Chapter 24.
Looking Around (5)

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Kang Jin-Ho leaned against the chair.
As a so-called troubleshooter, he wouldn't need a lot of time to make a tidy sum of money.
However, he couldn't help but mull over this choice.

A troubleshooter, was it? The job title certainly sounded nice as if it had a cool meaning or something.
However, Kang Jin-Ho was well versed in the nature of men.
You wouldn't seek out the services of a troubleshooter if the matter in question could be handled openly or through the power of the law.

In other words, the profession of a troubleshooter could only be performed by someone willing to break the law, use whatever shortcuts available, and get their hands dirty.
Of course, it wasn't as if Kang Jin-Ho felt squeamish about doing such jobs.

He didn't care if he had to break the law or use whatever dirty methods available.
He was even prepared to murder if that could get the job done.
So, it was a waste of time to bring up the idea of a guilty conscience over breaking man-made laws.
However, the inevitable 'grudge' that would come after him made him hesitate.

If that grudge was directed at him and him alone, it wouldn't matter one jot.
However, if his family was targeted for retaliation while he wasn't around…
Now that would be a grave problem.
What was the point of working to make his family's lives better if that work came to strangle them instead?

Kang Jin-Ho had witnessed several similar instances in the past.
All sorts of unsavory things happened in gangho, after all.

His quest to make money must not become a threat to his family.
If something like that happened due to some improbable freakish turn of events, he would never be able to forgive himself.

'Which means that option is also off the table, huh.'

Feeling frustrated, Kang Jin-Ho headed to the rooftop and mouthed a cigarette.
Trying out one cigarette led to his old habit rearing its head, and now, he would smoke every now and then.
Getting found out would lead to one hell of a headache, but Kang Jin-Ho was capable of detecting movements thirty meters away.
There was no way he would get discovered by his parents.

“Whew…” Kang Jin-Ho exhaled, releasing the cigarette smoke into the atmosphere.
As it turned out, this world had a lot more migraine-inducing matters to worry about than he had bargained for.

Life in Zhongyuan made him terribly miss the modern era, but now that he was back, this place didn't seem so different from the ancient world of martial artists.
The level of brutality or violence was obviously much harsher in the past, but the modern era had a stronger smell of darkness and evil wafting out from between the gaps of bureaucracy and various systems in place.

'I wasn't even worried about stuff like this earlier, but now…'

When he realized that he had come back home and returned to the modern era, he was truly happy. His opinion on this era being more convenient and generally nicer to live in compared to Zhongyuan still hadn't changed. But there was no denying that all the hopes and anticipation he initially felt right after his return had waned by a lot lately.

Perhaps his time in the hospital was when the modern era looked the brightest in his view.

'When I was…
in the hospital…?'

Kang Jin-Ho's eyes trembled just a little.
Back when he returned, was it? And the hospital, too?

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He deeply sucked in the cigarette smoke. 

'…What if I do that?'

He stubbed the cigarette, then raised some winds to blow away any smell that might have clung to his clothes.
After getting rid of the evidence, he hurriedly returned to his room and began searching through the Internet, his eyes gleaming softly.

Finally, he had thought of a way, something that only he could do.
Indeed, no one else in this world could do it but him.
He had finally found a way to make money.

A deep grin crept up on Kang Jin-Ho's lips as he stared at the computer monitor.


Inside the S Hospital's VVIP room on the top floor…

This particular room was over 50 pyeong[1] in size and cost over three million won per day to stay in.
A large bed was located in the corner of this room, and an old man lay still on it. 

“Chairman, how have you been today, sir?” the caregiver hired to look after the old man spoke in a friendly voice, but the old man's eyes were hollow and unfeeling, with no hints of movement whatsoever.
The caregiver continued.
“Chairman, if you insist on staying like that, your condition will deteriorate even further.”

Only then did the old man's eyes quiver ever so slightly, but that was all he did.
The range of his motions extended to slightly parting his dried lips and slowly closing and opening his eyes—not much else.
However, those simple range of movements was already too taxing for him, let alone communicate with others.

