Chapter 25. Looking Around (6)

The method Kang Jin-Ho had selected was a simple one—find old folks with not much time remaining but plenty of cash to burn, then heal them for a tidy sum.

Finding potential customers was an easy-enough job. All Kang Jin-Ho had to do was look around the VIP rooms of the leading hospitals in the country. The security around such rooms was usually strict, but circumventing them was a cakewalk for Kang Jin-Ho. He broke through the darkness of the night and searched through all the VIP rooms of Korea's top five hospitals until he found a patient he could treat.

Martial arts utilizing qi were capable of performing certain feats that modern medicine couldn't replicate. In terms of performing delicate operations where no medical devices could reach, a martial arts master could offer better treatment than any doctor out there. However, it was not all-conquering as it sounded.

There were plenty of illnesses that a martial master would be helpless against. A good example would be cancer. The way of qigong was to energize the practitioner's qi while breaking down and pulling out all the surrounding negative energy. Such a method would never work against cancerous cells. Energizing a person's qi flow could even lead to the tumor absorbing the energy and spreading faster than before.

Qigong was just as helpless with treatments requiring the expertise of internal medicine specialists, as well. The best one could do was strengthen the body's resistance, but it would be nothing more than a band-aid since the root cause of the illness hadn’t been addressed.

After considering these facts, Kang Jin-Ho could only choose a patient with blocked or damaged meridians. Hwang Jeong-Hu happened to be that patient who met the requirements.

Kang Jin-Ho silently slipped outside the hospital, then turned his head slightly to look up at the top floor of the building where Hwang Jeong-Hu was currently asleep. “Let us see if you have the qualifications to enter a contract with me.”

***

The morning sun rose to brighten the day.

The caregiver approached Hwang Jeong-Hu to offer her morning greeting. “Did you sleep well, Chairman?”

Hwang Jeong-Hu's lips parted, but just like yesterday, no words came out of his mouth.

"...Chairman, you look happier today," said the smiling caregiver. She then began transferring Hwang Jeong-Hu's frail figure from the bed to a wheelchair. A part of her job was to wash the patient before breakfast was prepared.

Hwang Jeong-Hu remained limp in the wheelchair as he was taken to the shower.

***

Later in the afternoon...

Hwang Jeong-Hu was still lying limply on his bed when the door opened to let a familiar face enter the room. It was Baek Yeong-Gi.

The man who could be described as his last remaining loyal subordinate was making a stiff expression as he approached the bed.

“Chairman. I hope you've been well.” Baek Yeong-Gi bowed ninety degrees despite knowing that his boss lying on the bed wouldn't be able to see the gesture. He then asked the nearby caregiver, “How has he been? Is there any improvement?”

The caregiver glanced at the unmoving Hwang Jeong-Hu on the bed, then walked over to where the patient's eyes couldn't see before replying to Baek Yeong-Gi, “Our chairman's condition has improved noticeably, sir.”

She shook her head while giving him the positive news. There had been no improvement at all, but that didn't mean a caregiver like her should carelessly mutter such things in front of a patient. That was why she walked over to this part of the room and shook her head.

"That's good to hear," Baek Yeong-Gi replied, choosing to go along with her. He slightly bowed at the caregiver to express his thanks, then pulled a chair closer to the bed and settled down next to Hwang Jeong-Hu. "Chairman, sir. Here's the latest report."

As usual, Hwang Jeong-Hu didn't reply. More correctly, he couldn't reply. And he wouldn't be able to do so in the future, too. Despite knowing that as well as anyone, Baek Yeong-Gi always maintained decorum and never broke protocol during his visits. Because Hwang Jeong-Hu was his one and only boss, after all.

"Sir, I must inform you that today might be my last report. I was let go from my position today, meaning I won't be allowed to enter your room anymore, sir. Please forgive me for failing to stay by your side." Baek Yeong-Gi closed his eyes as a single streak of grief traveled down his chest.

If history remembered Hwang Jeong-Hu as a legend, then Baek Yeong-Gi should be remembered as a man who had dedicated his entire life to his boss. He believed that all of his silent contributions must have helped Hwang Jeong-Hu's tale become a legend. 

And he was deeply proud of that, even though his boss had never entrusted him with important tasks. But today... Today, that chapter of his life would come to a close.

"Sir. The company's new chairman was decided earlier today, sir. The court has made its decision, and... Sir, your shares and assets will be distributed to your three sons. Your heirs failed to reach an agreement on the company's future direction and decided to split your Jaegyeong Group into three instead, sir."

Hwang Jeong-Hu listened with an expressionless face, but the tips of his fingers were trembling faintly. Baek Yeong-Gi didn't miss that.

How could the chairman remain composed at this news? He would be forced to sit by and watch the company he spent his entire life building getting ripped apart. This pain should be incomparably worse than what he felt as his body broke down.

"As for how the group will be divided... I believe that yet another round of court battles will commence, sir. Also, it seems that the court is having trouble with the issue of inheritance as it's such a sensitive topic. And to protect the company from foreign takeover bids, the board needs your shares, sir. That's why, they... They'll assume that you have given your permission, and your shares will be distributed among your sons, sir." Baek Yeong-Gi spoke in a business-like tone, but his voice gradually weakened and started wavering. "I tried to oppose this move until the end but failed, sir. The Jaegyeong Group you dedicated your entire life is about to... In three days, the company will be split into three and be called by different names."

Baek Yeong-Gi's head faltered at the end of the report. He didn't say anything for a long time, then reached out to hold Hwang Jeong-Hu's hand.

