Chapter 63: Chapter 63
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“In this case, no. The cheaper option would actually be the better choice,” Ho Sung said.
“And why is that?” Min Sung asked, staring intently and sharply at Ho Sung.
“Some might disagree with me, but personally, I think the five-layered pork belly has a much richer flavor to it.”
“I see…” Min Sung said, nodding.
“Would you like to try it, sir?”
“Yes. When it comes to food, I trust your judgment.”
“Thank you, sir,” Ho Sung said, ringing the bell on their table. Shortly after, a waitress came rushing to their table with a welcoming smile.
“Hello! What would you like?” she asked with her hands clasped together politely, waiting patiently for Ho Sung’s reply with sparkling eyes. Clearing his throat, Ho Sung said, “We’ll take four orders of the five-layered pork belly and a bottle of soju.”
“Sure! We’ll bring it right out,” the waitress said, returning to the kitchen upon taking Ho Sung’s order. Then…
… Ho Sung let out deeply, and Min Sung, who was wiping his hands with a warm wet towel, looked at him and asked, “Why the long face?”
“Sir? Oh, right. You know, the whole thing at the Institute. I guess I’m a little frazzled and weirded out. Haha,” Ho Sung replied, chuckling awkwardly.
“Well, whatever is on your mind, you can stop thinking about it now. The pork bellies are here.”
At that moment, the waitress brought out their order on a cart and set the pork belly on the table along with some basic side dishes. There were layers of pink and red meat in between yet even more layers of fat, which made the champion’s mouth water.
‘I can’t remember the last time I had pork belly,’ Min Sung thought, impressed. Then, while he was still marveling over the fresh cuts of pork belly, a waiter came to the table with hot, burning charcoal.
“Beautiful, aren’t they?” the waiter said, smiling and putting the charcoal into the grill. Min Sung nodded inadvertently in agreement. Just like the waiter had said, there was something mesmerizing about the ember, making it look like the ore of an enchanted stone.
While Min Sung was mesmerized by the burning charcoal, Ho Sung picked up a tong. However, to Min Sung’s confusion, Ho Sung froze in place like a statue, glaring piercingly at the grill.
“Why aren’t you cooking?” Min Sung asked.
“I’m waiting for the grill to heat up.”
“I see,” Min Sung replied, nodding affirmatively. Then, after some time, Ho Sung took a slice of the five-layered pork belly and place it on the grill. The loud, mouth-watering sizzle was comparable to the sound of an orchestra. Licking his lips and swallowing anxiously, Min Sung couldn’t take his eyes off of the meat cooking on the grill. Nothing else entered his mind or view.
Resisting his hunger, Min Sung refrained from eating anything in order to best experience the fresh pork. Soon, Ho Sung picked up the meat with his tong and flipped it onto the grill, revealing the side of the pork belly that had been cooked to golden-brown perfection and was glistening with its oils and juices. Ho Sung seemed to know exactly when to flip the meat when grilling it. At that irresistible sight, the champion’s stomach cried out for the meat desperately, and Min Sung had to remind himself that the wait would be well worth it. The fruits of perseverance would surely be sweet.
Despite the vent just above the grill sucking up most of the smoke, the deep, enticing aroma of the pork belly still tickled the champion’s nose. Then, Ho Sung flipped the slice of pork belly yet again in order to cook the sides that hadn’t touched the grill. Since cuts had been made to the meat in the kitchen prior to it arriving at the table, cutting it into pieces was hardly a challenge. While the pork belly was cooking, Ho Sung picked up some wild leek leaves and cut them into smaller slices, which made him almost seem like an artisan of sorts to the champion. Ho Sung’s eyes were like those of a bear snatching its prey.
After cutting the wild leek leaves, Ho Sung pushed the perfectly-cooked pieces of meat to the side of the grill and picked up the bottle of soju.
“Sir, the meat will taste twice as better after a shot of soju.”
When the champion looked down in order to pick up his shot glass, he realized that his hands were shaking. Even a hardened fighter who had survived his time in the Demonic Realm couldn’t resist the excitement and anticipation that came with perfectly-cooked pork belly. Clenching his teeth tightly, Min Sung raised his shot glass and let Ho Sung pour him some soju, also pouring Ho Sung a glass in return.
“Here’s to you!” Ho Sung shouted.
“Shut up and drink.”
Raising his glass, Min Sung poured the shot of soju into his mouth. Having grown used to drinking by that point, he was starting to appreciate the different flavors of alcohol. Then, without hesitation, he picked up his chopsticks and went straight for the pork belly, his heart racing with excitement. Picking up a piece of the meat, Min Sung brought it up to his mouth. The piping hot piece of pork tossed about in his mouth. Then, when his teeth sank into the meat, the savory juice came pouring out of it like a waterfall.
