“Uh? It’s you, ahjussi?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Since Yi Ji-Hyuk began calling Choi Jung-Hoon “Mister Choi Jung-Hoon”, there was only one other person he refer to as ‘ahjussi’.
“Feels like it’s been forever since the last time, you know?” (Yi Jui-Hyuk)
“Ahahaha….” (Jeong In-Soo)
A man kitted out in a certain familiar military uniform scratched the back of his neck as he stood before Yi Ji-Hyuk. He then corrected his posture at once and performed a proper military salute.
“Indeed, it’s been awhile.” (Jeong In-Soo)
The man was none other than Colonel Jeong In-Soo.
“Almost forgot what you looked like, Colonel.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Well, I’m pretty sure some have forgotten about me. It’s been way too long since then….” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Excuse me?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Ah, no. It’s nothing.” (Jeong In-Soo)
Jeong In-Soo sheepishly chuckled.
“By the way, I don’t think you were supposed to salute just anybody? Don’t you only salute like that to your superiors?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“We are in your debt, so if I can’t even salute you, then that should be fixed right away. You don’t have to worry on that regard.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Heh?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Jeong In-Soo must’ve thought that he was still in Yi Ji-Hyuk’s debt. But, the latter only saved the former because he happened to be in the same location, so with him saying stuff like this….
‘Yup, humans should be more like this guy.’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk nodded his head.
People of this world took for granted being in other people’s debt. And the notion of paying back that debt seemed almost non-existent, too.
If Yi Ji-Hyuk was this proactive back in Berafe, then people willing to sacrifice themselves for his sake would have formed a sizeable group by now.
‘Ahh, hang on. That’s not quite true, is it?’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Maybe if he was talking about non-human races, sure. But, the humans of that world would never help Yi Ji-Hyuk out. Because they basically treated him as a devil, after all.
“You seem to be really busy lately?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Well, I’m hardly in South Korea, you see.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Pardon? But, why aren’t the National Defence Force working in South Korea…?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Yes, I wonder about that myself.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
The two men sent meaningful glances to Choi Jung-Hoon at the same time. He formed an awkward smile and ably handled their probing gazes.
“I don’t like it as well, but we don’t have a choice.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Oh, I’m sure it isn’t.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Yup, he’s a smooth talker, alright.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Groan….” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Choi Jung-Hoon spat out a pained groan.
In all honesty, Choi Jung-Hoon never thought he’d be sending the NDF agents on overseas assignments. The organisation was created with the goal of defending the nation first and foremost. But what could he realistically do when the situation had developed in this direction?
“Besides, Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk, you’re the reason why things have worked out this way, you know!” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Hul?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk protested his innocence with a face of a man being wrongly accused.
“You pleaded with me to work harder so I ran around like a dog for you, but now you come out and say the situation’s all my fault?! I only did everything you asked me to do!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“No, hang on. That’s not what I was saying.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Choi Jung-Hoon waved his hands about in a fluster. Technically speaking, it was correct to blame Yi Ji-Hyuk for the current situation. The NDF was originally set up in order to respond to various types of incidents taking place within the borders of South Korea, after all.
But then, the situation changed rather rapidly once Yi Ji-Hyuk joined the organisation.
He proceeded to level up the agents of the NDF, and the man himself also became The One in the world, which naturally led to their area of activity extending far beyond their mother nation.
‘Is this what they call forced overseas expansion?’ (Choi Jung-Hoon)
They weren’t even in the entertainment industry either!
However, Choi Jung-Hoon couldn’t dump all the blame on Yi Ji-Hyuk. It was indeed as he said; the latter did work his butt off the way the former sweet talked him into. How could anyone blame someone for working hard?
“What a poor showing there, fella.” (Jeong In-Soo)
Jeong In-Soo clicked his tongue as he stared at Choi Jung-Hoon.
“But, you know it’s not my fault! Of course, it’s not Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk’s fault, either.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Jeong In-Soo shook his head.
“Even then, fella, how should I say this…. In the past,” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Yes?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“You came across as humble and hard-working in the past, but now, it’s as if you’re the big boss around here.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“……….” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Choi Jung-Hoon couldn’t refute that.
If it was someone else telling him that exact same thing, he’d be able to deny it, but since it was Jeong In-Soo, he found it hard to refute the assertion.
That was thanks to the good Colonel’s personality; even though he had achieved so much in the battlefield, he always attributed them to his subordinates, and made sure that he’d remain at the very forefront of the bitter war against the Gates, defending the most dangerous areas.
