Choi Jeong-Hoon shot up from his seat and glared murderously at Christopher McLaren.
“Why are you suggesting complete nonsense?!” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Although he didn’t lose all semblance of decorum with how he spoke, Choi Jeong-Hoon’s eyes remained viciously hostile, as if he’d rip the American to shreds at any given moment.
However, Christopher McLaren didn’t lose his relaxed demeanour.
– “You should calm down, Mister Choi.” (Christopher McLaren)
“Calm down?!” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
It wasn’t as if he had nothing clever to say. He was just speechless from utter disbelief, that’s all.
“What will you do after getting your hands on Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
– “You aren’t asking me that because you don’t know, now are you?” (Christopher McLaren)
“No, I don’t, so why don’t you enlighten me?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Christopher McLaren chuckled hollowly at Choi Jeong-Hoon’s uncooperative attitude. The American cut the tip of the cigar and lit it up.
– “Don’t be like this, Mister Choi. You know this too, don’t you. Humanity needs to do whatever it can, right now. Unless we bitterly struggle right until the end, we’ll all get wiped out.” (Christopher McLaren)
“Are you suggesting that we should be celebrating the feat of surviving at the cost of our morality?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
– “Morality? You’re still clinging onto a hopeless ideal like that even now? Why don’t you ask the rest of humanity if they are willing to sacrifice one person to ensure the survival of the rest? I’m pretty sure that 99% would agree.” (Christopher McLaren)
Choi Jeong-Hoon was about to rebuke, but Christopher McLaren cut him off first.
– “Besides all that, you don’t have the qualifications or the authority to even speak against me. Being able to talk to Yi Ji-Hyuk, that’s all your worth amounts to. And now that he’s lost his powers, you shouldn’t even be a part of this conversation. I only permitted you to be here out of old times’ sake, so shut up and sit your a*s down.” (Christopher McLaren)
“You…” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Take a seat.” (Song Jeong-Su)
Just before Choi Jeong-Hoon could explode in anger, a quiet but weighty voice entered his ears.
“But, sir!” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“I said, take a seat. Now.” (Song Jeong-Su)
Choi Jeong-Hoon’s face reddened up. His lips bobbed furiously as if a curse word would jump out at any second, but eventually he clamped his jaw shut. He then quietly settled down on the chair.
– “Now there’s a good boy. This should be better than getting chased out of here and be in the dark about what’s going on.” (Christopher McLaren)
Christopher McLaren openly retorted sarcastically, but Choi Jeong-Hoon didn’t say anything.
– “Okay, then. What will you do? Mister Prime Minister? Mister President?” (Christopher McLaren)
Song Jeong-Su was the first to reply to the American’s question.
“I wish to confirm a few things first.” (Song Jeong-Su)
– “If you’re going to cooperate with us, then we certainly can give you some time. Nothing is more important to humanity than this issue, after all.” (Christopher McLaren)
Song Jeong-Su calmly received the worry-filled eyes of the surroundings and slowly opened his mouth.
“What are you going to do after taking over Yi Ji-Hyuk’s custody? Please be direct. I’m not interested in any amateurish attempt at beating around the bushes.” (Song Jeong-Su)
– “It’s simple. Experiments.” (Christopher McLaren)
“Experiments?” (Song Jeong-Su)
Christopher McLaren nodded his head.
– “As you know, we’ve been researching Ether since the beginning. We haven’t yet produced the kind of results that would allow us to oppose demon kings, but surely some time down the line, we will have some that can help our cause. Unfortunately, that won’t be enough for us. So, we now wish to research not only Ether, but lifeforms made out of Mana as well. Especially so when it’s a human who wields Mana and possesses the overwhelming power. The value of research on such a person would truly be incalculable.” (Christopher McLaren)
“Isn’t it faster and better to get Yi Ji-Hyuk’s cooperation in this matter, instead?” (Song Jeong-Su)
Christopher McLaren didn’t reply to that. But that reaction alone spoke volumes.
“What Jeong Min-Seong said was all true.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon gritted his teeth under his breath.
He ended up recalling the North Korean angrily asking him if he knew what kind of torture many ability users were going through in the unmarked, unnamed underground labs throughout the world right now.
