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    Deep Pivot Episode 62

    Seo-joon hid behind a large rock, gritting his teeth in despair. There had been moments during their stay in the safehouse when he had been grateful that Yeon-woo was with him. If he had been alone, he wouldn’t have been able to withstand the isolation.

    But now, in this moment, he deeply resented Yeon-woo’s presence beside him. The situation was horrible.

    He didn’t know how to protect someone. Despite having saved countless civilians before, he felt lost. Was there even a way to perfectly protect someone from these Espers?

    It pained him to see even the smallest scratch on Yeon-woo.

    The gunfire ceased. Seo-joon looked at Yeon-woo, who showed him his shoulder.

    “I can move. I really think it just grazed me. It’s okay…”

    “Stop saying it’s okay!”

    Seo-joon cut him off sharply.

    “You said you don’t like getting hurt. You don’t want to die, right? Then… then just…”

    Blame me, please. He couldn’t finish the sentence, swallowing his words and gripping Yeon-woo’s collar.

    “Lieutenant.”

    Yeon-woo wrapped his hand around Seo-joon’s, which was holding his collar. Seo-joon looked down at the larger hand that easily covered his. A faint scar remained on Yeon-woo’s hand from when he had shielded Seo-joon’s head during the last gate incident.

    “Don’t be angry. I’m usually such a crybaby, but this time, it really is bearable…”

    Seo-joon looked at Yeon-woo’s hands as he carefully rubbed Seo-joon’s fingers and back of his hand. Every small scratch was gently erased with his touch.

    “Don’t worry. If it really hurts, I’ll tell you.”

    Bleeding from being shot, yet still reassuring him. What were these minor scratches compared to that, and still he guided him in such a critical moment.

    His blind devotion began to stir Seo-joon’s heart. What had once seemed irritating and foolish now only brought Seo-joon pain.

    “…Let’s go.”

    Seo-joon took Yeon-woo’s hand and guided him away. Since the gunfire had stopped, the attackers were likely moving in on them directly. They needed to find cover quickly.

    Then a phone vibrated in Seo-joon’s pocket.

    “Colonel Jin.”

    — Lieutenant Ji, we’re almost there. We’ll arrive within 15 minutes. Can you hold out until then?

    “We’re currently at the mountainside near the safehouse’s back entrance. We’ll hold out as best as we can.”

    — Do you have a radio? Keep it on, and if you get a signal, answer immediately. It’ll be us.

    “Understood. And…”

    Seo-joon glanced at Yeon-woo as he spoke.

    “There’s an injured guide. Send down the transport equipment first.”

    After ending the call, Seo-joon looked at Yeon-woo with a heavy heart. If he were alone, holding out for 15 minutes would have been easy. But with Yeon-woo by his side, even a single minute felt precarious.

    “…I’m just a burden, right?”

    Yeon-woo cautiously asked, meeting Seo-joon’s gaze.

    “What are you talking about? There’s no burden as beautiful as you.”

    Seo-joon hugged him, but a long sigh escaped his lips.

    “…If I could, I’d swallow you whole and carry you in my belly.”

    He made a grim joke, managing a weak smile.

    “Me too.”

    Yeon-woo hugged him back.

    “I’d like to be inside you too, Lieutenant.”

    Their firm embrace warmed each other. Seo-joon pulled back and placed Yeon-woo’s hand on his own shoulder. There was no time for unnecessary sentiment. The later they faced their pursuers, the better their chances of protecting Yeon-woo.

    “Stop the bleeding well. Just hold on for a bit longer.”

    Seo-joon grabbed Yeon-woo’s hand and they dashed uphill. Within minutes, the sound of gunfire and footsteps drew closer from below. He couldn’t be sure how many, but it sounded like more than the number they had seen inside the building.

    In the end, Seo-joon let Yeon-woo take the lead.

    “This won’t work.”

    “What?”

    “Go, Yeon-woo. Run straight uphill.”

    Seo-joon pressed a radio into Yeon-woo’s hand. When Yeon-woo shook his head in disbelief, Seo-joon playfully ruffled his hair and smiled.

    “You trust me, right?”

    He lightly patted Yeon-woo’s hand.

    “Just give me good guidance later.”

    Yeon-woo’s expression was indescribably grim.

    There was no time to hesitate, and it wasn’t the moment to argue. Yeon-woo knew it would be worse for Seo-joon if he stayed, so he finally turned and ran.

    Gunfire drew closer from behind. Yeon-woo glanced back, seeing Seo-joon standing at the ready with his hands raised, facing their pursuers below. At that moment, Yeon-woo felt the deep pang of being unable to help as an Esper.

