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    As soon as Ryubeom returned to his attic room, he began packing his belongings.

    He had been told not to think of returning to the family until he had resolved the issue, so he would likely be away for a considerable time. He could come back to report progress, but he wouldn’t be able to stay.

    Preparing for a period of at least three months, Ryubeom gathered clothes and various daily necessities. He collected the money he had saved bit by bit and estimated his living expenses outside. Though Ryubeom knew little about living independently, he figured this amount would suffice for temporary accommodation and put the money into his bag.

    As he passed through the mansion’s garden with all his belongings, Cheon Yeongdo and Cheon Joomyeong burst into laughter.

    “So, you’re finally being kicked out of the family.”

    “Is there any need to look so solemn when you’re going off to die?”

    Their faces were full of delight, knowing the verdict given to Cheon Ryubeom. They had always hoped for the disgrace of the Tiger Family to disappear, so they were thrilled with the current situation.

    Not wanting to waste his energy, Ryubeom tried to walk past them, but they naturally blocked his path, making him sigh inwardly.

    “Please step aside. I need to get there quickly and find a solution.”

    “A solution? Do you think you can even investigate that? If it were easy to find a solution, it would have been resolved long ago.”

    “What’s with that expression? Don’t tell me… you don’t know what Sagwido is?”

    Cheon Joomyeong tilted her head, staring intently at Ryubeom. Her gaze suggested she found his straightforward plan to go there rather puzzling.

    Ryubeom tried to maintain his composure, but she laughed loudly at his fleetingly shaken eyes.

    “Aha! No wonder you were so confident! The saying ‘ignorance is bliss’ fits you perfectly!”

    In fact, this was the first time Ryubeom had heard the term ‘Sagwido.’ He only knew that problems caused by yokai or evil spirits were occurring across the country, and from the map he received from Cheon Hoyon, he understood that he had to resolve issues in four marked locations.

    However, from Cheon Joomyeong’s laughter, it didn’t seem like the term ‘Sagwido’ was used simply because of problems in four regions.

    “Do you know why it’s called Sagwido? The path of demons has opened up because of rampant yokai and evil spirits. It’s not just an ordinary dangerous path; it’s so perilous that it uses the character for ‘death’ (死).”

    “In other words, it wouldn’t be surprising if someone like you died while trying to close Sagwido. In fact, it seems like the elders wish for that. They probably think it’s better for you to die out there than to take an honorable test.”

    Cheon Yeongdo clapped his hands as if he had an epiphany. The mockery in his exaggerated reaction was clear, but Ryubeom calmly asked,

    “Is it such a severe and significant problem that someone like me would die instantly?”

    “Of course!”

    “But if that were the case, wouldn’t our family have taken care of it already?”

    “…What?”

    “Although I lack in many ways, my physical abilities are still better than those of ordinary humans. If it’s dangerous enough for me to die easily, wouldn’t humans suffer even greater damage? In that case, it would have been dealt with strictly beforehand… Since I haven’t heard of our family intervening, I don’t think it’s an extremely severe problem. I’ve learned that tigers bear great responsibilities as representatives of this land.”

    Cheon Yeongdo and Cheon Joomyeong were taken aback by Ryubeom’s calm response and his words filled with pride for the Tiger Family. They exchanged uneasy glances, not expecting Ryubeom to speak this way. They themselves took great pride in being tigers, which was why they had always been dissatisfied with the family’s disgrace, Ryubeom.

    “W-well, of course! If it were really severe, our family would have intervened immediately! The elders would have resolved it quickly!”

    “Exactly! Besides, I heard those areas are mostly under control now, so if you go there, you’ll surely die!”

    Ryubeom slightly bowed his head at their loud voices, which seemed to have grown louder out of embarrassment for their brief hesitation.

    “Yes, thank you for your concern.”

    “…What? Con-concern?”

    “Who would ever be concerned about someone like you!”

    “You kept warning me about dying. I’ll try not to die. Then, I’ll be off now.”

    This time, Ryubeom walked away, leaving the two stunned behind him.

    While he was constantly taking the regular family exams and trying to blend in with his clan, he had pandered to their whims. But now, he had a different opportunity. He no longer had to worry about his cousins or about being ostracized by his family. He had a chance to enter the Daeho-gwan.

    Feeling relieved, Ryubeom boldly left the mansion.

    However, as he passed the guards at the gate and descended the hill, Ryubeom’s steps gradually slowed. His once proud shoulders drooped slightly, and the grip on the map in his hand weakened.

