Life, Once Again! - Chapter 685
“Well, then. It’s the first shoot after-party you’ve all been waiting for!”
“Isn’t it strange to have an after-party when we just took the first step?”
“Shaddap! That’s why I said it’s the first shoot after-party. I waited for this moment and pushed away all the people that annoyed me. Anyway, forget the trivial talk and everyone raise your glasses!” Jayeon shouted as she raised her glass.
The fifty-something people in the restaurant all raised their glasses.
“To 50% viewing rate of ‘Pojang-macha’! Cheers!”
After chanting, Jayeon gulped down the mixed drink in the beer glass.
“Producer, 50% isn’t your neighborhood dog’s name, you know?”
“That’s a bit impossible.”
“Director Yoo, wish for something more realistic. I would die satisfied if it gets 5%. 50% is just being shameless. It’s a value that’s only possible in your dreams.”
Boos came out from everywhere. Jayeon glared around and said that she wasn’t going to accept objections. The people who raised their glasses faintly smiled and shouted ‘50%!’.
They exchanged drinks in this noisy atmosphere. Jayeon, who hopped between tables and toasted, was a literal mood maker. A get-together with a leader-level personnel being overly enthusiastic would usually make the lower employees suffer, but this place seemed to be an exception. The horizontal relationship that Jayeon wanted probably stemmed from trivial things like this.
Maru also got drunk on the atmosphere and drank some soda. He wanted to drink some soju with pork gukbap, but he had to hold back since there were a lot of people here. He thought that he should only drink in a quiet place with only the people he knew.
Maru took away the glass in Yuna’s hands. Her cheeks had turned red.
“I warned you last time not to drink. It seems you didn’t even listen.”
“Who are you to dictate what I do, seonbae? Give it back. I’m going to drink that.”
“It’s a problem because I have to take care of the aftermath. Also, who did you get this from?”
Maru glared at the people sitting around. Everyone was talking to other people, but there was one person that was looking at the two of them with a strange smile.
“Mira-noona, you gave it to her, didn’t you?”
“I never gave it to her. I just poured one and put it in front of her.”
“You did that last time too. Don’t make her drink. I will have a hard time if she gets drunk.”
“Alright. But isn’t Yuna cute when she’s drunk? Look at that, she’s smiling like a puppy.”
Maru sighed and downed the drink in Yuna’s glass. He thought that it was just beer, but it was a mix of drinks. He wiped his mouth with his thumb before looking at Mira. Mira just drank without doing anything and replied ‘alright’.
“You, don’t you ever drink. If anything, you should drink orange juice instead.”
“But you drank just now, seonbae.”
“It’s alright for me to drink.”
“Because I don’t get drunk.”
“I don’t get drunk either!”
Yuna had raised her voice.
“The fact that you’re raising your voice like that means you’re drunk. Don’t throw up and cause a mess like last time. Just stay still.”
“You always tell me not to do things.”
“What else did I tell you not to do?”
“You said I can’t do anything. I can’t drink, and I can’t like you.”
She pouted before putting her spoon in the jjigae in front of her. She scooped some bits of the jjigae into her rice bowl before mixing and eating a big spoonful. Maru watched it all happen. Unlike how bold she sounded when she said those words, Yuna was avoiding his gaze right now.
“Hey, you’re acting like that because you’re embarrassed after realizing what you just said, aren’t you?”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are. Also, what do you find so good about me that you can’t give up? I’m pretty sure there are a lot of good people in Myunghwa High’s acting club, aren’t there? If you look around, there should be good people around so go take your romance there.”
“How can you say such a thing so easily like that, seonbae?”
“Is there a reason to find it difficult?”
“N-no, I guess that’s true.”
Maru gave her some napkins. Rice grains had gotten onto Yuna’s pants because she was talking while eating. It seemed that her organ that detected embarrassment was still working perfectly despite being drunk, as she wiped the food off her clothes without saying anything after receiving the napkin.
