In Training (2)
“That punk…” Ju Yeong-Gi quietly muttered.
Ever since his near bust-up with Kang Jin-Ho, he began paying close attention to that weird guy.
'There's definitely something off about him, but…'
He would end up as a laughing stock if the folks he knew before his enlistment saw him now.
He knew that well.
He also knew that judging a person by how they carried themselves or the glare in their eyes was one of the dumbest things in this world.
He would even mock the person in question just by saying such a thing.
“Yeah, I know that, but…”
But Ju Yeong-Gi just couldn't tear his attention away from Kang Jin-Ho.
The sharp glare during their last encounter was burned into Ju Yeong-Gi's brain and it didn't want to leave him alone.
“Sh*t…” Ju Yeong-Gi swore, then spat on the ground.
His life up to this point had been rough and full of violence.
Unsurprisingly, he even had to work alongside a murderer, too.
Ju Yeong-Gi was just a small-time street-level gangster who never thought that he could commit serious crimes like murder.
However, his line of work meant he was acquainted with someone who had really killed another person and was currently serving time in prison.
That experience taught Ju Yeong-Gi that the stuff about a murderer having a different look in their eyes or emitting a weird, off-kilter vibe was just a pile of crap.
However, Kang Jin-Ho was different.
'I felt myself shrink from his glare…'
If Kang Jin-Ho had made even the tiniest movement in Ju Yeong-Gi's direction during that time, the latter would have fallen on his butt in fright.
Ju Yeong-Gi was someone who wouldn’t get scared even as his enemies waved knives in front of his nose.
Yet, to think he had gotten frightened by some random dude who didn't even move a muscle!
Even more strange was that Ju Yeong-Gi didn't feel humiliated.
His pride was still intact, too.
For some reason, getting scared felt like the most natural thing in that situation.
After all, no one would call you a coward for getting scared in front of a lion.
Ju Yeong-Gi's current actions weren't fueled by rage or hatred, but by pure curiosity.
Just who—or what—was Kang Jin-Ho?
An assistant instructor roared out at him.
“Recruit No.99, Ju Yeong-Gi, sir!”
“Get your act together, recruit! Where do you think you are, being distracted like this?!”
“My apologies, sir!” Ju Yeong-Gi yelled out his reply as cold sweat trickled down his forehead.
The assistant instructor biting his head off was also making a tense face while glaring at Ju Yeong-Gi.
In any other training, Ju Yeong-Gi wouldn't have been scolded like this just because he got distracted by something.
However, things were different this time.
The one place everyone felt the most nervous in the boot camp was, unsurprisingly, the grenade training ground.
It didn't take a genius to figure out why the instructors were so much more nervous than the recruits during this particular training.
The cacophony of exploding grenades around him continued to batter Ju Yeong-Gi's ears.
“Recruit, sober up and pay attention, please! Do you understand me?!”
“Yes, sir!” Ju Yeong-Gi replied, then groaned under his breath.
'Right, I gotta wake up here.'
It wouldn't be too late to think about stuff at another time.
Getting distracted wouldn't normally matter that much, but not here.
– Next in line, please come to the training area.
The announcement came out of the speakers, urging the waiting queue of recruits to come forward.
Ju Yeong-Gi was one of them so he got up from the chair.
The assistant instructor next to him sharply yelled at him, “I'll say this one more time.
Do not relax your grip after removing the safety pin of the grenade.
Do you understand me, recruit!”
Next up was an uncomplicated report-and-repeat between an instructor and a recruit.
“In position, now!”
“Sir! In position!” Ju Yeong-Gi roared back his reply and headed to the unoccupied throwing booth, tension quickly filling up his face.
'Huh, that punk is next to me, again?'
However, Ju Yeong-Gi's attention shifted from the assistant instructor waiting for him to Kang Jin-Ho stepping into the booth next to his.
If only that punk wasn't within his view, Ju Yeong-Gi wouldn't have paid this much attention to that guy! Unfortunately, their recruit numbers meant they would always be next to each other while being transferred somewhere, in training, or even during bloody mealtimes.
No wonder he couldn't help but be cognizant of Kang Jin-Ho's presence all the time.
Right now was the perfect example of that.
Just the sight of the assistant instructor checking Kang Jin-Ho's readiness in the next booth was making Ju Yeong-Gi feel that he was shrinking smaller and smaller in size.
“Recruit, loosen up.
Don't be too tense.”
The instructor in the throwing booth must have interpreted Ju Yeong-Gi's stiff face as a sign of nervousness.
He began patting the recruit's back and spoke in a reassuring voice.
