Nam Tae-Sik's body shivered in fright.
He wasn't being restrained.
Yet, his entire being was screaming in terror just because Kang Jin-Ho was sitting right next to him!
The one Nam Tae-Sik served, could that person...
Could that person display this level of power Like Kang Jin-Ho
'We were mistaken!'
They didn't just get Kang Jin-Ho's abilities wrong.
They had also miscalculated his temperament! This man, he...
He was many times more dangerous than they had bargained for!
Kang Jin-Ho slowly pulled his hand away from Nam Tae-Sik's face and resumed smoking.
“Major Nam, thank you for your entertaining tale.
However, it doesn't seem to concern me, sir.
Since you came all this way to see me today, I assume your group can't really contact me unless it's on a military base.
Am I correct”
Nam Tae-Sik knew he should neither confirm nor deny such a guess.
However, his body acted on its own as he silently nodded away.
He even failed to notice that Kang Jin-Ho had reverted to polite speech.
When Nam Tae-Sik stared at him blankly, Kang Jin-Ho wordlessly pulled out his own cigarette and placed it between the dazed major's lips.
Major Can you hear me”
“Y-yes A-ah, yes, I can!” Nam Tae-Sik nearly jumped up in surprise and stared at Kang Jin-Ho.
Kang Jin-Ho chuckled at that.
“No need to be scared, sir.
To me, you're not someone I should trample on.”
Nam Tae-Sik sobered up instantly at Kang Jin-Ho's meaningful words, then inwardly thanked the heavens that he was not a returner.
Even though Kang Jin-Ho sounded laidback and good-natured just now, his words could be construed as a threat when unpacking it properly.
If Nam Tae-Sik had been a returner or a disciple of one, he wouldn't be in one piece by now!
Kang Jin-Ho continued, “I have no thoughts of joining your little games, major.
I'd like to stress that as long as your side leaves me alone, I shall also not antagonize you.”
“...I shall pass along your message, Mister Kang.”
“Oh, and one more thing.”
Kang Jin-Ho asked without any change to his expression, “Do you know what kind of misfortune fell upon Kim Hak-Cheol and Noh Su-Bong, major”
“...No, I don't know the full details.”
“If you or your boss want to find out, you're welcome to provoke me.
Pass that message along as well, major.”
The words 'Yes, I will' dared not leave Nam Tae-Sik's mouth.
The sweat leaking out of his back soaked his clothes and dampened the driver's seat.
At least, that was what it felt like.
All Nam Tae-Sik could think about right now was to escape from here as soon as possible.
In fact, he was exhausting a considerable amount of his willpower just to stop the urge to shove the car door open and jump outside.
“Fuu-woo...” Kang Jin-Ho exhaled the cigarette smoke at length, then stubbed the cigarette butt in the Retona's ashtray before leaning against the seat back.
“Shall we go back now”
“Y-yes, sir!” Nam Tae-Sik hurriedly nodded.
Kang Jin-Ho wordlessly glanced at Major Nam before turning his attention outside the window.
Meanwhile, the Retona roughly accelerated away.
Judging from that sudden burst of speed, Nam Tae-Sik didn't seem all that thrilled by the thought of spending even one more second with Kang Jin-Ho in an enclosed space.
The vehicle quickly scooted past the guardhouse and screeched to a stop in front of the barracks.
Kang Jin-Ho lightly climbed outside, then smartly saluted at Major Nam.
Nam Tae-Sik didn't seem to care about the salute as his car quickly drove away and disappeared from view.
The Battery Commander observing the situation from the Administration Office rushed outside and asked Kang Jin-Ho, “Jin-Ho, what did that fella want from you”
Kang Jin-Ho briefly shook his head.
“I'm not sure myself, sir.”
“What did he ask you, then”
“I don't think he was here as an investigator, sir.
He only asked me about personal matters.”
“Really That's a relief.” The Battery Commander sighed grandly.
Since the company he was in charge of had produced three consecutive suicide attempts, it felt like his heart would stop beating whenever someone from the Defense Security Command showed up.
“By the way, Jin-Ho...”
