(TL: Happy new year, everyone! May you all enjoy a prosperous year!)
The restaurant Song Jeong-Su took Yi Ji-Hyuk and Choi Jeong-Hoon to was unmistakably a high-class one.
“W-wouldn’t this prove to be a problem later?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“What’s the matter? You think I’ll ask you for a favour under the table?” (Song Jeong-Su)
“S-still, sir. Even if we don’t look it, we’re still government officials, so….” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon was clearly flustered and unsettled, but Song Jeong-Su simply smirked back.
“Asking for a favour or bribing someone occurs when a person without power to do certain things uses wealth to entice those that do. Am I wrong?” (Song Jeong-Su)
“No, you’re correct.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“In that case, how can this occasion be called improper when it is I treating you two to a good meal?” (Song Jeong-Su)
“….My thoughts were immature, sir.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Disregarding Yi Ji-Hyuk for a bit here, the truth was that whatever Choi Jeong-Hoon could do, so could Song Jeong-Su.
Just a few words from Song Jeong-Su was enough of an explanation to wash away all the bits that caused Choi Jeong-Hoon headaches.
“What do they serve here?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Too bad, Yi Ji-Hyuk’s mind was preoccupied by something else.
When in a restaurant, you eat. Now that was a refreshingly simple mindset.
“We’re in a han-jeongsik place.” (Song Jeong-Su) (TL note at the end)
“Ohhh, han-jeongsik. Nice.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I used to prefer western-style cuisine before crossing over to the other world, but after I came back, I’ve developed this inexplicable hankering for the traditional Korean cuisine.” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Aha, I think I get what you mean. But this is a bit weird, though? I just find all types of food good to eat, you know?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Mmm, I guess you might.” (Song Jeong-Su)
Choi Jeong-Hoon chuckled soundlessly while looking at these two men finding something of a common ground in an unlikely topic. But then again, these two should get what each others were feeling far better than anyone out there.
No one on this planet would understand or sympathise with the experience of suddenly crossing over to another world and surviving better than these two, after all.
However, there was this one thing Choi Jeong-Hoon found a bit strange.
It was possible for Yi Ji-Hyuk to sympathise with Song Jeong-Su, but the latter doing the same with the former just felt off.
Regardless of what, Yi Ji-Hyuk was the culprit that forced Song Jeong-Su to go through that wretched experience. So, from the latter’s perspective, it should only be obvious that he’d hold deep-seated grudge against the former.
Even then, he was going out of his way to bolster the support directed to Yi Ji-Hyuk, reconsider the latter’s official status, and even showed up to take them out for a meal to build more friendly relationship. It all just felt unnatural.
‘Is it because he’s a politician?’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Only those capable of smiling and shaking hands with their sworn enemies were qualified to be politicians, or so they say – in that case, the current Song Jeong-Su was the perfect example of a true politician.
One could tell how amazing he was by him smiling and conversing so cordially with the culprit responsible for putting him through that hellish ordeal.
‘But then again, this is Song Jeong-Su we’re talking about, so….’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Song Jeong-Su didn’t need any other modifiers or nicknames. His name alone was enough. Well, he was the man with the greatest influence in the South Korean political scene, after all.
“Western style, traditional…. as long as the seasoning is done right, you can basically eat anything, right?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“That’s right. I never imagined that salt was that important in my whole life.” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Keuh, so you finally realised it.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
By the way, this….
Am I being forgotten here? (Choi Jeong-Hoon’s inner monologue)
Watching these two chat away in the topic of common interest, Choi Jeong-Hoon suddenly felt like the unwanted third wheel.
“You aren’t facing any difficulties with your daily life, then?” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Well, you know how it is with life.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“What about your family? I heard that you reside in the ability user residential area, but isn’t it uncomfortable there? What with so many people crammed in there and all.” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Nah, no one knows who lives next door to them these days anyway. Been a while since we moved there, but nothing interesting happened so far.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“If by any chance you run into problems regarding your stay, don’t forget to give me a call right away. Should I give you my contact number?” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Nah, it’s fine. This dude should know already.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Choi Jeong-Hoon, instantly demoted to the role of phone shuttle, piped up in a voice filled with barely-contained rage.
“Yes, I know it already.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon displayed his highest level of pride by not tacking on the expected follow-up of ‘Please talk to me whenever you need it’ at the end.
