Lee Dongwook was killed. The head of the powerful Lee Mafia Family and his entire family was announced brutally massacred in one night. His death alone shook the mafia world. Lee Dongwook, Head of the Lee Family, was a charming man yet he wouldn’t bat an eye when pulling the trigger of his favorite revolver. The Lee Family ruled the mafia world for generations. It wasn’t any secret that this family had been targeted with many stray bullets, relentless attacks from other families, even federal investigations. But somehow, somehow, they had managed to dodge all of them.
But this time, death had finally found— not only Lee Dongwook, but his entire empire— and shattered them to dust. The day before, the Lee Family had been preparing for a big announcement in front of their alliances and associates. People predicted it to be about the future heir of the Lee Family. However, they ended up never finding out what the big announcement was.
The whole family was found massacred the next morning. People were killed and the proud, tall mansion was burned down.
The police did a body count upon arriving at the crime scene. A rough number of 60 people (including the body of Lee Dongwook himself) was recovered and brought in for autopsy. Some were never recovered. Police suspected that they were either burned to ashes and were unable to be identified, or were killed somewhere else.
Two days after the massacre, the mafia world collectively held a respectful funeral for the head of the Lee Family in a huge funeral home. The funeral was led by the heir of the Han Family, Han Seungwoo, and the heir of the Cho Family, Cho Seungyoun. Two families that had been in an alliance with the Lee Family the longest. Both clad in their black funeral suits, the two young men stood near the hand-painted casket that belonged to Lee Dongwook, and paid their respects to the man who was known to be Ruler of the Mafia.
“I’ve known Uncle since I was little,” Han Seungwoo started his eulogy. He looked up and noticed that a hundred pair of eyes were on him. “Uncle treated me nicely. He taught me how to shoot a shotgun when I was ten years old. He complained that I should’ve mastered that at the age of seven because he did.”
Laughter erupted from the mourners and Seungwoo smiled.
“But most of all, he taught me the value of hard work and brotherhood. He was the kind of Boss that every don looked up to and every subordinate adored. I wish to be like him some day.”
Seungwoo looked at the photo of Lee Dongwook on top of the casket who was smiling proudly at the camera.
“We’ll miss you, Uncle,” he ended with a soft tone. Soft claps from the mourners accompanied Seungwoo as he made his way back to his seat.
Seungyoun got up the podium next and observed the picture before smiling. “I used to call him Boss. He was... the most respectful human being that I have ever met in my entire life. And I have met many people.”
There was a slight pause. He took in the sight of the bright sky above them before continuing.
“His words that stuck with me was that the world is beautiful as it is. Sadly, today the world mourned for your loss, Boss.” Seungyoun ended it with a bitter saying. He glanced at the picture one more time with a painful gaze.
Both Han Seungwoo and Cho Seungyoun stood near the casket as the dons of different families walked up to pay their respects, greeting some of the older ones with a warm smile, and helping escort the crying ones.
“The two of you throw a wonderful funeral,” one of the don’s wife muttered between her sobs. “I’m sure the Lee Family would have been happy to have all of you arrange their funeral.”
Han Seungwoo smiled as he pulled the middle-aged woman into a tight embrace. “We’re happy to hear that from you, Aunty. Thank you for coming.”
Cho Seungyoun followed with a warm smile after Seungwoo released her from his embrace. “It’s a great honor to hear that from you, Aunty.”
“The two of you will grow into great dons, Han Seungwoo, Cho Seungyoun,” another don commented as he patted both of the young men on their shoulders. He leaned closer so only the three of them could hear. He then whispered, “Or maybe one of you will snatch the chair where Lee Dongwook used to sit on so proudly?”
The man then roared with laughter and patted both Seungwoo and Seungyoun’s shoulders again before leaving. More dons approached the young heir of the Han and Cho Family, appreciating them for throwing such a wonderful and delightful funeral. People kept noting that they felt safe to have such nice and good young dons that would take their places later on.
“They’ll be the strongest dons later.”
“They’ll bring the mafia to its glory days again.”
Han Seungwoo and Cho Seungyoun returned the comments with warm smiles, fascinating the crowd. Little did the crowd know, everything was not as it seemed.
The funeral had ended.
The funeral house was almost empty, aside from a few people waiting for their rides at the parking lot. Cho Seungyoun and Han Seungwoo were two of them.
Seungwoo took a drag of his cigarette. The sun was setting already, painting the world below in a warm, orange glow. For a while he stared at the sky, his expression unreadable.
“I guess this is where we part,” he said.
Seungyoun replied with a small smirk as he loosened the tie around his neck. “Don’t be sad. We might meet each other sooner than later,” he taunted.
The tension rose creepingly. An unspoken war, silent spite, was brewing between the two heads of the current biggest families.
