Chapter Fifty Seven- Sacrifice
Back at the Palace…
Hooded figures made their way in pairs to all the mini palaces, and to other major locations in the Palace.
In each place, the guarding soldiers all left to battle at the prisons.
Each time, a flaming arrow was shot into the air, and the hooded figures retreated, before the soldiers could find the source of the arrows.
Hidden quietly in the center of the Palace, Hye Yeon and one of Lord Kim’s men sat in the Palace gardens, observing all the flaming arrows that were shot into the air.
In Hye Yeon’s hands was a crude map of the Palace.
They watched for the arrows, crossing off their locations on the map, until they saw one last arrow.
“Red cloth.” Hye Yeon observed.
Rather than blue, a bright red fabric flapped from its tail.
Hye Yeon hastily glanced down at the map.
“The Moon Palace. Heol… Such a coward.” She got up quietly. “Let’s go.”
And they both headed to the Palace prisons, where they were to meet and point the soldiers in the right direction.
At the prisons, Yoo Chung Jae led the soldiers well, as he waited for Hye Yeon and her companion to arrive with directions…
Meanwhile, at the Moon Palace, the soldiers were throne into brief confusion, as a few of their own men turned on them, each ‘betrayer’ taking quite a few of the ones surrounding him, down at once…
Tae Jun and Da Yeong had watched the flaming arrow with the red fabric flapping from its tail.
“The Moon Palace…” Anger, blacker than anything he had ever felt, surged through him.
Sang Yoo Jin, who had killed his mother, just to get to him, was now hiding in his mother’s Palace…
He bowed in the direction of the Moon Palace, speaking with a confidence he didn’t particularly feel.
“Omma Mama. Before dawn, I will eliminate Sang Yoo Jin.
Tae Jun considered heading there at once, but he had been entrusted with another task, one that might turn the tides in their favor, quicker…
They made their way to the Hall of Kings
Tae Jun wasn’t sure why his father hated the Hall of Kings, but he was sure it had something to do with Jang Seung Jae.
His father didn’t know he had been Jang Seung Jae in his past life, yet subconsciously, he was affected by his past feelings.
Seung Jae had loved the deities.
The Luminescent stones were a constant reminder that they didn’t exist anymore, and the absence of the stones had begun with his father, Jang Yoo Jin’s portrait…
Dressed as bluebird for the first time in a long while, Tae Jun and Da Yeong arrived at the Hall of the Kings.
There were no soldiers here, as he had predicted. Sang Yoo Jin also did not like this place.
The Luminescent stones on the walls were a constant reminder of the deities’ existence.
Then, fairly recently, in this same place, he had met the deities for the first time in this lifetime.
It was not Sang Yoo Jin’s ideal hiding location…
Which worked for Tae Jun and Da Yeong.
As they quietly snuck inside, both of them thankful for the familiar bluish light, Tae Jun remembered what Pal Wol had told him…
The previous day…
Jang Tae Yong had summoned Pal Wol, while Tae Jun had still been in the Palace.
Pal Wol had explained part of their original plan to him, beginning with how she discovered the restless souls of the dead magical body, trapped beneath the Palace courtyard by Seong Su Min…
“They constantly cried out for vengeance, their hate, a constant presence in the Palace courtyard. When Sang Yoo Jin aimed to assassinate the King, we formed a small plan. Jeonha left the central Palace, intending to unleash their hate, when Sang Yoo Jin took the throne.
“I made the necessary preparations before I left. I was to free the spirits of the dead magical body, so they could have their revenge. But Sang Yoo Jin had a hidden card.”
“What was it?” Tae Jun asked, already suspecting the answer.
“The Dark priest, Seong Su Min.” Her hands clutched furiously at the black, red and white chima of her gown.
“With his presence around Sang Yoo Jin, he could easily counter any attack. There was also the fact that he had been the one to trap the magical body, so they were bound to him. Sang Yoo Jin might be their enemy, but Seong Su Min is their ultimate enemy… The one who took their lives, and still dares to use them, even after more than a hundred years of death. As we speak, he has sent them to find and open the deities’ hidden gates again.” She glanced at him anxiously, but he replied calmly.
“We are aware of this.” Even his father silently sighed in relief.
Jang Tae Yong knew his son would never fall for the same move twice, but he had still been worried.
Pal Wol continued, bowing.
“The plan became useless after that, but in this war, this servant can help eliminate Seong Su Min, at least.” Pause. “Ani. This humble servant begs Daegun to leave Seong Su Min to her.” She bowed even deeper.
“You… Did you dip your hands in black magic?” Tae Jun knew about her past with Seong Su Min…
Her hatred of the dark priest probably surpassed all of theirs put together.
She answered him.
