Nam Tae-Sik was definitely smiling.
However, his expression also invited a sense of disharmony the more one looked at it.
The corners of his lips were curled up, but his eyes were dead-still.
That face was as unnatural as a painting done with a stiff brush, and Kang Jin-Ho felt somewhat bothered by it.
However, what Nam Tae-Sik said a second ago bothered him far more.
That term was used by 'them' to denote themselves...
as well as Kang Jin-Ho.
A term to describe those who had traveled to the past and returned to the modern era!
Kang Jin-Ho's expression crumpled.
“...Who, or what, are you”
“Hahaha!” Nam Tae-Sik laughed as if he couldn't believe where this conversation was headed.
“You can't be asking me that because you don't know, yes”
Kang Jin-Ho was left speechless.
He was becoming more and more confused that he couldn't think straight.
Nam Tae-Sik continued, “Didn't 'he' already tell you, sir We are everywhere.
And we certainly would try our best to keep an eye on someone of your caliber, Mister Kang.”
Kang Jin-Ho clamped his mouth shut and glared at Nam Tae-Sik.
Did he miss the obvious signs Could that be it
No, that couldn't be possible.
Even if his mind had been chaotic during the first meeting, Kang Jin-Ho would have still noticed that the person right in front of him was hiding their powers.
Such a thing was inconceivable.
“Your reaction is as expected,” Nam Tae-Sik grinned as if he was mocking Kang Jin-Ho.
“But, please rest your worries, Mister Kang.
Your senses haven't deceived you.
I am just a regular person.
However, I serve a being quite similar to you, Mister Kang.”
Kang Jin-Ho's expression grew cold and composed.
What Nam Tae-Sik had revealed just now hinted at many things.
One of them was that these so-called returners had deeply infiltrated many facets of modern society.
Another one was that some regular people were aware of the existence of the returners and were in cahoots with them.
Which meant Kang Jin-Ho should not simply classify them as a mere alliance of returners.
“However, Mister Kang.
I must advise you not to be too complacent.
Some individuals possess far different powers from you, after all.
Some among them can easily pass off as regular people, you see Even you won't be able to tell them apart.
Hence the assertion...
we are everywhere.”
Kang Jin-Ho slowly opened his mouth to speak, “Did you approach me with a goal in mind back then”
“Mm…” Nam Tae-Sik organized his thoughts first before replying, “I certainly desired to find justice for Ju Yeong-Gi.
Let's just say the desire to see your response was greater.”
“Was it your decision”
“Of course not.
After all, I'm merely an underling, a tool.
The one I serve wished to see your reaction, so I carried out their will.
Because you are a rather unique existence, you see.”
“Those with power wish to use that power.
That's the reason why our world still sees the abuse of power every single day.
The one with political power wants to show off that power, while another person boasting immeasurable wealth would be thirsting for a chance to show that off.” Nam Tae-Sik smiled and began yapping on about some basic-theory stuff.
“What would be the point of accumulating wealth that you can't even show off That's why the rich are compelled to be ostentatious.
For some, that wealth is literally that, a wealth of money.
For some others, it's violence.
And finally, it could also be political power.
However, here's something they all had failed to realize…”
“When humans dare to show off their power, they also expose their hidden selves.”
Kang Jin-Ho's eyes grew even colder and withdrawn.
“When a wise, benevolent ruler resorts to using their political power, they can no longer suppress their inner tyrant, so they were bound to unleash it on the rest of the world.
Likewise, if those who abhor violence had to resort to violence, they would become crueler and more vicious than anyone.
Just like that...
Humans are bound to reveal their true natures whenever they get to unleash their 'power’.”
“That's why we've been patiently waiting, Mister Kang.
To find out if you're a destructive being like the initial report had suggested.
To see if you'd unleash that side of you again.” Nam Tae-Sik shrugged his shoulders.
For some reason, you seemed less than keen to utilize your powers despite possessing both physical prowess and financial wherewithal—so much so that we even began to suspect if you really were a returner.”
“So What are you trying to say here”
Nam Tae-Sik noticed the coldness in Kang Jin-Ho's glare and hurriedly waved his hands.
“Ah, ah... Please don't misunderstand me, Mister Kang.
