“Well, it’s not a big deal.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“It’s always been ‘not’ a big deal.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“No, really. It’s not, this time.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“If it isn’t, then I fail to see why you need me at all. Have a nice day.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Ehhheii! Why are you being like this?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
With a good-natured smile, Choi Jung-Hoon hurriedly stood in Yi Ji-Hyuk’s way.
“What now?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Hahaha. It really isn’t a big deal.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Yi Ji-Hyuk’s eyes narrowed to a slit.
“Whenever you beat around the bush like that, things are actually much more bothersome than you let on….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“That’s not true.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“In any case, just come out and say it, will you. I can only decide after you tell me what’s happening.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Choi Jung-Hoon nodded his head and continued on.
“Well…. Let me just say that it’s something that happens often.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Okay?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“A Gate has opened up on our shore recently, yes?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Yeah, sure.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“As you may well know, the last Gate was a pretty rough case for us to handle. If it weren’t for you being there at the right time, we can’t even imagine what might have happened.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Sure.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“So, what will happen to other countries in similar circumstances?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Yi Ji-Hyuk lightly clapped his hands.
“They are all destroyed, probably.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Hahaha! You’re right. Especially so with Japan. They have been under the constant barrage of one event after another, and they are on the brink of complete collapse. To top it all off, a new Gate appeared in the middle of Tokyo again.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Ohh!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk nodded his head.
It seemed that their geographical location was pretty bad; they got bombarded by earthquakes all the time, and there were all those hailstorms, too, and didn’t it feel as if typhoons were always at their shores like a passive skill?
“Maybe, that land is cursed or something?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Didn’t the Zombie Dragon also pop up in Tokyo? And it’s that city again?
“Okay, so? What happened?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Hahaha…..” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Choi Jung-Hoon smiled brightly and spoke.
“Well, what do you think has happened? They are being utterly destroyed, that’s what.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“No answers, then.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk helplessly shook his head.
“And so, they asked for help, is that it?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Indeed, they have.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“And we said, sure, cool, we’ll help?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“If you put it that way, yes.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Yi Ji-Hyuk grinned brightly, and put his arm around Choi Jung-Hoon’s shoulders. The latter stared at the former with an expression that said, “What’s gotten into him?”
“Mister Choi Jung-Hoon.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Yes?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“It seems that you’ve lost your touch lately.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“What do you…..” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Didn’t you say that they are close to being totally wiped out?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Yes, I did.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“In that case, why should we go there and help them out when there’s clearly nothing in it for us? I mean, we aren’t a charity organisation, are we? There should be something in it for us if we were to help them out, right? Don’t you agree?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Choi Jung-Hoon grinned in response.
“Of course, there is something in it for us.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Hoh-oh?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk’s expression brightened in an instant.
Yup, this is the Choi Jung-Hoon I know.
No freaking way that this dude would give and not take like a dumba*s. No way. (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
Indeed, as expected of a man he had acknowledged.
“What we’re about to get from them are things that can’t be bought with money.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Ohhh!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk’s eyes began sparkling brightly.
“What is it? What?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Please, don’t be surprised. They are cultural assets.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Cultural… assets?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Choi Jung-Hoon formed a content smile and nodded his head.
“Yes. They must be in some urgency, because they agree to hand back all the cultural assets they stole during the Japanese Occupation. And the overall number turns out to be several times higher than we’ve previously anticipated. There should be countless national treasures mixed in among them. If we manage to bring them all back home, then we’d be achieving an amazing diplomatic feat to be recorded in the annals of hist….” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Yup, not interested.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk smirked and walked straight out of the office.
“M-Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk!!” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Choi Jung-Hoon ran after him in a fluster.
Yi Ji-Hyuk pulled out a cigarette and placed it between his lips.
“Cultural assets, by a*s.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Why would he go there just for a bunch of stuff that he couldn’t even eat?
Stuff like cultural assets couldn’t even be exchanged for cash, and he couldn’t quite understand why he should work his butt off so that the government got to be happy, instead.
“Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk!” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Choi Jung-Hoon rushed next to him in a flash and quickly lit the cigarette stuck in his lips.
