Book 2: Chapter 104
The Communications room.
Min Ha-rin operated the communications equipment while sitting across from Joanna.
It was nothing special. All she had to do was enter the password for the confidential communications line that she knew and wait for a response.
“When was the last time you were in Korea?”
“About three years ago? I think it’s been about that long.”
“That’s longer than I thought.”
“Yeah. The damage to Korea wasn’t that great. As my performance improved, I was dispatched to China more often. Later, I moved to stay there.”
Joanna nodded slowly before asking in a slightly cautious tone.
“What about your family?”
“I have two younger siblings in Korea.”
“I guess they’re not hunters.”
Joanna smiled softly.
“That’s good. Having a family, I mean.”
“…what about you, Miss Joanna?”
“You can just call me Joanna.”
Perhaps it was because she was American, but Joanna was much more open than she expected.
While having that thought, Min Ha-rin repeated herself.
“What about your family…”
“I don’t have one. I’m an orphan.”
That was a bit surprising.
From her attitude, Min Ha-rin had thought that she was born and raised in a wealthy, or at least a well-off family, but that wasn’t the case. In other words, she felt and behaved like a scioness of some major ‘family’ or ‘force’.
Joanna seemed familiar with this reaction.
“That’s why I call the Association President my father. Because he brought me up as a child and showed me my path.”
A tender light shined in Joanna’s eyes as she said that.
Min Ha-rin could understand her feelings to an extent. Perhaps the same respect and admiration that she now had for Lukas, Joanna had for Neil Prand.
Joanna’s expression became earnest as she met Min Ha-rin’s gaze.
“So… please. Please save the Association President.”
Just as Min Ha-rin’s determination was renewed, she finally got a response from the screen in front of her.
“I think the line has been connected.”
“Yeah. Wait a moment.”
Suddenly, the screen lit up.
Min Ha-rin blinked.
The person on the screen was obviously someone she knew, but it took her a moment to realise that.
No. She still wasn’t sure even though she was looking at them with her own eyes. She licked her lips a few times before hesitantly opening her mouth.
[As expected, it’s Ha-rin.]
The man behind the screen smiled brightly. Min Ha-rin couldn’t help but feel a hint of disbelief as she saw this.
“Why is it you, uncle…? What about big brother Sung-hyun?”
Min Ha-rin’s eyes widened.
[A lot has happened. There is so much that I want to talk to you about. Since you contacted this communication line, it should mean that you’re coming back to Korea, right? When will you return?]
Those words made Min Ha-rin speechless for a few moments.
She did intend to go back to Korea, and she was confident that they would let her in, but she thought it would take some time to persuade them.
But Kim Min-chul’s attitude made her hesitate.
It felt like he wanted her to return to Korea as soon as possible.
* * *
He took a deep breath and clenched his fists.
The doctor’s words floated in his mind in a loop. There was nothing wrong with his body.
In truth, he knew it better than anyone.
He took another deep breath and prepared his mind. Then, he closed his eyes and relaxed his body as much as he could.
It wasn’t hard for him to remember ‘that time’.
In only a few moments, the image of a woman appeared in his mind. A woman with hair as red as blood.
A being who was so fearsome that her harmless appearance made her all the more frightening.
Just imagining her face caused his entire body to quiver violently. If he hadn’t been lying on his bed, his feet would have given out and he would have collapsed.
He’d no longer feared the Demons as he had in the past.
He was certain that he had overcome that to an extent.
If the first Demon he encountered hadn’t been one of the Five Dukes…
He shook his head.
All of those thoughts were just excuses.
In the end, all of this came down to the fact that he was too weak.
He wanted to overcome it. He wanted to move on. He wanted to say goodbye to his weak, pathetic self and fight the Demons confidently. This was the future that he’d shed tears of blood to achieve.
He’d thought that he would reach it if he pushed a little further, but now, that goal that he thought was in his grasp was even further than before.
No. He was the one who had run away from it.
In the end, he was not a man who was able to overcome his trauma. He was still a weak, young, English boy, who could not get over his fear of Demons.
Unable to contain his anger towards himself, Leo Freeman smashed his fist into the table beside his bed. This was the first time he’d ever acted in such an emotional manner. And yet, the sense of shame didn’t disappear. On the contrary, his negative emotions grew stranger as he felt that his patheticness was even clearer now.
Blood gushed from his lip as he bit down on it.
“Stop hurting yourself.”
Leo turned his head quickly. Without him realising, Lukas had entered his room and was standing beside his bed.
Without a word, Lukas walked over to him and handed him a tissue. Leo accepted it and pressed it to his lips. The white tissue became stained red.
Lukas looked down at Leo for a moment before taking a seat in the chair beside the bed.
For some reason, the ticking sound of the clock’s second hand became exceptionally clear at that moment.
Even after he said that, Lukas didn’t say anything.
“I know this is an opportunity that I’ll probably never receive again, and I really wanted to do well this time… But it didn’t work out…”
Leo’s voice was strained and hoarse. He felt that if he continued talking, he would begin to cry. He knew that he already looked pathetic, but he didn’t want to embarrass himself any more than he already had.
