The spotlights were turned off and the staff members yelled “Good work everyone” before gathering just before the stage. They began the process of wrapping up by checking the speakers and inspecting the special effect equipment.
Jungwu gazed at the hotpack that had used up every last grain and had fully completed the corrosion process and said,
“You worked hard too.”
Despite the official concert being already over, much of the audience was still basking in the afterglow of the show and couldn’t find themselves to leave. But then the speakers from all around the mall began to broadcast a message.
-December special sales event. The sales will last for 24 hours from now, thanks to the snow that fell today. There will be a lottery gift event on the 1st floor accessories section starting at 8:30…
The announcement listed events on all the floors of the mall which were slated to last until closing time.
The customers filed out as if swept away by a flood.
Once Jungwu experienced firsthand how effective the commercialization of the emotions was, he couldn’t help but let out an exasperated chuckle. Then his eyes met Isul’s who was standing while hugging her guitar tightly.
She must have been watching him all this time. He thought it might be awkward to suddenly turn away so he stared back at her. This had unintentionally gotten him a chance to see her in detail and he couldn’t help but be amazed again.
‘Pretty, really. Enough to make Yulhwi look ugly in comparison.’
Isul wearing her full stage makeup was exuding such beauty that it was embarrassing to even look at her.
Especially her facial features like eyes, nose, and lips.
They were pretty enough to make his mind go blank. Her narrow shoulders looked a little lonely.
“Isul Sunbae! See you later again!”
Yulhwi yelled as she hopped off the stage.
Jungwu snapped awake at the sound.
‘Time to ask for auto…haa, nevermind. I don’t need it.’
Truth be told, he lost all desire to ask the Girlfriend’s autograph since a while ago. ‘Fandom’ was terrifying. It evaporates so easily.
Jungwu looked back at her nervously when she spoke to him.
“My name is Isul Yoon.”
Jungwu made a quizzical look.
“When did you learn my name?”
Jungwu answered right away, recalling his morning.
“I heard your music being played on the bus. ‘Winter is coming’ was it?”
“That song was from two years ago. You have the autographed CD I gave you, right? If you would like to become my fan starting today, please give it a listen. Then if you like the song…”
Isul seemed to hesitate and was unable to finish her words. Jungwu who was fiddling with the slowly cooling hotpack then thought of something and spoke up.
“About Mr. Spokesperson Sungjae Ji, please let him know that you can’t buy hot packs like this from a convenience store and not to buy a bunch of these instead of taking a heater with him. You might freeze to death.”
“You mean that hotpack that has a vibrating Activated Carbon which increases the rate of corrosion?”
Jungwu’s eyes grew wide at her response.
“I was thinking ‘this man doesn’t feel like a stalker’. Although I had no idea what you were telling me.”
Isul gave a brilliant smile.
“And about you. Not a staff member, not a magician. Then what are you?”
“I guess Chemist is most accurate.”
It seemed to have caught her attention because it was an uncommon profession.
Thanks to interacting with her from close up, Jungwu was able to learn that she had a tendency to stare at the object of her musing. It’s just, he happened to be the target of her attention so he ended up looking away. Her prettiness was too much to bear.
Manager Ji yelled for Isul from below the stage.
“What are you doing there? The parking lot is filling up with fans so we have to leave now. Otherwise, our fans will mix with fans of other groups and chaos will ensue.”
“Ah, I’m going.”
Isul hastily turned back to look at Jungwu and said,
“If you like the song… let’s meet again, the two of us.”
Jungwu stared at Isul’s back who was quickly running off the stage.
‘What? What does this mean?’
Manager Ji noticed Jungwu and greeted him with his eyes before taking Isul and disappearing together into a prep room.
Soochan began to look around as soon as the elevator doors opened. Once he found his friend standing under the stage, he yelled out the name very loudly.
Soochan ran up and then suddenly stopped as if stepping on breaks before Jungwu. And for whatever reason that got him so worked up, he had he began to speak so quickly that he was spitting as he spoke.
“That was crazy, you got to stand on the stage with Isul Yoon!”
“I guess so.”
“What kind of reaction is that? It’s a major major event! I took a picture from up there and put it in the group chat. The guys are going crazy.”
Jungwu checked his phone and saw that there were over three hundred unread messages. Even though most of them never message, they were in an uproar when they found out he was with Isul.
“I couldn’t help but notice that Girlfriend and TOT were getting kinda close there. Looked like you were clubbing. How did you feel?”
