Yess & Yes - Chapter 1.2
Perhaps because it was Christmas Eve, the night view from the window was exceptionally bright. The number of people passing by on the street was much higher than usual, and the roads were lined with cars.
I will take care of it with utmost sincerity starting from the day before my parents’ birth. Lee Juwon muttered softly to himself and turned his attention to the box on his desk. Inside were items from the Jimil Dungeon that Kang Inheon had cleared last time.
A floating stone that could make things levitate, glasses that could see through things, a hearing aid that could hear distant sounds, and paper that exploded if you drew the mandala correctly…
“It’s all rubbish.”
After checking the list of items and their performance, Lee Juwon came to an easy conclusion. The monsters in the Jimil Dungeon were A-class, but all the items he obtained couldn’t reach D-class.
The floating stone could only lift about 200 grams. Lee Juwon shook his head as he levitated the rolling ballpoint pen on his desk. It was not possible to float people or monsters, and it was difficult to use floating stones like this in reality.
He tried on the see-through glasses, but they didn’t work as well as he’d hoped. Even the inside of his desk drawer was blurry. Moreover, his eyes quickly grew dim.
The hearing aid, which was supposed to allow you to hear small sounds up to 500 metres away, was also useless. Hunters developed different sensory organs than civilians. There were no useless hard-of-hearing hunters in December.
The mandala diagrams for the bomb paper, which had to be drawn by hand to trigger it, were overly difficult. After checking the mandala diagrams on the company’s server, Lee Juwon clicked his tongue. He didn’t know how much explosive power they had, but he wasn’t looking forward to them because the items generally underperformed.
He declined the request for the Jimil dungeon because it was hard to clear and offered poor rewards, making it a dungeon with the worst cost-effectiveness. However, Kang Inheon insisted, saying that he couldn’t leave a dungeon that occurred near a large hospital alone.
In the end, Kang Inheon handled the Jimil dungeon alone on his day off. The reason was that the hospital had many critical patients who were difficult to evacuate.
Lee Juwon was irritated once again. Even the hospital director chose to evacuate instead of increasing the clear reward, so why would Kang Inheon crawl in there alone? Not knowing that he could become a critical patient.
“Like an idiot…”
Lee Juwon touched the knot of his tie. At some point, just thinking about Kang Inheon made his stomach churn and feel stuffy.
Knock, knock. There was a light knock on the door of the representative’s office.
“Yes,” Lee Juwon answered, and the door to the representative’s office cautiously opened. Han Sujin, the team leader of the PR department, walked in through the open door. Unlike during the day, when she wore her hair loose and wore contacts, Team Leader Han wore her hair up with clips and thick glasses.
“Hello, Mr. CEO,” Team Leader Han greeted in a slightly cracked voice and held out an approval board. “These are the design drafts for the hunter recruitment exhibition.”
Lee Juwon looked down at the drafts, then opened his mouth. “I have a question.”
Team Leader Han swallowed dryly at Lee Juwon’s opening. Lee Juwon tapped the draft with the knuckle of his forefinger. “Why is it that the more you fix it, the weirder it gets?”
“Ah…” Team Leader Han could only spit out, neither affirming, denying, nor groaning, just an exclamation to fill the silence. But there were many words she swallowed inside.
The strange thing was not the draft, but Lee Juwon’s personality. It was a matter of discarding it because that bad personality of his could not be repaired. When she felt the weight of the resignation letter in her chest, Lee Juwon spoke, “Let’s just go with the first draft.”
“What…?” Team Leader Han, who couldn’t exchange words with trash who only looked good and fair on the outside, had no choice but to ask back.
She had revised this singular draft seven times in a month. Even today, the team members had to cancel their date and work until this time to fix it. Lee Juwon tried to solve the problem with his own manpower without hiring a designer or outsourcing it, and she couldn’t contact the Labour Office because hunter companies were businesses exempt from the 52-hour workweek.
