Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 105

March 13, 2024 • 11 min read • 219 views

There Are Friendships Lighter Than a Feather (2)

Novel-Martial Artist Lee Gwak

It was evening when Lee Gwak returned to the Siege Fortress.

The first person he sought out upon his return was Seo Jong Myeong.

“I’ve returned.”

“What happened?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re alive and well.”

“Yes?”

“The guy who took you, Heavenly Intelligence Hall’s Go Jeon-ok. He said you were left behind and died…”

Seo Jong Myeong was speechless with astonishment.

“I was lucky to survive.”

“What happened?”

“I was chased by the Hellhound Squad, but fortunately, I managed to shake them off and escape.”

“You?”

Seo Jong Myeong glared at Lee Gwak with wide eyes.

There were parts of Lee Gwak’s explanation that didn’t make sense to him.

Even though he didn’t show all his feelings, Lee Gwak was the only outer hall member Seo Jong-myeong had for over three years.

Such a period was enough to develop genuine affection. He truly cared for and worried about Lee Gwak. So, he was shocked to hear Lee Gwak might have died after falling behind.

“Are you really okay?”

“Yes! As you can see, I’m fine.”

Seo Jong Myeong scrutinized Lee Gwak from head to toe. Indeed, just as he said, there wasn’t a single wound on him. However, Seo Jong Myeong’s expression remained stern.

Having survived countless life-and-death battles on the battlefield for years, Seo Jong Myeong was not only skilled in martial arts but also exceptionally perceptive. His instincts told him something was off.

‘Go Jeon-ok… Did that guy play some trick?’

He decided to call Go Jeon-ok later for a talk.

“It’s good to have you back. We’ll talk more later, for now, go rest. I’ll take care of any minor duties for you, so just take it easy.”

“Thank you.”

“What are you thanking me for… Alright, go on now.”

“Yes! Then…”

After saluting Seo Jong Myeong, Lee Gwak exited. Waiting outside, to his surprise, was Go Jeon-ok.

“Lee, Lee Gwak!”

Go Jeon-ok looked at him as if he had seen a ghost.

Go Jeon-ok had returned to the Siege Fortress just half an hour before Lee Gwak.

After sending Lee Gwak down the left path, he had run down the right path with all his might. Then, two members of the Hellhound Squad had caught up with him.

Though two opponents might have been manageable, Go Jeon-ok chose not to fight.
Instead, he exerted his Qigong to the extreme and, upon reaching a gorge through which the river flowed, he jumped in and used his underwater breathing technique.

The Hellhound Squad members who were pursuing him didn’t hesitate to dive into the water after him. They were fairly competent swimmers, but they couldn’t keep up with Go Jeon-ok, who had mastered underwater techniques.

The distance between them grew, and eventually, Go Jeon-ok managed to shake them off and safely escape back to Jade Heaven Alliance’s territory.

He thought Lee Gwak was dead. The prowess of the Hellhound Squad pursuing him seemed formidable. He had only two on his tail, but he assumed the rest had pursued Lee Gwak.

He had thought Lee Gwak was dead. The Hellhound Squad martial artists following him seemed formidable, and while only two were after him, the rest must have chased Lee Gwak.

Ha Gong Wol showed no particular reaction to the news of Lee Gwak’s death.

Being in the Heavenly Intelligence Hall meant seeing countless deaths and sending many to their doom. To Ha Gong Wol, who had repeated such tasks countless times, the death of a mere Outer Hall squad leader wasn’t worth his concern.

Instead, he praised Go Jeon-ok for using Lee Gwak as bait and returning safely.

“You did well. Keep it up.”

Ha Gong-wol seemed quite pleased with Go Jeon-ok’s cunning.

He took the letter received from Go Jeon-ok and immediately went to report to the Young master. A meeting under the Young master’s authority was probably already underway.

Only then could Go Jeon-ok breathe a sigh of relief. He had sacrificed Lee Gwak, but he had managed to complete the mission somehow.

Then he heard the news that Lee Gwak had safely returned. Struck by the news like a bolt from the blue, Go Jeon-ok hurried here without proper rest. And now, he was seeing Lee Gwak, safe and sound.

