Quantcast
Jump to content
airplanegirl

Joo Won 주원- Welcome Back !

Recommended Posts

And, as promised, here's the new fic in its entirety!

 

Spoiler

Title: If Music Be the Food of Love

Drama: "Nae Il's Cantabile", some elements from "Secret Love Affair"

Characters: Cha Yoo Jin, Seol Nae Il, Lee Yoon Hoo, Yoo Il Rak, Jung Si Won, Cha Dong Woo, Nae Il's family

Premise: It's there for everyone to see: Cha Yoo Jin and Seol Nae Il's public declaration of their relationship during the Rising Star Orchestra's reunion concert. But with that, then, comes a new question: where do they go on from here?

 

As mentioned above, this fic, once again, features some crossover elements with "Secret Love Affair". Not as much as in the previous installment, but the characters who end up making an appearance are the main protagonist, Lee Sun Jae, and two supporting characters, Ji Min Woo and Jo In Seo. For those who haven't seen it and want a visual reference, Lee Sun Jae is played by Yoo Ah In, whereas the others are played not by actors, but two real-life professional pianists (see "Author's Note" for more on that).

 

Note: this story is part of the set of sequel stories I've written for "Nae Il's Cantabile", which I am calling "Seolleim in Salzburg". Thus, in order to fully understand this story, I strongly advise you to read its predecessors first:

 

"The Sound of Christmas"

"Angel of Music, Come Down from Above"

"In Mozart's Name"

"Seollal, Seollebal, Seolleim"

"A Little Baroque, A Little Romantic"

"Rhapsody in Red"

"From Darkness into Light"

"For the Love of Music"

 

Finally, before we begin: Once again, please do not re-post any content from this fic on any other website. If you want to share it, just post a link back to this site. Thanks!

 

Spoiler

If Music Be the Food of Love

 

“You wished to see me?”

 

“Geu rae. Have a seat, Yoo Jin-ah; there’s something I want to ask you.”

 

As I take the seat opposite hers at the desk in her office, I can’t help noticing the soft gentleness in Dean Song Mi Na’s eyes, not to mention the familiarity with which she addresses me.

 

“Is something the matter, Dean Song?” I ask her at length. “Has an issue arisen about the Rising Star concert?”

 

The performance, the product of months’ worth of work and planning, is this Saturday night. So if any last-minute concerns have come up, now is our last chance to sort them out in time.

 

Tilting her head slightly to one side, her lips pressing together firmly into a thin line, she gives me a long look that makes me tear my eyes away from her and smile shyly despite myself. It looks like all the years she has spent as Eomma’s best friend has given them more than their fair share of shared mannerisms.

 

“No need for all this ‘Dean’ business, Yoo Jin-ah,” she says, propping her elbows on the table and tenting her fingers together. “You’re not a student at Haneum anymore, so I think we can dispense with the formalities.”

 

Feeling myself growing more at ease, I let out a short laugh. “What, and call you ‘Imo’ again like I used to when I was a kid?” I raise an eyebrow at her. “Do you realize just how hard it was for me to break that habit when I started at Haneum?” Seeing the smile that breaks on her face at the memory I know I have just conjured up – an incident in which Professor Do had panicked and then cuffed me upside the head with his fan when I, still a first-year student, had let the familiar term of address slip out by accident in his hearing – I give her a smile of my own as I shake my head. “Don’t ask me to switch back now; it’ll just be too confusing.

 

“But I’m sure that this is not what you wanted to see me about.”

 

“You’re right, Yoo Jin-ah; it’s not.” Switching on her computer monitor, she turns it slightly so that, when I raise myself halfway out of my seat, I could just manage to make out what looks to be a rather formal e-mail. Quickly, I read over it silently, mouthing certain key words and phrases to myself:

 

I thank you for your invitation to your upcoming performance by Haneum’s Rising Star Orchestra this coming Saturday, August 13. I am pleased to inform you that this time, I will be able to attend….

 

It’s only when I get to the closing salutation, though, that I understand exactly why Dean Song Mi Na is showing me this. Jaw dropping in astonishment, I lean in even closer, eyes widening at the name written there.

 

“A- Abeoji…?”

 

Slowly, I settle back down in my seat, folding my hands together in my lap. “This was the Chairwoman’s doing, no doubt.”

 

Smiling softly, Dean Song Mi Na turns the monitor back around away from me.

 

“Mianhae, Yoo Jin-ah,” she murmurs. Clearly, she is just as agitated as I am, as she hurriedly moves to explain herself. “I thought about it for a long time, you know, whether I should show this to you. Sun Young – I mean, your mother – told me, the day of the Rachmaninoff concert, that seeing or hearing any mention of your father might upset you. But then, well, considering that trying to hide it from you didn’t do any good – your mother might disagree with me, but I honestly think we made matters worse by doing that, since Cha Dong Woo wound up walking right into your dressing room like he owned the place anyway – I thought that, maybe this time, letting you know in advance would be better, and –”

 

“Gwenchanyo, Dean Song.” Finally managing to break through her nervous chatter, I reach out and place one of my hands gently overtop one of hers. “I wasn’t upset – just surprised. Besides, things are better now than they used to be.”

 

She gives me a skeptical look. “Yoo Jin-ah….”

 

“It’s true. When we ran into each other during Nae Il’s competition, Abeoji and I had a chance to talk over some things – and while I can’t say that we get along, just the fact that I’m studying in Salzburg now means that he doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on anymore.”

 

Smiling fondly at the thought, I add, “Not to mention the fact that Abeoji’s taken a strong liking to Nae Il. So whatever it is I think on the issue, for her sake, it’s probably best for him to attend.”

 

~~~~~

 

“Ya…I can’t believe that the concert is tomorrow.”

 

Lee Yoon Hoo shoots Yoo Il Rak a pointed look. “You say that every single time.”

 

“I know! But think about it.” Propping his elbows on the table, he starts to gesture with his hands, vaguely sketching out what he is trying to say. “We spend ‘X’ amount of time working on a performance, right? And while we’re doing that, it feels like the biggest, most important thing ever, right? But then once we get to the actual thing, we get up on stage and play…and then –” he spreads his palms wide open “– that’s it. It’s over. And we’re all just sitting there wondering what the hell’s just happened.”

 

Shaking his head and clucking softly in bemusement, Yoon Hoo gives me a confused look all the way across from his end of the table to mine. “All this time, Cha Yoo Jin, and I still haven’t figured it out.”

 

Beside me, Nae Il jumps in before I could respond. “Figured what out, sunbae?”

 

“Why it is that Yoo Il Rak could look and sound completely drunk even when we all know he’s stone-cold sober.”

 

It was, after all, the rule that I had set once as the conductor and that Yoon Hoo has continued to enforce in my absence: no drinking the night before a performance. So even though we are currently gathered at our usual private room in Mendelssohn – Jung Si Won, Nae Il and I because we have been staying in the apartment upstairs for the summer; Yoon Hoo because we invited him; and Choi Min Hee and Ma Su Min because they invited themselves – there isn’t a single beer on the table. Instead, for this dinner, we have all helped ourselves to the various fruit juice blends Abeonim carries on the menu.

 

Now, in response to Yoon Hoo’s comment, we all turn to glance curiously at Il Rak, wondering just what exactly he has to say for himself. Because, inevitably, he will have something.

 

“What? You’ve never heard of being drunk on music before?” he finally blurts out. “You know, that feeling you get when you feel like the music is just speaking to you and pouring into your soul, and you end up getting so into it that nothing else matters?”

 

Nae Il snaps her fingers. “Oh, that! I get what you mean, Rak-kun.”

 

Beaming in response, Il Rak leans forward in his seat, holding out his fist at Nae Il. She responds in kind, getting up halfway out of her chair in order to reach past Si Won between them to meet his fist with her own.

 

“See, Nae Il gets it,” he says firmly as he returns to his seat.

 

“Of course she would,” I retort with a snort. “She’s Seollebal!”

 

Yoon Hoo peers at me curiously. “Where did that come from, by the way? ‘Seollebal’, I mean.”

 

I shoot Nae Il a sideways glance, but my answer is directed at him. “You’ve probably noticed by now that Seol Nae Il’s got a habit of moving along with the music when she plays the piano.” When he nods, I add, “Well, that went all the way down to her toes. In that first duet I played with her, I noticed that she would tap her foot on the floor whenever she wasn’t using the pedal. Hence, ‘Seollebal’ – ‘fluttering feet’.”

 

Jung Si Won gives us a pointed look. “You mean it’s not because of her tendency to literally pounce on you every single chance she’s got? I saw her at it, once.”

 

“As did we all,” Min Hee cuts in drily.

 

This time, I’m unable to hold back a laugh. “Geu rae – there was that, too.”

 

“Nae Il’s not the only one, either,” Il Rak continues. “Su Min here, for example,” he adds, gesturing across the table at him, “told me that he once got so into it during his master class at the Yoon Yi Song Festival that he wound up literally launching his mallet all the way across the room!”

 

As several of the others burst out into giggles, Su Min cringes. One of his hands curls up into a fist, as though wishing he actually had said mallet on him right now. “Ya, Il Rak-ah!” His voice cracks into a high-pitched whine. “Not in front of Cha-neunim! It’s embarrassing!”

 

“Oh, you don’t need to worry about that,” Il Rak says breezily, waving off his protests with one hand. “Because I remember it happened once to Yoo Jin, too, during one of our early rehearsals for Eroica, and –”

 

“Could we just say we’ve all been there and have done with it?!” I finally blurt out, cutting this conversation off halfway.

 

From his end of the table, Yoon Hoo blinks at me in surprise. “Look who’s getting embarrassed now.”

 

“Shut up,” I growl out before I could stop myself. “You’re not helping.”

 

He gives me a warning look then, even raising an eyebrow for good measure, but it is only when Nae Il kicks me under the table and subtly shakes her head at me that I finally force myself to calm down.

 

“Mianhae, guys,” I let out finally, my eyes scanning over all of the others. “It’s not that I don’t agree with what Il Rak’s saying; it’s just that I think his observation is one that goes without saying.”

 

“Orabang’s right,” Nae Il says with a nod. “This is why Milch chose us for the S Orchestra in the first place, wasn’t it?”

 

Il Rak holds up one finger in protest. “Um, about that –”

 

Without missing a beat, she gives him her most disarming smile. “Of course I know Si Won-eonnie is different, but she’s what I like to call an ‘honourary S’, so it’s all the same in the end.”

 

“‘Honourary S’?” Yoon Hoo asks. “What do you mean, Nae Il-ah?”

 

“She means someone who, at first glance, should be an A, but who’s chosen to side with the S’s instead,” I answer for her.

 

“Geu rae,” Nae Il adds with a nod in Yoon Hoo’s direction. “So people like Orabang, or Si Won-eonnie – or you, sunbae.”

 

“Ah….” Understanding lighting up on his face, he nods slowly to himself a few times. “You’re right, Nae Il-ah,” he says, flashing her his signature grin.

 

“Is that why you left Juilliard?” Su Min asks.

 

Yoon Hoo lets out a short hum in assent.

 

“And yet, Cha-neunim wound up leaving us to go abroad.”

 

“Well, it’s all a bit more complicated than just who goes where or why,” I explain. “What Nae Il’s talking about is more a state of mind – or maybe a state of being – than anything literal. So, on paper, you’re right, Ma Su Min: I’m an A.” When he opens his mouth to protest, I hold up a finger for silence. “I can’t not be an A, even if I try. That’s something that’s been stuck to me since birth, and it’s something that’s going to follow me around for the rest of my life.

 

“But don’t you guys see? This is why I like Austria.”

 

“Didn’t Nae Il say that it’s a place full of geniuses?” Yoon Hoo asks.

 

“Mm,” I answer with a nod. “But it’s also a place where those same geniuses can be seen on a street corner as well as in a concert hall. People become talented because they love music, not the other way around.”

 

“That’s what you were aiming for with Rising Star,” Si Won cuts in.

 

“Geu rae. Mastery and passion: the best of both worlds.”

 

As I spot a number of the others nodding in agreement, Nae Il suddenly pushes her chair back and stands up, juice in hand.

 

“Well, then, as our mascot, I suggest that we drink to that,” she says. Then, raising her glass, she calls out, “To Rising Star!”

 

All the rest of us move as one to echo her:

 

“To Rising Star!”

 

~~~~~

 

In a decision made after Nae Il and I had left for Salzburg, Rising Star’s official colours are now black and gold – and that has translated over to its performance costume. To their standard black suit jackets and white button-down shirts, the guys have added gold bowties; and the girls, having put it to a vote, have decided to get identical black floor-length long-sleeved dresses, each with a gold ribbon sash at the waist.

 

I had been surprised to see everyone in their new uniforms when we had gathered for this afternoon’s dress rehearsal, but now, as I watch on the monitor in my green room as the orchestra members file onto the stage, I could see why they have done it like this. The subtle sheen of each small spot of gold, picked up and reflected back to me by the stage lights, makes the orchestra look almost like a constellation of stars – Rising Stars – each member a precious jewel in his or her own right.

 

The sound of someone knocking on the door outside breaks me out of my reverie. Turning away from the monitor, I look back towards it.

 

“Who is it?”

 

Such is my habit now. Ever since that night of the Rachmaninoff concert, I have never granted entry to anyone without first asking who they were. So far, I have yet to be visited by anyone undesirable, but better to err on the side of the caution.

 

“Orabang….” Nae Il’s voice echoes through. “It’s me.”

 

“Ah, geu rae.” Feeling a smile starting to tug at my lips, I nod slowly to myself. Of course it would be her. “Come on in.”

 

Slowly, offering her just the slightest bit of resistance, the latch clicks open and the door swings open just enough for Nae Il to squeeze her way through. Once she is fully inside, she gently pushes the door shut behind her before turning back around to face me, her skirt swishing and rustling softly in time with her movement.

 

I had already seen Nae Il fully dressed earlier this evening, when our core group for tonight’s concert – the two of us, Yoo Il Rak, Lee Yoon Hoo and Jung Si Won – had gathered for one last prep meeting in the girls’ dressing room. In reference to how they, too, had once been members of Rising Star, both Nae Il and Si Won have worked the same black and gold colour scheme into their costumes, but what matters to the two of us right now is what she has done in addition to that.

 

In her own words, Nae Il had chosen to rent a formal dress that she felt evoked the styles from the same Romantic era during which her performance piece – Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A-Minor – was composed. Sure enough, I could see several subtle hints to that: the gently curved neckline on the black bodice that leaves her shoulders exposed; the slightly flaring pale gold skirt with a sheer black overlay that comes down to just above her ankles; the narrow gold belt around her waist, ornamented with a single flower-shaped detail.

 

The overall effect is one of such gentle and girlish innocence that, before I even realize I have opened  my mouth to speak, it comes out:

 

“Clara.”

 

Smiling brightly in response, Nae Il comes over towards me: first slowly, then her steps quickening until she is nearly jogging by the time she wraps her arms around my waist, resting her cheek against my chest. As for me, I feel one hand slowly go around to the small of her back, holding her close as the other softly lights on top of her head.

 

We only stay like this for a brief moment before Nae Il pulls away, stepping back so that, once again, I could look her over from head to toe. Once again, as always, I eventually land on the gold necklace I had given her for Christmas, with its signature jeweled pendant: a treble and bass clef coming together into a heart.

 

Now, noting where my eyes have stopped, Nae Il, too, glances down at the necklace. Placing one hand over the heart, she lets out a mischievous laugh. “What? Did you think I was going to switch it out for something else?” When I give her a pointed look in response, she laughs again. “Don’t think I don’t know what you were trying earlier, Orabang.”

 

“Well, if you know that, then you’ll also know why I couldn’t help it,” I retort.

 

Earlier today, back in her dressing room, I had made a show of taking this very necklace out of its box and clasping it around her neck right in front of Lee Yoon Hoo. And from the way his eyes had widened slightly in surprise for just a split second before he could school his features into a more amicable smile, I know that he had gotten my message loud and clear.

 

Tsking softly to herself, even as her eyes twinkle with barely suppressed devilish glee, Nae Il shakes her head. “You, Yoon Hoo-sunbae…you men are all the same.”

 

Returning her mischievous look with one of my own, I reach forward and tap one finger on the end of her nose. “Says the girl who’s told me – more than once, mind you – that she likes it when I put my mark on her in front of everyone else.”

 

That makes her laugh once again before, finally, we are both called back to reality by the sound of faint applause. Turning our heads towards the monitor on the wall from which the sound is emanating out into the green room, we catch the exact moment when Lee Yoon Hoo steps out onto the stage to assume his place on the podium. He’s not wearing tails like I am, having chosen to opt for a simple tailored black tuxedo combined with a matching bowtie; and, just for tonight, he has chosen to wear his round wire-rimmed glasses instead of his usual contact lenses.

 

An emulation of Bizet, perhaps? After all, we are starting with music from his famous opera, Carmen.

 

Out of the corner of my eye, I note that Nae Il is staring wide-eyed at the screen, her hands clasped together in anticipation. And while, under normal circumstances, I would have something to say to that, tonight, I find that I, too, am looking on just as eagerly, waiting with bated breath for the music to begin as I know it must.

 

For a long moment, however, no sound emerges. Instead, after tapping his baton on his music stand and assuming his starting position, Yoon Hoo goes completely still. Or, at least, from the view of the camera up in the control booth in the back of the auditorium, that’s what it looks like. But I have seen Yoon Hoo enough from the front during rehearsals to know what he is actually doing at this moment: looking from one musician to the next, mouthing words of encouragement or giving a reassuring wink to those who he feels needs them most.

 

Then, once all that is done, the music begins: the first of the Bizet-Guiraud Carmen Suites. From our spot in the dressing room, neither Nae Il nor I could hear it all that clearly; the volume on the monitor is kept down at a minimum so as not to risk echoing out of the room onto the stage. But we don’t need to hear to know what is going on: a sustained tremor from the strings coupled with a slow fanfare-like opening from the brass, tension gradually building until, suddenly, it ends abruptly in a single loud chord, punctuated by Su Min on the timpani.

 

This is it: the moment that Yoon Hoo so frequently refers to during rehearsals. That slow, anticipatory intake of breath that all of us share in preparation for what is to come. Up on the podium, he stands completely still, his right hand, still grasping the baton, raised in a fist just beside his head, before, after a brief pause, he gives a single upbeat and the entire orchestra throws itself headlong into a quick-tempoed Spanish dance.

 

As the name suggests, the Carmen Suite is made up of several shorter pieces, each inspired by a theme or motif of Bizet’s opera. The first number, the “Aragonaise”, is the vibrant flourishing dance that allows Rising Star to make its grand entrance on the stage: hearts race and blood flows hot, and although I cannot see it on the screen, I can imagine that already, somewhere in the audience, someone is clapping softly along with the rhythm.

 

What follows is a series of softer, slower movements. The “Intermezzo”, which originally began with a gentle lilting duet between a flute and a harp, has been transformed. Because the Rising Star Orchestra does not yet have a harpist, both Yoon Hoo and I have had to adapt and find some sort of substitute; and it comes as no surprise to me that he has chosen the instrument he knows best: the harp’s underlying melody now plucked out by a cello. With the following movement, the “Séguidille”, the music turns into a meandering dance in triple meter: so simple and yet so catchy, in fact, that, out of the corner of my eye, I spy Nae Il slowly spinning away from me into the centre of the room, swaying this way and that in an improvised waltz.

 

Cracking a smile at the sight, I immediately slip over to the dressing room table and snatch up my phone. It is only when she hears the shutter click as I take a quick photograph that Nae Il comes to a halt, her skirts still twirling around her.

 

“Ya, Seollebal,” I say with a laugh, “why’d you stop? You were doing fine.”

 

“When do you think it’ll happen, Orabang?”

 

I raise an eyebrow at her. “Mwo?”

 

“When will we have a chance to dance like this? For real.” Letting out a sigh, she clasps her hands together as though in prayer and closes her eyes in rapture. “You and me, dancing the night away at a Viennese ball. Can’t you just imagine it?”

 

When I don’t say anything in response, she opens her eyes and shoots me a pointed look. “Come on – we live in Austria, for goodness’ sake! Don’t tell me you haven’t thought of doing it at least once!”

 

I scoff. “You know I’m not one for dancing.”

 

“Sure, you’re not.” Crossing her arms in front of her chest, she rolls her eyes at me. “Have you even seen yourself, Orabang?"

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Conducting.” Her eyes scan me over from head to toe, then back up again. “Anyone who’s seen you at it will be able to tell you: you move like a dancer.”

 

“I do not!” I jerk my head back over my shoulder towards the monitor, where we can hear that the orchestra has made it all the way to the Suite’s finale: the triumphantly upbeat “Toréadors”. “If anyone here is a dancer,” I quip brusquely, “it’s him, not me.”

 

Even though Lee Yoon Hoo was the one who had teased Yoo Il Rak last night about his tendency to get – how had Il Rak put it? – “drunk on music”, in reality, it’s he who is least able to resist. When push comes to shove, at the moment when it matters most, Yoon Hoo consistently gets carried away by any sort of bright and infectious rhythm that comes his way. So now, true to form, as Nae Il peers past me at the screen, he is happily bouncing along in time with the music: flicking his wrists and shifting his weight from one foot to the other. And although neither of us can see his face, I know that we can both imagine the expression on it: his brightest and happiest grin of all, the one that makes his eyes narrow into slits and that makes his nose crinkle mischievously as he finally gives in and starts to laugh.

 

Nae Il bursts out laughing and steps closer to give me a smack on the arm. “Aniyo – not like that!” She pauses for a moment in thought. “All right, so maybe your dance moves leave something to be desired.”

 

Hearing her put it that way makes me bristle despite myself. “Ya, Seollebal!”

 

“But that’s not what I was talking about. I meant like this.” She makes a fluid sweeping motion with her left hand: one that I only recognize to be a parody of my conducting technique when I, at her prompting, copy along with my own. Watching me closely, she gives me a nod. “Exactly. Like that. Graceful and poised – more like a ballet or a waltz than what we’d find in a club.”

 

“Ara, ara – I get it.” After all, it’s not like either of us has lost track of just why exactly we’re having this conversation. “I’ll look into it if that’s what you want, but –” I place one finger urgently over her lips for silence before she could let out the excited whoop I know is building up right now “– I’m not promising anything. So don’t get your hopes up too high. Arasseo?”

 

Her lips twitching up into a smile, Nae Il answers with a nod. “Ne, Orabang.”

