Chapter 53: If it’s a fight, then there’s only one way! (3)

“And just what is he doing…?” (mom)

Park Seon-Duk looked at her son with quizzical eyes. Now normally, he’d be busy pounding on the keyboard as if he was kneading bread dough, while playing that game of his. But, he was actually studying the contents of a website with a serious face.

She checked to see if he was reading a webnovel, but that wasn’t the case, either. After all, her son already had this fixed posture when reading those novels – his torso leaning back, his legs perched on top of the desk, and snacks busy disappearing down his gullet…

“Ji-Hyuk-ah, it’s already four in the morning. Why don’t you catch some sleep first?” (mom)

“Okay, mom. After I finish checking this one thing first.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“What are you looking at right now?” (mom)

Yi Ji-Hyuk smirked slightly.

“Just, you know, this and that.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Seeing her son acting like this, Park Seon-Duk was overcome with anxiety. She certainly didn’t feel assured, seeing that somewhat insidious expression of his.

“Didn’t you say you’d meet up with those people tomorrow?” (mom)

“Yep.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“You sure you can handle yourself well?” (mom)

“Mom, I’m dealing with those guys, so there’s no need to fret, really. They are just a couple of dumba*ses, after all.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“But, still….” (mom)

After a brief hesitation, mom finally spat out what was on her mind.

“I’m still unconvinced whether this is the right thing or not, son.” (mom)

“What thing?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Do you really need to work in a dangerous place like that? I can’t stop worrying about you getting hurt out there….” (mom)

Yi Ji-Hyuk’s lips twitched slightly while he looked at mom’s anxious expression.

How should he explain this…

“Mm…. Mom?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Yes, son?” (mom)

“You don’t have to worry. Even if I start working for them, there won’t be any… losses for us, you see.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Well, the only ones suffering losses would be them, actually. Because, he was planning to drag as many Gates their way…

If he attempted to solo all those Gates by himself, he’d not have enough time to rest, let alone get a good night’s sleep. However, by surrounding himself with a number of capable ability users, the burden on Yi Ji-Hyuk would be decreased quite significantly.

Of course, those folks at the KSF wouldn’t know what hit them, in the meantime.

‘I’m sure they would eventually figure out something’s wrong, when so many Gates start appearing near them as soon as I join their little group…’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

If they already had thought of this, yet still wanted to get Yi Ji-Hyuk by their side, then that could only mean there was a bigger picture they were aiming for, but… for now, that didn’t matter to him.

‘You see, I may have fooled around every now and then, but hell, I’ve never led a foolish life until now.’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“But, why wouldn’t there be losses for us?” (mom)

“Mom, really. I’m telling you, there won’t be. Please rest easy.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Hmm…” (mom)

Mom sighed out as if she was still unconvinced.

“It’s alright, mom. You had to go through so much already. So, let me treat you right from now on. That’s my duty as a son, right?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“….But, your mom didn’t go through all that much.” (mom)

“Ohh…. You’re probably right.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

He was mistaken, somewhat. Now that he quickly thought about it, mom and the family had been living quite nicely until…. Until he came back, and everything seemed to go down the drain afterwards.

Dad even got fired from work, and almost got killed. Even though he tried to sound reassured, saying that it’s all good now his son had brought home a lot of dough, he must’ve accumulated a lot of stress in the last couple of weeks.

Feeling the slight pangs of guilt, Yi Ji-Hyuk got up from the seat and began massaging mom’s shoulders.

“Mom~.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“You are being creepy, so let go.” (mom)

“…Okay.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

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She didn’t even need three seconds to completely deflate Yi Ji-Hyuk. He opened his mouth while looking like a sullen kid.

“There’s nothing to worry about, mom. For real.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Well, truth be told, I’m still confused about this whole thing. I mean, we need to move house out of the blue, and also, I have to sell the restaurant, too. I can’t wrap my head around it all.” (mom)

“I’m going to make lots of money from now on, so you don’t have to work in a restaurant, you know.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Doesn’t mean a person with a healthy body should do nothing and stay at home, son.” (mom)

“But, mom. You do chores around the house, so that should be enough. Right?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“That’s nothing much, my boy…” (mom)

Mom shook her head as if that was nothing to sweat over.

