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    Ma Jae-seung exuded a remarkable presence despite barely shedding the aura of a newly minted adult. The young man had inherited his father’s charisma, capable of intimidating others with just a glance. Not only did he have silver hair that no one else in the Ma family had, but he also had a sturdily built body that stood out even among the generally well-built Alphas. The quality and shape of his muscles seemed inborn, not the kind that could be developed through diligent exercise. Coach Kim, who had seen many athletes, noticed the differences.

    His skin was pale like someone who hadn’t seen sunlight for a long time, but he didn’t look sickly, and his light green eyes were intense. His prominent nose had a beautifully rounded bridge, his long lower lashes made his eyes look glamorous, and his thick eyebrows drew distinct lines across his silver hair.

    In a word, he was outrageously handsome.

    However, the fascination with his sculptural appearance was short-lived as Ma Jae-seung turned viciously fierce on the rink. Coach Kim remembered ‘that incident’ again when he witnessed Ma Jae-seung charging like an angry bull. The rumor that he had spent several years in a hospital bed was probably groundless, as he ran down the ice furiously, knocking down players who came into contact with him without hesitation. A fearsome energy radiated from the guy who was blindly heading towards the goal. It was more akin to rage than excitement.

    Wasn’t he remarkably calm for a victim? A reporter’s sudden question echoed in his mind.

    Coach Kim slapped himself on the cheek and quickly got out of the car. As he walked quickly, wiping the cold sweat beading on his forehead and walking briskly, he was startled by an approaching sound, he looked up in alarm. Students were gathering and murmuring around the workers who were repainting the side of a building.

    Those who set their mind on revenge will keep aggravating their own wounds.1)

    The red letters that had not yet been erased seemed to be screaming.

    * * *

    “That kid can’t be called a sportsman. He’s a fighting machine.”

    Ki Byung-hoon muttered through gritted teeth. He was a second-year player who had been pushed to the sidelines by the rising freshman Ma Jae-seung. Though there was some personal emotion in calling him a “fighting machine,” it was hard to argue otherwise. Coach Kim silently watched the man at the end of Ki Byung-hoon’s gaze.

    On the far side of the rink, Shin-woo had just knocked down an opposing player and was calmly heading towards the penalty box. Even as the player he had hit was carried out on a stretcher, Shin-woo showed no signs of apology or regret. Deafening boos and cheers filled the stadium.


    Coach Kim let out a long sigh.

    It wasn’t easy working as the ice hockey team coach at “Uishin,” a school attended by elite alphas from prominent families. For these students, sports was merely an outlet for stress, none were interested in the professional world. Moreover, with all students coming from privileged backgrounds and raging with youthful hormones, both players and spectators cared more about hockey fights than the game itself.

    Shin-woo was particularly good at the ‘fights’ that everyone was so excited about.

    It’s most fun to watch fights after all. With him knocking down opponents almost daily, the number of spectators kept increasing. Not just students, but staff and even sneaked-in reporters packed the arena, hundreds of eyes trailing Ma Jae-seung and Shin-woo, barely glancing at the actual game. After each match, gossip and articles about their daily lives poured out.

    It was a circus show, five minutes before pandemonium broke out.

    “Coach, leaving Ma Jae-seung aside, why did that guy even get admitted? I heard he has zero interest in academics.”

    “Maybe as a bodyguard or something.”

    Coach Kim pondered before giving the shortest answer possible. Byung-hoon’s refusal to even call Shin-woo by name stemmed from the fact that he was from Mangwol District, yet had enrolled in Uishin. Uishin was a renowned school where even money couldn’t easily secure admission. The fact that Shin-woo, who wasn’t even an alpha, was exceptionally admitted suggested some dirty reason behind it.

    Byung-hoon, glaring at Shin-woo with eyes full of discontent, spoke up.

    “It’s not about being a bodyguard, it’s about protecting his cash cow. Sports are supposed to be about taking some risks by tumbling and crashing appropriately, but that guy won’t even let Ma Jae-seung get touched. He has zero interest in the actual game.”

    Though the coach didn’t want to badmouth his players, Byung-hoon’s words were true. Shin-woo didn’t even grasp the basic rules. Instead of following the game and keeping an eye on the puck, he was entirely focused on Ma Jae-seung’s every move. Whenever someone tried to push Ma Jae-seung roughly, Shin-woo would rush over and beat them up. It was more of a brawl than ice hockey.

    Even at this moment, Shin-woo sat calmly with his hands clasped, gazing fixatedly at Ma Jae-seung on the rink as if he were the only one in the world.

    When the game ended, cheers erupted. The spectators, who cared nothing for the outcome, went wild for Ma Jae-seung, who had just taken off his helmet. Flashes fired as he glided across the ice, beautiful silver hair billowing behind him. The stadium soon turned into chaos as even the reporters who had been hiding went out chasing Ma Jae-seung.

    “This is too much, seriously!”

    Coach Kim clenched his teeth and stood up abruptly. This wasn’t a sport anymore, but a show. The patience of these rich kids wouldn’t last long, and if things continued, they wouldn’t be able to sustain the team. He breathed heavily and headed toward the locker room.

