017 – Red Flavor #2
I didn’t discriminate when it came to food.
Instead of wasting time on preferences, I quickly stuffed anything into my belly and kept moving. But even as a human, I had my own preferences.
When I paid off all 200 million in debt, I vowed to have my favorite meal as my first meal.
The food I truly loved.
As I looked at it, it reminded me of that time.
“The red color is enchanting. I just need to simmer it a bit longer.”
“Victor, what are you doing? My eyes are burning! Tears are streaming!”
Nike vigorously rubbed her face with her hands.
Could it be that even Nike, who had withstood the powerful toxicity of the Toxic Gorge, couldn’t endure this fiery steam?
The other students weren’t any different.
“What is this? How does it produce this from the pot?”
“Argh! Run away!”
Reacting like that was only natural.
Tier-1 cooking ingredients all had certain effects when cooked or consumed.
In the case of this “Spring Wildling Slime”, it had the effect of consuming HP when cooked or consumed.
In reality, my eyes were stinging and it was unbearable.
Onions and garlic are better left alone.
“This doesn’t require precise timing or rhythm like Flavor Herbs, but it’s a difficult ingredient in its own right, making it tough for others to cook.”
“Victor, who besides you would even think of cooking that? Cough, argh…”
“Nike, don’t overreact like this. Our debt and interest are spicier than this.”
After boiling the slime vigorously for a while and stirring it with a ladle, its viscosity gradually increased. Finally, when it was similar to the sauce I knew, the pot burst with a bang, scattering starlight in all directions.
“It’s done! The cooking is successful!”
「Spring Sauce: A red sauce made from unknown ingredients. Spicy. It’s good to eat as it is, but it might produce even more amazing results when cooked with other ingredients…」
“Of course, it’s a success.”
I lightly dipped my finger into the Tier-1 ingredient, 「Spring Sauce」, and tasted it. The fiery spiciness in my mouth, along with a subtle sweetness and saltiness, spread throughout my body.
This was Gochujang.
I had a rough idea, but it was indeed my favorite taste.
“Nike, do we have any dried meat left? Soak it in water a bit.”
“Oh? Okay! Ooh, it’s spicy.”
With teary eyes, Nike soaked the dried meat in warm water and then placed it in the freshly made Spring Sauce.
Normally, it would need to be left for a day, but the Spring Sauce was also a Tier-1 ingredient. Three hours should be enough.
“Alright, Nike, I’ll head to class. Let’s meet here again at lunchtime in three hours.”
If you’re aiming for a scholarship, you can’t miss a single class.
So what was the subject for today’s class?
* * *
“This morning, we have outdoor activities. A-1. To me, you guys are just fake amateurs who fly high only because you’re in this grade, but you must be those guys who can really fly. Show me your skills.”
Teacher Berzurak, with dark circles under his eyes, didn’t spare any criticism for the students.
One student was visibly agitated.
“Fake amateurs? Teacher, isn’t that too harsh? Me and Deermid will prove that we’re not fakes!”
He was a student who seemed pretty muscular at first glance.
With tan skin and short brown hair, he had a tattoo of three lines on his scratched left temple.
That guy was Melvin.
He had pretty good performance as a frontliner in parties. He had plenty of provocation skills. His attack power was low, but he was excellent at protecting the rear.
The male student sitting next to him scolded Melvin.
“Be quiet, Melvin, you’re embarrassing us.”
He was a handsome, blond boy with a very charming smile, already attracting the attention of many female students.
That was Dearmid.
He was quite effective as a Tier-1 attacker, even without any special equipment.
“Melvin, you’re number 11, right? And you, Dearmid, you’re number 9. Good. I’ll let one of you take the first demonstration.”
We all moved outdoors.
There were various outdoor classes.
At the school I attended, we used to stay up late studying at our desks.
「Scarecrow – Scouterbot」
“Try hitting this scarecrow with your fist. This scarecrow is a special device created with divine technology that visualizes your attack power.”
Before Teacher Berzurak’s explanation even ended, Melvin, a large male student, punched the scarecrow with his fist.
“Heh! It’s quite robust for a pile of junk! Smashed it with all I’ve got!”
“Melvin, you’re not supposed to break just anything.”
The staggering scarecrow made peculiar sounds and displayed characters on the screen around its face.
「55 – C」
“My attack power is only 55? C? Teacher, is this believable?”
“The gods’ technology doesn’t lie. C, huh? Trash-tier statistics. With that, can you even take down field monsters, let alone heroes?”
“If I had a weapon, the results would be different!”
Melvin defended himself, looking somewhat unjust.
Well, Melvin was a character who wielded a massive axe.
“Let’s see a demonstration from one of our top students now. Number 1, Victoria Arkwright. Arkwright’s students are always outstanding. You won’t disappoint me, will you?”
“Gah, Miss Arkwright! Give it your all!”
Victoria stood in front of the scarecrow.
A top student who needed no introduction.
Expectations were high.
“Then I will do it sincerely.”
The atmosphere seemed to change suddenly.
In no time, there was only the sound.
「69 – B」
Victoria had delivered a fast punch. A score of 69, a B, was impressive, but she seemed somewhat dissatisfied.
“If only it were 10 points higher. Just 10 more…”
The reason was clear.
Victoria had a hidden quest that would unlock if she achieved a basic attack power of 70 with her bare hands.
Teacher Berzurak, who was usually stern, gave a somewhat favorable evaluation this time.
“You’re quite skilled for a kid. If your score were just 10 points higher, B+ wouldn’t be out of reach. But at the end of the day, you’re still a kid.”
Then, someone raised their hand.
“Teacher, in practical situations, aren’t we all armed? Does this kind of punch test really have any meaning? Barehanded combat is only useful in back-alley brawls, right?”
