Episode 229

Chapter 9, Hey Ugly Korean (4)
1 week ago
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Intent on changing his country, the pure-hearted young man, A-class hero Nguyen, and I had just left the airport.

“The vehicle we prepared is…”

“They must have it under surveillance. There’s no need to even try approaching.”

Nguyen quickly looked disheartened.

“I’m sorry. I thought I did the best I could locally…”

“There’s no need to apologize. This is all part of the experience, and you can learn from it. You’re not a specialist in espionage, but an expert in defeating villains.”

If we were to compare Nguyen to Korea’s S-class heroes, he would be akin to ‘Tosin’ Lee Jun-young.

Overflowing with a sense of justice and adept at physical actions, yet his naïve approach prevents him from fully seeing the dark aspects of the world.

If such a person were to recognize the reality of darkness and shine a light on it, he could enforce justice on a national level—a man on par with ‘Gwang Ik Gong.’

Of course, reaching that point would entail tremendous mental stress and challenges.

Despite the Secret Society’s promise to help, facing the deep-rooted darkness in one’s own country was a tough task for anyone.

“Brother. It seems like they are slowly getting a van or a taxi over there, what should we do?”

“We’ll just use a taxi like normal people. But first, Nguyen, you need to cover your face.”

I lightly flicked the black umbrella I was holding towards Nguyen.

“This is…?”

“A tool for disguise. We can just go as we are, but you’re a hero in this country.”

“Is this what they call an ‘Invisibility Mask’ or something?”

“Yes.”

Though it’s made using mana.

“Will this do?”

“Perfect. Oh, I have one request.”

“What is it?”

“Could you strike a pose and smile for me?”

I formed a ‘V’ with my fingers and placed them below my lips.

“Like this?”

Nguyen showed off his white teeth and grinned broadly.

Perfect.

Indeed, the image I had created from my memory was accurate.

“Brother, who is this?”

“I just made it look like a normal handsome Vietnamese man.”

“Vietnam…”

Nguyen chuckled bitterly at the mention of Vietnam.

“It’s quite an impressive place in many ways.”

Nguyen, who had sought the Secret Society’s help in despair over the situation in Thailand, gave a bitter smile at the mention of ‘Vietnam.’

“I’m not sure if it’s right to say that history has been compensated like that…”

If there’s ever a chance to go to ‘pre-Vietnam’, there would be a detailed story to tell.

In brief, there’s no Vietnam in this world.

Though a country did transition into the ‘Nam Special Autonomous Region’ of South Korea after securing a large number of ability users through international marriage specials faster than any other country.

Was that too much?

That’s how the international situation was post-Cataclysm.

Weak countries disappeared one by one, getting absorbed by neighboring nations, with those mergers often led by A-class ability users or higher.

Since that’s what the citizens wanted.

If there’s an A-class next to a country whose maximum output was C-class, then people would either immigrate to the A-class country or demand a national merger.

Nam was the first country outside the Korean Peninsula that South Korea merged with.

They agreed to move forward together beyond the painful history of the pre-Cataclysm era, and there was no reason for South Korea to refuse to take in another country.

Someone may call them “second-class Koreans” or mockingly “peninsula Koreans,” but despite their changed affiliations, they still maintain their Vietnamese identities.

Underneath the pyramid of the spreading Korean Wave, Vietnam holds the top layer.

“If you’re ready, get in now. A guide is coming over to snatch us up.”

Yun Hye-ra, who had successfully coaxed a taxi driver, called us over.

Nguyen seemed unsure about where to sit in the sedan taxi prominently marked with an ‘H’, but I pointed him to the back seat.

“Sit behind the driver’s seat. I’ll take the passenger side.”

“What? But I…”

“Just watch silently from the back.”

“Yes!”

Nguyen opened the car door and got in, and after Yun Hye-ra got in, I closed the door and headed to the passenger seat.

“Welcome aboard.”

“Your Korean is fluent?”

“Haha. These days, if taxi drivers don’t speak Korean, they can’t even get their licenses.”

The middle-aged man grinned broadly, lifting his sunglasses.

Thanks to Yun Hye-ra hopping from one taxi to another, his car didn’t smell of cigarettes.

“Do you like coriander?”

“Can’t live without it. Nowadays, the government regulates coriander so much that it’s harder to find than honey butter chips. Did you come here to eat pho? There’s a place where friends from Vietnam who have settled down make amazing pho. That friend grows coriander at home, so he can generously add it.”

“Tell me about it later. For now…”

I pointed to a giant van rushing ahead.

“Please follow that van.”

“Oh… I felt something was up when the lady started talking, but is there something going on?”

“Yes. You will be well compensated.”

“Ah, compensation is fine, but…”

The taxi driver shifted gears like he was racing, and swiftly maneuvered the parked car to follow the van.

“I can’t resist undercover reporting. I used to be a journalist back in the day.”

“……”

“If I appear on TV, at least blur my face, okay? Which station is it?”

“That would be…”

I gripped a small camcorder handed to me by Yun Hye-ra in the back seat and aimed it at the van.

