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A Thousand Faces Chapter 6

Updated: Dec 27, 2023

 Mansik was waiting for a response, his fist clenched. 


“I don’t have one.” 


“You don’t have a name?” 


“Yes. I don’t have a name.” 


A person without a name. Even a stray dog around here has a name attached to it. 


Why does he have to convey the unwillingness to share the information with such a soft tone? 


“Do you live around here?” 




The boy didn’t respond. Upon reflection, it seemed like a question that didn’t require an answer. The expression on the boy’s face seemed to ask, “Why bother asking such a thing?” 


Though he didn’t intend to be angry, Mansik couldn’t understand why he was speaking in a tone that suggested irritation. Was it due to some petty desire for revenge stemming from things that had bothered him before? Observing Mansik, who was scowling fiercely, the boy suddenly bowed his head as if realizing something. 


“I’m sorry. I thought it was okay because you didn’t say anything until now.” 


“No, that’s not it. What I mean is—” 


“I won’t come back now.” 


“Hey, you...!” 


The boy turned his back and walked away without a word. 




Then, as if he had remembered something, the boy returned and handed something to Mansik. It was a few crumpled bills. 


“What’s this?” 


“I enjoyed it again today. It was a bit disappointing that it got cut off in the middle.” 


Did he not watch until the end today? The four bills had become three. 


“Hey, you...!” 


While he was still trying to comprehend what had just happened, the boy was already disappearing into the distance. 




“The damn fool didn’t show up. I knew he’d do this.” 


The next day, the boy could be found in front of the theater again. Still dressed in work clothes, he sat casually on the steps, not entering inside. 


Mansik was exhausted. Dealing with a barrage of complaints on the phone yesterday had drained his energy. He thought cursing would at least fill him up, but now he felt hungry. 


But does this guy even eat? Mansik approached the steps. The boy seemed to have nothing to do here, sporting a vacant expression. 


“Why are you here again? When did I say you can stop coming?” 




As if asking if there was any problem, for a brief moment, Mansik observed the boy’s plump face. Upon looking closer, he noticed that the boy’s left shoulder seemed awkwardly twitched. It seemed like there was some trouble or issue while working. 


“Are you hurt?” 


“Oh, this? It’s nothing.” 


The boy shrugged his shoulders in various directions, displaying an attitude that it wasn’t much of a problem. Mansik thought of the first aid supplies that would likely be available inside the theater. However, he couldn’t just ignore a young kid who seemed injured right before him. 


The boy didn’t budge. Instead, he blinked his eyes, expressing a look that seemed to say, “Why make a fuss about something like this?” 


“It looks like you’ve grown up nicely.” 


The adult’s concern didn’t come across as the usual annoying interference. The boy, who looked back at Mansik with a gaze that seemed to have experienced all sorts of trials, was devoid of any color of worry. 


“Anyway, I’m fine. I’ll just go home, put on a patch, take a nap, and it’ll be okay. Thanks for your concern.” 


The boy stood up from his seat and gave a slight bow. Worried that he might leave abruptly again, Mansik quickly spoke. 


“Is theater the only thing you’re interested in?” 


The boy, who had stopped walking, turned around. 


“There are tons of other recorded performances and scripts inside. Well, saying it like this makes it sound like I’m some kind of candy-wielding kidnapper. So, what I mean is...” 


As Mansik rambled on, the boy just stood there, silently observing. 


“Anyway, if you leave like this, I might be here tomorrow with bandages, waiting for you. Don’t pretend you’re not in pain. Don’t make me worry for no reason. Just get treated quickly and leave.” 


The boy still didn’t respond. What could be going through his mind? Briefly but unmistakably, there seemed to be a hint of longing in the boy’s face as he gazed at Mansik. 


Surprisingly, the boy, who had quietly received treatment, had now followed Mansik to a restaurant and was sitting in front of him. 


“You seemed determined to ignore me until the end. Looks like you were hungry.” 


“...I just remembered someone.” 


The boy spoke with a calm tone. Well, whatever the reason might be... 


Dust fell from his work clothes whenever he lifted a spoon to scoop the soup. As they chatted, it didn’t seem like the boy had any particular issues or was a runaway juvenile delinquent. Mansik suddenly became curious about the boy’s story. 


“But why do you do such work? You’re young, and you could probably find other part-time jobs in the city with your looks. Why mix in with the elderly here? What about your parents?” 


Mansik, as if unleashing the curiosity he had been harboring, set down his spoon and began to question the boy, one question after another. The boy, however, didn’t provide a single proper answer. 


“Well, everyone has their own circumstances.”  


The boy replied, shoving a mouthful of rice into his mouth as if signaling not to ask any more questions. 


