Lee Ye-Eun may not want to admit it herself, but her inherent nature could be called a coward.
No, it might be more appropriate to call it indecisive rather than coward.
She had a habit of just watching the situation or running away without making any decision, hoping to maintain the status quo rather than break the situation if she was in a tight spot beyond her limits.
Even though this habit caused her to experience regret that she would never forget, it did not change her nature.
It was just that its limits had become a little wider.
She had always been like that.
Whenever she was pushed to the limit and in a tight spot, she would always make a crucial mistake because she felt overwhelmed.
The act of postponing a decision, hoping that the situation would not change, hoping that it would stay the same, always made her regret it.
She could endure that her clan's status was collapsing day by day.
She could endure that members of the clan commit hideous crimes and vile acts.
She could endure being betrayed by those she had given her trust to, and she could endure being in a situation where she had to survive on her own in the end.
However, Yoo Ji-Hyuk was clearly something she could not endure.
Every time she learned of his kindness of heart, every time she learned of his talent...
That's why every time she imagined how much he would have grown if he had enjoyed what he rightfully could have enjoyed, it was even more so.
That's why she tried to care for him, even though she knew it was too much, and tried to get closer to him, even though she knew he was feeling burdened.
Because this was the only way she knew.
Paradoxically, each time she got closer to him, her guilt only deepened.
At first, it was just an act of duty.
Now she could see for herself that many emotions were so attached that she could not help it.
She knew it, but she couldn't help it.
The place where she was born was definitely a special class in the world, but it was lonely.
A place where no one could be trusted, where one always acted in a calculated and selfish way, and where one was always on guard.
She had grown up with such an upbringing.
That's why she thought her relationship with Yoo Ji-Hyuk was so new and stimulating.
There was no calculation, no caution, no ulterior motive.
She could see well that the sense of duty she had because she thought he was her younger brother was gradually changing.
But even though she knew, she couldn't help it.
It was for this reason that she had opened her mouth in a moment of panic, when normally she would have just apologized and kept silent.
Even though she knew she shouldn't do this, she couldn't help it.
She couldn't endure that he simply referred to her relationship with him as senior and junior.
And as soon as Lee Ye-Eun uttered those words, she regretted it.
The situation had already happened.
“Actually, what did you mean by that”
The moment Yoo Ji-Hyuk looked at her questioningly, she became speechless.
What would happen if she told the truth from her own mouth now
She knew it was for the best, and what she should do.
No matter the consequences, it was something she would have to endure.
If those eyes, those two eyes looking at her.
If they were to be filled with contempt, disgust, and hatred towards her...
She smiled with a trembling mouth.
It was a smile just before her bad habits appeared.
“Ac, actually… .”
She chose to run this time too.
Just like when she was young, when she found out that her uncle was a traitor.
“I had a younger brother.”
Even though she told a lie that she shouldn't have, she told that it was a brother.
She didn't know if this was a sense of guilt for the fact that she lied to him, or if it was actually from the heart of wanting him to notice.
“But when I was young… .”
While making up words, Lee Ye-Eun choked up and swallowed her breath because she felt like she was going to cry.
It was because of the question of why this situation came to be, her hatred for herself, and her guilt towards Yoo Ji-Hyuk.
She didn't realize that it made her look even more miserable and pitiable.
Thanks to this, Yoo Ji-Hyuk could not hide his confusion, let alone have doubts about the story beyond imagination.
I thought Lee Ye-Eun was an only child.
It was when he was thinking that inwardly.
“I'm, I’m sorry.
I know this is just my self-satisfaction, but...
that, the human heart...
somehow it doesn't work the way you want it to...
Eventually, the tears from her eyes began to run down her cheeks.
Please don't cry...
Yoo Ji-Hyuk was bewildered, but took out a handkerchief from his inner pocket.
She didn't know, but she had never shown any crying or weakness in the original story he knew.
That's why her tears had a heavier meaning than expected.
“Ju, junior, when I see you… my brother...
In the end, Lee Ye-Eun couldn't stand it and began to sob, covering her face with her hands.
