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    Loves Error

    Chapter 6

    The more Choi Muhyuk’s voice came through the phone, the redder Jhi Yeonwoo’s face became. 

    “No, no. Who said I was disappointed? Absolutely not.”

    He desperately made excuses, even waving his hands around when there was no one watching. Where was someone watching from? Otherwise, there’s no way he could pinpoint it so directly.

    [Hmm.]

    Choi Muhyuk’s reaction seemed to indicate he didn’t believe him.

    [That’s a relief. I was actually getting disappointed that you didn’t seem to think about me at all.]

    “Me? I never said I was waiting for you, Director.”

    Jhi Yeonwoo desperately made excuses. Even if it was an obvious excuse, he couldn’t admit to it right away. As much as he had waited for Choi Muhyuk, he didn’t want to reveal his true feelings so shamelessly. 

    As he tried to say something again, Choi Muhyuk’s voice came a bit faster.

    [You’re not good at lying, Jhi Yeonwoo.]

    “Huh? What do you mean…”

    [If you were going to lie, you shouldn’t have hesitated.]

    Jhi Yeonwoo, who had opened his mouth, closed it again with a pause. The more the conversation went on, the more he felt he was being led by Choi Muhyuk’s pace. It felt like he was speaking according to what Choi Muhyuk wanted rather than what Jhi Yeonwoo wanted to say.

    Choi Muhyuk is skilled with words and expressions. Jhi Yeonwoo had felt that from the first time he saw him. He was drawn to Choi Muhyuk’s good looks that naturally drew eyes, but what stood out the most was his face when he cynically said he was giving flowers to hurt someone.  

    Imagining him saying these kinds of words with that expression from back then, it didn’t quite add up. Those words also implied that they weren’t quite that close yet.

    When you think about it, they had only met twice. It was three times if you count the two meetings in one day. With such a short time frame, perhaps expressing disappointment didn’t quite fit.

    He had coexisting desires to know more about Choi Muhyuk and fears. What if he turned out to be worse than expected? Jhi Yeonwoo had thought he could never like anyone again, but then this good-seeming person happened to come into his life after 2 years and gave someone flowers for the same reason as Lee Hyunjun, not holding back with his expressions either. Could this be a coincidence? Or was this just his type?

    At the end of this train of thought, Jhi Yeonwoo was left feeling gloomy.

    “Director, please tell me honestly.”

    Jhi Yeonwoo’s despondent voice echoed softly in the living room. 

    “How many fish like me are in your pond? Two? Or three?”

    [……]

    “You have to tell me honestly.”

    A few seconds of silence passed. From the other end of the phone, where Jhi Yeonwoo was anxiously awaiting his answer, came a voice tinged with laughter.

    [Why don’t you guess how many?]

    “…Really?”

    Jhi Yeonwoo’s eyes widened.

    [Why? Don’t you like playboys?]

    “Of course not. No one in the world likes playboys.”

    An emotional voice burst out. On Jhi Yeonwoo’s face, standing in the dim lighting, was a mix of complicated feelings.

    [Luckily, I’m not someone skilled enough to see multiple people at once.]

    The voice coming from the phone still overflowed with composure. Jhi Yeonwoo, who felt like he had swallowed cold water, became despondent. The more the conversation went on, the more Choi Muhyuk shone, while Jhi Yeonwoo just felt increasingly small. 

    [Jhi Yeonwoo…] 

    It was the moment Choi Muhyuk was about to say something. The sound of a door opening could be heard from the other end of the phone.

    ‘What are you doing, hyung? Ah, were you on a call?’

    It seemed someone had arrived. Even though Choi Muhyuk moved the phone away from himself, it was quiet enough in both his and Jhi Yeonwoo’s locations that their conversation could still be faintly heard.

    ‘What’s going on?’

    ‘I sent a message but it doesn’t seem like you checked it.’

    ‘Really? What about?’

    ‘I found out the details on the omega you were arranged with, hyung. Should I come back later if this is going to take a while?’

    The eyes of Jhi Yeonwoo, standing there with the phone to his ear, widened hugely. 

    Did he say ‘arranged’…? Did I mishear that?

    [Jhi Yeonwoo, are you perhaps free tomorrow?]

    “……”

    [Jhi Yeonwoo?]

    “…Huh?”  

    Jhi Yeonwoo, who had been standing there in a daze, finally came to his senses when he heard Choi Muhyuk call out again.

    [What kind of coffee do you like, Jhi Yeonwoo?]

    “Me? I like vanilla latte…But why are you asking?”

