Chapter Forty Six- The Heavenly Law
The Palace Prisons…
Jang Seung Jae, Fourth Prince of Eondoeg Mun, was finally facing torture.
The King was apparently trying his best to punish his last remaining son, who was said to have murdered his brothers.
The torture was so intense for a prince, that a few of his torturers actually pitied him.
Under the King’s specific orders, he would be starved for days, then fed poison.
When he took ill, he would be nursed back to health and fed well.
Then he would face physical torture. They would beat him with heavy wooden planks and stretch his thighs.
A few of his bones were even broken in the process.
After this, he would be starved again, poisoned again, healed again, and tortured again.
It was an endless process that would make anybody crave death.
Amidst all the agony, Seung Jae had a very good idea what his father was up to.
‘I must have become a burden to the deities. Appa Mama is trying to use me to get their attention.’
At first, he had discarded the idea, but the thought kept entering his mind as the days went by.
It was the only explanation that made sense.
Through all the torture, he had never been asked a single question.
Besides, with so many royal murders involved, a murderer would have been killed by now…
Though he was very weak, Seung Jae tried several times to take his own life, but he was stopped every time.
Knowing his father, there was no reason to keep him alive, unless his suspicions were correct…
And they were.
The Eondeog Mun Palace…
Jang Yoo Jin hid a grin, as he watched the men torture Seung Jae.
He remembered the words of the Grand Priest, who he had made the Head of the Palace magical body.
“So the deities will see what Seung Jae is going through, and return to the Capital, despite my order?” He had asked the priest, after listening to his plan.
“Ye Jeonha. Seja is one of the weapons Jeonha has against the deities. The heavens were indeed blessing Jeonha, when the Black Deity saved your son.”
“I do admit that he got very close to them after that incident… Even to the point of annoying me. But what good would that do? Why exactly, are we trying to attract the deities?”
“Jeonha. The Heavens have one major law that deities must follow. ‘They must not interfere in human matters’. If they come to rescue Seung Jae, they will be undermining your authority and interfering in matters that do not concern them. Did you not wonder why the deities did not step in when the previous Seja Jeoha was about to be murdered?”
The King glared at him, but he had stared back in challenge.
The minute he had entered the Palace, he had seen the King’s dark deeds.
“I do not say this to annoy Jeonha, but to make clear a point. The deities knew everything that was happening, and yet they did nothing.”
“So, why do you think they will act this time?”
“This time is different, Jeonha. For once, they drew close to a person. A person with Seja’s personality, that can get close to anyone.”
“And what makes you think Lord Geom Jeong will allow the deities interfere?”
“Jeonha. You are underestimating Lady Hayan’s good, and overestimating Lord Geom Jeong’s heartless nature. I who have seen their origin, know this. It is the flaw in the hierarchy, that I mentioned.
“Lady Hayan is Lord Geom Jeong’s weakness.”
The Foggy mountains…
It wasn’t an unusual sight, to see Lord Geom Jeong and Lady Hayan arguing, but this was different.
The two weren’t even looking at each other, and worse, they had dragged Paran and Chorok into the awkward setting.
Paran played baduk with Geom Jeong, and Chorok sat close to Hayan, who was playing the gayageum.
It was as if a dark cloud was hanging over the whole chamber.
Paran placed a white piece on the board, easily boxing in a few of Geom Jeong’s pieces.
That had never happened before, and he looked up at him, shaking his head.
He had known something was odd, when he was invited to the Foggy mountains.
That had also never happened.
Usually they came on their own, but Lord Geom never actually invited anyone.
In fact, it had only happened once in each previous deity’s life…
And it was always for the same reason.
Whether to save a particular human or not.
In each instance, the current black deity would know the white deity, who he would have been avoiding, was on her way to confront him.
So he would go and invite the blue deity to act as a neutral party.
Unfortunately, the white deity would drag the green deity into it as well, knowing she was often open enough to break the unavoidable silence…
“Eonni~.” Chorok whined. “Why did you have to bring me to this oppressive atmosphere?” Hayan’s fingers stilled on the gayageum, then she resumed playing.
It was the opening she had been waiting for.
“Mianhae Chorok-ah. My heart was burdened because a very special friend of ours is suffering. And yet-,” She plucked the strings a bit harshly.
“Here we are, doing nothing. Aigoo! Our Seung Jae… Anyway, I wanted to spend the time with friends.”
“Eonni, isn’t your intent too clear? Even with the previous deities, you would come and argue with Lord Geom about something like this.” Chorok pointed out.
Hayan wasn’t even fazed. She continued playing.
“Then, are you also happy to leave him like that? Aigoo! Our Seung Jae. You must have thought we were your friends, right?”
“Ani! I didn’t mean-.”
“Hayan-ah!” Geom Jeong finally spoke out.
“Wae?” She looked up at him, but her fingers still moved expertly across the strings.
Her face was the picture of depression.
“This has happened before, so let us end the argument before it begins. We are not rescuing Jang Seung Jae.”
