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    “…I know. Still, I don’t think I did the right thing.”

    Ha-gyeom cleared his throat awkwardly and sat on the creaking bed. After hesitating for a long time, he finally faced Baek Seung-woo, whose narrowed eyes were watching him. The intensity of Seung-woo’s gaze made Ha-gyeom conscious of his every breath.

    Unable to keep his composure, Baek Seung-woo leaned closer and asked.

    “Are you hurt? Your face is red.”

    He touched Ha-gyeom’s forehead, causing his head to tilt back. The touch felt like fire on his skin.

    Baek Seung-woo’s warmth was mild, but it felt different now. Unconsciously, Ha-gyeom jumped up from the bed and gently pushed Seung-woo’s hand away.

    “It’s not that. It’s just a bit warm.”

    He quickly looked down at the floor, fiddling with his fingers. Seung-woo moved his hand from Ha-gyeom’s forehead to ruffle his hair.

    “Don’t you have something to say to me about what happened today?”

    Because the boys’ violence was based on sexual harassment and insults, Ha-gyeom didn’t want to tattle on every detail. If Baek Seung-woo knew more than what Yu Hae-na had already conveyed, it would just add to his burden.

    Baek Seung-woo’s sacrifices were too noble for him to hear such vile things. His dedication since the rescue was beyond measure.

    However, there was one thing that still bothered Ha-gyeom. He recalled one of the insults the boys had thrown at him.

    ‘But if he’s the team leader, couldn’t he secretly find out about the compatibility rate?’

    While the center strictly controlled the guiding of minor guides, it was standard procedure to digitize and manage all energy-related data from the moment one entered the center.

    It suddenly struck Ha-gyeom that if someone really wanted to know, they could find out the compatibility rate.

    “I have a question.”

    “Yeah? What is it?”

    Ha-gyeom knew he was about to reveal his true concerns. Still, his curiosity got the better of him.

    “This thing about compatibility rates. Is there a way to know in advance which esper matches with me?”

    Baek Seung-woo’s eyebrows furrowed. Understanding his concern immediately, Seung-woo kneeled down. Their eye level no longer matched due to Ha-gyeom’s recent growth spurt.

    “Ability user data is confidential, especially for minors. Until you’re twenty, no one can match you with any esper based on your data. So, no, there’s no way to know in advance.”



    Baek Seung-woo’s stern look left Ha-gyeom with no room for doubt. Though his curiosity wasn’t fully satisfied, he didn’t ask further questions.

    “Just so you know, even with my rank, I don’t have access to that data. And I wouldn’t want to access it anyway.”

    Ha-gyeom nodded silently. Despite his lingering curiosity, Seung-woo’s firmness reassured him. Regardless of what others said, Baek Seung-woo was undoubtedly his protector. From his gaze alone, Ha-gyeom felt certain that guiding wouldn’t complicate their relationship.

    “Are you curious? About which esper you’ll guide in the future?”

    Ha-gyeom thought for a moment, then shook his head.

    “No, not really. I’m more worried about other things right now.”

    Baek Seung-woo smiled softly, patting Ha-gyeom’s shoulder.

    “Don’t worry about things you can’t control. Focus on your training and recovery. Everything else will fall into place when the time comes.”

    Ha-gyeom nodded again, feeling a bit more at ease. He trusted Baek Seung-woo’s words and felt a renewed sense of determination to face whatever challenges lay ahead.

    Despite his apparent nervousness, Baek Seung-woo gently shifted the topic. Ha-gyeom frowned, then nodded, and shook his head.

    “I’m Curious… no, not curious.”

    Normally, guides are paired with espers of similar age, so Ha-gyeom could roughly imagine a few candidates. At fourteen, Ha-gyeom hiccupped instead of feeling nauseous.

    Seeing Ha-gyeom’s clear discomfort, Baek Seung-woo’s stern expression softened. His touch on Ha-gyeom’s flushed cheek was gentle.

    “Anything else you’re curious about?”


    “Anything bothering you?”


    Baek Seung-woo didn’t seem entirely convinced but didn’t press further. Instead, he reassured.

    “You know you can talk to me anytime, right?”


    Responding quickly, Ha-gyeom saw Baek Seung-woo’s mouth curve into a smile. His large, expressive eyes crinkled beautifully. Ha-gyeom watched as his Adam’s apple moved, then quietly lowered his gaze.


    Not from fear. Something definitely felt wrong.

    * * *

    Yu Hae-na’s advice wasn’t off the mark. After that day, sharing a bed with Baek Seung-woo became increasingly difficult for Ha-gyeom. Previously, he would even sleep in his arms, but now, even accidental touches felt significant.

    He would listen intently to see if Baek Seung-woo had fallen asleep, noting his steady breathing, and often stayed up late, observing his face in the dark.

