The Returner - LightNovelsOnl.com
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"We're short on time, so let us head directly to the office." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
It was unknown whether Choi Jeong-Hoon knew of Yi Ji-Hyuk's sorrow as he uncaringly tried to hurry everyone along.
"Please open up a Gate for us." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Yi Ji-Hyuk stared at him, prompting Choi Jeong-Hoon to stare back with a look asking, What are you doing?
Why don't you just shoot me now…. (Yi Ji-Hyuk's inner monologue)
The former didn't say anything and created a Gate directly leading to the NDF.
"Thank you." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon stepped forward ahead of everyone else. Others followed him in an orderly fas.h.i.+on, and eventually, only Yi Ji-Hyuk, Erukana, and Jeong Hae-Min remained in the living room.
"Aren't you going?" (Jeong Hae-Min)
"Yeah, I'm going." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk disinterestedly nodded his head. Unfortunately, Erukana's thoughts were slightly different.
"Oh, my? Darling, if you leave just like that, mother will be surprised after she's back." (Erukana)
"You're worried about something like that?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"It's the job of the daughter-in-law to mind such things. Outsiders might not care about that, but I'm your wife now. She's shopping for your sake, so how badly would she feel when she comes home and find out that there's no one here? Am I wrong?" (Erukana)
Jeong Hae-Min trembled in rage once more.
She really hadn't thought of that one before.
Never mind whether one was a demon king or a human, a wife or not - the fact that she lost in something so basic meant that she didn't even know where to come up with her excuses.
"It's fine to just call her on her phone." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"Call her on the phone?" (Erukana)
Yi Ji-Hyuk smirked.
This was why a dumb demon king would never succeed. Even if you were strong and tough, what was the point if you couldn't adapt to the modern world?
"No, darling. I'll just ‘talk' to her." (Erukana)
"N-n-ng?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Did I hear her wrong? What did she just say? (Yi Ji-Hyuk's inner monologue)
"She's busy shopping, so calling her on the phone will just inconvenience her. I'll send a ‘talk', so it'll be fine. Let's get going." (Erukana) (TL note at the end)
This feeling of defeat?
Even I don't use ‘talk' all that much, yet she's already proficient at it! Even though it hasn't been that long since she crossed over!
No, before all that! Where did she even get herself a phone? And when did she exchange numbers with my mom?! (Yi Ji-Hyuk's inner monologue)
"Are you a contestant in the Survival King? What's up with your adaptation rate?!" (Yi Ji-Hyuk) (TL note at the end)
"H-ng? My race survive by crossing over to different dimensions to suck men's vitality out. Such a thing will be impossible if we lack the ability to adapt to our new environments." (Erukana)
"Now that I hear you….?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
After thinking for a bit, Yi Ji-Hyuk remembered back to when Erukana was first summoned to Berafe by him. She told him that it had been several thousands of years since the last she came there, yet she made herself right at home and did whatever she pleased.
Didn't he fall into a panicked state when he first arrived in Berafe and couldn't act like a real human for two, three months?
"That's not the important thing." (Jeong Hae-Min)
Jeong Hae-Min strode over and grabbed Yi Ji-Hyuk's hand.
"Let's just go. She said that she'll contact your mother." (Jeong Hae-Min)
"Ng?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Right away, Jeong Hae-Min teleported herself and Yi Ji-Hyuk. Erukana was now all alone after two people simply disappeared from her view. But a sly grin floated up on her face, instead.
"Hmm, aren't she a cute one." (Erukana)
She was a Succubus.
There was simply no way that she didn't know the meaning behind the reactions of other females. She was most sensitive towards the erotic impulses of humans, after all.
"My darling's such a popular guy." (Erukana)
She grinned brightly as her figure vanished from the spot.
"You've arrived." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon sitting on the conference room's chair greeted Yi Ji-Hyuk.
"Why does the mood feel urgent for some reason?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"The current situation is to blame." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
"Okay, what about it? This ain't the first time that a Gate popped up, so what now?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"Mm…." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
As if he was suffering from migraine, Choi Jeong-Hoon scratched his head and pointed at the monitor.
"Please take a look." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
He was pointing at a giant map, and it displayed the locations of various Gates.
"One, two, three…. Mm, yeah, well. There's a fair number of them. By the way, aren't they in a mountainous region? Can't you just bomb the living daylights out of that place, then?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"If this was any other place, then yes, we'd have done that. However, can you see that line over there?" (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
"Ng?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
The place Choi Jeong-Hoon was now pointing at - the middle of the map was marked by a red line crossing the terrain.
