Descent of the Demon Master
On Standby (5)
The seniors had the TV perfectly surrounded, and Kang Jin-Ho couldn't even get a peek at the screen.
'What a sad sight this is…'
The sight of a bunch of soldiers surrounding a TV to cheer and dance around like madmen was making Kang Jin-Ho somewhat sad.
These men must have been regular people in the outside world, yet…
What was it with the military that could turn these young men into brain-dead idiots?
Kang Jin-Ho found it so mysterious and pitiful that normal people with only a passing interest in female idols would suddenly start memorizing their favorite singers' genealogy as soon as they put on the service uniform.
Kang Jin-Ho tried to get a peek.
“Sir? Just who is on the TV?”
“It's a new, up-and-coming singer, you see! But she's so damn hot! Not only is she pretty, but her figure is also superb! And she's a great singer and a dancer, too! She's the Real Deal, I tell ya!”
“Did we mention she's sexy, too?”
“Kuh, she's so cool…”
Kang Jin-Ho sneakily groaned at the overblown responses of his seniors, then started mopping the part of the floor with no one on it.
One of the seniors glanced at Kang Jin-Ho.
“Aren't you interested in stuff like this?”
“Not particularly, no.” Kang Jin-Ho shook his head.
“Come on, now.
You think we were this crazy about idols before enlisting, too? You're a soldier now, so you must start respecting the President of the Army more.”
“…I'll do that at a later date, sir.”
“Hah, this brat.
I'll give you a month before you submit to the greatness of the President of the Army.”
Another senior soldier suddenly butted in and offered his opinion.
“By the way, it has only been a month since Se-Ah made her debut, you know? Is it okay to give her the President title already? If Ah-Yeon or Bo-Ram heard you, they'd get sad, sir.”
“You dumbass, why are you asking me the obvious? A perfect 10 finally showed up, so it's time for the aunties to call it a day.”
“Huh? But, sir.
Weren't you swearing your undying loyalty to those ladies last month?”
“Listen, one's loyalty should be flexible.
Flexible, I tell ya!”
“That's being disloyal, sir.”
“What was that?!”
Kang Jin-Ho silently listened to the bickering soldiers and inwardly groaned.
The high-pitched singing coming from the TV speakers seemed to be piercing his eardrums, and he had to frown deeply in displeasure.
He wasn't trying to belittle modern pop music, though.
It was just his ears had been conditioned by decades of listening to calm, gentle music, so the up-tempo stuff like modern pop sounded unnatural and anxiety-inducing.
'Besides, the singer's vocal ability is only so-so, too.'
Indeed, the idol named Se-Ah didn't seem to be a good singer, either.
Even if the song being played weren't your cup of tea, you'd still appreciate an idol boasting remarkable vocal chops.
There should be plenty of idols fitting that criteria, so to find out that a singer with an average singing ability could be this popular…
What a sad state of affairs this was.
The senior soldiers enthusiastically chatted among themselves, totally unaware of Kang Jin-Ho's blasphemous inner thoughts.
“Did you hear about how crazy Se-Ah's popularity has gotten lately?”
“Right! Didn't she land in the no.1 spot already? She's blown the roof wide open!”
“Just where was a girl like that hiding all this time, I wonder?”
“Nowadays, the pretty kids aren't interested in acting or stuff like that and just want to become the next breakout idol, sir.
That's why we keep getting prettier and prettier idols with better talents, sir!”
“Kuh~! However! Don't forget there's still something called class.
Having a pretty face isn't enough to explain Se-Ah's class, you know!”
“I agree, sir.
Her kind personality is a real deal!”
Kang Jin-Ho just couldn't understand the enthusiasm of his seniors.
Regardless of whether an idol was a beauty or a singing maestro, she'd still be just a digital image on the TV screen.
Sure, it wasn’t like he couldn't understand where the passion of these soldiers was coming from since this world was choke-a-full of people who had fallen in love with mascots or anime characters.
