Inside the gaming house of the ‘KG Phoenix’ team.
The bright sunlight let Minho know that it was morning as it shone through the window and woke him from his sleep. He got up from the top bunk and looked around, his hair a disheveled mess. He rubbed the area around his stomach as if giving it a massage.
It had been a while since he had drunk so much with his senior, Taehyung, and he’d had trouble getting to sleep because of his heartburn. He quietly crawled out of bed thinking about getting a glass of water.
In this six-person room, the other players were sleeping. Among them were Garam and Chulsoon who had been concentrating on training as they yelled, ‘Overthrow the Eagles!’
Minho clicked his tongue as he went past their knocked-out forms.
‘Punks. They should’ve practiced like this before.’
Minho, after drinking cold water from the kitchen, blankly sat next to the table and thought back to the things that had happened during the past few days.
The coin and the pocket watch. Winning the quiz show and victory in his comeback match.
It was a week where he’d been able to gain something he’d never thought of with these two items that could overturn even the basic rules of life. There were infinite ways in which he could use them, and there were many more items that were much more impressive than these two. Just those that he had seen in his father’s safe were already incredible.
Minho, who was worrying about where and how he should begin to find them, yawned and headed back to the room.
It was not too late to think about it after sleeping a bit more. As Minho was crawling back into his bed, he discovered that his phone was blinking, signaling a text message that had arrived.
[Kang, there’s a matter regarding some changes to the contract so be ready by 9.]
It was a message from the coach. There was still one year left on the contract with KG Phoenix gaming team because his contract had been automatically extended when he enlisted in the army. Their treatment and the conditions of the gaming house were good so Minho had no dissatisfaction, but all of a sudden there was a change to the contract.
‘What does that mean?’
When he saw the clock, there were less than 30 minutes left. He went to the bathroom, washed up briefly and put on his clothes. After he waited for a while, someone rang the bell to the gaming house. He opened the door thinking it would be the coach, but a man that he had never seen before greeted him.
“Nice to meet you. You’re player Minho Kang right?”
The 30-something, ordinary-looking man held out his hand.
“My name is Doyoon Gong. I’ll be your manager starting today.”
Minho unconsciously shook his hand and made a bewildered face. It was up to the supervisor or the coach to take care of the players in the gaming team. To have a manager be given to an individual player was something new.
“Shall we talk about the details as we go?”
Minho followed Doyoon out of the gaming house. A luxurious van emblazoned with the ‘KG Entertainment’ mark was parked in front.
“Get in please.”
“Where are we going?”
“The president wants to see you.”
Minho got into the passenger seat and even as he put on the seat belt, he could not understand why he was being requested. Doyoon who held the wheel briefly looked at Minho and laughed.
“Next time, please sit in the back. That’s your seat, after all.”
The van arrived in front of the KG Entertainment company building that was located in the middle of Gangnam. It was an impressive modern building covered with clear glass that had the large initials “KG” on the front.
Minho got out of the van and admired the outside of the KG company building.
“So my affiliation will change to here?”
“Yes, you will be a player who is managed separately by the head company, and not by KG Phoenix.”
When Manager Gong stood in front of the automatic doors and scanned his card, the doors opened with a beeping sound. A tidy hallway appeared, decorated with designs in black and white wood.
As Minho passed through the interior of the company building, his gaze fixed on one of the walls filled with picture frames.
The faces of the star actors, singers, and MCs of KG, which Minho knew was a company that had sufficient financial leverage to operate a gaming team, were hung on the wall. And on one side of the lounge, he saw the same faces sitting in groups of twos and threes having friendly conversations. Minho could not easily take his eyes off them, because they were the stars that could only be seen on TV or something.
Manager Gong ushered him into the elevator. The doors opened on the fifth floor and a small hall appeared where a secretary was sitting.
The secretary spoke on the phone after checking that it was Minho and Manager Gong.
“Player Minho Kang has arrived.”
The secretary gave a signal telling them to go inside.
Manager Gong opened the doors. Minho took one step towards the room.
