Descent of the Demon Master - Chapter 51
Chapter 51. Graduation (1)
The engine making a pained wail failed to hide the scream of the pale-faced man sitting in the car’s passenger seat. “Uwaaaah?! In front of you! Can’t you see that?! What are you doing?! Stoooop! Braaaaake!”
The yellow sedan with the sign ‘Driver’s License Test Vehicle’ painted on the side didn’t even slow down, barely evading another car poking its nose out from the road on the side.
The middle-aged man in the passenger seat screamed at the top of his lungs, his face redder than a tomato. “You’re supposed to press the accelerator after making sure there are no other cars in the way! I told you to drive defensively, didn’t I?! How many times do I have to say this, Mr. Kang?! W-w-wait?! Stop! I said, stooooop!”
Even as the man yelled at the driver, the yellow sedan didn’t slow down one bit. As a matter of fact, it somehow slipped through the gap between the parked cars on the side of the road and a truck waiting by the red light with nary a hair’s width to spare. Then, it turned sharply to the right, its tires squealing painfully.
The man cried out. “Why did you go through there?! Why?!”
The young man holding the steering wheel nonchalantly replied, “There was enough space for us to go through. As proof, the car was not scratched in any shape or form.”
“What the heck?! How can anyone even tell the width that fast?! You just got lucky, Mr. Kang!”
“But I can tell…”
“Stop the car! I said, stop the car, now!”
The young driver shook his head. “But sir, we haven’t gone around the test route yet. Let’s finish the test first, shall we?”
“You failed, so stop the car already!”
The young driver parked the car by the side of the road and climbed out. The passenger, a police officer riding along as the driving test examiner, nearly fell out of the open door. He supported himself against the hood while panting breathlessly. It was a simple ride-along, so why did the officer look ten years older than before he had gotten into the car? The young driver couldn’t figure it out and tilted his head. What was so enervating about this whole thing? After all, the passenger didn’t do anything other than sitting on his butt and yell all the time.
The police officer needed a long time to calm his heavy panting. He finally looked up at the young man, his expression one of utter disbelief at the mere existence of someone so oblivious.
Unsurprisingly, the young man couldn’t figure out why he was being looked at that way.
“Mr. Kang Jin-Ho…” the police officer quietly called out.
“Yes?” The young driver, Kang Jin-Ho, was all ears now.
“I’ve definitely told you to drive defensively, yes?”
“But I did drive defensively…”
“When?! And which part of your driving would you call defensive?!”
“You told me to drive in a certain way to protect my vehicle in case other vehicles on the road behave unpredictably.”
“Yes, I did!”
Kang Jin-Ho replied with certainty in his voice, “And that’s what I’ve been doing, sir.”
The officer began quaking uncontrollably before suddenly tossing his hat on the ground and yelling at the top of his lungs. “Listen here, fella! You barely missed another car’s rearview mirror while driving at 50km/h! And when a car was coming out of the intersection, you accelerated even faster to slip past it! How can you call that craziness defensive driving?!”
“But, sir. Even if I was driving at 100km/h and not 50, parked cars with no one inside will never behave unpredictably. And that car you mentioned was on our left side and unmoving. Unless that driver suddenly turned his steering wheel for no reason, we were never in danger of a collision. There was enough room to drive past him.”
“Yes,” said Kang Jin-Ho.
The police officer facepalmed. Why did the heavens bestow unto him a trial of riding in a car driven by an insane moron like this young man?! The officer had worked as a driving test examiner countless times before and had dealt with many, many nervous housewives and noob drivers until now, but this young man? He swore that he had never met anyone like Kang Jin-Ho in his entire life!
Kang Jin-Ho even confidently declared, “As a result, you can see that the vehicle is unscathed, sir.”
‘How about me?! Me!!!’
The officer groaned and shook his head. “In any case. You’ve failed, Mr. Kang.”
“Can’t you tell?”
Kang Jin-Ho asked in a genuinely serious voice, “Sir, I’ve definitely stuck rigorously to the regulations. I perfectly observed the stop line. And I have not once exceeded the speed limit. And the test vehicle is also perfectly fine. In that case, how did I fail? Even more so when I didn’t even get to finish the practical driving portion of the test.”
“Mr. Kang, the regulations are there to tell you what the minimum acceptable standards are! The bare minimum! If you don’t even have what it takes to stick to the bare minimum, then you’re not qualified to drive on the public road! Mr. Kang, you’ve gotten everything else about driving wrong! You’re not the only one who’ll get hurt when you get into an accident! Don’t you get that?!”
Kang Jin-Ho frowned deeply. Just what did he do wrong? Didn’t he stick to the speed limit? And didn’t he also drive so excessively safe that he almost yawned at how tedious it was?
