Semantic Error - Chapter 1 Part 2
Sangwoo was the only one who would deliberately use public power. He knew precisely what he had to report to the police in these circumstances.
‘I picked up my smartphone and read the post again. Although I don’t know what they were asking me to do, it was a direct threat.’
He was not afraid since there was no way his adversary could hurt him. Sangwoo was a dedicated student who didn’t participate in any other school activities and only took classes. At school, no one but the professor could harm him.
Three days passed. Sangwoo thought the conflict had ended, but it was a foolish illusion. It was a matter of being vigilant, of course. How long could he avoid students from the same school working at a nearby PC-room?
Sangwoo was stacking a shelf with snacks, when a group of people opened the door and stormed in. The tallest man among them slowed down when he saw Sangwoo.
“What do you mean we’re dating? We just had a meal together….”
If their eyes hadn’t met in such a powerful way, he might not have recognized him.
They looked at each other as if time had stopped. Behind the large glasses, his emotionless eyes widened in surprise and narrowed, as if everything around them had disappeared and only they were present.
‘For a moment, various thoughts passed through my mind, including ‘I’m doomed,’ ‘I’m annoyed,’ and ‘I want to run away’.’
Although Sangwoo had no reason to feel anxious, he nervously dropped the snacks.
He was preparing for a fight, but Jang Jaeyoung handed over his card pretending not to know Sangwoo. Afterwards, all five people went into the smoking room. Sangwoo sat down at the counter again. He returned to his textbooks and notes, but he was unable to focus.
‘When I raised my head, I could see Jaeyoung’s head behind the monitor.’
Sangwoo’s eyes were directed at the websites where Jaeyoung was playing games. Jaeyoung had created a website of game details and was accessing RPG games online. While playing games, Sangwoo would only occasionally glance at his textbook, seldom turning a page. He played two rounds of an FPS game and then an MMORPG.
‘Will this matter be forgotten?’
‘He had threatened me by text, so I thought when I met him he would be violent. However, his calm exterior suggested he was burying the hatchet.’
Sangwoo thought there was no better ending than that. But he also hoped the dispute was just an illusion.
[t/n: that he thought none of it ever happened]
Customer order #32: Spicy Fire Ramen
‘I knew it.’
Sangwoo got up with a sigh and made ramen. As per the recipe, 450ml of water was measured, and added to the pot. It seemed to take longer than average to boil. Sangwoo remembered how he had settled disputes in the past by only adding half the package of noodles to the soup. When this had happened, his enraged rivals hurled abuse at him with some shaking their fists. Sangwoo had been calm, disregarded their complaints, and reported them to the police. This had been just one step away from responding to violence with violence. He was going to do that again.
The smoking room was thick with cigarette smoke. Sangwoo stood in front of the thirty-second seat with a tray of ramen bowls. The man leaning back against the chair was smoking. When he put down the tray, the man turned his chair and stared up at Sangwoo. Today, he was wearing a red sweatshirt with a disturbing pattern that could induce a nervous breakdown. He really looked like a bully.
‘I really hate him.’
As soon as Sangwoo tried to turn his back, he said, “I didn’t know my great Hoobae worked here.”
[t/n: Hoobae is a junior in Korea]
Jang Jaeyoung slightly furrowed his brows and stubbed out his cigarette in an ashtray.
Sangwoo rolled his eyes.
“Why are you ignoring my calls? It puts me in a bad mood.”
Sangwoo didn’t know how to respond. No matter how severely and violently someone threatened him, he was able to confidently confront them. However, no one had ever fought with him in such a calm way.
“Sangwoo, why won’t you answer?”
Jaeyoung’s voice was too soft for a quarrel. Sangwoo decided to lower himself and hold back until Jaeyoung showed his true colors.
“You need to make eye contact when you talk.”
It was not a difficult request. When Sangwoo looked up at him, this time Jaeyoung avoided eye contact. He took out another cigarette, lit it up, and for a while, just puffed out smoke without saying a word. Then, he looked into Sangwoo’s eyes and extended his right hand.
“We need to make a game together, so why don’t we make up first?”
‘The large hand that stretched out toward me seemed insincere.’
Sangwoo felt suspicious.
