"This is fantastic," one of the art critics said to his fellows, lifting a richly colored plate from its display so he could further study it under the light and show it off. "Isn't it? Simply divine. One can tell that the utmost care was put into its creation." Amidst the murmurings of those around him he let out a sigh and lowered the plate lovingly before moving on to the next item, the others trailing behind him like neat little ducklings all in a row.
So Yi Jung carefully kept a smile on his face as he watched them, and took a small sip of his white wine when they departed the aisle.
Utmost care, eh?
He took the plate himself, turned it to its left, and grimaced at the sight of a slight bend near the edge. It was barely noticeable, even to a practiced eye, and could easily be overlooked if one didn't know what one was looking for.
Yi Jung, unfortunately, did.
This particular piece wasn't supposed to be on display. In fact, none of his outputs should be on display. Each piece told the story of his struggles; as such, each piece had a fatal flaw that should be enough to have it thrown out, never to be seen or associated with him. But his manager had inspected each product and concluded that they could be put together in a small exhibit with no one being the wiser. The activity wouldn't be treated as a huge deal; merely an introduction of So Yi Jung's considerable talents to the European Art World.
Upon this proposition Yi Jung had said blithely, "Shouldn't I be putting my best foot forward if I wanted to be known to them?"
"This is good enough," his manager, Lee Yo-Seob, had replied, hefting a brown bowl from the trash - the one that had a noticeable bump near the bottom - and winking at him. "Trust me."
Next thing he knew, there was a venue already, brochures, flyers, everything.
And now, this.
Yi Jung lowered the plate back to its stand, grimacing as he did.
Being merely good enough wasn't exactly something he aspired to be.
If being good enough was enough for the world, then maybe he should've just stayed in Korea instead of departing to this side of the continent.
If being good enough was enough for the world, then maybe he should just settle for the existing skills he already had and just. Stop.
Which was, of course, even more bullshit.
He finished his wine in a single gulp, then reached for another from a passing server.
God, he was getting a headache.
"All in all, I say this is a success," Yo-Seob assured him some hours later. He clapped Yi Jung on the shoulder. "Not bad for So Yi Jung, the up and coming genius potter from Seoul."
"I want to question your definition of success," Yi Jung said, "but thankfully the wine you ordered for everyone to enjoy is something I favored. Because of that alone, I'm inclined to agree with you."
Lee Yo-Seob took his glasses off, rubbed it on his shirt, scrutinized it for dirt. "Of course that's what I ordered. Some things need to be celebrated, after all. This is one of them."
The visitors had been slow in coming to this exhibit, but come they did, lingering before each item as though reluctant to part from it. Some even made inquiries if those in display were for sale; if they were fortunate enough to ask manager Yo-Seob, they would be quoted a sum that was not at all within the realm of 'outrageous'.
If they were lucky enough to ask the creator himself, however - well. They would be unceremoniously told that they could get better deals elsewhere - such as department stores.
Yi Jung glanced at the door, in time for a small entourage to come in. When was it going to end? Unlike the first few hours of today, however, he no longer feel angry; just drained and disappointed. "I thought people here are more discerning," he said lightly, belying his words. "But they couldn't even tell art from trash?"
"I didn't want my first exhibit to be like this," he said, for what seemed like the twentieth time in three days. "I told you. And frankly, I don't understand why such a simple thing is so hard for you to actually get."
"We already sold twenty of your pieces, and it's only the first day," his manager reminded him patiently. "Had you wanted to, we can sell them all without much difficulty. We can-"
"Right. How can I forget? I came to Sweden to sell things; thank you for reminding me." Yi Jung smiled at him.
Yo-Seob sighed and hunched his shoulders - suddenly showing off every single year he'd lived this good earth on his face. "You wanted to destroy all you've done since you came here. I stopped you because I saw potential in each and every one of them. How long will you continue to take that against me?"
Oh well, when put that way, it seemed as though So Yi Jung was behaving rather irrationally, wasn't he?
He paused, wondering how he could explain where he was coming from.
"I want that potential to become something else," Yi Jung insisted fiercely. "Something I can be proud of. Something I'll be glad to part with in time because I know I put everything I have in it. These-" he made a sweeping motion around them, "-all these things haven't reached that level. I haven't; not yet."
When I go back to Seoul, I want everyone to realize that I've improved.
I want her to know this.
"But you are getting there," his manager said.
Yi Jung flexed his hand. As always he could feel phantom pinpricks in his palm, and they would actually hurt at the most inconvenient time - like when he's molding clay. He'd learned somewhat to ignore the pain, but that didn't mean they stopped bothering him, when he let it.
"No," he simply said. "No. I'll get to decide when that will be."
A man approached them from the side, and, turning, Yi Jung saw that he, too, was Korean, which was a relief. His Swedish-speaking skills were still rather poor after all - unfortunately for him. "I was wondering whom I should speak to in order to purchase one of the bowls on display?"
Yo-Seob opened his mouth, closed it, then looked at Yi Jung - deferring to him.
Who abruptly replied without much thought or care in the world, "It's not for sale."
"Oh. Well, thank you." And off the man went.
"You could have at least asked which one," his manager chided him rather sorrowfully, glancing at the departing man.
Yi Jung crossed his arms. "Then maybe you should've answered before I did."
Not long after, the same man appeared beside them again and said, "Apologies, but may we ask you to reconsider? We are quite prepared to pay regardless of its price."
Yo-Seob said, with a pointed look Yi Jung's way, "Which piece are we talking about?"
The man blinked. "The- uh, the biggest one on display. It's brown? My lady really is taken with it."
Yi Jung rolled his eyes and said, "I can assure you that the amount your lady is willing to pay will definitely get her much more than that piece of clay. Elsewhere."
Interestingly enough, a look of naked fear soon crossed the man's face. "Y-You don't understand," he said. "Money is not a problem when it comes to my lady. If you want, we can double its price, no problem. Just give us-"
"Oh, well, since you're desperate." Turning to his manager Yi Jung said, "Please inform this man that that piece is most assuredly not for sale. In fact, I'm bringing it back with me to become a permanent part of my own collection." He glanced at the man and added, "Like I said, you and your lady can go someplace else to get a bowl. Not here."
Quite suddenly the man grabbed Yi Jung's shoulder, startling him. "P-Please!" he said. "I can't-"
"Get off of him, you-"
Yi Jung pulled the man off of himself before straightening his jacket and fairly snarling, "If you don't get the hell out of this place I will-"
"Well? What's taking so long? Tigress needs her drinking cup!"
The unmistakable feminine voice drew his attention away from the shrinking man as effectively as anything could. Yi Jung placed his hands on his hips, glanced at the owner of that voice - and stared, as if not believing what he was seeing.
"-Ha Jae Kyung?"