Chapter Twelve- The Silent Monk
“Eh?” Da Yeong was surprised. The Grand Prince had just agreed to train her.
“Are you suddenly deaf?” He poked her forehead. “I said I will train you. Since you put it so ‘beautifully.'” He said teasing her.
Min So Yeon choked back a laugh, and she blushed at the jest, but bowed to thank him.
“Kamsahabnida, Daegun. I will try my best to learn quickly!”
Beside her, Ju Won was shocked as well. He never thought the Prince would accept Da Yeong’s request. The Prince responded.
“You had better. I don’t intend to waste my time training you. We begin at dawn tomorrow. Don’t let me get to the grounds before you.”
Ju Won stepped forward in protest, and Tae Jun, for reasons he didn’t understand, stepped in front of him, menacingly.
“You seem like you want to protest. Do you have a problem?” He asked in obviously false calm.
“No-nothing…” Ju Won stepped back hastily. He did not like the idea of Da Yeong spending too much time with Daegun. Still, openly challenging Daegun would be foolish…
Tae Jun turned around and left, So Yeon following him.
Da Yeong studied Ju Won after the Grand Prince had left.
“Hyeong-nim. Are you ok?” She asked, worried. He had seemed cheerful after the game, but now he seemed to be in low spirits again.
Ju Won forced a smile at the worried look on her face.
“Ye, I’m ok.” Ju Won replied. Then his eyes widened when Da Yeong grabbed his hand.
“Ok!” She said cheerfully. “Then let us go and get a drink in town!” She began dragging him.
“What? You can’t even drink… Master Kim would be angry.”
“I know, I know, but still we need some sort of celebration… Daegun actually agreed to train me!” She released his hand, running up ahead.
Ju Won watched her in amusement. It was almost impossible to remain depressed when Da Yeong was like this.
Sighing, Ju Won followed her.
“Ya! Let’s go together!”
Daegun assumed she was a man… He reminded himself.
He was getting worried about nothing.
Later that evening, One of the Nam Guk temples…
Sang Yoo Jin sat in front of the monk, who quietly prayed with his beads. The man had earned the name ‘Silent Monk’, because he had not spoken for almost eighteen years. But the Prime Minister was no fool.
“I know who you are.” He started, fanning himself lightly and looking straight at the Priest. “You are a powerful priest, but you hide away here, pretending to be a monk. Right, Silent Monk?
“You are allowing your useful powers go to waste!”
The monk looked down at the beads he had been using to pray, dismissing Sang Yoo Jin, immediately.
The prime minister was angry.
“Do you not know who I am? Or are you feigning ignorance?!” He asked furiously. “Your face… I recognize you, Yoo Han Ho. Why do you pretend?”
The monk glanced up at him calmly. Sang Yoo Jin smiled.
“I know you remember your past life. That means you know who I am. Are you dismissing your King?!” The monk dismissed him a second time, looking down at his beads again.
“Your King is in need of your powers. What are you going to do?” Sang Yoo Jin asked him, but the monk payed him no attention.
“I understand. Men like you always needed forceful persuasion. If you are going to be like that…” He looked toward the door. “Chung Jae-ah! Come inside here!”
The Silent Monk glanced up sharply at the mention of that name.
Outside, Joo Chung Jae hesitated before entering. Could it be true? Could the Silent Monk his master was currently talking to, be Yoo Han Ho? If he was, Chung Jae was not ready to meet him like this!
He took a hasty step away, but Sang Yoo Jin called out to him again.
“Chung Jae-ah! What are you doing?! Come in here!”
Chung Jae slowly entered the temple room, looking into the face of the old monk at once. It was a face he had not seen for a very long time, and he bowed his head at once
Yoo Han Ho had been his father a hundred and fifty years ago!
The Priest’s eyes widened at the young man who entered. He looked away in discomfort, remembering their lives before that deadly event. He and Chung Jae had only had each other.
They had lived at the Northern hidden temple, him being the Priest in charge of welcoming and associating with the deities.
They only met with people once a year, when the deities arrived, and the Palace guards, priests and shamans came to escort them.
In the long absences of people, he and his son, Chung Jae had been a blessing to each other, forming a bond deeper than most fathers and sons.
