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    Loves Error

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    2. Shadow 2 (Part 10)

    The man snorted at Sejin’s harsh term for his father and corrected himself.

    Yeah, kids who ended up with the wrong dads.

    Then he opened his mouth once again.

    “You think a spot will open up in a week? Think logically. The kids in the shelter went there because they had problems in their lives. Do you think those problems will be solved in a week? Is it possible to resolve a problem severe enough to make them leave home in just a week? They’re forced to be kicked out. They have no other choice because there are no spots left. When other kids like you show up needing a spot, they can’t beg for more spot and ended up getting thrown back onto the streets because those running the shelters think they’ve done enough.”

    “……”

    “Do you think you’d be any different? Before you could even save up for a deposit on a semi-basement room, you’d be back on the streets. And you call that a plan? If you had said you were going to an orphanage, I wouldn’t argue.”

    The man laughed sarcastically and shook his head. Sejin glared at him, his lips twitching. He had mocked Sejin’s plan so thoroughly that he thought the man might have some other solution, but all he suggested was going to an orphanage.

    “Why would I go to an orphanage? That’s for kids without parents. I have a mother.”

    At Sejin’s sharp retort, the man was silent for a moment. His dark eyes stared intently at Sejin. He seemed to be contemplating about something, and after a long time, he finally explained.

    “It’s not just for kids without parents go there. There are parents who temporarily send their children in an orphanage because they can’t take care of them at the moment. If your mother had the means, she might have done the same.”

    Unlike before, the man’s low voice no longer had a mocking tone. Nevertheless, Sejin felt offended.

    An orphanage?

    Sejin scoffed and continued speaking.

    “Don’t be ridiculous. Even if there are such people, it’s never just temporary. They leave their kids there and never come back to get them, so they will be abandoned. I know that much. People who leave their kids there are abandoning them. My mom wouldn’t do that.”

    “……”

    At Sejin’s firm words, the man eventually fell silent as if he had nothing more to say. The traffic light turned red, and he stepped on the brake while looking at Sejin. Meeting his gaze, Sejin wondered for a moment if he had said something wrong. It was because the man seemed to be in a very bad mood.

    But why should I care?

    Sejin thought, turning his head to look out the window. He didn’t have the energy to worry about the feelings of a man who threatened him with his mother and constantly meddled for no reason.

    Meanwhile, the car continued heading somewhere. Sejin realized they were heading toward the man’s house but couldn’t jump out, fearing the man would use his mother as a hostage. He remained silent, filled with anxiety, until the man finally spoke again after a long pause.

    “Anyway, like your mom said, I needed someone to work at my house. I won’t ask for rent, so stay there and do your own thing. Just until you become an adult.”

    His mother had made that request last week. Yet, the man acted as if he had just heard it and was generously offering his help on his own. If he was going to do this, he should have agreed before his mom had to beg. Then she wouldn’t have been so upset. Sejin didn’t want to follow the man, but the situation made his blood boil. When Sejin didn’t respond, the man sighed shortly and urged him on.

    “Answer.”

    “I already did. Do you think I’m crazy to go to your house?”

    “…Hah.”

    At Sejin’s sharp rejection, the man looked at him, closing his eyes and then opening them again. His face was full of irritation, which made Sejin feel just as annoyed.

    Who was the one who should be irritated here?

    It was the man who was disregarding Sejin’s carefully made life plans and dragging him along forcibly. Sejin couldn’t understand why the man looked so annoyed when he should be the one feeling that way.

    Anyone would think I’m the one in the wrong here.

    As Sejin glared at him with tightly pressed lips, the man ran his hand roughly through his hair. In a manner reminiscent of a commercial, he messed up his dark hair and then whispered in a menacingly low voice.

    “If you don’t come with me, I’ll tell your mom that you’re homeless.”

    “…What?”

    “Is that all? I’ll explain that you’re being bullied at school and getting beaten up. I’ll tell her you’re sleeping on the streets, starving, and that you’re at risk of sudden death or freezing to death in winter.”

    “I’m not getting beaten up by anyone!”

    Despite his threatening tone, the content was made up of lowly fabrications. There had been some petty disputes with Lee Haegyun’s group, but it wasn’t like Sejin was getting beaten up by them. Sejin was so taken aback by the man’s words that he shouted. The man continued without flinching.

    “Your mom will be so worried she won’t be able to eat properly. And since she can’t contact you, she might secretly come to Seoul and get lost in the mountains. You saw that, didn’t you? The restaurant on the mountain. In weather like this, you’ll die of hypothermia at the foot of the mountain.”

    “Are you crazy? Who do you think you are? Why are you doing this when I said no? Don’t say that to my mom!”

    Even though it had only been a week without contact, Sejin knew that Kim Hyunkyung hadn’t been sleeping or eating well because of her worries about him. She denied it, but Sejin knew his mother hadn’t spent a single day comfortably, worrying about him. The thought of explaining his situation to her, not even accurately but exaggerated like that, made Sejin’s heart sink. She might collapse before he froze to death on the streets. Imagining this, Sejin clenched his teeth. Watching him, the man spoke in a leisurely voice.

    “Don’t want to worry your mom? Then do as I say.”

    “Why are you doing this?!”

    The man was relentless. He wanted to control and manipulate someone else’s life. The hardest part to bear was the fact that the man’s so called sympathy, this charity-like offer of help, could drastically change Sejin’s precarious situation.

