Chapter 394: Here Comes the Great Storyteller (3)
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
Right as the crow opened its beak, Juho felt a strong impact against his head. When the wall burst, the water started flooding the area from all directions. Drowning, Juho closed his eyes tightly. When he felt his body float, he realized that he was completely submerged in water. Frozen by ice-cold water, Juho couldn’t move a muscle. No matter how hard he tried to move his limbs, he kept sinking to the bottom. Juho felt a burning sensation in his nose as water entered it. It wasn’t until the water calmed down that Juho barely managed to open his eyes. Although It was quite dark in the water, Juho was still able to see that the pair of black eyes in front of him wasn’t a fish’s. The bird looked at the author as if blaming him. Everything was black, and there was no emotion on the face with no eyes and nose. At that moment, Juho was on the verge of death.
“This water exists so that we can cross it.”
Juho reminisced to his past. A list of books that he hadn’t been able to read flashed across his mind. Then, he heard a voice. The crow had its beaks open.
“You see, I have really good hearing.”
It was a line from a character in one of Juho’s novels.
“Don’t write about me.”
Juho tried desperately to remember as many things from his life as possible.
“Once, when I was very young…”
“Uh, a bug went into your camera…”
“I killed a man…”
“Would you like a picture?”
“There’s a fire!”
Then, Juho’s ears started to ring, and his eyes burned. His head was starting to hurt, and he couldn’t move his limbs. Meanwhile, the crow kept looking at the author with bitter, resentful eyes. It was a mirror, reflecting the very look on the author’s face.
At that moment, the crow asked, “Would you like to know how you can stay afloat?”
When Juho nodded, the bird said, “… Loosen up.”
At that, Juho clenched his teeth tightly. He tried to remember the plot of the story he had been working on before he fell in the water. However, as Juho’s body started to reach its limit, he simply couldn’t. Death was at hand, and his senses started to return. Before he realized it, Juho was overwhelmed with terror.
“I can’t believe this is how I die! I can’t die like this!”
The more he spoke, the harder it was to breathe. As he ran out of oxygen, his voice started to shake. At that moment…
“I don’t have to write.”
… Juho’s mouth started to move on its own. There was no time to think.
“I don’t care if I get my hands cut off, if I become mute, or completely forget about the ending of my own story. Hell, I don’t even care if I become an alcoholic all over again. I’ll let the crow follow me around for the rest of my life. Money. Fame. You can take it all. I don’t have to be great. Just… let me live.”
At that moment, Juho realized the true desire within his heart. The unfinished story was the least of his concerns. The only thing Juho wanted at that moment was to live. He wanted to live even more than being a novelist.
“As long as I’m alive, I can go anywhere.”
At that moment, upon finding the prey it had been waiting for, the crow opened its wings and flew toward Juho. At which point, Juho realized why the crow hadn’t flown until then. The bird had nowhere to land. Then, he felt an impact against his back, followed by a dull pain and a sound of wailing. It felt like he was bleeding. Juho was crying, and his body went limp inadvertently. Juho felt hazy. Although his vision was fuzzy, everything seemed quite bright, which told the author that it was morning. Then, Juho felt somebody pulling him up by the ankle. As the black sky came into view, Juho heard the waves of voices from those who came together to rescue him.
As Juho took his first breath, tears started to flow from his eyes. From then on, everything felt hazy. When the author opened his eyes, he found himself in a room. It wasn’t until he saw a man sniffling by his side that he was able to adjust to his surroundings. Juho remembered having met the man before, and he still remembered the voice that had cared for him in the distance. When they had first met, neither of them had had the luxury of introducing themselves to each other.
“Baek Han,” Juho called to the aspiring writer.
“Yes, Mr. Woo?”
“You said you’re broke, right? I think I’m gonna need a helping hand.”
At that, Baek broke down and said, “I thought I’d never see you again! I was starting to think that I wouldn’t forgive you for scaring me like that!”
Looking down at his head, Juho said, “Compliment me.”
