Yun Yeong-Min didn’t waste a single second and made the order to contact Song Jeong-Su on the phone.
He waited anxiously for a while, and got rewarded with the message of the call going through. He quickly switched the speaker on the phone resting on top of his desk.
– “What can I do for you?” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Ah, hello, party leader Song. It’s me.” (Yun Yeong-Min)
– “Hello, Mister President. Now this is an unexpected surprise, you giving me a call like this.” (Song Jeong-Su)
A cramped smile formed on Yun Yeong-Min’s face.
Since he and Song Jeong-Su weren’t all that close, there wasn’t much of a reason for him to call the other party that often. If it weren’t for the latter frequently showing up here on his own to speak his mind lately, the good president wouldn’t have even come up with the idea of talking to Song Jeong-Su in the first place.
“Actually….” (Yun Yeong-Min)
Yun Yeong-Min gave the Unification Minister a glance, prompting the latter to start his explanation. Right after the tale came to an end, Yun Yeong-Min quickly took over.
“That’s how it went down. Since party leader Song has visited the North recently, we thought that you’d be more knowledgeable in our neighbour’s current atmosphere or something similar in that nature compared to us. That’s why we decided to give you a call and hear your opinion on this matter.” (Yun Yeong-Min)
– “I see.” (Song Jeong-Su)
Song Jeong-Su didn’t say anything for a little while after that. Others didn’t urge him and waited until he finished organising his train of thoughts.
– “For the time being, I believe accepting him is the better option.” (Song Jeong-Su)
“However, the other side have threatened us with war if we do.” (Yun Yeong-Min)
– “They may say that, but they are also not the type to start something that will endanger their lives. And they aren’t so clueless to not know that, in case of war, we both might perish due to the monster invasions.” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Well, yes. You have a point.” (Yun Yeong-Min)
– “Besides, North Korea simply do not have the wherewithal to wage a war, anyway. I’m sure they are simply too busy trying to put their internal affairs in order right now.” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Even then, it still feels rather off, doesn’t it?” (Yun Yeong-Min)
– “Mm, that’s true.” (Song Jeong-Su)
Although it all sounded fine in theory, if a war did break out in a million to one chance, then this side would be the one to suffer the worst of the fallout.
When a nation with nothing to lose went to war with another that had too much to lose, then even if the latter won the battle, it’d not be an actual victory.
– “Hang on. Can you tell me the name of the ability user trying to cross the border one more time?” (Song Jeong-Su)
“It’s Rhee Jin-Cheol.” (Yun Yeong-Min)
– “I see. But why is someone like Rhee Jin-Cheol coming here?” (Song Jeong-Su)
“He participated in the coup d’etat but failed, so we think his life is in danger.” (Yun Yeong-Min)
– “Someone like that is heading south to cross the border? Why?” (Song Jeong-Su)
Only then did Yun Yeong-Min realise that something was definitely amiss.
Under normal circumstances, someone like Rhee Jin-Cheol would’ve went into hiding or escape to China, instead. For one, it’d be simpler to hide from the North’s eyes if he was in China, and also, it’d be infinitely easier to cross the Amnokgang/Yalu River than attempting to navigate the DMZ.
– “Something must’ve happened. I believe he currently has a good reason to urgently cross the border and come to us.” (Song Jeong-Su)
“I see.” (Yun Yeong-Min)
Yun Yeong-Min swallowed back his grunts after realising that he’d have missed this part were it not for Song Jeong-Su. They might not be toeing the same line, but without a doubt, the party leader-nim was an excellent politician regardless.
If it weren’t for the Black Monday, Yun Yeong-Min would’ve never emerged victorious against Song Jeong-Su and enter the presidential race.
– “Something suspicious is happening up north, it seems. And when you keep that in mind, the North’s strongly-worded threat now feels rather unnatural, doesn’t it? It feels as if he’s in possession of an incredibly important piece of information.” (Song Jeong-Su)
“M-mm…..” (yun Yeong-Min)
Yun Yeong-Min gasped out.
“What should we do, in your opinion?” (Yun Yeong-Min)
– “Now we know this much, we’ve done all we could.” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Pardon?” (Yun Yeong-Min)
– “And now, we hand over everything to those capable of dissecting this information. We then sit back and enjoy our popcorn.” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Excuse me?” (Yun Yeong-Min)
Yun Yeong-Min dazedly asked back.
“I understand what you mean, sir.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon ended the call with a stiff expression.
“Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Uhm, Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Yi Ji-Hyuk dozing off on his chair snapped his eyes wide open.
