Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 117

March 28, 2024 • 13 min read • 130 views

The Endless Entanglement of Grudges (2)

Novel- Martial Artist Lee Gwak

Screech!

With a screech of hinges, the great doors of the pavilion swung open. And out stepped Geum Chu Myeong.

“Lord Geum!”

The guide greeted Geum Chu Myeong with a formal bow. However, Geum Chu Myeong did not even glance at the guide, instead fixed his gaze on the delegation with undisguised hostility.

Geum Chu Myeong made no effort to hide his hostility towards the delegation. The guide looked disturbed by Geum Chu Myeong’s behavior.

The Five Pavilion lords that guarded the east, west, north, south, and the central regions of the Celestial Demon Troupe, were known for their exceptional loyalty. To become one of them, one had to prove not only their martial prowess, but also their loyalty to the Celestial Demon Troupe.

Thus, the chosen Pavilion Lord harbored an almost blind hatred towards the enemies of the Celestial Demon Troupe.

Geum Chu Myeong was no exception.

Grit!

He gritted his teeth, ready to pounce at any moment if it weren’t for the guide.

“Lord Geum! These guests have been invited by the troupe leader. Surely you do not intend to tarnish the leader’s honor?”

Unable to stand it any longer, the guide spoke firmly, and Geum Chu Myeong’s gaze softened slightly. However, this did not mean that his hostility had completely disappeared.

“Fine. Open the doors.”

“Thank you.”

The guide sighed in relief.

With a wave of her hand, the delegation, who had been waiting in the distance, approached the Eastern Heavenly Pavilion.

Upon seeing Yong Cheon Myeong, Geum Chu Myeong emitted a faint killing intent.

“You’re lucky, brat, Had you not been part of the delegation, you’d already be dead at my hands.”

“Then your head would have already fallen.”

“What did you say?”

“To think that a guard dog of the house would bare his teeth at the master’s guest. It speaks volumes about the standards of the Celestial Demon Troupe.

“You bastard!”

Geum Chu Myeong’s anger exploded at Yong Cheon Myeong’s taunt. He was about to draw his weapon and charge at Yong Cheon Myeong, but the guide intervened.

Yong Cheon Myeong watched the fuming Geum Chu Myeong without blinking an eye.

It was a battle of spirits
.
They hadn’t even come close to the Celestial Demon Troupe’s main base. If they continued to get involved in such disputes along the way, it might affect the morale of the delegation. Being overpowered here could lead to them feeling intimidated during negotiations at the headquarters.

A tremendous aura flowed from Yong Cheon Myeong. His aura was intense enough to awaken Geum Chu Myeong’s sense of caution.

“You bastard!”

Although he glared at Yong Cheon Myeong and gritted his teeth, he could not act as impulsive as before.

‘This brat has no ordinary courage’

He felt that Yong Cheon Myeong’s martial prowess was beyond his expectations. Geum Chu Myeong abandoned his initial underestimation of Yong Cheon Myeong.

Fortunately, the guide mediated well, allowing him to step back without losing face.

While Yong Cheon Myeong and Geum Chu Myeong were engaged in their battle of spirits, Lee Gwak took a closer look at the Eastern Heavenly Pavilion.

‘As expected, there are traps installed in this place.’

Everyone’s attention was focused on the standoff between Yong Cheon Myeong and Geum Chu Myeong, so no one paid any attention to Lee Gwak. This allowed Lee Gwak to meticulously identify the types of traps set in the area.

‘The Thousand Autumn Forbidden Gate and the Nine Layers of Heavenly Protection Barrier are intermixed here.’

Lee Gwak knew about the Thousand Autumn Forbidden Gate from Maa Doo Won and had heard about the Nine Layers of Heavenly Protection Barrier from Lim Ji Moon before.

Lim Ji Moon had said that the Nine Layers of Heavenly Protection Barrier disorients the senses, and one would not be affected if they blocked their senses.

The problem was the Thousand Autumns Forbidden Gate. It was a delicate trap that could not be passed by simply blocking one’s senses.

A trap that required the blocking of all senses to pass, and another that required the full opening of all senses to pass, were combined to make the Eastern Heavenly Pavilion an impregnable fortress.

‘To get through this place…’

Lee Gwak considered ways to bypass the Thousand Autumn Forbidden Gate and the Nine Layers of Heavenly Protection Barrier, assuming he would need to escape from the Celestial Demon Troupe.

His contemplation continued as the delegation passed through the Eastern Heavenly Pavilion and arrived at their next destination.

“Let’s rest here for today.”

The place where the guide stopped was in front of a large inn with a sign that read “Dongseong Inn.”

