Chapter 550. Peaceful (5)
Kang Jin-Ho believed in Han Jin-Seong, at least on a personal level. And as a fellow human being, too. However, the boy wasn't exactly the best person to explain the situation within this ‘special’ cram school. So, Kang Jin-Ho called for a different person who could do just that.
The impact of his decision was immediate and profound.
“When we're trying to study on our own, we need several textbooks. But we can't seem to get them right away,” said Jo Mi-Hye.
Kang Jin-Ho rubbed his chin. “Mm... When you said on your own...?”
“You know. We need to study at school and back at Seongsim, too.”
“...Does that mean you study on your own at your school? During class?”
“Yes,” Jo Mi-Hye smartly nodded.
“Then... What do you do during your classes?”
“School classes only repeat what we already know, so it's better to use the time wisely and self-study, oppa.”
“Even so, you should listen to your teachers,” said Kang Jin-Ho.
Jo Mi-Hye sighed at how firm Kang Jin-Ho sounded. Trying to explain this subject to him wasn't going to work, at least not at this stage. After all, Kang Jin-Ho had no clue that so many things had changed since he last stepped through the doorway of a classroom.
Besides, Kang Jin-Ho got admitted to the one-and-only Jaegyeong Uni by studying alone. He didn't rely on cram school or online lessons to get to where he was, so how could Jo Mi-Hye make someone like that understand her situation?
“...In any case, we need extra textbooks to study at home. Books provided by the cram school are wonderful, but... Some things aren't quite enough, you see.”
“Mm... Got it. I'll see what I can do.”
“I'm sorry, oppa,” Jo Mi-Hye suddenly bowed her head.
“About what?” Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head.
“I know all this costs a lot of money. So I... No, we shouldn't be asking for this and that as if we're entitled to everything.”
“That's not an issue for me, okay?” Kang Jin-Ho replied firmly to her.
“Even so, oppa...”
“You're smarter than Jin-Seong, so I don't need to explain, right? So, let's drop this talk here.”
“...Jin-Seong oppa is smarter than you think, though.”
“...Sure thing,” Kang Jin-Ho casually brushed aside Jo Mi-Hye's slightly testy sounding protest. “Besides, that's not what I'm worried about.”
“Sure, studying hard is commendable. But overdoing it is worse than not studying at all. The way I see it, studying at school and here should be more than enough, so wanting to study even at home sounds a bit too extreme.”
“It doesn't matter what you do, doing it effectively is the key to success. Simply increasing studying time will only negatively affect your concentration level. Getting enough rest is crucial, Mi-Hye. If you can help it... I think taking it easy when you're at home will be better for you overall.”
“But, oppa? I heard all the successful people study and work like crazy? And they also don't sleep for long, either?”
“That's not necessarily the case,” Kang Jin-Ho shook his head.
“Besides, I think you should listen to your own advice more than me, oppa.”
“Huh?” Kang Jin-Ho cocked an eyebrow.
Jo Mi-Hye sounded a lot more concerned as she addressed him. “Oppa, weren't you too busy to stop by here even though you've been meaning to?”
“Honestly, I never knew that a uni student taking time off would be as busy as you. Shouldn't you seriously think about taking a break soon?”
Kang Jin-Ho was left speechless by that. He couldn't immediately think of something to say.
“Instead of telling us to take it easy, you do that first, oppa. You don't look so good, you know?”
Kang Jin-Ho's mouth clamped shut again at how resolute Jo Mi-Hye sounded just then.
That was how he looked to her? Not so good? If that observation had come from a stranger, Kang Jin-Ho would've brushed it aside. However, Jo Mi-Hye was one smart kid. Just look back to how she still said her piece even after apologizing earlier.
“I get that you're different from us, oppa. Your fitness is, like, totally crazy, and you probably maintain it extremely well, too. But it all looks like you're way too busy to me, you know? And you haven't stopped by at the orphanage lately, too.”
Kang Jin-Ho slowly nodded while listening.
“That's why you should try to get some rest, oppa. I don't know what's been keeping you this occupied lately, but... I don't think anything bad will happen just because you took a few days off.”
“...Take a few days off, huh?”
“Yes. You gotta.”
“Mm... Right. I should.”
“Yes,” Kang Jin-Ho nodded back at Jo Mi-Hye's probing gaze.
After exiting the cram school, Kang Jin-Ho entered his car. Instead of setting off right away, though, he leaned back in his seat and lit a cigarette for himself.
'She got me good, huh.'
Jo Mi-Hye was right. Even though Kang Jin-Ho told others to get enough rest, he wasn't following his own advice. Wasn't that kind of... embarrassing to advise other people in that case?
