7737-part-20

I brought up the past that I hadn’t told anyone about. When I brought up the rotten past, my throat cleared.

“It was fun when I drew pictures. I wanted to keep living like that.”

Even at an early age, I was captivated by painting and couldn’t think of any other dreams besides being an artist.

It was satisfying without even thinking about it. I wanted to draw pictures for the rest of my life.

Just thinking about it made me excited for the future me who would never let go of the brush until I died.

Some people were worried that I had made my decision too early, but it was okay.

…It was supposed to be okay.

Until I met that person.

He was a teacher who taught me how to paint and a friend of my parents.

“You’re going to be an excellent painter.”

I naively believed him without knowing the true meaning behind his words.

“Wouldn’t you like to try watercolor once?”
“But I only do oil painting…”
“Various experiences are reflected in artwork. So, you will be able to draw better pictures.”
“I’ll give it a try.”

I painted oil paintings, but he recommended watercolors because he was painting watercolors himself.

The watercolor that I completed with the help of my teacher naturally resembled his style.

But I didn’t care because it was just a practice painting.

I didn’t realize that he was changing my habits in a sly way.

From some point on, he began to subtly change my habits, from my painting style to my mannerisms and even the way I held the brush.

But at that time, I thought it was right. I thought I was wrong and that the teacher was correcting me.

I just believed that.

I discovered the feeling of discomfort when I was about 15 years old.

I happened to participate in a competition like his. It was a small contest with no age limit.

It was a contest that I had become quite familiar with, but it was a comfortable one for him.

I saw something I shouldn’t have seen there.

It was a prize-winning work. The painting was so similar to mine.

We drew on the same theme, but it was impossible for them to be so similar.

Others might only feel that they were similar, but I knew.

This work was a plagiarism. I checked the artist’s name for this reason.

When I first saw the name, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

It was my teacher’s name written there.

It was unbelievable. Did my teacher plagiarize my work? The person who always supported me and helped me?

I didn’t want to admit it when I was 15 years old. I wanted to believe that there was some mistake or that it might be a namesake.

Even if my teacher was right, he had been teaching me for a very long time. It was inevitable that our painting styles would overlap to some extent.

It was something that only I had to be careful about. I just had to make an effort not to be influenced in the future.

Even this work cannot be noticed by others if it is not mine.

I comforted myself like that and buried this incident.

I couldn’t question him about it, just praising my work as well-painted.

It wasn’t right. Did I take it too lightly? Similar incidents occurred from then on, very subtly but definitely plagiarism.

At that time, I brushed off the plagiarism as a coincidence, but it was natural for me to feel a little strange.

“My painting style seems to be getting more and more similar to my teacher’s.”
“I taught you, so it’s inevitable. It happens often, so it’s okay.”

He comforted me with words that it wasn’t just me.

I eventually kept my mouth shut because I thought maybe I was being too sensitive or maybe I was wrong.

I was afraid to ask. That day was no different.

It was the day I won a prize in a large-scale competition for the first time.

“You worked hard. You did well.”
“Congratulations to you too, teacher!”

Stupidly, I was pleased that we both won prizes at the same competition.

The next day, my work was accused of plagiarism and the award was canceled without me knowing.

“I didn’t do it!”
“Yeah, I know that. But the public opinion is already labeling you as a plagiarist.”
“…Can’t you tell them that it wasn’t me?”
“I’ll do my best to clear your name. So you just have to stay quiet and not look at anything. Got it?”

With those words, he took away all of my electronic devices and locked me in my room.

That’s why I couldn’t know. That he labeled me as a plagiarist in an interview.

The evidence that my paintings had been changed by him, too.

When I finally found out everything, it was already too late. Public opinion had already labeled me as a plagiarist, and the evidence that could have reversed that opinion was gone.

“Plagiarism, it’s embarrassing; you shouldn’t be able to lift your head with dignity.”
“This is how you repay me for raising you.”

No one believed me. Even if I shouted that it wasn’t true, there was no one on my side.

Even my family, whom I trusted, abandoned me.

I started living alone like a recluse for a while. I cut myself off from the world without leaving my room.

Even if my parents hadn’t cut off my money, I would have continued to live like that.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the painful past of making money by working hard buried itself naturally.

