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A Difficult Trial

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Cale felt a little uneasy. Choi Han had recently come to his room and somewhat nervously asked him to come to the dinner room in half an hour. And now it was time to go. 

Why was he worried?

Because he noticed a small stain on Choi Han's shirt and some dill on his sleeve. 

'Shit.'

For obvious reasons, he wanted to believe he'd misunderstood something. However, when he walked into the dining room... 

«Cale-nim!»

As he entered the dining room, he saw an obviously nervous Choi Han standing in front of the table.

The chair beside which he was standing was pushed back slightly, as if in invitation to sit there, and on the table was a plate covered with a lid. 

'Oh, shit.'

Cale walked silently forward and sat down at the table. Choi Han opened the lid, under which lay a beautifully served dish. 

Baked potatoes with cheese. Still hot and fragrant-smelling. The dish was elegantly garnished with herbs and looked good. 

But Cale, while maintaining a neutral expression on his face, was not so calm in his thoughts. 

'Shit, shit, shit!!!'

He knew full well that Choi Han couldn't cook. 

Absolutely. 

Completely. 

He simply couldn't understand cooking, couldn't grasp its principles, managing to ruin dishes even by following the recipe completely. As soon as any seemingly obvious detail was not pointed out in recipe, the whole thing fell apart. 

Choi Han had an anti-talent for cooking.

«Cale-nim... I practiced a lot and chose an easier dish...»

Cale didn't have the slightest opportunity to dodge the honorable position of taster. 

He had to try it. 

With an unchanged expression on his face, he held out his fork to the dish, silently wishing to himself that it would turn out to be a normal meal. 

What if Choi Han managed to succeed after all...? 

Cale carefully cut off some of the potatoes and sent them into his mouth.

'Of course.'

As he chewed the slightly crunchy potato, he could hardly suppress the tears that sought to appear in the corners of his eyes. 

It wasn't edible. 

Probably Choi Han followed the recipe exactly, and took the dish out of the oven when needed, but didn't check to see if it was ready. For what should he do, if the timing was right? 

But apparently the pieces of potato he sliced were wider than the recipe suggested.

The vegetable was raw inside. 

«What do you think...?»

Cale looked at the hapless cook, and opened his mouth to make his point, but... Looking at Choi Han's sparkling face and the hope in his eyes, he couldn't tell the truth.

«These potatoes are quite... fancy.»

Choi Han smiled radiantly.

«Really? Cale-nim, do you really like it?»

A chill ran down Cale's back, and his mind filled with despair and regret.

«Yes... It's really tasty…»

Choi Han breathed a sigh of relief, not noticing how Cale threw a look of horror at the portion of potatoes. He had to finish it all... 

«Thank God! I have cooked so much more already. It's a good thing it won't all go to waste.»

Cale froze. 

'This... Not the only dish...?'

He would have to try more? Is he going to stay alive? 

Cale glanced again at Choi Han, who, with a look of joy, headed toward the kitchen. 

He couldn't admit that he had lied. He didn't want to see the look of a kicked puppy from his knight. 

'I guess this isn't the worst thing that's ever happened to me in my life.'

All he has to do is endure this challenge - Vitality of the Heart will help him if something goes wrong. And the next time Choi Han decides to occupy the kitchen, it will be enough to join him and take control of the process... 

'I can handle it.'

***

Cale stared dejectedly at another dish in front of him. 

Half-cooked potatoes.

A charred steak, oozing blood inside far more than the term "medium rare" suggested. 

Overly seasoned soup with disgusting, soggy onions . 

...And now this.

On the plate in front of him was what should have been a muffin, but...The cocoa wasn't fully stirred, now crunching disgustingly on the teeth. 

Perhaps Choi Han did not know to what consistency to stir it. 

What was most amazing was that Choi Han was calmly eating the same muffin. 

Cale couldn't blame him. 

Choi Han was not picky about food because of his past. Of course, he understood which food was better and tastier and which was worse, and he always preferred better food. But... 

His lower limit of the concept of "edible" was...

He wasn't bothered by the crunch of potatoes: isn't that normal? After all, meat has a degree of doneness - why wouldn't potatoes have it too? 

The charcoal from the meat could be peeled off, and the blood just adds to the juiciness.

Too much seasoning? Doesn't it taste better this way? 

The crunchy cocoa fragments are a fun texture. 

Cale suffered in silence. 

«Cale-nim... »

Cale turned to Choi Han, trying to keep a nonchalant expression, but...

Choi Han looked at him without smiling.

In a quiet voice, Choi Han asked.

«It's actually inedible, isn't it...?»

'Damn...'

«Sorry.»

«No, it's okay...»

Cale tried to assure Choi Han that the dishes weren't that bad, but... 

«Cale-nim, I can see the look in your eyes. I tried to believe that I'd just made a couple of small mistakes, but... They were critical mistakes, weren't they...?»

The look, recently full of hope, faded as Choi Han picked up the plate of leftover muffin that lay in front of Cale. 

«I guess I shouldn't try anymore. Sorry again.»

However, Cale grabbed Choi Han's wrist, preventing him from taking the dish away. 

«Don't say that! Yes, you're right, the dish didn't come out right again, but those are just minor flaws! No one can make a proper dish the first time.»

Choi Han grinned bitterly. 

«Cale-nim, thank you, but it's not the first attempt. Believe me, the first attempts were such that Beacrox almost killed me. No, I should just give up this pointless thing and...»

«No.»

Choi Han flinched. There was an unusual stubbornness in Cale's gaze. 

«No, you will keep trying.»

It was unbearable for Cale to see Choi Han trying to give up.

«You will continue, and I will help you with it. We just have to start cooking together, and I'll point out your mistakes.»

Choi Han was embarrassed, but there was a slight hope in the depths of his eyes. 

«Cale-nim! Don't waste your time on me... Why would you do that...»

«No. Let's go to the kitchen. »

Cale jumped up from his chair without taking his hand off Choi Han's wrist and led him away. 

«We'll start with the really easy dishes. You're going to comment on every action, and check everything several times. Trust me, you can do it.»

'You can do it, because that's how you survived in the Forest of Darkness. Trying, fighting over and over, never giving up for a second...'

Cale couldn't say it out loud.

He couldn't say that this particular trait was why Cale had initially loved him so much, back as a character, having only known him from the pages of the book.

That this trait made him fall in love with him even more later as they went through the trials of life together.

So he just silently led him into the kitchen, then taking out there a frying pan, salt, pepper, and a big carton of eggs.

***

Cale and Choi Han were sitting at the table in front of two plates.

Cale felt tired, it was already dark outside the window for a long time. However...

The first egg was burnt.

The second was too salty.

The third was unsalted.

The fourth was too soggy.

The fifth was covered in oil.

The sixth was burnt again.

However, the seventh...

Choi Han's face lit up with joy.

«Cale-nim, it seems to be completely normal!»

Of course, it wasn't any special, and one yolk did break, but...

It was really tasty.

Plus, even though Cale was tired...

It was fun.

«Then we'll make a new dish together every Friday.»

Choi Han looked at Cale a little surprised, about to argue the decision - he didn't want to take up his time.

But then he saw the soft smile on Cale's face.

«All right, Cale-nim.»