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This chapter is updated by Wuxia.Blog
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
As a gift, Juho chose a pair of jeans that was as blue as the sea. Wearing those jeans, the woman decided to make a trip to the beach. They were comfortable, so she wouldn’t have trouble sitting down or getting sand on them. With some money and a blanket, she headed for the beach.
She walked the same, familiar streets as the day before. Nothing had changed. The convenience store, the grocery store next door, the high school she had graduated from, and the stationery store in front of it. All the stores opened and closed at the exact same time they always had. A student walked out of the school. At a certain time of the day, students in uniform walked past the front gate and ate lunch. Their class started once the bell rang, and it ended once the bell rang again.
They left for school before sunrise and didn’t go home until sunset. It was almost like being in a cave. If the school was a cave, where was she now? She had left for the beach. First, there was light, and the light was better than the dark. It was warm and beautiful. Yet, she had never learned to enjoy the light. It had to be because she was either too cold of a person, or because the light was simply too hot.
Juho looked around his desk littered with paper and writing. The cup was completely dry. After pondering about it, Juho stood up from the chair and made his way to the kitchen and poured himself a cup of cold water. Then, he drank it. The water left a trail of cold sensation in its path. Considering the environment’s temperature, it made sense that it felt that cold. When it touched his teeth, the cup made a clicking sound. The water passed through his mouth and into the throat. There was no need to chew. He only needed to let it flow down his esophagus.
The woman was growing thirsty as well. She went into the convenience store to buy herself a bottle of water. There was no verbal interaction in the process. The only person talking was the cashier. The woman never answered. That was what she wanted from Juho, and he was intentional about keeping his word. No one was able to hear her voice. She never spoke, but she wasn’t lethargic.
She headed for the beach, and Juho returned to his room.
A character’s speech served multiple purposes. On top of being their voice, it was also the voice of the novel. It created ripples like a pebble that was thrown into placid waters. In this short story, however, the protagonist had no voice. As a result, the sounds around her were amplified. In the end, Juho wanted to increase the sound the novel made even more. Her voice would be included then, and she wouldn’t have to worry about being separated or left alone. He fully intended to make her feel heard, enabling readers to be able to imagine her voice just through her monologues.
Juho pictured the woman in jeans. The character was alive, and obviously, she wore clothes and shoes. Then, she received a gift. Naturally, the gift was given by someone else, which meant that she wasn’t alone.
Perhaps that was the reason why she didn’t want things to change, believing that they would last forever. Perhaps she believed that there were things that didn’t change in that world. At least, that’s how Juho saw it.
‘In that case, will her desires come true? After years had gone by, would she have the same thoughts, still? Wouldn’t she still be alone then? What would I need to ask her that question?’ Juho thought, closing his eyes.
He felt cold water on his feet. The waves were breaking, retreating with white seafoam. Though they rushed toward him with excitement, they were short-lived and retreated timidly, taking some of the sand along. Juho looked down at his feet. There was a pair of footprints on the wet, soft sand. He was at the beach himself – the place that required a two-hour train ride to get to. He was back. Just as before, the place was filled with water and sand. Suddenly, he heard something shattering behind him. Looking back, Juho saw debris that was whiter than the sand on the beach. He was well-acquainted with the sight. After all, he had been the one who had made that mess.
“Mr. Agrippa,” Juho called to him. However, Mr. Agrippa lacked a mouth, so he couldn’t answer. The pieces were buried in the sand about halfway, but Juho picked up what looked like a mouth.
The mouth spat out sand, coughing and projecting what looked like saliva or sea water. Juho pulled away from the mouth as it coughed violently.
As it grew calmer, Juho asked, “Why are you here?”
Agrippa’s mouth opened, revealing his clean, neat set of teeth. In a deep, resounding voice, he said, “She didn’t want to talk, so I volunteered to come instead. Besides, I had something to tell you.”
“What is it?”
“You broke me. So, fix me.”
“That’d be impossible, unfortunately.”
There was no way to restore a shattered plaster figure. That was the hard, cold truth. What had already passed couldn’t be restored. At Juho’s answer, a corner of Agrippa’s mouth turned up. Although it had been just his mouth, it was apparent that he was sneering at him.
“What are you talking about? Nothing’s impossible in writing.”
“Ah, that’s what you meant. I get it now.”
Like he had said, it would be possible in writing. It would be possible to restore him to his original shape, regardless of the laws of physics and nature. All it would take would be: ‘He returned to his original shape.’
“There ya go.”
Agrippa’s entire face became visible. Although he was a small bust sculpture, he returned to the shape he was in when Mr. Moon first brought him to the science room.
“Very well, much better! Now, I can use my entire face to communicate!”
“Was it uncomfortable?”
“You’ll understand once you’re in pieces.”
