I stared at the outstretched hand and glanced at him.
Then Lee Jae-Joon pulled back his outstretched hand as if embarrassed and muttered.
“Um, I was a bit hasty, wasn't I”
“More than that, why are you here… .
Did you follow me or something”
No way! There's no reason for me to commit such a crime as following a minor.”
Lee Jae-Joon shook his hands widely and said jokingly, Don't say such scary things.
Then he replied, smiling as affectionately as he had when I first saw him.
“Honestly, I don't know if you'll believe me, but I just found you somehow.
So I followed you.”
“Somehow You want me to believe that"
“Yeah, that's what I'm… .”
He suddenly stuck his right arm out at me.
Wearing thick long sleeves, he surreptitiously tugged at the sleeve, and something familiar appeared from his wrist.
It was a branch of the World Tree.
“I'm not bragging, but I have one, too.
It's a pretty old relationship."
He said so and covered his sleeves.
I could feel the branch of the World Tree shaking violently but differently than usual.
It was so violent that I had to put a lot of effort to prevent him from coming out right now.
“Ohh, he’s quite a belligerent one.
My one is dull and boring no matter what I do."
Lee Jae-Joon looked at me with a small smile as if he knew it.
“The branches of the World Tree are drawn to each other as if they were resonating.
It's the same for people whose branches have taken root in their bodies."
He shrugged his shoulders.
“Now that we've met and recognized its existence, no matter where I go, you'll know roughly where I am.
Oh, of course, the same would be true in the opposite case."
“… That’s really unpleasant to hear.”
He gave me a slightly perplexed look at my words.
I guess that's acceptable.
I and my brother are the only people who have a branch of the World Tree, so I never really thought about it that way."
“Lee Je-Seok, who's currently the head of the World Tree clan, is my older brother."
He calmly spat out the facts that were confidential, muttering to me as if he were complaining.
My older brother is Je-Seok, but I use the name Jae-Joon, because I thought it would have been better to choose and use one middle-name, whether it was Je or Jae.
“Anyway, as soon as we became adults, my brother and I embraced the branches of the World Tree, and thanks to that, we were appreciated for leading another heyday.
And because we've been together for a long time, we were able to exchange each other's positions and feelings.”
He mumbled, still smiling.
“So I thought that if I just racked my brother's brain a bit, no one would be able to track me down, but here I am, meeting someone I never thought I would."
Unlike Henir's shadow, which was waiting silently, the branch of the World Tree shook again at those words.
I made him still again and looked at him.
It was because if he's the person I knew, he would never touch me at this point.
Now was the time to listen and gather as much information as possible.
“So, you came in person to rack my head too”
“Oh, did it sound like that I didn't mean it like that.”
He shook his hand once.
“I’m just curious.
How in the world did someone other than us brothers come out with the branch of the World Tree who isn't also Ye-Eun….
I'm sorry, but is it possible that you're my brother's hidden child"
Wouldn't it be quicker to ask your brother"
Well, that wasn't the point."
Then he said, looking at me as if this was the main point.
“Would you like to hold hands with me”
I looked at him without a word.
It was ridiculous.
"You know I killed a couple of those apostles or something, right"
Of course, I know.
Things like that don't matter."
He waved his hand as if to say don't worry about it.
“I'll just have to choose them again anyway.
In the first place, I had told them not to touch academy students like you, awakened people, heroes, and hunters, but...
Kids these days have a habit of unnecessarily distorting and exaggerating others' intentions.
To be honest, I was thinking about cutting them out."
As he mumbled this, he began to look up at me softly.
It was a burdensome gaze.
“Actually, I only have the thought that it would be more convenient if we're on the same side.
But, as well as having the branch of the World Tree...
You have the same Seven Evil's factor.”
He smiled grinningly.
“I can't believe you have two of them! No, I have to believe it.
There's a living witness right in front of me! One energy...
the one you share with me is weaker than mine, but the other is more powerful than the one I have...… .
I can't believe it! How can a single human with the two factors of the Seven Evils, and even with such powerful energy be alive and well...
He moved up and down as if he were genuinely excited.
“Do you know how many years, and how many people I have wasted for that The orchard, well….
It happened in the past when I had gone astray, but...
Anyway, I've never had any meaningful results.
But like this...
As he said this, he suddenly began to unbutton his long-sleeved clothes one by one.
Each time he unbuttoned, a disgusting smell wafted out, along with the smell of perfume so strong it hurt my nose.
“In order to build trust with another person, you have to talk and strengthen your relationship.