“It happened so fast I’m feeling numb right now.”
There was no way he could be feeling numb after that. Jungwu only wished to keep the happy memory of having been pushed and bumped into by those ladies to himself.
“So what about Isul Yoon? Where is she? Did you speak to her?”
“She left with her manager.”
“She didn’t say anything else?”
Jungwu shook his head while looking in the direction she had left.
Let’s meet again, the two of us.
Jungwu shook his head because if those words meant what he thought it meant, then it made no sense at all. They lived in completely different worlds, and they had nothing in common, so how would they ever meet each other again?
‘It wasn’t meant to be.’
Jungwu returned his gaze to Soochan.
“Soochan, when do we get our pay?”
“Director will probably hand it over the moment you ask.”
“Let me change out of this first.”
He was on his way towards the staff room when Representative Yum and his secretary saw him.
Representative Yum raised his hands as soon as he discovered Jungwu. The man walked straight towards Jungwu smiling from ear to ear and grasped Jungwu’s hands.
“The artificial snow was really something. The marketing team took pictures to use for press release, and the response on the online articles are very positive. I would like to extend my gratitude once again.”
“All I’ve done is sell you the products our company already had.”
A very simple natural chemical knowledge utilized in the right place created such a positive reaction. This had been a very important lesson for Jungwu. The fact that everyday chemistry was every bit as fun as the complicated and complex chemistry used by professionals.
‘But, now I’m starting to get tired.’
He didn’t have a chance to grab dinner and had to move endlessly. Jungwu suppressed a yawn as he asked the Representative.
“Mr. Representative, where do I return this outfit to?”
“Please keep it. It is my present.”
“A…Are you sure?”
Jungwu was forced to stifle a groan as he looked down at the white fedora along with the white suit that can only be described as avant-garde.
Sure it was expensive, but this suit was not styled in such a way it could be worn outside. Even though it was the same color as the researcher’s gown, if he were to wear this to work he would be treated as a lunatic.
‘Unfortunately, I’ll have to give it to Jungchan to use for something a school event.’
Nonetheless, Jungwu expressed his gratitude.
“Thank you, I will treasure it Mr. Representative. I have to go finish up here so…”
“Jungwu ssi does not have to do the cleanup.”
Director Kim who was supposed to be in the staffroom was somehow already close by.
“You have already done so much for us, so there is no need for you to do more. Soochan, you escort Jungwu ssi home.”
Soochan’s face brightened up when he was essentially told to take off as well.
“Here they come!”
Once a van showed itself at the front of the TS Mall’s parking lot, the mob of fans raised their flashcards.
[We pray for the success of Isul Yoon’s 3rd Album!]
The window farthest to the back rolled down and Isul showed her face, saying “I’ll work hard on it” as she waved to the crowd.
“I love you, Unni!”
Isul replied by forming a heart shape with her fingers towards the middle school aged fan who had shouted to her. And until the van completely left the parking lot and entered the main road, she did not stop waving.
Only once the fans were out of view did she close the window and took her seat.
Manager Ji who had been sitting in the passenger seat and watching Isul give her best until the very end finally said,
“It was hard right? Good work today.”
“It was fun.”
Isul made a smile for the Manager.
Seeing her rather unenergetic smile, Manager Ji couldn’t help but think
‘Of course, it was difficult. From the moment she entered the prep room until the moment she left the premise, she had to be on alert and be mindful of fans that might be hiding anywhere.’
Giving the same smile to everyone equally; that was the life of a star. Manager Ji understood that better than anyone, so he felt pity for Isul who was trying hard to keep a strong front.
Manager Ji made a fake cough after observing her for a moment and said,
“What are you talking about? I was talking to myself.”
Manager Ji rubbed his own shoulders as he said,
“Isul ran away today as well, and I had to report that up to the representative. Not to mention I will be hearing that Isul might catch a cold, being snowed on. Really good work today, Sungjae Ji.”
Isul finally showed some vitality when she began to laugh at his joke, so Manager Ji was able to relax.
“Please don’t worry about me.”
“That is exactly why I am worried. You’re sleeping better nowadays, right?”
Isul hesitated before nodding.
“Please go to the Sleep Clinic. I’ve heard that they’re really good. Insomnia is said to be a sign that you’re not feeling well mentally…”
“Ah, so thirsty. Water, water.”
Isul cut off Manager Ji’s words and sought water. After drinking from the bottle her outfit coordinator handed her, she leaned back in her chair.
“I’ll take a nap.”