“In that case…
Please get some more rest, Chairman.” The caregiver switched the lights off, then lay down on the extra bed placed on the opposite side of the room.

The old man silently stared at the darkened ceiling.
His illness had gotten so bad that not many days remained in his life by now.
Anyone with a heart would have pitied him, but those who knew his identity wouldn't dare to offer such an emotion.

It was all because he was none other than Hwang Jeong-Hu.
No one would dare to call him pitiful.

Just who was Hwang Jeong-Hu? He had been a war orphan who started his life at rock bottom and eventually became a giant that influenced Korea's modern history.
He started the Jaegyeong Group with not a dime to his name, yet he still managed to turn it into one of the top five corporations in Korea.

There were other corporations with better evaluations than the Jaegyeong Group.
But no businessmen or businesswomen had been evaluated higher than Hwang Jeong-Hu.
While others used their already-existing wealth to take over the 'empty castle' post-Korean War, Hwang Jeong-Hu quite literally threw himself into the thick of it with nothing but his body, earned some money, opened a small shop, and eventually built it up to a world-renowned group.
He was the very definition of a self-made man.

Unfortunately, even the giant of commerce couldn't escape from the effects of aging and the tentacles of illness creeping closer to him.

He opened his mouth but couldn't produce any sound.
He opened his eyes but couldn't see anything.
Only the darkness remained in the world he currently lived in.

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When he had first gotten sick, he believed that it was only a matter of time before he got back on his feet.
But every doctor who observed the progress of his illness shook their heads.
And slowly…
the way people treated him began changing, too.

During the early days of Hwang Jeong-Hu's confinement to the hospital bed, his room used to be filled to the brim with people buttering up to him.
Over time, however, they began leaving one by one.
At least his sons with the inheritance rights stayed by his bedside as long as possible just in case something happened, but even they couldn't last two months.

Their excuses were various and colorful—they had businesses to run, the company was going through turmoil…
The end results were the same, though.

One by one, they left his side, and now, no one bothered to come to visit him.
And after only one year, Hwang Jeong-Hu found himself abandoned in this luxurious hospital room where practically no one showed up…
except for one man.

And that man was Director Baek Yeong-Gi, who almost got demoted in the past, even though he was undoubtedly Hwang Jeong-Hu's right-hand man.
The irony here was that Hwang Jeong-Hu had evaluated Baek Yeong-Gi as loyal, affectionate, and diligent but not quite talented enough, and as a result, he had never entrusted the latter with important tasks in the past.

But when he collapsed from the illness, every single bastard he evaluated as capable abandoned him while only Baek Yeong-Gi stayed by his side.
The latter would always show up once every week to make reports regarding the company.
He didn't care whether Hwang Jeong-Hu was listening or not; he always did his best to inform his boss.

And now…

Hwang Jeong-Hu was still reeling from a shocking piece of news he heard yesterday. It was news concerning his sons fighting over the currently-unoccupied seat of the group's chairman.
He wasn't even dead yet, but those bastards were already searching for lawful ways to get their hands on their inheritance early.
And they had apparently declared him publicly as “a man who should've died is still alive, making our lives rather cumbersome.”

Even worse, his eldest son had apparently come to the hospital one day and told the doctor in charge of Hwang Jeong-Hu’s treatment, “My father is suffering greatly, so isn't it the correct course of action to let him have his rest?”

That son with oh-so-wonderful filial love for his father didn't even bother to pop in by Hwang Jeong-Hu's hospital room that day.

Director Baek Yeong-Gi held Hwang Jeong-Hu's hand and shed sorrowful tears as he talked about those events.
But the latter couldn't cry alongside his loyal subordinate.
His dried eyes couldn't produce tears, after all.

What could he possibly do in his current condition? There was nothing else other than to stare at the ceiling enveloped in darkness and reminisce the good ol' past.

He had been overflowing with energy in the past and was always motivated to succeed in every business venture.
His subordinates trusted him without question, while his sons deeply respected him.
Just a brief glare from him was enough to make others bow to him, and one word from him was enough to turn the world upside down.
But now…

All of those were in vain.
He had been too obsessed with what was ahead and failed to notice what was below.
He was too busy ordering people around and couldn't see what kind of people they were.
In the end, he had no one and nothing left.


