Joining the Military (6)
The tattooed man growled and threatened.
“This punk! You wanna have a go, is that it?”
Kang Jin-Ho couldn't understand it, so he asked once again, “Tell me, what did I do to inconvenience you?”
“Are you f*cking asking me that for real?!”
That dumb reply made Kang Jin-Ho groan softly.
He could just about grasp the fact that he had done something wrong.
What the tattooed man had just said a few seconds ago was enough of a hint for Kang Jin-Ho to figure out the overall mood in this particular living quarters.
However, the sour mood couldn't objectively be blamed on Kang Jin-Ho.
That didn't make logical sense.
Even then, he was ready to respect their opinions if they felt subjective pain from his actions.
He was even prepared to apologize if necessary.
The thing was, though, something like that could only be possible when people were ready to talk.
Who in their right mind would want to discuss like grown-ups when the other party tried to strong-arm you with a barrage of insults and threats of violence?
“If I did something wrong, I'm prepared to apologize,” said Kang Jin-Ho.
Despite the other party's attitude, he still chose to be patient.
Unfortunately, the tattooed man didn't seem to be in the mood to talk.
“If you did something wrong? This f*cker, are you trying to make me look like a liar?!”
Just before Kang Jin-Ho could retort to that, the exit suddenly flew open, and an assistant instructor waltzed in.
“What do you think you are doing!”
The tattooed man immediately clamped his mouth shut.
We were just messing around…” one of the recruits, who happened to be slightly older than his peers, smiled sheepishly and provided a quick-thinking excuse.
“Messing around? You think I'm deaf?” The assistant instructor shot a proving glare at the recruits, then quietly growled.
Today might be a day off for you lot, but if I catch you misbehaving again, I'm gonna show you one hell of a bad time.
Get my drift?”
The assistant instructor then turned his attention to Kang Jin-Ho.
“Recruit No.100, Kang Jin-Ho, sir!”
“Come outside with me for a sec…”
“Yes, sir.” Kang Jin-Ho followed the assistant instructor out of the living quarter.
The instructor glanced back at him.
The two kept walking and eventually reached a location in the camp where recruits were normally not allowed.
The assistant instructor stopped walking, then turned toward Kang Jin-Ho.
“Recruit, you smoke?”
Kang Jin-Ho accepted the offered cigarette, but he still hesitated for a second.
The instructor noticed that.
You can smoke.”
If we are found out, I won't be the only one getting rebuked for it.”
“Hah, this kid…” The assistant instructor chuckled before pointing at his rank patch sewn onto his chest.
“How many bars do you see?”
“Then, what rank am I?”
“Sir, you're a sergeant.”
I'm a sergeant in the Republic of Korea's proud army, and I just offered you a smoke.
Do you really think something bad will happen if we get caught? We'll just spend a night in the brig, and that'll be all.
Besides, I'll deal with it, so stop worrying about it and just smoke.”
“Thank you, sir.” Kang Jin-Ho didn't protest any further and mouthed the cigarette.
The assistant instructor used his own lighter to light it up.
What were you planning to do if I hadn't stepped inside?”
It seemed that the instructor had been eavesdropping from outside the doorway.
Kang Jin-Ho chose not to answer and just sucked on the cigarette.
The assistant instructor grunted.
“Were you thinking of fighting him?”
“Haha, this idiot…
You're a riot, you know that? Hey, Recruit No.100.”
“Recruit No.100, Kang Jin-Ho!”
“Listen to me, alright? This older brother will give you an important piece of advice.
Not as an assistant instructor, but as your senior in the military.”
“Don't try to do everything perfectly, okay?” the assistant instructor quietly spoke.
Kang Jin-Ho turned his head and stared back at him at that unexpected advice.
The latter chuckled.
“What's the matter? Was my advice that weird?”
Kang Jin-Ho slightly shook his head.
“Nah, I'm sure it sounded weird to you.
Our purpose is to train you until you're a Grade A soldier and ship you off to your base, after all.
I even think that my advice is weird.
Am I right or what?”
It does sound a little strange…”
The thing is, that's what our proud army is like.
The better you do, the harder your life will get in this place.”
Kang Jin-Ho couldn't wrap his head around what the assistant instructor was saying.
“And it's only gonna get worse after you reach your assigned base.
I'll give you an example.
Let's say you're excellent at your tasks.
Like, the number one in the world for shoveling dirt.
Being good at something won't be the end of the story for you, though.
Since you're good at the job and your efficiency’s high, all those difficult and time-consuming tasks will now fall on your shoulders.”
“Meanwhile, other soldiers around you will get fed up with being compared to you all the time.
