“Well, this sucks.” He reclined over his chair as even if he found his jades, he still didn’t have the resource to pay for it. The concern of money was becoming a big factor over his future cultivation state.
“Working at Burger Mart ain’t going to cut it, but do people these days request assassination jobs? Cause I’m quite frankly damn good at that.” The thought of killing came first in his mind. “Nah, I don’t think that’s a good idea. People on this earth are quite frankly too soft in my opinion. I doubt they’ll approve something remotely similar to a bounty.” Realizing he wasn’t in a lawless land like back in his second life, he dumped those ideas down the drain.
With his head tilted back, he stared at the ceiling, brainstorming how to get some dough for his stones. “On second thought, I think I should try that previous discord I went to.” He opened up Reddit and found the link to the discord. It was a new one like the one before and the gibberish was still visibly present. Still don’t get it.
“Well, let’s do this.” Max decided. He typed on the discord. “New player in New Jersey, need a job for a quick cash.” He popped the question and the channel went silent. “Okay… this is weird.” He glanced at his connection and it wasn’t disconnected.
Then, someone posted something. Multiple rows of curses, belittling Max for what he posted. It was in the line of cussing Max for being a believer of a ridiculous idea of man becoming a game character. It seemed the poster was one of those who had too much time and took pleasure in humiliating someone. Probably a kid or someone who thinks like a kid. He shook his head in response but a new window popped up. “Hi?” He read the new message coming from a person known as Boobmaster.
“Are you a player?” Boobmaster asked. “Yes,” he responded. “Give me your full name and your social security number,” Boobmaster requested. Max was a bit weird out by it. But at least he felt he stumbled upon something. “Is this necessary?”
“Security reasons,” Boobmaster replied. “Fair enough,” Max typed out and clicked send. The chat went silent for a while and fifteen minutes later, he got a reply.
“Where do you currently live?” Boobmaster asked. I’m probably in the clear then. Somehow these people had access to these things. Interesting. “New Jersey, didn’t I just typed it?” Max played along. He had no intention of exposing his definite location unless the person on the other side knew how to track through an IP address.
“You good with doing anything?” The big question had arrived and Max was readied to put a bomb on him. “Anything besides sexual interactions.” He clicked. Yet he was reminded of something. “I’ve experience of killing green color wolves,” he typed his personal resume and sent it. It took less than a few seconds as Max was greeted by an all-caps word. “REALLY?”
The bait caught on and Max smiled. “So, is there a job or not?” He needed cash but he also needed materials and information. He waited and the answer came.
“To my lovely wife, Joanne.
Our bonds are never-ending.
Until death do us aPart.
Rain me with your love And I’ll shall showeR you the same.
Never-ending, Keeping our hearts safe and sane.
End might come but I shall never forget, my one and only Joanne.”
Wait, what? Did he post in the wrong chat or something? What’s Joanne got to do with a job?
“8 p.m tonight,” Boobmaster replied and he went off. Gone from the chat, leaving Max stranded with a letter for Joanne. But from that last message, Max figured it out. A riddle, how cheeky. But I doubt it will stop those government cryptologists from cracking it. Max read through the riddle and spotted a slight difference. “A change of font.” Max scoffed. There was a slight difference with the default font but he found it. Perception stat was working its charm and something that obvious would be hard not to find. “What does it say here? P. A. R… Oh, it’s park. That’s easy.”
He read through again, searching for an answer. Joanne Park, perhaps? He searched on the web and what he got was a bunch of Asian women named Joanne Park. Probably not. He read it again and tried to find a difference. There might be a clue or something.
Max counted the letters and tried to correlate them with the coordinates. Fifty words and two hundred and four letters.
He searched in longitude and latitude and the search was unsatisfactory. He even tried interchanging the numbers and still not making sense. It was way too far from New Jersey. Well, this is getting annoying. Then he saw the capital letters after each full stop.
