Chapter 35: Crescendo (4)
[Trigger Warning: mentions of rape, implied sexual assault of a minor]
The schedule for the event was a rather predictable ordeal. It would begin as most events do, with a formal greeting. Pictures would be taken, followed by a tour of the courthouse and sitting at a trial as an audience. Then, after lunch, they would participate in a mock trial, listen to a lecture by a judge, and finally, a dinner party to end the whole thing. It was, indeed, a very predictable schedule.
The formal greeting was rather short and simple. It had to be, since the mayor and the chairman of the institute and the chief of the court and whoever else in a position of power were to give their two cents during the dinner party. Everything before that had to therefore end swiftly.
For the children, however, it was anything but that. They took pictures with this and that person, and just when they thought they were done, they had to take even more pictures with someone in a higher position. The children couldn’t help but wonder why on earth these people didn’t just take selfies on their phones. What would they even do with this many pictures? But little did the children know that people in positions of power needed such commemorative photos, for every event they attended. These pictures would be used to promote the courthouse, hung in offices, and, in the case of politicians, be used to promote their campaign. In the end, pictures could be used everywhere.
Still, it didn’t change the fact that it exhausted the children, to the point that even the ever hyperactive Myeong-su began to tire out.
“Plaster face…” he called. “I’m so tired.” But that wasn’t the only issue. He was also hungry, even though they still had to walk around the huge courthouse before being served lunch. And so the tour began. The children were split into four groups of eight, in order to prevent unruliness and help the teachers keep a better eye on everyone.
“Officer Choi. Long time no see.”
When the officer in question turned around, he came face to face with a reporter from the Inpyeong Daily.
“Oh, Reporter Yang. Yes, it’s been a while. What brings you here?”
“Me? I’m just here to get some details on today’s little event with the institute. What about you? Aren’t you supposed to be on duty?”
The officer thought it was rather uncharacteristic of the reporter to write about such an event, which had nothing to do with the department he was in charge of. Still, he didn’t think that the reporter would lie about such a thing, especially with such a carefree, relaxed face, and he simply let it slide, assuming that there was something deeper that the reporter wasn’t mentioning.
“Well, there’s a trial later today, and I’m supposed to stand as witness.”
“A trial for what? Oh, is it the rape charges?”
Among the most recent violent crimes that had occurred in Inpyeong, there was an attempted rape case in which the accused had dragged a drunk woman to the public restrooms in a park to force himself on her. When he was discovered by a police officer patrolling the area, he had tried to run, but he had been caught shortly after. The first issue was that the woman was, in fact, not a woman at all, but an underaged girl. The second issue was that the shop they had been drinking at was far removed from the park where the incident had taken place, yet no one had tried to intervene as the man dragged her all the way there.
“Yes,” the officer answered. “I was the first one at the scene.”
“Oh wow. Nice. Maybe you’ll be promoted to senior officer this time, huh?”
“No, I don’t think that will happen yet.”
“Well, you’re certainly working hard, so I’m sure it won’t be long before I have to start calling you Sergeant Choi. You’ll remember me, then, won’t you, sergeant?”
Officer Choi laughed awkwardly, waving his hand dismissively. The reporter’s flattery was rather embarrassing.
“Come on now, Mr. Yang. I’m not that naive little kid anymore. Cut me a break!”
“Sorry, sorry. It’s just that I haven’t seen you in so long. Don’t take it so seriously! I was just joking around. But I do mean it. We should grab dinner sometime, if possible. Alright?”
The reporter smiled innocently as he extended his hand, and the officer couldn’t help but shake it in agreement.
As the children were looking around the courthouse, Lucid noticed the person standing in front of courtroom 417. It was Officer Choi, clad in his blue uniform. He had been the first person the boy had met in this world, and, before being sent off to the institute, he had looked after Lucid for a whole night, which is why the boy remembered him so vividly. Still, they weren’t closed enough for Lucid to go up to him first. He therefore turned to leave, but not before the officer saw him.
“Oh, hey!” the officer called out. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”
“Yes. Hello.” Lucid greeted back. He felt it was improper to pretend to not recognize him, especially since the officer had come up to him first.
“Are you doing alright? I know I should have gone over to the institute to check up on you, but I’ve just been really busy. I actually felt really bad about it, so I’m glad we bumped into each other today.”
“Are you here on a field trip?”
At Lucid’s continued one-word answers, the officer awkwardly tried to end the conversation, wishing the boy all the best. Besides, he didn’t have much else to ask anyway. However, just as the boy was about to leave, the reported stepped in.
“Who’s this? Do you know him?”
Yang was quite surprised that Officer Choi would go out of his way to talk to a child from the institute. After all, what connection could the two possibly have? None. And if by some chance, there really was a connection, Yang knew from experience that any acquaintance of a police officer was a potential topic for an article. An acquaintance from the Agnes Institute, of all things!
