The café was in Gangnam, Seoul.
Lee Hoon rushed toward it. The road was blocked more than he expected, and the appointment time was 2:30.
‘The time now...’
It was 2:28. This was a close call.
“Sigh...” Lee Hoon took a few deep breaths before entering the cafe. The cafe was already crowded, but there was one interesting thing.
‘Why are they all looking at one spot?’
The people inside were all looking at the same place. Some pretended not to look, while others stared openly. Lee Hoon’s gaze also turned to the subject of attention in the cafe.
‘Wow, he’s handsome.’
The one who caught Lee Hoon’s eyes was a handsome man who looked like a celebrity. He was sitting in a chair, but with one glance, Lee Hoon could see that the man was tall and his proportions were good.
‘Anyway, he isn’t the person I’m here to meet.’
Lee Hoon took out his smartphone and pressed the stored number. In the meantime, Lee Hoon wondered what Alley Leader would look like. Alley Leader was over 10 centimeters taller than Lee Hoon and had a moderate tone of voice.
‘I don’t know his face. I’ve only seen him with a mask on.’
Soon, Lee Hoon heard a voice he knew come through the smartphone: -Have you reached? I am sitting in the middle of the cafe.
Lee Hoon searched the cafe according to Hyeonu’s instructions. The cafe was so spacious that there were several tables that could be described as being in the center. Still, there was something strange.
‘Why is he holding a phone?’
The handsome man was also holding a smartphone.
“Are you wearing a brown coat? I’m wearing a black turtleneck shirt.”
-Ah, you’ve arrived? I’m over here.
The handsome man, Hyeonu, waved. For the first time in his life, Lee Hoon felt the world was very unfair. He had such a thought. Hyeonu had tremendous skills in Arena, handsome looks, a tall height, and legs that seemed to never end.
‘This is too unfair...’
Lee Hoon slowly approached Hyeonu like the world had stopped.
“Hello? I’m Gang Hyeonu, also known as Alley Leader.”
As a greeting flowed from Hyeonu’s mouth, Lee Hoon’s stopped world started moving again.
“Yes, hello. I’m Lee Hoon.”
They shook their right hands.
“Let’s sit down and talk. No, have you eaten? If you haven’t, let’s go to a restaurant. It’s a bit late, but lunchtime hasn’t ended yet.”
Lee Hoon nodded silently. He had been unable to eat properly due to all his preparations for the appointment.
“Then let’s go. Did you bring a car?”
“No, I took a taxi because it is hard to park here.”
“Then we’ll take my car. There is nowhere to eat in this area.”
Lee Hoon followed Hyeonu and left the cafe. It was like a kindergarten student following a teacher.
“I’ll bring my car, so wait a minute.” Hyeonu left with just these words.
Lee Hoon, who was left alone, thought about what type of car that Hyeonu would bring.
‘BMW? Audi? Or Benz?’
What type of car would Alley Leader ride? It was an instinctive curiosity.
Just then, a red sports sedan stopped in front of Lee Hoon with a heavy exhaust sound. The front of the sedan had the Porsche’s specific design and emblem.
“Get in the car. It’s cold,” Hyeoonu said.
Lee Hoon got into the car wordlessly.
“We’re eating at a place like this?” Lee Hoon shook his head confusedly when he saw the restaurant Hyeonu stopped at. To Lee Hoon, Gang Hyeonu—Alley Leader—seemed like a person who would never come to such a restaurant. Hotels, restaurants, and foreign food specialty stores—he looked like he would go to such places instead.
“My favorite dishes are fried chicken and rice served in soup. Can’t you eat hangover soup ? Do you want to go somewhere else?”
The place where Hyeonu stopped at was a hangover soup restaurant with an old sign that was on the verge of falling down. Lee Hoon concluded inwardly, ‘He is very free and easy.’
“No, I like eating that,” he answered urgently when he saw that Hyeonu seemed like he would turn the steering wheel and head to another place at any moment.
“This is a great place to eat. It is a place that only locals know. It is a hidden place.”
There was a loud noise as they entered the restaurant, showing that the door was pretty old. Hyeonu naturally sat at a table and started setting up. He pulled out a piece of tissue, placed it on the table, and then set up a spoon and chopsticks on it. After completing this series of actions, he started ordering.
“Auntie, over here.”
“You’re here again with someone I’ve never seen before... What about that poor guy?” The owner of the restaurant welcomed Hyeonu. It seemed like it wasn’t a lie when Hyeonu said he came often.
“Yeongchan? He is playing games at home,” Hyeonu replied.
The restaurant owner told Hyeonu, “Take care of him. You need to take care of a child who isn’t very good.”
“Why Yeongchan? Auntie, you may not know, but he is very popular.”
“That guy? He can’t be that popular. Would you like the same thing today?” The restaurant owner snorted at Hyeonu’s words. This made Hyeonu laugh even more. Yeongchan and Hyeonu—putting aside everything else, it was obvious who would be more popular just by looking at their appearance.
“Wait a minute,” Hyeonu said and then turned to Lee Hoon to inquire, “Are you okay with bone hangover soup? There’s quite a lot in one serving. It tastes delicious as well.”
