Descent of the Demon Master
The rain continued to fall as if God had forgotten to turn off heaven's faucets.
The sedan where Kang Jin-Ho was drove past the curtains of rain on the lonely road.
Jo Gyu-Min cautiously asked, “Mister Jin-Ho.
The person currently admitted to the hospital is the same man who came with you on the hundred-day leave, yes?”
“Yes, you're right.”
“How did he…” Jo Gyu-Min stopped himself after realizing that Kang Jin-Ho was simply staring outside the window, evidently not in the mood to talk.
Besides, Kang Jin-Ho would have said something by now if he had a task in mind for Jo Gyu-Min.
Since he hadn't said anything, Kang Jin-Ho probably thought there was nothing Jo Gyu-Min or Jaegyeong could do for him.
'However, can we even be any help this time?'
Even after taking into account Hwang Jeong-Hu's influence and power, this matter still wasn't something he could easily interfere with.
Every event within the military couldn’t escape from the reaches of the top military leaders.
However, problems related to those events could easily slip through the cracks and snowball into something beyond the military leaders' control.
The folks wielding limitless power and freedom in the army would instantly fall to become frail old men the moment the media sicced its hounds on them.
That was why the military had developed a strong tendency to avoid being in the media spotlight at any cost.
'Not only that, but…'
Even if Hwang Jeong-Hu got involved at this stage, telling the high-ranking officers to uncover the truth of an incident that could leave a serious black mark on their careers wouldn't work.
'It's gotten seriously complicated…'
Jo Gyu-Min sighed under his breath.
If Kang Jin-Ho demanded it, he would have no choice but to try his best.
However, he couldn't see any way out of this complicated situation.
None of Jo Gyu-Min's usual methods would work on this problem.
“Mister Jin-Ho, Chairman Hwang is concerned about you.”
“He's concerned about me when I haven't even contacted him?” Kang Jin-Ho replied, his voice sounding somewhat icier than usual.
“My apologies, Mister Jin-Ho.”
“I'm not criticizing you.
I had a feeling that you would already know, anyway.”
“Was this a case of abuse?” Jo Gyu-Min asked while glancing at his passenger.
Kang Jin-Ho didn't reply.
However, anyone with a functioning brain should be able to make a guess.
That fella didn't seem to be the type…'
Jo Gyu-Min's first impression of Ju Yeong-Gi said that a man with such a countenance wouldn't silently endure abuse directed his way.
However, it was impossible to tell what was really on a person's mind now, was it? It could very well be that Ju Yeong-Gi was unexpectedly timid in nature.
“Mister Jin-Ho, if you request Chairman Hwang, he should be able to exert political pressure on the parties involved.
I think that's the best available option for us.
If a member of the National Assembly raises a question, the investigation should get going again.
It could be the best way to find justice for your friend, Mister Jin-Ho.”
Kang Jin-Ho still didn't say anything.
Since he had maintained his silence, Jo Gyu-Min couldn't say a word.
The two men traveled to Seongnam amidst the heavy silence.
“Mister Jin-Ho, I recommend that you change your attire.”
Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head at Jo Gyu-Min's advice.
“My attire? Why?”
“Although we've called ahead and arranged things, showing up in your uniform will inevitably leave some kind of a record in the hospital's system, Mister Jin-Ho.”
Kang Jin-Ho wasn't sure why, but his gut feeling told him to do as told in this situation.
Jo Gyu-Min was far more knowledgeable than him in things like this, after all.
He's better than me in most things, isn't he?'
A self-mocking smirk crept up on Kang Jin-Ho's face as he changed out of his uniform.
In how many things could he claim to be better than other people? He didn't say anything else.
He simply finished changing his clothes before heading inside the Capital Hospital.
After confirming which ward Ju Yeong-Gi was admitted to at the front desk, Kang Jin-Ho took the elevator to get to the floor in question, with Jo Gyu-Min silently following him.
Once they arrived at Ju Yeong-Gi's ward, though…
Kang Jin-Ho didn't go inside and just stood there, silently staring at the closed doorway.
Jo Gyu-Min didn't urge him; he patiently waited.
Over a minute of silence ensued before Kang Jin-Ho hesitantly reached out for the door handle.
He slowly stepped into the ward.
Kang Jin-Ho's steps came to a stuttering half at this familiar sight.
A sight he had to endure so much not too long ago.
The only difference here was that Sister Yi had ventilator tubes stuck to her nose while Ju Yeong-Gi seemed to be just lying on the bed, unconscious.
