Life, Once Again! - Chapter 720
“You’re pretty diligent. I thought you were going to quit school just like that.”
“I haven’t completely decided yet. I didn’t tell the teachers because I felt like quitting school like this isn’t right.”
“It’s up to you to do what you want, but I don’t think quitting school is a good idea. If you’re having a hard time to the point that you have to start working immediately, why don’t you tell the others about it? If we collect a few tens of thousands of won per person, you should be able to fend off immediate trouble.”
“I don’t want to go to school if it means bringing harm to others. Above all, I won’t be able to last long like that. If I get contacted about work tomorrow, I might quit school right then.”
Giwoo looked at Maru as he calmed down his breathing. He was more serious when he was practicing. A slight change occurred in Maru’s expression. He remembered that slight change in facial muscles and tried imitating it. The muscles around his left cheekbone didn’t follow his will properly. It would look slightly different if he looked at a mirror.
To steal, he had to be able to perfectly imitate. Giwoo felt a sense of superiority when he did a better act than the original creator after finding flaws and fixing them. He had stolen actor Lee Hyuk’s acting a long time ago and made it completely his. When he realized that acting was nothing different from memorization, Giwoo felt that he would become successful. There was no failure on this path after all.
“I think that should do. I hope we don’t get any NGs during the real run,” Maru said.
Giwoo smiled and started doing simulations in his mind to probe this guy out. His grandfather once said that people were like stones and would not change if left alone. He had to find out what changed Maru. Whether it was goodwill or ill intent, he would feel at ease if he found out what Maru’s intentions were.
“How’s it going with the other shoot?”
“The director there is full of energy. Unlike director Park Hoon, who keeps watch from afar, that director approaches the actors and discusses with them. There’s so much energy that I’m having a hard time following.”
“It must be bustling.”
“Yes. Thanks to the producer being like that, everyone’s all laughing.”
“That sounds fun, shooting with a director like that.”
“Yeah, it is.”
The conversation was very smooth. Maru didn’t look like he was wary. Giwoo felt nervous. He felt that those who approached him with a smile were much harder to deal with than those bearing their fangs. Was he planning to threaten him to do something if he made a mistake with his words?
No, Maru knew about that ‘play’ already. While not many people would believe such a thing, he had indeed done some things, and people would start suspecting the person known as Kang Giwoo. That would tarnish his reputation. If Maru was still the same guy that told him to stay quiet with eyes that looked similar to his grandfather’s, he would definitely have done so.
What was the reason behind his current actions then? – Giwoo’s thoughts started straying. What if Maru didn’t have any malicious intentions and was purely trying to get close to him? There is no such thing as implausible – these were his grandfather’s words.
“You know, about last time.”
He spoke first. If this guy pretended not to know anything, it would mean that he was up to something.
“Last time? Oh, when I told you off?”
He was unexpectedly blunt about it. Giwoo felt his lips go dry. He thought that Maru would twist his words at least once.
“Was it a mistake? I thought we were done after that.”
“I guess I was a bit too strong back then. You must have had your circumstances. Of course, you made a mistake. Using others to bully adults who can’t resist is not a good thing to do.”
“I know. There’s a sense of rebellion in kids our age, right? You want to stand out, which can be by rebelling against adults. I’m sure your actions were a part of that.”
Giwoo found it harder and harder to maintain his smile. He was angry that his graceful ‘plays’ were being sugar-coated as some childish pranks. If possible, he wanted to twist that mouth of his. He also thought about the spoon handle. It would be quite a sight to see Maru bashing his head against rocky sand.
“Y-you understand me, I see,” he said while barely suppressing his emotions.
Maru wasn’t looking at him with frosty eyes. Was he practicing universal, agape love or something? The Han Maru who showed the epitome of distrust towards humanity didn’t seem like the same person in front of him right now.
“You don’t do that these days, do you?”
