Chapter Ten- Strings of fate
The Hidden Northern Temple
Pal Wol, the shaman, stood hidden, looking up at the secret northern temple, where she knew a few priests and shamans currently hid.
It was ironic that they had chosen this temple to hide. The deities in the past stayed here whenever they came to the Capital.
Pal Wol shut her eyes, feeling the waves of magic from the hidden Shamans and Priests.
“Fate is not your friend, little one.” She said to herself, remembering the child she had helped so many years ago. As a shaman, she could not see her own fate, but she saw the fate of the child…
Pal Wol had secretly followed other shamans for eighteen years.
After she had helped Lord Kim Dae Hyeon all those years ago, she had returned to her life of solitude.
Then, eleven years ago, the Queen had been murdered, and Pal Wol had seen much more…
More of the story of the deities.
The story of her own past…
Pal Wol pulled her cloak more securely around herself, and blended into the darkness.
It would seem that her kin would be pitted against the child. The child and her protector. She hoped they were strong enough to avoid the fate she was seeing…
Kim Dae Hyeon’s residence…
Tae Jun rolled over on his bed, his thoughts, filled with everything he had heard from Lord Kim. His eyes blankly took in the beautiful bed-chamber he had been led to not long ago, but his mind was stuck on the magnificent story he had heard.
For more than a century, his ancestor, King Seung Jae, had been blamed for the death of the Royal family, but if the hidden records of the Palace were to be believed, he had been one of the biggest victims.
Tae Jun felt this was probably true.
If Jang Seung Jae had actually been bloodthirsty, he would have attempted to hide the truth, eliminating anyone who tried to reveal it.
Instead, the very records that could have proved him innocent, were hidden in the Palace and history had been re-written.
It also solved the mystery of why all Shamans and Priests had been banished from the Capital…the young King, Jang Seung Jae, just could not trust them.
Another mystery was the fact that the young Grand Prince had died. If the Queen wanted to rule, she would have kept her own son alive.
YET another mystery was how King Jang Yoo Jin had died. Seung Jae had been arrested for the murder of all the Princes, but there had been nothing after that. The records merely stated shortly after that Seung Jae had become King.
There were so many unanswered questions!
Tae Jun rolled over again, considering the biggest mystery of all. The four deities. He could not believe that the Kingdom was named for the four of them.
“Who where they and where had they come from?” He asked himself.
More importantly, how had they died? If they were deities, who killed them?
Recently, Tae Jun had been dreaming about the white-haired Lady, and the cursed looking hill. Was the dead Lady Hayan reaching out to him?
That did not make sense…
For one, Lord Kim seemed to think his daughter was Lady Hayan in her past life. Tae Jun had to admit the story of her birth was strange, but he did not think she was the White deity.
Lord Kim had described the deities. They were extremely beautiful people, who attracted attention wherever they went.
If his future wife was the White deity, her father would not have had a problem getting her married… Men would have been seeking her out.
Instead, there were rumours that she was ugly…. He pushed the thought from his mind, deciding he would find out after meeting with the young lady.
He had just shut his eyes, when he began to hear music coming from outside. Someone was playing the gayageum.
Da Yeong rose early to head to the training grounds in the mountains. She wrapped her chest with the usual bands of white fabric (to make her chest less pronounced), and donned a black and white yungbok, placing the Kim family headband on her head.
Her long black hair was pulled into a top knot, and she wore simple black boots. Silently, she left her bed chamber, sliding the doors shut.
She always had to come out of the Main house early to avoid being seen. Most of the men wondered where she slept, but she easily brushed off any questions.
She nodded a quick greeting to the guards as she approached the Main house gates, and they bowed respectfully. They knew who she was, but were sworn to secrecy.
As she made her way to the grounds, she heard rustling in the bushes by the side of the path.
These grounds were usually safe, so she wasn’t particularly suspicious, but she drew a knife in case, and approached the bushes.
She relaxed however, when she saw a little white fox pulling at some roots. She thought it was a bit strange, as white foxes were not usually found in the South.
It looked up suddenly, looking at her with wide brown eyes, and Da Yeong felt her heart melt, all doubts gone.
