Chapter Twenty One- The strongest Shaman
The Grand Prince’s residence…
The cherry leaves fell silently, some falling onto the book Tae Jun was reading.
He impatiently brushed at them, then halted, picking a leaf.
A memory entered his mind.
A red faced young man trying to sweep cherry leaves on a windy day.
It seemed like so long ago.
To think it was a woman!
He shut the book in annoyance and dropped it.
He was not sure what to do with himself or Kim Do Young…
‘Da Yeong!’ He reminded himself for the hundredth time.
So Yeon and Ju Won sat a little distance off.
The Grand Prince had not been friendly for a few days now, so they steered clear.
They were all sitting in front of his temporary chambers.
Tae Jun had just decided he was going inside, when Kim Da Yeong and the kitchen girl, showed up. Da Yeong was in a yungbok again. They both walked up to him, then the kitchen girl bowed and stepped slightly back.
“Jeosonghamnida, Daegun.” Da Yeong said at once, bowing. “I apologize deeply for-.”
“What an annoyance.” He said calmly, cutting her off. “I was going inside for a quiet evening. It’s good that you are well. Go back.”
He turned, went up the steps, and went inside, leaving her standing there.
Da Yeong looked at the door in surprise. She had expected the Prince to be angry, but she had not expected him to calmly and completely ignore her.
She sank to the ground, kneeling in front of his door.
She did not intend to leave here till he spoke to her.
“Da Y- Agashi!” Mi Ju bent to pull her up, but she jerked her hand out of hers, ignoring the pain the sudden motion caused. “You can’t be doing this! You are still injured… We will come back later.”
“I don’t want to.” She said and remained kneeling. She looked up in surprise as Ju Won came over as well. He knelt down as well.
“We are both guilty so I might as well.” He said.
“Hyeong-nim. You don’t have to-.”
“Forget it.” He replied, simply.
Inside, Tae Jun tried to concentrate on the book he was reading, but he kept going over the same lines.
Giving up, he cast it aside and picked another book. It went the same way, and frustrated, he decided to go out.
He opened his door to find Da Yeong and Ju Won kneeling in front of it.
“What are you doing right now?” He asked, still in that calm way that frightened Da Yeong more than outright anger.
“I am willing to repent for my crimes against Daegun. Jeosonghamnida, Daegun.” She finished, bowing.
Tae Jun looked at Ju Won. “Out.” He said.
Ju Won was not going to go, but at the Prince’s raised eyebrow, he found his way out immediately.
Tae Jun gestured for So Yeon and the kitchen girl to go out as well. They did, joining Ju Won, who was peeking from beside the small gateway…
Well So Yeon would never descend to peeking, so he politely stood to one side, while Ju Won and Mi Ju watched with interest.
Tae Jun came down the steps and right up to Da Yeong.
“Get up from here and go away.”
“You should go while I’m being nice.”
“N-.” He had bent right in front of her face. He grabbed her chin harshly.
“Ah!” She protested, and he smiled. It was an evil smile. She wanted him to stop smiling.
Outside, Ju Won made to interfere, but again, So Yeon grabbed his arm.
“Do you want to die?”
“Is that a threat?”
“I was genuinely curious. Interrupt Daegun in that mood, and he might kill you.”
Inside, Tae Jun scoffed at Da Yeong.
“You have not even entered the Palace, and you are already playing Palace politics.” He drummed his fingers across her cheek.
“Are you trying to be adorable right now? It might have worked when you were a man, but now it is simply annoying.”
He released her, stood, then made to leave.
Da Yeong found her voice.
“I never intended to lie to Daegun!”
“Really?” He said looking down at her. “For selfish reasons, you drew close to me, without revealing your identity. I can understand not telling me at first, but as time went on… That is deliberate, no matter how you look at it.” He started heading toward the small gateway, but her voice stopped him.
“I- I thought that- that Daegun would hate me!” She called out.
Tae Jun felt himself waver, but he did not turn.
“Another selfish reason.” He stated, then went out.
At the gateway, he stopped near Ju Won.
