Colonel Jeong In-Soo stared anxiously at the Level 4 Gate, just over yonder.
He had dealt with tens, maybe even hundreds, of them already, yet the palpable sense of anxiety still crept up all over him whenever he faced a new Gate.
Maybe because of Level 5 Gates opening up more often nowadays, the situation didn’t seem as severe as before to the soldiers and the public – not too long ago, the appearance of a Level 4 Gate such as this one would’ve been treated as a national emergency that garnered the focus of pretty much everyone.
Indeed, that was the case. But, now….
Jeong In-Soo sneaked a glance to his side and spat out a sigh.
“Will you be really fine by yourself?” (Jeong In-Soo)
Jeong In-Soo furrowed his eyebrows deeply while he looked on at Seo Ah-Young, sitting on a plastic picnic chair and sipping a cup of coffee.
She was none other than the Flame Witch.
The most famous ability user in South Korea.
The woman who distinguished herself in a very short period of time in the aftermaths of the Black Monday incident, and climbed up to the position of the most important ability user in Korea.
Even when the newly-awakened powerful individuals were beginning to resist the government and the rule of the law, she wholeheartedly cooperated with the nation and entered its ranks voluntarily, thus becoming the core of the KSF in the process.
She wielded the power that everyone acknowledged, and possessed a brain that helped her realise it’d be best to cooperate with the government.
And finally, she was the self-made success story who managed to take the position of Korea’s most famed ability user, all thanks to her… rather uniquely out-there personality.
Before the appearance of Yi Ji-Hyuk, she was even thought of as a difficult-to-deal-with type of a person, so much so that she was often referred to as the walking, talking warhead.
So, for someone like Jeong In-Soo, a member of the Defcom that did not enjoy a friendly relationship with the KSF, she was probably the last person on Earth he’d like to run into.
Jeong In-Soo couldn’t help but stare at Seo Ah-Young, who looked like she had reached some kind of Nirvana at the moment.
Whenever he saw her during the past Gate operations, she’d emit the kind of an aura that screamed, “I’m not feeling too good right now, so if you get on my nerves even for a second, I’m gonna make you dance inside the flames of hell.”
However, right now she…. She was sitting on that plastic chair with a facial expression of a yawning puppy enjoying the late afternoon sunshine.
“Huh……..” (Jeong In-Soo)
How could one go about describing the type of serenity written oh-so clearly on her face?
Jeong In-Soo couldn’t hold back any longer and cautiously threw a question at her way.
“You look like you’re feeling good about something.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Oh, I am. By a lot.” (Seo Ah-Young)
She just answered normally to a normal question. Was he really having a conversation with that Seo Ah-Young?
Since they always glared at each other and had only exchanged a few choice words in the past, the good Colonel couldn’t help but feel rather strange after realising the small fact that they could indeed share a normal conversation.
“Did something good happen to you?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Well, I’m out here, so yes. You could say that.” (Seo Ah-Young)
“Pardon?” (Jeong In-Soo)
Seo Ah-Young sipped her coffee with an expression of a crafty little cat, before languidly leaning her body back.
“This is freedom.” (Seo Ah-Young)
What is this crazy woman even talking about now?
No, besides all that…. Is she really that walking, talking warhead, the infamous Insane Witch Seo Ah-Young that I used to know? (Jeong In-Soo’s inner monologue)
With such a languid expression on her face, it was like her already superior good looks were standing out even more than before.
“How long before the Gate opens up, you think?” (Seo Ah-Young)
“Within twenty, thirty minutes, I believe.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“D*mn it. I’ve got only thirty minutes of break remaining.” (Seo Ah-Young)
With a pair of despairing eyes, Seo Ah-Young grasped her head and began messily disarranging her hair. But then, she spoke up as if she had thought of a great idea.
“Well, what if I take care of the monsters slowly, thereby increasing the time spent here?” (Seo Ah-Young)
….This girl, what happened to her? (Jeong In-Soo’s inner monologue)
“Is the work at the NDF that tough?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“No, not really. The workload has actually decreased somewhat. You see, nowadays I don’t have to deal with as many of those annoying higher-ups that nag all the time.” (Seo Ah-Young)
“In that case, perhaps the pressure of the job, or the sense of responsibility burdening you?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Hmm~. I don’t think I’ve felt them yet, strictly speaking.” (Seo Ah-Young)
“So, then…. What’s gotten into you?” (Jeong In-Soo)
Seo Ah-Young flinched grandly, before shooting an all-too-familiar glare in Jeong In-Soo’s direction.
