Descent of the Demon Master - Chapter 46.
Time Moves On (3)
Wolbaek15-19 minutes 22.07.2022
Kang Jin-Ho gripped Golden Elephant's handles.
The original plan was to use this bicycle temporarily until the replacement bike specifically designed for him arrived.
But he became attached to it and ended up using it ever since.
Unsurprisingly, this bicycle experienced quite a lot in the past year.
The number of broken pedals alone was too numerous to count, while Kang Jin-Ho had to carry spare chains with him everywhere he went.
The spokes of the wheels got bent several times too, necessitating the wholesale changes to both wheels.
Even after going through all those events, however, the frame remained strong and survived throughout his abuse.
It was as expected of a famous brand’s product.
Kang Jin-Ho headed to school on his bicycle, then parked it in a spot where it was more or less visible.
The proxy chief director, Jo Gyu-Min, strongly suggested that the expensive bicycle should be stored in the chief director's office, but Kang Jin-Ho rejected the idea just as strongly.
Doing that once or twice wasn't going to be a problem, but repeating it for months That wasn't something he couldn't do.
The act of carrying the bike to the office was not the issue here, though.
Actually, the gazes of other students whenever he popped in and out of the office were what Kang Jin-Ho wasn't so fond of.
The feeling of getting special treatment didn't make Kang Jin-Ho happy, only leaving him with a bitter aftertaste.
In the end, the two of them reached a consensus where Kang Jin-Ho would lock the bicycle down with a specially-made chains-and-lock combination.
This arrangement also had a side effect of the school's ancient bicycle storage getting a brand-new roof.
Of course, the students commuting on their bikes were overjoyed by this progress.
As Kang Jin-Ho made his way to his class...
“Oh my~! Senior, good morning! Did you get my message”
“Yeah, I did.
My bad for not replying to you yet.”
“Senior, are you free this weekend”
"I'm sorry, but I need to study."
“Jin-Ho, good morning!”
Yes, good morning."
Kang Jin-Ho stopped and spoke to everyone who greeted him.
What a complete turnaround this was compared to the past.
Then again, he had basically achieved a full-body modification through cultivation.
He had become better-looking than most people, and he had gotten quite tall, too.
His popularity wasn’t really a surprise.
Morning." Jeong In-Gyu waved his hand when Kang Jin-Ho stepped inside the class.
Kang Jin-Ho nodded.
“By the way, the mock exam results are already out.”
“Already That's fast.”
"That's because the school did the tests independently, you see.
Our teachers must've graded the tests by themselves."
“I see,” said Kang Jin-Ho as he settled down at his desk.
Only two months remained until the day of the National University Entrance Exams.
As a result, the classrooms of all third-year high schoolers had become a weird place where nail-biting tension and mischievousness coexisted together.
Jeong In-Gyu groaned, “Urgh, only fifty days remain until the D-Day!”
Kang Jin-Ho silently nodded.
"How are your grades" Jeong In-Gyu asked his friend while frowning a little.
“It's so-so,” said Kang Jin-Ho.
Kang Jin-Ho shrugged his shoulders, then opened a textbook with an expressionless face.
Honestly speaking, his grades were not up to his satisfaction.
His school performance records had certainly leapfrogged compared to the previous year's results, but the mock exam results were not good enough to reflect all the hard work he had put in so far.
Simply put, this meant he was able to follow along with all the classes well enough, but he still wasn’t getting his desired results when studying on his own.
Jeong In-Gyu tilted his head.
Kang Jin-Ho looked up from the textbook.
"Isn't that a high school third-year textbook"
“Weren't you looking at second-year textbooks, like, a few weeks ago But now, it's a third-year book”
"I can't continue staring at second-year textbooks until the start of the entrance exams now, can I" Kang Jin-Ho replied dismissively.
Jeong In-Gyu responded with a grave expression, "You know, I seriously thought that you were doing that just to get ready ahead of time.
To repeat this year, that is."
“...Want me to kick your ass”
"Right, one should never repeat their senior year.
That's so uncool.
I heard that repeating a year is a necessity these days while having a go for the third time is a matter of choice."
Kang Jin-Ho tutted, "Are you trying to imply that you'll be repeating a year"
How can I do this crap again for another year"
"At least try studying a bit before whining like that, In-Gyu."
“Stop poking at my wounds, will ya”
Kang Jin-Ho shooed Jeong In-Gyu away, then resumed reading the textbook.
It had been a month since he started on the third-year curriculum.
Which meant he had to familiarize himself with the entire year's subjects in the next month and write the exams.
This arrangement was all thanks to Jo Gyu-Min setting up a strict schedule.
Kang Jin-Ho could've gotten here much sooner if he focused on nothing but studying.
However, he didn't feel the need to do better with his studies up until recently.
As long as he didn't fall behind the others, he didn't care—that was his thought process.
