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    Loves Error

    Deep Pivot, Episode 45

    Seo-joon’s meal consumption didn’t deviate much from Yeon-woo’s expectations. His entire meal consisted of a bit of porridge, two pieces of tteok-galbi that Yeon-woo had cut into small pieces, and a little bit of rice cooked with a soft-boiled egg.

    “Just one more bite, Lieutenant.”

    Yeon-woo coaxed while scooping a small portion of yuja danja (citrus rice cake) from the dessert. Seo-joon, still chewing on the rice cake that Yeon-woo had fed him, shook his head silently.

    “One last time.”

    “You said it was the last time before.”

    “This really is the last.”

    “…”

    “How about just half?”

    Yeon-woo reduced the portion of pomegranate seeds on the spoon and looked at Seo-joon. The spoon moved to the right, then to the left, then right again, accompanied by a quiet sound effect from Yeon-woo’s lips: *Swoosh, swoosh.*

    Seo-joon frowned as he followed the spoon with his gaze.

    “…You’re not treating me like Jeong-woo, are you?”

    “Oh.”

    Yeon-woo let out a short hum, seemingly unaware of what he had done.

    “I’m sorry… it slipped out habitually.”

    Feeding a 29-year-old man the same way he did a 9-year-old was certainly too much. Seo-joon took a sip of cinnamon punch and set the glass down.

    “I’m not a kid. Do you think I’ll be as easily convinced as Jeong-woo?”

    “…”

    Yeon-woo quickly closed his mouth as Seo-joon pretended to be upset. Yet, he didn’t completely give up and still held onto the spoon. Seo-joon clicked his tongue.

    “Give it here. I’ll eat it myself.”

    He took the spoon from Yeon-woo and put it into his mouth. The pomegranate seeds and blueberries, soaked in citrus juice, rolled around sweetly on his tongue.

    “…People like me aren’t very popular with adults.”

    Seo-joon spoke reluctantly, washing away the sweetness with water.

    “But now that I’m around, maybe you’ll be liked more and more?”

    Seo-joon smiled faintly at his words. He didn’t bother pointing out that the only reason he had improved this much was because of Yeon-woo and that things wouldn’t get much better.

    “I’ll pay.”

    As Seo-joon left the room, he reached for his wallet, but Yeon-woo held onto his arm.

    “What are you talking about? If you were going to pay, we wouldn’t have come to such an expensive place.”

    “But you covered my hospital bills and moved Jeong-woo to a better room.”

    Seo-joon scoffed, amused.

    “You think I should be letting a student treat me?”

    “I still haven’t spent my first paycheck yet.”

    Yeon-woo took a card out of his pocket and said.

    “Please, let me use this for you, Lieutenant. I really want to.”

    Seo-joon was amused by how earnestly proud Yeon-woo seemed and had intended to refuse again, but he just nodded. Having experienced Yeon-woo’s stubbornness firsthand the night before, Seo-joon knew further argument would be futile.

    “I’ll let you this once because it’s your first paycheck. But don’t even think about opening your wallet in front of me from now on.”

    At that moment, someone coming around the corner lightly brushed against Seo-joon’s shoulder. He reflexively apologized.

    “I’m sorry.”

    “No problem.”

    Seo-joon turned his head as the man walked past, but the stranger had already vanished into the crowd.

    “Lieutenant, is something wrong?” Yeon-woo asked.

    “No, it’s nothing.”

    After settling the bill, the two headed outside.

    A few seconds later, three men dressed in black suits appeared. Their gaze followed Seo-joon through the glass window.

    “How much?”

    One of them asked the staff, pulling out his wallet. His accent was a curious mix of standard Korean and Yanbian dialect.

    ✽✽✽

    The car came to a stop in the department store parking lot. Yeon-woo’s composure, already beginning to waver on the way there, completely dissolved as they entered the parking structure. With a puzzled expression, he asked.

    “Lieutenant, do you have something to buy?”

    “Yes, I do.”

    Seo-joon turned off the engine and unbuckled his seatbelt. Yeon-woo followed suit and got out of the car.

    “We’re going to buy clothes.”

    Only then did Seo-joon add, “Your clothes, Yeon-woo.”

    “What? My clothes?”

    The two stood side by side and walked toward the entrance.

    “You used your first paycheck to buy me dinner. So I’m going to use my first paycheck on you.”

    “Your first paycheck?”