Kang Jin-Ho stood there and quietly took in this sight.
His innards seemed to be tumbling, and he felt sick.
he had to experience this again? So soon?
Kang Jin-Ho clenched his fists tightly, causing his bones to grind noisily.
Ju Yeong-Gi's face was so gaunt and sickly that he was almost unrecognizable.
Kang Jin-Ho silently stared at that face before his voice creaked out of his lips.
Ju Yeong-Gi should have said something if things had been getting too difficult for him lately.
His mate was right next to him, so why didn't he say anything and suffer through that crap only to do something that moronic in the end?!
Before Kang Jin-Ho had a chance to feel sympathy, his rage bubbled up first.
All Ju Yeong-Gi had to do was reach out.
That was all, so why?! If he had done that, Kang Jin-Ho would have offered his own helping hand, and he would have certainly taken care of everything.
Why had Ju Yeong-Gi never thought about relying on his mate even after witnessing Kang Jin-Ho flip the base on its head several times?
Kang Jin-Ho squeezed his eyes shut and leaned his head back.
'Someone who reaches out, is it…?'
Becoming someone like that had turned out to be a difficult task—it was way too difficult.
Outside the hospital…
Jo Gyu-Min crossed his arms as he spoke, “The doctors say they are not sure about the odds of Ju Yeong-Gi regaining consciousness, Mister Jin-Ho.”
Kang Jin-Ho narrowed his eyes.
“They are not sure? Why?”
“The emergency first aid was good enough, but his heart had stopped for far too long, so…”
“Are you saying he’s in a vegetative state?”
The doctors did say there's a possibility of Ju Yeong-Gi waking up someday.
But they can't tell when that will be or how aware he will be afterward.”
Kang Jin-Ho wordlessly mouthed a fresh cigarette.
The frustration inside his chest was growing again.
It had gotten so large that he was unsure about what to do now.
'No, take it step by step…'
Kang Jin-Ho clenched his teeth.
If only he had been more composed and braver after learning about Ju Yeong-Gi's situation, this wouldn't have happened.
Being meticulous and taking it slow were two disparate things, after all.
Kang Jin-Ho looked at Jo Gyu-Min and asked, “Yeong-Gi's care takes priority.
Can I trust the Capital Hospital to do a good job?”
“…Compared to a regular civilian hospital, it's not all that better, Mister Jin-Ho.
It can obviously provide standard medical care, but Corporal Ju's case might be too specialized for this hospital to deal with.”
Kang Jin-Ho slowly nodded.
“What's your recommendation?”
“I think it'll be better to contact Corporal Ju's guardian to get the consent necessary to move him to a different facility.
The Capital Hospital usually transfers its patients in serious conditions to other hospitals, after all.
So, the procedure shouldn't be too cumbersome.
I could make some calls and have him transferred to Jaegyeong's hospital.
Should I do that?”
Thank you,” Kang Jin-Ho replied affirmatively and clamped his lips shut to contemplate something.
He eventually spoke once again, “Have you tried to contact Yeong-Gi's guardian before?”
“No, I haven't,” Jo Gyu-Min replied while scratching his head.
His role was to support and monitor Kang Jin-Ho, not investigate the information on the people around him.
He had only checked Ju Yeong-Gi's matter since it took place in Kang Jin-Ho's base.
Without that, Jo Gyu-Min wouldn't have a reason to get interested in Ju Yeong-Gi.
Kang Jin-Ho continued, “The patient's condition is severe, so I find it strange to see no guardian staying nearby.
Can I entrust you to find out why?”
I'll take care of it.
You don't have to worry.”
“Thank you.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded.
It felt like a large lump of rock was sitting on his heart, and he subconsciously tried to brush it off his chest.
can't do anything by myself, huh?'
If Jo Gyu-Min weren't around, Kang Jin-Ho wouldn't have had any methods to deal with this situation.
After sighing deeply, Kang Jin-Ho asked another question, “I still have enough in the bank to do this, yes?”
“Mister Jin-Ho, your wealth is far greater than you think.”
In that case, spare no expense in Yeong-Gi's care.
Do whatever it takes to get him conscious again.”
“I'll do my best, but…
I can't give you any guarantees.”
“That's good enough for me.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded while listening to the sounds of rain falling on top of their umbrella.
It sounded particularly loud today.
Kang Jin-Ho slowly closed his eyes as the sounds of raindrops echoed in his ears.
