Auto Hunting - Chapter 153
Yoo-seong immediately turned off the communicator. He had about ten minutes before Ali arrived, and he planned to spend that time negotiating with his unknown caller.
“First of all,” he said through the handset, “what is your name?”
-I beg your pardon?
“Did you forget why I hung up a little while ago? I mean it. Tell me your name.”
-…Eugene O’Neill. That’s my real name.
At this, a sharp intake of breath could be heard on the line.
Yoo-seong chuckled as he imagined the shock his caller was feeling. “I’m just kidding. Given your reaction, it really must be your name, but it doesn’t matter. Sooner or later, we’ll meet each other face to face.”
-You’re overestimating yourself.
“You can tell yourself that. Instead of getting straight to what you need to tell me, you’re wasting time on useless words.”
-I got your phone number from one of our leaders…
The emphasis on the word ‘our’ seemed to enforce to Yoo-seong that his boss could very well be representing the United States.
“Do you mean someone from the White House?” he asked pointedly.
“Ah, so it’s true. I just guessed that was the case. Now, shall we talk about what you’re offering?”
-…Thirty million dollars. That is the maximum amount of money we can deposit in an untraceable account of your choice within hours of your confirmation.”
“What? I can’t hear you well.”
“Oh, damn it! My cellphone battery is dying…”
“A billion dollars.”
-Hey. Instead of trying to push your luck, why don’t you accept a realistic amount?
“Ah, a realistic amount sounds good. How about we start from a billion US dollars and work our way down?”
If Eugene had been told that Yoo-seong hadn’t even held a hundred million won in his own hands, he wouldn’t have believed it. There was no response from the other end.
However, it hadn’t gone completely silent. Yoo-seong could hear the sound of papers shuffling and keys being pressed.
After about three minutes…
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-One hundred million dollars.
Eugene sounded breathless as he uttered the words.
-It’s the maximum we can offer. We’re only doing this to end negotiations as quickly as-
“Well, my asking price is a billion. Can you really only afford a tenth of that amount?”
“Ha!” Yoo-seong laughed. “I’m just kidding. I’d be a fool to let this one go, wouldn’t I?”
-Thank you very much for understanding…
“Sure. So, send me two hundred million.”
Yoo-seong lowered his voice.
“If the negotiations break down at this point, your boss will punish you, won’t he?”
-But two hundred…
“If you play with a hunter, you might get hunted.”
From the beginning, Yoo-seong hadn’t been doing this for money. It was clear to him that Eugene O’Neill was not his real opponent. There was someone more powerful who controlled the money, someone who must have been linked to a high government post to secure Yoo-seong’s number, someone who was rich and powerful yet still hungry enough to use what was considered confidential information simply for their personal greed.
“Here’s what’s going to happen.” Yoo-seong checked the time. “In a few minutes, the head of Kowala Company will come here, and we will work through the technicalities so I can completely close the rift on their behalf.”
-What? Is that possible?
Eugene’s voice sounded suspicious. To them, the economic value of that slightly-open crack was enormous. The Kowala Company would be crazy to even think about closing it.
“That’s what the two hundred million you’ll pay me is for. Send me the two hundred million dollars, and I’ll convince them to close this crack.”
-Good. If that’s the case…
“Okay, we’re done.”
Yoo-seong hung up and looked down at the cliff. The Kowala Company hunters had formed up to besiege and annihilate the Salamanders gathered at the edge of it.
Ali was walking toward him, with Danny right by his side.
He had an awkward expression as if he didn’t know what to say to Yoo-seong.
Yoo-seong opened his mouth first.
“What happened? Your eyes look quite swollen.”
Danny quickly translated his question and conveyed Ali’s response.
“I heard the warriors’ stories… You… saved them.”
“Was that all they told you? I did much more than that.” Yoo-seong pointed at the bottom of the cliff, then up at the sky. The corralled Salamanders and the almost-closed crack.
Ali looked exhausted. Then, without any expression…
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He dropped to his knees in front of Yoo-seong.
“You were right. I will kneel in front of you, just like this. It won’t be enough, but…”
“Of course that’s not enough.” Yoo-seong looked down on the kneeling Ali as if the gesture weren’t a big deal to him.
“Anyway, you guys won’t be able to pay me back, but I’m thinking of something else. How about a deal?”
Yoo-seong pointed to the small, still-open crack with his thumb.