“You'll be discharged tomorrow, right”
The Battery Commander suddenly smiled suspiciously.
After rejoining the civilian society, you won't conveniently forget that I took good care of you, right”
“I, uh, I was joking the last time, but my situation means my jokes are no longer jokes.
What will I do to put food on my table after getting kicked outta here”
“...Do your best, sir.”
“J-Jin-Ho W-wait, Jin-Ho” The Battery Commander cried out in alarm when Kang Jin-Ho walked into the barracks without even looking back once.
Now left alone, the Battery Commander could only groan at length.
“Urgh. Goddamn it, I should've spoken to him earlier…”
The final night as an enlisted soldier was here.
Kang Jin-Ho pulled the blanket up to cover himself, then stared at the ceiling.
He had always seen that sight every single day for the past two years.
But, come tomorrow, he would never get to see it again.
“Sergeant Kang Jin-Ho, sir”
“Mm What is it”
“...Nah, it's nothing, Jin-Ho.
You worked hard, man.” Jang Jae-Hwan lying next to Kang Jin-Ho grinned at him.
Kang Jin-Ho briefly nodded.
“Everyone here knows how you fought against the seniors and other commissioned officers to make our lives easier.
That's why we're all grateful to you.”
“That wasn't really my intention, though.”
“We know that as well.
Still, what you did helped us enjoy a comfy military life, and we're grateful for that.
I'm sure you'll do just fine after rejoining society, but I still want to wish you well.
And don't forget to give us a call, okay I'll be out of here pretty soon, anyway.”
“Mm.” Kang Jin-Ho simply nodded without saying anything else.
Even though he was technically a junior soldier to Kang Jin-Ho, Jang Jae-Hwan was actually a year older.
I know you're not really a fan of this kinda thing.
But we still have to do things that need to be done, right”
“...Mm” Before Kang Jin-Ho could say something, the door was suddenly shoved open.
Ju Yeong-Gi hurriedly dashed inside.
“...What is it now” Kang Jin-Ho sat up and cocked an eyebrow.
“Hurry up, will ya! We gotta say goodbye to everyone before they go to sleep!”
“...Can't I skip that”
“No, you can't! It's something you gotta do, man!”
Kang Jin-Ho groaned softly.
Why did it feel like today was a particularly busy day for him, with visitors and tasks galore
Ju Yeong-Gi grabbed and pulled Kang Jin-Ho up by his shoulders.
Kang Jin-Ho could only sigh again before trudging toward living area no.1.
Ju Yeong-Gi immediately turned on the lights after stepping inside.
Unsurprisingly, boos and jeering started almost right away.
“What the hell!”
“Ahjussi! Can't you just go away already Stop annoying us, will ya!”
“Argh, where's this moldy smell coming from! Ahjussi, stop fouling up the air and get out of here!”
Kang Jin-Ho groaned again.
He just didn't see the point of going around different barracks just to get badmouthed like this.
However, Ju Yeong-Gi didn't seem to mind that.
He laughed and joked around while going around bidding everyone goodbye, so Kang Jin-Ho also joined in and started shaking the hands of all the senior soldiers.
“Thank you for your hard work.”
“You two, Jin-Ho.”
“You brat, stop being so OCD about cleaning, okay!”
A few soldiers were openly sorrowful about Kang Jin-Ho's departure for some reason, though.
“...Nooo, Sergeant Kang! Please don't leave!”
Kang Jin-Ho could only stare dumbfounded at a soldier about to break down in tears.
What did he even do to earn this kind of reaction
Just to make sure, he asked for clarification, “Are you really sad about my discharge”
“Yes, sir! It's killing me inside!”
The tearful soldier held back his sniffles and explained himself.
“With you gone from the base, Sergeant Kang, Miss Se-Ah won't come to visit us anymore! That was the only thing I've been looking forward to during my enlistment, too...!”
Kang Jin-Ho wordlessly looked at Lee Sang-Yeop, the current commander of the 1st Squad.
Lee Sang-Yeop nodded and used his thumb to draw a line under his chin.
“Don't worry, sir.
I'll make sure to discipline him properly.”
Kang Jin-Ho nodded in satisfaction.
