Chapter Thirty Eight- Geom Jeong
The Northern hidden temple, that same night…
“You said we would not be meeting here again. Why are we here?” The noble man spoke, and there was a following murmur of support from the group of noble men around him.
There were eight of them including him.
A little distance away from them were more than a dozen lower ranked nobles and officials.
The meeting had been arranged by Sang Yoo Jin, the Prime Minister, and most had unwillingly obeyed.
They did not feel safe coming here, or even meeting, but they had choice.
They were all tied together in the same problem.
Lady Hayan’s curse.
Sang Yoo Jin slapped his hand down on the small table before him.
There was instant silence and the sound echoed.
“I know how Sangwang Jeonha thinks, so this is the safest place. He will have eyes and ears in most noble households by now. Mine is safe, but a meeting like this would not go unnoticed.” He stood up and walked to a large ornate window, his back to them.
“After the four mountains came to life, Sangwang Jeonha will be focused on the deities, so places like this would go ignored for a while.” He had turned back to face them.
“Sangwang Jeonha has begun to move. Now more than ever we need to hasten our steps to power, before it is too late.” He looked beyond them to the big doors.
“Come in here.”
The doors were opened and a man walked in.
There was a collective gasp, especially amidst higher ranked nobles.
The man was a Grand Priest.
He had opened two of the hidden gates a hundred and fifty years ago…
The Southern Palace, Nam Guk…
He swung the sword skillfully, slicing the air in a neat arc. Tae Jun faced the straw men, sword at the ready, but in mere moments, he had destroyed them, the last bits of straw still falling to the ground as he sheathed his swords.
He went still when he heard the lone applause.
He turned and was not even surprised when he saw the White Deity behind him.
Only a ghost could sneak up on him so completely.
“Orabeoni is extremely good with the sword.” She beamed at him and he scoffed, remembering Da Yeong’s similar statement:
‘Daegun is indeed very beautiful with the sword…’
“Tsk! ‘Orabeoni’ again? You two are quite similar. Now you won’t even wait till I sleep before appearing? Are you actually a ghost?”
“What to do? I tried to wait till you slept, but you stayed awake for a long time. Do you know how late it is?”
“‘What to do?'” He mimicked her. “I had a lot to think about.” He added, then moved past her and continued going.
“Ya! Let’s go together.” She ran to keep up. “You should at least ask why I am here. Orabeoni is being mean.”
He turned to face her suddenly, and she leaned back automatically. “Mean? You’re the one constantly appearing to me without explaining anything.” He took two steps toward her and she took two steps back.
“White Deity Agashi. Or is it ‘Ma-nim’?”
“Wae-?” He held up a hand, cutting her off.
“Tell me in clear words, why you keep appearing to me.” He clasped his hands behind his back and started walking again.
“I don’t know much about the deities, but you were Da Yeong’s past… Is there something I’m supposed to do for Da Yeong? Why is it me you are appearing to? Why did you allow yourself to be killed easily? Why are you appearing now?”
He turned to face her again. “Why are there so many ‘why’ questions surrounding you? Tell me.”
“I never thought I could be jealous of myself. Tch! ‘Da Yeong this’ and ‘Da Yeong that’.” She stepped closer, smiling coyly.
“I’m not one to show off, but before, Orabeoni was all ‘Hayan this’ and ‘Hayan that’.”
Tae Jun shook his head at the thought. It was a little hard to imagine.
“That’s another thing. Why do you keep making it seem like we know each other? The last time, you said you were my memory. How? I – do – not – know – you.” He deliberately stressed each word.
She seemed a bit sad, but she smiled at him.
“Orabeoni, who has come to believe in ‘past lives’, has not even considered the possibility that he knew me in his own past life.”
Tae Jun mildly lifted an eyebrow.
He was actually more surprised than he let on, but he didn’t show.
Past life… Him?
What bothered him the most was that the thought had never occurred to him.
His father was right.
He had been too distracted recently.
If Kim Da Yeong could be reborn in these times, then anybody around him could have been running around in a past life as well.
