Rainbow City Chapter 16

Author: nicotine

“The suspicious behavior wasn’t just once or twice. It’s not just a couple of times that we’ve overlooked it, given how much Commander Jang favors that friend of his.”

“Even if he’s a top graduate from the Army Officer Candidate School, it’s problematic for us if we can’t control a soldier. Frankly, hasn’t he compromised military discipline quite a bit?”

“Generals, even if you say that, isn’t Major Kwak Soohwan’s track record equivalent to an S-class squad leader? Everyone talks as if they’re being lenient because Commander Jang favors him, but that’s just shifting all the responsibility onto Commander Jang.”

“Do you really think so? Then let’s strip Major Kwak Soohwan of his rank right now!”

A military conference, with generals including the honor guard, was taking place in the military conference room.

Kwak Soohwan stood in the center of the generals, surrounded like a criminal in the dock, and was eagerly listening to how the discussion would unfold.

“Honestly.”

The commanding officer of the Key Unit, who had been silently listening, spoke up.

“The assumption that the Eden Hill terrorist attack is the work of the Eden Hill Syndicate is just speculation, isn’t it?”

Lieutenant General Lee Yeontae nodded. Then he gestured toward his aide standing behind him.

“Not exactly. Although it has been detached now, this was a notice posted on our shelter wall.” The aide unfolded a large piece of cloth stained with soot and blood in front of them.

[Because you have committed such an act, you shall be cursed among all domestic and wild animals, crawling on your belly and eating dust for the rest of your life until you die.]

“Genesis?” the Key Unit commanding officer asked.

“Yes. It’s a punishment God gave to the serpent. And that serpent is called Serpent. Even though it doesn’t specifically mention Eden Hill, just the notice is enough to suspect it’s their doing, isn’t it?”

Bang! General Yoon, who was in charge of the entire Yeouido branch, slammed the table. “So, what was Major Kwak Soohwan doing during that time?”

Now, the focus was on Kwak Soohwan. Kwak Soohwan stood before the generals in a composed stance.

“He moved to the Violet Zone to evacuate Chief Researcher Dr. Seokhwa during that time.”

“Sure, I know that. But why didn’t we receive any communication from our Yeouido Shelter until it reached this state, and why was there no contact for nearly an hour? Adam appeared inside our shelter. Our shelter is clearly in the Adam Clean Zone, so how is that possible? If Adam wasn’t there, how did the infection occur? Moreover, Major Kwak Soohwan, the unidentified child you brought in, was holding a syringe containing Adam’s blood, right? Of course, we know that you handled the situation before getting infected, but how do you explain that? And the video recording device on the Jeep was turned off. It’s reasonable for us to be suspicious of Major Kwak Soohwan.”

Ah, as expected. Kwak Soohwan only smiled inwardly. General Yoon of the Yeouido Shelter had always considered the Invincible Platoon as much of a thorn in his side.

It wasn’t the first time he witnessed scenes of General Yoon expressing frustration, claiming that even though he was the overall commander, all the credit went to the Invincible Platoon. It felt like a narrow-minded envy. Anyway, since the Invincible Platoon was under his jurisdiction, what harm was there in letting subordinates earn some credit? Unable to go to the front lines himself, he was getting excited for no reason, letting his inferiority complex bubble up.

Kwak Soohwan lowered his gaze to the floor for a moment before looking straight ahead again. And then, he began to speak.

***

At that moment, Seokhwa was being interrogated by the Honor Guard.

After returning to the Yeouido Shelter, Kwak Soohwan and Seokhwa were separately taken into custody by different soldiers, each undergoing interrogation in different locations.

Seokhwa didn’t like the smirking face of Yoo Jungkyung, who was chuckling. Although he had rarely harbored hatred towards anyone in his life, it was different with Yoo Jungkyung.

Seeing him happily singing and humming, he thought, ‘You guys are truly done now.’ It seemed there were truly malicious people in the world.

Since arriving at the shelter from Jeju Island, Seokhwa had visited this interrogation room twice already. This time, he threw a sharp needle repeatedly, wondering if they were truly considering torture.

“Doctor, if you press this deep between your fingernails and push down, your nail will easily come off.”