The year everything had gone bad, the deities had stayed longer than usual. He and Chung Jae had spent time with them, talked with them and become close to them, especially to the Lady Hayan.
And in the end, he and Chung Jae had betrayed them…
Yoo Han Ho pulled himself from his memories. He was happy to see Chung Jae, but he was no longer on their side.
“I see you recognize him.” The Prime Minister calmly stated. “Will you turn your back on your own son?”
The old man, the ‘silent monk’, spoke for the first time in eighteen years, his voice hoarse and rusty from lack of use.
He almost did not remember how to talk.
“Will you not repent of your thirst for power? You are not my king in this life. If Jeonha finds out what you are doing, you will be killed for treason against the throne.”
“What?!” The Prime Minister demanded in anger. “You swore your loyalty to-.” But the Priest interrupted him, turning to Chung Jae.
“The fates did not bless me as your father in this life either.” He said fighting back tears. There were tears in the boy’s eyes as well. He continued.
“But I remember. I remember everyone of those glorious days and all we once were. Leave this man’s shadow and stay by my side. Stay and become my son again.”
Chung Jae wavered, for the first time in his present lifetime. He seemed, for a moment, like he wanted to simply stay here and live out his life.
He felt the pull of emotions, tug at him, severely tempting him.
But then he remembered the curse.
Lady Hayan had died by his own hands.
“Jeosonghamnida, Abeoji.” Chung Jae bowed fully to him. “It is too late for me. I am cursed by my fate.”
“No! It is not too late! I am cursed by the same fate! I choose to ignore it and die. That way, I can be reborn normally. Please leave this man’s side. It is dangerous for you, especially now.”
The Prime Minister was a little worried about Chung Jae’s feelings. He had hoped seeing the boy would change the Priest’s mind. It seemed to be veering in the opposite direction. He quietly watched them.
The Priest and Chung Jae, father and son, looked into each other’s eyes for a short while, but Chung Jae eventually shook his head and bowed.
“You do not understand. It is dangerous-.”
“About that, what do you mean by ‘it is dangerous’?” The Prime Minister hastily interrupted. “You have said it twice now.”
The Priest turned to face him. He knew he should not tell them, but he entertained hopes.
Perhaps he believed Chung Jae would change his mind if he knew.
“Do you know why I stopped talking for almost eighteen years now?” They both stared at him blankly and he went on.
“I will assume that you awoke into your memories eleven years ago, when you killed the Queen. That was because you did something evil for the sake of power. Your actions went in line with the curse and triggered your memories.”
He paused watching them, then continued.
“I remembered everything long before that, almost eighteen years ago, not because I did any wrong, but because I was born with my powers from so long ago.
Eighteen years ago, I felt the presence of someone very important. A person born in the winter of that year. The minute she was born, I awoke into my own memories. Memories of the wrong we committed.”
He had sworn an oath of silence after he remembered, pretending to be a monk and wasting his powers away.
He felt it was a deserved fate.
In the past, those same powers had put him in the perfect position to betray the deities…
At present, he studied the Prime Minister and Chung Jae. They were hanging on his every word.
“Who is the one that was born?” The Prime Minister finally asked, tensed.
“It was the one who can unite all the deities, that was born.” Their eyes were widening in realization. “The deity of the North. Lady Hayan.”
Sang Yoo Jin and Chung Jae were surprised by this. Chung Jae looked worried. He felt like he was drowning, unable to control his own fate. The Prime Minister spoke.
“Who? Who has she been born as?!” He demanded. “Where is she?!”
“You mean to kill her?” The Priest asked simply. “I myself don’t know, but I don’t think you properly understand Lady Hayan’s curse.
“If you kill her, we would all die and be born again in line with the curse. And on it will go, until the last part of the curse is fulfilled. This is that time. The time they would return to destroy us.
“If you kill her now, like in the past, we would all follow shortly after. Then the cycle so far, will repeat itself till a similar time comes again, when we are all born in the same times.”
He left it there and turned to Chung Jae.
“Chung Jae-ah. Please do as I say.” He beseeched him. “Stay with your Abeoji. This way, we might be saved.”
He turned back to face the Prime Minister.