“But Mr. CEO clearly said that the first one was garbage…”
“I’m not saying it’s not garbage, I’m saying this one is the worst. The exposition is next month and there’s no time, so it’s obvious even if I don’t see the revised version, so I’d rather just choose the first.”
Team Leader Han bowed lightly, her right middle finger stiffly standing up under her politely clasped left hand. It was then that Lee Juwon took his eyes off the draft on his desk and looked at Team Leader Han. Lee Juwon’s brow was very furrowed.
When Team Leader Han sucked in an involuntary breath in surprise, Lee Juwon opened his mouth, “And….”
When Lee Juwon, who usually quickly got to the point, beat around the bush, Team Leader Han quickly grew restless. She didn’t know what words would come out of those lips that were only pretty in appearance. Suddenly, the see-through glasses on Lee Juwon’s desk that she didn’t care about caught her eye. Was he seeing through her raised third finger?!
The words that came out of Lee Juwon’s mouth were thankfully mundane. “Do you have the original, high-definition footage of the Hunter Kang advert we shot?”
“Ah. Yes… I have the before and after edit footage.”
“Send me all of that.”
Team Leader Han was getting nervous. How much does this bastard intend to closely scrutinize the high-definition video? It would be difficult if he found fault with an advertisement that was already on air, but she couldn’t afford not to send the video.
“…Yes, Mr. CEO.”
Lee Juwon shook his hand, but Team Leader Han couldn’t leave. “Uh, if you flip to the next page, you’ll see…”
More than just wanting to leave the representative’s office, Team Leader Han wanted to leave this corrupt company with no system or basis, but there were still things to report. She had brought a bunch of things to report at once to reduce the number of times she had to see Lee Juwon.
In the early days of her employment, she used to think that Lee Juwon’s face was the only welfare of December. Now, she didn’t. Face my foot, that bastard was the axis of evil. Fighting back the urge to throw up from all the work, Team Leader Han continued, “This is the project proposal for a December branded webtoon to promote the hunter exposition. The main character of the webtoon will be based on Hunter Kang Inheon, what do you think?”
Lee Juwon said as he flipped through the proposal, “Why’s the title like this? A super strong S-class hunter feels unrequited love for me, the villain?”
Team Leader Han, who felt like she had to rewrite the proposal due to Lee Juwon’s reaction and the cold atmosphere, hurriedly replied, “It’s hard to get users to click on a branded webtoon because it’s an advertisement, so I thought it was important to create an interesting title to spark curiosity…”
“This seems interesting to Team Leader Han?”
“Provocative sentence-style titles are all the rage these days… The dashing munchkin hunter falls for an ugly duckling like me, this Cinderella cliché is what people subconsciously dream of…”
“No, who has such childish dreams these days?”
Lee Juwon dropped a question at the end of her words, and when she did her best to answer, he interrupted her midway through and said what he needed to say. His chattering went through one ear and out the other, and Team Leader Han lowered her gaze and repeated.
Be patient, you have to be patient. Not long ago, she won the newlyweds subscription, but even though they made it through the eye of a needle, their loans were piling up like a mountain. In this economic crisis, she had no choice but to carve a seal of patience.
Tak, Lee Juwon closed the approval board and said, “Team Leader Han…. Why don’t you try making a plan with some substance that fits December’s level? Read up on the trends?”
Team Leader Han picked up the approval board on Lee Juwon’s desk. She wanted to chop Lee Juwon’s head with the corner of the approval board, but after a silent bow, she turned away. Lee Juwon spoke to the back of Team Leader Han’s head, “And is it really necessary to hire a writer? Isn’t there anyone among the employees who likes manhwas?”
Team Leader Han didn’t know where to begin with that ineffable comment, so she couldn’t do anything other than turn around and open her mouth again. “…Liking manhwas and drawing webtoons are two completely different things…”
“Try asking in the group messenger. Wouldn’t it be great if someone took this opportunity to debut as a manhwa artist?”
