Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 25

November 6, 2023 • 12 min read • 502 views

Episode 25(Shadows Fade in the Sunlight (3))

Novel- Martial Artist Lee Gwak

On Mount Sohua, an ancient red pavilion stood resiliently.

It was built around the same time as the Steel Hell Blood Training Hall. At the entrance of the pavilion, a worn and precarious signboard hung. Over a hundred years, battered by harsh weather, the faded letters “Jade Heaven Alliance” were barely visible on it.

It was in this red pavilion that the Jade Heaven Alliance was founded.

During the Great Heavenly Blood War, heroes of that era nurtured martial artists here and sought ways to counter the Demonic Sect.

Those heroes are no longer present, but in their stead, new individuals have taken up their mantles.

Within the pavilion, inside a closed space, the instructors of the Steel Hell Blood Training Hall remained masked even when alone. The Chief Instructor was at the center, with ten other instructors seated around a long table, facing each other.

The room was steeped in silence.

Despite the presence of eleven martial artists, it was so quiet as if no one was there.

It was the Chief Instructor who broke the silence.

“Is everything ready?”

“All weapons have been distributed.”

“Then we are set.”

At the Ten Instructors’ response, the Chief Instructor intertwined his fingers and rested his chin on them. His eyes, visible through the mask, were frighteningly bright.

The instructors silently observed their leader, their gaze fixed.

Although their faces were hidden behind masks, they knew each other’s identities. Yet they continued to wear them because the masks were a tool to minimize their guilt and shame.

The matters unfolding here were beyond the moral code of the Jianghu and were secrets that must never be revealed.

The Chief Instructor surveyed the instructors with his cold, shimmering eyes.

“Starting tomorrow, we will begin the Steel Hell Blood Training Hall. Prepare yourselves; many will be injured or perish.

The eyes of the instructors flickered at his words, but none spoke, listening silently to the chief inspector.

“Had we not reopened the training hall, we might not have noticed it, but now that it has begun, we have to endure any disgrace. Do not get attached to the trainees. They are just weapons to be honed for the war against the demonic sect. They must go through the trials of the Steel Hell Blood Training Hall on their own. They must perfect themselves, and we must be colder than anyone else to help them do so. Do not be afraid to stain your hands with blood. Do you understand?”

“Yes!”

At the chilling words of the Chief Instructor, all ten instructors responded in unison.

The Chief Instructor looked at each leader in turn and continued.

“When Jianghu’s fate was hanging by a thread because of the Demonic Sect, our founding leader prepared the counterattack here. Without him, Jianghu would have fallen to the vile Demonic Sect. This place is the last bastion of Jianghu, completed with the help of that founding leader. We must forge the swords to fight the Demonic Sect here. Forget any sentiments or personal feelings for now. Be as ruthless as necessary and treat them harshly. That is your role.”

“Yes!”

“Begin tomorrow at dawn. Everyone, dismiss and check everything thoroughly. Everyone will leave except the First Instructor.

“Yes!”

All, except the First Instructor, stood up and saluted the Chief Instructor with a fist and palm salute before exiting. Alone, the Chief Instructor Head removed his mask to reveal an elderly man with striking silver hair.

His eyes were as sharp as a well-honed blade, and his thin lips only added to the toughness of his expression.

With his true face exposed, the Chief Instructor spoke to the First Instructor.

“Since it’s just the two of us, you can remove your mask.”

“Understood…”

The First Instructor took off his mask, revealing a man who appeared to be in his early thirties.

His expression was cold as glass, and his eyes carried a twisted light that seemed perilous.

The Chief Instructor looked at him with a gaze full of sorrow.

“Jong Myeong!”

“Yes!”

“Are you alright?”

“I am fine. What reason do I have to not be?”

Jong Myeong smiled wryly, but the Chief Instructor was not fooled by such a smile.

“It’s alright, Jong Myeong. You don’t need to smile like that in front of me.”

“I am truly fine. I’m in quite a good mood, actually.”

The man who shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly was none other than Seo Jong Myeong. To the outside world, he was just another squad leader from the outer hall.

Seo Jong Myeong showed no sign of being intimidated even in front of the Chief Instructor. Seeing this, the Chief Division Head sighed softly.

“Phew”

“Ah! Losing the Shadowless Group was truly a great loss for the Alliance. Who could have predicted that the Celestial Demon Troop would be so cowardly as to attack us from behind? So don’t blame yourself too much. Their deaths are not your fault.

At the mention of the Shadowless Squad, the smirk disappeared from Seo Jong Myeong’s face.

“They were not just members of the Squad.”

“Jong Myeong!”

“They were my brothers and also Dianchang Sect’s disciples.”