The odds of his car hitting something was less than 1%. Kang Jin-Ho could have even made the car drive on only two wheels and slipped through the narrowest of gaps if that was what he wanted. After all, that was how skilled he was, so why did this police officer keep insisting that he was wrong?
“Sir, please be more specific about what I have done wrong. Only then will I be able to revise my driving and pass the test next time.”
“Mr. Jin-Ho, you need to slow down and think about safety when the road ahead looks dangerous!”
Kang Jin-Ho was further confused by that reply. “But… isn’t that what I have been doing, though?”
“…?!” The police officer finally gave up and shook his head in defeat. “In any case! You failed the test, Mr. Kang. Go home and learn how to drive in a more… relaxed way.”
“Mmhm…” Kang Jin-Ho slowly nodded. He didn’t like this, but this police officer was the driving test examiner, and his decisions had to be respected. That was one of the rules Kang Jin-Ho had learned about if he wanted to keep living in modern society. “Very well. Then, I’ll see you again during the next test.”
“Wait! Are you planning to take the test again?!” The police officer gasped in shock.
“Isn’t that obvious, sir? I failed this time, after all.”
“…Out of curiosity, when do you plan to take the next test?”
Kang Jin-Ho narrowed his eyes. “Why do you ask, sir?”
‘So I can go on sick leave that day!’
The police officer screamed pitifully in his heart.
Kang Jin-Ho watched the officer’s expression going through a myriad of emotions in real time and recalled the conversation he had just before the school vacation.
Inside the classroom…
Jeong In-Gyu nodded. “Yeah. Isn’t that obvious?”
Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head. “Why do I need that?”
“What do you mean, why? A driver’s license is a must, isn’t it? Weren’t you planning to drive a car someday?”
“Frankly, I don’t see a need for it.”
Driving a car, was it? Did this boy want Kang Jin-Ho to coop up inside a horseless carriage so cramped that he found it hard to breathe? In all honesty, he would rather have actual horse-driven carriages instead.
For some reason, as vehicles advanced, their interior dimensions shrunk in comparison to their older models. Jeong In-Gyu would have freaked out if he knew the size of the twelve-horse carriage Kang Jin-Ho had used to travel around in Zhongyuan. That vehicle was luxurious enough to deserve the moniker of ‘mansion on wheels,’ after all!
Kang Jin-Ho was used to such vehicles, so he couldn’t help but find the modern-day cars rather cramped and uncomfortable. Besides, he had never been a fan of riding on something to get somewhere. Walking on feet was faster for him and hassle-free, so why should he entrust himself to a vehicle controlled by someone else? Even a horse carriage was too slow for him!
Jeong In-Gyu didn’t give up, though. “What will you do when you need to travel somewhere far?”
“My bicycle will take care of that.”
Jeong In-Gyu was dismayed by that reply. “What? Are you going to travel to Busan on your bike?”
“I’ll take a train,” Kang Jin-Ho replied matter-of-factly.
“Okay? What about the outskirts of Seoul, then?”
“That’s what subways are for.”
“But, but… What if you still have to go further after getting off the subway?”
“I’ll take my bicycle with me…”
“And when it rains?”
Kang Jin-Ho tutted as if he was stating the obvious, “I have a raincoat.”
Jeong In-Gyu was left speechless and could only stare at Kang Jin-Ho in a daze. What an iron-tight thought process! It was so tight that differing opinions simply had no room to survive in Kang Jin-Ho’s mind. However… How should Jeong In-Gyu explain this odd and frustrating feeling clogging up his throat? In the end, he yelled, “Come on! Are you planning to travel the entirety of Korea with your goddamned bike?”
“If it’s necessary, sure.”
It was at this precise moment that Park Yu-Min decided to help. “Jin-Ho?”
“What will you do when you need to give your parents a ride?”
“I have my bicycle.”
“But there’s only room for one person, right?”
“Mmm…” Kang Jin-Ho fell into a serious dilemma just then.
Park Yu-Min was right. A bicycle could only carry one extra passenger. Any more than that would be asking for too much. It wasn’t like Kang Jin-Ho could attach a sidecar to his bicycle now, could he?
Park Yu-Min continued. “You might not need a car when traveling alone, but trust me, you will definitely need it one day. To prepare for that day, don’t you think it’s smart to get a driver’s license?”
Kang Jin-Ho nodded contemplatively. “You’re right.”
But that only made Jeong In-Gyu blow his top. “What?! You were so bloody opposed to it when I said it, so why did you agree with Park Yu-Min that fast?!”
“That’s because your arguments were weak while Yu-Min was persuasive.”