Sure, he hated ability users as if they were a plague, so he kept his distance from Choi Jung-Hoon who used to be a part of the KSF, but even then, the latter couldn’t help but acknowledge and respect the former.
Such a person was pointing out his fault now, so, Choi Jung-Hoon couldn’t let it enter one ear and go out the other one.
“Even if our organisations are different, am I not an elder to you? I’m also pretty sure that I’ve spent more time as a soldier than you, too?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“…That is correct.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Oh? So, where did you abandon the courtesy of saluting others, then?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“…….” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Choi Jung-Hoon was instantly rendered speechless.
Jeong In-Soo might have saluted Yi Ji-Hyuk first, but in regards to work experience or everything else, Choi Jung-Hoon should have saluted Jeong In-Soo. Or, at the least, greet him first.
However, he somehow managed to ‘conveniently forget’ about it.
“Now that I think about it, when we first met, it was me who went to say hello first, wasn’t it…?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Ah….” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Hyah, And they say a person feels differently before entering and leaving the bathroom.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Actually, you’re supposed to say that a frog can’t remember the time when it was a tadpole.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“See? Did you see that? Look at him not wanting to concede an inch! Colonel ahjussi! This guy’s been behaving like this lately, you know?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“My friend, you’ve changed a lot.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Groan….” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Choi Jung-Hoon spat out yet another pained groan.
Again, he had nothing to refute that.
He thought that he had managed to maintain who he was despite all the rough headwinds pummelling him around, but it seemed that he was wrong.
‘I need to reflect on myself.’ (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Many people would think that the reason for a man on the fast track to success stumbling and faltering was the idleness that came as a side effect of the success itself, but in reality, it was because the man in question would change far too much in his personality or from his initial ideals.
It was impossible for a person’s mindset to remain completely unchanged since the scenery changed the higher you climbed up the career ladder. But one’s attitude changing, too? That was indeed problematic.
Although these words sounded innocuous enough, the truth behind them was driven home quite painfully. Without a doubt, one might need a superior officer in moments like these.
For Choi Jung-Hoon, the only superior he could call upon was Seo Ah-Young. But she wasn’t the type to point out his foibles, so it was hard for him to reject the notion that his discipline had gone soft lately.
‘For sure….’ (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Choi Jung-Hoon looked at Jeong In-Soo in a renewed light.
The soldier bred in the fierce battlefield had accurately seen through Choi Jung-Hoon’s change, and he spoke the much-needed tough love at once. If only he had something like this man as his senior officer – his job would have been so much easier.
Unfortunately, nothing he could do about that now.
“Now that I think about it, he was affable and so polite in the beginning, but now, he’s all so haughty and stuff.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
And he’d love to not have a ‘subordinate’ like this fool, too.
Indeed, who’d want a guy who should’ve been a ‘subordinate’, but in reality, was the master of the proceedings??
He wasn’t even the son of the owner starting at the bottom as a desk clerk or something, too! This guy, he was even worse than that! Uh-whew!
Yi Ji-Hyuk was far, far more scarier than the owner, even.
If you asked anyone who knew Yi Ji-Hyuk personally just who would be more awkward to deal with between him and the President of South Korea, then they would unhesitatingly choose Yi Ji-Hyuk.
So, how could he be compared to the mere son of the owner?
“Why are you looking at me like that?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“It’s nothing.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Choi Jung-Hoon shook his head.
What was the point of saying anything? It was all a waste of time, anyway. Choi Jung-Hoon removed his gaze from Yi Ji-Hyuk and looked at Jeong In-Soo, instead.
“Looks like I’ve made a mistake.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“If it’s only a mistake, that’s a relief.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“….I was being insolent. I must’ve developed this mindset without realising it. I shall be more careful from now on.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“There’s no meaning if you can’t show your sincerity with your actions. Isn’t social life all about keeping to yourself whatever is in your head?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Yes, you’re right. Thank you for reminding me.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Yi Ji-Hyuk alternated his gaze between the two men before furrowing his brows.
“What’s this? Why is it so cosy between you two all of a sudden?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Jeong In-Soo and Choi Jung-Hoon both formed awkward expressions and looked at Yi Ji-Hyuk at the same time.
“Okay, so. What has happened with this Gate so far?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Choi Jung-Hoon quickly changed the topic.
