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The Returner Chapter 26

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"I'm home!" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

"Aigoo~~ my son!!" (mom)

Mom ran quickly to her son and hugged him urgently. Smiling, Yi Ji-Hyuk embraced her back.

"What's all the fuss, mom?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

"What do you mean, a fuss?! My precious son got dragged away by those scary SARD people, that's why!!" (mom)

"SARD?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Was that how everyone else addressed KSF? Why did it have a sort of similar ring to MAFRA? (TL note at the end.)

"Nothing happened to you, right? I heard that they even torture people there." (mom)

"Eiii. As you can see, your son is one hundred percent fine, so you shouldn't say things like that about those guys, mom." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Ah, so the public perception of the KSF is the worst.

But, isn't that a bit weird? Why is their public image so bad, when it's filled with only the soft as marshmallow characters? (Yi Ji-Hyuk's inner monologue)

Yi Ji-Hyuk tilted his head in confusion. If he thought about it at some length, weren't they the most cordial and professional people he has met, so far?

They let him sleep, they let him eat nice food, and even left a TV on, so he could amuse himself in the meantime.

Sure, those glass walls weren't cool, but considering the fact that the cell was designed to keep an ability user confined, that much should be par for the course, really.

So, what an odd thing for their public perception to be so poor.

"Mom, I had a swell time staying there, if I'm honest." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

"There, there. It's all good now. My baby." (mom)

Mom must've been really relieved, since she couldn't stop caressing Yi Ji-Hyuk's face.

"So, you heard it's really scary there?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

"Don't even mention that, son. Countless people got snatched away by them and have disappeared over the years. I only heard rumours, but that's a place not even reporters have access to." (mom)

'But, that's because they are handling top secret information there, that's why…' (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

He could more or less tell what the source of this unfounded fear was.

Ability users.

The truth was, humans tended to 'reject' foreign and unfamiliar things they couldn't understand.

From the perspective of a regular person, ability users might come across as a fundamentally different, non-human species.

Well, how many normal humans out there would try to understand and respect those beings who were capable of flying through the air, shooting flames out from their fingertips, and freely throwing lightning bolts around, as the same human species as themselves?

Outwardly, they would pretend it was all hunky-dory, while inwardly, they would fear the ability users and reject them completely. That was how the human nature worked, and that was the way the cookie crumbled, without a question.

It was then, Yi Ye-Won peeked her head out from around the corner.

It was likely that, although she couldn't properly say it out aloud, she must've been worried about her older brother. What an adorable little 'un, she was.

"Freak." (Ye-Won)

"Ye-Won-ah!!!!" (mom)

Ye-Won quickly ran back to her room as soon as mom roared out in anger.

She reminded him of an elementary school kid who pulled a prank of lifting up the skirt of a girl he liked, and then running away in hurry.

Hahaha, what a funny kid she is.

In fact, she's so cute, I really wanna bite her to death… (Yi Ji-Hyuk's inner monologue)

"Son…" (mom)

Mom asked him with an anxious expression.

"Son, are you… one of those ability users or a Psykers? Did I get that right?" (mom)

Yi Ji-Hyuk quickly waved his hands in denial.

"No, mom. I'm a regular person." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

"You're a regular person?" (mom)

Her expression showed how badly unconvinced she was by that.

If he was talking to those dumba*ses from the KSF, he could pretty much bluff his way out of anything, but since he was with his mom, some sort of explanation seemed necessary here.

"But, the thing is, I'm kind of similar to that. I'm not what others call the ability user, but something similar. Okay?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

"Similar how?" (mom)

"Well, it's a bit hard to explain. But it's like that." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

"I really don't get what you're trying to say here, though." (mom)

Yi Ji-Hyuk sneakily pushed away his confused mom and made his way back to his room.

"My sweet, sweet room! I missed you!" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Now that he could see his favourite computer monitor glittering under the light, the feelings of him returning home really hit him where it mattered. Yi Ji-Hyuk turned the computer on, and while it booted up, he changed his clothes. And then, comfortably settled down in front of it.

