Chapter Forty Nine- White for Mourning
Yoo Han Ho hesitated before raising his hand. Before him were weapons, ordinary except for a single fact.
They were ceremonial weapons.
One was a sleek katana, the blade blacker than night.
Its handle was bound in black and red hide.
Another was a set of curved blades, words etched into their sharp edges.
The third and last was a large intricate bow and arrow; just one arrow.
Anybody who studied the priestly or shamanic arts, knew about these weapons, though they had never known their origin.
Only the ruling King could use them, or allow their use in anyway.
The ceremonial weapons were the only known relics that could harm the deities.
The power of the weapons was often brushed aside.
This was because the deities were inhuman, so it was almost impossible to harm them, ceremonial weapons or not.
Most priests or shamans preferred to pretend they didn’t exist.
Yoo Han Ho had found out the origin of the weapons that morning.
“Take him to that place.” Jeonha had said, and he and Chung Jae had been led to an underground chamber, deep in the Palace.
Here, the weapons had lain for many years.
“These weapons were made using dark magic.” Seong Su Min had explained. “They were created by an unlikely being. The heavenly being who became the first Black Deity.
Yoo Han Ho had gazed at him in surprise.
How did one possess such knowledge?
Seong Su Min had continued.
“He created these weapons, using the blood of Eondoeg Mun’s first King. They were used to kill the King’s son, the original deity. The shadow that sleeps beneath this Kingdom.”
“How do you know such things?!”
“That is not important. The heavenly being made just the sword, but in fear of the deities, the first King had the other two made to aid the sword.”
Yoo Han Ho stepped back from the sword.
“What do you want from me?!” He demanded.
“These weapons have an interesting nature, especially the sword. They were made with dark magic, but they repel it.” He tried to touch one, but it burned him. He withdrew his hand quickly. “That is why Jeonha needed a ‘good’ but powerful priest.”
“What am I supposed to do with them?”
“Transfer a part of their energy to the wielders.”
This was indeed the way the weapons worked.
Only those blessed by a priest could wield the weapons.
The more powerful the priest, the better, so Jeonha had chosen a Grand Priest.
Chung Jae had been selected to wield the sword, partly because he was talented, and partly because the King wanted to make sure Yoo Han Ho did the right thing.
If he performed the rite wrongly, his own son would die in the battle.
And so, Yoo Han Ho performed the rite on his son and two others, temporarily binding them to the ceremonial weapons.
Receiving their orders from the King, they rode to the White mountain the next day…
The White Mountains…
At dusk the next day, Hayan paced her room in restlessness, not sure exactly what bothered her.
She and Geom Jeong had spent almost the whole of the previous day together.
“Did we cross a line?” She had asked toward evening, her head on his shoulder. They had been sitting side by side almost all day.
He had glanced down at her.
“I don’t know.” It was an honest answer.
He found her hand and linked his fingers through hers. It felt like the most natural thing in the world.
“However, I can’t regret it.” He added, gazing down at their interlocked hands.
She tightened her grip.
“Don’t mention things like regret, or I’ll kill you!”
“Tsk! Oho! Someone that saves lives is threatening me…”
They hadn’t defined their relationship exactly, but she was content.
Seung Jae was doing well- Geom Jeong had brought him earlier that day.
Then he had displayed his jealous side again, reprimanding Seung Jae for hanging around her too much.
He had eventually taken him away to study with Lord Paran.
Everything was fine, so what made her feel so uneasy?
She decided to go outside, but she stopped suddenly, halfway to the door.
Her breath began coming in fast gasps and she clutched her chest, feeling a sharp searing pain.
She collapsed to the floor…
East and West…
The souls of the sacrificed had found the Eastern and Western hidden gates.
They all faded into wisps of dark smoke, the moment they fulfilled their task and opened the gates…
Beneath the Kingdom…
The Shadow beneath the Kingdom shifted excitedly, staring at the looming gate before him.
Two of the four gates had been opened and he would soon be able to possess Jang Yoo Jin!
He didn’t like the prospect, but he needed him long enough to find a better and willing body.
From within the dark priest, Seong Su Min, he had planned the death of the deities, and his own freedom.
Once all the deities died, the fifth gate will be briefly opened, and he would be free…
The White Mountains…
Hayan opened her eyes when someone appeared. It was Lord Paran.
He came over and helped her up.
“Lord Paran, are you alright?” She grabbed his arm and he smiled down at her sadly.