    “Sigh…”

    The only thing Ryubeom received when leaving the mansion was the map. It roughly indicated the regions where Sagwido had opened, but he received no tools or support to close it. He hadn’t even had the chance to look at any of the family’s treasures like sacred weapons or talismans.

    While he hadn’t expected any precious treasures, he had hoped for at least minimal support. Now, he had to cover the cost of his lodgings himself. He started to question whether this was really the right choice and looked back at the mansion.

    He had only walked about ten minutes from the mansion’s main gate, but it already felt like it was far away. It felt like he had finally walked out of the mansion that he had been desperately trying to hold on to.

    “…But this is the only way.”

    Ryubeom barely managed to suppress his feelings and shook his head. He had learned that when faced with a task, he shouldn’t dwell on it for too long. Anxiety grows faster than anything else, so it’s best not to feed it at all.

    He hadn’t expected the last chance given to him to be easy. Moreover, if he succeeded in this task, he would fulfill his wish and gain entry to the Daeho-gwan. It would have been strange if such a reward came without a price.

    Even if this path led to death, as the elders and his cousins suggested, Ryubeom had no other choice. And, in fact, he wanted to believe that it wasn’t as severe a problem, trusting in the family, as he had told Cheon Yeongdo and Cheon Joomyeong.

    ‘It’s better to start with the nearest region…’

    As he unfolded the map again to make his plan, a buzzing vibration came from his pocket. It was a call from an unregistered number. The number seemed somewhat familiar, but he was focused on the map, so Ryubeom absentmindedly answered the call.

    “Who is this?”

    – …….

    “If you called the wrong number, hang up….”

    – Have you forgotten me, benefactor?

    The somewhat abrupt statement made Ryubeom gasp sharply. He was so surprised that a sound escaped his lips. He couldn’t forget this soft, familiar voice.

    Yeowhi.

    Thinking of him brought back memories of their last encounter. Yeowhi had saved him from being chased by a chang-gwi, and they had promised to meet again after parting hurriedly.

    However, the family became chaotic that night, and Ryubeom completely forgot about the promise. He had been too preoccupied with the fear of being expelled from the family to think about anything else. This was no excuse, especially since it revealed that he hadn’t even saved Yeowhi’s number.

    Flooded with guilt, Ryubeom could only move his lips soundlessly. Yeowhi sighed and murmured.

    – I waited day and night, wondering when you would contact me, but you never planned to, did you?

    “No, it’s not that. I was just so busy…”

    – So busy that you forgot my contact information.

    “That’s… I’m sorry….”

    Ryubeom had no excuse. Feeling more helpless at Yeowhi’s disappointed voice, he fell silent. Yeowhi then asked in an even more subdued tone.

    – Are you really sorry?

    “Yes. You helped me, but I didn’t even properly thank you…”

    – In that case, can you spare some time today?

    “…Today?”

    – Yes. The children want to see you, benefactor.

    Ryubeom’s mind flashed with the image of the triplets bouncing around. Although it was brief, during that time he could relax without worrying about others. He even managed to smile a little there.

    Hesitating, Ryubeom alternated his gaze between the map in his hand and the phone, eventually deciding.

    “…Alright.”

    He hadn’t properly thanked Yeowhi for saving him from the chang-gwi last time, and since he didn’t know when he would return after leaving, he felt he should meet one last time.

    Although the family often warned him to avoid getting involved with foxes, he had already left the mansion. It would be quite some time before he returned, so he felt more at ease.

    Oddly enough, just leaving the mansion had lifted a weight off his shoulders. While he was ultimately striving to belong to the family, he felt so relieved just being outside. Maybe he had been more stressed in there than he realized.

    With a noticeably brighter tone, Cheon Ryubeom said he would leave immediately, and Yeowhi, sounding happy, replied that he would be waiting. The image of Yeowhi’s smiling face unexpectedly came to mind, making Ryubeom shake his head and shiver at the unfamiliar feeling.

    That title never felt right, no matter how many times he heard it.

    “I told you not to call me ‘benefactor’…”

    – I’ll keep calling you ‘benefactor’ until you arrive. It seems like the only way to ensure you won’t forget.

    Ryubeom shuddered at the playful tone and abruptly hung up the phone. He faintly heard laughter at the end.

    That guy can be quite mischievous. Ryubeom sighed inwardly and continued on his way.

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