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    Deep Pivot Episode 39

    The steady gaze that had been meeting Seo-joon’s began to tremble at his question.

    “I understand that it’s a bewildering question.”

    Seo-joon said with a strained smile, trying to ease the tense atmosphere.

    “But I’ve always had this feeling when I look at you, Yeon-woo. As if we’ve already met somewhere.”

    Yeon-woo opened his mouth to speak.

    “…”

    However, he couldn’t say anything, and he closed it again, repeating this several times. Eventually, he placed the cup he’d been holding on the table and turned to face Seo-joon.

    “So, um…”

    Seo-joon anxiously watched his lips, which moved but couldn’t form words.

    “I don’t know what you’ll think of this…”

    “Feel free to speak. It’s alright.”

    Seo-joon leaned back slightly, trying to appear more relaxed.

    Yeon-woo observed him while reflecting on the past. Memories of a certain winter day, where each breath puffed out in a white cloud, and the subsequent cold days flashed quickly through his mind.

    ✽✽✽

    Even after Seo-joon rescued him, Yeon-woo couldn’t leave the site for some time. He remained with Seo-joon’s uniform jacket draped over him, staring blankly as adults hurried around. Several other people who had been rescued from the nearby area stood near him.

    The injured were taken away in order of severity. A woman moving around to check on survivors noticed the baby in Yeon-woo’s arms and shouted.

    “We have the youngest survivor here! Transport this one first!”

    She took Seo-joon’s uniform jacket from Yeon-woo and wrapped a thicker blanket around him. The surrounding survivors sighed at the sight of the baby.

    In their haste to ensure their own safety, they hadn’t noticed that a child, seemingly of elementary school age, was cradling an even younger infant.

    But Yeon-woo was more concerned about the jacket that the woman had taken away than about the surrounding reactions. If he had known it would be taken so easily, he would have torn off the name tag to keep.

    He couldn’t forget the name. Ji Seo-joon, Ji Seo-joon, Ji Seo-joon… Yeon-woo kept repeating his savior’s name at the temporary shelter, afraid he might forget it.

    The food at the shelter for displaced survivors was much better than what he ate at the orphanage. If he could, he would have liked to live there. In his experience, the orphanage directors weren’t good people.

    Four days after staying in the shelter, someone appeared.

    “Oh, Yeon-woo!”

    A man ran up and embraced Yeon-woo, crying. The dramatic scene brought applause from the survivors, who had assumed Yeon-woo was an orphan, left alone with a baby.

    Even as he looked at the father who hugged him tightly, Yeon-woo remained distant. He had been sent to the orphanage when he was three, and he saw his father maybe once a year, so he was practically a stranger.

    The man then noticed the baby with Yeon-woo and asked quietly, trying to avoid the gazes of those watching the emotional reunion.

    “Who’s this kid?”

    “…An orphanage baby.”

    Yeon-woo answered blankly. He wanted to give a more coherent explanation, but he couldn’t think of anything else to say.

    The fact that he held a baby he didn’t even know from the same orphanage was purely coincidental. If a baby were lying alone in the midst of chaos, who wouldn’t pick it up?

    Yeon-woo’s father, Cha Kyung-soo, thought about the baby. He had come only thinking about Yeon-woo, but now there was another kid.

    This also meant the disaster relief funds would double for two survivors.

    “Your name, sir?”

    “Cha Kyung-soo.”

    “And the children?”

    “The older one is Cha Yeon-woo, and the younger one is Cha Jeong-woo.”

    “But the younger one isn’t on your family register, sir?”

    “My situation isn’t good, so I left them at the orphanage for a while. I was too busy making ends meet to even register his birth.”

    The staff member looked him over. He certainly looked like he was in poor circumstances. If he couldn’t register a birth and had to rely on an orphanage, his situation must have been dire. The staff member explained additional benefits the government offered.

    “If you apply here, you can receive more support. This policy is also implemented monthly…”

    Yeon-woo listened absentmindedly to the adults talking, holding his father’s hand. The hand he had never touched before was rough and unfamiliar.

