He violently opened the water bottle and poured water into his mouth. He felt his thirst calming down a little before his mouth felt dry once again. Due to this unknown unease, he opened another water bottle. He felt that he should calm down after this.
Uljin, who was drinking water, quickly put down the water bottle and looked in front of him. Producer Changsung was there.
“What’s up with you all of a sudden? Are you tired because you shot for too long?” Producer Changsung asked with a smile.
He grabbed Uljin’s shoulder as though he didn’t need to mind it that much.
“No, it’s not like that.”
“Then did you eat something bad during dinner?”
“My stomach is fine.”
“Then are you hurt anywhere?”
“I’m really fine.”
“Then there are no problems, right?”
“Yes…,” Uljin barely replied.
“Then let’s resume the shoot after five more minutes. You can do that, can’t you?”
“Yes, I can do it.”
“Good. Get yourself together. You did well during the day, so you should do just that. There’s no need for you to do as well as the beginning. You just need to show what you can do. After that, the direction and editing will do the rest. Okay?”
Producer Changsung patted Uljin lightly on the back before turning around. Uljin gulped. The bitterness in his mouth did not disappear. He had a bad premonition that he would repeat the same mistake if he started the shoot as he was now. He was going to drink the remaining water thinking that he was worried for nothing, but the water bottle was already empty. He had emptied two bottles, yet his mouth still felt bitter.
“Hey, what’s going on?” Giwoo asked with a worried expression.
“I just dazed out for a second there.”
“You’re okay, right?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Uhm, I need to go to the toilet, so if the producer looks for me, please tell him for me.”
Uljin went to the public bathroom which was a little distant from the set. He turned on the tap and stared at the water gushing down. He had the urge to get some water and splash it on his face.
He put some water on his palms and put it against his eyes. He felt a little clearer now that he came into contact with cold water.
Uljin had a look in the mirror. He could see himself making a vacant expression. It would be the worst if he had the same expression in front of the camera. No wonder the producer approached him and asked him if he was sick. He slapped his face. He had won this role with difficulty. His parents, as well as his academy, had a lot of expectations of him. He couldn’t make a mistake in such an easy scene.
“You seem nervous.”
He flinched when he heard a voice behind him and turned around. Maru was coming inside.
“I had to pee. No, this little one had to pee.”
Maru stood in front of a urinal as he whistled. Uljin stared at Maru.
“Is this the first time you saw someone else pee? Your gaze is too hot.”
“It’s not that….”
“What, you have something to say to me?”
While Maru washed his hands next to him, Uljin tried his best to analyze the mysterious emotions bubbling inside him. This unease and anxiousness. He had none of those before the shoot began. If he was asked when he started having such emotions, he would say that it was after he started acting with Maru.
Those eyes that stared into his soul as he was grabbed by the collar. He had received many of such gazes since he had shot fighting scenes before. No matter how much killing intent they had while looking at him, it was acting in the end. It was possible for him to return the act without being shaken. Then, just what was the problem?
Even as he thought that he kept reminding himself of Maru’s eyes for some reason. Whenever he blinked, the image of Maru’s two eyes staring at him appeared in front of him like a residual image. Uljin looked down at the ground, avoiding the eyes of the residual image. It somehow felt rather unpleasant to meet it head on.
“Washing your hands?”
Maru asked from next to him. Uljin replied awkwardly before opening the tap and starting to wash his hands again. He put some soap on and rubbed his hands to the point that they started making skidding sounds. He wished that these emotions would be washed away with the water.
“Can I just continue like last time?”
Maru asked as he wiped away the water with a paper towel. Uljin carefully shook the water off his hands and asked back.
“Like last time? What do you mean?”
“What do I mean? Acting of course.”
“I think we got along pretty well.”
“Uh, yeah. I think so too.”
“Then what happened to you all of a sudden? Did a bug enter your mouth or something?”
“No, it’s not like that.”
He felt thirsty. Uljin wiped his mouth with the back of his hands. His lips felt rather rough from what he felt from his hands. He tried to stick his tongue out and wet his lips, but even his tongue felt rather rough as though all the moisture had dried out. Did he suddenly get dehydrated or something?
He breathed out slowly and wet his hands before bringing them to his lips again. This time, though, his lips felt very moist as though it wasn’t dry at all in the first place. Now that he checked himself, he didn’t feel thirsty either. However, he still felt stuffy. He swallowed his saliva which had acc.u.mulated beneath his tongue. Just what was wrong with him?
“Are you okay?”
He saw Maru slowly reaching out to him. Uljin subconsciously swung his arm violently to slap Maru’s hand away. He felt a sharp pain from where his hand hit Maru’s. Only after he hit Maru’s hand did he realize what he had done.
“Whoa, that startled me.”
He saw Maru faintly smile as he covered his hand.
“Are you okay?”
“I am. But aren’t you too much? I wouldn’t like another man’s hand to touch me either, but there was no need for you to hit me, was there?”
“Y-yeah. I wonder why I did that. I must be out of my mind.”
“Aren’t you tired?”
Was smiling such a humiliating thing to do? Uljin forced his lips to curve upwards to smile. When he slapped away Maru’s hands just now, he could see a glimpse of what his inward emotions were like. Right now, he was afraid of Maru’s hand.
Uljin felt as though that hand would approach him, grab him by the collar, and start strangling his neck. He felt scared. For that moment, he seemed really dangerous. Only after he slapped Maru’s hand with all of his strength did Maru’s surprised expression enter his eyes. He had done something absurd.
“Let’s go. The shoot must be resuming soon.”
“Uh, yeah. We should.”
