Life, Once Again! - Chapter 686
He felt like he could not let go of this lead. He felt like he would enter a world where all of his predictions would be useless if he let go of this clue that he stumbled upon. Maru entered the nearby convenience store and came back out with a hot coffee can in his hand. He tightly gripped the hot can to the point that it felt like his hand was burning. The air of summer, which hadn’t dissipated yet, as well as the heat from his hand, lashed out at his brain. It is not time to rest yet.
The compass pointing towards the past worked properly. Maru was able to clearly remember the memories he wanted when he wanted to. He took out the memories of when the acting club felt like it was going to disband from the cabinet of memories. Rather than going through the circumstances back then, he tried going through what he felt back then.
The acting club was experiencing the crisis of being on the brink of disbanding before the next performance. They couldn’t be left alone, and they had to be returned to their original state. The method Maru chose to do so was extremely simple.
The question was, why did he not try to solve that problem with a conversation, and instead proactively made himself the prey for the others to focus their energy on. Was the past him too immature?
Maru shook his head. He didn’t act like that recklessly. It wasn’t that he had turned his eyes away from the frustrating reality nor had he been fleeing from forming relationships either. It was a reasonable decision that was formed after perfect calculations. Maru licked his lower lip. The memories of back then became much clearer. That day, he chose to become the prey of all of them after a reasonable thought process. The reason was simple – that was the most efficient method.
Maru frowned. He felt incredibly displeased. What he did was not lead the kids on the right path when they were trying to look away from responsibility; he simply resolved the ‘situation’. There was no effort or emotional expenditure. The students that could not express their rage to Geunseok instead attacked him when he declared himself as the enemy. The cohesiveness of the acting club increased by attacking an outsider who could only say the right things and didn’t put them into practice. Declare war on another country if you want to stabilize yours – it was the plan of a schemer.
These actions were incomprehensible. If he was an adult, if it was him, who had eaten many more bowls of food than the others, he should have led them on the right path instead of thinking about efficiency, gains, and losses. As hard as it might be, they had to become honest with each other, admit that they were different, interact with each other, exchange emotions, and become a ‘team’ with the help of the shock absorber known as friendship; not a group of hyenas that would growl at each other if they ran out of meat to chew on.
Maru opened the can. He drank a sip of the coffee which had turned lukewarm.
The fact that his decision was wrong that day could be seen from what happened afterwards. Just like how the flap of a butterfly caused a storm on the other side of the world, he ended up buried under burning wood. Had he set their relationship straight, he might have prevented Geunseok from becoming twisted and there wouldn’t be an event where Yurim would start a fire due to her delusions.
“Though, that’s all just hypothetical.”
There was nothing more foolish than talking about ‘what if’ for a situation that had already occurred, but how many people in the world did not dream of that ‘what if’? Geunseok, who was fundamentally twisted because of his father’s violence, was bound to cause problems one day, and Yurim, who had feelings for him, might have ended her uncontrollable love with another kind of arson. However, what Maru could be sure of was that it was his own decision that pulled the inevitable forward. Had he consoled Geunseok’s twisted heart and understood and sympathized with Yurim’s obsession, he might have been able to delay that event until the very end. If that had been the case, he could have avoided being hospitalized due to a broken ankle and have gone on the winter stage with the rest of the acting club.
-You’re interpreting things too optimistically.
The masked man suddenly interrupted. Maru took another sip of his coffee.
“I know. What’s bound to happen is bound to happen. There’s a possibility that the results wouldn’t have changed no matter what I did.”
-Well, yes, but what I want to tell you is about your decision. You’re thinking too pessimistically about your decision to make yourself the prey. As a result of your actions, the acting club could continue to exist and the stage had finished splendidly. It required the sacrifice of one person, but overall, it was a gain.
“No, I should have talked to the others much more back then.”
-Would that have changed a lot? Would Geunseok, a lump of pride, admit his faults? Would the others accept that even if it happened? Would there really be harmony? Do you really think that?
“Are you saying that it wouldn’t have?”
-I won’t tell you that it definitely won’t be like that. I’m just telling you to think about it. Stones are just stones no matter how much time passes. Trees are the same. The wind and the storm might scratch them a little, but the fact that they are stones and trees do not change.
“And like those two, people do not change, you mean?”
-They do change. Just eventually.
“So you’re saying that it’s extremely unlikely for them to change in a short period of time.”
The masked man did not reply.
“Pursuing efficiency is definitely a good thing. I don’t like meaningless labor either. However, when it comes to people, you sometimes need to invest in that meaningless thing. Having a conversation with the others back then should have been for something similar. Yes, it would have been a difficult thing. It might have been frustrating and I might have questioned why I should do such a thing. There’s the easy way of creating one enemy, so it might feel like a foolish thing to try to regain the embarrassing thing known as friendship. However, you know? I think that this world only turns because of the dreams of such foolish people. While ‘what if’ is a useless thing to think about, I still want to think about it. What if I joined that group and we thought about the problem together instead of viewing it as an outsider? – like that.”
-Everyone will look away from reality, put on suitable smiling masks and prepare for their next performance, of course.
“We might have clicked and produced a good result instead.”
-But that is only a ‘what if’. The truth of the matter is, you came to a decision that day, and as a result of your decisions, it was a happy ending.
“Except for me, that is.”
-So? Did you find that unfortunate?
Maru stroked his chin. It was that question. That question popped out from the many thoughts in his head. The answer to the question that took form with the masked man’s words made him incredibly confused.
