Time Moves On (6)
The sun was dipping below the horizon, its crimson-amber glow setting the world alight.
Kang Jin-Ho and Park Yu-Min were the only students left in the classroom.
Others were either in cram schools or the library to get the last bit of study done before the D-Day.
Kang Jin-Ho was almost done packing up, so Park Yu-Min decided to hang around in the classroom to wait.
While waiting, he muttered, “I guess you'll be attending a university, then.”
Kang Jin-Ho shrugged his shoulders.
“I wouldn't have bothered with studying if that wasn't my plan.”
“I guess…” Park Yu-Min nodded.
“What about you? You don't want to attend?”
Park Yu-Min ruefully grinned.
“Rather than I don't want, it's more like not really possible for me.”
Kang Jin-Ho cocked an eyebrow.
“Mm? How come?”
“There's the issue with the tuition fee, you see.”
“Even though you must've gotten financial support for your studies?”
“If I'm being honest, hoping to get accepted by any of the good universities with my current grades is just too unrealistic.
I might as well give up on those located near Seoul.
But I can't go to a university that's too far from here, either.
what about my career? And who'll take care of the orphanage?”
Kang Jin-Ho asked in a slightly confused voice, “Don't you have nursery teachers working in the orphanage?”
“That's true, but…
I think I need to be there.”
I guess your current priority isn't with tertiary education but winning tournaments.” Kang Jin-Ho sighed and nodded.
“You reached the semi-final, so that's not too bad.”
Park Yu-Min grinned sheepishly.
Kang Jin-Ho's expression suddenly crumpled.
“You don't want to die now, do you?”
Park Yu-Min shrunk back in surprise.
“What do you mean?”
“You cannot lose to anyone.
You losing is the same as me being worse than your opponent.”
“Is that so?” Park Yu-Min tilted his head.
Kang Jin-Ho growled menacingly, “That's why you better win the next tournament.”
“It's not as easy as it sounds, you know.”
“I know it's not easy.
Even then, you still have to win.
It wouldn't have mattered when you were not involved, but now that you are, you have to see it till the end.
Besides, your career doesn't have a long lifespan, either.
You gotta give it your all right now.”
“I know.” Park Yu-Min grinned, but his expression suddenly became serious.
Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head.
“Why the sudden gratitude?”
“Thanks for the matter with the orphanage, and the one before that too,” said Park Yu-Min in a sincere voice.
Kang Jin-Ho raised his hand.
You're making me uncomfortable.”
“And out of them all…”
“Thank you for being my friend.”
Kang Jin-Ho tutted loudly.
Something about this conversation was making him cringe a bit.
Honestly, he found it difficult to listen to this with a straight face.
“You feeling okay, Yu-Min?”
“No, I'm serious.
I'm most thankful for that.
You're my only friend, you know.”
“In-Gyu and Tae-Ho will be sad if they hear you.”
Park Yu-Min shook his head.
“Sure, they are 'friends,' but…
They wouldn't even have talked to me if it wasn't for you.”
“Mmhm. You're right about that.
While laughing, Kang Jin-Ho glanced at Park Yu-Min's leg.
That was something he couldn't fix with his powers.
If he could, he would have done so already.
Was that why? Was that his reason for being so friendly to Park Yu-Min? Because this boy with a bum leg reminded him of his past self confined to a wheelchair? Did Kang Jin-Ho want to comfort his past self by helping Park Yu-Min out in this era?
He couldn't outright say that didn't play a part.
If Park Yu-Min's leg was fine, Kang Jin-Ho wouldn't have paid him much attention to him in the first place, after all.
However, this was only a part of the reason why.
It was just that…
Kang Jin-Ho thought Park Yu-Min was alright.
Regardless of what the actual reason was, that fact would not change.
That was what friends were supposed to be like, right? Friends wouldn't care much about reasons and would simply be happy about hanging out together to have a more enjoyable life.
'That's what friends are for…'
Kang Jin-Ho rubbed his chin.
“By the way, you reached the semis, huh.”
“Yeah, I already told you.”
“I wonder, will that be enough, then?”
“Enough for what?” Park Yu-Min tilted his head.
I'll tell you once I'm more sure of it,” said Kang Jin-Ho with a simple shake of his head.
“Ow, come on, that's lame.”
All of a sudden, the classroom door slid open, and Han Se-Yeon stormed inside.
The first thing she did was scrunch her nose.
“Urgh! Can't you two get a room or something?!”
“Tsk.” Kang Jin-Ho clicked his tongue.
But Park Yu-Min's reaction was totally different.
It was way too serious.
“I, I'm sorry! I didn't know there was a madam in the picture already!”
“Who is the madam here?!”
Park Yu-Min freaked out at a chair flying toward him and quickly dodged to the side.
