Side Story 16
9. I’m going there to meet you right now (2)
Once more in the United States of America, somewhere in the quiet suburbs on the outskirts of a city. A black saloon car gliding smoothly on a certain road finally arrived at its destination – a small, but cosy and inviting house, with a red roof.
Tap, tap, tap.
The ones climbing out of the vehicle was the Director of the CIA, David Brennan, and his two bodyguards. The director studied the red-roofed residence for a little while before issuing a new order to his underlings.
“You two, wait for me here.”
Since these two agents were charged with protecting him, that order was a rather difficult one to accept, but the director’s attitude remained unchanging.
“It’s fine, it’s fine.”
He waved his hand dismissively towards his underlings trying to dissuade him.
“Madam doesn’t enjoy noisy visits like this, anyway.”
Leaving behind his entourage by the car, the director walked alone towards the front door and began fixing his attire. Once he felt satisfied by his grooming attempt, he cautiously knocked on the door.
“Madam? It’s me, Dav….”
Even before he could finish introducing himself, the door opened up and a young African-American child peeked his head out. The director recognised Madam Selner’s grandson and crouched lower to match the boy’s eye level before patting the kid on the head.
“Is your grandma home?”
“She’s been waiting for you, bearded uncle, for a while now.”
David Brennan looked at the child pointing at him and couldn’t help but chuckle gently.
But, of course. Just who was the woman he came here to speak to?
The psychic, the prophet, the real ‘Esper’.
Didn’t matter which title was used, none of them would sound ill-fitting to Madam Selner, the world’s pre-eminent soothsayer. That’s who he came here to see today.
Of course, it wasn’t as if he trusted her words in the beginning.
But then, she began solving serious problems that even the CIA, an organisation at the peak of the cut-throat intelligence world, had given up on with preternatural abilities, and the director had no choice but to stop suspecting her gift there and then.
She was the real deal.
‘A true superhuman…’
So, predicting his unannounced arrival for someone like her would be easier than, say, changing the channel on TV with a remote.
Guided by the grandchild, the director was led into the sitting room where the Madam was waiting for him with a cup of warm tea on top of a coffee table. He politely greeted her.
“It’s been a while, Madam.”
“Good to see you, Dave.”
The director raised his head.
The last time he stepped in here was about a year ago; he took a look around at the interior decoration of the sitting room that hadn’t changed since his last visit before carefully parking his butt on one of the couches.
“Madam, you probably can’t imagine how difficult our work has become ever since you announced your retirement.”
One could say that the information on the past was of no value compared to the information on the future.
The CIA reaped a great deal of harvest by cooperating with Madam Selner, so the sense of loss the agency felt after she retired was indeed well above one’s imagination.
The director might have spoken with a smile as if he was cracking a joke, but his genuine belief, hidden beneath the surface, could be heard if one paid closer attention.
Too bad, the Madam spoke composedly as if she was tiding a young child throwing a tantrum for more cookies.
“Dave, I’ve already told you this, haven’t I? I can no longer see the future after that person arrived.”
Was she talking about that story of the ‘God of Death’ again?
The director could only smack his lips wryly at the exact same answer she gave every time he asked her.
It was the story about how her powers became useless after an existence powerful enough to twist destiny as he saw fit had descended to this world.
The director forgot what he wanted to say next after remembering her reason for retiring, one that defied one’s attempt to understand through logic.
And so, silence weighed down between these two people.
David Brennan wondered how he should go about breaking this awkward atmosphere before his nose picked up on the enticing aroma of food.
“Madam, were you in the middle of a meal?”
She slowly shook her head.
“Actually, I have been entertaining another guest.”
“Ah…. I see.”
She didn’t enjoy meeting with people, yet she was with another visitor?
The director tilted his head slightly, but soon enough, made up his mind to stop beating around the bush. The smile on his face vanished next.
“In that case, I shall get right to the point and get out of your hair as soon as possible.”
When he said that, though, the Madam replied as if she was waiting for him.
“The answer to the first question is a ‘yes’, and for the second one, a ‘no’.”
The director could only form a flustered expression when his questions were answered even before he had a chance to say them out loud. She grinned refreshingly.
“You wish to ask me how I knew about your questions if I can’t see the future anymore, am I wrong?”
“Dave. The answers you seek from me are actually the matters of the past. I simply took a glimpse at a portion of the past and provided you with a suitable answer.”
The director nodded his head, a soft moan leaving his lips. She carefully continued on.
“Well, then. Shall I provide you with proper answers to your questions?”
David Brennan pulled out a handkerchief and dabbed the sweat on his forehead.
