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Now, you are wondering why I chose such a title, because it offers so many possibilities. And that’s exactly the reason why I selected this title. I didn’t want to reveal immediately the real topic of the subject. Furthermore, I desired to look at the manhwa under this aspect, since it helps the readers to get a new understanding of Yoon Seungho’s actions and behavior.
1. … A painting
It all started with a painting, which caught Yoon Seungho’s attention and aroused him so much, that he became slowly dependent on the erotic pictures made by Baek Na-Kyum to the point that he had to use them all the time. (chapter 1) However, the moment Baek Na-Kyum stopped publishing, the addicted noble realized his terrible situation. He needed to have the creator by his side, since he couldn’t give up on his “addiction”. The paintings had become his drug and the moment the author stopped publishing, it made the lord recognize, that he needed to become the supplier. He couldn’t remain a buyer, since he was put in a vulnerable and insecure position. Therefore we could say as well, it all started with the painter’s vow.
Because of Baek Na-Kyum’s resignation, the lord suffered immensely, yet simultaneously the latter didn’t want to change his habit for his nightly activities. That’s why he had to find the source of his addiction: the anonym artist. And now, the first image gets another dimension. His smile not only expressed his happiness, but also exposed his intoxication at the same time. In other words, his euphoria was more artificial, as he was in the presence of his drug. This explicates why the lord was so self-centered and selfish in the beginning. He was prioritizing his own needs. Don’t get me wrong… I am not saying that his feelings for the low-born were not genuine, it was actually a combination of both. His unconscious had sensed the painter’s sensitivity and felt a certain closeness, yet because of his debauchery, the lord had perverted it and was behaving like a drug addict. Now, it becomes more understandable why Yoon Seungho had already announced a death sentence, (chapter 1) in case his wish didn’t get fulfilled, and why he became so “bloodthirsty” after the rejection. Just like a drug addict who becomes violent, if he is unable to get his drug, he felt the urge to release his anger. (chapter 1) It was, as if he was in withdrawal and couldn’t bear the thought, he hadn’t obtained what he desired. So when I compare the painter and his work to a drug, it puts the low-born in a bad light. Nonetheless this is not my intention at all. For me, the painter represents his cure in reality. Let’s not forget that the powerful aristocrat’s heart has been poisoned, corrupted by his father, therefore in order to get cured, he needs to find another “poison”, it’s like fighting a poison with another poison.
First, the painter confronts him with his own reflection (beautiful, attractive), which he has never experienced before. This drug is even more addictive than before, procuring new sensations. He becomes so high that he can’t control his erection and feels the need to have sex so early. (chapter 3) We see here the lord intoxicated by the new drug. It did release him from his prison, his self-hatred. Moreover, it helped him to see more clearly for the first time. His eye in his mind was now free from any corruption. Nonetheless the next day, he is faced with a different image. More precisely, his ears have to hear a terrible truth. Now, he is a man consumed by sex, which causes him to become pensive and depressed. He is no longer feeling the urge to have sex with Jihwa. And now, the manhwaphiles comprehend the true nature of the new drug: the painter’s gaze is liberating the lord’s senses, very similar to Jihwa. This is not surprising that the first two paintings (chapter 2) (chapter 10) he makes show our lord looking at the painter. Imagine, in the second image, he even has two sex partners by his side, yet his attention is directed at the creator and not his partners. This painting exposes their locked gaze and their growing intimacy. Baek Na-Kyum’s gaze has become the lord’s obsession, his new drug. The paintings Baek Na-Kyum creates exude warmth, beauty and naturality which stands in opposition to the world, where the lord is living: fakeness, superficiality, distance and coldness. But the lord’s attraction towards the painter increases so much that he would like to taste the artist. In other words, if he devours Baek Na-Kyum, he might get high again because the pictures are no longer enough to satiate his urges. Now, you can understand what this means. Having sex with the low-born signifies, he is “increasing” the dose. Note that this coincides with the third painting, where he is looking at Jihwa and not at the painter. During that night, he asked the commoner to join them. He was clearly expressing his interest in the artist. The locked gaze was no longer satisfying. This is also not surprising that the next day, he has no problem to cut ties with his long-time lover Jihwa. The artist has slowly replaced the sex partners. Without realizing it, the lord is becoming monogamous. Observe that from chapter 16, he has no nightly activity at all, contrary to the past. He makes a relapse in chapter 33, due to his guilty conscience. However, the moment he realizes that some nobles, especially Min, are looking at his “drug”, he recognizes what it really means, if he came to lose his new “drug”. His life and situation would be worse than before. Baek Na-Kyum’s gaze only belongs to him, hence he is willing to face a negative reflection.