 

~~~~~

 

With the end of the Carmen Suite and Jung Si Won’s entrance as the main soloist for the second number in our programme, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E-Minor, Nae Il and I give up on trying to stand around. Instead, we have each grabbed a chair and set ourselves down in front of the monitor, the better to get a good view of this performance.

 

Just before Si Won is poised to start, Nae Il gives me a slight nudge with her foot.

 

“I wonder what Rak-kun’s thinking right now,” she whispers in my ear when I lean in closer beside her, even though my eyes have not left the screen.

 

“If it were up to me to decide,” I whisper back, “he’s probably grinning like a lunatic.”

 

I hear Nae Il giggle softly in response, and, as though she had been waiting for our cue, in that exact moment, Si Won raises her bow to her violin and begins to play the concerto’s mournful opening theme: a dramatically chromatic melody that rises and falls in a series of consecutive hills and valleys before being picked up and expanded by the orchestra in turn.

 

Like many concertos from the Romantic era, this Violin Concerto is built more as an exchange than a formal dialogue. Rather than having sections devoted specifically to the soloist or to the orchestra, both work in sync to sculpt a melody together. Of course, as the soloist, Si Won ultimately takes precedence – and nowhere is that clearer than in the first movement’s elaborate cadenza. Mendelssohn had broken convention by placing it in the middle rather than the conclusion, allowing the orchestra to slowly recede and fade into the background, leaving the violinist to stand alone.

 

Si Won plays this part masterfully, almost effortlessly. As with previous performances where I had seen her, she does not adopt many grand or large gestures here: she does sway a little bit with the music, but not to the same extent that many other soloists would. Instead, all the attention is on her sound: the clearly and crisply executed rapid trills and scales that end with her playing a series of arpeggios, ricocheting her bow across the strings as she grows softer and softer, forming a harmony to the orchestra when it returns with the opening melody. The movement ends with several more such exchanges between Si Won and the orchestra, each round escalating in tension before, finally, her playing explodes into a quick-tempoed coda.

 

The second movement is slower and more gentle: with occasional patches of darkness, but on the whole, a soothing respite. Here, Si Won’s focus is on keeping each long held note steady and unwavering: each one ringing out crystal clear with just the barest hint of vibrato. The effect is music that is warm and lyrical: not the passionate embrace between young lovers, but the comforting and familiar one that takes place between those who have committed themselves to each other for life. The orchestra accompaniment is sparser this time around, and from our vantage point, Nae Il and I can see how Il Rak, in his concertmaster’s chair, peers up periodically at Si Won, clearly basking in the music she is making.

 

The third movement begins with Si Won playing an interlude that hauntingly calls back to the mournful melody that had started this concerto. But then, suddenly, the orchestra comes in with a livelier, more jovial fanfare: one that beckons and invites her to join in. And she does, in what I think is the most iconic motif from this entire violin concerto: a light, springing high-pitched melody that fully takes advantage of Si Won’s skill with rapid ricochet bowing and pizzicato notes. Seated beside me, Nae Il starts tapping along with the catchy rhythm, silently playing Si Won’s solo on her thigh with her right hand, her fingers dancing faster and faster in time with the music until, together, both girls bring the piece to an end.

 

~~~~~

 

“Two down; two more to go.”

 

That’s the first thing Yoo Il Rak says to me when, hand in hand with Jung Si Won, he steps out from the backstage area into the corridor from which all of our dressing rooms branch off. Nae Il had wanted to come here as soon as the violin concerto was finished, so eager was she to congratulate Si Won on a performance well done. And she is doing that right now: pushing past me to stand in between us, grabbing onto Si Won’s free hand – the one that is not now holding onto both the violin and its bow – and gushing excitedly about what we had just heard.

 

Looking over Nae Il’s head, Il Rak’s eyes meet mine.

 

“What about you, Yoo Jin-ah? What’d you think?”

 

I glance over at Si Won, who is now looking curiously at me. “Your playing was excellent: exactly what you said you wanted.”

 

Suddenly shy, she tears her eyes away, looking down on the floor with a smile as she brushes back the lock of hair that falls in front of her face with her free hand. “You really think so, Cha Yoo Jin?”

 

“Mm.” I give her a solemn nod. “Just like Hilary.”

 

Il Rak gasps. Immediately, he rounds on Si Won, a knowing grin on his face as he wags a finger up and down at her.

 

“Ya, Si Won-ah…that’s what you were going for with this get-up, weren’t you?” When she nods, he snaps his fingers in the air several times. “Aish – I should have guessed!”

 

“Wae?” Nae Il butts in. “What are you guys talking about? Who’s ‘Hilary’?”

 

“Hilary Hahn,” Si Won answers, “is a violinist whose work I’ve admired since I was just a kid.”

 

“A total technician, if you ask me,” Il Rak cuts in.

 

“Ya!”

 

He throws up his hands, never mind that he’s still holding his violin in one of them. “Did I say that was a bad thing?”

 

Si Won gives him a warning look. “You were thinking it.”

 

“Alright – so maybe I did think that was boring at first. But not since I met you – I swear!”

 

That makes her smile again, quite possibly despite herself, since she also shakes her head in bemusement. “Ya, don’t you start….”

 

“So what did Rak-kun mean?” Nae Il asks. “You know, about….” She copies his pointing gesture from earlier.

 

Si Won tosses her head back slightly, letting out a soft “Ah” in understanding. “About that, Nae Il: I got a chance to see her perform live once a few years ago when she had a recital right here in Korea – playing this exact same concerto.” She looks over at me. “You were there, too – remember?”

 

I nod. “Geu rae; I remember. Her concert was the one we won tickets for that semester.”

 

Nae Il gapes in astonishment. “You’ve actually won a ticket before, Orabang?”

 

Il Rak lets out a snort of laughter. “Ya, Seollebal! The board awards those tickets to the top student in each department for the semester. Who else would have gotten them?”

 

“Anyway, going back to that concert,” Si Won cuts in. “Since I remember she was wearing a black and gold dress and those are Rising Star’s colours to begin with….”

 

“Ah….” Nae Il nods. “Arasseyo.” She, too, looks Si Won up and down, taking in her long sleeveless black gown, richly decorated with shimmering gold lace scrollwork on the bodice and hem and accented with a thin metal belt around the waist. “That does look gorgeous on you, Eonnie.”

 

“Komapda,” Si Won says in response. Then, with a quick sideways glance at Il Rak, who has just now opened his mouth to say something, she adds, “And this is about as fancy a look as you’re ever going to see from me, Il Rak-ah, so don’t get any ideas.”

 

By this point, most of the other orchestra members have also made their way into the corridor; so, in order to avoid a collision, the four of us move back towards my dressing room.

 

And there, leaning back against the wall by the door with his arms crossed loosely in front of his chest, is Lee Yoon Hoo.

 

Ah. That’s right. This isn’t my green room, but ours: the two of us expected to share just like the girls are theirs.

 

“I was wondering when you guys would get here,” he says by way of greeting, inclining his head in a polite nod.

 

“Sunbae!” Before I could stop her, Nae Il rushes on ahead, holding out one hand towards him. As they shake hands, I hear her telling him in an animated voice just what she had thought of the first half of the concert programme as a whole.

 

Si Won, too, uses this moment to take her leave. “I should head back to my green room,” she says, bobbing to both Il Rak and me in a slight bow. “Who knows if there’s anyone looking for me?”

 

“Ah, geu rae,” I answer, waving her on with one hand. “Go ahead.”

 

“Komapda.” She turns and takes several steps away from us before she comes to a stop, glancing back over her shoulder. “Are you coming, Il Rak-ah?”

 

For a moment, it looks like he wants to. But before he could actually say so, Il Rak catches a glimpse of the look I am just now sending his way. Thus, when he finally opens his mouth to respond, it’s with a simple, “You go on ahead, Si Won-ah. I just need to talk to Yoo Jin about something first, and then I’ll come over.”

 

Si Won flashes a bright smile at him. “Ne.”

 

Once we are alone, Il Rak glances curiously at me. “What’s this about, Yoo Jin-ah? Is something wrong?”

 

Rather than answering right away, I simply make a beeline for the dressing room door, reaching past Yoon Hoo to open it before gesturing for everyone – Il Rak, Yoon Hoo, and Nae Il – to follow me inside. Once that is done, I close the door behind me.

 

“I’ve been thinking, guys, about the second half of tonight’s programme,” I begin. “More specifically: Die Moldau.” I shoot Il Rak a pointed look. “‘329’ – I’ve decided I want to do it after all.”

 

His jaw drops. “Ya, Cha Yoo Jin –”

 

“Are you sure you want to be doing this?” Yoon Hoo cuts in. “After all,” he adds when I turn to glance at him, “didn’t we decide during today’s meeting not to go all the way like that?”

 

“Geu rae,” Il Rak continues, “especially since we now know that Cha Dong Woo’s gonna –”

 

“Shush!” Nae Il cuts him off by elbowing him hard in the side. “Yoon Hoo-sunbae doesn’t know about that yet.”

 

“‘Doesn’t know about’ what?” he echoes, glancing at all three of us in confusion. “What’s all this about?” His eye stops on me. “What does your father have to do with how we perform tonight?”

 

Letting out an appalled gasp, Nae Il rounds on Il Rak, giving him a smart smack on the arm for good measure. “Well, now you’ve done it, Rak-kun!”

 

His jaw drops. “As if you didn’t add to it just now!“

 

“Alright. That’s enough, all of you!” I cut in, holding up both hands for silence. When the others all stop what they are doing and round on me, I direct my words to Yoon Hoo first. “Long story short: I originally wanted us to tone down that section of Die Moldau because I knew Abeoji would be here tonight.” He opens his mouth to say something, but I plunge on ahead before he could get a word in. “I know what you’re about to ask, but andwae. Tonight, it’s enough for our purposes for you to know that that is the case; the reason why is irrelevant.

 

“But now, what matters is that I’ve changed my mind. Now, I want us to go all the way, in the way that we have practiced.”

 

Yoon Hoo shakes his head, his lips pressing together into a stubborn frown. “Andwae. It’s too risky. We all know what happens if things get out of control.” One of his eyebrows quirks up knowingly. “Like that first time.”

 

“That first time,” I retort, “is exactly why we set up ‘329’ in the first place. You know that already.” When he stil looks unconvinced, I pull out my trump card. “Besides, it’s my half of the programme we’re talking about: what I do with it and what happens as a result is none of your business.”

 

Beside me, just on the edge of my awareness, I hear Il Rak sputter in shock. “Ya, Cha Yoo Jin….”

 

But what matters to me right now is that, finally, most likely also noting the firm set of my own features, Yoon Hoo relents with a sigh, raising both hands in defeat. “Arasseo. Clearly, there’s going to be no getting though to you at this point. But, if anything does goes wrong….” He draws himself up to his full height and looks me dead in the eye. “It’s your loss, not mine. I’m not so crass as to think something like that normally, but since you called it yourself, you deal with it.”

 

I, too, feel my shoulders pushing back as I stand up straighter as well. “I wouldn’t have it any other way. But you don’t need to worry; nothing will go wrong. I can promise you that much, at least.”

 

That’s enough to convince Yoon Hoo, and he slips past me to take his leave. Still clearly visibly shaken by what he had just witnessed, Il Rak moves to follow him, but pauses at the very last second, one hand on the doorlatch.

 

“Are you sure about this, Yoo Jin-ah?” he asks, turning back to look at me over his shoulder.

 

“I’m sure,” I respond firmly. “Because I trust you, and I trust the members. You know we’ve already practiced this manoeuvre many times, so just tell the others to do it like we have in rehearsal. Arasseo?”

 

He gives me a grim nod. “Arasseo.” Then, after one last lingering glance back at me, Il Rak, too, leaves the room.

 

Finally, it’s just Nae Il left. Then, and only then, do I let the walls down. Taking in a slow, shuddering breath, I walk heavily over to the dressing room table, leaning forward to brace my hands against its edge.

 

I hear footsteps, the sound of heels clicking on the floor. Then, next thing I know, Nae Il is behind me, wrapping her arms around my waist in a backhug.

 

Resting her cheek against my back, she lets out a sigh. “You’re always like this, Orabang.”

 

Smiling softly, even though I know she can’t see it, I place one hand over her two. “Always like what?”

 

“Acting like you’re fine when you’re not. Acting like you don’t care when you actually do.” Then, after a short pause, she suddenly adds, “Komawoyo.”

 

“Eh?”

 

“Komawoyo, Orabang,” she says again, her arms coming together even tighter. “For letting me in, at least.” And then, I feel her shift just a little bit before, just for a moment, I feel a slight firm pressure in the middle of my back.

 

Was that a kiss?

 

Tensing up in surprise, I finally straighten back up; Nae Il, sensing my movement, also lets go, taking a step back away from me so that I can turn around to face her.

 

“Nae Il-ah….”

 

Smiling gently at me, she reaches out and takes one of my hands, resting my palm against hers. Then, with her free hand, she taps out a familiar rhythm on the back of my hand: the opening theme of Clara Schumann’s Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann. I don’t know whether it is the warmth of her hands on mine, or the memories that come from this particular piece of music she is alluding to that does it for me; all I know is that, under Nae Il’s spell, I feel myself start to relax.

 

“You know, Nae Il-ah, why I want to do this, right?”

 

Her hands slow, then come to a stop. She peers up at me through her eyelashes. “Aniyo. Like Rak-kun and Yoon Hoo-sunbae, I thought you’d want to hold back on that bit because of Abeonim.”

 

I shake my head. “To be honest, I thought so, too. But now…now, it’s precisely because I know Abeoji is out there in the audience that I want to do this. Because there are some things that even now, Abeoji doesn’t get about me – about us.”

 

Nae Il’s brow furrows in confusion. “What do you mean, Orabang?”

 

“Abeoji still thinks that the only way to be strong is to never need help from anyone. For him, it’s not even about hiding vulnerability; it’s about never feeling it at all.”

 

“But you hide it when you’re feeling scared, Orabang.”

 

“Geu rae,” I answer with a nod. “I’ll admit to that much. But it’s not for my own sake that I hide these things, Nae Il-ah. It’s because I’m a conductor: if I act confident, the members will be confident; if I act afraid, they will be afraid. However, that does not mean, by any stretch, that I don’t take strength from you all in turn. And I want to show him that. Just this once.”

 

~~~~~

 

After exchanging the traditional handshake and bow with Yoo Il Rak, but before stepping up to assume my place on the podium, I, placing one hand lightly on the small of her back, guide Nae Il to take her seat at the piano set up front and centre on the stage. As she sits down, my hand lingers in its spot for a fraction longer before letting go, saying with her by touch what I can no longer say aloud, as much to her as to myself:

 

Gwenchana, Nae Il-ah. Everything will be fine.

 

She doesn’t say anything, but from the nod she gives me as I step back, I can tell that she understands. Then, taking in a deep steadying breath, rolling my shoulders back as I draw myself up to my full height, I take that crucial step up.

 

After bowing in acknowledgement of the audience’s applause, I turn back around to face the orchestra. They are all looking at me in wide-eyed anticipation; if anyone is feeling apprehensive after receiving my instructions from intermission, they are careful not to show it.

 

Standing here like this, I am accorded a few final seconds as the conductor to silently relay any last-minute directions regarding our first piece, Smetana’s Die Moldau. With my left hand, confident in my knowledge that my own back and shoulders will hide it from the audience’s view, I make a fist, rapping it lightly on my chest twice before jerking the thumb towards Il Rak.

 

This is not a standard gesture, but one that Rising Star and I have used often enough in the past few weeks of rehearsals that I know they understand immediately what I am trying to say.

 

In short: Use Plan 329.

 

In long: Come at me as hard as you can – then, at measure 329, follow your concertmaster.

 

From his spot in the back, I see Ma Su Min’s eyes widen slightly. He, the one who so easily wears all of his feelings on his face, is Rising Star’s proverbial canary in a coal mine: whatever I see there, I know, is what all of the orchestra members are feeling or thinking to some extent or other. And right now, he is clearly asking me if everything will be all right.

 

So, as I raise my baton in readiness – and as everyone lifts up their instruments in response – I mouth it silently for everyone to see:

 

“Gwenchana. Just have fun.”

 

It starts with the flutes: two solo lines winding and wending, sometimes converging together, sometimes drifting apart, like two mountain streams. The music grows and swells, more and more instruments joining in, until, finally, a sweet singing melody emerges from the strings: the river of Smetana’s imagining is now fully formed.

 

Smooth, easy, cantabile – the river’s song is one infused with longing. Love mixed with pain: love for one’s homeland; pain from being separated from it so that it can now only ever be beheld in the imagination.

 

Smetana’s river, inspired by one from his native Czech Republic, ebbs and flows, framing scenes of everyday life in his homeland: a procession of nobles hunting stags in the forest; a lively village dance and wedding feast; the stillness of night when it is said that fairies and other folktale creatures lurk just out of sight.

 

Each vignette has its own colour, and together, the orchestra and I deliver. Strident brass for the hunter’s trumpets. A quick bouncing rhythm from the strings for the dance: one that, just on the edge of my awareness, I hear conjuring up laughter from the audience – Nae Il, ever our mascot and no longer able to resist, tapping her toes and swaying to and fro in time with the music. Soft gentle notes for the hushed forest at night, Nae Il’s playing – my substitute for the missing harp – representing the soft, barely-there footsteps of the fairies.

 

As the main river’s theme returns for one brief reprise, we all know that this is it. The moment we have been waiting for, preparing for…it is now upon us.

 

Plan 329.

 

There is no chance to turn back, no warning. At my signal, the music suddenly erupts into chaos: piercing whistling notes from the winds, strident blasts from the brass, crashing cymbals and rumbling drums, an incessant urgent rising and falling from the strings. The river has turned into a series of rapids, violent and dangerous. In my mind, the idyllic image of peace and home is shattered: a reminder that with along with good memories, the bad ones come as well.

 

Disaster had struck the first time we rehearsed this piece as a whole. My friends, the Rising Star, many of whom were formerly S Orchestra members and thus prone to letting themselves go, had come on too strongly at this point – and I, caught by surprise, had found myself overwhelmed, thrown headlong into a vision of that plane crash all those years ago.

 

But where the members had hurt me in the past, now they can help me. All I need to do is remind myself, over and over again, of the light at the end of the tunnel, the beacon of hope that I have found in the score and marked with a simple code name: 329.

 

Slowly, steadily, seconds feeling like minutes, minutes feeling like seconds, the measures count up towards that magic number. The music rises with the count, each crest higher than the last until we have reached almost an impossible height, almost floating suspended in the air.

 

320, 321, 322….

 

Then, just before we get there, we all plunge down together: a descending scale at breakneck speed, water rushing up to meet us as we plummet into the abyss.

 

323, 324, 325….

 

I lurch forward, grabbing onto my music stand with my left hand for support. In my right hand, the baton, still raised, jolts to a stop.

 

All goes still.

 

326….

 

In the hushed silence that echoes out over our heads, I hear just the barest dying tremor from the violins and timpani.

 

327….

 

Just a split second. That’s how long I stay there, feeling the eyes of everyone in the room – the orchestra members in front of me, Nae Il at her piano behind me, the audience in the darkened auditorium beyond – boring into me. Then, I lift my head just enough to send a flickering glance up through my lashes at the members, one corner of my lips twitching up into a devilish smirk. On the edge of my vision, I see some of them swallow back relieved laughter in response.

 

328….

 

This fall – had been fake. A small bit of theatre that we have rehearsed, over and over again, until I and the members could almost do it in our sleep.

 

But more importantly, it is a respite: a chance for me to pause and come back to myself, a few precious seconds so that I can shift my focus from what was to what is to come.

 

329.

 

And that is Il Rak’s signal to take over. He starts with his violins: a small quivering sound, deep in the bass. It starts quiet, but grows louder and louder, the music swelling, growing, rapidly ascending.

 

And I, tensing up like a spring, bounce right back up with them, continuing right where I had left off, calling up the others with my baton to join Il Rak in the main theme’s triumphant return. Then, working together as one, we bring Die Moldau to its conclusion: a regal march-like theme, the music growing softer and softer to simulate the river winding its way to a distant horizon, and then, to end it all off, two short bursts in a cadence.

 

As first silence and then applause wash over us, I turn around to face the audience, the orchestra members standing up as best they could behind me. We take the first bow together, then, as I straighten back up, I sweep my right arm towards Yoo Il Rak, singling him out as the concertmaster, as my friend, and as my saving grace during this performance.

 

And although he has enough experience performing on stage now to know better than to turn his head to look at me as he takes this special, second bow, I know that right now, in this moment, he is just as proud of me as I am of him.

 

~~~~~

 

Having experienced this before from the soloist side of things, I know this to be true: Nae Il can see me, but I can’t see her.

 

Perhaps, with other instruments, it might be possible: I have seen, for instance, violinists standing in between the concertmaster and the conductor while performing concertos. But the piano’s size makes any arrangement like that entirely impossible, and it would be extremely bad form for me to turn around to look back at it.

 

So it is no wonder, then, that a piece like this – Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A-Minor – is such a test and testament to the trust that must exist between the soloist and the orchestra.

 

In reality, although Clara Schumann had been the intended soloist for this concerto and she had, indeed, performed it at its premiere, it had been someone else up here in my spot on the podium that night. Robert Schumann, history tells us, had been a shoddy conductor at best.

 

And yet...I wonder.

 

I wonder, as I raise my baton in readiness, the orchestra responding in kind: what if – just what if – Robert had been able to conduct? What would this concerto have been like then? The orchestra and the soloist, a pair of lovers not just musically, but in reality?

 

Well, we are about to find out.

 

There is no prepatory stroke for the orchestra here. We start suddenly, on the upbeat: a single strident chord that signals Nae Il to begin. And she does with gusto: an echoing series of descending chords until, together, we meet on the bottom in a cadence.

 

Out of the echoing silence afterwards, a single melody emerges from the oboe, the first four notes a hauntingly beautiful C-B-A-A. In the Schumanns’ native German, that would have been rendered as C-H-A-A.

 

CHiArA. Chiara. Robert’s Italianized nickname for Clara.

 

As Nae Il now takes up the same motif on the piano, still recognizable despite starting on a different note, the words we had exchanged during one of our private one-on-one rehearsals billows up out of my memories:

 

Every single time you find this motif in the orchestral part, that is Robert telling Clara that he loves her….