    Ji Seo-joon, Ji Seo-joon, Ji Seo-joon. He habitually repeated the name of the person who saved him, remembering the warm and gentle touch of the hand that had held him.

    After that day, Yeon-woo gained a younger brother. “Jeong” in Jeong-woo’s name meant “right” (正). The name was hastily chosen on the spot, using the simplest Chinese character.

    He lived with his father for about two years, realizing that life at the orphanage had been better. At least the orphanage director hadn’t drunk alcohol or been physically abusive.

    All the support funds for Yeon-woo and Jeong-woo went into their father’s pocket and disappeared. Yeon-woo now knows it was used for gambling, but at the time, he thought money simply disappeared into adults’ pockets.

    As the days passed, his father began to return home less frequently, and at one point, he never came back at all. Yeon-woo was kicked out of the house overnight because of unpaid rent.

    He met many bad adults and many good ones. The boarding house owner where he currently lives, Choi Jung-sook, is one of the good ones, but Yeon-woo had dealt with various adults long before meeting her.

    At one point, he had to live on the streets because he had withdrawn the rent deposit to cover Jeong-woo’s hospital bills. With nowhere else to go, he curled up on the stairs of a shopping complex, where the internet café owner found and took him in.

    The owner probably thought he was just a runaway. He offered Yeon-woo a cup of instant noodles and said he could stay until sunrise. Yeon-woo, not knowing how to pass the time playing games, simply stared blankly at the portal site’s main page.

    Ji Seo-joon. He habitually searched the name. Although he wasn’t a celebrity and didn’t appear in any personal profiles, the search still brought up a few interview videos.

    ✽✽✽

    At first, Yeon-woo hadn’t been deeply infatuated with Ji Seo-joon. He was just grateful, knowing him as the person who saved his life. His name was one he couldn’t forget.

    But when pushed to the edge, people tend to have dark thoughts. In such moments, Yeon-woo would habitually think of Ji Seo-joon.

    If I die like this, his efforts would have been in vain. He wouldn’t have needed to save me. He didn’t rescue Jeong-woo and me for this.

    During the freezing cold when he had nowhere to go, he endured because of that thought. When things got tough, he would sometimes spend his last money to visit an internet café.

    For that one hour he could afford, all Yeon-woo did was watch Seo-joon’s interview videos repeatedly. Seeing his face would give Yeon-woo the will to live for a while longer, making it more valuable than a meal.

    When he faced unprovoked verbal abuse and beatings from his drunken father, he thought of Seo-joon. He thought of him while doing exhausting warehouse work with a sore back. He thought of him while he struggled with the flu alone in a damp bed during the rainy season.

    He promised himself to endure because Seo-joon had given him a second chance at life.

    As a result, Seo-joon’s presence in Yeon-woo’s life had grown like a snowball. He wasn’t just a life-saving hero but became almost like a religion to him.

    Now, after being matched with Seo-joon, Yeon-woo had realized something new.

    His feelings weren’t limited to mere admiration.

    Love is a complex and vast emotion. People say it encompasses not only admiration but also friendship, familial affection, sexual desire, jealousy, and hatred.

    Yeon-woo admires Ji Seo-joon, but he also desires him. He wants to be closer, to hold him. He doesn’t want Seo-joon to receive guiding from anyone else. He wants to be the only person capable of healing Seo-joon.

    Yeon-woo wasn’t the only one who had gained insight since their last guiding session—Seo-joon had as well.

    “…Hmm.”

    Seo-joon let out a hum of confusion. Yeon-woo didn’t confess everything. He couldn’t risk being abandoned and had to hide his feelings desperately.

    Even from the little he had shared, Seo-joon’s face already showed considerable bewilderment.

    “Well, I understand how you’re feeling, Yeon-woo.”

    He doesn’t understand at all.

    He doesn’t have the slightest idea how I really feel.

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