Going to the Assigned Base (3)
Less than three days after Kang Jin-Ho's arrival, an increasing number of people began to discover that something was rather weird.
Jeon Hyeok-Su asked with a doubtful expression, “Maknae, did you memorize all of this already?”
Kang Jin-Ho nodded slightly.
“Really? All of it?”
Jeon Hyeok-Su's expression became even more suspicious as he stared straight into Kang Jin-Ho's eyes.
“Hah? Really now? This brat?”
Kang Jin-Ho was currently holding a notebook containing the minimum-necessary information and collated data meant to make his life in the new base as smooth as possible.
The truth was that forcing new recruits to memorize things this way was prohibited by regulation as it was seen internally as unreasonable.
The unfortunate reality was that memorizing stuff this way was simply unavoidable.
A recruit would be deployed straight into active service after two weeks of standby period, but how would that work when the said recruit didn't know the designated vehicle identification numbers, or even the basic information about being a sentry?
The lack of personnel, and a need to deploy the recruits into active service as quickly as possible, were unavoidable factors.
Even if that was the case, prohibiting forced memorization without any better alternatives in place was akin to ordering new recruits to go and hunt lions without using their guns.
Adding insult to injury was that no one wanted to take responsibility when the proverbial crap hit the fan.
Despite being responsible for creating such an ill-thought-out regulation, the politicians and the higher-ups always blamed the commander-level officers when a new recruit caused an incident saying it was their fault for providing poor education in the first place.
No wonder the commanders were less than willing to deal with that nonsense.
As such, every military base was currently turning a blind eye to the practice of forcing new recruits to memorize several crucial pieces of information during their standby period.
Jeon Hyeok-Su asked again.
“Did you really memorize everything?”
Kang Jin-Ho nodded affirmatively.
One might need more than two weeks to memorize every bit of information contained in that notebook, yet Kang Jin-Ho insisted he had done it in less than three days? No wonder Jeon Hyeok-Su was skeptical about it.
He sarcastically asked another question, “Reaaally? Then, who's using the 2354th base?”
It's the 56th brigade.”
Jeon Hyeok-Su was taken aback slightly.
“Then, what about 57th brigade?”
“Sir, it's the 2369th base.”
“Huh?” Jeon Hyeok-Su's jaw almost hit the floor.
He proceeded to ask several more questions, and only then did he accept the reality with a stupefied face.
This brat had really memorized every single piece of information contained in the notebook.
Moreover, he didn’t make even a single mistake in spelling! Jeon Hyeok-Su gulped back his drool and cautiously asked, “H-Hey, which university were you attending?”
“Sir? It's Jaegyeong Uni.”
“…Oh. You’re one of those brainy kids…” Jeon Hyeok-Su muttered.
He felt kind of relieved, knowing that a properly-useful recruit had joined their squad.
However, he also felt this slight irritation at the same time.
Why did it feel like a mere newbie was taking care of his duties too damn neatly? “Yo. Open your locker.”
“I don't care if you're a newbie or not.
A soldier should be well organized, and… Eh?”
Kang Jin-Ho unhesitantly opened his locker, and Jeon Hyeok-Su had to clamp his mouth shut at the view greeting him.
Eventually, he recovered his wits enough to ask yet another question, “Maknae?”
“Private Kang Jin-Ho, sir.”
“Does your family run a laundromat or something?”
My father runs a cafe.”
Jeon Hyeok-Su asked in disbelief while pointing at the locker's interior, “Really? Then, why are your combat uniforms folded so sharply that they might as well be a knife?! Hang on, can you even do that without an iron?!”
Kang Jin-Ho nodded.
You just have to press down hard during folding, sir.”
“Is that right?”
‘Of course not!’
How could human hands fold fabric to the point of resembling a bloody knife?! Jeon Hyeok-Su had been wearing his combat uniform for nearly a year, so he obviously knew that explanation was utter nonsense.
Despite knowing the truth, he still couldn't deny the reality right before his own eyes.
The clothes were straight-edged like tenons without even 1mm of difference between their sizes.
