Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 115

March 28, 2024 • 12 min read • 113 views

Same Bed, Different Dreams (3)

Novel- Martial Artist Lee Gwak

Joo Cheongwang opened the windows of his abode and looked outside.

In the distance, he could see a huge hall immersed in darkness. It was the quarters where the delegation was staying.

He wished he could immediately mobilize all his forces and attack them. The number of his men killed by the Jade Heaven Alliance was too great to count.

To the leaders in the Celestial Demon Troupe, it might seem like a mere reduction in the number
of men, but to Joo Cheongwang, who remembered every single one of their faces, it felt like a huge knife had been driven into his heart.

“Peace negotiations…”

The person he respected the most, the Solitary Celestial Demon Jin Gwang Hon, was never one to compromise. It was clear, then, that someone else under him had been influenced.

“It must be the Saintess”

Joo Cheongwang’s eyes flickered with a subtle killing intent.

The first leader of the Celestial Demon Troupe, Geom Yul-cheon, had continued the tradition of the Demonic Sect by appointing a Saintess within the Celestial Demon Troupe.

Although the religious aspects were diluted compared to the Demonic Sect, the status of the Saintess in the Celestial Demon Troupe was by no means small. Many martial artists still considered the Saintess as their spiritual pillar and followed her.

Therefore, the saintess had almost as much authority as the troupe leader, influencing many.

The fact that this woman came as a guide for the delegation confirmed Joo Cheongwang’s suspicions.

Without any prior notice, this woman visited the Crimson Blood Fortress and abruptly declared that peace negotiations between the Jade Heaven Alliance and the Celestial Demon Troupe would proceed, so all fighting must stop.

Since she presented an order stamped with the troupe leader’s seal, Joo Cheongwang had no choice but to follow her words.

Joo Cheongwang had never liked the Saintess and those who followed her. In a world where power was everything, he believed that the peace they advocated for was nothing but an illusion.

That’s when it happened. A martial artist dressed in black appeared before him without any sound and knelt down.

“Master.”

“Black Wolf!”

He was Black Wolf, Joo Cheongwang’s loyal retainer. Bowing his head to the floor, he spoke.

“I apologize. I tried to use spies to find out who killed the members of the Hellhound Squad, but he left the siege fortress too quickly for us to learn anything.

“Is it possible that he joined the delegation?”

“It’s quite possible. With his level of skill, there’s no reason for the delegation to reject him.”

“Hmm!”

Joo Cheongwang’s thoughts were the same as Black Wolf’s.

He was convinced that the one who killed the Hellhound Squad had joined the delegation. The problem was that he had no clue who it was.

“After all, it doesn’t matter who the ‘killer’ is. In terms of martial arts alone, Yong Cheon Myeong is tens of times more powerful than the ‘killer’.”

Joo Cheongwang’s lips twisted.

Although he had only seen Yong Cheon Myeong for the first time today, Yong Cheon Myeong’s aura was truly extraordinary. He had internally thought that Yong Cheon Myeong’s talent was not inferior to that of Celestial Demon Troupe’s greatest prodigy.

‘No, that’s not it. The prodigy’s talent is truly once-in-a-lifetime. Yong Cheon Myeong can’t compare to that.’

However, it was clear that he needed to be wary of him.

“What is Yong Cheon Myeong doing?”

“He’s holed up in his quarters.”

“Has he not come out even once?”

“Ah, he did come out once. He briefly went outside and spoke with someone who appeared to be a martial artist from the Outer Hall.”

“He spoke with an Outer Hall martial artist?”

“Yes, but I don’t know what they talked about because we immediately retreated for fear of being discovered.”

Joo Cheongwang’s eyes flashed.

“Do you think it makes sense for a figure like Yong Cheon Myeong to engage in conversation with a mere Outer Hall martial artist?”

Joo Cheongwang, more than anyone, knew the nature of power well.

It was rare for someone of Yong Cheon Myeong’s stature to engage in conversation with someone of lower status.

