Big Life

Chapter 285: You Are Leaving When They Are Applauding? (4)



“I’ll have to separate with my son here, then.”

“Why are you putting up that sad face? We’ll see each other again a few days later. Enjoy yourselves and eat lots of delicious food.”

Ha Jae-Gun went separate ways with his parents after lunch. While his parents toured China under Teencent’s guidance, Ha Jae-Gun and Park Do-Joon were going to be busy with the marketing efforts for Records of the Modern Master.

“Mr. Ha, I’ll see you again later during dinner.”

“Sure, Department Head Lin. See you later.”

As soon as Lin Minhong left, Ha Jae-Gun sat down at the end of his bed, taking a breather. He was assigned a suite room, where there was a separate living room and reception room.

It’s too extravagant for someone staying alone.’ Ha Jae-Gun shook his head. He had repeatedly told them that he didn’t need such a huge room for himself. However, Lin Minhong still could not allow himself to let Ha Jae-Gun stay in an inferior room.

”Hey, why’s the room so small?” Those were the first words from Park Do-Joon as he stepped into Ha Jae-Gun’s suite before even unpacking his bags. Feeling speechless after helping himself with the room tour, Park Do-Joon said, “It’s not even half the size of the room that Tae-Bong hyung and I are sharing.”

“I’m staying alone after all. And how is this small? I think it could fit ten of the studio room I used to live in.”

“Forget about the room size. Let’s go out.”

“Where are we going?”

Woo Tae-Bong stuck his head into the room through the door on tip-toe and said, “Would you like to take a look at Central Beijing? We have quite some time to spare until dinner, so let’s take a walk together.”

“Tae-Bong hyung, I’m sorry, but please go ahead with Park Do-Joon. I’d like to spend time alone on my first day watching some movies.”

Park Do-Joon and Woo Tae-Bong looked at each other. After exchanging glances, Woo Tae-Bong nodded and said, “We won’t go out either, then. We'll nap until it’s time for dinner.”

”Please don’t do that if it’s because of me.”

“No, we were on the fence as well. I think I got too nervous about taking a private jet just to come here, so I’m feeling kind of exhausted now. Please rest then, Writer Ha.”

Woo Tae-Bong returned to his room while Park Do-Joon stayed back. Plopping onto the bed, Park Do-Joon stared at the chandelier hanging on the ceiling and grumbled, “Aish, I wanted to check it out myself.”

“What?”

“I wanted to see the city painted with Records of the Modern Master!” Park Do-Joon opened his arms wide into the air as if wanting to embrace the world. “I wanted to see the streets lined with advertisements of Records of the Modern Master, hear people talk about it, talk about Jin Cheon-Wi, and talk about the world’s top star Park Do-Joon. I wanted to bask in the attention!”

Ha Jae-Gun sat down at the table in the reception room and smiled.

Regardless, Park Do-Joon continued with his fantasy. “Imagine you and me walking down the streets of Beijing, entering a cafe nearby because we wanted to rest our legs. We go and sit down at the table after ordering our drinks, and the people nearby are suddenly murmuring, ‘Hey, look at them. Isn’t he the main lead of Records of the Modern Master? Oh my, I’m right. He looks like Park Do-Joon.’”

“You can understand that level of Mandarin?”

Ah, seriously. Imagine that we have an interpreter with us. Why must you cut off the flow with such insignificant details?”

“All right, I’m sorry. Go on.”

“Where did I stop? All right, so they'll approach me and ask me questions in bad English, asking if I’m really Park Do-Joon. I’ll smile shyly while nodding, and chaos will erupt in the cafe. Kya, cheers are all over.

"Then, they'll post the encounter on social media, prompting more and more people to come rushing into the cafe. How can we compare the scale of Korea to China? If we want to escape the cafe, we’d need the power of the government to get us out of that situation.”

Ha Jae-Gun stopped taking his pen and notepad from his bag to give a round of applause to Park Do-Joon.

How much effort had he put in for Records of the Modern Master? Thinking of the hard work Park Do-Joon had put in, Ha Jae-Gun would definitely have to listen to his fantasies all night long.

“But no one would ask you for your autograph, as most of them wouldn’t know what you look like. Then, I’ll whisper to you in a condescending tone of voice, ‘See this, Ha Jae-Gun? This is my level of popularity as the world’s top star. Do you finally understand the difference between us?’ Something like that.” Park Do-Joon burst into laughter, clapping for himself.

However, he soon snapped his fingers and sighed in disappointment.

“Gosh, we should really be going out and experiencing this today.”

“If you really want to, let’s go now. I’ll let you fulfill your fantasy.”

“Forget it. You look like you’re about to work on your novel now, anyway. I’ll stop disturbing you and head back to my room.” Park Do-Joon got up, trudging over to Ha Jae-Gun and stopping behind him. Looking down at the table, Park Do-Joon spotted a notepad and fountain pen.

“Didn't Yang Ying give you an expensive fountain pen? Where did that go?”

“I gave it to my father. I have no use for it, anyway.”

“Why not? You’re using a fountain pen right now.”

