The van raced along the endless curvy road. Minho, who had been concentrating on league training until yesterday, was fighting against motion sickness and looking at the documents Manager Gong had given him today.
Studying is always the same–the beginning is bearable, but as it goes along it gets more and more tedious.
『Adzuki beans are an annual plant and are also called red beans or small beans. Originating in far east Asia, they have been cultivated in China for over 2,000 years, and are grown mainly in Korea, China, and Japan.』
『The proper time of seeding is from mid June to mid July. They should be planted at a depth of 5cm once the soil temperature stabilizes above 14°C. Like other beans and plants, they grow well in barren grounds because the root-borne bacteria in their roots attach to nitrogen to make organic nitrogen compounds.』
‘…So you just roughly plant them in the ground, right?’
『In planting, the beans can be classified as high ridge cultivation or plain field cultivation depending on the height of the furrow. In hilly areas where drainage is poor or in low-lying areas, ridges can be made in two or four rows in order to prevent over-watering.』
As he read over the explanation of plain field cultivation that followed, a weak cry of ‘heol!’ escaped his lips.
“What is this?”
Minho firmly pressed his eyelids. He looked at the page again and it was indeed written in Korean. But it seemed like a foreign language. It was a completely different world from Eunha’s Theory of Political Development.
‘Has he no consideration?’
What a thick stack of documents Manager Gong had assembled!
He was known for his meticulous personality, but this was like the script collection from before. It was readable in the beginning when Minho was feeling energetic but as he read further down the page, he no longer saw the image of beans but only the letters spinning in his head.
‘Ugh. I feel like throwing up.’
The nausea became so severe he couldn’t concentrate anymore. Getting in the dirt and using his muscles would feel much better than this. But Minho had to keep at least pretending to study the articles. He couldn’t refute what Manager Gong had said:
- I don’t think it’s a good idea to throw away your smart image even if it’s not a musician image. There’s a difference between being an idiot and having an occasional slip-up. If you want to save face when you make mistakes, maintaining an image of being ‘smart’ is crucial.
It’s okay not to be good at farming. How many people would honestly expect that from a professional gamer? But the ‘smart’ image that can still be intelligent while making funny slip ups is better in the long run.
Minho was convinced by those words.
‘I don’t think just anyone can be a manager. He’s really well-spoken.’
That was why Minho was reading about the origins and even the cultivation process about a crop he might plant this week. But the problem was that he couldn’t memorize it easily.
Minho turned his gaze out the window. He cracked the window open slightly, letting in a refreshing breeze that was different from the air inside the car.
“The scenery is nice.”
It was all mountains and valleys.
The Youth Journal filming location, which he had vaguely known was in a farming village somewhere, turned out to be in a rural village in a remote corner of Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province. The city scenery had long since fallen behind.
Minho hummed as he looked out at the thick vegetation.
“Leave home…get on the train… go to the training grounds…”
Manager Gong, hearing this, laughed from the front of the van.
“This isn’t as hard as enlisting in the army.”
“Well, the scenery and the work I’m going to do don’t seem unfamiliar, somehow.”
“Haha. To think about it, it hasn’t been long since you’ve been discharged. I think you’ll be good at farming if you think about the time when you gave your service for the public’s welfare.”
“I believe I heard wrong, Sir?”
When Minho acted like a clumsy new recruit, Manager Gong began to speak of his time in the army as if he were lost in his memories. When he heard Minho’s story of when he had to swallow his tears as he was dispatched to the remote unit in the mountains, Manager Gong began to unravel his bundle of stories by starting the same way all adults begin–‘The army is a lot better these days. During my time…’
Even if Minho spoke about his story when he had to dig out a trench on a hill that was intertwined with tree roots with only one shovel, it couldn’t compare with Manager Gong’s time in the army.
“That was really hell.”
“I don’t mean the army is all soft and easy, but it was more crappy a long time ago. It seems better now but before it was really frus…Huh? Ah, we’re almost there.”
Minho, startled at Manager Gong’s words, looked back at the documents in his hand. Was it okay that he hadn’t finished looking at these?
But Manager Gong didn’t check to see whether Minho had read everything or not. Instead he looked into the rear-view mirror and laughed in a knowing way.
“I know you probably memorized everything, but give it a quick review just in case. Oh yes, and please wake up Ms. Sora.”
Was he seriously saying that now, when they were just talking about the army? Did he think Minho had finished all that reading and was singing because he was bored?
It seemed his understanding was correct. Surely it was ridiculous, but he looked in the rear-view mirror and saw Manager Gong’s expectant expression.
Minho couldn’t say ‘I only read up to the red bean cultivation!’ with Manager Gong looking at him like that. He would try not to worry about it
‘Okay, I’m still a professional gamer even without the smart image.’
