Fandom: Super Junior
Word count: 9,932
Summary: A disgraced police officer is sent to investigate strange happenings behind the scenes of a television singing contest. (Originally written for the sj_reel challenge).
Authors Note: It's taken me forever to repost this for some reason ^_^... My challenge for this story was to interpret the Phantom of the Opera, but in a way that wasn't just retelling the same story. I decided to emphasise the horror/thriller aspect of the story in my version, with a few deviations from the original.
This story begins with a man in a noodle bar. He was a young man, somewhere on the lower side of thirty, with a soft appearance and the complexion of a girl. On this particular night a look of gloom marred his handsome features. He was a police officer - or had been, until a violent siege had ended in bloodshed no longer than a week ago. He now sat alone with an empty bowl as he stared up at a small television screen.
There’s a whole different world inside the television, he thought. It was like watching a scene from another planet, where everyone seemed cheerful and unreal, so unlike his own reality. The program he was watching was a singing contest. Young contestants would perform and attempt to win the audience over with a rendition of an old song. Those who sung well progressed to the next round, those who sung poorly were struck out. He watched them with a sense of distance. He felt so far away from their excitement, revelry and their fresh youthfulness. He was a young man himself, but on that night he did not feel it.
As he continued to watch the trivial program, a seemingly unremarkable boy came on stage, and taking the microphone with a charming shyness, went on to sing a melancholy ballad. The words of this painful song seemed to be sent straight into his heart, and for the first time that night he felt moved by the program. The more that the boy sang, the more he became hypnotised by the music. It was as if that small person, that unremarkable television boy was singing directly to him, and it almost brought him to tears. “What a brilliant rendition,” he thought. “But never has a song made me feel so despairing! It is the sum of all my sadness wrapped up into a few lines...” He watched carefully as the singer finished his song. There was something unusual about him, intriguing in fact, and he suddenly seemed quite familiar. “I have seen him before somewhere...” he said out loud, startling the idle waitress who had almost forgotten his presence. “But who can it be?” He continued to stare at the screen with building frustration until it became clear.
The waitress returned to his side to take the bowl. “Hey there, Sung-min,” she said softly. “Are you finished for tonight?”
He turned to stare at her with eyes wide, but he did not process the question. “I know him!” he said, motioning to the television. When he turned back, the screen had gone blank. “He was there a minute ago, and I’ve definitely seen him before. I knew him as a kid.”
“That’s swell, Sung-min,” she said, smiling kindly. “You know someone from the television! Let me clear the table.”
The waitress took the bowl away and she did not return. Sung-min was left alone in the noodle bar, his mind now swimming with euphoria and excitement.
“How extraordinary...” he said to himself, “Little Kim Ryeo-wook is on the television!” He suddenly wished that there was someone he could share this discovery with.
The boy’s father had been Inspector Kim, a senior detective active around the time Sung-min first joined the police force. Sung-min remembered him well. He had been a kind and fair man, and something of a mentor to the younger officers. When he took ill, Sung-min had visited him often. This was how he came to know Kim's teenage son, a filial and loving child who remained faithfully beside his father right up until his death. He had been especially fond of Sung-min and always looked forward to his visits. Sung-min scrunched up his face and he tried to remember more. Since old Kim's passing, Sung-min had not spoken to him at all and had almost forgotten that sweet and affectionate boy. Up until this night that is, when he saw him reappear, like a vision of a ghost, on that small and blurry television screen.
A few days later Sung-min found himself sitting inside the very same television studio. However, his reasons for being there had nothing to do with nostalgia: he was there on a matter of business.
Sung-min sat uncomfortably in the office chair. Kwon Boa was standing, facing the window so that that small rays of afternoon light made patterns on her face. She wore a blank expression; her distress was deftly hidden.
“I heard there was a shooting incident that you were involved in,” she said calmly and Sung-min wriggled in his seat.
“I’ve been suspended,” Sung-min replied. “If that’s what you wanted to know.”
“I’m very sorry. That’s awful news.” She paused for a moment. “I hope this won’t seem too forward of me, but I have something of a problem and I thought you might be able to help me.”
Kwon Boa rarely ever asked for help. Unconsciously Sung-min puffed his cheeks, a habit of his whenever he was nervous.
“I will try to help as much as I can.”
