༺ Contract with the Acting Spirit ༻
“Are you saying that the weak life energy you’re talking about affects my acting?”
The fox nodded its head.
“What does that mean?!”
“So, what I mean is, life energy is expressed as presence. If you have a high presence, people’s attention gathers even if you’re just standing still, and if it’s low, you won’t stand out no matter what you do. If it’s really high, you have what’s known as an ‘aura.’”
It meant that the aura of an actor, which was often talked about, originated from one’s life energy.
“If we consider 100 as the standard, the average human’s presence is around 50. Actors usually have around 60 to 70. Top actors can even have up to 80 to 90…”
“What about me?”
“You are, um… less than 30? I’ve lived for over a thousand years, but this is the first time I’ve seen a human like you.”
Yoomyeong’s jaw dropped.
He was well aware that his presence was weak, but he didn’t realize that it was to such an extent.
“Can’t I compensate for it with good acting?”
“It can. Acting well can compensate for your presence and even gradually increase it. But that’s only when people can see you. No matter how good a spirit acts, you can’t see it, right? Your presence is that weak.”
“You’re having trouble acting, right? Don’t you feel constrained by others’ energy as if your body isn’t free? I loosened it up for you a bit earlier.”
“Yeah. At the drama shooting set this morning.”
Shock registered on Yoomyeong’s face.
The first moment he felt his acting was “right” had been due to this creature.
So that was why he couldn’t reproduce it during the theater audition.
“So, do all typical actors act that comfortably?”
“I guess so? If they’re even just above average, they rarely feel uncomfortable moving due to others’ energy.”
“So, according to what you’re saying, I have no hope for the future either, huh? I thought that if I kept working hard, my potential would eventually break through at least once…”
“Right, I have cancer. I’m doomed anyway…”
As Yoomyeong’s already melancholic expression turned to one of utter despair, he opened another can of beer and downed it in one shot.
The fox looked at the man sympathetically.
A human who has lived his whole life with such a low level of life energy.
Rather than regretting his past choice to become an actor, he was lamenting his future inability to continue being one…
“There is a way.”
“I could share my energy with you.”
“What? Really? Why?”
“I’m an acting spirit. I love acting. If you can show me good acting, that’s enough for me.”
“…That’s the most tempting thing I’ve heard in my life. If I didn’t have cancer, I might have jumped at the chance.”
Yoomyeong gave a bitter smile.
“Should I take you back to when you were twenty?”
“Should I take you back to when you were twenty and increase your life energy?”
“Is…is that possible?”
“Well… it’s a huge investment on my part…”
The fox took out a golden tail that had been hidden within its nine silver tails and stroked it gently.
It was not a nine-tailed fox but a ten-tailed one, and it was about to use its single, tenth tail.
“What’s the catch? My soul?”
“Whoa, whoa—I don’t do that. You’ve already ‘accepted my life energy’ and ‘agreed to go back to the past’, haven’t you? If you can deliver great acting, I’ll be satisfied with that.”
“How can there only be benefits for me? Are you an angel or something?”
The fox lifted one corner of its mouth into a sly smile.
“No, it’s also a good thing for me.”
“Then it’s a deal. Are you ready to go back to being twenty?”
At the last moment, Yoomyeong gave a signal to stop.
The fox patiently suppressed its impatient expression and gently asked.
“Why? Is there a problem?”
“I can’t go back to being twenty! I was in the military at that time!!”
Yoomyeong had served in the military at the age of 21-22. He corrected himself, feeling a decade older.
“Let’s go back to when I was twenty-three. Is spring possible, too?”
“Sure, sure. Now, take my hand.”
The fox extended its front paw which was covered in soft, silver fur. The palm felt jelly-like to the touch. It seemed like an utterly harmless hand.
Yoomyeong firmly grasped it.
The floor was hard. It didn’t feel like there was a mattress underneath the blanket.
‘Did I fall to the floor while sleeping…?’
Yoomyeong quickly got up in search of water. His mouth was dry, probably because he drank too much alcohol yesterday.
He blindly headed in the direction where the kitchen should be, but he bumped into the door with a thud.
“Ah, my head, ah.”
The kitchen should be around here, shouldn’t it…?
As Yoomyeong stood there confused, he heard an unfamiliar voice.
“Howdy? How’s the condition of your younger body?”
Yoomyeong fell backward again with a thud.
Inside his blanket, a tiny silver fox with only one paw sticking out was licking its tail and talking.
“That… was not a dream?”
“No. We made a contract. You have gone back 15 years, kyung.”
