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“Feels like I’m freeloading.”
He knew this was something they discussed internally, but he felt like he was cheating them. Even the equipment they provided easily cost a few hundred thousand won. The conditions of the contract were very straightforward too. His mother just had to use the equipment and display it on three screens all the time.
“It’s so good.”
He remembered those absurd commercial contract offers he got when he was not famous. It was now Joonbum who was on top of the food chain.
‘Did I just get two hundred million won by doing nothing but providing an existing video clip?’
Joonbum couldn’t help but grin.
“Mr. Joonbum Jang?”
“I am Sunhee Lee from Agabans.”
A woman in her forties with a clean suit greeted Joonbum. She was a bit chubby, making her seem very kind with her soft smile.
“I will have an iced americano.”
Sunhee ordered her drink from the waiter and pulled out a catalog. She handed it over to Joonbum.
“This is our baby product set which is set to launch soon.”
The catalog was full of items from clothes to utensils specifically made for babies.
“As we discussed over the phone, we will provide all the items requested for the kids featured in the videos. They just need to wear our clothes and we need our logo to be shown on stream for a month. This is the contract.”
Joonbum received the contract. The conditions were simple as it only required him to have logo be exposed on one of the cameras.
“If you can display the logo in the center, we will pay you 30 million and 18 million in other places.”
“I’ll put it in the center.”
“Please sign here and we’ll wire the money to your bank account.”
Joonbum nodded and scanned through the contract. He finished signing it as Sunhee drank her coffee. When the contract signing was over, she left the café, but Joonbum stayed as he waited for next person.
The next person he met was Changju Lee from Gooron Sports. The company offered to sponsor sports goods as they were interested in Joonbum’s exercise. Joonbum practiced his Taekwondo or boxing when he had free time. They wanted to provide him equipment from uniforms to sandbags and everything Joonbum might need. Even a small soccer ball was included on the list. After few more short-term advertisement contracts were complete, Joonbum went to meet with the people from the largest fitness company: King Kong Gym. As discussed, he posed with fitness trainers and took some pictures. He also took pictures while he was on the weight training equipment. The contract was fifty million won.
“Thank you, Mr. Jang. We will keep in touch.”
“Yes, thank you.”
Joonbum shook his head after he came out of the studio. It was already dark.
“Whew. Now it’s finished.”
He stretched and thought about how famous he has become. Just some exercise he did because he had spare time brought him money.
“Even the food commercial too.”
Watching the fascinated young kids with the food they had never seen before and the surprising taste they never had experienced before was popular for people of all ages.
“Hmm. What should I do now? Meet up with Sungjae? Or…”
He stopped as his phone rang. It was from Taesoo Park. He was the one who got him those illegal firearms. Joonbum had a bad feeling about it.
‘I hope there isn’t any trouble.’
“Oh, Mr. Joonbum!”
“I am Taesoo.”
Joonbum realized that his voice was shaking.
“Yes, I know. What’s going on?”
“I need to talk to you.”
“What is this about?”
“It’s about the business. I need to talk to you. N-now.”
‘What is this?’
Joonbum’s mind was racing with thoughts as he could sense the nervousness from Taesoo’s voice.
“N-no. It’s not like that but- I need to talk to you in person. I’ll wait for you at the place.”
Joonbum frowned as he hung up the phone.
The rain was falling down heavily again as Joonbum drove the truck.
‘It’s not like I can just ignore… damn it.’
Joonbum felt sudden remorse at himself as if he hadn’t been careful.
‘But everyone does it.’
It was illegal, but it was also a common practice among business people. Joonbum lit up his cigarette as he arrived at the spot where he had purchased the firearms from Taesoo before. Wet, humid air washed in. His cigarette tasted so bitter that he only took a few puffs and put it out. He was rubbing on his eyes to shake away the irritation when a truck arrived. Taesoo quickly got off the truck and ran to his truck, quickly hopping on it.
“What’s going on?”
His face was pale as he hesitated.
‘What’s gotten into him? He wasn’t like this before.’
He seemed to look much older than before. His pitiable look stopped Joonbum from continuing with his questions. Taesoo took out a cigarette and lit it.
“M-money. I need some money. You have some, right? I researched and heard those popular BJs earn like a few hundred million won per month?”
Joonbum felt a chill pierce through his bones.
Taesoo’s eyes glowed as thunder rumbled outside. His bloodshot eyes and pale face looked very frightening. Joonbum felt his heart sink at the fact that he was with such man on the same truck. Both of them were breathing heavily.
“Are you threatening me right now? It was you who got me those.”
Joonbum sounded cold as he spoke in a low voice. Taesoo, surprised at the sound of his voice, shouted.
“No-no! Not at all! I am just offering another business!”
Joonbum raised his eyebrow.
“Yes, business. Maybe a hundred million or two hundred million. Largest possible deal.”
There was something off about it as Taesoo was almost begging him.
‘He’s hiding something.’
“What happened? I thought you didn’t want to continue anymore?”
“It… It’s my fault! It’s all my fault!”
Taesoo shook as he yelled, then burst into tears. He shouted as he sobbed.
“I- I was happy to have so much money in a while so I gave her one million won so she could buy clothes for herself and our daughter, and eat some good food. Just one million… damn it!”
Taesoo continued sobbing.
“On their… on their way back… They got into an accident. It’s my fault… It’s MY fault!”
Taesoo writhed as he recollected what happened to his family. They were still alive but they were unconscious. That’s why Taesoo needed more money.
“P-please! I’m not begging you to hand it out. I’ll get you what you need. We can do more business! I need money to save my wife and daughter! The hospital offered to disconnect their life support as there’s no chance! Those bastards! I have to save them! Please!”
Taesoo seemed to be tired when he was done with frantically explaining what had happened. Emptiness loomed in his eyes — he knew he was on a cliff.
‘I was like that too.’
Joonbum remembered his past, trying his best to do something with no success. The sound of rain filled the truck as they grew silent. Taesoo was just silently gazing outside the window. He was almost ready to get off the car when Joonbum made his decision.
“Let’s do it. The business.”
Taesoo turned his head. His eyes were filled with doubt.
“Mr. Park. We will do business.”
His eyes blinked. It seemed like he was confused. He placed calls everywhere he knew and begged at every opportunity, but he couldn’t find help. The surgery cost was over a hundred million won, and even that did not guarantee their survival. Even if they regained consciousness, their distorted and destroyed bodies would not be recoverable.
“We will do it. What can you get me?”
Taesoo stared at Joonbum after he spoke.
“Anything. I will get you anything.”
His hoarse voice filled the truck.
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