“Give it here quickly!”
However, Seol Young didn’t even pretend to hear him and tightened his grip as the sword’s blade was about to cut his neck.
“I am not lying. I really am going to stab myself right here and die!”
Seol Young threatened him.
The people passing by were staring at them, and some even stopped to observe.
“I don’t know this person!”
Zaha said, but no one believed him. They were all looking at him like, ‘what relationship could they have that the other person is ready to bleed?’
“Ah! Fine! Fine!”
He shook his hand.
“Actually, I shouldn’t keep anything from you. Even if you knew, it wouldn’t really matter.”
“So knowing it or not doesn’t mean I will fail, right? Then tell me.”
He snatched the Dead Slayer Sword.
“If he becomes a ghost and clings to you, we can deal with him together. What are you so afraid of that you didn’t move?”
He was talking to his sword as he turned to Seol Young.
“I have work to do.”
“Work to do?”
“Why do you think I came here? It is to visit the market.”
After saying this, Zaha turned around and walked away without even looking at him.
Seol Young thought for a moment. Judging by his attitude, it seemed like he would really tell him.
‘But I don’t think he will say it right away.’
It seemed like he was taking his time to think about what to do and say. In short, nothing was easy.
‘Does this mean he thinks I will get tired and give up?’
Seol Young quickly followed him before he vanished.
Zaha was standing in front of a shop that sold earthenware.
Among the various things, he picked up a piece of bird-shaped earthenware. He turned around and observed the items.
“When I saw it then, I immediately thought of that phrase, ‘The living take Yang as their source, and the dead take Yin.’ Why did that happen?”
“… the monsters are known to come out in lunar eclipses.”
Seol Young said. It was a phrase from the Records of Myth. 1
“Right. That is right.”
Zaha looked at the earthenware again, and Seol Young stood next to him.
“Weren’t there pottery like this eight years ago? And they could have existed eighty years and even eight hundred years ago too…”
“I will take this.”
He picked some of them and handed them to Seol Young, who caught them without hesitation.
While they moved again, Zaha said,
“Actually, I have something I am curious about. Earlier, when I was acting like I couldn’t draw the sword out. What were you secretly trying to do?”
Seol Young put the earthenware to the side and raised one hand. He drew a simple talisman.
A golden glow flashed as it took shape and vanished quickly enough for no one to notice it.
Zaha recognized it right away.
“Isn’t that the technique you used when you took my sword?”
“But that is just light?”
“Talisman? Then it had almost no power to drive away demons or spirits.”
“I only planned to use it to shine a light. I assumed you couldn’t pull the sword out at all, so I tried to fool that woman by simply shining the golden light.”
“Why? Didn’t you want my secret to come out too?”
“The affairs of a Hwarang have to be solved by a Hwarang alone.”
Seol Young said, which made Zaha laugh.
The girl who had been glancing at them since earlier approached them and looked a bit happy.
“Young Master! Would you like to buy this incense?”
“I don’t like fragrances much…”
Still, Zaha bought them. Mushrooms, orchids—he bought anything that the girl chose. Then he placed them in the earthenware that he had given Seol Young earlier.
‘I am being treated like a porter.’
Seol Young walked back and said.
“But didn’t it seem like the Heavenly Pavilion knew about you falling into the wrong path? She seemed to think you couldn’t pull out the sword and cornered you.”
“Maybe she saw it in her vision, or maybe my innate nature changed?”
He responded indifferently.
“What is there to even like about those groups of people? They hate wealth, they hate art, they hate good-looking men, and all they want is power.”
And he soon turned his attention to a bird shop.
There were many rare kinds of birds, and Seol Young said,
“These birds were surely for sale even eight years ago. Maybe not eighty but…”
Zaha looked at the birds that were there, and they were flapping their wings and jumping around the cage.
One of them had blue feathers and flapped its wings to hit the others.
“That one would be good.”
He bought the parrot and accepted the cage, where the bird continued to flutter. Then, when he passed by a cat shop, he stopped there too.
No, that too?
Seol Young felt a bit anxious, and thankfully…
“The bird will hate it.”
Zaha gave up and walked away.
Seol Young steadfastly followed, carrying all the things in his hands without a single complaint.
As time went on, the market became more complex as a gambling place, acrobat performers, and preaching monks appeared.
