“It’s hot. Want one?”
Maru stared at Sooil, who asked as he offered him a soboro bread. It felt like there were a lot of words omitted between ‘it’s hot’ and ‘want one’, but he didn’t have the energy to retort. Since he was hungry, he decided to accept it.
He was just about to eat the bread when Sooil approached him and took off all the sweet crust. He looked at the now-bald bread and Sooil, who was munching on the tasty part of the bread, alternately.
“I don’t like the bread part.”
Oho. Maru put the bread back inside its packaging and took out another one. There was a bit of resistance on Sooil’s side, but he could subdue him with ease.
“You told me you don’t like sweet stuff last time.”
“I don’t hate it either.”
He took a bite and was just about to swallow it when he felt that the bread was beyond dry - it was rough. He could understand why the staff didn’t eat them all.
“It’s quite suffocating, isn’t it?”
A carton of chocolate milk suddenly appeared before his eyes. Maru scanned Sooil from top to bottom. He wondered where he pulled that out from. He looked at Sooil as though he was looking at a portable refrigerator.
“It really is hot. Global warming must be really scary,” Sooil said.
The news talked about how it was the hottest in the past 50 years, and the weather really showed that. Even though it was past 11 in the night, the heat did not subside.
When he finished the chocolate milk and looked for a place to throw it away, Sooil told him to give it to him. He then started folding the carton flat and put it in another plastic bag he took out from his pocket. Sooil then twirled around the plastic bag before asking.
“Didn’t you just miss the last train?”
“There’s one at 11:40. Rather than that, aren’t you going home?”
“My house is nearby.”
Sooil pointed at an apartment complex near the Han river.
“You live in a good place.”
“It’s not that good.”
“There’s the bridge. Aren’t you supposed to cross it?”
“Since I started walking, I’ll walk with you until the station.”
“I don’t need you to so go and get some sleep. I heard you were busy.”
“I’m not that busy. One of the movies I was shooting fell flat on its face so I have plenty of time.”
“You mean the multi-billion won scam movie?”
“Yeah. Thanks to that, Geunsoo-hyung and I daze out a lot together. We had a hard time rolling around everywhere in the mountains since it was a war movie, but it was suddenly cancelled.”
Sooil took out another piece of bread and put it in his mouth. It was the bread that only had the bread left without the crust.
“It’s a waste to throw it away.”
Sooil finished the whole thing.
Maru smiled as he looked at that.
“But are you okay with walking around like this?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Why, you say….”
Maru pointed at the three women heading towards them with his chin. The three were looking their way, no, to be exact, at Sooil. They looked like they recognized him, but they didn’t seem so sure.
Sooil laughed like an idiot as he waved the black plastic bag above his head. The women that were giving glances at them tilted their heads before walking past.
“When I do this, most people just walk by.”
Sooil looked at Maru with a proud expression.
“...I’m surprised the president is okay with that. An actor has his image too.”
“Of course, I immediately compose myself if there’s a fan who comes at me while shouting my name. It’s my work after all. On the other hand, I feign ignorance if they are probing me out. Taking photos together and giving autographs and things like that. Those are actually quite hard. But people see me in a good way. They think I’m interesting.”
“The dilemma of a popular actor, huh.”
“This is nothing compared to Geunsoo-hyung. Ah, Geunsoo-hyung’s fan café came to the movie shoot for support last time, and god, that was amazing. That day, we had a full-course meal from breakfast to dinner. I resolved that I will get popular the moment I saw that.”
After that, he followed on to praise the food he ate that day. He took out some bread from the plastic bag and ate them as he spoke, and the amount he ate was more than seven at least. After probing inside the bag for one last time, Sooil made a disappointed expression. It seemed that he had run out.
“You eat more than I expected.”
“I need good stamina if I want to work on many things. Also, I don’t gain weight easily.”
“You should manage yourself while you still don’t gain weight. Otherwise, you might find yourself in unwanted conditions in a blink of an eye.”
“If I get fat, then I’ll just play the old man next door or something.”
Sooil folded the empty plastic bag and put it in his pocket.
“There’s a trash can over there.”
“But that’s for cigarettes. Also, milk cartons are recyclable.”
“What a good man.”
