Chapter Fifty Eight – Sins
A little earlier…
Outside the Palace…
Chin Suh sat waiting, a bit impatiently, as their plans unfolded within the Palace.
He had tried to pass the barrier surrounding the Palace, but as expected, he couldn’t.
He could feel the presence of Seong Su Min within the Palace.
The same presence that had destroyed the deities, and led to the fall of Eondoeg Mun, a hundred and fifty years ago.
The same presence that had imprisoned him for decades, long before there was an Eondeog Mun…
It was with a large amount of pleasure that he felt Seong Su Min’s presence get swallowed away by the dark aura of the dead magical body.
Then they themselves vanished, and he couldn’t feel them anymore.
This meant the part of the Shadow which possessed Seong Su Min, would move to Sang Yoo Jin and awaken fully.
It was time for him to move!
The Moon Palace…
Sang Yoo Jin was caught in a mental battle… He was barely himself.
He possessed the power he always wanted, but there was something wrong.
Rather than give him strength, it was trying to consume him!
He could feel himself slipping away into a dark abyss.
As clear as day, he realized that he had also been used by the Shadow. It sought to completely consume him, living with his body.
Sang Yoo Jin fought it off.
He fought against the oppressive presence that seeped into him, refusing to believe that he would be swallowed up, losing himself completely.
“No!” He stood up, but his whole body seized up, and he fell to floor with a thud.
The contents of his table scattered across the floor.
Where were the guards and eunuchs? Why didn’t they come running?
Then the reality hit him.
‘They can’t hear me…’ His body was released and he got up hastily, heading for the doors, but…
‘Know your place.’ A voice mocked him, and it was as if he was surrounded by demons.
He stopped suddenly, turning in frantic circles, as dark smoky shadows floated around him. They whispered in his ears mockingly, breaking his resolve…
‘You could have remained King, but both opportunities were destroyed by your greed…’
‘Ani.’ Another voice. ‘Both times, you were not even the legitimate heir.’
‘Now you seek to control a power far beyond you…’ Another voice.
‘You seek to control the very first deity…’ Another voice.
‘Know your place…’ Another voice.
They slithered around him, repeating their words, their voices overlapping, hammering at his very soul.
He collapsed to the ground in defeat. There was no way he could fight off this entity.
For once, Sang Yoo Jin felt regret.
He should have stopped at being King.
Ani. Any fate was better than losing your body to this oppressive presence.
He would be neither dead nor alive, but trapped in his own body, a complete slave to the Shadow.
“I won’t allow it!” He struggled, reaching for a dagger, but he felt his wrist snap and he screamed in pain.
He was lifted off the ground and his last conscious thought was a shameful hope that the deities would come and save him…
Sang Yoo Jin’s body crumpled to the ground.
The royal hairpin in his graying hair fell to the floor, and the sangtu it held in place, came undone.
His hair fell in disheveled waves over his face, as the Shadow, Hwang Chul, opened his eyes, finally in a human body.
It was disorienting at first, but in mere seconds, Hwang Chul had full control of the lowly body he possessed.
“Finally. My life. My Throne. My Kingdom…” He shut his eyes, feeling everything… Knowing everything… Understanding everything… Feeling his raw power.
Using his mind, he could sense everything that was happening in the Palace and even beyond.
He sensed the four deities, weak as they were, and he smiled.
Then he sensed another presence.
An old enemy.
“Chin Suh.” He smiled even wider.
He stretched his arm out toward a sword, and it flew into his hand.
Then he vanished.
Outside the Palace…
It happened in an instant.
Chin Suh approached the Palace when he felt the barrier melt away.
He froze when he felt the sudden presence behind.
He hastily turned around, barely managing to block the powerful swing of his attacker’s left arm.
The force sent him skidding back a good distance.
He noted the white royal sleeping hanbok and the disheveled hair.
He noticed the sword swinging carelessly in his attacker’s right hand. Despite the appearance, he wasn’t fooled.
“Chin Suh. You recognized me.”
“No body else possesses that disgusting killing intent.”
The two ‘men’ stared at each other, the very air around them, dense with their power.
Chin Suh raised the sword.
The moment he had waited for was here.
He was holding nothing back.
Faster than any human eye could follow, he charged at Hwang Chul, but was shocked when Hwang Chul vanished right in front of him.
In the next split second, Hwang Chul had slashed his back with the sword.
Chin Suh ignored the searing pain and charged at him time and time again, but each time, he found no opening or weakness.
Instead, he came away with a new wound.
Now he was bleeding from several cuts.
That alone surprised him.
He was supposed to be healing, but he wasn’t.
Something was very different from the last time they fought…
“Are you wondering why you’re not healing? Tsk tsk tsk… This is why good won’t win against evil.” Hwang Chul appeared right next to him.
