“W-who are you trying to call?” (Jeong In-Su)
“The defense minister.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
That’s a relief.
It’s not like he’s directly calling the president or Song Jeong-Su, so….
N-no, hang on a minute!
They are all together right now, anyway! What does it matter with who he calls right now?! (Jeong In-Su’s inner monologue)
“What will you even speak to him about??” (Jeong In-Su)
“Easy now. I just wanted to ask them how long I should be on standby for. I don’t even know how long the operation is supposed to last or when it’s supposed to end, you know. I mean, I gotta know how long I must be on standby so that I can come up with a plan or something.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Now that I hear him…? (Jeong In-Su’s inner monologue)
Jeong In-Su began cussing inwardly at the brass that simply told him to show up here and request Yi Ji-Hyuk to be on standby. Seriously now, shouldn’t they at least give him some information necessary to brief Yi Ji-Hyuk on the situation?
Of course, rather than cussing at his superiors for ordering him to come and speak to Yi Ji-Hyuk late at night, he should acknowledge his portion of the blame for not thinking of the briefing himself.
“W-will it be fine for me to find out and inform you instead?” (Jeong In-Su)
“I suppose.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Alright, then. I’ll confirm right away and tell you everything you need to know.” (Jeong In-Su)
“Sure. Please go ahead.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
The moment Yi Ji-Hyuk gave his permission Jeong In-Su yanked his phone out like a cowboy from a western movie drawing his revolver.
“This is Jeong In-Su. I require information regarding the current operation. Send them to my PC right away, please.”
While on the phone, he opened the front door to head outside.
“Excuse me?!” (Jeong In-Su)
Jeong In-Su’s expression crumpled instantly.
“Sir, you think I don’t know it’s the top national secret?! But do you wish to bring upon a real national disaster by trying to keep it a secret? Tell the higher-ups that this is related to Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk and you’ll get your permission in an instant, so please hurry up and get me the files.” (Jeong In-Su)
Jeong In-Su’s loud, agitated voice caused Oh-Sik’s ears to perk up. Having seen that, he slowly distanced himself from the resting Ogre and continued with the call.
“You should also tell them that every minute delayed equals an increase of one percent in the likelihood of Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk barging into the Blue House.” (Jeong In-Su)
Jeong In-Su ended the call and began sucking on his cigarette.
‘I can’t stand this sh*t.’ (Jeong In-Su)
The higher one climbed in the ladder, the easier it was to find out how shambolic the governance of this country was. The system itself was just an empty shell and everything that mattered was decided by the few folks dominating the uppermost echelons of the governance.
Normally there was no problem for a country to be governed in this manner. However, the issue would rear its ugly head once an emergency situation suddenly occurred. Such a crisis could only be solved when many different agencies and countless individuals worked together, but everyone would end up hesitating and wasting time while waiting for the orders from the higher up in the food chain.
Such as now.
This situation was easily the most grave one ever since the country’s founding. Well, it was the first time South Korea invaded another nation on its own volition, after all.
Even with the utmost perfect system controlling everything, you’d be a fool to think that events would unfold smoothly – yet here they were, utterly clueless and confused about the current situation with perhaps the sole exception of the folks at the top.
‘….And they are so bloody quick on things like this.’ (Jeong In-Su)
He didn’t even have to be there to know. The moment the brass heard the name ‘Yi Ji-Hyuk’, they probably didn’t even bother with the rest of the report and just yelled at the phone saying “Do everything that man wants!!”
Hell, even the president suffered from the ‘Yi Ji-Hyuk neurosis’, so with what balls of steel the people below him dared to ponder the crisis related to Yi Ji-Hyuk the man?
Jeong In-Su was royally irritated that he needed to go through such a cumbersome process of reporting in and getting permission for something so bleeding obvious.
He pulled out his notebook PC from the bag, confirmed the info attached to the email, and hurriedly re-entered the residence with his laptop in tow.
“Mister Yi….?” (Jeong In-Su)
Yi Ji-Hyuk was no longer in the living room. Jeong In-Su followed after the trail of the half-open door and reached the former’s bedroom, and discovered his quarry sitting in front of a PC, browsing the net. The major general settled down on the edge of the bed behind him.
