also unwilling to give up.

Ju Yeong-Gi's chest rose up noticeably before settling back down.

“Get back!”

“Yes, sir!”

As soon as Jang Jae-Hwan stepped back, Kang Jin-Ho pressed down on Ju Yeong-Gi's chest one more time.

'It needs more!'

Something told him that he shouldn't stick to his previous method.
So, Kang Jin-Ho circulated even more internal energy than before.

'…Do it in one shot!'

Kang Jin-Ho pushed down harder on Ju Yeong-Gi's chest, then injected more internal energy than his previous attempt.
“Damn it, man! Wake up!”

Right at that very moment—

Ju Yeong-Gi's body convulsed, and he began to cough and wheeze.

“Ah!” Kang Jin-Ho carefully backed off before pressing his ear to Ju Yeong-Gi's heaving chest.
He could hear the heart pumping now.
Ju Yeong-Gi was also breathing once again.

“Hah-ah…” Kang Jin-Ho plopped down on his butt as all the tension left him at once.

The worst was over.
It was unknown how long Ju Yeong-Gi's brain had been starved of oxygen, but his odds of survival should be good as long as he had been revived quickly enough.
And, if lady luck was on his side, he should not suffer from any aftereffects.

However, what if Ju Yeong-Gi wasn't so lucky?

Kang Jin-Ho quickly shook his head.
This wasn't the time to think negatively.
Indeed, it was time to…

His head slowly turned until his glare found the pale-faced Kim Hak-Cheol's face hidden among the crowd.
Kim Hak-Cheol's forehead was coated in thick droplets of sweat.
No doubt he understood what this incident signified.

'…Kim Hak-Cheol!' 

Crimson veins began to appear on Kang Jin-Ho's eyes, turning them nearly bloodshot.
However, his head slowly lowered soon afterward.

'I shouldn't have let my guard down!'

Why did he think the situation wasn't as bad as he had feared?! Why?!

Kang Jin-Ho quietly gnashed his teeth.
He knew he was bad at empathy and that he couldn't sympathize with other people’s pain.
In that case, he should have been more attentive—more hands-on.
Despite noticing how poor Ju Yeong-Gi's expression was, Kang Jin-Ho remained lackadaisical, thinking there was still plenty of time left.

If only…

If only he made a move yesterday!

He could have been mistaken, but if he just kept his eyes on Ju Yeong-Gi today! This situation wouldn't have happened!

“Damn it…!”

That was when he heard the loud wailing of an emergency vehicle coming from the building's entrance.
Soon, the military paramedics rushed inside the bathroom while carrying various tools.

“Where is he?!” Almost at the same time, the heavily-sweating Battery Commander also rushed inside.
He directly ran over here after receiving the emergency call mere seconds ago.
“W-what happened?! What's going on?!”

Kang Jin-Ho watched this scene unfold and unknowingly smirked helplessly.
this had to be a farce—a well-rehearsed farce!


The entire base was thrown into an uproar.

Several investigators dispatched by the HQ descended on the base just as dawn broke.
The soldiers were confined to their squad's individual living area, and they couldn't even freely use the toilet.

“What on earth is happening here?” Seong Tae-Ho muttered, his expression one of pure stupefaction.
He woke up in the morning to learn that a seemingly-fine soldier from a neighboring squad suddenly tried to hang himself before being taken to a hospital.
Then, investigators descended like a pack of vultures to the base soon afterward.
No wonder he was confused and slightly panicking at all this development.
“I don't have much time left until my discharge, so why did this have to happen now?”

Despite complaining about his discharge, Seong Tae-Ho's face was still filled with concern.
Nobody would remain nonplussed after learning that a fellow soldier in the same corps had tried to kill himself, and Seong Tae-Ho was no exception.

He groaned and muttered, “Why did Corporal Ju Yeong-Gi do that, I wonder?”

“Me too, sir.”

The living area no.5 was located the furthest away from no.1, where the 1st Squad resided.
That had to be the reason why most of the soldiers living here were puzzled by what had transpired.

“Corporal Kang, sir? Do you know what happened?”

Kang Jin-Ho didn't respond to the question as he remained sitting with his eyes closed.
His squad mates were asking him for clarification since they knew he and Ju Yeong-Gi came from the same group in the boot camp.
However, their questions only freshly reminded Kang Jin-Ho of how inattentive he had been toward Ju Yeong-Gi.

Seong Tae-Ho glanced around and asked another question, “How's Yeong-Gi's condition? Does anyone know?”

“Sir, he's alive.
However, nobody apparently knows how bad the aftereffects will be….”

“Who told you that?”

“The medic, sir.”

“What the hell?! That quack knows jack-sh*t, so how dare he spew nonsense about the aftereffects and what not!” Seong Tae-Ho roared unhappily.

“But, we don't know much time Corporal Ju had spent without breathing, sir.
A human brain will supposedly suffer from irreparable damage after being starved of oxygen for five minutes, sir.”

“Five minutes, my ass!” Seong Tae-Ho grumbled, then turned toward Kang Jin-Ho, worry visibly filling his face.
“Hey, Jin-Ho.”

Kang Jin-Ho opened his eyes and looked back at Seong Tae-Ho.
“Corporal Kang Jin-Ho, sir.”

“Yeong-Gi's shift was before yours, right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Okay, so…
You discovered Yeong-Gi after you finished your shift, right? Taking into account the time needed to return your weapon and walk back and forth, it couldn't have been that long, right? Right?”

“That's a possibility, sir.”

“Eiii… That means he was discovered before it was too late.
I'm sure he'll be fine.”

“Yes, sir,” Kang Jin-Ho replied, his voice lacking energy.
He had been in too much of a rush, so he had failed to confirm the damage to Ju Yeong-Gi's brain.
However, there was also the question of whether he could check such a thing using internal energy or not.

“But, why did that dude do something like that…?” Seong Tae-Ho's pained muttering drifted away toward the end.

Kang Jin-Ho silently got up and put on his shoes to leave.

Seong Tae-Ho looked at him and asked, “Where are you going, Jin-Ho?”

“I'm going outside for a smoke, sir.”

One of the lower-ranked soldiers raised his hand.
“But, uh… Corporal Kang, sir? The Section Commander's order was for no one to go outsi—”

“Hey, that's enough, you idiot!” Seong Tae-Ho abruptly cut the junior soldier off.

Kang Jin-Ho nodded briefly.
“I'll be back soon, sir.”

Go ahead.” Seong Tae-Ho waved his hand a little and watched Kang Jin-Ho leave.
Then, he turned his attention to the objecting junior soldier.
“You dumbass! Learn how to read the room! Corporal Kang discovered that his one and only boot camp mate had just tried to hang himself.
You think he's in any mood to humor you?!”

“But, sir.
The Section Commander warned us anyone caught sneaking around will get severely punished.”

“What can that boomer do, anyway?!” Seong Tae-Ho tutted while glancing at the doorway.
Today had to be the first time Kang Jin-Ho made such a stiff face since he was deployed to this base.
“I hope nothing happens….”

Seong Tae-Ho wasn't sure his worried muttering was meant for Kang Jin-Ho or Ju Yeong-Gi.
Regardless of who it was for, he couldn't stop sighing again and again.

“Seriously now, I hope it won't end badly…”

For some reason, this vague, inexplicable, ominous sense of foreboding began to creep into Seong Tae-Ho's heart.
It began right after he saw Kang Jin-Ho's back leaving through the doorway.

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