He asked with a trembling voice.

“Are, are you okay?”

“I’m fine!”

“How…? I thought you were dead…”

Go Jeon-ok stuttered.

Even the ruthless Go Jeon-ok couldn’t remain indifferent, knowing he was at fault.

His eyes were filled with uncontrollable turmoil.

Lee Gwak, looking at Go Jeon-ok’s face, calmly continued.

“Fortunately, the pursuers didn’t follow me. I didn’t see a single one on my way here.”

“That’s impossible… Really?”

“Yes!”

“Ha ha ha!”

Go Jeon-ok let out a weak laugh as if relieved.

The fact that Lee Gwak survived for such a reason seemed utterly absurd to him.

Go Jeon-ok thought Lee Gwak was just incredibly lucky, never imagining that Lee Gwak had decimated the Hellhound Squad. He didn’t think Lee Gwak’s martial skills were that impressive.
Now that Lee Gwak had returned alive, Go Jeon-ok was worried. Did Lee Gwak realize he had been used as bait?

Go Jeon-ok forced a calm expression.

‘Lee Gwak won’t know I used him as bait.’

After all, it was a decision he made alone.

Lee Gwak’s survival was unexpected, but there was no evidence to prove he had used him as bait. As long as he kept silent, no one would know the truth.

Go Jeon-ok grabbed Lee Gwak’s hand.

“I’m so relieved. You don’t know how worried I was after we parted. When I heard you didn’t come back, I was about to go out and look for you again. I can’t tell you how comforting it is to see you safe.”

“I’m tired. I need to rest.”

Lee Gwak pulled his hand away from Go Jeon-ok, who flinched momentarily but forced a smile.

“You’ve had a hard time. You must be tired, go and rest now.”

“Alright.”

Lee Gwak’s reaction was indifferent, his face devoid of any expression. However, Go Jeon-ok was too busy avoiding Lee Gwak’s gaze to notice his expression.

Lee Gwak walked away, leaving Go Jeon-ok behind.

Go Jeon-ok no longer existed in his heart. He no longer considered him a friend.

“Sigh!”

A sigh escaped Lee Gwak’s lips.

He had thought that once he became stronger, everything would be easy, but strangely enough, most things didn’t seem to get easier.

It was as if the more powerful he became, the greater the burden he had to bear.

“Nothing in this world is easy.”

***

If Jade Heaven Alliance’s forward base was the Siege fortress, then Celestial Demon Troupe’s forward base was the Crimson Blood Fortress.

Located about a hundred li to the west of the front lines, the fortress was built from crimson clay bricks found nearby, giving its walls a Crimson-red appearance. Hence, it was named Crimson Blood Fortress.

The fortress housed numerous experts dispatched by the Celestial Demon Troupe, who awaited orders to be deployed to the front lines as needed. The person overseeing all these activities was Joo Cheongwang.

Joo Cheongwang’s nickname was the Demonic Supreme Sword.

Celestial Demon Troupe was organized into the First Hall, Second Hall, Three Institutes, Four Courts, and Five Pavilions, with Joo Cheongwang being the head of one of the Three Institutes, the Sword Mountain Institute.

Joo Cheongwang was a perfect martial artist, possessing both formidable martial power and an exceptional intellect. This earned him the favor of Celestial Demon Troupe’s leader, Jin Gwang Hon.

Joo Cheongwang frowned as he looked at the two men kneeling before him.

They were from the Hellhound Squad that had chased Go Jeon-ok.

After losing Go Jeon-ok, they returned to the rendezvous point but, no matter how long they waited, the squad leader and their comrades did not show up.

Feeling that something was amiss, they went searching for their comrades, only to find their bodies.

They collected the bodies of their squad leader and comrades and returned to the Crimson Blood Fortress.

Joo Cheongwang spoke.

“So, you’re saying when you returned, the squad leader and your comrades were all dead?”

“That’s… correct.”

“And the enemy?”

“We… apologize. We did not even see his face.”

The survivors of the Hellhound Squad bowed their heads to the ground. Though their foreheads cracked open and bled, they felt no pain.

