Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, a leading psychiatrist of the 20th century, identified the psychological stages that humans go through in the face of death in her book “On Death and Dying” as the five stages listed above.
Although the circ*mstances were different, Kwon Jae-jin’s psychological state during his first life cycle followed a similar pattern.
He experienced denial, anger, bargaining, and depression before finally reaching acceptance.
If you’re wondering what all the preamble is about…
Simply put, Kwon Jae-jin had what you might call a crazy lover in his first cycle.
The first S-Class Esper, 24 years old, Seo Ui-woo.
Four years earlier, Ui-woo had appeared out of nowhere before Jae-jin, who was then a regular, non-awakened person, and forcibly took him away claiming to have finally found his ideal Guide.
“You’re the guide that’s meant for me. To think you were hiding in such a place – no wonder you were so hard to find.”
A guide, Kwon Jae-jin? An utterly common, everyday office worker from Residential Zone 6?
No matter how much Jae-jin tried to debunk this with ‘denial’, Ui-woo was having none of it. He dragged Jae-jin into a special residential district only accessible to awakened beings, and imprisoned him in his 3,000-pyeong (approximately 105,785 square feet) mansion, demanding forced guidance.
Guiding, of course, naturally involved physical contact.
Among various methods, contact through thin mucous membranes proved to be most efficient.
Therefore, awakened beings received unique sexual education from a young age and held distinctive notions of chastity.
To ordinary people like Kwon Jae-jin, acts such as kissing or sex were meaningful expressions of affection reserved for one’s lover, but to that damned Seo Ui-woo, they were nothing more than efficient means of guiding.
“Ow, ow, ah, ack! Stop… please!”
Due to that unnecessarily large bastard, Jae-jin had gone through a horrific first experience, bleeding from both ends.
The anger that welled up at that time was truly indescribable…
“My guide… finally, I found you… By the way, what’s your name?”
After finally receiving proper guiding, that bastard put on a puppy-dog smile, saying he was so overwhelmed with joy and excitement from the new experience.
His slender eyes lacking double eyelids curled up in an innocent smile, but to Jae-jin, that expression was nothing short of creepy and revolting.
In the end, Jae-jin couldn’t stop himself from socking that bastard right in the face, but Ui-woo simply took it, as if punches from a regular person like him did no damage at all.
When recalling it now, I shudder at the memory of his face twisted in a savage grin even as he was being punched, his features drenched in pitch-black madness.
“I am not a guide. It’s impossible for me to be one, and if I supposedly am, it has to be some kind of mistake. Please send me back to Residential Zone 6.”
“You are a mutant.”
Afterward, when Jae-jin requested to be sent home upon fulfilling the needed guiding role, Ui-woo flatly refused.
Espers and their guides are property of the state, and from birth, they are strictly controlled and managed. In cases like Kwon Jae-jin’s, where an ordinary person awakens an ability later in life, they are categorized as uncontrollable mutants and potential threats, and were immediately put to death.
“Would you rather be released and get shot outside? Or would you prefer to hide here and be my exclusive guide?”
Ui-woo gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse, and Jae-jin, ‘bargaining’ with reality, became trapped in his house as an exclusive guide.
Three ‘depressing’ years passed.
Eventually, Ui-woo had come to occupy a significant part of Jae-jin’s life, and somehow, Jae-jin found himself having to ‘accept’ him.
After all, it had been three years.
Initially, Jae-jin loathed Ui-woo with a passion, struggled to escape the forceful confinement, fought tooth and nail against Ui-woo’s persistent pestering for guiding… Endured being violated repeatedly when Ui-woo, driven to the brink of rampage and losing his sanity, could no longer control himself… Jae-jin even tried killing that bastard at one point… He had considered suicide.
Truth be told, it wasn’t Ui-woo’s fault that Kwon Jae-jin awoke as his guide – that was just Jae-jin’s mutant nature.
Nor was it Ui-woo’s fault that Jae-jin was forced to live locked up in his home; it was merely to avoid the state’s harsh policies.