Kang Jin-Ho rubbed his slightly-reddened face.
'Right. I need to take a break.'
In a way, Kang Jin-Ho shouldn't be blamed for his situation. He didn't know any other way than to put his maximum effort into everything he did, after all. And he subconsciously thought that taking his foot off the proverbial accelerator, even for a few seconds, would allow his competitors to surge ahead.
Although Kang Jin-Ho was aware of how important it was to get some rest, his own name had been omitted from the list of people who needed a break.
Kang Jin-Ho slowly exhaled the cigarette smoke, then looked up at the dark night sky. He reflexively chuckled after realizing it was inky black with no visible stars. Although, that chuckle sounded bitter and hollow.
Back when he still longed to see this sky again, Kang Jin-Ho had no choice but to minimize sleep. Besides, being dead-tired meant he couldn't sleep properly even if he tried, anyway. Someone might attack him, or the situation surrounding him might shift in an unfavorable direction while he was fast asleep. With such threats looming overhead, Kang Jin-Ho could never rest easy.
The starless black sky above was like a symbol of peace. One didn't need to target other people's lives to survive in the current era. One could walk on the street without the fear of being attacked out of nowhere. And...
Kang Jin-Ho's family existed in this era, their warm gazes always ready to welcome him home.
However, even though he finally found himself under the dark skies, he ardently wished to see again... Kang Jin-Ho still lived as if something or someone was constantly chasing him down. Jo Mi-Hye's words made him realize that.
'Even though I was not trying to rush ahead...'
A long, long groan leaked out of his mouth. Despite constantly yelling out do it slower, take it easy all the time, it seemed Kang Jin-Ho was still rushing ahead in other people's eyes. Everyone he met recently had been telling him to get some rest while looking at the scenery for a change.
“Since that's the case, I better do it.”
Determination seeped into Kang Jin-Ho's burning eyes.
Of course he knew... how stubborn he was. The main reason why he brought ruination upon himself in the second life was his failure to temper his own stubbornness. That was why he decided to listen to the advice of people around him as much as possible in this life. Since everyone was saying the same thing, he should... do as told and get some rest.
Kang Jin-Ho leisurely exhaled the last of the cigarette smoke, then depressed the accelerator. His car eased out of the parking lot and headed home.
“I'm home,” said Kang Jin-Ho as he stepped through the front door.
“Eh? You're home early, oppa.”
Kang Jin-Ho noticed his little sister and mother sitting by the living room couch and smiled back at them, his eyes subtly gleaming. “I see you're also home early, Eun-Yeong. What's up?”
“...Don't remind me, okay?”
“My album's been delayed.”
Kang Eun-Yeong's expression became teary. “We had this one cool song as our title track, right? But it got blocked during internal screening. Apparently, it sounds too similar to a track by an overseas artist. The management thinks releasing it will get us into a plagiarism dispute, so they want me to just get rid of it and record something new.”
“...Mm? Isn't that a good thing?” Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head in confusion.
“Yup, it is a good thing. A hundred times better than releasing the track and getting destroyed in the socials,” Kang Eun-Yeong frowned deeply. “I know that, but... Thanks to it, the album release date got delayed to who knows when! In the meantime, I've become a jobless bum, oppa! I turned down all the acting gigs because I was getting ready to promote my album, you know! And now I have nothing to do!”
Kang Jin-Ho tutted loudly. “Why don't you complain after putting down those things in your hands first?”
Kang Eun-Yeong alternated her gaze on the two packets of snacks in her hands, then looked back at her older brother with large doe-like eyes. “Can't I have them?”
“...Shouldn't you be watching what you eat?”
“I'm not doing anything, though, so who cares? I can always lose them later, right?”
“That's enough, you dummy!” Baek Hyeon-Jeong finally blew her top. “Your situation is nothing to cry over, so why are you still whining like a little baby!”
She then proceeded to mercilessly slap her daughter's back repeatedly. Kang Eun-Yeong groaned while her mother's palm continued to land on her unguarded back.
Kang Jin-Ho smiled awkwardly before clearing his throat. “Kuh-hum. That means you'll be on a break for a while, right?”
“Yeah, I think so. An unplanned break in schedule, I guess? Even if I want to continue practicing, I gotta coordinate with the choreographers, right? But we can only do that after the new song is ready, you know? So... Yeah, I've got nothing to do.”
“I see. What about you, Mother?”
Baek Hyeon-Jeong pointed at herself. “Mm? What about me?”
“Did you make any plans or appointments?”
“Son, I'm a full-time housewife these days. Of course, I don't have any plans.”
“Mm...” Kang Jin-Ho nodded weightily. “Since that's the case... How about we all go on a vacation somewhere?”