Kang Yu-Hwan used to be rather invested in his son's grades once upon a time, even though he didn't outwardly express it.
After opening his own cafe, however, he no longer seemed as interested in that topic.
Perhaps he thought that Kang Jin-Ho getting poor grades wouldn't necessarily threaten the boy's future livelihood.
This meant Kang Jin-Ho wasn't harassed by the pressure of achieving better grades, but he also didn't get to experience his family raising a fuss over him like how it was with other families.
His life at home hadn't changed all that much since his second year in high school.
However, in school...
That was a different story altogether.
The class hadn't started yet, but everyone was already keeping deathly quiet.
The only noises produced by the students were the sounds of the pens scribbling away on their notebooks.
'The National University Entrance Exams, is it...'
Kang Jin-Ho glanced at the calendar with its pages for the previous months already torn off.
He disliked the system of National University Entrance Exams, but he couldn't think of a better assessment of one's abilities than it, either.
Is that why it's called entrance exams' 
As long as you were born in the Republic of Korea, the entrance exams were an unavoidable part of your life.
Since the exams had to be taken anyway, you might as well give it your all.
The classroom door opened, and Park Yu-Min entered.
"Uh Hey, it's Yu-Min." Jeong In-Gyu got up and walked over to Park Yu-Min trying to get to his desk.
I heard that you won yesterday."
"That means you're a full-fledged pro gamer now. Geez, I'm so envious of you.
You don't have to worry about going to universities and whatnot now."
Park Yu-Min didn't say anything but grinned softly.
Jeong In-Gyu continued.
“Man, wish I was as good as you in gaming.
Then, I wouldn't have to worry about taking the entrance exams.”
Kang Jin-Ho tutted loudly, "Stop holding up a tired kid and go back to your desk, will you"
"Come on, dude.
Don't you think I'm onto something here Yu-Min doesn't have to worry about the exams, right And he won't get scolded for getting poor grades, either."
Kang Jin-Ho snorted, “Why don't you start playing computer games for fifteen hours a day like Yu-Min, then”
“That sounds like a great idea.”
"And do that every single day."
“You'll be playing games without a single day off, like a machine.
Fifteen hours a day, every single week.”
Jeong In-Gyu stumbled a little.
sounds a bit tough, I admit.
Kang Jin-Ho explained it further in a flat voice, "Only a few percent of people who go through that rigorous schedule can debut as a pro gamer.
And out of that few percent, an even smaller number of pros will compete in tournaments."
"Even those players who call themselves the best of the best will fall to the bottom if they laze around for a while."
Jeong In-Gyu stuttered, “B-but, Yu-Min...”
Kang Jin-Ho sighed, “I'm pretty sure you'll be playing around if you go to a university.”
"However, Yu-Min has already started his career.
While you go to a university and waste time on group dates and parties, he will have to play computer games for fifteen hours a day to make a living."
Jeong In-Gyu suddenly wrapped his arm around Park Yu-Min's shoulders and spoke in a pitying voice, "Hey, Yu-Min, listen.”
Jeong In-Gyu clenched his fist tightly and lightly shook it.
“I'll cheer for you!”
“I now understand that it must be hard for you, too.”
"What are you talking about" Park Yu-Min chuckled and finally reached his desk.
Even though he was a pro gamer now, he still had to graduate from high school.
Kang Jin-Ho grabbed his pen and delved into the textbook, knowing that he was in the same boat.
It was true that he had already lived through being a third year in high school all those decades ago.
Back then, he thought giving his best would be the ticket to success, but not anymore.
The crucial thing to consider was 'efficiency.’ If his plan was to get an average result in the exams, then it'd be fine to study like he did so far.
However, his new goal was to get a better result than his past self.
'Otherwise, there's no point now, is there'
If he failed to get a better result this time around, all those years he spent in Zhongyuan would've been for nothing.
Kang Jin-Ho couldn't stomach the mere idea of that happening.
Kang Jin-Ho stared at his report card.
“Ranked 25th, huh...”
Considering that he was ranked 50th the last time, reaching this spot in the latest mock exams was a commendable improvement.
Even then, it was still a long way off his old record.
Since he was now cultivating again, he thought getting better grades would be only a matter of time.
Unfortunately, fifteen years of being a jobless shut-in and several decades of life in Zhongyuan had robbed him of most of his knowledge.
While others had twelve years to gradually build their knowledge base, Kang Jin-Ho had to do the same in only one year.
Yes, it had been only one year since he started studying again.
And in that year, he managed to drag his ranking of 250th all the way up to 25th, a jump of 225 spots.
However, he wasn't satisfied with this result.
'I know it'll get better.'
Kang Jin-Ho had only just begun on the third-year curriculum when he took the mock exams.
Once he was done with the curriculum, his grades should rise up even higher.
“...Let's aim for the first spot.”
His goal had always been the top spot.
