Descent of the Demon Master - Chapter 98
Hwang Jeong-Hu put the phone down and could only groan loudly. “Urgh…”
“Sir, I did warn you this might happen,” said Director Baek Yeong-Gi as he offered his boss a glass of cold water.
“But! I wasn’t telling him to quit the army, was I?! I only suggested a way for our lives to be easier, that’s all!”
“Sir, that is the same thing as interfering…”
“How can you say that! I’m not interfering, just being considerate!”
“Too much consideration tends to become interference, sir.”
“…Khmm.” Hwang Jeong-Hu wordlessly chugged down the cold water as if he also agreed with that sentiment. After emptying the cup, though, he got going again. “Even if that’s true! He knows I had been trying so hard to take care of him. So, at the very least, he could have said, ‘Thank you for your consideration, but no thanks.’ He didn’t even bother to do that!”
Baek Yeong-Gi grinned brightly. The sight of Hwang Jeong-Ju throwing a tantrum was rather unfamiliar, but it was also quite entertaining to watch. How could he not be entertained when he knew how much crushing charisma this old man had always emitted during the meeting of the board of directors? And the same old man was throwing a childish fit right now solely because Kang Jin-Ho had flatly refused his goodwill. What an amusing sight this was!
Hwang Jeong-Hu loudly tutted. “If only he knew how worried I am, Jin-Ho wouldn’t have acted that way!”
Bake Yeong-Gi chuckled softly. “Now, you finally understand what it feels like to raise a child, sir.”
“Always feeling anxious—worried that your precious child might get into an accident and hurt themselves. Also, wondering when he’d get the leave and visit the family home… That’s what all parents feel after sending their sons to the military, sir.”
“Mm…” Chairman Hwang Jeong-Hu made a sheepish face while turning his head away. Baek Yeong-Gi’s smile deepened at this response.
The illness had changed Hwang Jeong-Hu. He was still passionate about work, and his charisma hadn’t gone anywhere, but it felt like he had gotten a little softer, a little mellower these days. He certainly cared a lot about his employees even before the illness nearly KO’ed him, but his methods of looking after them had changed noticeably lately. In the past, he never once outwardly displayed what was in his mind. Nowadays, though, he had become just a little more expressive than before.
‘Is it because he has gone through a life-or-death ordeal?’
Baek Yeong-Gi mused, still nowhere close to an answer.
If Kang Jin-Ho hadn’t shown up, Hwang Jeong-Hu most likely would have died. That was probably why he became a little mellower, or that was what Baek Yeong-Gi used to think. Now that he had observed his boss from close by for a while, though? Kang Jin-Ho’s influence on Hwang Jeong-Hu seemed to be getting more and more noticeable.
Hwang Jeong-Hu continued to complain away, “Tsk, tsk! Who knew that the military could be such an obstacle! To think that a genuine talent must rot away for two years…!”
“Sir, every boy has to enlist one day.”
“I know that! Even I also went through it! I still jump up from the bed whenever I dream about that bastard, Sergeant Choi!” Hwang Jeong-Hu clenched his fists tightly and shuddered in anger. Suddenly, his head shot up, his eyes glaring daggers at Baek Yeong-Gi. “Yeong-Gi, should I search for him?”
“…Who are you talking about, sir?”
“Who else? It’s Sergeant Choi, obviously! That bastard might still be alive.”
“Please calm down, sir!” Baek Yeong-Gi freaked out and hurriedly dissuaded his boss. He diligently prayed in his heart that this mysterious Sergeant Choi had already bitten the bullet. If that person were around the same age as Chairman Hwang, the odds of him still being alive would be 50-50. With how the chairman was chomping at the bits, though? It might be better for this Choi person if he was already roaming the afterlife instead of being alive and learning what it was like to be on the receiving end of Hwang Jeong-Hu’s petty revenge.
Hwang Jeong-Hu grumbled. “Even someone like me doesn’t want to remember much about my military days, so what about Jin-Ho? Let me ask you; you think someone like him can keep his sanity in that place?”
Baek Yeong-Gi replied with a warm grin, “Sir, I have no doubt that Mister Jin-Ho will pull through splendidly.”
“Sir, I think Jin-Ho isn’t as inflexible and stiff as you believe. In all honesty, he hasn’t started any trouble before. Am I wrong about that?”
Hwang Jeong-Hu shook his head. “Well, no. That’s not wrong.”
“Chairman, you tend to overestimate Jin-Ho, but on the other hand, you also tend to underestimate him. Unless something debilitating happens, all South Korean men must enlist sooner or later. As such, I believe Jin-Ho will be able to deal with whatever comes his way.”
“…Listen, Yeong-Gi. I’m not worried about that.”
“I’m sorry?” Baek Yeong-Gi was taken aback slightly.
“I’m worried about him trying to deal with whatever happens by going above and beyond the norm, Yeong-Gi. Most normal people would simply try to deal with what’s in front of them if they encounter something unreasonable, but Jin-Ho… That kid will try to resolve it by ripping apart the source of the unreasonableness.”
