The venue of the live broadcast of NTV’s survival quiz show, ‘The Answer.’
“60 seconds remaining!”
As the countdown began, the staff members who were frantically checking the stage quickly left. NTV’s star announcer Seoyeon Jung, who was practicing her enunciations and warming up her voice, picked up the mic as soon as the countdown ended.
All the lights lit up at once, illuminating the open hall.
“The Answer! The quiz show where you can win up to 500 million won (approximately 500,000 USD)! Can you feel the excitement in the air? Then let us meet the last contestant standing!”
As Seoyeon shouted out, a man’s silhouette lit up the giant screen. The cheers of the audience along with the thumping music boosted the excitement in the air.
“At the start of round one of The Answer, no one would’ve imagined that he would be the one to last until the end. The winner who has climbed his way to the top by defeating prominent opponents such as professors, doctors, and lawyers! Ladies and gentlemen, the professional gamer, contestant Minho Kang!”
White smoke sprayed out with a hiss. As the screen opened up, the tall man who had been on standby appeared on the set. His extremely well-dressed appearance was like that of a celebrity but nervousness clearly showed on his face. He headed towards the stage with a cautious gait as his eyes met with those of countless audience members.
Seoyeon asked Minho who now stood inside the miniature booth,
“Contestant Minho. Can you share with us how you feel with the last competition right in front of you?”
“It’s sad thinking that it’s the end.”
There was a slight tremble in Minho’s voice.
“You must be feeling very nervous about the competition.”
“That too, and also because I’m face to face with you, Announcer Jung.”
“Because of me?”
Seoyeon, who was wearing a dress that hugged the curves of her gorgeous body, displayed her exceptional beauty both on and off screen.
She was very pretty. Minho felt as though he was looking at a beautiful work of art up close.
“Because you’re such a beauty.”
The zoomed-in cameras showed both Minho’s and Seoyeon’s face. The pleasant mood between them on stage brought ‘Oooh!’ responses from the audience.
“Thank you for the compliment.”
Seoyeon smiled sweetly and let some ambiguity linger. She knew from her countless experiences of being hit on by guests during broadcasts that leaving an unclear impression was beneficial to the ratings. This was especially so when the man had an attractive appearance.
Seoyeon shouted towards the camera.
“Let us start… the final round!”
The staff members controlling the transmission screen in the broadcast control room nodded their heads, pleased with the audience’s positive reaction to the contestant.
“Not bad,” the main producer said, seemingly surprised.
“Since he’s a professional gamer, I thought he’d be someone who stays in his room all day banging on his keyboard but he’s better than most celebrities. He’s not too chatty or frozen stiff,” said the engineer who had just finished fine-tuning the airing of the highlight reel. He continued to speak,
“By the way, he seems calm even though there’s a lot of money on the line.”
“The important thing is that he lasts a long time out there while the pressure’s on. Tch. I just really hope he doesn’t get disqualified in the first stage.”
The main producer smacked his lips as he said that was the way it would look best on TV. The engineer glanced at the screen displaying the next question to be presented and asked,
“What’s the difficulty of this question?”
“It’s more difficult than the question that the contestant with an IQ of 180 from last week got wrong.”
“…then it’ll be a relief if he lasts till round five.”
The main producer stared intently at Minho Kang on the screen. He saw Minho roll a coin with his fingertips and then grasp it firmly. Thinking back, he recalled Minho tightly holding onto the coin throughout the competition today.
‘Is that his lucky coin or something?’
“The final round consists of ten stages. With each successive stage, the difficulty of the question increases as well. First question. The prize is one million won.”
As soon as Seoyeon finished speaking, Minho brought his attention to the touch screen that was installed at his seat.
The question appeared on the screen.
[Quiz 1: International Relations]
[The survival of the nation depends on its ability to detect the flow of power, which is divided into hard power and soft power. According to the Theory of Soft Power claimed by Joseph Samuel Nye Jr., a political scientist of international relations, what is the resource that is recently increasing to a great extent in the world?]
[1. Military power]
[2. Natural resources]
[4. Economic power]
The audience members began to bite their nails from the very first question. Minho was rolling the coin with the tips of his fingers and seemed to be thinking hard, but he selected choice 3 even though he still had plenty of time remaining. With the beeping sound effect, choice 3 lit up on the giant screen as well.
“Do you have a general interest in politics?”
Minho shook his head at Seoyeon’s question.
“‘I will give you corn, give me diamonds in return. If you hand it over without a fuss, then there won’t be any bloodshed’ . There was a time when I stayed up all night to suppress a leader who offered me those terms.”
While some of the audience members laughed, Seoyeon tilted her head, perplexed.
“What do you mean?”
“It’s a strategy game with some politics mixed in… Do you have a general interest in games, Announcer Jung?”
“Of course. I’m your fan, pro-gamer Minho Kang.”