We did not goad those two pieces of trash into hurting Mister Ju Yeong-Gi.
We do not like interfering in the lives of regular people, you see.
Besides, such human garbage can be found pretty much everywhere in the world, no”
Kang Jin-Ho had half a mind to disagree with that statement, but he couldn't.
He knew just as well as the next person that this world was overflowing with unmentionable evil bastards.
Just one look at a news bulletin would be enough to confirm that.
“That's why we've been monitoring you for a little while longer.
And well, we got a very unexpected response from you.”
“According to our estimation, your personality should have been mellow.
You enjoy sticking to the rules, avoid making trouble, and don't lust for anything in particular.
Such people usually prefer to stick to the paths that their society has already carved out.
Just as our interest in you was waning...
We got to see it.
We got to see what you're capable of.”
Kang Jin-Ho didn't say anything.
Unfortunately for Nam Tae-Sik, he had failed to notice that Kang Jin-Ho's eyes had become even more withdrawn and colder than before.
“That's when we realized the truth, Mister Kang.
We realized that a dangerous beast was sleeping inside you.
Thus, we designated you as a dangerous individual.
Usually, the more 'normal' you look on the outside, the more corrupted and rotten you are on the inside.
We've taken into account this point when making our decision, Mister Kang.
And that decision is to approach you no matter what.”
Kang Jin-Ho slowly nodded.
“Is that all you have to say”
“There's someone who wishes to have a face-to-face meeting with you.
That person wants to treat you with the utmost respect, and that's why I have personally come to facilitate the meeting, Mister Kang.”
By this point in their conversation, Kang Jin-Ho had finished smoking the offered cigarette.
So, he took out another one; it was his own this time and mouthed it.
Then, without using a lighter, he simply flicked his finger and created a spark in the empty air to light up his cigarette.
Normal people witnessing such a scene would have been taken aback, but not Nam Tae-Sik.
He seemed to have ample experience in dealing with 'returners,’ so he didn't display even a hint of shock.
Kang Jin-Ho leisurely exhaled the smoke and muttered, “I'm going to ask you a few questions.”
“Please go ahead.”
“First of all...
These returners you've been talking about, are they all affiliated with one organization”
Nam Tae-Sik ruefully shook his head.
“That's not the case, unfortunately.”
“Well, as you may already know, returners are quite a freewheeling group of people, making it practically impossible for a...
for a single organization or a system to restrain them.
However, some of them have formed organizations of sorts, and they sometimes interact with each other,” Nam Tae-Sik diligently explained as Kang Jin-Ho's cigarette smoke wafted in the interior of the Retona.
“Excluding those we haven't identified yet and a handful of individuals with lone wolf tendencies, it's safe to assume that most returners are affiliated with one 'organization' or another.”
Kang Jin-Ho quietly listened, knowing that such information wouldn't be free.
Which meant this had to be a part of the appeasement effort.
Since others had already joined organizations, Kang Jin-Ho should stop doing things on his own and seriously consider joining Nam Tae-Sik's group—at least, that was the underlying message behind this explanation.
“Yes, Mister Kang”
“How do you locate these...
returners You shouldn't have any methods to sniff them out if they choose to stay in hiding”
“...Mister Kang, do you honestly believe they will keep their powers hidden forever”
Kang Jin-Ho narrowed his eyes, and his lips clamped shut again.
“Humans instinctively seek out those similar to themselves.
Honestly, we don't really need to search for the returners on our own.
I'm sure you've already done this before, but...
Just by mingling in society, returners will discover others like them sooner or later.”
Kang Jin-Ho nodded in agreement.
An example of this was when he discovered the trace of martial cultivation back in his high school days.
Didn't that fedora-wearing man approach him soon afterward In other words, returners, including Kang Jin-Ho, would inevitably grow intrigued if they came across individuals possessing unique abilities that set them apart from the rest of society.
That was because humans sought out those similar to themselves...
Just like what Nam Tae-Sik had said a few moments ago.
Moreover, returners would always be different from other people, even if they were all humans at the end of the day.
It was inevitable for returners to approach those giving off similar vibes to themselves.
“There are other methods, but I'm not at liberty to disclose them, unfortunately.
Trade secret, you see.” Nam Tae-Sik grinned.
