The War of Gods – Prologue & Chapter 1
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War starts on April 28th, 2014
“Our world isn’t a society where love conquers all.”
He remained quiet while he stood atop one of the tallest buildings in the city. His dark brown eyes watched as a young woman sped away in a silver taxicab. His eyes moved over to the King of Serpents. The infamous King stood quiet, dazed, and broken. It looked like someone had just ripped the heart out of the Underworld Royal.
A gust of wind rippled over the roof, blowing away the snow that once layered the silent observer’s hooded black jacket. His face was obscured by shadows. His only visible feature was a gold ring piercing on his lower lip and a scar of the number “57” that covered most of his left cheek.
He balled his fists as he watched the taxicab disappear out of sight. Coldness seeped into his eyes.He extracted a silver flip-phone from his pocket and dialed. As the phone rang, his eyes strayed downward to the barefoot King of Serpents sitting on the hood of a snow-covered car. He looked miserable with his face buried into his hands.
“What is it?” a female voice answered over the phone, snapping the man from his stupor.
“She’s alive,” he whispered, getting right to the point.
Hatred saturated his voice. “The Queen.”
A short, uncomfortable pause came over the line. “That’s . . .That’s impossible. She died in Taecin. In the fire . . . she died. No one could have survived the fires we set.”
“Somehow she did survive,” he stated firmly. His voice pulsed with scorn. “And she’s back in Seoul.”
“Why . . . Why are you calling about this?” she stuttered. “Why aren’t you going after her?”
“The King of Serpents was with her.”
His eyes returned downward when he heard the sound of shattering glass. The Underworld King had punched his fist into the window of a parked car. Blood oozed from his clenched fist. He did not appear to be affected by the physical injury, but his face still reflected pain from a different source. Perhaps from the one who just left him.
There was a long pause on the other end at the mention of the King of Serpents. “And he isn’t anymore?”
The man withdrew his eyes from Kwon Tae Hyun.
“Just gather everyone,” he said instead, absently running his fingers over his scar. The thirst for vengeance seared in his eyes. “We have unfinished business to take care of.”
Apprehensive silence occupied the line. “But boss—”
“I’ll personally deal with him,” the man assured, cutting the woman off. His jaw clenched as he cast one final glance at Tae Hyun.
“Right now, all that matters is making An Soo Jin pay for what she did three years ago.”
“It is a cruel world. . .”
01: Enjoy Your Coffin
When faced with the adversities of life, most people turn to the likes of alcohol to take them unto a world where the pain becomes numbed, nonexistent.
Always a firm believer in maintaining control, Choi Yoori opted out of the “get-my-ass-drunk-because-my-life-sucks” therapy and gravitated toward something healthier. In lieu of wallowing in a bar somewhere, Yoori chose to immerse herself in a world where there were stories that were bigger than hers, stories that could con her reality and momentarily shield her from her problems. A local library proved key to this therapeutic endeavor.
It had been three weeks since the altercation between herself and her former crime lord boss, Kwon Tae Hyun. After months of being together, she discovered that he purposely sought her out, blackmailed her into being his assistant, and used her because of her resemblance to the Queen of the Underworld, An Soo Jin. Though it turned out that Yoori was indeed the missing Queen who somehow acquired amnesia, it did not lessen the blow of the discovery. She had fallen for him—hard. To find out that he had used her like a fool since the beginning was a difficult pill to swallow. Needless to say, their breakup was as volatile as an exploding car.
Since the dispute, Yoori returned to her cramped apartment and did her best to get some semblance of her life back. Regrettably, Tae Hyun made such an attempt difficult for Yoori. Instead of disappearing from her life, he continued to make his presence known by ensuring that she was well taken care of. It was likely because of a guilty conscience, but he not only made sure that her bank account was stocked with enough money to last her for years, he also sent over a messenger days later with the key to his black Mercedes convertible.
Yoori was initially too pissed off to even look at the car. Once she calmed down, she rationalized that it was safer for her to be at the library late at night with her own car as opposed to taking any public transportation. She may be stubborn and prideful, but she wasn’t stupid. Aware of the dangers around her, she knew that having the car would decrease the amount of trouble she could find herself in. Though she had more than enough funds to purchase a brand new car, Yoori convinced herself that she should keep the Mercedes because she wanted to save money for emergencies. Deep down, she couldn’t deny the warm feeling that came over her whenever she was in the car. She chose not to examine why she felt that way. She merely convinced herself that it was because she was in love with the car, not the previous owner.
