Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 103

February 22, 2024 • 11 min read • 234 views

Siege Fortress(3)

Novel-Martial Artist Lee Gwak

Early in the morning, Lee Gwak was summoned by Seo Jong-myeong and entered the house where the Shadowless Squad was staying. However, someone had already entered the house before him.

“Jeon Ok?”

“Come in, Gwak”

It was the man with the ever-present smile on his face, Go Jeon-ok. He was standing in front of Seo Jong-myeong.

Seo Jong-myeong asked Lee Gwak.

“You two are friends, right?”

“Yes!”

“Good. I need you to help him for a while.”

“What do you mean?”

“There’s an important mission for the Heavenly Intelligence Hall, but they are short on people. Since you have a connection with this fellow, I’ll need you to work with him.”

“Is that an order?”

“It’s an official command.”

“Understood.”

After saluting Seo Jong-myeong, Lee Gwak went out with Go Jeon-ok.

“What’s the matter?”

“We have an important task to do, and I need someone trustworthy.”

“Aren’t there many people in the Heavenly Intelligence Hall?”

“They all have their own missions.”

“…”

“You’re the only one I can trust here, so don’t say anything and help me. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to advance.”

Ambition was evident on Go Jeon-ok’s face.

Although Lee Gwak didn’t know what the mission was, it was clear that Go Jeon-ok sincerely believed it was a golden opportunity.

Lee Gwak silently looked at Go Jeon-ok’s face.

They became friends around the same time they joined the Jade Heaven Alliance, but their temperaments were very different.

Go Jeon-ok’s only goal in life was to rise in the world. His willingness to go to any lengths to get ahead was burdensome, but Lee Gwak did not show it.

“What is it that you’re so concerned about?”

“You’ll know if you follow me.”

Go Jeon-ok led Lee Gwak out of the siege fortress.

As they moved away from the siege, Go Jeon-ok handed Lee Gwak a long piece of cloth.

“From here on out, you’d better cover your face with this.”

“And you?”

“I have mastered ‘such’ techniques, so I’m fine.”

Suddenly, Go Jeon-ok rubbed his face with his fingers. As he did, his face distorted like clay, subtly changing until he looked like a completely different person.

His facial structure remained the same, but minor changes in his nose, cheekbones, and lips made him look entirely different.

Unless someone had exceptionally keen eyesight, most people would be deceived.

The fact that Go Jeon-ok had mastered the art of changing one’s appearance was proof of his recognition within the Heavenly Intelligence Hall. Only those assigned to important missions could learn this technique.

Lee Gwak, following Go Jeon-ok’s instruction, covered his face with the cloth, leaving only his eyes visible. Go Jeon-ok smiled satisfactorily.

Lee Gwak then asked Go Jeon-ok.

“But where are we going that we have to be so secretive?”

“You’ll find out soon.”

Go Jeon-ok walked away with a meaningful smile. Lee Gwak followed him wordlessly.

After walking for a while, they came to a place where two rivers merged into one, and there was a large tree that stood out.

The trunk of the tree, which must have been hundreds of years old, was so thick that three adults could not reach it with their arms outstretched.

Go Jeon-ok closely inspected the base of the tree. Lee Gwak also paid close attention to what Go Jeon-ok was looking at.

Suddenly, Lee Gwak’s eyes sparkled. He spotted a small mark on the tree’s base. The mark was so small that a stranger would have thought it was just a natural scratch.

“This way!”

After closely examining the mark, Go Jeon-ok immediately headed upstream.

Go Jeon-ok found several more marks after that.

Watching his behavior closely, Lee Gwak realized there was a certain pattern to the marks.

The marks always appeared at crossroads. And Go Jeon-ok moved in the direction where the blade mark was sharpest. The distance they walked varied according to the length of the blade mark.

It was Lee Gwak’s exceptional observational skills that allowed him to notice the differences and decipher the pattern. To the average person, these would merely appear as minor scratches.

Go Jeon-ok didn’t expect Lee Gwak to have noticed such details. Even he had struggled with this cipher system when he first learned it.

“We’re here,”

Go Jeon-ok finally arrived at his destination.

He had stopped on a small hill with a panoramic view of the surrounding terrain, a spot ideal for surveillance due to its unobstructed view.

