Showing Off (6)
Kang Jin-Ho quietly muttered, “Is that right?”
His sister's explanation was simpler than he thought.
The idol group Kang Eun-Yeong was a part of consisted of five performers.
Which didn't sound problematic—except that the other four girls had come from solid backgrounds.
This meant Kang Eun-Yeong was blamed whenever other performers made mistakes.
Their backgrounds made it difficult to punish them, so the poor girl was blamed in their stead.
Even worse, the solid backgrounds also meant solid funding.
Those girls came bundled with donations for the agency, but Kang Eun-Yeong had never done that even once.
Which was understandable since she had no money to do that in the past.
And, even after her family stumbled upon money, she had no idea she was supposed to do something like that.
Unable to hold on, Kang Eun-Yeong finally said something about it to Kang Jin-Ho a little while ago, but he only ended up rebuking her for it.
“I see, so that's what's going on.” Kang Jin-Ho tutted unhappily.
“What about the other kids? They aren't bullying you or anything like that?”
Kang Eun-Yeong shook her head.
They are surprisingly kind.”
“I'm telling you the truth.
They are nice girls.
But, they can't say anything back to the agency's director or the instructors, so…”
Kang Jin-Ho slowly nodded his head.
It sounded like a typical example of toeing the line.
He already knew that an idol group's training and public debut required hundreds of millions of won per performer.
Since his little sister was an aspiring performer, they couldn't help but be interested in her financial situation.
However, that money was supposed to be the development cost paid for by the talent agency.
Kang Jin-Ho had no idea that the agency had resorted to such a method to fill its coffers.
He asked his sister for more clarification, “Does your agency do that with everyone?”
Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head slightly.
“So, what's the difference?”
“For some reason, my group consists of girls with those backgrounds.
That's why I stick out like a sore thumb, you see?”
There's this distance between the rest of the group and me, and sometimes it feels like I'm all by myself.
And the director keeps telling me that I'll get fired at this rate…” Kang Eun-Yeong's voice progressively got smaller as she spoke.
Kang Jin-Ho furrowed his brow.
That wasn't something a director should say—a director shouldn’t even threaten their talents.
Kang Eun-Yeong looked exasperated.
“That's why I practice a lot harder than everyone and I always do my best, but…
I'm so tired, Oppa.
If this keeps up, I think I'll start hating singing and dancing all together.”
Get some rest for the time being, and let me take care of the rest,” Kang Jin-Ho replied in a determined tone.
Kang Eun-Yeong felt a sense of security and confusion at the same time.
Was her Oppa always like this? “Wait, Oppa.
Get some rest.” The firmness in Kang Jin-Ho's voice gave a certain feeling of warmth and comfort to Kang Eun-Yeong.
Was this what a family member could do for you? Was this what having a dependable older brother felt like?
“Okay.” Kang Eun-Yeong nodded, then trudged back to her room.
Kang Jin-Ho's eyes that were watching her began to gleam sharply.
'That can't be the whole story…'
That girl could surprisingly be thoughtful sometimes.
Even if she had to get an emotional mini-rant off her chest, she must have left out some parts of the story to prevent her brother from worrying about her.
Kang Jin-Ho took out his phone and called the best source of information he knew.
– Evening, Mr.
What can I do for you?
Of course, it was Jo Gyu-Min.
For now, he might resemble a bum, but he used to be a part of Jaegyeong Group's powerful Office of Secretaries, Moreover, he was one of the closest confidantes of Chairman Hwang Jeong-Hu.
It was safe to assume that he could dig up any information he wanted.
“I need you to investigate some things for me.”
– Please speak.
Kang Jin-Ho clearly enunciated his words as he spoke on the phone.
“Find out everything on the talent agency my little sister has signed up with.”
– Your sister, you say?
I'll find all the pertinent information and bring it to you before noon tomorrow.
– Not at all, Mr.
Kang Jin-Ho ended the call as a grim look formed on his face.
If that agency had crossed the line, he was going to utterly destroy them.
'I should've done this sooner…'
He should have investigated what was going on sooner than now.
His lackadaisical attitude of waiting a bit longer led to this crisis.
Kang Jin-Ho's expression hardened as the emotion he hadn't felt in a long time struck him hard.
That emotion was regret.
The next morning…
“Tell me what you've found,” said Kang Jin-Ho.
Jo Gyu-Min nodded and began his explanation.
