Chapter Fifty Four- The Calm Before The Storm
The Black Mountain…
“Omo! Gabjagi! (So sudden!)” Hye Yeon jumped in fright as the strange man stepped out of the shadows.
She Da Yeong and Chun Hwa had just appeared before Tae Jun’s home on the black mountain.
“Who- who are you?” Da Yeong asked, a bit confused about who else would be on the black mountain.
Yet, there was something familiar about him…
“Ah. I see you have met Chin Suh.” Their eyes all darted to the person who was now standing behind the stranger.
“This is the first Black Deity.”
Da Yeong, Chun Hwa and Hye Yeon had kept staring at Chin Suh in awe, so he left, choosing to walk around in freedom…
Something he hadn’t felt in a long time.
In his absence, Tae Jun explained everything about him to the others.
When he got to the part about his father being Jang Seung Jae, all hell had broken loose.
“No- no way… Jeonha? Seung Jae-ah?” Chun Hwa exclaimed in awe.
“Ahem. Please address the name with respect.” Tae Jun.
“Daebak!” Hye Yeon.
“Wah! I’m having goosebumps. It is strange.” Da Yeong.
“Ye.” Tae Jun had thought about it and it made sense. “We didn’t recognize him because, of course, we weren’t present when he was a youth in this lifetime, and we never saw him as a grown man in our past lives. ”
“Wah! That mischievous person was sly and suddenly became our senior.” Hye Yeon said, still in shock.
“Ya! Who are you calling a mischievous person?” Tae Jun attacked. Chun Hwa placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Jeosonghamnida!” Hye Yeon bowed, remembering she had been talking about his father, the King.
“Heol. This is complicated.” Da Yeong again. “Jeonha should definitely never remember his past life…”
Tae Jun had continued his explanation after that, all the while casting smothering looks at Da Yeong, who kept blushing furiously and turning away… only to look back again.
Tae Jun caught himself smiling fondly a few times, and caught several knowing looks from Chun Hwa, who seemed extremely amused.
Ignoring him, Tae Jun had finished, then Chun Hwa had proposed his plans.
“Attack as humans?” Tae Jun asked skeptically, when Chun Hwa finished.
“Ye. It would be the smartest move. I suspect that Seong Su Min’s barrier is designed to keep the deities out. I’m not sure if it’s possible, but if we could give up our powers, we could pass into the Palace. You know the Palace like the back of your own hand. A silent assassination makes the most sense.”
“Ye. But wouldn’t Seong Su Min be warned by his evil powers?” Da Yeong asked, but Chun Hwa smiled smugly.
“Ani. He is one of our targets.” Tae Jun’s eyes widened in realization and Chun Hwa nodded. “The laws of magic. He cannot foresee his own fate.”
“Very intelligent.” Chin Suh, who had silently returned a while ago, said suddenly.
They all jumped, and the other three looked at Tae Jun in surprise.
No one ever snuck up on him.
“Tch. I don’t need to remind you that he was a heavenly being, who became the first black deity, do I?” He sulked.
“We understand, we understand.” Chun Hwa said in amusement. “It’s just refreshing for a change…”
“Ahem.” Chin Suh interrupted. “Sang Yoo Jin is probably closer to his goals by now… I suggest we get to work as well.”
Lord Sang Yoo Min’s residence…
Min So Yeon paced uneasily in the moonlight, his footsteps falling silently, more out of habit than deliberately.
Earlier in the evening, he had snuck into Lord Sang’s household to see Sang Hye Yeon for the last time, but he had been too late.
Daegun had told him everything.
Everything about who they both had been, how their paths crossed, everything about the deities.
However, he had refused to tell him who the other three were.
“…. It’s their own secret to tell…” Daegun had said, but So Yeon had figured it out for himself.
He guessed immediately, when Lady Sang had suddenly come to spend time with him, seeming happy, but extremely sad.
Since he knew Daegun was leaving as well, he had made an assumption.
An assumption that seemed right, when he considered the personality of the Green deity Daegun had told him about.
Now he missed her.
He missed Daegun.
He actually missed all of them…
“Ya! Stop pacing! Tsk! So distracting…” It was Lee Ju Won.
After the King’s troops had arrived, Lord Kim had sent him to stay here.
Being an excellent swordsman as well, he had been aware of Min So Yeon’s presence almost immediately.
Rather than attack him, Ju Won had sat down and So Yeon had begun pacing…
They mutually understood that they were in the same position.
Da Yeong had done the same thing to Ju Won.
