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    “Suin” referred to entities that possessed characteristics of both animals and humans. These characteristics included animal features like hands, feet, ears, tails, fur, and scales prominently displayed on a human body, though the extent of these features varied among different suin. Some suin could even transform completely into human form to blend into human society.

    When two suin of the same species had children, the offspring were naturally suin. However, the likelihood of a suin being born from a union between a suin and a human was quite low, less than 10%. Among those rare suin born from such unions, it was even rarer for them to possess significant spiritual power.

    In society, “marriage” was a highly important cultural institution. According to the elders, marriage was a legal system that bound families together. Some humans desired to form bonds with suin, and the tiger clan would bestow special blessings upon humans whose unions were deemed beneficial to the clan. Children born from blessed unions between humans and suin had a higher chance of being born as suin.

    However, Ryubeom was an entity born without such blessings. To be precise, he was born from an unauthorized marriage.

    “That position suits you perfectly.”

    “Oh, Hyungnim. Even that position is too much for me.”

    His cousins mocked him as they passed by. Ryubeom bowed his head and remained quietly at attention. The treatment he received within the clan was evident to others, but it was already a familiar situation to him.

    The suin currently on guard duty with him were members of the branch families and vassal families of the tiger clan. Not all suin of the same species belonged to the same family, and strict hierarchies were maintained.

    Ryubeom’s family, bearing the surname “Cheon,” was at the core of the tiger suin clan. Other tigers served the main family like retainers. The head of the family was established in his grandfather’s generation, and his children and grandchildren were currently considered the direct line. The descendants of great aunts or great uncles were considered branch families. There was a difference in spiritual power between the direct and branch lines, with the direct line generally receiving respect from the branches, but Ryubeom was an exception.

    Members of the branch families standing nearby glanced at Ryubeom.

    “Still clinging on there, huh?”

    Even their looks conveyed mockery, but Ryubeom did not react. With no more people entering the gate, he lifted his head and stared blankly ahead.

    Then, at some point, Ryubeom’s eyes gleamed. His amber eyes, which had suddenly become sharp, faintly shimmered with a golden hue as he dashed forward.

    Boom!

    It happened in an instant. Ryubeom, sensing the black energy rushing towards the restaurant, quickly stepped forward and grabbed it. The black energy had no form, but as Ryubeom attempted to seize it, his spiritual power followed his will. When an auspicious light swirled around his hand, the energy froze like an animal caught by the neck.

    Ryubeom didn’t miss that fleeting moment. With the same momentum he had when charging forward, he bent his upper body and slammed the energy into the ground. The impact was fierce enough to shake the earth.

    “…Wow.”

    A human guard, watching from a distance, murmured in awe. Realizing belatedly that attention was now on him, he quickly shut his mouth.

    Although the humans and suin were assigned to different areas, preventing the guard from fully understanding the suin’s situation, he had a vague sense that this tiger and the other tigers didn’t get along well. Admiring this tiger’s skills amidst such tension showed a lack of discretion.

    While the human guard awkwardly cleared his throat, Ryubeom struggled to bind the black energy. It kept resisting, making it difficult to subdue. Ryubeom frowned and covered his mouth with his hand.

    “Bind.”

    As he infused his words with spiritual power, a string of binding spells appeared, circling around his hand. Glowing with a subtle amber light, the spell shot out like a rope the moment Ryubeom extended his hand downward. The black energy, ensnared by the spell, could no longer disperse and was tightly bound.

    On days when tigers and humans met like today, ‘gwi’ occasionally appeared. It was unclear whether they were simply drawn by the strong energy or sent with a specific purpose. They could be entities entangled in the tiger clan’s spiritual energy, or perhaps followers of a famous political figure who visited today. Ryubeom leaned towards the latter. It was hard to imagine anyone bearing a grudge against the tiger, revered as a spiritual being, launching such an attack. Moreover, Ryubeom’s role was merely to provide security, so there was no need for him to know the details.

    After confirming that the gwi was fully restrained, Ryubeom stood up. The spell, shaped like a rope, was firmly bound to his hand as well.

    Just then, the head of the tiger clan and his great-aunt arrived. Though their arrival was somewhat late, no one dared to comment on it.

    Ryubeom bowed his head in greeting. The clan head didn’t even glance at him as he passed by. Ryubeom, accustomed to this, waited for them to pass, but froze as a forest scent approached. It was a quiet and profound scent, like one that might emanate from the depths of a foggy, dense forest.

    His great-aunt stopped in front of him.

    “Straighten your attire.”

    A tap on his shoulder startled Ryubeom, making him look up at her. She had braided her tawny hair up and was gazing at him with golden eyes that glowed serenely. She exuded an aura of elegance, nobility, and intimidation—a tiger in every sense.

    “Don’t show such a disheveled appearance.”

    Cheon Hoyeon, the first child of the clan head, was the person he kept closest to him and had a high standing within the clan. She held a position of power second only to the clan head, someone even the elders did not easily approach.

    Ryubeom hurriedly glanced down at his clothes. His suit had become quite disheveled while capturing the spirit, and the end of his sleeve was even slightly torn.

    If this gets noticed, I’ll be scolded again, Ryubeom thought with dismay as he hid his hands behind his back. He maintained a posture befitting a guard, bowing his head as Hoyeon slowly withdrew her hand from his shoulder.

