The cafe ’s atmosphere was better than Kang Eun-Yeong had expected.
However, she couldn ’t really enjoy herself.
Part of the reason was that her idol, Choi Yeon-Ha, was sitting right in front of her.
The biggest reason, though, was something else.

’The coffee here is so bland…! ’

Kang Eun-Yeong usually wasn ’t picky about her food, but her palate had been spoiled by the coffee brewed by her father, who had reached the level of a master barista by now.
So, some random cup of coffee brewed by a low-rank barista just couldn ’t impress her.

Choi Yeon-Ha seemed to have noticed something and asked, “Looks like you haven ’t touched your coffee?”

Uhm, it ’s just that…”

“Don ’t you like it?”

Kang Eun-Yeong hesitated with her answer, thinking that lying about the coffee tasting good was against the etiquette here.

Choi Yeon-Ha grinned softly.
“I guess you have your fav cafe, too.
Most people would say this coffee is pretty great, you know?”

“My dad runs a cafe, you see.”

“Ah, that ’s right.
Your dad ’s proud owner of a cafe, isn ’t he?”

My dad really puts his heart into brewing coffee, you see? And after drinking his coffee all this time, the others are a bit…”

“Aha…” Choi Yeon-Ha nodded in understanding.
“Coffee from other cafes doesn ’t suit your palate anymore.”

Kang Eun-Yeong hurriedly came up with an idea.
“H-how about you visit my dad ’s cafe later on? I promise you his coffee is so delectable.
Even the cakes are top-notch, too.
Don ’t worry, I ’ll pick up the bill.”

“Oh, my? Will you do that for me?” Choi Yeon-Ha covered her lips and smiled.
“You know, Miss Se-Ah, you were far better than I thought in front of the camera.”

“Really?” Kang Eun-Yeong ’s expression brightened.

In my opinion, I think you have a better prospect of being an actor than a singer.
Of course, I ’m not saying you ’re not cut out to be an idol.
It ’s just my observation as an actor, you see? When I see a promising talent like you, I can ’t bring myself to look the other way, you know? Please don ’t take it the wrong way, Miss Se-Ah.”

“Oh, no! Of course, I won ’t! To think that you ’d evaluate me so highly, senior! It ’s like a dream come true.”

“Really? You aren ’t just saying that to make me feel better?”

“No, I ’m being serious! I ’ve always admired you even before making my debut, you know? And I had to beg and whine like crazy to get a part in this series after hearing about you starring in it.”

“Thank you for saying that.” Choi Yeon-Ha covered her lips again while laughing happily away.

She’s a nice person, after all! ’

Kang Eun-Yeong inwardly sighed in relief after her expectation of Choi Yeon-Ha more or less matched the real article.

Slogging through show business for a little while would naturally teach you that a celebrity ’s public persona rarely matched their true nature.
In fact, the gap between the two would be huge.
It was rather common to see that a top star beloved by everyone for being pure and kind turned out to be a narcissist who enjoyed torturing their acquaintances.
A pure sadist, in other words.

Celebrities had to put on a facade in front of everyone, which caused enormous stress.
And more often than not, they would vent that stress in weird, unconventional ways.
Thankfully, though, Choi Yeon-Ha was as nice as Kang Eun-Yeong had been hoping for.

Kang Eun-Yeong smiled and leaned forward.
“Do you have anything you ’re curious about me, senior?”

“Mm, well.
Rather than being curious about you, Miss Se-Ah…
In a way, this might come as a bit unexpected and strange to hear, but…”

Unexpected and strange? Kang Eun-Yeong waited in anticipation for what Choi Yeon-Ha would say next.

“…Miss Se-Ah, what type of a man is your older brother?”

“I ’m sorry?” Kang Eun-Yeong was taken aback by that unanticipated curveball and could only look at Choi Yeon-Ha weirdly.


The room was damp and inky black inside.
Lee Hyeon-Su tensed up as he glared into the dark space beyond the wide-open steel door.
The outline of the staircase going deeper underground was just barely visible to his naked eyes.

’Bloody hell… ’

Every time he had to see that bastard, Lee Hyeon-Su had to go through this nonsense.
And whenever he stood on this corridor, he couldn ’t help but wonder if he would get to leave that underground area unscathed this time as well.