He turned back to the game and Paran wondered why.
He wasn’t concentrating at all.
He could see Geom Jeong was bothered, despite his words.
Hayan stopped playing.
“If the previous Black Deity had listened to the previous White Deity, Jeonha would not be causing problems now.” She stressed the word ‘Jeonha’ to indicate that Jang Yoo Jin was never meant to be King.
That had been the point of argument between the previous Black and White Deities.
Whether to save the legitimate Crown Prince and eliminate Jang Yoo Jin.
The Black Deity had refused and the White Deity had backed off.
The present Hayan did not seem willing to back off, and the present Geom Jeong faced her again.
“How many times must I say it. The laws are there for a reason. There is a hidden plot which human lives follow. Each time we interfere, even in the smallest way, there is a ripple effect, and the plot changes. I try to ignore minor interference, like with this person’s actions.”
He glared at Chorok, and she swallowed audibly.
“Now, you don’t just want to throw a small pebble in a lake. You want to throw a big rock, which will cause major ripples. Saving Seung Jae would be interfering in the worst way possible. We would also be undermining the King’s authority, which is probably what he wants.
“Those ripples would affect the whole Kingdom.”
There was a long silence.
Hayan understood. She really did.
But she still could not imagine leaving things as they were.
“Can you really leave Seung Jae to continue like that? Even if I was to accept his death, they won’t even let him die!”
“I must. And we will.” He folded his arms, then pointedly glared at all of them. “Leave the King and Seung Jae alone. They have their own purposes in this life, and we have ours.”
The situation with Seung Jae hurt even him, but the law was there for a reason.
He tried to ignore the unpleasant feeling he felt as Hayan got up and left with Chorok.
Geom Jeong knew the second she arrived that evening.
A week had passed since she had left the Foggy mountains with Chorok, and they had not seen each other in that time.
She hesitated outside, probably questioning her coming back here, but he knew she would come up to the door eventually.
Geom Jeong thought of all the things that currently bothered him.
The dark priest that had eluded him and the previous Black Deity.
The priests new, unexplained powers, that could even block the deities.
The fact that Seung Jae’s torture started two days after the dark priest arrived.
And the fact that the Prime Shaman, Pal Wol, had been murdered with her family, the day after his arrival.
These events were suspicious, so they had to seriously watch their steps.
And yet, Seung Jae’s situation tugged at their hearts…
Paran and Chorok had come since then, mentioning Seung Jae in their own way, but never pushing.
Hayan hadn’t come, and yet, she bothered him the most.
And now she was here.
He opened the door, as she raised her hand to knock.
“Orabeoni.” She said in greeting, looking up at him.
“Ye.” She replied.
He glanced down at her hanbok.
“Black?” He asked, a bit surprised.
She was wearing a white hanbok, which was usual, but rather than with gold or silver, it was boldly lined in black.
The wide sash across her waist was black as well.
It was such a glaring contrast to the white of her hair and gown, and an annoying reminder of exactly how different they were…
She was all innocent and light, while, if placed outside his role as guardian, he would probably be a dark, demonic being.
He turned away and went into the house.
She picked her skirts and ran in after him.
“Ya! You don’t like it? Do you know how long it took me to conjure up this outfit?! I wanted to see things from your point of view for once!”
The deities only had to imagine themselves in an outfit, and they were instantly in it.
She had never imagined anything black on herself, so she had found it difficult.
It amused Geom Jeong, because only Hayan… and Chorok, could come up with such a ridiculous idea.
He turned to face her.
“How does wearing black clothes make you see things from my point of view?” He folded his arms, lifting an eyebrow in a smirk.
“Ah! That! I-.” He held up a hand.
“I don’t really want to know. It doesn’t suit you. Change it.”
“I don’t want to.”
“What?” He stared at her for a while, and she stared stubbornly back.
He grabbed her hand.
“I know why you are here, so let’s have a duel.” He dragged her inside. “I promise to go easy on you.”
“Omo! ‘Go easy on me’. Orabeoni is so full of himself. Gamsahabnida!” She stressed, sarcastically. “Tsk!”
The training ground…
Geom Jeong’s compound was equipped like a massive training ground.
It housed the best weapons of all time, present and past, and there were wide expanses of well groomed land for training.
There were also dark woods surrounding his home, which contained huge tigers and other wild creatures.
This was where he preferred to practice, or hold wagers with Lord Paran, who constantly challenged him.
Of course, he did not need the practice, and he always won the wagers, but it was one of the ways he kept himself busy.
Hayan’s house was like a small temple.
Paran’s house was an enormous library.
Chorok’s house was a magnificent greenhouse, but they all had one thing in common.
They were incredibly lonely.
So they sought each other out, for the most ridiculous of reasons sometimes.
Hayan faced Geom Jeong, wearing a white yungbok. As if to spite him, the bands around her arms and waist were black.
