The Great Storyteller Chapter 361
Chapter 361 Yun Woos Translator 3
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
‘Should I?’ Seo Kwang asked himself. After glaring at the bottle of soju for ten minutes, he reached into the refrigerator with shaky hands and grasped the cold, rigid surface of the bottle. He couldn’t remember the last time he had been that nervous before drinking. When he’d been invited to his first official outing as a college student, Seo Kwang remembered having to take care of his naive classmates after they had passed out from having had too much to drink at once. The glares of the upperclassmen from back then were still vivid in Seo Kwang’s memory. Then, as Seo Kwang made up his mind and picked up the bottle, his phone started ringing.
It was a text from Sun Hwa inviting him to a gathering with their old Literature Club members, which, needless to say, involved alcohol. Since Seo Kwang had turned it down once, she seemed to be expecting the same response from him that time.
“You’re preparing for that translation contest, aren’t you?”
“Why ask if you already know?”
“Oh, you know. Just out of courtesy.”
Then, another message came from Sun Hwa, which turned out to be a picture message that time: a picture of all of their former Literature Club members enjoying themselves, with Baron sitting in the middle. It looked nothing like where Seo Kwang was, where it was filled with loneliness. Feeling provoked, Seo Kwang wrote an angry reply:
“I’m drinking too!”
Breathing slowly, Seo Kwang opened the bottle and gently placed it in front of himself, sniffing it. It wasn’t exactly the most pleasant smell. The sound of the third hand of the clock was the only thing keeping the place from sinking into complete silence. Just like that, thirty seconds had passed. Then, while his heart was still thumping, Seo Kwang took a deep breath, opened his mouth, and took a big gulp from the bottle. His neck moved unnaturally, and his throat felt cold initially, but that feeling was soon followed by a burning sensation. Fifteen seconds and half a bottle later, Seo Kwang exhaled, spreading his arms out sideways to try to balance himself.
“I hope I didn’t do anything stupid. Wait, I’m not crossing the point of no return, am I?”
An empty page on the screen of his laptop came into view, which showed the progress of his application for the translation contest. He couldn’t afford to waste any more time. Breathing in, he guzzled down what was left of the liquid in the bottle and slammed it down on the table. The bottle made a loud clanging sound as the bottom hit the surface of the table. After initially considering going for a second bottle, Seo Kwang quickly gave up on the idea as he was terrified of the possible consequences.
“There’s no going back now. C’mon, anytime now. Let’s see it. Just show me something.”
The third hand kept moving. After sitting down for a little while, Seo Kwang rose from his seat and started roaming around the store, hoping that walking around would help him see something. However, no matter how many times he walked around the store, nothing happened.
“This is getting boring.”
In the end, Seo Kwang picked up his phone and dialed the number of a certain person, who answered almost immediately and with a calm tone of voice, “Yeah?”
For some reason, Seo Kwang burst into laughter at the sound of his friend’s serene voice.
“Did you drink?” Juho asked, catching on to Seo Kwang’s state almost instantly. Although not a drinker, Juho seemed to have the nose of one.
“I sure did.”
“Are you with Sun Hwa?”
“Nope! I’m all by myself.”
“You sound miserable.”
“I just can’t seem to make any progress on the translation!”
“And that’s why you got drunk? I thought you’d know better,” Juho said, sounding as if he found Seo Kwang’s logic absurd. By contrast, Seo Kwang was in high spirits. When he proudly told Juho how much he had had to drink, Juho replied, “You mean you drank the entire bottle in thirty seconds!?”
Elated by Juho’s flabbergasted remark, Seo Kwang said, “Now, I’m a fish without gills.”
“No, I’m not. I swear,” Seo Kwang said, feeling as though nothing had changed. “I feel perfectly normal. I don’t see no fantasy. I’m tellin ya’, alcohol is always the culprit! At this rate, I can probably drink another seven bottles.”
“You do realize that you’re speaking English, right?”
Ignoring Juho’s remark, Seo Kwang looked around. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. He didn’t see a single fish, let alone bubbles or a fish bowl. He was sitting at a table with an empty bottle in an empty bookstore. Meanwhile, the page on the laptop screen remained empty.
“Well, I guess I drank for no reason. I might as well go back to translating.”
“You’re drunk. How can you possibly translate anything? Go to bed.”
“Man, I told you! I’m not drunk!”
