Chapter 7: Ah, is that so? (4)

“They’ve been swapped to KG products, you see.” (Seo Ah-Young)

“KG makes the best electronics, you know.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

Finally overcoming the feelings of injustice, Choi Jung-Hoon threw out a rather spicy comeback.

“Well, then. Shall we resume our conversation?” (Seo Ah-Young)

Seo Ah-Young’s refreshing smile seemed to declare victory.

Yi Ji-Hyuk smiled a little awkwardly. However, Seo Ah-Young wasn’t planning to go easy on the youth at all.

“Looks like it was you who killed the monster?” (Seo Ah-Young)

“It wasn’t me, though?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Eiii, it looks like it, doesn’t it?” (Seo Ah-Young)

“But, it wasn’t me, though?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Anyone can tell that it was you.” (Seo Ah-Young)

“It wasn’t me, though?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Seo Ah-Young’s palm slammed the table, hard.

KWAHNG!!!

The table shook. Even Yi Ji-Hyuk got jolted. Just how did such a slender arm generate that much force, he couldn’t tell. The poor table withstanding that much violence was definitely worthy of praise.

“Now look here, Mister Ji-Hyuk!!” (Seo Ah-Young)

“Yes?”

Yi Ji-Hyuk sobered up in the blink of an eye and replied.

“It’s not going to go well for you if you continue behaving this way. You see, we are rather busy people, and if you just quickly admit to what you have done, then we can start on taking care of the aftermath.” (Seo Ah-Young)

Yi Ji-Hyuk suddenly raised a hand.

“What is it?” (Seo Ah-Young)

“I have a question.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Seo Ah-Young snorted and nodded her head.

“Please, ask away.” (Seo Ah-Young)

“Well, uh, you’ve been asking me whether I killed that monster or not.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Yes, so?” (Seo Ah-Young)

“If I did kill that monster, isn’t that a good thing? I mean, that’s reducing the damage to the civilians, and well, a monster should be killed in any case, am I right?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Yes, you’re correct.” (Seo Ah-Young)

“If so, then why do I feel like I’m being treated like a criminal?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“You don’t know?” (Seo Ah-Young)

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“I’m asking you ‘cuz I don’t know.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

As if a migraine was assaulting her, Seo Ah-Young massaged her temples and shook her head. Just how should she go about explaining this? No, wait, why did this ‘gent’ not know of such common knowledge in the first place?

“According to the law governing all ability users, every user must be registered with the country. Those who are not registered when causing an incident out in the open are arrested and jailed.” (Seo Ah-Young)

“There’s a law like that now?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Just what were you doing until now that you don’t even know of this important law?” (Seo Ah-Young)

Yi Ji-Hyuk pretended to not hear her. If he told her the truth, then well, he would get dragged to a sanitarium for sure. So, he wasn’t going to confirm their suspicions that he was indeed, quite insane.

“So, whatever the case may be, the problem is that I killed a monster when I’m not registered, is that the gist of it?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Killing a monster isn’t a problem, but it’s actually with you being an ability user or not. It’s simple, isn’t it?” (Seo Ah-Young)

“Yes, ma’am, I get it now.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Seo Ah-Young smiled in satisfaction, knowing that this matter had been resolved at last. Unexpectedly, it didn’t take as long as she had feared, too.

“Well, then. Let me clarify something. It seems that you have your own circumstances, so it’s quite likely you won’t be prosecuted for not registering during the required period. After all, it’s not like you’ve caused an incident, right? All you have to do is register now and receive the requisite training on the subject, so please, I’d like to hear you answer without fearing for the consequences.” (Seo Ah-Young)

Seo Ah-Young spoke up the words of victory.

“That was you killing the monster, yes?” (Seo Ah-Young)

There was no way he could deny it now. She was ready to start the victory ceremony while taking in the sight of Yi Ji-Hyuk’s expression since he had been utterly “checkmated” now.

However, the many screws-loose Yi Ji-Hyuk smiled brightly and replied to her.

