Volume 1 / Chapter 8
Whenever a singer cancels last minute like was done today, the number of customers decrease. After Kim Jung Soo’s 50 year old fans ate their free food and left, all that was left were their leftovers.
Yoon Kwang Hun closed the cafe early for the night and sipped on a bottle of wine alone. He should have kept the business going on its original concept. Due to his greed, his body was tired and his mind was uncomfortable. As he was calculating the cost of returning the interior decoration to its prior state, he heard a loud noise from the dumpster. It sounded like the stray cats were going through the garbage again. Every time those cats went through the dumpster, the garbage was left in an unbearable state.
Yoon Kwang Hun set his wine glass down and ran out of the kitchen. Instead of a stray cat, there was a child dripping in water with his head in the dumpster, shoving pieces of leftover steak in his mouth.
“Hey, what are you doing?”
The boy became startled at Yoon Kwang Hun’s yell and ran away like a bullet with pieces of meat in both hands.
“Are there kids like that these days?”
Kids groveling in the street were a vague memory. A long time ago, it used to be common for children to beg in the train stations or on the street, but they had pretty much disappeared since online games became popular. It was said that these kids now spent their time pharming online games in a warehouse somewhere.
Since the child was someone else’s problem, he forgot about him and started cleaning up the garbage. He went back into the cafe and started drinking the wine again to think about redesigning the cafe, but kept thinking of the little boy’s handsome face and couldn’t concentrate.
Yoon Kwang Hun went into the kitchen, took out two tonkatsu cutlets from the freezer, and started frying them.
“Ugh, my situation isn’t any better so what am I doing thinking of someone else?”
As he was grumbling like this and thinking about how hungry the child must have been that he had gone through the garbage, he kept cooking.
He put a few tonkatsu cutlets and three or four bananas that were supposed to be used as snacks in a bag and left it by the dumpster.
“Hey! I’m leaving this out for you to eat, so take it before the stray cats do!”
He wasn’t sure if the kid was still in the vicinity, but he called out loudly and went back into the cafe. He thought that with this, the sympathy and remorse he couldn’t help but feel would go away.
After about 10 minutes, there was a rustling sound and then silence. He quietly stepped outside to make sure the stray cats hadn’t taken the food left out for the little boy.
Yoon Kwang Hun saw the little boy running away with the bag of food in his hands and his heart became a little lighter.
He forgot the depressing thoughts he had earlier and turned his favorite CD on loudly. All he wanted to do was have some time to himself with music and wine.
He lost himself in the music and as it was reaching its peak, he saw a face stuck to the cafe window. He was startled by the head floating like a ghost’s, but once he recognized it as the head of the little boy who ran away with the bag of food, he calmed down.
He went out thinking that the boy had come to say thank you for the food, but he remained stuck to the window without realizing that Yoon Kwang Hun was standing next to him. Once Yoon Kwang Hun tapped his shoulder, he finally knew that someone was next to him and ran like lightning.
He just watched the boy in shock, but the boy stopped and came back towards Yoon Kwang Hun.
He bowed in greeting and the sight of him holding the paper bag made Yoon Kwang Hun’s heart tremble again.
“Hey. Come in. You didn’t even get to drink water after eating the tonkatsu and bananas, right? Your throat is probably dry… I didn’t think of that earlier. You’re probably thirsty, so come in and have a glass of water.”
The little boy who had been flitting his eyes back and forth followed Yoon Kwang Hun into the cafe. Looking at his messy hair, clothing dripping in dirty water, and face, it seemed like he hadn’t been able to wash himself in at least a year.
The beggar-like little boy sat down cautiously and he drank the whole bottle of water he was given. Watching the boy drink water, he could guess he was still hungry.
“Hey. Are you still hungry? Do you want me to make you more tonkatsu? Will you eat it?”
He went back to the kitchen after the boy’s eyes became big and he nodded his head vigorously. He first fried one cutlet and handed it to the boy in a plate.
Yoon Kwang Soo watched the boy chewing the cutlet in his hand instead of cutting it up and asked,
“Hey. What’s your name?”