And storytellers too.
A clear and appealing voice caught his ear.
“… wanting to see the face of a beautiful woman, I walked faster around the tower…”
Seol Young glanced to the side.
The story of a bachelor who encountered a ghost while walking around a tower was going around in the city.
“Unable to catch up with it no matter what. The bachelor got impatient and stretched out his hand…”
The story was at its climax, and everyone looked silently at the man.
Even the merchants were silent. They couldn’t help but be intrigued by it.
Zaha also looked at him.
And out of nowhere, he asked,
“What is this?”
“A horror story.”
“I didn’t ask for that. What is the important condition for a story to turn into a horror one?”
Seol Young said as he held the things in his hands.
“Ghosts, spirits, monsters… such things make up a horror story.”
Zaha shook his head.
“Think a bit more.”
“Something that can be experienced?”
Seol Young thought for a moment and said,
“It cannot be someone’s story. Following common sense but not reason. There is always a part of it that catches people off guard.”
“Wrong. All wrong.”
He wanted to ask what the hell…
But Zaha suddenly turned and went into a tea house right across the street. Looking back, he noticed something.
Come to think of it, Zaha’s sword didn’t have the Yin-Yang plaque.
When he left after pulling the sword out, he must have released its seal too. Then, now that the sword has been recovered, it should have a Yin-Yang plaque attached to it.
But he didn’t bring it up, nor did anyone else think about it.
Even if he thought of it, Zaha must have forgotten it as well. Who would even tell this man to wear the Yin-Yang plaque?
‘He cleverly avoided doing it.’
Seol Young followed him into the tea house.
This tea house had large windows and was well-lit. On the wall, along with various portraits of the city, were pictures of tea leaves.
Zaha sat down and said,
“Not a single thing has changed here. Only the servers…”
Seol Young put everything to one side and sat down.
“So, what is the answer?”
“The most important condition of a horror story. You didn’t finish it.”
He spoke as if it were nothing.
“Simple. ‘There has to be a reality that you can return to.’”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“As I said, for a horror story to be classified as horror. There needs to be a reality to return to when the story ends. But what if there was no reality to return to? It wouldn’t be a story anymore.”
Seol young went silent for a second.
“That has to be a pun.”
When the servers brought the leaves, neither of them spoke or expressed gratitude, so the server set the leaves down and walked away.
‘Why are we talking about this?’
Seol Young thought.
Zaha’s figure leaning on the chair looked odd to him. He couldn’t pinpoint what it was; he just felt it.
For some reason, he thought of the water ghosts—the scary ones that tricked people before killing them.
And before he knew it, it was already the middle of the day.
“Isn’t your patience reaching its limit?”
He asked, spinning the teaspoon in the cup.
“Then think a bit more. I have already given some clues.”
Seol Young frowned.
“Think about that too.”
“You should already know. But you just didn’t think of it as important. The mysterious incident that happened in that ritual hall. Think again. How did you know it in the first place?”
It was something he replayed in his mind several times, so Seol Young said,
“That day, late at night, while passing near the palace, I saw something like a goblin’s fire. I thought it looked strange and went near it. While I continued to look around, I heard screams around the hall and noticed a barrier there, so I threw the plaque to break it down.”
He continued to speak, and Zaha listened. He touched his belt, which should have a jewel on it.
“Inside was the courtiers, who were being attacked by their colleague with a mask on. I immediately thought it was the work of an evil spirit and began to exterminate… And I’ve already told you what happened after that.”
“Right. But Seol Young-rang, the most important thing isn’t the things you mentioned.”
“It isn’t that the evil spirit was exorcised, or that your plaque, which sealed your powers, was broken, or that the Yin-Yang plaque was thrown. It isn’t that the woman got possessed, either. There is something else you have to pay attention to here.”
“What is that?”
“That exact horror story happened in real life.”
Seol Young looked confused.
It felt like being caught off guard, as he had never thought of it.
The story of a mask in the hall.
It was a horror story that had been going around the palace for a long time.
“The horror story actually happened…”
It was surely different from other cases, as such things never happened.
Seol Young agreed and asked,
“But why is that important?”
“Why do you think?”
“Because the same thing will happen the next time.”
TL/N: A book of myths that holds many incidents. ↩️
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