“Senior, you said that one needs to be good at drinking to have an easier time in the university. I take it that you're no slouch yourself, then?” Kang Jin-Ho asked in a provocative tone.
This was a challenge. An openly provocative one at that!
Everyone's gaze shifted over to Gong Gil-Yeong after Kang Jin-Ho issued his challenge. Conversations at other tables stopped as this situation began drawing people's amused attention.
Gong Gil-Yeong cocked an eyebrow. “You messing with me, kid? I should warn you that I'm our department's official bottomless alcohol barrel.”
"In that case, we won't need these tiny cups." Kang Jin-Ho took away the smaller soju cups and grabbed a nearby tall glass meant for water. He placed it in front of Gong Gil-Yeong while grinning provocatively. "Wouldn't you agree, senior?"
Gong Gil-Yeong stared at the glass, then smirked deeply. His glare shifted over to Kang Jin-Ho next. "Oho, so you want me to drink out of this but not you?"
"Of course not. I'll also drink out of the same-sized cup. Not only that, but I shall also drink the share of my friends. Meaning, I'll be drinking three cups to your one, senior. If you win, you can keep doing whatever you want, but when you lose, you must stop pressuring others to drink."
Gong Gil-Yeong chuckled in dismay.
'Why is he so confident?'
If he was being honest, he did feel a little nervous at how confident Kang Jin-Ho acted. But the milk had already been split; he had already said he was the official bottomless barrel-or-whatever, so backing out now with this sort of condition would make him lose face. Besides, far too many eyes were watching right now.
“Hey, what was your name again?”
“It's Kang Jin-Ho.”
“I'll remember you.”
“No need to trouble yourself. Let's get started, shall we?”
Gong Gil-Yeong narrowed his eyes and stared at Kang Jin-Ho, then downed a tall glass full of soju in one go. “You think I'm bluffing, don't you?”
“Who knows?” Kang Jin-Ho leisurely poured soju into his empty glass and chugged it down, cup after another cup. After he downed three glasses, he poured soju into Gong Gil-Yeong's cup next.
“J-Jin-Ho, aren't you pushing yourself too far?” Park Yu-Min quietly asked him in a worried voice.
However, Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head, wondering what the fuss was all about. “Why do you think that?”
“I mean, that's a lot of booze and all...”
Kang Jin-Ho smirked at that. Park Yu-Min’s concern was useless. The truth was, he used to enjoy drinking baijiu back in Zhongyuan, which was renowned as one of the strongest alcoholic beverages of that era. And his favorite happened to be the Sichuan-style, the strongest of the available baijiu. Compared to that drink, the current-day soju was a child's play.
More importantly, though, Kang Jin-Ho couldn't get drunk even if he wanted to, as his body would automatically eliminate toxins entering his system. In other words, this level of booze could never make him drunk no matter how much of it he chugged down.
Kang Jin-Ho assuaged Park Yu-Min's worries with a simple little grin, then began urging Gong Gil-Yeong. “Senior, it's your turn. Please, drink.”
“Hey, man. I was thinking...”
“You said that if you win, I must stop forcing others to drink. But if I win, I should carry on with what I was doing all along? Isn't that a bit unfair?”
Kang Jin-Ho nodded in agreement. This bet didn't sound fair to him either. This was not how he operated, so it was time to change things up a bit. "Alright. What do you want from me, senior?"
“Hmm. What can you actually do, though?”
"Ask me, and you'll find out."
Gong Gil-Yeong's attitude instantly became a lot more confrontational. The onlookers realized that this matter was no longer as simple as two men horsing around and stopped making noises, their attention solely focused on Kang Jin-Ho's table. Even the bar's noisy background music was unable to weaken this taut tension in the air.
"You're looking down on me? Fine! You lose, you pay for everyone here. And I do mean every single person."
"That's unreasonable, senior!" Han Se-Yeon yelled loudly.
Kang Jin-Ho was a lot more relaxed than her, however. “That doesn't balance out the bets, though.”
Gong Gil-Yeong narrowed his eyes. “What do you mean?”
“Let's change the bets.”
"The loser will pay for everyone present here. And when you lose, you'll also stop forcing others to drink, senior."
Gong Gil-Yeong scoffed derisively. “Why should I take on an extra bet?”
"I'm drinking three glasses while you only drink one. With such a handicap, a bet like this seems fair to me. However, if you're not confident, it's not too late to back out yet, senior."
Gong Gil-Yeong was riled up by those words. He was renowned as the drinking god of the Business Management Department, after all! It wouldn’t look good at all to back out now when he would be drinking one glass full of soju while Kang Jin-Ho would have to down three glasses. His pride as a man was also at stake here, and quite obviously, he had no reason to avoid this challenge, either.
"Fine, let's do this! Don't you dare change your tune later, got that?"
“Right back at you, senior.”
It was at this moment in the confrontation that other seniors walked up to the table. They could see that the situation was getting somewhat out of hand. Winning the bet under the current volatile atmosphere wouldn't necessarily be a good thing, although Gong Gil-Yeong himself seemed to be too riled up to realize this.