“My ride's here,” Seungwoo said, throwing his cigarette to the ground and crushing it with his foot. “Best of luck,” he ended.
Seungyoun clenched his jaw.
“Best of luck, Han Seungwoo.”
The news was explosive and spread like wildfire.
Even before television channels began to explode with words that the great Lee Dongwook was gone, the people living in the shadows were already aware of it all.
News travelled fast in the world of mafia. And not only fast, but far more elaborate. The public only knew that the Lee Family’s mansion had caught fire and that there were no survivors. But a massacre? Only the mafia were aware of that fact.
From one family to the other, the vague details of the great leader’s demise became known. People began to speculate.
And now after the funeral, the speculation and little snippets of news had gotten more and more intense. With hundreds of people talking about the bizarre and mysterious deaths, conflicting “facts” were bound to happen. Many things just simply didn’t add up.
Who was the one that not only brought down Lee Dongwook, but the whole family as well?
What kind of monster was able to take down an entire empire in the span of a single night?
It just seemed too bizarre— too terrifying to imagine. But the reality was there right in front of their eyes.
So the families began to talk. And out of all the fragments of speculation and news, one common name had emerged. The source of the information was unclear— where it had originated from, who it had originated from— but it was out in the open. And by now, everyone in the mafia world knew his name.
People shook their heads in disbelief. They began to dig up information about this Kim Wooseok. But the deeper they dug, the stronger their disbelief became.
How could a leader without a family do all of this? How could a man... who was barely known... manage to wipe out an entire family that had stood strong for generations?
“And even if he really was the one who did it,” people said. “Why? Why did he do it?”
With barely any information on Kim Wooseok, the speculations were based on the weakest of hunches.
Wooseok had previously killed one or two people. That was all people knew. Nothing more. Nothing less.
“He probably had a connection with Dongwook,” one said. “Maybe Dongwook’s heir?”
“But Kim Wooseok has no family,” another said.
“Or maybe him not having a family is exactly the point. He takes down the empire, he takes Dongwook’s place.”
“Or... Maybe the other big families have something to do with this.”
“You mean the Cho Family?”
“And the Han Family.”
“You’re saying Kim Wooseok was hired by one of them?”
“It makes sense. Those two families had always wanted more power.”
“Or perhaps it was another underground family.”
And the speculation continued. They continued and never stopped.
It was a big, old city.
Some called it home. Some called it a nightmare. It all depended on what one chose to do in the city. Or the luck that one has.
Or the bad luck.
Tall skyscrapers stretched up high, accompanied by clutters and clutters of smaller buildings below. Cars were driven on the cement roads. Sometimes brick roads. It all depended on which part of the city you were in.
Civilians bustled through crowds and sometimes walked on empty streets. They walked past a variety of buildings— some with unpainted bricks and some with elegant carvings that decorated the exterior. Some buildings were tall. Some were small. As if out of place with these old and seemingly ancient buildings, new ones had been built near them. These ones seemed more polished, more modern. But that didn’t take the beauty away from the original buildings that had been with the city for centuries.
Accompanying these buildings were large parks and immense rivers. Equally immense bridges stretched over those rivers, connecting one part of the city with the other.
If one were to ask any civilian wandering around, they might say that it was a beautiful city. It was a... place to be. Especially during the afternoons where the sun shone high in the sky and everything was out in the bright light of day.
But how about at night? one might ask. When the moon is out and the buildings are illuminated by their own lights?
The civilian might pause, as if thinking.
Still beautiful, they might answer. But within the cover of darkness, more things could happen. Bad things.
And in this city, a story had begun to unfold.
“He’s crazy,” Kim Kookheon blurted out as he stared at the board in front of him that was filled with pictures, notes, post-its, and messy scribbled notes. Song Yuvin, who was eating Chinese takeouts beside his supervisor, could only blink confusedly.
“This perp. If you noticed the patterns of his stabbing and everything.” Kookheon huffed, planting the board marker on the desk. He then directed the younger man’s attention to the dozens of photographs depicting bodies of the Lee Family that were taken for investigation purposes. Yuvin noticed that all of the victims’ bodies had huge and deep wounds, both from piercing and slashing, yet they were very clean cut.
“Is this a professional's work...?” Yuvin muttered under his breath as he examined the photographs closely.
Kookheon shrugged. “A pro who massacred the strongest mafia family with a long dagger that could pierce into someone’s heart.”
He then proceeded to demonstrate as if he was holding a weapon that could pierce into someone.
“Or slash them and make their victims bleed to death,” Kookheon continued, this time demonstrating it by slashing his hand into the air.
