Painter Of The Night / A Sip Of Poison: A Question Of Perspective: The loss of the topknot 💇🏻‍♂️ (second version)

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1. Castration or abandonment?

Anyone reading my previous analyses about Painter Of The Night will certainly recall that I had perceived the loss of the topknot as a castration. Why? In Joseon, the topknot was given to men the moment they became adults and this Coming-Of-Age ceremony took place just before a marriage. [For more read the essay “Coming Of Age”] In other words, no topknot meant no marriage and as such no responsibility and maturity. However, this is important to recall that the loss of the topknot was brought up in a different context. It was mentioned for the first time in the painter’s statement. (Chapter 1) When Baek Na-Kyum remembered his noona’s words about Yoon Seungho, he connected it to the loss of his future lover’s topknot. Here, the gesture had a different meaning. By cutting off his hair, the father was acting, as if he was abandoning his son. According to social norms, the hair was considered as a heritage from the parents. So if Yoon Chang-Hyeon had truly done it, the latter was showing that he was no longer considering the main lead as his son. While the rumor about the haircut gave the impression that the elder master Yoon was a honest and honorable noble, anyone can perceive the elder master’s action differently: the father is a coward, a selfish, ruthless and disloyal lord, especially the moment it is revealed that Yoon Seungho was abused sexually, physically and mentally. Let’s not forget that the protagonist used to live in the shed, for he was viewed as an animal. His situation reflected the father’s betrayal and abandonment. It doesn’t matter if he had been manipulated, because in the end, he made the decision to treat his son as a slave. He refused to send for a physician. To sum up, the loss of the topknot in this rumor would be judged as the epitome for cruelty and intolerance!! This shows that the loss of the hair in Painter Of The Night has actually many significations: castration, mercilessness and abandonment.

Then it occurred to me that the painter has been cutting off his hair all this time because of his noona. (Chapter 94) In this scene, the painter was rejected by the children, for he had no braid. Due to his hair dress, he was recognized as orphan immediately. The justification was that that way, the artist would appear more boyish. But by mentioning the loss of Yoon Seungho’s topknot, Heena was actually revealing that she knew the true signification of the haircut: abandonment and intolerance. Her words to her brother exposed her hypocrisy, though she attempted to portray the elder master as respectable. One might argue that when Na-Kyum was just a child, she had suggested the short hair, for she had good intentions. But after this experience with the children, the noona should have grasped the wrongness of her decision. She should have admitted her bad decision and stopped the painter from cutting his hair. Moreover, don’t forget that Na-Kyum was just a young boy, so the haircut must have been done by Heena herself. This shows that her gesture actually divulged her future behavior: she would betray and abandon the painter constantly (season 1, 2 and 3). At the same time, since the painter was seen with short hair in chapter 68 , this indicates that Heena kept cutting Baek Na-Kyum’s hair. So even in the past, she was betraying her brother, though the latter never realized it. The loss of hair could never be viewed as a sign of love or empathy, for it contributed to the painter’s abandonment issues and his self-loathing. He was suffering as an outcast and due to his girly features. The men in the gibang could mistreat him, for he had no long hair or topknot. Why? (Chapter 94) He had no parents or guardians protecting him which is true, for here he was exposed to violence. Heena, as the head-kisaeng, had not protected him at all, she must definitely have portrayed herself as powerless. Yet as a slave of the state, she was belonging to the king. So she had connections to officers and the court. In my eyes, the head-kisaeng made sure that the artist could never get a topknot, and as such he would never be able to become a “noble” or even a man. Hence Baek Na-Kyum was constantly called boy (Chapter 56) (Chapter 59) (chapter 66) and treated as one too. This observation made me realize that Heena’s belief could be used as an explanation for her action (cutting off his hair): she hates nobles so much that she didn’t allow her brother to have a topknot. But why would she do that? My idea is that deep down, she resented him, for he was a free man, while she was a slave. It went so far that he was encouraged to wear a white headband, the symbol for servitude, though he is no slave! To conclude, the loss of hair in Joseon should be perceived as a brutal and harsh punishment. Without a topknot, one is left unprotected, is not viewed as an adult. But this stands in opposition to Yoon Seungho’s action in front of Jung In-Hun’s home. (Chapter 101) Here, the lord had spared his friend’s life.

2. The loss of the topknot: Symbol for forgiveness?

As you may have noticed, I often use other manhwas as a source of inspiration for my interpretations concerning Painter Of The Night. In the story “A Sip of Poison”, the main lead, the prince Nan-Woo (Chapter 23) cuts off the hair of the general Woo Jong Han, because he had committed crimes. First, he hid the fact that his sister had had a child before getting married to the emperor, which was actually a huge sin. The future Empress should have been a virgin. To sum up, he had committed treason, for he had allowed his sister to become Empress unrightfully. Then the field marshal had treated his niece as a slave violating social norms. (chapter 34) That way, he assisted his sister to become powerful by covering up for her crimes (silence and passivity). She had killed many people to hide her previous relationship and to increase her power. Striking is that the prince still spared Baek-Ha’s uncle, and this for many reasons. First, the latter had not only saved both protagonists, the empress’ illegitimate daughter Baek-Ha and the prince Nan-Woo, but also had admitted his sins. Secondly, he was thinking of his wife Baek-Ha who is kind-hearted. He knew that his death could upset his bride. (chapter 26) But there is more to it. Nan-Woo didn’t spare the man out of benevolence. (chapter 26) He had a role to play. By cutting off his topknot, the general lost his “power”, he became the prince’s pawn! Nan-Woo wished to use the uncle in order to get rid of the Empress. (chapter 23) That way, the protagonist wouldn’t even have to dirty his own hands. On the other hand, we could also say that Nan-Woo was forcing the Empress’ brother to undo his bad decision. (chapter 23) Since he had protected his sister Seo-Ha out of affection, it was normal that now he had to show no mercy towards her. By presenting Baek -Ha to Nan-Woo, the general was well aware that the future ruler would recognize the female lead’s origins due to her resemblance to her mother. Therefore, we could interpret that Nan-Woo had spared the general, for the latter had switched sides and expressed the wish to undo his wrongdoings.

