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I decided that if there was a chance, I would let Han-Byul go while we were drinking. Since it’s likely that she’ll leave us, I thought that it wouldn’t matter if I was honest about my feelings. I did feel a bit of regret, but it was obvious that we both had a change of heart.
“Why… is a difficult question to answer.”
“Is it difficult… because it’s me asking?”
I noticed her emphasize the word “me”, and simply shook my head in response. That wasn’t my point.
“That’s not it. Do you remember our conversation when we were talking in front of the stairs of the cabin?”
“I… um… was able to think about a lot of things during these last three months. My way of thinking changed after seeing this place called Hall Plain. I’ve decided that I wouldn’t join any clans— even if it was the Golden Lion Clan that offered.”
Even though I made my answer vague, Han-Byul was clever enough to see through it. She contemplated my words, then looked at me with a surprised look on her face. It seemed like she understood what I planned to do.
“Then, will you make a new clan?”
“Something along those lines. I’ve been toying with the idea of making one. There’s also the issue that the others weren’t offered the chance to join the Golden Lion clan but I want to stay with them.”
Han-Byul instinctively opened her mouth, but she quickly bit her lips. I felt her breathing become rough and saw a conflicted expression crawl up her face. She clamped her mouth for a moment and then as if she had finally made a choice, started speaking louder and more confidently than before.
“I feel that way as well. As I have said before, my way of thought has changed compared to before I entered Hall Plain. You were amazing during the Rite of Passage. You also proved that you were different from others by your performance after you entered the User Academy. I’m sure I understand your skills more than anyone. But…”
That word. But. It signaled her preparation to start talking about what was really on her mind. I carefully prepared to listen to her words with melancholy written all over my face.
“Hall Plain is an enormous place. It’s so large that anything can happen. It’s not like the Rite of Passage where one person can resolve everything with their skills. Wait. You’re probably about to say this: I had three other people with me.”
I nodded my head in agreement. Han-Byul continued talking while looking at me with a cold expression.
“I’ll say it now. It’s not that I’m trying to insult any of them, but… I still feel like… You may not acknowledge it, but it feels like you were doing everything. It’s dangerous for a whole group to rely on a single person in Hall Plain.”
Han-Byul wasn’t belittling their skills. She was pointing out their skill level and their attitude towards me. Basically, she meant that no one can do anything alone here and she wasn’t wrong. However, there’s one thing she overlooked that she can’t.
She took a deep breath and seemed like she had finished saying what was on her mind. I gave her time to catch her breath as I organized my thoughts. Then, I carefully began to speak.
“You seem to be very single-minded.”
“It’s good to think rationally, but you tend to think in one direction.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I mean that you shouldn’t judge other people according to your standards.”
Hearing my cold voice for the first time, Han-Byul kept her mouth shut. I started at her coldly. I kind of felt bad after seeing her lips tremble a bit; maybe it was due to the fact that I’ve never spoken to her in this kind of tone before. I thought it was necessary since I decided to treat her as just another user.
“I’m…sorry about that. But I thought… I thought that you and I were similar… always rational…”
“Similar. Yes, that’s what you thought. However, I don’t think you can think rationally when it comes to joining a clan. Especially if it’s joining the Golden Lion clan.”
“…How come? Are you saying that I’m making the wrong choice?”
“Is it that important whether you’re right or wrong? No matter what kind of choice a person makes, there are always pros and cons. isn’t it considered rational decision making when one makes places themselves in the center of it and consider all the different factors?”
Kim Han-Byul made a rational decision based on the present. I made a rational decision based on both the past and the future. Despite my reasoning being simple logic, she looked confused. For the first time ever, I truly felt frustrated looking at her. We weren’t on the same wavelength anymore.
“The Golden Lion clan is both the best and also the largest clan in the Northern Country. What I’m about to tell you is a secret within the clan, but they’ve already built a base and are now preparing to advance into the mountains. They’re prepared, and they have a plan. I just don’t understand what advantage there is in following you and not joining them.”
“Who can guarantee that their advancement plan will succeed? They told you that they’ll recommend you for a manager position, but have you thought of the implications behind doing so? No. More so, do you truly believe that you’ll be able to trust the users within that clan?”
I said all this with a harsh tone. Despite that, Han-Byul simply stood there and listened to my words. Silence occupied the space between us, and coldness made up the atmosphere surrounding us. I was going to continue talking, but she spoke first.
“Are you… saying that you can be trusted?”
One question. All she asked was only one question. The smothering silence between us seemed to chill and get more suffocating because of that one question. The only thing I could hear was our breathing. There were so many feelings on display on her face. Anger, sadness, regret were in the company of other negative feelings. This was the first time… I saw such a display of feelings on her face.
I carefully opened my mouth. My response, however, was filled with pure disappointment.
“You asked me a few months ago, about why I acted the way I did. If I were to answer that question now. I… “
“I wanted to be the group’s shield. I wanted to give you guys my trust and in return receive your trust. If you haven’t realized yet, I have a hard time trusting people. I’ve thought about being independent. But like you’ve said, I can’t do things by myself. That is an obstacle I can’t overcome.”
I took a deep breath before continuing.
“That’s why I made the choice of choosing the trust the people that I started with. These people can learn to trust me, and these are people I can learn to trust. We are pretty much a small clan already, after all. When I eventually do form the clan, it would be optimal to have a couple people that I could truly consider family.”
Han-Byul’s eyes shook as I talked. The way her lips slightly trembled suggested that there were unspoken words she wished to make heard. However, the Academic Information building started to appear before our eyes.
