“…Thank you very much.”
Lee Soo Hyuk continued to quietly mumble while patting Cale’s back.
Cale listened to his voice as he looked toward the castle wall past Lee Soo Hyuk’s shoulder.
‘They’re all shocked.’
They were all looking at Lee Soo Hyuk with shocked expressions.
‘I guess this side of him is foreign to them based on how the team leader usually acts.’
Seeing Lee Soo Hyuk being emotional like this was probably foreign to Grandma Kim and the Lee siblings behind Cale as well.
The Kim Rok Soo at this time would have found this to be extremely foreign and awkward.
But the current Cale knew why Lee Soo Hyuk was acting like this.
‘He’s acting like this because he’s tired.’
How long would he have to fight to get past each and every difficult and tiring day?
The bases keep falling no matter how many people he saves; does that mean he should just give it all up and live a relaxed life?
Lee Soo Hyuk’s mind was full of those kinds of questions right now.
But he did not stop.
Lee Soo Hyuk continued to fight hard every day despite the doubts and uncertainties.
That was why his mind was extremely tired out.
Seeing people from his past at such a moment would make anybody become emotional like this.
That was why Cale started to speak as Kim Rok Soo normally would, despite how happy he was to see Lee Soo Hyuk.
“How about you move away?”
Lee Soo Hyuk’s shoulders lifted up a bit.
He was laughing.
“Wow. Kim Rok Soo, you haven’t changed.”
He seemed even happier to see him.
Cale continued to speak to Lee Soo Hyuk.
“Grandma and some others are here too. Are you not going to greet them?”
“You really like to take care of other people.”
Lee Soo Hyuk said that as he patted Cale’s shoulder and then walked past him.
He first ran into the three monsters that were with Cale.
Lee Soo Hyuk looked at the monsters one by one and made eye contact with each of them.
The Steel Feather Hawk and White Rabbit’s eyes clouded over.
‘He’s not afraid.’
It would be normal to be at least a little scared or have a slight change in his emotional state, but the human that Kim Rok Soo had been looking for didn’t budge at all even when looking at two monsters.
‘He’s not afraid even though he’s weak.’
He was definitely weak unlike Choi Han and Kim Rok Soo, but he was also not weak.
Of course, they could feel that he was much stronger than the other humans.
Lee Soo Hyuk didn’t know what the monsters were thinking about as he then turned to make eye contact with the Dark Tiger.
Lee Soo Hyuk could see the tiger monster start to smile. Then the tiger monster started to speak.
“Nice to meet you.”
Lee Soo Hyuk’s eyebrows slightly rose up.
“I am Kim Rok Soo’s hyung, Alberu Crossman. I’m happy to meet the person my dongsaeng has been trying to find.”
Alberu stopped there and quietly observed Lee Soo Hyuk.
Lee Soo Hyuk quietly observed Alberu as well before one corner of his lips rose up.
A small gasp of admiration flowed out of his mouth.
Lee Soo Hyuk looked away from the monsters and looked back at Cale for a moment before turning back toward Alberu without saying anything.
He then started to speak.
“How old are you?”
Alberu’s pupils shook slightly.
Lee Soo Hyuk didn’t care; he walked over to Alberu, put his hand on Alberu’s mane, and started to caress it as he continued to speak.
“Kim Rok Soo wouldn’t call me hyung no matter how many times I told him to do that. But he’s apparently willing to call you hyung. I’m jealous.”
Lee Soo Hyuk laughed as he asked again.
“So, how old are you?”
Alberu flinched and looked toward Cale.
Cale was shaking his head as if he knew Lee Soo Hyuk would act this way.
Alberu watched Cale for a moment before looking back at Lee Soo Hyuk.
‘…His gaze shows no fear.’
He was smiling, but he was giving off a demeanor that was hard to approach based on his gaze. But the odd thing was that, although he was giving off this hard to approach demeanor, he also gave off a demeanor that made someone want to approach him.
The easiest way to describe it would be that his overall demeanor was charismatic.
Alberu observed this person named Lee Soo Hyuk as he started to speak.
“I am 25 years old.”
Lee Soo Hyuk smiled as if he was thankful that Alberu had answered before responding.
“Then I am older.”
He then patted Alberu’s back before walking past him.
He didn’t seem to care much about the three monsters.
But Alberu noticed that Lee Soo Hyuk’s gaze had already observed both the monsters and the other humans.
‘Cale Henituse said he learned things from Lee Soo Hyuk, right?’
Alberu could tell that Lee Soo Hyuk and Cale had a lot of similarities.
Cale must have learned a lot of things from Lee Soo Hyuk.
‘But the ‘current’ Cale Henituse is more proficient at it.’
