Chapter 125
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Chapter 125

    24h of troubles(4)

    Jeong-woo turned his gaze to Kiki, who was laying inside a transparent cage with an air purification device attached.

    Though she didnt seem to be in pain yet, her expression was considerably downcast.

    Where could she have contracted it from?

    According to the genetic information of Pasteurella bacteria, infection was unlikely unless there was direct contact, so the possibility of Kiki contracting the disease after being in the car all day was almost nonexistent.

    However, what was circulating in Kikis body at the moment was not the entire pathogen but a mutated portion of the genetic material.

    Its so small that it could easily be carried by air and wind at any time.

    Suddenly, a scene from the daytime flashed in his mind.

    Jeong-woo, after briefly closing his eyes, saw a kitten on the examination table.

    The temperature was as vividly red as the other animal during the day. The first-infected cats receiving antibiotics in the enclosed area was equally reddish.

    Turning his eyes, he saw Kikis temperature.

    Orange. But there was a subtle difference from the surrounding cats. It was because her immune system was fighting against the activated mutant pathogens.

    I cant just sit idly by.

    As the culprit became clear, so did the immediate action that needed to be taken.

    After thoroughly examining all blood samples, Jeong-woo approached Go Eun-sil, who was monitoring the condition of the cats in her care.

    Eun-sil, can I have a moment?


    Number 26. Shes going to get sick soon.

    What do you mean?

    At Jeong-woos words about the sick cat she was about to handle, Go Eun-sil blinked her eyes with a puzzled look.

    Check her temperature again. Itll be 0.1 to 2 degrees higher than the other cats.

    When did you check her temperature? Still, thats within the margin of error

    If the temperature of cat number 26 gets worse, tell the other vets to prioritize cats with relatively higher temperatures. In my opinion, itll be numbers 26, 5, 13, and 19.

    What, Kiki too?

    Go Eun-sils gaze, confirming cat number 19, turned to Yoon Yi-seol, who was sadly watching over the kitten from the side.

    Jeong-woo also looked at Yoon Yi-seol and then spoke softly.

    Keep it a secret until the outbreak. I came to make sure that my friend doesnt cry anymore, but the situation isnt helping.

    She seems to be really special to you.

    Is that so? Ive received a lot from her without doing anything special.

    Whether then or now, you still trying to be cool, Han Jeong-woo.

    Go Eun-sil lightly tapped Jeong-woos side.

    Ouch, that hurts.

    Stop being a baby.

    You still have the strength of a man in your fists. Youve only a woman because of your face, thats all.

    While Jeong-woo grumbled, Go Eun-sil, who had been watching him with a smirk, pointed to Yoon Yi-seol.

    Even if I dont know her, she seems kind. Her voice is pretty too. She doesnt seem to have a cold so I dont understand why shes covering her face. Is her name still a secret?


    Got it. Ill cooperate, so do your best.

    After ending the conversation, Jeong-woo approached Yoon Yi-seol.

    I think I need to go back to the examination area. Yi-seol

    Dont worry and come back safely.

    Just as Jeong-woo was about to leave the tent, Yoon Yi-seol grabbed his hand.

    Seeing you today alone is enough to make me happy, so dont be disappointed that the date failed. Im satisfied enough.

    It seemed that the angelic Yoon Yi-seol hadnt gone anywhere. As he held her warm hand and looked into her eyes, which were even warmer, his goal became even clearer.

    Save Kiki and continue the date.

    Even if the obstacle is a new infectious disease without a vaccine.

    Investigator Yoo. These are the samples collected from the initial outbreak in cows and chickens.

    Yoo Kang-seok turned his head at the sound while observing a portion of cat number 7s blood under the microscope.

    Noh Sang-ik, a livestock quarantine officer from the Ministry of Agriculture, had placed the sample box next to the experimental table.

    Quarantine officer. Considering that there was no positive reaction with the rapid test kit, it doesnt seem to be foot-and-mouth disease or avian influenza, right?

    Im not sure. Its my first time encountering this type. Oh? Were you running PCR first?

