Chapter 156. Extravagant Meals 4
"You’ve lately been extremely immersed in your training.”
Jang Maldong appeared and spoke to Seol Jihu while he was taking a break after the log avoiding exercise.
Seol Jihu hastily began to stand up.
"It’s fine. Sit and take a good rest.”
At Jang Maldong’s words, Seol Jihu sat back down again.
Jang Maldong had developed a keen eye for seeing people after training many different students for a very long time. His vast amount of experience allowed him to immediately tell at first glance whether someone was resting after a hard training or lazily loitering around.
Seol Jihu, of course, belonged to the first kind. Whenever Seol Jihu started training, he would become serious to the point where even Jang Maldong had to praise him in admiration.
He would always give it his all even when no one was looking and would attempt to exceed his limits despite how hard the training was.
And that was why Jang Maldong currently had a satisfied grin on his face.
"Are the kids alright?"
"They’re not bad."
Although it was a short evaluation, Seol Jihu let out a pleased laugh.
Saying they weren’t bad was praise when it came from Jang Maldong. It meant that the two of them were doing well.
“Actually, they’re not bad at all. Seol-Ah’s talent surpassed my expectations. She’s the real deal. Agnes saw correctly.”
Seol Jihu tightened his fist, hearing the high praise.
“Hmm. Perhaps it’s because she did athletics in the past, her dexterity is good and she has a quick foot. Her greatest advantage is that she’s quick to pick up anything I teach her. An Archer must be fluent in many aspects, so this child is a natural. I have high expectations for her.”
Recalling Yi Seol-Ah’s Status Window, Seol Jihu smugly smiled to himself before suddenly remembering the other member.
"What about Sungjin……"
Jang Maldong didn’t answer immediately and lowered his head. Seeing his hesitation, Seol Jihu had a bad premonition.
There were two major outcomes of a lottery ticket: winning and losing. And winning was further subdivided into different rankings.
While Yi Seol-Ah wasn’t the first-place lottery ticket, her recruitment could be seen as winning the second-place prize.
But a loss was just a loss. There were no rankings.
“I know the answer you want… But I still have to tell it to you straight. Honestly, I don’t see any special talent in Sungjin. Bluntly speaking, he’s only fit enough to be a meat shield.”
Seol Jihu chewed his lips at the harsh evaluation.
He felt a bit uncomfortable when Jang Maldong said ‘meat shield.’
“But, it’s not like there isn’t a way.”
Jang Maldong suddenly spoke.
“This world called Paradise might seem complicated, but it’s more simple than people realize. As long as there is one thing you’re good at, you can survive, earning your fair share.”
He continued explaining.
“Sungjin is a child that refuses to give up and gets right back up, no matter how many times he falls. He may be only sixteen years old, but he has a fierce resolve.”
"Then that means…"
“Even meat shields can grow depending on what they do. If he doesn’t have talent, then he just needs to dig a single well deeply. No matter how untalented a person is, he can succeed as long as he has the will.”
Jang Maldong smirked as Seol Jihu’s face washed over with relief.
“You little bastard. I’ve taught hundreds of people by now, not to mention that there are dozens of ways to teach. Do you think I’ll give up that easily on him?”
Seol Jihu repented for doubting the King-Maker.
“Hard training is the way. Yep. It’s definitely the way.”
He suddenly felt a little worried for Yi Sungjin. It was because he saw Jang Maldong silently laughing to himself and say ‘He’s dead meat from now on.’
“He’s still young and he just hit adolescence… Isn’t it better to go a bit easy on him?”
“It’s not that he hasn’t expressed his frustrations, but he still tries to follow my training without a word.”
Jang Maldong glanced at Seol Jihu after snorting.
"It’s because of you."
“After the two of them saw you train, their pouting lips went straight back in. They must have been motivated… Just what happened to you?”
Seol Jihu blinked his eyes at the sudden question.
“No matter how I look at it, the intensity of your training is strange. I’ve never thought I’d ever say this as a trainer, but it’s to the point where I’m worried about your body giving out.”
Jang Maldong took a quick look at the logs hanging from the giant tree.
“And this too. You were barely able to avoid 300 times. How did your record suddenly shoot up to 6,700 times? It just doesn’t make any sense.”
"Ah, about that…"
Seol Jihu had been curious himself, so he spoke up.