See, we humans have this tendency of quickly forgetting the help we got but we would always remember our grudges until we die.
You'll be the only one suffering if this cycle repeats itself.
I mean, what happened a minute ago is the perfect example, wouldn't you agree? Tell me, do you think you've done something wrong?”
The assistant instructor chuckled while deeply inhaling his own cigarette smoke.
“See? Exactly what I said.
You haven't done anything wrong, yet we already have others fed up with you.
Do you know why? Because you're too good at everything.
Out in society, being good at something is a wonderful thing, but in the military? You're only making it hard for yourself.”
“Sir, I don't get it…”
“If you don't, just memorize it, will ya?”
Kang Jin-Ho felt that this situation was absurdly illogical.
And that was when something clicked in his head; what his father said suddenly made sense.
Kang Yu-Hwan said that the military was an illogical organization and that Kang Jin-Ho had to hold himself back even if something angered him.
He finally began to appreciate what his father meant with that advice.
What happened just now was trivial.
The one itching for a fight and Kang Jin-Ho were both recruits, after all.
However, what would happen if the one instigating the fight held a higher rank than Kang Jin-Ho? Could he treat that as trivial, too? Since he hadn't experienced it yet, Kang Jin-Ho couldn't tell for sure.
'Illogical and unfair, huh…'
The assistant instructor smirked a little after noticing the stiff expression on Kang Jin-Ho's face.
Have you figured out why that other recruit was picking a fight with you?”
“He finds everything you do a bit of an eyesore.”
Kang Jin-Ho raised his brows.
“And do you know why that is?”
“Because this is the army.”
Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head in confusion.
That didn't make any sense to him.
What did this place being the army have to do with the tattooed man's anger?
“People are on a knife’s edge when they are in the military.
Sure, you see plenty of crazies outside, but in the military, you'll especially feel that everyone here has lost their damn minds.
That's the reason why…”
“Sir? I don't follow.
Why is that?”
None of us has any freedom.” The assistant instructor smirked, then stubbed his cigarette out.
“A bunch of young punks who had lived their lives the way they wanted suddenly found themselves in a place full of sweaty, smelly men.
And now, you even have to get permission to use the loo and you can't even get a drink whenever you want, either.
No wonder everyone's all stressed out.
“That's why you hear about all sorts of accidents and incidents happening in the army.
Everyone's pissed and irritated, but they can't quite figure out why.
That’s why even something trivial will set them off.
Just like what happened with you.”
Kang Jin-Ho rubbed his chin.
He could somehow latch onto this concept, but it still didn't seem understandable yet.
What the assistant instructor said certainly sounded logical, but the rigidity of military life didn't stress Kang Jin-Ho out, so it was difficult for him to empathize with the inner turmoil of his fellow recruits.
After silently mulling it for a while, Kang Jin-Ho raised his head.
“In short, are you saying that I must be more understanding and mindful since everyone's on edge?”
The assistant instructor cocked his eyebrow ever so slightly.
“If you summarize it that way, then yeah.”
“Really? Did you really understand it, recruit?”
The assistant instructor tutted softly while looking at Kang Jin-Ho.
'Man, this kid is a dumbass…'
The heavens allegedly would never grant everything to one person.
And that maxim turned out to be true—Kang Jin-Ho boasted excellent physical specs, but even a blind could see that his sociability score was rock bottom.
Even worse, guys like this would inevitably become what was commonly referred to as a 'blue falcon.’ A blue falcon with high specs like him would end up as a bigger source of headache for everyone than, say, someone with rocks for brain.
The assistant instructor ruefully chuckled.
'This kid's gonna have a hard time in his base later on.'
The instructor could already tell what Kang Jin-Ho's future looked like, but this was as far as he could go for this oblivious recruit.
He found his situation pitiful and wanted to help, but talking to a recruit that couldn't hear or understand him properly wasn’t a constructive way to waste his time.
The assistant instructor patted Kang Jin-Ho's shoulder.
“Recruit, you should go back to your barracks now.”
The sergeant watched as Kang Jin-Ho walked back to his living quarters and quietly tutted away.
“Looks like you've got some bumpy roads ahead of you, kid.”
Kang Jin-Ho opened the door and stepped inside.
The noisy interior seemed to slightly cool down in an instant.
He didn't pay any mind to that and walked up to the tattooed recruit from earlier.
“What do you want?” The recruit in question glared sharply when their eyes met.
Kang Jin-Ho stared straight back.
“What are you dissatisfied with?”
The tattooed man shot up from his seat.
You pickin' a fight with me? Is that it?”
“No.” Kang Jin-Ho raised his hand a little and stopped the recruit.
“I'm simply asking you.
What are you dissatisfied with?”
