Chemistry

Chapter 134
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Chapter 134

    Beautiful Genius(8)

    Sitting on the sofa and dealing with Kim Bona, Song Boyeong repeatedly clenched and unclenched her fists at the ceaseless chatter of the six-year-old child.

    “You’re the same age as Mr. Han Jeong-woo?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Wow, it doesn’t seem like it.”

    Even though it seemed like a typical admiration.

    “The workload at big companies tends to be high on average. I saw that you drink a lot too. You know, the more you’re overwhelmed with work, the faster you age. That cute and adorable style that looks like it’s in its early twenties will plummet in value as it ages.”

    “Wait, plummet in value?”

    The use of the piercing word made her tongue tingle.

    “If you’re not ambitious about promotion, you could spend that time enhancing your fitness and makeup skills to show off your feminine charm. Statistics show that those who put in such effort succeed in getting married…”

    Although she didn’t know where the information came from, the more credible it felt, the more shocking it became.

    “Bona.”

    Song Boyoung shook her head to regain her composure and then spoke calmly.

    “You’re telling me all this to help me prepare for the future, right? Thank you.”

    Showing maturity, she moved on from the topic. Hoping she would stop talking, Song Boyeong looked at Kim Bona, who was staring at her with great curiosity.

    Song Boyoung sighed deeply and asked.

    “What’s on your mind?”

    “Does Mr. Han Jeong-woo show a lot of concern for you?”

    “Well, I guess he does?”

    “He must like you.”

    At this, Song Boyeong’s face turned bright red.

    “H-How did you, how did you know?”

    “Teacher Han Jeong-woo said so.”

    “What? Did Jeong-woo say that to you?”

    The sound of Jungwoo’s voice saying they were preparing to date hit Song Boyeong’s mind like a ton of bricks.

    Her heart started pounding, unsure of what to do, Song Boyeong was startled when the lab door opened.

    “Huh? Senior Boyeong, what’s wrong?”

    “That’s… um…”

    “Oh no. Bona got you good. Be firm, okay?”

    As Jeong-woo approached to comfort her, Song Boyeong remained silent, avoiding eye contact. Following behind, Seo In-gu quietly walked to the entrance of the room.

    “If your brother makes something again, bring it to me. It’s dangerous to just throw it away.”

    “Thank you.”

    “Oh, and this…”

    Jeong-woo handed Seo In-gu a generous amount of money for a good dinner, and In-gu bowed his head in appreciation.

    Creak.

    As he left, Song Boyeong approached.

    “He’s so kind, isn’t he?”

    “Yes. And he cares deeply for his brother.”

    “Professor Lee asked when Mr. Seo Jeong-gu’s follow-up research will be.”

    “Tell him there’s no need for that. The reason to call him separately has disappeared.”

    “Why?”

    Jeong-woo shook the plastic container where he collected Jeong-gu’s genes.

    “His brother’s will suffice.”

    “Are you going to compare and analyze the genes of siblings? Isn’t that more difficult? Only 3 days left until the dispatch date.”

    “Do you avoid work just because it’s hard? You do your best.”

    Looking at Kim Bona, Jeong-woo silently sought her agreement.

    “It’s not because you don’t want to face him again?”

    “Well, it’s not like that. We’ll focus only on the interview tomorrow, and after that, we’ll organize the data to be handed over to Doctor Moon.”

    During their conversation, Jeong-woo received a text message on his phone. After checking it, he glanced at Kim Bona.

    “Your uncle said he’ll be here soon.”

    “Did he get in?”

    “He didn’t say. Ask him directly and go easy on him.”

    Jeong-woo silently added ‘please’ in his mind.

    Friday , 9 AM.

    Wearing a suit for the first time in a while, Jeong-woo entered the lobby of Conrad Hotel. Although he hadn’t been there many times, he walked confidently inside as if he knew the place very well, heading to Dynasty Hall on the third floor where the symposium was being held.

    A signboard with the title “Genius Gene” was placed at the entrance. Checking the program order, he saw that there was a lecture by a professor from the Life Sciences Department, followed by a speaker discussion.

    ‘So they wanted me to attend the first part, right?’

    As he was about to present his invitation and enter, he spotted a familiar face inside.