“Hmm, it can’t be this simple, can it?” Max picked the first letters and formed a word. “Tourne? Tourne Park?” He tilted his head a bit. “That doesn’t sound right?” Well, he wouldn’t know, not until he asked the sage of the web, Mr.Boogle. A click of a button and there it was. “Damn,” Max said. He felt a bit foolish, considering how easy it was. “I think even the cryptologist wouldn’t expect this.” He assumed as such, trying to justify himself.
“Well, at least I didn’t take that-” He glanced at the clock and noticed thirty minutes had passed. He kept his lips sealed and threw that comment away. At least he found the place since that matter the most.
The clock was close to five in the evening and Max was inside Kate’s car, her Camry. He set up the GPS on his phone and there he went. A trip to Tourne Park as he drove down the road. It had been a long time he drove for a trip and for once he got quite giddy about it. Usually, he would just fly around in the sky, not bother using horses or anything grounded. But now it was his new present, and he adapted.
It was almost two hours down the road and he was getting closer to his destination. Yet trouble brewed. His phone was blinking in red and out of a sudden, it blacked out. “Oh, shit.” A lackluster response as he kept his eyes on the road. He found a gas station and pulled over to the side. He rummaged through the drawers, hoping to find a charger. But much to his displease, he couldn’t find any.
“Hmm, I guess I have to do it the old fashion way.” He wasn’t vexed nor frustrated. He kept an open mind and thought things in a positive light. Even if his phone was gone, there were still people around. He got out of his car and paid a visit to the gas station.
Ding-a-ling. The bell chimed and his eyes made contact with the cashier. A bald-headed man manned the counter. An Asian man in his early fifties. He looked at Max and Max looked at him. “Hey,” Max greeted. But the cashier didn’t say anything.
Max fiddled around with the items on the shelf, close to the counter. He was pretending to do buy something, considering he had other motives in mind. The silence prevailed for a while before he heard a voice from the counter. “You want a pack of cigarettes?” the cashier asked, staring at Max like a parol officer. Max came closer to the counter. “Unfortunately not,” Max said. “We don’t sell drug here,” said the cashier and it caught Max off guard. It took him a second to figure it out. “Ah, this.” He pointed at his own face with a light smile. “I just woke up from a coma, so… I don’t do drugs,” Max clarified.
The cashier kept his silence and just stared at Max. He acted as if it didn’t matter to him. “ Yea, well… You know the direction to Tourne Park?” the awkwardness almost suffocating, he forgot of how unfriendly people could be over here. In a way, being famous to be the strongest was quite a privilege back in his second life.
The cashier grabbed something. “Map, twenty dollars,” the cashier said. Wow, that’s expensive. “Sorry, mister, but I’m not here for a map.”
“You want direction, you buy map,” the cashier said. It made a whole lot of sense in a capitalist kind of way. Shit, this dude is cold, I mean freaking cold.
He thought it would be a breeze, considering how friendly he thought the people of earth should be. But it seemed he had forgotten, that people here were no different than those face-loving people in his second life that always liked to stirred trouble. Well, whatever it was, he was now facing another obstacle, the emotionless stone cashier, Mr. Bald Head.
“No map, no direction,” said the cashier.
Okay, let’s change the tactic a bit. “So mister…” Max’s eyes investigated behind and around the cashier, trying to find a topic that could ease up the communication. Yup, nothing. Tough luck for Max, he couldn’t find any. Now he was left with one thing.
“By the way, I’ve been meaning to say this. I love Japan, the culture, the food, and the entertainment. I’ve never been there, but I wish I can in the future. And you must know how beautiful Japan is since you’re from there,” said Max. He dished out whatever friendliness he could muster. In response, Mr. Bald Head stayed silent but there was a difference. A deep frown plastered across his face. Yup, from the look of it, I definitely fucked that up.
