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    Loves Error

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    “Here at the Center, Ability Users also carry out espionage missions.”

    “Um, w-why exactly me…?”

    As Sijin stammered in confusion, Jeong Taeyul casually loosened his neatly tied tie. Perhaps feeling suffocated, he unbuttoned a couple of buttons on his white shirt. While looking down at Sijin, he continued to explain.

    “But Doctor, if I were a spy, what do you think would have happened to you?”

    “W-Well, this is my first time here…”

    “Your first time? Would a spy care for that?”

    Before Sijin could say anything in defense, he quickly felt his strength drain through the fingertips that touched him.

    ‘Why… is my strength…’

    Sijin quickly grasped the situation that an ordinary person wouldn’t understand. Jeong Taeyul had absorbed a small portion of energy from within Sijin’s body.

    While an Esper might have felt joy in guiding, it was not the case for Sijin, an ordinary person. Sijin felt as if he were being drained of blood quickly. His vision blurred, and even his physical balance began to falter.

    “…Caught you.”

    Ah…”

    “Feeling dizzy? Look. Even a B-class Guide can use this. It momentarily drains your physical energy and weakens you. But someone like our esteemed Dr. Baek should be easily kidnapped, don’t you think?”

    Sijin couldn’t respond. He felt as if his blood pressure had suddenly dropped. The sounds around him seemed muffled, and his vision was spinning. Inevitably, Sijin leaned his body against Jeong Taeyul’s broad and sturdy chest and lost consciousness.

    …After some time had passed, Sijin woke up from a light slumber feeling refreshed. Thankfully, he didn’t have a headache and instead felt invigorated.

    Soon, Sijin realized that he was being held by someone while sitting on a bench. Rubbing his forehead against the warmth, Sijin gradually regained his senses. As he realized it was Jeong Taeyul’s embrace, he gasped and pushed away from his waist.

    “Did you sleep well in a stranger’s arms?”

    “Uh…”

    Sijin adjusted his tilted glasses. His vision was slightly blurry, but he forced his eyes open and glanced at his wristwatch. It had been about 10 minutes. Being embraced by a Guide he had just met for 10 minutes made Sijin’s face flushed with shame and anger.

    “Guide Jeong Taeyul, you shouldn’t play such pranks.”

    “Pranks?”

    Despite Sijin’s stern words, Jeong Taeyul smirked. Almost as if putting on a mask, his expression quickly hardened as he spoke. 

    “Let me tell you what happened to the last examiner at our Center.”

    Jeong Taeyul took out a pack of cigarettes from his pocket. Then, he tapped the bottom of the pack to make a few cigarettes pop out. As he proceeded to take out his lighter, he paused.

    “Ah, would it be fine?”

    He kindly asked as if seeking permission. No, it was more like pretending to be kind. Sijin nodded indifferently with a disgusted look in his eyes.

    Jeong Taeyul put the cigarette in his mouth and lit it with a lighter as he spoke.

    “Originally, the doctor was Security Level 5. The highest rank among civilian staff. But do you know why it was raised to Level 7?”

    Huffing, Jeong Taeyul dispersed the cigarette smoke upward before continuing, “The last abducted diagnostic examiner was brutally tortured, leaking everything about our Center’s Ability Users’ status, information, and personal details. And did they come back alive? Not at all. We barely found the body to hold a funeral.”

    As he spoke, Jeong Taeyul wrapped a strap around one of Sijin’s wrists. It looked like a smartwatch, probably a standard-issue device with various functions suitable for location tracking.

    “Now that the doctor is Level 7, if abducted, our already busy Alpha Team will have to act directly.”

    “…..”

    ‘But I’d hate to have to clean up the body of our handsome doctor.’

    Jeong Taeyul smiled at Sijin. The smile was as kind as before, but the feeling was completely different. Perhaps due to his sharp gaze, there was a rough and piercing impression. Sijin’s unease grew.

    “For the next month, you’ll be under close protection, so keep that in mind. You saw it in the contract, right?”