‘But, it is something, though.’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

He had already spent several hundreds of years cooking for himself, or for some unfortunate others. That was why Yi Ji-Hyuk knew oh-so well how bothersome and annoying ‘doing the chores’ around the house could be.

“Mom, a person can’t continue living while doing only the things he or she wants to do all the time. We are supposed to adapt and change with the times, you see.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

He was telling from the experience gleaned from the long life he had went through.

“My son, you’ve grown up a little, haven’t you? Saying something like that to your mother and all.” (mom)

Of course, he had grown up a lot, that’s for sure. Since, you know, he was over a thousand years old and stuff…

Actually, he didn’t know exactly how old he was. All he could vaguely remember was that a thousand-plus years did pass while he was stuck on that side.

Good thing, then, that his memories were frozen still. Otherwise, his brain might have melted by now! Or, he could’ve even suffered a psychosis.

Well, there was no way a human’s brain could store a thousand year’s worth of memories, after all.

“Don’t worry, mom. I’ll take care of this. Trust me.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Mm. I trust you, son.” (mom)

“Thanks, mom.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Park Seon-Duk patted Yi Ji-Hyuk’s head.

“By the way, what have you been staring on the computer until now?” (mom)

“What, this?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Yi Ji-Hyuk grinned slyly.

“This… well, basically, this is the method on how not to look like a fool.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Huh?”

Unable to understand the meaning behind his words, Park Seon-Duk’s head tilted slightly.

 

*

 

And in the following morning…

For the first time in, like, forever, Yi Ji-Hyuk opened the door to his wardrobe.

“Huh…..”

Looked like he needed to buy some new duds. Besides the ones bought at the department store not too long ago, there was nothing decent to wear.

“Should I buy something while on my way?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Here, wear these.” (mom)

“Mm?”

Hearing mom’s voice coming from behind, Yi Ji-Hyuk turned around to look. Park Seon-Duk was standing there with clothes in her hands.

“Hul… Mom, what are those!!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“I bought these just in case, since we suddenly began having visitors lately. I figured you wouldn’t want to go shopping with me again, so I went ahead and bought them” (mom)

Mom, you’re the best. Thanks.

However….

How did you find out my sizes? (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)

Yi Ji-Hyuk received the business suit with a face full of questions. As a high schooler, he did buy a suit, but there was no way he’d willingly wear that now.

‘What was I even thinking while walking around wearing that?!’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

He must’ve lost his mind really badly back then.

Yi Ji-Hyuk swapped out his clothes and stepped outside his room.

“A simple change of clothes changes the perception of a person, doesn’t it?” (mom)

“I look good, don’t I?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“You’re my son, but even I….” (mom)

Yi Ji-Hyuk’s expression crumpled unsightly, and he left the apartment while grumbling out.

“I’m going now.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Be careful, son.” (mom)

Left alone at home, a long sigh leaked out of Park Seon-Duk’s mouth.

 

*

 

“Hmm, hmm.”

Yi Ji-Hyuk smoothed out his suit against the reflection of the elevator’s mirror, and smirked slightly. Kitted out in this semi-casual suit, he looked like a new person who was worth a million bucks.

“Well, I was pretty popular back in Berafe, too.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

The only problem with that… Well, I was popular with weird-a*s individuals, wasn’t I. Most of them weren’t even humans, and those who were, they were all insane, too…

Yi Ji-Hyuk shuddered from the unpleasant recollection.

If he were to recall some of the worst memories from his stay in Berafe, those would have been the first one to pop into his head. Just how badly did he suffer because of those insane b*stards?!

Exiting the elevator without thinking too much, he was about to take another step, before he came to a sudden halt. He then looked around the foyer of the building.

