As soon as the front door opens, I’m met by my family’s frigid stares. There is a cold atmosphere that’s a stark contrast to the pleasant, comforting smell inside the living room.
“Breakfast has been prepared,” says the kitchen lady, Chief Kim’s mother, as she comes out of the dining hall.
It looks like everyone was waiting for breakfast. But is that because of me?
Everyone has read the atmosphere; nobody looks like they’re even thinking of moving… Ah. That’s because they’re wary of Go Dae-man’s presence.
“Long time so see,” says a man I recognize as Go Dae-han, the eldest of the Gogwang Group leader’s three sons.
He was forced to cut his business trip in China short and return to Korea. He’s able to be here because Amazin1, the biggest company in China, has postponed its decision as to whether to do business with him, but he can’t stay away from his office for long. He looks anxious because they told him that they’ll have a response for him today, but he’s not sure what they’ll decide.
Naturally, I already know how things will end up. This contract will solidify Go Dae-han’s position as heir to the conglomerate and his position as a leader in the business world.
If we were on good terms, I’d tell him there’s nothing to worry about
I respond with just a curt nod. I’m tired as hell, so I can’t be bothered with the proper greetings and everything else.
“Why are you looking like that? Are you spending your time getting into fights, now?” Go Dae-han says.
He is deliberately making his tone of voice sound like he’s worried, but I can hear the thorns in his words. They do say that the ones who treat you nicely on the outside are the ones who hate you most on the inside.
I look at myself in the mirror in the entrance hall. My clothes are a mess, covered in dust and blood, and there are scratches on my skin that I don’t even know how I got. I really am a wreck.
Go Dae-man’s eyes are cold.
I roll my eyes and slowly enter the house. “It’s a beautiful morning,” I say.
“Sit,” Go Dae-man commands.
Go Dae-man’s teacup makes an audible tap as he puts it down. It’s such a small movement, but it’s enough to make my whole body flinch.
The atmosphere is deadly. The warm morning sun spills in through the windows, but it can’t disperse the cold air in the room.
Go Dae-man’s charisma really is impressive. He is able to pressure someone intensely without even speaking a word.
“Try and explain yourself. Explain exactly what situation we are in,” he says, his anger tangible in every syllable.
The lawyer in charge of the family’s legal affairs is Lee Mi-sook’s older cousin. I don’t know how exactly he told Go Dae-man about the situation, but it doesn’t seem like he explained it in a good way.
I have nothing to say, so Go Dae-man opens his mouth to speak once more.
“You said that you would become a police officer, did you not?” he says, his frustration leaking into his voice a little.
“I did,” I reply.
“And you said that you would not live as you did before.”
“… I did.”
“I did not know that this meant that you would go about creating messes,” Go Dae-man continues, a sharp gleam appearing in his eyes. “You said that you would become a police officer, but you wasted day after day wandering about outside.”
I thought that he wouldn’t be concerned with what I was doing, but it seems that he knew everything.
Well, there’s no way he wouldn’t notice someone not coming back when he used to spend every day holed up in the house. It’s not like I’m attending a private tutoring school, either. To others, it would only appear as if I’ve been wasting my time.
“Are you planning to make frequent visits to the police department’s cells, now?” Go Dae-man sighs.
“I had no choice,” I say.
“You rendered the man impotent! What in the world were you thinking!” Go Dae-man bellows thunderously.
He closes his eyes, as if trying to regain control over his anger.
Mr. Lawyer. That may be true, but did you really tell him that while leaving out the important details of the context?
I can understand why Chief Kim didn’t want to come home. An angry Go Dae-man, two asshole brothers, and a misunderstanding-generating situation were waiting for us.
I take a deep breath. “He was the Su-an Spaniel. He had a knife, so I had no choice,” I explain calmly.
Go Dae-man’s gaze travels to my arm.
The cut wasn’t deep enough to need stitches, but it was still a proper cut. It’s wrapped in a bandage now. A long wound, from my elbow to my wrist.