The van passed the side street and entered the wide main street. Manager Ji suddenly thought of something while watching the relatively open road and called out to Isul.
“Isul, are you asleep?”
“I still have my eyes open.”
“Remember that Hotpack that the staff member handed you in the storage room? Did you hear that he was the one who made the snow effect possible?
“Manager Ji, you didn’t watch the show, did you? He was standing next to me the whole time.”
“Ah…um…Producer Choi was begging me to have you appear in a drama over the phone…”
The Manager made a fake cough as if he was caught between a rock and a hard place.
“I told you before. I can’t act.”
“I know. I made the same answer.”
Isul who had been looking like she was about to get some rest suddenly looked at the Manager with sparkling eyes.
“Is there any more information you know about him?”
Isul rolled her eyes. Manager Ji laughed as he answered,
“I think the name was Jungwu Han? I was able to hear a bit from Representative Daegil Yum that he’s not actually a part of the event company. He’s actually someone from KG Chemicals. That’s why he was able to come up with the idea of spraying the interior of the mall with artificial snow. Representative Yum seemed to have taken a liking to the man.”
Isul etched the name ‘Jungwu Han of KG Chemicals’ into her brain as she placed her hand over her heart. But then she remembered the last words she had said to him. And quietly muttered “Why did you say ‘Let us meet again”, what were you thinking, stupid” and bopped her head with her knuckle.
Manager Ji checked his watch and then looked back.
“Isula, you won’t be going to the practice room, right?”
“Go to Manager Ooh’s place.”
Manager Ji did not say another word to Isul who resumed leaning back in her chair and closed her eyes.
A clear night sky without a chance of snow.
Isul recalled the sensation of the cold snow melting on the back of her hand and made a pleasant grin. And then this inexplicable trembling feeling; It has been a long time since the last.
“I told you to just go.”
“It’s the Director’s orders. I have to make sure you get home safe. And you don’t look all that well.”
Jungwu was drunk and was walking up the hill while leaning against his friend. They had eaten Samgyeopsal* with Soju and although his stomach was sated, his head was foggy.
Soochan pointed at Jungwu’s face.
“You’ve got huge dark circles.”
Jungwu faltered in his step, and the surprised Soochan rushed to support him better.
“You didn’t even finish half a bottle, what’s wrong?”
“You’re right. Ugh, my head is spinning. I should wake up if we walk a bit more.”
But the dizziness did not dissipate even after they arrived at the front doors. In fact, Jungwu gripped the doors to his home when he finally emptied the contents of his stomach.
After clearing his stomach and finding relief, Jungwu motioned for Soochan to leave.
“It doesn’t look like you’ve lost consciousness or anything. You’re acting kind of weird.”
“Maybe it’s because I’m sleepy. I’ll fix this here so run away. You know my mom’s personality, right?”
“She’s the same? Ok, I’ll go. Today was the best. I’ve never been so proud of the fact that Jungwu Han is my friend.”
“Stop it with the gross talk.”
Jungwu waved his friend goodbye and opened the gates.
His arms got goosebumps due to the severe sound from the metal grating. He picked up the broom and trash bin at the corner of the yard to get at least some of the mess at the entrance cleaned up.
‘I’ll do the rest tomorrow.’
He then passed through the yard and entered the entryway.
Jungwu took off his shoes and entered the living room. Jungchan who was watching the TV inside turned to see who it was.
Whew. His brother, who was watching Jungwu, let out a sigh of relief and turned apathetically to resume watching the TV. Jungwu shed his clothes to prepare for a bath before he stopped to yell down the hall at the living room.
“Chana, want to go to PC Bang tomorrow? Hyung will pay!”
“It’s finals until next weekend. Also, I will never play a ranked Pentawatch game with you, hyung. Not even if you buy me skins.”
“Fidgety brat. Fine.”
Jungwu finished his shower in the blink of an eye and resolved to play alone on Sunday. He wiped his hair with a towel and lumbered his way up to the second floor. He was so overcome with sleepiness that he fell asleep as if passing out.
Next day, ‘Cling,’ Jungwu woke up to the sound of a message notification from the cell phone.
‘What time is it?’
When he looked at the time on the cell, it was 7 am. Although he didn’t oversleep, compared to the rest of the week he felt like he had quite a long rest.
When he pressed the button to check who had sent the message, it was someone rather unexpected.
[When should I send you the Coating material you had requested?]
