Minho called his father Yoonhwan for the first time in a while. He wanted to boast about the gourd bottle and Bumpety Boo that he had obtained in the last couple of months and also ask him about a few things he was curious about.
A brusque voice answered as soon as the call went through.
-What’s up? Did you get a girl pregnant or something?
“I don’t even have a girlfriend yet.”
-I want to see a grandchild as soon as possible so don’t call me unless it’s about that. I’m busy.
“You’re always home, though.”
-Doesn’t seem like you have much to say. Bye.
Minho hastily shouted through the cell phone.
“Father who’s worthy of admiration! Please don’t hang up!”
-Alright. I’ll give you three minutes.
“Among the items with powers I can use, I can’t use the powers of a relic just by touching it.”
-Did you dream about becoming the owner of the relic?
“I wouldn’t have been so confused you’d told me beforehand.”
-I can guess right away the type of things you would find. You probably would be able to get acknowledged by the relic’s owner even if you half-ass it.
Minho felt upset that Yoonhwan would underestimate him right off.
“Do you think a gourd bottle that creates an ultimate mind-clearing liquor just by putting water in it is nothing? You wake up energized the next day too.”
-Liquor? You used to pass out with just one glass. Seems like you got into a hobby of drinking. You want your dad to help you?
-There’s a wine bottle in the back room–if you put water in it it tastes like bordeaux. You know Chateau? There should also be a bottle rolling around there that makes whiskey, brandy, and gin. When you come take that one too. I like soju better than anything.
His level of acquisition broke Minho’s spirit. There was a great different between Minho who had awakened two months ago and was beginning to gather relics just now and his father who had been collecting for nearly twenty years.
Minho thought Bumpety Boo would be as good as any item in his father’s safe and said,
“I found a car too.”
-Oh right. I found an antique airplane that’s just lying around in the countryside, wanna take a ride? Only fly around in that area though since you might be shot down if you’re caught by the air force radar. And it might break down so be sure to wear a parachute.”
Minho was speechless.
“Sell me some of the things you have. How much would it cost? What will you sell for 1 billion won?”
-What for? I’m overflowing with money.
Minho decided to ask about the thing he’d been wondering about and then hang up, since Yoonhwan reacted like nothing fazed him.
“Where do you find good relics? Reveal your secrets to me since you have a lot, Father.”
-Your late grandfather swept up most of the old items that were floating around in auctions. And I swept up everything that was left until recently. So it’ll be a waste of time to go to the specialty auctions.
Minho wondered if this was why there weren’t any useful items that had caught his eye on the auction websites.
-Ah, there’s that.
Yoonhwan’s voice came through the line sounding as if he had remembered something.
-There’s one place I wasn’t going to go because it was inconvenient. Want to try going there?
-A professor I used to know passed away last year. There are items from this professor’s inheritance that are up for auction. He was, shall I say, a highly capable person. Similar to the pocket watch’s owner.
The pocket watch was a very helpful item that he was still using. It had sufficiently paid off its appraisal value of 300 million won or even more.
“Tell me the address, please.”
-I have to get something in return. I can’t just give you valuable information for free.
Two thousand wouldn’t mean just 2,000 won*. Minho couldn’t believe his father was trying to make a profit off a sentence.
“I thought you were overflowing with money.”
-If you don’t want to, forget it. Bye.
“Ah, okay, okay!”
-I’ll send you a text message once you transfer the money.
Minho could only lament the fact that he would always be at a disadvantage when dealing with his father. As soon as he finished making the money transfer that night, a text message arrived with a ‘drrrr-ring~’.
[August 13th, 10 AM. K University liberal arts assembly hall. They’ll let you in as an acquaintance if you give them my name.]
‘That’s still three weeks away.’
It was expensive information but Minho knew he would be able to fish out some good items since Yoonhwan was precise in his monetary calculations. Minho pulled himself together and lay down in bed after taking a drop of the mind-clearing liquor.
Just as he closed his eyes–
His cellphone rang and he checked it, thinking it was his father, but an unfamiliar number popped up.
-You’re the car owner for 9898 right? I live next door.
It was the voice of the man next door whom Minho had run across a few times. Had he said he was a taxi driver?
-I have to go out now, but there’s no room to get my car out. Can you come move your car?
This neighborhood was too compact for parking spots so Minho had to squeeze his car into a tight space if he wanted to keep Bumpety Boo close.
“I think I have to park farther away, even though it’s troublesome.”
Minho’s head spun and he stumbled as he got out of bed. The effect of the mind-clearing liquor began to spread through his whole body.