What the hell did you do well, crying as if you were a victim.
Her hatred of herself began to dig sharply into her heart.
“I’m sorry, I’m really sorry… .”
Yoo Ji-Hyuk first carefully put his hand on her shoulder.
It was because she, who had always been confident, looked so weak now.
At his hand, Lee Ye-Eun couldn't help but lean her head against his chest as if hugging him.
Yoo Ji-Hyuk hesitated a little, but kept patting her shoulder as if to comfort her.
In her appearance, Yoo Ji-Hyuk was projecting himself without realizing it.
He doesn't know the details, but he could tell she was suffering because of her brother.
It had happened to him in the past, too.
So he could understand and sympathize with her.
“I, I want to ask you a really weird favor, but could you listen to me just once… ”
To Lee Ye-Eun's trembling voice, he replied yes.
She said carefully, biting her lips with her teeth.
“Only once will be okay, so can you… call me sister”
As Yoo Ji-Hyuk hesitated, Lee Ye-Eun looked up at him as if pleading.
Originally, their eye levels were similar, but it was possible because Lee Ye-Eun was in a half-collapsed position.
“Please, let this be the end to this lingering feeling.
Then… never again… .”
Yes, let's draw the line with this.
Any more sloppy behavior will only be poison to this child and to me.
Lee Ye-Eun thought so.
She vowed so.
Lee Ye-Eun muttered blankly.
Just one more time.
“Sister, stop crying now.”
Lee Ye-Eun nodded blankly.
“I should… .
Sister is sorry...
. Now, as my brother said, I'll stop...
"Thank you… .
Thank you, junior.”
At her words, Yoo Ji-Hyuk looked at her as if worried.
Lee Ye-Eun carefully fell out of his arms.
“Thanks to you, I was able to break the lingering feeling.”
She didn't know it, but she had a small smile on her face now.
It was the kind of smile she gave when her bad habits appeared, when she lied.
“See you again tomorrow then.”
And the next day.
Lee Ye-Eun left early for the first time.
The reason was that she was not feeling well.
* * *
The festival hosted by the World Tree clan was enormous in terms of its scale.
Perhaps that's why, when I told the academy that I would be participating in the archery tournament hosted by them, they gave me a document that allowed me to attend without saying much.
It was a moment that gave me an idea of the extent of their status.
A whole day was invested in the preliminary matches alone.
I had to do the preliminary matches in the late afternoon, so I nailed Han Soo-Young, Choi Hyun-Woo, and Jin Ye-Seul, telling them to attend all the classes before coming.
“… It really is all gone.”
While I was walking around the area with nothing to do, I suddenly remembered something from the past and went to the store where I bought the ordinary tree branch.
The place where the store used to be was empty, but it wasn't the only place.
The streets where shops were set up in a really disorderly manner had been cleaned up and made more organized and presentable.
Perhaps all of this was through Lee Ye-Eun's influence.
Since that day, Lee Ye-Eun had clearly begun to avoid me.
Whenever I ran into her, she would immediately leave with some strange excuse, and the other day, she quickly ran away with a voice saying that she forgot to hang the laundry on a rainy day.
Kang Yeon-Kyung asked me what happened, but there was no way I could say such a thing to others.
As I chose to remain silent, she stared at me, said, you mustn't make Ye-Eun cry, and followed her.
No matter what it was, Kang Yeon-Kyung was the one who Lee Ye-Eun relied on unknowingly, so I just thought it would be okay and passed it over.
Because it wasn't a problem that I could step up to.
Even more so since I was the cause of the problem, albeit indirectly.
I let out a breath as I sipped the warm drink I had bought from the store.
The sky was clear and the weather was pleasant, probably because it had rained a few days ago.
I sat on a bench and watched people passing in a daze, but because there was nothing, not many people came here.
It was the perfect environment to immerse in thoughts.
At first, I thought this world was just a world in a game.
But now I know better than anyone that I was wrong.
This place was no different from where I lived, and the people who lived in this world were not so different from me.
Similarly, some of the knowledge and memories I had were correct, but there were also many mistakes.