That was a good thing to have, but not a total loss without it.. He felt a little better after that thought. On top of that, with all the reading Manager Gong gave him to do, his boring game training didn’t seem so boring anymore.
Minho turned his eyes toward Sora who was sleeping soundly. She had gone to sleep wearing the neck pillow as soon as they left. She didn’t stir at all, even on the bumpy road. She must be used to the drive after a few months of filming.
“Ms. Sora. We’re here.”
He shook Sora’s shoulders slightly, but she just shifted and gave no sign of waking up.
“I said we’re here.”
Minho fixed his gave on Sora’s face–short hair with slight curls and full red lips. They had left at dawn but her makeup was completely done.
‘Her makeup is amazing.’
It looked really natural. Minho would’ve thought there was Sora Oh and a Sora Oh look-alike if he hadn’t seen her no-double-eyelid natural eyes up close before.
She had a different charm than Eunha who glowed even when she stood still. The collaboration of the makeup artist and Sora Oh was surely the birth of a beauty.
‘So how do I wake her up?’
He had an idea. Minho turned his gaze to his documents and spoke in a low voice.
“What should I do? Her makeup will smudge if she doesn’t wipe her drool. Well, Youth Journal is a farming variety show so it should be okay to appear with no mak…”
Sora’s eyes shot open and her hands flew to her face. She checked, touching here and there with quick movements, and then glared at Minho.
“What? I didn’t drool!”
“You were just about to before you woke up.”
Just like a professional idol, it seemed she regained consciousness as soon as her appearance was brought up. Minho looked into her face and added,
“Wait. I think you need to fix your eyelash…”
“Really? Don’t look!”
Minho chuckled as Sora hastily opened her makeup bag.
As soon as he got of the van, Minho looked up at the bright, clear sky. The pavilion with its cool shade, the burbling creek, and the scent of the clean, fresh air all combined in a wonderful scene.
“The town of Yulchiri, for health and long life…”
The large signpost caught his eyes. And behind it, there was a spread of farming fields like a picture postcard. It was very rural and seemed comforting but the more he looked at it the more his shoulders slumped.
He felt tired, suddenly, knowing he wasn’t here on vacation. Falling snow looks beautiful and romantic when you’re watching it from a comfortable cafe. It loses its appeal when you think about shoveling it.
‘Great, it’s the perfect town for working like a servant.’
There would be constant filming, when not sleeping, because they had to produce two weeks of material in two days.
Sora walked over to Minho and smacked his shoulder, jarring him out of his stupor.
“This must be your first time in the countryside like this. Your face looks like I did when I came to film the first broadcast.”
“I was just thinking about when I was in the army.”
“Now I’m out of it and I’ll still be shoveling.” He let out a sigh.
Sora’s eyes flicked away from him. This wasn’t like the morale-boosting performances for the soldiers. The shouts and expressions in the background overlapped Minho.
“But aren’t you sleepy?”
“You have to get used to it too oppa. The schedule doesn’t make allowances for that sort of thing.”
Minho turned his gaze to Sora. She had finished checking her eyelashes in the van and finished touching up her face. She wasn’t burning with a fighting spirit and she wasn’t drooping. She was just ready to go to work. Minho took a second look at her, since just a few days ago she had been lamenting about how difficult it was.
“You’re a professional.”
Well, it was only 36 hours. He had persevered through a more difficult two years. As he was gathering his resolve, Manager Gong lowered the driver’s side window and spoke.
“I’m sure you’ll know how to do a good job. We can get more recognition this time and go straight to public broadcast.”
“You could believe in me a bit less.”
“Haha. You do well on the broadcast too, Ms. Sora.”
Manager Gong finished his farewells and drove into the temporary parking lot.
Sora smiled at Minho.
“Manager Gong has a reputation for being picky, but he has a lot of faith in you.”
“That just means more homework for me.”
“Yeah, I don’t envy you that.”
Sora held up her fingers, miming the thickness of the stack of papers Minho held. He stood staring out sullenly at the vast fields. She smacked his back.
Mino followed Sora to the empty lot where all the filming equipment was gathered. The atmosphere bustled with staff members coming and going, busy getting ready.
The to-be location for the opening filming site was a shabby vegetable field. The ground was bare with nothing growing.
This was the battle location for today.
“Ms. Sora. what did you do last time?”
Hearing nothing, Minho turned and saw only her back as she ran over to one of the staff members.
“Oh Ms. Sora. You came early.”
“Please prepare the reflector so it’s dazzling!”
After she smiled brightly and bowed she went right to the camera director.
“Director, I look good on my right side today. So please zoom in on my right side when you do a close-up.”
Minho stared at Sora, who returned to the field, unstoppable. Whether sleeping or awake, she was always worried about how she would appear on screen.
“Reflector? I thought you’re on the verge of dying from doing work.”
“An idol needs to prepare all the necessities even if we’re rolling in the mud.”
