Chapter Thirty Three- The New King
The Eondeog Mun Palace…
The Palace was even busier than it had been while preparing for the King’s birthday.
Servants, Palace maidens, the Royal chef, Guards, Eunuchs, the Palace officials, and even some Nobles, ran around the Palace, trying to get everything in order.
A new King was to ascend the throne.
The past two months had been full of odd events in the Palace, and the Palace staff did not lack for gossip.
First, a decree had been passed, the day after the King’s birthday, that the Magical Body within the Palace, which were the Priests and Shamans, were to perform no ritual or ceremonies, without the express permission of the King.
The day after that, the Grand Prince, Lord Kim and his daughter, the future Bubuin, had come to present themselves before the King, in official greeting, but the King had postponed their marriage.
A week after that, it was announced that the King was suddenly very ill, sometimes being too weak to preside over the government meeting.
His son, Tae Min, began to represent him at such times.
After two weeks of battling with his health, the King abdicated the throne, handing it over to the Crown Prince, Jang Tae Min.
And so, as the Coronation event drew close, there were equal parts of gossip and hard work.
Gossip on the rumours that the King’s illness was not from natural causes, and that there was dark magic involved.
Also, the Imperial Lady, the future Queen of Eondoeg Mun, was to wed the Crown Prince on the Coronation day.
Then the biggest scandal.
The current King was not even attending his own son’s coronation.
In Eondeog Mun, that was usually interpreted as the King not acknowledging his son as a legitimate heir…
Two months earlier…
On the night of the King’s birthday, Jang Tae Yong, King of Eondoeg Mun, sat with his friend, Kim Dae Hyeon, and the Prime Shaman, Pal Wol, to come up with a brilliant plan.
“The decree against the Magical Body is merely a distraction. Lord Sang will assume that it is Jeonha’s way of protecting himself.” Kim Dae Hyeon stated.
“Ye, Jeonha. The Prime Minister’s people in the Palace Shaman hall and temple will certainly break this rule, and this servant will secretly protect from the shadows, while trying to identify the innocent ones.” Pal Wol said, bowing.
“Ye. And my role is to act as if Sang Yoo Jin’s plan is working.” The King finished, then scoffed.
“I have to play the part of a sick man.”
“Ye, Jeonha.” They both bowed. He continued.
“Sang Yoo Jin wants to put Jang Tae Min on the throne.” He got up and started pacing.
“Now that Daegun is no longer banished, and with the presence of the deities, Sang Yoo Jin will feel very threatened.”
“Ye, Jeonha.” They both replied and he continued.
“Our plan is simply to buy some time… I suspect that Sang Yoo Jin has a hidden power in the shadows. When his attempts on my life keep failing, he will reveal this person.”
“But Jeonha, if there is any genuine threat to your life, perhaps we should think about eliminating Sang Yoo Jin.” Kim Dae Hyeon suggested.
“Sang Yoo Jin is no fool. He will be expecting such a move.” He stopped pacing and faced them.
“Ultimately, I will abdicate the throne to Tae Min, when Sang Yoo Jin reveals his hidden power.”
Kim Dae Hyeon and Pal Wol looked at each other, worried expressions on their faces.
Jang Tae Yong walked over and sat down, spreading out a blank sheet of paper.
“The decree banning unauthorized practice of magic will be passed tomorrow. Sang Yoo Jin’s people will begin their attack after that. As planned, I will pretend to be ill, to buy more time.
“Still, if I am still alive for a while, Sang Yoo Jin will suspect that I am countering his plan. Then he will bring in something stronger. Before that time, Pal Wol…”
“Ye, Jeonha.” She responded in a slight bow.
“Start making preparations to move from the Palace, along with the honest priests and shamans you can identity.”
“Also, I want you to look into a difficult ritual… A ritual to awaken the dead.”
The plan had been put into action.
The decree had been passed, and Pal Wol had secretly blocked several deadly attacks toward the King.
The King, Jang Tae Yong, acted his role well, and had ‘taken ill’.
Unfortunately, as the King had predicted, Sang Yoo Jin became impatient…
The Prime Minister’s residence…
“So this is why Pal Wol was brought in?” Sang Yoo Jin asked no one in particular, as he studied a scroll.
