Joining the Military (2)
Park Yu-Min shivered as he listened to the noisy buzz of a hair clipper coming to life.
That wicked device was steadily closing in on Kang Jin-Ho's hair.
“Urgh...” Park Yu-Min helplessly watched this horrifying scene as if his own hair was at risk.
The hair salon auntie glanced at him.
“Doesn't look like you're going there too, huh”
‘And no, I never wanna go there!’
Before Park Yu-Min could voice his inner thoughts, the hair clipper cleanly traveled up the back of Kang Jin-Ho's scalp.
"Pff—" The sight of an open highway in the middle of his friend's hair nearly made Park Yu-Min burst into laughter, but he managed to hold it back.
“Did you just laugh” Kang Jin-Ho cocked an eyebrow.
“N-no, of course not.
I was just sneezing, that's all.”
“Hmm.” Kang Jin-Ho glared at Park Yu-Min's reflection in the mirror while gritting his teeth.
No one would believe that lie since he was making such a face, after all!
"Whoa—Jin-Ho, that's just gruesome." Park Yu-Min watched as Kang Jin-Ho's hair was being shaved off unhesitantly and could only shudder in terror.
Kang Jin-Ho never really had long hair, so his new balder visage didn't look totally out of place, but...
A bald scalp with white inner skin exposed like that was more than enough to instill a vague sense of terror into the hearts of young men around Park Yu-Min's age.
Park Yu-Min urgently asked the hair salon auntie, “D-Don't you think that's a bit too short”
Even the Navy would let their sailors keep longer hair than that, right
The auntie tilted her head.
“Your friend asked for this, though”
“W-Why did you do that, Jin-Ho!”
Not even those soldiers being shipped over to Afghanistan would sport that kind of hairstyle! Wasn't this basically the head of a Buddhist monk!
Kang Jin-Ho tutted.
“It's annoying, that's why.”
Kang Jin-Ho had never styled his hair or tried to maintain it before, so his reply seemed on point.
'He'd be more handsome if only he looked after himself a little more...'
Kang Jin-Ho, with his less-than-ideal hair, still came across as handsome.
Imagine what would happen if he paid more attention to his looks—he would easily pass off as a famous celebrity.
Unfortunately, Kang Jin-Ho was simply too disinterested in such things.
He's enlisting, anyway.
What's the point of dolling oneself in that case'
Park Yu-Min sighed inwardly.
The Korean military wasn't exactly overflowing with women who would rate you favorably just because you looked after yourself a bit more, anyway.
When Park Yu-Min thought about it, Kang Jin-Ho's decision could be the correct one.
That didn't mean most men could do what he did out of their lingering attachment, though!
Park Yu-Min asked his friend, “Where's Se-Yeon today”
Kang Jin-Ho replied disinterestedly, “Probably at home...”
“You didn’t call her”
“No, I didn’t…”
Park Yu-Min tutted softly.
What an indifferent dude his friend was.
Was it even possible for a person to be this indifferent, anyway “Jin-Ho, you'll get dumped at this rate, you know”
Don't you know how many guys get dumped by their girlfriends”
Kang Jin-Ho disinterestedly shrugged his shoulders.
"If that happens, so be it."
How can you even say that”
In a way, Kang Jin-Ho's assessment of his relationship with Han Se-Yeon might sound cruel.
But that was because he thought that the matter with her was something trivial after what transpired last night.
Once his somewhat heightened emotions cooled down, Kang Jin-Ho began having trouble understanding the feelings from last night.
It was just too vague to him.
'I'll probably get my answers after my discharge...'
Even Kang Jin-Ho had to acknowledge his lack of finesse in matters involving the opposite sex.
Obviously, he had experiences with women back in Zhongyuan—but those women weren't exactly 'equal' to him.
To put it bluntly, he had been surrounded by cunning women filled with a singular desire to look good in front of him.
That was the extent of his experience with women, so his lack of understanding regarding a 'normal' couple's dynamics made sense.
Only by adapting to this world a bit more and living among its denizens would his situation become better for the lack of a better term.
“We're done, young man,” said the hair salon auntie.
Kang Jin-Ho tilted and turned his head from side to side to see his reflection in the mirror.
The auntie grinned.
“Well, aren't you a handsome devil”
"Hmm..." Kang Jin-Ho cocked an eyebrow while wondering why he looked even better than before, even though all he had done was shave his hair off as Park Yu-Min had said earlier.
Park Yu-Min gasped.
“Just how bad was your hairstyle sense that you look better without any hair!”
“Oh And when did you start caring about your own style, then”
Park Yu-Min suddenly smirked.
“I guess you haven't heard about the phrase, 'beloved by the cameras,’ huh”
“Beloved by cameras What”
“You see, one must get make-up done and get their hair styled properly before they do a broadcast.”
“You still have to do that even though you’re a pro player, not a celebrity”
In fact, everyone does.
