Episode 9 (The Turning Point of Fate Comes Without Warning (2)

October 20, 2023 • 11 min read • 371 views

“Hmm!”

As Lee Gwak regained consciousness, a flurry of voices reached his ears.

“Are you alright?”

“Oh, heavens! How can you say that? Does this look alright to you?”

It was Oh Gu Hong and the 13th Squad.

Lee Gwak attempted to focus his eyes on them, but their figures were indistinct, making it impossible to recognize their faces.

“Don’t strain yourself. It’s a miracle your eyes didn’t burst. If you force it, they might get worse. Just keep them closed.”

“Yes! Absolutely, don’t push yourself.”

The chatter of the 13th squad members swirled around him, making his head spin.

“Shapes and all kinds of lights were mixing and colliding in his field of vision. It was sign that his eyes were badly damaged.

Silently, Lee Gwak closed his eyes.

But it wasn’t just his eyes. His entire body felt as if it had been hacked to pieces. The pain was so unbearable that even breathing felt like an ordeal.

Drawing a heavy breath, Lee Gwak opened his mouth.

“What… happened?”

“Don’t you remember? You got beaten up so badly by that bastard.”

“Where is he?”

“Who?”

“The one who did this to me…”

“That bastard left.”

“Just like that?”

Hearing the anger in Lee Gwak’s voice, Oh Gu Hong averted his gaze, a look of shame evident on his face.

“They ordered him to let go.”

“What do you mean?”

With great effort, Lee Gwak opened his eyes again. The sting of the light made tears run down his cheeks, and it was painful, but he struggled to keep his eyes open. There was a look of incomprehension on his face.

Although he might be low-ranking, he was still a martial artist of the Jade Heaven Alliance.

Within the Jade Heaven Alliance, one of their martial artists was severely injured by another. How could they just let it go?

It was beyond Lee Gwak’s understanding.

At that moment, Oh Gu Hong whispered in a soft voice,

“Just let it go, Lee Gwak.”

“But…”

“That guy… He seems to be from the Jade Heaven Alliance. And he seems to be of a very high rank. The higher-ups are finding it burdensome to address this any further.”

“…”

“I understand your grievance. But what can we do? That’s how the world is. Just bear with it. Aren’t you lucky to be alive?”

Oh Gu Hong spoke with evident discomfort, as members of the 13th squad shifted their eyes away from Lee Gwak, seemingly too ashamed to face him.

They all knew the Alliance’s decision was unjust. However, they didn’t have the courage to defy their orders.

All they could do was offer a few words of encouragement to Lee Gwak.

Lee Gwak bit his lip. Blood trickled down, but he didn’t care.

Oh Gu Hong gently wiped away the blood with his sleeve. Lee Gwak tried to push Oh Gu Hong’s hand away, but his strength failed him.

Not just his hands; he couldn’t feel anything even down to his toes.

“My body isn’t moving. What happened?”

“You sustained severe injuries.”

“Severe?”

“Yes. The physician said your bones and muscles are critically damaged. You might even be left disabled.”

“What kind of disability are you talking about?”

“In the worst case, full-body paralysis…”

Oh Gu Hong couldn’t bring himself to finish the sentence.

“No matter how much he tried to be shameless, it was too difficult for him to say any more than that. It was a difficult message to convey.”

The doctor who checked Lee Gwak’s pulse said he should be content with having saved his life. Anything beyond that was in the realm of the divine, not of a physician.

That’s how dire Lee Gwak’s condition was. Over ten of his bones were broken, and his primary muscles and nerves were damaged.

It was a miracle that he was still alive and breathing.

Gwan Il-hyeon might have attacked Lee Gwak just to vent his anger, but Lee Gwak’s life was ruined.

“Phew!”

“How could this…”

The 13th squad members couldn’t bear to look at Lee Gwak. They felt as if they were the guilty ones.

“But don’t worry too much. They’ll send physicians regularly to treat you.”

“…”

“Who knows? A miracle might happen. So don’t be too disheartened and…”

“I want to be alone.”

“Lee Gwak!”

“Everyone, please leave.”

“Yes! You probably need some time alone to gather your thoughts. Stay strong.”
Oh Gu Hong stood up and walked out first.

“Call us if you need anything.”

“You mustn’t harbour any negative thoughts.”

One by one, the 13 squad members shared their sentiments and left.

Lee Gwak closed his eyes.

Tears streamed down his cheeks.

He had given his utmost loyalty to the Jade Heaven Alliance, but all he received in return was cold indifference. In the eyes of the Jade Heaven Alliance, he was as insignificant as a pebble trampled underfoot.

Time passed.

He lost track of the days.

It felt like a month, maybe two.

Locked in that small room, time had no meaning for Lee Gwak.

His hair grew shaggy, and a beard covered his face.

During this period, the only visitors were the 13th squad and the physician.

The 13th squad took turns attending to his needs. As for the physician promised by the Jade Heaven Alliance, after a brief couple of visits, he stopped coming.

Still, Lee Gwak wasn’t disappointed. Somehow, he had anticipated this.

What hurt him more than the physician’s absence was the missing of a certain individual.
Geum Yul Seon, the woman he loved.

All this while, she had not visited him even once.

Seok Yi Cheon mentioned that she was too tied up. As a renowned musician of the Musical Performance Hall, her schedule was crammed with endless performances, which left her no time to visit him.

Lee Gwak wasn’t stupid enough to believe him.

He was abandoned and completely neglected.

Both by the Jade Heaven Alliance and his lover

Lee Gwak bit his lip until it bled.

“I won’t crumble like this.”

If he hadn’t met Gwang Noh ya and awakened his consciousness, he might have succumbed to despair. His encounter with Gwang Noh ya had changed him so much that he could withstand even the worst of circumstances without breaking down.

