Of course, Ivan and I were able to pass the preliminary round and qualify for the finals.
Later, I talked to Lee Ye-Eun, and she told me that there were nearly 200 people in the archery club alone, but only about 20 made it to the finals.
Me, Ivan, and Lee Yu-Na.
In this way, the three of us first woke up at the accommodation we were provided with and met at the place we promised.
We were able to receive accommodation because we were either participants or officials of the tournament, but not everyone else.
Above all, today was the day when the academy conducted classes normally.
… Last night, Han Soo-Young suddenly said she had a headache and pretended to be sick, and Jin Ye-Seul suddenly pretended to be asleep and showed that she didn't want to leave, but in the end, they returned to the academy because of Choi Hyun-Woo's threats.
They said that they would come as soon as class was over today, but...
No one was sure if they would make it in time.
Come to think of it, I couldn't see Belluna.
When I asked Ivan, he answered in a tired voice.
“My mother usually disappears without saying a word like this.
You don't have to worry about it."
“Well, we once went to Africa and out of nowhere like this… .and she would contact me a few days later."
I patted his shoulder without a word.
Lee Yu-Na also looked at Ivan with a pitying gaze.
Ivan said with a look that said he was really okay.
“No, really, I'm fine.
Let's move quickly.
There's not much time left until the opening ceremony.”
At his words, we both followed him without saying a word.
The place where the opening ceremony was to be held was a large open space right in front of the World Tree, which was not supposed to be open to the public.
The World Tree, as its name implies, was so huge.
It was so huge and majestic that I couldn't describe it.
If it was this huge, it would be awe-inspiring, even if it was just a stone.
The World Tree was bigger than anything I had ever known, but it made me wonder how a tree of this size could physically hold up.
The problem was that we hadn't even reached the open space yet, we were barely at the entrance of the area that would be open for a few days from today.
The further we walked, the more grandeur the World Tree was showing off.
There were already many people gathered in the open space.
The clans of the World Tree, including the main family and the branch families.
128 finalists like me and Ivan.
Participants from the previous tournament, like Lee Yu-Na, outsiders such as hunters and heroes.
People from guilds and companies who are involved in various relationships.
And the broadcasters who came to capture all of us and the opening ceremony on the screen… .
Just looking at them made me dizzy.
Now I understood why Lee Ye-Eun had told me that the festival could not be canceled easily.
If this was the extent of the personnel they had simply selected and chosen, how many interests were involved
I, Ivan, and Lee Yu-Na were assigned different seats, so we split up and went to our respective places to sit down.
Then, before we knew it, the faint sound of music stopped playing, as if the opening ceremony was about to begin, and a strange silence fell.
On the huge screen, an old, chubby man was the first to hold the microphone.
“… The sunny day you missed yesterday has arrived.
Nice to meet you, I'm Lee Yoon-Seong, in charge of general planning for this opening ceremony.”
It was a name that was strangely memorable.
He was the head of the branch of the clan that was at odds with Lee Ye-Eun.
"As if to illuminate our azure future, today is a sunny day in a thousand ways… .”
After a brief greeting, he reached out to the screen.
In the middle of the huge screen, Lee Ye-Eun was kneeling quietly, dressed in an unusual outfit.
“The World Tree has been brought to us by the most powerful person in our clan for generations.
And now, the next World Tree Priestess, Lady Lee Ye-Eun, will pray to the World Tree to bless us for our eternal prosperity and future… .”
As Lee Yoon-Seong continued his explanation, Lee Ye-Eun on the screen slowly got up and opened her eyes.
With a bow and a sword in her hands, she began to move carefully and powerfully as if dancing.
The ceremony was solemn.
It was so solemn that it was strange, and so strange that it was even sacred.
The branch of the World Tree that saw it made a strange beating sound.
Perhaps because of that, I also felt a certain sense of elevation.
[The blessing of the World Tree! You can feel the energy springing up in your body… .]
[You can feel the unique energy that has settled inside you gradually disappear.]
[The traces of the World Tree that predated its own kind are engraved on you.
The effect of the blessing is reduced by half.]
