On the day of the expedition, the weather was fair and clear like no other. 300 members of the Suicide Unit and 300 units of the Crusaders of Salvation. Under the bright morning sun, the army of 600 men began their march towards the demon world along a previously planned route. It would take 3 days by foot to arrive at the entrance of the Demon Realm.
The first terrain they ran into were the rugged mountain regions under the jurisdiction of the Storm Battlefront. The region was littered with ideal ambush locations, so Aaron took extra precaution with scouting. Even Sungchul had been sent to scout several times, but no ambush lay in wait as Aaron had feared. Even if it did, they were crushed by Sungchul’s hands and were left unreported.
By the end of the cautious march, the sun that had been sitting on the rugged mountains was now perched on the western mountains. It wasn’t wise to move within the darkness that the Devils favored, so Aaron ordered the group to make camp.
Sungchul who finished making his tent before anyone else left camp to roam the areas close to mountain regions. The snow-covered field, now dyed in a red tint from the setting sun, appeared empty, but Sungchul’s sharp observation detected a single blade peeking above the crimson snow. He brushed off the snow to grasp the grass hidden within. An information screen appeared before him as he took a whiff.
[Blind Man’s Grass]
Note: It is commonly seen along the roadside, but due to its stabilizing nature, it acts as a neutralizing agent to otherwise reactive ingredients.
Blind Man’s Grass was plentiful around the Other World. It was a common ingredient that Sungchul had collected endlessly, but if there was one thing that made the Blind Man’s grass in this region unique, it was its grade. It had reached A grade.
“How is it? It’s as I said, right? Blind Man’s grass can grow anywhere, but its potency rises proportionately to the harshness of the environment it is found in!”
Sungchul tossed the Blind Man’s Grass into the gunny sack on his back and continued to seek out more. He discovered another clump of Blind Man’s Grass buried in the snow. Sungchul pulled it out forcefully.
Sungchul’s eyes lit up in curiosity. The clump in his hand had the top grade of S. Bertelgia flapped her pages as she spoke.
“We should be able to make the most powerful buffers! Top grade buffer doesn’t only neutralize Alchemic ingredients, but it also affects the item’s grade!”
He had been making more than one type of item per day, but none of them could be considered higher than B grade. Whether it was from his pride as a High-class Chef, but he felt determined to make an A grade item, and the expedition into the Demon Realm provided the perfect opportunity to collect high-quality alchemic materials. He had left to hunt for ingredients every day, but he was always short on time, and it wasn’t possible to leisurely seek out the top grade ingredients.
Now that he was stuffing his sack full of top grade Blind Man’s Grass, he discovered something moving beneath the snow out of the corner of his eyes. It was a deer of a heavy built with massive horns. It appeared to be a normal deer, but because it lived near the Demonic Realm, its strength could be compared to mystical creatures with resilient life force. Its meat was on another level.
Sungchul felt some drool pooling in his mouth at the sight of the deer, but he noticed something else. There was an arrow stuck onto the deer. Blood dripped from the wound dying the fluffy white snow red.
‘Is he being hunted by someone?’
A hunter appeared from beyond the snow covered mountain. The identity of the hunter turned out to be a slim woman wearing fancy equipment. Sungchul recognized her face.
“That kid. Isn’t she the sister of Elijah Breggas? What was her name?”
Sungchul turned to ask Bertelgia. She had a much better memory than him, and she spoke in a cheerful voice as she loved to boast about it.
“Ah, yes. It was Sophia.”
Sungchul had trouble with the names of women. He just didn’t care about them. Sophia wielded a bow carved from Faerie wood used by the Elves and was chasing her prey at high speed. She pulled the string of her bow. The arrow fired from the taut bow flew out in a line and pierced the deer’s neck. It was a flawless and honed performance.
Sophia saw the deer fall, put her bow around her back, and approached it.
‘I should be able to serve a decent meal to brother with this.’
A faint expression of joy appeared on her usually indifferent face, but there was another guest standing near the deer already. It was none other than Sungchul. Sophia’s indifference face filled with animosity.
“Hey, you. What are you doing here?”
Sungchul revealed his gunny sack filled with Blind Man’s Grass and spoke in a neutral voice.
Her lips parted slightly as she hefted the massive deer onto her shoulder. The massive deer that would weigh near 1 ton was lying on Sophia’s slim figure. It was an admirable amount of strength, but she would not be able to ignore the uneven distribution of weight due to its size. Not long after she hefted the creature onto her shoulder, Sophia lost her balance and was forced to put the deer back down.