“Eh?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“If you want to go to sleep, why don’t you go home early? No one here will say anything if you decide to call an early day, you know.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Sleeping and dozing off are two different things, I’ll have you know. If I just went ahead and fell asleep, then I won’t ever get to experience this sort of moments, right?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Groooan….” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon shook his head helplessly and continued on.
“It seems that….” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“A new problem has occurred!! That’s what you wanted to say, right?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk didn’t miss the opening created by Choi Jeong-Hoon’s dazed “Uhh….” and struck another blow.
“I knew it. No way I’d be let off the hook for a few days in a row. You know what? I was starting to get a bit nervous already.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….It’s not as if we deliberately create situations for you, you know.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“I don’t know about that.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk pouted so much that his lips protruded several feet forward.
“How many times have you tried to use me by coming up with all sorts of crazy exaggerations, like how the whole country is in great peril and stuff like that?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“What do you mean, crazy exaggerations……?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Seriously now, just how many incidents requiring Yi Ji-Hyuk’s presence could be called ‘exaggerations’??
A level 6 Gate suddenly popping out of nowhere, honest-to-god demon kings descending without so much as a single warning, etc, etc.
Sure, there was an incident of ten level 5 Gates opening up simultaneously in the past, which was treated as a world-ending calamity and accordingly, the whole country went into the highest state of alert, but since then, lots more hellish events kept breaking out and now, such levels of threat were deemed not serious enough to require Yi Ji-Hyuk’s presence anymore.
And also, an Ogre might have been thought of as a legendary monster back then, but nowadays, any old NDF agent could easily hunt one down.
This was the end result of ‘diligently’ levelling up by continuously experiencing all sorts of crazy, outlandish and urgent crises one after another.
But now, he denigrated all of that as just ‘exaggerations’!!
The powerful dissatisfaction bubbling within him threatened to soar through the sky, but Choi Jeong-Hoon was about to persuade Yi Ji-Hyuk to head off to work, so he knew not to go on the offensive right this moment.
“It seems like a truly important matter, actually.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“When has it ever not been important?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“N-no, it’s really, really important this time.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Yeah, yeah.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“This matter involves someone you know, too.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Ng?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Only then did Yi Ji-Hyuk show some hints of interest.
“Who are you talking about?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I don’t know if you remember him, but…. It’s Rhee Jin-Cheol, the leader of the People’s Ability User Briga….” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Ahh, that troublemaker.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Of course you’d remember the dude gnashing his teeth towards you, now wouldn’t you?
“Okay, so. Did he die or something?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Not really.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“What’s the problem, then?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“That man is currently attempting to escape to South. Apparently.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Ehng?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk tilted his head.
“Wait, didn’t someone say that he started that little thing alongside Chief of Staff Park Yong-Hui or something?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Indeed, he was involved.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“He’s in the middle of escaping, which means he failed miserably. Tsk, tsk.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk shook his head.
“I thought that Chief of Staff Park was not a bad person, but I guess he’s already passed on from this world, then. And they said that life is full of ups and downs.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“It’s not certain whether he’s been killed or not….” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Oh, didn’t know that you can still live on even after failing in a coup.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“No, he’s probably dead by now.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon cleanly acknowledged Park Yong-Hui’s demise. It was indeed nonsensical to think that anyone would keep their lives even after failing to overthrow the regime in North Korea, of all places.
It was unknown whether that man’s dead body could be recovered or not at this point. This was a government that executed its prisoners with cannons, so you’d count yourself lucky if you got a proper burial afterwards.
“By the way, why is his escape a problem now?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Apparently, the North’s reaction this time is quite strange. They seem to be hell-bent on ensuring that he never gets here, no matter the cost. They even threatened us with an immediate breakout of war if we accept him.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Keuh. Seriously, I can’t figure out why they are such an aggressive bunch.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk clicked his tongue.
“Oh, well. Every single day, it’s war this, raining hellfire that, or the taste of atomic bombs…. There’s virtually nothing they aren’t unwilling to say, isn’t it?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“It’s always the weakest pup that barks the loudest.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Okay, so what? What do they want from us now?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“The higher-ups want us to take care of it.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Ng??” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
What on earth was this about?
Yi Ji-Hyuk failed to comprehend what was being said and stared straight at Choi Jeong-Hoon, prompting the latter to smile awkwardly.
