Behind the building, the work was already underway with sound and light equipment being unloaded from the truck.
“Soochan! Move this next to the stage!”
Soochan began to run so Jungwu followed suit.
The equipment was inside dark metallic containers and it did not take even a minute to fill up a cart with them.
“Soochan, doesn’t it seem like the pace is a little fast?””
“How can you say that from the start? We have to finish at least the basic setup before 2 o clock. The singers will arrive before then.”
Jungwu pushed the cart as Soochan held onto the containers to ensure that the containers won’t fall off the carts. Once past the busy back doors, Jungwu had a complete view of the interior.
This place, called Atrium, was a circular composite mall space designed with a glass ceiling; it was possible to get a refreshing glimpse of the sky from anywhere within the building.
Jungwu directed his gaze to the center of the wide open 450 pyung (16000 cubic feet, 1500 cubic meter) space. A stage was in the middle of being constructed there.
Seeing the size of the area roped off against shoppers, it looked like they were also going to set up enough chairs to seat 500 people.
“If I want to sit here, do I have to buy tickets?”
“It’s the benefit of being a VIP customer. Normal customers aren’t allowed here either.”
Since the stage was visible from anywhere in the shopping mall it wouldn’t be difficult to watch the show, but Jungwu asked just in case.
“Would I be able to watch from up close during the show?”
“As long as you’re wearing that.”
Soochan pointed at the badge Jungwu wore. Jungwu stroked and cuddled his badge as if it was some sort of treasure.
“You’re just a spy that doesn’t even know who Isul Yoon is, why are you so happy.”
“Is she really that great?”
“Just watch the live show later. You’ll realize why people are so crazy for her.”
“If she turns out to be fugly…”
“Or you can just search her up.”
“For visual and audio surprise factor, I’ll pass for now.”
Soochan who was walking ahead of Jungwu motioned for him to stop.
“Let’s put this down here. Oh yeah, I am in charge of the equipment today so we don’t need to move the truss.”
Jungwu saw another staff member move a heavy metal support structure, and couldn’t help but respect him. He tried moving one last summer; That thing was incredibly heavy.
“Hey, Soochan.” called out the Director as he looked up while setting up the soundboard.
“Is the guy next to you the friend that you mentioned?”
Soochan quickly whispered ‘that’s the Director’ to Jungwu. Jungwu bowed deeply and gave his greetings.
“I’m Jungwu Han.”
“Ah, I see. I’m the Chief Director, Mujin Kim. My first impression of you is that you look like a hard worker. Could you please go grab the cables from the equipment truck?”
“I’ll unload these things first and then go.”
Jungwu’s well-trained obedience that he had practiced while working with the sunbaes at the research station impressed Soochan and made his eyes grow wide.
Jungwu ran off to find the cable box and brought it back, setting it down next to the Director.
“Here you go.”
As if he had nothing else to add, Director Kim wordlessly resumed setting up the soundboard with the other audio staff.
Soochan who was moving boxes turned to try and get a glimpse of Jungwu who was on the stage. Soochan raised his eyebrows when Jungwu walked towards him.
“You really reformed huh. Were you always so on point?”
“Anyone listening might think I did nothing but slack off. The only reason why no one noticed my earnest work ethic is because I was too busy with preparations for getting employment.”
“Wow, shit, wipe your tears. It seems like yesterday you and I snuck out of the evening class* to go play at the PC bang**.”
Jungwu smiled as he lowered the rest of the metallic containers onto the stage.
It took over four hours to move the main equipment. Meanwhile, the metallic skeletal frame of the stage was more or less complete.
When Jungwu was watching the other staff members piece together the speakers, he saw Soochan carefully bring a box out.
“Is that the machine that shoots fireworks?”
“Yeah. You have to be careful. And wear gloves.”
Jungwu put on the symbol of hard labor, the industrial strength gloves, and gazed at the box nervously.
Soochan undid the box’s lock and took out the device and then suddenly shouted “Wah!” as he pushed the device onto Jungwu.
Jungwu flinched and took a step back when he saw something red pop out for a moment.
“Ha, scared ya.”
The device he had claimed would shoot fireworks was actually a simple air blower that would make red cloth flutter to imitate fire.
“Go put it up there. I have to grab the petal airgun.”