    [I’ll come to the cafe tomorrow during opening hours.]

    “Tomorrow?”

    [Do you have plans?]

    “No, not at all.”

    [Then I’ll come to the cafe tomorrow.]

    “Ah…Okay.”

    [Sleep well, see you tomorrow.]  

    “Good night.”

    [Yeah, you too Jhi Yeonwoo.]

    Perhaps because of the guest’s arrival, Choi Muhyuk’s previously slow and gentle way of speaking returned to his usual curt, cynical tone.

    Jhi Yeonwoo stared at the screen that flickered before going completely black. In the midst of the abrupt farewell, he had ended up making plans. Was this for real this time? He had doubts, but it didn’t seem like empty words either.

    “…He had an arranged meeting, huh.”

    It felt like he had overheard something he shouldn’t have. The reason Choi Muhyuk had said he was busy all week didn’t make much sense, unless he was busy going to see potential mates? But he did say he went far away.

    No matter how hard Jhi Yeonwoo tried to piece together the fragmented thoughts, they just ended up tangled like a ball of yarn.

    Standing still in the darkness, Jhi Yeonwoo simply let out a small breath.

    * * *

    His day didn’t start off well from the morning. 

    As soon as he got to work, he broke a flowerpot. It was an accident. It was a small flowerpot left on the desk, which he bumped into while passing through the cramped space.

    “What a waste. That was an expensive pot.”

    Without even taking off his coat, Jhi Yeonwoo sat down on the floor and used his bare hands to clean up the broken pieces of the flowerpot. His head felt dizzy and foggy. He hadn’t lacked sleep, but it seemed he had a hangover from drinking alcohol after a long time. 

    As he debated whether he should go to the drugstore, he heard the sound of the door opening.

    “Did a flowerpot break?”

    Dressed in a full suit with a gray coat, Choi Muhyuk entered the shop.

    “Yes, I accidentally broke it. Just a moment please. I’ve almost finished cleaning it up.”

    Jhi Yeonwoo brought a broom and swept up the spilled soil to clean it neatly. Choi Muhyuk, standing off to the side, silently watched.

    “Are you okay with the hangover?” 

    As Jhi Yeonwoo was finishing up cleaning, Choi Muhyuk spoke. Jhi Yeonwoo, who was pouring the soil into the trash can, flinched and turned around. Meeting eyes with Choi Muhyuk, he approached and placed a hangover relief drink and pills on the table.

    “I didn’t buy coffee since it seemed your stomach might not be feeling well.”

    “Th-thank you.” 

    He didn’t think he was showing signs, so how did Choi Muhyuk know? Did his way of speaking change from usual? Recalling last night’s conversation, Jhi Yeonwoo suddenly felt embarrassed. 

    “You do remember our conversation from last night, right?”

    “I didn’t drink that much.”

    Jhi Yeonwoo said with a reddened face, and Choi Muhyuk silently smiled.

    Choi Muhyuk’s gaze lingered on Jhi Yeonwoo’s face. His dark brown irises moved slightly as they scanned across his features.

    “But…”

    Just as Jhi Yeonwoo thought that gaze was strange, a hand came towards his face. Flinching backwards, Choi Muhyuk’s hand brushed Jhi Yeonwoo’s cheek.

    “Are you usually this sloppy? You had dirt on you the first day I saw you too, and again today.”

    Choi Muhyuk showed the dirt on his hand. Only then did Jhi Yeonwoo realize there was dirt on his cheek.

    “Sometimes when repotting or handling soil, it can get on your face if you touch it. Ah, but when did I get it on me?”

    Feeling embarrassed for no reason, Jhi Yeonwoo turned to the side and rubbed his cheek with his sleeve. 

    Choi Muhyuk, who came to visit the flower fiance, engaged in small talk. He asked casual questions like if Jhi Yeonwoo had eaten breakfast, how his condition was today, etc. It was only before leaving that he brought up the main point.

    “Are you free for dinner?”

    Since he was the person who asked if they could grab a meal and drinks the very first day they met, Jhi Yeonwoo wasn’t too surprised by his question.

    “Sorry, I have a prior appointment today.”

    In fact, whether it was a weekday or weekend, he had plenty of free time after getting off work. But he deliberately pretended to have a prior engagement. Just judging from Choi Muhyuk’s previous actions, Jhi Yeonwoo didn’t want to accept right away.

    “I see. Then how about tomorrow?”

    “Tomorrow?”

    “Do you have a prior appointment tomorrow too?” 

    “Ah, no. Tomorrow is fine.”

