Side Story 7. An Extraordinary Genius

Same time.

On Earth, Seol Jihu’s family was having a meal outside. It was a famous naengmyeon restaurant with 60 years of history and was also the only place in Korea that Seol Jihu acknowledged as having tasty naengmyeon.

“Eating this reminds me of Jihu.”

Seol Wooseok murmured while eating Pyongyang-style naengmyeon after pork galbi.

“Why?”

Seol Jinhee, who was digging into a naengmyeon bowl of her own, raised her head and asked.

“You know, his love for naengmyeon is something else.”

“Something else doesn’t even begin to describe it.”

Seol Jinhee grumbled.

“He’s just way too picky. If he doesn’t like it, all he has to do is not eat it. How can he just spit it back out?”

“That’s why we came up with that standard. If Jihu takes a bite without spitting it back out, then it’s delicious for a normal person. If he does spit it out, we categorize the taste separately by how long it takes him.”

“But Oppa, that’s rude. Don’t you remember how he once spat out his naengmyeon in front of a chef?”

“He didn’t mean for the chef to see it though. Plus, that place was terrible. I thought I was eating porridge, not naengmyeon.”

“Still, telling a chef that he could make better naengmyeon with his eyes closed is rude.”

“It’s true, though. Just take a look at this naengmyeon. Even though Jihu acknowledged its taste, it doesn’t even come close to what Jihu makes.”

Seol Wooseok spoke while chewing on the noodles. Seol Jinhee looked as if she had nothing to say.

“We’ve always known he had a talent for cooking naengmyeon since he was young. When he was five, he saw Mom making naengmyeon, asked her what it was, and then immediately asked if he could try making it too. I still can’t forget the naengmyeon he made that day. It was the best naengmyeon I’ve ever had.”

“True. And thanks to him, our tastes have also gotten stupidly picky.”

Seol Jinhee nodded her head in agreement.

The Seol family’s father, who was quietly nodding his head on the side, let out a cough at his wife’s sharp glare.

Seol Wooseok chuckled at his father and then commented.

“Anyway, that guy’s got no chill when it comes to naengmyeon.”


*


It was just like Seol Wooseok said.

“Eun Yuri!”

An angry shout rang out. At that moment, Eun Yuri subconsciously straightened her back and stood at attention. Her eyes then widened as if she did not know why she acted that way.

Seol Jihu got up from his seat and looked at Eun Yuri’s naengmyeon. His gaze was piercingly cold.

“What the hell is this?”

“Uh….”

“I’m truly curious.”

Seol Jihu pointed at the lump and the tentacles wiggling around in the bowl.

“Why are you making trash with perfectly fine ingredients?”

“Trash? You’re being too harsh. I did my best—”

“You did your best? No, don’t fucking lie.”

Eun Yuri doubted her ears. What did he just say?

“Even if you can’t cook, at worst the food you make won’t taste good. You can’t make an abominable creature like this.”

Seol Jihu snorted.

“Were you trying to use the fact that you were good at magic to cover for your bad cooking skills? Did you think making a unique dish would earn you extra points?”

“!”

“Your cooking skills aren’t actually this bad, but you made something like this on purpose, didn’t you?”

Eun Yuri flinched.

“Look at this.”

Seol Jihu picked up one of the wiggling tentacles.

“Oh?”

As the tentacle tried to break through his skin, he immediately killed it with his anti-evil energy.

“It’s even trying to infest my body. I’d believe it even if you said the Parasite Queen came back!”

Seol Jihu yelled.

Eun Yuri’s face turned pale.

“Listen.”

Seol Jihu held up Eun Yuri’s Nest naengmyeon.

“Don’t fool around with food ever again.”

Then, he threw it in the trash.

Eun Yuri, who was pouting from Seol Jihu’s harsh words...

“Aaaaaang—!”

...plopped down on the floor and burst into tears.

Seol Jihu turned around coldly and called the next person.

“Baek Haeju!”

“Y-Yes!”

Baek Haeju ran up and stood in front of Seol Jihu. She put her hands together and politely straightened her back. She looked like a newbie chef who was standing in front of a legendary chef she admired.

“You’re….”

Before giving his judgment, Seol Jihu took another bite of her naengmyeon, along with a spoonful of soup.

“Mm….”

Seol Jihu smacked his lips as if he wasn’t satisfied.

Gulp. Baek Haeju swallowed audibly.

“Well, I can see that you kept to the recipe and the correct order of ingredient prepping….”

Seol Jihu spoke softly.

“To be honest with you, I’m surprised. Is this really your work?”

“Thank you! Chef!”

Taking his words as a compliment, Baek Haeju’s expression brightened.

“It gave me the chills!”

