Descent of the Demon Master
What was a 'soldier’? There were many ways to answer that question, but the simplest one would be a 'person in an army.’
A regular soldier would have to fight against invading forces for the safety of their mother nation.
Sometimes, they would invade another country for the benefit of their nation.
As such, the majority of soldiers would be burning in patriotism and the spirit of sacrifice.
Even if that wasn't the case, soldiers in other countries were trained to be effective in combat situations, and they were well aware of the fact that they could be deployed at any given moment.
However, the situation in South Korea was a little unique.
The military system here was conscription-based.
All South Korean males had to go through it at least once, so being enlisted was seen as a rite of passage nowadays.
Meanwhile, almost no one consciously understood that they were combatants meant to sacrifice themselves for their country.
The armed forces in other countries usually determined how good you were as a soldier by your combat abilities, situation awareness and adaptability, and your proficiency with your equipment.
However, the South Korean army held a different evaluation standard from the rest.
First of all, it would start with how 'good' you were at performing your tasks.
“…Hey, Jin-Ho?” Jo Won-Gu cautiously piped up.
“Private 1st class Kang Jin-Ho, sir!”
“You know what's an encampment construction, right?”
Kang Jin-Ho coolly nodded.
So, you also know what our job is supposed to be, right?”
“…And what's our job, again?”
“Sir, it's to construct firebreak areas.”
Jo Won-Gu lightly coughed to clear his throat.
Then, you know what's a firebreak area?”
It denotes an area designated as a practice bombing target which has been cleared of all vegetation, including grass and trees so that it won't start wildfires.”
“Good, so you know.” Jo Won-Gu slowly nodded.
“Private 1st class Kang Jin-Ho, sir.”
“See, this job called clearing out a firebreak area is often called the hardest among the encampment construction.”
“That's why the higher-ups divide areas among all the squads, you see?”
I'm also aware.”
“In that case, why…” Jo Won-Gu turned his head and scanned the area his squad was in charge of.
“…Why did you turn this area into a barren wasteland?”
The mountainside seemed to be blushing at them from all the exposed red soil.
Jo Won-Gu shifted his attention back to Kang Jin-Ho.
“You heard what the quartermaster told us earlier, right? That we need to finish this task before the end of today.”
I heard it.”
“So, how could you finish the task even before noon…?” Jo Won-Gu spat out a lengthy groan.
'Why would anyone need a bulldozer? Just call Jin-Ho!'
Even if a bulldozer was brought here, would it be faster than Kang Jin-Ho in this task? Probably not.
Jo Won-Gu muttered, “Why did you have to come to an artillery battalion, not an engineering one…?”
This sure felt like a waste of talent on a national level.
Once the area that had to be cleared out had been determined and assigned, Kang Jin-Ho picked up a shovel and headed to the top of a hill.
Then, he marched forward while wielding his shovel like a pro.
was the beginning of the task and also how it ended.
He ain't even a lawnmower, so how…”
Rather than a lawnmower, maybe a hair clipper shaving a person's hair off in one smooth motion was the better comparison to Kang Jin-Ho uprooting everything standing in his way.
Jo Won-Gu might have been more understanding if he and his squad were performing routine firebreak area maintenance.
That job entailed nothing more than pulling out newly-grown weeds and saplings, after all! However, their job was to create a brand new firebreak area.
Kang Jin-Ho had yanked out tall grass, their roots and all, and scattered them everywhere, and then he simply kicked each of the large trees a few times to topple them as if they were rotting husks.
Even though those trees were so big that several strapping young men would have to work together to pull them out!
Like a bulldozer with its steering mechanism broken and programmed to march forward relentlessly, Kang Jin-Ho yanked out, tore apart, and shattered everything standing in his way.
And when he encountered a massive boulder in the middle of his task, Kang Jin-Ho decided to dig up the ground in an effort to get it out of his way, too.
Fortunately, his squadmates rushed in and hurriedly dissuaded him.
Even though Kang Jin-Ho only knew how to march forward, the members of the 3rd squad earnestly explained to him that a boulder wouldn't catch on fire, and they miraculously convinced him to go around his obstacle this time.
And that was how the task was completed…
A task that a dozen grown men would have trouble completing in a day was finished in around one hour.
While Kang Jin-Ho was bulldozing his way through, the rest of the squad members did simple things like moving the uprooted tree trunks and gathering the grass scattered on the ground to one side.
Jo Won-Gu sighed deeply.