    “Mi-hee?”

    Surprised to see Jeong-woo, Song Boyeong’s friend and the hotel’s managing director, Seo Mi-hee, turned towards him.

    “I see you’re here. Seoul National University symposium?”

    “Yes.”

    “And Boyeong?”

    “She’s busy organizing materials at the company.”

    After gesturing to an employee to adjust the lighting, Mi-hee turned back to Jeong-woo.

    “I heard Boyeong is working under you?”

    “Is that what senior said? She’s not working under me, she’s just helping out. Seems like she’s stressed because of that. And you seem to know about it too, Mi-hee.”

    “Stress? Last time we met, she got really drunk. She kept saying she wanted to get to work soon and was jumping around singing about how much she loved working with you… Oh my.”

    Mi-hee covered her mouth as if realizing she was saying too much.

    “Keep it a secret. If Boyeong finds out, I’ll get my head chopped off.”

    “She has a few drunken habits I already know about. It’s not really news.”

    “Even if she was only in her underwear? If I didn’t stop her, she would’ve stood in front of you like that.”

    Jeong-woo coughed uncomfortably.

    “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.”

    Bowing slightly, Jeong-woo tried to enter, but Mi-hee approached him. She brushed the dust off his shoulder and whispered softly.

    “Boyeong only talks about work with you lately. It’s boring to listen to, so can you change the topic to something more exciting?”

    “Huh? That’s…”

    “Director Seo! The head chef says we might need to change the dessert for lunch.”

    “Oh, okay. I’ll be there.”

    Nodding to the employee’s call, Mi-hee looked back at Jeong-woo.

    “Please, Boyeong gets very lonely. She’s rich, but you know what that means, right?”

    She winked and disappeared inside. Jeong-woo could only click his tongue at the overly proactive suggestion of Boyeong’s friend, while Boyeong herself remained unaware.

    ‘Seriously, she leads quite a dramatic life.’

    Finding a seat and moving around, Jeong-woo’s eyes widened when he saw two people he had met a few days ago sitting nearby.

    “Mrs. Cho-won. Cho-won.”

    “Doctor, you’re here?”

    Seeing Jungwoo’s questioning look, wondering how they got here, Cho-won’s mother smiled and explained.

    “Professor Lee Sang-joong asked if we could bring Cho-won’s case for this presentation.”

    “Oh, really? Wow, Cho-won might become famous in the media.”

    Seeing Yoon Cho-won, who was just dotting points on the canvas as usual, Jeong-woo suddenly remembered something and spoke up.

    “There’s a machine that prints dots quickly, though it’s not as advanced as the one we use at the office. It’s a bit larger than a laptop, so you can carry it around. I got the purchase details from Deputy Gong, so I’ll send you the address. It works on paper, wood, and metal.”

    “Thank you so much for your consideration.”

    Jeong-woo smiled calmly, omitting the fact that of the three weeks of research, Cho-won’s case was the cutest.

    “Oh, doctor.”

    “Yes?”

    Suddenly remembering something, Cho-won’s mother rummaged through her bag. Then she pulled out a sketchbook and handed it to Jeong-woo.

    “This is something Cho-won drew for you. I brought it thinking you might come today, and I’m glad I did.”

    “To me?”

    Jungwoo took it and sat down. He turned a page.

    ‘Is it me?’

    It was a detailed depiction of him talking in the lab, with the scene formed by tiny points more precise than a photo. The picture was so vivid it could have been framed.

    “Wow, Cho-won. Thank you!”

    Jeong-woo raised his thumb, catching Cho-won’s gaze, who had been looking at the canvas. Although he smiled brightly before lowering his gaze again, the communication was enough.

    After expressing admiration, Jeong-woo hesitated when he flipped through another page.

    It was a close-up of a face. The peculiar arrangement of points in the pupils caught his attention. It seemed as if the detailed structure of the points reflected in the eyes resembled the molecular world.

    ‘No way? Did he express how I see things in the molecular world? Even with exceptional observational skills…’

    Just in case, he turned to the next page. And the next. In every one of them, the expression of being deeply immersed in the molecular world was depicted in the eyes.

    ‘Wow. Cho-won is not just an ordinary genius. It gives me goosebumps.’