    Symptoms appeared in the cats. We found the causative bacteria.

    When Noh Sang-ik saw the Pasteurella variant on the monitor, his face turned surprised.

    Its of Chinese origin? As expected from the National Veterinary Research Institute. They found it at once.

    It wasnt my doing. It was a friend of my junior that called for help.

    Yoo Kang-seok looked around for the unseen reinforcements from earlier. Meanwhile, Noh Sang-ik, who had been laying out the sample specimens on the experiment table, asked.

    By the way, if cats are infected, how should we conduct the epidemiological investigation? Have there been outbreaks reported in other areas?

    Not yet, but its not a reassuring stage. The level of transmission is different from whats been reported. Its odd that only two cats out of all the animals, including dogs, rabbits, and hamsters under temporary protection, are sick.

    What level are you considering?

    We should go up to the caution level. Establish a quarantine headquarters for more sophisticated analysis

    Yoo Kang-seoks words stopped abruptly as someone had hit him on the back of the head. Park Chung-sik, glaring, looked at Yoo Kang-seok.

    We havent even finished running PCR yet, and youre talking like this?

    I just have a bad feeling about it, thats all, a hunch.

    Oh, a fantastic hunch? What did you say last time when the emergency was declared by the relevant ministries, and you were about to give a government briefing? Didnt you say something like it might not be necessary to evacuate since the infectivity seemed weaker than expected? Huh?

    Um, Im not sure when that was.

    Shut up and bring evidence. Oh, its been a while, Director Noh.

    Noh Sang-ik alternated his gaze between the confident Park Chung-sik and Yoo Kang-seok, who had his head down, then continued laying out the sample specimens.

    Investigator, I have something to tell you

    Into the gap between the three, someones voice interjected.

    A fairly young man entered the testing room, and Yoo Kang-seok, who had been scratching his head, welcomed him with a friendly face.

    Oh, Han Jeong-woo. Come here, come.

    Jeong-woo bowed his head when a man standing next to Yoo Kang-seok looked at him sharply.

    Park Chung-sik asked, looking at Jeong-woo.

    Who is this?

    Hes part of the support team.


    Hell help find evidence, or are you just going to stand there doing nothing?

    After pushing Park Chung-sik aside, Yoo Kang-seok gestured to Jeong-woo.

    Do you have any opinions?

    Could you please pull up the genetic sequence information I wrote earlier?

    Manipulating the laptop, Yoo Kang-seok turned the screen.

    Is this it?

    Yes. Please remove the overlapping parts with the previously reported Pasteurella variant.

    He overlapped two pathogens and removed common genetic components, leaving only the short genetic sequences on the screen.

    Yoo Kang-seok frowned reflexively when he saw the remaining portion.

    Ugh, it looks like a horrible piece of DNA virus.

    Noh Sang-ik, who had also been interested in the screen, widened his eyes at his words.

    Jeong-woo pointed to the screen with the mutated genes from Kikis blood and said.

    I wonder if this sudden activation of dormant bacteria is the cause.

    Whats the basis for that judgment?

    Pasteurella is not easily transmitted through airborne routes like respiratory diseases. So, there must be a separate source of infection.

    Even though the final diagnosis hasnt been confirmed, youre already thinking that far ahead, Mr. Jeong-woo. Youre quite quick. Alright, lets see.

    Yoo Kang-seok started searching the genetic information bank for the mutated genes.

    After a while, something popped up on the screen amidst the ongoing search.

    [No Data]

    Yoo Kang-seok paused. When he expanded the search to similar ones, one appeared shortly after. He read it aloud as it was.

    Its of the Leptospira genus. It has the property to penetrate tissues through blood vessels Oh? Its similar to the Q strain, isnt it?

    Whats the Q strain?

    Its a disease where infection occurs even if you absorb just one pathogen. If this is similar to that, then it could become a new infectious disease that hasnt been reported before. Moreover, its highly contagious.

    Yoo Kang-seok, looking at the still-operating PCR machine and said to Park Chung-sik.

    If its a mutation that hasnt been reported to academia yet, we might need to escalate it to serious instead of just caution.