    “It’s the first paycheck I’ve received this month, so it’s my ‘first paycheck.'”

    “But that…”

    Yeon-woo couldn’t quite finish the thought, his puzzled expression suggesting disbelief.

    “And we’ll buy you clothes to wear when you stay over at my place.”

    Seo-joon continued speaking as he stepped onto the escalator, unfazed by Yeon-woo’s reaction.

    “Whenever you come to the center, wear the clothes I got you. It’s understandable if you come straight from class, but still.”

    “You really don’t have to go that far….”

    “I’m getting you these clothes so you don’t have to wear your school uniform. Just take them without feeling burdened.”

    “You don’t like my uniform?”

    “No, I don’t.”

    Yeon-woo looked shocked by the immediate response. Seo-joon realized he should elaborate before Yeon-woo remained stuck in shock.

    “It suits you too well. Now that you’re my dedicated guide, I’d feel guilty.”

    “…”

    “It makes guiding awkward.”

    Yeon-woo looked down at his school uniform shirt and shrugged it off, leaving only the white T-shirt underneath. He still looked like a student.

    “…But there’s nothing I can do about this, Lieutenant.”

    Seo-joon, noticing Yeon-woo’s growing pout, guided him further up to the next floor.

    “I’m usually always at school. Please understand until I graduate.”

    February next year was nearly half a year away, which felt like ages to Seo-joon. In the meantime, at least Yeon-woo could look less like a student.

    “It’s less than three months away.”

    To Seo-joon’s surprise, Yeon-woo’s response didn’t match his expectation. He tilted his head and lightly tapped Yeon-woo’s shoulder.

    “Three months? It’s still September.”

    “I’m graduating in December.”

    “…Why?”

    “What?”

    “Do repeat students graduate early?”

    “What?”

    Their conversation hit a confusing pause before Yeon-woo hesitantly spoke.

    “Well… these days, many schools graduate in December, Lieutenant.”

    “Really?”

    Yeon-woo looked at Seo-joon with wide eyes, noticing this was the largest he’d ever seen them.

    “When I was in school… I feel so old saying this, but nine years ago, graduating in February was the norm.”

    The realization of their age difference became even more apparent with that “nine years ago.” Although Yeon-woo’s intention was to hint at how little time was left until graduation, he hadn’t anticipated Seo-joon feeling this old. Now unsure what to say, Yeon-woo simply observed Seo-joon’s reaction.

    “Regardless, we’re still buying you clothes. I want to.”

    With that simple conclusion, Seo-joon turned his attention forward. As Yeon-woo quietly watched his profile, he suddenly spoke.

    “By the way, Lieutenant.”

    Seo-joon glanced back.

    “What?”

    “You wore my school uniform at the Yeonseon My Park Mall incident.”

    Seo-joon narrowed his eyes, trying to remember.

    “I did. My clothes were torn.”

    “It really suited you. Some people thought you were a student.”

    Seo-joon fully turned to Yeon-woo with an incredulous expression.

    “…Are you trying to comfort me for being old?”

    “No…”

    Yeon-woo’s attempt to recover fell flat, realizing his words were making things worse.

    “Let’s start with the sportswear section. I’ll look for something for myself too while buying yours.”

    Seo-joon casually tried to gauge Yeon-woo’s size, figuring he’d be a bit bigger than Team Leader Jin. He grabbed Yeon-woo by the arm and began leading him to the sportswear section when he suddenly overheard a voice:

    “If not today, then tomorrow.”

    ✽✽✽

    “Are you saying ‘No problem’? Why not just advertise that you’re a Joseonjok?”

    “Oh, stop messing around. I said I was wrong.”

    Among the three men in black suits, two were quietly bickering. The one on the receiving end was exceptionally short and skinny, with multicolored dental braces visible under a crooked upper lip.

    All three of their gazes were locked on a man walking ahead of them. He was their target. The man on the escalator, maintaining a certain distance from the target, warned his companions.

    “Lower your voices.”

    The target, facing forward, suddenly turned to his companion. All three men simultaneously ducked their heads to hide their faces.

    One of the men, who had remained silent the entire time, muttered quietly as he stepped off the escalator.

    “Does that guy never leave?”

    His accent was almost flat, making him sound closest to standard Korean among the group.

    “If not today, then tomorrow.”

    The shorter man frowned as his companion spoke. His steady baritone voice held a trace of laughter.

    “Why take two days just to kill one person?”


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