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    Loves Error

    Chapter 3

    Mookyeong’s mother, Seo Iju, returned home late at dawn. Hayun had come downstairs for water and encountered Seo Iju smoking on the back porch connected to the kitchen.

    “You’re up.”

    “Did you sleep well?”

    Hayun nodded instead of answering, his eyes half-closed from lingering drowsiness. Seeing his sleepy state, Seo Iju chuckled softly as she tapped off her cigarette ash.

    “I have things to do.”

    “…Yes.” After giving a brief reply, Hayun yawned widely. With his eyes closed, he opened the refrigerator door, revealing another space inside. No matter how far he reached, he couldn’t grasp anything. Finally opening his eyes, Hayun groaned upon seeing the dark void within the fridge.

    He closed and reopened the door again, this time revealing the normal contents. He took out chilled barley tea, filled a cup, and drank it down. The cold liquid numbed his head momentarily. As he tried to endure the discomfort with his eyes shut, Seo Iju tutted and smiled.

    “I thought wearing glasses might help control my powers, but now it’s harder to regulate them without them.”

    “It happens sometimes.”

    “And if you like cold water, I’ll give you a glass later.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Oh, that thing. Drink this lukewarm one instead.”

    “Can’t you tell me beforehand?”

    “You wouldn’t have listened anyway.”

    “…”

    Hayun’s eyes sparkled as he gazed at Seo Iju. With a mischievous expression, Seo Iju glanced briefly at Hayun before turning away again. She stared out the window overlooking the garden.

    “How was the funeral? Traditionally, people sprinkle salt after attending a funeral for purification. Should I do it for you?”

    “I already stopped by a convenience store on the way home and sprinkled salt myself. Just in case of bad luck.”

    “Why do you ask? Did something happen?”

    “Did Mookyeong tell you whose funeral they attended?”

    “It was Jeon… Jeon…”

    It sounded familiar, but he couldn’t recall the name. Seeing Hayun struggling, Seo Iju provided the answer.

    “It was Jeong Kiwoo.”

    “I only remembered ‘Jeo-…'”

    “…That’s okay. I didn’t expect much from you anyway. Regardless, you must have seen or rather felt it before.”

    At that last phrase, Seo Iju spoke softly and extinguished her cigarette, which had burned down to its end. She promptly placed another one between her lips.

    “Don’t smoke too much. It’s not good for your health.”

    “For my body?”

    “…Yes, secondhand smoke is even worse.”

    Hayun’s response made Seo Iju silently grin. She playfully messed up Hayun’s hair while giving him a teasing look.

    “Let me have just one more. I’m feeling quite troubled right now.”

    The tip of the cigarette quickly turned red. Leaning against the wall, Seo Iju exhaled smoke as she watched the outside gradually brighten. As Hayun discreetly turned away from her, Seo Iju waved at him.

    “Oh, you hate the smell of cigarettes?”

    “You’re such a fusspot for a guy.”

    “…”

    “Jeong Kiwoo, Mun Taegang, and I have been researching doors for a long time. You might need to inherit this research once you grow older.”

    “What if I don’t want to?”

    “Yes, what then?”

    “Why do you say that?”

    “I believe circumstances will force it upon you.”

    Hayun couldn’t argue with Seo Iju anymore. He felt compelled to listen now and instinctively clasped his hands behind his back.

    “But I’m not smart enough for research. You need a sharp mind for that kind of work.”

    Despite feeling bitter inside, Hayun spoke honestly about his thoughts. Seeing Hayun’s uncertain expression, which was uncharacteristic of him, made Seo Iju burst out laughing.

    “Indeed, it would be a waste of your abilities to sit still and conduct research.”

    “So, my brain doesn’t matter?”

    Seo Iju held onto Hayun’s head while smoking. She turned Hayun’s head from side to side as if assessing something, then shook her own head. Suddenly, she hurriedly flicked off the long ash accumulating on her cigarette.

    “That aspect is slightly disappointing, but what can we do? After all, brains develop through use. With you finishing tasks before even needing to think, there isn’t much opportunity for growth.”

    Seo Iju tried to console Hayun by saying it couldn’t be helped since Hayun never had time for his brain to develop properly. However, this consolation didn’t sit well with Hayun when he listened closely.

    “You just called me dumb.”

    “Yes, look at you. You aren’t that bad if you apply yourself.”

    Hayun glared at Seo Iju. Seo Iju found him amusing and tousled his hair roughly.

    “I taught you everything I know. Even though you have no interest or need for them now, they are still there.”

    “If teaching is enough, why don’t all kids from regular high schools go to Seoul University? Why do they end up going elsewhere?”

    Seo Iju’s claim sounded unconvincing as she was trying to justify her son’s lack of studying by claiming he was naturally smart. Seeing Hayun’s indifferent attitude, Seo Iju chuckled while flicking off the ash on her cigarette.

    “I’ve known you since birth, so don’t think you know yourself better than me.”

    “…..” 

    Hayun wanted to argue that he knew himself best, but Seo Iju’s confident demeanor rendered him speechless.

    “There is always a way out of any situation.”

    “…..”

    “Oh dear. Look at your eyes when your teacher speaks. Why are they so disrespectful? Is it enough just to be polite with your hands?”

    Hayun hastily shook his head and widened his eyes as if he never harbored any discontent. Seo Iju tapped on the frame of Hayun’s glasses with her finger.

    “You can’t predict what will happen in life. Things may seem favorable one moment, only to take a sudden turn for the worse the next. That’s why people need to keep their cards close to their chest.”

