The safety inspection team wearing protective headgear with the yellow text ‘Safety First’ printed in the front stepped onto the Gyeongbu Line of the Han River Railway.
The man at the front picked up his Radio.
“Sir, we have entered the railway.”
-We have scheduled the trains to run at 10-minute intervals on Line A for the next 1 hour, so walk for 7 minutes and wait for 3 minutes.
The Korail Safety Inspection Supervisor then shouted so that everyone could hear.
“We can’t go back until we reach Noryangjin Station, so please remain on alert! Everyone, please keep up with me and listen to my instructions! We’re heading out.”
Jungwu held onto the handrails and climbed on top of the exterior of the bridge.
Four lines of the Railway extended across to the other side of the Han River.
‘Is it because it looks so worn out? It feels like I am walking on an old weathered path.’
Although Jungwu had been on this line many times riding the subway, walking on it gave it a brand new perspective for a familiar sight. Far away, even the flow of the river seemed somehow different from usual.
A loud sneeze from behind Jungwu jerked him out of his contemplative state and woke him back to reality. He now faced a more realistic problem.
“This place has a great view, but, it’s too cold.”
Boyoung whose nose was red from the cold nodded to Jungwu’s remark.
“You’re right. It wasn’t that chilly this morning. It’s much worse in the evening. Brrr”
“You didn’t need to come along.”
“How can I not go when you are, Paracutter ssi? I’m still a Sunbae.”
“Even if you might catch a cold?”
It’s not my responsibility, Jungwu thought as he shook his head when he discovered Project Lead Hana don a thick padded coat.
‘She’s only looking out for herself.’
It was an outfit that contrasted heavily with Boyoung’s thin Researcher outfit.
Boyoung, who was climbing onto the rails, looked up when Jungwu addressed her.
“At least have this on.”
Jungwu took off his own scarf and offered it to Boyoung.
“And what about Parachuter ssi?”
“I’m cold. But it looks like your nose is about to fall off from the cold.”
Upon being handed the still-warm scarf, she stared at the back of Jungwu who was casually looking out towards the river.
“Now that I look at it, Parachuter ssi is a little different from Professor Chun.”
“You’re Ju~st a bit more considerate~”
Jungwu turned to look at Boyoung who was wrapping herself with his scarf with a bright smile.
“Don’t get snot on it; it’s new.”
“W…What? I won’t!”
Everyone followed behind the Inspection Team Supervisor and made their way across the bridge.
About 7 minutes later, a subway train went by.
The team had climbed down the ladders to access the safe zone below the rails to wait for the subway trains to pass. Jungwu glanced at the bolts of the superstructure while waiting and saw that his vision zoomed in as if it was magnified.
‘Whew, that’s easy to see.’
Jungwu was relieved that he wouldn’t have to worry about the Mayor anymore.
“Project Lead Ju.”
He addressed Hana who had a high-resolution camera.
“Please take a picture of that.”
“There… Ah, I’ll do it. I only have to press the buttons, right?”
Jungwu took the DSLR which had a lens the size of an artillery shell and began to look for bolts he suspected were corroded.
5 PM. Noryangjin Station Employee breakroom.
The doors flew open, and a woman with a nose as red as Rudolph entered. The moment the trembling woman saw a warm electric heater, she ran up to it and brought her face closer.
“Ahh, warmth. So good.”
“Did you just get back?”
Jaegil who was on standby asked Boyoung to which she nodded.
“And the others?”
“They ran into reporters in the hallway and are answering questions.”
Jaegil turned to look in the direction of the rowdy hallway and asked another question.
“What were the result of the inspection?”
“Three areas look dangerous, he said. There’s a chance it might fall within 10 days or something. Aww, I thought I might lose an ear.”
“So there was a total of five bad bolts? If it’s true, then the repair process might be simple.”
Jaegil muttered to himself sounding relieved.
Boyoung rubbed her numb cheeks and ears before she turned around to speak.