She nodded and produced a small white envelope from the top drawer of her desk. She passed it over and said, “I have been receiving these on a regular basis. At first I ignored them. I figured that the new CEO of a major television network is bound to have a few sceptics trying to test her strength, so I did my best not to pay them any notice.”
Sung-min opened the envelope and read the contents carefully. It was a letter, written in a stark and messy hand, blatantly asking for a sum of money to be deposited in a certain place at a certain time. The letter was signed with “The Ghost.”
Sung-min looked back and forth between Boa and the letter in his hand. “This seems like a prank,” he told her.
Boa sighed. “I suspected so too, but when I ignored the request I suffered his promised consequences. The lighting system in one of the main studios was completely sabotaged. He promised that something worse would happen on the next occasion. I had no choice but to pay him. But I will not allow this continue! If anyone thinks that just because I am a woman I can be taken for a fool, they are very wrong. What's more insidious is that whoever is sending these letters is likely a member of my own staff. Who else would have access to the lighting control system? This is where you come in.”
Sung-min raised his eyebrows. “Yes?”
“I need you to do an undercover investigation, but it needs to be strictly off the record. I can't have my employees thinking that I don't trust them.”
“I’ll see what I can find,” Sung-min replied hopefully, although he was not feeling confident.
“There’s something else. He doesn’t always ask for money. Sometimes he asks for changes to be made to various programs, and even demands which programs should be aired at which times. It’s infuriating really.”
There was a knock at the door and Boa called for them to enter. Her personal assistant, a thin, creepy looking man appeared at the doorway and stood at attention.
“Hyuk-jae, please make sure that the officer here has a security pass.” He left immediately and Boa returned to Sung-min.
“This so called ghost has been making requests that are somewhat beneficial to one of my producers. I can't help but be suspicious about this. His name is Cho Kyu-hyun. Please be sure to give him particular attention.”
Sung-min stood up this time and Boa took him by the hands. “Thank you so much for your help, you have always been such a good friend to me.”
Sung-min was about to say something to the effect that he was a terrible police officer and couldn't find a name in a phone book let alone a ghost, but Boa smiled her bright smile and all he could do was agree and promise to do his best. They said goodbye and Sung-min returned to the foyer where Hyuk-jae was waiting with his security pass.
Hyuk-jae placed the security pass over Sung-min's head like someone who was awarding a medal for bravery.
“You are to tell people that you are a junior producer,” he said simply, to which Sung-min gave him a worried look.
“But I don’t know anything about television! What am I supposed to do?”
“Just don’t look suspicious,” he replied and Sung-min lamented over how useless that advice was. This was bound to be a difficult task, but at least it was better than sitting around the house moping all day.
Hyuk-jae gave him a short tour of the studio. “This is where we shoot Singing Star 2,” he explained as they entered a large auditorium. Have you ever seen the show?"
“I have actually. I saw an episode last week.”
Hyuk-jae brought his voice down to a whisper. “The ghost was very interested in this program. We originally did not plan on having the second series, but he demanded that it go forward. Whoever, or whatever this ghost is, he apparently has a fondness for musical entertainment.”
Sung-min looked around the auditorium but saw nothing suspicious or ghostly. But this was the place that he had seen his old friend singing so ethereally a couple of nights ago at the lonely noodle bar. It was haunted to him for other reasons.
It did not take long for Hyuk-jae to abandon the tour, leaving Sung-min alone to fend for himself in the bleak corridors of the television studio. After some wandering, he accidentally stumbled in on a tea room where two men were sitting head to head in quiet conversation. Sung-min recognised one of them: he was a television star, the host of Singing Star 2 no less. He was a large man in real life, and his face was painted with a heavy layer of make-up which looked somewhat ghoulish under the fluorescent lights of the tea room. Both men looked up as Sung-min entered.
“Who are you?” the host asked. He had a big, booming voice.
“Oh, I am a, ah, junior producer.” They both looked incredulous, so Sung-min quickly added, “It’s my first day.”
“Of course, of course,” the big man said, flapping his arms around. “Some new intern hey?”
“What’s your name?” the other man asked. He was an ordinary looking fellow, lanky and not very old.
“I’m Lee Sung-min,” Sung-min automatically replied, immediately regretting having given his real name.
“No one’s told me about you before,” the lanky man said, shrugging. “But don’t worry kid, you can stick by me and you’ll be fine. My name is Cho Kyu-hyun by the way. I am the producer of Singing Star.”