– “If you want to criticise me, go on right ahead. But one thing’s for sure, while you raise your hands up in defeat and start criticising me, we are still doing our best to stop this calamity. So, you think you have any right to criticise our side?” (Christopher McLaren)
“Aren’t you so full of wonderful ready-made excuses?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon’s retort caused Christopher McLaren to furrow his brows.
Just before the atmosphere between the two men got any worse, though, Song Jeong-Su interjected first.
“There’s this one thing I don’t quite understand. Does your country need cooperation from our side in the first place? If you were to send people here to kidnap Yi Ji-Hyuk, then I don’t think we’d have enough wherewithal to stop you.” (Song Jeong-Su)
– “What a sly old fox you are.” (Christopher McLaren)
Christopher McLaren had pretty much forgotten about decorum at this point.
– “If the NDF stepped up to protect Yi Ji-Hyuk, then we would need to deploy quite a lot of our combat forces in the operation. However, there are twin issues of distance as well as the demon king’s army in the eastern seaboard, so you probably know better than anyone that it’d be hard for us to mobilise enough personnel.” (Christopher McLaren)
“Mm…” (Song Jeong-Su)
Song Jeong-Su nodded his head as if he finally understood the full picture.
“I see. So that’s how it is.” (Song Jeong-Su)
Unlike him, though, Choi Jeong-Hoon was still letting his dissatisfaction be known.
“What a dogsh*t rubbish that is. You really think Miss Erukana will sit idly by and do nothing?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
– “Ah yes, her. We do have a score with that demon king b*tch, don’t we. And you’ve been looking down on us for a while now, but… Mister Choi, you think we’re doing this without making an adequate plan beforehand?” (Christopher McLaren)
“I had no idea insects had brains, though.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Christopher McLaren lit up a new cigar and stared at Choi Jeong-Hoon with withdrawn eyes.
– “Now, look here, Mister Choi. I get that you’re emotional. I also get that your bond with Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk goes well beyond normal friendship. And I certainly do get your emotional response, too.” (Christopher McLaren)
– “However, there’s an element of going overboard with your reactions. You’re simply throwing a tantrum right now. When you look at this objectively, I’m sure you can tell who between us two are doing their best for the sake of humanity.” (Christopher McLaren)
Choi Jeong-Hoon didn’t say anything.
No, he couldn’t even if he wanted to.
If one wanted to discuss who was more constructive between him and Christopher McLaren, then the result would be far too obvious, that’s why.
– “Morality? That sure is nice. Yes, a very nice ideal. However, that’s not an absolute necessity for humans. We owe Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk a great deal of debt. I know full well that stabbing someone who helped us so much in the back is an action of a truly despicable b*stard. However, I don’t care. I don’t care if history looks back at me and label me a son of a b*tch. I’m going to save humanity even if they remember me as a human scumbag.” (Christopher McLaren)
His words were in line with what Choi Jeong-Hoon had said earlier to Erukana.
For a moment there, Choi Jeong-Hoon thought about how selfish and cruel, horrible existences humanity could be. Other than the small differences of how he went about it, he too had requested Yi Ji-Hyuk to die for the sake of mankind, after all.
‘What’s different from that and this?’ (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
The differences were the harshness of the language used and severity of the methods employed. If Yi Ji-Hyuk continued to fight then only a complete annihilation, even death, waited for him at the end, yet Choi Jeong-Hoon asked him to keep fighting.
In the form of an earnest request, even.
Christopher McLaren was simply declaring his intentions in a far more direct manner. The premise at the end was still the same, though. Didn’t Choi Jeong-Hoon also tell Erukana that no individual was more important than the whole species?
Song Jeong-Su sensed that Choi Jeong-Hoon was in a confused state and took over the conversation.
“I get what you’re saying. However, we need time to contemplate our position. You know it’s not that quick or simple to make decisions regarding a government’s stance on anything. So I ask you for your understanding.” (Song Jeong-Su)
– “Mm, of course I do understand. However, I urge you to decide as soon as possible. Not just us, but quite a few other countries out there are dying to get their hands on Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk even as we speak. We’re already doing our best to stop China and Russia from making their moves, you see.” (Christopher McLaren)
Choi Jeong-Hoon ended up chuckling under his breath.
What a messed up situation this was.
“I understand what you’re saying.” (Song Jeong-Su)
– “I’ll wait for your correct decision. A decision meant for the whole of humanity, not just us few.” (Christopher McLaren)
Song Jeong-Su’s eyes took in the sight of the screen going dark, then turning off completely.
