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    Deep Pivot, Episode 49

    At that moment, Colonel Jin walked in and placed a coffee carrier down.

    “Thank you, Colonel. You’ve worked hard.”

    Seo-joon greeted, picking up two Americanos and handing one to Yeon-woo. Receiving the cup, Yeon-woo bowed toward Colonel Jin.

    “Thank you, sir. You’ve done a lot.”

    “Ah, the real work is just beginning,” he replied.

    It was well past midnight as Colonel Jin sighed and sat next to Cheong-oh.

    “The Russian guy is being treated for his gunshot wounds, but surprisingly, he’s not an Esper.”

    This was unexpected even for Seo-joon. Given his bold claim about surviving with his head blown off, Seo-joon assumed he was an Esper, either a Blood Bomber or a Binder. The two men who had attacked him were definitely Espers.

    “He’s a guide,” Colonel Jin added. Seo-joon frowned.

    How did a guide muster the courage to say something like that against an Esper? What would he have done if he had died?

    Regardless, this was undoubtedly a significant emergency.

    The fact that the identity of a “No Named” within the country had been leaked abroad, and that this information led to an assassination attempt, was alarming.

    The first issue wasn’t particularly surprising. They themselves had information on missing “No Named” individuals from other countries and old interview footage.

    But the second issue was different. They had been monitoring and trailing Seo-joon’s every move, eventually attempting to assassinate him.

    Worse, there was no guarantee this wouldn’t happen again.

    “Well, for now, we have to follow the manual,” Colonel Jin said, his face weary.

    “Lieutenant Ji, take your guide to the safe house. Get some rest.”

    The urgent guiding had stabilized the immediate crisis, but Seo-joon’s condition remained unstable. The injuries had healed, but his body had endured multiple gunshots and significant pain. It would inevitably take a toll.

    So, Colonel Jin’s suggestion to bring Yeon-woo to the safe house implied that he should focus on recovery through guiding.

    Under Colonel Jin’s orders, Seo-joon and Yeon-woo were promptly placed into an escort vehicle. This wasn’t a vacation, so stopping by home to collect essentials or extra clothes wasn’t an option.

    “Hand over your phones,” came the instruction.


    Colonel Jin took Yeon-woo and Seo-joon’s phones and explained, “We’ll be deploying security personnel within a 100-meter radius of the safe house. From this moment, you won’t have contact with the outside. Got it? You listening, bab?”

    “Yes, I’m listening,” Yeon-woo nodded earnestly.

    “If you need anything, just let the security staff know when you get there. They can provide almost anything except communication devices. You’ll receive firearms, of course.”

    Colonel Jin emphasized a few more points, then patted Seo-joon on the shoulder.

    “I’ll be in touch.”

    “Please keep me updated on the progress.”

    “Yeah, of course. That arrogant Russian… well, we don’t know for sure yet. But we need to break him down until he tells us who’s in charge—whether it’s China, North Korea, or Russia.”

    Colonel Jin sighed deeply. After exchanging brief farewells with Seo-joon and Yeon-woo, who boarded their vehicle, he watched as their car and the escort convoy departed. Only then did he turn back and rub his weary face.

    …What a disaster this has turned out to be.

    ✽✽✽

    “Name.”

    The interrogation room was sparse, furnished with only a long table and three chairs.

    The security officer in charge questioned the man sitting there. With bandaged hands cuffed, the man remained unresponsive until he heard the translator’s words, only then giving a reply.

    [Viktor.]

    The security officer let out a scoff at the curt response.

    “Not that. Your real name, you bastard.”

    Despite the insult, the man didn’t even blink, simply waiting for the translator.

    [I don’t understand what you mean.]

    “You don’t understand? You used the Yanbian dialect, you bastard.”

    The conversation lagged due to the need for translation, and the momentum kept faltering.

    [Is that what the man said? That I spoke in the Yanbian dialect?]

    Colonel Jin, observing through the glass wall, furrowed his brow. The glass was one-way, so those inside couldn’t see out.

    [How can you trust what a gunshot victim says? He could have misheard,]Viktor said.

