Descent of the Demon Master - Chapter 101
“His voice…” Kang Jin-Ho murmured with a stiff expression.
Kang Eun-Yeong unwisely started tutting. “Maybe you two are really dating?”
Kang Jin-Ho expressionlessly glared at her once more, causing her to flinch and lower her head once again.
Kang Eun-Yeong blinked her eyes in confusion.
‘Why am I getting scared?’
Hadn’t Kang Jin-Ho always been her prey? Why was he scarier than their dad nowadays?
‘How did this happen?’
Kang Eun-Yeong was suddenly overcome with a vague rebellious streak just then. She sneakily raised her head to see if the coast was clear, only to discover Kang Jin-Ho’s glare still locked on her. That was when she wisely returned her head to its original position.
Her oppa in the past used to be clumsy and totally unreliable. After the accident, though? He had morphed into a strict young master. Even worse, her parents were supporting Kang Jin-Ho unconditionally. Even if Kang Eun-Yeong wanted to rebel against him, it would only blow up in her face.
Kang Yu-Hwan nodded and continued, “Yes. His voice also lacked energy. Even I couldn’t help but worry if something bad was happening in his life. However, it didn’t seem right for me to pry into his life, so I didn’t.”
“You made the right call, Father,” Kang Jin-Ho replied as tightness crept into his chest. He stared at the ceiling above and sighed.
‘I hope he’s doing well…’
He believed Park Yu-Min could stand on his own two feet now, but maybe it was too early for that. Then again, kids around his age should still be under the protection of their parents. Park Yu-Min also had a strong sense of responsibility, and he believed that he had to look after all the children in the orphanage, so the pressure he was under must have been several times worse than what his peers felt.
‘Looks like I’ll have to pay a visit soon, then.’
Kang Jin-Ho briefly wondered when he would get his leave—something he hadn’t consciously thought about until now. With the leave permit he had gotten back in the boot camp, his hundred-day leave should be longer than the usual duration.
Baek Hyeon-Jeong stepped in to end this gloomy talk. “Let’s discuss that later, and for now… Let’s enjoy the meal first, Jin-Ho.”
It wasn’t as if he disliked military food, but how could such a thing compare to his mother’s homemade cooking?
She smiled and urged. “Take your time and eat, son. Don’t forget to drink, too.”
“…Aren’t you joining me, everyone?”
“It’s okay. We already had lunch before coming here, son.”
Kang Jin-Ho became somewhat dumbstruck by that revelation. In that case, did his mother pack all this food just for Kang Jin-Ho? There was enough food here to fill up the visitation room’s table, so finishing them all by himself was utterly impossible unless he altered his species to a pig.
“…Mm?” Kang Jin-Ho’s head shifted to the side, his gaze drifting toward the doorway. He had been sensing people’s presence there, and it seemed to grow larger with every passing second. He got up and walked toward the door before yanking it wide open.
The senior soldiers trying to eavesdrop jumped in surprise and hurriedly scampered away from the doorway.
“…Victory.” Kang Jin-Ho expressionlessly saluted.
Jeon Hyeok-Su smiled awkwardly and scratched the back of his head. “H-Hey, Jin-Ho. How is your family visit going?”
“It’s going well, sir.”
“Since this is your first family visit and all, I just stopped to see if everything’s alright.”
Kang Jin-Ho suddenly grinned back at him. “If it’s okay with you, please join us and enjoy the food, sir.”
“C-Can I?” Jeon Hyeok-Su asked back while nervously glancing inside the visitation room. Normally, food prepared outside the base was like an irresistible drug to active-duty soldiers. Unfortunately, that drug had to take a backseat today. Every single soldier beyond the doorway was too busy stealing glances at Kang Eun-Yeong to care about the delicious food.
“Yes. Please join us,” Kang Jin-Ho replied with a grin and a nod.
Jeon Hyeok-Su directed his pleading gaze to his squad commander, Jo Won-Gu, next to him. All of a sudden, Jo Won-Gu found himself between a rock and a hard place.
Curiosity had brought him here when he heard that Kang Se-Ah was in the base. Intruding on a newbie’s first family visit and wolfing down their food were certainly not nice to do, but the matter would only get worse for everyone involved if the brass learned about their actions today.