 

…And every single time I see it in the solo, that’s Clara answering back.

 

I don’t understand how someone like Liszt could have disparaged this piece as “a concerto without piano”. Because, in reality, the piano – Clara, Nae Il – is everywhere. Perhaps there aren’t the clearly demarcated sections devoted to just the soloist or just the orchestra like many concertos from an earlier time, but this one is a constant dialogue.

 

Love and romance given a shape, a form, at last.

 

Neither soloist nor orchestra – neither Nae Il nor I – stay apart for long. We start and finish each other’s thoughts and phrases: not because we are cutting each other off or trying to assert ourselves, but because we are so in sync that everything just naturally falls into place, as though it was always meant to be. Sometimes she provides a harmony to my melody; sometimes it is the other way around. Sometimes she echoes me; sometimes I echo her. Our voices, our music, they weave together in an intricate and intimate dance.

 

The music from the orchestra builds and swells until, at last, we come to the cadenza. Suddenly, as though dropping out from underneath, I pull back entirely and Nae Il takes charge, bursting out and rising up like a bird taking flight.

 

And what a bird she is! The cadenza is short, but vastly intricate. It starts off slowly, hesitantly: a fledgling just leaving the nest for the first time. But just like a bird, Nae Il, too, seems to take courage; and with her growing confidence, the music also swells, filling up with chords and ornaments and other such virtuosic figures. Nae Il’s melody pours out through her fingers as though from some wellspring in her heart; and although I cannot see her, I know, deep inside of me, that as she comes to the cadenza’s final rendition of the movement’s opening theme, she has closed her eyes and tilted her head back, overwhelmed by a sense of rapture that is both of the spirit and of the flesh.

 

Robert Schumann wrote this in there to show off Clara’s talent at the piano, which so far surpassed his own. And while I would better describe Nae Il and myself as equals, I find myself yearning to do the same.

 

It is no wonder, then, that when the orchestra returns, it is with a quicker, lighter version of the C-B-A-A that started the movement: a celebration of a job well done.

 

Robert’s thoughts in the past, my own thoughts in the present, they come together in this moment:

 

Brava, Clara. Brava, Nae Il-ah.

 

Saranghae.

 

~~~~~

 

The concerto’s second movement is little more than an interlude. Simple. Brief. The orchestra just barely there as the piano plays a soft, slow melody. Gently, using that flowing movement of my left arm that Nae Il loves so much, I guide the others to create music that ebbs and flows like calm and soothing waves: with each crest, Nae Il comes in on the piano to finish it.

 

This movement ends as softly as it came, slowly fading off into silence.

 

Then, out of that stillness, a call. That same plaintive call that had begun this concerto: C-B-A-A. I draw it out from the woodwinds: slowly, one, then another, then another, growing in volume and urgency as though I am conjuring up some sort of spell.

 

And I am.

 

At just the right moment, Nae Il takes off, bursting right into a joyous tune, filled with small skips and turns to emulate a celebratory dance.

 

On my end, momentum is the key here. This third movement is in six-eight time: six eighth notes per measure. But it is also far too quick for me to reasonably beat out every single one of them. So, instead, having already arranged this with the orchestra, I only mark out the first and fourth beats of each bar, flicking my wrist so that each stroke of my baton is a small skipping step in a spinning, dizzying dance.

 

ONE-two-three, FOUR-five-six…ONE-two-three, FOUR-five-six….

 

There is one thing Nae Il does not yet know. The waltz she had danced before in my green room…that is no waltz at all.

 

Who knows who, in some distant past, had decided that a waltz should be a slow and sedate affair: lacking fire and passion, a beacon of middle-class propriety.

 

You’ve never waltzed with an Austrian before, have you, Nae Il-ah?

 

Then let me show you.

 

It’s like this. Just like this.

 

Not a slow swaying step, but a quick gallop: a man and a woman, hands joined and bodies touching, gliding effortlessly around the room, moving so fast that the room blurs and fades away, leaving only the two of them alone in the centre.

 

Look, Nae Il-ah. Listen, Nae Il-ah.

 

We are dancing tonight.

 

She meets me exactly how I want her to, the two of us – solo and orchestra – moving in perfect complementary harmony as we bring the concerto to its final, resounding conclusion.

 

For a long moment, there is silence: all of us poised with bated breath. And then, it happens.

 

Applause.

 

Deep, thunderous applause.

 

Slowly, bracing my hands on the music stand in front of me, I let out the breath that I had been holding since the concerto’s end. Around me, I can sense the orchestra members doing the same.

 

Allowing myself just a brief second to gather myself together, I turn around to face the darkened auditorium. It is hard to make out faces in the audience, but I don’t need to.

 

Just for now, just for this moment, let me imagine that this appreciation is coming from all of them.

 

I turn towards Yoo Il Rak, gesturing for him and the orchestra members to rise for their bows. But, to my astonishment, he gives them a slight shake of the head and gestures for them to stay in their seats.

 

One of my eyebrows quirks up at him, but he only responds with a sheepish grin as he then starts rapping lightly on his music stand with his bow. One by one, the other members join in on the applause: the string instrumentalists following Il Rak’s lead, all the others stomping their feet on the stage.

 

It dawns on me, finally, what all this is about.

 

Usually, it is a breach of etiquette for a conductor to receive applause separate from the orchestra – and for good reason. But if it is the orchestra itself that wants to recognize a conductor like this…well, that is a whole other matter.

 

So, despite my misgivings, I take the first bow: first, a slight dip of the head to acknowledge the members, then, turning around, a second deeper bow to the audience.

 

And now, it’s Nae Il’s turn.

 

Stepping down off the podium, I head straight for her. Beaming up at me, her cheeks flushed from excitement and her eyes shining in rapture, she takes the hand that I hold out to her, and, together, we make our way around the piano to the front of the stage. Our first bow, we do together, still holding hands. Then, letting go, I step back and gesture towards her with a sweep of my arm as she, placing her right hand over her heart, dips down in a fluid curtsey.

 

As she straightens back up, both of us are startled by a crescendo in the applause. We both turn our heads towards the stage door, just in time to see the reason why: Lee Yoon Hoo and Jung Si Won coming towards us.

 

The two of them bow in the same way Nae Il and I have just done: first together, then Si Won alone. Then, finally, with all four of hands joining hands, the girls in the centre and Yoon Hoo and I on either end, we take a step forward together and bow once more.

 

Then, and only then, does Il Rak allow the orchestra members to stand, all of them rising when Yoon Hoo and I both gesture towards them in unison.

 

“Encore!”

 

A young man’s voice, calling out from somewhere in the audience. None of the four of us can make out who it was, but it doesn’t matter, as quickly, others join in.

 

“Encore! Encore!”

 

Nae Il gives me a look out of the corner of her eye. “Do you want to take it, Orabang?” she asks, Si Won nodding her encouragement.

 

I decline with a slight shake of the head, gesturing subtly towards Yoon Hoo. It just wouldn’t be fair to him if I accepted, knowing that he does not have his cello with him.

 

Nodding in understanding, Nae Il next turns to Si Won, reaching out and grabbing onto her hand. “Well, then…shall we, Eonnie?”

 

Si Won’s violin is still backstage, so Il Rak loans her his. Retreating back to the sidelines, Yoon Hoo and I look on as Si Won and Nae Il together play a short burst of music: the same rousing finale from Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen that had gotten the crowd up onto its feet a few weeks ago at Eomma’s café.

 

~~~~~

 

“See? What did I tell you? I knew that it would all work out in the end.”

 

Lee Yoon Hoo stops in his tracks just outside of our green room door, giving me the chance to come up beside him before he heads inside. The two of us have just parted ways with Nae Il and Si Won after finally being allowed to exit from the stage. Both girls have already moved on to the reception out in the lobby; any minute now, they will be expecting us to go and join them.

 

But for some reason, I feel compelled to get this out first.

 

For a moment, it looks as though Yoon Hoo is unsure about what to say, choosing instead to just give me a long look. But then, almost out of nowhere, a smile breaks out on his face, and I am unable to dodge in time before he reaches out and grasps onto my elbow in a warrior’s embrace.

 

“You’re right, Cha Yoo Jin. You did.”

 

Then, to my surprise, he suddenly lets go and breaks eye contact, looking down at the floor, his smile fading away.

 

“Ya, Lee Yoon Hoo,” I begin, bending my knees slightly so that I could peer up into his face. “Gwenchana?”

 

At first, he just nods wordlessly, but then, after yet another moment’s hesitation, it comes out:

 

“How?”

 

His voice is hushed, almost haunted.

 

“Mwo?”

 

“How do you do it?” He straightens back up, which makes me do the same so that, once again, we are looking at each other directly. “How do you just throw all caution to the wind like that? I mean –” he stops, clears his throat. “– I mean, how can you know that the others will have your back?”

 

Now it is my turn to give him a long look.

 

“I don’t.”

 

That clearly catches Yoon Hoo by surprise. His eyes widen and his mouth opens just ever so slightly. “Eh?”

 

“What I mean is: I don’t know if they will be there for me – I just trust that they will.” When he doesn’t say anything in response, I can’t resist the urge to add jokingly, “What? So much time spent with these guys and you still think that friends are just rivals in disguise?”

 

“Ani,” he blurts out. “That’s not it. It’s just…just….” Finally, he lets out a sigh. “Alright, maybe it is that.” Giving me a hard look in the eye, he adds, “You should know, Cha Yoo Jin: what it’s like out there in the world, especially for those like us.”

 

“Geu rae,” I concede with a nod. “I do know. And I also know that we are both trying to escape that in our own way.”

 

For a moment, it feels almost like how it probably should have been two years ago, when I was the conductor and he one of my orchestra members. Had our rivalry not gotten between us then, we might have spoken then like we are now. And perhaps it is knowing that that makes me say more than I might have otherwise.

 

“So don’t discount what friendship you do see in front of you, Lee Yoon Hoo. It doesn’t suit you.”

 

That prompts a short, scoffing laugh from him. “I’ll try to remember that for next time, then,” he says, just a hint of teasing sarcasm in his voice.

 

I shake my head, one corner of my mouth twitching up into a smirk. “No need. Because we’re not friends. So I don’t count here.”

 

Finally, Yoon Hoo smiles for real, this time reaching up to clap one hand on my shoulder. “Ara, ara – I’ll remember that.”

 

He starts to leave then, but pauses once again when he senses that I have not followed him.

 

“Ya, Cha Yoo Jin!” he calls out, glancing over his shoulder at me. “Aren’t you coming?”

 

“Later.” I jerk my head towards the closed dressing room door. “I want to get a drink first; my water bottle’s in there.”

 

Clearly, something in my expression or tone is giving me away, though, because an exaggerated mock-stricken look comes over his face then as one hand reaches up as though clutching at his heart.

 

“All right. You’ve got me,” he says with a melodramatic sigh. “I guess I’ll just have to be the martyr, then, and throw myself to the lions that we all call ‘the public’ first,” he adds, punctuating that statement with a wink. “But in all seriousness, though, don’t be too long; you know Professor Stresemann is waiting.”

 

“Arasseo.”

 

Yoon Hoo finally leaves then, and I am unable to hold back a chuckle when I see, once again, his hands reaching out unconsciously to clasp together behind his back. Shaking my head in bemusement, I reach blindly for the door latch and turn it, my eyes still on his retreating back as I step inside.

 

So it is that I find myself suddenly stumbling to a halt once my eyes fall on the sight that greets me inside. Moving by instinct, my body reacting faster than my brain, I pull myself up to stand at full attention – back ramrod straight, feet together, arms placed firmly at my sides – and bend from the waist in a formal bow.

 

“Abeoji.”

 

Even with Dean Song Mi Na’s advance warning several days ago…he still manages to surprise me.

 

Years of ingrained habit mean that I don’t move a step until he beckons me closer. Nor do I pull over a second chair to sit down across from him until he tells me to.

 

Most children, I’m sure, learn at a young age that their parents are not gods, but are instead mere mortals just like them. I, though, am not like that. Even though I know Abeoji’s shortcomings well enough, there is yet still enough of the divine in him that, automatically, I want to give him reverence. So instinctively, I try to make myself as small as possible: bowing my head ever so slightly downwards, pressing my hands together between my thighs.

 

And yet, despite all that, I am still the first of us to speak.

 

“I thought I would run into you sometime tonight,” I begin cautiously, careful to look in his general direction but not right into his eyes, “but I was not expecting to meet you here.”

 

“That is because,” he replies in a firm voice, “I wanted to talk to you about something that, for your sake, would be better off not made public.” He gives me a hard look. “That childish stunt you did there with Die Moldau – I take it that was for my benefit?”

 

Hearing Abeoji put it this way, I feel just a split second of doubt. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, my own words to Dean Song Mi Na come echoing back to me:

 

While I can’t say that we get along, just the fact that I’m studying in Salzburg now means that he doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on anymore.

 

It is that thought, then, that gives me my resolve. Slowly, deliberately, I pull myself back upright, my hands moving back to rest firmly on the armrests. I meet his penetrating glare with one of my own.

 

“Call it an occupational disease,” I reply. “Growing up so steeped in the arts will give one an inclination towards the dramatic. But since you have correctly identified yourself as the intended recipient for my theatrical display, I trust that you understand its intent as well.”

 

Abeoji rears back away from me, drawing himself up to his full height as he takes in a sharp breath. Clearly, this newfound confidence from me has drawn first blood.

 

“Ara. I understood. Nostalgia, longing, the pain of an abrupt separation from home followed by a triumphant return.”

 

That is not the full story, but I am not about to say that.

 

“So go!”

 

The sudden sharp command makes me jolt. Blinking in surprise, I stare at him in disbelief.

 

“Ne?”

 

“Go back,” he says again. “Go back to Austria, where you came from. Where, quite frankly, you should be. People like you – like us – don’t belong here.”

 

My jaw drops. Despite my best efforts, I feel my pulse starting to pound in my ears.

 

“A- Abeoji.”

 

Damn. I hate it when my voice trembles like that.

 

Taking in a deep breath in attempts to steady myself, I try again.

 

“Abeoji, I had thought that you would be content knowing that I could now travel wherever I want.” More firmly, I add, “Was that not what you wanted from me all along?”

 

“Geu rae. But with that, I thought, would come the wisdom of knowing which places you ought to go.”

 

My jaw drops. My brow furrows in confusion. “Mwo?”

 

“You’re a fool, Cha Yoo Jin. Actually, both of you are.”

 

Both of us? Did he…did he mean….?

 

My hands, still resting on the armrests, now clench tightly onto them, so hard that my knuckles have turned white. Lunging forward in my seat as far as decorum would allow, I feel my lips curl up into a snarl.

 

“Don’t you dare bring Seol Nae Il into this!”

 

Nae Il, after all, is the one thing that is even giving us the slightest chance of reconciliation right now. If Abeoji were to develop any qualms against her as well, then it would be well and truly over for all of us.

 

“What makes you think I’m talking about Seol Nae Il right now? I mean that other one – Lee Yoon Hoo.”

 

Wait. What?

 

Slowly, realizing my mistake, I back down, taking a deep breath in attempts to force myself to calm down. Perhaps I should just be grateful and relieved that it’s not Nae Il Abeoji was referring to, but….

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“You do realize what people are saying about him, don’t you?” Abeoji asks, disdain clear in his eyes.

 

I shake my head. “Animida.”

 

“That he’s an idiot. And a coward.”

 

I feel something lurch deep inside of me as his words sink in.

 

Without waiting for a response from me, Abeoji plunges on. “He was going to make it big, you know: touring and playing alongside prestigious orchestras since childhood; top of his class at Juilliard…why, two years ago, he was even on the verge of signing his first solo recording contract.

 

“And what did he do with all that? He threw it away. Dropped out of Juilliard and disappeared without a trace, only to reemerge here, in a paltry college orchestra, with no intention whatsoever of going back. Do you know what that does to a musician? Even if Lee Yoon Hoo were to try to make a comeback now, it would be next to impossible; his reputation’s all but shot at this point, and you lot here are the only ones too stupidly naïve to see it.”

 

How? How do you do it? How can you know that the others will have your back?

 

I don’t. I just trust that they will.

 

You should know, Cha Yoo Jin: what it’s like to be out there in the world, especially for those like us.

 

Those like us….

 

People like us….

 

Yoon Hoo’s words to me just moments before, Abeoji’s words to me just now….

 

Slowly, I feel my hands grip tightly onto the armrests once again. I feel a hitch in my throat, even as my face, my hands, all of me grows hot.

 

And before I can stop myself, the words come out, growled out through my teeth:

 

“How dare you? What do you know? You know nothing.”

 

I don’t know who is more caught off guard by my attack: Abeoji or myself. But what I do know is that, for just a moment, until he manages to school his expression into something sterner, his eyes widen slightly in surprise.

 

“What did you say?”

 

“If it’s quitting the cello you’re referring to, then I can tell you for a fact that Lee Yoon Hoo had a legitimate reason for doing so. But if it’s quitting Juilliard and coming here to Haneum instead that bothers you, then I beg to disagree.

 

“If Lee Yoon Hoo’s mad, it’s only because people like you drove him mad. If he’s broken, it’s only because people like you broke him!”

 

Abeoji shoots out of his seat, his hands clenched into fists at his sides.

 

“Mwo?!”

 

For just a second, his outburst makes me flinch: a sign of the child that is still deep inside of me.

 

But no – I’m no longer a child anymore. I can’t stop. Not now.

 

So rather than shrinking back, I, too, get up on my feet, even going so far as to take a step closer.

 

“Do you even know what people like you have done to him? What this world has done to people like him – or me? ‘Friends are just rivals in disguise’? ‘To show your heart is to be weak’?” I let out a disdainful scoff. “Says who?

 

“Lee Yoon Hoo didn’t run away – he escaped. He saw a path to freedom and he took it. And right now, I only wish that I had the guts to do the same!”

 

“Joesonghamnida – have I come at a bad time?”

 

I freeze, the words I was about to say next drying up in my throat as I feel something lurch deep inside of me.

 

That…that was….

 

Slowly, I turn around, glancing back at the door. And although I am no longer looking at him, I sense Abeoji doing the same.

 

Cha Yoo Jin…you are an idiot, after all.

 

Too late, I realize that in my surprise at finding Abeoji here, I had left the dressing room door open. And there, standing just inside of the threshold, is Lee Yoon Hoo himself.

 

How…how long had he been here?

 

If Yoon Hoo had heard anything, he is careful not to let it show on his face. Instead, he, in that smooth way of his, is as cordial and polite as ever when he bows to Abeoji in greeting, formally introducing himself. Then, once he has straightened back up, he looks over at me.

 

“You were taking so long, Cha Yoo Jin, that I just had to come back and see what the matter was. And while I would hate to interrupt this…father-son conversation, I really must.” He gestures vaguely behind himself towards the door. “They’re all asking for you now, so you had better get out there.”

 

Still reeling at the sight of him, I open and close my mouth several times before anything comes out.

 

“Geu rae,” I eventually stammer out with a nod. “Go and tell Professor Stresemann that I’ll be right there.”

 

Yoon Hoo answers with a small bow of his own, then, at last, turns and walks briskly out of the room, his hands clasped together behind his back.

 

Now that Abeoji and I are alone again, I turn back around to face him, letting out a slow, shuddering breath. Yoon Hoo’s interruption has taken all the wind out of my sails; and from the strangely tired and hollow look on Abeoji’s face, I imagine it has done the same to him.

 

“I believe,” I manage to say after a moment’s hesitation, “that we have said enough here. And now –” once again, as per habit, I stand at attention and bow to him “– I must be going.”

 

“Mm.”

 

Slowly, with what little dignity I still have left, I straighten back up and turn to leave. Just as I reach the threshold, though, I hear Abeoji’s voice behind me:

 

“Wolfgang.”

 

The name – his affectionate nickname for me during my childhood – gives me pause.

 

How long has it been since I have heard him call me that? Yes, there were the times, now that we have started writing to each other again, that he would address me like this in his letters or e-mails. But in person? It’s been years – not since the accident, in fact.

 

But even more than that, it is his tone of voice that surprises me: no longer harsh, but soft, resigned…almost gentle. I turn back towards him, one eyebrow rising in a mixture of curiosity and wonder.

 

“Ye, Abeoji?”

 

“You know you deserve better than this. With your skills, your talent…if you had just let me, I could have made you a king. Or, if nothing else, at least a prince.”

 

Letting out a long sigh, I nod. “Arayo,” I answer softly. “But that isn’t what I want. It never was. Not once – not even once – since that day I told you I wished to be a conductor have you asked me what I wanted, Abeoji.”

 

A pause. A moment’s hesitation. “What is it, then?”

 

I give him a long look. “Seol Nae Il may be my pianist of choice now, but she wasn’t always. Back then, back when I first started…I had someone else in mind: the person whom, back then, I loved the most.”

 

I don’t say anything more after that. I don’t need to. Instead, after bowing once more for propriety’s sake, I make my exit for good, stepping out of the green room and into the corridor beyond. Taking a sharp right, I head down towards the exit, the door that will take me to the lobby.

 

“Ah…so you do care, after all.”

 

Startled, I stop in my tracks, just in time to see Yoon Hoo come up beside me out of the corner of my eye. In my agitated state, I must have walked right past him without even realizing it.

 

I give him a suspicious sideways glance. “Just how much did you hear?”

 

“Enough,” he answers with a shrug.

 

“Well, then, don’t get ahead of yourself,” I retort, my words coming out clipped and curt. “I’m still not your friend. I just did what I would have done for anyone else in Rising Star.”

 

“Ne, ne,” he drawls out, the sing-song tone in his voice telling me that he’s not convinced.

 

“I mean it!”

 

“Sure. Whatever. You do you, Cha Yoo Jin. But I have the right to think what I want, too. And right now, before you make me regret it too badly, I want to say it first:

 

“Komapda, Yoo Jin-ah.”