Startled by Hyeonu’s actions, Lee Hoon replied casually, “Yes, I like eating bone hangover soup. I also like potato soup.”
He seemed to have lost his mind for a while.
‘Steady your mind, your mind.’
Lee Hoon shook his head and weakly slapped his cheeks.
“So shall we talk first?” Hyeonu asked.
“Heder—no, Lee Hoon, as you know, I am making my professional debut next season. I’m in charge of Big Stars and the captain of the current Crescent Moon.”
“I know this. I have seen it everywhere.”
Everyone who played Arena knew about Alley Leader’s declaration, and they were interested in who would be on the team. Hyeonu and Lee Hoon went over the topic.
“So how did you pick the players? Am I the first one you accepted?” Lee Hoon asked.
Hyeonu answered Lee Hoon’s question with a grin, “Sorry, Lee Hoon-ssi isn’t the first one. You are the last one. I first asked the people I had already decided upon right at the start.”
‘The last one?’ Lee Hoon cocked his head slightly at Hyeonu’s last words.
It hadn’t been long since Hyeonu’s declaration of going pro, which meant it was almost impossible to recruit more than 10 players within this period of time. Lee Hoon wondered, “How many people are there in total?”
“Six people. Isn’t it a lot? Still, I have to meet Quency’s rules, so it can’t be helped.” Hyeonu smiled.
Nevertheless, Lee Hoon couldn’t smile. He just nodded with an awkward expression.
‘Six people?’ His thoughts became complicated.
Six people—was it a possible number? What could six people do? Wouldn’t it be ruined like all the previous attempts previously? Then Hyeonu’s voice full of conviction brought Lee Hoon out of his thoughts.
“I know that it will be hard. However, isn’t this fun? I am Alley Leader after all. Alley Leader.”
Miraculously, Lee Hoon’s heart relaxed.
‘Alley Leader’—they were just two words.
Yet the sense of stability he felt from these two words was miraculous. Lee Hoon was about to open his mouth to speak when the hangover soup came out. The restaurant owner said, “I put in a lot today, so eat to your heart’s content. Next time, bring him with you.”
After the restaurant owner disappeared, there was a strange silence between the two of them even though the area around them was full of noise. Lee Hoon spoke up, “However, can I do it? My past of having been a proxy knight will follow me around like a scarlet letter. I don’t have much to lose, so I’ll do it if there is an opportunity for me to do so. It’s just that...”
‘It will be detrimental to you.’ Lee Hoon swallowed these words.
Hyeonu pulled out a tissue and wiped his hands. “Don’t you know? It is already okay to some extent.”
“I know. I can’t be so optimistic. But there is still plenty of time. Three weeks. By that time, public opinion will be different from what it is now.”
Hyeonu was confident.
‘It will be different from now.’
Currently, Hyeonu had a secret plan. He had heard some pretty interesting things. If it were confirmed to be true, then Lee Hoon was a must-have addition to Hyeonu’s team. He had to join even if he was a grandfather and not a professional gamer.
Hyeonu asked, “So you will do it? Please answer.”
“I’m just grateful you made such a suggestion,” Lee Hoon said in response.
Hyeonu and Lee Hoon shook hands once again.
Hyeonu separated from Lee Hoon and returned to the parking lot where Hope was parked. After opening the door, Hyeonu entered his car. Then he took out his smartphone and made a phone call before starting up the car.
“Yes, Kale. It’s done. All that remains is public opinion. How do we make people accept it? That is all there is to it."
The person Hyeonu called was Kale, knowing he would be curious about the outcome of today’s meeting.
-That’s good news. No, wasn’t it a set thing?
Kale had anticipated the results from the moment Hyeonu told him that a meeting with Lee Hoon had been set. He didn’t think there would be any idiots who would reject Alley Leader’s offer.
‘He wouldn’t have given up being a proxy knight if it was just about making money. He is a person with his own beliefs.’
-By the way, do you really believe that? Don’t you think it is too vague? Kale asked in a worried tone.
His questions were regarding a file that an anonymous informant had sent to Alley Leader’s channel. The contents were shocking, but they weren’t reliable. They couldn’t rule out the possibility it was someone’s joke.
“You mean the broker? I believe that it is true. Why? Do you think such victory or defeat manipulation is impossible? In the past, Korea alone had a number of victory or defeat manipulations. Of course, it isn’t in regular sports but also e-sports. Don’t think it is a safe zone just because it is a virtual reality game,” Hyeonu said firmly.
The tip was a possible story. There were also too many details and concrete pieces of evidence for it to be fake.
“It is pus that needs to be squeezed out anyway. If you hesitate, then it can’t be controlled. Even if it isn’t true, don’t you think a vaccination is needed?” Hyeonu spoke quickly, pretending to be a bit agitated. It was only by doing so that Kale would feel the pressure and take action. “Honestly, I can ignore this. I’m just going to play for one season before retiring. Heder? He will just be scolded slightly. However, what about Nike? How many players have you contracted and how much money have you invested in league matches around the world?”
-We’ll give you an answer in a few days. I think it is a matter I have to consult with my boss.
“I understand. So let’s meet in South Korea.”
 Soups in South Korea eaten as a hangover cure. Typically consists of Napa cabbage, vegetables, and meat in a beef broth.