“…Dammit.” (Song Jeong-Su)
He leaned against the seat back, looking hollow. Yun Yeong-Min looked at him and asked.
“What should we do in this situation?” (Yun Yeong-Min)
“Of course we can’t!” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon was the first to reply.
“Just how much did Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk do for us until now? We shouldn’t even entertain such things in the first place.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“However, what he said is also correct, isn’t it? At this rate, only destruction awaits us. We need a new breakthrough.” (Yun Yeong-Min)
“There is no guarantee that we’ll find any breakthroughs because we handed Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk over, sir.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try every available method at hand, does it?” (Yun Yeong-Min)
The glare in Choi Jeong-Hoon’s eyes grew harsher.
“Sir, does that every available method also include serving up Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk like a guinea pig and begging the Americans to protect us? Is that something a president of a nation should even be saying?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Watch what you say, young man!” (Yun Yeong-Min)
Before Yun Yeong-Min could explode in anger, Song Jeong-Su cut in first.
“That isn’t the problem.” (Song Jeong-Su)
“The biggest problem is this. Even if we decide to protect Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk, will we be able to? Considering Christopher McLaren’s attitude or that of other governments, it seems quite unlikely that they’ll give up just because we said no.” (Song Jeong-Su)
Choi Jeong-Hoon nodded his head. He too thought the same.
“Since no one knows when the spot in Pyongyang will go live again, surely they would want to secure Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk when things are still relatively calm. If we say no, then the armed incursion would certainly be their next move. Can we even defend against that?” (Song Jeong-Su)
“We will, sir.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Indeed, the NDF is powerful. But when comparing the South Korean armed forces against the Americans, the end result will be obvious. I hope you’re not thinking that the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier in the East Sea isn’t there for our protection.” (Song Jeong-Su)
“…We may lose out to them in the strengths of the armed forces, but this isn’t a war, sir. It’s an operation to procure a target. Aeroplanes can’t kidnap someone on the ground, for instance. Which means they will have to make landfall with either ability users or special forces personnel, but in that case, things would become simpler for us.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“That does sound logical.” (Song Jeong-Su)
If the decision was to protect, then the South Koreans would have some advantages. That point had been understood, but Song Jeong-Su didn’t believe that would be the end of the story.
“But what will protecting Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk get us?” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Sir?!” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon raised his voice up in anger, but Song Jeong-Su simply shook his head.
“We are facing a problem that personal friendship or human rights can solve. It’s also not about benefits for the nation, either. If we don’t find a breakthrough no matter what it takes, then humanity will be finished.” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Are you saying that you will stay loyal even as we’re all annihilated? What Christopher McLaren said, the thing about doing whatever we can, isn’t wrong.” (Song Jeong-Su)
Choi Jeong-Hoon got up from his seat.
“What are you doing?” (Song Jeong-Su)
“I’m leaving, sir, because this is bullsh*t and it’s wrong.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Look here, Choi Jeong-Hoon.” (Song Jeong-Su)
Choi Jeong-Hoon spat on the ground once and turned around to leave.
“Please do your worst to find out what benefits we will enjoy. I shall stay loyal and face my annihilation.” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
“Are you going to keep acting like a d*mn child? This is not a child’s play! This is reality with six billion lives at stake!” (Song Jeong-Su)
“In that case, please do your best to think about that reality. The NDF… No, I will never make that kind of a choice. Why don’t you step over my dead body to take him away, instead?” (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
The door to the conference room slammed shut. Song Jeong-Su groaned deeply under his breath.
“I thought he was a smart fella, so I don’t know why he’s being so stubbornly idiotic.” (Song Jeong-Su)
“Well, he’s still at the age where the fire in his heart burns hotter than the one in his head. Surely even he knows that there’s no other choice.” (Yun Yeong-Min)
“Hotter in his heart than his head, is it…” (Song Jeong-Su)
Song Jeong-Su quietly closed his eyes.
He thought that the fire in his chest must’ve gone out already, seeing how he was calculating gains and losses over this matter right now.
“Bloody hell.” (Song Jeong-Su)
Song Jeong-Su pulled out his cigarette and lit up, his expression remaining bitter. And for some reason, the unhealthy smoke entering in his lungs tasted incomparably bitter than ever before.
< 414. We must ask him to keep fighting -4 > Fin.