“This servant only did what she had to.” She replied bowing.
“Dark magic always requires a sacrifice. If you kill a human for magic, you will be executed. If you don’t, dark magic will demand your own life as payment. Either way, you will die if you use it…”
But Pal Wol’s calm exterior remained, her fisted hands, the only proof of her emotions.
“This servant is fully aware of all consequences.” She replied with another perfect bow.
Tae Jun glanced up at the throne, but his father stared above both of them.
He understood that look.
His father had already tried to discourage Pal Wol’s plan, but had failed.
He looked back at her.
“What is it that you want to do?” He asked.
“Ye, Daegun. Before I left the central Palace, I buried a seal in the courtyard. This was so I could call to the dead magical body from afar, before I awakened them.
After Seong Su Min raised them again, I activated that seal and carried out a ritual that will bring at least, a few of them here. I met with them, spoke with them.” She shut her eyes, as if in remembrance…
The Night Seong Su Min raised the dead…
Pal Wol had been ready at the Palace gates, when four of the dead magical body had arrived.
Their appearances had been distorted by evil, the aura surrounding them, completely dark and void.
“What is it you want from us?” One of them had asked. She bowed.
“I want to release you and give you a chance at vengeance.” She replied, but in a split second, he was directly in front of her, and with a swing of his arm, she was flung into the nearest wall.
She fell to the ground, some blood trickling from her mouth.
The spirits advanced.
“Don’t insult us. We were the strongest of priests and shamans in our day. We know about you and Jang Tae Yong’s plans. Do you think we will be used by anybody from that bloodline? He may be good, but he is a direct descendant of Jang Yoo Jin.”
“Then, are you going to do the dark priest’s bidding and remain trapped in the Palace courtyard again?!” She challenged.
That earned her another slap into the wall, but she fought off the pain and momentary daze, staggering to her feet.
“You were powerful men, who couldn’t predict their own fates. Your deaths led to the death of the deities in the past, and your awakening now, will lead to their deaths again.”
They circled around her, and she could feel the anger and hate rolling off them.
She stood her ground.
“Seong Su Min-” they growled at the name, so she changed her choice of words at once. “The dark priest will use you again, and trap you again. You cannot foresee your own fate, but I can. After the Shadow is released, you will be trapped once more. Then you will become mere tools to destroy any entity who stands against him, trapped again after each victory. He will continuously use you without remorse.”
She sank into a full bow.
“I do not insult your strength or personalities, but it will be more beneficial to you, to help us. At the very least, even if you aid a descendant of your enemy, you will get your revenge, and most importantly, your freedom.”
She sighed in relief when the anger in their aura dropped ever so slightly.
“You are a strong shaman, the descendant of someone we recognize. We will trust you to keep your word.” One of them spoke. “State your plan and we will listen. However, know that it will cost you. No one controls the dead without paying a price. Even Seong Su Min paid with his life, despite his many human sacrifices, and he will pay again…”
She hesitated only a second, before bowing deeper.
“I- I am aware of all consequences.”
“Then state your plan.”
“Ye. I did plan to release you to destroy Sang Yoo Jin, but you are bound by your blood to the dark priest.”
“Are you telling us that which we already know?”
“Jeosonghamnida. I realized why I couldn’t win against the dark priest. I was only giving a little with every ritual I performed. I am now willing to give my life if necessary. I will release you as planned, but I will give up something else, something that will break the blood tie and make you strong enough to face him…”
Back to the day before…
Pal Wol snapped out of her memories, telling the King and Daegun everything, except the details of the plan and how it involved her.
“They want vengeance, but they are bound by their blood, which was sacrificed for evil, so I will break that blood tie and release them, giving them the powers they need.” She had already given up most of her powers…
She would barely be able to complete the ritual.
“And how will you do all this?” Tae Jun asked, his own hands fisted. But she merely bowed again.
“Please do not demand a direct answer from this servant.” She sat up. “Within the Palace, in the Hall of the Kings, I had buried another seal. An ancient cursed seal.
“This seal was hidden so I could release them, but I can’t activate it from here anymore.” Her powers could no longer go that far.
“I only need Daegun to unearth the seal, and it will be activated. That should eliminate Seong Su Min.”
There was a long uncomfortable silence before Tae Jun reacted at all.
He stood up and turned his back to them.
“I will do as you have requested. I will give you my gratitude when I return.” Even as he said it, he knew this might be the last time he would see Pal Wol.
The one who had been called the daughter of Light in the past…
With one last glance at her, he left the Nam Guk Palace, vanishing back to the Black Mountain…
Tae Jun and Da Yeong walked to the center of the hall, crouching to their knees to study the ground.
“We are looking for anywhere on the ground, where the earth was recently disturbed.”
