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    Deep Pivot Episode 40

    “Lieutenant, you’re someone I respect.”

    Normally, his eyes would tremble with every word, but today, they were exceptionally calm. His voice was careful and deliberate.

    “Of course, becoming a guide itself is good for me, but… I’m just most grateful that I have the chance to repay you.”

    “…”

    “Please allow me to repay the person I admire.”

    Seo-joon looked into Yeon-woo’s clear, unwavering eyes before turning his head away.

    …Now he understood why Cha Yeon-woo was so desperate for his approval.

    Instead of confusion, Seo-joon felt a sense of relief. It made more sense for Yeon-woo to have a reason, rather than to act this way for no reason at all.

    In fact, it almost seemed clichéd. Seo-joon had been working as an awakened Esper for over ten years, and there were countless people he had rescued.

    Those he saved would remember him as their savior for the rest of their lives. Some even tried to repay him with gifts or asked for his contact information.

    It’s something any awakened Esper would have experienced.

    And Yeon-woo had even become a guide. Meeting his long-lost savior and being matched with him wasn’t surprising. It wasn’t unreasonable for him to feel this way.

    But logic and emotion are two different things.

    “But…”

    Seo-joon rubbed his eyebrows awkwardly and forced a smile.

    “I’m not really that admirable of a person, Yeon-woo.”

    Without meeting Yeon-woo’s gaze, he continued.

    “All awakened Espers do that. We rescue civilians and handle disasters. You’ve already saved quite a few people yourself, right? I’m not that deserving of such admiration.”

    Honestly, I don’t even remember which incident you’re referring to. There are so many orphanages. He grew embarrassed, and his words became long-winded. Realizing this, he stood up.

    “I’m going to get some water.”

    This is awkward in its own way. Knowing that all of Cha Yeon-woo’s strange behavior was simply his earnestness toward his savior leaves Seo-joon feeling a bit empty.

    Empty? Why do I feel empty? Why should I?

    This emotion is as enigmatic as when he first saw Cha Yeon-woo running to save him from the parasitic larva. It’s strange, something unsettling that he can’t precisely identify.

    The only difference is that, back then, it was somewhere between pity and frustration, whereas now it feels like a mix of relief and inexplicable emptiness.

    As if Cha Yeon-woo could ever like me.

    Seeing him in the CCTV footage was striking, so the idea had crossed his mind, but in hindsight, it seems ridiculous.

    Seo-joon took a gulp of cold water and let out a sigh. Anyway, he should stop feeling flustered and bewildered.

    Returning to the living room, he sat beside Yeon-woo. It was time to address the situation like an adult.

    “First, the reason I made that suggestion today…”

    He trailed off as he inadvertently met Yeon-woo’s gaze. For some reason, he couldn’t stop himself from looking away. When did he start caring so much about making eye contact with Cha Yeon-woo? It was absurd.

    “I wanted you to know that you have plenty of other options.”

    With another sip of water, Seo-joon regained his composure.

    “Newcomers often have this misconception that the society they’re in is everything, and without it, they feel hopeless. So they put up with the unfairness and cling to it. The reality is that when you step outside, there are countless choices. But if you’re too focused on one thing, you can’t see anything else.”

    Yeon-woo still seemed to have trouble understanding. Feeling like a bit of a lecture-giver, Seo-joon continued.

    “And for you, Yeon-woo, it’s probably worse because I’m your savior. It may even feel like some grand revelation. But that’s all an illusion. You don’t need to repay me specifically, and there are plenty of better opportunities out there for you.”

    A speech like this should come from someone like Jin Cheong-oh.

    Seo-joon felt more embarrassed the longer he spoke. Yeon-woo’s intense, unwavering attention made it even worse.

    “I’m really not a good Esper for a guide. You should know that. How many scars have you gotten because of me already? Isn’t that right?”

    “That doesn’t matter. I…”

    “I’m still talking, aren’t I?”

    “…Yes.”

    Seo-joon felt like a damn know-it-all. He hesitated, realizing no matter how he framed his words, it would still sound like a lecture.

    Entering into a dedicated guide contract meant a lot. Cha Yeon-woo would no longer be able to guide anyone else, and the contract could only be terminated with mutual consent.

    If he later wanted to switch teams, Seo-joon would have to release him, or he would remain bound.

    Exclusive contracts aren’t built solely on mutual trust; they’re legal documents with strict obligations and constraints.

    “And since I never accept pairing, trying it without my consent would be considered assault.”

    Imagine Seo-joon in a critical condition where level 1 or 2 guiding couldn’t save him. However, pairing could, but since he hadn’t consented, he couldn’t be revived.

    “…One day, you may face that kind of frustration.”

    Yeon-woo’s expression hardened.

    “So, you would be stuck with me, unable to use your full guiding abilities. Is that really the right choice?”

    Instead of trying to persuade Yeon-woo, Seo-joon shifted to offering him options. Even someone as stubborn as Cha Yeon-woo would see what was best for himself.

    ‘If he doesn’t understand this, he’d be a fool.’

    “Your debt has been paid, so let go of your sense of obligation. Even if you join another team, we’re not saying goodbye forever. Let’s grab a meal sometime.”

    Seo-joon smiled brightly, saying things he didn’t believe. If Cha Yeon-woo joined another team, it was unlikely they’d see each other often. At best, they might pass by each other at sites.

    After a long silence, Yeon-woo finally spoke.

    “…Are you fully respecting my choice?”

    Seo-joon nodded reassuringly.

    “Of course. I presented the options, and the decision is yours.”

    Don’t feel pressured; just say it. It’s okay if you quit now. He even mustered his most gentle expression.

    “In that case, I don’t want that.”

    It was then that Yeon-woo gave a response Seo-joon hadn’t expected at all.

    “I don’t want to just see you occasionally, chat occasionally, or have meals occasionally.”

    “…”

    “I want to be your dedicated guide, Lieutenant.”

    What is this fool saying?

    Fool. Idiot. Stubborn kid. Overly kind fledgling. Seo-joon criticized him internally.

    “Cha Yeon-woo, did you even listen to what I said?”

    “Yes, I listened well.”

    Despite the usual gentle expression on his face, in this moment, Seo-joon saw him as remarkably defiant.

    “I understand what you’re saying, Lieutenant… but I don’t want to guide anyone else.”

    The exhaustion made him lose his words for a moment. How could he further explain how much of a disadvantage it would be to work with him? Normally, people would have backed off after this.

    “…Yeon-woo, by any chance.”

    This is the worst. I have to say this. Seo-joon covered his mouth and stayed silent for a while before running a hand over his face.

    “Do you know who my old dedicated guide was?”

    “…It says Min Seon-wook on your profile.”

    “Did you see what was next to that name?”

    “Yes… It says deceased.”

    “Do you know why he died?”

    Yeon-woo’s innocent gaze wandered uncertainly.

    “Um, I thought he died in the line of duty.”

    “He died pairing with me.”

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