“I think it would be pretty difficult if we kept that open… wouldn’t it?”
From what Danny had told Yoo-seong on the beach hours ago, it was clear that the proceeds obtained by the Kowala Company from selling Salamander fluids had been used to restore the lives of native Hawaiians.
For them, the number one priority wasn’t the large sums of money they could get from monster byproducts. Their way of life and the pride of keeping it were more valuable.
No matter how small it was, an unclosed crack might soon cause the island to be declared a permanent barrier zone. It would disturb their way of living more than anything else.
“Speaking from the standpoint of someone who has dealt with these before,” Yoo-seong further explained, “an unclosed crack always has the risk of growing wider anytime.”
“Well… if that’s the case…” Ali’s words trailed off.
His reaction was what Yoo-seong had expected.
“I could close that crack,” he pushed on, “but it’s not that simple. Lawsuits for touching a crack in foreign soil without permission…”
Yoo-seong stared at Danny, then switched his eyes to Ali as the young man translated.
“I won’t allow it!” Ali was firm. “We will provide all necessary proof that we requested your help. If it ends up as a lawsuit, we will cover all the costs!”
“Is that it? Is that all the Kowala Company can offer?”
“Did you really think that just by kneeling, you’d be able to make it up to me?” Yoo-seong scoffed as he spoke. “Have you forgotten that you almost hit me on the beach earlier? Why would I save your warriors’ lives with my exclusive tools?”
At this, Ali lowered his head. What Yoo-seong had just said was indisputable.
He was the world’s most famous hunter, whose exclusive service must be worth a colossal sum. With his face heated in shame, Ali raised his eyes to Yoo-seong. He had already made his decision.
“If you close that crack for us…”
“Ugh!” Danny groaned as soon as he heard what reward Ali was offering to Yoo-seong.
Yoo-seong pursed his lips as he slowly nodded as if the offer weren’t bad.
“Hmm… That’s fair. You have a deal.”
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He stretched out his palm, and Ali took it immediately. Everything that followed happened in a rush.
A formal request to legalize Yoo-seong’s participation in closing the rift was made with Ali’s signature. Then Yoo-seong finished stitching up the crack and returned to the control center.
When he checked his account balance through his phone…
An unbelievable amount greeted his eyes. This meant that Eugene O’Neill had already completed their end of the deal.
“Wow, this is no joke…” Yoo-seong said, his eyes closing with fatigue. Then…
Yoo-seong collapsed, his body rolling onto the floor, limp with exhaustion.
Ali and the other hunters in the control center immediately supported the unconscious Yoo-seong. After a while, the medical staff who had taken care of him shared their findings with the Kowala Company hunters.
“He’s fine. Nothing life-threatening, but… he’s completely drained. His muscles are all overused. It’s a state of exhaustion I’ve never seen in a hunter before.”
Yoo-seong had come to Hawaii in the first place to rest. However, he couldn’t just close his eyes and ignore the situation he’d arrived in.
Soon Yoo-seong, who was sound asleep, was brought to the hospital.
As soon as Yoo-seong opened his eyes…
He pulled the dextrose out of his forearm and rose at once. Danny, who was at his bedside, looked surprised.
“How long have I slept?” he asked urgently.
“About sixteen hours…”
“Ouch. In the end, I’m going to arrive without having gained much difference from waiting for a plane ride.” Yoo-seong sighed with disappointment. Then he turned to Danny. “Let’s go. Please guide me. I need to get everything I can before I leave.”
Danny looked at him with a strange expression.
Of course, there was respect and wonder in his look, but the young man didn’t know how to feel about the contract Ali had offered Yoo-seong. Sixteen hours ago, the Kowala Company had granted Yoo-seong permission to close the rift.
However, more than that, the contract stated something else, something more valuable.
Yoo-seong had been signed as a temporary member. A position that no outsider had ever held.
“For the next eight hours, I’ll be a member of your tribe, right?”
Danny nodded. It was what Ali had offered to Yoo-seong in exchange for his help.
As a member, even a temporary one, he had the right to inherit their traditions. That included the Hawaiian warriors’ pride, the Tattoo Tech.
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For the next eight hours, Yoo-seong had the right to take everything he could from their history. Just as he had with the Red Dragon Society in China.
With this, Yoo-seong licked his dry lips in anticipation.