Descent of the Demon Master
The first thing Jo Won-Gu did on the morning of one fine Saturday was head to the nearest smoking area.
Once he lit one up, he sat down and stared at the distant skies above in silence.
“Mm?” Jo Won-Gu snapped awake when someone called out his name.
His mate, Choi Se-Han, walked over and sat next to him.
“You don't look so good, man.
What's the matter? Did something bad happen?”
“Something bad, you say?”
I mean, you look like you stepped on dogsh*t, you see?”
Jo Won-Gu sighed softly.
“Nothing's bad in my life, man.
Nothing at all.
Yeah, everything's just smooth sailing…”
“Smooth sailing? How so?”
“Well, we have a super rookie in the realm of not Grade A, but Grade S in our squad, you see.”
“Oh, you mean Kang Jin-Ho?”
Jo Won-Gu blinked his eyes and stared at his mate.
“Huh? How do you know him?”
“Man, everyone in the base has already heard about that kid.
I heard he's supposedly not even human.
Is it true?”
Jo Won-Gu wordlessly nodded.
Choi Se-Han was taken aback.
“Wow. How bad is it, then?”
Jo Won-Gu took a deep drag of his cigarette.
“…I want to run away.”
“I gotta get discharged, pronto. That's the only way, man.”
“…Huh?” Choi Se-Han was left slack-jawed by Jo Won-Gu's response.
What was Jo Won-Gu's nickname among his peers? He had been nicknamed venomous snake, as he would always find crafty ways to torment his juniors.
However, such a man had actually said that he wanted to run away from a newbie? It might be more believable to say that a whale was a terrestrial animal!
Choi Se-Han gulped back and cautiously asked, “What happened, exactly?”
I can accept that guy's incredible athletic prowess.
I mean, if the best athlete in the country joins the army, everyone else had to look like small fries to him, right? So, I can definitely understand that.
“What are you on about?” Choi Se-Han looked at his mate weirdly.
“I tossed him the drill book so he could memorize the coordinate data.
But, you know what he did? He actually went ahead and memorized the whole damned book! Let me ask ya, what am I supposed to do with a junior like that?!”
“Uh-whew, goddamned it…” Jo Won-Gu sucked on his cigarette angrily before spitting out the gray smoke far away.
“But he's also too bloody good at non-combat-related activities, you know! Do you have any idea how apologetic I feel whenever I step on the shiny wooden floor?! It feels like I'm messing up a still-drying cement surface with muddy boots or something!”
“H-hey, Won-Gu? Aren't you overreacting a bit here?”
“Oh? In that case, how about you take him?”
“No thanks.” Choi Se-Han flatly refused.
He had already heard enough rumors about Kang Jin-Ho to know better.
Jo Won-Gu continued with his ranting, “A human being should have some semblance of humanity, right?! Or, at least he should show us how fatigued he is! That kid does five times the workload of everyone else, yet…
Yet, I had never seen him take a nap and laze around even once!”
“That's properly scary.”
“You think so, too?”
Choi Se-Han chuckled and tried to console his friend.
“Good thing we'll get discharged soon.”
My juniors will go through hell, though.”
Truth be told, the squad members' lives had gotten so much easier with Kang Jin-Ho's arrival.
That wasn't the issue here, of course.
The problem was with the psychological stress.
Jo Won-Gu had never imagined how stressful his life would become after the introduction of a by-the-book newbie to his squad.
The existence of a newbie who did everything by the field manual near him alone made Jo Won-Gu feel the pressure to do his job properly every single time.
It was as if he and the rest of the squad had to stick to the field manual.
Choi Se-Han patted his mate on the back.
For now, you gotta talk to him nicely and make him stand down.
You're the squad commander and all.”
“…Yeah, you're right.” Jo Won-Gu nodded slowly.
He resolved to find his old self once more.
He tried to recall how adorable and refreshing Kang Jin-Ho had been during the early days of his enlistment.
