‘You guys can dance quite well.’
Jungwu was taking in the spectacle of the stardust’s static electricity dance until the old man turned his head, to which he responded like lightning pretending he wasn’t doing anything.
Coincidentally, few people who were looking this way were stifling their laughter from seeing how the old man’s hair was standing straight towards the sky.
The old man said, “what’s that noise?” as he looked around. Perhaps because of his ill-mannered conduct earlier, there wasn’t a single passenger who told the old man about his hair.
– This station is Yong San, Yong San station.
The old man folded up his newspapers and stood up, getting ready to leave.
‘Gramps, go outside and look in the mirror.’
The doors of the subway car opened and the old man disappeared. He will probably make a lot of people laugh as he walked down the street. The little kid that had watched it all looked at Jungwu with a smile.
“You little rascal. You’re not crying anymore.”
“Mmhmm. That magic was fun.”
He didn’t plan this, but as the child looked up to him, Jungwu had a surge of confidence.
“Eh-hem. Hyung* doesn’t do something like this willy nilly but this was a special showing.”
The kid’s eyes were shining with respect.
“What’s your name?”
“Where are you headed?”
“I’m going to my aunt’s house with my mom. We’re going to eat tasty things.”
During this conversation, the child’s mom gave him a thankful look. The kid must have gotten used to being in the subway environment, as he had a comfortable expression on his face now.
A moment afterwards..
Jungwu waved his hand at the kid as he heard the announcement for the transfer station that the train was approaching.
“I’m getting off here. Farewell Eun-soo.”
He walked over to the door and looked at the map of subway routes. He looked at the time, which read 7:45 AM.
‘After transferring, I have 3 more stations, right? If I get pushed out at the gate, I might be late.’
Jungwu was making up his mind to leap out as the doors opened when he felt the intimidating flow of stardusts moving towards him and turned his head. The woman with the ‘explosive static electricity coat’ from earlier was approaching him.
He pretended he didn’t see her as he looked outside but her beautiful face that could be seen on the glass window’s reflection made him flustered. It was a look that was pure without any indication of makeup. She was pretty but younger than he thought.
She stood right next to Jungwu. He distanced himself a little bit on reflex.
Jungwu responded to her call by pointing to himself.
“Are you talking to me?”
She nodded her head as she walked one step closer to him.
He thought that he should apologize if she asked ‘why did you stare at me 10-ish minutes ago’, but she asked an unexpected question.
“How did you induce static electricity with your hands?”
She covered her mouth and whispered in a small voice.
“Just a little while ago, you moved that old man’s hair at will.”
“Ah, that is.”
The train slowed down. Jungwu replied with an apologetic expression.
“I’m sorry, but I have to get off here. I don’t think I will be able to explain..”
“I’m getting off too.”
“…I see. But I have to hurry off to transfer to the next train.”
“I’m also transferring.”
Jungwu was a little scared.
‘What is this? Is this how pseudo religions recruit people these days?’
He briefly felt he wouldn’t really mind joining a cult with a recruiter like her, even if she asked “Do you know Tao?”*, but he quickly shook himself from the thought.
While he was thinking that, she asked.
“You are going to KG Chemical Central Laboratory right?”
He had chills running down his spine. Pseudo religions these days seemed to do their research before approaching their targets.
“How did you…”
“It’s not whatever you are thinking.”
She whipped out her employee card from her coat. ‘KG Chemical Central Laboratory Boyoung Song.’
Jungwu had to stifle himself from making a noise as he read on. This company is definitely huge.
He had already met a coworker on the way to his first day on the job.
“Do you get it now?”
Boyoung spoke quickly as she lowered her name tag.
“I learned about you from the contact I have in HR, so don’t be surprised. I work at the same company as you.”
It hadn’t even been that many hours since he signed the contract. He tried to pull himself together and greeted her.
“Hello, I am Jungwu Han.”
“Yes, it’s nice to meet you, parachuter-ssi.”
“Isn’t that right?”
“Ah, you’re right.”
He just nodded as he remembered Dr. Moon’s warning.
Boyoung scrutinized him carefully in a way that made him uncomfortable. Honestly, he still found it hard to believe that she was a corporate employee given how she looked like a college freshman at most. He wondered if the female employees were selected by their faces more than anything as he thought of both her and Dr. Moon, when Boyoung Song followed up with a question.
“You warned me earlier about a static shock, right?”
“I am certain that you did.”
People poured out of the doors of the subway car as they opened, and Jungwu was pushed out along with them.
Boyoung Song also followed suit.
“Come, tell me about it. Why did you say such things.”
On the way to the transfer gate, Boyoung Song’s eyes burned with scholarly ardor and they beckoned him continuously for his reply.
‘This is going to be difficult to just shake off.’
The principle behind it was simple. All he was doing was observing the movements of free electrons and saying it for what it is. However, it was a completely different matter to communicate this to someone who could not perceive these chemical phenomenon in the same way that he could.
‘I could come off as some kind of lunatic if I were to explain in terms of stardusts that I can see.”
Is this similar to the predicament you may find yourself in if you had to explain the color and the shape of an apple to a blind person?
Jungwu glanced at the ‘Explosive Static Coat’ before he spoke.
“You know that coat of yours,”
He pointed at her coat as he continued
“It has sodium silicate all over it. That’s probably the reason why static electricity has gathered to such a great extent over it.”
“Silicate? What are you talking about?”
Jungwu squinted his eyes and examined the coat more closely.
“I can see the Zeolite and Polycarboxylic salt… But wait, if these are all found together, weren’t they formed during the process of laundering clothes? Ah, that’s right. It was the detergent.”
Boyoung Song’s both eyes grew wide as she heard this.
“Excuse me, parachuter. Are you telling me I have detergent powder on my clothes, now?”
