Inside an office of an important person of a certain country….
“They’ve taken care of the situation? Without major casualties?”
“That is correct, sir.”
“I cannot even begin to fathom just how they managed to pull that off. What exactly are they doing in that small country of theirs?”
“Allow me to play the footage, sir.”
A monitor flickered into life and soon, the images appeared on it.
The man quietly watched the overhead aerial footage before taking a cigar out from the humidor. With a practiced hand, he cut the tip off, and lit it up in an elegant manner using an old-school match. He slowly inhaled the smoke and after savouring it for a short while, breathed out the blue smoke.
The man continued to suck on his cigar without saying a word, then slowly shook his head.
“That… was not CG, yes?”
“Unfortunately no, sir. What you saw was unaltered footage.”
“In that case, the remaining issue is…. With how I interpret that footage, isn’t it?”
The man’s voice gradually became quieter.
He then maintained his silence for a bit longer while chewing on his cigar. Before long, though, he placed the cigar on the ashtray and placed his hands on his folded knees.
“What a mess this is. Hard to tell, isn’t it? I’m unsure of how we should deal with this new development. It feels like…. Like, I’ve just watched a battle of swordsmen and spearmen being interrupted by a man wildly firing a machine gun. The balance should be maintained to a certain degree, at least. Don’t you think so?”
“Well, the tilting of the balance would’ve happened sooner or later, sir.”
“The tilting, you say…. Hmm, that might sound like an apt description, but actually, it isn’t. That…. That isn’t just a matter of tilting the balance.”
The man retrieved the cigar from the ashtray and began chomping down on it once more, but his other hand was busy massaging his scalp as if a migraine was viciously assaulting him.
“Out of the three, which one is the most viable option?”
“You mean, ‘appeasement’, ‘elimination’, and ‘leaving it alone’, sir?”
“No matter when or what, the options are the same as always. It’s the difficulty of the mission that changes.”
“Elimination is deemed to be impossible.”
“Although there is a very slim chance of success, the odds of failure are far too great, sir. If the elimination fails and the subject turns hostile, the threat level posed to us will be enormous. One failure could lead to the destruction of everything.”
The man’s eyebrows twitched.
“Quite an exaggeration, don’t you think so?”
“It’s always the smallest crack that causes the dam to collapse, sir.”
The man frowned deeply this time. His heart didn’t want to agree with that assessment, but his head knew full well that could be the truth. And so, all he could do now was to roughly stub the half-smoked cigar down on the ashtray to express his unhappiness.
“So, ‘elimination’ is impractical. Fine. What about ‘appeasement’, then?”
“We’re still compiling the dossier on the subject as we speak. But so far, we have not been able to nail down his behavioural pattern yet. It seems that he’s a type to not fall for the allure of wealth, nor does he have any material attachment, either. Sir.”
“What? Is he a hippy or something?”
“Even that is unclear. Rather than him being a type that fears the prosecution, instead we have detected some sign from the subject that he’s willing to get along with how things operate nowadays, sir. Maybe it’s for the best that we call him an ‘indecipherable’ type for now.”
“One of the most troublesome types, in other words. What about his family?”
“The Korean government has taken them in for protection. Approaching them will not be easy.”
“Of course it wouldn’t be. I’m sure they wouldn’t be that stupid.”
However, sooner or later an opportunity would present itself. If one were to follow a set pattern, one would come to realise that no matter what, an opportunity would always appear.
The only thing that mattered, then, was whether you could seize that opportunity or not.
“And to leave that alone…. No, the situation isn’t nice enough for that. We can’t leave such an existence alone and unchecked. For now, continue the surveillance on the subject. If you need more manpower, get it approved with my name. Got that?”
The man shifted his gaze towards the atlas of the world hanging up on the wall, then with a pen, lightly stabbed a small peninsula at the far East of Asian continent.
“To think, this here would become the core.…” (TL note at the end.)
