The South Korean government’s response to the latest unfolding crisis was unusually swift. Didn’t matter what the severity of the crisis facing the nation, this government was infamous for how slow it was with their response but at least this time around, they were quick to go beyond the boundaries of the constitution and made rapid counter moves.
They quickly declared the state of emergency, and the chain of command was unified under the president. The preparations to engage the monsters at a moment’s notice was completed very quickly. The military released the locks on the old armoury, and finished up the maintenance on all of their vehicles to ensure that regardless of when and where a situation reared its head, a sizeable force could be deployed at the snap of a finger.
As for the civilian side of things, the government came up with a newer, far more comprehensive set of evacuation protocol in order to minimise the potential casualties as much as possible.
All the hard work Song Jeong-Su had put it at the expense of his sleep turned out to be even better than his own imagination, in other words.
However, a new problem raised its ugly head next.
“This isn’t a pensioner’s community centre or something, so how come…” (Song Jeong-Su)
Song Jeong-Su stared at the bureaucrats currently slumped over the couches in the emergency response centre’s main office and clicked his tongue.
He couldn’t bring himself to slag them off, though.
These poor folks had to forsake the comforts of their own homes and had to do the proverbial overnight march since no one knew when the crisis would break out.
The thing was, though, when that march had to go on for three nights straight and nothing of note happened in the meantime, it was bound to tire out everyone involved to the extreme degree.
“Why isn’t there any movement?” (Song Jeong-Su)
Even at this moment, the United States, China, and Germany were engaged in brutal battles. Although the old-school weapons almost didn’t work at all against the monsters, they simply had no choice but to deploy ability users and regular soldiers despite the heavy sacrifice this would cost them.
But, contrary to all the events happening everywhere else, South Korea, located closest to a ‘spot’, was enjoying probably her most peaceful days in a very long time.
“…What’s happening in Pyongyang?” (Song Jeong-Su)
“There has been no movement, sir.”
“Mm…” (Song Jeong-Su)
Song Jeong-Su could only stare at the giant monitor with somewhat hollow eyes.
Monsters were pouring out from the various spots in the world like water gushing out from a tap turned all the way open, yet only the one in Pyongyang was completely silent.
No one could tell whether that was because Yi Ji-Hyuk had rampaged around there once already or because there was some other hidden agenda.
The South Korean president Yun Yeong-Min fake coughed to clear his throat and spoke up.
“You know, it feels like we have a bit too much leeway at the moment.” (Yun Yeong-Min)
“Indeed so, sir. So much so that I’m feeling a bit sorry about what’s happening in the Ministry of Finance.” (Song Jeong-Su)
It was as if an actual bomb had gone off in the world of finance at the moment. It was understandable, however, seeing how three nations arguably at the centre of the world’s finance were struck by the explosions of monsters. Not only were the stock markets in a free fall reminiscent of the gushing waters of the Niagara Fall, even the international export and import had come to a grinding halt, as well.
Because of this development, both Ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs were kept really busy trying to secure the food supply in case something went wrong somewhere.
“That side was a complete warzone the last time I was there.” (Song Jeong-Su)
Song Jeong-Su paid a visit to the related ministries earlier to question them on the progress only to be chased out of there by the vice minister, saying they were too busy to entertain a guest right now. Remembering that spectacle, he ended up sighing grandly before asking a question.
“Why aren’t monsters showing up?” (Song Jeong-Su)
The defense minister replied with a pouting expression.
“Even if you ask me that… It’s not like I’m the resident Gate specialist or anything…” (defense minister)
“Urgh.” (Song Jeong-Su)
What’s even more perplexing was that, after these dimensional gateways opened up, the monster-spewing regular Gates stopped appearing altogether.
If they opened as normal, then maybe the forces currently warmed up and ready to go would’ve had a place to vent some steam, but now that the regular Gates weren’t showing up at all, the KSF and the military could only stay stuck in the seemingly-meaningless standby for the time being.
“Has there been any request for assistance?” (Song Jeong-Su)
“…No, sir.” (defense minister)
Germany and the United States were currently sending nonstop SOS signals to their neighbouring countries. European nations knew that Germany’s fall would mean their own destruction would be next so they chose to send all of their available forces to the frontlines as no Gates were opening anyway. As for the U.S, they were continuously asking for reinforcements from Canada as well as their allies in Latin America.
However, none of them were asking South Korea for support.