As you can see, Woo Jong Han shows many similarities with the second lead from Painter Of The Night: he was an accomplice of the real culprit, as he never intervened. He is connected to the notion: pity, knowledge, silence and passivity. Because Seo-Ha was his sister, as a dutiful older brother, he felt obligated to protect her. He was not blinded by greed like his donsaeng. This explicates why on the one hand, he saved Baek Ha’s life, on the other hand he still treated her as a slave in order to hide his sister’s wrongdoing. He felt torn between his obligation towards his younger sister and his empathy for his niece, Baek-Ha. Consequently, it is no coincidence that he once warmed her feet with his hands after the young girl had complained about her cold feet. Moreover, she received an education contrary to all the other slaves. He was caught in the middle, exactly like Lee Jihwa who had an attachment towards the main lead, yet he was still bound by social norms to his father. He needed to protect the family’s reputation. So when I saw this scene, (chapter 23) I couldn’t help myself thinking of Lee Jihwa and Yoon Seungho. How could the latter view the loss of a topknot as a gesture of leniency? (Chapter 101) It is because he must have witnessed it himself in the past. I have already pointed out that Yoon Seungho would imitate people, especially his tormentors. So where did he learn from? I believe, Yoon Seungho copied it from someone… and this can only be “lord Song”. And now, the first loss of Lee Jihwa’s topknot can be perceived in a different perspective. The red-haired master was well aware that he had been spared, when he had lost his hair for the first time. (Chapter 101) He knew deep down that thanks to his friend, he had been able to escape the worst. Since he had been spared once, he was well aware that this time, the ruler would show no leniency and would ask for his head, as the main lead was no longer protecting him. Remember what the lord had whispered to Baek Na-Kyum: (chapter 88) (chapter 88) By cutting off the friend’s hair, he was showing that he was abandoning his friend. He was leaving him behind, and Lee Jihwa was forced to face lord Song alone. (Chapter 83) This time, he had not his father by his side either. The latter could not protect him too. I had already voiced this theory before, as it would explain why Lee Jihwa is masking the man’s face. And note that Nan-Woo from A Sip Of Poison cut off the topknot, as he is already acting as the future ruler. Another important detail caught my attention. Just before receiving his sentence, Woo Jong-Han made an oath, (chapter 23), he swore loyalty to the future emperor. This signifies that the topknot also symbolizes faithfulness, especially because it is connected to marriage. Thus I deduce that when Lee Jihwa lost his topknot for the first time, he was already judged as disloyal. Hence it is no coincidence when the antagonist screams that he would become the target of lord Song’s fury.

But the red-haired noble could never reveal the king’s meddling, as his relationship with Yoon Seungho was a secret. Hence he needed to blame someone: The Yoons! I had already exposed that the words from the noble with the mole were ambiguous and as such deceiving. (Chapter 59) First, lord Yoon could be a reference to the father and not only the son. Secondly, he implied that he had witnessed the scene, yet in reality he could have been referring to the outcome: the friend’s hair cut, just like the noona had only seen the hickeys on her brother’s neck. She had never witnessed the sex session. The noble with the mole assumed the perpetrator’s behavior, rage, based on the hair loss. Moreover, he could have been telling the truth: he had never seen Yoon Seungho so angry before, as the latter used to be weak in the past due to his social status: he was a male kisaeng due to his braid. This explicates why the noble with the purple robe would give an order to the host (chapter 8) He felt himself superior to Yoon Seungho, and never expected “disobedience” or “rage” from the protagonist. Striking is that the lord didn’t vent his anger onto him, he first smiled before grabbing him by the topknot. (Chapter 8) A simple change of hair dress had transformed the main lead. This exposes the gods’ intervention in this story. They let the man with the mole see the wrongness of his manipulations. Since he had stated that he had never seen the man so angry, his words became a reality in 3 occasions: chapter 8 like mentioned above, chapter 53 , for he was not present, chapter 57 in the inn. Here, he chose to run away, yet despite everything he still helped his friend Black Heart, for he was present in the gibang. (Chapter 69) Under this new light, this panel from Twitter get a total new meaning: The aristocrat knew about the true identity of “lord Song”, and he had indeed never seen the man so angry that he would cut off the topknot of a noble!! This means that the fate of the noble with the mole should be to end up as the lord’s new plaything. In other words, he takes over the main lead’s previous status. He becomes the male kisaeng and ends up living in the shed like the protagonist in the past where the pedophile vents his rage and resent him for his tricks. But we will see.

Another important detail caught my attention: the noble with the mole judged the loss of the topknot as a harsh punishment (chapter 59) Furthermore, he associated it to abandonment too. (Chapter 59) Yet, observe the drop of sweat. This exposes that neither Min nor the noble with the mole were expecting that Lee Jihwa would be spared!! They acted, as if the loss of the topknot couldn’t be a sign of mercy. But observe what Lee Jihwa was recalling, when the “friend” was talking about abandonment. (Chapter 59) He was by the protagonist’s side! This means that lord Song had spared Lee Jihwa’s life, for he had been present, when Yoon Seungho was suffering. Till the middle of season 2, no one was aware of the fallout between Lee Jihwa and the protagonist. None of the incidents in season 1 was leaked to the outside, hence the “pedophile” was not officially aware of the red-haired master’s wrongdoings. But the loss of hair in front of the learned sir’s house becomes the proof that the main lead has now left his friend’s side. He will be blamed for his suicide. Therefore it is not surprising that the young master chose to run away. (Chapter 101) He knew that the ruler would show no leniency or understanding. Thus the noble with the mole’s karma should be to keep his topknot. That way, he will realize that if he had lost his topknot like Jihwa, his torment would be short-lived and as such it was a sign of mercy. But in this image, it doesn’t look like it. He will suffer for hours and even days before even losing his life. Now, he will be able to see and experienced how enraged or lenient the culprit for the loss of Lee Jihwa’s topknot was towards the antagonist.

