Life, Once Again! - Chapter 638
Jiyoon barely managed to get her breathing going again. When she looked at Maru, who was breathing out a heavy breath, she thought that it was the right thing to have come back to the hall. It was back when they were parting with each other by the school gates. Daemyung said let’s get going, but was actually looking backwards. Jiyoon stopped and asked him what was going on.
“Maru’s practicing by himself these days. I want to help him, but I can’t think of a way to do so.”
“The reason Maru-seonbae hasn’t been going home with us is because he was practicing?”
Daemyung nodded. Jiyoon raised her head to look at the 5th floor. The hall had its lights turned on again. She knew that Daemyung and Maru were very close friends. When Daemyung said that he couldn’t find a way to help Maru, he probably didn’t exaggerate. After a little bit of hesitation, Jiyoon carefully grabbed Daemyung’s hand. She was still as nervous as ever when they made skin contact, but now she was able to grab him whenever she wanted. It was great progress. She led the confused Daemyung up the stairs.
“We might not be able to do anything for him, but wouldn’t Maru seonbae do better if there’s an audience for him?”
She mustered up the courage to say those words. Jiyoon did not want to see Daemyung with a powerless smile on his face. It would be great if she could solve his worries, but she had no such ability. The only thing she could do was to lead the disappointed-looking Daemyung up towards the hall. Daemyung walked from behind until the 2nd floor and took the lead afterwards. He looked bold, which made Jiyoon smile in satisfaction. They eventually reached the hall where Maru could be seen practicing through the small opening of the door.
From that moment onwards until now, when he finished acting, Jiyoon stared at Maru’s acting in a daze without any time to become shocked. When Maru fell on his back like an athlete after a full sprint, Jiyoon grabbed Daemyung’s hand and shook it slightly. If they wanted to go inside, now was the chance.
* * *
“Why are you here?”
Maru looked at the couple that had opened the door and came in. They say those who like each other will become similar to each other, and the way the two smiled awkwardly looked very similar.
“We were about to go, but we came here.”
“You should’ve walked Jiyoon home. It’s getting late.”
“It was me who said that we should make a visit. I’m sorry,” Jiyoon said while looking down.
Maru’s nose twitched.
“It’s nothing to be sorry about. A student wants to come to school. Did you come here just now?”
“No, we were watching from outside the door.”
“You should’ve come inside if you were here.”
“Uhm, should I say that we couldn’t interrupt you mid way? I just felt like I shouldn’t open the door.”
“You’re worried about unnecessary stuff. How long have you been there?”
“About 20 minutes?”
“20 minutes? Hey, you let Jiyoon sit down on such a cold floor for so long?”
Daemyung, who stared at Jiyoon in a daze for a while, suddenly flinched and waved his hand around in the air.
“Uhm, Jiyoon, sorry for not being able to take care of you.”
“It’s okay. I used my bag as a cushion so it wasn’t cold.”
“I should’ve noticed anyway.”
“I said it’s fine. But rather than that, are you okay, seonbae? You were crouching down the whole time.”
“I did feel a little numb, but I’m okay now.”
“That’s a relief.”
Maru looked at the smiling couple before picking up the mop. He poked the long handle of the mop in between the two people who were confirming their love for each other. How dare you flirt in front of me.
“If you’re here to make me cringe, then you should get going. Geez, your PDA is out of hand. You want me to feel jealous, don’t you?”
“It’s not like that.”
“Why don’t you say that again after removing that grin on your face?”
He put the mop against the wall. He also placed the rest of the cleaning equipment in their respective places. Daemyung and Jiyoon also helped out.
“I want to show the others this too,” said Daemyung while putting the broom inside the container.
Maru shook off the rag in his hand before placing it by the window. With that, the cleanup was done.
“It’s nothing worth showing. It’s just me going on a rampage by myself.”
Practice was the act of slowly unfurling what was agreed upon. There was no impulsive action, nor intuitive lines. Constructing the tower known as ‘completion’ by confirming their agreements – this was what practice was. Wrestling with a mysterious man inside oneself couldn’t be called practice.
