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No One Told me About Him (He's not There)

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It goes like this:

Kim Dokja knows everything about the world of Ways of Survival. He knows everything, but he is not omniscient.

The timeline in which Kim Dokja exists is one of many, flowing continuous yet branching at every given opportunity. For every timeline in which Kim Dokja’s reality and the reality of 'Ways of Survival' collide, there are many in which they don’t. For a handful of universes, he is a singularity: blinking in and out, there one timeline and gone the next. To Yoo Jonghyuk, the ability to regress allows him to restart the timeline and begin anew, re-forging the timeline as he pleases. His hypothesis is not necessarily correct. Every regression begins a new branch of the core timeline that is 'Ways of Survival.'

Kim Dokja’s exist in those branches, therefore, is not guaranteed.

It goes like this:

There was no actual need for Yoo Jonghyuk to regress. He hadn’t even meant to die in the first place. There were too many enemies, the leader was simply a bit too quick, and Kim Dokja was too distracted covering for Lee Gilyoung. He probably would have been fine: Yoo Jonghyuk would know best how hard it was to kill Kim Dokja and have him stay dead, and yet…

It goes like this:

Yoo Jonghyuk blocks the first strike. Then the second. The third grazes him. The fourth –from an enemy that manages to slip underneath his senses- nearly bisects him.

“Yoo Jonghyuk!”

He hears Kim Dokja calling him as he loses consciousness. They had been doing so well, a small part of him laments. But it seems like it wasn’t enough. The next time he encounters Kim Dokja, they’ll need to plan their approach to this scenario more carefully. Kim Dokja’s a bastard, but even Yoo Jonghyuk will admit that they work well together. If Yoo Jonghyuk hadn’t thrown him off the bridge in the second scenario and they had become companions, it’s likely that they would have had no problem handling any of the beginning scenarios. The stations, the theatre, with Yoo Jonghyuk’s strength and Kim Dokja’s foresight they make a formidable pair.

The next time Yoo Jonghyuk encounters Kim Dokja, he will let the man sweat, but there’s really no need for any more pleasantries when they’re both aware of what the other can do. With the both of them working together from the beginning, it shouldn’t be hard to get the upper hand.

Yoo Jonghyuk regresses, feeling oddly hopeful.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Yoo Jonghyuk starts his fourth regression the same way as he always has.

He comes back to consciousness in the 3707 carriage, listening to the Dokkaebi explain the rules of the scenario: kill or be killed. He surveys his surroundings, looking at all of the frightened people huddling in the back of the carriage. Inconsequential. He has no use for them.

He looks at them with merciless eyes. When the dokkaebi has finished speaking, he dispatches all of them without thought. The screams are nothing he hasn’t heard before.

When the carriage quiets down and Yoo Jonghyuk is left alone, he takes the time to think. If he recalls correctly, Kim Dokja was a passenger in carriage 3807. He was one of five survivors, including Lee Hyunsung, Yoo Sangah, and Lee Gilyoung. Yoo Jonghyuk might as well bide his time until the scenario concludes.

He breaks down the carriage door and steps out on the train platform, looking to the carriage next to him. 3807. Blood obscures the windows so he can’t see inside, but there’s still noise coming from the people inside. He’s tempted to break into the carriage to speed things up, but if he did he would never hear the end of it from Kim Dokja.

“Yoo Jonghyuk,” he’d say, “you damn jerk, coming in as you’d like and wreaking havoc. I had it handled.” Hah.

Well, Yoo Jonghyuk supposes that’s what he’d say, had this been the last regression. This Kim Dokja will know him, but only in the form of whatever visions he has as a prophet. The other prophets (Apostles, they call themselves?) had mentioned something about “Book of Revelations,” but it quickly became evident that the book was limited in ways that Kim Dokja’s knowledge was not. Knowledge of this world, its scenarios, the star stream…knowledge of Yoo Jonghyuk himself.

Yoo Jonghyuk supposes that’s something. Unlike Lee Hyunsung, Lee Jihye…and even Lee Seolhwa, Kim Dokja knows about him. He even demonstrates empathy in that infuriating way of his. In the 3rd regression, the times in which Yoo Jonghyuk felt the least like he was drowning under weight of decades of regression, was when was with Kim Dokja.

Not that Yoo Jonghyuk will ever admit such. The shit-eating grin such a disclosure would put on Kim Dokja’s face would make Yoo Jonghyuk want to kill him again. It would be a waste; this Kim Dokja doesn’t even have the skill of resurrection yet.

Finally, the doors to carriage 3807 open. Yoo Jonghyuk readies his sword –might as well make this inexperienced Kim Dokja squirm.

The one who steps out of the train carriage is not Kim Dokja.

Nor is it Lee Gilyoung, or Yoo Sangah, or Lee Hyunsung. It’s not even the original fifth member of Kim Dokja’s party, the one who betrayed him several times (naïve, Kim Dokja is so naïve).

