Joining the Military (3)
Kang Jin-Ho looked around his vicinity.
“There seems to be a lot of people here…”
“That's because a lot of people are enlisting, son.” Kang Yu-Hwan sighed and glanced at his son while making an unimpressed expression.
“This is why you should've finished your freshman year at university first.
Son, haven't you heard about the term 'Wintertime Sergeant' before? If you enlist now, winter will come first before you become a sergeant.”
Kang Jin-Ho explained in a serious tone.
“The military service duration has gotten shorter these days, so I'll be discharged shortly after winter.”
Kang Yu-Hwan suddenly turned his head to stare pensively at a featureless mountain in the distance.
“As expected of Gangwon Province, the mountains here look wonderful.”
Unfortunately, Baek Hyeon-Jeong didn't leave him alone and decided to jab him with a cold retort, “You shouldn't have said anything if you don't know anything, dear.”
“Eheeem!” Kang Yu-Hwan could only loudly clear his throat.
Kang Jin-Ho observing their exchange began smiling faintly without realizing it.
This was what being a family was all about.
However, there still was a small problem.
And it involved one of the family members deeply pouting away right now.
The deeply pouting Kang Eun-Yeong glared at her older brother with the eyes of an angry predator.
Kang Jin-Ho groaned.
“What’s up with you?”
“How can you do this in good conscience?” Kang Eun-Yeong growled unhappily.
“What do you mean?”
“You should've said something about enlisting, you know?! Am I a stranger to you? How can you enlist without telling your one and only little sister?! Other families start acting all high and mighty and advertise half a year before their sons get shipped off to the army, you know?! Oppa, are you joining a super-secretive special ops team or something? Wait, maybe you are joining the anti-North spy agency?! Or the National Intelligence Service? You applied without a word to anyone, and Mom calls me one day before you're shipped away?! How does that even make sense?! Just how disinterested are you in your little sister's life that you—”
“H-hold on, Eun-Yeong.
It's all my fault.” Kang Jin-Ho hurriedly stopped his sister as cold sweat trickled down his forehead.
He assumed Kang Eun-Yeong hadn’t inherited their mother's talent for nagging and he had always been thankful for that.
Unfortunately, he was proven wrong today.
If she wasn't stopped now, she might lecture him for the next three days and nights!
“Oppa, do you have any idea how much trouble I got into while trying to change my schedule to come here?! Because of my impending debut, the agency has strictly planned every part of my daily schedule to the point of suffocation! So, can you even guess how insanely hard it was to get a day off?! Ah?! Can you imagine how hard it was for me?! The agency was so unwilling to listen that I even resorted to threatening them with a phone call to Mister Jo! After this fiasco, the trainers will get so angry at me for my lack of discipline! Because of your thoughtlessness, Oppa, I'm now judged as an undependable trainee! What will I do to change that perception now—”
“I'm r-really sorry about this.” Kang Jin-Ho sincerely apologized while thinking that dealing with the combined assault of the elders of the Ten Sects would have been so much more relaxing.
However, Kang Eun-Yeong still ruthlessly pressured him with a scary expression akin to a vengeful spirit.
'By the way, since when did we become this close?'
Kang Jin-Ho combed through his memories and couldn't quite recall him and his sister being this friendly even back in his first life.
“In any case! Oppa, you need to pay more attention to your surroundings! You can only remain indifferent up to a certain point before it's unacceptable, you know?”
“Yes, Eun-Yeong's right, son!”
The combined verbal assault of Kang Eun-Yeong and Baek Hyeon-Jeong left Kang Jin-Ho battered and bruised.
“N-No, wait a minute…”
Just before he could mount his defense, though, someone grabbed his shoulder and gently squeezed it.
Kang Jin-Ho looked back and found his father making a sage-like expression.
“Jin-Ho, listen to me.” Kang Yu-Hwan deeply stared at his son, then leaned closer to whisper, “Sometimes, a moment of silence is worth more than a thousand words, son.”
