Although he would have liked to have rushed right away to the Fae World, Sungchul chose to instead take a more leisurely pace on his way back. There was beauty in waiting. The most exciting part of a gift was the moment before opening it.
There were also practical reasons as well. The toxicity of the Miasma was higher than he could have imagined, and the Weapon of Calamity Gorgot also demanded a steady supply of his lifeforce. Sungchul was in no position to be exerting himself while he was having both reduced rate of recovery as well as regularly losing his lifeforce to Gorgot. With all this in mind, Sungchul began his slow journey to Adelwight’s forest.
[A third of your life force will be taken as repayment.]
The moment he accepted, his body became literally drained of energy. The loss of his life force was so significant that it was visually observable.
“Wow… that shield. It’s horrible.”
Bertelgia couldn’t help but exclaim when she saw Sungchul’s cheeks suddenly become sunken in and cast a dark shadow across his face.
“That’s why I try not to use this shield unless it’s necessary.”
Sungchul turned to look at the pot boiling on the grill placed over the camp fire. He was feeling extremely famished due to an immense amount of life force leaving him.
Sungchul focused on the smell of the food gently wafting out of the gap he left between the pot and the lid as he thought to himself.
‘But it’s not like it only has drawbacks. This thing. It’s perfect in boosting one’s appetite.’
He swallowed back the spit that was welling up in his mouth as he opened the lid of the pot. The rice inside was being cooked.
‘It’s about time to seal in the pressure in the pot.’
Sungchul first put the pot of rice on the ground before starting preparation on the main menu.
Today’s main dish was Korean Pork Belly.
He was able to obtain the ingredients when he discovered an ownerless swine roaming freely along the beaches of the East. Although he would have liked to have collected all the parts and make blood sausage, bacon and the rest, he didn’t have time so he decided to settle for a quick meal instead. Therefore, he retrieved only the pork belly to use for tonight’s dinner. Of course he had already made a few vegetable dishes to be served with the meat beforehand. Even the Iron Blood Spirit was perfectly prepared to complement the meal.
‘There’s nothing better to wash down your throat than pork belly after you’ve breathed in some stale air.’
Sungchul placed flat stones on top of the metal grill that was above the fire to heat them first. Once they were ready, he picked up the slabs of juicy fresh meat and placed them on the heated stones.
The aroma of cooked meat assaulted his nose to the tune of welcoming sounds of the meat being cooked. A faint smile appeared on Sungchul’s lips. But then a small black bird appeared at his side to make an indelicate comment on his cooking as it watched the meat sizzle.
“You humans have no concept on how to enjoy the meat properly. Pity you went ahead and burnt that excellent piece of meat like that.”
Marakia was from a race of avian humanoids called Nahak. Although they stood on two feet and could use their hands like humans, they were distinct from humans in having beaks. It couldn’t be helped that their sense of taste differed. To Marakia, the excellent food meant still-bleeding raw meat at the verge of going spoiled and nuts that stimulated his tongue and beak.
Therefore, he could not understand the reason for Sungchul to be cooking in the slightest.
And as for Bertelgia, although it was true that she also did not understand Sungchul’s tastes and preferences in food, as the 2nd highest in hierarchy, she found it unacceptable for a green horn newcomer like Marakia to be antagonizing Sungchul. Bertelgia turned around from Sungchul and reprimanded him.
“Big talk for someone like you who eat intestines filled with poo!”
“Eating intestines is the privilege and the symbol of powerful predators.”
Sungchul patiently ignored the bickering between those of the 2nd and 3rd rank in the hierarchy until he confirmed that the meat he laid out was finished cooking. When he lifted up the meat that had become crispy on the outside, the juices and oil rained down from it. Sungchul brought the meat to his mouth.
It was exactly the flavor he had wanted. But such a simple food typically are not evaluated very highly by the being that governs the domain of food and taste.
[The score of this food is… 23 points!]
[What a primitive dish.]
As he always did, Sungchul didn’t care too much on the score given by the Chef class. Although, it is true that the recent events did force him to reevaluate how he thought of it.
‘I think I should try and attempt to make a dish above 90 points so I can meet the self proclaimed gourmet administrator of this class before the 3rd Calamity can manifest in earnest.’
Of course, the 90 point dish will be presented to the newly awakened and impressionable child. He is likely to be very surprised. Considering the fact that the recipient who has almost never come across cooked food in any form will be eating food that rightfully deserves to be called the best meal in the whole world.
