Descent of the Demon Master - Chapter 89
Chapter 89. In Training (8)
“Holy cow! I can’t do this anymore…!”
“Were they trying to kill us or something? I thought I was gonna throw up in the middle!”
“I did throw up, though…”
The living quarters were filled with simmering heat and the unhappy grumblings of the recruits returning from the hellish march.
Every recruit taking off their socks grunted and cried out in pain. Sickly puss oozing from the blisters on their feet had smeared all over the socks and solidified. Trying to peel that off was as painful as tearing off one’s own skin.
“Whoever said the march was doable, I’m gonna find ’em and give ’em a piece of my mind!”
“I thought I was gonna collapse, dude!”
All of a sudden, the entrance was roughly shoved open, and Ju Yeong-Gi’s limping figure entered the living quarters.
“Yeong-Gi, you sure worked hard, man.”
“Sheesh, you actually finished the march, Yeong-Gi.”
Ju Yeong-Gi replied proudly, his brows quivering, “Of course. A man has his pride, after all.”
He then glanced around the living quarters and noticed all the empty spots. He snorted derisively. “This is a matter of your willpower, know what I mean?! Willpower, I say! You’re all men, so how can you pass out from something like that! You guys are all freakin’ useless!”
Ju Yeong-Gi’s hot-air-filled boasting induced a chorus of laughter from the tired recruits. They already knew Ju Yeong-Gi had probably had the most torrid time out of everyone during the march. Hadn’t he made all those ‘memorable’ crumpled expressions?
“Get out of the way.” Kang Jin-Ho stepped inside and lightly patted Ju Yeong-Gi’s heavy backpack, causing Recruit No.99 to topple over ungainly.
Ju Yeong-Gi yelled in pain, “Hey! I told you, my feet are hurting like a b*tch! Stop hitting me!”
“I said, get out of the way.”
“Fine, fine!” Ju Yeong-Gi crawled over to his bunk and plopped down.
Kang Jin-Ho walked past him to reach his own bunk, then put down his backpack. The loud, heavy-sounding thud rang out, prompting other recruits to shift their attention to Kang Jin-Ho.
“Wow, he didn’t even break a sweat.”
“Didn’t you see him during the march? I thought he really was Terminator. His strides never went out of whack. Not once.”
“Seniors about to welcome him in the corps will have a hard time, eh?”
By this time in the boot camp training, the other recruits had more or less accepted how different Kang Jin-Ho was from them. Comparing themselves to him seemed like self-mockery at its finest, so they tacitly agreed to gloss over his actions as something done by an alien or some such.
During this grueling march, Kang Jin-Ho had demonstrated that he possessed an even greater level of stamina than most assistant instructors by frequently lifting up the backpacks of struggling recruits. He had even supported the ones lagging behind and pulled them along, too.
“I dearly hope I don’t end up in the same unit as Jin-Ho.”
“Let’s be real, I’m gonna get compared to him all the time, right? It ain’t gonna be fair.”
“Oh, right. That’s true…”
While listening to other recruits chat away, Kang Jin-Ho unpacked his gear. He faintly grinned and thought.
‘The military is a fairly amusing place in its own right.’
Compared to the Zhongyuan he was familiar with, many aspects of this army felt modern. He wasn’t just referring to the equipment provided, but it was more about the thought that had been put into certain facets of the organization. He sometimes felt that they had scientifically analyzed the best way to train military personnel to achieve the best possible results. It was just that some irrational things Kang Jin-Ho couldn’t quite figure out had infiltrated the other facets, too.
The organization where modern technology and the irrationality of the past coexisted side by side—Kang Jin-Ho evaluated the Recruit Training Center like this. Among the list of irrational things, Kang Jin-Ho just couldn’t understand the element of ‘joint responsibility’ with his common sense.
‘Still, this is merely the beginning…’
Kang Jin-Ho heard that the unfair practices in the boot camp were a joke compared to the crap on the other military bases. Even worse, something that didn’t exist here—soldiers with service seniority—could potentially clash against him, too.
Kang Jin-Ho quietly muttered, “Things might get more interesting then.”
Ju Yeong-Gi tilted his head. “What might?”
Ju Yeong-Gi started grumbling again when Kang Jin-Ho failed to offer a satisfactory reply and focused on unpacking his backpack instead. “I’m telling you, you’re just too cold-hearted, dude!”