“I said compliment me.”
Although caught off guard by Juho’s seemingly random request, Baek answered wholeheartedly, “You’re a genius, Mr. Woo.”
“No, I’m not,” Juho said emphatically. “From now on, I want you to address me as the Great Storyteller.”
“A genius just won’t do.”
Blinking awkwardly in confusion, Baek asked, “How… are they different?”
At that, a sense of emptiness washed over Juho. ‘Maybe I talked this guy up too much to the bird,’ Juho thought. The crow was a much cleverer creature. Juho grabbed Baek by the hair, and as the aspiring writer moaned in pain, the author said, “You’ll find out.”
With that, Juho closed his eyes, and for the first time in a long time, he fell sound asleep.
“What would you like for lunch?”
“Anything’s fine,” Juho said from his bed.
Several weeks had passed since Juho had returned home.
“Why am I not surprised? I’ll make sure to bring something you’d like,” Baek said. As an affirmative gesture, Juho waved his hand.
“You like the book, Mr. Woo?”
“Yes,” Juho said as he turned the page. While recovering on bedrest, Juho had been spending most of his time reading.
“You must really like reading your own books,” Baek said, intrigued, and Juho nodded.
“They’re good books.”
“Do you get impressed by your own writing?”
“If you read my books, you know. I’m the Great Storyteller.”
Unable to think of a response, Baek smacked his lips.
“Do you ever come across anything you wish you could change?”
“Yet, you still like reading them? That doesn’t bother you?”
“Being able to see something that you were blind to at one point is a wonderful thing.”
Impressed, Baek let out a long exclamation. Checking the title of the book in Juho’s hands, the aspiring writer asked, “Oh! ‘Treasure Trove!’ You released it five years ago! That’s a good one.”
“That’s right,” Juho replied
“Didn’t you say that one of the characters was based on a real person? Who was it…”
“Somebody from my old school.”
“Ah, yes! You said you named the book after her, right?” Baek asked. Then, scratching his head, he added, “Honestly, once I put myself in her shoes and I thought I would’ve been offended by the title.”
“Because it’s such a depressing book. A trove storing the treasures of the dead. I’ve always thought that gems were meant to shine. I didn’t realize there was a way to make one seem like that much of a depressing object.”
Smiling, Juho nodded. When he had visited Bo Suk in order to ask for her permission to name the book after her name, she had asked, “… Did I do something wrong?”
“She let me name the book after her, but she had one condition.”
“That she’d get all of my belongings if I died within five years of the book’s release.”
Baek’s jaw dropped open.
“What?” Juho asked nonchalantly.
“I mean, what about your family?”
“I have no wife nor kids, and my parents always tell me that my manuscripts are the last things they want. If anybody were to take them, I figured she would be just the right person. I still have the stories that I wrote when I was in high school.”
“Really? That’s it?” Baek asked as if at a loss for words.
“Something told me that if I gave my manuscripts to Bo Suk, that would bail me out of trouble in the future.”
“What kind of analogy is that? Have you done anything illegal, Mr. Woo?”
Juho burst into laughter. Death was far from illegal.
“Well, I’m alive and well, so that’s good, right?”
At that moment, the sound of knocking came from the door. Lately, there had been waves of visitors coming in and out of the house. Well acquainted with those visitors, Baek rose from his seat and walked out of the room in order to open the door. Meanwhile, Juho remained in bed, reading. Soon, a confident set of footsteps could be heard approaching.
As Bo Suk walked into the room, Juho sat up on his bed. The bag on her shoulder looked quite hefty.
“Been a while.”
“Whew! Traveling to another country is always exhausting. I flew in as soon as I heard about you,” she said with an innocent smile. She was now a seasoned reporter with a significant number of subordinates.
“How are you feeling?”
“Not too bad. Gives me an excuse to be lazy.”
“You’re not young anymore, so don’t do anything too extreme, all right?”
“Accidents don’t come with warning signs.”
“Was it really an accident?” Bo Suk asked with a sad look.