"This is the thing I enjoy the most, after all." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

He was nearly overwhelmed with happiness by his return to the modern world.

Let his praises be heard, the vast, expansive database built up by humanity…

Show your respects, the countless genre works of the web novelists, built up from their blood, sweat, and tears…. well, technically, it's "cigarettes and coffee" but, whatever.

But, most of all…

"Should I start by getting in a match or two?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Who cared whether Gates opened up or his house fell into chaos?

Yi Ji-Hyuk put the bottle of Coke he bought on the way home next to the computer and loaded up the video game.

A NEET would always stay as a NEET no matter what happened…

And a bum would remain a bum, regardless of what happened.

Soon, the noises of Yi Ji-Hyuk shoving snacks down his throat and him pounding on the mouse and keyboard filled up his room.

"That kid is still playing that game of his, even now?" (dad)

It was evening, and Yi Ji-Hyuk's dad, Yi Cheol-Joong came home from his work. With a pair of disbelieving eyes, he stared at the resolutely-shut door to his son's room.

Just how chaotic did the family become when Yi Ji-Hyuk got dragged away by the KSF?

But, as soon as the boy returned, he was neck-deep in gaming again.

"I can't tell whether he's got balls of steel, or just empty inside his head." (dad)

"Why are you implying that our child is an idiot?!" (mom)

"He might be our son, but there is a need to analyse him objectively, dear." (dad)

"Oh, I see. So, you also wish to be analysed 'objectively', it seems?" (mom)

"Uh, no, not necessarily…" (dad)

Park Seon-Duk began her sneaky but well-aimed counterattack, which caused Yi Cheol-Joong to lower his wagging tail quite swiftly.

"Did he say anything about running into trouble in that place?" (dad)

In situations like this, the best form of defense was…. to change the topic altogether.

"Well, I think nothing happened there, seeing that he started playing with his computer as soon as he got back home… But, since he's not saying anything, there's no way to know for sure." (mom)

"Hmmm…." (dad)

Yi Cheol-Joong heard a lot of stories about the KSF, one of them being that even the most scary ability users used to acting like a boss, would come out of that place as meek as a kitten. But, his son looking okay and all, even after spending three days there, it seemed that nothing untoward had happened, so that was a huge relief.

"So, anyways. My son is…" (dad)

"Yes, he is." (mom)

…An ability user.

AKA a Psyker.

The so-called mutants, that started appearing around five years ago.

Beings that were humans, yet capable of using un-human like powers.

Heroes, and a new type of mankind, that defended the rest of humanity against the invading Gates.

Or, maybe, they were not humans but demons.

They were called by many different names, and also were subjected to various correct and incorrect criticisms. But, the truth was, no one could deny that these Psykers had become one of the most important cogs of the modern society.

"Wait, didn't I hear from somewhere that Psykers make lots of money?" (dad)

"Dear, we have no idea what's going on with our own child, yet the first thing you think about is money?" (mom)

"Come on, now. It shouldn't be a problem, no? Have you ever heard of anyone becoming a Psyker and things ending up bad? I sure haven't. If we think about it seriously for a second, this is a good thing for our son." (dad)

"Still, I'm worried about him." (mom)

"You should never show that in front of him, you hear? He might feel disappointed in us." (dad)

"I know." (mom)

"So, then…. what are we supposed to do now?" (dad)

Yi Cheol-Joong and his wife could only fall into a dilemma, now that their eldest child had turned into an ability user. Truth be told, things like this didn't happen everyday, so they had no clue what to do here.

Yi Ye-Won was watching the TV in the living room while eavesdropping on her parents' discussion. She stretched her limbs out and offered up her own opinion on the matter.

"It doesn't really matter, though." (Ye-Won)

"Ng?" (mom)

"He's not gonna come out of his room anyways." (Ye-Won)

Park Seon-Duk turned her head and glared at the shut door to her son's room.

