That might be all the proof he needed to confirm that his personality wasn't exactly friendly.
Moreover, it wasn't like he had lots of friends during his first life, either.

Kang Jin-Ho shook his head, then changed the topic.
“What about Eun-Yeong?”

“…She's in the middle of forcibly changing her concept.”

Kang Jin-Ho nodded in satisfaction.
Jo Gyu-Min watching through the rearview mirror could only softly sigh.

'Even though she could've reached the top in a heartbeat…'

Did Kang Jin-Ho not understand how important—and difficult—it was for an idol to grab the public's attention? Only by promoting and working crazy-hard when the going was hot could an idol safely claim a spot in the public consciousness.
Dozens of idol groups debuted in a year, but only one or two could survive at the end of the day.
The entertainment world was that ruthless.

'Damn it.
We need to make hay while the sun still shines, but this…'

Jo Gyu-Min was dissatisfied, but he knew that such logic simply did not work on Kang Jin-Ho.
After all, he had only allowed Kang Eun-Yeong to become an idol since she earnestly desired it, not because he was a fan of idols.

Jo Gyu-Min buried his dissatisfaction deep inside his chest and changed the topic.
“Should I drive straight to your home, Mister Jin-Ho?”

“No, please stop by at a train station first,” said Kang Jin-Ho while shifting his gaze to the driver's seat.

“A train station, you say? You mean Seoul Station?”

“Yes, that one.”

Jo Gyu-Min glanced at Ju Yeong-Gi through the rearview mirror.
I'll head there, then.”

As for Ju Yeong-Gi, he seemed to have been suppressed by the black business suit-wearing Jo Gyu-Min's aura and was quietly cowering in the corner of the backseat.
The car drove on for another two hours before finally reaching Seoul Station.

Ju Yeong-Gi quickly exited, then looked behind at Kang Jin-Ho.
“Hey, man.
Enjoy your leave, okay?”

“Yeong-Gi, want to have lunch with me before you go?”

“Nah, it's cool.
I wanna get going pronto.
It's not like your offer doesn't sound tempting, but I wanna go home right away.”

“I see.”

Since my leave ends sooner than yours, I guess we won't return to base together, huh? When I come to Seoul later on my way to the base, I'll give you a call, okay? I'll take up on your offer, then.”

“Got it.”

Kang Jin-Ho wordlessly watched Ju Yeong-Gi coolly wave his hand and disappear into the station's doorway before climbing back inside the car.

Ju Yeong-Gi asked from the driver's seat, “Is he your friend, Mister Jin-Ho?”

“He's an acquaintance from the same boot camp.”

“Hmm. Despite his rough countenance, he is unexpectedly polite.”

“That's what's so amusing about him.” Kang Jin-Ho chuckled softly.

Jo Gyu-Min nodded while starting the car again, the destination this time being Kang Jin-Ho's home.
As they drove, he addressed Kang Jin-Ho again, “Mister Jin-Ho, Chairman Hwang was wondering when you'd stop by to see him.”

“Please inform him that I'll come at the appropriate time.”


Hwang Jeong-Hu had already come to Kang Jin-Ho's base once before.
His original plan was to simply register like any other visitor would and step inside the base, but that could have turned the whole place upside down.
Kang Jin-Ho didn't want that, so he managed to talk the chairman down and asked the brass for a temporary leave.
Then, he left the base during that weekend to perform the procedure.
It had been quite inconvenient, but he had no choice.

I need to find a solution to this problem…'

In all honesty, there was no need for Hwang Jeong-Hu to receive treatment once every month.
Kang Jin-Ho just threw that out there to be on the extremely cautious side, but the chairman took that as gospel, and now, it was too late to take what he had said back, leading to his current situation.

The 'treatment' itself was as simple as cleaning the blood vessels to prevent them from getting clogged again.
Yet, the chairman seemed to have believed it as a heaven-defying treatment worthy of his obsession, so Kang Jin-Ho found it rather hard to reveal the truth.

'Maybe I should tell him that he can get the treatment once every two months.'

