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    Loves Error

    Chapter 4

    He was a person with an extremely intense first impression. The black cashmere coat suited him frighteningly well, and his face was also quite handsome. Overall, he had thick and distinct facial features. His appearance, reminiscent of a Westerner, constantly lingered in his mind.

    “He didn’t seem like someone familiar with flowers.” 

    He went over the reasons why he had visited again. While there were several guesses, the most likely one was that he, like Jhi Yeonwoo, was not a normal person. That he might even be an alpha with superior traits.

    He thought it was a bit of an unusual situation. He knew that the better the alpha’s traits, the better their ability to find omegas. But he never dreamed it would be possible without pheromones. Based on his reaction, it didn’t seem like he was simply assuming he was a beta and speaking and acting accordingly.

    “What on earth? That person.”

    A voice full of doubt echoed through the quiet living room. In fact, Jhi Yeonwoo often was mistaken for a beta because he lacked pheromones almost entirely. Since over 90% of society consists of betas, it was perhaps only natural that Jhi Yeonwoo, completely lacking pheromones, would be mistaken for a beta.

    However, Jhi Yeonwoo did not try to correct this misunderstanding. After getting divorced, he had now become accustomed to living independently without being subdued by alphas’ pheromones and suppressants, able to live an ordinary life.  

    Since his omega nature had not changed, he occasionally went through heat cycles, but that was only a couple times a year at most. Excluding those times, he felt fine and was living a relatively healthy life.

    Looking no different from a beta on the outside, he had no reason to reveal to others that he was an omega suffering from pheromone deficiency. For an omega to lose their pheromones was essentially a serious illness. For them, pheromones were akin to hormones, so being deficient usually meant being ill or unable to live a normal life. However, Jhi Yeonwoo’s pheromone deficiency was an acquired case where he simply lost his pheromones without any other ailments, which was an unusual situation.

    After reminiscing about that time for a moment, Jhi Yeonwoo slowly turned his head upon hearing a vibrating noise from somewhere. His gaze focused on the vibrating cell phone on the sofa table. It was a call from his friend, Seo Eungyeom.

    “Yeah, Eungyeom.”

    [What are you doing?]

    A smile spread across Jhi Yeonwoo’s face as he heard the familiar voice flow out as soon as he answered the call.

    Seo Eungyeom, whom he had been with since middle school through high school, was Jhi Yeonwoo’s one and only best friend. He was the only friend who stayed by his side, witnessing and sharing the pain through all the cycles of marriage and divorce after graduating high school.

    “I took a shower and am drinking beer. You?”

    [Nice. I’m working overtime. I just finished dinner and have to head back in.]  

    “Overtime again? You need to take care of your health.”

    [I don’t even know anymore. I almost wish I could just pass out right now.]

    “Hey, don’t even joke about that.” 

    [I’m not being serious, just saying.]

    Even from the short exchange, Eungyeom’s voice sounded completely drained of energy. Was he very tired? He said he got hired into the planning department at the company after failing the exam three times, so it seems the work is keeping him very busy.

    [Ah, why does no one tell you that it’s only the beginning when you get hired? I’m going to work myself to the grave on this project.]

    “Is the work really that much?”

    [ Lately, leaving work at 10 p.m. is considered early. ]

    “What? 10 p.m.? Isn’t that too much?”

    [ What can I do? As a working person, I have no choice but to do as instructed by my superiors.]

    “Then you don’t even have time to meet him?”

    [ It’s been over a week since I last saw him. He must have been really angry, right? ]

    “Aren’t you being too casual knowing he might be angry?”

    [ Well, there’s a way. My heat will start in a while.]

    As they started talking about the man, Seo Eungyeom’s voice brightened noticeably, and Jhi Yeonwoo chuckled. “Still, you seem to be doing well. I’m glad you’re meeting him too.”

    [ But what about you? And you’re drinking  beer? What’s going on? ]

    Knowing each other well, Eungyeom pointed out something odd and started talking. Jhi Yeonwoo, feeling pricked at the core, glanced briefly at his phone buzzing with silence. 