“Of course,” Sung-min replied, some strength returning to his voice at the sound of that familiar name. He did not like the way this man had addressed him as kid, since he didn’t seem to be much older Sung-min himself, if he was at all.
“And I am Shin Dong-hee,” the big man said. “I am the star of the show.”
“We call him Shin-dong, the baby genius,” Kyu-hyun said and they both laughed. Sung-min laughed too, hoping that he could blend himself into the conversation.
“I heard that the studio has had some trouble with the lighting system recently,” he brought up casually as they resumed.
Kyu-hyun gave Sung-min a direct and suspicious glance. Shin-dong stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Ah, stories they do travel fast. So Sung-min, tell us, do you believe in ghosts?”
“No,” he replied, then quickly added, “At least I’ve never seen one before. Is there a ghost here?”
Shin-dong and Kyu-hyun exchanged crooked smiles. “So you haven’t heard the story of the studio’s ghost? Mr Cho, tell him the story. You always tell it so well.”
Kyu-hyun cleared his throat and arched his fingers in a display of mock drama. “Many years ago there was a television studio in this same spot, but it was destroyed in a great fire. After the site was cleared, a new studio was built, the one we are in right now. One of the big tv stars of the old times was said to have died in the fire and they say his ghost haunts the studio to this day. He is said to have the appearance of a tall man, with long hair and is only ever seen wearing a white surgical mask.”
Sung-min raised an eyebrow. “Really? Who says this?”
Kyu-hyun shrugged. “The kids who hang around the street. I don't know. It's a load of rubbish anyway, there are no ghosts.”
The topic of conversation quickly switched away from the ghost, and Sung-min didn’t get a chance to ask any more about it. Before long, his two companions became preoccupied with their own work and Sung-min was left to wander the corridors again. At least he had made some progress: he had met the suspicious Cho Kyu-hyun and had heard a little more about this so called ghost. Now he only hoped that he could draw together some conclusive evidence before his disguise wore too thin.
Lost in his own thoughts, Sung-min collided head first into a young woman pulling along what appeared to be a mountain goat. Both goat and girl gave him an angry look and the goat threw in an angry baaa. Sung-min apologised profusely to both of them, then quickly turned around in embarrassment and headed in the opposite direction. He was stopped in his tracks by the sound of a familiar voice calling his name. He saw Ryeo-wook coming towards him.
“Sung-min, what are you doing here? Has there been a crime committed?”
Sung-min rushed over to him, taking his hands gently as he willed him to be quiet. “I’m not with the police right now,” he said in a hushed voice.
“Then you came just to see me?” Ryeo-wook smiled brightly at him, and Sung-min could feel his chest tighten. With some embarrassment he recalled how Ryeo-wook had always been especially fond of him.
“Yes, Ryeo-wook,” he said softly. “I came to see you. I saw you on the television last week, and I was quite surprised by it. You did well.”
Ryeo-wook linked arms with Sung-min and guided him back down the corridor. “I have to get ready now, but you can stay and talk with me. And if you like, you can tell me why you’re really here.” Sung-min tensed at these words, but when Ryeo-wook laughed lightly he decided that he probably wasn’t in too much trouble.
They arrived at a dressing room, where there were mirrors on the wall and a few people were adjusting their costumes. The goat girl was there, busy fixing her hanbok in the mirror but the goat was thankfully absent. Ryeo-wook took out a tie and began putting it on.
“So, any reason you wanted to see me?”
Sung-min sighed as his eyes moved from Ryeo-wook to his hands. "You know, I was doing some thinking the other night. Your father was always a good mentor to me, and I realise now that I should have made a better effort to become closer to you after his death. I realised I don’t even know where you are living!”
Ryeo-wook shrugged. “With my auntie. I’m fine though, really.”
“Still, I think I should have kept in touch with you.”
“It’s not too late. We can still be friends.” He smiled and pressed his palms against Sung-min’s cheeks. Sung-min shivered at the cold touch. He returned to dressing himself and Sung-min returned to watching him, contemplating his friend’s appearance. He looked different to how Sung-min remembered him, although not as much in person as he did on the television. Up close he still had the same manner, but there was something fundamentally different about him which Sung-min couldn’t quite place. Perhaps he was just getting older.
“You’ve grown up a lot,” he said. “You were just a teenager when we last met. Now you seem changed.”
“For better or worse?”
