“…Did you say it came from the Crimson King?”

“Yes, sir.”

The Yeongnam Martial Artist Alliance, shortened as the Yeongnam Group, was considered Korea’s top martial artist organization.
Inside the Yeongnam Martial Artist Alliance was its leader Kim Seok-Il with a confused look while staring at his subordinate reporting to him.

Kim Seok-Il slowly rubbed his chin.
“The Crimson King, is it…
As in, one of the Three Kings, a leader of the Martial Union that rule over China? That Crimson King?”

“Yes, sir.

Kim Seok-Il frowned deeply.
As far as a country ’s wealth and power were concerned, the gap between China and South Korea should be quite vast.
Even so, Korea still occupied a similar level of international status to China in the eyes of the surface world.
Meanwhile, China was seen as the powerhouse in the world of martial arts, one that the likes of Korea could never match.
But now…

The Martial Union ruling over such a powerful nation was making a request to a Korean martial art organization? Something like that seemed impossible.
However, it was happening right now, right before Kim Seok-Il ’s eyes, no less.

Kim Seok-Il licked his lips.
“What do they want from us?”

“It ’s the elimination of a certain individual, sir.”

certain individual?” Kim Seok-Il chuckled hollowly.
“What ’s the offer?”

“Well, that is…” The subordinate, Lee Hyeon-Su, hesitated and didn ’t immediately reply to Kim Seok-Il ’s question.
Then, he finally replied with a slightly confused face, “They said all the financial support they gave us over the years will be written off.”

“…Say what?” Kim Seok-Il sat forward while doubting his own hearing.
Obviously, he wouldn’t mishear his subordinate ’s report thanks to his cultivation, but this offer still made him doubt his own physical ability.

The Martial Union ’s secret financial support played a key part in the Yeongnam Group achieving its current status in Korea.
There was no denying that simple fact.
Kim Seok-Il knew that this matter would eventually come to bite him in the rear, but he believed there was no other choice.
He had to take on the risk if he wanted to compete against the Korean Martial Assembly on an equal footing.

But now, the source of the funds, the Crimson King, had said that all debts would be wiped clean as long as the Yeongnam Group eliminated one person!

“Do they want us to assassinate the President of Korea or something?” Kim Seok-Il muttered quietly.
That sounded daft even to his ears, but some part of him thought that it could be a distinct possibility.
Well, only a request of that magnitude would be monumental enough to balance out the financial support Yeongnam had received over the years, after all!

This novel is available on bit.ly/3iBfjkV.

“W-well, that is… It’s a bit strange…” Lee Hyeon-Su stuttered ungainly.

Kim Seok-Il ’s eyes narrowed at this peculiar behavior.
His subordinate was usually meticulous, so this level of hesitation could only mean the target was incredibly difficult to eliminate—or someone totally out of expectation.

Which one would it be, though?

“…Sir, it ’s an ordinary university student.”

Kim Seok-Il silently waited for Lee Hyeon-Su ’s follow-up, believing that there had to be more to this target.
However, Lee Hyeon-Su betrayed his expectation by keeping his mouth shut.

Kim Seok-Il ’s patient quickly ran out.
“Is that all?”

“Yes, sir.”

That was when Kim Seok-Il ’s expression crumpled to resemble a devil.
“Stop wasting my time and pissing me off, report everything you know about the target! Now!”

“Y-yes, sir!” Lee Hyeon-Su almost freaked out and began shouting his report.
“The target ’s name is Kang Jin-Ho! He ’s suspected to be a returner! He is currently waiting to return to Jaegyeong University to resume his studies after recently ending his mandatory military service!”

Lee Hyeon-Su finished his report and quickly lowered his head in silence.

Kim Seok-Il tutted.
“Is that all? Anything else?”

“…Sir, we don ’t have any other information.”

“Any evidence of ties to other factions?”

“It seems that the…
’military side ’ tried to recruit him but got nowhere, sir.”

“Hmm…” Kim Seok-Il sunk deeper into his chair as his thoughts became chaotic.

Lee Hyeon-Su quietly raised his voice.
“S-sir, there is something else.”

“And what would that be?”

“It ’s not a hundred percent confirmed, but it seems that the Martial Assembly is also snooping around him.”

Kim Seok-Il closed his eyes in contemplation at that revelation.
The Martial Assembly was making a move, while the Martial Union wanted to eliminate that university student.
That alone was enough to estimate how dangerous this individual named Kang Jin-Ho was.
Unless the Crimson King were an idiot, he wouldn ’t be willing to offer up such an incredible prize for the death of some nobody.

This bait…
was something Kim Seok-Il should not bite.
What an enticing bait it was.
Something he couldn ’t help but want to grab onto with both of his hands.

If this request were handled properly, the Yeongnam Group would get to completely crush the Martial Assembly.
At the same time, it would also get to build a profitable relationship with China ’s Martial Union.
This path may be bumpy and uneven, but it would be weirder if a task with such great benefits would be easy to pull off.

