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    Loves Error

    Deep Pivot, Episode 64

    “Yeon-woo.”

    His unfocused eyes soon turned to Seo-joon.

    “Yeon-woo, can you hear me?”

    Even then, one of his eyes was so swollen that he could barely keep it open. Yeon-woo’s face twisted.

    “Yes, yes… I can hear you now, Lieutenant.”

    His words were mumbled and unclear. His pretty facial features were nowhere to be seen, as half of his face was swollen with bruises.

    Seo-joon couldn’t bear to look at his face as he staunched the bleeding in Yeon-woo’s side. Although Seo-joon himself was more severely wounded, with a bullet having torn through him, Yeon-woo’s injuries struck him much harder.

    “Fortunately, the bullet didn’t go all the way through, so if we can stop the bleeding, you’ll be fine. Hang in there.”

    Cough, cough. Yeon-woo tried to sit up, but Seo-joon held his shoulder in shock.

    “Yeon-woo, you shouldn’t move…”

    Still, Yeon-woo stubbornly sat up and grabbed Seo-joon’s hand. His hand, smeared with blood of unknown origin, covered Seo-joon’s hand. The dagger that had pierced Seo-joon’s hand was now only marked by torn flesh.

    “…”

    Seo-joon realized what Yeon-woo was trying to do. With his other hand, he caressed Seo-joon’s arm and shoulder.

    “Don’t…”

    As Yeon-woo’s touch met his wounds, pain he hadn’t realized was there stung. Seo-joon turned his head away, shaking off Yeon-woo’s hand as he stroked the cuts on his chin and neck from the battle.

    “Lieutenant, guiding…”

    “How can you even think about guiding in this situation?”

    In the cramped transport helicopter, Seo-joon alternated between pushing Yeon-woo away and trying to pull him back.

    “You’re hurt, Yeon-woo!”

    His heart broke helplessly. Seo-joon felt an overwhelming loathing for being an Esper in that moment.

    Yeon-woo wrapped his arm around Seo-joon’s neck, pulling him closer.

    “Don’t… mph… Don’t touch me! Keep your hands off me!”

    Seo-joon shook his head violently, rejecting the kiss. Yeon-woo’s face twisted as his grip tightened on Seo-joon’s shoulder.

    “Lieutenant… it hurts.”

    Seo-joon looked at him in stunned silence. Only then did he see that Cha Yeon-woo was smiling, but his swollen face made it appear like a grimace.

    “Please, Lieutenant, let me guide you.”

    “What nonsense…!”

    The kiss, stained with blood, pushed into his parted lips. Seo-joon couldn’t put up a strong resistance for fear of hurting him, only turning his head away. Yeon-woo held onto his shoulders, preventing him from pushing away.

    “Mm, …Yeon… mm…”

    A warm tingling spread through the kiss. The torn flesh healed, and the pain gnawing inside gradually ebbed away. As he swallowed the saliva that moistened his tongue, the rising sobs were smothered within his lips.

    Blood-stained hands gently caressed his cheek and chin, sliding down to the nape of his neck. The tender warmth of the kiss lingered briefly before parting.

    Seo-joon glared up at Yeon-woo with tearful eyes. His one functioning eye slowly moved, scanning Seo-joon’s face and body.

    “Minor wounds heal so quickly.”

    Yeon-woo said as he touched Seo-joon’s chin, smiling in relief. Even though he hadn’t improved at all himself.

    Seo-joon reached out and hugged him. If only he really were a guide like Cha Yeon-woo had said, how wonderful it would be. If only he could heal his wounds too.

    Yet only Seo-joon found solace in their shared warmth and contact.

    “…I love you, Lieutenant.”

    At that moment, a soft whisper came from the lips pressed against his ear. “I love you, I love you.” The tearful voice repeatedly wetted his ears.

    “I wanted to hide it, …but then I thought I’d never be able to tell you if I died, and that scared me so much….”

    Tears rolled down his swollen cheeks. Seo-joon looked at his miserably twisted face. This time, it wasn’t ambiguous. Cha Yeon-woo was clearly crying.

    “I’m sorry. I love you so much, Lieutenant….”

    Seo-joon carefully wiped away his tears with the tip of his thumb.

    This is the worst confession. Worse than any I’ve ever received.

    It wasn’t surprising, not even joyous, just an expected and trite confession.

    “I know.”

    Gently stroking the tears on his cheeks, Seo-joon replied.

    “You think I didn’t notice?”

    The gaze that would hide when met, the hands simultaneously cautious and eager to touch as if seeking permission, the body that desired him so clearly it couldn’t be hidden.

    How could I not know when you looked at me like that, throwing yourself at me so desperately every moment? How could you think it would stay hidden?

    “It doesn’t matter if you dislike me. I just love you so much, Lieutenant. I love being close to you; I love holding you….”

    Seo-joon pressed his lips firmly against Yeon-woo’s tear-streaked face. Gently licking his wet eyes to soothe them, he calmed the crying a bit. Yeon-woo tilted his head and began kissing again.

    As each layer of pain slipped away, Seo-joon felt more and more agonized.

    In the cramped helicopter, the kiss continued, full of blood and wounds.

    ✽✽✽

    “Make sure to secure the site properly! If anyone touches even one of the bodies, I’ll…”

    Colonel Jin, walking briskly through the center hallway while on the phone, was suddenly grabbed by someone.

