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A Thousand Faces Chapter 55 

Updated: Mar 7

In a meeting room where everyone had left for the day, Park Jun-gil sat alone in the dark, deep in thought. 


The person who had visited the broadcasting station a few hours ago was Hwang Dojin. 


Park Jun-gil couldn't understand why someone like the Chief of the Government General Affairs would come to a place like this. 


As soon as Hwang Dojin mentioned Daemyoung, Park Jun-gil dropped all his questions and clamped his mouth shut. 


Somehow, Hwang Dojin knew everything about the incident involving Joo Mansik that week. 


Park Jun-gil recalled Hwang Dojin's warning. 


"Do you really think Daemyoung will push forward with this as it is? They're the kind of people who'll back out at the first sign of trouble. Then who do you think will end up bearing the responsibility?" 


"...I doubt your side would change directions so easily." 


"Well, that might be true. But things change when I get involved. You should know what we have up our sleeve." 




With a relaxed demeanor and a tone full of conviction, 

Park Jun-gil had a gut feeling about who would come out as the winner in this fight. 


"Anyway, I suggest you think it over carefully. As I said, I came here to give advice." 


The reason given was that any damage to the program's reputation wouldn't be good for that child. 


Once again, this person was on Han Junwoo's side. 


Before leaving the meeting room, Hwang Dojin had said that if Han Junwoo suffered even the slightest harm because of this matter, he wouldn't stand by idly. 


Park Jun-gil's head throbbed with pain. 


Following Chairman Kang Geonim, even the Chief of the Government General Affairs was now involved. 


He wondered why he kept getting entangled with such people, who seemed to have no interest in broadcasting matters. As if dealing with the program's issues wasn't already giving him a headache. 


Regardless, Park Jun-gil had to make up his mind. 


The relationship with Daemyoung was really about matters concerning Kang Hyeok; in fact, there wasn't much else involved. 


For the sake of the broadcast, he had to find a way to extricate himself from this incident. 




The overseas filming ended abruptly. As soon as Junwoo returned to Korea, he immediately sought out Mansik. 


Mansik was in Seoul. 


He said he couldn't go to the theater at the moment. 


Junwoo nodded his head. 


"Is the situation being resolved?" 


"Of course. You just focus on what you're doing right now. Don't worry unnecessarily." 




"You're not getting into trouble again, are you?" 


"Trouble? Not at all." 


Reflecting on it, this was their first real conversation in a long time. 


Fortunately, Mansik seemed to be in a better state than expected. 


Junwoo didn't say much else, as if that answer was sufficient for him. 


He knew not to doubt the contrived and fabricated stories, nor did he want to resolve them on his own terms. Mansik felt relieved and grateful that Junwoo didn't probe further or express anger about the situation. Likewise, Mansik didn't inquire about Junwoo's current circumstances. 


Unnoticed, an unspoken trust had established itself between them, making needless worries redundant. 


"I watched the broadcast." 


"Even with your busy schedule?" 


"Of course. You know how long I've been waiting for it. What could be more important than that?" 


Mansik smiled contentedly. 


"You watched it too, right? How did you find it?" 


"Not yet." 




Mansik blinked in surprise. 


"You mean to say the main character himself hasn't watched it while the whole country is buzzing about it? How does that make sense?" 

Mansik turned his head. 


On the TV in the restaurant where they were sitting, the first episode of "Actor Kingdom" that had aired recently was playing. 


"Why? Were you that busy? Come on, watch it. It's really entertaining." 


Then, the murmuring that had been ongoing behind them caught Mansik's ear. 


"Isn't that him?" 


"Yeah, you're right. Han Junwoo. The real deal... almost didn't recognize him." 


"The person with him must be his dad, I guess." 


The students were whispering and sneaking glances at Junwoo, covering their mouths. 


Mansik shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly, then suddenly seemed to remember something and bowed his head. 


"Why are you doing that?" 


"Nothing, just…" 


It wasn't only Junwoo's face that was recognized. 


At this unresolved point in time, Mansik hadn't considered that just being seen together could cause harm. 


