I could hear sighs from the surroundings.
“Hah, then this is it.”
“What is that teamwork?”
“It is just a mess, a mess.”
“It was my fault for believing in South Korea.”
“We will definitely be last place this year.”
“Won’t eggs be thrown?”
All that could be heard after the silence was broken were whispers from the audience. Their words were like sharp awls and I had nothing to say. I hadn’t expected it to be such a mess. Suddenly, I recalled the last words I heard.
...Eggs being thrown. I heard it from Jeongdo on the way here. The team in last year’s World Competition was really miserable and eggs were thrown at the bus carrying the players. It was quite famous and Jeongdo remembered the day in detail. Of course, it went without saying that he told me the details.
...This was bad. I thought that If I had lost like that, I would have nothing to say even if eggs were thrown at me.
Therefore, the atmosphere of the South Korean team was really bad. The South Korean team came out of the capsules and the audience yelled at them.
“What type of national representatives are you?! Are you joking right now?”
“I wasted my money!”
In a way, this could be called ‘swallowing the sweet and spitting out the bitter.' 
The audience literally swallowed the sweet things and spat out the bitter things. One criticism became two, two criticism became three, and all of them were pushing each other on. The change in attitude took place in an instant.
“Honey, p-people have become so scary.”
“I knew it would be like this.”
My daughter-in-law held Choi Kanghyun’s arm and didn’t know what to do. Kanghyun silently held her and watched the stage. Jeongdo had covered his face with one hand, seemingly expecting it to some degree.
A dispute was already happening between the players on the stage.
“What the hell is this? Eh? A joke?” Lim Sara was trying to kick at the air while being held back by Mido. Her target was Kim Donghyun, who had made a huge mistake earlier. Her feet continued to struggle. “I knew it would be like this. If you don’t want to do it then get lost! Are you still a national representative?! I can’t stand it anymore. Let me go! Let me go! Let go~!”
There was no such thing as shame. What type of shameful behavior were they showing to the people of the world? I hadn’t seen it yet, but I could clearly guess the headlines that would appear in the newspapers tomorrow. Just then, my mobile phone vibrated. I took it out and checked the screen to see who was the person that was calling me.
I picked up the call with a sigh. “Hello.”
-Did you see it?
“...Yes. It is a mess.”
-You really plan to do nothing? In this way, South Korea's prestige will fall to the ground. Your granddaughter will be in the middle of it.
-Then I’ll ask you one last time. Would you like to play for South Korea?
There was a long silence after Yoo Minseok’s words. I looked around while listening to the audience. There were only harsh curses, no good words. I thought about all these criticisms pouring on the players, including my granddaughter, and my heart unknowingly ached.
“...Where should I go?”
-You’ve made a wise choice. There will be a 10 minute break at the end of the first match. At that time, meet in the main hall on the first floor.
“I’ll do so.”
I hung up the phone immediately and got up from my seat. My daughter-in-law glanced at me with a confused expression and asked, “Father, where are you going?”
“I’m going to the bathroom.”
I left without any delay. The destination was the main hall on the first floor. However, I had something to do first before meeting Yoo Minseok. I took out my phone and called someone. I soon heard the sound of it connecting and then Park Muyeol’s voice. “Hello.”
I asked him over the phone, “Where are you? One cigarette for a pizza.”
* * *
At the Korean team’s waiting room in Union Square...
The atmosphere of the Korean team was almost like a house of mourning. The team members were slumped down after calming the angry Lim Sara while Lim Sara sat with her hands covering her face, head lowered. Mido was patting her back and soothing her.
There was only silence in this waiting room. It was the worst situation and Lim Changyong could only swallow his bitter saliva.
‘Morale has completely fallen to the rock bottom.’
He thought about how the next match would be ruined if this continued. As the captain, Lim Changyong felt a great sense of responsibility. Just then, loud shouts were heard from the TV in the waiting room.
-As expected, the United States is the strongest!
“As expected, the United States is ranked first.”
The moment Lim Changyong, the ranking table for the various countries appeared on the screen.
[Ranking of Each Country in the World Competition]
[1st. United States - 5 points.
2nd. Spain - 4 points.
3rd. Russia - 3 points.
4th. China - 2 points.
5th. Germany - 2 points.
16th. South Korea - 0 points.]
The moment they saw it, the people in the waiting room sighed. Zero points. It seemed that South Korea was destined to repeat last year’s nightmare once again. Just then, the door of the waiting room opened and all the players stood up. It was Director Shin Taeil. “Well done.”
Lim Sara turned her head weakly to look at Director Shin Taeil.
Shin Taeil spoke to her like she was just a newborn calf, “The result was that you caused a scandal so you will be punished. It is a pay cut for two months.”
“Additionally, you will not participate in the next match.”
“What? Then what about Kim Donghyun? That person...!”
"First of all, it is you who caused the scandal. Donghyun did nothing.”
“No! So he isn’t at fault?!” Lim Sara’s face once again turned red.
Shin Taeil ignored her and looked back at An Seunghyun with a blank expression. “Kim Haeil will enter to reinforce the power instead of Lim Sara. Kim Haeil will protect the flag bearer while taking responsibility for the health of the team members.”
