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Yi Ji-Hyuk lit his cigarette and deeply sucked in the resulting blue smoke, before slowly letting it out. Now that he was at work, a certain sense of sleepiness was trying to swallow him whole.
What a strange feeling this was – when he roused himself up from the embrace of slumber just so he could play the computer game, his mind was crystal clear and razor focused. But the moment he arrived at his new workplace, he felt sleepy right away.
“Did I make the wrong decision, I wonder?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Just thinking about repeating this pattern of life that would continue on for the rest of his life, possibly, he couldn’t help but be horrified by the prospect.
“Hah………” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
He wasn’t feeling so good at the moment, yet this kid was trying to….
“What the eff! What kind of a b*stard are you?! How can you throw people around like that?! I might have been killed, if I wasn’t an ability user, you know!!” (?)
“If you’re going to get killed, then you’re going to get killed. Not that I care.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Ah? Wow!! You’re making me totally speechless! Seriously!! Hey you! Don’t you really know who I am?” (?)
“Nope. Don’t know.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….When people say something like that, you are supposed to get curious and ask who the other person might be!” (?)
“Nope. Don’t know, don’t care. Now, get lost.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“You, you really don’t recognise who I am?” (?)
“Hey, you.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk’s expression crumpled in anger.
“I said, I’m not curious about you. And I am not going to get ‘curious’ about you in the near future, too. Possibly, never. And finally, I’m not interested in getting mixed up in your business, so why don’t you go over theeeeere~ and bother that high-strung ahjumma instead?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Seriously, this annoying kid keeps bothering me when I’m already this unhappy. What’s up with that? (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner grumbling)
Even after he finished clarifying his position, the little kid didn’t go away. Instead, she stood still and glared at Yi Ji-Hyuk.
“You still here?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….You, you really don’t know who I am?” (?)
Uh-whew…. I’m not humouring you anymore. (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Still sucking on his cigarette, Yi Ji-Hyuk promptly walked away from the location.
It’ll be no fuss if I just walk away from it, that’s all.
I’ll be wasting time by talking back to her. Human beings should know how to optimise their precious time, yup. (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
There was a problem, though. The little kid proved to be quite persistent.
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“What the hell? Did I paint myself with honey and gold or something? Why are you following me?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“…I told you, I’m older than you! Use proper honorifics already!” (?)
“Did this tiny-a*s kid lose her dang mind?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Seriously speaking, I’m at least over a thousand years older than you, you dumba*s!
Older than me? My a*s!
Hell, I was feeling really lost nowadays because even my own mom sometimes comes across like a child to me. But really, how did an annoying fly like her get stuck to me? (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
“You really don’t recognise me?” (?)
“I said, I don’t.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“But, but, I appeared on TV lots of times….” (?)
“I don’t watch TV.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I, I shot lots of commercials, too! You saw me on billboards and….” (?)
“I don’t go outside my house. Like, at all.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
The little kid began trembling as she faced the imminent wall of sorrow. She then spun her body around and ran inside the office.
Yi Ji-Hyuk saw her departing back, and let off a long groan.
“Not even one of them are sane around here. Not even one….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Just why are all the women I encounter like that?
It really, really makes me wanna cry… (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
After a while, Yi Ji-Hyuk returned to the office, only to find that chaos had descended. That little kid from before was crying her eyes out by the corner, and beside her, Seo Ah-Young was sweating buckets as she tried to calm the crying girl.
As soon as Seo Ah-Young spotted him, she glared in anger and shouted at him.
“Why did you make this kid cry, you idiot?!” (Seo Ah-Young)
“I’m older than you!” (?)
Even though she was crying, the little kid still found the time to assert her correct age.
Yi Ji-Hyuk wordlessly alternated his gaze between Seo Ah-Young and the crying girl, before losing his interest completely and he settled down in front of his computer.
Time to play some games, then.
Suddenly, Choi Jung-Hoon sneaked in closer and whispered to him.
“You really don’t recognise her?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Who’s she?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“She… She’s really famous, you know? She’s from the girl group, the S Girls…” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“The S Girls? Really? What kind of name is that uncool?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
It was right then – the sound of crying grew twice as loud.
Choi Jung-Hoon hurriedly pulled Yi Ji-Hyuk’s arm.
