Chapter 220: The End for a Man without Dreams
I took Yerin home and I parked in front of my parents’ house, back from the unforgettable time I had spent with Yerin at the cliffs. But the memory lingered so vividly in my mind that there was still a smile on my lips.
‘Huh? What’s this I feel?’
After parking the car, I sensed hostility nearby. It failed to reach the level of killing intent, but the tense mana I had experienced time and time again in Kallian was bristling around the house.
‘Well whaddya know? Who are those fellas?’
There were a handful of hostile presences coming from a car parked at an alley in front of the house and in the vicinity.
I got out of the car and walked to the house like I hadn’t noticed anything.
That was the cue for people to quickly surround me as they had been waiting to do. Their nimble movements indicated that they were all trained individuals. When I was about to press the doorbell, someone spoke.
“Hey hey, friend.” The voice was rough. I turned around, putting on an innocent and fearful expression. “I’s afraid you’ll hafta follow us for a bit.”
The man sporting a crew cut and a thick accent, as well as the men behind him, were obviously rough mobsters straight out of a gangster movie.
The heavily accented man grinned at my blank stare.
“If ya follow us quietly, nuttin’ll happen. But if ya resist, even a ‘lil bit, we’ll beat ya up, no mercy.”
I almost laughed at the coarse-mouthed threat.
“Wh-Who are you people…?” I asked, putting fear in my voice. The gangsters ate up my cowed look with relish. But their satisfied faces instantly turned into scowls at what I said next. “...is that what you thought I’d ask, you fucking gangsters who pollute the good waters of society?”
“Looks like this ‘lil brat’s balls’ve grown straight outta the sack. How dare ya insult yer elders. Tch! Ya need a beatin’ to wake the fuck up.”
The crew cut gangster fully showed his terrible temperament by flapping his mouth.
Sound-isolating and AOE invisibility magic instantly took effect.
The gangsters jolted in shock at the suddenly silent surroundings and the Kallian Continent words that emerged from my mouth.
“Ya stole the words right outta my mouth. Ya bastards who stir up shit without knowing when to ask for mercy need a few whacks.” I smiled darkly, imitating the crew cut gangster’s way of speech.
“There’s no helpin’ it. Yer asking fer a beating.” growled the crew cut gangster, his face black. He stopped in front of me with a stormy expression. “Ya better endure, even if it hurts. This is all in the name of l—”
Before he could finish, my right foot went flying out, hitting the gangster right in the family jewels.
“AHHH! AHHHH! AHHHHHH!”
He fell to the ground, writhing to the point that I was briefly worried that I ruptured the poor things.
“You little bastard!”
The gangsters that approached me with furious eyes froze in place.
“Ngh, wh-what is this?”
They couldn’t break free no matter how hard they tried.
“You fellows messed with the wrong person. I shall do you the honor of engraving your creed of ‘the fist is law’ deep in your bones.”
I cracked my fists, approaching them. I could easily send them to the underworld with magic, but I couldn’t kill them because each of these pathetic bastards had parents who had painstakingly fed and clothed them. There was only one education method I could use in those parents’ stead.
Schwip! Bam! Ba-ba-bam!
Protecting my fist with a thin layer of mana, I proceeded to let loose jabs and straights that would send Muhammad Ali packing in tears.
And so began a group hazing at the break of dawn. For the ten gangsters who picked the wrong person to mess with, it was a true taste of life that went deep into their bones.
* * *
“Marisol, everything’s ready, yes?”
“Yes, Master Hyuk. I knew this would happen and instigated the directors linked to foreign stockholders related to the Magician Group and called a Ohsung Heavy Industries special stockholders' meeting. It will take place in exactly two days, on the 25th of January.”
“CEO Hwang was probably shocked, huh.”
“Hoho, most likely. His blood pressure probably went up a bit when a stockholders' meeting to dismiss the president was called without his say-so.”
Despite just being in her twenties, Marisol, an especially trusted confidant of Master, was highly knowledgeable and did her work very cleanly.
“I’ll see you then.”
