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    ​​Sehwa clenched his lips and barely suppressed the scream that threatened to burst out. The taste of blood spread in his mouth as he clenched his cheeks tightly. If he cried out in pain here, it would seem like he was acknowledging Ki Tae-jeong’s words.​

    “No bones were broken. The ligament is definitely injured though.”

    ​Ki Tae-jeong’s thumb, which was scanning the back of his hand, slowly made a half turn and smoothed out the inside of Sehwa’s wrist. Heat boiled wherever the man’s touch landed. Only a few words floated around in his shattered mind.

    ​Ki Tae-jeong, fellow orphan, not human, shared misfortune, why does he like him, bastard…

    It was embarrassing that Sehwa was now questioning feelings of humiliation when he had already been thoroughly beaten down by ​Ki Tae-jeong. From the moment they first met, Sehwa readily exposed his belly saying he wanted to live, and even helped ​Ki Tae-jeong wholeheartedly utilize his unique constitution to steal the finished product, and… Looking at just the result, it was true that Sehwa had spread his legs as payment for him clearing his debt.

    Still… Still, this wasn’t it. Just because he had shown a submissive attitude thus far didn’t mean Ki Tae-jeong had the right to dictate Sehwa’s other emotions.

    “I’ll give you medicine later, so take it.”

    Soft lips landed on his cheek. Sehwa tried to shake his head away, but ​Ki Tae-jeong persistently followed, planting kisses all over his face. It was a gentle peck like a bird’s beak, which only made Sehwa feel more resentful. So ​Ki Tae-jeong knew how to kiss affectionately like this while treating him so crudely until now.

    When he more vigorously turned his head away to reject the shower of kisses, Ki Tae-jeong finally stopped moving. Sehwa turned his head halfway and cast his gaze aimlessly. A devouring gaze poured over his profile and the shallow throbs of his neck muscle.

    “Babe.”

    Maintaining a ferocious stare as if he would tear out his windpipe any moment, Ki Tae-jeong untangled his entwined fists. Sehwa squeezed his eyes shut. He would hit him. Or this time, he would really break his wrist.

    ​However, the choice Ki Tae-jeong made was again different from Sehwa’s expectations. He just pulled Sehwa a little closer. The firm hands gripping and kneading his buttocks did not feel violent. Rather, they were soft and gentle, like when Ki Tae-jeong had planted kisses on his cheeks and forehead earlier.

    “I think I can make you cry your heart out about what you hate the most right now.”

    Ki Tae-jeong lowered his head as if to do just that. Their foreheads lightly bumped. And that was it. There were no kisses, sex, or violence. Not a hint of coercion could be felt from his gestures. It was the leisure of a beast that could savagely butcher its prey before it at any moment.

    “You readily spread your legs but why do you clench your teeth and refuse kisses like a pathetic wretch?”

    ​Ki Tae-jeong looked at him with a cruel and vicious expression as if observing a petulant child, interestedly watching Sehwa’s heaving chest swell greatly and then slowly deflate.

    “… Brigadier General.”​

    “Why do you call me that when you’re not even one of my subordinates?”

    ​Even in this situation, wanting to be addressed by his preferred title… The wound on Sehwa’s constantly bitten and gritted lower lip split open.

    “Brigadier General, do you like me?”

    ​At Sehwa’s sudden question, the smile on Ki Taejeong’s face slowly disappeared.​

    “What?”

    ​What are you talking about now? Even as fear made Sehwa tremble, a thrill ran up from his toes. He didn’t know Ki Tae-jeong could make an expression like he had been punched.

    “Asking out of the blue in a situation like this if I like you is a bit strange, isn’t it? Unless you’ve been harboring such thoughts all along…”

    Sehwa forcibly raised his limp hand and brushed away the tear beads clinging to his eyelashes. It didn’t seem like any bones were broken as Ki Tae-jeong said, but the area around his wrist was getting increasingly red and swollen, as if he had definitely been seriously injured. Well, at least he could attribute his uncontrollable trembling to the injury.

