Chapter 569

“Was she, perhaps, an actress?”

For some reason, he had a feeling that that might be the case. The lady with the three puppies. The time her figure was reflected in his eyes was a brief moment at best, but he had gotten a deep impression. It wasn’t just because she was holding dogs, which didn’t suit this place. If he had to give a reason, it had to be her smile. Her smile was so fresh that it felt like it was going to poke out of the frame.

“She was. She was our Madonna, and she was really pretty. There probably wasn’t a single one of us there that didn’t get their heart stolen by her.”

Of course, you need to keep this a secret from my honey - Jincheol added as he pointed downwards.

“Regardless of male or female, everyone loved her. She was someone who you couldn’t help but love.”

“I see, but by ‘there’ you mean….”

“Yecheon[1]. It was the small theater that she belonged to. I worked there for a while too.”

Yecheon, he had never heard that name before. Jineheol spoke as though he read Maru’s mind.

“It’s not there anymore. They went out of business and had to hand over their spot to someone else.”

“Small theaters go out of business quite frequently after all,” Geunsoo added from the side.

“Hey, I feel rather sad to hear you say that. It’s your juniors who are working in that small theater right now.”

“My juniors?”

Geunsoo looked at Jincheol in confusion.

“Blue Sky. Daehak-ro, Aram[2] Building. Isn’t Blue Sky on the 2nd floor of that building?” Jincheol asked.

“Yes, we are there. It’s the place Junmin-seonbae prepared to train some of his talent pool. Wait, that place used to belong to Yecheon?”

“Looks like your president didn’t tell you anything, huh. Well, I guess it’s not surprising since he’s not the type of person who would talk about old events. Then I guess you don’t know about the person named Jung Haejoo either, huh?”

An unexpected name came out of Jincheol’s mouth. Maru definitely had heard that name somewhere before. It was when he talked to Junmin about working with director Park Joongjin. Back then, Junmin said this:

-Also, one last question.

-Yes.

-...Have you heard him mentioning the name Jung Haejoo?

-Jung Haejoo? No, this is the first time I’ve heard of that name.

-I see, I see. Alright.

-Is she someone you know?

-She was one of the geniuses I knew of.

Back then, he also felt a sense of déjà vu when he heard that name. It was a name that he felt like he had heard in passing somewhere before. He combed through his memories and searched for past events. He then remembered the name of the person who mentioned that name to him.

-Hey, do you know who Jung Haejoo is?

-Who’s that?

-It’s fine if you don’t know.

Ahn Joohyun. That name was mentioned when he talked to her regarding Bangjoo’s matters. A woman mentioned by both Lee Junmin and Ahn Joohyun. Not only that, Junmin had described her as a genius. Junmin was a very picky person when it came to judging people. He definitely wasn’t someone who would let his personal emotions like sympathy or friendship interfere with his judgement of other people’s acting skills. If he of all people said someone was a genius, then that person had to be a genius.

“But he seems like he knows?”

Maru looked at Jincheol who was staring at him before faintly nodding.

“I heard the name from the president.”

“The president mentioned that name to you?”

“Yes.”

“Really?”

Had his wound healed now? - Jincheol said in a small voice as he stroked his chin.

“What did he say when he talked about her?”

“He said she was a genius.”

“Ah, a genius. I guess that’s one way of putting it. Nothing else?”

“Yes. That was it.”

“Well, I’m not surprised since going into any more than that will make things complicated. That was unexpected though. Why would he mention that name to you when he hasn’t even mentioned it to Geunsoo?”

“We were talking about how I met director Park Joongjin, and somehow that came up.”

“Aha! So Joongjin-hyun was involved. If that guy was the middleman, I guess it’s not that surprising that Haejoo’s name was mentioned. How was the mood back then? Did your president look like he was going to cry?”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“I’m completely serious.”

Jincheol laughed as he tickled a cat’s chin. Geunsoo, who had been listening this whole time, sighed because he didn’t understand a thing before making a phone call.

“Hey, Ganghwan. Do you know someone called Jung Haejoo? You do? Now I feel like I’m being bullied. Okay, have a good rest. Actually no, you should stop resting. How long are you going to rest?”