Kang Jin-Ho heard the advice born out of his father’s personal experience and silently nodded, agreeing to it.
Even he could tell making excuses now would be asking for more punishment.
Objectively speaking, he was at fault, after all!
Park Yu-Min, who tagged along to Chuncheon on impulse, smiled at this scene.
'So, this is what having a family is like…'
Park Yu-Min never got to experience this kind of interaction before.
Sure, he had the orphanage's director and his younger 'siblings,’ but he always had a vague feeling that being with them wasn’t the same as being with a real family.
Watching Kang Jin-Ho's family helped him figure out the difference.
Despite the harshness in their voices, worries and affection for each other could still be heard clearly.
More than anything else…
'Even Jin-Ho and his rotten personality can't fight back and have to keep his mouth shut, huh.'
People might mistakenly judge Kang Jin-Ho as a strong-silent type, but Park Yu-Min knew that he wasn’t that type of person.
He had seen enough of Kang Jin-Ho's quirks to know how rotten his friend's personality was.
For instance, Kang Jin-Ho acted 'politely' to others simply because he wanted to avoid annoying things.
Respect or stuff like that had nothing to do with it.
The number of people in this world Kang Jin-Ho saw as his equal could probably be counted on two hands.
However, someone like that still couldn't do anything against his family aside from just standing there and taking the beating.
That alone demonstrated the greatness of a family to Park Yu-Min.
Kang Eun-Yeong was still yelling at her older brother, “And why did you shave your head like that?!”
Kang Jin-Ho sighed and clamped his mouth shut.
“Your only good thing was your looks, so why did you have to ruin that, too!”
“Say what! Would you listen to this girl!? What are you saying about my son, Eun-Yeong! Look at how well-proportioned his physique is!” Baek Hyeon-Jeong butted right in there and rebuked her daughter.
“Well, you do have a point there, Mom.” Kang Eun-Yeong nodded in agreement.
While the mother-and-daughter duo was busy with their evaluation, Kang Yu-Hwan sneakily pulled his son alongside and asked, “Son, you do understand that you have to hold yourself back on some things, don't you?”
Kang Jin-Ho replied with a nod, “Yes, Father.
Don't worry about me.”
“You'll find that many things in the military are illogical and unfair.
Most people turn a blind eye because they know their enlistment is only for two years.
I know that doing the same as others will be tough for you because of your personality.
However, I want you to remember that some things in this world are better ignored to make your life easier, son.”
“I will remember that, Father.”
Kang Yu-Hwan could only sigh.
He knew very well that he had taught his son to never ignore injustice.
Even now, he wanted to tell his son to change the convention if something seemed illogical and that he should step forward to help if someone was being bullied.
But he couldn't say that in fear of his child getting hurt in the process of doing the right thing.
“I believe in you…”
So many emotions were contained in that brief statement.
This unexplainable ticklish feeling washed over Kang Jin-Ho as he listened to his father's frustrated yet still caring words.
Kang Jin-Ho tried to assuage his father's concerns.
“Father, people might think I'm being shipped off to war if they heard you.
Everyone goes to the army sooner or later, anyway.”
Listen, son, parents never feel that way.”
Kang Jin-Ho licked his lips with a wry expression on his face.
– All enlisting military personnel, please go and stand behind the signboard with your assigned number.
The announcement came out of the loudspeakers, prompting the young men chatting with their parents to head off to the military training ground.
Kang Jin-Ho addressed his family, “Well, I'm off now.”
Baek Hyeon-Jeong nodded.
We'll wait for your safe return!”
It was his father’s turn next.
“Jin-Ho, be careful while you're in there.”
“Oppa! Don't get hurt, okay!”
His mother continued to dab away at the corners of her eyes, but Kang Eun-Yeong didn't bother to wipe her tears while waving goodbye to her older brother.