    “If you’re suggesting having a child, it means you must really like the other person, cough, right?”

    It would have been better if his voice hadn’t trembled so foolishly. Still, Sehwa spilled out everything on his mind. He knew Ki Tae-jeong wasn’t a man who would be hurt by just this, but he still wanted to take out the thorns he had harbored.

    “Even though you know I can’t get pregnant, I didn’t understand why you always made those kinds of…remarks to me. If it’s because you like me…”

    He looked straight into Ki Tae-jeong’s eyes and confronted him clearly. Of course, that was just his mindset – his outward appearance was a mess. His fingertips trembled like a drug addict and the areas under his fearful eyes were bruised.

    ​Sehwa knew himself well. This was the most he could muster in defiance. Even now, he was only able to talk back driven by resentment, but if Ki Tae-jeong started kicking and hitting him like before. Or if he brought up the 37.8 billion won debt he had agreed to forget… Sehwa would inevitably kneel before him again.

    Sehwa always tried to act nonchalant in front of others, but he wanted to suffer less pain and live if he could. His nature was as meek and servile as a house in the outer districts or a drifting debtor. But for now, he was determined to stay defiant even knowing full well what consequences this outburst could bring.

    Even if Sehwa had to submit, he wanted to let Ki Tae-jeong know that he could be uncooperative if he acted this way. Sehwa wanted Ki Tae-jeong to understand that if he pushed him like this, he would have to go through the bother of beating Sehwa several times, so he should stop doing this. Instead, he should be content with occasionally feeding him cakes and talking about the debt—no need to stir up and torment him more than that… just like that.

    “Oh, I see.”

    Ki Tae-jeong just stared at Sehwa quietly. His flat, undulating tone was cold as if it were the foreshadowing of an impending tragedy. Sehwa had braced himself for this much, no, even more. With a resolute expression, he calmly lent his ear to Ki Tae-jeong’s words. Or pretended to.

    “That’s right. I suppose usually you’d have to like someone to consider having a child with them.”

    But… there was something off about Ki Tae-jeong’s state. Instead of raising his hand to stroke his cheek, he only gave an exquisitely drawn smile. Of course, only his lips curved like a crescent moon; his eyes didn’t smile at all.

    “Yeah, I guess I do like you.”

    The words he casually let out were so cold that Sehwa couldn’t immediately comprehend what Ki Tae-jeong was saying.

    “…Huh?”

    “You asked if I liked you. Sure, let’s go with that.”

    The hands wrapped around Sehwa’s waist and buttocks slowly applied more force. It wasn’t painful, but there was a scorching heat as if he would immediately rip open and spread him apart. Ki Tae-jeong was angry at Sehwa for daring to defy him – in a way Sehwa had never seen before.

    “I like you, Lee Sehwa.”

    Sehwa’s lips parted in a gasp. His heart dropped to his toes at the voice addressing him, at the clear enunciation of his own name. It was intentional. Ki Tae-jeong was doing this on purpose. Sehwa wasn’t trembling anymore. His body had completely stiffened, unable to even blink. Ki Tae-jeong didn’t miss this opening, pressing their lips together. He bit down, enveloping the torn wound with just the tender inner flesh, and diligently lapped up the flowing blood.

    “Are you satisfied now?”

    I like you. Lee Sehwa. 

    The pretty words he had thought he would never hear from others, the dream-like address he had only vaguely imagined… became the cruelest, coldest blade, stabbing deep into Sehwa’s chest again and again. A warm breath spilled over his philtrum. Ki Tae-jeong’s tongue invaded Sehwa’s stupidly gaping lips. As Sehwa was dazed from the shock, unable to react, it gently prodded and massaged his unresponsive tongue. It was a kiss not just sensible, but downright gentlemanly.​

    ​“Lee Sehwa.”​

    ​When Ki Tae-jeong called his name again while their lips were touching, Sehwa couldn’t help but shed tears.

    “Why are you crying? Isn’t this what you wanted to hear from me?”