    “For a month?”

    Sijin was taken aback. It was indeed written in the contract. Administrator-level staff would receive close protection if there were security concerns, with no right to refuse. However, he never expected to receive surveillance as soon as he arrived. Sijin cautiously asked, almost unable to believe it.

    “…Are you personally going to protect me?”

    “Technically, it’s the Alpha team, but, yes. Ham Geonwu won’t be assigned to you.”

    Jeong Taeyul decided as casually as choosing a lunch menu. The decision was obvious. Then, he looked at Sijin sharply and said, “Don’t just focus on Ham Geonwu; be also vigilant to other things.”

    “…..”

    Although Sijin knew it was futile, he stared back at him fiercely. Whether he responded or not, Jeong Taeyul remained indifferent.

    “Do you really have to inform me in this manner?”

    “Consider it special treatment.”

    Special treatment?

    Sijin’s headache began to throb. It felt as if he had been undergoing training all day long, even though it had only been an hour since he arrived at the Center. It felt like he had just gone through an entire day of induction ceremony. Sijin let out a deep sigh.

    At that moment, Jeong Taeyul spoke lazily, “So, do you have any questions?”

    Sijin, who had been silent in front of him, glanced down at the smartwatch strapped to his wrist. Then, he looked up at Jeong Taeyul. Their eyes met, and beyond the white smoke, Jeong Taeyul’s handsome face flickered.

    Sijin looked at him expressionlessly and asked, “How many cigarettes do you smoke in a day?”

    “Cigarettes?”

    Jeong Taeyul raised one eyebrow as he chuckled, a smirk that seemed mocking yet still alluring.

    “I smoke about five cigarettes a day. I don’t smoke during missions.”

    “I see. Do you feel psychological stability when you smoke, or is it just a habit?”

    “I don’t know. Maybe both?”

    Sijin nodded in acknowledgement. Jeong Taeyul, who had been answering casually, suddenly asked sharply as if taken aback, “Why are you asking about this?”

    Standing up from his seat, Sijin responded coldly, “I need to record it in your chart.”

    “….?”

    “Using addictive substances for psychological comfort is particularly dangerous for Guides, so it’s best to reduce the amount as much as possible. If you want to quit, I can enroll you in a smoking cessation program.”

    Jeong Taeyul’s mouth twitched. He seemed more puzzled than angry. However, Sijin was making it clear to Jeong Taeyul that he would only interact with him professionally. His quick thinking was apparent, and Jeong Taeyul would soon catch on. Sijin bid him a stiff farewell.

    “I’ll go first. Thank you for the guidance.”

    As Sijin walked away alone, he turned back. He had forgotten to warn Jeong Taeyul.

    “And if you use your ability on me again, I won’t stay quiet.”

    “Well, what can you do?”

    Sijin himself didn’t know what he could do.

    Sijin hesitated for a moment but then spoke with a firm attitude, “I’ll let it pass today as a warning.”

    Despite Sijin’s warning, Jeong Taeyul just chuckled, took a deep drag of his cigarette, and simply watched Sijin as he distanced himself.

    Sijin felt that gaze from behind, but he didn’t turn around and headed towards his dormitory. Despite feigning anger, Sijin was actually feeling confused and his head was heating up.

    To think that Jeong Taeyul found out about his interest in Ham Geonwu as soon as he arrived. Moreover, in front of someone who exhibited such obsession, he tried to teach him that he was being discriminatory.

    ‘It was all mockery.’

    At that moment, Sijin realized that Jeong Taeyul wasn’t just mocking; he was actually testing him. Yet, Sijin remained innocently unaware of it all. Despite feeling angry, he couldn’t help but feel ashamed.

    In the end, as soon as he turned the corner of the building, Sijin tightly closed his eyes and facepalmed.

    While he tried to act nonchalant in front of Jeong Taeyul, it seemed like life at the Center was going to be anything but easy. It felt hopeless.

    ***

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