the program ended. 

 

It was a path completely different from what everyone, including himself, had anticipated for Junwoo. Mansik was initially surprised but had to accept it. 

 

The advertising contract Lee Jaewon was proposing would indeed be beneficial for Junwoo's future. 

 

'There's no need to disclose that to him.' 

 

Moreover, the terms were exceptional. 

 

It was just one advertisement shoot, yet the amount offered was staggering. 

 

Lee Jaewon's face was anxious, waiting for a response. 

 

He was so focused that he didn't even notice his leg shaking under the table, making it tremble. 

 

He seemed desperate to secure even a single contract, despite no immediate gain. 

 

It seemed Junwoo's influence was even greater than Mansik had initially thought. 

 

"I understand. I'll discuss it with Junwoo and get back to you." 

 

At Mansik's positive response, Lee Jaewon struggled to hide his satisfaction. 

 

'Done.' 

 

He silently shook his clenched fist under the table. 

 

*** 

 

With the production team busy preparing for the broadcast, the participants were given some time off. 

 

Junwoo, visiting Joo Theater after a while, was immediately seated by Mansik in front of a monitor. 

 

What appeared on the screen was a 2-minute video. 

 

“What’s this?” 

 

“Didn’t you know? It’s a preview trailer released a few days ago. I’ve been dying to watch this with you." 

 

"Why wait? You could’ve just watched it." 

 

"Watch it? I close my eyes every time they show it on TV." 

 

Click.  

 

Without giving Mansik a chance to take a deep breath, Junwoo pressed the play button. 

 

"Hey, you..." 

 

Junwoo was immediately absorbed in the monitor. 

 

As the video started, a powerful drumbeat filled the air. Simultaneously, the logo for 'Actor Kingdom: The Birth of a Star' appeared boldly on the screen. 

 

Mansik also leaned in closer, his head almost touching Junwoo's. 

 

But the face of Mansik, who was full of anticipation, soon turned to disappointment. 

 

It was a teaser primarily featuring Kang Hyeok and other well-known figures. 

 

Junwoo did appear for about 2 seconds in the middle, but it was far from satisfying for Mansik. 

 

Moreover, that scene merely showed Junwoo standing there cluelessly, exuding a naive country boy vibe who knows nothing. 

 

"When people came begging one by one, where were these guys? And why are you just standing there? You should look cool every minute, every second." 

 

Mansik grumbled. 

 

Click, click. 

 

Junwoo watched the scene featuring himself with keen interest, repeatedly replaying it. 

 

It was really just a fleeting moment, but this was the first time he had seen himself on camera since his previous life. 

 

"Do I usually look like this?" 

 

"No. They said it was a naive concept, but they've made you look completely clueless." 

 

Junwoo scratched his head awkwardly. 

 

"I don't think it's that bad." 

 

"Hmm. Anyway, I don't like it." 

 

Compared to other participants whose brief acting scenes were interspersed throughout, Junwoo didn't even have that much. 

 

Mansik continued to mutter with a discontented expression. Then, 

 

"...But it does feel a bit realistic." 

 

"What does?" 

 

"You standing in front of people for real. Now that I see it like this, it feels more authentic." 

 

Mansik's thoughts deepened. It felt like just yesterday he was covered in dust, frequently visiting theaters. 

 

"How do you feel about it? You're going to be famous soon. Honestly, you must be excited, right?" 

 

He asked without much thought. He was more excited himself, knowing well that Junwoo would probably respond with something like 'I don't know' or 'maybe'. Then he would have to say the same... 

 

"Yes. I am excited." 

 

Huh? Mansik wondered if he had heard wrong. 

 

"It feels strange." 

 

"Strange?" 

 

"The feeling. It's my first time being this passionate about something." 

 

Junwoo was recalling his past life. He hadn't expected to be overwhelmed by emotions he had never felt before in such a short time. 

 

"It's a bit surreal." 

 

Junwoo smiled faintly, too subtly for Mansik to notice. 

 

It was a smile born of wonder at his own openness in sharing these feelings. 

 

And Mansik was a bit taken aback. 

 

"What’s this? I didn’t know you could talk like that." 

 

"Yeah, they made me talk so much there, I guess I’ve become more articulate." 

 

It was the first time Mansik had heard Junwoo speak of the changes he had experienced. 

 

After all, many things must have happened while he was away. 

 

Then Mansik remembered the plans Junwoo had shared with him recently. That's why. His ambition was growing. 

 

"You can do more than this. Actually, you should do more." 

 

"Do what more? Talking?" 

 

"No, anything really. Whatever it is, you’re capable of doing it." 

 

"..." 

 

Mansik's face had become more serious compared to earlier. 

 

"Is there anything I can help with?" 

 

"You’re already doing enough." 

 

Then Junwoo gazed at Mansik for a moment, as if recalling something, and said, 

 

"We won’t be able to see each other for a while. It’ll be hard to even call." 

 

"Why? Are you going abroad?" 

 

"Yes. My next schedule is in Italy." 

 

Mansik nodded. 

 

"So you're here until then?" 

 

"No, I have to go somewhere tomorrow. I'm sorry." 

 

"...So soon?" 

 

Mansik looked a bit disappointed. Just when he thought they'd have more time together. 

 

"Is it far?" 

 

Mansik asked. Junwoo squinted slightly, unsure of himself. 

 

Well, maybe. He was determined, but even Junwoo didn't know exactly where he was headed. 

 

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