After Bang Jin-Hun left...
Kang Jin-Hun glanced at Jo Gyu-Min and asked, “What do you think?”
"Mm? You mean Mister Bang Jin-Hun?"
"Hmm..." Jo Gyu-Min covered his mouth and seriously pondered over what he should reply for a little while before turning his head toward Kang Jin-Ho. "This is just my opinion, Mister Jin-Ho, but... Honestly, I don't think a man who gathered his followers while being in an organization for the purpose of rebellion will be happy to listen to your orders."
A quick look at bit.ly/3iBfjkV will leave you more fulfilled.
Jo Gyu-Min's power of reading people wasn't outstanding enough for him to boast about it, but he still believed that he had a feel for it, at the very least.
Kang Jin-Ho slowly nodded. “Mm...”
"A person like him will naturally seek to be the center of everything. For now, he's being suppressed by your strength and has no other choice but to submit. However, I don't see him as someone you can entrust your back to until the end."
Kang Jin-Ho continued to nod. His thoughts weren't all that different from Jo Gyu-Min's.
“However, you must've chosen Mister Bang Jin-Hun for that reason. Am I correct?”
“Yes.” Kang Jin-Ho smiled meaningfully. This was why he liked Jo Gyu-Min. No lengthy preamble or explanations were necessary for Jo Gyu-Min to figure out Kang Jin-Ho's intentions, follow his lead, and arrange things accordingly.
Bang Jin-Hun was chosen precisely because he desired to be the center of everything. After all, Kang Jin-Ho had no thoughts of directly controlling either the Martial Assembly or the Korean martial artists. However, these groups had to be controlled whether Kang Jin-Ho liked them or not.
In that case, the best option for him was to find a suitable person and leave it to that individual.
"For sure, Mister Bang is the type of person a passive individual for the task at hand would prefer, but..." Jo Gyu-Min sounded worried as he spoke, "If we fail to control him properly until the end, he could invite misfortune instead, Mister Jin-Ho. Are you not bothered about that possibility?"
“It'll be fine,” Kang Jin-Ho nonchalantly nodded. “He can't betray me.”
“But, a human’s heart can be—”
“He can't betray me.” Kang Jin-Ho cut Jo Gyu-Min off with a firm, confidence-filled voice.
Jo Gyu-Min realized something after hearing that. “Ah. You've already taken appropriate measures.”
“Yes, more or less.”
“In that case, it should be fine. Mister Bang seems to be the type to value his life, after all.”
“I agree…” Kang Jin-Ho nodded while taking a sip of his coffee.
"However, there is something else worrying me..." Jo Gyu-Min followed suit and sipped his coffee as well. The aroma wafting from the lukewarm coffee tickled his nostrils. "By getting involved in this matter, you'll become intimately tied to South Korea's 'other' side. You won't be able to continue living as you have done until now. Will you be alright with that?"
Kang Jin-Ho didn't respond immediately and leaned against the couch. He pondered something for a while before finally laying out his thoughts. "If something can be avoided, it's not such a bad idea to avoid it."
“Yes, I agree.”
"However, trying to avoid the unavoidable will only result in a devastating end."
Kang Jin-Ho chose not to avoid it anymore. Living an ordinary life didn’t mean he wanted to turn a blind eye to things happening around him and focus solely on keeping up his appearance. The more he tried to play dumb, the more it seemed like his current life would crumble beyond salvage.
'If I really wanted an ordinary life, I shouldn't have started cultivating again in the first place.'
After his return to the modern era, Kang Jin-Ho initially distanced himself from cultivation and martial arts. However, his resolution shattered when he realized that others wouldn't leave him alone even if he hadn’t started it first.
If he were the type to know when to appropriately submit and bow his head, he could have continued on that path. But now, he knew that couldn't be done. With that, Kang Jin-Ho had no reason to remain passive anymore.
“If it can't be avoided, I'll just have to obliterate it.”
Jo Gyu-Min grinned faintly at that. This was why being next to Kang Jin-Ho was such a joy. He would seem composed and measured in his approach, but once he decided to act, Kang Jin-Ho would become daring and bold, as if his composure was just for show. And he had demonstrated this side of himself over and over again until now.
'Although this could be just vicarious satisfaction...'
Anyone stuck living in the modern era would entertain the thoughts of acting like Kang Jin-Ho once or twice in their life. A person who could endure as much as humanly possible but transform into a beast once their limit had been exceeded! To be someone like that...
