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    Loves Error

    “Are you guys okay right now? Are there any other adults around?”

    “No, we’re not hurt, and right now it’s just us at home.”

    “…Really?”

    “There’s nothing around… it’s a bit cold. We don’t have any clothes, and we’re hungry…”

    “Gumo, I told you not to complain. I’ll go pick some fruits quickly!”

    “Waaah, don’t leave us alone!”

    Ryubeom’s eyes trembled as he suddenly heard the three children’s earnest and serious story. He began to worry deeply about the injured children being alone in an empty space without any adults. Moreover, they were cold, without clothes, and hungry?

    Ryubeom was weak when it came to children. Understandably so, his concern was especially high for children without a guardian. His heart pounded anxiously as he imagined their situation.

    The little foxes said they weren’t hurt, but they had been drenched by last night’s rain. And just a few hours ago, they experienced the tension of a predator hunting them, which must have caused them significant mental stress.

    The situation of ‘Yeohi’ leaving the children was puzzling, but perhaps he was very sick and had stepped out momentarily to avoid worrying them.

    Ryubeom nervously fiddled with his nails and finally asked, “Can you tell me where you are?”

    ***

    It wasn’t easy to get the location from the little foxes. They didn’t know the exact address and were unfamiliar with smartphones, so Ryubeom had to explain the functions step by step to get the location via text. As soon as he confirmed the address, Ryubeom sneaked out of the tile-roofed house. He also grabbed some emergency money to buy medicine, ointment, and simple food on the way.

    When Ryubeom finally arrived at the address given by the children, he was quite surprised by the state of the house.

    A shabby villa. It was eerily quiet, with few residents, and it felt desolate, like a place where ghosts wouldn’t be out of place.

    Given that they were from a fox family, he naturally assumed they would be living in a tile-roofed house. He realized that having never visited another beast-person’s home, his assumption was rather narrow-minded.

    Among the beast-people, the species commonly known to humans often had a long history and lived in traditional tile-roofed houses. However, if they weren’t part of the main family, they were likely to reside in ordinary homes. Although the fox clan was relatively large, it was said that direct descendants of the head of the family were rare. Judging by the state of the house, these children did not seem to be direct descendants.

    Ryubeom cautiously climbed the stairs. The house was located on the third floor, at the far left end. Following the children’s description, Ryubeom walked up and knocked on the door.

    “It’s me, kids.”

    It dawned on him that he hadn’t properly introduced himself to the children. He thought about telling them his name once he got inside. Just then, the door opened.

    Ryubeom, wearing an awkward smile, looked down and saw someone’s long legs, then slowly raised his head.

    Dark hair, almost black, contrasted sharply with a pale white face. The sharp, fox-like eyes looked rather cold, but as soon as their eyes met, a spreading smile softened his impression infinitely. His appearance was nothing short of beautiful, with a striking red hue over his dark pupils, reminiscent of a sunset.

    “Oh, it’s my benefactor.”

    The pleasant voice tickled Ryubeom’s ears. He blinked, realizing immediately that the man standing before him was the adult fox he had met the previous day. It was surprising enough that someone who was said to have passed away due to illness was here, but even more surprising was…

    ‘He’s taller than me…?’

    Not just taller, but also broader in build, which was quite shocking. The white shirt clung tightly to his broad shoulders and chest, revealing the size of his ribcage, and his waist was slim, accentuated by a brown apron. Ryubeom’s eyes were drawn to the forearms exposed under the rolled-up sleeves, suggesting he had been preparing to cook.

    He distinctly remembered the man appearing smaller yesterday. But then, he had been crouching, making it impossible to gauge his height. Moreover, it had been the middle of the night, raining heavily, obscuring his vision. The man had also been wearing traditional Korean clothing, further concealing his true build.

    Yesterday, he seemed rather frail. Had Ryubeom misjudged due to the circumstances? While Ryubeom was lost in confusion, recalling the events, the man naturally stepped aside and gestured for him to enter.

    “Please come in. I hurried to tidy up when I heard you were coming, but the house is still a bit messy, I’m afraid.”

    “Oh, I heard you were sick. They said you had… went to the heaven.”

    “Heaven?”

    He tilted his head, then burst into laughter as if he finally understood what Ryubeom meant. It was a small laugh, but it completely captured his attention.

    “I mentioned going to the ‘Heaven Pharmacy,’ but it seems the kids misunderstood.”

    “Oh.”

    Ryubeom then remembered passing by a store named ‘Heaven Pharmacy’ on his way. He had taken it seriously, but it turned out to be something quite different. Feeling both baffled and embarrassed, Ryubeom opened and closed his mouth without saying anything. The man invited him in again, his attitude warm and welcoming. Ryubeom awkwardly stepped inside, finding such hospitality very unfamiliar.

    “Wow! You really came!”

    The three children rushed out from inside. Their enthusiasm was overwhelming, like hunters spotting prey, and Ryubeom hesitated, being careful not to accidentally hurt the young beast-children.