“I’m used to it since I’ve been doing it since I was young. Don’t litter, if you see any, pick it up. Don’t let anyone find fault with you. Well, things like that, I guess?”
Sooil bent down and picked up an empty drink can and put it in his plastic bag.
“I shouldn’t let anyone find fault with me.”
The smile he made as he said those words looked a little bitter. Sooil immediately erased that expression and returned to his usual atmosphere.
Maru did not pry any further. Everyone had their own circ.u.mstances, and above all, he wasn't close enough to Sooil to hold such conversations. For now, they were just co-workers. Nothing more, nothing less.
“What made you become an actor?” Sooil asked.
“Because I can earn money.”
“Ah, money,” Sooil uttered in a small voice as though he was talking to himself before looking at Maru.
He clearly wanted Maru to ask him the same question.
Maru lightly ignored his gaze and turned his face forward. He was the type of guy to blab on about it even without Maru telling him to. And just as he had expected, Sooil spoke without being able to wait three seconds.
“I find acting fun.”
“Good for you. You get to earn money while doing something fun.”
“Good for me, indeed. People give me support from here and there. Being sold as a set with someone famous really is effective. I knew I should’ve met a good agency.”
“You don’t like it because you were sold as a set?”
“No, I like it. If I was by myself, I wouldn’t have been able to become so popular so quickly. I think I do well in acting. But acting and business are different areas after all. What creates my popularity is not my acting skill, but the power of the agency.”
“I thought this was the part where you’re supposed to laugh in self-loathing, but I guess you aren’t, huh. That’s good to see. You should keep that up,” Maru said with his honest opinion.
The mindset to win against others using skill alone was definitely worth respect. This was a cruel world, who was supposed to insult a swordsman who lived by his sword alone? It was just that, there were too many swordsmen in this society with broken swords, so it wasn’t entirely comfortable to cheer for such people.
Being sold as a set. He was aware that it was a form of business that could raise the value of lesser-known newbies. However, it wasn’t always a profitable method. If there was a form of business that always resulted in profit, the world would’ve been doomed several times already. Being sold as a set was praised for ‘excavation of new people’ when it worked well, but when the ‘plus alpha’ was below expectations, then the new person would be exiled from the media while receiving all sorts of insults.
That man, the man named Lee Junmin, was a scary businessman. He wasn’t the type of person who would spread his arms to a market where he would take losses in. Sooil was a talent worth his investment in his eyes, and he was sold as a set with someone else accordingly.
Of course, Sooil would probably hear all sorts of bad things from around him. He came here through connections; a nameless guy is acting all c.o.c.ky; he came here through sheer luck, and things like that. Those words were very cruel and he would probably want to make excuses, but what could he do? It was the truth. It was incredibly difficult to gain both popularity and good evaluations at the same time.
“From what I heard from the president saying last time, he seems to care about you a lot, but he still hasn’t talked to you, huh. I heard you were close to Geunsoo-hyung as well, am I wrong? He could’ve supported you when you got into the drama last time, but he’s strangely quiet.”
“Perhaps he still doesn’t find me worth his investment. Also, I received a lot of money when I first signed the contract.”
“Ah, it was 300 million up front, right? My word, that’s completely absurd. It’s a better benefit than blatantly giving his support.”
“Since I received that much, I should prove myself to be worthy of that. Unless I want to be deprived of all my qualifications.”
“The president is the type of guy to get his investment back before he deprives you of everything though.”
In that, they thought the same. President Lee Junmin was the type of guy who would collect his 300 million won investment regardless of the method.
“Suyeon-noona talked about you from time to time, and now that I got to talk to you, I get why that picky noona talked about you so much.”
“What did that ahjumma say?”
“Ahjumma? Do you say that in front of her too?”
“No, until a while ago, I called her Miss Suyeon. But we’re in the same company now. I call her senior or just noona.”
“Miss Suyeon sounds even worse than ahjumma. Anyway, when that noona talked about you, she used this expression to describe you: you won’t make losses if you have a leg over him.”
“Well, I can’t exactly say anything about that.”
For some reason, Maru was reminded of Suyeon’s sneaky smile. Was she still trying to get Geunsoo to fall head over heels for her these days? Geunsoo definitely wasn’t ordinary either for keeping his balance on the palm of that sneaky fox who probably swallowed hundreds of snakes.
