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Chapter 60: Growth (5)

** brackets will be used to show dialogue in English **

[Do you have a pencil?]

[Yes, I do. Here it is.]


[Do you have a ruler?]

The listening part of, in which children listened to English audio played from the cla.s.sroom speakers, was the most difficult for Lucid. While the other children repeated along the audio, he simply sat there, staring at the ill.u.s.trations in his textbook.

[Why don't you repeat along?] the teacher asked at last. Of course, it was easy to blend in with the cla.s.s and remain quiet for the first few lessons, but after a whole semester of no partic.i.p.ation, even the most unattentive teacher would have known something was wrong.

However, despite the teacher's question, Lucid didn't say a word. Worried that perhaps he didn't understand what she had said, she repeated the question in Korean. As soon as the words left her mouth, Lucid dropped his head, red as a beet.

For most of the students, elementary level English cla.s.s was actually closer to a fun break time than anything, since they had all learned the material through tutoring or private courses. To add to that, the cla.s.s consisted mainly of children hearing and repeating simple words and phrases, which allowed them to partic.i.p.ate easily without requiring too much concentration. Moreover, the English teacher herself tried her best to come up with fun, easy so that students wouldn't feel pressured to be good at the language. All in all, English cla.s.s was the most enjoyable cla.s.s for many of the students, and they partic.i.p.ated with enthusiasm.

This was why the teacher didn't look past timid students like Lucid. She was proud of her work as a teacher and she wanted all her students to be able to follow the cla.s.s material. This would of course help with the overall “fun and easy” structure of her cla.s.s, but it was mostly out of a sense of duty towards each and every one of her students.

[Okay, just repeat after me.] she said, again repeating herself in Korean just in case.

Still, Lucid remained as quiet as ever, not even looking up to face the teacher. Understanding that she couldn't force a student to partic.i.p.ate against his will, the teacher asked Lucid to see her after cla.s.s, and resumed with her lesson as normal. The other students, however, knew that there was nothing normal about this situation at all. The Lucid they knew was a genius who knew everything, and in Cla.s.s 3-2, he was nothing short of their idol. What they had just witnessed, however, was a crucial stain on his image. And of course, nothing that happens to an idol ever remains a secret.

“You know plaster face in cla.s.s 2? I heard he doesn't say a word in English cla.s.s.”

The students still referred to Lucid as “plaster face,” even though Jihoon, who had come up with the nickname, had transferred to another school in second grade. He had left nothing but that nickname behind.

“Plaster face can't speak English?”

“Plaster face doesn't speak in cla.s.s!”

However, some of Lucid's cla.s.smates from second grade found nothing strange about this.

“He didn't speak in cla.s.s last year, either,” they'd say.

“No, he really can't speak any English. He couldn't even answer the teacher when she called on him.”

This was the greatest shock to any and all who knew Lucid.

“Mom, Mom! You know plaster face, in my cla.s.s? He doesn't know any English, so he didn't say anything even when the teacher called on him!”

“Mom, you know plaster face? He…”

“Dad, remember plaster face from first grade? Apparently, he…”

“Grandma! There's this kid in my cla.s.s called plaster face. You know, the one that's really smart? Apparently he can't speak English.”

“Pester mice?”

“No, plaster! Face!”

“My my, what a strange name to give a child.”


All in all, this was a rather fascinating tale for all the parents, so much so that it became a hot topic during a parents' meeting.

“Oh, that child from cla.s.s 2! Plaster face, they called him?”

“Yes! I've heard as well. My son told me, and I could hardly believe it!”

“Me too. I mean, he was on TV for being a prodigy, wasn't he? But he doesn't know any English?”

“What happened?” one of the mothers asked, feeling much out of the loop.

“Haven't you heard from Myeong-eun? You know, plaster face from Cla.s.s 3-2.”

“Yes, I know him, but what did he do?”

“Oh, it's because Myeong-eun isn't in his cla.s.s. Apparently, he can't speak an ounce of English!”

“What? No way.”

Myeong-eun's mother chuckled in disbelief. Even Myeong-eun, whose entire knowledge of English consisted of maybe 20 or so words, always came home talking about how fun English cla.s.s was in school, begging her parents to let her have an English tutor. She was so into it that she spoke English constantly, always saying [Hi!] and [How do you do?] whenever she saw her parents. If even Myeong-eun was like that, how could a prodigy like that plaster face not know anything?

“It's true! The teacher said hi to him in English and he couldn't say anything back.”

“Really? Wow… I guess even geniuses have things they don't know.”

“That's what I'm saying. You know, even on TV, they said he wasn't really a prodigy. I think he's just good at math, but I guess languages were his weakness.”

“I thought life was so unfair, but I guess it has its ways of balancing things out.”


The parents all sounded rather sad, pitying the young boy's struggles, but in truth, they were trying their best to hide their own smugness. No parent looked favorably upon a child who excelled more than their own kids, even more so if that child was an orphan who grew up in an inst.i.tute.

As things were, students, parents, and teachers alike were busy discussing this new shocking discovery about the prodigy boy, but Lucid himself paid no mind to any of it, going about his life as always. Not being able to speak English was nothing to be ashamed of or feel guilty about. It was simply a bit surprising.

“Is English difficult for you?” the teacher asked once she had reached the counseling room with Lucid. She was well aware of the many rumors surrounding this boy, as most of the teachers in the staff room had some sort of experience running away from his stubborn questions. Only she was one of the lucky few who had escaped from this phenomenon. However, even in the privacy of the counseling room, Lucid didn't speak a word.

