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    Loves Error

    #021

    “Why…”

    Ha-gyeom quickly changed his expression and faced the child glaring at him with a fierce look. Judging by the aura, the child was certainly not an esper. However, she also didn’t seem like someone who would recklessly jab her fingers into someone else’s body.

    Did she smuggle in a scalpel from the first aid kit? Even though he was a recovering guide, Ha-gyeom was an adult man, and the child was an undergrown girl. It wouldn’t be difficult to overpower her, but moving rashly and getting his carotid artery scratched was not something to take lightly.

    “…They died because of you.”

    Ha-gyeom’s eyes widened. The child was clearly misunderstanding something. At least, there were no ability users or civilians who had lost their lives in the dock battle. Besides, the only lives Ha-gyeom, who had just completed his training, had taken were a few monsters.

    “You must be misunderstanding something, ugh…!”

    As he opened his mouth, the child dug the wound deeper. The blood flow thickened like a waterfall. Ha-gyeom didn’t hesitate any longer and grabbed the child’s shoulder.

    “Wait!”

    Fortunately, the scalpel blade wielded by the child only grazed his skin. She didn’t seem to have received any special training, so why was she doing this?

    Thud!

    The child hit the ground with a thud, letting out a cry. Ha-gyeom, who had never slammed someone weaker than himself, felt his eyes shake with bewilderment.

    Blood from his wound dripped onto the child’s dress, and guilt surged over him like a wave.

    The child’s fierce expression softened, and she looked like she was about to burst into tears. Ha-gyeom pressed down on the child’s wrist, making her drop the scalpel, which he then kicked away.

    “Are you hurt….”

    “That’s not the problem right now! Ugh, sob…!”

    Before he could finish his sentence, the child screamed and burst into tears. With her thrashing and loud crying, Ha-gyeom was at a loss.

    Blood kept seeping from his wound, the room was chaotic, and he couldn’t let go of the child….

    As the commotion continued, someone suddenly burst through the door.

    “Damn it…. This is a total mess.”

    It was Tae-seong. He strode over to the bed and lifted the child by the armpits.

    “Miss! Are you out of your mind trying to get someone killed?!”

    Despite Tae-seong’s harsh choice of words, there was a hint of familiarity in his voice. Calling the child, who seemed to be less than half his age, “Miss” was not misplaced. Ha-gyeom’s intuition was also correct. The child certainly had the demeanor of someone from a wealthy family, likely the offspring of a leader.

    “Ugh… it feels strange…!”

    It was only natural to feel that way after cutting into someone’s flesh and poking around with fingers. The child, with blood-soaked hands, wrapped her arms around Tae-seong’s neck and cried loudly. Despite being the victim, Ha-gyeom felt strangely embarrassed.

    Pressing his wound with his palm, Ha-gyeom sat back down on the bed. Tae-seong’s sharp gaze immediately pierced him. Although he had thrown the child down, he hadn’t caused any serious injury, so Ha-gyeom responded with a confident look.

    “……”

    “……”

    An invisible current crackled in the air. As Ha-gyeom engaged in a silent standoff with Tae-seong, who was glaring at him accusingly, the sound of leisurely footsteps approached the door.

    “Stop making a fuss and clean up.”

    Instinctively, Ha-gyeom touched his ear. The voice was familiar. To avoid revealing his agitation, he lowered his eyes, which had widened in surprise. Tae-seong patted the child’s back and stepped aside.

    “I’ll go deal with the guards. I told them not to let anyone in, damn it….”

    “He’s not just anyone.”

    “Still, she’s just a kid. What if she got hurt?”

    “It looks like she’s the one who did the hurting.”

    A long leg extended into Ha-gyeom’s field of vision. Baek Seung-woo seemed to have fully recovered. Though there was still a trace of fatigue in his voice, there was no sign of the previous wildness, and his appearance was neat and clean.

    …Thank goodness.

    Ha-gyeom couldn’t muster the courage to look up. Even just seeing the tip of his shoe, there was no doubt it was really Baek Seung-woo, making even the act of catching his breath feel like hell.

    It had been too long since he had faced him. Just looking into those deep eyes might make him burst into tears. Even though he had reached an age where he could be called an adult, in front of Baek Seung-woo, Ha-gyeom always felt like a small child.

    The mere fact of meeting him again was overwhelming enough, and having done such things under the pretext of guiding made it impossible to look up. He couldn’t bear to show his flushed face.

    “……”

    Ha-gyeom remained silent, pressing his wound as Tae-seong grumbled and left the room. Unable to ignore the blood seeping between his fingers, he grabbed a stray bandage and pressed it against the wound. A clean shoe stepped closer.

    He knelt down, lowering himself. The fabric of his suit pants stretched tightly over his muscular thigh.

    Ha-gyeom’s eyelashes trembled. Unable to withstand the pressure of the silence, he finally looked up.

    “……”

    Seeing that familiar, handsome face, he felt the tears welling up, just as he had expected.

    Nothing had changed, yet everything had changed.

    Baek Seung-woo brushed his longer bangs softly to the side. His eyes were as sharp and deep as if they had sensed something in the darkness.

    Every time he looked at Ha-gyeom, the mischievous glint or the uniquely kind and gentle look in his eyes had faded to mere traces. Over five years, he had naturally aged, carrying an unclean gaze that seemed not only a result of time.

    Should he acknowledge him first, or not?

