Elijah Breggas had a magnanimous expression on his face as he struggled to chew on whatever inedible thing it was with a smile in his eyes. It was because Sophia was watching him like a hawk. Sungchul discovered that Elijah’s eyebrows trembled each time he put that black charcoal into his mouth. It was a superhuman resilience. Or at least that’s what Sungchul believed.
When half of whatever this was had been tucked in, Elijah looked directly at Sungchul and spoke in a soft voice.
“This is truly delicious, but I feel like I want to try something different. I am truly sorry for asking this of a guest, but could I try another one of your dishes?”
It was only now that Sungchul fully realized the circumstances surrounding him.
‘This guy… he called me over so he could eat some human cooking.’
Fine. Sungchul pushed aside the food he only took a single bite of and rose from his seat.
“You’re not trying to make that rank smelling red dish, are you? I’ll say this once. I hate food like those of the Order of the Iron Blood Knights.”
Sophia’s cold words struck him in the back as he prepared to leave the tent. Sungchul looked over his shoulder to gaze at her cooking. The charcoal on her plate hadn’t shrunk at all from the time it had been first served.
He had a lot to say, but he suppressed it all. True chefs speak with their food, not with their mouth. Sungchul pulled out the fresh liver from the gunny sack placed outside the tent.
‘This should do just fine.’
The kitchen was a bit off from the back of the tent. Despite being a mobile kitchen, it was still fully stocked with various kinds of spices, vegetables, and wines as expected of upper nobility. Sungchul grabbed one of the bottles and called over to the servant manning the fire.
“Can I use this?”
The servant nodded. Sungchul popped the cork and took a whiff. It wasn’t a high-class wine, but it wasn’t cheap either. It was adequate for cooking.
He smeared the pan with butter, and then he began to stir fry some onions and tomatoes. When the onions and tomatoes were ready, Sungchul pulled out some Worcester sauce that was prepared before from his Soul Storage and added it to the pan. He waited for the sauce to reduce before he began adding the wine without restraint.
The servant who had been completely ignoring Sungchul beside the fire was naturally drawn to the food. It was because of the indescribable smell emitting from the pan. As the red wine was being simmered, Sungchul sought out the rest of the ingredients. He found potatoes and rice. He diced the potatoes and powderized the rice.
His hands alone were enough to crush the rice grain. The servant’s eyes grew wide.
“Wow you must be quite strong.”
Sungchul prepared another pan with plenty of oil and began to fry the freshly cut potatoes coated in rice powder.
While the potatoes were cooking, the red wine sauce had reduced somewhat and was giving off an appetizing scent.
Sungchul placed the saucepan at the center of the fire and began cooking the all-important liver.
The main point was searing the surface with strong heat, and then simmering the liver in the previously prepared red wine sauce.
“Do you have sugar?”
Sungchul suddenly asked the servant.
“Yes. Right over here.”
“Thanks. By the way, I was wondering something. What’s your lady’s favorite dish?”
“That is… what did she call it? I heard it was a dish from the other world. She enjoys eating fried cod battered in flour with a side fried potatoes.”
“An English palate.”
Sungchul retorted coldly before focusing on cooking once again.
It would take a bit of time before the deer liver could properly absorb the thick red wine sauce so he began plating. Sungchul prepared a simple salad that was to be served along with the breaded fries as the sides to the soon-to-be prepared marinated deer liver.
Once the fire was weakened for the final reduction of the sauce, the entire area plunged into a serene silence.
“Your cooking ability must be quite impressive?”
The servant suddenly popped a question.
“Of course. I’m actually…”
Sungchul smiled faintly as he pulled out a brooch from his Soul Storage. It displayed a cute dragon holding a knife and a fork while radiating a golden light and a mysterious aura.
“What is this?”
The servant asked again.
‘He must not know about the Chef’s symbol.’
What Sungchul pulled out was the Chef’s symbol that could only be possessed by those of the Chef class. It couldn’t be passed on to anyone else and provided no inherent benefits, but to chefs, this item was as precious as one’s own face. This symbol was the proof of one’s culinary abilities. Average chefs would have one with a cast iron tint, but as one’s skills improved the brooch’s color became more brilliant. In the case of Sungchul, it was the golden light of a High-Class Chef. It was a level that one could not help but be proud of.
Sungchul spoke as such before pinning the brooch onto his front pocket.
While he pinned the brooch onto his pocket, it must have poked Bertelgia.
“W-what was that sound?”
The servant who heard the scream jumped up and began to look around frantically.
“Could it be a rat?”
The servant grabbed a broom and quickly left the kitchen.
As soon as the servant left, Bertelgia complained furiously.
Sungchul didn’t apologize. Instead, he quietly stirred the pan and focused his attention on cooking.
“Arrr… Really! Have some dignity!”
The sauce on the pan was thick, but it needed to be boiled further. Sungchul didn’t rush and continued to watch over his cooking as he waited for the right moment.
It was in this quiet moment when he heard sounds of whispers from the other side of the tent.
“I heard the news that the battlefront held by the Order of the Iron Blood Knights was obliterated. Two of the Moving Fortress that they boasted about were destroyed, and the villages were being raided.”
It was the voice of Sophia Breggas. Sungchul began to contemplate on the news as he lightly stirred the pan.
‘I also heard that the state of the Order of the Iron Blood Knights wasn’t so good, but for it to have reached the point of the villages that maintained their supplies to have been raided. They were truly a candlelight before the storm.’