“Omo!” She exclaimed. The fox stepped toward her tentatively, and she knelt on one knee, opening her arms to it. The fox rushed to her at once, and she began stroking it happily.
The next second, however, it slipped out of her hands and began running away.
“Wait!” She shouted, but it kept running and she began chasing after it. The day was slowly brightening, so she didn’t have a problem seeing.
Tae Jun, despite his annoyance that someone was playing music so early, was amazed at the skill of the person. The person was as good as any Gisaeng, and he wondered if the Gisaeng from the previous evening had remained. But the gisaeng that had played the previous evening had not been this good.
This person played as if she had been born with the strings.
As if she played for Kings…
Tae Jun tried to ignore the sounds and sleep, but curiosity gnawed at him and he jumped up, deciding to see for himself.
Besides, the womanizing personality he had carefully painted of himself, would not let an opportunity to meet a lady like this go to waste!
With So Yeon’s help, he quickly dressed up and left his room, hastily wearing the flat shoes by the door.
He had chosen a regal blue dopo (over coat) and baji (trousers) with a white flower pattern. Over these, he wore a light blue dapho (vest) which had dark blue flower patterns, and a red embroidery of flowers near his white collar.
The Sleeve ends of the dopo were embroidered with red flowers as well, which matched the red braided cord around his waist. He finished the effect by placing a gat, complete with hanging gemstones, on his head, and as he walked toward the music, he knew whoever it was, would be impressed…
Da Yeong chased the white fox into a grove of trees. She had liked to come here as a child, walking beneath the shade and plucking fruits from the trees.
This had been where Ju Won had taught her to climb trees. Listening in the silence, she heard it coming from up ahead…
Tae Jun followed the music, getting more curious as he went. The sounds seemed to be moving away from the sleeping quarters, which he assumed were for the men in training.
Added to the fact that it was still quite dark, Tae Jun found the situation a bit suspicious. It seemed to be coming from a small grove of trees…
Da Yeong moved quietly, not wanting to scare the creature off. She hoped a whole pack of foxes had not found their way in here. She looked up.
The rustling seemed to be coming from the full tree she was standing beneath. That didn’t make sense, foxes didn’t climb trees. She wondered whether to investigate. Pulling out her knife, she climbed the tree…
The grove of trees was surprisingly misty, and Tae Jun strained his eyes to see. As the music suddenly became louder, the mist cleared.
He had gotten far into the trees and before him was a very beautiful sight. It was the lady again. The one he now suspected was the white deity.
She sat in a beautiful field of flowers, which seemed to grow more as she played. Fireflies flew beautifully around.
She seemed to be wearing night robes, white as usual, one shoulder attractively uncovered, her long white hair falling softly to the floor, her slim fingers deftly plucking the strings.
Tae Jun knew he could not be sleeping and yet, here she was. He decided to approach. Maybe for once, he could ask who she was…
Da Yeong reached the lower branches of the tree, carefully balancing on a thick bough. She looked up into the full leaves, looking for the fox.
Surprisingly, the little white fox waited on a higher looking down at her. It charged down at her suddenly, and she reflexively backed away, losing her footing and falling…
Tae Jun had just stepped toward the woman, when he heard a scream, as if from a very distant place, pierce the night.
Suddenly, the beautiful scene before him vanished, and something heavy crashed into him, sending him sprawling ungracefully to the ground.
Tae Jun tried to get up immediately, his instincts kicking in, but the weight, which he identified as a person, was still on top him. He looked around, rubbing the back of his head, which he had hit, the gat having flown off in the fall. Shifting slightly, he looked down at the person on top him. It was a man.
“Aish!” He pushed the man off him, and got to his knees, pulling out a small knife in preparation. The man had rolled onto his back.
It was the young man, Kim Do Young.
“Ya!” Tae Jun shook him. He seemed knocked out. “Ya!!” He finally responded. He sat up suddenly, and Tae Jun had to duck away to avoid a head collision. He fell again in the process.
This was not how he had imagined his day. He glared at Do Young, hastily getting to his feet before he was noticed. He put the knife away hastily.
Preparing for combat in the presence of someone so careless and unserious, seemed pathetic…
“Ah!” Da Yeong said, putting her hand to her head. She had risen too quickly. “What happ-?”
