Going on a Trip (1)
“Jin-Ho What's the matter” Kang Yu-Hwan tilted his head in confusion after discovering the grimacing Kang Jin-Ho lying on the living room couch while holding his tummy.
Kang Yu-Hwan had gotten a call from his wife saying their son had finally come home from the military, so he figured Kang Jin-Ho would obviously stop by at the cafe, but the boy was a no-show.
That was why he closed the shop earlier than usual and hurried back home only to find Kang Jin-Ho suffering like this.
“Son, what's the matter with...
“Well...” Kang Jin-Ho groaned.
Kang Yu-Hwan shuddered in fright while staring at his son's bulging stomach.
How the heck did Kang Jin-Ho gain a pot belly during his military service! Hadn’t his figure verged on perfection Especially his picture-perfect six-pack located just below the broad pectoral muscles! Hadn’t Kang Yu-Hwan been envious of those incredible abdominal muscles despite the target of his envy being none other than his son
But now, Kang Jin-Ho's tummy bulged like a small hill as if to demonstrate the laziness of a sergeant in his final days of military service!
Kang Yu-Hwan shifted his attention to Baek Hyeon-Jeong and sighed deeply.
“Just how much did you feed him, honey”
“Don't say it like that, dear.
I didn't feed him, he ate the food by himself, you know.”
“Hah-ah…” Kang Yu-Hwan shook his head and then asked Kang Jin-Ho.
“Have you taken an antacid or something, son”
Well, I'm sure you'll feel better sooner or later.”
Unfortunately, it seemed Baek Hyeon-Jeong wasn't on the same wavelength as the males of the Kang family.
“Jin-Ho, do you want some supper”
Kang Yu-Hwan nearly tripped on his feet and fell.
He quickly regained his balance and cried out at his wife.
“Stop trying to fatten him, will ya! Are you raising a pig or a human being!”
“What do you mean Jin-Ho can't turn into a pig with such little food, dear!”
‘Can't turn into a pig!’
Unable to stay on the sidelines while Kang Jin-Ho gained even more flab, Kang Yu-Hwan decided that now was the time to bravely intervene.
However, his efforts were thwarted by the front door suddenly being shoved open.
“Oppaaaaaa~!” Kang Eun-Yeong rushed inside and jumped straight into Kang Jin-Ho's arms without any warning whatsoever.
“Wuuuuuuph!” Kang Jin-Ho hurriedly covered his mouth when it felt like everything still inside his gut was about to rush back up.
“Oppa! I missed you~!”
“S-step aside for a minute, Eun-Yeong.” Kang Jin-Ho hurriedly got up from the couch.
“...Out of my way unless you want to see the worst brother-sister reunion in history.”
“O-okay...” Kang Eun-Yeong tilted her head in confusion but still stepped aside, allowing Kang Jin-Ho to stumble his way to the bathroom.
She blinked her eyes in surprise and muttered to no one in particular.
“What's wrong with oppa”
Kang Yu-Hwan slowly shook his head.
“Too much of anything will be bad for you.
Whether that's food or love.”
That vague explanation only confused Kang Eun-Yeong even more, and she could only tilt her head while staring at the bathroom door.
The Kang family held a simple welcome-home party for Kang Jin-Ho that evening.
Kang Yu-Hwan seemed quite pleased about his son's discharge that he even cracked open the bottle of his imported liquor.
Baek Hyeon-Jeong did nag about it, but even she kept it in moderation, perhaps realizing that today was a special occasion worthy of a celebration.
“Son, what are your plans for continuing with your studies” Kang Yu-Hwan asked while pouring the booze into his son's cup.
“I'm still considering my options, Father.
I still have time, after all.”
“Mm, that's true.” Kang Yu-Hwan nodded as he settled in on the couch.
It was still April, meaning a window of almost five months remained before Kang Jin-Ho had to return to university to continue his studies.
Still, he decided to probe a little further.
“It's April now, so wouldn't it be possible for you to restart your studies immediately if that's what you want From what I understand, April is still not too late for that.”
Kang Jin-Ho took a sip, then replied, “I'm not in a hurry to return, Father.”
I heard that early graduation doesn’t really mean much these days.
Do what you think is the best for you.
However, have you thought about what to do in the meantime”
Kang Jin-Ho slowly shook his head.
“I haven't given that a lot of thought other than—”
“Other than” Kang Yu-Hwan tilted his head slightly.
Kang Jin-Ho's expression got a little heavier.
“I'd like to travel somewhere, Father.”
“Where would that be”
Kang Eun-Yeong listening silently from the side suddenly raised her hand high.
Kang Yu-Hwan glanced at her.
“You're permitted to speak.”
“Me too, Dad! I wanna go, too! To Europe!”
Kang Yu-Hwan tutted loudly.
“Sure, why not.
Son, continue where you left off.”
“Dad! I'm your child, too! Don't ignore me!”
“You should be discussing that with your agency! It’s not like something will change even if I give you permission!” Kang Yu-Hwan unhappily chided his daughter.
Kang Eun-Yeong pouted deeply.
After instantly suppressing his daughter's rebellion, Kang Yu-Hwan turned his attention back to his son once more.