“…Yes! That's right! I shall rediscover my original resolve!”
He was the squad commander, wasn't he?! Not only that but a sergeant, to boot! Feeling down like this because of a mere private 1st class made no damn sense!
Choi Se-Han decided that he would throw in an extra bit of advice.
“Hey, how about taking that kid out to have some fun? Things might improve if he realizes that the military life isn't always so uptight.”
“Got it!” Jo Won-Gu shot up to his feet and headed inside the barrack.
After powerfully throwing the door open and entering the living quarter, he discovered Kang Jin-Ho tidying up his personal things by his corner, and then he shouted at him, “Hey, maknae!”
“Private 1st class Kang Jin-Ho, sir!”
“Let's go play some computer games, you and I!”
Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head.
“Computer games, sir?”
“Yeah, games! What should we play? Hey, wait.
Do you know how to play Galaxy Craft?”
“…Galaxy Craft, you say?” Kang Jin-Ho's eyes narrowed slightly.
“Yeah! This hyung of yours used to be pretty good at that game back when I was still a civilian, you know! So, like, you know how to play Galaxy? Or you want me to teach you how?”
I'm…” Kang Jin-Ho replied as a rare expression appeared on his face.
An unreadable smile was forming on his lips.
“…familiar with Galaxy Craft.”
Kang Jin-Ho glanced at Jo Won-Gu and asked, “Sir? Do you want to go for another round?”
‘Stop it, you son of a b*tch.’
Jo Won-Gu silently mouthed those words while desperately holding onto his mind that was trying to escape from this situation.
It was understandable when he had just experienced all kinds of humiliation one could think of during a video game session!
What was not helping the situation was…
“Holy sh*t! Did you see Jin-Ho's control just now?!”
“That's not human, man! I'm merely staring at the monitor, so why am I getting motion sickness?”
“It's not only you, though! Someone else ran outside to vomit not too long ago!”
“That really was Galaxy Craft, right? Why did it feel like I was watching a completely different game?”
“You all know how good Sergeant Jo is with this game, right? But he got taken to the cleaners today.”
“They were in different realms, dude! Seriously!”
‘…Stop it, you fools!’
Jo Won-Gu grew tearful at the sight of a gaggle of onlookers crowding behind the two computers positioned side by side.
Initially, it was just a couple of soldiers stopping by Kang Jin-Ho's monitor to see what was happening.
However, the number of spectators swelled past several dozens in no time at all.
Having experienced an unmentionable humiliation in front of all these people, Jo Won-Gu silently got up to leave, and his shoulders visibly slumped lower in dejection.
Kang Jin-Ho also got up to follow his squad commander, but Jo Won-Gu simply shook his head and pointed with his chin.
“You should stay and play with these fellas.”
Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head.
“Will that be fine, sir?”
Jo Won-Gu trudged toward the exit and glanced back.
He noticed that a foolhardy soul had fearlessly taken up the seat next to Kang Jin-Ho.
He was comforted by the knowledge that he wouldn't be the only person utterly humiliated today.
Then, he went outside in search of Choi Se-Han.
“…I'm gonna kill you, Se-Han!”
The Battery Commander scanned the gathered troops.
“You all know that next week will be the start of the inter-company guerrilla training, don't you?”
“Yes, sir! We know!”
“What you don't know is that the top-performing squad will be chosen, and its squad members will be awarded bonus leave! The Division Commander made this decision.
And the duration of the leave will be ten days, nine nights per person!”
“Ohh? Whooooooa! Hell yeaaaah!”
“Don't celebrate just yet, you fools!” The Battery Commander roared, his eyes gleaming sharply.
“We are not competing amongst ourselves here, fellas.
I know you won't lose to those brats from the HQ, Alpha, and Bravo, so there's no worry about that.
However, don't forget that the boys from the infantry division will be joining us this time.”
“We won't, sir!”