The food was soon brought out and Song Jeong-Su encouraged his guests to dig in.
“Shall we, gentlemen?” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Of course.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Thanks for the meal.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Perhaps due to the establishment being high-class, the overall taste seemed to be slightly mild yet luxurious somehow. Quite obviously, the taste would be different from your run-of-the-mill diners….
“….This, this doesn’t taste good, though?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Ah, so this is what tasteless food is like. (Choi Jeong-Hoon’s inner monologue)
Choi Jeong-Hoon was under the impression that expensive food can’t taste bad so he was about to start blaming his rubbish palette, but Yi Ji-Hyuk next to him forthrightly made his case known first.
“These only look nice on the outside. But they all taste so bland and forgettable.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….It’s because there are no added artificial flavours.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“But, why not? Tasting good is all that matters, right?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I shall take note the next time. Still, the main course should be better seasoned, so why don’t we stay patient for a bit longer?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Oh, well. It doesn’t really matter to me either way. I can eat pretty much anything.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Was he trying to say it mattered or it didn’t? Choi Jeong-Hoon found it hard to figure out.
“How have you been holding up?” (Song Jeong-Su)
“I told you, it’s more or less fine.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Is that so? But, I’ve been finding it hard, you see?” (Song Jeong-Su)
Song Jeong-Su grinned and continued on.
“Even now, whenever someone is standing behind me, I get this urge to spin around and punch that person to death. Don’t you have moments like that?” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Ah, well, I haven’t experienced a lot of dangers back then, so….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“But, that shouldn’t be the entire story?” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Humans are creatures capable of fast adaptation, that’s why.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Hmm, you’re indeed correct.” (Song Jeong-Su)
Song Jeong-Su’s smile became lighter.
“However, your stay in another world lasting thousands of years could have changed everything about you, including your mentality, yet you were able to reacclimatise no problem?” (Song Jeong-Su)
“I’m still getting used to things, actually.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Will you be able to fully get used to how things are?” (Song Jeong-Su)
“….I wonder.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
The conversation suddenly became a lot more serious.
“Actually, I showed up today so I could meet and speak to you like this.” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Regarding?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I wanted to see how someone coming back from another world is living his life.” (Song Jeong-Su)
Yi Ji-Hyuk stared at Song Jeong-Su with a slight pout. Only now did he realise what this whole thing was about.
“I guess it’s been tough for you.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I won’t say it’s been easy. Not for lack of trying.” (Song Jeong-Su)
Song Jeong-Su used the napkin to wipe his mouth.
“Getting used to keeping up appearances again is proving to be quite a hard job. How should I say it…. it’s turning out to be quite difficult to rekindle that ‘connection’ between people.” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Hmm….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Humans aren’t the only ones that do politics. However, non-human creatures don’t try their darnedest to fool others or use each other. So now, when I see people behaving in that manner… Well, how should I explain it….” (Song Jeong-Su)
Song Jeong-Su formed a bright grin.
“Should I say it’s all quite repulsive?” (Song Jeong-Su)
“I can’t do anything about my disgust towards other humans building up inside me. I just wanted to confirm if this was because I knew the political scene too well.” (Song Jeong-Su)
Yi Ji-Hyuk roughly scratched his head.
“Honestly, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed so I can’t really figure out what you’re trying to say here.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“In that case, let me simplify it.” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Eh?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Aren’t they getting in your way?” (Song Jeong-Su)
Song Jeong-Su’s expression suddenly became cold.
“If I was in your shoes, I’d probably think everything before me was just an annoyance that keep getting in my way. Although they are nominally called your support, it seems that only a teleporter named Miss Jeong Hae-Min can provide any sort of help to you. But, if we’re to get serious, then it’s also a bit vague to call what she does for you much of a help, either. Am I wrong?” (Song Jeong-Su)
Yi Ji-Hyuk nodded his head.
“Well, you’re right.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“That means you aren’t getting any notable support from either the NDF or the KSF, and furthermore, the Republic of Korea itself, isn’t it? Even if that’s because we are not strong enough.” (Song Jeong-Su)
“I can’t deny that.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“In that case, don’t you find it all too annoying?” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Hmm….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk seemed to be pondering what to say here.
“I wonder. Not sure how I can reply here, but… if I’m being honest, then it’s true that the folks tagging along with me aren’t much of a help and sometimes, do become a bit of a hindrance, too.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Mm….” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon could only suck in his breath.
