Chapter 12 – Old Steel (2)

“Oh my, who’s that?”

“Is he a new member of the Central Research Laboratory?”

Jungwu, who was busily typing away on his laptop while sitting on a bench located in the hallway, stopped to smile and acknowledge the members of other labs who were giving him weird looks.

‘Please don’t mind me and carry on.’

He was currently taking up a wall plug next to the vending machines to power his extremely outdated laptop. It was embarrassing, but it was better than staring off into space in the Temp employee’s office space. And it wasn’t like he could use Professor Chun’s personal Laboratory during the day.

Jungwu glanced towards the general direction of the offices for temporary hires on the other side of the hallway. No Senior Researcher came to fetch a temp this morning.

‘There is so much free time when there’s no task to work on.’

He refocused and resumed on the work at hand.

From Monday night until yesterday, Jungwu spent all of his free time organizing and studying Professor Chun’s research papers. He took Doctor Moon’s advice to heart and focused on selecting a research topic that would be possible for him to gain recognition quickly for now. Next week’s Research Ideas and Proposal Assessment would be the starting point of that.

‘Tat tat tat tat.’

While Jungwu was making a rough draft of the proposal paper, a head popped up from behind him.

“What are you working on?”

Jungwu froze. He had his guard lowered because he had not seen her on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. But now the large round eyes of the self-proclaimed rival was staring at him from a palm’s distance away.

“Ooh, Synthetic Resins? Are you aiming for a project with the Fundamental Elements Laboratory?”

Boyoung was reading the document open on his laptop with great interest. Her smooth white cheeks were too close to his face, so he answered after moving his head away slightly.

“I am considering it.”

“What do you think, would you like an opinion from last year’s winner?”

Boyoung’s large non-double eyelid eyes* seemed to burst with life.

“I’ll gladly accept if it’s free.”

“Then I politely retract my offer.”

Boyoung broke into a smile, and a small dimple softly appeared on her cheeks. Seeing her smile so sweetly, Jungwu couldn’t help but instinctively feel his heart beginning to race.

‘Snap awake. That’s not a friendly smile. That’s a trap!’

Jungwu firmly reminded himself that becoming involved and swept away by her pace would prove to be nothing but trouble, so he closed his laptop.

“Did you come to grab coffee from the vending machine?”

“No.”

Jungwu gave her a questioning gaze. Boyoung hopped out from behind him and grinned as she told him.

“Pack your things. We need to go somewhere.”

“Where to?”

“A good place.”

“Good only for Sunbae?”

Boyoung’s expression seemed to shout yes. Taking into consideration that Boyoung was the newest addition to the Lab 1 team, Jungwu guessed that it probably involved some sort of manual labor.

‘I thought it was strange that things were so quiet.’

Jungwu unplugged the power cable from the wall and placed his laptop in his bag. Boyoung watched quietly for a moment before commenting.

“Are the other temps still singling you out? Should I say something to them?”

“Don’t misunderstand. I came here because the office for temp is uncomfortable.”

“Aieet. I’ll go ahead and intervene.”

Boyoung headed towards the temp hire’s office.

“H…Hey, I said I’m fine!”

Jungwu threw the bag over his shoulder and chased after her. The issue with being singled out is best when solved personally.

“Sunbae…”

“Hoobae nims!”

Before he could stop her, Boyoung already yelled from the hallway into the office.

“Anyone want to go with me to the Seminar held at the City Hall? I got dispatched to the event.”

‘What?’

The moment Jungwu realized he was baited, he immediately stopped in his tracks.

‘I don’t want to get involved. Her ability to sweep people away with her pace is unnatural.’

The Temp Researcher’s office remained quiet despite her loud announcement. Because she didn’t select anyone by name, it appeared as though they were all quietly observing the situation.

“I guess everyone’s busy.”

All of them were busy preparing for the assessment with the deadline approaching. It was only natural that they would all wish to avoid doing support work as much as possible until the assessment was over.

Boyoung seemed to have caught onto their thoughts. She changed her tone, speaking as if she was going to leave, but raised her volume.

“I WAS going to give a few pointers on how I won 1st place to whoever who came to help out. But if you don’t need it, that’s fine too.”

Suddenly all the temps raised their heads.

“Well, just in case. First person to come gets to go! One, two…”

Even before Boyoung counted to three, six temp researchers jumped up from their seats. After a fierce struggle to get ahead, Gitae who managed to reach her first raised his hands.

“It’s me, I won!”

“Okay, rest are rejected.”

Gitae shouted “Yahoo!” and danced.

“Sunbae, can’t you take one more?”

“Until 3rd place!”

Jungwu who watched the chaos suddenly unfold before him didn’t know how to respond and continued to stare expressionlessly.