After a few minutes of searching, they found a rough patch of earth.
“Ther-!” Da young screeched in excitement, but Tae Jun had placed a hand over her mouth.
“Aish, jinjja!” He admonished. “You may have regained your memory as the White Deity, but you didn’t change at all!” She yanked his hand away
“Ya, Orabeoni!” She said loudly.
“You, you you…” He pointed a finger at her. “Still talking loudly.”
“That’s because, a normal human cannot hear through those doors… Orabeoni is worried, because Orabeoni has supernatural hearing.”
“Ani. We only have a shadow of our powers.” He felt truly human, which he wanted, and yet, he felt odd without his powers…
He was sure they all did.
He glanced back at the rough patch of earth, clawing at it with one hand.
“It makes sense for a normal person to be cautious in this setting.”
“Ani! Even though Orabeoni doesn’t possess the powers anymore, you subconsciously still think like you do. I myself will probably continue to go out into the snow, wearing a simple hanbok, until the biting cold reminds me that I’m now huma-.”
Tae Jun gently placed a finger to her lips, and she fell silent at once.
“Shhhhhhhhh!” He leaned in slowly, and she turned slightly red.
He smirked and she punched his arm.
“Ya, Orabeoni!” She whispered furiously.
“Ah. You’re finally whispering.” He teased as he brushed the side of her face.
They silently stared at each other, knowing the outcome of this night would determine the direction of their lives…
They each turned away, after precious seconds, and resumed digging in silence.
The tips of Tae Jun’s fingers brushed something that felt like paper, and he pulled his hand away, as if he had been burned. The force of the power that emanated from the contact, was unbelievable.
“Was Pal Wol always this powerful? I think I found it.”
Drawing his sword, he stabbed it into the ground like a spade, then pushed up the disturbed patch of earth, spraying soil around.
The yellow seal, brownish from the soil, came out of the ground.
They could barely make out the red characters on it, which read: ‘Release’.
It burst into flames, almost at once…
The Southern Palace, Nam Guk…
Pal Wol and Eun Bi, her daughter, prayed quietly in the Palace temple.
The only sounds were the occasional click of the beads they both counted, and Eun Bi sighing repeatedly.
Pal Wol was about to move to her next bead, when her fingers paused suddenly.
She felt the force of power from the Central Palace.
She forced down the sudden feeling, speaking calmly to her daughter.
“Eun Bi-ah. Go to our chambers and bring out all the ancient prayer scrolls.” Those should take her a while to gather. “Take them to Lee Hae Won and give them to her.”
Lee Hae Won was the Shaman studying under her.
“Mianhamnida, Omma. Can I do it tomorrow?” Eun Bi shot a worried glance at her mother.
Eun Bi’s shamanic powers had awakened, but knowing her mother didn’t want her to have them, she had hidden the fact, asking the same Lee Hae Won to suppress her powers.
Still, throughout that day, she had felt extremely uneasy, and never wanted to leave her mother’s side.
She somehow believed that if she remained with her mother through the night, all will be well. But…
“Go now, you impertinent child! I need her to perform an important ritual!”
“Y- ye, Omma.” She bowed, casting another worried look at her mother, then ran from the temple.
Pal Wol collapsed as soon as she was out of sight.
“Mianhe, Eun Bi-ah. I know you felt it. Omma knows your powers have awakened, but you can’t be here right now…”
She could feel the pull from the Central Palace.
She had given up her powers to make the dead magical body stronger than Seong Su Min, but it won’t break the blood tie.
Blood for blood…
Now she would give her life…
The Palace courtyard…
Trapped for a hundred and fifty years, the magical body was finally free, with one goal in mind…
Destroy Seong Su Min.
They would have liked to destroy Sang Yoo Jin as well, but he was possessed by an entity much greater than they were.
Seong Su Min was enough of a prize for them…
Seong Su Min jerked up at the sudden dark aura that approached the Moon Palace.
He ran to Sang Yoo Jin’s temporary chambers, sliding the door open.
“Jeonha! Please come with me, away from this Palace… Something powerful approaches.”
But he found himself outside on the rough ground, on his knees, bowing deeply before Sang Yoo Jin, for the first time since they met.
“Jeonha?” He tried to raise his head, but it was forced back down.
All he could see were the pair of mokhwa boots that were suddenly right in front of him.
“You were always so proud… Refusing to bow to me, or show any true respect.” Sang Yoo Jin began to pace in front of him.
“Tell me how it feels, now that you have been put in your place. Although I acknowledge that you were a loyal dog… Ye. A loyal dog always has its uses.”
“Jeonha!!!” Seong Su Min shook with pure anger, but try as he might, he couldn’t seem to get up from the humbling position.
