Descent of the Demon Master
Kang Jin-Ho looked up at Sister Yi.
“Please come closer.” She beckoned at him and reached out to him once more as he got closer.
“Jin-Ho, do you know why I keep wanting to hold hands?”
“You see, we humans…”
“…!” Kang Jin-Ho saw her smile and held his breath.
He had never seen anything quite like that before.
Her smile seemed incomparably warm, yet something about it also felt distant, lonely.
A kind of smile that made it difficult to stare back…
That was what it felt like.
“…Still feel lonely sometimes even when we are surrounded by other people.”
“You know what I mean, don't you?”
Sister Yi didn't know what kind of a life Kang Jin-Ho had lived.
He had never told her, after all.
But the way she spoke, it sounded as if she knew everything.
Kang Jin-Ho wasn't 'alone' back in Zhongyuan.
No human could survive by themselves, and that was why he sought out a group to be a part of.
He tried to be one of them, but even then, Kang Jin-Ho had always been alone—lonely.
However, he believed that would no longer be the case now.
He had regained his family and his life, hadn't he? For some strange reason, though, Sister Yi's words were loudly resonating within his soul.
“It can get so lonesome.
That's what humans are like.
And it's difficult to truly understand other people, Jin-Ho.
It also means others also can't fully understand you.” Her hand holding his began to tighten.
“That's why I hold people's hands, Jin-Ho.
Even if we can't understand each other, I still want them to know that we are not alone, that we are together.
What do you think about that?”
What kind of an answer was she expecting from him?
‘Sister Yi, I'm…
too lost and confused to sense the warmth of your hand, ma'am.’
“Jin-Ho, is it warm?”
“Yes, ma'am…” Kang Jin-Ho muttered a lie.
Her hand was shockingly cold—so cold that it had to be a miracle for her to be alive with such a low body temperature.
“I don't know or understand what you have done, Jin-Ho.
But I do know that you worked very hard.”
Kang Jin-Ho's lips clamped shut, unable to say a single thing.
What was the point of it all? They were all useless in the end, weren't they? The situation still reached this end, rendering everything Kang Jin-Ho had done utterly meaningless.
He slowly parted his lips to speak.
Sister Yi gently squeezed Kang Jin-Ho's hand and shook her head.
Her voice sounded so small and faint.
Kang Jin-Ho bit his lip at that slow, labored echo of a sound.
“You can't hold onto everything in life.”
Kang Jin-Ho squeezed his eyes shut.
“Jin-Ho, I've lived a happy life.
My happiness came from the children.
It came from Yu-Min.
And also from you.”
She smiled gently.
“Jin-Ho, you're strong, aren't you?”
I'm not strong at all.”
“Jin-Ho, you have a strong, firm will.
However, a strong person sometimes has a hard time understanding the frailty of others around them.
Such strong people think others are failing to endure something so simple.
However, my wish is for you to become a different person, someone beyond that.
A person who can also accept other people's frailty.”
“…I'll engrave that to my heart, ma'am.”
“Thank you. Oh, my. It's getting harder to talk now…” Sister Yi breathed heavily and shallowly while leaning back.
Kang Jin-Ho carefully helped her lay down, then turned around to leave.
While standing before the doorway with his hand grasping the door handle, he quietly called out to Sister Yi.
“Yes?” she replied in a soft, exhausted voice.
Kang Jin-Ho gripped the door handle harder after thinking about how she tried to look brave and dignified in front of him.
“If God is real…
Why isn't He helping us, humans?”
Maybe, he shouldn't have asked her this question.
He simply had to ask her.
Sister Yi's quiet voice came to him from behind.
“God has sent you to me.”
“You, the children, Yu-Min…
God has sent all of them to me as precious gifts.”
Kang Jin-Ho's lips opened as if he wanted to say something, yet those words became stuck in his throat, and he could only shake his head.
“…Get some rest, ma'am.”
Even the act of opening the door was difficult.
Same thing for walking.
Even trying to breathe was tough, too.
Kang Jin-Ho barely managed to exit the room, and he began to pant heavily.
The air rushed into his lungs, and he suddenly felt dizzy and disoriented.
He leaned against the nearby wall.
“J-Jin-Ho?” Park Yu-Min rushed to him and grabbed Kang Jin-Ho's shoulder.
“…Go inside, Yu-Min.”
“Now isn't the time to worry about me.
fine, so hurry and go inside.”
“Got it.” Park Yu-Min let go of his friend's shoulder and quickly stepped inside Sister Yi's room.
