The Encounter (3)
“Shall we get going, Miss Eun-Yeong”
“Yes, let's,” Kang Eun-Yeong replied while climbing into Jo Gyu-Min's car.
Jo Gyu-Min slipped into the driver's seat and turned the ignition on.
He glanced at her and asked, “Are you happy with how things are going”
It's like I'm in a dream.”
“That makes sense...”
Kang Eun-Yeong still couldn't get a grip on herself at how fast the situation had developed.
Even though Kang Jin-Ho had told her about signing up with Code, she merely thought her older brother was trying to console her, yet, it all became a reality.
And with far better conditions than what he had said, too!
"Just how is this happening to me..." Kang Eun-Yeong dazedly muttered.
Jo Gyu-Min replied while driving the car, "Something like this is not an issue for us, as long as Mister Jin-Ho wants it to happen."
"Surely, he doesn't have the power to do that...
Chairman Hwang probably took pity on him or something," Kang Eun-Yeong sounded unconvinced while muttering back to Jo Gyu-Min.
"I can't give you a detailed explanation, but trust me, Miss Eun-Yeong.
Your brother wields considerably greater power than you can imagine.
If he wants to, he can even shake up this world," said Jo Gyu-Min as a subtle grin floated on his lips.
He wasn't wrong with his assertion.
If Kang Jin-Ho suddenly decided not to treat Hwang Jeong-Hu anymore, the whole of Korea might experience a huge upheaval, after all! Not only that...
'That's not the whole story, either.'
Even without Hwang Jeong-Hu in the picture, Kang Jin-Ho still wielded some kind of great power.
Jo Gyu-Min was sure about this after accompanying Kang Jin-Ho around for some time.
He had also figured out why Chairman Hwang was so concerned about matters involving this young man.
It wasn't as simple as ensuring the continued treatment of Chairman Hwang.
The power Kang Jin-Ho wielded could easily shake up the world even if the Chairman was removed from the picture.
Of course, Jo Gyu-Min couldn't readily explain what that power was.
“My oppa...” Kang Eun-Yeong quietly muttered.
Jo Gyu-Min spoke to her while gently depressing the accelerator.
"In any case.
You won't experience the same nonsense as before in your new agency.
I assure you that.
The request was made on a corporate level, so you can rest assured."
Kang Eun-Yeong bowed her head.
"Thank you so much."
“No need to thank me, Miss Eun-Yeong.
I'm merely carrying out orders, after all.”
Jo Gyu-Min glanced at her.
"If you want to thank someone, thank your brother, Miss Eun-Yeong."
She quietly murmured, "My oppa...
Yes, I'm grateful.
So much so that I don't know where to begin expressing my gratitude."
“That's what being family is, though.”
"Yes, you're right," said Kang Eun-Yeong as tears pooled in her eyes.
Later that day, in the middle of dawn...
Park Hyeok-Gi was shivering from fear.
“It was a dream.
Yeah, it must be a dream.
He desperately tried to calm himself, but the way his body shivered more and more as time passed attested to his real feelings.
Yeah, all a dream...” Park Hyeok-Gi clutched his hair.
“Will he come Again Come again for me No...
No, he can't...”
He thought about getting the police involved.
However, his body didn't have any visible injuries, and he had no proof that the torture actually happened, either.
His next logical thought was to flee to where no one could find him.
However, if it had been nothing more than a nightmare, then he would be running away for the rest of his life to escape from a non-existent reality.
After considering all these, he realized that there was only one option left—to endure tonight and see.
Park Hyeok-Gi chewed on his fingernails.
The raw flesh beneath the nails was already exposed and had started bleeding, but Park Hyeok-Gi still chewed on them without a care about the pain from his fingers.
“Yeah, it's all a dream...”
Unfortunately for him, that was nothing more than wishful thinking on his part.
That was because a quiet, cold voice came out of the darkness once more.
"Did you wish for it to be just a dream"
Heavenly Crimson Demon Emperor had suddenly appeared before Park Hyeok-Gi's eyes somehow and was slowly approached him.
"I told you, didn't I That you and I shall trade again when you think of me as a mere fragment of your dream."
Park Hyeok-Gi pitifully whimpered.
"Just why are you doing this...!"
“Consider yourself unlucky.”
Kang Jin-Ho narrowed his eyes.
"Did you prepare the money"
“It seems that you haven't…”
"N-no, I have prepared it." Park Hyeok-Gi's trembling hand reached below his desk, toward a large bag containing many bundles of fifty thousand won notes.
"I-I prepared it just in case.
I swear, I never thought of you as a dream.
“So, you do have some ability, then.” Kang Jin-Ho coldly grinned.
“I b-borrowed this money from here and there.
Please let me go!”
Kang Jin-Ho slowly nodded.
So you kept our promise.”
Park Hyeok-Gi cautiously pushed the money bag toward his tormentor.
“W-with this, our trade is...
