Max Talent Player
[Translator – Lei ]
[Proofreader – Ash ]
Hyukjin was slightly surprised.
‘$30 million from the get go?’
The rich truly lived in a different world. She could probably go much higher than that, too.
“That’s quite a large sum, but you don’t look all that surprised.”
Honestly, he was surprised; he just hadn’t shown it. After months of putting on a poker face for the Guardians, he had grown accustomed to wearing a mask without even realizing it.
“I am surprised.”
“But your expression tells me completely otherwise.”
“But what to do? I don’t really want to sell it.”
At the same time, he felt Seohye breathe a sigh of relief.
She hadn’t said anything, but apparently, she had been sitting on the edge of her metaphorical seat. Hyukjin relayed his thoughts to her.
Don’t be silly. The Red Eyes and you are basically one and the same right now. How could I sell you?
He didn’t intend on selling. He was just setting up the stage for another act right now. Seohye’s bashful laugh rang in his mind.
If Seohye had possessed a real body, how would Seohye have reacted to this situation? Seohye the Guardian Tower had a slightly different personality from the original Seohye. The real Seohye was unable to trust adults and was repulsed by men. She tried to keep her distance from adults while hiding her expressions and feelings as much as possible.
‘Because she’s connected to me… she’ll have felt some degree of my sincerity.’
That was probably why she could be so relaxed now.
Michelle narrowed her eyes.
“You’re bolder than you look.”
“I suppose so.”
The bid went up by a million in an instant. With just two minutes of conversation, he had “earned” another million. That was $500k per minute. Hyukjin shook his head.
Another million in just five seconds.
“I’m not selling.”
Another five seconds, another million. That made $2 million in just 10 seconds, or $200,000 per second. Michelle breathed a light sigh.
“I can’t tell whether you’re bold, you have no greed, or you’re just foolish.”
“It’s probably not the latter.”
The Herdsman of Las Vegas and the Merchant of Venice were focusing with flames in their eyes. What was important was who had the initiative over the conversation, and what plot twist he could spring to upend the Guardians’ expectations and make the scene more enjoyable to watch.
“You’re offering a tremendous amount of money, of course.”
In Hyukjin’s previous life, that was a sum he couldn’t even imagine, much less ever see. Forget $30,000,000, he didn’t even have $3,000. The number belonged to the realm of fantasy.
“But money isn’t that valuable to me.”
It was actually extremely valuable, but he concealed his true feelings.
“It seems you want something other than money.”
Though he wouldn’t sell anyway. He kept that to himself and said, “What I want isn’t money, but shares of the new company you’re making.”
Michelle was honestly a little shocked. There weren’t many people who knew about her new company. She was currently working hard to establish her global ‘mercenary company’, an enterprise that was drawing investments from major corporations around the world. Only the leaders of global corporations knew about it.
‘Could it be… that CEO Song Kiyoung of Sungshin…?’ Michelle inwardly shook her head. ‘No.’
CEO Song wasn’t the kind of person to go around blathering such confidential information.
She stared at Hyukjin.
‘Those aren’t the eyes of a 20-year-old.’
From what she found out, he was twenty years old. An archer. A not famous Player.
‘Every piece of info I have on him is wrong. No, he is twenty years old.’
As long as he was a registered citizen, he couldn’t fake his age. But the man she was looking at right now was far from a 20-year-old youngster.
‘He’s also not an archer.’
That he wasn’t famous did seem to be true, but seeing as Taeguk Shield’s guildmaster lowered himself to request Kim Hyukjin’s participation, she was sure there was something more to that unassuming front.
Michelle looked him directly in the eyes, smiling faintly.
‘The reason why he said this…’
There was only one reason.
‘...is to show his information superiority.’
She saw this trade as his way of trying to unbalance her.
After some silence, Michelle spoke again.
“Very well. I admit my loss in this round. I won’t ask how you knew about the company I’m establishing. I’ll find that out on my own.”
“Sure.” Kim Hyukjin added for good measure, “Whether you put a tail on me, or investigate everything I’ve ever done, do as you please. I won’t take issue with it.”
His attitude was perfectly blasé. It was only natural—no matter how much she sifted and searched, she would find no ‘clues’. The reason why Hyukjin knew something like this wasn’t because he had defeated her in a battle of intel, but solely because he was a regressor.
Michelle’s lips quirked up.
“You’re full of confidence, I see.”
She had the impression she had met a powerful foe. Never in her wildest dreams had she imagined a 20-year-old Asian man would make her feel this way. She thought the only outstanding individual in Korea was CEO Song.
“Okay. How much stock do you want?”
Michelle laughed out of shock. “20%? Do you know what that would mean?”
“It would make me one of the major shareholders. Probably second after you.”
The company hadn’t even been established yet. It hadn’t gone on the stock market. But their conversation already assumed the company would successfully get listed.
“You’re making the proposal while knowing that?”
“You can simply refuse if you don’t like the terms.”
“Why aren’t you refusing?”
Michelle didn’t lose her cool, at least on the outside.
“I am weighing the reasons to accept and the reasons to not accept.”
“You don’t need to think so hard.”
“What do you mean?”
“I won’t sell the Red Eyes.”
“...What?” Michelle’s brows furrowed. “What did you mean by the conversation thus far, then? Can I take this as you looking down on me and playing a joke on me?”
Michelle’s face darkened. Up until now, her expression had held admiration towards Kim Hyukjin, but now, it held traces of rage.
Hyukjin shook his head. “I didn’t play a joke on you.”
