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The next morning, I encountered a different kind of problem.
Mom wakes me up in the morning.
“Do you know what day it is today?”
“Today is the next month that you promised!”
I now recall the promise I made my mom.
At mom’s constant nagging for me to go out to the store and fry chicken with her, I had asked her to let me slide for a month. But the next month that was promised has come already.
“Son, it is now time for you to enter the world of the fried chicken business.”
Mom looks like she is excited to boss me around at work.
But I don’t have time for that. I cannot spend the time I have left before the next exam frying chicken!
With no other options, I tell her the truth about my getting a job.
“Mom, actually, I…”
“Don’t make excuses. From today on, son, you are a chicken businessman.”
“God forbid. This son has surprisingly gotten a job.”
“Huh? A job?”
“Yes, a job.”
“Son… did you get a part time somewhere? A part time is not a job.”
“Not a part time, I mean a real job.”
“What company would hire you? Is it a suspicious company?”
“No! What do you take me for?”
“You’re an unemployed son without education or qualifications. Don’t go work at some suspicious company that no one knows when it will go under and just come fry sweet and sour chicken with me, son.”
I understand. This is how much confidence mom has in me.
“Mom, do not be alarmed. For I have landed a job at Jinseong Group!”
“Ji, Jinseong Group?”
Suddenly, my mom turns compassionate.
“Son, have you fallen into a delusion and avoiding reality? Stop saying nonsense and come to the store with mom, okay?”
“No, seriously, I’m telling the truth!”
“There is no way my son could get employed by Jinseong Group.”
I give her a moderate dramatized explanation of how I came to be hired at Jin-seong Group.
“So you rescued a man while you were hiking and that man turned out to be a member of the board of directors?”
“Yea. I told him I was unemployed and he said he’d give me a job. He said he’ll put me in a good one.”
“Is that true? And that ajusshi didn’t seem weird?”
“Son, the world is not so easy. There’s definitely a catch.”
“Wow, I’m serious! Just trust me!”
“Are you bullshitting me? Cause you want to stay home and lay around?”
“Ajumma, stop it, would you?”
Mom is in a deep pit of mistrust with me. So much so that she calls support.
“Hey, Hyun-ji! Stop your oppa!”
“What is it?”
Hyun-ji rushes over.
Mom tells Hyun-ji that I am insisting that I have gotten a job at Jin-seong Group.
Hyun-ji hears the story and,
She grabs her belly and rolls around in laughter. It was such an excited laugh it almost lingers in my ears like a hallucination. This bitch!
“Oppa? At Jinseong Group? Then I’ll work at Google. Haha!”
“Google doesn’t take 400 pointers on the TOEIC.”
“Hmph, Jinseong Group doesn’t take repeat civil exam taking 30 somethings either.”
“Hey now, did you leave your respect for me at the club? Why don’t you have a little more respect for your older brother, huh?”
“Oh my gosh, that’s funny! Lookit here, ajusshi. Aren’t you single? Isn’t it about time you get married? Aren’t all your friends getting hitched one by one? What are you doing by yourself?”
This cruel thing. She’s merciless.
I cannot lose like this!
“What do you mean? Don’t worry so much. I’m in the midst of something with my baby sister’s best friend!”
“Kyak! I said no to Min-jeong!”
“Hahaha! I don’t need your permission!”
We rip at each other’s weak spots and fight. Our mom looks at us and grabs her hair in despair. Then again, I’d be in the same way if my kids were anything like us.
The bell rings.
“Oh, who is this? Gas inspector?”
Mom goes out.
“Who are you?”
“Is this Kim Hyun-ho’s residence?”
“I’ve come from Jinseong Group.”
“I’ve come to escort him. Is Mr. Kim Hyun-ho inside?”
Mom, with an expression of disbelief, looks around to me.
The man that chairman Park Jin-seong said he would send is already here. Here already in the morning, his pace of work really is a like a storm.
Thanks to him, I save face and my confidence shoots the sky.
“Hah, you still think I’m lying now? Think I’ve lost it and escaping reality still?”
“Even so, how could a person from Jinseong Group come here…!”
Hyun-ji looks extremely flustered as well.
I smile wryly and place my hand on Hyun-ji’s shoulder.
“My baby sister. What did you say to me earlier?”
“This oppa of yours has started work at a major corporation as of today. I guess there won’t even be any broth for you!”*
(TN: Korean saying about not even giving a little bit of something to someone you don’t like. Stew has good stuff like meat and veggies, but for someone you don’t like, you won’t even share a little of the broth with them.)
“No, oppa! I mean, elder brother!”
Hyun-ji’s behavior suddenly turns respectful.
“Should I prepare breakfast for you? I’ll speak formally from now, elder brother?”
“It is too late for that, you wicked creature.”
Hyun-ji attaches to my arm.
Regardless of her actions, I head to the entryway where the man is and ask him to wait a little bit.
“Of course, take your time. I will wait for you in the parking lot.”
He’s Park Jin-seong’s driver that I saw yesterday. He politely answers and heads down first.
I hurry and wash up and change.
I have now at least told my family that I have gotten a job so I take out the suit I never wear except for on a few occasions.
Hyun-ji appears, pretending to be cute. She just shoves her way into my clothes and takes out a tie.
