Tales of the Kingdom (sample)

Tales of the Kingdom (sample)

A Story by Haeshin
"

Guardians of the Land of Saints protect the people from anything: Spirits, animals, demons, ghosts, curses, humans....

"

*All names are fashioned in the Korean language. Example:

 

'Youran' would be pronounced 'yoh-ran', 'Cheong-ryong' as 'chyong-ryong', and 'Baekho' as 'behk-ho'.

 

*Tales of the Kingdom is a world based on various aspects and legends of southeast Asia, but with Korean folktales at its center.

 

******************************************************************************

 

In most cities there were small shrines inserted here and there in various neighborhoods, all to minor gods. The five major deities that protected the Land of Saints were Cheong-ryong, Azure Dragon of the East, Jujak, Crimson Bird of the South, Baekho, White Tiger of the West, Hyeon-mu, Black Tortoise of the North, and Hwang-Ryong, Gold Dragon of the Center. As this was the Western provinces of the Land of Saints, Baekho's temples filled the shrine districts in these parts. Multiple shrines to a single god were interwoven with altars to the other four deities, and spread out to form one enormous compound that they called a district. In the center one pyramid-like temple stood bigger and higher than the rest.

 

“ Aw, man...” Junji sighed, more exasperated than tired out by the long, long, LONG staircase leading to the main temple. He hated climbing these steps, which seemed endless, and which he had to do at every major holiday, festival, and event that happened in Daegu, as the son of Jae Chunho. The most boring task in the world! Climb up, stand, be quiet, don't joke around, climb down. Good grief. “ Why here...and where's that pet of yours?”

 

“ Seijin is not a pet,” said Youran. Less exasperated, he was a couple of steps ahead of Junji. “ And he does as he likes.”

 

“ If that feathered furball was around we could just fly up.”

“ Are you tired?”

 

“ No...” Junji followed Youran onto the main floor. From here long bridges spread out and connected in a ring the sleeping quarters for priests, monks, and nuns, meal halls, the temple schools, prayer rooms, training grounds and whole gardens that sat on the tops of enormously tall columns. At the very center was a raised platform surrounded by no walls, just four marble pillars. There was an altar made entirely of silver and white gold, rare alabaster, marble, laid over with plain silk and a wooden bowl for offerings. “ I just thought that by becoming a Guardian I'd never have to walk up these damn stairs again!”

 

Seeing it coming, Youran dropped. A wooden staff swung over his head to hit Junji in the forehead with a thwack.

 

“ OW! Who...?!”

 

The end of the staff had a circle set on one end, and a bald old man dressed in an abbot's orange and yellow stole stuck it in Junji's face.

 

“ Still, still, still,” the priest said, his voice seeming to struggle up from the throat yet let the words flow freely once past. He narrowed watery gray eyes, pinching his face. Sunlight made the hairless skull gleam as if polished. “ Still you show such disrespect to Lord Baekho's temples and to yourself, acting in that careless manner of yours. When will you behave! Did you learn nothing from the temple schools?! Regardless of who comes by here, I continue to find all sorts of children much more well behaved than the way you are now. And are much younger!”

 

“ Ha!” Junji crowed, similar in spirit. “ You still teaching at the schools, you old fossil? You're an abbot! You don't have to do that anymore.”

 

“ I happen to ENJOY teaching youngsters,” the abbot snorted. “ Even hopeless, yet full of potential rogues like yourself. But no one has been as disruptive as you! What will this city come to when you succeed your father? Blessed wind we're doomed!” The abbot spun around on Youran so suddenly that Youran gave a little wary jump.

 

“ Welcome, young man, to the Wind Temple of Daegu. I am Abbot Kaeson, the head priest. How may I assist you, young one? You must need it so to come in the company of the wild child.”

 

“ Hey!” Youran put out an arm to stop Junji from advancing.

 

“ We are both in need of your help, Father.” Youran pulled down the cloak from his head and did the same to Junji. Their white hair was exposed. Youran picked up Junji's wrist and, for a moment, the characters for 'heaven' and 'earth' glowed in one of their eyes. Abbot Kaeson's eyes and mouth fell open.

