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    Loves Error

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    2. Shadow 2 (Part 8)

    At Cheon Sejoo’s brief command, Sunhyuk gently pressed the accelerator.

    Throughout the entire trip from the office to the club and back, Cheon Sejoo’s mind was occupied with thoughts of Kwon Sejin. He needed to find out why he was being called a homeless person and what exactly he was up to. If only he hadn’t met Kim Hyunkyung, he wouldn’t have to be dealing with this. Every time he thought of Sejin, her desperate voice of pleading with him echoed in his mind as if it were a natural occurrence.

    Perhaps because he had never had one himself, the plea of “Mom” from Kim Hyunkyung left a strong impression on Cheon Sejoo. He couldn’t shake the thought of how he would have felt if he had seen his mother bowing her head for him. Because of this thought, Cheon Sejoo couldn’t easily lose interest in Sejin.

    After about 30 minutes, they arrived in front of the Shinsa Capital building. Cheon Sejoo rummaged in his pocket, took out a check from his wallet, and handed it to Haewoong as pocket money, then spoke to Sunhyuk.

    “Go to Chuljoo and have him clean out the delivery man’s account. If there’s nothing, scrape through the cash receipts to check if he received any recent payments. If you find anything, contact me.”

    “Understood. Will you be coming back to the office later?”

    “No. I left my card in your desk drawer, so use it to buy dinner.”

    “Yes, understood. Thank you for your hard work, Manager.”

    “Thank you, Manager! Take care!”

    Haewoong, who had tagged along hoping to grab something to eat when he heard he would go to the club, was overjoyed to receive pocket money. Grinning broadly, he bid farewell to Cheon Sejoo as he got out of the car.

    The guards in front of the building were, as always, whispering and chuckling among themselves. However, because it had only been a week since Cheon Sejoo last visited, the ground was spotless without a single piece of trash. As he approached the entrance, they noticed him and greeted him.

    “Hello, sir!”

    Cheon Sejoo disliked being called “sir.” Even though there was a proper title, “Manager,” hearing “sir” made him feel like they were acting like gangsters, and it made him feel more aggressive. Frowning, Sejoo simply nodded and stepped inside the building.

    With slightly hurried steps, he passed by the old iron railing on the staircase and turned to the corner. He wondered what state Kwon Sejin would be in. However, contrary to his expectations, the hallway leading to the elevator was empty.

    Cheon Sejoo who had stopped in his tracks, slowly tilted his head as he looked around. Sejin was nowhere to be found. He wasn’t in the stopped elevator, nor in the smelly public restroom.

    Claiming to be homeless, where could he have gone now?

    A sense of irritation settled over him.

    Confirming Kwon Sejin’s absence, Cheon Sejoo immediately called Kim Donggil to inquire about his whereabouts. If Sejin had been handed over to the police, it was to offer assistance. Fortunately, when he heard about it, it turned out that wasn’t the case.

    “I don’t know what he does during the day. Because he only shows up at night.”

    It seemed that even as a homeless person, Kwon Sejin had some sort of routine. Not that it seemed particularly productive. Regardless, Cheon Sejoo took a taxi home, and early the next morning, he drove back out. He made sure to switch to a black SUV so Sejin wouldn’t recognize him.

    Arriving in front of Shinsa Capital, he waited for Sejin for an hour or two. Around 8 AM, the sensor lights in the hallway turned on, and a figure emerged.

    Sejin’s appearance hadn’t changed since they parted ways. He wore school uniform pants, a shirt, and a black hoodie over it. He looked a bit dirtier than the previous week, but his face still had a certain glow.

    As he exited the building, Sejin walked weakly toward an unknown destination. Cheon Sejoo started the car and slowly followed him.

    Holding a free newspaper with job ads, Sejin wandered around the neighborhood, seemingly trying to find a job. However, as an underage teenager without a guardian, finding a part-time job was nearly impossible. Each time he was rejected and came out with his head bowed, Sejin’s face grew colder and more dejected.

    After wandering around the neighborhood for almost three hours, Sejin stuffed the newspaper into his pocket and headed somewhere around 12:30. Dragging his feet, he made his way to a school.