"I’m not quite sure myself to be honest. My body got better all of a sudden.”
"All of a sudden?"
"Ridiculous… Did you eat something good or what?”
Carefully thinking back, a memory flitted past Seol Jihu’s mind.
Tracing it back, all of this started when…
“It was ever since I had that late night snack.”
"A late night snack?"
"Yes, yes. It was something like a yeonggye baesuk.”
"Yeonggye baesuk? Chicken?"
“It was a bird that looked like a chicken. She said that she had caught one wandering around the cave. It had golden skin and feathers….”
As Seol Jihu continued explaining, Jang Maldong’s face grew serious.
“A bird that looked like a chicken and had golden feathers… Are you talking about the Golden Wind Phoenix? How do you know about it?”
"A Golden Wind Phoenix?"
“Birds that look like chickens are rare here in Paradise in the first place. And adding on your description of having golden feathers, what’s left besides the Golden Wind Phoenix?”
“Ah! Then I guess what I had for the late night snack was the Golden Wind Phoenix.”
Seol Jihu thoughtlessly commented.
And after he saying that, Jang Maldong made an astonished face before…
He burst into laughter.
"The Golden Wind Phoenix! The Golden Wind Phoenix here in the Huge Stone Rocky Mountain? Hahahahah!”
Jang Maldong laughed so hard that he even teared up, clenching his stomach.
It was the first time seeing Jang Maldong like this.
Seol Jihu didn’t know what a Golden Wind Phoenix was in the first place, so he could only scratch the side of his head.
“Why are you laughing like that?”
As Seol Jihu asked with a serious face, Jang Maldong chuckled while tapping his cane.
“You little punk! The Golden Wind Phoenix is…”
He was told that a Golden Wind Phoenix was a species of birds— no, it was a precious beast that was so very rare that repeating the adverb ‘very’ tens of times wasn’t enough to describe how rare it was.
It was said that it only lived on a divine mountain where the sun never set and didn’t eat anything other than sunlight.
And apparently, it was a spiritual animal that evolved into a phoenix of the legends after 1000 years to ascend into the heavens.
“But what? You had a Golden Wind Phoenix as a late night snack? Do you see that Cave Ettin passing by grabbing its belly and rolling on the floor with laughter? Hehahaha!”
Jang Maldong pointed to a distant mountain while wiping his tears before continuing.
“That was funny. Now that I see you again, you seem to have a knack for telling jokes. You should present a paper at a hallucination gallery.”
“Well, if you could actually eat one, then there wouldn’t be anything better than that to solve your current problem. It’s a perfect solution.”
Seol Jihu’s ears perked up.
"Really? Where can I find one?”
“Haha. Where did his cheeky bastard roll in from? It’s bad to rely on medicine… but I guess the story changes if it’s a Golden Wind Phoenix.”
Jang Maldong raised his cane and pointed it at Seol Jihu.
“You know that any type of medicine that boosts your mana is practically poison in your state, right?”
Seol Jihu flinched before shakily nodding his head.
“But in Paradise, there are things that enhance your physical level as well.”
"You mean the Golden Wind Phoenix…"
“It’s practically on the level of an endgame boss mob. Not only does it enhance physical abilities, it strengthens all your organs starting from the brain, cleans your blood, and expands each of your sensory organs. For Warriors and Archers, it’s a heavenly tonic on par with the legendary Lingzhi mushroom.”
Seol Jihu gulped.
“H-How much do you think it costs?”
“You’re crazy. Who in their right mind would sell it? If it were me, I’d never sell it even for ten gold coins. If they offered five times that, then maybe.”
Seol Jihu’s eyes spun.
He wouldn’t sell it for even 50 billion Won? And he’d only think about it if it was 250 billion Won?
The precious beast was worth that much?
“Even if it came out for auction, no one would buy it with money. There definitely will be a bloodbath in the hall. It’s obvious.”
It was like the appearance of a legendary item in martial arts novels where a war would break out over it.
Seeing Seol Jihu not giving up, Jang Maldong grinned before continuing.
“Now that I think about it… There’s not just the Golden Wind Phoenix. Take the Nine Emperor Orchid for example.”
"The Nine Emperor Orchid?"
“It’s a flower with nine petals that only grows on the moss found in the deepest crack within a boulder at least thousands of years old. Then there also is the Red Bamboo Flower Extract.”