“Why aren’t you saying anything?”
“Furthermore, An Seunghyun will be the Joker.”
“...Yes.” Kim Haeil bit his lip and nodded. He didn’t understand the director, but he couldn’t do anything. It was because Lim Changyong, the captain of the national team and the person he became close friends with during the camp was also bearing with it.
“This shit! Hey, Director, are you ignoring me?! Why?!”
Lim Changyong opened his mouth, “Lim Sara, stop.”
“No. Oppa, really?! What’s wrong with you?! Eh? Does that person have something on you? Huh? Is that it? Wow, you aren’t my real Oppa. How can you tell your little sister...”
“Lim Sara!” Lim Changyong’s sharp shout rang out through the waiting room.
The pressure he gave off was so cold that no one could speak. His eyes seemed like he would explode at any minute if he was touched. It was like touching a lion.
“T-Then everyone be ready to go out. The break is already over. Let’s go,” Shin Taeil stuttered as he scrambled to leave the room and closed the door.
Once again, the waiting room was silent.
“...I’m sorry I got angry at you, Sara.”
“Additionally, I’m sorry everyone. I showed an ugly appearance as the captain.”
“I think that Oppa must have an idea.”
Lim Changyong told them, “I’m thankful for your words. First, we should focus on the match. As for the reason why I’m so patient... no. Let’s have a drink later. I will explain at that time.”
“Oh, there will actually be a dinner party?”
At Mido’s words, the national team members finally showed small smiles. The break time had ended and only An Seunghyun, the player who will be the Joker, and Lim Sara, who had fallen to being a substitute, remained in the waiting room. An Seunghyun had a small crush on Lim Sara so he wanted to comfort her. “...Have strength, Noona.”
“Huh? Ahh, yes. Thank you. You aren’t going yet?”
“I-I’m leaving now. Goodbye!”
An Seunghyun blushed with embarrassment and ran to the stage where the match would take place. Lim Sara didn’t know An Seunghyun’s heart.
“What? So cute. Ah, I’m really annoyed~”
Lim Sara lay down on the sofa of the waiting room while thinking. She had started Arkstar at Lim Changyong’s suggestion. He must’ve felt sorry for his younger sister, who had to retire due to the sudden shaking of her hands. Sometimes they argued and fought, but Lim Changyong was the oppa who always sacrificed himself for her.
‘What the hell is this? Why is this happening?’
Therefore, Lim Sara was even more frustrated. She felt like her oppa, Lim Changyong was trying to carry things alone.
This was how one minute passed. Then once again, the door opened and a man appeared. Lim Sara looked up at the person who had come. One was a man who seemed to be around Lim Changyong’s age and the other...
‘What? Why is he wearing a Ponono mask?’
He was a strange man.
“Have they already gone to the stage?”
Lim Sara nodded at the words of the ordinary man. “Ah, yes... by the way, who are you?”
“You’ll know soon enough. I’m going first.”
“Um, yes.” The deep voice came from the man in the Ponono mask.
It seemed very strange to Lim Sara that the other ordinary man showed respect to him. Lim Sara murmured once he disappeared, “What the hell? Are there only lunatics here?”
* * *
After smoking a cigarette with Park Muyeol and talking about various topics, I met Yoo Minseok in the main hall. He bowed his head to thank me and I coldly told him, “It’s nothing.”
Then I quietly walked following his instructions.
Suddenly, Yoo Minseok looked at me and spoke, “Elder.”
I replied while leisurely walking behind him, “What is it?”
“You should wear a mask.”
“What?” I couldn’t help my eyes widening.
Yoo Minseok continued speaking, “It isn’t to hide who you are. It is to make the reveal more dramatic.”
Yoo Minseok stopped by a store located into the square and bought a strange mask. It was a mask of Ponono whom my grandchildren liked the most. He put it on me while speaking. “Take it off later and reveal your identity. Do you understand?”
“No, what, this...”
“Now, let's go."
Yoo Minseok had a satisfied expression as he once again started leading me somewhere. The place we arrived at was the player’s waiting room. However, none of the players were here. They had already moved to the stage and there was only a young girl here. I was guided by Yoo Minseok and arrived at the bench where the Korean team’s head coach and substitute players were watching the stage. It seemed that the second match had already started. There was a one minute countdown on the screen.
“It seems we’re a bit late.”
“It seems so.”
Our appearance was noticed and someone approached.
“Who are you?" The person who asked the question was the South Korean team’s coach, Shin Taeil.
Yoo Minseok quietly handed a business card to him. The title of ‘Team Leader of Union’s 1st Planning Team’ was written on it and it was more effective than I thought.
“W-Why did Union’s team leader appear here?”
The moment Shin Taeil saw the business card, he politely clasped his hands together in front of him. Union was a huge company that could swallow up not one, not two, but three of the Korean Gaming Federation. It was the Korean Gaming Federation’s opinion that they should do anything to make Union happy. It was the same for Shin Taeil, who was a member of the federation.
“Ah, it’s nothing much.” Yoo Minseok smiled and pointed at me. “I would like to change the player.”
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