Team Leader Han had many things she wanted to say, but there was only one thing she could say. “…Understood.”
Well done, Sujin-ah… Team Leader Han turned around again, patting herself on the back for saving a man’s life on Christmas Eve night. She almost murdered that CEO bastard just now, but saved him. She should be rewarded with a present from Santa for doing a good deed.
As a Christmas gift to the entire staff, Team Leader Han left the CEO’s office, hoping that the bastard would get fucked up somewhere.
After Team Leader Han left, Lee Juwon glanced at the clock. Before he knew it, the short needle was already pointing to 11.
Lee Juwon leaned back in his chair for a moment and closed his eyes. His eyes were blurry from staring at the monitor all day.
It was time for Kang Inheon to finish the job. He was the kind of guy who got the job done, even if it’s one he’s displeased with, but this one involved BH, so Lee Juwon picked up his cellphone to check.
He had accumulated quite a few notifications while working. Among them, there was a message from Kang Inheon too. Lee Juwon checked it first, but it wasn’t the report about the request he was expecting.
Kang Inheon : 24th December chinese style boiled glutinous millet modern bean paste soup sausage (+mustard sauce) pickled radish seasoned dish traditional radish kimchi dinner hash rice stir-fried fish cakes kimchi cabbage cherry tomatoes
Kang Inheon would sometimes send the canteen menu to Lee Juwon like this. People who praised him as a national hero should know that Kang Inheon was a nutcase who used the messenger window with the CEO as a notepad.
As he looked at the menu while clicking his tongue, he started to feel hungry. Come to think of it, he couldn’t remember eating anything after having eaten a sandwich this afternoon. It seemed like he’d been awake for twenty hours.
But after a decade of living so busily he had no time to breathe, Lee Juwon now couldn’t discern if he was tired, hungry, or sleepy. He was just always on edge and temperamental.
“Maybe I should leave work early today….”
Why do people need to eat and sleep to move properly? With a sigh, Lee Juwon, who thought it was tiresome to eat and a waste of time to sleep, stood up from his seat. He wished there was a pill that could take the place of a meal, perfectly balancing nutrients. If it ever came out, he wanted to somehow figure out the production method and make a copy of it.
Sipping a cold cup of coffee he couldn’t even remember when he poured instead of the pill, Lee Juwon grabbed the coat he had hung and left the representative office.
The lights were still on around the office, but the corridors were endlessly quiet since it was so close to midnight. Only the sound of a ringtone coming from Lee Juwon’s cellphone circled around his ears.
“Why isn’t he answering the phone?”
When Lee Juwon ended the call, he heard a strange sound in the silent hallway.
Lee Juwon whipped around to look at his surroundings. There was no one else in the long corridor. But he heard the strange sound again.
“…it’s too much…”
There was no one there, but he felt a presence. Suspicious, Lee Juwon quietly walked towards the emergency stairs where the sound came from.
“…raising the budget again….”
As he approached the iron gate of the emergency exit, he could clearly hear the words beyond the door.
“…even if you dunk on someone, there’s a limit. I was so embarrassed and the subcontract slip wasn’t possible but he acted crazy asking me if I had no work sense and if I was doing charity work.”
“God, that lunatic really can’t let anything slip even on Christmas.”
“Ha, it feels so dirty, I should just quit…”
“What the hell is he going to do with all he’s saved up? Is he going to carry it with him when he dies?”
“That’s what I’m saying. That son of a bitch… he could at least speak a bit nicely…”
“What the hell happened in his growth period to mould his personality into that?”
Lee Juwon touched his ear. He was still wearing the hearing aid that was supposed to help him hear small sounds at close range.
The performance wasn’t bad for a low-level item. He checked the item’s performance, and there were no security issues since there were no outsiders in the company.
“Please… I really just want to hit him one time.”
“Is once enough? You have to beat him into the ground.”