    Ha-gyeom pondered as he stared at the unfamiliar Baek Seung-woo. Since he couldn’t read any emotion in Seung Woo’s eyes that looked at him, his heightened feelings soon calmed down.

    “How old are you?”

    That was his first question.

    Ha-gyeom answered with a puzzled face.

    “…Twenty-one.”

    “What’s your name?”

    “Shin Ha-gyeom.”

    If he had recognized him, he wouldn’t be asking for basic details like his name and age. If anything, he would have asked about his well-being first.

    …What is he trying to do now?

    Ha-gyeom was confused. He had eagerly counted down the days until they would meet again. Contrary to his expectations, Baek Seung-woo looked at him with an indifferent gaze, as if seeing him for the first time.

    It had been twelve years. Even though he had only spent seven years with him, Ha-gyeom had always lived either in his shadow or longing for him. There was no way he would forget someone who had cared for him so devotedly, even if not as much as Ha-gyeom had.

    Yet, the Baek Seung-woo he met again seemed to have no memory of such a past. He nonchalantly asked, jerking his chin towards the door.

    “Why do you think that girl attacked you earlier?”

    No fool would casually recount past events to someone like that. Ha-gyeom responded as if meeting Baek Seung-woo for the first time.

    “…How should I know?”

    …Could five years really be long enough to forget someone like me?

    That couldn’t be. Over the five years he hadn’t seen him, Baek Seung-woo had only grown more vivid in Ha-gyeom’s heart, taking root as a profoundly painful presence.

    Ha-gyeom traced Baek Seung-woo’s silhouette with heated eyes. As he observed and assessed him, the silence stretched on. Desperately seeking an answer, he couldn’t decipher anything from the dry eyes and firmly shut lips.

    …What on earth had happened?

    Following a train of thought, Ha-gyeom cautiously narrowed down the possibilities. If Baek Seung-woo didn’t recognize him, there were only two possible scenarios.

    Either he truly didn’t remember him, or he was pretending not to remember.

    Since even the team members who went on the operation with him hadn’t seen his last moments, if he truly had lost his memory, it was most likely due to an accident or injury during his disappearance. If he did remember but pretended not to, there must be some reason Ha-gyeom was unaware of.

    No matter how confused he was, Ha-gyeom couldn’t forget that this was his mission.

    He looked at Baek Seung-woo with eyes that had grown cold. He still faced him with a serene expression, as if Ha-gyeom posed no threat at all.

    “……”

    “……”

    Ha-gyeom didn’t want his agitation to be noticed, so he quickly averted his gaze. When he closed and then opened his eyes, the pain he had been holding back intensified. To endure the pain, he bit his lower lip hard. While he was enduring, Baek Seung-woo, who had been watching him intently, opened the first aid kit the child had left behind.

    He reached out, pressed on Ha-gyeom’s sternum, and tilted his upper body back. He roughly wiped the blood with a bandage and then poured antiseptic without hesitation, bringing excruciating pain.

    “Ugh…”

    In the end, Ha-gyeom’s chest heaved as he clenched his teeth. Without hesitation, Baek Seung-woo placed fresh gauze on the wound and wrapped it with a bandage. His hands moved with eerie calmness.

    “Get up.”

    The wound needed stitching. Aware of Baek Seung-woo’s gaze, Ha-gyeom silently got up from the bed. He thought he could somehow endure it, but suddenly, his vision swayed. It was due to the blood loss and pain.

    Ha-gyeom realized belatedly that he had instinctively reached out to Baek Seung-woo, just like he used to in the past. Unconsciously, he had grabbed Baek Seung-woo’s elbow for support, just as he did when he was under his protection.

    He expected Baek Seung-woo to shake him off, given how cold he had been, but instead, Baek Seung-woo pulled him in and linked arms.

    “Dr. Cha said something.”

    “……”

    “He said you and I are destined.”

    Then he said something completely unexpected. Ha-gyeom’s face flushed instantly.

    ‘That eccentric’s surname must be Cha. By fate, he probably means the matching rate.’

    Despite trying to think logically, his temperature steadily rose. As an accepted norm between an esper and a guide, he knew Baek Seung-woo wouldn’t interpret it differently, even if he was in District 0.

    Ha-gyeom lifted his head to properly meet Baek Seung-woo’s eyes, which he could barely see past his shoulder. This made the blush on his cheeks even more noticeable.

    When Baek Seung-woo looked directly under his eyes, Ha-gyeom narrowly avoided his gaze.

    “…That can’t be.”

    Feigning indifference, he tried to pull his hand away, but Baek Seung-woo grabbed him again. Rubbing his chin, Baek Seung-woo added,

    “A 99% match rate… it’s a number that makes you believe in destiny, even if it’s just pretending.”

    The Baek Seung-woo he knew would never say such things. Naturally, the face muttering indifferently had no trace of the playfulness he remembered. Instead, his eyes, cold and intimidating, stared down at him icily.

    Ha-gyeom, stealing a sidelong glance, moved his burning hand to his hip. His vision was blurring; he couldn’t delay any longer. He couldn’t be swayed by every word Baek Seung-woo said, so he steeled himself and spoke as if to a stranger.

    “The wound needs stitching. Whether it’s the infirmary, a hospital, or a doctor… just take me there.”

    Baek Seung-woo stepped back obediently as Ha-gyeom spoke, looking into the void.

    Following him, Ha-gyeom set off. His heart pounded as if it would burst.

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