Shin Woo-Seok carefully locked the door and bowed his head to Yoo Ji-Hyuk.
“I was afraid of any unwanted interference…… If you are uncomfortable, I will find another remote place.”
Yoo Ji-Hyuk shook his head.
Because he instinctively knew that he had something important to say.
"I don't know what it is, but the sooner we finish, the better."
Maybe he could figure out why Lee Ye-Eun was acting so desperate to him.
Or maybe he would tell him that he had already found out about the branch of the World Tree that was silently holding its breath inside him.
“First of all, please keep this conversation thoroughly confidential.
If it were to leak out to the outside world, not only my life, but also the safety of young master would be at risk."
At that, Yoo Ji-Hyuk asked quietly.
“Are you threatening me now”
“Of course not.
How dare I do that.
…… In fact, from the moment I spoke of this, I was already dead."
Shin Woo-Seok looked at Yoo Ji-Hyuk as he talked about his death nonchalantly.
“Excuse me, but how much do you know about the World Tree clan”
“I only know as much as others know.”
"Then it means you barely know."
He nodded his head.
“It will be a bit boring explanation, but I hope you will listen.
It will be good for both the young master and the young lady.”
Yoo Ji-Hyuk nodded once.
Shin Woo-Seok expressed his gratitude and drew three circles in the air.
As he drew out three faintly glowing circles in the air, he pointed to them one by one and said.
“Currently, the World Tree clan is divided into three factions.”
He pointed to one circle.
''First is the faction gathered around young lady Lee Ye-Eun.
Although they are few in number, they are by far the most numerous and most legitimate faction of the people of the main family.
The faction's power had originally decreased drastically after the head of the family fell into a serious condition a few years ago, but thanks to the efforts of the young lady, it has now recovered its power and position to some extent.”
He pointed to another circle.
"Next is the faction of the branch families gathered around Lee Yoon-Seong, who was in charge of today’s opening ceremony.
It is the largest group of various and sundry forces.
And it is also the place where they are openly opposing the young lady.
They say they are trying to break away from the old-fashioned past and eliminate the distinction between the real family and the branch families.
In fact, they want to take power."
He pointed to the last circle.
“Finally, there are the elders of the main and branch families, who are the fewest in number but have the most say.
They think it is good that they can restore their clan's old glory no matter what."
He continued his explanation without a break.
“And as you probably know.…… The head of the Thorns Cross Society is from the main family.
In addition, the young lady has not yet obtained the branch of the World Tree, which is the most significant evidence and pronoun of the successive heads of the clan.
So, they continue to raise the question of her legitimacy."
And he muttered quietly.
However, his voice was subtle and loud, as if he wanted Yoo Ji-Hyuk to hear.
“According to the literature, it blossoms when one experiences a major mental change, but…… This is not important right now.”
He was looking straight at Yoo Ji-Hyuk.
He had an intense gaze, as if it could never be missed.
“Currently, the clan is in a very tense situation.
They have been constantly punishing and replacing those in the clan who have committed injustice, but it is impossible to turn the tide, and on top of that, the outside world is constantly sniffing and reaching out to them.
In such a situation, she has to fight the enemies on her own, both internally and externally.”
And for the first time, he muttered in a very little emotional voice.
“It is too much for a girl who hasn't even reached adulthood to go through.”
Yoo Ji-Hyuk, who had been quietly listening to him, opened his mouth.
It was as if he was asking, why in the world are you telling me all these
"Why are you telling me, an outsider, about such an internal situation"
Shin Woo-Seok took a small breath.
“Yoo Ji-Hyuk-Nim, no, young master is not an outsider, but of our clan…… .”
It was then.
A loud noise resounded, and the walls of the break room were smashed.
Surprised, Yoo Ji-Hyuk pulled out Yado's dagger that he had hidden in his inner pocket and took a wary stance, but Shin Woo-Seok failed to do so.
