Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 15

October 27, 2023 • 12 min read • 353 views

Episode15 Burning with ambition Alone(3)

Novel- Martial Artist Lee Gwak

When Lee Gwak returned to his quarters, Seo Jong-myeong was nowhere to be seen. He looked around for a moment, then sat down on the table.

The lodging, blanketed in darkness, was enveloped in an almost oppressive silence. In the past, such an atmosphere would have been intolerable for him. But after enduring a challenging year, this silence now felt strangely comforting.

Lee Gwak pulled out the “Eight Sects Sword Art” from his arm and began to read intently.

The Eight Sects Sword Art was comprised of eight primary techniques:

Mountain Splitting Slash.
Raging Tidal Force.
Shadowless Strike.
Blood Dragon’s Roar.
Lone Scorch Demon.
Shadowy Assassinate.
Heavens Shattering Iron Blood.
Eight Gateways of Destruction.


The more he looked, the more he could smell the smell of martial arts used by soldiers.

The Shadowless Strike was most effective when mounted on horseback, while Lone Scorch Demon was useful against multiple opponents.

Unlike the typical martial arts of the pugilistic world, these techniques maximized lethality.

These military-based martial arts shared these characteristics.

By technique alone, they were on par with other high-level martial arts. However, the problem was the absence of the inner essence or philosophy that accompanied these techniques. It seemed as though, upon being leaked to the outside world, the inner teachings were lost. As a result, they were shunned and cast aside even in the outer hall.

The real question for Lee Gwak was, ‘Could the Eight Sects Sword Art replace the inner essence of the Eight Snakes Art?’

It was impossible to know the answer without trying it out firsthand.

Without hesitation, Lee Gwak made up his mind.

He began to integrate the Eight Sects Sword Art into each of the techniques from the Eight Snakes Art.

Merging two entirely distinct martial arts was no easy task. If done incorrectly, it could lead to a dangerous mix-up of one’s internal energies, which might result in severe consequences.

Lee Gwak was aware of the risks, yet he did not hesitate. Somehow, he felt optimistic about the challenge.

Swish!

He began with the first technique, Mountain Splitting Slash..

When he attempted to merge it with the Luminous Sword Art, the integration with the Eight Sects Sword Art felt awkward. However, with the Eight Snakes Art, no such obstruction existed.

It was as if the Eight Sects Sword Art were always meant to harmonize with the Eight Snakes Art. Of course, perfecting it would require grueling effort, but taking the first step seemed surprisingly smooth.

All night long, Lee Gwak immersed himself in mastering the Eight Snakes Art.
Sweat drenched his body, and his breath was ragged, yet he felt no exhaustion. On the contrary, it brought him joy.

He had never devoted himself so completely to anything in his life, especially not of his own volition.

The sensation of pouring his heart and soul into something and achieving it thrilled him.

Swish!

As he swung his blade, an unconscious smile crept onto his face.

He lost himself entirely to the Eight Snakes Art.

This passionate scene caught the eye of Seo Jong-myeong, who had just entered through the door.

“He’s mad!”

Seo Jong-myeong shook his head before moving further inside.

The first sensation Lee Gwak felt upon waking was pain.

His muscles ached as if they were being torn apart, and his insides felt so twisted it was hard to breathe. Yet, even this pain was embraced with pleasure by Lee Gwak.

He activated the Eight Sects Sword Art. Almost instantly, the dominating pain receded. Only then did he have a simple breakfast and returned to his practice of the Eight Snakes Art.

Swish!

The old wooden sword cut through the air, creating a sharp sonic boom.

The techniques, which were once clumsy, were now becoming second nature. Lee Gwak’s movements grew more refined, and his blade was filled with force.

Snap!

But the sword couldn’t withstand the infused internal energy and snapped in half.

“Ah!”

Lee Gwak let out a sigh of frustration.

In his deep concentration, for the essential weapon to break was vexing. He knew that the training swords were not of the best quality, but this was too much.

“Should I get a new one?”

A look of conflict crossed Lee Gwak’s face.

Deep down, he didn’t want to venture outside. Whether it was his comfort with solitude or his aversion to the bustling world, he wasn’t sure. However, without a blade, he couldn’t practice the Eight Snakes Art. Like it or not, he had to go out.

Eventually, with money in hand, Lee Gwak stepped out of his lodgings.

