“Hul.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk was tilting his head.
The NDF agents were standing behind him with complicated expressions on their faces.
“What’s this? We’re going there by a bus?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk stared at the bus with mystified eyes, while Seo Ah-Young nearby sighed helplessly under her breath.
“And now, we even have to go to North Korea….” (Seo Ah-Young)
First, it was America. China next, then even London…. Since they were being sent all over the globe, she began thinking that she’d not be surprised by her next destination, but still, North Korea….?
Indeed, wasn’t the North that one country nobody wanted to visit, even if it was the closest to home? Well, since the higher-ups were telling her to go, she didn’t really have a choice, so….
“If I knew this was going to happen, I should’ve tagged along to the Blue House and caused a scene.” (Seo Ah-Young)
She shook her head grandly.
They said that trying to avoid wolves will result in meeting tigers instead. She didn’t want to have a heart attack by witnessing Yi Ji-Hyuk throw a tantrum in front of the nation’s president and decided not to tag along, but that led to her going to North Korea, instead.
What a lightning bolt out of the blue this was.
How could she not tremble in all sorts of rage right now?
“Please calm down.” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“But, unni!” (Seo Ah-Young)
“We all knew something like this might happen, anyway.” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“Uh-whew.” (Seo Ah-Young)
Seo Ah-Young groaned over and over again. Jeong Hae-Min gently patted her on the back.
They knew they couldn’t avoid this situation when ‘problems’ occurred in North Korea and Yi Ji-Hyuk’s presence was required.
“It would’ve been fine if we just sorted everything out by the DMZ….” (Seo Ah-Young)
They say one shouldn’t poke a hornet’s nest – they just wanted to cause those North Koreans trouble but it came back to bite them in the rear, instead.
“In any case, nothing seems to go right these days.” (Seo Ah-Young)
Seo Ah-Young angrily glared at Choi Jeong-Hoon, and he simply turned his head away.
“I said, are we really going by bus??” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Thankfully, Yi Ji-Hyuk came to Choi Jeong-Hoon’s rescue as he was the only man here utterly unaffected by the surrounding atmosphere.
“Yes, we’ll be heading out in this vehicle.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“But, is there even a road connected to North Korea?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Of course. A road had been laid out because of the Kaesong Industrial Complex. Also, we can travel through Panmunjeom, as well.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Oh, ohh!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Still looking mystified, Yi Ji-Hyuk studied the road stretching out beyond the horizon.
“Are we going alone?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“It’s likely that people from the military will accompany us as well, since we don’t know what might happen up there. I’m assuming that their representative this time will be Colonel Jeong In-Soo.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Heh, why does it feel like we’re running into that ahjussi pretty often lately?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Choi Jeong-Hoon grinned wryly.
Instead of the good Colonel being summoned everywhere, Jeong In-Soo had been earmarked by the Defense Ministry as their exclusive go-to ‘Yi Ji-Hyuk marker’. They simply decided that he’d be assigned to all matters related to Yi Ji-Hyuk and the NDF.
‘This arrangement is making me feel rather uncomfortable, though.’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon would rather prefer dealing with the Defense Minister. To him, Jeong In-Soo would always remain as a difficult opponent.
“Hey, there he is.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
After hearing Yi Ji-Hyuk, Choi Jeong-Hoon turned his head to look behind him. Sure enough, he could see Jeong In-Soo riding in a jeep heading this way.
He climbed off from the vehicle and with a smile, bowed his head slightly towards Yi Ji-Hyuk first. But then, his expression transformed in an instant to a stiff one when he looked at Choi Jeong-Hoon next.
‘Are you Baron Ashura or something??’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon) (TL note at the end)
What scared him even more was the fact that there was no pretence here at all. The only person in this entire world who had a favourable impression of Yi Ji-Hyuk was Jeong In-Soo, if you excluded Erukana.
Regardless of all that, though, why was such a man shooting a glare at Choi Jeong-Hoon?
“Are you finished with preparations?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Yes, we’ve finished gathering our people. Don’t you have any other combat personnel accompanying you?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“A special forces unit will join me. Any more than that might lead to unwanted agitation. Last time we saw them, they were dying to provoke us, so rather than poking a hornet’s nest unnecessarily, it’s been decided that sending only a small elite force will be a wiser choice.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Mm, I guess you’re right.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Yi Ji-Hyuk was more than sufficient enough to act as their main combat unit anyway, so there was no need to push ahead with numbers here.
“Besides, if something goes wrong, we can just open a Gate or whatever it’s called and get out of dodge, right?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“That’s true.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
….If only that guy wants to run, that is.
