Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 23

November 4, 2023 • 11 min read • 440 views

Episode 23(Shadows Fade in the Sunlight (2))

Novel- Martial Artist Lee Gwak

These were the most outstanding talents from various martial arts sects. These people were chosen for their talents alone, without the halo of their respective sects.

Each was exceptionally gifted, their eyes glowing with ambition. Their vibrant faces seemed to be lit from within.

It was a sight to behold, hundreds and hundreds of shining talents all in one place.

“Is this where we are going to live from now on?”

“Such a place existed in the Jianghu?”

“Hmm!”

Their reactions varied.

Some looked eager, their faces full of anticipation, while others appeared somewhat apprehensive.

The former had already been told where this place was, while the latter seemed to have been brought here without any knowledge of it. Their expressions were enough to give away their identities.

Lee Gwak silently observed these young talents.

Though they were evaluated as future leaders of the Jianghu, for now, they were mere fledglings.

“They’re lucky, getting to learn martial arts in Mount Hua.”

“I’m envious! So envious! If only I were a bit younger, I would be training here.”

“You? Dream on! With your abilities, even in a hundred lifetimes, you wouldn’t get the chance to enter here. Ha-ha!”

“How would you know? I too have some skills. Just had the misfortune of being born to the wrong parents. Hehe!”

Seok Yi Cheon and Gok Chaebong chuckled together.

Yet their faces were unmistakably tinged with envy.

For the past several months, they had been toiling away at menial tasks here. They constructed accommodations for these young talents and repaired damaged facilities. As a result, their hands were calloused and blistered.

And yet, the very martial arts training ground they had painstakingly repaired, known as the Steel Hell Blood Training Hall, was something they could never use. All their efforts over the past few months were for the newly arrived talents.

Using the foundation laid by their sweat and blood, these talents would soar to heights they could never reach.

The instructors for training these talents had arrived a month ago. They meticulously studied the mechanisms and techniques in the Steel Hell Blood Training Hall, and determined the best combinations to train the young martial artists.

As a result, the martial artists from the Creation Pavilion and Lee Gwak had to accompany these instructors and explain the mechanisms they had repaired in detail.

The martial artists were not curious about the principles of the machinery. All they were interested in was how it worked and its power. Nothing else mattered to them.

“Whew!”

From behind the crowd, Lee Gwak let out a weary sigh.

He had been worn out from guiding the martial artists around the machinery. Just when he thought he could rest, new recruits had arrived, ensuring no respite for some time.

Lee Gwak looked at the recruits with deep-set eyes.

Their backgrounds might differ, but the fact that they had been chosen remained unchanged.
From the beginning, they were in a different position than Lee Gwak. Just like Seok Yi Cheon or Gok Chaebong, Lee Gwak had envied such recruits.

‘No, there’s nothing to envy. I will become strong in my own way.’

Lee Gwak soon bowed his head.

Although the progress in Eight Snakes Art and the Eight Sects Sword Art was slow, the achievement of the Meteor Hammer technique was growing daily.

The Eight Sects Sword Art and the Invisible Puncture Art would become the fangs and claws of a wolf for him. By honing them sharper and stronger, he would eventually stand alone in the Jianghu.

Until then, he would refine himself within the walls of the Jade Heaven Alliance.

As Lee Gwak was making this resolution,

His eyes suddenly shook. Among the many recruits, he recognized a familiar face.

‘So cheon!’

The little girl was clearly Han So cheon, looking around with a tense expression, like a small cat bristling with fur.

She wasn’t looking scared, but her icy cold eyes were filled with caution.

Since giving Lee Gwak the Eight-Word Technique, Han Socheon hadn’t visited even once. He had thought she would be living well, but unexpectedly saw her here.

Nearly two years had passed, and Han So cheon’s face had changed so much that he could hardly recognize her.

The icy demeanour, the well-trained physique, and the small scars visible above her clenched fists; nothing about her suggested an ordinary life.

‘What on earth?’

As Lee Gwak wondered about her life,

“Everyone, pay attention.”

A powerful voice, filled with profound internal energy, echoed throughout the hall.

All of a sudden, the chattering voices fell silent and stared nervously at the stage.

On the podium was a cloaked man. An overwhelming aura emanated from him, dominating the crowd.

Even with the mask, one could infer that the man was extraordinary.

As everyone’s attention was fixed on him, the man introduced himself,

“I am the Chief Instructor of this Steel Hell Blood Training Hall. You will address me as Chief Instructor here. Status or rank from the Jianghu has no place here. I will train you rigorously, and all you need to do is follow. No objections or rebellions will be tolerated. If you don’t like it, you can leave right now. This is the only moment to reconsider your decision. Decide, will you stay or will you leave?”

“……”

No one argued with the chief instructor’s words, nor did they go outside.

The recruits could not object because of the oppressive atmosphere of the place.

The mask on the Chief Instructor’s face made a slight movement, and to Lee Gwak, it seemed like he was smiling.

From the shadows behind the Chief Instructor, about ten men emerged.

They all wore masks similar to his. On their masks, numbers were delicately inscribed, ranging from one to ten.

The aura of the Chief Instructor alone was overwhelming, but the addition of ten more instructors of seemingly equal strength left the students gasping for breath.

“These men will be your instructors with me. You will call them by the number written on their masks. First Instructor, Second Instructor, and so on. You will simply follow their lead.

At that moment, a voice broke the heavy silence.

“I have a question.”

One of the recruits bravely raised his hand.

For a moment, a gleam flashed in the Chief Instructor’s eyes.

“Who might you be?”

“I am So Geum Jin from the Hwaryeong Sword Clan.”

A faint smile appeared on the student’s lips. His sect, the Hwaryeong Sword Clan, was a renowned martial arts sect from the north. Being a recognized student from such a prominent sect, So Geum Jin held a considerable amount of pride, which was probably why he dared to interrupt the Chief Instructor.