That seemed like the quickest solution to prevent Hwang Jeong-Hu from showing up on the base every month.

Jo Gyu-Min continued, “Chairman is worried about you, Mister Jin-Ho.”

“Well, he's a kind person, to begin with, after all.”

“No, I mean it, Mister Jin-Ho.
Did you know that he tried to enlist me in the army just so that he would have someone to feed him inside information?”

“Enlist you? But, didn't you already serve?”

“As a non-commissioned officer, of course…”

Kang Jin-Ho was left speechless.
To think that Hwang Jeong-Hu had actually cooked up a scheme to send one of his underlings to the military academy.
Without a doubt, that old man was…
rather extraordinary.

“…I'm sure he was just kidding, Mister Gyu-Min.”

“If Director Baek hadn't intervened at the last minute, I'd be in the academy right now, in the middle of my training, Mister Jin-Ho.
Do you know what the chairman told me? He said he'd take care of assigning me to the same corps as you, and I should simply focus on getting good grades!”

Kang Jin-Ho spat out a long, long groan.
Why did it feel like Chairman Hwang was being fussier than his own parents? “I don't know what to say other than I'm sorry.”

“…Just know that I'm also having a hard time over here, please.”

“I'll definitely remember it.” Kang Jin-Ho quietly stared at the back of Jo Gyu-Min as he drove the car.

Hwang Jeong-Hu might have ordered him to be here, but…
When Kang Jin-Ho thought about it, Jo Gyu-Min had been around since Kang Jin-Ho's high school days, and he had been looking after his needs more than anyone else.

Their car eventually reached its destination.
Kang Jin-Ho exited, then bowed deeply in Jo Gyu-Min's direction.
“Thank you for everything.”

“No need to mention it, Mister Jin-Ho.
Please enjoy your time off.”

“Drive safely.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded, then stepped inside his home.

Jo Gyu-Min watched the front gate close, then pulled out his phone.
“Chairman, it's Jo Gyu-Min speaking.
I've just finished giving Mister Jin-Ho a ride to his home, sir.
I'll return to the office now.”


“I'm home,” said Kang Jin-Ho as he stepped inside the house.

His mother rushed up to him in unbridled joy now that her son had finally returned home for the first time in months.
Kang Jin-Ho had to work hard to calm her down, and only then was he free to enter his room.
The first thing he did after putting his luggage down was switch on his phone, which was already fully charged and ready for its owner.

His parents hadn't canceled the service as Kang Jin-Ho would have wanted to use his phone during his leave.
He thanked them in his mind while dialing Park Yu-Min's number.

– Hello?

“It's me, Jin-Ho.”

– Oh, hi.
Wait, are you out on your, uh, army vacation?


– Already? I'm sorry.
I was too busy, and I didn't realize it.

“That's fine.
Besides that, where are you now?”

– Me? I'm in the orphanage, of course.

Kang Jin-Ho turned his head and glanced at the clock.
It was still lunchtime, and Park Yu-Min being in the orphanage during the middle of the week was rather concerning.

“…I'm on my way there now.”

– Huh? N-no, it's fine, Jin-Ho.
You got your much-deserved vacation, right? Stay home and get some rest.
You can always stop by later, like in the evening.

“No, I'm on my way now.” Kang Jin-Ho ended the call there and swiftly changed his clothes.

Baek Hyeon-Jeong noticed her son stepping out of his room, so she asked him, “Jin-Ho? Are you going out somewhere?”

I'm planning to stop by at Yu-Min's place.”

“We'll be having dinner as a family tonight, so please don't stay late, okay?”

“Understood, Mother.” Kang Jin-Ho said goodbye and headed to the garage.
He stood there and stared at his white wedge-shaped supercar, then…

'Too much hassle, so no.'

He completely ignored it and picked up the Golden Elephant tucked away in the corner instead.
Gripping the bicycle's handles for the first time in months felt quite good.

Time to go.”

Kang Jin-Ho unhesitantly climbed aboard the bike's saddle.

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