Welcome to the Underworld (A Welcome to the Underworld Novel, Book 1)Con Template
Welcome to the Underworld
Copyright © 2012 Con Template
All rights reserved.
Cover Photo by: DNL600i
Cover Illustration Design by: Dorothy Duong
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The Author holds exclusive rights to this work.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced without the written permission of the Author.
Dedicated to my once-in-a-lifetime family.
Thank you for being there through every hardship and triumph.
You make everything worth it.
First and foremost, this book couldn’t have been possible without the support of my family. Thank you to my mother for being a constant inspiration to me, to my father for always being my hero and to my sister for not only being my advisor in every aspect of life – but also my best friend. Thank you to the one I’ve always loved like a little brother as well: Kevin N. You are one of the kindest souls I’ve ever had the good fortune of having in my life and I just want you to know that I miss you everyday. Stay safe, stay strong and come home soon. We love you.
My gratitude also goes to “Snyderman”, “The Bum,” and “Hoff Hoff” for being some of the first to not only know about my publishing endeavors – but for always giving me so much encouragement in the process. Thank you to “Chief Little Fingers” and “Waddup G” for the silliness over the years as well. You all keep me sane in face of all the craziness in life.
My deepest gratitude goes to Dorothy for being a guardian over Welcome to the Underworld since its beginnings, for always watching over it and for dedicating so much time to creating such beautiful artwork for it. Your talent and genuine love for the story will never cease to amaze me.
Finally, no part of this journey could’ve been possible without my readers from Soompi. Thank you for not only embracing me as a young writer, but for always showering me with so much love. Words could never encapsulate how grateful I am for all your encouragement and support. This part of the writing journey is a long time coming and I thank you for being there with me every step of the way. I couldn’t have come this far without you.
Queen of the Underworld
The King of Serpents
Kiss from the Serpent
The Other Part of the Punishment
Chained to You
Make Things Right
Out of Character
The Dawning of a New Era
The Night Before
The King of Skulls
The Bad Guy
The Lost Scorpions
Less than Human
Victims and Saviors
Shop ‘till You Drop
Instincts and Distractions
An Hour with Skulls and Scorpions
The Meeting of Skulls and Scorpions
Hold on Tight
Hold on Tight – There’s Layers
The Heir to the Throne
Clash of the Gods
“Our world is different from the rest.”
00: Say Goodbye
“Please,” the young woman pleaded, her voice quivering in anguish.
Dark clouds danced into the sky as she kneeled on the cold pavement. Apart from the discarded trash bags from a nearby restaurant, there was nothing in the alley but the two siblings.
"Please help me," she continued when her brother gave no response. A gust of wind roared through the narrow pathway, warning of an impending storm. She clenched her bloody hands with his. Hot tears streamed down her cheeks. "I – I can’t live like this anymore. Please, please help me."
With his shoulders slumped and head hung low, his silence reigned. He tightened his grip on the syringe needle she had given him. It was clear that he didn’t even want to hold it.
"You have to do this!" she finally screamed when his silence became unbearable for her. She wiped tears away with her bloodstained palms. When this action left a streak of blood across her face, she froze. She gazed glumly at the crimson hue covering her fingers. A haunted shadow engulfed her eyes. The blood wasn't hers.
Another pained moment passed before the young man finally peered down at his younger sister. The emotions mounting in his own brown eyes were indicative of the fact that he never once dreamed that they would find themselves in such a pitiful state.
"If I…" he began in a quiet voice. "If I do this, then I would lose you. I would never see you again." He averted his gaze away from her as bolts of lightning spilled into the sky. "There has to be another way. You don't want to do this."
"There's no other option for me but this. If I don't die, then I have to live with what I did." She paused, taking a moment to exhale sharply. Distant sounds of thunder bellowed overhead while she spoke. "And I can't do that."
"What about – "
"Nothing else matters now," she interrupted firmly, her eyes seemingly lost in another world of thoughts. Holding his gaze, she made sure to eradicate any emotions from her face. She wanted to show him how resolved she was; she wanted to show him why she needed him to do this. "You know the bylaws that govern our world. It's either you or someone else who does this to me. Frankly, I'd rather die under your hands than someone else's."
