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When lunch was over, people started using the new machine Sunsook had brought over.
“Birds are really dumb.”
“It’s better for us that way.”
“I know right? Makes things easier.”
“It’s so nice.”
The sound of traps exploding came from everywhere as each sound meant that ten to thirty Basetts would be captured alive. It was faster to capture Basetts with the arrows, but there was no way of capturing them alive that way as it required additional work to preserve them.
The removal of the long preservation process was very much welcome during the hunt.
“Joonbum, why are they hunting so many birds? I heard they hunt more than ten thousand each time?”
Joonbum had the same question before.
“One reason is because they provide good food for winter. The second is because they’re seasonal birds.”
Sunsook looked confused.
“Yeah. I heard they don’t hunt Bodua or other regular animals during the winter.”
“Why is that?”
“Do you know why the Ainos begin gathering fruit and other foods for storage during fall?”
“I know that.”
“Fall is like a festival for animals and monsters alike. It’s a feast prepared for them to stock up before the harsh winter comes. Hunting during such harsh weather conditions will affect the Ainos population and lessening the food means that predators and monsters will go for the Ainos themselves.”
“Oh, I see.”
“That’s why they hunt those seasonal birds. The birds soon leave the area, so it doesn’t have any effect during the winter. There are millions that fly by anyway, so a couple thousand doesn’t hurt.”
“That’s amazing. But we do have only Basett meat for entire winter? I should think of some other cooking methods.”
“Maybe I should try Chinese style. You know, that fried stuff.”
“I love it. I like Thai food too.”
“Of course, just let me know. I’ll study any of them.”
“Thank you, Mom.”
His mother was happy to prepare food for his son. She was sad that she had been preparing food for customers when she couldn’t prepare a single dinner for her son, but now she was free from doing so.
Joonbum showed her the box he received from the elders the other day.
“Look at this. You should act like a rich person a few more times.”
- It was deep into the fall season. The trees on the road were colored red and people wore warmer clothes.
“This leaf is so pretty. I should keep it.”
“There’s a prettier one there.”
“Oh, that’s nice.”
‘It’s chilly here too.’
Joonbum walked while thinking about the scenery. The people, mainly women, glanced at him walking by.
“Look at him, he’s so tall!”
“He’s like a model! I think he’s well-built too. Look at the muscles on his chest!”
“Hey, stop peeking at him! You’re embarrassing me.”
“What? You said you like that kind of body! Just look!”
“No! let me go!”
Two girls that looked like high schoolers were mumbling to each other aloud. There were more who also glanced at Joonbum as he passed by. He also gathered the attention of men, only that their gazes were more envious.
‘I never thought this day would come.’
It was a little embarrassing, but he always dreamed of such attention.
‘I really wished for it before, but now it’s uncomfortable.’
He remembered his old self watching popular BJs as he cursed at them out of jealousy.
He now knew what it felt like to be on the other side. He walked to his appointment place as he enjoyed the attention, walking more slowly so he could enjoy it as long as he could.
A woman who was passing by stopped him. Joonbum was startled so he flinched a bit, but he turned to face her.
‘Is-is this possibly-?’
A woman in her early twenties approached him. Her cute face blushed with embarrassment.
‘Is, is she asking me for my number? Am I now at that level?’
Joonbum blushed at the thought. He was overconfident from the words of those high school girls from a while ago.
“May I help you?” Joonbum asked, trying to keep calm. The woman hesitated, but she spoke out.
“Have you heard of the Way? We are the followers of the Way to the truth in order to change the world into a better place…”
It was disappointing. Joonbum looked away and began walking fast.
“If you change your mind…”
He frowned as he continued to walk away to his destination.
‘What was I thinking? Ugh.’
Joonbum quickly pulled his carrier bag as its wheels noisily clattered on the road.
“I have a reservation under the name of Joonbum Jang.”
“Oh yes. Right this way please.”
He was guided into a room and he walked in to find Taesoo Park sitting down inside.
“Hello, Mr. Park.”
“Hey, Mr. Jang. Come in.”
