The Demon Emperor Has Returned (6)
Everyone had once thought of being a hero.
The crucial bit was whether they would go through with it or not.
Unsurprisingly, most ordinary people couldn’t do it when it mattered.
“The cut isn't as deep as I thought.
And I don't see much damage to your muscle tissues either,” said the doctor as he finished closing the wound by wrapping it in bandages.
“Wait a minute.
A patient was injured inside the hospital's premises, so…
Who's gonna get blamed for this? Are you thinking of suing the hospital?”
Kang Jin-Ho muttered back in confusion, “Sue the hospital?”
The hospital isn't technically free of responsibility in this case, you see.”
“Responsibility, is it…”
Kang Jin-Ho found the doctor's observation rather strange.
He made the choice to butt in and got injured in the process, yet the hospital was to blame somehow?
“If that's not your plan, then it's fine.
The atmosphere in the hospital's been scary lately, you see? If there's a lawsuit on top of that, then all of us might end up on a chopping block or something,” said the young doctor.
“I see,” Kang Jin-Ho replied quietly, but he still couldn't understand it.
He lived in an era where taking responsibility for one's own actions was the accepted norm.
That made the modern era's legal system full of confounding mysteries to his common sense.
What was even more strange was that he couldn't understand why it felt so weird to him.
Even if he had been living for a long time in Zhongyuan, Kang Jin-Ho was born here and had lived for over three decades in the modern era before Zhongyuan.
As such, this feeling of alienation from the world he was born in seemed like a funny joke to him.
'I'm sure it'll gradually get better.'
Indeed, he simply needed a little more time.
It hadn't been all that long since he returned, after all.
“Alright, all done.
I've already spoken to the department of surgery, so a doctor from there will stop by your room during his rounds tomorrow,” said the doctor.
“Thank you.” Kang Jin-Ho got up and exited the ER to find Detective Yi Jong-In waiting for him outside the door.
“Are you okay now?” the detective asked in a slightly worried voice.
“Yes, I am.”
Detective Yi Jong-In sighed a little, then patted Kang Jin-Ho on the back. “There are a couple of things you gotta help me with writing up the statement, but I guess it's a bit tough for you to hold a pen right now.
I'll come back either tomorrow or the day after, so can you do that for me then?”
“And, also…” Detective Yi Jong-In faltered a little before he continued. “Thanks, kid.”
“We got the bastard, and the hostage was rescued safely, too.
We know that's our job, but things like red tape and the matter of responsibility often stop us from making a move, you see.
I thought the frustration would finally kill me back there, but you really saved my hide, kid.
Thank you.” Detective Yi Jong-In bowed his head in a genuine display of his gratitude.
“It wasn't much, officer.” Kang Jin-Ho quickly tried to stop the cop.
Detective Yi Jong-In raised his head only for his expression to harden instantly.
He began yet another round of lectures right away.
“Even though it worked out fine this time, don't you dare do the same thing the next time, okay? Don't be that idiot who gets killed while trying to be a hero.
In an ideal world, good people always get rewarded for their good deeds, but…
That's not how the real world works, unfortunately.”
Everything he said might sound like nagging, but Kang Jin-Ho didn't find it unpleasant.
Perhaps the detective's sincerity managed to reach him through his words.
“Understood.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded slightly.
Take care of yourself.
I'm Yi Jong-In, by the way.”
“I'm Kang Jin-Ho.”
Bye for now.” Detective Yi Jong-In lightly patted Kang Jin-Ho a couple of times on the shoulder before going outside the hospital.
Once the cop left through the automatic doorway, Kang Jin-Ho turned around to head back to the lobby.
He found doctors, nurses, other hospital staff, and several detectives working hard to control the situation in the lobby.
Kang Jin-Ho stood there and observed them for a while when someone rushed up to him.
“Excuse me, sir!”
“Can I help you?”
“You fought against the criminal earlier, didn't you?”
It was the nurse who took Ji-Eun away a little while ago.
She continued to explain the situation to him.
“Ji-Eun was looking for you, actually.
Due to her heart condition, she needs to be stable at all times, but that incident earlier made it almost impossible for us to calm her down.
Her parents are on their way, but they'll still take some time to get here, so…
I'm really sorry about this, but can you go and see her?”
“Please lead the way.”