Jang Jae-Hwan saluted at Kang Jin-Ho.
“Welcome back, sir.”
“Yeah.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded as he stepped inside the 3rd Squad's living area.
“What happened in the base while I was gone?”
“The atmosphere here has become worse than the pits, sir.
We can't even breathe freely at the moment.”
“Sounds about right…” Kang Jin-Ho muttered while glancing at Jang Jae-Hwan.
Private Jang looked exhausted.
It wasn’t a surprise, as he was the first person to discover Ju Yeong-Gi, and he had to be under the investigators’ severest scrutiny.
Jang Jae-Hwan sheepishly muttered, “Corporal Kang, sir…?”
Jang Jae-Hwan's head faltered, his expression gloomy.
“If only I had reacted more calmly back then and tried to save Corporal Ju first…
I, I can't help but think that maybe the end result would have been better, sir.”
“Don't blame yourself, Jae-Hwan.” Kang Jin-Ho shook his head.
“And, I'm sorry for getting angry at you back then.
I lost my cool as well.
Then again, who could have maintained their calm in a situation like that? It's not your fault, so don't blame yourself.”
Jang Jae-Hwan shouldn't be the one kicking himself for their actions.
Yet, he was still swimming in guilty conscience for failing to save Ju Yeong-Gi on time.
In that case, what were those two doing right now?
Kang Jin-Ho slipped outside and headed to the 1st Squad's living area.
However, even before he got near, various noises registered in his hearing.
Muffled sounds of laughter, calm-sounding chatter…
Kang Jin-Ho stood in the corridor and quietly listened to all those sounds.
The conversations he could hear didn't sound strange.
No one seemed to be insulting Ju Yeong-Gi, and the discussions centered around exceedingly normal, mundane things.
Everything seemed so…
The same as before.
However, Kang Jin-Ho couldn't accept that.
Someone they had been living together with under one roof was gone and was currently fighting for his life in a hospital.
Yet, those responsible for that state had returned to their everyday lives as if nothing had happened.
That set off a burning blaze in Kang Jin-Ho's chest.
'As if nothing happened…'
Indeed, as if it was just a lie, that nothing had really happened.
In that case, it really ought to be nothing, right? Nothing should have changed, then?
Kang Jin-Ho stood there and listened to the muffled conversations coming from the living area before turning around to leave.
The evening roll call ended, and Kang Jin-Ho laid down on his bedding.
He waited for a while until everyone had fallen asleep.
Only then did he open his eyes and silently get up.
His figure stealthily slipped past the night watch and leisurely left the building.
“I figured throwing it away might get us in trouble, so I hid it somewhere safe, sir.”
That was what Kim Hak-Cheol had said.
Which meant Ju Yeong-Gi had definitely left something behind.
The odds of it being a will were pretty high.
As for hiding it somewhere safe? It had to be where people wouldn't notice it.
The 1st Squad's living area should have been thoroughly searched by now.
However, considering Kim Hak-Cheol’s cowardly nature, he wouldn't have hidden something so important in the barracks.
In that case, where could it be?
Kang Jin-Ho could think of a few places.
A place to hide something where other people wouldn't notice? A place the other squad members wouldn't frequently visit but was intimately familiar to Kim Hak-Cheol…
Kang Jin-Ho headed straight to the 1st Squad's gun emplacement.
A human would never put something they considered important somewhere too far out of their reach.
Burying it in the middle of a mountain could very well be the safest hiding method, but the fear of someone inadvertently stumbling upon it meant that would never happen.
In that case, there was a good chance that Kim Hak-Cheol had hidden the 'evidence' somewhere he was most familiar with—somewhere he considered safe.
Kang Jin-Ho soon arrived at the emplacement and immediately headed to the storage containing the military supplies located in the corner.
Any artillery-related mishaps would have led to this place being turned upside down, but the investigators didn't even bother to show up here this time.
Kang Jin-Ho quickly went through various boxes in the storage before his eyes caught the sight of a large bundle.
All the soldiers disliked touching the camouflage netting as merely breathing near it would cause an endless dust storm to rise up from there.
Unless it was absolutely necessary during training, this netting was never, ever unfurled and brought out of storage.
Kang Jin-Ho unhesitantly shoved his hand inside the rolled-up netting.
He rummaged through it for a while, eventually feeling something different at his fingertips.
He reached in even deeper and grabbed a slender book-like object.
Kang Jin-Ho slowly pulled it out from the camouflage netting.
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