To School (4)
Kang Jin-Ho stepped back inside the classroom only to encounter Jeong In-Gyu rushing up to him.
“Hey, Jin-Ho! Did you hear the news?”
Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head slightly.
Jeong In-Gyu excitedly replied, “It's about Se-Yeon! She signed with an agency, apparently.”
“Se-Yeon, you say?”
“Yeah, Han Se-Yeon.”
Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head again.
“Agency? What's that?”
“Dude, the talent agency! She's gonna become an idol!”
“I see.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded disinterestedly.
That news was nothing to raise so much fuss over.
Countless hopefuls knocked on the talent agency's doors, and quite a few among them were selected as trainees.
But only a handful went on to make their debuts, and an even smaller number managed to survive the competitive world of idols.
That girl wasn't an idol as far as he could recall.
Even if she chose to walk this path, the result waiting for her at the end wouldn’t be a pretty one.
Although, it didn't matter to him whether she became an idol or not.
“You don't seem surprised?” Jeong In-Gyu asked.
Kang Jin-Ho cocked a brow.
“Should I be?”
“Hey! It's Han Se-Yeon, dude.
Han Se-Yeon! If she becomes an idol, your chances with her will go down the drain!”
Jeong In-Gyu's passionate cry made Kang Jin-Ho dig deeper into his memory banks.
The girl named Han Se-Yeon had a pretty face and a nice personality.
She seemed like good girlfriend material. From his memories, it seemed that he did have a romantic-ish feeling toward her once upon a time.
However, that was about it, really.
Kang Jin-Ho never got to confess to her, and that damned car accident on his way to the graduation ceremony ended all of his hopes and dreams, anyway. Afterward, he…
He didn't know what kind of life she went on to live.
Were his feelings in the past still alive in him somewhere? Of course not.
Kang Jin-Ho's heart was too withered and cracked for those naïve emotions to remain until now.
The buds of emotions trying to grow in his withered heart had all died a long time ago.
However, he was currently trying his best to water the desert in his heart so that one day, new buds could bloom there.
For now, though…
“It's none of my business,” Kang Jin-Ho muttered disinterestedly.
Jeong In-Gyu was taken aback.
“Dude, you've gotten reaaally weird, you know that?”
“Is that so?”
It's like, the way you speak and… Hmm.
Did you hurt your head or something?” Jeong In-Gyu asked worriedly.
“No, I'm fine.”
“You don't look fine to me, though?”
“I said, I'm fine.”
“…Nah, you really don't look fine at all.”
Kang Jin-Ho's irritation crept up ever so slightly.
“I'm telling you, I'm fine.”
Jeong In-Gyu thumped his chest.
“If you're still having trouble with stuff, you can tell me, your dear hyung! I'm still your friend, after all! Aren't friends supposed to shoulder the burden together?”
Kang Jin-Ho faintly grinned.
Back when he was in serious trouble, Jeong In-Gyu never once offered a helping hand.
Even so, he still chose to stick with the latter solely for the purpose of fishing out information related to school life and various relationships he had formed in his youth. Moreover, he saw no disadvantages to maintaining this particular friendship as long as he didn't expect too much from it.
Kang Jin-Ho chuckled and replied, “I'll pass.”
Jeong In-Gyu cocked a brow.
“Huh? Did you just sneer at me?”
“No, that wasn't a sneer.”
“Keep this up, and I might kick your ass, dude.
Never mind, let's just go to the PC Room.”
Kang Jin-Ho refused again.
“I told you, I'm not going.”
Jeong In-Gyu placed his hand on Kang Jin-Ho's head, then shook his head helplessly.
“This child must've hurt his head for real.
Child, you used to love going to a PC Room, so what has gotten into you, son? Wait, could it be that…
you were thinking of studying?”
Kang Jin-Ho groaned under his breath.
He definitely had no lingering attachments for the place called PC Room, but his memories still said that the past Kang Jin-Ho enjoyed wasting time there.
In that case, maybe it wasn't such a bad idea to check it out at least once.
He finally relented and nodded.
Perhaps there was a need to visit a PC Room if he wanted to live an ordinary life.
That was the playground of young men, after all.
Feeling out of place shouldn't stop him from going there.
Only by directly experiencing things could he get used to the modern lifestyle sooner.
Besides, he wanted to get better at using modern technology, too.
In his first life, his computer had been his only true friend.
After becoming a paraplegic, he spent almost his entire waking days glued to his computer like a junkie.