I hung up the phone call with Marisol. I didn’t know much, but she figured out exactly what I wanted and made it happen. Everything was going smoothly thanks to her.
“Once this is over, I’ll buy her a resort in Bali.”
It wasn’t my money anyway, and I was a big believer in people getting the rewards they deserved, so I decided to be very generous.
“It’s about time for that baby wolf to show up….”
During yesterday’s neighborhood ambush at dawn, the group of gangsters that had wanted to drag me to the baby wolf were completely straightened out by me. They were now lined up on their knees in front of me.
“Oh, here he comes.”
I was waiting with these sorry bastards at the villa of my long-awaited friend on Ganghwado Island. This was the deserted place the brat had instructed these gangsters to kidnap me to, and now, his car was pulling in.
“Oi, I’m repeating myself here, but stop living the way you’re living now. Otherwise, I’ll make you guys crawl for the rest of your lives.”
Covered from head to toe in black and blue and missing a few teeth each, the gangster crew gave a vigorous chorus of ‘hyungnim’.
I heard a car screech to a stop outside.
“What are those louts doing, not coming out to greet when the Crown Prince himself has come?”
“Ah, leave it. They can rest a little after doing their job, it’s fine.”
I heard the unforgettable voice of the rude punk named Hwang Sung-taek, as well as the boss of these sorry gangsters.
“I apologize. Please come inside.”
Unpleasant sounds continued to come from outside.
Step, step, kerchunk.
The villa’s iron gate opened. Sprawled comfortably on the couch, I waited for the impudent little wolf who had wanted me dragged in.
“Wh-What’s going on?! Why are you guys on your knees?!” shouted the gangster boss in alarm.
The smile on Hwang Sung-taek’s face froze.
“You’re here.” I greeted the baby wolf, still seated on the leather couch.
“Take a seat then, Hwang Sung-taek. This humble little hovel doesn’t quite deserve to be called a villa, but there should at least be a place to sit.”
“You bastards, get up! What the hell are you doing?!”
The gangster boss, a man in his mid-30s wearing a black suit, shouted angrily at his kneeling subordinates.
“H-Hyungnim, hurry and sit down. One misstep and you’ll get beat to pieces by Big Hyungnim.”
The crew cut gangster with a mouth of knocked out teeth still did him the honor of calling him hyungnim.
“Have you gone mad? Who are you calling Big Hyungnim?”
“Oi, you’re making my ears ring. Shut up!” I scolded the shouting gangster boss with a blast of mana.
The mana shock wave sent the boss rolling across the floor with a strangled scream.
“Haha, take a seat. You son of a bitch who’s no friend of mine,” I said to the half-dazed Hwang Sung-taek, gesturing kindly to a chair.
“Y-You think you can get away with this?! When my grandpa finds out, you’re dead meat…” he gritted with a trembling voice, bringing up his biggest backer, his grandfather.
“Tsk tsk. A full-grown adult is still using his grandpa’s name to run rampant. Did you really get your high school diploma with such an immature brain?”
“You little—!” Hwang Sung-taek yelled, rising quickly to my provocation.
“Dude, if you’re rich, have your grandpa give you some cosmetic surgery and make you a little taller. What’s with your sorry figure? What’s a young guy like you doing with a beer belly? Sigh, if you’d been sent to Kallian, you would have become an orc spit roast for sure.”
At my clicking tongue, his face turned bright red.
“DIE, YOU SON OF A BITCH!”
His rather protruding belly jiggled as he flung a pathetic punch. I picked up the ashtray in front of me and struck him square on the forehead.
“OW!” A heavy impact was followed by Hwang Sung-taek’s scream.
“That ashtray sure is sturdy,” I exclaimed, admiring the sturdiness of the ashtray without a speck of concern for his injury.
“Sob… You… I’ll kill you!”
He still didn’t have his head on straight.
“Yeah? I’m thinking of turning you into half a vegetable before then though, what to do?”
He still thought I was an ordinary Korean kid. What could a wicked little wolf going wild on account of his thick purse possibly do to me, someone who had rough Kallian Continent mercenaries ducking and pissing themselves at a mere glimpse of me?
