Time Moves On (4)
Jo Gyu-Min stepped inside the chairman's office, then bowed deeply to Hwang Jeong-Hu behind the desk.
The latter nodded.
“You're here, Gyu-Min.”
It's been a while, sir.”
How have you been?”
“I've been well.
Thank you, sir.”
I'd like to hear your report on Kang Jin-Ho after you observed him from close by.”
Jo Gyu-Min silently swallowed his saliva, then pulled out a stack of reports.
Hwang Jeong-Hu tutted, “Printed documents, again?”
“My apologies, sir.
I don't have an office in the company, unfortunately…”
“…Keuh-hum! Ahem, I see.
My bad on that one.
I'll have a chat with HR and fix that right away.”
“Thank you, sir,” Jo Gyu-Min expressed his gratitude and handed over the report to his boss.
“Kang Jin-Ho has recently begun focusing his whole being on studying, and as a result, his grades are shooting up at a rapid pace, sir.”
“How good are his grades?”
“It's not exactly on the level of 'excellent,’ sir.
I'd say around upper-half of his peers.”
“Is that right?” Hwang Jeong-Hu looked a little disappointed by that revelation.
“I guess he is not that smart, then?”
It's the complete opposite.”
“Hmm? I don't follow?”
Jo Gyu-Min pointed to his report.
“I've already noted it down in my report, but I believe it bears repeating, sir.
After Kang Jin-Ho was involved in that car accident last year, he lost most of his memories.”
For some reason, his amnesia seems to have affected his academic knowledge, as well.
In most cases involving amnesia, the victim should retain their knowledge and common sense, but Kang Jin-Ho's case seems a little unique, sir.”
“Is that so?” Hwang Jeong-Ho was slightly taken aback after realizing something.
His car accident was only a year ago?”
In other words…
Kang Jin-Ho only needed one year to go through 12 years of curriculum, starting from elementary all the way up to high school, to catch up to his peers.”
Hwang Jeong-Hu nodded slowly.
Does that mean he's twelve times 'smarter' than his peers? No, I guess that's not quite right.”
“The shocking thing with his rate of progress is that he wasn't exactly invested in his studies until recently, sir.
He wasn't studying seriously at all, but he still managed to catch up at such a frightening speed.
At this rate…
I'm genuinely curious to know what his entrance exam scores will be, sir.”
“Which university is he aiming for? Did he tell you?”
It's Jaegyeong University.”
“Is that so?” Hwang Jeong-Hu laughed.
“Even though he hasn't admitted it, he must be interested in my corporation, then!”
“Sir, he said that…
he prefers Jaegyeong because it's close.”
“Hmph!” Hwang Jeong-Hu pouted unhappily.
“Hmmm. Well, fine.
His grades are fine as is.
As long as he's smart, his grades in school don't matter much.
What about his other aspects, then?”
Jo Gyu-Min narrowed his eyes.
“Sir? When you say his other aspects?”
“What are your thoughts on Kang Jin-Ho, now that you've had enough time to observe him?”
Jo Gyu-Min had to mull his answer on that one.
His thoughts on this question were actually based on his gut feeling.
He believed that emotions were unnecessary in the reports meant for his superiors, so to make his observation based on a gut feeling now was a bit…
Should he say that it made him feel rather uneasy?
However, this was what Hwang Jeong-Hu wanted, and he would always get what he wanted in the end.
“Kang Jin-Ho is…” Jo Gyu-Min decided to reply honestly.
“…Someone indecipherable, sir.”
“Indecipherable?” Hwang Jeong-Hu stared at Jo Gyu-Min in disappointment.
“What are you talking about? You've been observing him for a year, so how can you not have figured him out yet?”
“Sir, that's precisely why I couldn't figure him out.”
“The first time you meet him, then a few times after that, and after observing him for a while…
All three versions of Kang Jin-Ho seem like different people, sir.”
Hwang Jeong-Hu slowly nodded in agreement.
He also got a similar feeling.
“The first time I met Kang Jin-Ho, I wasn't quite sure why you were so interested in him, sir.
I suspected that he was your hidden heir,” Jo Gyu-Min cautiously explained.
“Where would I find the spare time or energy to do 'that'?” Hwang Jeong-Hu chuckled.
“Well, you're a man, so anything's possible, sir.”
Jo Gyu-Min continued.
“But my evaluation of him gradually changed the more I observed him.
He turns out to be someone genuinely 'excellent' even though he doesn't show it outwardly.
His judgment is swift, precise, and bold, sir.
Dare I say…
he reminds me of you, Chairman.”
“That's a good evaluation, then.”
However, Jo Gyu-Min's expression was getting stiffer.
He feels different again, sir.”
“He's definitely hiding something, sir.”
Hwang Jeong-Hu smirked softly.
It seemed that Jo Gyu-Min had finally cottoned onto Kang Jin-Ho's true face hidden below the surface.
“Why do you say that, Gyu-Min?”