“Ya! Inom-ah!” Tae Jun yelled, dusting himself off.
Da Yeong jumped at the voice, turning to face the person. Was she dreaming? She thought she was seeing the Grand Prince…. It took a while to register.
She hastily jumped to her feet, bowing.
“Daegun! What are you doing here?”
“What?!” He was indignant. “Are you asking that after falling on ME?!!”
It was at that point that Da Yeong remembered what she had been doing earlier. “Ah! The white fox!” She exclaimed, looking around. “Daegun. Please have you seen a white fox around. Very small, extremely jumpy and-.”
“Is that important right now?!” Tae Jun could not believe the young man. “Also. Did you just speak informally to me?”
Da Yeong realized what she was doing. She turned to face him bowing formally.
“While you are apologizing for that, also apologize for crashing into me! Tch!” He walked over to pick the hat, brushing dirt off it.
To think he had dressed to meet a lady. Here he was with an odd young man.
Da Yeong finally remembered her fall… She remembered falling into someone. She had crashed into the Grand Prince….touched a Royal! That was forbidden unless permitted! She bowed lower.
“Jeosonghamnida, Daegun! Jeongmal Jeosonghamnida, Daegun! This humble servant-.”
“I get it, I get it, so stop that.” He looked down at his outfit, which was lightly smeared in some places. “You are just completely strange, right? What are you doing here so early?”
Da Yeong did not like the insult. In a rare show of self control, she calmly replied, getting up and looking up at the tree.
“There was a fox.” She did not see it up there and started circling the tree. “I chased it here and it went up the tree.” She turned to face him.
“What did you say? A fox went up the tree?” He went over to the young man, and stood in front of him. “Are you still sleeping?” He flicked his forehead.
“Ah!” She exclaimed, clapping her hand to the assaulted region.
“I guess you are awake.” He stated, turning and walking away.
“Ya!” She shouted at his retreating back, forgetting her place again. “I was definitely awake! There was a white fox-.” He turned around suddenly.
“Which has suddenly vanished. Besides, who would stupidly follow a white fox into this place when it is still so early? Do you have no sense of danger?” He paused.
“Then there is the fact that white foxes are native to the North. Quite far from home, isn’t it?”
“That is-.” She blushed.
Then she realized he was here as well. An odd place to be.
“Th- then, what is Daegun doing here as well?”
He began to answer automatically.
“Well, I was following…” He realized his reason was even more stupid. “Ehem hem.” He cleared his throat loudly. “I was just out on a morning walk.” He lied, lamely.
“Really?” She was giving him a suspicious look.
“What? What? What? Is a morning walk so strange?” He gestured wildly at the surroundings. “Are these grounds sacred or something? Who says I cannot walk here?”
Da Yeong gave him a wide smile, her big eyes gleaming with hidden laughter.
“I never said anything, Daegun.” She knew he was hiding something, and it was funny the way he was currently unguarded. She bowed to him.
“Please, Daegun can continue his precious morning walk, ‘anywhere’ on the grounds.”
Tae Jun was momentarily thrown of guard. The young man before him seemed to have the biggest eyes he had ever seen. And that smile….. He caught himself.
“Ya. Are you teasing me right now?” His attempt at lying had felt, pathetic, even to him, especially since he was usually so good at it. The young man straightened immediately.
“No, I wasn’t.” He said. Suppressed laughter clearly dancing in his eyes.
“Ehem.” He placed the gat on his head. “Anyways, what were you doing outside so early?”
“Ah, ‘I was just out on a morning walk.'” She mischievously mimicked him.
“Do you want to die?” He asked calmly. “Should I just recommend your execution?”
She straightened immediately. “Jeosonghamnida.” She bowed. “I was on my way to the training grounds.”
“At least you know you need training.” He looked at her from head to feet. “What kind of man is so small and skinny? Tsk tsk tsk.” He walked off shaking his head. “Ehem. Aigoo.”
Da Yeong watched him amused, straightening from her bow. That side of him did not seem like the Grand Prince she had been meeting. ‘Then again,’ She thought as she headed to the training grounds, ‘I really do not know him at all….’