senseless now, could he?

Kang Jin-Ho chuckled and nodded.
“Got it.”

“I dare you not to answer the phone.
I already know where you study and live, Jin-Ho.
So, don't answer the phone.
I dare you.
I really wanna show you what a real spectacle looks like, you see!”

“…Yes, yes.
I got it already.” Kang Jin-Ho cocked an eyebrow again.
Honestly speaking, though…
This threat was somewhat scary, even for him.
What would Kang Jin-Ho's mother say after she saw the determined Ju Yeong-Gi throwing a massive tantrum in the Kang family home?


“Jin-Ho, my child! Did you actually befriend a gangster while serving in the army?!”


Kang Jin-Ho frowned deeply, realizing he had to stop that scenario from happening at any cost.

Jin-Ho?” Ju Yeong-Gi suddenly became serious.


“I wanted to ask you about something.
So, uh…”

“Yeah? What is it?”

Ju Yeong-Gi wordlessly stared at Kang Jin-Ho, his lips twitching as if he wanted to say something.
In the end, though…

“…Nah, it's nothing.
Forget about it.”

“Huh. That's lame.” Kang Jin-Ho tutted.

“Even if I ask, you ain't gonna gimme a straight answer, anyway.
No need to waste my time, right? In any case, I'm gonna go back inside. Aigoo… Looks like the boys are planning to hold a farewell party with frozen foods, so I better hurry inside, or they'll start beating me up again.
See you later.”

“Okay.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded, then faintly smiled while watching Ju Yeong-Gi head back inside the building.
He could guess what Ju Yeong-Gi wanted to ask about.
It probably was regarding Kim Hak-Cheol and Noh Su-Bong.

Kang Jin-Ho hadn't said anything, while Ju Yeong-Gi didn't ask anything either.
However, it seemed he was suspecting something.
In a way, he could claim to know Kang Jin-Ho the best in this artillery company, after all.

Kang Jin-Ho leaned back and muttered, “My enlistment is ending, huh…”

Even though the military life had never been particularly difficult for him, and it failed to leave any lasting impression, Kang Jin-Ho still had to admit that the idea of getting discharged possessed a certain something that made his heart flutter just a little.

While he sat on the bench and calmly analyzed his upcoming discharge, an unexpected guest showed up to interrupt him.

“Ahjussi?” A private suddenly called out to him.

“Mm?” Kang Jin-Ho glanced at him.

“The Battery Commander wants to see you.”

Kang Jin-Ho narrowed his eyes, but he still got up.
He wasn't sure why the Battery Commander wanted to speak to him.
However, there should be a good enough reason for summoning him like this, so he might as well find out what it was.

Kang Jin-Ho reached the Battery Commander's Office and knocked on the door.

“Come in.”

After confirming the voice coming from the other side, Kang Jin-Ho opened the door and stepped inside, only to tilt his head in slight confusion at who he found in the office.
Of course, he remembered who this visitor was.
It was just that this person and Kang Jin-Ho didn't share a connection deep enough to warrant a visit like this.

“Victory,” said Kang Jin-Ho while saluting.

The visitor nodded and saluted back, then addressed the Battery Commander, “Well, then.
Please excuse us.”

“Of course,” The Battery Commander nodded at the visitor and exited the office.

Once the door was closed, the visitor stared at Kang Jin-Ho while making an unreadable expression.
He then pointed to one of the spots on the couch.
“Please sit, Mister Kang.”

'…He's using polite speech?'

Kang Jin-Ho cocked an eyebrow in suspicion.
This visitor showing up was already strange, but for him to be this polite? That was even stranger.
After all, the visitor was a major while Kang Jin-Ho was still a sergeant, even if his discharge was only a day away.

The visitor smiled.
“Is me showing up here such a surprise, Mister Kang?”

“A little bit, yes.”

“I see.” The visitor slowly nodded.

“Actually, I didn't think we'd speak again after that day, Major Nam Tae-Sik.”

