Inside the NDF offices….
“Did you just say that the Americans sent us a request for assistance?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Yes, that’s what I’ve heard as well.” (Seo Ah-Young)
Choi Jung-Hoon tilted his head.
From the Americans?
The dynamics of the world’s political landscape had changed somewhat since the event of Black Monday, but the good ol’ US of A remained the planet’s sole superpower. In other words, “Pax Americana” was still going strong.
It was the same story when it came to ability users as well.
Everyone acknowledged Russia, the UK, Japan, and China as some of the most influential players in the world as far as ability users were concerned. Even then, their combined might still wasn’t anywhere near what the Americans managed to cultivate. Not only in numbers, but the combat prowess of those American ability users, as well as the cutting edge technology supporting them, left everyone else eating their dust.
Yet, they were asking for assistance?
Choi Jung-Hoon’s head remained tilted to the side.
“What kind of assistance are they hoping to receive from us?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“The official document apparently had only three bolded letters on them.” (Seo Ah-Young)
“Only three letters?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Yep. And they are ‘Yi’, ‘Ji’, and ‘Hyuk’.” (Seo Ah-Young)
What the hell. That sounds really strange, doesn’t it? Don’t they speak Engl…. (Choi Jung-Hoon’s inner monologue)
“Hang on. Did they write that in Korean?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
What a determined bunch of b*stards.
They used Korean in an official inter-government document? They must be really desperate, aren’t they? (Choi Jung-Hoon’s inner monologue)
“They want Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk to go over there…. What crazy fools.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
That wasn’t something you’d ask for, if you were of sane minds.
First of all, it was definitely a diplomatic no-no to ask for an ability user who was more or less the heart of Korea’s defense against the invading monster hordes. And secondly….
“Do they wish to shove a live grenade down their throat or something?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
If Choi Jung-Hoon was in charge over there, he’d definitely not wish to see someone like Yi Ji-Hyuk step foot inside his beloved country’s borders.
“However, now that I’ve thought about it a little bit more, I find it even more strange, ma’am. Even if it’s Yi Ji-Hyuk we’re talking about, would there be an event that forces the Americans to officially ask for assistance from other countries? Wait, are they head-hunting right now? Are they thinking of scouting him after he arrives there? But, this approach is just too unsophisticated for them….” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“No, I don’t think that’s the case.” (Seo Ah-Young)
Seo Ah-Young placed the thick document pile on top of Choi Jung-Hoon’s desk.
Choi Jung-Hoon emitted soft groans as he read the contents, then a long, helpless sigh escaped from his lips.
“A Level 6, is it?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“That’s the conservative estimate. Until now, we haven’t seen a Gate bigger than a Level 6, yet this new one’s actually bigger than the previously recorded one. That’s the gist of it.” (Seo Ah-Young)
“And they don’t have the first clue what might pop out from there.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Yes. Not even remotely.” (Seo Ah-Young)
“So, in other words….” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
In a situation like this, it was only logical to prepare oneself as much as humanly possible. The biggest Gate ever in the history of mankind has appeared for the first time, after all.
No one knew what kind of monstrosity would come out from such a Gate, so wasn’t it prudent to mobilise everything one could lay their hands on?
Even if they were allies, having Yi Ji-Hyuk go on a business trip (?) to another country carried way too much burden.
Him being coaxed away?
Choi Jung-Hoon wasn’t worried about that, not necessarily. Since Yi Ji-Hyuk was a man who operated solely at his own pace, even if others tried to restrict him from going somewhere, he’d still find a way to go regardless if he felt like it. And if he didn’t feel like going anywhere, then no matter what anyone did or pleaded with him, Yi Ji-Hyuk would never, ever even lift a finger.
No, the biggest problem was with how Choi Jung-Hoon should go about trying to manage whatever incident Yi Ji-Hyuk would inevitably cause while he was overseas.
A leaking pot would still leak regardless of where it was, indoors or out. No, hang on a minute, in this case, this particular pot would probably leak a lot worse when outside!
Besides, this pot called Yi Ji-Hyuk was waaaay past the issue of a simple ‘leakage’ already. Wasn’t he an existence that caused people to violently lash out at others for lending such a problematic pot to begin with?
“So, what did the higher-ups say?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Excuse me? Higher-ups?” (Seo Ah-Young)
“Yes, ma’am. The people sitting on top.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Oh, my goodness. Are you perhaps referring to those precious bunch of stooges that do all the bidding of the Great American Empire?” (Seo Ah-Young)
So, they want us to dispatch Yi Ji-Hyuk, then.
Are those as*holes even on our side or not? Seriously, man! (Choi Jung-Hoon’s inner monologue)
Choi Jung-Hoon shook his head in resignation and stood up from his seat.
“Well, in that case…. I should at least go and talk to the man in question.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
He didn’t like this one bit, but he also realised that the entire world was at stake this time around. If they were asked to lend assistance, then it was only correct that they do. Of course, the clean-up post-event would be left to the Americans, anyways.