Yoori made her peace with accepting Tae Hyun’s car, but adjusting to the other aspects of her life proved to be difficult. She hadn’t realized how comfortable she had grown in Tae Hyun’s apartment until she started to feel like a stranger in her own. She also couldn’t stop thinking about how her best friend was raped because of her, how she singlehandedly killed eleven men, and how she found out about Tae Hyun’s betrayal. It didn’t help that she had no one to vent to. Her only saving grace was the library and the escape she found in the stories living there.
In the midst of adjusting into her new life, her best friend Lee Chae Young, was discharged from the hospital. When Yoori visited her, Chae Young’s boyfriend, Jae Won, was there with her. Jae Won, who was in Tae Hyun’s gang (and An Soo Jin’s former right-hand man), had been by his girlfriend’s side since she left the hospital. While Yoori was able to refrain from having another guilt-stricken breakdown, it still tore her apart to be in Chae Young’s company. As absurd as it sounded, she didn’t feel worthy enough to breathe the same air as her best friend. Despite this torturous feeling, Yoori didn’t show it externally.
Yoori’s thoughts drifted from the fictional book she was reading to a memory of what took place the last time she visited her best friend.
“Is everything okay? You look thinner than before,” Chae Young had observed during one of Yoori’s visits. Her face was also pale. Unlike Yoori’s though, Chae Young’s face was still marred with healing bruises and scars.
“Everything is okay,” Yoori lied with a forced smile. It agonized Yoori that even in her own state of misery, Chae Young was still watching out for her. “You know me, I suck when it comes to dealing with cold weather. I’ll be better soon.”
Chae Young nodded, her sad eyes detecting the lie in Yoori’s voice.
Yoori kept a reassuring smile on her face. Standing at a modest 5’3” with big eyes and plump lips, Yoori was a force to be reckoned with when she smiled. She had the ability to make people feel reassured, like the heartless world was actually a safe place. It was a power that, for the good of everyone around her, Yoori used and exploited daily.
Jae Won was busy preparing dinner so she had some alone time with Chae Young. During the course of their conversation, Chae Young wasn’t inclined to talk about the details of what happened to her in the diner. Yoori respected this and played along. They spoke about nonchalant things that meant nothing to either of them. While they spoke, Yoori also decided it would be better not to update Chae Young on the situation with Tae Hyun. It was an odd thing that two best friends couldn’t confide in each other. One was traumatized while the other was consumed with guilt. Yoori wished she was stronger for Chae Young, but she knew if they even mentioned Tae Hyun or spoke about what happened in the diner, then she would likely have an emotional breakdown that would push Chae Young over the edge. Yoori couldn’t do that to her best friend. She’d rather suffer in solitude.
It wasn’t until Chae Young left to shower that Yoori was snowplowed into talking about Tae Hyun. The force behind this ambush was Jae Won. Yoori had been ignoring Jae Won the whole time she visited her friend, and she was not happy when he finally confronted her.
“I know that things are over between you and Boss Kwon, but why are you ignoring me too?” Jae Won confronted with frustration.
They could hear the showerhead running as they stood in the hall.
Jae Won, looking like a refined aristocrat with a rugged quality to him, eyed the bathroom door. He towered over her. He was dressed simply in a khaki jacket and jeans. Had Yoori not seen his fighting capabilities firsthand, she would venture to say that he looked like a spoiled rich boy who had too much money and too much time on his hands. In reality, he was far from the spoiled rich boy. He was a formidable figure in a powerful Underworld gang. He may have served Kings and Queens, but to the rest of the world, he was a deadly royal in his own right.
When Jae Won determined that Chae Young wasn’t within earshot of their conversation, his attention returned to Yoori. He, too, knew that it was best to keep all the drama away from Chae Young. She needed time to heal; she didn’t need to be hounded with other worries.
“You knew he was using me all along, and you didn’t warn me,” Yoori answered irritably. She clenched her fists in resentment. “You just watched as he played me for a fool—you and your brother.”
She’d had time to mull over everything and a big realization came over her: Jae Won, along with Kang Min who was his younger brother and part of Tae Hyun’s gang, knew all along that Tae Hyun was using her. That was why they told her in the limo they weren’t sure if Tae Hyun could be trusted. It was because they knew that her relationship with Tae Hyun had been forged on lies. They knew and never told her. She loved the brothers, but her pride—her hatred for feeling betrayed—was all consuming. As far as Yoori was concerned, cutting off ties due to the betrayal didn’t end with Tae Hyun. It extended to the brothers too.
