For the first time in a long while, Yi Ji-Hyuk got to observe the unfolding situation with no worries in his mind.
He was used to seeing all those ugly situations where he had to step up in order to solve them. But now, he was feeling so very happy, pleased, and chuffing comfortable just from the idea of kicking back and taking it easy…. That was what it should have been like, but!!
Jeong Hae-Min spat out a long sigh after seeing Yi Ji-Hyuk chew on his nails.
“If you’re that worried, why don’t you do something?” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“Worried? Who, me?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk smirked derisively as if to dismiss her invalid claims.
“What do you mean, worried?! Why would I even worry about anything?? I feel like I can fly now that I don’t have to do anything!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
….You might really start flying away if your legs keep trembling like that, you know? (Jeong Hae-Min’s inner monologue)
Jeong Hae-Min lightly clicked her tongue as her eyes continued to look at his legs vibrating at the speed of sound, as if an electric motor spinning at full tilt was attached to his limbs.
How could he be this distrusting?
There were some people like that in this world.
And those would be – the folks who’d repeatedly mutter out “How irritating, so bloody irritating” non-stop when asked to do something, but then, when they actually didn’t have to do anything, they couldn’t trust others to get the job done and would anxiously pace up and down where they stood.
The kind of people who were born to become the leader of a group, as well as the sacrificial lamb for the good of the group, too. She didn’t expect him to be one such person, yet as it turned out, Yi Ji-Hyuk was exactly it.
“Are you that distrusting of others??” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“Eh?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“If that was the case, why did you even bother to train them in the first place? I mean, let’s be real – you worked your butt off to train them to this degree but you haven’t even started using them the way you wanted to so far.” (Jeong Hae-Min)
In truth, Jeong Hae-Min too was subjected to that brutal training regime. But in her eyes, Yi Ji-Hyuk looked even more hard working as he had to constantly scoot over here and there without taking a single break, just so he could train up the NDF agents.
It was unknown whether other people saw it that way, though.
“Seriously, if you analyse the things you did objectively, then you’re definitely a nice guy, you know?” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“Eh? What bullsh*t are you spewing now?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“You trained these kids up so they wouldn’t get hurt. And you drove yourself near death for a whole six months just to train them. When we came back to reality, you didn’t even try to use them as you said you would because they might get hurt, and instead you held them back and stepped up to fight by yourself.” (Jeong Hae-Min)
Now that I hear her, she’s right, isn’t she?
What the heck was I doing until now?? (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
“I mean, you worked so hard like that, yet no one acknowledges you, instead they insult you and whatnot all the time. Why are you carrying on like this?” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“STHAP!!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
If you don’t stop right there, I won’t have any eyeballs left, you know!! So stop and give it a rest.
Because, all this moisture is building up in my eyeballs!
I never meant to live while people insulted me!
But they insult me on their own, so what the heck do you want from me now?!
….Wait a minute, isn’t this way too weird?
From what I heard just now, from what she said, haven’t I really lived a good and earnest life so far….? So how come these guys can’t wait to kill me all the time?
If I showed this much favour to someone back in Berafe, they’d trip over themselves just to show me their gratitude, you know?
They’d even slice off and cook their own arms if I said I was starving.
But in here, I did so much for them and all I get in return is a face full of insults and cusses….. (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s lengthy inner monologue)
“….Yup, Berafe was far more civilised.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Nope, never mind.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
He was so fed up with that world that his feeling actually verged on pure hatred. But, now that he had spent the past few months back on Earth, the world he dreamed of returning for so many years, he couldn’t help but sometimes think that, at least back in Berafe, his common sense applied just fine over there.
Indeed, how clear-cut and straightforward was that world? An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, too. As long as you remembered that basic rule, then there was nothing too complicated or annoying matter to frown upon in that place.
But Earth was a funny place where a debt of gratitude could morph into a debt of hatred in the blink of an eye, and vice versa.
‘Could it be that I’m way too used to the ways of Berafe?’
He had been consciously trying to ignore this fact, but well, it could be said that the current version of Yi Ji-Hyuk was a rather different person compared to the one that had just landed back on Earth.
Back then, when his memories and his consciousness had been in a fixed position, all those things he had experienced back in Berafe was no different than his ‘knowledge’ base expanding by a bit.