 

“ No, it...” The old man revolved his head between Youran and Junji. “ It can't be...” He looked like he was about to fall to his knees, and going down hard onto a stone floor wasn't too smart. Youran quickly let go of Junji to catch the abbot when he fell, but Kaeson lurched straight up. Too fast. He startled to wobble backwards, then forwards, and finally stood unsteadily on his feet. Kaeson stared at Junji and said, “ YOU? Why you? Have the gods gone mad? You're a child in a grown youth's body!”

 

“ Well, thanks a lot for that word of confidence!” said Junji.

 

Kaeson turned almost desperate eyes on Youran. “ Truly? Him?” he said. “ No one else?”

 

Youran lifted and dropped his shoulders. “ It is not my choice, Father,” he told him.

 

“ I know this is blasphemy, but Lord Baekho must have gone mad! He could not have chosen yet a worse person to be a Guardian!”


[“ So reckless! Can't you do anything with common sense instead of idiocy?”

“ Junji! Why can't you ever think before you act? You're a hopeless boy.”

“ No wonder everyone's ahead of you. Aren't you capable of doing anything without playing around?”

“ Give it up. He'll always be that way.”

“ He's a perpetual child.”

“ Can't it be anyone BUT him?”]


“ ...I don't believe it.”

 

Youran turned. “ Junji?” he said. Junji had spun neatly about and was walking back to the steps, intending to go down.

 

“ Oh my,” said Kaeson. His features drooped with regret. “ I must have spoken too much.”

 

“ Junji!” Youran went after him. Kaeson watched with sad eyes.

 

It's true that Jae Junji has quite the reputation in all of Daegu for being a wild child, uncontrollable and impulsive.

 

“ Junji!”

 

Is it not, rather, the very definition of a child wanting attention?

 

It was difficult hurrying along a steep staircase, so how could Junji travel down so fast? Youran felt he was going so slowly. At this rate Junji would get away from him quickly. He called out, “ Junji, wait!” But Junji did not wait. Youran continued to pursue him all the way down the temple stairs.

 

And not the wrong kind that children come to hate.

 

At last Junji reached the bottom of the stairs and touched his feet on the flagstones. Youran jumped the last couple of steps and had to run so that he could catch Junji by the arm. “ Junji!”

 

“ Enough.” Junji pulled his arm away. “ Go find someone else to be your partner.”

 

“ Junji. Turn around.”

 

Without meaning to he did. “ What"”

 

Wham! A straight punch snapped Junji's head backward. Pain burst in the bone of his nose, startling him so that he fell until his rear rammed against the ground. That hurt too! Youran towered over him.

 

“ How pitiful that you should give up so soon,” Youran said. “ I've seen the opposition you face myself, but it hasn't even been half a day. Where's the spirit you had for being a Guardian? Or was it really just an opportunity to get out of the house for you? If that is the case, then everyone was right. You're just a child who happened to be chosen, but you're not the one. How in the world can a child such as you be the one to protect people in ways they can't protect themselves? There is no strength in you!”

 

“ Wha"Now wait a minute!” Junji scrambled to his feet. “ I just...!”

 

Youran's one eye was glaring intensely. “ Just what?” he demanded. “ Why do you want to become a Guardian? Just for the freedom? The adventure? The concept of a Guardian isn't to enjoy oneself. A Guardian is a protector. Do you really want to be one?”

 

“ Yeah I do!” Junji exclaimed. He was starting to build up a rage. “ I do wanna become one. I seriously have no idea why, but I do. It's like you said, I think about it but no matter what, I just don't feel like I don't want to become a Guardian. It feels like this is just the way I am. The problem isn't whether I want to become a Guardian or not, I just wanna hear someone say that I CAN do it, not that I'm a reckless little kid who can't.”

 

“ Of course you can do it.”

“ ...Huh?”

 

Youran repeated, “ Of course you can do it. I believe you can be a Guardian. The problem is whether you yourself believe the same thing.” He gave Junji's shoulder a pat. “ Believe in yourself. If you can't do that, then how can you expect others to do the same?”

 

Junji stared at him. Has this guy said that before? He said, “ You know you have an abnormally deep trust in someone you just met? Do you believe in this Guardian stuff that much?”

 

“ What are you talking about?” Youran asked. “ This is just the way I am.” He turned sideways so that Junji could see the temple steps. “ So do you want to try this again? And please don't hesitate a second time. I don't like climbing long steps either.”

