Chapter Nine- Black and White
Still in the Past
The Sky Palace, after the meeting…
The King, Jang Yoo Jin, was angry.
His Eunuch, Eunuch Geum, kept a healthy distance between them.
“How dare they deny me?!” He asked no one in particular. “They even dared to tell me I was wrong!”
Eunuch Geum and the other servants bowed each time the King raised his voice. He was in a particularly bad mood since his meeting with the deities. Eunuch Geum knew why the King had summoned the deities, but he could not understand why the King had not expected their answer. Their reply was to be expected, in his opinion…
A few months ago, an ancient journal had been found by one of the King’s handpicked shamans. The journal, which had been commissioned by a past King and written by a very popular historical priest, contained secrets about a hidden fifth gate beneath the Kingdom.
The fifth gate, was what the deities protected the Kingdom from. If the deities opened all their gates, then the fifth gate would be opened, unleashing what was within. The gate was said to contain an immense shadow, a very powerful being that represented the opposite of everything the deities stood for.
The journal had clearly stated the dangers of opening the hidden gate, but all the King had heard from his shamans was that, anyone who controlled the being behind the fifth gate, would gain power and immortality.
To convince the deities to do his bidding, the King’s shamans had created a fake journal, which encouraged the opening of the four gates. The shamans had been ordered to lie about dreams they had had, which meant more good will come if the four gates were opened.
The king had presented these argument to the deities, after asking everybody but the magical body (priests and shamans), to leave the Government hall.
But the deities, were not fooled, after hearing all he had to say.
They accurately guessed his intentions and saw through his lies. Though they were young, they had the memories of the previous deities, who knew exactly what the four gates were guarding.
What was behind the fifth gate would destroy the world.
“It will only corrupt you completely.” Lady Hayan had said to the furious King. “Let go of immortality and live the rest of your life peacefully.”
“You were not meant to rule, but fate granted you a chance.” Lord Paran spoke as well. “Do not reach for a power you do not understand, and instead, work to establish your great deeds in history.”
“It is too late for Jeonha to become a Sage king (a king loved and almost worshiped by the people), but Jeonha should at least make an effort.” Lord Geom Jeong spoke, making the king glare at him in surprise. He rarely spoke on such matters. In fact, Lord Geom had only spoken in his presence once, since his awakening.
Right now, he had spoken so calmly, that it nearly covered the insult behind the words.
“You-. did you just insult me?” Sang Yoo Jin was livid.
Geom Jeong bowed without hesitation.
“This humble servant apologizes for any unintended insult.” Again he had spoken too calmly, with no sincerity behind his words.
At this point, the Sang Yoo Jin had nearly turned purple in anger. He looked into all their faces. Even Lady Chorok, who was usually the most cheerful, had a disapproving look on her face. He got up in anger, looking down on all of them. By right, he was King! They should obey HIM! He stormed out of the government hall without another word, leaving behind a stunned silence.
Now, the King sat, furiously recalling the events. Eunuch Geum tentatively moved forward.
“Jeonha. If your humble servant may speak….”
“What is it?!” Eunuch Geum flinched.
“Jeonha. Perhaps we should try to find another method for you-”
“Silence you fool! There remains nothing reasonable in your head.” He gestured for his head guard. “Bring me the Head Shaman. This has become a battle of wills. I cannot allow them to have their way-”
“JEONHA! THE HEAD OF THE PALACE MAIDENS HAS ARRIVED.” The voice bellowed from outside. The king nodded at Eunuch Geum who was still on the floor, and he rushed to open the doors to grant her entrance. She immediately rushed forward and bowed to the ground.
“This humble servant greets you, Jeonha.”
“What brings you?”
“Jeonha. Jung Jeon Mama has decided to make her move. She aims for the lives of the other Princes.”
“Really?” Despite his short question, he did not seem particularly surprised. He and the Queen knew each other’s true colours. He had married her because she reminded him of himself.
“Ye, Jeonha. She plans to throw a small celebration for Second Prince’s birthday. She will invite all the Princes and poison them, drinking a little herself, to avert suspicion.”
“And what does she intend to do with her own son?” He asked the servant before him.
“Grand Prince is too young to drink the wine, so she intends to use that as an excuse.” The King considered this for a while.
“I married a clever viper.” He mused aloud, then addressed the Head maiden. “You’ve done well. Continue to keep an eye on her and inform me of her actions. You may leave.”
“Ye, Jeonha.” She got up and left hastily. The King had promised her the position she now held in exchange for earning the Queen’s trust.
She had approached the Queen even before she had been chosen, so she could win her trust. She had done her job very well…
The Gwang Guk main Temple
Geom Jeong watched Lady Hayan play the gayageum. The little white fox she had saved, ran around her excitedly. She was very far away, but he could hear her music clearly, almost able to recognize each deft finger plucking the strings. One of the advantages of being the black deity…
He leisurely walked down from where he stood to join her, enjoying the music as he went.