“Maybe you don't like me as a teacher?”

“No, that's not it at all,” Lucid answered almost reflexively, as if to beg her to not misunderstand.

The teacher let out a small sigh of relief at this and asked once again why he didn't speak at all during her cla.s.s. Lucid thought and thought about it for a long time. What was the best way to escape from this situation? As he pondered on and on, he was suddenly struck with the realization that he was there alone with the teacher, and no one else was watching or listening to their conversation. With a low, controlled voice, he finally spoke.

“If I tell you the reason, could you allow me to not partic.i.p.ate in cla.s.s for the remainder of the semester?”

“What do you mean? No, before that. Listening and speaking are the two biggest factors in learning a language. Why won't partic.i.p.ate?”

“I have… Personal reasons, miss. I'll tell you, but only if you'll allow me to not partic.i.p.ate.”

She'd heard that he was a clever one, but now that she was really talking to him, she really felt as though she was talking to a high schooler instead of an elementary school child.

“What is it? I'll decide once you tell me.”

Lucid once again remained silent, considering his options.

“Well then, could you say something in English?” he asked at last.

“In English?”


“I'm not sure what you mean. [I don't understand].”

[Tell me anything in English.]

“[What?] I mean, what? What did you just say?”

“I asked you to speak to me in English.”

“But you just spoke in English.”

And he had used the word [anything], which wasn't something she had taught in cla.s.s yet. And why was his p.r.o.nunciation so good? When Lucid didn't say anything, she once again spoke in English.

[Do you know how to speak English? How? Did you learn it when you were little?]

[No, I've never learned it. I'm not sure, actually. But I do think I could have full conversations with you.]

[I…] the teacher stuttered, her mouth agape, [I'd heard you were a genius, but I didn't think…]

[It's not that impressive. I just took more time to study about things I was interested in, but I'm not a genius. Even in science cla.s.s, if there's a concept I've never heard before, I pay attention just like all the other kids.]

The teacher couldn't help but doubt her ears at this impeccable display of fluent English.

“You… You're really good at English.”

“I'm not sure about that,” Lucid replied meekly.

Following this counseling (if it could be called that) session, Lucid had received permission to not partic.i.p.ate in cla.s.s, on the terms that he wouldn't study for other during lessons. This was a given, even for Lucid, so he quickly agreed to this.

“Could I ask you a favor?” he asked, considering his words carefully, “I'd like for this to remain a secret, if possible. I'm already feeling very pressured because of all the teachers calling me a genius, and if people were to find out about this, I think it'll only get worse. I don't think I could focus on my studies if that were to happen.”

The English teacher thought about this for a moment and agreed to keep it a secret as he wished. From that day on, the teachers in the staff room all looked at her in concern, as she was fidgety and anxious most of the time. Indeed, her mouth itched to tell them, to tell the whole world, what she knew. If only there was a quiet, isolated forest she could go into and scream at the top of her lungs! But alas, the only things surrounding the school were shops and a four way intersection.

The reason Lucid had been so taken aback by English cla.s.s was that English didn't sound like English to him. No matter how much the teacher alternated between English and Korean to explain things, to him, it just sounded like she was repeating herself. Of course, after some time, he had learned to distinguish between the two languages if he really concentrated, but the fact that he had no trouble understanding either language was still a huge shock. On the other hand, he did have trouble understanding the handouts or the textbook or whatever the teacher wrote on the blackboard. He had never learned written English, after all.

This wasn't the first time this had happened. Indeed, the first time had been on the very first he had arrived to this world.

When the police officer had first spoken to him, Lucid understood and answered without even realizing that the officer had spoken in a different language altogether. He only found out when he tried to tell them his name. All the cogs in his brain had stopped at once, and no words left his mouth.

He still didn't really understand how this was possible. How could he? It was an unexplainable process, in which he understood and spoke different language with no issue whatsoever. It was especially puzzling because there was no conscious thought process behind it. It just happened automatically. It was the same with English. He could understand every word, every sentence that he heard without a problem, and he could answer in the same language just as smoothly. When he had first realized he could do such a thing, he had been left speechless.

The problem was that Lucid himself couldn't tell whether he was speaking English or Korean. Did his brain have difficulty separating the two languages apart? Whatever the case, all he knew was that if someone spoke to him in English, he could also answer in English. That was why he had spent the majority of English cla.s.s with his head down low, whispering to himself. It had been an experiment to test his theory, and his theory had been confirmed.

Until now, he had only needed to converse in Korean, which is why he had never encountered any issues. Moreover, the Korean alphabet was rather straightforward and easy to use. All in all, getting used to Korean as a language hadn't been that much of a challenge for him. English, on the other hand, was a whole new language with a whole new alphabet to learn, and English cla.s.s, where he had to use both English and Korean, was an ordeal of its own. He had to be on constant alert, lest he slip up and use the wrong language.

He now knew by experience that situations that were out of his control should be kept a secret from other people. If he had answered every question the teacher had in English, he would obviously attract too much attention to himself, and if things were to go wrong, someone could grow suspicious of his past. Even his previous conversation with the teacher, where she had asked about his childhood education in pa.s.sing, had been proof of this.

“I have to be more careful,” he told himself over and over again.

Even if he didn't speak in cla.s.s, Lucid decided to continue studying English in his own way. Just as learning and mastering Korean had helped him during his research into other topics, he would have to have a good grasp of English in order to gain higher knowledge, whether it be in middle school or high school.

It was then that Lucid truly understood his ability, an ability which students across the whole country would pay an arm and a leg to possess.