Jin Ye-Seul and I immediately headed out of the academy.
I contacted Choi Hyun-Woo just in case, and he replied that he and Han Soo-Young really had urgent business and they would be joining us in a while.
When I asked him what was going on, he smiled as if he was troubled, and said that his Master had contacted him out of the blue and that he didn't know the details.
“But there are a lot of people.”
Everyone is done with exams like us.
So maybe they're coming out to have fun."
Jin Ye-Seul and I talked as we walked.
It has been a long time since roads have been jammed with buses and taxis.
Jin Ye-Seul was walking along the road, humming and jumping as if she was in a good mood.
She had a very different appearance from what I had seen at the guild invitational before, if she had a grown-up appearance last time, this time she had an appearance that matched her age.
Most of all, it's the first time I've seen her wear a skirt in plain clothes.
Except for the party dress she wore back then.
“Why, does it look good on me"
Jin Ye-Seul giggled, lifting the hem of her skirt at my gaze.
Then she looked at me with a furtive gaze and said.
“Ji-Hyuk, if you want, I can show you more."
“Don’t say such a scary thing.”
At my sour answer, she pouted her lips as if I were not fun.
She muttered a little, but I didn't feel the need to answer.
We soon arrived at the zoo.
Starting from other facilities, there were many zoo-like facilities like this one around the Orhe Academy, but it was actually a zoo with research facilities.
Research and experiments on monsters were also being conducted here, and on weekdays, the site was opened to the general public and tourists to display various rare animals and risk-free monsters.
"Oh, there're slimes, too.
Wait, goblins and orcs… And what kind of harpy...
Jin Ye-Seul, who was looking through the pamphlet, muttered as if she didn't understand.
“I came to the zoo, not the dungeon.”
“What, you've never been here before"
Jin Ye-Seul nodded.
Then she folded the pamphlet and gently reached out her hand to grab the sleeve of my clothes.
Her grip was so strong that I couldn't escape.
“We still have a lot of time, so let's take our time.
I want to see goblins acting cute.”
"You wanted to see the crocodiles and penguins, didn't you"
"No, that's for last.
When I eat, I usually eat what I like the most at the end."
“I think goblins are going to smell really bad… .
they are especially famous for their strong body odor.
So, let’s go see the slimes instead.”
“Euk, that’s true.”
Jin Ye-Seul frowned slightly as if disgusted, and pulled me closer to her.
Then she said, looking at me with a giggled face.
“But since we're here.
I want to see them with you, Ji-Hyuk.”
With that, she gently moved the hand that had been holding my sleeve and took my hand in hers.
I glanced at her, but I could only see her back, so I couldn't see her expression.
As I was wondering how I should react, I saw her ears turn red.
I kept quiet and followed her lead.
We walked around and saw monsters like goblins, orcs, slimes, and animals like lions and giraffes.
Since I had been to the zoo only a handful of times, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.
“Let’s go see the crocodiles, crocodiles!”
Jin Ye-Seul, who was somehow wearing an animal headband, said with a smile.
And although it would be natural if you think about it, Jin Ye-Seul was also as beautiful as Han Soo-Young, so she was attracting the attention of the people around her.
Still, Jin Ye-Seul just looked at me while smiling brightly.
Were crocodiles really that big”
We murmured as we looked at the crocodiles lying under the railings.
In fact, the crocodiles we saw were just huge.
They were so huge that they could swallow me whole, but they were just lying on the floor as if dead.
“It looked like they're sunbathing.
Crocodiles love sunbathing."
Jin Ye-Seul said as she looked down at the crocodiles with twinkling eyes.
She looked at me as if to say, do you know
“Ji-Hyuk, do you know why the phrase 'crocodile tears' came out"
“Hmm, I don’t know.”
"Crocodiles shed tears when they eat something.
But it's not because they feel guilty or sad, but because they're stimulated when they eat."
She began to explain like that in a pleasant voice.
"Oh, really I really didn’t know.”
“That’s why I like crocodiles.”
Jin Ye-Seul muttered, still smiling.
"It's like I'm seeing my pretentious family."
She said that and looked at me in surprise.
Then she asked me with a slightly red face.
"Oh, you heard me..."
As I nodded, she wiggled her hands as if embarrassed.
“Sor, sorry… .
I said it out loud without realizing it.
I'm really sorry for making you feel uncomfortable."
She said it like that and quickly grabbed my hand.
Then she said, dragging me along as if she would not tolerate any defiance.
“Let's go see the penguins now, penguins! I've seen enough crocodiles for one day."
“Really Because penguins are cuter than crocodiles”
It seemed to be an awkward atmosphere, so I responded like that and took the lead.
The breeding ground with penguins was not too far away, but unlike the crocodiles, there were quite a few people there.
“Penguins are very popular, aren't they"
People like cute things.”
When I answered that, Jin Ye-Seul looked at me.
“Then Ji-Hyuk, do you like me too”
“Well, rather than cute, you're… .”
The hand that was holding me tightened.
Jin Ye-Seul was looking at me with a smile.
But her eyes weren't smiling at all, so I nodded quickly.
rather than cute, you're pretty.”
"Oh, so that's what it is..."
Jin Ye-Seul, who quickly relaxed her hand, let out a small laugh.
As I secretly breathed a sigh of relief, a zookeeper was walking towards the breeding ground with a bucket full of fish.
“Hello, I'm going to start feeding the penguins now!"
She said, waving her hand with a characteristic high-pitched voice.
Couples, students, and children in the vicinity responded to her words with excitement and applause.
The zookeeper skillfully received the response and whistled at the penguins.
Then the penguins from all over the breeding ground began to waddle closer, and exclamations burst out here and there.