“Why the hell would we tell you since we all knew you’d run off because your damn pride means more to you than your own life?” he snarled. For the first time since she had known him, Jae Won’s face contorted in anger while speaking to her. He was beside himself with fury. “We knew he used you to get me, to get my gang to merge with his. That was why I hated him in the beginning. That was why I told you not to trust him. But as time went on, it became obvious that he fucked himself up because he fell for you. We took back our uncertainty and told you that we thought he could be trusted because we both knew that he would take care of you, regardless of the decisions he made in the past when he didn’t even know who you were to begin with.”
Yoori snorted at his last sentence. “You’re siding with him?”
Jae Won made a rude sound as well. “Boss, do you honestly think that Kwon Tae Hyun is the type of guy who brings girls to lake houses, creates personal made Winter Wonderlands for them, and decorates his apartment for their birthdays? Do you think he did all that just to get into your pants?” He shook his head. “He did all of that because he felt guilty for bringing you into this world. He wanted to take you away from the cruelties of this world and allow you to temporarily live in a dream world.” His eyes became aggrieved. “He may have dragged you into this world for his own selfish needs, but he’s paying for it now. He’s fucked up his status and power in this world. He’s paying for it now, and he protects you more than you’ll ever know. I told you that I trusted him—I still do. I’m not siding with him; it’s just that I empathize with loving someone who suffered because of the world I brought them into.”
It was only then that Yoori saw guilt devour his eyes. Jae Won understood Tae Hyun because he related to him. Jae Won blamed himself for what happened to Chae Young; he blamed himself for bringing her into this world. Yoori breathed in painfully. The guilt he felt was something she wanted to relieve him of. It wasn’t his fault that Chae Young was raped. The burden rested on her and her alone.
When she was about to muster up the courage to tell him that none of this was his fault, the bathroom door opened.
Chae Young came out in her white sweater and pink pajama pants. The outfit dwarfed her normally tall figure. Chae Young used to emanate the most vivacious aura but for the past few weeks, as the weight came off her like the falling water from her newly washed hair, she looked like a shell of her former self. The very sight broke Yoori’s heart.
“Are you guys ready to eat?” she asked meekly.
Dread assailed Yoori as she stared at Chae Young. She no longer found the valor to voice her guilt. She became a coward again and wanted to run away.
“I actually have to return some books to the library,” Yoori shared with a smile that hid the storm brewing inside her. “We’ll have dinner together another time, okay?”
As Chae Young nodded in confusion, Yoori walked over and gave her a huge hug. She pulled out, gave Jae Won a stiff nod, and left without another word. As she exited the building like the coward she was, Yoori belatedly realized she didn’t have her keys.
Damn, she thought.
Rushing back, Yoori quietly reentered the apartment. Chae Young and Jae Won were no longer outside. From the mumbled voices coming from the hall, she deduced that they were in Chae Young’s bedroom. Yoori slowly inched in to look for her keys when she froze like ice. She was taken aback when she heard soft sobs emit from Chae Young’s room.
Chae Young’s cries spilled over her like acid rain, sending aches to eat at her heart. It was then that Yoori realized Chae Young had been holding in her tears this whole time, waiting for her to leave. Yoori wanted to rush into the bedroom to comfort Chae Young, but she resisted the urge. She couldn’t see Chae Young at that moment without breaking down as well. God help her if she broke down again. Her chest tightened while she suppressed her own tears. Unable to withstand it, Yoori quickly grabbed her keys and left before anyone found out she was there. She trusted Jae Won to take care of Chae Young, holding and comforting her as a boyfriend should. . .as Tae Hyun once held her when she needed a shoulder to cry on.
Yoori chewed on her lips.
She had never felt more alone.
Heaving a quiet breath as she thought about Chae Young and what happened that night, Yoori flipped the next page of her library book. It had been days since she last saw Chae Young, and the pain was still fresh within her.
“Shh! Go outside if you want to make a call.”
Yoori lifted her gaze from her book when she heard murmuring from the other corner of the library. The source of the sound came from three men. All were dressed in dark puffy jackets, jeans, and beanies. They were three of the many men who had kept her company in the library for more than three weeks now.