On their first meeting, he bombarded the boy with various questions. It occurred to him later that he might have come across as the very “old-fashioned” person he often complained about. It was at this moment, when he was belatedly cooling his fiery expression that he spoke up. 


“But what’s that? Can I take a look?” 


The boy pointed to the script lying on the table. He had been glancing at it since earlier, a script that had been in Mansik’s hands all day. 


“Yeah, sure. Were you that curious?” 


Mansik handed the script to the boy. 


Encounter of Fate 


It was an unreleased romantic genre play that he had been preparing for several months. Mansik had high expectations for the stage to be presented in a week. Perhaps he didn’t realize he had been given an opportunity to make up for the losses he had incurred. 


Though he tried to act indifferent about showing it to someone other than himself and the theater people, Mansik couldn’t help but feel excited for no reason. 


Muttering the title on the cover, the boy quickly flipped through the first page. The eyes of the boy, which had been somewhat listless until a moment ago, now sparkled with excitement. It was the same focused expression he had when watching the recorded plays in the theater. 


By the time he flipped a couple of pages, Mansik became a bit uneasy when he glanced at the boy. This script had not yet been revealed to the world. It was supposed to be treated with sensitivity to prevent any external leaks. 


At first, he thought it wouldn’t matter much if a country boy like him glanced through it once. However, seeing that face, which seemed even more sincere about the script than Mansik himself, he couldn’t bring himself to relax. 


Was I too careless in revealing that? I made an error in judgment. 




Mansik snatched the script. It was just as the boy, who had quickly read through two pages, was about to turn to the next one. 


“Stop here. I can’t show you more since it’s still unreleased.” 


Mansik thought the boy might complain, but he showed a moment of disappointment and didn’t say much. 


“Thank you for showing me.” 


That was all there was to it. No matter how it goes, is that really the end? I was hoping for words like, “It seems interesting,” or “I’m looking forward to it,” or even a statement like, “Can’t you show some confidence and say it will be good?” But instead: 

“How was it, even though you saw it briefly? Do you think it’ll go well?” 


“Well, I don’t know. What do I know?” 


A dismissive response followed. “What’s this? Not enjoying it, huh? That can’t be right.” Mansik faced significant challenges in acquiring this piece. Given the effort it took to obtain, it was a work he had poured his confidence into. Unexpectedly, instead of the anticipated reactions, Mansik suddenly began venting about things that weren’t even brought up. 


“Hey, kid. I really put my heart into this one. Do you know how many years I’ve waited to get this script? The writer is almost like a perfectionist with borderline obsessive-compulsive disorder. He won’t hand it over if there’s even a tiny flaw in the script. Just look at the lines. They’re impeccable from the start. There can’t be any issues; it’s impossible. Once we put up the stage, it’s done; it’s over.” 

However, the boy, who had been silently listening to Mansik’s words, had a somewhat displeased expression as if something was bothering him. 


“Why is that?” 


“Oh, no, it’s nothing.” 


“Why? Not a fan of romance?” 


“It’s not that. I’m not sure if it’s a script that matches with your theater, sir.” 


“My theater? What do you mean?” 


“From the first scene, the second line.” 


The boy began to recite the lines and stage directions from the scene he had just read. Mansik, who initially had no interest, found himself increasingly drawn in. The boy was articulating the lines he had read with precision, without missing a single detail. It hadn’t even been a minute. Did he memorize everything in that short span? Beyond amazement, Mansik couldn’t contain his curiosity. 


“...But what does that have to do with the theater?” 


“While delivering this line here, there’s a part where they change positions.” 




This choreography is only possible on a rectangular stage with a width of at least thirteen steps. Since your theater’s stage is oval, the choreography will be awkward unless you change the table layout to a capital L shape. But then you’ll have to remove the three people who are supposed to stand diagonally. 


Mansik couldn’t figure out what the boy was talking about at all. 


“Also, the next part. The distance covered is longer than when the line ends. Even if we widen the stride a bit, it’s about four and a half steps. But that area reflects the side wall at an angle, so the shadow covers the face and doesn’t work...” 


The boy suddenly stopped talking. Instead, he was looking at the speechless Mansik. 


Did he think I was angry? He looked like he thought he was being too intrusive. 


“No, it’s okay. I just thought I’d be a bother. Just ignore me.” 


Mansik wasn’t angry; he was in a somewhat awkward state. 


It was common for the actors’ movements, angles, and prop positions to be adjusted gradually through practice and rehearsal according to the script. Completely overhauling scenes when they didn’t align with the stage was not uncommon. 


No matter how well-written a script was, seamlessly transferring it to the stage without a single modification was impossible. Such plays were almost non-existent. This was due to the countless unpredictable factors arising from the day’s stage conditions, including actors, direction, equipment, and lighting, making numerous issues inevitable. 