"Why should it matter whether he's an ability user or not, when all he does is play games and waste his life away like a deadbeat loser?" (Ye-Won)

You shouldn't treat your Oppa like that, you know…

I mean, you're his younger sister, so it's not okay to speak about him so disrespectfully like that. (mom's inner monologue)

There were lots of things Park Seon-Duk wanted to say to her daughter, but for her to actually voice them out…. Well, the pressure from the noise pollution of a video game leaking out from the door's gap was simply too great and so she gave up.

"You shouldn't act like that." (mom)

"You know what? I'm not going to live like him. Because I'm not insane." (Ye-Won)

Meanwhile, Yi Ji-Hyuk was concentrating on his game, completely unaware that he had just been demoted from a person who should be respected by his sibling, to a thing of mistake that other people could learn from.

Someone once said not knowing was a blessing in itself, so…

- Holy sh*te!! This guy is really something else!! I mean, he deliberately got hit by that non-target skill!! Shiver me timbers!!!

- Did he attach a magnet to his a*s or something? Seriously, I get not evading in time even if you can see it, but why go out of your way to get killed? Why?

- He's probs a Master Tier player. He's just messing around right now.

- Master Tier, my a*s!!!!

- Honestly, we shouldn't be insulting that guy, but we need to take a long, hard look at ourselves and our trashy rating that queued us up with him, instead.

- Orz.

Yi Ji-Hyuk paid them no mind and concentrated on his game.

It felt like he was finally getting somewhere!

If he persevered for a bit more, he'd be able to shoot up in rank and pay back all the sorrow and suffering he was subjected to!!

- I'm getting the hang of this now. I will upgrade my ranking soon. (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

- It'll be faster if you reincarnate first, you moron.

- No, just record what's happening on the screen right now and watch it again. You'll want to smash your own monitor up afterwards.

- Take a look at this nutcase. We can learn from him. He's like Gandhi, man. The bloody Gandhi, for crying out loud!

- You fool, I'm the f*cking Gandhi for playing together with a sh*thead like him.

"Heum…" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Yi Ji-Hyuk turned off the chat window.

As expected, chatting to other players weren't inducive towards his gaming progress. Indeed, a man's life was a road best walked alone, after all.

"Son, didn't those KSF people tell you to work for them?" (mom)

"No, they haven't." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

"Oh, so they didn't ask you?" (mom)

"Nope, they didn't. Something like that won't happen in the future anyways so you don't have to mind it, mom." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Yi Ji-Hyuk replied in a rather carefree manner while his eyes were glued to the computer screen.

"Really? But, that's strange…" (mom)

What an odd statement, that - he was an ability user now, yet he didn't have to register? (TL note at the end.)

'But, I heard registration is compulsory? Why isn't he doing it?' (mom)

Mom couldn't understand it.

But the future was uncertain.

Even if such a thing hadn't happened yet, then those KSF people might try to hire her son away in the near future.

'That's par for the course. He's my child, after all.' (mom)

Sure, he might have been a lazy, unmotivated child that loved to play video games all day, and was also rude as heck, but her son still possessed a good head on his shoulders, didn't he?

So, there was just no way her son would've returned home as a deadbeat loser. Since he had spent over a month resting his weary body and soul, he should start unfolding his wings and join the ranks of society soon.

That was her thoughts. That was what mom believed.

How foolish she was.

Pur-Hurck!!!!

Yi Ji-Hyuk began trembling like a leaf while looking at the thrown apple that was sliding down the wall in slow motion, right after it brushed past his nose.

"Didn't, I, tell, you, to, crawl, out, here, and eat, your, damn, food?" (mom)

"P, please, don't kill me." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Grab!!

Park Seon-Duk powerfully grabbed her lovely son's head.

"Get out!! Out, you rotten son of mine!! Look at the mess on your desk!! What are you trying to become, only playing games and doing nothing else?! What was that thing? You trying to become, a, a, pro gay?" (mom)

"No, it's a pro gamer, mom." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

"Right, that, pro gamer. You want to become a pro gamer? No wait, you're already a pro gamer, aren't you? You even skip your meals because time is too precious, so you must be a real pro gamer by now!!" (mom)

"Ouch, mom!! My head!! You're going to rip my hair off!!" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

"What does it matter if your hair falls off, when you don't even go outside your room, anyway!!" (mom)

Yi Ji-Hyuk's family, who were initially unsure of how to interact with him, soon returned to how things were like in no time at all, after realising he had not changed one bit.