The manhwaphiles should keep in their mind the following two rules: the painter’s fate mirrors the lord’s, since the story is constructed like a kaleidoscope. And now, look at this: (chapter 27) The painter had saved his teacher’s life, and later the lord had restrained himself from hurting the scholar in the courtyard despite Jung In-Hun’s lies and lack of respect (he had touched the man’s shoulder). (Chapter 30) Here again, the scholar had been spared. Then in episode 53, the painter had embraced the lord to stop him from killing Deok-Jae. This means that Yoon Seungho must have also saved people in the past by using his body, and this twice, for I had detected the presence of two circles: Yoon Chang-Hyeon and Lee Jihwa. That’s the reason why the father could survive the purge, and why Lee Jihwa only lost his topknot. And the heroine from A Sip Of Poison can serve as an example. (chapter 26) The red-haired noble was able to escape death thanks to Yoon Seungho. But Lee Jihwa had to hide from others that he had been punished by the king, hence Father Yoon and Yoon Seungho got blamed (chapter 1 and 59). And now, you have the explanation why father Lee accepted to receive the main lead in his mansion. (Chapter 1) As long as the latter was living there, the Lees had nothing to worry. The main lead was protecting them from the king. However, the manhwalovers should keep in their mind that Nan-Woo had showed mercy to the general for his own interests. He should become his helping hand in order to obtain the throne. Hence I come to the following deduction: neither Nan-Woo nor the “perpetrator” had cut off the topknot out of real leniency. This shows that for these characters, the loss of the topknot is not the symbol for forgiveness which is not true for the last incident with Lee Jihwa. (chapter 101) Why? It is because the main lead had no intention to use his friend as a pawn. There was no pledge of loyalty… in truth, in this scene, Yoon Seungho was truly cutting ties with the second lead.

But if the pedophile chose to employ the young master after the loss of the topknot, what was his role? In my opinion, it was to keep Yoon Seungho by his side. The pedophile had slowly recognized that he could never separate these two boys, and without him by his side, Yoon Seungho would still reject him. In my eyes, the main lead had followed his friend. Under this new light, the manhwaworms can comprehend why father Lee accepted to let the main lead stay in his mansion. He could secure his position, yet pay attention that despite the topknot, he was still dressed so poorly. (chapter 1) Even the headband was different. This was no coincidence. He should never develop confidence and act as a lord. That’s how I recognized the following pattern. In front of the painter who looked like a minor, the main lead was forced to act like an adult. Thanks to the painter, he was encouraged to mature. Simultaneously this meant that at some point, while living with the Lees, the elder master Lee had to be confronted with the truth: his son’s sodomy.

Under this new light, it becomes understandable why Heena and Kim called the main lead a bird of misfortune. (Chapter 86) The reality was that the pedophile was the bad omen, but they couldn’t insult the king. Hence the young main lead became the scapegoat, people couldn’t separate the pedophile from Yoon Seungho. The “mysterious lord Song” would never give up on the protagonist. No matter what he would keep him by his side.

But like pointed out in an earlier analysis, Black Heart and his friend were definitely the reason why the red-haired master had to lose his topknot. From my point of view, this is related to this night, (chapter 1) and Lee Jihwa had no idea about it. Hence the painter got framed. On the other hand, Black Heart and his friend had to spy on Lee Jihwa in order to know about his ignorance concerning their “prank”. At the same time, they could only get intrigued, why the mysterious lord Song would behave that way, though he had been treating the main lead as a male kisaeng. Towards Yoon Seungho, he was quite selfish and cruel. The discrepancy in the treatment (mercy versus ruthlessness) could only surprise the young nobles. And this observation led me to the following question. Why would Heena mention the topknot to her brother in order to manipulate him? The kisaeng was well aware that he had witnessed the sex party in the kisaeng house, for this image represents a memory from the artist. It is to divert his attention: he should never connect Yoon Seungho to the braided man!! If he had a topknot, then he could never be the one doing the fellatio to the man with the purple hanbok!! But if the painter had pondered a little more, he should have realized his noona’s lies. She mentioned the loss of a topknot, but yet the smiling hell-raiser still had a topknot: (chapter 1) Moreover, we shouldn’t overlook the publications with the braided man: (Chapter 1) Baek Na-Kyum was not supposed to recognize the identity of the man having sex with the bearded man. From my point of view, Heena made sure to confuse her brother. Lee Jihwa’s humiliation became Yoon Seungho’s stigma. He became the culprit. Since in the past, the main lead had been blamed for everything, the perpetrators and accomplices chose to follow this “tradition”, because so far, they had been able to cover up their crimes. But thanks to the painter, it is no longer possible. Why? It is because the painter’s hair dress will serve as a mirror of truth: the absence of a topknot due to the braid and the hair cut will be perceived as an evidence for abandonment, cruelty and huge wrongdoing. This won’t be seen as a gesture of mercy or leniency by the two protagonists, for they suffered because of it!! That’s the reason why I am thinking that the pedophile’s karma should be the loss of the topknot which he viewed as a gesture of mercy and tolerance. But without the topknot, he is actually “castrated”, and as such humiliated for he can not wear his golden sangtu. Yet, contrary to Lee Jihwa’s haircut, the loss of the topknot should not be judged as the symbol of mercy and forgiveness, in fact, the lord would officially cut ties with him. That’s how the mysterious Lord Song would be taught an important lesson: he was a huge hypocrite and a violent and ruthless pervert.

3. The tool for the loss of the topknot

Once again, A Sip Of Poison inspired me. The prince Nan-Woo asked his assistant Yoon (chapter 23) to give him a knife: (chapter 23) before grabbing Woo Jang-Hon by his topknot (chapter 23). Hence the hair fell between the men. (chapter 23) And now, let’s return our attention to Painter Of The Night. Compare the position of the aristocrat’s topknot after Yoon Seungho had punished his friend. (chapter 101) It was behind him!! Thus I deduce that he had used the sword, when Lee Jihwa had approached his friend. But wait… in season 1 and 2, Byeonduck drew scenes with a knife:

  • Chapter 18: And what had happened before? Yoon Seungho had dragged his friend by the topknot before stabbing the amateur spy. This is no coincidence.
  • Chapter 57: When this chapter had been released, I had assumed that this must have happened, when Yoon Seungho had lost his topknot! As you can see, I had already connected the knife to the loss of the topknot incident.
  • However, note that the weapon was used to threaten the painter (chapter 66)

