Descent of the Demon Master - Chapter 91
The trucks meant to take the recruits away to their assigned bases only showed up and crowded the training ground the day after the graduation ceremony.
“Wow, so it really is over,” Ju Yeong-Gi muttered in a half-bitter, half-glad tone, his eyes scanning the parked military trucks.
His friends tapped him on the shoulder. “We’re gonna miss you, Yeong-Gi.”
“You guys…” Ju Yeong-Gi sheepishly wiped his nose. He had grown quite close to these recruits after living with them under one roof for a month. “Hey, give me a call when you get your hundred-day leave, okay?”
“Huh? Why should we call each other during our precious leave?”
“C’mon, man. We ain’t some random strangers anymore now, are we?! We should definitely see each other at least once.”
With that, the recruits began exchanging phone numbers.
A few recruits also approached Kang Jin-Ho with a pen and an open notebook. He didn’t refuse any of them and jotted down his contact number.
“Jin-Ho, I’ll definitely call you.”
“Alright,” Kang Jin-Ho replied with a nod.
Ju Yeong-Gi observed the exchange, then tutted loudly. “Dude, do you really think they’ll call you?”
“Why did you bother to give them your number, then?”
Kang Jin-Ho shrugged his shoulders. “Because they asked me to…”
“Tsk, tsk.” Ju Yeong-Gi shook his head disapprovingly. “Anyway, why did you reject the offer to become an assistant instructor here? I heard the higher-ups wanted to recruit you.”
“Mm? This is the first time I’m hearing about that.”
“Eh? Really? That’s weird. I heard that First Sergeant Choi was trying to recruit you as an assistant here?”
Kang Jin-Ho smiled wryly at that. First Sergeant Choi probably did try to get him assigned as an assistant instructor here. However, that plan most likely fell through all thanks to how often Kang Jin-Ho got tangled up in various incidents.
‘The Battalion Commander chatting with Chairman Hwang should have influenced that decision, too.’
If having Kang Jin-Ho around the base led to Hwang Jeong-Hu offering special ‘benefits,’ then Kang Jin-Ho would have been assigned here. However, Chairman Hwang was known for being strictly against greasing palms, and keeping an acquaintance of someone like that near you would surely prove tricky.
Kang Jin-Ho could make an educated guess, but that was about it. Even he couldn’t exactly tell what went down. If the circumstantial evidence were removed from the picture, then perhaps the higher-ups thought someone prone to getting involved in various incidents wasn’t suitable as an assistant instructor. Beside, Kang Jin-Ho would’ve declined the offer even if they had made it, anyway.
‘I’ve learned everything this place has to offer.’
What he desired now was to go to a new place and learn new things.
“Oh, hey. I think that’s our ride,” said Ju Yeong-Gi while pointing in a direction. Kang Jin-Ho glanced there and spotted a massive military truck ambling up to their position.
The co-driver climbed out of the truck’s cab and scanned the waiting recruits disinterestedly. He began the headcount of all twenty waiting recruits to ensure everyone was accounted for before pointing at the back of the truck. “Get in.”
The recruits, including Ju Yeong-Gi and Kang Jin-Ho, obediently climbed into the truck’s cargo bay.
The co-driver, a high-ranking officer, warned the recruits. “Do not peek your head outside the truck. Got that?”
The officer climbed back inside the passenger seat of the truck. That was the signal for the vehicle’s engine to come to life.
“Guys, you did good!”
“Once you get your leave, don’t forget to call, okay!”
The fellow recruits still waiting for their rides waved enthusiastically to bid Kang Jin-Ho’s group goodbye.
Ju Yeong-Gi waved back and shouted at them, “You brats! Call me later, okay! This hyung of yours will buy a round for all of you!”
The truck took off, and Ju Yeong-Gi settled down with a rueful face. He placed his duffel bag in front, then sighed at length. “Even though we just became friends…”
“C’mon, Yeong-Gi. We can always catch up later, right?”
“That’s not gonna be as easy as you say, dude.”
Kang Jin-Ho glanced at Ju Yeong-Gi whining away, then shifted his attention to the mountainous scenery zipping by next to the truck.
‘We’re now in a civilian-restricted area…’
He didn’t like this scenery at all. It reminded him of the ancient environment he didn’t want to remember. The sight of mother nature untouched by human hands resembled too closely that of Zhongyuan’s.
Had it been a few months ago, he would have forgotten about Zhongyuan as the past was something done and over with. But now, he was acutely aware of that being a pipe dream.
‘Martial artists still exist in this era. In that case, what should I be doing?’
Kang Jin-Ho pondered quietly, his expression stiff.
‘However, can the modern-era Martials truly exert their dominance even now?’
In the past, there was no need to even question it. But now? Kang Jin-Ho wasn’t so sure anymore. What could any of the martial artists do against modern firearms?
