The Great Storyteller Chapter 294
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
It was chaos. Everything was happening all at once. The flashes were going off at the front, while the crowd was shouting from both sides. On top of that, right behind Juho, was a banner with his face on it. It was in a foreign setting like that that the young author was meeting his readers and signing autographs.
“I baked these cookies myself.”
“Thank you very much,” Juho said, thanking the reader who handed him a well-decorated bundle. Wrapped in clear plastic wrapping, the cookies were quite delicious. Unfortunately, there was no time for distractions. There was a massive group of people standing before his eyes, claiming that they had read his book.
“Could we shake hands?”
“Of course! Why not?” Juho said, looking at the reader who was clearly nervous. Hoping that his hand would get warmer before he shook the reader’s hand, Juho balled his hand into a fist. Then, when they shook hands, the young author was reminded of just how cold his hand was when compared to the reader’s. Realizing that his attempt to warm his hand up had been useless, a subtle smile appeared on the young author’s face. Then, looking thrilled to meet him, the reader started raving about Alexandria.
“It was such a good book!”
“You think so?”
“Absolutely! I couldn’t stop laughing!”
With that, Juho handed the book back to the reader with his autograph, and Nam Kyung, who was sitting next to him, opened and handed him yet another book. As soon as Juho signed an autograph, another request came in immediately after. It felt endless. The different names on the sticky notes were all written in different handwriting, reminding the young author that there were all sorts of people reading his books.
“I’ve been reading your books since ‘Trace of a Bird,’ since you were in high school!” a reader, who appeared to be a university student, said.
“Have you now? Were there any books that you didn’t like?” Juho asked, and the reader waved their hand in denial, saying, “Oh, no! I loved every single one of them, seriously!”
The reader’s emphatic tone made them sound like they were trying to prove their innocence. Nevertheless, Juho believed them and smiled. Besides, there wasn’t much of a choice in the matter.
“It’s a pleasure.”
“Oh, no. The pleasure’s mine! Please, do this more regularly! I’ll bring all of my friends along, even it means having to skip class.”
“Speaking of which, there’s this friend of mine who always skips his first morning class. He’s not even here at the signing either.”
“Oh, is this one of your friends from the Literature Club?”
“Yes, it’s one of them.”
The reader seemed to have watched the interview. Then, after a brief photo session, Juho moved on to the next book. After a reader went about their way, another reader came and stood in front of the table.
“Hello,” a young voice greeted the young author. Judging from the voice alone, the reader seemed like they were yet to have reached puberty. When Juho looked up, he saw a child whose height only reached up to his waist. Appearing to be an elementary student, the child had to be the youngest reader up to that point.
“Where are you from?” Juho asked.
With their buck teeth and big, wide eyes behind their green, horn-rimmed glasses, the young reader had quite a distinct appearance.
“Was it hard waiting in line?”
“It was OK,” the child responded maturely. With that, one of the staff members led the child to a chair next to the young author. As they sat next to Juho, the child appeared to be quite nervous, looking back and forth between the group of reporters and the crowd of fans.
“You’re here with your parents, right?”
“Yes. I pestered them to bring me here.”
The child waited patiently for the book. However, just like all the other readers up to that point, they had a hard time asking for something from the young author.
“Can we shake hands?”
The child seemed to be shaking hands with another person for the first time, and their tense hand was proof of that. As Juho took the initiative to shake it up and down, the child’s hand also moved along with his. Then, a man who seemed to be the child’s father appeared and took a picture with them.
“Do you like Yun Woo?” Nam Kyung asked the child.
“Hm. Yes, I do,” the child said. Their hesitation made their answer sound more honest. Then, as if entertained by the child’s response, the editor asked another question, “Which book did you read?”
“All of them. I read this one while I was waiting in line.”
“Wow! How was it? Did you like it?”
“Yes. I liked that there were kids my age in the book.”
There was a sense of pride in the young reader’s tone. Then, in high spirits and still somewhat nervous, the child flung their arms in the air in an exaggerated manner, saying, “It felt like Alexandria was swearing and smiling at the same time.”
