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    Loves Error

    July is the spin-off prequel of December. July has similar content like December but without the Omegaverse element. There are new scenes too so you can look forward to that. Samk developed July first, and December was written afterwards as an AU installment of July.

    21 years old

    It was probably some day in July. It must have been around 3 a.m.

    I was walking home after finishing my shift at my part-time job.

    It was about four stops away, but there were no buses, and it felt too wasteful to take a taxi. After working part-time for a few weeks and walking home at dawn, I started to quite enjoy it.

    I found myself surprisingly fond of the tranquility of the empty streets. Still, it was quite boring, and I wished I could listen to music, but I couldn’t wear earphones because of my boss’s constant nagging every time I left work.

    “It’s the most dangerous when no one is around! You never know who might jump you, so don’t wear earphones and stay alert.”

    As a guy, I thought, who would jump me? But brainwashed by the constant nagging, I gave up on listening to music. Instead, I hummed a song that played at the part-time job. It had only played once, but it strangely stuck in my head.

    “Your smile~ hmm hmm waiting~ hmm hmm~ the pouring sunshine~ hmm hmm~”

    I replaced the parts I didn’t know with “hmm hmm” as I hummed, when I suddenly heard a noise.

    Screeeeech~~~ Thud thud thud!!!

    Huh? A traffic accident?! I quickly looked around. I tried to find the crashed car on the still-dark road, but there was no stopped car where the sound came from.

    It was definitely the sound of tires screeching. I moved towards the road where the sound came from to check, and I saw something lying on the ground in the turning alley.

    As I approached, I saw it was a fallen motorcycle. I stopped walking and looked for the person. Someone was in the shadow of the orange streetlight. A man with a helmet, leaning against the wall. I hurried over to him.

    “Are you okay…?”

    “Just leave me alone.”

    I looked around. He was definitely talking to me. In that case, leaving him alone was the polite thing to do. I immediately stepped back.

    The man seemed injured, unable to stand up, holding his other arm with his hand and bowing his head. After a while, he raised his head. And he noticed me squatting at the end of the alley.

    “What the hell?”

    “Just a person resting while passing by.”

    Maybe because my posture looked like I was taking a dump, he didn’t trust me.

    “Just get lost.”

    Usually, I would have left, feeling annoyed. But today, the cocktail I had before leaving my part-time job was the problem. The boss handed me a drink he claimed to have developed and said one thing.

    “It’s pretty strong.”

    It was definitely a Russian cocktail. Or perhaps a survival item for the coming ice age.

    “Get lost.”

    As the motorcycle guy grumbled, I took a lighter out of my pocket, lit it, and blew it out forcefully in his direction.

    “It’s out.”

    When I confidently held out the lighter, the motorcycle guy didn’t tell me to get lost anymore. Instead, he worried about me.

    “Are you crazy?”

    He was the one injured, yet he was concerned about someone else’s mental health. He wasn’t a bad person. My alcohol-soaked heart warmed up.

    “If I were crazy, I would have just ignored a hurt person and walked away. I’m too normal, which is why I’m sticking around despite being cursed at.”

    Maybe because I suddenly said something reasonable, he went silent. I got up and checked the fallen motorcycle. In the dark, it wasn’t clear, but apart from the broken side mirror, there didn’t seem to be any severe damage. Despite having a freezing cocktail, my mind was functioning properly.

    “Can you stand?”

    “…Yeah.”

    “Give it a try.”

    He tried to stand up but sat back down again. I expected that. I took out my phone and immediately called 119. Or at least I tried to, but he urgently stopped me.

    “Don’t. Don’t call anyone!”

    “Why? Did you run away from home?”

    Flinch. The guy on the motorcycle reacted. I had spoken without thinking, and I was the one who ended up surprised. What, did he really run away? Is he a high school student?

    “Take off your helmet.”

    What? He looked incredulous, but I responded seriously.

    “Take it off. I need to see your face.”

    He didn’t respond. That made me even more sure. He really was a runaway teen.

    “Get lost.”

    He spat out harshly again. Now that I thought about it, his voice did sound somewhat youthful. Even though he probably wasn’t much younger than me, he felt like a younger brother.

    “I guess at that age, even seeing a rolling stone can make you worry.”

    I mumbled to myself and sat down across from him. I couldn’t see his expression because of the helmet, but I could tell he was flabbergasted.

