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A Thousand Faces Chapter 46

Updated: Feb 23

With the broadcast approaching, the remaining participants were set to continue filming overseas for a while. 


They would spend this preparation period practicing there. 


Before leaving, Junwoo had someone he wanted to meet. 


The first person who came to mind as he prepared for the broadcast was his father. 


He wanted to see Ilnam. 


It had been almost three years since they had parted ways. The long separation made Junwoo hesitant to take the first step, but now he felt ready to face Ilnam properly. However, 




Junwoo furrowed his brow in the empty quarters, filled only with drifting air. 


He had anticipated this. Something had gone wrong because of his absence. 


The traces of a hasty departure. If Ilnam had moved to another place, he would have left not a single clue behind. 


Following the traces of the incidents he was involved in, tracking Ilnam's whereabouts wasn't particularly difficult. His days living as a con artist sometimes came in handy. 


'So it has come to this.' 


Junwoo's steps led him to Gunsan Prison. 


He felt a mix of emotions stirring inside him. 


Upon entering the visitation room, he saw Ilnam, dressed in prison garb, pretending to be indifferent while shaking his leg. 




At that word, Ilnam quickly turned his head, his eyes widening in shock. 


"Ju, Junwoo, is that you?" 


Ilnam had thought it unlikely anyone would visit him. He assumed it might be one of those he had swindled. 


Upon seeing the familiar face, Ilnam stood up abruptly. 


"I'm sorry for coming so late." 




Junwoo had to spend some time calming down the excited Ilnam. 


Once Ilnam's emotions had settled a bit, he looked at Junwoo properly, smiling weakly. 


"My son, your face looks better. And you've cut your hair." 


Ilnam grinned broadly. Despite the years apart, he looked the same. 


"But son," 


Ilnam, with a hint of curiosity, lowered his voice and asked, 


"Is visitation allowed?" 


"No, it's not." 


"Then how did you get here?" 


Junwoo tilted his head, puzzled. 


"That's a strange question coming from you, Dad." 


Realizing what his son implied, Ilnam's eyebrows twisted in concern. 


"Son! We agreed you wouldn't do that kind of thing anymore." 


"This much is fine." 


Ilnam pursed his lips. 


"I don't do bad things anymore. Were you worried?" 


"...I wasn't worried. Whatever you're doing, wherever you are, it's probably better than being here with us." 


Ilnam laughed at his own words. 


A fleeting bitterness crossed Junwoo's face. 


"Why do you laugh about being in there?" 


Strangely, Junwoo found himself smiling along with Ilnam. 


Why? Perhaps it was for the best. After all, Ilnam had a light sentence and could be out in three years. 


One thing was certain: the constant worry that used to cloud Ilnam's face was gone. 


Junwoo found it mildly amusing that he felt relieved seeing his father in prison. 


Reminded of his past life, Junwoo suddenly began scrutinizing Ilnam's condition. 


"How's your health?" 


"My health? What about it?" 


Confused, Ilnam looked down at his chest, patting it with his hand. 


"Don't you have any minor illnesses or anything?" 


Normally, Ilnam's health would have begun to deteriorate around this time. 


Fortunately, Ilnam seemed to be in good shape. 


"After he left, Ilnam seemed to have given up drinking." 


Seeing Junwoo pout his lips, Ilnam teased. 


"Son... Dad's not that old yet." 


"What about other dads?" 


Ilnam knew he was referring to Jang Jun-hwan. But the anxious look that used to be on Junwoo's face was gone. What had happened in the meantime? 


"Don't worry, Junwoo. That guy Jang Jun-hwan is now locked up in Brazil." 


"Brazil? Why there?" 


"It's called Carico. It's a notorious gathering place for gangs, and the prison there has a bad reputation, making it hard to get out. He was too greedy. He tried to flee abroad but was caught at the airport." 


'I see.'  


Hearing Ilnam's words, Junwoo was a bit surprised. 


Could it have been resolved this easily? Honestly, he hadn't expected Jang Jun-hwan to end up like that. 


But he didn't feel particularly excited or liberated. 


Since some time ago, his existence had faded to such an extent. 


"I wasn't asking because I was worried." 


"That's a relief. That's my boy." 


