“Are you guys ready?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“This dude, he’s been wasting time flapping his gums with his pals, but now he’s asking us if we’re ready?” (Park Seong-Chan)
Park Seong-Chan openly aired his dissatisfaction, causing a fake cough to jump out of Choi Jeong-Hoon’s mouth. Although that was not his original intention, somehow things did end up that way.
“Let him be. It wouldn’t be his first time coming to us with a hat in his hands after searching for Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk the whole day and not finding him.”
“If you keep feeling sour about stuff like that every time, you won’t get any work done, you know. Let’s just not sweat over it.” (Seo Ah-Young)
Why is there a strange person mixed in among you?
Miss Seo Ah-Young?
Why are you mingling in with them to kick me down like that??
Just who do you think was the reason for me to work like a dog over here???
Are you even aware that this bloody job is a director’s in the first place?? (Choi Jeong-Hoon’s inner monologue)
“Miss Director. What do you think you’re doing over there??” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Seo Ah-Young avoided Choi Jeong-Hoon’s gaze and opened her lips.
“Alright, everyone. The North Korean idiots are watching us, so let’s get this sorted out real quickly, okay?” (Seo Ah-Young)
This… this feeling of isolation?
But, isn’t it like, I was doing the most dangerous thing just now…..? (Choi Jeong-Hoon’s inner monologue)
Choi Jeong-Hoon wiped his tears away after realising that the attitude of the NDF agents had changed even before he realised it.
‘But, I used to be the most trusted person in the agency.’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Back when they were still a part of the KSF, Choi Jeong-Hoon was renowned as the most trustworthy administrator out there, so how did his treatment become like this?
Just what did he do wrong, anyway???
All he did was hang around Yi Ji-Hyuk, so since when their rendezvous with each other become….
Ah, hang on. That’s not it, is it? (Choi Jeong-Hoon’s inner monologue)
In any case, it must’ve been the case of “You touch a sooty pitch and you’ll get dirtied”; being around Yi Ji-Hyuk a lot had brought about a subtle change in his actions and that seemed to have caused antagonistic sentiments to rise up from the rest of the agents.
That was totally unacceptable as an administrator!!
Choi Jeong-Hoon fiercely reflected upon his failure.
“I, I was merely….” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Let’s go and get this done, everyone.” (Seo Ah-Young)
“Hah…..” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon shuddered from the ruefulness of it all. All these people used to be on his side not too long ago, so this….
“Excuse me, stop staring into the distance and start directing your agents, please.” (Seo Ah-Young)
“Ah, of course.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon shifted his glare towards the Gates.
‘They sure are clustered so closely to each other, aren’t they.’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
When looked through a cold, hard and logical viewpoint, one couldn’t help but question how did so many Gates appear simultaneously in such a small area. But, they had appeared regardless.
A similar thing occurred in the past, and if it weren’t for Yi Ji-Hyuk sorting that situation out, more questions would’ve been raised regarding the oddness of this phenomenon. However, one had no choice but to accept it, since there was no law against something that happened in the past happening again later in the future.
So, the current problem was more to do with “Why did they appear in this place?”; but, should he count himself lucky that no Gates opened up in the near vicinity of the DMZ up until now, instead?
‘All that luck has blown up at the same time, though.’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“What are you doing?!” (Seo Ah-Young)
“I-I’m here.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon quickly scanned the operations area.
The first Gate to open up would be one at the southernmost location!
“All personnel, please get the barricades erected in front of the rearmost Gate! Whatever comes out, we’ll simply pounce on them at once and vaporise them with our firepower!” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Someone might get the wrong impression that you’ll be using your own firepower at this rate.” (Seo Ah-Young)
He definitely didn’t know whose voice that was, but it was stabbing him in a rather painful spot.
And what saddened Choi Jeong-Hoon even more was the fact that the voice belonged to a woman.
He might have often heard that voice from somewhere, but for the time being, he didn’t know that voice at all.
He heard that voice everyday, but…. He didn’t recognise it!
‘Director-niiiiim!’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Is this ahjumma slowly becoming an old spinster or something??
Why is her hysteria getting worse? (Choi Jeong-Hoon’s inner monologue)
The NDF agents chuckled to themselves and rushed towards the front of the Gate.
“H-mm….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk watched that spectacle and sighed softly under his breath.
