Jungwu was spraying WD-40 to erase the rust mark when he recalled the events of this morning and shook his head.
‘I thought she would be happy, but she only got worried.’
When he explained to her briefly about becoming employed at KG Chemicals, the only thing she said to him was to be wary of being scammed.
It had only been a week since he had had trouble finding a place of employment. It must have been difficult for her to accept that Jungwu was suddenly employed at a corporation, wearing into a nice suit.
‘And it’s difficult to explain that I was lucky.’
Because of it, he couldn’t find it in himself to tell her that his first paycheck would total almost $10,000 dollars. A random stranger might be able to accept this news easily, but a mother was someone who knew you very closely, and would do nothing but worry.
He had only taken pills that increased his senses; it wasn’t like he himself had changed. Although he could spout off random knowledge, he couldn’t possibly survive any regular standardized test.
‘Chana too, I don’t have anyone I can talk to about this.’
Jungwu let out a sigh.
Jungwu decided to defer explanation to everyone, including Soochan, until after the contract period was over. He refocused his attention on lubricating the gateway.
Jungwu opened and closed the gate a few times to test his work. So as to not disturb the neighbors, he decided that it was enough and stopped.
‘Where was the paint again?’
He searched in the corner of the yard for the can of green-colored paint he had bought long ago. Of course it would be amazing if he could use Yujin Chemical’s total care system, but using such an expensive coating on a front gate was the very definition of overkill.
“Jungchan! Get out here and paint!”
He called for his younger brother.
Jungwu wiped away the grease from the WD-40 with a towel and was preparing the paint roller when his cell phone began to ring. The caller ID showed Boyoung’s name, so he thought ‘Why is she calling now?’ and answered the call.
Perhaps because his response was strange, he could hear a startled voice on the other end.
– Ah, did I call the wrong number?
“I am Jungwu-han, but who are you?”
– This is Boyoung. Eh? Did you not save my number? Wow, so mean. Just because you’re good at Chemistry.
“Why are you dissing knowledge of Chemistry like this?”
The reason Jungwu was surprised was because she had not called him ‘Parachutter-ssi’ for whatever reason.
– Please wait, I’m in a taxi right now. I am at the intersection where ‘Ilmyung Mart’ is at, which direction is it to your house?
“Ah you’re at Ilmyung Ajussi’s mart, then you can head up the hill to the right towards…”
“What did you say?”
– It’s a delivery.
Like a dark omen, the memory of receiving that text in the morning resurfaced.
Roughly 30 seconds later, a taxi stopped before the front gates. Jungwu’s expression went blank when he saw Boyoung exit the taxi, struggling to pull an aluminum bin out of the back seats.
“Could you help please? This is quite heavy.”
Jungwu moved closer to help with the bin containing the coating material.
“You didn’t have to come all the way to bring this.”
“Well we should help each other out. We work for the same Laboratory after all.”
Boyoung gave a brilliant smile with her unmade-up face. The fact that she was wearing comfortable-looking jeans instead of work clothes made her look like an early year college kid.
Jungwu shook his head, detecting the overly energetic charisma from her.
‘I feel like she’s planning something but I’m not able to grasp what it might be.’
Jungwu put down the coating material before his front gate before turning to check on Boyoung who had yet to stop her sunny grin.
“What is it that you want, pressuring me like this?”
“Pressure? Non non. Oh wow~ so this is where Jungwu-ssi lives, eh?”
Boyoung tiptoed to try and see beyond the wall, but she was of such small stature that she could barely see above Jungwu’s shoulders. Even so, Jungwu stood before her to stop her from pretending to peek into his house.
“Don’t dodge the issue, tell me what it is.”
Boyoung gave him a troubled look when he kept on asking for what it was about.
“I mean…well, it’s not like I was thinking of anything in particular. It’s just, I reckoned that Hoobaenim’s gates was getting rusty and all. So I thought that I might as well…”
“I see. I did not realize that you were such a kind-hearted Sunbaenim.”