Once the devices he had received from Soochan was placed on the stage, another staff brought electrical systems and began to set things up.
Jungwu observed as CO2 blowers and the fog machine was installed, but because of how rudimentary it looked, he didn’t feel all that excited for the upcoming concert.
“Hey, does this thing really make the mood?”
Soochan who was carrying a device with a row of round bins which looked like launching platforms, laughed when he heard Jungwu.
“When the beams and the lights flash and the music booms, it gets wild.”
“Meh, I can’t tell. Maybe it gets better when it’s dark.”
“This one should get you going right away though.”
Soochan put down the item before the stage.
“Flower of the event. Fireworks.”
“The fireworks that go in here is set up by the Director himself, and he’s really something. In this industry, he’s an expert in pyrotechnics and can win bids purely with this.”
Jungwu directed his gaze towards Mujin Kim when he heard this. The Director was still conversing with the sound team in a tent.
“The only thing we have to check is to see if the spark flies when we press the button. You go rest.”
After he said this, Soochan squatted before the firing pad and took out a palm-sized container.
“Explosive powder for test use. I’ve been told it’s the same material as matches.”
What came out of the container was a fingernail-sized bundle of paper. Soochan ripped one open for each of the openings of the launchpad and inserted them.
Jungwu was watching the contents enter the launchpad when he felt his sight zoom in on them and prepared himself mentally for the sudden change in perspective.
What he saw first was a particle of soot, the atomic-star of carbon. And floating around it were the smelly atomic-stars of sulfur. And among them were special star formations which seem to give off a purple light.
‘So this is the pyrotechnics mini galaxy.’
Once Soochan finished putting in the powder and pressed a button, a small spark flew from the launchpad.
Jungwu scanned the opening of the launchpad and discovered evidence of previous fireworks.
The atomic star formation which explodes with a bright flare was in a form similar to fountain fireworks. And in another opening, he found evidence of a compound that leaves streaks as it flies through the air.
Jungwu let out a sound because it looked rather nice.
“Why are you getting impressed by this? You’ll be surprised when you see the show later.”
Jungwu couldn’t help but smile inwardly because he had not been impressed because of Soochan. He just found it endearing that Soochan was getting confident because Jungwu was reacting to everything so positively.
“Soochan, when can you start preparing your own stage?”
“I’m still far from it.”
“You’ve already done it for three years. When will it be the day I can watch a show in the VIP seat thanks to a friend?”
“There’s too much to learn. Especially with these guys. Performance firework techniques is not a skill that you can pay someone to learn. It’s not something someone like me can do just yet.”
When Soochan indicated the launchpads, Jungwu tilted his head.
“Is it that difficult? Can’t you just put in the powder?”
“Are you insane? Do you want to set the stage on fire?”
Jungwu inspected the launchpad when Soochan spoke as if the device may explode like a bomb.
“A fire is caused when there is an abundance of burnable material. And this only uses a small amount of complete combustion powders. It looks like the base of the firework is Strontium with Flash Powder mixed with Nitrous Cellulose. All of these were added so that the fireworks burn cleanly. It will burn for about 1 second before it burns out.
Soochan blinked a few times. Jungwu considered for a moment before adding.
“If you know which powder does what, it’s not that difficult.”
“And how do you know that?”
“I met a great teacher and studied a bit. It’s one of the reasons why I was chosen as an intern. And aren’t complete combustion material the norm anyway? The ones that produce no soot as long as there is enough oxygen and the right temperature. You know, even the Gas oven uses…”
Jungwu noticed Soochan blink with a blank expression and decided to ask.
“Did you fall asleep during Common sciences class?*”
“Every lecture! Even though you slept through all of them too…”
Soochan fanned his sweaty shirt as he made his way to the tent before reemerging with a box labeled ‘fireworks’.
“These are the ones I use for practice. Chinese fireworks.”
“Those look like ones you can buy at the mart. The ones with unimpressive flames.”
“I ordered them from a manufacturer. Its different from the cheap ones.”
Jungwu asked Soochan who took the cheap looking fireworks and was in the process of attaching them to the launchpad.
“What are you doing? I thought you said you weren’t going to be in charge of setting up the stage?”
“This is for rehearsal use. If we don’t get the singers to get used to the fireworks during rehearsal, there are times when they flinch on stage.”