“If we add the Quasicrystal coating next year, we shouldn’t have to worry for another three years. We have designed the particles to be small enough to fit between the bolt and the structure.”
“I devel…not really, but I had a To~n of contribution in that project.”
Boyoung grinned widely and made a V sign, finishing her boasting which she was unable to do at the seminar.
“We look forward to the newly developed product of KG Chemicals. Although, it won’t be able to affect Yujin Chemical’s paint’s rankings in the industry.”
“We’ll just have to wait and see!”
Things were more or less resolved, so Jaegil thought that he should settle the conflict which began at the seminar.
“I was rude at the Seminar, Boyoung ssi.”
“You’re not calling me pretty lady anymore?”
Boyoung asked Jaegil while looking disappointed.
“Didn’t you express distaste being called that earlier?”
“That was because you had just given me a bad face. Being pretty is a totally different thing. A praise ought to be humbly accepted.”
Jaegil couldn’t help but grin with her exceptionally lively manner of speech.
She who became a researcher at such a young age was so full of passion for Chemistry that it seemed to be overflowing. Enough that her energy could be felt just by watching her from the side.
Jaegil did not dislike that part of her at all. In fact, because he had mostly been working with Project Lead Ju who tended to be cold and grounded in reality to a fault, he even envied having her around.
“I won’t lose the next debate.”
“I’ll take you on anytime. But does the ‘next’ include Jungwu ssi?”
“If that’s the case, I am a little worried. I have never met any individual with such an exceptional intuition for Chemistry.”
“Ha, I’ve seen someone.”
Jaegil gave Boyoung a questioning look, but Boyoung replied with an impossible to decipher grin.
Once the cellphone began to ring, Boyoung pardoned herself from Jaegil and moved closer to the windows.
-Ssong. Where are you?
It was Donggil, the Sunbae at Central Research Laboratory.
“I’m at the office in the station.”
-Our team and Lab 1 are in the middle of a joint company outing. When you get out, head over here. Seongju Sunbae is here as well.
-Bring Jungwu Han as well. We have questions for him.
In front of the Subway Station’s offices.
Five reporters surrounded Jungwu and pointed their mics at him.
“So there are only three areas that are in immediate need of repairs?”
“Is this for sure?”
“I am certain.”
The reporters all looked skeptical, so Hana who stood beside him decided to open her mouth.
“The discovered risk areas will undergo a separate and thorough secondary inspection throughout the night. We have completed preparations to begin as soon as the last train passes later tonight. We believe that the immediate danger can be adequately addressed with our company’s Total Care system, and through periodic follow-up inspections…”
Hana used every opportunity to appeal the Total Care system and seemed to be experienced in advertising her company’s products.
‘So a crisis is an opportunity in disguise? What a scary woman.’
The interview dragged on for a long time. Because there were no cameras like at the Yongsan Station, Jungwu conversed with the reporters in a much more relaxed manner.
“Jungwu Han ssi. As an expert on rust, are there any stories you could share with us to raise awareness of the issue among the public?”
“Sorry, I am not an expert in that regard.”
The Journalists all had their notebooks at the ready and waiting. They looked like a hyena searching for anything that could become news.
‘It seems like they’re all disappointed to hear that there is not going to be another accident.’
If it was disappointment, then Jungwu felt disappointed as well. He didn’t realize back at the Yongsan Station due to the chaos there that no major media company was present.
Even if he wanted to boast to his friends later, saying ‘Hey I appeared on an online newspaper on page 13 for a few blurb’ would be embarrassing. All the more so because he had steeled himself and went as far as giving an interview.
Jungwu saw Boyoung peek her head out from inside of the Station Office. She gestured that there was no time left.
“Reporters, I believe it’s time for me to go.”
“Jungwu ssi! Please make one more comment!”
Jungwu didn’t really have anything else to say and was planning on refusing the request when he turned and saw Hana who had used every opportunity to boast about her company’s product, and changed his mind.
‘Since I am getting paid to do this and all, should I really try and pretend to be an expert on rust?’
