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    Loves Error

    Chapter 4

    For some time now, Seo Iju has been obsessed with consuming multi-grain rice for health reasons. After visiting various rural areas, she returned home with numerous grains collected from different farms. Baek Jinha, who handled most of the cooking at home, embraced Seo Iju’s preference and prepared terrifying bowls of mixed rice containing up to ninety percent grains.

    ‘Where… where is the rice?’

    Hayun subtly signaled towards Mookyeong. With a blink, Mookyeong understood and transferred most of his portion of rice onto Hayun’s bowl while taking the pile of grains Hayun had set aside. Their exchange flowed as naturally as water. At that moment, Seo Iju was engrossed in watching TV, and Baek Jinha was busy flipping eggs on a frying pan.

    However, without turning her head, Seo Iju spoke out loud,

    Tsk. Picky eating again.”

    “……”

    “……”

    Before Seo Iju could say anything, Mookyeong stuffed his mouth with mixed grains. Meanwhile, Hayun picked out the black beans hidden within the rice bowl given by Mookyeong.

    “You know, black beans are incredibly healthy.”

    “I’m fine eating them separately, but I don’t like them mixed with my rice.”

    In truth, even Seo Iju wasn’t fully aware of their health benefits. She simply assumed black beans were healthier than yellow soybeans or peas. Upon hearing Hayun’s remark, Seo Iju’s eyes narrowed slightly.

    However, Hayun felt justified. From his perspective, Seo Iju often engaged in activities detrimental to her health: drinking alcohol, smoking, irregular sleep patterns, overworking, and more. Could such habits be offset merely by consuming a handful of mixed grains? Yet, on the other hand, she also thought that despite living so haphazardly, at least eating some mixed grains might help somewhat.

    Meanwhile, Mookyeong switched his rice bowl with Hayun’s again. As if committing the perfect crime, he swiftly stuffed all the black beans Hayun had collected into his mouth.

    At that moment, Baek Jinha returned triumphantly with a large plate containing what looked like an entire tray of scrambled eggs piled high on it.

    “Eat lots of eggs. They’re super good. You should eat a lot too, honey.”

    “…Honey, I’m not really craving eggs today.”

    “What are you talking about? If you don’t eat properly due to lack of appetite, especially during a hot weather like this, it can cause issues.”

    Baek Jinha scooped up some rice with a piece of scrambled egg and brought it to Seo Iju’s mouth. Seeing Seo Iju hesitate, Jinha playfully cajoled her despite her imposing stature. Eventually, unable to resist any longer, Seo Iju accepted the egg-laden spoonful. Meanwhile, Hayun quickly finished off his meal using other side dishes before Baek Jinha could offer more eggs.

    Before Baek Jinha could push the eggs, Hayun had emptied his bowl of rice along with the other side dishes. Although he was told to eat more, he shook his head.

    “This is enough for me.”

    “Then at least eat one egg.”

    “No, it’s really okay.”

    Just as Seo Iju was devoted to multigrain rice, Baek Jinha seemed obsessed with eggs. Perhaps Baek Mookyeong inherited these preferences from his parents as he enjoyed eating both multigrain rice and eggs. It might be necessary for Mookyeong due to his rapidly growing body requiring ample sustenance.

    As Hayun made to leave the table, Seo Iju stopped him.

    “It’s not about having more food. Please stay for a moment.” Seo Iju took a sip of water to clear her throat.

    “Kim Hayun, don’t go to school or come home alone for now. Even if it’s bothersome, stick close to Mookyeong. Mookyeong, keep an eye out for any suspicious individuals approaching you both. Of course, remember to stay vigilant yourself.”

    “Huh? Why?”

    “Why not? The world is unpredictable. Even if it’s bothersome, please do as I say.”

    It seemed connected to her cryptic words from earlier that morning. While Hayun reluctantly accepted it, Mookyeong silently nodded. However, moments later, he couldn’t help but smile slightly—a rare sight on Baek Mookyeong’s face. Feeling irked without reason, Hayun discreetly nudged Mookyeong, but it didn’t faze him at all. Instead, noticing Hayun might try to slip away while eating, Mookyeong firmly gripped his wrist with one hand.