A sudden thought entered his mind.
“No way… Ahem! In this past life, were we…?” He left the question hanging, but gestured pointedly from himself to her several times. “No way… Right? I’m sure deities were not allowed to associate with humans in that manner. Why are you laughing?”
“Hahahahaha! ‘Associate with humans’!” She continued laughing. “That is a law you’ve broken twice without thinking.”
“Me?” He asked, puzzled, and she fell silent, then held out her hand.
“I can’t force Orabeoni in particular to remember if you don’t want to, but if you are curious, take my hand. I’ll show you everything.”
Tae Jun looked at her outstretched hand for a long time.
If this had been Da Yeong, he would have grabbed her hand without hesitating.
Now, he was staring at the same face and hand, but instinct made him hold back.
Instinct made him suspect that there will be no turning back, if he took the innocent looking hand before him.
It was almost as if his life won’t be the same again…
But his curiosity was stronger than his instinct at the moment.
He boldly stepped forward and took her hand.
It was a one sided battle.
That was Tae Jun’s first thought.
He found himself in the middle of the battle, and barely had time to block an oncoming attack.
Without thinking, he skillfully countered the attack, cutting down three more attackers in about half a minute.
The soldiers who attacked him wore a foreign armoured design, and they were definitely on the losing end.
The winning group of soldiers baffled Tae Jun.
What kind of dream was this?
Their uniforms seemed like an ancient version of the Eondeog Mun battle uniforms, complete with armour and crest.
But what baffled him most was that he was dressed in the same outfit.
Had he been a soldier in his past life?
At intervals, he looked around, wondering where he was.
More of the foreign soldiers came at him and he cut them down effortlessly.
Before long, the foreign soldiers were retreating, and a victory cry went up around him.
Tae Jun was making his way, quietly, off the strange battle field, when he noticed the men around him had started bowing fully to him.
“Clear way for the Admiral!” A loud voice bellowed behind the men, and they parted, clearing the way.
A well dressed soldier that could only be the Admiral, came through, higher ranked soldiers flanking him.
He sank into a bow at Tae Jun’s feet, and his men followed suit.
“Lord Geom Jeong did not have to accompany us to the battle ground, but we are pleased that you did.” He stuck his sword into the ground before him, and again, the rest followed suit.
“We thank the Black Deity for another victory!” He bowed to the ground and the rest, thousands of them it seemed, echoed his words, bowing to the ground as well.
Tae Jun stepped back in surprise.
“Black Deity? No way…”
The floor beneath his feet fell away, and he found himself falling through an abyss.
Dark shadows chased at him and he slashed pointlessly at them with his sword as he fell.
They were the shadows of his past.
Shadows he did not want to see again…
By the time his feet gently touched the ground, he had remembered everything.
He sheathed his sword, venturing into the dimly lit darkness of the unfamiliar place.
Tae Jun found himself in a cave. The place gave him a bad feeling, but he felt no sense of danger.
The walls drew his attention at once, as they bore serious signs of dark magic.
The embedded candles burned with a gloomy glow, making the cave seem even more sinister. But even as he explored the depths of the cave, it began to seem very familiar…
“This memory is..” Mine. He mentally added.
The deities had always inherited the memories of the previous deities, and yet they never had the memories of the very first deities.
They had never known their origins.
Tae Jun saw everything again.
How Chin Suh had underestimated the dark priest and became trapped in the cave.
How the young girl, Han Joo Hae had released him, and how the Kingdom had been blessed by the Heavens…
Thousands of years ago…
The first deity, Hwang Chul, brought blessings upon the now thriving kingdom of Eondoeg Mun, and he was respected by all the settlers.
Unfortunately, his father Hwang Joon, the King, had selected him greedily, because he was his son.
He had paid no attention to the boy’s nature.
As Hwang Chul grew, so did his recklessness and power drunkenness.
He began to amass followers, stepping on anyone who opposed him, including his father the King.
He dabbled in dark magic, enhancing his already fearsome powers and ridding himself of his enemies.