It's my personal theory, but I think it's good to tell each other's secrets.
Because by telling your big secret, you can give the other person a strange sense of responsibility and homogeneity, which can also give a sense of guilt and debt depending on the person."
After saying that, he slightly lifted up his clothes as if he wanted me to see it.
It smelled like rotting flesh and a strong perfume.
“What kind of side effects do you have Look, compared to you, I'm nothing but a drop in the bucket...
Part of his body was rotting.
Even though the branch of the World Tree in my body shook, the reason his branch of the World Tree remained silent was not significant.
It was because his World Tree had a hard time just constantly repairing and maintaining his body.
Even though I knew about it, when I saw it in person, it was even worse than I had imagined.
As I stared at his abdomen, lost what to say, he smiled and said.
“It's incredible, right The pain is painful, but I'm suffering from hallucinations and auditory hallucinations that I can't even sleep at night.
It's a good thing I'm a member of the World Tree clan because if I were a normal human, I'd be long dead from taking sleeping pills that could literally kill a person to barely fall asleep.”
He blinked as if tired.
“Is it the punishment for committing a taboo It's terrible.
But it was necessary.”
He was right.
As he said, in the Clouds on the Horizon, if you commit a taboo act, your karma value will accumulate.
And the fastest way to accumulate that karma value was to be associated with the Seven Evils.
Such as, accepting their factors or ingesting parts of their bodies.
In the original story, the accumulation of karma values starts with trivial things such as a permanent drop in status or a random status abnormality or debuff when entering a battle.
And then, gradually being ostracized by the people around you, or having a monster named Evil Spirit twist things around at all times and places, and eventually taking damage just by sitting still.
… If it had reached that level, it meant that it had come to an irreversible degree.
I looked at him, who was staring at me with twinkling eyes.
“If you're done talking, can you get lost now Stop smelling so rotten.
It makes me want to vomit."
“Hmmm… That's too bad.
I guess it wasn't possible for us to get close from our first meeting, after all."
He got up from his seat saying so.
Then he said to me in a voice that still had a hint of regret in it.
“If you have any thoughts, please come to me anytime.
I'm really and sincerely willing to welcome you."
“You haven’t gone yet”
“Um, that’s… .
Actually, there was another reason I came here.
Actually, there's going to be a terrorist attack here in a little bit...
As he was speaking, I heard an explosion in the distance.
He glanced back, not surprised.
He seemed unconcerned, despite the fact that a pandemonic situation had unfolded in an instant.
“Whoops, I'm late.
I'm always too talkative."
He shrugged his shoulders.
“Anyway, I'll see you soon.
By nature, those who possess the branch of the World Tree are drawn to each other even if they don't want to...
I had just moved my mana to attack him at any time, just in case the situation arose.
Right in front of me, he made a strange noise and flew off into the distance.
‘Eug ah ah… .'
As he flew away with that faint sound, he fell straight into the breeding ground full of polar bears.
And Jin Ye-Seul, the one who kicked him in the neck with all her might and sent him flying, was looking at me with the most urgent face I've ever seen.
“Ji-Hyuk, are you okay!”
With a click, the blood-stained blade was sucked into her shoe.
Jin Ye-Seul began to look around, touching my face with trembling hands.
“He didn't do something strange to you earlier, right Right Let me see!"
Jin Ye-Seul, who was looking around in an urgent manner, suddenly paused and looked at me.
Then she sniffed me, frowned excessively, and muttered in a voice that sounded like it was coming from inside her heart.
“I'm going to tear him apart to death… !”
Jin Ye-Seul, who muttered like that in a chewing manner, suddenly pulled something from her inner pocket.
Even before I realized that it was perfume, she started spraying it on me heavily.
“Oh, hey, what are… !”
She sprayed me with perfume, almost to the point of pouring it on me rather than spraying.
When I waved my hand reflexively at the smell that hit my nose, she desperately shouted.
“Stay still! The disgusting smell is still there...
Jin Ye-Seul, who almost poured perfume on me, threw away the perfume bottle and immediately ran toward the breeding ground where he had fallen.
I also moved with her.
Smoke was still rising from the building that looked like a research facility in the distance.
"This is… .”
The inside of the breeding ground was a mess of blood and flesh.
And in it, Lee Jae-Joon was nowhere, and the remaining polar bears, wounded and bloodied all over, were fighting like crazy, biting each other and smashing each other with their front paws.
Jin Ye-Seul muttered quietly, as if her mood was spoiled.