“There’s not enough to be noticeable to the eye.”
“What a joke.”
As Boyoung patted down her clothes, she was at a loss for words as white detergent powders scattered into the air.
“Huh? I guess there was more in the lining. No wonder.”
Jungwu nodded his head as if he had solved some puzzle.
“Occasionally, I will also make the same mistake when I run the laundry machine. Like putting in detergent when your clothes are in the dryer. When I do, I get a hell of a scolding and beating from my mom.”
Despite Jungwu’s no-big-deal attitude, Boyoung Song’s pupils were shaking as if they were in an earthquake. Her gaze alternated between looking at Jungwu with an agitated expression and staring down at the part with detergent powder falling off of it.
“D-Dry cleaners were…”
It was obvious that she was lying. This had clearly resulted from the actions of a household newbie who could not distinguish between dry cleaning and water based laundry.
“That dry cleaning store must be a place where they use the entire container of detergent even when they are laundering just one piece of clothing. Their dedication to their craft is outstanding.”
Jungwu was laughing hysterically inside when he noticed Boyoung Song staring at him intensely before he turned his head away. The two of them went past the transfer gate and got on Line 9. It wasn’t as packed as Line 1 so he was able to get a footing and some leisure in comparison.
“…And about the hand – the static electricity just got really serious at some point. I didn’t induce it on my own.”
“So you are telling that this is a coincidence.”
Just as it seemed like Boyoung Song’s curiosity ended, she threw another question at him.
“Parachuter-ssi came in due to the recommendation of Dr. Seung-guk Chun, right? Are you his disciple or something?”
Because Dr. Moon had instructed him to use Dr. Chun as an excuse, he nodded. As she confirmed his reply, Boyoung Song’s eyes shone brighter than before.
“Where is he now? Is he alright? He just left on vacation all of a sudden and even though I wanted to visit him, I couldn’t find him on my own.”
“I don’t really know the recent ongoings about him either.”
“I wonder too.”
He obviously couldn’t say anything about his circumstances regarding the contract and furthermore, he genuinely had no knowledge, so he could not give her the answer she wanted.
“So, it’s a secret?”
Boyoung Song raised her eyes to him.
“Please tell me at least one thing.”
“Even if you plead like that…”
“Just tell me where he is at the moment.”
“Well, he must be having a nice time somewhere.”
Boyoung Song puffed up her cheeks as she sulked from his continued rejections. She finally decided she couldn’t get anything out of Jungwu and turned her head with a “Forget it!”.
“Yes, yes, it was strange. He always gave the excuse that there were no seats available when I made multiple requests to get a project. But now he filled up that spot with his parachuter disciple! That detergent talk earlier was totally in the professor’s style too, the way it makes a person flustered. So the disciple gets special treatment and I’m to be ignored? This pisses me off, really.”
“… Excuse me, Boyoung Song-ssi. I’m still right next to you.”
“I said that for you to listen.”
“Why do I have to listen to..”
“You’re my rival.”
He didn’t know how to retort as he wasn’t sure how he was a rival to her.
Boyoung Song closed her mouth and stared outside as if she wasn’t willing to talk any longer.
‘Is she really angry?’
Maybe because her eyes were so round that even when she was angry, she was cute. She gave off the feeling of a pet dog that was disappointed from not getting a snack.
The train had arrived at Yeoido Station.
Jungwu stared at the clock on the electronic guidance panel and practically leaped in surprise. It was 7:57 AM. He had 3 minutes left to show up as an intern.
As he got off at the station, Jungwu talked quickly to Boyoung Song.
“It looks like I have to hurry. There’s only 3 minutes left.”
“To show up on time for work.”
“You just need to show up by 9 o’clock.”
Boyoung Song had the ‘you got it wrong’ expression.
Jungwu got on the escalator first and turned back.
“No, let me explain.”
Jungwu was trying to tell her about leaving a good first impression on an intern’s first day when he was surprised by what he saw on her coat. The stardusts had gathered like clouds as people brushed past her.
“DEFCON Level 1.”
Boyoung Song yelped a little as she was hit with a spark from the static electricity as she tried to grab the escalator rail.
“Ow ow. Damn it! This again?”
As she shook the pain off on her hand in annoyance, she momentarily lost her balance and was tilting over when Jungwu stretched out his hand towards her on reflex.
Their hands met and static electricity flowed between the two of them.
Boyoung Song yelled once again and Jungwu, who was flustered, exchanged glances as they stood still for a moment in silence.
“… Th-Thank you.”
Jungwu had grabbed her hand tightly unlike his usual self. He flinched as he stared down at that hand. The free electrons were coming off her coat and were transferring over to his hand.
‘Don’t come here. Shoo.’
Jungwu quickly let go then spoke.
“When you get outside, please take care of that static electricity coat first.”
“It seems like I should.”
“Also, please leave your laundry to an expert.”
“I should do that t … You think you’re funny?”
Boyoung Song whipped her head up.
Phone vibrating sound.
Jungwu took out his phone and held it up when he heard it ring. It was a text from Dr. Moon.
[I let HR know, so visit there first.]
‘Sharp as a knife. Exactly 8 o’clock.’
Jungwu spoke to Boyoung Song as he arrived at the end of the escalator.
“I need to go in first. It was good to meet you, Boyoung Song.”
“It was good to meet you too, Parachuter-ssi.”
Jungwu ran to the exit stairs.
Boyoung Song watched his figure from behind as he ran off.
Notes: * Hyung – depending on context, term used by Korean men to refer to their elder brother related by blood or to another man older than them, but usually not older than the age of their fathers.
**”Do you know Tao” is a common scam or cult recruitment phrase to the point it became notorious. Unlike China, ‘Tao’ is closely associated with superstition, trickery and cults.