“You think so?”
“Yeah! Humans are supposed to bicker a bit and stuff! It’s no good for anyone to just mind their business and stay uninvolved like you!”
“What are you trying to say?”
“Can’t you, like, unpack my stuff, too? This older brother of yours is dead tired, see? And I can’t even lift my fingers right now. So, how about it, Jin-Ho?”
“Do it through your willpower, Yeong-Gi,” Kang Jin-Ho tutted and replied flatly.
Ju Yeong-Gi was hit with his own words from earlier and found himself unable to retort immediately. Eventually, he decided on his next course of attack. “I’ll give you this packet of Matstar, so please?”
“No, thank you.”
“C’mon, don’t be like that. You know how I’ve been saving this packet for a rainy day, don’t you? It can be yours right now, you know!”
“Wow, what a cold-hearted bastard.” Ju Yeong-Gi poured out a barrage of curses while unpacking his backpack.
Kang Jin-Ho glanced at him and faintly grinned.
When he returned from the administrative office, Kang Jin-Ho was mobbed by his fellow recruits.
“Jin-Ho! Where did they send you?”
“I’m not sure,” said Kang Jin-Ho with uncertainty. He had just been handed the document detailing the corps he had been assigned to. The recruits were crowding around him to find out where he was headed.
“Didn’t you check out the name of the base or the division? Anything?”
Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head, then presented the document in his hand. “Mm. Here. It’s some kind of artillery corps.”
The recruits confirmed the name of the corps written on the document and they began to buzz with activity.
“Wow, isn’t this where they handle 155mm guns?”
“Yeah, it must be…”
“Being an artillery gunner is already tough, but these ain’t no ordinary guns, either! 155mm guns! And they handle towed artillery, right? Not the self-propelled ones?”
“Sheesh. He’s dead meat now.”
“Wait. Don’t you think this… kinda suits Jin-Ho?”
“Nah, Jin-Ho will fit in any kind of role, really. Whether it’s the special forces or the artillery, I think Jin-Ho will just do his thing.”
“Yeah, that sounds about right…”
While the recruits were exchanging opinions among themselves, Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head this way and that, his eyes still locked on the name of the corps written on the paper.
‘Towed artillery? 155mm?’
He couldn’t understand any of it. Thankfully, his questions were answered by Ju Yeong-Gi’s proactiveness.
Ju Yeong-Gi looked around at the recruits and asked with his brows shooting up, “What’s wrong with this corps?”
A recruit quickly replied, “Don’t you know what a 155mm howitzer is?”
“How should I know?” Ju Yeong-Gi shrugged his shoulders.
“You’ve heard about the army’s four most-wanted positions before, right? They are manning 90mm recoilless guns, handling 81mm mortar, assembling bridges, and this one.”
“Most wanted? Doesn’t that mean it’s a good assignment?”
“Sure. It’s so good that a fat recruit will end his service looking like a bodybuilder. Or so I heard…”
“What does that even mean?” Ju Yeong-Gi failed to understand the subtext and tilted his head even more.
Another recruit next to him told him the truth while laughing. “Yeong-Gi, it’s the sh*ttiest assignment in the army, basically.”
“Really? That means it’s bad to get assigned there, right?”
“Oh, I see…” Ju Yeong-Gi faltered all of a sudden.
Recruits grew confused next. “By the way, why was Jin-Ho assigned there? I figured he’d be sent to the special forces or something.”
“Yeah, me too. Isn’t sending Jin-Ho there a waste of talent? I mean, shouldn’t we send him to the North to take Kim Jung-Eun’s head off or something?”
“Well, isn’t your assignment based on luck?”
“That’s what the higher-ups say, but I heard that’s not the case. They decide who goes where beforehand, apparently.”
“No one knows that for sure, though.”
Ju Yeong-Gi suddenly butted in again. “Okay, so… Are you saying this corps will be a cakewalk or a torture fest? Which is it?”
The recruits grew irritated by his attempt to repeat themselves and replied in loud yells.
“You’ll be screwed if you go there!”
“That place is famous for messing up your back!”
“It’s one of the four places nobody wants to go!”
“R-really?!” Ju Yeong-Gi’s lips trembled as he glanced down at the paper in his hand with the name of the same corps as Kang Jin-Ho’s clearly printed on it. “Then, why am I going there?”
