Yi Ji-Hyuk could see several unfamiliar faces among the familiar ones present in the office. Besides the likes of Seo Ah-Young, Choi Jung-Hoon, Doh Gah-Yun and Jeong Hae-Min, there was a blonde man wearing a pair of sunglasses and a mask, as well as an unfamiliar man and woman combo.
The blonde guy with the mask promptly got up from his seat, ran towards Yi Ji-Hyuk with too much enthusiasm than necessary, and then bowed his waist 90 degrees.
“Who are you?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Iss me, Gim Daeh-Hyuun. Sir.”
Below the sunglasses and the mask, Yi Ji-Hyuk could see the still-swollen face.
“It’s still swollen, I see.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“…Yes, sir.” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
“You should’ve been more careful…” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
…Especially around me.
You should’ve been careful around me. (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
“I phaled to recoknisseee y…” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
“Stop mumbling and speak up so I can hear you better.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I was stupid and I failed to recognise you yesterday.” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
“Yup, that indeed.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk nodded his head ins satisfaction.
As expected, after getting thoroughly beaten up, a person would then become….
Eh? Wait, a person wouldn’t normally react like this, though?
Now normally, the person would quake in fear as soon as running into me. Yeah, that’s right. He shouldn’t even be able to look me in the eye, so what’s up with this reaction? (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
Suddenly, Yi Ji-Hyuk recalled the figure of a certain young girl with a blonde head busy dragging away Kim Dah-Hyun yesterday.
‘What the heck had happened to him?’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Just what kind of psychological torment did he receive to become like this?
“You said your name was Kim Dah-Hyun?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Yes, sir!” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
“By any chance, did your little sister….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Seeing Kim Dah-Hyun flinch like that as soon as the words ‘little sister’ was mentioned, there didn’t seem to be a need to ask the poor fella what happened anymore.
Yi Ji-Hyuk lightly patted Kim Dah-Hyun’s shoulder and spoke.
“Stay strong.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….Yes, sir.” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
“If there’s something troubling you, you can talk to me. I’ll take you under my wings as a dongsaeng.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk) (TL: “Dongsaeng” means younger brother. Used regardless of gender, although there are gender-specific modifiers that can be added. Also used by the boss-type thugs to refer to his underlings.)
“Y, yes, sir.” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
Kim Dah-Hyun lowered his head, and then, fell into a thought of his own.
‘Just how old is this guy, anyway?’ (Kim Dah-Hyun)
Yi Ji-Hyuk ended the moving reunion with Kim Dah-Hyun there, and with a disinterested face, stared straight into Choi Jung-Hoon’s eyes as he settled down on a chair.
“So, what’s the urgent emergency that you just had to drag out a guy enjoying his holiday? Even resorting to sending the shorty, too.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Stop calling me a shorty!!” (Jeong Hae-Min)
Jeong Hae-Min cried out after she got triggered, but too bad for her, there were certain types of people that her antics would never work, no matter what.
“You, didn’t you see how your family reacted to me?” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“I did.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“So, how come you still act like this? Haven’t you figured out how famous I am by now?! If you apologise, I might even be gracious enough to sign an autograph for you!” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“Yes, yes, sure thing.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk picked his nose in a nonchalant manner, while completely ignoring Jeong Hae-Min and her anguished protesting shouts. He then looked at Choi Jung-Hoon.
“Although I’d like you to have a pleasant meet and greet with the new members joining our team, but for now, please take a look at the screen first.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
The lights went out in the office, and then, the projector shot an image towards one of the empty walls.
Yi Ji-Hyuk ended up uttering out a gasp of exclamation after seeing the image. And it was of a huge monster busy taking a stroll in the middle of a city while knocking down whatever building that got in its way.
“Hey, wait a second here. Isn’t that…” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
It had a black-ish body.
It had reptilian scales covering that black body.
And that huge, bulky monster somehow reminded him of a dinosaur.
“Isn’t that Godz…” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Ehheeii!!” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“No, really, isn’t that Godzi….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Ehheeeiiiii!! Copyright!! It’s a precious thing, the copyright! Please remember that!!” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Okay, so then, it’s Yongga….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk) (TL note at the end)
“Ehheeii!! We might get sued here, so stop!” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Yi Ji-Hyuk gravely nodded his head.