Yuvin could only stare at his supervisor as he looked up from the photographs on the table. “If the public knows that there are people being massacred in such manner— and that it happened to the most famous and strongest mafia family...”
“The city would go into full-blown panic,” a voice suddenly announced behind Yuvin, startling the younger detective and causing him to almost drop the Chinese takeout stacks beside him. Yuvin successfully caught them in time. The voice belonged to a tall man, raven-haired and a sly grin adorning his face.
“Working hard, eh, detectives?” The man waved his hand playfully at Kookheon who was pinching the bridge of his nose and huffing tiredly. Kookheon turned to the newly-arrived man and sighed.
“I told you not to show your face in the precinct unless I called you, Lee Jinhyuk,” Kookheon reprimanded with an annoyed tone. The man, Lee Jinhyuk, raised both of his hands in defeat. The grin had not left his face.
“Hey, at least I always bring you awesome information, Detective.” This time, he emphasized the ‘detective’ word, much to Kookheon’s annoyance. Yuvin could see how the older detective tried to calm himself down and probably stop himself from throwing this Lee Jinhyuk out of the police precinct.
“Who are you?” Yuvin asked.
The tall man grinned as he extended his hand to Yuvin. “Lee Jinhyuk. Your boss’s snitch. And the one who will help you catch this perp.”
Choi Byungchan fastened his pace as he made his way to his supervisor’s office. His hand was squeezing the newspaper that highlighted today’s news— the head of the Lee Family was buried in a big funeral after a crazy fire a few days ago — while trying to balance a thick file in his other hand. He tossed the file to his desk upon passing it. The supervisor’s office was filled with people for morning briefing and Choi Byungchan was running late. He entered the room quietly and immediately found a place to listen to the morning briefing.
“I want the report of the robbery at the 78th to be done this evening, and that... casino scandal to be done before I leave my office today. You’re all dismissed.” The Editor-in-Chief of The Daily News, Park Sunho, finally ended the morning briefing.
The reporters made their way to exit the room and started getting ready to begin their day. Byungchan was one of them.
“Choi Byungchan! You’re staying!” Sunho called out.
Byungchan paused in his tracks and closed his eyes in defeat. He made his way to stand in front of Sunho’s desk.
“I got a call from your university," Sunho started. "If you don’t submit your report this semester, they will have to fail you. Again.”
Byungchan knew where the conversation would lead; they would talk about how Byungchan never had the luck of finding a great scoop to report (his lecturer wanted a Great scoop, emphasized on the Great; ones that would make headlines for the newspapers, not the columns that Byungchan constantly found his articles in), and Sunho would massage his temple tiredly.
But today, Byungchan swore it would be different.
“I’m going to do a scoop on the Cho Family. About how they allegedly have ties with the mafia,” Byungchan blurted. Sunho immediately turned his head towards the younger journalist in front of him so hard, Byungchan worried his neck might snap.
“You... want to write about the Cho Family... The ones whose money is the very reason our newspaper is still here and the ones who are well known for supporting every orphanage and retirement home in this city— no, nation— and how they allegedly have ties with the mafia?!” Sunho asked in disbelief.
Byungchan nodded meekly.
“Are you kidding me?!” Sunho suddenly raised his voice, making Byungchan reflexively shut his eyes in surprise. It was not his first time being the victim of Sunho’s anger but it still scared him sometimes. “You have more luck reporting about random coconut trees than writing about this one!”
Byungchan pulled out the newspaper that he was squeezing earlier and opened it in front of Sunho. The younger man pointed at a photograph of a casket being carried into the funeral home. He pointed at one individual in particular.
“Cho Seungyoun. The heir of Cho Family. He was at Lee Dongwook’s funeral. He carried the casket and even gave a eulogy for the funeral!”
“Because Lee Dongwook was his godfather! It’s common knowledge!” Sunho reprimanded back.
He could only sigh when he saw Byungchan with a determined look on his face.
“Look. I won’t lie," Sunho then said. "You are one of our best journalists— and you’re not even a full-time journalist in this company. I was going to promote you to be our full-time employee but I can’t do that if you fail to get this scoop.” He pointed at the newspaper that Byungchan had laid out for him.
“I have my informant. I swear I’ll make it through,” Byungchan replied confidently.
“This guy I met at the bar yesterday— Boss! I swear he’s legit!” Byungchan immediately cut off Sunho before he got the chance to open his mouth and yell at the younger man again. Byungchan sighed. “I know it’s not the most credible lead that I have, but... You know how long I spent doing this research, Boss. Please. It’ll hit big. I promise.”
Sunho massaged his temple again before raising his hand slowly, forming a ‘two’ with his fingers.
“Two weeks. I’m giving you two weeks to convince me that this is the scoop or I’ll have you transferred out from this company into some porn magazine company.”
