Semantic Error - Chapter 1 Part 3
While Sangwoo praised Jihye for her hard work. He looked again at foods with unfamiliar names like Insalata di Agrumi Freschi, Vino Rosso, Fritto Italiano….
“Are you ready to order?”
I was burying my nose in the menu when I heard a gentle voice nearby.
Jihye spoke up first.
“I’ll have Spaghetti alle Vongole.”
Sangwoo made eye contact with a server just as he looked up to order the most expensive pasta dish on the menu. Jihye’s words were right about there being attractive servers here. Even in Sangwoo’s eyes, which are generally uninterested in other people’s appearance, this server was an especially attractive man.
Under well-groomed hair showed a thin face wearing a slight smile. He had large, single-lidded eyes and a straight, sharp nose. He was neatly dressed in a white shirt and black apron tied around his waist.
‘By the way, have I seen him somewhere?’
There was something familiar about the man’s face. He pursed his lips thinking he may have seen it on a billboard or something.
“Oppa, what are you doing?”
Sangwoo was brought back to his senses. He quickly ordered pasta with lobster. The server wrote down the order on a notepad and looked it over again.
“Do you need anything else?”
“Can I get a Korean college student discount?”
“Of course. You and I are alumni.”
While smiling, the server wrote something on the bill. Jihye took her student ID card out of her wallet and began to chat excitedly.
“I know I’ve seen you a few times while walking in front of the art school! I watched the salesman play last year too. Phew, I remember having a hard time getting tickets.”
The server took her student ID card, closely inspected it, and returned it.
“You study French literature. No wonder you looked uni-que.”
He looked straight at Sangwoo strangely. His gaze didn’t seem very favorable.
“Haha! I’m the one who’s majoring in French. He’s not. Sangwoo, what is your major?”
Sangwoo didn’t want to talk to strangers. Also, he thought it was quite unfair for a man to make a bad first impression.
“Can’t you just work? If you’ve received our order, please leave.”
‘The moment I uttered the word, there was a silence. Jihye looked like a person watching a horror movie, but the server’s smile became even more twisted without them knowing why.’
“You’re really predictable.”
He muttered and organized the bill and pen. Then, he said it would take about 20 minutes for the food to be served. When he left, Jihye looked at Sangwoo and asked, “Oppa, are you angry?”
Sangwoo answered truthfully, but Jihye didn’t seem to believe him.
“I didn’t really mean to offend you. I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings. I sometimes make mistakes.”
“I said no.”
Jihye looked down and nervously wrung her hands .
“Stop it. I just said I’m not.”
“So stop it.”
Annoyed, Sangwoo turned his head and unintentionally made eye contact with their server. He was just staring into space. Rather than avoid his eyes, the man stared at Sangwoo more closely while wiping wine glasses. Sangwoo had a staring contest with him for a while but was the first to look away.
“That person keeps staring at me.”
“No way……. Oh my God, he really is.”
“I think he has a grudge against me.”
“Ey, it can’t be.”
They spent 20 minutes making small talk. For example, Jihye asked Sangwoo very quietly if he could win if he fought their server. Sangwoo replied that he doesn’t like violence, that it’s best for him to take the first blow, and then report the incident to the police if a real fight occurred.
“Hahaha. Oppa, you’re so funny. I didn’t think you could be like that….”
“What do you mean?”
“I didn’t think you knew any jokes.”
“I wasn’t kidding.”
Jihye closed her mouth with a look of embarrassment.
They were waiting in silence when food appeared. The server, who carried two bowls in one arm, had a strange look on his face. He served Jihye, came around to Sangwoo, and put down the other bowl. Then, he whispered in a low voice that only Sangwoo could hear.
“I was just going to let this go, but now that I think about it, I’m really pissed.”
“What are you doing here, you fucker? You want to give it a try?”
Sangwoo looked up at the man with some surprise. His cold eyes were filled with hostility. It was hard to understand that he would be so angry over a word. Sangwoo concluded that he had the wrong person.
