Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 111

March 27, 2024 • 13 min read • 158 views

Fate Flows to Unpredictable Places (2)

“Leader?”

“Take it. The members of the Shadowless Squad are learning other martial arts, so even if I give it to them, they won’t practice it. It’s better for you to learn it than for it to rot away in my possession.”

“……”

“I’m sorry. I should have given it to you sooner.”

Seo Jong Myeong forcefully handed the Moonset Blade Technique to Lee Gwak.

He had no expectation that Lee Gwak would learn the Moonset Blade Technique during their short journey to the Celestial Demon Troupe. The intricacies of the Moonset Blade Technique were not so shallow that they could be mastered in such a short period.

The Moonset Blade Technique, refined over hundreds of years, could not be fully mastered without mastering the Diancang Sect’s ultimate teachings. Knowing this, Seo Jong Myeong still decided to give the technique to Lee Gwak out of a sense of guilt.

If Lee Gwak could learn one or two moves of the Moonset Blade Technique and save his life, that alone would be meaningful.

“Is it really okay to leak the Diancang Sect’s secret techniques like this?”

“Well, what does it matter? The sect is already ruined. Even if the sect’s lineage has ended, the secret techniques should continue.”

Seo Jong Myeong smirked.

Lee Gwak looked at him for a moment, then tucked the secret manual into his clothes.

“Thank you.”

“It’ll be hard to master it fully, but if you can learn even one or two life-saving techniques, it might save your life at a critical moment. So practice hard. I’ll go ahead now.”

Feeling somewhat embarrassed, Seo Jong Myeong swiftly leaped down the wall.

Left alone, Lee Gwak stood still on the wall and watched as Seo Jong Myeong’s figure quickly disappeared into the distance.

“Celestial Demon Troupe… Could it be because of Yul Seon?”

A deep furrow formed between Lee Gwak’s brows.

No matter how he thought about it, there was no other reason why Yong Cheon-myeong would have chosen him to accompany him.

“Sigh!”

Lee Gwak let out a sigh.

The shadows of the past stubbornly clung to his ankles, even though he had long since made peace with them.

Lee Gwak quietly descended from the wall.His heart was heavy, but he could not remain dejected forever.

If the intentions of Yong Cheon Myeong were firm, then it was inevitable for him and the 13th squad to be included in this delegation. In that case, he had to prepare thoroughly.

If they were leaving in three days, there was not enough time to prepare even if he started now.

Lee Gwak hurried back to the lodgings where the 13th squad was staying.

“Gather everyone.”

He called all the members to one place and relayed the story he had heard from Seo Jong Myeong.

“So, we’re included in the delegation for the peace negotiations?”

“That’s correct.”

“Ha ha!”

After hearing the whole story, Seok Yi-Cheon laughed incredulously. The others had similar expressions.

It was too absurd to feel real.

If the delegation going to the Celestial Demon Troupe consisted of all experts, they couldn’t see why they needed to be included in such a procession.

Ki Jin-hwi asked,

“Is that decision irreversible?”

“Leader Seo from the Swordless Squad tried, but the young master didn’t listen.”

“Hmm! Then no matter how much we ask to be excluded, it won’t change.”

“Most likely.”

“What a mess.”

Ki Jin-hwi clicked his tongue.

He could leave anytime he wanted, but it wasn’t the same for Seok Yi Cheon, Go Cheon Gwang, Woo Il Yeong, and others. Their martial arts were ordinary and couldn’t possibly get them out of a crisis.

If a crisis occurred, they would likely be the first to lose their lives. If it were the past, he might not have cared what happened to them, but now that he had grown attached, he couldn’t just watch them die.

“Squad leader!”

“Speak.”

“Just going along without any plan doesn’t seem right, does it? It’s fine if the negotiations go well, but if they break down, we’ll all be in danger.”

“That’s why we need a plan.”

“And?”

Ki Jin-hwi’s eyes shone.

“That’s why I’ve gathered everyone.”

“Do you have something in mind?”

“There are things we need to prepare. From now on, you must prepare everything I mention. First …”

Everyone listened intently to Lee Gwak’s words, which continued for quite some time.

Lee Gwak returned to his outbuilding late at night.

He was exhausted from explaining what needed to be prepared to the members, but he had no time to rest.

Lee Gwak opened the secret manual he had received from Seo Jong Myeong.

The Moonset Blade Technique was one of the signature techniques of the Diancang Sect, along with the Sun Splitting Sword Art.

Just as the Sun Splitting Sword Art emphasized speed, the Moonset Blade Technique implied bringing down the moon with power, containing the essence of dominance.

The Moonset Blade Technique was a method of overpowering enemies through strength. However, compared to the Sun Splitting Sword Art, it was difficult to master and took a long time to excel in, making it a neglected and unfortunate martial art.