“Why do you want to go to China”
“I'd like to search for something there.”
“Mm, I see.
Doesn't sound like it's a spur-of-the-moment thing, then.
How long do you think you'll need, son”
“At the shortest, around one week, Father.
If not...” Kang Jin-Ho mulled his answer for a bit before finishing his sentence.
“If not, it could be over a month.”
Baek Hyeon-Jeong nearly freaked out at that revelation.
“Over a month in China! Public security isn't good there, son! Staying there for so long isn't such a good idea!”
Kang Yu-Hwan quickly butted in.
“Honey, China is no longer the same as you remember.
Its public security has improved a great deal.”
“How can you be so carefree about this, DEAR!” Baek Hyeon-Jeong roared like an angry dragon as figurative sparks shot out of her eyes.
Kang Yu-Hwan flinched in fright.
“I… I was just trying to be helpful...”
“Don't you know that historically, busybodies usually have short lifespans!”
“...I'm sorry, honey.
I made a mistake.”
Baek Hyeon-Jeong shot another glare at her husband before trying to dissuade her son.
“Jin-Ho, I don't know why you want to go there, but don't you think one month is too long And there are many other places you can travel to, aren't there”
Kang Jin-Ho gently smiled.
“Don't worry, Mother.
It shouldn't take that long.”
Baek Hyeon-Jeong still seemed unconvinced, but she eventually nodded away, perhaps realizing that it was not possible to change Kang Jin-Ho's mind.
Promise me you'll be careful.”
“However, applying for a passport and getting a visa will take some time,” said Baek Hyeon-Jeong.
“What will you do in the meantime”
Kang Jin-Ho rubbed his chin.
“Well, I don't have any immediate plans, Mother.
Maybe I should laze around for a little while.”
“Mm, that's a good idea.
You should get some rest.” Kang Yu-Hwan picked up his glass and sipped on the booze.
“Still, we're relieved about your military service ending without any incidents.”
“Me too, Father.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded.
Although there had been some incidents of note, his family was unaware of them, so he didn't see the need to correct his father.
Baek Hyeon-Jeong smiled and patted Kang Jin-Ho on the back.
“You must be exhausted, Jin-Ho.
Get some much-needed rest, son.”
After that discussion, the Kang family continued to talk about this and that, none of them especially important or noteworthy—other than Baek Hyeon-Jeong engaging in a battle of wits against Kang Eun-Yeong aiming for a sip of the imported liquor, that was.
Kang Jin-Ho soon got up to leave.
“I'd like to retire for the night, everyone.”
Get some rest, son.”
“I will...” Kang Jin-Ho bowed slightly at his parents and headed to his room.
He lay on the bed, feeling tired for some reason.
He would like nothing more than simply tuck himself in and get a good night's rest.
Unfortunately, sleep didn't come as easily as he had hoped.
The lights were off, and the bed was comfy enough, yet Kang Jin-Ho's mind was too preoccupied with complicated thoughts to drift off to dreamland.
'Why haven't they approached me until now'
'They' seemed poised to approach Kang Jin-Ho in some shape or form, yet the coast was still clear after all this time.
There should be a good reason for that.
The most likely scenario was that 'they' were not united and were divided into different groups.
The battalion Kang Jin-Ho was in could very well be a territory of a different 'returner group' than the one the fedora-wearing man belonged to.
If his hypothesis was right, what next Now that his mandated military service was over, 'they' should try to approach him once more.
Kang Jin-Ho smirked softly.
'They' had no real reason to be antagonistic toward him, but if they did...
Kang Jin-Ho would have to make that decision, too.
This trip to China was in preparation for that.
Of course, curiosity also played a part in his desire to go abroad.
Kang Jin-Ho slowly closed his eyes while requesting the reticent sleep to come and take him away.
quit” Kang Jin-Ho asked back in a barely-contained shock.
Park Yu-Min nodded.
This revelation completely caught Kang Jin-Ho by surprise.
Didn't he jump through all those hoops to provide support just so that Park Yu-Min could continue on as a pro gamer So, how could he not be stunned to hear that his friend had just quit being a pro gamer
Park Yu-Min tried to explain, looking somewhat sheepish, “Mm, well.
If I'm being honest...”
“I didn't quit because that's what I wanted, you see...”
Kang Jin-Ho slowly nodded.
Indeed, there was a huge gap to overcome, wasn't there In the world of pro gamers, just a day-long break would allegedly open up a noticeable skill gap.
However, Park Yu-Min had to stay away for quite some time.
It would have been difficult even for him to catch up to his peers and regain his skillset.
Still, this was none other than Park Yu-Min.
Kang Jin-Ho figured the boy would be more than capable enough to make a comeback, but it seemed his expectation had been too unrealistic.
Kang Jin-Ho sighed.
“I guess it couldn't be helped.”
“Yeah, you're right.
Not much I can do about it.”
“Don't be disappointed, Yu-Min.
Your skill level dropping from a sabbatical was beyond your control, after all.”
“Huh No, hang on a minute.