The only times he tore himself away from gaming was either during his sleep or when social workers paid him a visit.
He might have spent a long time without computers in gangho, but the reflexes built up should still be there, slumbering deep within his instincts.
“We're gonna bet stuff, so I hope you brought some money,” Jeong In-Gyu yapped on without a moment's break, but Kang Jin-Ho paid him no mind and stared outside the window.
This era was peaceful.
If the people of the past learned about how a peaceful life like this could be possible, then they would've vociferously protested the unfairness of their situation.
However, every era had its downsides.
Kang Jin-Ho's figure spun around as fast as a streak of lightning.
“What the heck?!” A student trying to walk behind him jumped up in alarm and stared at Kang Jin-Ho.
“Huh? Hey, man! What was that for?”
Kang Jin-Ho sighed under his breath.
These kids were not worried about potential threats to their lives.
Which also meant that they had no awareness of which actions could be viewed as 'threatening' to the other party.
In gangho, approaching someone from behind was frowned upon.
Humans had no eyes behind their backs, and their senses were naturally duller when they couldn't see.
An unguarded back was an open invitation for sneak attacks.
However, the people of the modern era didn't know that.
If Kang Jin-Ho had reformed his dantian, he could've detected everything happening behind him like an open book.
But the best he could do in his current state was faintly sense people's presence.
An unfamiliar person suddenly showing up behind would force his still tightly-wound instincts to react aggressively.
Kang Jin-Ho tried to calm himself.
The modern world might be peaceful—but he still had a long way to go before getting used to his surroundings.
Indeed, he still needed more time.
The interior of the PC Room was surprisingly raucous.
Noises coming from the speakers and the patrons chatting away pummelled Kang Jin-Ho's hearing.
“Mm…” Honestly, he could barely collect himself in this noisy environment.
“Our spots opened up.
Let's go.” Jeong In-Gyu urged on, prompting Kang Jin-Ho to go and take a seat in front of an unoccupied computer.
But then, something made Jeong In-Gyu tilt his head in confusion.
“What are you doing, dude? Hurry up and log in already.”
“Mm…” Kang Jin-Ho wanted to do that too, but logging in to his old account turned out to be a lot harder than he expected.
Jeong In-Gyu asked again, “What's going on, dude?”
Kang Jin-Ho replied flatly, “It says to enter my ID.”
“Then do it.”
“I can't remember it, though.”
“Recover your password, then.”
Kang Jin-Ho narrowed his eyes at the monitor.
“It's now asking me for my phone number.”
Jeong In-Gyu was getting a bit exasperated now.
“Is that a problem?”
“I can't remember my number, either.”
“Wha? Did you really hit your head or something?” Jeong In-Gyu sensibly held back his hollow laughter and offered one more suggestion.
“Just use your card, dude.”
“Argh, forget it! Fine! I'll do it myself!” Jeong In-Gyu shot up from his seat.
He returned from the PC Room's counter with a card, entered something into Kang Jin-Ho's computer, and unlocked it.
“Are you happy now?”
Connect to the server.”
“Connect to what server?”
“The server for 'Galaxy,’ dude!”
Min-Jae sitting on the other side of the table butted in with an unhappy voice.
“Hey, I thought we're gonna play AOS? Why Galaxy again?”
“There are four of us, so how can we play AOS?! Where's your pity for the certain person joining our four-man party? Let's just play Galaxy, okay?”
Kang Jin-Ho wordlessly nodded and clicked on the game's icon.
The name of the game was 'Galaxy Craft.’ Although it lost most of its steam later on in its life, countless Koreans enjoyed this game during this period in history.
A real-time strategy title, its popularity worldwide was strong enough for pro gamers to compete in overseas tournaments and turn the game into their livelihood.
Jeong In-Gyu urged Kang Jin-Ho. “Hurry up and get connected.”
“Mmhm…” Kang Jin-Ho nodded, but he could only stare at the login window in a daze.
‘Yes, I need to log in.
Log in, yes…
By the way…
what was my ID, again?’
Jeong In-Gyu asked in a clearly exasperated voice, “Dude, what are you doing?”
“What's my ID?”
“Yup, you've lost the plot for real.” Jeong In-Gyu proceeded to find Kang Jin-Ho's gamer ID from his friend's list.
However, one more hurdle presented itself right afterward—the password.
His voice rose a few octaves higher. “What is the matter this time?!”
Kang Jin-Ho quietly asked, “Do you know what my password is?”