’Even if that bastard has his uses…! ’

Running an organization wasn’t an easy task.
And it was especially true with an entity like the Yeongnam Group that dealt with strength.
Sometimes, one had to walk a path they knew wasn ’t the correct way.

Lee Hyeon-Su understood all that.
Even so, he couldn ’t help but think that there had to be a limit to that thought process.

At the bottom of these stairs awaited a man named…
the Fallen.

That nickname was given by Kim Seok-Il, the chairman of the Yeongnam Group, the idea being this bastard was a ’fallen ’ man who walked a path no human should tread.

Although that term sounded perfect, Lee Hyeon-Su also felt it to be too high-class to be given to the crazed bastard waiting on the basement floor.
Indeed, a nickname that was a little more debasing and savage would have been a better fit.

“Fuu-woo…” Lee Hyeon-Su sucked in a deep breath while glaring into the darkness of the basement.

He understood why, of course.
Anyone who had been in charge of an organization before would understand the need for this arrangement.
After all, one ’s skills, personal connections and the power to influence their surroundings weren ’t the only building blocks of this world.
Sometimes, words that made little logical sense would be more important than everything else.

…Just like how superior specs and cutting-edge equipment could be soundly trounced by a hunch and innovation.
And to Lee Hyeon-Su, ’facade ’ was like that.

A ’facade ’ might seem cumbersome and a waste of one ’s time, but it was also an absolutely-necessary beast.
Even if everyone else knew that it was only a facade, one still needed it to justify their actions.

No politician or political party would come out and say they were participating in politics to seize power and grow fat from the rich benefits.
Most citizens suspected it was the truth, but the politicians still yapped on about the welfare of the country and the advancement of society all the time.
Why was that?

The moment these politicians cast aside their ’facade ’ and spoke the truth, the public ’s suspicion would be proven right, that was why.
And the public would start hurling rocks and abuse at the politicians afterward.

Imagine a situation where a local car company announced that it had lost a ton of money while trying to enter a foreign market but still managed to rake in record profits from local consumers.
And what would happen if the current ruling party announced that it had never really cared about the country ’s welfare, to begin with, and only wanted to receive bribes and throw its weight around?

Anyone with a brain could guess the end result.
The powder keg, kept docile with the facade of ’for the country and her citizens! ’ would ignite and blow up in no time at all.
This was why the facade…
the ’pretext ’ was so important.

The conflict between the Yeongnam Group and the Korean Martial Assembly was all about benefits and vested interests.
Everyone already knew that.
Even so, both sides still had to put on a facade that said, “We ’re doing this to prepare against foreign influences and to carry on the legacy of this country ’s martial path!”

And to maintain this facade, one needed at least some kind of a mechanism in place—such as, not doing anything ’dirty ’ where others could see.
And then, having an escape path ready; a pawn to shift the blame, and to wash away your guilt clean.

The Fallen was that escape path for the Yeongnam Group ’s chairman, Kim Seok-Il.
That crazy bastard was a useful pawn who could deal with a situation in silence and without witnesses.
However, if he got exposed somehow, the Yeongnam Group could always discard him and deny any knowledge of him.
A wonderful pawn, indeed.

Lee Hyeon-Su stopped glaring at the staircase and finally began walking down into the basement.
The darkness here was especially thick, as if the air was stained by black ink.
It was so dark, in fact, that the trained eyes of Lee Hyeon-Su still had issues deciphering his surroundings properly.
And then…
the nose-stinging stench wafting in the air…!

That was the smell of blood—not the fresh kind but blood that had long dried up and was already half rotten.
The combination of countless different disgusting stenches was beyond Lee Hyeon-Su ’s limited vocabulary to express in words.

Lee Hyeon-Su covered his nose as he continued to descend the stairs.
He eventually reached the bottom, then quietly raised his voice.

There was no reply.
However, Lee Hyeon-Su didn ’t lose his patience and simply repeated himself.

“…I can hear you.” The eerie reply came from behind Lee Hyeon-Su.

’Since when?! ’

Behind Lee Hyeon-Su was the staircase, so when did the Fallen find the chance to stand there? Even though Lee Hyeon-Su didn ’t sense any presence whatsoever…

Within the mixture of the disgusting stench was the thick smell of blood.

’You son of a b*tch…! ’ 

Lee Hyeon-Su quietly gritted his teeth.

