, he had experienced first-hand how humans could become crueler than beasts at the snap of a finger.

'It's not that, however…'

Kang Jin-Ho couldn't discover any wrongdoings perpetrated by Ju Yeong-Gi.
In fact, Ju Yeong-Gi was such a hard worker that Kang Jin-Ho began to wonder if he had been taking it too easy until now.

Despite being a corporal himself, Ju Yeong-Gi rarely had time to sit down and rest.
He occasionally made some mistakes while carrying out his duties, but none of them was serious enough to warrant heavy punishment.
Anyone could commit those mistakes.

'Then, what exactly is going on?'

Kang Jin-Ho couldn't figure it out.
There could be two explanations for this situation.
One, Ju Yeong-Gi hadn't made any 'serious' mistake today, or…

Kang Jin-Ho continued to suck on his cigarette.

'I'll find out during the night, then.'


Avoiding the night watch's eyes while leaving the barrack was a piece of cake for Kang Jin-Ho.
However, fooling the periodical headcount would be more troublesome.
He used his blanket and the bedding to make it look like he was asleep, and he even pulled the blanket all the way up to the pillow.

The rules explicitly stated that soldiers had to sleep with their faces exposed.
However, Kang Jin-Ho had just completed his guard duty, so he thought no one would come to bother him for a while or check up on him.

He stealthily left the 3rd Squad's living area and directly headed to the boiler room from last night.
He didn't even bother to confirm who was missing in the 1st Squad.
If his guess were correct, this would be the ideal time.

According to the duty roster, both Ju Yeong-Gi and Kim Hak-Cheol had no assignments during this hour.
If Kim Hak-Cheol wanted to do something, now would be the perfect opportunity.
That was what Kang Jin-Ho had deduced.

'…Not here?'

Contrary to his expectations, though…
There was no one in the boiler room.

“Fuu-woo…” Kang Jin-Ho let out a long sigh.

'That's a relief.'

If the two of them were not here, it could mean Kim Hak-Cheol only raked Ju Yeong-Gi over the coals if the latter had made a mistake earlier in the day.
Didn't Kang Jin-Ho see with his own eyes that Ju Yeong-Gi hadn't done anything noticeably problematic today?

Of course, it was still unacceptable for a senior-ranked soldier to hit their junior just because some mistakes were made.
However, it was still better than hitting someone without a just cause.

'Maybe I need to think about this some more…'

Kang Jin-Ho was relieved to learn that the situation wasn't as terrible as he thought, but there was no denying that it still wasn’t good.
Ju Yeong-Gi's gaunt complexion still weighed heavily in Kang Jin-Ho's mind as well.

Kang Jin-Ho exited the boiler room and mouthed a cigarette.

'Am I doing it right, I wonder?'

Kang Jin-Ho could unequivocally say the past him would have never been interested in Ju Yeong-Gi's situation.
It was already difficult to deal with his own issues, so he wouldn't have seen a reason to care about other people's problems.

“A person who extends a helping hand, huh…” Kang Jin-Ho muttered while scratching his head.

Such a thing didn't suit Kang Jin-Ho.
Not really.
He had never lived for other people's sake before, after all.

'For now, let's observe for a little while longer.'

Ju Yeong-Gi's situation required a little more time to suss out, or so it seemed.
However, Kang Jin-Ho realized he also needed time to organize his thoughts.

Unfortunately, he didn't know—he didn't know that doing that was a mistake.


Several days had passed by, yet Kang Jin-Ho's thoughts showed no signs of cooling down.
After finishing his night watch duty, Kang Jin-Ho returned to the 3rd Squad's living area, changed out of his uniform, then quickly stepped outside the building.

'What would be the best way to approach this?'

What a surprisingly delicate problem this was.
He only had a limited number of ways to handle this situation.
For instance, he could expose this abuse in the open, but that wouldn't be good for anybody.

The military had several screwed-up aspects to it, and one of the worst examples would be that a victim wasn't guaranteed justice.
No, in plenty of instances, victims would experience an even greater injustice in the end.
Something similar existed in the civilian world, but this aspect was especially more pronounced within the military.

Trying to solve this situation through official channels would only harm Ju Yeong-Gi in the end.
The preferred method of dealing with a case of violence in the army was to sweep everything under the carpet by transferring the perpetrator and the victim to different bases—even if the victim wasn’t at fault.
The system was to blame, and so was the military leadership.

There was another problem with using official channels.
Just how high up should Kang Jin-Ho go to report this? Directly speaking to the Division Commander was an option, but doing so would shift the blame.
Starting from the ranks of battery commander and below, officers would lose their chances for promotion for 'turning a blind eye on a case of violence' within their base.

'Even though they haven't done anything…'

From what Kang Jin-Ho had observed so far, it didn't matter how dedicated and involved the Battery Commander was in the daily operation of his corps.
It was simply unrealistic for him to prevent incidents like Ju Yeong-Gi's case.
It wasn't as if the Battery Commander could assign people to monitor all the barracks around the clock.
And, even if the Battery Commander did his best, he would still be unable to stop the perpetrators from acting all nice and chummy in the open only to abuse their ranks behind the scenes.

This was one of the reasons why the military always saw a never-ending series of incidents.
No matter how much soldiers were trained, educated and monitored, blind spots would always be there.

Kang Jin-Ho let out a long sigh.
It would be great if he could think of a way to resolve Ju Yeong-Gi's situation amicably.
However, the reality wasn't so kind.
In that case, he should focus on finding a way to bring justice to all those involved.
His current homework was to find a way to punish the perpetrator and compensate the victim properly.
An exceedingly fair conclusion, in other words.

“However, that's the tricky part…” Kang Jin-Ho muttered while mouthing another cigarette.

Lighting it up and inhaling a lungful of this unhealthy smoke seemed to have eased the frustration building up inside his chest.
Of course, that was just an illusion.
The sense of relief found through smoking was nothing more than a feeble lie told to oneself.
Science had even proven that smoking only exacerbated the smoker's stress level.

This was nothing more than a momentary comfort earned by forcing pleasure-inducing narcotics into one's brain.

“I should quit…” Kang Jin-Ho sighed and got ready to stub the cigarette out.
But then, the barrack's door suddenly flew open.

“C-Corporal Kang, sir!”

“What's the matter?” Kang Jin-Ho frowned slightly when the breathless Jang Jae-Hwan rushed outside with his complexion pale with fright.
However, his mind blanked for a moment at what the private said next.

“I-it's Corporal Ju Yeong-Gi, sir! He, he…!”


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