“But, it wasn’t me, though?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“You son of a…” (Seo Ah-Young)

“Uh-huh!! Captain, you mustn’t!! He’s a civilian!! A civilian!!” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

Seo Ah-Young forced herself to swallow back down several meaty swear words that came this close to escaping her lips, and took a deep breath. This was so strange – there was no reason for her to be this worked up over this matter at all…

‘Something’s really p*ssing me off here.’ (Seo Ah-Young)

Was it because of his smirky attitude, or his surprisingly relaxed/carefree demeanor even when confined to this place?

Or maybe…. it could be those slightly-arching eyebrows that seemed to poke all the wrong places in her nerves.

“Whew-woo, okay, fine!” (Seo Ah-Young)

Seo Ah-Young took several more deep breaths before glaring at Yi Ji-Hyuk with eyes of an angry predator.

“Shall we hear your reason why you walked into a restricted zone? Also, you’ve been listed as missing for the past five years so, I’d love to hear what you’ve been doing until now. You can answer me on those, yes?” (Seo Ah-Young)

“Ah, the thing is….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Yes?” (Seo Ah-Young)

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Yi Ji-Hyuk lightly grasped his head and tilted it this way and that. Seeing his gesture that ‘suggested’ he might remember something or might not, both the bodies of Seo Ah-Young and Choi Jung-Hoon shivered greatly.

‘He wouldn’t…’

‘He wouldn’t go there, right?’

They could now picture the most classic of all classical excuses in the history of poor acting from the ‘textbook’ way Yi Ji-Hyuk was moving his head around.

“Uh, well, my memory is….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Seo Ah-Young and Choi Jung-Hoon became utterly speechless.

“Ha, haha.”

“Haha.”

“Hahahaha.”

“Hahahaha.”

Awkward laughters were shared by the two of them. They were laughing, but their eyes were definitely not.

“Ahh…. So, it’s amnesia.” (Seo Ah-Young)

“Looks like it.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“So, to confirm, you can’t remember anything from the past five years for some unfathomable reason?” (Seo Ah-Young)

“Wow. Are you a doctor?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“But what a serious problem this is. Since he is an amnesia-suffering person, we can’t torment him, as he won’t be able to remember, anyways.” (Seo Ah-Young)

“If I can remember, I would’ve definitely been able to resolve this misunderstanding. I’m very sorry.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Ah, is that so.” (Seo Ah-Young)

When Seo Ah-Young raised her right arm in a certain manner, Choi Jung-Hoon desperately clung on to her and stopped her from moving any further.

“Wait!! Wait, he’s a civilian, a dang civilian!! You mustn’t beat him up!! Everything’s being recorded in real time in here, remember that, please!!” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

“Who’s gonna beat his a*s up, ah? Who? Can’t you see that speck of sh*t on his cheek? I’m just gonna slap it off for him, that’s all!!” (Seo Ah-Young)

“Please, calm yourself down, calm down!! Do not get worked up on this, Captain!!” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

*SFX for heavy, repeated breathing*

Seo Ah-Young breathed in and out heavily while holding on to Choi Jung-Hoon’s shoulders, before shooting a nasty glare at Yi Ji-Hyuk while gritting her teeth.

“So, you’re insisting that it wasn’t you. Correct?” (Seo Ah-Young)

“Yep.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Definitely, absolutely, it wasn’t you?” (Seo Ah-Young)

“But of course.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Alright, fine. Let’s say it wasn’t you, then. Are you admitting that you’re an ability user?” (Seo Ah-Young)

Yi Ji-Hyuk asked back, instead.

“Just what on earth is this ability user thing you keep talking about?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“The term refers to people who possesses special abilities that no normal civilian should have.” (Seo Ah-Young)

“In that case, nope, I am not. Because I’m an ordinary civilian.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“So, that’s your final answer?” (Seo Ah-Young)

*SFX for gritting teeth fiercely.*

Seo Ah-Young shouted at Choi Jung-Hoon.