 

~~~~~

 

This time, as though in payback for my sending him out alone earlier, Yoon Hoo makes me go out first, using the fact that he hadn’t had a chance to speak with Abeoji properly as an excuse.

 

Fortunately, then, Nae Il already has everything under control. She has staked herself close to the door separating the public and the backstage parts of Haneum’s concert hall such that, as soon as I emerge, she rushes up and links her arm with mine, placing one hand just inside my elbow.

 

“Gwenchanayo, Orabang,” she says in response to the inquisitive look I send her. “I haven’t been waiting here for long; I only slipped out here when Yoon Hoo-sunbae told me he was going back inside to look for you.”

 

Smiling down at her, I pat her hand in thanks. “Komawo, Nae Il-ah.”

 

Something about my tone must have clued her in, because she now peers up at me, eyes wide in concern. “What is it, Orabang? Did something just happen?”

 

For a moment, I’m tempted to just brush her off and tell her that everything’s fine. But experience with Nae Il has taught me just how useless a tactic that is: once she’s taken it into her head that something is the matter with me, she simply won’t stop asking until I have admitted to it. So, instead, I just lower my head to murmur softly in her ear, “I’ll tell you later.”

 

Satisfied at my response, Nae Il gives me a reassuring nod, the hand on my arm tightening just a bit in a gentle squeeze. Then, with one last exchange of glances, we sail together, arm-in-arm, back into the lobby where the post-concert reception is already in full swing.

 

The two of us have done this often enough in Salzburg that we have it down to an art. Our first order of business is to head to the theatre’s bar, where I get a glass of red wine and Nae Il a champagne. Thus armed, we head out into the crowd. After first tracking down Professor Stresemann and sending him our greetings, we make our way this way and that through the lobby, going from one group of partigoers to the next, exchanging polite pleasantries, small talk and the occasional toast along the way.

 

Nae Il, who is far more talkative and spontaneous than me, takes the lead in most of these conversations. Both of us receive our fair share of compliments in this way, but to our shared amusement, we also have identical reactions – in short, deflecting the focus onto the other.

 

“Ya, Seol Nae Il – what was that for?” I whisper to her after one such encounter, the two of us having retreated unnoticed to a tall standing table near a corner of the room for a break.

 

“What was what for, Orabang?” she asks mischievously.

 

“You know what I’m talking about.”

 

Nae Il’s answer is to lean in closer to me, resting her head against the side of my arm. Then, straightening to peer up at me with batting eyelashes, she adds, “Because you deserve it.”

 

I let out a short laugh. “Ya, Seollebal!”

 

“And,” she continues, “because that’s what Robert and Clara Schumann would have done, too, if they were in our shoes.”

 

Touché.

 

I look down at her with a fond smile. “Geu rae, Nae Il-ah.” Setting my wineglass on the table behind us, I reach across her back to place one hand firmly at her waist. She responds to my touch, leaning once again into my side as I pull her close. Then, taking advantage of the fact that we still have not yet been spotted by anyone we know, I turn my head and lower it down on top of hers, my lips stopping just short of her hair.

 

“As far as Robert Schumann was concerned,” I whisper, “there was no better pianist in the world than his Clara.” My hold on her waist tightens, as I draw her even closer to me for emphasis. “Remember that, Nae Il-ah.”

 

When I pull back at last, it is to find Nae Il staring up at me, eyes shining from the light above us. Then, both of us turning so that we are facing each other, she then wraps her arms around my waist and rests her head on my chest, closing her eyes with a contented sigh.

 

“There you are, Sunbae – I was wondering where you’d disappeared off to.”

 

Seeing as the voice had come from behind me, Nae Il is the first to see who has just called out to us. Pulling back from her hug and leaning out slightly to peer behind me, I sense rather than see the smile that comes to her face.

 

“Ah, Sun Jae, it’s you – annyeong!”

 

By this time, I, too, have turned around. Sure enough, there is our new friend, Lee Sun Jae: formerly a piano student at Seohan, another one of Seoul’s music universities, we have just recently gotten to know him as the pianist who had taken over Nae Il’s old job at Eomma’s café. Now, his eyes lighting on Nae Il, he breaks into his familiar bashful grin.

 

“Mianhae, Nae Il-ah. I didn’t see you earlier, although –” his eyes drift down to where her hands had been on my back just moments before “– I probably should have guessed that was you over there.”

 

“Fair enough,” I say with a cordial nod. “But I doubt that’s what you’re here for,” I add, glancing pointedly at his companions: a young man who is probably about our age, although he could easily pass for younger; and an older gentleman who looks closer to Eomma’s.

 

Sun Jae’s eyes follow mine. “Ah, geu rae. You’re as sharp as ever, Sunbae,” he says, giving me a wink. Then, stepping back to give himself room, he gestures with one arm towards the others.

 

“I’m not sure if you all have met before, but allow me to make the introductions. This –” he gestures to the young man “– is my friend and fellow pianist, Ji Min Woo; and this –” he moves on to the older man “– is our teacher, Professor Jo In Seo from Seohan.”

 

Responding in kind, I take the initiative in formerly introducing both Nae Il and myself. Then, once all that is done, I extend one hand towards the professor for a handshake. “It’s good to see you again, Professor. It’s been a while.”

 

“And I you, Cha Yoo Jin,” he says, offering his hand in turn.

 

As we shake hands, Nae Il glances between us in curiosity. “Wait…you two know each other?”

 

I glance over at the professor – should he answer or me? – but he gestures for me to go ahead.

 

“Sort of,” I say in response. “When I was applying for university, I auditioned for Seohan as well as Haneum – Saeyeon, too, but that’s a whole other story. And, at the time, I wrote down Professor Jo here as my first choice for my primary instructor.”

 

Min Woo’s eyes widen in interest. “If I may ask, Sunbae,” he interjects, clearly taking a page from Sun Jae’s book as to how best to address me, “just out of curiosity: what was your audition piece?”

 

Caught off guard by the question, I blink in surprise. “Eh?”

 

“Mianhaeyo, Sunbae,” Sun Jae says, draping one arm over Min Woo’s shoulder. “He’s like that: bring up anything related to piano, and he’ll never shut up.”

 

“Ya,” Min Woo retorts, using his whole body to nudge Sun Jae in the side. “If I had to stay as quiet as you, you know I’d go nuts!”

 

Momentarily ignoring his friend, Sun Jae adds to Nae Il, “This babo here – he’s the one who started screaming for an encore earlier. I think that says more than enough.”

 

As Nae Il thanks them for the compliment, I look Min Woo directly in the eye. One corner of my mouth twitching up into a small smile, I answer his question: “For my audition, I did Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy.”

 

His eyes, already rather big and round to begin with, grow even wider in astonishment. Flinging Sun Jae’s hand off of his shoulder, he takes an excited step towards me. “Jinjja?!”

 

I nod. “Geu rae.”

 

“Daebak….” Flashing me a thumbs-up, he rounds on Sun Jae. “Ya, it’s a good thing Cha Yoo Jin’s our Sunbae and not in our cohort – or we wouldn’t have stood a chance!”

 

“Ya, Ji Min Woo,” Sun Jae retorts. “I can play Wanderer, too.”

 

“True. But yours was a complete mess, from what I’ve heard.”

 

“It got better.”

 

“Only after Seonsaengnim gave you the ruler. I doubt Sunbae here ever had to go through that!”

 

Ignoring Min Woo and Sun Jae as they start laughingly bickering over what sounds like some sort of shared memory from Seohan, Nae Il turns to look at me, gaping in astonishment. “Wanderer Fantasy? You mean the same piece that you played a snippet from during New Year’s?” She lets out a loud gasp. “No wonder Professor Do snatched you up right away, then!”

 

Wordlessly, I nod.

 

All this time, since the initial greeting we exchanged, Professor Jo has not spoken a word, choosing instead to simply watch us in silence. But now, he turns to address me in a voice that, though gentle and soft, still manages to command full attention from all of us, including his own two students. “By the way, Cha Yoo Jin, since we’re already on the subject: why did you choose Haneum in the end? Was it because of Dean Song Mi Na?”

 

“Ne, Professor,” I reply, “but not in the way you’re likely expecting.”

 

In truth, that whole application process had been a mess. Song Mi Na, who had taken over as my private piano teacher after first Abeoji and then Maestro Viera had left Korea for good, had suggested that I apply not just to Haneum, but to the other schools as well. What had resulted, though, was chaos – and a rude wakeup call for myself.

 

“I didn’t choose Haneum because I was already her student to begin with,” I answer at length, “but because she had bargaining power as the Dean.”

 

Nae Il looks at me in confusion. “Eh?”

 

“Everyone, it seemed, wanted me to choose them.”

 

“Well, of course!” Min Woo blurts out. “I mean, if you were that good –”

 

I cut him off. “It wasn’t because of my audition results.”

 

Startled at my answer, Min Woo’s jaw drops as he lets out a loud appalled gasp. Genius, it seems, has sheltered him from the harsher underbelly of Korea’s classical music scene. Beside him, though, Sun Jae crosses his arms in front of his chest, his eyes narrowing slightly as though he knows exactly what I’m implying.

 

But ultimately, it is Nae Il who speaks up next, her own posture mirroring Sun Jae’s. “It was because of Abeonim, wasn’t it?”

 

“Geu rae,” I answer with a grim nod. “It didn’t matter which school I auditioned for – Haneum, Seohan, even Saeyeon – at some point after I passed the audition round and made it to the interview, someone in the administration would inevitably bring up my being Cha Dong Woo’s son. And I started to wonder just what exactly they wanted: my talent or the publicity that would come from my name.

 

“So when it came time for me to make my final choice,” I finish, “I went with the school where I knew for sure I would have someone high-ranking on my side.”

 

“Ah….So Haneum was your escape, too, wasn’t it? Looks like we have something more in common now.”

 

Startled, I whirl around to face the voice that had just come from beside my ear, just barely managing to avoid striking Lee Yoon Hoo in the process.

 

“Ya, Lee Yoon Hoo!” I sputter as the others shift over to make room for him in our growing circle. “What’s your problem? This is the third time you’ve just snuck up on me like that!”

 

He shrugs, then gives me his mischievous smirk. “Well, I’ve told you before to stay on your toes, Cha Yoo Jin – I meant that in more ways than one.”

 

“Aish….” I mutter, shaking my head.

 

Has anyone ever told him that this habit of his is really damned annoying?

 

Fortunately, my agitation goes unnoticed for the most part, as Nae Il steps in to offer a quick round of introductions. And by the time she is done, I have recovered enough from my initial surprise for all of us to be able to pick up where we had left off: this time with Professor Jo taking his leave to chat with some acquaintances from Haneum’s faculty as we students settle into an easy casual conversation.

 

“It’s too bad that you two have to move on to Jeju-do so soon,” Min Woo says once we’ve explained our plans to visit Nae Il’s parents there next week, “or I would invite you over to my place and challenge you to a battle.”

 

“A battle?” Nae Il asks, eyes lighting up in interest. “What sort of battle?”

 

“An improvisation battle,” Sun Jae explains. “Professor Jo gives us a theme – either one from an established piece or something of his own composition – and we have to come up with variations on the spot.”

 

I let out a short laugh. “Well, even if we were free, you guys would have to count me out, then. I’m the sort of pianist who just learned how to do things by the book. Nae Il, on the other hand….” Proudly, I place one arm firmly around her waist and pull her closer to my side. “She’s great at this sort of thing.”

 

“Geu rae,” Yoon Hoo adds. “Unless you make her, she’ll never play something the same way twice. And as for me…..” His words trail off as he gives us all a helpless shrug. “Now that I’ve switched almost entirely to conducting, I imagine my skills on the cello would be rather rusty. But even if I were still playing it now, I’d be in a similar dilemma as Yoo Jin here.”

 

Nae Il leans forward just enough to look past me at Yoon Hoo. “I thought you said you were starting to pick it up again, Sunbae.”

 

“I am,” he answers, his tone a bit more curt than usual, “but more so as a hobby than to do anything professionally with it.” With this last statement, a penetrating glint appears in his eyes: a subtle warning to Nae Il not to press the subject further lest the issue with his left hand be revealed.

 

Still, sooner or later, the real world has to come crashing back in on us again – this time in the form of Professor Do who, after excusing himself for the intrusion, gestures brusquely at Nae Il, Yoon Hoo, and me.

 

“You three, come with me,” he says, in a voice that would broker no argument. “The press corner’s been set up now.” Clocking the way dread washes over our features – our expressions looking so identical that it would have been funny under any other circumstances – he adds, “No excuses. We’re only doing this for your benefit.”

 

Having the most experience working with him, I am also the first one to cave. “Ye, Professor,” I say, adding a slight bow for good measure. “We will be right there.”

 

As, satisfied, Professor Do turns and leaves, I take Nae Il by the hand with a sigh.

 

“Come on, guys: let’s just get this the hell over with.”

 

The three of us file off together, Nae Il and I holding hands in front with Yoon Hoo just steps behind us. As we make our way to the corner where a space has been cleared on the floor and a large banner has been hung on the wall, though, Yoon Hoo can’t help whispering to us in curiosity.

 

“Is Professor Do always such a force to be reckoned with?”

 

“Why do you think that mess with the Grieg concerto happened when it did?” I quip in response. “Best to stay on his good side if you haven’t done so already, Lee Yoon Hoo.”

 

I sense rather than see his shrug behind me. “Oh, I already ruined any chance of getting along with him right from the start, so no need to worry about me.”

 

“Waeyo? What’d you do, Sunbae?” Nae Il asks.

 

The two of us stop just long enough for Yoon Hoo to close the gap and lean in closer to whisper in our ears. “Professor Do offered me first chair in the cello section for A Orchestra as soon as I came over.”

 

Nae Il turns her head to stare at him over her shoulder. “Jinjjayo?”

 

“But not only did I refuse, I asked specifically to be placed in S instead.” He gives us a smirk even as he softly tsks in displeasure in Professor Do’s general direction. “I’m pretty sure he’s hated me ever since.”

 

His last remark makes me laugh. “And I know for a fact that he doesn’t like me for much the same reason. That makes two of us, then,” I say, turning to look at him over my shoulder with a smile.

 

And this time, the smile is real.

 

~~~~~

 

Even though it’s been years since she moved out, I can still feel Nae Il’s presence all around me: here in her childhood bedroom in her parents’ house on Jeju-do.

 

Sitting on her bed, my suitcase, still closed and unpacked, lying at my feet, I can’t help looking all around myself in some vain attempt to absorb and understand all there is to see of her life prior to coming to Haneum, and Seoul – and me.

 

Here is her favourite shade of soft pink painted on the walls. Here is her bookshelf, filled as much with an assortment of knick-knacks as with books. Here is the blanket with its delicate floral pattern. And here, sitting all in a row on the bed underneath her window, is what is left of her collection of stuffed animals: those we had sent back here after picking just a select precious few to take with her to Salzburg.

 

By rights, this place should feel like some relic to the past: that shrine to a long-forgotten innocence that so many parents, in their state of perpetual denial, hold onto after their children have grown. And yet, with Seol Nae Il, it’s different. The child I see here, the woman whom I know to be lurking just beneath the surface…they are somehow inseparable, indistinguishable, part of some massive whole.

 

“So, Orabang, what do you think?” Greeting me with a warm smile, Nae Il steps into her room and, closing the door behind her, moves to sit down beside me on her bed. She turns her head this way and that for a moment, nodding to herself in silent satisfaction. “Does this arrangement work for you?”

 

By “this arrangement,” Nae Il means the plans that her parents have put in place for our accommodations during this week we will be staying here before returning first to Seoul and then to Austria. The last time I had been here, when I had come over to persuade Nae Il to take part in the Salzburg Competition, it had been at such short notice that any preparations her parents could have made were haphazard at best: a spare blanket and pillow on the living room floor after I’d passed out in the middle of the hard late-night drinking that her father saw as a test of manhood. This visit, though, would be different, her parents had said. This time, they’d said, they were going to do it right. So, upon our arrival here from the airport, Nae Il had been unceremoniously shooed into her grandmother’s room while this one – the closest thing the family now has to a spare room in her absence – has been set aside for me.

 

I glance over at her. “I should be asking you that question, Seol Nae Il – this is your room, after all.”

 

“Hm….” Crawling up into the space behind me, Nae Il throws herself down onto the bed, laying on her back, her head resting on her folded arms. Smiling up at the ceiling, she lets out a contented sigh. “I don’t mind, Orabang, as long as you don’t.”

 

“Jeongmal?”

 

“Jeongmal.” She sits up and moves to kneel behind me, placing her hands firmly on my shoulders. As she starts firmly massaging them, she lets out a pouting whine. “You’re the one who’s been sleeping on the floor for close to two months, Orabang. It’s about time you got a bed.”

 

I just nod and hum softly in response before turning back around to face straight ahead.

 

“And, well,” she adds after a coy pause, “if there’s anyone I would want sleeping in my bed, it’s you.”

 

I let out a short laugh and give her a playful nudge with my elbow that sends her squirming back away from me. “Ya, Seollebal – you pervert!”

 

“Only with you, Orabang,” she retorts without skipping a beat, returning to her earlier spot behind me to resume the massage. “Only with you.”

 

Usually, I’m the one that’s offering Nae Il a massage, not the other way around. But as I feel her starting to increase the pressure in her fingers, I know that I have nothing to fear. Nae Il’s touch is confident and strong. Experience, probably from doing this for her family, has taught her just where to press more firmly and where to hold back as she works out the kinks and stiffness that I hadn’t even noticed until now.

 

So, feeling myself start to relax, I lay my head back against her shoulder, closing my eyes with a contented sigh.

 

Slowly, hesitantly, as though caught off guard by my actions, Nae Il’s hands come to a stop. Then, before I can even ask her what’s the matter, I feel her hair brush my left cheek as she leans down followed, a second later, by her lips in the crook of my neck.

 

Startled, my eyes fly open and I feel myself tense, a shiver rushing down my spine. My first instinct is to try to shrug her off of me, but Nae Il’s hands, still on my shoulders, tighten their grip, and she stops the kiss just long enough to whisper in my ear, “Just hold still.”

 

Her grip is so tight that I can’t actually turn around to face her, so I try my best to shoot her a glare out of the corner of my eye instead. “Ya, Seollebal – if you’re thinking of trying to put a mark on me right here in your parents’ house, you’re even more brazen than I thought.”

 

Nae Il tsks mischievously at me. “This is Jeju-do, Orabang; here, we women know what we want and we take it. But gwenchanayo, Orabang,” she finally relents, her tone softening as she slowly lowers herself back down upon me, inviting me to close my eyes in surrender. “I’ll be careful. If you think I’m going too far, just let me know.”

 

And Seol Nae Il is true to her word. She keeps her kisses soft and gentle, never applying enough pressure to cause me the discomfort that I have learned foretells the appearance of a bruise. Instead, that tingling feeling of her lips brushing against me over and over again makes my pulse race in my ears as blood, hot like hellfire, burns through me. It drives me mad and makes me crave for more until, sudden and unbidden, a soft guttural moan bursts out from deep inside of me.

 

This time, Nae Il is the one to stiffen in surprise. Abruptly, she stops and pulls back, leaving me to slowly open my eyes and glance back over my shoulder at her.

 

“Ya, Orabang,” she says firmly, just the slightest hint of accusation in her eyes, “you’re quite naughty when you want to be, too.”

 

Realizing just what exactly she is hinting at, I cough softly into the back of my hand, the heat radiating off of it making me blush even more. “Well,” I gasp out, “just whose fault is that?”

 

“True,” she concedes, one hand now idly fidgeting with the hem of her knee-length skirt. “But, well….”

 

Letting her words trail off, she looks past me towards her bedroom door. My eyes follow hers and then I turn back and give her a nod in understanding:

 

Actions are one thing, but the walls are thin, with the main room of the house just on the other side.

 

Silently mouthing out a “Komawoyo,” Nae Il now scoots back to her earlier spot by the window and scoops up one of the stuffed animals displayed there, a sleepy-eyed green owl, hugging it to her chest. With that single action, a transformation takes place: Nae Il the woman giving way to Nae Il the girl.

 

That is the Nae Il her mother sees, then, when she knocks upon and then opens the door a crack to let us know that lunch is ready. Beaming brightly in response, Nae Il sets the doll back down in its original spot before using both hands to scoot over to the foot of the bed and climb down.

 

“Come on, Orabang,” she calls out as she walks briskly towards the main room outside. “You don’t want to miss this!”

 

Earlier this morning, Nae Il’s father, after helping us get our luggage into the house, had left for work, promising to come back tonight with meat for a barbecue. But that’s dinner, and this is lunch. So when I emerge from the bedroom just a few steps behind Nae Il, it is to be greeted with the usual combination of rice and banchan. However, the main focus of the meal, taking pride of place in the centre of the table, is a large bowl of what looks to be mulhoe: a cold spicy seafood soup. This mulhoe, though, looks different from any I have ever seen before, the broth having a distinct brownish hue.

 

Noting my surprise, Nae Il takes me by the hand and pulls me down onto the place beside hers at the table. “This is how we do it on Jeju-do,” she explains as her mother starts ladling out a generous helping for each of us. “We add doenjang to our mulhoe here, which is why it looks like that. Trust me, Orabang: you can’t come to Jeju-do during the summer and not try it at least once. And if you’ve never tried it like this before, then you don’t know what you’re missing.”

 

After everyone waits for Nae Il’s grandmother to take the first bite as the eldest, I start by sipping a careful brimming spoonful of the broth. Immediately, I can taste the difference that adding doenjang makes. While I still notice the refreshing spicy tanginess of the mulhoe I’m more familiar with in Seoul, there is now also a certain earthy depth to it; in the same way that the deep bass in a piece of music adds a resonance that is felt vibrating in the chest rather than heard by the ears, it is as though Jeju-do’s mulhoe is as tied to the earth as it is to the sea.

 

As I glance up from that first spoonful, I startle so much that I end up fumbling and dropping my spoon back in the bowl. Nae Il’s face is just inches away from mine, she having leaned forward in her seat, propping her elbows on the table and her chin in her hands, to stare at me in eager curiosity. Eyes widening, I glance slowly from her to the other side of the table, only to find that her mother and grandmother, too, are watching me with similar expressions.

 

I let out a cough. “Waeyo?” I ask, looking once more over everyone. “Is – is something the matter?”

 

“Ani,” Nae Il’s mother replies, shaking her head with a reassuring smile.

 

“We’re just wondering what you think of it, Orabang,” Nae Il cuts in. “You didn’t get much of a chance to try Eomeong’s cooking last time you were here, so….” She lets her words trail off with a shrug.

 

“Uri Nae Il here,” her mother explains, “used to tell me over and over on the phone just how good of a cook you were.” She pauses to shoot her daughter a pointed look at that: one that, to my amusement, makes Nae Il shy back away from me, bashfully biting her bottom lip. Then, redirecting her attention to me, she adds, “So forgive this old mother here for wanting to know if this meets your expectations.”

