“What was that?!” (Christopher McLaren)
Christopher McLaren had to double check his own hearing just then.
“They won’t do it??” (Christopher McLaren)
Christopher McLaren tilted his head this way and that after hearing his adjutant’s words.
What the hell? Why are these b*stards acting this way now?
Only a day ago, we were busy trying to come up with plans to do this thing together, but now, what I am supposed to do with them changing their mind like this?? (Christopher McLaren’s inner monologue)
“Did something happen over there?” (Christopher McLaren)
The group of dogs that wagged their tails happily when he patted them on the head only until a little while ago suddenly turned around and began flinging mud at him with their hind legs.
Sure, one of those dogs couldn’t be trained at all and no one knew when it’d start biting people, but still, considering that these hunting dogs listened well up until now, this was a rather unexpected development.
‘Is this Yi Ji-Hyuk’s doing?’ (Christopher McLaren)
That man was so unpredictable that it’d not be strange at all for him to go off on another weird tirade, actually. Even then, he didn’t behave this way, did he?
“Make the call. I will have to speak to them personally.” (Christopher McLaren)
“They said that they can’t be bothered to come to the States, sir.”
“Well, that means I can just pop over there, then! I’ll head off to Korea, so get a teleporter ready.” (Christopher McLaren)
“Ah, sir, the thing is….”
The adjutant formed a complicated expression and stared at Christopher McLaren, before resuming his words in a hesitant manner.
“Sir… We don’t have any teleporter with a marker placed in South Korea.”
Son of a b*tch….!
Christopher McLaren spat out a lengthy groan.
He thought that he’d been paying attention. Only now he realised rather belatedly that, even though he was aware of the importance Korea as a nation carried, he had forgotten to personally look after America’s interest in them until now.
How could they not have even a measly marker in that country?
Indeed, such a thing wouldn’t have happened if he paid a little more attention. They came flying on their own volition with a simple phone call, so he mistakenly believed that having a hotline would be enough here.
‘I was short-sighted.’ (Christopher McLaren)
A person’s mind was fickle, and he knew that international relations could be even more fickle than a person’s mind. His excuse of forgetting to pay more attention was that he couldn’t spare enough time, what with him being waaaay too busy lately.
‘It’s my blunder on this one.’ (Christopher McLaren)
Anyone would make mistakes once or twice in their lifetime. The important thing was how a person would go about fixing it.
“Where is the nearest marker?” (Christopher McLaren)
“It’s in Japan, sir.”
Christopher McLaren felt bitterness rise up in his mouth.
Japan, was it?
If current international relations were taken into account, Japan couldn’t even come remotely close to Korea in terms of importance. Yet, there they were, wasting a marker of already-in-short-supply teleporters in not in China, but in Japan – while failing to leave one behind in Korea.
‘Looks like I’ll have redress the balance from the beginning again.’ (Christopher McLaren)
Of course, that was a matter to attend to at a later date.
“I’ll go to Japan first. Get a helicopter from the US troops stationed in Japan ready.” (Christopher McLaren)
With a bitter expression on his face, Christopher McLaren returned to his original seat.
‘And so, how much am I supposed to give them this time?’ (Christopher McLaren)
He suddenly recalled the smiling face of Choi Jung-Hoon, looking all dapper and suave.
It was now time to confirm how much a big shot player that guy really was.
“Oh, hey. You’re here?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
The first person to greet Christopher McLaren as he stepped foot inside the NDF building was, unexpectedly, Yi Ji-Hyuk himself.
The American had a weird expression on his face as he extended his hand for a hand shake.
“It sure feels different, stepping foot in another country like this. Nice to see you again, Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk.” (Christopher McLaren)
“Yep, me too. This way.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Everything was fine when he landed in Japan and took a helicopter ride to Korea.
But then, he didn’t get the permission to fly into the ability user residential area near Seoul and had to change to a car to travel the rest of the way. His level of irritation was steadily getting higher from that experience.