"Okay?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"That's the Military Demarcation Line." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
"…Ehng?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"These Gates are currently appearing within the Demilitarized Zone. And they are appearing on both sides of the Demarcation Line. On both North and South Korean territories." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
"Oh!" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk asked as if he was mystified by that.
"Wow, they really picked an exquisite location to show up. By the way, I get the feeling that something like this has never happened before?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"Luckily enough, it hasn't so far. This would be our first time." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Park Seong-Chan scowled deeply as he looked at the map.
Why did those things have to pop up there, of all places?
"This is bad." (Park Seong-Chan)
Kim Dah-Hyun nodded to indicate his agreement.
"So, what's the plan, then?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"Not sure. Things are really tangled up at the moment." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
"Eh?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"First of all, this falls under the Defense Ministry's jurisdiction, but also ours…. Regardless of whose jurisdiction it is, because of the tangled nature of the matter at hand, it seems that the situation is very difficult to properly sort out. The President is tasked with making a decision in situations like this one, but lately, he's been absent with the claim of ill health, so…." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
The gazes of everyone present suddenly s.h.i.+fted over to Yi Ji-Hyuk.
"….What?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
He confronted their gazes in a proud, forthright manner.
"What? Why?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"It's nothing." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Although there were plenty of things waiting to be said, not one here was brave enough to say them. What a sorrowful thing that was.
"Yup, it's ‘hwabyung'." (TL note at the end)
"Must be hwabyung."
Indeed, that man was treated so badly earlier.
Even a regular person would get furious after being treated like that, so imagine a President of a nation being on the receiving end. There was no way he'd be able to maintain his sanity.
Suffering from ‘hwabyung' would be at least the bare minimum requirement.
"What now?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"It's nothing, I said." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Of course, it wasn't as if they sympathised with the man.
Anyone getting tangled up with Yi Ji-Hyuk would suffer from that level of stress everyday. Besides, dear President could count himself lucky after meeting him just once.
These agents were busy facing him right now, after all.
"Okay, so what do you want from me, then?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Look at him.
That's how he is.
Where's all the intel he heard so far disappear to? (Choi Jeong-Hoon's inner monologue)
"It seems that the situation needs to be sorted out first so that we'll know how to make our move." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
"In that case, why did you say that it's really urgent and made me come here?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
He could be so sharp sometimes.
Yi Ji-Hyuk knowing when to become strict about anything related to his leisure/fun time was yet another charming side of him, that's for sure.
"Because, being on standby will allow us to mobilise at a moment's notice." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Yi Ji-Hyuk tilted his head.
"Mobilising us?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
His eyes s.h.i.+fted back to the map.
This was the (in)famous Demilitarised Zone. Simply put, civilians weren't allowed to set foot inside. Yet, the government wanted to send ability users there and start a b.l.o.o.d.y death battle?
"You want me to go in there and fight monsters?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"That's correct." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
"What about all the landmines, then?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"If my ankle gets blown up, then South Korea is blowing up alongside me, too." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
If someone else said that, you'd be able to take that as a joke, but why did it sound so scary coming from this guy?
"Dear, your ankle is going to blow up?" (Erukana)
Out of the blue, Erukana slowly emerged from behind Yi Ji-Hyuk.
"But, why?" (Erukana)
Flames seemed to be burning in her eyes.
"Hul." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Cold sweat trickled down Choi Jeong-Hoon's forehead. Even if she wasn't really angry, an existence on the level of a demon king displaying her displeasure was enough to make him feel like his heart was being squeezed tightly.
"Because of landmines." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"It's like magic that explodes from the ground." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"You can fly to avoid them, right?" (Erukana)
"….That's true." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
This gal, she's really quick on the uptake on useless things, but can also be a klutz in times like this, too. (Yi Ji-Hyuk's inner monologue)
"H-mm." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
With an unreadable expression on his face, Yi Ji-Hyuk tried to change the topic.
"Indeed. Also, nothing's been decided yet at the moment." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon quickly took charge of the reins after realising that the timing was just right. Yi Ji-Hyuk glared at him for a second there, but he simply grinned and ably faced the glare.
Ha, this guy….
Since when did he become so thick-faced? (Yi Ji-Hyuk's inner monologue)
‘I've reared a tiger cub, haven't I.' (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk began wondering that, although these ability users did get a wee bit stronger, maybe the one to get a real upgrade here was none other than Choi Jeong-Hoon.