A slender but strong hand gripped his neck as if to break it.
Shin Woo-Seok, who was stuck on the floor with a bang, let out a sound that could not even be described as a scream.
The owner of the hand was none other than Lee Ye-Eun.
Yoo Ji-Hyuk had never seen someone's expression so filled with anger like that.
Shin Woo-Seok was breathing out thin breaths with his mouth open.
"I'll pull out that tongue and kill you… !!!”
Along with the words, Lee Ye-Eun immediately moved to reach out her other hand.
Before he even knew it, Yoo Ji-Hyuk grabbed her extended arm.
“Se, senior! Please calm down for now!”
"Let go of me! I have to kill him, you b*stard...
! How dare you!!”
She was so frenzied that she couldn't even understand Yoo Ji-Hyuk's voice.
Yoo Ji-Hyuk, who thought, there's really going to be an irreversible incident if this continues, shouted in an urgent voice.
who was literally blinded by anger, felt as if she had been instantly splashed with cold water.
When she came to her senses, Yoo Ji-Hyuk was holding her by the shoulders while hugging her arm.
“Please calm down.
Really surprisingly, Lee Ye-Eun was able to calm down enough to listen and consider what others were saying.
She relaxed her arm and spoke to Yoo Ji-Hyuk.
“I've calmed down.
So please let go of my hand, junior."
At her words, Yoo Ji-Hyuk let go of her arm with a sigh that seemed to say, what the hell was this
Lee Ye-Eun looked around for a moment.
She could hear people rushing here from the distance, perhaps hearing the disturbance.
She felt she had to get out of here for now.
"Let's move first."
With those words, Lee Ye-Eun stood up, holding Shin Woo-Seok's neck tightly.
She didn't forget to press down on his lower jaw with her thumb and forefinger to make sure he wouldn't say any nonsense.
She moved quickly and sent Yoo Ji-Hyeok outside.
She was more careful than ever in case he was disadvantaged.
She then looked at him with a very annoyed look on her face and said as if making an excuse.
“…I'll come to you after I finish talking.
So, can you please wait around”
Yoo Ji-Hyuk nodded and replied that he would be waiting.
Inwardly, she wanted him to leave, saying it was okay, but he wonderfully betrayed her expectations.
Lee Ye-Eun roughly bit her lips.
She immediately moved her steps with Shin Woo-Seok hanging in one hand.
Then she entered an empty building and immediately threw him against the wall.
She muttered quietly as she watched him sprawl on the ground and let out a ragged breath after hitting the wall.
“Tell me why I shouldn’t kill you.”
Hurry up and convince me.
That's what you do best.
At her terrifying threat, Shin Woo-Sook touched his neck with his hand to see if it was broken.
It didn't break.
Then he can speak.
Relieved by the fact, he quietly opened his mouth.
“The taboo…… .”
“The taboo, the moment it loses the charm of the name of taboo that adorns it, it loses its devilishness.
Once the line is crossed, people lose their rejection of taboos and start to regard it as normal."
“Now what kind of bullsh*t are you…… .”
“Until about a hundred years ago, the union between clans was not a taboo subject.
Rather, it was an act that was encouraged in order to thicken the blood and pass on power to future generations.
When it was banned, the clan lost its power and gradually declined."
Lee Ye-Eun nodded.
“You're so impatient to die.”
“What exactly are you hesitating for What are you so afraid of"
In response to Shin Woo-Seok's question, Lee Ye-Eun asked back as if saying, do you really not know that
“How dare you ask me what I'm hesitating for and afraid of when you tell me to do something outside the moral law and tried to mess things up as you pleased"
“There is nothing more ridiculous than selective morality.
Moral law Those who nitpick about moral law are advocating and encouraging murder, which should be considered the most taboo.
There is no need for the young lady to be swayed by the standards of such hypocrites."
“Don't change the subject to that bullsh*t.”
Lee Ye-Eun growled and took one more step closer to him.
