Act 10: D.C. 1
Bidding farewell to my parents, I walked towards the hall along with Han Dasom.
It was nearing the end of August. Around this time when the intense heat of summer was starting to die down, the school welcoming its opening ceremony of the new semester was painted in green.
The overgrown grass in the gardens, the noisy cries of the cicadas, the short trees densely packed before the fences and its rustling leaves supplemented the lively conversations of the students.
Within all that, Han Dasom walked in a seemingly joyous manner.
Despite her usual calmness, she was oddly enlivened and her arms being swung around appeared light. Her expression remained dignant perhaps to hide those emotions but her lips were unconsciously raised so it was very obvious that she was happy.
Observing all that with enjoyment, I started a conversation with a grin.
“Did something good happen?”
“Because you were smiling.”
Hearing my words, she widened her eyes and touched her lips to check before giving a bashful smile.
She didn’t even know she was smiling, it seemed.
Curious as to why she was so happy, I abruptly threw a question at her.
“Did you go somewhere interesting during the holidays?”
“No. I stayed at home everyday…”
“…Right, staying inside is the best on days like this. Even if you go out on a vacation, it’s just going to be steaming hot.”
She made a mysterious smile and turned towards the front, at the students moving to attend the opening ceremony. Staring at the kids laughing and enjoying themselves, Han Dasom finally opened her mouth.
“It’s just that, I thought of the admission day.”
“Back then, I walked through here as well…”
As if responding to her words, the wind trembled the leaves as they rustled.
Staring at the front, I smiled. I could understand what she meant because thinking back, it really did resemble one another.
During the admission day, it was crowded with students walking towards the hall. Besides, even though it was the first day of high school, there were already people talking excitedly with their friends because most of the students in Future Arts High were from Future Middle School.
I remember watching the blanched plum flower petals falling over them from the back.
“Because I didn’t know anyone, I was walking alone…”
“Yeah. I was too.”
Since Han Dasom was from a normal middle school, she was most likely the same as me. Thinking about how I lonesomely carried my feet towards the hall and sat alone only to find the seats next to me remaining empty…
‘I really didn’t know where to start.’
I was buried in my memories when Han Dasom, who had been walking next to me suddenly turned her face towards me.
Her fluttering hair caught my sight.
Within the bright summer sunlight and her dense, lustrous black hair giving off a bright shine while being scattered away by the wind, Han Dasom opened her mouth.
“But now… I’m walking with Yunjae…”
A warm smile surfaced on her face.
“I just liked that.”
Halting my feet, I watched her and slowly, I met my eyes with hers with a smile. Staring into those dark pupils with a hint of a warm brown light, I felt a lump in my throat.
“…You’re right. We were alone but now, it’s the two of us.”
For a bit I stared at Han Dasom letting the words ‘hehe’ out with a smile, and soon turned back towards the front.
Future Arts High which will soon be welcoming the new second semester and for some reason, I had a hunch that something good would be happening.
The students gathering at the hall soon divided up and formed their own groups.
First grade, second grade and third grade students, in Music, Visual Art and Dancing departments all sat amongst their groups as the groups further classified down to piano, opera and violin departments.
After sitting next to each other, they excitedly talked about everything that happened during the holidays and during that, a few students started to sit around Han Dasom and I.
“Ohh Yunjae. How was your holiday?”
“It was alright.”
Noh Jusup placed his arm around my shoulder and smiled. Since it was my first time seeing him after a month, it felt rather nice but it seemed that his extremely carefree attitude still remained.
With those thoughts in mind, I smiled when Noh Jusup opened his mouth with his head tilted.
“Wait? It feels slightly higher. Did you get taller?”
I tilted my head and tried to think of the past.
Indeed, if I remember correctly, I think I started getting taller around this time and from the current height – slightly lower than 170, I grew till I was around 180cm.
“Yeah, maybe I’m going to get taller soon.”
“Kukuk. Even then, you’re never going to reach my height.”
Shrugging my shoulders, I continued talking with Noh Jusup until the start of the opening ceremony was upon us. One of the teachers walked up and blabbered as the ceremony continued on in an orderly fashion.
After listening to a long speech, we sang the school song.