 

“ ...Sure.” How strange it was to be told the words he'd always wanted to hear by a stranger. Junji would've preferred his father or someone he knew, a person that had said the words he didn't want to hear for most of his life. Junji smiled to himself. “ Let's go.” But like Youran said, how could Junji expect others to believe in him when he himself didn't? He had to work on that.

 

So, again, they climbed the stairs. Abbot Kaeson was in the same place where they'd first met him, looking a little worried. He came forward towards Junji, but Youran made a silent gesture to please keep quiet. Raising bushy eyebrows, Abbot Kaeson retraced his step and placed both hands on his staff.

 

“ So, what was the plan here again?” said Junji.

 

The wind breathed strong enough to make a string of small bells tinkle. Youran said, “ First, I believe that Baekho wants to meet you.”

 

“ Baekho?!”

 

Youran ushered Junji to the raised platform. “ Up, up,” he said. People stopped to look at them out of curiosity and surprise at the white hair. Abbot Kaeson climbed the steps but did not step onto the platform. What, he wondered, was going to happen?

 

Streams of air spiraled towards the altar in the center of the platform, invisible except for the way they rippled like water. Stronger, totally unseen buffets of air puffed out from the platform so that the monks plant their feet to stay firm on the floor of a really high-up temple. Leaves came undone from the small groves of the temple and were carried in swooping curves to the platform, slapping and slipping against the rounded surface of the four pillars. Youran and Junji squinted their eyes, raising an arm for a cover, as bits of dust were thrown into the mix.

 

The streams of wind mixed with streaks of white to form a visible human shape, then they came together at the altar and gained color, solid textures. They materialized a young man barely older than Youran or Junji, not a full grown man but certainly not a adolescent child yet to grow to his full height, lean, with thick white hair woven into a single braid, the pale color seeming to melt into the pale bronze skin. He was dressed in normal clothes, or the bottom half of him was. The top half had been taken down to hang from the waist like a long skirt, baring a torso and forearms wrapped in white strips of cloth.

 

He sat with one leg lifted to perch a foot on the edge of the altar, the other half dangling, half stretched out. The youth's face was somber, clear, with a pair of bright, fathomless silver eyes. Abbot Kaeson recognized the youth from various paintings, carvings, and other depictions of a particular deity.

 

“ Lord Baekho,” he whispered. The abbot lowered himself clumsily to his knees. Others were faster, and more expressive; they flung themselves down on the floor, arms outstretched before them.

 

“ ...Human worship,” said Baekho. Leaning forward he breathed a sigh through his nose. “ Sometimes, unnecessary.”

 

“ ...This is Baekho?” Junji said to Youran. He'd expected more of a performance, maybe a huge wind storm to demonstrate the god's power and remind them all that they were but insignificant little mortals whose lives were at the whim of the gods. This was so anticlimactic! So painstakingly plain for a major deity. Baekho should be appearing as a giant man, not someone...normal-sized. “ The Baekho? Lord of the West? The White Tiger?” He bit down on his lip. “ The guy that threw the scroll at your head?”

“ Please don't bring up my personal grudges.”

 

Skipping formalities, Baekho asked, “ Are you my new Earth Guardian, Jae Junji?”

 

“ Er, not yet,” Junji said honestly. “ Youran says that I have to get some gauntlet thing first. Is that right?”

 

“ I suppose.”

“ You what?”

 

“ Han Youran's ascension to his position isn't quite complete either,” said Baekho. “ The final step must be taken as one.”

 

“ Uh, sure,” Junji said slowly. “ I guess we're supposed to be partners and all. Do I get this gauntlet thing first or after?”

 

Baekho's eyes seemed to change, but how? “ During,” he said.

 

“ What?”

 

Youran grimaced. “ Here we go again,” he muttered. Junji shot a look at him.

 

“ What's that supposed to mean?”

“ Brace yourself.”

 

Baekho raised a hand, his gaze taking on a metallic gleam. “ Run,” he said. “ Run and find it.”

 

“ Run? Run and find what?”

FWOOM!

 

Junji and Youran were flung off the platform and sent into a wide arc over the circle of temple buildings. The wind not yet settled, Baekho slid off the altar and walked to the edge of the platform, standing near Abbot Kaeson.

 

“ Lord Baekho!”