The lighter spat out the flame and the end of Yi Ji-Hyuk’s cigarette began burning away.
“Hah….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk breathed out a lengthy trail of smoke and shifted his gaze back to Choi Jung-Hoon.
“I’m not going.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Please, don’t be like that….” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Choi Jung-Hoon going “Ehehe” made Yi Ji-Hyuk feel rather strange.
“Besides stuff like that, isn’t there anything more materialistically useful to me? Or, something worth good money?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“If you want to see cultural assets in monetary value, then they are truly priceless. It’s already impossible to get paid that much money. It’s an amazing benefit for us.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Benefit, my foot.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk broke out into a wry smirk.
He had seen countless nations die out in his lifetime, so stuff like cultural assets were nothing more than some decorations designed to evoke the reminiscence of the past. Was it really important to research on how people lived in the past, to begin with?
Indeed, the really important thing was how people were living in the present day.
Sure, if the current times were peaceful, then those assets would’ve had some value in them. But well, who cared about those assets when humanity itself might get killed off come tomorrow?
Seriously, they wouldn’t even have enough time to research anything, anyway.
“Aren’t you exhausted, though?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Excuse me?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“I’m asking you whether you aren’t pooped out from minding these things happening all over the place or not. When I think about it, you always accompany us wherever we go, right? We’re ability users so our endurance is better and we recover quickly, but you’re a regular person. If I was you, I’d have passed out a long time ago.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I manage myself well, that’s why.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Not sure ‘managing’ can help out here, though?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk tilted his head, and Choi Jung-Hoon could only form a bitter grin.
The total value of energy tonic he managed to chug down so far would easily surpass the annual salary of a regular salaryman. Even then, he was constantly losing weight and suffered from chronic fatigue.
“I can’t figure out why you’re working so hard, though. Mister Choi Jung-Hoon, aren’t you already on the fast track to success? I mean, even if you don’t do much, I think you’ve already carved out a nice little career path that will take you straight to the top anyway. From where I am standing, you look like you’ll have a breakdown if you don’t work.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“What can I do when that’s my nature?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“We don’t work to rise up in the ranks, you know. We rise up the ranks so that our living condition can get better, right?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….You’re right.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Choi Jung-Hoon ended up nodding his head along.
This man, he seemed to know how to get to the meaty part of things that truly mattered, sometimes.
Choi Jung-Hoon looked back and realised that recently, he’d been working not with a goal, a purpose, in mind, but worked simply because it was his duty.
His mindset was one of rising up the career ladder through more and more accomplishments, but then, he hadn’t yet given it some thought as to why he needed to climb up that ladder in the first place.
“You see, this thing called life? It passes by faster than you think. If you don’t worry about what you want to achieve now, then for sure, you will end up regretting it in the end.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Is that from your own experience?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“No, not mine specifically.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk deeply sucked in the cigarette smoke. Choi Jung-Hoon stared at him with subdued eyes.
When he thought about it at length, then this man must’ve had met an incredible number of people in his life so far.
So, his insight regarding life itself should be unmatched by anyone alive. How ironic it was, then, that he chose to live like this even when he was cursed with such a deep insight to it.
“You should enjoy your life a bit more. If you keep being like that and not do the stuff you want to, then sooner or later, you’ll end up lamenting the fact that you didn’t. Like, you should think about getting married, for instance.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Marriage, is it….” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Wasn’t he at the perfect, ripe age to get married? So much so that it was about to pass him by?
“By the way….” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Yes?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I’m asking out of curiosity, but well, have you ever been married before, Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Yi Ji-Hyuk shut his mouth real tight and fell into a deep train of thought, but then, the light in his eyes wavered unstably as he looked at Choi Jung-Hoon.
“I made a mistake.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Excuse me?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Don’t ever get married. Ever.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
What was going on? Why the sudden change of his mind?
“Never! Absolutely not! One should never get married. The worst blunder humanity has ever created is the institution of marriage. That is the very act of throwing away yourself, and giving up on your dignity as a human being. Never, ever get married!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Ah, sure thing….” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
What is up with this persuasive power behind his words?