 

“Ah….” I nod in understanding. Really, I should not have been surprised.

 

“Well, then, Eomeong,” I answer promptly, addressing Nae Il’s mother the way I know she likes me to, “you have nothing to worry about.” Taking up my spoon again, I gesture with it down towards my bowl. “I’ve never tried mulhoe done this way before, but it’s really good.” This time, I scoop up a piece of thinly sliced abalone, angling my spoon so that she could see it. “I take it that this is your work as well?” We had arrived at the house just in time to meet her outside of the door, on her way back from an early morning dive with a net full of shellfish.

 

Nae Il’s mother beams, even as she waves a dismissive hand at me. “Aigoo….No need to fret, Yoo Jin; this was nothing. I’ve been a haenyeo almost all my life, as has my mother before me, and her mother before her. Love for hard work and love for the sea – it’s all in my blood.”

 

I don’t say anything in response, but I give her a long look that she meets without even the slightest waver or flinch. Left unspoken but felt equally strongly on both sides is the bittersweet knowledge that with Nae Il’s love and passion for something else, this family will become like many here on Jeju-do, where the current generation of haenyeo will also be the last.

 

Sesing the tension in the room, Nae Il’s grandmother intervenes, changing the subject by asking Nae Il to play something for her on the piano.

 

Smiling in relief, Nae Il dips her head in acknowledgment. “Later, Halmang,” she says. “After we’ve all finished eating.” Her grandmother returns her smile, and that is our cue to start eating again. The rest of the meal passes without incident until it is time for us to get up and clear the dishes. Immediately, as is my habit, I start to gather up the plates and bowls to take them into the kitchen, but then Nae Il’s mother barks at me to leave them alone.

 

“You stay right there,” she says firmly, snatching my stack of plates right out of my hands. Clearly, Nae Il inherited her mock-stern expression from her mother; I see the same lips pursed into a pout, the same teasing twinkle in her eyes. “You’re our guest here this week, so don’t you even think about it.” She turns then to her daughter to call her into the kitchen to help with the dishes, but that’s when the grandmother speaks up to remind all of us of Nae Il’s promise to play her something.

 

And that is how, minutes later, I find myself in the piano room in a different part of the house, leafing through the copy of our photobook that we had prepared as our gift with the old woman as Nae Il herself settles down at the piano bench. Like our own instrument back in Salzburg, this one is a simple upright made of brown wood; its keys, starting to chip at the edges with age, are still smooth and gleaming from years’ worth of loving touches from its owner, despite her being away for so long.

 

“Remind me once again, Seollebal, how it was you wound up having a baby grand in your apartment in Seoul?” I ask drily.

 

“Well, we managed to sell it again before moving to Salzburg, so what do you think?” she quips in response, throwing me a knowing smirk for good measure. 

 

Touché.

 

Now, Nae Il glances over her shoulder at her grandmother. “Is there any particular piece you want to hear, Halmang?”

 

The old woman shakes her head. “Just something pretty.”

 

To my amusement, Nae Il responds with a jovial salute and a cheery, “Ne!” before starting with one of her personal favourite pieces: Liszt’s Liebestraum, its undulating melody sounding so like the ocean waves rolling up onto the beach outside that I wonder why the resemblance had never occurred to me before.

 

No sooner has she finished with this piece that she starts up another one. This piece, however, is not from her standard repertoire. Instead, I recognize it to be one of her own compositions. Dubbed Love Overture, it had first started as an improvised melody that Nae Il had come up with shortly after we first met in Seoul; but now, almost two years later, it has evolved into quite a different piece. Although it maintains the same lightly skipping melody from before, it is now softer and more contemplative with a slower tempo: a reflection of how our relationship has evolved and how Nae Il herself has matured over time.

 

I am Nae Il’s entire audience when she plays this piece.  At some point earlier, her grandmother had slipped out of the room, possibly having some other business to attend to; on the edge of my awareness, I can hear her saying something to her mother in the kitchen.

 

Nae Il’s music, then, washes over me, reserved for me alone. Normally, when she plays pieces like this, I just let myself sit back and relax into her melody. But this time, as she makes her way through it, I find myself slowly getting up from my spot on the floor, as though pulled by some unseen force, and making my way over towards the piano.

 

It’s been a long time since I’ve heard Nae Il play this piece, and right now, deep inside of me, I just know it:

 

Something…something isn’t quite right. This piece, which has always sounded complete to me before, now feels like it is missing something.

 

But what?

 

It’s only when I have come up almost right behind Nae Il that the answer comes to me: what this piece needs is a second voice. A countermelody that can supplement and enhance the first one – that is the only way to express the partnership that this music is meant to celebrate.

 

So, taking advantage of a short pause in the melody, when Nae Il is just playing the continuo chords in the bass, I reach past her with my right hand and sketch out a simple melodic line in the piano’s upper register. In my head, I can hear how it contrasts with, yet also complements, Nae Il’s own theme: fluidly legato where hers is detached; soft and soothing and just a little bit sad.

 

Surprised at my interruption, Nae Il stops playing, her hands resting lightly on the keyboard as she turns her head to peer up at me, a fond smile on her face.

 

“And you said that you can’t improvise, Orabang.”

 

Her reaction makes me snap back to reality. My hand jerks back to its original place by my side as I shake my head.

 

“Ani. I didn’t say that. I – I said that I wasn’t good at it. There’s a difference. And besides,” I add, glancing back over at the piano, “it still doesn’t sound right.”

 

Now it’s Nae Il’s turn to shake her head. “What’s wrong with it? I think it sounded just fine.”

 

Quickly, I explain to her what I had been trying to do: creating a second theme to match hers. And that’s when she says it.

 

“Why not use a different instrument, then?” When I raise a skeptical eyebrow at her, she smiles back at me. “Of course, we can’t try it out for real here, but we can still imagine what it would sound like.”

 

I’m about to retort that I don’t have nearly the same level of imagination that she does, but then Nae Il looks so earnestly up at me, like a puppy begging to play with its master, that my words die on my lips and I simply respond with a nod.

 

So we try playing it again. This time, when I come in, Nae Il keeps her basal harmony going, allowing me to adjust my melody to fit her. We go through it several times; with each repetition, the voice that I want to create takes stronger and stronger shape in my mind.

 

Something flowing. Something lyrical. Something warm. Something plaintive.

 

“I think I’ve got it.”

 

It’s only when Nae Il stops in her playing and turns once again to look at me that I realize I have spoken aloud.

 

“Ne, Orabang?”

 

“A clarinet,” I say, nodding firmly in attempts to cement it in my mind. “We can ask Rising Star to help us confirm it when we get back to Seoul, but for now, I think a clarinet would work.”

 

She mulls over it for a moment, tapping one finger on her chin in thought. Then, eventually, she nods.

 

“A wind instrument that is deep and soothing and warm….Like a human voice.” Determination grows in her eyes. “Like your voice.”

 

Immediately, I turn my face away from her as, once again, I burst out coughing. “Mwo? Since – since when did…?” Once I have recovered, I round back on her. “Ya, Seollebal – I did not say that.”

 

“Arayo,” Nae Il says with a casual shrug. “But I can still think it if I want to. Especially since you now have a hand in it as well.”

 

Only later, after Nae Il’s mother has left the house for her afternoon’s work, after Nae Il’s grandmother has retreated into her room for a nap, and after I myself have returned to the bedroom to finally unpack my suitcase does the reality sink in.

 

This Love Overture is the first piece that we have composed together, our combined efforts creating a better result than what either one of us could have achieved alone.

 

Who knows now whether more will come?

 

~~~~~

 

Nae Il’s father is already waiting for me in the yard when I scramble out of the house to meet him, having just barely managed to scarf down a quick breakfast. As I bow to him in greeting, I find myself stifling a yawn with the back of one hand, a gesture which earns me a knowing look of sympathy.

 

It is just shortly after dawn, the morning light just starting to peer out over the sea horizon, and Nae Il’s father has invited – although ordered may be a better way of describing it – me to accompany him to the ranch where he works.

 

Wordlessly, with a wave of his hand, he gestures for me to follow him to his car. Just as silently, I obey, taking the front passenger seat beside him. As he puts the key into the ignition and starts the engine, he gives me a quick sideways look, noting the way that my hands are instinctively clenched into fists on my knees.

 

Nae Il’s father cracks a smile and reaches across with one arm to try to slap me on the back, missing and getting me in the shoulder instead when I shrink back from him. “Relax, kid,” he says, patting me several more times for good measure. “You’re not in trouble or anything.”

 

That may be so, but right now, his good humour is actually making me even more nervous. After all, it’s not like I don’t know why he has called for this meeting in the first place.

 

So it is a silent, almost sullen, half-hour drive to the ranch, I taking advantage of the fact that Nae Il’s father has set the car radio to a classical music station to avoid making any conversation. He, for his part, seems to be gracious enough to just let me be; save for a single comment that he only listens to this station because “I want to make sense of what my daugther’s doing,” he is content to hold off on asking his questions for the time being.

 

This ranch that we come to is, I would guess, not all that different from any of the others scattered around Jeju-do. From what Nae Il has told me in the past, I know it not to be one of the large touristy places, but some standard elements do seem to be there. On the side of the property where Nae Il’s father parks the car, there is a large stable that opens out onto a wide circular pasture surrounded by a wooden fence. Peering through the passenger side window, I can just make out, on the pasture’s other side, a gate that opens out onto a similarly fenced trail, winding its way slowly towards the large hill looming up on the horizon.

 

I get out of the car just seconds after Nae Il’s father does, but when I make to follow him towards the stable, he holds up one hand for me to stop.

 

“Wait here,” he prompts me. “I’ll be right back.”

 

So I stand there by the car, awkwardly shifting my weight from one foot to the other, as I watch him jog on ahead, just managing to make out the greeting he calls out to some colleague inside the stable before he disappears inside. I don’t know what Nae Il’s father says in there, but moments later, he re-emerges, this time with a folded set of work overalls in his arms, a pair of boots perched rather comically on top. He himself has already changed into a similar outfit, and is now holding the bundle out towards me, clearly wanting me to take it.

 

At the earnest expression on his face, one that is so alike to Nae Il’s that I swear she got it from him, I let out a chuckle despite myself.

 

“Abang,” I begin, mischievously raising one eyebrow at him, “are you trying to put me to work?”

 

“Not necessarily,” he quips vaguely in response. “But unless you want to stay here by the car all day, I suggest you get this on anyway. Where there are animals, there’s going to be dirt – and we wouldn’t want to mess up your nice clothes there.”

 

I’m about to retort that, by my standards, I’m not wearing anything “nice” at all – knowing where we would be going this morning, I had stuck with a plain black T-shirt and jeans – but I also know there is no point in arguing. So instead, I relent with a sigh, stepping first into the overalls and then the boots, placing my own shoes back inside the car for safekeeping. Only then does Nae Il’s father gesture for me to follow him into the stable.

 

As someone who’s spent years in Salzburg, where horse-drawn carriages still convey visitors on guided tours of the old historic city, I’m not unfamiliar with horses. But the combined force of so many animals in a confined space like a stable catches me entirely off guard. As soon as I step inside, I am met with a strong barnyard smell – a mixture of sweat, hay, manure, and lord-knows-what-else – so powerful that, feeling my nose start to itch from the onslaught, I find myself taking an instinctive step backwards against my better judgment, seeking out the relatively fresher air on the other side of the threshold.

 

Sensing my predicament, Nae Il’s father stops in his tracks and turns back around to glance at me. “Gwenchana?”

 

His tone is cheerful and jocular, as though he did not expect anything less from a city boy like me. It has, however, the ironic opposite effect of making me feel even more embarrassed than I already was at my own reaction. Coughing softly even as I nod to him in reassurance, I brace myself and step back inside, not letting myself stop until I have caught up with him.

 

Beaming, he gives me a firm slap on the back. “It’s always like this in the morning. My colleagues and I are used to it by now, but we tend to forget what it feels like that first time.” He nods towards the stalls stretching out ahead of us on either side of a wide aisle, each one housing one of Jeju-do’s famous small stocky horses. “They’ve just spend the whole night cooped up in here, so things do tend to add up. But don’t you worry –” he raises one arm and waves a greeting to the man who is currently standing by one of the stalls, his hand resting lightly on its short gate “– once we’ve mucked this place out, it gets better.”

 

I stare down at him, incredulous. “Surely you’re not going to make me –”

 

“Of course not,” he answers promptly, giving me yet another reassuring pat. “I’m not about to torture you like that. Ani,” he adds, shaking his head, “I’ve got something else in mind.” Gesturing yet again for me to follow, he heads towards a corner of the stable near the door through which we had come in. There, he grabs a large canvas bag hanging from a nail set in the wall, and passes it to me. Peering inside, I see that it is filled with a bunch of rather dry-looking carrots.

 

“No-one’s going to pick these out at the market anymore,” Nae Il’s father quips, “but the horses don’t seem to mind.” He jerks his head back towards the stalls. “We’re going to turn them out to pasture in a bit so we can clean this place out, but before then –” he pauses and turns back to look pointedly at me “– why don’t you take a moment to get to know them first?”

 

My eyes widen in surprise. “Eh?”

 

“Go down the line and give each of them one of these. You don’t have to do much – just hold it out and they’ll take it.” He adds a casual shrug. “Some visitors, especially the kids, will try to pet them for good measure, but you don’t have to if you’re skittish.”

 

What connection it is that people see between food and icebreaking is beyond me. But I still can’t help thinking about that as, after watching Nae Il’s father demonstrate the process once – making a soft clicking sound with his tongue to get the horse’s attention, then crouching down and holding the carrot on one end as the animal chomps on the other – I am left to try it on my own. Although this time, I’m dealing with animals – and I would certainly never say my friends were animals, no matter how insane they got – there is something about this situation that conjures up in my mind that first day I spent as Professor Stresemann’s assistant, racing around campus with enough sandwiches to feed the entire S Orchestra.

 

The horses, though, are far more eager for these carrots than those orchestra members ever had been for their subs. On my first attempt, the horse yanks so hard that the carrot is ripped clean out of my hand and I am sent stumbling backwards to land rather ungraciously on my bottom. And as though that were not humiliating enough, it stares back at me, chewing casually on the carrot, with an almost smug expression in its eyes even as, having glanced over in our direction at the commotion, Nae Il’s father is unable to hold back a snicker.

 

“Small, but spirited – that’s what they are,” he calls to me over his shoulder. “Just like Nae Il. You’re lucky you don’t work here for real, though – on slow days, we sometimes dare each other to hold the other end of the carrot in our mouths.”

 

The mental image that just came to my mind sends a shudder down my spine, but it also gives me the impetus I need to finally get back up to my feet.

 

“All right, then,” I say to no-one in particular, “if this is how you want to do it, then let’s do it.”

 

Knowing now the amount of force to expect, my next try is easier and I manage to keep a firm grip on my end of the carrot as the horse extends its neck towards me until, finally, it comes so close that it appears to be looking straight at me out of the eye on my side of its head.

 

That look, that large eye with its gentle gaze, stirs up a distant memory in my mind. Years ago, when I was still a small child in Salzburg, I had seen something just like this.

 

I must have been around four years old at the time, the incident so long ago in the past that the exact date now escapes me. What I do remember, though, is walking home with Eomma from the market on a bright sunny morning, my hand held tightly in hers as we made our way through the Residenzplatz.

 

And that is when I had my first real close encounter with one of Salzburg’s carriage horses, the two of us passing right by one such carriage waiting for customers.

 

I had seen them from a distance before, of course; but nothing could have prepared that childhood me for the horse’s sheer size, looming high above my head. So whereas I imagine most children my age would have rushed forward in curiosity and wonder, I had shrunk back, worming my hand out of Eomma’s just so that I could grab onto her skirt as I hid myself behind her.

 

Eomma and the carriage driver had both laughed then, amused at my response. Then, at the man’s encouragement, she had gently but firmly pulled me back out from behind her. Scooping me up in her arms, she had brought me closer to the horse, realizing that looking at it from higher up would make it appear smaller in my eyes.

 

“Gwenchana, Yoo Jin-ah,” she had murmured in my ear before, holding gently onto my wrist, she had guided me to stroke the horse’s neck. “See? It won’t hurt you.”

 

Now, so many years later, I find myself moving instinctively the same way I had back then. As the horse continues to take slow bites of the carrot in my right hand, I reach out with my left hand, placing it firmly against the animal’s neck.

 

The first thing I notice is a comforting warmth, stronger than what normally comes off a person. The second is just how sturdy the horse is. Its coat is smooth, but not thick enough for me to bury my hand inside of it like with a dog or a cat; instead, I feel as though I could reach right down onto the muscles underneath the skin, firm and hardened and dependable. The horse seems to enjoy this, too; I can feel it pushing back against me as though trying to nuzzle against my hand.

 

A chuckle rings out from somewhere behind me, followed seconds later by a deep voice.

 

“I thought you and Nae Il might have this in common – but there’s shared and then there’s identical, and right now, I’d say this is more like the second.”

 

Turning slightly, but staying crouched down on the ground, I glance up at Nae Il’s father. “Did she do this a lot?”

 

His face cracks into a fond smile. “Of course. Uri Nae Il may be a haeneyo’s daughter, but it’s me she takes after, when push comes to shove. She loved animals, you see – possibly even more than the piano, at first.”

 

I let out a laugh. “She still does,” I quip in response, thinking back to those times when, shortly after moving to Salzburg, she had tried and failed to badger me into getting ourselves a pet.

 

Waiting for me to move on to the next stall so that the entire process could repeat again, he adds, “She must have just been about knee-high when she started following me here: feeding and petting the horses just like you’re doing now. She even used to beg me to let her take one of the foals home as a pet.”

 

“Did it work?”

 

“Of course not – where would we have had the room? Besides, we already had a dog back then, and I didn’t think she’d be able to take on the responsibility of caring for one more animal.” Pausing in thought for a moment, he asks, “Did you have any pets growing up?”

 

I shake my head. “Abeoji said that I ran around and made enough noise as it was.”

 

Nae Il’s father raises an eyebrow. “You were a mischievous child?”

 

“Not that I know of.”

 

“Geu rae. I didn’t think so, either.” He lets out a sigh. “You seem to be more of the dependable sort – someone who could keep uri Nae Il grounded when she, just like back then, gets some fanciful idea in her head.”

 

Something about the tone in his voice makes me tense up despite my better judgment. Turning my head this way and that, I glance around the stable to find that the two of us are now alone.

 

“Eh?”

 

“Tell me, Cha Yoo Jin: what are your intentions towards my daughter, Seol Nae Il?”

 

I had known from the start that this was the true reason why Nae Il’s father had brought me here, but I hadn’t expected that he would be so abrupt about it when the time came.

 

I open my mouth to answer, but nothing comes out. Silence rings over our heads; the only thing that I can hear right now is my own pulse pounding in my ears.

 

“A- Abang,” I stammer, scrambling to my feet and turning around to face him. “A- about that –”

 

“We all know that Nae Il has her mind set on marrying you.”

 

That gives me something to hold on to, and my voice is steadier this time when I answer. “She’s been wanting that since the day we first met,” I say, my lips tugging up into a fond smile at the memory. “I thought she was crazy for saying it then.”

 

“Not so crazy anymore, I hope,” her father says with a laugh. “After all, you already feel the same.”

 

Caught off guard by his blunt delivery, I burst out coughing. As he comes up beside me, giving me a resounding slap on the back, I gasp out, “A- Abang, I –”

 

“Still so shy about it,” he muses to himself. Then, to me, he adds, “When are you going to learn? There’s nothing to be scared of; we’re family here. Besides, anyone who looks at you two long enough will probably be able to see it: you and Nae Il are already married in all but name.”

 

Immediately, I move to defend myself. “We haven’t –”

 

“Ara. When did I ever say you have?” The look in his eyes as he now smiles at me is one of pride. “I’ve already heard from Nae Il, just how good you have been at controlling yourself. I don’t know many men who could say as much from my own generation – let alone yours.

 

“But surely, by this point, you’ve grown tired of waiting.”

 

I look down at him skeptically. “Are you saying I should propose now, Abang?”

 

“Not necessarily,” he answers with a shrug. “Whether you do it now or later is up to the two of you. All I’m saying, though, is: why wait?”

 

He gives me a pointed look: one that, despite its underlying kindness, makes me shrink back despite myself. “Nae Il loves you, and you love her back. Some couples break up after living together and seeing each other at their worst, but if anything, it’s only made you two closer. Anyone can see that this isn’t some fling; you two are clearly in this for life.

 

“So if the only thing left is to make it official – in more ways than one – what’s stopping you?” Something in my expression must have given me away, because he then adds, “I already told you: you’re not in trouble. If you want to wait, then I’m fine with it so long as Nae Il is. I just want to know where you plan to go on from here.”

 

True. He is her father after all. It’s only fair that he wants to know, since it’s her life and future we’re talking about.

 

“Next year,” I say eventually, nodding firmly to finalize my choice. “I plan to ask her next year.”

 

“Wae?” he asks. “What’s so special about next year?”

 

It takes me a moment to think up the right way to put it. “Because…because I want Nae Il to have a chance.”

 

Her father’s brow furrows in confusion. “A chance to do what?”

 

Letting out a sigh, I give him a long sideways glance. “A chance for her to leave me.”

 

“Ya, Cha Yoo Jin….” He opens his mouth to offer some sort of rebuttal, stops as he thinks better of it, then eventually says, “Don’t you think she would have left you already if she didn’t want this?”

 

“What choice has she had?” I retort, a hard edge creeping into my voice. “We’re both required to stay in Salzburg right now for our studies, so it’s not like she could come back here. And even if she were to want to break up with me and move out before her program is over, she can’t. Her scholarship can’t cover her tuition, food and rent all at once; right now, we’re both relying on the stipend I get from my own family.

 

“Not once since we moved in together has Nae Il really, truly had the choice to stay with me of her own free will. But next year…next year, she will have that chance. Her program ends with her graduation next June, at which point I will still have several more years to go. Then, if she wants to stay with me, either in Salzburg or here or someplace else in a long-distance relationship, I’ll propose. But if not….” My words trail off into a helpless shrug.

 

For a long moment, Nae Il’s father doesn’t say anything. Instead, the two of us exchange unwavering glances: he trying to take in and evaluate what I have just said, and I earnestly hoping that he could see my sincerity.

 

“Does Nae Il know any of this yet?”

 

I shake my head.

 

“Aigoo….” He reaches out and claps me smartly between the shoulderblades. “You’re a good kid, and you do deserve credit for thinking more for Nae Il’s sake than your own. But how are you going to give her what she wants if you don’t even ask?”

 

Bristling, I shrug his hand off of me and take a step back. “That’s the thing. If I were to ask Nae Il now, of course she’d say yes. But how could she know, really, what she wants when the time comes?”

 

“Did I say to propose to her now?” he retorts. When I shake my head, he continues, “All I’m saying is that you need to let Nae Il in. If the future is what you’re worried about, then tell her. You’re right to let her decide on her own, but at least give her the right to make that choice an informed one.”

 