 

“ Tell me, abbot of mine,” said Baekho. His eyes followed the two bodies helpless and soaring in the air. “ Who do you think is more capable, grown men or two nearly grown men?”

 

“ Ah...”

 

“ Speak,” said Baekho. “ All creatures have the right to speak.”

 

“ ...My lord,” said Kaeson, “ are they not your chosen Guardians? That alone makes them capable, or that they have a promise that they will be as time passes. ...If I may speak so boldly, perhaps they only need the opportunity.”

 

As Guardians they will have plenty. That is not what concerns me.

 

GON!” With that spell Youran grabbed the front of Junji's clothes and threw out his feet. The ground was a stubbled surface far, far below them, yet Youran's feet hit something solid enough to anchor. Jerked in the direction opposite of where he was flying, Junji landed and skidded his face on something hard.

 

“ Ow, ow, ow...” Wincing at the pain numbing half his face, Junji put a hand down. They were on an invisible floor suspended in midair. “ What's this?”

 

“ 'Gon' is a spell that casts the attributes of earth,” said Youran, “ even in midair. 'Earth' is a place you can stand on, for example, so...” Youran gestured with both hands. “ Here we stand. But don't expect it to last forever. We have to find real footing...”

 

Junji cried out, “ Did Baekho just attack us?! What in the name of heaven is a god doing attacking his own Guardians? Is there some kind of Guardian-to-be test that you haven't told me about?”

 

“ No, but I should have known.” Youran gave an irritated sigh. “ I think he does this all the time, throw something out suddenly and just leave people to deal with it. Now this time it's worse. We have to find your gauntlet or else he won't stop.”

 

“ He won't stop what?” As Junji spoke Baekho's body dissolved into waves of wind at the platform and traveled swiftly through empty space. They could see him coming.

 

“ Attacking!” As quickly as possible, a new mark was carved in the air, a simple three lines stacked on top of each other. “ Geon!” Youran threw out a hand and a formless blast of wind hit an unseen wall. The impact shook the very space around them. Junji could feel the invisible floor trembling, growing weak.

 

“ Youran!”

 

“ Two spells at once, not very possible at my level,” Youran said tightly. The air shook harder as pressure increased. Junji saw giant tiger paws fly out of the blast of air Youran was struggling with, complete with silver claws. An equally large head followed, throwing open fanged jaws in Youran's face. The floor was about to give out.

 

“ Youran, stop the spell! Just the earth one.”

 

“ What?” Neither of them could fly.

 

“ Just trust me,” said Junji. “ And hang onto me, okay? Keep your feet up.”

 

Keep his feet up?

 

Junji said, “ Three...two...one...”

 

The floor spell vanished. With nothing solid underneath them any longer, Junji and Youran plunged out of the sky. The wind paws swiped over their heads with such force that their bodies jerked into a diagonal.

 

“ Just asking, but you wouldn't happen to have anything that"”

“ Not for flying!”

“ Just asking!”

 

There was a temple garden below them, the floor shaped in a pentagon and two bridges spreading out like wings to the next temple grounds. A third stretched out to the main temple floor and the raised platform in the center.

 

It was a close call, but Junji splashed first into the lotus pond, then Youran. His feet hitting the bottom of the pond, Junji put strength in his legs and jumped himself to the surface. Neck-deep in the water he grabbed Youran and heaved him up out of the pond, then planted his hands on the grassy pavement and sprang out of the water too. They both threw off their now heavy and drenched cloaks.

 

“ Holy Father of.... WHOA!” First an enormous cloak of a shadow dropped over them, then their legs buckled as the source of the shadow, a giant tiger made of white, silver, and invisible, ever-swirling wind crashed down onto the garden, gripping the raised rim with the claws of its front legs. Rear legs gripped the pillar base and the tail wrapped loosely about the center bridge. “ Which part of being a Guardian includes being eaten by a god?!”

 

“ Baekho's mostly a vegetarian. ...I think.”

You think?!

Geon!

 

Baekho swung down a paw on top of their heads, slamming it down on a barrier. Claws punctured the magic like glass and splintered it all over in an instant. The impact had Youran's forearms bumping hard against his forehead, nearly knocking himself out. Where Youran's feet were planted they abruptly sunk down an inch and cracked the stone foundation beneath the earth.

 

“ Y-Youran!”