“The thing that you nearly released is in agony, creeping beneath this great Kingdom. It tried to kill the child eighteen years ago, but failed.
“Now, it wants to find you, as much as you want to find it. However, it is not something you can control. It will only destroy you.”
Sang Yoo Jin got up angrily, looking down at the old man.
“Stay and die here, you treacherous old fool!” He spat. “Chung Jae-ah! Get up! We’re leaving.” And he stormed out without a backward glance.
No body was going to scare him away from his right to rule.
His right to power.
Chung Jae looked at his father, whose eyes were begging him, for a long time.
Then he got up and followed his master.
The Silent Monk fell silent once more, continuing to count his beads. The tears running down his face, were the only sign of the turmoil within his heart…
Very late that night, Chung Jae secretly headed back to the temple. But he had arrived too late!
He fell to his knees, his eyes widening.
From the shadows, he watched as his master’s men quietly carried out the body of the Silent Monk.
He had suspected that the Prime Minister had been worried that he would change his mind. He should have come sooner…
He bowed fully in the direction of the body they carried, paying a final respect, as he cried silently in agony.
Getting to his feet, he decided to follow them. He knew they would carelessly discard the body, so he wanted to follow and give his father a decent burial…
But then, a silent recklessness creeped into him, as he followed them. If the body was found, Lord Kim Dae Hyeon would link it to Sang Yoo Jin’s presence in Nam Guk…
For once, Chung Jae was not going to cover his master’s acts.
Chung Jae came to a halt as the men broke out of the trees, into open space. It would be hard to follow them from here, but there was no need.
There was a cliff in that direction. They would probably dump him into the river from there, knowing the river current would carry the body into the forest, where there was a steep waterfall.
The body would be lost forever.
Chung intended to stop that from happening…
Kim Dae Hyeon’s residence
Da Yeong tossed and turned on her bed, gripped by a dark nightmare. She watched the death of an old monk she did not know or recognize.
He had been praying in a temple, when masked men had come behind him, stabbing him in the neck. His blood flowed everywhere, his beads clattering to the floor. The cord which held them together snapped and the beads scattered across the floor in every direction.
Suddenly, the scene had changed and she saw the lady in white again, in a strange temple.
“Abeoji!” The white lady called to the Monk who she had just seen, murdered. Here, however, he was dressed like a Priest. The old man, smiled warmly at her arrival.
“Aigoo! Lady Hayan. I’ve said you can’t be calling me Abeoji…. It is not proper.”
“Ani. I want to call you Abeoji. Besides, you always take care of us, right?”
“Alright alright, I get it.” He said, patting the bench beside him. She picked the full chima(skirts) of her white hanbok and headed to him, settling herself beside him.
“Where is your shadow?” He teased, and she laughed.
“Lord Geom is playing baduk with Lord Paran. I don’t know why they bother, Lord Geom always wins…. The game is like a small battle.”
They both laughed. Being the deity of all Military and Physical strengths, it was pointless to go up against Lord Geom in strategic games.
If it were a game based on logic, then Lord Paran would win easily.
“Abeoji. I came to ask about Jeonha.” She said after a while. “Will he desist from his current goals? Me and the others worry, but for once, we can’t read Jeonha’s actions. What do you see?”
The Priest smiled at her kindly. “Cease your worrying, Lady Hayan. What is to be, will be. You know this.” He stood up and walked over to the open door, looking outside. She followed, and he continued.
“Admittedly, Jeonha’s actions worry even me, but we cannot keep looking at the future and miss the things that are present.”
“Ye, Abeoji.” She said simply, the two of them falling into a comfortable silence…
Da Yeong felt herself drifting further away from the scene, the images, merging into the familiar look of her room. She awoke peacefully, tears in her eyes.
Recently, her dreams of the lady in white and her darkly dressed companion had become more frequent, haunting her sleep almost every night.
But she had never seen any one else. Who was the old man? And why did he seem so familiar?
It was the same way the man in black and the lady in white both seemed familiar.
She remembered the dream.
Why was she having them? Did she have secret shamanic powers? Was someone’s spirit reaching out to her?
Pushing the thoughts away, she got up and decided to go and train.
It was still dark, but she hastily dressed in a yungbok. She grabbed her sword, silently slid the doors open, and left the room.