Maru faintly smiled. She looked similar to his sister, Bada when she was drunk. She would complain and raise her voice when things didn’t go her way. When they got hit on the bullseye, both of them would look away from the incident. If there was a difference, it was that Bada would exert violence when faced with a difficult question while Yuna would blush and turn silent.
“Liking someone is only a temporary thing. Especially at your age. Of course, you might not feel like that right now, but you’ll realize not long later. You’ll see that talking to a wall isn’t that fun.”
“But you are no wall, seonbae.”
“In some aspects, I can be a wall.”
Yuna lowered her eyes.
“I’m a bad girl, aren’t I? I know that you are dating someone and that I shouldn’t like you, but you’re treating me too gently.”
“So the problem’s simple then, huh. I’ll stop talking to you about private matters from now on. We’ll only talk about work. How about it?”
“I don’t like that. Also, aren’t we a couple in the drama?”
“That’s what I want to say. Whether you like it or not, we’re going to be acting together for a while. I wish for you to treat me comfortably. Just like how the feelings of liking someone don’t appear out of nowhere, they won’t disappear so suddenly either. I just think of you as a good little sister. You’re a junior that my girlfriend looks after a lot too. If you run into difficulties, I’m going to try to help you. I’ll listen to your stories, too. However, I don’t think I can reciprocate your feelings.”
“I know, I already know that. I’m just liking you all by myself, so don’t mind me. Just like you said, these feelings won’t disappear so easily, but they will turn into something like friendship eventually, right?”
“You know what, seonbae?”
“You look like a really good person, but you’re actually a really bad person.”
“I never thought of myself as a good person in the first place.”
Yuna sniffled. She wiped her nose with the napkin she was holding.
“You should look away when a girl is doing something like this.”
“It’s you who blatantly wiped your face. If you tell me beforehand next time, I’ll turn my head away as a form of manners.”
“You really are a bad guy.”
Yuna stared at the table before reaching out. She was reaching out for Mira’s half-empty glass. Maru tried to take it away, but Yuna’s lips had already touched the glass. Yuna clenched her eyes shut and gulped down the transparent liquid in the glass.
“So you decided to become a drunkard.”
“Because drinking this gives me the courage to talk.”
“Words that you can only say after drinking are ignoble words. There’s no meaning to them either.”
“Why should that be? A senior of the acting club said that you can’t talk honestly without alcohol.”
“Perhaps you can bring out their inner mind as it is. You might be able to blab on about things you usually wouldn’t be able to do. But nowhere in that lies your true intention. You’re leaning on the power of alcohol to speak after all. Even if it’s what you’re truly feeling, relying on alcohol to say something like that is useless.”
“I’m being scolded right now, aren’t I?”
“It’s fine as long as you know.”
Maru poured some soda into his glass and drank it. There was something that tugged on his mind while he was talking with Yuna. There was a sense of iffiness as though he had left the gas on at home. Whenever he walked through the warehouse of memories, something kept catching his feet. Even when he focused due to the feeling that those things were asking for his attention, he could not find out the identity of the strange feeling. Just what was the problem?
Maru looked at Yuna, who was dozing off, before moving his eyes to the glass in front of him. A soju glass with meat oil all over it caught his eyes. Would he be able to take a step towards that sticky feeling if he removed his reason with the power of alcohol? Just as he was thinking about such things, Yuna leaned towards him. Her head touched his shoulder. At that moment, he was reminded of a woman’s face. The girl who had no hesitation when revealing her feelings despite not having any drinks at all – Lee Chaerim. She, who used to belong to Blue, one of the top girl idol groups, had confessed to him. She was bold, didn’t have any hesitation, and was honest.
It was that he questioned. Why did he refuse that confession? Back then, he was dating Gaeul as well, but he rejected her coldly even though she was a top idol, and she even showed tears. Since he was dating someone already, rejecting her was common sense, but when he looked back at the feelings he had back then, he was incredibly calm and mild. He acted as though he was someone who wouldn’t give a second glance at someone other than Gaeul.