“Are you looking at the news?” (Jeong In-Su)
“…..Wowsers. I wondered if any related news articles have popped up online or not, but there’s nothing at all. Now that’s an amazing lockdown on the media.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“It’s an operation involving only a handful of elite units, after all. Also, I’m sure the defense minister’s threat of figuratively chopping the heads off of anyone leaking the secret also worked wonders in this case, as well. And the Blue House side probably gagged the media in their own way, too.” (Jeong In-Su)
“First time learning that those folks can be so sharp like this.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Jeong In-Su chuckled wryly.
In all honesty, it was not ‘those folks’ but Song Jeong-Su who did all of these. Majority of South Koreans probably knew already that their elected president Yun Yeong-Min wasn’t capable enough to do such things.
“Okay, so. What am I supposed to do?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Jeong In-Su browsed through the operation blueprint and spoke in a troubled voice.
“According to the plan, the operation is scheduled to end around six AM tomorrow morning. Until then, I think….” (Jeong In-Su)
Yi Ji-Hyuk turned around on his chair with a grave expression on his face.
“In that case….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Yes?” (Jeong In-Su)
“I don’t have to go to work tomorrow, right?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Jeong In-Su felt greatly troubled after realising that he had no answer.
The bright light receded and an unfamiliar terrain entered Choi Jeong-Hoon’s vision. He sucked in a deep breath. Ability users besides his group were continuously arriving all around them.
‘There are more than I thought?’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
From what he could see, the number of the NDF agents seemed to be the lowest of the lot. All of them were supposedly the elites hand-picked from the best units in their respective countries, yet to think their numbers far exceeded the NDF’s.
It was easy to see where the assertion of ‘South Korea’s ability user pool being unable to even compare to other big nations’ came from. Before Yi Ji-Hyuk’s appearance the only ability user the Koreans could realistically boast to the international community was Seo Ah-Young.
Now that he thought about it, ability users from, say, North America or from Korea were talked up in the media as heroes of the people in the past.
‘Post-Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk’s appearance, though, everything just petered out.’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
It was truly a relief that the government didn’t go through with the ability user crackdown policy. If two Yi Ji-Hyuk-like individuals grew hostile to each other and started fighting, it’d not take much for a country caught in the middle to go kablooey, after all.
“What should we do next?” (Seo Ah-Young)
Seo Ah-Young’s question prompted Choi Jeong-Hoon to shift his head around. Now wasn’t the time to think about unrelated matters.
“For now, we wait. The American special forces should currently be in the process of securing the area. We follow their lead and advance towards the presidential palace.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“….Presidential palace??” (Seo Ah-Young)
“The Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, ma’am. We’ve been briefed about it several times.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“….Ah. Of course. I remember it. Yes.” (Seo Ah-Young)
‘…She was definitely napping through them.’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon sighed under his breath and scanned the immediate vicinity, searching for someone to brief him on the current situation with the operation. Sure enough, the American special forces members kitted out in black from head to toe were approaching them.
“Mister Choi?” (American soldier)
“I am he.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Nice to meet you.” (American soldier)
The American soldier didn’t reveal his name. Choi Jeong-Hoon wasn’t curious, either. Not at the moment, anyway.
“The current situation?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“No anomalies so far. That’s why we’re on a brief standby.” (American soldier)
“Excuse me?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“….The ‘No anomalies’ situation is presenting us with problems.” (American soldier)
Only then did Choi Jeong-Hoon raise his head and study Pyongyang in the distance.
‘What’s this?’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
It was like staring at a city of darkness.
Sure, Pyongyang’s power supply was not what you’d call perfectly stable and the lights had to be turned off during the night, but back when he first visited it, it wasn’t to this extent.
‘Wait, did they leave some lights on because we were here?’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
However, that explanation didn’t feel quite right.
It wasn’t just on the scale of being lights-off dark, but rather more like the whole city was dyed in pure darkness. So much so that he wondered whether or not people could even move inside such a thick fog of darkness.
