Chronicles of the Heavenly Demon
Chapter 68 – Divine Maiden (2)
Translated by : moonchildkhz
That evening, Chun A-young had been sitting on her window frame and staring blankly at the sunset. The sky was colored a glittering red.
It was then that she saw the rising column of flame.
It was far away, for sure, but clearly visible. A-young stood up reflexively once she saw where it was coming from.
Hmm? Was there a fire at the Divine Maiden’s Palace?
As she watched, the column continued to fly upwards.
It’s like a fire dragon is ascending to the Heavens. How pretty.
Part of the fire disappeared into the sky. Another part shot in another direction, like a meteor towards the earth.
A-young stared at the sky and tilted her head in confusion. Wait… Is that thing coming towards me…?
Such thoughts were not just a delusion. It is! It looks like it’s growing larger…!
By the time she had realized this, the ball of fire was already right in front of her.
A-young flew off the window frame and quickly retreated back into her own room. Turning sharply, she dashed past her bed and out the door. She continued running, breaking into a cold sweat as she rushed down the corridor and towards the staircase.
Despite the heat crawling up her back, she thought that she’d dodged the fireball. However, the ball of fire swiftly turned and continued flying towards A-young.
Did it just change its trajectory to chase after me…?
That was unexpected. No one would have thought a flying ball of flame could change direction and pursue its target.
A-young twisted to the side again in an attempt to avoid the fire. But the ball of flames moved even faster. The chunk of fire quickly approached her, trapping her in on all sides.
It then exploded right in front of her chest and she screamed.
Meanwhile, the flames had taken over the surroundings in an instant.
When the Heavenly Demon heard the Senior Strategist’s words, his face stiffened. Chun Hwi then immediately rushed ahead, leaving Woon-seong and the Senior Strategist to chase after him.
That’s some incredible movement.
Woon-seong shook his head, looking at the man who was leaving them further and further behind.
That speed only suits his title as the Heavenly Demon. If I want to catch up to that speed and inherit the name of the Heavenly Demon, I will have to work hard in the future.
But putting that aside for now…
Woon-seong’s eyes deepened.
After the Senior Strategist had spoken to the Cult Leader, he had not had time to relay the message to Woon-seong before they were chasing after Chun Hwi.
Of course, Woon-seong made an educated guess based on the Cult Leader’s reaction.
I never thought she’d be chosen as the Divine Maiden.
The image of a young woman flashed through Woon-seong’s mind, memories of her as a young child and also recently.
We weren’t exactly friends, but we have known each other since childhood. Her attitude seems to have changed recently, but we’ve been in some sort of rivalry until not long ago. Now that I think of it… it looks like I actually had a sense of competition when I was young.
That was back in the early days of the Cave of Latent Demons though. Now, no matter how hard she tried, there was a gap between her and Woon-seong.
Anyways, the Divine Maiden…
The Divine Maiden was the one who communicated with the Divine Flame and received the Will of the First Heavenly Demon, but she also served the presiding Heavenly Demon.
As long as Woon-seong was the Young Leader, he was destined to become the Heavenly Demon.
Then, the one the Divine Maiden would be serving was…
Thinking up to that point, Woon-seong’s face went rigid.
He stopped thinking.
Oh, the Leader has already arrived.
By then, the Heavenly Demon had reached the White Ape House. Woon-seong and the Senior Strategist could see him standing there.
The entire building was burning, causing the face of the Heavenly Demon to harden.
The fire seemed to originate from the third floor, the highest room in the House.
If the White Ape House had the same structure as the Charred Dragon House, that room would be where Chun A-young, the captain of the unit, lived.
It was natural for the Heavenly Demon’s expression to harden.
Woon-seong frowned at the building, furrowing his eyebrows, as he ran closer.
Something was wrong.
The place is on fire, yet the actual building and its surroundings don’t seem to be damaged at all.
At first, Woon-seong thought he had seen wrong.
Or, in other words, flames that could burn the everything else to ashes.
By that definition, the fire in the White Ape House was definitely strange.
It looks like this isn’t some ordinary [Fire]. Really, the fire is surrounding the wooden house, but nothing is damaged. It’s like the fire is just burning by itself.
But they couldn’t just sit back and watch the mirage-like fire forever.
The Heavenly Demon moved first.
With a ‘whoosh’, he was flying up to the top floor in an instant. With two steps, he landed on the balcony. The Senior Strategist and Woon-seong followed after him, entering the building through the window in that order.
Like the outside, the fire burned the inside of the House too.
Chun Hwi’s gaze was directed towards the center of the fire, where Chun A-young sat, the flames encircling her.
Is the fire protecting her or imprisoning her? Woon-seong wondered. I mean, it doesn’t seem to be harming her.
Either way, the appearance of the fire around the young woman could not be easily explained with words.
Woon-seong was slightly trembling. So this is the power of the Divine Flame…?
The Cult of the Heavenly Demon continued to surprise him.
At that time, A-young opened her mouth. “Fath-” She stopped herself, looking up as she tried to think of what to say. She only continued a little while later. “Leader.”
Is it just me… or did I see the Leader shiver a little…? Maybe Woon-seong had seen wrong, but it seemed that when A-young changed the way she addressed Chun Hwi, the Leader’s shoulders had trembled very subtly.
Woon-seong soon erased that thought.
It was because of the response.
“Come out from there.”
The voice of the Heavenly Demon was no different than usual. It was a voice filled with confidence. But just like with the trembling shoulders, Woon-seong seemed to hear bitterness in that voice.
