Descent of the Demon Master
>“How dare you crawl inside here and wake me up like this? Do you really think you're showing off or something by saying goodbye?! Get the hell outta here!”
“You've suffered a lot, Sergeant Kang.”
“You know you'll get admitted to a military hospital if you fall and break something while on your way out, don't you? I've already oiled the road outside the base.”
“Huh. As expected of a transport squad…”
In a way, what they said was all within expectations.
While shaking hands with each and every soldier, they exchanged brief words of well-wishes.
That was all.
However, this type of farewell was Charlie's long-held tradition, an independent artillery base of just under one hundred personnel.
By the time Kang Jin-Ho and Ju Yeong-Gi finished visiting the last barrack—living area no.5, several hours had passed by.
The two men didn't immediately return to their barracks, as they headed to the smoking area instead.
After lighting up their cigarettes, they settled on a bench and quietly smoked away.
Ju Yeong-Gi finally broke the silence first.
“Mm? What is it?”
kinda feels emotional, doesn't it?”
Kang Jin-Ho smirked softly, although he couldn't bring himself to tease Ju Yeong-Gi.
He looked at his right hand instead.
All he did was shake the hands of people he had gotten acquainted with during his military service, yet…
Kang Jin-Ho also felt something a little weird bubbling up in his chest.
It's really over.'
In a few hours, this long military life would be over for good.
When the sun rose in the morning…
No, even before the darkness of the night receded away, Kang Jin-Ho would probably be stepping outside of this artillery base to head back home.
Kang Jin-Ho never prayed for his military service to end sooner.
He didn't see this place in that light, after all.
However, overcoming one obstacle to move on to the next phase in life was still a good thing in his book.
Ju Yeong-Gi muttered again, “Honestly, I'm kinda worried, man.
It's all bittersweet, know what I mean?”
Kang Jin-Ho glanced at him.
“Military doesn't suit you, Yeong-Gi.”
“…Well, I agree with that, but!” Ju Yeong-Gi tried to argue, but his expression remained complicated.
He had experienced a couple of life-changing events during his enlistment, so his feelings should be a lot more complicated than Kang Jin-Ho's.
He had almost died twice, after all.
“People often say that a man needs to serve in the army to become a real man, don't they?”
Kang Jin-Ho tutted.
“It's all bullsh*t, Yeong-Gi.”
“…You think so?”
They say you'll walk away with something at the end of your enlistment, don't they?”
Kang Jin-Ho didn't say anything and waited for Ju Yeong-Gi to continue.
Ju Yeong-Gi asked in an uncertain voice, “Are we…
walking away with something, Jin-Ho?”
“I wonder…” Kang Jin-Ho replied; even he wasn’t certain about it himself.
He had weathered far rougher and more eventful storms in his life to feel much of anything about the last two years he had spent in the Korean military system.
“I'm not sure, Yeong-Gi.”
“Yeah, me too.
I don't know what we gained, man.” Ju Yeong-Gi slowly exhaled the cigarette smoke from his lungs before tossing the cigarette butt away.
“Let's go back inside.
We might get beaten up again for making too much noise and waking them up.”
'It's fine for you to get beaten up some more, though…'
Kang Jin-Ho thought to himself, then chuckled softly.
The two of them headed back to the barracks.
Kang Jin-Ho saluted first.
The duty officer nodded and saluted back.
You two did well.
Take care of yourselves out there.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Now that they were done making their final report to the duty officer, Kang Jin-Ho and Ju Yeong-Gi walked out of the administration building as two free men.
As they walked toward the exit…
“…Jin-Ho, why are you wearing that, dude?” Ju Yeong-Gi cocked an eyebrow and stared at Kang Jin-Ho weirdly.
“What's wrong with my attire?”
“What did you do with your Class A uniform? Why are you in those worn-out rags of a uniform, man?”
Kang Jin-Ho slowly shook his head.
“I'm not going to wear Class A military uniforms outside the base.
So I gave them all away to my juniors.”
Ju Yeong-Gi stared at Kang Jin-Ho in dismay.
However, there was no changing Kang Jin-Ho's mind.
