Descent of the Demon Master
“…How did they pull that off?” a member of the audience muttered quietly.
Even though it was nothing more than some dude raising his leg high before slamming it down, the log on the stage was snapped in half and fell to the floor as if it had been chopped in half by an axe.
“Wow, that SFX rocks!”
“They must've sawn that log in half beforehand, right?”
“Even if that's true, wasn't this performance so real? They did an excellent job!”
Jo Won-Gu could only smile awkwardly when the voices of the audience members below the stage reached his ears.
'Special effect, my ass…'
Didn't someone say being realistic and convincing were the true pinnacle of entertainment? The performance being put on by Jo Won-Gu's squad was nothing more than a simple miracle of kicking a log and breaking it in half, but the audience members seemed to think some kind of special effects had been employed here.
'…Then again, even I can hardly believe it.
And I'm in the loop, too!'
Seong Tae-Ho's plan was quite effective.
All the other contestants were trying their hardest to make the audience laugh with their comedy routines.
Unfortunately, there was a limit to how funny a regular person could be.
If they were super-funny, to begin with, they would've been assigned to the culture promotion division or as a member of the armed forces entertainment division.
The audience, exhausted by one routine of unfunny jokes after another, was primed to be bowled over by the 'realistic' display of physical might.
Lady luck was on the 3rd Squad's side as well since their turn was toward the end of the competition.
“J-Jin-Ho! I won't get injured during this, right?” Jeon Hyeok-Su asked in a stuttering voice.
Kang Jin-Ho replied in his usual flat tone, “Yes, sir.
Please remain still, and it'll be fine.”
“I heard you the first time! But, but…! This…”
“Sir, be still, and everything will be fine.
We've already rehearsed it before.”
“Yeah, I know all that, but!” Jeon Hyeok-Su began freaking out even more while looking at the large rock resting on his tummy.
He was currently lying on his back on the stage.
“Uwaaaah! Serg! I don't think I can do this!”
Jo Won-Gu yelled at him.
“Stay still, you idiot!”
“But Serg?! I might die, you know!”
The audience members were clutching their bellies while laughing, thinking that the current routine was quite well rehearsed and put together.
Of course, Jeon Hyeok-Su wasn't acting; he was really sweating bullets right now!
'This is all real, you crazy bastards!!!'
The rock resting on his stomach was a 100% genuine article.
Nothing was done to it beforehand as well.
The plan was for Kang Jin-Ho to hit it with his bare hand to crack it.
In that case, what would happen to Jeon Hyeok-Su below the rock? The only thing waiting for him would be his intestines rupturing!
The idea of getting a lengthy leave sounded appealing, but he would dearly love to avoid seeing the inside of the infirmary if he could help it.
And that would be only when lady luck was still with the squad.
If she thought it was best for her to be somewhere else, then Jeon Hyeok-Su would receive the special privilege to tour the interior of the Capital Hospital—as a patient! Or worse, he would get to observe what a coffin lid looked like from the inside!
“Uwaaaah?! Serg, heeeeelp!”
“I told you to stay still!”
The squad members rushed in at the struggling Jeon Hyeok-Su and held him down by his limbs.
Jeon Hyeok-Su cried out, “Serg! This is an abuse of authority! I'm gonna write a letter from the heart later, sir!” 
“Go ahead, knock yourself out! Until then, stay still, will ya?!”
The expressionless Kang Jin-Ho chopped down at the rock on Jeon Hyeok-Su's belly, causing it to split into two pieces with a loud crack!
The audience members went into a frenzy.
“Whoa! Did you hear that!”
“How did they pull that stunt off?! Did they use some kind of glue? Their preparation is seriously amazing!”
Jo Won-Gu glanced at them and smirked a little.
'Preparation, my ass!'
As for Jeon Hyeok-Su, he was barely crawling away on the floor with foam trickling down his mouth.
His belly wasn't injured in any shape or form, which was great, but it still felt like he had briefly traveled back and forth to the netherworld.