“How can we reconcile when we’ve never fought? And I don’t want to work with you.”
Jaeyoung smiled and held his hand out in vain.
“Why was it that I even bothered to ask you to meet?”
“I have no idea. I can’t imagine why.”
“Meeting me won’t change your grades.”
Jaeyoung folded his arms and looked at him with a twisted smile.
“What are your grades? It’s been a while since the grading period ended.”
“Then why are you still holding me up and bothering me?”
“What do you mean bothering you? I was just trying to talk to you, because Sooyoung introduced me to you since this project was on the line. I’ve been trying to listen to your explanations, to solve any misunderstandings, and move on.”
“I don’t want to talk to you about anything.”
“Then you should have replied like that.”
Sangwoo noticed his opponent’s harshening tone.
“Hm? Sangwoo, where the fuck did you sell your manners?”
Sangwoo was amazed by Jaeyoung’s ability to curse while speaking calmly. He was fiddling with his cell phone, ready to report any signs of violence to the police. However, he found that Jaeyoung’s tactics were not serious enough to warrant taking this action. He was at a loss about how to respond.
“It’s hard to believe that I was only going to tell you the real reason. You think I’m the reason you couldn’t graduate, and you’re vindictive.”
He felt that if he apologized right now, he might be able to just let it go, but Sangwoo acted according to the rules. He had already entered the ‘hostile’ zone.
“I don’t even know why all of this is my fault.”
‘When I was in middle school, I talked back to my teacher and got slapped on the cheek. This teacher was reprimanded and advised to control their behavior in the future, but nevertheless, they spoke harshly to me. However, I replied nonchalantly to show that I didn’t take offense to those words.’
“If you hadn’t said anything stupid to the professor, I could have graduated, right? It was decided that I had to study abroad, but because of you, it was cancelled. Just for two fucking credits.”
“It’s not my fault.”
“Don’t pretend to get chummy with me. If I could attend the class in everyone’s place, I would be a fool to take it. Do you think I’m a pushover who’s going to allow a bully to get a grade without doing any work?”
Jaeyoung showed no sign of surprise at Sangwoo’s counterargument.
“So that’s how you did it. I thought so too.”
“May I go now, Sunbae-nim?”
“No, I still have something to say.”
He dragged deeply on the cigarette and puffed out smoke.
“Don’t try me. Even if you’re a pastor or a cop, don’t preach to me, you fucker.”
“Okay. Please live like garbage in the future and don’t contact me again.”
“Oh, fuck. That’s amazing.”
Jaeyoung stubbed out his cigarette in the ashtray and looked coldy into Sangwoo’s eyes.
“Should I get on my knees and apologize? Should I ask the professor to just give me the two credits instead? You should at least pretend to be embarrassed if you wanted to move on. I’m doing this so you will stop delaying my graduation.”
Jaeyoung seemed angry, but Sangwoo couldn’t make sense of his words.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, so if you want anything, ask for it directly.”
Sangwoo didn’t mean to do that, but Jaeyoung looked attacked. Sangwoo opened his mouth a few times as if he were embarrassed and repeatedly closed it, folded his arms, leaned back, and unleashed a barrage of complaints.
“Just tell me you’re sorry. You missed a good opportunity to study abroad.”
It was not difficult to do, but although Sangwoo confidently opened his mouth, he couldn’t speak.
“It’s not because of me that you didn’t graduate. You made two mistakes. You didn’t have enough attendance days and assignment scores. Also, I’m not sorry.”
‘If you apply the feedback, you will be ‘missing a good opportunity to study abroad.’ I don’t think it’s okay to say it because it’s actually technology, but I heard a sarcastic sound.’
“You’re a total nut.”
Sangwoo was not affected at all, because he heard this a lot. Jaeyoung turned the chair back to the monitor, picked up his chopsticks, and stirred the bowl.
“It’s all cold now. Fuck.”
He held out a tray of ramen to Sangwoo again.
Sangwoo took the tray without a word. When he was leaving, Jaeyoung called him.
“Let’s not see each other again.”
‘I’m glad to hear that.’
Sangwoo seemed to have unintentionally defeated the enemy. He waved his hands indifferently.
“I’m done at 10 o’clock, so make sure to come after me.”