Jo Won-Gu imagined the sight of the battery commander blowing his top in fury while accusing him of tarnishing the corps’ image and all that. That was the kind of worry he didn’t want to take on at the moment.
Jo Won-Gu shook his head. “We simply came here to say hello, that’s all. Don’t worry about us and just enjoy the food. We have to get going, anyway.”
Jeon Hyeok-Su whined unhappily. “Squad Commander…!”
“Keep quiet, will ya?” Jo Won-Gu shot a glare at the corporal. He had no desire whatsoever to cause a problem here. He turned his attention back to Kang Jin-Ho’s family and apologized. “Please accept my apology for making a ruckus. My name is Jo Won-Gu, the commander of the squad your son is in.”
“Ah, I see.” Kang Yu-Hwan got up and reached out for a handshake. Jo Won-Gu politely held the offered hand with both of his own hands.
Kang Yu-Hwan smiled. “My son is lacking in many areas, so may I ask you to look after him?”
Jo Won-Gu chuckled as he replied, “Sir, if Jin-Ho is lacking in some areas, the rest of us might as well jump off a tall cliff. Your son can easily take care of himself without anyone’s help, so you don’t have to worry about him.”
“Hahaha. You’re a funny guy, Commander.”
‘I wish I was joking, sir…’
Jo Won-Gu didn’t voice his thoughts, simply choosing to smile back awkwardly. Honestly, he had been quite curious about what Kang Jin-Ho’s parents would be like, but the first impression they gave off painted them as just regular folks. However, that terrified Jo Won-Gu even more.
Since Kang Jin-Ho was so… ‘unique,’ Jo Won-Gu assumed his parents were just as unique. Now that he had discovered the truth, Jo Won-Gu had to wonder how such a wonderful pair of parents managed to produce a child this monstrous.
“Why don’t you join us for a meal?” Kang Yu-Hwan smiled and made an offer.
However, Jo Won-Gu continued to refuse. “No, sir. You’re visiting your son for the first time since his enlistment. If we can’t read the room and butt in, the higher-ups will mercilessly chew us out.”
“We’re just worried that most of the food will be wasted, you see. We brought more than enough for everyone, after all.”
“Thank you for the offer, but we’re okay, sir. Really.” Jo Won-Gu bowed his head while doing his best to ignore all the resentful glares stabbing into his back. “However, is it possible for my men to get your daughter’s autograph before you leave? Everyone here is her fan, you see.”
“Ah, really?” Kang Yu-Hwan glanced back at his daughter and saw her poking her head out of the tracksuit’s collars to make a V sign with her fingers. Kang Eun-Yeong then spoke energetically, “Yes, I certainly can do that!”
“Thank you so much!”
The gathered squad members cheered, then began bowing their heads in gratitude. One by one, they returned to their barracks.
Baek Hyeon-Jeong muttered in a crestfallen voice, “To think that my cooking lost out to my daughter…”
“It’s about time you accept the new reality, Mom. I’m a rising star, you know?”
“If I were still young, you wouldn’t dare to raise your head in my direction!”
“Sorry, Mom. I saw the photos…”
“…!” Baek Hyeon-Jeong wordlessly turned her head and stared directly at her husband.
Kang Yu-Hwan coughed loudly to clear his throat at that overbearing glare. “Eun-Yeong. You’re my daughter and all, but you still pale in comparison to your mother’s younger years.”
Kang Yu-Hwan avoided Baek Hyeon-Jeong’s glare and sneakily winked several times at his daughter. Kang Eun-Yeong could only pout at the outpouring of his SOS signal. “Dad, you’re so totally whipped by Mom, you know that?”
“And that’s the ticket to a peaceful home, my child.” Kang Yu-Hwan smiled gently at his daughter.
Kang Jin-Ho grinned alongside his father. He realized something just then—the military life wasn’t bad, but it lacked the warmth of a family. Seeing his family for the first time in a while made him see that.
‘Now that I haven’t been around them for a little while… I think I understand now.’
He had gained a renewed appreciation for how much comfort his family was providing him simply by being there. He was often reminded of his family’s importance after his return from Zhongyuan, but spending the last few years with them and taking them for granted made him gradually forget about it.