It was seemingly a completely unexpected shift in the flow of events. However, being able to adapt to such a change as quickly as possible – wouldn’t that be a display of the true might of a nation and its rulers?
“What about… them?”
The adjutant at the end of the question lowered his head slightly.
“There hasn’t been any noticeable movements, yet. Sir.”
“Hmm. What about ‘Alpha’?”
“We still haven’t been able to track down Alpha’s whereabouts, sir.”
A low groan leaked out from the man. Just dealing with Alpha alone proved to be troublesome, yet now, they had to deal with a new mutant as well.
Lately, the damnable Gates have been showing signs of unusual activity. And the collapse of the governments of those nations stuck in the ever-perpetual cycle of battle was hastening, ever more so.
There was no guarantee that the ripples caused by these events would not reach his own country. And now, in these troubled times, where the entire world was lurching ever closer to the unknown danger, this new mutant had appeared. Figuring out what “he” would do next had, perhaps inevitably, taken a very high spot in their to-do list.
“Next up, we should select a suitable code name for this subject, then. What should we call him? We already have ‘Alpha’, so should we go with ‘Beta’? Or….”
“We already have a code name for him.”
“Oh? What is it?”
“It’s the ‘Landmine’, sir.”
“A landmine? A mine…. Huh. It does kind of suit that man, doesn’t it? Alright. From here onwards, designate the subject ‘Landmine’ as the top priority and bring me the news of any developments as soon as they happen.”
As the adjutant left the office, the man shifted his gaze outside the window, his eyes half-closing in contemplation.
‘Something…. just feels off.’
….Regarding the sudden changes in the Gates’ behaviour, as well as the matters surrounding Alpha, too.
Even those matters alone were making this man’s life quite complicated – unnecessarily so, even – yet, he now had to worry about other nations paying a very close attention to this Landmine as well. If the Far East of the Asia, where some of the most powerful nations were all curiously grouped up together, were to go through a period of pure chaos, then the side effects from that would be simply unimaginable.
It felt like to him that the world was spiraling deeper into chaos.
The man with a cigar wasn’t the only person having to cope with the ever-changing world, though.
Yi Ji-Hyuk opened the front door to the house and exited. Then, he took a long look at the skies above.
The bright blue sky with not a single cloud entered his view.
“Damn it. Even the weather is perfect today!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
….And I have to go to work on a day like this?!
I should’ve asked for more off days, instead of more money!! (Yi Ji-Hyuk’s inner lamentation)
He might have cooked up this and that excuse to delay going to work as much as possible a few weeks ago. But, knowing that the current situation didn’t allow him to do that, only the sense of pure irritation bubbled within his head now.
Yi Ji-Hyuk’s eyes searched around for something, anything, to vent out his frustration, only to find a certain blonde head bobbing ever so gently just beyond the brick wall surrounding the house.
He couldn’t help but let out a long groan after seeing that head there. It was almost a daily routine at this point. It sure felt that way to him.
Seriously though, didn’t she have her own life/business to take care of?
Yi Ji-Hyuk mentally gave up and opened the front gate. Then, to his surprise, found a different blondie waiting for him instead.
“Oh, hyung-nim. You’ve come?” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
“….What the… it’s you?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
It was a blondie, alright, but this one was a dude.
As soon as Yi Ji-Hyuk confirmed that it was Kim Dah-Hyun standing outside the gate, the feelings of familiarity immediately shattered into pieces and all he could feel now was this creepy sensation crawling up his backside.
“What the hell?! What are you doing here?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Could it be that the siblings were into a similar sort of… hobbies?
Did that mean this guy was also a stalker type, too?!
So, so many questions made a mess of Yi Ji-Hyuk’s thought process.
“I’ve received a… request, to deliver this to you.” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
Kim Dah-Hyun pushed forward a small package, and Yi Ji-Hyuk tilted his head while looking at this object.