Out of respect for the King, the deities had decided to wait at the Capital till they were properly dismissed. They were not backing down on their decision, but they still wanted to show their respect by remaining within reach in case he summoned them again. Unfortunately, that meant they could be stuck here for an uncertain amount of time. Jeonha was throwing a silent tantrum.
Geom decided he might as well spend his time with Lady Hayan.
Lady Hayan looked up as he approached, her fingers pausing temporarily on the gayageum. Tall, and dressed all in black, he made a dashing picture in her eyes. She had always been drawn to him, right from the moment she had met him. He had tried to pick a fight from day one…
Eight Years earlier…
The Hidden Temple, Gwang Guk…
Hayan had stepped into the hidden temple and had come face to face with a very angry, but very compelling face.
‘Ah! This is Geom Jeong!’ A thought popped into her head. A memory… many memories…
the appearance changed evreytime, but he was always the same…
Impatient and unfriendly!
“Annyeonghaseyo.” She smiled calmly, bowing in greeting, but got no response.
He studied her silently. Then…
“Tch. Are you going to be like the old Lady?” He had asked.”Did you stop on the way to greet all the creatures? What is it with you white deities? We have been waiting for you for four da-!”
“What my friend here is trying to say, is welcome, Lady Hayan, White Deity of the North.” Lord Paran had cut him off. She had paid no attention to him, automatically returning his bow. Nor did she pay attention to the old Lady Chorok, who seemed rather engrossed in eating several bowls of food.
Hayan’s attention had been solely on Lord Geom.
At first, they had stared at each other in open challenge. But she had seen through his outer personality, and had felt drawn to him at once. Besides, having awoken and discovered who she was, she HAD been carried away by ‘creatures’ as he had put it…
Now, ten years since that first meeting, not much had changed. They were strangely drawn to each other, even though they argued often (They were just too different!).
“Orabeoni.” She said in greeting, as he came over and sat across her. She resumed her playing.
Geom sat quietly, simply watching her. She was the only person that called him that. It made him feel utterly wonderful…
Below the pagoda where Lady Hayan now sat with Lord Geom, Lord Paran lifted his head away from the book he had been reading. He had come out early to read while Lady Hayan played the gayageum.
He had hidden, because they had all made it a habit to interrupt his reading whenever they where present.
He had watched Lord Geom heading over to Lady Hayan, completely unaware that he was being watched.
Lord Geom was supposed to be the strongest amongst them, being the deity of physical strengths. He had the sharpest hearing, was extremely fast, and could sense any presence, regardless of how well they were hidden.
Around Lady Hayan however, he subconsciously dropped his guard almost every time. Having the memories of the previous Blue deities, Paran knew that this always happened, and that the Blue deities were always the one that noticed (The Green deities had always been too playful to notice).
The Black deity was always unapproachable until the White deity was present. It had been an endless circle…
When Paran had awakened, he and Lord Geom had arrived at the hidden northern temple, at almost the same time. Lady Chorok and Lady Hayan, the previous White and Green deities had been waiting for them there. Paran had noticed that the old Lady Hayan did not seem to like the new Lord Geom. She obviously did not see him as a fitting replacement for the previous black deity.
Back then, Paran had tried often to talk with Lord Geom, who was his age mate, but he had remained silent, only giving single worded replies, more often than not.
It had been frustrating, especially to Paran who thought knowledge could solve most things (he had researched and observed all Lord Geom’s preferences and used these to approach, but all to no avail). Lord Geom simply preferred to remain isolated on the Black Mountain.
When the new Lady Hayan had arrived at the hidden temple, his silent friend had suddenly become chatty, addressing her the minute they met. Then there was also his sudden need to show off as often as possible in her presence.
Lord Paran had been amused when, less than a year after her awakening, Lord Geom had actually allowed Prince Seung Jae follow him around, calling him ‘Hyeong’ and had even given him a few combat lessons.
This was something foreign to his usual personality.
Lady Hayan herself, had a hidden, unrefined and careless side, and could be very loud and ill-tempered when she was angry. He sometimes wondered who would win in an argument between her and Lady Chorok.
In the presence of Lord Geom, however, she suddenly became a mild-mannered, serene lady.
Their very natures as deities were opposites, and they argued often (Like when she had stopped the whole envoy to rescue the white fox. Lord Geom had complained throughout and she had ignored him, casting hateful looks in his direction).
But most of the time, the two were inseparable. The thing humans called ‘Love’, was a concept foreign to them as deities. He did not think that had ever defined the two of them.
They merely understood each other deeply, and he supposed that had always been their fate.
Sighing at his completely unnoticed presence, he returned to his book.
Five days later…
Eondeog Mun Palace, the Moon Palace
Prince Seung Jae, fourth Prince of Eondeog Mun, was the son of a junior ranked concubine, unlike his elder brothers, who were the sons of senior concubines.
At an early age, Seung Jae had learned not to desire anything above his status, and just be content with living. This made him a favorite companion for all the other Princes, as his total lack of ambition for the throne was refreshing and made them feel comfortable around him (the first, second and third Princes constantly fought to rule).