The glint in the Chief Instructor’s eyes intensified.

“Very well, So Geum Jin, speak. What intrigues you?”

“Why the masks? Everyone here is from one of the orthodox sects. Why would you need to hide your identities? Why wear masks if you have nothing to hide?”

“You’re curious about that?”

“Yes,”

So Geum Jin answered, raising his voice.

A few students around him nodded in agreement, seeming to share his sentiments.

Suddenly, with a swift whooshing sound, So Geum Jin screamed and collapsed onto the ground. The First Instructor, who was standing behind the Chief Instructor, had unexpectedly lunged at So Geum Jin and landed a devastating blow.

Surprised, So Geum Jin curled up into a ball, panting as if he was trying to regurgitate something stuck inside him.

With terror evident in his eyes, So Geum Jin looked up at the First Instructor, struggling to speak,

“Why? Why did you…?”

As he asked the question, The First Instructor began to show a terrifying brutality. Like a hammer hitting a pig, The Instructor mercilessly beat So Geum Jin’s entire body with his fists.

His face began to break, blood splattered everywhere, and occasionally, So Geum Jin’s body was sent flying into the air.

“What’s this?”

The nearby disciples tried to intervene, but other instructors had appeared in an instant, forming a human barrier between them.

The intensity of the instructors overwhelmed the disciples, who could only gulp in fear, unable to act.

Then, the Chief Instructor approached the almost unconscious So Geum Jin.

Overwhelmed by the Chief Instructor’s aura, the Talents were crushed to the side. They looked at the Chief Instructor with eyes filled with terror.

Bending on one knee, the Chief Instructor gazed down at the barely conscious talent.

“Curious about the masks?”

“…”

Unconscious, So Geum Jin naturally couldn’t respond. But the Chief Instructor continued,

“It is to remind you that we can kill any of you at any time. The masks signify our separation from humanity. Do not expect mercy or preferential treatment.

The Chief Instructor lightly slapped So Geum Jin’s cheek, but he remained unconscious. Rising to his feet, So Geum Jin surveyed the surroundings.

The talents who caught his eye quickly bowed their heads. To the young talents, his gaze was overwhelmingly intense.

“Whether some of you die here or someone else does, it won’t matter outside. Your status outside means nothing here. These masks mean that we can kill you without repercussions.

A shudder ran through the disciples.

Only then did they understand the meaning behind the Instructors’ masks and the gravity of the place they had entered. Even if the Instructors killed a student they disliked, their true identities remained hidden, so there were no consequences on the outside.

“Do not hope for mercy here. We will push you to your limits, and survival is up to you. What’s certain is that if you manage to pass through the Steel Hell Blood Training Hall, you’ll emerge significantly stronger and will be duly rewarded. Understood?”

“Yes!”

The talents responded in unison.

A satisfied look finally appeared on the Chief Instructor’s face.

“Since it’s the first day, we’ll assign you lodgings. Follow them to your respective quarters.”

The Chief Instructor gestured to the martial artists standing behind the stage. The disciples’ eyes followed his direction.

‘Ah!’

A glimmer of recognition flashed in Han So cheon’s eyes.

She recognized one of them: Lee Kwak.

She didn’t know why Lee Gwak was there, but just the fact that someone familiar was there eased her anxiety a bit.

‘Can I walk?’

Han So Cheon felt relieved, but she hid her emotions.

One thing she had learned was never to show her true feelings.

Over the past two years, she had experienced countless events.

As Lee Gwak had warned, the Jade Heaven Alliance was treacherous. In this place, a single word or misstep could lead to death, like So Geum Jin’s near-death experience.

She had to be careful with her words and hide her emotions. So, Han So Cheon remained expressionless, pretending not to recognize Lee Gwak.

Lee Gwak approached the group she belonged to, bowing his head slightly,

“Those of you in this group, please follow me.”

“Hmm.”

The disciples nodded uneasily.

All their attention was focused on the instructors and the unconscious Sol Geum Jin, so none of them even glanced at Lee Gwak.

Lee Gwak led the way. The quarters he had been assigned to show them were a little further in than the others, so they had to walk a considerable distance.

Han So Cheon and the other members of the group followed Lee Gwak in silence, taking in the unfamiliar surroundings. Their faces clearly showed a mixture of curiosity and anxiety.

As Lee Gwak stole a quick glance at them, his eyes met Han So Cheon’s. She gave a slight nod, and in response, he flashed her a faint smile.

A short while later, they arrived at their quarters.

“This is the place.”

“Hmm!”

The group murmured in unison.

The high walls surrounding the quarters made it feel almost like a prison.

“We have to stay here?”

“This is madness. Seems like there’s absolutely no freedom here.”

Whispers of discontent floated from the group.

Lee Gwak addressed them,

“I will take my leave now.”

“Wait a moment!”

One of the disciples called out to Lee Gwak.

“What is it?”

“If we need something, who should we speak to?”

“You can speak to me for the time being.”

“You? So, you’re in charge of us?”

“Not exactly, but I have been instructed to assist you for now.”

“Is that so?”

The student looked up and down at Lee Gwak with a displeased look.

Lee Gwak understood the meaning behind that look.

It was filled with contempt, disdain, perhaps even mockery.

These disciples were the chosen ones, while Lee Gwak was merely their subordinate, a mere errand boy in their eyes.

Knowing that someone was at their beck and call brought them relief and a sense of superiority. While it was certainly frustrating, Lee Gwak accepted their condescending looks with stoic calm.

They were relieved that someone was picking up the slack, and they felt a sense of superiority. While it was certainly frustrating, Lee Gwak took their condescending looks with stoic calm.