In a rushed life where living was everything, even reminiscing about the past was a luxury.

I earned money by doing whatever work came my way. Since it was difficult for me to face people, there weren’t many jobs I could do.

When I returned from work, I would pass out and fall asleep in a single room in the basement without light.

Sometimes when I closed my eyes, I had the urge not to wake up like this. Occasionally, when delivering packages, my throat would tighten.

I didn’t laugh and tears didn’t come out, but it felt like a relief. I was living day by day meaninglessly.

It was at that time when I met him again. To be exact, he came to see me.

The shameless man’s face was disgusting. What kind of confidence did he have to come and see me?

“Why… did you do that?”

But contrary to my thoughts, what came out of my mouth was a pitiful, cowardly voice.

I should be standing up for myself, there’s no reason not to…….

I wanted to run away. Primal fear rushed over me like the ground beneath my feet had disappeared. Is this really right?

The person who should be running away is him, so why am I like this?

In the midst of a strange and twisted situation, a calm voice is heard.

“I just had a feeling. It’s just a simple feeling that I’ll eventually surpass you if I leave you alone.”

It’s safer to get rid of it before you jump over it.

He had no regrets. I don’t see the regret in him that I see in myself every night.

It was strange. It was such a strange reality.

“Did you make me like this just because of that one thing? You could have just made me unable to draw…!”
“That would be a waste. I should use it as I please until I can change it to my liking.”
“……Did you plagiarize my painting too? I won several awards with that.”
“It’s sad to call it plagiarism. Just think of it as doing a good thing.”

He was smiling disgustingly as he patted my shoulder.

A good thing. Something inside me exploded at that moment.

“How can you say that! You ruined my dream, my future, everything! And you call this a good thing?”

A voice full of tears burst out.

“I didn’t expect you to apologize! But still, this… no, you shouldn’t be like this!”

I couldn’t take it anymore. I jumped up and rushed out of the room.

Otherwise, I might cry in front of that bastard.

I knew it was a foolish act with my reason, but at that time, I had no choice but to run away.

‘Does this make sense…?’

The world is turning strangely. Someone will understand if time passes. The day when the truth is revealed will come.

I lived with that hope. But it was a vain hope. In a twisted world, the truth did not come to light.

Realizing that, I naturally learned to submit myself to it. It’s a world that won’t change anyway.

If I want to live, I have no choice but to give up. I had to obediently adapt to a reality full of despair.

 

* * *

 

Once I opened my mouth, everything was easy after that. I wanted to tell him everything, but I barely explained why I stopped drawing. To be honest, I didn’t expect him to understand.

So I hoped he would just pass it off as having read a novel. Although I spoke so passionately that it’s doubtful he would understand.

To be honest, confessing to Diet about the past was a thoughtless and foolish thing to do.

But, what the hell. I wanted to say it once before I die.

I hoped to gain the confidence that it was okay. I wanted to prove to myself that it was just the past, not the present.

That wish has now become a reality. I can’t forget, but I can overcome it. I can believe.

A part of me wanted to tell Diet, but in a way, I could also say that I used him.

I gazed silently at him lost in thought.

His eyes blinked slowly and calmly. Diet habitually tapped his fingers.

“…You’re not saying anything.”
“Do you want me to?”
“Just… because it’s a strange thing to say? I thought there would be some reaction.”

I honestly told him everything since there was nothing to hide. A spark of life flickered across his doll-like face.

Diet gently closed his eyes and burst into laughter.

“In a good way?”
“In a bad way, of course.”
“To be honest, it’s surprising.”

He mumbled with his chin up. I leaned forward curiously, wondering what he meant.

A familiar weight settled on my head. It was Diet’s hand.

He lightly spoke while gently stroking my hair.

“I won’t ask you anything.”
“Thanks, but why?”
“Just listening was enough for me.”

His wide smile was enough to convey his emotions. But I didn’t know why I was happy.

What kind of trick… no, what kind of thought was this?

I blinked and tried to read his thoughts.

I expected him to console me formally. After all, he cherishes me.

But was there anything to be happy about in this ridiculous situation? There was no point to grasp…

Perhaps I was mistaken in thinking that I knew Diet well. I still don’t know him well.

Maybe I won’t be able to fully understand him until I die.

Diet’s attitude towards me was strange and affectionate.

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