“As So Yeon Hyeong said, if you interfere, I really might kill you.” He walked away, leaving behind a very surprised Ju Won and Mi Ju.
“He hears everything.” So Yeon shrugged and followed him.
The past few days found the Scholar hall, the busiest it had ever been in a long time.
This had been the designated location for the sorting of the Shamans and Priests.
Different candidates had come from far and wide, hoping to enter the Palace.
The candidates were all dressed either in their ancestral clothing, or according to their current rank as priests and shamans.
The clothes could be deceiving, as the powers sometimes skipped whole generations, which meant more than half of them probably had no powers, and were only using their family name.
At the forefront, Sang Yoo Jin had sat with the Head of Military and a few other ministers.
The other ministers had come, simply to watch the process, except for the Head of Military, who was there to maintain order.
One by one, the candidates had been registered and they each gave their credentials and lineage.
The next stage had been more practical.
The shamans and priests were called individually and asked to either reveal something secret, or give a small display of their skill.
In this way, their numbers were severely cut down, separating the ones with power from the fakes.
The ones who passed this were accepted as genuine shamans and priests, and presented with a document allowing them to practice in the Capital.
The third stage was to select those who would enter the Palace.
This stage involved scenarios presented to them, again individually.
It was a hard stage, as the wrong answer, or idea, got you disqualified at once.
But there were some of them who found it extremely easy.
These were those, who the Prime Minister had selected before hand, and told what to expect.
Of course, he selected a good number fairly, to escape detection.
In the end, a total number of fifty-six Priests and Shamans were let into the Palace, more than half belonging to the Prime Minister…
It being the last day, the Prime Minister and the Head of Military were dismissing the crowd when a woman showed up.
Even amidst the crowd, she stood out immediately, and people seemed to automatically move out of her way as she approached.
She was a beautiful woman, her face artfully painted, her lips, full red.
She was dressed in a white and black hanbok, red symbols going around the wide, white sash about her waist.
She wore a wide brimmed hat, with a transparent black veil covering the top half of her face.
Most of the powerful priests or shamans there stared at her in awe.
The outfit she wore was something most of them had only seen drawn or painted in ancient books, and her aura was no joke.
If her powers were genuine, she was the shamanic equivalent of a Grand Priest!
She walked right up to the front and sank to the ground in a perfect graceful bow.
“Greetings to the Prime Minister and the Head of Military. I am Pal Wol, submitting myself for service.”
Sang Yoo Jin sensed the threat at once.
He did not want this person in the Palace.
“Insolent! You are late for this selection. Such an irresponsible attitude will not be accepted in the-.” The Head of Military interrupted him.
“Forgive me Lord Sang, but Lady Pal Wol is here under the special invitation of the King.” He offered her a hand and helped her get up.
“She is to be the head of the Palace Shamans and Priests.”
She turned and looked straight at the Prime Minister.
She smiled at him cooly.
His eyes widened in recognition.
At the same time, in the Gwang Guk library again, the King sat with Kim Dae Hyeon.
The two were playing baduk, Kim Dae Hyeon winning this round.
The King was a matched opponent at baduk.
His son, Tae Jun, was not.
Lord Kim hadn’t won a single game against him!
“Do you think Sang Yoo Jin would have met Pal Wol by now?” The King asked, placing a piece on the board.
“Ye, Jeonha. As instructed, she came out today, which is the last day, dressed like that woman.” Kim Dae Hyeon said, examining both their pieces on the board.
The King’s move had been a bit careless.
Kim Dae Hyeon moved in for the kill, surrounding a sizeable group of black pieces.
“Hmmm. He will be feeling threatened right now. It will force his hand, so he will act quickly.” The King studied the board.
The Shadow beneath the Kingdom of Eondoeg Mun stirred.
The time was close.
For ages, it had lived hidden and bound in the darkness beneath the Kingdom, having to feed off the meagre bits of unhappiness it could find in a happy kingdom.
A hundred and fifty years ago, it had gotten stronger, finally becoming able to move in the shadows.
From the shadows, it had begun to arrange events that would lead to its release.
Now, the events were beginning to speed up.
It will soon be free…