“I’m not Japanese! I’m Korean!” the cashier’s voice rang through the whole store. He then continued mumbling in Korean, cursing at Max for being a son of a bitch. How did he know? Because he understood the language. Oh? It sounds a bit different, but I think Korean sounds a lot like the language I learned from the country of Joryeo. Living almost a thousand years had its perks, besides the powerful arts he learned.
“Uncle, forgive me. Little one is blind for not seeing the truth,” Max spoke in Joryeo or Korean in this case. Mr. Bald Head’s jaw dropped, disbelief in what he just heard. It took him a few seconds to snapped out of it. “You speak Korean?” he asked in English and later realized how foolish he was. “Son of a gun, if you know how to speak Korean, you should have spoken it since the beginning,” said Mr.Bald Head in Korean. The frown on his forehead lessened and the corners of his lips arched up a bit. “But the way you speak is rather weird,” said Mr.Bald Head, while rubbing his chin. “You remind me of how the ancient Korean spoke. Like, you know? Those historical dramas from South Korea.”
Oh, I sound like very old people, that’s great. I guess it fits my actual age. “My teacher is kind of old-fashioned,” Max said. Both were conversing in Korean and from the smile on Mr.Bald Head, Max was finally getting through. “Old-fashioned is good, very good.” He gave a thumbs-up to Max. “Staying pure to Korean spirit is the right way to learn, haha.” Mr.Bald Head was definitely in the mood. “But your ethic is a bit lacking. You should never call a Korean, a Japanese. Understand?”
“Understood, uncle, and again, I’m sorry for before,” Max said. “Don’t worry.” Mr.Bald Head patted him by the shoulder, chuckling at Max. Okay, with him being happy and all. I might have a shot at this.
“So uncle, about the direction to Tourne Park-” Max was cut off by Mr.Bald Head. “That I don’t know. I don’t go to park, I hate park. But I love my gas station. See?” He pointed at his store, and the gas pumps outside, marveling at his own continuous hard work. “I’ve come here since the nineties and look at what I’ve achieved. Incredible, am I right?”
“That I can agree, very amazing,” Max said. Mr.Bald Head approached closer to Max and tried to whisper despite his loud tone. “How about the map? For you, I can sell it for fifteen dollars, a big discount. Would you like one?” Mr.Bald Head flashed a smile.
He’s a good man, and I understand he still needs to run a business. “Sorry uncle,” Max said. Mr.Bald Head was disappointed a bit but his smile returned once more. “Wait here, I’ll get you something.” Max waited and kept his eyes at Mr.Bald Head going to the back of the store. By the time he returned back, there were two bottles in his hands. “Take it.” Mr.Bald Head handed over the two bottles to Max. “This is Cider, Korean Sprite. You’ll love it.”
“But uncle, I don’t have any money,” Max couldn’t accept. “No, no. This is service. Free for friends,” said Mr.Bald Head. “Come on, take it.”
Max didn’t stand on ceremony and received the good gesture. Coincidentally, the bell door chimed. Max and Mr.Bald Head turned to the door and saw a woman stood there. She glanced at both of them and maintained her eyes at Mr.Bald Head. “Dad, what are you doing out of the counter?” Her eyes saw the soda ciders in Max’s hand. “Is he paying for that or are you giving service again?” The daughter gave a glare at her father.
“Oh! Right on time, this is my daughter, Park Eugene, and daughter this is…” Mr.Park just realized he didn’t know Max’s name.
“Dad, you’re talking in Korean, he doesn’t-”
“I’m Max,” Max said, flashing a smile. Eugene stared at Max for a while, a bit impress by the sudden multilingual. It wasn’t often to see a Caucasian man speaking in Korean, more so in Denville. Her jet black hair neatly fashioned in a high ponytail and her neon pink eyes were rather eye-catching. She dressed rather casually with her top a plain tee but her bottom was rather interesting, black leather pants that hugged her lower half rather tightly. Quite a fashion statement.