As the signature technique of the Diancang sect, one of the Ten great sects, the Moonset Blade Technique has been imbued with the essence of ascension.

Originally, the Diancang Sect was one of the Taoist sects but was heavily influenced by the secular world, resulting in practical martial arts. Therefore, instead of elusive martial principles, it described techniques in an intuitive and easy-to-understand manner.

This was quite fortunate for Lee Gwak.

If he had to interpret and learn every single martial arts theory, it would have required a lot of time. Fortunately, the intuitive theories were easy for Lee Gwak to understand. Of course, there was a big difference between understanding and mastering them.

Lee Gwak did not even look at techniques that seemed difficult to learn immediately or contained the essence of ascension.

What he needed were techniques that could be easily learned and applied right away. Fortunately, the first three techniques of the Moonset Blade Technique met Lee Gwak’s expectations.

Lee Gwak pondered how he could integrate these three techniques of the Moonset Blade Technique into the Eight Sects Sword Art.

Rustle!

In the quiet room, only the sound of him flipping through the pages echoed.

Lee Gwak lost track of time as he immersed himself in the Moonset Blade Technique.

He compared the three techniques with the Eight Sects Sword Art, contemplating how to fuse them together.

Thud!

It was dawn when he finally closed the Moonset Blade Technique.

Han So Cheon hadn’t appeared by then.

‘It seems she won’t come today.’

Feeling somewhat empty, Lee Gwak didn’t show it and stepped outside.

The eastern sky was already brightening. The sun was rising.

Lee Gwak washed up briefly and returned to his room.

There wasn’t much time left.

He had to prepare as best as he could until then.

***

Lee Gwak left his room just before the departure day. He had forgotten about eating and sleeping, focusing solely on the Moonset Blade Technique.

For two days Lee Gwak studied the three techniques of the Moonset Blade Technique and achieved some results. More would have been too much. The Moonset Blade Technique was not an easy martial art that could produce significant results after only two days of study. This was the best he could do for now.

“Sigh!”

Lee Gwak took a deep breath.

The fresh air filled his lungs, clearing his head a bit.

Then, Cheon-wol approached Lee Gwak from outside.

“Brother, I was about to call you, and here you are.”

“Why?”

“A command has come from Jang Gwang to come to his residence.”

Jang Gwang was the highest-ranking martial artist in the Siege Fortress. Lee Gwak couldn’t refuse the command from Jang Gwang, the lord of the Siege Fortress.

“Me?”

“Yes! You have to right now.”

Lee Gwak’s expression darkened slightly, but he quickly asked with a nonchalant face.

“Is everything prepared?”

“Almost done. Everyone is working hard, so everything will be ready before departure.”

“Understood. Keep up the good work.”

“Yes! Take care, brother.”

“Sure!”

Lee Gwak nodded and headed towards Jang Gwang’s residence.

Finding Jang Gwang’s place wasn’t difficult. He just had to look for the most heavily guarded place in the Seige Fortress.

After passing through several checkpoints, he was led to Jang Gwang’s room.

“Squad Leader of the 13th squad, Lee Gwak, reporting as ordered.”

“So, you’re Lee Gwak.”

Jang Gwang scrutinized Lee Gwak with sharp eyes that seemed to pierce through everything. However, Lee Gwak received his gaze calmly without flinching. Jang Gwang’s eyebrows twitched slightly, perhaps surprised by Lee Gwak’s reaction.

“Lee Gwak!”

“Yes!”

“An order has been given to you and the 13th squad. You are to join the procession of the Young Master tomorrow.”

“Do you mean Young Master Yong Cheon-myeong?”

“That’s right. He is leaving this place to undertake an important mission. You and the 13th squad have been chosen to accompany him on this mission, take it as an honor.”

“May I know the destination of the young master?”

Swish!

In an instant, Lee Gwak’s head turned sideways. Jang Gwang had slapped his cheek.
Lee Gwak’s cheek swelled up immediately.

“How presumptuous! Do you think someone like you has the right to know the great young master’s itinerary? Your head isn’t there for thinking. Just follow the orders given from above.”

“……”

“I don’t understand why the young master would choose someone like you for such an important mission, but know this: if you become an obstacle in his path, you won’t remain unscathed.”

Jang Gwang glared at Lee Gwak with a menacing look, his eyes filled with anger and jealousy.

Originally, Jang Gwang wanted to follow Yong Cheon Myeong to the Celestial Demon Troupe. Just being part of the glorious mission to ensure a successful peace negotiation would surely elevate his fame and status.

Opportunities to gain such prestige in the Jianghu were rare. However, instead of Jang Gwang, Yong Cheon Myeong chose a mere outer hall martial artist. This fact enraged him.

‘Why would the young master choose such an insignificant person?’

