Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 46

December 7, 2023 • 12 min read • 314 views

Episode 46(Walking Slowly but Never Stopping (3)

Within the core of the mechanism lay countless traps. Those who entered unwittingly and tampered with them recklessly would find the core transforming into a gateway of death.

“In the Jade Heaven Alliance, there are four such core systems, each located in the north, south, east, and west directions,”

“Hmm!”

Lee Gwak was silent as he listened to Maa Doo Won’s explanation.

Although he didn’t show it, he too was overwhelmed by the vast scale of the mechanisms.
Lee Gwak prided himself on his knowledge of mechanisms from his time in charge of the Steel Hell Blood Training Hall at Mount Sohua, but what he saw here was far beyond his rudimentary understanding.

Lim Ji Moon walked into the centre of the core and spoke.

“Be careful not to touch anything recklessly here. A wrong move could trigger the deadly traps laid throughout.”

“Are you saying there’s a trap laid out here too?”

“Yes! And they are of a very high order.”

Lim Ji Moon’s face lit up with tension. He wasn’t the only one. Maa Doo Won was also nervous.

Both were renowned geniuses of the Jade Heaven Alliance, unparalleled in their knowledge of trap mechanisms. The existence of such sophisticated trap mechanisms made Lee Gwak curious about its true nature.

Maa Doo Won pointed to a spot in the centre of the core with his hand.

“That part is damaged. Lee Gwak, go and check it.”

“Yes!”

Lee Gwak cautiously approached the indicated area. He saw a gear as big as an adult’s torso, worn and not meshing correctly with the others.

“Measure it.”

“Yes!”

Lee Gwak measured the part precisely as Maa Doo Won instructed and recorded it. Maa Doo Won meticulously inspected the interior of the mechanism, putting Lee Gwak’s skills to good use. What could be fixed immediately was repaired, and what needed more time was measured and noted.

The more he inspected the core, the more he was amazed.

Firstly, the scale of the mechanism was unbelievably vast. It wasn’t a simple trap like in the Steel Hell Blood Training Hall, nor just a movement of a few parts.

When activated, this mechanism would move the earth itself, altering landscapes. A massive maze would emerge from ordinary ground, laden with numerous traps. And the inner sanctum cannot be approached until all of them have been traversed.

The scale was beyond Lee Gwak’s wildest imagination.

“Incredible?”

“A hundred years ago, the Jade Heaven Alliance lost this place to the Demonic Sects, only to reclaim it later. Realising the importance of defence, the best artisans were gathered to create an unparalleled Trap Mechanism. The Nine Layers of Heavenly Protection Barrier was their creation.”

“Hmm!”

Lee Gwak could only mumble in response to Lim’s explanation.

“Once the Nine Layers of Heavenly Protection Barrier is activated, no enemy can infiltrate. But because it’s entwined with many traps and mechanisms, it requires very delicate handling.”

“So, that’s why Master Ma and you are working together.”

“Exactly. Master Ma handles the mechanisms, while I simultaneously inspect the trap. Without our coordinated efforts, inspection is impossible.”

“Truly remarkable.”

“Indeed. The thought of how this was built a century ago always amazes me.”

“Wasn’t it possible because the best artisans were gathered?”

“Of course, the best artisans worked on it, but it was orchestrated by just one person. Essentially, that person designed and conceptualised everything.”

“Such a person existed? An incredible genius, indeed.”

“Yes! Truly an extraordinary individual. It’s regrettable that their lineage has ended. If not, I would have sought their teaching.”

Lim Ji Moon’s face was filled with regret. At that moment, Han Seol Gung consoled him.

“Master, you are a great genius too. If you were born in the same era, perhaps your talents would have surpassed his.”

“Ahh! Honestly, that’s not true. That person is beyond my reach.”

Lim Ji Moon shook his head.

Lee Gwak asked,

“Who was that person?”

“Hehe! Sorry, I can’t reveal that.”

“Hmm!”

“I’m sorry, hyung. I made you curious and didn’t answer. But I have a good reason.”

“Understood.”

Lee Gwak nodded.

Although he came to help Maa Doo Won, his status was merely that of an outer hall’s squad leader. His rank was too low to be privy to the secrets of the Jade Heaven Alliance.

