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Ground Zero Gods

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The jet hits some sort of turbulence, just as the man opposite him gets back into his seat. Pulling his seatbelt across him with shaking hands he utters something along the lines of the ‘airplane food not settling well with him’, but Taehyung knows he’s just a pissbaby—the food on the plane is gourmet and made to perfection, there’s no way it’s made him sick.

He’d say it’s ironic for a cop to be such a pissbaby, but someone of his ranking never puts themselves in any actual danger—they just get people like Taehyung to do it for them.

He doesn’t bother greeting the man, just continues to trace the edge of the golden badge sewn to some black leather with his fingertip as it sits listlessly on the table in front of him; something ambivalent rises in his chest.

‘Los Angeles Police Department’ it boasts proudly at its point, though Taehyung feels neither honoured nor shameful of it; but it does make him wonder what it’s so prideful of, as if the work he’s been assigned isn’t just stooping to the level of the criminals they hate and calling it ‘blending in.’

Besides the badge, in the plastic wallet is a card with his name and position plainly typed up on it and a photo of him on the far right that looks, if he does say so himself, rather good for what it is.

His newly-established colleagues had complimented him on looking handsome somehow in the one-time, quick-take photo and Taehyung had found that funny, remembering how he’d been told something similar by the men whom he’d shared a jail cell with a few weeks previous.

Of course, that was back when he was getting taken for mugshots, not authentication photos.   

The last few weeks have been fucking crazy, to put it lightly. Taehyung feels as if he’s walking into something he shouldn’t. Some sort of trap or ambush that all his years growing up in the limbo of making trouble and keeping under the radar doing it has taught him to be hyper-aware of. To not trust police and stay clear of gangs.

And, yet, here he is, making a cosy little room for himself in the lion’s den: putting his life into both of their hands.

He already knows the gangsters in Hong Kong thrive off deceit… but the man opposite him–this Andrew Zhao—is no different, from what he’s gathered.

Probably worse than half of the gangs, really.

“Mr. Kim, are you listening?”

Taehyung finally lets his focus drift up to him, gazing through the fading silver hair splayed across his forehead with unhidden contempt.

The man doesn’t ask for more confirmation, just reaches for his briefcase beside his chair and slides it onto the large table separating them.

They hired a private jet for the trip, thankfully, since sixteen hours on a cramped plane with crabby adults and their sticky-fingered screaming children would’ve made him want to jump out. Though, the actual reason behind it is so Taehyung could spend the next sixteen—wait, fifteen and a half—hours learning all the information about his new life in Hong Kong.

As if it even matters. What more does he need than a couple of names and faces, and a location or two?

His fake background isn’t even too different, they’d said. Taehyung hadn’t been a cop for more than a month, tops, so there was no need to build him a completely new identity to prevent anyone from finding out his intentions, since no files have been actually made on his career. Hell, he doesn’t have a career. It’s just a temporary title so they could train him with less paperwork and give him a nice shiny badge to make him feel special. They’ll probably throw him back in jail as soon as he does what they ask.

The fact that he’d already lived in Hong Kong and been steeped in the crime industry as a kid helps with the mission too. He doesn’t have to be taught much—most of what he’ll need to know, he’ll learn as he goes—so, this shouldn’t be all that much to take in, they assured him back in the station.

Unbeknownst to them, Taehyung remembers very, very little of his life in Hong Kong. He thinks he might’ve suppressed it subconsciously, to be entirely honest.

Zhao unclips the briefcase and opens it up enough to slip out some ugly yellowing files, dog-eared and worn, before slipping the case back beside his chair. He pushes the files to the middle of the table, telling him, “We just need to go over the intricacies of the case. The things they won’t expect you to know, but what you should in order to gain a better insight from the very start.”

Taehyung understands. They told him this back in Los Angeles too, like he’s some sort of fucking idiot. And in some sense, he probably is since he was dumb enough to not only get caught, but to then agree to this bullshit instead of just taking the jail time.

Ten years isn’t that much.

“First of all,” Zhao begins, leaning his bony elbows on the table between them, sleeves of his pale blue shirt rolled up and black tie loosened around his neck like the cop in an 80’s crime film, “you speak some Chinese, yes?”

Emphasis on the ‘some.’

He was born in Hong Kong, sure, but his family’s Korean-American. He knows English, enough Korean to get by, and decent Chinese for the rare time he used it while living there. Growing up, most of his friends spoke English in school and he learnt some Mandarin because of how popular it’d become with trading and business (i.e. it was more useful for the gangs) and some Cantonese just from living there. When he started running around with the kids from the streets instead, they mainly spoke Korean because of where they were from.

Not country – most of them were born in Hong Kong, too – but the gang they belonged to. Or, more accurately, wanted to belong to someday.

Hua She: Hong Kong’s longest-running Korean-owned gang. They speak English mainly, and they’re not a Korean mafia, per se, but they may as well be considering the majority of the members are all at least partly Korean, as far as Taehyung knows.

“I speak enough,” Taehyung confirms, eyes snapping to where the man’s finger is sliding towards the fading, type-written title of ‘Huā Shé (花蛇)’ with the tones and characters scribbled on in bleeding black marker.

“Then, this?” He asks inquisitively, finger smearing the ink even more as he taps the words. “You know translates to-,”

“-Flower snake,” Taehyung answers, peeling his eyes from the file to meet the man’s stare, “I don’t need Mandarin to know that. I’ve seen the markings.”

Thousands and thousands of them on men and women he used to pass casually in the street. A loyalty label, of sorts. Tradition in many, many gangs of the world… but it’s different from most of them in this one. You start with a small piece. Something small, but in an obvious enough place that anyone can immediately identify who you are. Or, more accurately, who you belong to.

The neck, the wrist, fingers... face – if you’re unfortunate enough.

They call them ‘bitch tags’ and while the thought used to amuse Taehyung as a juvenile, insufferable child, his stomach feels tight with disdain when he realises that he’ll likely be expected to get one, too.

But then, there are the other ones; once you earn your place, you’re rewarded with a full-scale work.

Typically, most people will go for a piece on wherever is most suited to their position in the gang.

So, extortionists, brawns, and general tough guys get sleeves that stretch from their hands to their shoulders. Drug runners, street racers, and bodyguards get their legs covered. The favourite personal whores, the most profitable prostitutes, and the experienced dancers get their ass, back, or thighs inked. There’s an unwritten system.

But, of course, not everyone follows it, just like not everyone gets the standard design of a single snake coiling around a white rose. Taehyung’s heard rumours of the people at the top of the gang in particular going entirely original in their tattoos. He’s never seen any of them up close to know – bar one terrifying encounter with the infamous Min Yoonsung when he was eleven –  but it did used to make him wonder.

Now, that he has the potential to find out, however, he finds himself struggling to give a shit.

Zhao mutters something along the lines of a ‘very good’ (his ego can’t take being dismissed) and he actually opens the file at last. The first page is covered with printed out photos, wonkily pinned via paper-clips, so they shuffle when he flips it open. Taehyung lets his eyes run over the images.

He vaguely wonders how long this case against the gang has been running, loosely scanning the fuzzy black and white photos of men in vague formal wear in the distance, zoomed, most likely, as they’re coming in and out of vehicles, accompanied by others with no sleeves yet arms still covered – just with tattoos. Underneath each picture is a scribbled time and location, and, sure enough, the dates recall as early as the fifties.

Taehyung gets bored enough by the third page of this to stop the man’s hand when he goes to flip onto the next one, snapping, “Okay, Zhao, I get it – cut the crap, what’s my goal, here?”

Zhao, once again, looks unimpressed, but complies because that’s what he’s getting paid for. Taehyung can’t blame him, he supposes. With a deep, groaning sigh, he turns a few more pages, before halting, keeping his index finger between two as to not lose his place while he looks up to the young man before him.

“You know Jeon Jungkeun,” he says, and it’s not at all a question, but a sure statement. Everyone’s heard of him, no matter if you’ve been in Hong Kong for your whole life, or two hours. He’s a huge beast of a man, with an unshakeably cold expression, that has his claws dug into every single part of the city you could imagine.

Everybody knows it; everybody just pretends it isn’t the case.

The Jeon family are the founders of Hua She, making the eldest Jeon the boss – and anyone with that much power and influence is bound to want to get involved in the world that has been unofficially pronounced theirs.

“What about him?” He asks, eyeing where the man’s finger is keeping place with menial intrigue.

Zhao seems to perk up slightly when he doesn’t seem to know what he’s going to say, the smartass bastard, and far, far too joyously for the words, tells him “He had a heart attack last month. Died in his hospital room a few hours later.”

Taehyung’s face drops, mouth slacking open and eyes wide and alert.

While he obviously doesn’t feel remorse for him, he certainly wasn’t expecting the revelation either.

The death of a family member is hard enough to take. The death of a leader is hard enough to take.

The death of both?

Grief, turmoil, chaos, a lack of direction… all of it so suddenly. Taehyung can only imagine what sort of state the gang is in right now. And he supposes that’s the perfect time for him to go in.

Taehyung isn’t particularly surprised he hasn’t heard the news. He supposes they’ve probably tried to keep it secret until they work out how the gang should function now. If their rivals found out they’re weakened, they’d have the perfect opportunity to strike.

It’s a shame the information got leaked to one of them anyway.

“And? Who’s in charge now?” He asks, because Taehyung can’t exactly recall any second-in-line or heirs ever mentioned surrounding the gang. Zhao doesn’t actually give him an answer immediately, just a knowing tug of his lips, and a flick to the page, so it falls open flat on the next one. A double-spread absolutely teeming with pictures and annotation and writings.

