Life, Once Again! - Chapter 802
He was reminded of the statue of Lady Justice. How would she, someone who decides on the sentence by weighing the sins of the sinner on a balance and delivers punishment with her sword, evaluate this incident? Perhaps a man who is floundering across the numerous cycles of life and a woman who became the culprit without even knowing the reason might not even be a target of punishment. The two of them were both victims and were just innocent people suffering due to the wheels of fate. Maru wanted to ask if she didn’t have any thoughts about being merciful and sparing both. If she said both of them were sinners, he would say to her: try undoing that blindfold on your face first.
“What a pain.”
If he thought about things simply, he was supposed to welcome this situation since the cause of this incident is taking responsibility and is willing to receive punishment, but the problem was that it was Han Gaeul who was going to be on the gallows. Even if she did commit a sin, he would want to get her out of there no matter what he had to do, but she herself was walking towards the gallows herself.
“God or the rabbit?” Maru said as he looked at his own reflection on the powered-off TV.
The repeated lives must be a result of godly powers. Whether it was a punishment or a blessing, it did not change the fact that a supreme being had bestowed such an environment to an individual. The problem was the masked man and the rabbit, especially the latter. Just like how the masked man had split off from Han Maru’s repeated lives, the rabbit must be a double of Han Gaeul as well. Assuming that God is in control of everything would only lead him to the conclusion that everything he was worried about would be useless, so Maru thought of this as an event that even God had not expected or perhaps had expected but did not care about. If there was a problem, there had to be an event that caused that problem. Just like how fallen leaves are the result of the tree running out of its life span or a strong gust of wind. If Han Maru’s cycle of life is the problem, and the culprit is Han Gaeul, then what caused that problem in the first place?
A few hypotheses brushed past his mind. Maru picked the most old-fashioned reason out of them all: she did not want his death.
God, who usually doesn’t pay any heed to their believers’ prayers, happened to overhear a woman’s prayer when they just happened to be emotional: please save the man dying in front of me. Unlike usual, God listened to that prayer instead of paying no heed as usual, and as a result, the man was given the chance to live again. The problem was that the man didn’t live once more; he lived more than enough times.
Maru scanned what he wrote on his notepad. It was a very old-fashioned story, but it also clearly explained the situation. He could also accept that her double, the rabbit, wanted death. After all, she was someone with a great sense of responsibility. She was the type of woman who would gladly accept death if it was the solution. She was someone who braved the dangers of being electrocuted in order to save their daughter in the previous life. What couldn’t she do?
It was a fact that the rabbit was acting independently just like the masked man with a clear ego. If the rabbit wanted Han Gaeul’s death, there would be many more problems in the future. There were many methods in this era that could make a person a guest of the grim reaper. There was no need to go as far as getting struck by lightning or some kind of natural disaster. Just a slight push would give her a ticket to the afterlife; of course, without a return ticket.
“If she can exert physical influence, there should be no need for her to pray so desperately.”
If what the rabbit wanted was death, and if the rabbit was a being that could exert real influence like the 1990 film Ghost or Ghostbusters, there was no need to beg him, who was bound by the laws of physics. Just making Gaeul strangle herself slightly could end everything after all. However, the rabbit desperately begged him to head to the light in the dream.
The rabbit cannot exert influence in the real world – Maru wrote on the notepad. It was a hypothesis that was close to the truth and one that he wanted to believe as the truth. He did think that the rabbit may be able to exert real influence if certain conditions were met, but such assumptions didn’t help at all. It is true that people can die from lightning strikes, but not many people refrain from going out because of such a fact. He had to exclude the events with slim possibilities and combine the more likely ones to devise a course of action.
“What if Gaeul’s collapse was a destined event, and the rabbit only created a situation so that she was by herself at home?”
Just like how there was an observation that Han Maru never lived past the age of 45, Han Gaeul might have such special events that were repeated in the numerous lives. In their previous life as well, she threw herself at the phone charger on fire with a blanket in order to save their daughter. One misstep might have led to a terrible accident. If there is an observation that such an event occurs in her life at least once, the rabbit might know the essence of those observations. She might not be able to exert any physical influence, but she might be able to induce Gaeul to make dangerous decisions. If the rabbit tried to kill Gaeul in their previous lives, she would have given an order before the phone charger was set on fire: maybe it’s a good idea to wash the dishes.
“From how I died first in the previous life as well, the rabbit probably also became able to speak in this life, just like the masked man.”
The rabbit was Han Gaeul and simultaneously the woman in the white suit. This meant that the rabbit had observed Han Maru’s cycle of lives before the masked man gained awareness. He could probably assume that she remembered his first death to his last death. If one’s experience is what composited a human, then the rabbit was closer to the essence than the current living Gaeul. Though, that wasn’t even funny.
He was suddenly reminded of the moment when he first met the woman in the suit. He wondered what she felt when she looked at him back then. He shook his head. It was something beyond his imagination. If hell existed, that would be it.
Recalling back to the moment he came back to life, Maru reminded himself of the device that she came up with in order to fool him. She created an imaginary figure that didn’t even exist so that he wouldn’t be able to ignore the opportunity of a new life. In his previous life, he didn’t have a neighboring elderly lady who picked up scrap papers for a living. He was unsure of it when the memories of his previous life were blurring, but he could be sure about it now. Above all, Yoo Bokja was someone else’s name. It was the name of Gaeul’s grandmother who she followed more than her mother when she was young.
