This is Private Kang Jin-Ho speaking.”
Sergeant Jo Won-Gu greeted back in an enthusiastic voice.
- Oh, Jin-Ho! How is your leave going so far
“It's been fine, sir.”
- You haven't caused any incidents now, have you And you weren't driving, right
I have not been driving.”
- Well, it's okay to drive a car, but make sure not to crash into someone.
"Sir, I won't drive during my leave," said Kang Jin-Ho in a firm voice.
- That's fine.
Anyway, how is Miss Se-Ah doing
- Next time, you and I should go on a leave together and treat Miss Se-Ah to a meal.
“...I'll speak to you again later, sir.”
- H-hey, wait! Jin-Ho! Wait!
Kang Jin-Ho ended the call while shaking his head.
Sergeant Jo Won-Gu was not a bad person, but his mischievous streak could get the better of him sometimes.
The bell went off, prompting Kang Jin-Ho to head to the front gate and open it.
Jo Gyu-Min smiled brightly at him from beyond the doorway.
“Good morning, Mister Jin-Ho.”
“You're here early.”
“That's a part of my job, after all.
Do you want me to come inside”
“No, let's talk outside.” Kang Jin-Ho put on some shoes and stepped outside his house.
Jo Gyu-Min looked around the street.
“Unfortunately, I don't know any suitable place to chat nearby.
How about you”
“My father's cafe is not too far from here, so let's go there.
It should be open by now, as he went to work not too long ago.”
Let's go there, then.”
Kang Jin-Ho and Jo Gyu-Min walked to Kang Yu-Hwan's cafe.
They didn't have to travel far to reach their destination.
Kang Yu-Hwan welcomed the duo stepping inside his pride and joy.
“Jin-Ho What are you doing here And Mister Jo, too Good to see you.
It sure has been a while.”
Jo Gyu-Min smiled and politely greeted him back.
How are you”
“I'm fine, thank you.
And, other than my son heading off to the army, nothing interesting has happened to us so far.”
Kang Jin-Ho scanned the interior of the cafe while saying, “Father, I'd like to discuss something with Mister Gyu-Min.
Is there somewhere quiet for us to do that”
“...Son, I'm sure you can see that it's pretty quiet in here already.”
Kang Jin-Ho certainly could see that no customers were in the cafe.
He couldn't help but recall the seed money that had been sunk into establishing this place.
“...Is everything alright, Father”
“W-we usually have an influx of customers during lunch, so it's fine.
This is because we just opened, that's all.”
“Hmm. Still, isn't it too quiet in here...”
“I'm telling you the truth, Jin-Ho!” Kang Yu-Hwan desperately tried to pretend everything was fine, but his voice still quaked unsteadily.
It was at this moment that Kang Jin-Ho realized that the funds invested in this cafe were as good as gone.
“What are you doing, not grinding the coffee beans!” A shrill cry suddenly blared out of the kitchen, prompting the trio of men to turn their heads.
Baek Hyeon-Jeong glaring sharply at her husband was marching out of the kitchen.
She noticed her son, and her expression changed instantly.
“Oh, my! I didn't know you were here, Jin-Ho!”
Jo Gyu-Min gazed alternatingly between the three Kang family members, wondering how one person could change her voice that much with just a snap of her fingers.
Kang Yu-Hwan pointed to the back.
“There's a room meant for meetings in the back, so why don't you use that”
“I'll do that, then.”
“And since it's morning, how about some coffee, son”
“Mmhm. Please give me a cup of Americano.”
Kang Yu-Hwan nodded, then looked at Jo Gyu-Min.
"What about you, Mister Jo"
“I'd like the same thing, sir.”
Allow me to demonstrate what a truly astonishing flavor is today!”
Kang Jin-Ho and Jo Gyu-Min replied to Kang Yu-Hwan's bluff with polite laughter and entered the meeting room.
They settled down on the opposite side of a table while facing each other.
Jo Gyu-Min started first.
“First of all, we have made the preparations as you requested.
A VIP room in our Gangnam Jaegyeong Hospital has been secured.”
“Except that…” Jo Gyu-Min licked his lips, his words drifting off.
Kang Jin-Ho stared back at him in silence, somewhat puzzled.
“Sister Yi is a Catholic nun, so we can't transfer her without her explicit consent.
The situation is, the hospital she is currently staying at is affiliated with the Catholic Church, and her parish has appointed it to look after her care.”
“Apparently, Sister Yi has encountered a bit of friction with her parish over the orphanage's matter.”
That didn't come as a surprise to Kang Jin-Ho.
The Catholic Church's higher-ups would no doubt approve of a nun volunteering to look after orphans, but said nun staying around the clock outside of her designated convent No parish would permit that.
Especially when the orphanage itself wasn’t even affiliated with the Catholic Church.
“That's why the patient's consent is even more important than ever, Mister Jin-Ho.
However, I don't think it's my job to convince her.”
“You made the right call.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded in agreement.
After all, he believed he should be the one to take up that task.