Shin Woo-Seok did not hesitate despite the fact that his death was getting closer by the minute.
"I've been with you since you were young, young lady, so I dare say I am confident that I am one of the people who knows you best."
“Yes, how dare a bast*rd who says he knows me so well do such a thing… !”
“You tell him.”
He swallowed a small saliva.
“I know how you feel about him.”
His abdomen was kicked roughly with a hitting sound.
With a pain as if his internal organs were twisted, Shin Woo-Seok fell to his knees as it was.
“I'm warning you.”
Lee Ye-Eun warned in a cold voice.
"If you mention that child in your mouth like this again…… I don't think you'll really die cleanly."
“… If you bring him in, everything will be solved.”
He kicked again with a hitting sound.
Lee Ye-Eun gritted her teeth and muttered.
“…Were you hit so hard that you even ate your ears"
"N, no…… .”
Shin Woo-Seok choked up, swallowed his blood, and muttered.
"If you let the elders know that he has the branch of the World Tree, they will support the young lady wholeheartedly.
Then you will be able to immediately purge the opposition and lead the revival of the clan once again.”
He took a breath and looked at Lee Ye-Eun.
“If you bring him in as your husband, everything will be solved."
Lee Ye-Eun now began to stomp him and hit him with her fists, letting out a shriek-like scream.
Shin Woo-Seok, who was also an excellent wizard, did nothing to protest, just crouched.
Lee Ye-Eun, who had been pouring out her anger like that for a while, reached out and grabbed Shin Woo-Seok's hair.
At the sight of him covered in blood, Lee Ye-Eun shouted as if she was howling.
“How, how can you say that… ! How can you, my henchman, say such a thing!”
“…If, you insist like that."
He spoke in a mumbling voice.
“If it’s a sin, do you want to lock me up in a cell…… with charges against me Lock me up in a place where……only the young lady can go in and out.
In the name of interrogation, anytime...… .”
Lee Ye-Eun threw him as hard as she could, as if she didn't want to hear any more.
He hit the wall and fell flat on his back, not resisting at all.
“Uh, uhoeug… !”
He groaned for the first time, and while groaning and crawling on the floor, he opened his mouth to Lee Ye-Eun Lee to the end.
“If, if it's the power of the clan…… .it will remain even if all the things you are worried about are sufficiently covered up.
Ev, en now…… If you say just one word to me…….”
Lee Ye-Eun stomped her foot so loudly that it made a thumping sound.
After taking a long breath, she barely calmed down and quietly opened her mouth.
Lee Ye-Eun, the next head of the World Tree, the priestess of the World Tree, a sophomore at Orhe Academy, the vice president of the archery club, a member of the student council, and a senior of Yoo Ji-Hyuk, murmured.
She sounded as if she were stigmatizing himself.
“That child is my little brother.”
She murmured, calming her rough breathing.
“To a brother, there is no sister who does such a thing.
I, I...… .”
I must protect that child.
But for me to get that child involved in such a thing, selfishly, because of my circumstances.
“I would never do that.”
“… Are, you saying that from the heart”
Shin Woo-Seok asked quietly.
And he said in a voice with a little laughter.
“But why are you making such a cold expression at my words”
* * *
After Yoo Ji-Hyuk waited for a while, Lee Ye-Eun appeared, walking in a stumbling manner.
He slightly opened his eyes at the sight of her face and clothes covered in blood, but approached her and took out a handkerchief.
“… Ah, junior.”
Lee Ye-Eun muttered in a blank voice.
Then, realizing that he was wiping her face, she was startled and tried to back away.
But she could not do so, as he immediately grabbed her arm.
When Yoo Ji-Hyuk looked at her as if asking, what she was saying, she murmured to him.
“… You're getting blood on you.”
"This much is fine."
Yoo Ji-Hyuk carefully wiped the blood off her face and clothes, as if it was just that.
