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    Loves Error

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    2. Shadow 2 (Part 2)

      After dinner, Sejin returned to the room to rest. Although it was someone else’s house and he was suspicious of the man’s intentions, he couldn’t fight off sleep. He thought he wouldn’t sleep well but fell asleep almost immediately.

      He slept so deeply that he didn’t hear the man knocking on his door. When he finally woke up, it was already evening, a day later. Sejin was shocked to realize he had slept for nearly twenty hours.

      How could he have been so unguarded? He was astonished at his own carelessness.

      Feeling hungry and thirsty, Sejin went to the living room to find some water. He saw the man sprawled out on the sofa, napping like a corpse. Standing about ten steps away, Sejin observed him.

      The man’s right hand was loosely holding a remote control, and his left hand was resting on his stomach. His slightly disheveled T-shirt exposed his pale skin. His long legs were folded on one side and crossed the sofa, revealing his ankle as his pants pulled up.

      Sejin thought that being tall meant having a larger frame, but the man’s bones were surprisingly delicate. His ankle bones had a faint pink hue, and the blue veins on his foot stood out as if drawn with a ruler. The man, who seemed like a perfect, well-dressed gangster with his height, rough speech, and cocky attitude, had an unexpectedly neat side. Sejin found himself staring without realizing it.

      “I’m not sleeping, you know.”

      Then, at the sound of a voice that suddenly reached him, Sejin flinched his shoulders like a child caught doing something wrong. When he opened his eyes, the long, drowsy gaze was directed at him. The man looked at Sejin intently with an indifferent expression before yawning and sitting up straight. A low, sleepy voice came out of him.

      “How could you sleep so much?”

      “…I was tired.”

      He hadn’t slept properly for four days, so it was only natural. Even Sejin hadn’t expected to sleep so long. At his response, the man nodded slightly and stood up.

      “Sit down.”

      Following his command, Sejin sat on the sofa where the man had been lying until just now. The residual warmth made his seat feel uncomfortably hot, so he shifted to the edge of the sofa, when the man suddenly called out from the kitchen.

      “Want to eat a sandwich?”

      “…Yeah.”

      When he nodded, the man returned with a wrapped sandwich that he had saved for Sejin. While eating the sandwich and drinking the milk the man handed him, Sejin glanced at the turned-off TV screen, sneaking looks at the man through it.

      “Why didn’t you wear the clothes I bought you?”

      Sejin quickly finished the sandwich, crumpled up the sauce-stained wrapper, and took a gulp of the remaining milk. Remembering the pink nightgown, Sejin choked and coughed for a while, turning his head away.

      The man was looking at him with a genuinely curious expression.

      How could he wear such clothes? Sejin wanted to retort, but he avoided his gaze and replied. It wouldn’t be good to upset the man’s mood.

      “The size doesn’t fit. It’s for kids….”

      “For kids?”

      At that, the man narrowed his eyes and looked Sejin up and down. Before Sejin could feel any more discomfort, the man asked another question.

      “How much do you weigh? I told him to buy something that a child who’s 170 cm and around 45 kg would wear.”

      “…”

      Sejin stared at the man incredulously, feeling bewildered. He had thought of saying something sarcastic, but unfortunately, the man didn’t seem to be joking.

      It was a relief it was a mistake, however, Sejin’s pride was somehow hurt. Despite his small stature, he was still growing and weighed well over 50 kg. How could 45 kg even be considered?

      He had clearly stated he was eighteen, but did he really think someone his height would weigh 45 kg? Sejin retorted with a blunt tone.

      “I weigh 58kg.”

      “What…?”

      “You do?” The man looked at him, surprised as if he couldn’t believe that someone so small could weigh that much. Feeling another hit to his pride for the second time, Sejin gritted his teeth and resisted the urge to kick him. He wanted to take off his hoodie and show his broad shoulders but pretending to be a girl prevented him from doing so which frustrated him.

      Sejin let out a short sigh and spoke in a dull voice.

      “Just lend me whatever you were wearing. Like a T-shirt and elastic waistband shorts…”

      “It might be a bit big, though?”

      “They’ll fit fine!”

      Unable to hold back, Sejin snapped at the man’s indifferent response. It was annoying enough being small but being treated like a child made him feel even worse. However, after yelling at him like that, he felt his heart sink.

      He shouldn’t be so rude. Recalling the man’s earlier warnings, Sejin closed his mouth, his face turning pale. He feared that the man might do something to his mother. If the man threatened him using his mother like before when they are in the car, Sejin wouldn’t be able to say anything.

      However, to his surprise, the man’s response was gentle, making his worry meaningless.

      “Okay, sorry for ignoring you.”

      “…”

      He never expected an apology. The man’s unexpected, sensible behavior left Sejin momentarily speechless. Soon, a faint crease appeared on his brow.

      The man was unpredictable. He got angry and mentioned his mother when Sejin refused to eat, yet now he apologized for being ignored. Sejin hesitated and didn’t know which way to swing, so he just changed the subject.

      “What did you want to say….”

      “Ah.”

      The man had mentioned there was something he wanted to talk about after dinner the previous night but had postponed the conversation after seeing Sejin yawn. Reminded of this, the man fell silent for a moment, staring at Sejin so intently it was almost embarrassing. Then at some point, he shifted his posture and leaned against the back of the sofa and asked.

      “Where will you stay now?”

      “…What?”

      Not understanding the question, Sejin raised his head up, puzzled. The man furrowed an eyebrow and quickly rephrased his question and asked again.

      “You don’t have a home. Where are you going to stay?”