    “Also, something I mentioned to you earlier, Hayun, I’m considering creating a time capsule. Initially, I thought of doing it alone, but since we’re making one anyway, it’d be better if everyone participates. Prepare items you want to include—letters worth opening in ten years or cherished belongings.”

    “Do you have any specific reason for this?”

    “What do you mean by ‘reason’? It’s just to create memories among family members. Think of it like a summer vacation assignment.”

    Despite Seo Iju’s response, Baek Mookyeong couldn’t shake his confusion. The Seo Iju he knew wouldn’t typically concern herself with such matters.

    Suddenly, Baek Jinha got up from his seat. He was displeased with Seo Iju constantly watching TV during meals. However, Seo Iju stopped Baek Jinha before he could turn off the television.

    “The disappearances of espers continue unabated. This week alone, there have been three reported cases, with over sixty percent involving underage espers. The Superhuman Special Management Agency plans to strengthen protection measures for minor espers.”

    “Once school is over, go straight home without taking any detours. Today, as soon as work starts, I’ll request to adjust your internship schedule. Don’t follow strangers and avoid suspicious places.”

    “Oh come on, how old do you think we are?”

    “Seventeen. It’s about time people stop treating us like kids and start listening when we speak up. Stop arguing and just do as I say.”

    Others dismissed Seo Iju’s concerns, questioning whether it was common for espers, not ordinary individuals, to be kidnapped within Seoul. They speculated that these cases were likely victims of demonic beasts whose bodies simply hadn’t been recovered yet.

    However, the situation escalated three days ago when the bodies of missing underage espers were discovered. The corpses were severely mutilated, making it impossible to estimate the time of death. With scarce evidence or traces, the investigation faced significant challenges.

    Around the same time, another missing minor esper’s body was discovered by employees of a subcontracting company tasked with cleaning the underground drainage system in Gwanggyo-dong. This corpse was relatively intact compared to the previous ones found.

    The autopsy revealed that the heart had been extracted while the victim was still alive. It appeared as though the culprit intended to dispose of the body using a monster inhabiting the drainage system but failed when two monsters got into a territorial dispute over the remains. Hunters intervened and killed the creatures, allowing the current to carry away the body until it was eventually discovered by the subcontractors.

    However, the identity of the perpetrator, their motive for removing hearts, and their overall goal remained unclear. Some speculated that these acts might be part of some ritual ceremony due to the commonality among victims being underage espers.

    In both the past and present, underage espers’ bodies were often used as sacrifices in magical rituals.

    The Superhuman Special Management Agency beefed up security at all facilities while postponing any scheduled off-campus events indefinitely. Unlike metropolitan areas with ample hunters, local governments relied on students for practical training to deal with monsters, so they protested these measures. However, authorities couldn’t afford to be lax either, especially since expanding their investigation revealed more previously unreported victims across different regions.

    To effectively manage the children’s safety, schools shortened class hours and prohibited individual activities outside designated times.

    Students were required to travel with at least one other person when going to and from school. If their routes didn’t align or it was unavoidable for any reason, security personnel escorted them. Hayun and Mookyeong had already been walking together, so they didn’t need anyone else’s help. However, since some students lived nearby, they often ended up tagging along, forcing Hayun and Mookyeong to walk with more people than necessary.

    Even though he simply continued on his usual route, having others around drained his energy. After seeing off the last group of students, Hayun quietly sighed.

    “You look exhausted.” Without missing a beat, Mookyeong took Hayun’s backpack from his shoulders. The removal of the heavy load instantly cooled down his sweaty back.

    “I should’ve given you my bag earlier.”

    “Hey, I’m already doing enough favors for you as is! How could I possibly take your bag?”

    “Here, take it. You’re struggling with that heavy bag. It’s no problem for me.”