Lee Ye-Eun muttered as she watched him move his hands silently while his handkerchief was stained with blood.
I'm really sorry… … .”
Lee Ye-Eun kept muttering like a child.
“That person…… .”
“You don’t have to worry about him, junior.
Because he's not dead."
Ji-Hyuk let out a small sigh.
Although he said he would wipe it off, there were some parts he couldn't touch because she was of the opposite sex, and most importantly, it was impossible to clean all the blood stains with just a handkerchief.
He folded it and put it in his pocket, and Lee Ye-Eun, who saw it, only thought that it must be dirty.
“… Anything you want to say to me"
At Yoo Ji-Hyuk's question, Lee Ye-Eun seemed to be out of breath and suffocated.
She just wanted to run away, but she couldn't because he was holding her wrist.
“It’s my fault.
All of this, I couldn't manage my own people...… .”
“That’s not what I want to hear.”
Yoo Ji-Hyuk looked closely at her.
Lee Ye-Eun couldn't stand the gaze.
“Why did he tell me such inside information, and why did he call me young master… … I want to hear that.”
Lee Ye-Eun almost burst into tears and managed to swallow something that seemed to come out of her.
Her throat and stomach ached stingingly, and she felt a sour taste in her mouth.
“Maybe, maybe…… I, I… … I rely on you so much, junior...… I think that's why."
“He tried to get people I could rely on…… a little more, more trustworthy...… Yes, that's what he meant."
Yoo Ji-Hyuk looked at her without saying a word.
“Senior, is that really all there is to it Are you really…… not hiding anything from me"
Inside Lee Ye-Eun, there was a desperate voice that was screaming at her to just tell the truth, to make it easier for her.
Lee Ye-Eun nodded.
This time again she chose to run away.
Even though she knew well that it would make her regret it.
She nodded her head.
“That's all there is to it.”
But now she herself knew well.
The fact that she had nowhere more to run away, that she was now really pushed to the edge of a cliff.
Even though she knew it, she ran away.
Barely holding back the nausea and disgust she felt for herself.
* * *
If one were to ask what the greatest pride of the World Tree Festival is, most would probably say the parties that are held every night.
The places open to the general public are glamorous enough, but the party venue allowed only to a small number of people is literally a whole new world.
It was a party that gave you a sense of how powerful they are, with their global status beyond a country's.
And besides Yoo Ji-Hyuk, Ivan, and Lee Yu-Na, Han Soo-Young, Choi Hyun-Woo, and Jin Ye-Seul were also there.
Han Soo-Young and Choi Hyun-Woo attended the party as acquaintances of the finalists, and Jin Ye-Seul attended the party as her family had received invitations to the party.
I was so worried when I heard I couldn't get in without a dress."
Han Soo-Young lifted the hem of a red-colored dress that suited her with her hands.
Yoo Ji-Hyuk thought that she looked like the flamenco dancing woman he had seen on the TV before.
“… You just thought of another girl."
“Hmm… Then why don't you look into my eyes and answer me"
“Come on, look at my eyes.
Then, wondering how she knew, he shook his head calmly to Han Soo-Young, who immediately stared at him interrogatively.
Right next to her, Choi Hyun-Woo was constantly fiddling with the nape of his neck as if it were frustrating.
“This is really awkward…… But Ye-Seul, how did you know and prepare all this”
At Choi Hyun-Woo's question, Jin Ye-Seul shrugged her shoulders.
She was the one who told them this at the entrance, including Han Soo-Young, who despaired at the mention of not being able to enter without wearing a dress.
“Not everyone has a dress, so you can rent one if you tell them in advance.
So I told them in advance, just in case.
I'm glad I didn't do something stupid."
At Jin Ye-Seul's words, Yoo Ji-Hyuk slightly tilted his head.
Then why in the world Lee Ye-Eun...
As he was thinking this, his eyes met Jin Ye-Seul's.
