Descent of the Demon Master - Chapter 94
Chapter 94. Going to the Assigned Base (4)
Jeon Hyeok-Su barely managed to make his way back to the living quarters while being supported by other soldiers. However, resting was impossible as the senior soldiers mobbed him almost immediately after his return.
“What the heck happened to you, Hyeok-Su? Why do you look like a soggy mop?”
“…I was running around the training field, sir.”
The senior soldier asked in confusion, “Why? Did the quartermaster catch you goofing around or something?”
“No, sir. I was, uh, exercising…”
“Who’d exercise until they end up in this state? Wait, Hyeok-Su, did your girlfriend leave you?”
“Sir, I don’t even have a girlfriend, to begin with.”
“My bad…” The senior soldier sheepishly backed off.
However, Jeon Hyeok-Su couldn’t care less and continued to pant laboriously away. He finally gave in and lay down on the wooden floor, unable to say anything else.
Another senior soldier got irritated by that sight. “This brat? Hey, can’t you see your seniors standing before you! Where are your manners!”
“But, sirs. I’m really dying here. You know I’m not the type to fake it, sir. Actually, I… I think I should go to the infirmary first…”
The senior soldier dismissively waved his hand. “You were just jogging for a bit, so why the infirmary, dude?”
“But sir, I am really dying…” Jeon Hyeok-Su replied helplessly.
“Never mind that. Where’s our maknae?”
“Wow, that maknae… Urgh…” Jeon Hyeuok-Su shuddered involuntarily. “That brat is totally insane, sir!”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“I ended up in this state after running against him, sir!”
“Huh? Seriously?” The seniors were taken aback and stared at Jeon Hyeok-Su, hoping to get some clarity on the matter.
They all knew that Jeon Hyeok-Su used to be an amateur track-and-field athlete, boasting superior stamina and physique. For someone like that to collapse in exhaustion while running against a newbie? They could scarcely believe it.
The senior soldiers began discussing among themselves, “Was he some kind of a marathon runner?”
“Dunno. What did he do before enlisting? Does anyone know?”
“I eavesdropped when the squad commander was interviewing him earlier. But he’s just a regular uni student, as far as I can tell.”
“Our Hyeok-Su ended up in this state because of a regular university student? Impossible, I tell ya. I mean, our newbie ain’t some wandering superhero or something.”
Jeon Hyeok-Su was too enervated to butt in and simply listened.
Jo Won-Gu walked over and asked, “Okay, so. Where’s the newbie, then?”
“He… was still running around the field, sir.”
“You left him there?”
Jo Won-Gu suddenly threw the towel in his hand at Jeon Hyeok-Su’s face. The latter sobered up and tried to raise his torso but failed. However, he still managed to shout his name out, “Corporal Jeon Hyeok-Su, sir!”
“Hey, you dumbass.”
“Corporal Jeon Hyeok-Su, sir!” Jeon Hyeok-Su finally forced himself to stand up.
The incensed Jo Won-Gu roared, “You dumbass! How could you abandon a newbie still waiting for his deployment on the training field and return alone?! Was that how you were taught?!”
“You took him there, so it’s your damn responsibility to drag him back, too! If you couldn’t even do that, you should’ve at least told the newbie to follow you. Are you seriously telling me you’ve left our newbie in the care of another squad?!”
“My apologies, sir,” Jeon Hyeok-Su replied in a tiny voice.
“You better pull your socks up, corporal! Did your head get too big for your own good after we went easy on you for so long?”
Jeon Hyeok-Su’s head faltered. “I’m sorry, sir…”
Jo Won-Gu tutted before turning his head. “Tae-Ho!”
Seong Tae-Ho quickly stepped forward. “Private 1st Class, Seong Tae-Ho, sir!”
“You, hurry down to the training field and bring the newbie home.”
“Be quick about it, will ya?”
“Yes, sir!” Seong Tae-Ho hurriedly rushed outside the living quarter.
Jo Won-Gu turned his attention back to Jeon Hyeok-Su and tutted again. “Get your act straight, you dumbass.”
“My apologies, sir…”
Jo Won-Gu picked up his towel and headed to the showers. Jeon Hyeok-Su finally sighed in relief while wiping away the cold sweat off his face.
A senior soldier next to him spoke in a concerned voice. “Hey, Hyeok-Su? Don’t you think you should head to the infirmary? Or do you want me to call for a doctor?”