“So I’m putting my leg over you too.”
“Uhm, excuse me, Mr. Yoo Sooil, I don’t accept men.”
At that moment, a car that was driving slowly pulled over. Maru looked at the car. The car was moving as slowly as they walked. It was an ivory-colored Nissan Cube. The blocky car slowed down even more before the windows rolled down.
“I was right.”
The woman in the driver’s seat, Choi Gyunglim, spoke as she took out her earbuds. Just as Maru was about to greet her, he heard a cheerful voice next to him.
“Oh, noona. What a pretty car you have. Did you switch?”
Sooil waved his hand and approached the car.
“Wh-what the? Why are you here?” Gyunglim spoke out in surprise.
“Weren’t you saying hello to me? I was really glad too. Wait, if it’s not me, then….”
Sooil looked at Maru. Maru nodded his head to greet Gyunglim.
“You two know each other?” Sooil spoke in a high pitch as though he was very surprised.
“Oho. Someone that Gyunglim-noona greets first, huh. Are you two perhaps….”
“N-no, we’re not.”
“You’re not? What a pity.”
Maru stared at the two people. Sooil acted like a puppy that hadn’t met its owner in a long time as he went right up against the car to talk to her, while Gyunglim looked at Sooil with a very nervous expression. Maru couldn’t figure out if they were on good terms or not.
“I’m going then.”
Since it was nothing important, he was about to go his way when Sooil blocked his way. Sooil, who had practically teleported, asked in a low voice.
“Do you do stuff like internet cafés and the like? You know, the one she’s in. Was it a calligraphy one?”
“Then how do you know her? That noona… hm, anyway, you shouldn’t have any connections to her though.”
“We take lessons together. Also, if you want to know, you should ask her. She’d probably answer in kind.”
“I can’t do that. She finds me difficult.”
“Something like that. But that’s quite interesting. She’s incredibly shy so she has almost no friends.”
Sooil savagely roasted someone with a completely relaxed expression. If Gyunglim heard his words, she would probably say a string of insults without filtering them through her brain first.
Gyunglim got out of her car and approached them.
“You two k-know each other?”
“Yes. We’re in the same agency. Isn’t that right, Maru?”
Before Sooil hung his arms around Maru’s shoulders, Maru flicked him away.
“Uhm, as much as I want to talk to you, I have a train to catch. I’ll get going first.”
He had zero intention to get stuck in between this rather awkward-looking duo. Gyunglim also didn’t seem to have anything to say either as she said goodbye and quickly returned to her car.
“Noona! Give me a ride!”
Sooil pulled on the handle for the passenger seat, but Gyunglim seemed to have locked it from the inside as the door did not open.
“Noona, we live in the same mansion, do you really have to do this?”
When Sooil did not let go, Gyunglim had to give up. Maru looked at Sooil, who was all smiles, as well as Gyunglim who looked like she stepped on something dirty. They were quite a peculiar duo.
“I’m going! See you later!”
Sooil waved his hand as the car drove past.
Maru shook his head and walked down the stairs to the train station. He went past the ticket barrier and waited for the train when he was reminded of the car that Gyunglim was riding.
‘Looks like she’s well off. Well, she is someone that takes 5 million-won-per-month lessons.’
He had briefly forgotten about it since he was receiving free lessons, but Miso’s lessons were 5 million won per month. Sungjae was understandable since he was one of the top idols in the country, so he wondered where Gwangseok and Gyunglim got all that money from. Were their parents well-off enough to spend 5 million won per month on a single academy?
Also, Sooil mentioned the word ‘mansion’ as well. At that moment, he heard the announcement for the train. Maru stopped thinking about it and looked at the incoming train. He was too tired to think about the world of rich people. He yawned before getting into the train.
 Meaning, if you get acquainted with him. I kept this expression here for the words that follow
 In Korea, having each of your legs over someone means you’re two-timing. So Maru is taking Sooil’s words as Sooil has a ‘love interest’ in him. Obviously, he’s joking here.
In Korea, a ‘mansion’ refers to a high-class/luxurious/hotel-like apartment. Keeping this expression here because Maru mentions it later.