“Are you asking me because you don’t know?” (Seo Ah-Young)
“You think I’d ask you if I knew?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Whew…..” (Seo Ah-Young)
Seo Ah-Young let off a lengthy groan, and just as she was about to say something, she froze.
The smartphone resting inside her inner pocket began to vibrate. She pulled it out, checked the caller ID on the screen, and her entire expression crumbled. She then reluctantly answered the call she did not want to answer.
“What do you want now? Yes? Yes….. Hang on, that b*stard, what the hell does he want this time?! Yes? Oh… he can hear me? Ah…..” (Seo Ah-Young)
Seeing Seo Ah-Young’s shoulders droop so much like that, a feeling of pity welled up in the Colonel’s heart.
“What? Okay, I understand…. I’ll head there as soon as the situation this side is resolved….” (Seo Ah-Young)
Seo Ah-Young managed to end the call with much difficulty, and then, went completely limp like a strand of seaweed.
“Ha-ah…..” (Seo Ah-Young)
That sigh escaping from the depths of her heart sounded so sorrowful, Jeong In-Soo found himself trying to console her, even though he had no idea what the heck was going on here.
“Be strong.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Ha-ah, Colonel….” (Seo Ah-Young)
“Yes?” (Jeong In-Soo)
Seo Ah-Young’s eyes began to get moist at the edges.
Not flames erupting, but ‘moist’?!
What the bloody hell….? She is the Insane Witch, for crying out loud!
She’s the crazy b*tch that completely obliterated the Defcom soldiers by wildly flinging a flame ball around just because they dared to confront her KSF agents!!
She’s the kind of a person who’d bleed insults rather than blood if you pricked her with a needle!! (Jeong In-Soo’s inner monologue)
“What is the grim reaper doing? Isn’t this dereliction of duty?” (Seo Ah-Young)
“Pardon?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Why doesn’t it come and take that guy away?!?!” (Seo Ah-Young)
That guy, she said….
Jeong In-Soo recalled a certain pair of eyebrows that seemed to personify ‘petulance’.
Ahhh. So that’s what it was.
It was because of that man. (Jeong In-Soo’s inner monologue)
“Whyyyyyyy……” (Seo Ah-Young)
Seeing Seo Ah-Young cry out in pure, unadulterated sorrow, Jeong In-Soo too wiped the corners of his eyes dry.
Just what was Yi Ji-Hyuk doing over there that drove this infamous Flame Witch into such a state?
Just where did the confident representative of the KSF, Seo Ah-Young, disappear to?
“You really have no answers to…. dealing with Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk?” (Jeong In-Soo)
Hearing Jeong In-Soo’s question, Seo Ah-Young’s brows quivered quite unstably.
“Answers?” (Seo Ah-Young)
“….Y, yes.” (Jeong In-Soo)
“I did not expect to find yet another word that’s least ideal to describe Mister Yi Ji-Hyuk.” (Seo Ah-Young)
Seo Ah-Young spat out a long and pained groan.
Really now, there’s no answering him.
He’s been keeping a low profile after causing that mayhem before, but why is he throwing yet another tantrum now?!
Can’t you just let people rest for once?!
I’ve went through hell for half a year, but I can’t even go home because of all the piled up work! (Seo Ah-Young’s inner monologue)
Seriously now, she was actually shedding tears of joy just because she got to participate in the Gate suppression operation.
And she finally found some time to relax and take a break. Yet, that b*stard was demanding her to quickly end the operation and show up there. What kind of horsesh*t was this?!
“You son of a b*tch….” (Seo Ah-Young)
Jeong In-Soo’s entire body began shivering after hearing her voice packed to the brim with hatred, rage, and resentment.
“You son of a….” (Seo Ah-Young)
It was then.
The Gate shook violently, and it opened up.
