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    Loves Error

    Han Naeyung’s eyes widened as he glanced around. The phone at the head of his bed flickered intermittently, casting brief flashes of light. He felt as though he were bound by ropes, unable to move. The chill from the damp pillow and sheets made his whole body shiver.

    He wanted to clench his fists, but only his teeth chattered. He focused all his energy on lifting his weakened arm. As his vision cleared, he saw the shape of his hand.

    It was big. No longer a small hand.

    Han Naeyung forced his trembling hand into a fist and sat up. Sweat trickled down from his forehead. His whole body started to shake, and he hugged his shoulders tightly.

    It’s okay.

    Just one more left.

    Crouching, his downcast eyes were filled only with anger and hatred. Fear had long since disappeared. When he closed his sweat-drenched eyes and opened them again, all emotions had evaporated, leaving only glassy eyes.

    Beep, beep, beep.

    As the alarm sounded, Han Naeyung rose, holding the damp blanket. He stripped the bed sheets and wiped his pale, drawn face. He moistened his parched mouth with water.

    His wrist felt constricted, so he unwrapped the bandage. The spot where the bulldog had bitten him had scabbed over, except for the sharp canine marks. It looked like a bite from a large vampire. Though he didn’t mind being bitten, he regretted not telling the man something important.

    If he was going to raise a former fighting dog in secret, training was essential. Even if the dog seemed gentle, its fighting instincts could surface at any time… Han Naeyung tossed the sheets and blanket into the washing machine. Then he had an early breakfast, troubled by his irresponsible actions as a veterinarian.

    Deciding to hang the laundry at lunchtime, he headed downstairs. Last week had been as cold as winter, but this week was relatively mild. Still, a long winter was imminent.

    For some reason, the animal hospital was brightly lit even in the early morning. As Han Naeyung entered, Lee Seolhwa at the desk smiled brightly.

    “Doctor, you’re here early.”

    The warmth inside suggested she had arrived earlier than usual too.

    “Yes. Seolhwa, you’re early as well.”

    “Haha, my eyes opened quickly. But what’s wrong? Do you have something else to do?” Seolhwa asked as she approached Han Naeyung at the desk.

    “…Phone call,” Han Naeyung replied, clearing his throat softly to awaken his slightly drowsy voice.

    “A phone call?”

    “To Nari’s guardian.”

    “Then I’ll find the number for you.”

    After tapping on the keyboard a few times, she found Jin’s phone number. Since it had only been a few days since their visit, she quickly found the number.

    “Here you go.”

    Han Naeyung expressed his gratitude to Seolhwa, who wrote down the number for him, and bowed slightly. Then he calmly dialed the number on the internal phone of the animal hospital. Seolhwa smiled brightly, showing interest in why their doctor was calling a customer.

    While holding the receiver to his ear, time passed slowly. Eventually, when it was connected to voicemail, he hung up.

    “Why? They didn’t pick up? Come to think of it, the phone number I gave you before seemed different.”

    She rummaged through the desk as if looking for a memo.

    “It’s alright,” Han Naeyung reassured her, thinking that he would handle the dog’s training well on his own. Although he didn’t scold when the dog bit him, he didn’t seem like he would just leave it alone either. If that were the case, he wouldn’t have considered bringing it from the shelter in the first place. Han Naeyung, having made his own decision, finished the call.

    “But what did you want to call for?” Seolhwa asked.

    Han Naeyung looked down at his wrist in response to her question. The bandage was hidden under his long sleeve.

    “A fighter dog. Have you ever encountered one?”

    “Well… I’ve seen a couple of them about twice because I have a friend who volunteers at the Animal Protection Association. One of them ended up being euthanized. Even though they’re gentle in front of people, problems arise when they’re with other dogs. But you can’t just keep them locked up at home, can you? You have to take them for walks, take them to the vet. Why, doctor, are you worried about Nari?”

    “….I suppose so,” Seolhwa said, covering her mouth as if surprised.

    “I don’t think Nari’s dad has ever raised a dog before, so I’m a bit worried. And since this is his first dog… Even for us, who are used to handling large animals, dealing with a fighter dog feels unfamiliar,” Han Naeyung stood quietly, seeming to agree with her words.

    “If the doctor is so worried…”

    He missed the timing to say it wasn’t that big of a deal. She immediately continued without giving him a chance to speak.