    Ryubeom braced himself, wondering what she would say next, but her shoes gradually moved out of his sight.

    “…?”

    Ryubeom raised his head, puzzled by the lack of further action. Though he had been cautioned not to show a disheveled appearance, it was a very mild reprimand.

    However, upon reflection, Hoyeon had never paid much attention to him. While the clan elders scolded him and his cousins mocked and ridiculed him, she remained indifferent. Ryubeom had always been somewhat grateful for that indifference.

    Today’s caution was an unusual occurrence. He thought it might be due to the importance of today’s guests, which made her more mindful of appearances. After checking his clothes again, Ryubeom lowered his gaze once more.

    Now it was time to seal the spirit he had captured. Taking advantage of the brief distraction, the spirit had started to struggle again, so Ryubeom firmly pulled on the binding spell in his hand.

    “…Evil energy?”

    Suddenly sensing a cold sensation, Ryubeom paused. The energy emanating from the spirit had changed. Moments ago, it had been just a common spirit, but now its flow had altered. The unfamiliarity of the energy made Ryubeom scrutinize it closely. Could it be an evil spirit?

    At that moment, the head of the security team approached, and Ryubeom spoke up.

    “I think this needs to be analyzed.”

    “I’ll handle it.”

    The team leader abruptly snatched the binding rope from Ryubeom. Momentarily stunned, Ryubeom fell silent as he had intended to request the cooperation of the branch family team leader. He quickly realized the situation.

    The team leader intended to claim the credit.

    The strict hierarchy between the direct and branch families did not apply to Cheon Ryubeom. Perhaps this man was envious of his recent conversation with Cheon Hoyeon.

    The man before him was rumored to be gaining influence within the branch family. Though the branch families had connections with powerful humans, they were not on par with the direct line. Additionally, the branch family members had a strong desire to gain the recognition of the clan head.

    “I caught it, so I should be responsible for sealing it….”

    “Is the young master of the direct line really that distrustful of me?”

    Ryubeom quietly stared at him. He disliked being interrupted and found it extremely rude for the man to suddenly snatch the spell away.

    On the other hand, it was the first time he had been called “young master” by a tiger, and the context made it rather amusing. The contrast with the events of earlier that day dampened Ryubeom’s mood.

    Under Ryubeom’s steady gaze, the man’s expression grew even more hostile.

    “I am the chief of security, so naturally, I should take the lead, shouldn’t I?”

    He tilted his head menacingly, clearly displeased. The man, larger than Ryubeom, stepped forward, casting his shadow over him.

    Ryubeom, maintaining his calm gaze, finally sighed inwardly. Although he didn’t think he would lose in a fight, he didn’t want to cause a commotion. Besides, there were many more branch family members around, and he could feel their supportive gazes towards the man.

    This was a space where Ryubeom had no allies. It would have been the same even if direct family members were present.

    Ryubeom turned his head. There was an important meeting happening inside, and causing a disturbance outside would only get him into trouble. Recently, he had failed the regular test and also failed to hunt the fox, putting his position at risk. He had to be cautious.

    When Ryubeom took a step back, the man’s lips curled into a smirk. Feeling victorious, he adopted an even more arrogant attitude.

    “It seems the young master is quite diligent in his security duties. How about making sure your attire is neat as well? Why don’t you go downstairs and change?”

    “I can’t leave my post.”

    “Oh, so my opinion doesn’t matter to you?”

    “….”

    “I’m saying this for your own good. Maintaining a tidy appearance is part of your security duties. Don’t you agree?”

    The force pushing against Ryubeom’s shoulder with a finger was strong, but he didn’t budge at all. He had been taught that the branch family must use respectful language towards the direct family, and the direct family must not show any weaknesses. However, the current situation was far from that ideal. This disrespect towards Ryubeom had originated from the direct family members who didn’t even consider him as a fellow tiger suin.

    Finally, Ryubeom sighed inwardly and looked down. There were a few emergency suits in the security vehicles parked below.

    “Oh, and while you’re going down, why don’t you pick up some snacks from the convenience store?”

    “….”

    “Why are you looking at me like that? The people inside won’t be coming out for a while, so we might as well lighten the mood among the security team with some snacks.”

    The team leader shrugged, looking around as if to garner agreement, and the other branch family members eagerly nodded, cheering. While they pretended to be excited about the snacks, Ryubeom could clearly sense that their true intent was to mock him.

    Ryubeom took a deep breath. If any issues arose today, he might really get kicked out of the family. The person in the weaker position had to yield.

    “…Alright.”

    Reluctantly agreeing, Ryubeom started to move. The restaurant was situated on a mountainside, far from the bustling city, so it would take quite a while to reach the convenience store. The team leader undoubtedly knew this and had given him this absurd errand on purpose.

    As Ryubeom descended, he could hear the team leader’s mocking laughter behind him.

    “Thinks he’s something just because he’s from the direct line.”

    [1] 사기(邪氣) or Evil Energy can be translated to more accurately aura of wickedness, aura of evil.

    [2] 결박(結縛) or Bind can be translated to more accurately to a fetter which is in Buddhism, a mental fetter, chain or bond shackles a sentient being to saṃsāra, the cycle of lives with dukkha.

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