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A Thousand Faces Chapter 61

Updated: Mar 15

Silence enveloped the remaining two contestants in the rehearsal room before the final stage. 


Kang Hyeok was conscious of the awkward atmosphere floating between them. 




He glanced at Junwoo, almost involuntarily. 


Junwoo appeared unchanged, engrossed in the script he held. 


It was the first time. The first time he would share the stage with this guy. 


He hadn't wished for it, nor had he deliberately avoided it, but he hadn't expected to synchronize with him until the finals. 


Kang Hyeok aimlessly flipped through the script in his hand. 


He felt blank. Nothing was registering, not a stage direction, not a line. 


"Since we can adapt the script, I'm thinking of changing the lines to a more contemporary style." 


The silence was broken by Junwoo. 


"What do you think?" 


Junwoo looked up at Kang Hyeok. 


"Yeah, that makes sense." 


The script for the final mission,  


'The Lost Portrait' was a bit different from the rest. 


Published in 1701, it was a classic two-character play. 


It was the conclusion of a long-acting journey. The final mission meant to return to the origins of acting and rediscover its essence. 


"Remove these lines here and these as well. I'll tweak the flow later." 


"You take these lines and these three. It fits better with your blocking in that scene." 


Junwoo swiftly divided roles and revised scenes and lines. 


Kang Hyeok had no chance to interject. 


He knew it, but seeing it firsthand was unbelievable. 


Kang Hyeok intermittently tried to inquire or object. Junwoo effortlessly provided all the answers. Nothing changed. 


The stage was as good as constructed from the moment the script was first reviewed. 


Before he knew it, everything was proceeding as Junwoo dictated. 

It was incomprehensible to him. 


At this crucial time, there was something more important, yet he spared no effort even in the remaining stage. 


He knew what kind of person he was, yet Kang Hyeok felt a growing resentment bubbling within. 


As soon as the rehearsal ended, Junwoo disappeared without a word. 


Soon, only Kang Hyeok was left in the quiet rehearsal room. 


He knew where Junwoo was headed. That's why he couldn't dare to ask for more practice or anything else. 


Kang Hyeok remained in the empty rehearsal room until dawn. He had nowhere else to go. He couldn't muster the courage to return home in such a state. 


"No matter how much you regret, your sin cannot be lightened." 


Holding the script in one hand, Kang Hyeok walked around the large rehearsal room, performing alone. 


"Stop it. Have you no pride left?" 


Only Kang Hyeok's voice echoed in the still room. 


"It's already spilled milk. It's already spilled..." 


Suddenly, Kang Hyeok stopped and let his arm fall limply. 




He realized he was doing exactly as Junwoo instructed. He was doing it tenaciously, not wanting to miss a single thing. There wasn't a single note in the densely written script that Junwoo hadn't touched. 


Kang Hyeok picked up the script again. 


"Every morning, I shout inside." 


"Every morning, as I shout, I tell myself inside..." 


Then he zoned out again. 


It happened several times. Strangely, his voice seemed to get swallowed up. It wasn't like him. 


His head was spinning. 


'That guy right now…' 


At that moment, he envisioned himself among South Korea's top actors, the ones he had always dreamed of being with. 


He felt insignificant compared to how he had been practicing and synchronizing with that person earlier. 


Suddenly, he felt an urge to throw everything away. So, Kang Hyeok headed out of the practice room without a second thought. The deserted streets of the broadcasting station at dawn. Only after wandering around for hours did Kang Hyeok realize he was still holding the script in one hand. 


The next day, only Junwoo and Kang Hyeok were left in the practice room. 



The two were sitting opposite each other, trying to match their practice scripts. 


"Your sin cannot be lightened." 


"Don't. No. Just listen to me." 


Kang Hyeok felt his voice was stronger than usual and narrowed his eyes. 


"Don't you have any pride, begging like this?" 




What's going on? It was Junwoo's turn, but his line didn't come. A pause arose unexpectedly, and Kang Hyeok looked up with a puzzled face. Then he flinched. Junwoo had already looked away from the script and was staring at him. 


"Do you want to win?" 


Junwoo asked out of the blue. 


Kang Hyeok was momentarily taken aback. It wasn't a line from the script. Kang Hyeok realized it was a question directed at him. 

Why is he asking that all of a sudden? But Kang Hyeok couldn't respond. 


He almost blurted out, "Isn't that obvious?" but it got stuck in his throat. 


He knew what his answer would imply. 




Junwoo stared intently at Kang Hyeok, waiting for an answer. 


No words were exchanged between the two for a while. 


A whirlwind of complex emotions that couldn't be sorted out. 


More important than the dream he had longed for was the name Daemyoung, the recognition he had received for his acting in the past, and the pride he had never compromised as himself. 


It was something he couldn't allow himself to do. Therefore, it was something he absolutely shouldn't say in his life. 


But was it a momentary impulse? Kang Hyeok suddenly thought. Maybe it was okay to let go of himself just once. To leave this moment as a blemish in his life, to erase the existence of Han Junwoo from himself. 


And then something that was barely holding together in his mind snapped. 


"Yeah. I want to." 


He knew he would regret this moment. 


"Let me." 


But he knew he had no other choice but to say it. Kang Hyeok realized only now how desperate he was. 


Junwoo slowly nodded. 


It wasn't just Kang Hyeok who was undergoing a change of heart at this moment. 


