1 Prologue 1

Dyed in the red color was the motionless body of a young man.

His adulated chest, unrhythmically rising up and down. His heart was beating frantically.

Thump! Thump! Thump!

The sound of his heartbeats had filled in his eardrums.

Thump! Thump! Thump!

It was too loud and had drowned the sound of everything else.

His emerald eyes stared vacantly at somewhere as if reminiscing about something from his past.

Ryan's body convulsed, and he suddenly coughed out a mouthful of blood. The blood splattered onto the soil, and some stained his shirt.

He felt pain all over his body. From head to his toes, everything was hurting.

His gasps for air echoed in the background.

A puddle of blood pooled underneath his body, gushing out from the scarring wound on his neck.

Ryan exhaustedly lifted his hand, covered in a thick liquid.

It was bloody red.

"....." A bitter sigh slipped out of his bruised lips. His hand inevitably dropped back beside his body.

The color of red.

He despised this color so much that he hated anything in red, including the food.

His counselor could not help him sort out this matter no matter how many times he came for therapy.

Once Ryan saw the red color, he felt the urge to vomit, and his body started sweating profusely. However, he could not remember the reason he despised this color.

At some juncture in his memory, a fog blocked everything from being known.

One day, his soon-to-be girlfriend, Anna or something, wore a red, bright, and sexy knees length dress for their first date.

Baffling, he involuntarily rejected her on the spot. He could not stop the words from slipping out of his mouth and blurted them out directly on her face.

She asked the reason, of course, while in tears, since they barely spoke one or two words and had only met for a brief five minutes.

He told her the truth, and she cursed him with very colorful language.

She went back and gave him a hard slap on his left cheek. His coworkers only laughed when they saw his bruised cheek the following day.

Ha, talk about a stroke of bad luck. Anna is the girl he is interested in, the ideal woman he would like to pursue. Why did she put on that red dress for their first date of all days?

Ryan closed his eyes and opened them again.

He could not move his limbs or any of his fingers. He lost too much blood, and his sight became blurry.

“Are you still alive, Chief Inspector Ryan?” A gruff voice spoke beside his unmoving body. “You hate the red color with deep passion, but, personally, red color suited you the most, sir. You looked like a fine piece of art to me. A masterpiece.”

Yeah, right! Art for a psychotic killer. That sentence did not sound like a compliment to him. Instead, he felt insulted.

Ryan’s eyes still had a fire in them. He could not accept this defeat. He was a step closer to catching this serial killer, but who can guess that this man is more cunning than he looks?

This psychotic man, rather than walk away from the trap he set, had gladly jumped into the pit he dug.

So frustrating! Despicable!

“What? Are you angry? Who told you to trust your subordinate so much, sir Ryan? Not everyone believed that justice prevailed. Only a dumb person as you do.” The other man chuckled. He touched Ryan’s pale cheeks and caressed them gently. “These few years are indeed thrilling and entertaining, with you following me around so closely. Because of that, I will give you the last gift. A farewell gift.”

“Fuck...you. Crazy bastard...!” Ryan said. He became breathless.

“What a tenacious young man, sir Ryan is. Pity that this will be the last time we meet. If such a thing as the next life existed, you are welcome to try again. But, for now, good night, my beloved sir Ryan.”

Ryan felt callous hands lingering around his slender neck. Those icy hands then warped around his neck and squeezed it.

Ryan tried his best to struggle his way out, putting everything on the line, but to no avail. He could only put out a futile resistance.

His fingers tried to pry the hands that compressed air from his throat.

He put numerous scratches on the hands that were strangling him, hoping for him to feel pain and release him from the suffering J inflicted on him.

Unfortunately, the man tightened his grip. He intended to kill him rather than let him off.

It became too hard for Ryan to take in oxygen. His pale skin reddened to the point of dripping blood.

He kept gasping for air that slowly left his body. The pain was intolerable. Tears filled the rim of his eyes, almost overflowing like a nearly broken dam.

"Ugh..." A soft whimper bypassed Ryan's lips.

In a brief moment, he felt the man's hesitation. As if he wavered and had a second thought between his decision on finishing his victim off or not.