“Come with me for a sec.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“What now?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk got dragged back out to the corridor. As soon as they arrived there, Choi Jung-Hoon sighed out and opened his mouth.
“Her name is Miss Jeong Hae-Min. You still don’t recognise anything about her? Nothing at all?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“What are you talking about?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“She’s an idol and she’s really famous right now. Her group S Girls, too.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Yi Ji-Hyuk tilted his head slightly.
She was a so-called idol?
Now that he thought about it for a sec, he did remember seeing a bunch of ability users prancing around on TV some time ago. Could she have been one of them?
“Okay, fine. An idol is an idol, I get that. But what’s the matter with her?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Well, the thing is…. even before she unlocked her powers, she was an idol hopeful. She even made her pro debut several times before, but for the last ten years or so, she couldn’t quite break into the mainstream.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“So?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“And then, she gained fame out of the blue after she awakened her powers. So, she’s got this mental trauma about people not recognising her.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“….What BS are you trying to tell me right now?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk’s frown showed how unsatisfied he felt by this explanation.
He had seen enough people, who had the misfortune of losing their limbs in a battle, live fulfilling lives even with their injuries. But now, seeing a crazy little girl suffering the so-called ‘trauma’ over c**p like that and crying her eyes out? Really? What was he supposed to feel for her?
As if he had understood Yi Ji-Hyuk’s mindset, Choi Jung-Hoon formed a bitter smile. It was only par for the course that Yi Ji-Hyuk couldn’t understand such a situation. Well, he was the type who didn’t give a rat’s a*s about anyone else’s troubles, after all.
“That is why, all I’m asking you is for you to pretend to recognise her…” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“C’mon, really?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Please, I beg of you. She is an incredibly important person, even for us…” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
What a pain.
It was really a pain in the neck.
But, leaving that girl in that state was going to be even bigger pain in the long run. In the end, Yi Ji-Hyuk let off a lengthy, pained groan and returned to the office.
Jeong Hae-Min raised her head and glared at him as soon as he entered. Her eyes were gleaming with the lights of expectations.
“Ahh, mm, uh….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
What should he say here?
“I heard that you’re a celebrity?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Yeah.” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“I also heard that you’re pretty famous now?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Yeah.” (Jeong Hae-Min)
….Aaaand that was it. He ran out of things to say.
For some reason, Yi Ji-Hyuk’s back became slightly damper with cold perspiration forming there, as Jeong Hae-Min continued to stare at him. He searched desperately, until he finally found something else to say.
“Y, you are famous because you’re an ability user, so I hear.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Jeong Hae-Min nodded her head. Only then, she stopped her crying.
“So, uh, what’s your power?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Teleportation.” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“…Teleportation?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk ended up spitting the following words out with a dumbfounded face.
“What the hell. Others raise all sorts of spectacle by shooting out flames and icicles and sh*t, but you became a celeb with nothing but measly teleportation? Where’s the fun in that?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Jeong Hae-Min’s facial muscles began twitching ominously once more.
“Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk!!” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
The panicking Choi Jung-Hoon hurriedly grabbed Yi Ji-Hyuk’s arm.
Realising his slip-up, Yi Ji-Hyuk quickly came up with words that were a bit more accommodating than before.
“Ahh!! You’re right! That power is indeed great for going to different concert venues, isn’t it? I mean, you don’t need cars anymore. You just insert a user with teleportation ability in a group and that would be really handy for everyone.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Unsurprisingly, a sharp and sorrowful wail loud enough to shatter glass shook the entire building.
Yi Ji-Hyuk was busy evacuating outside the building soon afterwards.
“What the hell is up with that girl?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Was she trying to hit him with a sonic attack or something?
Ever since he came back home, this had to be the first time he received proper ‘damage’ – besides mom’s venomous back smashing, of course. Seriously now, her vocal chops weren’t something to laugh about. With such a pipe, she just proved that she was an idol, that’s for sure.
No, hang on. Are all idols supposed to have loud voices like that? (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
“Really, man! Not one person is normal in this place!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk shook his head side to side.
Meanwhile, Choi Jung-Hoon urgently ran out of the building too, and after spotting the youth, he began clinging onto him.