All the way across the vast room, the president that was leaning on the leather chair turned around. A woman in her mid-thirties, who had her hair tied up and was wearing a mustard-colored cardigan, nodded at Manager Gong.
“Good work, Doyoon.”
Manager Gong slightly bowed his head and stepped out.
“Please enjoy your conversation.”
Minho was inwardly surprised that the president of the famous KG Entertainment was a woman, and on top of that, she was young. If it wasn’t for the nameplate ‘President Sohee Im’ on the desk, she could be mistaken for a young career woman of some company.
“Welcome, player Minho Kang. Come sit here.”
“It’s nice to meet you.”
Minho bowed his head as he sat down on the chair.
“Is green tea okay?”
Sohee pressed on the speakerphone and asked for the tea. Afterwards, she asked Minho,
“Were you surprised that I called you all of a sudden?”
“To a certain extent. This affiliation thing, can it change at will without my consent?”
Sohee smiled and shook her head.
“There must have been a misunderstanding. I asked for you to come so that we can discuss that part. First, let me apologize.”
Minho felt something professional in her friendly voice. He was put at ease by her facial expression and tone of speech that were not pompous even though she was the president. But she also did not look like a pushover because there was an indescribable confidence in her smile.
“Come in, Secretary Han.”
While the secretary opened the door and brought in a tray of tea, Minho fixed his gaze on Sohee’s bosom without knowing it. Of course, her voluptuous figure was worth looking at but it wasn’t just that. There was a pen that was clipped on the front of her blouse that caught his attention.
It had a faint black gloss and was a pretty expensive-looking fountain pen with an ink cartridge.
He was strangely attracted to it. It was the only thing that stood out as if it was telling him to hold it in his hand at least once. Minho, who was staring at the pen for a while, quickly turned his gaze away thinking Sohee might feel uncomfortable when she found him staring at her breasts. Then he met Sohee’s eyes.
Minho maintained his composure and pointed out the pen.
“That looks nice.”
“Do you know a lot about fountain pens?”
“I don’t know them well, and you might laugh when I say this but…”
Minho laughed awkwardly as he carefully picked out the words he wanted to say.
“That pen looks especially elegant. Shall I say it keeps catching my eye?”
Minho knew how incoherent that was and became flustered. But when he said that, Sohee got an interesting look in her eyes and smiled.
“It’s an item that has quite the history.”
Sohee took the pen out with a soft look in her eyes as if she was reminiscing about the past. Then she passed the pen to Minho as if telling him it was okay to take a closer look.
As soon as Minho held the pen in his hand, the light that had caught his attention disappeared, which made him think it was just an illusion. He had thought it might have had a special power like the coin or the pocket watch, but there was no way to check right away.
At that moment, Sohee, who had completely erased that soft look in her eyes, placed a document on top of the desk.
“Since you’re now prepared to sign, let’s get right to the main point. This is your new contract with the edited clauses.”
Minho looked over the contract that was on the desk and asked.
“There’s a clause about work other than the game league.”
“Because that’s the key point. As you already heard from Manager Gong, we evaluated you to have a high value. We judged that you have endless hidden talent not just as a professional gamer, but as a multi entertainer.”
“What does a multi entertainer mean, exactly?”
Sohee lifted the remote and clicked the power button. The giant monitor screen on the wall was turned on.
- Correct! That is the right answer! Everyone, the owner of the 500 million won (approximately 500,000 USD) has appeared!
The appearance of Minho on the quiz show came up on the screen.
“That’s what it is. A person who gives joy to the public by appearing on familiar shows.”
Minho drew back slightly.
“I’m a gamer, not a TV personality.”
Sohee shook her head.
“If you look at it broadly, you going on tournaments as a professional gamer can be seen as one of the elements of being an entertainer. Because people become excited and find joy when they watch your matches. You being a gamer at your peak can be an advantage we can fully make use of in broadcasts.”
The screen now displayed the match that took place just yesterday.
“Your opponent was a rookie who’s really good. The match was intense, right?”
“Yes, it was.”
Sohee pressed pause on the screen which simultaneously displayed Minho’s and Taekyong’s faces.