“There’s no way, right?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Definitely, no ways…

She… wouldn’t, would she?

Eiii….

No ways. She’s a human, after all…. (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)

“Excuse me….”

Flinching noticeably, Yi Ji-Hyuk quickly turned around.

….And, he spotted a rather familiar blondie acting all shy and the like, half of her body hidden behind a pillar.

“You?! You!! Why are you here?! Why?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

PLEASE STOP IT!!

You ain’t even some dang fairy living in a building’s foyer, you know!! (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s exasperated inner monologue/screaming)

“Please, here….” (Kim Dah-Som)

“Eh?”

Yi Ji-Hyuk dazedly received the gift Kim Dah-Som meekly handed over to him.

‘A scarf?’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“I thought you’d look good in one…” (Kim Dah-Som)

“Uh, sure.”

After making his awkward reply, Yi Ji-Hyuk asked her out of curiosity.

“Why aren’t you at school today?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“The school’s on a break….” (Kim Dah-Som)

“Oh, really? Yeah, sure….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

But, of course. There was that huge chaos a couple of days ago, after all.

“Okay, fine. But what are you doing here so early in the morning?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“I wanted to give you this scarf as soon as possible. Well, then….” (Kim Dah-Som)

Kim Dah-Som bade her farewell by lowering her head, and trotted away.

“Hmm….”

Yi Ji-Hyuk stared at the scarf with bothered eyes, before taking another look at his own suit.

And then…. he shuddered again.

This is so weird.

Why do I get the feeling that she matched the colour so perfectly?!

Seriously, anyone would be able to tell this scarf was meant for this suit!!

How the heck did she foresee that I’d wear this suit today?!

Hell, even I learned of its existence only a few minutes ago! (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)

“…..No, it must be a…. coincidence….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Ha.

Hahaha….

 

*

 

Seo Ah-Young seemed anxious as she took another look at the time.

“It’s only been 30 minutes, ma’am.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

“He’s late by 30 minutes.” (Seo Ah-Young)

“You weren’t seriously thinking that he would actually arrive here on time, were you?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

“Well, that, I wasn’t, but…” (Seo Ah-Young)

Still, wasn’t this matter incredibly important? He should at least try to arrive at the promised time!

Feeling sick with anxiety, Seo Ah-Young began desperately sucking in the Iced Americano with a straw. It was then, Yi Ji-Hyuk entered the coffee shop.

“Hmm?” (Seo Ah-Young)

“Ho-oh?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

Seeing him wear a clean-cut suit like that, when they were so used to seeing him wear those worn-out blue tracksuit and a pair of wonky slippers, Seo Ah-Young and Choi Jung-Hoon found it very… odd.

It was as if they finally had encountered… a normal version of him.

‘We shouldn’t lower our guards.’ (Choi Jung-Hoon)

No matter how nicely dressed he was, the actual article was the same thing as before. The man they were going to deal with from now on was the world’s foremost wackjob, so they couldn’t be caught with their pants down.

“Huh. You guys came early, eh.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Early?

Of course, they were indeed early, compared to Yi Ji-Hyuk.

The thing was, they had arrived at the cafe 30 minutes before the appointed time. So, basically, they had been waiting for one hour straight…

“….And you aren’t that late…” (Seo Ah-Young)

Seo Ah-Young did her best to suppress the rising tide of anger and formed a fake smile. Meanwhile, Choi Jung-Hoon got up from his seat, and pulled a chair out for Yi Ji-Hyuk.

“What would you like to drink?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

“Hmm, what was it again? Fraf? I think it’s a slush, a smoothie, something.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“I’ll order an appropriate drink for you.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

Choi Jung-Hoon raised his head, and an agent of the KSF waiting to take orders quickly approached him and… took the order for the drink.

Hoh? It’s pretty convenient, isn’t it? (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Yi Ji-Hyuk nodded his head in satisfaction, after remembering the usefulness of one’s high social standing once more.