‘In that sense, spending some time in the army wasn’t such a bad idea.’
Kang Jin-Ho was unable to see the importance of what seemed to be a mundane part of his life. However, the military helped him realize his errors, so maybe the enlistment hadn’t been a total waste of his time, after all.
The Kang family continued to enjoy their reunion, and eventually, their time for departure arrived.
“There you go~.” Kang Eun-Yeong smiled and handed back the autographed notepad.
Jo Won-Gu quickly butted in before anyone else could. “Miss Se-Ah! Please, can you sign my back?”
“Your back?” Kang Eun-Yeong tilted her head.
“Yes. You can sign on the back of my tracksuit!” Jo Won-Gu turned around and presented his back.
Kang Eun-Yeong giggled and scribbled a large signature on Jo Won-Gu’s back.
Unsurprisingly, a huge crowd of autograph hunters showed up, but Kang Jin-Ho and Kang Yu-Hwan didn’t have to step up and organize a queue. The chaos was promptly dealt with at the squad level.
“Ehhheeii! Can’t you see you’re bothering our Miss Se-Ah!”
“They came to visit a member of our squad, so how dare you butt in! Get out of here!”
“Sirs, you are not allowed beyond this point!”
Kang Eun-Yeong eventually finished handing out her autograph to the elated soldiers, and she waved her arms joyously at them. “Please look after my oppa!”
The soldiers energetically cried out in response.
“Yes, don’t worry about him, Miss Se-Ah!”
“We’ll make sure everything’s perfect for him!”
Kang Eun-Yeong looked back at Kang Jin-Ho and poked her tongue at him. “We’re leaving now, but we’ll be back soon.”
“…Wait. Come here for a second.” Kang Jin-Ho suddenly beckoned at her.
Kang Eun-Yeong faltered, but she still got closer to him. “Y-yeah?”
He quietly murmured to her, “Don’t forget what we discussed earlier.”
“…Do I really have to?”
“I won’t repeat myself.”
Kang Eun-Yeong pouted deeply, but she still nodded. “Fine. Got it.”
“Trust me. You can do those stuff later on, and it still won’t be too late.”
“Okay.” Kang Eun-Yeong groaned, but she didn’t argue. She was certainly unhappy, but knowing that Kang Jin-Ho had never been wrong, she decided to go along with his ‘suggestion.’ Besides, her oppa wasn’t the type to change his mind just because she argued back, anyway!
‘He’s so stuffy and inflexible!’
A man like Kang Jin-Ho couldn’t have been from the modern era. Funnily enough, though… He wasn’t that despicable, and that was Kang Eun-Yeong’s problem.
Kang Yu-Hwan patted his son on the shoulder. “Jin-Ho, take care of yourself in here.”
Baek Hyeon-Jeong spoke in a concerned voice next, “Don’t forget to call us when you get your first leave, okay?”
“Yes, Mother. Don’t worry about me. Drive safe.”
“Okay. We’ll be on our way now.”
Despite saying goodbye, Baek Hyeon-Jeong was less than willing to leave, so Kang Yu-Hwan had to practically drag her to the parked car. Once she was seated, he turned his attention back to his son and grinned brightly. “Jin-Ho?”
“Don’t forget. Even if you don’t agree with something, endure it.”
“I believe in you.” Kang Yu-Hwan waved his hand, then climbed into the driver’s seat.
Kang Jin-Ho waited until his family’s car drove past the guardhouse and then turned around to leave. That was when Jo Won-Gu sidled up to him and wrapped his arm around the private’s shoulders.
With a smooth smile on his lips, he addressed Kang Jin-Ho, “Listen, my brother-in-law.”
Kang Jin-Ho’s expression distorted ever so slightly.
Failing to notice that subtle change, Jo Won-Gu continued, “Military life is pretty hard, isn’t it? Wanna stop by at the PX with me?”
Kang Jin-Ho replied stiffly, “No, I’m fine.”
“Aren’t you… uh, hungry?”
“No. I had my fill earlier.” Kang Jin-Ho slipped out of Jo Won-Gu’s arm and hurriedly walked away toward the barracks.