“Can’t his face be proportionate to his personality?”
There was no target in the employees’ conversation, but he easily noticed who they were cursing. But he didn’t care who or what they were swearing at. Lee Juwon turned to go back on his way.
“Why, there’s Inheon-nim, you know. The model example of a right face and a right mindset.”
Lee Juwon paused for a moment at the name he heard.
“Yeah, there’s Inhunter…, our light and salt…”
“He makes me happy just looking at him, so he’s closer to carbohydrates, isn’t he?”
At the mention of Kang Inheon’s name, the voices of the dying staff came alive.
“Did you see what Inhunter-nim wore yesterday?”
“Huh? What did he wear?”
Lee Juwon recalled what Kang Inheon had worn yesterday. He’d worn a mint-coloured round knit and faded jeans? He even wore white sneakers, and he looked as lively and fresh as ever.
“He wore a mint coloured knit. As expected, he wears refreshing clothes refreshingly.”
“Ah, right. Is he an idol or what? So, when is he going to debut?”
“Haha, still, Chaehee teased him saying he dressed like a youngster because he had an interview with the babies.”
“Oh my god… youngster… that’s a word only old people use… I wear bright colours when I go to hot cafes I see on insta…”
As soon as the topic of Kang Inheon came up, they laughed in low voices like something was funny, then sighed and spoke again.
“If it wasn’t for our Inhunter, I would’ve quit this crappy company immediately. Honestly, isn’t everyone here to see Inhunter?”
“I know right. If he changes jobs, I’ll follow him wherever…”
“But I think Inhunter can be independent, so why is he still…”
Lee Juwon didn’t care if they cursed him or not, but he couldn’t listen to them clamouring at Kang Inheon to change jobs and become independent. He slammed open the thick emergency exit door.
His eyes locked with the employees squatting on the emergency exit stairs, mugs in hand. They jumped to their feet, startled by Lee Juwon’s appearance. “Mr… Mr. CEO…?”
Lee Juwon said, leaning against the emergency exit door, slanted, “Should I connect you to a headhunter?”
Team Leader Park swallowed hard and opened their mouth to excuse themself. “T-that’s…”
“You’re using the emergency stairs as a cafe, but you’ve given in your overtime draft, right? Pressing your fingerprint on the way home, too?”
“I’m doing charity work for all of you here, but… are you that curious about my childhood?”
They didn’t know since when, but it seemed like he heard it all. There was only one thing left for Team Leader Park to say, “…I apologize.”
When Lee Juwon stepped away from the emergency door and made a gesture with his chin, Team Leader Park quickly walked out of the emergency stairs with their head down. The rest of them hastily followed suit, and soon the corridor was quiet again.
Lee Juwon called Kang Inheon again.
Ddu, ddu, ddu, ddu, ddu…
He got on the elevator with his phone to his ear. A monitor on the wall showed a public service advertisement from the Disaster Support Center about safety rules in the event of a dungeon. Kang Inheon smiled softly as he explained the safety rules, the trusting look of bank advertisers hanging over him.
<Dungeons can occur anywhere, anytime. First, check for signs of a dungeon occurring. Second, leave the area as soon as possible. Third, report it to 147, the Dungeon Suppression Centre…>
Although only subtitles were playing, Lee Juwon could hear Kang Inheon’s voice all by himself. Of course, he didn’t speak that gently and kindly to him.
– The person you are trying to reach is unavailable, please leave a message after the be…
Kang Inheon didn’t answer his phone even when the elevator descended to the third floor underground.
The artificially white-lit underground parking lot was quiet, with only a green light indicating the emergency exit. Cars were sparsely parked, as if there were still employees who hadn’t left work yet.
Lee Juwon pressed his car key’s controller, and one of the cars lined up flashed its headlights. Only the sound of shoe heels hitting the slick asphalt echoed through the spacious car park.
Once in the car, Lee Juwon tried to call Kang Inheon again before throwing his cell phone onto the seat next to him.
