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    Loves Error

    Chapter 4. Dog Tag

    Deep Pivot Episode 43

    Seo-joon squinted at the sunlight streaming through the window as he rose from bed. He checked the clock and saw it was past 10 a.m. Since it was the weekend, no alarm had gone off.

    Listening carefully, he noticed the quiet outside. It seemed Cha Yeon-woo wasn’t up yet.

    That made sense. Seo-joon opened his phone. It was nearly 6 a.m. by the time the two had finished the contract and fallen asleep.

    [Hey]
    [What were you doing with Yeon-woo until early morning?]
    8:27 a.m.
    [What were you doing at that hour?]
    [Why did I get a new dedicated guide registration notification?]
    8:28 a.m.

    He opened and read through the accumulated messages one by one. The conversations in both the SAU group chat and the one-on-one messages centered on the same topic.

    [Our Seo-joon]
    [What were you doing with the baby until dawn?]
    9:13 a.m.

    [What were you doing at that hour]
    [to sign an exclusive contract^^]
    9:14 a.m.

    The teasing was exactly what he had anticipated when submitting the contract. Whenever someone registers a new dedicated guide, notifications are sent in real-time to Director Kang Hee-min and the entire SAU team.

    He thought about making a joke, saying the baby kept him up all night, but decided against it. He’d be teased enough without adding to it.

    The official chat room that included the entire SAU team, [Agile SAU], was quiet. But in the unofficial chat, [Elite SAU], which included the original members like Cheong-oh and newcomer Yeon-woo, dozens of messages had piled up.

    Seo-joon opened his one-on-one chat with Cheong-oh.

    Ji Seo-joon
    [What should we do]
    [with the new guides?]
    10:13 a.m.

    Hiring Cha Yeon-woo as his dedicated guide affected more than just the two of them. It meant that the dozen or so guides chosen to work with Seo-joon were now left in limbo.

    Jin Cheong-oh
    [Don’t worry about that.]
    [I’ll handle it.]
    10:14 a.m.

    Cheong-oh replied quickly. Despite often acting scatterbrained, he had never taken more than 10 minutes to respond to a team member.

    Jin Cheong-oh
    [Let’s have a team dinner.]
    [A welcome party for the baby]
    [And a dinner to commemorate Ji Seo-joon hiring a dedicated guide.]
    10:15 a.m.

    [Ask the baby when he’s available.]
    10:16 a.m.

    Ji Seo-joon
    [The baby’s still asleep.]
    10:17 a.m.

    Jin Cheong-oh
    [So, you’re with him now.]
    [I see.]
    10:18 a.m.

    Several confetti emojis popped up one after another. Seo-joon chuckled and closed the chat window.

    Rising from bed, he looked at the two tablets on the console. On the black screens, a larger handprint than his own was visible.

    He recalled the sound of Yeon-woo’s voice meticulously reading through the contract last night. When he had signed with Min Seon-wook, contracts weren’t nearly as complicated, probably just two or three pages.

    Since then, Seo-joon hadn’t signed another exclusive contract, so he hadn’t realized how thick they’d become. He had heard that contracts had gotten stricter but hadn’t expected it to this extent.

    Thinking back to Yeon-woo carefully reading every clause with no sign of fatigue made Seo-joon smile. But behind that smile still lingered worry.

    Was it the right thing to do? But it was a pointless thought now that the contract was signed.

    If a dedicated guide dies, the Esper can immediately enter a new contract without separate consent. Seo-joon didn’t know how long he and Yeon-woo would remain partners, but he hoped Yeon-woo would grow quickly.

    He hoped Yeon-woo would become resilient and wise enough to find a new partner, should he ever need to be on his own.

    The illusions of a savior tend to fade naturally while working together. Spending time as partners might be better for him, as it leaves no lingering regrets.

    After showering in the en suite bathroom and changing, Seo-joon stepped into the living room.

    “Oh.”

    He was startled to find Cha Yeon-woo sitting quietly on the sofa, expecting him to still be asleep. He noticed Yeon-woo’s usual demeanor and asked,

    “…How long have you been here?”