    “Colonel Jin.”

    Colonel Jin Hyun-joong, the father of Jin Cheong-oh, had devoted the last 30 years of his life to the military. He looked at Hee-min, who had caught his arm.

    “Oh, Director Kang. I’m busy right now, what’s up?”

    “I have something urgent to discuss.”

    Colonel Jin looked perplexed but quickly wrapped up his call, noticing Hee-min’s serious expression.

    “What happened that’s made you so pale?”

    Without a word, Hee-min led him into the executive conference room. The empty room was pitch black. Colonel Jin fumbled through the darkness to turn on the light, then turned back, grumbling.

    “Ah, geez. I’m busy, so what could be so important that you dragged me all the way here…?”

    But facing Hee-min directly, he felt no urge to complain further. A man who seemed fine just yesterday now looked pale and haggard, like he hadn’t slept for three days.

    “I have something urgent to share regarding the IGTS research.”

    Hee-min removed his glasses as he spoke. Watching his trembling fingertips, Colonel Jin asked with a puzzled expression.

    “IGTS? You mean the Gate Joint Research Institute with NASA? What do I need to know about that?”

    Hee-min rubbed his forehead and wiped his face. He didn’t have the strength to stand, so he sat in an empty chair and began to explain about the Russian “No-Named” incident and its impact on the Gate openings.

    After a while, Colonel Jin also took a seat beside him. In the empty conference room, occasional sighs from Hee-min and gasps from Colonel Jin echoed. Their conversation couldn’t be overheard and was shared only between the two.

    Colonel Jin closed his eyes, stroked his chin, and sighed deeply.

    “So, you’re saying all this chaos was caused by people sent from their side?”

    “Yes. At first, I didn’t know either. With just the Yanbian assassin, I thought it was some terrorist group. After all, it’s not surprising that China would have such people.”

    Colonel Jin turned toward Hee-min, tapping the table lightly with his fist.

    “There was a tracking device in the board game found in the safe house.”

    “…”

    “Apparently, it was given by our intern, Jang Song-hee. She bought it from a flea market near the center. So, they intentionally approached even the staff.”

    Colonel Jin chuckled in disbelief. He couldn’t help but scoff at the absurdity of a joint NASA research institute pulling off such acts, not some random assassin organization.

    “So what about those two S-Class Espers Viktor brought in? Are they from IGTS too?”

    “They were hired independently by Viktor. IGTS didn’t seem to know either. There are unregistered awakeners who do that kind of work—killing people for money.”

    “He hired S-Class on his own? Really, what was that guy thinking…”

    The unfinished thought trailed off. They both knew the answer, even without saying it out loud.

    It wasn’t hard to guess why Viktor had gone to the extent of hiring S-Class assassins. Despite becoming a Russian due to his connection with the No-Named, he must have still considered China his homeland deep down.

    The rampage of Russia’s No-Named affected neighboring countries. If South Korea’s No-Named were to rampage, the consequences would be…

    “…The ones who raided the safe house this time seemed to only have one or two A-Grade individuals, the rest were B and C-Grade.”

    A conclusion too frightening to reach was cleverly dodged by an intentional change of topic.

    Colonel Jin, his brows deeply furrowed, rubbed his face with both hands. He stared into space for a while before speaking with a troubled expression.

    “Anyway, I need to report this to the higher-ups, Director Kang.”

    “…”

    “I’m a soldier. I have a duty to report every detail of this incident to my superiors.”

    “But if you include IGTS’s No-Named-related research in your report, will they leave Lieutenant Ji alone once they find out?”

    “It’s not confirmed yet. Just because a single No-Named disappeared doesn’t mean… The Gate disappearing in that area could be a coincidence. For all we know, a Gate might open in the heart of Moscow tomorrow.”

    Colonel Jin’s hopeful words were hard for even him to believe. Hee-min reached across the table and grabbed his arm.

    “Since it’s not certain, as you said, Colonel.”

    “…”

    “Please delay your report.”

    Colonel Jin grimaced and let out a long, awkward sigh. He stood up, withdrew his arm from Hee-min’s grasp, and put his hands on his waist as he exhaled deeply.

    “Hey, Director Kang, have you held a grudge against me all this time or something, huh?”

    The IGTS wanted the matter reported to the upper echelons. In other words, they wanted to handle this issue officially, nation-to-nation. And yet, this guy Kang Hee-min…

    “Why did you tell me this?! This sensitive information! Why?”

    Colonel Jin ran his hand through his hair in frustration and lamented at Hee-min.

    “I’m just a simple colonel… I can’t bury or manage such crucial issues on my own! You should have gone to Major General Park Jin-chul or someone like that, at the very least!”

    “But you’re currently overseeing this case, Colonel. Who else would I talk to but you? I don’t even know much about Major General Park Jin-chul. What if the situation gets worse…”

    “Ugh! Come on!”

    Colonel Jin cut Hee-min off impatiently, letting out another long sigh.

    He’d spent more than half of his life in the military. Ever since the Gates began opening, each day had been like walking through a minefield.

    He’d often been reprimanded and passed over for promotions while covering up for his son’s mischief. Despite all that, he had never felt as cornered as he did now.

    The silent conference room was filled only with their uneasy silence.

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