Why Fools like this soldier needed to taste hell; that was why!
Kang Jin-Ho and Ju Yeong-Gi moved to the next living area and experienced roughly the same treatment.
“How dare you crawl inside here and wake me up like this Do you really think you're showing off or something by saying goodbye! Get the hell outta here!”
“You've suffered a lot, Sergeant Kang.”
“You know you'll get admitted to a military hospital if you fall and break something while on your way out, don't you I've already oiled the road outside the base.”
“Huh. As expected of a transport squad...”
In a way, what they said was all within expectations.
While shaking hands with each and every soldier, they exchanged brief words of well-wishes.
That was all.
However, this type of farewell was Charlie's long-held tradition, an independent artillery base of just under one hundred personnel.
By the time Kang Jin-Ho and Ju Yeong-Gi finished visiting the last barrack—living area no.5, several hours had passed by.
The two men didn't immediately return to their barracks, as they headed to the smoking area instead.
After lighting up their cigarettes, they settled on a bench and quietly smoked away.
Ju Yeong-Gi finally broke the silence first.
“Mm What is it”
kinda feels emotional, doesn't it”
Kang Jin-Ho smirked softly, although he couldn't bring himself to tease Ju Yeong-Gi.
He looked at his right hand instead.
All he did was shake the hands of people he had gotten acquainted with during his military service, yet...
Kang Jin-Ho also felt something a little weird bubbling up in his chest.
It's really over.'
In a few hours, this long military life would be over for good.
When the sun rose in the morning...
No, even before the darkness of the night receded away, Kang Jin-Ho would probably be stepping outside of this artillery base to head back home.
Kang Jin-Ho never prayed for his military service to end sooner.
He didn't see this place in that light, after all.
However, overcoming one obstacle to move on to the next phase in life was still a good thing in his book.
Ju Yeong-Gi muttered again, “Honestly, I'm kinda worried, man.
It's all bittersweet, know what I mean”
Kang Jin-Ho glanced at him.
“Military doesn't suit you, Yeong-Gi.”
“...Well, I agree with that, but!” Ju Yeong-Gi tried to argue, but his expression remained complicated.
He had experienced a couple of life-changing events during his enlistment, so his feelings should be a lot more complicated than Kang Jin-Ho's.
He had almost died twice, after all.
“People often say that a man needs to serve in the army to become a real man, don't they”
Kang Jin-Ho tutted.
“It's all bullsh*t, Yeong-Gi.”
“...You think so”
They say you'll walk away with something at the end of your enlistment, don't they”
Kang Jin-Ho didn't say anything and waited for Ju Yeong-Gi to continue.
Ju Yeong-Gi asked in an uncertain voice, “Are we...
walking away with something, Jin-Ho”
“I wonder…” Kang Jin-Ho replied; even he wasn’t certain about it himself.
He had weathered far rougher and more eventful storms in his life to feel much of anything about the last two years he had spent in the Korean military system.
“I'm not sure, Yeong-Gi.”
“Yeah, me too.
I don't know what we gained, man.” Ju Yeong-Gi slowly exhaled the cigarette smoke from his lungs before tossing the cigarette butt away.
“Let's go back inside.
We might get beaten up again for making too much noise and waking them up.”
'It's fine for you to get beaten up some more, though…'
Kang Jin-Ho thought to himself, then chuckled softly.
The two of them headed back to the barracks.
Kang Jin-Ho saluted first.
The duty officer nodded and saluted back.
You two did well.
Take care of yourselves out there.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Now that they were done making their final report to the duty officer, Kang Jin-Ho and Ju Yeong-Gi walked out of the administration building as two free men.
As they walked toward the exit...
“...Jin-Ho, why are you wearing that, dude” Ju Yeong-Gi cocked an eyebrow and stared at Kang Jin-Ho weirdly.
“What's wrong with my attire”
“What did you do with your Class A uniform Why are you in those worn-out rags of a uniform, man”
Kang Jin-Ho slowly shook his head.
“I'm not going to wear Class A military uniforms outside the base.
So I gave them all away to my juniors.”
Ju Yeong-Gi stared at Kang Jin-Ho in dismay.