    Hayun glanced at Mookyeong. Unlike Hayun, who was flushed red and drenched in sweat due to the heat, Mookyeong appeared unaffected. His complexion didn’t change despite spending most of his day outdoors during practical training sessions. This resilience likely stemmed from rigorous practice acclimating him to such conditions.

    “I can handle this weather just fine.” Feeling irked, Hayun snatched back his backpack from Mookyeong. As he slung it over his shoulder again, the weight immediately weighed him down. Trying not to show any discomfort, Mookyeong discreetly hooked his finger through one of Hayun’s backpack straps, intending to alleviate some of the burden, though aesthetically it looked odd.

    Hayun glared at Mookyeong, causing him to laugh sheepishly.

    “Let’s hurry home. I’ll cut up some watermelon for you there, even removing all the seeds.”

    “…Hey, am I a kid or something? Are you trying to appease me with that trick?”

    Mookyeong attempted to pacify Hayun without knowing what had irked him. However, even Hayun couldn’t pinpoint why he felt so annoyed.

    Was it due to feeling inferior because Mookyeong possessed superior physical abilities? Or was it due to their classmates’ attempts at getting closer to Mookyeong? Perhaps simply being bothered by the heat? When Hayun stopped pouting, Mookyeong whispered softly into his ear.

    “Should I piggyback you?”

    “Nope.”

    “Yes, hop on.”

    “Hey!”

    “C’mon.”

    Mookyeong quickly bent down, offering his back. Hayun glanced around briefly before climbing onto Mookyeong’s shoulders. With Hayun securely perched, Mookyeong grinned widely. Hayun turned away, pretending nonchalance, but inside, his heart fluttered uncontrollably. Even he felt his mood swings were quite erratic.

    ‘Am I going through puberty?’

    Before Hayun could reach any conclusion, they arrived home. Deep in thought, Hayun looked up at the sound of the gate opening. Upon entering through the gate, he was greeted by the sight of grape vines.

    “You’re already back?”

    “We ran part way here.”

    “Why? Something wrong?”

    “Nope. Just wanted to get home quickly.”

    Mookyeong grinned and adjusted his hold on Hayun. He easily could’ve put him down but chose not to. With one hand supporting Hayun’s bottom, he used the other to lock the door. The simple-looking metal gate concealed both state-of-the-art security systems and ancient spells.

    After securing all three locks, Mookyeong checked for any anomalies with each device. Then, he scanned for any unfamiliar presence within or around their house using his psychic powers, which swept intensely across the area.

    Mookyeong possessed strong telekinetic abilities that went beyond merely levitating objects; he could apply them in various ways. Sensing his surroundings was one such application. Typically, using telekinesis involved spreading energy to perceive nearby objects, but Mookyeong extended this range significantly for detection purposes.

    The advantage of this method was its effectiveness at locating hidden espers or monsters. The downside was it only revealed their presence without identifying who they were.

    However, since Hayun was one of Mookyeong’s pieces, he had no trouble detecting him. Of course, if he hid behind a door, all bets were off. Perhaps due to this limitation, Mookyeong didn’t appreciate Hayun hiding inside rooms with doors.

    Regardless, not sensing any unusual presences, Mookyeong entered the house with Hayun. Inside, he locked four more locks. Observing Mookyeong’s unusually excited demeanor, Hayun slid down from his back.

    “I was going to carry you all the way to your room.”

    “It’s okay.”

    His refusal came too late as he had already carried him inside their home. However, he felt uncomfortable remaining on his back any longer. As Hayun turned around, Mookyeong swiftly blocked his path.

    “Why?”

    “Let me take you to your room.”

    “You’re bossy, Baek Mookyeong.”

    Mookyeong grinned and presented his back once more. They were standing at the entrance, with limited space to bypass him easily. Regardless of what he did, he would likely grab him again. With a pout, Hayun climbed onto Mookyeong’s shoulders.

    “Constantly carrying me like this just tires you out.”

    “I don’t mind carrying you though.”

    Unlike what he did outside, Mookyeong didn’t wrap his hands under his legs. Instead, he confidently supported him by the hips with both hands and slowly walked forward.

    “If only every day could be like this.”

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