Chin Suh got away a little too late.
Hwang Chul continued.
“You hid away within that sword for centuries, looking for a ‘good’ way to handle me. I wasted away for the same length of time, but unlike you, I gathered power.” He appeared behind him.
Chin Suh stumbled away.
“Chin Suh. The heavenly being who made me, the first deity, spend centuries trapped without a void, hidden away behind a powerful gate crafted by Wang Shin himself…”
He appeared right in front of Chin Suh, slashing at him twice, before he successfully got away.
“I have imagined all the many ways I wanted to kill you, so many times. But what to do? You won’t survive for long…”
He appeared near Chin Suh again, but Chin Suh managed to block his attack.
However, Hwang Chul began to attack him seriously, slashing furiously at him.
Chin Suh fell to the ground, completely bloodied and barely conscious.
The ceremonial sword was clutched uselessly in his right hand.
Hwang Chul stepped on his hand with the heavy mokhwa boots, forcing him to release the sword in pain.
He bent down and picked the sword.
“You thought you could defeat me again, if you had this? Or is it because you took the deities powers?” He flung the sword aside.
“That blade is useless. The blood of my father, which was within it, has long faded away. And as for the deities’ powers which you possess, most of it has returned to me.
“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.” He vanished, bringing Chin Suh with him.
Chin Suh grunted as he was slammed into the rough roof of the Queen’s chambers.
Higher than the other buildings in the Moon Palace, he had a clear view of the battle.
He was slightly surprised that Hwang Chul could appear right into the Palace, but he pushed the thought away almost immediately.
The magic of the Palaces and hidden temples were designed to keep out a single deity.
Hwang Chul possessed the powers of all four.
Hwang Chul landed gently, his feet right next to Chin Suh’s head…
Tae Jun ran into the Moon Palace, the other three following closely behind. They easily eliminated any attackers, as they each confirmed that their powers had returned to them.
“Omo. This can’t mean something good, right?” Hye Yeon asked Chun Hwa, wide eyed, as she had just caused green vines to sprout up and capture a whole ton of attackers.
“I don’t think so.” He answered honestly, grabbing her hand and following after Tae Jun and Da Yeong.
Tae Jun was the first to notice.
The strange presence on the roof of his mother’s hanok.
He skidded to a halt, and the others stopped suddenly behind him, following the direction of his eyes.
It was definitely Sang Yoo Jin, but the aura was enough to scare them.
Chun Hwa actually stumbled back subconsciously.
Da Yeong and Hye Yeon hastily stepped behind Tae Jun.
Tae Jun’s eyes were centered on a more depressing sight.
“Ya. That’s Chin Suh, right?” The others centered on the near-lifeless form at the feet of Sang Yoo Jin.
There were surprised gasps all around, as the soldiers began to notice the presence on the roof.
“Jeonha!” Several of the protecting soldiers cried, as they increased their efforts to protect him.
The intruding soldiers were getting pushed back, as hopelessness began to set in.
On the roof, Hwang Chul smiled cruelly.
He raised an arm, swinging it to the side. All the opposing soldiers were flung aside in an instant, barely managing to regain themselves as their enemies attacked.
Hwang Chul focused on the deities.
He dropped his sword, then raised his right hand. All four of them were lifted off the ground, an invisible hand strangling them.
“Da Yeong-ah!” Tae Jun tried to reach for her, but failed, as all four of them struggled, their lives literally being squeezed out of them.
Their visions began to blur…
Chin Suh watched them helplessly. His consciousness fading.
At this rate, they would all die…
“I’ve failed…” He choked out.
“Yes you have.” Hwang Chul coldly stated. He stretched out his left arm, and his sword zoomed into it.
He raised it over Chin Suh.
“Your sins against me, will be paid for now.” He swung the sword at Chin Suh’s neck…
Chin Suh watched the sword approach. Normally, he would welcome it.
Giving his life would not have been a problem.
His eyes darted to the deities.
He had led them all here… Led them to their deaths.
The deities would die.
The people would suffer.
The whole Kingdom would fall to Hwang Chul’s darkness and evil.
It didn’t seem right…
‘I’ve failed…’ He repeated, this time, in his head, as the blade drew nearer, and he shut his eyes, ready for the impact…
Time seemed to stop, and he opened his eyes.
Everywhere became white.
‘So this is what true death feels like?’ He was suddenly kneeling in empty white space.
Then to his amazement, the light faded into a familiar space.
It was the temple where he had once relentlessly prayed to Wang Shin…
The very temple in which Wang Shin had finally visited him.
He bowed instinctively, and was not surprised when the usual gold clad guards appeared, and the curtain, this time gold, appeared before him.
“Chin Suh-ah. What are you doing here? Speak.”