That's not what happened, Jin-Ho.” Park Yu-Min blinked his eyes in surprise and quickly waved his hands to say that wasn't it.
“My skill had nothing to do with why I left.”
“...Mm Then, what happened” Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head in puzzlement.
If the skill level wasn't the reason, why did his friend give up being a pro gamer
Park Yu-Min scratched the back of his head.
The league got dissolved, that's why.”
“...Huh What” Kang Jin-Ho's head tilting intensified from that reply.
“I said, the league is gone, Jin-Ho.”
What you're saying is...” Kang Jin-Ho sipped on his Americano while trying to organize the raft of new information trying to confuse his mind.
Park Yu-Min shrugged his shoulders.
“It's not that weird if you think about it, though.
Galaxy's been around for over ten years now, you know”
“Well, that's true.”
No matter how popular a computer game was, it was still a computer game at the end of the day.
It couldn't compare to—say—classic sports like soccer or baseball in terms of longevity.
A game's graphics would become dated with time, and new releases would eventually usurp its crown sooner or later.
That was the fate of games chosen for e-sport competitions.
Park Yu-Min continued, “It had a pretty good run, didn't it Thanks to its long run, I even got to win two more tournaments, too.”
“Yeah, I heard about that.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded slowly.
Now that he thought about it, he couldn't remember seeing the tournament being broadcasted on TV for quite some time now.
It seemed Galaxy Craft really had lost its popularity, then.
Kang Jin-Ho remembered trying to find a station broadcasting the Galaxy tournaments as Park Yu-Min was participating in them, but he had been forced to give up in the end.
Kang Jin-Ho asked another question, “Okay, understood.
How was the aftermath Was it handled well”
I didn't have much to do since my team was dissolved, too.
We all got swept up in the farewell mood of the situation back then and went our separate ways."
“My teammates lived in the dorms, so I remember seeing them busy searching for places to stay.
But I still had my room in the orphanage, so I just came back for the time being.”
“Mm...” Kang Jin-Ho's expression grew a little heavier.
“What about university Are you still attending it”
“No, I'm on a sabbatical on that, too.
But I should go back soon.
It was a good thing I listened to you, Jin-Ho.
If I had gone all-in with being a pro gamer...
I'd be lost by now, not knowing what to do.”
Kang Jin-Ho sighed, feeling genuine pity for his friend's situation.
With how skilled Park Yu-Min was, he could have raked in a ton of money had he debuted at the height of Galaxy Craft's popularity.
A pro gamer's career was already brief, to begin with, but the game's lifespan ended even before Park Yu-Min had a chance to see his career out.
Who would have guessed that such a thing would happen
Kang Jin-Ho glanced at Park Yu-Min.
“You must be worried about your future, then.”
“I already knew back when I started that my career wouldn't last that long, anyway.
That game was already on a decline by the time I joined, you see.”
Kang Jin-Ho heavily nodded along.
He was only a bystander—an outsider trying to look in.
As such, Park Yu-Min should have a better understanding of the information or the overall atmosphere surrounding the game.
If he had guessed that much, surely Park Yu-Min would have made ample preparations for his own future.
What will you do now, then Graduation, then get a job” Kang Jin-Ho asked.
“Well, that is one option,” Park Yu-Min chuckled.
“Sounds like you have another plan”
“Mm...” Park Yu-Min scratched his cheek, then gestured at Kang Jin-Ho.
“Can you come with me for a sec”
The two exited the cafe and headed to a nearby PC Room.
Park Yu-Min rented one of the unoccupied PCs and logged into some kind of a game server.
Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head.
“What are you doing”
“Jin-Ho, there's this thing called 'general trend,’ you see”
“And this is currently the trending game.”
“...” Kang Jin-Ho cocked an eyebrow in confusion while staring at the game booting on the monitor.
His head slowly tilted.
He could tell that this new game was a totally different beast from Galaxy Craft.
The biggest difference between the two games was that, while you operated many units in Galaxy, you only controlled one character in the new game.
Park Yu-Min continued with his explanation, “This game's got a lot of potential, so we have leagues springing up already.
And it's super fun, too.
People tend to flock to what's fun, you see This game's already ranked first place.”
“Hmm...” Kang Jin-Ho rubbed his chin while nodding away.
“However, even if you're a former pro gamer, you think you can distinguish yourself in a different game”
“Well, if I'm being honest, I might have won some tournaments, but that doesn't make me the best in Galaxy.”
Kang Jin-Ho pursed his lips and nodded in agreement.
Park Yu-Min continued, “However, I think I can make a good fist of this.
I'm already ranked within the top ten, you know.”
“Hmm...” Kang Jin-Ho lightly tapped on Park Yu-Min's shoulder.
“Step aside for a minute.”
“I'll have to give it a shot myself first.”
“...Huh” Park Yu-Min made a weird expression while stepping aside.
Kang Jin-Ho ignored his friend's uncertain expression and connected to the game's server.
He used Park Yu-Min's account to log in and joined the queue for a match.
That was when Park Yu-Min's eye began to twitch.
“J-Jin-Ho, listen, this game isn't—”
Unfortunately, the session had already begun by then.
As expected, it led to a catastrophe...