“If I told him that the American burgers taste amazing, would he go?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Nope, not going.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk replied while not even bothering to turn around to face Choi Jung-Hoon. The youth was doggedly focused on his favourite game as he occupied a special cubicle just for him that was located within the NDF offices.
“….Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk. Please.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Argh!! Why isn’t anyone coming already?! The enemy tower is cooped up in the tower, you know!! Where’s my Junglerrrrrr?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk) (TL: I’ve no idea what this tower thing is all about. TLed literally.)
At least, listen to what other person is trying to say to you, you son of a gun!!
And besides, that guy is a tower, that’s why he cooped up in there, to begin with!
Just why are you even wasting time playing this game?! Just why?!
Every single d*mn time you play this game, you end up hurling insults, get angry, then get p*ssed off even more, and then, get irritated beyond what is humanly possible, AND then some!! Even after going through all that, you still can’t seem to win a single match out of the tens you’ve played so far!
So why do you insist on playing this stupid thing and aggravate yourself even more?!
Are you some kind of a masochist?! (Choi Jung-Hoon’s…. inner monologue. Almost.)
“….I can hear you.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Oh. Did I just say those thoughts out aloud?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“You! Wanna die?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Choi Jung-Hoon could only awkwardly laugh after inadvertently voicing out his true feelings just now.
“Whatever. In any case, I ain’t going.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk. We have no idea what’s going to happen over there. If something goes wrong, the nation of the United States of America might cease to exist altogether.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Hul?! Will they broadcast it live? Cuz, I smell a spectacle!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk clicked on the button that said ‘Defeat’ and spun around on his seat, his face full of dissatisfaction.
“Well, what does America disappearing got to do with me?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Well, it’s got a lot to do with you, actually.
It’s got way too much to do with you, you fool. You see, the entire world is now intrinsically linked in several ways. If the USA is destroyed tomorrow, do you have any idea how inconvenienced you’d become? (Choi Jung-Hoon’s inner monologue)
“Still, how about giving it one more consideration….?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“What did you say? I can’t seem to hear you well, though?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….Should I dig out your ear wax for you?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Huh, that oddly sounds like an insult, doesn’t it? Really odd, no?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk burst out in boisterous laughter, as Choi Jung-Hoon’s head drooped helplessly in response.
Jeong Hae-Min had been quietly watching this scene from the side, before she suddenly trotted next to Yi Ji-Hyuk and asked him innocently.
“Are we going back to the States?” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“Hey, Mister? Don’t dig my ears, but do hers, instead! Weren’t you listening to what we’ve been talking about just now?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I always dreamed of going on a tour of the States! Let’s go there, please? Pretty please?” (Jeong Hae-Min)
Yi Ji-Hyuk shook his head wryly.
Why isn’t she listening to what others are saying? Maybe her ears are blocked for real? What should I use to puncture a hole in there so she can hear me better? (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
“You wanna go on a US tour?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Yep.” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“So you can go and waste time by sightseeing?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Hey!” (Jeong Hae-Min)
Jeong Hae-Min placed her hands on her hips.
“I’m still a singer, you know! Even in America, I….” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“Sure, sure, Miss Asian Walk-In No. 1.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Wha, what? N, no…. I, I even received fan mail from the States, too, you know….” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“Sure, sure, Miss Asian Walk-In No. 1.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I said, it’s not like that!” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“Okay, then. Sure, Miss Female Walk-In No. 1.” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“Wu, wu, wu…..”
Thick teardrops began forming on Jeong Hae-Min’s eyes.
“By any chance, do you know any singers from Southeast Asian countries?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Mm? I don’t know any.” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“And that’s how Americans see you as! A girl who claims to have sung something in a country most can’t even find on a map!!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“From their perspective, that’s how they’d see it! ‘Ah, the tastes of the Korean public sure are peculiar, since they even let a Hobbit sing for them!’ or stuff like that!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….Uwaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhng—-!!” (Jeong Hae-Min)
Yi Ji-Hyuk wordlessly created a jet-black warp gate and Jeong Hae-Min’s wailing came to a very abrupt halt right away.
“Hiccup.” (Jeong Hae-Min)
Yi Ji-Hyuk frowned deeply as he spoke.
“Besides all that! It’s in the middle of a freaking day, so why are you camping out here, of all places?! How can an idol be this idle, eh?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Well, about that.” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“Huh?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I don’t have anything scheduled anymore. No one wants to work with ability users.” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“Why not?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Dunno. They say it’s not a good timing. Negative public sentiments and all that.” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“What a bunch of feckless clowns….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk shook his head again, before reaching out to his mouse.
“So like, I’ve got nothing to do, so let’s go and eat lunch together!” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“And why should I even do that?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Why not? It’s not a problem eating lunch with others, right? Besides, I’m bored!” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“Then go play a video game or something!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
While witnessing this riveting conversation unfold, Choi Jung-Hoon’s mind began crying out once more.
‘Stop having such a conversation at your workplace!!!! You d*mn idiots!!’ (Choi Jung-Hoon)
It’d be soooo much better if they just all disappeared. Really now.
The American ability user, John Brave, was nervously swallowing his saliva.