    Jeong-woo glanced sideways for a moment.

    The fifteen-year-old boy, who seemed to have penetrating eyes, was showing the drawn pictures to his mother.

    Looking at Cho-won’s mother affectionately patting his head, Jeong-woo couldn’t help but smile at a passing memory.

    Back in high school, when he was battling for the last place in class, he had barely managed to focus and study for the finals of his second year, and his grades were far from good.

    ‘Mom cooked pork belly that day.’

    It wasn’t anything special, not even a punishment born out of love. As Jeong-woo boasted about moving up ten spots from the bottom and tried to eat more meat than his brother, Hong Ji-sook gave me a smile just like the one Cho-won’s mother was giving now.

    The only reason he had put so much effort into the past eight years, saying he would somehow become a socialite, was that.

    ‘Damn. I’m really just an easygoing eldest son.’

    Reflecting on his concerns from three weeks ago about researching the three unusual subjects, Jeong-woo felt humbled.

    Kim Bona, who coolly admitted when asked if she liked her uncle, and Yoon Cho-won, who, though not saying anything, had deeper thoughts than anyone else, and Seo Jung-gu, who seemed to be mentally healthy but emotionally absent. To someone, they are all equally simple and genuine family.

    One hour later.

    On the stage where five panelists sat side by side, a discussion in English was in full swing.

    -I would like this technology to benefit our society. However, if genetic research crosses the line to infringe upon the dignity of human beings, there’s no guarantee that we won’t end up in a society like those in science fiction novels, where genetic mandatory tests are conducted, standardizing society.

    -I agree that the initiation of a biological chain reaction could have massive implications on the entire ecosystem. But where is the human who wants to be born with one short hand, a crooked nose, or born with deformities?

    As Jeong-woo watched the discussion, he began to yawn as the conversation continued to focus solely on policy issues related to genetic research. About 30 minutes had passed.

    The time came for the panel discussion where the audience could ask questions, and the panelists would respond.

    『We have a question for Professor Lee Sang-joong from Seoul National University’s Genetic Institute.』

    A person holding a wireless microphone stood up from their seat.

    『You presented research findings on children with genius traits earlier. You mentioned discovering a group of intelligence-related variants, ‘D4DR-11’, correct?』

    『Yes, we’re currently conducting a correlational study by analyzing different genetic factors in three cases.』

    『Do you have sufficient evidence to confirm your research findings with such a small sample size?』

    From the sharpness of the question from the get-go, Jeong-woo could tell that the person was a researcher from the Beijing Genomics Institute. Lee Sang-joong calmly responded.

    『The analysis method attempted by the lead researcher of this study was not about statistically analyzing numerous genes, but rather a tailored analysis that postulates target molecules and verifies their associative effects.』

    『The saying ‘finding a needle in a haystack’ comes to mind. Is there really anyone capable of finding that needle?』

    Lee Sang-joong gestured towards Jeong-woo. Understanding the signal to answer, Jeong-woo nodded slightly.

    『Why don’t you ask him directly? He’s sitting nearby.』

    The audience’s attention gathered where the finger on the podium pointed. Jeong-woo took the microphone handed to him by the hotel staff and turned to the questioning researcher.

    『I’m the researcher who dug through that haystack. Are you one of the authors of the genius gene research paper published in Nature?』

    『Yes, but…』

    『Ah, I see.』

    Recalling the contents of the paper, Jeong-woo pondered before speaking.

    『It seemed like a grand plan to create a superhuman race based on IQ tests. I wondered, if you define inferiority and superiority so coldly, how is it different from the eugenics ideology that promotes racial superiority? It’s just without the mass extermination like those who caused the Holocaust.』

    『What?』

    As he aggressively brought up the Nazis, the expression of the other person changed abruptly.

    『Your ‘D4DR-11’ or whatever it is, you claim it just improves observation skills? So what? Our cognitive genome team has clearly defined the MAOA gene variant with non-violence and the AVPR1A mutation with loyalty. We can edit and apply these.』

    『And what would you do with a generation of standardized perfect children?』

    『What do you mean? Even raising the average IQ by just 5 points can significantly enhance economic productivity, national competitiveness, patent holdings, and economic innovation. Do you think it’s reasonable to challenge national research with a single genetic line?』

    Scratching his chin at this logic, Jeong-woo’s gaze lingered on Yoon Cho-won.