He threw it aside in anger.
Two weeks had passed, and the King, though ill, was still alive.
“Tch! Jeonha is clinging to life so shamelessly.” He muttered to himself angrily. He glanced up at aide, who was bowed before him.
“Summon Priest Seong.”
The next night…
An evil power was within the Palace.
Pal Wol chanted in the Palace temple as she felt the oppressive force directed at the King.
She felt something drop on her hand and realized her nose was bleeding.
Next, there was a ringing in her ears, and she felt herself slipping into darkness…
The next day…
Pal Wol opened her eyes in shock.
She clearly remembered what had happened the night before and she jumped out of bed.
“Omma!” Eun Bi, her daughter protested, running to her side, but Pal Wol ran past her, heading outside.
She stopped in her tracks when she heard the eunuch.
“Bow before Jeonha!” The doors were slid open and Pal Wol sank to bow.
The King walked in.
He noticed Pal Wol on the floor.
“Isn’t this person supposed to be in bed?”
“Jeonha! Thank you for being alive!” She cried out, bowing even deeper.
Jang Tae Yong nodded in the direction of the doors and everybody left, except Pal Wol.
“Please rise. Aish… You put your life in danger to save mine, and you’re thanking me for being alive?”
“Saving your life is the reason I am here, Jeonha.”
“That will not be necessary. The announcement that I am stepping down as King will be made this afternoon.
“As predicted, Sang Yoo Jin has given us a glimpse of his hidden power…”
Two weeks, the King abdicated the throne to Jang Tae Min, his first son, leaving the Capital to ‘rest and receive treatment’ in the smaller Southern Palace, in Nam Guk.
The coronation went off without a hitch, as Jang Tae Min, the twenty eight year old Crown Prince of Eondeog Mun, finally got the throne, and Sang Hye Su, the nineteen year old Bingung, finally entered the main Palace as Queen of Eondoeg Mun.
The road to Nam Guk, the coronation day…
Sang Hye Yeon happily sat weaving flowers in her palanquin, wondering when they would reach Nam Guk.
Lord Sang, her father, sat in his own palanquin, shaking his head in thought.
The King had ordered them to leave the Capital again, without any clear reasons why.
He had not even allowed them attend the coronation!
Well, he supposed he was used to it by now, so instead, he swelled on his younger brother, Sang Yoo Jin’s actions…
After the King’s birthday, the Prime Minister, his brother, had suddenly come to visit, and had asked to see Hye Yeon, his niece, almost immediately.
This had made Yoo Min suspicious, as in Nam Guk, he had barely noticed the fact that she was absent.
What exactly was the relationship between his child and his brother, which made the King prevent them from meeting?
Why did the King suddenly allow them to meet?
And why did his brother suddenly want to spend time with his niece?
Even as three of them had sat down to eat and drink, the Prime Minister had kept casting strange glances at Hye Yeon.
When Yoo Min was tired of this, he had sent Hye Yeon away from the table.
He did not know what was going on, but for once, the King’s order had come as a relief.
He was not sure why, but he did not think his child was safe around her uncle, his own brother.
Lord Kim Dae Hyeon’s residence…
Kim Da Yeong had finally arrived back at her mountain home in Nam Guk.
She and Ju Won had traveled alone, as her father had respectfully stayed back at the Capital to attend the Coronation ceremony.
Da Yeong sighed and stretched as she stepped out of the palanquin.
They really were the worst way to travel.
But, after casting a jealous glare at Ju Won, who just laughed at her as he dismounted from his horse, her mind went back to her real reason for sighing.
She wondered when she would see Daegun again…
Ju Won noticed her listless expression and turned away, suddenly interested in his horse.
He had consciously kept his distance from Da Yeong all this while, but it had not been easy.
He felt a stab anytime he saw her with Daegun, or anytime he could guess at her thoughts. Like now…
The back roads to Nam Guk…
Completely unknown to her, the King had sent an order to his son, the Grand Prince, to travel to Nam Guk as well.
Tae Jun had chosen to travel by the back roads again, this time, asking Chun Hwa to accompany him.
The two, with a few guards, were on horseback.
Along the way, they briefly slowed their horses, and Chun Hwa silently observed Tae Jun as they both made light conversation.