    “How about taking one home? The ones I mentioned earlier. There’s one left, you know. I keep him tied up at home because I’m afraid he might cause trouble if I let him roam free, and it stresses him out a lot.”

    Huh? What do you think? She looked at him with sparkling eyes, and Han Naeyung looked at her in surprise.

    “I actually wanted to bring one home, but we already have over ten at our house, and it’s difficult. I’m not sure if they’ll get along with all those other dogs.”

    Seolhwa raised her eyebrows and looked at Han Naeyung as if pleading.

    “I’m sorry.”

    She smiled with her lips sealed at his firm refusal.

    “That’s why I like you, doctor. It’s better than bringing them home out of pity and then not being able to handle it and abandoning them. We hope Nari’s father won’t do that.”

    Interpreting Han Naeyung’s refusal differently, Seolhwa tucked her short hair behind her ear. Han Naeyung threw away the paper with the man’s phone number and headed to the examination room. After stopping for a moment, he looked back at Seolhwa’s retreating figure.

    I can’t. I can’t take responsibility.

    That was Han Naeyung’s sincerity.


    The human brain has a very limited capacity to handle anger. When faced with overwhelming anger, there must be a target for release, and that target inevitably becomes oneself.

    This was a common theory of self-harm causes. Actions such as scratching the forearm with fingernails or pulling at one’s hair fell within that framework. Jin looked sadly at the witness who faithfully replicated these theoretical behaviors. The middle-aged man’s fingernails were blunt, and the back of his hand was covered in wounds.

    “I try to think it’s because I’m inadequate, but each moment the blood rises in reverse. Perhaps you don’t know, Prosecutor.”

    Jin did not comfort the bloodshot-eyed man. What was needed more than comfort in this situation was the punishment of the suspect. To achieve that, Jin always did his best.

    “Prosecutor, our child would never commit suicide. It means even if he had suffered torment, he would never throw himself off in front of his parents.”

    “According to the CCTV evidence, it seems Geunhyung went up to the rooftop alone.”

    Jin approached cautiously.

    “Please consider, Prosecutor. Even if our Geunhyung committed suicide, is it fair to say our child’s tormentors are blameless?”


    “If there is a God, this cannot be. Are you saying our Geunhyung deserved to die? What wrong could he have done to torment our child so terribly?”

    “The young man…”

    Jin corrected himself, almost saying “victim.”

    “According to the autopsy results, there were signs of fractures in the pelvis. Those were injuries sustained before Geunhyung’s suicide attempt.”

    The man who had been picking at the back of his hand stared at Jin intensely. It seemed like an accusation from the prosecutor, as if he had not known all along that his son had been injured. Jin clenched his chest, feeling like he was being blamed. He pushed the coffee cup, emitting a mist of steam, toward the man.

    “I’d like to ask if there have been any instances where red liquid has come out of Geunhyung’s ears or nose.”

    The man grabbed the trembling coffee cup with shaking hands. For a moment, a glimmer of understanding appeared in his hazy eyes.

    “Th-there was…! About a week ago, there was some faintly red discharge, more like nosebleed than blood. But it didn’t come from the ears…”

    “Is there any towel or tissue you used at that time?”

    There was little hope for Jin as he asked, knowing that no one would keep a piece of cloth or tissue stained with blood.

    “It’s unlikely that there’s anything left…”

    Thinking to himself that it was as expected, he mentally chided himself. Then, as if a sudden realization struck him, the man exclaimed,

    “The blanket! Perhaps if it’s the blanket Geunhyung used to cover himself… And he might have bled on the pillow a few times, so there could be traces on the blanket. But what does that have to do with anything now? Even if you find something there, can you punish those guys?”

    While fractures of the pelvis themselves may not leave any significant aftereffects, the story changes if there is damage to the brain nerves.

    There was a legal precedent for convicting perpetrators who contributed to the cause in cases where the victim, who had lost impulse control, committed suicide due to assault. In other words, if the victim’s pelvic fracture was caused by assault, the perpetrator could be charged with the crime of inducing or aiding suicide. Proving that the fracture was caused by school violence would be sufficient grounds.

