Choi Chang-Hyuk was the first person to recognise the man peeking his head inside the venue, and he shot up from his seat as a result.
“Ji, Ji-Hyuk-ah, you’re here?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk glanced at him before stepping into the venue proper.
“I guess I’m a bit late?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Choi Chang-Hyuk hurriedly shook his head.
“What do you mean, you’re late. Hahaha…. You are… a bit early?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
Sure, Yi Ji-Hyuk was an hour and a half late, but no one here was brave enough to criticise him for his tardiness.
‘I mean, this guy usually showed up at school when the second period of class was about to end, so….’ (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
Anyone who knew anything about Yi Ji-Hyuk would never ever think that he’d show up on time to any occasion.
“I wanted to come early for today, but got delayed a bit because of how awkward these clothes were.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Oh?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
Choi Chang-Hyuk scanned Yi Ji-Hyuk’s attire before smiling brightly.
“Now that I look at you, you really dressed up for the occasion, didn’t you?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“Does it even suit me, though?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“O-of course.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
After Yi Ji-Hyuk stepped fully inside the reunion venue and sat on a chair, others started shifting their gazes at him. The first person to open his mouth was Jo Ji-Woong.
“Hey, Ji-Hyuk. Been a while.” (Jo Ji-Woong)
“….Ng??” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk looked at him and tilted his head.
“Who?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Jo Ji-Woong smiled awkwardly and explained himself.
“I don’t think my face has changed that much, but…. I’m Ji-Woong. Jo Ji-Woong. Don’t you remember?”
“Jo Ji-Woong?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk started tilting his head even more, causing Jo Ji-Woong’s expression to crumple gradually.
When the atmosphere became somewhat unbearable, Choi Chang-Hyuk hurriedly intervened, hoping to make it better.
“S-sure, Ji-Woong has changed a lot, hasn’t he? Hey, Ji-Hyuk-ah, don’t you really remember this kid? He used to compete for the first place with Seon-Mi back in school. Back then, he was a model student, wasn’t he?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“If I’m being honest, I don’t quite remember the faces of my classmates, unfortunately.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
….Then why did you even call us here?
Choi Chang-Hyuk dazedly stared at Yi Ji-Hyuk. He was the one demanding a reunion in the first place, but now he’s saying he didn’t remember anyone’s faces? Seriously?
“H-he’s now working as an ability user.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“Oh?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk now seemed quite interested as he looked at Jo Ji-Woong.
“Really?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Y-yeah.” (Jo Ji-Woong)
Jo Ji-Woong scratched his head.
Normally, your back would straighten a bit when mentioning the fact of your job as an ability user, regardless of where you were. However, mentioning stuff like that in front of Yi Ji-Hyuk made things rather awkward in the extreme for Jo Ji-Woong.
Was it kinda like showing off how sharp your cat claws were in front of a lion or something?
“I’ve been hearing a lot about you.” (Jo Ji-Woong)
“About me?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Yeah. You’re working for the NDF, right? Us at the KSF hear lots of stories about that organisation, you see.” (Jo Ji-Woong)
“Really? Like what?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Right at that moment, Jo Ji-Woong realised that he made a terrible mistake by saying something he shouldn’t have.
‘W-well, the stories I heard about were….’ (Jo Ji-Woong)
All the stories related to the NDF were inevitably leaked by the NDF agents themselves. And it was rather obvious what they would talk about when it came to the matters related to Yi Ji-Hyuk.
‘The devil.’ (Jo Ji-Woong)
Not only that, a tiny-minded stingy devil, at that.
“T-they are all good stories.” (Jo Ji-Woong)
“Like I said, what does those good stories entail?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Hahahaha….” (Jo Ji-Woong)
Jo Ji-Woong could only laugh awkwardly here.
‘I mean, you should’ve at least behaved like a nice person so that people will have nice things to say about you in moments like this!!’ (Jo Ji-Woong)
He only got to hear monstrous tales from the NDF agents, so what kind of ‘good stories’ could there even be?
“Y-you know, those stories. Like, what you did in America, or when you were in China….” (Jo Ji-Woong)
“H-nng?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk nodded his head.
“Yeah, I had to go through a lot back then.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
If judging by what Jo Ji-Woong had heard, then Yi Ji-Hyuk couldn’t possibly have been the one going through ‘a lot’, but it was the poor folks of the countries that needed to receive him, instead. But there was no need to bring that up and complicate the atmosphere even further.
“Ji-Hyuk-ah, it’s been a while.” (Seon-Mi)
“Ng?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk looked at a woman lightly shaking around a beer glass while sitting on a chair next to him and tilted his head.
“Who?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Don’t you remember me? I’m Choi Seon-Mi.”
“Choi Seon-Mi….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk kicked his unwilling, half-dead brain into full gear and went through his memory banks.
That name, it definitely sounded familiar, but…
“…Ah!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Finally recalling the owner of the name ‘Choi Seon-Mi’ from the recesses of his brain, Yi Ji-Hyuk scanned her from top to bottom, before tilting his head again.