“Don't throw that! My body is my only asset, you know!”
Han Se-Yeon glared at Park Yu-Min as her face burned up.
She then shifted her sharp gaze over to Kang Jin-Ho.
“You! Come with me for a second.”
“Stop kicking up a fuss and just come with me, will you?!” Han Se-Yeon yelled at him.
Kang Jin-Ho glanced at Park Yu-Min for assistance, but the latter simply shooed him away as if he didn't want to get involved here.
“Hmm…” Kang Jin-Ho grunted and followed Han Se-Yeon outside the school building.
They reached the school's athletics field.
Han Se-Yeon stared at Kang Jin-Ho for a while before finally saying something, “…You!”
“Why were you taking your sweet time like that?”
I was waiting for you until you finished studying, so the least you could've done was leave as quickly as possible! Why did you stay in the class and get all lovey-dovey with Yu-Min?!”
“…Can you rescind that lovey-dovey whatever from your statement?”
“I'm not wrong, though?”
“…So, you were waiting for me?”
“Yes, I was!”
Kang Jin-Ho shrugged his shoulders.
“You must have something to say to me, then.
Now that the stage was all hers, Han Se-Yeon suddenly became speechless and could only stare at Kang Jin-Ho with a slightly flustered face.
And then, finally…
“B-best of luck on the entrance exams, okay!”
“You were waiting just to say that?”
Kang Jin-Ho quietly tutted, “You could've told me that tomorrow.
We still have to show up at school, after all.”
“We won't be here for long, though.
And we are not even in the same class, so what if we end up missing each other?”
Kang Jin-Ho thought that missing each other for one day wouldn't kill anyone since they weren't saying goodbye for the rest of their lives, anyway.
Nothing would change just because they wouldn't speak to each other for one day now, would it?
“…Thanks.” Still, Kang Jin-Ho chose to be polite about it and reciprocated the sentiment.
“Best of luck to you, too.”
“You gotta do your best, okay?”
“Yes, I got it.”
Han Se-Yeon crossed her arms across her chest.
“Seriously now, you gotta get a good score! You mustn't get some lukewarm score and end up in some lame no-name university.
My mom will kill me if I get into a worse uni than Jaegyeong, you know!”
“What are you even talking about?” Kang Jin-Ho failed to understand what she was trying to say here and tilted his head in puzzlement.
“I'm just saying, do your best!”
“Don't worry about that.
I will do my best.
If that's all you have to say, then I'm leaving.
Han Se-Yeon watched Kang Jin-Ho enter the school building again to get back to his class and could only stomp her feet on the poor ground.
“Is he from the Joseon era or something? How can a guy be that dense?!”
Unfortunately, she was not aware of a crucial fact.
Since his birth, and also during his second life in Zhongyuan, Kang Jin-Ho…
had never gone on a date with a woman.
Indeed, he was a Wizard Supreme in the 'solo player' legion who had lived through two lifetimes that way! Since she didn't know that, however, Han Se-Yeon could only return home fruitless for yet another day.
On the day of the entrance exams…
Kang Yu-Hwan started the encouragement train first.
“Do your best, son.”
Then, Baek Hyeong-Jeong joined in.
“Don't be too nervous, Jin-Ho! I've packed easy-to-digest food for your lunch.
Having a good, fulfilling meal will help you with your exams.”
“Got it, Mother.”
Finally, it was Kang Eun-Yeong's turn.
“Oppa, I know you can do it! But don't pick the wrong answers by accident, okay!”
Baek Hyeon-Jeong rapidly slapped her daughter's back, causing a loud yelp to escape from the girl's lips.
“You shouldn't be saying such things to your brother when he's about to participate in one of the most important exams in his life! Stop jinxing him!”
“But, Mom! I'm just wishing him luck!”
Kang Jin-Ho chuckled at the lively send-off and climbed on Golden Elephant.
His father wanted to give him a ride to the exam site but gave up on the idea after Kang Jin-Ho insisted that commuting as he had always been doing was the best way to maintain his mental state.
Kang Jin-Ho's exam site was another school located next to Dongmyeong High.
While feeling a little excited, he stepped inside his assigned test location.
He sensed his breathing quickening somewhat.
This didn't come as a surprise to him, though, considering what today signified for him.
'Am I getting nervous?'
Kang Jin-Ho calmed his breathing.
To think that he was getting nervous about participating in an exam—what a laughable notion that was.
Heavenly Crimson Demon Emperor didn't even bat an eyelid on many battlefields where death was at every corner, yet the prospect of answering questions on some bits of paper made him tense up so much? If the folks of Zhongyuan who knew him heard that, they would definitely die from laughing.
'Get a grip, Kang Jin-Ho.'