“Right? Professor Chun recognized my benevolence early on…”
“Thank you for your thoughts. Sunbaenim, see you tomorrow at the lab.”
When Jungwu ended the conversation in a way that was as smooth and cold as running water and quickly turned his back to her, her cheeks puffed up in unhappiness.
“Cheapskate. How can you be so cold? I mean, I thought if I went so far as to show such kindness, we might be able to have a conversation over coffee. I couldn’t sleep in the morning because I was mulling over some stuff, and decided to come over.”
Jungwu couldn’t help but break into a grin when he heard her speech full of complaints. Whatever she wanted to talk to him about was most likely related to Chemistry.
‘Someone I can speak to…’
Jungwu turned back again and asked,
“Didn’t Sunbaenim say that she was going to buy coffee? As opposed to a meal.”
“Well, since you’ve come to my town I’ll pay.”
Boyoung’s expression brightened up again.
“But what did you want to talk about on a weekend anyway? If it’s about Professor Chun, I refuse.”
“I have no intention of asking from someone who is unwilling to talk about it. It’s actually related to an article that I’m reading. I thought you might know something about it.”
“Well, if it’s that. Please wait just a bit. I’ll paint this quickly.”
Meanwhile, the gates opened and Jungchan walked out wearing a tracksuit as he yawned.
“Where is the paint br…”
Jungchan couldn’t contain his surprise when he noticed Boyoung standing in front of the house.
“You grab the roller instead of the brush.”
Jungwu laughed while watching his brother wordlessly and repeatedly look back and forth between Boyoung and himself.
Boyoung was objectively beautiful. Her cute facial features were naturally eye-catching.
Boyoung moved herself right next to Jungwu and asked,
“And who is he?”
“He is my younger brother. Even though he looks like a mountain bandit, he’s just a Junior year student in high school.”
Boyoung’s jaws dropped while staring at Jungchan.
“Are you really that shocked by the fact that he looks older than he actually is?”
“I’m just envious of people who look mature.”
Jungwu glanced at the lady who couldn’t escape the appearance of early 20s before addressing his still-stunned brother.
“Chana, greet her. Company Sunbaenim.”
“Company? You mean that place you part-time at?”
“No, I explained this morning. I intern there, not work part-time.”
Boyoung who excelled in intrapersonal relationships waved ‘hello’ at him. Jungchan’s face heated up as he turned bright red, replying with “Ah, hello” before suddenly turning when he recalled Jungwu’s words.
“Why are you surprised? Her age is close to mine. She’s totally a Noonim to you. We’re wasting time, let’s paint.”
The gate was small and it took only 5 minutes to paint the whole door.
Boyoung wordlessly watched the two brothers work together in repairing the gateway while sitting on the steps to the house.
Jungwu opened the bin containing coating material.
“Hyung, what is this?”
“Quasicrystal coating material. The thing Sunbae over there developed.”
Jungchan turned to look at her.
Boyoung made a V sign. Jungchan’s face grew bright red again and immediately looked away. Boyoung grinned and returned to looking at her cellphone.
“So what does this do?”
“Do you want me to explain it to you? The theory behind Quasicrystal might be difficult for a liberal arts major like you.”
“Hey, I get good grades.”
Jungwu nodded as if to say ‘right, right’ and began to speak.
“Some solids have a repetitive and regular molecular structural pattern. Those are called crystalloids. Then there is stuff like glass and plastic molecules which have fairly randomly arrayed molecules; they are called Amorphous solids. A Quasicrystal lies somewhere in between those two categories and is special because it exhibits all the characteristics of both…”
Jungwu was able to explain without pausing. He continued to speak without a break for a whole minute while they covered the side of the gate facing the house with the coating material.
“Are you really our Hyung?”
Jungchan was staring in shock at Jungwu who was able to smoothly explain the fundamental theory behind a material he had never seen before in his life. Then he realized something and seemed to flinch.
“Now that I think of it, Hyung, you seemed like you’ve been possessed for the last few days.”
“I have been possessed. By Chemistry.”
