Life, Once Again! - Chapter 775
The door slammed shut. It was the sound that severed the space physically as well as the sound that snapped the thin thread of emotions he had barely maintained until now. Maru pressed down on his knees to suppress his urge to follow her.
The meeting was not that shocking. She brought herself from three years ago right to this place as though the three years hadn’t passed at all. It felt as though the separation of space and time didn’t mean anything between them. He kept glancing at her like he was some thief. The forehead that symbolized her bold personality, the nose that represented her signature pride, the philtrum that was a symbol of her stubbornness, and lastly the lips that whispered loveliness. He was enraptured by every single line that was on her face. The urge to have her and steal her for himself kept pushing his back. Had he not recalled the regret that would come as a result of his decision, he would have reached out to her, both verbally and physically.
Only after controlling his impulse by giving her the chopstick obediently could he look her in the eyes. The reason he called her here was to put an end to the relationship he wasn’t able to finish properly three years ago.
Using the ability that he gained by returning to the past was something dangerous, but he could only resolve their relationship cleanly by finding out what she thought within her and then deriving an answer from that. Maru wished to be her long-time friend. He wished to become someone who would listen to her worries, congratulate her on her wedding, and give her cute gifts when she conceives a child. As long as he looked inside her heart and found out what she thought about the man known as ‘Han Maru’, it would be easy for him to straighten out this twisted relationship and lead it in the direction he wanted. Just this last once – he believed that with this, he would be able to untangle everything.
Maru poured some soju into his cup used for drinking water and gulped it down all at once. The alcohol, which was supposed to heat everything up as it went down the throat, disappeared without giving him any feelings. Only the bitter scent of alcohol lingered around his mouth.
“Why couldn’t I see it? No, was it good that I didn’t see it?”
He didn’t tell her to come out of impulse. In fact, he made the resolution of his lifetime. He even decided to use his ability that he could not afford to use, yet he wasn’t able to see anything. No matter how much he looked into her tearful eyes, he couldn’t see what she thought of Han Maru. It wasn’t that his ability had disappeared. Before she arrived, he tested his ability on a passerby. He bumped into that person on purpose and looked into his eyes. A speech bubble appeared above the top of his head, saying ‘why is this guy staring at me like this?’
Before he found out that she was the reason for the cycle of lives, he tried using that ability on her. Back then, the ability definitely worked on her. He could clearly see what she thought of him. There was only one case when the speech bubble didn’t appear – if the person he was looking in the eyes was thinking about absolutely nothing related to him.
Maru tapped on his knees. There was no way she had no thoughts. In fact, she would have probably felt so hectic that a storm would have been brewing within her. After all, she was so absorbed in her thoughts that she didn’t realize that she was crying.
The moment he saw her crying, Maru’s thought process also came to a screeching halt. The ability he had so much faith in didn’t activate, and she, who he thought would act cold, had kept the feelings from three years ago as though she just woke up from cryosleep. It was hard to endure the incoming wave of emotions. He believed that he had cleanly wrapped things up after listening to the elder’s words, but he soon realized how laughable and imperfect the resolve he had made was.
He had to cut her off, he had to end it here, he had to wrap everything up here – he endlessly thought such to himself, but his hands were already reaching out to her ears. He wiped her tears and moved his hand according to the curvature of her face. It was a near miracle that he had held back the impulse to use his finger to brush away the tears from her face and touch her lips. He could taste blood from his clenched teeth.
He had sent her off several times in his imagination. He pictured her marriage, her children, and the man that would be with her. A perfect life that she would have without him in the equation.
In the dream he had countless times, he was sitting in the darkness, looking towards the light. The light was her, and he himself had given up on approaching that light and just waited until he disappeared as he sat down on the spot humbly. He believed that he would feel satisfied with just watching. Now that he met her today; however, he realized just how foolish he was. There couldn’t be a relationship where he could just keep watching her from the side. He was no saint. He was no ascetic who had transcended material and carnal desires. He was just an ordinary person who wanted to sit when he was standing and lie down when he was sitting. If he kept her by his side as a friend, he would eventually end up closing that distance, reach out to her, and eventually have her, regardless of who was by her side.
The moment he once again became cognizant of the fact that he could not have her by his side, his head generated countless words that would make her find him disgusting and contemptuous. The formula that would provide the answer to turn two friends into complete strangers gave a strangely detailed method. It was as though he had prepared all this beforehand.
He uttered words that shook her heart. It was a desperate act. He had to quench the fire burning within him in order to talk to her calmly. He had to hold himself back from reaching out to her and hold his mind back from flying over to where she was. He once again reminded himself that the relationship between the two was nothing. He eventually saw her tears dry and her emotions dry as well.
