SOLO LEVELING NOVEL, CHAPTER 45
Ahn Sahng-Min lowered his head again. And then, he hurriedly issued an order to Hyun Ki-Cheol.
“Vice Chief Hyun, get the contract documents ready.”
Their preparation was done in the blink of an eye.
After the duo hurriedly left the offices, Baek Yun-Ho sneaked in a question to a male employee next to him.
“What’s going on here? Just what kind of an assignment could make Chief Ahn roll his sleeves up and jump in personally like this?”
The male employee sent a pleading look to a female colleague next to him, asking silently for any form of assistance. Unfortunately, even she shook her head.
‘I also don’t know,’ said her eyes.
The male employee hesitated for a bit before he finally gave in and answered with great difficulty while scratching the back of his head.
“Well, sir… The thing is, none of us….”
He expected the boss to throw an almighty hissy fit, but then….
Quite unexpectedly, the boss didn’t say anything else.
‘So, he’s involved in something so secretive that he can’t even tell his own people, is that it?’
Baek Yun-Ho slowly rubbed his chin.
The person who had contributed a great deal in building up the White Tiger Guild to its current size and power was none other than Chief Ahn Sahng-Min.
If someone like that was throwing all his focus on this matter, then….
‘Will our Chief Ahn once more reel in a huge fish?’
A huge smile slowly bloomed on Baek Yun-Ho’s face.
‘Why the hell is this coffee so bitter?!’
Jin-Woo frowned deeply.
He was thinking of the vending machine coffee’s taste when ordering a cup of Espresso at the cafe. But hell, rather than calling this coffee, it was much more fitting to label it as a really bitter traditional medicine, instead.
And it cost way too much for what it was.
‘Man, ?6,000 can buy me several canned coffee, you know….’
He began wondering just how many sticks of sugar he needed to pour into this bitter b*stard in order to make it taste about the same as the canned coffee. But then…
The door to the cafe opened, and the duo of Ahn Sahng-Min and Hyun Ki-Cheol rushed inside.
Jin-Woo raised his hand.
Ahn Sahng-Min and Hyun Ki-Cheol quickly took a sweeping look around the cafe, and when they discovered Jin-Woo, their complexions brightened in an instant. Their expressions resembled that of ‘Heungbu’ sawing the gourd brought by the swallow. (TL: ‘Heungbu’ is the main character of an old Korean novel ‘Heungbu and Nolbu’. There is a dedicated page in Wikipedia for this folk tale if you’re interested.)
“We honestly didn’t expect to see you again so soon.”
Ahn Sahng-Min greeted like so and sat opposite to Jin-Woo, while Hyun Ki-Cheol made a quick greeting with a nod and settled down next to his superior officer.
Jin-Woo also nodded his head lightly as his greeting.
The old saying went ‘make hay while the sun still shines’. So, Ahn Sahng-Min pulled out the contract as soon as settling down.
“For the terms we can offer you, we can negotiate…..”
His ardent desire to get the contract signed quickly was quite easy to see.
Unfortunately for him, Jin-Woo cut him off rather decisively.
“I didn’t come here today to talk about signing with you folks.”
Ahn Sahng-Min’s hands froze in mid-action of pulling out the contract. Hyun Ki-Cheol also looked quite confused as well.
Ahn Sahng-Min asked in the frozen position as if someone had pressed the pause the button.
“Well then, what brings you to our White Tiger Guild….?”
His expectation had been great, and so was the ensuing disappointment.
The biggest find of the year walked into the Guild with his own two feet, but he refused to sign the contract the moment he clapped his eyes on it.
Could he have changed his mind in the meantime?
As the duo’s confusion grew, Jin-Woo calmly spoke to them.
“I came here to help you two.”
The reactions of Ahn Sahng-Min and Hyun Ki-Cheol were roughly the same. Two men exchanged glances, before shifting their gaze over to Jin-Woo. In a complete contrast to their flustered state, Jin-Woo remained utterly calm.
“I remember you mentioning your troubles regarding the training of your new recruits, because my raid team swept away all the available rank C dungeons in the area.”
“T-that’s correct. Well, we can’t really take the newbies to a high ranked dungeon just because we couldn’t book a rank C Gate, after all.”
“That’s why I’m here today.”
Ahn Sahng-Min tilted his head slightly.
“Forgive me, but I can’t seem to….”
Jin-Woo thought this was enough of him beating around the bush, so he got to the main topic.
“I want to sell the raid permits for three of the rank C gates my raid team acquired.”
Hyun Ki-Cheol let off a short gasp.
The two men from the White Tiger Guild finally figured out what Jin-Woo really wanted from them.