    Park Chung-sik sighed.

    Whats all this fuss over two cows and four chickens sick?

    We need to add two more cats.

    As Jeong-woo added, Park Chung-sik gave him a look as if to say, Whats he up to now? Then he turned to Yoo Kang-seok and said.

    If its not foot-and-mouth disease or avian influenza, we cant just raise them all at once. Finish the tests quickly and confirm it. Dont waver at the words of an unknown outsider.

    Park Chung-sik, even you should have recognized Han Jeong-woos ability to find the bacteria based on just the initial PCR analysis.

    Since when did you trust what others say? Please look at my words the same way. Follow the procedure, follow the regulations, and start with the evidence!

    With that, Park Chung-sik left the lab. Yoo Kang-seok sighed deeply and turned to Noh Sang-ik.

    Do you also share Park Chung-siks thoughts?

    Im neutral. But I can see that the probability of this being more likely than foot-and-mouth disease or avian influenza is higher. When will the PCR results be out?

    Itll be around 11 oclock at the earliest.

    We have about four hours left. Will anything significant happen if its delayed by that much? Weve already set up the quarantine line.

    Yoo Kang-seok turned to look at Jeong-woo, who was standing quietly.

    Im sorry. Even if Han Jeong-woos opinion is correct, were all civil servants, and we have to abide by the rules.

    If its confirmed, what will happen next?

    A comprehensive epidemiological investigation will begin. We need to find the culprit who spread the new infectious disease to prevent it from spreading to other livestock in the future. Thats our job.

    Following that explanation, they would focus on capturing various wildlife around the first outbreak area, collect blood, feces, and saliva samples, and conduct thorough examinations.

    Through the considerable time and effort put into this process, finding the initial culprit was the only way to end the situation.

    And if antibodies are detected in a specific wildlife group, they will be designated as natural hosts.

    What about treating animals already infected?

    Without a vaccine, we stabilize them with general antibiotics and expect about ten days to two weeks until they receive a safe diagnosis. Of course, assuming its not a deadly pathogen.

    Two weeks?

    Realizing how long Yoon Yi-seol would have to wait anxiously, Jeong-woo felt it was a problem he couldnt back away from.

    Investigator, I have one more question.


    If we bring hosts with antibodies, can you make a customized vaccine right away?


    If you cant, Ill do it myself, but can you assist?

    Yoo Kang-seok swallowed a groan at Jeong-woos confidence. From initial diagnosis to vaccine production, if what the young man declared could be achieved, it would be resolved as soon as they discovered the new infectious disease. It was an outcome thats logically impossible.

    If everything goes as Han Jeong-woo said, Im willing to help regardless of what Park Chung-sik says. But normally, finding hosts takes several days.

    Dont worry. I think I saw it earlier.

    Excuse me?

    In any case, you promised.

    As Jeong-woo left the lab, Yoo Kang-seok could only watch him blankly.

    Noh Sang-ik approached Yoo Kang-seok.

    What did that guy just say? Hes going to find the culprit who spread this disease? Does that make any sense?

    It doesnt make sense, but I have a feeling he might find it.

    What kind of feeling is that?

    Yoo Kang-seok looked at the samples on the bench, pondering.

    Come to think of it, the genetic information he provided was the most up-to-date and unrecorded in the database. He identified the mutation from the unfinished genetic information analysis.

    As Yoo Kang-seok deliberated with a vial in hand, he realized this wasnt right and handed it to Noh Sang-ik.

    You know how to handle this, right? It seems more profitable to follow him than standing here waiting for the results for hours. I have a strong feeling about it.

    Just following your gut will lead Park Chung-sik to scold us.


    In front of the medical tent.

    Jeong-woo called Go Eun-sil outside and began to explain the tasks ahead.

    This animal is about this size. It didnt seem aggressive.

    Do you even know how dangerous wild animals can be?

    Thats why I asked for an animal anesthetic. And Ive had experiences narrowly avoiding being hunted by gray wolves.

    Stop joking around.

    Jokes dont fly in the Alaskan wilderness, friend.