“Of course not. I’ve gotten myself together. I regretted my actions a lot after thinking about your words for a while. I think you were right. Maybe I was in a rebellious phase.”
“Yes, everyone makes mistakes like that. What’s important is to repent after you made a mistake.”
“Do you really think so?”
“Of course. There aren’t people who do not change. People are bound to change if they strive to change for the better. I mean, you’ve changed and are leading a better life.”
He laughed his ass off when he got a call from his friend yesterday about how he trampled the hands of his driver, but there wasn’t a need to reveal that right now.
“So don’t avoid my eyes when we meet eyes in the future. You make me all sorry.”
“I thought you hated me.”
“I was a little tired back then. I should have talked to you about it slowly. I don’t know why I did that either. You’re such a decent kid too.”
Maru turned around, telling him good luck with the shoot. Giwoo touched his lips. It didn’t seem like Maru was planning a smokescreen tactic. Giwoo had seen that stupid smile several times before. It looked similar to the smiles of his idiotic peers that wanted to befriend him. Where did that chilling gaze go?
If that was an act though – Giwoo opened himself up to that possibility. Maru might have set up traps in a place he didn’t know. Pushing other peoples into these ‘plays’ with the excuse to ‘get close’ was his specialty.
“What a cocky bastard.”
He changed his mind when he saw that smiling face. There was no way Maru truly wanted to get close to him. They say the devil comes with a smile. He could not be fooled by that spiteful face.
“Giwoo, did something happen?”
Giwoo turned around. He saw Yeseul standing there with a worried face. Annoyance surged within him. Who are you to worry about me?
“Did you want something to happen to me?”
“N-no, I didn’t mean it like that.”
Yeseul looked at him without any will to fight back or put up her defenses. She was like a puppy being punished. Yes, this should be the correct way. Weak and stupid people had to look up to those higher up with this kind of attitude.
He felt like the humiliation he got from Maru was being washed away. Giwoo immediately put on a pleasant smile.
“Sorry about that, I couldn’t hold back my emotions because I was too absorbed in the script. You know, right? My character has a really heavy mood these days.”
“Is that what it was? I almost thought you were angry at me. But Giwoo, you’re really good at acting. I think you’re improving day after day.”
“I’m not that good. In fact, Yeseul, you are better than me. The director doesn’t give you any comments. From how I still get an earful, I still have a long way to go.”
“That’s because the director expects a lot from you.”
Seeing Yeseul doing her best to buy his goodwill, Giwoo felt like everything had returned to the way it should be. His position, his authority, his feelings… if there was one flaw….
“Giwoo, let’s go.”
Giwoo looked at Maru in the distance before turning around. If an opportunity came, he would definitely do something about him.
* * *
The prickly gaze on him disappeared. Maru scraped the back of his upper teeth with his tongue. Giwoo’s reaction was outside of his expectations. He thought that Giwoo would at least be repenting, but he realized something from his gaze and expression just now. Forget guilty conscience, he was gritting his teeth to get revenge.
Maru opened his notepad. He brought his pen tip to the place where Kang Giwoo’s name was written: not friendly; no evidence suggests he has changed; it is unclear why he looked good until now.
In this situation where he couldn’t clearly remember the basis of his past actions, the only thing he could do was to re-analyze his own relationships with those around him. Resolving the acting club’s matters efficiently instead of pursuing a warm ending, driving Geunseok into a corner, not protecting Yurim. There were many other incidents where he put up a wall around his relationships in the past and thought about benefits and losses so meticulously. How much has he changed since then?
He chose Giwoo in order to calculate the changes that occurred within him. Giwoo was someone who enjoyed bullying the defenseless. He even made his own group and gave out orders. He was just that meticulous and evil.
While he was a bad boy, Maru believed that he should have changed now that he knew his wrongs, and he ‘believed’ in him to have changed himself. Before he discovered the disparity in his history, this was the thought he had when looking at Giwoo: he just goes a little too far with his pranks, but he’s not a bad kid at heart.
