Descent of the Demon Master
Late at night…
Kang Jin-Ho headed back to Jaegyeong's hospital.
Just like before, he easily slipped into Sister Yi's room without being detected.
He stood near the bed and scanned her sleeping figure.
'Time to start the treatment…'
He drank some liquor like an immature kid, but he didn't feel drunk at all.
It shouldn't impair his ability to treat her tonight.
Kang Jin-Ho pressed his palm on Sister Yi's abdomen, then proceeded to eliminate the tumorous growths.
He started off by burning away the poisonous strands of energy creeping back into the areas he had already cleansed.
Quite some time passed by while he focused on treating the areas he hadn't touched yet.
“Fuu-woo…” Kang Jin-Ho let out a heavy groan while taking his hand away.
Maybe, because he had already done this before? The treatment wasn't as exhausting as the last time, but the feeling of his body weighing a ton still assaulted him mercilessly.
The sweat-drenched clothes also bothered him.
'Still, it's getting better.'
As if to mirror the improving condition of the orphanage's director, Kang Jin-Ho's cultivation realm was also improving.
He was unable to solely focus on training right now, so performing treatments like this helped him in that regard.
Kang Jin-Ho studied Sister Yi's sleeping face, then exited her room.
He headed to the hospital's rooftop and was greeted by the view of Seoul immersed in the darkness of the night.
'Have I not really changed?'
He believed he had been acclimatizing rather well to the modern era.
However, Park Yu-Min's observation had ruthlessly shaken up that belief.
Kang Jin-Ho might never have pushed away anyone wanting to approach him, but his friend was also right; he had never approached anyone out of his own volition or tried to fit in first, either.
The only exception was Park Yu-Min's case.
“I thought I had changed, but this…”
Kang Jin-Ho used to be a hermit.
A hedgehog, in a way.
After the accident took his legs and family, he became afraid of people approaching him.
He was scared of how others would judge him for his disability.
Back then, he resolutely refused to be under other people’s gazes, as he didn’t want to be afraid anymore.
His situation hadn’t changed a lot in Zhongyuan.
His disability there wasn't as severe, but he always had the self-awareness of being different from everyone else festering at the back of his mind.
Maybe, this was why he became the common enemy under the heavens as Heavenly Crimson Demon Emperor.
Even though he had lived in Zhongyuan for decades, he had never befriended someone or went out of his way to create a truly trustworthy subordinate.
Indeed, that had been his fault.
He knew this, and that was why he thought this life would be different.
He had made a friend.
His family was still alive.
He also had people to worry about now, and people who would worry about him.
Park Yu-Min spoke as if the current Kang Jin-Ho wasn’t all that different from his past self.
In that case, maybe Kang Jin-Ho hadn't changed at all?
'Do I have to change?'
He wouldn't have even pondered such a question not too long ago.
However, he had learned from Han Se-Yeon's case that his current attitude was making life difficult for the people around him.
In that case, shouldn't he try to fit in?
However, how was he supposed to do that?
Kang Jin-Ho sighed at length.
Living together with other people wasn't as easy as he had thought.
Everyone else could do it with seemingly no issues at all, yet Kang Jin-Ho felt that everything was tough.
Did he really not change? Not even a little bit? Kang Jin-Ho didn't think that was the case.
The proof was him standing on the rooftop of this hospital.
The past him wouldn't have cared what other people thought about his way of life.
No, he wouldn’t even spare a thought to that subject.
And he would also definitely not devote time and energy to heal someone like this.
It just takes time, that’s all…”
Kang Jin-Ho was changing little by little.
It was just that the world was changing faster than he could catch up.
He sighed deeply at the feeling of being lost and went down the stairs to go home.
“Did something happen, Jin-Ho?” Baek Hyeon-Jeong worriedly asked.
Kang Jin-Ho shook his head.
I don't feel that hungry.”
Baek Hyeon-Jeong stared back and forth between her son and the rice cooker with concern visible in her expression.
After experiencing an unexpected crisis of not enough rice yesterday morning, she made sure to cook a mountain of food, as she didn't want to see her child eating instant food right in front of her.
But then, Kang Jin-Ho barely picked up his spoon and only went through the motions before getting up from the dining table.
Kang Yu-Hwan muttered, “What are we going to about all that rice?”
“That's not the issue here, dear!” Baek Hyeon-Jeong yelled at him.