Naturally, he felt fear at those words, but fortunately, his face didn’t reveal much emotion. However, instinctively, he flexed the hand placed on his thigh, hiding his fingernails.

“This time, Kwak Soohwan won’t come to save you, Doctor. That guy is also being sent to a military trial. Ha, really. Do you know how much I got scolded by our superior for injecting the confession drug to you that day, claiming that I broke down? But, Doctor, not today. Today, I should scold you a lot.”

Yoo Jungkyung grabbed Seokhwa’s arm and raised it onto the table.

“Every time you don’t speak honestly, one of your fingernails flies away. Now, why didn’t you contact us for nearly an hour when you went to the Violet Zone with Kwak Soohwan?”

“Do you enjoy torturing people?”

Thunk! Yoo Jungkyung pressed the pointed end of the needle. It felt like it would pierce inward if more force was applied.

“I don’t enjoy torturing people; I enjoy punishing the bad ones.”

“You said that before. You stabbed Dr. Oh’s thigh with the needle twenty times. At that time, Dr. Oh was innocent.”

Since that investigation, Seokhwa had learned on the day he received the truth serum that Yoo Jungkyung was responsible for it. That’s why he disliked this man even more. He didn’t understand why they entrusted the investigation to him. Even if he could force false confessions through torture.

“Oh, that? I apologized for that at the time. What could I do? I had to do as ordered from above. Do you think I enjoy blood splattering everywhere? Doctor, was the pork soup delicious? But, you know, the guy next to you injected Adam’s blood into his own body. Wasn’t that something Dr. Seok gave him? He said he would spread the virus in the shelter.”

Seokhwa chuckled for the first time. Although his expression didn’t change significantly, a short laugh revealed his attitude.

“Do you think, sensibly, that I would do such a thing to the person next to me? I would be the first to suffer, ugh!”

This time, the needle penetrated with the tip of Yoo Jungkyung’s finger. Looking down, it was evident that the needle had reached the center of the fingernail.

“Try mumbling again with that messed up mouth. What did you say?”

Seokhwa bit his lip and endured the throbbing pain. As someone vulnerable to physical pain, this kind of agony was shocking.

The first pain was transmitted quickly through fast nerves, followed by the second pain reaching the brain through slow nerves. Seokhwa didn’t understand why the sense of touch had two types of nerve fibers, causing double the pain.

“Fine, let’s assume the guy who injected Adam’s blood into himself wasn’t Dr. Seok. Since Yang Sanghoon also did something very suspicious, let’s talk about why Major Kwak Soohwan and you didn’t have contact when you went outside.”

Squelch! The needle pressed into the soft flesh inside, revealing the vulnerability. With a little more pressure here, it seemed the fingernail would come off. Seokhwa’s back quickly became damp with cold sweat. It was surprising how such a small fingernail could cause such great pain.

Looking at the pale Seokhwa, Yoo Jungkyung chuckled. Doctors, being generally delicate, often screamed and spilled everything with just a bit of pain. Yoo Jungkyung felt exhilarated when well-treated, high-nosed doctors from the research lab, who shed tears and mucus in front of him while receiving various treatments, experienced such discomfort. Especially the thought of Seokhwa’s expressionless face contorting and him crying while looking at her intrigued him.

Bang! Upon hearing the sound of the investigation room door opening, Yoo Jungkyung felt a sense of tension. Wondering if it was Kwak Soohwan again, he turned around with a stern expression, only to find Commander Cha, his immediate superior.

“Commander, have you come!”

Yoo Jungkyung removed the needle from Seokhwa’s fingernail and gave a sharp salute.

“At ease.”

Yoo Jungkyung, lowering the hand with the raised forehead, gave Cha Hakhyun a puzzled look. Why did Commander Cha come? Cha Hakhyun glanced at Seokhwa, who was clutching his fingernail, then turned to Yoo Jungkyung again.

“I’ll take over the questioning, so you can leave.”

“Yes?”

Thunk! Commander Cha flicked Yoo Jungkyung’s forehead. His face twisted for a moment, but his posture remained unaffected.

“This guy dares to be insolent. If you want to interrogate, go ahead, kid.”

“But, Commander! This case is under my responsibility.”