No, if we run into a problem, he’ll probably throw a wild tantrum, instead. It’ll be a huge relief if he doesn’t blow up Pyongyang with his own hands. (Choi Jeong-Hoon’s inner monologue)
“Hopefully, the North Korean idiots are aware of that….” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Ng?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“No, it’s nothing.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon quickly discarded his ominous thoughts. All of his imaginations, especially the bad ones, had a tendency of becoming reality. But at least this time, such a thing must not happen.
“Gather everyone for me, will you.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Alright.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon had everyone gather around. Jeong In-Soo coughed a couple of times to clear his throat and addressed them.
“Good day, everyone from the NDF. I’m Colonel Jeong In-Soo from the Territory Defense Command. I can see a few acquaintances among you. Actually, I should’ve offered my greetings the last time, but things got way too hectic back then. Instead, allow me to offer my greetings today. I’ve asked you to gather to request something from you.” (Jeong In-Soo)
He then waited for a beat before continuing on.
“Soon, we will be stepping into the North Korean territory. As you may well know, North Korea is one country where common sense does not apply. Please, once we’re there, I’d like to ask all of you to do your absolute best not to act alone, and to control yourselves. I know very well that each and everyone of you are ability users with excellent skill sets. However, you must remember that no one can help us when we’re inside that country. This is a whole different ball game compared to being dispatched to other countries. I hope you understand.” (Jeong In-Soo)
Everyone nodded their heads.
They too looked tense from the oppressive feeling the country called North Korea emanated.
“To make it worse, when you recall the events back in the DMZ, then you can bet your bottom dollar that they won’t treat us nicely this time as well. And that’s why I ask of you to control yourselves well. Is there anyone among you thinking, ‘hell, I’ll be fine’ even as bullets and bombs are raining down on you? Well, sure, some of you might. However, that does not mean everyone will be safe. Please remember that your mistake can potentially lead to the death of your comrades.” (Jeong In-Soo)
Choi Jeong-Hoon nodded his head.
Those were quite wonderful words in the current circumstances.
“As for pulling you back, allow our men to do that for you. It’s not because we’re all so haughty and mighty, but…. Please, think of it this way. We are slightly more well-versed in how to respond in such situations, and how to defend ourselves when that side tries to provoke us. That is all.” (Jeong In-Soo)
Choi Jeong-Hoon was first to clap his hands, and soon, everyone followed suit. They rather liked Jeong In-Soo’s attitude, which remained humble even though he was a commander.
“Yup, that’s how leaders should behave.”
“Hah, how envious.”
Choi Jeong-Hoon’s expression crumpled. They weren’t insulting him, but why did he feel insulted regardless?
“Well, everyone. Let’s get on the bus.” (Jeong In-Soo)
These agents, always busy grumbling and complaining every time Choi Jeong-Hoon said something, were now orderly entering the bus. His jaw fell almost all the way to the ground.
How can this be?!
This, this is a clear betrayal! (Choi Jeong-Hoon’s inner monologue)
He had worked so hard for them until now, but to think, they would discriminate to this degree!
“Let’s see if I’ll ever be nice to you lot again!” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Regretfully, no one paid him attention.
Choi Jeong-Hoon shuddered grandly. Before he could enter the bus himself, however, an agent fully kitted out from head to toe quickly rushed towards them, then whispered something to Jeong In-Soo.
“M-mm….” (Jeong In-Soo)
The good colonel formed a troubled expression as he looked at Choi Jeong-Hoon.
“They say we’ll have to be body searched before crossing the Panmunjeom.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Body search??” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“They say it’s the regulation.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“It’s not like we’ll be taking something out from the country, anyway. So why body search us?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“I hear it’s customary….” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Did the North demand it?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“No, I hear it’s actually our side asking for that.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Really?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon wordlessly pulled his phone out and dialled a certain number. He then handed the device over to Yi Ji-Hyuk, still remaining silent.
The latter also didn’t say anything and accepted the phone.
“Hello?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
– “What do you want now?”
“Ahjussi, it’s Yi Ji-Hyuk here.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
– “W-what happened?! Did a problem of some kind occur??”
“I’m told that I need to be body searched? But, I really hate someone else touching me, so….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
– “I’m not sure which stupid son of a b*tch came up with that, but I shall resolve it right away. Give me five minutes, and I shall sort it out, so please wait just a little bit.”
“Sure thing. Please get it sorted out sharpish.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Jeong In-Soo watched Yi Ji-Hyuk end the call and broke out in a smirk.
“I’m bored.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk looked outside the bus’s window and yawned grandly.