There was a time when I and she were placed upon a split path. At that time, she had chosen to follow my lead. And now, further along that path, we’ve encountered another split. I’ve chosen my path, but she hasn’t yet.
I calmly walked up the stairs, then grabbed the handle of the door. Han-Byul didn’t move from her position. I pulled the door. It opened smoothly with nary a sound. I walked in.
Han-Byul didn’t follow me.
An Hyun and the others seemed to have already drank a lot by the time I arrived. In the end, I didn’t get to say what I wanted to say. Seeing them laugh, I let out a sigh deep within me. I started to feel cranky that these guys wouldn’t understand my pain. They were… so easy going…
But I decided to hide that feeling. We might never experience such lightheartedness ever again. All of us will be walking a difficult road starting tomorrow. I still think of the User Academy as a heaven within hell.
They soon finished drinking. An Hyun and Yoo-Jung started singing and eventually passed out. Thankfully, Sol was awake so we each grabbed one and lugged them back to their dorms. I placed An Hyun on one side of the room before laying down and organizing my thoughts.
My thoughts have changed thanks to this place. There were a lot of things we had to take care of right away. First, we have to receive our attribute point rewards and leave Barbara immediately. I fell asleep after thinking about another few items.
The next day. The morning of the big day finally arrived.
Frankly, graduation and the exit ceremony were boring. There were a lot of words spoken, but all they told us was that we did a good job graduating and that they hope that we contribute to the welfare of the Northern Country.
“You have completed the User Academy of the Northern Country’s largest city, Barbara. Your reward is 4 attribute points.”
After everyone received their points, the users split up into two groups. There were those users that received an offer from a clan, and those that didn’t. The users that received an offer were welcomed into the various clans, but those that hadn’t simply stood there.
For those that hadn’t been given an offer, there are still many clans in smaller ordinary cities. Seeing these users lingering around after everything was over made me feel a bit bad for them. It wasn’t any of my business though.
There are clans in ordinary and smaller cities. Seeing them linger around even after everything was over made me feel a bit bad for them. It wasn’t any of my business though.
I planned to run over to the warehouse to get the items I purchased with GP, but I couldn’t due to the guys gathering around me: An Hyun, Lee Yoo-Jung, and An Sol. As soon as the four of us gathered, I could feel clan recruiters eying us. We had rejected their offers, and it seemed like they had a sense of lingering regret.
Despite the fact that An Hyun didn’t receive as much attention due to me, Woo Jung-Min, and Seon Yoo-Woon, his skills were enough to receive offers from clans. Yoo-Jung’s skills were also above average. Both of them received offers from mid-sized clans, but they rejected them all because of me.
The gem of the group was Sol. She was the Brilliance Priest, the leader of all priests. That was the class that was as representative of the female users as the Queen of Shadows. Even if she hadn’t acquired this class, her stats for a beginner was already high. Her mana was at a 75 while her luck was at 100.
Surprisingly, Sol didn’t receive that much attention. I heard from An Hyun that she had a hard time controlling her mana. As she was a beginner, it would have been weird for her to be able to control it anyways. She’ll become more valuable in time after she gets used to it…
The recruiter of the Golden Lion Clan looked at the gathering of users with disgust. I only found out after graduation, but of the five users that they offered the chance to join their clan, only two users accepted.
“I’m sorry, but I have a group already. I don’t plan on leaving them.”
As I once again politely refused their offer (for the last time), An Hyun and the others were obviously feeling bad for me. It seemed like they believed every word out of my mouth. This sort of misunderstanding wasn’t a bad feeling, but I still felt uncomfortable. I decided that I would tell them the truth when the time was right.
As we left the Academy’s front gate, new users and veterans alike could be seen socializing. One could see many various clans all at once.
There was something that caught my eyes. It was that wench, Lee Ji-Young. It looked as if she had joined a pretty popular clan since she had on an arrogant expression and looked down at the users that didn’t receive any offers. She was standing next to that instructor, with her arm linked with his. She seemed nervous on the inside. I was curious as to how her expression would change in the next six months. I kept walking.
I thought that Kim Han-Byul was somewhere around here because I felt someone staring at me. I turned around, and saw Han-Byul staring at me and the rest of the group. However, I no longer wanted to be involved with her. Since I haven’t heard anyone else speak of any rumors of a Jewel Mage, the clan was probably keeping it a clan secret.
The others carried excited expressions as they followed behind me. As we were preparing to leave, I heard someone call my name. I turned around, and this time I spotted Woo Jung-Min and his group. The first thing he chatted about was me refusing the Golden Lion Clan’s offer. They probably declined as well, as I had assumed.
He offered us the chance to work with him as we continued to talk. I was actually a little tempted to accept. Before they have the chance to team up with the Red Fang Clan, it would be better to wipe them out while we have a chance. But before I could answer, his member Won Hye-Soo and my Lee Yoo-Jung looked at each other with open disgust, effectively ending the conversation.
Seeing that Won Hye-Soo glance at me, I thought that she still carried hard feelings for me. I understood that feeling, that pain. However, I couldn’t help but see her in a bad light as she continued to act the way she did just now again and again. I’ll let her go this time, but I’ll fix that bad habit of hers next time. We quickly bid our farewells.
I turned around to find my teammates looking at me with odd expressions. I’m sure that they declined offers from decent clans just to follow me. Although they weren’t independent just yet, I wanted to use them
To do so, I had to first tell them of my plan.
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