“Hmm. I changed my mind… It actually suits you.” He smirked, secretly admiring the way to outfit clung to her curves.
This was becoming dangerous…
They circled each other, the two holding a sword.
It was the first time she was facing him in combat.
She had watched him fight seriously, only once before.
He had limited his strength to human standards, and had accompanied the Eondoeg Mun army to fight an invading army.
Even fighting with human strength, he had been amazing to watch, tearing across the battlefield with fluid grace… like a beautiful dance.
She had sighed, even as she shut her eyes, each time he struck down a person.
She hated watching death, so she had never gone back.
Now, she raised the sword and charged at him.
She had no chance of winning, but he had suggested a duel.
That meant he was at least considering the idea of helping Seung Jae.
“Orabeoni is just being stubborn. Why leave him there, if it is bothering you?” She said, as their blades met.
She began to freeze his sword, but he saw that coming and pushed her back, leaping away, then charging back at her.
“Ani. You are the stubborn one. The laws, from the memories of the past deities, clearly state that we can’t interfere.” He struck her sword and it flew out of her hand.
Combat really wasn’t her thing, but she appeared near the sword and caught it, just before it hit the ground.
“Hmm. Orabeoni is really going easy on me. Doesn’t that mean, deep down, you want to rescue Seung Jae?” She charged at him again.
“It won’t happen.” He easily countered her attack.
“Abandoning someone who followed you around, calling you ‘Hyeong’, cannot be the right thing.” She struck.
“There is no clear line on what is wrong or right. An example. The previous White Deity who hates death, wanted the Black Deity to kill someone.” He countered, then struck.
She danced out of reach.
“That’s because Seja Jeoha would never have been safe, if Jang Yoo Jin lived.” She struck again, this time sending icy spikes beneath his feet.
He still countered easily.
“Who is to say that wasn’t to happen?” She went still as the edge of his sword easily reached her neck.
But she wasn’t fazed.
“Your presence in this Kingdom.” She replied and he looked down in amazement. Her hand was on his chest, sharp icicles slowly spreading.
“Hayan-ah.” He looked at her, but she looked away.
“In the end, Orabeoni allowed me to tie with him. That shows me Orabeoni’s point of view, which I wanted to see. Orabeoni wants to save Seung Jae, but Orabeoni is duty bound to obey the law, much more than the rest of us.”
She removed her hand and he took a sharp breath in, as the ice slowly disappeared.
He lowered the sword away and she raised a hand to his cheek.
“I won’t ask Orabeoni to do anything anymore.” She said, then turned to go, but she stopped a step away, stabbing her sword into the ground.
“However, there is something I, ani. There is something the White Deity always stopped herself from saying, because it is you. ‘Your constant decision not to interfere, is it not hindering your original duty of protecting this Kingdom?’
“Rescuing Seja Jeoha and eliminating Jang Yoo Jin back then, might have been an interference, but now the Kingdom might suffer if Jeonha finds a way to open the fifth gate.
“Because we didn’t do anything.
“In the tiniest of ways, like the tiny pebble, whose ripple slowly gets bigger and bigger, our own decisions may create silent, but even deadlier ripples.”
An eternity seemed to pass after she spoke, then she started walking away.
Geom Jeong watched her retreating figure, then two sudden, realizations hit him.
The first, was that, for once, he thought she was right.
The second scared him.
He loved this person.
Not in the regular way, but in a very ‘human’ way.
He threw down the sword and ran to her, grabbing her hand and spinning her around to face him.
“Orabeo-.” She was cut off as his hands held both her cheeks and he leaned down and kissed her.
It was the strangest thing she had ever felt, as pleasant wave after wave, rippled through her.
It was the same with him, as his body felt an unnatural heat, he had no way of understanding.
He stepped away, his usually calm composure, completely absent.
Was this what humans called ‘lust’?
What was he doing?
How had things gotten to this point?
The questions kept coming, and they were too confusing, so he pushed them away.
“Ahem!” He coughed. “‘Orabeoni’ has been wrong.” He cleared his throat again, avoiding her eyes, which had widened to twice their original size.
“Ahem! Re- rescuing Seung Jae. Is th- that all you want me to do?” He looked down at her, but she hadn’t moved a muscle, and she remained silent.
“I’ll- I’ll take that as ‘yes’, for now. Ahem, then.” He bowed slightly, then vanished.
As he appeared near the palace, he shook his head.
What was that?! His hand went to his heart, which raced uncontrollably.
“I may be the Black Deity, but she’s the most dangerous person around here…”
On the Foggy mountains, Hayan remained unmoving, staring wide-eyed at the place where he had been standing a moment ago.
Her heart was beating in loud, fast thuds, that drowned out all sound.
She shook herself, after several moments of staring into emptiness.
“Wae? Why am I like this?” She sank to the ground gently, sitting quietly, trying to process what had happened.
She slapped her cheeks.
“Omo! How-?” She paused, realizing something else. “What did he say before he left?”
She hadn’t heard a single word…