STORYHansaneega@Lee Jongbeom
Gung-YeA fallen saint.A Buddhist monk and failed ruler who appeared at the end of the chaotic Unified Silla. In a time when everyone dreamed of being a king, he was an ambitious man who alone strove to become a god, but he fell due to his excessive faith in himself and trust in the world. His incomplete insight into the universe was what pulled him down, but through Stroke, he finds a new possibility to meet his destiny. “You’re here.” Wang Geon paused in his tracks, his face uncharacteristically bewildered. The man who called him into the royal palace was standing in front of him. In normal circumstances, they were supposed to meet in the palace, but the man with the shaved head and patch over one eye stood in front of his house. “Your Majesty.” “You’re speaking plainly.” Gung-ye waved his hand and looked at Wang Geon. Wang Geon had almost never lost a battle, except those against his sworn enemy Gyeon Hwon, but for some reason, he felt his extremities losing strength. ‘Is he going to go on about Mireuk again?’ He thought of a word that could be used to make slight of the Gung-ye, thinking he would go on or babble or something,  but there definitely was a fire in Gung-ye’s remaining eye—one that couldn’t be ignored. No, should it be called a divine power? “Wang Geon, you’re plotting against me, right?” It was hard to just ignore what that kind of man said. Plotting? Could there be such a ridiculously false accusation for someone who was a subordinate? ‘How did he know?’ But for Wang Geon, who was in fact dreaming of rebellion, it wasn’t a false accusation.  He’d been found out. “Do not fear. The reason why I’ve come to your house is to have a frank conversation.” “I’m… I’m not sure what you’re saying.” The atmosphere was strange. If it were the normal Gung-ye, he would have said strange things, something like how there was a devil hovering over him, and that he would behead him. Wasn’t it Gung-ye who killed people left and right because he felt poorly or was deluded? But a frank conversation?  “Do you remember when I named you Hanchan, Great General of the Navy, and ordered a high title for you?” Either way, the king wanted to converse. Glancing behind him, he saw fully armed soldiers standing there. In times like these, he had to go along with it. “I remember, sir.” “Yes, I remember that clearly as well.” Upon closer inspection, Gung-ye wasn‘t looking at Wang Geon. Instead, he was looking up at the sky. His one remaining eye was sparkling, full of moonlight. “I absolutely looked like Mireuk back then. Think back to it. The choice I made at the time. Did I make a mistake?” “You were truly sagacious.” Even as Wang Geon dreamed of treason, he couldn‘t deny the Gung-ye of that time was a sage king. No, he was something more than a sage king. The problem appeared when… “I was able to read the energy of the universe.” “That…” “I won‘t deny it. I believed I could become a god, not a king. And…” Now Gung-ye was looking down at the ground, not the sky. His flickering eye now undulated with darkness. “And I fell. I have more days when I am not sane, than days when I am.” Wang Geon couldn‘t dare interrupt Gung-ye. Even on an ordinary day, Gung-ye was full of dignity, but today, he was much more than that. No, Wang Geon was thinking about the Gung-ye of the past. Yes, the Gung-ye of that time was something more than a king. “Wang Geon. When tomorrow comes, I will forget our conversation from today. I will most likely scream that you have been possessed by a devil to kill you.” Wang Geon looked around again and saw Gung-ye was looking at him, not the sky nor the ground. What was reflected in his eye was Wang Geon, not darkness. “Do not die. Do not die simply by my corrupted hand. Kill me.” “Your Majesty, how could you say…” “Stop speaking so plainly. I already know there are quite a few people following you.” “Your Majesty!” Wang Geon was taken with a strange emotion. Was this a trap? Was the crazy king baiting him? It didn’t seem like that. But this Gung-ye seemed to be speaking from the heart. “I don’t have much time.” And he looked to be in pain. Grunts slipped out between his words and even looked like a sage king being tortured. “I’ll speak quickly. Listen to what you will and let go of the things you will. If you become king instead of me, your greatest foe will be Gyeon Hwon.” Becoming king instead of him? How could he disrespect him here? But Wang Geon couldn’t say anything, so he just listened. The Gung-ye of right now had the power to coerce whatever he wanted. “Don’t fight. Gyeon Hwon is more skilled in war. You have to do what only you can do. It’s not just what I can’t do, but what Gyeon Hwon can’t do as well. You must assimilate and unify the country. Ajagae, King Gyeongsun, Kwonhaeng, Janggil, Kim Seon Pyeong… You must embrace even that Gyeon Hwon.” Wang Geon looked at the eye that reflected him. Gung-ye was looking at the eyes that reflected the moonlight. “The future of this country is with you. It’s not with me. I… I am not a Mireuk, I am a fallen… Monster, be sure… Be sure you remember. Then… I’ll go now. The time I was given is up now.” Gung-ye, still looking into Wang Geon’s eyes, smiled and left his house for the palace. The whole journey back he didn’t look up at the sky, not even once. Naturally, his eye was full of darkness. Wang Geon felt confused for a moment, watching him leave, but soon he collected himself. “Capture Gung-ye!” Not long after that day, Wang Geon started a revolt. “Yes, this is how it should be.” Gung-ye came to his senses right at that moment and ran away alone, and escaped the palace. “Where would be good?” Where could he die, as a fallen man? His sin of daring to assume the title of a god upon his incomplete enlightenment was not insignificant. It was clear the curse had gone past his body and invaded his soul, and even more, it would infect the earth he would be buried in. No matter if a king died due to a revolt, a king was still a king, but it meant a royal tomb would be too grand for him. So Gung-ye just walked, and walked. To pass the land Wang Geon would rule. To die somewhere isolated. He believed that was a proper death. -Ring Then somewhere, he heard the sound of strings. Was it because he had once taken a peek at even just a piece of the universe? ‘This…’ Gung-ye recognized this was something extraordinary. -Ring The closer the sound got, Gung-ye realized this was a great calling. ‘Who is looking for a sinner?’ For some reason, Gung-ye thought it might be a being in the sky. He did sin, and he was punished accordingly, but he thought he might be able to be forgiven by a being who could not be called anything but a god. “Gung-ye, the fallen saint. Welcome.” And Gung-ye was brought to the platform as he was looking up at the night sky. There was a humble man standing in front of him, not the being who called him here. “Who are you?” “I am a guide. You are free here.” “Free? Then am I forgiven? “Forgiving you is not in my purview. Also, your freedom here will always have a price.” “Then there’s a possibility.” But, as they conversed, he could see. That the being on high was using the guide’s mouth to speak for him. ‘Maybe I can be forgiven for my sins have reached the heavens.’ The being was speaking of forgiveness. There was no way it would be easy. Gung-ye still only saw a piece when he looked up at the sky. If there was something that got a little better, it was that after he fell, he became aware of approximately how small the universe he had been watching was.  “Then I wish you a good fight.” “I thank you.” Gung-ye pressed his hands together when the guide had already disappeared, and looked around. There was nothing in his immediate view. It was just darkness. Even the night when he was being chased wasn’t this dark. But Gung-ye walked forward, as if he could see the light at the end of this darkness. He was slow, but there was no hesistancy in him.