“I’ll put your tie on for you, oppa.”
“Hoho, I’m so grateful. What is my rude little sister doing?”
“Aw, there’s nothing I want.”
Hyun-ji continues to show aegyo and ties the tie around my neck.
But why are her hands so familiar with tying a necktie. Who in the world has she been practicing this on?
“Thank goodness there is nothing you want. I thought maybe you came in here asking for spending money.”
“Aw, oppa! I’ll get you breakfast every morning, okay?”
“Meh. We’ll see.”
“Hehe, have a good day, elder brother!”
I take out my dress shoes in the entryway and extend my hand out to my mom who is staring, still finding all of this hard to believe.
“Mom, your son’s going to work now. Work hard, fighting!”
I leave the house.
At the apartment lobby, the man is waiting. I get into the Benz he is driving and we head out.
Jinseong Group’s headquarters are in Gangnam but the direction we are headed in is Jincheongun of Chungbuk. It’s the vacation house from yesterday.
Chairman Park Jin-seong has already prepared everything for hunting and is waiting for me.
“Yesterday was hardly a hunt. Today, I want to hunt right, without your special skills. More so, there’s something you should give first?”
He’s asking for the flame of life.
I nod my head.
“Okay, I will give it to you while we are out hunting.”
We take all the provisions that the groundskeeper old man has prepared for us and we start our hunt.
When we are left just the two of us, I make the flame of life and hand it over to chairman Park Jin-seong.
Chairman Park Jin-seong eats the flame of life and happily smiles.
“I can definitely feel the energy. I feel as if I take one consistently every day, it will even cure my illness.”
The flame of life clearly has an effect.
Chairman Park Jin-seong was having such difficulty yesterday, and today he is taking the lead, hiking well up the mountain.
It seems the German shepherd we brought has caught wind of an animal because he starts sniffing really hard.
Park Jin-seong takes a look at the print on the ground and says.
“It’s an elk.”
We follow where the German shepherd leads us. We move together and have a conversation.
“I received word from the Nordic exam group yesterday.”
“What is the Nordic exam group?”
“Five Nordic nations and associated territories have joined to found an international agency.”
I am my usual naïve self and chairman Park Jin-seong clicks his tongue at me.
“Are you ignorant or are all young people nowadays like you?”
“I am the common young person today.”
“This country is in trouble. It only says its global but it’s not very global at all.”
According to chairman Park Jin-seong’s explanation, the Nordic nations include five northern European countries, which are Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland.
In addition, the three associated territories are Greenland, the Aland Islands, and the Faroe Islands.
The Nordic Exam Group was established for the Arena and supporting examinees, founded by those Nordic groups.
They are similar to other countries in that they gather majeong in efforts to turn it into a new energy source, but more than anything, they are loyal to examinees and regard their survival as their utmost goal.
“They tend to center around examinee survival and thus showed a positive reaction to your problem.”
“The Nordic Exam Group’s examinees will help me?”
Chairman Park Jin-seong nods his head.
“More than anything, you are now a 3rd turn examinee. Helping a 4th turn is not that hard for veterans that have passed the 10th turn. Of course, I have arranged the price for that aid.”
“How much is the price?”
“It’s nothing. I have arranged to give $10 million USD to each examinee that helps you.”
‘$10M USD is nothing?!’
I’m belittled by the scale of his actions, giving that money because of me.
I can tell chairman Park Jin-seong is doing everything he can to overcome his illness.
For having caught the attention of Chairman Park Jin-seong, and the huge luck I had in having a skill that he wanted.
“But because we don’t know what kind of exam you will get for your 4th turn, they say they want to meet you in person and discuss.”
“Honestly, I spilled the sauce on something to intrigue them.”
“You mean the spirit summons?”
“Indeed. From what I have heard, there is no examinee in the Nordic Exam Group either that has the spirit summons skill either. That’s why they are interested in you. And thanks to that, we get their aid.”
“That you did this all in one day, you really are amazing.”
“Yesterday, due to the flame of life I received from you, I was overflowing with energy. And because of it I was able to drive through a lot of work.”
“But you spent $10M USD for me…”
“Don’t mention it.”
“You just have to not die. Survive your 4th and your 5th and so on and save me. That is enough. That much is what you owe me.”
“Yes, I will survive, no matter it.”
“Okay, now, tell me some about what you encountered in the Arena. I wish to know how you cleared your past exams.”
That day, we hunted together, and I told him of the things I went through as an examinee.
Chairman Park Jin-seong definitely knows how to deal with people.
He listens closely to what I say and admires and pities and makes for a good audience.
“That angel was right. You are not an average person at all.”
“You think so?”
“I do. The decisions you made during the exams aren’t average.”
Chairman Park Jin-seong looks most pleased with himself.
“I expected as much but hearing your story, I can rest easy now. You are not one to die so easily. If I fully support you, going forward, you will do well in passing these exams alone.”
But to be frank, chairman Park Jin-seong needs me only until his disease is cured. There’s no way to know what will happen after.
A relationship that is beneficial to both is the best relationship.
Just as he needs me, I too most definitely need his help and will receive it.
At the very least, I can now start to see a hope in my future that wasn’t there before.
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