Yi Ji-Hyuk exited the temporary command tent and whistled loudly.
“Okay, so. What’s going on here?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Seeing that the Gate was still azure-blue, the explosion didn’t seem to be monster-related. However, he was still able to tell something did happen, all thanks to the plume of white smoke rising up not too far from where he was.
“Did a bomb drop here or something?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“As long as it’s not a full-on war they are thinking about….” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon shuddered as if the mere idea alone frightened him.
A war must never break out.
The reason why South Korea, boasting a far superior military strength than North, responded so tepidly to all the provocations was not because they were scared of losing, but because there was nothing to gain by starting a war in the first place.
Even if the South won, there was nothing to gain, but a war with the North would definitely result in the loss of lives.
It’d been so much nicer if both sides just sat back at a distance and fling some soldiers about, but unfortunately, as the two nations were stuck pretty darn close to one another, civilians getting involved was an unavoidable eventuality.
And even if the North was completely overrun, that would only result in over twenty million poor, impoverished war refugees being added to the South Korean government’s shoulders. No gains, but only a net loss as well as civilian casualties on top of that, so the national wealth wasted would be astronomical at the end of it all.
So, then. The South Koreans ignored and only came up with lukewarm responses not because they were scared of losing, but scared of soiling their hands instead.
However, if the North began openly bombing the South’s territories, then it’d be no longer possible to ignore the situation anymore.
“It can’t be that.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
That’s why Choi Jeong-Hoon wanted to be wrong about this.
North Koreans would definitely want to avoid being destroyed, so there was no way that they resorted to such crazy actions.
It was often rumoured that the North’s Teletubby of a leader, although not very ‘organised’ up in his head, was rather meticulous when it came to protecting himself. So, as long as he had his mind screwed on properly, he’d not try a provocation on such a level while risking an open warfare.
In that case, what was up with that smoke?
Choi Jeong-Hoon carefully peered at the area where the white smoke was rising up from.
For sure, it was coming from a location where he could see the Military Demarcation Line signboard. All the grass and the ground were destroyed near the smoke’s origin, so….
“Did they really fire at this side?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Chill ran down on Choi Jeong-Hoon’s backside.
If they had really attacked South Korean territory, then this would be no laughing matter at all.
“No, it wasn’t.” (Seol Min-Beom)
“Mm?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Seol Min-Beom, who had exited the tent before him, replied while putting on the military cap.
“It wasn’t a bomb. Rather than a weapon, it was more like an ability.” (Seol Min-Beom)
“An ability user did this, sir?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Indeed, it might be one. The end result feels different from a weapon.” (Seol Min-Beom)
“Oh…..” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon nodded his head.
For sure, if it wasn’t the North’s weapons but an attack from an ability user, then the situation would be quite different. That’s true, but…
‘Uh, so, how is it different, exactly?’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Even Choi Jeong-Hoon couldn’t really figure out how to interpret this situation.
This event of another country’s ability user attacking his country would probably be the first time in Korea’s history that such a thing occurred, and not only that, no civilians or military personnel got hurt in the process.
So, where should he draw the line and go, “Right, this is how we will respond”?
“Ah, so this is why we have politicians.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
For someone like Choi Jeong-Hoon, an on-field worker as it were, it was just impossible to draw that line correctly. Even that inept President of this country might be better suited for the task than he was right now.
While thinking that politics must’ve been no child’s play even when compared to his own profession, Choi Jeong-Hoon pulled out his phone.
How should he report this, then?
It was a bit awkward to directly inform the President. And since the KSF wasn’t tasked with handling a situation like this one, calling its director also seemed a bit wrong, too.
In that case….
“I guess that leaves the Defence Minister, then?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
It seemed that reporting directly to the Defence Minister in this case was the best way to go.
Below him were the four-star General, or the Joint Chief of Staff, but well, never mind him being on speaking terms with them, Choi Jeong-Hoon didn’t even know a single person among them, so he couldn’t tell who he needed to call to make his report…..
Much to his relief, though, there was no need for him to report to anyone in the end.
“Godd*mmit, what the hell is this?!” (Jeong In-Soo)
Jeong In-Soo stepped forward and loudly yelled out.
“Hey, you numbskulls! You’re supposed to figure out what happened here and report back to me!!” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Ah…..” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon realised his mistake just then.