“Well then, let’s begin, shall we? Heal!”
I healed his profusely bleeding forehead injury. And as soon as the wound disappeared, the ashtray drew another ruthless arc through the air.
The clank of the tray was followed by Hwang Sung-taek’s echoing scream. I was determined to hit him again and again, heal him whenever he was injured, and hit him once more for good measure. He was wearing the mask of a wicked human that had abandoned its humanity. Reducing this little shit to a slobbering mess for the rest of his life was a contribution to world peace.
* * *
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* * *
“We will now officially begin the special stockholders' meeting. Attorney Jang Byung-chul, the representative of the petitioner of this stockholders’ meeting, Genesis Companies, will announce the agenda.”
So began the suddenly convened special stockholders' meeting of Ohsung Heavy Industries, one of the Ohsung Group’s core corporations. 6% Ohsung Heavy Industries stockholder Genesis Companies and several other major shareholders proposed dismissing the president and other directors, citing administrative incompetence.
“My name is Jang Byung-chul.”
Bowing his head, Attorney Jang took the stage. He began to speak while looking at his prepared documents.
“As I am sure the esteemed stockholders here know, Ohsung Heavy Industries is Korea’s leader in the ship and energy plant industry. I think of this proposal to the dismissal of the current president, Hwang Byung-chal, as a pity. President Hwang is also a good acquaintance of mine, as well as a fellow alumnus. However, private and work matters must be kept separate. I fully agree with Genesis Companies’ assessment that this is the only way for Ohsung Heavy Industries to survive in the rapidly changing world market and maximize the stockholders’ profits. As such, I propose the dismissal of President Hwang Byung-chal and the current board of directors by reason of incompetence.”
Attorney Jang finished his short dismissal proposal.
“What nonsense is that! We’ve brought up our business profits to $3 billion just last year, and you call that incompetence? This is the most unreasonable dismissal proposal I’ve ever heard in my life!”
Sitting at the seat of honor, the CEO of Ohsung Heavy Industries, Hwang Man-hyuk, flew into a rage at the proposed dismissal of his biological younger brother, President Hwang Byung-chal. It was already astonishing enough that the special stockholders' meeting was suddenly convened overnight by agreement of the major stockholders, Ohsung Heavy Industries’ outside director, and the directors appointed by the major stockholders. The completely unexpected stockholders' meeting had kept CEO Hwang Man-hyuk up the last few nights out of rage.
“Sir, if you have something to say, please submit an official remark,” said the person overseeing the meeting, giving CEO Hwang the right to speak.
“I’ll say my piece then.” CEO Hwang Man-hyuk rose from his seat of honor and went up to the stage. Despite being over 70 years old, his sprightly appearance made him look as energetic as a young man. “I think of this suddenly convened special stockholders' meeting as a great, great pity. As the major stockholders and representatives here know, the Ohsung Group has come this far acting solely for the profit of the shareholders. But you want to change out the competent administration by reason of incompetence? This is not a decision based on common sense. I ask that you all keep that in mind and exert your precious rights wisely.”
Ohsung Heavy Industries was one of the cores of the Ohsung Group’s debt-equity swapping structure. If Ohsung Heavy Industries, a major stakeholder of Ohsung Hotel, were to fall under the leadership of someone outside of the family, the management rights of Ohsung Electronics, the heart of the group, would be endangered as well. That was why CEO Hwang Man-hyuk put everything else on hold for this stockholders' meeting. He glared at the stockholders.
“I am Director Kang Chan-soo from Herman Consulting, a 3% stockholder in Ohsung Heavy Industries. I request the right to speak from the representative of today’s meeting.”
One of the people listening to the CEO’s speech spoke up, requesting the stage.
“Approved. If you have something to say, please go ahead.”
CEO Hwang stepped down and Director Kang Chan-soo went up. A fund manager being appointed as the director of a worldwide consulting company was one of the shocking rumors that made waves throughout the finance circles.