This wasn’t his first time participating in a Gate suppression operation. No, one could even call him a veteran of sorts. However, right now, he couldn’t help but feel totally oppressed by one particular Gate a bit of distance away from his slightly trembling eyes.
He had participated in battles to suppress Level 5 Gates before. But the Gates back then weren’t as big as this one right in front of him.
The monster codenamed “X1” that popped out from one of those Level 5 Gates ended up demolishing the island of Manhattan into oblivion. When he thought about how that monster nearly drove the country to the brink, and could only be killed off through the usage of an atomic arsenal, he simply couldn’t stop worrying about just what kind of a creature might emerge from that huge Gate.
On top of that….
Surrounding that huge Gate, there were dozens and dozens of smaller Gates, none of them estimated to be lower than Level 4, all of them ominously resonating at a similar sort of frequency.
‘Is this the end of the world?’ (John)
No matter how hard he tried not to think that way, he couldn’t help himself.
John took a glance behind him.
Almost every single ability user residing in the States, along with countless other users from allied nations, plus the world-renowned American Gate subjugation special forces had been mobilised in full to surround the numerous Gates from all sides.
However, would they be able to defend against the monsters coming out from the Gates?
John was not confident at all.
And, even if they somehow managed to successfully survive this battle and win, what would they do next time when an even larger Gate appeared?
Anxiety grew larger and larger in his heart.
“They, they are opening up!!”
The worry-filled voice crackled in his earpiece, digging deep into his eardrums. Gritting his teeth, John shifted his gaze back to the front.
Indeed, the smaller Gates were opening up. The surrounding Level 4 Gates were resonating at the same time and ripples were forming on their surfaces.
And accompanying that, ability users lowered their postures to get ready, and the noises of weapons being cocked behind John’s back rang around the battlefield. Like a chaotic, metallic orchestra, sounds of bullets entering their respective chambers resounded in the air, and almost simultaneously, dark shadows began emerging one by one from the Gates.
The commanders held their breaths as something quite different to their expectations unfolded before their eyes. Unlike the previous battles, monsters were not crazily rushing at them as soon as they emerged from the Gates.
Well, the creatures emerging from the various Gates were indeed all monsters, but they were walking in ranks and files like well-oiled military units.
The commanders knew that they should’ve started attacking the enemies right away. But, for some reason, none of them felt like initiating the first strike. They all instinctively felt this unknown fear that such an action would bring about the demise of themselves and their armies.
It was this fear that held these commanders back from giving out the orders.
It was a similar story for the monsters, too.
The human armies were surrounding them from all sides, but not one of these creatures paid any mind as if they were preoccupied by something else.
The number of monsters continued to increase; so much so, the area the American military blockaded off was rapidly filling up to the brim.
And as more and more monsters streamed out from the dozens and dozens of Gates, the soldiers and ability users had no choice but to back away as well, leading to the widening of the encirclement.
“What should we do?”
“What are we supposed to do now?”
What the, you’re saying THAT under the current circumstances?
You asking whether to attack or run away?
Can’t you see all of that?
Are you seriously asking because you can’t figure out what might happen when all those monsters decide to attack us at the same time?! (John’s inner monologue)
It was then.
A small ripple traveled between the monsters.
*SFX for monsters whimpering*
Suddenly, monsters began emitting whimpers akin to sick puppies, and began groveling on the ground.
“W, what the hell?”
The largest Gate, the one causing the greatest amount of fear in everyone’s hearts, began to open up.
Everyone stared dazedly at the Gate.
Just what kind of monsterish nightmare would emerge from there? A demon capable of massacring the whole of humanity? Or, an angel who might save the world, instead?
If not, then….
The ripples wavered on the surface of the Gate as it opened, and the stares of everyone focused on the empty air in front of the Gate.
“Wait! Look below!”
Someone’s shout prompted everyone to lower their gazes a bit.
Quite unfitting for such a huge Gate, the creature emerging from it was incomparably tiny. Actually, calling it tiny was wrong. Normally, people wouldn’t call other people ‘tiny’, after all.
The creature walking out from the Gate possessed a figure of a human being, no matter who looked at it.
However, something was different about this creature.
Everyone could tell, simply from taking one look at her.
She might look like a human, yet she could not be one!
A human being would not possess an aura like her, after all!
Her long blonde hair lightly danced in the air as she walked. The face seen between the strands of golden locks was so incredibly beautiful that it didn’t seem to belong to this plain of existence.
Most of all, her golden-coloured eyes seemed to steal away the souls of all men who looked into them.
Every time she took a step, the monster army flinched and shivered before lowering their heads even further in fear.
Just how could anyone go about interpreting this event?
As everyone fell into a deep state of panic and confusion, she slowly opened her mouth.
She definitely spoke. Sounds seemed to leave her parting lips.
However, none of those words traveled in the air, instead directly entering the brains of everyone present.[Where is Yi Ji-Hyuk?]
“She” had finally arrived in this world.
< 100. Do you really believe you know about me? -5 > Fin.
(TL: And with that, according to the author, is the end of the big arc. Didn’t say which one, though. Fitting, since it’s chapter 100 and all. My bad about the cliffhanger.)