There’s a boy on there. Chubby-cheeked with round eyes so full of youth that it’s clear even through the grainy photographs. There’s one HQ shot of him as a child – though, it looks more like a school photo: as if it was taken professionally, and then obtained somehow – and it sits dead in the middle of one page, surrounded by scrawls and arrows and words in everything from English to Chinese to Korean talking about his estimated height, where he’d been, who he’d been with, what they’d been doing. Pieces of dialogue and words heard. Important items and vehicles spotted.

At the very top of the page is a sticky note saying, ‘little prince’ in quotation marks, an explanation scribbled beside it to note that this is what they hear everyone address the child as. Somehow, Taehyung doubts he still lets anyone call him that— but it’s kind of cute anyway.

He guesses Jeon really did have an heir, judging by the annotations claiming so around the pages. He must’ve kept him pretty well hidden if Taehyung had no idea.

Then, as Zhao turns the page again, there’s shots of the same boy, now getting older rapidly in each picture – like his appearances became less and less through the years. Perhaps Jeon realised that flaunting his child wasn’t the smartest idea in terms of the security of his gang—which figures why people like Taehyung don’t know about him then.

Taehyung watches silently as the cheeks on the boy lose their chubbiness, as he grows into his huge teeth and wide eyes and round nose—and, by the last few pictures of blurry coloured shots, he looks like he’s grown into quite the young man. Attractive, confident even in how he simply holds himself— but the thing that truly strikes Taehyung is that gruelling coldness in his demeanour, the kind that morbidly twinkles in his eyes where all that youth once was.

This…” Zhao says, dramatically leaning back with his hands clasped (Taehyung finds himself scowling at it; he doesn’t really care for theatrics), “Is Jeon Jeongguk. Only child of Jeon Jungkeun, aged nineteen as of last month, the new leader of Hua She–,” he takes a short pause to meet Taehyung’s eyes “–and your main target.”

Taehyung averts his gaze to the last picture on the page, one where the boy’s not quite looking at the camera, rather past it, with this pensive air of wonder gracing his features. He looks… almost innocent in it somehow, but, with what Zhao just told him, Taehyung knows he’s far from the truth with that.

Jeon Jeongguk is likely every bit the slimy fuck his father was. And that his father before him was. And so on, and so forth because the Jeons, and Hua She as a whole, have a long, long history of being despicable bastards. Taehyung may be a criminal himself, but there’s a special place in hell for people like the Jeons.

“Okay, I know the leader,” he tells him, wanting to hurry up and get this all over with, with the intention of hopefully sleeping off the rest of the flight without Zhao’s presence, “That’s not a whole lot to go on, Zhao – give me more.”

The man grumbles under his breath–probably muttering something about his criminal record as he seems to like criticising it enough–and flips on another few pages before stopping again at a page littered in maps and location shots and some kind of makeshift blueprint.

“There’s a few distinct locations and areas you’ll have to get to know. They’ll likely introduce you to most of these, but if you know where to go in the first place you’ll have the best chance of getting in sooner. Understand?”

Taehyung gives a soft grunt to show he does, and the man points to the first picture, a rusted, rundown old restaurant. Taehyung lifts an eyebrow at it. Hua She’s really let themselves go if this is somewhere important.

“Min Yoongi’s den. This is around where your job begins.”

And that makes even less sense. From what he remembers, the Mins are rich bastards. Why their eldest son would reside in somewhere like that is beyond him, but an even more important question arises at the revelation.

Min? As in… anyway related to Min Yoonsung?” Taehyung asks, fingers tensing up at the mention of the asshole.

“His eldest son, I believe.”

“What the hell do I have to do with a Min?” Taehyung barks, bitterly adding, “I met his father once, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience.”

For one of the first times in Taehyung’s life, he genuinely thought he was going to die the night he stumbled across a drug deal involving Min Yoonsung. But, luckily for him, before he could get fucking murdered, one of the boys he was running about with yanked him back out of the alley and they sprinted away until the scene blurred into the harsh neon of the overtaking streets.

Did Taehyung ever want to see the man again? Not particularly. But, at least since then he’s had his fair share of drug deals and trade-offs–it was what landed his ass in this situation, after all.

Fuck, he still can’t believe that. All of the years he’s spent hustling not once did he fall for any sort of set-up. First sign of sketchiness, Taehyung always bailed–and he always had someone to back him up in case he needed an alibi or getaway or a general extra pair of fists.

It just so happened that this time his extra pair of fists happened to get their greedy little fingers on some money for selling him out.

“You don’t have business with him. Yet. But, you have business with his lackeys and you’ll find them in his territory; probably here,” he says, pointing to the photo next to it; it looks like nothing more than the courtyard of an abandoned cafe or bistro and Taehyung begins to wonder if he’s simply misremembered the glamour of the Hua She lifestyle, disillusioned by childhood fantasy.

But Zhao must somehow sense Taehyung’s distaste despite his blank face because he smugly tells him, “Of course, these are all cover-up locations. Min’s place is much fancier than it appears.”

“Of course,” Taehyung gripes back, a faux smile tugging venomously at his lips, “but where’s next? We’ve only got fifteen hours, you know.”

Zhao scowls, but doesn’t take the bait, flicking through the file past pages and pages of documents that Taehyung can only assume is legal jargon and boring shit about Min’s place like trivial conversations heard there and descriptions of the location dug up by previous undercover reporters.

That was something Zhao and his team of justice-fuckers made very clear: there’ve been many attempts on infiltration into Hua She before–not just by them, but by police forces and gangs alike.

They’ve been caught out every time and tortured horrifically (Zhao was kind enough to even show him photos of the mangled bodies) so, in short, this meant that they were not blind to traitors.

Which therefore means that Taehyung can’t afford to make even a single error or he’ll most certainly die a slow, gruesomely agonising death.

(“Just like our last undercover officer, here. Can you see where they’ve gouged out his eyes and ripped the sockets down his face clear enough or do you want me to show you the digital copy?”)

Taehyung doesn’t understand how they think Hua She are violent maniacs when the head of department is like that. He may be no stranger to gore, but the only other time he’s seen such strange enthusiasm towards it was from the force’s very enemies.

But, Zhao is, of course, completely oblivious to Taehyung’s recurring repulsion, and he points out the new location the next page reveals; one that’s doused in gaudy lighting and several proclamations of ‘XXX’, ‘adults only’ and ‘18+’ thrown around the outer-building in both English and Cantonese. The huge neon sign outside has the image of an almost-naked lady holding one leg poised in the air, the other thigh covering anything too X-rated. Taehyung can almost imagine it blinking in animation with the way the lights look like they’re fading, as if captured mid-switch.

“A strip-club,” he notes, and Zhao hums with an air of disgust that he certainly doesn’t deserve to hold. As if a place like that is much to talk about when they’ve both seen so much worse than a few naked bodies.

“More of a brothel,” he corrects, and even then Taehyung fails to understand his reaction until he begrudgingly adds, “though, almost entirely male.”

Ah, there’s the source of disgust. Taehyung would laugh at him if he actually found the strength to care.

He supposes he shouldn’t be particularly surprised by the revelation, anyway, the guy didn’t exactly peg him as the type to be interested in men. Not with the scowl he’d given him earlier when Taehyung had asked him how he ‘wanted him’ after the man had roughly set him down into a chair, handcuffed, in the interrogation room.

He’d half been expecting a slap, too used to cheeking-off gang members, but the man had just grimaced and sat down opposite him, leaning away slightly as if he might catch something.

Maybe that’s why he took so much joy in trying to freak him out with the pictures.

And likewise, now, Taehyung doesn’t bother giving him a reply either. He just stares blankly, lips pressed shut together to silently beckon him to go on.

“Kim Namjoon’s office is in there–are you aware of Kim?”

Taehyung arches an eyebrow. There are far, far too many Kims in that gang to know them all. He assumes that when Taehyung was a kid, this Kim Namjoon was too. Either that or he’s so old that he’d just meld in with the rest of the Kim’s, anyway.

He shakes his head and Zhao scoffs as if he should somehow know every single member from his childhood.

“He’s sort of a problem-solver for Hua She. We’ll get into the members you need to know later. For now, just know that he’s important and, therefore, this club is also very important.”

“Sure thing. As long as you’re not gonna try and make me work in there, that’s fine,” he jokes flatly, leaning back in his seat and stretching out his legs as much as he can.

He’s only been here for about an hour but he’s already tired of sitting around. Back in LA he’d rarely stop if it wasn’t to sleep or eat–these fifteen hours will be the slowest of his goddamn life.

Zhao adjusts the stick in his ass enough to crack an almost-smile at the joke. Taehyung decides he doesn’t like how it looks on his face but luckily for him it’s gone as soon as it appeared when he turns over another few pages, arriving at a double spread with a few places crammed into them.

He wastes no time for once, immediately putting an ageing finger on the photo of a large skyscraper sort of structure, to which he informs him is, “The building where all the official meetings take place. Inside are probably hundreds of conference rooms and offices. The same one’s never used twice in a row as a safety precaution, and Jeon has men patrolling it throughout the entirety of each meeting.”

“Hard to get into,” Taehyung muses, “is there something important kept there?”

“I very much doubt it, Hua She are paranoid bastards. It’s likely to be a precaution–but, of course,” the man says pointedly, “you’ll be the one to confirm that.”

Fantastic.

Not only does he have to get into one of those very important meetings, he’s expected to snoop around the highly guarded area, too.

Christ, who do they think he is? A drug dealer for the CIA?

Zhao directs him to the photographs of what’s labelled as ‘Yan Maht [yen2 med6] Port’ and Taehyung doesn’t need much direction to guess what goes on there since the name itself practically means secret.