“No, sir. I think I’m fine now.”
“You should tell us if your condition is bad, alright?”
Jeon Hyeok-Su scratched the back of his head and replied sheepishly, “I was feeling a bit down before, but a good, sweaty workout should’ve done the trick for me, sir. If I still feel sick later, I’ll go and see the doctor myself, so you don’t have to worry about me, sir.”
“Alright. Do take care of yourself.”
Jeon Hyeok-Su watched as the crowd surrounding him dispersed and returned to their original spots, then tightly clenched his fist.
‘Damn it, how embarrassing!’
It wasn’t as if the newbie did something wrong here. However, there was no getting away from the fact that Jeon Hyeok-Su got royally embarrassed today. His crushed pride was writhing and seething right now.
‘What should I do to get back at that brat?’
Jeon Hyeok-Su thought long and hard, but nothing good came up in his head.
While he was mulling his options, the living quarter’s doorway opened to reveal Seong Tae-Ho bringing Kang Jin-Ho back.
‘…He didn’t even break a sweat?’
Jeon Hyeok-Su could only tut inwardly.
He distinctively remembered seeing Kang Jin-Ho lapping the training field at an unbelievable speed while he was crawling back to the living quarters. Yet, there wasn’t a single trace of sweat on that newbie’s face. Was he even a human being?
‘Right. Punking him physically is out of the question…’
Jeon Hyeok-Su mused. He was an athlete himself, after all. That was why he could tell that Kang Jin-Ho was on par with a top-flight pro athlete judging from the physical abilities he had displayed so far.
Kang Jin-Ho spotted Jeon Hyeok-Su and asked, “Sir? How are you feeling?”
“U-uh, me? I’m alright.” Jeon Hyeok-Su hurriedly nodded like a dummy. “W-What about you? You okay?”
“I’m sorry?” Kang Jin-Ho asked back while making a face of someone who had failed to understand the intent of that question.
Jeon Hyeok-Su sighed and corrected his junior. “When you don’t understand what a senior is telling you, you mustn’t ask back. Simply say, ‘Sir, I don’t understand.’ Okay?”
“Understood, sir,” Kang Jin-Ho obediently replied.
Jeon Hyeok-Su waved his hand dismissively. “It’s almost chow time, so go get some rest.”
“Yes, sir.” Kang Jin-Ho saluted, then headed back to his spot in the living quarters. Jeon Hyeok-Su silently watched that, then got up from the wooden floor while sighing. He suddenly had the urge to smoke for some reason.
Jeon Hyeok-Su dazedly stared at the fast-moving Kang Jin-Ho, before turning to Seong Tae-Ho next to him. “…Hey, Tae-Ho?”
“Private 1st Class, Seong Tae-Ho, sir!”
“Did you, uhm, teach Jin-Ho to do that?”
“N-no, sir.” Seong Tae-Ho faltered slightly. “I only told him to mop the floor, that’s all…”
In that case, how should they explain this scene?
Jeon Hyeok-Su’s eyes lost focus as he witnessed Kang Jin-Ho literally ‘glide’ across the living quarters’ wooden floor. It was as if he was flying; mere three steps were all he needed to get from one end to the other side while diligently mopping the floor. Honestly, Kang Jin-Ho’s mopping speed was verging on being miraculous.
“H-hey, Jin-Ho. If you do that, the floor will be… Mm?” Jeon Hyeok-Su clamped his mouth shut when he noticed the floor’s state. He was thinking of scolding Kang Jin-Ho for mopping so sloppily, but the floor was sparkling so brightly that it nearly blinded him.
Seong Tae-Ho muttered in a daze, “…Uh, sir? I think even a fly will slip and fall on this floor.”
“…Yeah, I think so, too.”
Kang Jin-Ho was done ‘polishing’ the floor in a jiffy, then turned his attention to his locker. The normal thing would be to simply wipe the dust off the usual places, but Kang Jin-Ho didn’t do that. He actually began cleaning the entire locker, top to bottom.
He took down all of his military gear stored on top of the locker just so that he could clean up there, then studiously reorganized everything back to their original spots. He was so thorough that Jeon Hyeok-Su and Seong Tae-Ho thought Kang Jin-Ho would make a fortune by starting a cleaning business.
Jeon Hyeok-Su finally called out to him. “…Kang Jin-Ho?”
