Post by velvet inkbrush of YiSoonShin on Aug 16, 2004 19:11:52 GMT -5
Choi Choong Hon and his men rode quickly down a dirt path to meet Kim Yak Jin and Noh Suk Soon at a clearing above the grounds of a small temple. Surveying the area below, Choe Choong Hon asked, "Is there no doubt that those who made the attempt on my life are hiding in that temple?"
"We have confirmed it" Suk Soon answered, "but what is more disturbing is that your slave Manjok is also there."
His commander looked at him with disbelief. "What? Are you sure?"
Yak Jin nodded. "It is certain that Manjok is there."
Suk Soon turned to Choe. "What should we do? Do you wish us to arrest him?"
Choe Choong Hon stared silently over the temple, debating what he should do.
Post by velvet inkbrush of YiSoonShin on Aug 16, 2004 19:15:40 GMT -5
Inside the temple, Manjok as well as Mijoy's compatriots were visiting their friend, who had made a speedy recovery after being shot in their previous battle.
Sun Jang said gaily,"Manjok has agreed to join our cause. His name will cause slaves to unite all over the city. I feel as if we have gained an entire army!"
Mijoy threw him an angry glance. "I don't believe him. Why would a slave of that Choe Choong Hon want to join us?"
The old slave chided him. "How can you say that about the man that saved your life?"
"Perhaps it is because you are injured and weak that your eyes do not see so well," Sun Jang suggested.
Finally Manjok spoke. "I do not blame you for doubting me. I was sold to the Choi clan when I was still in my mother's womb and I have served them my entire life with loyalty, never considering myself as their slave. Even the royal ministers treated me differently because I was a their servant."
"Then why would you leave all that behind?" Mijoy challenged.
Manjok threw off his shirt to reveal the lash marks on his back. Anger growing in his voice, he answered,"I never thought of myself as a slave. I was born a man and I always thought of myself as a man not an animal, but I was deluded. I was no different than an animal to my master. And I refuse to live like an animal. If I can do my part to turn this world upside down, to live as a free man even for a day i will do it. If you still doubt me, I understand, but I will never again be a loyal servant to Choe Choong Hon." With that, he threw his shirt back on and left the room.
Sun Jang looked at Mijoy. "Do you still doubt Manjok?"
Mijoy's face reflected his remorse. "Perhaps I was wrong about his intentions."
Post by velvet inkbrush of YiSoonShin on Aug 16, 2004 19:21:32 GMT -5
Outside, Lotus ran to Manok and asked him, "Manjok, are you going to betray your master? Is it your intention to go against the superior general? Are you doing this because he whipped you?"
Monjok said quietly, "I am a man and have no wish to live in a world where a man is treated like an animal."
"But you are no match for the superior general," Lotus warned.
"Perhaps," he replied, "but even if I am ripped to a thousand pieces, I must do this. Social class distinction is a wall created by those who are rich and powerful. I used to think I was powerless to change my fate as a slave. But if I can do even a small part in turning the world upside down, to create a new world where all men have the right to live as men, then I will gladly risk any sort of punishment."
They were interrupted by Sonhwa who announced, "Something terrible has happened - the temple has been surrounded by soliders!"
Turning to Lotus, Manjok said in an earnest voice, "Lotus, when I have helped create this new world, I will return for you!" Having said that, he fled the temple.
Post by velvet inkbrush of YiSoonShin on Aug 16, 2004 19:32:10 GMT -5
Manjok stood outside his master's house as he walked stuporously through the gate.
"What a state you're in," his wife admonished.
"I guess I had a little too much to drink at the reception for my advancement," Choe said jovially. "But if I am needed I will quit civil service and return to military duties. Woo, Hyang," he said turning to his sons, "never forget that you are descended from a long line of warriors."
"We won't forget father," they promised in unison.
"Please come inside," his wife asked.
"Of course, of course...Manjok, may I see you inside for a moment?"
Post by velvet inkbrush of YiSoonShin on Aug 16, 2004 19:42:50 GMT -5
In his study, Choe pulled a metal arrowhead out of a lacquered box. Holding it out to Manjok he asked, "Do you remember this arrow?"
"How could i forget?" was the terse reply.
"It's been what, almost twenty years?" he mused, thinking back to the rebellion where he had fought so long ago. He thought back to how Manjok had tried to persuade him to leave the battle, how he had been thrown off his horse and despite ordering Manjok to tell his family he had died honorably, Manjok took him on his back and carried him through the battle. When the archers were called, Manjok felt an arrow enter his body. At a clearing some distance away, he put Choe down, saying, "We are safe, master" and then collapsed next to him. "What's wrong?" Choe asked when he saw his servant fall. Seeing the arrow in his back he shouted, "Manjok! Manjok-ah! Wake up! Please wake up!"
Choe looked at the arrow head again. "It's been long overdue - I should have done it after that day, but you earned your freedom. Do you wish to be a free man?"
"A free man?" Manjok echoed in disbelief.