    From the start, no one expected him to be forthcoming, but outright denying the language he used was excessive. *Why waste time like this?* thought Cheong-oh, standing next to Colonel Jin.

    The man’s arm lacked the identification chip that all Awakened were required to have, regardless of nationality. However, the scarring suggested that it had been intentionally removed to conceal his identity.

    At that moment, someone came in carrying a file. It was Yoo-jung, who worked at the security center and was on duty that night.

    “We scanned the chip from the dead Esper,” she said.

    Colonel Jin took the file from her and opened it.

    “Son Yeon-gil. S-rank Binder. Originally from the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture. Declared dead six years ago.”

    Yoo-jung, looking over his shoulder at the file, remarked, “Declared dead six years ago? So what about the other one? There were two, right? The other Esper Lieutenant Ji killed.”

    Cheong-oh asked, and Yoo-jung shook her head.

    “He didn’t have a chip at all. Not that he removed it like this guy, but he had no sign of one ever being implanted.”

    With its massive population, China also had many Awakened. By law, all Awakened had to be registered with the government, so the lack of a chip indicated he wasn’t registered.

    Typically, in such cases, the Awakened would have concealed their status to operate through private groups. They might work as killers for hire, steal government secrets, or engage in other illegal activities.

    “Sigh…”

    Cheong-oh slumped into a chair, sighing in exasperation.

    It’s all a big mystery. Of the three assassins, one was a person declared dead six years ago, another had intentionally removed his identification chip, and the last was an unregistered Awakened with no chip at all.

    “This makes tracing their identities impossible.”

    Despite bracing for a difficult investigation, frustration was inevitable.

    Inside the interrogation room, the man continued asserting that his name was Viktor and that he was Russian.

    ✽✽✽

    “I imagined the safe house would be a mountain lodge like in the movies, but that’s not the case.”

    Seo-joon remarked, looking around the house as he received a change of clothes.

    He couldn’t pinpoint the exact location since his eyes were covered during the journey, but the interior looked like any other apartment.

    “But I think we’re still near a mountain.”

    Yeon-woo said cautiously, peering through the blinds to catch a glimpse outside. Seo-joon approached and glanced at the view Yeon-woo was looking at.

    All around was empty land. Seo-joon, who had imagined it would resemble a luxurious apartment complex based on the interior, muttered to himself. It seemed to be a proper safe house, after all.

    “Please step away.”

    A soldier delivering their meal approached them quickly.

    “If you stand too close to the blinds, your shadow will show. Even if you think it’s only a small shadow, it can be surprisingly visible from outside.”

    He pulled blackout curtains over the blinds. Seo-joon silently wondered why they even bothered to install windows.

    “The next meal should be a liquid diet. One regular, one liquid.”

    “I’ll pass the request along.”

    “…Are you an Esper?”

    Seo-joon asked suddenly. The soldier shook his head.

    “I’m a regular soldier, but don’t worry. All of us are rigorously trained special forces. Plus, this safe house is well-guarded, so no one from outside will find out.”

    Seo-joon quietly clicked his tongue, unsure if it was the right decision to have regular soldiers protect “No Named” Espers. He nodded, accepting the explanation.

    Awakened individuals were needed primarily to handle gates and strange creatures, so deploying them elsewhere wasn’t feasible.

    “If you need anything, use the radio. Remember to use codenames.”

    “Understood.”

    After bidding them farewell, the soldier disappeared outside.

    As expected, there were more restrictions than he had anticipated in the manual for protecting high-risk assassination targets. Not only were they unable to know their location, but they couldn’t even freely turn on lights inside.

    At night, only dim lighting was allowed due to the potential of light leakage through the blinds and blackout curtains. They had access to a tablet, which was disconnected from the internet, and a TV that could only play existing DVDs.

    Looking around, Seo-joon sighed softly, feeling helpless. *Is it worth enduring this discomfort just to protect a body that doesn’t die easily?*

    Reality set in for him.

    “…Yeon-woo.”

    The house was small, with just one bedroom, one bathroom, a living room, and a kitchen. They were completely isolated here.

    “We’re locked in here,” he said.

    Indefinitely.

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