STORYHansaneega@Lee Jongbeom
HaetaeA divine beast that appears in times where fairness is lost.A legendary four-legged animal that appears with a cloud wrapped around its neck. If you are just, do not worry. The haetae only punishes those who are unjust. That was just a rumor. No, it was a ghost story. It was also a story that would obviously disappear when the time came. There surely was a time people thought of it like that. “Seriously, how does that make sense? A monster snatched him up?” “Shit, I’m telling you I saw it, boss… Why can’t we contact him if that’s not what happened?” “This is why I told you to lay off the drugs, didn’t I? Repeat after me. Drugs aren’t for using, they’re for selling. Are we druggies or something? We have to earn tons of dough with this stuff and live long, happy lives. Why would you take that?” “I’m off drugs, dammit!” “As if.” The jeering man pushed up the sleeve of the other man, who looked like he was about to cry. That revealed the skin on his arms, which was littered with little holes. He attempted to cover it up with tattoos, but it wasn’t enough to cover all of them up. It also meant he’d poked himself that many times. “And this is the arm of someone off drugs?” “I was off them then! I got high after. I did it because I got so scared.” “So you shot yourself up because you got scared of a nonexistent monster? Well that’s just great, idiot. Aren’t you just lying your ass off because you don’t want to go to work?” “No, no! That time… That thing…” The man saw fear in the other man’s eyes. He didn’t know exactly what it was, but the fear seemed real. Of course, he didn’t believe everything the junkie said. ‘So a random monster appeared and said bad guys had to be punished?’ ‘Surely children’s books are better written than this.’ It was obvious he’s simply gotten high and seen things. The problem was that one of the guys in their crew had disappeared. He was one of their crew only in name, because he’d long since become an addict and he was broken off from their crew a long time ago, so the man didn’t worry too much about it. But the annoying thing was that because this one was out of his mind, he himself had to go out to work. “No way. Hey, let’s go.” “Oh, okay.” “You have the stuff?” “Yes. Here.” “Crazy bastard. Are you going to just give it all up to the cops if they show up? Just take a little. We’re screwed if we get caught.” “Yes, boss.” He neatly took some and stepped outside. The moon hadn’t risen properly for some reason, so it was pretty dark. But that was a good thing. Since the job he chose wasn’t one where he could walk around proudly under the sun. But he did have a dream. ‘Now if I just work for a few more years… I’m going to bounce overseas.’ He could see the mountain of money in front of him, enough that he could spend buckets every day without doing a thing. It was right in front of him, something he couldn’t even dream of if he didn’t sell drugs. The man walked into the club and carefully looked around at the people standing alone. They also looked at him closely and soon said ‘ice.’ It was a code. One the cops still didn’t know. “100,000 won.” “Give me 10.” “Then it’s 1,000,000 won.” “There’s no discount?” “Do you think this is a supermarket? You crazy bastard, looking for a discount…” He felt a little nervous at the fact that despite his naïve-looking face, he tried to haggle. He might be a detective. No matter how much people thought and said the cops in this country were incompetent, they caught criminals better than they assumed. “Hey, I told you to stop doing this!” As he was looking around instead of handing over the drugs right away, a guy came over. The guy wasn’t a cop. He knew this instinctively. ‘There isn’t any cop who dresses so well.’ It should be a relief if he’s at least wearing Nike kicks. “What are you doing, man?” “Mister, he’s getting off drugs. Please leave.” “Bullshit… You want me to just leave when I brought it here? Then give me the money and go.” “That makes no sense. That’s so much money. It’s money he borrowed from me. This crazy bastard is buying drugs with someone else’s money.” “Buddy…” The well-dressed guy must not have known how scary he was because he kept mouthing off and tried to pull his junkie friend away. There was no way he’d leave it alone. “Just beat him up a little first. Let’s act like gangsters, too, for today.” Being a place where drug deals went down, it was fittingly creepy. Beating up one or two people and lifting a little money wasn’t even a big event. “Ugh.” And they had six on their side. And two on that side, counting the junkie, so it was safe to say they had one. “Ugh.” But the well-dressed guy was pretty good. He flew around here and there, kicking with his feet, so it was hard to focus. “Uh, ugh…!” And there was some kind of spray in his jacket pocket, which already made one of them rub their eyes in a frenzy, rolling all around. “This bastard…” He was just going to beat him up. But the man took out a knife. That became a signal, so the others took out knives, too. “Uh… Hey, this is cheating.” The well-dressed guy’s face turned serious in an instant. It was only natural. A shiny blade was enough to make most people lose their minds. “You caused this, you bastard.” With that, he stuck out the knife toward the frozen guy’s belly, thinking he’d stab him while laughing at him and then steal his money, but- -Growl Somewhere, he heard an animal’s snarl. ‘Wait, is it above my head?’ “Huh…? Agh!” A lackey with a knife fell to the ground with a scream. As he was wondering what exactly was wrong with this idiot, he looked up. “Uh…” There was a monster. Straight horns, eyes as big as oil lamps, and sparse, crooked teeth. And of those, if he were to choose what was scariest, it had to be the eyes. They didn’t look normal. Somehow, they looked murky. Moreover, the sound it made was also spine-chilling. ‘Die, evil child.’ These words felt strange for some reason to the well-dressed man. Normally, the order to die didn’t accompany calling for children. Then, suddenly, the men with knives started to vomit, one after the other. They only heard it coming in the form of a rumbling noise from deep inside their bellies. “Kuhk.” That was the man’s last word. He was sucked into the monster’s body alive. And, he wasn’t the only one. All of the men who’d taken out their knives were gobbled up one by one. “Uh…” Now, the well-dressed guy was also quite scared. ‘I’ve run away from the bad guys and now I’m faced with a lunatic murderer… Is that a correct summary so far?’ - Are you… a good child? As he was considering how to get away, the monster asked him a question.  “I’m… pretty good.” - Then you understand me… I will accept that for now. He replied instinctively. The monster whipped his head away and disappeared. His eyes were red. He wondered if he was on drugs. -Ring Then, the haetae heard a ring in his ear as he ran down the night streets. If he heard it when he was ignorant and weak, he would not have known what the sound meant. But he was a divine beast. In other words, a godly animal. But the haetae had long since been thrown into a time in which it’s difficult to tell what is just and what is not, so he lost his power of discernment a long time ago. And more than that, he was once tricked by bad people and hurt good people, and so he was trying to forget this. “Welcome, Haetae.” A guide was standing in front of the haetae. Somehow, the look on his face seemed to be one of pity. It wasn’t a delusion. ‘Being immortal isn’t always great.’ Things that were alive in times where everything was clear and defined always seemed to happen upon misfortune in this way. This applied even better to the haetae. Because, after all, it was a punisher. The haetae was a being whose situation went past unlucky: it was entirely broken down. -You… The good thing was that the Strok phenomenon was quite a powerful experience. The haetae’s eyes were clear for the first time in a very long time. “This is a platform. You have the freedom to choose here. But remember: all choices come with a price.” - Can I stay here? The haetae asked a question others didn’t ask. It was understandable, but it was also something that couldn’t be allowed. “No. You must go back.” - So it’s difficult. “Your choices here will change the you in your original place.” - I have never changed. The world has. “Then you might be able to understand the world.” - Are you saying I have to understand that damn world? “Since there are still humans who believe there is justice in the world.” - They’re naïve. The haetae shook its head. Right now, they had to think the world was doomed. It was a world where unjust people claimed that they were just. The problem was that even the haetae had a hard time figuring out which was which. So, it gave up. But it still knew. There were those who still didn’t give up in the hordes of tiny organisms that were humans. - The last… It’s the last. The haetae dropped its head down but looked around with its eyes still bright. It might have been a very tiny chance, but it thought there may be a possibility of finding justice again. - Coincidentally… I happen to know someone. The haetae’s nostrils flared as he soon smelled a familiar scent. It was the scent of a man who once helped him lay down justice. But he was hurt and was corrupted, and it was the smell of a man who was chasing innocent people. ‘The last king of the mountain. I will try to help you first.’ The haetae started to run to the final, singular tiger.