    “How old are you to talk like an old man?”

    “Twenty-one. What’s your problem?”

    He turned his head away, clearly not wanting to talk. Meanwhile, I secretly texted 119 to report the situation.

    “Is your problem so ridiculous that you’re embarrassed to say it?”

    “Just go your way, mister.”

    “Are the kids bullying you?”

    He sighed deeply and tried to stand up. However, his injured body caused him to sit back down. Damn, the runaway kid cursed, but it sounded like a cute rebellion to my ears.

    “If you’re not going to the hospital and have time, talk about it. Think of it as posting anonymously on the internet; I don’t know your face or name.”

    “Why should I do that?”

    “Because there’s no solution to your problem, but talking about it might make you feel better.”

    “How do you know there’s no solution?”

    “If there were, you wouldn’t be racing around in the middle of the night like this.”

    “…”

    “There are a lot of problems without answers. Mine is like that too.”

    Your problem? What’s that? His unseen face seemed to be asking just that. I stared at him, signaling for him to talk first.

    He turned his head away again. Silence continued. I felt like he wouldn’t speak. Still, I didn’t get up and waited for 119, looking at the road. Before I knew it, I started humming the song from earlier.

    “Your smile~ hmm hmm~ pouring sunshine~ hmm hmm hmm hmm~”

    I still didn’t know the later lyrics, so I replaced them with “hmm hmm.” The song echoing in the dawn seemed to catch his attention. As I finished with “hmm hmm,” he asked,

    “If I talk, will you stop singing that song?”

    We’ll see. I tossed out the words, and he spoke after a moment.

    “The career my family wants, I hate it.”

    “So you ran away?”

    “No.”

    “…Then?”

    “There’s no girl I like.”

    “And?”

    “That’s it.”

    Now it was my turn to be silent. Did he really say he doesn’t have a girl he likes, not that he does?

    Is this really a problem worth running away on a motorcycle in the middle of the night? I doubted it, but since he said so, it must be true.

    The helmet turned towards me. He must have been expecting a reaction from me, but I had no words for such an unexpected issue.

    “That’s quite a conundrum.”

    “Yeah.”

    What a truly puzzling kid.

    “What’s your problem?”

    “My problem… is ordinary. Money, family, the future.”

    “You don’t have money?”

    “That’s right. It’s a common problem in poor families. My father left us with debts and has been out of contact for months. My mother injured her back from overworking and needs to go to the hospital, but we can’t afford it. My younger sister’s school trip fee is due this week, but we don’t even have money to eat.”

    “Can’t you work?”

    “Yeah, that’s the answer. So, I didn’t go to college and kept working. But that’s only for another two weeks. After that, I have to join the army. There’s no way to postpone it.”

    “…Then borrow money from the bank.”

    His suggestion sounded almost childlike, making me smile.

    “You’re cute.”

    Whether he was annoyed or shocked, his shoulders twitched. I wanted to talk more with this cute runaway kid, but I heard sirens approaching nearby. I dusted off my pants and stood up.

    “I called an ambulance. Take care, cutie.”

    I thought he called after me, but I couldn’t hear clearly because I was busy indicating the student’s location to the approaching ambulance.

    He probably got treated well and went home safely. He must have been scolded a lot by his parents, but I didn’t have time to worry about him. For the next two weeks, I was busy working 20 hours a day to make money.

    23 years old

    The same news was top of the headlines on TV every day. Today’s high temperature was 36 degrees. One of the hottest days on record, and so on. Even though July hadn’t ended yet, the world was burning under a closer sun.

    As soon as I was discharged from the army, I started working like crazy again. It wasn’t easy for a high school graduate to find a job that paid well. Fortunately, through an acquaintance, I got a job at a large factory with a decent salary.

    My job started in a few weeks. In the meantime, I helped my uncle. His job was the busiest during this heatwave: installing air conditioners.

    All through July, my uncle couldn’t take a break even on weekends, and he turned as black as someone who had been to the beach. Sometimes he had to install up to five units a day, often skipping lunch.

    One Sunday, we rattled into a university campus in my uncle’s truck. Since it was the police university, we had to go through security at the entrance before moving inside. As we drove to our destination, people in uniforms brushed past our truck.