“…I was joking about you going crazy, but maybe it was for real?!” Jeong In-Gyu finally blew his top at this seemingly unending series of obstacles and snatched Kang Jin-Ho's mouse away. “Geez, I don't care anymore! Just use your alt, okay! Did the accident wreck your brain or something?! How can you even forget your ID and password?!”
“I'm feeling flustered myself.”
You better pull your socks up today.
Min-Jae and Tae-Ho are still smarting about paying for the PC Room fees the last time.
They are itching to get back at us, you know.”
Kang Jin-Ho nodded. “We will not lose.”
Jeong In-Gyu raised his thumb up high. “That's the spirit!”
Kang Jin-Ho glared at the monitor.
He used to enjoy playing Galaxy Craft. Moreover, he also happened to be a high-level player with almost no equal in his school.
If his memories were to be believed, he usually pretended to be on the losing side to ensure that the matches wouldn't end up too one-sided in his favor.
That was how wide the chasm between his gaming abilities and those of his peers.
It didn't matter whether it was a game or a duel—once it began, one must win.
That was Kang Jin-Ho's motto.
He certainly had no reason to change that just because he started living an ordinary life now.
Jeong In-Gyu glanced at Kang Jin-Ho.
What are you doing right now?”
Kang Jin-Ho replied slowly, “…Currently selecting my units.”
“And your workers?”
Jeong In-Gyu suddenly started panicking. “Only five of them?!”
Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head. “Is there something wrong?”
“You've definitely lost your marbles!”
Suddenly, the minimap on the monitor was flooded with red dots—indicating an enemy invasion.
Jeong In-Gyu's eyes almost popped out of their sockets. “D-dude! Stop them!”
“My units aren't ready yet.”
“A-ah?! Y-you dumbass!” Jeong In-Gyu cried out, but that only invited the attention of the PC Room’s employee.
The part-time worker walked up and firmly warned Jeong In-Gyu.
“Customer, please keep your voice down.”
“M-my bad.” After tasting the double dose of embarrassment, Jeong In-Gyu's bloodshot eyes hurriedly landed on Kang Jin-Ho next.
“Dude, you did that to troll me just now, didn't ya?!”
Kang Jin-Ho replied flatly, “Of course not.”
“Then, get your act together, dude! Don't go easy on them.
I'm telling you, we gotta win this!”
“I got it.” Kang Jin-Ho grinned softly.
The problem with the last round must've been with his workers.
After combing through his memories, he recalled that workers needed to be continuously produced to meet the constant demand for the materials, which in turn would produce more combat units later on.
Kang Jin-Ho confidently declared, “It'll be better from now on.”
“Alright, I'll believe in you,” said Jeong In-Gyu.
The second match started.
This time, Kang Jin-Ho made sure to continuously select workers.
One of his strong points had always been how he could immediately put to practice whatever he learned only a few moments ago.
Unfortunately, Jeong In-Gyu didn't seem satisfied with something else this time. “Dude?!”
Kang Jin-Ho was slightly taken aback. “What's wrong?”
“What are you doing, selecting only the berserkers?!”
“Is there something wrong with that?”
Jeong In-Gyu pointed at the monitor. “Can't you see all the incoming enemy air units?!”
“Mm?” Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head.
He made sure to select lots of combat units, but all they could do against Tae-Ho's airborne combat units flying over the sky was just flail about like a bunch of idiots.
Kang Jin-Ho's brows began quivering. “What?!”
“Dude, seriously now?! Why didn't you mix up the units?!”
“Mixing them up…?”
And just like that, the second match also ended anti-climatically, with Kang Jin-Ho's side unable to mount any offense whatsoever.
Kang Jin-Ho groaned deeply.
'Yes, mix up my units.
Do not forget that.
Just like how you can't win a war with infantry alone, I need to mix and match my units to get the best out of their synergistic relationship.
I used to play this game a lot, so I just need to remember it.
Remember it, Kang Jin-Ho!'
He opened his eyes wide and glared at the monitor.
Perhaps his old experiences were coming back to him as his hand movements gradually got faster and faster, and he also found it easier to read the opposition’s tactics.
His adaptation rate went through the roof until he reached a level where he could confidently assess the enemy forces and compare them to his own personal selection.
Realizing that his production rate was higher, he felt that the victory would be his as long as he got the synergy between the units right.
“Alright, one more match!”
Kang Jin-Ho's energetic cry was met with Jeong In-Gyu's angry outburst.
“If you mess this one up again, I swear, I'm gonna beat you up!”
“Don’t worry,” Kang Jin-Ho replied, his heart was ablaze for the first time in a while.
