“Hello, it's Jo Gyu-Min speaking,” Jo Gyu-Min answered his phone and tensed up immediately after hearing Kang Jin-Ho's voice on the line.
“Yes, Mister Jin-Ho!”
That voice sounded cold and withdrawn.
It was completely different from what Kang Jin-Ho had sounded like earlier in the morning.
However, Jo Gyu-Min didn't find it weird or suspicious.
He knew this was Kang Jin-Ho's true voice, after all.
I'll be right there.” Jo Gyu-Min ended the call and shot up to his feet.
While dashing outside his office, he cried out to his subordinates.
“Investigate all the available information on the Seongsim Orphanage! Right now!”
A new emergency situation had descended on Jaegyeong's Office of Secretaries.
Jo Gyu-Min drove his car quickly to the hospital where Kang Jin-Ho said he would wait.
'Why is he suddenly talking about the orphanage, I wonder'
Jo Gyu-Min wasn't sure why he was doing this, but his job was to 'do as told.’ Since Kang Jin-Ho had asked him to investigate the matters of the orphanage as thoroughly as possible, Jo Gyu-Min had his underlings gather as much information as possible in the small window of time he had been given.
Jo Gyu-Min called Kang Jin-Ho on the phone as he got near the hospital.
“Hello, Mister Jin-Ho I'm almost at the hospital.
Where are you”
- I'm by the front entrance.
“Then, I'll head that way.
Please wait a little bit longer.” Jo Gyu-Min ended the call and drove the car to the entrance.
He could see Kang Jin-Ho standing in front of the building.
Kang Jin-Ho recognized the vehicle and waited until it came to a stop nearby, then hopped into the passenger's seat.
Jo Gyu-Min asked worriedly, “Why are you here in a hospital, Mister Jin-Ho”
“Haven't you investigated as I asked you”
“Could it be because of the orphanage's director, Sister Yi Hye-Suk”
Kang Jin-Ho, who had started feeling a little doubtful about Jo Gyu-Min's ability, quickly nodded in relief.
Jo Gyu-Min grabbed the steering wheel.
“For now, should I take you home”
“No, I brought my bicycle with me.
Can we talk someplace nearby”
Let me take you to a cafe.”
“Is there somewhere quieter than that”
Jo Gyu-Min's eyebrows rose up slightly.
A cafe wouldn't be noisy, so the implication behind that question could only mean that Kang Jin-Ho wanted to have a quiet chat between just the two of them.
“In that case, how about in my car”
“Understood.” Jo Gyu-Min drove the car to a remote corner of the parking lot.
He figured they could just talk after finding a spot with low foot traffic.
He eventually located a suitable spot and parked his car there.
He then reached to the backseat to take out a removable ashtray and placed it in the cupholder.
“How about a smoke”
“Please go ahead.
It seems I'll have to smoke one myself as well.”
Jo Gyu-Min's intuition which had been finely honed by serving Chairman Hwang for quite some time had proven its worth.
When Kang Jin-Ho didn't move, Jo Gyu-Min took out his own cigarette and offered it.
That was when Kang Jin-Ho silently accepted it.
Jo Gyu-Min lit up Kang Jin-Ho's cigarette, then mouthed one himself.
After both men took a couple of deep puffs, Jo Gyu-Min asked, “Why did you ask me to look into the orphanage, Mister Jin-Ho”
“I learned that Director Yi is sick.”
“...Yes, she is.”
“What will happen to the orphanage after she passes away”
"Hmm..." Jo Gyu-Min scratched his head.
Although Sister Yi Hye-Suk is in charge of the Seongsim Orphanage, it's not affiliated with the Catholic Church.
In other words, she has been working as its director in her own personal capacity.”
“When she passes on, the orphanage will lose its only manager.
Since the church won't dispatch a different nun to take over, the orphanage will either fall under the government administration or get absorbed into another orphanage.”
“Hmm...” Kang Jin-Ho slowly exhaled the cigarette smoke.
Wasn't that what Park Yu-Min was worried about in the past “What will happen to the orphans if their orphanage is absorbed into another one”
“They'll most likely be separated.”
“That cannot happen,” said Kang Jin-Ho in a firm, unyielding tone.