That thought made a chill run down behind his back. As to why that happened, he did not know.
He did not think that Giwoo was a bad kid. Since he was young, it was natural for him to make mistakes, and he deeply believed that people grew up that way. What generated such beliefs in him? He thought about that fundamental question. Maru kept asking and answering his own questions. He thought that it was natural for him to believe in others because he believed in others before he came back to life.
Then what was the identity of this sense of disgust? Why did he find it so terrifying that he believed in Giwoo?
He felt like emotions were split into two within himself and were at a war; they were tearing each other apart. The distrust and blind faith towards humans created a sharp conflict.
-There’s a storm in your heart.
The masked man had spoken.
“Don’t you know something about this? I feel really confused right now. Emotions I don’t know where they came from are surging inside me. I have a strong urge that I cannot trust Kang Giwoo at all. I believed in him. He’s a partner that keeps this drama together after all. I believed that he had repented and changed. But the Giwoo I just saw tried to fool me. He probably thinks that he glossed over it quite well, but I saw it clearly. I don’t think that was a mistake. It’s closer to conviction. I’m sure he’s still repeating that trashy behavior.”
-I have nothing to tell you. However, there is something I do want to ask.
“What is it?”
-Just like that woman said, is there really a need to be so hung up on your past? It’s the past you forgot after all.
“Just because I forgot it doesn’t mean that it disappeared.”
-Don’t you think that the fact that you forgot about it means that it’s not important?
“Maybe, but the more I dig into this, the stranger it becomes.”
-Mr. Han Maru.
-Don’t try too hard. The waves of forgetfulness are not something that human strength can hold back. I also tried my best before not to forget, to transmit to you as much as I can. But it didn’t work. After I painfully saw for myself that it’s useless, I didn’t know what’s right or wrong anymore. I’m tired of watching, and I might be tired of getting tired.
It wasn’t the energetic voice of the masked man. His voice sounded vain as though he had seen the end of the world. It was the skepticism of one who had all of his expectations betrayed, the resignation of someone who had lost hope, and the vanity where even despair felt like a luxury. The masked man laughed dryly.
“I will not become tired.”
-Everyone was like that.
“I will not forget.”
-There is no one who forgot because they wanted to.
Maru could hear a clock ticking noise from somewhere. The masked man’s sigh could be heard on top of it.
-Mr. Han Maru.
-Maybe it’s a good thing to forget. Just one more time, just this one time – perhaps it’s these decisions within you that caused the problem to become so big in the first place. Perhaps you became unable to forget what you need to forget because of the sin of not letting go when you need to let go.
“Why do I need to let go? Is it absolutely necessary that I forget?”
-There is a word that everyone talks about in the world, ‘flow’. Think about it. Think about whether being born again is according to or against that ‘flow’. Mr. Han Maru. The reason you find your memories strange and why you can’t understand your past actions is maybe because that’s just how the flow is. Perhaps God is setting right what’s twisted and wrong. You are a lucky person. You got to live again, didn’t you? So why don’t you give up on suspecting? It’ll make your life a lot easier just as that woman said.
Tick- the ticking noise stopped. The masked man stayed silent for a bit before making his cheerful laugh again.
-Well, that’s how it is. Mr. Han Maru, don’t think too much. You’ve done plenty well until now. I know because I’ve been watching you from the side. Maybe it’s not a bad thing to forget about it now.
The moment he heard those words, Maru felt like everything became meaningless. Why was there a need to make himself tired by suspecting other people? What was the benefit in comparing his previous actions to his current ones? After that ticking noise stopped, he felt like his head became numb. He felt like it wouldn’t be so bad to forget about it.
He remembered a hum, it was a song he had heard a long time ago. It was a familiar humming song that he had heard not in this life, but before he died. His hands clenched tighter. He grabbed the notepad he had half-let go. He tied a rope around the scattering memories.
“Is forgetting, really according to that ‘flow’?”