Although Tae Hyun hadn’t made an appearance in her life since their fall out, that did not mean that Serpents gang members hadn’t appeared in her world either. After moving back into her apartment, Yoori noticed that there were Serpents watching over her and following her everywhere she went. If she hadn’t recognized some of them, then she wouldn’t have even suspected she was being guarded. She hadn’t complained because they had all been very quiet. She also wasn’t a fool. She knew her life was in danger. Regardless of where it came from, she would accept all the protection she could get. Lastly, she felt alone so it was nice to know that wasn’t actually the case.
“Miss, we’re about to close in fifteen minutes,” a library assistant informed Yoori, smiling warmly at her as Yoori’s gaze averted from her unofficial bodyguards.
Yoori nodded at the young college girl, thanking her for the notice before the girl went to inform other library patrons that it was time to pack up.
It was closing time again.
Another day gone by. . .
Snow was pouring when Yoori walked out of the library. She pulled the white hood of her jacket over her black ponytail and raced to her car. She peered at the rearview mirror after she started the engine. Like clockwork, three Serpents got into their black BMW, ready to follow her.
Yoori drove in silence, thinking about nothing in particular. She parked a block away from her apartment and was running home when she suddenly felt a pair of eyes on her.
She stopped in her tracks and looked around.
Countless people walked around her in the drizzling snow. Yoori looked across the street. The Serpents were in their car, drinking coffee while looking all around to make sure no threats were present. The feeling of someone watching her became more prominent, and she knew it did not come from the Serpents in her company. Yoori surveyed the street again. Though people surrounded her, the sensation of being watched did not appear to be coming from those who stood in her direct line of vision. It felt like it was coming from above.
Her gaze gradually climbed up to one of the taller buildings on the block. Her heart jolted to a quick stop.
Was it her imagination or was someone standing on the roof of that building?
Yoori blinked the snow off her eyes and continued to keep her focus on the silhouette above. She began to walk toward the shadow when the sound of tires screeching distracted her.
She averted her eyes in a panic, thinking a vehicle was coming for her. Her breath steadied when she saw that a red truck had skidded to a stop in front of a young couple jaywalking on the street. Luckily, the truck stopped in time. The couple waved their apology to the driver and ran off into a nearby apartment building. The truck resumed driving and everything returned to normal on the street. Yoori took her eyes off the scene and looked back at the top of the building. Surprise met her when only an unoccupied roof greeted her eyes. The mysterious shadow was no longer there.
Yoori blew out a relieved breath. It was nothing after all. Shaking her head at her overactive imagination, she wasted no more time and hurried up to her apartment. She stepped in, flicked on all the lights, and locked the door. She was about to step into her bedroom when she heard the sound of someone breathing.
Yoori straightened like a cobra on the attack.
She moved back into the hall. Slowly, she started approaching the living room. She stopped cold once she spotted the silhouette of someone hiding behind the bookshelf in her living room.
Wasting no time, Yoori made a beeline for the door when a second intruder sprang out from the kitchen and kicked her away from the exit.
Her body slammed into the back of the living room sofa. Pain from the impact detonated inside her, and she scrambled to escape. She was merely inches away from the door when the man, who was previously hiding behind the bookshelf, locked a powerful arm around her neck and held her prisoner.
“Always so good with your hearing,” he whispered with amusement.
Yoori looked at him and the other man by the door. They wore gray suits and had dark hair perfectly slicked back. They looked like they belonged in a business meeting rather than in an apartment ambush.
“What do you want?” she said breathlessly, attempting to get oxygen into her lungs while in a chokehold.
They were either here because of her relationship with Kwon Tae Hyun or because she was the Queen of the Underworld prior to her amnesia. Either way, Kwon Tae Hyun and An Soo Jin had a lot of enemies. Being attacked for either reason would never end well for her.
“To bury you in your coffin,” he growled, confirming her worst fears. He eyed the other man by the doorway. “We have five minutes to get her down. Will the Serpents downstairs be a problem?”
“No,” answered the second man. “We’re taking her through the back exit.”
Survival instincts overtook Yoori. She would be damned if she made it easy for them to kill her. If she was going down, then she wasn’t going down without a fight.
“Fuck you!” Yoori shouted, grabbing a lamp from the table and hitting the guy holding her across the head. Taking out all her pent up anger on him, she hit him continuously, drawing blood as the light bulb flickered into darkness.