Jo Gyu-Min shuddered a little.
“I've been getting that eerie feeling sometimes, sir.
Especially when he's not paying attention to me.
I could feel this eerie chill run down my spine and I even had to do a double-take at him many times already, sir.”
“How can you be certain with just a gut feeling, Gyu-Min?”
“Sir, do you still remember Choi Myeong-Gil?”
“Who?” Hwang Jeong-Hu tilted his head.
“He was the Dongmyeong Foundation's chief director.”
“Aha, that old man with corrupted eyes.
Yeah, I remember now.”
“Do you recall why he got into conflict with Kang Jin-Ho, sir?”
Hwang Jeong-Hu harrumphed.
“Didn't his grandson have a fight with Jin-Ho at school? You think I can't remember that much?”
“His grandson, Choi Yeong-Su, has become an invalid, sir.”
“What? What do you mean?”
“When I first heard that he was displaying symptoms of minor psychosis, I didn't pay much attention.
When I checked out his situation not too long ago, Choi Yeong-Su's state was indescribably wretched, sir.”
“And I believe Kang Jin-Ho was somehow responsible for that state,” said Jo Gyu-Min as a shadow was cast on his face.
Hwang Jeong-Hu's gut feeling agreed with that guess.
Didn't he also mistake Kang Jin-Ho for an actual devil the first time they met? “What makes you think so, Gyu-Min?”
“I happened to hear it, sir.”
“The conversation between Kang Jin-Ho and Choi Yeong-Su, sir.”
Hwang Jeong-Hu's eyes grew a little wider.
“Did you speak to Choi Yeong-Su personally?”
Jo Gyu-Min shook his head.
That's not it.
Kang Jin-Ho actually wanted to speak to Choi Yeong-Su, so I accompanied him there.”
Hwang Jeong-Hu sat forward in his chair.
“I want to know the details.”
“It was around one month ago, sir.”
Kang Jin-Ho showed up in the chief director's office one day to make a sudden request.
“Can you help me find someone?”
Jo Gyu-Min tilted his head.
Find someone, was it? This was obviously not about locating a separated family member, so what could he possibly mean? “Who would you like to find, Mr.
“It's Choi Yeong-Su.”
“I'm sorry?” Jo Gyu-Min tilted his head in confusion.
“He's the grandson of Dongmyeong Foundation's previous chief director.
He used to attend this school.”
“Oh. I think I remember who that is.
But why do you want to find him?”
“Can you just find his current whereabouts without knowing the reason?”
“…Well, that won't be difficult.
Should I bring him here?”
I'll go there myself.”
As they chatted, Jo Gyu-Min couldn't help but feel that Kang Jin-Ho's expression was far graver than before.
Then, a little while later…
Jo Gyu-Min broke the news.
“I found him, Mr.
“Where is he?” Kang Jin-Ho asked immediately.
“It's not too far from here.
It seems that Choi Myeong-Gil and his grandson couldn't just abandon the hometown they had lived in for their whole lives.”
“Can you take me there?”
“I certainly can.
Allow me to guide you.”
The two men rode in Jo Gyu-Min's car to head to Choi Yeong-Su's current home.
They tracked the address down and eventually reached a slum on a hill so steep that cars couldn't even drive up.
Jo Gyu-Min looked through the windshield and muttered, “According to the address, it's supposed to be somewhere on this hill.
Looks like we'll have to walk from here, Mr.
“Let's do that, then,” Kang Jin-Ho replied while climbing out of the car.
He silently scanned the slum and saw small, rundown shacks densely doting the side of the steep hill.
The Seongsim Orphanage used to be located in an area similar to this one, didn't it?
Kang Jin-Ho turned to ask Jo Gyu-Min, “Are there many slums like this in Seoul?”
Seoul is a city with two faces, after all.
Wealthy people can enjoy untold luxury, but there are also plenty of poor people going through hard times.
But that's pretty much the same in any large city.”
“I see.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded, then quietly followed behind Jo Gyu-Min as they began walking up the hill.
After walking for a while, they finally discovered the address.
Jo Gyu-Min pointed at a creaky door.
“I think we're here.”
“Alright.” Kang Jin-Ho pushed the door open and entered.
The front door's hinges let out an abrasive metallic noise.
“W-who's there?! Cough!” An old man's decaying voice came from inside the house.
Kang Jin-Ho didn't even bother to reply and stepped further in.
“Who…” An old man who was obviously having trouble walking came out to meet the visitors, only for his eyes to open wide in panic.
Kang Jin-Ho silently studied the old man.
It was the former chief director of the Dongmyeong Foundation, Choi Myeong-Gil.
After getting kicked out of his position, he became just another powerless old man.
“K-Kang Jin-Ho!” Choi Myeong-Gil cried out in shock.
Jo Gyu-Min quickly stepped in front of Kang Jin-Ho to shield him.
He believed that the old man would go berserk and charge straight at Kang Jin-Ho.