However, people losing their minds over some celebrities with zero ties to them didn't sit well with Kang Jin-Ho's sensibilities.
“Hah?! This brat! You dare groan in front of our dear Lady President?!” Jeon Hyeok-Su flew off his handle and forcefully yanked Kang Jin-Ho to the front of the TV.
“Let's see if you can still stay composed after you clap your eyes on her!”
Kang Jin-Ho was on the tall side, so simply being near allowed him to look at the TV screen over the shoulders of his seniors.
The wooden handle of the mop issued a bone-chilling crack as it snapped in half.
“…?!” The seniors tensed up at that scary noise and looked behind them, only to be greeted by the newest addition to their unit displaying the face of a terrifying specter.
Yeong!” Kang Jin-Ho growled like a murderous beast.
He suddenly threw the broken mop on the floor and walked out of the living area in a huff.
“…What's gotten into him?”
“Not sure, sir.”
The seniors could only stand there in a confused daze, unable to figure out what had just happened.
“Niiice~” Jo Gyu-Min muttered in happiness.
He was feeling quite pleased right now.
The reason for his good mood was simple: after making her debut under the pseudonym of Kang Se-Ah, Kang Eun-Yeong was earning quite favorable reviews from all corners.
No, scratch that—ever since her debut, she had been garnering an explosively positive reaction from everyone!
“I wonder why no big-name talent agencies wanted to take her?” Jo Gyu-Min scratched his chin.
It wasn’t like he was knowledgeable about the world of idols, but even he could tell Kang Eun-Yeong had all the makings of a bona fide superstar.
Not only was she a more-than-adequate singer, but she also had a great figure and a pretty face.
Most importantly, though? She had the X-factor.
What was the X-factor? It was an unquantifiable something that separated one performer from the rest of her peers.
A true star needed to have it, and Kang Eun-Yeong absolutely possessed it.
Her star quality was so huge and shiny that Jo Min-Gyu had to wonder why all the well-known talent agencies had failed to notice it.
Of course, that wasn't true.
It wasn’t as if the agencies were blind and couldn't see the diamond in the rough.
Truth be told, Kang Eun-Yeong's looks in the past didn't exactly set the world on fire.
Ditto for her figure, too.
The only reason why she survived as a trainee was because of her innate star quality and her not-too-shabby vocal chops.
If Kang Jin-Ho hadn't reformed her looks and figure, Kang Eun-Yeong wouldn't have survived for long in the entertainment industry.
“Heh~. Look at all the requests for her appearance pouring in.” Jo Gyu-Min cackled while glancing at Kang Eun-Yeong's itinerary.
Her management was left to a third party, but she was still Kang Jin-Ho's younger sister.
Since Jo Gyu-Min couldn't afford to leave her in the hands of some strangers, he ordered her management to report her schedule and list of appearances to him.
The normal order of business for a talent agency that had just discovered a star would be to send their new star idol on a country-wide tour right away in an attempt to make hay while the sun still shone.
However, Jo Gyu-Min had no thoughts of doing that.
Just who was Kang Eun-Yeong? She was Kang Jin-Ho's one and only little sister.
Without exaggeration, Kang Jin-Ho could very well be the most important person in the Jaegyeong Group.
If he discovered that his one and only sister was sent on a jam-packed tour schedule like some kind of a slave, he might throw Jo Gyu-Min out of the window of this 19th-floor office.
Treat that girl with kiddie gloves as if she's a diamond worth a million bucks…”
The plan was to reject any appearances that could be bad for her public image and swiftly remove any program directors known for being unable to keep their roving hands to themselves.
A rookie to the industry wouldn't be allowed to do that, but Kang Eun-Yeong had the powerful halo of Jaegyeong shining on top of her.
No one would dare hurt or rub her the wrong way.
This wasn’t a surprise, considering rumors spread faster in the entertainment industry than in any other field.