‘Should I use the Soul Storage? No, something this big won’t fit. And most likely it will completely dry out.’
Sophia was breathing heavily as she looked down on the carcass, then she decided to cut off a portion of the beast. Suddenly, she heard a clear voice beside her.
“Excuse me, but may I have a share of the beast?”
It was Sungchul. Sophia peered over at the member of the Suicide Unit and his ragged clothing out of the corner of her eyes and scoffed at him.
“No need to be so roundabout in saying that you want to die.”
She didn’t like him from the beginning. Even Aaron Genghis, the leader of the Suicide Unit, wagged his tail like a dumb puppy in front of the siblings, it was pure disrespect for a mere criminal to stand with a straight neck before her.
There were only two types of people who would act this way before members of the Breggas family, the most powerful family in the front lines of the Demon World; those who did not know, and those who did not know fear. It didn’t matter which it was to her. Neither was acceptable in her eyes.
“If you want, I’m willing to give you a hand in butchering the beast.”
Sungchul asserted once again. She didn’t like any part of him, but his request was reasonable enough to let him past her guard. It was because Sophia was skilled in hunting, but she was clueless on the work afterwards. She usually left her servants to handle the meat, but because of where she was headed, she didn’t bring any with her. Considering all this, Sungchul’s request seemed reasonable.
“I won’t hand over any of the good portions. Head, feet, and maybe the hindquarters?”
She spoke with her frosty gaze trained on Sungchul. Sungchul didn’t mind at all.
“I don’t need all that. Just his internal organs are fine.”
Sophia scoffed again.
Unless it was the liver of geese, intestines and organs were food only commoners ate. To ask for portions that were given to hunting dogs, it was only natural for her to laugh at his request.
“Fine. If that’s what you want, then do as you wish, but in turn, butcher the meat ahead of time. I’ll send someone for it.”
“I’ll just take it to you personally. Not like it’s heavy.”
“Ah, is that ok? I won’t stop you if you want to bring it over. If you can, that is. However, if I find that any more than the portions discussed are missing, then there will be harsh punishment.”
After she relayed her threat, Sophia left the snowy mountain quickly.
“Truly an annoying woman.” said Bertelgia as she flew out of his pocket to complain.
Sungchul didn’t care about the attitudes of common people as always. All of his attention was focused on the carcass that was rapidly cooling in the snow.
“This guy’s quite rare around these parts. I got lucky.”
As the region was infertile, vegetation was rare which also meant game animals were also rare. It would be hard to find a deer of this size after a week of hunting. Sungchul pulled out the treasured ‘Sword of the State’ from the Human Empire and sliced through the deer’s belly. Blood and viscera contained within poured out. He pulled out a bright red colored organ to examine the texture in the light.
“Truly an impressive liver. Top quality.”
“Uuu…. you eat liver? I can’t eat that stuff. Maybe if it was the lean meat.”
Bertelgia spoke squeamishly beside Sungchul as he inspected the innards.
“You have the preferences of a child.”
“I don’t stake my life for food like you!”
“Only people that have tasted it know how delicious it is. It’s also quite the impressive specimen.”
“Hm. Is that right? I don’t know anything about it. How would it be as an Alchemic ingredient?”
Sungchul answered briefly as he buried the fresh liver in the snow. He lifted the limp deer with a single hand and tossed it over to an evergreen tree nearby. The massive deer weighing close to a ton flew lightly in the air and struck the tree. Sharp branches pierced the flesh and fixed the deer to the tree.
Bertelgia recoiled in fear. It was a common sight at this point, but today’s preparation method was more vigorous than average. Sungchul decapitated the beast’s head with its magnificent horns, then threw it to the side. He began to strip off the hide with experienced handiwork.
Powerful strength combined with skillful handwork allowed the leather to be stripped away like the peel of a banana. Sungchul tossed the hide over toward the severed head as he began to open up the arteries to drain the blood. As the blood was draining, Sungchul used the time to gather more Blind Man’s Grass. Bertelgia who was watching from the side made a comment.
“No matter what anyone says, no one can deny that you’re diligent.”
Sungchul tossed the leather onto the gunny sack which he stored into the Soul Storage before speaking. When enough of the blood was drained, Sungchul hefted the deer carcass onto his shoulder and returned to camp.