    East Seoul Boys High School. Noticing the sign hanging at the front gate, Cheon Sejoo narrowed his eyes. He didn’t go to school when he was staying at home…

    Then again, Cheon Sejoo’s house was in Seongsu-dong, while Kwon Sejin’s school was at the far end of Gangdong-gu. Perhaps, it could be that he has asked him to be dropped off at Shinsa Capital to go to school. Surprised by this unexpected fact, Cheon Sejoo tilted his head and watched Sejin’s figure disappear through the school gate.

    He saw Sejin again a little after 1 p.m. Sejin hadn’t even stayed at school for an hour. Sejin left the school with his hood pulled down just like he had seen earlier, leaving behind the kids playing soccer energetically on the playground during lunchtime.

    Could he have gone there just to eat…?

    Cheon Sejoo entertained this growing suspicion as he watched Sejin’s retreating figure. These days, school meals were provided for free, so it was possible that he had gone there just to eat.

    Just as he had done in the morning, Cheon Sejoo followed Sejin in his car at a slow pace. Sejin seemed to be going around to stores, looking for a part-time job. But even if he got lucky and found a job, he would still have to be homeless for a while unless he found a semi-basement room to rent.

    What on earth was he thinking…?

    Cheon Sejoo continued to follow Sejin, feeling a mixture of annoyance, frustration, and helplessness. Sejin’s pale face looked even more gaunt than the last time he had seen him. Considering he had probably been surviving on just one school meal a day for the past few days, it was no wonder he looked like that. He might have even starved over the weekend.

    Suddenly, Cheon Sejoo recalled the day he had ordered chicken for him at home. Sejin’s expression suggested he didn’t want to eat, but he devoured the food so well. Watching Sejin finish off a whole boneless chicken and then lick his lips, Cheon Sejoo had thought to himself that high school girls sure could eat a lot, and he had pushed his own portion toward him. Now that he thought about it, it wasn’t because Sejin was a high school girl, but because he was a boy who was still growing, with a hearty appetite.

    While Sejin continued to look for part-time jobs and faced several rejections, time passed relentlessly. He wandered around the entire Gangdong District. It was puzzling how he could find his way so well without a cell phone. He was like a human navigation system.

    It was passed 5 p.m. and almost 6 p.m., when a group of boys in school uniforms suddenly appeared in front of Sejin.

    Sejin seemed to make the school his central point, passing by it whenever he took a long route. This time, after weaving through various alleys and coming out in front of the main gate, he was about to turn in the direction of Shinsa Capital, when a group of boys blocked his path.

    In this unexpected situation, Cheon Sejoo parked his car nearby and watched. The boys surrounding Sejin were much bigger than him Perhaps because Se-jin was smaller than his peers, the way they surrounded him seemed threatening at first glance. Cheon Sejoo’s straight brows furrowed as he watched the scene.

    The boys, with smirking faces, poked and pushed Sejin. Despite their smiles, the way they shoved his shoulders hard enough to make him stagger clearly looked like bullying. Cheon Sejoo felt his blood run cold. At the same time, he experienced an indescribable feeling that couldn’t be easily put into words.

    It was as if some unknown force was guiding him toward Sejin. The situation, so similar to his younger sister Cheon Hye-in who died five years ago, made it impossible for him to see Sejin simply as Kwon Sejin anymore. Confused, Cheon Sejoo bit his lip. Anger surged within him, seemingly endless.

    He had never been this angry, not even when he saw Cheon Hye-in for the last time or confronted those who had tormented her. However,  as Sejin began to overlap with the image of Hye-in in his mind, his anger grew uncontrollably.

    Was Hye-in like that too?

    While I was holed up in the hospital, did my sister also suffer like that in an unfamiliar place?

    It felt like his insides were being shredded.

    While Cheon Sejoo agonized, the boys kept tapping Sejin’s shoulder before eventually leaving. Left alone, Sejin stood with his head bowed. Then, he suddenly bent down and picked something up from the ground.

    Sejin stuffed whatever he had picked up into his pocket and headed toward the large supermarket across from the school. As Sejin disappeared into the supermarket, Cheon Sejoo lowered the window and lit a cigarette. He wanted to calm himself before approaching Sejin, thinking that if he went out now, Sejin might notice his trembling hands.

