Chapter 36

To chase that damned dream, huh. The sentence hit Maru pretty hard. Especially because he knew Miso eventually managed to realize her dream. You can only realize your dream if you challenge yourself. Maru felt that Miso would say the same thing even if she didn’t become as successful as she was now.

Just wait a bit. I’ll get better for sure next time.

She was a strong woman. And it was because of her strength that she was able to live so freely. She didn’t act annoying, or said ridiculous things for the sake of being annoying. She was always confident that what she said was right. Even so...

“You’re pretty cool.”

“Right? I think I’m cool too. That’s why you should...”

“I don’t know, though. Plays are fun. They’re interesting. I hid it, but reading on the stage was actually very fun as well. I learned that getting people’s attention wasn’t such a bad thing.”

“Then what? Just do it.”

“Just do it. You’re right. I should just do it. But I don’t have the courage. I’m not crazy for acting. Even now, keeping it as a hobby sounds like the ideal thing to do.”

“Hey, you don’t even know that. You didn’t even really try acting. You probably don’t know because you’re so young… Actually, I take that back. You act too old for that to apply. Anyway, there's something you’re not understanding here. No courage? I think you mean you’re afraid, right?”

“I suppose so.”

Miso nodded in understanding.

“Yes. You might not have that courage. But you’re only feeling that because you haven’t experienced it. Fear stems from the unknown. Of course you’d feel afraid of something you haven’t tried. But you know that more often than not, it’s not very scary once you actually try it out. Right?”

Fear stems from the unknown. She was right. He was scared because he didn’t know. He’s never tried acting, so he didn’t even know where to start. He hesitated to jump in, and the hesitation quickly turned into fear and consumed him.

But if he decided to jump straight in, the activity wouldn’t be a subject of fear to him any more. It would either become a subject of joy or boredom.

Miso was right. But… she was coming at him from the wrong angle.

“People can be afraid of something because they don’t know it. But… sometimes they get afraid because they know exactly what it is.”

“Afraid because they know?”

“Yes.”

“.......”

“I’ve learned a lot today. But I can’t find myself wanting to do more of this. I’ll keep attending the club, of course. I’ll help out every once in a while as well. But I don’t want to invest a significant amount of time into this. Not as long as I keep thinking the way I do.”

Fear from the known.

Would spending a lot of time in the club now affect his life in the future in a meaningful way? What if instead of going to the club, Maru decided to study instead? What if he invested more time doing something else? What if he spent more time trying to find his actual dream…

Perhaps he would spend his time in the future regretting not doing things better now.

‘Why couldn’t you have given me better abilities?’

He looked up at the sky a little regretfully before shaking his head. He was being greedy again. He got to relive life again. This in itself was great luck and ability.

- The time you wasted today, is the time a dead person longed for prior to dying yesterday.

Maru often thought of this line whenever he woke up. It was an apt description of his current situation. The Maru of the future often regretted his past decisions. He longed to get another go at life. He ended up getting that exact chance. But instead of instantly knowing what he was going to do, he was sitting here wondering what his dreams were. What he wanted to do with life. Where he should go after high school.

Studying was an investment he was making into life while thinking over this problem. But he couldn’t see the road in front of him very well. He already traversed it before, but somehow that same road was even more difficult to go through than before. All this time, he thought everything would be good once he went back to the past, but the opposite was true.

What did Maru achieve during his 45 years of life? Would he be this lost now if he had a specific goal in life then? Maybe he would have an easier time traversing through the path of life if he had a goal in mind? That just brought him back to his original problem. He knew he had to do something, but he didn’t know what.

What Maru’s life came down to was like a leaf freely flying wherever the wind went. That is, he just kind of took everything as is.

“You’re really something else. I’ve never seen a high schooler this hesitant over everything,” Miso scrunched up her nose.

“Yeah. It’d be better if I just didn’t know anything. Knowing just a little about it is enough to really turn me off for some reason.”

“...What are you talking about?”

“It’s nothing. I was talking to myself. Oh, this doesn’t have anything to do with you, instructor. You’re a nice person. Very passionate as well. I want to get heated up about acting with you, but… I think I’ve cooled down too much. I don’t have the courage.”

Maru smiled. The best way to combat an awkward situation wasn’t to get angry, but smile it off.

“That expression!” Miso pointed at Maru with a snarl, “That look, almost as if you know everything about the world!”

Well, that was a pretty strong jab. The woman was really perceptive. He couldn’t do anything about it but to smile.

“Ugh...”

Miso massaged her temples in pain. Why was this woman caring so much for him? What about him made her so interested in him?

“Instructor,” he asked.

“What?”

Maru could feel the annoyance practically ooze from her words. She was very honest about her feelings. A rare sight nowadays with adults.

“Why do you invest so much time in me?”

“You really don’t know?”

“I don’t. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to spend this time with the other kids? You don’t even know if I’m going to end up acting, so why do you keep wasting time...”

“Wasting time?”

