STORYHansaneega@Lee Jongbeom
Mountain DeityA god who has decided to remain on the earthly plane.An old man has realized the secret of life. The old man is given a choice in front of death, and instead of leaving and forgetting all he knows, he chooses to protect those he left behind. “Are you sure you won’t regret it?” The elderly man looked up at the clear-eyed being dressed in a red tunic. There was not a single wrinkle on its pale face, and its silky hair was tied back into a single topknot. And still, he didn’t think it was younger than him. If he had to put a finger on it, perhaps it was the expression. He felt an incalculable amount of time. Two clear, glass circles were in front of its sharp eyes. It looked like a blindfold but didn’t cover them. Were they a unique characteristic of the awakened ones? “Yes, sir.” The old man answered with great politeness without even realizing it. The clear-eyed man accepted the polite tone. But the man didn’t accept the answer of ‘yes’. “Think carefully. Since you have to think about what it means if you refuse.” He pointed up at the sky. Normally the sky would have a sun and clouds, but the blue sky had a hole in it. It was because the old man had realized the secret to life before he died. Thunder rumbled at that moment, and he looked up at a man who appeared with the thunder. “I…” The old man saw that there really was a sky beyond the sky through the hole above them. There was a multitude of faces looking down from above the cloud. Not a single one seemed ordinary. Rather, the man in front of him seemed ordinary in comparison. ‘That’s… the land of the hermits.’ The enlightenment they gain below the sky should be enough, but what could he be able to see if he went up there? The old man's heart, empty because he thought he was going to die soon, slowly filled with desire. His vision blurred. The old man shook his head. "I...will stay here and look after people." "That’s a rare decision. But I'll ask the question differently. People repay kindness with hate. Will you still be alright?" "Yes. I'm fine with that. I'll stay here." "I respect your decision. However..." The old man lifted his head at the man's proviso. "If you want true enlightenment in the future, you cannot be suspicious, even if your choice brings you to someplace bigger, or if that place is somewhere you didn't expect." ‘I was already seeing with the eyes from the sky above the sky. How could all I knew about life be the entirety of life? If what I compiled up until now was something to be thankful for, then enlightenment from now on would need effort on my part.’ “Yes, I shall do so.” The man shrugged and fidgeted with the glass frame in front of his face at the old man’s response. Then, the glass that blocked the man’s eyes seemed to emanate with light, and the sky cried out. -Rumble Thunder crashed, and the sky closed up simultaneously. The old man realized he had become the god of the mountain he was on and was thus a mountain god. “It was a joyful time.” When he guided a filial son’s feet to forage mountain ginseng. When he saved a starving mother and son with fruit and fowl while they were sleeping. When he removed a tiger who decimated human life for no reason… None of these tasks were particularly joyful. But it was a time that was mostly worthwhile. Since he was able to care for those who were left behind, as he wanted. -Boom It wasn’t long ago when a change happened. A group of people came along and talked about making a tunnel, then soon started to set off explosives. -Boom At first, he wondered what a tunnel was. Then, he wondered how much damage humans could do to the enormous mountain by just setting off explosives. -Boom But the mountain god had to admit it now. He was looking down on humans. -Boom The mountain was groaning. The hole they made wasn’t small, And the ‘cars’ that passed through it weren’t few in number. Moreover, the animals that the mountain cared for died on the suddenly-made tunnel and road. “Oh… No…” Generally speaking, the mounatin was him. Every time the mountain collapsed, or those who made the mountain got crushed and die, the mountain god couldn’t help but die. If it had stopped there, he would have been able to stand it. But humans didn’t leave the mountain alone. -Rumble They leveled the mountain and built buildings there, no matter the cost. And what did the king of the mountain, who protected it with the mountain god, do? He died. Long ago. Not only him, but the other kings of the mountains also died cruel deaths. At least, humans couldn’t kill the mountain itself, so the mountain god was still alive. “Ah… Agh…” But he was dying. And it seemed there weren’t any humans who could help him. Because humans could save themselves now without the help of the mountain god. “Do you regret it?” One day, the man he’d met thousands of years ago appeared, even though the sky didn’t open, and thunder didn’t crash. Was it a dream? He didn’t know. “Have you come to mock me?” “Mock? I’m just curious how you feel.” “Since this is how it turned out… I do have regrets.” “What will you do if I ask you whether you’ll go to the sky?” “I heard there are a lot of people I can help in the city. Ascending will be better than my current situation… However, if I can, I want to do more here.” He was speechless for a moment at the mountain god’s—no, the old man’s—words. The old man couldn’t know, but it was a truly rare moment for the man. “That’s admirable. Are you saying you don’t even hate them?” “They don’t know what they’re doing.” “I see.”, said the man. He suddenly looked up. Above the man’s head was the hole in the sky, the one he saw in the past. The old man didn’t know why. “Soon you’ll hear a sound, and it will guide you.” “Very well.” But he knew what the man was saying was true. So he nodded. “When you go there, you’ll be given a different chance.” “Can I ask what kind of chance?” “You’ll probably be able to make what you want come true.” “Oh, then…!” “But it could turn out worse than how things are now.” “Worse than this?” “That’ll be hard, too. Anyway… If your heart is this pure, I don’t think you’ll have much to worry about.” A sound rang in his ear just as the man ended his sentence. It was a sound he’d never heard before, and the old man instinctively knew it was the sound the man meant. “Mountain god, welcome.” “Oh, hello.” Thanks to him, he was less surprised. He was surprised even thought it was a place he’d never seen before, and he was facing a being he’d never met. “This is a platform. You’re free here. However, you simply need to remember that your choices will always come with a price.” “I understand.” He also felt fear. But there was hope, as well. Since that man, someone he was sure was from high up, said what he wanted could come true. “I will try my best once again.” “I wish you a good fight. The platform supports you and all like you.”