Now that he thought about it, wasn’t Jeong In-Soo supposed to deal with whatever happened on the operational area first? Choi Jeong-Hoon grew so accustomed to dealing with every situation by himself all the time that he forgot to consider that small fact.
“There might be an additional attack, so pull your socks up! You fool, who told you to walk around so exposed like that?! Who’s going to take responsibilities when you f*cking lose your life?!” (Jeong In-Soo)
As befitting a man who rolled around in this field until he got glued to the ground itself, Jeong In-Soo organised the confused mass of the soldiers and created order in the blink of an eye.
“Wow.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
An impressed gasp leaked out of Choi Jeong-Hoon’s mouth after witnessing that spectacle.
‘If only our agents were half as obedient as them….’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
He’d exchange blows with Jeong In-Soo during normal times. When the situation demanded for ability users, Choi Jeong-Hoon would be in the superior position, but at least for now, he was genuinely envious of the good Colonel.
Look at the soldiers getting in line with just one shout from him.
If I tried the same thing with the NDF idiots, I’d end up hearing the orchestra of snorts and smirks, instead. (Choi Jeong-Hoon’s inner monologue)
“I should’ve joined the military.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Hul? You were exempted, too?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk’s stunned question prompted Choi Jeong-Hoon to sheepishly avoid meeting his gaze.
“No, well, it’s not an exemption.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“But, you didn’t serve in the military, right?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Well, y-yes. When you get technical about it, I didn’t get drafted. But it’s not an exemption, either.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“If you didn’t go, then it’s an exemption!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“No, I’m telling you it’s not.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon found it difficult to fully articulate his situation.
Someone who passed the Higher Civil Servant Exams would serve as a commissioned officer for three years. And as he had aced the exams at a fairly young age, it was a guarantee that he’d get to wear the officer’s uniforms.
However, Black Monday happened in the midst of that, and after getting a job in the KSF, things became rather vague about his draft situation.
It was decided that the KSF was also a military organisation, so working in it was deemed to be the same thing as joining the military.
So, basically, he didn’t get exempted, but….
“Well, uh, the KSF is the same thing as the army, so….. Me working alongside other ability users has substituted joining the military, you see.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“But, you get paid a lot, don’t you?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“…..I’m supposed to be a commissioned officer, and officers are supposed to get paid higher, I’ll have you know! B-besides, it’s a public worker’s salary anyway, so it’s not even that high, to begin with!” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“But, weren’t you driving a fancy car??” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“That’s from my danger pay! Let’s be honest here, even if the danger pay is good, no civilian would volunteer to work for the KSF! No, it makes more sense to join the Peace Corps headed to Uganda or something!” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon’s true heart was laid bare for a moment there, causing Seo Ah-Young nearby to narrow her eyes.
“What did you say about the KSF?!” (Seo Ah-Young)
“That’s a place for ability users only! How can any sane-minded powerless civilian think about working there?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Wow, will you listen to this guy?” (Seo Ah-Young)
Choi Jeong-Hoon snorted vigorously.
No matter how tough it was in the army, it wouldn’t even be as half as bad as serving in the KSF! But, he was being accused of exemption??
What kind of injustice was this!!
“I did not get exempted!!” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“I-I get it now. Why are you glaring daggers over a minor stuff like this?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“You don’t touch a man’s pride of his military service record! I really did serve my time properly!” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“I get it already. Sheesh.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk dug his ear and stopped paying attention to Choi Jeong-Hoon’s voice.
“Oiii, Mister Choi Jeong-Hoon.” (Jeong In-Soo)
Jeong In-Soo called out in a less-than-impressed voice, and Choi Jeong-Hoon flinched a little before turning around to face him.
“Y-yes, Colonel.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Do you think this is the right time for you to fool around like that? Even if you’re with the ability users, have you forgotten about your role?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“….No, I have not.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon stood at attention.
“Godd*mmit, we can’t even tell whether it was shelling or something else, yet you’re wasting time joking around? What’s the matter with you? Should I run around and find out what happened for you so that you can issue nice-sounding orders?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“My apologies, Colonel.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Is this your office?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“No, sir.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Clap clap clap….
Yi Ji-Hyuk clapped his hands.
It was true.
Choi Jeong-Hoon had been retorting back so fiercely lately that even Yi Ji-Hyuk got a bit flustered by all that sass, didn’t he??