Behind Lin Ji Moon’s back, Han Seol Gung glared at him. It was a silent protest not to ask further.

Lee Gwak did not pursue the matter.

He helped Maa Doo Won with the mechanism repairs.

With such a precise mechanism, a small mistake could have a big impact, and he had to be on his toes.

“Yes! You must connect that right-hand side conduit properly. There can’t be even the slightest gap.”

“Yes!”

Lee Gwak was drenched in sweat, yet his eyes sparkled more brightly than ever. He wasn’t just following Maa Doo Won’s instructions; in his mind, he was picturing the entire Nine Layers of Heavenly Protection Barrier.

This was an impressive challenge and an intriguing task. Lee Gwak felt his growth through this process. Although it didn’t directly aid his martial arts, it provided him a broader perspective, seeing the whole rather than just parts.

He also gained a lot from watching Lim Ji Moon work on reinforcing the traps. Lim Ji Moon, a talkative character, enjoyed explaining his work.

Though most wouldn’t understand his technical talk, Lee Gwak, familiar with mechanisms and traps, could grasp the concepts.

Han Seol Gung still regarded Lee Gwak with hostility, but he ignored her, or rather, dismissed her.

Since mastering the Eight Snakes Art, he was always eager for learning. Lessons from a genius like Lim Ji Moon were rare, so he focused more.

Inspecting and repairing the Nine Layers of Heavenly Protection Barrier in a day was impossible. What they managed on the first day was just a fraction.

Day after day, they continued their work. Through this, Lee Gwak learned of a secret passage beneath the inner sanctum, constructed for maintaining and operating the barrier.

It was a secret passage built to repair and operate the Nine Layers of Heavenly Protection Barrier. However, the structure was so complex that it resembled a labyrinth. There were even traps hidden in it, and it was useless for anyone who did not have an accurate map to enter.

Even Lim Ji Moon and Maa Doo Won relied on a secret map for navigation. They never showed it to Lee Gwak, underlining its importance.

Yet, they were unaware of something. Lee Gwak had memorised the maze’s layout in his mind.

He knew the Jade Heaven Alliance’s external structure better than anyone. He knew exactly where each building lay, where waste was disposed of, and which passages led where. His senses had sharpened after learning the Eight Snakes Art.

With these heightened senses, Lee Gwak accurately sensed his direction.

‘If I break through one more zhang east from here, I’ll surely connect to the sewer system. No one cares about the sewer in the outer sanctum. If I enter from there, I could secretly reach the inner sanctum.’

It was just Lee Gwak’s speculation.

Whether he was right would only be confirmed once he broke through the wall.

At that moment, Han Seol Gung approached him stealthily.

“You’re not harbouring any ulterior thoughts, are you?”

“What thoughts do you mean?”

“You know exactly what I mean.”

“I don’t understand what you’re implying.”

“Just by looking into your eyes, I can tell. Those eyes definitely hold a hidden agenda.”

“It’s amazing that you can tell what someone is thinking just by looking at their eyes.”

“Hmph! From the beginning, this place shouldn’t have been open to a low-ranked warrior like you. If you divulge anything you’ve seen here, you know the consequences without me saying.”

“Miss Gung!”

“What?”

“I am also a martial artist of the Jade Heaven Alliance. You don’t need to remind me of the importance of keeping secrets.”

Han Seol Gung looked momentarily disconcerted by Lee Gwak’s unexpected response, then glared at him.

“I don’t know what makes you so confident to talk back like that.”

“And I wonder what about me doesn’t sit right with you, Miss Gung, to be probing so persistently.”

“Hmph!”

Han Seol Gung snorted and turned her head away, clearly not considering Lee Gwak a worthy conversational partner.

Lee Gwak let out a wry smile at her behaviour.

As she walked away with quick steps, Lee Gwak sighed softly and followed her.

Throughout their time inspecting the Nine Layers of Heavenly Protection Barrier, their relationship remained awkward. But Lee Gwak endured it, thinking once everything was over, he wouldn’t have to see her again.

Time passed, and the final day arrived. But they couldn’t relax yet. Today’s task was to handle the most crucial part of the Nine Layers of Heavenly Protection Barrier.
Maa Doo Won and Lim Ji Moon’s faces were filled with tension.

