Chapter Twenty Seven- Familiar Faces
The three eunuchs led them out of the hall into the night.
Chun Hwa had entered the Palace as a child, and once when he came for his announcement ceremony as best scholar.
Da Yeong and Hye Yeon, however, had never set foot in the Palace.
Da Yeong had only ever been near the Palace once, when she and Ju Won had accompanied her father for Choi Chun Hwa’s announcement ceremony.
The two of them had ended up waiting outside, as her father had ordered.
Now, both ladies where taking in the sights in awe.
“Wah!” Da Yeong exclaimed openly.
“Daebak!” Hye Yeon exclaimed as well.
They were both seeing complex and beautiful structures, which put Lord Kim’s spectacular buildings to shame.
The buildings were ornate, a wide array of beautiful colours and symbols in the roof and wall linings.
Each building had complex calligraphy, which was a bit difficult to read at a glance, across the top of the sliding doors.
Beautifully designed lanterns hung at intervals, lighting the way.
The lanterns looked festive, and they wondered if they were usually there, or were lit for the King’s birthday.
There were several majestic statues, including one of a huge dragon, which had almost sent Hye Yeon and Da Yeong circling it in awe.
Even more impressive, at least to Hye Yeon, were the beautiful trees and shrubs.
She mentally played a game, trying to identify the ones she had never seen or heard of.
The eunuchs, after years of training, were skilled at pretending such entertaining behavior was normal.
They silently led them on, through a maze of buildings (the three of them were sure they would never find their way without help- Chun Hwa had never been this deep into the Palace).
Then they came to a lone monstrous building.
The building looked plain and old, compared to the others.
It towered darkly over the rest, and there seemed to be an odd air of pride about it, even though it was old.
Across the top of the ancient looking wooden doors, a plaque read: Hall of the Kings.
“Jeonha instructed that you wait inside.” One of the eunuchs said, and all three of them bowed, leaving without a word.
Da Yeong, Chun Hwa and Hye Yeon stood a little confused, staring after the eunuchs, and then back at the building.
They were sceptical, but after a few moments, Da Yeong gestured toward the old doors, and they carefully approached, climbing the ancient steps that led to them.
Chun Hwa pushed the doors open, and they all went in.
Bright light rushed out at them, as the chamber was brightly lit by a strange bluish light.
When their eyes adjusted to the sudden brightened chamber, they realized the light was emanating from a lot of carved stones, which were hanging on the walls.
“Luminescent rocks.” Chun Hwa observed, studying a few of them.
They were rare, only growing deep within mountains.
“And the way they are set… Some seem a lot older than the others. In fact!” He was getting more excited as he studied the wall.
“The rocks get older as they move from one end of the room to the other!” He finished excitedly.
Da Yeong and Hye Yeon stared at him in surprise.
“Daebak! Figures, since he was Best Scholar.” Da Yeong observed.
“Ye… But isn’t this showing off? They are just glowing rocks.” Hye Yeon mumbled, unthinking.
Chun Hwa heard her.
A side of him Da Yeong had never seen, came out at once…
“Mueo?” He demanded. “Ya. You shouldn’t look down on knowledge, while paying attention to only flowers and food.”
Unfortunately, Hye Yeon seemed to have a ready answer for that.
“Ye, ye, but without plants, there would be no way to make books, right?”
“A likely argument, but without the knowledge to create them…”
The two kept countering each other’s points, and Da Yeong’s head darted left and right, between them. Until…
“Jeosonghamnida!!!” Unable to take it anymore, she had stepped between them…
“Ah, that. Jeo- Jeonha might be here soon, so shouldn’t we be composed….” She meekly stepped back. The two looked at each other, as if they were surprised.
“Ahem!” Chun Hwa cleared his throat, then sweeping the flaps of his dapho aside, he turned and strutted away.
“Aigoo!” Hye Yeon turned away at the same time, picking the full chima of her hanbok and walking away.
All three of them silently considered what had happened.
For some reason, the whole incident had felt entirely too normal and familiar…
The three of them silently went round the hall.
Some deep force seemed to hover over all of them in here, giving the feeling that they had been here before…
It was a strange feeling.
Above the stones, on the bare wall were portraits, surrounding the whole chamber.
They did not have to ask who these were…
Even without the plaque above the doors outside, they felt like they knew these people.
The pictures seemed to start from one which looked extremely ancient; one, which comprised of barely discernible lines.
The person in the drawing was in what looked like full military wear, and the ancient paper it was drawn on was almost completely browned with age.
He was the first King of Eondoeg Mun.
As the images spread out from this one, they got less old and more distinct, the costumes in them slowly beginning to resemble those of their time.
They jumped as the doors were suddenly opened.
“Tae Jun-ah.” Chun Hwa looked at him surprised.
“Daegun!” Hye Yeon had said at the same time.
“Hyeong-nim!” Da Yeong went over to him, remembering her previous worry. “Are you alright? What are you doing here?” Tae Jun stared at them, surprised, then smirked down at her.
“I should be asking. You do always turn up in strange places.” He looked at all of them. “What are you all doing here?”
Only the Royal family was allowed in the hall of Kings.
“Ah, Jeonha sent the eunuchs to us.” Chun Hwa explained. “They brought us here to wait.”
“Really?” Tae Jun asked, eyebrows raised. “Appa Mama sent a eunuch to ask me to meet him here.”
Tae Jun would not have believed the eunuch; his father did not like this place… But the eunuch had carried a small scroll with the Royal Seal.
Now he wondered if someone else had gotten to the seal.
The first person that came to mind was the Prime Minister.
He glanced at Chun Hwa, noting he had the same suspicion.
But it did not make any sense.
The Royal Seal’s location was only known by the King.
