Chapter 1 - Evil Moon (1)

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The Silla region’s Moon Palace is seen in the center of Sorabeol City as a sizable half-moon structure rising high.

One of the lined-up pavilions was bright.

The Tianshu1 Hall.

This was the hall where entertainment and artwork were presented to the royal family.

It was late at night, and the place was crowded with young girls, wearing long purple silks and traditional yellow overtops. They were the servants who worked for the royal family.

Normally, no one would even attempt to breathe when in a place as solemn as the palace. But today, without the elders around, everyone could do their own thing as the disciplining had toned down.

So they spoke and moved without a moment’s rest.

“Enough, enough!”

A girl said loudly,

“Calm down. It will be a huge problem if we lose one by playing around like this. Exactly fifteen. We received just the right number for the number of people who came, so no one will excuse us if we lose it.”

At those words, all the people looked in one direction—the large wooden box. The one filled with supposedly various kinds of monsters, ghosts, spirits, and ghouls. Inside were masks used for ancestral rites.

Recently, terrible and horrifying signs have been appearing in and around the Moon Palace. The walls of the palace had blood splattered all over them, and a dozen birds had died with their heads stuck into poles. Eventually, even blood was raining down!

It went without saying that the superstitions and sentiments of the people had taken a turn for the worse. Therefore, Guk Seon, the head of the Hwarang Group2, decided to supervise the ancestral rites. The purpose of wearing the monster mask at the ritual was to banish it, so he hired brave and agile people.

“You need to act realistically. Only then will the ritual turn successful.”

“Right. Think clearly before choosing a mask. Am I a Yokai? Or a ghost? Or a monster?”

The girl thought seriously and examined each of the masks. Everyone was being quite picky. And for a while, everyone looked solemn. But then came a strange gust of air.

“…”

The girls looked at each other and carefully said,

“But as I keep looking at it… doesn’t it feel creepy?”

“You think so, too? I thought I was the only one.”

Everyone looked down at the masks with confused expressions; the masks were just too vivid.

And this was the problem. Did it have to look this real? The masks had empty-looking eyes that were looking around. Red, sticky blood seeped from the mouth, and the drooping tongue gently wrapped around their wrists like a snake.

But these were all the girls’ hallucinations.

‘This is just a mask. A person being afraid of a mask?’

Everyone tried to act like this was nothing, but they were all on edge. Just then, a whirring and creepy sound were heard. And some of the girls squealed.

“I-It is just the wind.”

“Right.”

Said the other one.

“But you never know, it could be that woman blowing the wind?”

“Woman? Who?”

“The woman we saw outside earlier. The one with the terrifying look! I definitely thought she couldn’t be a human. Was I the only one who saw it?”

“Well, there are just way too many ghost stories in the Moon Palace. I don’t think it will be weird if something happens. And come to think of it…”

Another girl spoke cautiously,

“There are legends about the so-called monster marks in the Tianshu Hall, though.”

“What legends?”

“Listen carefully. Back then, it was the same as it is now. Some courtiers came here to practice the ritual dance with us. But then something strange happened. Each picked a mask and put it on their faces… but there was still one left inside the box.”

The girl looked around while speaking quietly.

“Someone must have used it and then decided to abandon it.”

At that moment, a weirdly cold silence fell around them. The chilling air ran through the napes of the girls’ necks. Did a ghost pass by at the right moment?

“Ugh!”

A girl shouted, making everyone horribly surprised, and she laughed.

The other girls laughed when they realized she was teasing them, so they all giggled. But suddenly, it became silent.

“Stop now! If people from the other halls come here, they will be shocked at our actions!”

“Right, let’s end the fun here.”

The girls put away their playful attitude and picked out the masks. Several hands reached inside the wooden box, taking their time to select a mask. All were wondering which to take or whether to just pick the remaining one.

Suddenly, one of them moved, snatched a mask, and put it on their face.

But…

After everyone had taken their own masks, there was one left at the bottom of the box. It was the mask with gray hair, a red face, and fangs coming out of its lips. A mask of a demon known as a Goblin.

“Who didn’t pick one yet?”

All the girls looked at each other with fear rising within them. Did everyone pick one?

At that moment, it felt like cold water was thrown onto them.

One, two, three… fifteen.

All fifteen of them had masks on their faces, which meant that there couldn’t be any left behind. But there was one left.

And the people wearing the masks didn’t like this game and shouted,

“Do not mess around!”

“I am not messing around! Look!”

“Do not lie! You were the one who told the story! What did you do?!”

The entire atmosphere was buzzing with people screaming, ‘don’t joke around, don’t mess around,’ and paying attention to each other’s voices.

When suddenly….

“Wait.”