As expected of a performing art school, its school song was quite catchy and although it was my first time singing it in 20 years, it still came out naturally.
Soon, most of the events finished when the principal walked up to the front of the stage with his sparkling head. Then, he started giving a preach.
“Eh… I wish every student with us today will devote themselves to their studies… in this second semester… of Future Arts High.”
Barely stopping myself from the urge to sleep that immediately assaulted me, I blinked my eyes and listened to the principal’s words in one ear and let it out through the other.
Even if you did well during the first semester, you can’t be arrogant and if you did bad, then you should try harder… After saying those rather obvious things, he talked about the upcoming event, ‘Prac High-achievers Concert’ and its details.
He talked endlessly about things the students already knew about before suddenly giving out an empty cough and glancing over us.
Then, he opened his mouth again with a serious look.
“Also, during the second semester, in order to grow new talents for the Conducting Department which has regressed over the years, we will start giving utmost support. In other words…”
After that, he started going over the benefits with a resolute tone.
Support in school fees, scholarship and teaching support… Just by listening it appeared great and it was a significant support that made me question the reasons behind it.
‘Although the conducting department has fewer students… is it okay to do so much?’
No matter how much money the Future Foundation has, that still seems like a waste of money though.
Thinking that, I stared at the front as Noh Jusup who had been dozing off to the side opened his mouth with a big yawn and opened his heavy eyelids.
“Huaaam… is it still not over?”
Noh Jusup looked forward with sleepy eyes while scratching his hair before turning towards me.
“Aye. Fell asleep after listening to the High-achievers Concert part.”
“It’s alright. He didn’t say much after that.”
He scratched his stomach and stared at the principal’s neverending preach for a while before opening his mouth.
“Oh yeah, you’re doing the Prac High-achievers Concert as well right? How’s the practice goin’?”
Blankly looking forward, I thought.
I did practise and because I matched Elf King with Chloe once, it could be said that I was in a perfect condition.
… If there was a minor problem, it would be that the other four were too vigorous. Turning my head slightly, I could see the faces of the performers gathered inside.
At a location slightly near the front was Kim Wuju, surrounded by girls.
“Did you practise a lot for the Concert tomorrow?”
“Mhmm… I didn’t practise specifically for it but… I am singing everyday.”
“Oh wow, confident I see~”
“Haha, no no.”
From how I could hear cheers coming out, it seemed like there wasn’t even a need to hear any further. Turning my head with a flick towards the next target, I found Jun Shihyuk near Kim Wuju talking with Song Mirae.
“Oh yeah, you didn’t do instagram during the holidays right?”
“…I had to practise.”
Then, he faced me with a burning glare and… hmm, he looked ready any time as well.
Apart from them, there was Lee Suh-ah and Han Dasom sitting further away at a distance who also improved a lot compared to the past.
With such people as contestants, it might be natural to have one’s spirit and desire to win killed.
Although I did get first place with them during the prac test, it was because the marking criteria of prac tests were unique and that did not necessarily mean that I was as great as them.
“I don’t know. I did practise a lot though.”
“Tch tch. You really are unlucky. How is there a group of those kinds of people gathered in one grade? If it’s someone at your level, they would normally be first place, no questions asked. I got goosebumps watching you get better everyday you know?”
Seeing Noh Jusup making a fuss, I thought with a smile.
‘Normally’, huh. Normally, I was someone closer to the bottom than the top and the current situation was more than satisfactory enough.
“I’m happy enough just making it to the Concert.”
“But even then, isn’t it a shame? It was supposed to be just two people being in the spotlight but now there are five performers so it would be buried super hard. They should’ve just separated it into two days…”
After looking at him throwing complaints out, I slowly turned back towards the front of the hall at the stage and thought.
That was plausible.
Five songs were being sung from students from the freshmen opera department and thus will definitely be compared. We are performing in a batch as well after all.
Most likely, the audience will be unconsciously grading who the best singer was, curious as to who would be the best from Kim Wuju, Lee Suh-ah, Jun Shihyuk, Han Dasom and I.
“What can we do? The concert day is tomorrow already.”
