Chapter Fourteen- Dreams and Reality
The Temple was extremely quiet when they arrived. The disappearance of the Silent Monk seemed to confuse the other monks and the temple servants.
The four of them got in easily enough. As Tae Jun had said, they blended in perfectly, drawing no attention.
Inside the temple, they made an open show of seeking the Head Monk out and asking for spiritual advice on everyday matters.
From spiritual matters, Tae Jun began discussing with the Head Monk, asking about life in the temple, and how it was like being a monk. He constantly pulled Ju Won into the conversation.
Then, seeming exactly like a curious young noble, Tae Jun had charmingly brought up the rumours of the missing monk.
“Thinking about it simply gives me goosebumps.” He acted out the cold and shivery gesture, which was a norm. “I mean, why would he simply vanish? Right, Ju Won-ah?”
“Ye, Hyeong. It is strange, no matter how you look at it.” Ju Won hoped he had been responding smoothly. He finally realized why Daegun wanted him in this role…
Min So Yeon would never smile or laugh, unless he found something really funny. Generally, he would be too stiff…
The Head Monk suddenly found himself the center of attention for two wide-eyed nobles. Nobles never really talked to monks, except to seek advice, yet here were two richly dressed young men discussing freely with him.
Slightly flattered, he became more open with them, saying things he usually would not.
“I have been here longer than most, so I know a few things others do not know. The Silent Monk’s disappearance is not much of a surprise to me.” He paused here and looked at all of them.
“Monk Hwan, that was his name, came here suddenly, eighteen years ago. He seemed to be running from something. He was dressed as a Priest.”
“Wow!” Tae Jun exclaimed, apparent wonder on his face. “He was a Priest?” Tae Jun knew Priests and Shamans were not so easy to find, but his surprised act was merely to make the Head Monk drop his guard and keep talking.
“I think so. And not just any priest. His robes were something we monks have only seen in books. He must be a Grand Priest or the descendant of one.” He said wisely. “The previous Head Monk took him in, and he has been here ever since. He has never said a word.”
“The old man must have really been running from something.” Ju Won speculated.
“Yes. I think so too.” Tae Jun said. “Who were the Grand Priests?” He asked the Head Monk.
“A Grand Priest was someone who had achieved the highest level of magical arts. They were the favourite consultants of past Kings. To prevent their powers being abused, past Kings usually assigned them to hidden or remote areas where they could not easily be found. They summoned them whenever their services were needed.”
“Hmmm, the Silent Monk must have been very important wherever he was before…”
And so, they discussed for a little while, until it was natural enough to leave.
When they left the Head Monk, they deliberately got ‘lost’, going deeper into the temple. Here, they found it easier to overhear conversations.
They split up, going round the temple. Every where they went, someone seemed to be talking about the Silent Monk.
“Such a nice person. Never harmed a soul…..”
“I wonder what happened to him….”
“I always felt strange in his presence… It was like he could read every bit of me…..”
“He was my favorite monk, even though he never spoke….”
“He was always praying in the eastern inner temple…..”
It was Tae Jun and his ‘guard’ that had heard that last part, so naturally, he and Do Young hastily found their way to the eastern inner temple.
They weren’t surprised when they met Ju Won and So Yeon there as well… They had obviously heard the same thing.
The eastern inner temple was very beautiful. It was set amidst a riotous collection of flower gardens, and a long and beautiful arrangement of steps led up to it.
The temple had a peaceful aura and Tae Jun thought it’s serenity would make even a naturally noisy person, subconsciously keep quiet.
He glanced at Do Young as a personal example.
They climbed the stairs quietly and entered the main temple room. Do Young gasped softly at once.
Da Yeong could not believe what she was seeing. This had been the temple in her dreams! The others had turned around and were looking at her expression curiously. She took a tentative step forward.
Suddenly, the images began rushing at her with a vengeance. She watched the old man’s murder again. Followed the trail of his blood. Saw him fall. Watched the masked men clean up the mess of blood, and finally, watched them carry him out.
Da Yeong was suddenly sure that what she was seeing now, had actually happened.
“Murder-.” She began, but she felt lightheaded and fell into a faint.
Tae Jun and the others had watched curiously as Do Young walked around the temple, as if in a trance, for a few minutes. They had called out to him several times, but he seemed completely unaware of their presence. Then he had suddenly uttered the word “Murder.” and began to fall.
Having fast instincts, Tae Jun had reached him first, catching him before he hit the floor. The other two came running.
“Do Young-ah! Tae Jun lightly slapped at his face. “Do Young-ah!”
“Do Young-ah!” Ju Won was calling as well.
Da Yeong heard her ‘name’ and began to stir. She woke up suddenly, and looked up into the face of the Grand Prince, inches from her own. She felt herself turn red immediately.
“Hyeong-nim.” She said, and he helped her sit up. She kept staring at him.
“Are you alright?” Ju Won was asking. He had burst the bubble and she turned to him after a moment.
“I’m fine, Hyeong-nim.” He helped her stand up.
“What happened?!” Tae Jun demanded. “What were you doing earlier? What did you mean by ‘murder’ and why did you suddenly fall?” He asked in quick succession. He was somewhat angry. The minute when Do Young had began to fall, he had suddenly felt afraid.
“Hyeong, please give him some time to-.” Ju Won started, but she cut him off.