Notice that the moment he is no longer obsessed with the paintings but with the artist’s love, he is no longer interested in his nightly activities. After chapter 21, he waits for the painter. He has already become monogamous. The long awaited picture serves a different purpose. Yoon Seungho would like to have a proof that he is loved by the painter. The image no longer represents his victory over a man and as such the noble he despises, but the mark of their love. He doesn’t feel the need to get aroused by the pictures.
2. … a kiss and embrace
Striking is that the moment he has sex with the artist, he discovers a new world: love and warmth. That’s the reason why this night still haunts his mind till the chapter 58. It all started with an innocent kiss but most importantly with the painter’s hug. (chapter 19) Notice that the moment the painter confesses to Seungho, he puts his hands on his shoulder and then he kisses him. But this doesn’t end here, later he puts his hands around his shoulders. (chapter 20) For the first time, the noble is embraced. And now, if you look at all the sex sessions he had with Jihwa or the others, the main lead was never truly hugged. (chapter 8) (chapter 9) (chapter 15) [I am not quoting the paintings again which could be added to this list] One might argue that in the first panel, the sex partner is hugging the main lead from behind. However, this gesture reminds us much more of a fight than of a real embrace, corroborating my initial interpretation of sex sessions. In truth, they are battles, where the ukes are the defeated ones. It looks like the noble is restraining the protagonist from moving. It’s, as if he was trapped. From my perspective, there is always a distance between him and the sex partners, especially in the threesome. (chapter 10) The lower part is focused on Min, while the mouth is busy kissing the other aristocrat. Yet Seungho’s chest, eyes and mind are neglected. Striking is that the main character is portrayed with no arm exposing his incapacity to hug anyone. And now, you understand the importance of the hug. During their first night, the painter keeps hugging the lord, although his gesture is quite reserved in the beginning. This ignites a desire in Yoon Seungho, the latter feels the need to return the embrace and hug the artist. (chapter 20) Yet, the more time passes on, the more the low-born holds the noble more tightly. (chapter 21) The painter voices the wish to be embraced. That’s why the former puts him on his lap. (chapter 21) You can sense that Yoon Seungho is willing to fill the gap and feel as close as possible to Baek Na-Kyum. He hugged him on his own first, yet the artist was the one embracing him fully at the end. (chapter 21) That’s why we could say that it all started with an embrace, the real cure. The painter’s gaze accompanied with the hands on Seungho’s shoulder created a new euphoria. This explicates why he was so obsessed with that night, why he attempted to renew this wonderful experience. In chapter 25, he tried to hug the painter from behind but failed terribly. (chapter 26) This was a gesture of defeat and submission and never an embrace full of love. One might argue that the noble had already hugged the painter before, (chapter 16) hence the artist’s hug during their Wedding night can’t mark the start. Yet, if the manhwaworms look at the way the master held the commoner in chapter 16, they’ll notice that the lord is hugging Baek Na-Kyum from behind. He was definitely restraining him from leaving his bedchamber, like a predator catching his prey. Sure, there’s no doubt that there exist emotions behind his gesture. Nonetheless, the hug was more under the influence of the unconscious. Consequently it is different from the night in chapter 19. Here, the lord was more looking for sex, whereas in chapters 20 and 21, it was a mixture of sex and love. However, at the end love became triumphant and the lord was no longer interested in sex.
And now if you perceive the painter’s gaze and hug as “drugs”, you can imagine why Yoon Seungho became so infuriated, hurt and violent at the pavilion. Like a person on withdrawal, he couldn’t control his emotions and behavior. Once he became sober, he realized his mistake. His mind had become clearer again. In my perspective, the “cure” helped him to release his emotions, which he had been repressing for so long. This explicates why he was reminded of his tragic past and relived his traumatic experience. He had decided to become numb in order not to feel any pain. The problem is that the moment he discovered love, he was not recognizing that he was allowing his heart to feel pain as well. Love and pain can’t be separated.