That’s the reason why I am assuming that when Lee Jihwa lost his topknot for the first time, the mysterious lord Song must have used a knife and cut off the young master’s hair. Hence Byeonduck created such a picture where Lee Jihwa was put in a similar situation: (chapter 18) It was to trigger his memory. I am even assuming that the butler must have given lord Song the knife before while remaining in the shadow. But I also think that after the incident with the loss of the topknot, the pedophile must have also threatened him. If he were to reveal anything about this incident and his identity, then he would lose his head. So imagine Lee Jihwa’s reactions in chapter 101. (chapter 101) He had now faced a sword and not a knife contrary to the past. Therefore it is not surprising that the young master got so scared and chose to flee. Lee Jihwa had betrayed lord Song by telling an anecdote from the past. He had more or less leaked the name “lord Song”. (chapter 83) (chapter 101) For the first time, he had been confronted alone with the sword directly. There was no one and nothing to protect him. When Yoon Seungho had barged in his bedroom, Lee Jihwa had fled behind the folding shield. Furthermore, his father and the domestic were also present. (chapter 67) This shows that till season 3, Lee Jihwa had never been exposed to real justice. There was always someone ready to intervene for him. And now, you comprehend why the red-haired master felt no remorse to blame his friend for his humiliation in the past. He must have thought that if he had not been in his bedchamber during that night (chapter 59), he wouldn’t have lost his topknot. Moreover, he could also use the other incident in the bedchamber as a justification. If Yoon Seungho had not dragged him there… (chapter 83) This explicates why Lee Jihwa said this to Black Heart and his friend: (chapter 59) The antagonist had witnessed his friend’s humiliation and suffering in the past, just like Yoon Seungho had been present, when the first topknot incident occurred. From my point of view, the lord must have even protected Lee Jihwa. But the problem is that Lee Jihwa was just receiving his punishment in delay for the stolen kiss and his lies (chapter 77) He had kissed him without his consent, thus he got “castrated”. Let’s not forget that the main lead was forced to become a male prostitute, an uke, for he had not been able to perform, to have an erected phallus. On the other hand, Lee Jihwa had done nothing wrong in the bedchamber (chapter 59), for he was consoling his friend, so the loss of the topknot appears as a harsh punishment. Moreover, it looks unfair, for the real perpetrators and accomplices got scot-free. Yet, this is just an illusion. Min and his friend were punished too. They got “castrated” too!! How so? It is because from that moment on, they were not allowed to treat Yoon Seungho as a uke, a male kisaeng. (Chapter 1) This means that the painter’s vision was turned into a reality. That’s the moment Yoon Seungho got turned into a seme. Now, Black Heart and the noble with the mole should become his “playthings”, which signifies that they had switched positions. In my opinion, the pedophile had decided to no longer share his “companion” to others. As you can see, they got punished too, but since this was not painful, they never realized that they were receiving their karma. This was a symbolic “castration”. Under this new approach, it becomes understandable why Min was so obsessed with Yoon Seungho, why he wished to “fuck” Yoon Seungho in a figurative way. This is what he had desired in the past, in the gibang, but he had failed. Thus we have this gesture from Black Heart in the woods. (Chapter 41) Due to the incident in the kisaeng house, Min had lost his privileged position with the king. Hence he got jealous. He could no longer screw” the protagonist, while he had to watch the lord’s slow ascension. To sum up, the loss of Jihwa’s topknot led to the “symbolic castration” of the infamous couple: Min and the noble with the mole.

But it is time to return our attention to the knife and the loss of the topknot. First, it is relevant to remember the following rule. Baek Na-Kyum will through the path than the main lead’s. Since the painter has been constantly cutting his hair, he never had the chance to get long hair and as such a topknot. And the lord was in a similar situation. He only got his topknot very late… but the only difference is that he had a long braid the entire time. This hair dress was the symbol of his servitude. (chapter 57) Hence the author drew slaves with braids constantly. (chapter 77) And now, you comprehend why the pedophile cut off Lee Jihwa’s topknot! The latter had been blamed for the lord’s change of hair dress. (chapter 59) Because of this, Yoon Seungho had become a lord, a noble. That’s the reason why we are not able to distinguish the main lead’s hair dress properly, neither in the last picture and in this one: (chapter 57) The hair was short or not? Now, I don’t think so. The mystery of Yoon Seungho’s suffering is linked to the hair dress, yet the readers shouldn’t realize it too quickly. According to me, he still had the braid, until the doctor questioned why Yoon Seungho still had no topknot. (chapter 57) Don’t forget that in each visit of a physician, the latter would question the butler: (chapter 33) (chapter 55) And who had given him the topknot? Naturally… Kim! Because he didn’t want to be perceived as someone who was violating social norms. However, there is no ambiguity that he hid his responsibility. That’s how Lee Jihwa and his “servant” got framed. They were responsible for giving the main lead the new hair dress. On the other side, I still believe that Yoon Seungho must have lost his hair too, but only once to the difference of Baek Na-Kyum! My reason is simple. Since the painter and Lee Jihwa lost their hair, and Yoon Seungho’s destiny is mirroring his lover’s, it signifies that the lord’s hair must have been cut too. But who did it? Let’s not forget that when Yoon Seungho punished his friend in front of the scholar’s home, (chapter 101) the loss of the topknot had four significations: admission of a sin, mercy, forgiveness but also ABANDONMENT! He was cutting ties with his childhood friend. So he must have known the last meaning, but from a different source, as the first incident represented a sign of leniency. Consequently, I ended up with the following theory. Yoon Seungho must have cut off his own hair, yet he had been manipulated by Kim. Let’s not forget that the painter continues cutting his own hair and there is no sign of trauma linked to such an event. He had been encouraged to lose his hair by his noona. From my point of view, this must have happened between these two scenes: (chapter 77) and this one (chapter 83) The length was almost the same, yet 3 or 4 years had passed in the main time. Let’s not forget that this scene represents the patriarch’s abandonment (chapter 77) and Kim had also experienced rejection from Yoon Seungho (chapter 77) in that scene. For the butler, this gaze could be judged as betrayal and abandonment. Under this new perspective, it becomes comprehensible why the main lead was encouraged to blame and resent his father. If this theory is true, Kim pushed the main lead to cut off his braid, he did it out hatred and anger towards the Yoons. This would mask his own manipulation and culpability too. At the same time, the pedophile could benefit from it. The main lead was now an orphan, thus the bearded man could use him like he wished. I have an evidence for this interpretation. This is what Baek Ha said to her husband: (chapter 23) Being slave meant being orphan. The pedophile could feign ignorance about the main lead’s true origins. If he truly cared for him, he just needed to ask this: papers! (chapter 24) This shows that in Painter Of The Night, all the elders were depraved and violent hypocrites. Like mentioned above, the pedophile had a huge interest to keep the main lead as his slave, thus he was turned into an orphan and asked to keep a braid. And Yoon Seungho’s mother could do nothing, for the son had cut off his own hair, a huge symbolic act. He was no longer considering her his mother. But because of his status as slave, the pedophile could never trust the main lead. Then the suicide from the mother put an end to this farce. Hence lord Song could tell his sex partner that he had become the head of the Yoons and let him “have” the properties, while it was never his intention to let him become responsible. If he had become a lord, he could escape from his claws. He needed him to remain in an infantile and dependable state.

