Life, Once Again! - Chapter 723
Mindsets were scary things. Despite the fact that the coffee he drank today was the same brand as the coffee he drank yesterday, it tasted different. It was probably due to the fact that the ‘person’ drinking it was different. Ever since the internal elements that defined an individual changed and expanded, his personality, as well as his preferences, had changed. How tragic was an individual by himself? How weak was he? The disappearance of a small amount of memories changed his entire person. The time he spent and the experience and the know-how he gained seemed like it was well-managed by the system known as memories, but he was helpless against a 3rd person’s simple prank.
Maru threw the empty coffee can in the trash. He knew that he needed to come up with plans, but he didn’t have a suitable method. It was impossible for an ant to fight against an elephant. The only thing an ant could do was to take a detour so that it didn’t meet the elephant. There were two types of people who wanted to fight against the irresistible: one, those that wanted an honorable death, and two, those that just wanted death.
As he wasn’t suicidal, he had to look for a way to live. What was urgent was to check the integrity of his memories. He would be worrying for naught if his memories disappeared after all.
“Man, it’s looking dark,” he muttered to himself out of frustration.
If an electronic device broke, he could look for a repairman. The repairman would then look at various parts of the product and either fix it or replace the broken parts. However, there were no experts when it came to memories. As this wasn’t a neuro-scientific problem nor a cerebral problem, he had to resolve this by himself. There was one more fundamental problem. It was that the one giving the diagnosis was the patient himself. Maru hadn’t yet heard of a story where a brain surgeon had operated on his own brain.
He needed other people’s help desperately. There was one suitable person, but that person couldn’t help.
-The moment you lose your memories will be the moment I lose my authority to speak again. It’s not something I can do something about.
These were the masked man’s words. He was a rational observer and was qualified to discern and judge the changes, but his opinion was under the control of a god.
Maru first did the thing he could do. It was to write down everything he knew on a notepad that he bought from the convenience store. It was now possible for him to write down the emotional evaluations of the events that he participated in, in both his previous life and this life. Could he conclude that the restrictions were lifted then?
He wrote down the events as well as his emotional evaluations of those events that happened after his revival. If his memories disappeared, they would turn into meaningless words, but these words might trigger his memories to come back again. He had lost his memories and regained them once. There were plenty of possibilities.
He wrote ‘A scenario on revival’ on the cover of the notepad so he would have an easier time explaining if other people found out about it. He put the notepad in his back pocket. The things he wrote in the notepad were the record of his life as well as his checklist. He would have to compare his memories to what was written on the notes every single day. If there was a discrepancy between his memories and the contents of the notepad, it would be a sign that his memory loss had started again. He wished that there would come a day he could throw away the notepad in relief.
“Excuse me, but can you take a photo of me?”
A man approached him with a digital camera. Maru nodded. The man thanked him and turned around before going to stand next to a woman in a wheelchair. The two people grabbed each other’s hands.
He pressed the shutter. One more time – he said before taking a few more photos. After taking the camera back, the man and the woman looked at the photo together. Maru sat down on a bench and watched the two. A moment later, the woman entered the hospital, while the man stayed outside. The man who was looking at the people entering and leaving the building sat down on the spot. He was crying.
Maru thought about Gaeul. In the lives that repeated itself as though they were a möbius strip, she should have watched the death of the human known as Han Maru over and over again. Thankfully, she was outside the ring of reincarnation, so she shouldn’t have continuous memories. Sometimes, forgetting was helpful.
Wait – Maru probed his memories and opened the notepad. He remembered something that happened before. The woman in the white suit said once that an individual going back to the past doesn’t mean that the time of that world would regress along with him. She said that there would be a crossroad when the human known as Han Maru revived. She said that the world that his wife and daughter live in after losing the father is a different world.
Twenty-one times. That was the number of revivals that the masked man had seen. This was not an accurate number either. There should definitely be Han Marus that died before the masked man gained consciousness. Did an innumerable number of Han Marus die, resulting in many different branches in the timeline? Just how many single-parent households did he produce?
He sighed. Even if those timelines were completely separate worlds, it meant that there were perhaps hundreds of wives and daughters that had to live a lacking life because of him.
Was it a tragedy caused by someone who longed to come back to life? Of course, this might also be a mechanism that pushed him to focus on his new life. It was true that he focused on his new life after seeing his wife and daughter faring well. Now that he found out that the woman in white was not his ally, there was a need to go through the things that she showed and told him.
Maru rubbed his eyebrows. That was one more thing to think about.
“Did I wish to come back to life?”
No, he did not. The reason he was revived was thanks to the granny that lived near him. Yoo Bokja, that was a name that he could not forget. When he lost most of his memories, he even forgot about that, but he could remember it clearly now.
Maru decided to approach the more fundamental problem. When he thought about how she was someone who gave him one more chance at life, she was like his savior. After all, she had given up on her one and only chance to live another life.
Yes, once. If it was just once, she was his life’s savior, but if that was a repetitive thing, that would change things. The masked man once said that Han Maru’s life would begin during his high school days and end when he died, but that the cause was different every time. In the dozens of lives that were repeated, there was a time when he died in his late twenties. The possibility of coming across granny Yoo Bokja when he had a short life? Infinitely near zero. After all, he met the elderly woman when he moved houses when he was forty.
