He had decided to join them, but as it turned out, there was nothing for Yi Ji-Hyuk to do. The agreement was for him to start showing up for work only after Seo Ah-Young’s new agency had opened its doors first.
So, it was only correct and proper that Yi Ji-Hyuk got to enjoy a few more days of unbridled easy going life, but then….
“Let’s pack this one, too.” (mom)
“Moooommm….!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk was busy dissuading his mom at the moment.
Now that the family had decided to move to the new district, mom was investing almost all of her time and energy in preparation of that.
And it was only fitting that Yi Ji-Hyuk was roped in as her sole helper, since Ye-Won was busy attending school while dad was out and about, trying to resolve his own issues AKA the matters of his employment.
The problem Yi Ji-Hyuk was facing right now, though… It was the fact that mom seemed to lack a bit of common sense.
“Mom! We already called for the pro packing service!! What are you doing?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Indeed, why was she trying to pack stuff, when she had already hired the professionals to do exactly that?
This was the same as going to a fancy restaurant, order a nice meal, and barge into the kitchen to cook it for yourself!
So, how could he not despair at this apparent lack of logic?
“How can I trust those people?!” (mom)
Then, mother, why did you even hire them in the first place??
Why are you spending all that money and yet, still slaving away like this?
Why didn’t you just simply hire a truck to move stuff from the very beginning? (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
Yi Ji-Hyuk continued to lodge his complaints, but the violent suppression from the despot remained insurmountable.
“You’re still complaining?! What, you don’t want to take your computer with you?” (mom)
“I’ve been packing things for nearly a hundred years, mother. What should I pack next?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“A hundred years, my foot.” (mom)
Seeing mom lightly brush aside her son, Yi Ji-Hyuk felt his fighting spirit ignite.
Was it only a hundred years? No?
What was ‘packing’, anyways? It was nothing more than bundling some random stuff together to make them easy to move around!
Yi Ji-Hyuk had spent decades in the Berafe’s military system, which was long enough for his soul to actually ascend to higher realms. And they repeatedly camped at night and went on a march during the day, so he certainly knew what he was talking about when it came to packing things!
These household goods were nothing!!
‘But… it’s so annoyingly bothersome.’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Now that he thought about it for a bit longer, he realised that he rarely, if ever, packed things by himself. He let his subordinates do all the hard work, instead. With a lazy flick of a finger, no less….
Ahh… to think, I was a freeloader even back then….
“…Mom, do we need to pack this, too?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“You, just pack everything. That’s your job. I’ll do the thinking and planning. Okay now?” (mom)
“….Roger.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
But, as Yi Ji-Hyuk was being systematically flogged to death by the intense and demanding labour, a saviour suddenly appeared out of the blue!
“Who is that? Just who could it be!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“At this time of the day, just who….?” (mom)
Since it was still in the middle of the day, the visitor(s) couldn’t have been from the KSF – they only came around in the middle of the night, after all.
“Go check on the intercom.” (mom)
“Roger.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk’s steps were light and airy as he went to pick up the intercom.
“Hello, who is it?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
– “Is this residence of one Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk?”
“Nope. Wrong house.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
After hearing the baritone voice of a man over the line, Yi Ji-Hyuk promptly dropped the intercom.
“A door-to-door salesman at this time of the day? Huh.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk angrily snatched up the intercom.
“Hey, man! I said, he doesn’t stay here!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
– “No, wait! Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk! Sir! It’s me, Jeong In-Soo!”
Yi Ji-Hyuk looked at the intercom’s monitor and tilted his head.
“The military ahjussi?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
– “Yes, that’s correct!”
“….Whatever you’re selling, I’m not buying.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
– “N, no, that’s not why I’m here. I just came to show you my gratitude.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Your gratitude? What for?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
– “For what you’ve done for us the last time…. May I be allowed to enter?” (Jeong In-Soo)
Yi Ji-Hyuk hung up the intercom and unlocked the front door.
He found Jeong In-Soo standing there, kitted out in civilian attire while carrying a gift in his hands.
“Wow, ahjussi! You look like a totally different person in a normal suit!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I believe the military uniform suits me the best, however.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“But, you look way younger this way, though?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Oh, uh, thank you.” (Jeong In-Soo)
Jeong In-Soo smiled and entered the apartment.
“Who is it, son?” (mom)
Park Seon-Duk gazed at Jeong In-Soo with suspicious, alert eyes. Pretty much everyone that came to visit her son had been wanting something from him, so she couldn’t help but be cautious here.
“He’s an ahjussi from the military.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“…From the military?” (mom)
Park Seon-Duk’s voice became an octave colder.
“This isn’t much, but please…” (Jeong In-Soo)
Jeong In-Soo presented the gift he brought along to her.
“And this is?” (mom)
“This is hanu, ma’am. I wasn’t sure what to bring, but this seemed to be the most appropriate…” (Jeong In-Soo) (TL: “Hanu” literally means Korean cattle; beef from Korean-raised cows, in other words. More expensive than imported beef.)