    “Not long. I was waiting for you to wake up, Lieutenant.”

    It seemed like Cha Yeon-woo had been up for a while. Unaware of this, Seo-joon had taken his time showering.

    “You could have said something.”

    You’re not a dog; you’re a person, so why wait quietly without saying anything?

    “Or at least watch TV.”

    “I didn’t want to wake you. You slept late yesterday and must be tired.”

    “What did you do by yourself?”

    Seo-joon moved closer and sat beside him.

    “I just sat for a while… checked my messages, talked to Director Kang Hee-min, and then heard the shower.”

    “Next time, watch TV or wake me up.”

    “Um… can I just walk into your bedroom while you’re sleeping?”

    “Where did you guide me last time?”

    “…”

    “It’s fine to come in and lie on the bed. Don’t worry about it. Who cares? We’re both guys.”

    If they didn’t have plans today, would Yeon-woo have woken up and left quietly without saying anything? “Didn’t want to wake me up?” That would’ve been annoying.

    “Are you ready to go?”

    “Yes. Director Kang said he already left.”

    “Let’s head out.”

    Seo-joon was about to grab his phone but paused to look at Yeon-woo heading toward the front door.

    …That damed school uniform.

    It had always been an annoyance, but now that Yeon-woo was his dedicated guide, it was more irritating. Seeing him walk around the center like that made Seo-joon look irresponsible.

    Once he graduates, I’ll make sure he ditches it.

    ✽✽✽

    “Oh, Yeon-woo!”

    Kang Hee-min approached with a wide smile, looking at him like a proud parent.

    “Did the contract go smoothly?”

    “Yes.”

    “Were there any confusing parts?”

    “No, there weren’t.”

    “That’s great. Let’s work hard together. If Seo-joon gives you a hard time, let me know.”

    His warm, attentive smile made it seem like he’d listen to anything Yeon-woo said.

    Seo-joon watched with a sullen expression. Is he really that happy about this? The more people adored Yeon-woo, the worse he felt about his own integrity.

    Hee-min led them somewhere.

    “Take a seat here.”

    There were some strange-looking devices and a chair resembling one from a dental clinic. Yeon-woo looked at the surgical tools beside him, seeming apprehensive. Hee-min laughed as she left briefly.

    “It’ll be quick. No need to worry.”

    They were there to implant an identification chip, akin to a soldier’s dog tag containing their information. Awakened Espers didn’t wear dog tags but had chips implanted instead. Yeon-woo hadn’t gone through this process since he hadn’t trained at the academy.

    With nothing else to do, Seo-joon sat beside him, sipping the green tea brought by the center staff. He idly gnawed at the rim of his paper cup, glancing around the room until his gaze met Yeon-woo’s.

    Seo-joon chuckled.

    “What? Are you scared? Want me to hold your hand?”

    “No… it’s just…”

    Yeon-woo looked down. Last night, he’d been like a tank, charging ahead to achieve his goals. But now he was back to his usual, gentle demeanor. Seo-joon set his crumpled cup aside and took Yeon-woo’s arm.

    “Here.”

    Seo-joon traced a line along the inside of Yeon-woo’s arm with his thumb.

    “They’ll make a small cut, about a centimeter, and put it inside. It doesn’t hurt much. The chip is really small.”

    He dragged his nail gently down the pale skin, leaving a red mark.

    “Your skin is delicate, Yeon-woo. You should take care of it to avoid scarring.”

    As he raised his head, their eyes met again. Yeon-woo hadn’t been looking at his arm at all, just at Seo-joon’s face.

    Late to lower his gaze, Yeon-woo finally glanced at his arm.

    “…Yes.”

    The response was hesitant and out of sync. Seo-joon recognized this moment, one of those awkward silences that often arose around Yeon-woo, where time seemed to pause unnaturally.

    “…”

    And during these moments, Seo-joon always found himself at a loss for words, like a film with poor transitions between scenes.


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