Chapter 588

“Go back to the past?” She asked as she put some salmon salad in her bowl.

“Yes, what do you think you’ll feel if you go back to the past?”

“Well, I’m not sure.”

She couldn’t reply immediately. There were a few times in life when she wanted to go back to the day before. She had wished to go back one day after tests or when her acting performance was terrible or when she made a mistake. However, she had never thought about going back even further in the past so she couldn’t answer easily.

“Unni. Being young is the best. They don’t think about such things.”

“Hanmi, you’re plenty young too. So you should get mar….”

“Haesoo-unni! You always talk about marriage this, marriage that. I get it, you have a pretty daughter, okay?”

“I’m sure that there must be a lot of men who like you, so I wonder why you say something like that. Get married. You’ll start nagging an old woman like me less with your life stories.”

“We have only met a few times after several years, but you’re fed up with me already?”

“Hanmi, three times a week is more than enough. What you need is a man who will listen to your stories.”

“What are you talking about in front of a kid?”

“My daughter is doing fine. She knows what she needs to know. Since we’re at it, shall we ask how far she went with Maru?”

She immediately picked up her cup and started drinking. She drank as slowly as possible and looked alternately at her mother and writer Lee Hanmi, who both stared at her. She should have secretly put back the soju bottle when she saw it at the supermarket. She didn’t know that she’d be handling two drunk adults.

“Unni, stop teasing her. She’s going to get mad.”

“My daughter is not that petty. You don’t know because you are not mar….”

“Ah! Just drink! Stop talking about getting married and just drink. Here, here. Unni, pick up a glass. Would you like to drink as well?”

“I’m okay.”

She shook her head with a smile. The two women snapped their heads back with their drinks before putting down their beer glasses.

“Oh, right. We should keep talking about that.”

“About what?”

“I mean the past. What would you do if you return to the past, unni?”

“We’re still talking about that?”

“Give me some ideas.”

“Is this for your next work?”

“No, I just wanted to write down a few ideas. I went to the cinema a while ago, and there was a movie about a military soldier who went back to the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592[1]. Watching it made me wonder what kinds of things would happen if I went back to the past. I’ve never written anything in the sci-fi genre, so it looks fun as well. No, wait, is time travel a fantasy? Anyway, since we’re both writers, I wanted to hear your stories. Don’t think about it deeply and just tell me whatever’s on your mind.”

“How are you going to take care of my intellectual property if it gets adapted to a video format? What are you going to give me for my source?”

“Fine, fine. If I sell this, I’ll buy you a fur coat.”

“I don’t want things like that, just give my daughter an entrance gift.”

“Unni, there’s still a lot of time left this year. College is still far away for her.”

“Time flies, you know? April is ending and then it’ll be May soon. After the flower season, it’ll get hot, and then chilly and once it snows, that’ll be the end of the year. So that’s why you should get married before it’s too la….”

“Why does it always end with my marriage? That’s a serious condition, you know?”

Hanmi clapped once.

“Well then, you start, unni. What are you going to do if you end up in the past? You can think about it starting now, you’re up next.”

A finger with a purple manicure pointed at her face. She nodded. Hanmi wasn’t someone who would accept an improper answer, so she decided to think about it. When her mother, who was staring at the clock on the wall, was about to speak, Hanmi half-stood up, saying that they needed more beer.

“I’d have him take a medical test,” her mother said.

She understood what her mother meant immediately. Her mother omitted a lot of words, but her expression said everything that she didn’t say out loud.

Hanmi, who was about to stand up, sat back down again.

“Is this about your husband?”

“You’re knowledgeable.”

“I had a hunch. It was heart disease, right?”

“He was healthy. He told me that he was just a little tired, but then he went just like that. If I can go back to the past, I’ll put everything aside and drag him to the hospital first.”

Her mother picked up a bottle of water instead of the beer glass. She gulped down water in large amounts and looked like she was suppressing something with cold water.

“Hanmi, what about you? What do you want to do?”

“I want to go traveling with my mother. And be a filial daughter. You know, things like that.”

“That’s not that much different from mine. This is no fun.”

“Perhaps that indicates that what everyone desperately wishes for is similar? Being able to stay longer with loved ones. It’s quite cliché, but that’s human nature after all. When my mother closed her eyes, I regretted so much. I never showed up in front of her because I wanted to write, and then when I heard that she had terminal stage cancer, I just lost it. It was so absurd. Why did it have to be my mom of all people? Just when I thought that I could repay her, she left this bad daughter here as though she was in a hurry.”

“Both you and I need to visit the hospital, huh. Going back to the past doesn’t sound that fun.”

“At least we get an opportunity that way; an opportunity to live our lives once again.”

After saying those words, Hanmi looked at her.

“Have you thought about it?”

“I want to see dad as well. I want to hold his hands and go to Daehak-ro together, and if possible, I want to show him my acting. Dad will love it if I can show him how much I can do. I want to show him that his daughter became so big.”

“Then you should go back with your current body, huh. But that causes a time paradox. If you go back to the past, only your mind should go back to your younger self. If there are two of you in one era, it will cause an endless amount of trouble,” Hanmi said with a smile.

She could tell that Hanmi had intentionally switched the topic. Talking about people that weren't here anymore and falling into sadness didn’t suit an occasion like this after all.

“So only my mind flies into the past and enters my younger body? That sounds good, becoming young again. I thought I was going back to the past with my body.”

Her mother joined the conversation as well. The atmosphere became brighter in an instant.

“Unni, would you meet another man if you’re younger?”