"A Red Bamboo Flower Extract?"
"It’s a liquor made with a flower that only blooms on the ice cap on top of a thousand-year-old human-shaped bamboo. Ah, there’s the Ten Thousand Year Magic Carp as well.”
"What’s a Ten Thousand Year Magic Carp?"
"It’s a large fish that only lives in a pure lake formed by the accumulation of a single drop of water every 100 years. In ancient mythology, it’s said to taste like honey, but I’m not sure since I haven’t tasted it.”
Jang Maldong who had jokingly explained so far, gave a dry cough. Seol Jihu had a hazy expression, lost in his imagination.
His Adam’s apple was constantly moving.
"I want to try eating them once…."
“Aigoo, it takes a miracle to even try one of them… If you eat all of them, you wouldn’t need to worry about your body regarding the disharmony of your mind, technique, and body anymore. Keke, it might even improve the technique aspect as well.”
Jang Maldong crossed his arms and put a hand under his chin.
“I won’t tell you to stop dreaming, but don’t think about just eating any random birds you find. You’ll die if you eat them raw.”
"You punk. How can any human endure the natural energy condensed for thousands of years? You’ll explode with a bang, not even leaving a trace behind.”
The protagonists he had seen in martial arts novels would always get stronger after directly consuming precious goods, but they were ultimately just fiction in the end.
It was convincing enough, so Seol Jihu accepted the advice.
“Staring from capturing them, the precious medicines, beasts, and herbs require careful handling. You would need to find someone with expertise in handling them and have them cook with extreme care before eating.”
Finally returning to reality, Seol Jihu smacked his lips.
“I thought it’d be fine to just eat them… I guess there’s isn’t anything easy in life.”
"Hehe, you’re right.”
Right, a Golden Wind Phoenix. It didn’t make any sense the more he thought about it.
Maybe it was the accumulation of his life-and-death training finally bearing fruit.
That was a little bit more realistic.
Casting away his doubts, Seol Jihu smiled awkwardly.
“I’ll just continue training instead.”
The two men burst into laughter at the same time.
Ching! The sound of glass cups colliding rang out.
Hugo, who had downed his beer in one shot, set his cup down while scrunching up his face, while Chohong was chewing on a snack.
Looking around, the room was currently in a mess that was on par with a garbage dump.
After the Carpe Diem members left for the Huge Stone Rocky Mountain, the two had crept back into the office as expected.
Only after carefully spying around just in case the members were lying in wait for them, they had burst out into cheers.
They hadn’t been able to properly enjoy themselves because of Jang Maldong, so they partied, drinking until they dropped.
"Seol is such an idiot sometimes."
Hugo hiccuped while pouring more liquor.
“Jang Maldong said he was only taking the new recruits. What’s his deal in following them?”
“I know right~! He should have stayed behind with us to kick back and enjoy life a little.”
"Seriously! Why would anyone give up on something as good as this? Huh? Being too serious all the time is a problem, isn't it?”
Hugo grabbed a glass of beer in one hand and a piece of meat in the other before suddenly doing a wave and alternate between drinking and eating.
“This, this is it. He doesn’t know how to enjoy the bliss of life. The bliss of life, I tell you. Keuuuuuh!”
"Just let him be. He’s a training masochist, remember?”
"Aigoo, I can’t live like that if I were him. Isn’t the training just a little too hard? Not to mention that you can’t even eat properly there.”
"You’re right. Imagining him having to train while eating grass makes me a bit sympathetic.”
“You want me to make a prediction? The three of them will hunt for food the moment them come back. They’re going to eat like hungry beasts that’ve been starved for days.”
"Haha! You crazy bastard!”
Chohong exploded in laughter, seeing Hugo desperately shove food in his mouth, acting out the trio’s future.
While two were partying in the garbage dump with empty bottles increasing…
Chohong suddenly heard a knock.
"Who is it?"
She could faintly make out someone replying, but she couldn’t hear properly since she was drunk.
"The door’s open so just come in!”
She couldn’t hear the door opening even after she shouted.
“Sheesh! Who is that crazy bastard?”
Chohong complained and shakily rose up from the sofa. And after flinging open the door…
"Who is it— what?"
A surprised voice came out. Chohong who had been squinting her bloodshot eyes suddenly widened them to the size of large lanterns.
“Why? Who is it?”