To his dad, Yi Ji-Hyuk's status was upgraded slightly from the 'useless son who did nothing but play games at home' to the 'useless son with superpowers who did nothing but play games at home'.

From his mom's point of view, he morphed from the 'disappointment of a son who had lost himself to the devilish world of gaming' to 'still a rotten son who's lost to the devilish world of gaming but now, might have some abilities hidden away'.

Of course, nothing had changed in Yi Ye-Won's eyes and she still treated him as a bum and a loser, just like from the very beginning. How steadfast she was.

"Get the hell out!" (mom)

Mom kicked Yi Ji-Hyuk out of the house, but he turned around and pounded on the front door instead.

"Moooom!!" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

"What!!" (mom)

"You should at least give me some money before kicking me out…." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

It was then - he heard certain ominous stepping noises from inside the apartment.

Yi Ji-Hyuk sensed that his life was in mortal danger, so he turned tail and ran away.

If she caught him, then the minimum damage he'd suffer would be a lengthy stay at a local hospital.

"Mom, I'll be back after sunset!" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

"Don't come back!! Just stay outside!!" (mom)

And so, Yi Ji-Hyuk had to leave home for now. However, a bum like him had nowhere else to go. Since he was making a quick escape, he even forgot to bring along his wallet. So, he couldn't even go to a place that required money.

In the end, he found himself squatting on a lonely wooden bench by the park, built for the apartment dwellers.

"Come on, really now. I went through so much crap to get back here, so why is it a problem for me to live like a bum for a while? Seriously, who would want to do anything after a thousand years of constantly doing something?!" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

From his mom's point of view, it only had been five years.

But, still, he hoped that she would hold back her nagging for about a year at least.

He only played around for a bit. That was all.

Sure, he made absolutely no plans for the future, but couldn't she be at least a bit more generous in her understanding?

"Hah…."

Yi Ji-Hyuk bit into a cigarette and let out a long sigh.

"What should I do until evening?"

With his mom so incensed like that, he'd have to spend the minimum of 4, 5 hours outside, if he wished to avoid the fate of being reported to the local police station as a brand new homicide victim.

But the issue was… he had no cash on him.

Seeing that he wasn't able to quickly pack in his wallet in time, more than likely, he hadn't fully acclimatised to the modern world just yet.

If this was before he got dragged away to Berafe, then he'd probably do whatever it took to secure his wallet, even if kitchen knives and two by fours and other cooking paraphernalia were flying at his direction!

But, what use was regret to him now? It was all too late anyways.

What's important right now, was to solve his current financial crisis.

"Hey, you." (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

Yi Ji-Hyuk spoke to the empty space in front of him.

"Don't you have some money on you? Borrow me some, will you?" (Yi Ji-Hyuk)

There was no reply.

"Don't worry, I'll definitely pay you back. Heck, I'll pay you as soon as I get back home. So, borrow me ₩20,000, please!"

A few passersby clicked their tongues while looking at Yi Ji-Hyuk busy negotiating with the proverbial thin air.

But then, the empty space began distorting slightly.

< 26.="" allow="" me="" to="" show="" you="" what="" defeat="" truly="" means="" -1=""> Fin

(TL: My sincerest apologies for messing this part up. The joke here is, SARD is Special Abilities Regulation Department, but in acronym form - 능관부. The full title should be 능력관리부서 but the author shortened it. MAFRA is the Korean government entity called Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, which had its name changed numerous times in the past and thus most regular Koreans call it by its shortened form which kinda sound similar to the shortened version of SARD…)

(TL: I didn't make a mistake here. That's how it was like in the raw. Either I'm not getting what the author was trying to convey, or he forgot to write another line there…)

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About The Returner Chapter 26 novel

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