Chapter 6: Faster 5
Checking that Jo Yunjae had left the room, Ku Mingi turned his head. He pointed his gaze at the principal who was in deep contemplation with his fingers locked and after staring at him for a while, Ku Mingi crumpled his face slightly and opened his mouth.
“...Mr Principal. Did you have to pressure him like that? Student Jo Yunjae is still in the first grade of his high school.”
“Pressure you say?”
“What else would that be if it wasn’t?”
Clenching his teeth, Ku Mingi thought back on the things that had happened.
The expressionless face of the principal, Song Muntak as he spoke of how he can trust him, and requesting for a proof of the skills. That was in no way, a pressure that a mere high schooler can last against.
Heaving out a deep sigh, Ku Mingi thought.
Who was Song Muntak?
He was a conductor second to none in Korea with a long experience over the years in foreign ensembles on top of the distant standing of a student and a principal. A principal like that who was also three to four times older was wearing a frown so what would happen?
A normal high school student would probably be trembling away without being able to say a single word. Jo Yunjae who had made a serious expression and declared that he would prove himself was the strange one.
...Now that he thought of it, how was he able to say that without a single sign of nervousness? Is his heart made of steel? He’s only a high schooler and yet...
While Ku Mingi was in thought, Song Muntak heavily opened his mouth.
“He’s a high schooler but is still a musician.”
“Right, a musician. To a musician that has to stand in front of hundreds and thousands of people, this old man is saying something. How could that ever be considered a pressure?”
“...No. Jo Yunjae is still a learning student.”
Song Muntak downright rejected the words of seldom-angry Ku Mingi who seemed to be upset.
“No. It’s different. Right... you might not know because you’re the same opera singer.”
As he tapped on the desk, Song Muntak’s gaze was deepened and after searching through the surroundings, his hand found a box of cigarettes.
Soon, Song Muntak who appeared through the smoke seemed rather tired.
“Conductors, you see, are people that group dozens of musicians into one. Those musicians, those people that enter the ensemble are all amazing people. At the very least, that’s what they consider themselves to be. To lead all those self-centred people and perform a song, what do we have to do?”
Pointing at his eyes, Song Muntak added.
“We need to see clearly what kinds of people they are and what songs they can sing, as well as their strengths and weaknesses... After that comes the grouping. Composers write songs, and it’s the conductors’ jobs to make that into reality. Realising clearly what kind of materials there are is our first objective as conductors.”
“So, what is the point you’re trying to get across?”
Staring blankly at the skies, he opened his mouth.
“In my eyes, that guy was... already a musician.”
“Jo Yunjae? He has only studied opera for a bit over a month.”
“Why would I care? I’m only telling you what I saw.”
Through the dense smoke that was puffed out from his mouth, Song Muntak’s eyes flickered.
“Right. That guy. His gaze itself was different. There was a strong will etched into his eyeballs that didn’t spare a glance at other things. Aah right, there are those kinds of people. Whatever the conductor says on the stage, those dirty bastards don’t care and sing their own songs. When they’re there, the stage is either one or the other.”
Song Muntak raised his index and middle finger.
“It runs haywire...”
One of the fingers was folded.
“Or marks the start of a great figure that can turn tens of thousands of audience speechless.”
He made a grin.
“The birth of a virtuoso.”
After finishing filling in the answer sheets, I turned my gaze.
It was 5 minutes till the end of the test.
Mhmm... I finished double-checking and there weren’t any unsolvable questions either so should I stop here? Resting my chin on my hand, I thought while staring blankly at the clock.
Quite strangely enough, the Future Arts High sat even the mid-sems differently according to the departments – the Music Department, Visual Arts Department and the Dancing Department all had different questions for the tests. The tests were totally different.
As such, it wasn’t an overstatement to say that although the school was the same, they were people from different worlds. Not just the tests but even their majors were just classified together under Performing Arts and were all different. Visual arts, music and dancing... how many of these could actually be grouped together?
At least the orchestra majors would cooperate with visual arts and the dancing students and and have some exchanges there but the opera majors... well, because we were all people that would be dissatisfied if we weren’t the main characters, there would pretty much be no contact with them.
In any case, because the departments were so different, the scholarships were given separately for each department as well. In other words, there would be at least 3 people in each grade getting scholarships.
From there, the one I was aiming for was the first position of our grade in the Music Department and the obstacle was obviously Lee Suh-ah.
Glancing at Lee Suh-ah, I could see her moving her eyes around without rest going through the test papers. Judging from the speed, she seemed to have already finished checking multiple times...
A genius with many prac tests all close to full marks, while also studying crazily in theories and normal subjects. Unless they were aiming for scholarships like me, opera students wouldn’t normally be studying that hard.
But to think that she was also aiming for the scholarships, the things she had seemed too chic.
‘How was Lee Suh-ah’s family situation again?’
Tilting my head, I thought but nothing popped up in my head. Even after becoming famous, Lee Suh-ah had never shared her personal life on TV.
While I was in thought for a short amount of time, the last test had finished and the declaration of freedom left teacher Kang Heewon’s lips.
“With this, the mid-sem exams are over~ Everyone don’t be too lax just because the tests are all done and practise hard!”