“You were the one on the floor, and you’re worrying about me.” He looked around. “Tch! Nobody likes the cold here, and yet we keep coming here. Even subconsciously…”
“Lord Paran, just now, I saw-.” He put a finger to his lips.
“I don’t know how it happened, but I can’t stay here any longer.” He patted her hair gently, as silent tears ran down her face.
“It was lonely, but I really enjoyed the moments spent with you all.” He inclined his head in a bow.
“Tell Hyeong it’s not his fault.” He stood, then he began to fade into a bright light.
The light slowly dimmed, then disappeared.
She wept loudly, knowing what was coming next.
She had seen the two gates opened.
“Eonni.” Chorok said in greeting.
Hayan went to embrace her, sobbing loudly.
“You c- came?” She asked the familiar question, the sobs wracking at her.
“Eonni, Mianhae.” She was crying silently now. “I don’t know what happened-.”
“I know.” Hayan squeezed her tightly, then lightly hit her. “How can Dongsaeng go before me?”
“Mianhae Eonni. You were always taking care of me.” She pushed herself back.
“Eonni wants to eat more than me in her next life…” They both laughed weakly at the memory. “Me I want to be able to take care of Eonni for once.”
“Tch! Think of something achievable…” her crying increased as Chorok faded into the light as well.
She collapsed to the floor again crying, remembering everything.
She didn’t understand.
How had the gates been opened?
She needed to see Geom Jeong.
The Foggy Mountains…
The shadows were creeping in, engulfing him slowly.
Geom Jeong had felt the opening of the two gates, felt the wrenching of his heart as Paran and Chorok disappeared from this world.
He had never cried before, yet a tear had slid down his face.
He felt Hayan’s heartbreak, felt her heart-wrenching tears, and another tear had slid down his face.
He shut his eyes, willing himself to see what had happened, and he did.
The dark priest and what possessed him…
The King’s plan using Seung Jae…
The evil ritual…
He saw it all.
But the dark priest had miscalculated something
Killing two deities wouldn’t kill the protector.
He would have to kill all three to kill the Black Deity.
Instead, Geom Jeong was turning into a demon.
A dark being with no purpose, but to destroy.
He knew it somehow… A long forgotten aspect of his being.
He would lose all reasonable thought.
He would lose his memories.
He would lose Hayan…
The shadows engulfed him and he felt himself slipping away.
Still, he forcefully held unto sanity for a while.
The Shadow beneath the Kingdom could never be allowed outside.
It could only be released if it had somewhere to go. Its freedom had become dependent on Jang Yoo Jin.
Without the willing greedy human, who had set its release in motion, he would have no where to go and the gates would reseal themselves.
It would be trapped again.
As his consciousness slipped away, Geom Jeong willed himself to remember what was important.
“Become a demon.” He told himself. “But don’t forget the enemy.”
“Don’t forget the enemy.”
“Don’t forget the enemy.” He chanted to himself over and over, till he began to wonder what he was saying.
Why was he saying such words?
Who was he?
Ah yes! He had people to kill…
Hayan appeared on the Foggy mountains, right as Geom Jeong stepped out.
The evil aura repelled her at once, and she took a step back.
“Orabeoni…” She called him, not understanding the darkness that hovered around him.
His powers had always been dark, but this was something else.
“Who are you?” He asked blankly. “Do you know me?”
“Orabeoni!” She forced a step toward him, but he stepped back.
“Orabeoni?” He smiled a cold smile. “I don’t understand what that is. Move.” He swung his right arm in a sweeping motion, as if clearing things out of his path.
Hayan felt herself flung away, landing painfully on the hard ground.
He stumbled as she hit the floor, his hand going to his chest, where there was an ache.
“You. What are you?” He asked confused.
“Orabeoni!” She said again, this time in tears. “Why are you like this?”
The pain intensified and he fell to one knee.
He didn’t understand what was happening, but this person was dangerous.
“Orabeoni!” Hayan screamed at the place he had been. Where had he gone?
She got up, brushing aside the pain, and ran into the house.
“Orabeoni!” She ran through the corridors, then stopped when she came to a particular room.
She stepped inside, feeling the waves of a familiar aura.
Warm and enveloping her like a blanket.
It was clearly his bedchamber.
Her eyes fell to the small table, which was lopsided.
A few books and other items were strewn around it.
She took another step in, shut her eyes and willed herself to see everything….
Hayan sat heavily on the floor, her breathing, shallow and fast.
Everything around her was freezing, the frost spreading out from her hands, which were on the floor.
“Too cruel!” Angry tears flowed, blurring her vision.
She felt like she was losing everything.