“As you’re fully aware, our military is rife with instances of unfair practices. Even then, not a single past president dared to reform the military. Do you remember the recent scandal of a general selling state secrets to the North not too long ago?”
“Yes, sir, I remember…”
“Just like that scandal, corruption and irregularities within our military are still happening under the surface. It’s just that we’re unaware of them, and it’d be no exaggeration to call the military the most corrupt place in South Korea. Jin-Ho’s now in the thick of it, witnessing all those things happening around him. The question now is, can he turn a blind eye to all of them?”
“Mm, well…” Baek Yeong-Gi nodded slowly. The ‘Kang Jin-Ho’ he knew wasn’t some naive kid burning in righteousness. However, that kid also wasn’t cynical and indifferent enough to ignore the injustice happening in front of his eyes. “Perhaps I should pay him a visit separately and strongly request him not to do anything, sir.”
“Didn’t you hear us on the phone? He told us to stay away from him, did he not?”
“Sir, he was talking about you. I should be fine.”
“Urgh…” Hwang Jeong-Hu pulled out a cigarette, then unhappily mouthed it. “That ungrateful kid…! Even though I’ve been so considerate…”
Baek Yeong-Gi tried his best to stop his laughter from bursting out of his mouth as he watched his boss acting like a sulking kid.
‘I’m so happy that you’ve come back to us, Chairman.’
Recalling those hellish moments when Hwang Jeong-Hu was on his deathbed made Baek Yeong-Gi that much more appreciative of the way things were right now. People were complaining about the economic downturn, but Hwang Jeong-Hu’s presence alone made everything seem okay. Reassuring, even. A giant would always find a way out no matter the situation, after all.
“By the way, Yeong-Gi. Why did our electronics division’s revenue fall so much after I left it to you?”
Baek Yeong-Gi’s expression rapidly changed to resemble a man chewing on crap as he urgently lowered his head.
‘Not everything is so great, then…’
While listening to a torrent of nagging straight out of Hwang Jeong-Hu’s mouth, Baek Yeong-Gi began to seriously consider retirement.
‘W-what the hell is up with this kid?!’
Ha Jin-Nam gulped nervously. He could no longer see Kang Jin-Ho as a fellow human being. Even though this kid was simply doing something as plain as putting the phone down!
Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head slightly. “Sir? What are you doing on the floor?”
“Uh? O-oh, that… Uh…” Ha Jin-Nam ungainly got up from the floor.
‘How can this kid shout at Chairman Hwang, of all people?’
Moreover, the phone conversation sounded like he was threatening the chairman, right? There was actually someone in South Korea capable of treating the one and only Chairman Hwang this way? Not even the President of Korea, arguably the most politically powerful person in the country, could speak to Hwang Jeong-Hu on the phone in that disrespectful attitude and tone.
‘Wait, maybe it wasn’t Chairman Hwang, after all?’
Ha Jin-Nam consciously decided to think that way. If that phone call was real, this situation simply didn’t make any sense whatsoever. To preserve his sanity, Ha Jin-Nam convinced himself that Kang Jin-Ho was talking to somebody else, not Chairman Hwang, and then he promptly tried to forget about what just happened a minute ago.
“Charlie Battery Commander, sir! The Battalion Commander wants you back in the office, sir!” the secretary suddenly called out to Ha Jin-Nam.
“Okay, got it.” Ha Jin-Nam nodded, then dragged Kang Jin-Ho back to the entrance of the battalion commander’s office. “You, wait here. Hang on, go sit over there and be on standby. Do not cause any more problems, got it? Hey, secretary? Give this kid a cup of coffee or something.”
Ha Jin-Nam made Kang Jin-Ho obediently sit on one of the chairs in the corridor, then faced the office entrance. After taking a deep breath, he opened the door and entered. He only emerged after quite some time, and his complexion displayed his exhaustion. “Okay. Let’s go back, Jin-Ho.”
Kang Jin-Ho and Ha Jin-Nam climbed into the back seat of the waiting vehicle and drove past the HQ’s guardhouse.
Now that he was back in his base, Ha Jin-Nam began racking his brain. The request from the Division Commander and the Battalion Commander was the only thing he could think about right now.
‘Keep my eyes on him, but make sure the kid doesn’t find out? How am I supposed to do that?!’
Monitor Kang Jin-Ho, but make it seem like he wasn’t being monitored? Trying to figure that order out almost made Ha Jin-Nam break down and weep. However, he wasn’t dense enough that he couldn’t see why the higher-ups made that order in the first place, so he had no choice but to shut up and return to his base.
Besides, he was a soldier. Even if he disagreed, ranks were everything to a soldier, and he certainly couldn’t argue with the higher-ups now, could he? In any case, Ha Jin-Nam simply had to keep an eye out on Kang Jin-Ho now. Since this matter was too great, he couldn’t just inform the lower-ranked officers below him and let them handle it. As a battery commander, his schedule was already jam-packed, so this addition only made his daily life even more hellish.