Was the promise of a vacation worth all this pain and torture? Jeon Hyeok-Su wasn't so sure anymore.
After the rock-splitting demonstration, Kang Jin-Ho moved on to snapping iron chains, bending rebars, and breaking lumber with various parts of his body.
With all the demonstrations successfully handled, Kang Jin-Ho left the stage amidst loud applause.
Seong Tae-Ho clenched his fists.
“Serg, I think we did it, sir!”
“Yep, we have to be the winners now.” Jo Won-Gu nodded confidently.
Since this was a talent show, not a stand-up comedy competition, none of the contestants should be good enough to do a better job than Kang Jin-Ho.
Especially more so when the demonstration of eight people clinging to Kang Jin-Ho, a routine that Jo Won-Gu had paid a lot of attention to perfecting, went down a storm with the audience! There was no way the 3rd Squad would lose now!
Although the routine looked like eight people were simply clinging to Kang Jin-Ho standing still, that wasn't as easy as it sounded in reality.
Jo Won-Gu worked hard to get the placement just right in this secret weapon!
The audience members, under the impression that special effects were involved in the demonstrations until that point, had to watch on slack-jawed as eight grown men clung to a single person.
Eight didn't sound like much, but with an average weight of, say, around sixty kilograms per person, that would be almost half a ton combined.
Anyone could tell that carrying that much weight without falling down was no mean feat.
Even the Division Commander and the Battalion Commander spectating the talent show got up and enthusiastically applauded the performance, so Jo Won-Gu was confident of his squad's victory.
The announcer came up on the stage and declared the results.
“And the winner is…! Charlie's 3rd Squad!”
“That's what I'm talking about!” Jo Won-Gu's lips widened in a huge grin at the announcement.
He punched the air while running up to the stage to receive the prize.
Jeon Hyeok-Su watched that spectacle, then gently placed his hand on Kang Jin-Ho's shoulder.
“Private 1st Class Kang Jin-Ho, sir.”
“Is there anything you'd like to eat?”
“Don't hold back and tell me the truth, okay? This hyung will buy them, no questions asked.”
It seemed that Kang Jin-Ho was successfully sweeping up the available leaves for the squad and himself.
“F*cking hell?! We have to do this again?!” Seok Wung-Cheol cried out loudly.
Today was the last day of guerrilla training.
Seok Wung-Cheol could only grit his teeth in anguish while staring at today's training venue—the gas chamber.
The one place or training that soldiers just couldn't get used to during their military service was the gas chamber.
Seok Wung-Cheol heard from someone that some divisions didn't utilize the gas chamber during guerrilla training.
How envious, since his own division seemed so dead-set on using their gas chamber facility during every little training!
“I, I'm dying! Aaaahk! I'm dying!”
Seok Wung-Cheol shuddered while watching the members of the squad that had gone into the chamber before him leap through the exit while looking like a total mess.
Another proof that the pain caused by the insidious gas wasn't something you could ever get used to!
“Hah, gimme a freaking break…” Jo Won-Gu muttered helplessly.
Seok Wung-Cheol turned his head to look at his squad commander, who was making a resigned expression.
Meanwhile, Jeon Hyeok-Su was glaring at the mouth of the gas chamber, his face filled with pure annoyance.
Seok Wung-Cheol glanced to his side and asked Kang Jin-Ho, “Hey, Jin-Ho, it hasn't been that long since you went through this sh*tty training, right?”
“Yes, sir,” Kang Jin-Ho replied in his usual unperturbed tone of voice.
“Were you in the chamber for long?”
Kang Jin-Ho recalled the gas chamber training back in the boot camp, then slowly tilted his head.
“I don't think I was in the chamber for all that long, sir.”
“Is that right? Which means you're gonna have a tough time today, then.
The nonsense you're about to experience is several magnitudes crazier than the stuff you had gone through in the boot camp, you see?”
“I see.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded, his expression still remaining unperturbed.