It wasn’t difficult to recognize the camp of the Crusaders of Salvation from a distance. Sungchul carried the deer toward the camp before a sword-wielding youngster of the Crusaders of Salvation obstructed his path.
“Who are you?”
“I’m just here to deliver the meat.”
Suddenly, he could hear the voice of Sophia Breggas from one of the tents.
“Wait a minute. I’m coming out.”
Sophia came out of the tent while brushing her flowing blonde hair. Sungchul dropped the deer down before the tent when he saw her.
The carcass hit the ground with a blunt sound.
“You’ve got some muscle on you.”
Sophia carefully scanned over the deer that he brought to see if any of the portions were missing. Other than the innards removed from the belly, there was no problem. The most important portion, the tail meat, was safe and there was no sign of any other cuts being removed. Sophia nodded after a long inspection.
“You’ve done well. You can leave now.”
At that moment, the voice of a young man could be heard.
“Hey, Sophia. It isn’t right to turn away a guest like this.”
It was the voice of Elijah Breggas. Sophia quickly turned away and muttered to herself.
“Shit. Did he overhear?”
Sungchul didn’t refuse the invitation and made his way to the tent. By the time Sophia hastily tried to stop him, he was already half way inside.
The tent was roomy and cozy. At the center burned a tribal style of a campfire with stylish furniture and carpet decorating the interior. It was an opulent scene befitting the name Breggas.
“We meet again, Mr Number 34.”
Elijah was showing Sungchul favor for one reason or another. Sungchul bowed his neck before throwing out a question.
“What do you want from me?”
Elijah smiled brightly at this question.
“Nothing much. The memory of the delicious dish you served last time lingered with me. Especially the black mass that softly melted in my mouth still lingers on my tongue.”
Sungchul silently listened to his words as he thought smugly.
‘Is he talking about the Man-faced Beast stew? This kid knows how to appreciate good food.’
Elijah continued to speak.
“I’ve lost my appetite of late, and I haven’t enjoyed any tasty food. I’m not being boastful, but my home in Trowin has a Chef with a rare Chef class.”
“A rare Chef class?”
“Yes. You might have never heard of it. They are people blessed by the God of Taste. Regardless of everything else, they are at the peak in cooking. Anyways, I just can’t seem to regain my appetite regardless of food or scenery. But, I seem to have regained some of it after having tasted your food.”
It wasn’t wrong to say the sour taste of kimchi helps with appetite.
“Seeing as I have been treated by you before, I want to treat you this time. My sister says that she wants to show off some of her skills. How would you like to try it with me?”
It was a sudden proposition. Sungchul immediately began to suspect whether Elijah was plotting something sinister.
‘I didn’t detect any malintent nor suspicious activity. Did they discover my identity?’
Sungchul held his breath and began to sense his surroundings. He didn’t feel any outstanding aura that might be able to harm him.
“Brother, why are you speaking such nonsense. This man is just one of the prisoners.”
As Sungchul was carefully scanning his surroundings, he could hear the annoyed voice of Sophia who had been standing to the side. Elijah laughed without restraint while calming his sister.
“Didn’t mother say that what goes around comes around regardless of their status? I was treated to a meal, and didn’t that bring back my appetite?”
Sophia didn’t look satisfied, but she couldn’t win against her brother’s stubbornness.
“Consider yourself lucky, criminal!”
After throwing her harsh words toward Sungchul, she left the tent.
“My sister has her flaws, but she is truly a kind child.”
Elijah smiled with his eyes as he spoke softly. Sungchul still couldn’t determine his motives.
‘Why is this kid trying to hold me here?’
Elijah didn’t seem to have anything waiting in ambush nor did the boy have much personal strength. Sungchul couldn’t figure out how Elijah was planning on holding him here. It was a rare moment when Sungchul felt deeply puzzled by his circumstance. A plot of such cleverly disguised and hidden motives was something only the Emperor of the Human Empire was able to conceive, but he decided to handle this calmly. He had faith in his strength to break through any deception or plot.
He shut his mouth and waited for time to pass. Sophia entered the tent again after some time. There were servants carrying dishes with food behind her. Sungchul’s eyes grew wide in terror the moment he saw the dish.
Rather than food, it was something more close to a pile of charcoal. Sungchul held the fork with trembling hands as he put whatever this mass was to his lips. The basic ability of Chef, Taste Appraisal, did not activate.
‘…This isn’t food!’
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