If possible, he would tear Lee Gwak apart right there and join the envoy himself. But he dared not defy Yong Cheon-myeong’s command.

“You will depart at dawn tomorrow. Inform your subordinates to prepare.”

“Yes!”

Lee Gwak responded and stepped outside.

Jang Gwang ultimately did not disclose the destination to Lee Gwak. Of course, it didn’t matter much since Seo Jong Myeong had already informed him, but it still left a bad taste. It was a stark reminder of how little Jang Gwang thought of outsiders like him.

Lee Gwak’s gaze grew deep and thoughtful.

Although his cheek had burst open when slapped, he felt no pain. In fact, he could have avoided it if he really wanted to. However, Lee Gwak chose not to, fearing any conflict with Jang Gwang might disadvantage the 13th Squad.

Lee Gwak gathered all the members of the 13th squad and formally announced that an order had been given.

Although they had been mentally preparing upon hearing the news earlier, the formal issuance of the order weighed heavily on everyone’s hearts.

“Take the rest of the day off and rest.”

After earnestly advising his members, Lee Gwak returned to his quarters.

He sat on the bed, lost in thought.

‘So Cheon also said she came here because of the young master, right? Does that mean So Cheon is also part of the diplomatic delegation?’

Lee Gwak’s thoughts continued.

Han So Cheon belonged to the Hidden Blood Squad, one of the most dangerous squads within the Jade Heaven Alliance.

She was a secret weapon operated by the Jade Heaven Alliance, a sword in the darkness that acted on the front lines.

The question was why Han So Cheon and her squad were mobilized for the young master’s procession.

‘Is it simply for the efficient protection of the young master, or is there another ulterior motive for taking them along?’

A deep furrow formed between Lee Gwak’s brows.

If it was the former, it wouldn’t be a problem, but if it was the latter, it could be a major issue.
Lee Gwak hoped that there would be no issues for Han So Cheon.

The night deepened, and Han So Cheon did not appear again. Lee Gwak thought he would see her in the morning and went to bed. However, he was wrong.

The door quietly opened, and a woman with a familiar scent naturally snuggled into his embrace.

‘So Cheon!’

Lee Gwak gently patted Han So Cheon’s back.

Doing so usually helped her fall into a deep sleep when she had trouble sleeping. But for some reason, she couldn’t easily fall asleep tonight.

Even though her eyes were closed, the fact that she wasn’t sleeping was evident from her breathing.

‘What happened?’

Han So Cheon’s breathing was rougher than usual.

This was a sign when she was angry or troubled. Yet, Lee Gwak didn’t ask for a reason. He just held her tighter.

Eventually, her breathing seemed to stabilize, indicating she had calmed down somewhat.
Suddenly, Han So Cheon spoke.

“Oraboni!”

“Yes!”

“Thank you!”

“For what?”

“Just… everything…”

“That’s so vague.”

“Oraboni.”

“Why?”

“Do I smell?”

“What smell?”

“I always smell blood on me. It’s like the blood of those I’ve killed is soaked into my body. Maybe that’s why I can’t stand still without smelling blood.”

“So… Cheon.”

“I’ve killed so many people. Bad people, good people… just killed them indiscriminately. Whenever orders came down, I killed without questioning. I’m a terrible person, aren’t I? Killing others just to save my own life.”

Han So Cheon buried her face in Lee Gwak’s embrace.

Lee Gwak felt his chest getting damp. Han So Cheon’s shoulders had been trembling for some time.

“Why did it turn out like this? I joined the Jade Heaven Alliance wanting to live, but at some point, my heart started dying. I just wanted to live.”

“…”

“Can I be forgiven? Even now, when I close my eyes, I see the faces of those who died by my hands. I see their faces struggling with pain just before death. They ask me why I’m not coming to where they are. That’s why I thought about suicide. But while I could kill others, I couldn’t bring myself to end my own life. So I live on. Helplessly… When can I escape this loathsome cycle of life? When can I live freely?”

For a while, she was silent.

Lee Gwak knew her silence was in lieu of tears.

Despite being called the Ice Witch, as if her heart was made of ice, she was still human.

She was just someone with a bit more endurance and mental strength than others, not a
cold-blooded being without tears or blood.

The trembling he felt from her in his embrace proved that fact.

Time passed.

Eventually, Han So Cheon’s trembling ceased.

Suddenly, Han So Cheon lifted her head to look at Lee Gwak.

Her eyelashes, wet with moisture, were clearly visible in the darkness. Lee Gwak’s face was reflected in Han So Cheon’s moist eyes.

Lee Gwak leaned down. He felt Han So Cheon’s sweet breath. He breathed in her breath.

“Hah!”

A deep breath, belonging to who knows whom, echoed in the room.

The two became like beasts exploring each other