Joo Cheongwang, looking dispassionately at the two men, walked to where the bodies were.
Lifting the covering, the squad leader’s body was revealed.

Joo Cheongwang examined the squad leader’s body closely.

“He was killed with a single blow.”

The squad leader was Joo Cheongwang’s most trusted hunting dog.

Not only was his martial prowess extremely strong, but his sense of danger was also incredible.

If he truly believed that an opponent was too much for him to handle, he would have chosen to flee without delay.

That such a person could be killed without even a chance to escape, with just a single strike, implied the assailant’s martial prowess was extremely high.

Joo Cheongwang proceeded to examine the other bodies.

A deep furrow formed between his brows. Like the squad leader, the others had also died from a single blow.

“A single expert…?”

Joo Cheongwang felt a chill run through his body.

Just by looking at the wounds on the Hellhound Squad’s bodies, he could sense the level of the opponent.

The wounds left on the Hellhound Squad were astonishingly clean. Likely, they hadn’t even felt much pain in their final moments.

The problem was that no such expert readily came to mind.

The Sword Mountain Institute, where Joo Cheongwang served as the head, was a gathering place for sword experts. Naturally, Joo Cheongwang was an expert in swordsmanship himself.

He could guess the level of martial arts and the type of sword technique just by looking at a scar. However, the injuries left on the bodies of the Hellhound Squad were of a kind he had never seen before.

It was difficult to even determine the type of sword used, let alone the technique.

The wounds were clean and featureless.

Within the Celestial Demon Troupe, there weren’t many who could leave such clean and efficient wounds.

Just as the members of the Jade Heaven Alliance are aware of the experts within the Celestial Demon Troupe, the Celestial Demon Troupe also had a detailed understanding of the experts who had entered the Siege fortress. However, among the data they had gathered, there was no information about a swordsman with such formidable skills.

Joo Cheongwang stood up, murmuring to himself.

“It seems a new expert has entered the Siege fortress.”

His gaze turned cold.

It wasn’t strange for the Jade Heaven Alliance to add new personnel to the Siege Fortress. They frequently bolstered their forces.

The issue was that the level and identity of the expert who had killed the Hellhound Squad were unknown.

“Tsk! Seems I need to mobilize the spies within the Siege Fortress.”

He clicked his tongue.

Just as the Jade Heaven Alliance had planted spies within the Celestial Demon Troupe, the Celestial Demon Troupe had its spies within the Jade Heaven Alliance.

Normally, there was little communication, but in times like these, spies were mobilized to gather necessary information.

“Dispose of the bodies.”

At Joo Cheongwang’s command, subordinates entered and removed the Hellhound Squad’s bodies.

The loss of the Hellhound Squad wasn’t regrettable. There were plenty of other Hellhound Squads. The real issue was the information that the spy had leaked. Depending on what was leaked, Celestial Demon Troupe’s strategy might need adjusting.

He looked up at the ceiling, muttering.

“Black Wolf!”

“Yes, my lord.”

Suddenly, without any prior indication, a shadow appeared.

The man, with long black hair obscuring his face, was Joo Cheongwang’s trusted aide, Black Wolf.

“Contact our spies in the Siege fortress. Find out if any new individuals have arrived recently.”

“Understood.”

“And try to identify who killed the Hellhound Squad.”

“Should they be eliminated if identified?”

“If possible.”

“Understood.”

With a brief response, Black Wolf vanished.

Left alone, Joo Cheongwang muttered.

“It doesn’t matter who they are. They won’t significantly alter the grand scheme of things.”

That’s when he heard it.

“Lord!”

A subordinate’s voice came from outside.

“What is it?”

“Sir… A distinguished guest has arrived from the Headquarters.”

“From the Headquarters?”

Suspicion flickered in Joo Cheongwang’s eyes.

It was the first time someone deemed a ‘distinguished guest’ from the Celestial Demon Troupe’s headquarters had come here.

Then, without permission, someone opened the door and entered. A woman in pure white attire, a beauty in her prime.

“It’s been a long time, Lord!”

“You are?”

Joo Cheongwang’s eyelids fluttered in surprise.