Truth be told, Kang Jin-Ho had never understood why his seniors packed all the nice uniforms and military supplies while leaving the army.
Shouldn't they recycle the good stuff so the soldiers still serving could make good use of them?
“Jin-Ho, what about your reservist duties, man?”
You wanna wear that rag while hundreds of other reservists around you are in their Class A uniforms? Maaaan, you're gonna be the center of everyone's attention.”
For a moment there, Kang Jin-Ho seriously pondered if he should return to the barracks and get his stuff back, but he eventually gave up on the idea.
He had already distributed them to his juniors the night before, after all.
Asking for them back would only subject him to further verbal abuse.
When they reached the base's exit with the guardhouse, Jang Jae-Hwan was there, waiting.
He was already a squad commander, but he still had to work as a guard? It would make more sense for him to work in the Administration Office as a duty officer's gopher, so why was he here?
Ju Yeong-Gi recognized him and waved his hand.
“What the hell are you doing here, you brat?”
Jang Jae-Hwan smirked.
“Brat? You dumbass, I'm older than you.”
“…Ahahaha. Jae-Hwan Hyung, what brings you here?” Ju Yeong-Gi playfully scratched the back of his head.
Jang Jae-Hwan laughed.
“I had a feeling that you two would try to sneak out of here first thing in the morning without saying goodbye.
My senior is about to leave, so I should do the right thing and properly see him off, no? Well, we ain't gonna force the juniors to wake up from their dreamland, but, hey.
A little less sleep won't hurt us, right?”
“Us?” Ju Yeong-Gi tilted his head.
“He's got a point, you know,” said Lee Sang-Yeop as he exited the other guardhouse with a bright smile on his face.
“Will you look at these two morons? Looks like it's mass dementia, isn’t it?” Ju Yeong-Gi tried to mock them, but he was also laughing away good-naturedly.
“You think I'll be impressed by this, you dumbass?”
“Hah, this fella.
Still the same till the end, eh?” Lee Sang-Yeop helplessly shook his head, still grinning away.
It's time to go, ahjussis.
Hurry on getting outta here and regain your humanity, will ya? We'll be following you soon afterward.”
“Hah, these brats.
Really now…” Ju Yeong-Gi barely managed to hold his laughter.
Even Kang Jin-Ho faintly smiled.
Jang Jae-Hwan and Lee Sang-Yeop stood smartly at attention with serious expressions on their faces.
When Jang Jae-Hwan and Lee Sang-Yeop performed a splendid salute, Kang Jin-Ho and Ju Yeong-Gi followed suit and saluted back.
“Now, get lost!” Jang Jae-Hwan yelled at them.
Ju Yeong-Gi clenched his fist and playfully waved it around.
“Wha…? This punk…!”
“Did you just call me punk?!”
The four of them hugged and patted each other's back for one last time.
However, even during this emotional farewell, there was still one person who didn't get emotional at all as he acted like a wet blanket.
The guard captain making a cramped face exited the guardhouse and started whining loudly.
“Argh, just leave already, please! Why the hell are Charlie's One, Two, Three, and Four holding a farewell party in front of my yard?! I can't even catch a shut-eye because of you lot!”
“Hah, stop whining, will ya?” Ju Yeong-Gi playfully brushed aside the complaints, then looked back at the base with a slightly rueful expression on his face.
He stood still for a while, his eyes taking in the sight of the Charlie company for one last time.
Kang Jin-Ho patiently waited before calling out to him.
“Let's get going, Yeong-Gi.”
“Y-yeah.” Ju Yeong-Gi nodded and dragged his unwilling feet out of the guardhouse.
“…It's really over.”
“Yeah, it is.”
“I'm never gonna come back here.
Hell, I ain't even gonna piss in this direction, I swear!” Ju Yeong-Gi loudly complained, but his expression was still filled with melancholy.
He and Kang Jin-Ho slowly trudged down the mountain road leading out of the base while being sent off by the passing junior soldiers.
It was the end.
The end of this lengthy military life.
In Korea, a freshly-discharged soldier must also serve as a reservist for another eight years. ☜
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