-Are you free to talk to me now? I think I couldn’t reach you just a moment ago.
“I had no choice since your popularity was through the roof.”
-What do you mean?
“Haha, it’s nothing important. But what made you call me?”
-Hm, to get straight to the point, I’d like your help again.
-I want you to appear again in the drama we shot last time.
“Wasn’t that a one-off thing?”
-They added an interrogation scene. It seemed that the director talked to the writer about it. Your pay is 80 thousand, and it should end within 3 hours.
“I’m of course okay with that. It’s an opportunity for me to show my face anyway.”
-Then come to YBS’s main HQ by eight.
“You mean tonight?”
“What were you going to do if I had a schedule and wasn’t able to go?”
-If that happened, we’d just get someone from the academies. We can’t provide you with comfort on top of the opportunity, can we?
He looked at the school field as he heard those words. He could see several students aiming for one ball. There were many people that wanted it, but there was only one ball. A minor actor who would be discarded after being used once had no choice.
-So you can’t come?
“I’ll be there even if I break my leg.”
-I thought you’d say that. Oh, I heard that the movie shoot starts this week.
“Yes. Have you heard that from Bangjoo?”
-Just yesterday. Please watch out for him so that he doesn’t cause any accidents on set. My brother has the tendency to go wild if he gets excited.
“I’ll tie him up and put him right next to me.”
-Bangjoo looked like he was looking forward to it since it’s his first shoot and all, but you know how hard it is. You’ll have to repeat the same scene over and over again until you get a good cut, and you’ll have to wait indefinitely if you aren’t playing an important role. It’s quite pressuring, isn’t it? Even though I know that he isn’t the type of boy who’d get pressured by anyone, I’m still worried. After all, he’s doing this as a job, not to play around.
“Those words, don’t say them to me and tell them to Bangjoo instead. It’ll help him out a lot.”
-He’s matured since a long time ago, so it’s not hard to joke with him, but it feels somewhat embarrassing to have a serious talk. It’s also funny since I feel like I’m overly worried for a grown-up kid. Actually, he doesn’t want to receive help from me. He said he wanted to take care of his own matters by himself. I felt this when I talked to him honestly before, but I think he’s grown up too early.
“He’s been living alone since middle school after all. There are many men who eat alone even when they’re old, and Bangjoo’s been way past that point for a long time now. It’d be strange if he didn’t grow up.”
“He has a deep understanding of himself, so you shouldn’t need to get worried. Bangjoo should be well aware that this work isn’t easy since he grew up watching you. He’s challenging it despite knowing that so don’t worry too much about it.”
Joohyun’s laugh could be heard over the phone.
-Alright. Please take care of my brother then.
“Yes. Good luck with your work.”
After hanging up, he visited the school cafeteria to get some cold drinks. He returned to his class and peeked inside. Everyone had fallen asleep at their desks. It seemed that the storm had gone past. He sat down and gave his two friends a drink. As for Dojin, he put one inside his desk.
“You’re still alive.”
Maru looked at Daemyung who had half of his soul escape his body.
“I barely managed to cling to life.”
“That’s karma for you having a girlfriend.”
“But you have one too….”
“I don’t go to the same school as her. Alright, what did Jiyoon say?”
“She just greeted me. The problem was Aram. Thanks to her, I’m like this.”
Daemyung spoke as he pulled on his tattered shirt.
“Good. Since it’s like this, you should hold hands when you walk together. Since you’re public and all.”
“Whew, that was fast.”
He drank the drink he bought from the cafeteria before patting Daemyung on the shoulder. Daemyung smiled in embarrassment before scratching his head.
“Is that your phone ringing?”
His phone, which he placed on the table, was vibrating. Maru picked up the phone and held it against his ears.
-Oh, Maru. It’s me, Byungchan.
-I called you since you got some work. But I can’t give you a ride since I have to drive away from the city with Sooil. Oh, you know who Sooil is right?
“Yes, I met him before. Also, don’t worry about me. I can just take the bus or the train or whatever.”
-Thanks for saying that.
“So? When is it? I guess it’s not tomorrow since there’s the historical drama.”
-It’s today. You don’t have anything to do right? The TV station was looking for you, oh, I mean YBS, by the way. I don’t know the reason for that, but it’s a public TV drama. It’s just one scene, but apparently, there’s a part where you’d be on screen by yourself. For now, I hung up after telling them that I’d look into it. How about it, you can do it, can’t you?
“I don’t think I can do today.”
-Why? You don’t have any schedule today. Is there something else you’re doing? This is too big of an opportunity to give up.
“I got a request.”
-A request? What request?
“For a drama. A senior I know wanted me to appear in it.”
-Really? What drama is it?
“I think it should be The Witness.”
-Huh? The Witness? That’s the place that called me too. Wait, I just got a call. I’ll call you right back.
Byungchan hurriedly hung up. Maru narrowed his eyes and put down his phone.
“What was that about?”
“I got a call due to some work, but I think something’s gone wrong.”
“Is it serious?”
“No, it’s not like that.”
When he rested his chin on his hand and stared at the phone, he got a phone call again.