“?”

Miso’s eyebrows angled upwards. He must’ve hit a sore spot of some sort. Her pale skin turned pink as the blood rose up to her head.

“I think I get what kind of a person you are now.”

“You get me?”

“Yes. You’re really annoying!”

“.......”

Miso turned on the engine. The car started rolling back into the street.

“I get what you’re so troubled over. Good god.”

“What troubles me?”

“Yeah.”

Miso opened the window a little, letting the spring wind flow. Her face relaxed a bit as her hair whipped around with the wind.

“You’re looking too far into the future.”

“Too far?”

“Yeah. You’re looking way too far into the future. I mean, it makes sense that some kids of your age would think about this. About stuff like college entrance exams, college, and the military as well.”

Miso nodded in understanding, but her face quickly morphed into one of fury once more.

“But those are just dreams in the end. Stuff that doesn’t actually exist or has happened yet. Kids who worry over stuff like this usually start looking at the present if I shake them up a little bit. But you’re different.”

She sounded incredibly confident.

“I don’t know how, or why, but you seem to be looking at a very, very specific point in the future. Almost as if you were there before. Because it feels so real to you, you can’t help but keep worrying over it. Am I wrong?”

What an amazing person. Maru nodded. He had no reason to deny her the truth.

“I knew it. I knew it, god damn it. You’re way too imaginative. That’s what’s constantly making you think of the future. I’d be like that too! If I knew exactly what I was going to look like in the future, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now! I’d be nervous as shit!!”

Honk honk!!

Miso punched the wheel in frustration. The car in front of her moved sideways away from her lane.

“But you know, I think it’s ridiculously foolish to think so much about something that hasn’t even happened yet. Sure, you might think differently. Hell, I might as well.”

Miso breathed deeply as she turned to look at him.

“Walter Benjamin used to say this.”

Walter Benjamin. He’d heard of the name before. It was a frequent mention within the philosophy books he decided to read simpler philosophy books to try and improve himself. Thanks to it, he could tell what Miso was trying to say now.

“Progress...”

“is in each instance merely the first step, never the second, third, or n + 1.”

Miso looked at him with wide eyes. Maru thought over the quote. Along with Miso’s advice. Was he looking too far into the future? Was he worrying over something far too specific?

Progress.

He needed to step forward if he wanted to move. Without that one step, he would never make progress. Step by step, once the number of steps began piling up, he would be able to look back at what he made of his life. Perhaps he was just too afraid over something that had yet to even happen.

First step. The one step that was always the scariest one to take.

“And, to add on,” Miso continued, “if you take the wrong first step, you can just fix it at your second. If you took the wrong second step? You can still change direction at your third. Don’t be afraid. Don’t hesitate. From what I can see… You’ve thought for long enough. Maybe what you really need is to step forward?”

Miso closed her mouth and focused on driving. She didn’t seem to have anything more to say. Maru turned to look down at his two feet. Did he… make that first step yet?

* * *

By the time they came back to school, it was already 5pm. Miso didn’t choose to go all the way back to the school. She parked at the tonkatsu restaurant near school instead.

“Mister, can you fry up like 13 servings of food for us? Make it good.”

“Alright.”

She sat down on a table. 13 servings… Maru looked at Miso curiously.

“Have some. I know you’re hungry.”

“I’m fi...”

“Fine my ass! Shut it! Just eat! Do you really want to see me try to force feed you?”

Miso didn’t seem to want to let this one pass. Maru just decided to sit down lest he incurred her fury once more. He could hear the tonkatsu fry up in the kitchen. He thought back to their earlier conversation for a second.

“Come to think of it, I never heard your answer.”

“Ah, that.”

She wore an exhausted expression, appearing to lack the necessary energy to respond.

“Hey,” she called out.

“Yes?”

“Say you saw a piece of coal on the road. A really, really dark piece too. But you see something sparkling inside it as well. What would you do?”

“I’d try to wipe it to see what the thing was inside.”

“Right? You’d do that too, right?”

“...So you’re saying I’m that coal?”

“No.”

“Then?”

“Poop! You’re poop!”

“What?”

“I don’t even know anymore. Just do what you want. I don’t care. Flipping hell.”

“.......”

“What? Why are you looking at me like that?”

“I was just wondering if you were mad.”

“W-what?”

“Just wondering.”

“Say that again.”

“Can we just pretend you didn’t hear any of this?”

“I’ll rip your jaw off!”

Miso was acting like a cat whose tail was just stepped on, which made Maru smile a little. He felt a lot better for some reason. Almost as if one of his problems was solved just now. Perhaps blending in with other people in such a way was a sort of a talent. Right then, Miso gave him a small glance nervously.

“Soo… you wanna try it?”

Hah. She really doesn’t change, does she? Maru shook his head.

“Nope.”

“Ugh, come on!”

“But...”

“Hm?”

“I’d like to try something else.”

One step. He decided he might as well step forward just a little bit.

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