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Chapter 3: < Protect – Episode 2 – Kim Dae Chan  >
Seoul seemed like it changed a lot, but it hasn’t. As a man who had seen many chaotic cities around the world, Ahn Soo Ho felt that Seoul didn’t have any unique characteristics. Seoul wasn’t a very attractive tourist attraction. One could say the Han River made up for many of the city’s downfalls. It was not common to see such a big river penetrating a capital city. Not even the Seine River, the Rhine River, or the River Thames seemed as big in comparison.
After he left the charnel house, he arrived at an alley in Itaewon. As he pointed out earlier, Seoul was a chaotic city with lots of people everywhere, unless one was in some remote alley. The fact that he missed that scene and felt bitter about it proved that he had gotten a lot older.
As soon as he opened the door, a bell rang.
The woman who was ready to serve a customer saw Ahn Soo Ho and opened her eyes widely.
“Soo Ho? Soo Ho!”
Someone popped out of the kitchen in response to the loud noise.
Despite the fact that their meeting looked as violent as a dropkick, the two men smiled and embraced each other. The other man also had a healthy frame just like Ahn Soo Ho. The woman wiped her tears before she started clapping.
“Hye Jung, let’s close for the day.”
“Okay, fine. Sit down.”
Jung Hye Jung flipped the OPEN sign to CLOSE.
“Oh yeah! I worked on a new recipe for you!”
Do Kyung Ho put on his ap.r.o.n, sat Ahn Joo Ho in front of the table, and started preparing the food. Meanwhile, Jung Hye Jung set up a few bottles of soju and beer. Seeing how they had great teamwork, they were obviously a couple. Ahn Soo Ho just sat there and watched them with a smile.
Delicious sounds could be heard from the boiling pot and the sizzling fry pan. From the smell of it, one would think they were at a five-star restaurant, but it had only been less than three years since Do Kyung Ho got his Korean cooking certificate. Did three years sound like a long time? It wasn’t. If one wanted to be treated like a professional cook, one must have at least 10 years under their belt.
Not everyone was a genius.
“Is your business doing well?”
As soon as Jung Hye Jung sat down with some side dishes, Ahn Soo Ho asked her the most basic question.
“It’s alright. Oh yeah! Were you the one who talked to Donald?”
“I knew it.”
The reason why they opened the shop near Itaewon was because it would be easier for Ahn Soo Ho to help them out. Even though location didn’t matter too much, since foreigners were more trustworthy than Koreans, it was less likely that they had suddenly violated the agreement. Do Kyung Ho and Jung Hye Jung got married seven years ago. The groom was 30 years old, and the bride was 27 years old, which were the ideal ages to get married in Korea.
The problem was that their parents were very against it.
“Are you still avoiding your family?”
Jung Hye Jung had an awkward look on her face.
Luckily, Kyung Ho’s parents gave in and forgave them as soon as grandchildren came into the picture. Sure, both of them made an effort, but it was largely due to Ahn Soo Ho’s long efforts to convince them. As soon as Ahn Soo Ho started to take care of the queen grandmother’s death anniversary, he became the most influential man of the entire town.
Ahn Soo Ho glanced side to side, and then put a white envelope in Jung Hye Jung’s hands. Before she could raise her voice, he shook his head telling her not to. Jung Hye Jung knew Do Kyung Ho would tell her to give it back, so she had no choice but to be careful. Ahn Soo Ho used a small voice to whisper,
“That’s not for you. That’s for my niece and nephew. Okay?”
Thank you, Soo Ho.”
“Don’t cry, or Kyung Ho will get suspicious.”
“What do you mean? Will it look like we’re having an affair?”
“Hey! I have higher standards than that.”
Jung Hye Jung wiped her tears away and snorted.
“I was pretty popular in Gangnam back in the day, you know.”
“What’s the use in talking about the past? You’re just a mother now.”
The reason why Kyung Ho’s parents were against her was because she used to work in the red-light district. Most of them hid their pasts, just as any woman with an unfavorable past would. However, Jung Hye Jung didn’t hide any of it. That was how much she loved Do Kyung Ho.
To be honest, Jung Hye Jung was still pretty.