“It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?”
“C’mon, Juho. For how many years have we known each other now? You’re not exactly the most daring type.”
“I didn’t realize we were having an interview?”
“Of course, not! Besides, I’m in the politics department, so I have no business writing about you.”
Smiling, Juho looked up at the ceiling and said, “Remember what you said to me when you let me name that book after you?”
“Well, it’s been five years since then, and I’m still here. So…”
As Bo Suk stared at Juho quietly, Baek came in with a couple of cups of teas. Clicking her tongue, Bo Suk said, “Ugh, I hate these.”
“I didn’t even ask him to bring anything. He’s an interesting one, don’t you think?”
“Don’t worry, I can always drink it,” Baek said, unfazed, drinking her tea. With dark liquid around his lips, the aspiring writer asked, “So, what would you like?”
“… Green tea, please.”
“All right. I boiled a lot of water, so it’ll only be a minute.”
After Baek left the room, Bo Suk asked, “Is he really your pupil?”
“He’s more like a hired hand.”
“You might wanna find somebody who actually knows what they’re doing.”
“He’s a pretty decent writer,” Juho said, tossing about in his bed in order to sit up straight and drink the tea. Although it was much more bitter than he remembered, it wasn’t too terrible.
“So, about the accident you were in recently. Are you sure it wasn’t…”
“It wasn’t a suicide attempt. Don’t worry.”
“Then, what was it?”
‘I came back from the dead, but I couldn’t accept that I was given a second chance, so I was brought to the brink of death. I tried to undo my past.’ If Juho were to tell her any of those things, he would end locked up in a hospital all over again. Rubbing his stomach, Juho said, “I’ll tell you after I die.”
“Actually, there’s a story I finished recently by the skin of my teeth. I think it turned pretty OK.”
After a brief pause, Bo Suk gave Juho a surprised look and said, “I don’t think I’d ever heard you say that.”
“I’m confident in my work.”
Hearing that, Bo Suk’s jaw dropped open, a reaction with which Juho was well acquainted.
“What’s it about?” Bo Suk asked without hesitation.
“I’d rather you find out yourself. Read it when it comes out.”
“Is it recent?”
Spreading three of his fingers, Juho said, “Try thirty years.”
While Bo Suk blinked in confusion, the author added, “I worked on it for three decades.”
“It even made me wonder if my life turned out the way it did just so that I could write this book. Sure, it’s still not as valuable as my own life, but I’m confident that it’s going to be my masterpiece.”
At that moment, Bo Suk reached into her bag and took out a pen and a piece of paper.
“Tell me more.”
“I thought you covered politics?”
“There are plenty of people I can talk to.”
Juho had no reason not to tell her.
“I think this is the most lovable story I’ve ever written, by far.”
Then, it was night. Bo Suk had left after dinner, and Baek was sleeping in the room across from Juho’s. Changing out of his inside clothes and into his outside clothes, Juho went out. There was a full moon lighting the snowy night sky. The air felt quite cold.
There was no sound, no people, nor birds around, not even the crow that had followed him around. Juho remembered the story that he had recently finished. Although everyone else around him had been against him going back to writing so soon, writing an ending had hardly been a challenge after the accident. Young Do and Baek had also been impressed by how the story had turned out.
“I think I’ll change the last sentence.”
Juho took out a pen and a ragged piece of paper, leaned against the safety rail, and started writing. After staring intently at the sentence he had written, Juho put the paper back in his pocket and returned home unhurriedly. The snow had covered the footprints he had made on his way there, so they were no longer visible, which made it difficult for him to remember from which direction Juho had come. However, that was the least of the author’s concerns. As long as he was alive, he had the choice to go anywhere.
“What should I write next?”
The sky was still dark, and Juho couldn’t think of what to write about next.
‘I’m sure it’ll come to me eventually.’
Life was long, and morning was bound to come. Taking a deep breath, Juho shouted out the sentence he had just written on the piece of paper, “Here comes the Great Storyteller!”