“Mister Ji-Hyuuuuuuukkkkk!!! Didn’t I implore you so nicely just now?! Didn’t I?!” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
This was something new; Choi Jung-Hoon wasn’t this sort of character to begin with, so…
“What the? I did my best just now, you know?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“You just had to say you recognised her, that’s all!” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“But, that’s what I did….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Well, in that case, you shouldn’t have ‘recognised’ her like that!!!
How can you ‘twisting a knife in her trauma’ qualify as you recognising her?! (Choi Jung-Hoon’s exasperated inner monologue)
Choi Jung-Hoon spat out multiple groans.
“But, how can you not recognise her at all? She’s one of the most famous celebs out there.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“She is? Really?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Yes, really.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Is this the end of the world or something?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Sure, that girl was cute and small and all that, but Yi Ji-Hyuk didn’t find her all that pretty. And no, it wasn’t because of his high standards, either.
No, actually, it was pretty high, truth be told. But even then, judged objectively, her facial features weren’t good enough for others to call her an absolute beauty. Up close, Kim Dah-Som was certainly a lot more prettier, in terms of overall prettiness.
Maybe the tastes of the public had become a bit more “unique” in the last few years or something…
“Okay, whatever. I did what I could already, so you take care of the aftermaths. It wasn’t my business to begin with, anyway.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“S, sure. I get you, but….” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
These people were going to rely on each other moving forward, never mind working together, so such a bad first impression certainly would do no one any good whatsoever.
Nominally, the centre of decision making for the NDF was Seo Ah-Young and Choi Jung-Hoon. But the true core of the NDF was actually the combination of Yi Ji-Hyuk and Jeong Hae-Min.
Her presence would enable the quick response throughout the entire country, and his presence would enable them to form the appropriate response to whatever situation they ended up facing.
That was why, the chemistry between these two people was an absolute must….
‘…But, what chemistry? What a big fat joke…’ (Choi Jung-Hoon)
It’d be nice if they didn’t end up being mortal enemies for the rest of their lives.
That was why Choi Jung-Hoon personally went and drove Yi Ji-Hyuk to work – to prevent mishaps from happening. But to think, an accident would happen when the youth ostensibly went for a toilet break. Choi Jung-Hoon ended up painfully realising his shortcomings once more…
“If she’s an idol, what is she doing here, instead of going to concerts to sing and stuff?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“She’s a teleporter, that’s why.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Because of that?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Teleporters are really a rare commodity, so to speak. Finding one per nation would incredibly be hard. That’s why she’s being treated as one of the most significant high-value individuals even in our country.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“A teleporter? Really now?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk snorted derisively.
Back in Berafe, with the aid of warp gates, common livestock like cows and even dogs were transported en masse. But now, a measly teleporter was being treated as really important…
Should he chalk that one up as the fault of the weak-sauce magic in this world?
‘No, wait. I don’t know what she’s capable of, actually.’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Making a hasty judgement was, of course, forbidden.
If she could teleport a huge number of combatants in one go, then she’d prove to be a real nightmare in the battlefield. Well, she’d be able to freely choose the location of the said battlefield, after all.
“But, now that I think about it…” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Yes?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Why am I….?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Please, stop. You’re forbidden from speaking it out.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“….I think I understand.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Thank you very much.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Choi Jung-Hoon sighed out over and over again.
Finding a sane person among the many ability users was already an exercise in futility. But even then, those joining the NDF were the folks who had, generally speaking, misplaced a few more screws in their heads than most others.
Just thinking about what the future had in store for him, Choi Jung-Hoon came down with a bad case of ulcer out of the blue.
“Vice Captain!” (Kim Jae-Beom)
It was then, Kim Jae-Beom ran towards them in a hurry.
“What’s the matter?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“We just received a request for assistance.” (Kim Jae-Beom)
“Is that so? Is it urgent?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“You need to come in, sir. The location is, well…” (Kim Jae-Beom)
Choi Jung-Hoon tilted his head slightly.
Since it seemed urgent, he decided to get back inside the office first.
“Let’s go back inside.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“What, me too?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Obviously! Did you honestly think I’d go back in alone? (Choi Jung-Hoon’s inner monologue)
Even under the assault of Choi Jung-Hoon’s poignant glare, Yi Ji-Hyuk remained rather relaxed as he sucked on his cigarette.