“Wow! How’s that for an interpretation? You really read the book in depth, huh?” Nam Kyung said, smiling like the employees, the manager, and the spectators around them. Meanwhile, upon hearing the young reader’s description of the book, Juho immersed himself in thought, asking himself, ‘I wonder if everything got across the way I intended?’
“You know, I was hoping that her smile became the insult.”
At the end of the day, to insult somebody with a smile on one’s face didn’t make the insult any less offensive. In fact, if a smile was a means of insulting another person, all one had to do in order to insult somebody was to simply smile at them. Juho hoped that the readers would interpret Alexandria’s smile in that way. Unfortunately, it seemed like it could have been executed better.
“But I still like One more than Alexandria.”
“You mean from ‘Language of God?’ You must have really liked that book, huh?”
“Yes. I loved it.”
“You mean you’ve read the whole thing? That’s impressive.”
“I told you. I read all of his books,” the child said, slightly irritated by Nam Kyung’s look of surprise. The child had strength and time left to use elsewhere, and the child had chosen to spend it reading Juho’s books. On top of that, the young reader didn’t seem to regret their decision either. Then, as the young author handed the book over to them, the child said just as politely as when they first stood in front of Juho, “Bye-bye.”
Juho saw the child reuniting with their mother, who had stayed back, waiting the child’s return. Again, there was no time to do or look at anything else as Nam Kyung handed him another book.
“Hello,” a clear sounding voice said. That time, the reader was significantly more muscular, particularly his arms.
“Oh, and this too,” the reader said, handing something to Nam Kyung. Along with Alexandria, the reader had brought more books: ‘The Beginning and the End,’ and ‘River.’ However, before the books even reached Nam Kyung, an employee intervened, saying, “I’m sorry, sir. One book per person.”
Caught off guard by that, a confused look appeared on the muscular reader’s face. Then, just as he was about to take the books back, Juho stopped him and said, “It’s fine. I’ll sign them. It’s not a problem.”
Despite the reader, who was hopelessly confused, the young author signed them without complaint, as a way to express his gratitude for the reader coming out to the event. Knowing that his fans had gone through the trouble of coming to the signing, Juho simply couldn’t turn down a fan’s request.
“‘River’ changed my life,” the reader said, that time in a heavy voice.
“A book is a book. You’re the one who has to make the change at the end of the day, and I find it admirable that you did.”
Although Juho had no idea of what kind of change the reader had made in his life or how he went about changing it, the young author was impressed nonetheless. There existed in this world those who believed that people could never change, and needless to say, there were also authors who wrote about that. At that moment, the reader reached into his pockets and took something out, which looked like a letter.
“I’m not the most eloquent person, but that book really has a special place in my heart.”
With that, the reader walked away before Juho even had time to say anything in response, leaving only the letter behind. He must have thought that the letter would speak on its own. After Juho put the letter in his pocket, he signed about fifty more autographs. Yet, there was still a ways to go.
“Mr. Woo, I’m a fan!” another reader said, reaching out for a handshake. Although Juho had heard the same remarks dozens of times, he wasn’t getting sick of them. They all sounded completely different. That time, the reader’s hand was blunt and squishy. Looking up following the arm, Juho saw an older man wearing a beret, who declined Juho’s offer to sit.
“You write great books, Mr. Woo.”
“Thank you. I’m so glad to hear that you like them,” Juho said, checking the man’s name on the book, which was written in Chinese. The reader seemed to want his name to be written in Chinese characters. Then, looking at the young author as if saying, ‘I trust you,’ Nam Kyung handed the book over to Juho, and just as the editor had expected, Juho had no trouble with reading and writing those characters.
“This is Mandarin, isn’t it?”
“Do you recognize it? I lived in China when I was young.”
The reader didn’t get into any details, and neither did Juho try to pry it out of him. Instead, the young author wrote the characters that had defined the old man’s life up to that point with intention. Meanwhile, the reader stood quietly, and the noise from the surroundings occupied the silence.
“Here you go, sir. Did I write everything correctly?”
“Yes. I knew you’d sign it without asking questions.”