“Jang… Jang Jun Hyuk.”
The sight of the child saying his name with a mouth full of tonkatsu was even more pitiful.
“Do you want to eat more?”
Jun Hyuk nodded his head heartily as though he had been waiting for it.
Yoon Kwang Hun went to the kitchen, fried the rest of the tonkatsu, and put it on a plate. From the way he was eating, it seemed like he could eat enough for 10 people.
Jang Jun Hyuk saw the plate with more than 10 tonkatsu cutlets, and he couldn’t speak. He ate and ate until he was nauseous. It was like a bear filling his stomach after a winter of hibernation.
“If you can’t eat anymore, you can stop. I’ll pack up the rest for you so you can eat it later.”
Jun Hyuk put his fork down once he heard that he could take the rest of the food.
“Did you run away?”
“Did you run away from home?”
“Oh, no. I don’t have a home.”
“What? You don’t have a home? What does that mean?”
“I’m an orphan. An orphan without a home or parents.”
“How old are you?”
“I’m not sure. 15? 16?”
“Did you run away from somewhere like a nursery or an orphanage?”
“I lived in an orphanage run by nuns when I was young, but I’ve been living on the streets since I was 5 years old.”
Yoon Kwang Hun was so surprised that he yelled without realizing it. Goodness! How are there still children like this? And looking at his age, it means that he’s been living in the streets for 10 years… This was something that he could not begin to understand.
“Hey… mister. It just happened. Do I have to tell you everything?”
There was no need to rub salt in the wounds of a child he met today. It was just out of curiosity. Yoon Kwang Hun began to think that he had made a mistake.
“Alright. You don’t have to tell me. I asked something useless.”
Though it was a situation where one person had done a good deed and the other person should be thankful, there was only silence. This awkward situation disappeared because of Jun Hyuk’s words.
“But mister. What is that music you just turned on?”
The speaker was already quiet. Yoon Kwang Hun hadn’t even realized that the CD track had finished.
“Oh, that? That’s Mahler. Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. That was recorded when Georg Schulte used to lead the Chicago Orchestra. It’s my favorite.”
Jun Hyuk only blinked his eyes. There weren’t any words that he could understand in Yoon Kwang Hun’s explanation.
“Yes. Well… Anyway, thank you for the tonkatsu.”
Yoon Kwang Hun saw Jun Hyuk rising from his seat and spoke.
“Hey. Do you want to listen to it again? From here, not from outside. From the beginning.”
Jun Hyuk seemed like a strange boy because he smiled more brightly at that than he did when he ate until he was full as he sat back down on the sofa.
Yoon Kwang Hun put the CD in and turned the volume back up. As the music flowed out, Jang Jun Hyuk closed his eyes and listened closely. He had been sitting on the sofa tensely with a straight back, but he changed his position comfortably so that he was seated back.
When the music ended again, Jun Hyuk burst out in admiration.
“It’s incredible he included that many sounds in 66 minutes and 10 seconds. It sounds much better than when I was listening from outside.”
“What? What did you just say? 66 minutes?”
“No. 66 minutes and 10 seconds.”
“What’s 66 minutes and 10 seconds?”
“The road. The music’s road. You know? How long it was playing.”
Yoon Kwang Hun jumped up from his seat and looked at the CD case that he had thrown next to the CD player. It was clearly printed that the running time was 66 minutes and 8 seconds.
“You… How did you know the running time? Did you measure it on the clock?”
“Running time. The performance time.”
“I just know it.”
“You just knew it? Automatically?”
“Yes. I just knew it.”
Yoon Kwang Hun couldn’t believe this beggar-like teenage boy. When Zubin Mehta was leading the New York Philharmonic, there was a legend that he matched the running times exactly every time he conducted Beethoven’s symphonies.
However, it may be possible because he listened to Beethoven hundreds of thousands of times to interpret it for the orchestra he was conducting. But figuring out the running time just by listening to it? Yoon Kwang Hun shook his head back and forth. It was impossible. Did it mean that there was a stopwatch or metronome embedded in his head?
