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    “… Where are we going?”

    Entering the highway, Gu Ji-young, still gripping her seatbelt, asked as she caught her breath.

    “Central Hotel.”

    Jae-chan answered, noticing his phone vibrating incessantly in his pocket. The phone had been ringing non-stop since they left the mansion gates.

    “Hmm, well, it’s a five-star hotel, so…,”

    It seemed like his mother was misunderstanding something, but Jae-chan only focused on the front.

    The welcoming ceremony would likely still be ongoing. He planned to stay in a place with many onlookers until he could figure out his next steps. His father wouldn’t immediately chase them to a place crowded with Center personnel.

    Thus, about 40 minutes later, after navigating through light traffic, they arrived at the hotel’s underground parking lot. His mother’s expression turned cold as she realized the situation.

    “The Center’s new guide welcome ceremony… You’re not telling me to go in there, are you?”

    Gu Ji-young asked in a crackling tone. She wasn’t wearing a fancy dress right now. She didn’t wear any makeup, and the shoes she was wearing didn’t look that good. After she demanded a divorce, her husband, knowing her well, had confiscated her formal wear, dresses, and expensive shoes. This had happened a couple of months ago.

    But Jae-chan wasn’t listening. As soon as he stopped the car, he checked his cell phone.

    ‘What is this again?’

    A small sigh escaped his lips. Jae-chan was puzzled by the numerous missed calls, which turned out to be related to another incident during his absence.

    There were calls from various people, including Se-in, Kang-man, and Team Leader Hong Ye-deok, but Jae-chan first checked the messages from Gyeong Chang-hyun at the top.

    [Crazy]

    [Your team got into a hair-pulling fight]

    [Love triangle scandal lol]

    [(Video)

    7:20 PM]

    Jae-chan’s eyebrows furrowed as he played the video that arrived an hour ago. He immediately pressed the stop button, silencing the commotion that was just erupting on the screen. He immediately called Gyeong Chang-hyun.

    -Hey, where are you!

    “Is Hae-sol okay?”

    Ignoring Chang-hyun’s question, Jae-chan quickly confirmed his junior’s safety.

    “I mean the female guide in the video.”

    -…Ah, that. It was quite a spectacle.

    “I’m asking if Nam Hae-sol is alright.”

    -Didn’t you watch the video to the end?

    Chang-hyun asked. Jae-chan had closed the window right after hearing Nam Hae-sol’s fierce curse, “You trash who can’t even understand your own feelings!” which he hadn’t heard in a long time.

    “I didn’t see it. So tell me quickly.”

    -The girl in the video, Hae-sol, right? She’s fine. The tall guy’s hair got yanked out.

    Gyeong Chang-hyun made an “ugh” sound, saying it seemed like the pulled-out hair was still rolling around on the floor. As he listened to various details of the situation, Jae-chan frowned.

    ‘Han Myeong-gyu… Could he possibly like Nam Hae-sol?’

    Han Myung-gyu was also his junior, but he never imagined he would act so disgracefully. Knowing Nam Hae-sol, she wouldn’t have caused the commotion; Myeong-gyu must have provoked her.

    In that case, the result was that Han Myeong-gyu had embarrassed the person he liked. Just like Jae-chan himself in the past.

    -Everyone thinks the guy’s an idiot.

    Meanwhile, Gyeong Chang-hyun concluded his explanation.

    “How are they now?”

    -The guy left with a nosebleed, and the girl… she’s still here. Wow, she’s tough too.

    He has to go up first. After hanging up the call, Jae-chan unfastened his seat belt.

    He got out of the car, leaving his mother looking dumbfounded. Then he went around the messed up front bumper and opened the passenger seat door.

    “Wear my shoes.”

    When his mother didn’t move, he quickly took off his sneakers and swapped them with her indoor slippers. Their shoe sizes weren’t too different, so it worked.

    As he adjusted the laces of the sneakers for her, Gu Ji-young remained still. But she spoke up as soon as Jae-chan suggested they enter the hall.

    “Do you really expect me to go in there dressed like this?”

    Gu Ji-young grabbed her finely curled hair in frustration.

    “Then stay here.”

    Jae-chan said that while looking around. There were definitely a lot of cars coming and going here and there, so it seemed like his mother could stay in the parking lot if she wanted. The entrance and elevator area were also bustling with people.

    As he assessed the crowd, his eyes involuntarily followed the direction where people were glancing, and he froze.

    Standing head and shoulders above the crowd, he spotted the tall figure of Go Woo-jin.

    “How can you talk to your mother like that? Can’t you see the restraint device? How can I face people looking like this—”

    “Stay right here.”

    Jae-chan took off the coat he was wearing. He handed it to his mother and started running with his slippers on.