“Then, what's the issue, darling?”
“Can't you see that our son doesn't have his usual appetite? He'll end up as skin and bones at this late, you know!”
“But, uh, one bowl of rice is enough for a normal breakfast, don't you think?” Kang Yu-Hwan mumbled while looking weirdly at his wife.
She must be thinking that their son was some kind of a piggy bank—the more you fed it, the better! Or something similar to that.
He shifted his attention over to Kang Jin-Ho.
“Are you planning to stay in today, son?”
That's good, though.
Even though you're on leave, you should at least have dinner with your family.”
“Yes, Father,” Kang Jin-Ho replied while briefly wondering if his father wasn't satisfied with the breakfast.
Then again, if breakfast and dinner weren't the same, he was probably right.
Kang Jin-Ho helped his mother by tidying up the dining table, which gave his parents enough time to finish getting ready to leave for work.
Baek Hyeon-Jeong looked at her son while standing in the doorway.
“We'll be on our way now, son.”
“Get some much-needed rest, son.
Call us if you're heading out.”
His parents left, and with that, Kang Jin-Ho found himself all alone in the house.
He numbly scanned his surroundings.
'What should I do now?'
A lengthy leave meant Kang Jin-Ho could focus on the orphanage director's treatment, but it also had the disadvantage of…
not having anything to do.
He could only spend so much time in the orphanage.
Otherwise, the kids would start thinking that he had a job there.
Kang Jin-Ho rubbed his chin, trying to remember what he used to do before enlisting.
Eventually, a certain term called 'computer game' floated up in his mind.
“It has been a while, so should I have a go?”
While thinking that nothing was better than playing games to cool down his head, Kang Jin-Ho headed to his room and switched the computer on.
When he launched the game, though, update notices began popping up one after another.
Kang Jin-Ho stared at his monitor in a daze, wondering what was going on.
He had been away for only three months, yet this was like installing the game for the first time.
After five minutes of nonstop updates, Kang Jin-Ho was finally allowed to launch the game.
“Shall we start, then?”
A meaningful grin crept up on Kang Jin-Ho's lips.
“KILLYM! He has logged back in!”
The practice room of the pro gaming team, Sneak Fox, suddenly became noisy.
The gamers rushed over to one of the monitors and gasped loudly after spotting the ID, 'KILLYM,’ near the bottom of the list of everyone online.
“Whoa! It's been a long time, hasn't it?”
“I heard he enlisted, and it must be true.
It's been over three months, right?”
“Yeah, that’s about right.”
When the gamers crowded around the monitor and noisily chatted among themselves, the team director walked over to them while tilting his head.
“Hey? What's going on here?”
“Director, the No.1 Ranker is back.”
“Mm? Ranked No.1, is it? That's not that special, though?”
This guy is definitely special.”
“Huh?” The director craned his neck and looked over the crowd to confirm the ID.
“Hang on a minute.
Isn't that the ID of that dude who dominated the number one spot? Didn't someone say that's a pro gamer’s alt account?”
He's not a pro.”
I mean, most pros should be busy with their matches during the broadcasts, aren't they?”
“Uh, I guess?”
“So, most pro alt accounts wouldn't log in during tournament opening ceremonies or media days.
You know, when all the pros must participate.
But this guy? He logs in those days as well.
No doubt he's an amateur.”
“Seriously?” The director of Sneak Fox, Bak Wu-Seong, stared at the monitor, his expression unreadable.
“Hmm. Ask him for a match.”
“He doesn't really accept matches with strangers, though.”
“I get it, so ask him already.”
“Understood.” The gamer occupying the booth clicked on the ID of the mysterious ranker and sent a match request.
“This guy often doesn’t accept custom matches, though…”
For some reason, though, KILLYM agreed to a custom match today.
“That's a surprise.”
“If he's out on military leave, then maybe he's trying to get his instincts back? If so, it makes sense he'd say yes.
I mean, if he joins a ranked match with his rusty skills, his rating will only go down, right?”
The ranker 'KILLYM' was seen as a mainstay—a force of nature—by other pro gamers.
This mysterious person had always been ranked number one.
He was an existence who had always occupied the spot at the top of the ranks as if 'No.1' was his middle name! Naturally, pro gamers started excluding KILLYM from their discussions and considered the second place as the real number one spot in the rankings.