Cha Hakhyun made a puzzled expression, raised his hand, and showed the appointment letter lying on the investigation table.

“Look! This is an appointment given to me by General Yoon. He instructed me to interrogate Dr. Seokhwa.”

In an instant, Commander Cha, who was raising his hand, also noticeably froze.

It wasn’t just anyone but a directive from one of the top administrators of Yeouido Shelter, General Yoon. Yoo Jungkyung also chuckled at the unusual reaction from his superior.

‘Kid, did I play my cards well? You should be careful too.’

Such an atmosphere permeated the room. Commander Cha, unable to do anything, could only show a concerned expression towards Seokhwa.

“Dr. Seokhwa, are you okay?”

Seokhwa, still holding his finger, showed no reaction. He couldn’t understand why he ended up in this situation, only questioning the death of Dr. Oh.

“Don’t torture Dr. Seokhwa recklessly, huh?”

“I just gave him a little scare.”

Commander Cha felt perplexed about how to explain this to Kwak Soohwan. Still, he thought he had stepped out of his jurisdiction this time. After all, it was an order from General Yoon, not just anyone else.

Commander Cha pushed Yoo Jungkyung away with his hand and left the interrogation room. Yoo Jungkyung’s cursing at Kwak Soohwan, calling him a frustrating bastard, also reached Seokhwa’s ears.

“Doctor, bored, huh? Shall we continue?”

Yoo Jungkyung impatiently flicked his fingers, urging him to release his hand.

“I’ll talk.”

“What?”

“I’ll tell you what happened.”

“Well, Doctor. Why are you being so uninteresting?”

Seating himself on the desk with a disappointed expression, Yoo Jungkyung let out a sigh. Seokhwa kept his eyes closed for a while and eventually started speaking.

***

“Hey, you! You believe that?”

General Yoon thundered.

“That is the truth. Would I dare to lie in front of you, sir?”

Some generals grimaced, either scratching their foreheads or rubbing their chins.

“The reason for turning off the surveillance device is that?”

“Yes, that’s all.”

Kwak Soohwan remained calm as if he were only stating facts.

“So, Major Kwak Soohwan, you have a special relationship with Dr. Seokhwa, occasionally going on dates outdoors? Did you get hit on the head? You didn’t even know the situation inside the shelter and went on a date?”

“The upper floors were closed, so there was nothing we could do. At that time, we heard that the first-floor cafeteria had been cleared, and disinfection had started from the fifth floor. Dr. Seokhwa and I, who were in the basement, couldn’t go up in that situation. We prioritized Dr. Oh’s safety, reported our movement, and obtained permission. That’s all.”

Commander Jang, who had a troubled expression, cautiously raised his hand.

“Kid, get out. Don’t you know you’re trying to cover for that bastard again?”

Commander Jang subtly lowered his hand again. This time, Lieutenant General Lee Yeontae raised his hand.

“Yeontae, what’s with you again?”

Perhaps because he was the directly subordinate major, the general couldn’t express his anger too vehemently.

“Major Kwak Soohwan’s words seem not to be false. That…”

“Well, spit it out!”

Yeontae sighed. If it were someone else, he might have ignored them, whether they lived or died. However, it was not an easy task to just let Kwak Soohwan, the core of their power, go.

“Uh, Major Kwak Soohwan, when he saw Dr. Seokhwa,”

“What!”

“He referred to him as ‘his…'”

“What did he say!”

“I heard him say something like that.”

Yeontae felt a cold sweat on his forehead, wondering if he had blurted out something even when he said it himself. Still, he couldn’t just let Kwak Soohwan go without defending himself against these accusations.

“Although it might be inappropriate to mention this, it seems we have no choice but to reveal it to prove our innocence.”

Kwak Soohwan, with a serious expression, furrowed his brows and then spoke earnestly, as if he had made up his mind.

“Dr. Seokhwa likes outdoor dates. We’ve been on one before, and there’s still footage of it. It was a path to a nearby unprotected area restaurant, and I’ll submit this as evidence.”

Kwak Soohwan took a USB drive from inside his black uniform and slid it in front of General Yoon.