“The talent agency, Starwiz, is a fairly well-known talent agency, but it's currently going through some financial difficulties after several of its investments went bust, and many of their idols fell in popularity.”
“I'm guessing that the idol group your sister is a part of has been created precisely because of the agency's troubles.”
Jo Gyu-Min replied as if he was certain about his hypothesis, “Your sister must've been included in the group because of money, Mister Jin-Ho.”
“Money, you say? How did they arrive at that conclusion?” Kang Jin-Ho asked while narrowing his eyes suspiciously.
“You shouldn't underestimate the talent agency's ability to gather information.
Besides, anyone can unearth the financial situation of a household if they are serious about it.”
“I believe that your sister was included in the group as a means to extract a sizable financial contribution from her family.”
Kang Jin-Ho barely suppressed the unhappiness from showing on his face as he asked, “It’s not because of her talents?”
“She does have the talent to make it, but the other motive probably has played a bigger role in her inclusion.”
“If her family didn't have money, Eun-Yeong would've been included in a different group, I believe.
But she's in her current one precisely because of her family's wealth.”
What's happening to her is because we haven't 'donated' to the agency despite having money? Is that what you're saying?”
“In short, yes.”
“I see…” Kang Jin-Ho's eyes narrowed.
What an unpleasant revelation this was.
Have you confirmed if there was more to the story than what Eun-Yeong said last night?”
There seems to be some friction among the group's performers.”
“Friction, you say?”
“Some minor arguments and disagreements, but nothing major to note, Mr.
It would be even stranger if girls their age aren’t arguing if I'm being honest.
I don't see any reason to be concerned in this regard.”
Jo Gyu-Min hesitated slightly before resuming his explanation, “Apparently, the agency's director had said some things…”
“Some things? Like?” Kang Jin-Ho's eyes narrowed to slits.
“He told your sister to ensnare a sponsor somehow.
Even if she has to sell her body…”
Kang Jin-Ho's expression hardened.
The change was quite subtle.
He had never been an expressive person, so the change was nothing more than his face getting a little colder than usual.
But Jo Gyu-Min noticing that change felt a deathly chill run down his spine.
How should he describe this? If he said that the glare in Kang Jin-Ho's eyes was similar to a snoozing tiger suddenly raising its head to stare at a prey, would that make it easier to understand?
Something inside Kang Jin-Ho had changed just then…
Jo Gyu-Min cleared his throat.
“What I find strange is why your sister hasn't said anything about money to you or the rest of your family.”
“We would've told her to quit if she told us.
“That makes sense…” Jo Gyu-Min nodded.
Kang Jin-Ho finally figured out Kang Eun-Yeong's predicament.
The agency wanted her to cough up some money.
However, with Kang Jin-Ho or his father's personality, they would have told her to quit the moment the topic of money was brought up.
In other words, she was stuck in the proverbial rock and a hard place.
Even after finding herself in such a predicament, she believed she could overcome everything with her skills, just as Kang Jin-Ho had told her to do.
No wonder she was having such a hard time until now.
Kang Jin-Ho's temper began boiling.
Back when his little sister asked about getting help from Chairman Hwang, she hadn’t been whining to him.
No, that had been a signal for help disguised as whining.
But he was too dimwitted to notice it.
Kang Jin-Ho grimly asked, “What is the agency's address?”
“Are you thinking of personally going there?”
“When will you be heading there?”
Jo Gyu-Min nodded at how determined Kang Jin-Ho looked.
Allow me to take you there.”
Kang Jin-Ho settled down on the passenger seat of Jo Gyu-Min's car.
He was not a fan of getting a ride in a car driven by someone else, but he was in no mood to be picky about his travel methods right now.
Jo Gyu-Min must have sensed his passenger's irate mood because he drove faster than usual, too.
“We should be arriving soon, Mr.
“Got it,” Kang Jin-Ho replied as his expression grew colder.
Jo Gyu-Min glanced at him as anxiety began filling him up.
This must be his first time seeing Kang Jin-Ho making such a scary face.
'Does that mean his family is important to him?'
That shouldn't come as a surprise, but Jo Gyu-Min had caught a glimpse of Kang Jin-Ho's other side already.
This was why Kang Jin-Ho’s reaction was so eye-opening to him.
“We're here, Mr.
The car came to a stop in front of a shabby-looking building.
Its location meant even a building like this must have cost a pretty penny, but there was no getting away from the fact that it looked dilapidated.
