On Standby (2)
“S-sir?! The Division Commander is coming?” Ha Jin-Nam suddenly felt lightheaded from that revelation.
The Division Commander? But why? To regular soldiers, the Division Commander was someone so high up in the pecking order that they couldn't possibly even look up at them.
In that case, what would the Division Commander be like to a director-level officer such as Ha Jin-Nam? To an officer, a division commander was basically like a god.
To a regular soldier, a division commander simply came across as someone holding a fairly high office.
Sure, said person wielded enough power to cut down a mountain with a single order, but that didn't matter to a regular grunt when they would be saying adieu to the military after two years of service.
Indeed, the authority and dignity afforded to a division commander would practically be meaningless to such soldiers.
However, that story didn't apply to officers.
After all, they had to continue their military career under the same division commander for the foreseeable future.
If they fell out of the Division Commander's favor, they could forget about getting a promotion; they would be stuck in unimportant, trivial positions for the rest of their career.
Simply put, a division commander held absolute authority over an officer's life or death.
– That's right! The Division Commander is paying me a visit, so hurry up with those documents, will ya!
“B-but, sir? Why is the Division Commander visiting you?”
– Didn't I say it's because of the private named Kang Jin-Ho?!
“W-what kind of relationship does Kang Jin-Ho have with the Division Commander, sir?!”
– How should I know that, you fool!
Ha Jin-Nam sobered up instantly.
He realized that perhaps now wasn't the time to be shouting at the phone.
“Sir, since Kang Jin-Ho is still a newbie, we don't have any documents on him other than what we had received from the boot camp.”
– That's fine! Just bring that along!
“Yes, sir! I'll be right there.” Ha Jin-Nam ended the call and quickly dashed outside his office.
“Cheol-Seung! Get a car ready! Be quick about it, too! I need to head back to the Battalion HQ right away!”
While shouting his order at the secretary, Ha Jin-Nam ran to the administration office as fast as he could.
“What on earth is going on here, I wonder?” The Battalion Commander stared in stupefaction as Ha Jin-Nam hurriedly entered his office.
If it hadn't been for a sudden phone call announcing the visit, they might have welcomed the Division Commander with zero preparations.
“Battalion Commander, sir!” Ha Jin-Nam saluted, then pushed a slender pile of documents in his superior officer's way.
“Give it to me.
Let me see.” The Battalion Commander received the documents and quickly perused them, only for his brows to furrow deeply.
He then handed the documents back to Ha Jin-Nam.
They are not blood-related in any way…”
The Battalion Commander already knew the Division Commander's relatives, including those married to the family and even the cousins of cousins.
Judging from the documents, however, Kang Jin-Ho and his parents didn't seem connected to the Division Commander in any shape or form.
The Battalion Commander was pretty confident of this.
In that case, why was he coming to visit because of Kang Jin-Ho? This question seemed unanswerable to the men in the battalion commander's office.
Before they could rack their brains some more to figure it out, a shrill call came from beyond the door.
“Sir! The Division Commander's convoy has driven past the guard checkpoint!”
“Alright! Men, look sharp!” the Battalion Commander roared.
The officers on standby stood at attention and stared intensely at the front of the building.
They tensed up even more after picking up the authoritative aura oozing out from the leading vehicle of the convoy visible in the distance.
“Here he comes…”
The leading vehicle eventually glided to a stop in front of the waiting officers.
The rear door opened, and the Division Commander sporting a beret with two stars climbed outside.
“Victory!” the Battalion Commander exclaimed while performing an exemplary salute.
The Division Commander lightly swung the commander's baton and accepted the salute.
“Hmm? When did you find out I was coming that you waited for me like this?”
“Sir, since hearing about your convoy passing by our guardhouse!”
“Tsk, tsk…” The Division Commander tutted and shook his head as if something about this situation wasn't to his liking.
He then pointed at the Battalion Commander.
Let's go inside.”
Ha Jin-Nam felt dizzy witnessing this spectacle and felt like his consciousness was almost ready to fade out.
The Battalion Commander, normally a paragon of cool-headedness and chic attitude, was shouting and saluting like a fresh-faced recruit right now.
The sight was so awkward and unfamiliar to behold.
The Battalion Commander turned his head.
“Charlie Battery Commander!”
“Sir! Captain Ha Jin-Nam, sir!”
Ha Jin-Nam also found himself shouting like a newbie.
With a face full of military discipline, he followed the duo consisting of the Battalion Commander and the Division Commander into the battalion commander's office.
“Mm, it feels like we haven't seen each other in a while,” said the Division Commander while sipping his coffee.
He was naturally occupying the seat of honor.
The Battalion Commander replied with a friendly smile, “That's because of how hectic your schedule is, sir.”
“Well, it's true that I have been a bit negligent to this side.
Even though an army's firepower comes from its artillery.”
“Sir, we're grateful for your kind words.”
