Park Yu-Min stared weirdly at Kang Jin-Ho. From the latter's perspective, what happened to him should have been the same as a lightning bolt out of the blue. If the same thing happened to Park Yu-Min, he probably would have wanted to strangle himself. Well, he did betray someone trying to help him, so that was understandable.
You could try to understand why anyone would repay a favor with betrayal up to a certain degree. However... Kang Jin-Ho simply shrugged it off as a 'minor inconvenience.’ Maybe he was an unfathomably gracious person or a brainless idiot. His declaration made it rather difficult to figure out where he belonged.
Park Yu-Min muttered, “E-even so...”
Kang Jin-Ho groaned and replied, “I already accepted your apology.”
"I'm not a fan of bringing up the bygones over and over again. What's done is done. If an apology can deal with it, then it's nothing to lose sleep over. If a simple apology wasn't enough, then you and I would've never spoken again."
"Y-yeah..." Park Yu-Min scratched the back of his head, feeling like he was getting smaller with every passing second.
Before they could continue, though, they heard an inarticulate voice coming from behind them. "Uhm, hi...?"
Kang Jin-Ho slowly looked behind and spotted a little kid making a sheepish face waddling awkwardly toward him.
"So-Yeon, it's cold outside, you know. You should go back inside," said Park Yu-Min worriedly as he walked up to the kid.
The little kid, a girl, looked around with a dazed face before wordlessly pushing forward an object held in her hand.
Park Yu-Min asked her, "Is that a present?"
The little girl shook her head.
"Then... is it for my friend?"
Park Yu-Min gently patted the child on the head before carefully receiving the object. He hesitated for a second but still handed the child's gift to Kang Jin-Ho. "This is for you."
"...?" Kang Jin-Ho accepted the object and looked at it. The 'present' wasn't exactly a masterpiece. It looked like a necklace made out of some weeds of unknown origin. As for the craftsmanship, well... The finished product had a certain 'charm' if he was being kind, but objectively speaking, it was a bit of a mess. As a matter of fact, it was so sloppily made that calling it a necklace seemed like an insult to other necklaces in existence.
Kang Jin-Ho made a stiff face while examining the present from various angles, then asked in a serious voice, “Do I need to wear this?”
“Well...” Park Yu-Min chose to abstain from answering that.
However, the little girl's expectant gaze exerted so much pressure that Kang Jin-Ho was left with no choice but to put the 'necklace' on. But a new problem immediately reared its head.
The necklace had been weaved to fit around a little girl's neck, so it obviously couldn't fit through Kang Jin-Ho's larger head. In an instant, the present inadvertently transformed into a headband that had gotten stuck on his forehead.
Park Yu-Min lost his composure just then. “Kek...”
Kang Jin-Ho shot a murderous glare at Park Yu-Min. “Laugh, and I'll kill you.”
The latter hurriedly covered his mouth after feeling the sheer pressure exerted by those burning eyes. Meanwhile, Kang Jin-Ho forced himself to smile and waved his hand at the little girl. "...Thank you."
The child grinned brightly before running back inside the orphanage.
“Hmm...” Kang Jin-Ho watched the girl before standing straight. “I should get going.”
Park Yu-Min sounded a little disappointed. “So soon?”
“There’s not much I can do by staying here. So, I should go.”
“I guess. Yeah, it's better to go home while there's still some daylight left. By the way, you...”
“What is it?”
Park Yu-Min cautiously asked, “Are you... going to ride that bicycle down the hill?”
“Really? This hill?!”
Kang Jin-Ho dismissively replied, “It'll be fine.”
Park Yu-Min alternated his gaze between the poor bicycle and its owner, then sighed grandly. “Okay. Take care of yourself.”
"I did you wrong, but you still gave me a ride home, so... I'll never be able to lift my head again if you got into an accident now, you know."
Kang Jin-Ho smirked. "Are you trying to imply that you usually keep your head up?"
Kang Jin-Ho climbed up on the bicycle while chuckling.
Park Yu-Min hurriedly called out to him, “Oh, wait!”
Kang Jin-Ho frowned a little, thinking that this kid sure had a lot of things to say. “What is it now?”
