Going to the Assigned Base (2)
The next morning…
Did you enjoy your sleep, ahjussis?”
“…Yes, thank you.”
Corporal Yun Tae-Yeong from the day before showed up again.
With a good-natured smile seemingly glued to his face, he led Kang Jin-Ho and Ju Yeong-Gi to the smoking area.
“Here, please have some smoke.”
Kang Jin-Ho and Ju Yeong-Gi accepted the offer.
“Charlie indicated that a driver will arrive here past ten.
Which means you only need to wait for a little while longer, ahjussis.
Have you finished packing your bags?”
The two privates nodded.
“Yes, we have.”
Well, today is the start of your military life, then.
Please, do your best!” Yun Tae-Yeong replied enthusiastically.
However, why did his face saying that seem so slightly annoying at that very moment? Kang Jin-Ho shook his head, and then after only two quick puffs, he stubbed the cigarette out.
Ju Yeong-Gi was taken aback.
“Hey! Why are you throwing away a perfectly-good cigarette?”
“I'm thinking of quitting.”
“Have you lost your mind, Jin-Ho?”
Kang Jin-Ho replied nonchalantly, “I didn't see the point of continuing smoking when it's not even good for my health.
I did smoke out of habit whenever someone offered me some, but I figured it's about time to quit for good.”
Ju Yeong-Gi became gravely serious.
“Just say yes when someone offers you a smoke, then give it to me, alright?”
“…Got it.” Kang Jin-Ho slowly nodded, thinking Ju Yeong-Gi could actually be quite quick-witted in matters like this.
While they smoked away, the door suddenly opened, and a soldier peeked his head inside.
“Corporal Yun Tae-Yeong, sir.”
“Yeah?” Yun Tae-Yeong replied while looking at the soldier.
“Charlie's vehicle is here, sir.
They want their ahjussis to come outside.”
“Alright, got it.” Yun Tae-Yeong nodded, then he gestured at Kang Jin-Ho and Ju Yeong-Gi.
“Ahjussis, follow me.”
The duo followed Yun Tae-Yeong outside the residence hall and was greeted by a small truck parked in front.
A soldier climbed out of the passenger seat and began to scan Kang Jin-Ho and Ju Yeong-Gi.
A smirk floated on his face next.
“Hmm, pretty good physiques on these kids, I see.
Must be strong too, I bet.” The soldier with a staff sergeant insignia walked up and patted the duo on the back.
We'll have plenty of time to get acquainted later.
For now, it's time to head to our base.”
Kang Jin-Ho and Ju Yeong-Gi obediently climbed into the truck's load bay.
The staff sergeant secured the safety net across the bay before entering the passenger side of the cabin.
The truck set off almost right away.
Ju Yeong-Gi stared straight at Kang Jin-Ho and muttered, “When you think about it, don't you think it's funny?”
“What is?” Kang Jin-Ho cocked an eyebrow.
“Right up until the end, I'm stuck with you.”
Kang Jin-Ho nodded contemplatively.
“Seems that way.”
Ju Yeong-Gi's cheeks twitched.
Not once did he imagine that he would end up in the same company as a dude he almost had fisticuffs with out of a purely bad first impression.
Even then, knowing Kang Jin-Ho was sitting across from him inside this dark truck gave Ju Yeong-Gi a certain sense of security.
“Hey, Jin-Ho?” Ju Yeong-Gi cautiously raised his voice again.
Kang Jin-Ho looked up.
“If you think I'm gonna cause a scene, you gotta stop me.”
“Got it,” Kang Jin-Ho replied in an unconcerned tone.
Ju Yeong-Gi narrowed his eyes.
“Promise me, alright?”
“I said, I got it.”
Ju Yeong-Gi was dissatisfied with Kang Jin-Ho's curt-sounding reply, but he chose not to retort.
He knew this was Kang Jin-Ho's style, after all.
Instead, he tried to explain himself, “You know how hot-headed I can be, right?”
“So, if you think I'm gonna do something stupid in a situation, promise me you'll try to stop me at least once.
Kang Jin-Ho flatly replied, “Got it.”
“I can't even tell if you're being serious or not…” Ju Yeong-Gi slowly shook his head.
It was rather hard to overcome this inexplicable frustration whenever he talked to Kang Jin-Ho.