The visitor was none other than Major Nam Tae-Sik, the investigator who had shown up during the investigation into Ju Yeong-Gi's matter and had asked Kang Jin-Ho to cooperate.

Major Nam's face, as he pleaded for cooperation, remained vividly etched in Kang Jin-Ho's memories.
The way he tried to convince Kang Jin-Ho to talk while saying someone had to be responsible for that terrible incident certainly left an impression on him.

At the very least, he was the only one Kang Jin-Ho had observed as someone who earnestly wanted to uncover the truth.
As such, Kang Jin-Ho's impression of him was a favorable one.

Kang Jin-Ho remained standing.
“What brings you here, sir?”

“…Mm. I guess this office isn't a suitable place to hold a private conversation.” Nam Tae-Sik got up.
“Do you mind following me for a little while? Please.”

“…?” Kang Jin-Ho frowned slightly at Nam Tae-Sik's puzzling behavior.
However, he neither verbally expressed his discontent nor rejected the request.
If his first impression of the man wasn't wrong, Nam Tae-Sik should have a reason for doing this.

In that case, it might not be such a bad idea to go along with him for now.
Kang Jin-Ho's style wasn't to demand an answer on the spot just because a minor question had popped up to inconvenience him.

Kang Jin-Ho followed Nam Tae-Sik outside the building and spotted the Retona the latter had driven to get to the base.
Nam Tae-Sik called the Battery Commander, and the two of them quickly discussed something.
Eventually, the Battery Commander briefly nodded in Kang Jin-Ho's direction.[1]

Nam Tae-Sik led the way.
“This way, please.”

“Yes, sir.” Kang Jin-Ho didn't say anything else and climbed into the waiting Retona.

Nam Tae-Sik unhesitantly stepped on the accelerator and left the base altogether.
He drove to a secluded location not too far from the base and stopped the car there.
Here, practically no one would show up.

Nam Tae-Sik wordlessly took out a packet of cigarettes and offered Kang Jin-Ho a smoke.
The latter accepted the offering and mouthed it.


Nam Tae-Sik used his lighter to light Kang Jin-Ho's cigarette up, then finally began talking, “I heard you're about to be discharged, Mister Kang.”

“Yes, I am.”

“What are your plans moving forward?”

Kang Jin-Ho didn't immediately reply and simply smoked away; the gray cigarette smoke slowly wafted into the air.

Nam Tae-Sik continued to speak politely, “I believe you'll have to deal with…
many matters once you rejoin the civilian society.”

Kang Jin-Ho frowned slightly.
“Before that, I'd like to know why you want to know about my plans, sir.
And why you're speaking to me so politely as well.
This type of polite speech from a commissioned officer doesn't seem quite right when addressing an enlisted soldier, sir.”

Nam Tae-Sik suddenly smiled weirdly.
“But, Mister Kang.
This is how it's supposed to be.”

When Kang Jin-Ho saw that expression, Hwang Jeong-Hu's name momentarily popped up in his mind.
Since Kang Jin-Ho, someone with ties to Chairman Hwang, was about to leave the army, was Nam Tae-Sik trying to act all cordial and stuff to mooch off of him? If that were true, Kang Jin-Ho would be bitterly disappointed.

What Nam Tae-Sik said next completely shattered Kang Jin-Ho's expectations.
That was because something he had never even considered had come out of Nam Tae-Sik's mouth.

“Considering the length of time you have been alive, you definitely qualify to be treated with respect befitting an elder, Mister Kang.
Wouldn't you also agree, oh dear returner?”

Kang Jin-Ho's widened eyes took in Nam Tae-Sik's smiling face.

Kia Retona is a military vehicle developed by Asia Motors, a subsidiary of Kia Motors.
A small jeep-like SUV, it was sold to both military and civilian customers.
Fun fact: a 2006 survey by a leading German motoring magazine Auto Bild found the Retona 'abysmally unreliable'. ☜

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