“I thought it was moving though.”
The words that entered his ears made him feel ticklish. Maru quietly looked at Daemyung. Did this chubby fella not know that his words could shock others, make them shy, or sometimes even very embarrassed? He looked at Jiyoon through the corner of his eyes. He was looking for a target of sympathy. Unfortunately, she was looking at Daemyung with admiration. She was completely hopeless. Maru shook his head once before speaking.
“This isn’t the right occasion to use the word ‘moving’. Do you see these goosebumps on me?”
“Why? It was very impressive, I was touched. It was the best act I’ve seen in my life.”
“I’m going to shut you up physically if you say that again. Why don’t you nag at me instead? That would be much better.”
Labeling a scene of screaming and screeching his lungs out while running around everywhere as ‘touching’ was splendid mental torture. It made his hairs stand on end whenever he heard it and want to run away due to the shame he felt. The memories of his reincarnation on top of his personality gave birth to a persona that could not accept compliments as compliments. He knew that Daemyung did not possess any malice, jealousy, or a teasing tone in his words, but his gaze was like a child looking at a superhero from a cartoon movie. It was naively malicious, naively jealous, and a pure tease. Not only that, there was Jiyoon who was adding fuel to the fire, so he could feel his heart cringing into nothingness. At times like these, he really wanted to become a genuine high school student. The disparity of his body and mind felt realistic at odd times like these.
“That was just me putting on a show by myself. It’s nothing worth showing to others.”
“I think it’s fine though.”
“I’m not okay with it. If you’re done cleaning up, let’s go home.”
“Did we disturb you?”
“No, I was about to leave as well. The security guard will give me a glare if I stay any longer.”
He led the hesitant duo outside. He knocked on the guard room on his way out and told that he was done. The security guard opened his tired eyes and waved at him to get going.
“Let’s practice together next time.”
“I told you it wasn’t practice. Jiyoon, take your boyfriend and get going already.”
After sending the two off, Maru slowly started pedaling on his bicycle. Today, he had made some progress, as little as it might be. That guy, who didn’t budge like a statue, didn’t just stop at moving, he even came around to the stage and hung around. Had he managed to fan the guy a little more, that guy might have jumped on stage. He had to stop because of the appearance of Daemyung and Jiyoon when he was about to do the tug of war with that guy, but he had no regrets. In fact, he felt good after thinking that doing that might have made ‘that guy’ feel urgent. After all, bargaining was usually done by the side that was at a disadvantage. If he slowly waved the fishing rod with the bait known as ‘acting’ on it, that guy will have no choice but to break his unresponsive state. If there was a reaction, Maru could counterattack. Silence was that guy’s weapon of choice until yesterday but starting today, it was the other way round.
* * *
Gaeul looked in the mirror. The face she always saw when she washed her face was there. Her clearly open eyes, quite sharp nose, and lips which she wished were slightly thicker. She could say with confidence that she saw it more than anyone, but these days, she found the figure somewhat unfamiliar for some reason.
“What kind of magic did you use?”
Gaeul was at a loss for words when Gyeonmi said those words with a smile. She knew that it was a compliment, but the word ‘magic’ became the water that soaked her cotton, rendering her unable to speak. She raised her fingers to stroke her face in the mirror. Ever since she talked with the girl inside her – the rabbit – her acting skills improved. It was something she should be happy about, but rather than happy, she was at a loss. It was just like how losing ten kilos overnight was a cause for worry, not joy. It was something she always wanted, but the acting skills entered her grasp way too easily and simply. It tugged at her mind that this wasn’t the result of her efforts until now, but the product of a mysterious meeting.
“If I earn enough money to move, I’m going to install two, no, three air conditioners in the house. That way, I’d catch a cold even in the summer. Man, it feels good just thinking about it,” said Heewon, who was lying down at the back.
Heewon always became one with the floor during breaks. The way he rolled around on the ground regardless of Gyeonmi’s presence was something that Gaeul actually quite envied.
“Do you think my acting improved?” she asked in a light tone.
She tried to not be mindful about the fact that her acting skills improved too easily.”
