What happened to you, son!” Noh Su-Bong's father, Noh Yeong-Deok, cried out in shock at his son's wretched state.
Noh Su-Bong didn't reply.
He simply stared at his father in a daze.
“How is this possible! What happened to you! What...!” Noh Yeong-Deok rushed up and hurriedly held his son's face with both hands.
What is this...”
He could only stammer in shock, unable to string together a coherent sentence.
In only a few months, his precious son came home looking like a skeleton! The last time Noh Su-Bong was home was during his leave, and he looked even healthier than before he joined the military, so how did this happen! How could his health deteriorate to this degree in mere months!
When Noh Su-Bong was on the phone, whining about how he was dying and wanted to get out of the military as soon as possible, Noh Yeong-Deok inwardly thought his child was just being immature.
That Noh Su-Bong was simply faking it.
Now that Noh Yeong-Deok had seen the truth, though… His guess turned out to be wrong.
If Noh Su-Bong were sick, he wouldn't have asked for leave but a swift hospitalization.
In that case, it was safe to assume that an illness hadn’t caused his current state.
Bullying by some unknown bastard had to be the culprit!
“Who did this to you!” Noh Yeong-Deok grabbed and shook his son's shoulders with his eyes ablaze.
Unless he utterly obliterated the bastard responsible for wrecking his son like this, Noh Yeong-Deok would not be able to quell his rage!
“Yes, I'm here! Tell me, who was it! Who dared to hurt my son like this!”
Noh Su-Bong quietly stared at his agitated father and bit his lip in bitterness.
His father, Noh Yeong-Deok, had always been like this.
The normal thing for a parent to do when their child came home in such a wretched state would be to go to the nearest hospital.
However, Noh Yeong-Deok was getting pissed off not about his son's state but by the fact that someone dared to intrude and hurt what 'belonged' to him.
Since that was the case, would anything change if Noh Su-Bong spoke the truth Most likely, no.
Noh Su-Bong had already thrown away any expectations in that regard.
His father was the kind of man who would unhesitantly discard his own flesh and blood for his benefit.
If he had even a modicum of fatherly love, Noh Yeong-Deok would have paid more attention to his son throughout the years.
I, I need a place to hide.”
“Hide! Why! Why do you need to hide, son!”
Noh Su-Bong's hand trembled weakly.
Noh Yeong-Deok's expression grew cold.
His son's hands were shaking uncontrollably while drool trickled from the corner of his lips.
Rather than rage, this scene now evoked the feeling of misery and helplessness in Noh Yeong-Deok's mind.
What was the bloody military brass doing while his one and only son had been suffering like this
“Son, I don't know who dared to torment you like this, but there's no need to be scared anymore.
This is not a military base but your home.
No one would dare to pay you a visit when you're staying here,” Noh Yeong-Deok muttered as calmly as he could.
However, Noh Su-Bong listlessly shook his head.
“...Can't be stopped.”
That bastard, he...
He can't be stopped.
a devil, you see Humans can't stop a devil, you know He can't be stopped!” Noh Su-Bong began to shiver as if a nasty case of goosebumps had broken on his skin.
He didn't stop there, though, as he even grabbed his hair and began yanking at it.
Noh Yeong-Deok urgently cried out, “S-Stop that, Su-Bong! Stop!”
“He, he can't be stopped! Can't! He'll come for me again! No one can stop him! Dad! Daaaad! I'm scared, Dad! Please save me!”
“Su-Bong! N-no! Get a hold of yourself!”
Noh Su-Bong squatted on the floor and began chewing on his fingernails.
He chewed incessantly that blood started trickling from the tip of his thumbs, but it seemed as if he hadn’t noticed it.
“He, he's gonna come for me...
He's coming! It, it's still not safe here.
I gotta hide...
Run away from here...”
Noh Yeong-Deok gnashed his teeth as he watched his son's madness.
Which son of a b*tch dared to do this to my boy!”
Just who was Noh Yeong-Deok He was a third-term member of Korea's National Assembly.
That was who he was!
He had his son fairly late in life, so he had been unwilling to send the boy off to the military, but...
Public scrutiny had been running rampant lately, which made it necessary for the politicians' sons to have spotless military records if they wanted to move up their political career ladder.
Noh Yeong-Deok had the option of sending his son off to the good ol' US of A and getting a permanent residency there to dodge the draft.
