Chapter 58: Growth (3)
Once break started, the children had more free time in their hands than they knew what to do with. Of course, the institute still had its rules to keep them under control, but many of the residents were still allowed to have time to themselves, as long as they were within the institute grounds.
From four to six in the afternoon, children were allowed to watch TV, which meant that as soon as four rang sharp, all the kids who had been playing outside all hurried in to sit in front of the 42 inch TV set up in the Visual Media Room. Basically all the residents, perhaps with the exception of high schoolers, gathered to watch cartoons. Some of the children who preferred soccer to cartoons also skipped on this watching time, but the heat usually caused them to come inside regardless.
While the opening theme songs for the cartoons rang loud (in rather varied tones and pitches) through the whole Visual Media Room, Lucid sat in the library, reading by himself. Even after moving up a grade, his lifestyle hadn’t changed much. The only real, tangible changes were that he was spending more time in the institute library and socializing with his peers more.
Another thing that hadn’t changed was the whole TV watching ordeal. Lucid didn’t usually spend much time watching TV, though this didn’t mean he had never watched it before. When he had first arrived at the institute, he had been shown around, so of course he had also seen the Visual Media Room. He had then followed Myeong-su to watch TV, and he had been rather mesmerized. He remembered sitting there, mouth agape, staring and watching as people moved within the small box they called “television.” The shock had been tremendous, almost akin to an explosion, but back then, Lucid had been so overwhelmed by all the technology around him that the TV had failed to provide him with any sense of fun or entertainment, only more confusion.
When he had returned to the Visual Media Room with Myeong-su afterwards, he didn’t find cartoons to be as fun as his friend had described. At that point, Lucid had been more concerned with familiarizing himself with this world, doing all he could to grow accustomed to this strange new place. As such, he had determined that knowledge learned from books was much more valuable than knowledge gained from watching television, and that it was more efficient to read than to watch. All in all, television was not something he had ever been interested in.
The only time he had watched television after that was to watch the show he had been featured in, but even that had been too embarrassing for him, so much so that he stopped watching halfway through.
Around ten minutes before six (which was dinnertime), Lucid returned his book to the shelf and left the library. Interestingly enough, the library was just across the Visual Media Room. Had this been intentional? Was it a sort of test for the residents, whether they would choose books over television? Regardless of the staff’s intentions, Lucid couldn’t help but stifle a laugh as he looked into the room, seeing all those children sitting perfectly still, fully immersed into the cartoon they were watching. They looked much like hatchlings, anxiously peering their necks in the hopes that the mother bird would feed them. Though it wasn’t like the television was going to feed them.
“Is that how I look in the library?” Lucid couldn’t help but wonder.
Then, he saw his friend, Myeong-su. He was still covered in sweat, unsurprising given that he had been running all over the courtyard again, which made his hair stand up in a rather funny way. His mouth was agape, lips poking out in a way that reminded Lucid of the picture he had seen in a book, of a monkey in front of a banana.
“Myeong-su,” he called out, “let’s go eat.”
Though the cartoon had ended much earlier, Myeong-su simply couldn’t be peeled away from his spot, so focused as he was on every commercial that played on TV. But when Lucid called him once again, Myeong-su sighed and left the Visual Media Room. Then, he turned back around to look at the TV again. Perplexed by his friend’s behavior, Lucid also peeked at the TV. There, playing on the screen, was an ad for an upcoming fireworks festival.
“Aww, I wanna go…” Myeong-su murmured to himself as they made their way to the cafeteria.
“Where? To see the fireworks?”
Lucid had also never seen fireworks before, though he did remember reading about how gunpowder was used to make them. Back then, the book had only said that fireworks were “bright, multi-colored lights exploding in the night sky,” which was hardly a satisfactory explanation. All Lucid could do was imagine what they must look like.
“Don’t you wanna see them?” Myeong-su asked, his eyes begging for Lucid to say yes.
