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A Thousand Faces Chapter 47

Updated: Feb 26

The police had already blocked off the front of the theater. 


It was an event that had been unfolding without his knowledge. 


If he were to be investigated now, without any clues, there would be no turning back. And those guys were probably counting on that. 


Mansik had briefly hidden himself in a nearby motel and had just finished a phone call with someone. He had asked for help. Overwhelmed with guilt, Mansik let out a deep sigh. 


Hwang Dojin. He was currently in the position of Chief of the Government General Affairs Office. 


Back when Mansik was a member of the National Assembly, he had a connection with Hwang Dojin. Hwang had almost lost his position once while helping Mansik. 


"I never thought I'd have to contact you in my life. Damn it." 


But no matter how much he thought about it, there seemed to be no other solution. It wasn't just about him; Junwoo could also get entangled in this mess. 


Hwang Dojin's influence, which extended not only in the political arena but also in the media, could help Mansik in the crisis he was facing. Fortunately, Hwang did not ignore the crisis that Mansik was in. 


The next day, after Hwang Dojin had somewhat grasped the situation of the incident, he contacted Mansik. 


"I looked into it, and it seems like Daemyoung Group is involved? You said you're running a theater. How did you get mixed up with them?" 


Mansik was shocked. Daemyoung Group? True, there had been a brief scenario involving Kang Hyeok, but for Kang Geonim, that was just a matter of one broadcast. It didn't make sense, no matter how much he racked his brain. And Hwang Dojin's following words suggested that their target was Junwoo. 


"Why on earth? What does someone in that position lack?" 


"I don't know either," Hwang replied. 


Mansik's suspicions were turning into certainty. Thankfully, there was a hint of ease in Hwang Dojin's voice. 


"It seems well-planned on the surface, but when you dig deeper, there are unavoidable sloppy gaps. It doesn't seem like they've missed anything. They probably didn't expect someone like me to hear about it." 


Mansik felt relieved. Although he hadn't yet found a solution, Hwang Dojin's attitude suggested that the situation wasn't completely hopeless. 


-But you know 


Hwang began cautiously as if there was something he couldn't quite grasp. 


"It's obvious what those guys want. Why don't you just hand over the kid and end this? Why go to such lengths?" 




It was a valid point. Indeed, his current situation was far different from what Hwang Dojin would have known of him in the past. 


Mansik was a man who didn't have any attachments, not to people, money, or fame. He liked Mansik's cool and bulldozer-like personality. 


"...Even if you manage to get out of this situation, it could still ruin you. Do you still want to protect him?" 


"If you knew how incredible that kid is, you'd be surprised. When you think about his future, what happens to me isn't important." 


"His greatness is important to you?" 




"....Huh, well." 


Hwang Dojin was silent for a moment. 


Then, seemingly moved by something, he gave an unexpected response. 


"Alright. Let's give it a try." 




Mansik was surprised. He hadn't expected Hwang to agree so easily. Acting recklessly could also put Hwang at risk. 


It took Mansik a long while to express his gratitude. Hearing Hwang's laughter, saying he hadn't changed, Mansik felt momentarily transported back to the past. 


"Don't be too touched. I'm not doing this as charity." 


"Then why?" 


"Even if we can't reach Daemyoung this time, we can trip up some thorns in our side who have illegal ties with them. I'm not sure if the two of us diving in will make a difference, though." 




The participants were given some free time. 


Before the intense practice sessions began, the production team informed them they could enjoy a brief trip within a limited area. 


However, it was unlikely that this was out of genuine concern for the participants. 


"Make sure to capture it well. Until now, only the boring scenes have been included in the making of footage due to image management. But outside the camera, things must be different. When they're together, participants will probably gossip about each other and express complaints about the program." 


That was Park Jun-gil's intention. 


His goal was to capture real, human moments disconnected from acting and rehearsals to avoid making the broadcast monotonous. 


Since some participants were young and didn't speak the language, a few crew members and an interpreter were assigned to them. They hid small cameras inside their shirts. 


But contrary to their expectations, 


"What's going on? Why are they all looking in the same direction…?" 


The participants were heading in a clear direction, all going the same way. 


One of the crew members tilted their head in confusion. 


Junwoo was in the lead, enjoying the scenery as he walked, 

Followed cautiously by the other participants from a distance, including Kang Hyeok. 


Upon closer observation, it seemed like they were secretly tailing him. 


In reality, they didn't have the luxury to slack off. 


They couldn't afford to hesitate or leave Junwoo alone after hearing the announcement, so they immediately followed his lead. 


"Do you think he's enjoying his free time, not knowing what that guy might be up to for the next mission?" 


Then, suddenly, Junwoo stopped in front of a building. 


Those who were following him also came to a halt. 


