Life, Once Again! - Chapter 701
He opened his eyes and looked at the time. It was 6:59 a.m. When the digital clock, that blinked red, turned to 7, it made a beeping alarm. Junmin turned off the alarm and covered his eyes with his hand. 2 minutes ago, he was in the past. It was when he was the most passionate and the most pure. The dream didn’t feel like a dream and left a long trail as though it happened just yesterday. Junmin sighed and probed the traces of the dream that still remained within him.
He hadn’t had a dream in a long time. He was in Daehak-ro and he met Jung Haejoo there. They shared love, promised success, and whispered to each other about the future, but then, everything was taken away by a speeding car. The dream ended there. When he heard the news of her accident through a call, he was consumed by darkness, and that was when he opened his eyes.
He wiped the back of his neck with his hand. It was very damp. He could still hear the nurse’s voice ringing in his ears: I’m calling you after looking at her calling history. Miss Jung Haejoo was caught up in a traffic accident.
Junmin went to the living room. The dogs with good ears had gathered by his feet already. He subconsciously took out dog food from the cabinet. When he was pouring the dog food out, he ended up laughing. He never knew that the dogs would be prioritized over quenching his own thirst.
After giving them some food, he drank some water. The lingering sensation of the dream just didn’t go away. His body felt like it was still in the past, right at the point when he got the call that she had been in a traffic accident.
He pressed his fingers on the side of his forehead. He prayed that the sharp pain would drag his consciousness out of the sea of his dream, but it was to no avail. The lingering sensation was that dense. He picked up the puppy by his feet and put her on his lap. After sniffing, she curled up as though she found her resting spot and started breathing regularly. Junmin stroked the puppy from head to tail. The soft and smooth sensation from his hand was reminiscent of when he touched Haejoo’s arm. Once again, he realized that she was too young to have died.
Why did it have to be Haejoo of all people? Junmin thought of the old question that was by his side for a long time. It would’ve been great if he died in her stead. How great would it be if he, who chased a vain dream with half-dead eyes, died instead of the person shining brilliantly with limitless potential and talent?
The puppy that had been sleeping soundly suddenly raised her head before biting his finger with her still growing teeth. Junmin put the puppy down on the ground. The docile puppy hid behind the dining table leg as though she was wary. Junmin got up and looked at the mirror he put in the living room. A skinny man in his fifties with vicious eyes. He looked like he was about to kill someone.
He sighed before sitting down on the sofa. Was it the self-disgust perking its head again after calming down a little thanks to all the psychotherapy? He remembered that his friend told him to not push himself and get some rest. If he ended up going to the psychiatrist again, she would definitely become angry. Though, she would still give him consultation.
Junmin slowly turned around to look around his house. This was everything he managed to achieve after her death. The company, this house, the people. Things that he would never have been able to dream of before she died, were achieved way too easily after she died.
Thinking back, it was a series of surprises. Every single new actor that he came across rose rapidly. It wasn’t just once or twice. Whenever he nurtured someone, that person would become the icon of the year which made him tons of money. He gained reputation, and that reputation called about even more people. JA Production was the crystallization of everything he achieved until now.
Junmin looked at the sun rising. To him, she was that sun. The one woman who defeated the darkness and shined a ray of light on him. Without Jung Haejoo, Lee Junmin was a pathetic man who would never become successful or strive towards a future. Yet ironically, everything went well after her death.
Just then, he suddenly had the thought that everything around him felt unfamiliar. He suddenly questioned why he was able to become so successful. Right now, he could make a judgment on individual success based on his experiences and the data he had gathered, but this should have been impossible for the Lee Junmin in his 30s. Yet strangely, all the actors he touched back then became hugely successful.
He felt like he found a puzzle piece that was off by a little as he was looking at it proudly after having finished it. It was a pretty big piece as well.
Junmin felt agitated and went to his study. He took out one of the plastic files on his shelf. Inside was a diary that he had been writing for a long time. Among the diaries sorted in chronological order, he took out the diary he wrote in the year she died. The diary was filled with excitement and joy until it was suddenly cut off. That was when he heard about the accident. He started writing again two months after her funeral.
His handwriting was terrible as though he was being chased by something while writing it. The moment he looked at the writing, he could feel the emotions he had back then. It was an obsession that was close to lunacy. His feelings of love towards her had mutated into raising a star that was just like her. Junmin sighed. Back then, he dreamed of committing suicide. He also attempted to do it, but when that moment came, he wasn’t able to do anything. He was a coward. That was why – because he couldn’t follow her into the afterlife – he became obsessed with things that were similar to her in order to prolong his life. He couldn’t understand how he acted back then, but now he did after reading the diary. He sympathized with his past self.
After that, the diary was filled with stories of success. The details weren’t written. I met someone in the street. I saw potential so I helped him debut.
More than a dozen actors were written that way. There was nothing about what he saw in them that he saw as ‘potential’. Junmin felt a sense of unfamiliarity and started focusing. He went back to the past, back when he was hung up on casting people.
“Why did I cast them?”