“Are you going to wear that on your ride home?” Park Yu-Min asked while looking at the weed 'necklace' perched up on Kang Jin-Ho's head.
The latter's expression hardened. “You think I shouldn't?”
“Not exactly, but, uh...”
“It's fine, then.” Kang Jin-Ho lightly waved his hand, then began sprinting down the hill like a bullet.
“Heok...?” Park Yu-Min's jaw fell as he watched the bicycle disappear down the hill at the speed of lightning. “Holy cow...”
But he didn't take his eyes away. Instead, he chose to keep an eye on Kang Jin-Ho's figure until the latter safely reached the base of the hill. After all, that was all he could do for his 'new' friend.
Park Yu-Min sighed quietly. "Sorry."
By the time Kang Jin-Ho reached home, the night had already fallen. He opened the front door, and his mother welcomed him home. “You're back?”
“You're later than usual, though.”
"I stopped by at a friend's place."
"That's unusual for you," Baek Hyeon-Jeong replied while sounding slightly puzzled. Her son usually dedicated most of his free time to the PC Room, but he had gone to a friend's place today? Of course, she had no idea that such a sentiment only applied to the 'past' Kang Jin-Ho, not the current one. "In any case, wash up, honey. I'll get your supper ready."
“What about Father?”
“He'll be home later tonight.”
“Mm? Is he attending his company's get-together?”
Baek Hyeon-Jeong shook her head, her expression displayed hints of worry. "The office hours at your father's new company end a little later than usual, you see."
“But he went to work as I left for school…”
“Yes, he did.”
“And he's still stuck at work, Mother?”
"Yes, unfortunately." Baek Hyeon-Jeong sighed helplessly. "Eun-Yeong's career requires a lot of funds, and you'll also be entering university soon. We need to earn the admission fees somehow... It's tough, but we'll have to roll our sleeves up and do our best."
“And I'll be starting my job from next week, too.”
"There's no need to worry about us. Jin-Ho, your father and I only want to see you and your sister grow up to be splendid adults, that's all. I mean, surely you two will repay us later in our lives, right?"
“Well, yes. That's true.” Kang Jin-Ho chuckled, then headed to the bathroom. While taking his clothes off, he began mulling about something.
'In the past, I...'
In the past, he used to think that his teenage years were blissful. If someone asked him when he felt the happiest in his life, he would have replied without a moment's hesitation that it was this time period. But now...
Were his current teenage years noticeably different from the past ones? Kang Jin-Ho slowly shook his head. No, they weren’t different at all. Even in the distant past, Kang Jin-Ho's father had to work day and night while his mother had to take on odd jobs in between doing all the house chores.
All those days he had thought himself happy had been built atop the precarious foundation laid down by the sacrifices of his parents. Only now did Kang Jin-Ho realize this truth. Back then, he had just been too immature to see it.
'Happiness, is it...?'
Knowing the truth now, could he really call those years the happiest in his life? Was it right to label the life he enjoyed 'happiness' when he had no idea about the sacrifices and the struggles of his parents? Kang Jin-Ho shook his head a little harder.
The story hadn't changed much this time, either. Kang Jin-Ho had never thought once about his family's financial situation until recently. He had naively believed that the ordinary life filled with peaceful days would automatically continue as long as he acclimatized to the modern era. The truth was, though, that his parents worked themselves to the bone trying to protect these ordinary days, even as Kang Jin-Ho wasted his time messing around in school.
There could be only one answer to this—the answer that remained the same no matter the question. To live an ordinary life, he needed power. But the 'power' he needed in this world wasn't violence…
Kang Jin-Ho splashed water on his face before slowly opening his eyes.
'That's right. We need money.'
There were three types of power in the world—wealth, authority, and violence. Of the three, Kang Jin-Ho believed that violence was the 'strongest' of them all. The strong would inevitably acquire the other two in time, after all. However, he had to admit that violence might not be the most useful of the trio, at least in the modern era.
As such, the answer he was searching for had to be 'wealth.’ With wealth, many things could be made more convenient. With wealth, you could live a simpler life. Whether they were Kang Jin-Ho's parents or the children in Seongsim Orphanage, wealth would have made their lives that much easier.
