The Middle Rock Hermitage was not just a sacred place for the Buddhist disciples but also for the Hwarangs.
To get there, one had to climb the steepest slope and then pass through a stone gate made of natural rock formations.
And this was why the place was normally quiet and solemn.
It was always like that in Seol Young’s memory, but it was different today.
The door to the hermitage was firmly shut, and not a single monk could be seen.
Both the young ones aiming to be monks and the older ones were outside, but they all looked agitated.
‘What is happening?’
Seol Young asked the novice whom he knew.
“Where is the head monk?”
The novice was taken aback.
“He said he wouldn’t meet anyone for now.”
“Then the other monks?”
“It is the same. I am sorry Seol Young-rang.”
Everyone looked so distraught that they didn’t even notice that Seol Young had a different appearance from usual. There was no need to explain anything about his white robe now.
“You have come a long way. What do we do now? Actually, there was a guest who came in earlier. I don’t know why but the head monk and the others were so surprised and greeted the guest. After the guest went back, they all said in unison to not let anyone come.”
Seol Young was puzzled.
He had visited this place numerous times, but this was a first.
“What kind of guest? A man or a woman?”
“I apologize. I was asked not to speak of it. Even if the Buddha comes here and asks, I am not supposed to…”
Everyone was silent.
‘This is strange.’
On the way back, he ran into someone at the stone gate of the hermitage.
Seol Young’s feet stopped as he doubted his eyes.
Right next to the gate was the madman dressed in black. And as soon as he saw him, the man threw something.
A gourd bottle.
It was shining from within, which meant it was filled.
And he said with a grin.
“Didn’t I tell you I would pay you back?”
He couldn’t help but be shocked.
Was this monster the one who met the head monk and the others?
Everything was pointing to it, but it just felt too odd.
“How did you know that I was coming here for the water?”
“Are you stupid? There is only one reason why the Hwarangs visit this place with a gourd bottle.”
How did he know about the bottle? And more than that…
“There is no way that the stern head monk would have just given it up to anyone?”
“Which is why I went.”
The man continued.
“If I hadn’t, you would have had a hard time there. First, you will have to prove your identity to them.”
It was true. If it were that head monk, he would have pretended he didn’t know Seol Young.
‘Why is your robe white? And you talk as if you know me. Isn’t this a place of purity and kindness that doesn’t allow such rude people to enter?’
The raspy voice was already clear to his ears.
But the same monk gave water? And for someone who was on the wrong path—the demonic path?
He couldn’t understand, so he went back.
“Are the monks safe inside? Did someone get harmed?”
“It isn’t like that. Everything is as usual.”
The monks answered, but the door was closed.
‘Just what happened…’
It had been a long time, and he looked to the far side where the man was still standing near the stone gate. It looked like he was waiting for Seol Young to arrive.
He was smiling and going around, but his eyes were terrifying to look at. The spiritual power that reached a high level moved like a golden mist.
The shadows cast over the ground had thick demonic qi. This was all invisible to others.
‘If this continues to happen, things will turn bad, so we need to come up with countermeasures.’
Seol Young made up his mind.
He didn’t leave right away and grabbed a monk. He pretended to talk about random things and moved naturally.
In the monks’ residence, where the monks lived, he managed to catch a monk who was in charge of temple work and wrote a letter.
“Contact Baek Eon-rang of the White Tiger Spirit Troops.”
“I understand. I have a friend I can trust. He is a hunter, so he moves fast.”
After doing that, he left that area as if nothing had happened.
The man was talking to the dog near the temple.
“Did Seol Young mistreat you every time he saw you? He is so cold, just like his name.”
And he grabbed the dog’s paw and smiled at it. It seemed like he overheard the novice monk calling Seol Young’s name.
Seol Young transferred the water in the gourd bottle into his own and didn’t care what the man said.
The monster followed right away.
“It isn’t a common name. Could it be that you were just born with such a cold face? How did your parents feel about giving you this name?”
“They wanted me to become a wonderful Hwarang, so they gave me this name. My name is derived from ‘Stepping on Snow (Seol) without trace’ and ‘No shadow in daylight (Young)’.”
“Ah, it held such a deep meaning?”
