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A Thousand Faces Chapter 2


“Junwoo! Your Father did something great!” 




The sound of plastic crinkling. The familiar smell of fried chicken filled the air. It was Jinmi Chicken, Ilnam's favorite. 


The place is a bit noisy. The voices of his fathers bickering with the faint sound of a TV in the background could be heard. 


His fathers can’t be in prison; also, there can be no TVs. I wondered if I was dreaming. 


“You just ate that all up, and now you’re having chicken again? You said it was going to be beef this week!”  


The soft, familiar, and comfortable feeling of something enveloping his body. Strange. Just a moment ago, Junwoo was lying on the hard, cold floor of his cell.  


Junwoo furrowed his brows, his eyes closed. The word “chicken leg” caught his attention as he listened to the noisy sounds. The sound of his fathers fighting overlapped. 


“Hey, don’t touch it. What have you done today to take it?” 


“I didn’t do anything. Let go of this. Are you going to let go?” 


“So there are five people, but two are taking it? How have you been cheating all this time with such a small wallet?” 


As the chicken leg was passed from hand to hand, Go Ilnam’s hand, which had claimed it, was raised high.  




Ilnam quickly left the kitchen and ran across the living room. The footsteps were getting closer and closer.  




A chicken leg was swiftly thrust into the mouth of the sleeping Junwoo. Simultaneously, his eyes flashed open.  


The first scene that caught my eye was a man leaning in closely, his face scrunching up as he chuckled. A faint scent of beer wafted from his slightly parted lips. 


Everything felt odd. After Junwoo entered adulthood, Go Ilnam, who had been struggling with life, stopped drinking. 


“Hehe. Is it delicious?”  


Above all, his face appeared somewhat, no, much younger. The once-gray hair had transformed into pitch black.  


How did this happen? Instinctively, he sat up. Junwoo was lying on the sofa, not in his solitary cell. 


Junwoo turned his head. In the living room, the fathers were gathered, laying out fried chicken and beer. It was a familiar scene, but it felt like a distant memory. 


“Why am I here?” 


Junwoo started nibbling on a chicken leg, wearing a puzzled expression. An old movie from twenty years ago played on the TV. 



It felt too vivid to be called a dream. 


“Han Junwoo, quit watching that darn TV and come out right now! We’re getting the table ready for dinner.” 


In the distance, a father who had his chicken leg taken away was making a commotion for no apparent reason. Ilnam quickly turned his head.  


“He’s trying to sneakily snatch that. Junwoo, don’t go! Stay here and finish it with us! Got it?” 


Throughout the entire process, Junwoo couldn’t help but wonder what in the world was happening. 




For the past few moments, the father had grown suspicious of his son, who seemed slightly off. He didn’t speak up as much as he used to. During their usual meetings, he used to get excited, sticking close and eagerly asking who he would deceive this time. However, his son didn’t approach with the same enthusiasm this time. 


Initially, they thought he might be in a bad mood, but, you know, whenever they crossed paths, he wore a deeply irritated expression. There was this strange head-shaking thing he did. 


“Why’s he been acting like this lately?”  


“Probably going through teenage rebellion, you know.”  


“If he suddenly decides to rebel, what will you do?”  


“Oh, come on. Don’t you know your own son? If he gets caught, he’ll likely come back with a determined look in his eyes.”  


“Yeah, that’s true. So, what happened with that situation? Did you catch him?” 


As usual, his fathers were gathered in the living room, engrossed in discussions about their next action. Junwoo watched the scene from a distance. 


After a few days, my thoughts have been organized. 


First, I have returned to the past. 

Second, remaining passive like this was not an option.  

I can’t live the same life again.” 


Over time, Junwoo perfectly orchestrated countless scenarios. 


Not a single one failed after passing through Junwoo’s hands. 


However, he couldn’t control the growing desire of his fathers. 


Junwoo realized this too late. 


In any case, without his help, his fathers would keep living a sporadic life of deception to make ends meet. He understood that, on their own, they couldn’t handle larger schemes. 


In his past life, he might not have recognized that he was fueling his fathers’ desires. 



“If I stay here, everything will happen again.” 


Junwoo made a decision. He had to leave this place alone.  

He couldn’t ruin the life he had gained once again. 


The problem was Jang Jun-hwan. 


Just telling him about leaving wouldn’t be enough to make Jun-hwan release him. 


Junwoo, who had observed everything the gang had orchestrated from the beginning, wouldn’t be allowed to leave easily. 


If that’s the case... 


Junwoo started to craft a scenario in his mind, almost like a reflex.  

In a flash, a single idea popped into his head. 


There had to be a way to solve all of this.  


“This looks like another scam.” 