Seongsim's kids were not 'normal' orphans.
Everyone there had some kind of disability.
The Seongsim Orphanage existed to give a home to children with disabilities that other orphanages couldn't handle.
Kang Jin-Ho gravely asked, “Isn't there anyone willing to take over the orphanage as is”
“...It will be difficult, Mister Jin-Ho,” Jo Gyu-Min replied truthfully.
“Finding someone to manage the daily operation of an orphanage would be quite difficult, to begin with.
However, Seongsim also demands a high level of emotional labor on top of the usual hurdles.
All things considered, finding someone to run an orphanage full of disabled children is practically impossible.”
“I see…” Kang Jin-Ho muttered while taking another puff of the cigarette.
Jo Gyu-Min's reply was largely the same as what he had imagined.
And hearing it from Jo Gyu-Min helped Kang Jin-Ho gain an insight into how difficult it must have been for Sister Yi Hye-Suk all these years.
“This discussion won't be a quick one, then.”
It's not easy to deal with, after all.” Jo Gyu-Min nodded.
Kang Jin-Ho stubbed the cigarette on the ashtray.
“How is the orphanage's financial situation”
“It's not good, Mister Jin-Ho.”
“Back when Jaegyeong was still supporting the orphanage, things looked okay, more or less.
However, its financial situation has steadily gotten worse as the kids grew older.”
Kang Jin-Ho was slightly taken aback.
“Excuse me Did the financial support stop”
Jo Gyu-Min slightly pushed his glasses up his nose.
“Mister Jin-Ho, Jaegyeong is not a charity.”
“When you were still actively partaking in the orphanage's daily operations, and when your friend, Mister Park Yu-Min, was still a part of the orphanage, we at Jaegyeong weighed all the pros and cons and decided to provide sufficient financial support.
But now, Mister Yu-Min is no longer a child under the orphanage's care.
As such, continuing to provide monetary support would be unjustifiable.
Jaegyeong's current policy is fiscal austerity, and we are limiting expenditure as much as humanly possible.
In that situation, it's not realistic for us to continue supporting an orphanage.”
“Please remember that corporations larger than us do no more than installing internet lines and chucking a few PC notebooks at an institution in need, then use that to drum up publicity for themselves.
And, some of our shareholders had also voiced their discontent at how long we were planning to support the orphanage.”
Kang Jin-Ho slowly nodded.
In all fairness, Jaegyeong had zero ties to Seongsim Orphanage.
Sure, the public might applaud the corporation for giving back to society.
However, the very same people wouldn't crucify you for not donating, either.
“Even if we continue to provide financial support, there's the question of how long it should last.
We would have to continue providing support for at least fifteen years if we wanted to wait until the current group of orphans became adults.
However…” Jo Gyu-Min groaned at length.
“...That doesn't mean Seongsim will stop accepting new orphans.”
Kang Jin-Ho wordlessly nodded.
Jo Gyu-Min stubbed his cigarette out and continued, “The morally right thing would be to continue supporting the orphanage.
Unfortunately, a corporation doesn't function on a single person's whims.”
“I understand.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded again, no longer needing a further explanation.
“What I'm interested in now is...
It's to find a trustworthy hospital.”
Jo Gyu-Min tilted his head slightly.
“You want to change the hospital”
Can you find the best hospital for a cancer patient to stay in”
“In that case, how about transferring the director to Jaegyeong Hospital She will be able to receive incomparably greater benefits than other hospitals.
For one, she will be treated as a VIP.”
“...Isn't there a hospital specializing in cancer care”
Jo Gyu-Min sighed.
“Mister Jin-Ho, modern medical science cannot overcome Stage 4 stomach cancer.
If we're serious about treating her, then there's no other choice but to administer experimental drugs with unknown side effects.
However, even if we go through all that, the odds of achieving complete remission are still slim, while the patient might be subjected to even worse pain.”
“I see,” Kang Jin-Ho replied calmly.
That wasn't what he had been thinking about, anyway.
“I understand what you're trying to say.
For now, please focus on finding out more about transferring the patient to a new hospital.”
I'll confirm and call you as soon as possible.
If I remember correctly, our foundation's hospital should be fairly close by.”