If she wanted to create a situation to induce him to choose to live another life, it would have been fine even if she came up with a completely different name. Actually, such devices weren’t even necessary. How many people would forgo the opportunity to live again? He was taken aback at first but was soon filled with gratitude and joy when the figure of Yoo Bokja was introduced.
“Perhaps it might have been a hint.”
God blocked the mouth of the masked man to prevent him from speaking. She must have been in the same situation. The fact that she chose the name Yoo Bokja might have been her way of giving a hint within a tolerable level. Her SOS help signal finally shone through in this life. This might be the first and last opportunity. It was highly likely that his memories were going to be erased once he died. After all, God was a merciless observer.
He sighed deeply as he pressed between his eyes. The conveyor belt of his thought factory seemed to have reached a limit. He needed to get some rest if he didn’t want the factory to shut down. He closed his eyes in order to cool down his burning head. Just then, his phone, which he placed on the table, started ringing. He clutched his head with his right hand and put his phone against his ear with the left.
“Han Maru speaking.”
-From how you picked up as soon as it rang, it seems like you didn’t check the name. I thought you weren’t going to pick up.
The conveyor belt that had stopped working made a mechanical sound before starting to roll again. The hypotheses, assumptions, and deductions were all cleared out and replaced by excuses and avoidance measures in order to get past this situation.
-Hello? The Han Maru I know doesn’t stay quiet after picking up a call.
-First up, thank you for being worried about me. It’s not like I pushed myself, but I ended up collapsing. I’m alright now, so don’t worry about me.
-It is. I’m asking just in case: do you have an idea as to why I called you?
“Not at all. Nothing comes to mind.”
-Yes, you shouldn’t. That’s only natural.
“I’ll also ask just in case: are you angry?”
-Me? Do you think I’m angry?
“No, I must have misspoke.”
-No, you were right. Yes, I am angry. I am so angry that I want to drive over to where you are. I want to look at your face and scream at you. But regretfully, I don’t know where you live. I found it frustrating that I don’t know where you are.
“What is it?”
-What is it, you ask? Fine, I’ll give you a hint. I had a call with director Park Hoon just now.
-Nothing comes to mind?
Maru rubbed his eyebrows and sighed. Something did come to his mind the moment Park Hoon’s name was mentioned, but he could not say it first.
-You really are…. Fine, alright. I’ll hang up if you don’t have anything to tell me.
After checking that the call had ended, Maru called Park Hoon. Park Hoon picked up as though he had been waiting for the call.
“Director. Did you talk to Gaeul about me? About the casting, I mean.”
-It was in the past, and Gaeul became successful through it, so I thought that there wouldn’t be a big problem even if I told her about it, but after listening to her voice and yours, it seems I was wrong, huh. I’m sorry. I thought you asked me not to mention it to her because I thought you were worried about her pride, but I must have been wrong.
“Not at all. I did make it sound like that, so it’s not surprising for you to have thought that. This is my fault. I should have made things clear to you.”
-Is there a problem between you two?
“I don’t know either.”
-What if I call Gaeul and tell her that it’s a misunderstanding?
“From her personality, she’ll nag you about it, so don’t say anything. Sorry for calling you this late into the night.”
-Tell me if there’s a problem because of this. I’ll try to make an excuse.
“Not at all. This is something I should take care of myself, so don’t worry about it. Have a good night.”
Maru smiled bitterly as he looked at his phone. If their relationship worsened as a result of this then he should be joyous since it was all according to his plan, but now that he found out that the rabbit wanted her death, he couldn’t exactly let things be either.
For now, he gave her a call. The signal sound continued for a long time. A moment later, a voice could be heard. The number you have just called is either unavailable or….
It was one of her habits to choose to sleep when she became uncontrollably angry. Perhaps she had buried her face in a pillow and was waiting for sleep to overcome her. He took his finger off the call button before placing his phone on the dining table.
“You don’t help me even once,” he said as he looked out the window.
He turned on the TV and took out some beer from the fridge. It was about time he stopped thinking and got some rest. He watched a drama in a daze. Just then, his phone started ringing again. He lay on the sofa and stared at the phone ringing in a daze. His whole body had given up on working. He had no energy to wake up. A moment later, the phone became docile again.
He emptied the last bit of beer before changing the channel. He felt bitter thinking about what Gaeul must have felt when she made that call. He wondered what he should do once the sun rose. Give her a call and tell her the circumstances? Or just stay still? As he was pondering between the two unacceptable options, he turned his head around. Someone knocked on his door. He wondered if he heard wrong, but he heard thudding sounds again.
He placed the empty can of beer on the floor before walking to the door. In the brief period that he walked towards the door, there was a knock again. The person outside seemed to be very urgent. There was no way there was a package at this hour. Who is it? – he said as he opened the door. Immediately after that, he had an ominous feeling. However, it was too late, just like always.
“So you open the door without a hitch, huh?”
He scanned her, who was standing outside, from top to bottom. Her pants were patient clothes, while her top was a hoodie.
“Open. The. Door.”
It was an order, and Maru could only obey.