Kim Seok-Il asked another question, “Is the issue with the international borders holding the Martial Union back?”

“Sir, I heard the balance between the Three Kings is too finely poised for them to make a move.
Without keeping each other in check, they would have extended their grubby hands to Korea by now.”

That sounded pretty hopeful to Kim Seok-Il ’s ears.
He nodded and issued a new order.
“Summon the Fallen.”

“…But, sir.”

Kim Seok-Il put his foot down as if he didn ’t want to hear any opposing arguments.
“We shall focus all our strength on this matter.
Which means we shall play every card at our disposal!”

And so…
Two of the top martial art factions in Korea began reaching out to Kang Jin-Ho almost at the same time.


“You wanna start a business?” Park Yu-Min asked back in a surprised voice.

Kang Jin-Ho coolly nodded.

Inside a local watering hole…

While making a face of a man who didn ’t get the memo, Park Yu-Min poured another round of soju into Kang Jin-Ho ’s cup.
“But what about university? You want to run a business instead of studying?”


“…Does that mean you ’re quitting university?”

“No, I ’ll go back,” said Kang Jin-Ho before chugging the alcohol down his throat.
“My original plan was to travel here and there for the next six months, but things somehow turned out this way.
And now, it looks like I ’ll have to give it a shot.”

“You want to set up a business with no help, though?”

“Not quite,” said Kang Jin-Ho with a shake of his head.

After listening to the explanation, Park Yu-Min began making a weird face.
kind of conditions are those?”

“Yeah, that ’s what I ’ve been wondering, too.”

Park Yu-Min rubbed his chin as if he was a great philosopher.
”Okay, so…
You want to run a business that ’s just right for you, but you can ’t think of anything.
Did I get that right? ”

“Yeah.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded.

Park Yu-Min replied without hesitation, as if he couldn ’t understand what all the fuss was about.
“In that case, open a PC Room! A PC Room should be perfect for you since you like gaming.
You ’re gonna play games anyway, so might as well do it in your own place.”

Kang Jin-Ho looked at his friend weirdly.
“…I heard that a PC Room will go under if the owner plays games all the time.”

“Huh, that’s an issue?”

“And it ’s not easy to recoup the startup cost with that kind of a business in a short period.
It has a lot of risks, too.”

Park Yu-Min nodded, agreeing that this matter wasn ’t as simple as it sounded.

’I had no idea… ’

Opening a store seemed fairly simple on the surface, but one had to overcome quite a few hurdles to make it happen in reality.

“In that case, how about a distribution warehouse? This is my honest opinion, but if you join the distribution industry, you ’re gonna rewrite Korea ’s distribution service history, Jin-Ho.”

“…They told me to restrict my choice to the food industry.”

Isn ’t that like playing chess without your knights and bishops? A restaurant or a diner isn ’t something you can shine in, right?”

”…Uh-whew. ” Kang Jin-Ho sighed, feeling rather depressed after his closest friend had offered some words of sympathy.
Even he could tell that the distribution warehouse would have been an ideal business for him.
Isn ’t there something that suits me?”

Park Yu-Min asked curiously to no one in particular, “When it comes to a diner, shouldn ’t it be like a Chinese restaurant or a fried chicken place?”

“…I ’m not allowed to deliver either.”

Park Yu-Min looked incredulous.
“Holy cow.
I really don ’t get this at all.
Why are they placing so many restrictions on you? Just what are you getting out of this, Jin-Ho?”

“Credits, Yu-Min.”


Kang Jin-Ho ’s expression stiffened.
“My university credit will go up if I ’m successful!”

Park Yu-Min stared at his friend in a daze.

’If that ’s the prize, you…
should just go back to school, you dummy. ’

To think that Kang Jin-Ho wanted to run a shop to earn some credits when he could do that just fine by attending the university…
And they weren ’t even talking about one or two months here, but six months of hard labor! What kind of nonsense was this?

Park Yu-Min calmly spoke, “Listen, Jin-Ho.”

Kang Jin-Ho shook his head.
“…I know what you ’re going to say.
However, I also want to give this a shot.”

“Well, if that ’s what you want…” ParkYu-Min chuckled while looking at his strange friend.
This whole thing didn ’t make much sense to him, but the ’Kang Jin-Ho ’ he knew wasn ’t the type to waste his time on useless things.
If he had set his heart on starting a business, then he should have a good reason for it.
“I see.
By the way, can ’t you just splurge your own money and start with a bang? I mean, even I know that making a big splash at the beginning is already half the battle won, right?”

“That ’s also prohibited.”

“Urgh…” Park Yu-Min groaned.
Not just the knight and bishop pieces, but even rooks seemed to have been taken out of this particular game of chess, too!