“Is there anything else, Mister Jin-Ho”
I'm also looking for someone to manage the orphanage.”
“But, as I told you earlier...”
“That's not what I meant.
I'm not looking for a manager, but a caretaker to look after the kids.
Yu-Min's doing that by himself at the moment.
The people who worked there seemed to have all left after Sister Yi collapsed.”
“Mm, I see.
If we're talking about people who will work in shifts for monthly salaries, I think we can find someone.”
“I'll leave it to you, but please hurry.
As for their wages, I'll take care of that, so please focus on finding suitable people.”
“Understood.” Jo Gyu-Min handed over a USB drive containing the relevant information.
“Here, this has the info you asked me about.
I wasn't sure if it's really necessary, but I brought it with me just in case.”
“Thank you.” Kang Jin-Ho bowed his head before climbing out of the car.
Until next time.”
If you need anything, call me.” Jo Gyu-Min bade goodbye and drove away.
Kang Jin-Ho sighed deeply, then trudged back to where he had parked his Golden Elephant.
Kang Jin-Ho pedaled away on his bicycle; his thoughts were messier than before.
'Why do I feel so frustrated'
Today was the first day of his leave, and he should be feeling chuffed, but all he could feel right now was bitterness, frustration, and dissatisfaction.
As if to the knot in his chest, Kang Jin-Ho pedaled even harder, and he found his mood improving just a little as refreshing winds buffeted him.
“Uwaaaah! What was that!” The driver of a car traveling at around sixty kilometers per hour freaked out after spotting a bicycle shooting past him.
“S-Should I check the black box or something! What just happened here"
Despite leaving behind a wake of countless freaked-out people, Kang Jin-Ho paradoxically had no idea what was happening behind him due to his speed.
After scything through the city at a breakneck pace for a while, he began reducing his speed as he got closer to his home.
His pedaling slowed down to a crawling pace.
'This isn't something I can resolve by myself.'
Kang Jin-Ho's brows furrowed deeply when he reached that conclusion.
He would have already taken care of a problem requiring brute strength.
Unfortunately, there were far too many things in this world that physical strength couldn't do anything about.
Kang Jin-Ho finally reached his home.
He stored his Golden Elephant in the garage and stepped outside, but his legs felt heavy and lethargic.
He raised his head and watched the sun setting over the Western skies.
Unlike the setting sun that remained resolutely the same whether it was the modern era or Zhongyuan, Kang Jin-Ho currently didn't possess even one-tenth of his former strength.
And no, it wasn't as simple as his lack of martial prowess.
The status Kang Jin-Ho had enjoyed back in Zhongyuan was incomparable to the modern era.
He could have changed the world with just one word from him.
This sense of powerlessness was utterly devastating.
I can't do anything without others helping me.'
When he looked back, all the problems he had encountered after his return had only been resolved with Jaegyeong’s help.
Sure, he could have resorted to violence and vent his anger, but unleashing a tidal wave of unbearable societal pressure to utterly sink his opponents It was impossible for him.
In addition, Kang Jin-Ho instinctively sensed that matters fixable through violence would only get rarer with time.
The more systematic a society became, the harder it would be for an individual to resolve matters with their own power.
Kang Jin-Ho stayed outside and stared at the distance in a daze, as he was lost in his thoughts.
His goal had always been about living an ordinary life, but now...
He knew the truth.
The 'ordinary life' was simply a person enduring the thunderstorm and moving on with their life.
Submitting to unfair pressures, never resisting your fate, and obediently accepting your spilled blood as a trial given to you by the heavens—that was what living an ordinary life entailed.
However, could Kang Jin-Ho accept all those things Could he lower his head; no, grovel on the ground, for the sake of living an ordinary life when a powerful force like the government or a corporation suppressed his family
'I'm just thinking whatever I want, huh.'
He had always been insisting on living an ordinary life, but Kang Jin-Ho began thirsting for power when he had to bow his head a little.
Was it because of human nature, or had he always been someone with a tendency to pursue the path of supremacy For now, he couldn't tell, other than...
'This can't go on.'
The decision that would bring about a massive change to Kang Jin-Ho and the world at large was made on this very day.