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Joo Won 주원 - Finished Drama: Alice


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By the way, while I was working on my own list, I stumbled across this site here: Animal in You In some ways, it's similar to the MBTI-type page I use for character design, so I think I'll work through it and see what animal profiles match with different characters here.

 

There is a quiz, which should make this easier, but it's glitching for some bizarre reason. So I'll just do this the slow way: by reading different profiles and using my own judgment. I mean, I do have time to kill during this whole "stay at home" situation, so why not?

 

This time, though, I'm going to be doing 9 characters instead of 8 - because I just feel like throwing Seol Nae Il into the mix, too. After all, she was the one who started this whole animal business. ;) 

 

So here goes!

 

Gu Ma Jun - Porcupine (Somewhat of a bully, but that's only to hide his actual low self-esteem and lack of confidence. Often ends up hurting those he cares about or who care about him due to his standoffish, prickly temper.)

Hwang Tae Hui - Wild dog (Despite being quiet and introverted, he is ultimately driven by his desire to fit in with a group - his family, his friends, his colleagues, etc. Can be extremely focused and determined when on a case, but needs the freedom to investigate it however he wants.)

Lee Kang To - Wild cat (Prefers to forge his own path rather than simply doing what he's told, so he will lash out with a violent temper if pushed into a corner. Possesses great street smarts and is capable of adapting to his circumstances.)

Han Gil Ro Otter (Playful, clever, friendly,  but easily distracted - he prefers to just live in the moment, so he does need strong guidance and encouragement in order to stay on task.) 

Park Si On - Mole (Curious and intellectual, he pursues his interests with extremely single-minded determination. Can be really shy, skittish and private, but also craves a deep emotional bond with others.)

Cha Yoo Jin - Swan (Elegant and a natural magnet for attention, his calm exterior hides a strong work ethic and more than a bit of emotional turmoil. A very faithful and empathetic friend and romantic partner - although it takes others a while to notice due to his aloof persona.) 

Seol Nae Il - Cottontail rabbit (A kind dreamer with great people skills - but can be easily intimidated by new challenges and difficulties. She might be very social and outgoing, but much prefers to be a follower rather than a leader. Her cuteness is her strongest weapon.)

Kim Tae Hyun - Wolf :P (A natural and confident leader and team player, he is extremely loyal to those he cares about. His rough edges and sharp tongue can be off-putting for some people, but he ultimately craves stable loving relationships.)

Gyun Woo - Owl (Intelligent and thoughtful, but stubborn in his opinions, he is well suited to intellectual pursuits and teaching others. He is a very responsible worker who prefers to wield most of his influence behind the scenes - a personality trait that is absolutely essential for marrying a princess.)

 

Okay...I will admit some of these were tougher than others (with Hwang Tae Hui being the hardest - 50 profiles, and he didn't really fit any of them :P). Despite all that, this was fun for what it was...but I think I prefer my actual version better ;) 

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On 4/21/2020 at 2:21 AM, kittyna said:

Lee Kang To - Wild cat (Prefers to forge his own path rather than simply doing what he's told, so he will lash out with a violent temper if pushed into a corner. Possesses great street smarts and is capable of adapting to his circumstances.)

I think Badger suits him more, due to his aggressiveness and impulsive decision making, even heroes have some flaws too. https://www.animalinyou.com/animals/badger/

On 4/21/2020 at 2:21 AM, kittyna said:

Park Si On - Mole (Curious and intellectual, he pursues his interests with extremely single-minded determination. Can be really shy, skittish and private, but also craves a deep emotional bond with others.)

I would like to also differ here, for me  I think Cottontail rabbit  suits him more, due to his cute personality,  gentle nature and  caring personality. https://www.animalinyou.com/animals/cottontail/

I do agree with rest of the pairing :thumbsup:

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@kireeti2 Thanks! Kang To was another tough one, and I agree with you re: Si On (I kept going back and forth between the Cottontail and the Mole there, depending on which side of him I wanted to focus on).

 

I think I still like my first one more, though (i.e. the one I just came up with without any outside sources). The one major drawback from this site was that there was a ton of...non-personality-related things in there? Like, bits about physical appearance where I was like, "Um...what?" or sexuality where I was like, "Heck if I know!" So yeah, fun as the site was to read, it wound up a bit weird in the long run. :P 

 

Not a whole ton to share today, but JW did share a shoe pic in his Instagram Stories:

 

 

Also, if anyone is a bit bored and is just looking for something to browse through, there's this site that I just recently found out about: Korean Dramaland. It features some (not all) of the filming locations in a number of dramas, including a number of JW's. So if anyone's curious about, say, what locations were pieced together to create a workplace, school, etc., this can be a fun place to start.

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1 hour ago, kittyna said:

Also, if anyone is a bit bored and is just looking for something to browse through, there's this site that I just recently found out about: Korean Dramaland. It features some (not all) of the filming locations in a number of dramas, including a number of JW's. So if anyone's curious about, say, what locations were pieced together to create a workplace, school, etc., this can be a fun place to start.

Wow!!! They shot  lot of Korean dramas in  handful of locations, guess Kdrama is also small a world, just like ours:joy:

 

1 hour ago, kittyna said:

@kireeti2 Thanks! Kang To was another tough one, and I agree with you re: Si On (I kept going back and forth between the Cottontail and the Mole there, depending on which side of him I wanted to focus on)

I would also like to thank you for introducing the site, we can also know which type of animal/bird personality we have by answering few questions honestly, I got vulture, can't say I am surprised:joy:

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2 hours ago, kireeti2 said:

I would also like to thank you for introducing the site, we can also know which type of animal/bird personality we have by answering few questions honestly, I got vulture, can't say I am surprised:joy:

 

I got the quiz to work - once. I tried it out on myself, thought it was fun, decided to try it out on the characters...and I haven't been able to get it to work since :tounge_xd: If I had, using it would have been a lot easier :sweat_smile:

 

But anyway, when I did it myself, I got the Penguin. And, well...it's not wrong.

 

2 hours ago, kireeti2 said:

Wow!!! They shot  lot of Korean dramas in  handful of locations, guess Kdrama is also small a world, just like ours:joy:

 

I know, right? It's fascinating once you look at it. I do know that the interiors of K-drama houses tend to be sets built in a studio (hard to find an apartment with enough space for all the equipment, staff, and actors to fit comfortably), but it's interesting to see where the exteriors came from.

 

I think the bit that surprised me the most this time was Nae Il's Cantabile - like, I'd figured that a number of the campus buildings must have been in the same general location, but I had no idea the apartment building was from that complex, too. (If you click this second link, go to the bottom of the page and select "Naeil's Cantabile" for more specific info - there's even bits on some of the products/brands featured). 

 

Mind you, I did realize a long time ago that the apartments themselves were most likely studio sets (most obviously when they literally re-use parts of Yoo Jin's apartment for that one scene inside Yoon Hoo's). And, of course, even though they don't say it on the site (since they didn't get around to doing it for Yong Pal), there's overlap here too with that huge mansion. ;) 

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So, it looks like poll-type activities don't really work on this forum :P Not until things get buzzing here again, anyway - we seem to have more lurkers than posters here, and that's fine.

 

Given that, let me just wrap up the tournament poll I'd started as-is and call a winner (sort of).

 

Spoiler

Who will do best in self-isolation? You decide!

 

Rules/Parameters for self-isolation (since everyone's context is different, this needs a standard):

1. The character can either live alone, OR with family, a partner, or roommate(s) - use your own drama knowledge and imagination.

2.  The character is only allowed to go outside for essential purposes (e.g. getting supplies, going to work if you deem his profession to be an "essential service", etc.). If he does go out, he does so ALONE.

3. Any other communication/socialization with people outside of the character's residence (e.g. with friends, colleagues, etc.) can only be done remotely (e.g. via telephone, online, letter-writing, etc.)

4. There is limitless access to in-home recreation and entertainment (e.g. books, TV, streaming movies or music, crafts/hobbies, musical instruments, etc.), but assume ALL public recreational facilities (e.g. malls, restaurants, entertainment venues, sports facilities, etc.) are CLOSED.

 

FINAL ROUND

 

1. Who do you think will do best in self-isolation?

a - Hwang Tae Hui

b - Cha Yoo Jin

 

Loss of income vs. Being on the front lines. That seems to be the ultimate crux of the matter here. So, on the one hand, Cha Yoo Jin gets to actually just stay at home - save for short essential errands like grocery shopping - but no matter how strong his finances are to start with, the complete lack of income and job insecurity many musicians face at times like this will be worrisome. On the other hand, Hwang Tae Hui still has a job and an income, but that's because he's a police detective who still has to go all over Seoul on his cases - with elderly parents and grandmother at home, what's that going to do to his peace of mind?

 

Point is: if I think about this in a way that actually corresponds to what we are facing in real life, this gets really complicated. But that being said, my vote is still going to Yoo Jin because, for the most part, he'd actually be safe - with the knowledge that most of his and Nae Il's safety is actually under his control.

 

And that, my friends, means that Cha Yoo Jin is the ultimate winner in this poll. :love:

 

However, even though the actual tournament-style poll is done, I want to throw in a quick bonus. Not a tournament, just a simple question: looking at all eight drama couples, which in the pair would do better?

 

Same set-up from before, just without randomized options (since we're doing this drama by drama):

 

Spoiler

Who will do best in self-isolation? You decide! (Couples Edition)

 

Rules/Parameters for self-isolation (since everyone's context is different, this needs a standard):

1. Assume that the couples already live together (either married or just cohabiting). However, you can also consider whether they would separate in times like this (e.g. self-quarantine, splitting off to work/live in different locations, one person moving back in with family, etc.). Couples may also be part of a larger household.

2.  Assume that except for front-line workers (e.g. healthcare workers, law enforcement, etc.) characters can work from home.

3. Any communication/socialization with people outside of the characters' residence (e.g. with friends, colleagues, etc.) can only be done remotely (e.g. via telephone, online, letter-writing, etc.)

4. There is limitless access to in-home recreation and entertainment (e.g. books, TV, streaming movies or music, crafts/hobbies, musical instruments, etc.), but assume ALL public recreational facilities (e.g. malls, restaurants, entertainment venues, sports facilities, etc.) are CLOSED.

 

So here goes! You can let me know either as a public reply or a DM:

 

1. Who do you think will do best in self-isolation?

a - Gu Ma Jun

b - Shin Yu Kyung

 

2. Who do you think will do best in self-isolation?

a - Hwang Tae Hui

b - Baek Ja Eun

 

3. Who do you think will do best in self-isolation?

a - Lee Kang To

b - Oh Mok Dan

 

4. Who do you think will do best in self-isolation?

a - Han Gil Ro

b - Kim Seo Won

 

5. Who do you think will do best in self-isolation?

a - Park Si On

b - Cha Yoon Seo

 

6. Who do you think will do best in self-isolation?

a - Cha Yoo Jin

b - Seol Nae Il

 

7. Who do you think will do best in self-isolation?

a - Kim Tae Hyun

b - Han Yeo Jin

 

8. Who do you think will do best in self-isolation?

a - Gyun Woo

b - Hye Myung

 

Personally, I think taking the girls into consideration might just make this more challenging ;) Again, this isn't a tournament where we try to find a winner - just a questionnaire that you guys can complete whenever you want.

 

Have fun!

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4 hours ago, kittyna said:

1. Who do you think will do best in self-isolation?

a - Gu Ma Jun

b - Shin Yu Kyung

Shin Yu Kyung- Obviously Yu Kyung would do well in self-isolation because of her resilient nature and maturity. Gu Ma Jun will throw tantrums even if slightest thing doesn't go in his way. :P

4 hours ago, kittyna said:

2. Who do you think will do best in self-isolation?

a - Hwang Tae Hui

b - Baek Ja Eun

Bark Ja Eun- She'll use this time to work on her drawing skills and take care of her mom(I mean Hwang Tae Hui's mom) and Grand mother. Or if we consider scenario where she lives with her dad, she'll do the same thing, like taking care of her dad and improving her drawing skills.

 

4 hours ago, kittyna said:

3. Who do you think will do best in se:Plf-isolation?

a - Lee Kang To

b - Oh Mok Dan

This one is tricky one not because the female lead dies in the end, but both the characters would like to help others at the time of pandemic. But I'll go with Oh Mok Dan, because she is less impulsive and sensible.

 

4 hours ago, kittyna said:

4. Who do you think will do best in self-isolation?

a - Han Gil Ro

b - Kim Seo Won

Kim seo won- Because Han Gil Ro is kid like a kid who likes to go out and party with his friends even at the risk of getting infected, where as Seo won, would use be looking after her mom and dad, and also his little brother

 

4 hours ago, kittyna said:

5. Who do you think will do best in self-isolation?

a - Park Si On

b - Cha Yoon Seo

Park Si On -  Si On character is more suited in self-isolation, because of his lack of social interaction, he'll probably even enjoy it by studying all the books in medical field about humans and animals. :joy:

4 hours ago, kittyna said:

6. Who do you think will do best in self-isolation?

a - Cha Yoo Jin

b - Seol Nae Il

Cha Yoo Jin - It's like flip-flop of Gu Ma Jun and  Shin Yu Kyung couple, where male is mature and female lead is not:P

4 hours ago, kittyna said:

7. Who do you think will do best in self-isolation?

a - Kim Tae Hyun

b - Han Yeo Jin

Kim Tae Hyun- Because Han Yeo Jin spent most of her life in induced coma so, I think it'll be hard for her to go into self-isolation again.

 

4 hours ago, kittyna said:

8. Who do you think will do best in self-isolation?

a - Gyun Woo

b - Hye Myung

Gyun Woo- He'll spend his isolation time by studying and play with his dog, and Hye Myung will probably have hard time because she'll miss sneaking out of palace and eat spicy chicken feet at a local restaurant. :P

 

For the sake of contest I did choose a character, but I don't think none of them would be able to cope with self-isolation without each other, I would like to make a suggestion for  you is to make it into a couple contest where we can evaluate which pair will do a  better job of handling self-isolation. :smiley:

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3 hours ago, kireeti2 said:

For the sake of contest I did choose a character, but I don't think none of them would be able to cope with self-isolation without each other, I would like to  suggest you to make it into a couple contest where we can evaluate which pair will do better in self-isolation. :smiley:

 

That does sound interesting - I, too, have my own ideas on this, so I'll have to think about it. It'd be a new poll, though, rather than just modifying this one.

 

However, unlike just looking at characters individually, there are some real-life factors I'd have to take into consideration in designing a tournament-style poll for relationships. Reality is, the current pandemic has drawn a lot of couples closer, but has also put a lot of them under considerable strain: domestic violence rates have gone up significantly all over the world, and I imagine we might also see a spike in break-ups and divorces as well. And while all of these characters are fictional, I - as a (hopefully) responsible content creator - will need to think about how best to phrase my questions/parameters so as not to cause offense, trigger traumatic memories, etc.

 

Again, this doesn't mean I won't do it - simply that I need some time to figure it out. :blush:

 

3 hours ago, kireeti2 said:

It's like flip-flop of Gu Ma Jun and  Shin Yu Kyung couple, where male is mature and female lead is not

 

As I was thinking on my own responses, I did notice that some couples had similar dynamics - more on that below.

 

So here's my answer to my own question - again, anyone can still jump in at any time, since there's no elimination process here.

 

Spoiler

Who will do best in self-isolation? You decide! (Couples Edition)

 

Rules/Parameters for self-isolation (since everyone's context is different, this needs a standard):

1. Assume that the couples already live together (either married or just cohabiting). However, you can also consider whether they would separate in times like this (e.g. self-quarantine, splitting off to work/live in different locations, one person moving back in with family, etc.). Couples may also be part of a larger household.

2.  Assume that except for front-line workers (e.g. healthcare workers, law enforcement, etc.) characters can work from home.

3. Any communication/socialization with people outside of the characters' residence (e.g. with friends, colleagues, etc.) can only be done remotely (e.g. via telephone, online, letter-writing, etc.)

4. There is limitless access to in-home recreation and entertainment (e.g. books, TV, streaming movies or music, crafts/hobbies, musical instruments, etc.), but assume ALL public recreational facilities (e.g. malls, restaurants, entertainment venues, sports facilities, etc.) are CLOSED.

 

So here goes! You can let me know either as a public reply or a DM:

 

1. Who do you think will do best in self-isolation?

a - Gu Ma Jun

b - Shin Yu Kyung

 

Both Ma Jun and Yu Kyung are rebels at heart, so it'd be pretty hard to get either of them to just stay home simply by telling them to. However, Yu Kyung is still ultimately more level-headed and better able to focus on the bigger picture, which works to her advantage. 

 

2. Who do you think will do best in self-isolation?

a - Hwang Tae Hui

b - Baek Ja Eun

 

I'm going with Tae Hui for this one, but I will say that I think it'd be close (almost a tie). I think it depends a lot on which version of Ja Eun we're talking about: the one we see in the beginning of the drama, or closer to the end. The earlier Ja Eun will lose this, hands down: she's such a bubbly social butterfly that even chatting with her friends online wouldn't cut it. However, we do see Ja Eun becoming more mature due to her experiences on the Ojakgyo Farm, and I actually think she'd be fine spending time with the ducks, her art, and her new extended family: helping out with chores on the farm, playing with her niece and nephew, or chatting with Tae Pil about the latest fashions.

 

3. Who do you think will do best in self-isolation?

a - Lee Kang To

b - Oh Mok Dan

 

lol - actually, @kireeti2, I think Mok Dan's the more impulsive one out of these two :P She's the sort of person who just races out to help with little regard for her own safety and surroundings: why else does literally every single antagonist (Kang To included, in the earlier episodes) resort to tracking Mok Dan's movements in order to locate Gaksital? So while she's definitely more idealistic than Kang To, and more likely to have clear black-and-white morals compared to Kang To's shades of grey, I actually think Kang To would do a better job thinking about the needs of a group or community due to his experience as a team leader in the police.

 

4. Who do you think will do best in self-isolation?

a - Han Gil Ro

b - Kim Seo Won

 

Both characters are kids at heart, but when push comes to shove, Seo Won is just that much better at taking care of herself and others. However, she'd have a rough time of it keeping an eye on Gil Ro: he's liable to either go completely stir-crazy and try to sneak out OR end up all pouty and sad-puppy-like.

 

5. Who do you think will do best in self-isolation?

a - Park Si On

b - Cha Yoon Seo

 

I just want to point out very quickly that although Si On and Yoon Seo live separately in the drama, I do think they'd move in together in an epidemic-type situation: since they're both doctors at the same hospital, it's likely Si On would move into Yoon Seo's place rather than risk bringing anything back home to his mom (after all, the worst thing that could happen to Si On and Yoon Seo is that they infect each other, and that's just as likely to happen at work as at home). That being said, I think that Yoon Seo edges out Si On just slightly here: even though she's more extroverted and would miss going out with friends, she would also do a better job handling the mental and emotional stress doctors are facing at times like this.

 

6. Who do you think will do best in self-isolation?

a - Cha Yoo Jin

b - Seol Nae Il

 

I think I've said numerous times before why Yoo Jin would win this one, no contest. However, I do want to take this moment to point out that the actual dynamic between Yoo Jin and Nae Il is an interesting one: because even though Yoo Jin is extremely introverted, he'd still volunteer to be the one to go out in public when necessary, while Nae Il, the extrovert, would be staying at home all day with her music and sewing projects. Writing it out like this, it doesn't sound like it'd work, yet somehow...it does.

 

7. Who do you think will do best in self-isolation?

a - Kim Tae Hyun

b - Han Yeo Jin

 

This one's yet another almost-tie for me. However, I chose to go with Yeo Jin simply because, well...she'd better be the one who manages to stay put. With her frail health, having Yeo Jin lose patience and go out would be disastrous - and I think both she and Tae Hyun would be aware of that. Self-isolation in such circumstances would be different from the forcible confinement she'd faced before: that first time was because her brother was trying to hurt her; but here, if Tae Hyun insists on her staying home, she'd know he's asking out of love. As long as she can work from home (and we already see her doing so in the drama), I think Yeo Jin will be fine - whereas Tae Hyun would be stressing out about his patients while he's at work, then her while he's home. He'd say he's fine, but he'd actually be worried.

 

8. Who do you think will do best in self-isolation?

a - Gyun Woo

b - Hye Myung

 

Again, I think this one is no contest: Gyun Woo would win this one easily, simply because he's far more likely to be content with indoor pursuits. Hye Myung gets stir-crazy even in the best of times, so being ordered to stay home would be a burden. Mind you, I still think she'd listen - since she knows it's for the good of the people, whom she cares about so much - but it'd still be hard for her to keep herself occupied.

