Descent of the Demon Master
>“…M-mm.” Kang Jin-Ho was taken aback by their same-as-usual greeting.
They didn't pay any mind to his reaction and continued to welcome him as if nothing was wrong.
“Oppa! Are you out on your vacation?”
“…Yeah.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded.
One of the boys piped up, “Wow, you got one so soon? Is it okay to go on a vacation all the time? I mean, you're supposed to be a soldier, right? When are you going to protect this country?”
A girl quickly defended Kang Jin-Ho.
“It's fine! Oppa's too handsome for that! Ugly guys will protect the country instead.”
“Ugly guys will cry if they hear you say that!”
I forgot to think about your plight.”
In all honesty, Kang Jin-Ho was…
He figured the orphanage would be blanketed in the same sort of atmosphere you would find in a funeral filled with mourners.
It was quite unexpected, as the children here were behaving pretty much the same as usual.
So much so that Kang Jin-Ho and his depressed mood stood out like a sore thumb.
Park Yu-Min patted his friend on the back.
“Have you had dinner yet?”
“Uh… Yeah, I did.”
“No, you haven't, have you?”
Kang Jin-Ho's expression cramped up.
“…It feels like I'm always having a meal whenever I come here.
Can't I skip it this time at least?”
The reply to his question came from another source.
“Hyung, why haven't you had dinner yet?”
“Goodness, Oppa! You've lost weight, haven't you?!”
“Uwoo-oh?!” Seong-Eun, one of the hearing-impaired children, began waving his arms around in anger after following the conversation through lip-reading.
Kang Jin-Ho saw that genuinely angry reaction and had no choice but to raise his hands and feet in defeat.
I'll have dinner here.”
It didn’t take him long to learn that it was a mistake to eat dinner here.
“Yu-Min…” Kang Jin-Ho quietly muttered.
Park Yu-Min raised his head and looked at his friend.
“You know I'm not picky about food, but…”
“…But, why this, again?”
The kitchen staff have already gone home for the day, you know? They'll only be back by tomorrow morning.”
“I know that.
Still, this…” Kang Jin-Ho sighed deeply at the sight of food laid out on the table before his eyes.
Park Yu-Min became defensive.
“Sure, there are some side dishes left in the fridge, but those are for the kids, you know? Imagine how uncool it’ll be when the kitchen staff come to work tomorrow, and they find out we have already finished the food they made?”
Kang Jin-Ho could understand that.
Moreover, he wasn't really looking forward to a fancy meal, anyway.
That was why he had to ask, “Don't you have a packet of ramen?”
“Why ramen when I prepared curry for you?”
“…Huh.” Kang Jin-Ho stared at the plate of curry before his eyes and groaned deeply.
Park Yu-Min had to be an Indian in his previous life or something.
He had to be! Otherwise, he had to be suffering from turmeric obsession!
Park Yu-Min held his ground and spoke in a proud voice, “I cooked this masterpiece earlier in the afternoon.
I'm telling you, it'll be different this time.
It's definitely delicious!”
Kang Jin-Ho sneaked a quick glance around the dining table and met the gazes of other kids.
They were all making unimpressed faces while shaking their heads.
'Yup, it's not delicious.'
Making bad-tasting curry was certainly a notable ability, alright.
After all, making curry had to be easier than ramen, no? In that case, just what had Park Yu-Min been doing to fail at something as simple as curry?
'No, hold on.
This isn't a failure, is it?'
Seeing how Park Yu-Min was so confident of its taste, this couldn't have been a matter of his cooking skills but his tongue.
It had to be faulty, somehow!
Kang Jin-Ho scooped up a spoonful of this curry and mouthed it, only for his eyes to squeeze shut all on their own.
He had eaten all the grub the military had thrown at him without any complaints, but this curry was one step too far—even for him.
Park Yu-Min smiled and asked expectantly, “So? It's good, right?”
Kang Jin-Ho opened his eyes and stared at his friend.
“You fed this to these children earlier, didn't you?”
“Yeah, I did.
that was child abuse.”
“I'm calling the cops.”
After somehow finishing that plate of so-called curry, Kang Jin-Ho waited around in the orphanage until the high school-age kids came home from school.
Once all the greetings were done, Kang Jin-Ho and Park Yu-Min stepped outside the orphanage.
Since a nighttime teacher was on duty, there wasn't a strict need for Park Yu-Min to stay.
Park Yu-Min glanced at the Golden Elephant.
“Leave that here for now.”
“Mm? Why?” Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head.
“I mean, we're going out to get something to drink, so riding a bicycle is not a good idea.”
“Why do you say that?” Kang Jin-Ho's head tilted even more.
Park Yu-Min stared wordlessly at his friend before finally saying something, “Don't tell me you didn't know.
Riding a bicycle while drunk is also considered drunk driving, you know?”
“Wowsers, you were an accident waiting to happen, weren't you?”
Kang Jin-Ho rubbed his chin, his head still tilting in confusion.
He initially thought Park Yu-Min was joking, but his friend's expression was saying otherwise.
Kang Jin-Ho asked one more time to make sure, “Legally?”
It's drunk driving.”
“…I didn't know.”
Kang Jin-Ho might have a driver's license, but he really had no idea that there was such a law.
He felt rueful about it, but his Golden Elephant would have to stay put for now.
The two of them began walking on foot toward the downtown.
Kang Jin-Ho glanced at his friend.
“Should we grab a taxi?”
“Nah, it's fine.
Don't be like that.” Park Yu-Min shook his head.
It seemed he had figured out why Kang Jin-Ho wanted to ride the bicycle even though the latter hadn't said anything.
“You don't have to worry about it, Jin-Ho.”
One of Park Yu-Min's legs was not 'good,’ and it attracted other people's attention whenever he had to walk around outside.
That bugged Kang Jin-Ho.
Well, he knew what it felt like to be subjected to such gazes, after all.
As a disabled person, Kang Jin-Ho had thoroughly experienced such gazes before, and he fully understood how cold and scary they could be—the gazes of people looking at someone different from them…
“Let's go over there.”
Kang Jin-Ho and Park Yu-Min headed to a pub with a quiet atmosphere and ordered a round of soju.
Once they settled down, though…
Their conversation dried up.
It wasn't that they stopped talking, but more like they had no idea what to talk about.
Park Yu-Min finally broke the ice.
“It must've been tough to get a new leave so soon, Jin-Ho.
I didn't mean to make you come here, you see.”
The 'Park Yu-Min' on the phone speaking in a tearful voice was already long gone by now.
In only a matter of a few hours, he had reverted back to his old self.
Kang Jin-Ho couldn't understand why.
This boy was informed that a person as close as his mother didn't have long to live.
So, how could he stay this composed? But, it wasn't just Park Yu-Min.
Even the orphanage didn't seem any different from the usual.
It was as if the world hadn’t changed at all, and only Kang Jin-Ho was jumping up and down in fluster, which made him feel rather weird.
“The kids are unexpectedly…
calm about it, aren't they?” Kang Jin-Ho cautiously spoke up.
The 'kids' in his question also included Park Yu-Min.
Since he couldn't directly ask about his friend's composure, he chose to beat around the bush a little.
Park Yu-Min quietly stared at Kang Jin-Ho.
Just as the latter failed to read the intent behind that gaze and grew puzzled, Park Yu-Min slowly spoke.
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