The strangest part about the ordeal was Martin Breggas’ reaction. Rationally, one must pull together the excess forces from the other frontlines towards any breakages, but he had leisurely sent away the Crusaders of Salvation. It might be less odd if the Crusaders had been sent to the Order of the Iron Blood Knights.
“Couldn’t we just go back? I’ll be honest. I don’t trust that mage.”
Sophia continued to speak, and a mumbling voice followed. It was a voice that was too quiet to be heard clearly, but Sungchul focused on his hearing to listen in. It was Elijah’s voice.
“… We don’t have any other options. Think of this as our last resort. If we go back now, it’ll only go the way that man wanted.”
“That mage… even I don’t have much faith in him, but remember this, the only method to our salvation lies in the Demon Realm.”
Sungchul couldn’t hear anymore; the conversation ended there.
The sauce was done simmering. The faint smell of food burning brought Sungchul back to reality.
‘Those siblings. They definitely weren’t going to the Demonic Realm on a whim.’
He couldn’t determine what they were seeking yet, but even the discovery of their motive of entering the Demonic Realm was a great boon. At the very least, this trip into the Demonic Realm wouldn’t simply be to collect some Alchemic ingredients.
Sungchul placed the deer liver soaked in steaming wine sauce last.
“H-how could this… this flavor…! I’m touched.”
The effect of the dish was great. Different than the practiced smile Elijah held during his sister’s cooking, his face exploded with life as he devoured his meal.
“How could there be a liver dish on a noble’s table…”
Sophia didn’t look pleased. Sungchul quietly revealed the golden brooch hidden under his coat as he spoke.
“Why not just give it a try?”
Sungchul let his brooch peek out as he crossed his arms and looked toward the sibling with an expression full of leisure.
“Sophia, what’s wrong? Just try it. It’s truly delicious. This might even be better than what we ate at our home.”
Elijah spoke after he had already finished half his meal as he took another sip of his wine. Sophia didn’t look pleased, but she finally sliced off a piece of the dark liver and took to her lips.
It was only for a brief instant, but the pale skin of her cheeks became rosy pink.
The moment it entered her mouth, the deer liver melted on her tongue and all of the meaty juices hidden within performed a symphony of flavors with the wine. The ill-willed sister who had been intending on taking a bite before tossing the rest away found herself addicted to this strange man’s dish.
It wasn’t only the deer liver that was delicious. The fried potatoes battered in rice powder that adorned the outside of the dish was crispy and synergized well with the softness of the deer liver, and even the salad offered a refreshing sensation that didn’t fall behind.
The Breggas siblings emptied their dishes not long after. Elijah wore a satisfied expression on his face as he wiped his lips, and turned to ask his sister.
“How was it? Wasn’t it amazing?”
Sophia let out a haughty snort in reply as she answered.
“It’s not inedible.”
Her reply was curt, but her words had no impact as her plate was sparkling clean. When the meal had ended, Elijah praised Sungchul’s skills as he handed him a gold coin as payment.
“It’s not much, but it is from my heart.”
As he said so, he continued to request another meal despite Sophia’s glare in protest. Sungchul generously accepted. He found an interest in the offspring of Martin Breggas. He figured that, although he did not know why the children of a celebrity decided to head into the demonic realm despite the dangers, following them could potentially lead to great rewards.
“Call me any time. I’ll be happy to put my skills to use.”
Sungchul said as such before he let the golden brooch under his coat peek out a little more. However, the siblings never noticed it.
The Crusaders of Salvation and the Suicide Unit continued on their path towards the Demonic Realm as the day ended. They passed through the rugged mountains after an hour and found themselves in front of a desert surrounded by a crimson light that extended toward the horizon. This land known as The Land that Swallowed the Sun had little sunlight and high precipitation with frosty winds which was starkly different than a normal desert, but it was still quite a vast desert. The secret behind the heat was buried in the sand.
The sands extending as far as the eye could see were hot all year round. It was because the sands were being cooked from below by geothermal activity which is why the demons remained active in this region despite being winter. Furthermore, the infamous ‘Sand Hell of Death’ spawned here as well. The terrifying monster Sajators had witnessed still lived here thousands of years later.. Anyone with half a wit would know to never step foot in this land that swallowed the sun, but instead, would choose to walk the waterfront with solid earth and lower temperatures. However, this expedition ignored such sound logic.
“Time is money. We shall take the shortcut through the desert to save time!”
A guide in name only, Aaron Genghis had chosen the worst possible marching route. One through the crimson desert. The veterans caused a small ruckus, but they were a minority. Also, Aaron led the charge in order to assert his decision.
“As long as I am in front, we shall overcome any obstacle!”
A dark shadow loomed over the veteran soldiers as Aaron shouted his words of inspiration.
“Can someone talk to the young leader? It is looking like that rockhead is going to throw everyone including the Crusaders of Salvation into the maws of the Sand Hell!”
Arkaard looked around and cried out words of protest, but he was just a criminal. It was impossible for him to gain an audience with the leader of the Crusaders, the heir of the Breggas family. There was just one exception. Sungchul Kim.
He snuck in to seek Elijah and reported the situation.
“Hmmm. Is that the truth?”
Elijah looked indifferent on the outside, but the effect of Sungchul’s words was clear. Sungchul watched the Breggas boy scolding Aaron where all the soldiers could see.
“Do you think of me an idiot, Aaron?”
Aaron could only keep his head down as Elijah continued to scold him. A new marching path through the waterfront was decided.
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