“Of course. Please go ahead, Madam.”
She then began with her explanations.
“That’s right, Dave. I know just who it is that you wish to find out about.”
Her answer to the first question was ‘yes’. However, her answer to the follow-up question was ‘no’.
“Unfortunately, I will not divulge any information on that person to anyone.”
The director’s voice suddenly grew louder. He wasn’t trying to threaten her or anything like that. It was just that his agitation got the better of him and he ended up shouting out.
“If it’s you, Madam, then you should already know what he has done! We can’t just let someone like that run around without a respo…..”
It was at that moment that the Madam herself shouted out as if she couldn’t hold it in anymore.
“I’m choosing not to say anything precisely because I know!”
This must’ve been the very first time seeing her like this.
The director didn’t know what kind of expression he should form now after being confronted by the Madam’s angry expression for the first time ever. Too bad for him, though, her angry voice didn’t stop there.
“Director, are your eyes just for decorations??”
“Didn’t you see the footage contained in that USB drive, then??”
Indeed, he did see it.
He saw the sight of a single human being not even taking a step back while standing up to those frightening giant monsters. The power that man possessed was scary and incredible, but it did rescue humanity back then.
“Would you believe me if I told you…that event wasn’t the first time?”
The Madam formed a serious, nay, a grave expression, and the director’s own expression froze up instantly.
There was another incident like that in the past??
The moment the director thought of humanity facing extinction-level threats multiple times in the past without him knowing about them, his entire body began shuddering uncontrollably.
But when he pondered it some more, he realised that such a case wasn’t so surprising anymore; even this event had been classified as a top-top secret by the U.S. government and, besides an extremely small number of people related to the matter, no one else knew just what happened or who did what on that particular day.
If that was the case, could he really come out and say with full confidence that no similar things happened in other countries as well?
‘Perhaps, just like what Madam has said, that man really…..’
The director rested his chin on his hand and began pondering something else before raising his head.
“No, I trust you, Madam.”
He only knew her for around three years, but for some reason, he’d sometimes get this feeling that he’d known her for a far longer time than that. That was perhaps the reason why he felt this sense of trust in her. One based on absolutely nothing but his gut feeling, really.
The Madam nodded her head in reply. The director cautiously asked her another question.
“That man from the footage…. Can you assure me that he’s not a dangerous individual?”
She answered him without a moment of hesitation.
“Yes, I can.”
He nodded his head again, alone this time, and as if he finally came to a conclusion, raised his head.
“In that case, I understand. I shall pretend that I never heard you talking about that man.”
The director rose up from his spot while forming a rueful but relieved face.
He bade her a short goodbye and turned around to leave, but her warm voice stopped his feet from taking another step.
“Dave, I’ve baked some cookies. Would you like some?”
He spotted a bag of cookies in her hand, but could only decline the offer with a smile of his own.
“No, I’m fine. Thank you for your offer.”
Now that his official visit was over, his expression reverted to that of a regular, normal uncle. The Madam bade him goodbye with a gentle smile and called for her grandson to guide him to the car.
The child really liked this ‘bearded uncle’ for some reason, so he quickly rushed to the bearded David Brennan and hung on to the older man’s hand.
“I shall come again sometime later, Madam.”
“Be careful on your way, Dave.”
The director, his hand still being held tightly by her grandchild, finally left the residence, prompting the other guest hiding on the other side of the sitting room to emerge into the open.
“Huh. I don’t like that old man. Hey, grandma, should I go teach him a lesson for you?”
He was a giant of a man with slicked-back blonde hair. He took a handful of cookies out from the bag in Madam’s hand and shoved them inside his mouth.
“Thomas, I thought your competition licence will be revoked if you caused another incident outside the ring?”
Thomas grinned sheepishly and chewed on the cookies that filled up his mouth.
“Well, that is…”
This man was none other than Thomas Andre.
Not many people knew that the current Heavyweight champion of the UFC was one of her very few friends that she chose to keep. If the reporters learned of this fact, they would jump up and down in sheer madness while clicking the shutters of their cameras non-stop.
He emptied out the bag of cookies in the blink but that didn’t seem to fill him up at all, so he took the bag itself and tossed the cookie crumbs down his gullet next. When he was finally done, he opened his mouth to speak.
“Hey, grandma. Can I ask you a question?”
She grinned refreshingly and nodded her head. Thomas rolled the empty bag into a ball as he spoke.
“I’m sure lots of people die through accidents, not just someone like me.”
Especially with car crashes, where innumerable people would die almost every single day. However, almost none of them would receive a phone call from the Madam before that happened.