Sungchul began to enjoy his meal to the sound of Bertelgia and Marakia bickering among themselves.
It was about time when all of the meat were consumed and the alcohol to bottom out.
“Hey. I have a question.”
Bertelgia who finished her quarrel with Marakia came to Sungchul to ask.
“What is it?”
Sungchul was reminded of the book that looked identical to Bertelgia on the Island of Death. Identical appearance and voice.
Even though he called her an imitation, he knew full well not to dismiss her as something so cheap. But he intentionally kept his thoughts to himself so that it won’t hurt Bertelgia’s feelings.
Sungchul was 80~90% sure that Bertelgia was going to bring up such a heavy topic that they had glossed over before. But what she ended up saying was completely unexpected.
“That child inside the root of the World Tree. Whose daughter is she?”
“…What made you so curious suddenly?”
“I was just wondering.”
Sungchul put down the glass of alcohol and let out a shallow sigh. Could this be considered to be a lighter topic than the one he was preparing himself for? Thoughts like that swirled around in the midst of his slightly inebriated mind. After a brief moment of silence, Sungchul caved in and began to speak calmly.
“It’s the daughter of a woman named Ryze Himerr. She was a princess of Ruteginea. An adopted daughter.”
Bertelgia shook herself side to side.
“I know the mother. I heard enough bits and pieces to put that together. The important question is, who is the father.”
Sungchul’s face became visibly rigid. Bertelgia realized immediately she touched a forbidden topic.
“Doesn’t matter if you don’t want to tell me. I can always ask when that girl wakes up.”
Bertelgia was right. It was going to happen eventually.
Sungchul picked up the bottle of alcohol and turned it upside down.
There was not even a drop left in the bottle. Sungchul put down the bottle looking slightly disappointed and picked up premium peanuts to chew on before speaking.
“The man I despise the most is that girl’s father.”
Bertelgia leaned herself against a rock even while shocked. It meant she wanted him to continue. Sungchul began to tell a summarized version of past events. It was likely the first time he’s ever talked about it, considering Sungchul was not a man who often spoke of his past.
Next to the campfire where the wood softly crackled, Sungchul told the story of his past. Some time passed and Sungchul reached the point in history 18 years ago.
“…We lost an important battle. There was a king from the Eastern Region who promised to come to our aid, but he betrayed us and sold the information on our plans to the enemy. Many comrades were killed and I was taken prisoner to become a Gladiator in Ruteginea’s Colosseum.”
“Mmm Hmm. That’s all nice and all, but I get the feeling that we’re getting off topic? What does that have anything to do with the child’s father?”
“It’s relevant. Her father was a Gladiator like me.”
Sungchul saw Bertelgia nod with her body and felt himself going back to a now distant past.
There were largely two categories to the Gladiators that toiled in the Colosseum for the amusement of the citizenry of Ruteginea. One was a Swordslave that were forcefully turned into a Gladiator. Prisoners of war like Sungchul was a part of this category. The other were free Gladiators who entered the Colosseum by their own will. These Gladiators entered the Colosseum for their own gain. Money, fame, desire to draw blood, or perhaps to prove themselves. Free Gladiators stood upon the bloody fields of the Colosseum with all sorts of reasons.
One thing for sure was that the Free Gladiators had far higher combat ability compared to Swordslaves. And there was one Gladiator among these Free Gladiators that enjoyed the highest popularity in Ruteginea’s Colosseum’s history.
Elegant Fighter Kreigfreid.
Noble heritage hailing from an influential family of Ruteginea, blue eyes blonde hair and graceful features, wit and humor, and possessing intimidating strength and combat prowess that rightfully belongs to the man with the title of the strongest fighter in the Colosseum; he was a man who was a diametric opposite of Sungchul in many aspects.
“…I was not very popular. Not that I wanted to be. But anyway, I didn’t speak much, I don’t have good looks, and my fighting style was like that of a mad dog. No one likes someone that causes many people to lose their bets. Meanwhile Kreigfreid…”
Sungchul remembered. A man standing amidst many Gladiators and dominating the field like the sun. He was popular by all. Gamblers and guards of the violent Colosseums, children, young women, even by other Gladiators. There was only one person who despised Kreigfreid.
Bertelgia made a sharp jab, but Sungchul shook his head.
“It’s not a childish reason like that. He was a fake hero created by Rutheginea.”