Jungwu thought about the chemical knowledge and details relating to this incident. He was able to come up with several comparisons right away.
“Um…About old steel. Most have the drawback that they’re vulnerable to corrosion. The metal used in Han River Railway is very strong, but in reality, it’s something with a limited life span, something with a time limit. It ages quickly, turns weak, and unreliable. Even if we use make up called paint, we can’t hide the wrinkles.”
Hana and the Reporters began to listen carefully to Jungwu’s explanation that anthropomorphized the Railway and describe it as he would a person.
“The bolt that had fallen off today was one that had become fragile due to the activity of free electrons. Hurricanes, cold, heat; the force of nature is difficult to withstand with a naked body, right?”
Hana frowned when she noticed all the reporters stop what they were doing to jot down everything Jungwu was saying and carefully record him.
Boyoung moved closer and pointed at her watch again. Jungwu nodded and continued to speak.
“To reiterate the thing about corrosion, although time cannot be rewound, the clock can be stopped if we have something like the Quasicrystal Coating developed by KG Chemicals. I’ll go for real this time. Project Lead Ju, thank you for your hard work.”
Jungwu bid everyone farewell and followed Boyoung and disappeared to the far side of the hallway.
The reporters whispered among themselves.
“What Jungwu Han just said, isn’t it perfect for the headlines?”
“I thought that Chemists were different from a Doctor or a Judge, but they seem really professional.”
“He said he was a researcher with KG Chemicals, right? He looked really young, but he speaks quite well.”
Boyoung covered her mouth and asked Jungwu
“Did you just advertise the Quasicrystal coating project back there?”
“Project Lead Ju was doing the same thing. Did I do well?”
“What’s this? A praise? Eh? Wait a minute…”
Jungwu pointed at the scarf Boyoung wore around her neck.
“You got it, dirty didn’t you! As I thought. Tsk Tsk. Please wash it…never mind, I just remembered that you’re bad at doing the laundry.”
“T…that’s not it!”
Before they began to climb down the stairway into the subway, a man walked up before Jungwu and Boyoung.
“Are you leaving now?”
It was Jaegil. Jungwu gave a deep bow before pointing towards Hana.
“I told her everything about what I’ve found. Oh yeah, about the percentage of the budget…”
“Once the inspection finishes, I will use the regular channels to take care of it.”
He probably didn’t need to respond in any way, but Jungwu nodded regardless. And when he was about to offer ‘should I give you my bank routing information?’ he had to swallow back a moan when Jaegil said the following.
“Our Management Support Division or KG Chemical’s finance division have already closed doors for today, and since tomorrow is the weekend, I will have the money sent by Monday. That’s fine, right?”
‘To the company? So that 15% isn’t actually mine.’
Strictly speaking, the money Jaegil was offering, such as consultation fee or the percentage of the team’s budget, was money that Jungwu shouldn’t be able to accept personally. The act of demanding personal payment on company time was unethical and not something most companies tolerated.
‘All that extra work for nothing.’
Jungwu said to Jaegil unhappily
“I’ll get going now, sir.”
“Once the internship with KG Chemicals ends, please consider Yujin Chemical as well. I highly recommend it.”
Boyoung’s eyes grew wide when she heard the sudden scouting offer. After saying farewell to Jaegil and leaving the station, she hastily asked Jungwu
“Are you really going to leave after the internship is over?”
He couldn’t go, and he didn’t want to go. Jungwu was about to answer no, but he felt like joking around.
“Isn’t it great that you’re going to lose a rival?”
“Y…Yeah I guess… but…”
Boyoung touched the Scarf that was still around her neck and seemed to come to a decision.
“I still have to give credit where it’s due. Parachuter ssi is ju~st a bit better than me at the moment. It’s frustrating’ but I have to learn what I can.”
“Did anyone ever offer to teach?”
Boyoung walked away briskly with her cheeks puffed up.
‘That Sunbae is so cute when she’s pouting.’
Boyoung called for a taxi before turning around to face Jungwu.
“Oh yeah, there is a company outing so follow me.”