He breathed in and out deeply several times, eventually stabilizing himself.
His now-cold eyes took in the figure of the examiner entering the classroom.
After a quick explanation, the test papers finally reached Kang Jin-Ho's desk.
He quietly closed his eyes.
He had accumulated more than enough knowledge for this day.
And now, it was time to put what he had learned to good use.
With his eyes still closed, Kang Jin-Ho began rousing up his Asura qi.
The original name of the Records of Asura was actually 'nameless cultivation technique.' His master had told him this while imparting this cultivation technique: “There is no name for it.
And since there's no name, let's just call it the nameless technique.”
What a sloppy way to name something…
Unfortunately, though, its namelessness became a source of confusion.
Whenever people in Zhongyuan asked Kang Jin-Ho for the name of his cultivation technique, he would reply that it was nameless.
That prompted the peanut gallery to start calling it the Records of Asura on their own, without his permission.
As the person bearing the title of Crimson Demon had gained more notoriety, the fame of the Records of Asura had also reached fame along with him.
Eventually, people had come to accept that this Asura-whatever was Crimson Demon's original cultivation method without even bothering to ask for Kang Jin-Ho's opinion on the matter!
Despite the vicious-sounding name of the Records of Asura, the nameless cultivation technique was one of the more 'gentler' martial arts in circulation.
It was just that Kang Jin-Ho had accumulated an inordinate amount of murderous aura in him by living a life full of slaughter and blood, thus making his nameless martial technique seem utterly invincible under the heavens.
The principle of the nameless technique was rather simple—strengthening every facet of a person's abilities.
Zhongyuan's various cultivation techniques built upon the foundation of qi focused on accumulating energy and unleashing it when necessary.
However, the nameless technique Kang Jin-Ho had mastered focused on amplifying the body's abilities to their limits, while the qi gathered in one's dantian acted as a sort of an assistant instead.
This meant Kang Jin-Ho's entire body had been molded into a killing weapon, allowing him to gain quite a reputation in Zhongyuan.
His cultivation method strengthened his entire body, which naturally included his brain.
While circulating the 'Asura qi,' Kang Jin-Ho's senses would become abnormally sharper, and his brain would process things several dozen times faster.
Its main drawback was the short duration, and the consumption of qi and stamina was nothing to scoff at, either.
However, today was different.
He could easily adjust the duration since the challenge this time was simply answering some questions.
After confirming that his 'Asura qi' was circulating properly, Kang Jin-Ho quickly read all the questions.
Answering them would come later.
Right now, he was fine with checking out the questions he would have to face.
Once he was done perusing the questions, he finally began applying Asura qi to overclock his brain.
The flow of time slowed down almost immediately.
Kang Jin-Ho began solving the questions at a breakneck pace.
He quickly ticked the answer to the questions he knew, while unhesitantly skipping the ones he wasn't sure of.
And only five minutes later, he had solved all the questions except for two.
He now found himself with too much time remaining and not much else to do.
He leisurely solved the remaining two questions but he still ended up with too much time to kill.
As such, he decided to slump on his desk and doze off.
Performing the breathing technique in the middle of the class was out of the question, so he needed to minimize the consumption of his stamina and mental strength somehow.
In that case, sleeping was the best way to do just that.
Kang Jin-Ho got through all the subjects in this manner.
He watched the collection of the answer sheets for the final texts, then lowered his arms resting on his head.
A lengthy sigh escaped his lips on its own.
The National University Entrance Exams he had been preparing for one whole year had finally ended today.
Compared to his preparations, the tests themselves had come to an end far too quickly, leaving behind this unexplainable rueful feeling in his heart.
But this day of the exams held a greater significance to Kang Jin-Ho—this day signaled the end of the life he once knew, after all.
If the events proceeded as they did in his previous life, Kang Jin-Ho and his entire family would have been victims of a car accident a month ago.
Afterward, he would have spent the remainder of his life stuck inside a room, refusing to go outside.
That was how his first life played out.
But that didn't happen this time.
The biggest crossroad—the point of change—was safely negotiated, then he had even managed to deal with the entrance exams, too.
And with that, his new and unknown life began in earnest.
Kang Jin-Ho heeded the examiner's order by picking up his school bag and exiting the classroom.
He climbed up on Golden Elephant and, unlike his usual self, leisurely pedaled away.
What a strange feeling…
Kang Jin-Ho looked up at the evening sky as the darkness crept over the amber hue.
The sky was still looking down on him from above.
Finally, Kang Jin-Ho's second life in the modern era had begun in earnest.
A smile slowly formed on his lips.
The anticipation of this new life was making his heart race faster and faster.
“I'm sure it'll get amusing from now on.”
Kang Jin-Ho picked up the pace and headed back home.
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