It made sense that Cale was more proficient at it at this moment as he was in his late thirties.
Alberu quietly observed Lee Soo Hyuk’s back.
This was the same for the others as well.
Kim Po-Chul and the others who had joined Cale in Gyeongju looked toward Lee Soo Hyuk slightly tensely.
They couldn’t help it because of how Lee Soo Hyuk looked.
Kim Po-Chul subconsciously started to speak.
“…All that blood.”
He could see the red stains on the black outfit.
They must be blood, but how many monsters must he have killed in order to look like that?
Kim Po-Chul quickly closed his mouth.
Lee Soo Hyuk observed him for a moment before walking past him.
Kim Po-Chul was gasping internally.
‘He’s a total sword, a sword.’
Unlike how he had smiled brightly toward Kim Rok Soo or as he looked this way, he looked so cold just now such that he resembled a sword.
Kim Po-Chul subconsciously turned toward Choi Han after thinking about swords.
Lee Soo Hyuk’s gaze stopped on Choi Han for a moment as well.
His eyes opened wide for a moment.
It was because Choi Han who had been just standing there now slowly bowed toward Lee Soo Hyuk to greet him.
‘Wait, is it a greeting?’
It felt as if… Choi Han was thanking him.
Lee Soo Hyuk looked toward Choi Han with an odd gaze because he felt that way.
Choi Han reached his hand out at that moment.
“My name is Choi Han. I heard you are the person who saved Rok Soo hyung. Nice to meet you, sir.”
‘He really is thanking me.’
Lee Soo Hyuk could understand the hidden meaning behind Choi Han’s extremely respectful greeting.
“It wasn’t much at all, sir.”
“Please speak informally.”
Lee Soo Hyuk lightly shook Choi Han’s hand.
He then started to laugh as he started to speak.
“You’re quite strong, aren’t you?”
“I can tell by your hand.”
Lee Soo Hyuk looked down at Choi Han’s hands that were full of calluses and scars.
Choi Han could finally see Lee Soo Hyuk’s gaze that was cold even as he was laughing.
“…I am quite strong.”
Lee Soo Hyuk then walked past Choi Han, took a quick look at Choi Jung Soo, and then walked toward the others in the back.
Choi Han quietly observed Lee Soo Hyuk.
He was really thankful to Lee Soo Hyuk.
Lee Soo Hyuk was someone who had looked after Choi Jung Soo and Cale as if they were family.
He was someone who had saved Cale and even died in his place.
There was someone else who had died in Cale’s place as well.
Choi Han’s gaze moved to Choi Jung Soo.
Choi Jung Soo was quietly looking at Lee Soo Hyuk and the sword at his waist.
‘Normally, Lee Soo Hyuk would have hugged Choi Jung Soo just as he had hugged Cale-nim.’
Choi Jung Soo and Lee Soo Hyuk did not know each other right now.
They had met for the first time today.
Choi Han looked toward Cale. He immediately made eye contact with Cale.
‘Cale-nim is also looking at Choi Jung Soo and Lee Soo Hyuk as I expected.’
He was watching how the two of them were crossing paths.
Choi Han could not imagine what Cale must be feeling right now.
But it hurt him to just think about it.
‘They’ll naturally become connected.’
Choi Jung Soo, Lee Soo Hyuk, and Kim Rok Soo.
These three people will naturally become connected.
‘…And me too.’
He needed to connect with them too.
Choi Han walked over to Choi Jung Soo who was frowning while looking at Lee Soo Hyuk.
Choi Jung Soo then flinched and looked toward Choi Han.
Choi Han didn’t even look at Jung Soo as he looked toward Lee Soo Hyuk and started to speak.
“This sir uses the sword well too.”
Choi Jung Soo was flustered that Choi Han was suddenly talking about him.
For the past few days, no, the two of them had not chatted since they greeted each other during their first meeting.
Choi Jung Soo was finding it difficult to say anything to Choi Han because his mind became chaotic every time he saw Choi Han’s sword art.
‘Who is this person? Who the hell is he that-’
How was he using a sword art that was similar to the ancient sword art passed down in his family?
‘His last name is also Choi.’
Choi Jung Soo thought his head was going to blow up.
It was at that moment.
He heard Choi Han’s voice.
“Don’t you want to learn how to use the sword?”
Choi Jung Soo gasped. Choi Han looked toward Choi Jung Soo and continued to speak.
“You cannot ask any questions.”
For Choi Han, Choi Jung Soo’s questions…
And the truth behind them that might be revealed was a burden.
“I will only teach you sword arts.”
Choi Jung Soo looked toward Choi Han who was younger than him and started to speak.
“Why can’t I ask any questions?”