The recruits confirmed Ju Yeong-Gi’s destination and began patting him on his shoulders with varying types of smiles on their faces.
“Well, that’s how the cookie crumbles, I guess.”
“Don’t worry, Yeong-Gi. I’m sure you can do this. You’re strong, after all.”
“This might be the job you were born for…”
“You bastards! That’s not what you were implying a second ago!” Ju Yeong-Gi roared like an enraged bull and huffed away.
His friends sneakily distanced themselves away from him.
One of them sheepishly piped up. “Since it has been decided already, you should make peace with it, Yeong-Gi.”
“How can I do that when I’m going to a sh*tty place?!”
Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head and asked Ju Yeong-Gi, “Mm? Were you assigned to the same corps as me?”
“Yeah, I am!”
“Hmm. I see…” Kang Jin-Ho contemplatively nodded.
Ju Yeong-Gi could only groan grandly. “Aigoo… And here I was, thinking I would not see this guy’s mug anymore.”
A recruit spoke up as if he just had thought of something, “Wow, now that I think about it, Yeong-Gi, you better buckle up for a rough ride.”
“Huh? Why?” Ju Yeong-Gi asked in return, unable to understand why.
“Since you’re heading to the same corps as Jin-Ho, won’t you get endlessly compared to him?”
“Honestly, I don’t care where I end up as long as it’s not the same place as Jin-Ho. Sheesh, Yeong-Gi. What can I say? There’s nothing else I can say other than I’ll pray for you that is…”
“You as*holes, you’re making fun of me, ain’tcha?!” Ju Yeong-Gi dashed at the recruits like a bull, prompting them to hurriedly scatter while bursting into laughter.
Kang Jin-Ho found this side of Ju Yeong-Gi’s personality quite entertaining. He might be able to form connections with specific individuals but being friends with many people was a mountain he just couldn’t overcome.
Meanwhile, Ju Yeong-Gi should be having a hard time making friends thanks to his scary face and other traits. However, his unique sociability allowed him to easily become friends with his fellow recruits. Kang Jin-Ho didn’t have any acquaintances like him.
Ju Yeong-Gi glanced at Kang Jin-Ho and asked, “By the way… Why did you go to the administrative office?”
“I was summoned,” said Kang Jin-Ho with a shrug.
Ju Yeong-Gi immediately scowled. “Dude, you always omit the context. The before and after! You should say why you were summoned, you know what I mean?”
“Aigoo, this guy! Aigoo, gimme a break!” Ju Yeong-Gi pounded his chest in frustration. Such a gesture should have been a mere expression of their emotions when performed by other people, but with Ju Yeong-Gi, it was like watching King Kong.
“Holy cow! Yeong-Gi, don’t do that! You’re scaring me!” A recruit nearby reacted half-jokingly.
Ju Yeong-Gi ignored the reactions of his surroundings and yelled, “Okay, so… Why did they summon you to the administrative office?!”
Kang Jin-Ho’s reply remained brief, “They are giving me a vacation.”
“Since I scored superior grades, they told me I’ll be receiving a leave pass… Something like that.”
“Huh?” Veins began bulging in Ju Yeong-Gi’s forehead. “Why am I not getting one, too?! And why are you getting that pass?!”
Kang Jin-Ho didn’t bother to reply, but it was fine. Plenty of people nearby were willing to do that for him.
“Let’s be honest here, Jin-Ho kinda deserves it.”
“Right, right. Besides, Yeong-Gi. You might be great at the stuff you’re good at, but you’re also garbage at things you’re not so good at. Like, running. You totally sucked at it.”
“Didn’t you fail at the CQC training, too? Expecting to get a pass yourself in that case is a bit, shall we say, immoral?”
“You bastards, you dare gang up on me?!” Ju Yeong-Gi shot a fierce glare at his friends, and they hurriedly waved their hands in denial.
One of the recruits made a cramped smile.
“Eiii~, we’re just saying that this is the reality, Yeong-Gi.”
Ju Yeong-Gi groaned. “Urgh…”
“In any case, only the toughest event in the boot camp is left, huh.”
When Ju Yeong-Gi heard that, he shot up to his feet in alarm. “What?! We’re already done with that damned march, but there’s something else even tougher than that? I thought basic training was finished already? What else is there?!”