‘Well, we’re the closest to a spot, after all.’ (Song Jeong-Su)
Logically speaking, the one most likely to get swept away was none other than South Korea. So, it made some sense that no one was requesting assistance from such a country.
“…So, what exactly should we be doing now?” (Song Jeong-Su)
“I wonder about that myself.” (defense minister)
“Mm.” (Song Jeong-Su)
Somewhat ironically, South Korea was experiencing what seemed to be her most peaceful period post-Black Monday.
“Argh, freaking hell?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk yelled out as he watched his avatar die.
And Choi Jeong-Hoon watching this spectacle could only murmur morosely.
“Whether it’s the fool playing a computer game in the current situation, or the company still operating the servers in the current situation…” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Of course, you had to make money regardless of what was happening in the world, so the company running the servers certainly didn’t deserve to be blamed. The one at fault had to be this fool, right here.
‘But, it is a bit hard to criticise him, isn’t it.’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Because, it wasn’t just Yi Ji-Hyuk alone. Every NDF agent was also dazedly staring at their monitors right now.
“We really don’t have anything to do, now do we?” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
Kim Dah-Hyun piped up, and Yun Hyuk-Gyu nonchalantly shrugged his shoulders.
“How should I frame this… Yeah, so. Back when we were being dispatched every single freaking day, I was like, this is crap and I can’t stand it anymore, but now that we haven’t seen any action for a few days, even this is crap and I can’t stand it anymore.” (Yun Hyuk-Gyu)
“You think so, too?” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
“Won’t we end up unemployed at this rate?” (Yun Hyuk-Gyu)
Choi Jeong-Hoon eavesdropped on the two men’s conversation, then sneakily turned his head towards the head desk. Seo Ah-Young was sitting there with a mirror, and was currently repeating the action of putting on some make-up before rubbing it off, only to apply some more again.
“…What are you doing, ma’am?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
She glanced at Choi Jeong-Hoon, before replying nonchalantly.
“I’m testing which make-up suits me the best. I was too busy to find it out earlier, so I might as well use this opportunity.” (Seo Ah-Young)
“Ah. Of course.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon smiled awkwardly, then while mouthing a cigarette, walked outside the office.
‘I can’t get used to this and it’s driving me nuts.’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
He had no problem with the agents taking it easy and doing nothing. Honestly speaking, he thought that this was a well-deserved and necessary rest for them after everything they had gone through recently. So that they would be able to endure in the upcoming battles without breaking down.
What Choi Jeong-Hoon had a real problem with was that he too had nothing to do right now.
Not even once during the past ten years did he have nothing to do like this. So, he simply had no clue what he should be doing when no work required his attention.
If he was a regular salaryman, then he’d have found out a long time ago what to do next when no work presented itself. Too bad, he was not a regular salaryman at all. His computer was filled with nothing but work-related stuff, too. No need to mention his phone, either.
‘Should I just sleep?’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
The sleeping quarters had been set up exactly for moments like this, but he got used to crashing in there while suffering from the extreme level of fatigue, so he didn’t feel confident of falling asleep when his mind was functioning so perfectly like this.
“Urgh…” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Just as Choi Jeong-Hoon began contemplating what he should do next, the office door was flung open and Yi Ji-Hyuk making a very crumpled expression waltzed out with a cigarette stuck to his mouth, too.
“Argh, gimme a freaking break. Those crazy b*stards, why are they playing games when the world is in this state, anyway?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
‘Hey, you’re also one of those crazy b*stards, too.’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon knew oh-so well that this thing called ‘truth’ had to be concealed if peace was to be maintained, so he quickly decided not to say what’s in his mind and shatter the calm that came to visit them after such a long time.
“It’s not working out for you, then?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Only the invalids are populating the servers now so the difficulty has gone through the roof. They are a bunch of slackers with nothing better to do.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
‘But, you’re also one of those slackers too, aren’t you?!’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Yi Ji-Hyuk was still persisting with spitting in the air when he was lying on his back right now.
“Do you know why there hasn’t been any movement in Pyongyang?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Why are you asking me that?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Well, that’s because you’re the most knowledgeable person on this planet when it comes to the demon world.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“…Why am I the expert all of a sudden?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Maybe he inwardly agreed with Choi Jeong-Hoon’s assessment, because Yi Ji-Hyuk then began opening his mouth.
“I also don’t know the exact reason. Maybe they are scared after getting hit pretty hard the last time and decided not to come here, and if that’s not it, then maybe the spot’s accessibility isn’t so good.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“What do you mean by accessibility?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Let’s say that you want to go to another place, but one of the Gates is next to the Han River while the other one is at the top of Mount Everest. Which one do you think you’re going to choose?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Hul?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon hadn’t really thought about that.