“Consider yourselves dead meat if you dare to lose to some weak-ass infantry soldiers!”
“That's not all! We'll be rewarding the best-performing soldier, too! So, I want you to bring both of those honors to our company if you can! The best-performing squad and the best-performing soldier at the same time! That will net you twenty days of leave! That's basically the same as capturing a North spy.
Get my drift, gents?”
“Yes, sir! We do!”
With that, the morning roll call came to an end.
Choi Hyeon-Seok excitedly raised a fuss to Jo Won-Gu.
“Serg! Did you hear that, sir? We're going to get extra leave!”
Jo Won-Gu frowned deeply.
“Urgh… I'm pissed about participating in the damned training when my discharge is practically around the corner, so stop with your nonsense, will ya?”
“It's not nonsense, Serg! If our squad gets chosen, your final leave will be twenty days!”
“…Oh?” Jo Won-Gu's expression quickly brightened when something he had failed to consider was brought to his attention.
“You're right! Now that I think about it, that's true, isn't it?”
“Serg, it's worth a shot.”
“But, it won't be that easy.
Our squad ain't the only one, after all.
Considering the size of our battalion, I'm guessing there will be over eighty squads competing for the top prize,” Jo Won-Gu muttered while rubbing his chin.
“I can't say for the other categories, but as far as the in-trench combat exercise? Sir, our squad will definitely win, no questions asked.
And I think it'll be the same story with categories requiring physical strength.”
Jo Won-Gu impatiently asked, “As I said, how?”
“Well…” Choi Hyeon-Seok's head slowly turned to the side.
His gaze stopped at exactly where Kang Jin-Ho was holding a notepad on standby.
“…As long as his existence doesn’t get declared a scam or a cheat, I think we stand a great chance, Serg.”
Jo Won-Gu stared back and forth between Choi Hyeon-Seok and Kang Jin-Ho before nodding energetically.
“Alright! Let's go for it, then! The best-performing squad, here we come!”
“Keep your legs together, please!”
“Don't spread your legs open, please! And keep your mouths shut!”
“Owl No.88! Time out!”
“Yes, siiiiir!” Jo Won-Gu’s reply was quite loud as he panted.
He clenched his teeth hard.
'Best-performing squad, my ass!'
He only had one month left before his discharge, yet he still had to participate in this grueling training.
He was deeply unhappy about this situation, but for some reason, PT involving calisthenics this time felt several times harsher than before.
The drill instructor roared, “PT No.8! Twenty times! How many times?” 
“Twenty times!” the soldiers roared back.
“One! Two! Three! Four!”
Jo Won-Gu was convinced that this particular drill instructor was a devil incarnate.
That was because he had been torturing the recruits with crouch-hopping and legs-up whole-body twisting exercises for quite some time now.
So much attention was paid to those two exercises that Jo Won-Gu began to wonder if they had forgotten about the other types.
It was inevitable that some people would start to lose their minds when things reached the breaking point.
Jo Won-Gu listened to his fellow soldiers loudly repeating the 'slogan' and bitterly chuckled to himself.
He already knew that these cruel drill instructors wouldn't end the so-called training sooner than usual just because the soldiers were roaring out some meaningless slogans.
After all, these red-beret-wearing devils in human guise weren't benevolent enough to give the soldiers a break just because the latter displayed commendable training spirit!
Even if the soldiers were doing great, the true goal of these drill instructors was to put them through a wringer until no one was doing great anymore.
Maybe that was why? Jo Won-Gu was deriving a sense of perverse satisfaction while listening to the rather-unique slogan of “Eighteen!” being roared out.
'Maybe I should join them, too?'
“These brats! You think this is a joke, huh? PT no.11! Prepare to crouch-hop, now!”
“Prepariiiing!” Jo Won-Gu cried out while changing his posture.
He had begun drooling from the corner of his mouth, but he didn't have the mental leeway to wipe that away.