The eyes of Baek Hyeon-Jeong and Kang Eun-Yeong opened wide at the same time.
“W-where to, though?”
“Well, I'll leave that decision up to you, Mother. I was hoping the whole family could go on a vacation before the summer is over.”
“...Oh, my, goodness,” Baek Hyeon-Jeong repeatedly blinked her eyes while staring at Kang Jin-Ho. Her expression seemed to say, Is that man really my son?
To think Kang Jin-Ho would bring up vacation first! Yes, he really did that!
“E-Eun-Yeong, did I hear your brother correctly?”
“Hold on, Mom. I gotta go to the bathroom first. I think my ears are clogged and stuff.”
“Well, you and I both heard the same thing, so your brother must've really said he wants to go on a vacation.” Baek Hyeong-Jeong's sharp gaze filled with distrust stabbed into Kang Jin-Ho. “You did say that, didn't you? That you want to go on a vacation?”
At this point in their conversation, Kang Jin-Ho was forced to face the depressing fact of how distorted his public image was. “...In that case, should we all forget about it?”
“N-no, of course not! Let's go! Right away! I don't know if you remember it, but when I asked the family to go on a vacation five years ago, you kept saying we should go without you. And that's why we couldn't! But here's our chance now! I'm not going to miss it this time!” Baek Hyeon-Jeong tightly clenched her fists while shooting up to her feet. “I wonder, will three days be enough?”
Kang Jin-Ho chuckled gently. “You can decide on how long the vacation will be, Mother. I'll match the preparations accordingly.”
“Oh, my goodness! I never knew a day like today would happen in my lifetime...!”
Kang Eun-Yeong blinked her eyes while sizing up her brother. “Oppa, did you... hit your head somewhere? Or... Right, your military experience must've changed you. What did you say when we wanted to spend some quality time in a valley as a family before you got drafted? Didn't you say entering a bath full of water in our swimsuits would be a more efficient use of our time?”
“...!” Kang Jin-Ho's cheeks twitched unsteadily. 'Did I... really say something like that?'
Unfortunately, his brain quickly recalled the moment when those words left his mouth. And that shocked him silly. Just how much did he change in the last few years, then? Kang Jin-Ho was now left with no choice but to acknowledge his transformation. And be more... understanding of such stunned reactions from the people in his life.
“Everyone, I am serious about going on a vacation.”
“Good! Then, I'll speak to your father and set a suitable date.”
Kang Jin-Ho noticed how pleased his mother was and reflected inwardly on how much of an unfilial son he had been all this time.
“M-May I be excused, then?” Kang Jin-Ho stammered a little.
“Of course! Get some rest, son. Goodness me! I have got a ton of things to plan for, now don't I! I need to buy new clothes, too!”
“Mom! Me, too!”
“What are you on about! Go and throw away all the clothes you don't wear first, you dummy! And you have five different closets, too!”
“But, Mom! I do wear all of them!”
Kang Jin-Ho slipped past the bickering mother-and-daughter duo and entered his room. If he failed to extricate himself in time, he'd have to sit through their arguments for one hour straight!
Kang Jin-Ho closed the door behind him and sat on the edge of his bed. When he scanned his room, though... His brows began quivering ominously. This room, utterly devoid of any distinguishing decorations... seemed to mirror Kang Jin-Ho's barren soul.
“By the way, I don't know anything about vacations...”
As a man who never even considered taking a vacation in all of his three lives, Kang Jin-Ho couldn't figure out what a good rest should be like. He took out his phone and scrolled through his contacts until he found the right number.
He tapped on the name, and only after a few rings, the call got through.
Kang Jin-Ho furrowed his brow slightly. “...What kind of reaction is that now, Miss Yeon-Ha?”
-I couldn't help it, you know? The one-and-only Mister Kang, Jin, Ho has called me first on the phone, you see! Do you have any idea how unprecedented this is?
“This is nothing to be surprised about, though,” Kang Jin-Ho faintly chuckled. Speaking on the phone to Choi Yeon-Ha always seemed to start this way.
-Anyway, what's going on? You wouldn't call me for no reason, so out with it already. Then we can talk about more normal stuff.
-You were thinking about me being some kind of a mind reader, weren't you?
“Something like that, yes.”
-I'm getting curious now, so hurry and tell me already.
Kang Jin-Ho chuckled wryly. “Well, this might sound strange, but...”
Kang Jin-Ho took his time before cautiously asking his question. “Well, I'd like to go on vacation, but I've never done it before, so... I was wondering if you could give me some pointers.”
After getting hit in the head by possibly the most absurd question in the world, Choi Yeon-Ha... didn't say anything for a while.