sighed softly.
“It's probably a lot of money, though…”

“Don't worry.
It's not a lot.”

“In any case, I'm grateful.”

“Why are you thanking me, though?” Kang Jin-Ho cocked an eyebrow as if something dissatisfied him.
“Let me say this again, I'm not doing this for you, so you don't have to thank me.
Even if we become estranged for some reason, I'll still support the orphanage regardless.”

“Yeah, I know.
That's why I'm grateful.”

Kang Jin-Ho tutted loudly, thinking that words weren't getting through to Park Yu-Min.
So, he cleanly gave up convincing his friend and changed the topic.
“Give me a call when Sister Yi's surgery ends.”

“Got it.
I'll definitely call you.”


They chatted for a while before arriving at the orphanage.
Park Yu-Min climbed out of the car and waved his hand.
“Take care now, okay? Oh, and I'll be rejoining my team tomorrow and start practicing again.”

“Good to hear.
I gave it a go earlier myself and discovered how difficult it was to get your game sense back on track.
That's why you gotta get back as soon as possible.”

Park Yu-Min smirked and replied, “Yeah, I heard about that.
Apparently, you got totally annihilated?”


“Wow, so embarrassing.”

“…Let's get going, Mister Gyu-Min.” Kang Jin-Ho hurriedly avoided the gaze of the grinning Park Yu-Min and urged Jo Gyu-Min.
The older man could only wryly smile while depressing the accelerator.


Park Yu-Min watched the car drive away and sighed deeply.
“Gee whiz.
What a pain he can be sometimes.”

Kang Jin-Ho was annihilated by the pros on the first day of playing the game after his return.
True to his personality, though, he rediscovered his previous skills in just three days and proceeded to mercilessly slaughter many pros daring to challenge him.
Although he ran out of time and couldn't jump back into the ranked matches, Kang Jin-Ho still left behind a historical record of twenty-two straight victories against the top pro gamers in the country, and in the process, he reminded everyone that the Killoccupation Era hadn't ended yet.

“…I better step up my game, too.”

He had always been grateful for everything his friend had done for him.
And he also wanted to be more like Kang Jin-Ho if he could.
To be able to hold his head high in the presence of such a friend, Park Yu-Min wanted to be better than Kang Jin-Ho in at least one field.
And that would be the world of pro gaming.


Park Yu-Min waved his hand one more time at the car in the distance.


Jo Gyu-Min looked at the rearview mirror and asked, “Aren't you rueful about today?”

“What do you mean?” Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head slightly.

“I mean, you're returning to the service, yet you look so calm about it, you see.”

“I don't see a reason why I should be nervous.”

“…As expected of you, Mister Jin-Ho.” Jo Gyu-Min chuckled and shifted his focus back to the road ahead.

Kang Jin-Ho stared outside the car's window.
Their vehicle had already driven past the Civilian Control Line to keep traveling up north.
The sun was still blazing up in the middle of the sky, but they were inching ever closer to Kang Jin-Ho's base.
However, he didn't particularly feel unhappy about it.

Of course, that didn't mean he had stopped thinking about the loose ends he was leaving behind.
Such as…
Sister Yi and Han Se-Yeon.

For Sister Yi, there wasn't much Kang Jin-Ho could do now.
It was impossible for him to stay and watch until the end of her surgery, as he was a soldier.
Besides, he had done everything he could already.
For now, he had to trust other people to finish the job.

However, the matter with Han Se-Yeon was different.

'Because we were immature, huh…'

Han Se-Yeon said that what happened between them was because of how young and immature they were.
That argument might apply to her but not to Kang Jin-Ho.
His real mental age was even older than his own father's, after all.

Maybe it happened due to Kang Jin-Ho's lack of readiness to accept other people.
And this led to unintentionally hurting Han Se-Yeon.
He couldn't help but think this way—that he should have done better somehow.

'I still have a long way to go…'

He was still lacking in so many areas.
He lacked understanding of other people and the world in general.
However, he wasn’t in a hurry to understand everything.

