Manager Gong got in the driver’s seat and turned his head to scan Minho’s whole body. He was wearing a waffle knit sweater with buttons and black jeans, topped off with a clean hairstyle.
Manager Gong turned his head again and switched on the engine.
“Yes~ I am honored sire~. Whew.”
Minho looked out of the window with a dejected expression. He had been moving about busily since that morning just to hear those words.
The van left the company building and headed toward the M broadcasting station. Manager Gong turned on the radio on the way there. Minho closed his eyes but couldn’t fall asleep, so he turned his ears to the voice that flowed out quietly.
He had been so sleepy before but nervousness sprouted little by little now that the time for his appearance had come.
『……The time when the day is coming to an end. Is everyone on their way home? Mr. 4925: ‘I’m returning to have dinner. I have to work overtime so I have to head back to my company.’ Oh no, it seems that you have work left. I hope you finish up quickly and go home. Mr. 7573, he wrote ‘The subway is too small!’ with 5 exclamation points. There’s no other place as tiring as a packed subway. I also pray that all the people get off on the next stop when it comes to situations like that.』
It didn’t seem like a bad idea to borrow the voice of someone whose face you couldn’t see to share your story. He was just reading other people’s stories and comforting them but for some reason Minho was feeling comforted as well.
‘Since they’ve prepared this much, I should also do something too.’
It was only a thirty-minute appearance and considering the other guest’s time, barely fifteen minutes of broadcasting material had been prepared. But he was looking forward enough to the radio show itself that that didn’t matter anymore.
The van stopped inside the basement parking lot of M broadcasting station.
The text message alarm rang as he was about to step outside. It was Minho’s cellphone.
[Come to think of it, today’s your first broadcast appearance, right? I’ll definitely listen. *^^*]
It was Eunha.
That was an ambiguous word. There was a time she had asked to be on friendly terms with him but it was never clearly expressed whether it was just as friends or if she was interested in him.
Minho thought of the textbook by his bedside that he had used as a sleeping tool. He had given up after trying to read it a few times, but Eunha’s charm made him want to try to read it again.
“Does Ms. Eunha have a boyfriend?”
Manager Gong laughed at Minho’s not-so-innocent question and answered.
“I’m not sure about that but I heard her say that she’ll never date a guy before she graduates from college.”
Minho’s eyes widened.
‘Then, it means that I can be that guy? Eunha is in her third year at The University of Foreign Studies, so if I maintain this relationship for a year and a half then…’
Minho shook his head after unfolding his imagination.
‘No, good looks in girls only last three months.’
There was a common saying that communication was the most important. Every encounter would be exhausting if their fields of interest were different.
But instead he nodded his head.
‘Wouldn’t I be satisfied with being happy for only three months if it’s Eunha?’
There was only one conclusion.
‘I should order more books and read them.’
He could be happy for three months and then, once he was able to communicate with her, he would be happy for a longer time. Minho was grinning as he fixed himself up and got out of the van.
When they got off the elevator and arrived at the information desk on the first floor, Manager Gong filled out the visitors’ log and handed it to the employee.
“Are you visiting the radio studio?”
“That is correct.”
The doors that were covered with a clear glass opened after they had finished with the check-in. Minho passed by the lobby where the employees of the broadcasting station were busily moving about and entered a long hallway lined with radio studios.
Manager Gong pointed to Studio Three with the ‘authorized personnel only’ sign.
“It makes a good impression if you come early rather than right on time. The radio writers like to take their time preparing. Don’t be nervous. You just need to do as you’ve practiced. I’ll be back when you finish.”
Manager Gong brought his fist up with the ‘I believe in you’ facial expression.
Minho nodded and opened the studio door. Time to turn over a new leaf! He walked inside and the two people who were having a conversation looked up.
“Hello, my name is Minho Kang.”
The man in his early 40s was producer Kyungchul Ahn. The plump woman in her mid 30s was writer Bora Shim.
“Mr. Minho! Welcome!”
Producer Ahn stood up and offered a handshake.
‘He’s usually cheerful but he’s said to be fastidious once broadcasting starts.’
Minho recalled Manager Gong’s words.
“You’re early. Is instant coffee okay?”
Minho expressed his gratitude as he bowed his head to Writer Shim’s question. She was said to be an old hand on this program, having managed it for 10 years. Compared to the gentle way she looked, she was a perfectionist who didn’t allow any mistakes.