On that much-awaited off day, Thomas was climbing inside his treasured sports car so he could go for a crazy-fast drive through the back roads. And then, he became one of the very lucky few that did get that fateful phone call.
After answering her call, he hurriedly checked out the tyres of his beloved ride only to find a small nail stuck in one. Thankfully, he avoided getting into an accident, but if he started the car and drove away, then he’d have lost his life, just as how Madam had warned him.
Which meant that Madam Norma Selner was the saviour of his life.
Afterwards, Thomas grew close enough to her to share meals like this, yet what happened on that day still remained a mystery to him.
“Why did you save me on that day?”
Well, she couldn’t possibly have been a fan of the UFC and that prompted her to quickly pick up the phone, so….
Thomas Andre always felt curious about why she went out of her way to help him.
Madam Selner looked at him without saying anything after hearing his rather sudden question, before providing a belated answer to her friend, one of the top sports stars in the country.
“Because… you did many good things in your past life.”
Thomas Andre, known as the ‘Bad Boy’ of the UFC, no, Devil of the Octagon, did what now?
He briefly wondered if this grandma ate something she shouldn’t have, but then, he decided not to say what popped up in his head after remembering that he owed her big time.
Madam chuckled softly and shifted her gaze outside the sitting room window to stare at the black saloon driving away with the CIA’s director inside. Her grandson was waving his hand at the ‘bearded uncle’ until the car couldn’t be seen anymore.
Seeing that relationships of the past were being formed anew either consciously or subconsciously by the parties involved, perhaps this ‘fate’ was a real thing after all.
That’s how she felt right now.
After confirming that the director was gone for sure, Thomas plopped down on the very spot on the couch where the leader of the CIA once sat.
“Alright, then. Just what did the man in the video do that an uncle like him came to see you?”
Madam replied in a tone of voice belonging to someone busy putting up still-wet clothes on the washing line.
“He saved the world.”
Sometimes, it was hard to tell whether this old lady was joking or was being dead serious.
‘Well, that’s why it’s so fun being around her, anyway.’
Thomas put on the pair of sunglasses he liked to wear all the time, and shifted his now-darkened gaze towards Madam Selner.
“In that case…. What would Mister Hero who saved the world be doing right about now?”
Madam kept her gaze on her grandchild walking back inside the house, a quiet smile forming on her lips.
“Hmm, I wonder…. Maybe he’s enjoying his youth to the fullest somewhere?”
In the location of the qualifying rounds of the track and field competition filled with the heated cheerings of the spectators, featuring schools from all over South Korea.
When the captains of the two rival high school track teams came together on the field, perhaps unsurprisingly, proverbial flames began erupting from the eyes of both men.
“Oiii, Choi Tae-Woong! Looks like you’ve lost your way, doesn’t it!! You even let a freshman enter every type of competition, didn’t you!”
Jin-Woo’s school track team was now facing off against the pointed ridicule belonging to the captain of their long-time rival from Hwaseong Tech High, Joh Gi-Seok.
“I heard that your former ace, Woo Sahng-In, got injured and took a break for a few months. Did that result in your prowess falling so much that you don’t have a choice but to make a freshman your new ace??”
Joh Gi-Seok continued on with his provocation, but Choi Tae-Woong simply smirked brightly and grasped Jin-Woo’s shoulder.
“Soon enough, you lot won’t be able to close your mouths at the talents of this first year.”
“Heee~yah, rather than you guys breaking more records, you got better at cracking jokes, instead!”
Figurative sparks flew in all directions after these two’s war of nerves grew to an intense level. Meanwhile, Jin-Woo was scratching the side of his head with his index finger.
‘With things like this, it’s going to be difficult to stick to my plan of holding back so that I won’t get noticed….’
While Jin-Woo stood there showing just a tiny hint of how troubled he was, Joh Gi-Seok scanned him from top to bottom and received a great boost of confidence from his expression. The corners of the Hwaseong Tech High Captain’s lips curled upwards.
“Here’s the thing, though. What a funny coincidence this is, you know?”
Joh Gi-Seok turned around and gestured towards his team members; when he did, a big dude standing behind them strode forward with an expression filled pure, unbridled confidence.
“You see, we also got ourselves a freaky freshman, too.”
It was at that point that Jin-Woo ended up blurting out a surprised cry after seeing the face of this so-called freaky freshman.
“Looks like your own freshman can sense it already, no?”
Joh Gi-Seok increased the volume of his voice while placing his hand on the shoulder of the newbie team member who possessed a physique that far surpassed the level of a regular high schooler.
“This kid here, he’s Hwaseong Tech High’s secret weapon, Kim Cheol from the first year.”