Remember The Name - Chapter 52
Lucid sat atop the mountain, enjoying the chilly winter breeze, and slowly opened his eyes. Though it took a few moments for his eyes to adjust to the light, after blinking a few times, the brown soil and green leaves came into focus. He took a deep breath, conscious of each exhale and inhale, and turned around. Just as he did so, Dong-in appeared, leaves rustling wildly as he stepped forward.
Of course, Lucid had known Dong-in had followed him up here, since as loud as his own breathing was, Dong-in’s footsteps had been even louder. At first, Lucid had been curious about his follower’s identity, but he had figured that it didn’t matter as long as the figure didn’t call out to him. That’s why he had waited for whoever it was to reach him at the peak, so that he could get a good look at their face.
Dong-in was huffing and puffing, clearly exhausted by the climb up the mountain, and he stared at the little boy watching him from a few paces away. His breathing was so heavy and uncontrolled that his chest heaved with each breath. Even as he struggled to steady himself, he didn’t take his eyes off of Lucid. At this point, there was no doubt in Lucid’s mind about what that look meant.
As for Dong-in, he was thoroughly pissed at Lucid’s expression. The boy just stood there, watching him without a word, as if Dong-in was nothing to him. It hurt his pride, his self-esteem, and it angered him. How dare he look down on him?
“You little…” Dong-in muttered, spitting on the ground as he walked closer to Lucid. When the much shorter child looked up at him, Dong-in grit his teeth. “Look down,” he said threateningly.
But there was no reason for Lucid to comply, and so he simply continued to stare at Dong-in.
As Dong-in’s hand collided with Lucid’s cheek in a sharp slap, the young boy staggered back.
When Yun-Jeong got to the fourth floor, she bumped into a counselor who she immediately grabbed. “Sir! Have you seen Ki-woong?” she asked.
“Uh… I haven’t. Isn’t he in his room?”
“I just checked, and he’s not there.”
“Then I’m not sure. Hey, have you seen plaster face? He wasn’t out in the courtyard.”
The fact that there were more people, especially adults, already looking for the boy did nothing to calm Yun-Jeong’s nerves. She had to find him before the teachers did, but there was no trace of him anywhere. She couldn’t even find Ki-woong, who could help her find him.
Ki-woong was, in fact, still stuck in at the office, sorting out document after document. With a few cursory glances, he understood that they had to do with the stepping stone accounts, since there were detailed reports of each deposit made under the students’ names.
“Don’t get too curious, now.” warned one of the employees. “Just sort them out in a pile, and make sure they’re in order.”
Ki-woong nodded and did as he was told. With 15 high schoolders, 12 middle schoolers, 6 elementary schoolers, and 8 kindergarteners or younger, there were a total of 41 pages, for each of the 41 accounts the institute took care of. Though he could see the information written in the documents, they were only supplementary references to be attached to another, probably more important report, so all Ki-woong could do was speculate over their importance.
“How’s school? Are you studying hard?” the employee asked, determined to get Ki-woong’s mind off of the documents.
“Oh, yes. It’s alright.”
“I heard you want to go to medical school.”
“Hmm. The stepping stone account won’t be enough.”
The employee noticed his mistake as soon as the words left his mouth. They had gone back to talking about the accounts, which was the exact opposite of what he had set out to do.
“I’ll have to get a scholarship.” Ki-woong answered, saving the employee from having to think of another way to change the subject.
Truth was that Ki-woong himself knew very well that medical school was a ridiculously ambitious goal. He wasn’t a simpleton, and he knew how things worked. Medical school meant money, money that he didn’t have. He would need money not only to be admitted, but also to stay in. He might even need to take out loans, depending on the field he chose. Still, he couldn’t give up on it, not only because of the power, the money, and the fame, but also because medical school had been one of his longest dreams. Indeed, he had dreamt of it ever since he was a little kid, and both his parents had been alive.
“That’s enough chit chat. The faster you work, the sooner Ki-woong can go back to his room and get some rest.”
At the director’s admonishment, the employee couldn’t help but subtly roll his eyes. It was rather hypocritical, after all, wasn’t it? The director had been the one to call Ki-woong down in the first place, not allowing the poor student to actually rest. With a sigh, the employee went back to sorting papers.
“You too, Ki-woong. There’s nothing secret there, but you wouldn’t understand even if you read it.”
“Of course,” Ki-woong smiled, complacent. He picked up the pace, wanting nothing more than to leave this office as soon as possible.
“So… About that friend of yours.” Jiwon started, holding Myeong-su’s shoulder in case he ran off again.
“Plaster face. He’s my friend.”
“Yeah, him. Does he go to the mountain a lot?”
She simply had to know. Yun-Jeong’s reaction had been strange to say the least, as if she knew some big secret. Jiwon also felt that something big was about to happen, and not in a good way. As a firm believer of a woman’s intuition, she took her gut feeling as a premonition, like some sort of omen.
“What does that mean? He does? Or he doesn’t?”
“He used to a lot. But not anymore.”
“Why is that?”
Myeong-su remained silent, as if he was struck with the sudden realization that talking about this particular subject might not be such a good idea. He shut his mouth and looked away.
“Is it something you can’t tell me?”
No matter how much Jiwon asked, the boy didn’t budge, and she understood that whatever was going on, she wasn’t allowed to know.