It was the first time he had been out in the outer court city in a long time.

The streets looked much the same as they always had, yet they felt strangely unfamiliar. The familiar storefronts, the merchants he recognized, many were known faces, yet they felt distant.

Sigh!

Lee Gwak let out a deep, involuntary sigh.

He realized he had isolated himself for far too long, to the point of losing touch with how to interact with people.

With heavy steps, Lee Gwak moved on.

Though the streets felt foreign, he hadn’t forgotten the city’s layout. He headed towards a forge in the outer court city.

In the Jade Heaven Alliance, they usually provided their martial artists with weapons. However, since they ordered in bulk to save costs, the quality often left much to be desired. As a result, many martial artists from the Inner Court had custom-made weapons made by expert blacksmiths.

There was such a forge in the outer court city too. Yet, its quality was said to be inferior compared to the Inner Court’s, hence fewer people frequented it. As such, the front of the forge was quiet.

The signboard read “Silver Family Iron House” and an assortment of imported weapons lay haphazardly displayed. Lee Gwak chose a blade from among them.

There were serrated blades that resembled saw teeth, gently curved sabres, and even chilling straight swords meant for assassination – the selection was vast.

Yet, what Lee Gwak chose was a simple straight blade.

It had a straight spine and was well-balanced. While it couldn’t be deemed a masterpiece, its tempering seemed solid and sturdy.

After selecting his blade, Lee Gwak entered the forge to make the payment. Inside, there was an even greater variety of weapons on display.

One particular item caught his eye.

It was an awl, no bigger than a child’s palm. Its matte, sharp tip captivated Lee Gwak.

He picked up the awl, gauging its weight with his hand. For its small size, it was surprisingly hefty.

It was then that someone spoke up.

“Does that catch your fancy?”

A soft, hushed voice reached Lee Gwak’s ears.

Turning his head, he saw a man dressed in neat clothes. The man had the air of a merchant accustomed to handling money, rather than the demeanor of a craftsman familiar with metal.

He seemed to be the owner of the forge.

Lee Gwak nodded in acknowledgment.

“Yes, I find it quite appealing.”

“You have an unusual taste. Many have come to purchase weapons, but none have chosen that.”

“Is that so?”

“It’s a failed creation, an ambitious attempt by the main house’s craftsman. Normally, it would have been melted down and reforged into another weapon, but with the craftsman’s death, it was left as is. If you’re interested in buying it, I can give you a good deal. What do you say?”

“What’s the best price you can offer?”

“Six silver nyangs.”

“Is that including the blade?”

“Yes, it is.”

Lee Gwak furrowed his brows for a moment upon hearing the merchant’s answer. Mistaking Lee Gwak’s expression for disapproval, the merchant hastily added,

“As you might know, that’s quite a bargain. You probably won’t find a price as reasonable at any other forge.”

“However, I don’t have that much silver with me.”

“You came to buy a weapon without enough money?”

The merchant’s face contorted with displeasure. Yet, Lee Gwak remained unperturbed.

A gut feeling told him he could strike a better deal if he held out.

“All I have is four liang of silver.”

“Is that the truth?”

“Yes, if that’s not enough, I’ll take my business elsewhere.”

“You’re quite audacious, aren’t you?”

The merchant studied Lee Gwak, trying to gauge his true intentions. But Lee Gwak, meeting his gaze, was the very picture of calm.

“You really have some nerve.”

Instead, Lee Gwak discreetly put down the blade and awl he was holding, signaling that if the deal fell through, he would leave immediately.

“Tch! You might look unassuming, but there seems to be a snake lurking inside.”

Eventually, the merchant relented, raising both his hands in surrender.

Only then did Lee Gwak allow a faint smile to grace his lips. The merchant clicked his tongue, but his expression wasn’t entirely displeased.

“Hand over the silver.”

“Thank you.”

Lee Gwak handed the promised amount.

“I thought I’d landed a big fish today, but it seems I was the one who got played. I don’t know who you are, but use those weapons well. They’re of decent quality.”

“I will handle them with care.”

“Weapons aren’t meant to be treated preciously. No matter how well-crafted, a weapon is but a tool to protect oneself. How can one afford to treasure a weapon when it’s about preserving one’s life? If you are a warrior, always remember that.”

“I’ll take your words to heart.”

“Off you go then.”

