July 16th, Today’s Match Up.
The day’s excitement was reaching fever pitch. Korean and international fans of Pentastorm had gathered and filled the stadium. There was one reason they came together, not letting the great distance keep them away. It was to see the close match that might well be called the pre-finals between two players.
『Minho Kang vs. Yohan Jung』
They were two rivals who showed outstanding skills following the new flow of eSports. It was their first face off in two years. Their playoff had even been named ‘Jung-Min record’ because of their exceptional control and strategies that led to a close match every tournament.
[Minho Kang who is rising to victory after returning from the army and Yohan Jung who held onto the title of strongest victor for two years will clash in the eighth finals group battle!]
[Total record of 9:9! Who will be today’s winner?]
Along with the advertisement and articles to catch people’s interest, there were also plenty of events and prizes. The audience was anticipating a close match. And the two gamers were having a fierce battle as if they were responding to the fans’ support. They came up with twists even in situations where ordinary players would have already backed out.
- Minho Kang’s headquarters is in crisis! The land and the air. They’re all captured!
In the booth, Minho’s hands were busy clicking the mouse. He added concentration on top of his concentration in order to find a chance of victory within this weaker position.
‘Of course, Yohan hyung, you’re no joke.’
The bunker rush at the beginning set him back hard. He would never have been able to ward off this fatal attack if his condition hadn’t been at its best today. His opponent today was definitely a level above, even better than the insanely good high school kids, the Eagles. Indeed, Minho was nearly overcome more than a few times.
However, today was worth trying no matter how dangerous it was. His hands reacted as he thought and his eyes were sharp as they moved here and there across the screen. It was the effect of the mind-clearing liquor.
‘Who would’ve known there would be an additional effect of being in the best condition the next day after drinking it?’
Minho felt the reaction time of his hands and head running as quickly as when he was in his prime. His hands reacted to his opponent’s every move without losing out on his headquarters’ production.
The effects of the mind-clearing liquor were amazing, restoring energy from exhaustion. However, he had to be careful not to drink too much because he wouldn’t just sleep a night but 24 or 36 hours straight. Just one drop was sufficient with Minho’s current alcohol tolerance.
Having recovered his skills, Minho thought he was on par with Yohan who was enjoying his prime. That made him certain–either one of them could make the fatal mistake and lose the game. The deciding factor between victory or defeat was concentration, and with Minho in his best condition he was closer to that victory.
But he felt a miniscule difference when managing the threefold battle. He had an unexplainable hunch.
- Crypt Lord! Sky Lord! They’re resourceless! They can’t hold out even with the dark veil skill!
- There are too many of Yohan’s mechanized flamethrowers and combat battlecruisers!
The Bioform Army melted one by one in front of the enormous fire power of the Sapien Army. During the time the broadcaster and commentators were getting heated up on Yohan’s full-scale attack, Minho moved the Transportation Lord that had been tucked away in a corner.
It was a decisive blow he had been preparing and holding back for a bit.
Two army groups of Bioform military force dropped on Yohan’s headquarters.
- When did he prepare this?! Minho started his head-on strategy after discarding his own headquarters!
- It’s Minho Kang’s trademark. This player isn’t dragged around by the circumstances of crisis. He always chooses to go for the vigorous offense like a storm.
Both of their headquarters lost their functions. Only the multi buildings that had dug up all their resources were left.
Minho picked out all the Scourge Lords from the Multi production building before the Tech building exploded. The air unit which had a suicide bombing function popped out and headed straight for Yohan’s combat battlecruisers.
- Minho Kang managed to get rid of the combat battlecruisers. But he can’t stand against the land units. He’ll get wiped out by mechanized flamethrowers and the siege tanks.
- Player Minho fought hard but it’s only a matter of time till the Multi is destroyed.
Minho let out a deep sigh foretelling his defeat.
‘Ugh! Was restoring my old skills not enough?’
The match required so much concentration that he couldn’t find the time to even take out his pocket watch and leisurely watch it. His rival Yohan’s skill had advanced day to day. Minho had regained his skills again thanks to the mind-clearing liquor, but he couldn’t help his opponent leveling up.
The only way to make up this miniscule difference was with effort. His mouth tasted bitter.
- With this, the total record is 9:9. I wanted to get you a present for going to the army but I thought it would be right for me to just do my best. Minho, come back strong.
Minho painfully recalled Yohan’s remark to him, as he was defeated right before going to the army.
At the moment when Minho had half given up, a remaining Transportation Lord duty unit caught his eyes.
It was one Sky Lord that was flapping its wings.
It was supposed to protect the headquarters that fell a minute ago and got caught up in the chaos.
