“Crap, I might be a bit late.”
James sprinted down the sidewalk. Today was the day he was supposed to meet up with Leah and help her with her “advertising projects,” although James kind of wondered if they’d actually be working. The entire thing was basically a ruse, meant to get James paid while avoiding government taxes and the attention of his parents.
The twenty minute walk became a five minute run, except for a stop at a traffic light. James’ backpack, which contained the necessary papers, bounced up and down on his back. Thankfully, the bag held, and nothing fell out.
James was currently wearing his glasses. He didn’t need them anymore, thanks to the beanie, but it felt off if they weren’t on his face. Besides, he wouldn’t be able to explain why his sight magically fixed itself.
As he approached his school, James slowed down. Breathing a bit more heavily than normal, he walked quickly towards the eastern side gate, where Leah was supposed to pick him up. As he rounded the bend, he paused for a moment.
“There’s no way,” James thought as he saw the line up waiting for him.
Just outside of the school’s eastern gate, 3 sleek and luxurious black cars were parked in a column against the curb. A few men, dressed in black suits and sunglasses, stood motionless beside the cars, giving off an intimidating air. As James approached, the door of the car in the middle began to open. One of the men leaned over, and held the door open for whoever was coming out.
Of course, it was Leah.
Leah waved at James and walked over to him, tailed closely by 2 burly men.
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” said James. “ I was a bit late.”
Leah looked at the watch on her wrist. “You were late by less than a minute. Death penalty.” She smiled. James seriously hoped that was a joke, because Leah could kill him easily.
“I knew you were rich but…” James vaguely gestured at the cars and people beside him. “Isn’t this a bit too much?”
“My dad wouldn’t let me come here without at least this much.”
That was understandable. James didn’t understand why Leah’s father happily shipped her off to the United States without any prior warning, but at least he didn’t send her off without ensuring her safety and convenience.
Truth be told, very few things on Earth could possibly pose a threat to Leah, one of the top dungeon explorers. Since Leah’s father was a dungeon explorer himself, he should have realized this. However, it was better to not use what most people refer to as superpowers on Earth. And, it was much easier to not be attacked at all. The bodyguards acted as deterrents to potential wrongdoers.
Leah called out to one of the men with sunglasses, and spoke a few sentences in Korean. The man nodded, then shouted. A few of the men began getting into the cars in the front and back.
“Come,” said Leah. She and James sat down in the backseat of the middle car. The man whom Leah just talked to sat shotgun, while another took the wheel. The car started, and all 3 vehicles began to move in a line.
“That is Kwan Jung-Hoon,” said Leah, as she gestured to the man in the shotgun seat. “He’s my main bodyguard, but does more than that. Planning, driving me around. Good guy. Pay him a lot.”
The man didn’t react, even when his name was called. It seemed he knew that Leah wasn’t talking to him. Instead, he calmly sat there.
James nodded. “This had indeed been an interesting experience. However, I think I’ll just drive next time.” He didn’t feel comfortable being surrounded by a squad of armed men with walkie talkies, and shades. He felt like he was looking at the secret service. In fact, the thing he was most uncomfortable with was the fact that they used the school parking lot for this. James didn’t think the school would really mind a simple drop-off or pick-up, but was this simple?
Leah let out a small laugh. “You can drive yourself?”
“I have a permit. I can test for the license soon. Hopefully, I won’t fail”
“You can drive next time. But you will come to the same place. I want to see your reaction to the building.” Leah gave a wicked smile.
The building? What type of building was it?
James stepped out of the car.
It had been a quick 15 minute drive. The ride had been smooth, and James had no complaints. He was most impressed at the drivers’ abilities to tailgate each other. Since they were obviously a group of 3 fancy black cars, James doubted any drivers had wanted to jam themselves in between. But the distance between the cars had been so tight that a driver couldn’t have cut in if they tried. The drivers even switched lanes without breaking formation.
James looked at the building in front of him.
“Didn’t you come over just 3 days ago? Were you guys planning to expand into America before that?”
“Yes. Bought and furnished before.”
It was a nice 5 story high typical office building. It wasn't ridiculously large, but it looked good, with glass windows and sleek design. On the top of the building were two massive letters - an M and a K. This sign, which was capable of lighting up at night, was the name of the company.
“Leah, what does MK even stand for again?”
“It doesn’t stand for anything,” she said. “Random letters. MK company sounded good.”
James and Leah walked into the building, past the normal reception office, and towards the elevator. James thought that it looked like a pretty normal office building, until he saw the elevator.
The building didn’t seem to be more than 5 stories high, but there were 10, maybe even 15 buttons on the elevator. James figured out what it meant, though.
“12 underground floors,” said Leah, echoing his thoughts.
“What’s the point of building something like this?” James asked.
“We wanted a lot of space. Harder to build up than down.”
“No, I mean, what are you going to do with all this space?”
“I don’t know.”
The more James talked with Leah, the less reliable she seemed.
The elevator brought them down to the very bottom floor. Leah led James past some conference rooms to an office. He supposed this was where Leah “worked.” Leah directed James to take a seat, then sat down herself.
“Let’s begin working,” she said.
They did not get any work done.
In retrospect, James wondered why he even thought he’d be doing anything productive. After all, the entire thing was just a farce so he could get paid.
The first thing Leah did was lock the door and ask for James to bring out Leonardo the Bear, so she could pet it. James obliged, and Leah happily scratched the bear’s ears while holding it in her lap. While Leah was showering Leo with affection, James thought about the circumstances surrounding his tamed monster.
James found out that one special property of Leo was that it, unlike other magic beasts, didn’t radiate mana. Just like human explorers, Leo didn’t subconsciously intake and release mana, cycling it throughout its body, as some monsters did. James had a suspicion that it was related to Leo's ability to absorb magic stones - the magic never left its body.
But, this ability was good, because it meant James could bring the little cub out on Earth without releasing mana into the surroundings. He remembered the effects from the magic of Ayla, the girl he’d met at the spring camp fiasco - her earth spikes had caused the other bear to mutate and become demonized. He knew that the administrators of the dungeon didn’t want this to happen.
One thing that stood out to James was that the amount of mana in Ayla’s magic could not have accounted for the massive strength of the demonized bear. That bear was a 4th tier monster, and James had barely been able to beat it after taking drugs with severe backlash, even with the support of Ayla. That meant that explorers had to be much more careful about using their abilities. The remnants of a small magic spell like Ayla’s earth magic shouldn’t have made that huge of a difference, yet a massive problem had arisen.
James believed that the mere existence of the mana on Earth wasn’t the problem. Rather, the problem was that the mana catalyzed some other reactions, such as the demonized bear.
He had plenty of time to brood about these topics. Combined with the information from the beanie, he began to build a theory in his mind, a theory that was so crazy he almost couldn’t believe it himself.
James handed over the papers to Leah. Then, they ate some lunch, watched some TV, and talked just a little bit about what products would be big in America. James suggested some sports equipment for popular American sports, namely, American football and basketball.
James walked out of the building with a completely different wardrobe. After all, Leah’s company made sportswear. All of James’ clothes now had the letters MK embroidered on them, practically making him practically a walking advertisement.
He went back that afternoon with 1000 dollars: money that he didn’t deserve. He had tried to refuse, but Leah told him she already transferred the money to his account, and that it was his money in the first place. James had no choice and was honestly tired of the discussion, so he decided to hope that his parents didn’t check his balance. His parents thought he was making $1000 a month, which was already quite respectable for an intern.
James patiently waited for the day where he’d be able treat his parents to anything they wanted. Oh, and maybe his sister too. Unless she talked shit to him.