Ilnam's face looked relaxed. 


"I'm going abroad soon." 


"Why? Do you have something going on?" 


"It's a good thing. I'm living my life doing what I want these days." 


"Well... alright then. That's good. Do you have any friends?" 


Ilnam didn't ask for details first. 


Friend... The only person Junwoo could think of at the moment was Mansik. 


Junwoo mentioned Mansik casually, partly to reassure Ilnam. 


"He's a good person. Sometimes, he reminds me of you." 


At this, Ilnam, who had been silent, suddenly looked jealous. 


"What does he do? What's his name? Have you properly checked his background? What does he look like? Is he better looking than your dad? You shouldn't trust people so easily!" 




Junwoo had to calm Ilnam down again. 


It was about time for the visiting hours to end. 


"And Junwoo. Don't come here anymore." 


Ilnam's expression turned serious. 


"Don't come to such places because of me. Go on your way. If you're doing well, I'll follow soon. Seeing that you're living well is enough for me." 


Ilnam was sincere. Junwoo spoke one last time. 


"...Okay. But Dad." 




"When you get out of here, come find me first. Don't go anywhere else." 


"Of course I will. But why all of a sudden?" 


There was much he wanted to say and plans he had made, but it wasn't the right time yet. 


"I'll tell you about it when the time comes." 




The next day, the program's crew, including the production team, arrived at the airport after a long thirteen-hour flight. 


Only ten contestants remained. The top ten participants were excited by the exotic landscapes surrounding them. 


Junwoo, too, was enjoying himself as it had been a long time since he was abroad. 


They would be staying here for the next month. 


Before unpacking at the hotel, the production team gathered them in the lobby. 


Yoo Sang-jun had a few announcements to make. 


One announcement was about Junwoo being assigned a personal camera during this practice period. 


"The response to Junwoo in yesterday's second trailer was so positive that we decided on this. It's only for this mission, so just be aware of that." 


Junwoo's eyebrows twitched slightly. 


Yoo Sang-jun's face seemed a bit stiff as he explained this to Junwoo. 


That's not the look of someone giving a favor with grace. Junwoo knew he was being closely watched, but for some reason, the announcement felt more like being put under surveillance. 


'What's going on?' 


A slightly ominous, intuitive feeling. 


As Junwoo stared intently at Yoo Sang-jun, Sang-jun quickly averted his eyes. 


The other participants looked at Junwoo with envy. 


A personal camera, no less. Yet, no one objected. After all, no one here was unaware of Junwoo's skills and presence. 


Then, Yoo Sang-jun started explaining one specific rule they must follow here. 


"To ensure the highest quality of the program and allow participants to focus on their practice in the best condition, we will temporarily restrict communication with the outside world for the following period." 


The participants nodded their heads in agreement. 


"During the restriction period, the use of personal mobile phones by participants will be limited, and communication with the outside world will only be possible through the production team. Please understand that this is a measure to ensure you can focus on your practice." 


Yoo Sang-jun delivered the announcement calmly as if it were a routine matter. 


"Since we're abroad, there wouldn't be much need to make calls anyway unless someone has a special situation…" 


"That's right. It's not really necessary." 


Junwoo interrupted Yoo Sang-jun's words. 


"Why bother collecting them if they're hardly going to be of any use? Unless there's a deliberate intention to cut us off." 


Everyone was a bit surprised to see Junwoo, who usually only spoke when necessary, suddenly taking a stand on this issue. 


Junwoo looked up at Yoo Sang-jun, gauging his reaction. The uneasy feeling he had since earlier hadn't dissipated. 


As Yoo Sang-jun's face stiffened, the other participants quietly observed, looking for cues. 


When his eyes met Junwoo's, Yoo Sang-jun continued in a forced calm tone. 


"...As I mentioned, this decision was made in a meeting to ensure the highest quality. Please understand." 




Meanwhile, Mansik was watching the program's second trailer, which was released in the morning. 


Junwoo's presence was more prominent compared to the preliminary trailer. 


"Damn it. If I had known there was a scene like this, he could have given me a spoiler. Looks like he's stirred things up again." 


His excitement was short-lived, however, as Mansik's breath caught when he read the comments under the video. 


