Chapter Forty Four- The Priest in the Shadows
Still in the past…
The Eondoeg Mun Palace…
The answer Jang Yoo Jin was looking for came to him, three weeks after the murder of the princes.
A stranger arrived at the Palace gates in the middle of the night, asking for audience with the King.
The evil aura surrounding him, made the gate guards hesitate to tell him off for his outrageous demand.
They went to report to the Head guard at once.
“Who dares try to see Jeonha at this late hour?” He asked, irritated that they had actually come to the Sky Palace to report such a thing.
He glared at his deputy.
“Couldn’t you handle this? It is obvious that he will not be allowed. He should even be punished for daring to come here at this hour.”
“Head guard.” The deputy began apologetically. “The gate guards say he possesses an extremely fearful aura, and that he is dressed similarly to the Grand Priest that came eight days ago. I think it is a Grand Priest.” He bowed.
“I thought Jeonha might want to see him, since he has been summoning all the strong priests and shamans.” The Head guard thought about this.
“Hmm. You made the right move, given the situation.” He strode off to inform the King.
The Grand Priest walked over to the throne, but did not perform the full bow.
He merely bent over respectfully, but straightened almost immediately.
“Do you want to die?!” The Head guard bellowed, but the King raised a hand, and he fell silent.
“Leave us.” He ordered. The Head guard, his deputy, the other guards and eunuchs all bowed and left.
“Grand Priest, Seong Su Min, greets you, Jeonha.” The Grand Priest spoke when the sliding doors had shut behind them.
Yoo Jin looked down at the priest before him.
He was not an ordinary priest.
Hayan had awoken from sleep the minute the strange Grand Priest had set foot in the Palace.
However, she did not know why she had awoken.
She just felt a sudden sense of danger from the Palace.
She closed her eyes in concentration, then reopened them.
Her sleeping hanbok had changed to a regular yungbok.
She disappeared and reappeared near the gates of the Palace.
There were a few place the deities could not appear into.
These were the Palace, each other’s houses, and the hidden temples.
Still, being too fast for human eyes when they wanted to be, they could stealthily go in.
Or so she thought…
She sped toward the Palace eastern wall, but before she reached it, an unnatural force pushed her back.
“Huh?” She reached out a hand to touch the solid stone wall, but before her hand reached it, it met a strange barrier.
She took a step back, crashed into someone’s chest, and nearly exclaimed aloud, but a hand reached up and covered her mouth.
“This place must really be strange, if you didn’t sense my presence at all.” She relaxed, recognizing his voice and feel.
He removed the hand covering her mouth, and she turned to face him.
“Orabeoni! What are you doing here?” She asked, confused.
“Huh. You probably sensed it because it happened close to your home.” He observed in response. “But you’re forgetting, since I’m responsible for guarding the Kingdom, I will sense something like this, regardless of where I am.”
“Ah! Ye.” She turned back to the wall, and he raised a hand to it.
He met the barrier as well.
“What is causing this?” She asked. “Even a Grand Priest or Prime Shaman should not be able to keep us out.”
“Ye. And there’s the fact that you couldn’t sense my arrival.”
That bothered him.
If he wanted, he could approach Paran and Chorok without them knowing, but it had never worked when it came to her; even with the past deities.
This time, he had not even tried to hide his presence, but she hadn’t sensed him at all…
That meant the effect of the barrier was going some distance beyond the Palace.
It was throwing her senses off.
“It doesn’t make sense. He shouldn’t be this strong.” He said to himself.
“Ye?” She spun to face him. “Then, do you know who it is?” He looked down at her.
“There is a Grand Priest who turned dark almost forty years ago. He hides himself well, and has managed to elude the previous Black Deity and me so far.” He looked at the Palace wall.
“He is the person who went in there, but there is something different. Something darker.”
He reached out and touched the barrier again.
“This power doesn’t belong to him. It is strange, yet familiar. I can’t place it.” He turned away, grabbing her hand.
“Let’s leave this place for now.”
The Priest, Seong Su Min was indeed, not ordinary.