At first, he found this country called North Korea strange so he continued to stare outside. But that lasted only for a short while. Less than one hour later, he lost all interest. All he could see on the side of the road was either mountains or agricultural fields – and that scenery continued on seemingly endlessly.
“At least the road is not too bad….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
People kept saying that North Korea’s level of development mirrored that of the South’s in the 70s, and as far as he could tell, that assertion was true.
“Why is there nothing to see other than mountains here?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Choi Jeong-Hoon grinned.
“The northern region is known to be mountainous.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Still, isn’t this too much….?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Even South Korea was like this in the past. It’s just that we improved things a great deal by laying out roads and carving away mountains. Even now, you won’t see anything besides mountains when travelling on our national highway network.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Really?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Having lost what little interest that remained, Yi Ji-Hyuk pulled out his phone next.
“Uh???” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
But then, his eyes quaked visibly.
“N-no data connection??” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“There are no cell towers here.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“E-even then! It doesn’t make sense that you don’t have data connection in this day and age! What am I supposed to do, then?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“…..I’ve heard rumours that Pyongyang does have wifi service, so if you wait a bit and reach the….” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
It was then, the corners of Yi Ji-Hyuk’s brows shot up.
“T-there, there. Snack on these…” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Before he could start freaking out, Choi Jeong-Hoon quickly pulled out snacks from the bag and placed them before his charge.
Yi Ji-Hyuk didn’t say anything else and began eating the snacks. Choi Jeong-Hoon quietly wiped the cold sweat off his forehead.
“Fuu-woo….” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
This was only the beginning, so what should he do later on?
“This isn’t going to be easy.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
That side was a bomb waiting to go off, but then, this side was carrying a nuclear warhead.
The internationally-recognised wackjob of a state, North Korea, and the worst wackjob humanity had seen so far, Yi Ji-Hyuk – Choi Jeong-Hoon began thinking that if the encounter between these two “titans” ended without much of an incident, then he’d have to believe God was indeed real.
Crunch, nom-nom-nom, gulp.
The sounds of Yi Ji-Hyuk hoovering up snacks quietly reverberated within the bus’s interior. Normally, the noisy chatter should’ve filled this space, but it was eerily quiet today.
‘But, then again….’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
They were already inside North Korea.
When he got technical about it, they were now inside the enemy’s territory. Even if they were a bunch of ability users who had traded their sense of fear with superpowers, they should still feel cowered by this occasion nevertheless.
‘Yeah, even I’m kinda scared.’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon’s tense expression shifted outside the window.
The air seemed heavy.
Seeing all those snow covering the mountains, he suddenly had this hankering for a cigarette.
“There’s someone on the road ahead.”
“Mm?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon got up from his seat. Jeong In-Soo sitting in the front-most seat also raised his head and looked ahead.
‘Is it a checkpoint?’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
What a mystifying thing it was, seeing a checkpoint still being manned under the current circumstances. Their country was about to go to hell, yet they were still trying to control the populace? Was this because this was North Korea?
“For now, stop the vehicle.” (Jeong In-Soo)
Jeong In-Soo issued an order with a tense expression.
“Everyone, don’t leave your seats.” (Jeong In-Soo)
The colonel was now making a really bad expression.
The South had already sent the word to the North’s government that this group was on their way. Every second counted, so if this checkpoint was stopping the bus, then either they hadn’t received the message from the higher-ups, or were trying deliberately to dampen the South’s spirit.
Either case couldn’t be seen as a good thing.
Once the bus came to a stop, Jeong In-Soo opened the door and climbed outside. A North Korean soldier kitted out in the ‘Mao uniform’ approached the bus’s entrance.
“And who the hell are you?” (Soldier)
“I’m Colonel Jeong In-Soo from Republic of Korea’s Territory Defense Command.”
“Republic of Korea? Is that South Joseon??” (Soldier)
Jeong In-Soo’s expression crumpled.
Whether this guy’s acting was great, or he didn’t really know…. It was just so natural.
“What are you talking about? Wait, you saying you’re b*stards from South Joseon, is that it?” (Soldier)
Jeong In-Soo sensed that the situation was gradually deteriorating, and hurriedly kicked his brain into gear, only to hear a curiosity-filled voice coming out from behind him.
“Hey, it’s an actual living North Korean.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Jeong In-Soo squeezed his eyes shut.
< 304. So, you want me to go there now? -4 > Fin.
(TL: “Baron Ashura” is a villainous character from the famous 70s mecha anime, ‘Mazinger Edition Z: The Impact’ or its Japanese name, ‘Shin Mazinger Shogeki! Z Hen’. Originally two separate beings, one female and other male, they were revived from death and combined into one being, with a face comprising of both people. If you’re curious, Google is your friend.)