He already knew the truth, but hearing it from the horse’s mouth was making his chest feel tighter all of a sudden.
The NDF as an organisation was trying its very hardest to support Yi Ji-Hyuk, but unfortunately, there was very little they could actually do. One couldn’t surpass the limitations of abilities they possessed, after all.
“However, that’s not the whole story, is it?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“What do you mean?” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Humans are efficient and rather rational creatures. But on the flip side, we can also be seriously irrational at times, too. Sure, they can’t be much of a help to me, but they are helpful in other ways.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“…..You don’t need to defend them so vigorously like that, however.” (Song Jeong-Su)
Choi Jeong-Hoon was inwardly feeling a bit miserable, but it seemed that Song Jeong-Su was taking the answer in a different light.
“I guess so.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Excuse me, but…. I get that this is a matter you two can share intimately as both of you have experienced something rather unique, but as a guy stuck in the middle, it’s getting slightly harder to keep up.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“It’s simple. If you’re talking about being rational, you could say that unnecessary things do have their moments of necessity.” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Yes, sir. Let’s all pretend that I get it now.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon’s expression remained one of confusion.
‘So, he hasn’t completely discarded his humanity, then.’ (Song Jeong-Su)
Song Jeong-Su was deeply relieved.
The first thing he felt after his return from the other world was unfiltered malice towards Yi Ji-Hyuk. But when that cooled down sufficiently, what he felt next was his resistance towards society in general, surprisingly enough.
No, hang on – rather than resistance, it’d be more correct to call it ‘dissonance’, instead. This feeling he got after looking at certain things that everyone took for granted from a different perspective, now that was something no one on this Earth could ever truly understand.
He only needed to stay there for twenty or so years to feel this much discord, so how much greater the dissonance Yi Ji-Hyuk must’ve felt after his thousands of years on the other side?
When Song Jeong-Su’s thoughts reached this far, he couldn’t help but feel mystified by how Yi Ji-Hyuk managed to adapt to society and live trouble-free like this.
‘It’s still fine, for now.’ (Song Jeong-Su)
Not one person around him proved to be useful, and only Yi Ji-Hyuk possessed enough power to protect the world. While carrying that oppressive weight, he also needed to avoid the political schemes being cooked up all around him, too.
What would Yi Ji-Hyuk be thinking of, when he took a gander at all these individual political influences scheming to use him for their nation’s interests, instead of uniting together in the face of incoming global annihilation?
To the eyes of a man who had already half-exceeded the limitations of being human, what would other humans come across as?
“No need to look at me like that. ‘Cuz I ain’t gonna suddenly change my mind and try to destroy this world or something.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Rather than you destroying the world, I’m more worried about you getting fed up and declaring that you won’t do this anymore, instead.” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Eii, I’ll also die if the world is destroyed, you know.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“But, you don’t have much attachment to life anyway, no?” (Song Jeong-Su)
“It’s funny, this. A man who doesn’t have much attachments to his own death is shedding his sweat and blood to protect this world. It’s truly ironic, I think.” (Song Jeong-Su)
To Song Jeong-Su’s eyes, this creature called Yi Ji-Hyuk was full of contradictions.
“It’s fine either way. For now, it seems that you do want to protect this world, so I shall do everything in my power to support you. I might not have any real executive authority, but if that’s needed, I’m willing to even seize the position that does have it and provide you with what you need.” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Wait, that sounds like a dangerous announcement, doesn’t it….?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I didn’t mean it that way. The next presidential election is not too far off, you see. The Korean president’s term in the office is only five years, after all.” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Ah, is that so?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk nodded his head.
“Except that….” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Eh?” (Yi ji-Hyuk)
“For this level of support, it’s crucial to know whether you wish to protect this world or not.” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Eheeeii! I just….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“It’s okay to not say anything. I’ll hear it at a later stage.” (Song Jeong-Su)
Song Jeong-Su’s slight grin was enough to suppress Yi Ji-Hyuk’s voice.
The latter’s expression hardened slightly.
< 337. That sounds like a dangerous announcement -2 > Fin.
(TL: “Han-jeongsik” or ‘Korean table d’hôte’ is a traditional Korean-style full course meal. Check it out through Google image search and marvel at its exquisiteness.)
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