“It’s run by a retired martial artist from the Celestial Demon Troupe, and we’ve made arrangements in advance, so feel free to order whatever you want to eat and get some rest.”

At her words, sighs of relief emanated from the delegation.

Since leaving the Crimson Blood Fortress, they had traveled here almost without rest, accumulating fatigue throughout their bodies.

Even though it was an enemy-run inn, the thought of resting in a comfortable bed for the night brought a smile to their faces.

Suddenly, Lee Gwak muttered to himself.

“That would work.”

He had been pondering a problem while walking for half a day, the method to simultaneously counter the Thousand Autumn Forbidden Gate and the Nine Layers of Heavenly Protection Barrier.

And he found a solution

Then, an unexpected voice interrupted his thoughts.

“What do you mean it would work?”

“Squad leader?”

“You’re the Squad leader. How long are you planning to call me that?”

The one who kindly corrected Lee Gwak’s words was Seo Jong Myeong. He had somehow fallen behind and approached Lee Gwak’s side.

“What were you thinking about so deeply that you didn’t even answer when I called you?”

“Did you call me?”

“Several times!”

“I’m sorry. I had something to think about.”

“Hmm!”

Seo Jong Myeong stared at Lee Gwak as if he were seeing through him. Lee Gwak felt the pressure of his gaze but did not look away. Then Seo Jong Myeong sighed.

“You always liked to think on your own, even back at Mount Sohua.”

“Well, I was almost neglected.”

“It’s not neglect, I was giving you freedom.”

Seo Jong Myeong corrected Lee Gwak’s words once again. His expression was darker than usual.

“Is there something wrong?”

“Find some time later. Let’s go somewhere together.”

“Understood.”

Lee Gwak answered without even asking where they were going. Seo Jong Myeong smiled and patted Lee Gwak’s shoulder.

“I’ll be going then. See you later.”

“Yes!”

Seo Jong Myeong then turned and entered the Dongseong Inn.

Lee Gwak followed suit and headed to his assigned room.

The room they were assigned this time was much better than the Crimson Blood Fortress. This time there were at least soft beds, so it seemed unlikely that they would wake up with sore backs.

“Ha! When was the last time I slept in a bed like this?”

“Ah, I’m dying.”

Ki Jin Hwi and Seok Yi Cheon were the first to lie down on the beds and roll around. Following them, the other squad members each claimed a bed.

Sitting on a bed, Cheon-wol rubbed his feet with his hands. His face was clearly showing signs of fatigue.

Being young, it was understandable that he wasn’t used to such rigorous travel. However, he did not neglect his martial arts training. Whenever he had a moment, he would immerse himself in the Hidden Sword Art, impressing those who saw his dedication.

Lee Gwak looked at his squad for a moment before speaking.

“Everyone, rest and listen to what I have to say. Today, we passed through the Eastern Heavenly Pavilion, which is full of traps and mechanisms.”

Lee Gwak gave a brief description of Eastern Heavenly Pavilion’s traps and mechanisms. The squad soon became deeply engrossed in his narrative.

Lee Gwak’s story continued until it was time for dinner. When Lee Gwak finally concluded, Seok Yi Cheon asked,

“Why tell us this?”

“I’m just preparing for any eventuality. We never know when something might happen. After all, this is Celestial Demon Troupe’s territory, isn’t it?”

“I see. If you say so, there must be a reason.”

Seok Yi Cheon nodded.

He had watched Lee Gwak longer than anyone else here. He knew more about Lee Gwak’s cautious and meticulous personality than anyone else.

Lee Gwak always observed carefully, never missing even the smallest detail, and always prepared accordingly.

The fact that there had not been a single mishap since Lee Gwak took over as squad leader spoke volumes about how well he was leading the squad.

Seok Yi Cheon thought there must be a good reason this time too, and made sure he understood the content Lee Gwak was sharing.

Soon after the meal, the squad members went back to bed. Exhausted, they quickly fell asleep.

It was then that Lee Gwak heard a voice in his ear.

[Come out to the back of the inn!]

Lee Gwak quietly left the inn and headed to the back.

There he saw Seo Jong Myeong dressed in night-robes.

When Lee Gwak came out, he shouted at him.

“Let’s go!”

“Yes!”

Seo Jong Myeong cautiously started walking first. Lee Gwak quietly followed him.

They could sense the presence of people around the inn. These were martial artists from the Celestial Demon Troupe, keeping watch over the delegation. Skillfully avoiding the observers’ gazes, Seo Jong Myeong and Lee Gwak managed to leave the inn together.