A small number of martial artists might be able to survive, but the rest would surely get wiped out. A martial artist could rise to a position of, say, ‘champion’ of a region for a short while, but a protracted battle against a modern army should decrease the pool of potential heirs to carry on the legacy. Eventually, that line of inheritance would wither away to nothingness.
Kang Jin-Ho shuddered after realizing once more how terrifying science could be. No matter how heaven-defying he would become, could he deal with a nuclear bomb falling on top of his head?
Not even the Crimson Demon in his prime would be able to survive that.
‘Science has triumphed over martial arts, then.’
Kang Jin-Ho was a man of the modern era of science who somehow ended up in Zhongyuan. Perhaps, that was why what happened to him hadn’t shocked him too much. After all, his sense of identity as Kang Jin-Ho had remained the same no matter what he had experienced.
Ju Yeong-Gi suddenly slapped Kang Jin-Ho on the back. “What are you thinking so hard about?”
“Aha, you dummy. You’re nervous about going to your assigned base, don’t ya? No sweat, Jin-Ho. Trust me, your hyung! Let me take care of everything. Consider yourself lucky for going to the same corps as me.”
Kang Jin-Ho chuckled at that. Just where did Ju Yeong-Gi’s baseless confidence come from? Kang Jin-Ho had encountered all sorts of characters back in Zhongyuan, but this was his first time dealing with a type like Ju Yeong-Gi.
Kang Jin-Ho slowly shook his head. “Being assigned to the same corps doesn’t mean we will be assigned to the same unit.”
“Is that so?” Ju Yeong-Gi tilted his head in confusion.
Kang Jin-Ho smirked and shifted his attention back to the passing scenery outside.
The truck traveled for a long, long time before driving through a massive entrance of a military base. It eventually stopped in front of a drab military building. Kang Jin-Ho’s senses told him that the vehicle seemed to have traveled far up north than where the recruit training center was located.
“Okay, let’s get out of here!”
The recruits looked tense. They might be fresh-faced newbies, but that didn’t mean they were too dumb to know that the arrival at the assigned base was the real start of their military life.
“I need to make the report first, so all of you will be on standby here,” said the co-driver before heading into the building. The active-duty soldiers prowling nearby seized the opportunity and crowded around the newbies.
“Oh, hey! We got newbies today!”
“Look how fresh-faced they are!”
The recruits, with Kang Jin-Ho in the lead, couldn’t do anything but stand at attention as the taunting rained down on them. Thankfully, the truck driver climbed out of the vehicle and shooed away the annoying soldiers. “Hey! Stop tormenting these kids and mind your own business!”
A short while later, the co-driver stepped outside the office building, then guided the recruits into the Battalion Commander’s office. They were subjected to the usual sermon by the Battalion Commander before finally being allowed to the administration section of the building.
The co-driver spoke to a soldier behind a desk that looked like a clerk. “Call the squad commanders and tell them their new recruits are here. Did you contact Alpha and Bravo already?”
The clerk nodded. “Yes, sir.”
“What about Charlie, though?”
“Sir. Charlie said they don’t have anyone to dispatch today. They’ll only send someone to fetch the recruits tomorrow.”
“Is that right? Then… Let the recruits rest here at the HQ.”
None of the waiting recruits understood the strange terms being thrown around.
Soon, squad commanders sporting epaulets entered the administration office and cried out, “Victory!” before leading away the recruits assigned to their squads. As for Kang Jin-Ho and Ju Yeong-Gi, they could only stand awkwardly in the office as the rest of the recruits were all led away.
The co-driver-cum-officer addressed one of the clerks. “Hey, Tae-Yeong?”
“Corporal Yun Tae-Yeong, sir!”
“Take these… ahjussis to where they’ll be staying overnight, give them clothes to change into, and… And, give them some smokes, too.”
“Sir, understood.” The clerk at one of the desks got up and approached Kang Jin-Ho. “Ahjussis, please follow me.”
“It’s fine to address me casually.”
Yun Tae-Yeong couldn’t help but smirk at that. No matter what he would say, these two recruits wouldn’t be able to ‘hear’ him, and they wouldn’t understand his intentions either. The two new saplings didn’t have the concept of being in a corps yet, after all.
Ju Yeong-Gi and Kang Jin-Ho followed Yun Tae-Yeong to a residence hall, then they changed into casual clothes. Afterward, they were taken to a smoking area by the corporal.
Yun Tae-Yeong asked the two, “You smoke?”
“Yes, sir. I do.”
Kang Jin-Ho replied briefly, while Ju Yeong-Gi replied with a deep nod.
Yun Tae-Yeong provided them with cigarettes. “Here, have a smoke. Your seniors will take care of such things for you once you get to your assigned base. However, I’ll help you with that as long as you’re here.”
Ju Yeong-Gi was taken aback. “Sir? I thought this was our base?”
“No, ahjussis. Your assigned base is still a bit of travel away. Alpha and Bravo are located right here in the HQ, but Charlie is a separate artillery unit. Although you were supposed to go there today, they told us that’s gonna happen tomorrow. Sounds like they don’t have anyone to dispatch for the time being.”