Sung-min stared hard at him, not sure how to answer. “I can tell you’ve lost weight.” It may have been the heavy make-up he was wearing, or light in the room, but in that moment Sung-min thought that Ryeo-wook looked particularly gaunt, and he regretted having said anything about it.
A man with a clipboard came into the room, rounding up the contestants. “I have to go now,” Ryeo-wook said softly, touching Sung-min’s cheek again. “Watch the show and talk to me later.”
Sung-min watched him go, then returned himself to the maze of corridors. As he walked he almost tripped over a black cat, which had appeared out of nowhere. It screeched menacingly before slinking off back down the corridor. Sung-min watched it go with a mixture of annoyance and amusement. Who ever thought a television studio could have such animals?
As soon as the cat had vanished, Kyu-hyun appeared, also seemingly out of nowhere. He took Sung-min by the arm. “Where have you been?” he snapped. “We’re about to go on air. Get back to work!”
Kyu-hyun dragged the dumbfounded Sung-min into a control room, where the crew was set up and a glass window gave a view of the main stage. The stage was now full of people and Shin-dong and the co-host were standing in the starting position.
“What do you want me to do?” Sung-min asked.
“Go get me a coffee,” Kyu-hyun replied and then continued to instruct the people at the controls. Sung-min did as the producer asked and returned a few minutes later. He found Kyu-hyun making hand movements to the crew.
“Lights, camera, on air in five, four, three, two, one, go!”
The audience applauded on cue. “Hello and welcome to the number one singing show in the country,” the big man announced. His female co-host continued: “Tonight, a various selection of young performers will try to win the hearts of our judging panel and hopefully you at home.” The audience clapped again.
Kyu-hyun put both his hands behind his head. “Ratings were pretty good last week,” he told the control room. “Audiences really like the girl with the mountain goat.”
The show was getting under way and the first performer had made their way onto the stage. Sung-min sat and watched, not knowing what else he was supposed to be doing.
“Do you think she’ll win?” he asked Kyu-hyun, who was now drinking coffee and looking over an assortment of papers.
“No,” he replied flatly. “The winner ought to be someone with actual talent, not just an entertaining gimmick. We will make sure that she stays in the contest right until the end though, to keep the viewers entertained, and then have the best singer win the show, so that we maintain our integrity as a program.”
“So you decide who wins? I thought it was decided by voting.”
Kyu-hyun tapped his nose. “Of course it's decided by voting. We also get a vote.”
“So can you tell me who will be the winner?”
“Well we have to see how the competition goes, give them a chance to prove themselves.”
“What do you think of Ryeo-wook?”
Kyu-hyun scrunched up his face in thought. “Nice kid, but plain. He has a good singing voice, but what he lacks is charisma.” He paused to briefly consult the ratings report that he had left on the table. “According to this, he is quite popular with the middle aged housewife demographic. They like his innocent and childlike demeanour.”
They ceased their conversation and Sung-min directed his attention back to the program. The audience cheered with delight as the goat girl came out to sing an old folk tune with the goat by her side. The audience was also quite responsive to another young singer, who performed a light-hearted song and dance number. Sung-min sat on his hands, feeling restless and impatient to hear what Ryeo-wook would sing.
Ryeo-wook was the last performer of the evening. The audience clapped politely when he was announced, but the entire studio became silent when he appeared on stage. He sat at the piano, but made no sound; it was as if he was waiting for something. Sung-min could feel his heart rate increase. He suddenly realised just how dearly he wanted Ryeo-wook to do well. Every nerve and emotion in the boy seemed to rip through his heart too; how painful it was to watch him just sit there!
It was a dramatic silence, broken just before it might have been considered awkward. When at last he began to play, a swell of anticipation had filled the room and the audience hung on every note. So too did the crew in the control room as they watched with bated breath, but Kyu-hyun’s expression quickly turned to one of horror when he recognised the song that Ryeo-wook was performing.
“What the hell does he think he’s doing? He must be mad!”
Sung-min also recognised the song. It had been released many years ago by a female singer. The words of the song described a young woman rejected by her lover who was planning her own death. It was such a macabre song that it sent people into fits of depression and madness, and the government had even banned the song from being played on the radio for a period of time after its release. Ryeo-wook sung it well, so well that Sung-min was caught between feelings of pride and misery as the words of the song struck at the heart of his sadness. Ryeo-wook was barely twenty years of age, and yet he sang with the pain and experience of someone who had lived one hundred years!