    “Did you do something wrong? Why are you so nervous?”

    My uncle joked as he opened the truck’s cargo bay.

    “When did I? Besides, they’re just students, not real police officers.”

    “There are real police officers too. Think carefully if you did something to get arrested.”

    I listened to his unfunny joke while carrying the box containing the air conditioner to the installation site. There, two people in uniforms were waiting for us.

    Even though people in uniforms all look the same, one was exceptionally tall. The shorter one told us where to install the air conditioner. Having followed my uncle a few times, I had become somewhat adept at helping. We first removed the old, broken air conditioner.

    The downside of installing air conditioners is that we can’t enjoy the cool breeze ourselves. After a few trips carrying stuff from the truck, sweat was already running down my forehead and neck.

    “Cut it to 20 meters.”

    My uncle, who had measured the wire length beforehand, instructed me as soon as I brought the supplies. I grabbed the toolbox and knelt by the thick copper wire roll. As the work took longer, the shorter man had left, but the tall man sat at the edge of the desk, watching us.

    No, he was staring at me. As I measured out the thick copper wire, I glanced up and met his eyes. Normally, people would look away if they were caught staring, but he didn’t. Instead, he continued to stare at me even more intently.

    I was the one who felt embarrassed. Was it because of the heat? At that moment, my uncle, who was busy unscrewing bolts, started talking to me.

    “Get your mother her back surgery first.”

    Because it was a personal matter, I glanced at the tall guy and made eye contact again. Why was he looking at me like that?

    “Yes, now that I’m working, I need to take her to the hospital right away.”

    “Her back has gotten worse from working while you were gone. Your father…”

    My uncle frowned and changed the subject, seemingly to avoid saying something harsh.

    “Is Yuri going to college?”

    He avoided talking about my father and shifted to my sister. Normally, I wouldn’t care if someone overheard light conversation like this, but today, having a listener for some reason made me feel uneasy.

    “She wants to go, so we have to make it happen.”

    “You were the one good at studying.”

    It’s been so long that I can’t even remember if I was really that good. My uncle seemed annoyed by my slight smile and suddenly turned to the tall guy watching us.

    “You need to be good at studying to get in here, right? Is it enough to have grades for Yonsei or Korea University? This kid is my nephew, and the school recommended he apply to those universities. He was good at studying. If things had gone well, he could have gotten into a school like this, but he couldn’t go to college due to family circumstances.”

    Uncle, come on. Embarrassed, I glanced at the tall guy’s reaction while trying to stop my uncle.

    “I wasn’t that good at studying. Anyone can apply. It’s not like I got in…”

    It felt like bragging out of nowhere. I was embarrassed because the tall guy watching me seemed impressive. His upright uniform and strong features made him look very disciplined.

    He seemed like someone who, despite being around my age, went to a good university and had a solid future. It made me want to hide my situation, unlike my usual self.

    Fortunately, my uncle went back to the truck for some necessary items. I pretended to do what he told me, enduring the awkward silence. However, cutting the 20-meter copper wire took less than a minute. Running out of things to do, I pretended to organize the leftover wire meticulously and looked up, only to meet his gaze again.

    “It will take about 30 minutes.”

    I spoke awkwardly, receiving a short reply, “Yes.” His eyes remained fixed on me. The situation was uncomfortable. Trying to occupy myself, I thought about cutting the copper wire into 1 cm pieces. Then he asked me a question.

    “You seem to have been discharged recently?”

    “Yes. It’s been less than a month.”

    I wondered if he noticed because my hair was still short, and I ran my hand over my head. With my hands idle, I started picking up trash from the floor very slowly, to avoid looking like I was doing nothing.

    He continued to watch my every move. Unaccustomed to such awkwardness, I asked a question that wasn’t like me.

    “Are you here during vacation?”

    “Yes.”

    It was such a curt ‘yes’ that I didn’t dare follow up with ‘why?’. Even I had nothing to say. As I was debating whether to use the cliché ‘It’s hot, isn’t it?’, he asked another question.

    “Is this a part-time job?”

    “Well, yes. I’m helping my uncle until I start my job.”

    Why did I mention my job to a stranger? I felt awkward, but he surprisingly kept asking.

    Did I get a job, when do I start, which company? Should I tell him the company? As I started to feel flustered, thankfully, my uncle returned, allowing me to avoid the last question.