It was a high-end restaurant, seemingly not a place easily accessible to ordinary people. 


Junwoo was intently looking inside the building through its large glass windows. 


What has he discovered now? Everyone following Junwoo had the same thought and began to feel tense. 


Soon after, having made up his mind, Junwoo pushed open the large door and stepped inside. 


Hungry since the morning, his stomach was rumbling. 


Having secured a table, Junwoo started to pick various items from the menu. 


He planned to make the most of the card provided by the production team at this evidently expensive restaurant. 


Excited for a moment about enjoying exceptional cuisine overseas, 

Junwoo's excitement soon turned to a slight disappointment. 


The ingredients and flavors of the dishes felt overly distinct compared to the basic side dishes as if tailored to someone's specific taste. 


For some unknown reason, it seemed like the chef here was under some sort of recent pressure. 


"Still, it's not bad." 


The restaurant's chef, passing by, noticed a displeased-looking East Asian kid scrutinizing his food. 


He is the head chef of a restaurant with a worldwide reputation and three Michelin stars. He won three times over. 


He had been busy developing new dishes recently. 


This was due to the increasing demands of a VIP customer who frequented the restaurant and had become more finicky lately. 


The chef had been racking his brain over this. 


Curiosity struck him when, starting with one kid, a group of young East Asians suddenly flooded into the restaurant. He couldn't help but be drawn to the table occupied by the boy. Intrigued by the kid's quizzical looks while tasting his food, the chef felt an impulsive desire to hear what the child thought of his culinary creations. 


And a little while later. 


With a clunk, a new plate was placed on Junwoo's table. 


Junwoo looked up at the chef with a bewildered expression. 


"I didn't order this." 


"Oh... You speak Italian?" 


"Yes, to some extent." 


Junwoo was able to communicate to some extent because he had visited this place a few times in his past life. 


Back then, he was too busy hiding, but now, sitting so peacefully in a restaurant feels like a whole new experience. 


"This is a new dish our restaurant has developed for VIP guests. Would you mind giving it a taste and sharing your thoughts?" 


So, it's free, huh? Junwoo nodded and picked up the mysterious dish from the elegant plate with his fork. As Junwoo savored the food, a hint of anticipation appeared on the chef's face. And then, 


"It's delicious." 


"...And anything else?" 


"It's really good. I enjoyed it very much." 


Junwoo commented just like that. 


A quick wave of disappointment and emptiness washed over the chef's face. Well, that figures. What was he expecting? 


"Hmm. Do you have any other impressions? Even a simple review would be great. Anything is fine." 




Junwoo blinked his eyes, feeling awkward. He was not a chef or an expert, and he didn't even know what ingredients were used, so he didn't have much to say. Still, having received the meal for free, he felt like he should say something. 


"I don't know much about food, but I can tell something about the person who made it. They seem to have an interest in art collection, distinct from their profession. They have over ten years of experience, and the sea seems to be a source of inspiration." 




"His stubbornness and taste are clear; he dislikes taking risks. But, I guess this kind of comment is a bit vague for a review." 


The chef's eyes flickered with surprise at these unexpected answers. 


He's Korean, but could he be one of those fortune-tellers I've heard about...? 


"I'm sorry I couldn't be more helpful. I'll enjoy the meal, though." 


"How do you know all that just by looking?" 


Junwoo glanced over the items before him as if they held the answers. 


The flavor, aroma, color, and texture of the food. The design of the plate, the presentation, and how the table is set. 


There were so many elements emanating from one person in this combination that it would have been strange not to notice. 


Whether it's food, music, paintings, or movies, the creator's past, preferences, and personality are inevitably intertwined in their work. 

And lately, he's been experimenting with cooking, continually challenging himself to create something new for someone. 


That seemed to be a sensitive issue for him right now, so Junwoo left it out. 


However, the chef looked like he wouldn't leave until he heard a proper answer. 


"Do we know each other? I sometimes forget, considering the many customers I deal with." 


As the chef, who should be in the kitchen, stood his ground before a young Asian boy, people's attention began to focus on them. Junwoo felt a little uncomfortable. 


"No, this is my first time here." 


"Then how do you know so much about me?" 


"Every finished product contains the story of its creator. It's like the time you've spent is encapsulated in the ten or so minutes it takes to cook." 


Junwoo said and lightly tapped the cross-section of a steak piece with his fork. 




The chef was taken aback. The cut surface of the steak bore his unique technique, honed over a long time. 


For him, making subtle changes to his cooking technique was a small source of amusement in his long culinary career. It was something a layperson would typically not notice. If Junwoo really noticed that... 


"That's impressive," 


The chef said, smiling with amusement. 


The appearance of this young Asian kid in his restaurant was both intriguing and stimulating to him. 