“Why are you quiet? It’s your turn to ask for my name.”
“I will ask the devil for the name of his new friend.”
But the madman didn’t get angry with his response. Rather, he looked interested.
Seol Young was the only one who got irritated with it.
‘You will see when the time is right.’
After fighting day and night with words, they reached the capital.
At this time, spring was in full bloom, and the scene was filled with a sense of softness.
Laughter was audible from the pavilion, and the houses and temples were adorned with blossoming flowers.
The steps of the monster slowed down as he looked around with those gold-tinted eyes. It was like waking up from a dream.
It felt like Seol Young could run away.
So he used a light footwork technique right then to get out and go to the closest inn.
“Is there an errand boy here? The White Tiger Spirit Troops’ Baek Eon-rang should be waiting for….”
He wrote the paper and handed it over. And, as he said before, it was about luring this evil being.
And as Seol Young began to walk, he followed him.
“Seol Young-rang! Where did you go?”
“Where do you think I went? It isn’t like you are following me, but you came to the capital because you had work to do, right?”
“Right, because I have a lot of work. But…”
“Aren’t you going to the Moon Palace?”
A forest stretched out in front of them. Amidst the lush greenery around, auspicious energy drifted.
The forest of Silla, Gyerim.
The birthplace of Prince Yanzhi, the founder of the royal family.
Seol Young said,
“I need to stop by Gyerim first. You must have something to do in the Moon Palace?”
Right, do whatever you want.
Seol Young looked straight ahead and walked away.
If Baek Eon got his message, then he would come here. With that thought in mind, he gazed at the trees in the forest.
At that time, a voice came from inside the forest.
“… you really believe that, Baek Eon-rang?”
Seol Young’s face changed.
Baek Eon kept his promise, but there were other people, and it was clear that the person who just spoke was Seo Geom, the leader of the Blue Dragon True Troops.
And that wasn’t all.
“Did you know why you were called here without informing the others? If the White Tiger Spirit Troops is attacked by this demon, all the Hwarangs will be affected!”
“Baek Eon-rang, Seol Young is no longer one of your troops. I understand how you feel, but not being involved will be better.”
It was the Black Tortoise’s leader Mu Won.
And the Vermillion Bird’s Hwa Un.
Surprisingly, all the heads of the troops had gathered except for the Governor.
And Baek Eon, Song Ok, and Hyo Wol were questioned by many.
Seol Young was enraged.
The moment he was about to step in, he heard Seo Geom’s cold words.
“If we hadn’t rushed out, Baek Eon-rang would have fallen into the trap. As soon as he left the troops, he immediately brought a vicious devil to the capital! Wasn’t the revelation from the Great Heavenly Pavilion right?”
Seol Young just stood there. The words they said weren’t wrong.
As soon as Seol Young came out of the troops, he was indeed using the evil spirits and called the White Tiger Troops into the Gyerim Forest.
Anyone would think this was suspicious.
‘I did nothing wrong, but hyung must be…’
Baek Eon, Song Ok, and Hyo Wol were all amazing Hwarangs. These were people who always looked up at the sky.
But now they were being questioned.
‘All because of me.’
When he stood there blankly, a voice came from his side.
“This is why I didn’t believe you. What were you planning on doing just because those conceited Hwarangs don’t trust you?”
Seol Young looked to the side, where the madman stood, while crossing his hands.
He looked quite arrogant. It was the attitude of wanting to stop all those people.
“They will end with a single word I say. No, just a cough is enough to clear them.”
What nonsense was he saying?
They were brought here to deal with him in the first place…
Before Seol Young had time to say anything, the man moved forward.
And he cleared his throat.
The Hwarangs, who weren’t in the mood to look to the side due to their argument, turned at the sound and flinched.
Everyone looked at Seol Young, who was there. And the person standing behind him….
They almost shouted.
It felt like they couldn’t believe this and were surprised, as if they had died and come back to life.
‘H-He really is quite odd.’
When Seol Young was about to speak.
All the Hwarangs bowed deeply to the man. They yelled with all the loyalty they could muster, their voices trembling.
“We greet the Immortal Being!”
Seol Young doubted his ears.
He was shocked, too.
The identity of the man he thought was mad… was who?
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