Chapter 66: Chapter 66
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
Though it was a hot summer, there was something enticing about the soft, fluffy chunks of tofu doused in piping hot broth. Arriving at the restaurant known for its soondubu soup, Ho Sung said,
“We’re here, SIR.”
“I don’t like your tone.”
Min Sung pulled Bowl out of his pocket, tossed it at Ho Sung and said, “Bite.”
At which point, Bowl opened its mouth agape and bit Ho Sung’s thigh.
“Aaaaaagh!” Ho Sung let out in excruciating pain. However, paying no attention to it, Min Sung got out of the car, walked over to the driver’s seat, and tapped on the window. When Ho Sung, who was on the verge of crying from the pain, rolled the window down, Bowl leapt out of the window and into its master’s pocket.
“Ho Sung Lee,” Min Sung said.
“Sir,” Ho Sung replied, his face pale from enduring the pain.
“I need you to look into the demons.”
“You mean now?”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
“… Right away, sir,” Ho Sung said, lowering his gaze while rubbing his thigh.
“Off you go,” Min Sung said, patting the front hood of the car. At that point, Ho Sung, mouthing curse words like a monk citing a prayer, drove away. Then, Min Sung looked at the restaurant’s sign.
[Nak Won Soondubu Soup]
The restaurant’s exterior was far from luxurious. In fact, it was run down to the point of looking almost too dirty. However, the shabby appearance of the restaurant made the champion’ expectations shoot up through the roof. A run-down restaurant that specialized in a dish eaten by the common people often meant tradition, and soondubu soup was just one of those dishes.
Opening the door, Min Sung stepped into the restaurant. Much like its exterior, the interior of the restaurant was just as run down. Despite it being early morning, the restaurant was filled with customers, who were mostly elderly. After taking his shoes off, Min Sung sat at a table in the corner. Soon, a middle-aged server wearing a bandana brought him some water and a wet towel.
“What would you like?” the server asked, and Min Sung looked at the menu, which was rather small.
[Soybean paste stew combo]
Next to it, were the various options available to customers when ordering and the origin of the ingredients used by the restaurant.
[Stir-fried octopus does not include rice.]
[We take to-go orders!]
[Our rice and kimchi are made using 100% Korean produce!]
Underneath that, was a disclaimer written in tiny, barely visible point that read: We use imported octopus.
Since Min Sung had come to the restaurant knowing what he was going to get, he placed his order without delay, “One soondubu combo.”
Without saying anything in return, the server took the menu from the champion and walked away. Then, while Min Sung was pouring himself a cup of water, the door opened, and a beautiful woman came into the restaurant. At that point, all the men fixed their gazes on her. While everyone in the restaurant remained frozen in place, staring at the woman in a daze, the woman took her shoes off, sat at Min Sung’s table, across from him, and threw her hand into the air and said, “One soondubu combo, please.”
Drinking his water, Min Sung stared intently at her.
“Hi!” Ji Yoo said with a friendly smile. However, paying no attention to her, Min Sung wiped his hands with the wet towel.
“Well, good morning to you too,” she said.
At that point, a man sitting at the next table interjected, “Why, your girlfriend is beautiful! You’re a lucky man. She puts celebrities to shame!”
“Thank you,” Ji Yoo replied with a smile as beautiful as a blooming flower. Seeing that, the man blushed, cleared his throat, and resumed his meal.
“You’re starting to get a little too familiar,” Min Sung said coldly, and the men in the restaurant stared at the champion with widened eyes as if they couldn’t make sense of the cold manner with which he was treating her.
“How about we grab coffee afterward?” Ji Yoo asked.
“Then, how about dessert?”
At that point, everyone in the restaurant, including the servers and the kitchen staff, stared at the champion, shocked by his cold, dismissive attitude. Ji Yoo, resting her chin on her hand, pouted her lips.
“Do you have to be that heartless? If I were you, I wouldn’t leave her for a second! Say, are you two not together? Are you trying to win him over? Is that what’s happenin’ here?” the man sitting at the next table said.
“Nope,” Ji Yoo replied, shaking her head.
“Hehe. Good times, good times,” the man said, laughing heartily. At that moment, one of the servers turned the TV on. The nostalgic analog TV showed the news, which was covering someone with whom both Min Sung and Ji Yoo were familiar: Ho Sung.
[Next up, the Head of the Diamond Clan, Ho Sung Lee, who is widely known as the hunter who saved Seoul from utter destruction, has declined the Central Institute’s offer to bring him on board. At the time of the offer, Lee claimed that he was already serving a master. Since the official statement was made public, the citizens’ support toward Lee has been growing exponentially.]
