Episode 6 (( A small leaf is easily shaken by even the slightest breeze (3))

October 20, 2023 • 13 min read • 385 views

The outer hall martial artists, having made all their preparations, lined up before the main gate of the inner court.

“Ugh!”

A soft groan escaped from Lee Gwak’s lips.

He had seen the main gate of the inner court countless times during his time in the outer court. Still, the sense of oppression emanating from the gate never became familiar.

The main gate, with a height of three Zhang and over one Zhang in thickness, was entirely cast from iron.

Each gate weighed over ten thousand pounds. Ordinary people couldn’t move it in the slightest, let alone open it.

This giant gate marked the boundary between two worlds.

The outer court and the inner court.

Those within the inner court could pass through that gate to the outer court at any time. However, those in the outer court couldn’t simply walk in.

Even though everyone was living within the Jade Heaven Alliance, their status was sharply divided by that gate.

Lee Gwak once wished to enter the world beyond that gate. But he never managed to cross the wall, staying put in the outer hall.

He thought he was quite calm now. But, standing in front of the gate once again, a tinge of bitterness invaded his heart.

The martial artists in the outer court stood in formation, waiting for the gate to open to the inner court.

Creak!

After what felt like an eternity, the massive iron door shrieked open.

The outer hall martial artists watched this with a tense expression.

When the gate opened fully, a number of martial artists dressed in red came out of the inner court. They all wore red headbands that were as red as blood. Their robes were also a deep crimson, reminiscent of blood-soaked robes.

It was like watching a wave of red.

A ferocious and overwhelming aura emanated from them, reminiscent of the destructive waves of the North Sea during mid-winter, obliterating everything in its path.

Lee Gwak clenched his teeth.

The aura emanating from them stirred his nerves.

A fierce aura and a unique wild atmosphere that could never be felt from the outer hall martial artists. The air was alive with a ferocity that only those who had crossed many lines of fire could possess.

Their eyes were so menacing that Lee Gwak didn’t dare to meet their gaze.

Turning his head away, Lee Gwak sneakily asked Oh Gu Hong.

“Who are they?”

“They must be one of the hidden swords of the main alliance.”

Oh Gu Hong also didn’t know. Or maybe he was pretending not to know. One thing was certain; they were living in a different world from Lee Gwak.

Finally, all of the Blood Robe martial artists exited the inner court. But they weren’t the end. Behind them, one hundred black martial artists appeared.

Lee Gwak’s eyes shone.

‘They are here.’

The black warriors who had arrived on the day Han So Cheon and others had entered. They were now lined up on their black horses. Just looking at them took Lee Gwak’s breath away.

Though they numbered only a hundred, their presence and pressure seemed to surpass that of hundreds of martial artists clad in red robes.

At their front was Gwan Il Hyeon.

Gwan Il Hyeon was scanning the surroundings with tranquil eyes. Lee Gwak bowed his head, avoiding his gaze. He knew from experience that nothing good could come of making eye contact with such a man.

Gwan Il Hyeon exuded a rebellious aura as he fearlessly scanned the inner court of the Jade Heaven Alliance.

His gaze was that of a man who had never been broken in his entire life.

Despite being in the heart of the enemy’s stronghold, the Jade Heaven Alliance, he showed no trace of nervousness. Instead, he wore a smile, as if subtly relishing the pressure.

‘Jade Heaven Alliance isn’t all that special.’

Indeed, at that moment, that’s what Gwan Il Hyeon was thinking.

He was the first from the Celestial Demon Troupe to set foot in the Jade Heaven Alliance in over a century, and he had every reason to wear his pride.

Suddenly, he looked back.

A hundred black warriors were following him.

The Phantom Armoured Cavalry

One of the most elite of the Celestial Demon Troupe. The equestrian formation displayed by the Phantom Armoured Cavalry was especially optimised for hunting down absolute masters.

Only the leader of the Celestial Demon Troupe could command the Phantom Armoured Cavalry. Ordinarily, Gwan Il Hyeon would not be able to lead this force. The fact that he was
leading them now was evidence of Jin Gwang Hon’s trust in him, who was both the leader and his martial arts master.

His body was itching for action.

In his heart, he wanted to hunt down Gwang Noh Ya alone, without having to go through the complicated process of seeking cooperation from the Jade Heaven Alliance.

No matter how fearsome Gwang Noh Ya was, he believed that with the support of the Phantom Armoured Cavalry, victory would be his. However, to ensure success, he had decided to seek cooperation from the Jade Heaven Alliance.

The phantom armoured cavalry of the Celestial Demon Troupe and the four hundred martial artists of the Jade Heaven Alliance’s Divine Blood Executioner Squad were united. With this level of power, they had the confidence to hunt down not only the Lunatic Pugilist, but any enemy.
Gwan Il Hyeon looked towards the leader of the Divine Blood Executioner Squad.

