Act 9: Whimsically 4
To be honest, I already had a rough idea of what the results would be. Although I got the same mark in the prac test which had the highest weighting, my opponent was the Lee Suh-ah. She had never missed out coming first in her three years of middle and three years of high school in my previous life.
Despite getting the same mark in the prac test and the final results being decided from the mid-sems, finals and schoolwork; I did not see myself defeating Lee Suh-ah.
I mean, how long had it been since I graduated high school?
Languages and music theory were okay because I studied them regularly but how would I remember factorisation, cells et cetera? Even though I felt I had become smarter and studied hard, the finals’ result was a fifth place.
In the end, I had only been studying for a semester. Thus, when the results were going to be announced, I let my expectations down calmly and waited.
It would’ve been great if I could receive the scholarship but it can’t be helped because Lee Suh-ah was just better than me at studying.
With an empty smile I stared at the teacher when my eyes caught sight of teacher Kang Heewon turning towards me with a bright smile.
Why’s she looking at me?
I tilted my head when the teacher bellowed while reaching out with her arm.
“This term’s highest achiever is… none other than our student Yunjae!”
Matching myself with the crowd giving insincere applause, I clapped before suddenly realising that the situation was slightly strange.
Did she call my name just then?
Thinking that perhaps it was my ears playing tricks on me, I glanced around but the surrounding reactions were weird as well. Without even sparing a look at Lee Suh-ah, they all stared at me. Noh Jusup apathetically gave words of congratulation while Han Dasom clapped passionately with a bright smile. Chloe was throwing glances at both me and Lee Suh-ah and Jun Shihyuk pointed his indifferent gaze towards me.
Finally, when I looked over at Lee Suh-ah, I found her deeply lowering her head. Her hair covered the expression beneath like black curtains.
“The highest achiever will have the full scholarship and the certificate given during the holidays so please be prepared, student Yunjae~”
I listened to the teacher’s explanation that continued but it felt somewhat dumbfounding.
Was it really me? Not Lee Suh-ah?
Of course, it was something I wanted because our household wasn’t very well off financially. Even in my previous life, that short time I was in Future Arts High had turned the faces of my parents darker. Although they acted nonchalant before me, I could tell now that I had become an adult that a sudden additional expense was very taxing on the household.
However, I wasn’t expecting myself to get the scholarship in this manner.
I was expecting something like, a proper, frontal fight between Lee Suh-ah and me… Whether I would be completely defeated or I would suppress the prideful Lee Suh-ah and make fun of her – that was the future I was thinking of.
And yet I just suddenly received an award saying that I won?
…Dumbfounded was a fitting word.
Even whilst I stayed blank, congratulatory words continued falling.
“You little guy. Are you happy getting an award you got by studying instead of playing with me?”
Noh Jusup shoving my shoulder with a smile, warm hands touching my arms and my body being pushed and shoved. In the midst of that, I received their compliments with an awkward smile when the corner of the classroom entered my sight.
Behind the slightly opened back door, familiar black hair twitched before hiding itself. It was a ponytail that appeared somewhat downcast.
I stared at that blankly like I had been possessed before shooting out of my seat.
“…One sec, let me through.”
“Uh? Are you going to the bathroom? The teacher said we still have a meeting left…”
Leaving behind Noh Jusup and his tilted head, I quickly carried my feet across. The classroom flicked and got pushed away from my sight. When I quickly left through the back door, an empty corridor welcomed me.
A quiet corridor with not a single passerby.
Rapidly I turned my head to the opposite direction when I saw a shadow of a girl vanishing behind the corner.
I walked quickly.
The tapping sound of my steps gradually quickened and soon turned into a running sound. The hot summer air clogged up my chest as the slowly setting sun blurred my vision with its red light.
Raising my hand, I blocked the sunlight and turned as a silhouette entered my sight.
It was the back of a girl which I had seen a lot.
Her ponytail flicked temperamentally, and the school skirt and her clean clothes reflecting her tidiness fluttered in the wind.
“Oi Lee Suh-ah.”
Perhaps she hadn’t heard it, but she trudged in silence. In the end, I had to run up and place my hand on Lee Suh-ah’s shoulder to turn her over.
“Why aren’t you…!”
Finally, when I saw her face, I stopped my words – I had no choice but to.
Because it was my first time seeing Lee Suh-ah cry.
I don’t know if this will sound weird but I had almost never made anyone cry because my entire life was centred around songs. I had never fought fiercely enough to see the tears of others and stayed relatively distant even when going out with a girl. They met me, despite knowing that I was crazy for music so there was nothing in particular to fight about.
Well… the only fights I ever wanted to have were probably with composers that made super difficult songs. There were times I wanted to ask them if their songs were made for people to sing.
…So what I wanted to say was simple.
I’ve never made people cry so I don’t know how to stop kids from crying either.
It was nice that I chased after Lee Suh-ah because she gave off a weird vibe. She just suddenly ran out in the middle of the end-of-the-day meeting and appeared like she was in a precarious situation. That’s why I came running after her.