“It was a murder.” Pushing the memory of the Prince’s face so close to hers aside, she remembered what she had seen. “Some masked men came here last night and killed the monk. Then they cleaned up the temple and carried him away.” She did not mention the dream. She herself, could not believe it had been real.
They all stared at her, Skeptically.
“Do Young-ah, there is no way-.” Ju Won was saying, but Tae Jun raised a hand.
“Are you saying that you saw all this? In the space of a few minutes in this temple?” He looked doubtful. “Are you a Shaman?” He scoffed.
Da Yeong ignored their looks. She walked over to a set of very old, wooden, very heavy looking, boxes. They were in a corner of the temple room, where it seemed like they had been for years. They were the type used to store items for transport. She could only guess that they had arrived here ages ago, and had remained unmoved over the years. She started trying to lift the closest one up.
Seeing what Do Young was doing, the others went to help, confused. They lifted the box easily, but were surprised to find what looked like blood under it. It was still moist, clotting in some places. Da Yeong looked away quickly, but continued talking.
“They were in a hurry, so they only eliminated the visible blood. Besides, without a body, no one would look too closely. Those boxes have been there for years.”
They dropped the box gently, still baffled.
“So how did-.”
“I do not know. The minute I came in here, I started seeing what happened.” Again, she deliberately left out the dream.
“Hyeong-nim.” She turned to Ju Won suddenly. “Do you think I have hidden Shamanic powers?” She asked, wide-eyed.
Tae Jun scoffed.
“Shaman? You? You might accidentally send a spirit to hell, instead of Heaven because of your carelessness.”
So Yeon and Ju Won laughed a little at this, and Do Young shot the Prince a hateful glare. They began searching every inch of the temple room, finding more hidden bloody areas and several of the monk’s beads. They didn’t find any trace of the killers.
The temple servants were surprised when two handsome nobles and their guards emerged from the inner temple
“Aigoo! It’s a maze in there!” Tae Jun exclaimed, bending in exhaustion.
“We were lost! We have been trying to find our way out.” Ju Won added.
“Thank the heavens, we are out finally!” Tae Jun finished, and they hastily left the temple before the situation was examined too closely.
Kim Dae Hyeon’s residence
Lord Kim listened silently while Tae Jun explained all that had happened. He did not seem the least bit surprised when he heard about Do Young’s vision. In fact, Tae Jun thought, he seemed worried.
“It appears that Lord Sang is trying to recreate the events of the past. He is hunting the shadow under this kingdom to gain power. Why else would he be secretly meeting Shamans? And now, a Grand Priest.” Lord Kim said, considering the facts.
“But why kill the Priest?” Tae Jun asked. “Would he not be a valuable asset to such a plan?” He paused. “Also, are we certain the monk is dead? All we have to go with is the blood we found and Do Young’s words.”
“Do you not believe Do Young’s words?” Kim Dae Hyeon asked him. “It led you all to the things you found.” He had been amused when he heard that the Prince had agreed to train Da Yeong. Someone who always seemed to know everything had no idea that the young man, Do Young was a woman.
His future wife.
“I believe him.” Tae Jun said after some time, surprising himself. “The events are just unbelievable.”
“That they are, but Do Young has always had strange dreams.” Lord Kim left it there and continued.
“As to the murder of the priest, he probably wanted no part in Lord Sang’s plans and became a threat. I would have to alert the proper authorities without mentioning Sang Yoo Jin’s name.” Lord Kim said, a serious expression on his face.
Lord Kim’s mind was actually dwelling on another matter.
A Grand Priest had arrived in Nam Guk eighteen years ago. His daughter had been born eighteen years ago. His daughter had also seen visions of the priest’s murder.
Kim Dae Hyeon did not like coincidences, especially were they concerned his daughter. He would have to write to the King.
Tae Jun observed Lord Kim quietly. He watched the worry flickering across his face. For once, he felt Lord Kim had not necessarily told him everything, the night of his arrival.
He had discovered when they had returned from the temple, that the Prime Minister’s niece was also a guest in Lord Kim’s house.
Yes. There were definitely things Lord Kim had not told him.
Then again, he supposed, it would have been stranger if Lord Kim and the King, his father, had confided in him completely.
Gwang Guk, the main temple.
The two cloaked women made their way out of the temple room, after going in to pray. They found their way to the servants’ quarters, slipping quietly into one of the chambers.
The shaman, Pal Wol removed her cloak and sat down. Beside her, her daughter, Eun Bi, sat down as well.
“Omma. Should we not go back to Lord Kim and tell him what we know?” She asked directly. Pal Wol studied her young daughter.
Both of them had come to the Capital a few weeks ago, while secretly following other notable shamans. While here, they had served as maids in the main temple by day and spied on the shamans by night. They had slowly begun to find out bits of the Prime Minister’s plans.
“Patience Eun Bi-ah. The fates do not require our hands for now. Lord Kim will soon find out their plan on his own…”
“Shhhhhh!” Pal Wol smoothed her daughter’s hair, patting her lightly. “I am eternally grateful that you do not possess my powers. Being a Shaman condemns you to a lonely fate. You will not be able to act on what you see sometimes…. even if it kills you. This is one of those times. The events that will reveal this knowledge to Lord Kim, will lead to the reunion of four interesting people…”