Minho asked the sweetly smiling Seoyeon, “Do you know the types of games I play as a professional gamer?”
Seoyeon’s eyes widened like a deer in headlights because she had spoken simply as a form of courtesy. When Minho saw that she was having a hard time, he hastily shook his head.
“You don’t have to know. Because I also didn’t know what programs you’re on, Announcer Jung, but I became your fan today.”
The audience burst out in laughter. Seoyeon revealed a genuine laugh and not her standard one for broadcast purposes.
“It is still the first question, but fortunately you seem to have relaxed a bit?”
“A little bit.”
As Minho’s close-up face was displayed on the giant screen, the remaining time ran out.
Seoyeon spoke towards the camera.
“Let’s check the answer. First Stage! The Answer is!”
“Correct! You’ve earned 1 million won!”
Minho politely nodded towards the clapping audience.
“Second question. The prize money you can earn is 2 million won!”
[Quiz 2: Arts]
“Starting from this stage, you can look at the topic and decide whether to take on the question or not. Contestant Minho Kang, do you accept the challenge?”
The question was shown and again Minho calmly selected an answer. Of course, it was the correct answer and he received another round of applause.
After that, again and again, the audience grew shocked at the gradual increase in the difficulty of the questions, but Minho continued to solve them. As he continued to tackle the questions in a way that could be described as domineering, Seoyeon grew nervous and Minho began to guide her.
“Ninth Question. The prize money you can earn is 256 million won!”
[Quiz 9: Mathematics]
“You have risen to quite a high stage. Will you take on the challenge this time as well?”
The audience members held their breaths. In a system where contestants forfeited all their earnings upon a single mistake, most contestants were pressured to make the safer choice. Because of this, since the show’s inception, only very few people had passed the final stage.
“I have to see it to the end.”
Everyone cheered at Minho’s confident words. The audience was already of one mind and heart with Minho, facing the challenges together with him. He looked at the camera and added, “Because my fans are somewhere out there watching me with their hands sweating.”
As soon as he was done speaking, even Seoyeon who was doing her best as an announcer to maintain a poker face couldn’t help but grin naturally when Minho gestured, looking at her.
The question was shown and the audience began to frown as the screen displayed a difficult equation. Even if the questions were multiple-choice, people criticized the show for breaking the rule of giving questions that could be solved using the common knowledge of the general public. The overwhelming sentiment was that Minho was truly facing a crisis this time.
[…Which of the following is not part of the seven problems called the Millennium Problems?]
[1. P vs NP Problem]
[2. Cosmological Constant Problem]
[3. Yang-Mills and Mass Gap]
[4. Riemann Hypothesis]
However, unlike the tense audience, Minho’s expression was calm. Rather than a sense of climax because it was the last question, he felt more relaxed because he only had one step left to take. His imperturbable expression made those watching think, ‘No way’.
The reason he felt this way was simple.
It was because he had a way of knowing the answer, no matter what the question was.
It was this coin.
Minho flicked the coin from his fingertips.
Tails. Choice 1 wasn’t the answer. Then?
‘It’s the end.’
Minho gazed at the stopwatch that was showing the time left on the clock before looking over at the audience, then the camera, and even the announcer. And then Minho spoke with the certainty of Babe Ruth about to make a home run.
“It’s a relief. Somehow I think my luck is really good today.”
The audience began to buzz, murmurs of ‘He knows the answer?’ and ‘Really?’ coming from all over the venue.
Minho chose choice 2 without hesitation. Seoyeon spoke with a solemn expression.
“Let us check the answer. The Answer is!”
[2. Cosmological Constant Problem]
256 million won popped on the screen in front of Minho showing the prize money earned. Seoyeon continued to host the show, her tone filled with excitement.
“Finally, only the last question remains. Now the prize money you can earn is 500 million won. I imagine the viewers watching are very nervous as well. Now, contestant Minho, will you accept the challenge?”
Minho fixed his gaze on the coin inscribed with the face of Solomon, the King of Wisdom. The reason he was able to get this far was all thanks to this coin. An item that tells you the answers to the questions you ask. The power that was hidden in this coin had never been wrong.
- Our family has a secret passed down through the generations.
Minho recalled the events of a few days past. Back then, he hadn’t been certain he would be able to come this far.
But now he knew. That there wasn’t just one item like this in the world, and the more of them he found, the greater the things he would be able to accomplish beyond appearing on a quiz show and winning against other eminent competitors.
Minho quietly inhaled before shouting confidently, “I accept!”
Relic: Solomon’s Coin
Effect: True or False. It decides the right and the wrong answer through heads or tails of the coin.
: “I will give you corn, give me diamonds in return. If you hand it over without a fuss, then there won’t be any bloodshed.” – spoken by Mohandas Gandhi in the game Civilization 5.