Kang Jin-Ho had no reason to refuse. He didn't have much to do other than watching TV while staying in the hospital, anyway. Since his arm had been treated, he was thinking of heading back to his ward and then finding a way to kill some time.
Having something to do like this was always a welcome distraction in his book.
The nurse bowed her head to express her gratitude before guiding him upstairs.
Kang Jin-Ho didn't say anything else and followed her.
But his expression wavered a little when they reached the floor labeled 'pediatrics.’
“Wait, don't do that!”
“I wanna go home!”
Shrill cries tore into his hearing from seemingly every direction.
'It's almost at the level of a sonic attack…'
Kang Jin-Ho's hands began trembling subtly.
He had already found so many modern era-specific things that were so difficult to get used to, and it seemed that a new item was added to that list.
Sure, the children of Zhongyuan also cried a lot, but the decibels of the modern kids had to be in another realm altogether.
Children crying might sound the same, but something about these kids felt louder somehow and more ear-piercing than those children of Zhongyuan.
The nurse apologetically explained to him.
“I know it's a little noisy in here, but please bear with us.
They are still kids, you see. Ah, please come this way.”
The two of them headed to the deeper part of the ward, and the nurse opened one of the doors found there.
A girl lying on a bed immediately entered Kang Jin-Ho's view.
He then noticed all sorts of wires and objects dangling out from under her patient gown, which were connected to a medical device next to the bed.
“Outer Space Oppa!” The girl with a wane complexion smiled brightly the moment she saw Kang Jin-Ho.
“Mmhm!” Kang Jin-Ho nodded, inwardly noticing that even her bright smile seemed to lack vitality for some reason.
“Does it hurt a lot?”
The girl, Ji-Eun, shook her head.
“Nah, I feel a lot better already.”
Despite her brave-sounding words, her complexion still looked sickly.
“Ji-Eun, here!” A nurse took out a red object from her pocket and handed it over to Ji-Eun.
“Mhm! Thanks, big sis!” The girl happily received the object and then pushed it toward Kang Jin-Ho.
“Here, take it!”
Kang Jin-Ho wordlessly stared at the red cylindrical object presented before his eyes.
A can of cola? A chuckle involuntarily broke out of his lips. Just how much love did she think he had for cola anyway?
Ji-Eun replied triumphantly, “I know you like cola, and I wanted to say thanks, so here it is.”
Kang Jin-Ho thought her attitude was rather adorable and chuckled softly.
Kang Jin-Ho pushed the tab in and opened the can.
The scent of the sweet carbonated drink wafted out of the can, accompanied by the hiss of the escaping gas.
Kang Jin-Ho stared at the cold drink with a slightly tense expression before bringing the can closer to his lips to take a sip.
He looked so determined while doing that, too.
The carbon dioxide, still playing the villain to his senses, began tormenting him once more.
“Kya-hahaha!” Ji-Eun burst into a happy peal of laughter while watching his struggles.
Children were supposed to be prone to fits of laughter, but this girl seemed to lose it even at the most trivial things.
“Ji-Eun, you mustn't laugh so much like that.
It's not good for your heart, you know!” The nurse hurriedly tried to stop the girl.
Ji-Eun pouted cutely.
“I can't even laugh now?”
“Stimulating your heart too much will make the pain act up again, Ji-Eun.
You must listen to what the doctor told you.”
“Okaaay, I get it,” the girl replied dejectedly.
Kang Jin-Ho could only sigh while listening to them.
Ji-Eun wasn't even allowed to laugh now? Yes, she was sick, but did that mean that she also had to kill her emotions? What was a little girl supposed to do after being told to suppress her own emotions like this?
A child should grow up like a child.
Laugh when they wanted to laugh and cry when they wanted to cry.
Kang Jin-Ho knew all too well how miserable a child could get if they weren’t allowed to express their emotions.
Ji-Eun began explaining what happened to Kang Jin-Ho.
“I was taking a stroll and minding my own business, but that guy just jumped out of nowhere to grab me.
I was so surprised, you know? My chest was hurting so much back then.”
“But when you stepped out of the crowd…
I don't know why, but I felt so relieved, you know?”
“That's good to hear.”
“Boo…” Ji-Eun pouted and glared at Kang Jin-Ho as if she was unhappy about something, but then, she suddenly exploded in a peal of laughter again.