However, she became sullen again at his immediate sarcastic comment.

“I’m sorry… chef….”

“No, no, don’t be so scared. I was really complimenting you. You might not need to study under me anymore. You could be your own boss at a restaurant.”

“Thank you! Chef!”

“Whether you’ll get any customers is another problem though.”

“I’m sorry… chef….”

“Tsk, tsk. Trying to keep to the recipe and actually doing it are two completely different things. But I’ll give you 50 points. Work harder.”

“5-50 points? Thank you! Chef!”

“Ah, for the record, that’s out of 1 trillion points.”

Meaning—she scored 0.00000000005 points out of 100.

Baek Haeju lowered her head at the shocking criticism. She backed off with a look of embarrassment. As she did, a silent teardrop fell from her face.

Seol Jihu snorted and looked at the last participant.

“Seo Yuhui.”

Seo Yuhui flinched at the casual way he called her. The current Seol Jihu was completely different from his usual self.

“What was that? Jinju-style naengmyeon?”

“H-Hmm?”

“Jinnnjuuuu-sttyyyyle naeeengmyeeooooon???”

Seo Yuhui staggered back.

“Iya~ You’re real amazing, aren’t you? As far as I know, Jinju-style naengmyeon disappeared from Korea after the great central market fire in 1966. Is it being restored today?”

“I-Is that what happened? I just…”

“No? Then how can you dare to call this Jinju-style naengmyeon?”

“No, I….”

“Ah, you can, of course. Then like me, you must have gone down to Jinju and asked the grandmas and grandpas there, visited the Jinju municipal building to try to restore the traditional dish, and made an effort to research and revive the flavor and style, right?”

“....”

“You can’t possibly be calling it Jinju-style naengmyeon after trying a bowl or two at a couple of restaurants in Jinju, right?”

Seo Yuhui’s lips trembled. She was tearing up before anyone noticed.

“It’s fine. To be honest, I didn’t expect you to have gone that far.”

Seol Jihu clicked his tongue and pulled up a noodle string.

“But look at this undercooked noodle. How can you cook with a frozen product without thawing it first?”

“Because I know you like firm noodles….”

“Do you think ramen and naengmyeon are the same?”

Seol Jihu shoved his face in front of Seo Yuhui’s. He then shook the noodle he fished up in front of her.

“Can you hear that? This frozen noodle wasn’t thawed properly, and now it’s singing. Let it go~ Let it gooooo~!

Seo Yuhui’s eyes turned red. She put her hands on her face, not having expected Seol Jihu to speak so harshly.

“Huaaaanng.”

In the end, Seo Yuhui also cried.

Seol Jihu had made all three women break out into tears.

“I think it’s good though….”

Teresa murmured meekly while chewing on Seo Yuhui’s Jinju-style naengmyeon. She had not expected the competition to turn out this way either.

“A-Aren’t you being a little too harsh?”

Phi Sora was the same.

“You could have just picked one as the best….”

It was true that she wanted a proper evaluation, but it wasn’t to this extent.

“They both taste bad.”

Seol Jihu spoke apathetically.

“I was going to gloss over it at first, but you’re the one who wanted me to give a proper evaluation. They both don’t taste good. Do you want me to lie and say they do?”

He completely ignored Eun Yuri’s dish as if he didn’t even consider it food.

“That’s not the point. This whole competition was for you to…”

“Ah, I understand, of course.”

Phi Sora tried to explain in frustration, but Seol Jihu cut her off.

“You might be thinking, Why are you so damn picky? Are you saying you can make a better dish?

“No, listen—”

“Hold on just a moment.”

Seol Jihu went into the kitchen without listening to Phi Sora. He rolled up his sleeves and picked up the Spear of Purity. Then, he began cooking.

“Hamheung-style naengmyeon is one of the three captains of naengmyeon along with Pyongyang-style and Jinju-style naengmyeon. Koreans commonly call it bibim naengmyeon.”

The room turned silent once Seol Jihu started cooking. The three women also stopped crying and observed the kitchen.

“Jinju-style naengmyeon is like I described before. As it is now, there is no authentic Jinju-style naengmyeon in Korea. Many have tried to replicate it, but the one that exists in Korea is now a modernized version.”

What happened next was hard to believe. No one could take their eyes off Seol Jihu. His movements were precise and meticulous as if he was a machine, and the ingredients that passed by his hands emitted a silvery light.

“Done.”

Soon, Seol Jihu brought out two bowls of naengmyeon. Before he put them down on the table, he scooped up a spoonful of soup and poured it into Prihi’s mouth.

Prihi’s throat drew a gulp before his nostrils palpitated.

[Ehh? His soul is going back in!?]