Jin Ye-Seul also looked at them with twinkling eyes, so I sneaked forward with her.
“It’s my first time seeing penguins eat… .”
Jin Ye-Seul muttered in a small voice as if she was impressed.
The sight of penguins catching flying fish in the air with their beaks and chewing on them was somehow really addictive.
As I stared at them, I spoke as if responding.
“They eat really well, don't they"
We watched the penguin eating fish in such a daze.
As we did so, we noticed that the people around us were noisy, so we looked away together to see what was going on and saw two penguins sticking together.
"Ah, there they go again… .”
The zookeeper had a look of familiarity on her face.
The two penguins sticking to each other as if they were… .being mischievous with each other, as if they were showing off their affection.
I could hear the high-pitched screams of the couples and students in the vicinity.
“They're really close.”
Jin Ye-Seul said so and glanced at me.
“Even penguins express their affection like that.”
“Even between animals, if you show affection like that, they will accept it.”
“Ah, the one on the left is only receiving the affection from the right… .
Jin Ye-Seul said that and glanced at me openly.
Meanwhile, the zookeeper who was looking at us, smiled bitterly and came up to us and said in a low voice.
“Um, actually… .
They are both males.”
Jin Ye-Seul turned her head and looked at her as if she had misheard.
However, the zookeeper was still smiling as if troubled.
.are often homosexual.
Just like those.”
"Oh tha… .
Yes, I, I see.”
Jin Ye-Seul said that and nodded awkwardly.
Then she pulled me as if she wanted to get out of here quickly, and I suddenly saw that her face was redder than ever.
“I'm, I’m hungry.
Let's go eat something, Ji-Hyuk...
Jin Ye-Seul, who said that, didn't pull me, but began to drag me away, almost as if she were kidnapping me.
I was dragged helplessly by her, but I couldn't say anything to her constantly muttering.
“… will die.
If you do, all three of us will die."
With a red-hot face, she constantly muttered in a voice of disbelief.
“If you're taken away like that, I'll really die with a knife in my mouth… .”
* * *
Jin Ye-Seul liked animals.
It wasn't a lie when she told Yoo Ji-Hyuk that she likes crocodiles and penguins.
In a way, it wasn't strange that she, who couldn't be close to her family and other people around her, reflexively came to care for animals.
She liked animals.
Give them your trust, and they will give you theirs.
And it was especially the case in that they clearly revealed their thoughts and intentions.
But there was an animal that she hated, too.
Jin Ye-Seul sincerely hated the animal called sheep.
The fact that their wildness has been castrated and they have been domesticated, and that they cannot support themselves without humans.
The fact that they are too scared to run away and panic when their natural enemies appear.
The fact that they are so stubborn that they only follow the path they have always taken.
The fact that they don't notice when a threat is approaching and only realize it just before they die.
The fact that even if you put your hand inside their body and grab their aorta, they die without ever being able to resist.
All of these things were enough to make Jin Ye-Seul hate the animal sheep.
And Yoo Ji-Hyuk resembles a sheep.
It wasn't simply because his zodiac sign was Aries.
Jin Ye-Seul thought that he really, really resembles a sheep.
Although he looks more like a cat than a sheep.
Jin Ye-Seul giggled as she took the cotton candy she had paid for.
The fact that he is wary of his surroundings, but also infinitely gentle to the people around him.
The fact that he doesn't feel how dangerous it was to have someone like her right next to him.
The fact that he doesn't even notice the danger when there is another one beside him besides her.
The fact that even though he knows everything he will eventually be embracing them.
He resembles a sheep.
Jin Ye-Seul hated sheep.
However, Yoo Ji-Hyuk resembles a sheep.
Jin Ye-seul likes sheep now.
She then headed to the table where Yoo Ji-Hyuk was waiting, having bought some simple food, buoyed by the idea of sharing cotton candy.
Han Soo-Young wasn't here, so this was the only time she could monopolize him in peace.
So, Jin Ye-Seul hummed without realizing it, and walked with cotton candy in one hand.
And then, right in front of her.
Sitting right next to Yoo Ji-Hyuk.
She saw an unfamiliar man talking to him in a friendly manner.
At the moment, a single emotion was engraved in Jin Ye-Seul's eyes as the scene of the penguins she saw earlier instantly came to mind.
* * *
“Hi, can I sit down”
The man said so and sat right next to me without permission.
He murmured 'It's hot, it's hot,' and flapped his collar.
Every time he did this, his excessively red dyed hair stood out in particular.
He was an ordinary-looking man.
He was probably in his early thirties at most.
He had such a neat impression and a likable face, so he might be even younger.
“Hm, what was it Yoo Ji-Hyuk, right”
And I felt an unknown familiarity from his appearance.
He chuckled and held out his hand to me.
"Nice to meet you.
Oh, my name is Lee Jae-Joon.”
Red hair dyed so excessively that even middle school students wouldn't do it.
A plain and neat impression.
Somewhat pious voice.
I knew who he was.
“Although I am lacking in body, I am serving as the leader of the Thorns Cross Society.”
A member of the World Tree clan and the leader of the Thorns Cross Society.
He is also Lee Ye-Eun's uncle and a man who accepted the branch of the World Tree.
And a crazy human who has accepted the factors of a Seven Evil in his body.
[You have come into contact with a being who has received the fragments of another Seven Evil!]
[You can feel the energy of the Seven Evil 'Svengali' from inside him, just like you… .]
[Margo's energy that remained deep within your body and part of your soul is stimulated and begins to move!]
[Margo's authority begins to take hold within you!]
Numerous notification windows began to appear in front of my eyes.
But I had no choice but to focus on the man in front of me rather than them.
“I hope we get along with each other well as people in the same situation.”
He held out his hand to me and gave me a soft and likable smile.