ENGLISH V.A.Matue jeong
STORYHansaneega@Lee Jongbeom
The TigerFeared, respected and lonely.It rules over the mountain in which it lives; hence, the nickname 'The Protector of the Mountain'. In the mountains after dark, if you come to face two flames glaring at you, know you're in the presence of the protector.   A tree stump. A ruined valley. The bodies of animals tossed around everywhere.   “Fuu…”   Another mountain was dying.   “Human…”   The king of the mountain. No, how was he to be the king of the mountain when he’d lost his mountain? It was an empty title. Yes, a tiger. The tiger narrowed his eyes and stared at the bottom of the mountain.   - Rumble   Although a thick blanket of darkness had fallen over the mountain, there was no hesitation in the humans’ movements. No, they seemed to be moving even more deftly now than during the day. Pushing away the stumps of felled trees with strange metal. Pushing away the darkness with flames that never went out, waking the animals to push them out.   “Grrr…”   Anger coursed through his body. But strangely, the tiger couldn't step forward. Fear and terror crashed throughout his body, overtaking his anger.   - No!   He was never alone from the beginning. There was a time when there was a king on every mountain under the sky. All beings who stepped foot onto the mountain were beneath him during that time. Of those, there were times when he helped those who didn't belong in the mountain: the humans. He gave meat to those who were trembling from hunger, and he offered total devotion to some, helping them over the mountain.   - No…!   Of course, he didn't just help. It was because there were those who dared to harm the king of the mountain. Even if it wasn't for that, there were those who tried to overly harm the winged animals. Punishing those who are corrupt. That was another job for the king of the mountain.   - This can't be... This can't...   There were those of his kind that fell far, infiltrating human villages and eating humans. They did die at the hands of humans sometimes, but would the king of a mountain be easy to take on? Rather, there were instances when those who set out to hunt were the ones who got hurt more. In the end, punishing them was also a king’s job. In retrospect, the kings of the mountains lived alongside humans for thousands of years.   -Clang   The tiger came to his senses.   “Huff… Huff…”   Looking around, it was a mountain with no occupants. No, was it a pile of dirt, not a mountain? His mind had gotten so far away from him, and his coat, which should have been shiny, was dull and dirty. And yet, instead of being sad, the tiger merely found this to be a relief. Because he wasn't dead.   - Clang   One day, the humans brought a lump of metal. Fire blew out of the lump of metal, along with a little lump of metal. From that day forth, the mountain was no longer the king’s. The humans doggedly hunted down the kings and killed them. As if they had been sworn enemies from the start.   -What… What about you?   Of those humans, there were those he’d personally been kind to. But those humans also pulled their triggers, without even a hint of regret on their faces. That was the reason the tiger was limping on his back leg. But the tiger was better off. Because the others were all dead. He truly was the last. The last tiger of the land, the tiger who had taken it upon himself to be the sole king of the mountain was now alone. He laid down on the dirt.   Should I…die instead?   Revenge? There were times when he’d dreamed of it. But the humans only got stronger. And grew bigger in number. They even cut through the mountain more and more. If he’d known that he’d live pitiful life only to witness this, he wouldn’t have run that day.   “Sigh…”   Thinking of it as his last, the tiger brought a short pipe to his mouth. There was a time when it was considered an antique, but now it was just an old wood stick. And it was filled with poison, not tobacco. Yes, this was the end. This was how he would die.   - Ring   Just that moment, the tiger heard it. It was a sound he’d never heard before, but at the same time, he knew what it was. It had been a long time since he’d lost his mountain, but the tiger was a holy being at one time. Knowing that he was being called by a great being, and he slowly put down his pipe. And he waited.   “Mm…”   Right then, the sound rang inside him, and the tiger was called to a place other than his pile of dirt. He didn’t panic. He could understand his current situation with just a hint of the power he thought he’d lost.   “Stroke…” “Welcome, King of the Mountain.”   Turning around at the sound of the voice that was neither man nor woman, he saw a being even he, the king of the mountain, had never seen.   “You brought me… No, no. You’re my guide.”   The tiger jerked his chin up and looked at the guide. The guide’s eyes glowed brilliantly.   Truly… As befitting of the last king of the mountain.   Some said this being was the cowardice of the living. Whatever it was, he had to be special somehow, as the one who protects the last of their kind. The guide nodded, once again surprised at Stroke’s choice.     “Yes, I am your guide.” “What am I to do in this place?” “There is nothing set.”   The guide waved his hand. This meant a denial, but it was also a movement to bring change. The foggy background disappeared, and he could see figures looking around. The tiger stayed calm so he could take account of who was around him.   “There’s…a human.”   And it wasn’t just a human, it was a human in military clothing. How many of his own did he lose to humans like that one? And how many mountains? His eyes blazed with fury and madness.   “Is there a human with a gun, too?”   The guide cocked his head for a moment at the king’s question but soon shook his head.   “There isn’t, as far as I know.” “Then can I rip them to shreds?” “There’s nothing set… I told you already.” “Good.”   At the guide’s answer, the king of the mountain’s eyes turned into something like those of the corrupted beings he’d once hunted, and he started to follow the nearly discharged sergeant. The guide simply watched the muddied king of the mountain. As he’d said, there were no rules set here, but the price of their actions would be their own.   If he’s the true king of the mountain…he might move differently.   Instead of offering hasty advice, the guide just hid himself.