    The children had already been treated, each with a few bandages on their cheeks, which were likely applied by each other given their crooked placement. The bandages with puppy designs were quite cute.

    “Wow, what’s this? Snacks!”

    “And sausages, too!”

    Their eyes sparkled as they tore into the bag, each now holding snacks, bread, and sausages.

    “Say thank you first.”

    The children, who had been about to dig in, froze. At the man’s words, they hurriedly placed their hands on their bellies and bowed to Ryubeom in unison.

    “Thank you.”

    “Thank you for the food.”

    “Thank you for taking care of us….”

    Ryubeom thought he heard something strange in the middle, but he was too taken by their synchronized gesture to care. He smiled softly. The man then introduced the children’s names.

    “Seo Gumo, Seo Euno, Seo Dongo. They’re triplets.”

    As he said, the children looked identical, making it hard to distinguish them by face alone, but the colors of the small earrings they wore were different: gold, silver, and bronze. Noticing this, Ryubeom tried to smile kindly and bowed slightly.

    “Gumo is the eldest?”

    “Assuming Gumo is the eldest based on the order of gold, silver, and bronze is a misconception. I am the eldest.”

    Ryubeom was taken aback by Dongo’s comment. The child’s voice was quite solemn, making it clear that he was the one who had mentioned “daily bread” earlier.

    “Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to be biased….”

    “General knowledge isn’t necessarily a bias. Don’t tease our benefactor. You’re making him uncomfortable.”

    The man calmly reprimanded the child. Dongo bowed even deeper than before and apologized, “I’m sorry.” Whether he was truly obedient or just playing a prank, Ryubeom couldn’t tell, but he waved it off, saying it was okay.

    What concerned him more was the man’s face, which had turned cold.

    “What’s your name?” Ryubeom quickly asked to change the subject. Despite his awkward tone, the man’s face lit up with a smile as if the question made him genuinely happy.

    “Yeowhi. I don’t have a surname, so just call me Yeowhi.”

    Ah, it wasn’t Yeohi but Yeowhi. Ryubeom mentally corrected the name he had heard from the little fox and sighed softly. It suited him well. Especially the pronunciation of ‘whi,’ which sounded like a passing breeze, seemed to complement him perfectly.

    Even last night, Yeowhi had made a strong, beautiful impression at first sight, yet there was an elusive, almost ephemeral quality to him, like a mirage. Whether it was due to his otherworldly appearance or the unique aura that fox beast-people were said to possess, Ryubeom wasn’t sure.

    In fact, Ryubeom had very few experiences conversing with other beast-people, making this situation quite fascinating for him. Despite his family’s disdain for foxes, or perhaps because of it, his curiosity about the forbidden was powerful enough to bring him here.

    As Ryubeom watched the triplets enjoy their food with a contented expression, he looked around the house. However, the shabby house contained only minimal furniture, with hardly any belongings. The empty space left Ryubeom feeling somewhat unsettled.

    Do other beast-people live like this…?

    The tiger family, to which Ryubeom belonged, was known for its wealth among the beast-people. Although Ryubeom lived in an attic-like storage room, he was used to the grandeur of the main house. This sparse space surprised him.

    Worried that his feelings might show on his face, he tried to manage his expression. Sensing Ryubeom’s curiosity, Yeowhi lightly explained, his tone tinged with a faint smile.

    “Furniture and other belongings will be coming in soon. We just moved here.”

    “Oh, so you haven’t been here long.”

    “Yes. We moved because it’s almost time for the kids to start school.”

    “School… Are you related to them?”

    “Hmm. We’re from the same clan, so we’re like family, but the triplets’ parents passed away early on. So, I’m taking care of them.”

    Ryubeom nodded, his expression darkening slightly at Yeowhi’s explanation. He felt relieved once again that he hadn’t hunted them the previous night. Losing their parents and just about to start school—it made his stomach churn with guilt, and he clenched his fist tightly.

    While Ryubeom was lost in these thoughts, Yeowhi spoke with a hint of regret in his voice.

    “When I heard you were coming, I was so surprised. I wish we could have met in a better place.”

    Sensing Yeowhi’s genuine distress, Ryubeom shook his head. He was not only taken aback by Yeowhi’s continued humility but also found one particular title Yeowhi used quite unfamiliar.

    “You don’t need to call me ‘benefactor’…”

    “How else should I address you, if not as a benefactor?”

    “It wasn’t that big of a deal. My name is Cheon Ryubeom, so just call me Ryubeom…”

    “Then, Master Ryubeom?”

    Ryubeom’s shoulders shivered. For a moment, shock overcame awkwardness on his face. The term was outdated and felt distant to him. Although the tiger clan, to which Ryubeom belonged, tended to adhere strictly to tradition and often used such classical honorifics, it had never been directed at him personally.

    Ryubeom’s shoulders shivered again as he replied.

    “You can just call me by my name.”

    “How could I commit such a disrespectful act?”

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