“What are you doing, Gil-Yeong?! That's enough messing around!” One of the seniors grabbed Gong Gil-Yeong's arm and tried to pull him away from the table.
“Dude! Let me go!”
"Hey, man! Gil-Yeong, you're drunk, aren't you!"
Gong Gil-Yeong stared straight at his fellow senior and growled, “Hey, have you ever seen me drunk before?”
The arm-grabbing senior faltered and shook his head. He knew he needed to put an end to this confrontation, but the air oozing out of Gong Gil-Yeong didn't permit that.
"Look, look! Everyone thinks this is getting interesting. This is how a freshmen orientation should be, anyway! Alright, let's do this, my dear junior!" Gong Gil-Yeong grabbed the full glass in front of him and downed the soju in one go.
Just as he put his empty glass down with a bang, Kang Jin-Ho began pouring soju into his three glasses. He easily downed them all without a single break in between. "Senior, it's your turn."
“I know!” Gong Gil-Yeong growled again, then poured some more soju.
And so, a bottle of soju after another was consumed. More and more people began paying attention to the drinking battle. And by the time empty bottles had formed a messy hill on the table, the victor and the loser became clear for all to see.
Kang Jin-Ho put his empty glass down and spoke up. "It's your turn, senior."
“M-my... turn... already?”
“B-but... no... You... haven't... drunk... yet...”
“I did drink.”
Gong Gil-Yeong's unfocused eyes barely managed to stare at Kang Jin-Ho. Eventually, though, the drunk-out-of-his-mind senior shook his head in a daze. “You... did?”
“I... I... didn't... see...”
“Is that right?” Kang Jin-Ho didn't bother arguing, simply choosing to pour soju into his three glasses and drink them again.
The crowd watching the drink-off gasped in shock, their jaws falling to the floor. “Holy sh*t!”
The bottles emptied out by Kang Jin-Ho were making a small hill on the table and on the floor. Yet, he still drank three more glasses as if they were filled with nothing but water?!
“Senior, it's your turn.”
“Huh... I... You... Urgh...” Gong Gil-Yeong suddenly covered his mouth. “B-blergh! Bleeeeergh?!”
“H-hey, take this moron outta here! Hurry!” The other seniors hurriedly rushed in and helped Gong Gil-Yeong to the bar's restroom. Thankfully, the crowd was spared the horror show of a person's lunch being regurgitated to the floor, and by now, everyone could tell who had won this bet.
Just to drive the final nail on the coffin, Kang Jin-Ho chugged down the soju still remaining in Gong Gil-Yeong's glass as if it was nothing. After putting the empty glass down, he licked his lips and quietly muttered, “I won't be paying today, then.”
The onlookers gasped in awe. “Holy cow. How many bottles did they drink?”
“Must be over twenty!”
“Does that mean that freshman drank fifteen bottles by himself?!”
“Wow, that's right!”
“How can he be still sitting upright, though! I mean, drinking that much should've totally plastered you by now!”
"...You're right. Check that out! He doesn't look any different from when he started, does he?!"
Kang Jin-Ho ignored the peanut gallery's comments and got up to leave.
Park Yu-Min asked him worriedly, “Jin-Ho? Where are you going?”
“Does it feel that bad?”
Park Yu-Min's concern was well justified. No human being would be fine after consuming that much alcohol, after all. He would sometimes hear brave tales of some folks drinking alcohol by the barrel, but something like that was only possible to pull off by taking it easy and drinking at a leisurely pace. Logically speaking, you could never be unscathed by consuming that much booze in one sitting. It would be even worse without diluting the alcohol with snacks!
However, Kang Jin-Ho easily trampled on such concerns. “No, it's not that.”
“Then, why are you going to a bathroom?”
"Think that what I drank so far was water."
Park Yu-Min was left confused by that imagery. "...Eh?"
“In other words, my bladder's about to burst.”
Kang Jin-Ho headed to the bathroom without a moment's hesitation. If he wanted to, he could've expelled the excess water in his body through his pores, but that would lead to high-alcohol-content water particles filling up the surrounding air. In other words, that would result in the so-called 'second-hand drinking' phenomenon, which would catch quite a few people off guard in the process. He stood before a urinal and began doing his thing just as two seniors stepped out of a toilet cubicle.
“Hey, Gil-Yeong. You alright, man?”
Gong Gil-Yeong was basically a walking vegetable at this point. No, walking would be too kind of a statement as he couldn't even stand straight at the moment.
Kang Jin-Ho didn't care, however, and continued to do his business. But then, someone angrily called out to him. “Hey, you!”
“Yes?” Kang Jin-Ho glanced back.
A senior with rather thuggish facial features walked up to him in an intimidating manner. "You! You better watch yourself."
“I am not following…”
“Looks like you're taking us seniors lightly here... Keep doing that, and you're going to meet with misfortune, punk.”
