Life, Once Again! - Chapter 803
“In life, there will come a time when you hesitate. Those moments will probably come quite a lot, and whenever they come, there is a choice to be made. You can also not choose and just run away or ignore them, but from your mother’s experience, those decisions you ran away from or ignored will be placed in front of your eyes again eventually. At that time, it will be much heavier and much more complex. Decision-making is a difficult thing. Because it is difficult, you have to do it. The majority of decisions can be resolved through pondering, but if you’re faced with a choice that you cannot decide on no matter how hard you think about it, then shake off all the worries you had until then. Clear your mind and ask yourself what you want in a state where you aren’t thinking about anything. Your circumstances, relationships, and rules – leave those aside and focus on what you truly want. No matter how difficult of a choice it is, you will be able to reduce it down to that. Though, of course, you can’t go against the law.”
Those were her mother’s words. Gaeul ruminated on those words as she lay on the hospital bed. A world-flipping headache struck her head, and a feeling of betrayal or perhaps scorn squirmed within her stomach. Her whole body heated up as though she had gotten a high fever, but the breath that escaped her mouth was surprisingly cold. Director Park Hoon’s words echoed in her mind again: the one that recommended you is a fellow named Han Maru.
Gaeul stood up from her bed and looked outside the window. Although it was past midnight, it was still pretty bright outside. What came to her mind as she looked at the lit up houses outside was that it wasn’t that late to make a visit. She ignored her surging emotions as well as her reason that was on a rampage and grabbed her phone. What is it that she wanted? There was no need to even think about it.
She found a friend who would give her the answer from her contacts list. She pressed the call button and waited.
“Let me ask you one thing.”
-Why do you sound so scary?
“Han Maru’s address. Do you know it?”
-Why do you want that all of a sudden?
Heewon was replying to her in a flustered voice. Usually, she would calmly explain the situation and ask for help. The reason she broke up with Maru, then the luck that befell her, as well as the fact that Han Maru was the cause of that fortune; she would have explained all of those – and perhaps get some consolation midway – and then finally get the address, but now that she had stopped thinking, there was no such thing as leisure within her. The ever forward-looking nature of racehorses was all that she was right now.
“Answer me. Do you know or not?”
“Then that’s fine.”
-Wait, is the address all you need?
-You aren’t going to buy a knife and stab him or something, right? I don’t want to become an assistive criminal for a murder.
“I’ll see how it goes.”
-Haewon should know it. I’ll give you a text.
-Go easy on him, whatever it is.
“Don’t tell Maru I’m going.”
-That doesn’t sound fair though. I should give him some time at least. Considering Han Maru’s personality, he would probably not run away. Also, beating a person who’s wearing protective equipment feels better than beating a defenseless one.
“Alright, then do what you want. I’m going to depart now.”
She put on the hoodie that she wore when she walked around the hospital before leaving. After telling the nurse that she was going to leave for a little, she got into her car and drove out of the hospital parking lot. While tapping her finger nervously with her hands placed on the wheel, she got a text. She inputted the address into the GPS navigation system and drove off. It wasn’t that far.
She got out of the car and checked the apartment number before getting on the elevator without hesitation. She pressed the floor number before waiting. While the elevator started rising along with some vibrations, she woke up her brain that had been dormant until now. She had to think about her first line at least before talking to him.
She stood in front of the door and placed her finger on top of the bell. Although she had rushed here immediately after getting the call, she strangely could not exert any strength into her finger. This 1 cm was more difficult to traverse than the kilometers of progress she made until now.
Gaeul calmed her breathing. She wanted to act rationally. I’ll first greet him, and then go inside and listen to what he has to say. He must have his excuses after all. What is the intention behind his recommendation before they broke up as well as what is the reason that he hid the fact – she was determined to find that out.
She took her hand off the bell and knocked on the front door with her hands clenched into a fist. It was easier to bang on the door than to press the bell. She took a deep breath and banged on the door again. Her sensitive ears caught the sounds of someone grabbing the handle on the other side. She felt like he was behind this door. Let’s not get angry, let’s be cold-headed – she recalled what she prepared as a greeting
The door opened about halfway. She noticed the sound of the TV that escaped the door first, followed by his tired-looking face. Although it had only been a brief moment, Gaeul realized that he had stiffened up from being startled.
“So you open the door without a hitch, huh?”
Something that was different from what she had in mind escaped her lips instead. As she had expected, she felt angry the moment she looked at him. He was standing there in a daze while grabbing onto the door. He kept staring at her like a child who had lost his parents.
“Open. The. Door.”
She kindly told him his next course of action. He nodded and opened the door. Gaeul took off her slippers and walked inside. A shiba-inu with a wide, flat face popped out from the kitchen. It wagged its tail as though it had no intention of being wary of her at all.
“Are you raising it?”
“I thought the sense of responsibility to raise a pet was too much for you.”
“I had some leeway, so I ended up raising one.”
“The leeway that came after breaking up with me?”
She decided to scrap her plan of putting her words in a nice way. The moment she crossed the doorway, she decided to become a soldier. Not a general who just gives commands from far away from the battlefield, but a soldier who actually fiercely fights against enemies.
Maru rubbed his eyebrows. It seemed that his old habit had not disappeared. Whenever he was at a loss for words or was in deep thought, he always scratched his eyebrows instead of replying.
“This place looks good. You live in a nice place, huh.”
“I’m freeloading though.”
“You can even see the Han River. This place must be expensive.”
She lifted up the dog and put it in her arms before opening the veranda. The night air of September cooled down her heated head. She regained enough rationale to speak reasonably.