Meanwhile, the coats hanging on the rack were also in a perfectly-organized line.
Even the socks and underwear tucked away neatly inside the drawers boasted perfect symmetry and consistency as if this was a famous store's display cabinet.
Jeon Hyeok-Su stuttered stiffly, “…Y-you, tell me the truth.
You didn't re-enlist, did you?”
“R-right? I also didn't hear anything about that.
S-so, yeah! Obviously, you aren't a repeater.
Right, that must be it, so… Uh…”
Then, shouldn't he act like a bloody newbie?! Who would think that locker belonged to a newbie?! Hell, no soldier with a sane mind would try to keep their locker that organized even if the division commander suddenly decided to show up on the base due to an emergency situation!
No, scratch that! In this day and age, if the division commander saw a locker that organized, there would be a good chance of him accusing the base's commanders of letting unreasonable military culture run rampant under their watch.
Jeon Hyeok-Su finally calmed down enough to speak in a composed voice, “…Jin-Ho, there's no need to be this tidy.”
Kang Jin-Ho replied flatly, “Sir.
It's just my habit.”
“Even then, this is a bit too much…”
I'll do it in moderation, sir.”
“S-sure thing.” Jeon Hyeok-Su nodded, then sheepishly wiped away streaks of cold sweat on his forehead.
If that was what Kang Jin-Ho was like normally, then didn’t that mean he had OCD?
Celebrities famous for their OCD tendencies had been appearing on TV a lot lately to show the audience the state of their homes.
Having seen those episodes, Jeon Hyeok-Su could confidently say those celebrities, and their OCD tendencies were adorably quaint compared to Kang Jin-Ho's.
'Sheesh, even his socks are as sharp as knives!'
Jeon Hyeok-Su was willing to comprehend the sharp creases on Kang Jin-Ho's clothes since they were clothes, to begin with.
However, seeing those thick and lengthy military-issue socks folded so sharply like that left him utterly speechless.
He had secretly tidied up his own locker ahead of time to use as an example, but opening it now might lead to some awkward questions such as, “Won't cockroaches come out of a locker that dirty, sir?” being asked.
So, he swiftly dropped that idea.
Jeon Hyeok-Su turned his head and noticed something else next.
“Private Kang Jin-Ho, sir.”
“Well, it's about your blanket…”
Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head.
“Don't you think you overdid it a little with folding your blanket? Look at its edges, will ya?”
‘Look at how sharp they are! Touching them might cut your hand, you know?!’
I was taught to keep all my army-issued personal articles as tidy as possible before enlisting,” said Kang Jin-Ho with a straight face.
“Jin-Ho, we are no longer in that era,” Jeon Hyeok-Su replied while cautiously scanning his surroundings.
What if an officer suddenly walked into the living quarter in the middle of this fiasco? He might mistakenly think Jeon Hyeok-Su was needlessly bullying the new recruit, and that was why Kang Jin-Ho’s locker was so spotless and tidy.
Nowadays, even the boots weren’t allowed to be too shiny, while uniforms were prohibited from being too sharply folded, all thanks to the higher-ups' desire to curb the so-called irregularities of its internal affairs.
So, if a high-ranking officer saw this scene, Jeon Hyeok-Su might be forced into going on a day-long march with all of his gear.
Jeon Hyeok-Su pointed at the blanket.
“Hurry up and undo that.”
Kang Jin-Ho was slightly taken aback.
“Undo what, sir? My blanket?”
I mean, that's a bit too much, no?”
Kang Jin-Ho approached his folded blanket and patted it a couple of times with a dissatisfied look.
“…Urgh.” The other soldiers silently witnessing this exchange groaned and sighed as if they could finally start breathing again.
The peanut gallery started throwing in their comments as well.
It's just a damn blanket, yet why couldn't I breathe?”
“Hyeok-Su? Do something about the newbie, will ya? Before you came inside, this kid was sitting straight on his spot, and…
he didn't move a muscle for one hour straight.
Dude! I thought he had fallen asleep!”
“…I-is that so, sir?” Jeon Hyeok-Su faltered after listening to a chorus of complaints.