Ha Jae-Gun picked up Seo Gun-Woo’s fountain pen and smiled. “I just felt like stories flow better when I’m using this pen to write them. I’ve been used to this pen for a much longer time, too.”

“So it has a sentimental value.” Park Do-Joon then laid his eyes on the notepad. The title Great Life

caught his eyes, and he muttered, “Big Life.”

“Huh?”

“It’d be called Big Life in English, wouldn't it?”

“Yeah, that’s right.”

“I’m not sure what kind of story it is, but it’s going to be published all across the globe, right? Then just fix the title as Big Life. Remember to write this on the front when it’s published: I’m thankful to Park Do-Joon, who came up with this title.”

“I’m not sure if it’ll even be completed.”

“Anyway, I’m tired now, so I’ll go take a nap.” Park Do-Joon stretched side to side, and then he turned around to leave. Before he left the room, he added, “I think someone of great importance will appear at the dinner table later.”

“Great importance? Like?”

“Someone who could let both of us take the free pass into China without going through the usual immigration route.”

“And here I am wondering what else you were talking about. Just leave and take your nap already.”

The room returned to its usual silence upon Park Do-Joon's departure.

Ha Jae-Gun opened the notepad with the old fountain pen in hand. He forgot all those distracting thoughts in his mind, including the dinner later. The only thing he had in mind now was Seo Gun-Woo’s Great Life, which had a blank space waiting for him to fill.

***

Kwon Sung-Deuk was sitting alone at the end of a long communal bar in the large lounge of the hotel lobby. A steady stream of guests walked past him. The cocktail he had ordered had already melted, but he had yet to take even a sip from it.

“Is there still no news?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Damn it. What’s taking so long?” Kwon Sung-Deuk muttered as he raised his wrist, checking the time, which he had already checked earlier.

Beside him, his aide only clicked his tongue disapprovingly silently. Strictly speaking, the assemblyman had come without making an appointment, so it was not his place to complain when the other party arrived late.

I feel sorry for Sung-Deuk[1]. His honor as the fourth-term assemblyman is all crumpled. Aigoo, how pathetic,’ the aide sneered in his heart.

Just then, Kwon Sung-Deuk whipped around to stare at the aide.

The aide hiccuped from surprise.

“I must meet him…!”

“Sorry? Hicc, ah, yes sir.”

“I must be at the forefront of the establishment of cultural diplomatic ties between Korea and China. I’m not sure when the next opportunity will come if I don’t meet Wu Dawang today. This will solidify my political career if this goes well.”

“You are absolutely right.”

“There’s no need to play hard to get when politics are the same everywhere. A fourth-term assemblyman had come all the way to China to meet him, so there's no way he'll reject me. He'll at least understand a quarter of my intentions, which is in the best interest of the nation.”

However, his aide could not close one eye and unilaterally agree with Kwon Sung-Deuk because his conscience didn't allow him to do so.

The time to promote the commemoration of the cultural relationship between Korea and China was next year. It wouldn't be a meaningless event but a project that would benefit both parties, and it would start from a Korea-China joint investment content business venture.

And Assemblyman Kwon Sung-Deuk, member of the C.B.C., was eyeing that very situation. He was planning to use it to solidify his own political position and also to gain more wealth.

As long as I can successfully get them to sign a contract with Dao Technologies’ subsidiary…!’ The thought of becoming a king successfully lying in the middle of the nation’s treasury made Kwon Sung-Deuk grin. His insidious smile remained until two men sat across from him.

“Let’s go somewhere else, Jae-Gun.”

“Yeah.”

Both Ha Jae-Gun and Park Do-Joon were about to stand up, but they were discovered by Kwon Sung-Deuk before they could stand up. Kwon Sung-Deuk stared wide-eyed at them.

“You guys… why are you here?”

Ha Jae-Gun only nodded politely with an expressionless look. Park Do-Joon did not even give a response.

Kwon Sung-Deuk concealed his unpleasantness and calmly said, “Ah, I read the news on the way here. You’re here because of the opening for the movie—Records of the Modern Master?”

“…”

“Are you staying at this hotel? But this hotel is um—Our Writer Ha should maintain his humble image to the public. Why did you stay here? Aren’t you afraid that the netizens will say that you’re disgracing the country?” Kwon Sung-Deuk reproached while shaking his head with a sarcastic smile.

Ha Jae-Gun quietly held back Park Do-Joon, who was obviously getting angry by the minute, and replied, “I did not arrange for this hotel; it was decided upon by the company.”

“Oh, is that so? Well, I don’t think that really matters.”

“At least I’m not spending taxpayer’s money on this, so I think I don’t have to worry.”

“…?!” Feeling an arrow had been fired at him, Kwon Sung-Deuk glared at Ha Jae-Gun. There was no way he would be unaware of the ridicule directed at him under the most polite tone. He clenched both fists tightly, almost on the verge of slamming them on the bar table.

Just then…

“Assemblyman, he’s just arrived.”

“Really? Keugh… Look here, Writer Ha. I’m busy with official business so I’ll have to excuse myself first. I’ll see you again.” Kwon Sung-Deuk then followed his aide and interpreter out of the bar.