It was common to see this sort of tug-of-war or show of strength in international politics, but Christopher McLaren hadn’t been on the receiving end of such treatment in the last dozen or so years. So now, he was beginning to truly feel the superiority the other side had over him.
And then, to send Yi Ji-Hyuk out to greet him, of all people….
Again, it was pretty common tactic to send out your worst from the get-go to start the war of nerves. But in this case, Choi Jung-Hoon had accurately figured out who Christopher McLaren was most awkward around with, and effectively used that to his advantage.
The first thing he saw after arriving here happened to be Yi Ji-Hyuk’s mug, and Christopher McLaren felt a stabbing pain coming from his stomach as a result.
“Where is Mister Choi Jung-Hoon?” (Christopher McLaren)
“We’re going to where he is.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Alright.” (Christopher McLaren)
Yi Ji-Hyuk’s attitude said that he didn’t have anything else to say. Christopher McLaren followed in to the building after him, his own expression hardening as the thoughts of ‘This won’t be easy’ took root in his head.
The NDF building was pretty small so they didn’t need to travel too far, and indeed, only a few moment later, the two men found themselves in front of the door leading to the conference room.
“He’s waiting for you inside.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Aren’t you joining us, Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk?” (Christopher McLaren)
“Me? Well, even if I hear what you guys are going to talk about, I wouldn’t know what’s what, anyway. It’s fine for you two to enjoy a little talk inside.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Wait, is Mister Choi Jung-Hoon alone?” (Christopher McLaren)
‘….What an amateur.’ (Christopher McLaren)
In his hurry, Christopher McLaren couldn’t bring along his usual entourage. Not a single one. In times like this, you should pressure your opponent with sheer numbers. That was the basics.
Indeed, looking relaxed was important in a matter like this. So, it wouldn’t do for you to reveal that you didn’t have much spare room when it was you summoning the other party over here.
Sure, the Koreans had grown in status into big shots nowadays all thanks to Yi Ji-Hyuk, but it seemed that they still lacked experience, and therefore didn’t know how to adequately get a handle on a situation like this one.
In that case, Christopher McLaren should be able to manipulate the advantage to his side.
The fate of the United States of America was hanging in the balance here, and so, Christopher McLaren was fully resolved to resort to using threats if it needs be. He let out a fake cough to clear his throat, and opened the door to enter.
And then…. he saw it.
He saw Choi Jung-Hoon sitting at the seat of honour, his legs crossed as he leisurely smoked his cigarette.
Doesn’t he look way too relaxed?
…Now normally, you wouldn’t look like that, though?
Besides all that…. Why does he look so cool in that pose? (Christopher McLaren)
A tall and handsome man was wearing an all-black business suit while sucking on his cigarette, so quite literally, this moment felt like a snapshot from a noir film all of a sudden.
Christopher McLaren recalled a scene from a Hong Kong action film he used to enjoy watching way back when. His mind tensed up before he knew it, so as he stepped into the conference room, he did his best to control the nervousness he felt.
Obviously, Choi Jung-Hoon wasn’t going to suddenly yank out a pistol and start shooting at him with no reason, so Christopher McLaren didn’t have to remain so fearful here.
“You are here.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Choi Jung-Hoon sounded so relaxed and casual. Christopher McLaren wetted his lips. What a weird thing this was, his lips feeling so dry and cracked for some reason.
“H-hello there.” (Christopher McLaren)
“You’ve come a long way, so why don’t we forego the pleasantries and get right to the point? Please, take a seat.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Ah, of course!” (Christopher McLaren)
Christopher McLaren settled down while looking a bit flustered. Yi Ji-Hyuk grinned subtly after witnessing that and closed the door behind him.
He could personally step up here and pressure the American, sure, but since he wasn’t planning to keep doing that in the future, it was far more wise to give Choi Jung-Hoon the requisite authority right now.
That’s why Yi Ji-Hyuk had left a handful of tools behind, and Choi Jung-Hoon was effectively using them already.
