Grabbing Tightly (5)
It was a hand of darkness.
A hand made out of an unknown dark substance that danced and billowed like a fog reached ever closer to Noh Su-Bong's throat.
Noh Su-Bong had seen that hand before.
Or, more correctly, the aftermath of that hand.
The dark hand boasted long nails, but its palm was too large to be a female's.
And now, Noh Su-Bong knew who had left behind the impression of such a hand on Kim Hak-Cheol's throat.
The tip of the dark hand's claw lightly scratched Noh Su-Bong's cheek.
A sharp pain registered from his cheek skin, followed by the sensation of warm liquid trickling down.
The shadow withdrew his hand, and a drop of crimson blood dripped from his claw.
The shadow muttered again, “Humans can be so amusing...”
“Humans easily bring up hell despite never experiencing it before.” The shadow's lips quivered slightly.
Of course, Noh Su-Bong could clearly tell which emotion was being conveyed through that lip movement.
It was unmistakably 'ridicule.’
Noh Su-Bong had always been the one to ridicule others, not the other way around.
Being ridiculed and sneered at had stepped on his pride as a man.
Unable to suppress the fierce emotions welling up in his chest, Noh Su-Bong angrily yelled at the top of his lungs, “Do you wish to cosplay as an apostle of justice or something! Do you want to become a hero while looking like that! Don't make me laugh! If I'm a criminal, so are you! If I have done something wrong, then you're just as guilty, too!”
That was when the shadow's face seemed to waver.
Noh Su-Bong saw that as a sign of agitation, and he continued to press on.
“The end cannot justify the means! You might think you're doing the right thing, but that's horsesh*t! You almost drove someone to death! No, he might have died by now! Which means you're a damn murderer, and that fact will never change! I'm sure even you can tell that the term righteous murderer is an oxymoron, can't you!” Noh Su-Bong shouted so loud that he was about to throw up blood.
If this shadowy creature was hoping to punish Noh Su-Bong for Ju Yeong-Gi's matter, the sense of justice had to be his underlying motivation.
In that case, with Noh Su-Bong’s reasoning, that aspect should be shaken up to the core by now.
Unfortunately, Noh Su-Bong was deluding himself.
“Justice, you say” The shadow let out a low chuckle.
That laughter didn't seem to have come from his throat but somewhere deep in his chest, judging by how low and heavy it was.
The corners of the shadow's lips curled up.
“The sense of justice, to punish the evil...
Did you think my actions were based on those ideals”
“Kekekeke...!” The shadow cackled, his laughter sounding even more sinister.
“What an amusing thing to say.”
The shadow suddenly reached out and grabbed Noh Su-Bong's throat.
“Kkeeeuhk...!” Noh Su-Bong's eyes bulged as his breathing was instantly cut off.
The shadow pulled Noh Su-Bong's face closer by tugging at his throat.
That was how Noh Su-bong got to see the shadow's blood-red eyes.
Those eyes were dyed so crimson that no irises could be seen as they glared into Noh Su-Bong's soul, seemingly crushing down on him.
The shadow wordlessly glared before pulling Noh Su-Bong even closer to whisper in the latter's ear, “It seems you're misunderstanding something...”
The shadow's voice sounded so ominous and creepy, like a grim reaper's.
No, it was more like a devil with a forked tongue slithering about like a bloody snake!
“This is merely me venting my anger.”
Kkeuuhhh...!” Noh Su-Bong gasped for air.
Meanwhile, the shadow's eyes arched like a pair of new moons.
“I don't care about what you did.
Doesn't matter to me what kind of a person you are, either.
You can find plenty of far, far worse people than you out in the world, after all.”
“However, there's a difference between you and those people.
You know what that is”
“...!” Noh Su-Bong didn't reply.
Actually, he couldn't even if he wanted to.
His throat had been gripped too tightly, and he couldn't breathe.
His lungs felt like they were on fire, while the horrifying pain of his innards tumbling and distorting had completely taken over his senses.