“Jeosonghamnida, Wang Shin. You gave this servant the opportunity to face Hwang Chul again, after all this years. However-.” He bowed even lower. “However, this servant has failed.”
“Sigh. I suspected it was something like that. You will come to me when you have failed…”
“However, how can you come to me now, when you have not faced him like you should?”
Chin Suh raised his head a fraction, hope filling him.
“Wae? You seem surprised. Back then I said you would have a chance to face him, to wield the sword against him.”
“However, I never said which half of you would face him, nor did I specify how the sword would be wielded against him. Because you are still blaming yourself for the past, you are carrying an unnecessary weight in the presence.”
“The reason I chose the sword as your prison, and made it so you would have to find a way to get the sword to the black deity, do you understand it now?”
Everything seemed to fall into place for Chin Suh. He grinned, touching his head to the ground.
“Kamsahabnida, Wang Shin.”
He immediately found himself back in position, bloodied atop the roof, Hwang Chul’s sword approaching his neck.
He squeezed his eyes shut again…
Hwang Chul stepped back in surprise, as the sword struck the hard sloping roof.
Chin Suh had suddenly vanished.
Hwang Chul felt a searing pain in his right hand and turned to see it smoking…
On the ground, his hold over the deities had been released.
Tae Jun landed on his feet.
For some reason, he suddenly knew what to do. Chin Suh’s words repeated themselves in his head:
“If we don’t gamble our lives, we would have no chance of success…”
Tae turned to face the others, who stood behind him, and on their faces, was the same determination he probably wore on his.
“We have to transfer our powers to you and temporarily disappear..” Chun Hwa observed, and they all nodded.
Hye Yeon stepped forward first, placing a tentative palm on his chest.
He felt an unbelievable force flow into him, huge rings of green light surrounding him.
He slightly stumbled backward, but he held his ground.
Most of the soldiers fighting near them, saw the strange sight and ran, regardless of which side they were on.
The rest, which included Min So Yeon, Lee Ju Won and Joo Chung Jae looked on in awe for a few moments, before resuming the battle.
Either way, they stayed a considerable distance away from them.
Hwang Chul tried to attack them again, but it was as if a more powerful barrier surrounded them.
The green light finally faded into Tae Jun.
“All the best, Daegun.” Hye Yeon bowed, then vanished. As a last joke, she had left a particularly elaborate flower on his shoulder.
“Aish, tsk!” He could have sworn he heard her giggle.
He yanked it off in mild annoyance, just as Chun Hwa stepped forward.
He placed a hand on Tae Jun’s chest.
“Hurry. We will trust in you.” He said.
Strange characters surrounded by crisp blue light flowed from him, surrounding Tae Jun, then fading into him.
Again, he stepped backwards, but held his ground.
Chun Hwa nodded and Tae Jun nodded back.
Then Chun Hwa vanished as well.
Da Yeong stepped forward.
“Orabeoni…” She lifted her palm to his chest, but he caught her hand, and guided her palm to his cheek.
His other hand caressed her own cheek and she seemed to lean into his hand.
It was as if they stared at each other for an eternity, but mere seconds passed.
He broke the contact, guiding her palm to his chest.
White misty light surrounded them in a beautiful circle, spinning and becoming brighter and brighter, until they were completely blinded.
When the light faded, Tae Jun opened his eyes and Da Yeong was gone.
He fisted his hand over his chest, where her hand had been.
He turned to face Hwang Chul.
He opened his right hand and the sword, which Hwang Chul had tossed away outside the Palace, was suddenly in his hands.
It felt more powerful than usual.
Chin Suh was back inside it.
Tae Jun removed the blue dapho (overcoat) of his yungbok and tossed it aside.
This wasn’t a battle he could take lightly.
He was on the roof in an instant, facing Hwang Chul, the first deity.
Hwang Chul was a bit surprised, but he didn’t show it.
“Ah…” He mused aloud. “I thought Chin Suh would pay for his sins against me, but he went back to hide inside the sword. Does that mean you are taking his place, since you are half of him?”
“Did you completely lose your humanity? I committed a sin with the White Deity. Chin Suh committed a sin by breaking the heavenly law and using dark magic.” He stepped toward him.
“However, the greatest sinner is you. You took the powers Wang Shin gave you, and you corrupted them, oppressing and destroying the people you were supposed to protect. And now you seek a vengeance you don’t deserve.” He raised the sword.
“Let us go to a distant place and end this.”
A pause. Then…
“Hahahahahahaha!” Hwang Chul laughed. “Did you think I would follow you if you asked? In the past I followed Chin Suh, but now, I want to destroy the mortals you care about. Let us duel here and destroy them all.”
But Tae Jun simply shut his eyes in annoyance.
“That wasn’t a request.” In a split second, Tae Jun had grabbed his upper arm, and the two of them vanished…