Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 18

October 31, 2023 • 10 min read • 391 views

Episode 18(When the ties are severed, no regrets remain. (3))

Novel- Martial Artist Lee Gwak

The banquet continued afterward, and Lee Gwak stood guard outside the Clear Pavilion. Until the banquet ended, he stood motionless like a withered tree.

Seok Yi Cheon and Gok Chaebong looked at Lee Gwak with pity in their eyes. Knowing how much Lee Gwak loved her, their pity was even greater.

Both wanted to console Lee Gwak, but couldn’t find the words.

Sigh!!

All they could do was watch over him, letting out soft sighs.

Time seemed to crawl, but eventually, the feast came to an end.

“I’ll be heading in first,”

“Uh, okay.”

“Be careful.”

With their voices fading behind him, Lee Gwak moved on.

Normally, he would return to his quarters to hone his martial skills alone. But tonight, he felt differently.

Lee Gwak ventured outside the walls of Jade Heaven Alliance.

It was his first time out in two years.

Even though he was only one step outside the walls, the air felt different.

It was as if the shackles binding him were finally undone, a fleeting sense of freedom lifted his gloomy mood.

Walking a short distance, a vast lake unfolded before Lee Gwak.

The immense lake, where the blue sky and waterline became indistinguishable, was the famed Dongting Lake.

Lee Gwak strolled alone along its shores.

Countless people passed him by .

Pleasure seekers enjoying the water, merchants selling goods, even pairs who seemed like lovers. The variety was endless. Yet, none captured Lee Gwak’s attention.

Reaching a quiet reed field, Lee Gwak stood as still as a stone, gazing at Dongting Lake.

The sunlight shattering against the calm surface of the water blinded him, But he continued to gaze without so much as a blink.

A cool breeze blew, and on it, swallows skimmed close to the water’s surface.
Lee Gwak envied those birds.

Because they possessed wings allowing them the freedom to go wherever they wished.
Suddenly, he turned to look behind.

In the distance, the imposing structure of the Jade Heaven Alliance stood tall. The high walls surrounding the alliance resembled a fortress.

Those towering walls, while a defense against foes, also acted like prison bars, preventing those inside from venturing out. He hadn’t felt this way before, but now those walls suffocated him.

Though his body had the power to leave the Jade Heaven Alliance at will, his spirit remained bound to it.

Whether he liked it or not, he had been committed to the sect for nearly a decade, entwining him in a web of countless relationships. Severing all these ties just because of one person, Geum Yul Seon, was no easy task.

He needed more time.

Time to come to terms with his own feelings.

“Soon…,”

Lee Gwak murmured to himself.

“Soon, what?”

The voice of an unfamiliar woman came from behind him.

For a moment, Lee Gwak felt the blood in his body run cold. He had sensed no presence before the voice had come from behind him.

Lee Gwak slowly turned around, and a woman in all black came into view.

Her hair, her attire, even the veil that covered her face.

At the sight of her, every hair on Lee Gwak’s body stood on end.

An overwhelming aura emanated from her, an aura only those who had long dominated others could exude.

Lee Gwak cautiously asked,

“Who… are you?”

“And who might you be?”

“I am Lee Gwak.”

“Affiliated with?”

“The Outer Court.”

“Hmm! So you are Lee Gwak, a martial artist of the outer court?”

“Yes.”

At his response, the mysterious woman’s eyes sparkled.

Though her penetrating gaze was unsettling, Lee Gwak tried to maintain his composure.

“You’ve yet to answer who you are?”

“My name is Dan Li Yeon. Have you heard of me?”

“Aren’t you the third disciple of the Alliance Leader?”

“Correct.”

The woman was none other than Dan Li Yeon, the Dark Martial Empress.

Shame involuntarily surfaced on Lee Gwak’s face.

Dan Li Yeon’s stature was so high that Lee Gwak did not even dare to look into her eyes.
Blessed with innate talent, genius, and exceptional martial arts skills, she was chosen by Ja Hong Cheon as his disciple, a true prodigy.

Matching in prowess with Ja Hong Cheon’s other esteemed disciples, Yong Cheon Myeong and Woon Dae Yon, her fervent dedication to martial arts marked her as a destined great master.

Dan Li Yeon and Lee Gwak were worlds apart from the very beginning. Lee Gwak was baffled by her sudden appearance in his path.

“What brings Lady Dan Li Yeon to this place?”

“You, Lee Gwak.”

“Pardon?”

“I saw you speaking with Geum Yul Seon.”

Lee Gwak’s face turned stone cold.

“And why would that be a problem?”

“It wouldn’t be, for anyone else. But because it’s Lady Geum, it’s a problem.”

“Why?”

“Because my eldest senior brother has set his eyes on her. He doesn’t take kindly to others approaching those he’s interested in.”

Upon hearing Dan Li Yeon’s words, a frown deepened on Lee Gwak’s forehead.

“What are you trying to say?”

“There’s no need for hostility. I’m merely offering advice. Stay away from Lady Geum if you don’t want trouble. That’s all I wish to convey.”

“My ties with her were severed long ago.”

“Then that’s fortunate.”

“If you have nothing more to say, I’ll take my leave.”

Battling the rising fury within, Lee Gwak spoke those words, all the while Dan Li Yeon observed him closely.

He was merely an unremarkable martial artist from the Outer Hall.

