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    Loves Error

    #024

    “No, this man is still—!”

    “That’s for the department to handle, Representative Kim. You should focus on your son’s funeral. Is your son the only child? Think about Yujin, who’s left alone. The child has fainted twice.”

    In contrast to Representative Kim, who was visibly agitated, Baek Sa remained composed and indifferent. To Ha-gyeom, Baek Seung-woo’s emotionless demeanor was unfamiliar. In the past, he wouldn’t have treated such a tragedy with such detachment, as if it were someone else’s problem.

    Now that he thought about it, Baek Seung-woo’s manner of dealing with the representative and even his attire was different. Espers at the center needed to be ready for monster hunts and operations at any moment. Usually, they were required to be armed like mercenaries, but Baek Seung-woo was dressed in a simple suit, not in full gear.

    Even in this world, those at the top of the hierarchy were mostly non-powered individuals who had held power since before the monster invasions. It was rare for an esper with combat abilities to be involved in politics or the administration of Earth.

    “Have you done enough?”

    Baek Sa asked Representative Kim, who was pretending to hold his head in pain. Meanwhile, Ha-gyeom’s breathing had stabilized, but his wet clothes were making him feel cold.

    “What if I say I haven’t?”

    “It doesn’t matter. I’m only following higher orders anyway.”

    An S-class esper in a suit instead of combat gear? Moreover, Baek Seung-woo looked like a bored cold-blooded person.

    In the end, Baek Seung-woo, who ignored Representative Kim’s outburst, approached Ha-gyeom, his displeasure barely concealed.

    The problem was Tae-seong. He still seemed to be fuming. Ha-gyeom groaned as he struggled with Tae-seong’s grip, which hadn’t loosened at all.

    “Get him up.”

    Despite the clear and simple command, Tae-seong continued to confront Baek Sa for a while. Baek Sa stared intently at Tae-seong. At least to Ha-gyeom, his gaze didn’t seem threatening.

    “Damn it…”

    Yet, Tae-seong couldn’t hold out for long and retreated. Muttering curses, he grabbed the back of Ha-gyeom’s neck and stood him up. Ha-gyeom, who had been hanging limply like clothes caught on a nail, barely managed to support himself on his two legs.

    “…Follow me.”

    As Baek Sa reached the door, Representative Kim roared, but ignoring him, Ha-gyeom quickly followed Baek Sa and Tae-seong out of the warehouse. Despite walking down the corridor for a long time, the musty smell lingered.

    After escaping through the emergency exit and climbing the stairs three times, sunlight finally shone through. They were above ground.

    Walking, Ha-gyeom couldn’t take his eyes off Baek Sa’s jacket, which was taut across his broad shoulders. At the center, Baek Sa usually wore tight-fitting tops to avoid hindering his movements. As an esper capable of wielding any weapon, he always carried knives and pistols on him, yet he gave off the impression of a national athlete.

    But now, he looked like a top predator in an underground organization. It was hard to imagine the playful and clear-eyed person he used to be. It was impossible to predict what kind of person he was or to decide whether to trust him or not, leaving Ha-gyeom bewildered.

    “He’s trembling.”

    At that moment, Tae-seong spoke to Baek Sa in a dissatisfied tone.

    Ha-gyeom, preoccupied with his thoughts, hadn’t even noticed his body trembling. Despite being drenched, his dry lips bothered him more….

    Only then did Baek Sa, turning back, scrutinize Ha-gyeom from head to toe.

    “I’ll take him. You go see the kid.”

    “Forget it. It’ll just make me angrier.”

    Baek Sa crossed his arms with an unreadable expression. A faint, fishy smile appeared at the corners of his mouth. Rolling his eyes to Ha-gyeom’s pale face, he murmured.

    “You seemed quite sincere.”

    If he was talking about the water torture, of course, Tae-seong had been sincere. Tae-seong’s attitude was still nonchalant, but it didn’t seem as rebellious as before.

    “Didn’t you tell us to do what Representative Kim ordered? It was under orders, so why?”

    “Look at the state of the kid…”

    In an instant, Baek Sa stepped forward and slipped his hand into Ha-gyeom’s hair. His long fingers slid through the wet, stiff strands. Ha-gyeom, repulsed by the familiarity of the touch, closed his eyes tightly. When Baek Sa’s fingers brushed the back of his neck, a clump of pulled-out hair came out.