Plus he too had somehow gotten used to all of them as well…
“I wonder where they are…” So Yeon mused out loud, speaking for the first time since he arrived.
“They are on those four mountains. That’s what makes it harder. You can heal if the one you love is happy… But how can I leave our Da Yeong on a lonely mountain?” He beat his chest in frustration.
So Yeon halted his steps, looking down at him. He was a little taken aback that a man would admit so much.
Perhaps if he had been more open with Lady Sang…
“Tsk! How can I have something in common with such an open person.” He muttered to change the subject.
“Ya. Being a little open would help you, Ima. You probably didn’t tell Sang Agashi how you feel, right?”
“‘Ima’?” It was a particularly informal to address someone you were comfortable with, which wasn’t the case.
Besides, So Yeon was two years older.
He glared down at him.
“Should I just kill you and end it? And why are you talking about something you don’t know about?” Ju Won stood up, challenging him openly.
“Ani. I’m sure you didn’t tell Sang Agashi how you feel? At least I was very clear with Da Yeong-ah. I totally proved I was a man and told her everything!”
“Tch! Which man?! Daegun just took her away from you.” So Yeon suddenly stood straighter, his shoulders raised. “Besides, did you do ‘that’?” He had leaned in.
He leaned in closer to whisper. “Kiss. If you haven’t done that, you’re not yet a man.” He said swaggering away, then stopped cold at the sight before him.
“Tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk.” Da Yeong and Hye Yeon, both dressed in black yungboks, stood, arms crossed, shaking their heads at the spectacle.
“Aigoo… So this is what happens after we leave.” Hye Yeon said.
Torn between joy and shame, the two men turned red, but still hurried over.
“Ya!” Hye Yeon protested at once. “Look at the difference in address! Hye Yeon. Call me Hye Yeon-ah right now! Or even Jagiya!”
So Yeon leaned away, eyes wide in shock. Then he laughed.
“Jeosonghamnida, Hye. Yeon. Ah.”
Hye Yeon smiled widely, the two staring at each other in silence.
“Ahem.” Da Yeong coughed, breaking the silence. “Jeosonghamnida. Seeing Min So Yeon-Ssi saves us from sneaking into the Palace.” She faced the two men and bowed.
Hye Yeon joined her and she continued.
“Orabeoni. Min So Yeon-Ssi. The deities request your help, for a very dangerous mission to the Capital…”
Southern Palace, Nam Guk..
Four days earlier…
Sang Yoo Jin’s troops had become more of a hindrance than Jang Tae Yong had anticipated, so he thought of the best way to handle them.
He had another secret meeting with Kim Dae Hyeon…
“Their leaders care too much for their positions.” He pointed out to Kim Dae Hyeon.
“Ye. The leader of the troops assigned to my house was being overtly cautious. He was afraid of offending me.”
“The men that came to the Palace didn’t even dare react, even though the Head guard was deliberately being offensive. They made noise at the gates, but were silent inside.”
“We need to threaten their positions.”
“Ye. We need to create a scandal.”
The next day, the Gisaeng were invited to the biggest feast Nam Guk had seen in years. The Head of the Gyobang, Wol Mae, rumoured to have the best voice in Nam Guk, shepherded her girls to the Palace, donned in their best finery.
Their instruments were well polished, powdered and oiled, the players dressed extra specially.
Honoured guests at the feast, which was thrown by Taesangwang Jeonha, were all the nobles in Nam Guk, and the leaders of the King’s troops.
The leaders of the troops were given the most honourable positions, sitting by Taesangwang’s right hand, where the higher ranked nobles normally sat.
“Ah. This is indeed an honorable occasion. We have reached a high point in our career.” One of the leaders commented at the beginning of the feast.
“Tch! Don’t be fooled. Taesangwang Jeonha must want a favour from us. What other reason does he have to do this?” The second one pointed out.
The event, which was called the ‘Welcome ceremony’ for the King’s men, began near evening.
The two heads of the troops and their major officials, sat proudly on the the right side of the throne.
The gisaeng went round pouring wine and entertaining the men, while others performed.
“Yongam~.” One of the younger gisaeng ladies practically sang the title.
She grabbed the arm of one of the troop heads, slyly smiling at her friend, who was attending to the other troop head.
The man already looked a little too happy.
Turning her attention back to the first of the two, she smiled into his eyes.
“Yongam~.” She stylishly snaked her fingers around the neck of the wine jar, while drawing closer to him.
“Jeonha has ensured that only the best wine has been served here.” She poured the wine into the small bowl, making sure the rich liquid splashed in like bells.
