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    Loves Error

    #023

    5. The Dark Side of the Moon I

    Dr. Cha declared that he would monitor Ha-gyeom’s energy levels. Although it sounded plausible, it was actually because Ha-gyeom had many enemies, and they wanted to keep him under observation.

    Ha-gyeom spent a week in what was essentially a confinement cell in the infirmary. The rest helped his back wound heal properly, and his energy levels were excellent.

    Though he was served two meals a day, he could hardly eat half of them, sending the rest back. His mind was constantly troubled, and he felt nauseous. No matter how much training he’d undergone, it was impossible to stay calm after witnessing someone else’s tragedy so closely.

    He had succeeded in entering District 0 and meeting Baek Seung-woo. He was relieved that Baek Seung-woo was alive and had even experienced the reunion he’d dreamed of. Unfortunately, Baek Seung-woo was nothing like he had hoped.

    It felt as if all the precious memories they had built were thrown into the trash overnight. This was the most disheartening part. If he pretended to know him, he might ruin things, but pretending not to know him left him in a constant state of confusion.

    Having no idea what his mission was and being ignored by Baek Seung-woo made him feel utterly lost in this place where he couldn’t see a step ahead.

    Being stuck in that stifling room made his emotions sink endlessly, almost suffocating him. After enduring it for some time, Ha-gyeom decided to persuade Dr. Cha to let him go outside. He waited all day for Dr. Cha, determined to speak to him, but as soon as lunchtime arrived, there was a commotion outside.

    Hearing the thudding footsteps, Ha-gyeom instinctively moved towards the door. Someone who had been arguing with the guards suddenly burst through the door.

    It was Tae-seong.

    “Drag him out.”

    Before he could resist, mercenaries grabbed his arms. Tae-seong led the way to a basement warehouse.

    The inevitable had come.

    As soon as they entered the warehouse, Ha-gyeom was thrown to the floor, barely supporting himself on his hands. He saw a man sitting in front of him, breathing heavily. With three men present, including Tae-seong and the mercenaries, and only one exit, escaping seemed unlikely.

    …This was bad.

    Realizing there was no way out, Ha-gyeom noticed a basin filled with shallow water.

    Water torture. How classic.

    Tae-seong grabbed Ha-gyeom by the hair and dragged him to the basin.

    “Puugh…!”

    The water was cold and dirty. Although he had undergone countless breath-holding training sessions, there were limits. Just before he reached his breaking point, he was pulled out, unable to catch his breath immediately.

    Tae-seong repeated this more than ten times.

    The musty smell of mold.

    Ha-gyeom felt like he was truly in District 0 now.

    “Puugh…!”

    Barely able to catch his breath, Ha-gyeom spat out the blood that had pooled in his mouth. He had bitten the inside of his cheek from the pain.

    With his wet eyelashes trembling, he looked up. He saw Tae-seong’s face, gripping his hair under the harsh fluorescent light.

    “Seems like you’re still alive.”

    Tae-seong sneered when their eyes met, his expression triumphant as if he had truly captured him. But Ha-gyeom’s attention was not on Tae-seong.

    “Representative Kim, be careful. He’s an S-class guide. What if the Chief hears about this?”

    Leaders governing each district were not part of a systematic structure like the former government. Politically involved or powerful individuals were generally referred to as assemblymen, and the top leader was usually called the Chief.

    The person sitting on the throne of District 0 was the former president of K Group, and most of the assemblymen under him were associated with him. It was an unspoken rule among districts to openly disclose information about their leaders, but naturally, no one trusted this transparency.

    “Damn it, then who should I beat up right now? Huh?”

    The man venting his anger in front of Ha-gyeom wasn’t one of the publicly known leaders either. If he were known, he would have sought help from other districts before attempting organ trafficking.

    It was obvious who the man would be furious with. He was likely the father of the boy in the sterile room.

    The boy was dead.

    Ha-gyeom had watched the child take their last breath. It was the first time he had witnessed someone’s death so closely since leaving this place.

    “Keep going. Until you feel better….”