However, the moment she saw me, she started tearing up and now she was just openly crying while crouching down.
People would think she lost her country or something.
So why was she crying? She suddenly ran out of the classroom and now that she saw me, she broke out into tears. Did she hate me that much?
I was dumbfounded to the level such thoughts appeared and just watched her.
But actually, it was quite amusing to watch. Crouching down, she twitched her body before losing her sense of balance and collapsing backward onto her bum.
Then, she started letting out tears more sorrowfully perhaps due to the pain and it even made me wonder if this was the cold Lee Suh-ah I knew. Staring at her collapsed on the ground, I opened my mouth.
“Hey, your panties are showing.”
Her ears worked well in certain situations it seemed, as she immediately lowered the skirt with her hand. Then, she raised her head pantingly with swollen eyes and glared.
“It’s a… kuung, bloomer…!”
“…Yeah, whatever but if you’re going to cry, let’s cry somewhere else. If you cry in the middle of the corridor, the whole school’s gonna know about it.”
I said it for her own good but Lee Suh-ah seemed more angry than before for some reason. Her panting speed increased as her wide, glaring eyes that detested defeat had drops of tear hanging…
Why, did I say something wrong? I stared at her with that expression when Lee Suh-ah threw words out between her tears.
“Hkkk… It’s all your faulttt!”
“What did I do?”
“You… you taught me something weird…”
I tilted my head when suddenly a figure of a person appeared at a distance. When I saw that, I quickly snatched Lee Suh-ah’s hand.
“Hey, let’s go somewhere else first. You can cry or do whatever you want there.”
Perhaps she became more relaxed after a shout but Lee Suh-ah followed obediently as I led her by her arm.
“So, because you were practising how to embed emotions, you didn’t even get to sleep properly?”
Seeing her sniffling, I folded my arms.
After taking Lee Suh-ah to the lounge which we had visited before, I had a chat with her and realised that the situation was rather simple.
The emotions she had been practising with me. After seeing me succeed in it, she started practising crazily. While throwing away studies, she focused solely on singing.
However, no matter how much she practised, Lee Suh-ah couldn’t properly embed emotions and all the way until the day before the finals, she hadn’t been able to focus on her studies.
Due to that, her final results dropped by a large margin and I sneaked through that gap to steal her highest achiever position… was Lee Suh-ah’s explanation.
A sigh escaped my lips.
“Ehew… if it doesn’t work immediately you can just give up. It could work in the future or something.”
“…I can’t give up.”
I saw Lee Suh-ah with pouted lips and scratched the back of my neck. Well, putting myself in her shoes, I could somewhat understand her feelings. How many times had she been blocked by something during her singing?
It was obvious from her very song. Her high notes soared up nonstop without any difficulty and her timbre and techniques seemed to be gifts from god. There perhaps wasn’t a single failure within her entire life.
And yet, I suddenly showed her something weird before succeeding all by myself – something which she couldn’t do. From her viewpoint, that must’ve been impossible to hold in and would’ve felt suppressed like her road was sealed by something.
I knew very well because I had faced such walls very often.
“…Well, that’s okay. I understand that you failed the finals because you were practising but… was it something to be that upset about? Didn’t you say you were just doing it because you could?”
Lee Suh-ah hesitated a while and glanced at me before biting her lips. Then, she repeatedly raised and lowered her head with a frown before whispering ‘If it’s you…’ to herself and grumbled her words out.
“I… need to receive, kng, the scholarship…”
She again let out tears emotionally and explained her circumstances with a murmur.
Her father had been weak ever since her birth. After being chased out of his workplace and frequenting the hospital, her household’s financial situation took a large hit and for Lee Suh-ah who dreamed of becoming an opera singer, it would’ve been a massive shock.
Although opera required much less compared to other areas of classical music, it still required quite a fair bit of money.
That was why Lee Suh-ah attended Future Middle and High School with the goal that she must receive scholarships.
After blankly talking endlessly, she wiped her eyes and stood up. Then, she blinked for a bit before forcibly raising her eyes and opening her mouth.
“…I’m not blaming you. Just like how I needed the scholarships, you needed it as well. I just crie… got emotional because I was upset for not receiving it.”
With my eyebrows raised up, I thought inwardly.
I could finally understand why she cried; her house wasn’t financially stable either. And also, now that I thought about it, when my throat was sore, she was extremely concerned, as if she did not want to see anyone in pain.
Gazing deeply at her face, I asked.
“So, what are you going to do this time?”
Lee Suh-ah opened her mouth a few times before closing them back down. It seemed that she had never thought about it but it was natural considering that she was still a high school freshman. She was at an age where she would be clueless as to how to earn money.
Shrugging my shoulders, I threw her a suggestion.
“Do you have time during the holidays?”
“If you’re free, do you wanna go earn money with me?”
I stared at her watching me with a depressed expression before raising my hand to point at my throat.
“How would singers earn money? We have to use this. I needed someone to go with me so that saves me the trouble as well.”