“You seem familiar with this.”

A voice suddenly registered in Noh Su-Bong's hearing.
A voice that was low, heavy, and…
something he had heard earlier in the day.

So, he hadn't been hallucinating, then.
And this voice should belong to the one Kim Hak-Cheol had mentioned in his crazed rambling.

Noh Su-Bong's body began trembling all on its own.
Was it because of terror? Horror, maybe? No, it was neither of those.

Noh Su-Bong knew.
He definitely knew, even if Kim Hak-Cheol had no idea.
Kim Hak-Cheol couldn't have known since he had never enjoyed a chance to stand in that position, but Noh Su-Bong was different.

“Huff, huff!” Noh Su-Bong's breathing became sharper, harsher.

The voice rang in his hearing again.
“Am I wrong?”

Noh Su-Bong's trembling worsened at that question.

This voice, it…
Noh Su-Bong was now certain that he had heard of it several times before.
The voice contained a hint of languor and even some playfulness.
And it was undoubtedly the mocking voice of a predator holding a toy he could play with as much as he wanted!

Noh Su-Bong should know since he had also spoken in such a voice not too long ago…
right inside this boiler room after forcing Ju Yeong-Gi to kneel before him!

'…Does that mean I'm the prey now?'

Like a rat before a cat? An insect wiggling inside a child's grip?

Noh Su-Bong's eyes powerfully quaked.
He couldn't let that happen.
Not once during his life did he become prey.
His defiant streak instinctively reared its head, his expression hardening in determination.


Along with an unnatural sound, a large shadowy figure materialized in Noh Su-Bong's view.
Finally, he understood why Kim Hak-Cheol kept calling this 'person' a shadow.
How could he not? This bizarre thing seemed to be constructed solely by lumping black fog together.

“Ah, ah…
Huh?” Noh Su-Bong gasped in surprise.

'I can…

His lips trembled.
His entire body was paralyzed, not even budging an inch, yet his mouth was free to move.
Such a thing was logically impossible, but it seemed that logic had abandoned this place a long time ago, anyway.
He briefly fell asleep only to wake up in this place, so looking for logic now would be a fool's errand.

In any case, he realized he had to say something.
Since his mouth was free, it could mean the shadowy bastard before his eyes were telling him to say his piece.

“Y-you, you're the one Kim Hak-Cheol has been talking about, am I right?”

The shadow's head slowly tilted to one side.
So many things were conveyed in that simple movement.
One of those things Noh Su-Bong felt without a doubt was a sneer.

“What if I'm not?” the shadow replied, his voice filled with hints of laughter.

What a stupid question that was.
Even Noh Su-Bong himself knew it.
If it wasn't this shadow, who else could it be? Noh Su-Bong wouldn't have spouted a stupid question like that in 'normal' circumstances.

Even though he was acting all calm and calculating, Noh Su-Bong's mouth had still unleashed a dumb-sounding question as if to declare to the whole world that his mind had already been pushed to its limits.

However, a venomous drive quickly filled Noh Su-Bong's mind.

I admit I'm scared!'

But, so what? Who wouldn't be scared by this situation? No matter how gutsy one was, they would still wet their pants after finding themselves stuck in the same crisis as Noh Su-Bong.

If something was scary, one had to be honest with themselves and admit that they were scared.

Noh Su-Bong's expression softened a tad.
He sucked in several deep breaths to calm his pounding heart before raising his voice.
“What's your reason for doing this?”

“My reason?”

“That's right! You must have a reason for doing this crap!” Noh Su-Bong yelled in anger.
“W-what is that you want?! Money? I can give you plenty of money! If you want something else, I can also make it happen!”

The shadow wordlessly stared at Noh Su-Bong.

“I'm asking you! What the hell do you want?!” Noh Su-Bong's yell sounded almost fitful and explosive.

The shadow finally broke his silence.
“What did you want?”

Noh Su-Bong's eyes began quaking from that question.
What was that even supposed to mean? Just before he could ask back, though, a thought quickly brushed past his mind.

'Ju Yeong-Gi?'

Wasn't it obvious now that he thought about it some more? This whole crisis began right after Ju Yeong-Gi had tried to kill himself.
Everything in this world operated under the rule of causality, after all.
Finally, it had become crystal clear why this shadow targeted Kim Hak-Cheol and Noh Su-Bong.

Noh Su-Bong's gears quickly began to grind away.
It was difficult to deal with an opponent who had no goal.
However, the exact opposite was also true.

“L-Let's make a deal, you and I!”

The shadow tilted his head.
“A deal, is it?”

Noh Su-Bong urgently nodded.
This bizarre creature was capable of turning Kim Hak-Cheol into an invalid in one week.
Obviously, Noh Su-Bong wasn’t the same as Kim Hak-Cheol, but that didn't mean he would like to experience what his underling had experienced.
“Yes, a deal!”

“Speak, then.”

Noh Su-Bong sucked in a deep breath.
“Y-you're doing this because of Ju Yeong-Gi, right? I honestly didn't anticipate that things would end this way.
And I accept that I hold ethical responsibility in this situation.
That is why I promise to financially provide for Ju Yeong-Gi's medical fees and his family members!” He stopped there to suck in another deep breath before desperately pleading his case.
“That's why, let me go.
I swear to you, I will do everything in my power if you back away now.
Not just for Ju Yeong-Gi, but for you, too, as long as you want something! I can really make it happen.
I hold enough power for that.

Noh Su-Bong's expression hardened, and he glared.

“If you wish to drag this till the end, you better give up on any thoughts of getting away scot-free.
Do you really think you'll be fine after harming even a hair on me? If you know who I am, you can never touch me.
Not only you but even your family will be sent to hell with you! You better engrave my warning to your soul and wise up!”

Noh Su-Bong's voice became more and more manic toward the end.
However, his eyes remained resolute and unshakeable as he glared at the shadow.

Noh Su-Bong cunningly threw in appeasement and threat in equal measure.
With this, most people would have no choice but to accept his proposal.

Unfortunately, Noh Su-Bong didn't know—he had no idea who he was dealing with.


Low, creepy laughter leaked out of the shadow.
And when that mind-numbing cackle entered Noh Su-Bong's brain, his face turned deathly white in the blink of an eye.

“Have you ever seen hell before?” The shadow creepily grinned as his hand slowly reached out toward Noh Su-Bong's face.

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