“You don't have to get that nervous, recruit.
Look, everyone else did it fine, right? Relax.”
From his tone, it seemed that the instructor now viewed Ju Yeong-Gi as a coward.
Ju Yeong-Gi could only groan inwardly.
'It's not like I can say what's on my mind, anyway.'
– Transfer the grenade, please.
An order came through the speakers, prompting the instructor to hand the live grenade over to Ju Yeong-Gi.
“Transferring the grenade!”
Ju Yeong-Gi tightly gripped the grenade with both of his hands.
But then, the instructor pressed his own hand on Ju Yeong-Gi's and squeezed it tightly.
The pressure exerted was so much that it actually hurt.
It became clear that the instructor didn't trust Ju Yeong-Gi one bit from this.
Maybe the instructor was secretly more nervous than the recruit?
Ju Yeong-Gi tried to pretend that he was unaffected by all this, but he still couldn't stop his body from tensing up after his palms felt the grenade’s cold steel.
'Damn it, don't chicken out, Ju Yeong-Gi!'
The tall watchtower located behind the throwing booths issued new orders.
– Confirm target!
Ju Yeong-Gi yelled out, “Confirming target!”
The instructor called out to him.
“Get ready, recruit!”
“Just throw it as you've practiced until now.
This isn't as scary as it looks, so don't get too nervous.”
“Yes, sir,” Ju Yeong-Gi replied while feeling slightly miffed.
He wasn't even scared, so why was the instructor keep telling him these things? Kang Jin-Ho's instructor in the next booth hadn't even said a single word until now, too.
“Recruit No,99, Ju Yeong-Gi, sir!”
“Stop getting distracted, recruit!”
“Yes, sir…” Ju Yeong-Gi's voice faltered, finally realizing how unfocused he was right now.
He was far too preoccupied with what was going on in the next booth to pay attention to his own live grenade.
After receiving the order to assume the throwing position, Ju Yeong-Gi cautiously got ready.
Even then, the instructor continued to hold onto Ju Yeong-Gi's hand gripping the grenade.
Ju Yeong-Gi could only sigh, then stare at a large lake not too far away from him—it was where he was supposed to throw the grenade.
'All I have to do is chuck this grenade over there, right? Can't be that hard!'
Indeed, this whole exercise shouldn’t be too difficult to pull off.
It was a simple training, after all, with the aim of teaching the recruits how to relax their grip without allowing the safety handle to double click, then throwing the grenade at the target in the distance.
Ju Yeong-Gi couldn't remember seeing articles about accidents during this training in the past several years.
Didn't that mean countless recruits passed it without any notable issues? Look at all the small fries around him, every single one of them was doing just fine! In that case, Ju Yeong-Gi shouldn’t have any issues, either.
– Remove the safety pin!
“Removing the safety pin!” Ju Yeong-Gi brought the grenade near his chest, then he yanked the safety pin out.
However, he accidentally double-clicked the safety handle with his right hand still holding the explosive.
As such, the instructor gave him one more encouragement.
“Do it with confidence, recruit! Don't forget!”
– Toss the grenade!
“Tossing!” Ju Yeong-Gi parroted the announcement, then powerfully tossed the grenade forward.
Unfortunately, he must have placed too much energy into his motion.
Instead of flying toward the target, the live grenade left his hand in a straight line toward the protective wall installed in front of the booth.
It then bounced back before landing on the booth's floor.
Ju Yeong-Gi's eyes trembled for a moment just then.
“Ah, crap!” The instructor urgently rushed toward the grenade, hoping to kick it into a nearby grenade sump.
However, he was in too much of a rush and ended up missing the grenade, kicking the empty air several times instead.
The instructor quickly realized that it was too late to kick the explosive into the sump now.
He yanked at Ju Yeong-Gi's arm and tried to throw himself and the stupefied recruit out of the booth.
Unfortunately, Ju Yeong-Gi wasn't yanked out as expected.
Panicking and frozen stiff, he inadvertently ended up holding his ground when someone suddenly yanked at his arm.
The instructor fell over, half of his torso now outside the booth.
He roared in alarm, his eyes taking in the sight of the primed grenade about to go off.
As he screamed, the instructor didn't forget to curl up as small as he could manage.
Even though he knew that doing so would be useless, it was still better than nothing.
But then, something unexpected happened.
His eyes caught the sight of someone jumping inside the booth.
Indeed, it wasn’t his fellow instructor under an officer's cap but a recruit wearing a ballistic helmet.
The number '100' clearly printed on the rear of the recruit’s helmet was engraved deeply in the instructor's mind at that moment.