"Yes" choe replied. Taking a folded paper from another box, he handed it to manjok. "This is the deed of ownership. Take it and go live free and make a family for yourself."
Manjok took the paper in his hand and was silent. When he finally spoke, he said, "I have lived always with your family and I have no wish to die anywhere else. Please do not forsake me."
choe looked at him incredulously. "Are you sure?"
Manjok nodded his assent
"Very well." As manjok was about to return the document, Choe told him, "Keep it. Burn it whenever you wish to change your mind."
"I assure you I will never burn it," Manjok said, turning to leave.
"Manjok-ah," Choe called after him, "do you still resent me for the whipping?"
"A master punished his servant. Why should I resent you?"
A hurt expression crossed Choe's face. "I never thought of you as a servant, and I never thought of myself as your master."
Manjok nodded. "Rest comfortably, master."
"Very well. You may leave now."
Outside, Manjok passed by a torch and looked at the certificate. After a moment, he put away the paper and continued on his way.
Post by velvet inkbrush of YiSoonShin on Aug 16, 2004 19:59:16 GMT -5
The next morning, the emperor, his ministers and Choe's aide de camp were celebrating the bright new future of the regime. As the music stopped, the emperor raised his glass and toasted the officials and military leaders, asking for their forthright advice to help restore the regime. The ministers toasted the emperor back after which he insisted that there was no need for such formality between them and ordered them to enjoy themselves.
The crown prince sat sullenly at the table and then finally spoke in a loud, drunken voice, "Ha ha. What is your idea of reform and a peaceful regime, eh? The people of this land are little more than skin and bone, slaving away under a hot sun, their backs bent under the weight of oppression and corrupted officials. Don't you hear their cries beyond the palace walls? But how could you...filling your bellies with rich food and wasting your time with drunken entertainment!"
"Taeja" the empress broke in, "how dare you speak in this tone before the emperor?"
The crown prince gave a little chuckle. "But majesty, it was he who said to dispense with the formalities between ruler and subject. That is why i speak in this manner."
He turned to the officials and military leaders. "If you all care so much about the regime, quit your kowtowing. You tiptoe around Choe Choong Hon and expect to create a peceful regime? That's utterly laughable."
One of the ministers shouted, "You exceed your bounds with such comments!"
"Heh, why didn't you stand up to Choe Choong Hon when he deposed the previous emperor? No one has shed even one single tear for the deposed emperor. How dare you swear loyalty to the emperor and flout the interests of peace when all you are interested in is protecting your interests over that of the people? Aren't you even the slightest bit ashamed of yourselves?"
He continued," Now the superior general risked hs life to bring about a new emperor. He even killed his own brother to protect the imperial house. Do you any of you have that kind of courage? No, Choe Choong Hon is the only faithful servant in the imperial house. If he is the pillar of the imperial house, then I say you are nothing but scared little rat bastards who are afraid of when that pillar will come toppling down." Turning to Choe he asked, "Sang jang goon, why not just exterminate them? If you truly want to rectify the regime and realize the noble cause, these men must go. Slay them all!"
Choe did not look up. "Your highness, I fear you have drunk too much."
The prince swayed a little and laughed. "Do not dismiss my counsel as drunken gibberish."
"No - on the contrary I agree with you."
The prince smiled. "So you'll do as i say?"
Choe spoke calmly, "It is not the right time. I've removed the previous emperor and what you are asking is not difficult, but if anyone betrays you or any other member of the imperial house, I will not forgive them. Please trust me."
The emperor spoke up hastily, "You're drunk - return to the palace."
The crown princess took his arm. "Taeja, let us leave."
The prince nodded and went on, "Choe Choong Hon is loyal. If I trust him there will be peace. Hahahahah. Very well. Thank you for your loyalty sang jang goon!!! Thank you very much indeed! Hahahhahaha thank you...thank you..." his voice trailed off as he was escorted out of the palace.
The emperor looked apologetically at the gathering. "I am sorry if in his drunken state the prince has offended any of you."
"Wine affects us all, bae ha," Choe answered diplomatically, "ruler or subject. We cannot take it personally and will not dwell on it, am I correct gentlemen?"
The emperor looked relieved. "Thank you for understanding. I am relieved to hear it. Attendant Wang, liven up this party." The attendant nodded to the musicians to resume playing.
Post by velvet inkbrush of YiSoonShin on Aug 16, 2004 20:02:32 GMT -5
Out of earshot, the princess was attempting to help the prince walk when he righted himself and said clearly, "There is no need, you can let go of my hand - I can walk."
"Taeja, you're not drunk?" she asked in disbelief.
The prince gave a scornful laugh. "How could I get drunk at such a time? The imperial authority is weak and the status of the regime is still unstable."
"You had me worried," she confessed.
"Don't be worried," he reassured her. Choe Choong Hon will shield the imperial house for the time being, but i understand that you met his former lover, Lotus?" When she nodded he told her, "I wish to meet her, so send for her secretly. I will bring this Choe Choong Hon to his knees for doing the same to the imperial house!"