Watching the news, the man sitting at the next table smiled proudly, tapped the floor next to the champion’s table and said, “THAT is a real hunter, don’t you think? Boy, that Ho Sung Lee! He’s the real deal! Seriously, what’s the Institute doing anyway? They’re always busy looking out for themselves, looking down at the commoners who are vulnerable and powerless. Frankly, it’s hunters like him who are actually protecting this country!”
At the man’s statement, Ji Yoo’s expression grew darker and darker. While Min Sung chuckled, the server brought out the food on an aluminum tray. Looking down, Min Sung studied the simple side dishes on the table: seasoned fish cakes, cold cucumber soup, and kimchi.
First, Min Sung started with a bowl of steamed rice. Scooping a spoonful of it, he brought it up to his mouth. Right off the bat, he was able to tell that it was perfectly cooked. Because it had been freshly steamed, the rice was incredibly soft, and it felt as though it was practically melting in his mouth.
Chewing the rice by the mouthful, Min Sung looked down at the bowl of soondubu soup garnished with thinly sliced green onions. Scooping up a spoonful of the red, steaming hot broth, which was mixed with chili oil and soft, fluffy chunks of tofu, the champion sucked it into his mouth.
The soft tofu scattered in his mouth before he even chewed. It was the very definition of soft. Not only that, the soup was perfectly seasoned. Bland, watery soondubu soup was a common find among restaurants. However, this restaurant in particular seemed to have mastered its recipe down to a fine art. The depth in flavor was unfathomable, and it made sense why it was one of the restaurants Ho Sung had recommended.
Scooping up another spoonful of the soup, which had maintained every bit of its natural aroma, Min Sung mixed it into the rice and brought the mixture up to his mouth. The flavor was completely different from when eating the rice and the soup separately.
The mixture of the soft, fluffy tofu, the red, spicy, savory broth combined with the perfectly cooked rice was mesmerizing. Before he knew it, over half a bowl of rice had disappeared.
‘I could eat this all day!’ Min Sung thought. Then, while Min Sung picked up a piece of seasoned fish cakes, Ji Yoo, wide eyed, drew her face close to his and said, “This place is really good!”
Looking at Ji Yoo, who seemed moved to her core, Min Sung pushed her face away with his finger. However, she paid no attention to him and resumed her meal as if she had been starving for days.
“I’m starting to see why you’re such a foodie now. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve gotten sick of eating unnecessarily expensive things, but this! Mm! Amazing!” she said, shaking. Ignoring her, Min Sung focused on his meal. With a heaping spoonful of rice in his mouth, he scooped up yet another spoonful of soup and brought it up to his mouth. A beautiful concoction of flavors filled his mouth. Then, he picked up a piece of kimchi and put that in his mouth. Neither too fermented nor too fresh, the kimchi was unbelievably refreshing.
Finally, taking the last bit of rice, Min Sung mixed that into what was left of the soup and slurped away. Because the bowl was made of stone, the contents within it remained hot.
After eating every bit of what was in the bowl, Min Sung felt a pleasant heat spread from his stomach to the rest of his body. It felt as though he had just gotten out of a sauna. After pouring himself a glass of ice water, he drank it in a single gulp, and a cold, refreshing sensation followed. Wiping his mouth with a tissue, the champion let out a satisfied sigh and asked, “Remind me of why you’re here?”
Having just finished her bowl of soup, she put the bowl down, closed her eyes and said, “Wow… That was magical… This place is unbelievable!”
“Answer the question.”
“Why, I had something to talk to you about,” she replied. Although she was smiling, it wasn’t a lighthearted statement by any means. In fact, there was charisma and dignity in her eyes as the ruler of the Central Institute.
“Demons,” she said. At that point, Min Sung’s gaze became sharp and heavy, and the air sank into silence.
“We better go elsewhere,” he said, rising from his seat.
“Oh, I got this…”
“Huh?! Are you buying??”
“No. You pay for your own food.”
Ignoring Ji Yoo’s flabbergasted look, Min Sung paid for his meal and left the restaurant. Looking in his direction, Ji Yoo shook her fist at him and said, “Nghhh! Ya jerk!”
“Haha! Why, what a beautiful young lady! Come eat more often! Feels like the whole place lights up when you’re here!” the owner said.
“Oh! Thank you! It was so good!”
“You have a good day now.”
With that and after paying for her food, Ji Yoo left the restaurant, and the men in the restaurant resumed their meals, smacking their lips with lingering attachment to her presence.