“Yeah, I do,” Lucid said, unable to give any other answer.
“Do you think we could go?” Myeong-su asked again. Say yes, his eyes said again.
“Hmm. I’m not sure.”
Even if it was Lucid, and even if it was Myeong-su asking, he simply didn’t have all the answers. Though they had been allowed to go out recently, there was no way they’d be allowed to roam around so late at night. Based on his experiences living in this institute, Lucid saw no feasible way for them to go to the festival.
“Couldn’t we ask a teacher?”
Though he had used the pronoun “we,” Lucid knew that Myeong-su was asking him to ask a teacher. His friend was so desperate to go that Lucid almost laughed, but he somehow held it in.
“I don’t think they’d let us. Can’t we see them from here?”
“Did you see them last year? I didn’t. That means we can’t see them here at all.”
It was a weird bit of logic, but Lucid wasn’t about to argue with his friend.
“Let’s eat for now,” was all he could say.
But even after dinner, Myeong-su kept going on and on about fireworks, wondering about how beautiful they’d be, and lamenting that this might be the last chance in his life to ever see fireworks in person. His desperate pleas finally got to Lucid, who began to seriously think of possible solutions. First, he would need to talk to Ki-woong.
“Have you ever seen fireworks?”
“I have,” Ki-woong answered, placing his pen between the pages of his book as a bookmark.
“Sure. There was a festival here in Inpyeong a few years ago. That’s where I saw them.”
“Some philanthropist or other took us all to see them, saying he’d take full responsibility for us. He was the president of some committee that was tied to the festival, and he sang and all.”
In short, they had been invited to the festival, and Ki-woong had watched fireworks as a guest.
“I saw an ad for a fireworks festival on TV earlier. Is there any way we could go?”
“Okay, so that’s why you’re asking. Where’s it at?”
“I don’t know, I didn’t see it for that long.”
“If it’s in Inpyeong, we could try to make it happen, but if it’s outside the city, I don’t see a way for you to go.”
Lucid sighed, disappointed in Ki-woong’s answer. Was there really no way? He had started to look for a solution to fulfill Myeong-su’s wish, yes, but Lucid himself also wanted to watch fireworks in person.
“You’ve never seen fireworks before?” Ki-woong asked.
At Lucid’s dejected expression, Ki-woong began to think of another way to show him what fireworks looked like. Finally, he got up from his seat and pat Lucid in the back.
“Alright then, let’s go see them right now.”
And so, Ki-woong took Lucid to the computer room next to the Visual Media Room. The computer room was only open to middle schoolers and up, and even they had a limit on how long they could use the computers for. After receiving permission from one of the teachers, Ki-woong went into the computer room with Lucid.
He booted on one of the computers and sat Lucid down next to him. Then, he opened up the web browser, went into a video sharing site, and searched for videos of fireworks.
To keep things short, it was then that Lucid truly understood the fun of watching dazzling lights exploding here and there, and the overwhelming variety of colors flashing before his eyes. Even the loud booming of the fireworks heightened the experience.
“How does gunpowder make such colors? Wow, how do they make that?”
Lucid couldn’t help but be amazed at every little thing. He, too, sat there, neck peeking out like a hatchling in need of food. Ki-woong smiled warmly at Lucid, though inside, he couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry as well. In the end, no matter how smart or mature Lucid was, he was still just a little kid. His eyes were glued to the screen, full of wonder and delight, yet there was nothing Ki-woong could do to actually help him watch those fireworks in person. It was sad, and it was maddening. If Lucid had been part of a regular household, seeing fireworks wouldn’t have been such a desperate wish.
Even so, Lucid wasn’t a regular second grader. Yes, he had been mesmerized by the beauty of fireworks, but what interested him more was the harmony of colors that light was capable of producing. Until now, his understanding of light had only been sunlight and LED light. Now, he learned that there was so much more. Of course, this brought forward more questions.