The gratification, the release that could be felt while doing that—it could not be replicated by anything else. Of course, Jo Gyu-Min wasn't following Kang Jin-Ho purely because of that aspect, but he couldn't deny that it was one of the reasons.
“Well, then.” Kang Jin-Ho got up to leave.
But Jo Gyu-Min stopped him first. “Ah! Please hold on, Mister Jin-Ho.”
“Yes? What is it?”
"Your car has arrived. Why don't you drive it home tonight?"
“Oh...!” Kang Jin-Ho's expression subtly brightened.
Jo Gyu-Min smiled at that rare display of happiness from Kang Jin-Ho. "Didn’t you say you didn't need a car not too long ago? It seems you have realized how inconvenient it is without your own ride, then?"
“Yes, you're right.”
Being a car owner was like that. Without owning a car before, one wouldn’t understand the 'need' for it. And when a car you owned was suddenly no longer available, so many things would become inconvenient and bothersome.
Jo Gyu-Min got up and led the way. "It's parked in the underground parking lot, so let's head over there. I've already taken care of the insurance, as well."
“However, the sedan will take a bit longer to arrive, unfortunately.”
Kang Jin-Ho narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “...I hope you didn't order anything outlandish, Chief Jo.”
"N-no. It's taking long not because the car needs time to reach our shores, but, uh... I've spent way too long trying to find the right car for you, so..." Jo Gyu-Min scratched the back of his head. "If I were buying my own ride, I'd have picked whatever. But when I thought about how this car was for you, I discovered there were too many conditions to fulfill, and—Anyway, I've managed to narrow down the field, so please be patient for a little while longer."
"Understood…" Kang Jin-Ho coolly nodded, then headed to the exit. Honestly, even he had to admit that he knew nothing about cars. All he could do was wait for Jo Gyu-Min to find the right car for him and drive that.
“Shall we head downstairs?” Jo Gyu-Min smiled meaningfully and pointed to the elevator.
The duo headed to the same underground parking lot as the last time. However, Kang Jin-Ho spat out a lengthy groan after scanning the darkness greeting him outside the elevator doors. “Please stop doing this, Chief Jo.”
“Whether it's a person's face or an object, good lighting is half the magic, Mister Jin-Ho.”
Jo Gyu-Min turned on the light, and a red Lamborghini announced itself to Kang Jin-Ho's eyes. “Mm? It's the same car?”
“Yes. I initially thought about going with a Ferrari, Bugatti, or maybe even a Pagani. However, I figured that since you're getting a new car, it might be better to stick to what's familiar to you. So, I prepared the same model as your previous ride.”
Kang Jin-Ho nodded in understanding, but he didn't seem to have agreed about something. "...Chief Jo, wasn't there any other color?"
“Sorry? But I thought you rather liked the red color?”
"I don't mind wrapping a car, but starting right off the bat in such bright red paint is a bit too much for me."
“Oh. However, a sportscar should be red, Mister Jin-Ho. Well, if you're not happy about this color choice, I can always change it to another model. If I remember correctly, that second one with the sky-blue color was rather sexy to behold.”
“...I'll stick with this one, thank you.” Kang Jin-Ho recalled that supercar with a blue paint scheme and vehemently shook his head.
'This red will be less eye-catching than that!'
Kang Jin-Ho was freshly reminded that, unlike clothes, red wasn't an eye-popping color in cars.
“Are you going to drive it home, Mister Jin-Ho?”
“Yes,” Kang Jin-Ho nodded.
Jo Gyu-Min took out a set of keys and dangled it in front of Kang Jin-Ho. "Please don't forget to say thank you to Chairman Hwang later. He’s swimming in wealth, but gifting a car costing hundreds of millions of won will still place some burden on his shoulders."
"I see. I'll stop by and say hello later." Kang Jin-Ho nodded again after understanding the intent behind Jo Gyu-Min's suggestion. Chairman Hwang Jeong-Hu wasn't the type to demand thanks after purchasing a car like this for someone else. So Jo Gyu-Min wanted Kang Jin-Ho to pop in for a cup of coffee or something later and show his appreciation.
As Hwang Jeong-Hu got older, he seemed to have developed a desire to see Kang Jin-Ho more often, like a grandfather wanting to hang out with his grandson. Kang Jin-Ho lost his grandfather at a young age, so he didn't know what it was like to be around grandparents. As such, he was glad to receive a grandfather-like affection from Hwang Jeong-Hu.
However, Kang Jin-Ho suddenly remembered something. “Hold on for a minute...”