With this new perspective, it becomes understandable, while the lord hugged the artist while bathing. (chapter 59) He became addicted to the hug. The problem was that the painter seemed to have forgotten their lovemaking. On the other hand, the lord couldn’t forget the painter’s arms therefore he often grabbed the artist’s arm (chapter 22) (chapter 30), as if they were a treasure to him. The roughness vanishes gradually, for the lord changes for the better as well. But more importantly, in the following gestures, the readers can sense his desire to hug the artist. And as time passes on, the gesture becomes more obvious and pronounced. It started with an arm, (chapter 22) then it was the chest(chapter 40) , (chapter 42) until it became a real hug. (chapter 49) However, the real climax is reached in chapter 58. This time, the aristocrat in love is holding him so tightly with his both arms. (chapter 58) There is no gap between them, the artist is no longer putting some distance with his head, unlike in chapter 49 (third panel above) or the lord is grabbing the neck to make sure that the artist keeps kissing him (second panel above). Yet, while they make love (chapter 58) , the lord is no longer holding him and gazing at him, he is just grabbing his hand and whispering his love confession. This signifies that the lord has truly given up on his dream and has accepted reality. The painter’s gaze and hug were just an addiction and he is admitting that he will never be loved. He will see this night as a wonderful illusion but he won’t feel any anger, despair and pain after that night. We could say that the lord has finally defeated his inner demons and addiction. He is free from his past and can now use his mind clearly. (chapter 61) Baek Na-Kyum purified the lord so that the latter has truly become selflessness and no longer needs sex. He won’t organize any sex session or any party with wine and opium. In my opinion, the last debauchery symbolized his final relapse. Observe that during that week, he had no sex and wasn’t even aroused, when a noble gave him a blowjob. Sex has become irrelevant thereby we can conclude that his transformation is complete. He has become a truly reformed man. (chapter 61) And as much as it pains me that the lord won’t look for the artist right away [that’s my theory and since Byeonduck liked a tweet where I expressed this], I believe, this picture symbolizes something positive too. The lord’s mind and heart are at peace. Now, he can think and see lucidly and once he discovers Baek Na-Kyum’s painting and the tools left in the study, he will recognize his mistake.
3. … the arms and hands
And because it started with a hug, it becomes comprehensible why the lord loved hugging his lover. In reality, he wished to be embraced too and the hug in chapter 16 externalized his deeply repressed desires. This is not surprising that a hug from the painter could stop Yoon Seungho’s rage and fury. Imagine his emotions, when the low-born did this. In that scene, the master was acting like a monster, nevertheless it didn’t stop the artist to embrace him despite the slap and his ugly behavior. But for Baek Na-Kyum, it was the same as well. He also longed to be embraced hence for him, their Wedding night represented a dream, where he could express his desire and experience what he wanted to have. He wanted to express his love, shower his learned sir with his affection. Strangely, it started with a hand (chapter 30) forcing the low-born to accept him as his new master. However, notice that the painter’s hands become more decisive and grab more firmly Yoon Seungho’s wrist in chapter 42. (chapter 42) This reflects the evolution of their relationship. The painter is here accepting the aristocrat as lover. Simultaneously, he is touching the place where the lord’s unconscious is voicing his desires. And this gesture triggers the lord later to put him on his lap, attempting to embrace him. And the more the lord hugs the painter, the more the latter is affected by it. The reason is simple. Just like the main lead, the commoner was deprived from warmth and love for so long and receiving it for the first time, this could only move the main lead. The manhwaphiles should remember that the artist asked the master to hold him in chapter 41 (chapter 41), exposing his need for comfort and embrace. Yet back then, the lord was confusing love with sex hence he couldn’t give correctly what the painter desired. He was not able to distinguish the difference. In truth, both were lost persons mixing up sex with love due to their terrible fathers.
Nonetheless the latter rejected the affection from Yoon Seungho in chapter 49, as he had been reminded that a hug could be fake. So he was still doubting the protagonist’s feelings. The significance of the embrace explicates why the low-born is affected in chapter 58. He keeps blushing displaying his emotions. He is really loved, displayed by the lord’s words and gestures. That’s why the hug is reciprocated but it is too beautiful to be true. Consequently the noble doubts its existence.
But because it all started with a kiss with a hug and love confession, we have to imagine that the artist will feel the same need than the protagonist in chapter 22. He will long for his lover’s arms, especially after that terrible experience. That’s why I am convinced that the moment Baek Na-Kyum returns to the mansion, he will definitely try to embrace Yoon Seungho, missing his warmth and protection so that we have a new version of the hug in chapter 53.
As a conclusion, we have two protagonists deprived from their own body due to their fathers’ abuse. Finally, both were able to find what they had been longing for a long time. And since the lord is no longer a man consumed by sex, he will be able to show his love differently, supporting his love in his education and his talent. Yoon Seungho will become his sponsor and drop the surrogate father for good.
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