“If you really wanted to help us out, then wouldn’t it be simpler just to not book Gates anymore?”
Jin-Woo shook his head.
“Unfortunately, I have some matters that require the continued clearing of rank C Gates for the time being.”
“Well then, why today….?”
Jin-Woo smiled refreshingly.
“I’m here because I wanted to help you out of your troubles.”
Should the duo believe those words at their face value?
Just before the calculator inside Ahn Sahng-Min’s head could start crunching some numbers, Jin-Woo continued on with his explanations.
“Of course, I’m being considerate only for today. We also can’t delay our operations as well, you see. If you miss this chance, I’m pretty sure that it’ll only get harder to book rank C Gates for the foreseeable future.”
For some reason, he came across as a host of a home shopping channel alerting his viewers to the looming end of the discount period.
Ahn Sahng-Min fell into a dilemma.
Gates didn’t just appear in and around the capital city only.
If they couldn’t book one around here, there was an option of going to the countryside and training the rookies there. However, there was a good chance of earning the ire of the local Guilds and the raid teams by doing that.
That wasn’t all, either.
Doing that would be like giving ammunition to large Guilds located in the countryside, like the Shining Star located in Honam, or the Knight Order in Youngnam, to ridicule the White Tiger.
In other words, his Guild could be saddled with the ignoble reputation of a poorly-run organisation that couldn’t even train their rookies in their own backyard.
‘Hmm…. Can we claim that it’s an undeserved reputation, even?’
Because, it was clearly true, after all.
Whatever the case may be, which rookie would want to join a Guild that was being roundly ridiculed by other famous Guilds?
This was one of the reasons why the Guild’s public image was really important.
After a lengthy deliberation, Ahn Sahng-Min came to a conclusion.
“Please sell us the permits. Three rank C Gates should be enough for our needs. How much are you thinking of for all three of them?”
The White Tiger Guild had a really deep pocket.
However, nothing good would come out of trying to compare their financial muscle with Yujin Construction’s, and just as importantly, he feared souring the relationship with Jin-Woo the most, so he’d not even try to compete at the end of the day.
But now, Jin-Woo was actually volunteering to hand over the Gates, so shouldn’t this be something to be grateful about?
Unfortunately, he couldn’t be grateful for the proposed prices, though.
“300 million Won per gate, so 900 million for all three.”
Both Ahn Sahng-Min and Hyun Ki-Cheol spat out pained, shocked gasps at the same time.
“That’s too much.”
Hyun Ki-Cheol tried to interject, but Ahn Sahng-Min quickly stopped him.
Something like this also happened the last time they met.
Jin-Woo ended the talks without an ounce of hesitation once his price couldn’t be met.
In a way, this was a great opportunity that rolled on to their laps.
If they failed to grasp this chance, then either they only get to book a rank C Gate a really long time from now or, in the worst case scenario, go to the countryside to train their rookies.
‘Well, at least I should try negotiating properly today.’
Ending the talks this quickly would only leave the bitter taste in his mouth.
Still, a Gate priced 300 million each was just too expensive.
Yu Jin-Ho’s bid for the raid permits averaged around 100 million Won lately. Asking three times that amount was just being too unreasonable.
Surely, Jin-Woo would know this, too.
‘I’m sure he’s thinking of starting at a high enough number and gradually come down.’
Now that he thought about it, he recalled the words Baek Yun-Ho had said before they left the office.
[“I don’t care whether it’s a hundred million, two hundred – just book the d*mn Gates! Do you understand me?!”]
This was the same thing as the CEO giving his consent.
Plus, every employee working in the Second Division heard those words, so Baek Yun-Ho wouldn’t be able to pretend his way out of this one, either.
Ahn Sahng-Min swallowed his saliva and put up his counteroffer.
“300 million is too large an amount even for us, so how about 200 million ins….”
Even before Ahn Sahng-Min could finish his sentence, Jin-Woo reached out with his right hand. With a slightly dazed face, Ahn Sahng-Min reached out as well and shook the offered hand.
“This….. Are you okay with this?”
“Yes. 200 million Won for each rank C Gate. Please deposit the money into this bank account.”
It kind of felt like the situation got resolved way too fast, but well, from Ahn Sahng-Min’s perspective, this should count as a fortunate thing indeed.
Ahn Sahng-Min lightly shook Jin-Woo’s hand and bowed his head as well.
“I’m grateful for this. Thank you.”
“You’re being too kind.”
Jin-Woo also formed a bright smile.
Ahn Sahng-Min inwardly thought that he’d be able to breathe a little bit easier now. For the time being, he was able to resolve the situation with training the new recruits, and his relationship with Jin-Woo had improved, ever so slightly, as well.