 

By the way, what I'd said about similarities between couples? That's here - Gyun Woo and Hye Myung's dynamic reminds me a lot of Yoo Jin and Nae Il's :) 

 

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13 hours ago, kittyna said:

By the way, what I'd said about similarities between couples? That's here - Gyun Woo and Hye Myung's dynamic reminds me a lot of Yoo Jin and Nae Il's :) 

It's like if Nae il is princess in Joseon era, minus the craziness and feisty behavior of Hye Myung and Yoo Jin is a scholar in the same era, minus the introvert nature and with more humility :joy:

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So, @kireeti2, after thinking about it for a bit, I don't think I can do a tournament-style poll on the JW drama couples in good conscience. Talking about which ones would do well in circumstances like ours is one thing - and I'm definitely happy to discuss that - but the thing about a tournament or elimination contest is that you also have to think about the opposite end of the spectrum: who's not advancing and why?

 

Normally, I might be okay with doing something like that, but the recent mass shooting here in Canada makes me want to err on the side of caution. (If you click the link, you'll find an article pointing out that one of the survivors of the attack was the gunman's girlfriend - which means that I cannot rule out domestic/couple violence and abuse as a factor.) I know I'd said I could figure it out, but that's before this news article came out, prompting me to change my mind.

 

So, instead, let me do it like this: which couple (or couples) do you think would do best in self-isolation? No ranking - just a simple list.

 

11 hours ago, kireeti2 said:

It's like if Nae il is princess in Joseon era, minus the craziness and feisty behavior of Hye Myung and Yoo Jin is a scholar in the same era, minus the introvert nature and with more humility :joy:

 

As in,  Nae Il is less crazy/feisty than Hye Myung, and Yoo Jin is less humble than Gyun Woo? :P Maybe - although I actually think they'd both be pretty close to a tie on those fronts.

 

Also - I'm currently in the last stretch of writing for the upcoming fic. It's just about wrapping up the last scene, editing, and then posting. :) So stay tuned for that!

 

And in the meantime, check out this post here:

 

 

Fun fact: JW actually worked with both Kang Ha Neul and Jo Jung Suk (among others) in Spring Awakening, meaning that their friendship goes way, way back. 

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:anguished:

On 4/24/2020 at 8:07 PM, kittyna said:

Normally, I might be okay with doing something like that, but the recent mass shooting here in Canada makes me want to err on the side of caution. (If you click the link, you'll find an article pointing out that one of the survivors of the attack was the gunman's girlfriend - which means that I cannot rule out domestic/couple violence and abuse as a factor.) I know I'd said I could figure it out, but that's before this news article came out, prompting me to change my mind.

Oh dear:cry:, I totally forgot about this indicdent. Mass shootings are kind of rare in Canada, so, when I read it in news I kind of assumed that it was in USA .I hope you and your family/friends are safe and doing okay :anguished:

 

On 4/24/2020 at 8:07 PM, kittyna said:

know I'd said I could figure it out, but that's before this news article came out, prompting me to change my mind.

It's okay, I think we don't have do contest for couples. It would be tough for us to figure out the winner, because the pairing and characters are such that they make all the couples near to perfect. So, I think all them will do excellent job in self-isolation, because they have each other to rely on . :grin:

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6 hours ago, kireeti2 said:

Oh dear:cry:, I totally forgot about this indicdent. Mass shootings are kind of rare in Canada, so, when I read it in news I kind of assumed that it was in USA .I hope you and your family/friends are safe and doing okay :anguished:

 

Thanks! I want to say that I'm okay, and I don't actually know anyone who was involved personally. It's just that, as you've pointed out, incidents like this are quite rare in Canada, so the population as a whole was just completely shocked. We've got enough to deal with re: COVID-19 without something else happening on top of it, that's all.

 

6 hours ago, kireeti2 said:

It's okay, I think we don't have do contest for couples. It would be tough for us to figure out the winner, because the pairing and characters are such that they make all the couples near to perfect. So, I think all them will do excellent job in self-isolation, because they have each other to rely on . :grin:

 

You're more optimistic than me, then. While I think most of the couples would be fine, I could envision at least one of them running into trouble. It depends on how healthy the relationship was to begin with, as well as the maturity of the individuals involved. But that being said...yeah, there's no real way we could compare that, save for just sharing our own personal favourites.

 

Fic-related work is still going on, so I'll leave it here for now. Hopefully, after that's posted, I'll have some more survey/questionnaire ideas to share.

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4 hours ago, kittyna said:

I could envision at least one of them running into trouble

Probably you are right, the spike in the rate of divorces during lock down is the manifestation of those troubles. My money is on Gyeon Woo and Hye myung, Baek Ja-eun and Hwang Tae-hee, Kim Seo-won and Han Gil-ro and Shin Yoo-kyung and Gu Ma-joon to have couple quarrels, probably not leading to divorce :sweatingbullets:

4 hours ago, kittyna said:

You're more optimistic than me

Lol!! My optimism is only confined to Joo won's dramas and his drama  ratings, pessimism is kind of my way of life(not that I am complaining). :lol:

 

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4 hours ago, kittyna said:

Thanks! I want to say that I'm okay, and I don't actually know anyone who was involved personally. It's just that, as you've pointed out, incidents like this are quite rare in Canada, so the population as a whole was just completely shocked. We've got enough to deal with re: COVID-19 without something else happening on top of it, that's all.

I am pleased to hear that you and your family/friends are okay:). Yeah, I was also kind of shocked to hear mass shooting in Canada, that too in time of pandemic. It is like one of safest country in the world with well behaved and empathetic citizens(relatively well when compared to other countries).  Correct me if I am wrong, is this incident due to the mental issue of the assailant? Reports were ambiguous about this incident. :mellow:

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4 hours ago, kireeti2 said:

Correct me if I am wrong, is this incident due to the mental issue of the assailant? Reports were ambiguous about this incident. :mellow:

 

Hard to say - because he's dead. So anything that we can guess at will only ever be just a guess. There does seem to be a history of violence/anger management issues, and it's more than a bit creepy that he had replica police cars and uniforms without actually having been a police officer before. But what actually led to the shooter acting now rather than earlier or later...who knows?

 

4 hours ago, kireeti2 said:

I am pleased to hear that you and your family/friends are okay:). Yeah, I was also kind of shocked to hear mass shooting in Canada, that too in time of pandemic. It is like one of safest country in the world with well behaved and empathetic citizens(relatively well when compared to other countries). 

 

Generally speaking, I love it here :love: Of course, human nature being what it is, there will always be both good people and bad people, but I do think most Canadians are generally good. :blush:

 

Right now, we're all hurting: partially because of the shooting, yes, but more so because COVID-19 has managed to seep into many long term care homes, retirement homes, seniors' residences, etc. So even though the general public has been relatively safe, it's killing off our oldest generation - it's gotten to the point where in my own home province (Ontario), we have two separate projections/epidemic curves to reflect this difference. I haven't lost anyone personally yet, but it's still sad to see the news reports on this day after day.

 

So, seeing how so many Canadians have been cooperating with social distancing guidelines without complaint or voluntarily reaching out to help others has been really heartwarming at times like this :)  If nothing else, I think most Canadians are willing to work selflessly for the greater good of the community, and that's something I wouldn't have witnessed firsthand without these crises. 

 

4 hours ago, kireeti2 said:

Probably you are right, the spike in the rate of divorces during lock down is the manifestation of those troubles. My money is on Gyeon Woo and Hye myung, Baek Ja-eun and Hwang Tae-hee, Kim Seo-won and Han Gil-ro and Shin Yoo-kyung and Gu Ma-joon to have couple quarrels, probably not leading to divorce :sweatingbullets:

 

For me, the ones that would have a rough time of it would be Kim Seo Won + Han Gil Ro, and Shin Yu Kyung + Gu Ma Jun - in both cases because one or both partners is still not very emotionally/socially mature and will get really upset if his/her wants aren't met. 

 

But on the flip side, I think Gyun Woo + Hye Myung and Baek Ja Eun + Hwang Tae Hui will be fine. Yes, there will most likely be small or short spats - but many healthy relationships have those. So long as quarrels allow couples to talk out their stresses and come to a better understanding of each other, they can actually be beneficial. Some do it really calmly throughout (like Han Yeo Jin + Kim Tae Hyun), and others are more heated (like Baek Ja Eun + Hwang Tae Hui or Seol Nae Il + Cha Yoo Jin), but they ultimately work out and even end up closer together. They learn that the conflict is not between them as individuals, but between them as a couple and the issue that needs to be solved.

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And here's the finished fic!

 

Spoiler

Title: Edelweiss on the Water

Drama: "Nae Il's Cantabile" 

Characters: Cha Yoo Jin, Seol Nae Il, Chae Do Kyung, Lee Yoon Hoo, Elise

Premise: With her graduation coming up and their first large-scale tour booked for the summer, Seol Nae Il and Cha Yoo Jin have come a long way since they first came to study at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. But as they each start to take even bigger steps into the future - a major job offer for Nae Il and a battle with a painful past for Yoo Jin - they find that they need each other's help even more than before.

Warnings: Discussion of the Sewol sinking from April 16, 2014 and its aftermath (especially in relation to Yoo Jin's PTSD)

 

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"

"If Music Be the Food of Love"

"Carmen, Micaela, Don José"

"Let Nothing You Dismay"

"The True Viennese Waltz"

"Hats Off, Gentlemen, for Meister RaRo!"

 

Notes on Language: While most of the Korean in this fic should be pretty self-explanatory (if not, sound it out - chances are you'll recognize it that way), I do work in some German here and there. So for those who don't know the language, here's a quick glossary:

 

Bitte - Please

Nein - No

Frau - Ms. (historically, this meant "Mrs." but it's expanded to become the default/neutral term of address for women regardless of marital status)

Herr - Mr.

Ja - Yes

Danke - Thank-you

 

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

Edelweiss on the Water

 

“How was Italy?”

 

Chae Do Kyung flashes me her most disarming smile, but doesn’t stop shrugging her coat on over her shoulders. “It was good, as always. Nothing’s really changed since the last time, and that’s what I like about it.”

 

I return her smile in kind. No surprise there: given how many years she’s lived there, Italy’s probably the place where she feels most at home by now.

 

“How about you?” she asks as I finish tidying up the practice room piano for whoever’s using it after us. When I try and fail to suppress a jet lag-induced yawn with one hand, she flashes me a sympathetic smile. “You must’ve had a rough time of it.”

 

“I did. But I spent it doing what I enjoy most, and that’s all that matters.” A pause. “Honestly, you should consider attending one of Rising Star’s concerts sometime; it really does combine the best of both the A and S Orchestras from before.”

 

Do Kyung shrugs. “Ara. I just don’t feel like going back to Seoul yet.”

 

I freeze, the smile slowly melting from my face. “Is it because of your results here?” After all, although getting accepted here at the Mozarteum is testament to her skills in and of itself, despite her best efforts, Do Kyung has only managed to obtain ensemble roles in her program’s productions thus far.

 

She mulls over my question for a moment before answering. “A little. But there are other things, too. Actually” – she gestures towards the door – “can we talk about this outside?” When I blink at her in surprise, she moves to explain. “We shouldn’t hog this space any longer than we should, that’s all.”

 

Well, if that’s the case….

 

“Geu rae,” I answer with a nod. “Let’s do that.”

 

“Komawo.” Do Kyung turns to leave, but stops to glance back at me over her shoulder. “You don’t have any classes after this?”

 

“Mm – I was just going to get some work done on my own.”

 

“Then, you know what? Let’s make a coffee break out of it.”

 

Despite my better judgment, my voice tightens. “Do Kyung-ah….”

 

“I mean with Nae Il, of course!” She laughs at my bewildered expression. “It’ll be a good chance to get to know her a little better, and besides” – she points to the large paper shopping bag she’d placed by the door at the beginning of today’s practice – “I got something for Nae Il, too, and I’d like to give it to her in person.”

 

I, too, glance over at the bag, and am forced to press my lips together to suppress a laugh when I remember Alain’s woebegone expression from earlier today: when Do Kyung rather flatly informed him that the souvenirs were for me rather than him. The choral conducting student I’ve been working with for my practicum placement in the Mozarteum’s opera company, he has openly crushed on Do Kyung ever since they first met in the fall – but to no avail.

 

“Arasseo.” I grab my phone from inside my coat. “Where should I tell her to meet us, then? Our usual?”

 

Do Kyung shakes her head. “The Café Classic’s nice, but I’m thinking the Tomaselli, actually – you know, make an occasion out of it.”

 

I nod to show my agreement, then fire off a quick text to Nae Il, knowing that she would notice it first thing after her class lets out half an hour from now. Then, after checking once more that I haven’t left anything behind, I gesture for Do Kyung to go first.

 

Whereas the Café Classic is just a stone’s throw away from the Mozarteum, the Café Tomaselli – Salzburg’s oldest coffeehouse with a history going back almost 300 years – is all the way on the opposite side of the river, inside the old city centre. But Salzburg is still small enough that even that walk takes only a few minutes, aided in no small part by our rush to get out of today’s chilly early spring rain. Even with our umbrellas, we walk as fast as we can, quickening our steps into a jog as soon as the café’s distinctive green-and-white striped awning comes into view before ducking inside.

 

From its exterior, with its bright awning and rows of planters stuffed with evergreen trimmings for the winter, one would be forgiven for assuming that the Tomaselli would be some frilly affair on the inside as well. But instead, in stark contrast, it is like most other old-school Austrian coffeehouses: hardwood floors with matching panels on the wall, polished to a warm glow by years of loving wear; classic brass fixtures accompanying simple wooden chairs and stone-topped tables.

 

With such an atmosphere, combined with its long history, the Tomaselli is a major tourist draw: even now, in the slow season, many of the tables are already taken, especially with few opting for the outdoors seating on account of the rain. Given that, it takes Do Kyung and I several minutes of wandering around the premises before we find a good spot in a tucked-away corner. As I take her coat and umbrella from her, hanging them up alongside mine on the closest coat rack, she claims the banquette seating built right into the corner, surreptitiously combing her hair while I sit down in one of the two chairs across from her. From here, I could see the entrance of the room that we’re in, giving me a clear vantage point for when Nae Il arrives.

 

A waiter approaches our table, and we decide to make a head start by placing our drink orders first. Our coffees are soon followed by one of the Tomaselli’s famous “cake ladies”: waitresses bearing large trays filled with an assorted sampling of cakes and pastries from the café’s bakery case.

 

“Can I get you two sweethearts something to start?”

 

As I blink up at her, startled by her use of such an endearment, Do Kyung steps in. “In a bit, Madam – we’re still waiting for his girlfriend.”

 

If the cake lady is surprised by our response, she doesn’t show it. Instead, after giving us a warm smile, she goes on her way with a promise to return later. Once we are left to ourselves again, I round on Do Kyung, eyes wide.

 

“What was that all about?”

 

She leans forward, eyes twinkling in her most innocent expression. “What, you didn’t know?”

 

“Of course I did!” I sputter. “Why wouldn’t I?” I take a sip of my coffee to buy myself a moment. “But still, given that…komawo.”

 

“Gwenchana.” As though I need further proof of her intentions, Do Kyung throws in a casual shrug. “I know where I stand as far as you two are concerned, and I’m not about to cross that line again.”

 

A moment later, however, a mischievous smile creeps up on her face.

 

“Wae?”

 

“Nothing,”

 

“It most certainly is not ‘nothing’.” I cross my arms in front of my chest. “Come on, Do Kyung-ah – out with it.”

 

“Alright, then. If you say so.” She comes forward even further, inviting me to do the same until we are huddled together over the table. “I was just thinking back on how this was how we’d started out. Remember? Back in first year?”

 

I recoil back to my side of the table, but when she merely laughs, I point a warning finger at her. “Don’t you start.”

 

“Why not?” she asks. “I think it’s funny.”

 

“Ara – but I don’t.”

 

Do Kyung, finally realizing that I’m not about to budge, changes the subject: moving on to a story from her travels around northern Italy. However, I find that I am only partially listening to her, another part of my mind casting back through the years of its own accord, all the way back to when the two of us had been first year students at Haneum.

 

Both of us, for some reason or another, had drawn an annoying amount of unwanted attention from the opposite sex; and one night, Do Kyung had finally had enough. That night, over drinks at our usual bar, she had ranted to me about one boy in our cohort after another, each of whom had tried to ask her out only for her to reject them for some perceived flaw.

 

“And why are you coming to me about this?” I’d asked then, more than a bit exasperated myself, both by her endless complaining and from receiving just as many advances from my own female classmates. “Maybe you should just pick one and have done with it!”

 

And that’s when it had come out. Her confession.

 

“I can’t – because they’re not you.”

 

It hadn’t crossed my mind before that moment so long ago that Chae Do Kyung could possibly have thought of me as anything more than her best friend. Nor could I have expected the plan she’d proposed next.

 

“Komawo,” she’d said, after I’d agreed, almost without hesitating, to act the part of her boyfriend in front of the other guys. “Does that mean you like me, too, Yoo Jin-ah?”

 

I hadn’t. Not in that way, at least. Still, unable to bring myself to break it to her directly, I’d replied with the one thing I could say to this childhood friend of mine: “Well…I like your voice. Is that enough?”

 

Something in my expression must have given me away now, because the next thing I know, Do Kyung’s voice trails off and she gives me a knowing look.

 

“I knew you’d remember.”

 

Startled, I tear my eyes away, fixating them on a spot on the wall behind her. “A-ani.”

 

One corner of her mouth twitches up into a wry smirk. “Quit it. You never were very good at lying to me.”

 

“Aish….” I glower across the table at her, unable to resist the childish urge to roll my eyes for good measure. “Just quit while you’re ahead next time.”

 

Do Kyung, being Do Kyung, laughs once more at my expense, but soon settles down to take a long sip of her coffee. By the time she has set her cup back down again, I’m ready.

 

“So, what was it you wanted to talk to me about?” I raise a questioning eyebrow. “Why don’t you want to go back to Seoul?”

 

Even though she was the one to suggest this meeting, it does take Do Kyung a moment before she could figure out her response: “It’s Eomma.”

 

I blink several times in surprise. “What about her?”

 

“You know how it is” – she gestures vaguely in the air between us – “for people of our social standing.”

 

I nod.

 

“Well, then, I suppose I can just come right out and say it, then: Eomma’s decided that it’s about time I set up with someone.”

 

My jaw drops. “Mwo? Already?”

 

She shrugs. “It was bound to happen sooner or later – especially since, as she put it, I’d already ‘let the classical music scene’s most eligible bachelor slip from my grasp’.”

 

When I shudder in revulsion at that rather vulgar description of me, Do Kyung nods in understanding. “Ara. I thought so, too.” A pause. “I only found out about this recently, but it turns out that if we hadn’t started on our own back in undergrad, my parents would have planned on pairing us up anyway.” Her eyes flash in amusement. “The son of Cha Dong Woo and the financial – if not titular – heir to Samhan Electronics…I’m not surprised they saw that as a perfect candidate for Gaon Instruments’ son-in-law.”

 

I cut in with a warning cough. “Except now that’s never going to happen.”

 

“Exactly. Especially now that your mother is also putting her foot down on this: she’s made it clear to mine that so long as you are happiest with Seol Nae Il, anything else is absolutely out of the question.”

 

Despite the seriousness of our conversation, I can’t help a short laugh. Trust Eomma to say something like that.

 

“But you can understand that that leaves me.”

 

Brought back to reality by her words, I answer with a grim nod of my own. “Mian, Do Kyung-ah,” I say at length. “There’s not much I can do for you this time around.”

 

“Ara,” she answers, tossing her head slightly as though to dismiss the thought. “I know you can’t, nor would I ask you to. Not under these circumstances, anyway. I just thought that, like old times, you could still act as my sounding board: the person I could go to just vent about anything if I need it.”

 

Her gaze hardens. “But I think you’ll understand when I say that I don’t want to go back home anytime soon, if all that’s going to happen is having Eomma breathe down my neck like this.” She throws in yet another self-deprecating shrug. “I’ll have to face reality sooner or later, but for now, I just want to live my life as I wish…have some fun of my own.”

 

Something about her tone makes me tense up despite myself. “Is that why you went to Italy?” I shoot her a steely look. “Did you do something there I’d rather not know about?”

 

Do Kyung doesn’t flinch. “Who knows?” A coy smile slowly grows on her face. “Those Italian boys are so easy to chat up, you know.”

 

As her ex-boyfriend, there’s nothing I can say to that – but as a former best friend, I also can’t afford not to. “Ya, jinjja–”

 

Mercifully, before either of us could say any more, my phone rings: Nae Il calling to say that she has now arrived at the café and asking where our table is.

