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    Loves Error

    Chapter 1

    #1. The Fate of A Liar

    Ah, ah. Let me reiterate once more, please work in groups and avoid individual activities. If caught engaging alone, appropriate penalties will be applied.”

    In the shaky prisoner transport vehicle, the teacher leading the field trip warned the children. The teacher, unable to hide their Gyeongsang dialect, pointed at the kids sitting in the back seat. Despite receiving jeers from those singled out, the teacher paid them no heed.

    The teacher adjusted the microphone to one side and guided the driver along the route. Meanwhile, a piercing sound blared through the speakers.

    Kim Hayun, who had been blankly gazing out the window, startled and jumped. However, his friend Jaehyeong, seated next to him, remained deeply asleep. Kim Hayun shook his head with exasperation as he observed his wide-open mouth.

    The transport vehicle entered the staff parking lot. Hayun let out a small sigh. Although there were some clouds, they couldn’t block the intense sunlight. Even from a distance, it appeared as if the asphalt road was boiling under the heat.

    The thought of soon having to leave the air-conditioned van felt utterly disheartening.

    ‘I don’t want to get out.’

    However, the vehicle had already parked. The doors opened, and the children started bustling around, gathering their belongings. The teacher began inspecting the interior, checking if everyone was properly prepared for departure. They spotted Jaehyeong still asleep and shook their head.

    “He wouldn’t wake up even if someone carried him off.”

    The teacher gently tapped Jaehyeong’s shoulder. Startled, Jaehyeong jolted awake but struggled to fully open his eyes. Without wasting any time, the teacher swiftly grabbed and twisted his ear.

    Ow, ow, ow! Teacher, it hurts!”

    “I didn’t mean to hurt you; it was to wake you up. Even though we’re doing field training with monsters tethered, they are still monsters. If idiots like you wander around, do you think their eyes will remain unaffected?”

    The teacher then quietly woke up other sleeping children hidden in corners before starting the explanation about today’s fourth field study session. Monsters, literally strange beasts, had been with humans for a long time. Their influence fluctuated between causing harm and diminishing, often repeating this cycle. Particularly during the industrial revolution, their numbers significantly decreased due to unprecedented advancements.

    The defense industry had ballooned with unprecedented advancements, but as the number of monsters dwindled, people turned their attention to harming each other instead. When world wars broke out and countless refugees were created, the hidden monsters reappeared along with labyrinths.

    To be precise, it was finally possible for humans to properly observe them at that time.

    Monsters emerged from places called labyrinths or dungeons. A labyrinth existed yet didn’t exist simultaneously within another dimension. It manifested in this world only when its space coincidentally overlapped with ours by chance.

    During the refractory period, the spaces did not overlap, while during the amplification phase, they merged.

    In any case, monsters indiscriminately hunted both humans and animals alike. Tragically, despite advancements in weaponry to combat these creatures, conventional arms proved ineffective against them.

    However, there were ways to deal with these beasts. Humans have adapted to countless dangers throughout history, and as part of this process, beings possessing power emerged capable of confronting such threats. In other words, superhumans arose.

    In the past, they were referred to as monster hunters or warriors and led the charge against these creatures, but their treatment was far from ideal. After all, they could slice enemies apart without swords, breathe fire, control water, and conjure ice. Due to their poor reception, many became thieves or attempted rebellions.

    This led to a vicious cycle of successive generations being singled out and excessively oppressed, which bred further resistance against society’s treatment of them.

    Currently, with exposure through various media outlets, they were commonly referred to as “hunters” or “espers,” improving public perception somewhat. However, people still viewed them as potential threats.

    That wasn’t entirely unwarranted. Not all espers became hunters who dealt with monsters. There was a wide range of abilities beyond combat, each presenting its own unique set of problems depending on the individual.

    To manage, control, and develop these powers, countries mandated special education for young espers at designated facilities. Unlike regular compulsory schooling, refusal resulted in mobilization by military or government-affiliated espers, ensuring high participation rates.

    It wasn’t one hundred percent mandatory due to some parents deliberately opting out for their children. As with most things in life, there were exceptions.

    The initial esper evaluation typically took place during routine childhood vaccinations, as many young espers unknowingly activated their powers when they perceived getting shots as an attack. Of course, additional evaluations were conducted at other times depending on whether a child needed to be admitted to communal facilities, so most were identified by this age.

    In any case, the Department of Defense’s Superhuman Special Management Agency, not the Ministry of Education, was responsible for managing institutions housing underage espers. Aside from learning basic control and practical applications of their abilities, students also studied general subjects just in case they ended up pursuing conventional careers later. These schools were categorized similarly to regular educational institutions: elementary, middle, and high school levels.

    To avoid drawing attention to their true purpose, these facilities used names similar to regular schools. However, since they were managed by the Superhuman Special Management Agency under the Department of Defense, their unique insignia made it clear that these institutions catered specifically to espers.