Jungwu shrugged his shoulders. Jungchan was shocked at his reaction and asked,
“Hyung… are you in a pyramid scheme?”
“What are you saying? Aren’t you supposed to be impressed right now?”
“How much did you buy this for? And the Sunbae Noona over there is also doing that, right? Working as door-to-door salesmen.”
Jungwu gripped his brush tightly when he heard such unreasonable misunderstanding.
“What are you saying?”
“But it’s like that! Suddenly wearing a suit. Coming home late every night, not explaining what you were up to.”
“I already told you that I am working at KG Chemicals, did I not? You think a major corporation is crazy enough to dabble in pyramid schemes?”
“Anyway don’t do it. The mortgage on mom’s restaurant all went to you. If you cause problems now before you even pay that off…”
“Shut your stupid mouth!”
Jungchan dodged Jungwu’s punch and escaped towards the house.
Bang clatter clack boom
Boyoung paused from checking her phone with a ‘Hmm?’, and turned to watch as the two of them began fighting and running around the yard.
Cafe at a large intersection.
Jungwu was sitting next to the windows along with Boyoung who continued to giggle about something, so he asked her a question.
“What would you like to drink?”
“Pyramid scheme… wow Jungwu-ssi’s brother is so funny.”
“I already understood that you found it funny, so please stop laughing.”
“How did such a misunderstanding start?”
“I see, a very bitter triple-shot coffee for you then.”
Jungwu stood up immediately and headed towards the cashier when Boyoung shouted,
“A very sweet Mocha Latte please!”
Soon after, Jungwu returned to his seat with a tray of the ordered drinks.
“Thank you, Jungwu-ssi.”
“It’s repayment for the coating material.”
“This doesn’t even cover the transportation fee though? I didn’t know the way and had to take the taxi…”
“Should I drink and leave immediately?”
“No, no, wow what a great atmosphere this cafe has~”
Boyoung who had sneakily changed the topic picked up the mug and gave a bright smile.
“I’ve had a good laugh for the first time in a while.”
“My brother is smart, but he’s still naive about the world.”
“He was cute though, oh well. Should we get to the main topic?”
Jungwu saw Boyoung place a packet of A4 papers on the table and asked,
“What thesis do you need my opinion on?”
“The one I mentioned before. Professor Chun’s thesis. Please take a look.”
Jungwu picked up the thesis.
‘Next Generation Biocode?’
Few pages later he was able to confirm that this was a theory about a brand new perspective on the analysis of DNA. It was authored by Professor Chun, but he couldn’t recall anything specific about it. The only thing he could infer was what the process would be.
Because it was not something he could understand intuitively, he had to read it for some time.
‘Wait, there was another one that was similar to this which I couldn’t readily obtain info on.’
It was the Perfect Man project. The note that was attached to the file folder.
Jungwu thought maybe this document was one of the foundational theories in the development of ‘AF-12’ so he read the document with close attention.
His prediction was right.
In the theory was information about DNA that seemed to allude to ‘AF-12’.
‘But this isn’t enough.’
The material used in the pill.
At first, Jungwu had thought that it was a protein compound that delivered chemical knowledge, but from what he had experienced in the last week, he knew that there was something more.
The ability to detect and analyze down to the molecular level.
The ability to gather or release electrons with his palm.
The ability to directly influence specific particles and bring about changes.
He was able to bring about and observe phenomena that could rightfully be called magic.
Jungwu thought that perhaps if he were to study this thesis that Seunggook Chun had proposed in Germany during his younger days, then he might be able to get a better grasp of what ‘AF-12’ was.
While Jungwu was staring intensely at the thesis, Boyoung who was slowly sipping away at the Mocha Latte periodically glanced at Jungwu’s eyes.
Once twenty minutes or so had passed, Jungwu asked without taking his eyes off the paper.
“Why do you keep looking at me like that? Is there something on my face?”
“Were…weren’t you looking at the thesis?”
“I’ve just finished. But then I noticed Sunbae staring at me, so I was wondering why you were doing so.”