A life without him was not something she even wanted to imagine.
She went out of the house, missing the fact that the whole compound had frozen.
She vanished, leaving the Foggy mountains behind.
Seung Jae knew something was wrong.
He and Lord Paran had been reading, when Lord Paran, looking confused, had suddenly clutched his chest, as if in great pain.
He had fallen to the floor and Seung Jae had run to him in worry.
“Hyeong-nim! Are you alright?” But before he touched him, he suddenly vanished.
Seung Jae had checked most of the big library, but hadn’t found him.
An eerie silence seemed to have settled over the Blue mountains.
He sighed in relief, when Lady Hayan appeared.
“Noonim!” He had rushed to her. “Me and Hyeong-nim were reading and he suddenly disappea-.” He noticed her face.
Then her hanbok.
“Noonim. What has happened?” She was dressed all in black. The edges were lined in various shades of blue and green.
He had heard from them that they dressed colourfully, whenever they hid among humans, but black?
It looked strange on her somehow… A dark contrast against all she stood for.
He gently gripped her shoulder. “Where is Lord Paran?”
She looked up at him, sorrow etched in her face.
A small part of her briefly regretted saving this person…
Jeonha had used their interference against them…
She pushed the thought away and raised a hand to his cheek.
This was Seung Jae.
She couldn’t have abandoned him.
“Lord Paran and Lady Chorok have left this world.” She told him sad.
He didn’t believe it.
“No way- It’s not possible to kill a deity!”
“There is no being under the heavens that cannot die.” He was shaking his head, still disbelieving, tears running down his face.
She gripped his shoulders.
“Seung Jae-ah. We have to go-”
“Where is Hyeong-nim?” He asked quietly.
As far as he could guess, the blue and green represented Lord Paran and Lady Chorok.
She was wearing predominantly black, and the look in her eyes…
It was like she had no reason to be happy.
Something had happened to Lord Geom Jeong as well.
“Where is Hyeong-nim?” He asked again, falling to his knees.
She crouched before him.
“He is alive, but he is someone you can’t reach now.” She fought back her own tears, which were threatening again. “We don’t have time!” Her voice had grown firmer, stronger.
“You need to be in the Palace for now. You are the only heir to-”
“Did this happen because of me?!” He asked amidst tears. “This wouldn’t have happened if Hyeong-nim didn’t save me right?”
She stood up and yelled at him.
“Seung Jae-ah! What happened doesn’t fall on your shoulders, but that of your father. Was it possible because we saved you? Probably. But we ourselves have become careless over the years. We let our guard down.
“Our duty was to protect this Kingdom, and your being the future King, puts you under that protection. The guilty person is your father, and your ‘Hyeong-nim’ has probably gone to kill him.”
Seung Jae looked up at her in surprise, but she continued.
“Ye. He must have gone there. I’m returning you back to the Palace, because I’m sure Jeonha will die this night…”
The Central Palace, Gwang Guk…
Shadows circled the Palace and a strange windy storm blew everything apart.
Eerie lightning flashed in the sky, briefly illuminating the dark clouds that hung over the Palace.
“Jeonha, please accompany your guards back to the Sky Palace. This must be caused by the death of the deities. I will protect from outside.”
Seong Su Min instinctively knew the King was in danger, and because of the shadow in him, he suddenly wanted to protect him.
“JEONHA!” A panicked guard ran into the throne room.
“What is the meaning of this?!” Jang Yoo Jin demanded.
“Jeonha! The Palace is under att-.” He died suddenly, bleeding before their eyes, but they never saw anything!
The guards and eunuchs stepped before the King.
Seong Su Min held his staff at the ready.
Soft footsteps walked into the throne room.
It was Lord Geom Jeong.
He looked up at them.
“Lord Geom Jeong! What is happening here?” Jang Yoo Jin looked from him to the priest.
“Impossible!” Seong Su Min said.
Geom Jeong studied the scared people before him.
Who were this people? He wondered.
He looked at the guards and eunuchs. They died instantly, bleeding as if slashed by invisible swords.
“Do something!” Jang Yoo Jin ordered as the blood spread around him.
Seong Su Min stepped forward, brandishing his staff and chanting evil spells at Lord Geom Jeong.
They had absolutely no effect.
He cocked his head to the side, curiously studying the person approaching him, chanting strange words.
He slashed out his hand and smiled as the person began screaming.
Seong Su Min saw nothing, and yet, it was like a thousand blades were slashing at him.
They stopped suddenly.
He fell forward on his face, completely lifeless.