Since I detected that rumors often become a reality, I deduce that after the lord’s vanishing, Heena’s words will come to the surface and become the verity: (chapter 1) While in the past the father could judge this grapevine as positive, for he was portrayed as a honest and respectable man, the town folks will perceive him as the opposite: cruel, depraved and selfish. And this because of the false accusation: (chapter 94) By framing the elder master Yoon, Kim can deny any responsibility in the loss of hair of Yoon Seungho and in the messenger’s death. It was the father’s doing. The nobles like the Lees and Yoon Chang-Hyeon are now accountable for the corpses. In the gibang, Yoon Seungho never killed anyone and he even spared his friend, though the latter had kidnapped Baek Na-Kyum. Finally, the town folks are now aware of Lee Jihwa’s homosexuality and his relationship with the protagonist. So I believe that people will jump to the conclusion that father Yoon had turned his elder son into a sodomite and sold him him to the Lees which is not false too. The king has a reputation to maintain and he needs scapegoats in order to hide his involvement and his crimes from the past.

4. The reason behind the loss of the topknot

And before closing this essay, I would like to point out another similarity between A Sip Of Poison and Painter Of The Night. Though Baek -Ha is the daughter of Nan-Woo’s enemy, the prince couldn’t hurt her in the end, for she saved him: (chapter 33) (chapter 33) She not only treated his wounds, but also helped him to overcome on his guilt. He felt responsible for his brother’s death, for Nan-Woo had attempted once to commit suicide on the battlefield, and his brother had sacrificed himself to protect him. He was definitely plagued with remorse, self-loathing and shame. And that’s exactly what Baek Na-Kyum has been doing too: by simply loving him so selflessly and purely. Finally, Baek-Ha’s fate made him realize the Empress’ immense culpability. She was so greedy and selfish that (chapter 34) she had abandoned her own child! Thus he was freed from his hatred and guilt. Nan-Woo was able to perceive the wrongness of this social norm which was common in Joseon: the child is responsible for the parents’ sins! (chapter 33) Being an orphan outlined her innocence. And since I have already connected Baek Na-Kyum to the mysterious lord Song, I am quite sure that the painter will have a similar attitude than Baek Ha: (chapter 33) He will feel responsible for Yoon Seungho’s martyrdom. And if he is truly his son, his abandonment can serve an evidence of his innocence. On the other hand, the readers shouldn’t forget that his surrogate parents, Jung In-Hun and Heena, played a role in lord Yoon’s torment as well. Thus he can only indebted towards his husband.

Chyomchyom and Byeonduck explained perfectly why the protagonists would suffer so much: ambition. (Doctor Frost, chapter 225) With this picture, the manhwaphiles can detect the presence of the endless vicious circle, the ouroboros, which I had described as a kaleidoscope. The absence of empathy in both stories was the reason why no one stopped the main perpetrators. Woo Jang-Hon felt guilty, for he had raised his younger sister who had become a monster. Kim felt deep down guilty, but chose to reject his responsibility by putting the blame on others. Out of fear, he preferred hiding his wrong decisions and later wrongdoings. And now it has become his MO. This distinguishes him from the general who chose to put an end to his guilty conscience and paid for his crimes.. (chapter 34)

To conclude, the loss of the topknot has many significations: punishment, castration, loss of power, servitude, guilt, abandonment, absence of protection, cruelty, betrayal, but also freedom, loyalty, leniency and forgiveness. As you can see, the gesture is associated to opposite notions: servitude versus liberty, betrayal versus loyalty etc…. as it depends on the perspective.

Thanks to Yoon Seungho, Lee Jihwa was able to free himself from his guilt and he could liberate himself from social norms (peers pressure, his father’s expectations,) and his shame due to his sexual orientation. Before losing his topknot, he had admitted his sins to his friend and it also indicated his loyalty towards Yoon Seungho. And this was the same for the general. The latter could finally find peace in his mind and redeem himself. Yet, now, he is no longer a powerful general, he is just the puppet of the prince. However, the moment the red-haired aristocrat lost his topknot, he was no longer the king’s puppet. Therefore he was no longer useful for the mysterious lord Song. That’s the reason why the antagonist got aware that he shouldn’t expect any forgiveness or mercy from “Captain Hook”. No matter what he would say, he would be suspected of a crime (chapter 101) and this because of the first incident with the topknot!! Since Black Heart and the noble with the mole had been able to avoid punishment after this incident in the kisaeng house (chapter 1), he assumed that he could repeat his actions!! But he got proven wrong, for he ended up losing his life.

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Painter Of The Night: “A change of heart or the whims of these nobles“

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While examining characters from Painter Of The Night under the aspect “a change of heart“, I had realized that this idiom was a reflection from No-Name’s philosophy: “the whims of nobles”. This signifies that the commoner views the aristocrats as spoiled children. They are lacking maturity and backbone. It was, as if they had no conviction and as such no conscious. To conclude, in the criminal’s mind, the nobles are all selfish and irresponsible persons. And now, you are probably wondering why I am writing another text about back-pedaling. There exists the danger that I could repeat myself. However, thanks to the last analysis “A change of heart❣ “, I recognized that this “leitmotiv” played a central role during the second season, especially during the night of the failed gangrape. Thus I decided first to revisit this day and night and analyze the characters. This means that Min, Yoon Seungho, Baek Na-Kyum and the nobles will be in the center of the examination. This is relevant, as chapter 101 is a reflection from that night (52-53-54).