General Yoon tapped it with his hand and said roughly, “Let your subordinate take a look,” and the subordinate immediately connected the USB to the laptop, displaying the main screen of the military conference room. Since the video recording device was in the back seat of the Jeep, only their voices began to play.

[Dr. Seok has a subtly ominous aspect. If you want to date, just say so. Why beat around the bush?]

“Did I ask to date?’

[Why are you whispering in my ear and touching my earlobe with your lips?]

“Did I do that?”

[I’ve read my fair share of romance novels, and they say it’s all about knowing everything and being intrusive. Were you deliberately mocking me by whispering in my ear?]

[Sigh…]

[Look at this, sighing dramatically again.]

These were the usual playful remarks that Kwak Soohwan would casually throw out. Since the real important discussions took place inside the restaurant, the conversations during the car ride that day were of this nature. General Yoon, not used to such conversations, waved his hand to dismiss it with an annoyed expression.

“Bring Dr. Seokhwa.”

Kwak Soohwan chuckled inwardly. It was quite fortunate that the strange rumors circulating in the shelter turned out to be helpful in this way.

It took about 15 minutes for Seokhwa, who was on the 3rd basement floor, to come up to the military conference room. When the door opened, and Seokhwa revealed himself, Kwak Soohwan’s expression, which had been inwardly smiling, changed in an instant.

Seokhwa had bandages wrapped around his hand, and his face was so pale that it looked like he could faint any moment. When Yoo Jungkyung, who brought Seokhwa, saw Kwak Soohwan, she burst into laughter.

Only now did Kwak Soohwan regret not sending that guy to Gwacheon.

***

Seokhwa sat in the center of the U-shaped table where the generals were seated.

Standing while receiving an interrogation was the norm, but they decided to show some consideration since the doctor didn’t seem to be in good condition. Seokhwa sat on a rigid metal chair, resting both hands on his thighs. Kwak Soohwan stood beside him, and together, they looked as if they were undergoing a public trial.

“Dr. Seokhwa.”

General Yoon, sitting at the central front, called Seokhwa.

“Yes.”

General Yoon quickly glanced at the documents brought by Yoo Jungkyung and formed a somewhat compassionate expression. However, there was no occasion where the wrinkles on his face, as distinct as a bulldog’s, appeared to be welcoming.

“Do you know how much Rainbow City has been providing benefits to the doctors?”

“Yes.”

After going through various experiences in the Yeouido Shelter, I realized how much of a fragile flower in a greenhouse I really was.

“If Major Yoo used harsh methods, I apologize.”

General Yoon knew that Seokhwa was not as young as he looked, yet his tone was scolding, as if he were treating him like a young man who had just turned twenty.

“Is your hand okay?”

“It hurts.”

Even if it was an empty courtesy, Seokhwa answered honestly. General Yoon, holding a folder, swatted the back of Yoo Jungkyung’s head, who was waiting behind him.

“I told you to interrogate, not to torture.”

“Yes, that’s correct. However, I was just trying to intimidate her, but she pulled her hand back so suddenly.”

“So suddenly?”

“His fingernail got broken.”

General Yoon smacked Yoo Jungkyung’s head repeatedly.

Kwak Soohwan had been observing Seokhwa’s left hand during this time. A bandage was wrapped around the part where his little fingernail might have been broken. If he hadn’t returned his firearm along with the holster, he might have shot Yoo Jungkyung here.

“Understand that Major Yoo has an excessive sense of loyalty. Dr. Seokhwa, we heard some truly unbelievable stories. Did Major Kwak Soohwan possibly threaten you?”

“No.”

“As you know, Rainbow City doesn’t intervene in the romantic relationships of doctors. Freedom is a good thing, and young friends are free to date as much as they want.”

As General Yoon spoke, Rainbow City generally did not interfere much in romantic relationships, except for approved childbirth. Especially in the shelter, as long as proper contraception was practiced, they didn’t care much, whether it was same-sex or opposite-sex relationships. However, that didn’t mean they could date freely as they pleased.

“The most important virtue of a soldier is protecting Rainbow City, and researchers must develop medicines and vaccines to protect the citizens of Rainbow City. But now, Major Kwak Soohwan and Dr. Seokhwa have neglected that most important duty.”

