Forming Contract (5)
Kang Jin-Ho gave Park Yu-Min a ride to the Seongsim Orphanage.
However, his bicycle didn't travel at its usual lightning-fast speed up the hill.
In fact, it was weakly wobbling around so much that seeing it going up the steep hill was like watching a miracle unfold.
Kang Jin-Ho resembled a mouse drenched in a passing shower while slumped over the bicycle's handles as he slowly pedaled forward.
“Mmm…” Park Yu-Min behind him wiped the cold sweat and sheepishly spoke up, “R-right, you said you only started gaming two weeks ago, didn't you?”
“In that case, you're playing really well.
You really shocked me, you know.”
“Yes, for real!”
Kang Jin-Ho smiled brightly and looked behind at Park Yu-Min.
“Even though I couldn't win once out of ten matches?”
“W-well, that's, I mean…”
Kang Jin-Ho's voice grew sharper.
“And even though I played my main race and you chose randomly?”
“No, uh, well…”
“Even though I spotted you getting distracted by other things now and then?!”
“…I'm sorry.” Park Yu-Min earnestly apologized, but all Kang Jin-Ho could do was helplessly stare at the heavens above.
His defeat in his first-ever battle in the PC Room could be chalked down to the fact that Kang Jin-Ho was still trying to fully acclimatize to the modern era back then.
But he had really given his all this time only to taste a crushing defeat.
“It's just a computer game, though…” Park Yu-Min quietly muttered, unknowingly shredding the final vestiges of Kang Jin-Ho's pride.
Kang Jin-Ho was about to say something but he gave up and dejectedly lowered his head instead.
The vanquished had no right to speak.
This was one of the unchanging 'truths' of the world.
You were really good at the game.” Kang Jin-Ho quietly voiced his opinion.
Park Yu-Min sheepishly scratched the back of his head.
That's the only thing I'm kinda good at, so I kept playing it, and well…”
“How did you even find the time to practice?”
Park Yu-Min muttered quietly, “My leg isn't good, that's why.”
It's tough for me to do most outdoor activities, right? Athletics are definitely off the cards, and I'm not good at studying since my brain's filled with rocks…
But with computers, you just sit on a chair and move your arms, which means it's a fair playing field.”
Kang Jin-Ho nodded in understanding.
“Thankfully, someone donated a few computers to the orphanage some time ago.
And the director gave me one for my personal use, saying I'm the oldest of the kids there, you see.”
“Aha. And you used that precious computer to play games.”
Park Yu-Min's expression stiffened just a little.
“Please don't tell the director.”
Kang Jin-Ho chuckled.
“Don't you want to become that pro gamer or something?”
“Why not? From what others have been saying about you, you seem to have all the necessary skills already?”
“That's because they don't know the truth.
Even if the ratings are similar, the pros and amateurs have a huuuuge skill gap.
Pros stay under one roof and come up with strategies together and practice with each other constantly, but I'm just casually playing games with other amateurs, you see? You might think the pros and I are on a similar level, but if we actually start playing…
The difference is huge.”
Kang Jin-Ho cocked an eyebrow.
“Sounds like you've already tried?”
Park Yu-Min hesitated a little before replying, “Yeah.
A semi-pro guild did approach me some time ago, but it would cost money to join, and they also wanted me to stay in a dormitory with the others.
That's why I just gave up on it.”
“Hmm…” Kang Jin-Ho nodded, thinking that that explanation sounded like the circumstances had prevented Park Yu-Min, not the boy's skills.
The latter had to give up on his potential future as he couldn't afford to abandon the Seongsim Orphanage.
Kang Jin-Ho suddenly began pedaling harder.
His bicycle gained speed in the blink of an eye and dashed lightning-fast up the hill.
“H-huh?! You're going too fast!” Park Yu-Min cried out.
“It's fine,” Kang Jin-Ho dismissively replied as his figure cut through the air.
“If your situation improves…”
“Do you want to give it a shot if your situation improves? Being a pro gamer, I mean.”
“In case something happens, that is…”
Park Yu-Min shook his head.
“Nah, not really.”
“Why not? Is it because you don't like seriously committing to something?”
“Or, perhaps you think giving up even before starting something will hurt you less?”
Park Yu-Min groaned deeply.
“You know what my circumstances are like.”
“That's why I added 'if.’”
If my situation improves for real, then yeah, I want to give it a shot.
After all, it's what I'm good at, and I really like doing it, too.”
“I see,” Kang Jin-Ho replied with a grin.
Going to school, hanging out with friends to have fun…
Playing video games, then losing and getting angry for no good reason…
Emotions that had been hiding away for so long in Kang Jin-Ho's memories were coming alive one by one. Despite Heavenly Crimson Demon Emperor rearing his head inside his consciousness, Kang Jin-Ho's current life was inching ever closer to the one he used to live in the distant past.