He realized that today was not only Saturday but also Christmas Eve. The conversation Kang Inheon had with the PR team’s Lee Seohyun came to mind. He said he had someone he needed to meet… It’s possible he finished the mission and was with them right now.
Should he have given him a longer mission? He should’ve made him do something that lasted until Christmas…
But that wasn’t easy either.
Lee Juwon hated the word work-life balance to the extreme, but Kang Inheon was a bit different. It would be difficult if Kang Inheon to decide to change jobs or become independent when he sees a call from the company’s CEO ring incessantly while staying at a hotel with someone on Christmas Eve night.
Lee Juwon stepped on the brakes and started the engine. Buung, even the sound of the old car’s engine was battered.
He felt like throwing up, perhaps because he had gone too long on an empty stomach.
* * *
Even at this late hour, close to midnight, there was a lot of traffic on Yeoui-daero and Gangbyeon Expressway because it was Christmas Eve. Apart from being annoyed by the traffic, Lee Juwon found it increasingly difficult to concentrate on driving. Kang Inheon still hadn’t answered, and his stomach ached as if it were being squeezed.
The temperature inside the car, which had been left unheated to conserve battery efficiency, reached below zero, but Lee Juwon’s head was quickly drenched in cold sweat. In front of him, the tail lights blurred into two, then three.
The honking behind him made him return to his senses and when he looked in the rear-view mirror, he was invading the next lane.
It took him a moment to properly readjust his grip on the steering wheel, but then his stomach churned horribly again.
Heartburn was a daily occurrence, but he hadn’t been this sick since he had appendicitis in his twenties.
A hard slap on the cheek seemed to wake him up. Lee Juwon decided to go home as soon as possible. Now that he was on Jamsu Bridge, it was less than four kilometres home.
He had the end of his appendix removed at that time, so it couldn’t be appendicitis again. If it was just the habitual neurological stomach cramps, he can just go home, take some medicine, sleep a bit, and he’d be better.
He kept slamming on the brakes in traffic and didn’t worry about mileage like he usually did. His hands gripped the steering wheel tightly, his veins stood a deep blue.
Lee Juwon turned on the radio and raised the volume. He didn’t usually turn on the radio, but he needed to get a hold of himself right now, even if it was just a little bit.
The quiet voice of a radio DJ he didn’t know rung inside the car.
[Our moonlit nights… are you happily spending time with the people you love on this blessed night?]
Lee Juwon flicked his head to his phone, which he had tossed on the seat beside him. His phone was silent, showing no movement.
[It’s said that there’s a 90% chance of snow this Christmas. It’s been hard seeing snow all this time due to the influence of global warming. We haven’t had a White Christmas in 18 years!]
No completion report for an important request, no call back even though there was a missed call?
Was the cold coffee he drank earlier the problem? His stomach felt like it was being twisted and turned upside down.
[Should we expect a romantic White Christmas too? I have this exciting feeling that a special miracle is going to happen this Christmas…]
Bbaba baba bam! Bbababam!
The calm voice of the radio DJ was suddenly interrupted by a thunderous news signal.
He had the volume up, and let alone get scared, his ears almost exploded.
Soon, the anchor’s voice came on the radio.
[Hello, this is KDC’s exclusive breaking news. The suppression of the dungeon that had occurred in Gangjin, Jeju, was successful.]
As he turned down the volume, Lee Juwon froze upon hearing the first sentence of the news.
[Hunter Kang Inheon, belonging to December, performed a Christmas miracle by killing about 700 monsters in a total of four hours.]
When he saw a familiar name and company on the news, he sobered up from his pain and muddled conscience. He waited for a report, but not in this form.
[Crucially, during the minute-long pause Hunter Kang Inheon took in the entry area…]
Lee Juwon hurriedly reached out with his right hand to grab the cell phone he had thrown on the seat next to him. After missing the passenger seat a few times, he managed to get his hands on the phone. He quickly pressed the green call button twice, and the redial connected him to Kang Inheon.