“Choi Jung-Hoon-ssi!!!! Bring in the ‘equipment’!!!” (Seo Ah-Young)

“Understood.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

As soon Choi Jung-Hoon hurriedly left the room, Seo Ah-Young pulled her chair right next to Yi Ji-Hyuk’s. Although there was a smile etched on her lips, protruding veins were pulsing on her forehead, displaying the high level of her hostility.

“So, let’s summarise your statement. What you’re saying is, you ne~~ver ever killed that monster.” (Seo Ah-Young)

“Yes, that’s right.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“But the head of that Jarchev exploded right in front of your face? How will you explain that one?” (Seo Ah-Young)

“I don’t know. Seriously now, you people are the experts, yet you don’t have a clue, so why do you expect me to have one for you? I dunno, maybe the monster self detonated or something.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Oh, so now the monster killed itself?” (Seo Ah-Young)

“No, all I’m saying is that it is a possibility, that’s all.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Seo Ah-Young did absolutely everything in her willpower to stop her hands from slapping that stupid grin off this youth’s smug face. She then somehow managed to continue speaking.

“But, it’s completely different from what you just told us earlier on?” (Seo Ah-Young)

“Oh, yeah. See, the thing is, my mind is not stable at the moment. What did I say to you before?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“A passing gentleman rescued you.” (Seo Ah-Young)

“Hah, I must’ve read one too many folktales. I really like them, you know? I speak nonsense because of them, but still.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Ah, is that so?” (Seo Ah-Young)

Seo Ah-Young suddenly pulled out her wallet. Then, produced a business card and shoved it into Yi Ji-Hyuk’s hands.

“What’s this?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“It’s got a contact number for a law firm. I’ve utilised their services before, and they know their craft really well. They also happen to be the foremost specialists when it comes to suing the government entities.” (Seo Ah-Young)

Yi Ji-Hyuk tilted his head in confusion.

Why was she giving him this card, then?

“Uh, what should I do with this?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“I’ve got a feeling that you’ll need it very soon. When the equipment arrives, we will measure your output, and when the results say that you’re an ability user…. well, it’s going to get a lot more interesting than compared to now, you see? By hanging you with the following charges – refusing to register, lying to an officer of the law, obstruction of justice, illegally trespassing into a restricted area, etc etc, we’ll totally grind you into a pulp… Oh, I’m sorry, you’ll find yourself in a bit of hot water very soon, so I was thinking that you might need a legal representation. If you don’t get a capable lawyer, then your life might come to a sudden and very tragic end before you know it.” (Seo Ah-Young)

Her friendly smile was laced with heavy killing intent.

“Sounds like a threat to me, though?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“A threat? Eiii, no it wasn’t. Why would I threaten you? Besides, this doesn’t even amount to ‘threat’ at all. A real threatening goes something like this. Did you know that, as soon as you’re registered as an ability user, you have to go through a period of ‘reorientation’ process? Since I feel that Yi Ji-Hyuk-ssi will become a wonderful user in the future, I shall personally take over the reins as your tutor and make sure that you will receive a proper, straight and strict education.” (Seo Ah-Young)

Seo Ah-Young spoke enthusiastically, as if the mere thought pleased her to no end.

“You aren’t planning to murder me, yes?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Eii, no way I’ll murder you. However, I’ve seen some people who wish for that, though? They say they would rather prefer death, but, oh well. Ah, you don’t have to worry. When you’re half dead from hard work, you won’t even be able to mutter out something like that.” (Seo Ah-Young)

“Ah, so that’s how it is.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Yi Ji-Hyuk’s voice became progressively smaller.

