Life, Once Again! - Chapter 900
The sun was resting on the reeds of Suncheon bay. Maru placed his hands on the fence and looked at the setting sun, the reeds below it, as well as the people moving slowly on the boat.
“I come here whenever I have a headache. Looking at the reeds swaying in the wind without any resistance, I can feel my head clearing up.”
“I think I can feel what that’s like.”
He followed behind Park Joongjin. They crossed a wooden bridge that was built there as a part of a hiking course. People took photos with the reeds on both sides as the background. Maru also took some photos of the browned reeds and sent them to Gaeul, alongside the message that they should come here together in the future.
“What kind of acting do you want to do, Mr. Maru?” Joongjin asked as he stopped.
They had gone off the main course and were in a place where there wasn’t much human presence. Only Suncheon bay and the reeds could be seen.
“I have the hardest time when I’m asked questions like this. I’ve never really thought about it. I’ve always tried to fulfill the role I’m given to the best of my abilities.”
“There are actors like that. It’s not that they don’t have an objective or a goal, they just don’t have it for a specific type of acting. Then what is your goal as an actor?”
“The first is to earn a lot of money, and the second is recognition. I want to hear something like ‘I can’t imagine anyone other than Han Maru playing that role.’”
“The second goal might perhaps be harder than getting an award. There aren’t many actors who hear that even now.”
“That’s why I set a realistic goal as my first one and an unrealistic one as my second.”
“So you have the confidence to earn a lot of money.”
“I’m not sure about anything else, but I seem to be rather lucky when it comes to money and relationships. As long as I don’t screw up badly, I think money won’t be a problem.”
“I can’t deny that. Looking at your acting, it definitely isn’t something that will make you starve. Even if you don’t get selected as lead characters because your charms aren’t enough, you will definitely become a good-selling supporting character.”
“Having you say that makes me feel a lot more relieved. Do I just need to focus on acting without worries now?”
“Don’t trust me too much. I sometimes screw up because I don’t know what’s in front of me. I did make a huge blunder once in the past too.”
Joongjin checked the time before saying that they should go to a nearby restaurant. They entered a kal-guksu restaurant, which was the first restaurant they saw after leaving the reed field. The restaurant was bustling with people who had come to watch the reeds before winter came around. They wanted to get a room, but upon hearing that a minimum of 8 people was required to get a private room, they sat at a table in a corner. They ordered some kal-guksu and some buckwheat jeon.
“I was convinced after seeing the indie film you shot this time. You are an actor who knows how to handle violence. You are cruel and merciless, and yet, still possess a sense of restrained beauty, and it’s not too overboard. That’s why I want to see it. The Mr. Maru after everything has been mercilessly pulled out of you.”
Just as he was about to reply, the kal-guksu was served. From how it didn’t even take five minutes for the food to arrive, it seemed that the noodles were boiled beforehand, and the broth was just poured right before it was served. Joongjin said that they should eat first. He ate some with chopsticks. Before he could even chew the slipper noodles, he could smell something bad from the broth.
“If I knew it was going to be like this, I would have looked up some good places around the area.”
It seemed that Joongjin didn’t like it either. The buckwheat jeon that was served afterwards was also grainy. The taste was worse than simple wheat & gochujang-based jeon.
“I looked it up before coming, and this place seems to be a famous restaurant based on a blog post.”
Maru showed him his phone screen. This restaurant turned out to be one that had the ‘good restaurant’ title. Joongjin clicked his tongue.
“Ads are causing trouble everywhere. Before, you could gain some good-quality information from the internet, but ever since the ad companies entered the scene after seeing that they can make money off it, everything has become terrible.”
Joongjin raised his hand before telling the server to take the kal-guksu away. The employee panicked and asked,
“Uhm, what is your reason for doing this?”
“This smells way too bad, and I can’t bring myself to eat it. Take the jeon away too. Also, if possible, tell the cook in the kitchen that he or she needs to take better care of the food if you have the money to give to blogs. I’m not telling the owner something bad. I’m just dissatisfied with whoever cooked this thing.”
The server disappeared into the kitchen after taking the food away on a tray. Maru had known about the director’s peculiar personality, but this was the first time he saw that he was picky with food. Maru was on the side that he should get his fill at least even if it didn’t taste that good, but the director was different.
“Director, shall I look for another restaurant nearby? We do have to eat after all.”
Since they had returned the food, there was no reason to stay seated. Joongjin shook his head. He waited, wondering what this was about. Joongjin called another employee who was walking by his side.
“Please get us two bowls of kal-guksu and a buckwheat jeon.”
“Please wait. It’ll be out soon.”
The director ordered the exact same things again. The employee picked up the order paper. He was just about to note it down with a ballpoint pen before stopping. It was probably because he found that two bowls of kal-guksu and a buckwheat jeon had been ordered already.
“Sir, did you perhaps not get the food you ordered?”
Maru stayed quiet because he didn’t know how to answer. The reply came from the director.
“It’s not like there’s a problem, so please give the order. Two bowls of kal-guksu and a buckwheat jeon.”
The employee walked to the kitchen after writing down the order. Not long later, the bowls of kal-guksu and buckwheat jeon came out. Maru picked up his chopsticks and looked at Joongjin.
“Are you not going to eat?”
“I’m curious as to what you’re up to, director.”
“Eat it for now. They might have made a mistake with the last order, which made it strange.”
Maru moved his chopsticks. The noodles and broth betrayed his remote hope that it would be better. It was no different from the first one he got. The noodles were slippery on the outside and undercooked on the inside, and the broth had a bad smell. The director also ate a little bit and pushed the bowl to the side. At this point, Maru wanted to go to the kitchen and tell the people there that there is an extremely picky customer and so they should create a proper one.