“It was intense for the both of you, but the facial expressions were different. You seemed composed, unaware of the audience and looked to be enjoying the game. But the rookie player seemed to be trying to look cool purposefully. Even to those watching, this difference was obvious.”
Sohee looked straight at Minho.
“Player Minho, you like challenges, don’t you?”
Sohee continued to speak with an ‘I know what you’re thinking inside’ look in her eyes.
“I like challenges too, especially finding someone who can mature while maintaining their own personal values, even as they step across the ranks, gain recognition, appear on better shows and receive more interest and love from the public. I judge that you’re that type of person.”
“Just through the two appearances on the air?”
Sohee covered her mouth as she laughed at what Minho said.
“Oh my, that’s more than enough. If you don’t want to re-sign the contract, you can tell us anytime. This is just an offer not a recommendation.”
Minho fell into a dilemma. On the edited clauses, the period of the contract was five years. Once it was decided, he could not turn back on it. The life of a professional gamer itself was fun, whether he earned money or not. But this was official broadcasting. It did appeal to his taste, but it was a vague basis for a decision since he had never experienced this field before.
‘What to do……’
Minho, who was pondering as he looked over the contract, came to think that it was hard to immediately see the pros and cons to this.
“If I were to give a word of advice, even if you were to sustain the original conditions of the contract, it’s much more profitable to take the long term contract than the short term one. Because the distribution rate will change. Even if you earn the same amount, if you make a five year contract, it will make a 20% difference. That means if you earn 100 million won (approximately 100,000 USD), you would lose out on 2 million won (approximately 2,000 USD).”
Sohee explained the contract to Minho gently, but her voice was filled with confidence that he would not be able to resist signing the contract.
‘Distribution rate and gross profit… sigh, this isn’t even calculus derivatives.’
Starting from the labor cost for a manager, a coordinator, then the cost for marketing, clothes and hair styling, and even taxes. In order to clearly check his personal profits, he had to go through many complicated calculations.
He could not even touch the sea of numbers, let alone understand it. This was more so because he had hated math when he was in school.
“Please make a good decision. We’re planning only the best treatment.”
He sensed some pressure in her words, as though, if he didn’t sign this time, they might not give him the best treatment.
It was at that time when Minho had decided to sign the long term contract just as Sohee suggested, that the pen began to move on its own.
Minho hesitated when he felt the pen moving by itself. His hand was following the pen wherever it went. He turned his eyes to the contract.
[Average increase rate in profit = 20.5% (Contractee + Company)]
[Contractee = 4.5% (Increase profit distribution 4.5%)]
[Company = 16% (Reduced cost 20.5% – Reduced profit distribution 4.5%)]
The pen was organizing what Sohee said into formulas. Instantly, what Minho’s father said came to mind.
- Minho, there are items in the world that have hidden powers such as that coin. And we have the ability to discover and bring out that power.
‘So this is how we find them.’
The pen seemed like it was influenced by Sohee. Its power was just like its owner who had business-like methods and quick mechanical calculations of profit and loss.
Minho pretended to carefully read over the contract and read what Sohee’s pen wrote.
While he was thinking only about the complicated profit distribution, he missed the important thing. Most of the expenses during broadcasting were taken by the company. The profit increase of 20% during the five years was correct but this was including the company’s profit. If he did not carefully go over the contract, he could have easily ignored and passed by this part.
“So this means, that if you increase the profit distribution to 4.5% for the contractee, you will tie them down for five years.”
Sohee was optimistic that Minho was going to sign; when he said this, her expression was shaken.
“Is there something you want to change?”
After thinking for a short while, Minho asked.
“How about 8% profit distribution for three years?”
“That’s difficult. It’ll be a loss for the company as well.”
The pen began to move at Sohee’s curt rejection.
[Average profit increase rate = 13.7% (Contractee + Company)]
[Contractee = 8% (Increase profit distribution 8%)]
[Company = 5.7% (Reduced cost 13.7% – Reduced profit distribution 8%)]
Minho spoke after glancing at the profit.
“So you’re thinking 5.7% of additional profit is a loss? I guess the ‘best treatment’ you talked about before is the only thing you can offer a person who signs the five year enslavement contract.”