It wasn’t something strange to doubt one’s past actions. There were many people who regretted their past choices after all. However, it was strange that he rejected Chaerim’s confession without a second thought and only thought about Gaeul as though he was a gambler who was staking everything on one number without any fallback plans. If there was the slightest ripple or even the slightest sense of regret, he would understand that, but the fact that his emotions weren’t stirred at all was something to be thought about.
Just the fact that a girl was leaning against him, dozing off, made him smile. He had no intention of dating her right now, but since he didn’t know what the future had in store, his mind went off on a tangent of imagination and delusion, picturing a future filled with desire.
Maru stood up before letting Yuna lie down across two seats. He asked Mira, who was at the same table, to take care of her before leaving through the door. He walked around on the noisy pavement in front of the store before sitting down on a bench. He wished that he could smoke right now.
“Then we’re dating starting today, okay?”
“F-fine! Let’s go out!”
A man and a woman, who had put their arm around each other’s shoulder, were walking past him while shouting in loud voices. Maru looked at the two of them and dipped his hands into the pond of memories. The pond that seemed clear enough to see the bottom, had now turned into a murky color.
“Is this related to the fact that my memories are becoming faint?”
His 31 years of memories were becoming fainter. However, from the way he remembered old events from time to time, he didn’t seem to have completely forgotten about them. He knew that his firm personality was also becoming more and more relaxed with the change of his memories, but in the first place, he thought that it wasn’t a big change since he wasn’t a stuck-up person in the first place. He was only 31. He didn’t have that much social experience, and perhaps his mental age was not that different from his current, high school student self.
Then why could he be so rational when he received Chaerim’s confession? When he thought about the situation back then, he felt like the Han Maru that received Chaerim’s confession was a completely different person from the current him.
Maru opened the cabinet that contained the memories right after his revival. The memories of his previous life were becoming faint, but the things he experienced in this life were clear. He took out the folder inside that cabinet and opened it. Did the distortion occur back then too? Maru was going through his past memories when he came across the trial that came to the acting club. Geunseok’s mistake became a trigger that increased people’s distrust in each other. No one mentioned Geunseok’s mistake since he was the ace of the club, and they kept continuing practice amidst an awkward atmosphere. No one had the guts to face that situation head on.
‘Back then… I provided them a common enemy.’
He provoked the people of the acting club, who had become sensitive, and received their frustration all by himself. He started circling around the acting club, and he worked at the petrol station during the summer holidays. It was definitely himself who chose to become an outsider. He became the prey in order for everyone else to stick together.
Groan-like questions kept coming to his mind. Why did he do that? Because he was asked to do so by the teacher in charge of the acting club, teacher Park Taesik?
Maru shook his head. Just because he was asked to solve it, there was no reason to solve the problem like that. Why did he create enemies? What he should’ve done was to help them regain faith by harmonizing and facing the problem head on with an honest, true-to-heart conversation. Yet, he chose despise as the solution to the problem. The cohesiveness of a community like that would be no different from grains of sand, no?
When he entered a company and did a group project, he did it with a colleague that he did not like. They didn’t get mesh well together, whether it was their personality or their opinions, so it was hard at the beginning, but both Maru and that fellow had the thought that they would be in danger at that rate. After that, Maru took him to a jeyuk-bokkeum restaurant and had an honest talk with him throughout one whole night. There wasn’t anyone who was born evil, and he believed that there was a conflict only because they pursued different things. He also believed that their relationship would become better if he showed his true feelings. After that, that person became one of the best partners in his life. That person should have cried a lot for him who died of exhaustion at 31.
Honest feelings would always work. That was the motto of his life.
“Then why did I act like that back then?”
Maru wanted to question himself from 2 years ago. Why did he not solve the problem like this back then? Why did he simply throw them something to chew on in order to solve the problem?
He covered his mouth with his hand. He sighed in frustration.