At the time, with the situation being what it was, I didn’t really feel it. Just a little sting a few moments afterwards.
Go Dae-man bites his lip, disconcerted for a moment. He’s probably ashamed that he didn’t even notice his son’s injury.
Ha. It’s going to be alright!
“I wouldn’t be so sure,” says Ms. Lee Mi-sook. “How did you know that he was the Spaniel?”
I’m amazed by the fact that her appearance is so orderly this early in the morning. She’s wearing her rings, necklaces, and even her make-up.
She takes another sip of her tea and continues. “You act as if you know everything. I consider that to be dangerous.”
She’s not wrong. The DNA test results haven’t been reported yet, after all.
“If something goes wrong, you are going to have to take all responsibility,” Ms. Lee says.
“Don’t worry. That’s not going to happen,” I say confidently.
Ms. Lee frowns. “I heard that you caused a disturbance at the Gunbaek founding anniversary party as well?”
What the hell is she talking about?
I shoot Chief Kim a bewildered look, but his eyes tell me that he doesn’t know anything either.
Go Min-guk, who’s sitting in front of me, lowers his head a little. He’s deliberately stiffening his face to stop himself from smiling.
Aha. Look at this son of a bitch. It looks like he’s twisted the story a little, doesn’t it?
Go Dae-man straightens his neck, as if searching for words to say.
“I heard what happened,” he says, but he isn’t speaking in the harsh, scolding tone that he used earlier. “Even if there are misunderstandings, brothers should not fight with one another. And Min-guk is your hyeong.”
The president’s tone is softer than anyone expected.
“Adequate rewards and punishments are necessary to maintain discipline in the house,” Ms. Lee says hastily. “We have been too passive for too long.”
That’s because Go Ji-hun, whom his parents left on his own, was incapable of functioning as an ordinary person. He was self-destructing already; there was no need for them to step in and interfere.
But things are different now. As I have shown a will to do something, Go Dae-man has been forced to take an interest in me. If I were to suddenly say that I would take part in the family’s business, Ms. Lee and my two brothers would be very displeased.
Adequate rewards and punishments? Those are good words.
I smile at Miss Lee. “That is correct. Min-guk-hyeong and I had a disagreement. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that I punched him a little.”
You want to test my limits?
I’m done playing the good son of a conglomerate leader. For a criminal who grew up an orphan, being called ‘Young Master’ every day was enough to make me happy. I’ll just rely on my reward money to join the police if I have to.
Lee Mi-sook gives me a horrified look. “Oh my goodness. You vulgar…”
“Vulgar? I think the vulgar one is the second-born hyeong-nim,” I say.
“What did you say?”
“Go Min-guk called my mother a whore, you see.”
Go Min-guk’s eyes suddenly begin looking around in panic.
This is something that the Go Ji-hun he knew would never have had the courage to say. As someone who simply lived in this house as if he were dead, Go Min-guk’s words would have just eaten at him on the inside.
Sorry, but I’m not the stupid pushover that you knew. I’m someone who died and came back to life; I have nothing to lose.
“To be more precise, he called her a whore who ‘seduced our father with her body,'” I add.
You piece of shit. If you tell on me to your mom, I’ll tell on you to our dad.
With their mouths agape, Go Min-guk and Lee Mi-sook glance at the president.
Go Dae-han doesn’t know what’s going on, so he keeps his mouth shut.
“W-what are you talking about. That’s definitely not true,” Go Min-guk stammers.
“That’s right. Min-guk would never say such things,” Lee Mi-sook says, and then she looks at me. “How dare you tell such lies!”
I’m still as relaxed as ever. “I’m lying? Are you sure about that?”
“What?” Lee Mi-sook says blankly.
“I’ve got something I’m sure about.”
Hmm. This is a bit childish, but I have no choice.
I take out my phone and show everyone a photo of Go Min-guk passed out on the ground.