 

“ Find the gauntlet.” Youran spoke through gritted teeth. His arms and legs were straining. “ It should be a well known relic being kept in this temple, some kind of armor.”

 

“ Youran, now isn't the time"”

“ GO! I'll cover you, so hurry!”

 

A god was turning against them and he had to go find a gauntlet to prove he was working for that god? But Youran wasn't budging and who knew how long he could last. Baekho wasn't letting up; leaning back, the tiger's mouth opened in a roar that shook the entire city to its core. If it weren't for Youran's barrier Junji would have been snapped off the garden column.

 

Junjiii...!

 

“ I'm going, I'm going!” In a burst of speed Junji took off down the center bridge. A well known relic that was some kind of armor? That was easy. There was a 'Tiger Claw' hidden inside the altar on the platform. People who didn't know about it too well thought that the altar was just a block of rock inlaid with precious metals and laid over with silk and a offering bowl. The silk was a cover for the perfectly fitted lid to the chest container that was the altar. To discourage even those who did know about the relic called the Tiger Claw, those in the priesthood claimed it was sacrilege to 'unveil' the altar. Or maybe they believed it. Not being interested in relics, Junji had never tried to know which it was in his usual rebellious manner.

 

Great. I'm gonna commit sacrilege. As if Baekho's not after my hide already!

 

The great tail unfurled and came blurring down as a whip. Junji saw it. If that thing hit the bridge it'd break apart. Chunks of debris the size of boulders would rain down on the worshippers, nuns, and priests down on the ground.

“ Are you nuts?!” He didn't think about if he could do it or not, Junji's head flashed with the thought that he was going to stop that tail. Did super strength work against the gods? “ YOURAN!” Junji caught the tail in both arms. Rather than fur and flesh, scythe blades of wind expanded from the tail and immediately slashed at Junji's arms.

 

Gam!

 

As soon as he felt that cool relief, Junji clamped down hard on his teeth and a metallic kind of pain shot through his jaw. He could feel every strand of muscle in his body strain taut as he pulled as hard and suddenly on it as possible.

 

Geon!

 

Was that a strength boost? Junji rammed a foot down and threw. Yes! The tiger went flying.

 

“ Whoo! Yeah! Take THAT, you psycho deity!” Junji cried, triumphant.

 

“ Not...over yet,” Youran huffed. He couldn't make it quite all the way to where Junji was. “ You have to...get the gauntlet.”

 

“ Youran! You all right?”

“ Against a god...not so easy.... The gauntlet!”

 

A tornado spun itself out of thin air and shrunk down to a fierce funnel contained within the four pillars. Every piece of cloth, worn on a body or no, snapped out and fluttered furiously like colored flags. Bodies slid across the floor if they were not holding onto something, and none were able to breathe easily. Junji stared in disbelief.

 

“ What...is he doing?”

 

“ For the last time,” said Youran, regaining his breath, “ the gauntlet!”

 

“ It's in the middle of that!” Even as he spoke Junji's eyes lolled about to the top of the tornado. “ Ah.”

 

“ 'Ah'?”

 

“ Hey, Youran, what're the chances you can help me get right over that thing?”

 

“ Er, good. Why?”

“ Get me up there.”

 

“ ...All right.” Youran passed by Junji then turned around at the end of the bridge. He put his hands together into a sling. “ Ready.”

 

Junji dashed towards Youran. He made a running leap and Youran caught both of his feet, heaving Junji into a higher jump that took him right over the tornado. In response the top of the tornado whirled into a point.

 

Damn!

 

Youran hurried to the tornado. As soon as he could: “ Ri!

 

Two broken bars with a single solid bar on top and on the bottom. With a breathy roar the tornado became a whirlwind of raging fire, brilliant in its feathers of crimson and gold but suffocating in its heat. Some of the winds momentarily parted to form a large, wide-open human eye.

 

Junji plunged into this fiery top. He panicked but other than a lick of heat on his skin there was nothing. The tornado was rapidly thinning itself out to be rid of the flames, leaving Junji with a clear path to the untouched altar. He landed feet first"PAK!"on either side of the offering bowl. Ow! Too dull to give him pain, a jolt ran up through his very bones.

 

Forget it, forget it. The gauntlet! Vaulting off the altar, Junji quickly removed the bowl and snatched off the silk cover. Huh. There really was a lid, fitted into the box so that the sides didn't stick out. Gripping this lid, Junji strained to lift it off. He was frustrated. Where was this super strength now?