When I saw the notification window, I clicked my tongue softly so as not to be heard.
I wondered if the unforgiving being I had seen before was the World Tree.
It seemed that the effect of the blessing of the World Tree, including Lee Ye-Eun, would be halved in this way in the future.
I don't know yet, but I wonder there will be some other penalty.
‘It was unavoidable.’
In fact, I thought it was literally unavoidable.
Considering that it was paid for in exchange for obtaining part of Margo's authority, it was rather cheap.
After a while, Lee Ye-Eun, who had been performing the ceremony for a long time, came back to her original seat and knelt down, and the screen broadcasting the scene was turned off.
After confirming it, Lee Yoon-Seong calmed down those who applauded enthusiastically and extended his hand to the other side.
“I dare to have the honor of introducing the name of the person who came to brighten this event.
One of the directors of ‘Lee Won’ that dominates the world, master of the Guild Green Hub and also one of the members of Ten Strongest, Ahn Joo-Hyuk!"
Once again, the sound of applause rang out.
At Lee Yoon-Seong's side walked out a man whose image was more intense after death than when he was alive, Ahn Joo-Hyuk.
“First of all, I'd like to thank you for letting me hold the microphone for the first time among the outsiders.”
Ahn Joo-Hyuk skillfully proceeded to speak.
I am grateful to you for inviting me here, and I am honored to move forward with the World Tree Clan, and I hope to continue to do so...
At the same time, I hope that it will be a meaningful event for all of the 128 people who participated in this tournament and that the results will be good.
Well, it was something like this.
“There are many others who have joined us and made the event brighter.
First of all, we have Na Il-Sung-Nim, the CEO of Nasung Group!”
As soon as I saw the man standing up, I remembered a face I had buried in my memory.
Na Il-Jun, that was his father.
Come to think of it, he was also one of those gold spoons.
Then, maybe I'll see Ahn Do-Hoon and Na Il-Jun at the party.
Although I didn't really want to see the faces.
The opening ceremony proceeded faster than expected.
As soon as the opening ceremony was over, I, Ivan, and Le Yu-Na quickly met up with each other and talked as we walked out of the ceremony.
“The format has changed a little this time.
It looks like the tournament will take a little longer.”
Lee Yu-Na shook her head and muttered.
The 128 participants will face off in pairs, and the winner will move up.
The rule of the tournament was to filter out up to thirty-two players today in this way, and then decide the winner in earnest tomorrow.
Of course, there were a lot of details and specifics, but that's about it in a nutshell.
When I told her that it was an unprecedented tournament, wondering if it was okay to run it this way, she said that it was rather popular because of these simple and easy rules.
She said that it was a method that had been passed down from generation to generation, and that it could not be changed now.
“But surprisingly, there were a lot of young people, right I thought it was only this year's tournament, but when I saw the last year's finalists...
Is it always like that”
Actually, it's changed a lot since then, like a gateway to success for young talents.
Active heroes and hunters often participate, but when famous people participate, they are criticized for being a little tactless."
Lee Yu-Na answered my question like that.
Ivan looked at his watch and tilted his head slightly.
“Ji-Hyuk, yours starts in the afternoon, right I should go right now.
I should go warm up.”
“Do you want me to cheer for you"
Ivan chuckled and touched me lightly on the shoulder.
“If it's our skills, wouldn't we need some serious cheering tomorrow And it's going to end soon.
What's the point"
"What are you going to do if you lose right away after bragging like that"
“Then I guess I didn't work hard enough.
Anyway, I'm off.”
Saying so, Ivan strode towards the stadium with a light gait.
And after seeing him off, I finally realized that Lee Yu-Na and I were left alone.
We both stood there blankly for a while, staring at Ivan until he disappeared.
After he disappeared, I couldn't just stand there like this, so I asked her.
“Should we wait while drinking something”
At my words, she hesitated for a moment and then nodded.
"Uh oh, okay.
That'd be nice."
“I will go and buy it.
You stay here.”
"What do you want to drink"
“… Orange juice."
I quickly bought two glasses of orange juice and headed over to where she was waiting, while a man stood in front of her, talking to her about something.