“Was it a story to make me accept it?”
That seemed very plausible. There was no way Han Maru did deeds of kindness every single time. It was likely that the woman in the white suit had used that ‘good deed’ story in order to lessen his rejection towards revival.
Maru then had another question. It was the most important question as well.
Why was his life being repeated?
Was he repeating his life because he could not escape the cycle of Samsara in the Buddhist sense? Or was he repeating his life in paradise until the arrival of heaven in the Catholic/Christian sense? Or was this how life worked in general?
He lacked information. At the same time, he could finally understand why people fell for occultist religions. There was nothing that felt more uneasy than being thrown into the middle of uncertainty.
-A branch forms in the timeline immediately after reviving. In this case, there are many worlds where my family has lost me. However, the possibility of this is low. It was something that woman showed me after all.
-A repeating life. There are two possibilities: one, whether it’s a reward or a punishment, I’m repeating life by myself, and two, all of the people in this world are experiencing the same thing as me, and it’s just that they don’t remember.
While reading his notepad, Maru decided to exclude the possibility of the second one. If the world was fixed and the people in it were repeating their lives over and over again, nothing he did would help. Perhaps this world would rewind once he reached forty-five. In that case, he would be greeted by the world of nihility once he escapes the cycle of revival. This would be something beyond his cognitive abilities, so if this was true, losing memories would be a blessing.
Maru focused on the fact that only he was repeatedly coming back to life.
“Why did the repetition begin… well, fine, I don’t care why it did. But why insert a bothersome event like Yoo Bokja?”
He tapped on the notepad with the back of his pen. If the human known as Han Maru started repeating his life due to a certain trigger, why was there a need to procure the plausibility of reviving every single time? When the masked man talked about the dead Han Marus, he also said that he met the woman in white.
If repetition of life was predestined, there was no need to explain the trigger for the revival through the use of the Yoo Bokja episode. It would be fine if the woman in white told him ‘you got another chance at life thanks to god’s blessing’.
His suspicion started storming. Maru thought about what happened after he died. It was the question he had before he opened his eyes. Had he regretted anything in life? Why did that question suddenly come to his mind at that specific time? It felt like a setup to make him possess regret towards his life.
After opening his eyes, he walked on the sandy beach before listening to the circumstances from the woman in the white suit. You have died, but you have gained another chance at life. It was then that Yoo Bokja appeared. The elderly woman who had lived her whole life helping other people despite leading a poor life herself said that it was okay and yielded the chance of revival to him. Wasn’t that like a fairy tale? It could even be called a myth.
This put more weight on the fact that Yoo Bokja was an imaginary figure. Then why was there a need to go through such lengths to create a character and set up the mood?
“What if I refused?”
At first, he definitely refused. He told her not to waste such a precious opportunity on a person like him. What was the result? He was persuaded after a long time and received the opportunity himself.
No matter how much he thought about it, repeating one’s life meaninglessly could not be called a reward. This meant that ultimately, his life was being repeated as punishment.
There was no need to ask a criminal for his opinion. Telling him to do what he is supposed to do should be fine.
“I could choose.”
Maru could feel the heat rising in his head. It was wrong from the beginning. It must be a natural thing for the dead to long for life. The woman in the white suit paved a path for him to choose life. Who would choose death when they were urged to choose life?
What if he did not choose to revive?
“If that’s the key to ending this cycle… do I need to die first or what?”
Maru called for the masked man.
-You must feel complicated right now.
“I feel like my head is going to burst. Let me ask you one thing. The woman in the white suit. Is she simply a guide? Or is she the judge?”
-I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you that.
“Fine. Then what about this? You said this to me before I lost my memories; that you know why this all started.”
-Yes. I know the circumstances behind all this. Including how and why it all began.
“Fine. Back then, you said something as you looked at that white rabbit on your shoulder. You called the rabbit ‘her’. Right before that, I asked you this question: what is the identity of the woman who led me to revive? And whether or not she was god,” Maru said as he probed his memories.
“Is the woman that guided me the rabbit?”
“Then you told me this: Don’t hate her too much; she has spent a much longer time in despair. That’s when I asked: Who is this ‘she’?”
-The woman you’ll love forever.
“Yes, that’s how you replied. There’s only one woman I can think of that I will love forever. She’s the only woman Han Maru has loved over numerous lives. She must be Gaeul.”
“What did you mean when you told me not to hate her? Is my life repeating because I loved her? Or are you saying that the reason this all began is because of her?”
-You must know the answer to that already, right? I’m sorry. As much as I want to tell you, my mouth won’t open.
“Gosh, this is driving me crazy.”
Maru then asked one last question. He knew that the answer would be yet another ‘I’m sorry’, but he had to ask anyway. It was the question he was the most afraid to ask as well as the question that assumed the worst.
“The woman who guided me, the rabbit that was on your shoulder, and Gaeul. What is the possibility that those three are the same person?”
The masked man once again replied ‘I’m sorry’.