The fact was that Yohan who had lost his headquarters as well had no way of forming an aerial unit that would protect his sky. Yohan was known for his extraordinary strategy and persistent control but his weakness was that he obsessed over one unit once it got to the second half of the game.
A true stroke of luck! It was help from the heavens.
- A Sky Lord that popped out of nowhere! It’s intruding into Yohan’s leftover army!
- Where did this one come from? Player Yohan has many land units but there’s no way to get rid of the Sky Lord.
- Minho Kang protects his Multi! This fight is too intense!
One mere aerial unit was the super boss in this round. As Yohan’s leftover three Siege Tanks exploded the only unit that was left on the map was the Sky Lord and some workers.
The Sky Lord began leisurely going around destroying Yohan’s remaining buildings.
“Looks like I take the game this time, Yohan hyung.”
Then the message he was waiting for popped up on the screen.
- Yohan Jung GG! He must be so disappointed! With this the total record is 10:9! Minho Kang ahead in the game!
Minho clenched his left hand into a fist.
After the end of the match and an extravagant ceremony, Minho buried himself in the waiting room chair. Looking back over the play, and this day which had been his very best, he now felt the exhaustion. But instead of taking a rest, he picked up a magazine.
This publication with the name ‘Current Events Facts’ seemed more profound and mysterious the more he looked at it. It was clearly written in Korean, but it was filled with articles that seemed to read one way the first time and a different way the second time. He was actually not really interested in it, but he was forcing himself to read it.
It was clear that it was very effective at putting people to sleep, just like the liquor in the gourd bottle. But still Minho pressed on his forehead and rubbed his temples, then opened his eyes wide with great effort. He intended to get through one page for today.
Garam with his buzz cut hair abruptly opened the doors to the waiting room and ran in.
“Your game today was killer! It’s always an extreme tournament every time you go up against Yohan Sunbae…Ehh?”
Garam’s gaze remained on Minho. Minho was sitting aloofly with his legs crossed as he was turning the pages of a booklet. And the booklet wasn’t a magazine introducing a new game or the Maxim magazine that was known to be a favorite of thousands of men, but it was one discussing current events.
Garam asked with an expression saying ‘Minho hyung wouldn’t be like this!’
“Hyung, did your hobby change since you said you were gonna go on the quiz show? You bought a bunch of political books and use them as your pillow.”
‘What do you mean pillow?!’
It was just the right timing since Minho was getting sick and tired of it.
Minho rolled up the magazine and hit Garam on the forehead with it.
“Let’s live with some class. Something like this can get you a prettier girlfriend.”
“Nah! Do I look like I’m at the age where I don’t know that college campus couples only exist in sitcoms?”
He then added that even those who do well on the SAT study more after getting into college.
“Usually that’s the case, but anything seems possible if you can manage the bluff. But right now I feel like dying trying to cram.”
“What? What do you mean?”
“There’s something like that!”
Minho waved his hands to chase off Garam who was scratching his head as if he didn’t understand. Then Minho recalled the text message that came from Eunha Seo yesterday night.
[I got an A+ on my report. Hehe! ^-^V I also got a call saying I made it to the last cut for the audition. Either way I’m very very thankful to you, so how’s your schedule next week? I’ll treat you to a meal!]
Now his feet were to the fire. Minho was faced with a situation where he had to memorize recent current events issues in order to keep up his pride as a man.
Minho closed the magazine and regurgitated the contents.
『Pyrrhic victory. It means they have won the battle but there are so many casualties that it is no different from a defeat. Recently America has requested backup from the military industrial complex in the war and received the same.』
It was definitely written in Korean but it was difficult Korean.
– Ring ring
The phone suddenly rang and Minho flinched, surprised.
‘Is it Eunha already?’
Minho picked up the cellphone with an overwhelming feeling of pressure along with the anticipation of hearing her sweet voice. To his relief, the name on the display screen wasn’t Eunha Seo.
Minho lifted the phone and pressed the call button.
“Hyung. It’s been a while.”
– Hey, Minho. How was today’s tournament?
“It was a close one but I won. Heh heh.”
– You said you’re confirmed for quarterfinals if you won, right? Congrats.
“Thank you. But what’s up?”
Sanggun let out a dry cough on the other end of the line.
– Can you come meet me right now? I have something to give to you.
“To give me?”
– Just come. It’s something good. You don’t have anything scheduled, do you?
Minho was puzzled as he thought of his schedule. He had nothing else special since he had won the most important tournament for the week.
“Sure. Where are you right now?”
– I’m at a cafe in Hongdae.
