Descent of the Demon Master - Chapter 54
Chapter 54. Graduation (4)
“I don’t care about your greetings! Who the heck are you, and what do you want?!” the old woman yelled in a cantankerous voice.
Han Se-Yeon was taken aback and apologetically scratched the back of her head. “A-actually, it’s nothing serious, granny. We no longer use these things, so we thought you might want them for yourself or sell them to a scrap metal dea…”
“Bloody hell, you think I’m some kind of a filthy hoarder?! Take them away!”
Han Se-Yeon made a tearful face. “B-but, granny, we didn’t mean to…”
“Go away! I don’t want to see you again! Get lost before I dump water on you!” the old woman yelled in anger before powerfully yanking her door close.
The door slammed shut, and the old woman disappeared from view.
Han Se-Yeon frowned while looking back at Kang Jin-Ho. “What should we do?”
He replied with a nonchalant shrug of his shoulders, “We’ll leave the stuff here.”
“She seems to hate the idea, though?”
“No, it’ll be fine,” Kang Jin-Ho replied as he walked up to the handcart.
“The front gate is too narrow for the cart to go through, isn’t it?” Han Se-Yeon studied the gateway before offering her opinion.
“We can just leave our stuff in front of her gate.”
“Will that be fine?”
“Mmhmm. I’m sure the granny wants to sell them later. Putting them down in her yard will only make it more cumbersome for her when she’s ready to sell them off.”
“Okay, that makes sense. Let’s do as you say.”
Kang Jin-Ho lifted up the heavier and larger appliances from the cart and placed them in front of the red gate. Han Se-Yeon helped by carrying smaller items like a mini TV she could lift up. After putting it down, she glanced at the door and asked quietly, “By the way, why do you think she was so angry at us?”
Kang Jin-Ho replied disinterestedly, “That’s because she hates interacting with other people.”
“I don’t get it. Why would she hate doing that?”
Kang Jin-Ho pondered how he should go about answering her. Why would anyone hate other people? You didn’t really need a reason to feel that way, but Han Se-Yeon was still too immature to understand.
Kang Jin-Ho settled on a good-enough answer. “Let me revise myself and clarify that it has more to do with her scars. She hates the scars she received from other people.”
“Really? Even if that’s true, no one can live alone while keeping everyone back at an arm’s length, right? Humans are meant to live together, after all.”
“Sometimes, it’s better to be alone.”
“…?” Han Se-Yeon stared at Kang Jin-Ho in silence.
This boy often came across as slow-witted or even outright empty-brained. He even acted really weirdly every now and then. But there were also moments like this when he would say something so mature without batting an eyelid as if he had personally experienced it. What a mysterious guy he was sometimes…
Han Se-Yeon asked another question, “You think that’s why she acts that way?”
“I’m just stating a possibility.”
“Even then, we came to help her, though.”
Kang Jin-Ho glanced at her. “Do you know what hurts people the most?”
“No, not really…”
“It’s when someone you trusts betrays you.”
“Scars you get from strangers aren’t real scars. It doesn’t hurt because you know the person’s hurting you. It hurts because you trusted them.”
Han Se-Yeon’s eyelashes trembled ever so faintly. Kang Jin-Ho spoke disinterestedly as if he was reading from a newspaper, but every single word he uttered seemed to contain some inexplicable heaviness to it.
Kang Jin-Ho tutted, “That’s why people approaching you with friendly smiles can be so terrifying. I guess it’s difficult for you to understand, but…”
“I think I get it.”
Kang Jin-Ho nodded at Han Se-Yeon’s measured reply but inwardly thought.
‘She doesn’t get it at all.’
This kind of pain wasn’t something you could understand without experiencing it yourself.
Han Se-Yeon sighed, “Still, it’s so sad that she can’t accept people’s goodwill as just that.”
“No, that’s not it, either.”
“It isn’t? Isn’t that what you said, though?”
“I told you, she’s just afraid.”
Han Se-Yeon tilted her head. “What’s the difference?”
“She knows we’re here to help. It’s just that she’s unsure of how to respond to our gesture of goodwill.”
“I don’t get it. What does that mean?”
“Are you done unloading the stuff?”
Kang Jin-Ho nodded, then glanced at the old woman’s doorway. “In that case, let’s drink that and be on our way.”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“I meant that.” Kang Jin-Ho pointed to a spot beyond the red gate.
“…Eh?” Han Se-Yeon gasped after discovering a small tray carrying two large bowls just beyond the gateway. “Uh? What are those? Wait, isn’t this sikhye?”
It seemed that the old woman had placed these bowls of sikhye here without anyone noticing. Despite all that yelling about leaving her alone, her aggressiveness must have softened just a little after watching two teenagers unloading heavy-looking appliances.
Kang Jin-Ho picked up a bowl. “Let’s drink this and go.”
“Heh~eh? Okay.” Han Se-Yeon grinned and picked up her bowl. They drank the sikhye, then placed the empty bowls back on the tray. She glanced at the old woman’s doorway and muttered, “So, this is what you meant.”