“What do you mean 5.7%?”
“I’m talking about the average profit increase rate. I increased mine to 8% so that’s 8%. And the reduced cost for the company is 13.7% so you’d receive a 5.7% gain, right?”
Sohee, who was calculating in her head, made a disconcerted expression. The average profit increase rate for three years could not simply be determined by calculating how much was earned and how much was the profit. The forecast of the profit was made through the profit data of the entertainers of the company, and a series of calculations was needed to get its average.
Sohee, amazed at how quickly Minho had figured it out, asked,
“It seems that you’ve seen our financial statements?”
“I simply enjoy keeping myself up-to-date.”
Minho just smiled with the contract in his hands so the other person didn’t see it.
“About the other clauses, it’s highly likely that I’ll get to the finals, so please add incentives if I have consecutive wins.”
“If that’s possible, I’ll add it to your clauses.”
Once Sohee wavered, it would not be easy for her to take the upper hand in the negotiation. Minho went through the contract clauses one by one from the beginning, and began to gain the advantages.
[three year contract. Final increase in profit for the contractee 23%.]
‘If it’s this much, it’s very good!’
Minho looked at the final product with a satisfied expression on his face.
“Did you make your decision?”
Minho answered Sohee’s question as he blacked out all the formulas.
“Let me ask you one last thing.”
“Go ahead and ask.”
“Do you think I can become like the people whose pictures are hanging in the hallway of this company?”
Sohee made the confident smile that she had showed Minho when he had first walked through the doors.
“Shall I be honest?”
“‘He’s worth investing in.’ This is what we’ve judged.”
Minho felt rather assured by that statement.
“Sounds good. Let’s sign the contract.”
After having finished with the signing, Minho stood from his seat. Sohee put out her hand first.
“Let’s work well with each other from now on, Minho Kang.”
“Thank you, let’s work well together.”
After shaking hands, Minho pointed to Sohee’s pen and asked.
“Do you think you can give me that pen instead of the contract fee?”
“That’ll be much cheaper but I don’t think I can. That item has deep meaning to me.”
Sadly, Minho had to give the pen back.
Minho got out of the office and as he waited for the elevator, he took out his cell phone and called his father’s number.
After the signal rang, Yoonhwan’s voice came from the other line.
“Father, I saw something weird just now.”
Minho told him the story of what he’d experienced with Sohee’s pen.
“It was shining, and when I held it I was able to use its power.”
- I told you that’s our family’s ability. What you just saw was a cherished object. An heirloom like the coin or the pocket watch is a relic.
“You can distinguish between the two?”
- Everyone has a cherished object. If it matches that person’s tendencies, it will shine like what you’ve seen. And you can use it. It’s often the case that the ability will be related to that person.
Minho thought of the easily solved formulas and Sohee. The straightforward, intelligent woman and the pen’s powers were incredibly well matched.
- On the other hand, a relic is hard to tell just by looking at it, but it gets filled with the inherent characteristics of the person who used it. In summary, it’s hard to get but its powers are better. That’s it. So if you can find it and obtain it, then try to do so.
Minho nodded his head in understanding.
‘So the true treasures are in the safe.’
It was clear that the treasures in Yoonhwan’s safe were at least some kind of relics. It was difficult to obtain even the cherished objects; it seemed better to inherit them instead of looking somewhere random.
Minho was slightly hopeful as he probed a little.
“Are you thinking of selling more of the things in your safe?”
- I’m hanging up.
His father brutally hung up without a single ounce of hesitation. The saying ‘little strokes fell great oaks’ was just an old phrase. He was completely made of steel. If Minho kept striking, it would only be Minho’s ax that would be broken.
“Talk about cheap!”
It was clear that his father would not even shed a drop of sweat, let alone blood, even if he was pricked by a needle. Minho put down his phone as he grumbled on about how cheap his father was.
‘Cherished objects and relics, huh.’
Now he had to form a habit of thoroughly observing people here and there.
Object: Sohee Im’s Fountain Pen
Effect: It calculates profits and losses quickly and accurately on paper for you.