The meat was unbelievably juicy. The pork bellies he had had in the past paled in comparison. Upon a closer look, Min Sung noticed that the meat was cut significantly thicker than in most restaurants. However, the thickness of the meat couldn’t be the only contributing factor to its juiciness. If anything, it had to be the freshness and the quality of the meat that determined the depth of flavor.
‘I see why Ho Sung brought me here,’ the champion thought.
“What do you think?” Ho Sung asked, looking nervously at Min Sung. The answer was a simple one.
At the champion’s simple affirmation, Ho Sung breathed a sigh of relief. Looking much more at peace, he started eating and drinking.
In the meantime, Min Sung placed a slice of wild leek leaves on another piece of pork belly and brought it all up to his mouth. Sweet and sour, the thin leaves melted in his mouth like ice cream, creating a breathtaking combination.
‘Exquisite,’ Min Sung thought, furrowing his brow with deep satisfaction, something that to others would appear as if he was troubled.
‘This is some quality meat.’
Then, looking up at Ho Sung, the champion said, “Order some rice and soybean paste stew.”
“Already? Aren’t you gonna eat more?”
“I’d like to eat mine with rice and stew.”
After ringing the bell, Ho Sung ordered one bowl of rice and one of soybean paste stew, staples of Korean barbecue. When the two finished the remaining pork belly slices and ordered three additional servings on top of it, the bowls of rice and stew arrived at their table. Leaving the lid on the bowl of rice closed, Min Sung waited patiently for the next pork belly.
While Ho Sung cooked the new batch of pork belly like a professional chef, Min Sung enjoyed the product his labor with a bowl of rice. Scooping a spoonful of rice up, he placed a piece of pork belly and a dollop of ssamjang on top of it and put it all in his mouth.
(TL’s Note: Ssamjang is a mixture of gochujang and doenjang, or the soybean paste, and is one of the most common and popular sauces in Korean barbecue.)
The intense flavor of the juice pouring out of the tender piece of meat coated the grains of soft rice, creating a beautiful, dream-like piece of art in his mouth.
After that, Min Sung moved on to the soybean paste stew and scooped up a spoonful of broth, pieces of tofu squares, and peppers.
The warm broth came rushing into his mouth, making the already-soft grains of rice even more tender. It was like the first patch of snow melting away in spring.
“Sir, would you be interested in some cold noodles? Just so you know, their cold noodles are slightly unique. They use flour noodles instead of the typical buckwheat counterpart, so they do taste a little different, but they’re still just as refreshing as the buckwheat version.”
“Go ahead,” Min Sung said, nodding while drinking some soju. In response, Ho Sung rang the bell and placed an order for a bowl of cold noodles: another staple of Korean barbecue. It was a proper feast.
‘Well worth the wait,’ Min Sung thought. Though slightly buzzed, he was readier than ever for more food.
Despite the restaurant being quite busy, the champion’s bowl of cold noodles arrived at the table much sooner than he had expected. Surrounded by the icy broth, was a ball of flour noodles, revealing itself like a lady bashfully showing her skin. Then, after taking some mustard and vinegar, Ho Sung mixed those into the broth, stirred it all with a fresh pair of chopsticks, and placed the concoction before Min Sung with the utmost respect.
Taking a deep breath, Min Sung picked up some noodles, wrapped them around a piece of five-layered pork belly as he would with spaghetti and slurped away. The sensation of the ice-cold noodles mingling with the piping-hot piece of pork brought about a pleasure like no other. The sweet and sour broth was unbelievably refreshing and clean-tasting. After that, Min Sung took a shot of soju and put the glass down audibly, deeply satisfied.
“Ho Sung Lee,” Min Sung said.
“Sir?” Ho Sung asked, ready to stand up at any given minute.
“I need you to do some research on demons.”
“Demons… I vaguely remember hearing about them when you were talking with Ace. What are they exactly? Monsters?”
Leaning back on his chair, Min Sung smiled bitterly and replied, “They’re beasts of the Demonic Realm.”
“… the Demonic Realm!? Is that even real?” Ho Sung asked, startled.
“Go talk to the Shadow Guild if you have to. See what you can find out about the creatures.”
Then, as Min Sung nodded and poured himself a glass, Ho Sung said, “But uh… sir?”
“Do you know how I went to the Central Institute with my sword?”
“Did you send me because it was something outside of your capability? You know, dismantling the bomb.”
At the champion’s ambiguous answer, Ho Sung immersed himself in brief thought. Looking toward Min Sung, he asked, “But why did you send me? Were you not worried that I’d mess up?”
“Not at all.”
“Was it because… you trusted me?” Ho Sung asked, his eyes widened.
Looking at Min Sung, who remained silent, Ho Sung chuckled awkwardly and said as if he had given up, “Eh, what am I saying? It was probably the sword that you trusted. Haha!” Then, with a sigh, he added, shaking his head, “… But let me tell you, it was a close call. Way too close. One slip up, and everyone would have been toast. I can’t believe that you were that calm about sending me there.’
At that moment, Min Sung broke his silence by saying, “I did trust you.”