Producer Ahn led Minho to a seat in one corner.
“Writer Shim strongly recommended you after watching ‘The Answer.’ Whenever she sees a good-looking person, she becomes obsessed with casting them.”
“Oh my, I think my husband is the best looking.”
Producer Ahn looked left and right after Writer Shim, who was making the coffee, answered him.
“What is this? Is there a wiretapping device somewhere? Ah. Ah. Mic test. Mr. husband, aren’t you bugging your wife too much?”
Minho laughed at Producer Ahn’s audacity and then fixed his eyes on the radio broadcast room.
The DJ seat caught his eye. It had all sorts of wires from the audio equipment, the names of which he didn’t know, inside the half-lit booth. No one was sitting inside but it gave off a glow on its own.
That was the place from which the radio show that he had heard while coming here was transmitted.
Something shone in the space covered by the equipment. It was the light which he had come to recognize as the one which shone from an object with a hidden power.
Minho had a hunch that there was someone’s cherished object in that space.
A old gentleman with grizzled hair and an impressive mustache walked through the entrance of the MBS broadcasting station. The employee at the information desk greeted him fondly when she saw him.
“Yes. You’re hard at work today as well.”
He waved pleasantly as he walked by. The entrance gate opened right away even though he wasn’t an employee at the broadcasting station.
He was the leader of a popular group in the 80s, the Hwaljuro (Runway). He had been continually active for 30 years after his debut so everyone he came across greeted him first. And every time that happened, he stopped with a benevolent smile and exchanged tidings with them.
“I heard you moved to the entertainment department, how’s it going?”
“Don’t even mention it. The director is throwing a fuss because the viewer rate is low.”
“Please appear on our show soon, sir.”
“I’ll think about it.”
He passed by the lobby and stopped in front of Studio Three. The old gentleman was about to enter but then he turned his head towards the commotion next door.
“Please, I ask of you. You know very well I only have this one show every week.”
At the end of the hall, a young man with a guitar on his back was holding the door knob as he pleaded with the person inside.
“Indeed. But what can we do–it’s a command from the higher-ups. The concept of singing nostalgic songs is good but it depends on the singer too. The listeners’ responses aren’t good.”
The producer closed the studio doors and disappeared.
“Please contact me! I’ll be waiting!”
The doors didn’t move even though the young man shouted. He was standing still in the hallway unable to move his feet.
The old gentleman walked to the young man’s side. The young man had his head down but when he saw the old gentleman he looked up in surprise and greeted him.
“N-nice to meet you, Chulhwan Bae sunsaengnim*. My name is Sanggun Lee.”
“Keep your chin up.”
Chulhwan patted Sanggun’s shoulder as if comforting him.
“If you sing with your head down, the people listening will be the first to know. There are many virtues a singer needs, but it seems like you lack confidence the most.”
Sanggun did not know how to respond to his senior’s advice that so hit the mark.
“There are always more chances. Don’t be discouraged and keep on singing.”
Chulhwan patted Sanggun’s shoulder again and entered the studio.
Sanggun bowed deeply as a gesture that he would take that advice to heart. And he stared at Studio Three where the old gentleman had disappeared into.
The sound engineering director and his staff started to check the equipment one by one. Inside the busy studio, Minho was fighting his desires to go right into the busy broadcast room and check out the shining object there.
“Mr. Kang, you and I are the same age. Where did you graduate from?”
The other guest, who was checking the program schedule list for the radio, asked Minho. Minho shook his head without thinking.
“I didn’t go to college. I joined the gaming team right out of high school.”
“Hmm, is that so?”
Rapper Jin Q was wearing a suit, dressed up as if he were attending some award ceremony. Minho recalled Manager Gong’s words on how it was better to find the charm in everyday clothing rather than dressing up for a visual radio show.
‘Is that how fashionistas feel when they pick out their airport outfits**?’
Jin Q stared at Minho as he mumbled to himself.
“What the…so low class. They should’ve at least brought Jaehoon Yoon from K University or Jint from S University.”
Minho turned his head to see if he had misheard. Jin Q acted like nothing happened and whistled as he looked over the schedule.
‘He said that about me, right?’
He had heard there were many aggressive people amongst rappers, but he couldn’t believe that they would diss someone they’d just met for the first time. Minho normally didn’t go around picking fights but he wasn’t the type to adamantly avoid one if it came his way.