Kang Jin-Ho contemplatively nodded.
“Why does that fool, your boss, want to see me”
Nam Tae-Sik's expression crumpled slightly.
It seemed he was not pleased with the word 'fool.’ Then again, nobody in their right mind would be happy to hear the person they served wholeheartedly being referred to as a fool.
However, Nam Tae-Sik's expression quickly regained its tranquility.
He was still unhappy about Kang Jin-Ho's attitude, but his current goal was to appease.
He thought revealing his emotions was unnecessary.
He cleared his throat first before responding, “Isn't it rather obvious why the one I serve wishes to meet you, Mister Kang”
“Obvious, you say”
The one I serve wants you, Mister Kang.”
“It'd be nice if you give me more detail.”
We're not simply talking about your strength, Mister Kang.
The one I serve wants you. Your existence itself.
The camaraderie from being a fellow returner, and curiosity regarding how your life has been...
The one I serve wants you, wants to know more about you in all those aspects.”
Kang Jin-Ho slowly rubbed his chin.
“I'm intrigued by your mention of my strength.
Are you implying that there will be reasons to use such powers in this era”
Nam Tae-Sik sighed softly.
“I'm not sure how you see the current era, Mister Kang.
However, allow me to say this.
The power the returners possess has a far greater influence in this world than the one you have lived in before.”
Kang Jin-Ho also agreed with that assessment.
If Heavenly Crimson Demon Emperor possessed the same cultivation realm as the current Kang Jin-Ho, he would have been too weak to do anything noteworthy in Zhongyuan.
To be clear, Zhongyuan wasn't overflowing with experts on that level as if they were pebbles on the road.
However, most well-known sects or families had one or more experts exceeding the current Kang Jin-Ho’s level of cultivation.
That was the case for Zhongyuan, but what about now If Kang Jin-Ho got serious about something, no one would be able to trace him.
Being a superhuman wouldn't be that difficult in the modern era.
“One of our roles is to accept such individuals and help them acclimatize to the current way of life.
And to prevent them from using their powers in an...
'incorrect' manner, of course.”
Kang Jin-Ho silently nodded.
Nam Tae-Sik grinned deeply.
What do you think, Mister Kang Are you willing to meet the one I serve”
Kang Jin-Ho smiled back at Nam Tae-Sik.
However, the latter had forgotten to smile along when he clapped his eyes on Kang Jin-Ho's expression.
It was all because of the smile...
The smile was different from what Kang Jin-Ho had been making until now.
It was so creepy and scary that goosebumps had broken out on Nam Tae-Sik's skin.
Kang Jin-Ho growled.
“Now, let me inform you of one thing.”
Nam Tae-Sik didn't say anything.
He couldn't even if he wanted to.
His attention was solely focused on Kang Jin-Ho's expression and his slowly-approaching hand, leaving him with no mental leeway to mind anything else.
Kang Jin-Ho's hand leisurely closed in before grabbing Nam Tae-Sik's face.
His grip was definitely not strong at all.
No, other than just a hint of strength, it didn't seem like anything to worry about.
However, Nam Tae-Sik couldn't budge an inch.
That was because he instinctively knew.
If Kang Jin-Ho fancied it, he could crush Nam Tae-Sik's face in the blink of an eye.
“I don't want to know who your boss is.
I'm not even remotely interested.
However, I do want you to pass along a message.” Kang Jin-Ho bared his fangs like a growling predator.
“As a regular person, you don't bother me.
However, the story will drastically change with these returners you keep bringing up.”
Nam Tae-Sik's body began to shiver involuntarily.
He was certain of it now.
He hadn't been mistaken about it! Right now, from Kang Jin-Ho's figure...
A strange 'aura' was gushing out from Kang Jin-Ho right now.
An aura that Nam Tae-Sik had never, ever sensed before! And this aura was constricting Nam Tae-Sik's heart, his entire body, and even his soul as it slowly crushed them.
“Since your boss is living under the same sky as me, that fool shouldn't have dared to send an underling like you.
Go and tell them to come personally and prostrate before me.
If they are martial practitioners like me, they wouldn't even dare to raise their heads in my presence.”
Kang Jin-Ho's predatorial growl oozed terrifying power.