 

Although I mentioned Do Kyung’s presence in my text, Nae Il still looks taken aback actually seeing her here with me. But when I rise to greet her, she visibly brightens and scurries over with her usual cheery grin.

 

As I hang up her wet things, Nae Il takes the empty chair beside me. Then, immediately after I have returned to my seat, she holds her hands out at me with an aegyo pout. “Orabang….”

 

Unable to help a fond smile at her antics, I envelope her hands with mine, rubbing her chilled fingers until they start to grow warm under my touch. “Ya, Seollebal,” I chide her teasingly, “I thought I’d told you to bring your gloves with you this morning.”

 

“Ara,” she quips back, tilting her head coyly to one side. “But this is so much better.”

 

Do Kyung watches all this with an unreadable expression on her face, but she rallies herself to call for our attention when a waiter appears for Nae Il’s drink order. Then, moments after her hot chocolate arrives, the cake lady from before comes back around to our table with a fresh tray of cakes and pastries.

 

I glance expectantly at Nae Il as she scans over the selection available, but when she peers up at me with just the slightest shake of the head, I place an order instead:

 

“One krapfen for each of us, bitte.”

 

As the cake lady nods and hastens off to fetch our order, Nae Il flashes me a grateful smile. “Komawo, Orabang,” she says. “How did you know that’s what I wanted?”

 

“Because knowing you, Seollebal, you’d go for a seasonal special if there was one – and today’s the last day.”

 

Moments later, our food arrives. The three krapfen – jelly-filled doughnuts available only during the winter Carnival season – come together on a single large platter, each golden brown circle turned almost completely white by a thick dusting of powdered sugar. The cake lady had also brought individual saucers and forks, which I quickly distribute to the others before urging them to help themselves.

 

Nae Il doesn’t need to be told twice, nearly spilling her drink in her haste to claim the krapfen closest to her. As she takes her first large bite, a cascade of sugar falling down onto her plate in the process, I gesture for Do Kyung to take her portion before grabbing the last one for myself. Yet even after I, too, have taken my first bite, Do Kyung still hasn’t moved.

 

“Wae?”

 

She glances down at the remaining krapfen, then up at Nae Il and me. “You pianists are so lucky,” she points out coolly. “You can eat whatever you want, since you’ll end up burning all the calories just by practicing anyway.”

 

I stammer out a sheepish apology at my mistake, but Nae Il, after a moment’s pause, answers Do Kyung with a shrug.

 

“Well, if you don’t want it, that’s just more for me.”

 

I barely manage to stop her from reaching across the table to take the pastry, but when I glance cautiously at Do Kyung, it’s to find her watching us with an indulgent close-mouthed smile.

 

“You know, Seol Nae Il,” she purrs, “I never would have thought I’d say this, but you’re actually kinda cute.”

 

It’s the same sort of reaction that Sohn Su Ji – yet another worldly and sophisticated young woman – had given to Nae Il years ago. And just like back then, she is more than happy to accept it, linking one arm with mine as she answers with a smug nod in Do Kyung’s direction.

 

“Arayo – that’s what Orabang likes about me.”

 

Do Kyung’s smile widens. “So did you want it? Go ahead; I won’t mind.”

 

The offer clearly catches Nae Il off guard. After a moment’s blinking in confusion, her eyes narrow skeptically. “Is this a bribe?”

 

As I, mortified, chide her to behave, throwing in a subtle kick under the table for good measure, Do Kyung looks her over, an appraising glint in her eyes.

 

“It is whatever you want to say it is. But now that I think about it…since Yoo Jin already went to the trouble to get this for me” – she uses her fork to carefully cut her krapfen in half – “I should at least have some of it.”

 

Despite her initial misgivings, Nae Il accepts her side of the split krapfen, the draw of free food ultimately too tempting to resist. And if that helped to break the ice somewhat, Do Kyung manages to get even further with her chosen topic of conversation after we’ve finished eating:

 

“You know, Seol Nae Il, I have pictures from Carnevale if you want to see them.”

 

Immediately, Nae Il perks up. “That’s where you went?” When Do Kyung nods, Nae Il’s jaw drops. “Jinjjayo?!”

 

“Other parts of Italy, too,” Do Kyung explains, “but Venice is definitely the highlight at this time of year.”

 

Sure enough, Nae Il’s insatiable curiosity takes over. “I’ve only seen pictures online…is it really as gorgeous as it looks?”

 

Once again, Do Kyung gives her indulgent – and slightly smug – close-mouthed smile. “Of course.” Reaching into her purse, she pulls out her phone. “Here – let me show you.”

 

Even though Nae Il, with her own passion for crafts and fashion, is the more overtly interested one out of the two of us, I can’t help leaning in to join the girls’ small huddle as Do Kyung opens up her phone’s picture gallery. Going by her changing outfits, she only spent several days in Venice as part of her longer holiday, but those days were spent absolutely to the fullest.

 

Taking advantage of the famous Carnevale’s opportunities for dressing up, she seems to have indulged in her own personal Carmen-esque fantasy. Every single one of her ensembles has the same stereotypically Spanish red-and-black colour scheme, the exotic effect enhanced by a flirtatiously slant-eyed half mask and deep red lipstick. Several of the photos appear to be from a masquerade ball of some sort, with Do Kyung caving to the prescribed historically-inspired dress code by wearing a large wide-skirted black gown, decorated throughout with red roses. But it’s the other images – the ones of her out in the streets – that really showcase her vision. Here, rather than the elaborate ball gown, she has chosen a long black and red dress, closely fitted to hug her curves – curves which I’m now unwillingly reminded are far more voluptuous than Nae Il’s. Rather than having her hair up, she’s left it cascading down her back, just barely covered by the traditional Spanish black lace veil and decorated with a red silk flower.

 

Whereas other costumed revellers seem to have gone for the lavish or the mysterious, Chae Do Kyung has become the seductive temptress.

 

Much of this escapes Nae Il’s notice at first, so caught up is she in ooh-ing and aah-ing at the fine details in the costumes she sees. But I’m sure that even she starts to notice it when, still smiling smugly in satisfaction, Do Kyung switches to a short video next: one where she is shown sashaying flirtatiously towards a group of young men, singing the opening of “La Habanera” until she gets close enough to take the flower from her hair, gently caressing one boy’s face with it before flouncing away.

 

Nae Il visibly tenses up, her jaw dropping wide open at the – from her perspective – rather scandalous display. But whereas I reach out to hold her hand under the table in attempts to reassure her, Do Kyung is entirely unfazed.

 

“I know what it looks like to both of you right now – but wait for the end.”

 

So we do. Sure enough, after she has finished with the classic aria with a bold flourish, she drops down in a curtsy as onlookers break into applause. Then, beaming brightly, she makes her way through the circle that’s gathered around her, handing out small cards to whoever would take them.

 

“Ah…” I say at last. “You spent your trip busking?”

 

“Exactly.” Do Kyung smiles hopefully at me. “Was I good?”

 

Satisfied when I nod, she puts her phone away before directing her attention to Nae Il. “About what happened last fall…mianhae. We really did start off just acting – but things got out of hand in a way that they shouldn’t have.”

 

Nae Il frowns, her lips pursing together into a pout.

 

“If you don’t believe me,” Do Kyung continues, “that’s your business. However, I will say that – as you can see here – working with Yoo Jin has clearly helped my performance improve a lot. And I intend to get even better at it still, until I can show the world on stage.”

 

I steal a careful glance in Nae Il’s direction, taking note of her continued guarded expression. Do Kyung must have noticed it, too, since she now reaches for the large shopping bag she’d brought with her from our practice today.

 

“If nothing else,” she says, “I hope you’ll accept this as a token of my well wishes for the two of you.”

 

As Nae Il takes the offered bag, I hurry to stack up our finished cups and plates into a small neat pile, pushing it as close to the outer edge of our table as I dare. Only then does Nae Il pull out the large thin rectangular box inside, setting it carefully down on the cleared space. Carefully, at Do Kyung’s encouraging nod, she breaks the tabs of tape holding the lid in place, using her set of keys when her perpetually short pianists’ nails fail to do the job.

 

The lid is still attached on one side, so Nae Il’s arm obscures my view as she lifts it up. Instead, the first glimpse I get of Do Kyung’s present is the look of first surprise, and then wonder, that grows on Nae Il’s face.

 

“Omo…” she gasps, now finally opening the box all the way and settling back down in her seat so I could take a look. “They’re beautiful.”

 

Inside the box, nestled carefully on masses of tissue paper, are two full-face masks: clearly made by the same hand as part of a set. Both of them are predominantly white, varnished into the mysteriously ageless gleam that characterizes the traditional Venetian style, but their foreheads and the areas around their eyes have been decorated with delicately swirling gold scrollwork, patches of deep red or black paint, and carefully decoupaged scraps of sheet music. Both masks are large enough to be comfortably worn by either a man or a woman, but seen together like this, it’s clear that they are meant to depict a couple: the man’s lips left sternly white while the woman’s are painted red; the woman’s eyes slanting delicately upward with matching blush-like swirls on both cheeks.

 

“Couple masks,” Nae Il declares at last. “I never would have thought there was such a thing.”

 

“A Venetian mask,” Do Kyung replies smoothly, “is what you choose to make of it.” After a short pause, she adds, “If you two ever get the chance to go to Carnevale, you can wear these, or” – picking up one of the masks, she turns it over to show the ribbons tied neatly in a bow in the back – “you can hang them up somewhere instead.

 

“Anything, really, so long as you remember my goodwill.”

 

~~~~~

 

Those two masks, displayed side-by-side on the wall above the piano, are the first thing that Lee Yoon Hoo notices as soon as our video chat window opens up, revealing him seated on his couch at home.

 

“New location?” he says, nodding sagely at what he could make out of our music room from behind our spot at Nae Il’s desk.

 

“We thought it’d be good to try making our call here for a change,” I answer.

 

“It’s the first nice day we’ve had here in about a week,” Nae Il chimes in. “So since we were going to air our place out anyway, we thought we’d take advantage of the fresh air ourselves.”

 

“I see. And” – he gestures to the masks behind us – “where’d you get those?”

 

Smiling sweetly – almost too sweetly – Nae Il leans closer to the camera. “It’s a peace offering, from Chae Do Kyung.” Her voice drops down to a mutter. “Would’ve liked something from one of those Italian designer brands she wears all the time, though.”

 

As Yoon Hoo bites back a laugh, I round on her. Clearly, she’s still thinking back to the brightly patterned dress Do Kyung had been wearing that day. “Are you still going on about that, Seollebal? You don’t even wear designer!”

 

She tosses her head with a shrug. “It would’ve been my first time. Honestly, Orabang: for someone whose family is so absolutely loaded, you’re really stingy at times.”

 

Normally, as I have already several times over these past two weeks, I simply leave her teasing unanswered. But today, maybe because of the nice weather – not to mention that second jab at me – I find myself in a more mischievous retaliatory mood than usual:

 

“And would you say that if it entailed her buying clothes for me as well?”

 

Yoon Hoo finally loses it, sputtering and almost doubling over with laughter. As for Nae Il, it takes her a moment to register what I’ve just said, but once she does, her jaw drops in scandalized surprise.

 

“Mwoyo?! Did you seriously just…just…ya!”

 

At a complete loss for words, she smacks me repeatedly on the arm, forcing me to scoot away from her with both hands raised in surrender.

 

“Alright, Seollebal, alright!” I laugh. “I take that back!”

 

“You’d better,” Nae Il quips back at me, throwing in one last hit for good measure. But if she was going to do anything more, she doesn’t get the chance to as a new chat window pops open on the computer screen:

 

“Is everything ready over there?”

 

Trying to get himself back under control but with eyes still dancing in mirth, Yoon Hoo raises himself half-out of his seat and dips his head in greeting as Professor Stresemann now comes into view, having chosen to set up his station in his office at Haneum. I copy his gesture from my side of the conversation here in Salzburg, but Nae Il resorts to a cheery wave instead. “Annyeonghaseyo, Milch! Long time no see!”

 

Biting back the urge to laugh, I give her a subtle nudge with my elbow. “Ya, Seollebal – it’s only been two weeks.”

 

“Ara,” she quips back, completely unfazed. “But that’s still a long time to me.”

 

Staring at her, I shake my head in bemusement. “It would for you, wouldn’t it, Seollebal….”

 

The Professor returns our greeting, then gestures for us to jump straight to business. “Two weeks. Two weeks is what I gave you to decide your pieces for this summer’s tour. And now” – he spreads his hands wide open in invitation – “those two weeks are up.” From inside of his jacket, he produces his phone and stylus, similar to the ones that Yoon Hoo uses. “What do you have?”

 

Yoon Hoo and I exchange glances; I wave for him to go first.

 

“Well, just to get it out of the way, for my personal concerto,” he begins, “I plan to play Haydn’s first – the C-major.” After the Professor jots that down, nodding in acknowledgement, he moves on to his own conducting programme. “I’ll be starting with the New World by Dvorak, which should be long enough to form its own half.”

 

“Geu rae,” the Professor murmurs. “That is true enough.”

 

“The New World Symphony?” I echo. “That’s so American.”

 

Yoon Hoo grins. “That’s why I chose it – might as well, since everyone already knows I started at Juilliard. And as for the rest….” He pauses for a moment’s thought, then continues. “Glinka’s Valse-Fantasie, The Swan of Tuonela by Smetana, and” – he now gives Nae Il a fond smile – “Saint-Saens’s Piano Concerto No. 2.”

 

Hearing it all laid out like this, I can’t resist a short laugh. “Ya, Lee Yoon Hoo,” I chide him teasingly, “you just have to go all over the place, don’t you. The least you could have done was think of a theme!”

 

Yoon Hoo looks amused. “That’s because I’m trusting you to do that part; knowing you, you should have come up with something on your own that I end up dancing around.”

 

Nae Il bites her lip to hold back a laugh, and after a moment’s thought on my part, I answer with a nod. “Actually, I did. Since our tour is stopping primarily in Austria and Germany, I decided to focus my musical choices there for my conducting programme.” Nae Il peers expectantly at me as I continue. “The first half – the symphony – will be Beethoven’s Seventh, while the second half” – I turn to return her gaze with one of my own – “will begin with a throwback to the ball we attended in January with two overtures: Nicolai’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and Strauss’s Die Fledermaus. And then, after that…the concerto: Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A-minor.”

 

“Orabang said he wanted me to play something I already knew,” Nae Il adds helpfully, “since we knew that whatever Sunbae suggested” – she nods at Yoon Hoo, who returns the gesture – “would be new.”

 

Professor Stresemann makes note of all of this, then looks pointedly at me. “And your own concerto?”

 

“Paderewski.”

 

“‘Paderewski’?” Yoon Hoo echoes. He seems to mull over it for a second, then lets out a soft whistle. “That’ll be epic.”

 

“That’s what I’m aiming for.”

 

The Professor jots down my addition on his phone, punctuating it with a pointed tap with his stylus. “Alright. Good job, both of you. Now, let me tell you what I will do with this.

 

“Your two concerts, I will let you figure out on your own – Lee Yoon Hoo, remember to work with Baby to figure out the concerto. But for the first night, where I am conducting…I will include an orchestral piece to serve as the introductions for both of your concertos. I already had several pieces in mind, depending on time, so!”

 

He pauses to do what looks to be some quick calculations off to one side, then peers up at us. “First, Lee Yoon Hoo: ‘Jupiter,’ from Holst’s The Planets.”

 

I raise a knowing eyebrow in Yoon Hoo’s direction, which he answers with a wink as he jots the information down on his phone. Both of us can see how this piece is a perfect fit: like the titular “bringer of joviality,” Yoon Hoo is great at lightening orchestra members’ moods through his smooth and easy manner; yet, just like in the piece itself, there is also a deep pathos hidden underneath that smile that only a few people – myself included – can see.

 

“And what about Orabang, Milch?” Nae Il asks, eagerly leaning in closer to our webcam in anticipation. “What do you have for him?”

 

Professor Stresemann gives her a bright smile before shifting it into something more enigmatic when he looks at me. “For you, Cha Yoo Jin…The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Dukas.”

 

Immediately, Nae Il perks up. “Isn’t that the one from that Disney movie?”

 

I look quizzically at her. “What Disney movie?”

 

“The one with Mickey Mouse – you know….” Clearly at a loss on its actual title, she mimes a sharp conical shape with her hands instead. And whereas I continue to stare wide-eyed at her in bewilderment, Yoon Hoo’s eyes light up in recognition.

 

“Ah…you mean Fantasia?”

 

Nae Il snaps her fingers with a gasp. “Ne, Sunbae – that one!”

 

As I watch the others chatter excitedly about their memories of the film, I cast my mind back to my own childhood. Never mind what my friends say about my poor knowledge of popular culture. I didn’t grow up entirely under a rock, and Fantasia, now that I hear the title, does ring a bell as a film I watched frequently growing up. Mostly because it featured classical music throughout: Eomma once told me that by just by putting it on, she could easily keep me occupied for several hours while she ran errands or did housework.

 

But while the image Nae Il brought up sounded familiar, somehow the title of the piece – The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – escapes me.

 

Professor Stresemann, for some reason unbeknownst to me, seems to notice my dilemma. “I believe, Cha Yoo Jin,” he confides carefully to me in his native German, his words unnoticed by the others, “that if you watched the film while you lived here in Salzburg, then the title you’re looking for is the original one, by Goethe: Der Zauberlehrling.”

 

In an instant, it clicks. Even if the Disney reference were to elude me, I could recognize this one at least. The original story by Goethe, after all, is a popular one for children here in Austria, so I have heard it countless times: a young sorcerer’s apprentice, eager to start learning spells instead of being stuck doing menial chores, charms a broom into fetching water for him, only to end up flooding the house when he is unable to stop it.

 

Wait.

 

End…up…flooding….

 

“You have got to be kidding me!”

 

All three of the others visibly startle, Nae Il even swiveling around to stare at me.

 

“Orabang!”

 

She seizes my hand under the table, interweaving her fingers with mine in a tight squeeze, as I, jaw dropped open in mortification at what I’d just said, glance desperately back and forth between Professor Stresemann and Yoon Hoo on the screen.

 

“Joe-joesonghamnida,” I stammer, “I–”

 

The Professor tsks in disapproval, lips pursed as though about to launch straight into a scolding, but Yoon Hoo, his face schooled into an inscrutable calm mask, intervenes: “Begging your pardon, Professor, but would it be possible for you to leave us alone for five minutes?”

 

He looks aghast. “Lee Yoon Hoo–”

 

“I know what you want to say, Professor,” Yoon Hoo cuts in gently, “but jebal. Just five minutes.”

 

When even Nae Il adds her own request for a moment, the Professor finally realizes he’s been beaten. Muttering with a pronounced pout on his face about the rudeness young people show towards their elders and how it must be contagious – this last spoken with a sharp glance at me – he switches off his video feed, his window disappearing in a blink.

 

Yoon Hoo waits a second longer, eyes darting around as though half-expecting Professor Stresemann to suddenly reappear unannounced, before finally turning to me. “So what are we going to do?”

 

I blink several times in surprise. “Mwo?”

 

“We all saw what happened just now,” he continues, “so what are we going to do about it?”

 

Nae Il raises a tentative hand. “Geunde…what was that all about anyway?”

 

Yoon Hoo jumps in before I could answer. “How much of that cartoon do you remember, Nae Il-ah?”

 

She takes her time in answering. “Well…I remember Mickey Mouse, and he had that wizard’s hat, and there was something about a broom, and then lots and lots of brooms, and then….” Her voice trails off as it finally dawns on her. “Oh.”

 

“‘Oh,’ is right,” I point out wryly – and that’s all I get in before she lunges for my hand once again.

 

“Mianhae, Orabang,” she says, stroking the back of my hand with her thumb. “It’s such a beautiful piece of music, and I only remembered how cute the cartoon was, and–”

 

“Gwenchana,” Yoon Hoo cuts her off, his words echoing my own thoughts exactly. “It took me a moment to realize it, too. But since we do know now…again, my question is: what are we going to do?”

 

I glance hesitantly at him. “What do you mean?”

 

“Well, if you were to ask me,” he replies diplomatically, “you should be able to veto that piece and ask for something else if you want to.”

 

“Ara.”

 

“Do you think we should?” Nae Il asks.

 

Yoon Hoo nods. “If this is something that could potentially be triggering, then–”

 

“And tell the Professor everything? Shiro.”

 

My refusal stops him mid-sentence, leaving him blinking at me in disbelief for once. “Ya, Cha Yoo Jin….”

 

“If I ask the Professor to change the piece,” I explain, my voice tight, “then I’ll also have to give him a reason why. And that’s not something I want to do right now.”

 

His lips press together in displeasure. “You’ll have to come up with some sort of excuse for your outburst anyway.”

 

“Ara. But that’s different. You saw his face: he expects this sort of behaviour from me anyway. So that part, at least, I can manage.”

 

As I speak, a faint stirring grows deep inside of me, steeling my nerves for the plunge.

 

“Even though vetoing is an option, I can’t go around avoiding repertoire simply because of the mental or emotional associations they might have. That simply wouldn’t be fair to whoever else I’ll end up working with in the future.”

 

Nae Il reaches up to grab my shoulder with both hands. “Orabang….”

 

“Gwenchana,” I say, looking back and forth between the others in hopes they could see the earnestness on my face. “I know it’s tough, but I have to learn to face my demons sooner or later. I even,” I add, throwing in just the slightest knowing smirk, “have a plan, so let’s just go ahead.”

 

Nae Il nods gravely in some facsimile of a bow of allegiance, but I feel a spike in pressure when she digs her fingers harder into my shoulder. As for Yoon Hoo, he gives me a single silent long look before conceding with a nod.

 

“Fair enough.” He lets out a heavy sigh. “If that’s really what you want, then let’s do it. But if something like what happened with Die Moldau last year happens again…don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

 

Without further ado, I send out the invitation for the Professor to rejoin our discussion. By the time the new window appears, all three of us have already schooled our expressions into inscrutable polite smiles.

 

What Professor Stresemann doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

 

~~~~~

 

The garlic has just hit the hot oil in the pan, immediately releasing its strong aroma in the air, when just over its loud sizzle, I hear a familiar high-pitched beeping from the counter behind me.

