Act 10: D.C. 2
Waiting rooms were interesting places.
It was literally the place where performers waited at, until it was their turn to go up the stage and it was the most important location which performers had to get accustomed to apart from the actual stage.
The reason was that it was the last place we would be in before a performance. For that exact reason, the atmosphere of waiting rooms changed depending on the structure of the concerts and that difference was so drastic it was interesting.
For example, inside the waiting rooms of concours, in which people competed against one another, the atmosphere would be strained, filled with tension.
Concours were competitive grounds on which short performances would decide the winners and losers. Thus, it had a vicious atmosphere where any conspicuous action that could threaten their concentration called for chilling gazes.
On the other hand, concerts like the one today and especially special concerts for commemorations had an entirely different atmosphere.
There would be a light, warm, somewhat enlivened mood. Because there was no need to compete against each other, camaraderie replaced tension, and that was exactly how the waiting room of the Prac High-achievers Concert appeared.
“Ohh Schumann~ Wasn’t it the freshmen’s turn right now?”
“Yeah. It’s hard and yet they’re doing it well. There’s no mistakes either.”
“First graders these days man, they’re scary.”
After staring at the upperclassmen talking amongst themselves with smiles, I turned and glanced around. The noisy waiting room was crowded with students waiting for their turns.
There were students nodding away while listening to music, girls closing their eyes while leaning back on their chairs and students chattering and smiling. Even at a glance, it was easy to tell that the atmosphere was different from the frozen one back in the Improvement Concert.
Watching the scene before me in silence, I nodded.
‘Nothing surprising I guess.’
Improvement Concerts were marked while today’s concert was not a competition despite its importance.
There was no reason for them to be on the edge because there were only one student and at most two students from each department getting onto the stage. In other words, there was no-one to compete with.
‘But what if five of the same department were to get on the stage?’
The answer to that was simple.
To know the answer, one just had to observe the atmosphere around the freshmen Opera Department that were gathered at one spot.
Jun Shihyuk had his arms crossed wearing a stiff expression, while Lee Suh-ah sat with crossed legs and the same cold expression as always. Next to her was Han Dasom fidgeting around not knowing what to do as well as I who had once again closed my eyes for self mind-control.
Kim Wuju was the only one wearing a bright expression but since he wasn’t the type to start conversations either, there was only heavy silence around us.
…Should I say something?
‘No. It’s also better off quiet since I have to prepare anyways.’
While having such carefree thoughts running across my head, I sat still when my phone vibrated from within the pocket. Curious as to what it was, I took it out and discovered that a message had been received.
[Lee Suh-ah: Are you sleeping?]
I turned around and found Lee Suh-ah sitting down with an indifferent expression.
What? Why’s she sending a message instead of saying it in person?
With puzzlement I stared at Lee Suh-ah when Han Dasom tilted her head from her side.
“Is anything wrong Yunjae…?”
“Huh? It’s nothing.”
…There had to be a reason she’s sending a message right?
Giving up on trying to understand, I just sent back a reply.
Soon, another message arrived.
[Lee Suh-ah: Don’t sleep. Your voice will turn hoarse if you do.]
After that, she continued sending inquisitive messages in secret. She asked whether I practised a lot, how my throat was, what happened to my favourite chocolate and how the aircon was too cold…
She asked in detail as if she was trying to double-check my preparations and soon sent another message with an indifferent expression.
[Lee Suh-ah: You know how important today’s Prac High-achievers Concert is right? There might be university lecturers here who in the future could be our interviewers and our potential employers from ensembles, opera companies could be coming as well.]
[Lee Suh-ah: If you do, then try your hardest. Especially because we have five, there will be less individual focus and only the best would remain in their memories.]
Reading the messages, I nodded. I already knew about it and that was exactly why I practised hard for it.
‘But why is she suddenly sending me all this?’
I was thinking curiously when the next message arrived.
[Lee Suh-ah: Thanks for getting me jobs during the holidays by the way.]
Raising my head up, I saw Lee Suh-ah looking at me as our eyes then met. With her aloof gaze looking down at me, she whispered softly.
“But I will be winning this concert.”
With “So try your best” as the last words, she pulled her lips back from my ears and soon turned her head away as if nothing had ever happened.
Looking at her side profile, I thought deeply.
She probably thought I didn’t know the importance of today’s concert.
It might be normal for us to not know, because if we hadn’t experienced it during Future Middle School, there would be no way for us to know how many outsiders would be coming to visit.
Unless they travelled back in time like myself, it was normal for them to consider it a casual concert. But then why did Lee Suh-ah tell me all this?
Rubbing that word with my fingers, I thought.
Lee Suh-ah perhaps discovered the fact that I was caught up in guilt after taking away her scholarship. And she hated it.
The fact that I felt sorry about it and that I regretted that competition, as well as how I might intentionally lose this time due to that guilt – after thinking of all that, she sent me a message to dissuade me, saying that the concert today was important.
While saying “Since I would be the victor anyways, try your hardest”.
Quietly, I stared at the message before breaking out into a grin.
…Maybe Lee Suh-ah was more of an adult than me.
Feeling humoured, I raised my phone up and started typing back a reply.