If you finish tasks this quickly, we'll only get saddled with more work, know what I mean? There's absolutely no reason for you to go all out every single time, so let's take a step back, breathe and go easy, okay? You understand?”
Jo Won-Gu couldn't help but sigh again.
To think that he would see the day when he had to beg a private to take it easy…
“…I better get discharged as soon as possible.”
He had decided that the only way to escape from this insanity was to get discharged from the army.
The second criterion for a South Korean soldier was: the speed of one’s wits.
Jeon Hyeok-Su yelled, “Hey, you dumbass! I told you to do our laundry, so where are they?!”
“H-huh?! B-but…?” Seong Tae-Ho, flustered and lost, hurriedly scanned the living quarter in search of their laundry.
Didn't he shove them in the corner of the room earlier? In that case, where could they have disappeared to?
Jeon Hyeok-Su's irritation level rapidly rose higher.
“You idiot! I told you I need to wear my Class A uniform tomorrow, didn't I?!”
“S-sir, I don't remember hearing that…”
“Oh? Are you saying that I'm lying?!”
“You dumb sh*t! Did you forget that we'll be having a corps-wide event tomorrow?! Didn't you hear that everyone is supposed to wear their Class A uniform?! And you still haven't done the laundry?! When were you planning to dry and iron them, you dipsh*t?!”
“I'm sorry, sir…” Seong Tae-Ho's head faltered.
A private 1st class had a ton of things to do, so how was he supposed to remember every little thing? Unfortunately, he could say only one thing when a senior soldier was angry with him.
“You think your apology is enough?! You sh*thead! If you haven’t finished the laundry by tomorrow, I'm gonna…!”
Before Jeon Hyeok-Su could finish, though, the door suddenly flew open, and a tall tower of uniforms walked inside the living quarter.
“…What the heck is this now?” Jeon Hyeok-Su muttered while stepping to the side to avoid the tower of moving clothes.
He watched in stupefaction as the person carrying the tower began putting down the neatly-folded uniforms on the wooden sleeping floor.
“Kang Jin-Ho? What's the meaning of this?”
Kang Jin-Ho flatly explained, “Sir.
These are the Class A uniforms for tomorrow's event.”
“Uniforms for all nine squad members, fully ironed, sir.”
“Eh? You also ironed them? You even know how to do that?”
I used to iron my father's clothes at home a few times.
I also washed and ironed my own clothes.”
“…And you know how to press the clothes, too?”
I can follow along the already-apparent folds while ironing.”
“…I'll be the judge of that.” Jeon Hyeok-Su picked up one of the folded uniforms and spread it open.
And he promptly broke out in goosebumps after staring at the perfect trilinear folds resembling sharp blades.
Regular ironing would never get folds this sharp, so how the heck…?
“I might cut myself if I'm not careful, you know?” Jeon Hyeok-Su unknowingly nodded to himself.
Judging from the fragrant scent wafting out from the uniforms, they had definitely been properly washed, as well.
He glanced back at Kang Jin-Ho.
“Hey, you brat.
Who told you to do this?”
I had some spare time left after finishing organizing my station, so I thought it'd be better to also finish the other outstanding duties,” Kang Jin-Ho replied in his usual flat tone of voice.
“Hey, how dare you do stuff when nobody told you to?!”
“My apologies, sir.”
“Be careful next time!”
Jeon Hyeok-Su coughed to clear his throat, then quietly asked Kang Jin-Ho, “By the way, uh… Did you actually iron all nine sets of uniforms?”
After cleaning them in the washing machine, I dried them before ironing them to this state.”
“Huh? How did you dry all nine uniforms that quickly?”
“I shook them around to dry them, sir.”
“…Well, uh, they are nicely ironed, so I guess it's fine?” Jeon Hyeok-Su tried to find a fault to nit-pick with, but everything had been perfectly wrapped up, so he could only clamp his mouth shut.
“Oh? Who ironed this uniform?” Jo Won-Gu picked up one of the uniforms and asked, impressed by the sharpness and perfectness of the folds.
Jeon Hyeok-Su replied to him, “Sir, it's our maknae.”
“Maknae? Jin-Ho did?”
He ironed all nine uniforms, no less.”
“Is that right?” Jo Won-Gu slowly nodded while cocking an eyebrow.
If someone else had ironed this well, he was fully prepared to heap praises on that soldier.
However, he was so numbed by Kang Jin-Ho's antics by now that nothing could faze him.
“Jin-Ho, did you iron mine, too?”