Tae Jun’s mind was only half there, as he kept thinking of his sick father.
Chun Hwa’s mind was on something else as well.
‘He really has not noticed anything.’ He thought to himself…
After seeing the Head Shaman in the Hall of Kings, Chun Hwa had seen flashes of his past life, and used logic to make sense of the rest.
Like why the King had summoned the four of them in particular.
Why Lord Sang had run out of the Hall of Kings.
Why he had seen visions- or memories- of the Shaman, Pal Wol.
And why he had even had that funny dream of himself and Tae Jun.
There were still a lot of blank spaces and unanswered questions, but at the very least, he knew who they once were.
‘Forgive me, Tae Jun-ah. For once, I’m not telling you everything.’ He thought to himself again.
There had been something dark that had happened.
Something he could not remember, and whatever it was, it might offset their current lives.
If their past was not important in the present, then the memories were best left buried.
He didn’t want to remember, nor did he want to tell Tae Jun the little he knew.
What confused and annoyed him, was that the King, Lord Kim, and even the Shaman seemed to know about it, and they were certainly planning something.
He could not shake the restlessness it made him feel…
Jang Tae Yong, previous King of Eondoeg Mun, settled into the Nam Guk palace.
It was not as grand, or as ornate as the Main Palace, but it was extremely comfortable.
“Ah…” He sighed, moving into a more comfortable position on the big floor cushion.
A few gisaeng were around, one playing the gayageum before him.
Another poured him some wine, and handed him the cup.
“I had forgotten what it felt like to have no duties of state lined up before you.” He said to Eunuch Eun.
“Ye, Jeonha.” Eunuch Eun replied, bowing.
Jang Tae Yong gave a signal, and Eunuch Eun clapped twice. The music stopped and the gisaeng began to leave.
“Sang Yoo Jin must be grateful for my absence. He will be wondering why I gave up so easily. Right?” Tae Yong spoke after the gisaeng had gone.
“Ye, Jeonha.” Another bow.
“Tch! Boring, straightforward answer as always. You should learn to relax, now that I am Sangwang (abdicated King), and you are no longer the central Palace Head Eunuch.”
“Ye, Jeonha.” Yet another bow.
“Aish, serio-. Forget it.”
“Jeosonghamnida, Jeonha.” He bowed again, as the king tsked, pouring himself more wine.
“Anyway, I was wondering how long Tae Min would last on the throne. Sang Yoo Jin will soon attempt a takeover.” He downed the wine and dropped the cup.
“He does not seem to realize, the palace can be a very dangerous place…”
The Prime Minister’s residence…
Sang Yoo Jin was not fooled. He knew there was something going on.
He had been pleased at first, when the King had taken ill, or at least, when he still believed the King was ill.
He had become suspicious, when the King had decided to abdicate the throne.
And so he knew.
He knew the King was certainly planning something, but he was not going to be bothered.
He was going to take over as planned, and Jang Tae Min being King, made that easy.
Besides, he had not revealed all his cards yet…
The Eondeog Mun Palace, the Sky Palace…
“Jeonha!” The new head of the Palace Eunuchs, Eunuch Jo, the King’s Personal eunuch, called from the doorway.
Jang Tae Min, new King of Eondoeg Mun, smiled to himself. He looked up at the ornate doors.
“What is it?” He asked in, what he felt was, a deep commanding voice.
“Jeonha. The Ministers and Officials have gathered in the government hall.” The eunuch said.
“Ah, ye.” He resumed what he had been writing. “We will go over there soon.”
Being the King felt good.
For most of his life, he had been ‘Wangja’, then ‘Gun Wangja’, terms used to address a prince born of a concubine.
Finally, he had become ‘Seja Jeoha’, but most nobles had still looked down on him.
Now, as ‘Jeonha’, they did not dare disrespect him in any way.
Tae Min was not lost on his duties.
Being Crown Prince, he had been educated on the duties of state, and he had been required to attend several government meetings.
He was confident that he could rule.
He had heard the rumours, of course.
His father did not acknowledge him, and there was the annoying fact that his little brother, the Grand Prince, still existed, but he was not bothered.
As ruler, he will be well within his rights to eliminate all challenges to his authority…