“They, uh, they want us to decide what to do.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“….Did the whole brass lose their collective marbles?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Since this is a seriously sensitive crisis, I believe they want us to decide whether to accept him or ignore it altogether. If we go with the former, then that means you, Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk, will have to go there personally. If it’s the latter, you can stay here and continue with your gaming session. I guess that’s why they want you to have the last say.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“In that case, gaming it is.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk came to a quick and simple decision.
“….B-but, you’d usually decide to save another person in distress….” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“That guy’s got no redeeming qualities, so why should I? Do I look like a UNICEF ambassador to you or something?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Of course not.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Besides, that dude tried to screw with us, didn’t he? I mean, don’t you loathe that man, too? Mister Choi Jeong-Hoon?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Indeed I do. I do hate him. Very much. However….” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Okay?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I feel that the information he possesses could be quite explosive. The North coming out this heavy-handed over a single person escaping is completely unprecedented, you see. Aren’t you curious why?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Not even remotely.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….But, I’m sure you’re?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Ng, not really.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk unhesitantly defeated all the baits Choi Jeong-Hoon laid out and switched his computer on.
“….This isn’t supposed to happen.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
He should’ve been reeled in by Choi Jeong-Hoon’s enticement by now, but Yi Ji-Hyuk genuinely didn’t seem interested today. Which meant panic stations for Choi Jeong-Hoon.
“I, I told you already that if a problem occurs in North Korea, it’d be us falling into great danger.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Come on now. I’d prefer to hear a more original threat at this point, you know? Hearing the same thing over and over again is getting kinda boring.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….Can’t you do this for me, just this once?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Yes, sure. I got it.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Uh-whew. Fine, I get it. I’m sorry for asking you when I knew it’s impossible.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Hang on, I told you, I got it.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Yes, yes. You don’t have to go.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Hey, man! I told you, I get it!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Why are you getting angry? I told you, it’s fine.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“I said, I’ll bloody go, alright?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Eh?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon could only hold his befuddled head.
“Did, did you say you’ll go?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Yes, I did.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….Did you bang your head somewhere?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“I change my mind! Not going now!!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Ehhheii!! Don’t do that, please! I was just kidding. I was kidding!” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“I ain’t going!!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Rhee Jin-Cheol was holding his side.
‘I, I only need to go a little further….’
The bleeding was getting too severe.
Although the wound wasn’t fatal, he didn’t stop to stem the bleeding and simply continued to run, leading him to lose too much blood.
His vision had become so blurry that the road ahead was splitting into multiple strands.
‘No, this can’t….’
He so badly wanted to collapse right here and take a break, but the only thing waiting for him if he did that was sure-fire death.
And that death didn’t signify only his own, either; hundreds, thousands, no, definitely tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of other deaths would accompany his.
That indescribably heavy weight continued to keep Rhee Jin-Cheol’s eyelids open, even if they threatened to shut down at any second.
‘Just a little bit more.’
He could see the barbed wire fencing of the DMZ in the distance. He only needed to cross that. He got this far by running on his two feet from Pyongyang nonstop.
Rhee Jin-Cheol suddenly broke out in a fit of twisted laughter.
Now that he thought about it, he ran away from this place to Pyongyang recently, didn’t he? But now, here he was, running away from Pyongyang to get back here.
He thought about how he had to do a round trip lasting hundreds of kilometres just to run away, and couldn’t stop himself from cackling hoarsely.
“I only have to cross that.”
If he did that, he’d be in the South Korean territory. Then, he’d go and meet Rhee Ji-Hyuk. That would be the conclusion of Rhee Jin-Cheol’s mission.
His vision continued to blur and his legs didn’t want to listen to his commands.
‘Get a grip.’
Just a little bit more.
After crossing that border and handing over his info to Rhee Ji-Hyuk, he’d be free to die however he wanted. That’s why he needed to endure. He needed to endure, even if his consciousness threatened to abandon him at any second now.
“You stinking son of a b*tch. You really came all this way, huh.” (?)
Rhee Jin-Cheol’s body stiffened when he heard that voice coming from behind him.
Almost at the same time, a huge explosion went off, followed right after by a massive wave of pain crashing into his whole body.
“Keuh-euuhk.” (Rhee Jin-Cheol)
Rhee Jin-Cheol rolled ungainly on the ground.
“Cough!” (Rhee Jin-Cheol)
His internal organs must’ve been ruptured as blood quickly was welling up in his throat.
‘N-no, I, I only have to go a little further….’
His eyes caught the sight of the rainbow-coloured array of Ether shots raining down on him from the sky above.
Rhee Jin-Cheol sensed his impending demise and closed his eyes.
< 340. That sounds like a dangerous announcement -5 > Fin.
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.