    [ What is it? Tell me. ]

    Sensing the flowing silence, Eungyeom’s voice, which had caught on, calmly settled. Setting the phone, which he thought was unavoidable, down on the coffee table, Jhi Yeonwoo switched to speakerphone. Then, leaning his head against the hand resting on his knee, holding the almost empty beer can, he stretched his arm out and rested his head on it.

    “It’s nothing. Just met someone at the store…”

    [ You met someone? Who did you meet? ]

    Eungyeom’s voice, which had been poised as if to give serious advice, now burst with excitement. Jhi Yeonwoo hadn’t shown interest in anyone for the past two years, and Eungyeom, the person closest to him, had observed it. “Please go out and meet people. Healing from a breakup is usually through love,” giving advice like a senior in love, but Jhi Yeonwoo, who had been unyielding, suddenly blurted out that he had met someone, making Eungyeom unable to contain his excitement.

    [ What? Why aren’t you saying anything? Do you like him? Is it Alpha? Or is it Beta? ]

    “I don’t know yet.”

    [Hey, if by any chance he’s Beta, don’t even bother. You know what happens if they find out later you’re an Omega, right?]

    “He’s definitely not Beta. Anyway, he came back a couple of hours later after buying flowers for me.”

    [Really? Why?]

    “He asked if it’s possible to have a meal and a drink if he becomes a VIP.”

    [What? Hey, this is 100%. So?]

    “But…”

    Jhi Yeonwoo paused, cutting off his words. A murmuring sound came from the other side of the phone. It seemed like Eungyeom was whispering to someone beside him. The conversation extended. Eungyeom’s voice, using honorifics like ‘Yes, understood,’ indicated he might be talking to a superior.

    [Sorry. I think I need to go in. The team leader is looking for me.]

    As expected, Eungyeom postponed their conversation for later.

    “Oh, it’s okay. Get to work.”

    [Gosh, why now?]

    “Hurry in. I’ll tell you next time we meet.”

    [Anyway, I don’t have much time to talk right now, but Yeonwoo.]

    “Yeah?”

    [I’m not sure about the details, but don’t take it too seriously.]

    Eungyeom cautiously advised Jhi Yeonwoo, who seemed hesitant even though he had to go in quickly.

    [No one is without flaws in this world. Neither me nor our boss. Everyone has imperfections and weaknesses they live with.]

    “….”

    [You don’t have to be afraid of getting hurt or abandoned. Is the world only filled with jerks like Lee Hyunjoon? Who knows, maybe that person will bring you some comfort?]

    “….”

    [There’s a saying that goes ‘from a horse-drawn cart to a Benz’. From what I’ve seen, there’s no bigger jerk than Lee Hyunjoon. Wouldn’t you feel more at ease if you think like that?]

    “Yeah, maybe.”

    [If that person happens to like you, see if he’s a decent person and meet him a few times. If it doesn’t feel right, just dump him.]

    “What?”

    Jhi Yeonwoo, who had been silent, couldn’t help but laugh at that.

    [So don’t worry too much, alright?]

    “Alright, go in quickly.”

    [Ok, let’s talk later then.]

    “Yeah, take care.”

    After hanging up, a quiet silence descended. Jhi Yeonwoo, who had been standing still, sat down and hugged his knees, resting his chin on them. Maybe Eungyeom’s words were right. It might be unreasonable to pour out sincerity after just one meeting.

    Dump him if it doesn’t feel right after a few times?

    Touching the business card in his hand, Jhi Yeonwoo chuckled softly and shook his head.

    It was just one day. It was too early to say he fell in love during that short time, and there were parts that didn’t quite fit the narrative of falling for someone. But interpreting that an Alpha of outstanding quality was drawn to an Omega wasn’t entirely incomprehensible.

    Innately, Alphas moved according to their instincts. Even if it was a nauseating pheromone, they were born that way, so their relationships weren’t as serious as a Beta might think. It was nothing more or less than light relationships where those dominated by pheromones met and parted ways. So maybe Choi Muhyuk hadn’t approached him with serious intentions after all.