    “Ma’am, can I see the drawing that Cho Won just made?”

    Cho-won’s mother nodded and handed the canvas to Jeong-woo. Jeong-woo then showed it to the other person.

    『Do you know Yoon Cho-won? The child who was mentioned in the presentation earlier. This is the picture he just drew.』

    As one camera focused on the drawing, it appeared on the large monitor on the podium.

    It was a drawing of a Beijing Genomics Institute researcher, depicted as they were, holding a microphone and expressing their opinion passionately. Some of the audience members exclaimed in admiration at the lively portrayal.

    『Isn’t it well-drawn? Look closely here, at the left side, there’s a pimple. And around the mouth…』

    Jeong-woo continued, scanning the drawing.

    『He even captured the red pepper powder spilled from the food you had in the morning.』

    The startled researcher wiped his mouth with his hand.

    『And this expression, the wide eyes, the exposed whites, the bulging veins, and the clenched teeth—doesn’t it perfectly capture your current look?』

    『So what if he can draw angry faces well? We have plenty of talented samples like that.』

    『I’m not asking for praise for drawing well. Can the camera focus here?』

    Jeong-woo emphasized the eye area in the drawing. As the camera zoomed in and focused, the audience exclaimed even more than before. It was because within the pupils, there were tiny dots depicting another scene.

    『The reflection in your eyes includes us, conveying a sense of confrontation and hostility. This is what he perceived and depicted in just 0.1 seconds. Amazing, right?』

    『That’s absurd. Did you bring him here to trick me?』

    『It’s not absurd. ‘D4DR-11’ is a unique factor that complexly influences such cognitive abilities.』

    The researcher couldn’t take his eyes off the picture on the podium. Jeong-woo handed the drawing back to Cho-won’s mother and asked.

    『Do you know that even ordinary people can have some cells in their bodies in a state of ‘microchimerism’ with slightly different DNA sequences?』

    『Of course I know that.』

    Staring at the opponent as if seeing through them on a molecular level, Jeong-woo said.

    『Then you must also know that you could have genetic variations, right?』

    『Me?』

    『According to the database, it would probably be called ‘ABCC11’.』

    『That’s a mutation associated with less body odor. How can you tell without a sample?』

    『Because I have a sensitive nose. Most Koreans have that gene, but it’s rare among Chinese. Lucky you. Ah, the time.』

    Glancing at the clock, Jeong-woo continued.

    『I’ll finish with this. Hundreds of geniuses? It would be great if we could study them. But even if I study just one person, I believe I can achieve significant results. Even if it’s just you.』

    After the designated question time ended, the discussion resumed.

    -…That concludes Session 1 of the discussion. The second session will begin after lunch. Speakers, please gather 30 minutes beforehand.

    The Beijing Genomics Institute researcher, who had been mostly unable to counter the arguments and had been tossed around, hastily disappeared from the venue as soon as it ended.

    ‘Skipping lunch? There’ll be lots of good food.’

    Jeong-woo looked up at the podium. Professor Lee Sang-joong nodded politely. After exchanging nods, Jeong-woo patted his full stomach and walked out.

    “The discussion was impressive.”

    Then he met a twenty-two-year-old young man standing in front of the door.

    “Oh? Why are you here, Seo Jung-gu?”

    “They said I’d be mentioned in the second session presentation.”

    It seemed Lee Sang-joong had called for him. Jeong-woo understood and just nodded, about to say goodbye.

    “I heard you took the drugs my brother had.”

    Jeong-woo’s movement abruptly stopped.

    “Speak properly. That’s something Seo Jeong-gu got from me by trickery, isn’t it?”

    “It’s an item necessary in a situation where the law cannot protect.”

    “But your brother has different thoughts, doesn’t he? The child has grown up very well. Kind and righteous.”

    Seo Jeong-gu, acknowledging this, said nothing. Then, he glanced at Jungwoo.

    “Do you have something to say?”

    “I heard that you’re no longer doing research in this field.”