A girl pulled out something she had been hiding under her skirt. It was a round plaque with a needle in the center and intricately written inscriptions on it.

A Heaven and Earth relic.

It was normally used to read astrology and fortune telling, but it was also widely utilized to detect any evil spirits from folklore.

“If there is an evil spirit here, this needle will spin continuously.”

Everyone looked down at the Heaven and Earth relic, a circle plaque centered on a square board.

The moment the needle began to spin violently, it passed through ‘Bad,’ ‘Evil,’ ‘Great Evil,’ and ‘Great Chaos.’

“…!”

Everyone was shocked. There was now a Great Chaos spirit in this place, which meant that this evil spirit was terrifying. This was like a story. Did someone put something else on their face and not the mask?

Who could it be?

The girls’ expressions were creeped out as they looked around.

“Not me!”

Everyone took their masks off to claim their innocence.

But…

A palace servant was standing still, and everyone turned to focus on her. The girl who just stood there was wearing the monster mask.

“Yeom?”

They yelled her name, but no response came; instead, a black cloud formed around the girl’s feet, with a rapid rising of yin3.

Everyone was shocked.

“Yeom is acting weird!”

They were all terrified and tried to run, but the evil spirit moved as well.

‘Ahhh this is bad!’

It was already coming for them with its arms outstretched when they noticed. It moved so quickly that no one could respond fast enough.

“Run!”

The girls who were nearby fled.

Bang!

Instead of the girls, the tiles in the hall shattered as a result of the evil spirit’s tremendous power. They all felt terrified at this powerful evil spirit they had never encountered before. The darkness it was giving out made their heads spin.

“We need to ask for help!”

The Golden Ring Troops, who were in charge of the ritual, had to be nearby, so everyone gathered and screamed,

“Help us!”

“Someone help us!”

But their cries were never heard outside the halls because they lacked the skill to break through the barrier that this evil spirit had created. They wanted to run, but they couldn’t see an exit. It felt like they were locked inside four walls.

“Ack!”

In that chaos, one of the girls ended up being captured by the evil spirit and collapsed as the spirit tried to drag her away.

“NOO!!!”

Everyone was shocked at this. The entire situation became too frightening for them in an instant. But they couldn’t let their friend be harmed.

“Catch her!”

They finally decided to be brave and grabbed their friend’s arm and pulled her. They somehow managed to pull her out together.

“There is a closet here!”

The girls took their wounded friend and moved quickly, closing the door before the evil spirit could catch up to them. They brought out anything they could and made sure the closet door couldn’t be pushed.

Thud! Thud!

The evil spirit continued to pound on the door, shaking the entire thing with its tremendous power. Things fell, and the door looked cracked.

Their eyes turned dark. Is this how they will die? They all looked around with terrified eyes.

“I-I don’t want… to die…”

They trembled in fear and reached to embrace each other.

Bang!

Another heavy pounding followed, and more than half of the door was cracked. That thing will destroy the door with one more hit.

“…”

They closed their eyes, realizing that this was going to be their end, when just then, they all heard a clear and sharp sound.

Then there was a clink!

Then there was the sound of something falling.

They could finally breathe real air once the hall, which felt sealed with a dark and evil spirit, was opened. Someone broke down the barrier by throwing a small jade ornament infused with spiritual power, and the girls looked surprised.

“Someone came!”

With that, the evil spirit smashed into the door.

“Ackkk!”

They could hear the bloodthirsty scream of the monster, but the evil spirit that broke in couldn’t enter as a ray of brilliantly bright blue light pierced the darkness and its back.

The Rei qi4.

The qi that the Hwarang cultivate.

But…

The girls’ eyes widened in surprise. They expected the Golden Ring Troops to arrive, but they were wrong.

A girl shouted,

“I think it is the White Tiger Spirit Troops of Hwarang!”

The so-called Hwarang, which should have been far from here, had reached the scene, and before they could say anything, the blue light from the sword surrounded the evil spirit.

It could be seen through the broken door.

The White Tiger Spirit Troop wore a white robe with a distinctive black pattern. The moonlight on the back created a shadow on the pure white robe with the pattern. The face looked cold as if carved from ice.

All of the girls were startled. Although they were still young, they knew who he was. This man was widely known throughout the Moon Palace.

“He is the devil…”

The person who uttered it gulped back the words right away. It wasn’t someone else, but the most known man of the Hwarang had come to rescue them? Everyone was so shocked that they forgot to breathe.

  1. TL/N: “Year of Life.” ↩️

  2. TL/N: Military group in the Silla region. ↩️

  3. TL/N: Cold Qi. ↩️

  4. TL/N: Cosmic energy linked with healing but of no religious background. ↩️

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