    He couldn’t tell the witness all these facts. Expectations could lead to increased despair if they were not met. Jin struggled to look away from the desperate gaze and said,

    “I will investigate Geunhyung’s case to the end. If there’s anything remaining, please contact me at the number I provided at any time.”

    The man, who had only held the coffee cup to his lips, twisted his face. Tears streamed down his wrinkled face.

    “I trust only you, Prosecutor. There’s no one else but you to help our Geunhyung, who died unjustly.”

    Jin always felt a sense of unease in such moments. In cases of suicide inducement, the punishment was at most 1 to 10 years of imprisonment. Moreover, since the suspects were minors, the sentence would likely be greatly reduced. Furthermore, it was uncertain whether the crime of inducing suicide would be established. It could be simply dismissed as school violence. The witness was probably aware of this and was thus so angry.

    Jin handed the man a disposable tissue from the examination room. Since there were not just one or two people shedding tears in the investigation room, sometimes even a box a day was insufficient.

    After seeing off the sobbing man, Jin headed towards the smoking area on the left side of the building. It was called a smoking area, but it was just a place with a trash can placed in a corner. As he was taking out a cigarette, Park, a former colleague from the training center, approached him. He was already on his third cigarette. When Jin took out his cigarette, smoke scattered white around his mouth.

    “Prosecutor Jin, want to take a photo?”

    “Maybe it’s time to retire.”

    Jin replied with a hint of bitterness.

    “Have you looked at the documents?”

    Some prosecutors had formed raccoon dens here for reasons not much different from Jin’s.

    “Do you have any more work? If not, how about leaving and having a drink or two? It’s supposed to be Saturday, can’t spend it just working like a dog.”

    Prosecutor Park made a gesture with his soju glass. Jin grabbed Park’s hand, which was about to touch his mouth, as if to tell him to give up.

    “I’m leaving work right away.”

    The reason he escorted the witness outside, unlike usual, was also because he was planning to leave work.

    “Huh! I had my doubts, but is the rumor about Prosecutor Jin being unmarried true? An unmarried man having a child?”

    “Even without that, we live for the fun of raising our little one.”

    Jin flicked the last bit of ash off his cigarette and extinguished it. Park, who was puffing smoke intermittently, watched as Jin walked briskly to the parking lot. Come to think of it, yesterday was a mess, indeed.

    After finishing work at 10 o’clock and returning home, what greeted Jin was not an ugly interior but a mess. From piles of tissues spilling out of the bathroom to glassware cascading from the tall cabinet, and pots that should have been in the kitchen were placed in the hallway where Jin stood.

    If it weren’t for the scattered urine and feces everywhere, one might have thought a big thief had ransacked the prosecutor’s home. Yet, the actual culprit who created the disaster was hiding behind the corner of the sofa, nodding off.

    With an awkward smile, Jin began tidying up the house, ignoring the dog as if he didn’t know it, one by one. Once the house was clean, Nari tucked herself further into the corner. If it were a dog brought with love, he would have hugged and comforted her, but Jin just felt awkward.

    Having never raised an animal in his life, he was clueless where to start. The thought of entrusting it to his brother, who lived in a house with a garden, crossed his mind briefly. However, since he brought it, he felt responsible enough to handle it himself.

    But why did he do it in the first place? He had handled countless unjust cases that made him feel suffocated if he didn’t drink, and had even met a student who became a single mother overnight due to a murder-robbery case. Yet, the relationship between the witness and the prosecutor was just that. He had almost no personal feelings towards the cases.

    Reflecting on bringing the wary-eyed dog into their cramped home made him wonder again. Even if he tried to think of it as sympathy, his head just shook. He never considered animals superior to humans. If it were just sympathy, it would have manifested towards humans, not animals.

    Using a shortcut to avoid rush hour, Jin parked his car in the underground parking lot of the officetel. He checked the time after releasing his hands from the steering wheel. 3:15. As he had adopted a policy of leaving work early every other day, the grumbles of Seon Wookjae and Lee Innyeong were growing louder. He felt he might have to work until tomorrow, Sunday.

    The witness interrogation usually took place on weekdays, except for exceptional cases like today with the imminent traumatic incident. Jin took out his phone as he got off the elevator. He had been busy since the morning, so there was no time for personal calls. Jin checked the missed calls and pressed the door lock code.

    Some were saved numbers, but the one that called in the early morning was unfamiliar. Jin opened the door and answered the phone. A classical ringtone played, followed by a friendly female voice.