Indeed, the copyright was an important thing to uphold.
“Well, in that case, let’s just call it Yong-zilla. A hybrid of those two names.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“…It already has an official name, the X1.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“That’s so boring.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk grumbled out in dissatisfaction, but Choi Jung-Hoon decisively ignored the youth and his complaints. After all, trying to appease his complaints would end up wasting the entire day with nothing to show for it!
“The X1 showed up in Manhattan. It emerged from a Level 5 Gate.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Jeong Hae-Min raised her hand.
“Yes?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“You saying something that enormous came out from a Level 5?” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“That’s correct. The monster was initially not as big as that, but after surviving several skirmishes, it has grown to the size you see now.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Jeong Hae-Min groaned under her breath.
This was a serious problem that rendered the previous method of determining the level of a Gate via its initial size unreliable.
In other words, it would not be strange to see an Ogre pop out of the so-called Level 1 Gate in the near future. They already had the example of Oh-Sik right outside and all.
‘Was it absorbing Mana?’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk’s thoughts were a little different from the rest, though.
Currently, the residual Mana from some of the biggest Gates opening up in Korea had been devoured by Yi Ji-Hyuk. But, outside of his country, there was little doubt that Mana wouldn’t be able to find a way to dissipate completely, and a result, there should be several areas where large clumps of Mana were still present. If a monster got to chow down on that, it wouldn’t be too strange to see that said monster balloon up to an abnormal size.
“From the information shared by the US officials, they are considering the usage of a nuclear weapon.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“They want to nuke Manhattan?!”
“Well, the entire country is at stake, so…. Also, that’s not all.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
The light from the projector split up and a dozen more images with similar distressing events were displayed on the wall.
“In countries such as England, France, India, China, Turkey, and Australia as well as many others, similar events are occurring almost simultaneously.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“It’s a large scale invasion.”
That was the line spoken by a man entering the office.
Yi Ji-Hyuk smiled brightly after finding out who it was.
“Oh? It’s you! How have you been?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I’ve been fine, thanks for asking.” (Park Sung-Chan)
It was none other than ‘Iron’ Park Sung-Chan who had entered the office with a smile of his own. Indeed, the man who had to become a temporary human support pillar all thanks to Yi Ji-Hyuk’s intervention.
Sure, Park Sung-Chan did feel a tiny bit of anger at the youth, but with the majority of it gone now, he had no reason not to greet the youth back.
“Ha, look at this group here. We have the Witch, the Teleporter, the Drifter, and the Spitfire, too? Even Rudra came? What the heck. Looks like this is a party I’m not qualified to be a part of….” (Park Sung-Chan) (TL: “Rudra” is the name of a Hindu deity. There is a Wikipedia page for this god, so check it out.)
Choi Jung-Hoon shook his head in disagreement.
“It’s an emergency.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Ah, is that so. Let me get this straight. Normally, I wouldn’t even be able to mingle with you, but since it’s an emergency, I can come and play here, is that right? That kinda hurts my pride, but…. Oh, well. It’s fine, I guess. Being a part of this team is an honour in itself. But, by the way….” (Park Sung-Chan)
Park Sung-Chan tilted his head slightly.
“Now that I’ve taken a look around, I wonder why you’re here, too.” (Park Sung-Chan)
“Yeah, me too.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk agreed with the Iron there.
“Seriously, if I stay here any longer, I might be saddled with a cheese-tastic nickname, so if you all don’t mind, can I go now?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk, stop. Please.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Oh, alright. Fine. Stop exaggerating.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Ehem. So, let me continue with my explanation….” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
After successfully reining in Yi Ji-Hyuk, Choi Jung-Hoon continued from where he left off.
“Currently, the entire world is in a state of disarray after several large Gates have appeared almost simultaneously.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“So what? Are you saying we should go and help out?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“No, The NDF is an organisation created to protect the Republic of Korea. Besides, we don’t have the leeway to help other countries.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Then, what’s the problem?”
“….It’s actually not that complicated.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Choi Jung-Hoon pressed on the remote, and the dozen or so separate images all began showing different Gates instead.
“What are those Gates?”
“As you can see…. all of them are Gates, yes. As a matter of fact, ten Gates that are all estimated to be either Level 4 or 5.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Are they the ones that had appeared all over the world?”