    But as he was leisurely smoking, he noticed that the boys he thought had left earlier were lingering around the front of the supermarket again. Through the open window, the young men’s malicious voices flew in through the gap that was opened to let out the cigarette smoke.

    “Hey, hey, hurry up and decide. You first.”

    “I bet it’s bean sprouts.”

    “I bet that… uh, what was it last time? Pink sausage? But can we get that for a thousand won?”

    “Probably not.”

    “Oh sh!t! I don’t know, then cola?”

    The one in black tights and a black tight shirt looked like he weighed twice as much as Sejin. Another boy laughed so hard he bent over at the comment from the one in tights.

    “Would a beggar even drink Coke? He’s probably never had it because it’s too expensive.”

    “Right. Then I bet tofu. But Sejin doesn’t have a home now, right? So, he’s not even a semi-basement beggar anymore?”

    “So, what is he? A street beggar? Homeless?”

    “Kwon the street beggar? Or did he go to a shelter? Kwon the shelter beggar?”

    Even though they didn’t seem to be close at all, they all addressed Kwon Sejin familiarly. Cheon Sejoo waited patiently, planning to put Sejin in the car as soon as he came out of the supermarket. He clenched his fists, fearing that if he got out of the car now, he might raise his hands against the kids.

    Fortunately, it didn’t take long for Sejin to come out of the supermarket. With a black bag on his wrist and his hands shoved in his pockets, Sejin stopped when he saw the boys waiting in front of the store. Cheon Sejoo took one last drag of his cigarette as he watched his pretty face harden into a cold expression.

    “Hey, Sejin. What did you buy with the thousand won you picked up?”

    The boys in tights approached Sejin as soon as their eyes met. Then he tried to snatch the black bag Sejin was holding. Cheon Sejoo rolled up the window. He couldn’t bear to see Kwon Sejin miserable any further.

    Perhaps it was destined to be this way from the moment he discovered Kwon Sejin, who resembled Cheon Hye-in.

    Five years ago, after losing Cheon Hye-in, Cheon Sejoo was left with many regrets. Not being able to visit her for a week, not being able to reply to her messages, not being able to answer her last phone call—all of these remained painful regrets for him.

    The most despairing moment was when he was captured by the police before he could complete his revenge for her. That’s why, when Shin Gyoyeon gave him a chance to avenge her in exchange for his life, and when he finally strangled his enemy with his own hands, Cheon Sejoo felt a blissful satisfaction from achieving a perfect ending to his regret.

    From that day on, Cheon Sejoo had vowed to himself never to live with regret again. He had sworn it.

    But, after bringing Kwon Sejin home, Cheon Sejoo found himself experiencing regrets, no matter how such a small regret it was. What Sejin needed wasn’t a little moment of help. He needed a guardian who would take responsibility for him.

    However, Cheon Sejoo wasn’t someone who could take responsibility for another person, so he regretted his hasty decision to bring Sejin home and he tried to forget by sending him away from his sight even if it was too late.

    But he couldn’t forget. Kim Hyunkyung’s desperate plea kept shaking Cheon Sejoo, and now Cheon Sejoo saw Hye-in’s figure in the bullied Kwon Sejin.

    If he let Sejin go now, Cheon Sejoo knew clearly that he’d be left with regret once again. He would wonder what would happen to Sejin if he had been bullied to the point of giving up like Hye-in, and he would by then regret not keeping him.

    Therefore, to undo all the regrets that had accumulated since meeting Sejin and to avoid future troubles, Cheon Sejoo decided he had to take Sejin in. This was the conclusion he reached in the brief moment he witnessed Sejin being bullied.

    With a loud roar, the SUV’s engine started. Cheon Sejoo checked that the road was empty and crossed the centerline to turn the car around. Then he drove towards the supermarket, accelerating onto the sidewalk where the curb had been lowered for delivery vehicles. With a slight jolt, the car climbed onto the pavement. The black SUV’s headlights shone on the backs of the boys in tights.

    Sejin, who had been talking to them, took his hands out of his pockets and gripped the black plastic bag. As he lowered his head and began to stare at the ground, Cheon Sejoo, rush towards them as if he had lost his mind.

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