Some people opined that the top pro gamers could potentially snatch away the No.1 spot if they played seriously.
However, such pro gamers obviously couldn’t give their all in 'regular' ranked matches when they were already focusing on winning tournaments and helping their teammates get better in the practice rooms.
That was why the No.1 ranked player in Battlenet had always been KILLYM.
After not logging in for the past few months, though, everyone had started treating KILLYM as just another human being.
Naturally, the No.1 spot was soon taken over by other players.
“It hasn't been that long since Killiberation started, yet he's sneakily making his way back?”
“Yeah, you're right.
I guess the Killoccupation Era will begin soon.”
“What are you two even on about?” The director tilted his head in confusion after failing to understand the slang of these cool kids.
Do I have to convert it into dad jokes for our director?'
The pro gamers seriously pondered that question as the match got underway.
Everyone quietly watched the unfolding match on the monitor, and as the climax approached, they began to mumble one by one.
“He's gotten a lot worse.”
“Looks like he hasn't played a single match in the last few months.
He isn’t as good as using the meta to his favor as before.”
“Still, looks like his sharpness hasn't gone away.
His senses aren't completely dead at all.”
When he gets used to this meta, his reign of terror will begin again, that's for sure. Ah, wait.
He's supposedly on leave, right? Then Killiberation will last for another two years.”
Bak Wu-Seong stared at the monitor with a grave expression.
'How should I interpret this?'
Losing a match against a pro gamer was nothing to be ashamed about.
What made the director uncertain was that the match itself was pretty high-level.
An amateur competing against a pro could win or lose depending on the circumstances, which wasn't all that surprising.
However, if a pro decided to play seriously, the match would inevitably become quite one-sided.
Since the director was watching, the pro wouldn't have taken it easy this time.
Unsurprisingly, the mysterious ranker lost, but his performance throughout the match itself was still very good.
That could mean this KILLYM's skill rivaled that of a pro gamer.
Bak Wu-Seong narrowed his eyes.
“So, this guy hasn't been playing for the past three months or so?”
He hasn't logged in at all.”
“Maybe, he was raising an alt account?”
“He wouldn't have used that build, then.
I mean, that was trending at the beginning of the year, you know?”
“Hmm…” Bak Wu-Seong nodded.
Three months of downtime, yet he could still compete against an active pro gamer on equal footing? “This guy sounds like a real deal, then? Is there a way to contact him?”
“He doesn't respond to messages, Director.
He ignores DMs as well.”
I heard that other teams tried to scout him before.
However, he doesn't seem interested at all, Director.”
“Really?” Bak Wu-Seong licked his lips ruefully.
He's supposed to be serving in the army right now.
Even if you want to scout him, you'll have to wait a year and a half.”
“Ah, that's right…” Bak Wu-Seong heard that and finally gave up on the idea.
“Still, no one knows what will happen in the future.
So, send him a DM, at least.
Get close to him if you can, too.”
“Maaan, what a waste,” Bak Wu-Seong muttered while turning around to leave.
Even then, he couldn't help but glance at the monitor several times.
However, he knew that a man must know when to give up.
“Mm…” Kang Jin-Ho stared at his monitor and fell deep into his thoughts.
He wouldn't have lost to that opponent in the past.
Indeed, it wouldn't even be a match, yet the three months of absence had left too much of an impact.
'This is the story with me, so…'
He wasn't being arrogant here when he thought that his physical body was different from everyone else.
Considering that, his skill should deteriorate far slower than others even if he hadn't played a single game in three months.
However, he still lost to an opponent he should have won against quite easily in the past.
In that case, what about Park Yu-Min? Apparently, he hadn't been inside his team's practice room in over a month.
'I need to hurry and get him back in the scene.'
Kang Jin-Ho thought that Park Yu-Min's career could be irreparably harmed by delaying things any further.
While mulling over a way forward, he requested a rematch.
'That's that, but this…!'
Getting worked up after losing couldn't be helped, as Kang Jin-Ho was still a human being.
His hand gripped the mouse even tighter.
He started playing just to pass the time, but his competitive streak was ignited by how things had turned out.
Some people might dismiss this whole thing as just a computer game, but Kang Jin-Ho didn't care.
There was no such thing as 'going easy' for a man who didn't take losing too kindly.
“I can simply regain what I lost.”
Of course, he was talking about his gaming skills.
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