“Shipments?” He assumes, and Zhao gives a short nod, confirming, “Drugs, weapons and people, mainly. Occasionally, Jeon would sometimes order something like a car or an expensive jewellery collection or an illegal snake, but lately it’s just the usual.”

“Hold on–a snake?” He echoes and Zhao gives a miniscule shrug of his shoulders, telling him, “Some form of torture, presumably.”

Taehyung cocks an eyebrow, half-intrigued. He wonders if Jeongguk will be as flashy as his father was in that department and decides that, in true Hua She tradition, he most likely will be.

“Anything important that comes overseas to Hua She will likely go through here. For that reason, we’ve got records of most things that arrive but, of course, we can’t catch everything.”

Taehyung sees where this is going.

“So, you want me to alert you of anything big that you miss.”

“Precisely,” Zhao agrees, “And then we have this.” He points to a large-scale warehouse. Nothing spectacular from the looks of it, but that appears to be Hua She’s aesthetic, and Taehyung presumes it’s more to do with shipments and such but, to his surprise, Zhao shakes his head when he voices this.

“None of our intel have ever informed us of its purpose, but we have reason to believe it’s some sort of interrogation or execution spot.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because none of our men that went in have ever come out again.”

Internally, Taehyung sighs. He should have expected that by now.

“And lastly,” Zhao says, arriving at a page so scarce with information, it looks as if the person creating the file just gave up. It’s a grand-looking hotel, pale grey and a monster of a height, stretching up and up with floor after floor, balconies littering the sides of it like cracks in the silver surface. Nothing out of the ordinary to an outsider like Taehyung but there’s claims scattered on the page of this and that and fairly incriminating pictures of the Hua She members themselves walking in and out, giving Taehyung the impression that he would be foolish to assume so.

“This was where Jeon lived. We’re unsure whether his son moved into his suite after he died, but it certainly isn’t unlikely. Either way, the boy most definitely lives in this building.”

He glances back down at the page. So that’s where he’ll be aiming to work his way in to, huh?

“A cover-up hotel?” Taehyung questions, finding the ploy a little bit odd considering anyone could check-in and snoop around under the guise of being a guest, but Zhao seems to already have a full-explanation for him.

“He’s got several hidden cameras in every room. Hardly any blind spots at all. The hotel requires an ungodly amount of personal information for check-in and if people supply fake details they’ll immediately be caught out, since Jeon had men assigned to researching each and every person that walks in the front door.”

Taehyung hums, admittedly impressed at that. It’s a hell of a lot of work, but a very clever deter for anyone trying to spy on them. It seems the Hua She are just as cautious as he remembers. Zhao finally closes the folder and pushes it aside, just in time for Taehyung to question, “So, what about me, Zhao? What’s my story here?”

The man rolls his shoulders, clearly starting to get stiff in these chairs, eyes flickering over to the recliners at the other end of the lounge area with an air of want. Neither of them would like to draw this out, it seems.

“Practically the same,” he states, turning his gaze back to him, hazy boredom floating in his expression. His face looks tired and worn-down, but it always does— any time Taehyung’s seen him in the past month; the deep-set wrinkles make his face look like its permanently frowning, dark circles under his eyes make him look permanently exhausted– but Taehyung can’t assume those things aren’t true.

If he had to spend day-in day-out chasing after criminals that wouldn’t even waste their time grinding him to a pulp, just blow his brains out, and on top of that, have to go home to a wife that most definitely can’t be in it for the love, he’d probably look that tired all the time too.

Of course, it wouldn’t look so terrible on him, but Taehyung supposes that isn’t Zhao’s fault.

“Your name is still Taehyung Kim — of course, over there, you’ll be introducing yourself with your family name first.”

Taehyung rolls his eyes. Americans. As if he’d somehow forget that.

“You were still born in Hong Kong and moved to America when you were fifteen with your mother and sister. You still got caught up in drug dealing and to escape the police on your trail you moved back to your home country. You’re interested in Hua She because of what you heard on the streets of Los Angeles, and what you heard growing up in Hong Kong. The rest— personal reasons for joining, where your family is, what else you’ve been doing the last few years—is all up to you. I don’t care what you say as long as you don’t fuck up our operation,” he remarks harshly, like Taehyung doesn’t want this to go smoothly as much as he does.

Zhao loses a chance at bringing down a colossal empire, sure— but Taehyung loses his fucking life, thank you very much, and he doesn’t think they’d do it with rose petals and a proper farewell, either.

“Okay, I think I can manage that,” he says sarcastically.  Zhao’s upper lip twitches irately at it. “What’s next?”

The man drags the next file out, one messily labelled ‘ALLIES & SUBORDINATES’ in a drying-out marker, leaving streaks all over the cover. When he opens it, Taehyung notices that there’s no actual information written down-- just large, printed out pictures loosely tucked inside.

“These are the people that past undercover missions have revealed to us as most important. You’re bound to meet many more, but we think it’s wise if you’re acquainted with at least three of the people in this file already.”

Taehyung watches the man dig out the first set of photos. Captured in them is a slim-figured man with impeccably well-kept hair, no sign of greying in sight, and a strong-willed face that seems just slightly cocky in the hidden glint of his eye and sharp grin of his mouth.

“Cha Kiyoung— you could view him as being Jeongguk’s right-hand man… whether he wants him to be or not.”

Taehyung finds that remark rather compelling, questioning, “Jeongguk doesn’t like him?”

Zhao stacks the photos back into a pile, distractedly muttering, “He was his father’s right-hand— but, supposedly, his son doesn’t trust him. Though, we don’t suspect he trusts many people,” like none of it really matters, despite the fact that he was the one that brought it up.

“Any idea why?”

The man glances at him condescendingly as he tucks the set of pictures back inside the folder.

“Did you see him? Doesn’t look particularly trustworthy, does he?”

Taehyung would argue that not many people in Hua She do, but he thinks that would be too narrow of a view on the matter, because, to be fair, not many people in the police force do, either.

Exhibit A is right in front of him, after all.

“Next,” Zhao continues, pulling out another set of large, worn-down photos. Taehyung wonders how old some of these shots are. “We have Park Jimin.”

The photos are spread out in a modest line across the table, and Taehyung runs his eyes over them, taking in the muscular build of the man shown in front of him; undoubtedly handsome, with strong cheekbones and a prominent jawline. Thick lips, cat-like eyes, ashy blonde hair pushed back effortlessly off of his forehead.

Taehyung can’t hide his interest, thumb tracing over his bottom lip in thought.

There’s a few candids of Jeongguk captured alongside him, the shorter man walking next to him guardedly; eyes alert and strong arms creating a sturdy defence line around the boy that makes Taehyung immediately assume, “Personal bodyguard.”

Zhao hums in that pettily amused way he indulges in when he gets to correct him, saying, “One of many— but Park was Jeon’s favourite, and the only one Jeongguk doesn’t seem to hate.”

Taehyung takes his eyes off the pictures to arch a lazy eyebrow at the older man’s merriment.

“Okay, then—” Taehyung starts, “why is he important?”

“Because you have to be extremely wary of him. He’s a very smart man— we have reports that Jeongguk values his judgement far too much for a regular bodyguard. Our psychoanalysts suggested that it was due to the fact he was close with his father, and the boy wants to know how to follow in the man’s footsteps.” He lets that point simmer for a second, before a glow of mirth lines his features, gaze narrowing to be almost dark when he adds, “And he could probably break every bone in your body,” like somewhere in him, that’s an ending he wouldn’t totally mind.

Taehyung isn’t surprised. People like him probably seem disposable to people like Zhao— that’s why he gave him the job, after all.

“Noted,” the younger mutters, gaze scanning the photos once more as if he’s actually thinking intelligently about them before he muses, “Well, if he does get suspicious of me, maybe I could offer to suck his dick and have him forget all about it,” only half-joking with the statement.

In reality, if he set this guy’s alarm bells off, Taehyung would probably have the barrel of a gun nestled in his mouth and a bullet ripping through the back of his throat before he could say ‘what if–’, but the fact that Zhao’s annoying fucking smirk wipes right off his face at that gives Taehyung enough incentive to blatantly ignore that realism, just for the satisfaction it brings him.

As Zhao’s swapping over to the next set of photos, bringing out the last ones he’s planning on showing him but not the last of the folder, by the looks of things, Taehyung lets out a low, sarcastic whistle.

“Is this my competition?” He asks, with a clear sense of mockery that Zhao doesn’t seem to pick up on anyway, looking down at the pictures with a furrowed brow.

Across the photographs is the depiction of an extremely beautiful woman, even Taehyung won’t dispute that. She has coppery-brown hair that falls rather dishevelled past her shoulders, and an easy-going, friendly face that makes her approachable in a ‘girl-next-door’ sort of way.

There’s pictures of her hanging off his target’s arm, smile a little mischievous which had prompted him to ask in the first place. Jeongguk’s grimacing too much to be genuinely annoyed by her presence.

“Om Taeseon— she’s Hua She’s weapon-dealer.”

Taehyung hums, noting the very large crates surrounding them in some of the pictures and figures that must be what’s inside them.

“Are they close?”

Zhao makes a noise of indifference, telling him, “As much as the nature of their relationship allows for. It’s more of a simple business association. They’re not romantically involved, if that’s what you’re wondering. She’s married.”

Taehyung huffs out a ghost of a laugh, remarking, “Doesn’t seem the type of thing that’d stop Jeon.”

Zhao seems in agreement with him, replying, “It probably isn’t— I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve slept together more than once. But, then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if I heard Jeon’s fucked every attractive member of Hua She.”