“Also, there are zero patrolling enemy forces, as well. We can’t detect what’s going on inside the city and that’s making it hard for us to decide on what to do next.” (American soldier)
“What was the operation directive before this?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“We were supposed to enter right away. The main assault forces are already in the vicinity of Pyongyang, actually. We’ll match their timing and breach the city limits simultaneously.” (American soldier)
“Mm….” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
In other words, the assault forces also got flustered by this development and came to a stop, too.
“Didn’t your higher-ups say they’d send in extra troops via aeroplanes?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“They are currently circling around in Pyongyang’s airspace at the moment.” (American soldier)
“Doesn’t seem to me the situation will change much even if we wait here. Have the scouts already go in?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Yes. Not too long ago.” (American soldier)
Choi Jeong-Hoon nodded his head.
He wasn’t even the field commander, anyway. The decisions would be made by the higher-ups. His job was to follow their orders, direct the NDF well, and see to the end of the operation as speedily as possible while minimising sacrifices on his side.
‘Besides all that, why did this guy come to speak to me about this?’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Christopher McLaren must’ve said something to this soldier prior to the operation, because he didn’t even bother to look at Seo Ah-Young and briefed Choi Jeong-Hoon straight away. One part of him did feel like he had become an international celebrity, but actually, the weight of the situation easily trumped any satisfaction he might feel.
“I see. So all we have to do for the time being is to wait.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Basically, yes.” (American soldier)
About ten minutes of standby later, their new order came through.
“It’s a go. We breach in five minutes.” (American soldier)
“Alright.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon slowly nodded his head.
‘D*mn, waiting around is a big ask in itself.’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Delays such as this couldn’t be helped since many governments and their soldiers were trying to coordinate with each other, but he still thought something about this whole thing felt way too inefficient to him.
Maybe it was a side effect from being basically carried on Yi Ji-Hyuk’s back and only pursuing the absolute efficiency at the expense of the higher-ups and their orders.
‘Feels like I’m thinking about unrelated stuff more than usual today…’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon lightly jumped up and down on the spot to loosen himself. Although he shouldn’t have much opportunity to move around a lot, he must definitely not get too stiff and become a hindrance to others.
“We’re breaching.” (American soldier)
“Let’s go.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
The NDF agents all nodded their heads at Choi Jeong-Hoon’s order and followed behind him. To get to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun from where they had teleported in, they needed to cross Pyongyang itself. Sure, they could have taken a detour and gone around, but it was decided that there was no need to waste even more time by going through mountainous trails.
There was the risk of an open street battle, but no nation participating in this war knew what was hidden within the mountains surrounding Pyongyang. If they got careless and stepped into a landmine-filled area, then the casualties arising from that could potentially be far worse than a street battle.
The leading American soldiers hurriedly descended the mountain, so Park Seong-Chan followed after their example and took the lead of the group. Others followed him and made their descent, as well.
“Once we enter Pyongyang, we’ll be exposed to far more sniping points. All physical enhancement-type agents, take Mister Seong-Chan’s lead and protect us well when the firing starts.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“….So, we’re supposed to take a few for the team, is that it?” (Park Seong-Chan)
“Bingo.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“….F*ck, man. Doesn’t matter who we’re fighting, men or monsters, our role is still the same.” (Park Seong-Chan)
“Haha.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon couldn’t only smile wryly at Park Seong-Chan’s quip.
But when the sights of the buildings grew much taller in his eyes, Choi Jeong-Hoon stopped smiling altogether. The operation was about to get under way for real now.
Just as the tautly-stretched tension began to envelop them, a commotion broke out from the front of the pack.
“What’s going on?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon narrowed his eyes and focused on the front, but then, an American soldier hurriedly rushed towards him and grabbed his arm.
“Your presence is required up front, sir.”
“Excuse me?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Please hurry up.”
Choi Jeong-Hoon nodded his head and stepped forward. Without saying anything else, Park Seong-Chan stuck close to his rear. But it wasn’t just them alone – folks that could be considered as the representative of their respective forces were also being led towards the front of the pack.
“What is going on here?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
This was definitely not a part of the operation planning. Which meant that a problem big enough to temporarily halt the operation had….
Choi Jeong-Hoon finally broke past the crowd and stepped into the front only to involuntarily spit out an expletive.
< 379. Ah, so I was that kkondae -4 > Fin.