The memories from Kang Jin-Ho's life in the modern era and the memories of Heavenly Crimson Demon Emperor who ruled Zhongyuan…
'Both of them are me…'
It would be a mistake for him to suppress either one.
He needed to acknowledge both to move on with his life.
And it wouldn't be about trying to become the past Kang Jin-Ho but acclimatizing to the current life as the new Kang Jin-Ho.
He muttered quietly, “For some reason, I feel lighter.”
Park Yu-Min tilted his head.
“Not sure,” said Kang Jin-Ho with a smirk.
The ordinary life of his dreams was welcoming him with open arms.
For now, things were still somewhat precarious like he was walking on thin ice, but Kang Jin-Ho knew that he was gradually getting closer to the life he wanted to live.
– Chairman Hwang Jeong-Hu makes his triumphant comeback!
The 'rumor' started off as a mere whisper.
When it first began circulating within the financial world, most people snorted and paid no heed.
Not only did it make little sense for an old man, who was confined to a sickbed for nearly two years, to suddenly get up all healthy, but the timing of his supposed return also seemed too convenient to be realistic.
If Hwang Jeong-Hu felt healthy enough to return to the frontline of commerce, then he would have already done something before his beloved company reached its current breaking point.
Before a monumental change occurred, there were bound to be some idiots spreading nonsense to prey on people's anticipation.
Knowing this, many folks in the industry dismissed the rumor as just that, a baseless rumor.
However, even before the first rumor could die down, another rumor quickly began doing the rounds.
And it concerned how Chairman Hwang Jeong-Hu froze all the inheritance meant for his three sons.
That got people half-puzzled and half-convinced.
But when the third rumor, which was far more explosive than the last, reached everyone's ears, they all began freaking out.
Hwang Jeong-Hu's three sons had been fired from their company president positions!
This was no mere rumor. TV shows, internet articles, newspapers—they all simultaneously broke the news.
Those observing the flow of events had to make their moves when the situation reached this point.
The financial world was now in an upheaval, and not too long afterward, the Jaegyeong Group stock price began shooting up higher and higher.
Hwang Jeong-Hu's return! If that was true, the fallen evaluation of the Jaegyeong Group should rebound to what it used to be sooner rather than later.
Investors counting on this possibility didn't even bother to wait or be circumspect and began madly snapping up the group's stocks like an army of ants.
Every move made by the source of all this confusion, Hwang Jeong-Hu, was more than enough to put the world on edge.
The Chairman's office, Jaegyeong Group's headquarters…
Hwang Jeong-Hu apathetically stared at the three men before his eyes.
The employees of his company used to call this trio the three presidents of the Jaegyeong Group, while the rest of the world referred to them as Jaegyeong's Three Princes.
However, Hwang Jeong-Hu wouldn't call them such grand titles now.
They were merely his sons, after all.
He only had three sons, but the smile he made for them was icy cold.
“Do you have anything else to say?”
The eldest of the trio and the president of the Jaegyeong Electronics, Hwang Min-Jae, was soaked in buckets of cold sweat, while his demeanor no longer resembled the much-envied second-generation chaebol.[ref]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaebol[/ref] “F-father, I was merely…”
Everything felt so surreal and nightmarish to him.
Hwang Jeong-Hu's personal physician definitely told him there was no hope for his father.
No one knew how many days the old man had left to live, and it would be exceedingly difficult to communicate with him too—that was what that damn physician said.
Even if Hwang Jeong-Hu was saved through a miracle, it should take another miracle for him to return to the office.
There he was, standing tall and proud right before Hwang Min-Jae's bulging eyes.
And with far more vigor than before his collapse, too.
“Father, I was just trying to protect this company…”
“Protect this company, you say?”
“I…” Hwang Min-Jae couldn't readily reply to that retort.
But his meandering gave the second son, Hwang Min-Su, an opportunity to cry out in a hurry.
“Father! If we haven't done this, the overseas investors would've wrestled the management of the company from our hands! Isn't that something you also want to avoid?”
The last-born Hwang Min-Guk came to his older brother's aid.
“We didn't have a choice if we wanted to save our company, father!”
Hwang Min-Jae watched his little brothers desperately trying to convince their father and dejectedly shook his head.
They were wasting their energy.
The eldest, Hwang Min-Jae, was older than the second son, Hwang Min-Su, by nearly a decade.
That was because the latter was born from Hwang Jeong-Hu's second wife.
This gap in their ages played a major role in how the sons perceived their father differently.
Hwang Min-Jae had been assisting his father since the days when the Jaegyeong Group was still a relatively small company.
That was why he knew how ruthless and cold his father could be when necessary.
In fact, Hwang Jeong-Hu could become so cold and heartless that even his eldest son had to be afraid of him.
By the time Hwang Min-Su started participating in the management of the company, the Jaegyeong Group had already built the framework to become a major corporation.