Then, as soon as she found a man wearing a robe raising his weapon in the crowd of fleeing people, she ran as if it had just worked out.
With a sound like cracking rocks, the man who had been kicked by Jin Ye-Seul fell to the floor.
Then, those who appeared to be members of the Thorns Cross Society, covered in robes, came pouring in from everywhere, as if they were targeting Jin Ye-Seul.
It was when I pulled out the only remaining Yado's dagger to join her.
“Don’t worry, Ji-Hyuk.”
Jin Ye-Seul said that and stepped forward as if blocking me.
"I'm going to destroy everything who tries to do anything to you."
After saying that, Jin Ye-Seul threw herself at them without hesitation.
* * *
“Driver, please step on it faster! Hurry up!”
Han Soo-Young grilled the taxi driver with an urgent voice.
Then Choi Hyun-Woo, who was sitting next to her, put his hand on her shoulder as if to say, calm down a little.
“Soo-Young, calm down.
You're too agitated.”
“Do you think I can be calm now!”
She yelled at Choi Hyun-Woo nervously.
Then she immediately shook her head and apologized to him.
“I'm, I’m sorry.
I didn't mean to be angry...
He smiled softly as if to tell her not to worry.
Then he began to gently pat her on the shoulder, as if to tell her not to worry.
“Is Ji-Hyuk a normal kid And Ye-Seul is also there with him.
You don't have to worry too much."
Hyun-Woo, you don't know...
When Han Soo-Young heard about the appearance of the Thorns Cross Society, which had been silent for a while, at the zoo they were meeting, she felt a pang of dismay.
It's Thorns Cross Society again.
Han Soo-Young could feel the deep murderous intention of those who appeared as if they were waiting.
How much more do you want to torment him to feel better
She felt like her heart was breaking when she thought about how much pain he was in and the fact that he was keeping a secret that he couldn't tell anyone.
“Ji-Hyuk looks so good on the outside, but he is delicate on the inside… . how much pain he must be in right now….”
Han Soo-Young muttered in a low voice as if her heart was aching.
Han Soo-Young continued to mutter as if she was sorry, whether or now she knew that Choi Hyun-Woo was making a slightly incomprehensible expression next to her.
“Every time I see him, I feel like I’m looking at a little puppy, so I’m always anxious… .
He's so kind and compassionate that I'm worried about him...
"Oh, I see… .”
Choi Hyun-Woo just nodded quietly.
I think he's more than a puppy...
Yeah, he's more like a snake.
Of course, this time too, he didn't say it out loud, he just thought so.
Soon they arrived right in front of the zoo.
Han Soo-Young immediately kicked the door and left, while Choi Hyun-Woo apologized to the driver, paid the fare, and followed her.
And they could find Yoo Ji-Hyuk talking to the police outside the zoo.
Han Soo-Young rushed over, calling his name, and perhaps hearing that he looked at Han Soo-Young and Choi Hyun-Woo with a surprised expression.
“Ji-Hyuk, are you okay…!”
Han Soo-Young, who stuck to Yoo Ji-Hyuk without anyone stopping her, tilted her head while speaking in an urgent voice.
A few moments later.
Smelling the perfume on his body, she silently pulled out her handkerchief from her inner pocket.
* * *
“What are you all doing here instead of practicing"
“Oh, vice president.”
After practicing, Lee Ye-Eun asked the members who were sitting in a circle and looking at something.
Then one of the club members answered, waving the cell phone.
“It's the Cross of Thorns Society, This time, they attacked a monster research facility.”
“What do you think they're really up to"
Lee Ye-Eun's eyes became cold when she heard the name.
Those insects again...
Thinking so, she quietly took out her cell phone.
It was at the moment when she was about to call someone to track them down and clean up.
“Uh, what Isn't that a member of our club"
"Who Oh, it's true! That guy, him.
I think that's Yoo Ji-Hyuk."
Surprised by the name she shouldn't have heard, Lee Ye-Eun ran to them.
And when she saw Yoo Ji-Hyuk on the screen of the cell phone she had snatched, she felt as if her breath was being choked.
“Um, vice president… ”
"Are you okay"
She nodded silently at the club member's question.
Then she went outside with staggering steps and immediately called her henchman.
“… The attack that took place this time.
Don't hand over all of the Cross Society b*stards you'll catch there to the Association, and no matter what it takes, make sure we secure them."
― What What do you suddenly...
“Did you even eat your ears Catch them all and secure them.”
Lee Ye-Eun muttered, looking down at the floor with unfocused eyes.
“I'll interrogate them directly.”