The recruit who brought the matter up was taken aback. “Don’t you know what it is? The toughest event in the Recruit Training Center?”
“What is it?” Ju Yeong-Gi urged him on.
The recruit smirked deeply. “I’m talking about the recruit graduation ceremony.”
“Bloody hell…” Ju Yeong-Gi muttered as sweat streamed down his entire body. Standing still in the middle of the training ground in this intense heat and equally harsh sunlight was no joke.
Adding insult to injury was Kang Jin-Ho snatching away the leave pass that should have been rightfully his. Recalling that fact made Ju Yeong-Gi’s face even more bitter.
– Recruit No.100, Kang Jin-Ho.
Ju Yeong-Gi looked ahead and saw Kang Jin-Ho up on the platform receiving an award certificate while being showered with the usual congratulatory remarks. That award certificate was accompanied by a pass for a five-days-four-nights leave.
“Bloody hell…” Ju Yeong-Gi groaned softly. If he knew that such a prize was up for grabs, he would have put in more effort during training. Now, all he could do while watching Kang Jin-Ho climb down the platform was lightly wipe his nose.
‘Well, I guess he does deserve it.’
It didn’t matter whether one held a favorable impression of Kang Jin-Ho or not, everyone had no objections to Kang Jin-Ho receiving that award. That was how exemplary Kang Jin-Ho had been in sticking to the field manual. He was so by the book that he must have been born to serve as a soldier or something.
Once upon a time, an assistant instructor had wanted to nitpick at Kang Jin-Ho and had tried his luck with the latter’s locker, only to back off with his mouth clamped shut after finding out how perfectly organized everything was in there. That wasn’t all—Kang Jin-Ho’s grades during training were also so perfect that he had to be a cyborg, not a regular human being. Considering all that, who else deserved the award more than him?
“Sure, I’m kinda jealous, but… Oh, well.” Ju Yeong-Gi helplessly chuckled. Seeing how his mood had sneakily improved without warning, maybe he had also developed a favorable impression of Kang Jin-Ho by now.
The ceremony eventually came to an end, and the recruits crowded in front of a vending machine to throw mini-celebrations for themselves.
“Hey, we all did great, didn’t we?”
As they chuckled and cheered with their cheap coffee, an assistant instructor walked up. He scanned the crowd and smirked. “Hey, you brats. Who gave you permission to laze around out here?”
“Aha, sir! Have you been well?”
“Have I been well? Will you listen to these brats? You’re only graduating from boot camp, yet you already dare to talk like that? People might think you’re about to get discharged, brat.”
“Well, we are getting discharged from the boot camp, sir.”
“Haha, these punks.”
The atmosphere in the camp had gotten relaxed to the point where recruits could now freely banter with assistant instructors. That was understandable, though; the end of the boot camp gave the recruits this sense of accomplishment as if they were veteran soldiers about to get discharged. Meanwhile, the assistant instructors would be reveling in the feeling of liberation, knowing that they didn’t need to deal with these infuriating recruits anymore… At least, until the next batch showed up, that was.
The assistant instructor gave the recruits friendly advice. “You brats, listen up. You gotta pull your socks up once you get to your assigned corps, got that? You carry on like what you’ve been doing here, and I promise you, you’ll get beaten up within an inch of your life.”
“Eii. But, sir. Old-timers in the corps should be far more humane than instructors, no?”
“Wanna die?” The assistant instructor chuckled.
As the jovial atmosphere continued among the group, another assistant instructor walked over to them and pulled out a packet of cigarettes.
The recruits were surprised. “Huh?”
The assistant instructor pointed at a distant corner. “C’mon. Let’s go over there.”
“Would you look at how you all change your attitudes? I think you brats still need more discipline, eh?”
Everyone present cackled and giggled as they headed to somewhere out of the view. However, Kang Jin-Ho heard someone call out his name, so he stopped walking.
“Recruit No.100, Kang Jin-Ho, sir,” Kang Jin-Ho replied while turning his head. And to his surprise, he found someone unexpected standing there.
1. Matstar is a brand of snacks available on Korean military bases. They make everything from canned drinks to crisps. ☜
2. “CQC” is an abbreviation of “close-quarters combat.” ☜