 

“ Curse it all,” Junji snarled to himself. “ You really relying on something that's not even you, Jae Junji? Come on!”

 

Once loosened, the lid was heavy but easy to swing onto one end. Junji flung it off to the floor of the platform but the stone and wood didn't break. He looked inside. On a pale silver-green cushion lay a white leather gauntlet chained together in pieces by tiny, pale gold links, rings, and buckles. Moving without a thought in his head, Junji grabbed the gauntlet and shoved his right arm through it. The inside was lined with soft pale green cloth, and with it the gauntlet covered him up to the joint of the elbow, metal rings stuck around the base of the fingers to hold the gauntlet in place from there to the elbow. On the back of Junji's hand the gauntlet held down a circular piece of a glassy, pale green jewel.

 

Ghh!” All at once the gauntlet clamped down on Junji's arm and squeezed. It was just his arm, so why couldn't he breathe or unclench his jaw? Or open his eyes! Why in the name of heaven did I just stick this thing on my arm?! Junji choked on a gasp that tried to make it out his throat. He couldn't tell if it hurt. Suffocation might be making his whole body numb.

 

“ Junji?” It was Youran. “ Junji! Don't fight it. Breathe it in!”

 

Breathe it in? The gauntlet was leather, not air. Junji wrenched his mouth open and sharply sucked in a breath through the back of his throat.

 

Cool air rushed in and swept down into his lungs. Letting out a groan, Junji felt his insides relax as he dropped down to his knees. He creaked open his eyes to see the character for 'tiger' shining on the softly curved surface of the jewel piece. The gauntlet continued to feel tight about the arm, but at least he could breathe and open his eyes at will now. Junji let out a long, somewhat shaky sigh. None of this Guardian stuff was going to be easy at all, was it?

 

Youran stood over him. “ Junji, are you all right?”

 

“ Uh? Yeah...” He took Youran's hand and was pulled to his feet. “ Dandy.”

 

Transforming from wind to a human body in mid-step, Baekho touched down on the platform. “ Well,” he said. “ I've never had a Guardian set me on fire before. That was dangerous, Youran.”

 

Youran smiled tiredly. “ I was betting on the way you dislike innocent people hurt, Baekho,” he answered.

 

...Crafty little thing. No one had been hurt by the entire incident, just startled because they hadn't been warned of it.

 

“ Hey you!” Junji jabbed an angry finger at Baekho. “ What's the big idea of all this! We're supposed to be your Guardians and you attack us out of the blue? You almost hurt innocent bystanders, you would-be g--” Youran smacked him open-handed on the face. “ Hey!”

 

“ Think about it, Junji,” said Youran. “ Baekho's a protective deity, and not a low-ranking one at that. This could have been far worse if he had been fighting us for real.”

 

“ For...real?” Junji shook his head. “ You mean it was a TEST?” he cried.

 

“ You heard him earlier: My ascension wasn't finished yet, and 'The final step must be taken as one.' It was a test from Baekho.”

 

“ What kinda test gets thrown at you from outta nowhere?! We really could've died somewhere along the way, and other people too! What kinda person does that!”

 

“ ...The kind of person that throws a sacred old scroll at your head.”

 

Youran and Junji stared grudgingly sideways at Baekho. The god shrugged, unperturbed.

 

“ So curse me,” he said. “ Being a conventional, uptight god like Cheong-ryong is boring and makes the body stiff. I like being comfortable.”

 

“ How does throwing things at people out of nowhere make you comfortable? You'll stress us out to a early grave!” Baekho stretched out and gave Junji's gauntlet-clad arm a light pat. It was an oddly friendly gesture for a independent deity. “ Eh? What're you...”

 

“ And so I hereby pronounce you my Guardians of the West, Heaven and Earth respectively. Good luck, Junji, Youran,” said Baekho. “ Guardians never have it easy, but together you should do fine, so work together well. Heaven and earth as one, after all, maintains harmony and peace.” Baekho's body melted into white wind and thin air. Swirling in threads, the wind spread out in two directions and disappeared.

 

Don't pray to me, my Guardians. I am the one who depends on you.