Sanggun was normally quiet but his excitement as he gave the address seemed unlike his usual self. Minho was taking note of the address and thought of something all of a sudden.
“Hyung, do you have your guitar with you?”
– My guitar? I have it. But why?
“Nothing. I’ll be right there!”
Minho had a long way to go even though he could kind of play an A chord. He hurriedly left the waiting room thinking he would get more insight into playing the guitar if he could play Sanggun’s once more.
The lively streets of Hongdae were filled with people. Minho wove through the young men and women as he feasted his eyes here and there. Due to his newly discerning eye, the fashion sense of each person seemed unique.
“There are more people here at night.”
Even just walking down the street, he was able to see all the current popular trends at a glance. And cheerful music filled the place thanks to the street performers on every corner. Minho looked for ‘Once,’ the location of the address he had made a note of.
He kept in mind the information that it was in the basement of a fried chicken joint. But there were so many cafes in sight. The competition must be intense since there seemed to be dozens even at a rough estimate. And each cafe had its own independent singer. Sanggun was acknowledged as the best indie performer. It was certain that his skill was beyond ordinary since he had a cherished object.
‘He said I’ll know when I see it…Ah, that’s the one.’
The chicken joint with the name ‘The Extinction of Pigs’ caught Minho’s eye. It was a name that was unique among the many unusual signs in Hongdae. It seemed like a famous restaurant since there was a long line in front of it.
In the basement of that building was the live cafe ‘Once’ that Sanggun usually performed at. Minho had been to almost all the internet cafes l around the nation no matter how far, but this place was unfamiliar. It was a moment for him to look around as if he were somehow encountering a new culture.
‘Huh? This is….’
Minho, walking closer to the entrance, tilted his head because the glowing light on the sign was strangely familiar. Somehow it was similar to the glow that shone when he discovered a cherished object.
‘Nah, it can’t be. I must’ve seen wrong.’
He couldn’t easily imagine what he could do with a sign.
But, that light continued to shine. As he walked down the stairs the entrance to the cafe was right in front of his eyes. There was a faint glow coming from the entire huge door and even the interior that was visible through the window was covered with light. Minho might have seen one object at a time but it was the first time he had seen this number of objects.
‘Is there a party of cherished items or something?’
He put a hesitant hand on the door. And the light disappeared as if he washed it away. Then Minho understood that this cafe itself was a space that someone cherished.
Well, a place can definitely become a cherished space if a regular customer of decades were to cherish it and come back. Minho’s heart fluttered in wonder and anticipation. It was a pleasant sense of expectation in an unexpected place.
After taking a deep breath, he opened the doors and walked in.
There was a stage with a piano and drum set along with all sorts of instruments. Cozy tables where people could comfortably sit and watch came into view. There was also a cocktail bar selling alcohol and other drinks. The cafe was famous among fans for its atmosphere.
‘What type of people like this place enough for it to become a cherished location?’
Sanggun who was sitting in front of the cocktail bar raised a hand and happily called Minho.
“Sit down. Do you want something to drink? All the cocktails here are good.”
“No thank you. Something without alcohol please.”
Minho had made up his mind to cut down on alcohol after getting burned by the mind-clearing liquor.
As Sanggun ordered juice from the bartender, Minho asked,
“What’s this thing you were going to give me?”
“Don’t be surprised when you see it.”
Sanggun opened his bag and took out a bank book. He opened it to the most recent page and handed it to Minho.
“This is the record income from the song ‘Dreaming Youth’ that you remixed. And 50% of it is yours.”
Minho checked the balance in the bank book and his eyes grew wide. It was nearly 100 million won. Even more surprising than the amount was what Sanggun had just said.
“You wrote and composed the song. And you sang it by yourself. But you want to give me half?”
Sanggun nodded as he said of course.
“It’s all thanks to you, that’s why. Don’t say anything else and just tell me your account number. I’ll transfer it right away. That’s the first month’s balance and there will be more next month since the song is still up in the rankings.”
It couldn’t be easy for someone to give up half of the money that he could easily keep for himself. Minho couldn’t say anything else, faced with Sanggun’s innocent laugh.
A picture on Sanggun’s phone caught Minho’s eyes.
“This is my girlfriend who went through hardships supporting me for ten years. She told me to give it to you saying thank you for helping her foolish boyfriend.”
The girl in the picture had a smile like Sanggun’s. Minho felt proud for some reason when he found out that he had contributed to this couple’s happiness. There was also great joy in knowing a good person.
“If I succeed in proposing, you should definitely come to the wedding.”
Time flew by as they caught up with each other and drank their juice.