But now, experiencing people recognizing Junwoo firsthand, the issues they had faced until now seemed insignificant. 


The very thing they had hoped for was happening in reality. Mansik lowered his voice and chuckled softly. 


"Hey, they're talking about you. Can't you hear it?" 


"I can hear it." 


Mansik smiled warmly. 


"Look at you; you're already a superstar." 


However, Junwoo seemed indifferent to both the screen in the restaurant and the glances coming his way. Why though? He clearly had been excitedly rewatching the few seconds he appeared in the trailer over and over again. 


Then, as Mansik stared at Junwoo, lost in thought, he tilted his head slightly. 


"Junwoo, is something bothering you?" 




Junwoo suddenly looked up as if to ask what Mansik meant. 


Mansik hadn't noticed at first, excited as he was to see Jun-woo after a long time. But now, he realized that Junwoo's demeanor didn't quite match what one would expect of someone who should be thrilled and excited about the broadcast. 


"There's nothing wrong." 


"You seem different somehow." 


How to describe it? The usual calm and relaxed air that Junwoo carried seemed to have faded. 


"…Maybe not." 


Mansik paused for a moment, intently studying Junwoo's face. 


Junwoo's eyes were steady, showing no hint of wavering. At a glance, he seemed as usual: calm and composed. However, Mansik felt engulfed in an inexplicable, strange aura so intense that it was almost uncomfortable to maintain eye contact for long. 


A kind of desire hidden within the stillness, something he had never felt from Junwoo before. 


Once he realized this, Mansik couldn't help but feel that the Junwoo before him was somehow unfamiliar. 


He couldn't pinpoint what it was, but, 


"Alright, that's good. Keep it up." 


His intuition suggested that Junwoo was determined about something. 


Mansik's expression turned notably more serious. 


"Like that? Doing what?" 


"Whatever it is you're doing right now. Just focus on that without worrying about me. That's how I win." 


Junwoo nodded. 


There was no need to explain something that would soon become apparent. 




Junwoo started as if something had just occurred to him. 


"About what I mentioned last time." 


"Last time?" 




These were the plans Junwoo had briefly mentioned to Mansik, intended to commence after the end of the broadcast. 


Mansik's help was needed for them. 


"I'm thinking of moving up the timeline for that." 




The program's filming resumed shortly after their return. 


As usual, the W Broadcasting Station studio gathered the broadcast team and participants. 


However, as soon as the cameras started rolling, the scenes unfolding both in the rehearsal room and the studio made the camera crew wear troubled expressions, wondering if they should keep filming. Initially thought to be a momentary outburst overseas, Junwoo now seemed to act as if he had lost interest and was eager to end this tedious broadcast as soon as possible. 


The production team, including Yoo Sang-jun, was sweating profusely. 


"What should we do? Is it okay to continue like this...?" 


"The team leader said to let it be for now. Let's just observe." 


During the submissions leading up to the final round of the program, 

Junwoo made all his decisions and executed them as soon as he heard the theme. 


Everything happened so quickly that no one could intervene. 


There was no affection, no interest, no passion. After completing the day's quota, revising and writing scripts, directing... 


...and if the other participants caused delays, Jun-woo even took over their tasks. The speed was unbelievable. 


As the expected footage from the missions and rehearsals failed to materialize, even the planning team was in crisis. 


Everyone could tell. Initially, it seemed like Junwoo, suddenly acting up, had set his heart on winning. But as time went on, it became clear that wasn't the case. His actions reflected a loss of interest in the program. 


The momentary shock of seeing Junwoo tearing through the studio and rehearsal room soon gave way to a new reality. With the first broadcast aired, the entire nation was focused on Actor Kingdom. The participants began to lose their composure. 


Fights about personal grievances started happening daily, even in Junwoo's absence. 


They, too, were now beyond caring about appearances. 


"Are you going to edit this to make it look like I did all of this?" 


One participant, eager to ride on Junwoo's coattails, picked up the tasks he left behind. 


And as if unable to accept the way things were unfolding, 


"Hey, have you all lost your minds? Snap out of it. Is this right? Is this why you came here?" 


Another participant suddenly caused a commotion during practice. 


