Big Life

Chapter 32: Is This A Competition? (5)
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Chapter 32: Is This A Competition? (5)

The host smiled as he stared at Ha Jae-Gun heading up the stairs to the stage.

"The Digital Literature Award’s purpose is the discovery of new works by both new and established writers. Therefore, pen names and multiple submissions are allowed as well. Someone can receive an award in two or more categories in this contest."

Ha Jae-Gun approached the host and stood next to him with both hands in front of him. Ha Jae-Gun looked ahead and saw the eyes of hundreds looking right at him.

At the sight, his heart started beating so fast that he felt like it was going to explode, and he felt butterflies in his stomach as well.

“It has been a while since the last time we had a writer who won in two different categories. It was four years ago, during the second Digital Literature Award.” The host drew the audience’s attention with his elegant words and smiled while looking at the shy Ha Jae-Gun next to them.

“Writer Seo Gun-Woo, who is now on stage with me, won the grand prize for the novel titled Foolish Woman. And he’s also a runner-up as well,” the host added.

“No way…!” Park Jung-Jin exclaimed.

Ha Jae-Gun’s family, including Lee Soo-Hee and Cheon Hyo-Jin, were shocked at the sudden news. They stared blankly at the stage. The entire auditorium was in a buzz as well.

There wasn’t even a need to mention the shock that Oh Myung-Hood received upon hearing the host’s words. He was probably the most shocked out of everyone in the audience.

He was so shocked that he even unknowingly crumpled the piece of paper containing his acceptance speech. 𝐥𝗶𝐛𝗿𝗲𝗮𝐝.𝗰𝗼𝐦

“The novel titled A 90’s Kid, and its author is named Ha Jae-Gun. So which is your real name?” The host obviously knew everything, but he still chose to ask that question with a smile.

Ha Jae-Gun cleared his throat and replied to the host through the microphone handed to him. “My real name is Ha Jae-Gun.”

“Hello, Writer Ha Jae-Gun. Thank you for submitting your great works. I have heard from the judges that it had been tough for them to even determine which novel was better than the other. It’s safe to say that both your works are competing with each other, and how do you feel about that?”

Another question was tossed to Ha Jae-Gun…

Ha Jae-Gun contemplated on how he should answer the question. A few moments later, he finally spoke, “To be honest, I’m not very sure. I’m still in shock, and I can’t think straight, so I doubt I can answer your question properly right now. I’m sorry.”

Hahaha.?Of course, despite your appearance, you seem to be pretty nervous. Well, let’s end this here and invite the person who will be presenting your prize. It’s a company that has been in the publishing business for the last thirty years! He is the President of Kyoji Bookstore, Han Jung-Do, the largest corporation in Korea with twenty-five branches worldwide. Please come up on stage, Mr. Han!”

Han Jung-Do, a middle-aged man who had been sitting in a chair closer to the back of the stage since the event started, finally stood up. He grabbed a microphone before awarding the plaque.

Foolish Woman had received the unanimous vote of the judges for the grand prize. The touching story talks about the life of a woman in her 20s, who is also a daughter, older sister, and a member of a not well-to-do family.”

Ha Jae-In’s eyes widened in surprise. Her reaction wasn’t really strange because the book was written by her own brother, and it was her first time hearing about its story.

The eyes of Myung-Ja next to Ha Jae-In turned red as she gently held her daughter’s hands.

“Jae-Hee, the main female lead in the story, is foolish, just as the title suggests. She had decided to abandon the love she could have gotten as a daughter and volunteered to sacrifice her own dream for her younger brother’s dream. She even her precious youth for her entire family…”

”However, Jae-Hee hadn’t once considered her efforts as a form of sacrifice. Rather, she thought of it as an obligation and duty to her family.”

Ha Jae-In looked down and covered her mouth with her hands. The tears that she had been holding back finally rolled down her face. She had made up her mind not to cry on a day with a joyous occasion, so she tried her best to suppress her emotions.

However, her tears wouldn’t stop falling…

“Jae-In…” Myung-Ja handed a handkerchief to her daughter.

Ha Jae-In took the handkerchief and dabbed the tears off of her face to no avail. The small handkerchief wasn’t enough to wipe off all the tears, youth, and time that had flowed out from her all these years.

A plaque and certificate of the award were then handed over to Ha Jae-Gun amidst the thunderous applause. Ha Jae-Gun stood tall on the rostrum before the hundreds of people gathered in the auditorium.