Then she lifted the bowl to her mouth, taking the usual sip, to show it wasn’t poisoned.
Then she lifted it to him.
Kang Ji Seok, Head of the troops assigned to the Southern Palace, took the offered wine from her hands. Then he leaned down and whispered boldly in her ears.
“There is no wine that would taste as sweet as you.” He gulped down the contents of the bowl, then handed it back to her.
Then he reached around her waist and pulled her closer. His hand moved expertly to the front of her hanbok, catching the ribbon in front and tugging.
The jeogori she wore swung open.
“Ya, Daegam!” She coyly protested, drawing the two edges of the jeogori shut.
“Come. Pour me more wine.” He cajoled.
She blushed prettily and he was lost.
It was the most exquisite wine he had ever tasted.
The beauty of the lovely gisaeng who clung to his arm.
The tinkling sound as the wine constantly flowed into his bowl.
Her twinkling eyes and musical laughter, with the subtle hints of much more to come…
It was the best night Kang Ji Seok had ever spent.
The Gyobang, Nam Guk…
Kang Ji Seok awoke to the morning noises of the gyobang.
There were women speaking loudly and shamelessly about their lewd acts of the night.
Servants boldly gossiped about who had outdone whom.
Then there was the crude language…
Kang Ji Seok closed his ears, then took in his surroundings…
He jerked awake at once, noticing he was completely undressed.
Beside him was the beautiful gisaeng from the previous night, most of her hidden under the covers.
He tried to remember how they got to the gyobang, but he couldn’t remember anything.
Realizing how bright it was outside, he stood up, looking around for his clothes.
Finding them neatly folded on a nearby stool, he dressed quickly, hoping to silently leave the gyobang.
It was shameful for a noble of his rank, to be found in a gyobang in daylight.
This was why most noble men invited the gisaeng to their own homes, which had been his intent.
He left a ring of coins as payment for the sleeping girl, then stepped outside silently, hoping no one would notice him.
However, the moment the door slid open, all the servants and passing gisaeng, turned their attention to him.
“Ahem!” He cleared his throat, deciding that ignoring them was the best move.
He swung his silk cloak behind him and strutted amidst them, heading through the corridors, toward the exit.
But then, the whispers started…
“Omo! It’s him, right?”
“Ye. They showed up in the middle of the night… It was completely crazy!”
“I heard they were almost fully undressed.”
“Of course! Head Lady had to send us to find their clothes and belongings.”
“Daebak… They even stripped in the Palace and danced around. Ten noble men with no self respect.”
“Tch!” One of the older gisaeng boldly stared at his body from head to toe. “I wonder if he was any good in ‘that’ aspect… We should ask that gijibae…”
Walking out of the gyobang without breaking into tears, was the hardest thing Kang Ji Seok had ever done.
By mid afternoon, he had found out the full story…
Apparently, he and the other troop head, with all their high officials, had put on a drunken and extremely embarrassing display in the palace.
Then they had staggered drunkenly to several embarrassing locations.
He and two others had awoken in the gyobang.
The other troop head had awoken in a market stall.
One had even turned up near the river!
Kang Ji Seok knew Taesangwang had planned everything.
After all, only members of the King’s troops were affected. It was a glaring crime that the culprit wasn’t even trying to hide, because he knew…
The Southern Palace, Nam Guk…
“Hahahahahahahahaha!” Jang Tae Yong laughed hard, nearly knocking the tea vessel to the ground.
Beside him, Kim Dae Hyeon laughed as well. He looked up at the shamed faces before him.
Of course, he had not been surprised when the troop heads had come to ask for a favour…
Only Taesangwang had the power to stop the rumours from reaching the King’s ears.
“Aigoo! After your entertaining display, I prevented anyone from leaving Nam Guk. But what do we do? We have to open the gates sooner or later…”
“Jeosonghamnida, Jeonha! Please save us this once!”
They bowed to the ground, and he stood up, looking down at them.
As if to further show the difference in their levels.
“Ah. But you know, don’t you? That I planned everything…” He looked at Kang Ji Seok. “Especially you. You’re the clever one. However, even if you prove my guilt, you would be too much of an embarrassment to hold any worthwhile position-” A cruel pause. “-if Jeonha hears.”
“Please save us!” They both bowed again. He smiled at Kim Dae Hyeon, then faced them again.
“That is of course very easy. Since Sang Yoo Jin took the throne, the residents of Nam Guk have become loyal to just two people. I and Lord Kim.
“Your secret is safe, as long as you come over to my side.”