The Division Commander coughed to clear his throat.
“Mm, in any case…
Your battalion has recently welcomed a new recruit named Kang Jin-Ho, right?”
“Yes, sir, we have!”
“I know it's a bit embarrassing for me to ask you this, but…
How is he? Is the newbie doing well?”
As soon as those words left the Division Commander's lips, the Battalion Commander turned his head and silently stared at Ha Jin-Nam.
That was when the poor Captain Ha began to slightly panic.
What did they want from him? Ha Jin-Nam was a battery commander overseeing an entire corps, so it was not possible for him to keep an eye on how a recruit who had arrived only a few days ago was doing on the base.
As such, he could think of only one thing to say.
“P-Private Kang Jin-Ho is doing well, sir!”
The Division Commander nodded.
There haven't been any troubles so far, I hope?”
I'd like to speak to him, then.”
Cold sweat began trickling down Ha Jin-Nam's forehead.
“Sir, Private 2nd Class Kang Jin-Ho is currently in the artillery corps.”
“Artillery corps?” The Division Commander looked a little confused.
The Battalion Commander quickly explained, “Sir, Kang Jin-Ho is a member of Charlie company.”
“Ah, that's right.
Charlie is a separate company, isn't it!” The Division Commander lightly tutted away as if he had just remembered a crucial but forgotten intel.
“That means he's not in this base, no?”
“Unfortunately, yes, sir.”
“Hmm… Is that so?” The Division Commander clutched his baton and got up.
“No choice, then.
Should we head to Charlie next?”
Ha Jin-Nam cried out at the top of his lungs.
“Wait, sir! I shall send someone there immediately and fetch Private Kang Jin-Ho here, sir!”
The Division Commander looked at Ha Jin-Nam weirdly.
“There's no need for that.
I can simply hop over there.”
“No, Commander! It's only correct for a soldier to come to where the officers are, sir!”
“…You think so?” The Division Commander chuckled slightly at Ha Jin-Nam's desperate persuasion before sitting back down.
Bring him here, then.”
“Sir! We'll get on it immediately!” Ha Jin-Nam saluted, then dashed out of the office.
After sneakily wiping the cold sweat off his forehead, the Battalion Commander cautiously asked, “Sir, may I ask you something?”
“Mm. Go ahead.”
“Sir, I might be overstepping my boundaries here, but…
What exactly is your relationship with the soldier named Kang Jin-Ho…? We should at least have some idea on it so that we can decide on our future directions, you see.”
“Oh, that? We don't have any relationship.”
“We don't even know each other.” The Division Commander lightly tutted, then gulped down his cup of coffee.
After emptying it, he put the cup down and smiled brightly at the Battalion Commander.
“Yup, coffee should be drunk when it has slightly cooled down.
I really don't have any relationship with that kid.
Do I look like the sort of person who'd personally pay a visit to a soldier I'm familiar with? Or even pay extra attention to them?”
I know you are not that sort of a person.”
Besides, I wouldn't have assigned a soldier I'm personally acquainted with to this battalion, either.
If I had found out about him in the middle of basic training, I'd have him transferred elsewhere.”
And I respect that side of your character.
The thing is…” The Battalion Commander faltered there, unable to continue the rest of his sentence.
However, the Division Commander did that for him.
“What, you wanna ask why I even bothered to come all this way just to meet a measly little private and make your life difficult? Is that it?”
“N-no, sir! Of course not!”
The Division Commander boisterously laughed before pointing at the Battalion Commander with his baton.
“I have no plans to allow any special treatments or grant privileges to any relatives of mine.
And I will never let it happen under my watch, too.
Our issue here is that kid isn't my relative.”
“I can't tell you the exact details, but know this: that private is connected to a very influential person.
However, don't try to outthink yourself here since you'll soon find out, anyway.
However, let me say this ahead of time.
That private is protected by someone incomparably scarier and more influential than anyone you can think of.”
The Battalion Commander nervously gulped.
“That's why I'm asking you to be a bit more hands-on with that private.
But I'm not telling you to give him special treatment.
Just make sure he doesn't experience any unreasonable nonsense.
“Sir, I'll definitely make sure.” The Battalion Commander nodded affirmatively.
He noticed how the Division Commander stopped talking there for some reason, then cautiously raised his voice.
“By the way, sir…”
“My apologies, but…
May I know who this influential person is?”
The Division Commander stared at the lower-ranked officer with a less-than-impressed face before groaning at length.
Since that influential person had indicated his plan to visit this base once every month, perhaps it was a good idea to reveal that information ahead of time.
It's Chairman Hwang Jeong-Hu.”
“Chairman Hwang Jeong… Huh? Who did you say it was?!” The Battalion Commander shot up to his feet.
He was freaking out so bad that he had inadvertently committed a cardinal sin a soldier should never do: speak rudely to his senior officer.
“C-Chairman Hwang Jeong-Hu, you say?!”