 

Aish. Of all the times for my phone to ring….

 

“Seollebal!” I call out, pitching my voice to carry all the way from the kitchen to her open bedroom door. “Can you get that? I can’t let this thing burn!”

 

In seconds, I hear stumbling footsteps racing towards me, followed by Nae Il’s voice behind me as she takes the call. “Yeoboseyo?” Immediately, her voice brightens. “Ah, Eomeonim – annyeong!”

 

Continuing to pour in each of the bowls of other seasonings into the pan with one hand, I reach up with the other to turn down the exhaust fan a notch. I call a quick greeting over my shoulder, then prompt Nae Il to turn my phone to speaker mode.

 

“Mianhae, Yoo Jin-ah,” Eomma calls out, her voice now clearly audible even on my side of the kitchen. “I just saw your text. Am I interrupting something?”

 

“Ani,” I answer as Nae Il helpfully passes me the bowl filled with peeled shrimp, which I pour in before handing it back for her to wash. “Just lunch prep.”

 

“Oh?” Eomma says, pleasantly surprised. “Whatcha making?” When I don’t answer immediately, she babbles on as usual. “I know it’s not exactly relevant to our conversation, and I know that I can’t tell from here anyway, but whatever it is, it certainly sounds delicious.”

 

“We’re having pasta,” Nae Il replies for me in a sing-song voice. “Shrimp and spinach pasta.” She continues chattering with Eomma about the food and then about the weather, buying me the time I need to finish cooking undisturbed: sauteing the shrimp until they turn pink, adding the spinach and precooked noodles, squeezing in a good helping of lemon juice to help brighten the flavours.

 

I dish up the pasta onto two plates – grating parmesan cheese over Nae Il’s portion but not on mine – and carry them to the next room, Nae Il following just steps behind with our cutlery and my phone. Once we have set everything down on the dining table, she flits over to the sliding balcony door, opening it to let in some fresh air.

 

And a little bit more besides.

 

As expected, Eomma immediately perks up. “Ah…I used to love the sound of those bells.”

 

“It’s our little Sunday tradition,” Nae Il says, now taking the seat across from me. “So long as the weather’s nice, we open a window just in time for when the mass lets out.”

 

We let the bells ring out on their own, each church within earshot offering its own distinct contribution to what by rights should be cacophony but can also become the most exuberantly joyful music. The one drawback this time is that there is no breeze, meaning that the wind-chime we hung out on the balcony – which normally adds its own clear twinkling notes – remains silent.

 

Soon, however, Eomma speaks up again: “By the way, interesting as all this is, that’s not what I’m actually here for. Tell me, Yoo Jin-ah: why are you asking me about Fantasia all of a sudden?”

 

Her question comes just after I’ve put a large forkful of shrimp in my mouth, so Nae Il chirps for Eomma to wait a moment while I hastily chew and swallow. As soon as I’m able to, I explain what happened yesterday during our conference call with Lee Yoon Hoo and the Professor.

 

“So what I want to know,” I finish, “is: do you know what happened to the copy of the film we had when I was a kid?”

 

“Not off the top of my head…” Eomma answers tentatively, “but I can try to find it if you want. Shouldn’t be too hard – it’s probably just shoved in some storage room in the big house” – a reference to my uncle’s mansion, where I lived between my parents’ divorce and moving out on my own for university – “or, if not, it might be with my own things. I’ll check for you.”

 

But then she hesitates.

 

“Geunde, Yoo Jin-ah – just why are you looking for it anyways?” Before I can even respond, however, she answers her own question with a gasp. “You aren’t thinking of….”

 

“Mm.”

 

“Don’t.”

 

“Wae?”

 

“You know why.”

 

As Nae Il stares across the table at me, I bite back an exasperated sigh. “Eomma–”

 

“I’m not going to have you doing something like that to yourself.”

 

To Nae Il’s amusement, I’m unable to hold back the urge to roll my eyes. “Eomma. I’m twenty-five years old – by international reckoning, I might add. I can take care of myself.”

 

Eomma, however, is undeterred. “Is that what I get for choosing to raise you abroad: you getting weird Western ideas in your head?” she whines. “Once you’re legally an adult, you can just go off and do whatever, never mind how much I still want to take care of you?”

 

Although I can hear the teasing tone in her voice, I’m still left without a good retort to that statement. So, after a pleading glance from me, Nae Il leans in closer, her face hovering over the phone.

 

“Gwenchanayo, Eomemonim,” she says, careful to keep her tone chipper and light. “Don’t forget: I’m still here. Do you honestly think I’m gonna let Orabang do this by himself?”

 

“She’s right,” I add. “There isn’t anybody I’d trust more than Nae Il to have my back. After all, who else finally managed to get me on a plane and back here in Austria in the first place?” I let out a wry chuckle. “You know her, Eomma: I wouldn’t even be able to watch it alone if I tried!”

 

Nae Il and I exchange hopeful glances, waiting with bated breath for the moment when, finally, Eomma relents and ends the call. For a moment, we simply continue staring at each other in silence, but then I offer Nae Il a fond smile.

 

“Komawo, for bailing me out just now.”

 

She leans forward, assuming a coy aegyo pose: chin resting in her hand, her head tilted just so as a smile tugs at one corner of her lips. “Don’t mention it.”

 

I mirror her posture, meeting her gaze with an unwavering one of my own. Through the open sliding door, the church bells of Salzburg, now ringing the quarter hour, mark each passing second until, no longer able to hold it in any longer, we both break out in shared laughter.

 

~~~~~

 

As the final chords softly ebb away into the practice room around me, I lift my hands slowly from the keys, opening my eyes with a sigh of relief.

 

Finally, after weeks of practice, that second movement is starting to come together.

 

Yoo Il Rak might have been one of the first to say it to my face, but many of my classmates and colleagues over the years have assumed that I simply do not struggle in my music. Virtuoso. Prodigy. Labels like that, attached to me since childhood, make it all sound so easy. And perhaps it is. Exposure to Abeoji’s music from birth gave me perfect pitch; years of training helped me to develop stronger sight-reading skills and more dextrous hands than most.

 

But that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle, in even the simplest of ways.

 

Lee Yoon Hoo described this concerto I’m working on, Paderewski’s, as “epic”. And it certainly is. Most of its virtuosic tricks and flourishes – the long running scales, the great leaps and jumps, the powerful pounding chords, the intricate trills – come easily to me. But coming off the exhilarating high of the grand first movement, the second, with its gentle, calm serenity, is hard.

 

Sure, I could follow the score exactly: Piano, Andante, Pedale obligato. Play quietly; play slowly; use the pedal to blend smoothly from one chord to the next. But doing all that is just the beginning; it gives the music its skeleton, but doesn’t give it life.

 

Usually, after the first page or so, after I’ve adjusted, I’m fine. However, those first few bars, when I’m working the hardest to rein myself in, are always a challenge: the notes come out too tense or too hard; the phrases are not delicate or smooth enough. Sometimes, I even find myself overcompensating: pressing the keys so gingerly that no sound comes out at all, making the music patchy and hollow.

 

Generally speaking, in similar long-form pieces, Nae Il has an easier time transitioning: calming her thrilling racing pulse, leaning in just so, adjusting her touch and posture so that her fingers melt and glide over the keys over which they’d danced just seconds before. “Don’t think about it, Orabang,” she said to me once, when I finally confided to her about this. “If you try to force it, it won’t come out. Don’t think; just feel.”

 

Easier said than done.

 

But now, at long last, it’s finally starting to happen. Every day, that point in the second movement when I sense that I’ve fully transitioned into the soft, gentle, delicate sound I want has come sooner and sooner in the music – and now, today, it’s finally there right from the start.

 

Golden light streams in through the window. I turn to glance at it, squinting slightly to make out the rooftops glowing brightly in the distance.

 

The sun will be setting soon; enough practice for one day.

 

As I start to gather up my sheet music with one hand, I grab my phone from my bag with the other to turn the sound back on. And that’s when I notice the icon on the screen informing me of an unread text message.

 

Could it be Nae Il? With our increased practice time due to this upcoming tour on top of our upcoming solo recitals this spring, it’s been a lot harder to coordinate our schedules than usual. Today, for instance, she was supposed to go home straight after her classes without waiting for me and get a head start on reheating last night’s leftovers for tonight’s dinner – has she forgotten?

 

I suppress a smile at the mental image that comes to my mind – Nae Il frantically rummaging through our refrigerator for food whilst missing the containers I’d already placed there – but when I actually unlock the screen, I discover the message is not from her, but from the conducting department’s secretary:

 

Please report to the Department Office ASAP. There is someone here who is asking for you.

 

I glance at the timestamp, jolting when I discover that the message had been sent close to half an hour ago.

 

Aish.

 

Cursing myself for not checking my phone sooner, I hastily pack up everything that’s left, just barely remembering to turn off the light as I race out the door. Fortunately, the hallways are empty – most students and staff either already gone home or holed up in the practice rooms on either side for some evening practice of their own – so I make it to the office in record time. Still, there’s no denying that were it not for my late arrival, the secretary would have already closed up for the evening and left.

 

Bursting through the door, I head straight for the reception desk. “My apologies for the wait,” I gasp out to the secretary who rises to greet me. “I only just got your message.”

 

My shortness of breath must confirm my excuse, because the young woman now cracks a small sympathetic smile at me. “I understand.” She gestures behind me to the seating area in the corner. “Fortunately, your guest is still here.”

 

Right.

 

Knowing that I must look quite disheveled from both my run and the practice session that preceded it, I try my best to straighten up my appearance: brushing my hair back with one hand to tame the unruly tousled waves, giving my jacket a sharp tug on the hem and lapels to work out any wrinkles. Then, finally feeling up to the task, I turn around, getting my first glimpse of the woman seated there.

 

She is young – probably no more than a few years older than me – and more striking than beautiful, with delicately refined features and dark eyes. Her equally dark hair is pulled severely back in a sleek low ponytail, and she is dressed simply in a black tailored skirt suit, a slim leather briefcase held demurely in her lap.

 

But it’s the woman’s imperious – almost arrogant – bearing that stands out the most. Head held high even as she scans me over with her eyes, she is clearly unimpressed by what she’s seen of me thus far.

 

The look she gives me is so like the one I’ve received countless times from Abeoji that the same years-old instincts take over. Standing up ramrod straight, I greet her with a slight bow from the waist.

 

“Pleased to meet you. Cha Yoo Jin, at your service.”

 

The woman’s expression softens slightly at my deferential tone, but she still maintains the same cool formality when she stands up to offer me a handshake.

 

“Elise Steiner,” she answers, now handing me her business card as well. “At yours.”

 

I’d guessed that’s who she was from my first glance, but hearing it confirmed gives me at least some sense of where this is going. “Did the Professor send you? Because of the tour?”

 

Had I jumped straight to the point like this in Korea, someone might have been offended. However, from the tiny ghost of a smile Elise now gives me, it’s clear that I’d correctly assessed her preference not to dwell too long on small talk.

 

“Nein.” She glances down at me – with her natural height and high-heeled shoes, she is rather unnervingly taller than me. “I am here for something else.”

 

It’s a silent request for more time, as well as a private place to talk. So, nodding to indicate my understanding, I gesture for Elise to join me out in the hallway, after which I take the lead. As we make our way through the campus building and out onto the street, I call Nae Il to let her know what’s going on.

 

She peppers me with questions, mostly about whether Elise’s actual person matches what we’ve heard about her from the Professor. However, after I refuse to answer, she switches tactics: “How long will you be, Orabang?”

 

I shake my head. “I don’t know. So go ahead and start dinner without me.” Even though she can’t see me, I raise an eyebrow anyway as I add jokingly, “Just don’t eat everything.”

 

Nae Il laughs. “Arasseo. Gwenchana, Orabang – I’ll save you a plate.”

 

Elise looks on, an unreadable expression on her face, throughout my entire call, answering with only a succinct nod when I inform her who I was speaking to. As we make our down the busy main street just outside the Mozarteum, I notice out of the corner of my eye just how commanding a presence she has: even though, as the local and presumably the host, I’m the one leading the way, she feels like the one in charge as she walks by my side at a clipped pace, looking straight ahead in absolute silence.

 

All this I take in as I guide her to my intended destination. The sun is close to setting right now, the street and everything on it bathed in its gleaming golden light. At this hour, many of the cafés and restaurants in the area will be filling up with hungry patrons: far from conducive for what sounds like a serious discussion for business. So, with little options left, I bring Elise to my favourite quiet-yet-still-public place in Salzburg:

 

Fridrich.

 

We are literally the first customers of the night, arriving at the exact moment when Bernd – Fridrich’s elderly owner and main bartender – unlocks the door from the inside. Beaming at the sight of us, he throws the door open and beckons us inside with a cheery greeting.

 

Just as expected, Elise is suitably impressed by the tiny wine bar’s cozy cave-like atmosphere. She stays near the entrance, looking over the various vintage art prints and posters decorating the walls while I make my way to the bar to greet him properly. Bernd nods affably, his hands not even skipping a beat as he wipes down the row of glasses arranged on the counter. He does, however, shoot a fleeting glance over my shoulder in Elise’s direction.

 

“So, kid: who’s the lady?” His mouth twitches in wry amusement. “Your girlfriend?”

 

I tense up, sensing the glare that Elise shoots straight into my back at Bernd’s question, and shake my head. “We’re here for business.”

 

While I doubt Bernd actually believes me, he is far too professional to ask any further on the subject. Instead, after calling out for Elise to make herself at home, he offers me first choice on tonight’s music.

 

I answer with a sly smile. “You already know what I like.”

 

As I join Elise at the table she has chosen – a small one tucked away in a corner hidden by the entryway – Bernd heads for his shelf of vinyl records to make his selection. Just as I thought, within seconds, the soft sound of jazz piano drifts out to us from behind the counter, in seeming perfect time with the waitress who now approaches our table to take our order: two glasses of white wine.

 

“Personally, I do prefer classical,” I explain to Elise once we are left to ourselves again. “But this is as close to that as we’re going to get around here.”

 

For etiquette’s sake, we start with a quick toast and shared first sip, the wine – crisp and dry – going down easily with just the slightest bite. Then, laying my crossed arms on the table to show I’m ready, I ask Elise what it is she wants to say to me.

 

Sure enough, she jumps straight to business. “I have an offer for you – regarding Seol Nae Il.”

 

Well, this isn’t what I was expecting. “Pardon?”

 

“You are aware that 2019 is Clara Schumann’s bicentennial, are you not?”

 

I nod. “Of course.”

 

Elise weaves her hands together, placing them on the table. “Our agency” – she doesn’t elaborate, but I presume she means the one she works for as the Berlin Royal Orchestra’s manager – “is interested in getting involved.” For a fleeting moment, I spot a faint ghost of a smile on her face. “After all, rarely does the chance come around for a female composer to be celebrated so widely.”

 

Fortunately, I am able to read between the lines. “In other words: you need the PR.”

 

She nods. “I knew you’d figure it out.”

 

“So what does this have to do with Nae Il?”

 

“We already have several pianists signed on with our agency, but we want to take this opportunity to invest in an up-and-coming female artist instead.” She raises a knowing eyebrow at me. “And, based on our sources, Seol Nae Il is a perfect candidate for what we have planned.”

 

My brow furrows. “Your sources? Do you mean the Professor?”

 

Elise shoots me a look across the table. “Maestro Stresemann can vouch for her talent, to be sure; however, in terms of suggesting her for our bicentennial project, I am referring to someone else.”

 

She might enjoy creating this air of mystery, stringing me along by just giving one tiny tidbit of information at a time. But I’m starting to lose patience, especially since I notice the bar starting to fill up with other patrons around us. “Who?”

 

Fortunately, my curt manner seems to work. “You.”

 

I stare at her, wide-eyed. “Me? But we’ve only just met.”

 

“You were the one who told Sebastian Viera about Nae Il’s interest in the Schumanns’ music, were you not?”

 

“Ja.”

 

“And don’t you want her to have some sort of work lined up after she graduates this spring?”

 

Eyes narrowed, I start to rise out of my seat. This situation is turning into an uncanny repeat of the way Professor Do had cornered and interrogated me regarding Nae Il’s playing back at Haneum. “Just how much do you know about us, Frau Steiner?”

 

Elise, however, is entirely unfazed. “Enough to know that this is an offer you can’t afford to refuse if you want Seol Nae Il to stay in the country after she graduates.”

 

Something about her comment – her icy tone combined with the way her impassive expression has remained entirely unchanged despite my show of defiance – makes me settle reluctantly back down. “Fair enough,” I concede, defeated. “If that’s what you think, let’s hear it.”

 

If nothing else, it’s only fair to let her have her say, given that she’s come all the way from Berlin just to make this offer.

 

Smiling at last, Elise opens her briefcase and pulls out a large yellow paper envelope. “A two-year contract, starting this autumn: a minimum of twenty touring performances per year of pieces of her choice by both Robert and Clara Schumann; in addition to a studio album of the same to be released for the bicentennial itself.”

 

The offer does sound like a good one, but I need to make absolutely sure. I tilt my head slightly to one side, raising a questioning eyebrow as well. “May I see the papers?”

 

Her smile widens. “Of course.” Sliding the envelope across the table to me, she adds, “Everything’s in there."

 

Carefully, I reach inside and pull out a stack of papers: two draft copies of the contract, along with the forms which Nae Il would have to complete in order to live and work here in Austria after her graduation as well as to have payments directly deposited into a bank account of her choice.

 

Clearly, Elise has done her research. Looking at it this way, at least signing on with her means Nae Il shouldn’t run into any legal or logistical hiccups in the future.

 

“So,” she begins, after I have finished perusing the documents and placed them back inside the envelope, “are you satisfied?”

 

I nod, finally able to bring myself to smile at her. “How much time will we have to discuss the terms?”

 

Elise leans back coolly in her seat. “My train back to Berlin is in a week’s time.”

 

I stiffen in alarm at her response. That’s barely any time to even discuss any of this with Nae Il, let alone actually go into actual negotiations. At a normal pace, the only choices left to us are to either take the contract as-is – and I haven’t even checked the fine print – or walk away with nothing.

 

And, from the sly smirk she is now sending my way, Elise knows that as well.

 

Damn this woman. No wonder the Professor is terrified of her.

 

But then again, she’s never dealt with the son of Cha Dong Woo before, either.

 

~~~~~

 

Nae Il is already waiting for me in the foyer by the time I get home. She takes my bag and my coat, setting the former down on the floor and hanging up the latter as I take off my shoes.

 

“How’d it go?” she asks, stepping aside to let me pass her into the apartment. “What did Elise say?” She follows after me into the kitchen. “Did something come up with the tour?”

 

“Ani.” Checking the microwave to see that she has, indeed, remembered to put my plate of curry rice inside, I press the button to reheat it. As the machine whirs softly to life, I glance at her over my shoulder, a fond smile on my face. “She wanted to talk to me about you.”

 

Nae Il looks just as surprised now as I must have earlier in the bar. “Me? Waeyo?”