‘What? The human horse-mouthed punk.’
Sangwoo left the smoking room, cursing inwardly.
‘Everyday life went the same way after settling that serious dispute. Even though I was on a school break, I managed to study every day at the library. One serious problem was that the designer role was again vacant for the “Yachae man” project. On the school intranet, I made another post seeking a graphic designer for an action game, but no one contacted me. I intentionally allocated free time on next semester’s schedule specifically for making games, so if I cannot find a designer all that time will be left unoccupied.’
There was no problem other than that. That day, Sangwoo was on his way to a restaurant after studying as much as he wanted to. Walking aimlessly, he saw a box walking in front of him.
A student was struggling to carry a small box on top of a large box, but Sangwoo could not see ahead, because this person was blocking his view.
‘Considering her stride, I could predict that her feet would soon meet her chin.’
Soon, there was a shout.
The girl reached out and ran to catch the falling boxes. However, they fell causing all the contents to scatter all over the road. Textbooks, snack boxes, and rolls of tape rolled down the ramp. Unfortunately for the student, Sangwoo was on his way to a restaurant and was about to pass by.
She called out to Sangwoo at that moment. Sangwoo stopped.
“I’m really sorry, but could you help me? I’m so tired that I’m going to die. I’ll buy you a meal if you help me.”
“Where are we going?”
“The locker on the third floor of the library.”
The 3000 won meal he would get in exchange for carrying a box for only seven minutes significantly exceeded the minimum wage. After Sangwoo said yes, he picked up the fallen objects and placed them inside the box. The student looked surprised when he held the big box with both hands.
“It’s heavy isn’t it? I’ll hold the small one.”
“Yes, it’s very heavy. What’s inside this?”
“Books and this and that….”
The box was really heavy. Sangwoo rested twice in the middle of the trip and took off his coat, because he was sweating. The seven-minute distance increased to 15 minutes, and after reaching the third floor, he was exhausted. It used up too much energy for a meal. Sangwoo was regretting his foolish decision.
“Oppa, I’m alive thanks to you. Thank you very much.”
During those 15 minutes, Ryu Jihye learned about Sangwoo’s school record and department. Before he knew it, he went from being addressed with an “excuse me” to being called “Oppa.” As she came out of the library, she asked, “Is there anything you want to eat?”
“Give me a meal ticket.”
“Hey, what kind of scholar are you?”
Sangwoo had a forbidding demeanor, so people found it difficult to talk to him. However, Jihye was fearless unlike other juniors.
“I’m so thankful that I should buy you something really delicious. Just follow me.”
“You have agreed, so let’s go.”
They started walking. Jihye said that it only took 10 minutes to walk to the restaurant, but it took longer than that. Sangwoo was unhappy about this, but he followed her politely, because he had already handed her the menu.
“It’s a pasta restaurant, and the food is really delicious. All the pasta is good and the pizza is so thin, so the food is really well-portioned. Last time, I had penne pasta, but I almost ate the whole plate. Besides, there’s a 10 percent student discount. All the part-time servers and brothers are so pretty and handsome….”
Jihye was a talkative person, so Sangwoo didn’t need to reply. They left school and passed through a bar filled with students. Jihye walked unhurriedly into a relatively quiet alley and pointed to the second floor. The restaurant gave a strong impression of being upscale.
A bell chimed as they opened the building’s main door. They then climbed up the stairs and opened a larger door leading to the spacious restaurant. The low lighting created a warm atmosphere. They were seated after inquiries about the status of their reservation and the number of people in their party.
“I’m sure we’re picking a part-timer as our server. It’s no joke, really.”
Jihye looked around and spoke at random. As soon as Sangwoo sat down, he looked through the menu and analyzed the items. The lowest price of a single item was 14,000 won, the highest was 23,500 won, and the average price was 17,400 won. These prices were indisputably high considering the low cost of flour, the main ingredient of these dishes. It wasn’t worth the price of a carry-on.
“Are you okay with these prices?”
“I feel like spending lavishly like this sometimes. At the end of the month, I can simply starve and save!”
‘It wasn’t a convincing answer, but I didn’t have to worry about other people’s pockets.’
***Centinni is translating this novel.***
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