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    The head of the security team, trembling as he spoke, delivered his report, and Ryubeom’s face hardened. The man kept his gaze fixed on the family head, explaining the chaos that ensued due to Ryubeom’s sudden absence and the efforts made to cover it.

    The elders turned to Ryubeom with fierce expressions. Startled, Ryubeom raised his hands to explain.

    “It’s not true. The team leader down there—”

    “You crazy bastard!”

    Thud! With a fierce shout, Ryubeom’s head snapped to the side. Cheon Yeongdo had approached swiftly and struck Ryubeom in the face with his fist. Then, he snatched the bag from Ryubeom’s hand and threw it to the ground. The snacks from the convenience store spilled out.

    “Not only did you leave your post, but you bought this junk? Did you have a blast while we weren’t around, huh? Did you think it was your world with only the collateral family around, and you could do whatever you wanted?”

    Yeongdo’s thundering voice echoed in Ryubeom’s ears. Ryubeom turned to explain, only to see Yeongdo’s disheveled appearance. It seemed the direct descendants had personally fought off the evil spirits. Both the direct family members and the elders looked worse for wear.

    The scene looked as if a storm had swept through, leaving Ryubeom feeling cold inside. Only the family head and his eldest aunt appeared unscathed. Just how strong had the ambush been? What kind of spirits could reduce tigers to this state?

    “This brat even changed his clothes?”

    Yeongdo grabbed Ryubeom by the collar, lifting him slightly to face the family head. Cold eyes were fixed on him.

    “It’s a misunderstanding. The team leader, no, a collateral member told me to change because my clothes were wrinkled and to go buy some food—”

    “Does a mere collateral member rank above you?”

    “But he was today’s head of security, so I had to follow his orders—”

    “What kind of order is that, you idiot! How pathetic must you have looked for him to pull such a stunt! Even if you disgrace the main family, to do it in such a way…!”

    “Yeongdo. That’s enough.”

    The family head’s quiet voice cut through the chaos. It was as if cold water had been poured over the scene, bringing an instant silence. The elders, who seemed ready to criticize Ryubeom, fell silent, and the kneeling guards now bowed their heads to the ground. The mountain lord’s authority seemed to weigh down the air.

    The family head’s icy white eyes turned to the head of security.

    “So, this boy said such things to you…”

    “F-family head! I just—”

    “I did not ask you to speak.”


    The family head closed his eyes slowly. His sigh spread through the space like a chilling mist from the mountains.



    “I cherished Eunhwa.”

    Ryubeom’s heart thudded painfully. Eunhwa. Cheon Eunhwa. His mother’s name. Mentioning the name of the woman who fled the family was a tacit taboo. This was only the second time the family head had uttered it.

    The first was when he initially brought Ryubeom to the family.

    And the second time was now…

    “Let’s discuss this at the main house.”

    Ryubeom bowed his head slowly.

    His hands trembled uncontrollably.

    The chaos at the restaurant was more severe than anticipated.

    Before the meeting began, the evil spirit Ryubeom had caught at the entrance was poorly sealed. The security team leader, who had hastily taken over Ryubeom’s binding spell, failed to maintain the necessary energy for the restraint.

    When the spirit escaped through the weakened binding, the collateral family members barely managed to seal it in a jar. However, in the process, they expended much energy and lacked the power to maintain the seal. The spirit had already signaled others of its kind.

    As a result, during the meeting, a horde of evil spirits attacked. Amid the chaos, the previously sealed spirit also escaped and joined the rampage.

    The Tiger Clan inside the restaurant was startled by the unexpected ambush but prioritized protecting the humans. However, despite the Tigers’ attacks, the malevolent spirits did not retreat easily and persistently targeted the humans. Typically, an akgui would freeze or flee in the presence of a Tiger’s aura, making this an unusual response.

    Fortunately, the clan head and the second-in-command, Cheon Hoyun, were present. Thanks to their direct intervention, the situation was resolved without major injuries. Nevertheless, the humans were deeply shocked by the attack. Specifically, they were distressed and surprised that they were attacked despite the presence of Tigers. They hurriedly left the scene, their faces pale. The cars Ryubeom had seen on his way to the restaurant likely carried these frightened people.

    Even if Ryubeom had been present during the attack, he wouldn’t have been able to stop it. The evil spirits were only subdued when the clan head intervened. Ryubeom, who was often criticized as the weakest in the family, couldn’t have handled them. Still, this was no excuse. Ryubeom knew that if he had not yielded to the security team leader and had analyzed the captured akgui more thoroughly, sealing it himself, the damage might have been less severe.

    The elders’ meeting was unusually prolonged. For significant discussions regarding the clan, the clan head and elders convened in the Great Tiger Hall. This was different from casual talks at the main house; only those qualified could enter the hall, and what transpired inside remained unknown until they emerged. However, Ryubeom instinctively knew the discussions wouldn’t be favorable for him. Typically, his mistakes were met with direct scolding, but this time, they were holding a formal meeting in the hall.

    It implied the humans they had met were very important. Ryubeom, who had ruined the meeting with such humans, was uncertain about his fate. Even his usually mocking cousins were unusually silent, suggesting they sensed the serious atmosphere. They avoided Ryubeom or merely glanced at him without speaking, treating him like someone soon to be expelled.

    The lack of direct blame only heightened Ryubeom’s anxiety. Thus, when Cheon Yeongdo mocked him upon seeing him sitting in the main courtyard, Ryubeom’s head shot up.

    “So, you’re finally getting kicked out of the clan.”

    “Is that really being discussed?”

    Despite knowing he was being mocked, Ryubeom couldn’t help but grab Yeongdo’s sleeve and ask. Since Yeongdo was the elders’ favored grandchild, Ryubeom hoped he might have overheard something. Yeongdo smirked as he saw the desperate look on Ryubeom’s face, enjoying the situation.

    “Of course. You ruined a meeting with an important figure from human society, so naturally—”

    “But that was…”

    “Instead of asking us, shouldn’t you be kneeling in front of the Great Tiger Hall by now?”

    Ryubeom’s cousin, Cheon Joomyung, who was a year younger than Yeongdo, approached. She had been walking in the courtyard and laughed so hard at Ryubeom’s reaction that tears formed in her eyes.

    “Look at you now. Who would think you’re a Tiger?”

    Ryubeom finally looked at himself. His hands were covered in scratches from the attack by the Changgui last night. The sight made him hurriedly hide his hands behind his back, fearing his cousins might discover the cause. He didn’t expect any concern; he was ashamed and knew he’d be mocked further, weakening his already precarious position in the clan.

    Should he really kneel in front of the Great Tiger Hall? The area around the hall was considered sacred, and even approaching the bamboo forest surrounding it without permission was frowned upon. Trespassing might incur even greater wrath.

    As Ryubeom’s anxiety grew, Yeongdo sneered from above him.

    “Your name has ‘beom’ (tiger) in it, but it’s wasted on you.”

    “Why do you insist on staying here? It’s pitiful to watch.”

    Yeongdo clucked his tongue and walked away, shaking off Ryubeom’s grip as if it were dirty. Ryubeom watched them leave, then slowly looked up. The sky, heavy with dark clouds, seemed to foretell a grim future.

    ‘The reason to stay in this clan…’

    Heavy and cloudy memories spread through Ryubeom’s mind like a mist.

    [1] The ‘beom’ (虎) in Ryubeom means tiger.

    [2] Monsters/ Malevolent Spirits are referred to as akgui. Gwi (괴) also means the same or similar (evil spirits/monster…the like).

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