Ganghwan’s angry voice could be heard through the closing phone. Tap - Geunsoo closed his phone and put it in his pocket. The phone started ringing again soon, but Geunsoo smiled and gestured at them to continue talking.

“Even if I want to talk about it some more, I think I should stop here in order to keep a man’s privacy. He might end up calling for me if I tell you everything.”

Jincheol stood up from his seat.

“Let’s go down and drink some coffee. My wife’s coffee is the best in the world after all.”

Maru waved at the cats that stared at him before walking towards the stairs. He looked at Jincheol who walked downstairs with large strides before looking at the photo on the wall. A lady was smiling happily while holding puppies inside the frame.

‘This lady is Jung Haejoo.’

From the way things looked, it seemed like this person was no longer working as an actress. Perhaps she looked for a new job when the theater went out of business. Maru looked at the corner of the photo. 19th February 1989. Now that he knew that the photo was from 16 years ago, the colors did seem to be a little washed out.

“She’s an attractive person,” Geunsoo said.

Maru faintly replied ‘for sure’.

“Junmin-seonbae is raising three bulldogs. Mint, Pansy, and Rose.”

“They’re all names of flowers, huh.”

“They sure suit those vicious-looking dogs for sure.”

What was Junmin’s relationship with the person in the photo? That day, Junmin’s expression when he mentioned Jung Haejoo looked considerably complicated. A Madonna that everyone couldn’t help but love. Perhaps the two were lovers. Or perhaps Junmin had a one-sided crush.

“She must be working on something else now, right?”

“Well, I get the feeling that she passed away.”

“You mean this person?”

Maru looked at the Jung Haejoo in the photo as he spoke.

“Junmin-seonbae described her as a genius, didn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“Would he have missed a person like that? There’s no way. He’s someone who definitely gets what he desires, yet all he does now is reminisce about her. I might be wrong, but my senses are telling me that she has passed away.”

“I guess that might be true.”

“If she’s completely fine, I’ll apologize to her later for having her funeral without knowing.”

At that moment, they heard a call for them to come down quickly. Maru moved away from the photo and climbed down the stairs. He saw some cats running around among some people on their laptops. Jincheol was waving at them from the bar. On the bar were three mugs.

“Were you looking at the photo?”

“Yes. Uhm, excuse me for asking this, but did the person called Jung Haejoo pass away?” Maru asked cautiously.

“She did. 16 years ago.”

“16 years ago.”

Maru was reminded of the date in the photo. So Haejoo died the year she took that photo, huh.

“I wonder what you’re talking about?” Jincheol’s wife leaned against the bar and asked.

Maru greeted her once again. He realized that he hadn’t given her a proper greeting.

“Han Maru.”

“Hello. I guess I showed you us kissing before we even said hi. The beautiful noona in front of you is called Yoo Jinjoo. You can call me Pretty Jinjoo-noona.”

Jinjoo reached out to him first. Maru grabbed that hand. She laughed as she shook his hand, and her gripping strength was quite considerable. Whether it was her personality or actions, these two seemed to be a match made in heaven.

“You mean a beautiful ahjumma.”

“My dear Geunsoo. Just because you have a mouth doesn’t mean you can say anything you want. I might sew it up.”

Geunsoo covered his mouth in a prankful manner.

“Where are the kids?”

“Two of them are at nursery, and the other one should be coming soon,” Jincheol said as he looked at the clock.

Just then, the door opened with the jingle of a bell. A small child wearing a yellow backpack had opened the door.

“I’m home!”

She was a girl around 10, who put her hands around her belly button and did a 90-degree bow. The people at the store waved at the child as though they were used to seeing this scene. After greeting all the customers, the girl arrived at the bar with light steps. Maru looked down at the child grinning in front of him.

“Hello!”

“Oh, hello?”

“Hello, Geunsoo-ahjussi.”

“Please call me uncle Geunsoo. That sounds younger than ahjussi.”

“Yes, ahjussi!”

She was a stubborn kid. Maru didn’t know who did it, but she had a hairstyle that looked like it would take ages to do. The girl approached Jincheol and jumped into his arms.