Aware that everyone was ignoring the disturbance, yet another participant cautiously followed the crowd, trying to blend in. 


A participant whispered to the production team behind the scenes. 


"Junwoo doesn't need something like a win anyway. Can't you push me instead? I'll talk to the CEO about extending our group's advertising contract. Okay?" 


Amidst the chaos on set, scenes that couldn't be directly shown on the broadcast were being captured on camera. 


Although this turmoil inadvertently improved the quality of the performances, which was good for the production team, watching these developments, Yoo Sang-jun felt that the broadcast had been veering off course for some time. 


And in each of these instances, Junwoo was absent. 


His efforts seemed too effortless to be passionate, yet everything was too perfect to be half-hearted. 


This was why no one could speak up or hold him back. 


Compared to other participants lingering in front of the camera to increase their screen time, Jun-woo vanished swiftly as soon as the shooting ended. 


His approach seemed more about handling tasks rather than genuinely engaging in them. 


"I can go now, right?" 


The staff were too busy gauging the now distant Junwoo to respond. 


The next day, as soon as the director called "cut," 


"It's over, right?" 


He disappeared before anyone could respond. 


Park Jun-gil and Yoo Sang-jun were perplexed. 


What was this enigma? Once he set his mind to it, he became unmanageable. 


Yet, even with this approach, his overwhelming skill was becoming more evident. It was as if, until now, he hadn't felt the need to demonstrate his full capability and talent. 


So, what were all the things he had methodically shown in the past? 

Park Jun-gil began to grow curious. 


Certainly, after the first broadcast aired, the other participants' desires were burning fiercely. They were bending their pride, desperately trying to make the most of the remaining episodes, as if it was a matter of life and death. 


But Junwoo seemed indifferent to the broadcast as if his mind was occupied elsewhere. 


It was when Yoo Sang-jun returned from somewhere that he sought out Park Jun-gil. 


"He's not at the lodging either." 




"Should we address this as a problem?" 


"And if we do and he decides to leave the show, will you take responsibility?" 


It was a rule that participants should stay at the lodging during the program. However, the staff couldn't reprimand Junwoo for breaking this rule. They couldn't just confront him recklessly. Any slight sense of camaraderie that might have existed due to his young age had vanished. 


"Maybe he's just out having fun. Places where people his age would go are all the same." 


"Does he seem like the type to go to an arcade and play games?" 


"With the changes since the broadcast, maybe he's relieving stress that way. Considering his exceptional skills, he might feel more at ease compared to other participants who are desperately trying to keep up." 


"No, that's not it." 


Park Jun-gil shook his head. 


"You still don't understand him, do you?" 


Park Jun-gil narrowed his eyes. It was a mystery that wouldn't be solved until he checked it himself. 


Given Han Junwoo's current attitude, it didn't seem likely he would reveal anything even if asked. 


"He must be up to something on his own again." 


"If by 'up to something,' you mean practicing alone?" 


"I don't know. That's why I'm saying you should go and find out." 




Yoo Sang-jun was taken aback. 




"Just find out where he's rushing off to." 


"But that's intruding on a participant's personal life..." 


"When have we ever been concerned about that? We need to know if he's plotting something." 




Eventually, that evening, following Park Jun-gil's orders, Yoo Sang-jun stealthily followed Junwoo after the shooting ended. 


Hiding and trailing him from a distance, Yoo Sang-jun suddenly felt a wave of self-awareness. 


'This is absurd. A broadcast PD shadowing a participant like this. This should be a job for the staff.' 


He peeked around the corner. 


Honestly, he was curious. 


Junwoo was walking alone, empty-handed, heading somewhere. 


He had expected Junwoo might be hiding out in some secluded place, up to something odd, but instead, Junwoo was heading towards the city center, where taller buildings were clustered. 


And when Junwoo disappeared into a building, Yoo Sang-jun stopped in his tracks. 


The building had a sleek, gleaming exterior, towering in the center and radiating an overwhelming presence among the surrounding structures. 


'This is...' 


Yoo Sang-jun stared blankly at the large sign at the top of the building. 


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