“This is for VJ Notebook.”


At that moment.

“Hmm, hmm-hmm.”

Inside a luxurious, spacious house.

A young man, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, swim shorts, and slippers, smiled faintly at the food on the table.

“Ah, this delightful coriander scent.”

A white porcelain bowl was filled with pho, topped with enough coriander to cover the noodles and broth.

Crunch.

Laplace took a big bite of the raw coriander with chopsticks.

To others, it might look like a rabbit munching on grass, but Laplace savored the coriander slightly warmed by the pho, appreciating its flavor and aroma.

“Let’s see, the farm is…”

Laplace fiddled with a tablet beside the pho.

The screen looked like it was managing a game about an island, with various data updating in real-time.

“Ah, shoot. Who brought in the Chinese stuff?”

A small popup window on the tablet displayed profiles of several men.

“Damn. When was the passport renewed, and they’re still using last year’s? Passport mismatch. Please, if you’re going to forge, at least bring a proper passport.”

Laplace pressed a red stamp on a newly popped-up window.

Soon, their passports were marked with a red seal labeled “Coriander Island.”

“I cannot forgive those who dare to contaminate my farm. Send them to ‘God’s Rest’ to contribute to this country’s coriander production. What? You want a name too? Ha, let’s see… This one is Jang Chil-sa, and this one Wang Yuk-gu. Done. That’s the end.”

Laplace, who casually attached surnames and assigned numbers as names to presumed people, turned his gaze back to the bowl of pho heavily laden with coriander.

“Hehehe. Nguyen, what should we name this guy if we send him to the island? Park Ong-il? Ah, that won’t do. It sounds too Korean. We’d attract unnecessary disputes…”

“Laplace. There’s something I need to report.”

The woman in a suit approached Laplace, who had just taken a bite of his pho.

“What is it, secretary?”

“We lost them.”

“What did you say?”

Laplace furrowed his brow and put down his chopsticks.

“Lost them? Did I hear that right?”

“Yes, you heard correctly. Nguyen has…”

“Escaped?”

Thwack!

“It was a perfect opportunity to follow Yi Maengmangnyang, and you lost it!!”

“I’m sorry…!”

Laplace, in his Hawaiian shirt, kicked the kneeling agent in the slippers and fumed.

“After all the trouble to get him moving through the Deputy Prime Minister’s bereaved family, what are you doing now!”

“Ah, rest assured. The bereaved family’s memo is a well-crafted fake, and those listed in it are just people we plan to oust later…”

“That’s not what’s important! What’s important is Yi Maengmangnyang! Finding the Secret Society!”

Laplace slammed the table with his hand.

“We need to capture agents of the Secret Society! That’s how we can negotiate with them! We can’t let Nguyen or any other madmen be the ones the Secret Society ‘chooses’!”

“Ah, but the Secret Society is an evil organization…”

“Who defined them as evil?”

Laplace pointed his chopsticks at the secretary’s neck.

“They are villains, yet not villains. They are madmen without the spirit of collaboration, claiming to act for social justice while committing evil acts.”

“……”

“If they ever interfere with this country, will they really join hands with us? No. They are the type who would not tolerate even this.”

Laplace grabbed a pinch of powder from the white porcelain dish.

“Tsk. They don’t even know the taste of mana powder, calling themselves villains.”

Chomp.

Laplace chewed loudly on the pho sprinkled with coriander and white powder.

“Tell the military. Check everyone coming in on Korean flights. If they don’t act with purpose, they’re agents of the Secret Society.”

As Laplace spread his hands, a giant screen unfolded on the wall, quickly displaying CCTV footage from across Thailand.

“We’ll capture an agent of the Secret Society and draw out their executives. Got it, ‘Hyang-dan’?”

“Yes.”

Agent Hyang-dan bowed and backed away.

“Hehe. Just wait until we catch you, Secret Society…”

Laplace grasped his left shoulder and sneered.

“This pain, I will surely return it…!”


Screech.

The taxi stopped.

“Ah, not here. PDs, just go back. If anyone asks, say I recommended a good restaurant here and head straight to the hotel.”

The taxi driver, wearing a stern expression, parked the car in the restaurant’s lot and pointed across the road.

“That’s not possible.”

“Why not?”

Nguyen leaned forward from the back seat.

“What’s over there…”

“Don’t know? Damn. That’s the gateway to the island called ‘God’s Rest’.”

“Get out. Thanks for your hard work, driver.”

I handed a stack of cash to the driver and extended a handshake.

“I’ll do as you said. Would you care to join us for a meal? If you’re uncomfortable, we can arrange for separate tables.”

“No, it’s dangerous… Huh?”

“I’ll ensure your safety.”

As I subtly allowed a spark of black flame to flicker in my eye, the taxi driver’s eyes widened, and he licked his lips.

“An ability user…! This, this. It seems bigger than I thought…!”

“As the driver suggested, we’ll eat here and then head to the hotel. Meanwhile, could you share what you know? It’s always best to get information from locals.”

“About the island that is called the God’s Rest.”

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