    What stood out in particular in his memory were the amber-colored eyes that glanced over Jhi Yeonwoo. Choi Muhyuks eyes were deep and profound, as if they were in the depths of the sea.

    ‘I’m  giving it to hurt them.’

    ‘It’s not to make their heart flutter.’

    Even though he knew those words weren’t meant for him, it still didn’t sit well with him. He even debated whether to refuse to sell him the Marigold. After all, he didn’t want the recipient to experience the same pain as him. However, it didn’t seem polite to refuse while someone was buying flowers, so reluctantly, he handed it over, offering to exchange it for a different flower if desired.

    ‘Is it just a conjecture from your experience?’

    Marigold was one of the painful memories Jhi Yeonwoo held onto. It was the kind of memory he wished he could erase forever if he could. However, no matter what he tried, it couldn’t be erased, and he never expected that memory buried deep in his heart would be touched by someone else.

    ‘Yeonwoo, do you know what this flower is called?’

    The hand that was about to bring the beer can to his lips paused in mid-air.

    ‘This is called Marigold. I bought this flower because it reminds me of you. The meaning of the flower is beautiful, isn’t it? The sadness of parting, pitiful love. Yeonwoo, from now on, whenever you see this flower, you’ll think of me. Right?’

    Even now, it was such a ridiculous thing to say. Words disguised in an affectionate tone left a lasting scar on Jhi Yeonwoo, which would never be erased.

    ‘I hope you get hurt and unhappy. You know? You look the most beautiful when you cry. From now on, you’ll cry a lot thinking of me, Yeonwoo.’

    Two years had passed since that incident. It’s unfortunate for Lee Hyunjun, but over the past two years, Jhi Yeonwoo has tried hard not to get hurt or become unhappy, just like Lee Hyunjun said. He thought that was the best revenge he could take. He would open the Flower Fiance store, meet and greet customers with a smile, engage in conversations, and study about flowers. Consequently, he didn’t have time to make an effort to meet anyone.

    It wasn’t that he had no connections with other people. There were people who had shown interest in him during that time, but every time, he drew a line and didn’t treat them more than just customers. They were just passing connections in his daily life. There were even people who offered to introduce him to someone, but Jhi Yeonwoo politely declined them all. He had resolved not to easily give his heart to anyone anymore. He had erected a wall while reminding himself of that resolution. However, the first person to actively approach him, like breaking down that wall in one fell swoop, was Choi Muhyuk.

    ‘Is it possible to have a meal and a drink?’

    During a sudden visit while he was tilling the soil spread out on the ground, Choi Muhyuk suddenly asked.

    ‘Your conditions are quite strict. Does that mean I have to increase sales?’

    Choi Muhyuk, who inquired about being a VIP in the small flower shop of about five pyeong (approximately 16.5 square meters), suddenly took out his wallet from his coat pocket as if he was about to buy all the flowers inside. Seeing that, Jhi Yeonwoo couldn’t help but chuckle.

    However, that was only for a moment. The smile that had spread across his lips faded away like spreading ink.

    ‘Can we call someone who bought Marigold like Lee Hyunjun, someone who gave pain, a good person?’

    Choi Muhyuks thoughts didn’t leave Jhi Yeonwoo’s mind in a positive way. It was because of the crack in his belief that there wouldn’t be anyone else like Lee Hyunjun in the world.

    He wondered where else could there be someone who gives a flower symbolizing parting? But that person was closer than expected.

    Or maybe there are crazy people around him.

    There was no law preventing someone who had done such a thing once from doing it again.

    So, there was already an answer to how he would treat Choi Muhyuk in the future.

    Jhi Yeonwoo took out the business card he had been fiddling with in his pocket.

    “I won’t be deceived anymore.”

    Having gone through the twists and turns of life at a young age, all that had increased were his caution and discretion. Even without him explaining why Choi Muhyuk had come back to persuade him as a VIP, he already knew. Rather, if he hadn’t bought Marigold, maybe things would have been a little different, but even after seeing such obvious intentions, he couldn’t accept his kindness.

    “I won’t meet people who hurt me again.”

    As if hypnotizing himself, Jhi Yeonwoo threw the business card he was holding into the trash and turned away.