“CEO Hwang, your words are not incorrect. I do not deny that a company is a profit-based organization that exists for the rights of the stockholders. But I am up here now because my insides were boiling up while listening,” Director Kang said, staring at CEO Hwang as he sat in his seat of honor. “This is what I think a true corporation should be like: they should not empty the pockets of the poor for the sake of small, immediate profits, they should treat subcontractors and their own companies the same and do their best to seek a path of coexistence that maximizes each others’ profits and increases the competitiveness of their products, and they are wise enough to invest not for the sake of money, but for the dreams of the next generation. That is what I think of as a true corporation.”
Director Kang’s passionate speech echoed out in the hushed meeting room.
“But is Ohsung Heavy Industries truly a corporation that considers such coexistence? Do you think that the Ohsung Group is a corporation that advances into the future armed with such a dream?” asked Director Kang. “No. That is likely a fact that any conscious person in Korea knows. But even though they are aware, the citizens are keeping their mouths shut. Everyone is enduring in silence because they must continue to make a living, because Ohsung, though hateful, is necessary for Korea. But how long will that last? Do you think the world will allow a corporation without a dream to continue to thrive? You say Ohsung is world-class and first-rate, but the truth? The truth is that it’s just a massive shell filling its belly on the merits of other companies while failing to come up with its own unique patents or original technologies, is it not?! Ohsung must change. It is time to take the corporation to the next level with a dream and an eye for the future. And I believe today is a very important day, the first step towards achieving such a dream. Respected stockholders, will you leave Ohsung as it is for the sake of temporary profits? Please don’t. What we must make is a goose that will lay golden eggs tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and the day after that, and so on, not just today. Therefore, I propose that we join forces now to transform Ohsung Heavy Industries from a family-run administration to a professionally-run administration, becoming an eminent corporation on the world stage that will lay golden eggs for our shareholders for a long time to come. If you can sympathize with my thoughts even a little, I ask that you, the shareholders, exercise your rights wisely.”
Director Kang bowed on the stage after finishing his speech.
Clap clap clap clap.
“Here, here! It’s time to hire a professional manager for Ohsung Heavy Industries!”
“We cannot entrust our assets to the Ohsung Group!”
“Let us all join forces!”
The minority shareholders cheered in agreement with Director Kang’s proposal.
“W-We will begin the vote right away. Those of you who wish to exercise your rights, please vote by order of your shares. The vote to dismiss President Hwang Byung-chal and elect Chairman Lee Jung-gwang as the new president will begin simultaneously.”
Inside the Ohsung Hotel conference room where the shareholders meeting was taking place, each stakeholder began to submit their votes in order.
* * *
‘You’re amazing, Father!’
As I sat in the very back with Marisol and watched the stockholders’ meeting, I applauded my father in my heart. I once thought of him as a toothless lion, but his resounding speech made me think he could still be the king of the jungle.
“I will now announce the results.”
Tallying the votes took about thirty minutes, since they also had to count the votes of all the minority shareholders who participated. At last, the results of the vote to dismiss the current president and appoint a new president were announced. It was a tense moment, so everyone was looking intently at the meeting overseer.
“V-Votes against the dismissal of President Hwang Byung-chul… were 41.3%, and for the dismissal… were 57%. The rest abstained.”
“Long live Ohsung Heavy Industries! Long live the Republic of Korea!”
A cheer broke out at the announcement—there were apparently a lot of subcontractors who owned Ohsung Heavy Industry stock.
“I hereby announce that Lee Jung-gwang has been elected as the new president of Ohsung Heavy Industries.”
In stark contrast to the cheers, CEO Hwang’s face went stiff with shock. The way he seemed to age 10 years in an instant reminded me of the old duke who was once defeated by my sword.
“Ridiculous! This vote is invalid, invalid!” screamed CEO Hwang, as if waking from a nightmare.
But everything had proceeded legitimately. From today onwards, Ohsung Heavy Industries was no longer part of the Ohsung Group.