Kang Jin-Ho nodded. “I see. I'll be careful, then.”
It was always better to avoid anything troublesome, after all.
“What the f*ck? What's up with your attitude, punk?!”
Kang Jin-Ho tilted his head, then tried to sound more polite than before. "Hmm. Well, then. Senior, thank you for your advice."
The thuggish senior was almost ready to blow his top. "This as*hole really is asking for it!"
“Hey, stop that!” The second senior wearing a pair of spectacles hurriedly stopped the thuggish-looking senior.
“Gimme a freaking break, man! This punk's got a big f*cking head, don't you see?!”
"That's enough, dude! Remember that we're in freshmen orientation! You're a senior, so you gotta watch how you carry yourself!"
“Dammit! Hey, you! You better behave yourself, or else! If I catch you doing nonsense one more time, I'm gonna f*ck you up. And your punk friends too!”
That was when Kang Jin-Ho began extending his hand rather slowly.
"Huh?" The thuggish-looking senior was taken aback. But then, Kang Jin-Ho grabbed him by his collar and yanked him close.
"Huk?!" The senior sucked in a cold breath and urgently raised his fist, but...
“You listen carefully.”
...but his raised fist lost all strength and went limp when a bone-chilling whisper entered his ear. It felt like every ounce of energy had abandoned his body. He had never felt this way before... He had never experienced this bizarre, unexplainable shudder!
"I don't care if you badmouth me. You could be saying some dumb things in the heat of the moment. Which is fine, I can overlook it. However..." Kang Jin-Ho murmured quietly. "...My friends are off-limits. Understand what I'm saying?"
“Y-yeah, I got it.”
Kang Jin-Ho let go. The senior regained his freedom and hurriedly stumbled back.
“Well, then.” Kang Jin-Ho fixed his attire, then turned around to leave.
“Hold on... Your name is Kang Jin-Ho, right?”
Before he could exit, though, his name was called again. Kang Jin-Ho glanced back. “Is there anything else to talk about, senior?”
This time, it was the spectacles-wearing senior that stopped the potential fighting from breaking out. He walked up to Kang Jin-Ho with an apologetic expression. "Sorry about this, but... Can you do me a favor and pretend that this bet didn't happen? We have over fifty people here, and the bill must be close to a million won by now, so forcing that idiot Gil-Yeong to pay is a bit..."
“A bet is a bet, senior.”
“I know. That's why I'm asking you for this favor. I know that it's shameless for a senior you just met today to ask you like this, but can you be a little more understanding?”
Kang Jin-Ho glanced at Gong Gil-Yeong, still slumped on the bathroom floor. “Is he your friend, senior?”
“Yes, he is.”
"I see. Then, I'll do as you ask."
Kang Jin-Ho narrowed his eyes. "However..."
"Please tell him to stick to the promise of not forcing others to drink," said Kang Jin-Ho while pointing at Gong Gil-Yeong.
“...I'll definitely tell him.”
"Alright." Kang Jin-Ho nodded once and finally exited the bathroom. A strange sight was waiting for him when he reached his table, though. There should have been only two people, but a crowd had settled around the table by now.
'What's going on here?'
Kang Jin-Ho briefly wondered if trouble was brewing, but to his relief, that wasn't it. As a matter of fact, the atmosphere surrounding the table seemed rather friendly and relaxed.
“Urgh! You know, I was so irritated by that senior when he tried to make me drink earlier. It was so cool how Jin-Ho handled it, though!”
"Wow, did he do that to you, too?"
“Yeah! It was so crazy, you know! I don't get why he was like that, though.”
Han Se-Yeon was already surrounded by other girls, busy chatting away as if they were long-lost friends.
“Hey, Yu-Min! Listen, my rating won't go any higher than 1,200. So like, can you coach me to get better?”
Park Yu-Min, stuck between enthusiastic gamers, was sweating buckets at the moment. “Mmm?!”
"Hey, dude. If your rating's stuck at 1,200, you might as well give up, man! Listen, Yu-Min. I keep losing to this friend of mine, but the way I see it, I'm like just one step behind him all the time, you know what I mean? Can you help me get better, even if it's just a bit? I'll definitely buy you lunch. Two lunches, even!"
“W-well, uh, coaching you won't be difficult, but, uh...”
“It's a promise, right?”
Kang Jin-Ho spectated this scene for a while before walking up to his table.
“Hey, the king of drinking is back!”
“King of drinking, my a*s! That's no king, he's the God of Liquor! A bloody god, I tell ya!”
“Wow, he's not even wobbling!”
“Did he go to the bathroom to puke?”
“I don't think he did, since his eyes aren't even bloodshot.”
“Wowsers, that's amazing.”
Kang Jin-Ho groaned at the incessant comments of the peanut gallery. Just what was so amazing about being able to hold your liquor?
His victory in the drinking challenge must have acted as the spark to liven things up, and the bar's atmosphere was now even more festive than before.
1. a million won’s about 800 dollars, so yikes. ☜