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Lia Park and the Heavenly Heirlooms
Table of Contents
About The Book
Twelve-year-old Lia Park and her best friend, Joon, are now full-time students at International Magic Academy after defeating corrupt diviner Gaya, and their first assignment is an ambitious one. The evil nine-headed monster and King of Darkness, Jihaedaegukjeok, wants to destroy the three Heavenly Heirlooms that create fire and light to plunge the world into darkness and destroy humanity.
The heirlooms can only be destroyed if they are all together, so over time, they have been hidden carefully with magic. Except now, one of them is missing. Lia, Joon, and their classmates have been tasked with recovering the lost heirloom and bringing it to IMA for safekeeping. They expected the task to be difficult, but the number of obstacles the magic trainees run into makes Lia start to wonder if the sabotage could be coming from someone inside the school.
It had been the longest summer break ever, but the day I had been looking forward to practically all my life was finally here. The International Magic Agency sponsored a school for kids with magic and trained them to protect the world from monsters. Yes, they did exist, and some of them were a threat to humanity. The name of the school was—wait for it—International Magic School. They kept the first two initials the same, to avoid confusion with the names for the normal people’s government bureaus. All students were required to board there, so of course I’d spent every last second I had packing, unpacking, and then repacking all my stuff to make extra sure I had everything I needed.
For security reasons, parents were only allowed to visit on designated days. It was nerve-racking to be apart from them for this long, but I was still excited that I’d be living on my own. I could almost taste the sweetness of my newfound freedom.
I craned my neck and peeked between the two front seats. Just like the last time I checked, we were still on the main road in the city of Yongin, which was about an hour outside of Seoul, where we lived with my halmoni. We’d just entered through the Mabuk-dong neighborhood.
“Make a left at the next light,” Umma instructed from the front passenger seat.
Appa laughed as he flicked on his blinker. “Don’t worry, yeobo. I have a photographic memory, remember?”
She hit his arm lightly. “Yet you always miss the turns.”
Appa reached over to hold her hand. “You’re right. I’d be so lost without you.”
Oh, Appa. Always the corny one. Though lately he had taken it up a notch and transformed into the king of dad jokes. Married people called each other yeobo, but my parents used to say it only when they were in a good mood. But ever since we moved back to Korea, they said it, like, after every other sentence.
The second our plane landed here, the tenseness in Umma’s face melted away. She didn’t need to explain why because I knew.
We no longer needed to live in fear of being caught.
And that made all the difference.
Once we’d turned left, we headed down a narrow, dusty farm road that led us straight toward Beophwa-san. Seventy percent of Korea was made up of san—mountains—which was why they were pretty hard to miss wherever you went.
Appa looked at me in the rearview mirror. “Uri Lia, jal chamne.”
“Thanks, Appa.” I giggled and clasped my hands on top of my lap. “You may now call me Queen Patience.”
Younger me would’ve asked them every ten minutes if we were there yet, but this new and improved first-year student at IMS would never. I had better self-control than that now.
Umma flashed a double thumbs-up above her headrest. “Geuroge uri Lia da keonne.”
Totally agreed. I was very mature now.
“Can I go to the Jay One concert by myself, then?”
“Nice try,” Umma said. “You’re not that grown-up yet.”
It was worth asking. I mean, who knew, maybe someday she’d cave and let me go with my friends. Her overprotectiveness didn’t even bother me anymore, because I had something so much better waiting for me, exploring the school with my best friend, Joon. I still couldn’t believe it was finally happening and we had made it.
I adjusted a few strands of my hair to cover the white streak and used two black bobby pins to hold it all in place. Then I tied my hair in a ponytail.
Hair camouflage mode activated.
Appa looked back at me at the red light. “You don’t have to hide it.”
Actually, yes, I did. I’d dyed it and even colored it with a black permanent marker, with zero success. As a last resort, using a pair of scissors, I’d snipped off the white streak.
What had happened next had almost made me cry.
It had grown back and looked whiter than before. As it turned out, magical marks couldn’t really be covered. So my best bet was to hide it under my regular black hair.
“I think it looks cool,” Umma said.
My parents’ opinions were not to be 100 percent trusted, because of course they’d think their own kid looked good.
I double-checked in the mirror to make sure my disguise was secured in place. “I just don’t want to have to explain to every single person I meet.”
Was it so bad that I wanted kids to like me for me and not be judged for what I’d done? Or be singled out as “that girl”? No, thank you. I planned to hide it for as long as possible.
At the end of the road, a two-story building with large windows spaced close together stood at the base of an enormous mountain. Our car tires crunched over the gravel as we drove onto an empty dirt field and parked.
The sign above the main entrance read International Mabuk School.
Uh. Definitely not the right school.
Appa should’ve paid more attention to Umma’s directions instead of relying just on his photographic memory.
Where were we?
Umma and Appa got out of the car.
Were we lost? And were they asking for directions? But they didn’t seem worried at all.
Appa popped open the trunk and lugged my suitcase out.
Umma opened my door. “Come on, we’re going to be late.”
Was it just me, or did they really not see that we were at the wrong place?
I pointed to the sign ahead. “This is Mabuk School, not Magic School.”
Umma unfastened my seat belt and winked. “All part of the cloaking mechanism.”