The employee who guided him into the room bowed as Joonbum sat down.
“I’ll prepare the meal.”
Taesoo spoke the moment Joonbum sat down.
“What’s the news?”
“I mean you would’ve just called me if it was for more orders, but inviting me to a fine dinner like this only means…”
“Well, you’ve been a great help.”
“No, not at all. I should be the one who should be thankful.”
Taesoo filled up the cup in front of him with soju and gulped it down. There was no trace of the desperate cries from that day.
“I’m not sure what was wrong with me that day, but it sure kept my wife and daughter alive.”
“Have they gotten any better yet?”
Taesoo shook his head at the question.
“They’re barely breathing. The hospital refused to perform any more surgeries on them so they’re back at home. Sleeping well. Really well.”
He gulped down another cup of soju. The door of the room opened and tuna sushi, which cost more than 150 thousand won per person, was served on the table.
“Please, help yourself.”
“Sure. Thank you.”
They fell silent as they ate and drank. The atmosphere began to loosen a bit as they kept on drinking. It was then when Joonbum began appreciating the food he was eating.
‘It’s a luxury.’
He had been eating smelly wild bird meat for a while and this gourmet food was like an oasis to him. The dish was emptied and replenished as they kept feasting.
“So who takes care of them…?”
“I hired two caretakers. They each work ten hours per day and rest is on me. But I need to pay them extra hours if I have to work so…”
The amount of money Taesoo earned from his business with Joonbum was a large sum, but he was still struggling financially. Two caretakers working for ten or more hours would roughly cost him three million won per month. There was also the cost of life support which was necessary for his unconscious wife and daughter. Taesoo was in desperately in need of money.
“Okay. So… tell me why you really called me here.”
Taesoo seemed to be tired from his worries. Joonbum smiled and placed his large case on the table, opening it.
“Look for yourself.”
Taesoo looked at what was inside of the case with a drunken and reddened eye. His eyes blinked slowly as he looked at it as if he had blurry sight.
He let out a cackle, then burst into laughter. He turned to Joonbum after laughing as if he were told some kind of joke.
“Haha, Mr. Jang. I didn’t know you wanted to sell counterfeit products now. Heh, or are you trying to sell it to me as the real thing? I may be a smuggler, but I don’t deal with fakes. That’s not the realm you want to delve into, you hear? You’ll be a dead man before you know it. It’s not an easy world…”
Taesoo began repeating what he said before as he became more drunk.
“I was desperate before, but maybe not anymore. I owe you big time so that’s why I’m saying this to you. Don’t start on this. You and me, doing this will put our lives on the spot. Hell, even my current business would’ve been dangerous if I didn’t have my old connections. Heed my words.”
He seemed to come rough, but it was sincere advice. He was really concerned.
“Mr. Park, I know I brought a lot, but these are all real. The purity of each may differ, but it’s all real. I’m asking you to take care of these for me.”
Taesoo stopped his hand that was about to pour another cup of soju into his mouth. He began glaring at Joonbum, then turned his eyes to all the gold and gems inside the case, then turned back to Joonbum. It seemed like he was coming back his senses as he glanced back and forth between Joonbum and the case. His lips began to shiver and his eyes were wide open in shock.
“This-this. This is all real? Real gold? All of them?”
Taesoo reached out to the case and pulled out a big gold figurine. It was so heavy that he needed to use both hands to take it out. The ox-shaped figurine was placed on the table.
“This isn’t a cow, right?”
“It is. It looks like a cow to me.”
“S-so this is made out of gold?”
“Yes. As I said, all of it is gold with some difference in purity. Can you take care of it? I would like to be paid in supplies, not money. Do you think it’s possible?”
Taesoo seemed like he was still in shock. If he managed to finish this task given to him, he would be able to earn enough money to hire a caretaker for twenty-four hours and provide a better environment for his wife and daughter. He clenched his fist at the thought.
“Who do you think I am? I am Taesoo Park. Trust me, I’ll make quick work of it. So, what do you need?”
“Great. I will need…”
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