Woon-seong didn’t bother to question why. Like he had noticed often before, the Leader was a man with two faces. He was a tyrant to those beyond his fence, but was a benevolent king to those beside him. It was no wonder that such a Chun Hwi had the face of a Heavenly Demon and a father.
As Woon-seong thought, Chun Hwi once again spoke. “Come out from that fire.”
Chun A-young glanced at the wall of fire surrounding her. Though it seemed like it protected her, it was also trapping her inside.
It was not Chun Hwi who answered her doubts.
“That flame will not harm you, milady.”
As the new arrival walked forward, the flames split apart, revealing a gray-haired lady.
The Divine Maiden.
The fire opened the way for her, as if dancing in welcome.
The current Divine Maiden walked towards A-young through an open road.
“Because this flame is not here to harm you, but to greet you.”
“Greet me? What do you mean?” A-young tilted her head in confusion.
“Literally.” The Divine Maiden reached towards Chun A-young with gentle hands. “You have been chosen as the next Divine Maiden of the Cult of the Heavenly Demon.”
Was it so hard to believe? There must have been a reason that this fire had not hurt her.
Chun A-young hesitated for a moment, looking back towards her father. It seemed that Chun Hwi agreed with the Divine Maiden, so A-young could only nod her head and slowly stand up.
Just as the Divine Maiden had said, the flames that wrapped around her did not have any effect on her. Like earlier, the flames parted for her. When she finally reached her father, she was silent.
He, however, spoke.
“It looks like… I need to have a talk with you.”
Some time later, there were two people standing side by side under the moon. They were by the lake in the Inner Garden, where Woon-seong had first spoken to the Heavenly Demon many months before.
They were Chun Hwi and Chun A-young, father and daughter, watching the water in silence.
It was only natural that Chun Hwi spoke first.
“Ever since your mother passed away after giving birth to you… you have been my only family in this world.”
At these words, Chun A-young remained silent. She scuffed her feet against the dirt.
In fact, A-young was upset exactly because of that fact: even though she was his only family left, he refused to give up his position as the Heavenly Demon.
Although she had acknowledged Woon-seong’s strength and abandoned that competitiveness, she was still envious. Her father had not shown her the same attention or affection. If I’m his only family member, why is he like that to the Young Leader…
Had the other read her thoughts? Chun Hwi reached out towards his daughter.
A-young was startled out of her thoughts when Chun Hwi patted her on the head, softly brushing his fingers through her hair. This was the hand of a father comforting his daughter.
“You know, I wanted you to grow up into a normal woman.”
A-young’s eyes widened, surprised at these words.
“The Heavenly Demon is a position of solitude. I have the whole world in my hand… Yet there is barely anything I can truly grasp. I did not want you to live a life like that. I wouldn’t have been so concerned if you were a man. I simply wanted you to live as a woman, to fall in love with a man and have a family. You may have never known, but that was all I hoped for.”
Chun Hwi was telling the truth, a truth that he had not told anyone else.
A-young wanted to speak, but she silenced herself as the other continued on, speaking with sincerity.
“I have heard about the rumors, and I was even prepared for you to refuse to inherit the bloodline of the Heavenly Demon.”
So father also heard about the rumor that I have to marry Woon-seong… A-young was honestly surprised that her father had even heard of them, since rumors were rumors. The things that the ordinary people spread on the street were not the sort of things the Heavenly Demon would like to have knowledge of. I never imagined that. I never thought that he cared about me so much.
A-young bit her lips.
“But since you became the Divine Maiden… it looks like all of those thoughts were meaningless. As you already know, the Divine Maiden must only serve the Divine Flame and the Heavenly Demon.”
Although they could choose not to, no Divine Maiden in recent history had actually refused to serve the Heavenly Demon. This was because even if they did so, they were not allowed to start a family with a different man.
Being chosen as the Divine Maiden meant that the option of having a normal life was eliminated.
The selection could not be revoked either.
The Divine Maiden was chosen by the Divine Flame, the will of the First Heavenly Demon. Refusing not only went against the very foundations of the Cult, but it could end gruesomely. There was a record of a woman who had gone mad and died in a fit of insanity just two weeks after attempting to refuse.
Although Chun Hwi wished for A-young’s freedom of choice, he did not want to see her become a lunatic.
“If I stopped you from entering the Cave of Latent Demons at all cost, I would at least have had the chance to spend some more time with you…,” his hand paused in her hair. “I regret not stopping you that day.”
A-young opened her mouth for the first time that night. “Not at all.”
A-young had been avoiding her father’s gaze all night. Now, she raised her head and met his eyes. Her voice was filled with power and conviction.
“No, Father. I have never regretted the choice I made that day. I entered the Cave of Latent Demons because I chose to do so.”
“Is that so…”
“I will do well even after becoming the Divine Maiden. I’ve also known the Young Leader since back at the Cave of Latent Demons. So I’m sure he won’t treat me carelessly.”
‘He won’t treat me carelessly’… Those words sounded strange to Chun Hwi. He asked her, “Are you willing to accept him as your husband?”
He continued to ask.
“Are you willing to love him?”
His words did not stop there.
“He may be my apprentice, but there are times when even I do not know what he is thinking. It makes me scared because even when you look at him… It makes me worried that he may not look back at you, my daughter.”
Even though he was the Heavenly Demon, even though he could control the mind and heart with his power, love was something that he could not change. Human emotions were not his to control.
Chun Hwi could do nothing but ask his daughter once more.
“Can you fall in love with a man like that?”
Chun A-young was silent.