I thought we'd be practicing right before tournaments, but it turned out to be untrue.
We gotta go to the tournament venue and get our make-up done first."
“You have such a strange profession...”
A pro gamer should be good at playing games, and that should be it.
Yet, they also had to have fashion sense, too As Kang Jin-Ho had originally thought—no profession in this world was a cakewalk.
Kang Jin-Ho narrowed his eyes as he stared at Park Yu-Min.
Now that I think about it..."
Park Yu-Min did look a little more fashionable after graduating from high school, and it seemed that the gaming-related fashion grooming was the culprit here.
Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head.
“Hmm. I guess your looks have improved somewhat.”
"Being next to you makes me invisible, though," Park Yu-Min sourly replied.
“Really I'm sorry, then.”
“Don't apologize! It's only making me feel worse!”
Park Yu-Min and Kang Jin-Ho cackled at the same time.
While laughing, Kang Jin-Ho couldn't help but think.
'I knew it...'
He had to acknowledge that being with Park Yu-Min was a little more entertaining than being with Han Se-Yeon.
“It's tomorrow, isn't it...” Park Yu-Min asked in passing.
Kang Jin-Ho briefly nodded while replying, “Yeah.”
"Whoa. Jin-Ho's going to the army to become a real man."
"I'm a man already, though" Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head.
“Jin-Ho, you've gotten a lot cheekier lately, you know that”
Kang Jin-Ho smirked, then paid the tab at the counter.
They exited the hair salon and headed to a nearby cafe.
Park Yu-Min asked after the duo stepped inside, “What do you want to drink”
"I thought you didn't like coffee's bitter taste and preferred sweeter stuff"
“I've grown to like it…”
"That's gonna be tough for you, though.
The army probably won't have Americano in their cafeterias, right" Park Yu-Min cackled while heading to the cafe's counter.
He received Kang Jin-Ho's Americano and his own drink, then walked over to their table.
Kang Jin-Ho didn't mind the steaming-hot temperature of the coffee and took a large gulp.
My father brews better coffee than this.'
Kang Jin-Ho's father, Kang Yu-Hwan, had recently gotten obsessed with brewing good coffee.
Not too long ago, he even purchased a gourmet coffee roaster worth several dozen million won without telling his wife in his quest to brew even better coffee.
Unsurprisingly, his wife began spitting fire of pure anger when she learned about his transgression.
Kang Jin-Ho thought that it was a good thing his father had a productive hobby, so he was fully supportive.
However, his mother seemed very unhappy with how things were going.
As a show of support, Kang Jin-Ho forced himself to drink several 'trial run' products brewed by Kang Yu-Hwan, and that was how he developed an appreciation for the taste of coffee.
At least, drinking coffee from other cafes continued to remind him of those times.
Park Yu-Min took a sip of his drink before asking, “Did you prepare everything you might need”
“I'm enlisting, so what preparation can there be” Kang Jin-Ho replied with a shrug of his shoulders.
"Well, if you put it that way..." Park Yu-Min quietly observed his friend for a little while.
Most people who were about to enlist would suffer from anxiety whether they were aware of it or not.
But Kang Jin-Ho didn't display any signs of it.
Were his nerves woven out of Grade-A steel wires or something Seriously now, high schoolers preparing for a school trip might be more anxious than him!
Park Yu-Min quietly asked, “Aren't you scared”
Aren't you, like, nervous about joining the army and stuff”
“I don't get it.
Why would I”
I was worried for nothing." Park Yu-Min internally groaned.
Kang Jin-Ho's current attitude was just like him, but it flabbergasted Park Yu-Min somewhat.
No matter how tough one's mentality was, one was bound to feel some level of anxiety in a situation like this.
Kang Jin-Ho faintly grinned while observing Park Yu-Min's reaction.
'What a nice world it has become...'
If you asked any Zhongyuan citizens if they were interested in the chance to enlist in South Korea's army, you would get an acceptance rate shooting past 1000 to 1.
There was no need to even bring the demon cult into this discussion, either.
Even the renowned righteous clans and sects back then were rife with cruel, torturous training regimes and strict, no-nonsense atmosphere the likes of the South Korean military couldn't even compare to.
Even then, hopefuls wanting to join those sects during recruitment events would form long queues outside the gates which would even snake around mountains.
Were they hoping to become an expert No.
Most of the applicants were satisfied by the prospect of not going to bed hungry every day.
The phenomenon of enough food to feed most people began only around a century ago, maybe even less.
For humans living before that era, their priority lay in not starving to death.
Stuff like human rights or whatever was not even a concept in their minds.
Kang Jin-Ho's starting situation in Zhongyuan was like that, so why would he be worried about the Korean military life Considering all the jealousy and wariness he had been subjected to when he first joined the demon cult, Kang Jin-Ho was certain that the South Korean military would be like going to a kindergarten.