“Mister, work hard.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
….Mister Christopher McLaren.
“I wonder, is everything going okay in there?” (Kim Jae-Beom)
“Probably?” (Seo Ah-Young)
Kim Jae-Beom’s worried-sounding question could only get Seo Ah-Young’s disinterested reply.
“But, it shouldn’t be an easy thing, two people intensely negotiating like that….” (Kim Jae-Beom)
“This is Mister Choi Jung-Hoon we’re talking about. He’ll do a good job without needing us to worry about him.” (Seo Ah-Young)
“But, his opponent is….” (Kim Jae-Beom)
….His opponent today was a bad match-up, for sure.
That man was none other than Christopher McLaren. He was the legendary existence that any newbie entering this field of work need to learn and memorise until their brains bled out!
If the Black Monday incident didn’t happen, he’d have been ruling the world of espionage with an iron fist by now. If the American President was the emperor of the day, then it’d not be an exaggeration to call that man the emperor of the night.
But now, Choi Jung-Hoon was going one on one against such a man.
Wasn’t this way too harsh a treatment for the poor guy?
“Don’t worry. He’ll take care of it.” (Seo Ah-Young)
Kim Jae-Beom continued to stare with an unconvinced expression. Seo Ah-Young had no choice left but to ask Yi Ji-Hyuk, as the latter just so happened to enter the office just then.
“Don’t you agree?” (Seo Ah-Young)
“Yeah, I do.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk haphazardly nodded his head as if he couldn’t care any less.
“I’m telling you, it’s not as simple as you two make it out to be.” (Kim Jae-Beom)
Kim Jae-Beom’s complaints prompted Yi Ji-Hyuk to dismissively wave his hand.
“Even if it doesn’t work, that’s still fine. Besides, wanting to deal with that uncle using a crowd, just so we can extract more benefits this time around, will only makes us look like right royal knobs later on. It’ll make it more convenient for us to have a guy around who can push back just as hard as the other party.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Well, you aren’t wrong there, but still….” (Kim Jae-Beom)
Even still, one shouldn’t let a lone wolf fight against a lion, no?
“Besides….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk carried on.
“He’s not someone to get pushed around, anyway.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Pardon?” (Kim Jae-Beom)
Yi Ji-Hyuk didn’t reply to that and settled back down on his chair, instead.
Choi Jung-Hoon had been looking increasingly like a fool lately, but that was only because events he couldn’t do anything about had been happening around him over and over again.
Even from their very first meeting, Yi Ji-Hyuk couldn’t ignore that man Choi Jung-Hoon and the presence he carried.
Indeed, since his return to Earth, only Choi Jung-Hoon managed to make Yi Ji-Hyuk feel awkward simply by standing nearby, or make the latter think he was the indispensable ally to have around.
Yi Ji-Hyuk was someone who’d slouch against the chair and disinterestedly nod his head even when meeting the president of his country. So, there was no better proof of Choi Jung-Hoon’s abilities being top class than Yi Ji-Hyuk rating him that highly.
The poor guy had the misfortune of being harassed by Yi Ji-Hyuk of late and ended up looking like a fool more often than not, but if he was really a fool to begin with, then well, Yi Ji-Hyuk wouldn’t even have bothered to deal with him.
“We are done, everyone.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
People in the office all stood up after those words came from the distance. And when they saw the extremely contrasting expressions etched on the faces of two men walking into the office, they could also tell what the result of the negotiation was.
Christopher McLaren carried a complex expression where he looked like he was chewing on insects while forcing himself to grin, which only resulted in his brows twitching uncontrollably. On the other hand, Choi Jung-Hoon was trying to maintain an expressionless face, but the corners of his lips were constantly quivering up and down. So, yes, the result of the negotiation was as clear as day.
‘Yup, as far as his abilities are concerned….’ (Seo Ah-Young)
Seo Ah-Young was inwardly expressing her admiration towards Choi Jung-Hoon.