’Well, I guess fair competition is a good thing, but… ’

Being able to utilize all the arsenal at your disposal was also a talent of sorts.
If great starting conditions equaled success for everyone, then well…
No company in the world would have gone out of business.
Yet Jaegyeong was clearly pushing Kang Jin-Ho toward a completely fair and even starting point as everyone else.

’Wait, are they…
trying to evaluate Jin-Ho? ’

Park Yu-Min had experienced something similar to this situation back during his pro gamer days.
The team used to make him skip the beginning and jump straight into certain match situations.
Their reasoning was that they wanted to figure out his management skills, not his overall gaming ability.
So, they would create an unfavorable situation for him and observe how he would respond to it.

Hwang Jeong-Hu highly valued Kang Jin-Ho.
That much was obvious even to Park Yu-Min.
However, this type of evaluation hinted at something else.
It was as if the chairman didn ’t want their relationship to stay as mere ’friends ’.
Depending on the result of this evaluation, Hwang Jeong-Hu might even give Kang Jin-Ho an important position in the corporation.

’In that case, I gotta help Jin-Ho out! ’

Park Yu-Min ’s drive kicked into a higher gear.
Even if he had become a lot more independent lately, the existence called Kang Jin-Ho still remained something akin to a divine being to him.
As long as Kang Jin-Ho reached a place where he would get to unleash his abilities without being held back, then the rest would take care of itself.
Everything should be smooth sailing afterward.

Knowing this, Park Yu-Min decided that he would do everything in his power to help Kang Jin-Ho out.
However, a new question suddenly popped up in his head.
“By the way, Jin-Ho?”


“Do you even know, uh, how to cook?”

“…!” Kang Jin-Ho ’s expression crumpled dejectedly.

Park Yu-Min sensed that this challenge wasn ’t going to be easy and groaned at length.


“You want to open a shop?” Kang Yu-Hwan blinked his eyes, unable to hide his expression that said, “Son, what on Earth are you thinking?”

“Yes, Father.
The thing is…” For what felt like the umpteenth time, Kang Jin-Ho began explaining the situation he had found himself in again.

In that case, can ’t you run another cafe, then? I ’ll teach you how to brew a mean cup of coffee, son.”

Kang Jin-Ho shook his head.
“Unfortunately, cafes are also prohibited, Father.”

“Aren ’t these conditions a bit too strict? And what you get out of this deal doesn ’t seem all that good, either.”

Kang Jin-Ho could understand what his father was worried about here.
If it hadn ’t been for what Ju Yeong-Gi said, even Kang Jin-Ho himself wouldn ’t have bothered with something this annoying.
However, he realized something while listening to Ju Yeong-Gi ’s advice.

Kang Jin-Ho might be physically a near-perfect human being, but when it came to dealing with other people? Even he knew that he was utterly hopeless.
He had certainly gotten a little better at being sociable after befriending Park Yu-Min, serving in the army, and working part-time in Kang Yu-Hwan ’s cafe, but his awkward stiffness when dealing with strangers was still there.

By this point, he had already given up living a totally ordinary life.
That didn ’t mean he had changed his mind about living a life close to being as normal as possible, though.

Now that he knew just where he was lacking, it was only obvious that he would do his best to overcome his shortcomings.
That was Kang Jin-Ho ’s stance on the matter.
And this whole running a business thing was a good opportunity for that.
A good experience toward his end goal.

Well, I am in favor of this, but…” Kang Yu-Hwan stopped talking there for a second, then stared at Kang Jin-Ho.
“It ’s true that I told you to go out and experience various things since youth can overcome basically anything.
Honestly speaking, son, I don ’t think it ’s strictly necessary for you to earn life experience by treading a difficult path.
Sure, this country ’s businesspeople that started from the bottom all have this tendency to highly regard the kind of path you want to take.
However, look at the majority of American businesspeople, for instance.
They all grew up in affluent families.”

Kang Jin-Ho didn ’t say anything and just nodded away.

“I ’m not sure what your thought process behind choosing to walk this path is, son.
However, it ’s something you want to do, so you should keep forging ahead.
But remember.
’Experience ’ doesn ’t necessarily have to come from hardships.
What ’s important is that you got to experience it.”

“I see.
I ’ll remember that, Father.”

Then, do your best, son.”

“…I ’m sorry?” Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head, wondering why their discussion was ending so abruptly like this.
“D-don ’t you have any recommendations, Father? Like, do this or that?”

I ’m sure my son will take care of everything.”

“…???” Kang Jin-Ho stared at his father in a daze.

Kang Yu-Hwan grinned brightly.
“I believe in you, son.”

Kang Jin-Ho narrowed his eyes while inwardly going, ‘Father, this doesn ’t feel like belief, but more like abandonment.’

Kang Yu-Hwan noticed his son ’s gaze and coughed to clear his throat while sneakily turning his head away.

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