“You dumba*ses!! Go and support that side!! Leave the other Gates be for now!! You can’t defend against it yourselves even if you try to, anyway! So, I’m telling you to go and hunt down the small fries that might escape from there!!” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Sir yes sir!!”
Jeong In-Soo finished barking out his orders and while smiling, shifted his gaze over to Yi Ji-Hyuk.
“Was there something you found unsatisfactory?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Mm, no, not really. But….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Yes?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“I was just wondering since when did those folks become so high and mighty like that.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Excuse me?” (Jeong In-Soo)
Jeong In-Soo tilted his head.
What was this about now?
“No, well. The Gate they’re looking at, I mean, isn’t it the same sort of a Gate that they would shudder in fear and run away in the past? And we have ten of them in a small area, to boot.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Sure.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“But now, them joking around and giggling like that, should I say that’s a bit strange, or a bit awkward to look at?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Oh….” (Jeong In-Soo)
Jeong In-Soo ended up nodding his head unconsciously.
It was a true fact that the NDF now boasted abilities incomparably mightier than before. The NDF used to maintain a rather taut relationship with the Ministry of National Defense, but then, the former snatched away the leadership in an instant. That’s how their importance had risen up in recent times.
After Yi Ji-Hyuk’s appearance, the abilities of the organisation’s agents had become strong enough to be ranked among the very best in the world, and its structural integrity was also way better than in the past, too.
“Well, that’s because they have all grown more powerful.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“I wonder. Well, the thing is….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk replied with a pout.
“I definitely warned them to be careful since the North would try something underhanded, yet they are still slacking around like that. Why do they lack the sense of danger that much? Do they think this is a picnic or something?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
He quietly glared at the energetic and lively NDF agents.
Maybe their proverbial balls had swollen up after dealing with demon kings or large monsters like a Zombie Dragon lately, because they were just too lackadaisical in front of such a large Gate.
‘They’ll end up seeing their own blood at this rate.’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Accidents always accompanied one’s lack of caution.
In a situation where you believed you could win somehow, you’d only lose in the slimmest margin imaginable. But in one of those “This is a game we’ll win without a doubt’, well, you could experience a complete defeat.
Didn’t matter whether it was a fistfight, a war, or even a subjugation, there was no such thing as a damage-less battle.
Maybe they had become accustomed to the fact that they won without experiencing too much losses, and they wouldn’t die when injured due to the presence of reliable healers. Whatever the case might have been, Yi Ji-Hyuk didn’t like this development.
‘Looks like it’s time to discipline their mindset once more.’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Not too long ago, they would shudder in fear after seeing a Gate of that size, but now, just because they had gotten a wee bit tougher, they were now behaving like that? This really twisted his guts to knots and his body quivered all on its own.
Sure, a part of the reason was more to do with Yi Ji-Hyuk not being a nice-enough guy to let something like this slide. Still, their current behaviour certainly had gone past the level of objectivity.
“I’m telling you, insensitivity towards danger is a real problem these days.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
He saw enough idiots die while behaving like that in the past thousand or so years. So, as Yi Ji-Hyuk greatly ‘valued’ the NDF, there was no way he’d let them die in vain, now would he?
He definitely should train them hard until they were reborn as the true NDF agents, armed from head to toe in self-restraint and discipline.
“It’s opening up!” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
It was then – accompanied by a loud call, the southernmost Gate became completely dyed in the crimson hue, before opening its maws real wide.
“Hmm….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk crossed his legs and sunk deeper into the chair.
He couldn’t be sure if this would be a serious situation or not yet….
“Would you like something to drink?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“You guys have Cola on site?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Bring me a can of Cola, now!” (Jeong In-Soo)
Forgetting about whether it was a serious situation or not for a moment, Yi Ji-Hyuk realised how much he liked the way Jeong In-Soo operated.
“Heheh.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“It’s opening up!” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon shouted out in a tense voice.
“We know!” (Seo Ah-Young)
Seo Ah-Young flatly retorted to Choi Jeong-Hoon’s call.
“No, hang on, but…..” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“We have eyes too, can’t you see?” (Seo Ah-Young)
He tilted his head in confusion when she reacted in a somewhat mischievous manner.
‘What’s gotten into her?’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Wasn’t this weird?
They had not been this excited before the start of an operation until now.
Wait, is it because they think this is a cakewalk compared to fighting against demon kings?