Park Yu-Min, oblivious to his friend's inner thoughts, asked once more, “What about your parents What did they say”
Kang Jin-Ho replied flatly, "Father told me to enjoy the experience, while Mother was disappointed."
“Disappointed How come”
“Because I enlisted without telling her…”
Park Yu-Min was slightly taken aback.
“Wait, you didn't even tell your own mother"
"It slipped out of my mind." Kang Jin-Ho shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly.
“Isn't that worthy of your mother hitting you on the back until your back caught fire or something”
“No, she didn't hit me...”
“Urgh...” Park Yu-Min helplessly shook his head.
It was so difficult to figure out what his indifferent friend was thinking about sometimes.
What about your sister”
"Eun-Yeong Why do you ask"
“She's your sister, right”
"Mm I haven't told her yet, since she doesn't come home often lately."
“Huh You're enlisting tomorrow, yet you haven't told your own sister until now”
Kang Jin-Ho tutted.
“I'm the one enlisting, so what's the point of telling her”
Park Yu-Min suddenly broke out in a bright smile.
“Jin-Ho, you're utterly hopeless.”
“...” Kang Jin-Ho was left speechless at Park Yu-Min's unfaltering attitude.
He could only quietly sip on the rest of his Americano.
But all of a sudden, he recalled something.
“Ah. By the way...”
"It's about my car.
I wasn't sure what to do with it while I'm in the army."
Park Yu-Min's eyes gradually narrowed.
"I asked my father if he wanted to drive it around, but he refused.
He said it's too noisy.
My mother doesn't have a license, while Eun-Yeong doesn't need a car since the agency sends chauffeurs to pick her up, anyway."
At this point, Park Yu-Min's back was already soaked in a cold sweat.
Kang Jin-Ho got to the main point.
“That's why, how about you drive my...”
It was Kang Jin-Ho's turn to be taken aback.
"Huh Why not"
“Everyone looks at you whenever you open the door of that car! No way.
I'm not driving that thing.”
“It's tolerable if you pretend that you haven’t noticed—”
"It's still a no! The thing is, people have started recognizing me, you know...
My salary is pretty obvious, so if someone takes a picture of me in that kind of car, I'll get accused of being too full of myself.
Actually, it'll be a relief if the rumors stop there.
In the worst-case scenario, people might accuse me of match-fixing to enrich myself.
So, it's a definite no."
"Is that right" Kang Jin-Ho sighed ruefully.
There didn't seem like any other choice left besides ordering Jo Gyu-Min to return the car to the factory or something.
What about your Golden Elephant” Park Yu-Min suddenly asked.
“My father will take care of it, I guess.”
I'll visit your place every now and then to take good care of it."
Kang Jin-Ho cocked an eyebrow in a questioning manner.
"Hmm You seem to care more about my Golden Elephant than the car"
"Well, I don't have any history with your car.
But your bicycle has given me plenty of rides during my high school days, so yeah, I've got to express my gratitude somehow."
"Hah. You're weird." Kang Jin-Ho chuckled faintly.
This was why he enjoyed hanging out with Park Yu-Min.
The start of their friendship was as simple as Kang Jin-Ho giving the boy a ride because he noticed him limping.
But now, their friendship had reached the point where he was having fun just by hanging out with him like this.
Park Yu-Min lightly hit his own forehead.
“Ah, I almost forgot...”
"I told the orphanage director about you enlisting.
She got really mad at you.
She said, how could you not stop by once before going away That wasn't like a nun at all, you know"
“Wait, the director got angry Even though she's an angelic nun”
“Yeah, that's what I'm telling you.
It was my first time seeing her like that, too.”
Kang Jin-Ho shuddered slightly.
That kind-hearted nun got angry He couldn't even imagine it.
“If I don't want a trip to Hell during my vacation, I must go pay a visit right now.”
“That's a wise decision.” Park Yu-Min smirked while getting up.
“By the way, where are you going to get assigned in your enlistment Nonsan”
Kang Jin-Ho shook his head.
"No, it'll be the 102nd Replacement Battalion.”
“I heard they were closing down, though”
“Apparently, my turn will come before that.”
“Nonsan's popular, so why did you apply to the 102nd”
"Because it's nearby," Kang Jin-Ho replied in a matter-of-factly way.
“Oh…” Park Yu-Min didn't say anything else and nodded.
What a Kang Jin-Ho-like thought process that was.
It was very Kang Jin-Ho-like that Park Yu-Min could only laugh as he left the cafe.
Kang Jin-Ho continued to sip his Americano while following behind his friend.
'I guess today will be the last time for a while'
Indeed, this might be the last time he would get to drink Americano for some time.
He made sure to drink every drop of coffee in the cup.
The bitter taste lingered in his mouth for some time.
The city of Nonsan has a famous army basic training center in South Korea ☜