His eyelids began to close and he could feel his body on the edge of slipping into a deep sleep. But what could he do? He had to move his car.
Minho slapped his cheeks and held on to his fading consciousness.
Driving three meters was nothing if he had the racer’s instincts that would wake him up automatically when he started the engine along with Bumpety Boo’s help.
‘After all, it was really just water that I drank.’
He wondered what he should call it if he drove in this condition. It might be possible for him to create a legend by drunk driving with a zero blood alcohol level.
Hongchul Lee stood by the classic car. He was slightly surprised as he looked carefully at the car owner’s name.
“He said he just plays games, but he must be well off. How much does he earn that he can drive an imported car? But, why isn’t he coming out yet?”
The front gate opened and Minho walked out in sweats. He walked over to Hongchul Lee, so Hongchul guessed he was the car owner and spoke.
“Sorry to bother you late at night. I have to go on a run all of a sudden. Being a taxi driver….”
Hongchul’s voice trailed off as he observed Minho. His eyes were red and he swayed as he walked. It seemed he had splashed a good deal of water on his face, but it wasn’t enough to hide his drunkenness.
“I’ll…hic! Pull out quickly.”
Hongchul got a disconcerted look on his face and put a hand on Minho’s shoulder.
“Hey, young man. What are you doing after drinking?”
“Don’t misunderstand. I am drunk but I didn’t drink.”
Hongchul stared at him as if looking at a crazy person. Minho turned away and opened the car door.
“Nothing will show even if I do a breathalyzer test so don’t…hic!…worry.”
The car’s engine turned on and it pulled out smoothly to make room for Hongchul. Minho slipped into a tight space on the other side of the street as neatly as if he had measured it with a ruler.
Hongchul clicked his tongue but he had to give Minho credit since he drove very smoothly, given that he was swaying outside the car.
“He’s really good at drunk driving.”
Hongchul pulled his car out of the parking space. Then he stopped his car next to Minho’s and rolled down the window.
“Young man. Sorry I woke you up in the night.”
Minho rolled his window down as well and replied.
“It’s okay. I’m the one who parked wrong.”
“But it’s still wrong to drive after drinking.”
Minho’s eyes that were red even when he opened his car door were back to normal like nothing had happened. Hongchul was surprised and asked,
“Huh? You don’t look drunk at all now.”
“I didn’t drink real liquor. Drive safely. There’s a low spot in the road there by the intersection. Your car’s bumper might hit it so you might want to avoid it.”
Hongchul looked into the darkness but he could barely see in front of him, let alone over by the intersection.
“Either way, I frequently leave to go on night runs so park in front of another car rather than mine, even if there aren’t any other spaces.”
Hongchul finished saying goodbye and drove on but was shocked at what he saw in the rearview mirror. Minho was walking towards the front gate swaying back and forth like he was drunk again.
“He pretended to be not drunk for that short time? These youngsters doing useless……”
Hongchul was shocked by the sound of his front bumper banging and hit the brakes.
One side of the asphalt in the intersection was concave. It was certain they were doing some sort of pipe work but covered it sketchily.
“Ah dang it, these punks don’t do proper construction!”
Hongchul was angered by the scratch on his bumper but recalled what Minho had just said and tilted his head.
“He saw this from over there?”
It was too far, no matter how good someone’s eyes were.
“Can’t be, he probably told me what he saw during the day.”
Hongchul shook his head as he got in his car and disappeared into the streets.
Thursday of the last week in July.
Minho got into Manager Gong’s van that was waiting outside the gaming house, but he stopped short as he was faced with someone unfamiliar. A young man in his early twenties abruptly stood up in the van and greeted him.
“I’ll be your stylist starting today! My name is Shiwan Kim. I’m also here to do other errands, so you can ask me to do anything!”
His voice was clear but tinged with nervousness. It felt as if a rookie of a company was introducing himself to the supervisor so Minho was intrigued as he received this greeting.
“Nice to meet you. But are you a stylist responsible for only me?”
Shiwan confidently nodded his head. Minho couldn’t get used to the fact that another staffer other than Manager Gong was in the van.
‘Is this the halo effect of the permanent program?’
An investment like this could be seen as premature, considering this was a survival game where someone was disqualified every round. This just showed how much confidence they had in him. Minho sat down with a perplexed look on his face.
Shiwan Kim smiled brightly and spoke.
“Speak comfortably. I’m younger.”
“Excuse me for asking, but how old are you?”
Minho didn’t feel overwhelmed since he was close to the same age as his game team juniors.
“Then sure thing. And you can just call me hyung.”
“Yes, hyung. I look forward to working with you.”