The chief secretaries accompanying the hopping mad CEO Hwang hastily guided the elderly man to the exit, their faces paper white. They were probably afraid that any words spoken out of anger would extend the damage to other corporations that were part of the now-broken debt-equity swapping scheme.
“I’m stepping out for a moment,” I said to Marisol, who was wearing sepia-tinted sunglasses.
I walked in the direction CEO Hwang had gone.
* * *
“Secretary Lee, prepare a lawsuit at once.”
“Keep your mouth shut and file a stockholders’ vote invalidation lawsuit right this instant. Throw as much money as you need at the higher ups and judges.”
“It’s not possible, sir. The foreign major stockholders will not stand for it.”
“Do you still not know me?! Are you telling me to just sit on my thumbs and die then?!”
Even as he left, CEO Hwang shouted angrily. This was how he had always been. He achieved the current Ohsung Group by using money and corrupt political and judicial authority.
“Haha, you are the same as ever. As stubborn as a mule, dead set on forcing a square into a round hole.”
“Who are you?!”
With none of his usual cool, CEO Hwang whipped around to the source of the sound and glared at me.
“I hope you’ve been well. Three years ago, I saw you here. I am Daehan High’s Kang Hyuk.”
CEO Hwang couldn’t remember the young man who suddenly showed up here calling himself Kang Hyuk. But he could tell. He knew that what had happened in that room had something to do with the young man in front of him.
“I say this as a last show of respect for an elder. Let go of everything and rest. That is the best thing for the country and your health.”
“You impudent little rascal, how dare you!”
The old man raged at me from a distance that was merely a stone’s throw if I used magic. I gave him a quiet warning in acknowledgement of his undeniable contribution to the country’s development, but he didn’t listen.
“A person without a dream… is someone whose life is already over. From today onwards, you will need to practice letting go. Because… everything you have is borrowed from others anyway.”
I had wanted to say these words 3 years ago, too. But back then, I didn’t have the power or qualifications to say them. It was different now. As an emperor guiding the fates of hundreds of thousands, millions of Kallian Continent people, I had the right to say this much.
“Ngh… Your father must be that fucking Kang Chang-soo who bewitched the people just now.”
CEO Hwang, who still didn’t get what I was saying and was huffing and puffing in rage, had an uncanny sense and realized who my father was from my name alone.
“You really have no manners, to outright curse my father in front of me. Tsk, tsk… This is why your grandson is so uncouth.”
There was a limit to my patience even for the elderly. A baby’s due date could be predicted, but no one could say when they would die. I directed a dark sneer at the CEO who was utterly incapable of showing the slightest respect to the living.
“Look here, young man. Don’t you think you’re being excessive to the CEO?!”
The chief secretary and guards around CEO Hwang moved as if to take action.
“As people who have worked by his side, you should know better than anyone what kind of person the CEO is. You really need to reassess. No matter how hard it is to eke out a living, you should work for someone who can call himself a human.”
No one said you couldn’t give advice because you were young. They might have started studying first, but enlightenment had no set order.
“I’m a busy man, so I will say goodbye here. I doubt I will need to call you the CEO when we next meet. Farewell…”
As a son from a right and proper family, I bent into a bow before turning around.
CEO Hwang’s enraged scream echoed from behind me.
I didn’t turn around. To me, a person who couldn’t even dream of dying a peaceful death was no different from a dead man.
* * *
“Have a good trip~”
“Oh! How impressive, son. Already going on a work trip?”
“Father, Mother, I might be gone for a few years this time!”
“Is that so? Hoho, I’ll look forward to your present next time then.”
“If you’re a man, you should fish in big waters from an early age. There’s even an old saying like this: When a girl is born, send her to the cosmetic surgeon, and when a boy is born, send him traveling around the world.”
I was amazed that my parents could utter such ridiculous drivel with zero thought or malice.
‘Sob, I knew it. I’m definitely a kid they picked up from the streets.’
I had seen a picture of when my mom was pregnant with me and had a picture of the 1-year-old me in all my naked glory, but I still couldn’t believe it. How could they be so happy-go-lucky when they didn’t hear back from their one and only son for several years? And how could they beam at me like they were ridding themselves of baggage when I was leaving once again?