“Why do you wanna know? What will you do about it?”
“If my actions harm you somehow, I'll have to change my ways.
That's why I'm asking you.”
The tattooed man was taken aback slightly and stared at Kang Jin-Ho weirdly.
“Uh, you wanna know what you did to us?”
“Sheesh. You're also a nutcase, ain'tcha? I thought you were just crazy, but I never knew you were batsh*t crazy.”
Kang Jin-Ho's brows quivered slightly.
'No, hold it, Kang Jin-Ho.
Just one more time…'
The firm requests his father and Park Yu-Min made were repeating themselves in Kang Jin-Ho's mind right now.
He reminded himself to be patient.
If he couldn't hold it anymore, it shouldn't be too late to deal with this recruit properly then.
“I'm warning you ahead of time.
One more insult from you, and I won't hold myself back.”
“Hah? This motherfu—”
“This is my last warning.”
The tattooed man immediately clamped his mouth shut.
'Huh? What's going on?'
He didn't stop himself just now, but his mouth automatically closed shut on its own.
It was as if someone had grabbed his face and forced his jaw shut.
However, there was clearly no external force applied to him.
In that case, why did his body react on its own? He found it—it was his instincts.
The tattooed recruit instinctively realized that finishing his sentence could result in something terrible.
'Wait, what? Am I…
Scared by the punk in front of him? The tattooed recruit, Ju Yeong-Gi, could only blink his eyes in sheer disbelief.
They were in the army, and that was why he had been patiently holding himself back.
However, if they weren’t here…
Half of the idiots inside this room would have been wrecked by him already.
Go to the city of Daegu and mention the name 'Ju Yeong-Gi,’ and the thugs around his age would instantly recognize it.
That was how infamous he was back in his hometown.
But now, a man with such infamy was scared of some weak-looking punk that he even had to clamp his mouth shut? His wounded pride opened the floodgates, and blood began rushing to his head.
“You son of—”
“If I stood out too much and made your lives difficult, then I'll stop doing that in the future.” Kang Jin-Ho abruptly cut him off before turning around to return to his spot.
Ju Yeong-Gi just stood there like an idiot, his lips bobbing up and down.
He was dumbfounded.
Nay, flabbergasted would be more correct.
“H-Hey, Yeong-Gi, dude.
I think that's enough.
He said he'll stop, right? You'll be the only one who’ll get punished for starting something now.
If you get kicked out of the boot camp, who knows when you'll get drafted again?”
“He's right, Yeong-Gi.
You should be the bigger man here.”
Why don't we get out of here and get some coffee or something?”
Ju Yeong-Gi listened to his peers, then wordlessly exited the room.
That prompted other recruits on friendly terms with him to quickly follow after him.
Ju Yeong-Gi strutted ahead with wide-open shoulders and a straight back, but his mind was currently occupied with replaying a certain scene.
He couldn't forget that brief glimpse of Kang Jin-Ho's sharp glare.
'How can a person have such a look in their eyes?'
That thing about figuring someone out through the look in their eyes? Ju Yeong-Gi used to think that was horsesh*t.
It didn't matter whether his opponents were glaring or looking away in fear, a well-placed fist in their faces would always result in those punks squeezing their eyes shut and sobbing pathetically.
So he thought his 'older brothers' in his line of work were simply putting on airs whenever they talked about the 'look in their eyes.’
'But that guy… something's different about him.'
Indeed, something felt off about Kang Jin-Ho—really off.
The look in his eyes wasn't the same as the nonsense the older thugs were talking about.
Even though Ju Yeong-Gi had only caught a glimpse of that glare for the briefest of a brief moment, he mistakenly thought his throat was being torn apart during that instance.
Ju Yeong-Gi growled once again.
I feel like sh*t.”
Be the bigger man.
What will you gain by wasting your energy on that idiot?”
Ju Yeong-Gi normally would have been pleased to hear that, but today? For some reason, his dissatisfaction level was rising up again.
“Did you just call that guy an idiot?”
That Jin-Ho is an idiot, isn't he?”
“Jesus, holy f*ck.” Ju Yeong-Gi suddenly growled in irritation, forcing the other recruits minding his mood to hurriedly shut their mouths.
Ju Yeong-Gi was about to say something, only to replace it with a lengthy groan.
He retrieved cheap coffee from the vending machine.
Despite the rising steam indicating how hot it was, Ju Yeong-Gi still drank the coffee down in one go, then crumpled the paper cup before tossing it away.
“Hey, I'm leaving first.”
He then turned around and headed back to the barracks first.
“What's gotten into him?”
“How should I know?”
The recruits he left behind could only stare in confusion at his back, unsure of what just happened.
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