Have you heard that?” Taehyung asks curiously, the dark pique of interest in his voice shamelessly clear. Zhao simply shrugs off the question with a, “I’ve heard countless rumours about that man,” and seems eager to move the discussion on from Taehyung’s misplaced curiosity.

But this is important to the case, contrary to the man’s belief.

Sometimes the easiest way to get underneath someone’s skin is to get underneath them, putting it frankly—but he’ll save Zhao the mental image for now.

Maybe Taehyung will be Jeongguk’s next target, like Jeongguk is his—

Just not in the same way.

“Right, weapons-dealer, close-ish with Jeongguk. What else?”

“Any order that any member of the gang makes— including Jeon —will go through her,” Zhao informs him. “From a lower-member to the boss’ own right-hand. Jeongguk will be alerted of all of them too, so don’t think you can just grab a weapon and threaten him or something.”

Taehyung makes a noise of partial disappointment, asking, “So, no guns, huh?”

He’s just kidding, but Zhao gets rather annoyed with his complaining and snaps, “Things are different over there, as you know. We didn’t train you in hand-to-hand combat to be so foolishly desperate for a gun.”

The younger man tips his head back, more serious at that as he arrogantly remarks, “I’ve no problem fighting with my fists.”

Good, then you won’t need to visit Om. Actually, try and avoid her altogether. We’ve heard she’s a bit… unpredictable.”

Taehyung nods slowly but he can’t say he isn’t slightly intrigued. Zhao packs away that file and brings out the final one: this time a black ring-binder with dividers along the side of it, separating each profile, by assumption, with a surname and the initial of their given name.

“These are the last people you need to know and, arguably, the most important. Hua She has five very important members, not including Jeon. One of which is the bodyguard, Park, so we needn’t go over him again— the other four, I want you to remember the faces of because you will meet them all if this goes to plan.”

“No if’s— I’ll meet them,” Taehyung says, too cocky for the other man’s liking, perhaps, but he doesn’t comment on it, just opens the file, heavy frown tugging on his lips.

“I imagine you know the first man,” Zhao tells him, and Taehyung lets his gaze fall on the first section aptly labelled ‘Jung. H.’

He feels a sort of half-grimace, half smile creep onto his face at the profile.

“Jung fucking Hoseok…”

Zhao lets out a semi-amused snort, confirming, “You could call him that. I’m sure he’d love to punch you for it.”

Taehyung shakes his head, remarking, “Hoseok wouldn’t lay a finger on me.”

“And that’s why he’s your in.”

The younger man hums. Smart move on their part— Hoseok and him go way fucking back. All the way to their adolescence, running about the streets of Hong Kong with baseball bats and pathetic cotton bandanas around their mouths, smashing up shop windows and street signs like they were the next fucking mafia. He was always a good kid to have around, could give one hell of a swing even back then. Taehyung was unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of it once, when he was growing into a hormonal asshole and hit on the boy’s sister.

He can’t even imagine what he’s like now— especially if he’s made it into Hua She of all gangs.

“So… where do I find him?”

“Hanging around Min’s place — he’s practically his bitch, despite what he’ll tell you himself, but their close connection is what makes Jung so important— it’s by association. He practically does all the boring work for him. Beat up this guy, threaten those ones… he’ll take you under his wing, I’m sure.”

Taehyung nods in understanding, finger running up the line of his jaw, silently commending just how decent this plan seems to be, so far. There’s no way Zhao came up with it.

“And… from Hoseok… I get to Min Yoongi,” he guesses, and the older man confirms it quietly, obviously annoyed he didn’t get to say so himself, petty bastard.

“Yes… Min Yoongi,” he repeats, turning to the next section of the file which reveals a blonde-haired, rather doll-like man that would probably look way more like some kind of entertainer for the gang if it wasn’t for that stomach-curdling glare that festers in his sharp eyes, obvious in each picture.

He’s pretty in a ‘break your face if you stare too long’ sorta way. Taehyung finds himself relatively charmed.

“Min is somewhat Hua She’s… field captain. Unlike Jeon, he likes to get his hands dirty. That’s why he has Jung do all of his errands.”

Taehyung’s slightly amused by that, upon realising, “I guess that he’ll have a new bitch soon, then, huh?”

Zhao smirks slightly at that, obviously pleased that Taehyung’s in for a bit of a shitty time to start and agrees with, “Most likely. Min will probably have you scaring people into keeping their Hua She ‘protection’ and getting rid of rivals invading their supposed territory. He, on the other hand, will be making deals and executing anybody who steps out of line or steps in the way without an inch of mercy. He’s a big name in the gang— not that far in position from Jeongguk himself, actually.”

Taehyung gives another low whistle, only slightly mocking this time when he says, “So, you’ve gotten me a pretty solid starting point, then,” even though it’s technically his own connection. But, regardless, Zhao radiates ego at the statement, grinning proudly as he says, “Indeed, I have.”

Taehyung meant the whole force, but whatever.

Zhao quickly moves on to the next section of the file, obviously having a sudden drive to reveal the rest of ‘his’ plan, landing on the section he announces to be on, “Kim Namjoon,” who he’d introduced briefly earlier, if Taehyung’s brain hasn’t mangled from the altitude and the sound of Zhao’s voice.

“The strip-club owner,” Taehyung recalls, and Zhao clicks his tongue, correcting, “No, he has his office in there. He doesn’t own the club.”

“Who has an office in a strip-club?” The younger man questions, nose scrunching up in confusion.

“Men who have things to hide,” the elder remarks ominously, waiting a few seconds before he suddenly adds, “Or perverts.”

Taehyung raises a condescending brow at the opened file, glancing over the pictures of the dark-haired Kim Namjoon with a tall and commanding stature, intimidatingly handsome face and yet, there’s something ultimately tranquil about him. He seems much more rational than any of the other men he’s seen thus far.

Even Hoseok—  if he’s still the same, the guy’s downright flammable, half the time.

But this Namjoon guy…

“Well, he doesn’t look like a pervert,” Taehyung comments casually— though he certainly still looks like a man with things to hide. Everybody has some things to hide, and Taehyung has no doubt that, in this industry, that rule applies tenfold.

Zhao makes a vague huffing sound, remarking, “All of Hua She are perverts. You’ll find that out for yourself,” which is, again, sort of ominous, if you ask Taehyung, but he certainly doesn’t doubt it.

Although, that might come in handy, he supposes. Playing into the weird little fantasies he’s sure Jeon Jeongguk will most likely have could get him exactly what he’s aiming for.

Whatever it is he’s aiming for.

“So, Kim Namjoon, as I told you earlier, is a very important man to Hua She,” Zhao informs him, pulling him back into the matter at hand. “He’s what you could call the problem submission box. If anybody in the gang has some kind of issue— say, there’s tension between them and a rival or confusion over an arrangement made, maybe a shipment hasn’t gone to plan, Kim will be the one to arrange a meeting with. Once he’s informed, he’ll alert whoever needs to be alerted in order to solve it. More often than not that includes Jeon— or, now, Jeongguk.”

Taehyung hums, finding the system to be quite a creative one. He’s sure it’ll save Jeongguk the headache of being told problem after problem every day. The poor kid probably doesn’t have the time to listen to every little hitch in between his new life of slaughtering other gangsters and cheating people out of money.

Not that Taehyung believes he didn’t do so already when his father was still alive—but, now, he’s the main man for it. That’s gotta be at least three times the slaughter and cheating.

“So, any problem, I go to him?” He asks, but Zhao simply shrugs, dodging the question (probably because he doesn’t really know the answer) to loosely tell him, “I’ve no doubt that you and Kim will cross paths eventually. He’s the centre of the gang, in a way. He knows everything.”

“Sounds like a good guy to squeeze information out of,” Taehyung comments, glancing over the benign expression of the man’s face. He looks trusting enough, but Zhao seems to disagree, warning him, “He’s too smart for that. Avoid asking him anything you haven’t been told to ask, otherwise, he’ll probably see right through you.”

Taehyung chuckles lightly.

“Jeon put together a smart team, huh?”

“Indeed he did,” The older man concurs, “That’s what makes them so dangerous. And, from what we’ve heard, his son is certainly not any different.”

“Well, you know what they say,” Taehyung prompts easily, “there’s nothing more dangerous than intelligence and power.”

Zhao shrugs his shoulders slightly, flipping over to the next section without much thought as he tells him, “The huge knife Kim carts around certainly helps with the danger aspect, too.”

Taehyung decides… not to ask about that.

“Lastly, we have Kim Seokjin,” Zhao tells him, revealing the spread of photographs on the page, depicting probably one of the most beautiful people Taehyung’s literally ever seen. He looks far too beautiful to be a gangster— definitely should’ve been an actor or a model or something because he can practically feel the confidence that’s radiating from the simple ink on paper and those are the two things that it takes to make it successful in that kind of industry: good looks and confidence.

But, then, maybe that’s hypocritical of Taehyung to say. He decided to become a drug dealer, after all.

“Kim is Hua She’s overseer. In general, he makes sure that the gang’s trades are all running smoothly. Half of the time he spends in his office, keeping finances and contracts and all the complicated parts of running a gang in check. The rest of the time, he spends making visits to their businesses and meeting with the owners to make sure nothing’s out of order. He usually prefers to talk things out, but he’s been known to get violent when he deems it necessary.”

Taehyung isn’t sure if that’s a warning for him or just a simple statement. Most things seem to come off as a warning from Zhao.