“So are you allowed to just use any firework you bring then?”
“It’s a type of setup where you can put in any kind of firework you bring. And I do actually have enough experience for this much!”
Since Soochan was also confident enough to go as far as to promise that Jungwu could get Yulhwi’s autograph, Jungwu said ‘sorry’ and gave in.
“Anyway, let’s go have lunch. Wait just 3 minutes.”
While Jungwu was quietly watching Soochan insert the fireworks, his eyes caught the sight of one that was empty and left open.
He was able to see the mini firework galaxy here as well.
‘I still get the feeling it’s of a cheap quality, but at least the ingredients are the same.’
Jungwu turned to look at Soochan.
“Can I set up one of the barrels myself?”
“Heh, you wanna try one?
“I just want to see if I can do it.”
“Oh, there’s something.”
Soochan made a look as if his patience was being tested, but he pointed at the barrel labeled number 3 out of 10.
“Well go ahead and try it then. This will go off on the 3rd guest, so when it’s time for Girlfriends rehearsal, the one you attached will go off. It’s great, right?”
“Oh, thank you.”
“So among those over there the most expensive…”
Suddenly a voice calling for Soochan could be heard from the tent.
“Where is the box with cables for connection type A to Mic?”
“Where the boxes are stacked…”
Soochan turned to Jungwu.
“I’ll be back. Wait here.”
“Jungwu searched around the fireworks box and took out just the empty containers. While he was looking through the various mini fireworks galaxies, he finally found ones with the same packaging.
Jungwu tore open the packaging without hesitation and checked the contents.
Seeing the actual components, he was able to see the pyrotechnics more clearly.
When charcoal and sulfur undergoes combustion, they heat the calcium nitrate, and the resulting oxygen from this reaction feeds the flames during the explosion.
Depending on the ratio of the components the reaction speed could change drastically. And the different types of metallic dust used could control the color of the light.
‘These are silver rocket style.’
He opened up another package.
‘These are turquois debris.’
When he thought of mixing Aluminium and Calcium powder, he saw the formula mix and a new chemical reaction emerge.
He opened the lid to the largest firework.
‘This one has almost all the colors. Is it a multistage round? Great, let’s use it.’
Once Jungwu made an estimate for the reaction speed, he removed the fuse and the propellant from the multistage rocket and installed it into the launchpad and began mixing powders that were wrapped in paper to prepare the rest of the fireworks.
‘Dust-stars, you stay where you are.’
Jungwu controlled the + and – ionic reactions in his palm and blew away the uselessly wild free electrons.
While chasing the image of the reaction he saw in his mind, he ended up opening and using almost all the fireworks from the box.
Just as he finished wrapping up and closing the lid, he saw Soochan approach from afar. Jungwu who had been strangely focused on his work turned his gaze to the fireworks box.
‘Did I use them all? When I was thinking of Yulhwi I just…’
Although he had made excuses like this in his mind, it was closer to the truth to say that it was like a child’s curiosity playing with fire for the first time.
‘But will it go well? It should right?’
Because the world of Chemistry he could see through his special vision had never let him down, Jungwu was able to be a little confident in his work.
“Did you install it?”
Soochan asked as he approached. Jungwu quickly closed the box and pushed it aside.
“Yeah, kind of…”
“Let’s go. Time to fill our stomachs before we resume working.”
Luckily he didn’t seem to notice. Jungwu followed Soochan but glanced back at the box that was filled with nothing but empty containers.
“Soochan. How much did you pay for everything in that box?”
“300,000 Won was it?” (250~300 dollars)
If it was around 50,000 Won, he could have just repaid him with his pay for today. Jungwu made a promise to himself ‘I’ll repay you next month’ and apologized in his mind.
Korean high schools (and some middle schools) have what is literally called late night classes. It is not uncommon to have school from 7 am until 9 pm in Korea. No school, or no night class? Then it was perfect time to be going to cram school (Classes you pay to take extra, administered by an education company)
PC Bangs are LAN party rental computer shops, and some places (like rural places) are as cheap as 10 cents an hour, whereas famous or large-well established places in the city may go as much as 1 dollar an hour.
Instead of teaching each of the three major sciences separately (physics chemistry biology) all are taught in one class. It’s a more generalized and simpler version of science.