Five years of living on and off the streets, and Mookyul's debt had reached an all time high. At first it was a few won here, a little more there. But now... the overwhelming weight of hundreds of thousands of won in debt was crashing down on him. He had no choice but to bloody his fists.
Ku-Yun, a man older than Mookyul, and his fourth opponent of the day, crashed to the ground. The man managed to roll to his knees and spit out blood mixed with dirt. The jeers of the crowd around them would have been enough to drive any man crazy, but Mookyul had mastered the best locations for street fighting and he planned on making sure that he didn't lose.
The other opponents hadn't been as strong as the current one. Backing away, he pulled at his sweaty shirt until he was able to tear it away from his body.
"Keep fighting, Ku-Yun," a voice from the crowd screamed.
The combination of the blaring sun and chain link fence surrounding the two fighters kept Mookyul from making out any faces. Not that he'd see anyone familiar. He'd left behind everyone he'd cared about behind when he'd left the orphanage.
Whenever he fought, he couldn't help but think about Kwang-Dae and how he'd had to leave. Even after five years, there was still pain.
Mookyul pretended that he had a cramp in his upper thigh and began to massage his leg. As Ku-Yun came closer, his fists raised and a smug look on his face, Mookyul lowered his hand and spun around, kicking out violently until Ku-Yun stumbled back. Again, Mookyul raised his leg and sprung out at Ku-Yun's head. The blood that ran down the side of his face from his left eye was proof enough that Mookyul had won the fight.
There was nothing ceremonious about winning, except a pile of money.
Loud jeers went around the makeshift ring, and soon the coins were raining down on Mookyul, staining his skin with their indecency. Gathering as many as he could carry, tucking them into the middle of his shirt and bundling it up, Mookyul made to leave.
"I demand a rematch." Ku-Yun was a sight to see. His lip had been bloodied badly and was split in the center. The red gushing blood had stained what teeth he had left, causing him to look like a cross between an ogre and a man.
"Not tomorrow." Mookyul heaved his heavy earnings over his wounded shoulder. He winced slightly at the contact of the fabric rubbing against his abrasion.
"Why? Too tired?" Ku-Yun goaded. A crowd had surrounded Ku-Yun protectively, their eyes alight with a fiery passion that let Mookyul know whose side they were on.
"Perhaps." Mookyul knew how to stay out of a fight if he needed to. Why fight when he was injured if he could heal a little first?
"Perhaps?" Ku-Yun laughed loudly behind Mookyul, who had turned away and was leaving.
The sun was starting to set, but the motel he was currently staying at wasn't far. The coins clashed against each other, making Mookyul sound like a walking bank account, but he didn't mind. He had made enough to pay some of his debt and still have some leftover to buy some rice. He was down to his last bowl.
"Where ya' going wearing those nice clothes?"
Normally, Mookyul wouldn't have stopped walking -- especially when he wasn't the one being talked to. Being attacked in this part of Daegu was common, so if Mookyul stopped to help everyone caught in a fight, he would wind up broken before midnight.
But the voice that answered stopped him in his tracks. "I'm not giving you anything."
The young man in question was wearing a tailored white and black suit with an expensive diamond watch around his wrist. The watch was probably the reason the two men were standing on either side of him, pinning him against the wall of a building. They were out of view, holding his arms. Mookyul had never seen someone so impeccably dressed.
At least he'd never seen a man with such expensive tastes in that alley. Usually, the rich men who came to watch got into cars waiting nearby and left as soon as the fight was over.
Mookyul had no idea what made him move forward. The coins protested with their weight, and even though he knew setting them down would mean their possible loss, he did so anyway. "Hey."
The two thugs stepped back, but kept their hands firmly around each of the young man's wrists. They wore cheap clothing, torn in various places, and pants falling low on their hips. The young man pinned against the wall had the blankest expression Mookyul had ever seen.
Being void of emotion was common in South Korea, but Mookyul found the young man all the more beautiful. He felt a strong need to further explore the young man's expressions. Mookyul felt shame and looked away for a moment.
Mookyul knew he should run. I'll be found out, he couldn't help but think. Already, Mookyul's palms were sweating and his heart was racing. He inhaled the scents around him, an excited feeling pitting through his stomach as he tried to smell only the young man.
They could have the money. He just wanted their prey.
Mookyul's hands seemed to move of their own accord as he thought only of possessing the young man. The moment his hand collided with the back of one of the mugger's heads, he felt the strong pang of want -- a desire he knew he couldn't admit or accept.
The man sputtered and spun around, trying to get on equal footing with Mookyul. In the mugger's attempt to face Mookyul, he dragged the delicately dressed man to the ground.
Mookyul felt more rage hit his chest as he saw the shameful dirt clouding the once white crisp suit. He punched the other man, cornering him. Jumping back, Mookyul raised his leg and kicked the first man in the side of the head and then the other attacker. There was a loud snap as Mookyul slammed the second man into the side of the building. Blood dripped down the wall.
Seeing the blood made Mookyul's pulse race. Frantically he searched for where he had deposited his money, but there was only empty wall.
"I have it," the young man said, holding up the shirt with the coins for
Mookyul's inspection. "You have to go."
Mookyul knew better than to touch the young man. Knew that especially if the young man was older than him, touching him would be shameful, but the two thieves were regaining consciousness. "You come too."
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