Hugo who had stumbled out as well made an identical reaction. Their faces looked like they had just seen a ghost.
A moment later, the two opened their mouths.
“You… Weren’t you dead?”
"What? You were alive?"
And after peering into the room and seeing the mess inside, the person snorted.
"I haven’t seen you both in ages…”
With a low voice.
"And you both are already spouting shit.”
The person coldly replied.
Meanwhile, around the same time.
No— to be more accurate, around the time Chohong was laughing with Hugo, saying ‘Imagining him having to train while eating grass makes me a bit sympathetic’….
Seol Jihu who had once again trained hard, was receiving his late-night snack as a reward.
What he wasn’t aware of was that he was receiving an excessive compensation beyond imagination.
Today’s menu was composed of three dishes.
A huge roasted carp that was emitting a golden shine— which she apparently caught in the lake.
Nine pickled leaves that looked like orchids— which she found in the mountain.
And a frost-covered bottle of liquor that emitted a floral scent— which was supposedly imbued with her own divine power.
“There’s a specific way to eat these deliciously.”
Seo Yuhui cut out a large piece of carp meat with a pair of chopsticks and wrapped it up with a pickled leaf before holding it in front of Seol Jihu’s mouth.
"N-no. I’ll d—”
“No, you can’t. It’s dangerous if you don’t eat them in order.”
And she mumbled ‘And it’s obvious that you'll start eating without thinking,’ in a small voice.
“Yes, yes. Isn’t it better to eat them in a more delicious way if you’re going to have them anyways?”
Seo Yuhui made a bright smile.
And as she personally hand-fed it to him, Seol Jihu awkwardly accepted. And he let out a deep moan.
It was because the textures of the soft honey-like fish meat and the crispy pickled leaf combined together to make a wonderful sensation in his mouth.
“Have some liquor, too. Hurry.”
He didn’t understand but seeing her slightly hurried actions of pouring him a cup of liquor, made him quickly accept it before drinking it.
Cold air instantly spread out inside as if he had a handful of snow shoved in his mouth.
As he swallowed it, he felt as if he had ice in his throat, gradually cooling his esophagus that was starting to boil.
It was a combination that expressed the Yin Yang harmony of the food, so he couldn’t help but letting out praise.
"It’s really… really delicious.”
"Yes. How did you do this with such normal ingredients…?”
Seo Yuhui who was skillfully picking out the fish meat giggled.
“Huhu. It’s because my cooking skill is extremely good. Now, ahh.”
Seol Jihu obediently ate whatever was fed to him.
While diligently chewing, he suddenly asked a question.
"By the way, do you know what a Golden Wind Phoenix is?”
Seo Yuhui suddenly staggered before quickly covering her mouth. And she stared at him in disbelief.
"Ah. Master told me. There are a lot of mysterious things in Paradise, aren’t there huh?”
“Golden Wind Phoenix, Nine Emperor Orchid, Red Bamboo Flower Extract, Ten Thousand Year Magic Carp…" Seo Yuhui’s shoulders or waist flinched with every word.
“Honestly, I’ve been wondering what they’ll taste like, but I don’t think they’ll taste better than this.”
The conclusion was high praise. Seo Yuhui’s face became awkward.
And after carefully staring at the gleefully smiling Seol Jihu…
She let out a sigh of relief.
"Y-you’re overpraising me."
“Speaking of which, how much do you think a Golden Wind Phoenix would go over if it was auctioned? Master said 10 gold coins wouldn’t cut it, and that he’ll only consider it if the offer was at least 50 gold coins.
Seo Yuhui tilted her head.
"No way. Taking the rarity of it into consideration… I’ve even refused a 100 gold coins… I might have thought about it if it was 200 though.”
After silent murmuring to herself, she shook her head before speaking.
"Enough with this talk. You’re not supposed to talk about other things while eating good food.”
And so all the food prepared on the table went into Seol Jihu’s stomach to become a part of his blood and flesh.
The selling price was typically set by the owner. According to Seo Yuhui’s murmurs, the price of what Seol Jihu had for his late-night snack was at least 100 billion Won per dish.
Meaning that, adding the Golden Wind Phoenix that he had before, he had eaten over 400 billion Won’s worth of food.
That was extravagance itself.
But ignorant of what he ate, Seol Jihu was simply patting his belly, thinking that he had another excellent late-night snack that day.