Maru felt as though his soul was plucked out of his body and dumped into a space of darkness without a speck of light. He felt like the floor beneath him was going to collapse at any moment. The ego that had climbed up to his throat screamed at him to hold her. Maru killed that ego using whatever methods possible.
Just like how she wanted to know the reason for their breakup, Maru wished for her to not be curious about anything. He wished for her to detest him just as much as she wanted the reason for their breakup to be clear. He wished for her to slap him on the cheek, for her to insult him outright, or pour water over him like drama clichés.
She just left after saying goodbye. Maru prayed. He prayed that she would hold him in contempt; that she would despise him; and going forward, treat him as though he was nothing much.
Heewon and Haewon returned to the room. The two asked where Gaeul went in confusion. She left first – he explained simply.
“I’ll go get a breather.”
It was hot outside the restaurant. He only realized that it was the middle of summer after leaving the restaurant. His body suddenly swayed and his sense of direction disappeared. He sat on the bench in front of the restaurant. The conversations of the passersby felt like the buzzing of a hive of bees. It was a sound that messed up his head. He blocked his ears and curled up. He felt separated from the rest of the world. What was he supposed to live for in a situation where even hope disappeared from Pandora’s box?
Her life would no longer contain Han Maru anywhere. Maru had never pictured such a scene. He might have yielded the place of the lover, but he had never thought about a life without her.
So I’m such a weak person – Maru calmed his breathing. It was the worst choice, and yet it was the best choice as well. This was the only method he could choose in order to end this cycle of reincarnation. As this cycle always ended with him marrying her, things would definitely be different this time. If this didn’t change anything, he was planning to become the serial killer of the century in his next life. Perhaps he would fall into hell if he did.
The suffocating breathing became smooth again. His mind had half-died, but his body was desiring life. In the end, people just kept living on like this: by compromising and despairing. He could already picture himself locking himself up in his room once he heard about her wedding in the future, but what could he do? He was alive and had to keep living on.
Just as he was about to raise his gaze, a white trainer entered his eyes. The thin ankle, as well as the well-shaped calf, allowed him to tell who they belonged to without raising his head. Maru froze up and stayed still. He didn’t have the courage to look up. In the end, the woman in front of him crouched down. He made eye contact with her. Maru hurriedly looked down.
“You said you didn’t have a reason, so why are you putting on such an expression?”
“I don’t know.”
“You said you had nothing to say to me, so why are you so agonized?”
“Well, I don’t really know either.”
“Look at me in the eyes when you say that.”
“I don’t have anything to tell you even if I do look.”
A pair of cold hands touched his two cheeks. Maru was forced to lift his head. Han Gaeul, drenched in sweat, was in front of him.
“I ran a lap around the area because I felt so upset. I just couldn’t understand. I tried to understand why you did that. But I still don’t understand. I thought that I was very well aware of the man known as Han Maru, but I must have been wrong. I don’t know anything, absolutely nothing.”
Her eyes sucked in everything. Maru tried to turn his head away because he felt like she could draw out the true feelings that he had locked up deep inside his heart. However, Gaeul’s hands were strong. Indeed, she was strong before she became the mother of a child. She was a woman who propped him up from behind whenever he was about to collapse.
“Let me ask you just one thing. Do you like me? Or hate me?”
Maru was unable to reply. He felt as though he would confess his deep love if he spoke right now, which would put the word ‘like’ to shame.
“Alright, you’re planning on staying silent until the end, huh? Do you remember what you told me before? ‘It doesn’t matter even if you meet another man. I will make you love me again’.”
She recited his words in a meaningful way.
“I actually lied. I went to your last performance. I saw you on stage as well. I was planning on saying hello, but I just left. Do you know why? It was because you felt so close to me. It felt like breaking up was nothing. You dumped me, but if I keep liking you, it would hurt my pride, wouldn’t it? No, this is a lie too. I was afraid that you might not like me. I was scared of confirming that I held no meaning to you. Let me ask you again. Do you love me?”
“Don’t do this. Everything’s over between us.”
“Answer my question. Do you love me or not?”
“I don’t. I don’t like you. Done now?”
“Yes, I’m done now.”
Gaeul stood up. Was she going to leave now? He raised his head slowly. He could see Gaeul’s face faintly smiling.
“I found out for the first time today that there are times you can’t lie.”
Gaeul kissed her palm. Then, she put her palm against Maru’s forehead.
“Look forward to it. I will make you say that you like me with your lips again. Phew, that makes me feel refreshed. I’m going now. I’m leaving for real, okay?”
He tried calling out to her, but she walked away without looking back. Maru raised his hand and caressed his forehead. A faint red substance rubbed off his forehead.
It was a night that was mixed with despair and glee. It was a hot night.