No matter what, Lee Yu-Na was also a playable character.
With a small sigh, I walked over there and could hear the two of them talking.
“I'm sorry, but I think you don't have a companion, right I've been watching you for a while now...
“Hey, don’t be like that.
Isn't it boring to be by yourself on a day like this Even if it's simple...
“… Uh, your answer is very sharp.
I could see Lee Yu-Na's eyes sharpening as she sat down and leaned against the chair.
“You said my answer was too sharp That's a relief.
You atleast have that sense."
"And I'm waiting for a man right now.
So, can you leave now”
At Lee Yu-Na's outright rejection, the man clicked his tongue and muttered.
"You're being f*cking expensive… .
When I intentionally blocked him from going back, he looked at me in surprise.
Before he could say anything, I glanced at Lee Yu-Na and asked him.
“Do you have anything to say to my friend”
“… Uh, no.
It's embarrassing compared to Choi Hyun-Woo, but I also had a body that had been trained to some extent.
As if he instinctively realized that I was an academy student, he slurred his words and disappeared as if running away.
I sat across from Lee Yu-Na and put down the orange juice I had in front of her.
Her eyes were shaking as she looked at the orange juice I had bought from a fairly expensive cafe.
At the sight of her, I asked her in passing words.
“Are you okay”
"Uh Huh… .
Well, that was a nobleman.
I've seen a lot of worse ones.
Oh, that's right."
Lee Yu-Na muttered like that and slowly pulled out her old wallet.
“Uh, how much is it I'll give it to you right away.”
"It's okay, I'm paying for it.”
"Huh Still… .”
“Just think of it as a friend buying you a drink."
Then, Lee Yu-Na hesitated for some reason and looked at my senses.
“That, well… .”
“Now, I’m paying off my debts smoothly, so you don't have to be so considerate… .”
She waved her hand as I frowned as if to say, what are you saying
I just thought that since you know all about my situation that you would be considerate and...
Yes, it's very expensive here.
I just thought you'd buy me a canned drink...
She quickly added.
“That, what I'm saying is… .
This time the creditor is weak on interest and doesn't urge.
Uh, so I mean is… .
You don't have to be so considerate...
“Hey, what the hell do you think people are… !”
I got choked up at the moment and told her that.
Somehow, her appearance seemed to overlap with the image of my younger sister from my childhood, who had walked five stops away to save a few hundred won.
“… It's not like that.
It's not for the reason you think, but I really bought it for a friend without thinking.”
“Uh, yes… .”
Lee Yu-Na muttered like that and bowed her head.
Then she sipped the orange juice, making a little sipping sound.
My eyes immediately lit up, but soon I became gloomy when I saw her being conscious of me and trying to look calm.
“But you said you've work to do.
Is it okay for you to be here with us Aren't you overdoing it"
“Uh, it’s okay because I’m doing it after today’s tournament.
Thank you for your concern."
I nodded at her reply.
Lee Yu-Na sipped her orange juice, sipping it a little at a time.
It was really awkward.
Then, after a few more sips of the orange juice, she opened her mouth.
“By the way, when on earth did you learn the bow It was very high level."
“… I just tried."
Lee Yu-Na murmured in admiration, without any doubt, at my roughly worded words.
“You must have worked really hard… .
No matter how talented you are, you can't do that in two months with ordinary effort.”
After pausing for a moment at her response, I gulped down the juice for no reason.
"But it's the same for you.”
Lee Yu-Na tilted her head slightly at my words.
"After all, you are the student that Professor Grossman cares about the most.
And your ability...
To be honest, even if I had such an ability, I wouldn't have been able to use it properly.
And honestly, it's at such level because you're the one using it.”
“Uh, it's not to that extent… .”
"I can't do it like you."
In fact, it was somewhat sincere.
All the playable characters were talented and hardworking, but if I had to name the one who put in the most bloody effort out of all of them, I could definitely name Lee Yu-Na.
In fact, even when Jin Ye-Seul and I were having a one-on-one lesson in the sparring room, she just silently tended her weapons and followed Professor Grossman's lesson without saying a word.