This is how decisions are made. When the truth of the situation can’t be established quickly, the side that has some form of evidence, no matter how crude, will win.
It’s just a photo so there’s no audio, but it’s enough to shake my opposition.
“Hyeong-nim had a lot to drink that night. I think it was a verbalization of his true thoughts rather than an error of judgment,” I say.
“Go Min-guk!” Lee Mi-sook shrieks.
“Enough, all of you!” shouts Go Dae-man, his voice echoing against the walls like two simultaneous roars of thunder.
The only woman he ever loved is likely his only weakness, his Achilles’ heel.
The president’s face slowly turns into a dark red color. His presence is overwhelming and menacing, as if he’s the Grim Reaper himself.
Everyone cowers, as if a bomb is about to go off.
Just at that moment, the inner front door opens and the president’s secretary comes in.
“M-Mr. President,” she says, a clear look of bewilderment on her face.
“… What is it?” asks Go Dae-man, his eyes fixed on Go Min-guk.
“There is a crowd of reporters outside.”
“There are so many that we cannot even leave by car. It seems that it is not just reporters; townspeople have gathered as well.”
Finally, Go Dae-man turns his head to look at his secretary.
There is something strange going on. He knows that even if the son of a conglomerate did get involved in an incident, this is too large a reaction.
I swallow and take a deep breath.
I have a feeling about this. The kind of feeling I would have if I were about to win the lottery and was listening to my numbers being read out one by one. I feel nervous and I’m trembling slightly.
Suddenly, the silence is broken without warning by the sound of a cell phone’s vibration ringing out from somewhere, but nobody moves. Everyone has a vague idea of where it’s coming from.
Go Dae-man slowly reaches into his jacket’s inner pocket and takes out his personal cell phone. His expression contorts as soon as he sees who is calling him.
There wouldn’t be many people who know the personal phone number of the Gogwang Group’s head. Normally, people would choose to contact him through his secretary.
Go Dae-man looks around at all of his family members, and then he answers the call.
“It has been a while, Chief2,” says Go Dae-man.
Chief? These people really do live in a different world. I could barely make an appointment to see the warden when I was in prison.
Go Dae-man concentrates on what is being said to him on the phone and stands up from his seat. He approaches the window and checks the situation outside.
“… Reporters have gathered in front of the house,” he mutters.
I wonder what he’s being told.
It’s not just me; everyone in the living room is focused on his conversation.
Go Dae-man stops talking for a moment and turns around. He looks at me and gives a small nod, indicating for me to come to him.
I tentatively stand up from my seat and walk towards him.
The street is filled with a horde of reporters and onlookers.
Holy shit. The bright camera flashes are a magnificent sight to see.
“Here. Speak,” says Go Dae-man as he hands me his cell phone.
Lee Mi-sook and my brothers are wearing confused frowns. They must be wondering what’s going on.
I’m just as confused as you, you bastards.
“Hello?” I say, my voice trembling against my will.
“Go Ji-hun? Nice to meet you. I am Gong Mun-gap of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency,” says the voice on the other end of the phone.
The chief goes on to explain the meeting that he had this morning. I’m unable to stop my smile from growing wider and wider as he continues talking.
“… That’s how it is. We are offering you a special appointment, but if that is inconvenient for you, I have been told that we can make you an honorary ambassador,” the chief says in a very smooth tone.
It’s clear as to why he’s bowing his head to a jobless person like me. It’s because I’m Go Dae-man’s son and because I’m the key for the police to take some public attention off of themselves.
“Not at all, Chief. I would be honored to accept your offer,” I say as I straighten my neck and look out the window once more.
I see. So that’s why there are reporters gathered outside.
All I can think about this morning is how lucky I am. I didn’t know that it was even possible for things to go this well.
In my previous life, the Spaniel’s arrest didn’t attract such a huge amount of attention. He was caught in a moment of carelessness while sexually harassing someone at a bar, so it didn’t make for a dramatic story.