'What an odd feeling this is…'
Kang Jin-Ho couldn’t help but mumble to himself as this ticklish feeling continued unabated from a corner of his chest.
He turned around and walked away while savoring this rather pleasant feeling.
“Jin-Ho, wait!” Park Yu-Min called out.
He quickly limped over and patted Kang Jin-Ho's shoulder.
“You don't have to worry about me, Yu-Min.”
“No, that's not it…”
“If you think a beating is unavoidable, don't go all the way and only beat them half to death, okay?”
“…?!” Kang Jin-Ho made a flabbergasted face at that recommendation.
However, Park Yu-Min maintained a grave expression while strongly beseeching his friend.
“You will be too ashamed to face your parents if you cause a scene in the military, Jin-Ho.
Even if you really, really wanna wreck someone, you gotta hold yourself back, okay? If you think you can't, then just go AWOL for a few days to cool off some steam!”
“Just what do you see me as, Yu-Min?!”
Park Yu-Min didn't back down and spoke in an even firmer voice, “I'm saying this because no one knows what you'll do if you get pissed for real!”
Got it…” Kang Jin-Ho helplessly shook his head.
Wasn't he being treated like a walking bomb or something? Besides, why was his so-called friend acting like this? It was as if Kang Jin-Ho had been causing lots of trouble until now.
Even worse, his family actually agreed with Park Yu-Min's assertion.
“Yes, son! You must hold yourself back!”
“Oppa, don't cause a scene in there, okay!”
“You heard us, son!”
Kang Jin-Ho could only chuckle bitterly.
'They don't trust me, do they?'
He believed his life after returning to the modern era was more or less exemplary.
Judging by his family's reaction, though, that didn't seem to be true.
Their reaction was probably influenced by the fact that they had been observing him from close by.
Kang Jin-Ho waved his hand.
I'm really going to be on my way now.”
Be careful on your way!”
“Son! Even if the food is horrible, don't skip the meals!”
“I believe in you, Jin-Ho!”
While listening to his family's emotional goodbyes, Kang Jin-Ho walked over to the area where the recruits were gathering.
– Our country will look after your children from this moment on.
Dear parents, please do not be anxious about your children and wait patiently for them to return as dependable adults!
“Oh, piss off, will ya?” Kang Yu-Hwan shed his composed outer appearance as soon as his son was some distance away and swore at the announcement coming from the loudspeakers.
“How can they even say that lie with a straight face when so many kids die in accidents every year?!”
Baek Hyeon-Jeong yelled at her husband, “Dear, you're going to jinx it by saying that!”
“Tsk.” Kang Yu-Hwan tutted, then stared at Kang Jin-Ho in the distance with some frustration.
Those who knew what the military was like would naturally be more frustrated by their knowledge.
Kang Eun-Yeong and Baek Hyeon-Jeong were both females, so they wouldn’t be subjected to Korea's compulsory enlistment.
As such, their emotions were mostly sorrow-related.
But Kang Yu-Hwan was different… He knew what lay ahead for his son, and that made him nearly faint from sheer frustration.
“Why did my son have to be so insanely healthy?”
If only Kang Jin-Ho was a little 'sick' somewhere, allowing him to be assigned to some other public service duties…
Kang Yu-Hwan kicked the ground a couple of times for no reason before turning around.
His heart ached the more he looked at his son standing in rank and file with the other recruits.
“Dear, I'm sure he'll be fine,” said Baek Hyeon-Jeong while squeezing her husband's hand.
Kang Yu-Hwan sighed and nodded.
“Yes, I agree.
He's our child, after all.”
Kang Eun-Yeong tilted her head and asked, “By the way, Mom?”
“Mm? What is it?”
“Since he's enlisting now, when will he get his first vacation?”
When will that be, dear?” Baek Hyeon-Jeong heard her daughter's question and asked her husband for clarification.