As though her final words of conviction struck a nerve, he tipped his head back in misery. Droplets of rainwater s
prinkled onto his face, the streaks of lightning reflecting in his eyes. He took another pondering moment to himself. After a few passing breaths, he returned his attention to her.
She smiled when she saw his face. She knew that look. He may have despised what she was asking of him, but he was going to do it regardless. Despite his authoritative stature in life, even his preferences took a backseat to the bylaws of their world.
He turned away from her and dug his hand into the pocket of his black jacket. He withdrew a small liquid vial. From there, everything seemed to play out in slow motion. He removed the cap and inserted the needle into the vial. Together, they watched with bated breaths as the clear liquid swam into the needle. Their breaths only returned when the needle was filled to the core.
He narrowed his solemn eyes onto her.
At this point, she had finally stopped shaking. Unable to hold his gaze and knowing what was to come, she broke eye contact. She merely lifted her right wrist to him. Things would be a lot easier if they minimized eye contact as much as possible.
"Are you completely sure about this?" he asked one last time.
"I can no longer lead life as your right-hand soldier," she replied, ready to finalize it all. "It's time to end this."
Her brother closed his eyes in pained resignation. He nodded at her words. No longer wanting to delay the inevitable, he reached for her hand. He held her wrist up and positioned the needle against her vein. The tip of the needle pierced her quickly and easily. The liquid contents flooded out of the needle and into her.
She gasped. It didn't take long for the effects to take place. Shortly after the injection, her vision blurred and her heart raced. The world around her began to spin in chaos. A throbbing migraine ensued and her vision worsened. Everything just hurts. Slowly, the nerves in her body felt like they were shutting down. When it became clear that the muscles in her body had stopped functioning, her body went limp. She fell backward, landing into a small puddle with a splash.
"T—thank—you—" she whispered in between harsh breaths. No longer able to keep her eyes opened, she finally shut them, knowing that the world as she knew it was coming to an end.
"Good bye, little one," she heard her brother utter before she lost all consciousness. "I'm sorry for not doing what you asked me to do."
“Some people find themselves stumbling into it. . .”
01: Queen of the Underworld
3 years later
Drawing up as if caught in a flood of waves, a startled Choi Yoori awoke with a thunderous gasp that ricocheted off the walls of her cramped bedroom. Her brown eyes enlarged from fear as her heart raced wildly. With a light layer of cold sweat glistening on her porcelain skin, it was an understatement to say that the dream she had hit a soft nerve within her.
She inhaled deeply to calm her overexcited nerves. It took only a moment for Yoori to become acclimated with her surroundings and only a moment for her to return to the confines of reality.
She squinted at the morning sun. Unable to withstand the bright rays, she lifted her hands to block out the light. She groaned, readjusting herself in her warm bed. After burrowing into that oh-so-comfortable spot, she pulled the blanket over her head and closed her eyes. Though she was awake, Yoori wanted a moment to mull over the mysterious dream she just had.
"Same damn dream again," she muttered bitterly.
A torrent of frustration washed over her. She opened her tired eyes and stared at the cover of her blanket. The rays of the morning light radiated over the comforter, making it appear as though she was hiding under a luminous blanket rather than a cheap beige comforter.
Who are they? Her aggravated mind pressed on.
It killed her that even after such a long period of time, she still didn't have the answer to that burning question. For the past several months, this particular recurring dream had been a cause of frustration for Yoori.
It started a year ago when her home in Taecin, a rural little town in South Korea, caught on fire. It was pure luck that Yoori survived. An hour prior, her mother had sent her out to buy some groceries. When Yoori returned, she was not only greeted with a blazing fire, but news that her parents and her younger cousin were killed in the fire. She was told that she had missed the fire by mere minutes. If she had left a couple minutes later, she would've found herself in flames as well.