Above all, the chef was wrapped in a natural misconception. He thought the kid was studying cooking and had come to his restaurant alone for educational purposes, perhaps even as a student on an exchange program. 


"What else can you tell? Can you share more?" 


"About what?" 


"About the things you see and feel from the customers. If I like your answer, I'll treat you to the best dish." 


"That's all I have. And it's enough. There's already a lot going on in this table." 


But that wasn't all. Even without saying much more, the chef could feel it. Something about his cooking made him yearn to hear more from this kid. 


With a scrape, the excited chef dragged a chair from a nearby table to sit next to Junwoo. 


Kang Hyeok, who had been lounging in his chair, suddenly wobbled. His contorted face swiftly turned around. 


But before he could notice the gaze, the chef sharply snapped his fingers at a staff member some distance away. 


"Hey, Elena. The dishes we developed this week, bring some of them here." 


The staff member blinked in astonishment. It was quite a sight – the head chef sitting next to a young Asian kid during a time usually reserved for greeting reserved guests. 


"Chef...? It's almost time for the reserved guests." 


However, the chef's attention was solely on the young boy sitting before him, seemingly uninterested in anything else. 


The odd and curious sight began to draw glances from the other customers in the restaurant, who started to look over curiously. 


The chef, firmly seated in his chair, had eyes sparkling with curiosity. 


"It looks like you've read my magazines. The parts where I introduce my cooking philosophy and beliefs, right?" 


Junwoo, already busy savoring the food, was in no position to respond. The chef waited patiently. 


A back-and-forth ensued, with the chef asking questions and Junwoo responding intermittently. 


New dishes continued to fill Junwoo's table. 


Meanwhile, other patrons watched this unfold, unable to hide their curiosity and envy. They craned their necks to get a better look at the lavish dishes being placed on Junwoo's table. 




Someone among the participants couldn't help but utter a gasp of admiration. 


Their table wasn't poorly set either, especially since Kang Hyeok had ordered a variety of dishes as soon as they arrived. 


But no matter how one looked at it, the food on the other side seemed far from the ordinary offerings listed on the menu. 


"Can he really eat all that? We're also participants; can't we join in?" 


"But it seems like we shouldn't... the atmosphere doesn't feel right." 


Before long, everyone was gaping at that scene. Kang Hyeok felt his face grow hot with a mix of embarrassment and annoyance. Just moments ago, they were all praising him, but now their attention had shifted so quickly, leaving him with a sudden loss of appetite. 


"What are they talking about? I can't understand a thing. Hyeok, you're good at Italian, right?" 


"Yeah, tell us. What are they saying?" 


And Kang Hyeok, who understood the entire conversation, furrowed his brow. 


"...I don't know." 


He just fiddled with his food with a fork. 


Seeing his sullen expression, the other participants felt awkward. 


"Well, even so, thanks to Hyeok, we're getting to try such expensive food. It feels worth it coming all this way up here. Doesn't everyone agree?" 


The participants nodded their heads, forcing smiles. 




The chef, who had been lingering around Junwoo's table with an intrigued expression, finally headed towards the VIP room, his curiosity still apparent. 


Seeing this, Kang Hyeok abruptly stood up from his seat. 


"I suddenly feel like it's a waste of time sitting here. I'll go have a look around. Here's my card; you guys eat and come back." 


With Kang Hyeok's hasty exit, the table fell into a solemn silence. 


Only the production crew, secretly filming this scene, had their eyes sparkling with excitement. 




Meanwhile, in the VIP room situated at the back of the restaurant, high-profile individuals dressed in formal attire were dining. At the head of the table sat Roberto, a veteran director commanding great respect in the Italian film industry. 


The reason behind the chef's continual experimentation with new dishes was linked to this very room. 


Lately, Roberto had been irritable due to some professional dissatisfaction, which had affected even his appetite. 


He took a spoonful of his dish, then put his spoon down with a clack, his expression souring. 


"... They're late." 


He was more irritable than usual, annoyed that the chef, who usually stayed nearby to cater to his every whim, was nowhere in sight. 


The staff member, looking troubled, hopped from foot to foot in front of Roberto, whose face was clearly annoyed. 


Soon after, the chef entered the room at a brisk pace, and seeing his face only made Roberto's expression sour further. 


Drenched in cold sweat and in a situation where even excuses seemed inadequate, the chef's face was unusually flushed, probably the most vivid expression they had seen on him recently. Moreover, his frequent glances outside the room suggested that something significant was definitely happening outside. 


"What took you so long? The food's going to be cold at this rate." Roberto questioned. 


The chef seemed a bit excited. He had just spoken with Junwoo, which helped him find a clue to a situation that had been unresolved for weeks. 


He had thought the kid was just there to enjoy the food, but out of the blue, the kid revealed that he was actually there to act. 


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