    * * *

    It was an ordinary day. 

    A peaceful routine consisted of familiar flowers, regular customers, and occasional new visitors. There had been a few calls from unknown numbers. They could have been reservation calls, but the thought of one of them being from Choi Muhyuk crossed his mind. Unfortunately, he hadn’t saved Choi Muhyuk’s number and had discarded his business card, so there was no way to verify it.

    He hadn’t separated his work and personal phones, and since the small flower shop also used an online reservation system, he didn’t bother checking separately. The chances of the call being from Choi Muhyuk seemed unlikely.

    The sporadic missed calls were from different numbers. If there had been even one repeated number, he might have called back, but since each call was unique, he assumed they were all wrong numbers.

    With his hooded jacket and jumper, Jhi Yeonwoo swiped his phone screen with his thumb as he walked. It was cold, so he pulled the hood over his head and continued toward the convenience store.

    When he got home after work, he realized his favorite snacks were out of stock. Although he didn’t snack often, when he worked late, he’d opt for cookies or bread instead of a proper meal. Late dinners didn’t sit well with his digestion.

    In the convenience store, he noticed a neatly arranged refrigerator with beer. “Come to think of it, I was running low on beer at home,” he thought. He walked toward the beer section, which was unusually located next to the counter. It was visible from the entrance.

    He put two cans of his favorite beer in his basket and noticed a sign that read “Buy 2, Get 1 Free.” Should he grab one more? As he reached for another beer, the convenience store door opened behind him.

    “…!” 

    Startled, he turned around. 

    “One Parliament Light, please.”

    A man in a well-fitted suit stood at the counter, ordering in a dry tone. He pulled out his wallet from the inner pocket of his jacket. His overall demeanor seemed oddly familiar.

    “Um, Director?” 

    Jhi Yeonwoo blurted out. It was definitely Choi Muhyuk.

    Whether he felt Jhi Yeonwoo’s gaze or not, Choi Muhyuk, who had been lazily closing his eyes and relaxing his neck from side to side, casually turned his head towards Jhi Yeonwoo.

    As their eyes met, Jhi Yeonwoo hesitated for a moment before quickly turning his back.

    “Why is he here at this hour?” he wondered. 

    The convenience store was near his home, but there were plenty of other stores around. Moreover, the address he remembered from Choi Muhyuk’s business card wasn’t in this vicinity.

    “Does he live nearby?” 

    But there were no upscale houses in the vicinity. Perplexed, he felt a shiver down his spine as footsteps approached from behind. Thump, thump. Without looking, he knew who it was.

    The footsteps stopped right behind him. It felt like a big mistake, and his heart raced.

    “Mr. Jhi Yeonwoo?”

    Caught off guard, the realization was only brief. Anyway, since he was a customer, he couldn’t pretend not to know him openly. Jhi Yeonwoo, who had been pouting his lips from under the hood, slowly turned around.

    “Oh, hello.”

    As he took off his hood and awkwardly smiled, Choi Muhyuk’s expression brightened.

    “That’s right, indeed. How have you been?”

    “I’m fine. And you… Mr. Choi, have you been well? Did you come to buy cigarettes?”

    As they exchanged formal greetings, Jhi Yeonwoo gestured towards the part-time worker waiting for the payment.

    “Yes. My secretary usually replenishes them, but it seems he forgot today.”

    “Ah… seems like you’ve been busy.”

    “Even when busy, there are things that must be done, tsk.”

    Choi Muhyuk’s tongue clicked, and his gaze turned sharp. Then, as their eyes met, he quickly changed the subject.

    “Did you come to buy beer, Mr. Yeonwoo?”

    With his hands in his pants pockets, Choi Muhyuk looked down at the basket in Jhi Yeonwoo’s hand.

    “I came to buy snacks, but I saw it and thought why not.”

    “Do you drink well?”

    “No, I’m not good at drinking.”

    He nodded with a meaningful look on his face. Jhi Yeonwoo stared at him intently, unable to decipher its meaning.

    “Well, let’s pay first and then talk outside.”

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