An entourage of Chinese was seen entering the hotel’s main entrance. Kwon Sung-Deuk’s target was a short skinny man, walking alongside Liu Bao, the head of the Central Publicity Department.

Kwon Sung-Deuk strode over to them. With hands gathered before his chest and surprise painted over his face, Kwon Sung-Deuk greeted, “Oh, I didn’t expect to see you here. I’m Kwon Sung-Deuk, an assemblyman from Korea. I never expect to see you and Mr. Liu Bao here.”

Kwon Sung-Deuk signaled his interpreter as soon as he finished speaking. The stunned man smiled gently and replied in Mandarin. Then, he reached out for a handshake.

Kwon Sung-Deuk thought things were going well and reached to shake his hands gratefully.

“I’m really glad to meet you here. Since we’ve made acquaintances, why don’t we go somewhere to quietly discuss the promotion of interests of both countries—Hmm?

Before Kwon Sung-Deuk could finish talking, the other party let go of his hand and walked away.

Even Liu Bao responded with an apologetic smile and followed after the man like a dog chasing after a chicken.

Kwon Sung-Deuk was dumbfounded, and he turned to his interpreter, asking, “What did Wu Dawang say just now?”

“He apologized, saying that he has a tight schedule today and said it’d be best to meet officially next time to discuss things…”

Kwon Sung-Deuk’s face turned pale.

“He said that earlier?”

“Yes, he said there’s an important guest here waiting for him.”

“What does that mean? A-an important guest? Am I unable to become that important guest?”

The unpleasantness he felt back at the airport pervaded Kwon Sung-Deuk once more. He was supposed to be always in the center of attention but he’d become the side character ever since he stepped into China.

Wait…?!’ The answer to his question was soon answered.

Ha Jae-Gun came out into the lounge. Not just with Park Do-Joon, but with a few Chinese people as well. Seeing how he was enjoying the conversation with Liu Bao, Kwon Sung-Deuk felt like his blood was flowing in the opposite direction.

“Wu Dawang… Why would Wu Dawang?” Kwon Sung-Deuk couldn't find an answer to the question that he had asked himself. However, he ought to have noticed it from the free pass incident at the airport. His aide and interpreter supported him on both sides as he lost his balance.

***

“The level of censorship is up to the reader…”

On the way back, the man in his sixties looked out the window of the running car, recalling what Ha Jae-Gun had said over dinner earlier. He had been introduced as a content industry technician named Han Sanping, but his real name was Wu Dawang.

“It’s a topic that’s sensitive to discuss for a communist.”

“That’s what Writer Ha Jae-Gun had said earlier, Standing Committee Comrade. The two countries have completely different perspectives on culture.”

Wu Dawang met Ha Jae-Gun and had an extensive discussion with Ha Jae-Gun on their views on culture. Whenever he asked a question, Ha Jae-Gun would express his opinion with confidence albeit with a shy tone. Wu Dawang was relatively satisfied with Ha Jae-Gun’s attitude of "saying what you have to say anytime, anywhere."

“But it’s not wrong either, Head of the Central Publicity Department.” Wu Dawang cast his gaze downward. On his lap were a few books—from Foolish Woman to The Malice. Those were clearly worn out, as he had read them cover to cover many times before. He had brought them along to get Ha Jae-Gun’s autograph.

“I thought that we didn’t need Korea’s content.”

“…?”

“Look… just look at how big our population is. Even if a small country like Korea did produce good content, how far could they go? And even if we went ahead with a joint-investment project, how effective would it actually be?

"I’m actually quite suspicious of the projected numbers. We’d be losing out, in fact. Didn’t you have the same thoughts as I did?”

“Yes, I did think that way as well.” Liu Bao nodded.

The two men were addressing each other as "comrade," but it was just a superficial way of addressing each other. Wu Dawang was on another level compared to Liu Bao.

Wu Dawang directed his gaze away from the window and said, “But I think my thoughts were wrong. I think it’s time for China's content industry to focus more on quality than quantity.”

“Yes… I understand what you’re saying.”

Wu Dawang pulled out his pen and notepad, planning to write down the words Ha Jae-Gun had said earlier. As he opened the first page of the notepad, he asked Liu Bao casually, “You may omit the address of comrade Hwang Baiming from today on.”

“…?!”

Liu Bao’s jaws dropped. It was a title that was commonly used amongst party members, but Wu Dawang’s instructions meant that there was a severe punishment coming up.

“That man is Kwon Sung-Deuk’s inside man in China. Do you regard him as your comrade?”

“O-of course…! Of course not, Standing Committee Comrade!”

“Were you aware?”

“N-no way! I can swear that I… I have no idea about this at all! T-t-this is my first time hearing about it…!”

“I’m sure. Now let me write down Writer Ha’s words in silence,” Wu Dawang replied. Then, he wrote down Ha Jae-Gun's words with a poker face.

Meanwhile, Liu Bao sat upright next to the older man, unable to let out a single breath.

1. It was referred to here as ‘our Sung-Deuk’, an informal way of addressing someone older. In this case, you can see it as this person is either very close to his superior or just disrespectful. ☜


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