“Lee Gwak, someone will arrive here by boat soon. You’ll wait here and alert me if anyone else approaches. It’s crucial that our meeting remains secret, so keep a vigilant watch.”

“Understood.”

“Great!”

Leaving Lee Gwak behind, Go Jeon-ok headed to the nearby river bank. Positioned almost fifty yards away, he appeared anxious as he waited for someone.

From atop the hill, Lee Gwak kept watch for any approaching figures.

After a while, Lee Gwak spotted a small boat descending from the upstream.

Whistle!

Upon Lee Gwak’s whistle, Go Jeon-ok looked up and noticed him. Lee Gwak pointed in the direction of the descending boat, and Go Jeon-ok nodded in acknowledgment.

Lee Gwak focused his eyesight to observe the approaching boat.

The small boat, barely large enough for two adults, was manned by a boatman wearing a conical hat. Rowing towards Go Jeon-ok, the boatman slightly lifted his hat to look at him. His face was exceedingly ordinary, the kind one might pass on the street.

The boatman was the first to speak.

“Even when the sky is obscured by clouds, the stars still shine…”

“…and among them, seven stars shine the brightest.”

Go Jeon-ok responded, prompting the boatman to nod.

“It’s true you came from the Jade Heaven Alliance. Get on the boat.”

“Yes!”

Without hesitation, Go Jeon-okboarded the boat. The boatman then rowed towards the middle of the river.

Once they reached the center, the boatman ceased rowing and sat down.

“You’ve had a hard journey coming here.”

“How could I speak of hardship in front of one of the Seven Stars who risked their lives to infiltrate the Celestial Demon Troupe?”

“All for the greater cause of the world. There’s nothing more valuable than sacrificing oneself to uphold justice in the Jianghu.”

“I admire you.”

Go Jeon-ok looked at the boatman with eyes full of admiration.

The Jade Heaven Alliance had dispatched numerous spies to gather insider information from the Celestial Demon Troupe. However, due to Celestial Demon Troupe’s tight security, most spies were caught.

Infiltrating the Celestial Demon Troupe with spies seemed impossible. Yet, the Jade Heaven Alliance persisted and eventually managed to place seven spies.

Within the Jade Heaven Alliance, they were referred to as the Seven Stars, and their identities were kept under strict confidentiality. The boatman sitting before Go Jeon-ok was one of these Seven Stars.

Only a few within the Jade Heaven Alliance knew the true identities of the Seven Stars. Even Go Jeon-ok, who was meeting secretly, did not know his identity.

The boatman’s ordinary appearance was due to him wearing a Human Skin-mask, a mask hiding his true face.

Suddenly, the boatman’s gaze shifted towards Lee Gwak, standing far away on the hill.

“Is he trustworthy?”

“He’s my friend.”

“I asked if he can be trusted.”

“He can be trusted.”

“Hmm.”

“If you’re worried about him revealing secrets, don’t worry, he’s a tight-lipped man.”

Despite Go Jeon-ok’s assurance, the boatman remained stern.

“What if I told you to kill him to ensure secrecy?”

“I would… with my own two hands…”

Go Jeon-ok, clenching his teeth, faced the boatman with determination in his eyes.
Seeing the determination in his eyes, the boat man relaxed his expression.

“Good! Listen carefully to what I’m about to say. The Celestial Demon Troupe is currently in turmoil because the First Young Master, who had not shown himself for a long time, has finally taken action.”

“First Young Master? You mean the First disciple of The Celestial Demon Troupe?”

“Exactly! The prodigy recognized by the Solitary Divine Demon for his absolute talent. Having spent a long time in secluded cultivation, he’s now starting to expand his influence within The Celestial Demon Troupe. This has caused unrest among many, including Gwan Il Hyeon.”

There was little known about the Solitary Divine Demon ‘s First disciple. He had not engaged in any external activities for several years. Only mentioned through the words of Solitary Divine Demon and a few others, almost no one had seen him in person, to the extent that there were rumors of his non-existence.

“Is he truly a prodigy of absolute talent?”

“The Solitary Divine Demon has acknowledged him as having a talent surpassing his own.”