“…I said no questions, sir.”
Choi Han then walked over to Cale.
Choi Jung Soo quietly stared at Choi Han and Cale.
Lee Soo Hyuk had moved over to Grandma Kim while that happened.
“…Aigoo. Soo Hyuk.”
Grandma Kim touched Lee Soo Hyuk’s hands with shaking hands.
“Why… do you look like this? Aigoo.”
Grandma Kim touched Lee Soo Hyuk’s face, arms, and shoulders without being able to say anything.
“Hey, Jin Joo. Seung Won.”
Lee Soo Hyuk smiled toward Lee Jin Joo and Lee Seung Won who had walked up to him. But the siblings had similar expressions as Grandma Kim.
The Lee Soo Hyuk who had left their central shelter and the Lee Soo Hyuk here looked completely different.
The current Lee Soo Hyuk looked tired and worn out, unlike before.
During the whole trip since they decided to come here to Seomyeon, Busan, and followed the Gyeongbu Expressway up…
They had never expressed Lee Soo Hyuk to look like this.
A strong leader.
A leader they could trust and follow.
That was what they were expecting to see, but…
The reality was different than their imaginations.
Lee Soo Hyuk smiled at all of them who could not control their emotions while looking at him before motioning to the person in the far back.
“Park Jin Tae.”
Park Jin Tae was standing firm as if he had turned into a boulder and could not look away from Lee Soo Hyuk.
Lee Soo Hyuk mischievously started to speak to Park Jin Tae.
“Hey, Jin Tae. Are you not going to come here? Are you not happy to see me?”
Park Jin Tae slowly started to speak.
“…Holy crap. You look like shit.”
His voice then became sharp.
“Holy shit, why the hell do you look so terrible?!”
“What’s wrong with how I look?”
Park Jin Tae became truly angry at Lee Soo Hyuk who was looking at him as if nothing was wrong.
He could not understand why he was feeling this way.
But it made him angry.
Park Jin Tae observed how Lee Soo Hyuk looked as he thought to himself.
‘It’s obvious what happened.’
He probably ended up looking like this after saying he would do all the difficult things and trying to save people.
It wasn’t like he was a god or a machine.
As a human, he should be tired and feeling his limits.
Park Jin Tae thought about his actions since Lee Soo Hyuk had left.
Furthermore, he took another look at the person he was chasing after, the person he wanted to overcome.
“Hey, Jin Tae. What’s with your language after seeing your hyung for the first time in a long while?”
Park Jin Tae turned away.
Lee Soo Hyuk looked at Park Jin Tae for a moment before lowering his head.
Lee Seung Won and Lee Jin Joo’s gazes looked a little different as they peeked at him talking to Park Jin Tae.
Lee Jin Joo turned her head and Lee Seung Won opened and closed his mouth without saying anything once they made eye contact with him.
“Lee Chul Min.”
Lee Chul Min awkwardly bowed and greeted Lee Soo Hyuk. He looked quite uncomfortable.
Lee Soo Hyuk’s eyebrow twitched again after sensing something was off.
But more importantly…
He slowly turned around.
The people who came all the way here to meet Lee Soo Hyuk had a thought at this moment.
‘He’s the Lee Soo Hyuk of old.’
His nonchalant-looking but sharp gaze headed toward Cale and the others.
“I guess I should hear why you came to see me and what is going on?”
Cale was the one to answer his question.
Cale then added on.
“Ah, by the way.”
He started to speak to Lee Soo Hyuk who was looking at him with confusion as well as the people looking toward them from the castle walls and the castle gate.
“I don’t want to have to repeat myself multiple times; you have a large meeting room, right? Please call over every important person.”
It was tiring to say the same thing over and over.
“I want to say it just once.”
* * *
In a large meeting room in the central castle at Seomyeon, Busan.
Once he had described everything…
Cale and Lee Soo Hyuk looked at each other.
“Kim Rok Soo.”
Lee Soo Hyuk quietly observed Kim Rok Soo who was looking back at him with a calm expression before starting to speak.
His slow voice echoed through the meeting room.
“Rok Soo. You said everybody here would die?”
Everybody was silent as they looked at Lee Soo Hyuk and Cale.
There was an extremely cold and sharp aura that felt as if it cut through anything coming out of Lee Soo Hyuk.
But Cale was calm as he looked into those cold eyes.
“Yes, sir. Most people here will die.”
“You. Are you being serious right now?
“Yes. I am completely being serious.”
“You think I would believe you?”
Cale started to smile.
‘Why is he asking such an obvious question?’
“Yes, sir. You already believe what I said.”
One corner of Lee Soo Hyuk’s lips started to go up.
“Yes. I believe you.”