Minho was surprised as he saw the clothes that filled the back seat.
“What are these?”
Manager Gong chuckled at Minho’s reaction.
“You’re surprised, huh? These are the clothes from the T brand sponsorship and some from basic corporate sponsorship. You should think of yourself a walking advertisement board now when you get dressed. And please consult with your stylist before you go out as well.”
Minho straightened his shoulders at the words ‘Walking advertisement board.’ It felt like a burden now that he couldn’t walk out of his house wearing just anything.
‘Will I get used to this if I become more popular? Do I need to worry about airport fashion and stuff?’
Minho welcomed these happy inconveniences.
“I’ve leveled up.”
“You’re starting to get the treatment that befits your skills. Haha.”
With Manager Gong’s pleasant laugh, the van started off.
“As you know, today is the opening shoot for ‘The Smart Game’ and a briefing session with the production team. I heard the Pentastorm quarterfinals are tomorrow. You won’t have any problems with the tournament?”
“I did some hardcore gaming for four days with the help of my juniors. There shouldn’t be any problems if I finish up my practice at night. Oh yeah, we have a vague outline of the cast right? I still don’t know any names.”
“From what I heard there are some distinguished people. I heard a rumor about one of the cast you might know.”
“Someone I might know?”
“Do you know the star announcer Seoyeon Jung of NTV?”
“Of course. She’s the first person I did a variety show with.”
Minho guessed Seoyeon could appear as the announcer, since it seemed like they were choosing one person per occupation.
‘She’s a smart broadcaster.’
Minho had appeared on the quiz show to test the coin but was able to experience an unexplainable atmosphere for a brief moment. his heart thumped in anticipation as he thought of seeing her again. Since she was the first woman that his heart fluttered for during broadcast. Of course, he had met other charming women after her.
‘It’s not like I’m dating one girl so there’s no reason to turn down the women that come. Heh heh.’
Minho was counting his chickens before they hatched.
As the van stopped in the parking lot of NTV broadcast station, Shiwan began digging through the clothes in the back seat and asked,
“Manager, what clothes do we go with for Minho hyung?”
Manager Gong turned in the driver’s seat.
“Something splendid and stylish. So that Mr. Minho can show that he’s a celebrity among the average citizen cast.”
“Then a suit would be best. Here, Minho hyung.”
Shiwan pulled out a suit and handed it over to Minho. It was an impressive piece of clothing with a logo in Italian.
“It’s not T brand? I looks like a very expensive brand.”
“The hyungnim I used to be in charge of went abroad so I fixed it to your size.”
“It’s your first day and you know my size? You must’ve prepared a lot. Take care of me from now on, Stylist Kim.”
Manager Gong contentedly looked through the rearview mirror at Minho’s compliment.
“Shiwan looks like a rookie but he has a great eye for clothes.”
Shiwan replied with a bright wordless smile.
Minho changed into the suit and got out of the van. As he was adjusting his clothes, he saw in the reflection a young man getting out of a car on the other side of the parking lot.
‘I’ve seen him somewhere.’
Minho turned his head and watched the other person. He was wearing a tilted hat and tight skinny jeans. He looked like a typical rapper with his swaggering walk.
“Jin Q is a contestant too?”
Minho laughed out loud as he recalled the young man he had met on the radio show–the brilliant mind with his perfect SAT score. It seemed like just yesterday that he was quivering with anger and saying he was going to write diss lyrics about Minho, but it had already been two months.
Jin Q and his manager disappeared into the building without spotting Minho.
‘He’s a bit hot tempered.’
There was a player in Pentastorm who was like Jin Q. If you provoked him just a little he would bring out all his troops and make reckless moves, unable to control his anger. Minho grinned thinking there was no better prey than someone he had already figured out.
If someone was going to be disqualified, it would be Jin Q before him.
Manager Gong got out of the van and looked over Minho’s whole body.
“You look like a fine, strapping, handsome young man.”
It seemed that Minho getting his first permanent program had given Manager Gong a blind spot, or perhaps something like auto-correct for his eyes.
“It’s probably the expensive clothes.”
“It’s the body the clothes hang on! Haha!”
Manager Gong walked into the broadcast station with his face filled with excitement. He hadn’t stopped smiling all morning. Shiwan followed behind as well, holding the garment bag.
Minho watched the two people walk in front of him and felt different from before. It was only one more person added, but it felt like a team moving to do some official work.
‘I feel like I’ve really become a celebrity or something.’
2,000 won is about $2 USD. Minho’s father is asking for 2,000 man won, which is about 20,000 USD. (Man won is 10,000 won.)