However, Choi Myeong-Gil's response completely betrayed Jo Gyu-Min's expectations.
The old man stumbled back in pure terror.
“W-w-why are you here! Why?!”
His voice was loud, but it was not threatening at all.
It actually sounded more like a desperate plea to alert the surroundings to the incoming danger.
Kang Jin-Ho apathetically muttered, “I came to find Choi Yeong-Su.”
“What do you want with my grandson?! Can't you, can't you just leave my boy be! He became sick in his head because of you! Isn't it fine to forgive him already?!”
Kang Jin-Ho ignored the old man and scanned the interior of this 'house.’ He could hear the soft breathing of another person coming from somewhere.
Choi Myeong-Gil's fear-filled eyes noticed that his grandson's nemesis had discovered the boy's location.
He urgently charged at Kang Jin-Ho and clung on, but Kang Jin-Ho easily pried the old man off.
Despite all the bad things he had done, Choi Myeong-Gil's love for his grandson still deserved high praise.
Kang Jin-Ho pushed the door of one of the rooms and stepped inside, and this musty stench immediately assaulted him.
He then noticed a young man sleeping by the corner of the room.
His face was obscured by long and messy tangled-up hair.
“N-no! He barely fell asleep with a sedative just now! Before that, he was suffering from yet another psychotic episode, so please don't wake him up! Y-yes, it's all my fault! I was in the wrong! T-that's why, just, just let that child be!” Choi Myeong-Gil desperately cried out.
Unfortunately for him, his agitated voice woke up Choi Yeong-Su from his drug-induced sleep.
The boy slowly turned his head to look and discovered Kang Jin-Ho standing by the doorway.
“Hiiiiiiieeeek?!” Choi Yeong-Su freaked out and hurriedly scrambled further away into the corner as if Kang Jin-Ho was a grim reaper who had come here to take his soul.
Jo Gyu-Min watching this scene began feeling a pang of pity for this kid.
“K-Kang Jin-Ho! Kang Jin-Ho!!! Uwaaaaahk!” Choi Yeong-Su screamed like a madman.
Kang Jin-Ho quietly observed this spectacle.
He remembered that this kid used to be quite handsome only about a year ago.
Despite his twisted personality, anyone with eyes would agree that Choi Yeong-Su certainly had the looks to spare.
But now, no one would associate this version of Choi Yeong-Su with his past self.
His transformation was just too drastic for that—his face had become covered in the bushy, dirty beard while his oily, unkempt hair was so long and tangled up that he looked like a homeless man.
His unfocused eyes were constantly shifting around in anxiety, while his pitifully-trembling body visible through the gaps of dirty clothes was all skins and bones.
Jo Gyu-Min had to ask to make sure, “Mr.
Jin-Ho, is this…
really Choi Yeong-Su?”
Kang Jin-Ho didn't reply.
He walked closer in large strides and grabbed Choi Yeong-Su's head.
“Y-you bastard!” Choi Myeong-Gil cried out and tried to charge forward again, but Jo Gyu-Min held him back.
While pulling the old man back, Jo Gyu-Min made sure to keep an eye on Kang Jin-Ho's actions.
After all, he would have to intervene if something bad was to happen to Choi Yeong-Su.
Kang Jin-Ho slowly spoke, “Look at me.”
Kang Jin-Ho's hand gripping Choi Yeong-Su's head tightened even more.
“I said, look at me, Choi Yeong-Su.
Who am I?”
Who am I?”
Kang Jin-Ho nodded.
It's me, Choi Yeong-Su.
I am Kang Jin-Ho.”
The internal energy trickling out of Kang Jin-Ho's hand began correcting the messy meridians and blood flow in Choi Yeong-Su's head.
The latter finally regained some of his wits, and his expression became crumpled in fear.
Kang Jin-Ho asked while looking deep into Choi Yeong-Su's eyes, “What do you see?”
“Tell me, what have you been seeing?”
Choi Yeong-Su replied while his arms convulsed, “It…
It was Hell…”
A meaningful grin formed on Kang Jin-Ho's lips.
I did warn you that you'll experience a living hell.”
Choi Yeong-Su's lips parted to say something, but Kang Jin-Ho shook his head and cut him off.
“No need to shiver like that.
I have never come to visit you until today, you see.
What you've been seeing all along was an imaginary me your mind has created.
The truth is, I haven't even lifted a finger against you.”
Choi Yeong-Su's tremors gradually calmed down.
He was still minutely trembling in fear, but at least he was no longer screaming like before.
“Can you see?” Kang Jin-Ho turned Choi Yeong-Su's head and showed him the surroundings.
“This is your current reality.”
“Don't try to run away.
This is not a dream.
Indeed, it's you who had been dreaming all along to escape your reality.
And look what happened,” Kang Jin-Ho spoke in an eerily-chilly voice.
That bone-shuddering voice dug deep into Choi Yeong-Su's ears.
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