Choi Jung-Hoon slowly shook his head.
“No. What you’re seeing now, are the real time feeds of Gates that have appeared in the peninsula of Korea as we speak.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“What? Come again?”
“All ten are in Korea.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
The atmosphere within the office fell to the rock bottom in an instant.
The attention of everyone present was focused on the projected images. They had come to grips with how insanely horrifying this situation was.
….All except for one, that was.
“So, what about them?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
The one to answer Yi Ji-Hyuk’s ‘question’ was not Choi Jung-Hoon, but Seo Ah-Young, instead.
“So, what he’s saying is…. several Gates that have plunged the world into chaos, have appeared within our country.” (Seo Ah-Young)
“Oh, is that so?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Kim Dah-Hyun whispered to Yi Ji-Hyuk under his breath.
“Uhm, hyung-nim? I think it might be good for your public image if you don’t say anything else anymore.” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
“Haven’t you had enough of me beating you up yet?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….Y, yes, sir…” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
Putting aside the quietly-crumpling Kim Dah-Hyun, Yi Ji-Hyuk raised his voice and asked again.
“So, what do you want us to do now? You sayin’ people present in this room must stop all of them? Methinks it’ll be faster to immigrate to another country altogether, though? Isn’t there a neighbouring state that’s not being wrecked by monsters as we speak?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yup, I’ll send mom and Ye-Won to safety first.
Hmm? Aren’t I forgetting someone here?
Ah, that’s right! Oh-Sik!
Yeah, I’ll send Oh-Sik with them, too. Good. (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
Although his suggestion sounded insane, it also came across as the most realistic solution, as well.
Post-Black Monday, the ability user situation in the Republic of Korea was no better than those countries currently under siege. No, one could argue that Korea was well behind others in this field, even.
It was already proving to be a tough challenge just to stop a single Gate, yet to stop ten of them in one go?
It made more sense to abandon ship at this point.
“I understand that the situation looks dire, but it’s not that bad, actually. Even though such a monster has emerged from a Level 5 Gate, there is no guarantee that high ranking monsters like that one would pop out from our Gates at all. I mean, isn’t there a higher chance of small fries popping out, instead?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Wow, those are some comforting words. Makes me feel so much better already. Really.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Choi Jung-Hoon dry coughed.
He knew all too well the words coming out of his mouth was crap as well.
It was then, Yi Ji-Hyuk suddenly stood up from his seat.
“Where are you going now?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“To Japan.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Ehheeeiii!! Look here, Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk!!” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Let go of me!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk shook off Choi Jung-Hoon’s desperate hands trying to restrain him.
“You force a guy relaxing at his home to show up here, and then, you tell him this crap? Hah! When something like this happens, it’s wiser to flee from the country! What do you want me to do here?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“We need to do something! Anything! Isn’t that the precisely the reason why we exist in the first place?!” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Who’s ‘we’? Ah? Who is this ‘we’ you keep talking about?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“If we don’t resolve this, it’s not going to stop at just a couple of thousand casualties! We might end up seeing tens of millions!! The country of Korea will be destroyed!!” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Well, even if that happens, a new country will pop up and people will continue living regardless.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“What are you even on about now?!” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
What do you mean, what I’m on about? I’m talking from experience, obviously!
I’ve seen hundreds of countries fall before.
So, why bother struggling to the bitter end, when it’s nothing new to begin with? (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
“Whatever. I was in the middle of my holiday, so I’m going home. Have a nice day now.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Ehheii!! Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk!!” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Choi Jung-Hoon forcibly dragged Yi Ji-Hyuk outside the office.
“What’s gotten into you?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“No, wait! That’s something I should ask you, instead! Why are you acting like this, only to me?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Even Choi Jung-Hoon didn’t have anything particular to retort with here.
If one were to get technical, then well, pretty much the entirety of Choi Jung-Hoon’s plan was centered around Yi Ji-Hyuk. Which meant that the burden placed on the youth’s shoulders was rather enormous.
“Isn’t there a way? Please?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
If he couldn’t coerce the youth, then it was the turn of begging next. This wasn’t any ol’ situation that could be solved with a simple bait, either.
In other words, he had to seriously beg here.