With that, the old reader lifted his beret slightly and walked away unhurriedly. The book in his hand would listen to the old man’s life story on the young author’s behalf, even at night when the old man was sound asleep. Thinking about his books on his readers’ bookshelves, Juho felt a sudden spurt of energy.
“Should we take a quick break?” Nam Kyung asked. “What did I tell you? There’s not even time to drink water, huh?”
“Yeah. You were definitely right about that,” Juho said, rotating his wrist. Then, another reader stepped forward.
“He looks a lot more” the reader murmured. Juho saw them covering their mouth the entire time they had been waiting in line, looking antsy. Now, standing in front of the young author, the reader seemed even worse, putting their hand on their chest, neck, and face, which looked even more nervous, as if they couldn’t say a word.
In order to sign the autograph, Juho looked down at the reader’s book, which contained not only the name but a question. The reader had to have predicted that they wouldn’t be able to speak in front of the young author. Then, Juho read the question on the sticky note: ‘What is your goal?’ At that moment, just as he was about to write his answer on it, he was struck by a sudden thought about ‘The Full Moon,’ which prevented him from doing so.
Looking up, Juho looked at the stack of golden books in the distance, which shrunk and got restocked at the blink of an eye. Although ‘The Full Moon’ had quickly become a bestseller, it hadn’t been selling anywhere near the rate at which ‘Alexandria’ was.
While ‘The Full Moon’ had influenced the young author in a profound way, ‘Alexandria’ was a product that had been born out of all the things that had been building up within the young author. Although Juho couldn’t determine which one of the two was closer to a great book, one thing became certain in his mind: a great book wasn’t necessarily a book that sold well, and the fact that his goal still remained unchanged, even after having become a world-class author, was proof of that. Then, after writing an answer to the question written on the sticky post, the young author closed the golden cover of the book.
“Make sure to look at it on your own.”
“Pardon? Oh! Right”
Then, covering their cheerful smile with their hand, the reader walked away.
“Mr. Woo! Look this way!”
A shout came from the crowd, a request which Juho granted with an awkward smile on his face.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please remain quiet.”
At that moment, Juho sensed a subtle disturbance coming from Nam Kyung, who was interacting with another reader.
“What is it?”
“There’s no name,” Nam Kyung said, as if it wasn’t a big deal. All he needed was a pen, which then, Nam Kyung would hand to the reader, and the reader would write their name on the sticky note. However, the reader refused to take the pen from the editor.
“You don’t have to write my name.”
“Sorry, ma’am. We can’t do that,” an employee said. There was a chance that the signature would be abused, and there was no way to predict how. Then, after some contemplation, the reader took the pen and the sticky note from Nam Kyung and started writing. An ambiguous look appeared on the editor’s face when he saw the reader’s name. As he handed the book over to Juho, the young author immediately made sense of the look on Nam Kyung’s face. The sticky note read: ‘I’m an aspiring writer.’ After staring at it for a brief moment, Juho asked the aspiring writer,
“What do you like?”
“I love grilled mackerel.”
“Oh, right. Uh Mine’s mango.”
With that, the young author wrote ‘Mango’ on the sticky note, giving the aspiring writer a new and unique title: mango. With a title like that, one would be able to easily distinguish her from all the other aspiring writers out there.
“What have you been working on?” Juho asked.
“A novel. I submitted it to a contest hosted by Zelkova and won the Rookie of the Year Award. I believe it’s the same contest you competed in.”
At that, Nam Kyung showed some sort of response. The contest had been a gateway for many aspiring writers. Nam Kyung knew many who had successfully debuted as authors through the same competition. At the same time, he had known many others who had fallen away from writing. At that moment, the editor thought of a certain acquaintance of his, who had also been an aspiring writer at one point. Now, that acquaintance was active as an author.
“Are you sure you can do this?” Juho asked as he closed the book after signing it. However, the aspiring writer’s eyes were still lingering on the book.
She didn’t want to shake hands or take pictures with the young author. Rather, she chose to spend that time talking to him.
“I’ll be rooting for you,” Juho said, reminiscing about the same competition. With that, Mango left with a smile on her face.
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