Then, tossing his phone to one side, Seo Kwang made himself comfortable, still in high spirits, remembering how fun translating was and how privileged he was that he got to translate Yun Woo’s writing.
“I fear nothing! Nothing scares me! I’m invincible!”
“Alcohol will do that to ya.”
“Yun Woo? Pff. What’s so great about him?”
The air grew silent. At which point, Seo Kwang started to feel lonely.
“What do you think it means to translate something?” Seo Kwang asked, changing the subject.
“If I’m translating your writing, does that mean I’m you at that moment?”
The response coming from the receiver was of little importance. Completely ignoring Juho’s replies, Seo Kwang kept on, “If I became Yun Woo and wrote, don’t you think I’d be able to come up with THE best translation? But nooo. That wouldn’t be possible. At the end of the day, I am me, and that’ll never change. Oh, wait. You can, though, can’t you? You can translate your own work, right? Why aren’t you? I don’t get you sometimes. Wait, what should I be doing, then?”
Then, Seo Kwang leaned back on the chair. As he loosened up his neck, his head fell back. His eyes were hurting from looking directly at the fluorescent light on the ceiling, Seo Kwang closed his eyes. Although the white beam of light was still visible, there was still no fish. He was also able to breathe normally, which reminded him that he wasn’t in water.
“I wonder what you’re seeing right now. I don’t care if it’s just for one second, I’d love to see it for myself,” he said. Although rare, there had been times when Seo Kwang had felt as though he had become one with the author while translating. It became especially more apparent when working on a book written by an author who was no longer around. While a part of him felt shameless, another part of him felt like he had borrowed or stolen from another person, especially when he found himself thinking: ‘I wrote this.’
“A fish without gills. It dies. It can’t live in the water anymore. The protagonist struggles in the river as they drown slowly. A story about death, and Yun Woo,” Seo Kwang murmured.
As Juho’s voice started fading into the distance, Seo Kwang felt something clogging up his nose, forcing him to have to breathe through his mouth. Whenever he breathed in and out, he felt his lungs expand and shrink. When he exhaled deeply, something started choking him.
“Hey! Are you OK?”
At that moment, Seo Kwang vomited out what seemed like a white pearl. When he picked it up, it was sticky to the touch.
“It’s an eye.”
“It’s your eyeball.”
Looking at an eye that he knew very well, Seo Kwang became curious as to how that eye would see him. He listed all of the books written by his friend, which took about thirty seconds. After that, the air sank into silence yet again.
“Eh, I don’t know anymore,” Seo Kwang said, putting what looked like an eyeball into his mouth. It tasted sweet. “All I know is that you’re alive,” he added. When he bit into it with force, the ball shattered into pieces. “So, what does it mean to translate? Eh, who cares? I’m just gonna do it. You just wait. I’m coming right now.”
With that and before Seo Kwang realized it, darkness engulfed the aspiring translator.
“Ugh! You just drive me crazy sometimes.”
“Mom, please. My head is ringing.”
Looking unwell, Seo Kwang drank his honey water. Because he was drinking it right after waking up, it seemed forced. Feeling queasy, he felt as though the entire world was spinning. At that moment…
a voice asked Seo Kwang. When he looked toward where it had come from, a familiar face came into view.
“Why are you here?”
It was Yun Woo. Yun Woo was in his room. Seeing as though he looked clean, he seemed to have just washed up. Chuckling at the dumbfounded look on Seo Kwang’s face, Juho massaged his own shoulder and said, “Thank me later.”
The night prior, hearing Seo Kwang snoring on the phone, Juho had made haste to the book cafe. When the young author had arrived, he had been greeted by Seo Kwang’s mother, who had welcomed him with an embarrassed look on her face. Because it had been late, Juho had spent the night at Seo Kwang’s house, trying to sleep through Seo Kwang, who had kept trying to wake Juho up, moaning.
“Do you remember anything?”
“No, nothing,” Seo Kwang said in a hopelessly cracked voice, clasping his head. Then, upon checking his phone, he asked, “Did I call you?”
“‘Cause you were drunk.”
At that, Seo Kwang let out a deep sigh and said, “I feel like throwing up.”
“That’s what you get for drinking so much. You gotta take care of your health while you still have it.”
“Can you lower your voice? My head is ringing,” Seo Kwang said in a serious tone of voice. However, Juho couldn’t resist his urge to chuckle at the sight of his hungover friend.