* Kyung – korean aegyo commonly used by cats or similar species.
The fluffy baby fox was speaking in a squeaky voice as if struggling to find the right way to speak.
It looked like an arctic fox that he had seen on the internet. Nine small pom pom-like tails were cutely attached to its butt. It was cute, even though he knew it was a mischievous spirit.
Unknowingly, he stroked its back. The fluffy fur fell flat against his touch and then stood up again.
“Why have you become so tiny?”
“Tiny? Kyung. As I said, it was a huge investment even for me. I’m barely maintaining this form.”
“Right, right, thank you. I really have returned. I’ll work hard to ensure the investor’s choice wasn’t in vain!”
“That’s good. Ah, ow…”
At that moment, something popped up in Yoomyeong’s field of vision.
According to the contract, you must accept the presence the spirit fox.
〈 Presence 〉
“Are you seeing anything strange? It says that I have to accept your presence.”
“Yup. It’s our contract. What’s your presence now?”
The fox opened its eyes wide, then clicked its tongue.
“It’s really not even 30… You really had a hard life.”
“Is that so…?”
“I’m going to give you some presence now. How much should I give you between 20-50?”
“Can I choose? Then, of course, 50… no, wait a minute.”
Yoomyeong fell into thought.
‘Does having a high presence always bring good things?’
When he had just joined the team, he had vented his concerns to a senior member.
— I have no presence, so no matter what I do, I don’t stand out. It’s driving me crazy.
— Hey. If you’re not the main actor, standing out too much isn’t a good thing. A good supporting role doesn’t overshadow the main actor. Everyone has their own pace, so just try your best.
Those words came from the senior who got scolded by the director for stealing the show, even when he did nothing and just stood still.
‘I won’t always be playing lead roles. Being too noticeable can also hinder my acting.’
If he received 50 from the fox, his presence would be 79.
That was considered a relatively high presence among actors.
It was tempting. It really was, but…
‘Let’s take it slowly according to my abilities. For now, a presence that doesn’t overshadow my acting is enough.’
Yoomyeong made up his mind.
“Just give me 25.”
“What? No, why… If you can take 50, why would you settle for less?!”
The fox protested with a whining voice.
“Too much presence could be an obstacle right now. Actually, even just receiving 21 would make me average, but I’m only human, so I’m a little greedy. I want to be slightly higher than average.”
Yoomyeong smiled brightly with an expression that was free from excessive greed.
The fox was about to burst out but then calmed down.
“Whew… no. Fine. Your words could be right. It’s not fun if it’s too easy. After waiting this long, it wouldn’t hurt to wait a bit more…”
Yoomyeong petted the long ears of the fox who seemed to understand his feelings.
“It… tickles, it tickles tickles tickles~”
The fox wriggled as it turned upside down. Its squishy-looking pink belly was exposed. Unable to resist, Yoomyeong stroked its belly. It was warm.
“You’re a spirit, aren’t you? Why are you so warm and squishy?”
“It’s because I’ve materialized now. I can be seen by others.”
“Wow. Do you want to be my house pet, then?”
“No way. Then I can’t accompany you when you’re acting.”
That made sense. Yoomyeong nodded his head.
“Still, this look doesn’t suit a spirit. Since you’re a gumiho… How about Miho?”
“Do as you wish. Just receive the presence.”
A red glow appeared in the silver fur of the fox, which then poured into Yoomyeong.
Yoomyeong felt a warm and overwhelming sensation as his presence grew.
〈 Presence 〉
“Thank you, Miho!”
Yoomyeong lifted the fox in his hands and hugged it tightly to his chest.
“Aren’t you coming to school with me?”
“I’m lazy. I have no interest except for acting. The world outside the blanket is dangerous.”
“Alright, alright. Then just go to sleep.”
Yoomyeong wrapped Miho snugly inside the blanket, stroked its back, and then stepped out.
While taking a refreshing shower, he couldn’t take his eyes off the mirror.
It had been about a month since he was discharged from the military. His hair had not fully grown yet, but if he looked at it positively, it could pass for a sporty haircut.
‘I wasn’t too bad in my twenties, was I?’
First of all, he was young, with not a single wrinkle on his skin.
Unlike his always dry skin in the past, his skin now had a smooth glow.
Moreover, he had worked out a bit while in the military, so while he wasn’t muscular, his body was firm.
His always-dull features seemed to be more assertive now. Was it because he had regained some life energy? Of course, it could also be the effect of the foggy mirror after his shower.
He got dressed.