“Oh, my! You didn’t have to, you know? Oh, you must be thirsty! Please, have a seat. Ji-Hyuk-ah? Please go and fetch refreshments for the guest.” (mom)
“Mom, you’re so easy to see through, you know?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Ohohoho. I wonder what this boy’s talking about now?” (mom)
Mom lightly patted her son on his back, and the faint killing intent could be felt every time her palm came in contact.
‘Ahh. Mom even learned how to do a Chon-gyeong, huh.’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk) (TL: “Chon-gyeong” is Bruce Lee’s famed one-inch punch in Korean)
Yi Ji-Hyuk sensed bottomless pit of power from her seemingly light taps on his back, and wordlessly went to the fridge to bring something to drink.
“Oh, it’s quite alright, ma’am. There was no need….” (Jeong In-Soo)
“But, you’re a guest visiting my home.” (mom)
After handing over the drink, Yi Ji-Hyuk settled down on the opposite side of Jeong In-Soo.
“What brings you here today? I don’t have to go to the army, you know?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I see, so you’re not being drafted. But, I didn’t come here to discuss that. I only came today to express my gratitude from the last time.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Last time?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“When the Gate opened up in front of this apartment.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Oh, back then. But, still…” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Did I do something worthy of such gratitude?
Yi Ji-Hyuk tilted his head in slight confusion.
“Thanks to you defending us, more of my men were able to survive that day’s events.” (Jeong In-Soo)
Jeong In-Soo stood up from his seat and bowed his waist 90 degrees.
“Once more, thank you very much.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Uhm, you know, there is no need for you to go that far…” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“There is no way I could ever repay what you’ve done for us. I was not planning on just repaying you with this simple gesture, and call it a day. Not at all. Although the road ahead will remain tumultuous, I will continue to search for the right opportunity to repay you for the kindness you have shown us in full.” (Jeong In-Soo)
Yi Ji-Hyuk’s expression was rather awkward as he shook his head.
‘And this is how a human being is supposed to act!’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Look at how he was expressing his gratitude so sincerely like this, for something Yi Ji-Hyuk did out on a whim. It could only mean one thing: this man here was the model example of how a man should behave!
Compared to this man, the folks over yonder at the KSF were more like hairy beasts that lacked morals. Seriously now, just how much did he do for them already, yet they still were thinking of abusing him even more?
‘Should I change my mind and join the army instead?’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Even with the promise of the financial support, it seemed infinitely better to work for this Jeong In-Soo, rather than for the KSF.
Well, this man seemed far more upstanding and trustworthy, for one.
“The truth is….” (Jeong In-Soo)
Jeong In-Soo carried on with a serious expression.
“I was really surprised.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Mm? About what?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“You see, under such circumstances, you’d never find an ability user stepping out to help the members of the Defcom, meaning, non-powered regular people. They all choose to protect their ranks, instead. Usually.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“…They possess enough powers already, that was why. They can take care of themselves.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Well, it’s true that the odds of your survival increases with the greater number of strong people near you. That is why, when an incident like the last time occurs, the Defcom suffers catastrophic loss of people. I can’t say the same for the ability users, however. But thanks to you, we have avoided a big loss of life. Even some of my boys are saying that they view the KSF in a new light now.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“I’m not a full time employee with them, though. Just a contractor.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Ahh, I thought as much. Indeed, if you worked for those people, you wouldn’t have helped us out in the first place.” (Jeong In-Soo)
Yi Ji-Hyuk tilted his head again.
What the, isn’t his anger much more deep seated than it appears?
At a first glance, such a hostile relationship seemed strange, but when one took a second longer to think about it, then it would be apparent that such emotions weren’t actually strange at all.
In Berafe, thousands of years had to pass before the boundaries between those who possessed powers and those that didn’t, as well as the set of rules, were finally established and were understood by everyone living there. However, it had been only five years since ability users began appearing on Earth.
If you considered that, it wouldn’t have been strange to see a bloody war breaking out between the two sides. Hell, from where he stood, it was far more strange to see the two unite to fight the monsters together.
“In other words, you don’t have a relationship with the KSF, Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“That’s the case. But I agreed to join them soon.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Ah, so that’s what happened.” (Jeong In-Soo)
Jeong In-Soo licked his lips in regret over the missed chance.
Indeed, it was a regretful thing, but now that Yi Ji-Hyuk had been classified as an ability user, Jeong In-Soo lost the right to request the youth’s draft into the Defcom. Even if Yi Ji-Hyuk did join the Defcom, his management wouldn’t be left to Jeong In-Soo, anyways.
The higher-ups would probably end up forming a brand-new special task force to handle him, instead…
“What a regretful thing that is. It would have been quite wonderful if we could continue working together.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“We aren’t going to see each other often?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Since you’ll be joining the KSF, we will run into each other several times in the future, but maintaining a relationship like this one will be quite difficult. Well, the feelings we hold towards the other side aren’t what you’d call friendly, you see.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“I don’t really care about any of that, though.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Still, the organisations being what they are….” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Organisations are created by people coming together. Meaning, the said organisations should be mindful of the people, instead of other way around. Am I wrong?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Jeong In-Soo formed a smile and nodded his head.