Hwang Jeong-Hu stared at the darkness as he swam inside the pool of thoughts. 

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'Was my life a good one?'

His life had indeed been a dramatic one.
A TV show depicting his life story with different names for the real-life characters had already aired, while his biographies were being sold globally.
Things he had said in the past were regularly quoted as examples to follow for his fellow humans, while the company he had built with his blood, sweat, and tears had also become a pillar supporting Korea.

Even so…

Even so, Hwang Jeong-Hu couldn't readily say that his life had been a good one.
All he had to show for his life's work was just a pitiful reality of no one and nothing staying by his side during his final moments.

'What was that all for, then?'

Just why did he struggle so hard during his life?

What made him fight all those years while neglecting to look after himself?

After all, everything would be useless once he died, so why?

Hwang Jeong-Hu squeezed his eyes shut.

'If I can start over…’

‘If I get another chance…’

‘I swear, I'll never be this stupid again.’

‘I will never live a life this moronic only to die empty-handed…'

Hwang Jeong-Hu slowly opened his eyes…
only to spot a blurry figure standing in front of the bed.

“…?!” He was taken aback, his lips parting weakly.
However, his agitation quickly died down.
After all, the emotions in his eyes were close to resignation at this point.

He believed that seeing things like this shouldn't come as a surprise in his current condition.
While he was rueful about regrets being his only company, maybe it was time to accept his fate—accept that he didn't have much left to live.

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But then, the figure before his eyes whispered quietly to him, “Does it feel like you've seen a grim reaper?”

“…?” Hwang Jeong-Hu sobered up immediately and took another look at this figure.
Only then did he realize that it was no grim reaper.
seemed like a living, breathing person?

But how was that possible? How could a stranger waltz into this room unnoticed? The S Hospital's VVIP room was famous for its unparalleled security.
One needed to pass through the triple-layered doorway to enter.
That wasn't all, either, as Hwang Jeong-Hu's sons even left several bodyguards to monitor the corridors, too.

So, how did a total stranger slip into the room unnoticed?

“I have a question for you,” the man clad in black slowly spoke.
He didn't even wait for Hwang Jeong-Hu's reply.
“Is it fair to die just like this?”

Hwang Jeong-Hu couldn't reply even if he wanted to.
However, if he could…
He would have shaken his head urgently like a lunatic.
He still had too many things left—not as in enjoying the riches of his life, but matters he hadn't settled yet.
He would never find peace if he died without getting closure on those matters.

“In that case, let us enter an agreement,” said the man in black.

Hwang Jeong-Hu stared intensely at this man, knowing that the latter was not a grim reaper.
However, he could very well be a devil in disguise.
That was the only explanation for why anyone would want to enter an agreement with a dying man.

“You will decide on the conditions after I show you what I can do.”

However, this devil didn't seem to know how to negotiate.
To think that a devil was this amateurish when trying to form a contract! If Hwang Jeong-Hu had been healthy, he would have roared at the top of his lungs at this fake devil, telling the latter to go back to school and learn how to negotiate first.
Of course, all he could do right now was just lay on the bed, silently witnessing the devil do his thing.

“It'll only be for half a day.
But during that half-day, you shall experience what I can do for you.
I'll return tomorrow.
Until then, you will have to seriously consider what you can do for me.”

Hwang Jeong-Hu asked with his eyes, wanting to know what the devil would do to him.
It should have been impossible to understand him, yet the man—the devil—seemed to have understood him, evidenced by the faint grin creeping up on the devil’s face.
The devil slowly pressed his hand on Hwang Jeong-Hu’s lower abdomen and quietly muttered, “I shall allow you to dream again.”

All of a sudden, something began boiling deep inside Hwang Jeong-Hu's abdomen, and he blacked out almost right away.

The man in black observed the unconscious Hwang Jeong-Hu for a little while, then leisurely stepped outside the hospital room.

Of course, the devil in black was none other than Kang Jin-Ho.

1 pyeong = approximately 3.3 square meters ☜

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