Byungchan’s face immediately lit up and he smiled. “I won’t let you down, Boss.”
He excused himself and ran towards his desk where his deskmate, Choi Suhwan, was waiting for him with his head on his hand. He looked up to find Byungchan making a pleading face at him.
“You gotta give me your contacts from the police,” Byungchan immediately pleaded. He had both of his hands clasped together and he bowed his head in front of Suhwan.
“No way. You’re gonna do something stupid,” Suhwan answered quickly as he turned his attention back to his computer, ignoring Byungchan’s existence completely. The taller man then crouched near his deskmate.
“Please, I’ll pay your beer tabs for a full week. I have to get that mafia scoop or Sunho will have me shipped off to the porn industry and I’m too innocent for that!” Byungchan whined. Suhwan widened his eyes and turned his attention towards his friend in an almost slow-motion move.
“A scoop on mafia? You really don’t value your life, huh?" Suhwan retorted. "I knew you were reckless, Choi Byungchan, but I didn’t know you were dumb.”
Byungchan sighed and stared intently at his friend. “Please, Suhwan. You know that I’ve been doing research about them for almost two years now. I can do this but I need your help.”
Suhwan stared at Byungchan for a while. He let out a heavy breath as he pulled a post-it from the edge of his desk and began to scribble on it. He was about to give the post-it to Byungchan but retracted it immediately.
“Two weeks worth of beer tabs,” Suhwan bargained. Byungchan pouted for a while, the gears in his head turning, before he gulped and nodded his head slowly, accepting the deal. Suhwan smiled as he handed Byungchan the post-it with a number of Suhwan’s contact at the police department.
Byungchan muttered a thank you and ran off to his desk, completely ignoring the comment “Do you know that you’ll make bigger money in the porn industry than in here?” that Suhwan made.
A man was walking on the side of an empty street, humming a sweet melody. A lullaby. He was small, with dark brown hair and cat-like eyes. Almost boyish in a way. He took a few light steps before swiftly grabbing the short dagger inside his suit and throwing it to the tree right behind him.
“I can hear you," he warned. Almost teasing. “Show yourself.”
He turned around to the sight of five burly men with cigarettes in their mouths. They took no time to surround him, but the man was quiet. Watching.
Handguns, the man thought. Handguns and knives. No axes.
“It’s dangerous for a little boy to stroll alone at night,” said the biggest one.
He scoffed. “It’s pathetic to surround a little boy who’s strolling alone at night.”
The five men looked into each other’s eyes before they put their hands into their suit pockets, about to reach for the handguns that they carried. The small man’s eyes squinted, alert. He went into a fighting stance when suddenly—
“Halt,” a low voice ordered.
A rather tall man came into view. Slicked back hair and a smile carved on his face. His suit was silk. Expensive. A man with position, for sure. In fact, the small man knew exactly who he was.
“Han Seungwoo,” he greeted calmly.
Seungwoo’s smile widened.
“You know my name,” he stated. It was not a question. The small man smiled.
Seungwoo barked a laugh. He signaled the five men to disperse. They followed immediately. Must’ve been his men, the small man thought.
“You know,” Seungwoo began, taking two steps closer. “You’re pretty famous yourself.” He put one finger under the shorter man’s chin, forcing him to look up into his eyes. He smirked, a totally different smile from the calm smile he had been showing earlier. “A man who destroyed an empire overnight. Kim Wooseok.”
Wooseok stopped in front of his apartment door. The rusty door knob was slightly turned.
Someone was here before him.
He grabbed another small dagger on his left suit pocket before opening the door. Inside, he was greeted by— not one— but two men, holding him at gunpoint. One of them was lounging on the sofa, the other man standing behind him. Both wore clean and neat suits, the ties done well. Wooseok raised his hands.
“Have any of you ever heard of knocking?” he asked.
The figure on the couch laughed out loud. His dark black hair was slicked back with just a few strands falling on his forehead. “You’re more interesting than I thought you would be,” he said. His laughter calmed down to a small smirk. Proud. “Do you know who we are?”
“Cho Seungyoun. Current head of the Cho family. The man behind you, Lee Hangyul. Your right hand,” Wooseok answered.
Seungyoun smirked, looking pretty satisfied with that answer.
“What do you need?” Wooseok asked.
He felt a sense of déjà vu, the meeting he had earlier with Seungwoo playing in his head.
“What do you need?" he had asked Seungwoo.
Seungyoun’s smirk grew wider. Creepy. Almost lunatic.
Seungwoo’s smirk had grown wider. Determined. Powerful.
“I need you to kill—” Seungyoun said.
“I need you to kill —” Seungwoo had said.
Wooseok grinned. Like a cheshire cat.
“What do you have for me?”