He wore a pair of boot-cut jeans that were popular in the early 2000s. Looking at them now, they seemed outdated. He lightly touched his hair which didn’t hold its shape well with wax.
“Oh, Yoomyeong. You look rather cool today.”
“Do I? I’m off to school!”
After quickly eating the meal his mother had prepared, Yoomyeong left the house.
The commute from his home to school took about an hour by bus.
Instead of the blue-wrapped bus from before his regression, he was riding on a ‘Gyeonggi Passenger’ bus with a beige background and yellow stripes. BoA’s Number One was playing cheerfully from the bus speakers.
‘Wow, it’s really that era. Hahaha.’
Along with that, Yoomyeong’s mood also rose.
Since he was near the last stop, he sat anywhere on the empty bus and unconsciously reached for his smartphone. However, what he pulled out from his pocket was a Motorola flip phone.
‘Woah, that’s right. It was the heyday of anycall during this year. My mom had spent a considerable amount to get me the latest phone as a gift for my discharge from military service.’
* Anycall – a South Korean mobile phone brand established by Samsung Electronics in 1993.
He felt nostalgic thinking about how he had managed to use a phone that didn’t even have internet.
Yoomyeong folded the phone and put it back in his pocket, starting to reminisce about his memories.
‘I went to the military right after finishing my freshman year. Ah… It’s truly a relief to have returned after my military service. Today’s the first day of class, and I have… ‘that’ subject.’
After checking roughly what he needed, Yoomyeong looked down at his hands.
He cracked his knuckles and stretched his fingers in the opposite direction.
With a sizzling sensation, energy spread throughout his body. He now felt like he could do anything unlike in the past, when he always felt sluggish.
‘I will seize this regained opportunity with my own hands!’
Yoomyeong, who stood up with a bright face and pressed the stop bell, was addressed by the bus driver.
“You must be a student. You seem to be having a good day. Even just looking at you makes me feel good. Have a nice day, hehe.”
At that, Yoomyeong glanced around. He was the only one in the direction the driver was looking.
It was nothing special. It was really a trivial thing, but…
‘It’s the first time…someone has spoken to me on the street!’
Even promotional flyer distributors or people promoting their beliefs had never once stopped him. There couldn’t have been a more definitive change for Yoomyeong.
Feeling a slight, ticklish feeling at the tip of his nose, he nodded his head.
“Thank you. I hope you have a good day, too!”
A three-credit course in the Theater and Film Department.
It was a course that Yoomyeong had registered for this semester. The problem was that he was not a Theater and Film major.
“Shin Suho! Here, I saved you a seat.”
“Hey, Hye Seon! You’re in this class, too! We should have lunch together.”
In the lively atmosphere where everyone seemed to know each other, Yoomyeong quietly sat at a desk in one corner.
As a student majoring in Business Administration, Yoomyeong naturally didn’t know anyone in the class.
It was a small lecture room with a capacity of 30 students.
Since it was an advanced elective course involving practical skills, it was conducted with a small number of participants.
He remembered his previous life when, with some sort of courage, he had impulsively enrolled in an advanced course from another department and spent a semester shrinking under the pressure of the impressive Theater and Film students.
‘It’s going to be different this time…!’
Actually, as soon as this unfamiliar guy sat in the classroom, the Theater and Film students began to notice him.
In the past, no one would have paid attention to whether Yoomyeong was there or not.
‘Who is he?’
‘Is he a loner? He doesn’t seem to have the vibe of a loner, though…’
‘Is he a non-major student? It was really hard to register for this course…’
Once the students had more or less settled into their seats, the door abruptly opened and a stern-looking man walked in. His name was Lee Jae Pil, an adjunct professor and the one in charge of this course.
“Hello. I am Lee Jae Pil.”
He got straight to the point.
“For the midterm exam in Method Acting, we will be doing a 15-minute one-act play. All class hours until the midterm exam will be devoted to group practice and progress presentations and from the midterm to the final, we will analyze your work.”
The Theater and Film students nodded.
This lecture, which was held once a year, was famous for the renowned theater critic Lee Jae Pil’s thorough dissection of the students’ acting.
While it was mentally exhausting to the point of near breakdown, seniors recommended that those intending to pursue acting should take the course at least once.
“As you all may know, Method Acting is not about exaggerated acting but maximizing synchronization with the character to deliver a natural and truthful performance.
Naturally, the more contrasting the character is to oneself, the more challenging Method Acting becomes. Therefore, the theme for this semester is ‘acting as something born different from yourself.'”