Unfortunately, his request was mercilessly shot down with a shake of Kang Jin-Ho's head.
"No, Park Hyeok-Gi."
Park Hyeok-Gi's eyes began twitching nonstop.
The bone-chilling eeriness in that voice made it nearly impossible to hold himself together.
It felt like Kang Jin-Ho's hands would start choking him any second now.
“We've only just begun,” said Kang Jin-Ho as a trace of cold laughter permeated his voice.
His mocking tone made it even harder for Park Hyeok-Gi to endure.
The director of Starwiz whimpered in a trembling voice.
"W-What do you mean!"
Just as that question left his mouth, the bag filled with money in Kang Jin-Ho's hand suddenly caught on fire.
Park Hyeok-Gi's eyes widened.
“W-What are you doing!”
The bag burned down in the blink of an eye, turning into a pile of gray ash.
The pile of ash left behind was so small, even though so much money was burned! It was as if the bag and the money had never been there, to begin with.
All Park Hyeok-Gi could do was stare at the ash in a daze.
That was a billion won—a billion he prepared by going to great lengths had turned into a pile of ash in an instant!
This scene was so shocking and unbelievable that Park Hyeok-Gi couldn't form a coherent thought in his head.
But he came to realize something just then…This young bastard… he was the devil.
He had to be, otherwise, this act couldn't be explained at all.
Let's start this over again, shall we" Kang Jin-Ho's...
No, Heavenly Crimson Demon Emperor's fangs gleamed coldly in the dim light.
"Prepare another billion won by the same time tomorrow."
Bak Heyok-Gi's complexion turned pale from that demand.
If you fail to prepare that amount, you and I shall be trading once more."
Park Hyeok-Gi's eyes rolled back to show their whites as he blacked out, his figure slowly toppled over backward.
Even as he lay on the floor unconscious, the eerie laughter continued to echo hollowly in the office.
A few days later...
News reports on Starwiz's illegal activities began flooding the media.
The mass media companies fanned the raging flames of public opinion, resulting in various online communities expressing their anger at Starwiz's sickening level of corruption.
In the middle of the scandal, the news of Starwiz's representative Park Hyeok-Gi being admitted to a clinic after suffering a nervous breakdown reached the public's ears.
Of course, the public was furious at him, saying that he was simply putting on an act.
Park Hyeok-Gi was also revealed to have repeatedly borrowed billions for a few days before his hospitalization, and the whereabouts of that money was now unknown.
Understandably, the public's anger reached its breaking point.
Spooked by the volatile public atmosphere, other talent agencies scrambled to be the first to 'reform' themselves.
At the same time, various investigations into the shady dealings of the entertainment industry were launched by the prosecuting authority.
Everything was turned on its head seemingly overnight.
Jo Gyu-Min pointed at the article on his phone.
“Did you do this, Mister Jin-Ho”
Kang Jin-Ho narrowed his eyes at Jo Gyu-Min and asked flatly, “What are you talking about”
“Park Hyeok-Gi, of course.”
Instead of a verbal reply, Kang Jin-Ho simply smiled in silence.
The smile gave Jo Gyu-Min a chill down his spine.
Park Hyeok-Gi was one unlucky man.
By provoking Kang Eun-Yeong, his life fell apart into pieces.
If only he had left that girl alone, he would still be enjoying his life right about now.
Unfortunately, his rotten luck led him to be on the wrong side of Kang Jin-Ho's anger, and now, he would be remembered for being at the center of this massive incident.
Kang Jin-Ho changed the subject.
“What happened to the other ones”
“The matter with Hwangseong Corporation was dealt with as you instructed, Mister Jin-Ho.
I heard that Hwangseong's representative was so mad at his daughter's conduct that he apparently shaved her head bald.”
“Quite a few other things have happened as well.
Would you like to hear about them”
"No, it's fine.
Thank you." Kang Jin-Ho shook his head.
That part of the tale was already the proverbial water under the bridge.
He didn't see a need to get involved in it anymore.
No point in dwelling on it in that case.
Jo Gyu-Min shrugged his shoulders.
“To summarize, others were made to pay a suitable price.
Some got punished more than they deserved, while some got off lightly compared to their crimes.
However, it's fine to assume that the majority received appropriate punishments.”
Kang Jin-Ho asked about something that had been bugging him slightly, "What happened to Starwiz's other trainees"
"They probably transferred to other agencies.
As long as they have what it takes, of course."
"What if they don't"
"Then, they wouldn't have made their debuts in the first place.
They got to leave this industry before it's too late, so it's a blessing in disguise for them," Jo Gyu-Min replied in an unconcerned voice.
Kang Jin-Ho silently nodded while making a slightly bitter expression.
This thing called the entertainment industry...
Even he could tell that beneath all the glitz and glamour, tears of countless many stained its foundation.
This line of profession shone brighter than most, yet the shadow it cast was just as dark and deep.
Kang Jin-Ho sighed softly.