“Euhahhhhhh!!!” (Seo Ah-Young)
Seo Ah-Young shot up abruptly from her seat and huge fireballs immediately formed in both of her hands.
“What the hell!! Freaking out of the blue?!” (Jeong In-Soo)
“Go dieeeeeeeeeeeee!!!” (Seo Ah-Young)
Seo Ah-Young began pouring flames in the Gate’s direction like a madman, uh, madwoman.
‘Argh, this crazy woman!’ (Jeong In-Soo)
As expected of the infamous Flame Witch!
Seo Ah-Young splendidly spew out flames of hell as if to firmly declare that the Insane Witch wasn’t going anywhere. And the poor Colonel Jeong In-Soo couldn’t even think about issuing command to commence firing – all he could do was fling his body to the ground and cover himself from her wildly erupting flames.
“Say something before you start cutting loose!!!! You crazy little….!!” (Jeong In-Soo)
Jeong In-Soo spat out swear words while looking at his half-singed uniform, but Seo Ah-Young didn’t seem to hear him as she simply screamed out towards the Gate, her eyes completely bloodshot.
“Dieee!! Die!! DIE!!” (Seo Ah-Young)
Has she really gone insane?! (Jeong In-Soo’s inner monologue)
“Go diiiiieeeee, YI JI-HYUKKKKKK!!” (Seo Ah-Young)
….That bit at the end sounded a wee bit weird, though?
Isn’t she fighting against monsters here?
I mean, where are you aiming at with your dang flames? (Jeong In-Soo’s inner monologue)
Seo Ah-Young unloaded fireballs like a machine gun for a while, before finally lowering her hands, her breathing in complete disarray.
Jeong In-Soo stared at the Gate and blinked his eyes in disbelief. He was completely befuddled by the sight of nothing but ash blowing in the wind right in front of the Gate.
Just what kind of monsters came out from the Gate in the first place? Hell, he didn’t even get a chance to see what sort of creatures emerged before they were all turned to ash. What an absurdly hollow conclusion this was.
‘And it was a Level 4, too…’ (Jeong In-Soo)
If it was before, then lots of ability users would’ve been mobilised to defend against such a Gate.
Since she showed up all alone and seemed to be very relaxed, Jeong In-Soo figured that she had some sort of a plan going on here, but, this was….
Was Seo Ah-Young this powerful?
Sure, as the top ability user representing Korea, she was good enough to garner the attention of the world, but still, she shouldn’t have been that powerful to completely destroy a Level 4 Gate all by herself.
However, wasn’t this on the same sort of power level that should rank right at top in the worldwide rankings?
“Urgh……” (Seo Ah-Young)
Seo Ah-Young looked at the phone vibrating and her body began shuddering as well.
“Why can’t you just leave me alone….” (Seo Ah-Young)
The gap between the Seo Ah-Young of just now that ripped a Level 4 Gate to shreds in the proverbial blink of an eye, and that of the current Seo Ah-Young despairing while looking at her phone, was simply too wide to bridge.
“….Didn’t you warn us not to take him away back then?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“If only I could rewind time by three months….” (Seo Ah-Young)
….Then, she’d not have committed such a grave error!
If only she knew back then what she knew now!!!!!
The thing was, though, it didn’t matter how quickly you regretted something, it’d still be too late.
“Ha-ah….” (Seo Ah-Young)
Seo Ah-Young spat out yet another groan, and then, with a forlorn voice, she spoke to Jeong In-Soo.
“Excuse me…. Colonel?” (Seo Ah-Young)
“Yes?” (Jeong In-Soo)
“I made a mistake and finished up this incident way too quickly. So, like, I was wondering, if you’d be kind enough to make a report and say that the mop-up of the operation has been delayed somewhat?” (Seo Ah-Young)
“J, just for 30 minutes, that’s all! I just don’t wanna go there yet! Just for 30 minutes! P, please!!” (Seo Ah-Young)
“Sure thing. I’ll do that…..” (Jeong In-Soo)
Jeong In-Soo wiped the tears off his cheeks again.
Once more, he had to ask – just what on earth was that Yi Ji-Hyuk doing over there at the NDF?!
At this rate, wouldn’t the Flame Witch, feared by everyone from here to heaven, morph into a romance manga heroine?!