    Ha-gyeom gritted his teeth as he spoke. The image of the dying child and Baek Seung-woo, who had lost his memory, clung to his mind, tormenting him just the same. Being thoroughly tortured might at least distract him from these complicated thoughts.

    “You talk like your mouth is running wild…!”

    The assemblyman stood up, knocking over his chair with a loud bang. Before he could get closer, Tae-seong struck Ha-gyeom’s cheek with a loud slap. The sound echoed through the room, finally bringing a look of satisfaction to the assemblyman’s face as he rolled up his shirt sleeves.

    “If it weren’t for you!”

    The innocent child from District 13 would have had their organs harvested. While a person can survive with just one kidney, it was unlikely that a person with such a vile nature would have provided proper care to a forcibly taken child.

    His own history and numerous cases collected by the center were proof of that.

    “Ugh…!”

    Before Ha-gyeom could speak again, he was plunged into the icy water. Bubbles rose, and his slapped cheek stung. Just when he felt he was at his limit, he was pulled out to gasp for air. The cold water filling his lungs began to bring excruciating pain.

    “Ha…, ha….”

    How efficient this method of torture was. Just a shallow basin of water made him struggle for each breath.

    Water dripped from his hair, soaking his body. The chill of the warehouse and the cold water made him shiver.

    “If it weren’t for that bastard, my son wouldn’t have died so miserably…. It’s all because of him…! Why trade my precious son for some brat from District 13 or wherever…! I can’t accept it…!”

    During the brief moment he was given to breathe, Ha-gyeom looked at the assemblyman who was venting his rage. Even if he was in the position of a chicken with its neck held, he had to speak his mind.

    “If you cared so much about your son, why didn’t you give him your own kidney?”

    “You bastard, do you even know how important this man is?”

    A man in a suit, who had been constantly bowing beside the assemblyman, snapped back. Status? Even in these end times, with monsters hovering overhead, they were still concerned about such things.

    “Representative Kim cannot be harmed. This district cannot function without him, understand?”

    Ha-gyeom spat out bloody saliva in defiance. Listening to such nonsense was worse than being waterboarded to death.

    At that moment, an armed mercenary entered the warehouse and whispered something to the man in the suit. After the mercenary left, the man relayed the message to Representative Kim.

    “Baek Sa is coming.”

    Upon hearing this, Representative Kim clicked his tongue and changed his demeanor. Folding his arms, making his bulging muscles twist, he leaned close to the suited man’s ear, constantly whispering instructions.

    …Baek Sa?

    It was probably a nickname. An intuitive name came to Ha-gyeom’s mind.

    “What should we do?”

    “Hmm….”

    Though he thought he had a moment of respite, Tae-seong’s grip on his hair made it feel like it would be torn out. Unlike the assemblyman, Tae-seong still looked at him with a deadly glare. It was no surprise; the child he had cared for since childhood had died because of the center’s operation, and now Ha-gyeom was the target of his anger.

    “Believe it or not, I am also sorry….”

    Despite his labored breathing, Ha-gyeom continued speaking until he heard the familiar sound of footsteps.

    Soon, Baek Sa appeared. As he was about to step over the threshold of the warehouse, he noticed the filthy floor and leaned against the doorway.

    “Representative Kim.”

    The assemblyman, who was sitting in a chair with his legs spread apart, pretended not to hear him even when he called out.

    Baek Sa, with an expression that betrayed no emotion, looked at the assemblyman, then at the kneeling Ha-gyeom and Tae-seong in turn.

    “Resource theft is a violation of regulations.”

    His calm statement made Representative Kim lash out in anger.

    “Who doesn’t know that?! Hey, Baek Sa. You, of all people, should know better than to talk like that. My son died, my son…!”

    Though Representative Kim pleaded, there was no trace of sympathy on Baek Sa’s face. The atmosphere grew somber as Baek Sa responded impassively.

    “Misappropriating resources for personal reasons and causing harm is an abuse of power.”

    Listening to him refer to Ha-gyeom as a ‘resource’ was deeply unsettling. It felt as if he was being seen solely as a source of energy, not as a person.

    Although guides’ energy was indeed invaluable in every district, Ha-gyeom was still a person with a distinct personality and identity before anything else.

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