“Will you hurry up?!” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Argh, fine. Fine. I got it.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Stop yapping off, and kill that cigarette already!! (Choi Jung-Hoon)
….Soon afterwards, Yi Ji-Hyuk followed after Choi Jung-Hoon to enter the office, all the while grumbling out over and over again. However, he stopped the moment he sensed a weird atmosphere within the office.
“Hmph…” (Jeong Hae-Min)
Jeong Hae-Min seemed to have calmed down now, judged by how she was glaring daggers at Yi Ji-Hyuk. He then tried to express how sorry he felt with his eloquent words.
“You better stop glaring at me, you hear? Or else, I’ll pull out your eyes!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Hul.” (Jeong Hae-Min)
Jeong Hae-Min began to show signs of crying again.
I thought the old cliché of ‘I’ve never met a guy who treated me like you until now’ would work for sure, though?! I heard from somewhere it works wonders with celebrities….
Maybe, I didn’t come across manly and tough enough?
How about I slap the girl silly, then….? (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
“….Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk. What were you thinking about just now?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“I was wondering whether I should become a bit more hands on or not.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I’m not sure what you’re talking about, but whatever it is, please stop it.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Sure thing.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
What a perceptive guy. (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s regretful inner monologue)
Yi Ji-Hyuk licked his lips in regret.
“So, where is the location?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Seo Ah-Young replied with a lengthy sigh.
“It’s Busan.” (Seo Ah-Young)
“Wow, so far.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk scratched the back of his head.
It was at the other end of the country so, of course, it was too dang far. He wanted to leave work on time today, too….
“Well, can’t you tell the folks there to sort it out by themselves?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Although it’s in Busan…” (Seo Ah-Young)
“Yes?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“It’s actually in the district of Gijang.” (Seo Ah-Young)
In Gijang? What’s in Gijang, anyways?
Well, there’s anchovies and… (Choi Jung-Hoon’s inner monologue)
Suddenly, Choi Jung-Hoon’s eyes shot open real wide and he quickly accessed the map of the country.
Because, in Gijang, there was….
“No, it can’t be.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“It actually is.” (Seo Ah-Young)
“….The nuclear power station?!” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Choi Jung-Hoon’s shrill voice broke out from his mouth.
“It’s a real emergency down there. Apparently, a Gate appeared within 100 metres of the power plant.” (Seo Ah-Young)
“Son of a b*tch.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
In other words, there was a real danger of Busan and her surrounding areas becoming the proverbial land of death. Out of all the places, why did it have to be there?!
Choi Jung-Hoon spat out another long sigh. It was then, Yi Ji-Hyuk opened his mouth after observing the conversation for a little while.
“By the way…” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Yes?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“If we go there now, then, will I be able to go home on time?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“The future of the country is at stake here, yet you’re talking about that now?!” (Seo Ah-Young)
“I am at stake here, so who cares about the country?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
As if to show how moved she was by his seemingly unchanging set of values, Seo Ah-Young helplessly nodded her head.
“We’ll only know after we get there.” (Seo Ah-Young)
“Then, I’m not going!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Hae-Min-ah? Make sure you hold on to that guy real tight as we go to Busan.” (Seo Ah-Young)
“Do I have to? With him? And besides, I told you I’m older than you!!” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“Yes. I got it, so grab him.” (Seo Ah-Young)
“I said, I’m not going!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Seeing the three of them argue back and forth, Choi Jung-Hoon wordlessly fished out an aspirin and began chewing it without water. Realising that the future survival of his beloved country depended on people like these, the bitterness spreading within his stomach was so much stronger than the one in his mouth.
“This country is finished.” (Kim Jae-Beom)
Kim Jae-Beom’s lamentation coming from the side didn’t sound like an exaggeration to Choi Jung-Hoon’s ears at all.
“Okay, let’s stop bickering and get going.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Yes, let’s.” (Seo Ah-Young)
“Got it.” (Jeong Hae-Min)
Meanwhile, Yi Ji-Hyuk spoke up in a matter of factly manner.
“Well, in that case, will you gimme enough free time so I can sightsee?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Please stop, you demon!!
Please, please! Act like a normal person at least once in your life!! (Choi Jung-Hoon’s exasperated inner monologue)
Choi Jung-Hoon fished out another aspirin pill and chucked into his mouth.
< 58. It’s time to go home (3) > Fin.