Seok Wung-Cheol could only tut inwardly at that response.
It seemed that the newbie was mistakenly equating what was about to come with the boot camp's gas chamber training, which was nothing more than a little taster.
“I'm telling you, Jin-Ho.
This will get real bad, man.”
Seok Wung-Cheol slowly shook his head.
He understood where Kang Jin-Ho was coming from, of course.
A verbal explanation was simply not adequate enough to convey the truth, after all.
Indeed, only by experiencing it first-hand would you truly see the light!
Just as Seok Wung-Cheol's thoughts reached that far, Jo Won-Gu suddenly addressed his squad members, “Listen, everyone.”
“You all know that we're in the lead, don't you?”
“Don't freak out in there and get our points deducted, got that? Do whatever it takes to bear with it.
You hear me?”
“Yes, Serg! We hear you.”
Jo Won-Gu sharply looked at Kang Jin-Ho next.
“Especially you, Kang Jin-Ho!”
“Private 1st Class Kang Jin-Ho, sir.”
“No one, not even the instructors, can stop you if you lose your sh*t and start rampaging.
If that happens, our points tally will revert back to zero.
So, endure it no matter what! You understand?”
Kang Jin-Ho nodded.
However, Jo Won-Gu soon learned that he was worried about the wrong thing.
Soldiers were screaming without even realizing it.
It was understandable since the gas had entered through their eyes and noses to rob their ability to think straight.
Jo Won-Gu shifted his gaze, which was currently being blurred by the overflowing tears, to look at the state of his squad members.
He was thinking of stopping any of his juniors if they showed signs of freaking out and losing their composure.
'…Huh? What the heck?'
The chamber was filled to the brim with the gas, making it incredibly challenging to breathe, yet…
Yet Kang Jin-Ho, with a composed face, was holding down the intensely-struggling Jeon Heyok-Su with one hand.
Jeon Hyeok-Su desperately cried out, “Let me go! I said, let go!!!”
“Please be still, sir.
It'll end soon.” Kang Jin-Ho maintained his relaxed expression while looking at the struggling Jeon Hyeok-Su, before swiping his hand over the messy face of the senior soldier.
“Uwaaah! I'm dying…
Eh?” Jeon Hyeok-Su stopped screaming and began touching his face in confusion.
is going on over there?'
Jo Won-Gu wondered, unable to fully comprehend what had happened due to the intense pain.
Whatever the case might have been, the 3rd Squad still managed to endure the gas chamber training without too many issues.
“Holy cow, it's finally over…” Jo Won-Gu muttered as he tasted the air outside the gas chamber.
He thought doing the gas chamber training twice was his honest limit, but this made it the third time.
Knowing he would never have to go through this torture again made him glad to be alive.
“Sir, it's finally over for us…” Seok Wung-Cheol muttered next to Jo Won-Gu while wiping his messy face.
“It's a shame that our juniors will have to do this again next year, though.”
“Uh-whew. I'd kill myself if I were in their shoes…” Jo Won-Gu muttered in a half-joking manner, even as his attention focused on Kang Jin-Ho and Jeon Hyeok-Su.
While the corporal was making a dazed, confused face, Kang Jin-Ho maintained his usual unperturbed, composed self.
'What did I witness back there?'
Jo Won-Gu rubbed his chin.
His curiosity had been piqued, but for some weird reason…
However, he couldn't bring himself to ask.
'Right, let's just forget about it.'
Jo Won-Gu instinctively realized that not getting tangled up in Kang Jin-Ho's business was for the best.
Jo Won-Gu scanned his squad members and asked them, “Are you all done with your preparations?”
“You’re also done packing up your gear, then?”
“Of course, Serg!”
Once we get over this last hurdle, it's finally the end!” Jo Won-Gu scanned the guerrilla training obstacle course while feeling genuinely fed up with this place.
Something about this year's guerrilla training seemed harder than the last year's.
Meanwhile, it also seemed a bit easier, in a way.