1. The painter’s change of heart

What caught my attention is that the butler actually criticized the painter for his behavior. He was behaving like a spoiled child. (chapter 52) He implied that he was behaving like a noble. This means that the valet was reminding the artist of his social status. Therefore it is not surprising that the low-born put back the white head-band. It was a reminder of his position in the mansion. On the other hand, if you pay attention to the domestic’s reprimand, you will detect the contradiction. He was encouraging the main lead to become proactive and visit the lord. However, by giving such an advice, Kim was misleading the painter, because a servant is not supposed to act on his own. He has to wait for his master’s order. And now, you comprehend why the valet could violate the main lead’s privacy in the past. He legitimated his trespassing by faking care and kindness. Therefore it is no coincidence that the artist chose during the same day to visit the lord’s bedchamber. He didn’t have a change of heart per se. He was just following the butler’s instructions. He was just a servant in the mansion, and he should act like Kim wanted him to behave: anticipate the lord’s desires. However, like pointed out before, a real servant is not supposed to think and act on his own. On the other hand, the reprimand from Kim had a positive effect, because for the first time, the artist was reminded that he should also pay attention to Yoon Seungho’s needs and wishes. Through the valet’s words, Baek Na-Kyum could realize that the noble was also a human before a lord. To sum up, he helped him to see the person Yoon Seungho behind his title. From that moment on, the low-born perceived Yoon Seungho as a man. Therefore it is not surprising that after witnessing the tongue kiss between Min and his lover, he started wondering about the motivation behind the noble’s behavior. (chapter 52) He began to show an interest in his master. What kind of man is his lord? Who was he exactly? (chapter 52) But since the butler had insinuated with his reproach that the painter should anticipate the lord’s desires and needs, the former had the impression that it was just about to provide services and nothing more. He was his duty to serve the owner of the mansion. And now, you comprehend why the painter denied the main character’s affection. (chapter 54) He thought that the lord’s rescue was motivated by his pride and his duties. As a lord, it was his obligation to keep his staff under control and to ensure safety. Deok-Jae was usurping Yoon Seungho’s authority. He had no right to ask the painter to leave the mansion. (chapter 53) As you can see, the servant perceived the artist’s attitude as a change of heart, whereas it was not right. The painter had long decided to remain in the mansion. Due to the butler’s reproach, he had been reminded that he was now a servant and as such belonged to the staff. Therefore he was bound to the main lead with his vow and as such to this household. Kim never realized that he had actually ruined his own scheme due to the contradiction of his manipulations. No wonder why Baek Na-Kyum was already loyal to Yoon Seungho. To sum up, the painter started seeing the main character not only as his real lord, but also as a man. Under this new light, I come to the conclusion that during that night, the painter had indeed a change of heart. He had truly accepted Yoon Seungho as his master. This explicates why Baek Na-Kyum didn’t get upset after the second sex marathon. It was the lord’s right to do whatever he wanted. Thus in the study, the artist perceived Deok-Jae’s bullying, Min’s kiss and insults as a violation of codex. (Chapter 53) The lord was the lord and host, thus he deserved respect from his staff and guest. That’s the reason why the painter didn’t stop his master, when the latter punched Black Heart or simply followed the lord to the bedchamber. He had no right to object, for he was now a servant. And because he considered himself as a part of the staff, he felt obliged to protect Deok-Jae from the lord’s anger. He was acting as a “WE“. On the other hand, he had no right to interfere in the fight between Yoon Seungho and Min. He could only try to protect his lord’s honor by denying Yoon Seungho’s affection for him. (Chapter 54)

The “change of heart” showed that the painter took his decisions seriously. He could no longer run away or show his pain, for he was simply a servant. In other words, Kim’s intervention was the reason why the painter had a change of heart. However, the butler had expected to achieve the opposite. He desired the painter to see Yoon Seungho with other lords so that he would feel betrayed. He would view it as unfaithfulness. He would get hurt and desert the mansion. But the valet had overlooked one aspect: only nobles can act like that. Kim implied that the painter was behaving like one, while in reality he was just too wounded to notice the special treatment. Besides, observe that the valet was actually speaking the truth. The artist had indeed been spoiled by the lord, and he had never recognized it. Due to the head-maid’s comment, he had suspected that his privileged situation was the result of the main lead’s attachment, but due to the joke and Deok-Jae’s insult, he had come to a different interpretation. Finally, the separation let him see that the lord meant a lot to him.

2. Yoon Seungho’s change of heart

Striking is that in the third season, Kim tried to achieve through his puppet Min the same goal with their prank. They imagined that when the painter would hear the news about the scholar‘s death, he would get upset and would suspect that Yoon Seungho was behind this. Kim relied on the painter‘s memories and past experiences. He had seen the lord‘s jealousy, which had pushed Yoon Seungho to go after Jung In-Hun. (chapter 27) But instinctively, the painter had sensed the main lead’s transformation. He would no longer use the sword. Since chapter 35, the artist has never seen the lord with the sword again, not even after the hunt in the third season. (chapter 84) Furthermore, he would rather use his hands. (chapter 92) To sum up, the artist never saw him carrying a weapon since season 1.

Another important detail is that Baek Na-Kyum never witnessed the main lead leaving the bedchamber with his sword, when the messenger visited the study. And when he returned to the bedroom, he also came back empty-handed. (chapter 82) This means that Yoon Seungho’s bedchamber is not related to the sword. So he has never seen the lord wiping his weapon either. (chapter 1) For the painter, Yoon Seungho’s bedchamber is associated to painting, sex and books. Nothing more.

This is important for two reasons. When the lord got upset during that night (chapter 52-53-54), he just left the room angry. (chapter 52) I have always compared the main lead to a dormant volcano and the pipe was a sign that the lord was boiling in the inside. (chapter 52) Another important aspect is that the lord never threatened the nobles with a sword later, though he got mad, when he saw the painter getting touched by other men. (chapter 54) He threw a bottle and asked them to leave, but he didn’t evict them like the noble with the mole (chapter 8) and Lee Jihwa in episode 18. They were not grabbed by the topknot and dragged through the courtyard. (chapter 54) He simply told them to leave and the nobles followed his request. (chapter 54) The only thing he did towards nobles was to humiliate them, but that was it. Besides, these incidents were never leaked to the outside world.