The merchant gestured for him to leave.

Lee Gwak bowed his head in acknowledgment and stepped outside.

He tucked the awl into his robes and strapped the blade to his waist.

Having a weapon purchased not from the funds provided by the Jade Heaven Alliancce, but with his own money, brought a peculiar sense of fulfillment.

As Lee Gwak walked, his fingers occasionally brushed against the blade at his side.

Then it happened.

“Hey, Aren’t Gwak?”

A familiar voice rang out.

He turned around to see a familiar face staring back at him in surprise.

“Jeon Ok!”

“Is it really you, Lee Gwak?”

Approaching with an astonished look was none other than Go Jeon-ok. He scanned Lee Gwak from head to toe with a disbelieving expression.

“What’s this? Weren’t you paralyzed? How are you walking?”

“I was fortunate.”

At Lee Gwak’s calm response, Go Jeon-ok scrunched up his face as if he were a puppy with an upset stomach.

“I’m so relieved. I was planning to visit you soon. But I’ve been so swamped lately, couldn’t find the time. You understand, right?”

“Of course!”

“Haha! I knew you would. After all, you’re my friend.”

Go Jeon-ok gave Lee Gwak a playful pat on the shoulder and slung his arm around him.

Lee Gwak didn’t push him away or show any sign of discomfort.

Over the past year, his most significant growth wasn’t in martial arts or internal energy, but in his mental strength. He’d deeply felt the cold and harsh realities of the world.

When misfortune befell him, only a handful could be trusted, and Lee Gwak wasn’t among them.

Their relationship hadn’t improved or worsened. There was no reason for Lee Gwak to be upset just because Go Jeon-ok hadn’t visited him during his illness.

Lee Gwak glanced at Go Jeon-ok’s attire. It wasn’t the traditional attire of the outer court martial artists but something more ordinary.

Go Jeon-ok,

“Surprised I’m not wearing the Outer Court clothes?”

Lee Gwak nodded, and Go Jeon-ok leaned in, speaking in a hushed tone,

“This is a secret, but I’ll tell you. Just promise not to share with anyone.”

“Alright!”

“I’ve joined the Succession Hall. I’m at a low rank for now, but soon I’ll be assigned to a major mission.”

Pride filled Go Jeon-ok’s face.

Both were part of the same sect, but the distinction between Outer Court and the Succession hall was significant. While the Outer Court mostly served as external boundary guards, Succession hall played a crucial role in gathering intelligence.

Naturally, more significant missions meant a higher chance of advancement. Go Jeon-ok aimed to make a name for himself in the Succession Hall and eventually enter the inner court.

“You’re on the right track.”

“But remember, don’t tell anyone.”

Go Jeon-ok earnestly reminded him.

Lee Gwak had no intentions of spilling the secret. However, anyone who knew Go Jeon-okwould probably guess his new affiliation.

“You’re already getting significant assignments? Even as a newcomer?”

“There’s no choice. Jianghu is turbulent right now.”

“Tell me more.”

“There was an incident where an entire patrol group in the Dragon Heaven Valley was wiped out. It seems like the doing of the Celestial Demon Troupe.”

“Really? They’ve been quiet for a century. Why now?”

“It seems they’re revealing their ambitions. Because of this, the Dragon Heaven Valley is on high alert, and the Jade Heaven Alliance is in chaos.”

Since the great battle a century ago, Dragon Heaven Valley has risen to become one of the ten major sects. The valley’s leader made significant contributions during that time. Before that, they were just a mysterious group with little influence.

When the Jade Heaven Alliance formed to counter the dark martial arts sect, Celestial Demon Troupe, the valley’s leader gained prominence and became one of the most respected figures in the Jianghu.

Given the circumstances, the Celestial Demon Troupe considered Dragon Heaven Valley their biggest threat, especially due to their close proximity.

“Anyway, the whole Jianghu is on edge, fearing another massive conflict.”

“I see.”

“It might not concern you, but just so you know. I’ll be going now, so let’s meet again later.”

“Sure.”

Go Jeon-ok patted Lee Gwak’s shoulder one more time and left.

Lee Gwak silently watched his departing figure.

Although the Jianghu was in turmoil due to the threat of the Celestial Demon Troupe,it felt like a distant matter to Lee Gwak. He felt somewhat detached from the world’s turbulence.