( PROLOGUE )

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SANGYUN COULDN'T CATCH his breath when the next punch landed on his ribs, the air whooshing out of him all at once as if to escape the pain blossoming out from the area his opponent's fist had landed. The bruise instantly began to develop, coloring his side an ugly shade of irritated red. Sweat dripped from Sangyun's brow, from down his back and over his body. He didn't know how much longer he'd be able to stand against Taewoo's calculated attacks but the crowd was cheering from all sides of the ring so he knew they'd both be paid well for their time tonight.

Nevertheless, Sangyun wanted to win.

No, he needed to win. The desire consumed him wholly until there was nothing left inside of his mind but steely resolve and a thirst for blood. Sangyun had been called many things — a god of war, a soldier, a patron of violence. No matter the label applied to him, they all meant the same thing. He was destined for victory.

Taewoo's head dropped as he prepared to deliver another shattering blow to Sangyun's rib cage. In retaliation of the earlier punch, he interrupted the blond opponent with a swift uppercut delivered from his left hand. Sangyun's inner beast roared with satisfaction when Taewoo's head snapped back and a glaze covered his eyes as he was stunned.

He followed the barrage with a right hook and Taewoo was down for the count.

The underground crowd bellowed as the younger opponent fell backwards, knocked out cold. Sangyun raised his hands high above his head and basked in the thunderous applause, a soft sigh escaping his lips as he realized that the match was finally over. The cacophony of noise rumbled in the air, something he could feel in his chest. He could go home and tend to his aches and pains in peace. The last round of the night was always a blissful wave of relief.

     Sangyun stepped out of the ring, his wrapped knuckles beginning to throb while he walked back to the manager's office to collect his winnings for the night. People from the crowd cheered at him as he passed or bowed but he paid them no mind and ascended the stairs to the second level that overlooked the fights from above. Sangyun pushed open the manager's door without preamble and stopped in front of his desk.

The manager, Mr. Nam, was a rather portly man in his late fifties with jet black hair which he religiously slicked back over his head every morning and trimmed at the end of every month so as to avoid looking scruffy. His charcoal eyes were small and beady as he smiled gleefully at Sangyun's presence. He stood from his chair that was positioned to look out the windows at the ring and removed a cigar from his mouth, holding it delicately as a lady would wield a cigarette holder.

"Son of the Dragon!" Mr. Nam sounded like a child when he used Sangyun's fighter name. He always sounded like a child. "That knockout was awesome, how'd you do that?"

The manager didn't even give him time to answer, as per usual. That's normally how the older man worked. He asked his questions and moved on from them quicker than the speed of light, that was just how he managed to live his entire life; in the fast lane. There was always twenty things happening at once when it came to Mr. Nam and the business he ran. It wasn't really surprising to Sangyun that he would conduct his business as he conducted himself.

"Anyways, Taewoo might be out for the next couple of nights 'cause of you but that doesn't matter," Mr. Nam was saying. "You made more than enough money. Your sponsors went insane over the show tonight. They're loaded, you know!" He laughed heartily, shaking his head more than a few times. "Completely crazy rich. Like that movie my daughter forced me to watch. A good movie, by the way, completely worth watching if you're looking for something to do when you're not training."

Sangyun nodded politely. He was particularly fond of the older man in the way that a son might see his estranged grandfather. They had absolutely nothing in common and barely knew each other outside of the business they conducted but they still held familiarity and relied on the other person to uphold their end of the deal. And if Mr. Nam was good for one thing, it was how he conducted the fights. This bought him a measure of respect that Sangyun would always show him even when he tended to ramble and let his thoughts get away from him.

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