Geom Jeong stepped toward the person before him, who was hastily stepping back.
He had to kill this person, but had no idea why.
“Who are you? Why do I want to kill you?”
Jang Yoo Jin assessed the situation and decided to buy time.
“You don’t remember who you are?” Jang Yoo Jin asked, backing away toward the hidden doors behind the throne. “Don’t you want to know? Who you are, why you are like this, and what I’ve done to wrong you… I can tell you everyth-.”
“Forget it.” He raised his hand. “I don’t know, but I’m fine with just eliminating you.”
It’s that person again. He turned to face her. Black dress? It was odd for some reason.
“I told you to move out of the way.” He swept his arm again, but in an instant, she was behind him.
He felt her palm on his back.
Then he froze as thick ice crept all over him.
“Orabeoni.” She said weeping heavily. “Please go from this world without this person’s blood on your hands. This woman, who never saw things from your point of view, is wearing black again today. Because this time, it’s my own hands that will be stained with blood.”
“Do you think something like this can kill me?” He asked, not even paying attention to what she said.
“No. But it will keep Orabeoni here. However, when I leave this world, Orabeoni will be free as well.”
She turned to face Jang Yoo Jin, but he had run out through the hidden throne doors.
She turned one last time to look at Geom Jeong, then she hastened away, after Jang Yoo Jin.
Hayan found him almost immediately.
He stumbled as he ran away, and she didn’t even waist time.
She raised a hand toward him, freezing him in place.
That cowardly position, crawling away for his life, was the perfect way to die.
She squeezed her hand into a tight fist, hardening the ice, crushing him in every way.
Then she opened her palm.
The ice melted away, and he crumpled to the floor, dead.
“We are giving each other the most painful death, Jeonha.”
“Noonim!” She heard Seung Jae’s voice drawing closer.
“Be a good King, Seung Jae-ah. Forgive us for leaving you with a mess.” Geom Jeong had killed every single person he had met on his way to the throne room.
“You’ve always been clever, so we will leave it to you.” She left before he reached them.
The White Mountains…
And so, for the clueless ones who went up the White mountain to kill a deity, luck was on their side.
The deity wanted to die.
She hadn’t even been on the mountain when they arrived, but she had appeared back, just in time, while they insolently searched through her house.
She changed back to a white hanbok.
For once in her life, the colour had two meanings.
People always cloaked the dead in white, and they themselves wore white to mourn.
She would wear white for both those reasons, this night.
She picked the pebbles and began tossing them into the lake…
Geom Jeong felt the ice melt.
The shadows were leaving, all his memories and reasoning coming back.
He realized all that had happened.
Jang Yoo Jin was dead.
Hayan was gone.
He himself was going.
He looked at his hands as they faded into light.
So many hurtful events.
He didn’t want to remember a single thing…
The inauguration ceremony was gloomy. The ministers, officials, nobles and other attendees acted properly and with respect to the new King.
However, most of them believed he was an evil person who had killed the Royal family and numerous Palace servants.
The servants and guards within the Palace were depressed, because they knew the truth, but were sworn to secrecy.
They hated to see the new King suffering for what he hadn’t done.
Then there were the mass punishments.
A Grand Priest and his son were imprisoned.
The entire Palace magical body, except a select few, were executed.
The rest, along with all priests and shamans, were banished from the Capital.
Several ministers and officials were executed as well, earning the young King his title of ‘Bloodthirsty King’.
People also became suspicious, when the King arranged for a huge dragon statue to be erected in the Palace.
It was a monument to the strength of the deities, but the people didn’t know that.
Many believed he kept the souls of his victims in the statue, to give himself powers…
Seung Jae was not bothered by all their assumptions and silent accusations.
Hiding the truth was the best for the Kingdom.
He would rewrite history, destroying any information about the deities.
The problem had begun when people began to depend fully on unnatural powers for everything.
Eondoeg Mun would suffer, but would gradually stand on her own feet.
Every year after that, on that memorable day, he would secretly go to the Foggy mountains near Nam Guk, gazing up at it from the shadows.
He had only stayed there for a day, but the memory was still clear.
Training with Lord Geom Jeong when he had returned that last evening…
“Hyeong-nim, are you fine?” He presently asked the silent black hill.
“You and the others have to be happy, wherever you are. Be born again. Live good lives, lacking nothing. I still miss you all…”
He stood for a long time, then returned to where the Head guard waited to take him back.
He hadn’t returned after that.
It had been his sixty-second year going there, and he was currently in his eighties.
He had died before the next one.