Interesting. If what she said was true, this was a next-level hidden-in-plain-sight strategy.
When I stepped out of the car, the silence was deafening. Not a bird in the sky. I couldn’t hear any kids’ voices.
I blinked a few times and lasered in on the sign above the door. I half expected the letters to morph, rearrange, or change into the correct name of the school.
Conclusion: not an enchanted sign.
Inside, against the wall facing me stood two large purple orchids on each side of a tall water feature made of different-sized rocks. A security guard in a navy-blue uniform sat behind a booth right next to the entrance.
Umma took out her wallet and slid across their driver’s licenses and the identification card that I had received in the welcome packet. “We’re here to drop off our daughter.”
I raised my hand and bowed. My smile was met with the most expressionless face I’d ever seen. He could’ve passed for an AI.
He checked his watch. “You’re the first ones here.”
Of course we were. Because to Umma, on time and late meant the same thing. One of the most valuable tools for an agent was time, which couldn’t be bought with money, only earned by arriving early. So she had stuck to this motto my entire life.
The guard took all our IDs and scooted a rectangular reader in our direction. “Place your index finger on top.”
I frowned because this all looked very ordinary—in fact, the farthest thing from magic possible. Fingerprint readers were used everywhere.
Umma pressed her finger on it, and then Appa, who passed it to me. I placed my finger on it, and a green light moved up and down.
I stayed quiet as the guard stared at the computer screen in front of him.
Seconds crawled by.
Finally he smiled and gestured toward the door next to the plant on the right. “Welcome, Lia Park.”
I bowed and said, “Gamsahabnida.”
This time he actually waved and grinned. “You’re welcome. Have a great time here.”
Before following Umma and Appa out the door, I snuck into the hallway. I didn’t know what I expected to see, but for sure it wasn’t actual classrooms with desks, chairs, books, and a whiteboard. This setup reminded me of the classrooms at West Hills Middle School back in California. The most normal people school ever.
“Lia ya,” Umma called out. “Come on!”
“Ne!” I raced through the door that Appa propped open for me.
And stopped dead in my tracks.
Right in front of my face was tall grass that towered over me. It was everywhere, as far as I could see. We couldn’t move away from the door because there was nowhere to go.
I pulled the grass to the sides to try to squeeze through.
It snapped back and hit me.
I yelped and jumped back.
What kind of grass slaps people?
Appa held my shoulder. “Watch this.”
Umma pressed her face close and stroked the grass. “Yaedeula gil jom mandeuleo jugettni?”
I stopped myself from laughing out loud because I didn’t want to be rude. But Umma was talking to the grass in a tone she used to speak to little kids.
The grass giggled and parted just enough for us to take five steps.
It did exactly what she had asked it to do—the grass made a path for us.
Umma patted the grass. “Gomawo. Sugohaesseo.”
I copied her and let my hand rest on top of the grass. “Thanks and good job.”
It weaved around my leg and nuzzled like a cat would. So cute. No wonder Umma talked to the grass like that.
We walked in a single file down the narrow path, Umma, me, and then Appa. The grass rustled and opened up with each step Umma took and closed the path behind Appa.
Because the grass was so tall, I couldn’t see anything else in front of me. “So is this the way to the school?”
“Yes,” Umma said. “But it’ll make more sense once you see it.”
I’d just have to take her word for it. On to the next question, then. “How come the sign at the front of the school is wrong?”
“When you’re out in the normal-people world and someone asks you where you go to school,” Appa explained, “how will you answer?”
Hmmm. Excellent point. One of the most basic rules of IMA was to keep our identities hidden from normal people.
“So this is all a cover?”
“Now you’re catching on,” Appa said. “It’s an accredited school, so you’ll be getting your high school diploma from here.”
That was brilliant. Now I really felt like a spy from the movies with a full undercover operation.
Umma passed me my identification card. “Have a look.”
I took the card from her and did a double take.
The card had changed.
When I’d given Umma my card this morning, it had said under my picture, International Magic School, Student: Lia Park, House of Benevolence. Now it read International Mabuk School, Student: Lia Park, Grade 7. On the other side of the card was an address and phone number.
“So don’t forget to keep this with you whenever you’re out in the normal-people world,” Appa said.
About ten minutes later the path opened up completely and we came face-to-face with two blue stone haetae statues on pedestals. They stood in front of a small grove of trees at the base of the mountain.
Haetae was a mythological creature that had the body of a lion, scales, a bell around its neck, and a flattened horn on its head.
Wherever the school was, I felt so much safer having these haetae statues around, even if they weren’t real. These guardian lions were said to have protected places from disaster and warded off evil spirits.
Appa placed inside the left haetae’s mouth a round chip that had come in the welcome package.
And we waited.
- Publisher: Aladdin (May 30, 2023)
- Length: 352 pages
- ISBN13: 9781534487963
- Grades: 3 - 7
- Ages: 8 - 12
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Raves and Reviews
"Strong worldbuilding continues to provide a captivating magical universe inspired by Korean mythology. Grounding the story is the platonic relationship between Lia and Joon, which realistically portrays the tension between establishing your own identity while preserving a close friendship. Meaningful cultural connections provide a solid foundation for this inventive fantasy adventure."
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