That was when he instinctively realized the private sporting a yellow epaulet in front of his eyes might not be an easy opponent as he thought.
However, a private was just that, a mere private! It was the sworn duty of the senior soldier to teach the newbies what the military discipline was all about.
Jeon Hyeok-Su smirked suspiciously.
“Since you're pretty confident, I'm guessing you're also confident about your stamina, then?”
“Oh, so you're confident?”
“Yes, sir.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded affirmatively.
The smirk on Jeon Hyeok-Su's face deepened.
He had never made it pro, but Jeon Hyeok-Su was still good enough to participate in amateur tournaments as a top-ranked runner in his school's athletics club.
As far as stamina was concerned, he was confident of running most average athletes ragged to the point of vomiting and collapsing.
Jeon Hyeok-Su slyly asked, “In that case, how about getting some exercise with this hyung? Out in the training ground, obviously.”
“Can we do that, sir?” Kang Jin-Ho quickly raised his head.
It had already been three days since his arrival on the base, yet he couldn't get much exercise done and was feeling rather stuffy lately.
Circulating internal energy would maintain his physique and even train it, but nothing could beat a good exercise to deal with the frustrating feeling of being unable to move.
That was Kang Jin-Ho's current state, yet this senior soldier was volunteering to give him some exercise? He might not dare ask for it, but it was still what he desired, so of course, he would say yes.
Jeon Hyeok-Su beckoned arrogantly.
“Come with me.
I'll help you get some gooood exercise.”
“Thank you, sir!”
“No need to thank me, private.” Jeon Hyeok-Su smirked and headed outside the living quarter first.
'Heh, you better not throw up on me, kid.'
Unfortunately, Jeon Hyeok-Su would soon learn that something, somewhere, had gone terribly wrong for him.
Jeon Hyeok-Su was out of breath.
Totally out of breath.
He was so out of breath that his lungs felt like they would jump out of his mouth.
more…” Jeon Hyeok-Su gasped, unable to feel his legs anymore.
“Hang in there, sir,” said Kang Jin-Ho while lapping Jeon Hyeok-Su again.
That damn newbie spared only a brief glance at Jeon Hyeok-Su, patted him on the back, then continued to dash ahead.
'That crazy son of a…!'
Jeon Hyeok-Su swore in his head while witnessing this spectacle.
He was so dazed that he even forgot to wipe the drool dripping from the corner of his mouth.
Eventually, all strength left his legs, and Jeon Hyeok-Su crashed to the ground.
“H-Hyeok-Su! You okay?!”
The spectators watching on from the side of the training field hurriedly rushed up to Jeon Hyeok-Su to provide assistance.
“Here! Drink some water!”
“Holy sh*t! Look at how his limbs are shaking!”
The explanation for this situation was rather simple, really.
Jeon Hyeok-Su led Kang Jin-Ho to the base's training field, and then he made a simple offer.
Since regular exercise would be no fun, they should wager on something, he said.
In a way, what he had said sounded exceedingly plain but rather underhanded at the same time.
A 'naive' recruit new to the squad, which was Kang Jin-Ho, accepted the wager without knowing Jeon Hyeok-Su's true intentions.
Then the wager was set: the first one to lap the field fifty times would be declared the winner.
The loser would have to do a thousand push-ups before bedtime later tonight.
Kang Jin-Ho agreed without hesitation, and Jeon Hyeok-Su broke out in a content grin while imagining this newbie sweating buckets during the torturous push-ups.
However, wasn't this how all newbies adapted to life in the Korean military? By learning about the dignity and authority of the senior soldiers?
Unfortunately for Jeon Hyeok-Su, the situation didn't unfold as he had expected.
He ran leisurely for around ten laps while keeping pace with the newbie, then gradually upped his speed.
However, Kang Jin-Ho managed to keep up.
On the twentieth lap-mark, they were running at quite a high speed, but even then, Kang Jin-Ho was still easily keeping pace with Jeon Hyeok-Su.
'What the hell? Was this brat an athlete before enlisting?'