“My girl, you’re good at greeting.”

Jincheol raised the girl into the air. When he tried to rub his face against the girl with an unshaven beard, the girl firmly rejected him.

“Daddy, I don’t like prickly.”

Maru laughed out loud. The girl’s expression when she crossed her arms and got angry at him was way too cute. With a daughter like that, any father would be lovestruck. Jincheol also didn’t let go of his daughter either.

“Honey, let go of her already. You see her every day yet you still act like that.”

“My wife, are you being jealous right now?”

“I am being jealous right now.”

“Popular men have it hard. Isn’t that right, Gaeul?”

Jincheol called the girl in his arms ‘Gaeul’.

The name ‘Gaeul’, the girl smiling brightly, then Jincheol.

Maru had a slight headache. It came from nowhere. He pressed firmly between his eyebrows. For some reason, he had a hard time looking straight at the father-and-daughter duo. Looking at them gave him a mysterious feeling aside from the pain. Whether it was happiness, sadness, or rage, he did not know, but a complex ball of emotions was thumping against his chest.

“What’s wrong?”

“I feel a little dizzy.”

“Did you not get enough sleep?” Geunsoo asked worriedly.

Maru tried to smile back and said that he was okay. The headache lasted for 10 seconds before going away. It didn’t leave any traces, which caused Maru to have a hard time believing that he had a headache at all.

‘Am I tired?’

Now that he thought about it, he never got to rest during rest days. He had his entire week jam packed with schedules, so he didn’t remember the last time he had a proper rest. Youth was nothing without energy, so perhaps taking breaks were necessary after all?

“Are you hurt?”

Gaeul had left Jincheol’s arms and was in front of him. Maru subconsciously reached out and patted her head.

“It’s fine. It doesn’t hurt. Thank you for worrying about me.”

“My daughter is such a kind girl, isn’t she?”

Jincheol said after he sat down.

“Gaeul, you can go home. Mom will be there soon.”

Gaeul cheerfully replied ‘yes’ before turning around. Maru couldn’t take his eyes off her. The small body, the chubby face, the cute bag, and the colorful shoes. He met eyes with Gaeul just as she was leaving through the door. Maru waved at her. Gaeul bowed to him before running off.

“Geunsoo.”

“Yes.”

“You should definitely get married.”

“I guess.”

“Also, give birth to a daughter. Daughters are the best. My sons treat me as nothing more than a toy.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

Just as Maru was blankly staring outside while listening to the conversation between the other two, he saw a car slowly approaching the store. It slowed down before stopping in front of the store. It was a red sedan. The color was rather showy for the older generation to ride, so he thought that a younger person should be riding it.

“Oh, we have another guest,” Jincheol said as he looked outside at the car.

At that moment, the door of the car opened. The man that got out of the car was wearing a flower-patterned shirt, cotton pants, and slippers. Also, Maru knew this man very well.

“Director Park Joongjin?” He said to himself in confusion.

Geunsoo shouted ‘aha’ in realization while Jincheol stood up after dusting his knees and walked towards the door.

“Haven’t you been coming over too frequently these days?”

“If you don’t welcome me, I guess I can’t help it. But there are a few interesting guests with you today, huh?”

Joongjin smiled as he walked over. Maru stood up and stood in front of Joongjin.

“Long time no see, Mr. Han Maru.”

“Yes, director.”

“Why don’t we shake hands since it’s been a long time?”

Joongjin reached out to him. Maru grabbed his hand.


[1] I am not given the Hanja form of this word, so I can’t really translate it. The acting club ‘Blue Sky’ is ‘Cheongcheon’ in Korean, but ‘Ye’ isn’t a color.

[2] It has the same spelling as Aram, the character, but has no relations to her. In fact, this is the only mention of the building’s name in the entire story.

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KTLChamber's Thoughts

Such a small world, huh.

Also, if you've forgotten, Gaeul is the name of Han Maru's child from his previous life, hence the headache. It's mentioned in chapter 8. Something tells me this isn't a coincidence. Maybe Maru's wife (previous life) had ties with this man.

Editor's note:
Oh boi. A gathering of crazies.