“What did I say last night?” Seo Kwang asked cautiously. Looking down at him, Juho replied, “What do you think you said?”
“Did I beg for a hint?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did I beg you to pick me?”
“Or did I cry for help?”
“Man! Say something! I’ll throw up on you. I’m gonna do it!” Seo Kwang said, threatening Juho only to gag and cover his mouth.
“It wasn’t anything like that.”
“You listed every single one of my books from A to Z.”
After a brief thought, Juho replied, “Who knows.”
At that, Seo Kwang let out a deep sigh yet again and said, “I’ll never drink again,” rubbing his stomach while looking deathly pale.
Looking at her son, Seo Kwang’s mother clicked her tongue and said, “You just had to learn the hard way. I’m making some soup, so you two wait here. You should join us for breakfast, Juho.”
Meanwhile, Seo Kwang remained silent, admitting to his folly.
“I wanted to finish translating that sample today.”
“In the state you’re in? Good luck.”
“I don’t think I can look at anything right now, let alone words.”
“Alcohol is such a powerful thing, ain’t it? It even seems to cure the most severe case of book addiction.”
“I’m serious. I can’t see anything,” Seo Kwang murmured, adding, “I’m never doing this again. Otherwise, I’ll be an animal.” Then, he clasped his head, fell backward and said, “But I do feel kind of relieved.”
“And your stomach?”
“It’s filled with vomit, thanks for asking.”
In the end, Seo Kwang spent the entire day not doing anything. There was no progress made that day.
“Alcohol definitely isn’t the way to go.”
The next day, once Seo Kwang situated himself in the corner of the cafe, he was forced to greet the unwelcome guest yet again.
“Hello,” the guest said, walking toward Seo Kwang.
“You still alive there? You do seem a little better,” the guest said, looking serene.
“What brings you here?”
“I came for some coffee.”
“This isn’t the only cafe in Korea, you know.”
“Of course, it is! This is the only cafe that carries Mrs. Kim’s coffee.”
At that, cheerful laughter came from the distance. However, Seo Kwang had no time to waste. As he closed his laptop in a hurry, Juho turned around, paying no attention to it.
“Where are you going?” Seo Kwang asked, and Juho answered, puzzled, “To look at books.”
Then, Juho looked through the books carefully. Staring intently at him, Seo Kwang asked, “You’re here to make fun of me, aren’t you?”
Seo Kwang smacked his lips and cautiously opened his laptop again, though it wouldn’t be visible to Juho. When Seo Kwang glanced toward Juho, his author friend seemed to take no interest in what Seo Kwang was up to.
“I don’t have time to hang out with you today,” Seo Kwang said for no apparent reason.
“I never asked you to.”
“Don’t talk to me, all right? This is payback for you being a pain in the butt when we were in the Literature Club.”
“Now, when did I ever do that?”
Without even bothering to give an answer, Seo Kwang buried his head in his laptop. Although his hands moved busily, both Seo Kwang and Juho were fully aware that it was just for show. Meanwhile, Juho quietly opened a book and immersed himself in it.
As Juho remained quiet, Seo Kwang kicked him in the shin and called to him once again.
“What should I do?”
Redirecting his attention to his book, Juho said, “I’m holding that contest so that I can find a good translator with whom I can work.”
In other words, Juho was saying that he wasn’t going to offer any help to his friend.
“Man, then, what are you doing here!? You’re just making me uneasy!”
“I mean, I can come as a customer whenever I want, right?”
At that, Seo Kwang quickly realized that his author friend was visiting just to poke fun at him. With a smile, Juho asked, “Need some help?”
Gritting his teeth, Seo Kwang said irritably, “Man, get outta here!”
As Juho smiled provokingly, Seo Kwang glared piercingly into the screen of his laptop for no apparent reason. Just like that, an hour passed, and Seo Kwang dropped his head on the table.
“What is it?” Juho asked, and Seo Kwang answered weakly, “I’m taking a break.”
“OK,” Juho replied nonchalantly, flipping to the next page on his book.
Then, a moan came out of nowhere. Looking toward his friend, Juho asked, “You want me to guess what you’re thinking right now?”
“Since when are you a psychic?”
“You’re afraid that you’ll fail.”
At that, Seo Kwang jumped from his seat.
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