The entire situation was a daunting one for Yoori. The loss of her family should have left her in shambles, but it didn't. If anything, as terrible as it may sound, it left her feeling more relieved than anything. It wasn't that Yoori was a heartless person who didn't care about her family. It wasn't like that at all. She cared about them very much. It was just that the predicament she found herself in left her incapable of loving them as she should.
The reason for this was that a year and a half prior to the fire, she was involved in a car accident that left her with amnesia.
Yoori could still recall the awful horror that inundated her when she opened her eyes in the hospital. She was so afraid and so frazzled. She woke up not knowing her name, who she was, who the people around her were – essentially no recollection of her life before the accident. Her mind was just blank. Only pained emptiness wallowed within it. The most frustrating part was that her family appeared more inclined to ignore her illness rather than try and help her regain her memories.
"You ran away, hung out with a bad crowd and made bad decisions," they simply told her, unwilling to go into further details. It was as though they were afraid she'd regain her memory and revert to being the bad sheep she once was.
After losing hope of ever regaining her memory (how couldn’t she when her own family refused to help her?), Yoori settled into a new and very strained life with her family. She didn't know if she was ever close to them before her amnesia. Perhaps yes and perhaps no. The one thing Yoori was sure of was that throughout the entire duration with her family, she never felt the connection she felt she should have had with them. They were strangers and with a year and a half worth of awkward silences, they merely became her acquaintances before they passed.
After their funeral, Yoori no longer saw the point in living within the barriers of Taecin. What was the point of staying when she didn’t have friends to begin with? No one knew her. For that reason alone, it wasn't hard for her to pack up and leave. The only question was: where would she move to?
The answer to that question came right after it was posed.
Yoori knew she wanted to move to Seoul. She couldn't explain her longing to move to the city, but ever since she saw a TV segment on the nightlife in Seoul, she just knew that she belonged there. So with the little money she had saved up and a strong desire to start anew, she packed up everything and left for the city.
After reaching Seoul, Yoori immediately found an apartment and a job as a waitress to help make ends meet. Although being a waitress was far from glamorous, Yoori truly enjoyed the company of the friends she made from working there. No one knew about her past, the loss of her family or her amnesia, and she liked that. She liked that no one knew. It offered her an opportunity to start off on a clean slate and it gave her an opportunity to be happy without having to be reminded about the unfortunate circumstances of her life. It was the first time in her life where she felt normal. It was the first time in her life where she felt like she belonged.
The dream came during her first night in Seoul.
The contents that played within it would always be the same. It would always be about the same people – a young woman and a young man in a dark alley. He would always possess a needle and she was always the one asking him to end her life. There was never anymore to the dream. No names, no reasons, no backstory and most certainly no answers.
The images of the dream haunted Yoori’s curiosity about her amnesia. She wrestled over the implications of the dream. Was this a memory from her past? If so, who were the two people? Did she see something she shouldn't have seen? Why did that girl want to die? What was the brother apologi
zing for? Question after question lingered in her mind. Was this dream a figment of her imagination or a memory from the past?
After many nights of broken sleep, Yoori tried her best to eliminate its importance from her life. However, it’s difficult to ignore a recurring dream when it well, keeps occurring. The problem with trying to throw it off as nothing was that the dream was becoming more and more intense. In the beginning, she was barely able to make out images and voices. Now, it was becoming clearer to her what they were doing and what they were saying. The only blurs left were the faces and of course, the reason why she was having this dream to begin with.
Yoori heaved a sigh when another headache threatened to commence. Damn, I really shouldn't be so consumed with this dream...
Resolved to not spend anymore time on the matter, she threw her covers off and sat up in bed. She reached for a remote control and turned on her TV. As various colors twirled onto the 24-inch screen, her eyes bloomed at the images it displayed.
"What the hell..."
On screen was a newsreel with a slim, 30-something anchorwoman in a white business suit. Behind her was a horde of police officers carrying numerous black body bags out of a high-rise building.
Her interest heightened, Yoori pointed the remote at the TV and turned up the volume. "...Police officers first arrived onto the horrendous crime scene early this morning. They received a call from a horrified receptionist who had reportedly walked in and was greeted with the sight of six dead men, all of whom had been shot to death on the lobby tiles."