“Fuck!” the guy screamed, stumbling back while holding on to his assaulted head.
In that instance, the man by the door rushed to Yoori. She attempted to hit him with the same lamp, but unlike the other man, he avoided her strikes with ease. In her state of panic, Yoori resorted to chucking the lamp at him. While he was distracted with batting the lamp away, she seized a dining room chair. She raised the wooden chair and broke it over his head.
The wood shattered over his skull. He screamed as he crumpled to the floor.
Using this as her opportunity, Yoori unlocked the door and sped out into the hall. She bounded down the stairs, huffing and puffing for air.
“Help!” she called out, hoping a neighbor or one of the Serpents would hear her. “Help me—Ah!”
Yoori nearly toppled over the stairway railing when a third attacker snatched her off the stairwell and hauled her through the back exit. Snow pelted her at full force as he dragged her into the quiet back alleyway of the apartment complex.
“Get off me!”
Adrenaline still pumping through her, Yoori used the wall of the apartment complex as her crutch. She jumped on it and pushed herself backward, slamming the man against a parked red car behind them. He cursed and loosened his hold on her.
Yoori whirled around. A black, unmarked limo sped toward her. It stopped right in front of her, its bright headlights blinding her eyes momentarily.
Car doors slammed. Two other silhouettes sprinted toward her.
“Shit!” she screamed.
Yoori tried to make a run for it, but was stopped when the two men who attacked her in the apartment dragged her into the limo. They roughly threw her in. The back of her skull hit the window, nearly causing her to black out. The first attacker from the apartment pulled her down to the floor. He pinned her to the ground by jamming his knee into her neck. Yoori struggled to breathe as she watched the rest of the men pile in. Like the two from the apartment, the other three were also dressed in gray suits and had their hair slicked back.
They closed the door as the limo sped off like a runaway train.
“An Soo Jin,” said the one pinning her to the ground. “Do you remember us?”
Yoori groaned. She knew it was only a matter of time before someone from Soo Jin’s past caught up to her. She just didn’t think it’d be this soon. Anger inundated her. She was still reeling from how fucked up her life was; she was not going to allow these assholes to make it worse.
“Get the fuck off me!” she shouted.
Fury filling her, she grabbed the hand of the one pinning her to the ground.
She flicked his wrist back.
A loud crack suspended in the air.
“Ahhhhhh!” He screamed bloody murder and recoiled from her.
Yoori surged up, gasping for air. She crawled on her hands and knees, and moved to the farther end of the limo, trying to put as much distance between them as possible. Yoori almost reached the end when someone seized her legs and tugged her back.
She kicked against the one who grabbed her. He collapsed back on to the seat, taking two other men down in the process.
“I don’t think so, Soo Jin,” said the one who pulled her off the stairwell. He lunged for her, pinned her to the ground, and started punching her in the face.
Pain engulfed her before she started seeing stars.
“You piece of shit!” she shrieked.
A monster awakened inside her, and she no longer felt fear. All she felt was the thirst for blood. Blocking his hit with her arm, she punched him hard in the neck. He let out a scream and released her. She drew up, snatched his head and banged it against the limo window. After that, she threw his body to the ground and stepped on it before lunging for the rest of the men.
Everything that followed was a blur for Yoori.
All she remembered was punching necks, slamming skulls against windows, and cracking bones. Her fists bled from the assault she was bestowing on to her kidnappers, but she could hardly care.
“Who the fuck are you to attack me?” she hollered at the top of her lungs. “I am not someone to fuck with!”
One laughed and elbowed her chin, causing her head to collide against the window. Soon after, a large hand grappled her neck and pinned her against the highest part of the window. The crown of her head touched the limo ceiling. Once again, she struggled for air.
Yoori opened her eyes to see the rest of the men wipe blood away from their mouths. Her eyes strayed to the one who held a syringe in his hands.
“Seriously?” she struggled to say, knowing the purpose of that needle was to sedate her. “You guys can’t take on a girl without that?”
The one restraining her against the window chuckled, blood from his forehead trickling down his face. “We all know a simple girl cannot beat the hell out of us like you just did.”
The one holding the needle came closer to her. He pricked the needle into the side of her strained neck.
She screamed when the syringe pierced her.
“Always a pleasure, An Soo Jin,” he whispered as darkness engulfed her world. Yoori blacked out when he said his final words to her. “Now enjoy your coffin.”