    Compared to conventional educational establishments, academic subjects took a backseat here. Espers aiming for university had to seek additional tutoring outside school hours. Additionally, community service was integrated into their curriculum. Kim Hayun felt this was a deliberate attempt to sap the energy out of young espers.

    Amidst the rigorous academic schedule, practical training days offered some respite. If sessions ended early, students could head straight home. Despite this, Kim Hayun wasn’t fond of physical exertion. Though he didn’t excel academically, he missed sitting in a classroom and receiving theoretical instruction.

    Hayun let out a small sigh as he fiddled with the metal bars on the bus window. Most students had already disembarked, leaving only four or five behind. He couldn’t delay any longer and stepped off the bus.

    The sudden change from the air-conditioned interior to the outside heat made it hard to breathe. The scorching sun caused the asphalt pavement to shimmer visibly.

    Their practical session took place at the Monster Ecology Research Institute. Students were divided into teams and tasked with handling low-rank monsters captured for experimentation within the underground bomb shelter of the facility. Each team had to devise a plan detailing how they would utilize their abilities, assess if their actual performance matched expectations, identify areas needing improvement, and submit a report accordingly.

    Contribution, participation, and the quality of the submitted reports influenced their overall evaluation scores, impacting their final grades.

    However, due to the diverse range of abilities, even similar assignments could vary greatly in difficulty and risk level. Consequently, some students were excluded from group formation altogether before it began. Baek Mookyeong was among them.

    Students like Baek Mookyeong, specialized for combat, formed a separate category. Instead of capturing monsters, they were deployed directly into actual battles. Although professors accompanied them to ensure their safety, the danger levels still significantly differed compared to handling captured creatures. Additionally, since these were real-world encounters, waiting times could be lengthy until a monster appeared. Kim Hayun felt relieved he wasn’t classified in that group. Just then, he received a text message from Baek Mookyeong but refrained from checking his phone with the teacher nearby. It would likely be something trivial anyway.

    Teacher Insol gathered the children into groups before lining them up. As he confirmed the headcount, armed security guards from the ecological research institute approached. After verifying the information handed over by the teacher, they surrounded the lined-up children.

    Children with superpowers were both valuable assets and potential dangers to their country. Suddenly, a hot wind blew past them. Amidst the flapping of clothes due to the gust, Hayun detected the smell of sulfur on the breeze.

    Noticing this anomaly, the teacher signaled to the armed guards. The moment everyone halted, the air split open, revealing a monster. It stood around three meters tall, covered in tangled, thick black fur that overlapped its brown body. Its large face boasted twelve eyes arranged in all directions, while it possessed four limbs capable of functioning as either hands or feet.

    A dozen or so creatures of similar size emerged, followed by one twice as large.

    “A single-use gate opened, releasing a group of monsters. Estimated to be a swarm of Thousand-eyed Multi-Legged Beasts, with twelve individuals including their leader!”

    Teacher Insol urgently contacted the Administration Office to report the situation and request assistance. The armed security guards led the way, clearing an escape route for the students. After completing his call, Teacher Insol helped evacuate them.

    “Stay low and don’t make any noise! As long as we remain calm, there won’t be any problems.”

    Conventional firearms were ineffective against these monsters. However, they could be harmed using psychic abilities or other monster-derived materials. Consequently, monster bodies were considered valuable resources, but handling them required psychic powers.

    As such, espers who hunted monsters viewed them as walking wallets. Perhaps to preserve tradition, starting from the 1960s, currency denominations were named after monster ranks. However, internationally, the standard S-to-F-rank system was more commonly used.

    The “C” rank mentioned by Teacher Insol referred to an E-rank monster, which was the minimum level capable of opening portals to labyrinths on its own.

    Fortunately, hunters stationed at the ecological research institute responded quickly and began addressing the situation immediately. Additionally, since it was a national facility, there was already an established evacuation plan in place, making it relatively easy for people to retreat.

    Had everyone remained calm and followed protocol, everything would have been fine.

    Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

    “Hey! Choi Seonghan! Don’t go!”

    “Why not? There are hunters here. Let’s test out its performance!”

    In reality, it was a dangerous situation, but there were some crazy students who insisted it was just like a field training exercise due to the presence of a hunter and our teacher. Choi Seonghan, a fire-type esper, threw a fireball at the nearby Daebal Eonyeongsi (Multi-Eyed Star). The armed security guard, trying his best to divert their attention towards us, let out a sigh.

    Despite the confident spirit of the teenager, the fireball caused no damage to the Multi-Eyed Star. It originally lived in lava areas after all.

    ‘Did that bastard Choi Seonghan sleep during class?’

    The teacher accompanying them yelled at Choi Seonghan as if he had gone mad, both to scold him and to draw attention away from the students. However, as its name implied, the Multi-Eyed Starfish possessed numerous eyes. The many sets of eyes belonging to the creatures on the beach simultaneously focused on the children.