“Do you know me?”
Sangwoo’s answer made the man’s jaw drop. He had a puzzled look on his face for a while before he burst into sharp laughter. Soon after, he took out his glasses from his apron.
Recognition flashed through Sangwoo’s brain as their eyes met through the large lenses.
‘I met him in the library conference room, and he was wearing similar glasses. Come to think of it, I think he grew taller. Although the clothes were so different, there were no earrings and the atmosphere was very different, but the two seemed to be the same person.’
“Oh. Kim Youngjae.”
Sangwoo added, “Sunbae,” but the man already seemed to be upset. He bent down and whispered into Sangwoo’s ear.
“You, I told you we’d never run into each other again, right? I’m really upset.”
“I didn’t do it on purpose. For real.”
‘I got goosebumps from that voice.’
Sangwoo shuddered and pulled the chair back a little, because those eyes without double eyelids were so very close to him.
“Sangwoo, I told you to call me ‘hyung’.”
“I only know ‘Unnie’.”
[T/N: ‘unnie’ = how they address older females]
‘I gave a short response, but my voice cracked.’
“You really can’t do this. Is there anything you don’t like?”
Sangwoo answered honestly, but his opponent didn’t even blink an eye.
“What color do you hate?”
The color of error, red. Sangwoo generally was ambivalent toward colors, but he had never thought of red.
“What animal do you hate?”
Are there animals as flawed as people?
“What food do you dislike?”
Sangwoo was not picky about food, but at this moment, he hated everything related to that man.
“Within a ten-meter radius of you.”
‘So please get out of the way.’
After these questions and answers, the man whispered in a low voice and wore a stiff smile.
“I thought you weren’t normal, so I tried to move on, but I changed my mind. Look forward to next semester.”
“Oh, yes, you can even hire a gangster. I’ll leave it at 112.”
[t/n: 112 is their emergency hotline]
“You lack imagination.”
When Sangwoo remembered what to say, the server’s back was receding into the distance.
“Oppa, are you very close to that guy?”
Jihye spoke in a clear manner. She had already eaten half her pasta.
“No, not at all.”
“Well. That Hyung is named Jaeyoung, not Youngjae.”
Sangwoo pushed his fork around his plate, but he didn’t have an appetite.
“Do you know that famous theater guy? My friend watched his performance and attended design classes with him, so I know a little about him. When he was 20, he signed on as an actor for JS Entertainment.”
“Talk about something else.”
This time, Jihye, who had been talking nonstop about random subjects, became sullen and was at a loss for words. Sangwoo consumed his anxiety by putting pasta in his mouth that felt worse than 3,000 won worth of scholarship money.
‘What does it mean to ‘change your mind’? I could care less. I don’t want to get involved with that bully again.’
The new semester arrived quickly while Sangwoo studied during the week and worked part time on the weekends. In his free time, he prepared for the new semester and read textbooks in advance. With the exception of the two required liberal arts classes for engineering students taken for the sake of understanding the humanities, nothing seemed complicated.
‘So far, I have taken over 20 credits per semester, but this semester, I’ve allocated time for working on the app-based game. The plan had gone awry after an issue with the designer, because no suitable replacement had been found. The application period, however, was already long over, and I did not want to modify my perfectly-planned timetable.’
On Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, Sangwoo ate lunch right after class and his schedule was planned to achieve perfect harmony.
Monday: (1) Intermediate Chinese (2) Engineering Mathematics 2
Tuesday: (1) Embedded Systems (2) Algorithms
Wednesday: (1) Popular Culture and Cultural Theory
Thursday: Same as Monday
Friday: Same as Tuesday
The new semester has started.
As usual, Sangwoo got up at 8:30, exercised briefly, and ate cereal with milk after taking a shower. He then brushed his teeth and put on clothes in a specific order. On this day, he was scheduled to wear a black T-shirt and trousers made of black cotton.