    “It sounds like something a card shark would say.”

    “Yes, that is how it should be done. No matter what field you enter, read the situation well and hide your hand effectively. Play the right card at the right time. This way, you can earn money while surviving. Of course, this requires experience. You need to accumulate knowledge through various situations. However, our Hayun here hasn’t gathered much experience yet. He still looks young and innocent. When will he grow up?”

    “I think I am grown enough already.”

    “Oh my, do you really think so?” Seo Iju pinched both of Hayun’s cheeks. She alternated between applying force with her hands and releasing them, stretching Hayun’s cheeks.

    “It is better for you to stay youthful for now. Look at Mookyeong. Three years ago, he looked fully mature.”

    Hayun recalled Mookyeong from three years ago based on Seo Iju’s words. From a young age, Mookyeong had always been tall. Hayun was proud of his own growth, but he couldn’t compare to Mookyeong.

    “If you lack experience, it is better to rely on someone with more experience. Whether you like it or not, wear your glasses properly.”

    “Why?”

    “What do you mean why? You look better without them, so people will try to take advantage of that fact. If I don’t look after my son, who else would?” Seo Iju tapped Hayun’s glasses.

    “Stop touching my glasses! They’ll get crooked.”

    “It’s my prerogative. Why not?”

    Hayun stepped back while shielding his glasses with both hands. Seo Iju muttered about how she couldn’t even joke around with her son because he was such a dirty and pathetic wimp. She then took out another cigarette from her pocket. However, this time, she didn’t light it up. Instead, she just moved the cigarette between her lips up and down.

    “I was thinking of burying a time capsule here. I want to preserve memories from peaceful and happy times. That’s why I’m looking for a suitable place.”

    Jeong Kiwoo’s death, research, and now a time capsule? Hayun found it hard to understand what Seo Iju was saying. He wished Seo Iju would explain herself clearly, but he didn’t think that would happen. Instead, Seo Iju pointed with her chin at the location she had chosen.

    The garden contained numerous doors. It originally had many doors, but additional ones were created by both Seo Iju and Hayun during their training sessions. However, as Seo Iju indicated, there was no door. She was pointing at a space between two non-overlapping doors.

    After a brief conversation with Seo Iju, Hayun returned to his room. Every minute of morning was precious, so he tried to save time by opening the door quickly. As soon as he did, he encountered Mookyeong standing like a wall outside his room.

    “You startled me.”

    Mookyeong’s senses were heightened. The atmosphere inside the room felt different. A pendulum clock and a thin book were floating steadily in mid-air.

    “…Where have you been?”

    His voice sounded hoarse, likely due to waking up just now. Rubbing his face, Mookyeong grabbed Hayun’s wrist. Hayun glanced at their linked hands before calmly responding:

    “Just getting some water.”

    “Let’s talk first.”

    “Do you really think I get up this early for water while trying to sleep?”

    “Yes.”

    “And there you go again, twisting my words.”

    “……”

    Mookyeong didn’t respond to Hayun’s words; instead, he smiled mischievously. Seeing his expression, Hayun found it both annoying and absurd, which made him chuckle despite himself. Without further ado, he lay down on his bed. Mookyeong followed suit, still holding onto his hand.

    With Mookyeong beside him, the queen-sized bed felt snug, though it had seemed spacious when he slept alone.

    ‘But getting a king-size mattress for this tiny room would be ridiculous.’

    Hayun’s bedroom was already cramped with a bed, desk, and dresser. Moreover, there was a significant difference between imagining larger furniture fitting versus actually making space for it. If he were to replace his current bed, he might have to remove the desk altogether.

    Regardless, Hayun was still a student, so shouldn’t he have a workspace? Even if he wasn’t particularly good at academics…

    “…..”

    Hayun closed his eyes as he pondered various things. He suddenly felt annoyed at Mookyeong again. It was because of the big bed and also because Mookyeong studied better than Hayun. Moreover…

    “Why?”

    “Because you’re so handsome.”

    Mookyeong’s eyelids drooped from opening them wide. As Hayun whispered nonsensically while touching his eyes, Mookyeong burst out laughing. He asked what kind of nonsense it was, but there was clear happiness on his face.

    “By the way, you smell like cigarettes.”

    “Cigarettes? Oh, Teacher smoked here.”

    “Did mom come by? I sensed another presence besides yours. But you weren’t beside me, and I had a dream in the meantime.”

    Mookyeong murmured softly while fiddling with Hayun’s clothes. His gentle touches occasionally tickled the back of Hayun’s neck.

    “What kind of dream did you have?”

    “It was about you… but I don’t want to tell you.”

    “Why not? What happened?”

    “Good night.”

    “You always cut me off when I’m getting curious.” Hayun slid his hand between Mookyeong’s ribs and armpit, intending to tickle him. However, Mookyeong tensed up, preventing Hayun from reaching his target. Feeling frustrated, Hayun realized they would run out of time if he continued this pursuit.

    Giving up on revenge, Hayun rolled over onto his back. There were only a few hours left before they needed to wake up. As soon as he closed his eyes to quickly fall asleep, Mookyeong snuggled close and wrapped his arms around Hayun. Mookyeong’s breath, similar to his earlier gesture, tickled the nape of Hayun’s neck.

    “Don’t get too friendly with others. You know I can be patient.”

    “……” 

    Hayun briefly opened his eyes but then pretended to remain oblivious, closing them again.

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