Didn't I hear a surprising confession just a few days ago that Lee Ye-Eun had a younger brother
My mind became complicated for no reason, so I sighed blankly and sipped the drink.
“The tea is delicious… .”
Did I mention that it is a tea made from the leaves of the World Tree
I somehow felt my mind relaxing from the unknown aroma.
It was when I was just staring at the sky while sipping blankly for a while.
I could see the bag I had brought with me moving as I hear such a sound.
At that moment, I immediately opened the bag, wondering what it was, and I could see something in it that I had never imagined.
“… what Why are you here”
The culprit was none other than Mandragora.
As soon as I opened the bag, he flinched and stopped in a stiff position.
But soon after he confirmed that I was the one who opened the bag, he pretended to wipe off his sweat and began to struggle out of the bag.
dude, there are people here...
Whether I heard me or not, he slipped out of the bag.
Then he stretched, stroked his stomach, and immediately pointed to the paper cup I was holding with his roots.
“You want it”
He immediately nodded.
I gently covered him with my bag and handed him the paper cup.
Then he looked into the paper cup, pretending to smell it, and finally put in a root that he used as an arm, and nodded as if he had now made up his mind.
After a while, as I looked at him in the paper cup as if he were taking a bath, I felt indescribable.
I felt like a fool, who had been immersed in various thoughts a while ago.
He was drooping as if he was in a good mood.
It was like looking at a dried bellflower.
“But why the hell did you secretly follow me”
“A guy who has never normally done anything like that… .”
The guy who had been tilting his head as if to say, what do you mean, was suddenly startled and rushed out of the paper cup.
Then he moved quickly and ran into my clothes, but the problem was that his body was soaking wet.
I didn't care about my clothes getting wet, I quietly lifted up my collar so that he could hide quickly.
It was because although he was sometimes annoying, he wasn't the one who played a joke like this.
And most of all, I started to feel it, too.
It was the energy I encountered before and could never shake off, as he said.
“Oh, I knew you were here.”
Soon someone appeared in front of me, chewing on a plum.
The man with the bandage around his neck was none other than Lee Jae-Joon.
“Would you like one It’s delicious.”
As he said that, he opened an envelope containing plums and showed them to me.
I looked at him in silence.
In my clothes, Mandragora started to shake and fall as if he was scared.
“You're really something."
“Hmm, I've failed to buy favor with delicious food, too.”
He muttered regretfully and sat down on the bench next to mine.
Then he muttered, looking around the street as if he missed it.
Demolish them, demolish them, they have been saying that since my brother's days, but I really didn't know she'd totally demolish them like this.
Ye-Eun, if you look at her, her executive ability is really amazing.”
He muttered, licking the nectar of plum flowing through his hands.
“The kid who always ran away has really grown up.”
“What are you doing, coming to me again like this You don't think I might attack you"
Lee Jae-Joon laughed as if it was funny.
Then he looked at me and muttered as if to say, please be patient.
“Even if I look like this, I'm the head of an organization.
Even if I can’t win, I have the confidence to run away.”
“And I didn’t come here because I wanted to fight you, Ji-Hyuk.
I'm just… .”
“You don't mean to tell me that you're going to terrorize this place too, right"
He smiled brightly and looked at me.
“We're on the same wavelength, aren't we How about it, while we're at it, why don't we hold hands...
“I don't think that's going to happen."
He nodded his head as if he understood.
Then he muttered, putting the few remaining plums in his mouth.
“Actually, I came here to warn you to run away.
I really want to join hands with you, and more importantly, I don't want to see people who have nothing to do with this get involved."
He quickly spat out the neatly cleaned plum seeds onto the ground, and said.
“I stand for the Awakened.
I've vowed to create a world for them."
“I don't need the World Tree clan in that world.”
He grinned and looked at me.
With a crunching sound, he bit into the plums, and juice from them burst out and flowed down his chin.
“So, if you don’t want to get caught up and die out of nowhere, run away quickly.”
I looked at him and nodded as if I understood.
Immediately afterward, Henir's shadow that escaped from my feet pierced his whole body.