      “…”

      At those words, Sejin’s brows furrowed. Displeasure filled his delicately drawn eyes.

      It was natural for Sejin to feel offended by the man’s mention of him having no home. Those who took away his mother and extorted the deposit were the same loan sharks and gangsters as this man. So, what right did he have to worry about Sejin’s living situation?

      Sejin’s voice came out blunt and sharp as he was angry.

      “Once I meet my mom, she’ll figure something out.”

      Kwon Sejin knew himself well. He knew that if the man had added a few more words about his housing situation, he would have lost his patience and poured out everything that was brewing in his mind.

      Sejin’s mother had always scolded him for his lack of patience. He didn’t want to curse at him for no reason and get kicked out, so he had no choice but to use his mother as an excuse. However, the man made a displeased expression as if he didn’t seem satisfied with his vague answer and spoke again.

      “Eighteen isn’t that young. Don’t you have any plans?”

      “…”

      The man’s words were annoyingly condescending. He had been like that since yesterday. Sejin gritted his teeth and glared at him.

      Stop, he signaled with his eyes, but the man didn’t understand.  He continued speaking in a tone that seemed to be scolding him.

      “What can your mom do? She has to work non-stop for years without any support. You need to think of something.”

      “…What do you know?”

      Sejin’s limited patience quickly ran out. A sharp retort burst from his lips before he could stop it. He glared at the man, his fists clenched tightly.

      He knew this would happen. He knew he wouldn’t be able to hold back if the man continued to talk to him like that. Sejin realized his plan to deceive the man and meet his mother was falling apart. But he couldn’t calm the rapid boiling in his chest. Emotions he had barely contained started pouring out, fueled by the man’s nagging.

      “Why do you think I ended up like this? Why did my mom have to go there? It’s because of people like you who live off others without any conscience. And you ask where I’m going to stay. What right do you have to ask me such things?

      The man’s previously stoic face cracked at Sejin’s heated outburst. Like when he had lectured him in the car, the man’s cold expression began to surface. Sejin knew he shouldn’t anger him further, but he couldn’t stop, his open mouth refused to close. Sejin met the man’s eyes, frowning, and poured out the resentment that was filling his heart.

      “A plan? At least give me some time to make a plan! I was living a normal life and then suddenly, I got kicked out of the house overnight. What was I supposed to think?! It’s not like I wanted this to happen, so what plan are you talking about?!”

      “…”

      Seething with rage, Sejin’s eyes reddened, and his breathing grew heavy. He tried to chew his lips and suppress his tears, but he couldn’t. A tear rolled down Sejin’s cheek as he struggled to hold back his emotions.

      “What, what do you want me to do…”

      Sejin’s heart was small and fragile, so any emotion that swelled inside him would quickly overflow right away. And once he cried it out, he would calm down just as quickly. As if he had poured all his anger into that single tear and thrown all his worries away, he found himself suddenly composed.

      He hated this about himself. He feared it made him seem foolish and shallow. This time was no different. As soon as the tear fell, he regained his senses and realized the reality of his situation.

      He had no right to blame the man. Sejin didn’t have that luxury. The man in front of him could save or kill his mother with just a word. Realizing this belatedly hit him like a splash of cold water. His heart was pounding as if it would burst, and his mind cleared up.

      D*mn it, he cursed under his breath, roughly wiping his face with his sleeve and speaking up.

      “You’re just trying to pretend to be kind anyway. So don’t meddle with useless things like my home or food. Just help me meet my mom. That’s all I ask. If you do that, I’ll remember you as a good person. If not, tell me now. And I’ll leave…”

      Kwon Sejin didn’t know how to speak gently. All he had learned from his father, who constantly wounded and manipulated his mother with his words, was how to bluntly and honestly express his feelings.

      After finishing his words, Sejin clamped his mouth shut and lowered his head. Sweat formed on his palms. He might get hit. He clenched his fists to hide his trembling, thinking of the man’s large hands.

      However, no matter how long he waited, no blow came, nor did any curses.

      “…”

      The man simply stood there in silence, then got up. Sejin lifted his gaze, watching the man’s back as he walked away. He remained tense, half-expecting the man might return with a baseball bat. But the man emerged from his bedroom with only his car keys. As he left the living room, he spoke to Sejin.

      “There’s a sandwich and a lunch box in the fridge, so take them out and eat them. There’s a card key in the shoe cabinet in the hallway, so take those with you when you go to school tomorrow.”

      And that was the end of it.

      The man didn’t get angry. He didn’t curse. He didn’t hit Sejin. He merely advised him to eat well and left. Sejin, bewildered, stared at his retreating figure. He watched until the man disappeared around the corner and into the hallway, his face twisted in confusion.

      Sejin had believed the man wanted something from him. There was no other reason for someone who lacked nothing to bother with fake kindness and extend goodwill to him.

      However, he couldn’t understand why he left without getting angry, even after he had yelled at him like an animal that didn’t know gratitude and said mean things to him.

      All the men Sejin had known in his life were the worst. From his father, who squandered their money on gambling and beat his mother and him, to the uncle who pretended to save them but instead took his mother’s seal to get a loan, to the loan sharks and gangsters, to the classmates who bullied him—all of them were trash. Every man he encountered was human garbage.

      So, he thought this man was no different from them. Both the first impression and the subsequent conversation only reinforced Sejin’s conviction, making it even more so.

      But why didn’t he get angry?

      It was strange.

      Why didn’t he curse at me? Why didn’t he kick me out? Why didn’t he hit me?

      Questions exploded in Sejin’s mind. He couldn’t figure out the man’s intentions at all. Kwon Sejin clenched his teeth in confusion.

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