Flone exclaimed in shock.

“Eu….”

Prihi slowly opened his eyes.

“Strange…. I thought I was crossing a gloomy river….”

Prihi tilted his head, describing a strange dream he had.

“The ferryman rowing the boat suddenly drooled and sent me off to eat some naengmyeon, asking me to describe the taste when I came back in the future….”

[No way! Cooking that can resurrect the dead…!?]

Flone was dumbfounded and in disbelief.

It was only then that Seol Jihu put the two bowls down and gestured at the others to eat.

“Hic….”

Eun Yuri wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and then grabbed a pair of chopsticks. Slurp. She took a mouthful of Seol Jihu’s Hamheung-style naengmyeon. Then, her eyes shot open.

“Ah…!”

She exclaimed. At the same time, Eun Yuri’s back bent like a bow. No, it wasn’t just her back.

“I’m a noodle~ A noodle~”

Like a noodle, her entire body went limp and wriggled. She had reached the realm of One With the Noodle just by taking a single bite.

“DELICIOUS!”

Teresa wasn’t in her right mind either.

“I get it now! This dish is a billion times better than the one Miss Big-Titty Lust made!”

It was so good that she blurted out what she really thought about Seo Yuhui.

“What’s wrong with you guys?”

Half in doubt, Phi Sora grabbed a pair of chopsticks and slurped up the Hamheung-style naengmyeon.

“Heeeeeeut!”

She let out a moan as her back also bent like a bow. A great wave rose inside her mouth, a wave of extremely spicy flavor. She even saw herself at sea, facing a huge tsunami of noodles.

How much time went by?

When Phi Sora snapped out of her daze, she was met with a strange scene. Teresa had disappeared with Prihi, and Eun Yuri was still wriggling around like a noodle.

As for Baek Haeju and Seo Yuhui, they were standing inside the kitchen, putting water into their pots under the strict supervision of Seol Jihu.

“Again.”

Every time they poured water into the pot, Seol Jihu yelled angrily.

“Again!”

The two poor women repeated pouring water in and out of their pots.

“W-What are you doing?”

“Teaching them the basics.”

Seol Jihu replied clearly.

“I came to a realization thanks to you, Miss Phi Sora. To think I’ve been entrusting these two with a part of my noodle dish. I’m ashamed.”

Seol Jihu sighed deeply.

“This isn’t good. I have to start over from the beginning.”

Phi Sora was dumbstruck. He was doing this all because of what she said? As Phi Sora hated causing trouble to others, she was frightened out of her mind.

“Wait! Who cares if the amount of water is a tiny bit off?”

“Absolutely not.”

Seol Jihu shook his head.

“Water is the beginning and life of a noodle dish. The precision impacts the flavor of the noodles greatly.”

No one knew better about ramen than its creator. As such, Seol Jihu’s principle was to keep to the precise amount written on the packaging, which was usually 550mL.

“Aren’t they doing well though?”

Phi Sora raised an objection. She said so after observing Baek Haeju measure her water carefully in a measuring cup.

“It might look precise at a glance….”

Seol Jihu shook his head.

“But this is 550.024mL. Again!”

Baek Haeju poured out the water in tears.

Phi Sora dropped her jaw dumbfoundedly.

“Hey, aren’t you being too harsh?”

“No. I cannot allow even a 0.01mL difference.”

“W-What?”

“If they think I’m harsh, they can just pack up their bags and leave.”

Seol Jihu spoke coldly.

Baek Haeju and Seo Yuhui shook their heads as if that wasn’t what they wanted.

“To stand next to me in the kitchen, they need to know at least how to measure water correctly. Otherwise, I cannot allow them to work here.”

“Are you for real?”

“Stop. You can leave now, Miss Phi Sora.”

Seol Jihu shooed Phi Sora away as if to swat away a fly.

“This is my territory. I’m already tired from showing what true naengmyeon is.”

“Oi, oi.”

Phi Sora got angry.

“It’s not even 24mL, but 0.024mL. How can any normal person tell the difference?”

“It’s hard to do with the naked eye. But a true master can sense it with their intuition.”

“Bullshit.”

“Miss Phi Sora.”

Seol Jihu sighed again.

“You’ve been picking a fight with me since a while ago….”

“I wouldn’t if you were saying something believable!”

Seol Jihu glanced at the fuming Phi Sora with cold eyes.

“What if I’m right?”

“Hah!”

Phi Sora burst into laughter. Then, she suddenly turned serious.

“What if you’re wrong?”

“What if I’m right?”

“What if you’re wrong!?”

Phi Sora shouted in defiance.

“...Then, I’ll do as you want.”

Seol Jihu shook his head.