"So, what's the real problem, then?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"Please hold." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon pulled his phone out and tapped on it a couple of times before opening his lips.
"The current problem is that we can't bomb the DMZ." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
"Why not?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"There has never been an instance in the post-Korean War history where a government decided to bomb the Military Demarcation Line. Sure, trading fire using handguns or rifles has taken place in the past, but dropping bombs on another nation's territory is tantamount to declaring war, you see." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
"And why does it have to be that way? Gates popped up, so shouldn't we worry about dealing with them first?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"….That's what I believe as well, but…." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Well, those people up north just don't listen to logic, you see.
It's not as if this is their first rodeo either.
But then again, when did they ever act logically in the first place? (Choi Jeong-Hoon's inner monologue)
"We're talking about North Korea, after all." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
"Groan…." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk couldn't help but nod his head.
There was no straighter answer than that. Even someone like Yi Ji-Hyuk, who loved to find any excuse to grab hold onto and exploit it to death couldn't do that in this case. That's how much North Korea defied one's attempt at logically dissecting it as a functioning nation.
"So, we're supposed to sit back and wait?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"The Foreign Ministry is trying to get in touch with them. I think they want to move together with the Defense Ministry and find a common ground." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
"Mm…." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk groaned and found a seat to settle down.
It was right then that Choi Jeong-Hoon's phone went off.
"Here it comes." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
With a slightly tense face, he answered the call.
"Yes, this is Choi Jeong-Hoon speaking."
Others around him could hear that several urgent words were coming out from the phone's speaker, but they couldn't catch what they were about. It was only to the extent of figuring out that the slightly deep voice belonged to a man. That was all.
"Yes, sir." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon's complexion darkened somewhat.
Those who detected that subtle change couldn't help but feel worried next.
"Is that that only way?" (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
"H-mm…." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk heard Choi Jeong-Hoon's reply and his forehead creased up immediately.
"Understood. I'll give you a call later." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon ended the phone call and right away, studied Yi Ji-Hyuk's mood.
"Well, now…" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
The latter began gritting his teeth.
"….Why don't you tell us what's what?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"Hmm, hmm." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
Choi Jeong-Hoon dry coughed and pointed at the map again.
"As you can see, there are a total of eight Gates. Three of them have opened up within our borders, three others on the North Korean territory, while the remaining two are, rather coincidentally, right on the Demarcation Line itself." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
"What a delicate location."
Indeed, that was the case.
"Even if we a.s.sume that the parties involved will take care of the Gates in their respective sides, the real issue lies with those two in the middle. Their location means that it's somewhat awkward for either side to deal with them, but we simply can't leave them be, either." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
"So, what now?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Choi Jeong-Hoon smiled while looking rather troubled.
"So, what the higher-ups came up with is a resolutely rational decision to wait until those Gates fully open up, and if the monsters head this way, we deal with that, and if they go the other way, we let our northerly neighbours deal with them, instead." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
"Mm…." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
It sure sounded pretty rational, but why did it also feel rather stunningly pa.s.sive, as well….?
"Well, in any case, fine. If the monsters come this side, then we roast them all. Simple." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"The thing is…." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
"Yeah?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"The agreement by both sides mean that, rather than firepower, the higher-ups wants to deploy ability users to deal with the matter." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
"Hoh-oh?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk grinned refres.h.i.+ngly.
"So, what you're saying is…." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"Yes?" (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
"For a job that can be solved by simply flying in a couple of bombers to bomb the living c**p of the place, they want us to go there personally and set up tents and have a nice little camping trip, and then….." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"….It's technically not camping, but." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
"….While roasting wild boars and filling our bellies like cavemen, we kill any monsters heading our way? And don't do anything if they go the other way?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"If you put it that way, yes. More or less." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
"Mmm. Very logical, then. So, like…." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"Yes?" (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
"Gimme the phone number to the Defense Minister." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
"….Please, calm down." (Choi Jeong-Hoon)
"I'm very, very calm and serious right now, can't you see? The number, please." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)
Yi Ji-Hyuk raised the phone up, his expression stiff.
< 279.="" what="" kind="" of="" concept="" is="" this="" -4=""> Fin.
(TL: ‘Talk' here isn't literally talking to someone, but simply a Korean slang for sending instant messages through a super-popular app called Kakaotalk.)
(TL: "Survival King" is a game/variety show in South Korea, shown on the channel MBC.)
(TL: "Hwabyung" or "Hwabyeong" is a generalised Korean term for a stress-related mental disorder. Check Wikipedia out for a more in-depth explanation.)
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