“It is, yeah…”
Putting Noh Jusup, who appeared regretful, behind, I threw my gaze forward and after glancing across the students, I found Chloe looking at me.
Seeing the bright smile on her face, the conversation I had with her flashed across my head as a similar smile appeared on my own lips.
‘Prac High-achievers Concert’.
No matter how I think about it, I don’t think I will be buried though.
Ku Mingi glared at the front.
“Isn’t this teacher Ku Mingi? What brings you here?”
Inside the principal’s room with the blazing midday sunlight glaring down, Ku Mingi shutted his mouth and looked at the principal while listening to the buzzing sound of the aircon.
Before him was the principal brazenly smiling. After staring at him for a long time, Ku Mingi softly opened his mouth.
“…You increased the support for the Conducting Department by a large margin, to the point it looked excessive.”
“I don’t know… was it excessive? I just thought it was necessary which was why I went on with it…”
Slurring the end of his words, Song Muntak made a relaxed smile.
“But I have no idea why teacher Ku Mingi cares about the Conducting Department. Was there something wrong?”
Hearing the sly reply of the principal, Ku Mingi bit his lips.
It sounded plausible but Ku Mingi already had circumstantial evidence about the reason the principal suddenly added support for the Conducting Department.
That reason he thought of was perhaps why the principal sneakily asked about Jo Yunjae during the holidays.
“Suup… it’s about student Jo Yunjae but, is he completely uninterested in being a conductor?” – Thinking back on that sentence which the principal had said, Ku Mingi clenched his teeth.
The circumstances made it extremely obvious. Wasn’t this trying to take his student to the Conducting Department openly?
By using money and benefits as bait!
As the teacher in charge of Jo Yunjae, it was a situation he definitely could not leave untouched.
“That guy… he is a child that goes nuts over singing. Money and benefits… Do you think that will make him go to the Conducting Department? I’m afraid you would be just wasting your money.”
In front of that aggressive attitude of Ku Mingi, Song Muntak surfaced a small smile.
“Haha, time would tell us that. From what I heard, that guy’s family situation isn’t very well off…”
Raising a corner of his lips and thinking back on what he heard from Song Mirae, Song Muntak added more words.
“To the point he needed to work part-time during the holidays.”
Ku Mingi tilted his head.
Work? A high school freshman? During the short month of the holidays?
It was a situation he had never heard of during his days of teaching at Future Arts High. He thought deeply with a frown before forming a dark expression.
“…Is his household in that much of a precarious situation?”
“I wouldn’t know how good or bad it is, but think about it.”
Wearing a serious expression, the principal crossed his fingers and opened his mouth.
“When I heard from other teachers, that guy seemed to be oddly obsessed with scholarships. Isn’t it obvious then?”
Closing his eyes, Ku Mingi became lost in his thoughts.
Thinking back, it wasn’t an attitude which a high school freshman who usually had no real idea about money would show.
How was he, himself like when he was at that age?
Instead of thinking about scholarships, he was busy playing around, sneaking away from his parents. People usually had to leave the grounds of their family to even have a slight worry about money.
“…It would be pretty bad.”
“Perhaps he might not even be able to attend school without a scholarship.”
Like that, an unfortunate circumstance of Jo Yunjae appeared and flashed in their head.
Jo Yunjae, extremely poor, attending school despite the opposition from his family as well as the financial situation of the household due to which Jo Yunjae had to work…
Having those thoughts, which Jo Yunjae who had invested all his earnings to stock market would be dumbfounded of if he was to know about it, Ku Mingi heaved out a deep sigh.
“That was why you increased the support?”
“Well, yeah. Isn’t it good for him as well if he can study with loads of support funds?”
Seeing the bright smile on Song Muntak’s face, Ku Mingi crumpled his expression.
“Don’t you just have to increase the support for the Opera Department then?”
“Haha, not sure. I could invest this much for the conductor Jo Yunjae, but the opera singer Jo Yunjae? Not too sure about that.”
Deciding that it was impossible to persuade any further, Ku Mingi took a step back.
“Good. It’s great since tomorrow is the day of the Concert.”
Ku Mingi then slowly opened his mouth.
“Let’s try listening to it.”