That was the time required to make someone black out by squeezing their carotid artery.
However, this devilish bastard craftily avoided touching Noh Su-Bong's carotid artery.
As a result, Noh Su-Bong's vividly-functioning brain had no choice but to experience this incredible pain in its full glory.
“So Do you know” the shadow asked again, prompting Noh Su-Bong's bloodshot eyes to glare back.
The shadow, clearly enjoying that hostile response, leisurely muttered, “You met me.”
Noh Su-Bong heard a low cackle.
The shadow was laughing again as if this situation was too amusing to him.
Noh Su-Bong didn't know what to do about it, which awakened goosebumps on Noh Su-Bong's entire body.
This bastard was on another level.
He had to be a devil that had escaped from the netherworld! Common sense didn't work, and predicting his response was useless.
To Noh Su-Bong, who had been abusing his superior societal influence and financial power to stand on top of other people until now, this shadowy creature before his eyes was an unknown lifeform, a being outside the realm of his understanding.
“Was it fun”
“...” True to form, Noh Su-Bong failed to understand what the shadow was even saying.
“I'm asking you if it was fun.” The shadow growled lowly.
“Treating another person like your personal plaything.
Was it fun for you It must have been fun.
Otherwise, it would be weird to waste so much time and energy on something so unproductive, right” The shadow suddenly cackled again before continuing, “There are people in this world who derive much enjoyment from trampling, mocking, raping, and violently suppressing others.
I'd wager that many people harbor such thoughts deep in their hearts.
It is only natural to be entertained or, at the very least, mildly intrigued by the act of destroying another life, after all.”
A child stepping on an insect and pulling off its legs one at a time wouldn't be overflowing with malice.
However, humans were capable of trampling on other creatures without any ill intent.
“A human being learns how to suppress their urges as they grow older.
They are taught that instincts and urges would only go on to destroy others around them.
However, we would sometimes get individuals like you.
Individuals, with their brakes seemingly malfunctioning.”
The shadow gradually weakened his grip on Noh Su-Bong's throat.
“Kuh-huk! Huff, huff! Cough!” Noh Su-Bong urgently sucked in the fresh air.
His clouded vision, which was starting to turn yellow from the lack of oxygen, slowly reverted back to normal.
“Indeed, there are people in this world incapable of empathizing with others, and those people pursue only their own amusement.
Repenting for your actions You aren't really interested in doing that, are you You're probably thinking that escaping from this situation is more than a good enough outcome for you.
I'm sure you think you got unlucky, right” the shadow muttered as his cackles lazily echoed in the boiler room.
“Do you know how I know that”
Noh Su-Bong's eyes quaked powerfully from fear and puzzlement as they locked on the shadow, and then he watched as those shapeless lips slowly parted.
That dark hole in the middle… The pitch-black darkness making up the shadowy creature slowly parted where his mouth should be to reveal two rows of white teeth.
Noh Su-Bong discovered a human-like aspect of this inhuman creature, but that only creeped him out even more.
He was nearly overcome with the urge to squeeze his eyes shut.
Finally, he could understand it.
He could understand why Kim Hak-Cheol went insane.
If this creature was merely punishing him, to make him pay for his sins...
Then, freedom would be his sooner or later.
After all, no matter how painful it would be, the torture would eventually come to an end.
However, if this shadowy creature was simply enjoying the act of tormenting his victims, then...!
Then, the torture might continue on and on until the day the shadow lost his interest.
Even then, there was no guarantee it would happen! The possibility and the dread of experiencing this torture for eternity had gnawed and wrecked Kim Hak-Cheol's mind.
That was what had happened to him.
How did Noh Su-Bong know about this Of course, he knew.
How could he not However, he couldn't bring himself to acknowledge the 'answer.’ He was afraid that the process of acknowledging it would turn it into an undeniable reality.
“You and I are the same, after all…” the shadow muttered the 'answer' Noh Su-Bong had been dreading to hear.