“What are Chairman Hwang's children doing these days? The ones you told me about in the past, I mean.”
"I'm not sure myself..." Jo Gyu-Min scratched the back of his head while making a troubled face. Other than hearing about the news of them causing a scene in front of the chairman's private residence, he hadn't heard anything else about them. "If I'm being honest, I haven't really paid any attention to them, so I don’t know, Mister Jin-Ho."
Kang Jin-Ho frowned slightly. "Did you know that severing ties doesn't mean that they can be severed completely?"
“I'm talking about blood relations.”
“Oh. Mm...” Jo Gyu-Min slowly nodded. He had a family as well, so he soon understood what Kang Jin-Ho was talking about.
“He did it because it was necessary, but the knowledge of his children going through a tough time should still weigh heavily on his heart,” Kang Jin-Ho quietly mused.
“But the Chairman seems...”
“There are times when a man needs to protect the image he has painstakingly built over the years... Even if his heart says otherwise. Someone like Chairman Hwang Jeong-Hu and his status has an even greater need to do so.”
Jo Gyu-Min nodded in agreement, realizing that Kang Jin-Ho was right. “Understood. I'll investigate them immediately.”
"Please. I'll leave it to you."
Kang Jin-Ho nodded coolly. Even if Hwang Jeong-Hu didn't want it, it didn't matter. Jo Gyu-Min was now listening to Kang Jin-Ho's orders rather than the chairman's anyway.
'Huh. Doesn't this kind feel like I'm stealing paycheck...?'
Jo Gyu-Min was being paid by Jaegyeong, yet he was getting orders from Kang Jin-Ho, not Hwang Jeong-Hu... Jo Gyu-Min’s own conscience sneakily emerged from his heart.
'N-no, hang on. Jaegyeong's original wish was for me to assist Mister Jin-Ho, so this doesn't feel entirely wrong, either...'
Jo Gyu-Min thought it would be better to sort his position out sooner than later.
“Well, then. See you later.” Kang Jin-Ho climbed inside the driver's seat and turned on the ignition.
The heavy rumble coming from the twelve-cylinder monster of an engine sent shivers down Jo Gyu-Min's spine.
'Gee whiz. It still sounds so damn cool, doesn't it?!'
Jo Gyu-Min bowed while wondering if he would someday get to drive a car like that by sticking closely to Kang Jin-Ho and working hard. “Drive carefully on your way home.”
The driver's side window rolled down, and Kang Jin-Ho's hand peeked outside to wave back.
"Ah, hold on, Mister Jin-Ho!" Jo Gyu-Min urgently called out, causing the sportscar to stop creeping forward. "Please use the front axle lifter. Otherwise, you're going to scratch the bumper."
Along with the subtle bzzz, the nose of the Lamborghini slightly rose up. Jo Gyu-Min watched Kang Jin-Ho slowly drive the car up the ramp, then turned around to head back to the elevator.
'Things will get busy from now on...'
The Korean Martial Assembly...! If Jo Gyu-Min tried to deal with them using the name of Jaegyeong, he could have gotten nowhere. He tried to investigate the Assembly using Jaegyeong's available resources, but his attempts all ended in failure, didn't they?
Moreover, someone from somewhere so high up in the food chain that Jo Gyu-Min couldn't possibly uncover who they were had subtly hindered the investigation, too!
'But now, to think that this situation doesn't look hard to me anymore... It’s kind of a unique problem, is it?'
Should Jo Gyu-Min chalk his attitude to the syndrome of 'His head was too big for his body'? Just because Kang Jin-Ho was behind him, Jo Gyu-Min wasn't too scared about dealing with the Martial Assembly.
Then again, what did he have to fear when Kang Jin-Ho was backing him? After all, Kang Jin-Ho was capable of dealing with the second most powerful individual in the Martial Assembly as if the latter were a little kid.
While feeling proud and energized for some reason, Jo Gyu-Min stepped inside the elevator.
'No, I gotta calm down.'
The only reason why he could do as he wished wasn’t because of his strength but Kang Jin-Ho's presence. If he mistakenly believed that 'power' was his, only a tragic end awaited him.
If a tiger was supporting him from behind, he should obviously exploit that advantage. However, acting too cutely just because of his backer would only lead to him realizing that he was merely a fox. Sure, the tiger would avenge him, but what would be the point if he was already dead?
“For now, let's deal with the assignment he gave me first.”
Jo Gyu-Min pressed the elevator button while wondering where he should start his investigation to find more information about Hwang Jeong-Hu's children.