Even when things got tough, Junwoo stayed true to himself. 




In front of the house, at the entrance, Ilnam’s figure appeared.  

Junwoo paused for a moment. Before heading back inside, the last image of Ilnam sacrificing himself for him crossed his mind. 


Looking back, Ilnam was always consistent.  


He simply thought of him as a person who laughed more, stumbled more, and showed more flaws compared to the other fathers. 


Young Junwoo could treat Ilnam so comfortably for those reasons. 


When he was younger, he didn’t know that Ilnam did it deliberately because he cherished him. 




Ilnam was staring blankly at the sky, lost in thought. 


“What are you doing here?” 


Ilnam turned around at Junwoo’s touch. “Oh, it’s Junwoo.” Confirming that it was his own son, he smiled broadly. He’s not even his real son, yet Ilnam was always so warm in front of Junwoo. Junwoo swallowed a slightly bitter smile.  


“I’m hungry. Buy me some food.” 


“What’s going on, son? What do you want to eat? How about grilling some meat with this Dad? It’s been a while since we did that.” 


Junwoo lowered his head. 


“Alright, I’ve made up my mind. Anchovy stew, that’s what I’m craving,” 


“What? Anchovy stew?” 


Ilnam’s love for anchovy stew, paired with soju, was well-known among their friends. But to Junwoo and many others, the strong fishy aroma was far from appealing. 


Before returning, Ilnam, who had decided to go solo, headed to a restaurant behind the alley. The atmosphere was quite different from usual. His statement about going to eat alone carried a hidden intention. It must have been the last dish he wanted to eat before concluding his life.  


At least once, he pondered, wanting to enjoy anchovy stew with Ilnam. What’s a bit of a fishy smell anyway? Now, such things didn’t really matter anymore. 


“Son, what’s going on? You seemed so disgusted by the smell of anchovy stew before.” 


“Yeah, I don’t know. Today, out of the blue, I’m craving it.” 


Ilnam wondered if his son had eaten something odd. His son was someone who wouldn’t force himself to do something he disliked, even if it meant his life. The atmosphere felt a bit different than usual. While not particularly bright by nature, Ilnam couldn’t help but feel puzzled by his son’s calm demeanor today. 


“Well, it was good.” Finally, Ilnam grinned widely at the thought of going to the regular restaurant with his son.  


They entered a modest Korean restaurant with a worn-out sign. Ilnam and Junwoo sat facing each other in a corner of the restaurant, surrounded by old tables. The lingering fishy smell of anchovies filled the air, and memories of a visit here at some point slowly resurfaced.  


“Oh, this gentleman is here again!” 


The lady’s voice hasn’t changed a bit. With those words, she hurried over, embracing Ilnam in a few steps. Ilnam chuckled. 


“I’ll get what you always used to have. Oh! Two servings today. My treat for my son here.” 


With a light tap on Junwoo’s head using two spread fingers, Ilnam gestured. The lady asked them to wait for a moment and swiftly disappeared into the kitchen.  


“That’s right, son. Feel free to speak up if there’s something on your mind.” 


Ilnam gestured as if urging him to say anything. Junwoo hesitated for a moment. 


While he might appear a bit foolish in front of Junwoo, Ilnam was a cunning swindler in other situations. There was no way he wouldn’t notice Junwoo’s subtle changes. In fact, Junwoo hadn’t even considered deceiving Ilnam to that extent in the first place. 


“Well... I don’t know if there’s anything to say.” 


Around that time, the lady emerged from the kitchen carrying two earthenware bowls. The rising steam had the scent of anchovies, and the red broth was still boiling as it flowed down the side. 


“Wow, it’s quite generous today, Junwoo! Dive in before the dishes get cold.”  


“Yes, Dad.” 


Ilnam’s face beamed with happiness. Despite everything, he appeared content with simple moments like this. 


“Dad, why do you do things like this?” 


Junwoo emphasized the phrase’ things like this’ as he spoke. The question had surfaced unexpectedly, and he couldn’t pinpoint why it crossed his mind at that moment. It was a query he had never posed before.  


Ilnam was puzzled. His son had always been interested in when the next scheme would come up. It was the first time he had asked about him personally.  


“Why all of a sudden?”  


“Dad, it’s just... it doesn’t suit you.” 


Ilnam, who was about to scoop up some broth with a spoon, fell into a moment of thought. 


“...It all began when Jang Jun-hwan extended his hand to me upon my release.”  


Muttering to himself as if in a soliloquy, Ilnam soon regained his composure and returned to his original expression. 


“You don’t need to know yet.” 


Junwoo vaguely heard about it before. The organization’s formation started with Jang Junhwan. He had a rough idea of what happened. 