[Whenever it is convenient for you, Sunbae]
Jungwu was deciding between lazing around on the ground or waking up after he had sent a reply when he heard a sound of someone noisily making their way up the stairs.
This kind of sound normally can’t be heard except for when Madam Hong was enraged.
Jungwu recalled the bin of vomit he had left in the corner of the yard.
“Mom, I’m so sorry. I was feeling strangely unwell yesterday. I’ll go clean the yard right away.”
Jungwu jumped up like a frog and bowed low to the ground before her when Jisook Hong tilted her head.
“Yard? What is this about?”
“Hmm? What are you mad about then Mom?”
“Did you get drunk and throw up all over the place?”
Dang, he reported something he wasn’t getting in trouble for. Jungwu stood up and decided to ask Jisook.
“Then what’s going on this morning, Mom?”
“What did you do to the front gates? I know it’s old but why did you have to draw on it?”
Jungwu couldn’t help but let out a snort when he saw the front gates. In the middle of the rusty gate, there was a brand new red hand-shaped figure that wasn’t there before.
‘Only this area is newly corroded!’
It made sense that his mother would mistake this as a drawing. It was a deep color as if it was newly peeled. Placing his left hand over the gate where the rust had formed, it perfectly recreated his vomiting position from last night.
‘There is not one shred of doubt that I caused this.’
After checking with the zoomed in chemical vision, he noticed that this was a drastically accelerated corrosive reaction. Particles of sweat, Iron Hydroxide, and Iron Oxide remained as evidence.
It needed testing.
Jungwu placed his hand over another part of the front gates and focused on the dust stars.
The oxygen and water molecules of his sweat pulled the dust stars from the iron and created a large volume of Ions. And when he took a closer look, a gathering of those ions formed a red particle star and flung itself towards the metal surface, almost instantly creating a crimson rust landscape.
This was the cause of the rust handprint.
‘I see, there are quite a lot of reactions that can be coaxed by manipulating the dust stars.’
It was a fact that most chemical reactions known in the world involved the manipulation of free electrons; Jungwu stared at his palm.
‘That aspartame incident at the company outing last Friday, and now this. This isn’t simply an ability of a Molecular Chemist, is it?’
Jungwu felt a chill crawl up his spine when he began to feel like he had become a character found in a Hollywood movie, like a hero hiding his identity.
But then, he heard the sound of slipper being dragged across the yard and saw his mother emerging from the other side of the yard.
“Jungwu. Since you have a day off today, apply lubricant to the gate with Chana…”
Jisook stopped. She discovered a second handprint above the original one.
“Wait, mom. I’ll explain. This isn’t a drawing, this is a super fast corrosive reaction! This is Iron Hydroxide and this is Iron Oxide… Ack! Don’t slap me in the back!’
No matter what ability he had gotten, he was nothing more than a son at home. Jungwu came to realize this very well as he escaped to the inside of the house.
Case: Static master
Feedback: Continual use is improving the effectiveness of control over the Free Electrons. It is expected that training should improve influence even further.
Literally means three fold skin, this is the most popular pork dish in South Korea with 85% of the population voting for this dish. The meat itself is from the stomach portion of the pig and is fried in a self-draining grill placed on the dining table. The customers themselves cook the meat and is provided all the tools to do so.
I’ve been requested to give an explanation of what this ‘title’ means.
So a little bit of background.
There is a kind of ‘special’ recognition for stars on Korean TV that are so well known that they began to be called ‘People’s’ something. The portion after ‘국민’ is kind of a silly nickname used to distinguish them. But the nickname (in spite of the fact that some of them can be taken as sort of an insult) commands enormous respect and recognition.
For example, there was an MC (Master of ceremony) that was so well known and widely popular that he became known as ‘국민MC’ ‘People’s MC’. This kind of title is somewhat informal, yet formal. For example, there is no governing body that ‘issues’ the title. It just kind of happens, spreads online and becomes common place. There is a man called ‘국민약골’ meaning ‘People’s weakling’ and another who has the title ‘국민할매’ ‘People’s grandma (he is a rock star, but visually looks like a granny due to age and long hair)’. Isul is called 국민여동생, literally “People of the nation’s younger sister”.
But wait, if the literal meaning is ‘people’s [X]’, why not go with the same format?
Calling her ‘People’s younger sister’ sounded too communist in English. Since South Korea is specifically NOT communist, it felt like using this title literally would be too misleading and politically charged. Hence, a much more neutral and safe ‘national’ or ‘nation’s’ has been used which is the other alternative to People’s.