Even though her hands were covered with scars from continuously touching the weapons, she didn't stop, and without a word she honed her skills under the guidance of her master.
In fact, she improved her abilities by leaps and bounds compared to when I first met her.
Although she had talent and a good master, it was only possible because she was supported by her own efforts.
It meant that she was fundamentally different from me, who had become strong through expedients in many ways.
I said in a small voice as if I were mumbling.
“Honestly, it’s embarrassing to even say the word ‘effort’ in front of you.”
“Uh, uh… .
It’s not that much.”
Lee Yu-Na seemed quite bewildered as if she didn't expect I would say this.
Looking at her like that, I...
I thought I could say the words I had been keeping to myself every time I saw her.
I hope you don't take it in a bad way.
As I began to speak, she immediately straightened her posture and listened to me.
“Last time, I told you not to care about each other, but honestly, it didn’t go so well, right We've been buzzing around each other in class, and every time we see each other we feel awkward....
So, I mean.”
I bowed my head to her.
Then I felt Lee Yu-Na flapping her hands, flustered.
Honestly from your point of view...
I could understand why you said that.
At the time, I was definitely more over the top than I should have been.
I also said a lot of things to you that I shouldn't have and...
I really wanted to apologize properly again.”
Why was I particularly sensitive to her
Perhaps it was because I saw myself in the way she was struggling with her debts, and perhaps I saw that child in the way she was still working hard to live her life.
It was all just excuses anyway.
To be honest, I didn't do well either, I misunderstood.
I was a little sad at first, but then I thought about it and I can understand you well enough...
So that's why I was awkward every time I saw you.”
Lee Yu-Na muttered like that in gibberish.
“And I didn't do anything good either… .
After saying that, Lee Yu-Na suddenly let out a loud oh!
When I raised my head in surprise, she was ruffling her own hair.
“Oh, it’s frustrating! I don't know how it ended up like this...
Lee Yu-Na, who shouted out loud as if it was really frustrating, suddenly held out her hand.
“Come on, handshake!”
“With this, let's get rid of all the things we've been regretful about, all those things!”
With those words, the small, but scar-filled palm came closer to me.
“The next time you see me in the guidance class, you'll immediately greet me with a loud ‘Hello, Yu-Na!’ Then I'll shout, ‘Ji-Hyuk, good morning!’ Got it"
Lee Yu-Na's expression lit up a little as if she had thought of a good solution.
Looking at her, I was nodding and thinking without realizing it.
I really felt like I was looking at Ji-Na.
It was probably just a coincidence, but their names were also similar.
“Why, why are you laughing… .”
As I started to laugh, Lee Yu-Na immediately asked in a trembling voice.
I waved my hand as if I were sorry.
It's not like that...
In my mind, I could hear the words that the child often nagged me with.
Did she say, oppa, you sometimes tend to think too much and make things difficult that are easy to solve.
“Yes, you're right.
I should have done what you said a long time ago."
Muttering like that, I held her hand, which was trembling anxiously.
* * *
In the match that was assigned in the afternoon, I was able to win easily.
When I texted Han Soo-Young, Jin Ye-Seul, and Choi Hyun-Woo about it, they each showed interesting reactions.
As I was laughing softly while looking at my phone, I felt a presence and looked towards it.
Before I knew it, a man was standing up straight and looking at me.
“Are you Yoo Ji-Hyuk-Nim”
He bowed his head politely at my answer.
"Nice to meet you.
My name is Shin Woo-Seok.”
He said so, with his head bowed.
"I'd appreciate it if you'd remember me, but you don't have to try to remember the name of a guy like me.
Just be comfortable, you, there, hey...
Please call me whatever you want."
Why are you doing this all of a sudden”
I was in such a hurry that I was rude.”
Shin Woo-Seok slowly raised his head and looked at me with an expressionless face.
“I'm working for young lady Lee Ye-Eun.”
He took a small breath as I looked at him as if to say, explain more.
"If you don't mind, could you please listen to me for a moment”
Perhaps it was my imagination, but his eyes seemed to have a small glint in them.
"About the young lady, young master… .
and I have something important to tell you about our clan.”