    “I’m busy. But Doctor Moon will continue. Don’t worry, she’ll do better since she’s more of an expert than me. Since it seems we won’t see each other again, let’s say our farewells in advance.”

    “Farewells?”

    “Let’s shake hands as a way to forget all the misunderstandings and events that occurred during the research, that’s what I mean.”

    Seo Jeong-gu quietly asked while looking at Jeong-woo’s extended hand.

    “KG Chemicals. Will you still be there in four years?”

    “Why are you asking that?”

    “Let’s talk about it then.”

    With these words, Seo Jeong-gu disappeared into the venue.

    “What?”

    Jeong-woo shuddered at the thought that he might show up for recruitment in four years. That felt like a complete thriller.

    The next day.

    Entering his personal research lab to organize handover materials, Jeong-woo became puzzled when he saw a fruit basket on his desk.

    ‘Did Senior Boyeong buy this?’

    It felt too old-fashioned to attribute it to her taste. As he began sorting through it, the door opened, and Song Boyeong walked in carrying a box of health drinks.

    “Welcome, senior.”

    “Good morning. Here.”

    Song Boyeong placed the box on Jeong-woo’s desk.

    “It’s a gift from the Information Electronics Center director. The fruits are from Director Jeon.”

    When Kim Seong-bo and Heo Il-jeong were mentioned, Jeong-woo chuckled.

    “A gift at such an unexpected timing.”

    “It’s probably because of the next dispatch order. They probably want to impress you, Mr. Jeong-woo. Last time when 70 graduate students came to observe your research, Director Yoon Donghwi was bragging a lot. It’s rare for corporate research to receive attention from academia in itself.”

    From basic materials, material science, pharmaceuticals, to bio, only two centers remained. It felt like the end was nearing for the instruction to learn through rotating between centers.

    Jeong-woo took out an apple from the fruit basket and wiped it clean. With a gesture asking if she wanted to eat, he offered it to Song Boyeong.

    “No, thank you. I prefer the caffeine-rich drinks here.”

    Song Boyeong opened the health drink and took a sip before sitting down.

    “Senior, is your schedule free next week?”

    “Yes, I haven’t received any separate instructions.”

    “In that case, stay in Research Lab 1. We’ll see when Dr. Moon returns.”

    “What about you, Jeong-woo?”

    “I have some personal matters to attend to.”

    Song Boyeong looked curious, but Jeong-woo just smiled and left it at that.

    Jeong-woo, entering Dr. Cheon Seung-guk’s lab, approached the secret safe inside the cabinet. Inside the partially open safe door were dozens of sealed containers, each containing protein hybrids of varying opacity and color.

    These were reanalyzed and cultured from Jeong-woo’s own genes, altered by taking ‘AF-12’ and ‘AF-5’.

    ‘Let’s stay calm.’

    He retrieved five containers with protein structures similar to those seen in Kim Bona, Yoon Cho-won, and Seo Jeong-gu.

    ‘Since we lack information, we can only dissect it in reverse.’

    It was a series of processes to study unique genes of those who think and reason differently, trying to infer the action of the universal gene. So far, there had been no significant results.

    Thus, he spent his time comparing gene activities in the molecular world.

    ‘Huh? This is identical.’

    The molecular structure of the reanalyzed container number 8 showed the exact same genetic code as the unique factor. He checked it two, three times again.

    ‘Really?’

    As if a ray of light shone in the dark investigation.

    Understanding the entire structure of the universal gene would enable its production. Even after the contract ends and everything disappears, if something equivalent to ‘AF-12’ is created, he could continue living as a chemist.

    ‘These troublesome ones. They could at least treat me to a meal… No, dealing with one is hard enough, let alone three. Let’s think about it by next year.’

    Humming a tune, Jeong-woo affixed a new label to the container and picked up a pen.

    Clues obtained from the eccentric trio.

    He pondered over the code name and quickly jotted it down.

    [BG-1]

    Beautiful. Exceptional, incomparable.

    Genius. Prodigy, talent, unique ability.

    It felt fitting for the name of the factor that would need to be filled in with information in the future.

    Code : BG-1

    Case: Protein complex sample of Han Jeong-woo

    Research: (Currently undergoing genetic code analysis.)

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