“But hang on, shouldn’t they be uniformly spread out, like how it is in a manga or something?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“That’s because a mangaka has never been to a demon world before.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“…Wow, that’s actually pretty convincing.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon gained a renewed appreciation on how important the act of location scouting was. Could it be that the age of mangakas needing to visit the demon world if they wanted to draw a manga had dawned upon humanity now?
“Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Yes?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“How long will this peace last?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“…How can you even mouth that word when other countries are sweating blood and sh*t just to stay alive?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
When Yi Ji-Hyuk stared back with this vague hint of contempt in his eyes, Choi Jeong-Hoon hurriedly waved his hands in denial.
“W-wait! I meant our country’s peace! Our country’s!” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“We’re supposed to be one family in the globalised world, yet this guy…” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Are you going to keep painting me as the bad guy?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon grinned wryly. The honest truth was, the situation in other countries weren’t as bad as what others were making them out to be.
The initial prediction was that monsters would flood out and sweep away everything. But in stark contrast to that earlier projection, the monsters and the demon kings were not making any notable moves at the moment.
“I wonder about it myself. Like what I told you the last time, the creatures of the demon world have this weird concept of time compared to us humans, so… From their perspective, it’s probably like not even one hour has passed since the start of the invasion.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Meaning, their perception of time is much longer compared to ours.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Well, yeah… If the other side decides to mop around and waste time, then the event of us dying of old age before they start advancing could happen.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Choi Jeong-Hoon’s expression hardened a little just then.
‘Should I tell the others to stop attacking?’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
If what Yi Ji-Hyuk said was true, then attacking the demon kings and their monster armies needlessly and agitating them could very well be hastening the destruction of mankind, instead.
“Well, that’s true only if we’re dealing with the demons, of course.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Excuse me?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“You know. Alpha.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Choi Jeong-Hoon’s expression crumpled instantly at that name.
“This whole thing was his baby so I’m guessing he’s not going to sit around and do nothing when everything seems to have hit a bit of a lull.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“…I think you’re right.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
The ‘Alpha’ Choi Jeong-Hoon saw that day was the perfect example of an intelligent psychopath. Now normally, someone that mad would more often than not act on impulse rather than reasoning. But Alpha, despite being an undeniable nutcase, only made moves after making foolproof calculations.
Meaning, he was the hardest type to fight against in the entire world.
It was hard to imagine that someone capable of putting in motion a scheme to nearly kill the one and only Yi Ji-Hyuk, wouldn’t have any plans in place after the doorways to the demon world had opened up.
“By the way, just what happened to that guy that he turned into a wackjob like that?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“That’s something you should ask Christopher McLaren, not me. From what I heard in passing, Alpha seems to be one of the test subjects in the ability user experiments done by the Americans.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Oh, you mean one of those illegal human experiments?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“…Most likely.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Yi Ji-Hyuk tutted loudly.
“I’m telling you, those guys always pretend to be the most righteous out of everyone only to do all sorts of dirty stuff under the table.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Choi Jeong-Hoon grinned wryly again. Rather than anti-America, he leaned closer to being pro-America, but even then, he couldn’t really refute what Yi Ji-Hyuk had said. It was the truth, after all.
“In any case. It means we need to deal with Alpha first and foremost.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Well, yeah. If it’s possible, that is. That guy’s whereabouts always have been a mystery until now, right? So, will anyone be able to find him when it’s so chaotic out there?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
What Yi Ji-Hyuk said just now made some sense. However, Choi Jeong-Hoon held a different view on the matter.
“The only reason why Alpha managed to hide until now was because his existence has been kept under the wraps. The Americans wanted to take him out, no doubt about that, but on the other hand, they also didn’t want anyone else to know about him, as well. His existence is a source of great shame to them, after all.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“…And that’s why we’ve ended up in this state.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Exactly.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Trying so hard to hide your embarrassing secret would inevitably make it blow up in your face even harder than before. It was truly unfortunate, but this was one such case where the Americans tried to hide Alpha’s existence only for the whole world to suffer the consequences.
“…Well, I’m sure the Americans will take care of it somehow.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk shrugged his shoulders, then walked back inside the office building.
Choi Jeong-Hoon quietly stared at his departing back, and sighed softly under his breath.
< 401. That’s why we’ve ended up in this state -1 > Fin.