“But, it can’t be?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Mm? What do you mean?” (Seon-Mi)
“….Did you get plastic surgery?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Choi Seon-Mi’s expression crumpled instantly.
“The ‘Choi Seon-Mi’ I remember didn’t look like you, though? How can I say this…. So, like…. Mm….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Choi Chang-Hyuk hurriedly intervened once more.
“D-don’t you know that girls change a lot once they graduate and start looking after themselves a bit more?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“Even then, this is a bit….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I mean, a person will completely transform with just a change to their hairstyle, you know??” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“Is that how it is?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Besides, Seon-Mi didn’t really try to doll up back when we were still in school. Because she was too busy studying and all.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“I guess you’re right, but….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk quietly stared at Choi Seon-Mi, before tilting his head once more.
“But can you get, like, double eyelids if you apply make-up?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Choi Chang-Hyuk sneakily averted his gaze and spoke up.
“W-well, anyways! Everyone, let’s make a toast!” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
Jo Ji-Woong hurriedly raised his glass.
Others also raised theirs while speaking out in loud, boisterous voices in an obvious attempt to get rid of this really awkward atmosphere.
“Wait, now that I look back, what do you think our homeroom teacher from the third year is doing?”
“….Come on, dude. Why are you bringing that guy up and ruining my appetite?”
“Aren’t you a little bit curious?”
“Don’t even bring that guy up, man. Just thinking about that teacher gives me the shivers. I don’t think you will ever find anyone as hardcore as that guy.”
Yi Ji-Hyuk listening in nodded his head.
“Right. Even I think he was a bit too much when I look back.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Everyone’s gaze was directed at him next.
“What, you don’t agree?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Their replies might be like that, but their hearts were united in a sentiment slightly different from his.
‘If it was someone else, fine, but you? You shouldn’t be saying that.’
The Dongseong High’s infamous demonic teacher, Park Hwan-Gyu, ended up suffering from nervous breakdown, and the culprit was none other than Yi Ji-Hyuk.
‘Yeah, you seriously went too far overboard back then.’
‘Wowsers! Holy crap, how did he manage to turn a teacher into an object of pity and sympathy for the rest of the students?’
‘Being a teacher isn’t a job for normal human beings. I mean, what will you do if you end up with a student like him?’
A teacher that ruled his classroom with an iron fist could no longer deal with Yi Ji-Hyuk, and begged the latter to leave the class. So much so that, as soon as the classes were over, he’d run in like gale-force winds and personally packed Yi Ji-Hyuk’s belongings.
When Yi Ji-Hyuk stubbornly refused to leave, saying he had nothing to do back at home, the poor teacher even shelled out his own money and told the kid to go to a PC Bang or something. What a dedicated modern-era educator that man was.
‘Now that I think about it, he sure was a good person, alright.’
He was a man who would use his own money to eliminate the obstacle to the education of the students under his care. Back then, they all thought of him as a bit too heavy-handed geezer, but by looking back, they realised that perhaps he was a wonderful man, instead.
They began looking at Yi Ji-Hyuk in less-than-impressed eyes, causing him to tilt his head quizzically.
“You don’t think so?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“N-no, you’re right.”
Yi Ji-Hyuk was forcing the fellow graduates to view the student rights in a negative light now.
“Does anyone know what happened to that teacher?”
“I hear he just quit outright.”
“Really? He quit teaching altogether? But, being a teacher pretty much guarantees your retirement funds, right? But why would he give all that up?”
“I heard that he quit right after we graduated due to high levels of accumulated stress.”
Everyone inwardly sent their thoughts and prayers.
A man who should’ve been living a fairly good life as a teacher was unfortunate enough to get tangled up with Yi Ji-Hyuk, and ended up losing his livelihood as a result. Thinking about how he must be struggling with his life right now, the people gathered here felt their tear ducts suddenly starting to itch a little.
“By the way, Ji-Hyuk? You work for the NDF, right?” (Seon-Mi)
“Ng.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Choi Seon-Mi began showing interest in Yi Ji-Hyuk once more.
“That means you’re earning big every month, right?” (Seon-Mi)
“….My salary, you mean?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Yeah, that. Is it big?” (Seon-Mi)
Yi Ji-Hyuk tilted his head.
“Actually, I’m not sure how much it is.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“It’s that much?!” (Seon-Mi)
“No, it’s not that. But….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk sheepishly scratched his head.
“I’ve never really checked my bank balance or anything like that, so I’m not sure how much I’m getting every month.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Choi Seon-Mi stared at Yi Ji-Hyuk with an unreadable expression before nodding her head.
When put nicely, he was being broad-minded, generous even. But when put not so nicely, he was utterly clueless when it came to all things money related.
“I hear that your organisation is where our country’s top ability users gather. Is that true?” (Seon-Mi)
“Well, yeah. Kinda….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“That means it’s filled with seriously impressive people, right?” (Seon-Mi)
“Impressive?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk recalled the NDF agents in his mind, and spoke his rather frank impression of them.