At least the buckwheat jeon was better than before. The mix seemed to have been done properly this time, and it wasn’t as grainy as it was before. The director also ate the jeon without much fuss. Maru could imagine what Joongjin was going to say next. Conveniently, there was a server walking by. It was the lady that took their first order.
Maru knew that the server who had received their order was consciously not approaching this area. She even went to the table next to them to refill some cubed radish kimchi but did not give them a glance. Joongjin stopped the server as she was about to return with the side dish plates. For a moment, the server looked like she was about to cry. What is it now? – her eyes seemed to say.
“Please give us two bowls of kal-guksu. And take this to the kitchen. if possible, to whoever made this.”
“Uhm, please don’t do this….”
“No, I want to do this. If it’s too much of a bother going to the kitchen, give me the tray, I’ll go myself.”
“I said give it to me. I’ll have a look at the one who made this and talk to them about it.”
“That’s a little….”
The server seemed restless. She seemed strangely bothered about this. At first, Maru thought that she was having a hard time listening to his request, but from the looks of it, it seemed like she was thinking of it as her own business. It was probably related to Joongjin calling out to this specific server in particular out of the many servers here. From the looks of it, she seemed related to the owner of this store and was not just working as a server here. Perhaps the one making the noodles inside was her husband.
“Sir, if the food was strange, you don’t have to pay for it, so please cancel your order,” said the server.
A mere server would not be able to meddle in monetary affairs. Either she was the owner, the wife of one, or a close relative or acquaintance.
“I’m not shameless enough not to pay after eating food. I’ll pay for everything, so bring us two bowls of kal-guksu. We have plenty of time.”
Any ordinary person would have backed off at this point, but Joongjin even crossed his legs, looking like he would not budge unless he got the bowls of kal-guksu. The server, who seemed restless, eventually took away the bowls and went to the kitchen. Even though Joongjin spoke in a small voice, they attracted a lot of attention with all the things they did. Everyone here must have been forcing themselves to eat the tasteless kal-guksu. They were probably putting up with it, thinking that they didn’t want to ruin their traveling mood; that all tourist attraction restaurants were like this; and because they didn’t want to get into a fight. Maru turned around slightly. The gazes of the women who were staring at them intensely like they were cheering for a soccer team were immensely pressuring for him. They seemed to want Joongjin to give a blow to the owner of the restaurant selling such terrible food.
“Director. Are you going to order another two if the same kal-guksu is served again?”
“What do you think I’ll do, Mr. Maru?”
“You’ll probably order once again.”
“You already learned how to read my mind. It seems like this will be a very enjoyable shoot this time indeed. It was worth coming all the way to Suncheon. The director and the actor are of one mind.”
“I’ve been wanting to leave ever since we got told we didn’t have to pay though.”
“Then I guess we still lack understanding of each other. Great. I do not plan to create a film with a puppet, so let’s have some time to learn about each other.”
“So you’re going to order kal-guksu again?”
“Since we’ve come all the way to South Jeolla province, we might as well raise the sales here. Let’s make them sell so many that they can raise a building in Gangnam.”
Maru crossed his arms. The one in front of him was no human, it was a wall made of solid steel. The magical chant to make the door appear was a properly made kal-guksu. Rumors seemed to have spread that there was a strange customer among the servers as all the ladies working here looked at them. It would have been easier for them to deal with if the customer said that they weren’t going to pay, but it was a pain for them when someone like the director keep asking them to bring him food.
“I hope we can get some kal-guksu quickly. I had two bowls, but I’m still hungry.”
Maru laughed as he heard the director’s words. How would the kitchen respond to this? If the owner had a terrible personality, he or she would come out and start ranting at them, and if it was a shameless owner, they would keep getting served terrible kal-guksu. The only thing he could do was to give up and watch. It wasn’t going to be easy to change the mind of a genius who had become fixated on something.
“What is it?”
“I participated in ‘Those Guys’ for two days, back when you were shooting that.”
“So it has already been seven years since then. The idea you came up with back then was very much to my liking. Perhaps you had taken a spot in my head ever since that time.”
“Thanks for looking at me in such a good light. But what surprised me during those two days was that there was a very small number of takes other than the important action scenes. Most of the time, you only took one take per cut.”
“I do that for most of the commercial movies I shoot. Since I’m shooting them to earn money, I place value on efficiency. That was why I needed Miss Yang Miso’s help back then. I would lock the actors who try to do some acting awkwardly into a frame and let the story do the job. It’s just like advertising through blogs. The taste doesn’t matter, as long as there’s the opinion that it’s good. Putting it like that, it makes me feel a little sorry for ordering the kal-guksu again, but double standards I guess.”
“That’s true. This is what I really wanted to ask, so is the film you’re shooting this time also….”
“No,” Joongjin interrupted him before he could finish.
Maru inwardly sighed in relief. He now realized what Joongjin meant by learning about each other.
“From your expression, you seemed to have pictured what it would be like to work with me. I only take into account efficiency for commercial films. You need to shoot quickly if you want to minimize human resources costs. But for my ‘piece,’ that doesn’t matter. The only important thing when it comes to doing my piece is self-satisfaction. And I mean, self-satisfaction.”
The director emphasized it twice. Maru looked at the tray that the server brought. There were two bowls of kal-guksu in it. His future seemed the same as those bowls of kal-guksu.
“Please bring it again. Two bowls of kal-guksu,” said Joongjin.
To Maru, that sounded like ‘let’s shoot that scene again.’
 Knife-cut noodle soup with usually seafood or chicken. Wikipedia for more details.
 The jeon mentioned in this chapter is a Korean-style pancake, unlike the western style one.