    Though he adapted to the thudding heartbeat, the constant feeling of strangeness when he looked at Baek Seung-woo was something he couldn’t get used to.


    “Oh? It’s Team Leader Baek Seung-woo.”

    Whenever someone noticed him suddenly, Ha-gyeom would hastily retreat. Thanks to his rigorous physical training, his stamina had improved, making it easier to avoid him.

    However, the problem was that the ability users at the center had limited areas to roam. They couldn’t enjoy the outside world like before the invasion, and Baek Seung-woo often observed their training sessions….

    One day, as usual, Ha-gyeom was exhausted from a full day of training. He often felt it was unfair that he had to put in two or three times more effort than others to manage his energy. While struggling alone, the training room door opened. It was, of course, Baek Seung-woo, causing Ha-gyeom to freeze in place.

    “Guide Shin Ha-gyeom. Focus more on your energy.”

    Ha-gyeom’s heart raced as Baek Seung-woo approached. The room seemed to grow hotter, and every word from Baek Seung-woo felt magnified. Ha-gyeom tried to steady his breathing, pushing past the discomfort that had recently started to feel almost unbearable in his presence.

    “Yes, sir.”

    Ha-gyeom managed to reply, trying to channel all his focus into controlling his energy, hoping it would distract him from his growing confusion about his feelings.

    Yu Hae-na watched Ha-gyeom’s faltering attempt at creating a ripple of energy, her fingers demonstrating the proper level of control. Ha-gyeom, his ears turning red, nodded reluctantly. The concept of energy was still elusive to him, and he struggled to understand how to focus on something he couldn’t even feel properly.

    Baek Seung-woo, observing from the opposite side of the training room, kept his distance to avoid influencing Ha-gyeom’s energy. Despite the distance, it wasn’t hard to sense his worried gaze.

    Ha-gyeom’s energy control was among the worst, not even up to the level of a C-class guide, let alone A-class. He felt embarrassed and ashamed to display such inadequacy in front of Baek Seung-woo.

    “Energy flows through your body like blood vessels and circulates like air. You can’t touch it physically, but you can feel it with your senses…”

    As Ha-gyeom gritted his teeth, the energy ripple briefly expanded to the size of a globe before shrinking back. Despite his best efforts, he couldn’t match the other guides, who could easily generate energy fields that surrounded their entire bodies.

    “The size doesn’t matter now. Just focus on learning how to control it.”

    “But… it’s still so pathetic.”

    Ha-gyeom’s face darkened as he let the energy dissipate completely. Baek Seung-woo, witnessing the failure, clicked his tongue and shook his head. Though it wasn’t meant as a rebuke, Ha-gyeom’s heart sank.

    Determined, Ha-gyeom extended his hand and tried again, failing once more. Yu Hae-na, noticing Baek Seung-woo’s glance, clapped her hands to draw attention.

    “That’s enough for today. Guide Shin Ha-gyeom, stay behind for a bit.”

    “Am I the only one with extra training?”

    “It’s not like that. It’s just that you might focus better alone, so let’s give it a try.”

    Her tone was soothing. Pouting, Ha-gyeom stood still as the other guides left the training room, some smirking as they passed by.

    As expected, Baek Seung-woo didn’t leave. He straightened from his leaning position against the wall and continued to watch Ha-gyeom.

    “Alright, let’s try again. Once you understand the method, controlling it won’t be too hard.”

    Yu Hae-na’s additional training seemed to be influenced by Baek Seung-woo’s presence. It could have been simple professional courtesy, but Ha-gyeom couldn’t take it lightly.

    “Take a deep breath.”

    Being singled out for extra care made Ha-gyeom feel like a burden. Yet, his inability to control his energy was a fact he couldn’t deny, so he swallowed his resentment.

    His neck burned with shame. Finally calming himself, Ha-gyeom followed Yu Hae-na’s guidance and closed his eyes.

    The more he tried to sense the energy, the more his body ached. Trying to force out something intangible, he tensed his entire body, his shoulders trembling.

    “Good, just a bit more.”

    Creating a small energy field around his hands was a basic accomplishment, but Ha-gyeom pushed himself further, biting his lower lip hard enough to bruise, his eyes squeezed shut.

    The pain intensified until he couldn’t hold back a gasp.


    He let out an involuntary groan, feeling a hot trickle of blood run down his nose, lips, and chin. Even then, he kept his eyes closed, focusing solely on feeling the energy.

    Baek Seung-woo silently moved closer, sensing Ha-gyeom’s internal struggle.

    Though he approached to check on Ha-gyeom’s condition, the sudden proximity had an unexpected effect. As soon as he was close enough for their body heat to mingle, Ha-gyeom’s energy field surged, enveloping his entire body.


    Both of Baek Seung-woo’s eyes widened in surprise.

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