She was probably not lying when she said she was popular back in the day. According to Donald, whenever she went out by herself, a lot of guys asked for her number. If Do Kyung Ho knew that, he would be startled. They say a man’s behavior depends on how the woman treats him. Seeing how she made that ill-tempered pig into a sheep, they must be a match made in heaven.
“So you are you not visiting them this year?”
“I don’t care if I get cursed at… but I can’t stand to watch Kyung Ho get trash dumped on him.”
The reason why Jung Hye Jung’s parents were against Do Kyung Ho was because he used to be in a violent gang. It was true, though. Kyung Ho didn’t try to hide any of it.
“You live a difficult life.”
What was true love anyway?
Ahn Soo Ho thought these two were living difficult lives. If they had hidden their pasts from each other’s parents, they could have been just fine. Was it really that bad to lie out of good will? He felt like it was wise to keep quiet about things other people didn’t want to know. Still, being able to sincerely love someone was a very beautiful thing.
“Ta-da! This is the recipe I made for you!”
Do Kyung Ho enthusiastically presented the food.
“This is spicy seafood noodle soup.”
“Where’s the excitement? This isn’t just any old spicy seafood noodle soup. I poured my heart into it!”
“I bet you just wanted to eat it with some drinks.”
Do Kyung Ho laughed half-heartedly as he glanced over at Jung Hye Jung.
“Sit down, you immature child. I’ll let it go just this once.”
“You’re so lenient today!”
Even though they looked nothing alike, they did have one thing in common.
“You both drink too much.”
They had amazing tolerances, but the mother of two decided to stay out of it and left the room.
“There’s no woman like her. Be good to her, Kyung Ho.”
“I know, you punk. I know she’s too good for me.”
“How are the kids?”
“The older one goes to kindergarten, and Hye Jung looks after the younger one.”
“What about Mr. Do?”
“Don’t worry. I’m getting along with my father just fine.”
Even though they made up because of the grandchildren, that didn’t mean they could stop fighting overnight.
“Are you not going home either?”
“I don’t know. There’s no buffer zone there.”
In contrast to the Do family that reconciled for the sake of the grandchildren, there was no room for any flexibility in the Ahn family. After he dropped out of the Naval Academy, he had never had a normal conversation with his father.
“Be good to them. Mr. Ahn probably doesn’t have much time left.”
“I don’t know. He’ll probably live until he’s in diapers. He’s not the type to pa.s.s away easily.”
Do Kyung Soo sighed in response to what Ahn Soo Ho said. The Do family may not be very normal, but the Ahn family was much worse.
“Why did Mrs. Ahn have to have an affair?”
Soo Ho’s mother got a divorce when he entered middle school and married another man. Since she remarried only six months after the divorce, there was no question about it. Her neighborhood treated her as if she was a s.l.u.t. Even though they didn’t live in the same neighborhood, it still left his childhood friend with a big trauma.
“How are your parents?”
Do Kyung Ho giggled at his quiet question.
“You sound pretty curious.”
“I’m just asking. So how are they?”
“My mother’s been complaining that her and my father just go around drinking all the time.”
“It sounds like they’re doing well.”
“Yeah. They might actually live until they’re in diapers just like you said.”
As soon as it grew quiet, they clinked gla.s.ses.
“Kya! That’s what I’m talking about!”
A gla.s.s of soju and a spoonful of spicy seafood noodle soup was the most perfect combination.
“Any hards.h.i.+ps these days?”
“No, not really…”
Do Kyung Ho had something to say, but he failed to spit it out and hesitated instead. Ahn Soo Ho, however, knew what his friend was trying to say.
“That’s enough talking. Cheers!”
Whenever they clinked gla.s.ses, they were able to forget about all of their worries. After quite a few drinks, Do Kyung Ho found the courage to finish what he was saying.
Was he drunk already? It looked like even a crazy pig like Do Kyung Ho became weak after becoming a father and the head of a household. He was no longer the drunkard that drank for three to four days straight.
“Thanks, Soo Ho. I owe you one.”
“Thanks, Soo Ho.”
Jung Hye Jung looked after the drunk Do Kyung Ho as she saw off Ahn Soo Ho, who was surprisingly sober.
“Hey! I told you not to thank me.”
“It’s not right to forget a person’s kindness.”
“Don’t follow me out, okay?”
He pushed her back into the shop to stop her from following him out.
