I Was A Porter - Chapter 26 - 26
Seung-ho and Ma Gi-tae arrived at the door of the conference room. Ma Gi-tae was obviously nervous and stood still in front of the door for several seconds. Seung-ho got impatient and opened the door on his behalf.
Ma Gi-tae stared resentfully at Seung-ho, then went inside, with Seung-ho following him.
There were ten people inside the meeting room; most of them looked to be over 60 years old.
As Seung-ho took an empty chair, he noticed an interpreter stand behind him.
When everyone was seated, a Latino man, who looked to be in his early 30’s, sitting next to the top seat, stood up and bowed to everyone as a greeting.
Then, the man spoke.
“Thank you for attending this session, although it was scheduled in a hurry. For those who could not attend due to unavoidable circumstances, we will share the results of this emergency meeting later. The emergency meeting today, December 23, 2018, begins.”
The man picked up a remote control placed on his desk, turned off the lights in the conference room, then turned on the projector to show a screen filled with graphs.
“You may know that the rate of 9th-grade gates has been decreasing from 6 months ago, while the incidence of 7th and 8th-grade gates increased. The graph on the far left represents the frequency of gates and their grades six months ago, while on the far right is the incidence rate in December. The data is current as of the 20th of this month.”
Each time the man pressed a button, the screen focused on each graph. The one showing the trend six months ago was focused on first, then the current graph.
The difference was obvious in a glance.
Six months ago, 9th-grade gates accounted for more than half of the incidence. The December graph shows that the incidence of 9th-grade gates was reduced by half, while the 7th and 8th-grade gates increased.
“At this rate, it is judged that it will be rare for a 9th-grade gate to exist by March next year, and the 8th-grade gates will disappear by June. As for 7th-grade gates and beyond, there is still insufficient data to make an accurate prediction.”
Seung-ho looked at Ma Gi-tae, who wore a confused expression.
“Based on this, we concluded that we should actively purchase mana stones coming out of these gates, and put the utmost effort in cultivating our hunters to prepare for higher-grade gates. This has already been decided when we met last year but was reinforced with Mr. Lee Seung-ho’s story.”
The man turned off the projector and turned on the lights, then turned to Seung-ho.
“Mr. Lee Seung-ho? I’m going to ask you a question; please answer truthfully. As Branch Manager Ma Gi-tae explained to you, the first-class gate that will occur will be handled by blocking it.”
Seung-ho nodded, then asked his question. “Wouldn’t be a loss for the Association if a first-class gate disappears forever?”
The high-grade manastones that could be gotten out of a first-class gate will turn a high profit, but blocking the gate entirely means that the manastones will not be spared.
At Seung-ho’s words, the men sitting inside the conference room smiled bitterly.
A gray-haired African-American man, sitting at the top chair, spoke in a firm voice. He looked to be about 70 years old.
“Although the Association seeks profit, it is not a profit group,” he said. He placed his elbow s on the desk of the conference room, staring at Seung-ho.
“I heard a lot of interesting news about you. I thought that a person who survived 20 years of suffering maybe a little weird. I came to this place because the story you told was so strange and detailed that I thought it was a story created by a crazy person. Is what you told us true?”
Seung-ho felt a little overwhelmed. “Of course.”
He thought that he was called for this meeting because the Association needed his strength, but their reaction to him was lukewarm.
He can’t help but ask the man on the top chair. “Is it possible to subdue the first-class gate without my strength?”
“Twenty-two years ago, there were about 17,000 hunters of Grade A and higher. Do you know how many of those hunters we have now?”
Seung-ho shrugged. The man placed his chin on his hands before continuing.
“There are over 43,000, and we have three hunters at a level comparable to Drax.”
Seung-ho sighed deeply and shook his head while smirking at the man’s words.
The others inside the room reacted at Seung-ho’s action, but the man calmed them down by raising his hand.
“Why are you reacting like that?” the man asked him. “Even if the next first-class gate is twice as strong as the last one, I think we have enough power to subdue it. Is your opinion different?”
Instead of answering him, Seung-ho asked a question in response.
“Are you the Vice-Chairman?”
The man nodded affirmation. Seung-ho then extended both of his arms, showing the people inside the room his hands, with all ten fingers outstretched.
“Ten,” he said.
“What?” The Vice-Chairman looked confused.
“Mr. Vice-Chairman, there are at least ten monsters inside that gate which are stronger than Drax.”
The Vice-Chairman lost his cool and slapped the desk.
Seung-ho did not appear surprised by the Vice Chairman’s reaction. He smiled and folded three fingers.
“Of course, not all of them are still alive. I caught the weakest three. But the rest of them were so large that I left them alone because I wasn’t confident enough that I could catch them.”