With a stretch I gazed around the surroundings and could see the students of the tenth class rustling rowdily.
“Ah! I failed the test so hard.”
“Does anyone know the answer for the 15th question?”
“Oi let’s go. Let’s go.”
Seeing them I thought.
The exams were now over.
A goal that I had been quite passionately aiming for had disappeared which made me feel a bit out of energy. Quite blank even.
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I had no idea. I think I got almost everything right from the humanities and probably got one or two questions wrong from maths and science. Even with that, the normal subjects’ marks should be quite high... would I make it for the scholarships?
Although I was better than Lee Suh-ah in music theories, the prac is a bit questionable so I had no idea how it would be in the end.
I was in the midst of those thoughts when Noh Jusup approached with a refreshed expression and opened his mouth after slamming the table once.
“Hey! Let’s go out! The teacher said we can leave freely today. ‘Ara’ this time as well, ‘kay?”
...Why did he seem so happy? People would think he had obtained freedom after a long time of hard work after seeing his face and I who had been seeing him play games every time from the side felt quite strange.
“Ara Internet Cafe. Are you going or not?”
Just thinking about it made an unwilling expression appear on my face. I mean that internet cafe or whatever; because Noh Jusup whinged on and on about going I followed him once and was completely defeated in a game called League of Legends or something.
There were so many things to do and he would say, do this do that, don’t do that and why are you so bad... he just grinned from the side while saying all that.
I was quite upset after thinking back. What kind of hard stuff was he making someone who had never played games before do?
I was about to decline saying I’m okay but a thought suddenly popped up after hearing the word ‘game’. Teacher Kwak Jungsoo was playing a game on his phone last time I saw. Was he doing well in Italy I wonder?
“Hey, go to the internet cafe by yourself, but let me just ask you a question.”
“Un? What is it? You have 5 seconds cuz I need to go play League.”
“...What’s a game middle-aged men play these days?”
“Middle-aged men? I dunno. Lin Age maybe? I’m going then!”
Lin Age huh...
On my phone I searched about it and a few things popped up. An RPG game? What is this? From the image of the game it seemed that it was indeed the game teacher Kwak Jungsoo had been playing.
Blankly I had been surfing the internet when something called ‘gift feature’ entered my vision.
So... you could give people gift cards that could buy things inside the game?
After some thought, I attached the gift to kakaotalk and sent it over to the teacher.
[Me: Mr ‘Jo Yunjae’ has given a gift along with a message!
‘Lin Age’ Gift card.]
Soon, I received a message.
[Kwak Jungsoo: (thumbs up emoji)]
The teacher seemed to be doing fine over there. Glancing up through the messages, I went through the old messages and found sceneries of Italy.
Images taken by the seashore, a village with colourful and beautiful houses and an ensemble located in the midst of all that as teacher Kwak Jungsoo performed in front of the few audiences...
It was like a healing documentary.
I was observing the messages with a light heart when rowdy voices were suddenly heard from the surroundings.
“Ah. Sunbae! Hello!”
Curious, I raised my head and found kids gathered around the back door of the classroom. I tilted my head in curiosity and soon heard the girls nearby chatting uncontrollably.
“Hey Yu Minji-sunbae is here.”
“Yu Minji-sunbae? You mean that Yu Minji-sunbae from the composing department?”
“Who is that?”
“A very famous person from the second-grade. But why is someone like her here?”
Yu Minji huh...
I turned my head over and my eyes met with the girl standing over at the back door with thin bangs and a somewhat lazy expression. After casually glancing through me, she flicked her hand up and gave a light greeting.
In fact, I wasn’t too comfortable with the people called upperclassmen.
This name had a relatively high authority in performing arts schools.
Giving bows whenever walking past was a given as well as never angering them and in the past, there were even rules where freshmen that just entered schools would be punished for no reason – that was the level of authority they had.
They just entered one or two years before and yet sometimes they received more respect than teachers.
“The freshmen are also done with the tests right?”
“It has just finished.”
“Hutt. Why so stiff? Just be relaxed.”
...From the perspective of an adult it was quite a laughable story but in the world of high schoolers, these upperclassmen were that much of great existences.
In any case, due to this contradictory situation I was in, it was slightly difficult for me in terms of how to treat upperclassmen. Even out in the society, respecting seniors was a natural thing but... there is the sense of authority that came out from outward appearance as well.
Yu Minji was walking in large strides without caution despite the short skirts, before finally opening her mouth.
“You know the general reason why I’m here right?”
“Is it because of the composing thing?”
“Well yeah. Since the tests are over with, let’s have a light debate.”
After coming to a sudden stop in front of the door, she turned back and crossed her arms. Every single movement of hers was free and easy-going as if she had known me for a long time. Is that her personality?
Tilting my head I observed her while Yu Minji looked back with relaxed eyes.
“We need to match the times and stuff.”
Since I knew nothing about composing, there was nothing I could say though. But presenting the composed song would be counted in the ‘results’ the principal had been talking about so I needed to try hard.
Even without that in mind, I was personally interested in the composition of songs.
Didn’t teacher Ku Mingi also talk about how meeting lots of composers would directly help my singing? After some thought, I raised my head.
“Then do you want to do it right now?”
Yu Minji who had been gazing down changed her expression for the first time.
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