But still, a special appointment!
I was going for the reward money so that I could become a police officer, but I don’t care about the money anymore.
“So…” says the chief.
“But I have one request,” I say.
“Please ensure that my face isn’t revealed to the public.”
There’s a silence as the chief finds himself unable to immediately respond to this unexpected request.
I’m fully aware of their true intentions. They’re trying to use my face to divert the public’s attention. A showy appearance is needed to change the directions that eyes and ears are facing.
I’m not a celebrity, but I’d become as famous as one the moment they use me as bait for the public’s attention.
“I’m sorry, but…” the chief begins.
“How would a police officer whose face is known be able to work in government affairs?” I ask.
“I know what you mean, but that would be a little problematic.”
“Because you need to send my face to the press?”
I can hear the chief laughing on the other side of the phone.
“It seems that there is an aspect to you that I haven’t been told about.”
“But I’ll offer you something else in return,” I say.
“A story that you can give to the press instead of my face.”
The chief stops trying to dodge the issue. He seems curious as to what I’m talking about.
“I was already making preparations to join the police. I’m thinking of applying for the Criminal Affairs Division,” I say.
“Hmm. I didn’t know that,” the chief murmurs.
“I will also donate the full sum of the reward money that I will be getting.”
“The full sum? Where to?”
“I’ll donate it towards the aid of sexual assault victims. Of course, it will be under the name of the Gogwang Group, not under my own name.”
Go Dae-man looks at me with a fascinated expression.
I smile and move away slightly. Not so far that I’m out of his sight, but far enough that he won’t be able to hear me very well.
“This is a secret, but the Gogwang Group has secured an exclusive contract with Amazin for supplying semiconductors,” I say quietly into the phone.
“What? Congratulations. Damn, I should have bought some stocks.”
“It’s not too late now,” I say with a laugh. “In any case, if we leak things in the correct order, we will be able to turn the tide smoothly.”
“I’ll agree for now. But you won’t be able to completely avoid your face being exposed. The people are very curious, you see,” says the chief.
“As long as the newspapers don’t print my ID photo over the front pages, it will be fine.”
They’ll slowly forget about everything as time passes, after all.
“Well then, it sounds like I need to get an award plaque ready. There’s likely to be a conferring ceremony. We’ll send the details to your secretarial section,” says the chief.
“Yes, sir. I’ll see you then,” I say.
With that, I end the call and hand the phone back to Go Dae-man.
“What is this talk about a donation?” he asks.
“They say that when an opportunity presents itself, you should take it. The press will have its attention on the Gogwang Group for the next short while. The most simple and effective thing to do in that situation is to make a donation,” I explain.
A public image established by a company becomes an irreplaceable unique characteristic.
Many companies strive to be recognized in a positive way – for being friendly to the people, for being an exemplary business, for being environmentally aware.
The Gogwang Group stands to acquire an even more distinctive image than these – the image of a company that stands for justice. A company that is warm-hearted and considerate towards the vulnerable members of society.
It’s only 100,000,000 won, but it’s a worthy investment.
As expected, Go Dae-man is well aware of that. “You may proceed in the company’s name,” he says.
“The source of the money is another important factor,” I say.
A tiny smile appears on Go Dae-man’s stiff, boulder-like face.
Lee Mi-sook and the two brothers look like they’re unable to keep up with these crazy developments.
Things are going well. I’ll stop pressing Go Min-guk here. I’ll break his spirit again later if need be.
Go Dae-man slowly gets out of his seat. “Let us have breakfast. The morning is almost over,” he says.
I follow him towards the dining hall. It looks like I’ve managed to earn a meal today.
Ugh, I feel like I could stretch my legs out and just sleep until the conferring ceremony.
The morning sun is bright and brilliant. Just like my future.
1‘Amazin’ is likely a spoof of the company Amazon.
2The Korean word for ‘Chief’ used here indicates someone in a very important position.