-Following last time, why don’t you tell me your story, Mr.
Han Maru? Hearing your story is my only solace here.
“Your life is quite pitiful, having to spend your time in here.
But do you really not plan to tell me who you are? I’d be grateful if you could tell me your name at least.”
-Just know me as a pretty well-known actor who’s going to die in the future.
It’d be good if you tell me something.
Why don’t you try being in my shoes? If someone suddenly shows up at your house asking to live together, don’t you think it’s the right of the owner to know something about that person? I could only sleep soundly if I at least know if that guy is a thief or not.”
-I don’t have a knife nor do I have any intentions of stealing something.
In the first place, I can’t leave this place, so it’s not like I can do anything.
Also didn’t I tell you last time? It’s a secret I cannot tell.
Please be understanding.
“If you ever become able to say it, then tell me everything about it.
I’ll be understanding even if you turn out to be some evil ghost that has resentment towards me.”
-I’m not that, so don’t worry about it.
I may look like this, but I was a very kind person.
I abided by the rules and the law.
The masked man was extremely reluctant to talk about himself.
Was he going to die if he said something? He didn’t have a physical body, so would ‘disappearing’ be a more correct term than death? Maru stared at the masked man before loosening his eyes.
“I don’t think you’re lying, so I guess I have no choice but to fall for your tricks.”
-Thank you every time.
“I’ll ask this just in case, but can I help you with passing on? Maybe you’d be able to rest if I go to the cathedral, church, or the temple.”
-I don’t think it’s a problem that can be solved like that.
Rather than that, tell me about yourself.
Once you wake up, I’ll have to be by myself for a while.
“You get really lonesome, huh.”
-Anyone would long for the warmth of people if they’re left alone here.
A teardrop appeared on the masked man’s clown mask.
He was a refreshing man who did not lose his humor even as he talked about his solitude.
Maru had talked to this mysterious man for a long time.
Before the new semester started, he had spent the whole week talking to this man every night.
They talked about a lot of topics, but most of the time it was related to acting.
If he went to the man with a drama or a movie he watched in order to learn from it, he would discuss it with the masked man and broaden his vision, which helped him out quite a lot.
According to Maru’s thoughts, the masked man was likely to be a child actor who’s pretty popular even now.
He had the destiny of dying an unfortunate death due to a traffic accident and leaving behind his wife and daughter, but the masked man enjoyed the present without grieving.
From how he did not warn the current him even while knowing that he’s going to die, it seemed that an existence that transcends human willpower was binding his actions.
“Don’t you wanna live? If you give me hints, I’ll warn him for you.
If he’s in his 30s in 2020, he’ll be similar in age to me.
I’ll probably be treated like a psychopath if I walk up to him and say that half of his soul is inside me, but don’t you think he’ll watch out for traffic accidents regardless as a result of saying that? Or maybe, if I tell him that he dies in 2020 and even tell him the location of the convenience store, don’t you think he’ll avoid that place even if he’s not conscious of it?”
-Thank you for being so considerate.
But I can’t do it.
The only thing I can do is to watch, whether it is my death or another person’s death.
“What a stuck-up man.
Both you and the god preventing you from speaking.”
-You tell me.
Maru leaned back against the chair.
It was a stiff wooden chair, but when the masked man snapped his fingers, it changed into a soft sofa.
He spoke as he felt the comfort against his back.
“Where were we again?”
-You were talking about how you failed to find a job after graduating.
“But this isn’t really fair, is it? You can’t tell me a single thing about yourself, yet here I am, revealing everything about me.
Pay me back with acting later.”
I’ll help if possible.
“I feel like I’m being scammed.”
The masked man tilted his head.
He was wearing a mask, but Maru felt like he could see his expression.
A scam? No way – he seemed to be saying.
I was a road manager.
Those were hard days.
I felt like I did all the driving in my life back then.
Moreover, I was up against a wall mentally too.
I told you about it, didn’t I? That I started the road manager job thanks to a senior’s introduction after failing to get a job many times.