Still, Jae-jin needed someone to blame, and with a detestable person right before his eyes, he couldn’t help but become excessively hostile.
Well… Anyway, after a string of dramatic incidents involving swearing, tears, pleading, bloodshed, suicide attempts… Sharing everyday life, witnessing each other’s growth, and somehow… Sheesh, awkward as it is, the two managed to somewhat understand each other.
Born an Esper, Seo Ui-woo intrinsically harbored a primal fear of rampaging.
If an S-Class Esper like him were to lose control, it would likely lead to a catastrophe, resulting in countless deaths and injuries. Thus, since infancy, Ui-woo received meticulous and systematic mental training aimed at instilling a fear of his own potential to rampage, far more intensive than other Espers – to the point it was practically brainwashing.
Of course, this meant that Ui-woo was desperate for guidance, having lived on the edge without a properly matched guide. There was only so much pseudo-drugs could replace, and he’d suffered chronic side effects such as headaches, fevers, dizziness, difficulty breathing, insomnia, and a loss of appetite.
Upon finally finding someone who could genuinely guide him, it was perhaps understandable why he would become so fixated.
However, Kwon Jae-jin had grown up as a normal person, unfamiliar with Ui-woo’s unreserved nature towards physical contact. To Jae-jin, being pressed against an unliked person was only repulsive.
Jae-jin fervently explained to Ui-woo about the general population’s views on chastity, asserting that kissing and sex should only happen between lovers. After much persistence, Ui-woo seemed to understand his viewpoint and made a sudden move.
“If you’re repulsed by sexual activities outside of a romantic relationship… Then if we become lovers, that would solve the problem. Let’s date.”
That crazy bastard!
Naturally thinking it was a joke, Jae-jin swiftly rejected the proposal, but Ui-woo was ridiculously tenacious.
Later on, it was Jae-jin who found himself pleading for Ui-woo to just accept the guidance freely without bringing up dating ever again.
And despite offering all the guidance that Ui-woo wanted, that stubborn ass didn’t change his stance.
He persisted with the proposals all year, claiming that Jae-jin was special, that he liked him… And so… Well…
Admittedly, Ui-woo was indeed handsome.
Such perfect, harmonious features were certainly rare in this world…
It’s not that they started dating because of his face…
The face… Was it the face?
Was it because of his face?
I don’t know… Damn…
At any rate, they became a couple.
…If only it ended there with a neat happy ending.
During a sunny afternoon, a gate burst open in the yard, and Kwon Jae-jin, caught in its turbulence, was torn apart and died.
This is the story of Kwon Jae-jin’s life before he went back in time.
A throbbing headache began to subside gradually.
Forcing his eyes open through a cringe, Jae-jin saw a familiar bedroom.
Seo Ui-woo’s luxurious mansion, with 3,000 pyeong to its name.
Flanked by massive panoramic windows, a serene night sea rippled outside. The dome-shaped glass ceiling above seemed ready to let in a cascade of twinkling stars.
For the record, all that glass was specially treated high-strength bulletproof material.
If you’re wondering how I know, it’s because Kwon Jae-jin once tested it by shooting at it himself.
“Ah, you’re awake?”
Then, a familiar face popped up between Jae-jin’s thighs.
Ui-woo was undressing him from below, casually flipping the belt and pulling down the zipper, sliding the dress pants down to his knees.
Jae-jin watched Ui-woo’s face silently as his pants were removed.
It’s a face he’d seen too often over the past four years.
Those distinctive, thick eyebrows seemed so familiarly reassuring, and the heavy-lidded eyes half-hidden deep within his sockets were the same as ever. The long, thin eyelashes that tickled his cheeks whenever they mingled were unforgettable.
Most of all, those grey eyes were as hauntingly captivating as they had ever been.
Ui-woo’s grey eyes held a duality of warmth and cold—a deep, intimate allure sometimes, yet other times they felt eerily misaligned, like a frightening fissure.
…Moments come flooding back of making eye contact with that bastard, swallowing all kinds of emotions and gazing helplessly.
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