Whatever their reasons are….. (Choi Jeong-Hoon’s inner monologue)
Choi Jeong-Hoon tightly pinched his own thigh.
‘Yi Ji-Hyuk.’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Now that he thought about it, whenever they had to gather around for an operation, Yi Ji-Hyuk always took the lead.
All the tough attacks were dealt with by him, and if one of them fell into a deadly predicament, he’d suddenly show up like a gust of wind and saved the ones in trouble.
That was indeed a good thing, but if the end result of that was this, then well, it presented a serious problem.
‘For the time being, let’s take care of this situation first.’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Indeed, he didn’t have the leeway to worry about something else right now!
“All ranks! Get ready!” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
The body-reinforcement type ability users with Park Seong-Chan as their lead stood in front of the Gate to act like human barricades.
If they had enough time to prepare and were able to deploy soldiers as much as they pleased, then they might have followed the established protocol and install concrete barricades, but it was not possible to bring in a whole bunch of trucks inside the Demilitarised Zone so this couldn’t be helped.
“By the way, Mister Choi Jeong-Hoon!” (Park Seong-Chan)
“Yes?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“You know, those guns behind us keep getting on my nerves.” (Park Seong-Chan)
Choi Jeong-Hoon sneaked a glance behind. The 3rd Division as well as the Capital Defense Command were busy forming a wide defensive cordon. The NDF agents were definitely in their firing arc.
In the established protocol, they could’ve created the engagement points where firearms and the ability users didn’t clash, but doing that wasn’t so easy right now. There were too many Gates and that made the task difficult, and the terrain wasn’t helping anyone out, either.
“They won’t fire at us.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Still….” (Park Seong-Chan)
“I’ll make sure that they don’t shoot at us, so trust me and don’t worry about what’s behind you.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Understood.” (Park Seong-Chan)
“They are coming!! All personnel!” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Yes!” (Park Seong-Chan)
Park Seong-Chan roared out his reply while glaring forward.
The Gate finally opened, and monsters began flooding out.
“….What the f*ck? What is this sh*t?!” (Park Seong-Chan)
Park Seong-Chan spat out a pained grunt.
Monsters that had not been seen before were coming out from the Gate.
A lifeform with indescribably strange figure, where half of its body seemed to have melted but the other half was all sharp, angular shape. A true monster, in other words.
Darkish-green monsters jiggled about in the ground and advanced forward. Park Seong-Chan was overcome with instinctive disgust that forcefully shrunk his body back.
“Uwah?! I seriously hate anything that jiggles around!!” (Park Seong-Chan)
He might sound a bit jokey just then, but the truth was, the back of his neck was getting soaked in cold sweat the moment he clapped his eyes on these monsters.
Those jiggly bodies easily told him that pure physical strength alone would not be able to defeat them.
“Fire!! Fire at them!” (Park Seong-Chan)
At the end of Park Seong-Chan’s yell, rainbow-coloured array of Ether attacks flew above his head and rained down on the monsters.
Explosions and blizzard smashed down. Monsters were swept up into the Ether storm.
Choi Jeong-Hoon shouted out.
“Pour everything in before they arrive at our frontline! Director!!” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Got it!” (Seo Ah-Young)
Seo Ah-Young raised her hands high up in the air.
Almost in an instant, a ball of flames as big as a building spun around viciously in the air.
“Ah…..” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Somehow, it felt as if her firepower had stepped up a notch since the last time.
She’d have needed quite a lot of prep time in order to bring forth that amount of firepower in the past, but now, she was able to bring it out with a snap of her finger, which amply demonstrated how much she had progressed.
“Get them!” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
She didn’t reply and just flung the flame ball at the Gate.
An eruption without an explosion!
The storm of flames burst out endlessly like falling napalm and began vaporising the monsters’ bodies.
‘It’s working!’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon clenched his fist tightly.
The most worrisome aspect of dealing with an unknown monster was the fact that you didn’t know how to fight it.
Monsters had different weaknesses and strengths, so trying to fight them with a standardised tactic could worsen the losses. Thankfully, this monster type seemed to be weak against fire….
“Mister Choi Jeong-Hoon, dodge it!!”
“EH??” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon turned his head.
And his irises grew wider.
Jet-black Ether shots flying in from his side were about to devour him like dancing demons.
< 285. Check first before stretching legs -5 > Fin.