As soon as they were out of sight of the observers, they quickened their pace using their respective qigong.

Even though it was Seo Jong Myeong’s first visit, he confidently led the way, maintaining a speed that Lee Gwak could keep up with.

Lee Gwak could have caught up even if Seo Jong Myeong had moved faster, but he chose to follow in silence without saying anything.

Seo Jong Myeong’s destination was a high mountain not far from the inn. Under the moonlight, the mountain looked majestic.

Seo Jong Myeong spoke,

“This is Diancang Mountain.”

“And?”

Lee Gwak looked at Seo Jong Myeong in surprise.

Seo Jong Myeong’s face had turned red, and his eyes were trembling, a sign of his emotional turmoil.

‘Diancang Sect, squad leader, was heading to the Diancang Sect.’

Lee Gwak’s eyes sunk as deep as the darkness.

Seo Jong Myeong was the last descendant of the Diancang Sect. Although he had never seen the Diancang Sect before, he never once forgot where his roots were.

His master had detailed to him everything about the Diancang Mountain, where the Diancang Sect used to be, until his death, and Seo Jong Myeong remembered it all.

Thus, upon arriving at the Dongseong Inn, he could immediately tell that the inn was not far from Diancang Mountain.

The place where his roots lay. Yet, a place he had never visited.

So, his heart raced.

His heart had been set on the Diancang Sect for a while, but he waited until night to avoid the eyes that were monitoring the delegation.

As the Diancang Mountain drew nearer, Seo Jong Myeong’s heart raced fiercely more than ever.

The two finally arrived at Diancang Mountain.

The real challenge began now.

Over the last hundred years, as human traffic had completely ceased, the path leading up to the Diancang Sect had disappeared.

Ever since the Celestial Demon Troupe took control, the Diancang Sect had become a forgotten name. Everything related to the Diancang Sect had crumbled, leaving no one to seek it out.

In its heyday, the road to Diancang Sect was well-maintained, but now only thickets grew. However, Seo Jong Myeong somehow found the way to the Diancang Sect.

The two made their way through the undergrowth and climbed up the Mountain.

“Ah!”

Suddenly, Seo Jong Myeong exclaimed.

A vast ruin appeared as they reached the mid-mountain.

The Diancang Sect, which once housed dozens of pavilions and thousands of people, has left only traces. Occasional glimpses of pavilion roofs or slate floors suggested that the Diancang Sect once existed here, but most had been consumed by the undergrowth.

Seo Jong Myeong’s legs gave out.

The moment he saw the old grounds of the Diancang Sect, he knelt down on the spot.

“Keugh!”

A sob broke through his lips.

His master had longed for this place all his life. Until his last breath, his wish was to visit this place at least once.

Seo Jong Myeong, who had watched his master from a young age, had made it his lifelong wish to come here.

Faced with the origin of his being, Seo Jong Myeong’s feelings were indescribably complex.

He looked blankly at the ruins of the Diancang Sect, kneeling.

Lee Gwak placed a hand on Seo Jong Myeong’s shoulder.

“Squad…!”

“You’re the Squad Leader.”

Seo Jong Myeong corrected Lee Gwak’s words and finally managed to stand up.

He walked towards the ruins.

The ruins looked even more eerie in the pale moonlight. Seo Jong Myeong stood in the center of the ruins for a moment, looking around.

After a long moment of surveying the terrain, he began to walk briskly towards the east. Lee Gwak followed him wordlessly.

He stopped at the ruins of a large pavilion. There was still a large foundation stone, as if showcasing the glory from a hundred years ago.

This was where the leader of the Diancang Sect once resided. But Seo Jong Myeong was the only one who remembered that fact.

Shwish!

Suddenly, he swung his sword and the bushes and trees that had grown over the collapsed pavilion were cut down to reveal the rubble. Sheathing his sword, he dug through the rubble with his bare hands.

Clearing the rubble with his bare hands quickly turned them bloody. But Seo Jong-myeong continued to clear the rubble in silence.

‘Squad Leader!’

Lee Gwak, who had been watching him, also began to clear debris by his side. They focused solely on clearing the debris, forgetting the passage of time.

Seo Jong Myeong stopped moving just before the sun began to rise in the east. When they had pushed away the mountain of debris, the ground became visible.

Bang!

When Seo Jong Myeong struck down, the floor collapsed, revealing a space large enough for an adult to lie down.

Inside the space was a wooden box about the length of a child.

Seo Jong Myeong carefully took out the wooden box.

With mixed emotions, he looked at the wooden box and then carefully opened it.

Inside the box was a sword.

Bisa.

It was the treasure of the leader of the Diancang Sect.