“If you cooperated from the very beginning, such a measure wouldn’t have been necessary. Such a pity.” (Seo Ah-Young)

“Seriously, it really sounds like you’ve been threatening me for some time now… Is this how a government institution operates nowadays?” (Yi Ji-Jyuk)

“Ah, looks like you don’t know this. Controlling ability users are very difficult, so this ‘much’ is the accepted norm now. Even the governing laws are a little bit different, as well. If you’re not an ability user, then I’ve wronged you, so let me apologise in advance.” (Seo Ah-Young)

“Then, how about apologising to me in advance?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Eiii, there’s no way.” (Seo Ah-Young)

At the same time, the door to the interview room opened, and Choi Jung-Hoon entered while carrying a thing that kind of resembled a blood pressure monitor.

Indeed, it did look like a blood pressure monitor, yet the part that went around the body was much bigger. As if it was…

“Isn’t this a maternity belt?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“It’s a mobile Ether measuring equipment.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

“Looks like an electronic maternity belt to me, though?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“It’s a mobile Ether measuring equipment.” (Seo Ah-Young)

“No, hang on a minute. It really looks like…” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Please stop wasting time and put it on now.” (Seo Ah-Young)

When Yi Ji-Hyuk stood up, Choi Jung-Hoon wrapped the equipment around the youth’s chest.

“It really looks like a maternity belt, though….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Another vein bulged on Seo Ah-Young’s forehead. She oh-so badly wanted to wring the little neck of the b*stard who was still acting so carefree even in this kind of situation.

“This is your last chance. If you admit to everything and apologise now, we will take into consideration your unique mitigating circumstances.” (Seo Ah-Young)

“Should I do that?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Nicer things are nice for a reason, don’t you think so?” (Seo Ah-Young)

Of course, Seo Ah-Young had no thoughts of doing that. No, she wanted to witness with her own two eyes, this little b*stard’s face when his last ray of hope crumbled to dust, no matter what.

“Eiiii, I ain’t gonna do that.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Unfortunately, it seemed such an idea also popped in Yi Ji-Hyuk’s head as well.

Seo Ah-Young gritted her teeth loudly.

“I should warn you now to give up, if you think you can hide your Ether emission. With the cases of ability users hiding his or her Ether emission happening frequently, this latest, cutting edge measuring equipment can even catch that out. No matter how crafty and wily your methods might be, it cannot fool this machine.” (Seo Ah-Young)

Seo Ah-Young’s final threats fell on Yi Ji-Hyuk’s deaf ears.

“I ain’t gonna fool no one since I don’t know anything, anyways. I’m telling you, I really don’t know what’s going on here.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Oh, really? Why don’t we take a goooood look, then?” (Seo Ah-Young)

Ppeebikk….

When Seo Ah-Young pressed a button, the measuring equipment’s screen came to life. It bleeped and blopped noisily while the screen flashed the confirmation that the measurement was taking place, and soon, the result appeared on it.

842.

Seo Ah-Young stared at that number dumbfoundedly. Even Choi Jung-Hoon’s brows scrunched up real tight.

“So? How is it?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Seo Ah-Young didn’t reply, and pressed the button one more time. Once more, the machine beeped noisily, showed the same words of measurement taking place, and this time, the number 841 showed up instead.

Yi Ji-Hyuk asked in genuine curiosity.

“What does this number mean?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Seo Ah-Young unwrapped the equipment off Yi Ji-Hyuk’s chest and tried to place it another body part of the youth, giving Choi Jung-Hoon a chance to explain.

“That’s the ‘value’ of Ether present within you.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

“Did the result come out okay?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“How should I say this… Even a normal person will show some signs of Ether emission.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

“Okay.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Now normally, an average value of Ether found in an ordinary person is around 500. However, there are some people with higher number as well, and it’s these folks that can use special abilities. That’s why they are called the ability users.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

“Okay, so how high must one be, if it’s not ‘normal’ value?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“To be classified as an ability user, the minimum value needs to exceed 1000. A person with Ether value higher than 1000 is then classified as a beginner ability user.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

“Ah, is that so.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Ppeebeebick.

This time, the number ‘848’ showed up on the measuring equipment wrapped around Yi Ji-Hyuk’s pelvis. The machine got hurriedly pulled off and then, got wrapped around his thigh now.