Minho recalled the information about rapper Jin Q that Manager Gong had crammed into him.
“Mr. Jin Q, is your real name Jingyu Park?”
“What’s it to you?”
“Oh, there’s a website I go to often. On their humor page, there were profaning comments saying ‘Rapper Jingyu Park, who harshly criticizes society, received an exemption from the army.’ Are you severely ill somewhere?”
“What did you say?”
“Maybe you’re a foreigner? Are you from Argentina or something?”
Jin Q’s face turned red and he gave a dry cough as he pretended not to hear it.
“Oh, here’s the article. Oh no. You have a bad shoulder as well. It’s so bad you have to take medication for it. Your teeth are fine though, right?”
Minho grinned at Jin Q, who was now burying his face in the radio schedule and not even looking at him. It seemed that everyone was hush-hush about the army exemption and no one talked about it to his face.
‘He should behave better than this if he graduated from a good college.’
Jin Q looked like he was making a great effort to control himself. But Minho decided to end it there because it seemed like if he went any further Jin Q would explode.
At that moment–
A middle-aged man with half-white hair entered as the doors opened. He was the DJ of “The Music Journey at 8,” Chulhwan Bae. He had very impressive wrinkles around his eyes which showed the trace of many years.
Manager Gong had worn out Minho’s ears by constantly repeating that this was the person he had to look good for so Minho instinctively stood up to greet him. But Jin Q, who had been waiting next to Minho, dashed to him like an arrow and bowed 90 degrees.
“Oh, yes, it’s you, Jingyu.”
Minho grew doubtful as he wondered if those were the movements of someone who had hurt his knee and got an exemption from the army.
“Today’s a special on smart people or something, but you came? I thought you only rapped?”
“It’s an age where even rappers have to have a good educational background, sunbaenim. Ha ha.”
Minho got up after him and stood in front of Chulhwan.
“Nice to meet you. I’m new and started broadcasting recently. My name is Minho Kang. I’m also working as a professional gamer.”
“Ah, Minho, nice to meet you. My grandson is a fan of, what is that, Pentastar?”
“Are you talking about Pentastorm?”
“Yes, he’s a fan of that so he talks about you sometimes.”
Chulhwan patted Minho’s shoulder and took the script that Writer Shim handed him. Then he headed towards the radio booth.
Jin Q kept bowing until he couldn’t see Chulhwan and then slowly lifted his head. He looked at Minho and growled at him.
“Hey you, high school graduate. Let’s do well in the broadcast.”
Jin Q looked like he was going to devour Minho. He could strongly feel a hip-hop warrior’s spirit from the army exemptee. Minho nodded slightly.
“Let’s do well.”
There was a similar type of player in the gaming world. Players who acted so brash and loud rarely had a strong mentality. They would humiliate you if they won and throw a fit if they lost. Their most noticeable characteristic was that they didn’t have much to show once you encountered them.
Knowing this, Minho wasn’t particularly worried.
“We’re live in 30 minutes! We’ll do a sound check again since Mr. Bae has arrived!”
The staff took their places at Producer Ahn’s announcement.
Minho turned his eyes to Chulhwan, who was sitting in the DJ’s seat. The item Minho had been curious about since an hour ago — it was time to check out that item now.
Chulhwan put his script down and took something out from under the table. It was a box about the size of his hand.
‘What is it?’
What came out of the box was a large set of headphones covered in mirror pieces like a disco ball.
Minho was surprised with the design that seemed incompatible with Chulhwan Bae’s sagacious image. Writer Shim walked over to Minho’s side.
She laughed briefly after looking inside the booth.
“They say those were the headphones he used when he first started ‘The Music Journey at 8.’ He always uses them when he does visual radio.”
“If it was the first, then he must have used them for quite a long time.”
“Of course. Since it’s been over 20 years since this broadcast started.”
Minho was very curious as to what kind of powers were hidden in those headphones.
Sunsaengnim – A polite term of address for people who are in the same professional field with much more experience, or for people who are fairly older than the speaker.
Airport fashion – Trendy everyday fashion worn by celebrities. In Korea, the celebrities attract a lot of media and paparazzis in the airport. So it became trendy for celebrities to dress fashionable and show off their everyday fashion there, which hence brought forth ‘Airport fashion’.