Life, Once Again! - Chapter 997
Chapter 997. Crank Up 9
“Be careful not to slip over there! Shovel some of the snow here and move it over there! The snow on top of the tree is a little melted? Dammit! You should climb up there with a ladder and add some more!”
Loud shouts were hurled everywhere. As this was the final scene of the film, everyone was tense. Maru walked around the shooting location with his hat on. It was a slow slope. He touched the flower of snow on top of the naked tree. It crumbled apart with a crisp sound. This place was surprisingly similar to the scene described in the script. He was going to walk through here in a bit.
“I heard that it’s going to snow again at six.”
“No wonder the sky’s so dark. I hope we can get it done before that.”
The sky didn’t seem satisfied and looked like it was going to spew more snow. The glimpse of the blue sky was swallowed up by the ash-colored cloud creeping in from the East. Maru checked the weather on his phone. The temperature was rather high considering that it had just snowed. If they were unlucky, they might get rained on instead of getting snow. If it rained in the world of perfect white, the snow would be washed away, and brown mud would be the one greeting them instead. Humans had no way of preserving a set that was created – and would be destroyed – by nature. They had to finish the shoot before ‘something’ started falling from the sky.
“Mr. Maru,” director Park Joongjin called him.
Maru walked over to the place where the heater was spewing out heat.
“As you see, it’s the perfect set with not much effort on our side. But if we walk around a few times, this perfection will fall apart. For today, I would like to minimize the number of takes.”
“Okay. I heard it’s going to snow again in the evening, so we better finish before that.”
“Please. Also, I might interrupt a little today. It’s the finale after all.”
“Please go easy on me.”
Maru started a rehearsal in his head while looking at the nature-perfected stage. He wanted to practice by moving, but the snow was so perfect. He would have no choice but to step on it during the rehearsal right before the shoot, but right now, imagination was enough.
After shooting all this time, his acting techniques stabilized. He refrained from systemizing his acting in detail and put in the effort to not miss the nervousness and freshness of the first try. Rather than sticking to the script to the tee, he changed it up a little depending on the emotions he felt. This was something only possible thanks to director Park’s full support. Director Park said that it was important to dissolve in an element of the actor known as Han Maru, even if it took a little time.
Just as he was imagining himself walking through the almost knee-deep snow, he heard a welcome voice. Maru got away from the rather busy shooting location.
“It’s been a long time.”
-It hasn’t been that long. Though, the year has changed.
It was the masked man. He, who had gone into hibernation after leaving behind suspicious words, had talked to him again.
“Thanks to you, I felt complicated for a while. All sorts of things came to my mind.”
-Naturally. It’s something rather absurd for an individual to comprehend. But don’t worry about it too much. What’s bound to arrive will arrive. It’s not something that people can prevent.
Maru looked at the lights that just turned on and asked,
“Am I going to die soon?”
-Why would you think that?
“No particular reason. It just felt like that. It does feel a little vague though.”
-Are you uneasy that things are going too well? That maybe this is the last supper?
The masked man did not laugh, even though he would usually say something like this with a laugh. Maru looked at the tree bark that fell on top of the white snow. The inside of the bark was full of white fungi.
“Did the previous Marus vaguely notice when their deaths were approaching?”
-Never. They mostly died suddenly after all. Actually, if I were to pick the most common cause of death at the age of forty-five, it’s accidental death. Though, there was one time when he died while fighting cancer.
“How was I when I was fighting cancer? Can you tell me that too?”
Maru looked at his shoulder. The masked man had taken form and was sitting on it. He was the size of a small doll.
-It might be funny to put it like this, but he was happy. Certain death makes people tranquil. Of course, that might not be entirely true, but ‘we’ were like that. Once death took form and was placed in front of us, we did not step backwards, but forwards instead. That doesn’t mean that we wished to die faster or give up on life. He fought cancer until the very last moment and tried to overcome it.
“How about his last?”
-He gave up on treating it and entered a hospice facility. Then he died not long later. It was 4 a.m., and it was a quiet finale.
Maru was getting regular medical checkups. Right now, he was still very healthy. Although some sudden illnesses other than cancer might take his life away, he didn’t feel like a disease would take his life away anytime soon. That just left accidental deaths.
-Deaths cannot be predicted. It can only be noticed when it’s right in front of your nose. You’ll realize once that moment comes, that struggle is futile. Above everything else, the providence of god will overwhelm your entire body.
“Do you know of a movie called Final Destination?”
-I do. I watched it several times through various different Han Marus.
“I found it unjust when the main character was unable to go against fate and died even after luckily avoiding his death. If the ending was set in stone, then why did god, who supposedly created humans, bestow us free will? There’s no meaning in riding a train that’s rushing straight towards the cliff. Whether you jump off or go to the control room and apply the brakes, you have to leave a possibility that’s different from the ending to have any meaning.”