Several days later, an unexpected figure entered his room.

“Big brother.”

It was Han So cheon.

She had changed a lot

Gone was the timid and frail figure from when she first entered the Jade Heaven Alliance. Now, she appeared refreshed, her face glowing.

“So-cheon!”

“Big brother.”

Tears were about to fall from her eyes when she saw Lee Gwak’s pitiful appearance.
Han So cheon sat down next to Lee Gwak, trying to hide his trembling expression.

“Lee Gwak’s lying figure was so emaciated that it resembled a mummy. If it weren’t for the focus in his eyes, one could mistake him for a dead person.

“I’m sorry for coming so late, big brother. I tried to get here as soon as I could…”

“It’s okay.”

“Big brother.”

“I’m just resting for a bit. I’m truly fine.”

Upon hearing Lee Gwak’s words, her eyes wavered once more.

Lee Gwak inquired,

“Where have you been all this time?”

“They took me to the main court.”

“The main court?”

“To test my aptitude in martial arts.”

“And what did they say?”

“They said I have talent.”

She spoke modestly, but in reality, she possessed an exceptional talent. So much so that even the academy was taken by surprise. As a result, she was specially selected.

After being acknowledged by the main court, she had some free time. During that period, Han So cheon tirelessly sought Lee Gwak. However, Lee Gwak was nowhere to be found in the outer court.

With sheer determination, Han So cheon managed to find out that Lee Gwak was confined in a remote part of the Outer Court.

While she rejoiced at her newfound talent, Lee Gwak was battling despair alone. The realization of this fact pierced her heart with sorrow.

She held Lee Gwak’s hand and spoke, ”

“So from now on, I must leave to train in martial arts.”

“Let me guess, your destination is a secret.”

“How did you know?”

“That’s just how things are here. Everything is shrouded in secrecy, never shared with people like us.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine, Socheon. I’m just resting due to some pain. I will rise again.”

“You definitely will. I hope this book can help you.”

Han So cheon took out a book from her bosom.

It was so aged that its once yellow pages threatened to crumble at a touch. Faintly inscribed on it were the characters Yoga Secret Manual’.

TL/N- Tianzhu aka India

“What is this?”

“One of the books from the academy’s collection. It’s a transmission from Tianzhu, said to be beneficial for strengthening the foundation. So, I brought it.”

The ‘Yoga Secret Manual’ she had was a book that few in the academy paid attention to. While the martial arts from Tianzhu were known for their strong and useful training methods, they were very different from the martial logic of the central plains, so they were hard to learn.

More importantly, to truly excel in this martial art, one would have to start from scratch. Considering that most in the academy were already adept at the martial arts of prestigious sects, starting anew was unthinkable.

A few had shown interest in the ‘Yoga Secret Manual’, attempting genuine mastery. But they soon gave up, thwarted by the obscure passages and unorthodox breathing techniques.

Ever since, the book had been neglected, gathering dust in a corner of the academy’s repository. It was due to this neglect that Han So cheon faced no reprimand for taking it.

In truth, she wasn’t entirely convinced that the ‘Yoga Secret Manual’ would be of any great help to Lee Gwak. Still, she wanted to do something, anything. Hence she brought it.

She felt a tad embarrassed,

“This is all I could bring for you. I’m sorry.”

“No, thank you.”

Lee Gwak nodded, a gesture that took him immense effort. What seemed like a simple, natural movement to others required all his strength. Still, there was hope; if he could move his neck, perhaps, in time, he could regain movement in his limbs.

His gaze landed on the ‘Yoga Secret Manual’. He was unaware of the martial arts it contained or the potential it held.

If Han So cheon could take it with her, it was likely something the others deemed worthless. The academy’s system was far from lax, and they wouldn’t allow a newcomer to possess something of great significance.

Yet, Lee Gwak was intrigued, not for the potential prowess it might hold, but because he desperately needed something to distract him from his pain and monotony.

Lying motionless all day was torturous, both physically and mentally. Time seemed to crawl, and each day felt like an eternity in hell.

With immense effort, he managed to move his neck, but there was no guarantee when his limbs would obey him.

Until then, Lee Gwak desperately needed something to distract him from the boredom. He wasn’t sure what the book Han So cheon had, the Yoga Secret Manual, contained, but he was certain it would help him lose track of time.

However, there was one problem: Lee Gwak couldn’t move even a finger on his own, making it impossible to read the Yoga Secret Manual.

After pondering for a while, Lee Gwak looked at Han So cheon.

“Socheon!”

“Yes?”

“It might be a bother, but could you tear out the pages of the Yoga Secret Manual and stick them to the ceiling for me?”

“Why would you-”

“Please.”

“Okay… I’ll do it.”

Han So Cheon began to tear the pages from the Yoga Secret Manual and stick them to the ceiling. In half an hour, the ceiling was covered with an indecipherable script.

Lee Gwak stared blankly at the ceiling.

Han So cheon bade him farewell.

“Big brother Lee Gwak, I must leave now. If fate allows, I’ll return and find you.”

“Yes, take care.”

“Stay safe until then.”

“You too. And… don’t trust others too easily.”

“…”

“The Jianghu… It’s more sinister than you know. Always be wary of others and protect yourself.”

Those words were a reminder for Lee Gwak himself as well.

The harsh truths of the Jianghu that took him five years to understand. He hoped Han So Cheon wouldn’t waste time like he did.

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

Han So cheon nodded and stood up from her seat. She looked at Lee Gwak’s face for a moment before heading outside.

Bang!

The door shut, leaving Lee Gwak alone in the room.

Like a shower of stars, countless words poured into Lee Gwak’s eyes.