Jo Gyu-Min continued, “We can do something about the hospital’s side, but the matter of the orphanage is beyond our reach, unfortunately.”
“I think you've misunderstood something, Mister Gyu-Min.”
Kang Jin-Ho spoke with conviction in his voice, “I never asked you or Jaegyeong to assist the orphanage.
It's the same story for the hospital.
I merely asked about a suitable hospital for a cancer patient, not about Jaegyeong taking over the care and treatment.”
“I'll foot the bill myself.
And I apologize for making you do things like this when it's about my personal acquaintance unrelated to you or Jaegyeong.
However, I know practically nothing about things like this.
That's why I had no choice but to rely on you, so I can only ask for your understanding.”
“Please don't say that, Mister Jin-Ho.
Chairman Hwang ordered me to do just one thing: support you to my fullest capabilities.
If I can't even do something like this, I might as well jump into a lake, Mister Jin-Ho.”
Kang Jin-Ho thought that a company's boss ordering one of his underlings to do something like that was wrong, but he chose not to say that out loud.
Of course, it wasn’t because he didn't know why Hwang Jeong-Hu was so hung up on him.
Besides, Kang Jin-Ho still needed Jaegyeong Group's backing.
Not just in the financial sense either—he knew no one else as capable of providing him with information as Jaegyeong.
“In that case, can I ask you for one more favor, Mister Gyu-Min”
“You can, of course,” Jo Gyu-Min replied, his head tilting slightly.
“Until next time, Mister Kang.” Jo Gyu-Min politely bade goodbye to Kang Yu-Hwan.
“Drive safely now, Mister Jo,” Kang Yu-Hwan replied in a cheerful voice.
After Jo Gyu-Min left the cafe, he shifted his attention to his son.
“Did something happen, Jin-Ho”
“It's nothing to worry about, Father.”
“Son, you're supposed to be on leave, yet you're just as busy as ever.”
“Yes, it certainly feels that way.”
“Anyway, take a seat.
You probably didn't get a chance to enjoy my coffee properly, so let me brew you another one.”
Kang Jin-Ho chuckled softly at that.
Back when he was still working as a taxi driver, Kang Yu-Hwan had been a cheerful person.
After opening his cafe, though Anyone could see how much happier and brighter he had become.
“Thank you, Father.”
Kang Jin-Ho took up a seat by the window.
Not too long afterward, Kang Yu-Hwan walked up with a cup of steaming coffee in his hand.
“Here you go.
Take a whiff of its aroma first, son.”
Kang Jin-Ho brought the cup closer, and his nose immediately picked up the thick, inviting aroma of freshly-brewed coffee.
He had a feeling that most baristas wouldn't be able to produce such an intense aroma.
Kang Yu-Hwan grinned and spoke proudly, “So How is it It's not bad, right”
“You must've worked hard to get this far, Father.”
Rather than handing out evaluations first, Kang Jin-Ho started thinking about how hard his father must have worked to reach this level of proficiency.
After all, Kang Yu-Hwan had been a complete novice in coffee-making before opening the cafe.
“Shouldn't you say that after tasting the coffee first, son” Kang Yu-Hwan urged his son on in an ever-so-slightly impatient tone.
Kang Jin-Ho nodded, then took a sip.
The taste of coffee swirling in his mouth was just as intense as its aroma.
“...It's quite bitter.”
“Tsk!” Kang Yu-Hwan stared disapprovingly at his son, causing Kang Jin-Ho to sneakily avert his gaze.
That stare kind of made Kang Jin-Ho feel like he was a caveman who didn't know how to appreciate fine coffee.
The fact of the matter was that Kang Jin-Ho's palate was rather dull, and he knew it, too.
If two cups of coffee were placed in front of him, Kang Jin-Ho would never be able to tell which was brewed by a top barista, and which one came from some random franchised coffee shop.
So, offering the kind of high-level impression his father was looking for was a task too tall even for Kang Jin-Ho.
Kang Yu-Hwan asked again, sounding somewhat expectant, “So It's delicious, isn't it”
“Why did I even waste my time asking you!”
It really is good," Kang Jin-Ho hurriedly said in a fluster.
If he was being honest, the coffee just tasted bitter, but even his dull palate could still pick up on its intense aroma.
'Is this what people call savoring the taste'
On this alone, Kang Yu-Hwan's coffee seemed to be high-class.
Kang Yu-Hwan harrumphed proudly, “Do you have any idea how hard I had to work to brew coffee this good”
“I can only imagine, Father.”
“Let me tell ya; I had to learn everything from the ground-up, starting from knowing what different coffee beans are and how to blend them properly.
All the while your mother's constantly on my case, complaining about how much of a waste of money it is,” Kang Yu-Hwan complained quietly while sneakily glancing in the kitchen's direction.
Kang Jin-Ho thought his father looked just a bit pitiful at that moment.
Oblivious to his son's thoughts, Kang Yu-Hwan continued, “Right.
We had to spend a ton of money back then.