“Close with Jeongguk?” Taehyung asks again, assuming so simply because he’s last in the file and the few photos of the man that there are in the section, Jeongguk’s somewhere to be seen in the background. Zhao confirms his assumption, telling him, “More than that. They’re cousins. Jeon’s brother-in-law is Kim Seokho, the chairman of the city council; which, as you can imagine, is a very nice benefit for Hua She.”

Taehyung surely can. No wonder the Jeons have so much influence, even outside of the violence and threats.

“Kim Seokjin has been said to be somewhat of an older brother figure for Jeongguk. They seem to be very close— enough so that Kim actually gets away with reprimanding his cousin sometimes.”

“Ah,” Taehyung murmurs, grinning a little against the fingers he has pressed absentmindedly to his lips as he quips, “the little prince needs some guidance from more than just his bodyguard, hm?”

After all, he has sort of been thrust into this with the abrupt death of his father, and everything. No siblings, no immediate family at all that Taehyung’s aware of, no heir except him.

He’s only had about a month to adjust, too, so Taehyung has no idea what state the gang’ll be in when he arrives—but he imagines the kid’ll be glad to have his cousin around, whether he admits it or not.

“I’d expect he does,” Zhao tells him, likely coming to the conclusion the same way Taehyung did. “Of course, that’s what his right-hand man is meant to be for, but, as I already told you, it seems Jeongguk doesn’t trust him as much as his father did.”

Taehyung hums to himself. That might benefit him if he goes about it right… he could be a nice replacement.

“He does have a lot to manage, of course. Jeon put as much work into making sure the gang ran smoothly as Kim Seokjin did— I doubt Jeongguk’s doing any less,” Zhao continues, and Taehyung would think he sounded almost understanding of the man if it wasn’t for how bitterly he adds, “But, we’ve heard he also carries out many of the gang’s executions, like his father did, too.”

Taehyung clicks his tongue, saying, “Hardworking.”

“In all the wrong ways,” Zhao clarifies, but Taehyung simply shrugs to the man’s dismay. A good work ethic is a good work ethic— whether you’re a nine to five businessman with three kids or a mafia boss.

“So, now you’re familiar with the most prominent members,” The older man says, closing over the last folder and pushing the large leather-bound book aside. “Let’s talk about your actual mission.”

“Mm,” Taehyung mutters, “Sounds like a plan, considering I have no fucking idea what I’m gonna be thrown into in—” he tilts his head to check the time on Zhao’s sparkly-golden watch— ludicrously flashy and probably very overpriced for the actual appeal of it, “—fourteen hours.”

The older man scowls a little more than he naturally does (still not any less a repulsive sight) but decides that it’s best to just ignore him as he often does, launching into explaining, “What we want is for you to gather as much information on Hua She as you possibly can. Anything you can find out will be helpful. Surveillance, recordings, files, data, things people have told you— whatever you get and however you can get it without risking your cover.”

Taehyung figured as much. It doesn’t sound so hard when he puts it like that, but he isn’t a fucking idiot (again, minus the getting caught spiel)— there’s a reason no one else has brought down Hua She yet. He can’t imagine they’re particularly loose-lipped in there, nor do they like to leave anything important just… lying around.

“How do I send you any of this?” Taehyung asks, figuring that, if by some miracle he does get his hands on something good, he’s not gonna have a second chance to get it to them. He really can’t afford to fuck that part up— not if he wants to keep his skin attached to his body.

“There’s a wireless network set-up on a cloud server that’ll allow you to upload whatever you gain onto the laptop we gave you earlier. It’s encrypted so no one but myself, a few colleagues and you can access it,” The older man answers simply. Taehyung figured the laptop wasn’t just a nice gift.

They took away all his own things and handed him item after item. He’d assumed it was chipped or something at the time, so they could watch him, but he guesses that’s not the case.

Or, at least, it’s not its primary function.

“Anything that you wish to tell us, you can do so by using the mobile and calling the number saved to your contacts. Do not let any Hua She member use or see either of these devices. It’s best if they don’t even know you have them.”

Right, so he has to hide a whole fucking laptop and phone from one of the tightest-secured organisations on the planet. Sure thing.

Should Taehyung just blow his brains out now? Jump out the plane? Just to save Hua She the trouble.

“How often do you expect me to update you?”

It’s something he’s always wondered about, seeing it in the films, if he’s honest. Either way, he’s gonna do it as little as possible. He’s not risking his life for this fucking mission.

Well, he is— but as mildly as he can.

“Whenever is possible,” Zhao answers to his relief. He was worried he was gonna say once a week or some shit. “Do not risk jeopardising your identity to give us information.”

Yeah, no worries there, Andrew.

“So, information—” Taehyung lists with a languid finger pointed onto the table, the force of it curving the tip to redden. “What else are you assholes expecting from me?”

Zhao’s mouth twitches in annoyance. It must be a habit of his. Maybe he should reduce the stress in his life, Taehyung’s pretty sure that’s one of the most common causes for muscle spasms.

“Assassinations may need to be carried out of notable members in order to gain your way to the top.”

Taehyung raises his eyebrows. He hadn’t quite expected them to want him to just… off people. Not just because that may seem a bit suspicious if he joins and, suddenly, important people start dying, it should also be a bit against the good people of the country’s justice-force’s morals, should it not?

Zhao obviously acknowledges his reaction, quickly clarifying, “It’s necessary for the good of the city as well as the mission.”

“There’s all sorts of way to justify murder, Zhao,” Taehyung fires back, removing his hand from the table to rest his arms behind his head, “but at the end of the day it is what it is…”

The man shifts rather uncomfortably at that, quietly moving on by telling him, “Think what you want of it. We both know it’s no particular disturbance for you.”

Taehyung’s never killed anybody before, but he’ll let the man have that one simply because he’s right. It won’t bother him off-ing a few of those bastards. Not even a little. He’s seen enough death to not be squeamish and he’s heard enough about Hua She to not feel guilty slicing down a few of its members.

“These assassinations might not be directly by your hand,” Zhao informs him, and Taehyung finds a little more interest in that. “For example, manipulating your colleagues into turning against someone is a low-risk means of achieving the same goal.”

It doesn’t sound like a bad plan, if he’s honest. He’s sure he can cut out that Cha Kiyoung bastard once he nestles up to Jeongguk. Hell, the man’ll probably be glad to be given an excuse.

“Despite what I said earlier, Jeongguk is not your only target, per se, but he’s your most promising way of getting valuable information.”

Well, that was his plan, anyway—but, unlike Zhao would, he doesn’t rub it in his face.

“However you can, get close to him. Earn his trust and use it as a way of finding out everything you can. He may be tough, but he’s still just a kid. He’ll make mistakes.”

Taehyung doesn’t doubt it. A kid hidden and coddled and spoiled his whole life, thrust into all of this power and responsibility out of nowhere like that? He’s bound to be vulnerable. Taehyung almost feels bad for him.

Almost.

“Get to Jeon to get information,” he dutifully repeats, “Sounds good to me. Anything else?”

“One last thing,” Zhao says sinisterly, interlacing his fingers as he leans forward across the table just a bit in some attempt to intimidate him. It doesn’t quite work, he still looks queasy from the turbulence.

“Don’t dare even considering abandoning your loyalty to us,” He warns, as if Taehyung would be stupid enough to try. He’s not on anyone’s side here. He’ll do what he’s told and get Zhao and his dick-riders off his back then go far, far away. “Remember, we can and will pull the plug on your investigation and detain you at any moment. And, of course, as incentive for completing the mission successfully you know you will be financially compensated.”

Ah, yes, the money. Props to whoever thought of that, because there’s no way in hell it was this shrivelled-asshole in front of him. He wouldn’t even splash out for the on-board champagne he was offered earlier—and he was offered a discount.

Taehyung decides he might drink an entire bottle himself and fall asleep in one of the nice massage chairs since all his purchases are being covered by Zhao’s superiors.

“Don’t fuck you guys over otherwise you’ll fuck me. Okay, no problem,” he summarises quickly, already shifting his way out of his seat before the man even answers his question of, “Are we done here?”

But, to both of their reliefs, Zhao actually says, “We are.”

Taehyung doesn’t hesitate to click off his seatbelt, heading straight for the minibar.

He’s gonna need something pretty decent to wash the older man’s drawling voice out of his mind, he thinks.

 

 

 

~♔♚~

 

 

Zhao doesn’t even bother giving him an actual goodbye when they touch down in Hong Kong. He walks towards his plain, overpriced car, door held open by some no-name academy trainee and looks over his shoulder once, just as he’s about to get in, to say, “Don’t contact us until you’ve made it inside the gang— and try not to get killed by pissing anyone off, Kim.”

Was that a warning or a threat?

Taehyung scoffs, silently watching the man settle inside the car, his door closed for him because he can’t even bare to do that much with his fragile, important hands.

There’s transportation for him out front in the parking lot, Zhao had told him when he handed over the keys. So, he makes his way over there, thankful to be avoiding the actual airport building considering the horror stories he’s heard in accordance to how busy it is— and while he certainly doesn’t expect some kind of brand new sports car waiting for him in the space, he doesn’t expect what he gets, either.

Taehyung checks the slip of paper given to him with the number of the parking spot typed up on it and frowns, looking back up at the vehicle in front of him.

A red Honda, but not the type he expected in any sense.

While he was waiting for four worn-down wheels and some uncomfortable leather seats, he gets two, with a shiny red fibreglass fairing and a flashy exhaust that looks like it would kill someone if you swung hard enough with it.

He’s never driven in Hong Kong, much less a motorcycle, but Taehyung doesn’t spend too much time getting hung up on it. It’s 5am right now the orange glow of the bike’s digital clock informs him when he sticks the key in the ignition, and he’s hoping to get some sleep in before he inevitably has to head out in search of his old best friend for a less than righteous reunion.

