Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
At the riveting sight of an entire black sea bream sitting in a red, boiling broth, Min Sung almost lost his self-control. After regaining his composure, he scooped up a spoonful of the broth and brought it up to his mouth.
Immediately, his mouth was filled with the spicy and rich flavors of the broth.
Taking a piece of the meat from the fish, the champion brought it up to his mouth. Fitting to its reputation among fishing enthusiasts for not going down without a fight, the fish was incredibly lean. Yet, it was firm and meaty. Then, taking another chunk of the fish and the leek in the stew, he put it on top of a spoonful of rice and brought that up to his mouth. In combination with the fish, the leek and the grains of rice added a refreshing twist. Taking another spoonful of the spicy broth, Min Sung brought the food up to his mouth one more time. The spiciness warmed up his body to a pleasant temperature. The harmony between the white rice and the spicy-yet-refreshing broth, which Min Sung was completely addicted to by that point, was more than enough to satisfy the champion's hunger. In the end, he ate every bite of his rice and every drop of the stew, leaving only the bones. Having eaten his fill, Min Sung leaned back with his hands on his belly and let out a satisfied sigh. Seeing that, Ho Sung, who had hardly eaten any of it, studied the champion's expression and asked, "Did you enjoy your meal, sir?"
With a subtle smile on his face, the champion responded, "That was a fine meal." With a full stomach, he looked out the window toward the ocean, thinking, 'This is heaven.'
"Well, since this is our first time eating together, I'll take care of the bill, sir."
Hearing that, the champion, looking toward Ho Sung, shook his head and said, "No, I'll pay."
"Ah Of course. Thank you."
"How much did it come out to?" Min Sung asked. As satisfying as the meal had been, the price was also an important part of the experience at a restaurant. Regardless of how delectable the food was, an unreasonable price would surely diminish the experience.
"Fifty thousand won," Ho Sung replied, leaving the champion dumbfounded by what he had just heard.
"... Fifty thousand?"
"How?" Min Sung asked, looking at him with widened eyes.
"The rental tends to cost quite a bit, but the owner gave us a big discount. It must have been all the fish we brought him. Well, at this price, we're only paying for all the side dishes essentially."
"I see," Min Sung said, nodding, reminded of Ho Sung's impressive ability to arrange the most satisfying meals.
After dropping Min Sung off at his house, Ho Sung was ordered to return the following morning. While he was glad to be relieved of having to be on standby 24/7 on one hand, he was deeply concerned on the other.
'Either my bank account will run dry, or I'll starve to death.'
Leaning against his car, he chain-smoked while contemplating his life.
'I can't just waste away like this. I have to come up with something.'
It was a question he had yet to figure out an answer to since meeting the champion. However, he was now at wit's end. He had to find a solution.
'I gotta move forward. I can't just sit here until I grow old.'
Then, with a determined look on his face, Ho Sung chucked the still-lit cigarette on the ground, got in his car, started the ignition, and took off toward a specific destination.
In a dungeon swarming with rat monsters named rat boys, Ho Sung breathed heavily while covered in blood. Looking down at a rat boy he had just killed, he bit down on his lower lip. Although there was still a myriad of monsters left to be slain in the dungeon, his arms were already starting to give out, his hands shaking uncontrollably while his shoulders and legs felt as heavy as anchors.
Though it was his first solo journey without the help of a party, Ho Sung had a reason for tackling his fears head-on: to become stronger. Before, he wouldn't have continued hunting in his current condition. However, the memory of being the champion's slave and being humiliated by the Lich Doll that used to be level 1 was far too vivid.
'I might never be strong enough to be free from that Min Sung Kang, but that doesn't mean I can't hope. There has to be something I can do. Something worth doing. That's what will keep me going, and in order for me to find out what that is, I have to be willing to risk my life. I'm not running away with my tail between my legs,' Ho Sung thought as he held his long sword tightly. At that moment, in a dark cave, a bright light flashed in the distance. It was another rat boy approaching Ho Sung with gleaming eyes.
"Come at me, you rats. Do your worst!" Ho Sung said, glaring fiercely at the monsters approaching him in the dark.
"We had someone heal you, but you'll have to watch yourself for a while until you've fully recovered. I strongly advise against any rigorous activities," the doctor said, and Ho Sung nodded haphazardly. Upon leaving the hospital, Ho Sung made a stop at a pharmacy and came out with a bag of medicine. There was a half-moon lighting the night sky, which reminded him of his half-decent life, so he felt a wave of sorrow wash over him.
Despite having put his life on the line, all of his loot had been nothing but lowest grade items, and his experience points had gone up by only two percent.
