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    Loves Error

    #035

    Baek Sa, without any hesitation, grabbed Ha-gyeom’s earlobe more aggressively this time, rubbing it firmly. The warmth of his fingertips pressed painfully against the sensitive skin. Ha-gyeom frowned, barely holding back a groan.

    To his surprise, Baek Sa didn’t let go as quickly as he expected.

    “……”

    “……”

    There’s a saying that once you share your body with someone, the fire reignites easily.

    Ha-gyeom couldn’t understand Baek Sa’s intentions, but he couldn’t calm himself. The redness that had gathered in his earlobe quickly spread to his cheeks and nose. His shoulders tensed, and a warmth spread through his stomach, all because Baek Sa’s touch was deliberate, sensuous.

    The silence between them felt hot and thick, making Ha-gyeom uneasy. He was acutely aware of Baek Sa’s intense gaze, as if he was inspecting every detail of his face. His body reacted to Baek Sa’s touch like a kettle on a stove, something that wouldn’t happen with anyone else.

    Was this what it meant to feel drawn to someone? Was it because their compatibility rate was so high?

    Unable to endure it any longer, Ha-gyeom took two steps back to escape Baek Sa.

    “I said stop…”

    He spoke somewhat dejectedly, rubbing his heated neck. Baek Sa watched him with an unreadable expression before finally turning away.

    ***

    After the test, Ha-gyeom expected to return straight to the dormitory, but he found himself following Baek Sa once again. He had nothing to check the time with, but judging by the position of the moon, it was likely well past midnight.

    For the first time since returning to Zone Zero, Ha-gyeom stepped outside the building.

    The outside world was harsh. This island, once sparsely populated and barren, was far from its pre-monster invasion state, no matter how resource-rich it had become.

    The terrain outside was rough, as expected. The makeshift paths were steep and uneven, covered in coarse dirt. There were no streetlights, making the surroundings pitch dark. His shoes were filthy almost immediately.

    “So, where are we going?”

    “Playground.”

    There was no way a playground for children existed in this place. The answer was strange, but Ha-gyeom didn’t bother asking further, knowing he wouldn’t get a proper explanation. He merely scowled.

    If it were Baek Seung-woo, he would have guided him properly through the dark, but not Baek Sa. With his exceptional eyesight, he didn’t care if the guide trailing behind him could see or not, striding ahead with long steps.

    All the buildings around them were dark and silent. If the moonlight had been bright, it would have been somewhat bearable, but with the sky covered in thin clouds, the darkness was almost oppressive.

    “Can’t you slow down? I can’t see well…”

    Finally, Ha-gyeom voiced his frustration, and instead of slowing down, Baek Sa grabbed his elbow roughly and pulled him along.

    “Do I have to escort you too?”

    The annoyance in his voice made Ha-gyeom growl like a scolded dog.

    “You once said we should act like we were destined for each other.”

    Up until the test, Baek Sa had been relatively gentle, but as soon as they stepped outside, his demeanor turned harsh. It was suspicious. Ha-gyeom tried to shake off Baek Sa’s grip but found his wrist held firmly. Frustrated, he lengthened his stride.

    As they walked, the buildings around them grew shorter, and the atmosphere became eerier. Ha-gyeom soon realized they were in a sort of middle zone.

    Zone Zero was starkly divided: the right side for leaders and ability users, and the left side for civilians. As they neared the blurred boundary between these areas, Baek Sa led him into a rundown warehouse.

    As they descended the creaking wooden stairs, a heavy, acrid smell hit Ha-gyeom’s nose. It was a scent he had never encountered before, but upon entering the room, he immediately understood its source.

    The first thing he saw was a man rolling something in white paper and smoking it. The man, with his eyelashes fluttering from inhaling deeply, straightened up upon noticing their presence.

    “…Baek Sa.”

    The man, familiar with Baek Sa, turned his gaze to the woman next to him. She was slumped over with needle marks all over her arms, clearly under the influence of drugs.