In fact, the only members of the Royal family that disliked the fourth Prince were the King and the Queen. He had never understood why, but almost everyone else did.
As Seung Jae had jokingly told the deities, he was actually considered Eondeog Mun’s perfect prince. He possessed a good combination of all his brothers’ good qualities, plus his own natural charm.
The King noticed this immediately and felt threatened.
The Queen noticed the King’s feelings and realized the boy was a threat to her as well.
Unfortunately for them, Seung Jae was well aware of their feelings, so he had become very watchful of their actions.
Countless times, he secretly countered their shady plans, openly seeming to have no idea what was going on.
He had always been aware that the King had been trying to discredit the deities, so anytime bad rumours stemmed up, he countered them by secretly revealing the truth.
As for the Queen, he had become very careful around her. He usually avoided her most times and right now, he was wondering why she suddenly decided to throw a feast for the Second Prince. Why she had invited only the Princes. It was not the first time, but he just could not shake off the unease he felt.
Younger than the first two Princes, and not much older than the third, the Queen tended to speak very little to the Princes, especially since they had not exactly been welcoming to her….
Afterall, she had given birth to a Grand Prince, who was just one more serious threat to them.
Her position as the Queen and Royal Mother, however, meant they had to listen to her.
At the moment, Seung Jae felt the Queen seemed a little too friendly, or maybe he was overly cautious. He watched as the wine was distributed, a healthy amount given to the Queen as well. ‘At least it’s not poisoned.’ He thought to himself. ‘Unless-‘
“Jung Jeon Mama!” The voice from outside interrupted his thoughts. “Junior Concubine Yoo’s aide requests an audience.” Now, Seung Jae was doubly distracted. Concubine Yoo was his mother.
“How can she interrupt me at a time like this?!”
“Jung Jeon Mama! Junior Concubine Yoo has taken seriously ill again, and requires the presence of her son.” The Queen shot a hateful look toward him, but she quickly masked it again with a smile.
Seung Jae ignored this, obviously worried for his mother’s health. The only thing Seung Jae had ever wanted, was to live happily with his mother. Her health had failed many times since his birth, and it had begun to get worse recently.
He bowed fully to the Queen.
“Jeosonghamnida, Omma Mama. This humble son requests to leave your presence for a while.”
The Queen was obviously angry, but she could not show it. She decided it might be for the best. If he was the only one who survived, he and his mother would be blamed for the incidence. He was the perfect scapegoat. She rushed to him in a show of worry. “You may go.” She helped him rise. “I hope Concubine Yoo gets better. Go to her now.”
Seung Jae did not question her actions immediately, though it stayed at the back of his mind. He ran to his mother’s side at once.
Later that night, Seung Jae sat by his mother’s bed. She had slept off earlier in the evening, and had died peacefully in her sleep. She had sent for him because she had had a bad dream concerning his life and had wanted to see him.
Amidst his tears, he knew he should be thankful…. At least he had talked with her before it happened. Wiping his tears, he finally let go of her hand and let the doctors take over.
Seung Jae watched as his mother was carried out of the temple room where she had lived for many years. She had been moved to the hill temple near the Palace since she took ill.
He got up and left the room, but was surprised when the royal guards came running up to them, surrounding him.
“RECEIVE THE ROYAL COMMAND!” The head of the guards bellowed.
“What’s the meaning of this?!” Seung Jae demanded, but he was ignored as the head of the guards reached for the royal scroll which sat atop a cushion.
“Prince Seung Jae, Fourth Prince of Eondeog Mun, is to be arrested and tortured for the murder of Seja Jeoha, Daegun, and the other Princes, and the attempted murder of Jung Jeon!” The guards rushed forward to seize him.
Seung Jae was in shock.
Thoughts ran through his mind, and he remembered his suspicion that the Queen had been up to something.
If that was the case, however, Daegun (the Grand Prince) should not be dead. She would not kill her own son… Would she?
Confused, he considered running, he could have fought them off easily. But he looked at the cart which now bore his mother’s body.
He decided to face his fate, going quietly with them.
The Moon Palace
The Queen wanted to die.
The palace doctors rushed about, constantly trying to save her. She wished they would let her die. This wasn’t how it was supposed to end!
Just when she thought she had won…
The first three princes had been dying before her eyes. She could not celebrate, because she had consumed a little poison to shift blame.
But then, she had seen her son begin to react to the poison as well.
“Omma Mama…” He had called out to her, blood rushing from the sides of his mouth.
She had reached for him, held him, and watched him die, despite her pleas.
She had drank more poison to follow him, but the palace doctors had arrived too quickly.
She wished they would let her go with her son…
That same night, the King banished the four deities from the Capital. He blamed their presence for the death of four princes in one night, and the near death of the Queen.
He claimed they had somehow corrupted his son, Jang Seung Jae, making him bloodthirsty against the Royal family.
Seung Jae, who usually countered accusations against the deities, was imprisoned and tortured, taking the blame for the Queen’s actions…