He clips off the top cover from the back of the bike, unhooking the helmet attached to the lock on the inside and fixes the cover back on, examining the helmet in his hand.

Nice of them to give him one, he supposes. It’d be a shame if he splattered his brains before he got to meet anyone from Hua She.

He slips it onto his head, adjusting the snug fit that feels like two hands are covering his ears, everything sounding a cross between muffled and underwater, and pulls the visor down.

Taehyung has driven a motorcycle before, at least. He used to use them to get to deals pretty often, actually— and it was the thing he’d driven in the day he was arrested, too (maybe somebody on the force has a sweet little sense of humour) so, when he slides onto the seat, revving up the surprisingly smooth-sounding engine, he doesn’t feel totally at a loss of how this is going to go.

He just has no knowledge on the laws of the road in Hong Kong, is all.

But, it seems new experiences are going to be his forte from now on, so he should probably get used to getting thrown in the deep end, as soon as possible.

The more you struggle, the more likely you are to drown, after all.

Taehyung kicks in the stand and pulls on the clutch until the bike comes to life with a sudden whir. Slowly releasing it with his right hand on the throttle, it starts to roll forward, and he carefully manoeuvres it out of the parking spot, getting a feel for the vehicle as he guides it out of the lot.

That goes smoothly, of course. Not many people can fuck that part up.

It’s as soon as he pulls onto the highway with bigger, bulkier much less stationary vehicles going way faster than they probably should be, that he gets a real test of his driving skill.

And by that, he means his reflexes and general luck.

He’s really fucking glad he’s got a helmet on— not just for protection but also the simple fact that it’s keeping his hair out of his eyes. He isn’t gonna lie, crashing because he couldn’t see past his hair isn't exactly that high on his list of acceptable ways to die.

The hot wind tears through his peachy silk shirt, already unbuttoned a third of the way down; tugging it loose from the belted waistline of his fitted dress pants as Taehyung weaves in and out of lanes. He’s rather reckless with it all, overtaking cars and bikes and vans to the point that the blare of their horns start to blur along with the city lights, smearing across the horizon line and up, as if all of his senses are melting with the heat of the rising morning.

There’s a certain feeling to the streets of Hong Kong, and it hits Taehyung all over again in a wave of nostalgia for his childhood as soon as he makes it into Mong Kok— the rush of leaking neon, running along the edges of his vision, scattered across the buildings in what feels like almost every language in existence.

He almost wishes he wasn’t wearing a helmet this time, to feel the breeze push and scratch against his face and the lights glitter and scorn on his skin and, before he can reel in his common sense again, his hand is reaching to unclip the strap at his chin and shove off his protection, watching it bounce along the road and into someone else’s way in the side mirror.

They yell something out at him through the crack of their open window, but Taehyung’s Chinese isn’t good enough to catch it.

He kicks up into the next gear, pushing the throttle harder to meet the change and he grins at the immediate gush of lukewarm air that slaps into his face. His hair whips right out of his vision, so he at least doesn’t have to worry about that casualty, twisting in and out of vehicles and turning sharp corners into detours he doesn’t need to take, just for the hell of it.

He thinks about all of the people he’s probably waking up right now with the vitality of his engine, for a moment, but it’s not like the streets are particularly quiet anyway. Hong Kong is the kind of place that never seems to want to sleep, and Taehyung would be lying if he said he hadn’t missed that.

Not that LA ever likes to sleep either. But while LA stays awake with obnoxious parties and rich people trying to deviate from a normal lifestyle as much as they can, Hong Kong stays awake with a natural vivacity and a restless hum of energy that never even thinks to dull.

Call it childhood nostalgia and jet lag, but Taehyung thinks it’s kind of good to be back.

That is, until he reaches his apartment.

Taehyung drives around for a good thirty minutes more than he needs to, but as the sun rises over the cityscape, coating the dying lights and monochrome roofs in a heated pinkish-red glow, he pulls up to a small open space, cars and bikes parked haphazardly through it, leading off into a looming sort of box of surrounding apartment blocks.

He brings his bike to a stop, letting go of the clutch to kick the stand back down, and then, he simply looks up in some kind of marvel at the state of the place. The walls are chipped and overrun with mould and what looks an awful lot like bullet holes. The windows are scraped and clouded over, a few of them with uneasy-looking cracks running right through them. The entrance door is left wide open, cobwebs and rust staining the edges that suggest to him that it’s never closed. In fact, it looks flimsy enough that if someone tried to shut it, it’d probably keel right over—so Taehyung understands why, at least.

Besides, it’s pretty fucking humid half the year in Hong Kong, anyway. Taehyung’s shirt’s already starting to feel uncomfortable with how stubborn the silk is in clinging to his skin.

There’s a double garage opposite the entrance with a man sitting in the booth, leaning on his hand and clearly bored out of his mind because as soon as he catches Taehyung’s eye, his expression brightens in intrigue.

“You’re Kim Taehyung?” He shouts over the gap between them, the words echoing across the empty concrete space, loud and clear. Taehyung gives a short nod, wondering if the man knows who he’s with along with who he is because that makes him a liability. He keeps his fists clenched, one hanging by his side, the other on the throttle, like he’s ready to kick off again if need be.

But then, the man waves him over, saying, “New tenant, right? You can park your bike in here.”

Taehyung hums in consideration, but whirs his vehicle back to life again, anyway, hopping up on the seat and slowly guiding it over to the garage. The man presses a button and with a lengthy beep and a lot of creaking from the metal shutters, the space opens up, revealing a small, bricked room with oil stains smeared on the floor and a musty smell that makes him scrunch his nose up in repulsion almost immediately.

“Sorry ‘bout the smell… doesn’t get opened much. As you can see, most of the residents here like to park their vehicles anywhere but where they’re meant to.”

The guy sounds lightly bitter at this, but Taehyung can’t blame him for that, he guesses. It must get frustrating sitting in a booth all day, having everyone blatantly ignore the very reason you’re sat there.

Taehyung gives a breezy laugh, wheeling his bike in and killing the engine again. He throws down the stand and hears his words bounce around the garage as he quips, “I guess I’ll be your new regular, then.”

“Try only,” the man corrects, seeming rather defeated with the fact, though Taehyung can’t even see him.

He exits the garage, tucking the keys into the front pocket of his fitted slacks as he leans up against the booth. The man inside closes the garage again, probably rather eager to do so for once, while Taehyung casually asks, “So, how do you know who I am?” gauging his expression for any kind of uneasiness just in case.

If the force have done their job right, Taehyung shouldn’t have to worry about anything like that: people knowing about his arrival that shouldn’t. As far as anyone in Hong Kong should know, he’s no one. A name on a list of residents, a visa, a tourist, even.

But, as Taehyung knows very well, anyone can fuck up a simple job—even the FBI, in this case.

However, this guy just looks moderately confused that Taehyung would even ask. He points to the monitor of his outdated computer, tucked as neat as it can be into the corner of his cramped desk.

“I have a list of residents to know who’s checking in and out. Haven’t seen you around before, and your name is the only new one in the system.”

There’s no shiftiness in his expression, no nervousness— just blatant bemusement. He’s either a wonderful actor… or a valet doing his job.

Taehyung decides to settle on the latter.

He’s not normally so paranoid, it’s more that his life is at risk a lot more than it usually is. Or, rather—more brutally.

Back home, most of the time, there was the possibility that he’d get stabbed; maybe shot if he really pissed off the wrong person, but this time around he’s dealing with proper actual fucking syndicates. Gangs, mobsters—big… scary people that could likely snap him in half, but probably wouldn’t spare him that kind of mercy.

Plus, on top of that, he doesn’t exactly have a lot of faith in Zhao—and if he’s really at the head of this entire operation then nobody can blame him for being a little extra cautious. The man looks at Taehyung like he wants to off him himself, and they’ve only talked a handful of times

Luckily, he won’t have to see the man again for a long time, once he’s in Hua She, he suspects. Hear his voice from time to time, yes, but he thinks he can stomach that—at least with some alcohol or some kind of drug in his systemwhatever the gangsters deal in these streets, nowadays.

“Convenient,” Taehyung says to the man, and he says nothing more, save for a brief, “See you around, then,” before he’s striding across the gravel again, aiming for the beaten steps leading to the apartments.

It must be dragging close to six-thirty by now, judging by the sun hovering on the horizon with an orange-ing glower, as if it’s impatient to start the day. He can sleep away the rest of the morning, and likely the rest of the afternoon too, if his fifteen-hour jetlag decides to catch up on him now. Then, he can go find his good childhood friend, and see if he’ll be happy enough to see him to take him out for some food before he pulls him into the sinkhole that is his gang.

A last taste of freedom, he could even call it.

Taehyung steps through the metal arch of the entrance, hosting a sign with a fading ‘East Avenue Apartments’ anciently painted on in paling red Cantonese and practically illegible English. The inside is dark, as if it’s closer to midnight than sunrise, with the lights occasionally hung to the wall and ceiling all either busted or flickering. They cast fiendish-looking shadows across the lurid pea green wallpaper, peeling and torn along the stretch of the entire room.

It’s more of a foyer of sorts than anything, a short staircase shoved into the corner that winds up and left, leading to a similar-looking hallway. To the left of the ground floor, however, at the darkest part, is what seems to be a cleaning supplies closet, with a busted door handle that Taehyung would bet means it’s unable to be opened, anymore.

Which explains the state of the place, he supposes.

The floors are linoleum and orange, going on brown, with a strange sticky feeling to the entire surface that Taehyung doesn’t want to know about at all. On the bright side, there’s no holes in the flooring.