“Fine. If you’re wrong, get on your knees and apologize for acting so out of line. You also have to call me Noona from now on and act carefully around me. Got that, Jihu Dongsaeng?”[1]

Phi Sora spoke kindly as if she already became his noona. She seemed confident in winning.

“Fine. If I’m right, you will have to call me Oppa from now on, and smile and act cute at all times.”

“Fine, fine~ Do as you want. I’ll call you Oppa and act cute all you want!”

At that moment, Seo Yuhui poured water into her pot.

Seol Jihu glanced at the pot before speaking.

“550.016mL.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Yuhui, hand me the pot.”

After taking the pot and giving it to Phi Sora, Seol Jihu left the restaurant. They immediately returned to Earth, met up at a shopping district, bought the most precise electronic scale, and measured the water promptly.

It was 550.016mL without even the slightest margin of error.

Phi Sora’s jaw dropped.

“See? I was right.”

Seol Jihu did not boast. He spoke as if it was the most natural thing and then swept his hand over the pot. A tiny droplet of water flew out, changing the measure on the scale to 550.000mL exactly.

Phi Sora stood frozen like a stone statue. Her brain could not accept it, but she had nothing to say since her eyes had seen it.

“I’ll watch your cute acts later.”

Seol Jihu went back first, saying he would be busy with training for a while.

Whish.

A cold wind blew.

“....”

Phi Sora did not move at all. She stared at the electronic scale and the pot and stood still for a long time.

Meanwhile, Kim Hannah, who was watching this entire process, closed her eyes.

‘This guy….’

Who would have thought something like this would happen when she asked Baek Haeju to come?

Still, she did achieve something. And that was confirming that Seol Jihu was an uncontrollable madman that could spring out at any moment.

Kim Hannah dropped her head.

“Haaaaa….”


*


On the other hand, Phi Sora returned to Paradise after finally coming to her senses.

“This.”

As soon as she came back, she stomped through the temple.

“Does. Not. Make. Sense.”

As a statue came into her view, her steps hastened.

“Hello!?”

Phi Sora shouted.

[What is it!?]

A high-pitched voice shouted inside Phi Sora’s head.

“I came to ask you something!?”

[You have a question for me?]

The God of Wrath, Ira, read Phi Sora’s mind.

[Hmm….]

She then let out a soft groan.

[Indeed… it must be hard to believe from a human’s perspective. After all, his cooking has surpassed the Divine Beginning level long ago.”

“You mean… it’s at the level of godhood?”

[That’s right. You know the restaurant he owns, right? It’s becoming one of the hottest restaurants in the universe. There are gods from other dimensions coming to try his food now.]

Phi Sora furrowed her brows. There was no reason for Ira to lie, but she still couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

[It’s true. Recently, when Lord Astraios, the Heaven-rank 8 god and the Father of All Stars, came to visit his shop, we were all shocked. He and the others were nowhere to be found when this planet was in danger, yet…! Hah!]

Ira chuckled.

“What…. How can that be, though?”

Phi Sora still couldn’t believe it.

“I know I’m only human, but he’s also just a human.”

[He’s special when it comes to that field.]

“Don’t beat around the bush. Just say it clearly!”

Phi Sora complained.

[Mmm…. But giving away personal information isn’t something I should do….]

“Since when did you care about that stuff? It’s only about cooking anyway. It doesn’t even show up in our status windows!”

[Well, I guess that’s true.]

“Then, can’t you tell me? I’ll even offer up all the contribution points I have left! I’m going to die of frustration if I don’t find out!”

[Hmm! Will you? If it’s just a little… I can limit it to his cooking as you said….]

Ira let out a cough.

Soon, a string of messages popped up in front of Phi Sora.

After reading the messages, Phi Sora blinked crazily.


[Seol Jihu’s Status Window]

[1. General Information]
Class: Lv 88. Artisan of Infinity
Alias: Tasty AF, Universe’s Planet Cultural Heritage #778,712, Incredible For a Human!

[2. Traits]
2. Aptitude
—Noodle (Noodle itself)
—An Extraordinary Genius (A rare talent in all of the universe)
—Absolute Palate (Can replicate any dish that has been tasted with 100% accuracy)
—Arranging (The ability to improve any dish that has been tasted)

[3. Physical Level]
Tenacity: Heaven-rank 8
Taste: Heaven-rank 8
Dexterity: Heaven-rank 8
Passion: Heaven-rank 8
Skill: Heaven-rank 8
Creativity: Heaven-rank 8

[5. Level of Cognition]
Master Artisan (Internalized mindset from being well-versed in a field or technique) / Disappointed / Cold-blooded (Knows no mercy when it comes to noodle dish)


1. Dongsaeng means little brother.

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