“I was just looking you know? I was thinking you look like Professor Chun when you focus.”
Perhaps embarrassed about being caught staring, she turned her gaze away towards the mug she held in her hands.
Jungwu placed the thesis back onto the table before asking.
“I’m just curious, did you like Professor Chun?”
“Yes of course, as someone worthy of respect.”
Jungwu’s gaze settled on Boyoung’s fingertips which were still holding onto the Mocha Latte. He saw evidence of detergent.
“Did you succeed with today’s laundry?”
“It was very success…”
Boyoung who was easily baited glared at him.
“A serious advice from someone who also can’t do laundry very well: just leave it to professional laundry services.”
“Did you make a random guess, or did you see something?”
“Does it matter? So, what’s your question on this thesis? I’ll try to tell you as much as I can answer.”
“Wait a second.”
Boyoung began to look around Jungwu’s face as if she was intent on discovering something too.
“I can see it, I can see.”
“You can see?”
“I can’t see!”
Boyoung let out a sigh and then asked immediately.
“It’s the part on Meta Genomics. I understand the bit about snipping bacterial DNA to insert new information, but it doesn’t explain anything about the much larger scale shotgun sequencing. I feel like that segment would be the most determining factor in the speed of Bio Coding”
“Ah, that. You can collect samples from a beach with low biodiversity…”
Jungwu and Boyoung began to converse using technical terminology that sounded like alien speech, hearing which nearby customers watched them with wide open eyes, saying ‘Whoa’ all the while.
A relaxing Sunday noon. In a cafe filled with dating couples, Jungwu and Boyoung had discussed enthusiastically for more than three hours over their thoughts on the thesis. The ordered coffee mugs had been filling the table one by one.
“Have you seen this thesis before?”
“As I thought.”
“It helped you right?”
“Of course. Also felt the wall.”
Boyoung pointed towards Jungwu, the wall.
“Should I be honest? In Germany and here, I’ve always been told that I’m a talented prodigy. But how is it possible that Jungwu-ssi who seems to have randomly dropped out of the sky is able to impress the said prodigy?”
“I can’t even tell if that’s supposed to be a praise or… we have stayed here for too long.”
“We should get up.”
Jungwu took the empty mugs to the collection area before addressing Boyoung.
Boyoung who was on her way out turned back to look at him, filled with anticipation to talk more.
“Where would I be able to find theses written by Professor Chun?”
“Why do you ask?”
“I want to try reading them.”
Boyoung replied with surging vigor showing in her eyes.
“It wouldn’t be easy to obtain them in Korea. Unless you know plenty of people from the Heidelberg University Biochemistry Center like I do.”
“In that case…”
Jungwu looked at Boyoung.
“Can I borrow some theses from Sunbae?”
“What’s in it for me?”
“Oh right. I don’t need them immediately so don’t worry about it then.”
Boyoung hastily replied to Jungwu who had instantly given up.
“I’ll be generous. Let’s meet occasionally like this and I’ll show you.”
“Next week’s Sunday?”
“Are you sure it’s out of generosity?”
Boyoung left the cafe pretending like she hadn’t heard it. Jungwu watched her leave as he scratched his chin.
‘I didn’t realize the passing time.’
It was a completely different feeling from when he hanged out with Soochan yesterday. The dialogue turned out better than he had expected. He wondered if this was what a conversation between coworkers was like.
‘Aww, tomorrow is another work day.’
The new hires who were being wary of him would all be split up after the Proposal Assessment tomorrow as the training period would conclude.
‘Where will I end up?’
And what would he experience this upcoming week?
Furthermore, he would give his best for the Proposal Assessment that he would participate in, but he could not guess what division he would end up in and under what conditions. And it wasn’t like there was any guarantee that Doctor Moon was a person of influence in such regards.
Jungwu stretched his arms before opening the doors to the cafe.
“Sunbaenim, please keep your promise and buy lunch before you go.”
“You said you were fine with just coffee.”
“Well never mind then.”
“Which place is good around here?”