Kang Jin-Ho punched the wall in frustration, then walked out of the hospital, his teeth gnashing loudly.
“I heard that apparently, tumors can spread unexpectedly and quickly,” said Jo Gyu-Min.
Kang Jin-Ho didn't say anything and simply mouthed another cigarette.
They were currently sitting inside Jo Gyu-Min's car parked in the hospital's parking lot.
Kang Jin-Ho wouldn't normally smoke in the presence of Jo Gyu-Min, but he couldn't think of another way to soothe his frustration.
“Department Head Kang seemed to have done his utmost best, but…” Jo Gyu-Min muttered quietly, the end of his sentence drifting away.
Medically speaking, Sister Yi's sudden improvement could only be described as a miracle.
As such, it would be unfair to blame Doctor Kang Chun-Sik for this situation.
Anybody would have thought that way.
Jo Gyu-Min continued, “If someone has to be blamed…
I should be the one.
When the doctors recommended she be discharged, I should have disagreed and made her stay in the hospital even longer.
I should've told the doctors to keep an eye on her…”
“No, Mister Gyu-Min.” Kang Jin-Ho shook his head.
“This is nobody's fault.
You and I both know that.
It's just that…
“…I see.” Jo Gyu-Min's voice got smaller as he still couldn't get rid of his baseless guilty conscience.
And he couldn't help but think this had to be the first time he saw Kang Jin-Ho so shaken up like this.
'…Just what does that nun mean to him, I wonder?'
Kang Jin-Ho and Sister Yi shared a connection through Park Yu-Min, but strictly speaking, their relationship could be described as strangers.
That was why Jo Gyu-Min couldn't quite figure out why Kang Jin-Ho was so obsessed with her.
Obviously, Jo Gyu-Min respected Sister Yi and what she had accomplished.
Living a life dedicated to others was no easy feat, after all.
However, that didn't mean Sister Yi was the only person in the entire world who had lived a life like that, did it?
Jo Gyu-Min glanced at Kang Jin-Ho.
“When are you supposed to return to base?”
“…It's four days later.” Kang Jin-Ho leaned against the seat and slowly rubbed his eyes.
Jo Gyu-Min tilted his head a little.
“I thought you had a lot more vacation time than that?”
“Yes, I do.
However…” Kang Jin-Ho muttered listlessly.
He was in too much of a rush back then and couldn't wait for the rest of his leave to be approved.
He had no choice in the matter, as the higher-ups said it would take another day for the approval to come through.
“…For now, I should just head home.”
“I guess so.”
Kang Jin-Ho opened his eyes and stared outside the car's window.
Sister Yi and Park Yu-Min were in one of the rooms in the tall building in the distance.
leave them be.'
That was not an occasion he should be intruding.
Sister Yi's remaining time should be spent with Park Yu-Min and the rest of the orphanage's kids.
As for Kang Jin-Ho, he…
He was just a leaf that had been temporarily blown in by the wind.
“Please take me home…”
“I see.” Chairman Hwang Jeong-Hu let out a deep groan.
“So, things ended up that way, huh…”
Jo Gyu-Min spoke in a slightly anxious voice, “I thought I've seen all of Mister Jin-Ho's sides, but I've never seen him like that before, sir.”
“I'm not surprised.” Hwang Jeong-Hu shook his head while taking out a cigarette.
He was frowning a little as if he had tasted something bitter.
“Didn't you say the nun lady's condition had improved drastically?”
Her condition did get markedly better, but…
Apparently, she deteriorated shockingly quickly.
Both her improvement and deterioration can't be explained logically, sir.”
So, there was a limit, after all.”
“I'm sure you've had your guesses for some time now.
A terminal patient cannot suddenly become healthier without some kind of medical intervention.
It means Kang Jin-Ho had done something.”
“But, Chairman…!” Jo Gyu-Min's expression hardened.
“…Does Mister Jin-Ho really have something? Some kind of a…
“Don't ask what you already know, Gyu-Min.”
“But, sir…!” Jo Gyu-Min obviously had functioning eyes and intuition.
And how many years had he spent by Kang Jin-Ho's side already? No matter how much Kang Jin-Ho had tried to conceal it, the 'thing' writhing inside him was bound to get noticed by Jo Gyu-Min.
“Sir, I knew he's not an ordinary person.
However, no one can even begin to imagine that he possesses such…
extraordinary abilities, sir.”
“What abilities are you talking about, Gyu-Min? Something like a healing touch?”
“It probably is something like that, sir.”