 

I give her a quick summary for now, but I wait until we are both seated at the dining table, Nae Il looking expectantly at me with her chin in her hands, before explaining Elise’s offer in full.

 

Naturally, she is intrigued. “So what did you say?”

 

I stare at her, incredulous. “What do you think? I told Elise that we wouldn’t promise anything until you’d at least seen the contract – ya, Seollebal, do you honestly think I’d repeat that mistake again?”

 

It takes her a moment of blinking confusion to understand my reference, but once she does, she looks away sheepishly. “Geu rae…I understand.” After a moment’s pause, which I take as invitation to finally start eating, she babbles on. “I mean, I know that working with Professor Do did turn out to be for the best – if I hadn’t, we probably wouldn’t have made it here – but there was no way we could have known that for sure back then, and….” She now turns back to look at me, a sweet smile on her face. “Point is: komawoyo.”

 

Taking that as an agreement that she would consider the offer, I prompt her to look over the documents in the envelope herself.  However, she only gives them a quick cursory glance before tossing them back on the table with a pout.

 

Startled, I freeze, my spoonful of rice paused halfway to my mouth. “Wae?”

 

“I’d have a hard enough time understanding stuff like this in Korean,” Nae Il mumbles, shifting in such a way that I could tell she’s nudging one foot glumly across the floor. “But this is in German.”

 

“Well, try,” I quip back curtly. “You may have had the chance to have dinner on time, but right now, I’m starving.”

 

Nae Il startles, noticeably chastened. “Oh…right.” After a second’s pause, though, she rallies back into her bright and cheerful self. “Arasseo,” she says, nodding and smiling to herself. “I’ll see what I can do.”

 

She scurries out of the room, returning moments later with a gently steaming mug of tea for each of us. Then, as I finally get the chance to have my dinner, she hunkers down: hovering over the stack of documents, mouthing words to herself as she traces her spot with one finger. Every so often, she stops to look up unfamiliar words using a translation app on her phone: nodding silently to herself if she understands, making a face if she still doesn’t.

 

She is still working at it by the time I’ve finished eating, so I slip out to do the dishes and change into a more comfortable set of clothes before finally returning with a pencil from our music room.

 

“How’s it going?” I ask, resuming my seat at the dining table. “Is there anything here you don’t understand, or that you want changed?”

 

Nae Il hums softly in thought. “I…think most of it is self-explanatory?” she begins tentatively.

 

I nod. “But…?”

 

“But I’ve never done this before.”

 

I let out a laugh. “And you think I have?”

 

“Ani,” she answers flatly. “Not really. Just…well, wouldn’t you still know more than me? You know, because of Abeonim?”

 

Seeing her looking so defeated, I finally relent. “Gwenchana, Nae Il-ah – I was going to help you anyway.” I pass her the pencil. “Although I can’t promise anything, I’ve seen Eomma do this for Abeoji before, so I should remember some things at least.”

 

I prompt her to circle items she wants to talk about on one copy of the draft. She quickly works her way down, marking several items before sliding the pages across the table to me. Using the same pencil to mark my place, I read over the entire document, focusing on the specific terms she has circled. Going by her behaviour during our meeting, I was worried at first that Elise would try to do something shady, but the terms she’s offered are legit: the same items and clauses that I would expect to see anyway.

 

Following my hand with her eyes, Nae Il stops me when I pass over one such item.

 

“Wae?” I blink up at her in surprise. “I think it’s fine.”

 

Her brow furrows. “Jinjja? Just a €1,000 appearance fee per concert?” she asks. “And having to pay for accommodations out of pocket if I’m travelling?”

 

I give her a long look. “Forget what you read about on the news, Seollebal – or about whatever you might have heard about Abeoji, for that matter. There’s a reason why the top artists’ salaries are talked about: they’re the exception, not the norm.”

 

“Arayo,” she retorts with a pout. “But is it fair?”

 

“I don’t know what the average going rates are now,” I answer bluntly. “But for someone who’s just starting out, €1,000 is really good. Many musicians start off with just half that much, but it looks like Elise’s trying to make sure you’ll actually make enough to qualify for the residence permit,” I add, gesturing to the relevant form still on her side of the table. “So, really, Seollebal, this is nothing to complain about.”

 

When Nae Il looks unconvinced, I offer her a small smile and a shrug. “At least it’s just accommodations – most agencies expect musicians to pay for their own transport as well. And you can imagine what that’s like once you’re on tour.”

 

She still continues to pout at me across the table. Clearly, she’s not about to let this go.

 

“But still,” I concede with a sigh, jotting down a note in the margin, “if you really want to do it, there’s nothing wrong with asking whether some – not all, though – of the accommodation costs can be covered as well. Especially since the same agency’s already offered that much for our tour with Lee Yoon Hoo this summer.”

 

Nae Il finally nods in smug satisfaction, which I take as clearance to move on to the next item. Most of what she circled, it turns out, are not so much items she wants changed, but instances where she is confused by the language. One such example in particular jumps out at me.

 

Force majeure,” I say, touching my pencil to those words on the page.

 

“Do you know what that means?”

 

“Mm.”

 

My curt tone must have alerted Nae Il somehow, since she now looks concerned. “Wae? Is it something bad?”

 

“Not necessarily – but it can be.”

 

“Wae?”

 

“It depends on how the clause is worded,” I answer, looking over just that. “What it means, in essence, is that if a performance is cancelled for reasons beyond the venue’s control – say, a natural disaster or something – it cannot be held responsible.”

 

She raises a questioning eyebrow. “So?”

 

“Well, combined that with this clause here” – I point to an earlier spot on the contract – “that states that payment only comes upon completion of a performance…it also means Elise won’t be able to pay you in the case of such an event.”

 

Her jaw drops. “Mwo?! Waeyo?!”

 

“Think about it this way,” I explain. “Say, hypothetically, that you’re booked for a concert at the Musikverein when – heaven forbid – there is a fire and it has to close down for repairs at the last minute. Under those circumstances, not only does the Musikverein not have a concert anymore, but chances are they will have to refund any tickets they did already sell. Which means they won’t have the means to pay the agency anymore – and, thus, by extension, you.”

 

Nae Il stares at me, flabbergasted. “You mean…after all the hard work that went into it, and the money I would’ve already paid for the flights and hotels and everything?” When I nod, she lurches forward, slapping a hand on the table in disbelief. “But that’s not fair!” She waves her hand at the papers in disdain. “Elise can’t just rip us off like that!”

 

I throw up my own hands in a placating gesture. “Ya, Seollebal – calm down for a second! That’s not how any of this works!”

 

When, reluctantly, she settles back down in her seat, I move to explain. “Remember: even though we’re suggesting changes to Elise’s offer, this isn’t about you against her. Instead, these are going to be the terms she’ll use to represent you as she makes arrangements for your performances – so, really, we’re all on the same side.”

 

She pouts. “Geu rae. Arasseo. But can’t we do something about it?” she whines. “Is this something that can be taken out?”

 

I shake my head. “Once a force majeure clause is in there, it’s really hard to get rid of – nor would that be a good idea, since skipping it would mean that any cancellation counts as a breach of contract, with all the potential penalties that entails.” I point to back to the relevant clause on the draft. “You see here how it says that ‘Neither artist nor [organization, presenter, et cetera] shall be liable for failure to appear or perform’? That means you’re covered as well. Force majeure is designed to protect the cancelling party in the contract, regardless. So, for example, if – again, heaven forbid – you have to cancel due to an injury, you’re protected by this very same clause from paying any termination fees or returning your deposit to the performance venue. That’s definitely something you don’t want to lose.”

 

Nae Il nods slowly, but still looks confused.

 

“However, what we can do is add conditions to the force majeure clause: say, one that gives Elise the leeway to demand that you be allowed to keep any deposit that’s already been paid if it’s the venue that cancels.” I add a self-deprecating shrug. “This is the sort of protection that everyone hopes will never have to be used…but it can be a life-saver if you can work it into your favour. For instance: if we rework the clause about payment so that some of it has to be given to you upfront as a deposit.”

 

Nae Il eyes narrow slightly. “Jinjja?”

 

“Jinjja,” I respond, nodding firmly for emphasis. “Trust me on this one: that’s what saved my parents’ finances after the accident.” I shrug again. “We might have been well-off, but with hospital fees and everything else, we just couldn’t afford a total loss of income. So Eomma, who was then working full-time as Abeoji’s agent, invoked his force majeure clause when he finally agreed to cancel his tour and come back to Seoul.” A small smile tugs at the corner of my lips. “She had to fight for it, and we weren’t able to recover everything, but at least we got to keep his deposit.”

 

~~~~~

 

With just the slightest hint of a smile on her face, Elise points out the line on the bottom of the page. Using the offered pen, Nae Il signs her name, but when Elise makes to slide the stapled stack of papers over to me, she holds up a hand.

 

“Just a moment, bitte,” she says, reaching into her purse. “I need to add something.”

 

Elise opens her mouth to retort, but I quickly raise my own hand to stop her. “Don’t worry; the terms we set are perfectly fine. By ‘adding something,’ she means her seal.” As Nae Il now carefully applies a red stamp next to her signature, I add, “It’s how legal documents are signed in Korea, so we thought it’d be best to include that.”

 

“I see,” Elise replies coolly, looking on as I now add my own seal and signature on a similar line placed several pages further along in the document.

 

After repeating the entire process again with the second copy of the contract, she takes the first one and tucks it away smartly in her briefcase. Then – and only then – does she smile in earnest, rising in her seat, one hand stretched out in invitation.

 

“Congratulations on your first contract; I look forward to working more with both of you in the future.”

 

We rise as well and take turns accepting her handshake. After resuming our seats, I raise my hand, signalling to a distant waiter that we are now finally ready to order.

 

It takes him a moment to come over, swamped as he is by several tables’ worth of loudly chattering tourists in the corner. Their coach bus had wheeled up to the restaurant at the same time that we’d arrived; and going by the sound of their English-speaking voices – loud enough that we could hear them from the opposite side of the dining room, but not so much that we could make out actual words – they’re one of the many clusters of American tourists that flock to this part of Salzburg year-round.

 

After all, this restaurant – WeiherWirt – offers a fantastic view of the Schloss Leopoldskron: the historic-building-turned-luxury-hotel that was used for the rear façade of the von Trapp mansion in The Sound of Music.

 

The waiter and I exchange longsuffering sympathetic looks when he is finally able to reach our table. Taking our cues from the establishment’s reputation as a seafood restaurant, all three of us opt for one of its several varieties of small fish: lightly fried and served whole, topped either with toasted almonds or a mixture of tomatoes and capers.

 

When our food arrives, Nae Il – still a haenyeo’s daughter – deftly cuts both her fish and mine in half, dividing up the portions so that we each get a piece. Then, at my invitation, we tuck in, eating for the most part in silence.

 

After a while, though, Elise glances across the table at me. “You, Herr Cha, are far more adept at this than I thought.”

 

I set down my fork, blinking at her in surprise. “Eh?”

 

“Had I been writing up a contract for Maestro Stresemann, the entire process would have taken at least a month – if he managed to finish at all. But you were able to send me not one but several counter-offers in as many days.” Something like amusement twinkles in her eyes. “I can tell that we will make an excellent partnership moving forward.”

 

It’s a rare candid comment – the first one I’ve heard from her since we met for the first time on Monday. Fortunately, even as I’m left looking awkwardly down at my plate, uncertain how to respond, Nae Il steps in.

 

“I’m glad you think so,” she says, linking arms with me as she rests her head against my shoulder. “Honestly, without Yoo Jin, I’d be completely lost.”

 

I nudge her off of me, my cheeks burning red as I squirm uncomfortably in my seat. Fortunately, Nae Il seems to take the hint, as she shifts the conversation back to Elise again: “But we have to thank you, Frau Steiner, for listening to us for our terms as well.”

 

The entire process hadn’t been easy. After going through the entire first draft of the contract with Nae Il, I had suggested for her to focus on the two items she wanted to change the most. Then, after one last quick consultation with Eomma to ensure we were on the right track, I’d launched a whirlwind series of negotiations. Every afternoon after lunch, I called Elise to inform her about our suggested changes; and every evening, without fail, she would call me back with her response, which I would then discuss with Nae Il before relaying our consensus back to her the next day.

 

In this way, we have come to a rather unorthodox agreement. Nae Il, at my prodding, has dropped her request for accommodations to be covered by the agency in favour of focusing on a paid deposit that could be guarded by force majeure. The exact amount fluctuated several times over our discussions, but we ultimately settled on €250 – a quarter of her full appearance fee.

 

However, her second request caught even me by surprise, let alone Elise.

 

“I don’t want this to be just about me, Orabang,” she’d admitted during our first dinner-table-discussion. “I don’t want to think about going on tour all by myself, while you’re stuck here because you’ve still got school.” When I’d answered that I was alright with that – that I was already used to being alone due to Abeoji’s hectic touring schedule when I was little – she’d put forward her alternative:

 

“You sign a contract with Elise as well, Orabang: one that lets you be the conductor during my concerto performances whenever possible. And maybe, if we’re lucky, we could do something about RaRo as well.”

 

No wonder, then, that our negotiations were so intense. Nae Il, dead-set as she was on this second request, was either oblivious or uncaring about just how much extra work it meant for Elise; more than once, I worried that she would simply lose patience and rescind her offer, leaving us empty-handed. Yet, despite everything I’ve heard about her in the past – about her cool efficiency and vicious temper – she stuck it through. And while we were unable to come up with a viable plan for RaRo, Elise did manage to get permission from her agency to sign a separate contract with me: both as Nae Il’s chosen conductor and as a solo pianist in my own right – with fewer performances in deference to my studies and a higher appearance fee, the agency jumping at the chance to claim dibs on me as soon as they heard my name.

 

That all started on Monday, and here we are now on Saturday: formalizing and celebrating our achievement with a special lunch.

 

The meal itself goes by amicably, with the three of us naturally shifting to discuss plans for this summer’s tour with Lee Yoon Hoo and the Professor: Elise, it turns out, is just as awkwardly uncomfortable with trivial conversation as I am. Afterwards, when her taxi arrives and we part ways outside of the restaurant, she offers us one last handshake.

 

“I look forward to working with you again in the summer; until then, we will keep in touch.”

 

We stay on the roadside for a moment longer, waving goodbye as the taxi drives out of sight. Then, offering her a fond smile, I drape one arm across Nae Il’s shoulders.

 

“Come on, Nae Il-ah – let’s walk for a bit.”

 

The WeiherWirt is situated on one side of a small lake, nearly exactly opposite from the Schloss Leopoldskron. Thus, no sooner have Nae Il and I rounded the corner to make for the back of the restaurant do we find ourselves in the midst of a large crowd: yet another busload of tourists – this one Chinese – all snapping photos of the mansion in the distance. As she gawks in amazement, I guide her along with me as I slip past them for the footpath that rings the lake, glancing back at the throng with a bemused shake of the head.

 

Together, hand-in-hand, we stroll along the tree-lined path. Today is absolutely gorgeous: bright and sunny and unseasonably warm for the beginning of April. Yet there is just the faintest breeze blowing off the lake, and it is cooler in the shade of the trees. Nae Il, who was wearing just a simply elegant brown linen dress in the restaurant, now puts on the light jacket she had brought with her: the white edelweiss-covered cardigan she’d embroidered herself.

 

At last, we come to a more secluded spot. Park benches dot the path here at regular intervals; I make for the closest one as Nae Il jogs to the water’s edge, phone in hand. Although we are now farther away from the Schloss than the tourists, the lack of crowds allows her an entirely unobstructed view of the white palatial structure, the Hohensalzburg Fortress watching over it from its hill in the distance.

 

Beaming, Nae Il turns to look back at me with a called word of thanks. However, just when I think she is about to join me at the bench, she sits down on the grass, patting the ground beside her.

 

“Come on, Orabang!” she says brightly. “The view’s amazing here!”

 

Slowly, one hand braced on my knee for support, I stand up to join her. But when I try to take a step, I find myself suddenly rooted in place.

 

The lake, waves and ripples lapping gently on the shore, looms large in front of me. I swallow nervously, my tongue sticking to the roof of my mouth. A series of disjointed images floats up unbidden in my mind: a capsized boat, its occupants sinking down into the depths; myself standing on the bank as it crumbles and gives way beneath my feet.

 

How deep is it here? How would I know? And what if it’s not me, but Nae Il, who falls in? What if…what if….

 

Nae Il’s smile melts. Her head tilts slightly to one side. “Orabang….” Her voice sounds hollow, as though she is standing far further away from me than just a few metres. “Gwenchanayo?”

 

I shake my head, trying to force myself to step forward only to find myself shuffling backwards instead. “Gwe-gwenchana. Just…just give me a moment.”

 

I don’t know how long I stand there staring blankly at the lake, seconds feeling like minutes feeling like hours. But then, as though out of nowhere, I’m conscious of Nae Il materializing by my side. She takes my hand, her fingers interweaving with mine. She tugs at me slowly, her touch gentle yet firm at the same time, nodding when I take a single hesitant step forward.

 

“That’s it, Orabang,” she says soothingly as I follow that first step with a second. “Just a little more. Don’t worry; you’re safe with me.”

 

Slowly, still holding my hand, she leads me all the way to the same spot where she sat before. When my eyes flicker down to the edge of the lake – its bottom obscured both by the raised bank and the sunlight glinting off of its surface – she steps around in front of me, adjusting her grip so that both of her hands are now holding mine.

 

“Sit with me,” she says, carefully crouching down so that I have no choice but to follow her lead. “Gwenchana; you can’t see the edge from here.”

 

I glance skeptically at her out of the corner of my eye as I join Nae Il down on the grass. But once I look past her at the lake…she’s right. Seated like this, firmly planted on the ground like this, the feeling that had swept over me while standing at the water’s edge – that feeling that, at any moment, I would pitch forward into its depths – dissipates. Instead, all I am left with – all I can focus on – is the grand mansion on the other side.

 

As I finally begin to relax, taking in a deep shuddering breath, Nae Il smiles in relief and lets go of my hand. “See? What’d I tell you?”

 

I give her a long look. “How did you know?” I gesture at the view spread out before us. “About sitting down, I mean.”

 

She blinks at me, incredulous. “Eomeong’s a haenyeo, Orabang,” she blurts out matter-of-factly. “As have most of the women in my family for generations. The sea is our world; I was taught to swim as soon as I knew how to walk. But you know me, Orabang: do you honestly think I never got scared, not even once?

 

“Of course,” she adds with a shrug, “I wouldn’t recommend this when it’s stormy and the waves are high. But on a calm day like this, when the water’s not going anywhere” – she falls back to lie down on the grass with a contented sigh – “it really helps.”

 

I gaze down at Nae Il a moment longer before turning back to look at the view. She soon sits back up to join me, the two of us sitting in comfortable silence: the only sounds the trees rustling in the breeze and the church bells ringing far away in the distance.

 

When a small flock of ducks paddles by, Nae Il scrambles to the water’s edge for a closer look, pulling up blades of grass and tossing them onto the surface of the water in an attempt to feed them. However, none of the birds respond to her antics, so she switches to taking photos with her phone, focusing on a pair of Mandarins.

 

She shows me the pictures immediately after she sits back down beside me, pointing out the colourful male Mandarin and the brown female by his side. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking, Orabang?”

 

I give her a fond sideways glance. “That depends on what you’re thinking.”

 

Nae Il bursts into giggles, nudging me in the side for good measure. “Aish…you’re no fun.”

 

She shows me two photos in rapid succession: one where the male is in front, and a second where the female has finally caught up with him. “Do you remember what you said to me before we came to Salzburg? When I asked you where you thought we’d end up in the future?”

 

I shake my head.

 

“‘A little behind or a little ahead,’” she says, answering her own question. “But always together.”

 

I nod slowly, the memory finally materializing in my mind’s eye. “So?”

 

“So,” she quips back, “isn’t that where we are right now?” She gives me a long look. “You started off so far ahead of me, Orabang, that there were times when I was afraid I’d never catch up. But now” – she leans in once again, resting her head contentedly on my shoulder – “with graduation and the tour coming up, and now these contracts as well…I feel like we’re finally here.”

 

~~~~~

 

As soon as I step into the foyer, I’m met with a brisk chill emanating out from the living room. Shivering and crossing my arms in front of my chest, I head inside to investigate, only to find the sliding door thrown wide open, Nae Il just barely visible behind a large fan-shaped bunch of greenery.

 

“Ya, Seollebal,” I call out, quickly crossing over to help her. “What on earth are you doing?”