Just like how there was no meaning to filling up one’s bookshelf with books if you weren’t going to read any in the first place, the experiences of Berafe was something like a feast of knowledge left undigested to Yi Ji-Hyuk.
Perhaps ironically, though – all those happenings in Berafe were beginning to affect him now that he was no longer under the influence of the fixed state.
Back in the past, things remained weird, unfamiliar and hard to understand because he simply couldn’t digest everything he had experienced in Berafe.
But now, what with the memories of life lived in Berafe finally being digested, he was beginning to feel that it was Earth that was the weird one.
“Yeah, I sure have changed a lot, haven’t I.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Mm? What are you talking about?” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“What would you know, anyway?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk sighed under his breath.
Even if he told her, would she even be able to understand anything?
If he was still that Yi Ji-Hyuk right after his return to Earth, he’d have done whatever possible to rip apart and kill Affeldrichae the moment she showed up before him. It’d be totally unimaginable to keep her around by his side like this.
Because, even if he liked to fool around, the existences of Berafe remained hateful and detestable things in Yi Ji-Hyuk’s view.
Affeldrichae would be no exception. It was true that she had shown him some favour in the past, but it was also an undeniable fact that she persistently stood in his path and tried to stop him all the time.
So, if he was still the Bringer of Apocalypse from the past, he’d not have hesitated in cutting her head off at all.
However, now…. he did hesitate.
It was already unbecoming of the ‘Yi Ji-Hyuk’ to ask her why she had to appear before him instead of immediately attacking to kill her off right away.
‘No, hang on. Should I say that I’ve become more ‘me’ now?’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Indeed, it was simply unthinkable for all those experiences he went through to not affect him in some shape or form during all those years. So, he should perhaps more correctly say that only now was he beginning to revert back to his original personality.
If that was the case, then he should be celebrating, but….
‘….But, I’ve become softer.’
If it was in the past, he’d not be swayed by something like feelings or emotions.
Back in Berafe, Yi Ji-Hyuk didn’t care about the cost or the method employed as long as he reached his goal. And he definitely wasn’t someone who’d worry about others’ situations while being swayed by his feelings.
Whether his changes were due to him finally meeting proper ‘people’ again thousand-something years later, or that his personality had indeed changed for real, he couldn’t tell for sure. But he knew that either case was not welcome news for him.
Those who were swayed by feelings and emotions would be ruined in the end. That was one of the lessons Yi Ji-Hyuk learnt after observing the flow of history for centuries upon centuries.
“Groan….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
It sure was a giant mistake on his part for not dealing with it decisively enough even though he was aware of this fact. It might not be a big enough problem right now, but all these haphazardly created relationships held the potential to tighten around his neck like a noose.
He witnessed all those giants and captains of their respective fields fall to ruin in the past through matters like this, and he always thought that they were being stupid idiots. But now that he found himself in a similar position, he kind of understood why they behaved in such a way.
One would never be able to cleanly severe the relationships formed between human beings.
“What are you thinking so hard about now?” (Jeong Hae-Min)
Jeong Hae-Min’s question brought Yi Ji-Hyuk back to his senses. He let out another long sigh and replied to her.
“You must be happy.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“About what?” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“The fact that you can live without thinking about anything.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“What the heck?! Is that something you should be saying to your noona!!! And I definitely don’t live without thinking, you know?! I have my own worries and thoughts too, you know!!” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“And why would you be worried about now?! What would you even be thinking about in the first place??” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Like, like, what am I going to do to put food on the table, stuff like that…. In any case, it’s complicated, you know!” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“Just carry on being an idol, will you?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Don’t you know that the current trend is for the ability user idols to quit or retire altogether?” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“Why?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“What do you mean, why?! Because we can’t get any work, that’s why! All those promised commercial shoots I was supposed to film dissipated into the thin air, and even those I signed contracts with got cancelled, too. And, because the contract deals were so vague, I won’t even be getting any cancellation fees at this rate, you know!” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“What are you so worried about, then?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Why shouldn’t I worry?” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“If you really can’t work as an idol no more, then just get a job with Ub*r or with D*L. Methinks that you’d have no problem making a living out of delivering emergency packages overseas.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“You know, I was gonna get angry at you, but sadly, I think you have a point there.” (Jeong Hae-Min)
Once upon a time, she was a popular idol who got recognised in all corners of the country. But now, she had to change her job as the international courier service industry’s idol.