    Jhi Yeonwoo made up a fake prior engagement just to gauge Choi Muhyuk’s reaction. This was someone who could tell he was lying just over the phone. Wouldn’t he instantly see through it when face-to-face? Jhi Yeonwoo couldn’t bear to meet Choi Muhyuk’s unwavering gaze. That piercing stare made it feel like everything would be exposed at any moment.

    “Then let’s plan to meet tomorrow evening.” 

    After observing Jhi Yeonwoo for a while, Choi Muhyuk glanced at his wristwatch.

    “What kind of food do you like?”

    “I eat pretty much anything.”

    “Hmm, then I’ll have a driver come pick you up to match tomorrow evening’s time.”

    “Oh no, you don’t need to go that far.”

    Jhi Yeonwoo waved his hands to politely decline Choi Muhyuk’s offer.

    “Just let me know the restaurant name and address, and I’ll find my own way there.”

    He felt burdened by the courtesies being extended when their relationship hadn’t even properly started yet.

    Jhi Yeonwoo had guessed at Choi Muhyuk’s high social standing, but his near disappearance over the past week really drove it home.

    In this one-sided relationship where Choi Muhyuk could cut ties forever if he wanted, Jhi Yeonwoo didn’t want to get swept up thinking the courtesies he was extending were sincere. It could just be lighthearted interest that’s commonplace, so he didn’t want to blindly go along with it.

    Leaning against the counter, Choi Muhyuk silently observed Jhi Yeonwoo standing across from him.

    “Then how about this? Just having a meal might be awkward, so why don’t we watch a movie?” 

    “A movie?”

    “We can watch a movie first, then have dinner. I’ll make a reservation at a nice hotel lounge.”

    “Don’t you need to book a room to use a hotel lounge?”

    “I know the hotel owner, so I can use it sometimes without booking a room.”

    While Jhi Yeonwoo was fine with the movie, having dinner at a hotel lounge on the first date seemed excessive. But he wasn’t in a position to refuse again, so he ended up accepting Choi Muhyuk’s date proposal.

    ***

    After closing the shop a bit earlier than usual and returning home, Jhi Yeonwoo took a shower and stood in front of the mirror. Though time was tight, none of the clothes in his closet appealed to him today.

    He ended up wasting time picking out an outfit in front of the closet, only managing to arrive at the movie theater just before the appointed meeting time due to the delay.

    Riding the escalator up to the 7th floor, Jhi Yeonwoo lightly caught his breath while looking around. The 7th floor for purchasing tickets was already crowded with many people. Since the plan was just to meet on the 7th floor without specifying where exactly, he slowly walked through the crowd, glancing around in search of Choi Muhyuk.

    With his tall stature and outstanding looks, Choi Muhyuk should be easy to spot, but Jhi Yeonwoo couldn’t see him anywhere. Maybe he hadn’t arrived yet. Should he try calling? As he turned on the phone gripped tightly in his hand, he overheard a conversation from someone passing by.

    “Wow, check out that guy’s physique. It’s no joke.”

    “I’ve been watching him, wondering who he’s waiting for? That’s the third person he’s turned down.”

    “What, is he waiting for a partner?”

    Focusing on their conversation, Jhi Yeonwoo followed their line of sight. Passing through the crowd in front, he spotted a familiar figure standing near a sculpture installation not too far ahead.

    In that moment, another man approached Choi Muhyuk and seemed to be trying to talk to him. It looked like an omega who had noticed Choi Muhyuk was an alpha.  

    Without exchanging many words, Choi Muhyuk ignored them while looking down at his phone. The person who approached him seemed offended, rolling their eyes before walking away with reddened cheeks.

    At the same time, Jhi Yeonwoo’s phone vibrated.

    [Director Choi Muhyuk: Jhi Yeonwoo, where are you?]

    Staring blankly at the message on the screen, Jhi Yeonwoo raised his head. Why did someone so popular, who even went to see potential mates, want to get close to him? The doubt was inevitable, but he couldn’t refuse Choi Muhyuk’s advances when his looks, physique and way of speaking were all exactly Jhi Yeonwoo’s type.

    [I’m here. I see you, Director.]

    Jhi Yeonwoo hesitated before tapping out the message with both thumbs on the screen. Checking his phone, Choi Muhyuk quickly raised his head and glanced around. When his eyes met Jhi Yeonwoo’s, his expression brightened as he walked over.

    Exchanging eye contact as Choi Muhyuk approached, Jhi Yeonwoo gave a light smile. 

    He had a mountain of questions he wanted to ask, but decided not to ask them today. He didn’t want to ruin the good atmosphere.

