ENGLISH V.A.Matue jeong
Master Monk Sa-MyungThe monk who sacrificed his beliefs for the greater good.A legendary member of the militia of the Josun Dynasty who had to take lives to save them. Hair buzzed to the scalp, robes and a kasaya draped over a bare body... And the staff held in his hands… The monk sighed at the devastation before his eyes. Haa… A dead child covered in blood, a mother lying dead on top of her child, and a father facing the sky, his body strewn dead by the doorway... This wasn’t the only house that looked like this. The entire village was full of death. “Amitâbha…” One of his disciples closed his eyes and started chanting. “In the next life, please…” Another disciple prayed for the souls of the departed. They’d already passed by three villages. Was there anyone alive? There was no one. Truly, it was only full of death. “I cannot stay blind to this any longer.” Samyeong had to put down his staff. He picked up the sword instead. ----- “Teacher, what are you thinking about so hard?” “It’s nothing good… There’s no need to worry. It’s deep into the night. Let’s sleep.” “Will you be able to sleep tonight?” “I don’t know.” It had been a long time since Samyeong put down his blade and picked up his staff, but he still felt like he was stuck in the time when he carried around his blade. He couldn’t sleep. No, it was hard to sleep. “Teacher! There are the Japanese ahead!” “They are all bastards that we will kill. Get ready.” “Yes, Sir!” Samyeong led his monks forward, and the Japanese soldiers met them in battle, armed with swords, spears, and matchlocks. Of those, the most violent were the commanders who were armed with swords. Were they called samurais? It was a big issue if just one of them got into the fight. It would absolutely kill or hurt many of them if they fought. Clank! Samyeong drove the sword in his hand into the ground. And the dirt the Japanese soldiers were running on turned into mud and started to sink in on itself. “Wait, this…!” “It, it’s Samyeong!” “I was wondering who they were…!” “R, run!” Some of the Japanese soldiers, who were caught up to their knees in sticky mud, lost their will to fight. And when they confirmed Samyeong was the one who cast this magic, the rest lost most of their will to fight. There were some who started to hurl their weapons willy-nilly. “All of you. Die, All of you.” But Samyeong didn’t even blink an eye. He cut down his opponent. His disciples also didn’t hesitate. Striking at heads with their khakkharas. Cutting down with their swords. The monks drove on, decimating their opponents expertly and solidly like butchers. “These… These vicious…! “S, spare me!” They paid no heed to the Japanese soldiers’ cries. Samyeong wouldn’t have slaughtered so wildly if it was the beginning of the war. But hesitation only returned in the death of grassroots. He could be wrong. Samyeong’s mercy and the devastation of the village could have no connection. But if he had killed them, wouldn’t the village be safe? Once this thought started to cartwheel in his head, Samyeong stopped granting mercy. “Are you hurt anywhere?” “No, thanks to your magic, Teacher…” “That’s good.” He just killed them in silence. And so his disciples followed him in silence. And one day, Samyeong looked at the staff his disciple was carrying. To this day, he didn’t know why. He just happened to look at it. The disciple was just brushing off the pieces of flesh and drops of blood that once made up a person from the khakkhara with the kasaya draped on his body. “Ah, ahhhh!” Samyeong’s dreams always ended this way. “Here’s some water.” His disciple had water ready, as if he was used to it, too, and offered it to him. It happened every day, so it was inevitable. “Thanks. Get some more sleep.” “Yes, Teacher.” The student lay back down, and Samyeong stepped outside to look at the sky. He couldn’t remember when it began, but for quite some time now, the stars that embroidered the night sky looked like droplets of blood splashed all around. He couldn’t bear to look at the sky now. Samyeong sat down on the porch and started to wipe his staff. He started to wipe so hard that the staff was almost glowing. “Teacher.” How long had he been wiping it? When he looked back, the sun had started to rise. “Oh.” “Did you stay awake all night last night as well?” “It’s alright. I had things to… Hm.” “Teacher? What’s wrong?” Samyeong’s disciple knew he could at least sleep a little during the day. And since the war was over, his disciple didn’t arrange for appointments unless totally necessary, and they were scheduled with time in between each, like how Samyeong said to. So, Samyeong’s reaction just now wasn’t normal. When the disciple asked why Samyeong just looked out with a strange smile on his face. “It looks like an honorable guest will visit us today.” “A guest?” The disciple cocked his head. Who would be coming without sending word? He thought it was odd. But the disciple knew Samyeong’s web of connections was larger than average and also knew his teacher’s power of virtue was peerless, so he hurriedly prepared to welcome the guest. There wasn’t much to do. He just ran out and looked out on the path leading to them. “There’s no need,” said Samyeong, as the disciple grabbed the broom to sweep the path. It was strange how he said that. “Teacher, the path has been unused for quite some time, so it’s a mess.” “The guest coming today won’t be walking here, so it doesn’t matter how it looks.” “What?” They said it would become more fun as time passed. But he was just saying weirder things. Will they be riding in on a horse? When he thought about it, there were some yangbans who knew how to ride a horse. Although, he did wonder what kind of horse would be able to ride up to the perilous mountaintop. Samyeong chuckled at his confused disciple and said, “Our guest will ride in on the wind, so do not worry.” “The wind...?” The disciple furtively thought about Heo Jun. He had thought his teacher wasn’t able to sleep, but he was certain something had gone wrong. He sincerely hoped his teacher was fine. “Teacher?” But while the disciple was distracted for a moment, Samyeong had lain down on his side. “I’m going to go somewhere for a moment… I’ll see you later.” “Sir? Why are you doing this? It’s so scary!” A grin slowly spread on Samyeong’s face as he watched his flustered disciple, but he was transported to a completely different place, accompanied by louder music. “Ah.” It was dark. It was dark everywhere except for where the figure in front of him was standing. The figure, dressed in white, approached and spoke. “The sword-bearing Monk Samyeong, welcome.” “Well... Where on earth am I?” He knew someone was coming. But he never thought he would come to a place like this. And the fact that it was dark everywhere bothered Samyeong in particular. It was because night and death were connected. “You are on the platform. A place where all possibilities are open.” “We’re on the... what form?” “It’s a foreign word for you, so don’t try to understand. The important thing is how all possibilities are open.” “All possibilities, you say…” Samyeong thought of just one thing he wanted when he heard ‘all possibilities.’ “Then can I become a monk again?” “Aren’t you already a monk?” “How could I say follow the teachings of Buddha when I’ve murdered? I am simply an apostate monk.” “An apostate… And that was your choice, as well?” “Yes.” “What will you do if you have to fight in a war again? Will you murder again? Or will you live differently?” The guide’s questions seemed normal, but they were enough to make Samyeong feel guilt. It was because they asked what he had always thought. “That… I don’t know.” “Then, I don’t think it will be an easy road. We won’t know. Since this is a place where you can hold a staff instead of a sword.” “Oh.” The guide couldn’t say he’d be able to see the road. However, it felt like a ray of light streaming down from far away, like the sun rising on a perennially dark night. A staff… instead of a sword? Samyeong looked down at the staff he’d gotten for himself as soon as the war ended, the staff that shone from his daily polishings. For the first time, he could see it looked like a staff but was actually a sword. If he were to remain in this place... Could this truly become a staff? “Then… I wish you peace.” “Oh?” Peace? Samyeong looked up after hearing the familiar phrase and realized the figure in white had disappeared long ago. But what he said remained like an echo and rang in Samyeong’s ear. “I always root for people like you.” Samyeong fell to his knees right there. Lord Buddha…?