If Yong Cheon Myeong had a private conversation with him, it meant that they either had a personal friendship or that the person had another identity beyond what was apparent.

Black Wolf replied.

“That’s why I assigned someone to monitor him separately.”

“Good! Whatever his identity may be, if Yong Cheon Myeong went out of his way to speak with him, he’s certainly not ordinary. Make sure to keep a close watch on him, we don’t know what he might be up to.”

“Yes! Master.”

With that, Black Wolf left.

Left alone, Joo Cheongwang turned his gaze back towards the hall across the window.

“I don’t like anything about this.”

He bit his lip.

Despite the late hour, Lee Gwak could not sleep.

He was assigned the duty of guarding the hall. Even though they were staying within the Crimson Blood Fortress as envoys, this place was still enemy territory.

They couldn’t let their guard down for fear of what might happen. Naturally, they had to take turns standing guard, and the 13th squad was the first to be chosen.

Thanks to that, after taking a short rest, Lee Gwak and the 13th squad were dispersed throughout the hall, standing guard.

Lee Gwak’s position was on the roof of the hall.

It was an optimal location with a clear view of the surroundings.

Sitting at the edge of the roof, Lee Gwak surveyed the interior of the Crimson Blood Fortress. Only the occasionally lit torches distinguished the areas; most of the hall was engulfed in darkness. However, for Lee Gwak, whose Heart Eye was open, this was not an issue.

His eyes pierced through the darkness, clearly observing the interior of the Crimson Blood Fortress.

The martial artists of the Crimson Blood Fortress hiding in secret places to monitor the area occasionally came into view.

Then, someone silently climbed up to the roof of the hall. It was a man in ordinary attire.

“It’s time for the shift change. You can go in and rest now.”

He approached Lee Gwak and spoke.

Lee Gwak stared intently at the man. Then, the man slightly furrowed his brows.

An unexpected phrase slipped through Lee Gwak’s lips.

“So Cheon!”

“…”

For a moment, the man’s eyes wavered. He tried to hide his disturbance and maintain a calm expression.

“I know everything. So Cheon.”

But the words that followed from Lee Gwak made the man’s facade completely collapse.

“How did you know?”

A clear voice slipped through the man’s lips. It was So Cheon’s voice. She was disguised as a man.

“Just… I know.”

“Ah! I had hoped you wouldn’t know.”

Han So Cheon sighed and moved closer to Lee Gwak.

The complex emotions were evident in her eyes as she looked at him.

Lee Gwak asked, “Has the entire Hidden Blood Squad been deployed for this mission?”

“How do you know about the Hidden Blood Squad, Oraboni?”

Han So Cheon’s lips quivered.

Within the Jade Heaven Alliance, only a very few were aware of the Hidden Blood Squad. She couldn’t understand how Lee Gwak, who was not part of the Higher Ups, knew about the Hidden Blood Squad.

“How did you know about the Hidden Blood Squad?”

“That’s not important. Is it true that the entire Hidden Blood Squad has been deployed for this mission?”

“You know I can’t answer that.”

Han So Cheon forced a reply, biting her lip.

Lee Gwak glanced at her face for a moment then naturally moved on, aware of the gazes monitoring this place.

Continuing the conversation with her might arouse suspicion.

As Lee Gwak passed by her, he whispered in a soft voice, “Always take care of yourself.”

“You too…”

A faint smile appeared on Lee Gwak’s lips as he leapt down from the roof of the hall.

Left alone on the roof, Han So Cheon’s face was marked by a complex expression.

She thought she knew Lee Gwak better than anyone. They had observed and known each other for many years.

But suddenly, she had this thought.

Perhaps she didn’t know everything about him.

Han So Cheon couldn’t take her eyes off Lee Gwak’s retreating figure.
***

The old man, Gwang Noh ya, looked around the interior of Black Dragon Fortress with eyes full of regret.

Black Dragon Fortress was empty.

It was because he had killed or driven away all the bandits.

Gwang Noh ya had taken one of the empty houses as his dwelling and had been staying here for several days, despite being able to leave at any time if he wished.