Besides, he and Chun Hwa were known enemies of the Prime Minister, but Lady Sang and Da Yeong had nothing to do with him.
Still, he grabbed Da Yeong’s hand before joining the others. The closer she was to him, the better.
Sang Yoo Jin realized he was being watched, but he allowed the person believe he was not aware.
His own men silently followed him to make sure he was safe.
He had gotten the King’s little message, and he was headed to the indicated location now.
He had told the surprised eunuch who delivered the message, that he could go on his own.
No one was supposed to know the way… The Hall of Kings was not accessible to anyone but the royal family.
The Hall of the Kings was one of those places in the Palace, that had not changed at all since Yoo Jin’s reign.
The old structure still stood dark and forbidding against the night sky. He wondered if the inside of it was unchanged as well.
He supposed the number of portraits would have increased, but the lighted rocks would still be the same.
The deities were no longer around to add to their numbers.
In the past, each time a King died, the deities brought four lighted rocks, one by each of them, to grace the walls of the hall.
None had been brought after his death, and he pleasantly noted that none would have been brought after Seung Jae’s death; he who had adored the deities so much!
Pulling himself from his thoughts, he walked up the steps to the door and opened it.
Inside, Tae Jun and Chun Hwa were on their guard, though they watched Da Yeong and Hye Yeon with amusement.
The two ladies had completely relaxed and were more interested in the luminescent rocks.
They had removed a rock each, and were taking it in turns to mimic hilarious versions of the lantern carrying maidens that accompanied most palanquins.
Then Da Yeong turned toward the doors suddenly.
Then the doors opened…
Sang Yoo Jin entered the hall of Kings and froze almost at once.
He paid no attention to the increased number of portraits, or the lighted rocks.
He focused completely on the four people before him, on the opposite side of the hall.
“Im- impossible!” He stammered pathetically for a moment.
He was seeing the four deities hanging the lighted rocks on the wall!
Exactly as he had seen them hang it when his uncle had died…
He took an involuntary step back, away from the sight before him, then the vision cleared and he understood.
The people in front of him were not the deities…
Or they were?
“Sang Daegam!” That was the Grand Prince. Lord Geom Jeong?
“Uncle!” Was that his niece? Lady Chorok? And the other two! Were definitely Lord Paran and-
His eyes focused entirely on the young lady, who was staring fixedly at him, the lighted rock swinging from her hands.
The words of the silent monk came back to haunt him:
“I felt the presence of someone very important. A person born eighteen years ago… “It was the one who can unite all the deities that was born. The deity of the North. Lady Hayan.”
If Lady Hayan had been reborn, then the other deities were as well.
Surely these people were-.
He turned around and fled out of the door at once, equal parts anger and fear battling inside him.
Anger at the King.
He knew who he was and who they were, and he had arranged this meeting!
Anger at Pal Wol.
It must have been she who found the deities again.
So she intended to get her revenge after all?
He felt an unconscious fear of the deities and all they stood for.
How will they affect his plans?
In what way would the King and Pal Wol use them.
He remembered Lady Hayan’s curse, and for the first time, he felt it bearing down on him.
Was this what had made Chung Jae flee?
Had he recognized the Grand Prince?
The traitor had left without a word.
He would pay!
He reached the hall and signaled to the hidden men following him.
He had used his priests and shamans to get them into the Palace to protect him.
He watched them blend into the darkness, then he went into the hall.
He was going to start moving quickly.
If the King thought he would give up because of something like this, he was mistaken.
‘It is happening again.’
That was Tae Jun’s thought as he watched Da Yeong.
She seemed like she was in the same type of trance that had gripped her in the Silent Monk’s temple, the only difference being that she was not moving… At all.
She had stared intently at the Prime Minister, and had kept staring, standing unnaturally still, even after he left.
“Jeonha…” She had choked out, and slumped, right into his arms, the luminescent rock clattering to the ground.
He had been expecting it.
“Da Yeong-ah!” He called. The others had crouched down as well, worried.
“What happened?” Chun Hwa was asking.
“Ya! Da Yeong-ah!” Hye Yeon shook her, but Tae Jun raised his hand and they both fell silent.
The doors opened and they looked up to see a lady in a black hanbok coming in with the Palace guards.
Tae Jun recognized her as the head of the Palace Shamans, and he moved to block her from Da Yeong, but she simply came over and sank into a graceful bow.
Beside him, Chun Hwa fell, sitting suddenly on the floor.
Tae Jun looked at him curiously, but he rose a hand, indicating he was fine.
He seemed completely focused on the Head Shaman.
Pal Wol was observing Choi Chun Hwa as well, but she turned and addressed the Grand Prince.
“Greetings Daegun. I am Pal Wol, Head of the Palace Shamans. I was instructed by Jeonha to wait outside with the guards, while you met Sang Daegam, to make sure no harm came to any of you.”
She produced a small scroll with the Royal Seal- Tae Jun was beginning to get angry seeing it.
The other three had showed him theirs…
Pal Wol made to approach, but his voice stopped her.
“Explain it in a way that I will understand. Are you saying Appa Mama arranged for us to meet the Prime Minister? What would be his reason to do that?”
He had been considering this.
Why had the Prime Minister been so shocked to see them?
Why had he run off in such a hurry?
But the shaman merely bowed calmly.
“Jeonha did not trust this servant with such information.” She looked at Da Yeong. “I suddenly felt Agashi’s energy get weaker, so I came out to see what was wrong. May I?”
Tae Jun was not prepared to allow a strange shaman handle Da Yeong, but Chun Hwa touched his arm and nodded. In fact, he noted, Chun Hwa seemed completely calm.
Pal Wol thought for a moment that she had seen recognition in Choi Chun Hwa’s face, but she brushed it off and approached the girl instead.
She was beginning to awaken.