Just as Jeon Hyeok-Su began to notice something was wrong here, Kang Jin-Ho running alongside him, quietly asked, “Sir, is it fine for me to start running seriously now?”
“…Say what?” An earthquake erupted in Jeon Hyeok-Su's eyes just then.
However, before his brain could send the shockwaves to the rest of his body, Kang Jin-Ho suddenly accelerated and dashed far ahead of him in an instant.
'What the freaking hell?!'
Since Charlie was a separate company with its own base and everything, its training field was on a smaller side.
Even then, one lap around it should be at least three hundred meters.
Twenty laps around such a field meant six thousand meters—six kilometers, in other words!
Jeon Hyeok-Su was a former amateur track-and-field runner.
Yet, this newbie kept pace with him for six kilometers without breaking a sweat, and then that same newbie suddenly started to accelerate even faster as if the time to humor his senior was over?! How was Jeon Hyeok-Su supposed to interpret this situation?
It was precisely at this moment that Jeon Hyeok-Su realized he had made a huge mistake by making that wager with Kang Jin-Ho.
“…Eeeeek!” Jeon Hyeok-Su gritted his teeth.
The thing was, he had his pride as a man to consider.
Losing to his peers in this manner would be already quite embarrassing, but to lose to a junior? And not just any junior, but a fresh-faced newbie, to boot?! He wouldn’t be able to raise his head and act like a senior soldier anymore.
Too bad, but that was his second mistake.
Jeon Hyeok-Su ran as hard as he could to catch up, but Kang Jin-Ho simply glanced at him once and accelerated even faster.
Whenever Jeon Hyeok-Su thought he had almost caught up, Kang Jin-Ho simply accelerated, time and time again, to put some distance between him and the senior soldier.
Jeon Hyeok-Su couldn’t do anything about it.
“Uwaaaah!” Jeon Hyeok-Su ran as if his life depended on it just to somehow stay in the race, but when the lap count ticked past thirty, the sky suddenly turned a sickly yellow in his vision.
In the midst of this, Kang Jin-Ho and his stone-face lapped Jeon Hyeok-Su three times.
Eventually, Jeon Hyeok-Su's body threw the towel and crashed to the ground.
The other senior soldiers helped him drink some water, and once his burning throat was quenched to a degree, Jeon Hyeok-Su spat out heavy, shallow breaths.
The other soldiers could only shake their heads in disbelief.
How the heck…?”
“Whoa. That newbie is no joke, man.”
“I thought he's some kinda Terminator or something! Since the start of the race, his posture hasn't changed at all!”
“Look, look! He's probably not even tired at all.
Look at how he's running this way.”
Kang Jin-Ho had lapped the field one more time and was now running toward where Jeon Hyeok-Su had fallen; his speed and posture hadn’t faltered even once.
He came to a stop and asked with a tilt of his head, “Are you alright, sir?”
‘Don't you have eyes?! Can't you tell I'm not okay!’
Jeon Hyeok-Su dearly wanted to shout at the top of his lungs, but his lungs and throat couldn't care less about his brain's commands.
Even the act of opening his lips proved to be very difficult right now.
However, he still managed to squeak some words out.
Honestly, Jeon Hyeok-Su wanted to head to the infirmary right now, but his pride as a senior soldier simply wouldn’t allow that.
He continued to mutter weakly, “It…
it seems that my… uh, condition today wasn't so great.
Maybe I'm having a bit of a cold.”
“Ah, I see.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded.
“In that case, let's call the wager off for now, sir.
We can always do it at another time when it's fair for both of us.
How about it, sir?”
Jeon Hyeok-Su blinked stupidly.
“Y-you don't mind it?”
“No, I don't.
In that case…
Well, I'll just finish my running first, sir.”
Kang Jin-Ho finished what he wanted to say, then immediately started running once more.
Jeon Hyeok-Su saw this and could only mutter weakly to himself, “Wager? My ass…”
Jeon Hyeok-Su swore to himself that he would never, ever do another wager with Kang Jin-Ho in the future.
OCD is an abbreviation of obsessive-compulsive disorder. ☜
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