Sora stood in place and got into the choreography posture of Punkyline’s hit song. With her arms crossed she slightly lifted the right hand and rubbed her fingertips together. It felt like the empty plain became an instant stage.
Minho applauded her. All idols might not be like her but those words hit home. It certainly was rare to see any idol’s face looking wrecked on a TV program.
He knew there was a big difference between just watching and doing. It was a cutthroat world behind the screen.
A car drove up and a girl with long straight hair got out. She was dressed innocently as if she had just jumped out of a romantic comic.
“It’s Hyorim. Ugh.”
Minho turned his head as Sora let out a short sigh. There was a strong feeling of discomfort toward Hyorim because Punkyline was still not in the top three girl groups.
Other cars entered behind Hyorim’s. And the movements of the staff decreased because they were almost finished with organization.
“You know all the members of this program, right oppa?”
“Vaguely. There are seven girl group members that take part in Youth Journal. They’re called Girl Seven for short. Right?”
Minho had memorized their names and personalities ahead of time, thanks to being filled in by Manager Gong. Sora was chic, and Hyorim was establishing an angelic image.
Minho considered the person that he knew the least about, and asked,
“How’s the MC, Mr. Dojin Lee?”
“That sunbaenim* is always grumbly whether we’re filming or not.”
Dojin Lee was a handsome actor in his middle years. He had taken on the show after hearing from the producer of the first broadcast that this was going to be a program about going on a fun vacation with members of a girl group.
When he had heard that the destination for this vacation was a farming village and that all they would be doing was farming, his face looked as though he had just lost everything in the world. Minho was able to empathize because he was a man as well.
The members of Girl Seven gathered at the field. Sora whispered in Minho’s ears so that the other girls wouldn’t hear.
“You should be on your toes if you want to increase your screen time. They look delicate but they’re all vixens.”
Hyorim was the prettiest but each girl had her own particular character–the shrewd one, or the social climber.
Following the girl idols, Minho’s gaze remained on a tall attractive male actor. He was a buff actor who had been cast along with Minho as a replacement for the member that was absent on tour. His name was Jinsuk Park, and he was currently adding value with his sculpted body.
‘I was told to be especially mindful of him.’
Minho recalled Manager Gong’s request as his gaze remained on AT Entertainment’s actor Jinsuk Park. Since their roles overlapped, if one of them got a lot of screen time the other one’s face might only appear in the opening and closing of the program.
The one sentence comment about Jinsuk on the document was, “Nice body, can’t act.” So a show where he could work, sweat, and show off those muscles was perfect for him.
Besides, work muscles, developed in the life of a soldier, were different from the good-looking muscles that were refined in a gym. Minho couldn’t guarantee he would do better than Jinsuk but he was confident he wouldn’t lose his place too easily.
He could face the uprooting process with his shoveling experience in the army. And he had sufficiently studied about the crop planted in this region at the beginning of July.
‘We’ll probably plant red beans or corn at most.’
Sora said a word to Minho, who was getting a little over-confident.
“Gosh, oppa. You don’t just do the work. It’s a broadcast, broadcast!”
“I said I’m a gamer.”
“So you guys are the ones who came as replacement workers for Hyunwoo who ran off to go on tour.”
Right before the broadcast, Dojin Lee offered a handshake to both Jinsuk and Minho.
“I’m Jinsuk Park. I’ll work hard, Sunbaenim!”
Jinsuk bowed 90 degrees as soon as he put out his hand, probably because Dojin was his senior in the same field. Dojin lifted him up and laughed.
“Hey, save your energy. You don’t want to wear yourself out right at the beginning.”
Dojin turned to Minho.
“I’m professional gamer Minho Lee.”
“Do you usually work out? Can you last till tomorrow?”
“Woah, I like your attitude.”
After he finished his handshake with Minho, Dojin spoke quietly with a dimpled grin.
“Welcome to hell. You can’t escape so it’ll be a good idea to just let your mind go.”
Dojin casually finished speaking and disappeared to where the producer stood.
Jinsuk took a breath after Dojin left. He asked Minho,
“So you’re a professional gamer?”
Jinsuk eyeballed Minho up and down and turned around, smiling triumphantly. His mischievous look bothered Minho.
Minho had never thought he had a bad physique. But it was true that he was inferior compared to Jinsuk who had muscles that surged under his shirt as if all he did was work out after his meals.
Minho had to hold himself back since he couldn’t ask him ‘Do you know how to play Pentastorm?’ At that moment, a production staffer shouted,
“Everyone, over here please!”
A camera on a crane filmed from high above, and in a corner of the field a line of a dozen or so cameras filmed simultaneously from the front.
Minho was slightly nervous when his personal cameraman came in right next to him. Because it was public TV, the number of cameras was on a different level than for cable.
Sunbaenim: Senior, used to address someone older or with more seniority in one’s field.