All their efforts would be in vain if they made a mistake here.

“Lee Gwak, I’ll take over from here. Step back and watch.”

“Are you sure?”

“My arm has recovered enough for this. It should be fine.”

“Understood.”

Lee Gwak nodded and stepped back.

Maa Doo Won’s solo handling was not just because his arm had healed. The area they were about to inspect contained secrets that couldn’t be shared lightly.

While Maa Doo Won had taught Lee Gwak a lot, he never revealed the core secrets.
Lee Gwak wasn’t offended by this.

In the Jianghu, secret techniques were strictly transmitted only between master and disciple. Their extreme exclusivity made it nearly impossible for outsiders to learn these secrets.

Lee Gwak was content with the teachings he had received so far. He was walking the path of a warrior, not that of a scholar like Maa Doo Won.

Lim Ji Moon approached Lee Gwak, with Han Seol Gung fiercely glaring behind him.

“This task ends today. You’ve worked hard, Hyung.”

“I just did what I was told, that’s all!”

“It’s hard to just follow orders. Most people fail to do even that.”

Lim Ji Moon’s praise made Lee Gwak smile awkwardly. It was embarrassing to be praised by Lim Ji Moon.

To Lee Gwak, the truly remarkable person was Lim Ji Moon himself.

At the mere age of twelve, a time when most children are thoughtless and playful, Lim Ji Moon had mastered all the world’s trap formations.

He not only inspected but also supplemented and innovated the trap within the Nine Layers of Heavenly Protection Barrier.

Lim Ji Moon was a genius, far surpassing Lee Gwak’s understanding.

Observing Lim Ji Moon, Lee Gwak wondered about his sister, Lim Sobo, and how exceptional a genius she must be.

The world seemed unfairly balanced.

The siblings were born with extraordinary talent and were flourishing under the guidance of the best masters. Though their young age kept them from the limelight now, they were likely to become towering figures in the Jianghu later.

Their starting point was vastly different from Lee Gwak’s, who had started from the bottom.

A shadow momentarily crossed Lee Gwak’s eyes, but he quickly steadied his heart.

‘So what if the starting point is different, or my journey slower? I am already on my own path.’

Even without a master like theirs, Lee Gwak had come a long way.

Although he hadn’t measured his achievements through sparring, he was confident he wouldn’t easily lose in a fight.

It was at that moment…

“Shit!”

Maa Doo Won’s alarmed cry echoed abruptly.

Sensing the gravity, Lee Gwak asked,

“What happened?”

“The mechanism malfunctioned.”

“What do you mean?”

“If we don’t shut it down immediately, the explosive charges buried under the walls might detonate.”

Everyone wore looks of disbelief at Maa Doo Won’s words. It was almost as if they suspected he was lying, but Maa Doo Won’s face was etched with genuine seriousness.

Rumble!

At that moment, the sound of something activating resonated from within the mechanism.
Only then did they realize the seriousness of the matter.

Lee Gwak asked hastily,

“Why did it malfunction?”

“It’s too old. The control parts are damaged. We were just barely managing it, but I didn’t know, and I…”

Maa Doo Won’s voice trembled involuntarily.

Confronted with an unforeseen crisis, he was at a loss, unaccustomed to such improvisation.

The same was true for Lim Ji Moon.

“Oh my God!”

In that instant, Lee Gwak made a quick decision.

“Ji Moon, get out of here.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“I and Master Ma will handle this. Get out quickly.”

“I can’t just leave.”

Lim Ji Moon shook his head.

Lee Gwak’s gaze shifted to Han Seol Gung, his guardian warrior, who appeared equally dazed by the sudden turn of events.

“What are you doing? Take him and get out.”

“What?”

“Take Ji Moon and run!”

Shocked by Lee Gwak’s urgent tone, Han Seol Gung quickly lifted Lim Ji Moon onto her back. Despite his struggles, he was no match for her strength.

As soon as she had Lim Ji Moon on her back, Han Seol Gung ran out without a backward glance.

“Hyung!”

Lim Ji Moon’s voice faded away.

Lee Gwak turned to Maa Doo Won.

“What should we do?”