“I’m Eugene, you can just call me Gene,” said Gene, handing her hand out for a shake. Max didn’t wait and shook in return. They gazed for a while and Mr.Park came in between them, parting their hands by force. “Okay, enough staring.” Mr.Park looked at her daughter. “Daughter, you need to help Max here to Tourne Park.”
“Wait, what?” She was flustered. “That’s like two hours from here and I’ve got morning shift, don’t you remember?”
“It’s fine. Your mother will take your place. Here, take the truck key and go send Max to the park. I don’t know why he wants to go to the park but send him there,” Mr. Park said. “Oh, uncle, it’s fine. I got a car outside and I just need some-” his words cut off. “I don’t want to,” Gene said. She crossed her arms and frowned. The daughter rebelled and sparks flew between father and daughter. Both glared and frowned at each other.
Meanwhile, Max stuck in the middle. Okaaay. Did I just start a family feud? I don’t think I can slip out of this that easily. He was out of option. He could have run away but that would be too disrespectful.
“Why do I need to send him? He’s a stranger, dad.” Gene tried to give a logical excuse. “No. He’s not a stranger. He’s a friend of the family,” Mr.Park countered.
“Since when?” Gene retorted. “Since I say so, just now.” Mr.Park wasn’t backing down. ‘Ugh.” Gene stomped on her feet, frustrated by her own father. “Dad, you’re being a pain. Can’t for once our day be peaceful?”
“Not my fault. You’re the one who causes it,” Mr.Park said. He threw the bomb and crossed his arms like he won. Eugene was getting frustrated by the second and Max the wallpaper tried his best not to show any response. “Whatever it is, I’m not doing it,” Gene said. She seemed adamant in her words.
“You don’t do it, then say bye-bye to the Louvre,” said Mr.Park, and this time he spoke in English. He waved his hand at his own daughter while smirking. “You can’t do that!” Gene’s tone turned higher by a notch. The thought of the Louvre Museum raced through her mind. “Yes, I can. I’m the one who's paying for your ticket and your trip, haha.” He chuckled in the end, like a villain who just won. Gene was boiling in anger, her day began rather rough considering her dad was a pain in the ass.
Mr.Park approached Max and motioned like trying to whisper but his voice was far from being a whisper. To be fair, it was louder than normal. “Daughter study arts. She wants to be a painter like Da Vinci, but I said no, painter’s pay is no good. Better be a doctor or a lawyer, but not so lucky, don’t want to listen.” Mr.Park sighed a bit after giving too much information there, more so to a stranger.
“Dad, I can hear you loud and clear,” Gene said. She was trying to contain her anger. “What? What did you just say? I didn’t say anything. Did you hear anything Max?” Mr.Park feigned innocent and gave Max an obvious wink.
Oh boy, please don’t drag me into this Mr.Park. Max prayed in his heart, hoping he wasn’t getting suck into this family drama. He was just here for direction and not a whole episode of a sitcom.
“Ugh, you’re infuriating. Fine, I’ll do it!” Gene snatched the car key from Mr.Park’s hand. She headed to the door and looked back at Max. “Come on,” Gene said, glaring at Max. She left and now there were only Max and Mr.Park.
Ah, fuck. Max didn’t feel so good. Then he felt a nudge on his side. He glanced at Mr.Park. “See, I win and daughter zero,” said Mr.Park. There was a triumphant look on his face. Max gave an awkward smile in response.
“Go Max, daughter will bring you there.” He patted Max at the back a few times before they say goodbye. “Thank you uncle,” Max said. “No, no, you’re a family friend now,” he said in English. “Just remember to come back if you have free time and chat with this old man, haha.” This time, Mr.Park replied in Korean.
They said goodbye and Max left the convenience store. The moment he stepped outside, something greeted him.
I’ll be damn. He couldn’t believe it. “Hey!” Gene shouted from the pickup truck. “Get in before I really get mad,” she gave her warning and Max scurried off his feet.