“Private Kang Jin-Ho, sir.” Kang Jin-Ho quickly walked up to Jeon Hyeok-Su while still holding the mop.
“Where did you, uh, learn to mop the floor like that?”
“…Then, how do you explain what you did? Huh?”
“Sir. I was just cleaning those places that looked dirty, that’s all. Is there something wrong, sir?”
‘Of course something’s wrong. Lots of things, in fact. If you clean this efficiently and wonderfully, who will take over when you’re on duty or on leave?!’
Jeon Hyeok-Su’s lips twitched, and his tongue itched to say something. In the end, he decided to not say any of those and be more… ‘gracious’ about it. “D-don’t be too passionate about cleaning, Jin-Ho. Just do it in, uh, moderation. Okay?”
“But, sir? I was told to make everything spotless?”
“…Well, we were wrong.”
“I don’t follow, sir?”
“Just do it in moderation, will ya?!”
“…Understood, sir.” Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head ever so slightly, then resumed cleaning the living quarter once more.
‘Holy cow. I wonder how he would’ve organized those fancy new beds if he was assigned to one of those new barracks…’
Jeon Hyeok-Su tutted inwardly while lamenting the fact that their living quarter just so happened to be an old-school one with wooden floors and futons.
The evening roll call followed the end of the cleaning. Everyone turned in for the night as the lights went out.
Seong Tae-Ho quietly called out from his futon. “Jin-Ho?”
“Private Kang Jin-Ho, sir.”
“Well, tomorrow’s the start of your on-site training, so…”
“Yes, I’m aware, sir.”
“We’re artillery operators, so our training will get dangerous. That’s why the seniors will be on edge.”
“I see, sir.”
“That means you gotta be extra sharp tomorrow.”
“Understood, sir,” Kang Jin-Ho replied. He wasn’t even concerned about what would happen tomorrow. Even though Seong Tae-Ho was offering advice out of concern, the Korean military as a community was simply too ‘insignificant’ to worry him.
‘They are all pretty weak.’
That was Kang Jin-Ho’s evaluation of the soldiers around him. He could already picture what might happen if these people living this sort of lifestyle were thrust into a combat situation.
Back in Zhongyuan, or more correctly, in the demon cult, the trainees were pushed to the absolute extremes to bring out their sleeping potential. That was their preferred training method. Obviously, sleeping was a luxury the trainees didn’t have. Sometimes, they weren’t even allowed to eat.
After rising to the position of the cult leader, Kang Jin-Ho prohibited the practice of throwing the trainees inside a pit and letting them fight to the death until only one survived. However, he didn’t stop those so-called basic training regimes that utterly trampled on human rights.
Having experienced such inhumane training as both a trainee and an instructor, the South Korean military came across as nothing more than a hangout place of a bunch of stiff macho-wannabe men to Kang Jin-Ho.
‘Still, I want to see more…’
Kang Jin-Ho wanted to participate in the training exercises. He didn’t want to waste time doing nothing like this. That was why he was looking forward to tomorrow’s itinerary. What would the on-site training hold in store for him?
Kang Jin-Ho asked curiously, “Is this a cannon, sir?”
“Yup, it’s the 155mm towed howitzer. And you’ll be its devoted partner for the next two years or so.”
“A howitzer…? This?” Kang Jin-Ho took another look at the 155mm towed howitzer’s barrel rising high above his head.
The mobile cannon was much larger than he had expected. Of course, Kang Jin-Ho already knew what self-propelled artillery was. Mobile cannons that could be driven around, such as tanks, often appeared on TV, so it was hard not to have some ideas on how they operated. However, he had never seen a howitzer before in his life.
Kang Jin-Ho’s curiosity compelled him to continue, “Sir, how much does this weapon weigh?”
“Around seven tons.”
Most basic compact hatchbacks weighed just over one ton, so this single howitzer was as heavy as seven of those little cars piled on top of one another.
Jo Won-Gu, the senior soldier in charge, warned in no uncertain terms. “That’s why getting crushed underneath will be certain death. Keep your wits about you at all times. Even a little tap from the cannon will shatter your bones, easy.”
“Yes, sir.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded slowly.
Cannons existed even back in Zhongyuan. The army possessed many cannons, and sects like the Thunder Hall openly deployed gunpowder and explosives. Kang Jin-Ho had encountered quite a few large cannons back then, but the size of this howitzer really was something else.
He continued with his questioning, “Sir, what is its range?”