“…You sons of you-know-whats…” Jeong In-Gyu’s resentful, tearful glare landed on Kang Jin-Ho and Park Yu-Min. “You two really are in perfect sync, aren’t you! Ganging up on poor ol’ me like this and all!”
Kang Jin-Ho narrowed his eyes. “By the way, you…”
“Shouldn’t you be studying by right now?”
Jeong In-Gyu’s shoulders visibly slumped forward. Since it was already decided that he would repeat the senior year, he didn’t have time to fool around like this. His classmates might be free, but he needed to delve into his studies as soon as possible.
“I, uh… W-when the new semester…”
Kang Jin-Ho tutted. “I heard that people with such thought processes usually fail again and again.”
“N-no, hang on a minute! There’s an order of doing things, you know!”
“In your case, it’s wise to start prior learning as soon as possible.”
“Stinking bastards…” Jeong In-Gyu grumbled while taking textbooks out of his schoolbag.
Park Yu-Min tried to console Jeong In-Gyu. Kang Jin-Ho watched that scene while sinking deep into his thoughts.
‘Driver’s license, is it…’
His friend’s assertion of getting the license as soon as possible seemed like a good idea. Kang Jin-Ho might not need to drive right now, but a driver’s license was a type of qualification recognized by everyone. Having one could help him out in unexpected ways down the line.
Crucially, though, he couldn’t offer a ride to his parents on his bicycle now, could he? His younger sister had already thought of Kang Jin-Ho’s hair as her personal bicycle grip, so what would his parents do?
‘…Right. Let’s just get the license.’
Kang Jin-Ho quickly came to a decision. Apparently, getting a driver’s license wouldn’t take a lot of time these days, so how hard could it be?
That had been the start of this incident. The actual problem had begun after that, though. Kang Jin-Ho had gotten lucky with the dates and hadn’t even needed a week to pass the theoretical and yard tests with flying colors.
One was given a pass for basically perusing through the test papers for the theoretical test. Kang Jin-Ho would never fail something that simple when he could store every question ever used in the driving test in his brain. The yard test was scored depending on how one operated the vehicle, so he would never fail that either as he could control the car as if it was a part of his body. He simply had to stick to the speed limit and strictly observe every stop line in the test venue.
What tripped Kang Jin-Ho up was the actual practical driving test part. He drove as safely and defensively as he could since that was what he was told to do. He drove so safely and slowly that he almost yawned several times during the test. He even checked the surroundings several times to decide what to do next. In other words, he was performing exemplary as a defensive driver. At least, that was what he believed.
But for some weird reason, the examiners riding shotgun all freaked out. Today was the third time that had happened, and Kang Jin-Ho wasn’t even allowed to drive past the midpoint of the test route before getting ‘Fail!’ stamped on his application paper.
Even worse, the reasons for his disqualification every time were always too vague for him to understand. If only the examiners were clear about why and where he dropped the ball, he would have been more understanding of his failures. But the explanation he always received from them was his-defensive-driving this, he’s-too-dangerous that, so how could he figure out what was what here?
“In any case, you’ve failed, Mr. Kang!”
“I see,” Kang Jin-Ho replied, dissatisfaction written on his face.
Since this test had already gone down the drain, it wouldn’t matter even if he argued with the examiner, this result would still not change. Kang Jin-Ho knew that well from experience.
‘And I couldn’t even get to the end of the course today…’
The previous examiner allowed Kang Jin-Ho to drive back to the test venue despite all the noisy yelling from the passenger seat. Although the car did stop a couple of times before eventually reaching the destination, he still managed to reach the end.
It seemed that today’s examiner wasn’t a patient man.
“Mr. Kang, get back in the car, please.”
“Not in the driver’s seat!”
Kang Jin-Ho stopped opening the driver’s door.
“Are you trying to shorten my lifespan?! Get in the passenger’s seat, now! I’ll be driving us back!”
“I-I see…” Kang Jin-Ho dejectedly slumped into the passenger’s seat.
He didn’t mind failing the test. It could always be retaken at another time, after all. However, how would those dastardly hyenas react after learning that he had failed this simple-enough test three times?
The National University Entrance Exams might be over, but Kang Jin-Ho still couldn’t escape from this sense of sorrow.
The examiner sneakily tossed another body blow in Kang Jin-Ho’s way. “Mr. Kang, giving up on the license might be a viable option for you.”
His remark made Kang Jin-Ho clench his teeth. “I will be taking this test again soon.”
“N-no, hang on. I think you…”
“Next time, I will pass!”
“…” The examiner gripped the steering wheel tight as his heart began sweating through his eyes.
‘I haven’t committed any sins, so why me?!’
What a sorrowful day this was… for both the examiner and Kang Jin-Ho.