    His pride was hurt. Furious to the point of tears, Sejin’s eyes turned red. Tears welled up as they always did when he got mad, a physical reaction he couldn’t control. He hated it and tried to hold it back as much as possible, but he couldn’t suppress his rage any longer in front of this man who acted as he pleased. Sejin shouted, his voice full of frustration.

    “Who are you to interfere with my life?! You’re not even trying to help me out of genuine concern! Why do you keep pushing when I’ve said no! D*mn it, I said I don’t want to!”

    His reddened eyes welled up, and tears soon streamed down his cheeks. Sejin roughly wiped them away with the back of his hand, sniffling. He couldn’t hold back his anger. Even if the whole world tried to meddle in his life, he believed that loan shark gangsters had no right to interfere with him. Yet, this man acted as if he was desperate to intrude into Sejin’s life.

    His constant meddling made it feel like the man genuinely cared about him. Sejin hated that. Of all people, he hated that this man seemed to worry about him.

    “Stop pretending to be nice…. It’s disgusting to see someone like you acting as if you’re some kind of savior. If it weren’t for people like you, I wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place, why the hell are you f*cking doing this now….”

    Sejin’s voice, growing smaller, was soaked with tears. He rubbed his eyes roughly, trying to erase any trace of his tears, not even noticing how red and sore his eyes were getting. Despite Sejin’s words, filled with resentment and injustice, the man didn’t respond. He didn’t offer any comfort or make any threats. He just drove silently, not even suggesting that Sejin could get out if he disliked it so much.

    As time passed, Sejin felt a bit embarrassed. His emotions once again had surged and drained quickly, leaving him feeling ashamed and regretful. As long as the man had leverage over his mother, Sejin had no choice. If the man wanted it, Sejin would end up being dragged to his house anyway.

    Sejin regretted his lack of patience and the harsh words he had thrown at the man just five minutes ago.

    Why am I so impatient?

    Along with this brief regret came the shame of having cried in front of the man twice already.

    However, he didn’t feel like apologizing. The man was probably just offering temporary sympathy out of a whim. Sejin knew he wouldn’t stay in the man’s house for long, so there was no reason to humble himself and try to get along with him.

    While Sejin stubbornly held onto his pride to overcome his feelings of helpless humiliation, their car passed through Seoul Forest and entered the apartment complex.

    “Hey.”

    The man spoke only after parking the car in the underground parking lot. It was next to the white Lamborghini where he had driven Sejin in last time.

    “Shoving someone’s shoulder is also violence.”

    Then, the man said something out of the blue to Sejin.

    “You said you weren’t getting beaten up.”

    As Sejin looked at him, puzzled, the man explained. It was then that Sejin realized the man was referring to his earlier outburst. He was pointing out Sejin’s statement about not getting beaten up.

    So what? Sejin shot him a sullen look. Receiving that gaze, the man sighed briefly, ran a hand through his hair, and said.

    “Don’t get used to that kind of thing.”

    “……”

    Sejin glared at the man, clearly annoyed.

    Loan shark. Thug. Gangster b*stard. Human trafficker. Old fart. Nosy. Hypocrite.

    He kept those words inside his head as he called the man, and then snapped at him.

    “Dragging me here against my will is also violence. Take care of your own issues.”

    “You really don’t back down, do you?”

    The man chuckled, a small laugh escaping his lips. Despite his sharp and informal words, saying all sorts of things, the man seemed unbothered, as if saying that a small fry like him couldn’t possibly affect him.

    He was truly infuriating in every way.

    Sejin got out of the car, feeling an urge to grab the man by the collar if he could. Slamming the car door shut, he walked towards the elevator, wondering if his only option was to enter this house. Then he suddenly recalled something the man had said before.

    He had mentioned wanting to sell him because he was pretty, but the plan had fallen apart because he was a boy. Sejin frowned and looked up at the man standing beside him.

    Surely, he hadn’t changed his mind now, had he?

    Was he now thinking of selling boys too…?

    “Hurry up and get in.”

    In the meantime, the elevator had arrived. Sejin hesitantly stepped inside, as if to protect himself. He watch the man with suspicious eyes as he pressed the button for the 41st floor and leaned against the elevator wall. Sejin spoke in a warning tone.

    “I’m short and not good at anything, so you can’t use me. Don’t try anything funny.”

    “…What?”

    At the unexpected warning, the man raised his eyebrows as if he had heard something ridiculous. Then, slowly processing Sejin’s words, he let out a burst of laughter as if dumbfounded.

    His face, as if painstakingly painted with a brush, was adorned with a smile. Sejin felt ignored and his mood worsened. As he kept his mouth shut with a sullen face, the man who had been laughing for a long time whispered mischievously as he got off the elevator.

    “You must not know this, but pretty boys like you are in higher demand than girls.”

    “…….”

    It took Sejin a moment to understand what he meant. The thought that the man might actually sell him sent a shiver down his spine.

    When he looked up in shock, the man’s face was uncharacteristically playful. However, Sejin was genuinely frightened.

    Could he have really brought me here with that in mind…?

    A delayed sense of danger washed over his entire body.

    However, it was too late to turn back now. Sejin had no choice. So, he forced himself to remain calm and scoffed. As he walked past the man, who was holding the door open for him as if telling him to go in first, he shouted.

    “If you try anything funny, I’ll really report you!”

    The man burst into laughter once again at those words. Sejin swallowed a curse in silent frustration, feeling an inexplicable sense of anxiety. It truly seemed like the man might sell him off somewhere.

    Suddenly feeling scared, Sejin kicked off his shoes and ran to the room where he had previously stayed.

    It was the beginning of a strange cohabitation.

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