~~~~~

 

As I set our desserts down on the table before her, Nae Il bursts into applause, clapping gleefully as she just manages to bite back a squeal of excitement. Barely waiting long enough for me to take the seat across from her, she yanks her glass over to her side of the table before immediately grabbing the piece of toffee stuck in the ice cream that forms the treat’s top layer and taking a large bite out of it.

 

Quickly, before I could lose the moment, I snatch up our camera and point it towards her; the shutter clicks just when she peers up at me, eyes dancing and shoulders shaking with laughter. Her mouth stuffed as it is, it takes her a moment before she has chewed and swallowed enough to actually say anything.

 

“Orabang,” she finally giggles, “are you still going on with that?”

 

“Of course!” I retort in response as I, too, finally start helping myself to my green tea ice cream, making sure to get some of the red beans as well. “You don’t come to such a beautiful place as this and not take any pictures.”

 

It had been my idea in the first place: to treat Nae Il to an excursion to anywhere on Jeju-do she wants on this last day of our visit. And out of all the possibilities out there, some admittedly better than others, I think she made a good choice to come here to O’Sulloc. A green tea plantation and museum on the south side of the island, the entire establishment has a very warm and soothingly minimalist aesthetic to it. And, save for the occasional moments in our exploration of the grounds where we had run right into large groups of Chinese tourists, it has been quiet enough that we have, once again, turned the day into an impromptu photoshoot.

 

At my words, Nae Il lets out a whine, her features turning into an exaggerated pout. “Just this place, Orabang? What about me?”

 

Her expression makes me laugh despite myself. “Ya, Seollebal!” I point at her with my spoon. “Why do you think I took so many pictures of you?”

 

Indeed, Nae Il looks absolutely beautiful right now. Earlier today, she, wearing a cheery red sundress, had been a bright beacon of colour in the vast sea of green that was both the tea fields and the gardens surrounding the museum. Once indoors, she had radiated the same sense of warmth as the wooden walls and furniture around her as we made our way through the exhibits. Of course, she had taken some photos of me as well, mostly when, in the gift shop, we had worked together to make our own tea-scented soap to take home to Salzburg with us, but for the most part, I’ve been the one capturing her through the camera lens.

 

Bursting into giggles yet again, she kicks me softly under the table. “All right, then. Forget I said anything; your pick-up lines still suck.”

 

“Ya!”

 

“But you can make it up to me,” she adds coyly, “by letting me take a picture of you.”

 

I raise an eyebrow at her. “Is that all?”

 

“That’s all I know you’d be willing to give me in a place like this.” Slowly, she turns her head this way and that, peering at all the filled tables around us. “Now, if you actually don’t mind going further, on the other hand –”

 

“Arasseo, arasseo,” I blurt out, laughing as I all but shove the camera across the table at her. “Just take your damned photo.”

 

“Ne!”

 

To be honest, I don’t have any problems getting my picture taken like this, so I obediently adopt the pose that she suggests to me: smiling kindly at her as I hold a spoonful of the ice cream out towards the camera in invitation.

 

Of course, Nae Il being Nae Il, she’s bound to have some sort of trick up her sleeve. But still, even though I should have been prepared, I am caught by surprise when, immediately after the shutter clicks, she sets down the camera and grabs onto my wrist, lunging forward to eat the ice cream right off the spoon.

 

“Ya, Seollebal!” I yelp, throwing my spoon down into my glass once she has let go. “You’ve already got one! How the hell is this fair?!”

 

Smiling impishly at me, she props her elbows on the table and rests her chin on one hand while scooping up more ice cream – from her own glass this time – with the other. “Mm….” she hums softly to herself, her mouth full of ice cream. “I can feed you some of mine if you want.”

 

Shuddering at the thought, I shake my head. “Gwenchana – you…you don’t have to.”

 

“That’s more for me, then,” she chirps in triumph. “Komawoyo, Orabang.”

 

Left with nothing else to say, I simply wave at her to go on eating without me, although I join in moments later. The two of us continue to make our way through the ice cream, which is now slowly starting to melt into the rest of the green tea latte below, in companionable silence. At last, as I get to the dregs at the bottom of my glass, a mixture of red beans coated in green tea-flavoured cream, I speak up.

 

“Nae Il-ah.”

 

Pausing at the sound of my voice, she peers up at me. “Ne, Orabang?”

 

“I’m just wondering: where do you think we’ll be next year?”

 

“Eh?”

 

“What I mean is –” Vaguely, I gesture in the air with my spoon hand as I try to gather my thoughts together. “You’ll be graduating then, so have you given any thought to where you want to go afterwards?”

 

She mulls over my question for a moment, then shakes her head. “Aniyo – I haven’t thought that far ahead yet.”

 

“It’s not all that far, you know.” I raise up my hands for silence at the petulant glare she sends me. “Ara, ara – I know you like to take things one day at a time. That’s one big difference about us that’s never going to go away; I get that.

 

“But seriously, Nae Il-ah: think about it. You know that you’ll be finished at the Mozarteum sooner than me. So after your graduate, would you want to stay there in Salzburg with me? Come back here to Korea? Do graduate studies or start giving performances as a soloist?”

 

I know that she is taken aback by my words. I can see it in the way she pouts at me, in the way she crosses her arms in front of her chest.

 

“Orabang – do you honestly think I’d have an answer to that right now?”

 

“Of course not. I know you too well for that. All I’m asking is that you start thinking about it so that…so that….”

 

Damn. Why is this so hard to say?

 

I let out a huff, then try again. “So that when the time comes, I can accommodate you.”

 

Nae Il blinks at me in surprise. “What – what do you mean?”

 

“I’m not Abeoji,” I say with a shrug. “I’m not about to make you drop everything to stay with me like he did with Eomma.”

 

That’s what he once told me, after all: Go alone, or find someone who’s willing to give everything up for you.

 

But I know I don’t want to do that. Perhaps it’s like this for children who have witnessed their parents’ marriages fall apart: we vow not to make the same mistakes that they did.

 

“So next year, Nae Il-ah, I want you to be able to do whatever it is you wish. Stay with me in Salzburg; come back home or go on tour and keep a long-distance relationship; go our separate ways altogether…it’s all up to you.”

 

Finally, she seems to get it, understanding lighting up in her eyes. But then, one corner of her mouth twitching up into a knowing smirk, she gives me a bemused shake of the head.

 

“Baboya.”

 

Now it’s my turn to blink at her in surprise. “Who? Me?”

 

“Mm,” she answers promptly, adding a firm nod for good measure. “You.”

 

Immediately, I open my mouth to defend myself. “Ya, Seol Nae Il –”

 

“What if I want to be the one doing the giving for once?” she blurts out, cutting me of mid-sentence. “Don’t I get to do that?”

 

For a moment, I just stare at her. “Mwo?”

 

“You’re not the sort of person who would force me to give up my dreams for you,” she says. “If you were, you would have left me a long time ago – on that day when I was too scared to play the duet with Lee Yoon Hoo. But you stayed. You waited for me. And then, when I thought I’d lost my chance to go and study abroad, you did everything you could to get me into the Salzburg Competition – even though you thought you still couldn’t get on a plane to join me.”

 

Once again, I try to cut in. “Nae Il-ah –”

 

“And you know what the crazy thing about all this is?” She looks me pointedly in the eye. “None of this is a big deal as far as you’re concerned. You don’t do any of this to make yourself look good or to try to win me over. You just…do it.

 

“That’s what love is, Orabang. Prioritizing others over yourself. But what good is knowing how to love when you don’t let others love you in return?

 

“You want to know what I want? Let me be the one to match you for once. Wherever you go, whatever you want to do…let me follow you.”

 

Nae Il has said so much in these few minutes that, just for a moment, I can only sit there in silence, trying to process it all, trying to make sense of all the thoughts that come to my mind all at once.

 

Pride at just how much she has grown: from a child’s romantic vision of love to that of an adult. Amusement at just how she has interpreted my actions over the years. Relief at her promise to stay with me – at least for now.

 

At long last, I reach across the table and place one hand overtop of hers. Stroking the back of her hand gently with my fingers, I respond the only way that I can:

 

“Komawo, Nae Il-ah.”

 

Author's Notes (in "Hidden Contents" because of Spoilers)

 

Spoiler

Thus ends this two-part interlude between what I see to be the two main halves of my "Seolleim in Salzburg" series. You may have caught some hints as to where I'm going to be taking things in the future - I did work in some foreshadowing here and there - but I also hope that enough is still hidden that I can still manage to surprise you all yet. ;)

 

That being said, this fic is pretty self-explanatory, so my focus for this behind-the-scenes feature is really going to be on the Rising Star Orchestra's concert, followed by a few miscellaneous tidbits.

 

1. The Rising Star Concert

 

There's not a whole ton to do here except to feature the music, but I do have some occasional comments here and there.

 

1. Carmen Suite No. 1 by Georges Bizet

 

 

 

2. Violin Concerto in E-Minor by Felix Mendelssohn

 

This is the literal Hilary Hahn concert that I mention in the fic, which took place in Seoul in 2012. And I think now is a good point to say that, to a certain extent, I was also inspired by Hahn's style in figuring out Jung Si Won's. She's one of those artists who's been praised for her exacting technique and precision, but some have also criticized her playing for coming off as "robotic" or "emotionless". I don't know...I'll let you be the judge of that.

 

 

3. Die Moldau (aka Vltava) by Bedrich Smetana

 

 

 

4. Piano Concerto in A-Minor by Robert Schumann

 

This is one where, in order to show you guys the exact recording/interpretation that I had in mind, I need to do three videos instead of one: one video for each movement.

 

 

 

 

Finally, as is the norm for me, the dresses that Seol Nae Il and Jung Si Won are described as wearing for the performance are inspired by real dresses I have found online. So here goes - I should give credit where credit's due :)

 

So here we have the inspiration for Nae Il's dress...

 

Chic / Beautiful Black Prom Dresses 2018 Ball Gown Sash Suede Off-The-Shoulder Backless Short Sleeve Tea-length Formal Dresses

 

And for Si Won's dress (which, I hope, you can see how I used Hahn's dress as a jumping-off point)

 

Buy Sennyo Sleeveless Embellished Evening Gown | YesStyle

 

2. Miscellaneous Tidbits

 

I'd mentioned earlier that two of the characters from "Secret Love Affair",that I include here, Ji Min Woo and Jo In Seo, are played by actual pianists instead of actors. So even if I gave a name at the start, that's not gonna help most people with the visualization ;)  But, I will say it here: Jo In Seo is played by Park Jong Hoon and Ji Min Woo is played by Shin Ji Ho.

 

So here's a short snippet from "Secret Love Affair" - Min Woo's debut, in fact - where they are both seen playing together. Min Woo is the student on the left, while In Seo is on the right.

 

 

And this clip from the drama shows what Min Woo's improvisation style is like - in short: rather jazz-like, the same way Nae Il's is. (FYI: I can't say why Lee Sun Jae - i.e. Yoo Ah In - looks so miffed here without going into spoilers for "Secret Love Affair", but no, it's not because he's jealous or anything like that. Let's just say he's got some rather complicated memories of the original theme Min Woo's riffing on.)

 

 

Thirdly, since I came across this video anyway and thought it was epically awesome, here's a performance that Shin Ji Ho did with Super Junior's Henry, who's also an accomplished violinist in his own right.

 

 

Finally, one last tidit about Jeju-do! I'll leave you guys to look up O'Sulloc on your own (it's a really famous attraction, so you really an't miss it), but the dessert that Cha Yoo Jin and Seol Nae Il share is called the King O Freddo, and I worked off this photo here for the description:

 

Food-Korea-Guide-Osulloc-%EC%98%A4%EC%84

 

And Nae Il's look on this date is actually inspired by a real-life photo of Shim Eun Kyung. I do think her dress would have shorter sleeves, though, since it's summer.

 

 

 

 

 

Once again, if anyone wants to access a master list of all my fanfics and other Hallyu-related writings, you can find that on the "About Me" section of my profile page.

 

Also, I just want to say right now that I'm not going to have the chance to post anything new until the last week of August due to some things getting really busy in real life. So if anyone could please continue sharing/posting stuff so this forum isn't, like, completely dead until I get back, that'll be awesome!

 

That's it for now! Thanks and enjoy reading!

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks @Kittyna, our mainstay :kiss_wink:

Let me in with my little footstep but don’t expect something as great as Kittyna hehehe.  

 

 

On 8/5/2018 at 2:23 AM, green_cardigan said:

I’ve almost finished Ojakgyo Brothers, only a few more episodes left, meaning drama marathons at nights for almost two weeks in a row (I’m so proud of myself haha :D) I even watch it on the bus on my way to work and back to home... Actually, this drama is such a stress reliever I don’t know what to do when it ends. I’ll be back later to share my thoughts about the drama and our sweet silent hero Hwang Tae Hee!

 

I had long been wanted to express my feelings towards Ojakgyu Brothers but just need a real kick by someone.  It’s time for me to write them down, in the next post in order not to delay a quick response here.

 

Please enjoy a few pictures for the time being.  I did not remember where exactly I gathered those from quite some time ago.  Anyway credit must go to the respective owner for sharing them on the Internet.

 

 

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 8/16/2018 at 10:58 PM, kittyna said:

Also, I just want to say right now that I'm not going to have the chance to post anything new until the last week of August due to some things getting really busy in real life. So if anyone could please continue sharing/posting stuff so this forum isn't, like, completely dead until I get back, that'll be awesome!

 

I promise to post something during your absence because I don’t want to let you down ;) We’ll be missing you!

 

On 8/17/2018 at 9:23 PM, soomoi said:

I had long been wanted to express my feelings towards Ojakgyu Brothers but just need a real kick by someone.  It’s time for me to write them down, in the next post in order not to delay a quick response here.

 

Oh I can’t wait to read it! My thoughts are still lingering on that drama, maybe because it was with me for so long, and Tae Hee and Ja Eun’s story had such a strong impact on me :wub:

 

I tried to finish 7GCS but after watching a few more episodes I had to admit that this drama isn’t for me. There’s nothing wrong with Han Gil Ro, I enjoyed Joo Won playing such a fun character, but everything else was just... not comparable with other dramas he’s been on.

 

Joo-Won-image-joo-won-36732061-500-225.g

 

So now I’ve started watching a couple of other dramas. One is Your Honor with Yoon Shi Yoon from King of Baking; he’s the reason why I started watching the drama, and I’m glad I did, since it appeared to be rather good! Both lead actors, Shi Yoon and Lee Yoo Young, are really great and have a nice chemistry together. I didn’t know Lee Yoo Young before and when I googled her I found out SHE’S ACTING WITH JOO WON in Fatal Intuition!! What a coincidence! :lol:

 

Fatal Intuition is on my watch list, but since I know it’ll be an emotional and maybe a bit distressing movie experience, I have been dragging it. I need to be ready for that famous crying scene...

 

Since I share here my findings as a new fan of JW, here’s something I saw earlier and had fun reading, many pretty pictures too!

 

joo-won-cosmopolitan-magazine-1.jpg

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just short update from my side... I watched Fatal Intuition yesterday, although it took me a couple of tries since this kind of movie genre is not my favorite. The movie was very different from Joo Won’s previous works, and his acting was different as well. I remember him telling about his role in Fatal Intuition that instead of acting different emotions he wanted to the emotions come more naturally, and I could see that. It’s good he keeps challenging himself but I didn’t find Jang Woo as strong as Joo Won’s characters usually are. I wanted to know more about him, but the movie didn’t give him an opportunity to become someone interesting.

 

Like this gentleman here :rolleyes:

 

BUprxKS.gif

 

Since @kittyna is busy with her real life duties and this forum feels very empty without her daily posts :tears:, I’ll add a few Joo Won pictures from Instagram on her behalf:

 

Spoiler

 

I’d want to buy this art and hang it on my wall

 

Holding back those tears (I can see a theme here)

 

His expression here is so adorable :wub:

 

I can’t wait for my first VLIVE with Joo Won! Some of his lives have been subbed in English but apparently they don’t allow fansubs? I don’t understand Korean well enough to make translations either :mellow:

 

I haven’t seen this one before... so cute!

 

 

 

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, green_cardigan said:

I can’t wait for my first VLIVE with Joo Won! Some of his lives have been subbed in English but apparently they don’t allow fansubs? I don’t understand Korean well enough to make translations either :mellow:

 

Here's a link to the LieV.  On the bottom right panel there is the choice of subtitles in which you can choose English.  Please try and enjoy.  

https://www.vlive.tv/video/16366

 

 

1 hour ago, green_cardigan said:

I haven’t seen this one before... so cute!

This picture was taken in the event for the movie opening: Special Investigation Unit.

Here are some more pictures in the same event.  

 

Another day for the same movie.  This time JW in a different, more flower-boy style.

1 hour ago, green_cardigan said:

Just short update from my side... I watched Fatal Intuition yesterday, ...

Ahh, Fatal Intuition... I would applaud for JW's a nice try :lol:  It is not easy to describe a character fully in a movie within such a short time.  Very often there are many elements to keep the story interesting with more variety and excitement to safeguard the box office.  So we are fed with fast pacing, vague incarnation of the characters and a lot of interactions to help you dive into their situation quickly.    I prefer drama which can give sufficient time for the audience to digest, rethink and appreciate the details.  I'm so old school :sweatingbullets:
  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 8/21/2018 at 9:44 PM, soomoi said:

Here's a link to the LieV.  On the bottom right panel there is the choice of subtitles in which you can choose English.  Please try and enjoy.  

 

Thank you so much @soomoi :thumbsup::heart: I watched it and almost fell asleep because Joo Won made me feel so comfortable and relaxed :D Although I was a bit flustered since one of the cameras was zooming so close... those soft lips... that lustrous skin *fans herself* I still haven’t seen all of Joo Won’s vlives and this one I had completely missed. It’s great that they provided English subs too.

 

On 8/21/2018 at 9:44 PM, soomoi said:

This picture was taken in the event for the movie opening: Special Investigation Unit.

Here are some more pictures in the same event. 

 

Thanks for the info. I kinda have a thing for rookie actor Joo Won now that I’ve seen him on King of Baking and Ojakgyo Brothers :wub: I’ve seen only the beginning of S.I.U. but would like to see the full movie. I haven’t been able to find it yet with the quality I’m satisfied with. I could buy it but does it have English subs? I have to check that.

 

Spoiler

 

mug_obj_144601840162227089.jpg

 

1345985903313.jpg?type=w740

 

01.jpg?type=w2

 

02.jpg?type=w2

 

On 8/21/2018 at 9:44 PM, soomoi said:

Ahh, Fatal Intuition... I would applaud for JW's a nice try :lol:  It is not easy to describe a character fully in a movie within such a short time.  Very often there are many elements to keep the story interesting with more variety and excitement to safeguard the box office. 

 

Let’s just be honest and say that the script was bad... You can make a movie with good characters, whatever the genre is. But it was interesting to hear Joo Won using dialect, and also for the first time his character wasn’t a handsome young man, but someone who didn’t care about his appearance or himself a one bit. He only wanted to protect and provide for his little sister. Their relationship was what was beautiful in the movie... :tears:

 

Another thing from the LieV I just watched: Joo Won talked about choosing My Sassy Girl because he had found out that his fans wished him to act in a historical drama. Although I didn’t love MSG and didn’t finish the drama, I should definitely give it an another chance. Since Joo Won chose it thinking of his fans.

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I watched Special Investigation Unit and it was surprisingly good, although it could’ve been ever better if its pace had been a little bit slower. I don’t know why many Korean movies feel sometimes too rushed. I find watching K-dramas better for that reason. But Joowon did great job in his first movie role in S.I.U. His character, Kim Ho Ryong, would’ve suited very well in TV series like Criminal Mind. Such a pity that it was only for a short time for a movie role... maybe they’ll make a sequel? ^_^

 

20140206-joo-won-ong-hoang-rating-xu-han

 

I didn’t return to My Sassy Girl yet, instead I watched almost all subbed VLIVE videos from Joowon’s channel. From the beginning until the time he had started filming MSG. I’ll watch the more recent videos when I start watching the drama, but here are my top 5 videos so far (excluding previously mentioned LieV video, which is also a must watch):

 

*Joowon’s Lunch Time Live*

Joowon’s mother sent a surprise lunch box to her son during Yong Pal’s filming

https://www.vlive.tv/video/1422

 

*Joowon’s Week 1*

Yong Pal’s ending party, talking about the most popular lines/scenes from the drama with actor friend Min Jin Woong, who plays Joowon’s bodyguard

https://www.vlive.tv/video/2191

 

*Joowon’s Her*

Revealing the winner of the audition for female lead on My Sassy Girl (who isn’t Oh Yeon Seo :blink: I was so confused when I started to watch the video since I hadn’t known there had been this kind of auditioning/voting process for choosing the leading lady, nor that the actress had given up on the role. That must’ve been extremely stressful time for everyone.) Side note: Joowon looks so yummy here!

https://www.vlive.tv/video/10314

 

*Joowon’s V Life (feat. Fan)*

1 year anniversary on VLIVE

https://www.vlive.tv/video/12266

 

And I saved the best for last :wub:

 

*Joowon’s Life Log Ep. 2*

Feat. friends Lee Sae Wook, Shin Joo Hwan and Min Jin Woong 

https://www.vlive.tv/video/14893

 

On these videos Joowon mentions many times how he’s been working out a lot, but still he choses to act in a drama where he wears traditional clothes and is covered with layers and layers of fabric from neck to ankles... why? So cruel.

 

Okay, now time for a few pics from the instafeed. Have a nice week ahead of you, everyone!

 

Spoiler

 

Absolutely loving these stills from MSG. If something is without a fault on this drama, it’s its beautiful scenery and the clothing. Joowon looks really handsome here.