Physically, it was hell, but Kang Jin-Ho's presence seemed to have lessened the mental stress somehow.
“Jin-Ho?” Jo Won-Gu glanced to the side.
“Private 1st Class Kang Jin-Ho, sir.”
“Take it easy during next year's training, okay?”
Jo Won-Gu watched Kang Jin-Ho nodding his head, then mouthed a cigarette.
'I'm sure the instructors are all freaked out by this guy, too.'
During guerrilla training, a soldier's job was to do as told by their superiors.
However, no one was capable of doing everything as ordered since humans had limited stamina.
However, a person who could literally do everything as ordered had appeared out of nowhere, so the drill instructors getting shocked out of their minds was understandable.
What meaning did this training exercise hold to a man who could scale a rock wall as if it was a flat piece of land and traverse a suspended rope like a wide bridge?
'I guess this story will get passed down, then…'
Jo Won-Gu had a feeling that Kang Jin-Ho's tales would become a legend passed down through the ranks of all the future drill instructors.
Come next year, the newbie instructors who would definitely be under the impression that their seniors were exaggerating things would certainly get a nasty surprise.
“It's time to gather, soldiers!”
The last remaining exercise was the grueling 40 kilometers march.
Finish this, and this year's guerrilla training would be over for good.
The march began after a quick inspection of the soldiers' gears, the first obstacle being a mountain.
The training course was usually located on mountainsides, and this year's guerrilla training ground was no exception.
So, the first part of the march would always involve walking up to the peak.
“Hey, you dumb sh*t! I told you, you can't start drinking your water already!” Jo Won-Gu cried out.
Seong Tae-Ho sheepishly replied, “…I'm sorry, sir.”
“Hah, there he goes again.”
Unexpectedly, troubles would start rearing their heads around the two hour-mark after the march started.
Soldiers, having depleted their stamina from five days of grueling guerrilla training, couldn't hold on during the rapid uphill climb and would start dropping out.
Jo Won-Gu was there when one of his seniors dropped out during last year's march, so he repeatedly told his squad members what not to do.
However, Seong Tae-Ho's complexion just didn't look good.
Like, at all.
In fact, it didn't take a genius to see how he would end up, judging from his trembling legs.
Jeon Hyeok-Su sighed.
“Serg, this idiot's a goner.”
“Hah, gimme a freaking break.” Jo Won-Gu groaned.
If this were any other march, he would have no problem letting Seong Tae-Ho drop out and get evacuated.
The army didn't design its training exercises to kill its soldiers, after all.
However, Jo Won-Gu had heard from the company commander before they set off that the overall victory would be the 3rd Squad's…
as long as no one from their squad dropped out during the march.
Sure, some extra vacation time wasn't worth killing a person.
However, Jo Won-Gu was smart enough to know that Seong Tae-Ho's military life would turn into a living hell if he dropped out now, which would cause his squad to miss out on the rewards.
Without a doubt, the senior squad members blinded by the prospect of a lengthy leave would constantly harass and torment Seong Tae-Ho right up until their discharge from the service.
“Damn it, what should we do?” Jo Won-Gu muttered to no one in particular.
Seong Tae-Ho's condition looked too precarious to force him into a 40km march.
As he stood there, unable to make up his mind, Kang Jin-Ho raised his hand and offered his opinion.
“Sir? Wouldn't he be able to complete the march without his gear?”
someone else carrying his stuff on top of their own? But, who will?”
Guerrilla training was not a Sunday stroll.
Most soldiers were inwardly elated that the finishing line was near, but the truth was not that kind.
The 40km march had only just begun, after all.
Moreover, no soldier in existence could cover that distance while carrying two backpacks containing military gear, each weighing almost twenty-five kilograms.
“Sir, I'll do it.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded.
No, scratch that—there was someone who could do it!
Jo Won-Gu stared deeply into Kang Jin-Ho's eyes before cautiously raising his voice.
“…You sure you can?”
Of course, he already knew there was no need to even ask.
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