“No. I wouldn’t be able to meet my daughter if I did that.”

“Geez, you’re too silly.”

“You’ll understand once you give birth to a child like me.”

“I already had indirect experience through writing. How many moms do you think I’ve written about that are obsessed with their children? You wouldn’t know how many emotional babies I’ve given birth to.”

“Fine, you’re popular, okay? What would a third-rate romance author like me tell a big-shot writer?”

“Now you see the difference?”

“I think you need some slapping.”

Seeing the two giggling, she was reminded of something she wanted to think about.

“Ahjumma, what if you have to throw away your memories in order to go back to the past?”

“Throw away my memories?”

“Yes. If some god or alien tells you that you can’t bring your memories back to the past with you, are you still going to go?”

“Now that, I’m going to have to think about it. If I can go back to the past with my intact memories, I think I can go without hesitation, but if I can’t then there’s no merit, is there? If I have the same ego in the same era, I’ll probably end up living a similar life. Is there a reason to go back to the past then?”

Just then, her mother interrupted.

“There’s no charm in that story. Why is the main character a main character? It’s because he or she has something that other people look up to. Let’s just assume that the character goes back with all of their memories.”

“Unni, the trend in dramas these days isn’t like that. Where’s the fun in a character who knows everything? They need to go through a trial. Just like your romance novels, there needs to be a love rival to be more interesting.”

The conversation started burning brightly again. She felt like she had stepped on a landmine, but the two women were already deeply immersed in talking about the topic. She could only listen to them. Ah, one more thing. She had to be ready for Hanmi’s sudden questions.

“What if you slowly lose your memories? At first, you passionately fall in love with your loved one, but the memories become faint, and then time-transcending love turns into just an ordinary love for a youth in that era,” Hanmi said.

She listened with interest as she ate some salmon salad.

“But there’s no problem with that right? They love each other already.”

“That’s why we should change it up a little. You’re going to meet your husband even if you go back to the past, right?”

“Am I supposed to give you a serious answer?”

“Of course.”

“Like I said before, I am going to meet him again. And I’ll meet my daughter again too. As long as I have my memories and affections of this life, I don’t think I’ll be able to easily meet someone else.”

“That’s precisely it. That’s what a time-transcending love is. The person you unwillingly departed with in the future is still alive and well in the past. If you really liked that person, you would grab him thinking that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

“Right.”

“Even if that person in the past does not like me, I’ll still like him, right? Because I’ve been in love with that man in the ‘future’.”

“My husband will probably confess to me on our first meeting, you know? He couldn’t live without me after all.”

“Fine, stop boasting, sheesh. Anyway, it’s all good until you go back and meet the person you love and live a happy life. That’s when the trial starts. You slowly start losing memories. The personality, impressions, and preferences you knew about that person slowly disappear.”

“I think I’ll still love him though? Memory is just information after all. I believe that a person possesses something that is superior to memories formed by the brain’s electrical and chemical signals.”

“Like a soul you mean?”

“Maybe it’s something like that, or maybe it’s called a heart.”

“Unni, you know what amnesia is, right?”

“I understand what you’re trying to say, but I still believe that there’s something that transcends information. Otherwise, it’s just too cruel, you know? I’m sure that love is something special that does not rely on memories.”

“Do you really think so? In our heads, there’s something called the frontal lobe, and damage to that part causes a lot of disabilities, one of the significant ones being the loss of emotions. That’s why that might cause someone to become antisocial, and such a person doesn’t have something called altruism. They would justify themselves with anything they do without realizing what they’ve done wrong even if they make a mistake. That’s just a result of a part of the brain not functioning properly. And here, we’re talking about losing memories as a whole, which make up the foundation of a human. In some sense, that’s the same as becoming dull to emotions. You know that even the most passionate love is bound to cool down, right? If your warm moments get erased, don’t you think you’ll fall in love with a new person just like everyone else?”

“So you want to say that memories are everything?”

“Reasonably speaking, one’s personality is the amalgamation of experience, right? And experience becomes systemized into a mechanism that reacts to external stimulation. Doesn’t that mean that everything is caused by memories?”

“Despite that, we can’t even be sure of the existence of god, right? As long as agnosticism exists, the theory that the mind comes before memories will always exist as well.”

“That’s too unscientific.”

“Is going back to the past scientific? Einstein would love to have a word with you.”

“But this is an agreement.”

“I’ve never agreed to it.”

“I can’t get anything through to you, can I?”

“Hah, that’s funny.”

She looked at the two women who glared at each other and sighed. She thought about the topic while she did so. Memories versus the soul. Which was on a deeper level?

‘I wished it was the soul.’

If the disappearance of memories meant the disappearance of emotions, that would be too sad.

“Forget it, just drink!”

“Right, let’s drink!”

It seemed that the two adults reached the conclusion that they should get drunk. She shook her head. These two adults were really hopeless.

‘Rather than that, I wonder if he went back home properly after meeting her.’

She looked at the clock on the wall. It was 7:40 p.m. She felt that it was still quite early. She wondered if she should text him or something, when,

“Unni, you should’ve been careful.”

Her mother spilled some water. She put her phone down and went to the kitchen.


[1] Wikipedia link for more details.

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KTLChamber's Thoughts

I feel like author took an easy way out for writing this chapter. (Maybe it was really necessary for the plot? Or maybe this is indicating something about Maru.)

Editor's Note:
Foreshadowing....? Also, what do you guys think? Personally, I wouldn't go back to the past but I'm also only 21 so.....