Though Juho was about to answer “I think I can live without that experience,” he stopped himself, remembering that he was the culprit behind shattering Agrippa to pieces. Above, A seagull flew past them. Juho looked up and watched it fly away. It seemed hungry.
“It won’t come for you, will it?”
“I’m harder than I look. That bird would have to worry about breaking its beak.”
Considering how he had been in pieces even a moment prior, his answer didn’t sound very convincing. ‘He’s much weaker than he thinks,’ Juho thought.
Then, Agrippa asked, “Put me in the water, will you?”
“What do you mean why? Because I want to be in the water.”
“Can you feel with that thick, hard skin of yours?”
“It may be hard, but it’s still skin. I can feel everything.”
With those words, Juho walked into the water until it reached his ankles. Setting Agrippa down on the sand, Juho plopped down beside him. Clear sea water soaked into his clothes.
“Are you enjoying yourself?”
“Yep,” answered Agrippa. The deep wrinkles around his eyes showed that he was genuinely happy. He was a man of many expressions. His thick, hard skin moved about freely, shining brightly in the sun. Seeing Agrippa enjoying himself in the water, Juho felt sorry for shattering him. If Agrippa was able to feel everything, he must have been in incredible pain when he was in pieces.
“That’s not true,” said Agrippa.
He interjected, saying, “I couldn’t see, hear or talk then, so I didn’t feel anything either.”
Juho knew he wasn’t telling the truth. Just because he couldn’t see, hear or talk, it didn’t necessarily meant that he couldn’t feel anything. The one who hadn’t felt anything then had been Juho himself. He had been the insensitive one.
Letting out a sigh, Juho asked, “What am I supposed to do when I’m forgiven before I even got to apologize?”
“It’s really fine. You restored me. I’m sure I’m the only Agrippa in this world who got to be in the water at the beach.”
Suddenly, the wave broke, splashing onto his cheek,
“Is there something you want?”
“Why do you ask?”
For a brief moment, Juho looked at the horizon stretching endlessly. It was the border between the sky and sea. Without it, fish could have been swimming in the sky, and Juho would’ve been able to grant Agrippa the title of the first Agrippa ever to be dipped in the sky. However, Juho didn’t want it to vanish. It had always been the line that had kept the sea as the sea, while keeping the sky as the sky.
Juho’s lips parted, and he said, “This is our last time together. If I leave, you’ll be in pieces again, so I’d like to know.”
“Yeah, I’ve been wanting to say it too. Last time we met, we didn’t even have a chance to talk,” said Agrippa. The reflection moved whenever he moved his face. “I was sold along with other art supplies.”
Brush, palette, paint, pencil, sculpting knife, and molding clay. He described the view of the store he had been in.
“Not including myself, there were four Agrippas beside me.”
“Were you close to any of them?”
He hesitated and asked, “What does it mean to be close?”
“That’s a hard question you’re asking.”
Agrippa smiled bitterly. He was a man of many expressions.
“We couldn’t distinguish ourselves.”
“Was it because you all looked the same?”
“Not exactly. I couldn’t retain my identity,” said Agrippa, wearing a sad expression. “Maybe I was asleep. When I opened my eyes after being sold over and over, I had a dream.”
‘Is he talking about dreaming in his sleep or daydreaming?’
“What kind of dream?” Juho asked.
“I had become human. My heart had started beating, blood circulated throughout my body. My hands felt warmth,” answered Agrippa. “I think that’s when I first realized my own identity.”
The imagination Juho had applied to it had brought Agrippa a dream.
“Then, when I was broken into pieces, I felt jealous for the first time.”
The wave retreated, foaming. It splashed on his shoulders.
“What were you jealous about?”
“You guys don’t change.”
The wave broke again, but this time, gently.
“We do change.”
The body and the mind tended to change based on time and circumstances, getting involved in incidents both small and big. People moved restlessly through life.
“No,” Agrippa disagreed for some reason.
“Why did you think that?”
“The moment I was shattered, I felt my identity vanishing into thin air. It’s different from death. I’m not dead. I was just back to not being able to distinguish who I was anymore. I couldn’t tell who was who. Now, I can’t tell myself apart from the other Agrippas.”
‘Distinguish,’ Juho thought. Just as the word “I” meant the person himself, Agrippa was no other than Agrippa himself. “I” would not bother to spend time thinking about his identity when looking at Agrippa because he would be capable of distinguishing himself.
“I was sold over and over. Art institutes, homes, schools, parks. I was everywhere, and I am every Agrippa there is in this world, but you’re different. You are you, strictly. That never changes, and it can never be taken away. You don’t break into pieces like I do. You’re durable. I was jealous.”
Won’t, can’t and shouldn’t be taken away. Agrippa had been jealous of the people who had that. He had wanted to be a person who possessed something that should never be hand out to others under any circumstances. The wave broke again. Though it had been timid at one point, it broke all the more desperately. Water splashed onto Agrippa’s eyes. He was crying.
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