There was no time to leisurely speculate.
The recruit landed safely in the booth, cleanly picked the grenade up, and with a movement that was neither urgent nor too slow, he tossed the explosive toward the lake.
This all happened even before the instructor could yell at Recruit No.100 to stop.
The recruit subsequently crouched below the safety wall.
KA-BOOM! Boom! Baaaang!
The grenade exploded in mid-air before reaching the lake's surface.
The other grenades tossed by the other recruits were caught up in the explosion and began blowing up in a chaotic chain reaction.
“Ah…” The instructor shuddered pitifully.
If the recruit had been one second too late, all three people in the booth would've turned into chunks of bloody meat.
After realizing that, the instructor couldn't put any strength into his trembling legs.
The instructor couldn't quite figure out what to do for a moment or two.
Should he bite Ju Yeong-Gi's head off or scold the recruit who jumped into the booth? Just like that, an eerie silence descended in the booth.
– What the f*ck are you all doing?! Go and see if anyone's hurt!
An angry yell exploded from the loudspeakers, prompting the instructors and their assistants nearby to rush toward the booth.
“First Sergeant Choi?! Are you alright, sir?!”
“Recruit No.99, are you injured?!”
“Uhm…” Ju Yeong-Gi finally snapped out of his stupefaction and hurriedly nodded his head.
“Y-Yes, I'm unhurt.”
“You son of a b*tch! Didn't we tell you to stay awake?!” An assistant instructor rushed in and ruthlessly kicked Ju Yeong-Gi just above his ankle.
The impact was loud enough to be audible, but Ju Yeong-Gi failed to notice the pain and could only nod his head like an idiot.
I'm sorry, sir!”
Of course, he knew—he knew how close to death he had been mere seconds ago.
He might be too shocked to think straight at the moment, but he could still instinctively tell that he had made a huge mistake just now.
Not only him, but even the instructor could have died.
“Recruit No.100! Are you alright?!”
“Yes, sir.” Kang Jin-Ho's unmoved voice came from somewhere behind Ju Yeong-Gi.
The instructor yelled at him, “Who told you to do something that crazy?! Ah?!”
“I knew I'd make it on time, sir.”
“You dumbass! You could've also died just now!”
I'm still alive, aren't I?” Kang Jin-Ho replied flatly.
“What was that?!” The instructor, First Sergeant Choi, spat out a lengthy groan before waving his hand dismissively.
Let's just deal with this situation first.”
A furious assistant instructor grabbed Ju Yeong-Gi's arm and dragged him away in the direction of the command post.
First Sergeant Choi turned his attention back to Kang Jin-Ho.
“Hey, Recruit No.100.”
“Recruit No.100, Kang Jin-Ho.”
That must've been hard.”
“No, sir,” Kang Jin-Ho replied while still maintaining his unconcerned expression.
First Sergeant Choi stared at that expression while trying hard to calm his still-pounding chest.
'Bloody hell, is this guy's heart made out of solid steel or something?'
Choi had handled countless grenades in the boot camp for many years now, yet here he was, his heart madly pounding from what just happened.
So how could this recruit stay calm like this? Were his nerves woven out of whale tendons or something?
Besides, how did he even think about jumping into the booth and picking up the fallen grenade to throw it away? Others in the same situation would've been too busy trying to save their hides first.
“This crazy bastard…” First Sergeant Choi slowly shook his head.
He forced his shaking legs to straighten up so he could stand again.
“First Sergeant Choi! How are you feeling, sir?”
I'm going to make my report.”
We'll take care of the situation here.”
While walking away, First Sergeant Choi looked around and noticed the stiff faces of the recruits.
He shook his head and thought to himself.
'Looks like today's training is over.'
Forcing recruits to handle live grenades when they were clearly on edge could lead to a large-scale tragedy.
Some recruits might even start freaking out and convulse after touching a grenade, too.
In a way, stopping the training here could be a blessing in disguise.
Even First Sergeant Choi wasn’t even confident in overseeing the training anymore in his current state.
The realization of escaping from the jaws of death at the last second was only getting stronger in his head as time went on, after all.
First Sergeant Choi glanced at Recruit No.100, who was currently being led away from the training area by an assistant instructor.
'Just what is up with him, anyway?'
Choi engraved Kang Jin-Ho's back in his mind, then resumed his trek to the command post to make his report.
Even now, cold sweat still trickled down his back.
“Sheesh. I really almost died back there, didn't I?” Choi muttered while repeatedly glancing at Kang Jin-Ho's distant back.
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