You know? After failing so many times, people’s self-confidence falls to rock bottom.
When I just graduated, the news was talking about how youth employment rates were at an all-time low, but all the people around me got jobs.
So I thought I’d naturally join their ranks.
I was quite nervous when I drank beer with some of my college friends.
I thought that when I actually got a job, I’d say that getting a job was nothing much and that doing the job was much harder.
But the reality was that I couldn’t even step past that barrier.
Whenever I was texted by my friends who got jobs, my annoyance hit the skies.
You won’t know how many self-introductions I wrote, how many copies of resumes I had to send, and how many interviews I took.
I was regretting it, thinking that maybe I shouldn’t have graduated and should have taken those interviews as a student instead.
The offer of work that came to me at such a time was like a savior to me.”
Maru thought about what happened back then and sighed.
It was still an unnerving experience even now.
The mental pressure of a person who did not reach the ‘average’ was similar to balancing on the edge of a cliff.
“I couldn’t say no, so I took them up on the offer immediately.
What I needed was stamina, driving skills, as well as a waist that could fold 90 degrees.
Actually, when I was told that I was going to be a road manager, I actually kinda looked forward to it.
I thought that it was an opportunity to see famous celebrities from up close.
Unfortunately, it turned out driving famous celebrities isn’t something that anyone did.
Their value is so high that there’s no way they’d let a newbie like me drive them to places.
Above all, the company I worked for did not have any famous celebrities in their ranks.
That was around the time when the idol market was just becoming hot.
Right now, TTO has full control over the boy’s side and TheGirl has full control over the girl’s side, but when I was in my late twenties, the market was much bigger than that.
The more well-off groups went to Japan or China, and the latecomers tried to fill in the gap they left.
The kids that I drove in the van were like that as well.
They got on the cramped van and went to lesser-known festivals to sing and dance.
Meanwhile, I had to drive them day and night.”
-You must have been to many places then, right?
“There’s not a province I haven’t been to in this country.
I would sleep in the van as I waited for the kids, and when they came back I would then take them to the next location.
After repeating that a couple of times, I would return to the company and get some sleep before the alarm rings again.
Then it’s the same thing over again.
This time with another group.
The agency nurtured so many idol groups without caring.
If I think about it now, there were a lot of reckless people.
They didn’t even look into the financial state of the company and just signed the contracts.
The idol world was already saturated yet the promise of hitting a jackpot if they became famous did not change.”
-That’s because people are easier to manipulate if their dreams are held hostage.
“That’s how it is.
After working in that company for a bit, I switched to another company.
The team leader that worked there left the company and set up another agency, and I switched on the condition that I would get a pay raise if I went there.
He was a guy who looked after me quite a lot, so I thought that it wouldn’t be bad to work with that person.
That team leader started his management company with the actors he knew.
I just did what I did before.
I took actors to their shooting locations on schedule in the van.
I had a lot more free time than when I was driving idols.
I saw a lot of actors I could only see on TVs back then too.
Unless the actor was very picky, I was quite free when I arrived at the shooting location.
Other than the fact that I couldn’t leave the premises, I didn’t have a lot of restraints.
Of course, that differed according to the shooting locations.
If the director was not so nice, I had to wait with the staff all the time.
Those people were the type to have the managers do work if they lacked manpower.”
-It is not easy to support other people.
“Oh, you were a pretty well-known actor yourself, weren’t you? How was your relationship with your manager?”
-A friend of mine worked with me for five years, and I paid for his honeymoon.
He was a grateful friend.
He worked without complaints, and he was someone who knew how to plan his future.
“That must have been a nice person.
I was gonna boast about how I got a new phone on my birthday, but I guess that’s nothing compared to a honeymoon.”
-I told you, didn’t I? I was a pretty famous actor.
Anyway, when I spent time busily like that, I suddenly had this thought.
How much longer can I do this job? I had no confidence in making connections since it wasn’t like I was social like the team leader, so it wasn’t like there was a future in being a road manager for me.