    Go Eun-sil clicked her tongue and shook her head.

    Still, I cant give it to you. You need a permit to use animal anesthetics.

    Really? Then do we need to arrange it separately?

    Ill accompany you.

    Yoo Kang-seok, carrying a bag, suddenly appeared, widening Go Eun-sils eyes.

    Senior Kang-seok.

    Oh, Eun-sil. Since Ill be accompanying Han Jeong-woo, you handle the work inside.

    Do you also trust what he says, senior? Hes going to find the host or whatever.

    Not completely, but to some extent. I have an anesthetic gun, so just give me some xylazine.

    Seeing Yoo Kang-seok toss his luggage aside, Go Eun-sil shook her head and disappeared into the tent.

    Jeong-woo asked Yoo Kang-seok.

    Investigator, are you really coming with me?

    Why, afraid Ill get in the way? Ive been on many capture missions. When we find the culprit, youll feel relieved.

    Jeong-woo was worried that Yoo Kang-seok might hinder their progress, as he planned to search quickly through the molecular world and infrared vision. However, he couldnt refuse Yoo Kang-seoks help because they might need it when they returned after finding the host.

    While pondering, Go Eun-sil emerged from the tent carrying a few vials of medicine. Surprised to see her without the white gown and wearing a coat, Jeong-woo asked.

    Are you also coming?

    Kang-seok, you dont have a veterinarian license. So, you cant carry an anesthetic gun.

    Yoo Kang-seok coughed at her words and turned his head away.

    To safely bring them back, you need at least one veterinarian. Judging by what youre doing, it seems like youre trying to solve this quickly and leave. I said I would help earlier, didnt I?


    The company unexpectedly increased. Jeong-woo thought it would be better to start moving than delay further, so he gestured towards the parking lot.

    The car is over there. The black van. Wait there while I move first.

    Yoon Yi-seol placed a bag filled with food on a secluded bench. She got food from the convenience store to have dinner with Jeong-woo. Thinking of this as a kind of meal date somehow lifted her spirits.

    Seeing no one passing by, she quickly took off her mask and hat and tidied up. Wanting to look pretty, she even checked herself meticulously with the phones front camera.

    He said hed be here soon

    While waiting, her phone rang. She pressed the call button as Oh Sora was written on the screen.


    -Whats up? You sound cheerful?

    Well, you know~

    -Since we have a day off tomorrow, lets hang out together.

    I cant.

    -Why not? Your schedule is pretty clear.

    Spotting Jeong-woo approaching from afar, Yoon Yi-seol hurriedly replied.

    K-Kiki is in danger, and I have other work too

    -Why are you stuttering like that? Did you happen to meet that jerk who doesnt answer your calls?

    Ah no.

    Yoon Yi-seol.


    Yoon Yi-seol hung up abruptly and gestured towards the bench.

    I bought sandwiches and other things. Jeong-woo must be hungry, right?

    We should leave for Seonyudo now. Will you stay with Kiki, Yi-seol?

    As the manager requests

    Yoon Yi-seols gaze lingered on one of the two people standing next to the van in the parking lot.

    Is Doctor Go Eun-sil going too?

    It turned out that way.

    Then Ill go too.

    You might get scratched by branches in the dark forest.

    Rising from her seat, Yoon Yi-seol stood in front of Jeong-woo, her eyes flickered with determination.

    Youre planning to go into that dark forest alone with your first love.

    Its not just the two of us. Investigator Yoo Kang-seok will be there too.


    With her cheeks puffed out, Yoon Yi-seol looked cute, and Jeong-woo couldnt help but smile softly.

    Dont just smile like that, give me a clear answer. Im getting mad.

    Well, if you define love the way most people do

    Jeong-woo reached out his hand towards Yoon Yi-seols forehead, which was tousled by the sea breeze, and gently tidied it up, saying,

    then my first love is you.


    Yoon Yi-seols eyes widened in disbelief.

    F-First, what?

    If youre uneasy, lets go together. Hold hands tightly and have a date in that dark place.