“Dad, this isn’t the life you wanted.”  


“Huh. What are you talking about? It’s what Dad chose.”  


“You can still quit now.”  


He said that, but Junwoo knew. There weren’t many paths available for a con artist stamped with a criminal record. 


“Well, if you say so... By the way, why is our son suddenly so interested in his dad today?” 


Ilnam had a slightly bitter expression. 


“He thought his son didn’t know, as the cheerful demeanor never gave away the awareness of engaging in bad things that outshone others. 


To think his son knew everything from the beginning, taking care of his own life with a face like that. Ilnam felt both proud and infinitely sorry for such a son. 


“You shouldn’t be like us. Didn’t this Dad say that? If you want to quit, you can tell me anytime.” 


Ilnam already knew his son wouldn’t listen to him anyway. It was a phrase he had repeated countless times, almost like a habit.  


Since when... he wondered.  


That little rascal who had initially tricked him had gradually become someone he truly considered his son. 


Junwoo remembered. 


“I don’t get it. I enjoy this work. Why can’t I do what I want? Does Dad hate me?” 


It wasn’t the usual stubbornness. 


When he was young, he didn’t understand. It was Ilnam who first reached out to him. Maybe now Ilnam regrets leading his son into a life of crime for no reason. 


Fifteen. At this point, it was still before fully getting into the scam business. Ilnam would have understood that going deeper meant there was no turning back to his old life.  


“I know you won’t listen, but there are many other paths in the world. I hope you can realize that...” 




Junwoo read the concerned look in Ilnam’s eyes. It was a face that wished he hadn’t taken this path, filled with sincerity and desires that were not visible in the past. What did he want to escape from so desperately? Faces that he hadn’t known when he was young kept appearing in his mind. 


“No, son. Now that I think about it, I don’t think it’s my place to say.” 

Ilnam resigned himself.  


The words of a swindler father, advising him to take a different path instead of swindling, didn’t resonate at all.  


After all, the son’s talent was already shining brightly.  


It was merely a habitual saying out of fear that the son might go astray. But... 


“Right. I hadn’t thought about it that far.”  




Ilnam almost dropped the spoon he was holding at that moment.  


His son, who had always brushed off his advice as nagging, was now fully focused on his words. 


“What should I do? What would you like me to do, Dad? If I were to stop doing this right now?” 


Junwoo showing interest in something else was a first. Apart from asking about the next role, he didn’t show any curiosity or interest in anything else. 




While Ilnam was scolding, Junwoo narrowed his eyes. 


A different path... His only focus was on leaving this house. After pondering Ilnam’s genuine concern for his future, Junwoo felt a sense of curiosity. 


Second life. What will I end up doing? 


Ilnam became anxious, worried that Junwoo might change his mind. 


“Well, even a regular office worker is fine... Our son speaks well, so how about a counselor... Or perhaps an actor! He enjoys acting!” 

Ilnam felt like he might have blurted out too much. Talking about an actor under the influence of swindlers—was that appropriate? He regretted saying something unnecessary. Perhaps he should have mentioned a profession that Junwoo would accept. 


“An actor...” 


But Junwoo was different.  


For a brief moment, those two words pierced through his heart. 


It wasn’t something he had never dreamed of. During his early years, when he first discovered movies, an inexplicable emotion welled up in Junwoo’s heart.  


Another world existing on the screen.  


Every element comprising the movie captivated his gaze without missing a single detail. 


Was it mere curiosity, or was it ambition? And if it was ambition, what kind of ambition was it?  


Junwoo didn’t even know what emotion was filling him up inside. Whatever it was, it was a feeling that naturally got buried. 


Next to him, his fathers were preparing for their next scam. 

It was something Junwoo wasn’t allowed to be involved in. 


“But then again...” 


Things might be a bit different now. However, immediate focus was needed on the plan. Thinking that way, Ilnam started to feel a bit anxious. If he were to suddenly disappear, guilt would torment Ilnam. His heart sank a little.  


“Or maybe... Well... No. Something that would suit our son...” 


Ilnam continued listing professions excitedly, unable to stop murmuring.  


Just one mention of going a different path had him so worked up. He wondered what thoughts had crossed his mind while he had worn an innocent face and committed crimes. 


“Whatever it is. Junwoo, you’ll do well. This Dad supports you no matter what.” 


Ilnam grinned broadly.  


Watching him like that, Junwoo couldn’t stay quiet any longer.  


It seemed like he had something to say, something that needed to be said to Ilnam alone. 


Junwoo, who had been silent until now, neatly placed a spoon on the empty bowl before him. 




Junwoo, who seemed prepared for something, spoke somewhat seriously. 


“I want to die.” 


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