If you observe the progression of Yoon Seungho’s behavior, you will notice how little by little the brutality vanishes. First, we have this (chapter 53), then Black Heart is punched several times (chapter 54) But note that Min doesn’t lose a tooth like Deok-Jae. The next morning, Min’s face is not so bruised to the point that he is not recognizable. (chapter 56) From my point of view, the painter taught an important lesson to Yoon Seungho during that night: (chapter 53) He reminded him that life is precious. Thus I consider this night as another turning point. The lord had a real change of heart, and not just a fake one like in this moment: (chapter 52) Here, he was simply following social norms and as such behaving like Lee Jihwa. This reveals that the main lead had no faith and as such no true conviction. As a good host, he is supposed to provide his guests with the best care and attention. Since Min was expressing his wish to taste the painter, the noble was pressured to give in. The manhwaphiles can now detect the parallels between chapter 52 and 100. (chapter 100) The use of social norms and peer pressure to achieve his goal. But why did he not react like in the first season, when he threw out the noble with the mole? It is because Min had not given him an order. (chapter 52) He had just reminded him that as a noble, he should pay attention to etiquette. If he favored Baek Na-Kyum too much, he would send a wrong signal. Furthermore, the Joker had implied that the painter’s sudden visit was a sign that the painter was longing for sex. (chapter 52) As you can see, Min also played with social norms. He reminded Yoon Seungho of his duties as a lord and host. Striking is that he criticized the main lead for being weak. In the past, he used to act differently. (chapter 52) He would share his things. It was, as if Yoon Seungho was lacking strength and determination. In other words, he implied that Yoon Seungho had a sudden change of heart. (chapter 52) The precious treasure was a synonym for weakness. That’s the reason why Yoon Seungho gave in, he had a change of heart, for he didn’t want to appear vulnerable. However, by acting like that, he exposed his vulnerability. Observe that after the bedchamber, he denied the existence of his heart. He was not in love with the artist. (chapter 53) However, all the incidents during that night forced him to admit that he was wrong. How? IT is because he saw himself in the painter. (chapter 54) He wanted to be seen as a human and man, but since his youth, he had been denied to live like a human. Through the reflection in the painter’s face, he rediscovered his humanity. Humanity is a synonym for benevolence. Therefore it is not surprising that the lord became a human, the moment he had accepted his heart. For he was a human, he should treasure life. This is no coincidence that the lord confessed the next morning. But because he had behaved like a beast during that night, he imagined that the painter was horrified by his violent behavior. He had treated him like an object and not like a human. Thus he anticipated that the painter would run away after his first love confession full of “contempt and pain”. However, from my point of view, he never realized that Baek Na-Kyum already viewed him as his master and as a human. He was definitely upset, when Yoon Seungho had chosen to bring him to the bedchamber and offered him as a plaything to his guests, but he didn’t throw some tantrum for one simple reason: he was just a servant in the household. It was not his right to criticize the lord. Under this new light, you comprehend the painter’s words in the bedchamber: (chapter 55) He had done something wrong from a moral point of view, but he had not violated social norms. Besides, the painter had not seen his violent outburst as a huge abnormality, he had protected him from Deok-Jae. Then he had defended his honor, when Min had insulted him. As a conclusion, the lord found his true heart during that night, and learned that life was precious. But Yoon Seungho’s lessons were not over. He needs to learn that even a bullying domestic didn’t deserve to die. Notice that he showed no concern for the deceased person. (chapter 98) This is none of his business. Min has a similar mind-set. What should he feel concerned about the death of a peasant? (chapter 99)

As a first conclusion, the lord also had a change of heart during that night. He adopted a new philosophy: love. Therefore it is not surprising that the noble used “sex” as a punishment after the so-called desertion. He was claiming the artist as his “favored servant”. He would never let him go. Hence the use of violence kept vanishing. Observe that once confronted with his father, he never retaliated, though he had voiced the following threat: (chapter 82) He stated that he would kill his father. But none of this happened. Therefore, I come to the following conclusion. Yoon Seungho won’t use the sword in the shrine to kill people. (chapter 101) The worst what could happen is that he cuts off their topknots. But I have to admit that I am more than ever convinced that he won’t do anything. I am not expecting that he will punch the nobles there, for he won’t have much time. His lover’s life looks in danger. No, like I already mentioned many times, he will take away the painter and bring him quickly to the physician. By acting like that, he will show his strength to the other nobles. He doesn’t fear people’s gaze.

3. Min’s change of heart

The villain’s behavior embodies perfectly the Joker’s description: a whims of these nobles. He is always looking for fun and pleasure. He seems to know no boundaries. His friends are no different. Therefore it is no coincidence that the painter was called a brat. (chapter 101) This expression revealed the aristocrats’ mentality. They are actually projecting their own thoughts and emotions onto the artist.

But let’s return our attention to Black Heart. The latter has a huge sense of pride. He gets irritated, thus he feels the need to retaliate. Striking is that in episode 52-53-54, he was the only one who had no change of heart. He was determined to taste the painter. First, he cornered the main lead so that the host would give in. However, note that shortly after the main lead’s disappearance, he followed him. (chapter 52) One might say that he couldn’t simply wait. Yet I believe that he wanted to make sure that the host had no change of heart, once alone with the artist. However, the moment he saw the painter embrace the lord, he could only get envious. He couldn’t resist the urge to kiss his lips. (chapter 53) Yet, he had to pay a huge price for this. He got punched. (chapter 53) Thus I have the impression that Black Heart must have resented the painter for his wounds and humiliation. Notice that he bragged to his partners in crime about the kiss (chapter 101) Nevertheless, he also deceived his peers, because he was only beaten half to death, after mocking the painter and such his host. He was omitting to his partners in crime the insult towards the protagonist. And this shows that Min had never forgotten this incident. Naturally, he resented more the main lead, yet he definitely blamed the painter. Therefore it is not surprising that Min was actually quite rough with Baek Na-Kyum. (chapter 101) It was, as if he was paying back the artist for his past pain. However, what caught my attention is that he doesn’t show any pressing urge to taste the artist which stands in opposition to his past behavior. It was, as if he had a change of heart. It looked like his obsession for Baek Na-Kyum was quite superficial. He let his friends to enjoy the artist first, hence we could say that he acted as the pimp. Why? My first theory was that he was still calculating about Yoon Seungho’s arrival, though I am more and more inclined to think that this was more the butler’s plan, and Min was left in the dark. Remember my interpretation: the purpose is to prove that the main lead is a lunatic. And if he killed noblemen, he would get arrested immediately. And we know for sure that the butler resents nobles. From my point of view, Min was expecting that time would be in his favor. He imagined that he had time. However, because the painter resisted and fought back (chapter 101), Min had to pay more attention to Baek Na-Kyum, thus he no longer paid attention to the door which he had left open.