That was when I started preparing to join another company.
I also wanted to try working at a desk.”
The masked man nodded before asking,
-Wasn’t there any woman who gave you a deep impression?
“A woman? You mean an actress? Don’t even joke about it.
The only thing I learned while driving was that actors lived in a different world.
I did feel quite excited when I saw pretty people.
After all, they’re pretty.
But that is all.
It’s not like I’ll ever get involved with them, so I never placed any feelings on them.
It was just like looking at dolls.”
-Even if it wasn’t a famous actress, you were at an age where you should be looking for love.
There must be someone who caught your eyes.
“You know? You’re actually quite adamant about talking about women.
From how you asked me if there was any girl I liked a few days ago, I think you want me to talk about the lewd stuff, don’t you?”
-Lewd stuff is good, but I want to hear stories about pure love more.
“Pure love, huh.
Now that I think about it, I think there was a woman who I was really attracted to.”
-When was that?
“It was when I had to fill in for someone in the early morning, I think? I drove a pretty peculiar woman.”
-What was she like?
“I don’t know.”
Maru focused, but while he could remember the weather, the scenery, and the sound of that day, the appearance of the woman sitting next to him was foggy.
After probing around his memories, Maru shrugged and stopped thinking about it.
“I can’t remember.
From how I feel rather fluffy about it, I think something happened.
Well, the fact that I can’t remember it immediately probably means that it’s nothing much.”
-Why don’t you try focusing a little more? She might have been a very beautiful woman.
I can tell that these kinds of memories will forever be vague.
It won’t work even if I try to remember it more clearly.
It’s like seeing lottery numbers in a dream.
It’s clear when you’re inside the dream, but once you wake up, it’ll be all gone.”
The masked man said ‘I see’ in a composed voice.
“You seem disappointed.
Is it because you didn’t get to hear a story about a pretty woman?”
-Yes, I am very disappointed.
I died single, so there’s nothing special about my love story either.
Don’t expect anything.”
Just then, Maru felt a hand grab his shoulder and shake him.
Maru gave the masked man a signal before taking a deep breath.
The sensation of his body became vivid again before he opened his eyes.
He saw the teacher open the door.
“I get that you’re sleepy because it’s 5th period, but don’t sleep from the beginning, okay? Okay, open your textbooks,” the teacher said.
* * *
After Han Maru left, the masked man took off his mask.
He sat down on the sofa in front of him and sighed.
At this point, he was used to the darkness and the silence as though it was his own body.
Once Maru’s consciousness surfaced, this place became a world severed from reality.
Han Maru’s memories had changed enough to the point that now he thought that he died at thirty-three.
After entering a company, he worked arduously and was acknowledged for his efforts, and was close to being promoted.
He had not been sacrificed to the injustices of the world yet, and he was at an age where he hadn’t tasted the unfairness of using connections.
The current Han Maru returned to the Han Maru that he trusted his colleagues, did not hesitate to take on challenges, and always looked forward.
There was a faint trace of his distrust for people and his cautiousness of when he was forty-five, but the scale tilted towards the Han Maru that shone in his fresh youth.
The masked man closed his eyes slowly.
This Han Maru was definitely different from the previous Han Marus.
The fact that he could talk with ‘him’ was different, and the fact that the alteration of his memories was extreme was also different.
The previous Han Marus did lose their memories of traveling back in time as time went on, but the memories of their times of death did not change.
He felt like he could hear the pivot of the hamster wheel being put off-axis.
Whether this was a positive sign or the sound that was leading to fast destruction, the masked man did not know.
There was one thing that was clear though.
This time was different from before.
I wonder when the memory alteration is gonna stop.
Would it go down to like “In my last life, I died at two” or would any memories disappear suddenly after it reaches like 25?
Well, it would prob stop at around the age he reincarnated, so 16 ish.
I wonder if we the readers will get to see another Han Maru.
The whole 'different' stuff feels like bait.
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