“Number 23, Daily, asking lower-level questions that meet expectations.”
“Well, practical situations always involve unexpected events. There’s no guarantee that your weapon will be in your hands when you need it.”
That was a valid point.
Among high-tier monsters, there were those with skills that could disarm you, like “Weapon Breaker”.
In the game, it was merely about the item from the weapon slot returning to the inventory, but here, in reality, there were many variables.
It was about time for Berzurak to continue the conversation.
‘Variables, right. By the way, there’s a guy from the commoner’s district who took down a monster with his sword.’ Berzurak would say. It was an event where the protagonist, Luke, demonstrated the use of his skills in front of everyone, like a scene from a tutorial called ‘Tutorial: Let’s use a 《Skill》’.
“Variables, right. By the way, there’s a guy who took down a Tier-1 monster without using a weapon. Attendance number 15, Victor.”
It was Luke’s turn, wasn’t it?
Due to Victor’s nature of responding to the teacher’s call, I reluctantly stood in front of everyone as Berzurak called my name. As I faced the scarecrow, Berzurak instructed me.
“Victor, give it a punch.”
I stood there in silence while everyone watched, and then a murmur of disbelief spread through the crowd.
“Victor with bare hands?”
“Now that I think about it, there was talk going around that that guy was actually strong even with his bare hands.”
“Let’s see if it’s true.”
The whispers continued.
“Victor, stay strong.”
Then someone in the crowd cheered for me, and I turned my head to see a black-haired female student with her fist clenched, smiling as if it were amusing.
Was it Enio?
I clenched my fist and delivered a powerful blow to the red leather pad on the scarecrow’s chest.
With a clattering sound, the screen flashed.
「29 – F」
Alright, this should be decent.
Then I heard a faint chuckle, “Foo…”
It sounded like someone had laughed, but when I turned my head, only Victoria was gazing at me with a blank expression. What’s going on? It sounded like someone laughed, right?
Did I mishear it?
“If this were an exam, you’d fail, Victor.”
“Also, Victor, you’re short with the teacher. Are you rebelling against society?”
“Don’t misunderstand me. I’m like this with everyone.”
Otherwise, my stomach would have hurt.
Also, I wrote it so far. If it was just one point higher, I could have gotten a D.
“29 and 30. The difference is more significant than it appears. Some skills that don’t work at 29 become effective at 30. The reverse can also be true.”
Berzurak’s explanation emphasized the importance of each individual number.
I agreed with him, understanding that each number carried significant weight.
Hence, the 「Spring Sauce」.
* * *
“Now it should be ready.”
I returned to Nike’s cabin, where I had left the meat marinating.
Thankfully, it was still there, untouched.
No one would dare to steal from Victor.
After all, if they did, there would be a bounty on their heads.
Stealing from Victor was not a smart move.
I placed the spring sauce-marinated meat in the pot.
The sizzling sound of cooking meat filled the air, and it smelled delicious.
“Ah, Victor! You’re here early!”
Nike had just returned to the cabin. She examined the meat cooking in the pot and was pleasantly surprised.
“That aroma is incredible!”
“The taste will be too. It’s almost ready.”
Poof-! Letters emerged with the bursting starlight.
「Spring Sauce Bulgogi: Spicy but incredibly delicious. It feels like a surge of power running through your body. However, be cautious when eating it, as too much can be harmful…!」
It was the completion message for 「Spring Sauce Bulgogi」.
The visual and scent resembled the chili bulgogi I loved.
“Was that the spicy smell earlier? It looks incredibly delicious…”
Nike’s reaction was positive, and it seemed that my cooking had turned out well. Other students began to gather around like hungry zombies.
“What’s that smell?”
“I don’t know, I skipped lunch while searching for herbs.”
“Victor made something again…!”
Everyone was showing interest.
However, the aroma alone was not enough to impress.
Without hesitation, I picked up a piece of the meat with chopsticks and took a bite. The initial sensation was spicier than I had expected.
It felt like an explosion in my mouth.
Strangely, my HP dropped even though I had eaten.
In reality, it had decreased by about 10 percent.
Yes, the Tier-1 dish, 「Spring Sauce Bulgogi」, actually reduced HP when consumed.
You could consider it a kind of “trash” effect. But with risk comes reward.
“It’s ready now.”
“Victor, where are you going!?”
I walked through the forest and crossed the school grounds to the place where the outdoor class was held earlier.
There, I found the scarecrow measurement robot.
With a powerful punch, I struck its chest.
「30 – D」
Increasing my basic unarmed attack power by 1.
A value of 1.
It might not seem like much, but it was genuinely significant.
With an attack power of 29, I couldn’t even damage the monster, “Egg Egg Tart”, but with an attack power of 30, I could deal with it.
And a skill with a base attack multiplier of 100?
Literally a 100-damage boost.
“It seems that power increased instantly.”
“Is that what the Spring Sauce did?”
Nike was also noticing it.
“Nike, this is what I was talking about. We can build expectations around what we make. Whatever we do will be valuable.”
“But it reduces HP when eaten. Will anyone buy such a dish? Each number is essential, especially stats related directly to life like HP…”
Nike was still in a wasteland.
“The effect of decreasing HP can be offset by the HP increase effect of the herb soup. They complement each other perfectly. It’s like a set menu.”
Now, all that was left was to earn some money.
“In that sense, everyone, pay attention. If you come across Spring Wildling Slime, bring it to me. I’ll prepare it for consumption. It seems hard to defeat anyway.”
“I still had some left!”
The students dispersed to gather resources for our cooking.
Then, someone approached me.
“You… You were just failing until a moment ago. How did you…?”
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