The one who comes out of the train carriage is a face Yoo Jonghyuk has not seen in a while. Bleached white hair, wearing a bloodied high school uniform with his name on it.

Kim Namwoon. The Delusion Demon.

“Ah? Who are you? Someone from another carriage?” Kim Namwoon asks. Yoo Jonghyuk doesn’t answer.

Kim Dokja had killed Kim Namwoon in the last regression. If Kim Namwoon is alive in this regression…does that mean Kim Dokja was defeated?

“Hey, you.”

“Huh? Now you’re talking to me?” Kim Namwoon sneers.

“Where is Kim Dokja?”

“Who?” Kim Namwoon makes a face, “if you’re asking about someone in that carriage, I killed them all. The only other guy in there is that soldier-wannabe.”

I killed them all.

Yoo Jonghyuk’s snaps Kim Namwoon’s neck easily. The teenager doesn’t even have time to react before Yoo Jonghyuk is in front of him, hands on his head and neck, twisting. Kim Namwoon might have once been an asset, dangerous as he was as a fragile ally, but he’s useless to Yoo Jonghyuk now. And if he really did kill Kim Dokja…

Yoo Jonghyuk breathes through his rage. It’s cold, but no less deadly, as Kim Namwoon discovered.

He steps into the carriage and surveys the carnage there. As Kim Namwoon said, everyone is dead other than one other person. Lee Hyunsung sits in one of the seats, also covered in blood, head in his hands. Yoo Jonghyuk searches the bodies for Kim Dokja, but does not find a body that could belong to him. He doesn’t find a body that could belong to Yoo Sangah either. Perhaps Kim Dokja’s ability allowed him to make a different choice, and he and Yoo Sangah are currently somewhere else?

Yoo Jonghyuk steps closer to where Lee Hyunsung is, but his foot catches on something. He looks down and sees it’s a bug catching net, held loosely in the grip of a child that couldn’t be anyone else but Lee Gilyoung.

Inspecting the headless body of the boy Kim Dokja had been nurturing for so long, Yoo Jonghyuk tries to understand why he would leave Lee Gilyoung to die. Perhaps Kim Dokja and Yoo Jonghyuk are more similar than he thought? It is uncommonly callous of Kim Dokja to simply leave one of his party to die (not when he could die in their place, often unnecessarily and with no regard to others’ feelings), but Yoo Jongyuk would have done it without hesitation by the time he started the third regression.

Where is Kim Dokja?

“Lee Hyunsung.”

Lee Hyunsung raises his head, uncertainty and guilt in his eyes. Seeing him like this again, so far away from the title of “Steel Sword”…it’s pitiful.

“You… How do you know my name?”

“That’s not important. Where is Kim Dokja?”

“Who? I don’t…everyone else that was in the carriage was killed…” Lee Hyunsung admits. Even without using the lie detection skill, Yoo Jonghyuk can tell he’s telling the truth. But Kim Dokja isn’t in this carriage. Perhaps he never was.

…Then where is he?

It occurs to Yoo Jonghyuk that Kim Dokja is an exception, not a constant. He was absent for the first two regressions, and only appeared in the third because Yoo Jonghyuk took the initiative to kill everyone in his carriage. The explosion he caused changed the future of that regression. But maybe that wasn’t it. Kim Dokja is a prophet, so he likely didn’t need Yoo Jongyuk’s help in the first place. Is it possible that this regression is like his first two, and Kim Dokja is simply gone? Or is he somewhere else in this world?

Yoo Jonghyuk wants to kill himself. To regress again and again until he reaches the place were Kim Dokja is. He needs Kim Dokja to advance to the final scenarios and beyond the star stream. They said they would go together, as companions.

The dokkaebi is speaking again, but Yoo Jonghyuk tunes it out until Lee Hyunsung suddenly startles and stares at the space in front of him. Sponsor selection must have started, then. Yoo Jonghyuk has no need to choose a sponsor when his sponsor remains with him even after regressions. He briefly considers taking Lee Hyunsung with him, but decides against it. If Kim Dokja is somewhere else, Yoo Jonghyuk can cover more ground by himself. He also needs to secure Yoo Mia once more, and perhaps find Jung Heewon or Han Sooyoung. Both of them are fairly close with Kim Dokja; they may know where he is.

“Lee Hyunsung.” He calls again.

“Ah, yes? You know my name but I don’t know yours.”

“I am Yoo Jonghyuk. Lee Hyunsung, if you encounter Kim Dokja, tell him I’m waiting for him.”

It’s a command Lee Hyunsung obviously doesn’t understand, but Yoo Jonghyuk is already walking out of the carriage.

[Several Constellations are curious as to who you keep referring to]

[The Constellations are waiting to see what you will do]

Wherever that rat Kim Dokja is hiding, Yoo Jongyuk will find him.

(No one tells Yoo Jonghyuk that he won’t)