General Yoon wore a benevolent expression, but internally, he was still suspicious. The reason they gave, that they were dating, seemed to have some shady aspects. He continued, “Going off-topic, let me say one thing.”

Yoo Jungkyung was granted the right to speak to the general. As if it was difficult to speak here, General Yoon signaled him to follow outside.

Following Yoon, Yoo Jungkyung went outside the military conference room and began speaking quietly, ensuring only the general could hear.

“General, I find it hard to believe that they are in such a relationship.”

“Do you have a valid reason for that?”

When General Yoon took out a cigarette, Yoo Jungkyung quickly lit it for him.

“Yes, it seems it hasn’t been opened yet.”

At that statement, General Yoon exhaled a bitter smoke, scrunching up his face.

“The opening? When did the communication base station collapse?”

“It’s not that; it’s about their relationship.”

“Explain it properly, kid.”

“Then, I’ll humbly explain. If Major Kwak Soohwan is in a relationship with Dr. Seokhwa, there should be physical evidence, right?”

“But.”

“I think there isn’t yet. I mean, that kind of relationship. That’s why it hasn’t been ‘opened’… That’s what I meant.”

“So, what you’re saying is that Kwak Soohwan lied about them dating?”

“Yes! As expected, General, you’re wise.”

“Do you think I look like a naive fool?”

“Uh? Uh, what do you mean?”

General Yoon extended his hand and lightly slapped Yoo Jungkyung’s cheek. It gradually became a firm, smacking sound. Even as Yoo Jungkyung’s cheek turned red, he did not flinch and successfully parried the general’s slap.

“Who would not know about that? Do I look like I don’t know, calling the generals and making a fuss about this?”

“If that’s the case…”

General Yoon sprinkled his cigarette on Yoo Jungkyung’s shoulder. Faced with the general’s indifferent attitude, Yoo Jungkyung had no choice but to remain silent.

General Yoon came back inside, and Seokhwa continued to shake his hands intermittently due to the persistent pain. General Yoon sat down but remained silent, lost in thought for quite some time.

Kwak Soohwan also knew that this method was just an improvisation. Moreover, General Yoon was the First Master’s line.

In fact, the Invincible Platoon was a newly formed platoon by Second Master, composed of Kwak Soohwan as his ground cavalry leader.

The First and Second Masters collaborated for the sake of Rainbow City, but their rivalry was always present. They showed with their actions that there could not be two suns in the sky.

“I highly appreciate the merits Major Kwak Soohwan has shown so far. According to Major Kwak Soohwan, the shelter has been cleared, so he went to the Violet Zone with Dr. Seokhwa, feeling relieved. However, being a soldier of Rainbow City, one should always be prepared. Do you have any explanation for that?”

“No, sir.”

Kwak Soohwan looked away from Seokhwa and faced General Yoon.

“Well, since everyone must be busy, let’s conclude this here. Army Major Kwak Soohwan is reassigned to the Gwacheon Branch Shelter as of today.”

The room soon buzzed with murmurs, but no one directly voiced their objections. Kwak Soohwan thought it was a reasonably satisfactory result.

“Taking away the command of the Invincible Platoon and appointing him as the commander of the Gwacheon Branch White Tiger Platoon.”

Taking away the command of the Invincible Platoon meant essentially dismantling their platoon. Kwak Soohwan couldn’t even muster a laugh at Yoon’s blatant intention. There was also an intent to weaken the influence of the Second Master.

Kwak Soohwan remained composed, but Seokhwa, sitting next to him, was the only one surprised. If he moved to the Gwacheon Shelter, it would be challenging for them to meet in the future.

“Dr. Seokhwa.”

Seokhwa stopped his thoughts and looked at General Yoon.

“Dr. Seokhwa came to the Yeouido Shelter as the chief researcher in place of the late Dr. Oh, so there should be no changes. Please continue to work at the Yeouido Shelter research lab as before. This concludes the military council. And Major Yang Sanghoon will continue the investigation as planned.”

When General Yoon stood up, all the generals stood up as well. Seokhwa also pushed his chair back and managed to get up. After General Yoon left, Kwak Soohwan grabbed Seokhwa’s arm.

“Are you okay?”

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