That’s about the only plus to it, though.

He walks across the short distance to the staircase, feeling his shoes stick and unstick with a pitchy thwick each step, and he just knows by the sound of it that the soles of this pair are never going to be quite the same, again.

He’s got a fair amount of money to get by, at least, figuring he’ll have to get himself some new clothes in general while he’s here considering all the force gave him are the ones on his back, miserable bastards.

Maybe Hoseok’ll be up for taking him out for some shopping, too. He’s bound to be richer than Taehyung is, working so close to Min Yoongi so, he certainly wouldn’t object to letting the man pay, either.

After all, god knows how long he’ll be stuck at the bottom of the food chain. There’s men that spend their entire lives living as the dogs of a gang. Taehyung likes to think he’s a little too skilled to suffer the same fate, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy to get up to the top.

No matter what he’ll have to get his hands a little dirty—and if Jeon gives him the opportunity to, he’ll take it. Play him like a violin in every way he can.

That might even be fun, knowing that his Jeon is nineteen with a movie-star look to him and not his late father who, while he knows was fairly handsome (had to be to raise a kid like that) wasn’t exactly his type.

If he has to skip around someone like a pathetic little lapdog, he thinks he’s pretty fortunate to have it be Jeon Jeongguk.

And, if that doesn’t work, then he’ll just have to cosy up to important people one by one until he basically forces himself into Jeon’s highest men. After all, he’s already got Hoseok hook, line and sinker. He doesn’t think he could’ve had an easier way in.

Taehyung climbs the stairs, grateful to find that the top and only other floor, by the looks of things, is carpeted—and, therefore, he’s not having to rip his feet from the ground with each step. He passes several flats on his way, numbers climbing up and up the further he makes it around the block. At the very end of it, however, is his one, just as Zhao dismissively mentioned.

Number Thirteen. Sounds promising.

He removes his ring of keys again from his pocket, taking the small, rusty gold one into his hand, and shoves it into the lock. It rattles around as he turns it, before there’s a soft click. Taehyung grips the door handle, relieved to find that this one actually works, and pushes it open, unsurprised to feel the stale air hit him once he steps in.

Instead of being a mouldy smell, like the garage, this time it’s as if the room hasn’t felt fresh air in years. Dust floats in the room with his sudden entrance, and it doesn’t take long before it gets into his system. He sneezes harshly, blowing more of the specks around like dandelion fluff.

Taehyung doesn’t even look around the small apartment, immediately heading to the wall at the very end of his lodgings with two wide windows crushed into the yellowing white concrete. He sweeps his hand along the edge of one, clearing a layer of dust from the handle and its ridges before he wedges the window open, arm jolting with the release of tension as the stuck frame swings open with a theatrical groan.

The second one takes some more prying to pop open, but once it does, Taehyung breathes the air flooding in as if it’s the first time in hours.

He thinks he’ll keep these windows open for a little while. Maybe forever.

Now, Taehyung turns on his heels, examining the dull apartment with expected contempt.

He knew he wasn’t in for five-star accommodation or anything, but he thinks this is ripping the ass out of it.

The apartment itself is no better condition than the corridors. There’s two rooms: the bathroom and everything else—like a studio flat, just on a two-hundred-dollar budget. The bed, wedged into the walls between the bathroom and the door like a tiny alcove is double, at least, but covered in a single off-white bed sheet with a stained mattress that’s visible even underneath it. The pillow is so flat that, for a moment, Taehyung actually thinks it’s just a stack of linen.

Alright, looks like he’ll have to buy things to sleep on, too.

There’s no couch, but a circular dining table with two decaying wooden chairs runs parallel to the line across half of the left wall that is the ‘kitchen.’ There’s an oven, oozing hardened grease, and a stove that has burn marks on the wall behind it, as if mini fires have been started on multiple occasions.

The fridge is small and has two tourist magnets stuck to it, one depicting the words ‘Hong Kong’ in obnoxious red lettering, and the other showing a map of the city which, he guesses, could come in handy if his personal phone fails to grasp on to the undoubtedly dodgy network connection in the area.

The thing that really peeves Taehyung about all of this is that Zhao is probably sitting in some gorgeous hotel right now, waited on hand and foot in a beautiful part of the city. Most of Hong Kong is pretty fucking nice, actually.

Taehyung knows the man would pass this off as some kind of ‘precaution’ so that nobody thinks that he’s been set up with the place, or anything—but he was pretty well-off back in LA, he could certainly afford better than this.

Still, he can’t do anything about it now. Later on, he can go buy some things a little more to his taste— or anyone’s—but right now, he’ll just have to hope he doesn’t contract something from the state of that mattress.

He wonders if he’ll even make money in the gang if he’s just tagging along with Hoseok. For all he knows, his friend could be just as bad as him, right now, living in some kind of shack and mooching off his friends for any kind of luxury. He doesn’t know how generous Min is with his lackeys’ pay-checks, but he hopes he has a particular soft spot for Hoseok which Taehyung’ll be able to benefit from.

Taehyung unbuttons his shirt, letting it drop to the floor. His fingers quickly undo his belt buckle whilst he’s kicking off his shoes and, then, he falls back onto the mattress, the springs giving a stiff jolt and squeak as he shifts to try and get comfortable. Once it’s evident that this is as good as it gets, he gives a frustrated sigh, just hoping that he’ll manage to fall asleep at all despite the humidity circling the flat.

 

 

 

~♔♚~

 

 

Jeongguk feels the bulk of the pipe weighing down in his hand, the cold surface seeping through even underneath his gloves.

His leather pair have gotten somewhat scuffed, lately— marginally worn at the fingers and the palms all scraped— so he’s had to settle for simple silicon today. Luckilythis job doesn’t require or deserve much more than disposable gloves.

This is just filler. An appetiser for what’s to come.

He’ll have to get Kiyoung to pick up a new pair soon—maybe the next time he decides to try and take matters into his own hands and go do some things Jeongguk didn’t tell him to do.

That bastard thinks he runs this damn gang himself half the time; it pisses Jeongguk off. Just because his father’s not around to pull on his leash he thinks he can do whatever the fuck he likes?

Cha praises him until death to his face but constantly sneers at Jeongguk behind his back, he knows he does. He thinks he’s just a child trying to fill his father’s boots; still sees him as seven years old: playing with toy guns and sleeping with a nightlight. Incapable and undeserving of what’s been handed to him.

But Jeongguk’s capable of tenfold of what the rest of the gang can do. And hundredfold of Cha Kiyoung.

Christ, he’d love to wrap his hands around his throat sometimes and just squeeze until his body goes limp in his limited-edition blood-red Valentino satin shirt.

Jeongguk’s grasp stiffens, fury flooding through him hot and venomous as he swings, the weapon halting with a tremendous crack of bone before landing neatly on his shoulder again. He’d always hated golf when his father took him—too slow paced, he could never get the hang of it—but it has its benefits at times like this.

“Now, Tengfei… do you feel like giving me an apology, yet?”

The man in front of him grimaces, blood dribbling down his chin and pooling in a revolting puddle on the wood of the chair between his thighs. He doesn’t bother struggling against the restraints—it’s quite obvious that he’s locked down to the chair and Jeongguk’s sure the man has enough experience with this kind of thing to know that he’ll hardly break out of them any time soon.

“Guh-go to hell… runt.”

Ah, but perhaps not experience enough…

Jeongguk wraps both hands around the end of the steel pipe, rolling it on his shoulder as if in thought. Then, he slams it down on the man’s left wrist; a pleasantly thick snap is followed by a throaty grunt and Tengfei grinding his teeth at the broken bone.

“Oh,” Jeongguk says quietly, leaning down slightly to examine the busted limb with a tinge of intrigue. “I think you could slide this right out of these bindings now. Should we give it a try?”

The man doesn’t humour him with a reply, his jaw clenched tight—but Jeongguk can see the fear that’s struggling in his eyes. It's satisfying, somehow.

He loves knowing he’s feared. That he’s the kind of thing that sends a shudder down the spine of the very few men that even know he exists.

That will be changed very soon. Once everything’s settled, Jeongguk has plans for an inauguration of sorts. A warning to anyone that thinks Hua She is somehow weaker now when in fact it’s only getting stronger. Far, far stronger than it's ever been. 

But for now, he has a very tiny speck of his grand scheme in front of him.

Tengfei is the kind of man that, usually, Jeongguk wouldn’t even glance in the direction of. Normally, he would be taken care of by someone who was very much not him. Maybe someone who’s never even seen Jeongguk in the flesh, way, way, way down the gang. Someone Jeongguk doesn’t know the name of and never will.

But this particular speck, Jeongguk has a very personal vendetta against, simply because he’s been running his filthy mouth about Jeongguk and the people close to him inside the walls of his own gang.

And had the audacity to steal from him while he’s at it.

And even then, in most cases, Jeongguk still wouldn’t care enough to do something about it himself... but when it got to the point that he was being informed of it again and again by everyone, he figured that he’d have to rid the earth of this two-faced bastard sooner than initially intended, before other people started to think that they could get away with bad-mouthing him, too.

Which consequently means that he needs to get rid of Cha Kiyoung as soon as possible as well… but one problem at a time.

Jeongguk takes Tengfei’s wrist into his hand, squeezing lightly just to test the damage. The bruising, the discolouration, the... texture... even Tengfei's grunts and groans tell him that he, as expected, broke right through the joint. He seems to have cracked up his radius slightly, too, with how the bone’s peaking out halfway up his forearm, right before the thick leather strap that clamps his arm down to the chair.