He saw Maru wait outside the bathroom. Uljin stood next to Maru. He had to be tired since it was his first time being a main actor in a historical drama. Believing that he should return to normal after he took in the fresh air of the night at the set, Uljin started walking.
“I can just do my acting like last time, right?” Maru asked.
“Like last time?”
This was the first time ‘like last time’ sounded so threatening. Uljin hesitated. Honestly speaking, he couldn’t remember what Maru’s acting was like before. The only thing that remained in his mind was the scary eyes.
“...Yeah. Just like last time.”
“Please take care of me. I’m entrusting my hope in you, lead actor.”
Maru’s laugh reverberated inside his ears. Uljin clenched his fist and stood in his standby position. The staff that had left momentarily to take a break could be seen returning to their stations. Producers Changsung and Jinhyuk also came to the monitor.
Uljin looked at the camera placed in front of him. How much had he admired that black silhouette? He prayed that he could be captured by it and practiced a lot, eventually reaching this place. He couldn’t be shaken. The world of child actors was just as cruel as the realm of a.d.u.l.t actors.
“Uljin,” producer Changsung called out.
“Play to your heart’s content, okay?”
That was right. This was the mood. Uljin calmed down his breathing. He must have been confused slightly because of the pressure. His acting should soon come back, and as long as he focused, his mentality should soon return.
He stretched out his mouth before straightening his shoulders. I can do it - he shouted inwardly.
“Let’s do this,” Maru said from the side.
Uljin nodded and looked at the two eyes in front of him. Although they looked a little sharp, it wasn’t to the point that he was scared. There was no reason to be afraid of them.
Uljin smiled back. Maru smiled back as well. Only then did he feel that the stuffy air had cleared up a little. His confidence came back to him. He thought that he would be able to show a clean act and make everyone forget his embarrassing moments once the cue sign fell.
“That’s the expression. Minor actors, get ready to go in. As for the 2nd beggar, it’s up to you to induce Uljin to get his emotions together. Don’t just fool around because you aren’t on camera.”
Producer Changsung clapped. The atmosphere became a lot better as well. The slight sense of tension that spread out across his body disappeared. He felt excited. Just as he felt that he could do anything, he saw Maru’s eyes.
They were different. Something had changed. Even though his expression was loose until 5 seconds ago, they were taut right now. Although it was a small change, just that was enough to make his mouth go dry.
He felt as though he was thrown into the wavy waters without a single rope attached. He fidgeted his fingers in nervousness. He put his toes together and tensed them.
Just then, he heard the word ‘cue’. Maru approached him. Maru’s two hands approached his neck. The moment those hands touched his body, Uljin ended up clenching his eyes shut. His lips were tucked back, and his body shrunk back. He instinctively crossed his arm and guarded in front of him. He felt that he might be strangled to death if he didn’t do so.
His brain knew that they were just in a set and that they were acting. However, Maru’s eyes clearly weren't acting. He clearly looked like he intended to kill him.
Was he jealous? All sorts of thoughts filled his mind. There was a lot of news talking about people dying due to an accident on set. There was no reason why the same thing couldn’t happen to him. Han Maru. He was a stranger. Perhaps he had a history of possessing a mental illness or something. Perhaps he really did suddenly become crazy.
His eyes. They were honest. They were the eyes of someone that was about to strangle someone else. Even his hands were strange. Was there a reason to grab so strongly?
Danger - he didn’t know why, but Maru was really about to strangle him. Uljin pushed back with the arms he had crossed. At that moment, he heard a sharp ‘cut!’ and a ‘hey, what are you doing!’, but he couldn’t retract his actions now.
‘I have to explain. As long as I explain how much danger I was in….’
Uljin saw as Maru’s hands were pushed back too easily. Maru, being pushed back, made a confused expression as he fell backwards. There was even a loud thump as he fell backwards. Uljin sighed after he saw Maru struggle to get up.
Producer Changsung’s shout could be heard from afar.
Uljin was shocked. What had he done? He felt his neck go stiff. He felt as though he would start creaking. He could hear the producers walking towards him from outside his field of vision, but he couldn’t turn his head that way.
“What are you doing?”
Producer Changsung grabbed his shoulders. He saw producer Jinhyuk approach Maru and pull him up.
“No, the thing is….”
“Are you crazy? Don’t you see that there are stones behind Maru? Are you going to take responsibility if he fell head first? No, in the first case, what the hell did you push the kid for? Huh?”
“It’s not that… I just thought it was dangerous.”
“Dangerous? What’s dangerous is you pushing him so suddenly. What the hell are you doing? Are you here to cause an accident on my watch, huh?”
At that moment, Maru dusted his pants and approached producer Changsung.
“Producer. I’m okay.”
“Are you really okay? There was a really loud thump.”
“Yes. I have a sturdy body.”
“Hey, you don’t know for sure. You fell on top of rocks. No one would be okay.”
“I’m really fine since I exercise a lot. Look.”
“Are you really okay?”
Uljin couldn’t say a word. He couldn’t even understand his own actions. It was an act, it was just a drama shoot, yet he couldn’t differentiate that and ended up going too far. Just as Uljin was about to apologize to Maru who asked him if he was okay, Moonjoong, who was wearing a gat and a white dopo approached Maru and scanned him before sighing in a low voice.
“Young fella, don’t startle this old man so much. I thought you were injured badly.”
“Elder, my body is very sturdy.”
“Since your blabbermouth is okay, I guess you really are okay.”
Uljin couldn’t say anything as he watched the two who seemed to be on close terms with each other.
“Why don’t we stop the shoot for now and look at this boy’s state?”
Uljin watched as Maru walked towards the rest of the staff along with Changsung and Moonjoong. When he met eyes with Maru for a brief moment, he had a feeling that Maru was smiling at him for some reason.