 

 
I love fisof1’s videos on Instagram and YT, she makes such a bubbly and fun edits of Joowon’s videos and pictures :D

 

 

Look at that frame... :wub:

 

 

These screenshots from the short film Clocking Out are hilarious! Also, a reminder that Joowon will be back on the 5th of February. Only five months to go! 

 

 

 

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And...I'M BACK! Thanks to @soomoi and @green_cardigan for keeping things going while I was away, and to everyone who read/liked their stuff along the way :thumbsup:

 

(Some of you may have been eagle-eyed enough to spot me online sometimes these past few days. Since it's over and done with now, I'll confess that this past week, I was actually vacationing with my family and was therefore, for the most part, unplugged from the Internet. Those times you saw me, I was using rather spotty public Wi-fi, so I stuck with just reading and liking stuff, but decided to save the replies for when I'm finally back on my own computer in Toronto, Canada.)

 

I'll do a pics post tomorrow when I'm actually feeling more rested and up for it, but I will say that those JW fans on Instagram have been super-busy this past week - I couldn't even load everything that had been posted since my last check without Instagram crashing on my Internet browser (i.e. where I get the "Failed to Load" message over and over again) :unsure: 

 

So it looks like you all have been busy little bees, just like a certain workaholic we all know and love.... ;) 

 

But anyway, that being said, I can at least do replies tonight - so here goes!

 

On 8/18/2018 at 4:42 PM, green_cardigan said:

I tried to finish 7GCS but after watching a few more episodes I had to admit that this drama isn’t for me. There’s nothing wrong with Han Gil Ro, I enjoyed Joo Won playing such a fun character, but everything else was just... not comparable with other dramas he’s been on.

 

Okay, "Level 7 Civil Servant" is just pure and utter crack - as in, it's really random and doesn't make much sense, so you should just go with the flow and not really expect anything from it :P If I had to describe it genre-wise, it's not a pure comedy, nor is it a spy/secret agent story (since everyone, Han Gil Ro included, ends up infuriatingly incompetent if you look at it from that angle) - I'd actually pin it as being a parody of the spy/secret agent drama genre, but that may be asking too much of it still.

 

That being said, I did enjoy watching JW's various antics (sorry, guys - I love him as an actor and as a person, but I still love laughing at his drama characters' expense, which you may have figured out from all the times I've embarrassed my head-canon version of Cha Yoo Jin in my "Seolleim in Salzburg" fics by this point). :) 

 

On 8/18/2018 at 4:42 PM, green_cardigan said:

Since I share here my findings as a new fan of JW, here’s something I saw earlier and had fun reading, many pretty pictures too!

 

Oh, yeah - that's a fun blog post. I read it ages ago, but thanks for sharing it again :) 

 

On 8/21/2018 at 1:05 PM, green_cardigan said:

Just short update from my side... I watched Fatal Intuition yesterday, although it took me a couple of tries since this kind of movie genre is not my favorite. The movie was very different from Joo Won’s previous works, and his acting was different as well. I remember him telling about his role in Fatal Intuition that instead of acting different emotions he wanted to the emotions come more naturally, and I could see that. It’s good he keeps challenging himself but I didn’t find Jang Woo as strong as Joo Won’s characters usually are. I wanted to know more about him, but the movie didn’t give him an opportunity to become someone interesting.

 

On 8/21/2018 at 2:44 PM, soomoi said:

Ahh, Fatal Intuition... I would applaud for JW's a nice try :lol:  It is not easy to describe a character fully in a movie within such a short time.  Very often there are many elements to keep the story interesting with more variety and excitement to safeguard the box office.  So we are fed with fast pacing, vague incarnation of the characters and a lot of interactions to help you dive into their situation quickly.    I prefer drama which can give sufficient time for the audience to digest, rethink and appreciate the details.  I'm so old school :sweatingbullets:

 

On 8/22/2018 at 2:24 PM, green_cardigan said:

Let’s just be honest and say that the script was bad... You can make a movie with good characters, whatever the genre is.

 

11 hours ago, green_cardigan said:

I watched Special Investigation Unit and it was surprisingly good, although it could’ve been ever better if its pace had been a little bit slower. I don’t know why many Korean movies feel sometimes too rushed. I find watching K-dramas better for that reason.

 

Personally, I'm with you guys. I haven't watched "Fatal Intuition" or "S.I.U." yet, but most of the Korean films I've watched...have been pretty mediocre compared to the dramas. Like, they're not bad - when I'm, say, on a plane or really wanting to go through an actor's repertoire, they're okay, and the occasional one has come along that I would even consider to be very good - but the place where I think Korean movies tend to go wrong is in the storytelling. 

 

Generally speaking, I really like how Korean dramas are structured, narratively speaking. Unlike films, they have enough time to really go in depth with character and plot development; but unlike American television dramas, which aim for stories that seemingly go on without end so that they could keep adding on new seasons, there is a finite conclusion that completes the narrative arc. So watching a drama from beginning to end, when it's done well, can feel really satisfying.

 

But what I've found is that those who are good at long-form storytelling tend to flounder with short-form - Korean filmmakers seem to want to get the same amount of depth into their stories, but there simply isn't enough time to flesh any of it out to the point that audiences would come away satisfied. And that's how you end up with weird things like a film that starts off in one genre, then suddenly veers into a whole different direction in the second half ("Secretly, Greatly", which starred - among others - Kim Soo Hyun and Park Ki Woong, is a particularly notable example). Or films that have to simply resort to a rather superficial story that doesn't really allow its cast to go as far into the characters' psyche as they might like (an example of one such JW film, in my opinion, would be "Catch Me" - great as a simple comedy, but, again, don't expect any more than that).

 

On 8/21/2018 at 1:05 PM, green_cardigan said:

Like this gentleman here :rolleyes: *insert GIF of Cha Yoo Jin*

 

On 8/22/2018 at 2:24 PM, green_cardigan said:

Another thing from the LieV I just watched: Joo Won talked about choosing My Sassy Girl because he had found out that his fans wished him to act in a historical drama. Although I didn’t love MSG and didn’t finish the drama, I should definitely give it an another chance. Since Joo Won chose it thinking of his fans.

 

Commenting on this point since you've already brought up "Level 7 Civil Servant" - A number of fans who got into JW because of his acting find comedy to be his weak spot. Is he bad at it? Not necessarily - I mean, I enjoy watching JW's take on comedy regardless, so I'm probably not one to judge. But it's...how should I put it? JW's comic acting is pretty much on par with the Hallyu star standard, so it's not like he's going to blow anyone away with his performance. Many JW fans like him best when he's doing something that's really overtly challenging or angsty, because those are roles that tend to have more meat to them and demand both more emotionally intense and subtly nuanced work from the actor.

 

So roles like these ones here:

 

 

But that being said, out of his three main comic dramas - "Level 7 Civil Servant", "Nae Il's Cantabile", and "My Sassy Girl" - I do find "Nae Il's Cantabile" to be my favourite so far re: JW's performance. I'll be honest: I've only watched snippets of "My Sassy Girl", so I probably can't judge there. But comparing "L7CS" and "Cantabile"...I definitely think JW was able to show off his capabilities more as Cha Yoo Jin than as Han Gil Ro. Mostly because Cha Yoo Jin's actually played off relatively straight compared to the more over-the-top antics from most of the rest of the cast. :P So JW's comedy there is more of the ironic "only sane guy in the room" sort than slapstick.

 

11 hours ago, green_cardigan said:

*Joowon’s Her*

Revealing the winner of the audition for female lead on My Sassy Girl (who isn’t Oh Yeon Seo :blink: I was so confused when I started to watch the video since I hadn’t known there had been this kind of auditioning/voting process for choosing the leading lady, nor that the actress had given up on the role. That must’ve been extremely stressful time for everyone.) Side note: Joowon looks so yummy here!

 

Oh, yeah...that audition process just turned into a whole mess. For those fans like myself who followed the process as it played out - I didn't know about JW's VLive channel yet, so I didn't watch the videos, but I was aware of what was going on from Hallyu news sites - it just got really painful to watch after a while.

 

The general consensus, from what I've seen, is that JW and the actress who won the audition got played big time. There's the official story as to why the actress stepped down from playing the lead, but many people took it with a grain of salt and suspected that there was a conflict between the show's producers and the television network about whether the role should go to a newcomer or an established big-name actress. JW, from what I've seen and heard, seems to have been really invested in the audition process, and the actress, although relatively unknown, had won the part fair and square. So there was a good deal of disappointment and frustration when that whole process just got thrown out the window after the fact, with none of the actors involved really having much of a say in that decision.

 

11 hours ago, green_cardigan said:

*Joowon’s Lunch Time Live*

Joowon’s mother sent a surprise lunch box to her son during Yong Pal’s filming

 

This one was the first VLive I ever watched, and it was adorable. That was an insane amount of food, though - I hope JW's mom made that much intending for him to share, since he wound up having to do that anyway ;) 

 

11 hours ago, green_cardigan said:

*Joowon’s Week 1*

Yong Pal’s ending party, talking about the most popular lines/scenes from the drama with actor friend Min Jin Woong, who plays Joowon’s bodyguard

 

11 hours ago, green_cardigan said:

*Joowon’s Life Log Ep. 2*

Feat. friends Lee Sae Wook, Shin Joo Hwan and Min Jin Woong 

 

Anytime JW's just shown hanging out with his friends is just awesome. I don't know how they all turned out to be a bunch of adorkable boys-next-door, but they did, and it's so cute :D 

 

11 hours ago, green_cardigan said:

On these videos Joowon mentions many times how he’s been working out a lot, but still he choses to act in a drama where he wears traditional clothes and is covered with layers and layers of fabric from neck to ankles... why? So cruel.

 

LOL! I've seen some comments complaining about historical hanbok for that reason - especially compared to historical Chinese and Japanese dress, which is usually more form-fitting (not as fitted as, say, the modern-day cheongsam, but well, it's also not as bulky as hanbok either).

  • Like 2
  • LOL 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just popping by with today's pics!

 

(It's been a while since I've done this and I've lost track a bit of what I've already posted and what I haven't yet, so if I end up repeating any pics, please forgive me.)

 

Spoiler

There's a really poignant feeling to this behind-the-scenes shot from "Yong Pal". The caption certainly adds to it - I'd say that's a pretty accurate way of describing Kim Tae Hyun, don't you think? And a number of JW's other drama characters besides. And possibly he himself as well :P 

 

 

Lovely black-and-white close-up

 

 

"Footloose and fancy free"? Maybe.

 

 

Candid shot from "Life Log"

 

 

FYI: I recently had a chance to watch the new Disney movie, "Christopher Robin", which was just one of the cutest and sweetest things ever. :) And, well, looks like Christopher Robin's not the only one getting sweet on a teddy bear....

 

 

 

A behind-the-scenes moment from "My Sassy Girl"

 

 

And ending it off for today by cycling back to "Yong Pal" with Kim Tae Hyun's rather hilarious reaction to his own reflection during the makeover scene:

 

 

 

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Welcome back @kittyna! I promise to come back later this week and reply to your comments. There were some really interesting ones that I want to delve in more properly. Since writing a post here takes some time from me, I’ll better do it closer to the weekend.

 

Also, loving all the Joowon Instagram content lately. Although my own account isn’t about him, I follow many fan accounts and they just make my days so much brighter :wub:

 

 

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
21 minutes ago, green_cardigan said:

Also, loving all the Joowon Instagram content lately. Although my own account isn’t about him, I follow many fan accounts and they just make my days so much brighter :wub:

 

And I don't have an account at all. I just do a search of everything tagged with "#joowon" and go with that.

 

Anyway, that being said, here are some pics for today!

 

Spoiler

Oh my God - Cha Yoo Jin, what happened to you???

 

 

Jokes aside, though, that behind-the-scenes clip from "Nae Il's Cantabile" is absolutely hilarious. I just discovered it when it was shared on Instagram by this fan, and I just couldn't stop laughing! And for those of you guys who are wondering, yes, JW is imitating the dance that Shim Eun Kyung does as Seol Nae Il at the fountain in the Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg ;) 

 

Okay. Moving on, then....

 

Gorgeous silhouette pic

 

 

Cute smile and dimples in these pics

 

(It's funny - because just yesterday, I was talking to my mom about K-dramas (again), and, because we're currently watching "Chicago Typewriter" together, the conversation eventually wound up with us comparing the three main guys in "Nae Il's Cantabile" in terms of appearance: JW, Park Bo Gum, and Go Kyung Pyo. We reached the conclusion that PBG had the slightest and GKP the broadest build of the three at that time, and then I said that I thought JW was somewhere in the middle. And then my mom said she thought he had a large head. Considering how often I hear people here talking about his "small face", I thought that was weird at first. But in hindsight, I get it - JW's got a slightly wider and rounder face and thicker/stronger neck than is the norm for male Hallyu stars, so proportionately...yeah, he might have a small face overall, but his face is definitely a bit chubbier than what I'd see from most other Korean actors. Which is fine by me, because...dimples. :blush:)

 

 

 

 

Cutie fanart

 

 

JW's got this funny habit of sticking his tongue out when he wants to be silly :yum:

 

 

 

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just stopping by with some pics, as well as a quick fic-related update.

 

First of all, the pictures:

 

Spoiler

Lee Kang To and Kimura Shunji's kendo uniforms from "Gaksital".

 

By the way: is it just me, or does anyone else notice what the drama did with the colours here? We start with Kang To in black and Shunji in white, but by the time we get to the finale, it's the other way around.

 

 

A really sweet fan-edit for "Yong Pal"

 

 

I'm really liking the subtle blurred effect in these pics:

 

 

84914ee4a8beabac58f2fb25a881d5f6.jpg

 

Who said that Park Si On wasn't expressive? ;) 

 

 

Finally, I'm just really liking how this shot turned out

 

 

 

And I did say I have a fic-related update. It's nothing much: just that I've now started work on my next piece. It's not for "Seolleim in Salzburg" this time, but for "Good Doctor" :)

 

So here's a quick Preview #1:

 

Spoiler

The light in the foyer, which is motion-activated, turns on immediately, but I still flick on the light switch for the apartment’s main room with one hand as I take off my shoes and step up onto the landing.

 

And that’s how I spot Si On almost right away. He’s sitting slumped over on the floor beside his bed, and right now, most likely because of the light and the noise that I’ve been making, he’s turned his head to look up at me, blinking slowly in curiosity.

 

Si On scrambles to his feet as I step closer to him, but he doesn’t say anything. Instead, his hands folded together in front of his lap, he glances down at the floor, still blinking in that way he does when he’s lost for words.

 

Looks like I’ll have to start, then.

 

“Are you wondering why I came in without ringing the doorbell first?”

 

His eyes flicker up to meet mine for a split second before he looks down at the floor again. And although I can’t actually see him doing it, I can almost feel him giving me a slight nod.

 

“You weren’t answering my calls,” I explain, my voice coming out pettier than I would have liked. “So I figured you wouldn’t open the door even if I rang.”

 

Si On still doesn’t say anything, but the dejected look on his face gives me an idea.

 

I was hoping for a chance to talk things over with him. And if both of us are feeling crappy right now anyway….

 

I give him a firm look as I turn to leave. “Come with me.”

 

“Wh- where are we going, Seonsaengnim?”

 

Hearing Si On’s voice behind me, I let out a sigh of relief. Finally, he’s actually responding to me.

 

I turn back around to face him. “To the Library.”

 

His eyes narrow and he gives me a nearly undetectable shake of the head. “I do not want to study right now.”

 

“Ara, ara,” I say, closing the gap between us and holding out one hand towards him. “Of course you don’t need to study anymore; you’ve probably read more books and journals already than I ever will in my lifetime.” I give him what I hope is a reassuring smile. “But seriously: just trust me, arasseo? This Library is different.”

 

“Seonsaengnim, what kind of a library –”

 

But I am already out the door by this point, so I don’t hear the rest of Si On’s question. Instead, I simply hear the soft echo of stockinged feet on hardwood as he scrambles to follow me. So I stick around until he has joined me before setting off briskly down the street.

 

Several minutes later, we have come to the Library: the bar close to the hospital that is a favourite hangout for all of us staff. I can see, as Si On and I make our way inside, that this is his first time here. Shuffling along a few steps behind me, he turns his head this way and that, craning his neck in his efforts to try to take in the entire bar at once.

 

As we make our way towards the counter and I nod a greeting to the man standing behind it, Si On finally can’t contain his curiosity any longer. “This – this is a library? But I do not see a single book.”

 

Beside us, the bartender lets out a bark of laughter, and even I have to turn my face away to hide mine.

 

“A new face, I see,” he drawls at me, his hands still occupied with wiping the glasses. “Who’s your friend?”

 

I turn towards Si On. “Go on – introduce yourself,” I prompt him. Waving one arm towards the other man, I add, “This guy here’s the owner; he’s known us residents and medical students for so long, he’s practically our uncle by now.”

 

“Ah.” Understanding flashes in his eyes as he turns and gives the bartender a formal bow. “Annyeonghasimnikka. My name is Park Si On.”

 

Recognition lights up on the other man’s face as well. He shoots me a surreptitious sideways glance. “He’s ‘that’ friend, isn’t he?”

 

I answer with a smile and a slight nod, gesturing with one hand for him not to say anything more.

 

“So, um….” The bartender, clearly unsure where to go on from here, stops, clears his throat, and tries again. “What will you two have, then?”

 

Scanning over the room, noting out of the corner of my eye that Si On is copying the gesture, I light upon an empty table in the centre. Jerking my head towards it, I answer, “Just a bottle of soju and your pick of the bar snacks for now. I’ll let you know if we want anything else.”

 

As we take our seats, I see once again that Si On is still peering curiously around us, trying to take everything in. And I don’t blame him. Maybe it’s because it’s so close to the hospital and most of the patrons are doctors like ourselves, but the Library is filled with bizarre and vaguely medicine-related paraphernalia: art prints showing X-ray skeletons eating and drinking on the walls; microscopes and plastic anatomical models on the shelves; even some fake IV-drips that are actually meant for serving cocktails.

“So what do you think?” I ask after a moment’s pause.

 

Si On gives me the closest thing to a level look that he can manage. “It looks very, very interesting, Seonsaengnim. But I still do not see how this could be a library.” He glances towards one of the decorations. “I think Seonsaengnim means that this is a medical library, but –” he pauses and shakes his head at one of the prints on the wall “– but if that is the case, then this library is not a very good one. See? That picture over there is not even accurate.” His lips press into a thin line. “When someone is receiving a skeletal X-ray, even though the doctor does not ask for him to go into a full fast beforehand, he should still not be eating or drinking during the procedure. Especially alcohol.”

 

I can’t help it. The earnest seriousness on Si On’s face makes me burst out laughing, clapping my hands in amusement.

 

Startled, he glances back up at me. “Did – did I say something wrong, Seonsaengnim?”

 

“Ani,” I answer, waving my hand to reassure him. “It’s just…it’s just….” Forcing myself to calm down, I try again. “Ya, Park Si On. Two things,” I say, holding up the same number of fingers for emphasis. “One: those pictures are just art, not actual medical images, so don’t take them too seriously.” After making sure that he’s nodded at me and understands what I’m saying, I add, “And two: you see that neon sign over there?” Si On turns his head to follow my pointing finger with his gaze. “‘The Library’ is this bar’s name. So when I said that I was going to ‘The Library’, that’s what I meant. Not a literal library, but this place.”

 

“Ah.” He gives me yet another nod, just in time for the bartender to show up beside our table with our order: a bottle of soju accompanied with two chilled glasses and a pitcher of water, and two plates of assorted salty bar snacks. Si On then watches in wide-eyed blinking curiosity as I snatch up the soju and shake it vigorously before upending it and smacking it several times on the bottom.

 

The bottle opens with a satisfying crack. There’s some sort of catchy funky song playing in the background, and I start humming along with it as – etiquette be damned – I pour myself my first shot. Si On’s eyes follow my hands as I fold them together in my lap. “By the way – are you able to drink?”

 

I don’t know if there’s anything that forbids people with autism from drinking, hence why I haven’t offered Si On a shot yet. But something tells me that he’d know, even if just from reading up on the subject.

 

He shakes his head. “I never drank before.”

 

That makes me lean forward in curiosity. “Not even in university? Wouldn’t your sunbaes have offered you some?”

 

Maybe things are different for someone like him, but if no-one had even invited him along on a night out…that would just suck.

 

“They did offer.”

 

Thank goodness for that!

 

“But I did not drink it.” Pausing for a moment, as though trying to find the right words, he adds, “It is not that I cannot drink. I just really, really do not like the smell.”

 

Challenge accepted. Rearing back slightly, I tilt my head up so that I am now glancing down at him. “Well, if I were to offer you a drink…” I begin, my voice trailing off in what I hope is a suggestive manner, “would you accept?”

 

Si On mulls over it, and then nods. “If Seonsaengnim offers, then I will drink it.”

 

Well, that’s it, then. Nodding to myself in satisfaction, I pick up the bottle. Si On holds out his glass to me, carefully pinched between both hands, as I pour out a shot. Then, setting the bottle back down on the table, I take up my shot glass.

 

“Geonbae!”

 

I wait until Si On has cautiously clinked his glass against mine, then throw my head back to down the entire shot in one go. It goes down easily, with just enough of a burn to keep things interesting; I close my eyes and make a contented guttural sound deep in my throat.

 

Soon, though, curiosity comes over me once again. Has Si On managed to follow suit?

 

I crack my eyes open for a second, peering at him across the table. Then, at the sight of him, they fly open as a laugh bursts out from me.

 

“Ya!” I bark out as, making a disgusted face, he chases the shot down with an entire glass of water. “What’s all this? Did you just drink poison or something?”

 

From his perspective, he might just have, given the way that he’s still got that tight grimace on his face as, slowly, he lets himself swallow. It makes me wonder: does alcohol smell or taste differently to someone like him? Maybe it comes on stronger, or harsher? With sharpened senses like his, maybe that would be the case, but there’s no way I’d know for sure.

 

So instead of asking about that, I change the subject.

 

“I know you’ve just been fired, but don’t go back home just yet.”

 

Si On peers up at me and, just for a second, our eyes meet.

 

“Just stick around for this weekend, and then go.” I give him a nod for emphasis. “We can go out and eat something together first.”

 

Usually, Si On would answer me right away with either a nod or a shake of the head. But this time, he just peers down at the floor without saying anything.