    The sight that greeted him as he flung the locker room door open was truly outrageous. A reporter who had followed them in was shoving a camera in Ma Jae-seung’s face with wild, crazed eyes. To make matters worse, Ma Jae-seung did not look displeased at all but rather stood there with a proud look on his face.

    “You lot… I can’t take this anymore. Get out! This is no place for reporters to barge in. Leave now, I said leave!”

    Only after Coach Kim grabbed the reporter by the collar and dragged him out did the commotion die down. After slamming the door shut, there was no sound other than his ragged breathing.

    Everyone kept quiet, sizing up the situation. For the winning team’s locker room to have such an atmosphere. Coach Kim steadied his ragged breaths, clenching his still-trembling hands. A water bottle he had dropped in his outrage rolled across the floor with a thunk.

    Ma Jae-seung, staring indifferently at the bottle at his feet, finally looked up. It was as if he had finally discovered Coach Kim and no emotion could be read from his indifferent eyes. Meeting that brazen gaze made the emotions the coach had bottled up come surging back.

    “To you, this may be a silly game to you, but it’s a precious sport to me. There’s a limit to how much I can turn a blind eye out of pity! Do you understand?”

    The lump that climbed up his throat was raw and cowardly. The moment he uttered the word “pity,” Coach Kim regretted it. As a teacher, he was no different from those rude reporters firing invasive questions and making baseless claims. With great difficulty, he raised his gaze that he had deliberately averted elsewhere to look at Ma Jae-seung.

    Surprisingly, the face he faced to apologize was clean without a single crack.  Despite the insulting words, not a single crease of worry could be found on his porcelain skin. The suffocating silence that had enveloped the locker room did not seem to have the slightest ripple effect on Ma Jae-seung.

    The gaze that had been staring vacantly now held a hint of mockery. Ma Jae-seung twisted his red lips and retorted.

    “What is there to pity?”

    Even though it was not a question asking for an answer, his massive frame took a step closer and put pressure on Coach Kim. Coach Kim looked away, cowering at the shadow falling over him. Coach Kim could see the faces of his team members turning pale with dread and fear.

    Instead of Coach Kim, who remained speechless, Ma Jae-seung tilted his head as if pondering the answer. Then, narrowing his eyes, he said:

    “I’m the master of the Ma family now.”

    Coach Kim was struck dumb with shock. Coach Kim couldn’t lift a finger the entire time he was watching Jae-seung start packing. The master of the Ma family. If he felt even the slightest bit of regret over his father’s tragic death, it was something he could never say as a son.

    Ma Jae-seung was trying to carry the bag over one shoulder, but he stopped and handed it over to Shin-woo, taking only his hockey stick. On his way out, he patted Coach Kim’s shoulder and said:

    “I’ll quit. Since it’s precious to you, what else can I do?”

    His tone and demeanor were those of someone bestowing mercy on a subordinate. The humiliation made Coach Kim’s face heated, but he didn’t think to stop Jae-seung as he strode away. If this meant they would never be entangled again, it might be for the best.

    Even after Ma Jae-seung left, the locker room was quiet. It was because of the guy who was still holding his position.

    Shin-woo. The one Coach Kim expected to immediately follow Ma Jae-seung out was leisurely packing his bag, showing no signs of hurry. Everyone’s eyes were drawn to his hand gripping the hockey stick.

    Shin-woo’s bulging knuckles were reddish. Traces of fighting that were devoid of courtesy. Those rough hands were tightly wrapped around a stick that was almost like a weapon.

    “It’s pretty expensive, so it’s such a waste. Can I donate it?”

    Coach Kim flinched at the unexpected question. Shin-woo was smiling softly as he handed over the hockey stick.

    Coach Kim alternated his gaze between the stick offered to him and Shin-woo’s face. Shin-woo’s eyes had a shaded color and his focus did not waver for a moment. He was unmoving like a taxidermied specimen, it sent chills down Coach Kim’s spine.

    Did he really cut off the president’s head and set the mansion on fire?

    Conspiring with Ma Jae-seung to seize the Ma family? Or using Ma Jae-seung to devour the Ma family’s power?

    Though all the students watched intently, Coach Kim didn’t move. No, he couldn’t move. It felt like the moment he reached for the stick, Shin-woo would smash his head with it. His head would shatter and his brain would scatter on the floor. Paralyzed by terror, his lips sealed shut.

    Shin-woo took a step closer. His looming shadow made Coach Kim’s hair stand on end. Smiling affectionately, Shin-woo grasped the coach’s hand that clutched his stuck breath, and placed the stick in his palm. Looking him straight in the eye, Shin-woo gently bent each of Coach Kim’s fingers around the grip, as if teaching a child.

    “Thank you for your hard work.”

    His eyes curved gently under his round eyebrows. In the next instant, his gaze left the room without a hint of hesitation. Only then did Coach Kim exhale the breath he had been holding. Just the fact that Shin-woo’s gaze had moved away brought him a sense of relief.

    Shin-woo left the locker room, following the exact path Jae-seung had taken.

    1) *Quote from Francis Bacon

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