It was as Sister Yi had said.
Rather than impatiently rushing ahead to achieve something, Kang Jin-Ho now knew that there was another way.
And that was to step back and wait—to persevere.
Kang Jin-Ho wasn't going to mindlessly adhere to that logic, of course.
However, knowing he had more choices now had calmed his heart down, helping him to be more at ease.

'It's too late now…'

Even if there had been another way to deal with Han Se-Yeon's matter, it was too late to mull over it now.
Getting hung up over the past was foolish, anyway.

Kang Jin-Ho leaned back and closed his eyes.
He should start focusing on living out his military life instead.


Jo Won-Gu warmly greeted Kang Jin-Ho back in their living quarter.
“Hey~, Jin-Ho.
How was your leave?”

Kang Jin-Ho replied in his usual flat tone, “It was fine, sir.”

“Did you get to eat lots of delicious food?”

“Yes, sir.”

Jeon Hyeok-Su butted in.
“This brat! Sir, look how much fatter he got during his leave! Even though it has only been ten days!”

Jo Won-Gu stared weirdly at Jeon Hyeok-Su.
“You dumbass.
Can't you see that Jin-Ho has actually gotten thinner?”

“Eh? Oh, now that you mention it…
Hey, Jin-Ho, what were you doing outside? Did you find yourself a girlfriend or something?”

Jo Won-Gu tutted loudly.
“You dumbass! Jin-Ho already has a girlfriend!”

“Oh, really? This brat never said anything, so I had no idea, sir. Heeeh~, could the reason for your weight loss be that you were busy doing you-know-what?” Jeon Hyeok-Su sneakily asked with a nudge-nudge, wink-wink.

Jo Won-Gu nearly blew his top just then.
“You moron! What are you saying to a kid?!”

“Eii~. But sir, Jin-Ho isn't a kid, you know.
I mean, he's over twenty now, isn't he? Even if we call him our dear maknae, he's still a man leading a love life, no?”

Jo Won-Gu kicked Jeon Hyeok-Su's backside.
Not out of malice, though.
“You and your big mouth…!”

Despite getting his ass kicked, Jeon Hyeok-Su still cackled away as he asked Kang Jin-Ho, “Okay, so~, did you have lots of fun with your girl?”

Kang Jin-Ho replied flatly, “We broke up, sir.”

“Yeah, of course.
You had… Eh?”

“Sir, we broke up.”

The surrounding atmosphere cooled down in an instant.

“O-oh, I see.
Sorry to hear that.”

Everyone in the room began sending gazes of pity in Kang Jin-Ho's way.
However, the person in question was puzzled by their sympathy and had to look around himself.
“What's the matter, sirs?”

“No, well…
You know.” Jeon Hyeok-Su sheepishly looked away.

“Kuh-hmm.” Jo Won-Gu suddenly cleared his throat and approached Kang Jin-Ho.
“Hey, maknae.
Come with me for a sec.
I gotta interview you.”

“Sir? I think I misheard you.”

“I gotta interview you.
You know, a face-to-face talk.”

“Oh, I see.
Of course, sir.”

Kang Jin-Ho was practically dragged away by the squad commander to somewhere more private and had to explain how and why he had to break up with his 'girlfriend.’ That wasn't the end, however, as he also had to prove that he wasn’t psychologically impacted by the breakup.

When the 'interview' was done, Jo Won-Gu wrapped his arm around Kang Jin-Ho's shoulders and spoke in a reassuring voice, “I'm not doing this because we're scared of you going AWOL, Jin-Ho.”

“…Understood, sir.”

“Every soldier who breaks up with their girl goes through this process, you see? We have plenty of hot-headed morons in this place, after all.
You get what I'm saying, don't you?”

“I do, sir.”

Anyway, be strong, soldier.”

“…Yes, sir.”

Later that night, Kang Jin-Ho's seniors suddenly began buying him all sorts of frozen foods and ramen.
He stared at the unexpected pile of food before him and sighed deeply.

'…I shouldn't have said anything.'

Today had to be the first time since his return to the modern era that other people were looking at him with such pity.

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