“And you know it too, don't you”
Noh Su-Bong's eyes quaked again.
The shadow watched that tremor and cackled insidiously.
He continued to laugh for a while, then sneakily reached out to grab Noh Su-Bong's hand.
Noh Su-Bong's entire arm began shaking like crazy.
I'm sure you can guess what's about to happen.” the shadow muttered quietly, but his voice was unmistakably excited.
That bizarre excitement was like an inescapable tsunami of despair crashing into Noh Su-Bong.
He finally realized that he had been captured by a being who derived amusement from systematically destroying his victims.
Kind of like a dragonfly with all of its wings pulled out, wiggling meaninglessly on a grinning child's palm.
And while wondering about whether to pull out the legs or the head first, that child's hand was touching Noh Su-Bong's hand right now.
Noh Su-Bong panted breathlessly.
“Huff, huff! Pant, wheeze!”
Honestly, he thought he would be strong enough to endure physical pain.
What he couldn't endure at all, though, was this dense and sickening malice oozing out from the pitch-black shadow in front of his eyes.
The shadow's claws began to dig into Noh Su-Bong's fingers.
He bared his white teeth and grinned like an evil beast.
“Kim Hak-Cheol lasted a week.”
“In that case, how long will you last Ten days Two weeks”
One week... One week was how long it took before Kim Hak-Cheol attempted suicide after experiencing his first nightmare.
In that case, the meaning behind the time span this devil talked about was easy enough to figure out.
“Kim Hak-Cheol couldn't do better than my expectation.
However, what about you Will you be able to hold on even longer than my estimation”
The sickly, sticky malice continued to crash into Noh Su-Bong.
The true malice didn't start from rage.
No, it usually began from a minor interest, a passing curiosity.
Noh Su-Bong knew oh-so-well that a passing interest in an opponent too feeble to offer much resistance could genuinely push the victim to the literal depths of hell.
What a f*cked-up thing this was, then, to find himself the target of that interest right now.
A power so monumentally huge that resisting was futile… it was about to trample him.
“Let's make a wager.” The devil extended its figurative evil tendrils toward Noh Su-Bong.
“Kim Hak-Cheol lasted a week.
In that case, how long will you endure Come on, tell me.
How many days do you think you can endure”
Noh Su-Bong knew there was no need to answer that.
Well, there was no point, anyway.
However, he found himself unable to hold back.
His lips parted as if he was in a trance.
Anyone would think that way.
At the very least, they would think Noh Su-Bong was sturdy enough to last longer than Kim Hak-Cheol.
This assessment didn't come from some misplaced pride but an objective observation.
However, the shadow cruelly denied Noh Su-Bong's thoughts.
“Two weeks Two weeks, you say…” The shadow grinned creepily.
“A wager, then.
I give you one week.
If you can withstand for one week, I shall release you.”
That was the same length of time the shadow had given to Kim Hak-Cheol.
Noh Su-Bong began to shudder.
He had a feeling that this devil had said the same thing to Kim Hak-Cheol.
And when the one-week mark was over, Kim Hak-Cheol hanged himself.
The difference between being oblivious and being aware of what was about to come was massive.
Just what happened to Kim Hak-Cheol in that one week that he chose to kill himself to escape from the clutches of this demonic bastard!
Trying to imagine it only pushed Noh Su-Bong deeper into the thick and disgusting quagmire.
Even though the shadow hadn't done anything much to him, Noh Su-Bong couldn't stop himself from imagining all sorts of torture about to be unleashed on him.
His chin was shaking.
His teeth began to noisily clatter away against his control as if they had gained sentience.
“Well, then...” The devil broke into a sinister grin.
His grin belonged to a monster staring at an insect wiggling inside its food bowl.
“...Shall we begin”
Noh Su-Bong's heart madly pounded away.
Shortly afterward, the devil's laughter and Noh Su-Bong's screams filled the boiler room to the brim.
But it seemed as if this place was in another dimension…