“You know, it feels like every single one of them has a problem or two….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
If the NDF folks heard him, they would’ve vomited blood by now.
Not just anyone, but Yi Ji-Hyuk had no right to say stuff like that, after all.
“Ohoho~, you’re joking, right?” (Seon-Mi)
“I’m being serious, though?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk had this uncanny ability to bring a conversation to a screeching halt. It was to such an extent that his conversation partners would get confused on how they should proceed from there onwards.
Jo Ji-Woong decided to butt in just then.
“Even then, there are plenty of famous and cool people working there, right? Like, for instance, Seo Ah-Young.” (Jo Ji-Woong)
“You mean, the Hysterical Witch?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….Okay, like Park Seong-Chan.” (Jo Ji-Woong)
“That muscle brain?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Jo Ji-Woong’s lips began to tremble grandly.
“I-if not, then what about, what about, uh… Kim Dah-Hyun! Yeah, him! He’s famous for having killer looks, right? Just his face alone, he can easily make it in the entertainment industry, but he chose to work for the NDF! I hear he even has a big fan club and everything!” (Jo Ji-Woong)
“He’s the biggest problem child, you know? He’s a certifiable siscon.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
This was the moment of the fantastical mirage surrounding the NDF shattering to tiny little pieces.
“D-does that mean not one normal person works there?” (Seon-Mi)
The clearly-flustered Choi Seon-Mi asked that question, prompting Yi Ji-Hyuk to ponder his answer rather seriously. And when some time went by like this, everyone present began thinking of one exact same question.
‘Did that question require such lengthy deliberation?’
After an arduous pondering session, Yi Ji-Hyuk finally opened his mouth.
“I guess if it’s that jummadol, then maybe she just about sneaks into the category of ‘normal’ people. Even though she’s not really normal in the head, but well, she’s alright on her own way.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….Jummadol??” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“Jeong Hae-Min!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“A-ah, that’s right! Jeong Hae-Min was also in the NDF!” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
The moment Jeong Hae-Min’s name was brought up, a very noisy, enthusiastic response exploded out.
“Ng?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk tilted his head at this incomprehensible reaction.
“What’s gotten into you??” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Well, it’s Jeong Hae-Min, right? The one and only Jeong Hae-Min! Now that I think about it, Ji-Hyuk! You get to see her pretty often, don’t you?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“Uhm, well yeah, I do see her almost everyday.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“R-really?! Can you, uh, can you get me her autograph??” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
Foams began bubbling out of Choi Chang-Hyuk’s mouth.
“Her autograph? And why the heck would you even need an autograph from an ahjumma like her?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“What do you mean, she’s an ahjumma?! Don’t you know how hot she’s trending right now?! She’s basically in every TV channel, man! And commercials with her in them are everywhere!” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“….But, how come??” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk couldn’t comprehend it at all.
“Because, she’s cute.”
“And also, really pretty, too.”
“She’s a great singer, too.”
Yi Ji-Hyuk pouted and asked again.
“But, there are plenty of younger idols who are cute, pretty, as well as being good dancers and singers, so what gives?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“There is no one who meets all those criteria except Jeong Hae-Min, you know? Besides, she’s not even that old. Why are you calling her an ahjumma when she’s still so young?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“H-n-ng?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk watched how Choi Chang-Hyuk passionately defended her and realised the true level of Jeong Hae-Min’s popularity, which seemed to be at least much higher than what he had expected.
“Okay, so. You want her autograph?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Y-yeah.” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“Why don’t you get it yourself?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Eh?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“She’s on her way here anyway.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….What are you talking about?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk frowned as if he didn’t get why his words weren’t getting through.
“I said, she’s on her way here.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Who is? Wait, you mean Jeong Hae-Min?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“Obviously. Who do you think I was talking about?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“W-what? Really? Why is she coming here in the first place?” (Choi Chang-Hyuk)
“What do mean, why? I asked her, that’s why.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Choi Chang-Hyuk dazedly stared at Yi Ji-Hyuk.
He just couldn’t figure out whether to believe this guy or not.
Sure, since they worked in the same organisation, it wouldn’t be surprising for Yi Ji-Hyuk and Jeong Hae-Min to know each other, but they were actually close enough to accompany one another to a class reunion?
With that Jeong Hae-Min?
“Wait, now that I think about it, why is she so late?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk frowned and pulled out his phone. He then dialled a number, before exploding in irritation.
“Why aren’t you here yet?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Others listened to Yi Ji-Hyuk with deeply tense expressions.
“What do you mean, your schedule? Okay, so? What now?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
‘Is that for real?’
They still couldn’t choose between believing him or not even now.
“Can’t you just come?? What do you mean, there’s no one around? Argh, seriously?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk ended the call and stood up from his seat.
“Imma go and get her. See you in a bit.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
He quickly strode outside, and this strange silence descended on the venue.
< 364. I better stop being jittery -4 > Fin.