Kang Jin-Ho's eyes quietly gleamed. If he needed it, he would simply acquire it. That was Kang Jin-Ho's… No, Heavenly Crimson Demon Emperor's way.
Kang Jin-Ho switched on his computer and settled down in front of it. He felt that he had gotten better at operating this device. While watching the boot-up screen, he leaned against the chair, silently mulling.
'How should I make money?'
There was no denying that he needed money. The more the better, too. The problem, though, was the lack of methods to make money.
The first option he thought about was none other than buying lottery tickets. He had naively thought that since he was from the future, he might be able to predict the winning combination somehow. After considering several possibilities, however, he realized that this might not work out as intended.
Humans even had trouble recalling the winning combination from last week, so with what supernatural ability was he supposed to remember the numbers from several decades ago? This endeavor was utterly impossible, in other words.
Besides, was there even a guarantee that the numbers he managed to recall would really show up? Just a minor difference somewhere could potentially change everything.
“No, that won't work…”
It was practically impossible, and even if it was possible, the result was far too uncertain for his liking. In that case, he might as well not even try it, then.
His train of thought moved on to the next inevitable target, the stock market. Compared to the lottery, predicting the stock market seemed a lot easier. After all, Kang Jin-Ho could remember bits of fluctuating fortunes of certain corporations in the ten-and-half-year period after the accident.
As a paraplegic, Kang Jin-Ho had spent all of his life glued to his computer, either playing games or frequenting various forums online. He gained information on the stock market in those forums, while the financial news helped him with understanding the supposed values of some corporations.
However, the path of investing in stocks threw up another hurdle—will the stock market behave as he remembered? For instance... Let us say there was a company called 'A' developing a new type of medicine.
This company would take its time meticulously researching this medicine while maintaining utmost secrecy. But then, someone suddenly bought a ton of their stocks one day. Obviously, the company's stock price would shoot up abruptly, and all the 'ants' eyeing the market would notice this change.
Hoping to get some crumbs from this, they would inevitably follow suit, even if the initial investment would be in small amounts. When that happened, how would the company respond? They might falsely conclude that someone had learned about their new drug currently in development. As a result, the odds of Company A doing something different from the past would go up.
They might release the drug prematurely despite its incompleteness, or do something crazy to stop a perceived hostile takeover. And in reality, companies overreacting was something that occurred more often than not.
Investing a small amount of money would get Kang Jin-Ho nowhere, but jumping in with too much at the start could result in a butterfly effect and change the future.
The future changing was none of Kang Jin-Ho's business, but it might result in his stocks becoming toilet paper in the blink of an eye. And, even if he chose to take on such risks, one more hurdle still remained—Kang Jin-Ho didn't even have capital.
It didn’t matter whether one wanted to play in the stock market or start a business, one fundamentally needed capital to do anything. Kang Jin-Ho was just a high schooler, and unsurprisingly, he didn’t have even a cent to his name.
"That means... it's also out of the question."
Getting wealthy off the stock market was a pipe dream, he concluded. Besides, making money trading stocks had one last disadvantage—it would take too long. What Kang Jin-Ho needed wasn't a promise of a huge payout in the distant future but some immediate money to help his family enjoy a more relaxing life.
He sighed deeply after setting his goals. The first thing on the agenda was to create that capital. No matter what he might end up doing in the future, he should do something now to earn himself the minimum required funds. But he was still a student, so what could he do to earn that money?
He could do physical labor, but then... If the work hours clashed with his school, then he would have to give up on it. Besides, was there any type of physical labor that his parents wouldn't object to? The answer was a resounding no.
They might even object to him getting a simple part-time job under the pretext of it hindering his studies. Which meant that he shouldn't even dream about finding physical labor-related work. Even worse, Kang Jin-Ho trying to go out there to look for a job when he was barely a high school senior might drive his father to drink himself into a stupor in guilt. His mother might even faint on the spot, too.
Kang Jin-Ho groaned deeply.
'Is there no other way than... that?'
A job that wouldn't take a long time for him to do but would still earn him a lot of money at once… A job that would utilize Kang Jin-Ho's skillset to its fullest!
Kang Jin-Ho thought about the one profession that satisfied those requirements.
'...A troubleshooter, huh.'Previous Chapter Next Chapter