‘Trust is the foundation of all negotiations and dealings, after all.’
Just like this, their relationship would evolve for the better bit by bit. Sooner or later, he’d be able to reel in his catch.
No one would spit at a smiling face, and no one would pretend to not notice when someone gave you a present.
Ahn Sahng-Min inwardly clenched his fist.
Meanwhile, Jin-Woo stood up from his seat first.
“Now that’s been sorted, I should get going. I’ll see you around. Oh, and here.”
Jin-Woo handed over a shopping bag containing an empty tumbler to its original owner.
“Thanks for the drink. I really enjoyed it.”
“I’m happy to hear that you liked it, Mister Seong.”
With a slightly reddened face, Hyun Ki-Cheol accepted the shopping bag.
With that, Jin-Woo exited from the cafe.
After he got to a far enough distance away from Ahn Sahng-Min and Hyun Ki-Cheol, Jin-Woo gave Yu Jin-Ho a call.
A short bout of poppy music ringtone later….
Yu Jin-Ho’s clearly excited voice came out from the speaker.
“Hyung-nim, the money came through. It’s really 600 million Won!”
Jin-Woo quietly smiled in satisfaction.
This transaction was a resounding success.
He managed to sell off raid permits at double the price of what they paid for, before they became useless junk. This was a huge profit for them.
Yu Jin-Ho asked him in a mystified voice.
“Hyung-nim, just what did you do? Where did you manage to sell the rank C Gate permits?”
“That’s my trade secret.”
“Enjoy your break, and see you in two days’ time.”
While Yu Jin-Ho was getting flustered on the other side, Jin-Woo simply ended the call.
Later, on the same day.
The Second Division’s office.
Hyun Ki-Cheol was urgently seeking out Ahn Sahng-Min.
Ahn Sahng-Min tore his eyes away from his computer monitor. Hyun Ki-Cheol pointed to his phone’s screen with an urgent expression on his face.
“You gotta take a look at this, Chief!”
“What’s going on now?”
Ahn Sahng-Min looked at the screen and his eyes narrowed to a slit.
The screen showed the section of the Hunter Association’s website that only the Hunters had access to.
To be more precise, the screen showed the page which notified everyone of where the reported Gates were located at, as well as allowing anyone to buy the raid permits for those Gates.
“What’s this?! Why are there so many rank C dungeons in our district?!”
“Not only that, each one is going for less than 10 million Won at the moment, as well!”
Ahn Sahng-Min realised that something was terribly awry here.
“….Yu Jin-Ho’s team hasn’t booked a single Gate for tomorrow.”
Hearing Hyun Ki-Cheol’s words, Ahn Sahng-Min immediately recalled what Seong Jin-Woo told him over the phone.
[“I have some free time on Thursday.”]
And tomorrow was Thursday. Yu Jin-Ho’s team had no plans to go on a raid tomorrow. He didn’t even know that and bought those permits at a huge premium.
An amused chuckle leaked out from Ahn Sahng-Min’s mouth.
There were enough hints, but it was too late by the time he had pieced them together. This was his mistake. Well, he did succeed in cooling the anger of the CEO in the end, so it wasn’t all bad.
“Looks like we’ve been had, Chief.”
It was then, a text message arrived in Ahn Sahng-Min’s phone.
It was from Seong Jin-Woo.
[With this, we’re even now. I will consider your people spying on me as something that never happened.]
‘I can’t take this fellow lightly, can I?’
Ahn Sahng-Min inwardly chuckled.
If the sole sticking point between Jin-Woo and the White Tiger could be resolved in this manner, as implied by the youth, then this wouldn’t necessarily be a bad trade for the Guild at the end of the day.
Their final aim was to scout Jin-Woo, after all.
Besides, the amount they spent today wasn’t all that much, anyway.
“Let’s think of it as us investing in Seong Jin-Woo.”
It’d be nice if they were able to earn back as much as they have invested, though.
Ahn Sahng-Min stopped looking at his phone and with a smile on his face, closed the mailbox.
After sending the text, Jin-Woo took one more look around his vicinity.
There was absolutely no one here.
Only the dense forest greeted his searching eyes.
In order to make sure he’d get to ‘enjoy’ a relatively-safe quest, he searched for a mountainside with almost no human presence and found the most suitable candidate.
The current time was 17:44.
There shouldn’t be any hikers in this in-between hour, plus his current location was an empty spot of land far, far removed from any hiking trails.
‘Time to get started.’
Jin-Woo accessed his mailbox.
[Will you take on the Class Change Quest now?] (Y/N)
The message popped up in his view as if it’d been patiently waiting for him.