It started off with a lot of foundation-building, but this arc is finally starting to come together as major plot lines and characters converge. The fight scenes and character introductions earlier in this arc were nice, but this is really the part of the arc I’ve been waiting for!
Wangnan and Yihwa vs. Cassano
First off, I love that Yihwa is getting the chance to show off her improved flames! She and Wangnan still seem to bicker (which isn’t something that would disappear in just a year, I guess), but overall she comes across as more mature, for some reason. In previous arcs, she usually seemed flustered and unable to keep a cool head in fights (both physically and verbally), but she seems more levelheaded after her year of training. I guess she is really doing her best to improve so that she can keep up with Baam. It makes me happy to see her grow as a character! *v* Wangnan and Yihwa’s newfound synergy is also great to see! They must have trained together to be able to take on Cassano as a joint effort. I’ve always loved the dynamic between those two, including their bickering, Wangnan’s playful reminders to Yihwa of her inability of control her flames, and Yihwa’s not-so-playful suspicions of him and his Zahard ring.
Speaking of Wangnan, there’s definitely something unusual about Wangnan and his ability to use shinsoo: my guess is that he is just 100% incapable of using it. As measures of comparison, even Miseng and Prince have demonstrated growth in their respective positions: Miseng has repurposed Verdi’s flower device and is more proficient at handling an Observer, while Prince has slowly developed into a pretty competent Lightbearer. By contrast, however, despite an entire year of dedicated training, Wangnan still doesn’t fight with any typical weapons, any kind of shinsoo body-strengthening techniques, or even any of a Scout’s common equipment. Whatever the case is, Wangnan is probably aware of it, because his huge willpower comes across as a conscious effort to compensate for it. The fact that he has to resort to using a powerful antimatter weapon that destroys his own body makes me feel really bad for him! Whatever his goals are, he sincerely cares about his friends to a point that he’s willing to risk his own life for them, and in that respect he and Baam are very similar. I can’t wait to hear his full backstory.
Koon and Lahel’s confrontation
“Do you want to know why I pushed Baam? Why I stayed in your team pretending as if I couldn’t use my legs? Why I broke Dan’s legs? Why I’m here with these people? And what I am really trying to get in the end?”
SIU totally made Koon rant about everything the readers have grown to dislike of Lahel. I don’t blame him; this is the moment he has been waiting for since the moment he discovered the truth of her betrayal on 2F. It has been fun to see the divide in readers’ opinions about this confrontation: some readers have commented that Koon’s behavior is like a sociopath’s (?) or that he shouldn’t be targeting Lahel when Baam is so focused on seeing her, while others are totally in agreement with his actions.
I’ve written about the revenge dilemma before, but it’s always interesting to read others’ reactions and opinions because ultimately, it shows that SIU has done a really good job of getting us invested in his characters. I was pleasantly surprised that so many of the underlying questions about Lahel’s motives were voiced in this chapter. I’ve always assumed that they would never be addressed until the end of the entire story because of how central they are to the plot. But now, the possibility of hearing answers to these questions soon feels a lot stronger, for some reason. The fact that Lahel has been receiving more meaningful appearances in each chapter is pretty exciting. The majority of her appearances up to this point were always of a stoic, hooded girl with not much emotion or personality towards those around her, despite the heavy extent to which she has impacted them. But lately, we’ve seen her react to situations and characters in quite a few ways now: Fearfully, calmly, and sometimes impatiently. She’s had to try to calm the fears of a panicking Mr. Poe while still clearly fearful of Team TSY’s arrival, herself. Though initially shocked at Koon’s appearance, she seems to get frustrated at his resistance, and does her best to take him out using her Lighthouses. And lastly, she looks genuinely bewildered when Baam appears at the end of the chapter. It’s been good to see her display a wider range of emotions, because a character as integral to the story as her should definitely not have a robot-like range of emotions.
What was most interesting, of course, was Lahel and her usage of the star motif again. She is highly aware of Baam’s admiration for her, and while “manipulation” is what instantly comes to mind, I also feel that she views it as something of a burden. (In fact, one reader notes that Lahel refers to Baam as a “child” in the Korean version.) She doesn’t even refute Koon’s accusation of her as a “sly woman,” but instead acknowledges that even so, there is someone out there to whom she is “the brightest woman ever.” The way she says all of this, with a look of acceptance and something like regret, makes me question some of the assumptions about her that I’ve taken for granted.