Kingdom of Silla, 9th Century CE
It was shortly after a battle had ended that a parliament of magpies made a collective decision to land on the field and peck at the numerous bodies lying around.
One used it's beak to pierce both a dead man's eyes and slurp up the fluid that oozed out, while another tried to tear off a piece of the corpse's tongue.
"Don't you just love it when humans kill each other?" The first magpie asked with glee.
"Yes, they are such foolish creatures..."
Some distance away from those two, a young female was perched on the face of a soldier whose head had been bashed in so severely, chunks of his brain had come out.
She seized a small portion and gobbled it up, before experiencing something unexpected. The face of an unknown human suddenly appeared in her memories and she subsequently felt a sadness so deep, that she could only give out a loud call of distress.
The others immediately came flying to see what the trouble was about.
"Are you alright?"
"What has happened?"
The young female raised one wing to wipe away a tear, which was an action that looked rather odd to them.
"I remembered something from this human's life and it made me both upset and happy at the same time."
"You are crazy. Perhaps you ate a rotten berry this morning?"
"No, but it is a frightening thing." She replied with a slight warble to her voice. "Yet, I cannot help myself..."
At that, she threw her head down to gorge on the rest of the human's brain, much to the disbelief of her fellow magpies.
The Mountain God and his tiger companion were preparing to return home for the night when a lone magpie landing on the path ahead prompted them both to stop.
"Does this little bird think it can stop us? Go scare it away..."
The tiger obeyed and rushed forward with claws at the ready. The magpie panicked and wasted no time in flying up into the safety of a nearby tree.
"Just as I thought. Let's keep going, a nice dinner of venison awaits..."
They continued to walk along the path and the magpie waited until they had rounded a corner to begin following. The privileges that came with being a human were too attractive to resist and she was now determined to make her dream come true no matter what.
The memory of a bowl filled with steaming rice, meat and vegetables was enough to make her mouth water and motivate her to persevere. She followed the Mountain God and tiger from a distance and watched them enter a small house together, before plotting her next course of action.
She flew in through the window just as they were about to enjoy dinner and sought to create chaos by flying repeatedly around the room, screeching loudly and knocking things to the floor until the Mountain God lost his temper.
"You again?!" He yelled in frustration, pushing his bowl aside and standing up tall. "What do you want?!"
She heard his voice and immediately ceased with her frenzied behavior.
"I left my friends behind so that I could seek your help. Make me a human."
The Mountain God's frown turned to a look of disbelief, then into a smile of amusement.
"A human, you say?" He said with a chuckle. "You need only wait a few more years. If you are good, you'll come back as one in the next life..."
At that, he picked up a skewer of meat and took a bite. The smell was too tempting for the magpie and she flew across the room to land on the table.
"I don't want to wait until then! I want to change now!"
"They all say that. You're not the first animal to come here and you won't be the last to give up, either."
The magpie grew infuriated with such words and in a rage, she pushed his bowl of soup off the table with a butt of her head. It landed with a crash and as hot broth spilled everywhere, the tiger readied itself to strike.
"Stay down. I will deal with this foolish bird myself and make it see the error of it's ways..."
The tiger obeyed and went back to feasting on venison while the Mountain God cracked his knuckles in what was supposed to be an intimidating display.
"I'm not like the others." The magpie insisted. "I will return every day until you finally grant my wish."
"And if I still refuse?"
"I will call my friends here and together, we will eat your food and make a mess of everything."
The Mountain God grinned as if he had just been presented with a challenge.
"Then so be it. I have the power to reduce you all to dust anyway..."
A year passed during which the magpie and her friends hung around the Mountain God's domain, causing trouble whenever they could. Unfortunately, their antics only ever came as a minor nuisance to him and she started to fear that everything so far had all been in vain.
On the three-hundred and sixty-fifth day, she woefully thanked the others for their help and requested that they leave her alone once more, so that she could grieve over lost opportunities in peace.
They respected her wishes and once they were gone, she curled up on the cold ground with the intention of surrendering to the elements.
"He was right all along. This is the only way..."
She closed her eyes to anxiously await death and the hours passed, before a familiar voice sounded from up above.
"Giving up?" The Mountain God asked softly. His sympathetic tone was enough to make her open both eyes in surprise.
"No..." She lied while quickly getting up and shaking her feathers. "I was just tired..."
"Clearly." He said with a laugh that only confused her. "It's been a whole year and you still haven't given up. For that, I think you deserve what you're after..."
"Of course. You've earned it."
The Mountain God gave her mugwort and several cloves of garlic to live on, then showed her to the cave where she was to spend the next hundred days.
"You are not to leave at any time unless I tell to you." He explained while they stood at the entrance. "And this food is all that you will eat, so I advise you to retain energy by meditating."
"Meditating? What's that?"
"It's a human thing that you'll find out about soon enough. Now, in you go..."
Having little other choice, she flew straight into the cave and passed one tunnel after another. Her surroundings grew darker the further she flew, until she couldn't see a thing and resigned herself to resting on the stony floor.
She spent the vast amount of time sleeping and dreaming, to the point that she forgot her original purpose and even what sort of creature she was. When the day finally came for her to leave, she was most reluctant, for the darkness seemed like all she had ever known.
The Mountain God made a hole in the roof of the cave despite her protests, so that a ray of light could stream in. It shone down on her body and she received the first glimpse of her new appearance.
She let out a gasp upon seeing the five toes that were on each of her feet, before raising what had once been her right wing. Gone were the pretty feathers she'd once been so proud of, for they had been replaced by long and stiff upper limbs.
It was then that she remembered everything and the Mountain God's voice echoed through the tunnels, instructing her which way to go if she wished to leave.
She followed his directions while feeling her way through the darkness and the lack of control she had over her legs made the entire feat doubly difficult. Still, she chose to persevere until the cave's exit was clearly visible in the distance.
The world that she found outside was so beautiful that she couldn't help but break down in tears. The Mountain God appeared in front of her holding a pile of clothes.
"Before you go and walk among humans, you must get dressed. They do not take kindly to seeing naked women..."
She had little idea of what he meant, but took the clothes nevertheless because the colors reminded her of flowers that bloomed in spring.
"And finally, you will need a name. What do you think of 'So-yeon'?"
"It sounds nice, but I would still rather be called Worm Eater."
The Mountain God gave her a look of pity before turning away.
"Suit yourself. You're on your own from now on, anyway."
He descended down the mountain path and she let out a squeal of delight once he was gone. The excitement was too much for her to hold inside and with her burgeoning freedom, who knew what other wonders she would soon experience?
It seemed like this world was hers for the taking and the only wise thing to do from this point on, would be to eat, drink and play until her body couldn't handle anymore.
She'd been destined for a short life since the day she was born, so it was only right that she make the remainder of her time as pleasurable as possible.
After all, she'd only be doing herself an injustice by holding back and with how insignificant her existence was, she couldn't imagine anybody being hurt by her actions for very long.
As such, she broke into a run while being unaware of just how soon her death would really arrive.