“From who?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….From my little sister, hyung-nim.” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
“You mean… her?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Yep. It is her, as you’ve suspected.” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
With a wholly unconvinced expression, Yi Ji-Hyuk received the package. Surely though… there shouldn’t be anything weird inside.
With a pair of suspicious eyes, he took a long look at the package from this and that angle.
Although no strange or untoward events have happened until now, he still found it rather difficult to explain this anxiety he continuously felt whenever a gift from that girl landed on his hands.
“What happened to her?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“She went to school today. She asked me to ensure the gift’s safe delivery.” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
“Is that the only reason why you’re here today?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Yes, sir!” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
“But, uh, aren’t you supposed to be her older brother?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….You know that there isn’t a creature more scary than a little sister out there.” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
Yi Ji-Hyuk reached out and tightly grasped Kim Dah-Hyun’s hands.
“It must’ve been pretty rough for ya all this time.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….No, not at all….” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
“Be strong. One day, she’ll get married and leave the nest.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“How about you taking h…” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
“Wanna die?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“No, sir.” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
Yi Ji-Hyuk lightly patted the rapidly-drooping shoulders of Kim Dah-Hyun while choking back the rising tears himself.
Which existence did prove to be the hardest to deal with, ever since his return to this world? It was none other than that stinking brat of his little sister, that’s who!
Never mind beating her up, he couldn’t even think of slapping her around one or two times, yet that little devil was responsible for making him feel like he’d been chewing on cow dung every day. This feeling of barely-contained anguish welling up inside….
Yi Ji-Hyuk could see the depressed face of Kim Dah-Hyun next to him.
‘Well, at least my Ye-Won is normal when compared to that girl.’ (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
There wasn’t all that much difference, but certainly, there were degrees to madness, after all.
If Ye-Won was to be classified as ‘rebellious’, then Kim Dah-Som should be ‘straight up bat-sh*t insane’. That blonde girl might not go around causing trouble, not as much as Ye-Won anyways, but when she decided to go all out…. Oh, boy.
Kim Dah-Som was the type to exceed one’s imagination if and when she decided to do something.
Suffering under such a personality almost everyday of his life, it was only par for the course that you’d be as exhausted as this guy here. Surely, Kim Dah-Hyun must’ve gone through many harsh, insane experiences.
Since Yi Ji-Hyuk still possessed some semblance of sympathy, albeit it being smaller than a speck of dirt stuck under his fingernail, he looked at Kim Dah-Hyun with a pitying expression.
“P, please!! Don’t look at me with those eyes!! I don’t need your pity!!!” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
“I know. I know full well how you feel, dude!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“What do you mean, you know?!” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
“Let’s just go to work.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk tried to urge the tearful Kim Dah-Hyun to move, before the blonde guy broke down here and cried his heart out in front of the house.
Although the distance they had to cover wasn’t all that much, for some reason, it especially felt like a long slog today. And to make matters even worse, there were some people who decided to block Yi Ji-Hyuk’s path to work.
Three people, decked out in the ‘Men In Bl*ck’ style black suits, stood in Yi Ji-Hyuk’s way as he minded his own business.
Kim Dah-Hyun’s eyes narrowed almost immediately.
Who could these people be?
Could they be looking for trouble here? That was a distinct possibility, since you wouldn’t normally walk around everyday while advertising the small but significant fact that you were an ability user.
But, then again, they were in the middle of an area that prohibited civilian entry. So, them blocking their path here couldn’t have been a coincidence. These people had a clear purpose.
“Who are you people?” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
Kim Dah-Hyun quickly stepped up in front of Yi Ji-Hyuk in a protective manner.
‘What the, what on earth am I even doing right now?’ (Kim Dah-Hyun)
Why was he acting like an underling to the guy already? And only realising this after he had done it?
The truth was, though…. The memories from Kim Dah-Hyun personally witnessing the prowess of Yi Ji-Hyuk, as well as the lingering aura of his dear little sister, Kim Dah-Som, conspired to move his body well before he had a chance to organise his thoughts.