"I'm worried, Mister Gyu-Min."
“About your little sister”
Jo Gyu-Min spoke confidently, "Don't worry about her.
I shall personally see to her wellbeing by taking care of everything.
I'll continuously look after her, as well."
“I'll trust you on this, Mister Gyu-Min.”
"Also, her new agency, Code, is in another realm compared to Starwiz, Mister Jin-Ho.
Besides, they wouldn't dare to try anything funny since they know Jaegyeong Group is involved."
Kang Jin-Ho slowly nodded, thinking that his sister would be fine.
But what about the other kids Would they no longer be exposed to such dangers moving forward
'Whether it's the past or present, devouring dreams to fatten oneself is still the same, isn't it...'
Kang Jin-Ho looked outside the office window as another bitter expression formed on his face.
Park Yu-Min tilted his head before asking, “Jin-Ho...
What are you doing”
Kang Jin-Ho nonchalantly replied, “I'm filling out the enlistment form.”
“E-Enlist” Park Yu-Min's stared at Kang Jin-Ho in a daze.
Enlistment, out of the blue Was his friend on drugs or something!
It was Kang Jin-Ho's turn to tilt his head.
“Is there something wrong”
“You were thinking of joining the army”
Park Yu-Min was taken aback.
"So soon, though It has only been one semester, you know"
"Since it's inevitable, I might as well get it out of the way as soon as possible, don't you agree If I can avoid going, then I might have.
However, I don't feel the need to do that."
“Well, if it's you...
I think you can dodge the draft, though.”
Kang Jin-Ho replied with a tut, “Maybe, but it'll be unsightly.”
It would be possible to dodge the draft with Jaegyeong Group's power, just as Park Yu-Min had alluded to.
For instance, Kang Jin-Ho could get a green card from another country.
But such a method didn't sit well with him.
Kang Jin-Ho firmly believed that avoidable pain should be avoided.
However, he figured that life in the Korean military couldn't be bad enough to avoid it at any cost.
'Well, it can't be as bad as the demon cult, at least.'
Indeed, the modern military would be like going to a kindergarten compared to the demon cult of the ancient past.
Besides, Kang Jin-Ho thought that getting a residency permit in another country just to avoid the draft wouldn’t exactly go well with his idea of ordinary life.
Park Yu-Min faltered slightly.
“Most guys go after spending around a year in universities first, you know...”
“I don't think it's good to delay it.”
“I guess...” Park Yu-Min unwillingly nodded.
Kang Jin-Ho glanced at him.
“What about you Aren't you going to the army, too”
exempted, you see.”
“Mm There’s one good thing about your condition, then.”
“It's the only good thing, though.
Honestly, I'd rather be fine and join the military like everyone else.”
Kang Jin-Ho grimaced.
"I shouldn't have said that.
"Nah, it's fine.
It's not a big deal," Park Yu-Min replied, then he seemed to ponder something before eventually nodding his head.
"Mmhm, this means I'll get to concentrate on tournaments now."
"I'll apply for time off.
Since you're not here, I don't see the point of coming to lectures, you see.
It's not like I can understand what's going on with the class, anyway."
"Hmm..." Kang Jin-Ho wasn't pleased.
Park Yu-Min's idea wasn't bad, but saying that out loud didn't feel right.
However, telling his friend not to do it didn't seem right either.
Since it was Park Yu-Min's decision, Kang Jin-Ho had no choice but to respect it.
Park Yu-Min chuckled sheepishly.
“The thing is, though, coming to the university seemed to have worsened my records lately.
So this is actually for the best.”
My ranking within the team has fallen a bit, you see Director said he'll rip me a new one if I don't get a better result during the next ranking matches.”
Kang Jin-Ho tutted loudly.
"He sounds a little too enthusiastic."
“A little bit, yeah.”
“Mm. Don't you need to compete in a tournament soon”
The spring tournament is over, and the summer tournament's main matches are about to get underway.
The finals should be held around the first half of July.”
Kang Jin-Ho nodded with pursed lips.
"In that case, I'll get to see you win the finals before leaving, then."
No matter what," said Kang Jin-Ho in a stern voice.
It's not as easy as you make it sound, you know”
“I want it as an enlistment present.
Park Yu-Min's expression stiffened a little.
After hesitating for a while, he finally replied in a determined voice, "Okay, I'll try."
“Good.” Kang Jin-Ho grinned.
Park Yu-Min began scratching his cheek.
“Hey, by the way...”
“Did you tell Se-Yeon about your plan to enlist”
Kang Jin-Ho cocked an eyebrow.
"Should I tell her"
“You haven't told her yet”
“Oh, I see...
You haven't told her yet.
That's too bad.”
Kang Jin-Ho frowned and tilted his head.
"What's the problem"
Not really." Park Yu-Min groaned deeply.
He couldn't figure out whether Kang Jin-Ho or Han Se-Yeon deserved his sympathy more.