-Don’t you think that’s the view of a human? Effort will change things; this might be a misconception that we believe is true.
“I decided to exclude that hypothesis. If nothing I do changes anything, then that’s just too vain.”
-Do you think this life will change something?
“It’s small, but there was a change. The fact that you and I are talking like this is a first. Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be. The Maru after me might put an end to this long journey.”
-Sounds like this life is no good.
“I haven’t given up yet. It’s just, I feel lighter as more time passes. Just like those entering a hospice facility. As you said, my ending might have been set in stone, and I might be rushing right towards it. But that’s not the end, is it? This damned reincarnation will continue, and if this isn’t the end, I can keep trying. If I do, then I might be able to find a gap. If He has any affection towards his creatures, then god will listen to my wish at least once.”
-I hope it’s like that.
“I’m sure you must be sick and tired too, of watching me all the time.”
-It’s okay, since I got to talk to you in this life as much as I want, and I even got to act with your body. I thought my greed, regrets, joys, sorrows, and emotions had all been vaporized, but it seemed I still had some within me. Maybe even after hundreds, or even more years, people are still people. Honestly, I feel a little agonized right now.
“Because of what?”
-Because I feel like I might see hope again, hope that I’ll finally die.
“I’m struggling to live on, while you do your best to die. This effort might actually transcend destiny. It follows wherever I go.”
The masked man laughed heartily. He climbed down from Maru’s shoulder and walked on the snow. Maru followed him with his eyes.
When he turned around to reply to the assistant director’s call, he saw that the masked man had disappeared already. Maru quietly spoke in the direction of the path he took,
“Let us both do our best. Whether we die or live.”
* * *
“Please look here. Yes, that’s good. Don’t make the logo of the product show up too much. Think that you’re standing in the middle of a primordial forest with no human traces. Make it look like that the cleanliness of the beginning is concentrated in the cosmetics in your hand.”
Gaeul sighed inwardly as she heard the director’s words. She was doing one commercial after another. She never knew that she would become so busy. It seemed that her president wasn’t just trying to give her a scare when she said that she was going to be busy.
She lifted up the frilly one-piece dress slightly and walked through the set barefoot. She imbued her imagination in this green-screened space to create a forest. The director’s requests were rather abstract, and it was hard to grasp what they meant, but after repeating them a few times, she noticed the director’s preferences.
“My dear unni, who raised you into such a pretty girl?”
“You want me to compliment you?”
Gaeul drank the lemon water that Mijoo gave her. She had gained some weight because she didn’t hold back when eating at the end of the year and at the beginning of the new year. She had no choice but to live off of salad and a minimum amount of protein. Lemon water was like a small luxury for her. If she considered the calories, she had to drink normal water, but she felt like she would have no fun in her life if she had to give this up.
“The director’s quite picky. I noticed when he explained the theme of the commercial that he’s too in his own world.”
“He’s supposedly talented. We should believe in him.”
Gaeul put some raw salad in her mouth. She felt like even some salt as seasoning would make this taste much better, even if she didn’t have some special sauce or anything.
“You have a photo shoot next, so hold back until then.”
“There’s the greatest invention of the century called photoshop, so why don’t they use that?”
“The photoshoot for that magazine is known for doing minimal photo editing. You’ve gained recognition just based on the fact that you were called there. You know that, right? They don’t just call anyone, so starve a little more until your skinny fit looks pretty. Okay, unni?”
“I hate you the most out of them all.”
“I’ll treat you to some really good spaghetti after all of this. You know I canceled all of my other schedules and became your exclusive manager so that you don’t become sensitive.”
Mijoo, who was giggling, suddenly took out her phone as though she remembered something.
“Unni, have you seen this?”
What Mijoo showed her was a phone commercial with the YM Electronics logo on it. She saw Maru, happily making a phone call while wearing labor clothes in the middle of a construction site.
“I thought it was pretty weird when I first saw it, but it turns out it’s pretty good. It feels really close to home. The responses are good too. But Maru-oppa doing commercials for the Q-series, huh? I guess you really never know what the future holds.”
Gaeul smiled as she looked at the screen.
“He looks good.”
“Gee, you two are stupidly into each other, alright.”
“Let’s admit it. That’s on the level of good-looking.”
“Whoa, looks like all the good-looking men in the world suddenly died. I admit that Maru-oppa’s charming, but he’s definitely not good-looking. These days, they call everyone good looking.”
When Gaeul frowned and raised her hand, Mijoo quickly left the place.
“I’ll go to the bathroom for a bit!”
She left the set. Gaeul watched her for a while before turning around. A rabbit standing on two legs was looking at her from the front of the green screen.