    The movie they had booked was a romantic comedy action film. For a movie combining three genres, it wasn’t too bad. It was appropriately funny, appropriately heart-fluttering, with the only downside being the excessive bloody violence. 

    Unable to stomach gory or violent movies, Jhi Yeonwoo kept glancing nervously at Choi Muhyuk sitting beside him. Whenever a scene with blood appeared, he would flinch in surprise. After flinching a couple times like that, the tension built up again, making him unconsciously clench his own hand tightly.

    Just as he considered covering his eyes, a hand reached over and gently took hold of Jhi Yeonwoo’s hand. Staring at the rough hand completely enveloping his own, he turned his head.

    “Want me to cover your eyes instead of your hand?”

    Choi Muhyuk whispered softly while facing forward. With a flushed face, not realizing it was too dark to be seen clearly, Jhi Yeonwoo shook his head. 

    “No, it’s okay.”

    Speaking in a small voice, Jhi Yeonwoo placed his other hand over Choi Muhyuk’s hand covering his own.

    After finishing the movie, Jhi Yeonwoo’s heart pounded. Not because of the violent action film promoted as a romantic comedy, but because of Choi Muhyuk’s actions throughout that made his heart flutter.

    “Next time I’ll have to ask you first before booking.” 

    Choi Muhyuk, who had gone to throw something away, approached Jhi Yeonwoo’s side.

    “Sorry, was it uncomfortable for you?”

    “More than that, I felt bad seeing how easily you got startled.”

    “I do tend to get startled easily. Actually, that’s why I don’t go to the movies much.”

    Since many people were taking the elevator down after the movie ended, the two decided to use the escalator.

    “So you don’t really watch movies then?”

    “Mostly at home. The OTT platforms are pretty well developed these days.”

    Standing side by side going down the escalator, Choi Muhyuk turned his head to look at Jhi Yeonwoo standing right behind him.

    “Hmm, that’s not a bad way either.”

    A smile spread across Choi Muhyuk’s face, as if he had an idea while briefly lost in thought. Not understanding the meaning, Jhi Yeonwoo tilted his head curiously.  

    After leaving the theater, the two headed to the hotel lounge for a late dinner. The manager who had made their reservation came out to greet them.

    “It’s been a while, Director.”

    “You’ve been well, I hope.” 

    Choi Muhyuk and the manager exchanged light greetings before being shown inside. Since it was a bit late for dinner, the hall was mostly empty.

    “The rooms were already fully booked, so I’ve reserved the hall instead. I’ll have you seated by the windows with the nice view.”

    After politely excusing the situation, the manager led them to seats right next to the windows overlooking the sparkling night view. Sitting down, Jhi Yeonwoo’s gaze was captivated by the twinkling nightscape outside. Seoul was so beautiful. As he gazed in admiration, Choi Muhyuk, who was about to take a seat, paused to check his phone.

    “Jhi Yeonwoo, sorry but I need to take one call. I’ll be right back.”

    “Sure, go ahead.”

    Choi Muhyuk brought the phone to his ear and walked back towards the entrance he had come through. As Jhi Yeonwoo watched Choi Muhyuk move away, he turned his gaze back outside the window.

    Just as Choi Muhyuk was about to exit the lounge, he bumped shoulders with a man entering at the same time. ‘Excuse me,’ Choi Muhyuk lightly bowed in apology before brushing past the man to take his call.

    The man who entered with a woman wearing a form-fitting wine-colored mini dress muttered ‘Geez,’ with an annoyed expression as he looked back at the retreating Choi Muhyuk. Appearing displeased, he brushed off the shoulder Choi Muhyuk had bumped as he entered the lounge. Similarly, they too were guided by the awaiting manager to their own seats, but the man’s scrunched up face showed no signs of relaxing.

    “Lee Hyun-jun, can’t you loosen up a bit? Are you going to act like this in front of both families too?”

    “Got it. I’ll handle it myself, so stop nagging.”

    The man Lee Hyun-jun, showing an irritated reaction to the omega woman’s nagging, scanned the hall before his gaze stopped at one spot. The backside of someone sitting alone by the window, captivated by the night view outside, looked familiar. 

    “…Jhi Yeonwoo?”

    Lee Hyunjun muttered in disbelief as he stared at the back view. The probability of it not being Jhi Yeonwoo wasn’t very high. Their relationship may have ended badly, but he had lived with that person for 4 years – there was no way he wouldn’t recognize their back.

    “Why is Jhi Yeonwoo here…”

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