    – Yes, this is Twin Animal Hospital.

    He had planned to visit there by today anyway. There were injuries, and the teacher’s injuries as well.

    “I received a missed call in the morning.”

    – Um… is this Nari’s Guardian?

    Jin looked straight ahead as he took off his shoes. As expected, a white object spread out in the messy living room. A dog lying on its side, retching, struggled to breathe.

    “I’ll call you back later.”

    Jin hurriedly hung up the phone, put on his shoes, and dashed into the living room. When he hugged Nari, his heart pounding rapidly as if it might stop at any moment.

    He opened Nari’s mouth to check inside, but nothing seemed to be caught in her throat. Frantically searching around, he found a torn chocolate wrapper. It was the chocolate Lee Innyeong gave him to eat when he was tired. And that was over a year ago.

    Jin lifted the dog retching in his arms firmly and headed out of the house. As the elevator was out of order, he ran down the stairs and arrived at the parking lot, only to find another car parked crookedly in front of his.

    There was no way to call the number attached to the vehicle. He just decided to run, ignoring the agonizing groans of the suffering animal. The animal hospital was about 1 km away from here, so he would get there quickly if he ran.

    Jin rushed out of the parking lot and sprinted down the sidewalk. Pushing through the crowd that had come out for the weekend, he ran smoothly towards the animal hospital. Somehow, the heartbeat of the dog on his shoulder seemed faster than before.

    Without stopping for a moment, Jin checked the signboard of the animal hospital. He took a deep breath as if catching his breath and ran into the hospital. The waiting patients sitting in the chairs looked at Jin with surprised eyes. Seeing Jin, who was out of breath, Seolhwa, who had been smiling and greeting people, rushed out from the desk.

    “Nari’s Father, what’s wrong?”

    “I think we need to see the doctor urgently.”

    Jin, who was soaked in the winter chill from running, patted Nari’s back. The already small eyes were weakly closed, and she retched intermittently.

    “Oh, Nari, what’s wrong!”

    Seolhwa took Nari and knocked on the door of the examination room. She entered, avoiding the person coming out from inside, and laid the dog on the examination table. Han Naeyung, seeing Jin coming in, immediately shifted her gaze to the dog vomiting profusely. Meanwhile, Jin, still catching his breath, opened his mouth with an impressed expression.

    “She was vomiting like this when we got home. Could you please check what’s wrong?”

    Han Naeyung lightly placed her hand near the dog’s heart. The heart beating in the warm body was unusually fast, more so than usual. Besides vomiting, it seemed to have caused muscle cramps as well, indicating that something had been ingested incorrectly.

    “Has she consumed anything other than her regular food?”

    Despite Han Naeyung’s slightly hastened tone, Jin calmly replied, “She ate expired chocolate, so that might be the cause.”

    “Mr. Nari, chocolate? It’s not about the expiration date!”

    Seolhwa, who had been pacing anxiously, suddenly raised her voice. Han Naeyung also stood up immediately.

    “How long has it been since she ate it?”

    “I’m not sure when she ate it, as she was alone since morning.”

    “Seolhwa, please prepare hydrogen peroxide and saline solution.”

    Before Han Naeyung finished speaking, she rushed out, then returned with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and a syringe in her arms. Han Naeyung forcibly injected the hydrogen peroxide water into the dog’s mouth, which was still vomiting. The dog resisted taking it, but Han Naeyung repeated the process forcefully. Handling her was difficult compared to regular large dogs, probably because she was a rescue dog. Seeing this, Jin approached and firmly held the dog. He lifted her mouth upwards to prevent her from spitting out the hydrogen peroxide from the syringe.

    “Is this okay?”

    Han Naeyung nodded. He pushed all the hydrogen peroxide water from the syringe into the dog’s mouth and shook his abdomen as if massaging it. After repeating the same action several times, Han Naeyung gestured for Jin to release the dog. As soon as Jin laid her on the examination table, she began to vomit copious amounts of chocolate.

    Fortunately, thanks to the vinyl sheet laid by Seolhwa during the struggle with the dog, the examination table didn’t get dirty. After vomiting for quite some time, the dog finally collapsed with great effort. Seolhwa, who had been watching, removed the sheet and wiped the vomit-stained fur clean. Jin took a deeper breath than when he arrived, then exhaled.