However, he decided to nip any potential problems at the buds and chose to half-force his son to enlist just like everybody else.
But to think that the result of his decision would be this!
“Doctor! Hey, someone! Go summon a doctor, right now!” Noh Yeong-Deok yelled.
The Noh household was quickly plunged into chaos.
“Sir, your son is suffering from a mental breakdown.”
Noh Yeong-Deok spoke gravely, “Doctor Park, please.”
“I want you to explain in detail.”
“...Very well.” Doctor Park, the family surgeon for the Noh household making the house call, scanned Noh Su-Bong.
The young man was currently lying on the bed staring at the ceiling with glassy eyes.
“Sir, we still need a more thorough examination, but as far as I can tell, your son seems to be physically unaffected.
Yes, he is suffering from sudden and extreme malnutrition, but a carefully-observed diet regime should fix that in no time at all.
Which leaves us with his psychological issues…”
Noh Yeong-Deok silently listened as his eyes narrowed.
“Sir, your son seemed to have suffered from a grave psychological shock, a powerful trauma.
I recommend you hospitalize him immediately.”
“...Are you saying my boy has become a nutcase!”
The doctor sighed under his breath.
To humans living in the modern era, mental illness was like the flu, something unavoidable.
Anyone could suffer from the effects of a 'simple' depression these days, but the older folks still had this extreme tendency to ostracize and look down on all types of mental illness.
Noh Yeong-Deok was a 'good' example of this phenomenon.
He himself suffered from a bout of insomnia, yet he still refused to receive psychological help for his illness even now.
Someone like him would find the truth of his child suffering from serious mental illness a hard pill to accept—never mind swallow.
Judging from his current condition, your son needs psychological treatment from the professionals.”
“...Are you sure about this, Doctor”
Noh Yeong-Deok gnashed his teeth.
He had functioning eyes, so he could obviously tell that his son's condition wasn’t good.
“What is the treatment method you recommend”
“Your son's condition is quite serious, so the first thing to do is hospitalize him immediately, sir.”
“Hospitalization, is it”
The doctor firmly nodded.
However, Noh Yeong-Deok did the exact opposite and shook his head.
“Out of the question!”
“Obviously, I want my son treated,” said Noh Yeong-Deok, his voice close to a growl.
“I shall provide you with all the necessary support you need.
Your job is to call the best professionals in the field of psychology and fix my son.
However! We must ensure that my son won’t have any records of suffering from a mental illness!”
“But, sir! Your son's condition is too severe to be treated at home!”
Noh Yeong-Deok raised his voice.
“That's why I'm going to provide you with all the necessary support!”
The doctor chewed on his lips for a while before reluctantly nodding in silence.
He could tell that words would never get through to this politician.
Besides, all the necessary support had been promised, so treatment should be possible if a good psychologist visited them often.
Psychiatric medication cannot be prescribed without a doctor's diagnosis.”
Noh Yeong-Deok smiled meaningfully.
“Look here, Doctor Park.”
“This is South Korea.”
“...Ah.” Doctor Park nodded in understanding.
No more explanation was necessary.
Noh Yeong-Deok would surely source the necessary drugs when needed.
As he said, this was South Korea, and in this country, a third-term national assemblyman was afforded great power and influence—far greater than a civilian could even imagine.
For now, let's have your son stay in his room and let him regain some mental stability first.
I'll quickly search for a suitable professional in the meantime. Ah, and by the way, sir.
There's still a danger of your son experiencing a seizure.
I recommend that you keep a close eye on him at all times.”
I shall do that.”
“A young man experiencing a seizure will be difficult to restrain, sir.
As such, I recommend having several strong men guarding your son's room.
He might also resort to self-harm, so please keep away any sharp objects or knives.”
“I said, I will do as you said!”
The doctor could only look on helplessly at that response.
Despite the severity of the situation, this politician still seemed quite unhappy about his child being treated as a mental patient.
Was he worried about his son or the potential damage to his reputation The doctor couldn't tell.
He sighed under his breath, then got up to leave.
Noh Yeong-Deok briefly nodded to bid goodbye.
Even after the doctor silently left the room, Noh Yeong-Deok continued to observe his son blankly staring at the ceiling.
He couldn't help but groan.