As such, he only got to see his father's comparatively 'warmer' side while growing up.
This difference split the responses of the sons.
Hwang Min-Jae was squeezing his eyes shut in resignation, while Hwang Min-Su and Hwang Min-Guk were desperately pleading their cases with their father.
“You wanted to save our company?!” Hwang Jeong-Hu's voice got louder in an instant. “Breaking up my company to fill your greedy little coffers was the only way to save it? Is that what you're telling me?!”
“Shut the hell up!” Hwang Jeong-Hu's roar echoed in the office.
“I used to think you were my children.”
“Father, we're still your children.”
“Is it? Tell me, what kind of children don't show up for over a year to their father's side when he's dying of an illness?”
“And to make matters worse, you actually sued my estate hoping to get your hands on my assets early?”
We were busy with the company matters, and…”
Hwang Jeong-Hu suddenly grinned deeply.
So, the problem with you lot was how busy you were.”
“In that case, the problem will be solved by making you not busy anymore.
You're all dismissed.”
“N-no, Father! Wait!” Hwang Min-Su freaked out and urgently called out to his father.
Were they not Hwang Jeong-Hu's children? All three of them should inherit an incalculable wealth when the old man passed on from this life.
However, perhaps to prove to the world that he wasn't some cheapskate, Hwang Jeong-Hu didn't rely on loopholes to hide his wealth and evade inheritance taxes, meaning the family's actual wealth at hand was close to zero.
Ironically enough, the three sons working as the company presidents accepted minimum wage for their wages to boost the company's bottom line.
They even followed their father's example by not seizing the chance to acquire some other underhanded wealth.
Then again, why would they be hung up on making a pocket change when they were scheduled to inherit trillions of wons in the future?
However, if they were to be fired from their presidential positions like this, they would practically be penniless.
And the government-mandated pension wouldn't be enough for them to get by, either.
Hwang Jeong-Hu coldly issued a new order.
“Throw them out.”
Baek Yeong-Gi silently signaled with his eyes, prompting other directors present in the office to rush forward and drag the three sons outside.
“F-father! Please, forgive us this once…!”
The office door slammed shut, and their pleading voices could no longer be heard.
“Tsk, tsk…” Hwang Jeong-Hu quietly tutted, then shifted his gaze slightly.
“Let me ask you something, Yeong-Gi.”
“Please go ahead, Chairman.”
“Was I a bad parent? Have I failed in their education?”
“That isn't the case, Chairman.”
“Then, why are my kids so disappointing?”
Baek Yeong-Gi smiled awkwardly.
“Sir, not many people in this world will be able to maintain their composure in front of money.
They might be your children, Chairman, but they can never be you.”
“Hmmm. It's leaving a bitter taste in my mouth.”
Baek Yeong-Gi chose not to say everything in his mind.
The only reason why the three sons couldn't be Hwang Jeong-Hu was that they were his children in the first place.
The father rose to prominence while combating all sorts of headwinds and difficulties, but the three sons grew up sheltered within the capable arms of Hwang Jeong-Hu.
That was the difference—the greater Hwang Jeong-Hu became, the more insulated the environment for his three sons became.
Obviously, Hwang Jeong-Hu hadn't done anything wrong.
He was focused on building and growing his company, after all, while his sons looked like they were maturing into good people, on the outside, at the least.
Hwang Jeong-Hu leaned against his chair.
“What about the task I assigned you?”
Baek Yeong-Gi made a tense expression and took his time before replying.
The part of your assets that your sons could access has been frozen, sir.
We can take this slow, I believe.
I've already alerted the security to prevent your sons from entering the company premises, and their homes under your name will be disposed of later on.”
“Will that be enough, I wonder?”
“Their individual wealth seems to run into hundreds of millions of wons, but it's not possible for us to touch those legally, sir.”
“The lack of legal means shouldn't preclude us from getting our hands on that, wouldn't you agree?”
Baek Yeong-Gi sighed.
“Chairman, they are still your sons.
Sir, I think that's going overboard.”
Hwang Jeong-Hu could only stare in dissatisfaction at his trusted subordinate.
Didn't Baek Yeong-Gi almost get kicked out of his directorial position because of those three? Even then, he was still trying to protect them.
However, Baek Yeong-Gi should have based all of his decisions so far on whether they could benefit Hwang Jeong-Hu or not, so maybe there was a need to reconsider.
“Tsk. Very well.
It's your advice, so I shall look the other way this time.”
“Thank you, Chairman!”
Other directors witnessing this spectacle felt goosebumps on their skin after realizing how cold-hearted Hwang Jeong-Hu could be.
Those three presidents were his sons, yet… Had he really considered bankrupting them?!
Hwang Jeong-Hu suddenly glanced at the group of directors.
“Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about the other instigators here as well.”
His meaningful words instantly brought down the temperature of the Chairman's office to icy cold.
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