And I do feel bad about using the money you earned that way, son.”
“No, it's fine, Father.”
“Even so, Jin-Ho”
Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head slightly.
“To get a result, you must invest and work hard for it.”
Kang Yu-Hwan's expression grew somber.
“Nothing will happen to a person sitting still.
When we first opened this cafe, we simply got coffee delivered from another place.
But I quickly learned that doing that wouldn't get us far.
How can a man running a cafe not know anything about coffee It makes no sense, right”
“Yes, you're right...”
“So, I poured my whole being into studying everything about coffee.
I invested money and time to achieve my goal.
And it's the same story for life, too.
If you find something too difficult to overcome, invest your time and effort in it.
That's the only way to open up a path, son.”
Kang Jin-Ho slowly nodded.
For sure, his father was right.
'Have I been avoiding it...'
Kang Jin-Ho wasn't trying to avoid anything.
It was just that there were people around him who were more capable in certain fields, so he thought he would simply rely on them in those matters.
But now, he could see where he had been mistaken.
As long as Kang Jin-Ho didn't try his best to learn, he would acquire nothing more than some surface knowledge.
If there was something he wanted, he shouldn’t wait for someone to spoon-feed him—he should get up and move instead.
“...Thank you, Father.” Kang Jin-Ho got up and bowed deeply at his father.
“Eh” Kang Yu-Hwan tilted his head in confusion, not knowing why he was suddenly being thanked like this.
He was simply thinking about passing on the life lessons he had learned to his son, hoping that his words would one day prove to be of some help.
However, Kang Jin-Ho's response was way too immediate, and that flustered Kang Yu-Hwan.
“No, uh, I was just…”
“Father, you've helped me a great deal just now.”
“I have somewhere to go, so I'll be on my way now.”
“S-sure thing, son.” Kang Yu-Hwan nodded and watched his son dash outside the cafe.
He ruefully smacked his lips.
“Why does it feel like I had just stirred up a hornet's nest...”
He felt confused and uncertain at this unexplainable bitter taste.
Thankfully, a shrill voice exploded from the kitchen, and it fixed his confusion almost immediately.
“Aren't you going to sweep the floors, dear!”
“Y-yes, I'm coming!” Kang Yu-Hwan picked up his son's empty coffee cup and rushed back inside the kitchen.
Kang Jin-Ho was so focused that the sound of rushing winds didn't even register in his mind.
He furiously pedaled away on his trusty Golden Elephant, his destination: Seongsim Orphanage.
He expertly and nonchalantly carved up the roads between the orphanage and his home.
After securing his bicycle, he quickly stepped inside the orphanage building.
The young kids discovered Kang Jin-Ho's presence and cutely waddled over.
He picked them up, placed them on his arms, then strode forward.
More kids rushed in and clung to his legs, so he did his best to walk as gently as possible to avoid hurting them.
His steps slowed to an ungainly shuffle, but he still managed to enter deep enough to call out to Park Yu-Min.
“Where are you, Yu-Min”
“Eh” Park Yu-Min peeked his head out of the kitchen.
His blinking eyes staring at Kang Jin-Ho were full of tears as he was chopping onions just now.
“You didn't even call, though”
“Do I have to call you every time before coming here” Kang Jin-Ho tutted.
He hadn't always called ahead before showing up here, so why should he start doing that now Kang Jin-Ho put the kids down and triumphantly addressed Park Yu-Min, “Yu-Min, get ready to return to your team.”
“This situation will be resolved soon, so call your team ahead of time.
Ask when it'll be convenient for you to return.”
“What are you even talking about” Park Yu-Min asked in a flabbergasted voice.
“By tomorrow, the daycare nursing teachers Mister Jo Gyu-Min have found will arrive here.
For the time being, they'll work in three rotating shifts, but you can adjust their schedule to what suits you the best.”
“H-Hang on a second, Jin-Ho! You can't one-sidedly...”
“Sorry, I'm in a rush.
Anyway, that's what happened.
So, prepare yourself,” Kang Jin-Ho said before suddenly turning around and wobbling his way back to the exit.
He then carefully removed the kids still clinging to him before rushing outside the orphanage.
Park Yu-Min watched his friend's departing back in a daze and muttered his honest impression of this situation, “...Jin-Ho, you could've told me that on the phone, you know”
His friend was still unique, it seemed.
After successfully getting out of the building and freeing himself from the kids, Kang Jin-Ho climbed aboard the Golden Elephant and turned it toward his next destination.
'I knew it.
Being indecisive doesn't suit me.'
The one and only Heavenly Crimson Demon Emperor struggling over a trifling matter deserved to be laughed and mocked at.
Even more so when he knew how simple the solution to this situation was.
It was just that Kang Jin-Ho had been unwilling to take the necessary plunge until now.
His father was right.
If he wanted to solve a situation, he must not stay as a spectator offering useless advice.
No, he must roll his sleeves up and jump right in.
As he neared the hospital, a faint grin crept up on Kang Jin-Ho's lips.