We can’t say that Min’s interest was just a caprice. He had to deploy a lot of energy and resources to capture the painter. It took him time and effort to achieve his goal. He even confessed to the painter that he went through a lot of trouble because of the trick. (chapter 101) But there’s one thing that he is not expecting: the painter might die! How so? It is because in the first season, Min had also been left in the dark about the artist’s poor physical condition. He was never informed that the artist had almost lost his life. This explains why he made such a suggestion: (chapter 33) He has always been taught that there exists a difference between low-born and noble, therefore he came to view commoners’ life as less precious. He never saw them as humans. They were first commoners. Their life is not fragile either, for there are much more commoners than nobles. Yes, I have the impression that Black Heart is receiving his lesson. Commoners are humans too, and not just playthings. What if Baek Na-Kyum dies? He will never be able to taste him.

Thus I am predicting that the nobles will cooperate with Yoon Seungho. The nobles won’t even stop the main lead from carrying his lover. Why? It is because they are receiving another lesson too. If the painter dies, they will get into trouble. Remember Black Heart’s words: (chapter 43) The death of a commoner has to look like an accident, but in a shrine, this is no accident. Notice that he lied to Jihwa in front of the scholar’s house. (chapter 99) He was well aware that the authorities would investigate the matter. Besides, the corpse was left in a well in town, which couldn’t go unnoticed by the commoners. The latter used that well. The police bureau was obligated to find a culprit because of the scandal of a corpse in town. Black Heart envisioned that he could escape punishment by letting Jihwa take the fall. However, if the painter dies, he can not blame the childhood friend. He is responsible for this mess, and Yoon Seungho clearly heard and saw him. (chapter 101) What we are witnessing is that the peasant’s life has become very precious, even to Min. He saw this whole staging as a huge prank, but now he is forced to face reality. This is no longer fun, because the artist is no longer reacting. (chapter 101) Everyone is expecting that Yoon Seungho will resort to violence and punish the aristocrats. But no… look at their facial expressions. They are no longer laughing or smiling. Finally, I would like to point out that this chapter is a reflection of chapter 33. We have here only 4 of the 8 gay dogs (chapter 33) And what had happened during that episode? Baek Na-Kyum was seriously ill, thus the doctor was fetched. And remember what the physician had said: (chapter 33) For the first time, Min and his friends will learn to value a peasant’s life, because if he dies, they are all in big trouble. This time, Yoon Seungho can no longer be blamed for the wrecked state of the painter contrary to chapter 66. The noble won’t be suspected, for he created such a ruckus in the gibang and town about his lover’s disappearance that his death would get noticed immediately. From my point of view, Yoon Seungho will carry himself the painter to the doctor, he knows where the office is. And now, you are wondering that this doesn’t sound like a harsh punishment. But don’t forget that Min brought the scholar’s glasses to the shrine. Either he never questioned the origins of the glasses and never investigated if Jung In-Hun was alive. Or he discovered the truth, but it didn’t matter to him. However, now there are the glasses of the scholar in the shrine. Min was just so obsessed with Baek Na-Kyum that he viewed everything as a prank. Besides, we have to envision that if the learned sir was alive or not, it was actually none of this concern. He was just a tool for his own entertainment. Furthermore, he used a body from a commoner revealing his lack of respect for humans. (chapter 101)

I definitely consider Min as a fool. And since he tried to frame Yoon Seungho and Lee Jihwa with a murder, his karma would be that he becomes the scapegoat for the learned sir’s curtains. Imagine that Jung In-Hun is not a peasant, but a respected scholar. Therefore Black Heart could get really into trouble,. In addition, I am expecting that the sex orgy in the shrine will be discovered creating a huge chaos in town. Thus Min and his friends’ reputation will suffer a lot. Since Kim is counting on his master’s violence and rage, he needs witnesses to prove that his master is a lunatic. Hence I have the impression that Kim will bring investigators to that place, a new version of chapter 96, where the butler led the policemen to the gibang.

But there’s one thing that Kim miscalculated: Yoon Seungho’s change of heart. Since the butler believes that all nobles are violent liars, he expects that the lord will follow this saying. But he failed to notice the main lead’s transformation. He never sensed that the lord was getting less and less violent, he would manage to control his negative emotions. Finally, by sparing the nobles, Min can definitely testify against Kim. Notice that Min used the pronoun “we”, this means that he was not alone in this scheme. (chapter 101) He could have a change of heart, especially if he has problems with the authorities, and reveal that the Yoons are behind this and used Kim. As you can see, I am convinced that Min will play a major role in the butler’s demise. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not expecting that The Joker will feel suddenly really remorseful, but the possibility of losing the painter will shock him. Moroever, as a coward, he will avoid any responsibility. In the second season, he betrayed Lee Jihwa. Thus I am expecting another backstabbing. The difference to the first abduction is that the childhood friend was the only one responsible for the crime. However, this time the prank implicated many helping hands: Heena (she is still alive in my opinion), the staff, the Yoons, the Lees and Kim. Therefore it is possible that Min denunciates the persons involved in the prank. As a conclusion, I have the impression that in the next episode, we will have another “change of heart”, but this time in a good way. I would like the manhwaphiles to keep in their mind that Black Heart had a change of heart after that long night: (chapter 56) From that moment on he could not longer give up on tasting the painter. Then in the third season, he wished to keep the artist by his side. (chapter 99) That’s the reason why he was no longer in rush to have sex with Baek Na-Kyum. As time passed on, the Joker gave up on the painter’s assassination. So he is getting reformed! Surprising, right? And the painter’s sickness will be a wake-up call for him! (chapter 101) And this would be the butterfly-effect. Baek Na-Kyum’s body has healing effect, the royal touch… and look at where the Joker’s hand is!! On the painter’s heart!! This is no coincidence. This means for me that Black Heart’s hand will play a huge role in the next chapter. While the lord and the painter started seeing each other as humans during the night of 52-54, it’s now the Joker’s turn to view the painter as a human and no longer as a peasant or a low-born. This outlines one more time how title and vocabulary can influence mentality. Hitler used to call Jews “cockroaches” or “parasites”, thus they were not considered as real humans.

As you can see, I am still full of optimism. Why? The reason is simple. As a teacher, you always need to be optimistic, though it is sometimes hard. But witnessing transformation and little progresses are the rewards in this job. Therefore hope is necessary.

Feel free to comment. If you have any suggestion for topics or manhwas, feel free to ask. If you enjoyed reading it, retweet it or push the button like. My Reddit-Instagram-Tumblr-Twitter account is: @bebebisous33. Thanks for reading and for the support, particularly, I would like to thank all the new followers and people recommending my blog.