Descent of the Demon Master
Making a Move (3)
Kang Jin-Ho could think of a few places.
Since the nights had gotten cold lately, the group wouldn't have traveled all the way to the training ground.
Which left the karaoke room, the visitation area, the cookhouse, and the boiler room as the likely destination.
Among the four, the boiler room saw the least foot traffic.
Kang Jin-Ho stealthily headed to the underground boiler room's entrance, located in the building's rear.
Soon enough, he could hear faint voices.
'I knew it…'
Sounds shouldn't be audible outside as the suspicious event was taking place underground, but Kang Jin-Ho's hearing could detect them without a problem.
He carefully pressed his ear close to the steel door to the boiler room.
“Can't you understand what I'm saying, you motherf*cker?”
“I'm sorry, sir.”
“Hah, bloody hell.
This dumb f*cker of a so-called adviser.
You sure know how to piss people off, don't ya?”
Kang Jin-Ho's eyes grew cold as he listened.
He did suspect something was going on, but when his suspicion was proving to be true, it filled him up with this indescribable emotion.
“You piece of sh*t! How long have you been serving in the army? Yet, you still can't do something this simple?!”
“…I'm sorry, sir.”
“Why do you keep apologizing, damn it! Listen here, you sh*t! Have you ever done anything right even after saying you're sorry?”
“Then, why don't you try to do something right for once?! Hah, f*cking hell.
How can I get some goddamn break when my junior is a useless piece of sh*t like this?”
Kang Jin-Ho stepped away from the steel door, but the sounds from the inside still registered in his hearing.
'This is odd.'
He found this situation quite strange.
What was going on seemed pretty crystal clear to Kang Jin-Ho.
What he was confused about at the moment was Ju Yeong-Gi's response.
As far as Kang Jin-Ho knew, Ju Yeong-Gi had never been the type to silently endure this type of insult.
Indeed, the personality Ju Yeong-Gi had displayed during the boot camp indicated that he would unhesitantly flip everything on its head despite the threat of detention if someone dared to insult him to this degree.
So, why was Ju Yeong-Gi patiently enduring this abuse?
Kang Jin-Ho's thought process froze right at that moment.
His glare immediately shifted over to the steel door.
“Can't you even keep your head up straight, you piece of sh*t?”
“I'm sorry, sir.”
Kang Jin-Ho's glare grew even colder.
Wherever humans lived, there was bound to be some kind of trouble.
And several methods were available to deal with such troubles.
In a civilized society, the priority would be placed on working things out through dialogue.
If that fell through, you would have the recourse of leaving it to the law and regulations.
However, there was another way, the most simplistic way.
Kang Jin-Ho intimately knew what that was.
It was 'violence’—oppression through power.
Of course, Kang Jin-Ho had no thoughts of rejecting it.
And he certainly wasn't going to criticize anyone resorting to such means.
In a sense, he was one of the firmest believers in resolving troublesome matters through violence.
After all, many of the events he had resolved up until now were done through his power, his violence.
That was why this shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
That was why he should be able to understand this.
Moreover, Kang Jin-Ho wasn’t thinking of claiming that his violence was justified.
Well, violence was still violence, after all.
Such a thing shouldn't be defended or excused.
In that case…
How should he go about explaining this rage bubbling inside his heart right now?
“Hey, you little sh*t! Keep your head up, will ya!”
Kang Jin-Ho gritted his teeth at the unmistakable noises from beyond the door.
Then, he suddenly kicked the steel door.
After that loud bang echoed underground, the steel door was unlatched from the inside and opened, allowing a man to peek his head outside.
“W-what the hell was that?”
This man hurriedly looked around, but he couldn't find anything.
“…Hah, gimme a break.”
Although no one was there, the man still couldn't get rid of the uneasy feeling.
He glared at Ju Yeong-Gi.
“Goddamn it. Hey, go back to the barrack.
If you don't pull your weight tomorrow, I'm gonna wreck you real bad.
Got that, you piece of sh*t?”
“Yes, sir…” The dispirited-looking Ju Yeong-Gi trudged out of the boiler room and walked up the steps.
The man pulled out a cigarette and began smoking it.
“What a f*cking loser.”
His voice had a vague trace of mocking laughter.
At the same time…
Kang Jin-Ho was wordlessly studying the man from the cover of the darkness, and his eyes had never been this cold since he returned to the modern world.
That was the name of the man who had been slapping Ju Yeong-Gi around—Corporal Kim Hak-Cheol.
He was also Ju Yeong-Gi’s direct senior.
The next day was Saturday.
Whether that was a good thing or not was yet to be seen.
However, as far as Kang Jin-Ho was concerned, it was a golden opportunity to observe the ongoings of the 1st Squad without worrying about his daily duties.
'Don't make a rash move, Kang Jin-Ho…!'
It wouldn’t be difficult for him to utterly destroy Kim Hak-Cheol.
However, Kang Jin-Ho had a feeling nothing would change by rashly getting involved when he had no idea what was actually happening within the 1st Squad.
His job was to help Ju Yeong-Gi out, not to vent his anger.
Until sunset, Kang Jin-Ho kept a close eye on the events concerning the 1st Squad.
He thoroughly confirmed as much as he could, then headed to the nearest smoking area.
While mouthing a cigarette, he sank deep into his thoughts.
'What's going on here?'
Kang Jin-Ho was certain that there had to be some kind of a problem there, but to his surprise, he couldn't find any.
'Maybe, it won't happen today? On Saturdays?'
It might come across as cold-hearted, but the truth was that Kang Jin-Ho had never discounted the possibility of Ju Yeong-Gi being the source of the trouble itself.
One could argue that no matter what the problem was, resolving it through violence was wrong.
However, it was surprisingly common to see the target of violence being the instigator of the trouble in the first place.
The term 'soldier requiring special supervision' hadn’t gotten invented for no reason, after all.
It was inevitable that some recruits would have trouble adapting to the military's regimented lifestyle even if they had no character flaws or personality issues.
Unfortunately, attempts to control such people through violence could be found liberally within human history.
Whether it was back in Zhongyuan or in school…
Similar tendencies had always existed in different organizations Kang Jin-Ho used to belong to.
The only difference between them would be the degree of severity.
A good example would be Park Yu-Min; he had also been a victim of violence.
Just because he had one lame leg, the rest of the organization ostracized him and acted violently toward him.
That was what humans were like.
Kang Jin-Ho was definitely not some romanticist who always saw the best in humanity.
No, 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.
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.
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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