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    Cheon Ryubeom’s world was very small.

    Although he was curious about why his mother left the Tiger Clan and how his father knew so much about ghosts and sorcery, he didn’t ask. Being together with his parents was enough for him. He thought that, as a child, he didn’t need to know such complicated things yet.

    He believed that someday, he would hear the stories from his parents. So, for now, he focused on the clear fact that they cherished and loved each other. Believing nothing else mattered, Ryubeom was happy every day.

    However, the happiness he thought would last forever was shattered unexpectedly.

    One rainy night, Ryubeom was moving with his parents. He didn’t ask why they had to move in the dark or in such bad weather. Instead, he fell into a deep sleep with his head resting on his mother’s lap.

    Thus, he thought he was having a very long nightmare.

    When he woke up to a chill, he saw something pitch-black covering their car. The car fell off a steep cliff… and the only thing he remembered was the feeling of his mother holding him tightly.

    The car fell to the bottom of the cliff, and though the family survived, they were severely injured. But before they could even recover, black shadows attacked as if they had been waiting. The malevolent energy they exuded was so intense that they were likely evil spirits. His parents quickly hid Ryubeom in a cave.

    Holding his hands tightly, they smiled faintly at their anxious child.

    “Mom won’t let you get taken away.”

    “We promised to protect you.”

    Ryubeom couldn’t hold onto their retreating hands. His memories from that point were fragmented and filled with red. There were distant roars, screams, and the smell of blood.

    Sensing something terrible happening, Ryubeom couldn’t leave the cave and just crouched, crying.

    “Mom, Dad….”

    The child, suffocating from the cold and fear, eventually fainted.


    Cheon Ryubeom woke up in a hospital.

    Two days had passed since the accident. Someone saw the overturned car at the bottom of the cliff and called for help. The rescue team found Ryubeom unconscious in a nearby cave and brought him to the hospital.

    Though Ryubeom’s body had no significant injuries, it was determined he had memory problems. The beast-man doctor who examined him noticed the subtle spiritual energy around him and spoke with pity.

    “It seems his memory was deliberately erased….”

    The items found in the overturned car, such as daily necessities and clothes, suggested that the family was moving. Due to the severity of the accident, it appeared one of Ryubeom’s parents used sorcery to erase his memories deliberately. As a result, Ryubeom couldn’t provide a clear answer about the incident.

    Cheon Ryubeom believed all this was a nightmare. He thought he had fallen into a deep sleep in the car and hoped that, when he woke up from this dream, his father would playfully pinch his nose. His mother would hold his swollen cheeks and ask what kind of dream he had, and he would say it was nothing and snuggle into her embrace.

    At that time, Ryubeom was scheduled to go to an orphanage.

    However, when he was brought to the hospital, his tiger ears and tail were visible. His mother usually helped hide them and assisted with his human transformation, but she couldn’t do that anymore.

    Tiger beast-men were relatively rare. Thus, the doctor contacted the Cheonho Foundation, operated by the Tiger Clan, as a routine report, and before Ryubeom could be sent to the orphanage, Cheonhoyeon and the clan leader visited the hospital.

    “Probably protecting the child….”

    Even as the medical staff reported, Ryubeom sat blankly. Cheonhoyeon approached Ryubeom, examining him up and down without any visible emotion, then nodded to the clan leader.

    “It seems to be her child.”

    “So Eunhwa had a child….”

    The clan leader looked down at Ryubeom without any affectionate feelings toward his grandchild. Instead, he frowned as if it were a bother and clicked his tongue.

    Tsk, she had to have a beast-man child.”

    Even though it was the first time seeing his family, they didn’t even greet him. The clan leader simply informed the medical staff that he would take the child to the clan. Throughout the process, no one spoke to Ryubeom.

    The only reason for taking Cheon Ryubeom was because he was a ‘beast-man.’ A tiger beast-man who couldn’t hide his ears and tail would be noticeable, and sending him to an orphanage would bring shame to the clan. The Tiger Clan was small, and an outcast child would attract curious stares.

    Outwardly, the bonds within the Tiger Clan seemed very tight. They didn’t take Ryubeom because they pitied an orphaned child but because they feared he would tarnish the clan’s reputation.

    Staring blankly at their cold backs, Ryubeom collapsed from a high fever, desperately wishing it was all just a nightmare.

    However, when Ryubeom woke up again, a large tiled mansion was spread out before his eyes. It was even more beautiful than the image his mother had described to him and the one he had seen in his dreams.

    But it was nowhere near as warm as his mother’s tone when she talked about the mansion. Ryubeom, without having time to properly look around, overheard something from some elders passing by and hurriedly went to find the clan leader.

    “Where is my dad? Where is my dad?”

    His father’s body had not been found at the bottom of the cliff. Though there were traces of two people, only his mother’s body had been discovered by the medical team. His father had vanished without a trace, and the Tiger Clan wasn’t searching for him.

    The reason was simple and obvious. Ryubeom’s mother, Cheon Eunhwa, was the youngest daughter of the clan leader and once considered the successor of the clan. Even though she had fled the clan, her sacred energy remained within her body.

    Therefore, it was natural to recover her body and bring it back to the clan. However, Ryubeom’s father was just a human—a human whom the clan leader had never approved of. He had never permitted their relationship or even their meeting. There was no reason for the clan to search for him.

    “They say he might have been taken by evil spirits.”

    “Indeed, that’s why they couldn’t find any trace….”

    The elders’ words Ryubeom overheard as soon as he woke up kept echoing in his ears. Clutching the hem of the clan leader’s robe, he begged for help.

    “When we fell off the cliff, I think some monster was after us.”

    Crying and speaking, his voice was a mess. He recalled something black covering the car and something else swarming them at the bottom of the cliff. His fragmented memory could barely bring up any details, but he tried his best to recount the strange occurrences.

    However, at that moment, Ryubeom was more terrified than he was sorrowful about not recovering his father’s body.

    “If they take you away, you become an evil spirit wandering forever.”

    His father’s story from one day struck his mind. Even amid his high fever, that fear struck him cold. What if, as the elders said, an evil spirit had taken his father, and he too became an evil spirit? If he couldn’t find the way to the other world and wandered forever, then he would become a malicious spirit like Chang-gwi.

    “Please, find my dad….”

    Ryubeom sobbed and clung to the clan leader. He knelt and pleaded, rubbing his forehead on the ground.

    That day, in the summer when he was nine, he knelt on the wet ground soaked from days of rain, lowering himself so much that grass stains soaked into his clothes. The memory of that moment stained his mind like the grass stains on his clothes.

    In front of not just the elders but also his other distant relatives, he didn’t have time to be glad to meet other tiger beast-men besides his mother. Terrified, he begged for help. At that moment, the image of his father’s spirit wandering in the afterlife appeared vividly in his mind.

    “If you prove your abilities as a tiger, then I will find him for you.”

    Thus, he felt such relief when the clan leader reluctantly granted him a chance. In a place where no one helped him up, he repeatedly shouted his thanks.

    That day was the first day Cheon Ryubeom set foot in the Tiger Clan.

    It was very different from the dream he had always envisioned.

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