 

She peers behind the foliage and offers me a grateful smile. “Ever since our neighbours gave us this Easter palm last week, I’ve wanted to put it outside today,” she explains, passing the large decoration – a bunch of evergreen branches lashed to a pole and festooned with colourful ribbons – to me. “But I didn’t think Easter would turn out this cold.”

 

As Nae Il hurriedly closes the door behind her, I prop the dripping palm back against its original spot by the wall, wiping my hands dry on my trousers. “At least you had the sense to hold off until the rain started to let up. It wouldn’t do for you to get soaked right now.”

 

“Gwenchana,” she quips back, coming up beside me. “If anything happens, I have you to take care of me.”

 

I dart her a skeptical sideways glance. “Are we seriously going to have this conversation again?” I let out a short laugh. “You never win this one.”

 

“Says the guy who is probably already planning to make a warm comforting soup for dinner tonight.”

 

When my jaw drops open in surprise, she simply smiles up at me with her best mock-innocent expression. We stare at each other like this for a long moment before I finally relent, turning away with my hands thrown up in defeat. “Alright then, Seollebal – you’ve won this one once.”

 

Nae Il trails after me as I head for the kitchen. “More than that.”

 

“Twice.”

 

“More.”

 

I shake my head as I grab a tea towel from the cupboard under the sink. “Three times?”

 

“Ani,” she chirps, still following me as I return to the living room and crouch down to wipe up the rainwater that’s dripped from the palm onto the hardwood floor. “How about every single time?”

 

I gape up at her, incredulous; but when Nae Il only bursts into giggles in response, I stand back up with a huff. “Fine. If that’s how you want to do it….”

 

This time, she doesn’t chase after me when I go back to the kitchen to return the towel. Instead, after washing my hands, I come back to find her snapping photos of the palm with her phone. She takes a good number of them: trying to capture the palm from multiple angles, including some closeup shots….

 

Chuckling softly at her antics, I sidle up beside her, crouching down so my head hovers just over her shoulder. “Is it really that fascinating?”

 

“Mm.” She nods, then opens her picture gallery to show me what she’s taken so far. “It’s not something we see back in Korea, so I want to show the others.”

 

When I stare wordlessly at her, she scoffs in surprise. “You really are clueless, Orabang. Don’t you remember that Elise said we’d have to be in charge of our own online publicity? So of course we’ve got to post an Easter greeting on Instagram!”

 

“Oh,” I answer softly, looking on as Nae Il swipes through her photos a second time. She asks for my opinion on which two shots are the best, deleting all the rest before making a beeline for our dining table.

 

“I gotta get the eggs as well.”

 

Like the palm, these also came courtesy of our neighbours from across the hall. Neither Nae Il nor I are religious; but they, like many Austrians, are practicing Catholics. And while we’d never join them for Mass – they ask, but I always decline with the excuse that attending without any actual belief would only give the congregants false hope – they include us in their Easter celebrations every single year.

 

This year, it had started last Sunday with the palm; the two young daughters of the family had made one each to be blessed by a priest, giving the second one to us. Yesterday, though, on the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, they took it a step further: asking us to come across the hall to join them in a mass egg-decorating session. Nae Il took to the task immediately; but despite my initial reluctance, I soon found myself roped in as well when the little girls, one holding each of my hands, dragged me over to their kitchen table.

 

It’s our handiwork, then, that’s displayed on the dining table today: nestled together in our bread basket, which Nae Il has lined with scraps of the green, pink-flowered fabric she’d used for her dirndl last year. Looking over the eggs now, it’s immediately noticeable which ones are Nae Il’s and which ones are mine: hers decorated with intricately detailed flowers and scrollwork while mine stick to simpler multicoloured patterns.

 

Nae Il takes some pictures of the eggs in their basket, humming contentedly to herself as she logs onto Instagram to post them. Although I can’t see her screen from where I am, I can see the moment, however, when she goes completely still, her smile dimming and fading away.

 

“Gwenchana?”

 

She looks up, startled at my question. “N-ne.” Her eyes drift back down to the phone. “I just forgot that it’s today.”

 

My brow furrows. “What’s today?”

 

Rather than answer me directly, however, Nae Il hurriedly excuses herself, slipping past me out of the room, her phone held tightly to her chest. Confused, I follow after her, but she waves for me to stay outside as she ducks into her room and shuts the door.

 

I wait patiently for her at first, but after about thirty seconds, I knock softly on the door. “Ya, Seol Nae Il – gwenchana? Is something the matter?”

 

“Just a minute, Orabang,” she calls back, the brighter tone of her voice flooding me with a rush of relief. “I’ll be out soon.”

 

Through the door, I hear her rummaging through her drawers. “Do you need help with anything?”

 

“Ani.” A pause. “Actually, Orabang…if you have something else you need to do, maybe you should go and work on that now.”

 

Clearly, Seol Nae Il has yet to learn about reverse psychology. Rather than driving me away, her comment makes me even more determined to stay where I am, curious about what is happening inside. Thus it is that I am greeted, a moment later, by the sight of Nae Il standing in her open doorway, both rabbit dolls tucked under one arm. While not unusual in and of itself, it’s what she’s pinned to their chests that makes me slowly tense up in dread:

 

Two identical loops of yellow ribbon.

 

Nae Il blinks in surprise at the sight of me still in the hallway, but her lips soon press together into a determined line.

 

“See, Orabang? What’d I tell you?”

 

She steps resolutely past me, bunnies in tow, towards the foyer. Meanwhile, as my pulse starts to pound loudly in my ears, I make a hasty retreat into our music room. Grabbing my score for Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony on my desk, I flip rapidly through the pages – attempting to read it but really registering nothing – until, at last, I hear Nae Il’s call for me to return to the living room.

 

The dolls are conspicuously missing when I step back inside; and Nae Il, who was waiting for me just inside of the doorway, now holds out her hand, palm facing up.

 

“You know the drill, Orabang.”

 

Nodding, I pull out my phone and place it firmly down in her hand. She takes it back to the dining table; as I claim my usual seat across from her, she copies the photos from her phone onto it before logging onto my Instagram account. Nae Il shows me each picture as she uploads it to the slideshow she’s creating – identical, I presume, to the one on her own account – including the last one featuring our basket of eggs with the rabbit dolls on either side, ears drooping down to affect a somber expression. Then, once I have nodded my approval, she moves on to the text box.

 

“I already wrote up something for my own post,” she says, “but you tell me what you want to say.”

 

Slowly, giving her time to catch every word, I dictate my message: a simple one wishing everyone a safe and happy Easter with their friends and families as well as promoting our upcoming tour this summer. If Nae Il notices that I omit any discussion of the rabbits and their yellow ribbons, she doesn’t comment on it, electing to just focus on typing. I relay the message twice, once in Korean and once in German; then, after looking over Nae Il’s draft to ensure there aren’t any typos, I nod for her to post it.

 

Afterwards, Nae Il returns to my home page, scrolling casually through the feed. For the most part, she simply looks, turning the screen towards me to show the occasional particularly appealing post; but every so often, she consults with me about any “likes” or comments I might want to give.

 

When she finishes, Nae Il closes the app, then relocks my phone before returning it to me. As I shove it back into my pocket, I flash her a grateful smile. “Komawo, Nae Il-ah. This is the third year in a row that you’ve done this for me, and I’ve never even had to say anything.”

 

She accepts my thanks with a casual shrug. “It’s only right for our friends to take part in the Yellow Ribbon campaign – and you and I both care, so we should join in, too – but I can also imagine how it’d make you uncomfortable.”

 

She trails off into silence for a moment, then looks warily into my eyes. “Actually, Orabang – I hate to ask this, but….”

 

Seeing her hesitate, nervously chewing her bottom lip, I offer her an encouraging nod. “Go on.”

 

“What was it like for you three years ago, when the Sewol sinking happened?” She makes a face. “I can’t imagine it would have been good.”

 

It wasn’t. In fact, even calling it “bad” would be an understatement. When the Sewol, a ferry filled with high school students, sank en route to Jeju-do from Incheon, it was the only thing anyone at Haneum could talk about. And rightfully so: many of my classmates were incensed at the captain’s cowardice and the government’s mismanagement of the disaster; some of them even lost younger siblings, cousins, or friends.

 

It was the perfect cause for good-hearted and passionate university students to rally around…but it was pure excruciating torture for me.

 

Thirteen years after my own accident, I was finally starting to make some progress, fueled by a burning desire to overcome my trauma in time to pursue graduate studies in Europe. Under Dr. Kim’s guidance, I was finally transitioning from talk therapy into meditation and hypnotherapy: coping techniques that I could use even if I should suffer an attack on my own.

 

But then the Sewol sank, throwing me headlong into the worst relapse I’d suffered in years.

 

I couldn’t eat. I drank far more than I should. Every night, I would try to get some rest, hoping that sleep would drive the dark thoughts away, only to jolt awake from horrific nightmares instead.

 

I tried to fix it the best I could. I avoided the news. I stopped checking my phone or social media. I threw myself into my work, staying up at the piano for as long as I dared. But it was all to no avail. Even if I didn’t watch the news, all my friends and classmates did – and they’d talk about it. Day and night, their lurid imaginings – gleaned from news reports and eyewitness accounts – of what it would be like to drown in the sea shoved their way into my own thoughts.

 

I didn’t need to be told. I already knew: ice-cold water burning as it pours into my lungs, leaving me frozen, unable to move, unable to breathe.

 

It eventually got to the point where even music, my one and only refuge, began to fail me: the hushed words and comments seeping into my mind even as I practiced. Then, after one such session – I don’t know whether from the intrusive thoughts, from hunger, or from sheer exhaustion – I collapsed. Only after I came to, sprawled on my living room floor, did I realize just how close I had come to striking my head against the side of the piano on my way down. Just a few inches, just a little bit more to the side, and I could have been seriously injured or even killed, with no-one among my family or friends the wiser.

 

Slowly, painfully, in the weeks following the disaster, I crawled my way back out again, helped in no small part by life and school and work simply continuing on, drawing Haneum’s attention to other things. But what little progress I had gained with Dr. Kim was now irrevocably lost. Never after that point was I able to enter a meditative or hypnotic trance, nor could I even think about studying abroad without triggering an attack.

 

That’s how it was until I met Nae Il. And it’s only with her help that I’m where I am now.

 

Of course, as Nae Il looks expectantly at me across the table, I don’t say any of this. What happened three years ago is all in the past; there’s no need to give her all the graphic details. So, instead, I answer simply, my lips curling up into a tiny ghost of a smile:

 

“It was rough.”

 

~~~~~

 

Finally, after more than a month, Eomma’s package arrives.

 

Nae Il takes the cardboard box from me as soon as I return from the post office. Holding it up at eye level, she looks skeptically at it, her brows knitted together in thought.

 

I let out a short laugh at her comical expression. “I know,” I quip wryly as I take off my shoes and set them aside. “I was thrown off by the size, too.”

 

She steps back to let me pass and gives the parcel a careful shake. “There’s gotta be more than just a video in here. I just know it.”

 

“Well,” I answer, gesturing towards the living room, “why don’t we go and find out?”

 

Nodding, Nae Il hurries to set down the box on our dining table before dashing past me a second time into her room. As the crafter between us, she is the one with a pocketknife and not me; and that is exactly what she is holding when she returns.

 

My eyes flicker down at the box. “Do you want to do the honours?”

 

She doesn’t need to be told twice, kneeling on her chair in order to get a better angle as she cuts through the thick layer of packaging tape. The flaps on the box have also been glued down for greater stability; they give way with a satisfying tearing sound when Nae Il levers them open with her fingers.

 

Immediately, her eyes widen.

 

“Omo, omo, omo….” Gasping in delight, she reaches inside the package and pulls out a thin box of orange-flavoured chocolates. “I haven’t had these in ages!” As I look on in amusement, she immediately tears off the plastic film and helps herself to one of the individually-wrapped candies, handing me a piece as well. “Try it, Orabang; you can only get these on Jeju-do.”

 

I take the candy, shoving it in my pocket to enjoy later. “Jeju-do?”

 

Nae Il nods, unable to speak with her square of chocolate already in her mouth. “Mm.”

 

Shaking my head in bewilderment, I check the return address on our package, wondering if I’d somehow managed to confuse a care package from Nae Il’s family for the thing I was expecting from Eomma. But it’s definitely Eomma’s address in Seoul that’s written on the label, so just what exactly is going on?

 

Before I could say anything, though, a folded sheet of paper breaks into my line of sight, Nae Il waving it just inches from my face. Realizing it is probably a message from Eomma, I take it from her.

 

Dear Yoo Jin-ah, Nae Il-ah,

 

Mianhae. It took me ages to track down the copy of Fantasia you asked me to find, and once I found it – as I’d guessed, it was shoved away in a storeroom at your uncle’s place – it turned out to be a VHS. I doubt you kids would have the right player for that, though, so too bad on that one.

 

“Aish….” I smack myself mentally for my own stupidity. Of course that would be a problem – why hadn’t I guessed?

 

But you know me: I’m not the sort of person who’d just give up without a fight. So I asked around for a bit – and guess what? Nae Il’s family has the DVD. If you have a multi-region player, it should work fine.

 

Nae Il, who’d come around to read the letter over my shoulder, now digs excitedly through the box, yanking out the disc in question.

 

So that’s the copy that I’m sending you, along with some other things that Nae Il’s parents threw in as well. I think you two will like the scrapbook in particular; funny what sorts of things turn up when you start to look.

 

The rest of Eomma’s letter consists of the miscellaneous updates and bits of gossip that are characteristic to all her messages. I hold off on reading those for the time being, instead choosing to watch Nae Il as, gasping audibly, she now pulls out a large spiral-bound book nestled at the bottom of the parcel.

 

I push everything else off to one side, giving Nae Il the space to place the book reverently on the table.

 

“This was the scrapbook I made in my first year of primary school,” she explains, opening the book to its title page, where her name, age, class, and school have been written in by her teacher. “I had no idea Eomeong still held on to it, though.”

 

I answer with a nod. “Eomma said that there’s something here that we’d like, so” – I wave one hand at the page in invitation – “shall we?”

 

Turning the book so that I could see it right-side-up while she sees it upside-down, Nae Il slowly flips through the pages.

 

This scrapbook appears to have originally been a photo album: the kind without pockets, where each large page is coated with a mild adhesive and covered with a thin plastic film to protect its contents. Inside, Nae Il had lovingly placed mementos from the first few years of her life, most likely in accordance to certain assigned themes: baby pictures; family portraits; photos of her parents, grandmother, and childhood pet dog; pictures she’d drawn in kindergarten along with her graduation certificate; newspaper and magazine clippings about current events. However, what catches my eye the most are the short notes – written on pink patterned paper in Nae Il’s clumsy childish hand – interspersed throughout: captions and responses to the images featured on each page.

 

We work slowly through the scrapbook, both of us so fascinated that even the display on our phones showing us it’s time to start preparing dinner fails to rouse us from our seats. As with any collection of old memories, this book conjures up story after story in Nae Il’s mind; she regales me with them, peering eagerly up at me through her eyelashes with each one to see whether it elicits the smile or laugh she wants.

 

Soon, we reach the halfway point in the book, when Nae Il has finally started her piano lessons. Here, we find photos of her at the studio, her stern-faced teacher at her side, as well as ticket stubs and programs from small local recitals in which she’d performed.

 

I offer her a fond smile. “You must have had dreams, then.”

 

“I did,” Nae Il answers, the easy manner in her voice reassuring to my ears. “Back then, other than Abang’s ranch, the studio was my favourite place to be; I used to love just sitting there before my lesson, picking out what I could remember from the pieces I’d heard on the radio.” A pause. “I didn’t know anything about ‘stardom’ or ‘prodigies’ yet – to me, it was just fun, and I had no idea that the things I thought were easy were so…out of the ordinary.

 

“But that’s all old times,” she says with a dismissive shrug. “At least I can come back to just playing for fun again now.”

 

The page after this clearly marks it as the end of the school project: a sheet of paper stuck inside shows her grades along with her teacher’s comments. However, Nae Il continues to turn the pages, revealing that even after finishing the assignment, she had kept adding to the scrapbook on her own: for the remainder of the term and then into the summer. There are pictures she drew, school quizzes in which she got perfect marks, photos documenting her various craft projects and a family trip to Disneyland in Japan.

 

And then, something that makes both of us stop in our tracks.

 

“Ya, Seollebal,” I burst out, staring wide-eyed down at the page that’s just been revealed. “That’s – that’s me.”

 

The picture is printed on a page cut out from a magazine about fifteen years ago. In it, I am standing on an auditorium stage along with two other children, each of us juggling a framed certificate and a small plastic trophy in our arms, mine evidently the largest of the three. A black concert grand piano looms behind us, hinting at the occasion for the photograph.

 

“How did you come by this?” I gesture down at the attached article describing the competition. “You weren’t one of the winners here, so….” One corner of my mouth twitches up in a teasing smirk. “Ya, have you been stalking me all this time, Seollebal?”

 

“Ani,” Nae Il quips back at me, just as good-naturedly. “I’d completely forgotten about this until now, so us living next door and meeting each other at Haneum is still pure coincidence. Or Fate – whichever you prefer.”

 

I make a face. “Let’s just keep it at ‘coincidence.’”

 

“Geu rae. Arasseo.” Trying to think back to the past, her brow furrows, and she scratches her head. “If anything, I guess that I saw it at the studio – they used to have issues of this magazine out by the entrance for parents to take.”

 

“Well,” I answer, pointing out a closed envelope that has been slipped in beside the clipping, “let’s see if that tells us anything.”

 

Carefully, Nae Il pulls back the plastic film and takes out the envelope. She opens it up and empties its contents on the table beside the scrapbook: a series of hand-written notes, each one folded into a rudimentary heart with a date written on it.

 

I bite back a sudden urge to laugh as I pick up the earliest-dated heart. “So what was this about ‘pure coincidence,’ Seollebal?”

 

Pouting, she snatches it out of my hand. “It’s not what you think, Orabang,” she whines back at me. “I used to fold all my notes like that.”

 

“Ara, ara – if you say so.”

 

Satisfied that I’m not about to push this any further, Nae Il finally unfolds the note and starts to read aloud: “Dear Orabang–”

 

She stops abruptly, and the two of us gape at each other across the table in slack-jawed astonishment. Then, at the exact same moment, both of us burst out laughing.

 

“Ya, Seollebal,” I blurt out, just barely audible over her peals of laughter. “Jinjja?!”

 

She shakes her head, waving her head to signal that she still can’t talk. Once she does settle, however, she brushes away the laughter-induced tears with her finger and resumes reading:

 

Dear Orabang,

 

Is that OK? Can I call you that? You are older than me and you are a boy. Eomeong says that having a penpal this summer will help my writing. Even if it’s pretend. I saw that you play piano like me. You won a contest. You must be really good.

 

I steal a careful glance at Nae Il, but she doesn’t notice and keeps going:

 

I play piano too. It’s a lot of fun. Seonsaengnim says that I’m getting a lot better. She says that one day I can win a contest, too. Just watch, Orabang. I’m coming to kick your butt.

 

I let out yet another snort of laughter at the ending, while Nae Il averts her eyes, her cheeks turning red. “Well, Seollebal,” I point out wryly, “you certainly had a way of putting things.”

 

“Geu rae,” she says sheepishly. “I guess so.”

 

As she folds up this first note and moves on to the second one, I ask quietly, “Is that why you chose to write to me? Because I won a competition?”

 

Nae Il mulls over my question for a moment, then shakes her head. “I liked that you looked so happy,” she answers, tapping one finger on the photograph to show me. Moving on to the article itself, she adds, “Especially with this bit about the piece you played: with the precision of an adult, yet still with the lighthearted liveliness of a child.”

 

I smile. “You can thank Dean Song Mi Na for that. This was my first competition after I switched to taking my lessons from her; it was her idea that I play the Haydn.”

 

I hadn’t understood why at first – why, after already wowing the judges with a Bach prelude and fugue and a Chopin étude in the earlier rounds, she’d pick a relatively easy Haydn sonata out of the list for the finals. Hadn’t I already proven that I could do so much more? Yet, after so many years, I still remember what she said to me, the two of us sitting side-by-side on the piano bench: “You may know him as a kindly old man now, Yoo Jin-ah, but Haydn should be played while you’re still young.”

 

So I gave it a shot. The sonata was simple to learn – so simple that I could easily sight read most of it, even as a ten-year-old – but, I soon came to realize, that was what made it fun. Within days, I was already able to focus on throwing myself into the music, giving it life instead of just trying to get the right notes and hone my technique. 

 

I tell Nae Il all this, and she nods in understanding. “You must’ve been proud of yourself.”

 

“I was – but things could have been better.”

 

She blinks in surprise. “Waeyo?”

 

I answer with a self-deprecating shrug. “Abeoji wasn’t there.”

 

Not that he’d said he would be. Right from the start, he’d made it clear that he wouldn’t promise anything. But I was still a child, and this was my first competition since the accident. Even more than winning, I wanted to be able to look out over the crowded auditorium and see him there. It would have been, in my mind, a small reassuring gesture: a sign that, despite those terrifying attacks I suffered, things were going to be fine between us.

 

But he wasn’t there. And although Eomma and Song Mi Na tried to comfort me backstage by offering some sort of excuse – he was busy, he had a lot on his mind, he didn’t need to be there to still be proud of me – I knew better:

 

I wasn’t good enough; I still wasn’t good enough. But how could I be “good enough” when “good enough” meant performing in Europe when I couldn’t even get on a plane?

 

Still, as I look down on that press photograph now, I remember how it was that day: how, pushing back my disappointment, I’d looked pointedly past all the other fathers in the audience at Eomma, following her gesture to force a smile on my face.

 

This time, Nae Il understands without my even having to say anything. Instead, offering me a warm smile, she says, “I never would’ve guessed – you’re a better actor than I thought. But at least you don’t have to pretend anymore.”

 

I smile back. That, at least, is true enough.

 