It couldn’t have been easy for an early-thirties guy to get on top of an opponent who had overcome all sorts of trials and tribulations in his field.
Seo Ah-Young understood full well how burdensome the expectations of ‘That person will definitely pull through regardless of what’ would be for the person in question. She too was subjected to such expectations since she was much younger, after all.
However, Choi Jung-Hoon proudly faced those expectations and oh-so proudly handled them with aplomb. As a man, as a fellow human being, he needed to be respected.
“Are you finally done?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
….Quite unlike that man, that was.
Seo Ah-Young now could see Yi Ji-Hyuk and his annoyance-filled face.
If she got technical about this, then Yi Ji-Hyuk should be the one carrying the biggest burden of expectations of ‘That person will definitely pull through regardless of what’, and he was also the guy ably handling that expectation with an even bigger aplomb than anyone, yet….
Yet, why couldn’t she feel the same sort of admiration towards this guy?!
Did he cast a recognition debuff on himself or something??
“What now? Why you lookin’ at me like that?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
When the look in Seo Ah-Young’s eyes became rather weird, Yi Ji-Hyuk immediately latched onto it and glared right back at her.
“Why should I even bother.” (Seo Ah-Young)
“What, what now?! Ah??” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk got triggered right away, but Seo Ah-Young simply turned her head away.
What’s the point? It’ll only be me wasting my breath anyway. (Seo Ah-Young’s inner monologue)
“The negotiation has concluded. I pray that the agents of South Korea will honour the part of the agreement in full.” (Christopher McLaren)
Christopher McLaren announced in a stiff voice. Choi Jung-Hoon nodded his head and shifted his gaze to Yi Ji-Hyuk.
“Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk, it’s your turn to step up.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“But, I don’t wanna?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….Pardon me?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
What the hell, you were the one telling me to squeeze the other party dry for all the benefits we can get, so why are you coming out like this now, you crazy b*stard?! (Choi Jung-Hoon’s inner monologue)
Several choice words went on a riot inside his mouth trying to free themselves, but Choi Jung-Hoon remembered that there was an important guest from another country present here and did his best to suppress it.
“Okay, who will do it, then?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“They can do it themselves.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk yawned out grandly and stretched his limbs.
“Looks like you lot have grown way too reliant on me cuz I did lots of stuff for you lately, but here’s the thing. It’s not all that dangerous and it’s also not that big of a deal. It’s just a bother at this point, so why don’t you guys step up without me for once? I already brought you the person to purify those zombies, yet you want more from me still? At this rate, you might even ask me to get you nappies and wipe your bottoms, too.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“But, Miss Affeldrichae brought us the…..” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Oh, so why did she come here in the first place, again?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Wowsers, who knew being speechless could be this infuriating! (Choi Jung-Hoon’s inner monologue)
Choi Jung-Hoon sighed out helplessly and stared at Seo Ah-Young.
“Please, say somet….” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Why should I?” (Seo Ah-Young)
“You know it’s not something we can do without his help.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“And, why not?” (Seo Ah-Young)
Seo Ah-Young sounded very forthright in her reply.
“Now that we got what we wanted, why shouldn’t we do it by ourselves? I think you’re forgetting something here…. Mister Choi Jung-Hoon, the reason why South Korea has become the most powerful nation isn’t just because Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk’s here with us. Even if he’s not here anymore, we’d still be the most powerful nation. And we shall prove that point with this opportunity.” (Seo Ah-Young)
Seo Ah-Young’s manly declaration brought about tears of powerful emotion to Choi Jung-Hoon’s eyes.
This is the Flame Witch, Seo Ah-Young!
She has finally returned. (Choi Jung-Hoon’s inner monologue)
“Oh? Really? Does that mean I can emigrate to another country now?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Please, just go back to where you came from. Please!! (Choi Jung-Hoon’s inner monologue)
< 183. Please, just go back to where you came from! -3 > Fin.