Jeong Hae-Min’s shoulders drooped low, low down as a complicated, weird emotional mixture settled in, one half of that mixture comprising of the sadness at wondering how did her life turn out this way, and the rest being a certain relief from knowing that she at least had a way to earn a living now.
“Who says that some jobs are better than others?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Even then, I wanted to be an idol…..” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“You shouldn’t, when it’s treating you this badly. And also, let’s be real. It’s embarrassing for you to keep insisting on being an idol at your age, too. I’m pretty sure that other people are thinking the same thing, even if they haven’t said anything to you yet.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“You know, I really hate you. Can I smack you in the face once???” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“Of course not.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk decisively ignored her complaints and turned his head away.
People should have pretty much forgotten about that serial killer case by now, yet the ostracising of the ability users showed no signs of abating at all. Now that was definitely not good news.
‘Just how long will they keep their mouths shut?’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
In all honesty, regular people ostracising ability users wasn’t all that strange an occurrence in his view. There was no one alive beside Yi Ji-Hyuk who knew how badly the species called humans would treat other races, after all.
However, the story would be quite different from the perspectives of the ability users.
It was precisely these people that ensured the continued survival of this world. And these ability users didn’t have much to gain from the regular people. Other than something like the basic social structure being maintained by regular, powerless folks, ability users really didn’t have any reason to protect them. At all.
And those you were ostracising would scoff at the very notion of protecting other people just because they were suddenly fellow human beings as well. As for the idea of monsters taking over this world once the balance between the ability users and regular humans broke, it just failed to register with the common men.
What would happen, then, when this situation continued to repeat itself over and over again until the ability users began an open conflict with the regular people?
“Yep, it’ll be the end of the world.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“You, why are you talking to yourself like that since a few minutes ago?? Did you get a heat stroke or something??” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“Heat stroke, my foot!! Don’t you know how cold it is?! Besides all that, you, if you got nothing better to do, why don’t you scoot waaay over there and peel yourself some tangerines or something?? Why are you sticking so close and irritating me like this?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….Because, you’re the only one who understands what I’m saying around here.” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“Oh. Yeah, I guess I get you….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Well, it was the same story for me only until a few days ago, too. (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
“Looks like they are to get started now?” (Jeong Hae-Min)
Yi Ji-Hyuk’s eyes gleamed brightly as he looked to his front.
As if they had come to some sort of an agreement, Seo Ah-Young, Choi Jung-Hoon and Christopher McLaren were sharing energetic handshakes.
“You should be doing that after you finish your task first.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
What meaning was there to say “Let’s do our best” before starting on a task? Was there anyone who started with a thought of doing their absolute worst??
Regardless of whether Yi Ji-Hyuk was happy or not about the situation, those three went their separate ways to get to their respective positions, and then, the operation finally got on the way.
“Things are gonna go very wrong at this rate.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Why don’t you just jinx them, why dontcha?! Are you hoping they would succeed or totally fail here?” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“….Uh, half-half?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I’m telling you, you’re just too weird.” (Jeong Hae-Min)
It’s my honest feeling, so what do you want from me now?!
Half of me says that it’d be very nice if they get this done without me getting involved. But then, the other half says I’m gonna feel jealous if they do pull that off, so I wouldn’t mind one or two things going wrong, you see?
Annnd, that’s how a human being operates, you know.
Even though you know you gotta let go the thing you’re holding in your hands but you still end up deliberating on it – isn’t that what being human is all about?
Just like, that guy named Louis 14th who proudly created an absolute monarchy only to die early from stress caused by the absolutely maddening workload?
Mm? Wait, he didn’t die from overworking?
Whatever. He did die young anyway. Probably. (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
“They are starting!” (Jeong Hae-Min)
At the same time Jeong Hae-Min made her observation, Kim Dah-Hyun standing on top of the barricade jumped down to the ground below.
It seemed that Kim Dah-Hyun was tasked with starting the operation.
He whistled leisurely even when facing a horde of million-strong zombies, before slowly taking several steps forward.
“Alright. Now then…..” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
Kim Dah-Hyun shrugged his shoulders once, and got his motor running in earnest.
And soon, he left behind a long tail of afterimages like a speeding asteroid and dashed straight towards the corner of the zombie horde.
< 184. Please, just go back to where you came from! -4 > Fin.