One definitely needed someone to instil military discipline if one wanted to survive properly in the world.
“What are you doing?! Go and find out what happened!” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Y-yes sir!” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon hurriedly ran towards a group of NDF agents over yonder.
Even if the Colonel wasn’t his superior officer, what Jeong In-Soo said wasn’t wrong. Plus, Choi Jeong-Hoon respected him as a senior working in the same field, so there was no dissatisfaction here.
“Wowsers, ahjussi, you’re the best!!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Haha…..” (Jeong In-Soo)
Jeong In-Soo could only chuckle awkwardly when Yi Ji-Hyuk gave him a vigorous thumbs-up.
He may have shown the side of a merciless soldier to Choi Jeong-Hoon, but he couldn’t do that to Yi Ji-Hyuk.
“I thought that fellow lost a bit of his edge lately.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“It’s not just his edge, but his mind, you know! He’s shirking off work and tries so hard to weasel out of any responsibilities lately!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I guess it’s about time he did that.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“But, the current state of affairs are looking bad, so how can he?! He should wake up and start doing his job properly!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“You’re correct.” (Jeong In-Soo)
Soon, Choi Jeong-Hoon returned to Jeong In-Soo and Yi Ji-Hyuk’s side after roughly figuring out the situation.
“Mister Choi Jeong-Hoon.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Yes, Colonel.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“In the past, I held a favourable impression of you after seeing how diligent you were with your job. But nowadays, you seem to be a different person. Do you get what I’m saying here?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Yes.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“You do understand that you’ll be a goner in the blink if you forget your original intention for being in this field, don’t you?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“I know that, Colonel.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Stay sharp.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Yes sir.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon bowed his head sincerely.
Yi Ji-Hyuk whistled, impressed by this sight.
Choi Jeong-Hoon had become so sarcastic lately that even Yi Ji-Hyuk had to take a bow in that regard, yet seeing how such a dude got subjugated with only a few carefully placed words….. Jeong In-Soo indeed was no ordinary man.
“Okay, so. What did they say?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“It seems that a North Korean ability user was behind the provocation. There are several eyewitnesses claiming to have seen a fireball flying in from the other side of the line.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Same conclusion as our boys, then.” (Jeong In-Soo)
Jeong In-Soo quietly stared at the plume of smoke rising up.
He had already reported the situation to the higher-ups, but well, it was pretty obvious what they would say. Increase the level of surveillance, and if there’s no additional provocation, then do not return fire and be on standby – that’s what they would say.
Very logical and wise response, that.
The problem, though, was that Jeong In-Soo didn’t feel happy about it at all.
Both sides agreed to a joint operation of sorts, so such a provocation was basically the North looking down on their Southern brethren.
Sure, the North looking down on South Korea was a nonsensical idea on its own, but such a thing happened fairly regularly near the Demarcation Line.
“Letting this slide isn’t sitting too well with me.” (Jeong In-Soo)
If he wasn’t the one in charge, he’d have let it go at the cost of feeling incensed about it, but right now, he was the one holding the baton, wasn’t he?
‘How should I handle this?’ (Jeong In-Soo)
Now normally, he’d not have minded following the order from the higher-ups. But letting such a situation slide certainly left behind a bitter aftertaste. Honestly speaking, he was thinking of “adequately” showing the North who the boss was without getting on the nerves of his paymasters.
“Ehng?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk tilted his head after Jeong In-Soo glanced at him.
Here was the greatest ace up his sleeve. An absolute, overwhelming card that, never mind the North, not even America dared to think about retaliating.
If the various firearms and weapons were cards used in negotiations, then Yi Ji-Hyuk was the card designed to flip the negotiating table itself. Jeong In-Soo’s patience wasn’t quite good enough that he’d just sit on such a card and not use it.
“Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk, I was thinking that….” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Hang on a minute.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk stopped Colonel Jeong In-Soo from continuing on.
“I think someone’s coming?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Excuse me?” (Jeong In-Soo)
The latter shifted his gaze over to where the former was pointing at and spotted a group of people approaching the Demarcation Line from the North.
Flames erupted out from Jeong In-Soo’s eyes.
These group of people, all kitted out in the same North Korean uniforms, soon stood before the Line and looked over at where the Colonel and Co. was. One of them then shouted out loudly.
“Who’s your boss-man??”
< 282. Check first before stretching legs -2 > Fin.