It was right around then.
An indistinct, blurry figure suddenly began materialising in front of Jeong In-Soo, before it became a complete human being.
“Heok?!” (Jeong In-Soo)
Jeong In-Soo quickly stepped back in surprise; meanwhile, Seo Ah-Young spat out a sigh being released from deep within her soul when she saw this scene unfold.
“And why are you here?” (Seo Ah-Young)
Jeong Hae-Min grinned brightly and spoke.
“He told me to come and fetch you.” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“W, who’s he?!” (Seo Ah-Young)
“Ji-Hyuk, obvs.” (Jeong Hae-Min)
Panicking, Seo Ah-Young began shouting and pointing fingers at Jeong Hae-Min.
“You, you!! Since when have you become Yi Ji-Hyuk’s patsy?! Busy going around fetching people and all that! How can you even think about catching me for him?! How will you even achieve that impossible feat, anyways?!” (Seo Ah-Young)
“What? You say something?” (Jeong Hae-Min)
Jeong Hae-Min grandly ignored Seo Ah-Young’s resistance and reached out to grab the latter’s hand. But Seo Ah-Young quickly stepped back and avoided being grabbed.
“Uh? What’s the matter? Don’t wanna go?” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“T, that’s right!! I’m not going! Don’t you guys have any conscience?! Can’t he at least gimme a day to rest before throwing me back into the deep end?! Nope!! I’m not GOING!!” (Seo Ah-Young)
“Ng? But, I can’t hear you well, though~?” (Jeong Hae-Min)
“You devil!!” (Seo Ah-Young)
Jeong Hae-Min once more utterly ignored Seo Ah-Young’s cries, grabbed her, and promptly teleported away.
“…..Huh.” (Jeong In-Soo)
Now sort of left alone, Jeong In-Soo alternated his gaze between the ruined landscape in front of where the Gate used to be, and the spot where Seo Ah-Young used to be.
“What an absurd level of…. something, this is.” (Jeong In-Soo)
The Seo Ah-Young capable of easily solo-ing a situation that might’ve caused a national emergency three months ago was already very surprising, but then again, Jeong Hae-Min being able to deal with someone like that so nonchalantly was just as surprising as well.
But perhaps even more surprising was Yi Ji-Hyuk, capable of reducing Seo Ah-Young into a shivering rat trapped in front of a cat.
“Just what kind of a man is he?” (Jeong In-Soo)
It felt like a new facet to him emerged whenever Jeong In-Soo ran into the youth.
But in any case, what’s important was the fact that ever since his appearance, the KSF’s, no, the NDF’s, overall combat prowess had increased greatly.
Not just Seo Ah-Young, but other NDF agents deployed during the Gate suppression operations had shown overwhelming might so far.
“It sure is a good thing, but still….” (Jeong In-Soo)
The problem was that, every single ability user proudly showing off amazing battle achievements also happened to display severe cases of psychosis as well….
….Such as, mental instability and/or panic attacks.
And…. even, Yi Ji-Hyuk-o-phobia.
Jeong In-Soo didn’t want to think about it, but didn’t it look like the nation’s most powerful combat force, the NDF, was being way too easily manipulated by a single man?
No, maybe it was way past that point already?
Jeong In-Soo recalled Yi Ji-Hyuk’s face. It was rather difficult to locate a shred of ambition on that face full of cantankerousness.
However, it was also true that, appearances could be deceiving. (TL: Well, that proverb about gils of water popped up here again. Changed by my editor. I guess he really hates that proverb….)
Jeong In-Soo held a favourable impression of Yi Ji-Hyuk, sure, but he was duty-bound to separate the official matters from his own private thoughts.
“For the time being, I need to report this.” (Jeong In-Soo)
It wasn’t up to Jeong In-Soo to figure out how the higher-ups interpret this situation. No, his job was to simply report it. Others with a higher pay grade would decide what to do.
“However, will they even find a suitable response, I wonder?” (Jeong In-Soo)
If the NDF were to stand against the country, then would anyone be able to stop them?
Jeong In-Soo could only spit out a low groan.
< 91. What is the grim reaper doing? Isn’t this dereliction of duty? -1 > Fin.