'These bastards! What has gotten into them today?!'
He thought his physique had gotten weaker after becoming a sergeant.
He was a bit more… fleshier now, so his stamina had to have fallen somewhat.
That was why the training seemed too torturous—at least that was what he believed.
However, the more he endured, the more convinced he became that this PT's difficulty had gone up far more than the last time.
However, this training wasn’t some kid's playtime.
The drill instructors wouldn't surely increase or decrease the difficulty simply out of their whims, so why?
That was when a familiar voice registered in Jo Won-Gu's hearing.
His head slowly turned to look behind him.
It was then that he felt like he could deduce the reason for this anomaly.
The drill instructor roared, “PT no.11, fifteen times! How many times?”
The attention of all the assistant instructors was focused on only one person.
Jo Won-Gu thought that they were looking at him for some reason, but he chalked that down to nothing but 'just a feeling.’ However, he was mistaken.
They weren't looking at him.
“…Hey, you! Kang Jin-Ho, you bastard!” Jo Won-Gu cried out in sheer resentment that verged on pure venom.
Behind him was none other than Kang Jin-Ho, perfectly carrying out the training as the field manual had dictated—there were no deviations whatsoever!
Look at his perfect angles, his perfect movements! It was as if he was disdainfully saying, “Your pathetic little training can't tire me out.” No wonder all the instructors had been triggered into action!
Jo Won-Gu cried out again, “You!!! I told you to take it easy, didn't I?!”
“Sir? I don't follow?”
“Damn it! Take it easy already! Pretend you're having a hard time, alright!”
Desperation crept into Jo Won-Gu's cries after he had finally figured out the culprit behind this torture.
Unfortunately for him, the red-beret-wearing folks didn't seem all that willing to understand Jo Won-Gu's plight.
“Owl No.88, Jo Won-Gu!”
“…Acknowledged.” Jo Won-Gu trudged over to the time-out area and began rolling around in the muddy ground.
The drill instructor called him out, “Are you ready to pull your socks up, soldier?!”
“Did your head get too big for your own good, soldier?!”
Why did he have to go through this nonsense when the end of his military service was so near? Jo Won-Gu gritted his teeth as sweat soaked his whole body.
While crawling on the ground, he raised his head ever so slightly and stared at Kang Jin-Ho.
Goosebumps immediately broke out on Jo Won-Gu's skin at the sight of Kang Jin-Ho performing literally the textbook definition of legs raised, twisting the whole body.
A normal human's legs shouldn't stay so perfectly uniform while doing that!
“Noooo, you mustn't…”
Only after the full duration of the so-called training was over were the soldiers released from the first day of PT.
Jo Won-Gu beckoned Kang Jin-Ho to come closer.
“Come here, Jin-Ho.”
“Private 1st class Kang Jin-Ho, sir.”
“…I told you to take it easy, didn't I?”
You told us to aim for the best-performing squad, didn't you?”
“…Sure, I did.”
“In that case, should I back off, sir?”
Jo Won-Gu stared at the distant heavens above.
Why were the stars sparkling so brightly tonight? Why was the moon so bright? He lowered his gaze and stared at Kang Jin-Ho.
The task of explaining something as blindingly obvious as knowing when to do his best and when to take it easy seemed like an insurmountable task.
The soldier named Kang Jin-Ho was way too unyielding and straightforward for that.
When nicely put, he was a pure, nay, innocent little pup.
When not-so-nicely put, Kang Jin-Ho was a moron who had been trampling on the very idea of flexibility.
“…Jin-Ho, just do your thing.”
Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head slightly, looking somewhat unconvinced.
“Very well, sir.
The next morning arrived, and Jo Won-Gu got to learn the hard way how severe his slip of the tongue was.
“PT” stands for physical training.
The Korean military PT/calisthenics feature several different exercises. ☜
This is not a typo.
This is really from the raw. ☜
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