Fufufu…” Hwang Jeong-Hu broke out into a soft chuckle.
“Was my guess wrong, sir?”
“Who knows? Only Kang Jin-Ho knows the answer.
Even I don't know what abilities that boy possesses, other than the fact that he did heal both the nun lady and me.
However…” Hwang Jeong-Hu's eyes became withdrawn.
'…I'm sure it's not some kind of a healing touch.'
He was certain about this.
Whenever the mask slipped off Kang Jin-Ho's facade and his hidden self managed to peek out a little, Hwang Jeong-Hu felt every hair on his body stand from the incredible sense of dread.
That was definitely not something gentle or kind-hearted like 'healing.’
Hwang Jeong-Hu slowly rubbed his chin.
“It might get unleashed, then.”
“What do you mean, sir?”
“The longer you wear the facade, the more frustrating and stuffy it gets.
Eventually, the animals called humans will have no choice but to unleash their real nature sooner or later.”
Gloominess crept up on Jo Gyu-Min's expression.
He even clenched his fists tightly after remembering the back of the 'scary' Kang Jin-Ho he had glimpsed in the past.
'That side of him will come out?'
It sounded like Hwang Jeong-Hu believed that side was Kang Jin-Ho's true self.
However, Jo Gyu-Min didn't share that sentiment.
“Sir, everyone harbors a monster in their heart, don't we?”
“The world would plunge into pure chaos if everyone unleashed their inner monsters, sir.
Surely, we all have some kind of a hidden desire to answer to our feelings and crush others to stand on top.
However, simply harboring such thoughts doesn't mean the monster within us is our real selves, sir.”
“Mm. You are not wrong there, Gyu-Min.”
“Mister Jin-Ho is a considerate person, and he also knows how to maintain the peace in his life, sir.
At least, that's what I think.”
You've been observing that kid for a long time, so I should respect your opinion on this matter, then.” Hwang Jeong-Hu replied positively, but his voice sounded a little hollow.
'Unfortunately, that's only applicable to normal people…'
It didn't come as a surprise that Jo Gyu-Min still had no idea about it.
And maybe, just maybe…
Kang Jin-Ho himself could still be unaware of it.
In Hwang Jeong-Hu's opinion, Kang Jin-Ho was a man of duality.
Just how many people in this world possessed both the wiliness of a cunning fox and the naivety of a child? It was anyone's guess just how he had developed such a personality, but that didn't change the fact that Kang Jin-Ho was abnormal.
There's a possibility that…”
Neither of us has gotten it right, and we don't have a single clue.
What that man is like, I mean.”
Jo Gyu-Min gasped softly when he was hit by this weird disharmony caused by Chairman Hwang's assertion.
It was all because those words seemed to perfectly describe what he had been vaguely sensing.
Baek Hyeon-Jeong welcomed her son home with a surprised face.
“When did you get another leave, Jin-Ho?”
Kang Jin-Ho replied with a cramped smile, “Today, Mother.”
“But, you didn't even call us!”
“I was in a rush and couldn't find the time.
“Did you have dinner yet?”
“Yes, I already have.”
Baek Hyeon-Jeong noticed how gloomy her son's expression was and gently patted him on the shoulder.
It must've been tiring to travel so late in the day, so go wash up and rest, son.”
“Yes, Mother.” Kang Jin-Ho bowed and headed to his room.
Baek Hyeon-Jeong watched her son's figure slip into the room and sighed softly.
Kang Yu-Hwan emerged from the bedroom.
“Was that Jin-Ho?”
He just arrived home,” Baek Hyeon-Jeong replied with a slow nod.
“He didn't even call ahead, though? Anyway, should we have dinner together, then?”
“I think we should let him be for now.”
“Mm?” Kang Yu-Hwan was heading to his son's room only to be stopped by Baek Hyeon-Jeong.
Not knowing why she did that, he looked at his wife and tilted his head.
Baek Hyeon-Jeong spoke in a hushed voice, “Dear, let's leave him for tonight.
I think it'll be better that way.”
“…You think something has happened to him?”
“It seems that way.”
“I see.” Kang Yu-Hwan glanced in the direction of his son's room, but he didn't try to open the firmly-shut door.
“…Let's not get too worked up about it.
He's our son, after all.”
“I'm not, dear.
It's just that…”
“Mm? What is it?”
Baek Hyeon-Jeong waved her hand away to indicate it was nothing to worry about, then headed to the bathroom.
As for the momentary sensation she felt, the one about their son coming across as a completely different person…
That was not something she could say out loud to anyone.
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