    At the same time, the leader of the pack grabbed hold of the van that brought the kids here. It then charged toward the group, using the vehicle as a weapon by swinging it around violently.

    As he watched the van hurtling toward them, Kim Hayun removed his glasses. His fierce gaze scanned the area, revealing dozens of invisible doors only he could see. He opened one of them.

    The escort vehicle was forced to ascend and descend like navigating a hill due to the doors blocking its path. Only psychics could see these doors Hayun had opened; otherwise, it appeared as if the snowstorm couldn’t control its own power and was causing erratic disruptions.

    As the escort vehicle passed the students heading uphill, a hunter from behind threw a spear made of some monstrous material at the snowstorm. Multiple doors simultaneously opened along the trajectory of the spear. The passages between dimensions allowed the weapon to fly faster and shorter distances, ultimately piercing the heart of the snowstorm monster.

    The creature stumbled and let out a muffled groan. Blood flowed down the spear embedded in its body onto the hot asphalt below, emitting a strange odor. Kim Hayun squinted while observing the snowstorm monster.

    Despite having already expired, one of its eyes was still staring at him.

    “…..” 

    Kim Hayun grimaced awkwardly before stepping back.

    The hunter who threw the spear paused momentarily, surprised by the unexpected power of his weapon. However, killing just the leader wasn’t enough. He quickly turned to engage another target.

    Meanwhile, the escort teacher and other hunters approached the dead leader to confirm it had indeed perished, then directed the students toward safety.

    “Hurry! Get inside the shelter!”

    Kim Hayun was urgently pulled along with the rest of the group. The class president and escort teacher swiftly counted the evacuees. Whether there were too many or too few, any discrepancy would be problematic.

    Fortunately, everyone was accounted for. The teacher breathed a sigh of relief and proceeded to contact someone outside while one of the students grabbed Choi Seonghan by his collar after his reckless behavior.

    “You crazy bastard! If you want to die, do it on your own!”

    “Hey, who dies from something like that?!”

    “What do you mean ‘something like that’? This thing—!”

    “We’ve got hunters here plus our teacher, so what’s wrong with me saying that?”

    “This idiot still doesn’t get it.”

    The student started throwing punches, but Choi Seonghan didn’t take it lying down either. He retaliated with his fists, pushing and pulling at his opponent. As his patience ran out, he focused energy into his hands until they glowed red-hot like heated metal, then tried to shove them against his adversary’s face.

    As if expecting this move, his opponent swiftly kicked Choi Seonghan’s hand away. While Choi Seonghan was distracted by the pain, his sparring partner spun around and delivered a swift kick to Seonghan’s stomach, sending him crumpling to the ground with a howl. Blood stained his teeth as he screamed through gritted teeth.

    The other students whispered among themselves but made no attempt to stop them. Had they not intervened just now, Han-dul would’ve been killed. The trainees gathered here today weren’t yet skilled enough for actual combat; otherwise, they wouldn’t have been present at all. Moreover, many of them were noncombat hunters who had trouble even with basic training exercises.

    Ultimately, after finishing his report, the supervising teacher intervened before they could come to blows again. Despite their considerable size, the students dangled helplessly like newborn puppies against the teacher’s strength.

    “You two can’t even stay calm while I’m giving a report! Can’t you keep still for just one moment?”

    The supervising teacher sighed as he herded the boys into a corner. He glared at them until they reluctantly apologized, causing them to exchange eye rolls, clearly indicating that each wanted the other to apologize first. As this pointless standoff continued, the teacher flicked both of their foreheads with his finger.

    It stung like bee stings, making the boys groan and clutch their heads. From a distance, Hayun watched and quietly tutted.

    Outside, the battle continued unabated. The cries of monsters and thuds echoed incessantly. At that moment, Hayun felt his thigh vibrate. He glanced at the supervising teacher, who was still busy reprimanding the students. Seizing the opportunity, he discreetly retrieved his phone to check the messages. Over twenty notifications awaited him. Three were spam texts, while the remaining seventeen were from Baek Mookyeong.

    ‘Why did they send so many?’

    The content of the messages matched Hayun’s expectations. Most asked what he was doing, but ten minutes ago, there was a message indicating that Mookyeong believed their field training sessions would likely end around the same time. They proposed meeting at school afterward to head back together.

    Generally, students dispersed from their practical training locations upon completion. However, considering some teachers and boarding students needed transportation back to school, there were designated buses for them. The message instructed Hayun to take one of these buses.

    Yet, he didn’t want to.

    “It’s unbearably hot here.”

    Although the shelter had air conditioning, it struggled to cope with the sudden influx of people. Only those with cold-related abilities could meditate comfortably amidst the heat. Hayun fanned himself lightly, emitting small groans.

    His fingers itched to use his powers. Following his will, dozens of doors nearby started creaking open, and brief information about where they led flashed through his mind. To resist temptation, Hayun tightly closed his eyes and slowly slid down the wall, leaning against it.

    However, he chose not to reply to the messages.

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