Kang Yu-Hwan rubbed his chin for a little while, then replied in uncertainty, “There used to be a vacation after one hundred days.
I wonder if that still applies these days.”
“Yes, it does, Uncle,” Park Yu-Min replied to clear the doubt. 
Kang Yu-Hwan nodded in satisfaction.
Then, Jin-Ho will be out in around one hundred days.
So that means between three and four months…”
“Really?” Kang Eun-Yeong blinked her eyes.
But why did you want to know?”
It's nothing major.” Kang Eun-Yeong shook her head.
She mouthed 'one hundred days' repeatedly, then nodded as determination filled up her face.
“In that case, within one hundred days!”
Kang Yu-Hwan looked at his daughter weirdly.
“Why are you talking to yourself, Eun-Yeong?”
“Well, I'm not old enough yet to show my filial duty, but still… I gotta help out with my Oppa's military life, right?!”
“What are you talking about, Eun-Yeong?”
“Well, there’s a thing, but I can't tell you about it yet.”
“Hmm. That's deflating,” said Kang Yu-Hwan with a little chuckle, then he turned his head slightly to wordlessly take in the sight of the recruits performing a group salute.
The group then walked to the back of the training ground and disappeared from view.
“Phew…” Kang Yu-Hwan sighed once more.
Since the enlistment was bound to happen sooner or later, he tried to be calm about it, but seeing his only son join the army still made his heart ache.
“Let's get going, then.”
Baek Hyeon-Jeong sighed ruefully.
“Just why does our son have to go through this, I wonder…”
“Every man must go through this stuff sooner or later, dear.”
“But what if something happens to him? What then?”
Park Yu-Min interjected, a bright smile blooming on his face.
“Please don't worry about Jin-Ho, Uncle, Auntie.”
“Jin-Ho won't get into accidents.
I’m sure of it.
His sixth sense is just too good for that, after all.”
“Thank you for saying that, Yu-Min.”
Park Yu-Min continued to smile, even though he refrained from muttering out the rest of his thoughts.
'Yup, the military base Jin-Ho is assigned to will be the one in trouble…'
Park Yu-Min sighed for a long time while no one was looking before taking one last glance at the empty spot where Kang Jin-Ho stood earlier.
'It's gonna get lonely without him.'
Kang Yu-Hwan placed his hand on Park Yu-Min's shoulder just then.
“Join us for lunch, Yu-Min.”
“Thank you, Uncle.”
“Since Jin-Ho's not around, things will get a little lonely for us.
So do make sure to often visit us, all right?”
“Of course,” said Park Yu-Min with an affirmative nod.
Kang Eun-Yeong grinned sheepishly.
Yu-Min Oppa is really busy, you know?”
You know he's a pro gamer, don't you? He'll get incredibly busy once the season begins.
I'm guessing it had been difficult for him to find enough free time to come here, Dad.”
“Oh, I see.” Kang Yu-Hwan smiled brightly, then playfully ruffled up Park Yu-Min's hair.
“This kid! Thanks.
Still, you do get days off, right? When you do, stop by our cafe.
Let me show you what properly-brewed coffee tastes like, okay?”
“You and your damned coffee, again!” Baek Hyeon-Jeong moodily snapped at her husband, prompting Kang Yu-Hwan to flinch and reflexively hide behind Park Yu-Min.
Park Yu-Min formed a cramped smile at this scene.
While enjoying this vague, unexplainable warmth in his chest, he took another, final glance at where Kang Jin-Ho had disappeared to.
'Look after yourself, my friend.'
In Korean culture, friends of your children would often refer to the father and mother as “아버지 (abeoji)” and “어머니 (eomeoni)” which literally translate to “father” and “mother” respectively.
Park Yu-Min originally used “father” in that context in this line, but I’ve decided to change that to “uncle” instead to reduce confusion.
“Mother” in this context will be translated as “aunt” in the future as well. ☜
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