His anger started rearing its head again while looking at Noh Su-Bong repeatedly muttering some kind of gibberish.
'I swear, I'm going to make all of you pay!'
If he had his way, he would charge straight into the artillery company his son had been assigned to right this moment and demand answers.
However, doing that was unwise.
Both his party and the hostile media would seize this chance to descend upon him like a pack of vultures.
Noh Yeong-Deok got up in anger, and while heading outside the room, he addressed his secretary, “You heard the doctor, right”
“Deal with this situation as quietly as possible.
Get the secretarial staff to monitor the household if it's feasible.
No good will come from this story leaking outside.”
“I'll be heading outside for a bit.”
“Yes, sir.” The secretary bowed his head, not even bothering to ask where his boss was headed off to.
Noh Yeong-Deok would have said something if his trip was related to his work.
Since he hadn't done that, it was pretty obvious where he was going at this time of the day.
“I'll be back by tomorrow, so keep a close eye on my boy.”
And sir, the party leader called earlier to see if you have an opening in your schedule.”
“Is that so” Noh Yeong-Deok's brow arched slightly.
It seems he wants a private meeting with you as soon as possible.”
“Hah. That old man must be anxious as hell, then.” Noh Yeong-Deok tutted loudly before nodding away.
“Answering the call right away is bound to make me look weak.
I'll deal with that myself so pay no attention to it.”
After issuing all the necessary orders, Noh Yeong-Deok strode outside the house.
The secretary sighed softly before glancing at the closed doorway to Noh Su-Bong's room.
Regardless of what power one possessed—whether it be political or financial—it was still impossible to stop the passage of time.
The passing of the day heralding the advent of the night was common sense, whether you were stuck in the military or living as a civilian.
Noh Su-Bong's hand clutched his sheets tightly as he watched the darkness encroach the sky outside his windows.
'No, it won't happen, right'
That devil couldn't possibly show up here.
Wasn't that the whole reason Noh Su-Bong had decided to run away Even if that shadowy bastard was a monster, there was no way he could follow Noh Su-Bong all the way here.
What if he did show up here What was Noh Su-Bong supposed to do, then
Noh Su-Bong's body began to shiver like crazy once again.
One week, he said.
That devil gave Noh Su-Bong one week to endure.
And today was the seventh day.
This knowledge instilled unbearable fear in Noh Su-Bong, and he couldn't stay still at all.
He also had a feeling that the shadow devil would never let him achieve the ideal outcome.
In that case, the shadow would probably stop taking it easy like he had been doing until now.
Tonight, he could become a totally different beast than before.
...Just like what happened to Kim Hak-Cheol.
He seemed to have endured for a week somehow, but he still hanged himself on the final day, didn't he
'...I, I'll probably end up the same!'
In some regard, Noh Su-Bong's current state seemed several times worse than Kim Hak-Cheol's.
At the very least, Kim Hak-Cheol still had some semblance of humanity left, but Noh Su-Bong, he...
His appearance was so wretched and monstrous that he couldn't even bear to look at his own reflection in the mirror.
In that case...
If that bastard also showed up tonight...
Would he, Noh Su-Bong be able to survive until the morning
Noh Su-Bong's irises expanded as drool trickled from the corner of his lips.
Just where did things start to go wrong Noh Su-Bong squeezed his eyes shut.
Had all the people he had destroyed in the past felt this way as well Did they also think dying would be better Probably.
That was why Ju Yeong-Gi tried to kill himself, no
Noh Su-Bong wouldn't have understood it had he never known how far humans could be cornered mentally and physically.
The darkness was slowly creeping into all corners of Noh Su-Bong's room.
That was when he began to experience a bizarre sensation.
His fear was reaching its zenith, and at the same time, he began to lose all feeling in his body.
It was as if his fingertips had gotten crushed before disappearing altogether.
And in the midst of all this...
An unexplainable emotion was born.
An emotion uncomfortably close to...
Because he knew...
“I can't escape.”
Noh Su-Bong had done everything he could.
However, the devil wrapped in shadows would never let him go.
The time continued to tick by agonizingly slowly.
Noh Su-Bong stared at the darkness with wide-open eyes.
And before long, this darkness...
The irresistible darkness rushed in like a tsunami and enveloped him.
An eternity went by.
“Were you waiting for me”
The devil's whisper reached Noh Su-Bong's ears.