“From the way you look, I see that you’ve heard what this is about from director Park Hoon.”
“Shush. If you interrupt me now, even I don’t know what I’ll end up doing, so just listen. Heewon told me that knives were no good.”
“Knives are no good. Did Heewon tell you my address?”
“Haewon did. Don’t think about saying something to him. I forced it out of him.”
“I didn’t plan to.”
“Rather than that, how do you feel?”
“I haven’t even started and yet you’re trying to change the subject already.”
“That wasn’t my intention. But don’t you think you should drink a little if you want to have a talk? Of course, if you don’t want that, I’ll just kneel down right here and listen to you.”
Maru tried to get on his knees. She sighed. The heat that had risen to the top of her head climbed down to her throat level thanks to his actions as well as the night wind.
“What do you have that I can drink?”
She decided to take a step back in order to take two steps forward. She put down the dog. It hopped its way over to Maru as though it was overjoyed to have a guest over.
“An alcoholic barley drink, an alcoholic grape juice, alcoholic water, et cetera.”
“What about just water?”
“If you want, then sure.”
“I’ll have a beer then.”
Maru brought some canned beer. She accepted the beer and sat on the sofa. There were empty cans on top of the cabinet next to the sofa. It seemed that he had been drinking by himself.
“Should I kneel? Or should I sit next to you?”
“Which do you find easier?”
“Then sit next to me.”
Maru sat down next to her. The sofa cushion sunk down according to his body weight, and her body became closer to his.
“Let’s confirm the facts first. Are director Park Hoon’s words true? Did you recommend me?”
“Rather than recommending you, it was more like introducing you. I only told him that a girl like you exists.”
“Really? Then one more thing. The director told me about it. He went there to cast you.”
He flinched just as he was about to bring the beer to his mouth. The fact that he visibly reacted when he was good at hiding his emotions meant that he was considerably flustered.
“You heard about that as well?”
“Yes, I have. Like what you said, I can understand that you introduced me. Back then, we were out of touch, but we were technically still going out. But you know? I just can’t wrap my head around how you rejected your cast. Not only that, you recommended – no, sorry, – introduced me.”
“The thing is.”
He opened his lips with a forced smile but was unable to continue his words. She asked the next question,
“You rejected the cast and returned to Daehak-ro, and I couldn’t hear any news about you. When we met after a long time, you told me this: let’s break up. Then you went to the military. I felt confused back then, but listening to this story now makes me double confused. You had an opportunity. You had the skills, so you would definitely have become successful if you grabbed that opportunity. So why didn’t you do it? Why did you go to the military like you were fleeing?”
She grabbed the beer with both of her hands. The coldness seeped into her palms.
“Things just happened.”
“Things happened? Don’t you think what I heard is too absurd to just put it as ‘things happened’?”
“Back then, I was immature. I didn’t know what I had to do.”
“The almighty Han Maru was immature and didn’t know what to do?”
She smiled and looked into his eyes. He always looked into the person’s eyes when he had a conversation. She had a glimpse at his world through his eyes, and the opposite must be true as well. Make eye contact when having a conversation. Right now, his eyes were camera lenses that couldn’t find focus. He was looking, but he was also not looking.
“Is it because of me?”
She took out the question that she wanted yet did not want to ask.
“It’s definitely not like that.”
Maru strongly denied it. It was a firm attitude never seen before from him, but she instantly recognized his anxiety and sadness.
She took her hands off the beer. She touched his cheek with a palm that had become numb from the chill.
“What are you so afraid of?”
He tried to turn his head away as he blurred off. She shook her head. Don’t avoid my eyes – she calmly muttered.
“This is not something I can say.”
“I know what you want to say. But don’t misunderstand. Things just happened to overlap. The reason I recommended you wasn’t anything special. Your name just popped up in my mind.”
“Mr. Han Maru. Why is it that your logic feels so weak today? Is it because it’s a bad time? So then, why did you ask him to keep it a secret? Because it might hurt my pride?”
“No. In my opinion, that feels like a setup to break up as painfully as possible.”
“It’s not like that.”
“It is me who kept a distance from you first. It was a foolish thing. I was swayed by the foolish words that I need to keep a distance from you in order to keep my pride. But it didn’t take long for me to find out that the pride I managed to protect by avoiding you is merely a castle built on top of sand.”
“You are a strong woman who doesn’t get swayed by anyone.”
“No, I’m not like that. Even now, I’m so uneasy that my hands are shaking like this.”
She moved her hand slowly and pressed her index finger to his lips.
“Your actions, the events that happened before, and the expression you have on your face today; let me ask you one more thing.”
“What about my right to stay silent?”
“You will have to answer me. Did you ever hate me?”
“The fact that I broke up with you is my answer.”
“Tell me properly. Was there ever a time you didn’t love me?”
“It’s been three years. And it’s been five years since we were apart. It’s definitely not a short time.”
“The more you make excuses like that, the more concrete my convictions become. If it’s not, then just tell me so. Have you ever forgotten about me?”
“I haven’t. Not even once. Not even for a moment.”
Maru slowly turned his head away. She closed her lips and sighed softly. Just then, a piece of paper stuck in the corner of a family photo frame entered her eyes. It was a familiar autograph. Maru seemed to have found that autograph as well.
“I think there’s evidence there that denies all your answers. What do you think?”
He closed his eyes as though he had given up and sighed. He seemed defenseless. She listed to her instincts. He needed punishment. The start was a kiss, and the end, was well, up to him.