She was wearing the purple dress that Yoo Ji-Hyuk had once told her she looked pretty in.
With a smile in her eyes, she slightly flapped the hem of the dress so that he could see it.
And as soon as he saw the black stockings, he immediately turned his head away.
There was the sound of someone clicking on their tongue.
“It’s a little uncomfortable…… .”
When Lee Yu-Na, who wore a bright dress, hesitated, Jin Ye-Seul patted her on the back, saying it's okay.
Choi Hyun-Woo looked around, thinking that she was like a grown cute pet.
“Oh, come to think of it, Do-Hoon is here, too.”
“Ahn Do-Hoon You managed to get along with him."
"I told you.
He's not that bad of a guy."
At Han Soo-Young's question, Choi Hyun-Woo smiled slightly.
“Well, it's a pretty big place.
I'll be able to meet him if I walk around.”
At his words, Jin Ye-Seul muttered, sipping a non-alcoholic cocktail.
“My family will be here too.
I don't want to meet them."
As she said this, the song's voice changed from a calm melody to a joyful melody.
Naturally, the center of the party was emptied, creating a space.
And there, several couples walked over and began dancing in pairs.
Seeing that, Han Soo-Young and Jin Ye-Seul silently touched each other's hands.
Then, as if they had made a promise, they reached out their hands to each other, and at that moment, their joys and sorrows crossed.
Han Soo-young had a scissor and Jin Ye-Seul had a fist.
Han Soo-Young turned weepy and Jin Ye-Seul smiled.
She didn't tell her, but Jin Ye-Seul's dynamic vision was such that she could catch flying daggers.
It wasn't a matter of knowing what the opponent was going to do.
“Ji-Hyuk, should I take the first one”
Jin Ye-Seul whispered that, and Han Soo-Young showed a look of uncontrollable anger.
Then she turned to Choi Hyun-Woo and looked at him, as if to say, do something about it.
“… Hey, there is a lot of delicious food here.
Ivan, what kind of food is this”
“Well, I seem like a nobleman, but I'm a fallen nobleman, so I don't really know either…… .”
In response to Choi Hyun-Woo, who turned his head urgently, Ivan nodded insistently.
Before long, the two were muttering to each other as they looked at the table with simple food and drinks.
“… Oh, it's salmon canapés.
Pick that up for me."
"Here you go."
“Eat a lot, miss Yu-Na.
You need to eat a lot, miss Yu-Na.”
“Uhh, I will.”
Only Lee Yu-Na, who was stuck in the middle, felt awkward and soon approached the two.
It was because she was not foolish enough to step into a place that looked dangerous, no matter who looked at it.
“Is that a sheepishly innocent-looking young lady over there”
Jin Ye-Seul, who walked slowly with a satisfied look, made a sly look.
She put her index and middle fingers to her mouth, creating a smile.
“Would you like to join me”
“… I don’t know how to dance.”
Watching him muttering as if he was genuinely bewildered, she felt love again.
"It's okay because I know how to.
So, leave it to me.”
With those words, Jin Ye-Seul grabbed his wrist as if snatching prey.
Then she whispered to him, who seemed nervous and stiff, as if to reassure him.
“It's your first time, so you can keep the beat as I say.
It's your first time, so it's okay to be clumsy.”
Yoo Ji-Hyuk followed her lead and stepped carefully.
Seeing that, Jin Ye-Seul couldn't hold back her laughter and she continued to whisper.
“Shall we move together one more time One, two.
“… Do you really have to say it that way”
"Huh What do you mean"
Looking at Yoo Ji-Hyuk, who had a tired expression on his face, Jin Ye-Seul just smiled.
The two soon naturally became one and began to dance freely like everyone else.
Han Soo-Young was upset, but soon looked at the two with sparkling eyes, and Choi Hyun-Woo and Ivan smiled bitterly.
Lee Yu-Na was also looking at them as if she was enjoying it.
And someone else was also staring at them.