This thing called 'duel' possessed an unexplainable something that set fire to the hearts of all men.
The third match started.
Kang Jin-Ho's hands danced like streaks of lightning in a display of terrifying accuracy and perfect input ability.
His ability to control his physical body reached an unimaginable realm after he mastered martial arts, and all that hard work was now manifesting its powers in today's gaming session.
When it came to his hand movement speed, he was even faster than his wheelchair-bound past self that did nothing but play games the whole day.
Kang Jin-Ho's forces, now boasting a variety of units, triumphantly made their appearance on the battlefield.
'Yes, it's perfect!'
Kang Jin-Ho thought as he took in the majestic sight of his onscreen troops, seemingly unbeatable in any circumstances.
He clicked on the 'attack,’ fully ready to vent all his accumulated frustration so far.
However, something unexpected began happening instead.
Jeong In-Gyu cried out.
Kang Jin-Ho was left flustered once more. “Why are my units circling around like that?”
“What are you even…
Dude! Where are your detectors?!”
“What are those?”
“Enemies got cloaked units! All of your forces will die at this rate! Use a detector… Ah? You don't have any?!”
Kang Jin-Ho began trembling. “O-okay, so…”
Jeong In-Gyu quietly muttered, “Oh…
They’re all dead.”
“…” The third match ended just like that, and Kang Jin-Ho sunk deeper into his chair, his empty eyes taking in the monitor's visuals.
For some reason, blood was rushing up to his head.
He didn't feel this sort of emotion back when he fought with his life on the line in gangho.
This emotion wasn't resentment or anger but almost purely consisted of irritation, and it stoked the flames of his competitive streak even more.
Jeong In-Gyu cried out. “Dude, what's the matter with you?!”
Kang Jin-Ho shot back. “I did my best!”
“Your best? You dumbass, be honest with me! You were just messing with me, right? Otherwise, how could you not select any detectors or workers this time?!”
“Aaaargh! Looks like we'll have to cough up the PC Room fees now! Dude, take responsibility for this mess! I don't have any money on me.”
Kang Jin-Ho replied testily, “I'll pay.”
“Of course, you must pay!”
Kang Jin-Ho sat upright. “By the way…
are the matches over?”
Jeong In-Gyu shrugged his shoulders. “We lost three matches in a row, so, yeah.
It's game over, man.”
over? Like that?”
“That's what I said.”
Kang Jin-Ho's face grew redder.
“One more match.”
“But we lost already.”
“I heard you.
Just one more match!”
“…What the heck's gotten into you, buddy?”
Later that day, in the evening…
Kang Jin-Ho and his stiff face opened the front door of his home, and he headed straight to his room. “I'm home.”
“Welcome back, Jin-Ho.” His mother greeted him back, only to notice her son's strangely urgent, determined steps.
She asked him while feeling a bit confused, “Want some supper, Jin-Ho?”
“No, I already ate, Mother.”
“Were you hanging out with your friends?”
Kang Jin-Ho's mother stared weirdly at him.
After all, Kang Jin-Ho wasn't the type to rush straight into his room! Moreover, he even threw off his school uniform in a flash and immediately turned his computer on.
“…” He wordlessly connected to a Galaxy Craft server and started playing the game as an intimidating aura oozed out of him.
His mother asked in a quiet voice, “Did you lose?”
“Do it in moderation, okay?”
“Yes, Mother.” Kang Jin-Ho nodded slightly, then focused on the game with enough concentration to bore a hole through the monitor.
He looked so desperate that even his mother couldn't nag him for playing computer games as soon as coming home.
Kang Eun-Yeong stood next to her mom and asked in confusion, “Mom? What's suddenly gotten into Oppa?”
“He said he lost today.”
“Is that why he looks like he actually wants to crawl inside that dumb game or something?”
His mother sighed.
“It seems so.”
Kang Eun-Yeong shook her head.
“Boys will be boys, I guess.”
His mother and Kang Eun-Yeong stared at Kang Jin-Ho's back, their expressions failed to disguise their feelings about how pathetic this whole thing was to them.
But Kang Jin-Ho and his clenched teeth were utterly oblivious to their glares of contempt as his hand was furiously moving the mouse around.
Ten straight losses!
Kang Jin-Ho had bitterly realized that desire alone wasn’t enough to be good at a game. That was why he gritted his teeth and poured his entire being into practice matches to get his old skills back.
An 'alt' refers to an alternate account or an alternate character in an online game ☜
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