“So… since I am around 800 or so, that means I’m not an ability user, no? You said the average was around 500, but there is no such thing as me being classified as a user because my number’s a bit higher than that, right?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Yes. Anyone below 1000 are not classified as an ability user.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

“Ah, is that so.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Ppeebeebick.

The value for Ether measured on his legs were around 700. Yi Ji-Hyuk pushed off Seo Ah-Young busy trying to wrap the equipment on his other leg and sat down on the chair.

“That means, I’m a civilian, then?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Classification wise, yes, you are.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

“That means, I got dragged here for no reason whatsoever?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“No, it’s incorrect to say there is no reason.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

“If I recall correctly, you said something about irrefutable evidence and a 2nd level personnel and whatnots….” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“I did, yes.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

“The irrefutable evidence is?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Mm, well, if you look at the screen, then….” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

“Eiii, eiii~. I’m a civilian, so you can’t call that footage of a civilian blowing away a monster’s head an irrefutable evidence at all, can you? Isn’t it more correct to say, some other unexplainable something happened, instead?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Well, yes, in a way, that is….” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

Choi Jung-Hoon’s face crumpled even further. A person with Ether value of 800 blew away a Jarchev’s head? He’d be treated like an uneducated moron if he uttered this out aloud in public.

If one were to compare this to a more common sense-like occurrence, it’d be akin to a passing housewife throwing a punch to the side of a tiger and killing it instantly.

“Sooo, in other words, without any proper proof, I got dragged in here and got showered with insults and thinly-veiled threats, am I right so far?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Thuk.

Yi Ji-Hyuk leaned back on his chair and put his feet up on the desk.

“Hey, where do you think you are right now!!” (Seo Ah-Young)

“Hey, ahjussi.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“Yes?” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

“Give me a smoke.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

“…….”

“Seriously, today’s weather is really fitting for a nice little cigarette, don’t you think so?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Choi Jung-Hoon’s voice rose up in anger.

“Hey, man, look here!!” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

But before he could continue, Yi Ji-Hyuk cut him off.

“If you don’t want to, then gimme my phone call.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

The image of the youth busy waving around a certain business card stabbed painfully into Choi Jung-Hoon’s retina.

SHINRYE LAW FIRM

‘Shinrye law firm?!’ (TL: ‘shinrye’ means trust/faith in Korean.)

Why on god’s green earth was that card doing in that youth’s hands?

Known as the specialist in suing the government, they were infamous as blood sucking leeches that wouldn’t hesitate to lodge an appeal to a higher court if it meant they get to bleed out even a single cent more.

Why did the business card of the tax extractors – called as such, as they seemingly enjoyed ‘placing’ an oil pump on a government entity and then proceeded to extract tax money as if they were pumping out oil – end up in that youth’s hands?!

Out of all the other lawyers and law firms on this planet, why must it be them?!?!

Out of all the 1000+ graduates from law schools around the country, why must it be them?!?!

Completely dazed, Choi Jung-Hoon slowly shifted his gaze towards the person he suspected of producing that business card in the first place.

Shudder.

The guilty one knew her crimes and she quickly averted her gaze. Choi Jung-Hoon told himself many times that today, as soon as he left this room, he would throw his resignation letter straight to that rotten bi*ch’s face. To hit her with the edge, no less!!

But that was for later. Right now, this was something else. Choi Jung-Hoon rolled his brain desperately to say something to reverse this horrifying situation.

If they were pushed into retreat, then there would be no end for them. They needed to admit to some of the mistakes and must negotiate for a fair settlement. Well, he had been rolling around in this field for the last ten years or so; lobbying and making suggestions were Choi Jung-Hoon’s special powers!!

Choi Jung-Hoon desperately calculated all the angles and eventualities and finally found the most suitable response for this situation!!

“If you have a tobacco brand you prefer, I shall go buy a pack for you.” (Choi Jung-Hoon)

Yep. Time to throw the towel in.

 

< 7. Ah, Is That So? – 4 > Fin.

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