As soon as he turned to the corner of the alley, he was stopped by a high-end sedan and a familiar face. She was one of Kim Dae Chan’s secretaries. Her name?
“Ms. Oh Joo Kyung?”
“The vice-chairman sent me here.”
He didn’t ask how she found him. He knew she wouldn’t answer, and sitting in the throne of Korea’s business world mustn’t have come for free. As soon as the car took off, he saw escort cars in front of him and behind him.
“Empire Konzern asked for our cooperation.”
Oh Joo Kyung acted like she was his secretary as if she was ordered to do so from above.
“They wanted us to send you over.”
“And how did the vice-chairman react?”
“He turned them down without any hesitation.”
“If you’re telling me this after he had already turned them down, the brains beneath him must think differently. What conditions did Empire Konzern offer?”
She hesitated before opening her mouth.
“They offered to increase Daesan Group’s import of rare earth elements by five percent.”
“Wow! They came on strong.”
“The resource team leader of the business strategy division requested for your background check.”
“A team leader is trying to change the decision that the vice-chairman has already made?”
“His actual rank is executive director.”
“Then the director of the business strategy division…”
“Yes. It’s Vice-Chairman Kim Dae Gil.
Daesan Group had three vice-chairmen. The power structure may seem weird, but they used the system of checks and balances to function in a smooth matter.
Kim Dae Gil—the founder, Kim Dae San’s younger brother.
Daesan Group wasn’t like a crazy drama where family members fight over the inheritance. From what he remembered, Kim Dae Gil was just as cheerful as Kim Dae San and Kim Dae Chan. Even though he was known as a player, he has exhibited great performance with his sociability ever since he entered the field.
“He can’t be eyeing the throne after all this time… What’s going on?”
Daesan Group’s transfer of power has already taken place, and Kim Dae Chan was expected to become the chairman within the next few years. While Ahn Soo Ho thought about it, the car arrived in a residential area of Seoul. The grand residence was in the middle of the most well-known neighborhood of the rich. An elder with a cane could be seen as soon as they pa.s.sed through the gates.
Even though his mouth was scolding, his face was smiling.
“You must have gotten a lot of insults in your life to live so long.”
“You little punk! I’m not even eighty yet. What are you talking about?”
“I guess dying isn’t easy these days with how much medicine has advanced.”
Kim Dae San laughed like crazy in response to Ahn Soo Ho’s jokes regarding death. He hasn’t laughed like that in a long time.
“You crazy punk.”
Kim Dae San had known Ahn Soo Ho for longer than Ahn Soo Ho thought.
“I wonder what she saw in you.”
Ahn Soo Ho wasn’t the only one who had been saved by the queen grandmother. He had also been graced by Jung Mi Ja’s kindness a long time ago. The young and old strolled shoulder to shoulder through the garden.
“I’m guessing you just used my promise with Dae Chan as an excuse… Why did you call me here? Is there a problem?”
“Hm. I guess there is.”
“What is it?”
They stopped at a small gazebo. Kim Dae San sat on the guardrail.
“What do you think a businessman needs the most?”
Even though that was a random answer to a random question, he seemed pleased.
“That’s right. Luck is the most important thing when it comes to business.”
Even if one used big data to market their product, the trend would change day by day, and it had become difficult for one person’s authority and responsibility to decide on a company’s future when such a wide variety of companies were thriving.
“That’s what I need right now.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I mean I need your luck.”
‘Does he think I’m a lucky rabbit’s foot or something? Unless he’s become senile, he means what he says.’
“You’re too young to make a rotten face like that, you punk. You don’t have to do anything in particular.”
“One year. Just stay in this country for one year.”
Since he was on sabbatical, that wasn’t a problem, but he still felt suspicious. ‘Why does it feel like I’m being tricked?’
“Hey! I told you not to make that rotten face.”
“Let’s just be honest, old man.”
His name meant water tiger, but people think it meant to protect. That was because when he made up his mind to protect something, he would always see it through. Many white employers he has worked with referred to him as a guardian angel by calling him Mr. Guardian.
“What kind of trouble did you get into?”
“Come on now! You know what I’m talking about.”
Ahn Soo Ho imitated Kim Dae San’s way of speaking and swung his hips back and forth.
“I’m talking about a premarital pregnancy!”
A cane came flying in.
< Protect – Episode 2 – Kim Dae Chan  > The end.