Born to a Grand Priest, he possessed remarkable power from an early age.
He rose to the rank of Grand Priest easily. However, his thirst for power steadily increased, and he chose to become a dark priest.
During one of his dark rituals, he crossed paths with the Black Deity, and glimpsed his past life.
He had been a dark priest then as well.
A dark priest who had succeeded in trapping a heavenly being.
Of course, after the heavenly being, Chin Suh had become the first Black Deity, he had found the dark priest and destroyed him.
In this lifetime as well, the Black Deity constantly came after him, but he became smarter. He learned to suppress his essence, never staying anywhere for long periods of time, always finding the perfect place to hide.
On the night the royal princes were murdered, he hid himself in the hidden temple of the South, his former home.
That night, he had been possessed by a strange and powerful shadow…
Seong Su Min did not know he had been possessed, but he felt more powerful the next day, and he had a new sense of purpose.
He felt the sudden desire to visit someone.
The only living Prime Shaman in Eondoeg Mun.
Over the years, everyone who knew Seong Su Min, naturally assumed he had died. But Pal Wol knew he was alive, because her library was one of his favorite hiding place.
Being the children of two powerful Grand Priests, the two had known each other well, long before he became a dark priest, so she had been trusting, understanding even, when he had first arrived at her doorstep.
Afterall, she was hiding away as well.
Seong Su Min hadn’t told her he had become a dark priest, and he hid his aura completely around her.
He came up with a brilliant story.
“There are those who seek to use my powers for evil. I have to constantly Hide. It is better for Eondoeg Mun, if everyone assumes I am dead.”
He drank the wine before him, then continued.
“I came here to hide, because I thought you were in the Palace.” He looked at her. “Why are you hiding here?”
But she merely quoted him in reply.
“‘There are those who seek to use my powers for evil. I have to constantly hide’.” The two ate in silence after that.
The next time he came, they talked even more, and the next, and the next, and the next…
The hidden library was a perfect hiding place for Seong Su Min, because he realized the Black Deity would never check here without a good reason.
Pal Wol was considered a ‘trustworthy’ shaman.
She was often called the daughter of light, because of her refusal to use her immense powers for evil.
One who had escaped from the King, so her powers would never be used for anything dark.
“Silly woman”. He had told her, when he found out her reason for leaving the Palace. “Trying to avoid your fate, often leads it to your door.”
Seong Su Min became such a trusted guest, that he discussed openly with her husband, and played with her son and daughter.
Then she had said something that had scared him.
“Jeonha has suddenly summoned the deities to the Capital. ”
That had meant the Black Deity would be close.
He had left after that…
Pal Wol sat across Seong Su Min when he returned to the hidden library.
“In my vision, I saw a book. A very dangerous book of immense power. This book stores away events that are related to the ruling body.” He looked at her squarely.
“In the vision, this book is the only thing that can help the deities. Have you glimpsed anything about such a book?” He asked innocently, knowing full well that it was here now.
He had felt its power, but after failing to find it a few times, he had ignored it.
But now, it seemed very important for some reason.
And so, trusting in Seong Su Min, Pal Wol had brought out the King’s Journal, which she had hidden for years.
“I believe this is the book you saw.” She said, as she unwrapped it.
“However, the nature of this book does not let just anyone access its secrets. If you are not the owner of the book, you must possess immense power to read it.” He reached over to take it.
“This book, have you read it?” He asked her.
“Apart from finding its origin, I haven’t had a reason to venture further.”
‘Foolish woman’. He had thought to himself…
Seong Su Min had definitely been powerful enough to read the book, and a part of its secrets were revealed to him…
The part that was most important to him.
He wanted to take it with him to find out more, but subconsciously, Pal Wol rejected the idea of handing it over to him.
As he left, she had the ominous feeling that the next time they crossed paths, something bad might happen, but she couldn’t see anything.
One could never predict their own fate.
Seong Su Min had always known that fate was a scary thing.
Pal Wol had run away to avoid helping the King, but as he had told her, that had led straight to fulfilling her fate.
He headed to the Palace.
He could come back for the book later…