Seung-ho stared at the face of the Vice-Chairman, who look dumbfounded. He placed his elbows on the desk, placed his chin on his hands, imitating the Vice Chairman’s previous stance.
“Don’t be confident because your hunters are strong. As monsters eat each other, they become stronger… I ask you again. Do you need my strength to subdue this gate?”
Seung-ho’s eyes were smiling.
* * *
“What? Are you already packing up?”
Seung-ho looked surprised. When he entered their house, his mother was busy packing clothes, and his father, who looked displeased with her, stood in the living room.
“Yeah, I have started packing right after you left.”
“Mother, I will help you.”
His mother’s forehead was sweaty. His father was sweaty too, so it looks like he was helping her and was just taking a break.
“No, I’m done packing. Ah, it’s been a while! It’s already past lunchtime.”
“Look at this. If you sweat like this in the middle of the winter, you’re going to catch a cold.” Seung-ho wiped the sweat with his sleeve, but his mother stopped him and wiped the sweat off herself.
“I’m fine, I’m fine… Have you eaten lunch?”
“Yeah, I did on the way home.”
“Honey, we need to eat,” his father said. Seung-ho looked worried and turned to his mother.
“What? Are you hungry? How can you forget to eat and focus on packing – it’s not even an evacuation.”
“This… I just want to get started because it’s going to be harder to pack as we get closer to moving…”
His mother smiled as if she was embarrassed, then went to the kitchen, leaving Seung-ho and his father alone.
Seung-ho sat on the sofa. “Father, if you have three wishes, what would it be?”
“Oh…” his father sat next to him and pondered. “Three wishes, huh? My biggest wish, of course, is for our family to be healthy, and my next wish is for you to get married. My last wish is for you to find a stable job.”
Seung-ho listened to his father. He felt a little sad upon hearing the first wish, thinking about Seong-ah’s condition, but he soon laughed when he heard about getting married.
“Father, I think your third wish has come true. I got a job at the Association.”
At Seung-ho’s words, his father’s expression turned unpleasant. “A job at the Association? Then, will you be facing monsters?”
“No, I’m past that. They hired me as a model. It’s just a matter of attending Association events, greeting on behalf of the Association… it doesn’t even matter if I show up on time for their events or not.”
His father’s expression brightened when he explained that he wouldn’t be catching monsters. His father was still uncomfortable with the thought of Seung-ho going back inside a gate.
“Just a model, is that true?”
“Yes. I would be invited to events even outside the country, but it will be great because they will pay for all my expenses. I have to go to the Association tomorrow so they can take my photos.”
“You will be very busy if your seniors bother you to go to different places,” his father said, with a touch of sadness.
“No, I’m not going to small events. I will not be busy because I’ll only attend the big ones.” Seung-ho wanted to ease his parents’ concerns, even to the point of lying.
“In addition, Father, the Association will give me a lot of benefits. You will be surprised to hear them.”
Because of what happened to Seong-ah, Seung-ho requested protection for his family.
“How handsome does the Association think you are that they will give you good benefits to be a model?” His father laughed.
“I’m dying to tell you, but we must wait for Mother. She would be angry if I told you first.”
They waited for his mother to come back from the kitchen. Seung-ho rubbed his father’s shoulders until she came.
Soon enough, his mother came back, carrying a pot of boiled ramen. She looked happy to see her son and his father in a tender moment.
Seung-ho started to tell the story. When his mother heard about him getting a regular job at the Association, she hardened.
However, Seung-ho couldn’t read her expression when he told her that he was going to be a model.
“My son… I don’t think you’re a model, no matter how cute you are…”
“No! They just offered me that position so they could get me as a member.” Seung-ho was a bit embarrassed.
Gradually, he told them the benefits he had agreed to.
“My job is to basically attend Association events. If I’m away, there should be bodyguards around my family. Please do not worry about the guards because they won’t be too close. They said I’m totally free to do what I want except if they need me at an event, and they gave me a domestic car, but if I wanted something else, I could rent one, and they would pay for it.”
The best condition that was approved was that Seong-ah would get the best psychiatric treatment available in Korea, but he didn’t tell them yet.
In fact, there was a lot more, but he didn’t want to tell them everything because they could get suspicious that he’s really just going to be a model.
“Oh my gosh! I never thought modeling could give you that much!”
“Mother, you saw the news. Your son is amazing,” he boasted.
His father nodded affirmation at Seung-ho’s shameless words. “Some men are more capable than how they look.”
His father laughed at Seung-ho’s forlorn expression. “What? It was a joke. I’m not saying you are ugly, I’m saying you are capable,” he said, laughing some more.
Seung-ho, who had not gotten into a romantic relationship since he returned from the gate, didn’t think it was a joke.