He wore a belt around his waist, combed his fingers through his hair, and wore a black baseball cap. He wore a padded black jacket and a scarf around his neck. With a backpack on his shoulder, he left his room and rode a bicycle. As usual, the electronic clock read 9:16am.
‘I entered the main gates at 9:24am. It was a pleasant start. I used to feel bad if I was one or two minutes late due to traffic conditions, but that rarely happened.’
He locked up his bicycle in a storage room and went to the College of Humanities. He counted steps as he entered the building. Climbing one step took 0.9 seconds with 64 steps in all. At the end of every 16 steps, was a short hallway. It took 61 seconds to reach the fourth-floor Chinese language classroom.
He opened the door to Room 403 30 minutes before class started. There was a student who typically arrived early and took the front seat. As usual, Sangwoo went to the fourth row.
But there was a bag on the right-hand desk today. Sangwoo blinked at this unbelievable sight. For six semesters, he had never been displaced from this spot. It was hard to even consider sitting in a different place this time.
The fourth row was the rightmost one. There was no need to crane your neck to look up at the podium. Visual aids and other materials could be seen at a glance, but letters could not be made out. Air flow from the heater and air conditioner were poorly regulated and did not come into contact with skin. There were no windows. In addition, there was a wall on one side, giving an overwhelming sense of safety and security compared to other places in the classroom.
‘Who the hell is that?’
Sangwoo was a little annoyed, but there was no seat reservation system in the classroom as in the library, so anyone could freely choose seats. Although he was forced to sit on the left, Sangwoo continued to ruminate over the seat. He opened a Chinese textbook, but he couldn’t concentrate at all.
‘I’ll politely ask if I can change seats.’
He felt a little relieved when he made up his mind. Sangwoo didn’t want to feel strange about sitting in the wrong seat.
Students came in one by one and sat down as the class time neared.
A young-looking boy bowed to him, but Sangwoo pretended not to recognize him. I’ve never seen him before.
“Oh! I see you here again?”
This time, a female student greeted him, but Sangwoo didn’t know who she was.
Students continued to enter the classroom, but the owner of the bag still did not show up. It was a leather messenger bag that could be worn sideways because of its long strap. Sangwoo wanted to put it away and move to the side, but he tried to hold in this impulse. Putting a bag in a particular place was an implicit rule that meant staking a claim to a seat.
Three minutes before 10 o’clock, the professor came in and distributed handouts. She said a few words of greeting and inquired about a particular student.
“Is our student assistant here yet?”
Students were enthusiastic about being a teaching assistant in liberal arts subjects. Volunteering as a teaching assistant also gave them an opportunity to get close to the professor, so they usually got extra credit. However, many students were reluctant to take on this job, because they had to perform extra tasks. The students looked around curiously. The student who had just entered through the back door raised his hand.
“Jaeyoung! Long time no see. Why intermediate Chinese all of a sudden?”
“I need a few credits. Language gets rusty if you don’t practice it.”
“That’s right. That’s a good attitude. Everyone, Jaeyoung is a student that will help us for a semester. Jaeyoung used to live in Hong Kong, so if you don’t know something, ask him questions. From now on, you can hand in assignments to him.”
Sangwoo, who was looking over the handout, was surprised but thought it was a different person with the same name, because it’s a common name.
At that time, he heard someone flop down by the seat with the leather messenger bag. Even if he didn’t want to look at him, his head turned involuntarily.
The red fur hat and the red padded jacket stood out too much as well. When he took off his jacket, a red jersey was revealed beneath it. He was holding a can of red Coke.
‘It is a relief that he doesn’t wear red pants at least?’
Sangwoo opened his mouth, but this situation was so absurd that he couldn’t say anything.
“I didn’t know you were attending this class too.”
Jang Jaeyoung took a sip of Coke and wore a self-satisfied look on his face.
‘Who’s the crazy one now?’
Even though class had started, Sangwoo wasn’t able to close his mouth.
***Centinni is translating this novel.***
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