This bastard nicknamed the Fallen might be a useful pawn, but the fact that such an individual was being used seemed to be pointing out how rotten to the core the Yeongnam Group had become.
However, Lee Hyeon-Su couldn ’t blame anyone else here.
He was also guilty, after all.
“The Chairman is looking for you.
You have a new job.”

“The… The Chairman? Chairman?”

“…You insane fool!”

When Lee Hyeon-Su muttered that out, a hot and sticky breath tickled the back of his ear.
“Oh? You think I ’m insane?”


Maybe you ’re right, and I ’m insane.
I can see how white your throat is.
It ’s so white, eh? Mm? I don ’t know why I ’m keeping you alive here.
I wanna rip that throat of yours apart.
What kind of a sound would it make if I do that? So…
What were you saying earlier?”

Lee Hyeon-Su quietly groaned.

The Fallen ’s real identity was a man who had lost his humanity after demonic energy had corrupted him to his soul.
The Yeongnam Group protected him from the pursuit of other factions, and as payment, he was made to perform certain tasks too dirty for others to carry out.

’Looks like his madness has gotten worse… ’ 

Lee Hyeon-Su grimaced.
It was possible to converse to some degree with the Fallen not too long ago, but now…

“The Chairman said you must not harm me.”

“The Chairman? Who?”

“Kim Seok-Il.”

That name invited a bout of silence in the dark basement before the Fallen broke it.
“Right, right.
Kim Seok-Il.
That ’s right.
So, what ’s the job?”

“There ’s a man you need to kill.”

“Huh? But I always kill people?”

’…You stinking bastard! ’

Lee Hyeon-Su shuddered in disgust.
The fact that he had to talk to this less-than-human creature was making him sick to his stomach.
Instead of wasting his time shooting the breeze, he decided to get right to the point and leave.


Lee Hyeon-Su tossed a pile of documents on the floor.
“The target ’s name is Kang Jin-Ho.
A brat who ’s not even thirty.
Make it as silent as possible since he ’s being observed.”

A quick look at will leave you more fulfilled.

Shuffle, shuffle…

Lee Hyeon-Su didn ’t even bother to hide the disgust written on his face while mouthing a cigarette.
The occasion and situation were supposed to be responsible for the overall atmosphere.
And this basement had to be the only place in the entire world where the sound of papers rustling about came across as stomach-churning.

“…A brat?” The Fallen ’s cackling voice rang out in the darkness.
“I guess you ’re scared of nothing in this world since you can call this guy a brat.
I wish I were as brazen as you.
Just looking at his photo alone is making me so scared I can ’t even stand still! Yet you called him a brat! Kekekeke.”

Lee Hyeon-Su ’s expression hardened in that instant.
The Fallen was a demonic art practitioner.
He was also a nut case and a blood-stained butcher of fellow humans.
Despite possessing all these horrendous qualities, the Yeongnam Group chose not to dispose of the Fallen simply because his abilities were unquestionably top-tier.

Yet, someone like that was whining away about a target? This had never happened before.
Could it be that only a lunatic was capable of spotting something in the target?

“What are you saying? You don ’t want to do this job?” Lee Hyeon-Su asked in uncertainty.

“Don ’t wanna?” The Fallen tilted his head.
“Why don ’t I wanna? If I say I don ’t wanna, I don ’t have to? Not do it? Me not doing it? Not doing something he ordered me? Not gonna do it.
Can I not do it?”

He continued to mumble and cackle to himself as blood vessels began to bulge in his eyes.

“I ’ll sink my teeth into his neck and shove my hand inside his tummy.
Hey, have you seen the face a person makes as their throat and intestines are ripped out at the same time? I wonder, what kind of an expression will this bastard with this face make? Ah? What will his expressionless face change to? Aren ’t you curious? Curious?”

“…Finish the job as soon as possible,” Lee Hyeon-Su curtly said.
He then turned around and headed back up the staircase.
He didn ’t want to stay here any longer than necessary after his eyes had finally adjusted to the darkness and spotted several objects wrapped up in large plastic bags by the basement ’s corner.
He didn ’t want to know what they were, nor he wanted to guess.

’I ’m beginning to pity that Kang Jin-Ho kid… ’

Anyone about to come face-to-face with that lunatic deserved some sympathy.
Lee Hyeon-Su had never met Kang Jin-Ho before, but he still prayed that the young man would die swiftly and painlessly.

was the only thing Lee Hyeon-Su could do for Kang Jin-Ho.

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