~~~~~

 

At the exact moment that I crack open the DVD case, I hear Nae Il’s sing-song voice coming from the right:

 

“Orabang – catch!”

 

Dropping the case, I swivel around on the balls of my feet, just managing to grab on to her red-clad Mozart-costumed teddy bear as it flies straight towards my face. As she celebrates the successful catch with an exultant whoop, I hold the bear out at arm’s length. “What’s this about?”

 

She shrugs, stepping into the living room. Out of the corner of my eye, I note that she has already changed into her pajamas, despite it just being early evening, and has a folded plush throw blanket tucked under one arm.

 

“I just thought you’d want something to hold.”

 

“I got that,” I quip back. “But a teddy bear?”

 

Nae Il shrugs again, then makes a beeline for the couch. “Well, if you want to, you can always sit me in your lap and hold me instead,” she offers helpfully as she sits down. “But….”

 

I give her a long look, thinking back to all those times when, whilst reaching for her hand in the midst of an attack, I’d held on so tightly that she bit back a wince. “Geu rae; arasseo,” I concede, tucking the bear under one arm so I could finish loading the DVD – the copy of Fantasia Eomma sent us a few days ago – into the player. “Komawo, Nae Il-ah.”

 

“You’re welcome,” she chirps back, scooting over on the couch as I sit down beside her. A moment later, though, as the main menu screen loads, her smile dims.

 

“Wae?”

 

“You know, Orabang,” she says hesitantly, “you don’t have to do this tonight if you don’t want to.”

 

“I do,” I answer curtly, looking Nae Il straight in the eye in hopes she’d see my intent. “We’ve been planning this for a month now, so it would be a pity for me to back out. Besides, I want to do this tonight rather than tomorrow, because classes resume the day after that – this way, if things do go wrong, at least I could allow myself one bad day without anyone knowing.”

 

She hesitates a moment longer, blinking up at me as though not entirely convinced. But then, at last, she smiles again. “Alright, Orabang,” she says, throwing in a nod for good measure. “If you say so. Now” – she reaches for the pair of wrapped chopsticks closest to her – “let’s eat.”

 

After spending much of today playing accompaniment at a musicale hosted by Chae Do Kyung and several other members of the opera company, followed by dragging myself through the inevitable reception afterwards, I had come home exhausted and in no mood to cook. So tonight is a lazy instant cup ramyeon sort of night: each of us nursing our own as we finally settle back to watch the film.

 

Rather than jumping straight into The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, we start the DVD a segment early, with its series of vignettes set to excerpts from The Nutcracker. Yet, even though Nae Il watches the colourful fantastical nature scenes in rapt interest, I find myself only partially there: seeing with my eyes but not with my mind, the ramyeon congealing like a stone in my stomach.

 

If this is something that could potentially be triggering, then… you should be able to veto that piece and ask for something else if you want to….

 

I’m not going to have you doing something like that to yourself….

 

They’re right. This is crazy. Why am I even doing this to myself? Maybe I should just stop. Pull out. Tell Nae Il to turn it off until another day.

 

She loves me. I know she’d understand.

 

But what about the Rachmaninoff? What about Die Moldau? What about that moment when I was standing in the airport, too nervous to move, as the call to board my flight to Jeju-do blared out over the PA system?

 

If I had turned and run during those moments…would I be here now?

 

“Orabang, gwenchana?”

 

Slowly, I notice the silence around me – the DVD is paused right on the opening shot of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment – and Nae Il leaning in close, one hand clasped onto my shoulder and concern in her eyes.

 

I blink at her. “Mwo?”

 

“You’re so tensed up right now,” she murmurs gently, squeezing my shoulder to demonstrate, “and you’ve barely touched your food.” A quick downward glance confirms that, sure enough, what’s left of my half-eaten ramyeon is now a cold soggy mess. “Gwenchana? Do you want to stop?”

 

My mouth goes dry. “N-Nae Il-ah–”

 

“I know: technically, we haven’t even started. But if you need more time, or you’ve changed your mind, there’s really no shame in….”

 

Tsking, I set down my cup on the table, then take her hand off my shoulder, placing it gently in my lap.

 

“Gwenchana, Nae Il-ah,” I answer. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid – but if I back out now, I don’t know when I’ll be able to work up the nerve again.” I adjust my grip so that, once again, her fingers are interwoven with mine. “Just, rather than that teddy bear….”

 

Nae Il nods, offering me a reassuring smile. “Of course. I just thought you would prefer the bear instead. But if that’s not the case….”

 

She whisks away my now-inedible ramyeon, stacking it with her own empty cup before disappearing into the kitchen. Moments later, she returns with a hastily constructed ham and cheese sandwich; only after I have finished eating does she finally produce the remote control, setting it down on the coffee table well within my reach.

 

“You call the shots, Orabang,” she offers, taking my hand again. “When to start, when to pause, you get the idea.”

 

I thank her with a nod; then, after allowing myself several deep careful breaths, I start the video.

 

It, like the Goethe story that inspired it, starts simply enough: Mickey Mouse, dwarfed by his gigantic robe and the two buckets of water he’s forced to carry, watches in silent awe as his master, the sorcerer, shapes and molds the air to work his magic. The secret behind the spell appears to be the pointed wizard’s hat, as no sooner has the sorcerer left the room does Mickey snatch it off the desk and place it on his own head.

 

Beside me, Nae Il snickers.

 

“Wae?” I whisper.

 

“That’s what I did,” she whispers back. “To you, and to Milch.”

 

My eyes continue to watch as Mickey brings his broom to life, a bouncing bassoon ostinato matching the skip in his step as he leads it to the well, but my attention is on Nae Il. “Mwo?”

 

“I locked Milch in the bathroom,” she whispers gleefully, “then stole the score.”

 

Finally, it hits me. “You mean, Eroica?”

 

“Ne.”

 

“Ya….” I gasp, impressed despite myself at the truth behind my becoming S Orchestra’s conductor. “You’re quite something, Seollebal.”

 

Rapid descending scales from the strings echo the flow of water pouring from the buckets into the reservoir, and the skipping melody from before turns into a jolly dance: Mickey hopping around the study in glee at his own success before settling down to nap in his master’s chair, content that the broom will finish the chores without him.

 

“Look,” Nae Il blurts out, now clearly convinced that her running commentary is helping me. “Look at his hands!”

 

Both hands raised with a finger extended, flicking to and fro in time with the music….

 

She giggles, squeezing my hand in hers. “He’s conducting – can't you see?”

 

Of course I can. This next part, at least, I remember from when I was little: Mickey’s dream, in which he stands on top of a mountain, beckoning the stars, the clouds, and the crashing cymbal waves to move at his command. How awesome must it feel, I’d imagined back then, to have such total and complete control over music. I know now that there is far more to it: that music and conducting is so much more collaborative than what I saw on screen. But back then, when I was still a child…it had been such a dream.

 

Until, that is, the moment when Mickey falls off.

 

A cold shock hits me immediately: all over at once, knocking the breath out of my lungs. My body seizes up, my throat burns, as an iron band clenches around my chest.

 

Frozen…water…gushing…in…can’t…breathe….

 

I open my mouth to speak, but all that comes out is a strangled gasp: “Nae Il-ah.”

 

Silence. The music stops. Tossing the remote control back down in its original spot with a clatter, Nae Il cups my face in her hands, turning me around towards her.

 

“Orabang, look at me,” she barks out, her clear schoolteacher’s voice pushing through the ringing in my ears. “Look at me.”

 

Eyes transfixed on hers, I follow her through several counted bars – Hana, dul, set, net…hana, dul, set, net – until, at last, I feel myself able to breathe on my own again. Once the moment has passed, Nae Il offers me a benevolent smile, still holding me with both hands. “Gwenchana?”

 

I nod shakily, finally backing out of her hold. “Mm,” I stammer. “Komawo.”

 

Her brow furrows. “I knew to expect something, but I didn’t think it’d happen so soon.”

 

Warily, I follow her sideways glance at the TV, the video frozen on an image of Mickey standing, arms outstretched, to bar the broom in its path – the water still only waist-deep.

 

“Mm,” I answer absently with a nod. “Same.”

 

“So what happened?”

 

I make to protest, but she cuts me off with an exasperated sigh. “I know – you prefer to keep these things to yourself. But when you’re the one who’s asking me to watch this with you precisely because we both know that something can and will go wrong…then isn’t it only fair for me to actually know when it happens?”

 

I bristle. “Do I have to?”

 

“Mm.”

 

“Shiro.”

 

“Wae?”

 

I avert my eyes. “You wouldn’t like it.”

 

“Do it anyway,” she retorts bluntly. “I promised I’d stick with you through this, Orabang, so just be honest with me. Gwenchana: whatever it is, I can take it. I promise.”

 

She does have a point, but it still takes me a long moment’s preparation before I answer: “I felt…I felt like I’d fallen in as well – like…like what happened the night of the accident, or” – my voice drops down to a whisper – “at the waterpark.”

 

When my confession is greeted only by silence, I turn back, glancing warily at Nae Il out of the corner of my eye. But once I do finally face her, it’s to find the same warm smile on her face from before.

 

“Komawoyo.” She says it again, this time carefully enunciating each syllable. “Ko-ma-wo-yo.”

 

I blink at her in surprise. “Eh?”

 

“No wonder you didn’t want to say it, Orabang,” she says. “But what happened at the waterpark was my mistake – not yours.”

 

I nod emphatically. “Exactly, Seollebal. So–”

 

“So let me be the one to decide how I ought to feel about it,” she blurts out earnestly. “And let me decide how I want to make up for it.”

 

We stare at each other for a long moment, neither of us fully willing to surrender. However, as is increasingly becoming the case, I relent first. “Geu rae; arasseo. Komawo, Nae Il-ah.”

 

“You’re welcome,” she sing-songs back, her good humour restored. “So…do you want to keep trying, or should we call it a night?”

 

I think on her question for a moment. “Let’s keep going.”

 

She raises an eyebrow. “Are you sure?”

 

“Mm,” I answer with a nod. “I’m sure.”

 

“Well, then, let’s do it this way.” Smacking me softly on the back, she orders me to sit up straight and shift forward to the front edge of the couch. Then, ignoring my attempts to ask what she wants, she drapes her throw blanket over my shoulders like a cape before somehow wedging herself in behind me, her arms wrapping around my chest.

 

“Ya, Seollebal,” I chuckle as she clasps her hands together in front. “What’s all this?”

 

“I read about this online,” she answers, her head hovering just over my shoulder. “Apparently, covering yourself with a weighted blanket helps people to relax. And since this is just a normal blanket and not a weighted one….” She squeezes tighter around my middle and ducks in close enough to give me a soft peck of a kiss on my cheek, letting her actions speak for her.

 

The plush blanket is soft and warm – freshly laundered, too, the soft floral scent of our detergent floating up to my nose. I suddenly recall how Nae Il, rather uncharacteristically, had volunteered to do the laundry while I was out; I hadn’t thought much of it then, in my rush out the door, but now it finally hits me.

 

Everything I see here – the bear, the food, the blanket – Seol Nae Il had planned in advance, for this very moment.

 

At my signal, we finally resume the video, I holding the remote so I could stop and start it at will. Together, we watch as Mickey chops the broom to pieces with an axe, desperately trying to stop the flood. Then, as each tiny piece of wood starts to stir, growing into a veritable army of mindless water-pouring brooms, Nae Il leans in close. She whispers softly in my ear when I tense up and my breath hitches yet again, this time in response to the water finally rising over Mickey’s head, prompting him to swim up to the surface and climb up on the spellbook as a makeshift raft.

 

“Gwenchana. Ara. You’re safe here. I’ve got you.”

 

The soothing sort of words that I told Maestro Viera at January’s ball I’d most wanted to hear after the accident. The words Abeoji had denied me.

 

Yet, by some miracle, Seol Nae Il says them now.

 

Fortunately, just as all seems lost, help arrives: the sorcerer, roused from slumber by Mickey’s cries for help, dispelling the waters and putting the house to rights. As Mickey, shaken by his ordeal, sheepishly scurries out of the room, Nae Il points out to me the fleeting glint of amusement in the otherwise-stern sorcerer’s eye – a look so much like Professor Stresemann’s that I finally begin to feel a deep sense of relief.

 

Although the segment is done, Nae Il refuses to let go of me. Instead, asking for the remote, she skips ahead to a more lighthearted scene: a comic ballet featuring dancing animals, their silly cartoonish hijinks so absurd that even I end up dissolving into laughter by the end.

 

Nae Il continues to check up on me at regular intervals for the rest of the evening: asking me how I am feeling or whether I need anything until finally announcing, as I am brushing my teeth, that she will be sleeping in my room tonight. She tails me all the way back to my room, brushing away my protests with the emphatic claim that she’s only copying my gesture of spending the night in her room after the disaster in Berlin last December. She climbs into bed beside me, putting up such a fuss when I try to push her off that after several failed attempts, I eventually relent.

 

“I told you already, Seollebal: I’ll be fine,” I mutter with a sigh, sliding in under the blanket.

 

“Ara,” she quips back, turning onto her side to face me. “But this is just in case.”

 

She looks so earnest, batting her eyelashes up at me, that I chuckle despite myself. “Arasseo,” I answer, reaching out to turn off the bedside lamp. “Just don’t try anything.”

 

Although I close my eyes immediately, lest she worry about me, it actually takes me a while to fall asleep, Nae Il’s voice humming a gentle lullaby the last thing I hear before drifting off. It’s only the next morning, when I wake up to find her still sleeping peacefully beside me, her cheeks and lips rosy in the faint light of dawn, that the actual lyrics from her song appear in my mind:

 

Edelweiss, edelweiss,

Every morning, you greet me;

Small and white, clean and bright,

You look happy to meet me.

 

In all the years we’ve been together, this is the only time I’ve actually woken up like this: Nae Il’s smiling face the literal first thing I see. And I know now, for a fact, that I never want to lose it again.