Boyoung who saw him smiled as she said,

“Parachuter ssi, you should consider yourself lucky. Not anyone can attend these kinds of seminars.”

“Since it’s a rare and valuable opportunity, may I yield my spot to one of the Temp Sunbaes?”

He took a jab hoping against hope, but Boyoung shook her head firmly.

“It’s too late. I already reported that you will be attending.

It hadn’t even been a second since he resolved to not get swept away by her, but he had already fallen to her schemes. Reminding himself to be more vigilant in the future, he stood before her.

Gitae who was dancing and wallowing in the envy of his peers stopped once Jungwu stood before him.

“Jungwu ssi is going too?”

“I guess so.”

Boyoung shouted “Let’s go!” and led the way. Gitae followed without another word, and Jungwu meekly followed suit.

‘Is it because I didn’t sleep much nowadays? I already feel exhausted.’

Jungwu shook his head in his mind.

He prayed that today wouldn’t drag on forever.

*

Three people walked out of the twin buildings with the gigantic KG Chemicals logo into the street.

Boyoung checked her cellphone as she said

“I called a taxi. They said it’ll arrive in 3 minutes.”

While they were waiting for the taxi, Gitae carefully and cautiously asked Jungwu

“Jungwu ssi, I didn’t see you this morning…”

“I was near the break room.”

“I see. I thought you were assigned to Project Lead Jung’s team.”

“The Lab 4 lead? I haven’t seen him since end of the weekly meeting.”

Jungwu shook his head, recalling the indignant face of Sangshik Jung.

“Strange. Sunghwan said that Jungwu ssi’s name was entered into the Lab 4 member list.”

“Really?”

“The revised food additive sample was accepted. Didn’t you hear?”

This was the first time he had heard of it, so Jungwu’s expression remained quizzical. Boyoung was also surprised to hear the news and inserted herself into the conversation.

“KG Foods accepted that? Really?”

Boyoung turned to look at Jungwu.

“How?”

“I uh…somehow I guess. There shouldn’t have been any problem with my changes.”

Boyoung was put off by Jungwu’s nonchalant attitude and pointed her finger accusingly at him.

“Wow, look at this guy, so full of confidence.”

“It’s not confidence…”

“You have no idea how stubborn people at KG Foods are, do you? The fact that a single person was able to revise and save a team project rejected by the client is an amazing acc….”

When Boyoung found herself unintentionally praising Jungwu, she looked panicked for a moment. Her expression seemed to say ‘this is not what I had intended’ and she dragged on her word for a moment before her eyes locked on with Jungwu’s.

“…Lab 4’s Project leader’s determination. Reattempting a project that had been rejected once, his brazen passion is amazing I should say.”

Jungwu couldn’t tell if she was praising or insulting the leader.

“Oh right. We don’t have time for this. Gitae ssi, this way.”

Boyoung must have felt embarrassed by making such a ridiculous excuse and hurriedly changed the topic.

“I’ll teach you the know-how to doing well on the Assessment. Self-confident Parachuter ssi probably doesn’t need the help.”

Boyoung, whose eyes were filled with nothing but competitive spirit, took Gitae and walked a bit of distance away.

‘Now that I think of it, she’s last year’s 1st place, and the other one is this year’s best.’

He was beginning to feel that two aces of the research center had begun to grow wary of him. Although he had no desire to compete with them.

He started to feel an ill premonition.

‘No way, we’re going to the City Hall. What could possibly go wrong?’

*

The Orange Taxi followed a one-way street and stopped along the way.

“Subject of Air purification Systems?”

“Setting the goal as a societal benefit over profitability made the crucial difference. Seoul has an incredible population density, as you know. Yellow dust*, micro dust, Aerosol molecules… Thank you, sir.”

Boyoung and Gitae continued to speak about last year’s Assessment after they arrived and left the taxi. Jungwu wordlessly followed behind without interrupting them.

“When Professor Chun saw my proposed dust collection filter, he was astonished and said to me ‘it is a great move forward. The size of the molecules makes all the difference’. He was able to grasp the main point of my paper right away. It was very inspiring.”

“Sorry for interrupting you, but who is Professor Chun…?”

“Ah, Temporary hire Hoobae nim joined in the fall, so you probably don’t know. There is a legendary researcher in front of whom even professor Yoonseok bows his head to. He’s currently taking his sabbatical.”

Boyoung glanced at Jungwu meanwhile. Jungwu smiled and motioned for her to continue.

Boyoung turned her head with a ‘hmph’ and resumed speaking about last year’s assessment.

Jungwu was looking on the bright side, that it was better for them to be preoccupied speaking to each other than tormenting him, so he turned to look at the City Hall building.

It was a 15 story tall building located close to Deoksugung Palace**.