    Running away and leaving Seo-joon behind felt awful. If only he could protect him, if only he had that ability. But in reality, he was nothing more than a rookie guide with no battle experience.

    Yeon-woo turned and ran again. The sun was already setting. Dry leaves and broken branches underfoot made him slip several times.

    Static crackled through the radio, but there was no clear signal. He needed to find higher ground and get a signal to relay the situation immediately. While sprinting uphill, someone suddenly stepped in front of Yeon-woo.

    [Are you the No-Named or is it the other guy?]

    A blond man dressed in black techwear approached Yeon-woo. Instinctively, Yeon-woo reached for the revolver on his back but immediately winced and fell to his knees.

    “Ugh.”

    [Relax, friend. I’m unarmed. Drawing a gun isn’t fair play]

    His entire body was pinned to the ground under immense pressure. The binder, who typically restrained aberrations with telekinesis, was now restraining a human. Yeon-woo lay face-down, arms twisted behind him, and thrashed desperately to gauge the enemy’s strength.

    Recalling how Second Lieutenant Yoon Doyoung of the SAU had once crumpled a ghoul like paper in midair, he realized that this binder’s hold wasn’t as strong or precise. The fallen leaves around him were flattened and crumbled. Not as refined.

    At best, an A-rank or below B-rank.

    If below B-rank, he could potentially break free with enough effort. Meanwhile, the rapid gunfire from the building rang out from far below.

    [Ah, so that one’s the No-Named.]

    The man said as he kicked Yeon-woo in the back.

    [So you’re the guide, huh.]

    Yeon-woo rolled across the ground, still pinned by the man’s telekinesis, coughing up a groan. The revolver and radio slipped from his waistband as the man kicked him repeatedly.

    The man slowly approached and straddled Yeon-woo. Though he had claimed not to have any weapons earlier, he pulled Yeon-woo’s revolver from his own belt and aimed it at Yeon-woo’s forehead.

    Bang! The gunshot right above his head left Yeon-woo’s ears ringing. He grabbed the man’s wrist and tried to push him away.

    “Urgh…”

    [Strong, huh?]

    The man laughed.

    [You’re well trained.]

    Static crackled from a short distance away.

    —Baby, respond.

    Bang! Another shot fired into the air. The man was distracted by the voice on the radio, giving Yeon-woo a chance to twist the man’s wrist and force his body to turn.

    Despite his struggles, Yeon-woo couldn’t stand up due to the binder’s telekinetic restraint, causing the back of his head to bang against the ground repeatedly. Then, a voice came from the man’s radio.

    —What’s your status?

    [A guide. I’ll deal with him and head down.]

    “Ugh, ah…!”

    Yeon-woo grabbed the man’s wrist and fought desperately. Bang, bang! Two more shots fired into the ground. Laughter was heard from the other end of the radio.

    —Hey, how can a B-rank be overpowered by a guide? Need help?

    [Shut up, I’m just having fun.]

    Wham, wham! Smack! The man struck Yeon-woo’s face with the revolver, almost as if venting his frustration. The cold metal ripped through his cheek and left the inside of his mouth torn and bleeding.

    One side of Yeon-woo’s face swelled up instantly, and blood poured from his lips and eyelids. Amid the unfamiliar language ringing in his ears, he heard the words “Level B.”

    [A B-rank…]

    As the man swung his fist again, Yeon-woo twisted the man’s wrist backward.

    “Aaaagh!”

    The man’s wrist cracked as it bent backward. The telekinetic restraint holding Yeon-woo vanished. With his wrist twisted to the point where his knuckles touched his forearm, the man screamed in agony.

    [You damned…!]

    The revolver was too far down the slope to grab. Yeon-woo reached desperately for the radio nearby.

    Bang! With his right hand broken, the man fired the gun with his left, missing Yeon-woo and hitting the dirt. Yeon-woo grabbed the man’s leg, toppling him.

    The two tumbled together down the slope, rolling over each other.

    “Urgh…!”

    The man’s back hit a sharp tree stump, knocking the wind out of him. He groaned and shoved Yeon-woo off. He staggered to his feet, scowling, and aimed the revolver at Yeon-woo lying on the ground.

    Bang!

    “Ah, ugh…”

    Yeon-woo’s body twitched, sprawled on the ground. The man tried to pull the trigger again.

    Click, click.

    The revolver was empty.

    —Baby, respond. Baby, respond.

    Cheong-oh’s voice came through the radio lying on the ground. The man glanced at the radio in confusion before a massive shadow charged toward him.

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