“Yes, sir,” Kang Jin-Ho replied and pointed at one of the uniforms.
“Oh, I see.
Want me to buy you frozen food or something?”
“No, I'm fine, sir.”
…And the final evaluating criterion of being a good soldier in Korea was how 'sensible' one was.
Ironically, having excellent combat capabilities had no bearing on one’s military life, even if one was stuck in a front-line corps.
While soldiers in other countries existed for the purpose of combat, the South Korean soldiers had somehow evolved into people meant to maintain the 'existence' of the military itself.
Military bases filled with aging infrastructure and surrounded by lush mountains demanded near-endless repair and maintenance work.
While their counterparts in other nations were busy polishing their combat skills, South Korean soldiers often found themselves 'deployed' in jobs that kept the creaking military machine chugging forward.
Furthermore, the military was also a gathering of people.
Inevitably, the senior soldiers would appreciate and love juniors who made their lives just a little more bearable.
The thing was, though, these were young men in their early twenties who had never even washed something as simple as their socks before.
Making them do the laundry for everyone, including the senior soldiers, was practically asking for trouble.
In the middle of this situation…
Kaahaang! Claaang! Baaang! Kaahaang! Claaang!
“…Uh-whew.” Jo Won-Gu sighed in resignation, his head faltering powerlessly.
Kang Jin-Ho glanced at him.
“Sir, should I do another one?”
Kaahaang! Claaang! Baaang! Kaahaang! Claaang!
Jo Won-Gu shuddered as he watched yet another 45cm-long steel stake being driven deep into the ground after only five hammer blows from Kang Jin-Ho.
A human being should have a conscience! And he should also know how to differentiate what was physically possible and what wasn’t! In that sense, wasn't driving such lengthy steel stakes into the ground with only five hammer blows too damned much?!
“What the hell was that?! Hey, what happened?!” the quartermaster rushed up in a fluster.
In the artillery corps, it was rather common for soldiers to hammer stakes into the ground.
It was so common, in fact, that you would hear the metallic hammering noise while taking a breezy stroll around the base or even during mealtimes! But now, the quartermaster who had spent ten proud years in South Korea's military system was shocked by the sound of hammering and had to rush over here to find out what was going on!
However, it wasn't just the quartermaster either, as other shocked soldiers were also rushing over here to find the source of those explosive noises.
'What a spectacle this has turned out to be…'
Jo Won-Gu scanned this scene and could only chuckle wryly.
If someone unaware saw this scene, they would probably think a suspicious man had appeared in front of the base.
Even though these soldiers were suffering from the can't-care-less syndrome, they still rushed up here like a group of players chasing after the ball.
And the emergency alarm hadn't even gone off!
When the quartermaster stared with question-filled eyes, Jo Won-Gu had decided that now was a good time to provide an explanation, “Sir.
Our maknae is…
hammering some stakes.”
“…Hammering?” The quartermaster noticed the steel stakes driven to the ground, then looked up with even more questions in his head.
He stared at Kang Jin-Ho, but his next question was still directed at Jo Won-Gu.
“Are you telling me those explosion-like noises…
came from hammering?!”
“Hey, you think I'm a moron?! I've lived the last ten years listening to those hammering noises every day!”
“Well, in that case, would you like to see for yourself?” Jo Won-Gu signaled to Kang Jin-Ho with a quick glance.
Kang Jin-Ho nodded in understanding, picked up a steel stake, and placed it on the ground…
before striking it with his sledgehammer.
“Uwaaaah?! S-stop! That's enough!” The quartermaster freaked out and yelled at the top of his voice, even though Kang Jin-Ho had hammered only once.
“Hey, you insane brat! If you let one of your boys hammer away like that, what do you think will happen to the sledgehammer?! Are you trying to break it!? And what about the stakes?! What if they break, too?!”
It's not like I can tell him to take it easy now, right?”
“There's a simple solution for that! Don't let that brat come anywhere near the sledgehammer!”
Jo Won-Gu's head faltered deeply.
Moving the artillery guns, turning the jackeys, hammering the stakes, and using pickaxes to dig out the soil…
That was the 'life story' of an artillery soldier.
Yet, this quartermaster was saying one of those duties shouldn't be performed? What was Jo Won-Gu, as the squad commander, supposed to do here?
“…Sir, I'll just tell him to go easy from now on.”
How did we end up with a brat like him?”
The two senior soldiers could only groan deeply while Kang Jin-Ho looked at them, his head tilted to the side in slight confusion.
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