He remembered that, in the past, he’d order his lackeys around with a flick of a hand, which would result in the said lackeys excavating rare permafrost from the other side of the continent for his enjoyment…

Why would he do that? Well, he found freezing stuff with magic was just too annoying, that was why.

As soon as Yi Ji-Hyuk’s drink arrived, Choi Jung-Hoon began the conversation in earnest.

“Should we take your appearance here today, as your willingness to work together with us?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

Choi Jung-Hoon’s intense stare was trying to pressure Yi Ji-Hyuk.

“Mm….”

Yi Ji-Hyuk slowly nodded his head.

“Yep.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“As I thought!” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

Choi Jung-Hoon clenched his fists tightly under the table.

He did it!!

He caught the target!!

He had finally caught this irritatingly alluring big fish that teasingly waved those juicy fins at him all this time!!

Choi Jung-Hoon found it increasingly hard to suppress a victorious smile from breaking out. He knew very well that smiling too brightly right now would prove to be disastrous.

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“You’ve made the right decision. I can guarantee that this decision is the best possible one you could’ve made.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

“Mm. We’ll have to wait and see about that.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“I’ll make sure that’s the case.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

“However….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Suddenly, Yi Ji-Hyuk leaned his head in a strange manner.

“Actually, there’s something I’m worried about.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Regarding?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

“How should I put this delicately… You know, that old saying? Entering a toilet and exiting afterwards makes you a different person?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“………?”

“You know, when a newbie private enters the army, the instructors would broadcast how well they will treat the precious son to the parents… And as soon as they go around the corner, out of earshot from everyone, they start hurling all sorts of abuse? That kind of situation. Get my drift?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“…..Eiii~. We wouldn’t dare to do that.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

“…Well, I don’t think so, especially after I saw how other people addressed a certain someone in this cafe.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Choi Jung-Hoon silently glared at the certain someone in this cafe.

And she hurriedly avoided his sharp, criticising glare.

“Well, that, uhm…. Mm….” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

Unable to come up with a suitable, plausible excuse, Choi Jung-Hoon ended up glaring at Seo Ah-Young once more.

Seo Ah-Young continued to avoid him and instead, ordered another drink.

‘She’s completely useless!’ (Choi Jung-Hoon)

That was why he always told her to curb that fiery temper of hers!!

In any case, he needed to control this situation, fast.

“I give you my word no such situations will occur to you. Actually, I think you’re under the mistaken assumption, as well.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

“I’m sure that’s the case. But, still. I’m a living, breathing person, so I can’t help but be anxious.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Please, believe in me.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

“Believing in you… That’s a nice notion. But, unfortunately, there’s nothing more empty and time wasting than ‘believing’ in someone, you see.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Yi Ji-Hyuk was talking from experience once more.

He had witnessed countless number of people getting killed in the most unexpected ways after they trusted and believed in the others. Hell, just the line formed from every one of those suckers standing in a row would be long enough to circle around a mid-sized city.

“Mm. Okay. So, how will you…?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

Yi Ji-Hyuk smirked slyly.

“I wish we could resolve this with nothing but words and promises, but well, life isn’t kind enough for that. So, it’s better to make sure, don’t you agree?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Making sure, how?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

“As I was saying…. Like this.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Yi Ji-Hyuk pulled out several documents from a bag he was carrying.

“And these are?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

“Taking our sincere words and hearts, and converting them into texts that would exist in perpetuity; something we can share among us. These are the culmination of humanity’s desire to make sure that promises are kept.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Eh?”

Taking a quick look at the documents Yi Ji-Hyuk pushed forward, Choi Jung-Hoon’s eyes began trembling.

“These, could these be…?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

“Yep.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Yi Ji-Hyuk smiled brightly.

“It’s a labour contract.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“……..”

Choi Jung-Hoon’s expression crumpled almost instantly.

 

< 53. If it’s a fight, then there’s only one way! -3 > Fin.

- my thoughts:
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