Kang Jin-Ho's motto was since he started this thing, he had to reach the top no matter what.
Kang Jin-Ho was sitting on the grandstand of the school's athletics field.
He groaned weakly, "So tired..."
This was not the issue with his stamina.
No, it was the endless battle against the printed letters in the books to blame.
Those fights had steadily shaved away at his mental strength, leaving him feeling fatigued.
His body was fine, but his head would repeatedly experience a state of hazy emptiness.
He could restore his stamina through the breathing technique to generate and circulate qi, yet he still couldn't avoid falling in this state.
So, how bad would it be for other students, then
'Now that I think about it, I held on pretty admirably back then.'
Kang Jin-Ho recalled his past self.
Back then, he was studying several times harder than this.
Even though his study regimen back then was inefficient and a waste of his valuable time, he still had to admit that his past self was a lot more passionate about studying.
'Two months left, huh'
If things played out the same as in the past...
Kang Jin-Ho was fated to get involved in another car accident in two months.
He would end up as a paraplegic and live alone for the rest of his life, or a new life that Kang Jin-Ho couldn't even begin to imagine might start in two months.
He thought about the rapidly-approaching next chapter of his life.
In a way, his life leading up to that moment would be just a rehearsal for this new life.
Some variables did rear their ugly heads, but he still managed to adapt pretty quickly as he had already lived this part of his life before.
But after entering university, his life would be a complete unknown for him.
'Before that, I need to get into a university first...'
Kang Jin-Ho yawned and stretched his limbs, then got up to leave.
“Wait! I only got here, so why are you leaving already!”
Kang Jin-Ho stopped and turned his head to look at the source of that shrill yell.
Han Se-Yeon sneaked closer before settling down next to him.
He sat down again and scanned her face.
“You look tired,” he said.
I’m so tired I think I'm dying.”
"Don't overwork yourself.
Your grades are already excellent, anyway."
“Don't jinx it, Jin-Ho.
Besides, good grades don't mean anything if I mess up on the D-Day.
It'll be game over, then.”
Kang Jin-Ho nodded.
"You do have a point there."
"It's so unfair that our last twelve years will be judged by how we do on that single day, don't you think"
"There's always the next time if you fail."
“I told you to stop jinxing it, Jin-Ho!”
“I was only trying to cheer you up, though”
Han Se-Yeon chuckled, then lightly patted him on the shoulder.
I saw that your ranking climbed up again."
“Yeah, that happened.”
“25th out of the entire school, eh”
"Yeah," Kang Jin-Ho replied with a shrug.
“You must've worked hard, Jin-Ho.
This noona is so proud of you.” Han Se-Yeon patted Kang Jin-Ho on the head.
He disregarded her and simply looked up at the sky above.
She tilted her head.
“What are you looking at”
"I've noticed that you look up there pretty often.
I just want to make sure.”
“That I'm really here...”
Han Se-Yeon groaned, "Jin-Ho, you're not making any sense, again."
“Don't mind me,” Kang Jin-Ho chuckled and shook his head.
Han Se-Yeon sat a little closer.
"By the way, which university are you thinking of applying to"
“Mm... The one that I can get in with my grades.”
"Your grades are getting better, so I guess going to Korea University isn't out of the question as long as you get serious about it."
Kang Jin-Ho shook his head again.
"No, I don't want to go there."
“It's too far.”
Han Se-Yeon frowned deeply.
"People are dying to get into that university, yet you don't want to go just because...
it's too far"
“Well, Jaegyeong Uni is close by, so I'll probably go there instead.”
"You better pull your socks up, then.
With your current grades, you won’t be able to get into Jaegyeong.”
Han Se-Yeon playfully teased, "Oh Then, what's up with all this confidence Wait, are you banking on your grandpa's help"
“A university that accepts a student who can't even clear the qualifications to enter is not a real university but a cram school.”
"I guess you have a point there.
Entrance exams are a thorny issue for everyone, after all."
Kang Jin-Ho grinned faintly at her teasing.
He had his own way of handling this, so he wasn't that worried about it.
Besides, everything he had done so far was a preparation for what was about to come, anyway.
“Let's go back inside.”
Kang Jin-Ho got up, and Han Se-Yeon followed him.
Before they got too far, though, she suddenly addressed him, “By the way, Jin-Ho.”
“Study hard, okay”
"I don't have a problem with Jaegyeong Uni, you know"
"What does that mean" Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head in confusion.
"Although it's not as acclaimed as the Korea Uni, it's pretty close to us, as you said.
And it's got a good public image and the scholarships are easy enough to get, too."
“I thought you were aiming for Korea Uni Why the change of heart”
See you later.”
Kang Jin-Ho watched as Han Se-Yeon jogged back to her class.
He chuckled a little and muttered, “Silly girl.”
The Hangul for 'conform' and the Korean acronym for the National University Entrance Exams have very similar pronunciations. ☜