Kang Hyeok didn't know what expression he was wearing. 


A newfound intrigue was swirling in Junwoo's eyes. 




Two weeks of practice time. 


The final stage was set in the broadcast studio. 


Before the camera started rolling, the production team was busily preparing for the finale stage. 


All the contestants who had appeared on the program were seated in the audience. 


Indeed, fitting for a final round, a tense atmosphere pervaded the entire studio amidst the bustling scene. 


Moreover, everyone there knew that the person about to take the stage was no ordinary figure. 


After all checks and preparations were completed, Yoo Sang-jun nodded. 


And just as he was about to give instructions to the camera director through his earphones. 




A large door at the back of the studio opened. 


And in that instant, the breathless atmosphere of the site was completely overturned by the figures who appeared. 


"Wow, Moon Kang...!" 


Someone gasped without realizing it, and in an instant, all eyes turned to the back. 


The participants sitting in the audience covered their mouths with wide eyes. 


The people walking towards the audience through the back door were top actors who dominated the South Korean film industry. 


Yoo Sang-jun's hand froze mid-air as he recognized their faces. 


"Hehe. Is it okay for us to be here?" 


"Our director is having the finals today, right?" 


"We came here as a surprise, but I hope it's not rude." 


They greeted everyone in the studio with a light nod and a relaxed, elegant smile. 


Coming to his senses belatedly, Yoo Sang-jun hurried to the back, wondering what was happening. 


"Wh-what brings you here..." 


"We heard it was our director's big day, so we came to support. Is it okay? We'll just sit here." 


At Jin Do-ryeon's words, Yoo Sang-jun blinked and scratched his head. 


Even with his extensive broadcasting experience, primarily in variety shows, this was his first time interacting closely with such great actors. 


"No, no. Please, come to the front." 


Yoo Sang-jun quickly guided them to the front seats of the audience. 


"Is that okay? Thank you." 


"Thank you, PD." 


The actors moved to the frontmost seats. 


The participants' gazes followed their movement. 


"Is this for real?" 


"Wow. It's really Jin Do-ryeon." 


The murmurs grew louder and more chaotic. 


Participants and production staff alike were out of their minds. 


Even the three judges seated on the judging panel began to panic with bewildered faces. 


Among them, Cheong Myeong fidgeted in his seat, not knowing what to do. The sudden appearance of these senior actors took him by surprise. 


"Why are they here?" 


"The scale is insane. Are they special judges for the finale?" 


"But why are they sitting in the audience...?" 


"Wait a minute. Moon Kangwoo, Jin Do-ryeon, Lee Younglan... they must be here to support Han Junwoo." 


"Then, the director they mentioned earlier was about Han Junwoo...?" 


"In such a short time... he really is something..." 


Whispers among the participants began mentioning Junwoo's name more and more. 


With the atmosphere showing no signs of calming down, Yoo Sang-jun had to gather his wits and go up on stage. 


"Everyone, I know you're surprised. But we need to start filming soon, so please calm down a bit!" 


It took several reminders from Yoo Sang-jun for the studio atmosphere to finally settle down. 


Soon after, with the camera rolling signal, Junwoo and Kang Hyeok appeared on stage. 


"Fighting, director!" 


Jin Do-ryeon, seated at the back, shouted towards the stage with a smile in his voice. 


"Camera 4,5, capture the back. Quickly." 


Yoo Sang-jun immediately whispered instructions through his earpiece. 


What a stroke of luck for the final episode. He couldn't contain his excitement. 


He envisioned the impact this scene would have when it aired. 


This would be an unprecedented scene in any audition program. 

The camera panned to the actors seated in the back. 


Participants exchanged envious glances as they alternated their gaze between Junwoo and them. 




On stage, Junwoo, seeing them, looked somewhat puzzled. 


The first to grab the microphone among the judges was Jo Sungrae. 


Amidst the sudden commotion, only Jo Sungrae had been calmly reviewing the script. For him, nothing was more important than Junwoo's stage that day. 




It was the script Junwoo had adapted for this stage. 


While the basic format and flow aligned with the original script, the lines had been significantly altered. 


It was evident without saying. 


He must have been directing everything by himself for this stage, too. 


But now, Jo Sungrae was left with an unresolved question. 


The Junwoo he knew didn't make changes or adjustments midway. 


He was a child who set everything from the beginning and carried it out as planned. 


He wondered if there might have been some trouble with Kang Hyeok or some kind of pressure. 


With a puzzled face, Jo Sungrae asked Junwoo a question. 


"You suddenly changed roles midway. May I ask why? It's a risky choice, given that practice time would have been halved." 


However, Junwoo calmly replied. 


"It was a decision for the stage. We had enough practice time." 


"....I see. Understood." 


Jo Sungrae nodded. That was enough for him. 


He realized there was no point in questioning Junwoo's intentions anymore. It was something that would be understood by watching the performance. 


Yet, Jo Sungrae felt a somewhat unfamiliar sensation. 


Kang Hyeok, standing next to Junwoo, had his usual expressionless face. 


'What's going on...' 


Despite appearing unchanged, Jo Sungrae found his gaze continually drawn to Kang Hyeok. A strange energy, neither tension nor resignation, seemed to swirl around Kang Hyeok. 


Quietly observing the stage, Jo Sungrae folded the script with a curious look. 


And soon, the studio lights went out. 


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