Those were the words that sounded just about right coming from an inexperienced youth, yet, for some reason, it resonated with the veteran soldier.
What a mysterious youth he was.
“Was that the only reason why you stopped by?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Actually, I just showed up hoping for a chance. I thought about suggesting us working together if you haven’t joined anyone, but it seems that I was a bit late.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Hmm? I thought ability users were exempt from joining the military, though?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“You see, there has been cases of serving soldiers manifesting their abilities in the past. Also, even our side has given some considerate efforts into raising ability users as well. Our overall number of users are lower than that of the KSF, but currently, we’re almost ready to deploy them to the field soon.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Oh, so some people manifested their powers after entering the army?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
That sounded rather plausible, actually.
“Yes, sir. They have been transferred to a special unit to receive dedicated training. It has been over two years since the project has begun.” (Jeong In-Soo)
Upon hearing that, Yi Ji-Hyuk’s body shuddered out of the blue.
“T, two years?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Excuse me?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“W, when will those guys be discharged?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Jeong In-Soo smiled awkwardly.
“Well, the country is in an emergency situation, so….” (Jeong In-Soo)
Yi Ji-Hyuk slowly facepalmed.
It was already bad enough to get forcibly drafted into the army, yet, simply by manifesting one’s powers at the wrong time, one would end up unable to leave, and forever serve as a soldier….
Just where in the world would you encounter such a makjang storyline?!
Where was the human rights for those people?!
“Of course, they are now commissioned officers.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Isn’t there a way to… not get commissioned at all, in the first place?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Truth be told, I haven’t heard of a case like that.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“…Devils.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Even if you are discharged, you’ll still be forced to work for the KSF. In that case, it’d better to remain as a soldier, as you’ll receive a proper training off the approved guideline. If you are considering your own survival, it’s a better choice, I believe.” (Jeong In-Soo)
Well, he wasn’t wrong there….
“In any case, is that everything you’d like to say?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Mm….” (Jeong In-Soo)
Jeong In-Soo began surveying the surroundings as if he was bothered by something.
“There’s no one eavesdropping here.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“You shouldn’t believe everything those people tell you.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Really, there’s no one here.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Jeong In-Soo took a bit of time considering Yi Ji-Hyuk’s nonchalant attitude, as well as what he was capable of, and finally nodded his head.
“Alright, I understand. Then, I shall trust you. What I wanted to tell you, was… when you join the ranks of the KSF…” (Jeong In-Soo)
Jeong In-Soo’s voice became very low.
“You need to be mindful of a man named Park Seok-Hoon.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Park Seok-Hoon? Who’s that now?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“…That’s all I can tell you. I should get going before I overstay my welcome.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Oh, uh, sure.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk walked to the door with Jeong In-Soo.
“Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk, allow me to say thank you once more.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Come on, ahjussi. It’s fine, I say.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk’s mind was in a weird state as he looked at Jeong In-Soo.
He found it quite amazing that a soldier who had encountered many life or death fights could express his gratitude to this extent.
Yi Ji-Hyuk had been living on the battlefield for far too long now, which helped him in appreciating Jeong In-Soo’s personality greatly. But on the other hand, he also found it a bit regrettable, too.
This career military man, without a doubt, must’ve been living in a whole different hell than others around him. In a warzone, people like him, with such personalities, they would try to endure and then endure some more, only to fail and lose themselves in the end.
The personalities of such a person, who cherished every single subordinate serving under him, wouldn’t be able to overcome the grief stemming from all the losses.
“Mm. Ahjussi? An advice. You shouldn’t worry too much about it.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Excuse me?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“They were not your fault. Remember that.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Jeong In-Soo wordlessly hung his head.
Yi Ji-Hyuk could see his faintly trembling shoulders.
“….Thank you.” (Jeong In-Soo)
Jeong In-Soo didn’t say anything else, before performing a military salute. Then, he slowly walked away.
“Who was that man, son?” (mom)
Park Seon-Duk asked her son shortly afterwards.
“He’s a Colonel from the Defcom.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Isn’t he a really high ranking official, then?” (mom)
“Yep, he indeed is.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
….And a man who had to endure just as much, too.
‘Now that I think about it…’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
There was something not quite right about the state of the current world.
Monsters and ability users were appearing left, right, and centre, yet the whole world was functioning as it always had been.
“Maybe, it has already begun…” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“What has?” (mom)
“Nah. It’s nothing, mom.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
It seemed that only Yi Ji-Hyuk could sense the massive chasm cutting across the entire world at the moment. And well, that chasm would slowly but surely encroach ever closer, until it swallowed whole the entire world.
“Mom, I’m hungry. Gimme something to eat.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“What kind of a person gets hungry every three hours?!” (mom)
“There’s nothing I can do, though?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Fine, fine. Wait for a bit. I’ll prepare some food for you.” (mom)
“Ng, thanks mom.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
He had a feeling that these normal and unremarkable days wouldn’t last forever.
So, Yi Ji-Hyuk resolved himself to enjoy to the fullest the remaining period of leisure.
Soon enough, the days of hard slog would arrive anyways.
< 55. If it’s a fight, then there’s only one way! -5 > Fin.