    Baek Sa casually dropped it to the floor and shook his head. Ha-gyeom lowered his gaze, trying to hide the heat rising over his cold skin.

    “Neglecting to mourn is a disservice to both that child and yourself.”

    Baek Sa spoke with an icy look, his smile gone. Tae-seong complied, his acceptance of Baek Sa’s words, treating a clearly intended tragedy as if it were a natural occurrence, was perplexing.

    “Fine. I’ll go, okay?”

    Tae-seong grumbled, shoving Ha-gyeom towards Baek Sa. After adjusting his rifle, Tae-seong left, and silence lingered for a moment.

    Pushed into Baek Sa’s arms and then bounced back, Ha-gyeom blinked repeatedly to clear his dizzy vision. It was a side effect of not getting enough oxygen.

    “Where are we going…?”

    Instinctively reaching out into the air, Ha-gyeom’s wet arm was firmly grasped and pulled by Baek Sa.

    “To your new place.”

    Baek Sa answered succinctly and started moving forward. Matching his pace a step behind, Ha-gyeom felt the heat spreading again from Baek Sa’s touch on his arm.

    He couldn’t help it. How was he supposed to control his memories, habits, and old emotions?

    “…Where is that?”

    “You’ll see when we get there.”

    There must be a dormitory for the ability users here too. Not much was known about it, but he guessed it must be that place. He didn’t expect a warm welcome. He had been captured as an enemy, so there was no way he had any choices.

    ‘Then, where was the place I woke up?’

    He was curious. The bleak room showed no sign of its owner’s personality.

    “I don’t like having a guide in my room just because our compatibility rate is high.”

    Baek Sa spoke suddenly, as if reading his thoughts. His half-turned, sidelong glance was dry. A guide? If anyone said something like that to a center guide, they wouldn’t even find their bones.

    Somehow, it felt like a cruel joke of fate that the room did indeed belong to Baek Sa.

    “People call you Baek Sa.”

    “……”

    “…What’s your real name?”

    When he finally asked, his heart pounded helplessly. Anticipating an obvious but not-so-obvious answer, Ha-gyeom swallowed dryly.

    Baek Sa answered without hesitation.

    “Baek Seung-woo.”

    Ha-gyeom’s eyes widened. The straightforward answer contained not a single lie, contrary to his expectations. It meant he wasn’t hiding his identity as Baek Seung-woo while staying here.

    All the strength drained from his body. Despite the increasing chill, heat rose within him, making his vision waver like a mirage.

    “…Hold on.”

    Ha-gyeom took a deep breath, leaned against the wall, and exhaled. Baek Seung-woo also stopped. It was impossible to know how far they were from their destination. The dark corridor, reminiscent of an abandoned hospital, twisted through numerous corners, making him feel lost.

    Ha-gyeom observed Baek Seung-woo, who had come close. The soft lines of youth were gone. Staring at his entirely solid silhouette, Ha-gyeom asked again.

    “How old are you…?”

    “Thirty-one… or so I’ve been told.”

    The prompt answer wasn’t wrong. But the sentence following his age seemed suspicious.

    “You’ve been told you’re thirty-one? What kind of thirty-one-year-old doesn’t know their own age?”

    Feeling completely like a stranger while talking about him, Ha-gyeom felt oddly sad.

    “I lost my memory five years ago. So unless someone tells me, it’s true I wouldn’t know my age.”

    Ha-gyeom’s gaze, which had been fixed near Baek Seung-woo’s chest, trembled. He had always considered the possibility that Baek Seung-woo might have been injured during his disappearance.

    The fact that he didn’t recognize him and had become part of this place was a convincing reason. But it didn’t ease the pathological thirst that had already taken root.

    Who told him his name and age?

    Information about ability users was kept secret not only by the center but by all of Earth.

    Trying to find a rational answer, Ha-gyeom couldn’t hide his agitation upon realizing that Baek Seung-woo indeed had lost his memory. He bit his trembling lips, trying to endure, but suddenly Baek Sa’s fingertip touched him.

    “But.”

    He gently lifted Ha-gyeom’s chin.

    “Why are you curious about that?”

    “……”

    “Why. Does it feel like fate?”

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