“Could I make fireworks with magic?”
Last time, when he was in the other world, he had managed to throw small fireballs in the air, but even then, it hadn’t been as dazzling as these fireworks, because their brilliance was beyond Lucid’s wildest imaginations. Right now, he wanted nothing more than to dash to the library and read all he could on gunpowder and fireworks and light. With all that information, he could try to recreate fireworks with magic. He wanted to recreate them with magic.
“Tomorrow, then!” he decided. For now, he would enjoy these fireworks videos for a bit longer.
From the very next day, Lucid spent all of his time at the library, leaving only to go down to the cafeteria during mealtimes. Some of the staff members worried that he was reverting back to his old self (some even wondered whether he was on the autism spectrum), but seeing as how he was still getting along with Myeong-su and all the other children, that didn’t seem to be the case. As such, they simply dismissed it as Lucid’s “book obsession” phase again. Little did they know, however, that at this very moment, he truly was obsessed over light. The only issue was that the more he studied about light, the more complicated it became, with things like wavelengths and photons and velocity, so much so that he could no longer advance in his studies. It seemed that Lucid still had much to learn, but this was not a problem at all. The more difficult the concepts became, the more he could concentrate on the subject at hand. He was determined to see this through, no matter how hard he would have to work for it.
Then, the day of the fireworks festival came. The teachers didn’t allow anyone to leave, on the basis of safety, and Myeong-su almost cried. Still, Lucid read and read, doing all he could to recreate the image in his head.
Summer passed, giving way to fall. Lucid spent all his break studying light, but still, his magic failed.
Second semester finally began. The winds turned chilly, the children wore long sleeves, and the flowers in the school garden had begun to grow berries, though an uncharacteristically late typhoon had turned them upside down.
Myeong-su returned to playing ball out in the courtyard, dashing in front of the TV as soon as the clock hit 4pm, and dragging Lucid out of the library and into the courtyard to play with him. Lucid only stood there, watching Myeong-su run around and around, sweating profusely in the chilly fall wind. To no one’s surprise, this resulted in Myeong-su catching a cold.
As for Lucid, whether it rained or not, regardless of the typhoon and regardless of the changing weather, he only focused on one subject alone. Both at the school library and at the institute’s library, and sometimes at the public library if he had the chance, he went round and round looking for every book he could find on the subject.
Late at night, while everyone else was asleep, Lucid wiped Myeong-su’s sweat from his forehead with a clean, dry towel. It was just a regular towel, but to Myeong-su, it felt ice cold. Why was that?
“Myeong-su, are you okay?” Lucid asked, full of concern.Read latest Chapters at Wuxia World.Site Only
Myeong-su felt dizzy, almost woozy, but the cold towel made him feel much better. Besides, his closest friend was right there, taking care of him. He felt happy above all.
“I’m okay. I think I just need to sleep,” Myeong-su said reassuringly, but his weak, trembling voice made Lucid’s chest tighten. His friend had always been so energetic and cheerful, and it was painful to see him so sick.
“Hey, Myeong-su, look over there,” Lucid said, helping his friend sit up on the bed. Myeong-su turned around, looking out the window to where Lucid was pointing. He didn’t see anything, only the faint, pale light of the moon. Until…
Like wet paint scattering over black canvas, the night sky was filled with glimmering lights of all colors. A white light exploded on the right, while a blue light scattered into a wide circle on the left. A red light grew larger and larger, exploding into a beautiful glowing star. As it faded, a green light took its place, glittering wildly here and there before falling into pieces like a thousand shooting stars. Then, more and more lights exploded and scattered. A show of lights, a festival of colors.
There was no sound, but those lights were more dazzling, more brilliant, more beautiful than any firework. Light of all colors filled the pitch black sky, filling Myeong-su’s eyes with their glimmer. He simply sat there, neck peering out like a hatchling. A single tear fell from his eyes.
<Growth (3)> End.