With his face half-covered by a blood robe, Yook Hyeon’s eyes were as fierce as those of a wild wolf.

“Let’s move.”

“Don’t order me around. I will start when I am ready. You brat!”

“Your leader told me you’d follow my orders.”

“That’s why I am enduring this. Having to put up with a brat from the Celestial Demon Troupe.”

“Hehe! Are you still holding onto that century-old grudge? How childish.”

“Watch your mouth. If you slip up, I may just rip it open.”

“If you want, I can take you on right now. But who would be in more trouble then?”

Gwan Il Hyeon’s lips curled into a sneer. A clear provocation.

In an instant, Yook Hyeon reached for his sword. But he didn’t draw it. He wished to cut Gwan Il Hyeon down, but the commands from the Celestial Demon Troupe were more important.

“Consider yourself lucky, brat!”

With that, Yook Hyeon sealed his lips tightly.

Gwan Il Hyeon basked in the feeling of victory and issued the command.

“Move out.”

The Phantom Armored Cavalry charged forward spiritedly, followed by the Divine Blood Executioner Squad. They swiftly vanished from the sight of the outer hall, riding their horses.

It was then that Maeng Hee Cheon, the Outer Hall Leader, gave his order.

“We shall move as well.”

The martial artists of the outer hall began to mobilise in unison.

Seok Yi Cheon asked Oh Gu Hong,

“Why did they leave on horseback first? Weren’t we supposed to go with them?”

“I told you. We’re not going to fight directly. By the time we arrive, the battle will likely be over. We’re just going as backup in case of any unforeseen circumstances, so there’s no need for us to go together.”

“Ah! So, we’re just there for the clean-up.”

Relief spread across Seok Yi Cheon’s face. Seeing this, Oh Gu Hong furrowed his brow.

“Aren’t you a martial artist? Shouldn’t you feel frustrated at not being able to fight?”

“And what about you, Captain?”

“I’m not frustrated at all.”

“Me neither.”

“Hehe! Me too. Not frustrated at all.”

The 13th squad members laughed sheepishly.

Oh Gu Hong let out a chuckle.

He was a wholehearted man.

Lee Gwak moved with them, his brow furrowed. He wanted to join in the laughter, but for some reason, he couldn’t bring himself to.

***

“Sigh!”

A deep sigh escaped Lee Gwak’s lips, his head and shoulders covered with a thin layer of gray dust.

It was not just Lee Gwak. Everyone in the group appeared exhausted, the weariness apparent in their every step.

For the past few days, they had been walking without rest. Even if they were martial artists, they were bound to be exhausted by this kind of march.

“Just hang in there a little longer. We are almost at our destination.”

Oh Gu Hong encouraged his 13th squad followers.

“Damn it!”

“Didn’t you say the same thing three hours ago?”

The 13th squad cursed at Oh Gu Hong.

Lee Gwak also cursed at Oh Gu Hong inwardly, but he did not show it outwardly.

Even though they were said to be more physically fit than ordinary people due to their martial arts training, they couldn’t help but feel exhausted from the continuous march. His legs were shaking, and he was out of breath.

Just as he was on the verge of complaining about his exhaustion, a vigorous voice echoed from the front.

“We have arrived at our destination.”

It was music to their ears.

Where the martial artists halted was a large clearing beside a reasonably wide river , but the clearing had already been set up with numerous barracks. There were travellers who had come before them.

Large flags were fluttering all over the place. Bright characters were engraved on the banners with golden threads.

“Dragon Heaven Valley, Zealous Justice Clan?”

Lee Gwak’s pupils quivered.

Both Dragon Heaven Valley and Zealous Justice Clan belonged to the ten sects. In the current world, they were two of the ten most powerful forces. They had a pride that could pierce the sky and would never join forces unless it was a matter of utmost importance.

‘What is happening? Does it mean that the Jade Heaven Alliance, Dragon Heaven Valley, and Zealous Justice Clan have all been mobilised?’

Lee Gwak had an inkling that a much bigger event than he had anticipated was unfolding. It was something beyond the comprehension of someone of his level.

At that moment, men who seemed to be the leaders of both sects came forward to greet the leader of the outer court, Maeng Hee Cheon.

“I am Jang Il-mo of Dragon Heaven Valley, greets the leader of the Jade Heaven Alliance.”

“I am Oh Gyeong Seol of the Zealous Justice Clan. It’s an honour to meet the leader.”

“It is an honor to meet you both. I am Maeng Hee Cheon of the Jade Heaven Alliance.”