Its front was a mess of graffiti, probably left behind by the dedicated fans.
Jo Gyu-Min glanced at his passenger.
“Are you going in?”
“I wouldn't have come otherwise.”
“Allow me to guide you,” said Jo Gyu-Min as he climbed out of the car first.
He headed to the front door but found it firmly locked.
It seemed that an agency had to be strict with security against fans potentially sneaking in.
“Please hold on,” Jo Gyu-Min addressed Kang Jin-Ho, then pulled out his phone to call someone.
After a brief exchange, he ended the call.
The front door was unlocked soon afterward to reveal a stranger holding it open.
The stranger must have been one of the employees.
Despite that, he was listening to Jo Gyu-Min's commands—some sort of an arrangement must have been made prior to their arrival.
'Now isn't the time to worry about that.'
Kang Jin-Ho ignored this situation and stepped right inside the building.
Unlike the rundown exterior, the interior was clean and professional-looking.
Something like this couldn't calm Kang Jin-Ho's anger, of course.
“May I ask what brings you two here so suddenly?” the person opening the door asked politely.
Jo Gyu-Min glanced at him.
“Who are you?”
“Me? I'm the road manager.”
“Show us the way to the practice hall, please.”
“I'm sorry? Uh… Sure.”
The road manager took the lead, but not before glancing at Kang Jin-Ho's face.
'The older guy is definitely from Jaegyeong Group, but…'
As far as the road manager was concerned, the 'older guy,’ Jo Gyu-Min, held a lofty position in the corporation.
In that case, what was the status of this young man assisted by someone like that? The road manager couldn't readily figure it out—what was the real identity of this young man, and why were these two here in the first place?
Kang Jin-Ho was led to the practice hall, and he pushed the door open.
The opened doorway revealed pure-white spotlights illuminating the wooden floor and mirrors on every wall.
In one corner was the tired-looking Kang Eun-Yeong sitting on the floor.
She was yelling at someone, “That wasn't my fault, you know!”
A young woman standing before her nonchalantly retorted, “No, you definitely missed the beat.”
“I didn't miss anything, you did!”
“Oh? So are you saying it's us four that made that mistake?”
“Wow, you're a riot, you know that? You really are a team player, aren't you? So much so that you don't even have to pony up any donations!”
“Since that's the case, you gotta be better than us, right? I mean, you got here through your talent alone, right? You gotta be jaw-droppingly better than us.
So, how come you're the only one who gets it wrong? Why? Is that all you amount to?”
Kang Eun-Yeong held her face with both of her hands.
Kang Jin-Ho stood by the doorway and watched this scene unfold.
This must have been his sister’s daily predicament for who knows how long now.
She must have endured this treatment for just as long, too.
The director and the instructors who were supposed to intervene were probably too mindful of offending the girls bringing the dough and ended up getting angry at Kang Eun-Yeong instead.
How should Kang Jin-Ho describe this feeling? His head knew that Kang Eun-Yeong was his family member.
But that connection was from over fifty years ago.
How many times was he reminded of that point already? His head might know, but his heart just couldn't understand.
But watching Kang Eun-Yeong cry like that made his blood boil and circulate backward.
The smoldering Kang Jin-Ho walked slowly toward Kang Eun-Yeong.
“Who are you, mister?” The young woman pouring veiled insults in Kang Eun-Yeong's way asked in a fluster while staring at Kang Jin-Ho.
He glanced at her for a second before shifting his attention back to his sister.
“Come on, get up.”
Kang Eun-Yeong's head shot up, and she cried out in surprise.
Why was he here?
“Let's go home.”
Kang Jin-Ho calmly spoke in a gentle tone, “It's fine now.
You did your best here.
It's time to drop this place and go home.”
Kang Eun-Yeong's head faltered.
Kang Jin-Ho frowned at that.
He wondered, what made her lower her head like that? Was it shame? Regret? Or maybe, it was sorrow? Whatever it was, he wasn’t pleased about it.
The fact that she had to feel such emotions while looking at her older brother was wrong.
Moreover, since when did she stop smiling? He couldn't even remember something that significant, too.
Kang Jin-Ho gnashed his teeth.
The woman from earlier cried out.
“Who are you? You're not supposed to just waltz in here, you know?!”
This is not a 'manager' in the traditional sense.
A road manager is more like a security guard or an escort for an idol. ☜
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