“Are you allowed up there, or not?”
“The teachers told us not to.”
Apparently, the teachers had been very strict about this rule. Still, Jiwon knew what she saw, and she had seen a resident go up the mountain. This meant that there might be more children going there than the institute realized. And maybe, it also meant that the boy Myeong-su was looking for was also up there.
Of course, he could have just gone out the front gate, and the mountain had nothing to do with this whole thing. This was possible, but improbable, considering that the institute was quite removed from the city itself, and it would be too great a distance for a child to walk alone.
“Have you ever walked to the city?” She asked, just in case. She simply had to make sure.
“Not even once?”
Jiwon ruffled Myeong-su’s hair playfully. He answered all her questions diligently, and it was rather endearing. Anyway, as things stood, it was far more likely that the boy had gone up the mountain than left through the front gate, and though he might be in the institute, all her instincts pointed towards the mountain. The question now was, should she go up there herself to retrieve the lost boy? Would that be a worthwhile adventure or a pointless endeavor that left her sweaty and tired?
As Jiwon pondered over her choices, Myeong-su glanced towards the mountain. He was afraid of it, afraid of having to ever climb it again. It wasn’t just because of what the teachers had said. After what had happened during summer, he had learned that people could get hurt, that he could be hurt. This made him wary of going up the mountain again, and he simply couldn’t work up the courage to go look for his friend there. Besides, it wasn’t like he had even seen Lucid go up the mountain.
Still, Myeong-su was no idiot. He was the only person in the whole institute who knew about Lucid’s morning climb. Though Lucid didn’t know, Myeong-su was a rather light sleeper, and Lucid’s clothes, drenched in sweat and morning dew, were hard to miss. Besides, he smelled like the forest whenever he returned. To be honest, he had only really been sure of it after seeing the mud stains and leaves stuck to his shoes, but regardless of how he found out, Myeong-su knew the truth.
Myeong-su was also (perhaps a bit surprisingly) smart enough to understand that Jiwon suspected Lucid of having gone up the mountain. What could he do, then? Should he go up the mountain? Or should he wait for Yun-Jeong to come back?
In the end, the two stayed in front of the cafeteria, thinking on and on about what they should do, without moving an inch.
“You’re just a kid! Stop looking at me like that!”
It was a familiar pattern, being falsely accused of something, then being hit, then being told lies about things he didn’t do to justify the violence, then being cursed at, then being hit again if he didn’t yield. Lucid’s face swung sharply to the right as he was hit again, but he once again turned to look at Dong-in.
The first time he had been hit, he had been unable to do anything. He had been shocked, as he had never been hit before, and he had been afraid, so much so that the strength had left his legs. But things were different now. Now, Lucid understood the reason behind Dong-in’s actions, behind his curses and violence. Dong-in didn’t like it when he looked at him. Rather, he was afraid of it. That was why he reacted so violently.
“Why did you hit me?” Lucid said, speaking for the first time. “Why are you afraid of me?”
Indeed, he knew why Dong-in hit him. He was afraid. But why? He simply had to know.
“What?” Dong-in didn’t quite grasp the question, and he stared at Lucid blankly. Afraid of him? Was he really?
Then he understood. He was, really. He was afraid of this boy.
“You… Little bitch…”
Dong-in’s fists trembled. Everything about Lucid, from his eyes to his posture and behavior, told him that the boy wasn’t afraid of him. On the other hand, Dong-in himself was struggling to get a reaction from him. He hit him and cursed him, all to make sure that the boy would fear him. Why?
“I’ve never threatened you, and I don’t have any dirt on you. I’ve never hit you, either. So what are you so afraid of?”
Why? He had indeed never been threatened, and the boy didn’t have any dirt on him. Or did he? That’s when Dong-in realized why he was so afraid of Lucid. The boy knew his weakest side, his most cruel, cowardly, ugly self. This was something he had always kept hidden, his true personality, and he had made the mistake of showing it at the courthouse.
Dong-in recalled what had happened then, recalled the words he had spoken as he glanced at Somi.
“She smells like semen sometimes,” he had said. “A lot of times.”
He had basically called her a slut in front of all those people. Was there anything more humiliating? But Lucid’s eyes reminded Dong-in of that moment, brought him back to that courthouse over and over again, and he knew that this boy knew his true nature. He was quiet about it, for now, but Dong-in wasn’t sure when he would open his mouth and ruin everything.
“It’s all your fault.” The boy would say. “You threatened her. You made her cry. You hurt her. You’re worse than her father. You’re the bad guy. You’re the worst.”
Dong-in was afraid that the boy would talk. Dong-in was afraid of the boy.
“God damn it…”
Through Dong-in’s inner turmoil, Lucid remained still, his piercing gaze stuck on the older boy’s eyes. It was a truly terrible expression, and Dong-it hated it with all his heart. Why should he be afraid? He was just a kid. How could he be afraid? Why was he afraid?
Dong-in leapt forward and grabbed Lucid by the collar. The boy’s gaze finally faltered, and he grabbed Dong-in’s hand instinctively. Dong-in leant in closer, his labored breath pushing Lucid’s bangs back.
“… I’ll fucking kill you.”
lt;Lucid Dream (3)gt; End.