Sometime later, the truck seemed to be going uphill as raucous noises of debris hitting its underside rang out in the load bay.
The previous base was already located pretty high up in altitude, so Kang Jin-Ho grew curious about just how much higher they would have to go.
Before long, though, he got his answer when the vehicle traveled through a guard checkpoint and entered a military base.
“Urgh…” Ju Yeong-Gi looked nervous as he clutched his duffel bag tightly.
'Hmm, it feels like we've come quite close to the frontline…'
Kang Jin-Ho studied the scenery from the back of the truck with mild interest.
Artillery gunners should be providing fire support from far back, so coming this close to the frontline was something even he hadn't expected.
His anticipation grew, wondering what new things were waiting for him in this place.
“Disembark, recruits!” The staff sergeant undid the safety net, allowing Ju Yeong-Gi and Kang Jin-Ho to climb out of the truck's cargo bay.
They also had to stop by an office with 'Battery Commander's Office' written on its door to listen to the usual sermon preached by the Battery Commander.
After the sermon, the office door opened, and two strapping young men walked inside.
They were both sergeants.
The Battery Commander addressed the duo, “Each of you take one of these recruits.”
“In that case, I shall take this one, sir.”
“And I'll take this guy here, sir.”
“Sure, sure.” The Battery Commander coolly nodded.
Kang Jin-Ho and Ju Yeong-Gi were basically dragged outside by the sergeants.
They silently exchanged glances before going their separate ways.
The sergeants led them in the opposite directions—even though they were assigned to the same battalion, it seemed that their squads and even the living quarters were different.
“Hey! The newbie is here!” The sergeant ahead of Kang Jin-Ho opened the door to the residence hall and shouted.
The hall became noisy in an instant.
“Finally! A new recruit!”
“Tae-Ho, dude! You've finally escaped from being the maknae! That sure took a while, eh? Congrats!”
“Yes, this is great!” The private 1st class, Seong Tae-Ho, walked up with a huge smile etched on his face and took over Kang Jin-Ho's duffel bag.
The sergeant issued a new order.
“Tae-Ho, you help the newbie settle in.
Hyeok-Su, you help, too.”
The sergeant then turned to Kang Jin-Ho.
“Your name is Jin-Ho, right?”
Kang Jin-Ho replied stiffly, “Yes, sir.”
“Come with me.
We're gonna have a talk first.”
The sergeant pulled out a foldaway desk from a corner, then settled down next to it.
Kang Jin-Ho sat on the opposite side and waited.
“My name is Choi Seong-Min.
However, you don't have to mind me.
I'll be gone from this place soon enough.
Meanwhile, the goofball behind you will become your new squad commander.
As for me, I'll be looking after you only for today.”
As soon as Choi Seong-Min's introduction ended, another sergeant silently looking on suddenly wrapped his arm around Kang Jin-Ho's shoulders.
He then spoke in a gentle-sounding voice, “Hey, maknae?”
Kang Jin-Ho cried out in response, “Private Kang Jin-Ho, sir!”
“I'm your squad leader from now on.
And the dude sitting before you is literally just an ahjussi.
A soon-to-be civilian ahjussi, no less.
So, don't mind him.”
Kang Jin-Ho shut his mouth, choosing not to reply.
Even he knew that saying nothing was for the best in this situation.
Choi Seong-Min tutted and continued, “Okay, Jin-Ho.
I'm going to ask some simple questions, so no need to get nervous.”
“Today happens to be Saturday, and everyone is taking it easy.
Getting used to our way of life should be easier for you than arriving here on a weekday,” said Choi Seong-Min.
The other sergeant butted in.
Once you're done chatting to this stinky old man, let's go and play some games! We even have a PlayStation here.”
Choi Seong-Min yelled in irritation, “Hey, you dumbass! Go away already, will ya!”
“Hah, this ahjussi…! You're about to get discharged, so why are you still so mean? Seriously now! Hurry up and go home before I start choking from your sour old man stink!”
“Say what?! Listen here, damn it! I also want to get out of here soon!” Choi Seong-Min chased away all the nosy onlookers, then resumed interrogating Kang Jin-Ho.
“Do you have a girlfriend outside?”
Kang Jin-Ho shook his head.
“Which video games did you play a lot?” The other sergeant, Jo Won-Gu, butted in again.
Choi Seong-Min ignored him and carried on with his questions.