“While it was a pity that I couldn’t participate in the performance, I didn’t really regret anything about the conclusion of that event itself.”
-If you have a look in detail, you also blocked the storm caused by the butterfly with your whole body. That day, you saw the burning set and jumped in. It was for the sake of the next performance. Is there a need to blame yourself so much?
“But that decision wasn’t like me.”
-Then what is, being ‘like’ you?
“Just what is happening to me?”
The masked man, who kept nagging him with questions, suddenly fell silent. This man always chose to not say anything at the most important times. Maru wished for him to not shake up his heart if he wasn’t going to give a solution. The man always threw out a topic to think about before disappearing like he was some old-fashioned philosopher. He was light-hearted, yet heavy; he agitated others while also being a large hill. He was completely unpredictable.
“I was wondering where you went.”
Ganghwan sat next to him. Maru could smell alcohol from his breath.
“Did you drink a lot?”
“Just enough to feel good. But man, Yoo Jayeon won’t let me go. She’s telling me that we should go to the 2nd round. How about you?”
“I heard from one of my school teachers to not hang out with drunk adults.”
“Alright. Children of the wonderland should sleep early and wake up early. Also, you have luggage to transport.”
“Is Yuna wasted?”
“I dunno. She keeps twitching from time to time and mutters something like she’s an old vinyl record, but I can’t really hear anything because it’s noisy in there. But I can tell you that she’s not in a state where she can go home by herself.”
“Looks like I should really tell her that I will dump her in the recycling bin the next time she does that.”
“Don’t you ever do that for real. I’m kinda scared that you might actually do something like that.”
“Do you really think that I’m such a bad man?”
“You aren’t a bad man. You’re just very calculative.”
“That’s strange. I thought of myself as a really affectionate guy that proactively did things that other people didn’t like to do.”
“You? That sounds unheard of.”
“Yeah right. I also want to ask. Just what was I doing in the past?”
“Are you drunk too right now?”
“All the soju on the table won’t be enough to get me drunk, you know?”
“Ah, right. You are even more of a drinker than I am. Damn, I’m envious.”
“Are you going to that 2nd round?”
“I am. I have something to talk about as well. While it’s a good thing that the director is discussing things with the actor, it’s a bad sign if they can’t set the right path for the actor too. I have to tell her to keep that in mind. Even if the ship capsizes, the captain of the ship has to hold onto the rudder.”
Ganghwan looked at the coffee can and reached out for it. Maru blinked once before emptying the can in his mouth.
“I heard that there are no teachers who get food from their disciple.”
“The one who earns money is the big brother and the teacher. Right now, you do more work than me, so you might as well be the teacher.”
“What a cheap title, then.”
Ganghwan smacked his back before standing up.
“Humans are creatures who can’t even understand what they did yesterday. Even while resolving to quit smoking, we think about doing it ‘starting tomorrow’. It’s a natural thing to regret your past actions when you look back in retrospect. It just means that you have improved that much. If you have no regrets while thinking about the past, it’s one of two things: You’re a man who transcended mortal thinking or you’ve stopped making progress. Oh, I guess there’s one more thing.”
“What is it?”
“That you’re a god.”
Don’t think about it too much and come back soon – Ganghwan added as he walked off. Maru crumpled the can and threw it in the trash can near the bench. If you haven’t changed, you have either transcended mortal thinking or you’ve stopped making progress.
“Or a god.”
By now, his memories of how he came to the past after his death had become faint. He didn’t know the reason behind his reincarnation nor what kind of god provided him with this opportunity. The only thing he could remember was the woman in white who looked like she was the epitome of all the beauty in the world.
“Did it really just change with the flow of time?”
People do not change so easily – the masked man’s words reverberated in his ears. Change and stillness. Maru stopped thinking about the two words. However, that topic remained in his heart as though it was engraved on it.
He turned around and returned to the restaurant. Many people had left already. The ones who were still drinking until the end were Jayeon and the actors at the main table.
“Where did you go?” Jayeon asked.
“I was just getting some fresh air.”
“I see. This place is a bit stuffy. Well then, should we drink a little in an open space?” Jayeon said as she stood up.
Byungjae, who sat next to her, tried to stand up before falling back down again. He was as weak as Yuna when it came to alcohol, but it seemed that he drank everything he was given today as well. Mira looked fine, but from the way the ends of her eyes had sunk a little, it was clear that she was drunk as well.
“You guys wanna go too?” Jayeon asked as she looked at Maru and Yuna.
Maru shook his hand.
“I’ll bring her home and then go home.”
He pointed at Yuna, who had lowered her head with her hair drooping like she was from a horror movie.
“What a pity. I was planning to have a drink with you guys in a place where I don’t need to watch out. No, wait. I told everyone not to give minors drinks. When did she drink?”
“I gave it to her.”
Mira raised her hand boldly. Jayeon looked at her before chuckling.
“I guess I can’t help it then.”
“Yes, it can’t be helped.”
“Mira, let’s go for a 2nd round!”
“Let’s go. I think I can drink a little more.”
Mira pulled up Byungjae who was all wobbly. Byungjae, whose limbs looked like they belonged to an octopus, groaned and expressed his desire to go home, but Jayeon didn’t look like she was willing to let him go.
“We’re off first. You two, watch out on your way home and text me once you get there. This mom of yours is worried.”
Jayeon and co left while giggling. Maru sighed and shook Yuna up.
“Milady, it’s time to wake up.”
“I said let’s go, class is over.”
Yuna abruptly stood up.