 

***

 

They delayed in Daegu for one more day. Youran insisted that Junji's last night home for a long while was meant for family only and passed the time with Yeon, son of a Jae vassal and the person assigned to see to his needs. The next morning Youran and Seijin left Daegu, Junji newly added to their small group.

 

“ Ahhhhhh, yeah.” Taking in a long, deep breath, Junji let it out in a single stream and opened his bright gray-green eyes. He stood on the crest of a hill close to Daegu, and he enjoyed looking at the city even as he felt the homesick pangs of someone leaving their lifelong home and family. But, Junji told himself, it wasn't as if he was never coming back. He'd return home one day, stuffed to the brim with blood-rushing stories of adventure and heroics. Behind Junji Youran sat on a rock sticking out on the side of the hill, patiently waiting and rubbing Seijin under the chin with a crooked finger.

 

“ Good-bye, Daegu. I'll be back someday.”

 

Seijin chirped impatiently.

 

“ Ahhh, shut up for a minute,” said Junji. “ I'm relishing a dream come true here! You know I've always been dreaming of becoming a Guardian, Youran? Ever since I was a kid.”

 

“ Mm-hm.”

 

“ Even though I knew it was a random-choosing thing, I always worked hard to become a number one fighter. Would've pretty much neglected everything else if my old man hadn't groused after me night and day about it. But it wasn't just a kid's dream, y'know. People making fun of me with my white hair, and calling me a kid even when I got older, I thought it'd be a, well, respectful thing to become. What better way to do that than to become a Guardian? And then there was this friend of mine from when I was a kid.”

 

Youran stood, Seijin balanced on his shoulder. “ We'd better get going,” he said. “ Any longer and we won't reach the nearest town until long after nightfall.”

 

Junji turned, but went on as he reminisced.

 

“ Sort of a weird guy,” he thought aloud. “ We met at this resort out in the country, somewhere along the Changju River. Real nice place. And sort of a weird guy. Only a kid and he says weird stuff like his black hair was dyed. What kind of kid dyes his hair? I mean, we were only...twelve, thirteen that time. Wow, we were really scrawny then. Aren't all teenagers?”

 

Seijin flattened his feathery ears, closing both eyes in a plain, silent wish that Junji would shut up. Youran didn't appear disturbed.

 

“ I always thought that this guy, You, was the girly type, but he never complained or anything when we did stuff like catching fish bare-handed or climb the mountainside that the adults forbid us from touching. He was slow, though. Always had to wait to let him catch up. Then one day this mountain bear gets us and You turns into a hero, protecting me. He got slashed across the eye, three claw marks that bled so much it looked like half his face was drowning in blood. ...Think it was the right eye...” Junji looked down at Youran's back.

 

I believe you can be a Guardian.

Has this guy said it before?

Dyed hair.

The right eye.

...At what point did he ever ask what my name was? Did I ever tell him what my name was? The old man told him his name, and Mother, but me? When did I tell him my name?

 

As Junji continued to stand there and stare, Youran stopped and stood sideways. Without a word he slipped the end of a thumb beneath his eye patch and lifted the cloth above the right eye. Three scars made a diagonal cross from eyebrow to cheek, the one in the center too long to be completely hidden by the patch.

 

Junji gaped, then stammered.

“ Yuh...you're...”

 

Youran let the eye patch snap back into place. He turned forward and resumed the walk down the hill.

 

“ The name is Youran, not 'You'. Never did listen....”

 

*********************************************************************************

 

-Youran's Spells (based on the four trigrams of the South Korea flag)-

 

Gon- Earth

Geon- Metal

Ri- Fire

Gam- Water

 

© 2014 Haeshin


Author's Note

Haeshin
*attached photo is not mine, though edited by me

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Reviews

You think?!(avoid double punctuation)

All in all this was a good read and caught my attention. would like to see where you take this.

Posted 10 Years Ago


Wow, I really enjoyed reading this. The characters were especially were interesting to watch develop. Junji and his childlike and complaining manner then Youran and his more mature and careful ways.

Your diction was perfect and the imagery described every setting.

If you are thinking of expanding on this, I fully encourage you to do so as I would love to read more.



Posted 10 Years Ago



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Added on June 9, 2010
Last Updated on November 17, 2014
Tags: tales of the kingdom, fantasy, action, youran, junji

Author

Haeshin
Haeshin

CA



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