“Uh-huh! Wait, Brother-in-law! Let’s go together, shall we?!”
Kang Jin-Ho’s steps accelerated just a little bit when he heard that.
Kang Jin-Ho’s daily life in the military didn’t present many challenges to him. As a matter of fact, he didn’t encounter any notable troubles at all, which was totally against everyone’s expectations. However, that was a rather obvious outcome.
The so-called troubles usually arose from people and relationships they had with others. However, troubles in the military usually started with the junior soldiers who couldn’t take care of their duties properly. It was understandable, as the newbie soldiers still didn’t know how the military operated, so they couldn’t pull their weight just yet.
This situation turned into a problem because not many senior soldiers were patient enough to overlook the mistakes their juniors had made and guide them until they got their duties right.
One would always be under pressure to do everything right in the military. At the same time, juniors’ failings would be blamed on the seniors for the lack of proper guidance. No wonder their patience would start running thin no matter how good-natured they were. Repeat this situation ad nauseam, and eventually, one’d lose your cool.
The vicious cycle of a rigid and closed-off society repeated itself relentlessly in the military. One would often see a soldier becoming a lot mellower once they become an officer and start wielding some power. That was because being an officer meant they had escaped from the neverending vicious cycle.
In that sense, Kang Jin-Ho would never fall victim to this vicious cycle simply because…
Seong Tae-Ho called out to Kang Jin-Ho in a spirited voice. “Jin-Ho! Did you input the firing data?”
“Yes, sir,” Kang Jin-Ho replied expressionlessly.
“Did you clean the barrel?”
“What about the gun platform? Did you clean that, too?”
“It’s already done, sir.”
Seong Tae-Ho’s voice steadily lost its previous vigor. “Did you, uh, pull out the weeds, too?”
“…Is there anything you haven’t done yet?”
Kang Jin-Ho replied earnestly, “I’m currently searching for it, sir.”
He had already finished all his assigned duties and had even cleaned the squad’s barrack. He even considered cleaning the seniors’ lockers while he was still in the mood. The witness to this insane productivity rate, Seong Tae-Ho, could only stand there and ponder just what he had been doing in the military.
Seong Tae-Ho cautiously asked, “Jin-Ho, is this really your first time in the army?”
Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head slightly. “Are there people who enlist twice, sir?”
“…You haven’t seen them on TV?”
“No, sir. I don’t watch TV.”
Seong Tae-Ho groaned while staring at this monstrous newbie before his eyes. He felt so small and insignificant compared to Kang Jin-Ho.
Truth be told, he genuinely wanted to look after Kang Jin-Ho since the kid was his direct junior and all. With how things were going, however, maybe it shouldn’t be Seong Tae-Ho looking after Kang Jin-Ho, but the other way around.
‘I guess that’s why the seniors are happy to have Jin-Ho around…?’
Jeon Hyeok-Su was openly on the fence about Kang Jin-Ho on the first few days, but now? He was full of friendly smiles and a happy-go-lucky attitude whenever Kang Jin-Ho was around. This change of heart was different from Jo Won-Gu’s, who had a ready-made excuse of his crush on Kang Eun-Yeong to blame for his current friendly attitude. Meanwhile, Jeon Hyeok-Su was genuinely happy to see Kang Jin-Ho—that was it.
Then again, it felt like Kang Jin-Ho’s introduction to the squad had halved the workload of the senior soldiers, so maybe, their happiness shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
Seong Tae-Ho scratched the back of his head. “Hey, Jin-Ho. Are you done preparing for your leave?”
“Sir? Do I have to prepare for something like that?”
“We’ll be receiving guerrilla warfare training as soon as you come back, you know? It’s gonna be tough for us.”
“Guerrilla training, you say?”
“Yeah. It’s my first time too, so I’m nervous.”
Kang Jin-Ho flatly replied to Seong Tae-Ho’s worried words, “But, sir. It’s just training. What’s there to worry about?”
“…That only applies to you, Jin-Ho.” Seong Tae-Ho groaned once again as sorrow began to creep into his heart for some reason.
1. PX, or post exchange, is a type of retail store found in Korean army bases. It’s also called base exchange (BX) in other armies. ☜