    Despite the warehouse’s dilapidated exterior, the interior was relatively cozy. There were a decent sofa arranged in a U-shape, a carpet, a cabinet stocked with liquor, and even a bed. In one corner, a whiteboard and a rectangular table cluttered with laptops and documents indicated some semblance of order.

    Ha-gyeom pieced together the scene in his mind. This was indeed a playground for adults—or more precisely, for ability users.

    “Introduce yourself. Despite appearances, he’s an S-rank esper and guide.”

    Baek Sa casually threw out the words before heading towards the liquor cabinet. Ha-gyeom laughed dryly at the absurdity. There was no point in introducing himself to people who weren’t fully conscious.

    “Is this… the guy?”

    Ha-gyeom frowned as the man approached him, gripping his wrist.

    “You’re supposed to be Baek Seung-woo’s destined partner, huh?”

    The man led Ha-gyeom to the sofa. Hearing Baek Seung-woo’s name caught him off guard.

    Once seated, Ha-gyeom shook off the man’s hand and checked on the woman. He placed his hand under her nose to check her breathing. While an esper might not die from drug use, a guide’s body was as vulnerable as a non-ability user’s, making an overdose potentially fatal.

    “No need to look so serious. She’ll wake up in about thirty minutes.”

    The man said, but Ha-gyeom couldn’t easily accept the chaos before him. He had expected the ability users here to be like Baek Sa.

    Remembering the lower-ranked ability users in the detention center, he couldn’t tell if this was permitted freedom or sheer decadence. S-rank ability users at the center would never behave like this. Despite differences, they all had a sense of duty.

    “The rest are outside. Were you expecting more from fellow S-ranks? Disappointed by how few we are?”

    “Disappointed? More like…”

    Just as Ha-gyeom began to speak, Baek Sa approached with a glass of alcohol and sat across from him. Meeting Baek Sa’s gaze, Ha-gyeom continued,

    “…pathetic.”

    Baek Sa smirked, seeming to agree. Ha-gyeom, uncomfortable, cleared his throat and looked at the table. The scattered white powder and piled syringes indicated this was no recent indulgence.

    “…You guys seem pretty lenient here.”

    “If it’s given to you, why not enjoy it? As long as you do your job well.”

    Baek Sa didn’t answer, but the man did. Ha-gyeom found the blatant attitude towards exploiting civilians for drugs distasteful. As he showed his displeasure, the man, now with an arm around Ha-gyeom’s shoulders, whispered,

    “Isn’t it boring dealing with just one person? If my name isn’t on Dr. Cha’s list… I’ll be disappointed.”

    “How about you speak to me face-to-face?”

    “By the way, my name is Park Ha. Don’t forget to check the list.”

    Ha-gyeom pretended to clean out his ear and replied,

    “I think I already forgot.”

    Annoyed, he gently tapped the woman’s cheek. It took over five minutes of coaxing before she woke up. Her curly hair was a tangled mess.

    Leaning back against the sofa, she struggled to regain her senses. Seeing Baek Sa sitting calmly without any complaints, Ha-gyeom thought it incredible how patient he was. Watching his companions indulge while he sat and drank.

    “You look a lot like Ah-rang…”

    The woman’s first words upon waking were anything but pleasant. Ha-gyeom glanced at Baek Sa, but he showed no reaction.

    “Now that you mention it, he is pale and dark-haired, similar.”

    “His eyes are the same. Round and pretty…”

    “But he’s a guy. Ah-rang is a girl…”

    “Baek Sa can do it all, but… what’s the problem?”

    “The problem is I’m only into men. Ah-rang didn’t do anything for me.”

    Ha-gyeom froze. The mention of Ah-rang made him tense, but then a firm hand slipped between his legs. The hand, unable to reach his center, rubbed his inner thigh painfully.

    If this was Park Ha’s doing, Ha-gyeom was ready to muster all his strength to deal with him. 

    Finally, Baek Sa set down his half-empty glass.

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