Jun Hyuk’s feminine face didn’t show any sign that there was something strange. It didn’t seem like he was lying and there was no reason for him to lie.
Yoon Kwang Hun swallowed and asked again,
“Do you by any chance remember the entire song you just heard?”
“Yes. When I was listening from outside, I wasn’t sure because it wasn’t clear, but I just remembered the whole song.”
Yoon Kwang Hun’s sight became fuzzy. Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 isn’t a widely known work like Beethoven’s symphony Fate was. No matter how many times he had heard it, there was no way for him to memorize the whole song unless he had majored in classical music. No, among classical music majors, how many of them could have completely memorized all of the parts to a symphony? Even Yoon Kwang Hun who had listened to the song hundreds of times could only remember the melody. It wasn’t even that he memorized it, but he just remembered it.
Yoon Kwang Hun asked carefully,
“Do you… want to try it? Remembering it?”
“How? There’s just the sound.”
“Exactly. Um… You can make the same sounds. Bam ba bam ba, or turururu… in this way.”
Yoon Kwang Hun’s heart beat faster and his whole body felt weak at the thought that there was an extraordinary person in front of his eyes. Jang Jun Hyuk thought for a while and eventually grimaced.
“I can’t do it.”
Of course not. What a ridiculous lie! Unless he was the reincarnation of Mozart, it was impossible. He didn’t know why, but he relaxed and his mind found comfort.
But Jang Jun Hyuk’s words that he could not do it were not the last.
“There are 106 sounds… Doesn’t that mean there are 106 instruments? How can I personally make each of those sounds?”
He tensed up again at the shock and became uncomfortable again. Even more than he had been before. It felt like all the blood in his body had rushed to his head.
If this child was not lying, the reincarnation of Mozart was standing in front of him. No, he was even more impressive than Mozart. Mozart had memorized Allegri’s ‘Miserere Mei, Deus’ after hearing it for the first time when he was 14 years old.
This song had been sealed by the Pope, so it was only performed at the Sistine Chapel. Revealing the sheet music for this song and singing it outside of the chapel was strictly forbidden, but 14 year old Mozart heard it once and wrote it perfectly.
However, that music lasted just 10 minutes. It didn’t compare to this small child’s ability.
“Are you saying that knowing what it means? Are you saying that you memorized all the parts in an orchestra after hearing a song once?”
“Mister… Say a random time.”
“A time? What time?”
“Any time in the 66 minutes.”
Yoon Kwang Hun figured out the kid’s intent.
“At minute 37, there were eight sounds. From minute 33 to 41, eight instruments played. I don’t really know names of instruments…..”
Even classical music enthusiast Yoon Kwang Hun had no way of confirming Jun Hyuk’s response because he did not have the ability to separate the sounds as such. He may be able to check if he were looking at the sheet music.
Looking at Jun Hyuk’s innocent face, it was difficult to think that he was lying. Jun Hyuk bowed his head to Yoon Kwang Hun who could not recover from the shock and stood up.
“Mister. Thank you for the tonkatsu.”
Jun Hyuk did not forget the plastic bag with the tonkatsu and held it tightly in his hand. Yoon Kwang Hun had the thought that he must do something, but he could not think of what it was. In the midst of his reluctance and hesitation, Jang Jun Hyuk was opening the cafe door.
“Hey, kid! What did you say your name was?”
“Jang Jun Hyuk.”
“Right, Jang Jun Hyuk. If you want to eat tonkatsu, come back. I’ll make it deliciously.”
Jun Hyuk bowed his farewell again and left the cafe.
Yoon Kwang Hun stared blankly at the door Jang Jun Hyuk had left through for a few minutes. Once he came to his senses, he started pulling his hair.
“Ah, crap. What are you doing!”
He was cursing at himself. How could he be so stupid? No matter how shocked he was, how could he have sat here blankly while a young Mozart went out into the rain with nowhere to go?
He must find the boy. He couldn’t confirm yet, but he needed to know if the boy was a diamond or a coal. Even if he was not a diamond, their fates had crossed and he could not let leave such a young child alone in this situation.