The traditional look of the Deoksugung-gil Path gave the annex of the City Hall an elegant and graceful atmosphere which contrasted nicely with the tall modern design of ‘City of Seoul Southwest Gate Government Office Building’.

The information panel on the seminar was displayed just inside of the entrance of the office building.

[Facilities Planning and Public Infrastructure reinforcement and restoration Seminar / 2nd floor conference room.]

It was an esoteric seminar held by an esoteric department.

‘It’s probably not all that important since they included a 2nd year Researcher and temporary hires as participants.’

Either way, Jungwu was curious how a high-level discussion on maintenance of public structures was like.

“We’re almost there. Let’s go up.”

The self-praise and gossip about Professor Chun disguised under the pretext of ‘teaching the know-how to win’ finally ended, and Boyoung led the way with big strides.

Government Employees checking in visitors and participants were visible once on the 2nd floor.

“We are from KG Chemicals.”

Boyoung approached them and revealed her affiliation. The City Hall’s Government Employee stared at Boyoung’s face with an unreadable expression before asking

“Are you really the person in charge?”

“Yes, I am.”

She must have looked too young for the Government Employee to believe.

“No matter how I see it, you look like a student…”

Whether judging by appearance or height, Gitae looked more appropriate, so the Government Employee’s gaze naturally fell upon him. Gitae let out a fake cough, and Jungwu found it funny and had to stifle his laughter.

Boyoung took out her researcher ID and showed it to the employee.

“Project Leader Gilsoo Park was unable to attend. And I was the researcher who was 2nd in command for the Quasicrystal Coating project that we collaborated with Korail.”

“Ah…”

“I rarely put on makeup so many people make the same mistake***. Thank you for saying I look young.”

Boyoung bowed her head. Even Jungwu had felt the Government Employee’s shock from seeing Boyoung’s stiff and formal speech which contrasted with her extremely young appearance.

“KG Chemical is seat number 12.”

The Government Employee was unable to look away from Boyoung even as the name tag was handed over.

Boyoung sat at a large rectangular table inside of the conference room. Once she had her name tag around her neck, she turned to face Jungwu and Gitae.

“Please sit comfortably in the back.”

Jungwu sat down on the seat and asked Boyoung

“What project did you work on with Korail?”

“It was a project we did over the summer. We wanted to develop a new coating material that could withstand extreme corrosive environment. Something to spray over the paint.”

“A corrosion inhibitor?

“Yes. It was a coating material that could be used on the rail and most of the bridge structure. And of course, Korail was highly satisfied.”

Boyoung made a V sign and then turned around. The sight of her taking documents out and preparing for seminar didn’t make her seem so young after all. She had the atmosphere of a proper researcher about her, so Jungwu doubted his eyes for a moment.

‘She’s serious when she has to be I guess.’

When Boyoung turned around to place her bag behind her, her eyes met Jungwu’s who was watching her.

“What is it?”

“Nothing.”

Jungwu couldn’t tell her that he was staring at her because she was being earnest, so he gave a fake cough. Boyoung grinned as if she understood his reasons.

“Unfortunately it was after the time Professor Chun had already left so I couldn’t hear any praises. But don’t think you can look down this project. The Chief Officer was quite satisfied, and I put a lot of effort into it to make it successful.”

This woman somehow relates everything back to Professor Chun. Let alone ‘look down upon’, Jungwu was honestly quite impressed. So he had to suppress his bitter smile

 


TL Notes:
*
Yellow Dust – Dust blown to Korea from China. Includes dust from the giant desert, but also the industrial smog from China.

**
Deoksugung Palace is the residential palace of the last Korean dynasty, and was used until the 20th century. The last surviving prince, Seok Yi, of the Joseon Dynasty lived in this palace until the Korean government finally kicked the royal families out of the Palaces in 1979. The last prince of Joseon dynasty was allowed to return to Korea in 2009 as a part of Chonju’s tourism campaign.

Deoksugung-gil is a road that goes around the Palace and nearby areas, and is famous for its stone walkway. It is listed as one of the finest hiking locations in Seoul

***
Putting on makeup is a sign of maturity,

In literary korean literary device, saying a woman does not wear makeup is a type of indication that she is naturally very beautiful; even without the help of makeup, her skin is naturally pure, white, and youthful.

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10 thoughts on “Chapter 12 – Old Steel (2)”

  1. Thank you for the chapter! I wonder if there was an flaw in that coating and that’s what caused the corrosion problem that MC reported. It’s obvious that report is the reason for this hasty conference.

    1. there shouldn’t be a flaw in that coating that is causing problems after just a few years
      corrosion is normally not that fast; well, that’s afaik but i am no chemistry mayor, so let’s see in the next chapter ^^

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