'I could use a drink.'
Getting in the car, Ho Sung drove to his personal hideout, where he usually went to get away from the people around him whenever life wasn't kind to him. Despite the doctor's advice to stay away from smoking and drinking, Ho Sung, with a cigarette in his mouth, entered a nameless street bar.
"Look who's here! Where have you been!?" the owner said, greeting Ho Sung gladly. With a bitter smile on his face, Ho Sung returned a nod and sat at an aluminum table. Because it was a weekday and late dawn, Ho Sung was the only customer around. There couldn't have been a better time to be alone.
"I'll have an udon soup and a bottle of soju."
Seeing the dark expression on Ho Sung's face, the owner refrained from asking questions and brought Ho Sung a bottle of soju and a shot glass. Lighting a cigarette, Ho Sung took a deep drag off of it and poured himself a glass.
'Ho Sung Lee. The Head of the Diamond Clan. It just doesn't sound the same anymore,' he thought, chuckling. He wasn't necessarily comparing his power to Min Sung Kang. If anything, Ho Sung accepted that he was still learning and growing. He was merely frustrated with where he was in life and with how complicated his life had become.
Taking the shot of soju, he poured it into his mouth.
'Strange. I don't smell alcohol. Maybe it has something to do with this shitty mood I'm in.'
On that bitter night, the soju couldn't be sweeter.
'I'm gonna get trashed at this rate. Eh, if I'm getting drunk, it might as well be tonight,' he thought, pouring himself another glass of soju and feeling the alcohol warming his body. Then, staring into the air, he let out a chuckle.
By the time he finished smoking his cigarette, the owner brought out the bowl of udon soup.
"Eat up. You don't wanna drink on an empty stomach," he said as he put the bowl on the table. Seeing the owner's genuine concern, Ho Sung smiled bitterly and nodded. As the owner returned to the kitchen to prepare the ingredients, Ho Sung stared down at the udon soup in a daze. Garnished with minced green onions and crushed red pepper flakes, there was something about it that reminded him of the champion.
'Would he even like stuff like this?' he wondered. Food was best enjoyed in a proper atmosphere and under proper circ.u.mstances. Eating as a means to satisfy one's hunger simply didn't make for the same experience. With that, Ho Sung picked up some noodles with his chopsticks, brought them up to his mouth and slurped away. Despite his gloomy mood, he couldn't help but notice the tastiness of the udon soup.
"Min Sung Kang That son of a bitch" he murmured, chewing while wiping his tears away with his sleeve, sighing.
Ho Sung got out of his car, his face and neck flushing bright red, drunk as a fiddler. Then, with his belly out like a tadpole, he lit a cigarette and took a deep drag off of it. Staring at the champion's house with bleary eyes, Ho Sung curled his lip.
"That is a nice house," he said, snorting loudly and spitting on the ground. His throat was stinging, and his lungs were sore from him smoking significantly more than usual as of late. Then, chucking the cigarette irritably, he strode toward the champion's house and knocked violently.
Shortly after, the door opened, and Min Sung, who was still half asleep, peeked his face out. At that, Ho Sung, rubbing his face like he was washing it, walked into the house with his shoes still on, bumping the champion's shoulder. Standing in the living room, Ho Sung, fuming with anger, breathed heavily. However, Min Sung simply leaned against the wall with his arms crossed, staring at Ho Sung nonchalantly.
With his hands on his h.i.p.s, Ho Sung stared up at the ceiling, let out a long sigh, and turned toward the champion, saying, "Don't you think you could treat me a little better?"
"I thought about it over and over, and you know what? You treat me like shit!"
"OK, fine. Yes, I tried to rob you at one point, I admit it, but what do you know about a life where you have to rob people just to get by? Thanks to the Central Institute, hunters in the streets like myself barely make any money. To us, survival alone is a challenge in and of itself! Do you know what kind of life I had to live!? Do you know the hardsh.i.p.s that I've gone through!?"
"And why the hell do I have to plan out your meals every single day? Huh!?"
"I think I deserve some credit, don't you think? You take care of that damn Lich Doll, so why can't you do the same with me!? Are you saying that I should spend the rest of my life taking you around just to eat? Are you!? If you are, you're one evil son of a bitch!"
"Are you done?" the champion asked, furrowing his brow.
"No, I'm not done, you piece of shit! My life is and always will be a living hell!" Ho Sung shouted. Then, he nodded and pushed his belly out, saying, "Screw this. Kill me. Right here, right now!"
Uncrossing his arms, the champion stared at Ho Sung with cold eyes.
"It's your funeral," he said, walking toward Ho Sung unhurriedly.