Or was Ryan only imagining it? Because the next second, the slightly loosened grip had strengthened, and this time, Ryan knew, his demise had come for him.

With a loud crack sound, his neck snapped into two.

The body went limp and motionless like a broken doll.

The limpid emerald eyes slightly quivered, slowly losing their brilliant light. His once clear and brightest eyes had lost their luster, leaving behind a hollow abyss.

A drop of tear fell over his cheek before vanishing into his collar.

Ryan had died.

The serial killer unhesitatingly closed his eyelids. His icy demeanor turned soft when he gazed at the latter body.

“For your last gift, only for you, I will not chop your body to pieces, unlike my other victims. And you will be my last masterpiece. Tonight, Doctor Jackal will vanish forever, alongside your death. Rest in peace, my beloved Han Ryan.”

***

The following day, inside an expensive black car, someone discovers the body of Chief Inspector Han Ryan.

Someone deliberately parked the automobile in the underground parking lot of his workplace.

Apart from dried blood on his clothes and a stab wound on his left chest, Ryan’s condition looked normal. He looked like he was sleeping rather than dead.

Beside his lifeless body, laid the last letter from Doctor Jackal.

“Unless someone like Chief Inspector Han appears, I don’t think Doctor Jackal will resurface.” Detective Su shook his head. “We lost a capable coworker and lost track of his killer. How can we face his family and other victim’s family?”

Da Kyung, a forensic doctor, and Ryan’s best friend, furiously wiped her tears in a grievance.

“This is unfair! How could that scumbag kill him? Ryan waited for ten years to apprehend that man. Unfortunately, he is...” She couldn’t finish her sentence. What left was her sobbing resounded in there, muffled behind her hands.

“The higher up will dislike this outcome. Especially for our Senior Superintendent Han. He lost his most treasured nephew, after all.”

Both looked at the stretcher that bypassed them with a gloomy expression.

Da Kyung’s stifled sobs still echoing in the background, mourning the loss of her friend.

***

Jae Woon ran to the morgue hastily. He looked around before finding out that Da Kyung was waiting for him in front of the morgue.

“Kyung ah, what happened?” He asked in a worried tone.

Da Kyung bit her lips. Tears stained her beautiful face.

“Woon...”

“Kyung, they said Ryan is dead. Is it true? They are lying, right?”

“Woon, calm down, please?” Da Kyung approached the man and hugged him. “Ryan is dead. And the news is true.”

Jae Woon felt his world was crumbling, bits by bits.

“You’re joking, right, Kyung-ah? How can Ryan be dead? He promised me, no, that guy promised the two of us he would stay alive and catch that psychotic bastard! How could he break his promise easily as that?”

“Woon ah,” Da Kyung had tightened her hug around Jae Woon’s body and said in a sad voice. “You should learn how to let go. Let Ryan leave in peace, okay? We, the living ones, will catch that man instead of him. For his sake.”

Jae Woon stared at the covered body on the stretcher inside the morgue. Without him realized, a drop of tear was rolling down his cheeks.

“He broke his promise again.” His tone was rueful.

“I know, right?” Da Kyung revealed a hurtful expression. “This was his 23rd promise that he broke.”

“I hate him.” Jae Woon added. There was bitterness inside his voice.

“I also hate his stupid gut sometimes. But, no matter what, Ryan is still Ryan. That’s why we stayed by his side since that day. Isn’t it?”

Jae Woon sighed. He returned her embrace and placed his hands on Da Kyung's back, interlocking his fingers.

Jae Woon buried his face in the crook of Da Kyung's neck, hoping to find comfort by inhaling her soothing scent.

“You’re right.”

Both were hugging tightly, basking in each other comfort.

Jae Woon swallowed down his sorrow, and his hands unconsciously gripped the end fabric of Da Kyung's clothes.

He shut his eyelids. His redden nose was twitching as anguish emanated from his body.

How can he survive after the death of his best friend?

Will things stay the same? Or more drastic changes will come up after his friend's death?

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(A/N: I am trying to tone down the grammar mistake by doing repetitive editing. If you spot anything wrong, please inform me. I will try my hardest to write off the mistakes. Please forgive me, and thank you for reading.)

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