    We resumed work, finishing in the expected 30 minutes. After cleaning up and loading the truck, I saw my uncle talking to the tall student.

    “It doesn’t matter if it’s early in the morning. Since you’re squeezing time, I’ll pay you three times the amount. But since I’m paying extra, I’d like both of you to come together.”

    He finished speaking while looking at me. As we left the school, my uncle explained the situation. The student wanted us to come separately to his house to change the location of the air conditioner.

    No, he didn’t say the money was tripled, but seeing his excited face made it feel like I had to go even if I didn’t want to. Why did that student stare at me so intently?

    A few days later, I went to the tall student’s house. It was a luxurious apartment near the school with two separate rooms. It seemed like he lived alone, as the interior was immaculate to the point of being spotless.

    He led us into one of the rooms. There were bookshelves and a desk, seemingly used as a study, and notably, an electric guitar stood in one corner.

    He has a cool hobby, I thought as I watched him guide us. He dressed well too. Even early in the morning, he looked impressive from head to toe, as if he had some appointment. He then told us what to do.

    “Just move the air conditioner over here.”

    His hand gestured from one spot to another, and our eyes followed. The distance was about 1 meter. Even my uncle, who was excited about the triple pay, couldn’t help but be surprised.

    “Is this… If we’re just moving it a little within the same room, isn’t it unnecessary?”

    Are you really going to pay tens of thousands of won just to move the air conditioner 1 meter? My uncle’s thoughts were clear in his eyes, but the tall student remained unmoved.

    “I want it moved.”

    “Why?”

    Standing behind, I blurted out unexpectedly. He turned to me as if he had been waiting to answer, not to give an answer but to seize an opportunity to look at me piercingly. How would I know? His answer was surprising.

    “The air conditioner is right above the chair, so it makes my head itch.”

    Ah, right. The head. People care about their heads. Because of his rock-solid determination, my uncle and I went about our work without further discussion. Perhaps due to another air conditioner inside the house, the work proceeded comfortably.

    Feeling guilty for essentially earning money for free, my uncle worked more diligently than usual. As he habitually started talking to me, today’s topic was different from usual. It was a new topic that came up in the car this morning.

    “Date someone. A nice girl. You might not be getting married right away, but dating isn’t bad. It’s good to date for a few years before marriage.”

    My uncle kept telling me to meet a nice girl. At 23, marriage was still far off for me, but for a different reason, my uncle’s words felt awkward.

    “If she’s a nice girl, please introduce me to someone else. I’m good.”

    “Why? You have a girlfriend?”

    Before answering, I instinctively glanced around. Was the tall student still here or had he left the room? Why was I even paying attention to that guy? Embarrassed, I quickly nodded.

    “Yes. I have someone I like.”

    Of course, that was a lie. I hadn’t liked anyone, even a guy.

    “Oh, you’ve liked someone? It hasn’t been long since you got discharged, and you’re already dating?”

    My uncle’s loud voice made me flustered, and I glanced around again unintentionally. Just then, I saw the tall student coming back into the room.

    He stood at the door for a moment and then came in, handing each of us a can of drink. “Here, have it.” When handing it to me, he didn’t meet my eyes.

    “He must be from a rich family, going to a good school and living in a wealthy house.”

    My uncle mentioned the tall student who had just left. It seemed I should have agreed, but strangely, I didn’t feel like doing that.

    Whether it was my own feeling or not, after he handed me the canned drink, it felt like he was avoiding me until the end. But it must have been my imagination. Why would he care about me just because I came to move the air conditioner?

    “If you have a girlfriend, bring her sometime. I’ll treat you to a meal.”

    I don’t have a girlfriend. I told my uncle and looked at the congested road ahead due to the commute. There won’t be a girlfriend in the future either. Until I go to the military, I had never liked anyone, so I didn’t take dating seriously.

    When I went to the military, I had more time to think, and I found out. I like men. That’s how I remembered the words of the runaway boy I met before going to the military.

    “There’s no girl I like.”

    I considered that he might be in a similar situation when he left home. I don’t know why I remembered his words now.

    In the car, a familiar ballad played on the radio. I knew it by ear, but it was at this moment that I properly learned the title. It felt like a surreal time.

    “Your smile~ Waiting for you~ At that moment, above my head~”

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