Jeongguk hums, fingers delicately brushing up the shortened stretch of bone making a ridge in his skin, bright red blood dubbed neon under the white lights of the room trickling around it.

“Interesting,” he muses, much to his test subject’s disagreement, “but let’s see if…” Jeongguk grabs the edge of the exposed bone between his fingertips and tries to ease it back into the man’s arm, but it moves no more than an inch, blood oozing with the pressure before Tengfei is wildly shaking his arm, trying to loosen the younger’s grip.

But Jeongguk ignores him and his whimpering and smacks the heel of his palm against the bone, which pops back in underneath the skin with a revolting squelch.

Right, now to get rid of those thieving fingers of his. Jeongguk holds out his arm behind him, hand facing up expectedly as he feels a cold handle pressing into his palm. He unveils it to Tengfei, who looks moments from passing out from the pain which Jeongguk can’t help but frown at.

He gives him a strong slap to the side of his face with the back of his hand, snapping, “Wake up, sweetheart—you don’t get to sleep this off.” Then, he slips back into a semi-smile, telling him, “Besides, if you make it through all of this I’ll let you walk free, how’s that sound?”

He’ll never walk out of here. Jeongguk’s planning to try cutting his feet off and sewing them onto his elbows, just like daddy used to do it, and he’s pretty sure he won’t be able to manoeuvre very far like that.

Although, that would certainly be a show. He should let him walk into the next meeting like that, let every asshole that thinks they can double cross him know exactly what that’ll earn them.

Jeongguk runs a finger along the blade of the cleaver in his hand. He frowns a little, murmuring, “It’s a bit blunt, now. I might have to take a couple swings at it, if that’s okay.” He glances back at Tengfei, eyes fluttering about the room like he’s desperately trying to keep them open and, well, at least he has enough sense in him to attempt to listen to him, now.

Too little too late, though. He should’ve listened months ago when Jeongguk had Yoongi personally warn him about what running that mouth of his would bring him.

Ah… yes… his mouth. The other culprit. There’s a multitude of things he could do with that dirty little trap, isn’t there?

“Tell me, Tengfei,” he says airily, lining up the knife to the root of the man’s thumb, right at the knuckle. “What should I do with that messy fucking mouth of yours? Cut it open? Sew it shut?”

Ironically, his mouth clamps shut at that. Jeongguk stifles a chuckle.

“There you go, all ready for it,” he says, one hand letting go of the knife to thumb along the man’s lips. “I could grab a needle right now. What’s first? The mouth or the thumb?”

Tengfei finds his voice, then, apparently, barking, “Fuck yourself, Jeon,” and before Jeongguk can even expect it, the asshole actually bites his fucking thumb. The younger man pulls back with a hiss, examining the dent of broken skin on the side of his appendage with a bitter scowl.

He glances back at the man, fire scalding in his eyes as he slowly mutters, “You goddamn bastard!" The last word is explosive and, as if to punctuate it, he raises his arm, grip tightening on the knife before it slices down, cutting Tengfei's thumb right off which flies across the floor with the momentum.

Sharp enough after all, apparently.

Blood pours right out, trickling down the wood of the chair like a neglected tap. Tengfei yells as if Jeongguk’s severed a limb or something. It’s just athumb. Jeongguk didn’t cry when he bit his, did he?

“I should fuck myself, right?” He roars, throwing down the bloodied knife to the ground with a harsh clatter. “With what, fucker? This?” He stuffs his whole hand into the man’s mouth, prying it open with his fingers and injured thumb before he hisses, “Bite me again and I’ll pry every last goddamn tooth from your sorry mouth out by hand." 

The man tries to say something, but the words are muffled by Jeongguk’s fingers, drooling around the digits enough to make the younger turn his nose up at it.

“There we go, can’t talk back now, can you?” Tengfei groans again, shaking his head to try and spit the man’s fingers out, tongue pressing forcefully against his hand. Jeongguk scoffs.

“Stupid cunt, slobbering all over the place like a fucking mutt—maybe I should stuff your mouth with something bigger…” he says thoughtfully, shoving his hand further and sneering mockingly as the man gags. “What was it you told me to do?” he asks, quickly recalling, “Fuck myself?”

Tengfei stops moving so much now, eyes narrowed dangerously as his shoulders heave with anger. It seems he thinks he has an idea where this is going. Jeongguk takes his hands out from his mouth, gripping his chin with the spit-soaked digits.

“You planning to help me out with that, were you?”

The man shudders, throat shifting as he swallows hard and stares the younger down. Silently, albeit, so it’s an improvement.

Jeongguk lets out a short, scathing laugh.

“No objection?”

Tengfei stays completely wordless.

“Alright then,” Jeongguk mutters, hand wandering down to his belt buckle. “Better than chopping off another finger, huh?”

And still, nothing.

The silence is beginning to irk Jeongguk a bit. He was half expecting the man to be objecting like his life depended on it by now. He seems the type. Lets him chop off a thumb with barely a murmur but pleasuring another man?  An uproar.

And yet...

Jeongguk sighs, hand freezing on his zipper with heavy disinterest floating in his gaze.

“Come on… not a word?”

Tengfei continues his blank stare, and the younger grimaces.

He was only kidding, but to receive no reaction at all? Jeongguk sighs—and just as soon as he does, there’s a sharp knock at the door.

Jeongguk pauses, fingers still gripping his belt as he glances around the room.

Six men and women that, from a digital standpoint, Jeongguk knows everything about: from their name, age and place of birth down to what they had for dinner last night. He makes sure to find out everything about everyone that makes it this close to him and while some may call him paranoid for doing so, he knows the value of it. Too many people in his position let their egos get the best of them, and that’s as dangerous in this world as it is in any.

They think they’re too powerful, that they don’t have time to learn the lives of people around them. And those are the fools that lose their own to it.

“Come in,” he calls, coarsely, turning to look over his shoulder at the opening door of his little house of horrors. It’s not very often he interrogates someone like this anywhere but his usual warehouse, but it was too long of a drive out for Jeongguk’s impatient time limit and Tengfei was already in his home, packing up his getaway bag with stolen drugs and skimmed money—their drugs and their money—that it was just far too sweet of a coincidence to not take it up.

The ageing door swings open, and in steps a blonde-haired man with a titanium gaze, an aura about him that seems both beautiful and deadly.

Park Jimin: the exception.

Not an exception with the fact that Jeongguk doesn’t know everything about him, but that he would trust him even if he knew nothing. Park has served his family for as long as he can remember, he’s been treated like family. Jeongguk would never even consider Jimin would try to hurt him simply because he has no reason to. He doesn’t desire money or power and has no need for that sort of vengeance.

Does that mean that Jeongguk doesn’t keep a close eye on him like he does with all his important subordinates? No, not at all—but it’s more the point that he doesn’t feel as if he needs to.

“Sir,” the man says smoothly, and Jeongguk quirks an eyebrow at him when he sees the apprehension flutter on his face at the scene. Not the blood and the state of the victim behind him, but simply how Jeongguk’s standing with his hands on his zipper, belt unbuckled as if it’s not compromising at all.

He thinks adding a 'it's not what it looks like'  wouldn't really fly, right now.

Jimin's hesitation quickly dissolves, and he continues with, “Your cousin wants to see you as soon as possible. He’s waiting back in your suite.”

Ugh. Of course, he does. He’s been wanting that too damn often lately for all kinds of absurd reasons.

Ever since his father kicked the bucket, Seokjin’s been checking up on him like he’s some… traumatised child, telling him to justify actions that he has no need to justify. He wonders what it is this time—the cheating dealer he poked the eyes out of last week was left too worse-for-wear? He’s not a fucking surgeon.

Jeongguk feels anger pooling through his veins again, and it’s not the ugly, tar-like feeling that rises up his stomach and leads to moments such as these. It’s not even the one that his right-hand man sparks up in him.

It’s the Kim Seokjin Effect.

Jeongguk gives a heavy sigh, digging into the waistband of his trousers to pull out the pistol tucked into the back. Solid gold barrel, an intricate floral design running across it, white marble coated magazine with his initials engraved into the slide in swirling calligraphy. Not many people in Hong Kong have a gun, anyway—but nobody has this one. Jeongguk takes a shot of juvenile pride in that.

He aims the gun right between Tengfei’s eyes with a hazy, unfeeling gaze weighted on him. It’s a shame to end it like this after weeks of expectations from just about everyone.

But now, it’s just a chore.

“Goodbye, Tengfei. May you find no peace after death.”

The man’s eyes widen, then, emotion and adrenaline kicking through at last. It always does. That fight or flight reaction that animals share.

“W-wait but you s-said—” he babbles, and it’s almost funny how now he’s begging for him to torture him some more instead of killing him straight off. Where’s his dignity?

Jeongguk scoffs. He cocks the gun, finger clicking down on the trigger as he drawls, “As if I’d ever let your thieving hands go free, bèi pàn zhě.”

There’s a short, sharp bang that enters the room, invited in like an old friend, and Jeongguk never gets used to the sound. The hysteria of the climax and then nothing.

Eerie silence, when no one dares to speak.

Jeongguk shoves the gun back into his trousers, tucks his shirt over it again and wipes his bloodied, drool-soaked hands on the vest clinging to Tengfei’s cooling body.

He doesn’t spare him the luxury of another word.

Jeongguk turns on his heels, towards his waiting bodyguard and follows him out of the silent room of the orphaned flat.

It’ll be cleaned, rid of any sign of the man who had once owned it, and that will be the last scrape he had tried to leave on the earth, erased.

Jeongguk takes comfort in the knowledge that he will never suffer the same fate. His marks will plague the earth forever.