    As Jeong-woo grabbed her hand like a lifeline, Yoon Yi-seol was taken aback. Holding her breath, she glanced at Jeong-woo, then closed her eyes tightly and raised to her tiptoes.

    The feeling of their faces gradually getting closer. However, even as time passed, the anticipated collision of their lips did not happen.

    What are you doing?

    At this sound, Yoon Yi-seol opened her eyes slightly. Then she looked at Jeong-woo, who was standing with his head slightly turned back.

    Why? That was the mood, wasnt it?

    Why? Havent you forgotten what happened last time in a similar mood?

    I dont remember.

    Avoiding Jeong-woos gaze, Yoon Yi-seol, with a shy smile, softly said.

    Im still not fully recovered. If I cant keep that promise, itll be hard for us to go on a date.

    Ugh. I know, I know. Holding hands is the only thing possible for the next 7 months, right?

    Im trying my best, so maybe itll get faster.


    Well talk about that later. Theyre waiting for us.

    Youre trying to kiss me? Wow~

    Seeing Yoon Yi-seols happy smile, Jeong-woo couldnt help but make a helpless expression.

    Standing in front of the van, Yoo Kang-seok wore a surprised expression.

    Doesnt this look like a car celebrities ride in? Quite luxurious. Eun-sil, what does your friend do?

    I told you he works at a chemical company.

    No way, are you two dating?

    Yoo Kang-seok inwardly shouted Please no as he waited for her response.

    Hes just a childhood friend.


    Hes also my first love.


    Go Eun-sil pointed towards the two approaching from the direction of the breakwater bench.

    Theyre coming. By the way, the lady next to her is the one Jeong-woo is interested in.

    Oh come on! Stop teasing me.

    Why? Senior, you dont have feelings for me anymore.

    Thats true.

    Yoo Kang-seok, who hastily replied, sighed and shook his head. Then he turned his gaze to the woman approaching with a mask and hat on.

    Although her face was covered, her well-built figure and the aura of elegance emanating from her appearance gave him a strong premonition that she might be quite a beauty.

    Anyway, Han Jeong-woo isnt a celebrity, right?

    Muttering to himself, Yoo Kang-seok recalled the tabloid article he had seen before coming here.

    [Transformation into a beautiful island girl, a sketch of Daisy photo shoot location]

    Yeah, theres a photo shoot for Yoon Yi-seol on Seonyudo today.

    So, that lady is Yoon Yi-seol?

    At Go Eun-sils inquiry, Yoo Kang-seok smirked.

    Isnt that too coincidental? The nations little sister suddenly appearing in this countryside setting.

    In the meantime, Jeong-woo and the masked woman arrived.

    Youve been waiting, right? Lets go now.

    Jeong-woo pressed the button with the smart key, and the cars lock mechanism was released.

    Get in, Investigator. Eun-sil, you too.

    Go Eun-sil sat in the back seat first. Yoo Kang-seok hesitated at the back door and asked Jeong-woo.

    Who is the lady next to you?

    Shes my friend. I left my cat with her.

    Oh, I see

    Earlier, you seemed to feel sorry for her as well.

    Oh, earlier. I remember. She was next to Han Jeong-woo. Nice to meet you, Im Yoo Kang-seok.

    The masked woman nodded politely.

    Hello, Im Yoon Yi Ah.


    Im Yoon. Seo-yoon.

    I see.

    Yoo Kang-seok nodded and got into the car.

    In a split second, the masked woman, Yoon Yi-seol, came up with a pseudonym, scratching her chin, then exchanged glances with Jeong-woo.

    Seeing her gesture of clasping both hands and showing remorse, Jeong-woo signaled her to be careful with her words.

    As Jeong-woo and Yoon Yi-seol took their seats, Yoo Kang-seok spoke excitedly.

    By the way, her voice sounds familiar. Are you perhaps a celebrity?


    Really? Anyway, its a familiar voice. Very charming.

    Yoon Yi-seol in the passenger seat lowered her head.

    The car, with the four occupants, left the parking lot and disappeared onto the bridge leading to Seonyudo.

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