Now, it was time for his acceptance speech.

“I had put a lot of effort into my acceptance speech, but now that the time has come, it seems that I didn’t actually have to put that much effort into my speech. Anyway, I would like to thank my family and my friends before anything else…”

“Jung-Jin, Hyo-Jin, and Soo-Hee—thank you for using some of your precious time out of your busy schedules to come here with me. I would also like to thank the Digital Literature Award for awarding me these prizes. I am honored to be here…”

“Lastly, I would like to sincerely thank my mentor, who is a great writer whose name I can’t reveal due to certain circumstances,” said Ha Jae-Gun.

"This punk—he really has the knack for surprising others. You're dead meat when you get back here," Park Jung-Jin grumbled as he pinched the tip of his tingling nose with his fingers.

Lee Soo-Hee and Cheon Hyo-Jin smiled with bloodshot eyes.

“I repeatedly warned my crybaby sister before coming here—I warned her not to cry no matter what because I’ll be extremely embarrassed. At my remark. She snorted and promised me that she wouldn’t cry, but look over there…” Ha Jae-Gun pointed at Ha Jae-In and said jokingly, “The pretty lady over there, whose eyes look like they’re a pair of malfunctioning faucets, is my sister.”

The crowd laughed as they turned to look at Ha Jae-In.

However, Ha Jae-In couldn’t laugh at all.

“I’m pretty sure the title will earn me a scolding later when I get back home. She would definitely nag me and say why I had chosen that title when there were so many adjectives I could have used to describe her…”

“I’m sure that she would also ask if she were really foolish because she was the subject of the novel, but I couldn’t help it. For me, she really is foolish…” Ha Jae-Gun trailed off and paused to close his eyes.

The auditorium was silenced in an instant. Amidst the silence, Ha Jae-Gun recalled all the memories he had of her receiving her love. Those memories had always been precious to him, and they would forever be priceless.

"For twenty-seven years…" Ha Jae-Gun broke the silence and opened his eyes.

His crying sister was captured in his eyes.

“She still hadn’t changed after all this time. She’s still the same foolish older sister who had abandoned her dreams to devote herself to my well-being…”

”I could still remember how she often gave me money so that I wouldn’t look too shabby and end up getting bullied outside…”

“I could still remember how she often added water to her rice and ate sour kimchi as viand for all three meals of the day just to make sure that I would have meat in all of my meals…”

“I could still remember how she would secretly stash cash into my wallet whenever I’m not looking, and I could still remember how she would act innocent once the deed was done…”

Ha Jae-Gun’s speech was different from what he had prepared, and he kept pausing to compose himself. His sincere words and trembling voice touched the majority of the audience members as they sniffled in their seats.

“This novel is dedicated to my sister, who is also a foolish woman. Thank you, Mom and Father. Thank you for giving me such a great older sister. And thank you both for raising us well.”

Ha Jae-In couldn’t hold back anymore, and she finally cried out loud. She had put a lot of effort into her makeup today, but it was all ruined now. However, she didn’t care about her makeup anymore.

Myung-Ja patted Ha Jae-In’s back while quietly sniffling as well.

A standing ovation was started by Park Jung-Jin. Cheon Hyo-Jin and Lee Soo-Hee joined in, and everyone else in the auditorium eventually joined the applause.

Aside from one person…


Oh Myung-Hoon trembled at the sharp pain in the pit of his stomach. His eyes were fixated on his shiny waxed shoes. Would he be able to walk all the way up to that podium in these shoes? Would he be able to confidently express himself without caring about Ha Jae-Gun’s results?

Right now, he felt like he couldn’t do anything. His vision was swimming, his head was aching, and the world seemed bleak. His surroundings were also so noisy that he felt like he would go deaf at this rate.

‘No…! If I were to back out from here, it’d just become a bigger disgrace for me! I don’t have to be so offended by this puny contest! Those foolish judges! Why would I back down when I’m Oh Myung-Hoon?!’

With trembling hands, Oh Myung-Hoon flattened out the crumpled paper containing his acceptance speech. He desperately wanted to consume a CheongSim pill[1] right now.

He had always enjoyed being in crowds and bathing in all the attention, but today was an exception. He couldn’t muster the courage to be with the crowd at all.