“Oh, yes. You see, last time at the park… Well. It’s a long story, but we know each other. I helped here and there so he could be admitted to the Agnes Institute.”
“Hmm. I see. Oh, excuse me!” Yang shouted towards the employee accompanying the children. “I’m a reporter with the Inpyeong Daily. Could I ask where these children are headed? I just want to get some pictures with them.”
The employee was rather annoyed that the reporter was standing in the way, and so answered curtly. “Courthouse tour. They’re going to go watch a trial now.”
“Oh, of course.” The reporter said cheerily, unfazed by the employee’s attitude. “Well then, officer, that’s all for today, I guess. I’ll be going with the children.”
“Alright. Call me when you’re free.”
“Sure thing. Take care, then.”
At this point, the employee was completely over the whole ordeal, and, not wanting to take the children and the random reporter here and there in search of a courtroom, decided that they would attend the trial right at room 417. As things were, it was only moments before the start of the trial, and quite a few people were already present. Thankfully, there were enough seats for the children to all sit (people had been kind enough to move seats, and Yang had been adamant that they needed to sit together for picture purposes) at the back.
“Oh, it’s this case.” The employee remarked. Indeed, the trial at courtroom 417 was about the attempted rape Yang had just discussed with Officer Choi.
“Is it okay for the children to be here?” The reporter asked.
“It’s a public trial anyway, and we’ll be leaving shortly. It’ll be fine. We’ll only be here untill the lawyers get through the arraignment, anyway.”
The employee was rather nonchalant about the whole ordeal, which irked Yang to no end. Still, he made no further comments and focused on capturing the children with his camera. Not long after, the judge stepped in, frowning when he noticed the children at the back. However, the employee informed him that the children would not attend the whole trial. And so, they began.
When the arraignment was over, the children silently left the courtroom, and were about to follow the employee to another part of the courthouse when Myeong-su shot his hand up in the air.
“What’s ‘rape’?” He asked innocently. Though it was an unexpected answer, the employee tried his best to keep a straight face.
“Well,” he said. “How many of you have taken sexual assault prevention classes?”
All the children raised their hands. Those classes were, after all, taught since kindergarten. However, the younger children had never heard of terms such as “rape,” “attempt,” or “defile,” which is why they couldn’t help but be confused about the ongoings of the trials they had just watched. However, unlike when he had answered the reporter’s question, the employee took great care to answer Myeong-su with tact.
“‘Rape’ is a word we use to describe when someone uses violence or threats of violence to take someone else’s control away and force them to do sexual acts. This can really, really hurt someone, physically or mentally. You’ve all learned this, right? But when someone actually uses violence or threats, it makes that crime much more severe. That’s why rape is such a terrible crime.”
Though the employee was rather proud of this explanation, he was wholly unprepared for the barrage of subsequent questions. “The judge said that they found evidence in the bathroom. What’s that?” A child had asked. And this, the employee thought, was exactly why such trials should be closed to the public. At the very least, preventative measures should be taken to ensure that children didn’t have access to such hearings. Perhaps he had forgotten the fact that he had been the one to bring them in the first place, but by now, the employee was blaming the entirety of the courthouse system on this mess.
“I don’t think you children need to know such details,” he explained, hoping that it would be enough to satisfy them. He felt the reporter staring at him intensely, but he ignored it as he continued to speak. “Any further details are much too difficult for you to fully understand. Perhaps once you are older and have gone through sufficient educations, you’ll be ready to learn about such things.”
That was when a middle school boy spoke up. “It was probably semen.” He had said it so casually, hands in his pockets, with as much severity as if he had been commenting on the interior design of the building. He had all the looks of a troublemaker, a delinquent student of sorts, and the employee made no effort to conceal his displeasure when Myeong-su once again bravely shot his hand into the air.
The word alone was enough to make the employee blush, but Myeong-su’s expression, full of childish curiosity, was difficult to ignore. Just when the employee struggled to find the right words, Reporter Yang stepped in, taking pity on the poor man. “Kid, ask that to one of the older kids later. They’ll tell you all about it.”"Read latest chapters at Wuxiaworld.site
“It’s something really smelly.” The middle schooler answered again, and again, he sounded bored of it, as if it were a trivial matter.
The employee cursed inwardly. Middle schoolers. They could be such a pain in the ass. Knowing that the best thing to do would be to change the topic and have the children leave right away, the man tried to usher them out.
“Come now. We shouldn’t loiter in front of–”
“You know what it is, don’t you?”
The middle school boy had spoken to another student, a girl, next to him. He had been expressionless as he spoke, but she had turned white as a sheet as soon as the words left his mouth.
<Crescendo (4)> End