Compared to her, a disciple of the sect leader, his status was nothing. Normally, Dan Li Yeon wouldn’t have given a second glance to someone like Lee Gwak. Yet, due to the unexpected encounter involving Lady Geum, Lee Gwak piqued her interest.

‘Such formidable spirit for a mere outer hall martial artist. What a waste for him to be stuck in the outer hall.’

He had a solid build and well-proportioned physique, advantageous for mastering martial arts.

‘Had I found him sooner, I would have brought him to the inner court and ensured he was trained properly.’

Dan Li Yeon clicked her tongue.

There’s always an optimal time to learn martial arts. To fully grasp its essence, one must begin training diligently before the age of fifteen. Starting past one’s twenties made it hard, with muscles becoming rigid and the flow of Qi being blocked, making it improbable to master martial arts.

Although Lee Gwak seemed to have a promising physique, he appeared to be over twenty. It might already be too late for him to become a true master.

Letting go of any lingering interest, Dan Li Yeon decided to offer one more piece of advice.

“You mentioned you’re from the outer hall, correct? Soon, there might be a dispatch mission outside. If you’re feeling suffocated in the alliance, taking up such a mission might not be a bad idea.”

“What do you mean?”

“Just take care of yourself.”

With that, her eyes, visible above the veil, curved in a mischievous arc. Quickly, she launched herself into the sky.

Whoosh!

Just like the swallows Lee Gwak had seen earlier, she soared and vanished into the distance towards the alliance.

For a while, Lee Gwak looked in the direction where she disappeared, amazed by her qigong that was on a completely different level from his own.”

By the time Lee Gwak returned to his lodgings, it was well past sunset.

The quarters were empty, devoid of any presence. Seo Jong Myeong had yet to return.

Exhausted, Lee Gwak slumped onto his usual spot, losing himself in thought for some time.

Strangely, his mind felt blank, unable to muster any thoughts. Still in this dazed state, Lee Gwak stared straight ahead.

How much time had passed?

Suddenly snapping back to reality, he drew his blade and walked out to the courtyard of the inn.

He couldn’t think, nor did he want to move. Yet, his body moved as if on its own accord.

It was the usual time of thickening mist. At this hour, he’d always be honing his martial skills. And now, his body was moving from sheer muscle memory.

Swish!

The blade cleaved the air.

Starting with the Mountain Splitting Slash, the techniques flowed seamlessly – Raging Tidal Force, Shadowless Strike.

Tzzzt!

From the darkness, a faint light emerged, illuminating the surroundings. It was the blade qi glowing on Lee Gwak’s sword.

Oblivious to this, Lee Gwak executed the Eight Sects Sword Art.

From the first to the eighth stance, he displayed them in rapid succession.

The blue energy from his sword dispersed the darkness. Yet, Lee Gwak, engrossed in the Eight Sects Sword Art, didn’t realise this phenomenon.

He finally stopped his blade practice much later, nearly drained of his internal energy. Still, he stood tall, panting heavily.

Though he halted the Eight Sects Sword Art, five ethereal snakes kept swirling around him, ultimately converging on the tip of his sword.

At that moment, a flower bloomed on Lee Gwak’s blade tip.

A flower made of Qi, a Qi Flower.

Ordinarily, to create a Qi Flower required intricate energy manipulation and enlightenment. Lee Gwak, however, was unaware of this fact.

His heart visualised a flower, and the universe conspired to make it so.

He stood motionless, staring at the flower he had conjured.

The Qi flower, struggling to retain its shape, flickered and seemed on the brink of vanishing.

With a swift motion, Lee Gwak’s sword danced like a flash, slicing the flower in half. The flower, barely holding its form, vanished without a trace.

“Goodbye,”

Lee Gwak whispered, closing his eyes.

When he opened them again, there was no trace of his earlier turmoil.

“In a month, we’ll leave the Jade Heaven Alliance,”

Seo Jong Myeong, who had returned that morning, addressed Lee Gwak with his first words.

“What do you mean, ‘leave’?”

“We’ll be dispatched outside of the Jade Heaven Alliance.”

Taken aback by the sudden statement, Lee Gwak’s face contorted,

“Can’t you explain more clearly?”

“Just know that much.”

“Hmph!”

“We won’t return to the Jade Heaven Alliance for at least two years. It’d be wise to say your farewells.”

“Two years, you say?”

“Yes!”

Lee Gwak softly sighed, remembering Dan Li Yeon’s words, as he heard Seo Jong Myeong’s answer. He realised that Seo Jong Myeong’s stature might be even grander than he thought, especially if he could access information at Dan Li Yeon’s level.

In other words, Seo Jong-myeong’s real status was comparable to that of Dan Li Yeon.
Misinterpreting Lee Gwak’s expression as reluctance, Seo Jong Myeong offered what seemed like consolation,

“Don’t look so displeased. Many familiar faces will be dispatched too. It won’t be too lonely.”

“Understood.”

“There’s plenty of time left. Prepare to depart in the meantime.”

“Yes!”

Lee Gwak didn’t inquire further. He knew that even if he asked, Seo Jong Myeong wouldn’t explain. While Seo Jong Myeong was, in name, his squad leader, in reality, he was from a different world altogether. Digging deeper into that world only brought headaches.

Lee Gwak could only wish.

He hoped that even in the place they were dispatched to, he could live in the same tranquillity as now.