    No, it wasn’t. It would have been better to call him a h0le or to treat him like a wh0re. It was more bearable when Ki Tae-jeong dragged him down like a pr0stitute while talking about unspeakable and promiscuous things. This, this was too much…

    “P-please stop…”

    Could Ki Tae-jeong see through this too? Just like he easily read Sehwa’s desire for a resident ID inside the castle rather than money… Did his foolish wish to be Lee Sehwa rather than Sakura, Samwol, or Hongdan have been completely exposed?

    ​Sehwa bowed his head. The teasing that seemed to take out and destroy even the dreams that were hidden deepest inside… It was difficult to bear it any longer. Sehwa was prepared for the familiar violence that would pour down on his body, never imagining he would be struck in the heart like this. Sehwa had no immunity against this kind of cruelty.

    “It’s strange. You say you don’t like me calling your name. I tell you I like you since you asked, but you just cry.”

    Ki Tae-jeong lifted Sehwa’s hung head. Seeing his eyes glazed over with moisture as if a fog had settled, he chuckled and planted a kiss on his brow.

    “You always looked like you might cum just from hearing me say your name.”

    ​“…”​

    “How on earth have you survived in the House so far, unable to hide your expressions like that?”

    ​“…”​

    ​If it had been before, Ki Tae-jeong would have scolded him for not being able to answer quickly. But the persistent Ki Tae-jeong waited for Sehwa to respond when he wanted something.

    “…I’m sorry. I…I won’t do it again.”

    “What are you sorry about? You are Lee Sehwa. You asked me if I liked you and I said yes. But damn, even after I did as you wanted, why the hell are you crying, huh?”

    “It’s nothing. I…”

    “Then what are you? If it’s not Lee Sehwa, what else?”

    Sehwa knew the answer Ki Tae-jeong wanted. For him to apologize for his brazen defiance, to admit with his own mouth. I’m your damn wh0re. He was sorry that he had felt something akin to pity or a sense of connection towards Ki Tae-jeong for a moment. But the words wouldn’t leave his lips.

    “At first you had that blank look, then you’d cry and laugh and chatter as soon as you saw me. Now you want me to embrace you like a lover just for telling an old story…”

    The man’s grip on Sehwa’s chin tightened.

    “It’s not even funny.”

    “…”

    “What are you to make those faces at me, huh?”

    Sehwa’s lips, from which only ragged breaths escaped, trembled violently. Had he…really? Made a face like wanting to be embraced as a lover? Had he looked at Ki Tae-jeong with that expression…?

    “Don’t harbor useless feelings.”

    ​“…”​

    “Even if it’s not love, whether it’s affection, sympathy, or anything else.”

    A choked breath caught in his throat. The hidden meaning of his command was clear. As a toy he played with for a while, as a mere h0le, he should not get ahead of himself.

    “Lee Sehwa. Don’t you understand? Do I need to explain it again?”

    “No, for talking back, I’m…sorry…”

    Sehwa shook his head with a sob. Don’t say that, please. He had done wrong, so don’t talk like that. He whispered and pleaded again and again. Stop, please.

    “I said I’d dote on you plenty if you behave, so why won’t you listen?”

    ​Ki Tae-jeong firmly grabbed Sehwa’s cheek. His grip felt like it would dislocate his jaw.

    ​“Next time you make a fuss, I’ll make you repeat with your own mouth that you’re a h0le and a whore. And you probably don’t like being fucked all day long.”

    “Yes, I’m sorry…”

    “Good, that’s how you should be.”

    Ki Tae-jeong tapped his cheek with his index finger. Tears blurred his vision, Ki Tae-jeong’s face fading in and out. Was he…smiling? It seemed so. No, he couldn’t tell. He didn’t know anything…

    “Open your mouth.”

    Ki Tae-jeong’s tongue penetrated into the obediently opened mouth. As if the tender kiss moments ago was a lie, the hot flesh buried deep in ravaged Sehwa’s tongue in a promiscuous and lustful way. This felt like the real Ki Tae-jeong, his true kiss.

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