“If he is indeed such a prodigy, it would be a disaster for the Jade Heaven Alliance and the Jianghu.”

“Yes. If he truly surpasses the Solitary Divine Demon in talent, he would be considered even greater than the most esteemed prodigies in the Jianghu, the Ten Lesser Skies.”

“Hmm!”

“But there’s no need to worry just yet. Although he is undoubtedly a once-in-a-lifetime talent, his existence has also caused fractures within the Celestial Demon Troupe. His emergence has shaken the power dynamics within the Celestial Demon Troupe. If we play our cards right, we can easily fulfill our leader’s plans.”

“How so?”

Instead of answering, the boatman pulled out a red-sealed letter.

“Everything I’ve found out is contained within this. Deliver it to the First Disciple of the Jade Heaven Alliance, and he will take care of the rest.”

The scroll was literally sealed in wax, so that opening it would leave a mark.

“I will make sure it reaches the First Disciple .”

Go Jeon-ok tucked the letter deep inside his clothes. The paper, light as a feather, felt as heavy as a thousand-pound rock.

“It’s time for me to return. Any further delay, and they will surely grow suspicious of me.”

“I wish you a safe return.”

“Hmm!”

The boatman rowed back to the shore.

As soon as Go Jeon-ok disembarked, the boatman ascended the river again and quickly disappeared from sight.

Go Jeon-ok silently watched the direction in which the boatman had vanished.

The boatman, along with the other Seven Stars, was risking his life to infiltrate the Celestial Demon Troupe and provide information. Their noble sacrifices allowed Jade Heaven Alliance to gather inside information from The Celestial Demon Troupe and respond effectively.

Jade Heaven Alliance’s success in the war against the Celestial Demon Troupe was thanks to those willing to sacrifice themselves like the Seven Stars.

“I will not sacrifice my life as you have.”

What he wanted was to enjoy wealth and glory while alive, not to be called a hero after death.
Go Jeon-ok had taken on the dangerous mission of meeting with the Seven Stars for advancement, not to sacrifice himself.

Turning around, he saw Lee Gwak sitting on a distant hill.

Go Jeon-ok walked towards Lee Gwak with an unconcerned expression.

“Have you been waiting long?”

“Not really.”

“Did anyone approach?”

“No one.”

“Good. Let’s go back.”

“Is the mission over?”

“Yes! Once the letter is delivered to the First Disciple, it’s done.”

Go Jeon-ok tapped the pocket containing the letter, smiling. He slung an arm around Lee Gwak’s shoulder as they talked.

“Thanks to your vigilance, the mission was completed safely. I’ll buy you a drink when we get back. Heh!”

Lee Gwak silently nodded, a shadow cast over his eyes, but Go Jeon-ok, preoccupied with his successful mission, failed to notice.

The fact that he had made contact with the Seven Stars safely made him feel good. However, the smile on his face quickly faded.

Boom

Suddenly, a loud explosion came from the upstream side of the river. It was the direction in which the boat man had disappeared.

Sensing the ominous atmosphere, Go Jeon-ok’s face hardened.

“Wait? Could it be…”

The worst assumptions flooded Go Jeon-ok’s mind.

He urgently said to Lee Gwak,

“Let’s get out of here quickly.”

Without waiting for a response, Go Jeon-ok used all his might to execute his Qigong, and Lee Gwak silently followed.

After they left, a group of fierce-looking martial artists appeared where they had been. Dressed like bandits but with a far more menacing aura, they seemed like wild wolves.

The man who appeared to be the leader was holding someone’s severed head in his hand. The owner of the head, from which fresh blood was dripping, was the boatman they had parted ways with just a moment ago.

Ripping off the boatman’s face, revealing a different one underneath, he snarled, “Audacious! To think someone dared to infiltrate the Celestial Demon Troupe and leak information.”

As he emitted a killing intent, one of his subordinates knelt, examining the traces on the ground.

“There are footprints here. It’s clear the spy met someone here.”

“How many?”

“Two.”

“Capture them. We must recover any leaked information at all costs.”

“Understood!”

The Hellhound Squad, The Celestial Demon Troupe’s trackers sworn to hunt down traitors to the ends of hell, sprang into action.