"Chairman..." Baek Yeong-Gi spoke. The trembling of his voice had become noticeable by now. "For what reason have we been running so hard all these years, sir? All we have to show for our efforts are the things that had been taken from us and scars disguised as worthless glory. Do you still remember what you told me, sir? You said the day we get to prove the world wrong would come as long as we survive the perilous days under the military regime. You were right, sir. But now... It's a dream that we can never fulfill."

“...”

"But, Chairman. I do not regret anything. When I look back at all those days of ripping our hair in worry and working our butts off deep into the night... I was really happy back then, sir." Tears slowly traveled down Baek Yeong-Gi's face as he spoke, "Chairman, please stand up, sir."

Hwang Jeong-Su still didn't say anything.

"What happens to the company no longer matters, sir. I'm sure nature will take its course now. Even then... Please rise up one more time and show the world your old, healthy self, sir. If I can see you do that, I'll have no more regrets left in this life."

Hwang Jeong-Hu's hollow eyes slowly shifted over to Baek Yeong-Gi. His lips barely parted again and again, but it was impossible to figure out what he wanted to say.

Baek Yeong-Gi muttered, "Chairman..."

The caregiver quietly watching from the side softly called out to him just then, “Director, sir...”

Agitating a patient on a sickbed was obviously frowned upon. Today's report alone should be more than enough to torment Hwang Jeong-Hu to no end. That was why any further agitation had to be stopped.

Baek Yeong-Gi knew that as well. He had resolved himself not to behave pathetically in front of his boss before stepping inside the room, but...

He closed his eyes as a shudder ran through his body. He got up and bowed deeply. "Chairman, I'll be on my way now, sir. If I don't leave now, they might end up kicking me out instead, sir. I certainly cannot show you such a disgraceful sight, now can I? Be well, sir. I swear to serve you in the afterlife as well."

Baek Yeong-Gi left while wiping away the corners of his eyes. However, Hwang Jeong-Su's dried eyes were simply staring at the ceiling. Not even a hint of tears could be seen on his face.

***

Later that night, as the dawn's darkness enveloped the hospital room...

Hwang Jeong-Hu was still staring at the darkened ceiling. His eyes were hollow, slack—but unwavering.

Shuffle...

Soon, the man clad in black from yesterday re-emerged from the darkness and entered the old man's vision. The man, Kang Jin-Ho, wordlessly stared at Hwang Jeong-Hu before approaching the bed. “Have you been waiting for me?”

Hwang Jeong-Hu silently stared at Kang Jin-Ho as the latter pressed his palm down on the old man's abdomen. Intense heat spread from the contact point to the rest of Hwang Jeong-Hu's body, but he didn't lose consciousness this time. The pain was just as bad as yesterday, but a little more clarity had returned to his eyes now.

“Why didn't you say anything?” Kang Jin-Ho asked.

Hwang Jeong-Hu's mouth slowly opened, and shockingly enough, a turbid voice leaked out of his dried, cracked lips. “I... thought... it was... a dream...”

“...”

“I... can... speak and can move... my body... I thought it was a dream. This is a dream… That I was merely dreaming...”

“Still think that way?”

“I... already knew... that this wasn't a dream. But I didn't forget. It'll only last half a day... A futile... dream lasting only half a day.”

Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head slightly. "Is that why you didn't move? To not get your hopes up?"

Hwang Jeong-Hu's head slowly shook to say that wasn't his reason. “I... can't afford to... miss this chance.”

Kang Jin-Ho spied determination on Hwang Jeong-Hu's face at that exact moment. The aging lion was still aiming for something despite his current condition.

“My life's... final chance. I can't miss it. I can't make a careless move and... throw my chance... away. If I say something... foolish and anger you some... how... This last chance might slip... out of my grasp.”

Kang Jin-Ho deeply grinned. He wasn't planning to come back here if Hwang Jeong-Hu began jumping around in shock after realizing that he could move again. Such behavior would have indicated that he was a careless old man and lacked the qualifications to enter a contract with Kang Jin-Ho.

The reason why Kang Jin-Ho had slipped inside the hospital room in the middle of the night was to avoid being seen and to keep his identity hidden. Hwang Jeong-Hu had accurately figured out the truth and decided to stay quiet throughout the day.

Kang Jin-Ho had thought of several contingency plans just in case, but Hwang Jeong-Hu had gone ahead and easily exceeded all his expectations with the best possible response. In that case, it was time to reward the old man.

Kang Jin-Ho asked quietly, “And so, tell me what you want.”

“What I... want from the agreement?”

“That's right.”

Hwang Jeong-Hu stared at Kang Jin-Ho, the light in the old man's eyes danced and billowed like a blazing inferno.

“Three days...” Hwang Jeong-Hu spoke with some difficulty. “Help me speak... and walk on my own strength... for the next three days... There is something... I must do. If I fail to do it, then I... I will never find peace, even after I die.”

Kang Jin-Ho nodded. “Then, what will you do for me in return?”

Hwang Jeong-Hu stared at the man clad in black as warm tears trickled down his face. "Did you... ask me what I'll do for you?"

“That I did.” Kang Jin-Ho also stared right back at the old man. He could already tell that this old lion was getting ready to roar at the world one last time.

The stares of the two men collided in mid-air, seemingly creating a heated storm.

Hwang Jeong-Hu gasped out. "If you... help me correct all the things that have gone wrong, then I... I'm prepared to offer you my actual beating heart if that's what you want! I will never regret... this choice even if I'm fated to burn in the flames of Hell for eternity!"

A deep grin formed on Kang Jin-Ho's lips. “With this, our contract has been established.”

This was the moment when the abandoned and forgotten old lion rose up to thunderously roar at the world one more time.

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