He fisted his hands in anger, grasping handfuls of sand.
He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. After everything he had done…
“Did you think I would be fully overcome with gratitude to you?” Sang Yoo Jin interrupted his thoughts. “Know your place… The Shadow needed me, and I needed him. You were merely a tool-. Ani. A dog possessed by an entity and brought here to do its bidding.”
He walked away proudly, arms smartly behind his back.
“Did you come here to warn me of danger? The danger that approaches comes from Pal Wol, who has turned your own powers against you. A bit of the Shadow is still within you, but it will not save you.”
He headed toward the sliding doors, which was held open by two frightened eunuchs, but he was stopped in his tracks, when Seong Su Min fought off the invisible force that held him in place.
“Jeonha!!! You were not even meant to be King in this time!! I placed you where you are!! If I die, then so will you!”
He raised his staff, attempting to attack the King, who still had his back to him.
But in a split second, he was thrown across the ground, hitting the opposite wall.
“Jeonha!!!” He bellowed, as he dragged himself up.
“Silence! You think you put me on the throne? How proud. Without the Shadow, or my schemes and plots, you would be another pitiful dark priest, both now and in the past…” He turned away, heading back to the Queens’ chamber, which had been transformed to his temporary chambers.
Left alone outside, Seong Su Min turned quickly and ran.
He left the Moon Palace, heading toward the Palace main gates.
However, the Palace was big, and he was running from supernatural forces.
He had barely gotten anywhere, when the dark spirits of the dead magical body surrounded him.
Seong Su Min could not believe the sheer force of power emanating from them.
In his mind, he saw Pal Wol, as she had been in the past, kneeling before him, asking him to take her life, because he had destroyed everything she had ever loved…
Now, he imagined her laughing at how pathetic he was, compared to her hate…
Panicked, he attacked first, throwing evil spells at the dark entities that were slowly drawing closer.
He drew a circle with the base of his staff, placing four protective seals at the four directional points of the circle.
All to no avail…
“After all your human sacrifices, you fail to understand that sacrificing other people’s lives, cannot compete with sacrificing your own life…” One of the spirits said, stepping boldly into the circle.
“Pal Wol gave her own life to destroy you, combined with her strength as a Prime Shaman, our own strength and hate. You will die here…” Another added, and Seong Su Min realized there was no hope.
He stood to his full height, facing death squarely.
They reached for him, almost lovingly, and began to break every bone in his body, bending him in grotesque positions.
His screams were almost louder than their combined screams had been, as they had burnt to their deaths, a hundred and fifty years ago…
Tae Jun and Da Yeong moved quickly to the Moon Palace, where a full battle was in swing.
Their soldiers at the Moon Palace had been joined by Min Seo Yeon, Lee Ju Won, Yoo Chung Jae, and the other soldiers.
Still, the men were outrageously outnumbered, especially since they had used up their element of surprise.
He realized that the fastest way to help the soldiers who were on their side, and even the army in general, was to end this quickly.
Chun Hwa and Hye Yeon waited for the two of them outside the Moon Palace gates, Chun Hwa eliminating the occasional attacker.
“Tch! Aigoo… Did you learn anything at all? Do you even realize you might die here? So calm, when you don’t even have any combat skills.” Chun Hwa teased Hye Yeon, slashing down an approaching enemy.
“That’s because I never needed to… I had other means of protecting myself.”
“Ah. That means I can stop protecting you. Right?”
“Aish… So petty, jinjja.”
“Is he?” A voice asked behind her, and she jumped.
“Omo, gabjagi!” She bowed slightly. “Jeosonghamnida, Daegun.” Then, she muttered to herself: “Creepy, even as a human.”
“Ya! I heard that!” He rounded on her, but she had stepped behind Da Yeong.
“Jeosonghamnida!” She bowed again, then stopped suddenly. “Wait. How did Daegun hear what I said?”
He was taken aback at first, then his eyes widened.
They all turned to look at him curiously.
“Hyeong. Did your powers return?” Chun Hwa asked him. He held up a hand.
“There’s something wrong. Something we didn’t foresee.”
“Pal Wol’s plan eliminated the dark priest, right?” Da Yeong asked, and he nodded. “That means the barrier is gone-.”
Chun Hwa cut her off, voicing out their thoughts:
“So why isn’t Chin Suh here yet?”
Outside the Palace gates, the Shadow stood, within the body of Sang Yoo Jin, fully awakened.
On the floor before him was Chin Suh, completely bloodied.
The ceremonial sword was clutched uselessly in his right hand.
The Shadow approached.
“You wanted me to come to the surface, so you could face me, right?” He crouched down and grabbed a fist-full of Chin Suh’s hair.
“Now, allow me to show you true hopelessness…”