“It’s not that she doesn’t know we’re helping her. It’s just that…”
“Aha, she’s just shy, hehe.”
“Never mind, then,” Kang Jin-Ho groaned and gave up trying to explain. “Let’s go.”
“Mmhm!” Before turning around to leave, Han Se-Yeon shouted at the shabby house beyond the red gate, “Granny! We’ll be back some other time!”
No one replied to her. Still, Han Se-Yeon was able to leave with a lighter heart than when she first arrived here.
While on their way back to the orphanage…
“By the way, Jin-Ho? Why were you at the orphanage in the first place?”
Kang Jin-Ho replied honestly, “I had nothing better to do.”
“What do you mean, you had nothing to do? You should be overflowing with too many things to do by now! Now’s your chance to do all those things that had been denied to you in the past twelve years, you know! You’re saying you don’t have anything better to do?!”
Han Se-Yeon looked genuinely surprised. “Are you being serious? Don’t you have something you want to do?”
“Not really. Hmm…”
“…Wow. You’re so boring.”
Kang Jin-Ho faintly smiled. Boring, was it? That was the kind of mindset only someone like Han Se-Yeon could have. After all, she would never know how wonderful it was to wake up in the morning without anything to do or without worrying about what the future might bring.
Maybe, other people would also see Kang Jin-Ho’s day as somewhat ‘boring.’ But to him, a peaceful day like this was exactly what he had always wished for. He loved this peace so much that he was getting scared of suddenly losing it one day.
Han Se-Yeon snapped her fingers. “How about going on a trip?”
“A trip, you say?”
“That’s right. You like riding your bicycle, right? I hear some people will go on bicycle trips during their vacations.”
“Is that so?”
“Ah, wait. That’s during the summer holidays, though. You do that now in this weather, and you’ll freeze to death.”
“I see. Going on a trip, is it…” Kang Jin-Ho lightly chuckled and muttered to himself. A trip? He briefly went through his memories and realized that he had never gone on a trip somewhere in his entire life. “Do other people often do that sort of thing?”
Han Se-Yeon tilted her head. “What sort of thing?”
“Going on trips, I mean.”
“Oh, that? Yeah, people do that all the time. There are overseas travel packages, or they just grab their bags and start roaming on foot. Stuff like that.”
“I see.” Kang Jin-Ho grinned softly. Going on a trip… didn’t seem like such a bad idea.
Han Se-Yeon perked up and asked, “Why? Are you interested?”
“Yes, but not right now.”
“I need to finish something first.”
“What? Oh, you mean, passing the driver’s license test first?”
Kang Jin-Ho’s expression stiffened slightly.
Han Se-Yeon didn’t stop there, though. “I heard you failed three times in a row by now. Is that true?”
“…Did Jeong In-Gyu tell you?”
“You’re so thick, you know that? How can you fail the driver’s test three times? Others pass them on their first try, you know?”
“Well, I guess it can’t be helped since it’s the question of one’s innate talents.”
Kang Jin-Ho silently clenched his teeth.
Han Se-Yeon grinned slyly. “You can just forget it and stick to riding bicycles forever. I guess you and cars aren’t meant to be together.”
Veins began bulging on Kang Jin-Ho’s forehead. “Do you have it, then?”
“I have what?”
“A driver’s license.”
The corners of Han Se-Yeon’s lips slyly curled up. That was when Kang Jin-Ho realized that he had committed a grave mistake—he shouldn’t have asked her.
“Who doesn’t have a driver’s license in this day and age? Isn’t it weirder to not pass on their first try?” Han Se-Yeon took out her wallet and proudly presented it to Kang Jin-Ho. There it was, her driver’s license, prominently visible inside her wallet. The sunlight reflected on its glossy surface momentarily blinded him.
Kang Jin-Ho’s clenched fists began trembling. “J-just when?”
“Right after the entrance exams. I applied to a driving school, then passed it right afterward. What should I do now~? I have the license, but you don’t. Sooo~, what do you think? You want me to give you a ride home?”
“Very well, then. Let’s go. It’s about time we go back to the orphanage, anyway~.”
Kang Jin-Ho stopped walking for a moment, then approached her rather suspiciously.
“Mm?” Han Se-Yeon was taken aback and wondered what was going on with him. Before she could say something, however, Kang Jin-Ho had placed the handcart’s handle in her grip.
“You take this back.”
“Wait, what? You want me to drag this back to the orphanage? Just because I teased you a bit?”
“It shouldn’t be hard as it’s empty now,” said Kang Jin-Ho before turning around and trudging away.
Han Se-Yeon urgently called out to him. “H-hey, wait! Even then…! I said, wait! Where are you going?”
“I have something to take care of.”
“Like what? N-no, wait! You’re supposed to hang out with me!”