“Anyone could see that this situation is very much a joke.”
“I said I wouldn’t sell the Red Eyes, not that I wouldn’t trade with you.”
Hyukjin took out an item from his Inventory. It was the Iron Lion’s Harmonica, which Michelle had bought in his past life for $27 million. That meant Michelle had deemed it worthy of such a sum.
“I would like to trade this.”
He had used the Red Eyes as bait to preemptively bring the terms he wanted to the table. This was his endgame. If he had begun the trade with the Iron Lion’s Harmonica, he wouldn’t have been able to suggest the shares in her company. Because if he had to guess, Michelle would consider the Iron Lion’s Harmonica as having a value of $27 million.
‘But there’s no way I’ll sell the Red Eyes.’
From the very moment he decided that, he had the upper hand. The initiative had been his from the start.
“I acknowledge that its value is likely lower than the Red Eyes. That is why I also intend on conceding victory in this War to you.”
Also, the Merchant of Venice and Herdsman of Las Vegas were watching. Whether she liked it or not, this negotiation had to end with a good trade or bet. Michelle probably felt that pressure more keenly than him.
Hyukjin tossed some bait with the Herdsman of Las Vegas in his crosshairs.
“You will win this War’s bet. Because the bet itself was the War.”
A fight between sovereigns. This War was something Michelle absolutely had to win. And this ‘trade’ was just one part of this War.
“I will also lower the shares from 20% to 10%.”
The 10% shares were his objective to begin with. Michelle’s Black Soldiers would reign as the strongest mercenary company in the world.
“There’s no reason you would lower the percentage out of consideration for me. What else do you want?”
“In exchange for lowering the shares to 10%, I would like cash.”
She was convinced. Michelle’s pockets were ripe for the picking. Her sights were set firmly on the Iron Lion’s Harmonica.
“$10 million.” Hyukjin smiled. “This is a trade we can both be satisfied with, don’t you think?”
He was sure of it.
‘She has no choice but to accept.’
The moment she refused, she would have to come up with another solution or alternative. But if she went with an alternative, she would obtain neither the Red Eyes nor the Iron Lion’s Harmonica and leave with nothing. And yet, she had to complete some kind of trade. On top of that, she could take home the win. She couldn’t get the Red Eyes, but as long as she gave up on that, she could secure quite a few benefits.
Michelle felt like she had been one-upped.
‘He’s not joking.’
He had played while planning several moves ahead of her and even keeping the Guardians in mind.
‘It’s my defeat.’
There were no two ways around it. This was her defeat.
“Very well. I accept the trade. I think it will be satisfactory to us both.”
To be honest, she wasn’t completely satisfied. But she had to pretend she was. Only then could she avoid looking like the loser in the Guardians’ eyes. She felt a little bitter, but she had to think about the big picture.
“So that just leaves destroying your turret and killing you.”
They both unsummoned their Guardian Towers.
“Well, that’s one way, but…” Hyukjin rapidly waved the white flag. “I can also acknowledge my defeat and surrender.”
[The opponent has declared defeat/surrender.]
[Player Kim Hyukjin has lost.]
Michelle blurted out, “W-Wait a moment.”
She had wanted to kill him once, jeez! But Kim Hyukjin was faster. He completely acknowledged defeat.
Michelle heard more notices.
[You have won the War.]
She won, but it really didn’t feel like it.
[Leaving the War Field.]
* * *
Translator - Lei
Proofreader - Ash
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* * *
The field changed again, and the two of them found themselves where they originally were, the 1st floor of the auction hall. A ring of people was waiting. Everyone there heard the same notice.
[The victorious sovereign is ‘Michelle’.]
Hyukjin looked over his surroundings with Eye of Perception. Locking down the area was a ring of people wearing black suits. He could guess who they were.
He also saw Guildmaster Song and the spoiled brat Song Jinchul.
‘If something unsavory were to happen…’
The air was laced with tension, as if these people in suits were ready to shoot. But Hyukjin didn’t cower. He didn’t know if they were really the future Michelle Division, but Michelle was a very respected sovereign who garnered quite the loyalty from her subordinates. Most of these people either admired or adored her.
Knowing that, he broke the terse silence with light applause.
“As expected, America’s sovereign is world class. It’s my total defeat.”
[The ‘Whispering Devil’ is extremely delighted.]
The Whispering Devil was tickled pink for the first time in a while.
[The ‘Whispering Devil’ gifts you a ‘Trickery’.]
On the other side, Michelle was bewildered. Caught off guard by Kim Hyukjin’s unexpected words, she could only manage an awkward smile. The situation itself was a little baffling, but her subordinates began to applaud as well. Hyukjin held out his hand.
“It was a good experience. Thank you for teaching me so much.”
Michelle took his hand in a daze. The atmosphere in the room made her feel like she had no choice but to accept his handshake.
“Yes. It was also a good experience for me.” The train had already left the station, so Michelle turned the situation to her advantage. “You aren’t that famous in Korea, but… I never thought you would have such skill. I was truly surprised. I learned a great deal as well. To be honest, I was amazed.”
From what Michelle could see, Kim Hyukjin was staying in the shadows for some reason. She had no doubt that he was laying low in preparation for something big.
‘And the reporters are here. Perfect.’
She wanted to plaster his face over the front pages. If he was dragged to the forefront, he would become a little easier to figure out, so she openly complimented him.
Something was a little off. She was definitely looking at Kim Hyukjin, but she had the weird feeling she couldn’t see him properly.
What Michelle was experiencing was Hyukjin’s Cognitive Dissonance.
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