-Maru. I just got a call saying that they got a confirmation already. Did you contact them?
“You mean the TV station?”
Just then, he remembered the conversation he had with Joohyun. It seemed that Joohyun gave them a call immediately after her call with him.
“Hyung, I don’t think you should be worried about it. There aren’t any problems.”
-Really? Then you’re shooting today, right?
-That’s good. The Witness on YBS has a 28% viewing rate right now. It’ll be past 30% by next week. You are lucky that you can show your face in such a drama. Good luck.
“Alright. You should drive safely too, okay?”
-Okay. See you around.
After finishing the phone call, Maru thought for a moment. The liaison team called for him. Meaning, there were already talks about him. There was no need for Joohyun to call him and ask for his confirmation.
“Geez, she’s a sister who dotes on her brother,” Maru smiled as he spoke.
It seemed that the liaising matter was just secondary, and she wanted to talk regarding Bangjoo instead.
“Boys, get up,” Taesik spoke as he came in.
The zombies started raising their heads. Maru also put away his phone and took out his books. He had to focus on classes for now.
* * *
He could see the Omokgyo bridge outside the train window. The time was when the sun slowly hid behind the horizon. Maru folded the newspaper he was reading and put it in the luggage area of the car before getting off.
He got on the bus in front of the train station that would take him to the YBS building. Since it was rush hour, the people on the bus seemed very tired. A girl that seemed to be in college was dozing off in the seat in front of him before bashing her head against the window. There was a loud thud, but the girl continued to sleep. She must have been in deep sleep or was too embarrassed to lift her head.
When he got off the bus, he saw a huge building in front of him. Across the street was a TV station for religious channels. Unlike RBS, which was very wide, YBS’s building was very tall. It seemed that they stuffed all the facilities into one building unlike RBS, which had separate buildings.
He entered the building and called the number he got from Byungchan. A moment later, someone appeared calling out to him. However, she wasn’t calling from within the building, but from outside.
“Are you Mr. Han Maru?”
“You’re here for the shoot for The Witness, right?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“This way, please.”
The woman that seemed to be part of the main staff didn't go to the main building but circled around the park in front of it to go somewhere else. They walked for around 5 minutes before another building with the YBS logo appeared.
“This is the set for the drama.”
He followed the woman inside. People, who were running around with rolls of tape, whizzed past him. They seemed to be in a hurry. He could also see people that looked uneasy as they held clothes in both of their hands.
He followed the woman throughout the corridor. On his left were posters of popular dramas produced by YBS.
“Please wait here.”
The woman smiled kindly and pointed at the waiting room. Maru felt rather awkward because of her attitude and smiled back. He was already used to the ‘hey, you’ treatment.
When he went inside, he saw a.d.u.l.ts who were all very old. They all gave off strong impressions. They were absorbed in their own thing as though they didn’t know each other.
Among them were some people that he saw in the tunnel set last time. That man played the role of the police.
Maru greeted the people who he met eyes with before sitting down. There were some food and drinks prepared on the table in front of him.
‘What good treatment.’
Many places didn’t have this treatment. Maru picked up a pack of cookies before opening it. He looked around the room as he munched on the cookies. It seemed that the building was finished being constructed not too long ago as he saw that the walls were still clean.
“Please get ready. We’re moving.”
The woman that guided him here opened the door as she spoke. The people sitting in the room all stood up in unison. Maru grabbed another packet of cookies before putting them inside his pocket. When he did, everyone else followed. It seemed that they were used to feeding themselves in such situations.
They followed the woman to the set. The set had been created already. There were acrylic panels on all four sides, and there were a bunch of photos on them. On one side was a map, and there were lines that seemed to be someone’s movement line messily drawn on top of it. Perhaps this was the investigation HQ?
In the middle of the set was Joohyun wearing a suit. She was exchanging lines with the opposing actor with sharp eyes. Joohyun, who played the role of a female detective, suddenly loosened her face and burst out laughing. Due to her laugh, the atmosphere changed in an instant. The actors around her also started joking around with each other. The atmosphere looked good.
“The shoot isn’t that long, so please focus.”
The staff that got mad at the background actors last time spoke in a kind manner. Maru wondered if everyone had repented or something. Maru looked at the expressions of the a.d.u.l.ts around him. They were just like him, looking at the staff member with uneasy expressions. The sudden bout of kindness wasn’t exactly welcome.
At that moment, he heard a clap from one side. When he turned his head around, he saw people that seemed to be civilians entering the set.
“This is the set for The Witness. The investigation headquarters you see on TV is this place.”
Maru understood the situation the moment he heard those words. The reason for the sudden change in the work environment must be because of tourists. They were setting things up so that those people wouldn’t see or hear anything bad. It was just like how trash and laundry would disappear from sight when a star appeared in a military base. Anything dirty was pushed out of sight first.
“There are the actors. Should we go meet them?”
The tourists followed the staff like pre-school children on a field trip.
“Well then, please sit down while you wait.”
The staff offered them to sit with a smile. The a.d.u.l.ts around him made a weird expression as they sat down. Maru looked at the people that looked around the set. He could slightly understand what monkeys at the zoo felt like.
 A general-level personnel