Half of them were about Junwoo's looks, creating a buzz. As the attention focused on Junwoo, the kind of comments he feared started appearing. 


"-That guy's an orphan who came out of hiding from the countryside. Seems like a drastic concept." 


"-They accept someone like that? If he wasn't in an orphanage but hiding... His family background is obvious without even looking." 


"-Still, he looks like a kid, kind of pitiful... He must've been cast for his looks and story, right? Wonder how much he's getting paid." 


"-Sick of this melodrama. Just want to see more of Ro-woon and his handsome face." 


The public's reaction to Junwoo's identity and past. 


Mansik had anticipated this, but he couldn't hide his bitterness. 


His heart ached at the baseless speculations about family issues. He was worried about how Junwoo might be hurt by these comments. 


And then, at that moment, 


"Are you there?" 


A voice came from outside the theater door. 


By now, Mansik was used to it. Most of the time, people came to him wanting something. 


But this time, the atmosphere seemed different. 


Instinctively sensing something ominous, Mansik noticed that it wasn't just one person at the door but several men in suits. 


"...Just a moment, please. Who did you say you were?" 


"We are inspectors from the Provincial Labor Office. We're here to conduct an on-site inspection regarding allegations of violations of minor labor laws, non-compliance with building standards, and safety issues of lodging facilities. We request your cooperation." 


"Minor labor violations? What is this all of a sudden…" 


Before he could finish his sentence, they swarmed into the theater. 

They took photos of the facility, gathered some documents, and left as quickly as they arrived. 


Such an inspection had never happened before, especially not in this rural area. Mansik was puzzled about what was going on. 


But this was just the beginning. 


Unreasonable and forced issues related to the theater kept cropping up, one after the other. 


"Damn it, who the heck is behind this!" 


Mansik erupted in anger. These were unfair and unjust issues he was facing for the first time since establishing the theater. But he didn't just take it lying down. Every time, he had to shuttle back and forth to the city for days, presenting evidence and documents. 


"Just let me catch who's behind this. I'll make sure they…" 


And it seemed these were just warnings as the real trouble began. 


It was when he had returned from submitting documents to the provincial office. 


As Mansik appeared, the staff started murmuring. 


"What now? What's going on…" 


The pale faces of the staff, struggling to speak. Mansik sensed a foreboding unlike anything before. 


A news article had been released. 


When Mansik first saw the content, he couldn't believe his eyes. 


"-Allegations have emerged that during his time as a member of parliament, he manipulated budgets within the National Assembly to allocate more funds to a project he was overseeing…" 


"-The funds received as part of a national investment project at the time were used for the construction of the theater…" 


"-The late revelation of a high amount of bribery involved through inappropriate relationships is causing shock…" 


"-Recently, it has also been revealed that he illegally exploited a minor orphan for stage production..." 


With each line he read, his head grew colder. 


'None of these make sense. Not a single truth in it, all of it fabricated.' 


Mansik trembled. And the last part of the article? Allegations of plagiarism in his work. 


"-Recently, there has been speculation that the actor who performed in the controversial stage production might also be held responsible for contributing to the spread of the plagiarized work." 


Mansik's eyes lingered on that part. It was about Junwoo. Compared to the other accusations, this one was mentioned only briefly. Thankfully, they hadn't named him. 


He seemed to understand the intent. It was a warning to stay quiet and not make any moves. 


Any rash action could entangle Junwoo in this mess. 


That was something he had to prevent at all costs. A wrong move could jeopardize Junwoo's broadcasting rights. 


This had nothing to do with Junwoo. He couldn't let Junwoo's future be ruined over something as trivial as this. 


This was a crucial moment for Junwoo. The timing was too perfect. 


It wasn't the broadcast station. They weren't bold enough for something like this. 


'If they're pulling off something of this scale at this time...' 


He had a hunch about who it might be. His quick judgment was based on countless similar experiences from the past. The possible consequences rapidly passed through Mansik's mind. This wouldn't just be the downfall of the theater. 


If he couldn't handle this, it might be the end of his life as he knew it. 


Mansik had to think fast. But even in that brief moment, it seemed as if everything was already breathlessly unfolding. One of the staff, pale-faced, pointed outside the theater. 


"Boss. The, the police are outside the theater now…" 


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