“As you can see, it’s getting ready to open up soon. We’ve plastered the surroundings with reinforced concrete walls, but I don’t think they will serve any purpose against monsters coming out from a Gate that big. Personally, I think they would be no different from scraps of paper, but well, it’s better than doing nothing, yes?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“I guess so.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“This Gate is an unknown quantity, so all of our response tactics don’t work on it. Still, it’s a big relief that we have Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk with us.” )Jeong In-Soo)
“Euh….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk was assaulted by Jeong In-Soo’s sparkling, expectant eyes and flinched as he took a step backwards. To think, he’d be at the mercy of such an uncle’s dreamy gaze! No, he didn’t want it!
“I was wondering what should we do if you didn’t come. But, you have come to aid us in our time of need.” (Jeong In-Soo)
He felt pricked.
Felt really, really pricked in his conscience!
He felt so pricked in his conscience by the fact that he had been throwing a tantrum not too long ago just because he didn’t want to come here. As a result, it was impossible to look this uncle straight in his eyes.
Yi Ji-Hyuk reflected on his laziness and hid his embarrassment with a fake cough.
“You know when it’s opening up?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“According to the measuring device, it’s supposed to open up in around two hours, but…. But, it’s hard to trust the device nowadays so we can’t be sure of the time frame. It might even suddenly decide to open up on us right now, you see.” (Jeong In-Soo)
Yi Ji-Hyuk glanced at the Gate vibrating ominously and spoke.
“Like that?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….Yes. Just like that.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Hah….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Careless muttering was the basis of all evil, a lance of all ill fortune, or so it was said.
Jeong In-Soo bore witness to the Gate vibrating right after saying something that some people would think of wholly unnecessary, and lowered his head awkwardly.
“My apologies.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Well, it’s the case of the falling pear when the crow flies.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk) (TL note at the end)
However, the pear in question is a bit big.
Make that waaay too big. (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
Yi Ji-Hyuk thought that he might get his head caved in from the falling pear at this rate and stared at the Gate as a long, long sigh escaped from his lips.
That thing was going to open up anyway, so nothing would change even if it opened a bit sooner or later.
“The problem is with the things that might come out of there….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Theoretically speaking, even a Dragon could come and go with a Gate that big.
The size of a Gate didn’t signify the maximum limit of what could be transferred. No, it actually meant that more Mana could be moved between the locations. In that regard, a Wyrm-class Dragon could easily utilise a Gate of such a size.
‘Still, a real Dragon won’t pop out of there, right?’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Affeldrichae alone was hard to deal with already, so if another Dragon jumped out of there, then he’d definitely lose his sh*t right here.
In addition, Affeldrichae was an insane Dragon and that’s why she got to maintain a sort of frenemy relationship with Yi Ji-Hyuk. If it was another Dragon, though, it’d start flinging deadly magic the moment it saw him.
Well, to the race of Dragons, Yi Ji-Hyuk was THE enemy they couldn’t bear to share the same sky with.
With humans, they would’ve forgotten most of the direct hatred towards him with the passage of time, but heck, Dragons weren’t the type to forget just because of a few hundred years went by.
He had no doubt that there were countless Dragons blessed with absolute unfailing memories as well as everlasting grudge on the other side still gnashing their teeth.
“Well, it’s not like this Gate’s connected to Berafe, right….?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
It could be, but the odds of it being not were higher. Which meant that a new type of monster he hadn’t seen before that was also on the similar level of a Dragon could appear today.
And that would be way more scarier.
If it was a Dragon, he had his own ways of dealing with it. If that didn’t work, he could drag Affeldrichae over here and have a go at negotiating with the dang thing.
But, if it was a creature possessing similar level of power to a Dragon that he had never seen before, then it’d become a lot tougher to deal with that.
“Okay, so what the heck is coming out, then?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
The Gate’s been open for a while now, so how come nothing has come out yet??
Maybe, it’s a misfire? (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
Yi Ji-Hyuk tilted his head this way and that, and just as he was about to approach it, the Gate began vibrating even more than before.
“Eh?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Didn’t it look like something was trying to come out now?
The Gate then began to twist and distort crazily. Yi Ji-Hyuk’s eyes narrowed to a slit at this unsettling spectacle. This phenomenon only occurred when the Gate couldn’t deal with the power of the being trying to cross it.
“Just what is trying to come out of it now?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk began glaring at the Gate with rather uncharacteristically tense eyes.
And then, a massive earthquake erupted in his irises next.
< 210. And they say there’s no one to trust in this world! -5 > Fin.
(TL: That thing about crow and pear is a Korean proverb that means that it’s a coincidence of two events happening at the same time. I could’ve gone with an English alternative, but that would’ve screwed up the next couple of lines, so I left it as is.)