It’s like, I can feel his earnest heart even from here? (Choi Jung-Hoon’s inner monologue)
“Ah. You tried it before.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Thought as much!
Those words and that sincerity couldn’t have come about without actual first-hand experience.
“Marriage is definitely not something you should try…..” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I’ll keep that in mind.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Choi Jung-Hoon gravely nodded his head.
“In any case, please decide on how to handle the Japanese’s request.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“But, you spoke as if we simply have to go earlier?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Well, if I’ve been told to jump, then I must….” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
A wry, bitter grin appeared on Choi Jung-Hoon’s lips.
“Looks like there are still some people daring to mess with you, Mister.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I’m just a simple civil servant. And I’ve never forgotten that fact, not even once.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“But, you’ve been behaving like the most influential man in the world, though?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“That’s just a concept, a concept.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Choi Jung-Hoon grinned refreshingly.
“I’m neither an ability user nor someone indispensable. There are plenty of people out there capable of replacing me. I’ve never forgotten about that fact. I’m acutely aware that I could get fired at any given moment.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Replacements, is it?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk let out a soft smirk.
There were people who could replace this guy?
Every now and then, one would run into folks who didn’t know much about themselves. In simpler terms, they didn’t fully understand their own worth.
However, Choi Jung-Hoon seemed to be the least likely person to fall into that category….
“Being too humble isn’t a good thing, you know?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I’m not being humble at all. It’s a fact. If I haven’t met you, I wouldn’t have been able to live my current lifestyle. I have already skipped past quite a lot of the normal career route to get here with my abilities. It’s time for me to keep my head down, in other words.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
If he was thinking like that, then well, he wasn’t wrong…..
“The really important people to the higher-ups are someone like you and Miss Seo Ah-Young. The only reason why I’m entrusted with this job is because I act as a bridge connecting them to you. I’ve not forgotten that is my total net worth in this situation. A bridge can always be built anew, you see. You certainly won’t flip Gangnam on its head just because you don’t like the roads leading up to there, but you can certainly build new bridges.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Build new bridges, was it….?
Yi Ji-Hyuk smirked again.
If someone attempted that, then that person was a crazy fool.
“Okay, so. Who’s been pressuring you?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Who do you think?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“I’m asking ‘cuz I don’t know.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Even I’m not 100% sure. I always get my orders from my immediate superior, after all. However, I can make an educated guess. Surely, the one pressuring me is a person who can potentially write this one up as his own accomplishment, no?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Hmm…” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk scratched his cheek.
According to that line of logic, that left only one candidate.
“Looks like staying put inside that house made the old man in question oblivious to the current affairs of the world. I mean, the era of using something like that to boost one’s political ambition has long passed us by already.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“His position in the current situation is a bit like a window dressing, after all.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Well, it’s not like I don’t understand it, but still, I don’t see the need to work my butt off so that his resume may gain an extra line of text.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….I knew you would say something like that.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Mm, well…. Sure. However….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk tilted his head this way and that as if he was pondering something, before shifting his gaze back to Choi Jung-Hoon.
“It’ll be troublesome if I just say I don’t want to, am I right?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“It won’t go that far, probably? I mean, if the person in question is not keen, what can anyone possibly say? Sure, they might nag on a bit, but that should be all.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Nagging, is it….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
The smirk on Yi Ji-Hyuk’s lips deepened.
“In that case, I just have to make sure that no one nags, right?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Anxiety slowly crept into Choi Jung-Hoon’s expression.
Whenever Yi Ji-Hyuk made that sort of a face, accidents would always follow soon after.
‘The accident this time might be pretty serious, no?’ (Choi Jung-Hoon)
If the upcoming trouble was only on the level of Choi Jung-Hoon’s capability to handle, then he might be able to do something about it later, but too bad, Yi Ji-Hyuk wasn’t such a considerate man.
“Can you get me a phone number?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“P-phone number??” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Suspicion began clouding Choi Jung-Hoon’s expression next.
A phone number?
Whose number, exactly?
< 247. Can you get me a phone number? -2 > Fin.