    But by the time he reached the glass-enclosed elevator entrance, Woo-jin had already gone up. Feeling an unusual anxiety, Jae-chan took out his phone. It didn’t connect—probably because Woo-jin was inside the elevator.

    Suddenly, past and present began to blur.

    Jae-chan frantically pressed the elevator button several times, then without time to think, he just rushed into the emergency stairwell.

    His heels slipped slightly out of the light gray indoor slippers as he sprinted up the steps. Huff, huff, his body that hadn’t gotten guiding protested in pain, but Jae-chan ran up to the lobby floor without stopping for a moment.

    Finally arriving at the hall, Jae-chan noticed the puzzled looks of people he encountered and tried to catch his breath. He also smoothed his disheveled hair a couple of times before entering.

    Seeing the interior decorated with pearl balloons, bubble flowers, fresh flowers, and chandeliers made him nauseous. Ignoring the terrible sense of defeat from the day before his regression that was threatening to resurface like trauma, he moved quickly.

    It was easy to find Go Woo-jin. Just as he had spotted him from afar earlier, his tall stature made him stand out. Jae-chan’s lips parted in a welcoming smile. However, as he approached and was about to call out “Woo-jin!” his lips hesitated.

    Jae-chan’s cheeks instantly stiffened. It was already too late. The reality he faced was more terrible than he had imagined.

    “…”

    Woo-jin was standing still, his gaze fixed intently on one spot.

    There was Nam Hae-sol, wearing a light mint-colored dress. Unlike in the past, she had invited her father, and she was smiling while holding a glass of champagne with Nam Myung-seong, whom Jae-chan had not seen in a long time.

    Woo-jin couldn’t take his eyes off the beautiful Hae-sol. No matter how much time had turned back, it was as if his feelings for her were etched into his soul.

    Jae-chan stumbled backwards. He didn’t know why, but it felt like the world was crumbling beneath his feet. Even the dreamlike time he had shared with Woo-jin blurred momentarily.

    Caught in an inexplicable state of panic, Seon Jae-chan staggered towards the exit of the hall but stopped. A sudden thought anchored him.

    ‘Wait. I’m his boyfriend right now.’

    Before he could think, he unconsciously turned his steps back. Feelings of disappointment and letdown quickly burned away, replaced by an instinct riddled with competitiveness. Taking advantage of his momentary loss of composure, his underlying nature began to push him as if it had been waiting.

    By the time he came to his senses, he was gripping Woo-jin’s wrist as if snatching it.

    “…!”

    Jae-chan gritted his teeth as he faced black eyes that were shaking in a daze and barely focused on me. Our skin touched each other, and we almost reflexively started guiding, but we managed to control it.

    However, he couldn’t stop his facial muscles from twisting with rage.

    Hey, how could you look at someone else when you have me!

    He almost burst out shouting right there. His chest rose and fell rapidly, filled with intense breaths. Suppressing his anger, Jae-chan stared at Woo-jin with seething eyes. A grinding sound came from his clenched molars.

    *

    Seon Jae-chan left the venue holding on to Go Woo-jin.

    It was clear that Woo-jin had turned his eyes away from him. He could clearly distinguish it, having seen people looking at Hae-sol with admiration several times today. Woo-jin’s gaze contained much more emotion than simple admiration.

    From the first-floor lobby to the hall, there was still a large crowd coming and going. People waiting for the elevator looked curiously at the two who had joined with an unusual air. A few even looked at Jae-chan’s face again with a puzzled expression upon noticing his slippers.

    However, Jae-chan didn’t notice any of this.

    Even after arriving at the underground parking lot, he stubbornly stared straight ahead. His leading steps were gradually losing strength.

    Somehow, he found it difficult to face Woo-jin.

    To be precise, Jae-chan was afraid to confirm his expression, worried he might still be looking at Hae-sol with those mesmerized eyes.

    Nevertheless, Jae-chan hesitantly turned his head to check on Woo-jin.

    And he met those pitch-black eyes looking at him with concern. It was a gaze that quietly penetrated, fully focused on him, as if the earlier distraction by Hae-sol had been a lie.

    “…Did something happen?”

    Jae-chan blinked his eyes a couple of times when he heard Woo-jin’s voice expressing concern. Woo-jin seemed unaware that he had startled Jae-chan because of himself.

    ‘Has he not yet realized his feelings for Hae-sol?’

    While Jae-chan was lost in silent confusion, Woo-jin spotted the SUV with its front bumper in terrible condition. His lips involuntarily tightened. If Jae-chan had come in that car, he thought, something must have really happened to him.

    “Hey! If you came to rescue me-“

    And the person who got out of that battered SUV half-confirmed Woo-jin’s suspicion.

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