‘Ha Jae-Gun…! Are you that happy to get the grand prize of this pathetic contest? Your family drama with all your family members here was disgusting! Sure, enjoy yourself to the fullest right now! This will be the highest you’ll ever go in your life!’

Oh Myung-Hoon glared at Ha Jae-Gun and cursed. Then, he looked back at his own acceptance speech. The cogs in his mind turned rapidly as he thought of ways to grab all the attention that was currently on Ha Jae-Gun with his speech.

The host on the stage spoke, “Due to time constraints, we will be skipping the acceptance speech of all other awardees going forward. All winners, please come up to the stage. Thank you.”

Oh Myung-Hoon looked up immediately. It was clear that he hadn’t misheard the host because he saw a few people standing up from their seats and making their way up the stage.

‘They’re skipping it… due to time constraints?!’

He was one of the winners as well, so he should be up there, too. However, the fact that he wouldn’t get to speak even a single word from the speech he had prepared today finally made Oh Myung-Hoon break down.

Right now, he couldn’t see anything else other than the auditorium’s bright lights.


“Sir, would you like a cup of tea?”

“No thanks. You may leave.” Oh Tae-Jin leaned into his chair.

Oh Tae-Jin was still healthy despite having celebrated his 60th birthday a couple of years ago. He was a man with his health as his top priority so that he could look after his family and company to the best of his abilities.

However, Oh Tae-Jin was currently extremely displeased, and it was all because of his youngest son. What was so important for his youngest son that he even decided not to attend his own mother’s birthday party?

He couldn’t come up with an answer, no matter how much he thought about it.

Moreover, his son was far from being trustworthy and was always playing around.

The phone on his desk suddenly vibrated.

Oh Tae-Jin ignored the call because he was feeling quite exhausted, but he eventually picked it up with a sigh because the dial tone was getting on his nerves.

“Hello. This is Oh Tae-Jin.”

— Hello, President Oh. I’m Director Park Jung-Bae from Kyoji Bookstore.

“Oh yes, Director Park. How have you been?” Tae-Jin asked in a welcoming tone, contrary to his mood from before.

Kyoji Bookstore was Korea’s largest on-offline bookstore. It was natural for Tae-Jin to want to maintain a good relationship with them from the standpoint of a publishing company.

—Yes, President Oh. I’m doing great these days. I actually called to congratulate you.

“Congratulate me? Haha, is there an occasion for me to receive your blessings?”

— Of course, there is. I saw that your son was one of the winners of a Literature Award, I definitely have to convey my congratulations to you. Aside from being the president of a publishing company, your son is also a writer, so isn’t that a joyous event? Congratulations!

The smile on Oh Tae-Jin’s face had disappeared and was replaced with a grim look.

He stood up and turned around to face the garden outside the window.

“My son won a Literature Award?”

— Did you not know? The award ceremony is today.

“I’ve never heard of it. Which Literature Award is it?”

— It’s the Digital Literature Award that our company sponsors every year. Your youngest son has been awarded the runner-up prize. I wasn’t aware of this until now, as participants are allowed to enter with pen names. He submitted a novel titled Solitude in Seoul with the pen name Ahn Sung-Woo.

“Director Park, thank you for the call. I’ll confirm this with him and contact you again.”

— Of course. Have a good day.

Oh Tae-Jin ended the call and turned on his computer immediately. He typed in the words ‘Digital Literature Award’ into the browser's search box, and when he hit enter, pages of related news popped up on the screen.

‘Oh Myung-Hoon got a runner-up prize…?!’

Oh Tae-Jin rubbed his cheeks with his hand as he opened the list of awardees.

Director Park wasn’t lying. The novel Solitude in Seoul by author Ahn Sung-Woo was clearly listed in the runner-up list.

‘Stupid kid! He should have told me…!’

Oh Tae-Jin kneaded his forehead, full of regrets.

Oh Tae-Jin was familiar with Oh Myung-Hoon’s personality more than anyone else because his youngest son was the most similar to him while he was still young.

The two of them hated losing, so Oh Tae-Jin had always treated Oh Myung-Hoon exceptionally stricter compared to his other children.

Oh Tae-Jin exhaled at length while scrolling through the pages.


He froze at the text shown on the screen.

The name of the author who had won the grand prize was engraved on his mind.

1. It’s a pill you can take when you're too nervous to calm yourself down. It's a Korean traditional medicine formulated with thirty-odd herbs, including bezoars, ginseng, and Chinese yam root. 👈

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