When the song was finished the audience gave a cautious applause. Sung-min noticed that some tears had formed in corner of his eyes, so he quickly wiped them away. Kyu-hyun gave an exaggerated sigh of defeat.
“The suicide song. He may well have been singing about the suicide of Cho Kyu-hyun! There goes our good ratings, I can’t wait to hear all the complaints from our middle aged housewife demographic...”
Sung-min noticed one of the cameramen wiping away a tear with his sleeve. He turned to Kyu-hyun. “But it was a brilliant performance. He did very well.”
“Yes, yes, he’s fine musician and all that business,” Kyu-hyun grumbled as he sorted the ratings report. “But this is the sort of show that people tune into to see a mountain goat bleeting along to a folk tune while a pretty girl dances around it. Television isn’t about great art, it’s about giving the people what they want.”
“Having said all that,” Kyu-hyun added as they were leaving, “his charisma has improved a great deal.”
Sung-min was eager to see Ryeo-wook again after the show. How dearly he wanted to wipe the ghoulish paint from his friend’s face, and take him somewhere far away from the sounds of death and misery. We could be close again, he thought, just like old times.
As soon as he could, Sung-min escaped Kyu-hyun’s bossy demands and found himself once again wandering through the poorly lit corridors. He heard Ryeo-wook’s voice coming from the dressing room, and immediately walked towards the door, but paused before entering. It appeared that Ryeo-wook was having a private conversation with someone, and he thought that it would probably be rude to interrupt. It would also be quite rude to press an ear to the door and listen in on the conversation, but Sung-min’s inquisitive nature got the best of him, so that’s what he did.
Ryeo-wook was speaking. “Although I think it was improved,” he said, “I know it could have been done better and I hate to have disappointed you.”
“You must be very tired,” came a different voice.
“Forgive me teacher, I wanted to give it my best, but it feels as if I have given all my soul and now I have nothing left...”
“Don’t say it like it’s a bad thing; to give your soul is the greatest gift. You have been a good student and I have a present for you. Soon, I will give it to you.”
Sung-min stepped back from the door. The conversation had left a burning in his ears and his heart was beating wildly in his chest. Who was this man? This man to whom Ryeo-wook would offer his soul no less! Something about this seemed unnatural to Sung-min, and he wanted to see this man for himself. He stepped back into the shadow, and waited for a chance to confront him.
Ryeo-wook left the room not long after. He was alone. His companion must still be in the dressing room, Sung-min thought, and so he entered through the door, closing it behind him. The lights had been switched off and there appeared to be no one there. He patted the wall beside him, hoping to find the switch to turn the lights back on, but he could find none.
“Who’s there?” Sung-min called, his voice a little shaky. “I know someone must be here. Show yourself!”
There was no reply. Through the darkness Sung-min thought he could see the faint shining of a pair of eyes. “Show yourself,” he repeated, "I know you’re there!”
The eyes became clearer, and in an instant he heard an unmistakable whine of a cat. The black cat he had seen earlier emerged from the darkness, taunting him with its yellow eyes.
A cat! he thought, and now his heart was beating fiercely again. He decided to leave the dressing room in the hope of catching up with Ryeo-wook, who may still be close by. As he left he was sure he heard the sound of human laughter, a stuttered chuckled coming from behind. He shuddered. This whole scenario was far too like an actual ghost story. Perhaps the studio's ghost was more real than he had first imagined.
Sung-min met Ryeo-wook on the street outside. He might have been waiting, Sung-min thought. He looked pleased to see him, and waved when he came over.
“Should we go somewhere?” Ryeo-wook asked.
Sung-min took his arm. “Yes, let’s go somewhere away from here. Somewhere bright and happy. I want to talk to you properly.”
Sung-min’s understanding of bright and happy was closely related to food, and so the two ended up at his regular noodle bar. As usual there were few customers, so they could speak easily without interruption.
“What did you think of tonight?” Ryeo-wook asked, not long into their dinner.
Sung-min contemplated the question with a mouth full of noodles. He thought about the pride he had felt when watching Ryeo-wook perform and so he decided to answer with his heart.
“Your father would be proud of you.”
Ryeo-wook looked away suddenly. “I thought you might say that and I’m glad that you did. It’s funny isn’t it, how we always want to please our parents, even when they’re not here anymore.”