Meanwhile, an impossible affection had bloomed between Chin Suh and the mortal, Han Joo Hae.
The two knew nothing could ever come of it, but still they met.
She would play a flute, while they sat together, and he would tell her tales of the immortal beings that ruled the Heavens.
She would tell him tales of the humans, and, almost as if to show off, he would dazzle her with magical displays.
But having affection for humans was against the law of the Heavens, and Chin Suh was summoned back eventually.
Still, he watched her wistfully from his place, and this led him to break yet another Heavenly law.
Heavenly beings were forbidden from interfering in human matters.
Chin Suh knew the law, and knew its exceptions.
He could only intrude if the Lord of the Heavens sent him, or if he himself was in immediate danger.
Still, Hwang Chul had cast his sights on Joo Hae.
Being the deity, he knew of her relationship with Chin Suh, and tried to use her to find out about the heavens.
Chin Suh watched all this, constantly debating with himself, until eventually, Hwang Chul threatened to kill Joo Hae, who adamantly refused to tell him anything.
This was where Chin Suh threw caution away and stepped in.
Even for a heavenly being, it wasn’t easy to kill a deity so richly blessed by the Heavens, but Chin Suh was clever and determined.
He sought out the deity’s weakness.
The King, his father.
Blood was far stronger than most humans realized.
After being approached by Chin Suh, King Hwang Joon gave up his son by giving his own blood to Chin Suh.
Of course he put up a show of reluctance, so he could demand more favours from him.
In exchange for his blood, Chin Suh gave him a magic journal, which recorded the actions of all mortals within his chosen Palace, or related to the Palace in some way.
No one would ever be able to hide their actions from him, or secretly rise against him, as he would use the book to see their intentions clearly.
And so, to defeat Hwang Chul, Chin Suh, who had never done anything dark in his entire existence, dipped his hand into dark magic.
Using the King’s blood, he crafted a very powerful weapon; the only weapon that could defeat the deity.
Chin Suh challenged Hwang Chul to a duel; a duel of life and death.
They selected a mountain a little far off, usually avoided because of the thick fog surrounding it, and the two battled for days on end, the clash of their powers, scarring the landscape and destroying all around them for far miles.
On the fifth day, Chin Suh, though greatly weakened, emerged the victor…
The immense clash of power had drawn the attention of the Heavens, and the Lord of the Heavens cast Chin Suh out of the Heavens, making him mortal.
“You will live a cursed existence protecting this Kingdom and the powers you helped destroy. The mountain on which you destroyed the deity will be your home.”
Then the Lord of the Heavens divided the lost powers of the deity into four places, because apparently, no mortal could handle such immense power.
This time, he chose the deities himself.
The power of Knowledge, he gave to the son of the King’s personal advisor, an adventurous and naturally curious young man.
The power of Nature, Growth and Prosperity, he gave to the young daughter of a skilled farmer.
Because of her courage and compassion, Han Joo Hae had been bestowed with the power of all things Good, Righteous and Compassionate.
A strength that had been against the first Deity’s nature.
And lastly, the gift of strength and combat was given to Chin Suh, so he would fulfill his role as protector.
“If anything happens to a single deity, you will become the most evil of demons upon the earth, and if all three of them are destroyed, you will die. Guard them well.”
To overcome the weakness of blood relations, the deities were made to forget their existence as humans, and all who knew them, also forgot them.
The Lord of the Heavens placed them in the four major regions of the Kingdom, sending Han Joo Hae, who had forgotten about Chin Suh, the furthest away from him, to the opposite side of the Kingdom.
Their names were forgotten as well, and colours unique to their new homes were used to refer to them instead.
The exception was Chin Suh, who remembered everything, and whose home had no unique quality, except for the fog.
He chose the colour ‘Black’ which defined the way he viewed the emptiness of his life.
Unfortunately, Hwang Chul’s spirit had lived, bound beneath the Kingdom, and guarded by the ones who had received his powers…
That was the last thing Tae Jun saw as he opened his eyes, fully awakened as the current Black Deity.
He knew he should never have taken that hand…