[I will be winning though. Will you be okay with that?]
[Lee Suh-ah: lol]
[You dare laugh? Don’t be like this again even if you lose.]
Now, where was it… ah here it is.
After finding ‘Lee Suh-ah humiliation image.png’ from a hidden folder, I opened it and double-checked.
Hmm, it was still here – the photo I took when Lee Suh-ah was lying down in the corridor crying. With a satisfied smile, I stared at that image for a bit before quickly pressing on the send button.
Soon after the sound of a vibration, a horrible shriek echoed from the side.
“Isn’t it the Freshmen Opera Department’s turn soon, teacher Ku Mingi?”
Staring at the displeased expression on Ku Mingi with joy, Song Muntak made a slight smile as he faced the front again.
Inside the wide Future Hall, when the student holding a violin bowed, a roar of applause could be heard filling the hall.
‘Since opera is right after violin… it should be over soon.’
Crossing his arms, Song Muntak thought back on what had happened. When they had a little fight inside the principal’s room, they shared a conversation like this.
“Let’s try listening to it.”
“You said you weren’t sure about the opera singer Jo Yunjae. We just have to check it this time around right?”
“Again? I already saw him during the song presentation but I’m not sure if it was that great.”
“The song presentation with another person’s song and a personal concert is different isn’t it?”
“So? What’s your point?”
“I’m saying we should listen to his song in this concert and decide upon it.”
“…Good. I will decide after hearing it and we will not talk about this any further after that.”
When he finished having his flashback, Song Muntak smiled.
Unfortunately, there was a fact which Ku Mingi didn’t know that Song Muntak did. It was none other than the marking criteria and the notes taken by the examiners during Jo Yunjae’s prac test. Song Muntak was able to check it thanks to his authorities as a principal.
Elf King which would be sung in this concert did not have a great evaluation and in fact, the second song was closer to perfect.
Based on that fact, Song Muntak came to a conclusion.
‘Although it might have been possible with the second song, it will be difficult to beat other students with Elf King.’
It was a miscalculation made due to Song Muntak having distanced himself from direct participation in teaching and marking, not knowing the marking criteria of prac tests.
With both Song Muntak and Ku Mingi having their own thoughts, the Prac High-achievers Concert of the Freshmen Opera Department began.
“Freshmen Soprano, student Lee Suh-ah.”
The first was Lee Suh-ah.
Listening with his eyes closed, Song Muntak nodded his head.
‘As expected of Lee Suh-ah. She lives up to her name.’
It was a clean song without a single blemish, and was perfect enough that not a single listener could deduct marks from it. It could be said to have been a song perfectly optimised for the prac test.
The following students, Han Dasom, Kim Wuju and Jun Shihyuk all showed off perfect songs and as expected of students that got full marks, they showcased impeccable, flawless stages.
Seeing them, Song Muntak was put into a great mood, until teacher Ku Mingi opened his mouth with a smile.
“Isn’t it a bit plain?”
What was he talking about? Thought Song Muntak but soon, he stiffened.
It was strange.
Although the songs were definitely not bad, they were rather flat. Without anything fancy, they only displayed basic foundations and expressions. Putting it nicely they were solid, but in bad terms, they were lacklustre.
Flat, boring… dull songs.
‘They were so good I didn’t realise it but…’
With his eyes facing the blank Song Muntak, Ku Mingi spoke and raised the corners of his lips.
“But they were perfect. So perfect that there was nothing to point out, or any downside that called for a deduction of mark.”
Ku Mingi replied with a shrug of his shoulders.
“That’s obvious. Since they were songs that would be for their prac tests, those kids would have sung songs optimised for prac tests which their specialist teachers handpicked with great care.”
And because the preparation time for the Prac High-achievers Concert was short, they had no choice but to bring those prac songs.
Ku Mingi concluded his words.
“Those four children had no other choice but to sing lacklustre songs.”
“But you are well aware what song student Jo Yunjae prepared.”
Hearing his words, Song Muntak opened his mouth dejectedly.
“Elf King. A showy song with changing vocalisations.”
“It would be great for concerts.”
It wouldn’t be just great; he would be compared to the other four, resulting in an overwhelming amplification as a result. That was how impactful Elf King, which appeared to be sung by multiple people, could be.
Ku Mingi, who had already checked with the examiners of the prac tests on what they thought, was certain as he rode on the bet.
‘The main protagonist of this concert will be Jo Yunjae.’
Song Muntak turned towards Ku Mingi who was wearing a satisfied smile and abruptly formed a discontent look.
“You already knew about it?”
Leaning back onto the chair, Song Muntak heaved out a deep sigh, and Ku Mingi who had seen that returned his gaze back to the front. Although he had won this small bet, it was nothing but a small bet based on spoken words.
‘It won’t be enough to truly change the principal’s thoughts with just that.’
To change his heart, the fundamental problem had to be solved.
It had to be greater than the misunderstandings around him that had been formed whilst he was mixing in with various other geniuses…
‘A perfect song.’
Squinting his eyes, Ku Mingi stared at the front as his eyes caught sight of Jo Yunjae in the distance entering the stage.