The Battalion Commander felt as if his heart would leap out of his mouth after learning about Chairman Hwang Jeong-Hu's involvement.
He had naturally assumed the 'influential person' behind Kang Jin-Ho to be a currently-serving politician, or maybe Kang Jin-Ho was the son of a minister or something.
At least, that was his thought after checking out the Division Commander's attitude.
But it was Chairman Hwang Jeong-Hu?! This situation would've been less burdensome had Kang Jin-Ho been an illegitimate child of the current President of Korea.
Why was the living legend of the financial world being introduced into this tale?!
However, the tale wasn't over just yet.
The Division Commander continued, “I heard that Chairman Hwang would come here once every month to visit Private Kang Jin-Ho.
I don't have to tell you to prepare well in advance now, do I?”
The battalion commander fell back to his seat with a dazed expression on his face.
The division commander loudly tutted.
“Get a hold of yourself, man.”
“…Sir, could Kang Jin-Ho be his hidden child? Maybe a hidden grandson?”
“See, that's the weird part about this whole situation.” The Division Commander frowned as if merely thinking about this situation was giving him a migraine.
“We all have a pretty good idea about what kind of a person Chairman Hwang is.
He's definitely not the type to grant special privileges to his own flesh and blood.
After his comeback, didn't he chase his sons out of his company for making a mess of things?”
“Y-yes, he did.”
The triumphant return of Chairman Hwang Jeong-Hu, and the subsequent mass resignation of the board of directors and management, brought about a massive shockwave to the financial world back then.
The Battalion Commander was a soldier and held little interest in the conflicts taking place within the civilian society.
Even then, he still got to learn quite a lot about Jaegyeong's upheaval after news outlets published articles and headlines about it nonstop every single day.
“According to my senior, Chairman Hwang's real personality isn't so different from what we see in the news.
He then told me he still can't figure out why someone like that wants some random young brat taken care of,” said the Division Commander.
“I-I see.” The Battalion Commander nodded.
At the same time, he figured out two things from the info he had just learned.
First, Chairman Hwang's personality was basically what they had heard about in the news and gossip.
Second, which was the important one of the two, this 'request' was coming from somewhere higher up in the food chain than the Division Commander.
If this situation could even be called a request, that was.
'Well, I guess that makes sense since it involves Chairman Hwang…'
To a battalion commander, a division commander was an existence even higher than heaven itself.
Compared to Hwang Jeong-Hu, though? A mere division commander was a nobody compared to someone like that.
Didn't the media evaluate Hwang Jeong-Hu as a legend, a giant of the financial world who would have won the presidential election without issues if he had run for it? That was before he got ill, but still.
Someone knocked on the door, and then a voice came from beyond it.
“Battalion Commander, sir! It's Captain Ha from the artillery corps Charlie.”
“Mmhm. You may enter.”
The door opened, and Charlie's Battery Commander walked in.
Following right behind him was a strapping young man.
“Victory!” Captain Ha loudly saluted at the two high-ranking officers in the office.
The young soldier following him also performed a salute, but his salute was a brief one.
The Division Commander stared at the young soldier.
“Are you Kang Jin-Ho?”
Kang Jin-Ho replied while standing at attention, “Yes, sir.”
Well, take a seat.”
Despite the permission, Kang Jin-Ho didn't budge from his spot.
The Division Commander didn't give up, however.
“It's fine, Private.
Take a seat over here.
Kang Jin-Ho wordlessly stared at the highest-ranking officer in the room, then slowly walked up to the spot on the couch pointed out to him.
Once he sat down, the questions began.
“So, tell me.
Is there anything troubling you?”
I've just transferred, after all.
I've found nothing to trouble me.”
What about your seniors? Are they treating you fairly?”
“Yes, sir,” Kang Jin-Ho replied flatly.
However, his attitude was misunderstood by the Division Commander as a sign of simple nervousness.
So, he spoke with a gentle smile on his face, “If you encounter any difficulties during your time in the military, do give me a call.
I might not be able to help you in many things, but I can certainly ensure that you don't experience unfairness while you're here.”
That was when Kang Jin-Ho's expression stiffened.
He stared at the Division Commander and slowly asked, “Was that a request from Chairman Hwang?”
“Hmm…” The Division Commander felt a bit sheepish after being asked so directly like this.
“For now, let's say it was.”
“In that case, sir, there's no need for you to worry about this matter.”
“Mm? What do you mean?” The Division Commander tilted his head.
Kang Jin-Ho explained himself in a stiff voice.
“I do not wish to receive any privileges or extra attention during my enlistment, sir.
Please forget whatever Chairman Hwang has told you.
And, please forget that I'm currently serving in the military, as well.
I did not enlist to become a recipient of special treatments.
If I knew this would happen, I would have prevented Chairman Hwang from coming anywhere near the base, sir.”
The Division Commander's jaw slowly fell.
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