Life, Once Again! - Chapter 721
The masked man forgot about when he started wearing a mask. Was it the 13th or the 14th? He couldn’t remember because it had been such a long time. Perhaps he didn’t want to remember.
He did not know what was happening for a while after his consciousness spurred into life. He was earnestly living his life after coming back to life, but he died due to a sudden accident. Was it really over now? Was he finally reaching either heaven or hell? In a space without light nor darkness, in a place where the sense of time was distant, he wandered around. He didn’t know whether it was for just an instant or for a whole eternity because his senses had been isolated.
When he realized that a change occurred within him, the masked man was within ‘Han Maru’. He wondered what was happening. I am Han Maru. Who is the owner of this body? That was his meeting with the first Han Maru.
The first Han Maru had succeeded the masked man’s memories. He rejoiced at his second life and even vowed to live his new life for the sake of his wife. The masked man screamed. He wanted to talk to the living and breathing Han Maru at that time.
His voice did not reach. The dark stage existed within Han Maru but was surrounded by a thick wall. The only thing the masked man could do was to keep watching. He watched Han Maru’s first life with a cautious mind. He cheered for the living Han Maru if he made the right choice and groaned whenever he stepped onto something he should not step on. The masked man did not know why he had split off from the entity known as Han Maru, but he cheered on for the Han Maru living in that era regardless. It was all thanks to the baseless belief that the living Maru’s happiness would be the same as his own. That belief was his last hope and the last safehouse that prevented him from mentally breaking down.
When the first Han Maru met his wife, became affectionate, confessed, and whispered love, the masked man closed his eyes for the first time. He couldn’t bear to watch. The fact that her eyes were looking at another man agonized him. It was a strange dilemma. The man his wife was looking at was indeed Han Maru, but that Han Maru was not him. The masked man thought about the things that he started worrying about when he first found himself within the ‘first Han Maru’: why did I split off and why am I here?
The first Han Maru had sexual intercourse with his wife. The first Han Maru’s emotions splashed into the masked man’s space like waves. Her breathing sounds, her smell, and her moans with them.
The masked man only had one thought in his mind: I want to disappear. His wish was not fulfilled.
Time kept ticking. The first Han Maru managed to get himself a great position in his company thanks to the social skills he gained in his previous life. His promotion was set in stone. As though to prove that it wasn’t just misfortune that happened in series, the first Han Maru encountered a series of fortunate events. His wife became pregnant.
By that time, the masked man realized that the first Han Maru’s state had changed a lot compared to before. The reason was simple. His memories had vaporized. He wasn’t that surprised that his memories disappeared as he already knew about it from the ‘woman in a white suit’, but there was something different about the disappearing memories. The memories didn’t become faint, they were completely changed. Eventually, he wouldn’t remember the fact that he had revived at all.
Perhaps that was god’s will to make him lead an ordinary life – the masked man thought so at least. He had long since given up on thinking about these things deeply, so he arrived at a conclusion pretty quickly. He found it laughable that he had to watch the success and happiness of someone that was himself yet not himself, while he himself was in a state that was neither human nor ghost. There was only one thing he wanted to know – when was this life going to end?
The day arrived when the first Han Maru forgot about the fact that he had revived at all. That day was a week after Han Maru had managed to win a big contract, and it was also the day his child became one year old.
The masked man’s only joy in life was to watch the daughter that looked just like the wife. Even amidst the guilt, despair, and unease, he was able to put down all of his worries when he looked at Gaeul, who looked just like his wife. Babies were a product of miracles. He realized every day that those words weren’t wrong.
The first Han Maru’s life seemed to be sailing smoothly. He was an acknowledged employee at work, a good husband at home, and a splendid father. There were very few things that could break such a perfect life. Who could destroy this family?
The masked man then came across Han Maru, lying on the ground after having been hit by a car. A car rushed into him when he was seeing the teacher out after his daughter’s one-year birthday.
The masked man saw the stifling malice. The car accident was too impossible to happen. While he was close to the road, the place Han Maru was standing on was the pavement. It felt as though death had made his way out to get him. While watching his wife cry out in horror, the world became distant. He had returned to that space where he could feel nothing again.
A sense of fear overwhelmed him. The fact that he had to be here by himself in this meaningless space made him afraid, but what made him even more afraid was the life that might begin once again. He prayed that it wasn’t like that. He prayed that he would be judged at the end of the world and sent to heaven or hell, where he could settle down.
When his senses returned, the masked man grit his teeth at the vanity of his prayers. His hairs stood on end due to the mercilessness of god. The second Han Maru was preparing his new life after having succeeded the memories of his first one.
The masked man looked at the woman in a white suit standing in between the boundary of life and death. The woman who offered him the chance to come back to life was giving the second Han Maru the same opportunity in the same space. He thought that he was cursed to repeat his time over and over again. He was going to live the life of a hamster in a hamster wheel whose time didn’t move forward even by one second.
