Chapter 31: Chapter 31
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
Beaten to near death, Ho Sung sprawled across the front yard, trembling. His eyes were so swollen that he could hardly see.
“You son of a bitch… ” he murmured with blue, swollen lips. Min Sung was not only cold-blooded, but also heartless.
‘Yeah… I remember now. He did say that I’d beg him to kill me when we first met,’ Ho Sung thought. The night prior, the words, “Just kill me, please,” had come out of him inadvertently as the champion started beating him to a pulp. Although Ho Sung had been drunk out of his mind then, the terror of being the champion’s victim had seized his heart. No matter how many times he had begged Min Sung to stop, the champion had paid no attention and simply continued to beat him as if entitled to do so. The terror and the champion’s cold, cruel eyes were still vivid in Ho Sung’s mind.
Whenever Ho Sung would wake up after passing out, the beating continued. Eventually, the champion’s threatening prediction from their first encounter had come true. Ho Sung had started begging the heartless champion to kill him.
‘For how long did it go on? Hours?’
The night had felt like an eternity. Min Sung had punished Ho Sung as if he had had the right to do so while looking completely neutral and unfazed. After a while, Ho Sung had started to sense his resentment toward the champion subside, only to be overcome with terror as he sobered up. By the time he had snapped to his senses, it had been too late to regret.
‘Would he really kill me? After all the time we’ve spent together?’
To Ho Sung’s dismay, the champion had genuinely tried to beat him to death, driving Ho Sung to cling to the champion’s pants, literally begging for his life. Of course, Min Sung never listened. In the end, it wasn’t until Ho Sung became delirious, barely able to feel any pain, that Min Sung finally threw him out to the front yard and let Ho Sung off the hook. Now, sprawled across the lawn, Ho Sung couldn’t resist the tears streaming down his face. At that moment…
The front door opened, and Ho Sung, startled, started to shake. Clenching his eyes tightly, he didn’t make a sound, as if playing dead in front of a bear. After a brief silence, the front door closed, and he breathed a sigh of relief, thinking ‘… I’m scared,’ sniffling and moaning from the pain.
‘I’m NOT messing with him ever again.’
“I thought I told you to take care of yourself! What happened!? You were dangerously close to death!” the doctor said, and Ho Sung, looking delirious, smacked his lips and said, “… Sorry, doc.”
“You don’t have to apologize. I’m just concerned for my patient, that’s all. You almost got yourself killed! I mean, you must have been in one hell of a dungeon… Whew!” the doctor said, shaking his head, adding, “PLEASE take care of your body. Again, NO RIGOROUS ACTIVITIES!”
After bowing politely to the doctor, Ho Sung walked out of the hospital and was greeted by a bright sun and pleasantly warm weather. Although he was aching all over and his head was throbbing from drinking too much the night before, he felt relieved and at ease internally.
Sipping a cup of water, the champion looked down nonchalantly at Ho Sung, who was begging for forgiveness on his knees.
“I admit it. I’ve had one too many to drink last night and was WAY out of line. Please forgive me, sir.”
“Ho Sung Lee.”
At the sound of the champion’s voice, Ho Sung looked up quickly.
“That’s enough,” the champion said.
“You’ve done enough.”
“… What do you mean?”
“Go on. You’re free,” the champion said, downing what was left of the water in the cup. Caught off guard, Ho Sung gave Min Sung, who was now washing the cup in the kitchen, a blank stare.
‘What’s going on?’ Ho Sung thought, caught off guard by the sudden freedom he had been given. However, he felt no excitement. ‘Why am I not happier?’
At that thought, he remembered why he had returned to the champion’s house in the first place. Getting up on his feet, he looked toward Min Sung and called out to him, “Sir?”
Having finished washing his cup, the champion looked toward Ho Sung.
“If it’s OK with you, I’d like to stay by your side. I want to become stronger.”
“I want to be strong like you.”
At that, Min Sung stared intently at Ho Sung. Pricked in the heart, Ho Sung said, “Yes, I know that I’m a waste of human life, but I wanna start fresh and live atoning for my past sins. Please, let me stay by your side and give me an opportunity to…”
However, despite Ho Sung’s heartfelt request, the champion walked right past Ho Sung, paying no attention to him. At which point, Ho Sung clenched his teeth tightly, looked toward the champion and asked in a loud voice, “Aren’t you curious about alcohol?!”
Sure enough, the champion stopped in his tracks. A heavy tension could be felt in the air.
“One doesn’t simply ‘enjoy’ the subtleties of drinks just by drinking. Atmosphere! Food! Deep understanding of the drink! All these things must work in conjunction. Only then, can one truly appreciate alcohol,” Ho Sung said, looking at the champion determinedly. After a brief thought, the champion turned toward Ho Sung and said, “And?”
“And with that, I ask you from the bottom of my heart to train me alongside your doll. Please, sir.”