– Ddu, ddu, ddu, ddu, ddu…
“…Are you kidding me…?”
– The person you are trying to reach is unavailable. Please leave a message after the beep…
Lee Juwon repeatedly slammed his thumb down on the end button. He glared at his phone as it returned to the home screen and was about to press the call button again when—
As Lee Juwon was turning left at Hannam Station’s three-way intersection with one hand on the steering wheel, he suddenly rammed into something that appeared out of nowhere.
Lee Juwon quickly slammed on the brakes, but inertia caused his body to lurch forward violently.
There was a loud sound as everything in the car was rearranged.
When the car stopped swaying in place and Lee Juwon barely managed to lift his head buried in the steering wheel, his vision was dark.
He couldn’t see anything in front of him, not in a figurative way, but literally. Just a moment ago, the road was brighter at night than it was during the day, but now the view was the same whether he had his eyes open or closed.
“W-what is this…”
There was no light from the tall buildings lining the roadside, no glow from the countless street lamps, not even the glow of car lights. He couldn’t even see his own hand in front of him, as if the three-way intersection of the city centre had become a night deep in the mountains.
“W-what the hell…”
Lee Juwon rubbed his eyes hard with his cold fingertips. But when he opened his eyes again, the scene in front of him was the same.
Lee Juwon fumbled around and found the indoor light attached to the ceiling of the car. He pressed all the buttons he got his hands on, but there was no light, just the sound of clicking.
Bzzzzzt, bzzzzzt, bzzzzt.
Bzzzzzt, bzzzzzt, bzzzzt.
A sudden vibration cut through the silence, and Lee Juwon sucked in a dry breath, surprised. The liquid crystal of the phone on the passenger seat that had fallen onto the ground when he pressed on the brakes hard lit up with light in the darkness.
Lee Juwon breathed out the breath he inhaled and swept his face.
“…I thought I’d gone blind.”
Whenever a call came in, the three characters of Kang Inheon’s name were engraved on the blue-red liquid crystal screen.
The inside of the car got a little brighter, but it was still dark outside. Even if the entire city of Seoul was in a blackout, it still didn’t explain the darkness.
Shifting into park, Lee Juwon unbuckled his belt and picked up his fallen cell phone from the floor. As he pressed the accept call button and brought the phone to his ear, he heard a familiar voice.
– Mr. CEO?
Hearing Kang Inheon’s voice through his phone’s speaker, Lee Juwon opened the car door and stepped out. He was nervous because he didn’t know what the hell he had hit.
– Did you hear the breaking news?
An icy wind, the same as the temperature inside the car, blew through Lee Juwon’s hair and collar. Goosebumps rose on his sweaty body as the winter breeze touched him, but he didn’t have the time to feel the cold.
Fortunately or unfortunately, it wasn’t a person lying in front of his car. Reflected in the faint light leaking from his phone’s screen, it was a white dog.
– I acted on my own. It’s late, so don’t call in the employees.
It didn’t look like a stray, but there were a lot of conscienceless people in Hannam-dong, so someone could have abandoned the dog on the road. It could have been roadkill, too.
– …Are you listening?
But… there was no way two long horns could have sprouted from the head of a staggering dog. Or should he say it was the impossible, dog horns.
– Mr. CEO?
The tip of the horn was stained blood red, as if to mock the word horn. Lee Juwon took a hesitant step back.
– Lee Juwon?
So it wasn’t a mammal from the carnivore canine family, but a monster from a dungeon that appeared out of nowhere at Hannam Station.
– I’ll be there soon so…
“A Gareum has appeared.”
– …A Gareum? Where?
“Hannam Station’s three-way intersection…”
Before he knew it, the dog, or rather, the S-class monster Gareum, stood up and ran towards Lee Juwon.
“…I’m a bit fucked?”
and so it begins