Sung-min knew how close Ryeo-wook and his father had been. He even thought it was pleasantly odd how the old man had accepted his son’s decision to not follow him into the police force.
“It might sound strange to say this,” Ryeo-wook continued, “but I feel as if he is still with me now. I just can't imagine that he is really gone, and he will never hear me sing. I feel that he must be there somehow.”
Sung-min smiled kindly for him. “It’s not strange, that’s quite understandable really.”
Ryeo-wook stirred his soup thoughtfully as he spoke. “When I was a child, I always had this dream of becoming a musician. Dad would tell me a story about a poor boy who becomes possessed by a good spirit, and then miraculously can play any instrument. Of course I imagined that boy was myself, so Dad would never end the story badly...” He trailed off, as if distracted by a sudden thought, and then continued eating from his bowl.
“Why did you choose to sing that suicide song?” Sung-min asked, “It was kind of a morbid choice and the producer wasn’t happy. I liked it though.”
“I didn’t choose the song,” Ryeo-wook replied, his face down over his bowl. “It was his decision.”
“His decision? Who is he?”
Ryeo-wook didn’t reply immediately. He held the spoon to his mouth, but did not eat, instead contemplating it as if it were some fascinating puzzle. Sung-min tapped his fingers as he waited for Ryeo-wook to respond.
“Teacher,” he said at last, still not looking up from the bowl.
“Who is teacher?” Sung-min asked, unaware that his voice had gone up a pitch. He put his hands together and felt that they were sticky with sweat. “Is he the man that you were speaking to after the show? In the dressing room?”
Ryeo-wook looked up so suddenly that it startled Sung-min. He had a confused, fearful look in his eyes. He whispered: “Did you hear something? What did you hear?”
“I heard you speaking to a man. Was that Teacher? Tell me, who is he?”
A sudden fear seemed to have taken over Ryeo-wook; his face was pale and twisted like someone who was about to be sick. Sung-min immediately reached over and took both his hands, holding them warmly in his own.
“Don’t be scared, you’re safe. I’m here.”
Ryeo-wook struggled in his grip, but eventually gave in. He gave Sung-min an apologetic look.
“He’s not a man, it’s just a voice. It speaks me to from time to time, in different places, but mostly when I am getting dressed and no one else is around. Until you just mentioned it, no one else has ever heard the voice, and I thought it was only me.”
“You thought it was all in your head?”
He smiled weakly. “Something like that. A figure of my imagination, because I was lonely and I missed my dad. Sometimes I thought he might have sent me a spirit from the other world to keep me company, and encourage me when I was feeling lost.”
“What does the voice say to you?”
“He gives me advice on how I should sing usually, but sometimes he tells me stories. He gives me good praise sometimes, and other times...” he drifted off suddenly, staring behind Sung-min into the dark window. Sung-min was tempted to turn around, but he could not lift his gaze from the face of his friend which shone with the glow of someone under a spell. “He’s real...” Ryeo-wook said softly, as if thinking aloud.
Sung-min held his hands tighter. “I have a bad feeling about all this Ryeo-wook. It seems to me like someone is taking advantage of you. I hate to say it like this, but there are lots of bad people in the world, and in television in particular. I’m a police officer, I know all about bad people, and if you ask me, this teacher man is going to be after more than just your soul...”
Ryeo-wook narrowed his eyes in distrust. “Why are you speaking like this all of a sudden?”
“I’m worried about you! If something’s out to get you I have to be here to protect you. It’s what your father would have wanted. You’ll be like a brother to me.”
Ryeo-wook violently pulled his hands away. “You are not my brother!” he said loudly, his eyes now fierce with anger and glaring at Sung-min. “After the funeral you never once came to see me, even though you knew that I was alone, and that I had loved you so much. How dare you call me brother!”
Sung-min was completely shocked by Ryeo-wook’s sudden outburst, but he could say nothing to counter the accusations made of him. It was all true, and how he hated himself for it! He vainly reached out a hand to pull Ryeo-wook back, but it was too late, the other had already left the table, and was rushing out towards the street. Sung-min stood up clumsily, knocking the bowl as he did so, and ran out after him. He could just make out Ryeo-wook heading down the main road, but as he started to chase after him, he tripped and fell onto the pavement. He looked up in time to see a figure standing above him. It was a tall man with messy hair. His face was entirely obscured by a white surgical mask.
Sung-min felt a sharp pain in his head before he was plunged into darkness.