There was no need to mention that Jaegyeong was behind Kang Eun-Yeong, as everyone already knew about it.
“Alright, let's see…
While having her appear in TV shows, our focus should be on YouTube…” After having done unexpected homework on the idol industry, Jo Gyu-Min was now fully committed to finding the best route for Kang Eun-Yeong's success.
Only by turning her into the People's Goddess before Kang Jin-Ho got his first leave would Jo Gyu-Min be able to stand tall and proud before him.
To achieve this goal, Kang Eun-Yeong should absolutely not do stuff like chasing after brand clout.
Instead, she should put on a more sophisticated air about her.
Jo Gyu-Min pondered what had to be done for the public to see Kang Eun-Yeong as much more than a mere pretty-faced entertainer but as a proper musician.
However, his pondering session was suddenly shattered by his ringing phone, forcing him to raise his head and look.
Today was the weekend, so who could be calling him like this? Jo Gyu-Min was already infamous for having a very limited pool of acquaintances.
Monitoring the ailing Chairman Hwang meant severing ties with the few friends he had.
Moreover, who would want to hang around a guy who couldn't even make time for his friends for over two years? Considering that, this was an inevitable result.
In addition, the scam callers, sometimes the only solace Jo Gyu-Min could find in his loneliness, wouldn't bother to call on weekends.
As such, he had to stare at the caller's number on his phone's screen with some suspicion.
“033?” The area code starting with 033…? Wasn't that Gangwon Province? Jo Gyu-Min answered the call as this unexplainable anxiety crept into his heart.
“Hello, Jo Gyu-Min here.”
– Hello, Mister Gyu-Min.
It's Kang Jin-Ho.
“Oh, hello! Mister Jin-Ho! It's been a while!”
– I'll cut to the chase.
Have you seen the TV?
– Eun-Yeong was on it earlier.
Jo Gyu-Min's expression brightened instantly.
“Ah, so you saw that! I…”
– I have something to ask you…
Jo Gyu-Min was about to boast how hard he had been working to prepare so many things for Kang Eun-Yeong, including her outfit, but he quickly changed his mind after noticing Kang Jin-Ho's stiff-sounding voice.
– Just who made Eun-Yeong wear such a scandalous outfit and forced her to dance like that?!
“It's obviously the wardrobe coordinator as well as the choreographer.” Jo Gyu-Min smoothly lied his head off.
He navigated through this crisis with consummate ease befitting the man who had miraculously survived the absolute worst situation in his career, and had emerged even stronger than before.
Even so, cold sweat still soaked his back after realizing that one misplaced word from his mouth could have gotten his head chopped off just now.
– Are you sure about this, Mister Gyu-Min?
“A c-coordinator's job is to look after the wardrobe and do the make-up while the choreographer plans the dance routines, yes.
It's common knowledge, Mister Jin-Ho.”
Of course, the investor sometimes did have a say in such things.
The said investor in this case was, of course, Jaegyeong.
The man Jaegyeong had assigned to manage Kang Eun-Yeong's daily life, as well as her idol concept, was none other than Jo Gyu-Min.
He was definitely not lying about the coordinator and the choreographer, though.
– Fire them immediately, Mister Gyu-Min.
“Y-yes…” This moment was when Jo Gyu-Min confirmed that speaking the truth would have gotten him fired.
He collapsed into his chair after his legs gave up on him.
Since he had observed Kang Jin-Ho for a while, he could tell for sure.
Kang Jin-Ho's voice on the phone might have sounded composed, but he was genuinely furious right now.
– What were they thinking when they made a child do such things!
“Mister Jin-Ho, your sister is practically an adult already.”
– Oh? Are you implying that an adult can prance around in such revealing clothes on stage?
Jo Gyu-Min stuttered helplessly, “N-no, but… Uh, I didn't think it was that suggestive…”
What was an idol supposed to do, then? Do a bunny dance or something?! Kang Eun-Yeong's concept was solidly in the 'innocent idol' category, yet Kang Jin-Ho still had a problem with that? In that case, why did he even let her become an idol in the first place?!