“Are your parents still alive?”
“…Sir, my parents are still alive,” Kang Jin-Ho replied flatly.
Most of the questions were about miscellaneous things that made Kang Jin-Ho wonder about the point of this Q&A session.
Once his curiosity was satisfied, Choi Seong-Min closed his notebook.
You did great, kid.
From today onward, you're a part of the 3rd squad of Charlie artillery corps.
Be sure to listen to your seniors, okay?”
“Yes, sir.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded.
Choi Seong-Min raised his hand and summoned Tae-Ho.
“Private 1st Class, Seong Tae-Ho, sir!”
“Take this kid and show him where the shower is.
Then have him change into casual clothes. Oh, and make sure he is familiarized with all the important stuff, too.”
Seong Tae-Ho nodded quickly.
Choi Seong-Min asked in an unsure voice, “Tae-Ho, you do understand that educating this kid well during the waiting period will make your life easier moving forward, don't you?”
A private 1st class named Jeon Hyeok-Su quickly walked up and placed Seong Tae-Ho in a headlock before groaning loudly.
“But, Squad Commander.
This dummy doesn't know anything to teach the newbie, sir.”
Tae-Ho will do just fine,” Choi Seong-Min replied with a tut.
“Sir, we all know Tae-Ho is a well-behaved hard worker, but when was the last time he did anything properly?” Jeon Hyeok-Su grumbled while poking the back of Tae-Ho's head with a finger.
Choi Seong-Min retorted right back, “Oh? You want the job instead, then?”
“Eiii~, Squad Commander.
I'll be a corporal pretty soon, you know.
My days of educating a private are already over, sir.”
“In that case, keep your trap shut, will ya?” Choi Seong-Min tutted loudly.
“Understood, sir.” Jeon Hyeok-Su raised both hands in surrender and backed off.
Seong Tae-Ho sheepishly scratched the back of his head, then lightly grasped Kang Jin-Ho's shoulder.
“Private, your name is Jin-Ho?”
Private Kang Jin-Ho.”
“Let's head to the washroom.
Grab your toiletries and activewear.”
“Understood.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded.
After he was guided to the washroom, he took a quick shower, changed into his activewear, then followed Seong Tae-Ho to the lounge located outside the living quarter.
Seong Tae-Ho pulled out a packet of cigarettes.
“You smoke, Jin-Ho?”
Kang Jin-Ho was about to say that he had quit, but he remembered what Ju Yeong-Gi had told him earlier, so he quickly changed his reply, “Yes, sir.”
“Here.” Seong Tae-Ho smiled and pushed a cigarette forward.
“Thank you.” Kang Jin-Ho accepted the offered cigarette and silently mouthed it.
Seong Tae-Ho lit it up for him before pulling out his own.
The Private 1st Class glanced at Kang Jin-Ho.
“The boot camp was tough, wasn't it?”
Kang Jin-Ho stiffly replied, “No, sir.
It was fine.”
“It was really tough for me.
After arriving at the base, though? The stuff they taught us turned out to be mostly useless.”
“I also heard that's the case, sir.”
“Take one step at a time to learn, and you'll soon be on top of everything required of you.
Heck, just on looks alone, you're above A-grade already, anyway.”
“Thank you,” Just as Kang Jin-Ho replied, the door to the lounge flew open.
Jeon Hyeok-Su stepped inside while cursing loudly.
“What the f*ck?!”
Seong Tae-Ho shot up to his feet at this sudden intrusion.
Jeon Hyeok-Su didn't seem to care and continued with his tirade.
“A-grade, my ass! He looks like a dumbass to me.
Hey, Seong Tae-Ho!”
“Private 1st Class, Seong Tae-Ho!”
“You dipsh*t, don't you remember Sergeant Jo Won-Gu say he'll take the newbie to the game room?”
Seong Tae-Ho replied in a small voice, “I do, sir.”
“In that case, why did you take the kid out here and give him a smoke? Who the hell do you think you are, some kinda bigshot?”
If you can't even do your duties properly, at least be more quick-witted, will ya? Haven't you thought about the possibility of Sergeant Jo waiting for the newbie in the living quarter?”
Seong Tae-Ho's head faltered.
“I'm sorry, sir.”
“Argh, bloody hell! I'm so fed up with listening to your 'I'm sorry' all the time! Get your sh*t together!”