The person in the middle wordlessly watched Kim Dah-Hyun’s actions, before stepping forward.
‘It’s a woman?’ (Kim Dah-Hyun)
Indeed, the person in the middle was an Asian female.
Since she had taken a step forward, that meant she was the leader of this little group, didn’t it?
“Regrettably, we do not have any business with you, good sir. But we do have one with the gentleman behind you.” (TL note at the end)
Her Korean accents and intonations sounded a wee bit odd.
Instinctively realising that she wasn’t Korean, Kim Dah-Hyun reached into his trouser pocket to press the emergency button on his cellphone, while a thick smile formed on his lips.
“I didn’t know that foreigners were permitted to enter this area.” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
“It is possible with the identities as diplomats.”
“Diplomats?” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
Even then, to let diplomats freely wander around the area reserved for the local high-value ability users….
But, when Kim Dah-Hyun carefully thought about it, if the diplomats also happened to be ability users, then it might have been possible.
“Okay, sure. Whatever. We need to go to work, so would you kindly move out of the way?” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
“I already said that we don’t have any business with you.”
“Ho-oh? So what?” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
Suddenly, Kim Dah-Hyun began cranking his neck, loosening the muscles there.
“I’m a bit disappointed, you know? An ability user/diplomat should at least heard of the name, Path Drifter before, no?” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
“Of course, we have completely heard of that name. But that’s just that, that’s all. We don’t have any busi….”
“Yeah, yeah, I heard you already. You don’t have any business with me. But what should we do now? ‘Cuz now I have business with you all.” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
Kim Dah-Hyun tightly clenched his fist.
If they were here to cause trouble, then all he had to do was to reciprocate that in full.
….Well, that was certainly his plan, but, then….
“Hey, get out of the way, you fool!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Hul. But why, hyung-nim!” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
“Who do you think you are, stopping these guests from coming to see me?!” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“These people are from a competing nation, hyung-nim. Nothing good will come from interacting with these fellas.” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
“And when did you earn the right to decide that?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Well, uh, that is, because….” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
“Seeing your face all healed up nice and shiny, it’s beginning to get on my nerves a bit.” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Kim Dah-Hyun reflexively shielded his face and retreated very quickly. Just how much money and time did he spend trying to get this face back?!
After easily defeating Kim Dah-Hyun, Yi Ji-Hyuk shifted focus and opened his mouth.
“What do you want now?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“We’ve crossed the vastness of the ocean to encounter you. We are from the country that’s close but also very far.”
Frowning slightly, Yi Ji-Hyuk turned his head and asked Kim Dah-Hyun.
“What the heck is she trying to say?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“….She’s implying that she’s from Japan.” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
“Oh, really? Then, why is she speaking like that?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“Probably because she’s not that fluent in Korean.” (Kim Dah-Hyun)
While listening to the conversation between Yi Ji-Hyuk and Kim Dah-Hyun, the woman’s facial expression twitched ever so slightly.
What the hell was up with these two morons?
“Okay, so now what?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
The woman let off a soft sigh under her breath. Just as their prior investigation had suggested, beating around the bush would definitely not help her here.
So, she had to get to the point. As concisely as humanly possible.
“Yeah?” (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
“We’d like to scout you, Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk.”
Yi Ji-Hyuk let off a grand sigh.
A different country, but still singing the same tune, huh….
< 71. We’d like to scout you, Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk -1 > Fin.
(TL: The original word used in the raw was a pun which couldn’t be TLed straight into English. Basically, the word used could be either “core/centre” or “nuclear bomb”. I thought about going with the “nuclear core” or even “nucleus”, but decided to leave it simply as “core” instead.)
(TL: The raw texts for the Japanese woman are written in a rather old-school, ungainly and “silly” Korean, perhaps to reflect that she isn’t a native speaker. That’s why I chose to go with slightly odd choices of English words where possible.)