“Ah, that must be it! Oppa, your Korean is bad, am I right?”
“Well, you're from outer space, and that must be why you can only reply like that!”
Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head at the laughing kid.
What was so funny? Why was she laughing in the first place? He had no clue what was going on here but he still felt glad to see her laughing like that again.
The nurse cried out, “Ji-Eun, I told you not to laugh!”
The girl poked her tongue out.
“Big sis, did you know that you nag too much? That's why you're still not married yet.”
“…T-that's not true, you know?” The nurse was visibly trembling, but she desperately held herself back since getting angry at Ji-Eun was not an option.
Kang Jin-Ho wordlessly averted his gaze away from the nurse and stared only at the girl as he dearly wished to avoid becoming collateral damage.
They chatted for a while until the girl's mother flung the door open and hurriedly rushed inside.
“Ji-Eun! Oh my gosh, Ji-Eun! Are you alright?!”
Ji-Eun’s brave front finally broke down as she burst into tears the moment she saw her mother.
She pretended to be fine and all, but a child was still a child; there was no way she would be okay after going through something most grown-ups would have trouble dealing with mentally.
Kang Jin-Ho got up, knowing that his job was finished.
He also didn't have a reason to stick around and eavesdrop on a conversation between a mother and her daughter, so he unhesitantly stepped outside the room.
But the girl's mother followed him outside.
He looked back at her.
“I heard about what happened.
You saved my daughter's life.”
“It was nothing, ma'am.”
“Thank you so much.
I was so worried because of Ji-Eun's illness…”
Kang Jin-Ho narrowed his eyes.
“Is it serious?”
“I'm sorry?” Ji-Eun's mother looked confused, perhaps not understanding what he was asking about.
Kang Jin-Ho clarified himself.
“Her illness, I mean.”
It's not as serious as you might think.
It doesn't impact her daily life too much, but…
No one knows when her condition will worsen,” Ji-Eun's mother replied with a sigh.
He didn't interrupt her and patiently listened as she continued.
“It would've been wonderful if we can operate on her, but the doctors say that we just can't.
I already checked with other hospitals, but they all told me the same thing…”
“They say she needs to be a little older before they can operate on her.
But no one can be sure if she'll last that long.”
Kang Jin-Ho quietly studied Ji-Eun's mother.
He only asked her to be polite, but judging from how talkative she was…
Ji-Eun's mother must've had a lot of things to get off her chest, too.
“In any case, thank you for everything you've done.” Ji-Eun's mother realized that she had talked too much and tried to end the conversation there.
Kang Jin-Ho quietly muttered, “What if…”
your daughter's illness goes away? What would you like to do, then?” he asked directly.
Ji-Eun's mother stared at him with a stupefied expression.
Why was this young man asking her such a cruel question?
I'd like to send her back to school.” However, she couldn't get angry at someone responsible for saving Ji-Eun's life.
So, she chose to be honest with her wishes instead.
“And I want to help her make new friends, too.”
“Understood.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded slightly before turning around to leave.
“Please take of yourself, ma'am.”
He sensed the girl's mother bowing her head to him as he walked away.
Kang Jin-Ho has a debt to settle with that child.
No, wait—it'd be more correct to say that 'he had' since that debt had been repaid by now. One could say that saving a life for a can of cola sounded like the deal of the century.
As such, he had no more reasons to help that kid out.
Kang Jin-Ho was the type to clearly distinguish favours and grudges.
If he owed someone, he made sure to always pay it back.
As he had already repaid her, nothing was tying him to the girl anymore.
Kang Jin-Ho's gaze drifted lower to the can of cola in his hand.
'I owe her for something else, then.'
He simply had to repay all favors he received along the way.
Which meant that he now had to repay Ji-Eun for this new favor, too.
Yes, he knew that this was pushing it, but Kang Jin-Ho still made up his mind to go through with it nonetheless.
He hated owing someone for no good reason just as much as showing kindness to others on a whim.
That was why it was time for him to repay that girl for the favor he owed her.
This can of cola was that favor, of course.
Kang Jin-Ho's plan was to match her goodwill, no more, no less.
Would the other party think of his repayment as too excessive? He wouldn’t know and he didn’t care. After all, he had already made a decision.
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