“I'm sorry, sir.”
“What the f*ck? Are you messing with me?” Jeon Hyeok-Su crumpled his empty cigarette packet and threw it at Seong Tae-Ho in anger.
Seong Tae-Ho couldn't dodge the projectile in time, and it hit him squarely on the face.
“I told you, I'm sick of hearing your 'I'm sorry,’ didn't I?! You dipsh*t!” Jeon Hyeok-Su growled menacingly.
“…You did, sir.”
“What? 'You' did? F*cking hell?!” Jeon Hyeok-Su marched straight over while oozing an intimidating aura.
He then disrespectfully patted Seong Tae-Ho's face with his palm, a loud sigh escaping from his mouth.
“Hah, you little sh*t.
Be thankful that we're in the army, you dipsh*t.
I'd have beaten you to death by now if we were on the outside.”
Seong Tae-Ho couldn't say anything; he simply lowered his head.
Jeon Hyeok-Su shifted his attention to Kang Jin-Ho next.
“Hey, Kang Jin-Ho?”
“Private Kang Jin-Ho, sir.”
Jeon Hyeok-Su approached Kang Jin-Ho before ruffling his hair.
“Hah, this guy.
Now that I look at you, you seem to have your wits about you, kid.
Don't get too nervous, alright? Finish your smoke and return to the living quarter with that dumbass.”
“Hah, you got a pretty energetic voice, don't ya?” Jeon Hyeok-Su cackled while ruffling Kang Jin-Ho's head some more.
However, his expression sharply changed as he shot glares in Seong Tae-Ho's direction.
He then turned around and headed back to the living quarter.
“Uh-whew…” Seong Tae-Ho spat out a lengthy groan once Jeon Hyeok-Su was gone.
With an awkward expression, he addressed Kang Jin-Ho, “Sorry about that.”
“Don't sweat it, sir.” Kang Jin-Ho shook his head.
“Well, Private 1st Class Jeon Hyeok-Su isn't a bad person, but he, uh, has a tendency of losing his temper sometimes, you see? However, you won't have to worry about that, as long as you fulfill your duties well, know what I mean? It's just that I can't seem to do that well…”
Listen to me, talking useless stuff like an old man.” Seong Tae-Ho stubbed his cigarette out before silently urging Kang Jin-Ho with a look in his eyes.
Kang Jin-Ho also killed his cigarette before following Seong Tae-Ho into the living quarter.
'I guess things won't be that simple here, huh…'
His brief analysis indicated that the atmosphere in the living quarter wasn't exactly 'peaceful.’ There was a hidden undercurrent of tension.
He began to understand the meaning behind the advice of the military life only starting for real after reaching his assigned base.
Kang Jin-Ho and Seong Tae-Ho stepped inside the living quarter, only to be greeted by Sergeant Jo Won-Gu rushing over.
Sergeant Jo placed his hands on Kang Jin-Ho's shoulders and smirked deeply.
“Private, did you get to smoke?”
Kang Jin-Ho quickly replied, “Yes, sir.
“Was it Tae-Ho who gave you the cigarette?”
Private 1st Class Seong Tae-Ho allowed me to have a smoke.”
Now that’s been taken care of, let's go and play some video games, shall we?”
Kang Jin-Ho was slightly taken aback.
“Sir? Are we allowed to do that?”
“Heh. Who's going to interfere when it's me?” Jo Won-Gu pulled Kang Jin-Ho toward the living quarter’s exit.
That was when Kang Jin-Ho sensed not-so-friendly gazes stabbing into his back.
In the military, one should behave to have an easier time.
However, Kang Jin-Ho suddenly had an epiphany that behaving might not be as simple as it sounded.
“Gee whiz. That kid looks like a kiss-ass, doesn't he?” Jeon Hyeok-Su grumbled while observing Kang Jin-Ho as the latter followed Jo Won-Gu outside the door.
“Why are all recruits such morons, I wonder? But getting wrecked at the beginning will sober him up real good, I bet. Heh, you're dead meat come Monday, kid.”
Unfortunately for Jeon Hyeok-Su, though…
He had no clue—no clue about what kind of recruit had just joined his squad.
According to Joongang Daily: “maknae” is a noun that refers to someone who is the youngest of a group.
It could mean the youngest member of a family, a company, or basically any type of group or community. ☜
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