“Maybe next time…”
“Heeeey! Where are you going?! Jin-Ho!” Han Se-Yeon cried out, but he didn’t even bother to look back even once while walking away. She let out a deep groan, “You’re supposed to be a man, so why are you so petty…”
“Yes, Chairman. Regarding that matter, I…” Jo Gyu-Min, his face as pale as a sheet of paper, was making a report over the phone. “…Yes, sir. Perhaps, persuading the chief director and the faculty could be… I’m sorry? Ah, of course. If you personally get involved, it’ll be a cinch, Chairman. Y-yes…”
The sharp, annoyed voice coming from the other side of the line had induced a flood of cold sweat to soak Jo Gyu-Min’s figure. Even though he had always been making at least one report a day through the phone, he still couldn’t get used to speaking to Hwang Jeong-Hu over the phone.
After making what felt like an hour long report, Jo Gyu-Min placed his phone down while looking utterly exhausted. “Urgh…”
The side effects of riding shotgun in Kang Jin-Ho’s car were still there. The ride itself only lasted for one hour, yet the insistent fear akin to riding a rollercoaster nonstop for twelve hours still didn’t want to let him go.
“No, wait! A rollercoaster is better than riding in that guy’s car. At least, I won’t die from riding one!”
It might feel like you would die by riding on a rollercoaster, but that was just your mind tricking you. On the other hand, riding in a car driven by Kang Jin-Ho had an irredeemable disadvantage of not knowing when you’d die for real!
“Urgh… I should ask for a vacation or something.”
Jo Gyu-Min had never taken a single day off until now, so getting a lengthy vacation shouldn’t be a problem. Not manning his post for a while wouldn’t cause much of an issue either since it was the middle of the school holidays anyway. He should ask for the lengthiest vacation possible so that he could hold on until Kang Jin-Ho somehow managed to pass and acquire his driver’s license. Only then would Jo Gyu-Min prevent his lifespan from decreasing even further against his wishes.
“This won’t even count toward my hazard pay, so… Yeah, I gotta look after myself.” Jo Gyu-Min steeled his resolve and got up. He was on a roll now, so he should immediately head to the corporation’s HQ and get his much-deserved vaca…
…That was when the door to his office was angrily shoved open.
Kang Jin-Ho was standing at the doorway with a stiff look. He then stared intensely at Jo Gyu-Min.
Jo Gyu-Min nervously gulped a mouthful of his own saliva. Even though Kang Jin-Ho was expressionless, the undercurrents of rage were still clearly visible on his face. Just what was he going to say to Jo Gyu-Min?
He slowly opened his mouth. “Let’s go.”
“I need to practice.”
Jo Gyu-Min’s complexion was instantly drained of color. “W-w-what do you mean by that, Mr. Jin-Ho?”
“I must pass the test this time.”
“W-well, of course, but…”
Kang Jin-Ho flatly spoke, “Tomorrow is the test day. So I shall continuously practice until early dawn tomorrow. You don’t have any pressing matters, I hope?”
“N-no, hang on! What about your father…”
“He’s occupied with his shop.”
“What about your friends?!”
“The law says an experienced driver’s license holder must accompany me while practicing,” replied Kang Jin-Ho with a slight click of his tongue.
Jo Gyu-Min’s voice grew more desperate. “A-am I the only one you know that fits that criteria?!”
“Well, there is one other person, but…”
“H-how about asking that person for a favor, then…?”
“Hmm…” Kang Jin-Ho nodded unwillingly. He had realized that he was being a nuisance here. In the end, he took out his phone and called the other experienced driver’s license holder.
– What’s going on?
“Good day to you, Chairman Hwang.”
“Aaaaaaaah!” Jo Gyu-Min madly dashed from behind his desk and violently snatched the mobile phone out of Kang Jin-Ho’s hand. “H-hello, sir! It’s me, Jo Gyu-Min! Don’t worry about it, sir! It’s nothing at all!”
– Huh, this fella. Wasting my time…
“W-well then, goodbye.” Jo Gyu-Min ended the call, then stared at Kang Jin-Ho in pure desperation. “D-do you have any idea what might happen to the Jaegyeong Group if the chairman rode in your car and had a heart attack?!”
“Why would he suffer from a heart attack while riding my car?”
“…Why did you call the chairman, Mr. Jin-Ho?”
“He’s the only other experienced driver’s license holder I know.”
Jo Gyu-Min began cursing the heavens above for bestowing him with such a calamity and wrecking his perfectly calm and peaceful life even though he hadn’t done anything wrong!
‘…Right, I should start attending churches. Or go pray in a Buddhist temple. This… I need the power of the divine to overcome this.’
Kang Jin-Ho, utterly oblivious to Jo Gyu-Min’s inner torment, asked with a deep frown, “Who should I call, then?”
“…I’ll help you, so please don’t call anyone else,” Jo Gyu-Min replied with tears forming in his eyes. He sneakily pulled out his wallet to take one last look at the photo of his wife.
‘I’m so sorry, Yeon-Ji. I might not make it back home again. But my life insurance will pay well, so you must stay happy for both of us…’
Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head. “What are you doing?”
And so, Jo Gyu-Min had to climb into a car piloted by Kang Jin-Ho once more. What he submitted to the corporation’s HR department the next day wasn’t a request for a vacation, but for a lengthy sick leave.
1. ‘sikhye’ is a traditional sweetened rice punch-like drink. ☜