“Hey. I’m not a Dokkaebi bangmanggyi or some such, but you keep asking me to solve this and solve that. Stop it. I’m guessing they get paid a lot better than I am, so why don’t you tell those far more willing and energetic folks to solve this?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“If it’s the issue with money, that’s been taken care of.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“How much?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Pardon?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“How much per Gate?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Choi Jung-Hoon’s face paled visibly.
“….Because you’re nominally a contractor for the government, we can’t prepare as large a sum as before, but….” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“In that case, forget about it.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….We’ll do our absolute best.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“You can take that best of yours and go. I might as well not bother doing dog-sh*t hard labour when getting paid pittance in return, you know what I’m saying? It’s not like I’m in an immediate need for money, anyways.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Besides, I only need my computer.
Also, money to buy Oh-Sik’s pet food, too.
Oh, and money for mom’s shopping spree….
And Ye-Won? What would she want to buy, I wonder? (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner monologue)
Indeed, he’d be fine with the amount of money he had already. So, why he would go out of his way to confront all those monsters? He wasn’t mad.
“Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk, the fate of all the citizens of Korea are in your hands.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“In that case, I can just hand it over to someone else, then.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….Didn’t fall for it, huh.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“You think I’m a fool? Tsk, ptooi!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Choi Jung-Hoon sneaked closer to Yi Ji-Hyuk and whispered to his ear.
“Please, think about this. Mister Ji-Hyuk, you won’t find a nation that’s better to live in than Korea if you have the requisite wealth.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“I’ll try to extract as much as I can. When that happens, you will be able to enjoy your life to the fullest.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“No, hang on. It’s not like money can….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Money is important. Very.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Hearing such a confident voice full of unwavering conviction, even Yi Ji-Hyuk got swayed.
“It seems that you’re not fully aware of this fact, due to not having enough life experience, but this is the undeniable truth! In this world, wealth is power! Wealth is influence! Wealth is comfort! And furthermore, wealth is love!” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“L, love?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“With wealth, everything is within reach.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“But, I already have enough….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“The moment you come to realise that what you have now only amounts to some pocket change, you’ll finally be able to jump past the boundary and step into the real world! So, how about it? Wouldn’t you like to find more about the world now?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“….Maybe a little?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“In that case, accompany me on this journey!” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Oh, uh, sure.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
As he got dragged back inside the office by Choi Jung-Hoon, Yi Ji-Hyuk began tilting his head in confusion.
This weird sensation…. Just where had he felt it before?
“Hey, uh… Why do you work here? If you were selling insurance or snake oil, I think you might have made a killing by now…” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….I’ll, once I retire.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Nope, it’s nothing.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Choi Jung-Hoon smiled brightly.
That was a wonderful notion. Until he ran into Yi Ji-Hyuk, that was.
“By the way, you seemed to be on friendly terms with Mister Park Sung-Chan?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Well, I like his type of personality, that’s why.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“I figured you’d not enjoy such personality types, but I must’ve guessed wrong.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“Yeah, I like that type of people. You know, the type with thick heads but strong bodies. You throw those types in the frontlines, and then they will perfectly do their jobs without asking too many questions. They are pretty easy to manipulate, you see.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….Oh, I see.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
Choi Jung-Hoon silently swallowed back his tears.
Could it be that…. this as*hole thinks of me the same as well? (Choi Jung-Hoon’s inner monologue)
After re-entering the office, Yi Ji-Hyuk sat back down on his seat, while Choi Jung-Hoon changed the image projected onto the wall.
“Everyone.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
“The mission that will go down in the history of Korea commences from this point onwards.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)
The heavy silence descended on the office. But Yi Ji-Hyuk’s lazy voice broke it.
“Stop trying to sell snake oil…. and let’s get started already.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Choi Jung-Hoon spat out a long groan.
What are you trying to paint me into, you as*hole?!
What a sorrowful and crappy start this turned out to be.
< 66. Stop trying to sell snake oil and let’s get started already -1 > Fin.
(TL: Yonggari is the name of a Kaiju monster that took centre stage in the 1999 Korean film called, you guessed it, Yonggari. It went through a heavy revision before its 2002 international release, but funnily enough, the film itself was a remake of another Korean movie released in the 60s with the same title. There’s a Wikipedia page in English dedicated to this slice of long-forgotten Korean cinema history, if you’re interested.)