Even for a director instructing from this field, some things couldn’t be known until the actual play unfolded. 


But to see a brief part just now and claim to predict and implement all of this? 


Moreover, what the boy just talked about was related only to the first two scenes. It was a scene that didn’t even amount to twenty lines of dialogue. 


In a moment, Mansik found himself entertaining the thought of whether this work had ever been publicly disclosed before. 


“He’s probably just spouting whatever comes to mind without knowing anything.” 


Still, Mansik, with over a decade of experience, couldn’t recall ever encountering something like this. Unwilling to accept it, Mansik furrowed his brow and began reading through the script line by line. 


His expression grew increasingly serious. Sitting in this simple restaurant, he couldn’t immediately find a way to prove the words the boy had just uttered. However, considering it in comparison to his own theater, Mansik could discern that the boy wasn’t just spouting random words. 


The theater was Mansik’s domain. Nothing within the theater escaped his touch, from the stage to the lights and equipment. He could proudly claim to know more about the stage and sets than anyone else. He had even been involved in the design when the building and interior were first constructed. 


Had he been attentively observing those sets and devices while coming to the theater and watching recordings? Or did he manage to sneak in unnoticed and stand on the stage to observe? Even if he sat in the back row every day, he wouldn’t have had a clear view. 


It was implausible to claim that he meticulously analyzed each detail. To go through all those processes in less than a minute and produce accurate results was impossible. It seemed like the boy was mentally sketching out every situation as he read through the script. 


He didn’t even know the precise terms or names of the script or stage devices. No matter how much he thought about it, there was no other way to explain it but as an innate intuition. 


It was astounding. Mansik wanted to hear more about those things he had just heard. 


Whether the boy was aware of his own abilities or not, he was casually tidying up his seat with an indifferent expression. 


As if possessed by a ghost, Mansik handed the script to the boy sitting across from him. 


“Do you want to continue?” 


“Huh? Continue with what?” 


“What you just mentioned. I’d like to hear about other parts, too.” 


The boy had a slightly hesitant expression. 


“Is it okay for me to look at it?” 


Mansik nodded his head. 


The boy who received the script quickly flipped through the pages. It was a concentrated expression Mansik hadn’t seen before. The boy was completely immersed, as if watching the actual stage just by looking at the script that fascinated him. Mansik’s heart raced. 


The words the boy casually uttered while going through the content of the script one by one were astonishing. 


Not only the structure of the stage and the actors’ movements, but the boy was also predicting the precise timing of dialogue pauses and breaths between lines. Moreover, he was rearranging the angles visible to the audience and the positioning of the actors, pointing out details like the location of the lights, the intensity of the colors, and even the timing for adjusting the brightness. 


All these elements were being aligned according to the conditions of Mansik’s theater and stage. 


Even if you were to bring in experts to analyze a previously staged play, things that seemed impossible were effortlessly flowing from the boy’s lips. 


Following the boy’s words, a new dimension of the play unfolded before Mansik. Despite it being the same script, the scenes depicted by the boy were reconstructing every element comprising the stage and actors. 


Without hearing these words and diving into rehearsals, there would have been quite a few challenging aspects. Mansik had to acknowledge that. 


“How do you know all these things?” 


It was a feeling similar to discovering a hidden treasure. The boy seemed hesitant to answer. 


Was he a part of a theater company? But why would he be running around a construction site here? 


“Do you study directing separately? Is the reason you’ve been watching recordings in the theater because you’ve been personally designing storyboards every time?” 


The boy looked a bit puzzled. It was a face that didn’t understand what was being said. 


The assumption was correct. It seemed like the boy had nothing to do with a theater company. 


“When did you start liking theater?” 


“I just saw it for the first time here not too long ago.” 


“So, you mean the play you saw at this theater a few weeks ago was your first play?” 


“I wanted to watch a movie, but this neighborhood has no movie theater.” 


So, it meant that within just a few weeks, he effortlessly familiarized himself with all the nuances of the theater stage. A growing sense of excitement started to be felt. Mansik wanted to verify a bit more. Could he provide answers about the most crucial roles and acting, not just the stage direction? 


“Then, how about changing a line of dialogue? Under the assumption that you’re rewriting the script with what you just said.” 


“Um... that’s...” 


The boy, who had been answering smoothly until now, hesitated. He wore a face of frustration as if it wasn’t possible. 


That may be too much to ask. 


Even though he was just a village boy, Mansik was satisfied to have met a genius by chance. Just as Mansik was leaning forward, his excitement overwhelming him, the boy answered him with something he couldn’t believe. 


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