They exchanged greetings casually, as if they had already discussed it beforehand.
Lee Gwak and the other martial artists from the Outer Court were unaware that Joo Shin Yoon, the Inner Court leader, had sought cooperation from Dragon Sky Valley and the Zealous Justice Clan on behalf of the Jade Heaven Alliance’s Lord.

Even with the immense pride of the two sects, they couldn’t decline a request from the Lord of the Jade Heaven Alliance. As a result, both sects sent their elite members to this location.

Jang Il-mo and Oh Gyeong Seol cast cautious glances at the outer court leader, Maeng Hee Cheon. Although they had joined forces under the orders from their superiors, collaborating with the Jade Heaven Alliance was deeply unsettling for them.

Dragon Sky Valley and Zealous Justice Clan had revealed themselves to the Jianghu a hundred years ago. While their influence grew rapidly since then, it still paled in comparison to the Jade Heaven Alliance’s.

Had their opponent not been Gwang Noh ya, a public enemy of the murim, they wouldn’t have dispatched their elites.

Having previously sustained significant losses at the hands of Gwang Noh ya, Dragon Sky Valley and Zealous Justice Clan dispatched their elite members. The top echelons of these two sects had already allied with the Black Armoured Cavalry and other groups.

The people here now were just organizations to support them, like the Outer Hall of the Jade Heaven Alliance.

Maeng Hee Cheon asked,

“Do you know where our Alliance’s, Divine Blood Executioner Squad, are?”

“We’ve heard that they’ve found Gwang Noh ya and are on his tail.”

“If that’s the case, they might encounter him soon.”

“That’s correct.”

“Hmm!”

Maeng Hee Cheon’s eyes shone.

For the first time in a hundred years, the elites from Celestial Demon Troupe, Jade Heaven Alliance, Dragon Sky Valley, and Zealous Justice Clan had all come together. Such a gathering of martial artists in one place was unprecedented.

Despite facing Gwang Noh ya, Jianghu’s public enemy, he was confident that with these elites, they could capture him without incurring significant losses.

Jang Il-mo laughed.

“We might not even have to step in. The elites hunting Gwang Noh ya operate on a level far surpassing the forces we’ve previously deployed.”

“That’s right. All we have to do is wait here for the good news.”

Oh Gyeong Seol agreed with Jang Il-mo’s opinion.

He didn’t seem to feel a sense of crisis. The same was true for Maeng Hee Cheon.

They came here because of their support mission, but they felt relieved because they didn’t have to shed blood and fight in reality.

Just as the leaders of the three organisations were having a leisurely conversation,

BOOM!

Suddenly, a massive explosion erupted from the outer perimeter of the camp.

“Argh!”

“Aaah!”

Following that, screams filled the air.

“What, what’s happening?”

“What’s going on?”

The expressions of Maeng Hee Cheon and the others, who were in the midst of a leisurely conversation, changed dramatically.

BOOOM!

At that moment, another explosion erupted, and the screams of people filled the sky.

“What on earth is going on?”

Maeng Hee Cheon’s pupils trembled.

It was then.

“Gwang, it’s Gwang Noh ya.”

“Damn it! It’s Gwang Noh ya.”

The voices, akin to screams, woke Maeng Hee Cheon from his stupor.

“Oh my God! Why Gwang Noh ya? Wasn’t the Divine Blood Executioner Squad tracking him?”

WOOOOSH!

At that moment, a wild wave of energy swept over them. Martial artists caught in the energy wave were sent flying in all directions.

In the raging wind, Lee Gwak barely managed to open his eyes. In his view, an old man was rushing towards their location.

A fearsome energy swirled around the white-haired old man as he sprinted, his hair flowing wildly behind him.

CRASH CRASH CRASH!

Tents were torn apart like rag dolls, people were sent soaring into the air or thrown in all directions.

Lee Gwak narrowed his eyes.

Even though their primary role was support rather than direct combat, they were seasoned martial artists. Seeing such skilled practitioners instantly transformed into mere fragments of flesh and sent flying around was so alien, it seemed almost like an illusion.

“Damn it! Block him.”

“Stop him! You old man.”

Familiar faces were chasing after the old man.

Gwan Il Hyeon, Yook Hyeon, the members of the Phantom Armored Cavalry, the Divine Blood Executioner Squad, and the elites from Dragon Sky Valley and Zealous Justice Clan all wore expressions of sheer terror and bewilderment.

They located Gwang Noh ya in a secluded mountain area about fifty li from here. The strategy was to slowly encircle him and then initiate a coordinated assault. However, the situation had changed dramatically when Gwang Noh ya noticed their presence.

Contrary to their expectation that he would naturally flee to an unpopulated area, Gwang Noh ya had instead attacked the area where the support group was.

It had happened before they could properly organise their battle formations.

A scene of hell, something they had never imagined, unfolded before Lee Gwak’s eyes.