    “You’re aware of the basic information, Nari’s Father. Chocolate is toxic to dogs. Dogs cannot metabolize theobromine.”

    Seolhwa said as she folded the sheet into a garbage bag. It wasn’t because of her mood that her voice was strained. Han Naeyung inserted a saline solution drip into the dog’s legs, which were sprawled out like they were exhausted.

    Since it was presumed that a considerable amount had been eaten, the rest had to be expelled through urine. Jin gently stroked Nari’s head, which remained motionless even with the needle inserted. He hadn’t expected Nari to retrieve and eat the chocolate, which was even deep in the cupboard.

    “We need to monitor her condition for about a day.”

    Han Naeyung said, looking at the hand stroking Nari’s head. The problem was that the small clinic didn’t have a cage big enough for large dogs like Nari. The only options were to keep her next to Han Naeyung or tie her up in a corner. Han Naeyung carried the dog, still lying on the examination table, to a small sofa in the corner.

    “Can I stay here for a while too?”

    Jin, who stood a few steps behind, asked. Han Naeyung replied softly, “Yes, you can stay,” without approaching him. Jin sat on the sofa and rested Nari’s head on his thigh. Perhaps due to sudden fatigue, Nari, who had been wary of people, closed her eyes, whimpering softly.

    Han Naeyung returned to the examination chair, took off the soiled gloves, and threw them in the trash. As he put on new gloves, Seolhwa opened the door crisply.

    “Doctor, when you’re ready, I’ll bring in the next patient.”

    Han Naeyung, who nodded slightly, met Jin’s gaze head-on. Jin’s gaze, which had been sweeping the dog’s body, had been directed at Han Naeyung since earlier. Han Naeyung turned his gaze first, greeted the next guest entering the examination room with a nod. The woman holding a Maltese looked back at Jin and asked.

    “Is your dog okay?”

    She looked anxiously at the saline solution.

    “Yes, she’s fine. Thanks to the doctor’s efforts.”

    Feeling apologetic for rushing in, Jin smiled with a hint of apology.

    “Oh, our doctor is really good. Both with people and dogs.”

    Despite her praise, Han Naeyung received the Maltese expressionlessly.

    “Our dog coughs a lot and has diarrhea. It’s not a serious illness, right?” A worried inquiry brought back the vet’s opinion: ‘It’s… a cold.’

    As the syringe was inserted, a whimpering sound followed. Jin looked at the Maltese, only the size of a fist, then glanced down at Nari. Somehow, the bigger one seemed even more pitiful. Still, there was a slight sigh, suggesting that she might be getting better now. After two or three more people came in for treatment, visits became sparse.

    Han Naeyung typed on the computer to fill out charts or read thick animal books, allocating his time as he pleased. He seemed intent on not meeting Jin’s gaze. Jin quickly picked up on his reluctance.

    It was like an ordinary person, who had done nothing wrong, avoiding the police for no reason. Jin, who had been gently stroking Nari’s head, spoke first.

    “Is your wrist okay?”

    Han Naeyung, who had been reading animal books, finally looked up. His gaze was still downward. The pupils hidden behind blinking eyelids slowly met Jin’s.

    Sting. Jin felt a prickling sensation at his fingertips. He was familiar with this feeling, but he tried not to dwell on it. There was no reason to feel that way towards her.

    “The wrist is… fine.”

    Unlike before, Han Naeyung’s tone returned to its usual slow pace. Of course, he had been talkative when treating Nari, but he wasn’t particularly faster than others.

    “Don’t you usually talk more?”

    It was just a strange question thrown out. Even for an animal hospital, if it was so stern, wouldn’t it soon fail? Unless people came to see the doctor’s face alone.

    Without a response, Han Naeyung lowered his head again. The sound of paper flipping filled the examination room.

    Han Naeyung continued to read various texts, but nothing seemed to be absorbed into his mind. Gradually, Jin’s nerves were on edge. Just because the other person was a doctor.

    He tried to turn the page, but due to the lack of friction from the gloves, several pages overlapped. After a few trial and errors, a refreshing voice came through when he finally managed to turn the page.

    “How about taking off the gloves while you read?”

    “I have OCD.”

    “But it’s a paper book.”

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