Ju Yeong-Gi tilted his head. What the corporal said sounded like Korean, but some parts sounded more like indecipherable gibberish.
Yun Tae-Yeong grinned. “Just know that you’ll be taken to a different base tomorrow.”
“I see.” Whatever happens, it happens; to Ju Yeong-Gi, his attention was more focused on the cigarette before his eyes, not the matter of having different bases.
Yun Tae-Yeong lit the cigarettes up for Ju Yeong-Gi and Kang Jin-Ho. “Ahjussis, you two are in for a rough ride from tomorrow onward, so at the very least, relax as much as possible today.”
Ju Yeong-Gi was taken aback once more. “Huh? Is it that bad?”
“Hmm, how should I describe Charlie… It’s a separate artillery unit, and it’s pretty infamous for being a bit rough around the edges. Looks like you two have pretty good physiques. That’s probably why you got assigned there.”
Kang Jin-Ho wordlessly listened while sucking on his cigarette. He mused inwardly.
‘I thought I’d be quitting, so this…’
Who knew he would get to smoke this frequently after joining the military?
Yun Tae-Yeong continued, “It’ll soon be dinnertime, ahjussis. Enjoy our meal and get some good rest tonight. The vehicle that’ll fetch you should come tomorrow morning.”
Once the smoke break was over, Yun Tae-Yeong guided the two back to the residence hall. “Please enjoy your stay here. You can also watch TV if you want.”
Before leaving, Yun Tae-Yeong showed them where the TV remote was. Once he left, Ju Yeong-Gi scanned the hall where only he and Kang Jin-Ho were present. He tilted his head and said loudly, “Wow. Isn’t this a heck of a lot nicer than what we thought?”
“It seems that way,” Kang Jin-Ho replied flatly.
“I figured we’d be hazed like crazy and chewed on by the seniors as they cry, Welcome to hell, rookies! Well… I heard the military had changed a lot over the years, and I guess it’s all true. That corporal was so friendly, wasn’t he?”
“Mmhm. However, it’s still too early to be sure.”
“You think so?”
As the two chatted away, the hall’s doorway opened. Soldiers finishing up their daily duties rushed inside before noticing the duo. “Hmm? New recruits?”
Kang Jin-Ho and Ju Yeong-Gi hesitated, not knowing how to respond. Thankfully, though, someone else behind the entering soldiers replied for them, “Nah, not ours. These ahjussis are destined for Charlie.”
“Aaah, they are those ahjussis, eh?” A soldier sporting a sergeant’s insignia approached the duo and smiled brightly. “Wow, ahjussis. You guys are heading to Charlie, eh. You have my sympathy. You two are gonna have a hard time there. Oh, hey. Have you smoked yet?”
“Well, if you wish to smoke some more, don’t hesitate and talk to me. Relax as much as you can and enjoy your stay. I mean, you’ll be jumping into hell tomorrow, so might as well get as much rest here as possible, right?”
Ju Yeong-Gi’s and Kang Jin-Ho’s expressions stiffened a little. Ever since their arrival here, people had been implying that Charlie was like hell itself. Was it just a running joke to intimidate the new recruits? Or was the people’s perception of Charlie that poor? It was hard to tell.
Kang Jin-Ho and Ju Yeong-Gi followed the other soldiers to the mess hall and had dinner while ignoring being called ‘ahjussis’ for some reason. After dinner, they meandered around until bedtime.
After taking up a couple of unoccupied bunks in the corner of the residence hall, they listened to the other soldiers addressing them in sympathetic voices.
“Ahjussis, have a good rest tonight.”
“Yes. Sleep well, you poor ahjussis.”
Ju Yeong-Gi grew increasingly nervous. He couldn’t help but ask Kang Jin-Ho in a quiet voice, “H-hey. Don’t you think something’s weird here?”
“Mm…” Kang Jin-Ho grunted while also feeling a little confused. This situation was quite different from what he had heard about the experiences of the other new recruits. “We’ll be in our assigned base tomorrow. We’ll find out once we get there.”
“Well, that’s true, but…” Ju Yeong-Gi couldn’t finish his sentence and simply groaned deeply. “…Eiii, I don’t care anymore. You’re right! We’ll see when we get there, won’t we?!”
Kang Jin-Ho glanced at Ju Yeong-Gi and saw the latter closing his eyes to sleep. He then followed suit. Whatever the case might be, he should get some idea of what was in store for them come tomorrow.
1. “Hyung” or “Hyeong” is a noun used by Korean males to address another male older than them who they are close to, according to MacMillan Dictionary. Hyung literally means “older brother.” ☜
2. “Ahjussi” or “Ajeossi” refers to an older man, usually someone unfamiliar. It can be translated into various English alternatives like “mister” or “uncle” depending on the context. ☜