STORYHansaneega@Lee Jongbeom
Human-Faced BirdAn assistant that helps ensure great reincarnation.The human-faced bird is a mythological bird with a human face wearing the hat of a xian. When someone reaches enlightenment and dies, he wakes up in the paradise and is guided by this bird. - Rumble Humans who don’t know any better say it’s rolling thunder,  but in reality, it’s not that simple of a sound: none other than the sound of the heavens opening.  The human-faced bird looked in the direction of the sound.  ‘Who could it be? ‘ There was a curious look on the bird’s face.  It had been a long time.  So many years had passed that “a long time” didn’t seem to be the right expression.  Humans no longer looked up at the heavens nor explored the earth they were standing on. Most of all, they refused to look within themselves.  All they did was hang around computers and microscopes in a place called a laboratory. ‘That’s unusual.‘ But anyway, if the heavens had opened, he knew he had to go down. At one time, there were so many people worthy of becoming a xian that some even decided to remain on earth.  But not anymore.  Hundreds of years had passed since a new xian had come in. “Please... bring someone new.” Just as the human-faced bird was about to flap his wings, the last xian he brought began speaking to him.  He was a pitiful being.  Well, pitiful may not be the right word since he had become a xian, but for some reason, the human-faced bird felt pity every time he saw him.  “Don’t you think it’s a little arrogant to say that just because you don’t want to clean?”  “It’s not like I’ve been cleaning for a day or two. It’s been 400 years! It’s already been 100 years since the Joseon Dynasty ended!”  “I’m not the one who made you clean. Don’t take it out on me.”  “It’s not like anyone else cares about my complaints. The others just get angry.” “What about the guy who came just two days before you?” “Don’t bring him up. Just thinking about him makes me feel like I’m going to start going down the wrong path.”  “I’ll get going then.” It was literally a difference of only two days that made him the last newcomer and forced him to clean for hundreds of years.  The others simply underwent spiritual training as they looked down upon the world. ‘Such a pity.‘ How long will this one be forced to work as the newcomer?  A thousand years?  Two thousand years?  Nobody knows. That thought made the bird feel that this might not be such a good thing after all.  His flying began to slow down naturally,  although as a mystical creature he remained faster than any arrow that could ever be shot by a human. ‘Huh?‘ When the bird arrived, he noticed someone familiar sitting there. It was an elderly man.  Was it 300 years ago? He was the one who refused the offer to go to the heavens and stayed on the earth. The man who became a mountain god. It was an odd decision even back then. But now, it was the worst possible choice. The humans didn’t look inside them and had grown to have no qualms about destroying their surroundings.  ‘It’s not possible… Did he… Again?’ If he thought about what the mountain god would have gone through, it wasn’t exactly an impossibility. The mountain was leveled, the animals were dying, and his comrade and most treasured friend—the king of the mountain—had been swept away. It was a horrific sight to watch from above. ‘Wait, that…’ Only after the bird got close enough did he notice that there was another being in front of the mountain god. The man who stood in front of him had a fly-whisk or something wrapped around him and wore short glasses. He looked like an ordinary Taoist hermit, but the bird recognized him. ‘Dangun…’ It couldn’t hear their conversation. He was close enough to hear, but there was only silence. That stemmed from Dangun’s power plugged up their surroundings. Thus, the bird was forced to guess what was happening through the mountain god’s expression. At first, he had a scornful smile, but soon, he was bowing his head towards Dangun. And Dangun nodded towards the mountain god in return. It looked like he had said something praiseworthy again. “Huh.” Not long after, the mountain god collapsed onto his side. ‘Is he dead?’ ‘Did Dangun gift him death?’ The reason the bird entertained these ideas for even a moment was because the mountain god’s life had been that hard.  “Come here.” “Oh.” The bird was thinking when it heard Dangun’s voice. Lifting its head, it saw Dangun gesturing towards it. There was nothing it could do. It had to obey. The bird flew to Dangun. It flew like a bullet through the air with its gigantic wings. “So you’re still wearing that hat.” “Yes, it’s comfortable, like it’s a part of me.” Their conversation started like it always did, with everyday topics. But the bird knew. Dangun wouldn’t have called him over for nothing, even if its true personality would. A great being who suppressed his true nature as he lived. This was Dangun. “I haven’t asked you here for any particular reason…” Dangun continued with a serious expression on his face. He was pointing to the collapsed mountain god. Looking at him now, it was clear he wasn’t dead. It wondered if he was unconscious, but that wasn’t it either. “His spirit…?” The bird was a divine beast, so it recognized that something that should be in the body wasn’t. Dangun patted the bird’s shoulder. “Yes. He’s in an unfamiliar land.” “I see. Then I…” “Go and help him.” “What? Where is this… unfamiliar land?” If it was a land that it would leave its body behind to go to, then it wouldn’t be the land of the living. Was he referring to the land of the dead? Yeom Ra… He was someone the bird wasn't comfortable with, even if it was the human-faced bird. Wouldn't it be stranger if the bird found itself comfortable around the man who was in charge of life and death? “It’s not where you’re worried about.” “Oh, okay. Then…” “Good. Did you hear that?” “Uh, yes. That’s… That’s the samjogo’s…” “Yes.” The bird easily remembered that the samjogo was a being that followed Dangun’s orders. “Did you plan this from the beginning?” ‘Was this why the sky was opened?’ ‘Where was he even looking?’ The bird was full of resentment and anger as he looked at Dangun, but a new sound blanketed the bird. With that, its spirit was whisked away somewhere. Yet, it could still hear Dangun clearly. “You are going to a place where you are no longer you. Adjust well, and find the mountain god as soon as you can and help him. He is good, so take care that he does not get hurt.” ‘And me?’ ‘Is he not worried about me?’ ‘Because I’m a bird?’ Thoughts like these were running through the bird’s head as it was dropped onto the platform. I the moment, it realized what Dangun meant about the bird not being the bird.  ‘Where… Where did my hat go?’