After about a week of monitoring Kang Jin-Ho, Ha Jin-Nam realized something.
‘This kid… He’s insane!’
Ha Jin-Nam witnessed Kang Jin-Ho organizing his locker and could only shudder nonstop. Just who was Ha Jin-Nam? Wasn’t he a graduate of South Korea’s military academy? No matter how much the military valued discipline and was rife with improper activities, it would still pale in comparison to the academy as far as enforcing discipline was concerned.
In the academy, literally everything had to be done by the book. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say the academy’s education period was designed to drill military discipline into the very souls of its cadets. Drilling cadets until the habits of ‘perfect’ morning wake-up routine, ‘perfect’ conduct at all times, and ‘perfect’ organization of everything they touched were instilled in them? Indeed, those were some hellish times.
What was the number one issue the recently-graduated second lieutenants faced after their deployment? Wasn’t it with how they tried to apply the field manual to everything they did?
As Ha Jin-Nam was a battery commander now, the memories of his academy days had long become indistinct blurs. However, watching Kang Jin-Ho rekindled the horrors of those days in his head.
‘Gee whiz. Even that kid’s uniform hanging on the clothes rack reeks of discipline!’
There was this thing called ‘gravity’ in this world. However, how could those uniforms ignore that and remain so resolutely… ‘disciplined’ like that?! And the sight of Kang Jin-Ho perfectly folding and pressing the blanket threatened to reawaken Ha Jin-Nam’s past trauma, too!
“K-Kang Jin-Ho! Jin-Ho, stopppp!”
“Jin-Ho, you dumbass! We told you to stop doing that!”
“I said, stop!”
When Kang Jin-Ho began ‘disciplining’ his blanket like that, the senior soldiers nearby rushed in and tried to stop him.
However, Kang Jin-Ho replied with a confused tilt of his head, “But, sirs. I’m simply trying to organize my things.”
“And we’re telling you to stop it!”
“I don’t understand, sir. I was taught that being neat and organized is the foundation of being a soldier.”
“We know, so stop doing it already!”
Kang Jin-Ho’s head tilting intensified. “Sir? I know that a senior soldier ordering a junior to organize their things can be considered an unreasonable practice, but doesn’t the military actively recommend its soldiers to voluntarily clean their belongings?”
“Listen, Jin-Ho! I’ll play the part of the bad senior here, so please, stop doing that! I’m even prepared to spend the night in detention, too!”
“Damn it, just how did we end up with a kid like him…?”
“Aigoo, Jin-Ho! I can’t breathe because of you. If you don’t want to see your hyungs taken to the infirmary, please, please! Stop doing that!”
An unprecedented crisis of a junior soldier promoting the importance of organization, and his seniors doing their best to stop him, was currently unfolding in Kang Jin-Ho’s barrack. Ha Jin-Nam stealthily witnessing this scene could only shudder, his teeth clattering noisily.
‘That, that crazy kid!’
Including his time in the academy, Ha Jin-Nam had spent almost a decade in the army by now. A decade! However, hand on heart, he could swear that he had never met anyone like Kang Jin-Ho.
“Jin-Ho, just apply to become a non-com officer, will ya! Better still, just go attend the military academy! Why did you have to attend Jaegyeong instead and torment us like this!”
‘…The academy won’t accept a loon like him, you know!’
Ha Jin-Nam tutted inwardly while shaking his head.
It was a relief that Kang Jin-Ho didn’t cause any… problems in the past month or so since joining the corps. However, it seemed that it wasn’t him adapting to life in the military but the other way around. What a historical and unprecedented event that was… Still, nothing major had happened so far, and that was great for everyone involved. Of course, some minor issues did make them raise their heads every now and then.
“Here she comes!!!”
Every military personnel staying in Barracks 5 rushed in front of the TV.
“Uwaaah! Dear Goddess, you’re finally here!”
“Yes, our President! President of the Army is here!”
“I’m telling you, I have no idea how I would survive my military service without seeing Se-Ah’s performance!”
The TV was currently playing a music show. A young female idol in a provocative outfit was singing and dancing on stage.
“Man, she’s such a killer!”
All of a sudden, Kang Jin-Ho carrying a floor mop opened the door and stepped inside. It was the weekend, but he felt a bit miffed by the slightly dusty floor, so he went outside to wash the mop and get it ready for a bout of cleaning.
“Sirs, I’m going to mop the floor for a bit.”
“…You OCD-suffering idiot?!”
The seniors resolutely refused to budge from their spots in front of the TV, and Kang Jin-Ho could only furrow his brow.
“Hold your horses, will ya! We’ll get out of the way once Se-Ah is done with her performance!”
Kang Jin-Ho narrowed his eyes at how firm his seniors were behaving. Then, he raised his head to look at the TV screen himself.
1. “군통령/President of the army” is a Korean slang term denoting an idol/singer popular with soldiers. And yes, it’s literally two words – “president” and “army” – mashed together. ☜