The second Han Maru did not follow the life of the first Han Maru. He had decided to become an actor, and he became successful with incredible luck and opportunity. He met his wife during that process and shared their love.
40 years. That was the time that the masked man had watched the lives of the first and second Han Marus. The second Han Maru also died due to an accident. It was on his pretty daughter’s birthday.
He sent off the third, fourth, and fifth Han Marus.
During that process, the masked man came to a realization. It wasn’t that the same time was being repeated over and over again. While time returned to 2003, when Maru was in his 1st year of high school, the time for those existing outside life and death kept flowing.
The masked man’s attention fell on the woman in a white suit. He wanted to know why she was committing such terrible things. She should be aware of everything. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a way of reaching out to her. It was hard to ask her a question when he couldn’t even talk to himself.
The masked man became proactive. He had sent off five Marus while he was a complete observer, but from the sixth onwards, he called out to Han Maru with all of his might.
The voice that didn’t seem like it would reach, finally reached. He had finally interacted with someone else after 80 years. Though, that ‘someone else’ was himself, he rejoiced that he could have a conversation.
The sixth Han Maru was startled upon seeing a man with the same face as him. The masked man wanted to explain everything slowly, but he could not say that the reincarnation was being repeated. Every time he tried to say the truth about coming back to life, an invisible hand blocked his mouth.
As frustrated as he was, the masked man did his best. He told Maru to look around carefully when he thought that he had succeeded. He believed that this unending life would change if he prevented accidental deaths and Maru died in peace.
“Why do you have the same face as me?”
His expectations shattered when the sixth Maru turned thirty-three. His memories had been altered by someone. The years of talking to each other like friends had disappeared overnight.
Not long later, the sixth Maru died. The masked man did not give up. The seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth.
“Who are you? Why do you wear a mask?”
The masked man started wearing a mask and he did not speak anymore. He did not reveal everything. He had come to a realization that the only thing a hamster could do inside a hamster wheel was to walk on the same spot.
A time longer than 200 years forced him to make a decision. He would either collapse mentally or become numb to everything. The masked man chose to become an indifferent observer. A good way to endure the punishment was to otherize himself. The one being whipped there is not me – thinking that was enough to make him feel relieved.
Time kept passing. Han Maru lived and died. The ending was always Han Maru’s death. What was strange was that she never got caught in accidents. Whenever a traffic accident occurred, it was always Han Maru who died.
When the twentieth Han Maru’s life began, the masked man was able to talk to the woman in a white suit. She talked about a story that was nearly an eternity long, and the masked man realized that the time he spent was a brief instant compared to what she spent. It wasn’t him being punished.
The twenty-first. The masked man met himself with a smile that was no different from an indifferent expression. The twenty-first was a little special. He was able to tell Maru the secrets of coming back to life. This was something impossible before. However, he didn’t have any expectations or anything. Maru was bound to forget and die soon anyway.
The twenty-first Maru also experienced changes in memory. He had forgotten about the things precious to him like all the Han Marus before him and started changing. He had forgotten about the secrets of revival that he had told him.
The masked man knew what this signified. He had experienced it twenty-one times before. Even a dog would learn tricks in 3 years, and he had lived observing Han Maru from this cramped stage for centuries. He will die soon – that was the conclusion he came to.
Perhaps the ones who had bestowed her that great punishment had decided to deal with this special Han Maru early so that the hamster wheel could keep turning.
“Is forgetting, really according to that flow?”
The masked man smiled bitterly. The twenty-first Maru knew everything, but he now became a man who did not know anything. He wondered how many years of memories would disappear this time around. Perhaps he might forget that he was revived from this moment onwards. The earnest hamster wheel would once again bring a corpse to life again to let the man turn the wheel again.
He did not say anything. He didn’t want to. He was thinking about what he should say to the upcoming twenty-second Maru.
There was a man who stepped out of that hamster wheel. A man was trying to do something that he wasn’t permitted to. The masked man could feel that. He could hear the sound of someone trying to reverse the flow decided by the great one. Tick, tick, tick. The stopped clock hand started moving again. It wasn’t the sound of a clock hand from the human realm. It was the sound of the flow of time of the great ones, residing above the six destinies.
“If forgetting is set in stone, I will not forget. To hell with things like that. I will not forget; not this moment, not that humming song.”
It was twisted. The masked man could feel the cage that imprisoned her was creaking. He could feel the clock of the world created in order to punish her trying to move again.
The masked man looked at the twenty-first Han Maru.
-Who are you?
There was no reply. Han Maru had stopped as though he was sleeping. The masked man laughed. What did he expect? There was a momentary change, but that was it in the end. Humans could not break out of the world created by the heavens.
Han Maru, who had been silent this whole time, had spoken. At the same time, he collapsed sideways.
“What the! Hey, Han Maru!”
“Director Park! Maru collapsed!”
The sounds of this world rushed in. However, only one word was echoing within the masked man’s head,
 Here, Gaeul is referring to the daughter.