 

“Are you still upset at me?” I ask after a moment’s awkward silence. “Because you think I didn’t believe you?”

 

He looks back up at me, and his tone is strangely curt when he replies. “It is okay when people dislike me. But it is not okay when people say that I am a liar.”

 

People like me?

 

I lean forward in my seat, folding my arms on the table between us. “I believe you,” I say firmly, hoping that he registers the earnest tone in my voice. “Mianhae – I should have said it earlier. But you’ve got to understand: sometimes life’s like that. You can’t please everyone; even if you’re honest, you’re never going to be able to earn everyone’s trust.”

 

Si On’s face sets into a stubborn frown. “That is too hard. I do not know anything about that.”

 

His reaction makes me think back to what Director Choi told me earlier today: that no matter how hard he tried, Si On could not make sense of anything that did not fit his black-and-white moral view of the world. Any sort of grey area…was simply too illogical for him.

 

And as of right now, I know that that’s made him the subject of abuse. The kids are better: they were scared of Si On at first, but I can see that they’ve started to warm up to him and some even ask for him in particular when I make my rounds. But it’s the parents that I’m worried about. The parents and Director Choi’s rivals in the hospital, for whom Si On is an easy scapegoat because of his autism.

 

Maybe Kim Do Han is right. Maybe it would be best for Si On to just leave.

 

I know that he won’t like hearing this, but I’ve got to try anyway.

 

“Si On-ah.”

 

His eyes flicker up towards mine.

 

“When you go back home, or start to look for a placement at a different hospital…maybe you should consider a different field. Something other than surgery.” Getting only a silent stare in response, I try to explain. “I know there are a lot of research positions out there. Lab work would be perfect for someone with talents like yours. Or there’s diagnostics, or radiology, or….”

 

Point is: something that won’t end up with him interacting with people in a way in which he could get hurt.

 

Si On shakes his head. “Animida. I have to become a surgeon.”

 

“If this is about saving lives,” I add, noting all the times he’s mentioned that very point, “you know you don’t have to be on the front lines to do it. Even behind the scenes, you can still help these kids –”

 

“Animida.”

 

I blink at him in surprise. It’s not often that Si On actually cuts me off.

 

“I want to see the children smiling. I want to be able to treat them with my own two hands.”

 

Why isn’t he getting it? Why can’t he see that I’m trying to help?

 

“Look,” I plead with him, desperation creeping into my voice, “if you go on like this – if you keep on insisting on training as a surgeon like this – you might lose any chance of becoming a doctor at all!”

 

Because for me, right now, it’s not even about whether or not he makes mistakes anymore. It’s about the fact that even when he doesn’t, people will say he will. And if Si On ends up offending someone rich enough or powerful enough to take things up to court, he could lose his license altogether.

 

I don’t know if he really doesn’t understand, though, or if he’s just being stubborn. Because he only gives me a firm shake of the head. “I will still do it. I will keep on trying. No matter what.”

 

Well, I can see that clearly enough. So, as much as I hate myself for doing it, I concede with a sigh. “Ne. Arata.”

 

It's...been a long time since I've written anything in the voice I had designed for Cha Yoon Seo, so this may very well go through a ton of tweaking by the time the final version goes up. But hey, it's a start.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just popping by with today's pics. This time, it's Throwback Thursday!

 

Spoiler

I really, really like this from "Ojakgyo Brothers" (From this Instagram slideshow: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bm9TOI_gDfw/)

 

8a533d545f2264cec5775986c90ea522.jpg

 

This shot has a really nice casual vibe

 

 

An old pic from promotions for "S.I.U."

 

 

This behind-the-scenes moment from "Gaksital" is really cute: loving the idea of cast handprints right now.

 

(And by the way: JW's hand is actually bigger than the print looks here - the lighting's making his print appear smaller than it really is.)

 

 

The hilarious "meet-cute" from "Good Doctor"

 

41ebe662bef490d391698045ceb4ba05.jpg

 

And ending it off with this sweet shot from "Gaksital"

 

 

 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here I am with today's pics!

 

Spoiler

I'm liking the editing in this shot

 

 

I remember from "Life Log", while he was doing this photo shoot, in fact, that JW said he didn't like how he looked in "half-length pants". I'm still not entirely sure what he meant by that (sorry, guys - my knowledge of menswear is rather limited :P), but I wonder if he means something like these.

 

(Shot from this Instagram slideshow: https://www.instagram.com/p/BnCZ_dJAMzx/)

 

 

2ed2404fe4a19249d5ac530f59bc8848.jpg

 

"Real Men Wear Pink", is how the saying goes, right?

 

(For those who don't know: it means that a "real man" is one who should be confident enough in his own masculinity that he can wear any colour he wants, even those that are seen as being more effeminate. In other words, a man can wear pink and not feel like he's less of a man for it, because for him, his masculine identity comes from something inside of him. Which, if you really sit down and think about it...works really well for JW: not just in terms of the colours he wears, but the ways he's been really open about doing more "domestic" chores at home.)

 

 

Cutie Gyun Woo

 

 

This shot, taken from a Mountia video just shortly before his enlistment, is actually one of my favourite images of JW of all time. Just look at that smile! So gentle and warm and comforting.... *squee*

 

 

Okay, this is fun: which one would you pick?

 

 

And finally, to end it for today, a gorgeous shot from "Nae Il's Cantabile" (because, you know me: I never think Cha Yoo Jin's not gorgeous, inside and out :P)

 

 

 

 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This app is driving me crazy... its adds make my keyboard disappear in the middle of writing and it’s impossible to write anything in one go. I lost my draft a couple of times already :tears:

 

Anyway, thank you for your daily dose of pictures @kittyna, I’m always excited to see what you’ve picked for us. Just remember that you can have post-free days as well. If you enjoy posting often and don’t feel burdened by it, please continue! ;)

 

On 8/27/2018 at 5:46 AM, kittyna said:

A number of fans who got into JW because of his acting find comedy to be his weak spot. Is he bad at it? Not necessarily - I mean, I enjoy watching JW's take on comedy regardless, so I'm probably not one to judge. But it's...how should I put it? JW's comic acting is pretty much on par with the Hallyu star standard, so it's not like he's going to blow anyone away with his performance. Many JW fans like him best when he's doing something that's really overtly challenging or angsty, because those are roles that tend to have more meat to them and demand both more emotionally intense and subtly nuanced work from the actor.

 

I have to admit that I too like him in more intense roles, but I enjoy his comedian skills as well. He was hilarious in Naeil’s Cantabile. I remember how I giggled while I watched the first episode haha!

 

On 8/27/2018 at 5:46 AM, kittyna said:

I definitely think JW was able to show off his capabilities more as Cha Yoo Jin than as Han Gil Ro. Mostly because Cha Yoo Jin's actually played off relatively straight compared to the more over-the-top antics from most of the rest of the cast. :P So JW's comedy there is more of the ironic "only sane guy in the room" sort than slapstick.

 

Exactly :D

 

On 8/27/2018 at 5:46 AM, kittyna said:

Oh, yeah...that audition process just turned into a whole mess. For those fans like myself who followed the process as it played out - I didn't know about JW's VLive channel yet, so I didn't watch the videos, but I was aware of what was going on from Hallyu news sites - it just got really painful to watch after a while.

 

The general consensus, from what I've seen, is that JW and the actress who won the audition got played big time. There's the official story as to why the actress stepped down from playing the lead, but many people took it with a grain of salt and suspected that there was a conflict between the show's producers and the television network about whether the role should go to a newcomer or an established big-name actress. JW, from what I've seen and heard, seems to have been really invested in the audition process, and the actress, although relatively unknown, had won the part fair and square. So there was a good deal of disappointment and frustration when that whole process just got thrown out the window after the fact, with none of the actors involved really having much of a say in that decision.

 

I think it’s so unfair how this industry works sometimes. I could see how invested Joowon was in the audition process while I watched his vlives. It must be hard for an actor for not being able to influence such things. You can’t always choose your works or who you work with...

 

I haven’t seen anything from Joowon this week so I’ll need some time with him asap. Is this interview still up somewhere? I have to see the full video. It also made me want to watch Catch Me again. Kim Soo Hyun is such a goddess :wub:

 

 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, green_cardigan said:

This app is driving me crazy... its adds make my keyboard disappear in the middle of writing and it’s impossible to write anything in one go. I lost my draft a couple of times already :tears:

 

I seldom bother writing unless I'm on my computer, but that's more due to my rather old-fashioned smartphone illiteracy than because of how the Soompi site works for me there. Still, just feel free to do what you can - even logging on to find that you've Liked something cheers me up :) 

 

1 hour ago, green_cardigan said:

I have to admit that I too like him in more intense roles, but I enjoy his comedian skills as well. He was hilarious in Naeil’s Cantabile. I remember how I giggled while I watched the first episode haha!

 

I think JW started off going really "big" with his humour in "Nae Il's Cantabile" and then toned it down over the course of the drama. And he wasn't the only one: Shim Eun Kyung's portrayal of Seol Nae Il also evolved significantly from beginning to end. So, if you look closely, you can actually see from their performance styles which scenes from the Salzburg Competition were actually filmed in Salzburg (at the beginning of drama shooting), and which were filmed afterwards in various locations in Korea (closer to the end). Generally: things that were filmed outdoors (e.g. on the streets, the palace gardens, the hill fortress, etc.) were done first, then most of the interior scenes and those involving the competition itself appear to have been done later.

 

And just a random fun bit of trivia, since we're already on the subject: the hotel that Cha Yoo Jin and Seol Nae Il stay in in that bit (i.e. the one where Nae Il tries to trick Yoo Jin into sharing his room with her) is the same hotel that Ueno Rie is shown staying in in "Gaksital". ;) I don't know if the building they filmed in is a hotel in real life, but the interior room and hallway shots were clearly done in the same locations in both dramas.

 

1 hour ago, green_cardigan said:

Exactly :D

 

Actually, about that "one sane guy in the room" bit, I think one of my favourite gags throughout "Nae Il's Cantabile" was just how often Cha Yoo Jin had to literally shove his friends off of him whenever one, or two, or three, or four(!) of them tried to hug him at the same time. :D And then they all get so used to it that they think he's sick when he fails to do it after the Rachmaninoff concert :P 

 

1 hour ago, green_cardigan said:

I think it’s so unfair how this industry works sometimes. I could see how invested Joowon was in the audition process while I watched his vlives. It must be hard for an actor for not being able to influence such things. You can’t always choose your works or who you work with...

 

I do think JW has enough star power to at least have some say in what he does, and longtime fans will know that he's willing to fight for what he wants. So, for instance, I remember once someone posted a link to an article here that said that "Gaksital" and "Good Doctor" were both productions that JW wanted to sign on to, but that his agency wasn't entirely for at first. Considering that he wound up doing them anyway, my guess is that he won that round of negotiations ;) 

 

Because it really is a set of negotiations. JW is one of the biggest actors that Sim Entertainment/Huayi Brothers has (although that can change since the agency itself has gotten better negotiating power in terms of competing with other agencies for talent), and we can see in "Life Log" that he meets with agency leaders each time he has to pick his next project, during which time they all go over various offers/scripts/etc. as a team. Anytime there's a group of people involved trying to narrow down a pile of scripts into one, different people are going to have different favourites. So my guess is that when fans say that JW either got what he wanted or caved to what his agency wanted, that's what it means: that he and his agency had different favourites, and then they would end up talking it out to see which one he'd actually sign on to.

 

And JW has sometimes had some say over his female leads as well. Of course, he can't outright pick them - that would depend on what the casting director and said actresses and their agencies want as well - but he can and does sometimes request specific people he wants to work with. So I've heard that he requested Choi Kang Hee for "Level 7 Civil Servant" (and got really upset when he found out netizens were bashing her casting) and Shim Eun Kyung for "Nae Il's Cantabile". Again, I don't really know how the process works in detail, and I wasn't around as a fan in "real time", so please take this with a grain of salt, but I do remember reading comments along such lines before.

 

1 hour ago, green_cardigan said:

Is this interview still up somewhere? I have to see the full video. It also made me want to watch Catch Me again. Kim Soo Hyun is such a goddess :wub:

 

lol - I think you mean Kim Ah Joong. Kim Soo Hyun is a different actor (not even actress!) entirely ;) 

 

I think that a bunch of Joo Won Cuties' videos are still available online if you search up their Dailymotion and Vimeo channels. They also have a YouTube channel, but a number of videos that they once had have been deleted over time for various reasons. This interview is one of theirs, so you may be able to find it and others that way.

 

1 hour ago, green_cardigan said:

I haven’t seen anything from Joowon this week so I’ll need some time with him asap.

 

Hm...well, this isn't a pic, but it's a story that's just now come to my attention. I don't actually know how recent it is (the Instagram post says "yesterday", but I don't know if that's literally yesterday as in August 31, 2018, or if this is an older post that's just making the rounds again), but it's still nice. It's also a three-for-one bonus, since it's a reported sighting of JW, Go Kyung Pyo, and Daesung together.

 

 

By the way, if this is a really recent sighting...I wonder how it was these three guys ended up meeting together. I'm not sure about Daesung, but I do know that Go Kyung Pyo, while doing his enlistment, is not in the White Skulls (i.e. not in JW's division). And besides, White Skulls is based in Cheorwon, not Daejeon. 

 

*fingers crossed* Please let it be because of Army Fest, please let it be because of Army Fest, please let it be because of Army Fest....

 

(lol - you get the idea. I'm surprised we haven't yet heard news about the 2018 Ground Forces Festival, actually. Is there one happening at all? Is JW going to be making an appearance there? I mean, he did it last year, so maybe the ROKA wants to give the emcee spot to someone else, but with a number of celebrity soldiers, including Ji Chang Wook and Kang Ha Neul, signing on to the military musical recently, I think JW would have a decent chance at emceeing again, right? Right???)

 

Anyway, that being said, here are some more miscellaneous pics!

 

Spoiler

I don't think I've seen these pics before - that powder blue is a rather strong colour on him, but it works.

 

 

Imagine going on a camping trip with this guy....

 

 

This looks to be a candid shot, but it turned out so cool!

 

 

Can I just say that while, as a general rule, I love behind-the-scenes pics...some of the ones from "Gaksital" end up looking really weird? Seeing the actors smiling and laughing whilst covered with fake blood makes them all look like a bunch of psychos. :P Adorkable psychos, yes, but psychos nonetheless.

 

 

 

This is just so sweet....

 

 

As is this screenshot here - gorgeous composition, too, by the way :) 

 

5d0d62086ac57e51034b5ee789538c4b.jpg

 

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 hours ago, kittyna said:

I do think JW has enough star power to at least have some say in what he does, and longtime fans will know that he's willing to fight for what he wants. So, for instance, I remember once someone posted a link to an article here that said that "Gaksital" and "Good Doctor" were both productions that JW wanted to sign on to, but that his agency wasn't entirely for at first. Considering that he wound up doing them anyway, my guess is that he won that round of negotiations ;) 

 

19 hours ago, kittyna said:

And JW has sometimes had some say over his female leads as well. Of course, he can't outright pick them - that would depend on what the casting director and said actresses and their agencies want as well - but he can and does sometimes request specific people he wants to work with. So I've heard that he requested Choi Kang Hee for "Level 7 Civil Servant" (and got really upset when he found out netizens were bashing her casting) and Shim Eun Kyung for "Nae Il's Cantabile". 

 

I think Joowon really has the talent of choosing great dramas and people to work with. He doesn’t avoid taking risks, and as the result we sometimes get these amazing dramas like Gaksital and Good Doctor. 

 

19 hours ago, kittyna said:

lol - I think you mean Kim Ah Joong. Kim Soo Hyun is a different actor (not even actress!) entirely ;) 

 

Now I’m embarrassed... thank you for correcting me :lol: Korean (or foreign) names are hard to recall, especially if you have a bad name memory like I do. I’m not a fan of Kim Ah Joong, but she’s adorable and a good actress, and I like her style very much.

 

This is the video I was looking for.

 

19 hours ago, kittyna said:

By the way, if this is a really recent sighting...I wonder how it was these three guys ended up meeting together. I'm not sure about Daesung, but I do know that Go Kyung Pyo, while doing his enlistment, is not in the White Skulls (i.e. not in JW's division). And besides, White Skulls is based in Cheorwon, not Daejeon. 

 

*fingers crossed* Please let it be because of Army Fest, please let it be because of Army Fest, please let it be because of Army Fest....

 

(lol - you get the idea. I'm surprised we haven't yet heard news about the 2018 Ground Forces Festival, actually. Is there one happening at all? Is JW going to be making an appearance there? I mean, he did it last year, so maybe the ROKA wants to give the emcee spot to someone else, but with a number of celebrity soldiers, including Ji Chang Wook and Kang Ha Neul, signing on to the military musical recently, I think JW would have a decent chance at emceeing again, right? Right???)

 

Thanks for sharing this! I think many ROKA divisions are having holidays at this time, but it’s totally possible they met because they’re preparing for an event... can’t wait!

 

EDIT: I had to come back and add these here coz omg! :wub:

 

Spoiler

LEEEEGGGGSSSSS!! He’s strong...

 

...and beautiful! Thank you for these updates! :heart:

 

 

 

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, green_cardigan said:

EDIT: I had to come back and add these here coz omg! :wub:

 

You beat me to these pics, but I just may have one better ;)

 

Because it's now circulating on Instagram that JW got another promotion to Sergeant!

 

 

Now, I'm not going to lie - when I first saw this post, I actually took it with a grain of salt. Because I'm not noticing anything particularly different in JW's insignia this time around from the last couple of events he did, and from charts like this one, three stripes means he's still a Corporal, and we'd know for sure he got promoted to Sergeant once he's got four of them:

 

rank-southkor-3.gif

 

But since this post did originate from JW's fans in Korea...perhaps they know something that I don't. Like, maybe the promotion's already happened, but he just hasn't gotten the new patch yet. Who knows?

 

But you know what? My confusion isn't all that important right now, and we've still got reason to celebrate. Promotion to Sergeant happens sooner or later during a Korean man's mandatory military enlistment anyway. So rather than this telling me that JW's been really strong in the military (although, if he has been promoted, he's gotten it sooner than in the default timeline, so that's saying something!), it's telling me that we're comfortably in the end stretch of his service.

 

Which, if you ask me, is also worth celebrating ;)

 

 

11 hours ago, green_cardigan said:

I think Joowon really has the talent of choosing great dramas and people to work with. He doesn’t avoid taking risks, and as the result we sometimes get these amazing dramas like Gaksital and Good Doctor. 

 

lol - It's funny, because I sometimes hear the opposite! I've seen some comments that JW's so focused on challenging himself as an actor that he'll even sign on to dramas where the rest of the script-writing or plot/character development isn't that great.

 

Which, to be honest, is a really subjective thing: what exactly constitutes a "good" script?

 

I mean, I've seen a number of people say that "Yong Pal" had a bad script, but I actually liked it. Yes, it does have this odd mood whiplash in the middle, when the story's focus shifts drastically from Kim Tae Hyun to Han Yeo Jin, but I was cool with that, because I saw it as something experimental and cross-genre (combining medical and business K-drama tropes), and I thought the whole "Is love enough when your partner is doing some really morally shady stuff?" question was really fascinating and intriguing. But I can also see how people who were first drawn to JW's performance would have been disappointed in the second half, when Tae Hyun shifts to a more behind-the-scenes role in the story. And, let's be honest: the whole "poison/liver cancer" subplot near the end was really freaking bizarre. But still, as a general whole, I thought "Yong Pal" had a really compelling story.

 

And now for some more pics!

 

Spoiler

I don't often see pictures that give JW as sharp a jawline as this one (From this Instagram slideshow: https://www.instagram.com/p/BmzT_ojA1zm/)

 

 

29505519adc0242361a752b9ee69fa6d.jpg

 

I know this is JW as Woo Ki Myung in "Fashion King", but am I the only one that's also getting a serious Park Si On vibe here? (From this Instagram slideshow: https://www.instagram.com/p/BatwUwjj7g4/?taken-by=wndnjs2510_seon)

 

 

91cf9daaf9d9e0ba73ccbd8aa8b7d3c1.jpg

 

This shot from "Nae Il's Cantabile" cracks me up. Like...just how many cans are in that cupboard???

 

 

This is cute: JW with various child actors he's worked with, including a few "mini-me"s (i.e. actors who played the childhood versions of his characters)

 

 

Last one for today: I'm just really liking the fun, casual vibe here.

 

 

 

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just popping by quickly with a couple more goodies.

 

First of all: I've seen snippets of this video before on Instagram, but not the full thing on YouTube. And it's SO CUTE!!!

 

 

 

And secondly, speaking of "Good Doctor"....

 

The trailer for Season 2 of the American version is also now out on YouTube!

 

 

I know, I know - I've confessed that I only ever managed to watch the first episode of Season 1 :P What can I say? While I did like Shaun Murphy - this show's take on Park Si On's character - I wasn't a fan of some of the changes that had been made to other characters' storylines (Two residents having a quickie in their break room within the first few minutes? Seriously??? Even if the rest of the drama turned out great, that just turned me off right away.).

 

BUT! That doesn't mean I'm not still invested in this drama to at least some extent. If nothing else, I want to see it do well, even as it grows into its own story that's completely separate from the Korean drama. And getting award nominations and approval for a second season are notable achievements in the realm of American television, so there we go.

 

And by the way: as JW fans...please don't be disappointed by the fact that while the trailer for the first season was bombarded with "Check out the original version! The actor in that one was amazing!" comments, that doesn't seem to be happening this time around. Again, as I've stated already: besides the first episode, the American version of "Good Doctor" has its own unique storyline. It is not a remake in the most orthodox sense of the term. So by this point, the show has its own narrative, with its own fans. ;) 

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just coming by with today's pics

 

Spoiler

Another military selca

 

 

Cute Chibi Fanart!!!

 

 

 

 

These shots from "Yong Pal" turned out really nicely

 

 

As did this one from "Gaksital"

 

 

I really like the lighting in this behind-the-scenes shot from "My Sassy Girl"

 

 

Fun times with his friends

 

 

This shot of JW with 2PM's Chansung (who co-starred with him on "Level 7 Civil Servant") is just too cute for words. I remember there was one moment on 1N2D when JW was filming inside the KBS building and he ran into Chansung by chance - cue full-on running hug ;) So...maybe they are close in real life, too?

 

 

 

  • LOL 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.




×
×
  • Create New...