It was his own doing, but it made him wonder. His memories weren’t complete either. After combining his fragmented memories, the conclusion he came to was something absurd. Junmin took out another file on the shelf. It was the file that contained the photos and profiles of the people he cast during the beginning stages of setting up JA Production.
Some of the photos had lost color, but most of them had been laminated and were easy to recognize. Junmin had a look at the appearances of the actors he had cast and nurtured, year by year. The first actor he made debut was Kim Seungjin. Although he lived in the US right now, he was a big star just a decade ago.
“I picked such a man?”
Junmin paled as he picked up the photo. The man looked really shabby. He wasn’t someone who had a career related to acting either. His profile said ‘worker at a construction site’. He probed his memories. Junmin approached him, who was working with cement at a construction site, and told him that he had to become an actor. Junmin felt freaky. Just what did he base his decision on, that made him approach that man and even persuaded him to debut as an actor? He even made the promise that he would pay the man 10 million won if he failed. It seemed like winning money on a slot machine at a casino would be easier than that.
He went to the next one. This time, it was a woman. She received good reviews in dramas thanks to her good acting, and she was called the queen in the advertising industry who took all the commercials that required a high-class, luxurious image. When he had a look at her profile, Junmin groaned because of the massive headache he had. The woman couldn’t be called elegant in any sense of the word when he looked at her plump figure. Back then, she weighed 93kg. She worked at a hospital with reversed night and day, which broke her physical balance. She definitely wasn’t an item that would become an actress. The current him would have turned her away, telling her to come again after losing some weight. Actresses couldn’t make the shoot if they had ramyun the night before. The woman in the photo had an appearance that clearly didn’t suit an actress.
Yet in the past, he persistently tried to persuade her and started managing her health. He paid her 3 times her monthly salary and had her take diet and acting lessons, and the result of that was the birth of an actress who stole the hearts of many men.
The other actors were similar. In many cases, he picked actors who already had a similar career, but there were a considerable number of cases where he didn’t. What surprised him was that he didn’t value appearance when he did his casting, unlike what others would do when they go street casting. He gathered people of all sorts of colors and those that looked like they didn’t have a sliver of becoming successful and dramatically made them debut. That was a gamble like no other. Was he possessed by a spirit in the past or something?
Junmin then opened the file that contained his interviews. The title that said ‘The Maestro of Finding New Talent’ caught his eyes. Junmin quickly skimmed through the interview. Halfway through the interview that talked about his success, the thing he wanted to read finally came up.
-You’re known for casting actors without looking at the manifestation of their talent, much less an audition. Do you have a special method? Or is it just your nature to enjoy adventure?
His answer to that question was quite simple. He could see it. He explained that line over the course of several lines, but the point was that he could ‘just see’ it. What he saw, and what kind of standards he had was asked after that, but his past self finished that interview with vague answers.
Junmin felt like he was going into a daze. For the past 17 years, he came all the way here without looking back after Haejoo died. In truth, he didn’t have the courage to look back at the past either. After all, that meant looking back at Haejoo’s death. Amidst the wealth that had been piling up as well as the human resources he had, he thought that his success was something that his own skills had brought him, but his past self was definitely not someone who was capable of achieving something like this.
The facts, recorded alongside this interview, were telling him. He achieved success through a very shocking method that was no different from being crude. How was that even possible?
Junmin returned to the living room. He spent 30 minutes, then another 30 minutes trying to bring back the memories, but he couldn’t remember the important bits. It was clear that he met those actors, nurtured them, and made them successful, but the answer to the most important question, ‘why’ he chose those people, did not come to mind.
It was rather weird. He thought about the interview again. He could even remember the face of the interviewer back then, but he couldn’t remember why he answered that ‘he could see’. It was like someone pulled his memories out from the roots.
“How did I even become successful?”
The doubt that sprung up from his dream did not get solved easily.
* * *
After making Bada wash the dishes, Maru returned to his room. He sat on his chair, turned on the power to the computer, and waited for a little before he saw his desktop screen with many icons on it. He opened an internet browser and went to his blog. Recently, he hadn’t been managing it, so it had become a ghost blog, but he was quite diligent at writing them when he was in his 1st year. Among them, the thing he had never failed to write every day was his diary. He clicked on the diary page. He made public the things he didn’t care whether other people saw them or not, but the majority of them had been privated so that only he could see them.
Maru scrolled up to the first diary entry that he wrote after creating the blog. Starting with the word ‘unbelievable’, the diary talked about what kind of mindset he was going to have in the future.
He looked at the next one. He saw a wall of text as though it was a report on his day job. He met someone, did something, and was preparing something. His past self was quite diligent when it came to writing.
Maru scratched his eyebrows. He felt weird after all. His personality was never so meticulous. Rather than planning something out, he preferred solving the problems when they came. The fact that he worked as a road manager without continuing to try and join the employment lines, and the fact that he switched jobs as soon as he was accepted to a mid-sized company, was all because he had the belief that things would go well one way or the other.
However, two years ago, his past self that just came back to life looked like he was a little too worried about the future to the point of obsession. Just like someone who had no second chances.
“I was indeed the one who wrote it, and I even have memories of it, but it feels so strange.”
Was it because he had just come back to life?
Maru narrowed his eyes and kept reading the diaries.