 

~~~~~

 

“Let me get this straight: you want me to do what?”

 

Muhammed’s voice sounds so surprised on the other end of the line that I’m forced to bite back a laugh, never mind that I’m in public on the side of the road. “Come on, it’s not that hard. All I’m asking is that you meet me at Pommes Boutique an hour from now.”

 

“I get that part,” he quips back. “But what’s this about covering for you?”

 

I suppress an exasperated sigh. “Look: Nae Il still thinks I’m on campus, and I need someone to vouch for my having been there all morning until I ran into you on my way to grab lunch for her.”

 

When Muhammed merely laughs, I roll my eyes even though he can’t see me. “What?”

 

“You know, you’re making this way more complicated than it needs to be.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“You’re not the type to skip out on practice to begin with,” Muhammed points out wryly. “So what are the chances Nae Il’s going to doubt your story now?”

 

As he barely manages to smother a snort of laughter, my voice grows short. “Damn it, I don’t know! What if this is the one time she does?”

 

Something in my tone must have given me away, however, because the next thing I know, he grows more serious. “Alright, out with it: where are you, really?”

 

This time, I sigh for real. “Does it matter?”

 

I could almost visualize his classic casual shrug. “Hey, if I’m going to corroborate your alibi, I should at least know what for.”

 

So far, our entire conversation has been ignored by any of the passersby on the street where I’m standing. Yet, suddenly overcome by some childish need for stealth, I duck several steps into the closest alleyway, facing the wall to shield myself from view. “A jewellery store,” I whisper.

 

Immediately, my ear is blasted with such loud uproarious laughter that I jerk my phone several inches away to save my own hearing.

 

“You’re at a what?!” Muhammed bursts out, still laughing. “Wow, Cha Yoo Jin – you’re finally doing it? Took you long enough!”

 

“Shut up,” I mutter. “Just meet me there on time – and keep this to yourself.” When he makes to protest, I cut him off with a warning hiss. “If I find out Nae Il knows about this, I’ll know who to blame.”

 

“What makes you think I’d tell?” he retorts. “It’s not everyday I get to help plan a surprise like this. Don’t worry – I’ll do my part.” After a brief pause, however, he adds mischievously, “So, when can I see the invitation?”

 

“Ya!”

 

Too late, I realize how my indignation could easily be mistaken for agreement, what with the exclamation sounding nearly identical to the German “ja”. Fortunately, however, my tone of voice seems to have provided ample context, because Muhammed responds exactly the way I thought he would: “Alright, alright – I’ll quit teasing you. Good luck, you old romantic, and I’ll see you in a bit.”

 

He hangs up at that moment, leaving me gaping silently at my phone in astonishment. With little choice left on the matter, I turn smartly on my heel and head back out into the street for the shop I have in mind.

 

One of several in the vicinity – there’s even one just on the other side of the same tiny alley where I was standing – this shop holds a special place in my memory. It was, after all, the same place where Nae Il had stood staring into the window on our first day here in Salzburg: so absorbed by the rings in the display that she hadn’t even noticed me ducking inside to buy one myself. Back then, I’d had to cover my tracks on my own – making a big show of scolding her for obsessing over couple rings when she should be practicing – but now, at least, I have Muhammed for that.

 

Despite it being mid-morning on a sunny Saturday, there are only a handful of customers when I step inside. A young male sales associate standing near the door calls out a polite greeting; however, before I could respond in kind, he repeats himself first in English, then more hesitantly in what I could only assume to be some halting attempt at Chinese.

 

Shaking my head in bemusement, I approach him, one hand extended. “It’s alright,” I reply smoothly. “I’m from around here.”

 

Hearing me respond to him in German, relief flashes on his face as we shake hands, but he assumes a more professional expression when he gestures to the case beside us. “Is there anything I can help you with?”

 

I give the display a cursory glance. There are several sets of women’s jewellery here: necklaces, earrings, and rings grouped together according to their design. Noting the way my gaze hovers on the rings a fraction longer than anything else, the salesman astutely offers to pull some out for a closer look.

 

I stop him, however, with a subtle shake of my head. “Is there a way to get a custom piece here?”

 

He nods in understanding. “Indeed there is,” he answers. “One moment, bitte.”

 

Gesturing for me to stay put, he walks briskly to the other side of the shop, speaking in hushed tones to a middle-aged woman in a dirndl. As he moves on to assist another customer, the woman steps out from behind her counter and approaches me. She introduces herself as one of the goldsmiths; after shaking hands and introducing myself, I explain what I am looking for.

 

“A custom engagement ring?” she echoes, making sure she has heard me correctly. In response to my nod, she grins brightly. “Of course, Herr Cha – right this way.”

 

She gestures for me to follow her, laughing softly when I blink at her in consternation as our path takes us right back out into the street. Turning a corner into the adjacent alley, she leads me to a small courtyard – the same one where I’d found Nae Il after buying her ring last time – and then through a side entrance into a long cellar-like brick-lined room with a vaulted ceiling.

 

“This,” she says, “is our ‘wedding ring vault.’” She invites me to help myself through the display cases placed along the walls on both sides. “You said you wanted a custom design, but feel free to look around. Who knows? You might find some inspiration.”

 

The woman busies herself at a desk situated at the far end of the room, giving me some privacy as I make my way through the cavernous space. Most of the rings on display – wedding and engagement rings alike – are simple and sleek in their design: not all that different from the first one I bought for Nae Il, featuring small gems on thin bands. There are, however, several more elaborate showpieces: clusters of diamonds flashing brilliantly under the spotlights.

 

After several minutes, the goldsmith comes up beside. “Your partner…” she offers helpfully – I note as I turn to face her that she’s made no reference to gender. “Do they have a particular preference? A certain stone, perhaps? Or number of carats?”

 

I shake my head. “My girlfriend doesn’t care about those things,” I say, subtly answering her equally subtle question. “She’s more…shall we say, sentimental.”

 

The woman nods. “I see.”

 

“On that note,” I begin tentatively, “would you happen to have, say, something with a different shape?”

 

“‘A different shape’….She mulls over it for a moment, then nods, flashing me an understanding smile. “Of course. We have just the thing. I will have to fetch it from the main shop, though,” she adds, gesturing for me to have a seat at the desk. “This should just take a minute.”

 

Left alone to myself, I take a moment to check my phone. Nae Il, who decided to spend her morning practicing at home, has sent me a text message: asking me how my own practice session on campus is going, as well as reminding me of what she wants me to get her from Pommes Boutique for lunch. Quickly, I fire back a short reply that I’m on break but will resume working soon, just managing to send it in time for the goldsmith to return, a dark jewellery box in her hands.

 

Smiling brightly, she sets it down on the table before taking the seat across from me before opening the case. “Is this the sort of thing you’re looking for?”

 

Inside, there are several rings in a variety of different colours, each one featuring a heart-shaped gem or cluster of gems at the centre.

 

“Ja,” I answer with a nod. “Something like that.”

 

“But you still want a custom design.”

 

I peer hopefully at her. “Can we do that?”

 

“Of course!” She sets aside the case, then fetches a watermarked sheet of paper from a drawer inside the desk. “Tell me what you have in mind, and I’ll sketch it out.”

 

I wait for her to be ready, pencil in hand, before I answer. “Edelweiss.”

 

“‘Edelweiss’?” One corner of the goldsmith’s mouth twitches in a wry smile, but her eyes are still focused on the page as she begins to draw. “Your girlfriend is sentimental.”

 

Love, courage, and purity… they say that a girl with edelweiss is especially lucky: because it means that she is loved by a man who is brave enough to climb a mountain to get it for her.

 

“I know,” I answer, returning her teasing smile with one of my own. “She’s aware of the old symbolism, but unfortunately, I’m not much of a mountain climber.”

 

She chuckles: a warm rumbling sound. “This is quite the substitute. Perhaps you’re the one who’s sentimental, then.”

 

Perhaps I am.

 

Because I can’t help noticing that in every moment in the past several weeks when Nae Il offered me an extra dose of courage, edelweiss had been there.

 

On her cardigan, during our walk by the lake after signing her contract.

 

In our Easter basket, on the eggs she painted.

 

In my ears, via the lullaby she sang to me after we watched Fantasia last week.

 

So perhaps I am the one who’s sentimental – but only because Seol Nae Il has found that seed of feeling buried deep inside my heart and drawn it out.

 

Over a series of exchanged questions and answers – about its size, shape, and profile – an image of the ring materializes on the page. In deference to Nae Il’s needs as a pianist, we keep it small and delicate, with a relatively low profile: a single yellow jewel in the centre surrounded by petals made of white gold, some picked out with tiny sparkling gems. The band, also in white gold, is left plain, curving slightly in a gentle wave.

 

Once the goldsmith finishes her sketch, she adds my name and quick notes about materials and price on the margin before turning the whole thing around so I could view it right-side-up.

 

“What do you think?” she asks hopefully. “Is this what you wanted?”

 

I look down at the drawing for a long moment, then back up at her with a smile.

 

“Danke. It’s perfect.”

 

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

 

Spoiler

Omo, omo, omo - did Cha Yoo Jin just...?

 

Yep! It's finally happening! :love: (You'll have to wait until a future installment for the actual proposal, though ;))

 

In the meantime, you may have noticed that this fic covers quite a lot of ground - which, of course, also means tons of behind-the-scenes tidbits and goodies for you guys. So here goes!

 

1. Ernestine von Fricken and Chae Do Kyung's Redemption

 

I'm sure you get where my reference to Chae Do Kyung is coming from, but who on earth is Ernestine von Fricken and what does she had to do with this? Well, just like I saw some parallels between Yoo Jin and Nae Il's relationship with the historical romance between Robert and Clara Schumann, I saw some similar things going on with the ex-girlfriends in both cases.

 

Yes, you got that right: Ernestine von Fricken was Robert Schumann's ex. Ernestine, like Robert, was a piano student under Friedrich Wieck (i.e. Clara's father) and I assume that's how they met. Clara was still in her early teens at the time, so it's no surprise that Robert, already in his early 20s, was more interested in the slightly-older Ernestine (she was just a few years older than Clara, but definitely closer to marriageable age). This was helped in no small part by her family connections: Ernestine was the daughter of a wealthy, aristocratic family.

 

However, within a few years of the start of their relationship, Robert and Ernestine mutually decided to break up. What happened? Officially, it was for logistic/financial reasons: it turned out that Ernestine's family was trying to pass her off as wealthier than she actually was. Rather than the daughter, she was actually a niece born out of wedlock who was only officially adopted by her uncle after Robert proposed (oy). While the issue of money could probably have been solved easily enough, Robert was understandably shaken by his possible future in-laws' deception, and called off the engagement.

 

Unofficially, though, there was likely another reason: Clara. By this point, it was becoming increasingly clear to all three parties involved - Robert, Clara, and Ernestine - that Robert and Clara were the actual soulmates. Ernestine even conceded as much herself, stepping in to help Robert and Clara and speak up for them when she became aware of Wieck's opposition to their marriage and admitting that Robert was most likely in love with Clara the entire time.

 

So that's where I drew inspiration for some of Chae Do Kyung's actions in this Seolleim in Salzburg series. Yes, she had her not-so-great moments, since she's also not the type who'd just give up easily. However, by this point in the game, being able to see more of Yoo Jin and Nae Il's relationship firsthand...I think even she has to come to terms with it herself.

 

Spoiler

By the way: despite what you might think from these historical events (and unlike what I've imagined for Yoo Jin, where he remains a virgin until marriage), Robert Schumann was no saint, either. He did his fair share of partying and womanizing in his late teens and early twenties, and the whole time he was courting first Ernestine and then Clara, he was also in a long-term sexual relationship with another girl (oy). I'm not sure how Ernestine reacted to that, but Clara, I do know, eventually put a stop to it with the classic "It's her or me" tactic.

 

Hey, at least Do Kyung and Nae Il don't have to deal with that!

 

Before I move on into the next bit, here are some quick reference pics of the Café Tomaselli, where this scene is set (including a shot of those krapfen).

 

CAFE TOMASELLI, Salzburg - Updated 2020 Restaurant Reviews, Photos & Phone Number - Tripadvisor

 

CAFE TOMASELLI, Salzburg - Updated 2020 Restaurant Reviews, Photos & Phone Number - Tripadvisor

 

 

Not to mention the two Venetian masks Do Kyung gives Yoo Jin and Nae Il:

 

I volti Betty sono maschere di carnevale veneziane con decorazione molto complessa. Il classico schema a rombi è qui rielaborato con l’uso di materiali pregiati come la foglia d’oro e gli stucchi dorati. I colori acrilici blu e azzurro sono sapientemente usati per creare un effett

 

I volti Betty sono maschere di carnevale veneziane con decorazione molto complessa. Il classico schema a rombi è qui rielaborato con l’uso di materiali pregiati come la foglia d’oro e gli stucchi dorati. I colori acrilici blu e azzurro sono sapientemente usati per creare un effett

 

2. Life in Salzburg: Easter, Church Bells, Locations, etc.

 

Just want to get this one quickly out of the way first - since the next two points will be rather extensive.

 

I can't say I know a whole ton about how Easter is celebrated in Salzburg, but I do want to at least show you what the palms look like.

 

Palm-Sunday-2012-140-of-49-M.jpg

 

The Palm Bush traditional in Salzburg  | © Tourismus Salzburg GmbH

 

Secondly: a video of what it sounds like when Salzburg's church bells start going off. Listen to how more and more bells join in :) By the way, if you watch the final episode of Nae Il's Cantabile, in the scene featuring Yoo Jin and Nae Il at the fortress (i.e. when he finally gives her the ring), you can hear those bells faintly in the background. 

 

 

 

Thirdly: the restaurant (WeiherWirt) where Yoo Jin and Nae Il sign their contract with Elise.

 

WEIHERWIRT, Salzburg - Menu, Prices & Restaurant Reviews - Tripadvisor

 

The exterior (including a view of the Schloss Leopoldskron that makes this such a tourist magnet)

 

m30dXIV0132-Schloss-Hintergrund-zu-schraeg.jpg

 

And finally - the jewellery store. While I don't mention it specifically by name, I was inspired by Juwelier Schneider, the exterior of which was actually used for filming in Nae Il's Cantabile.

 

No photo description available.

 

Including the "wedding ring vault":

 

No photo description available.

 

Finally, the last quick sidenote before moving on. As usual with any sort of custom design, the actual engagement ring Yoo Jin commissions does not exist. Instead, I pulled elements from a couple of different rings I found online, most notably these two here:

 

abbd17837d4dc4d7c7e36d755ab59ccf.jpg

 

Diamond Ring Designer jewellery Terre d'Edelweiss

 

3. The Musical Pieces

 

So, compared to some other aspects of life for musicians (more on that below), the actual pieces take somewhat of a back seat here. 

 

1. The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Paul Dukas

 

Chances are, if you know this piece, it'd be because of Disney's Fantasia, just like in the fic. So rather than talk about it too much, I'll just share a link to watch that scene below:

 

https://video.disney.com/watch/sorcerer-s-apprentice-fantasia-4ea9ebc01a74ea59a5867853

 

2. Yoo Jin's childhood competition

 

Even though I don't mention any of the pieces explicitly by name, I do want to give you guys a listen to the actual ones that inspired me here.

 

Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C-Minor by Bach

 

 

Étude Op. 10 No. 5 "Black Keys" by Chopin

 

 

By the way, while there really is no such thing as an "easy" Chopin étude, I do want to point out that "Black Keys" is not the most show-off-y out of the bunch. That, if I go by just what I see of people posting on Instagram, appears to be "Torrent". Trust me - chances are, you've heard that one before ;) 

 

So why did I go with something somewhat less "epic" for Yoo Jin? Because he's just 10 (9 by international reckoning). I imagine that being able to play any Chopin étude is impressive enough at that age :P 

 

Piano Sonata No. 50 in D-Major by Haydn

 

 

 

4. A Dose of Reality: When Making Music Gets Tough

 

While I do think music-themed dramas like Nae Il's Cantabile do a good job showing some aspects of what it's like to be a musician, there are a few particular points that I wanted to draw your attention to via this fic.

 

First of all: the challenge. Learning and then mastering a new piece is tough, and even the best of virtuosos and prodigies will likely need to take a while sight-reading, playing slowly, experimenting with fingerings/techniques/etc. before they can even begin to remotely sound like what audiences end up hearing on stage or in the recording. There's no shame in that - that's simply how it is.

 

For our purposes, I tried to express through Cha Yoo Jin one of my own personal challenges: transitions. Unlike Yoo Jin, I tend to find the really intense and elaborate techniques beyond my reach (mostly because I just so happen to have small hands that can only stretch out an octave at most - and the majority of virtuosic pieces need more). And while I do find the slower, more mellow pieces easier by comparison...transitioning from a fast movement into a slow one is tough. My heart's pounding, the adrenaline's rushing, I've most likely just thrown myself completely into nailing those big epic chords...and then I have to play something really soft? Right after that? lol - I'm fighting against my own body at this rate. :P 

 

I'm not going to lie: chances are, Yoo Jin will have it easier than me. I'm no professional, nor am I anywhere near his level (although I will say that I can pull off a decent Mozart, so there's that ;)). But given that his strength seems to be the really grand epic stuff (as evidenced by the Grieg concerto in the drama), I thought it'd be interesting to make quiet gentle pieces the thing he struggles with.

 

And for the second major dose of reality?

 

Force majeure. (a.k.a. the clause that's completely screwing musicians over during COVID-19)

 

Again, since I'm not a professional musician, I hadn't even known this was a thing until the pandemic hit. But then, since I do follow classical music news sites and a few artists on social media, I started to realize just how big a deal a single cancellation clause can be. To be fair, the exact details will vary from person to person, institution to institution, or contract to contract. However, what matters here is what I had Yoo Jin point out in this fic: the side of the contract that cancels due to major events beyond their immediate control (e.g. a natural disaster, war, a pandemic, etc.) can invoke force majeure to avoid being penalized. Since, you know, usually, if you cancel a contract, you're responsible for compensating whoever you just cancelled on (it's only fair). 

 

This can be a huge boost for artists who do have to cancel suddenly due to illness or injury - so why is it screwing them over during COVID-19? Because, for the most part, the artists are NOT the cancelling party. Instead, that's the venues, recording studios, etc. who have had to close doors and cancel gigs due to stay-at-home orders. No one's saying they should stay open or host the performances anyway - even musicians know that that simply wouldn't be right. But what that does mean is that the money that artists anticipated they'd be making this year has all but dried up. It's a huge financial trickle-down effect that's hurting everybody - and while I don't think anyone would have it any other way under these circumstances (since actual lives are at stake and all), I just wanted to let you all know just how precarious a career in the arts can be.

 

 

Once again, if anyone wants to access a master list of all my fics so far, you can find that under the "About Me" tab on my profile page.

 

Thanks for your time, everyone - and enjoy reading!

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For this next interactive activity, I want to try something different than the usual single question (open-ended or tournament-style). Instead, I've put together my version of Scattergories :) 

 

How does it work?

 

For each of the following prompts, try to fill in a JW drama character of your choice.

 

Note that although I wrote eight prompts in total, you can repeat characters (i.e. put down the same name for different prompts) if you want. Just be honest, and go with your gut response. ;) 

 

You are welcome to just answer with a name, but if you want, feel free to offer any additional details (e.g. reasons behind your choice, specific circumstances/scenarios you thought of, etc.)

 

Spoiler

Scattergories - JW Drama Character Edition

 

1. The one that comes closest to my ideal type

2. The one that I'd definitely turn down if he asked me out

3. The one that I'd want to be best friends with

4. The one with the best house/apartment

5. The one with the best fashion sense/style

6. The one that I'd want to have treating me to dinner (Bonus: Cooking at home, or dining in a restaurant?)

7. The one that I'd want to spend a day hanging out with (Bonus: What would you do?)

8. The one that would be my shoulder to cry on after I had a bad day

 

Note: this one is a bit random and silly, because I'm just trying to throw together something fun. If this format works, though, I do plan on another...let's just say, more heartfelt game like this in the future.

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On 4/27/2020 at 4:44 AM, kittyna said:

And here's the finished fic!

I really enjoyed reading your fan fic, it felt like extended episodes of "Naeil's Cantabile". I also liked the way you explored the relationship of Cha Yoo Jin and Chae Do Kyung, in the series it was hard for me to see them as a couple, but in your fiction, I was able to see them as ex-couple :thumbsup:. I also enjoyed live-in relationship between Cha Yoo Jin and Nae Il, it was fun to read and at the same time heat-warming. I was able to totally imagine the scenarios where Nae Il helped Yoo Jin with his anxiety, and Yoo jin helping her out with her first contract. The fan fic was both informative and fun to read, but the there were some dull moments for me, when you were explaining about the "coffee house", it kind of broke my flow with story, maybe it's just my issue, but if you had used that coffee house to link with lead characters it would have been more interesting to read about it, just like you did with "krapfen", which is Nae Il's favorite cake. Over all the Fan fic was excellent with very few dull moments. And also I did not expected them engage in the end, I was expecting the ending would be like them performing in a  concert, so, thumps up for that twist. :thumbsup:

2 hours ago, kittyna said:

1. The one that comes closest to my ideal type

Park-si-on- I think the concept of ideal type is kind of abstract, because the ideal type always changes as  time passes, like when we are in our teens we would have an superficial understanding of ideal type and when we are in our adulthood it changes into more holistic type ranging from character to ability of him/her to change. Because he is the type of person who is always open to change and one to be more understanding(there are some exceptions, for instance; he would have hard time processing a illogical situation), and also he is kind of person who would put his partners needs first before his(not necessarily a good thing), but his unconditional love would help him over come his short-comings, So, if I had to choose a ideal type for my best-friend/sister I would choose Park-si-on. :)

2 hours ago, kittyna said:

3. The one that I'd want to be best friends with

Gyeon Woo- Because he is type of person you can have fun with and can also seek his advice in the times of troubles. When compared to other characters he is the most easy going one

 

2 hours ago, kittyna said:

4. The one with the best house/apartment

Cha Yoo-jin- He will have positive impact on you not only in keeping your apartment clean but also you'll be able to motivate yourself to give your best in any field of your work because "You Are the Company You Keep", so, if one can handle his arrogance, he could bring an positive impact.

 

2 hours ago, kittyna said:

5. The one with the best fashion sense/style

Cha Yoo-jin

 

2 hours ago, kittyna said:

6. The one that I'd want to have treating me to dinner

Cha Yoo-jin

 

2 hours ago, kittyna said:

7. The one that I'd want to spend a day hanging out with

Gyeon Woo

2 hours ago, kittyna said:

8. The one that would be my shoulder to cry on after I had a bad day

Hwang Tae-hee- In this series we can see that not only his elder brothers but also his father confides with him if they had any problem, which shows he is very reliable to lean on.

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5 hours ago, kireeti2 said:

I really enjoyed reading your fan fic, it felt like extended episodes of "Naeil's Cantabile".

 

Oh, wow...I haven't had anyone comment on a fic in, like, ages - so thanks! :heart:

 

5 hours ago, kireeti2 said:

I also liked the way you explored the relationship of Cha Yoo Jin and Chae Do Kyung, in the series it was hard for me to see them as a couple, but in your fiction, I was able to see them as ex-couple :thumbsup:.

 

I will be honest: I have a hard time seeing them as a couple in the drama, either. Which is why I chose to play with Yoo Jin and Do Kyung as...a couple, but not a very close one? I don't really know how else to put it, except for what I said in the fic itself: that I imagine them as childhood best friends who started dating simply because it seemed like the natural progression, but with Do Kyung being far more invested in it than Yoo Jin ever was. I did notice in the drama that Yoo Jin's mom commented that they kept breaking up and getting back together again, but without any major shift in the dynamic between them through that process. 

 

So I personally don't think Yoo Jin's ever been in love until he ends up with Nae Il. But that's my own interpretation, and you guys can beg to differ.

 

5 hours ago, kireeti2 said:

The fan fic was both informative and fun to read, but the there were some dull moments for me, when you were explaining about the "coffee house", it kind of broke my flow with story, maybe it's just my issue, but if you had used that coffee house to link with lead characters it would have been more interesting to read about it, just like you did with "krapfen", which is Nae Il's favorite cake.

 

I'm not gonna lie: descriptions still trip me up, period :P On the one hand, I want to keep the focus on the story and the characters - but on the other hand, I want (as you've pointed out) a more informative/educational element. Especially in Seolleim in Salzburg, since I'm trying to do some musical and location-based education at the same time that I'm telling my story.

 

(Hardest description for me to write is stuff relating to clothes/appearance - I don't know how hard it is for you guys to read, though.)

 

I do admit that the musical descriptions tend to come out better - at least there's actual emotion from me making it into the text ;) 

 

5 hours ago, kireeti2 said:

And also I did not expected them engage in the end, I was expecting the ending would be like them performing in a  concert, so, thumps up for that twist. :thumbsup:

 

Not engaged yet - that's still coming ;) But I did say that I'm working towards the finale of this Seolleim in Salzburg series, so stay tuned to find out what events I think that entails.

 

And thanks for trying out the Scattergories, @kireeti2. I'll come back in a bit to post my own response, but here are my reactions to yours.

 

5 hours ago, kireeti2 said:

I think the concept of ideal type is kind of abstract, because the ideal type always changes as  time passes, like when we are in our teens we would have an superficial understanding of ideal type and when we are in our adulthood it changes into more holistic type ranging from character to ability of him/her to change.

 

I know :) I'm trying to keep it open-ended, though.

 

5 hours ago, kireeti2 said:

Cha Yoo-jin- He will have positive impact on you not only in keeping your apartment clean but also you'll be able to motivate yourself to give your best in any field of your work because "You Are the Company You Keep", so, if one can handle his arrogance, he could bring an positive impact.

 

lol - As evidenced by Nae Il ;) 

 

5 hours ago, kireeti2 said:

Hwang Tae-hee- In this series we can see that not only his elder brothers but also his father confides with him if they had any problem, which shows he is very reliable to lean on.

 

Yeah, that's one of my favourite things about Tae Hui's character. I loved that he was the "responsible one".

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  • Jillia changed the title to Joo Won 주원 - Finished Drama: Alice

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