Nevertheless, since he’d started, he would have to finish.
Because the subdued silence was urging him to continue.
“I saw a video of what happened in the training ground.”
A group of some of the best hunters in North America had faced a girl no older than he was. And yet, this girl, whose hair flowed down to her feet, had defeated them with ease.
It was such a beautiful fight that he didn’t even feel jealous. It was clear to Leo that he would have to work hard his entire life. But he wasn’t sure he could reach that level with just his talent and hard work.
There was only one thing that Leo was certain of. He wouldn’t be able to reach even half of that level even after ten years had passed.
It took a lot of determination for him to open his mouth again.
“Why are you apologising?”
Lukas interrupted him.
“I feel like I disappointed Master.”
“Did I ever tell you that or show such an attitude?”
“Then why are you making your own assumptions and judgements?”
The words were filled with blame, but the tone they were said in was soft.
Leo fell silent for a moment, speechless.
“You’re doing great.”
“You’re doing great. You haven’t done anything wrong.”
Lukas’ eyes were shining so brightly that it hurt to look at them. The brilliance in his eyes was so dazzling that it felt like he wanted to drive away the dark clouds in his mind.
“It’s as I said. You are always trying to face your fears head-on. That is not an easy task.”
“Anyone can just think about it…!”
Leo’s voice grew louder at the end. His face became contorted.
“I’ll try harder next time. Tomorrow will be different from today. Those easy thoughts are things that everyone repeats to themselves in bed before they sleep… Right. It just keeps repeating. I feel like my resolution has faded and I’ve become self-indulgent.”
What really mattered was to not lose the drive.
But Leo felt like he couldn’t do that.
“Everyone has their time.”
“Right. People usually call it fate, but I personally call it the ‘time of blooming’.”
“…the time of… blooming…”
“It’s just a difference of timing. Just because a flower blooms later doesn’t mean it’s any less beautiful. And I…”
When Leo saw this smile, he felt his heart swell and his throat close.
He could feel it just from looking at this smile.
Just how much this person in front of him believed in him. And just how high his expectations for him were.
“I believe that you will bloom into a flower that is more brilliant than any other flower.”
Leo was unable to stop his hot tears from pouring out. There had never been someone who had so much faith in him in his entire life.
He was someone who couldn’t even lift a finger in front of a Demon. How ridiculous was this for someone who wanted to become a hunter? Someone who would risk their life on every mission.
“…why do you have so much faith in me?”
“Because I am your master.”
Lukas’ smile widened.
“Do you trust me?”
“Then trust in my eyes too. The Leo Freeman I have seen and judged is by no means a man who would bow down to this level of frustration.”
“I look forward to the flower you will bloom into.”
* * *
When Lukas stepped out of the hospital room, he encountered a black-haired girl with a sour expression.
…No. It should be Sedi Trowman now. She had become strangely attached to Lukas since becoming a mortal.
Sedi pointed at the hospital room, her expression still sullen.
“Is he your disciple as well, Father?”
“He’s really weak.”
Lukas looked down at Sedi for a moment.
“Sedi, what do you think a father should be?”
“Someone bigger and stronger enough than me?”
“…then you call me Father because I am stronger than you?”
“Right. There are only four people in this universe right now that are stronger than me.”
She was referring to the four Absolutes.
Nodiesop, Letip, Lukas. And Kasajin.
Naturally, Lukas was the only one among them who was kind to Sedi.
There was no need to mention Nodiesop, who she seemed to have a bad relationship with, and Kasajin, who made her the way she was. Letip, who appeared to be neutral, was a wild card, and no one knew what he was thinking.
“I’ve never had a daughter.”
“I know. You never did it.”
“…right. That’s not really the point right now, but anyway, I know that you and I don’t have a normal father-daughter relationship.”
“A normal father-daughter relationship?”
Sedi tilted her head to the side.
It had probably not been intentional, but her action was filled with innocence that matched her apparent age.
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know.”
“…what are you talking about? Are you trying to crack a joke?”
“No. As I said, I’ve never had a daughter.”
He knew about the bonds between friends, masters, and parents.
Just recently, he’d learned how to treat a disciple.
This was Lukas’ first time having a child. Though the origin of the relationship was a bit strange, he did not want to treat this bond carelessly now that it had been formed.
Even if she wasn’t his child by blood, he still wanted to treat their bond seriously and form the most desirable relationship for the both of them.
As he had this thought, Lukas looked down at Sedi.
“So I’ll think about it from now on.”
“Think about what?”
“How a father should treat his daughter. What I can do for you. And what an ideal father-daughter relationship should be like.”
Sedi looked at Lukas with a blank expression for a moment.
She felt strange.
She didn’t know why, but Lukas’ words touched her heart deeply. For the first time, Sedi felt like that missing part of her was being temporarily filled.
“So you should also think about it seriously… about what you want from a father.”
For some reason, she could no longer look at Lukas.
Sedi turned her head away and said.
“I, I see.”
She didn’t know why, but her face was burning. Unable to contain her nervousness, Sedi tapped her foot on the ground.