Although the champion glared rather fiercely at Ho Sung, Ho Sung stood his ground that time and withstood the champion’s burning gaze. At which point, the champion’s brow furrowed as he contemplated briefly before saying, “Get ready to go out as soon as the sun sets. We’re having a drink.”
Hearing that, Ho Sung threw his hands in the air with a big smile on his face.
‘Alcohol, huh…’ Min Sung pondered as he watered the trees in the backyard. Thinking back to his past, the champion had no recollection of ever having a drink. Even when his friend had offered him some during a school trip, Min Sung had had no interest in trying his hand at drinking. Of course, having been summoned to the Demonic Realm after that, Min Sung had never had the opportunity to try alcohol. Remembering Ho Sung’s fit of alcohol-induced rage, Min Sung let out a small sigh and tilted his head, wondering, ‘Is that what alcohol does to a person? In that case, why drink it?’
Although he couldn’t make sense of it at the moment, he was about to find out soon enough.
With Bowl fast asleep in his pocket, Min Sung left the house and followed Ho Sung’s guidance. Since they weren’t moving by car, Ho Sung seemed to have chosen a place nearby. When they arrived, Min Sung was taken by surprise.
“Here we are. Places like this are called izakaya,” Ho Sung said, adding a brief explanation on the izakaya, which was a Japanese-style pub that offered a variety of simple appetizers according to their drink selection. However, unlike most pubs, izakayas often emphasized food more than their drinks.
“When you go to Japan, most izakayas there offer hundreds of different items on the menu, so you get to try a little bit of everything. But, izakayas in Korea are condensed versions of their Japanese counterparts, so the menus tend to be a lot smaller,” Ho Sung said.
“And what makes izakayas unique from other places is… that you get to try Japanese beer, I guess.”
The pub’s exotic interior made it obvious to Min Sung that it was Japanese-themed.
“Shall we?” Ho Sung asked, and the champion nodded in agreement. As Ho Sung opened the sliding door for him, the champion walked into the pub. Although it was still early evening, there were quite a few customers there. After being greeted by an employee, the champion and Ho Sung were brought to a table by the window. Upon sitting, Min Sung looked around at the interior of the pub, which was made almost entirely of wood, including the pillars, walls, and the floor, exuding a traditional Japanese atmosphere.
“I can recommend some drinks to you. Just go ahead and pick the appetizers you’d like to try. If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them,” Ho Sung said as if he had practiced the line ahead of time, his eyes sparkling. Giving him a brief nod, Min Sung looked at the menu. The first thing that came into view was sashimi, followed by yakitori, soups, a series of deluxe items, tempura, and steak. With his eyes fixed on the menu, the champion asked about the items that piqued his interest.
As soon as the champion finished his sentence, Ho Sung answered almost immediately, “In simple terms, it means ground meat in Japanese, but that’s not exactly what you’re getting. Think of it as… raw beef. Very thin slices of beef that melt in your mouth.”
“Raw beef, huh…” the champion replied.
“I know it sounds disconcerting, but you won’t see much red. If any.”
“I see. I’ve made up my mind.”
“Great. What are we having tonight?”
“Beef tataki and the oden nabe.”
“Sounds good. As for drinks, I’ll order some soju,” Ho Sung said.
“As you wish.”
Without hesitation, Ho Sung rang the bell on the table, and shortly after, a server came running, yelling out, “Coming!”
“One beef tataki, one oden nabe, and one bottle of soju, please,” Ho Sung said.
“Awesome, coming right up!”
After taking their order, the server took the order to the kitchen and brought the two a bottle of soju and two shot glasses. As soon as it made its way to the table, Ho Sung took the bottle and started to shake it violently. At which point, Min Sung gave him a puzzled look and asked, “Why are you doing that?”
“Huh? Oh! This? So, there’s alkaline-reduced water mixed into soju, and if you don’t shake it like this, the water and the alcohol don’t really mix well, which, then, gets you drunk faster,” Ho Sung said, shrugging and adding, “Though, it doesn’t make that much of a difference. I guess it just puts you in the mood.”
Looking at the tornado within the soju bottle, Min Sung nodded briefly. Then, opening the bottle, Ho Sung stood up and politely poured the champion a glass. The clear liquid filled the champion’s shot glass.
“Sir, if you would,” Ho Sung said, handing the champion the bottle, raising his shot glass and bowing. Min Sung filled Ho Sung’s glass.
“Sir, I just want you to know that I’ll be careful from now on. I won’t ever make the mistake of showing up at your door drunk again.”
“Should it happen again, consider that day your last. It’ll be quick and painless,” Min Sung said calmly, raising his glass.
“Loud and clear, sir,” Ho Sung replied in a serious tone, making a toast. A faint smile appeared on the champion’s face as he was struck by the realization that he was finally acting like an adult after an entire century. Then, just as they clinked their glasses and Min Sung was about to bring the soju up to his mouth, the door flung open, and a group of five people walked into the pub. One of whom said in an intimidating voice, “Get out. All of you.”