“Kiss me,” Tae Seo asks.
In return, he receives a sharp kick to his shins.
“That’s not a kiss,” he sighs as he steps back and hobbles a little.
“Because I am not going to give you one. However, I will kick you in your manhood the next time you ask.” Jo Yi snaps as she turns away on her heel and walks away, slender lithe body vibrating with something akin to annoyance.
Tae Seo is a sucker for pain. This much he knows. It’s the only way he can perceive an emotion. If it’s not connected to pain and desperation, he does not understand it.
So he won’t stop asking. Sometimes pain is also a kiss.
Tae Seo is not used to being lovesick over a woman. It’s a different sort of thing, compared to the approval he craves from his father. He thought there was nothing more he wanted other than his father to recognize him. He was so wrong.
He wants Jo Yi to recognize him. He wants her to look him straight in the eye, and throw his own words back at him.
He asks her once. Why won't she recognize him? Why won't she look at him? Why won't she for the love of god kiss him once and put him out of his misery.
Her reply is blunt and cleaves him into pieces.
“Because you don't respect yourself. Or even recognize yourself. If you don’t see yourself as someone of worth, why do you expect me to do so?”
“I am Park Tae Seo,” he quietly responds, the words feeling a little forced.
And he hates her for this, but Jo Yi sees through the chink in his armor, perceptive as always.
“If you are, why don't you believe it yourself?” Jo Yi gently questions, her empathy feeling like some sharp knife into his gut. God he hates her.
“Who else can I be?” Tae Seo bitterly laughs. “I am Park Tae Seo. Nothing else.”
“You can be anyone you want to be,” Jo Yi reminds him. “You think you being Park Tae Seo hinges on your father, but it does not. He can take away the family name, but you are still Tae Seo. Your name is your own. Even God cannot take that away from you.
“Then who should I be?” Tae Seo asks desperately. He has no idea how to be anything other than craven and wanting and lacking. Desperate and hungry.
“I don’t know about that, but I can tell you who you don't need to be. You don't have to be the person who lets his father debase him. He merely gave you life. You can be so much more than what you are, if you want to be. What your father wants does not matter. He doesn't even behave like a father should.” Jo Yi is contemptuous and though Tae Seo bristles, he knows there’s a kernel of truth to her words.
There’s only so long he can pull wool over his eyes. His father has been using him as a scapegoat as long as he could. He’s only a part of the family in name. His father has never seen him as any more than a shameful burden.
“I hate you,” he whispers at her. Her answering smile of kindness and pity is more than he can bear. He turns away.
She had warned him the answer wasn’t one he would like. But he’s a sucker for pain. So he asked the question and heard the answer anyway.
Yi Eon watches the whole exchange from a distance and gives Jo Yi a little space before he appears next to her.
Despite trying to make as much noise as possible, he still startles her and Jo Yi reacts in a way that is all too familiar to him now, with violence, by smacking him hard on the chest.
“Omo! When will you learn not to creep up next to people?” She scolds him and Yi Eon tries to gather his forces as he pouts. So wrong for this tiny a person to be this unnaturally strong.
“I made so much noise,” Yi Eon grouses but pointedly stays a little distance away from Jo Yi. He’s not ready for more violence. It makes him feel like a small naughty child even though he's a full-grown man now, a government official and one who is fit and well over six feet tall.
“Jo Yi-ya, why do you keep entertaining that man? I am telling you, you are too kind-hearted.”
Jo Yi scoffs at that Yi Eon does not have it in himself to refute her scoff. She is kind to others. But most violent to him. Life sure is unjust.
“I am not entertaining him. He asked me a question, and I gave him an answer.” Jo Yi primly tells him.
“You can’t go around helping everybody who seems to be in need of help,” Yi Eon blithely reminds her. Her innate kindness and desire to help and comfort people is one of the single biggest reasons why she gets herself into so many pickles. Which he then rescues her from, quite well he must add.
Jo Yi turns towards him with an arched eyebrow and pursed mouth that foretells nothing but trouble for him. Oh shit. Perhaps he shouldn't have run his mouth without thinking.
“Yes, I shouldn't go around helping people,” she agrees with him, too sweetly for his own comfort. Yi Eon prepares for the lashing, verbal mostly because he's put a safe distance between them.
“I should start by leaving you three idiots to fend for yourselves. At least Yook Chil and Goo Pal are somewhat competent. God knows how you survived for this long with your lack of brain and manners.”
Ah there it is . Yi Eon eats humble pie and accepts the tongue lashing as his due.
“We are very grateful to you Jo Yi, for taking care of us.” Yi Eon meekly tells her. He knows she won’t stay mad for too long. She gets angry quickly and that anger dissipates quickly as well.
“Such a sweet talker,” Jo Yi sniffs but she also comes closer and from her basket that she has been clutching onto all this while, she takes out a rice cake and presses it into his hand.
“I know he's not a good man. But it doesn't look like he's experienced much kindness either.” Jo Yi shares as Yi Eon pops the rice cake in and chews thoughtfully.
That’s definitely one way to look at it. And he will not deny that kindness can accomplish so much. He understands the place of logic she’s operating from.
“A little kindness can help you change your life.” He responds and it's the correct answer because not only does Jo Yi beam at him proudly, she also presses two more rice cakes into his hand.
Yi Eon is not unhappy with this outcome.