“I understand. Please be mindful of your health and live happily while I’m away.”
I, their son, could hardly taint their smiling farewells with my sadness. I bowed crisply.
“Hyuk…” my father suddenly called out, his voice quiet.
‘Right, my dashing father will say something, right?’
My very special mother aside, my father was still a pretty normal person. I looked at him with glowing eyes, expecting him to express some sadness about our parting.
My father gazed at me with eyes of regret. “While you were here…”
‘You don’t have to say anything. Father, I also lo—’
“...you cost us a lot feeding you. Leave that car you’ve parked outside.”
“That’s right. You also used a lot of water. I still feel we’re on the losing end, but well, I’ll make do with a car.”
I was about to say I loved them in my heart, but their words shattered my dream into tiny shards.
“Sob! Mom, Dad, you’re so cruel!”
Their heartlessness made tears flow down my cheeks like rain. I turned.
“Come find us even if we’ve moved somewhere else when you come back next time.”
“And don’t forget to bring the presents!”
They continued to hurl merciless daggers into my back.
‘Hmph, presents? In your dreams!’
Emperor Kyre of the Nerman Empire, was chased out of his house while reduced to tears by his parents’ unfeeling hearts.
‘Even so, be well…’
After leaving the house, I bowed again in their direction. Whether they were cruel or heartless, they were still my parents. I prayed in my heart that they would always be healthy.
* * *
“Sigh… Is it really okay for us to be this way? He’s still so young…”
Standing at the window, the father watched his son leave, and the mother bade her son goodbye via the reflection in the father’s eyes.
“Mr. Aidal will take good care of him, I’m sure. As he is doing now…”
“Yes, as he should. Hyuk is the one and only 45th generation heir of the Kang family.”
The two parents prayed for their son, who was going on a trip far away.
All children in the world had no idea that their parents loved them ten times, a hundred times more than they believed.
* * *
‘She’s not sending me a message to say goodbye…’
Before I knew it, I was back at Master’s underground magic tower in Iceland. Using 9th Circle magic, I rapidly recharged the mana crystal with the mana necessary for dimensional teleportation, glancing at my phone the entire time. I was waiting for a certain text, but there was no word from Yerin. Ever since that night when we flew together over the ocean, she hadn’t contacted me.
“Alright then, let’s go back, shall we?”
I was now a 9th Circle archmage who could teleport between dimensions at will. Even I had to admire the great title of “21st Century Archmage”. Who else could have an experience like this?
I changed from the clothes I was wearing on Earth into the robe I had been wearing when I left the Nerman Imperial Castle.
‘Even a 9th Circle mage can’t bring a single electronic with them. Such a shame, too. It’d be amazing if I could safely transport my pocket dimension.’
That being said, I had no intent to bring over all of the 21st century’s culture to the Kallian Continent. Many things were still inconvenient and lacking, but the people of the Kallian Continent were happy with what they had. It was my wish as their emperor to use my utmost power to make it so they could retain those happy lives.
“Guess it’s time to go…”
Once I was back on Kallian, adjusting to the emperor mantle would keep me too busy from coming to Earth for a while. I looked around Master’s magic tower one last time, feeling a little sad.
Just then, a text notification came from the clothing I had left on the table. I hurried over and picked up the phone.
The text was made up of hearts and other various emoticons to express love.
A second notification went off, accompanied by a message.
I’ll wait for you… Next time, be sure to take me with you. I’ve thought about it long and hard, and this world’s no fun without you, Hyuk. And be sure to give me a ride on Bebeto.
–Your ever-loving dummy
I had to say farewell to the girl who had waited for me, but the memories were etched in my brain, unforgettable. But with this one text, she expressed her feelings, her feelings of understanding me and wanting to be with me.
A deep-bellied laugh burst out of me in happiness.
There really was no denying it. I, Kang Hyuk, was truly an incorrigible playboy for the ages that even the heavens had given up on.
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