Dissatisfaction and complaints rapidly filled Jo Gyu-Min's head, but he was wise enough not to voice them.
It was blindingly obvious what would happen if he voiced them, after all!
– Change her idol concept immediately and slow down her schedule.
“T-That's not going to be feasible, Mister Jin-Ho…”
– Not feasible, you say?
Jo Gyu-Min momentarily thought he heard the sounds of something writhing on the other side of the line.
More cold sweat soaked his clothes as he desperately thought about what else he could say.
Suddenly, he recalled Kang Jin-Ho's ominous figure during his visit to Choi Yeong-Su's home.
One wrong thing muttered now, and Jo Gyu-Min might have to deal with that version of Kang Jin-Ho chewing his head off.
Never mind cold sweat; his body was now covered in deathly goosebumps.
“I'll get on it right away.”
– Yes, immediately!
“Y-yes, sir.” Jo Gyu-Min could only spat out a lengthy groan.
What was he supposed to do about this siscon now? Wasn't Kang Jin-Ho mostly indifferent toward Kang Eun-Yeong's career? But he decided that now would be a good time to interfere in every single aspect of her career as her oppa.
What a sorrowful situation this was turning out to be!
“By the way, Mister Jin-Ho…”
– Yes? What is it?
Jo Gyu-Min cautiously spoke, “I think Miss Eun-Yeong will strongly oppose the change of her idol concept.
She's genuinely ecstatic about all the spotlight cast on her at the moment, you see.”
– I-Is that so?
Kang Jin-Ho's voice hinted at how shaken up he was just then.
So, how about talking to her personally? I heard that your family is planning to visit you tomorrow.”
– Visit me, here in the base?
Originally, I shouldn't have said anything, but with the situation being what it is, let me be honest with you.
Yes, your family will come to see you tomorrow.”
– I see.
In that case, I'll talk to her personally, then.
The phone went dead as soon as the business at hand ended.
“Uh-whew…” Jo Gyu-Min slumped in his chair, feeling like ten years of his life had flown out the window.
He was exhausted from the tension caused by knowing he could have gotten unemployed with a few careless remarks.
“…This is why I'll die before my time.”
Jo Gyu-Min's hooded eyes drifted over to the muted TV on the wall where the image of the dancing Kang Eun-Yeong could be seen.
“…What is wrong is that?! Nothing, I say! Dang it, had he been living in some Islamic country until now or what?!”
If Kang Jin-Ho was left to his devices, his sister might have to wrap her entire body in thick bandages or something and sing stiffly while standing on one spot only.
However, that situation had to be avoided, no matter the cost.
Jo Gyu-Min silently prayed that the usually daring Kang Eun-Yeong would successfully stop her rampaging older brother.
“I think we're here?”
I think we've arrived.”
It must be here.”
Kang Jin-Ho's three family members stared at the military base before their eyes and shuddered involuntarily.
What kind of a base was this that the Kang family had to drive two more hours after passing the Civilian Control Line just to get here?! Not even the anti-North operatives would want to set up a base in such a remote location!
“…Let's go in,” said Kang Yu-Hwan as he pressed the accelerator.
He drove up to the guardhouse and stopped the car, prompting the sentries to step in front of the vehicle and block the path.
One of them walked up to the driver's side and saluted.
“Victory! Sir, what business do you have in our base?”
Kang Yu-Hwan politely addressed the stiff-sounding soldier, “I came to visit my son.”
Please provide the rank and the name of the soldier you wish to visit.”
“It's Private Kang Jin-Ho.”
“Please wait here,” said the sentry.
He confirmed that there was indeed a reservation for a visit today and allowed the car to drive past the guardhouse.
Kang Yu-Hwan's vehicle cautiously drove into the army base codenamed Charlie.
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