“With self-propelled rounds, about thirty clicks. With regular ammo, it should be around fifteen.”
“…What about its casualty radius, sir?”
“Huh? What a weird-ass brat you are! Why is a private like you so curious about everything, eh? The blast radius is around twenty-five meters. There, you happy now?” Jo Won-Gu replied with a raised eyebrow.
Kang Jin-Ho’s expression rapidly stiffened as he studied the howitzer. Could he dodge an explosive projectile flying toward him from fifteen kilometers away? One with an explosion radius of twenty-five meters, to boot? Even if he managed to dodge it, how would he close the distance of fifteen kilometers and destroy the howitzer?
‘…So, there’s a good reason why martial artists died out, then.’
Kang Jin-Ho realized that he had been too focused on firearms. Instead of guns, cannons like this would’ve been far more effective against martial artists in real combat situations. The difference in the effective range was just too insurmountable.
This separate company alone possessed six howitzers. Imagine all these cannons firing simultaneously on a single target and bombarding the area with explosives—it wouldn’t have mattered one jot whether you were a peak master or a first-rate warrior; you’d still be slaughtered in an instant.
‘This is how far science has come…’
In all honesty, Kang Jin-Ho couldn’t quite grasp the concept of things like bombardment or missiles. He didn’t know what to make of them. Now that he had seen one for himself… His eyes were now wide-open, that was for sure. At this point, it would be safe to assume that martial artists could never win against the modern army in a frontal assault.
‘In that case… What are those people aiming for?’
What were the modern-era ‘Martials’ aiming to achieve?
Jo Won-Gu issued a new order. “Alright, listen up. Since we won’t be firing the cannons today, everyone except our maknae should head off to your individual training areas. As for maknae, you’ll join other ‘jackey’ soldiers and train today.”
Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head a little.
Jo Won-Gu noticed Kang Jin-Ho’s confusion and smirked slightly. “What’s the matter, scared?”
“No, sir, but… I was wondering what’s a jackey.”
“You see that pillar-like thing at the bottom of the howitzer?”
“Sir?” Kang Jin-Ho shifted his gaze and looked at the lower part of the cannon. There he spotted large pillar-like structures supporting the weapon itself.
Jo Won-Gu chuckled. “What does ‘towed’ mean in the towed artillery, soldier? It means this weapon can move, right?”
“Yes, sir. That’s correct.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded.
“However, even you should be able to tell that the howitzer can’t move in this state, right?”
“I do, sir.”
“So, you raise those supports when we need to move the howitzer. And, after reaching our next destination, you lower them and fix the weapon on the ground.” Jo Won-Gu explained as if he was a kind old school teacher.
Jo Won-Gu ruefully shook his head. Although, he was still putting on an act. “The thing is, humans don’t have enough strength to do that.”
Kang Jin-Ho studied the supports with renewed interest.
This was when a suspicious grin floated up on Jo Won-Gu’s lips. “What’s the matter, private? Are you amazed?”
“Sir. I’m amazed, but this system seems a bit cumbersome as well. I don’t understand why people have to do this when simply using machines would’ve been more efficient, sir.”
“Machines? That would be self-propelled artillery, then. Whether it’s a self-propelled or towed artillery, they all have their own uses.”
Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head again. “But, wouldn’t self-propelled artillery be superior in that aspect?”
“There’s a trade-off, private. Self-propelled artillery can’t navigate through some environments, you see? However, a howitzer like ours can be airlifted by helicopters. And it’s also much more useful in occupying a stronghold.”
“Mm…” Kang Jin-Ho scratched his chin, still not fully seeing it.
Jo Won-Gu laughed loudly at how Kang Jin-Ho was staring at the howitzer with narrowed eyes. “Listen up, Jin-Ho.”
“Private Kang Jin-Ho, sir!”
“That’s not important for you now, is it? Do you know what is, though?”
“Usually, soldiers going through this training for the first time froth at their mouths and collapse. And now, you will also learn what it takes to be a real artillery gunner today.”
It seemed that Jo Won-Gu still had no idea what kind of a person Kang Jin-Ho was.
1. The soldiers in the Korean military used to sleep on raised wooden floors with futons. However, newer barracks have Western-style beds. ☜
2. “Jackey” is a Konglish term where “-ey” from “jockey” is tacked on at the end of “jack”. Basically, a soldier that operates howitzer’s jacks. ☜