However, there was no changing Kang Jin-Ho's mind.
Truth be told, Kang Jin-Ho had never understood why his seniors packed all the nice uniforms and military supplies while leaving the army.
Shouldn't they recycle the good stuff so the soldiers still serving could make good use of them
“Jin-Ho, what about your reservist duties, man”
You wanna wear that rag while hundreds of other reservists around you are in their Class A uniforms Maaaan, you're gonna be the center of everyone's attention.”
For a moment there, Kang Jin-Ho seriously pondered if he should return to the barracks and get his stuff back, but he eventually gave up on the idea.
He had already distributed them to his juniors the night before, after all.
Asking for them back would only subject him to further verbal abuse.
When they reached the base's exit with the guardhouse, Jang Jae-Hwan was there, waiting.
He was already a squad commander, but he still had to work as a guard It would make more sense for him to work in the Administration Office as a duty officer's gopher, so why was he here
Ju Yeong-Gi recognized him and waved his hand.
“What the hell are you doing here, you brat”
Jang Jae-Hwan smirked.
“Brat You dumbass, I'm older than you.”
“...Ahahaha. Jae-Hwan Hyung, what brings you here” Ju Yeong-Gi playfully scratched the back of his head.
Jang Jae-Hwan laughed.
“I had a feeling that you two would try to sneak out of here first thing in the morning without saying goodbye.
My senior is about to leave, so I should do the right thing and properly see him off, no Well, we ain't gonna force the juniors to wake up from their dreamland, but, hey.
A little less sleep won't hurt us, right”
“Us” Ju Yeong-Gi tilted his head.
“He's got a point, you know,” said Lee Sang-Yeop as he exited the other guardhouse with a bright smile on his face.
“Will you look at these two morons Looks like it's mass dementia, isn’t it” Ju Yeong-Gi tried to mock them, but he was also laughing away good-naturedly.
“You think I'll be impressed by this, you dumbass”
“Hah, this fella.
Still the same till the end, eh” Lee Sang-Yeop helplessly shook his head, still grinning away.
It's time to go, ahjussis.
Hurry on getting outta here and regain your humanity, will ya We'll be following you soon afterward.”
“Hah, these brats.
Really now...” Ju Yeong-Gi barely managed to hold his laughter.
Even Kang Jin-Ho faintly smiled.
Jang Jae-Hwan and Lee Sang-Yeop stood smartly at attention with serious expressions on their faces.
When Jang Jae-Hwan and Lee Sang-Yeop performed a splendid salute, Kang Jin-Ho and Ju Yeong-Gi followed suit and saluted back.
“Now, get lost!” Jang Jae-Hwan yelled at them.
Ju Yeong-Gi clenched his fist and playfully waved it around.
“Wha… This punk...!”
“Did you just call me punk!”
The four of them hugged and patted each other's back for one last time.
However, even during this emotional farewell, there was still one person who didn't get emotional at all as he acted like a wet blanket.
The guard captain making a cramped face exited the guardhouse and started whining loudly.
“Argh, just leave already, please! Why the hell are Charlie's One, Two, Three, and Four holding a farewell party in front of my yard! I can't even catch a shut-eye because of you lot!”
“Hah, stop whining, will ya” Ju Yeong-Gi playfully brushed aside the complaints, then looked back at the base with a slightly rueful expression on his face.
He stood still for a while, his eyes taking in the sight of the Charlie company for one last time.
Kang Jin-Ho patiently waited before calling out to him.
“Let's get going, Yeong-Gi.”
“Y-yeah.” Ju Yeong-Gi nodded and dragged his unwilling feet out of the guardhouse.
“...It's really over.”
“Yeah, it is.”
“I'm never gonna come back here.
Hell, I ain't even gonna piss in this direction, I swear!” Ju Yeong-Gi loudly complained, but his expression was still filled with melancholy.
He and Kang Jin-Ho slowly trudged down the mountain road leading out of the base while being sent off by the passing junior soldiers.
It was the end.
The end of this lengthy military life.
In Korea, a freshly-discharged soldier must also serve as a reservist for another eight years. ☜