“Don’t ask me stuff like that. I don’t know.”
“But you should feel at least something. Tell me how it feels.”
“You know? You look really restless recently. It’s like you’re a dog holding back the urge to poop.”
Haewon, who was sitting next to Heewon, lightly smacked him on the shoulder.
“Noona, don’t mind what he said. He didn’t get proper sleep last night because it was hot.”
“No. It’s my bad for asking something like that.”
“Uhm, I’m not that knowledgeable about acting, but I could tell that there’s much more leisure in the way you act, noona. It’s much easier on the eyes. You look much more natural as well.”
Gaeul sat down on the chair. She closed her eyes and tried to talk to the girl inside her. That girl said that she would not reply, but when Gaeul kept knocking, she eventually came out and greeted her with a vexed expression.
-What is it this time?
The rabbit said from the center of the stage.
-Can I earn it so easily like this?
-It’s what you wanted.
-But I feel like I’m cheating.
-Do you want to go back to the old times then?
Gaeul couldn’t reply easily. The rabbit looked at the pocket watch she always carried with her before continuing.
-This is really the last time.
-This is farewell, I mean. But don’t worry too much. Your acting skills will keep improving.
-Will we not meet again?
-No, we will meet eventually. At that time, I guess we’ll talk about things we couldn’t talk about. There’s only one thing I want to say. Don’t …… yourself too much.
She couldn’t hear the important part. The rabbit disappeared.
“Han Gaeul, why don’t you get up?”
Gaeul opened her eyes when she heard the voice next to her. Gyeonmi was looking at her with dissatisfaction. She shook her head and stood up. The illusion of the stage disappeared, and she was greeted by the practice room where Heewon was lying down.
“I get that it’s summer and you’re tired, but perk up a little. It will get even hotter in August, so you can’t be like this already. Lee Heewon, you go wash your face a little. Get that dumb expression off your face.”
Gaeul sighed softly. The presence of the rabbit who always existed inside her disappeared completely. What was she trying to say before she disappeared? She thought about the rabbit that vanished in front of her eyes. The rabbit had the same gaze of those that looked at her when she told them that she didn’t have a father. The eyes that she could never get used to – eyes full of pity.
* * *
-This is a first. I didn’t know I’d see you like this.
Should he be surprised, or welcomed? Maru decided that he should feel both as he looked at the man before his eyes. The mysterious existence that sprouted inside him turned out to be the masked man from his dreams. The man wearing the funny white and black mask led Maru to the chair in the center of the stage.
This is the first time I’ve wooed a man. Did you know that? – Maru said as he sat down.
It was a novel experience. He could feel his actual body flinching. His mind wasn’t entirely cut off from his body and he was feeling everything from his physical body even at this moment. He thought that he wouldn’t be able to feel the outside world since he was in the world of his mind, but his predictions were wrong.
-Do you remember me?
The masked man asked. Maru nodded.
-Didn’t we meet in a dream before? Acting and monster or whatever. It’s been quite a long time, hasn’t it? A year, two years?
-Do you feel that we haven’t seen each other in a long time?
-Then did we meet recently?
-Not at all. I must have been mistaken. So, how do you feel?
-Rather mysterious, if I think about the fact that there’s another person inside my body.
-Don’t you feel worried because it’s the symptoms of a psychological disorder?
-I’ve returned from death. I am willing to believe if you tell me that ants could speak the human tongue, so this is nothing. I guess this must also be one of those presents that god gave me?
-Who knows? Maybe, maybe not.
Maru stroked his chin. He could feel his beard. Even his hand had grown some curly hair. His blood vessels were popping out like they were trying to break free of his skin, and his hands were tattered. It was the hands he had right before his death when he was driving buses. It would be great if there was a mirror around. After thinking about such things, he talked to the man. There was one thing that the man said that tugged his mind.
-When you say ‘this is a first’, you seem to imply that there have been other, similar situations?
 The original has the omission at the end of the line, but due to the difference in grammatical order in the two languages, I had to put it in the middle because omitting ‘yourself too much’ feels like omitting too much.