Gwang Noh ya, who had been aimlessly looking around the Black Dragon Fortress, climbed up the hill. It was a hill he had climbed countless times since his childhood.

From this spot, the village scenery was visible at a glance.

Although he could no longer find its old appearance, it still helped Gwang Noh ya recall his fading memories.

Since arriving here, he had not once suffered an episode of madness. It was the first time since he had roamed the Jianghu that this happened. Perhaps the memories of his hometown were preventing his madness from flaring up.

This was why Gwang Noh ya found it difficult to leave this place. He didn’t want to wander the Jianghu as a mad old man anymore.

“Sigh!”

Gwang Noh ya let out a sigh filled with regret.

They say that while young men live looking forward to the future, old men live reminiscing about the past. That was precisely his current state.

That’s when it happened.

“Waaa!”

Suddenly, the faint sound of a child crying reached him. It was only because he was Gwang Noh ya that he heard it; in reality, the sound was coming from a very distant place.

A look of confusion appeared on Gwang Noh ya’s face.

The very fact that he could hear a child’s cry in these deep mountains was strange.

He wondered if it could be a child left behind by the bandits he had driven away.

Without a second thought, Gwang Noh ya dashed towards the source of the sound.

As if he were shortening space, he leapt across hundreds of zhangs in a single bound. Then his eyes caught sight of a young girl wandering down a mountain path.

“Huu, huu!”

The little girl was crying, wiping her tears with her sleeve.

Her clothes were torn and covered in dust, indicating she might have wandered the mountain path for a long time.

Without further thought, Gwang Noh ya approached the girl.

“Child, why are you wandering this mountain path alone?”

Startled by the sudden voice, the girl quickly looked up. Seeing Gwang Noh ya, she took a few steps back with a frightened expression.

Her face was stained with tears, making her appear even more pitiable.

“It’s okay. This old man isn’t scary.”

“Huu, but…”

Though Gwang Noh ya tried to speak as gently as possible, the girl still didn’t let go of her wary expression.

“Where are your father and mother? Why are you alone in these mountains?”

“Daddy, mommy are dead. We encountered bandits… I ran away alone… Huu!”

“Uhm!”

Gwang Noh ya let out a hum.

‘It seems the bandits I drove away were still nearby, causing trouble.’

He felt a sense of pity, as if the girl’s misfortune was somehow his fault.

Gwang Noh ya carefully approached the girl.

Though the girl flinched at his approach, she didn’t move back any further.

“Do you have anyone else to take care of you besides your parents?”

“Huu! I have a grandmother.”

“A grandmother?”

“Yes!”

“Then, I’ll take you to your grandmother.”

“Really?”

“Yes!”

Gwang Noh ya extended his hand. The girl hesitated for a moment before cautiously taking Gwang Noh ya’s hand.

Feeling the warmth from her hand, Gwang Noh ya smiled.

He couldn’t remember the last time he felt the warmth of another person. The warmth transmitted through the girl’s hand reminded him of a memory from a very long time ago.

It was then, while Gwang Noh ya was lost in reminiscence.

Suddenly, he felt a burning pain in his side.

Coming back to his senses, he saw the girl had plunged a small dagger into his side.

“What?”

“Ha-ha! Got you, old monster.”

The girl wore a devilish smile.

The sorrowful expression of a child who had just lost her parents was nowhere to be seen on her face now.

“What is this? Child.”

“What is it? I’m avenging my master’s enemy. Ha-ha!”

With a ghastly laugh, the girl swiftly stepped back.

Gwang Noh ya wore a puzzled expression.

“Who is your master?”

“It’s me. Gwang Noh ya!”

At that moment, with a voice as chilling as the cawing of a crow, an old woman dropped from the sky, landing between Gwang Noh ya and the girl, blocking their path.

Gwang Noh ya’s face fell as he recognized the old woman’s face.

“We finally met. Lunatic Pugilist!”

The old woman, revealing her yellow teeth in a grin, stared at Gwang Noh ya with eyes filled with venomous hatred. She was none other than the Spirit Granny.