“…”

“With their deaths, the lineage of the Dianchang Sect is virtually extinct.”

“Don’t you still remain? You must continue the lineage of the Dianchang Sect.”

“Ha! How absurd that is, you know better than anyone, Elder Yang. Even with your strength, rebuilding the Golden Arrow Clan is still a distant dream, isn’t it?

“Hmm!”

“The rise and fall of a clan… Once it falls into decline, reversing its course is almost impossible. The martial arts of Dianchang Sect, which my brothers had mastered, have been forever lost with their deaths, and the Dianchang Sect will now fade away, becoming a name of the past.”

A madness had crept into Seo Jong Myeong’s eyes.

The Chief Instructor looked upon Seo Jong Meyong with eyes full of pity.

Seo Jong Myeong was the last disciple of Dianchang Sect.

Once one of the nine great martial sect that had flourished in its time, the Dianchang Sect was now thoroughly ruined, leaving only Seo Jong Myeong behind.

The start of this tragedy could be traced back a hundred years when the Celestial Demon Troupe, having withdrawn from the Great Heavenly Blood War, settled not far from the Dianchang Sect’s base in Yunnan province.

At the time, because of their distant location from the Central Plains, the Dianchang Sect had been passive in the war, sending the least amount of troops possible to safeguard their own interests.

This allowed them to preserve their forces intact. However, this also resulted in a strained relationship with the victorious Jade Heaven Alliance.

The Jade Heaven Alliance only acknowledged those who bled and fought alongside them. The Dianchang Sect fell short of meeting these criteria.

As time passed, the distance between the Dianchang Sect and the Jade Heaven Alliance grew, until there was no communication between them.

That’s when the Celestial Demon Troupe made its move.

Seizing the rift created by the soured relations, Celestial Demon Troupe launched a surprise attack on the Dianchang Sect. Caught off guard, the Dianchang Sect was unable to mount a proper defense and was swiftly ousted from their base.

By the time the Jade Heaven Alliance became aware of the Dianchang Sect’s plight, it was too late.

Most of the Dianchang Sect’s disciples were either dead or scattered to the winds. The master of Seo Jong Myeong had been a young elder who escaped the Dianchang Sect at the time.

He had fled with mortal wounds, seeking treatment in a hidden place. However, the wounds were so grave that it took over a decade before he could even move.

He attempted to reunite the scattered disciples in hopes of reviving the Dianchang Sect, but time had eroded the chance. Most of the surviving disciples had either died or lost the will to live.

In the end, he vowed to raise disciples to rekindle the Dianchang Sect. For over a decade, he wandered the lands seeking talents worthy of inheriting the faction’s secret techniques.

The first of these hard-won disciples was Seo Jong Myeong. More youths followed, becoming disciples of the elder.

The elder imparted his hatred and desire for vengeance against the Celestial Demon Troupe to Seo Jong Myeong and his disciples. As a result, Seo Jong Myeong grew up harbouring a profound loathing for the Celestial Demon Troupe.

After the master succumbed to his wounds in a fruitless demise, Seo Jong Myeong and his fellow disciples pledged their loyalty to the Jade Heaven Alliance. This led to the formation of the Shadowless Squad, whose mission was to monitor the Celestial Demon Troupe’s movements on the front lines and alert the Alliance of any stirrings.

Seo Jong Myeong and his disciples willingly took on this dangerous task. Even if they could not restore the Dianchang Sect, they were determined to thwart the Celestial Demon Troupe’s machinations from the front.

Two years ago, an unforeseen tragedy befell them.

In a sudden ambush, all of Seo Jong Myeong’s fellow disciples perished except for him. That day transformed him utterly.

He wore a perpetual smile, but within, he nurtured the spirit of a vengeful demon.

The leader of the school sighed softly.

“I had hoped sending you to the outer hall would cool your head, but it seems to have been in vain.”

“It’s cleared my mind, thank you.”

“I know full well you’ve been active in your own way in the outer hall, preparing for your revenge.”

“Do you plan to stop me?”

“No! Had I wished to, I wouldn’t have brought you here. What I want to tell you is to be cold. Act without letting any emotion intervene, as cold as you can. Only those who think and act with a cold mind can achieve their goals. That’s the advice I wanted to give.”

“Thank you.”

Seo Jong Myeong bowed his head in gratitude to the Chief Instructor.

It was sincere.

The Chief Instructor had always been on his side.

It was he who welcomed the disciples of the Dianchang Sect into the Jade Heaven Alliance, he who sent the injured Seo Jong Myeong to the outer hall for rest, and he who called him to this place as an instructor.

Without him, Seo Jong Myeong could not have maintained his sanity.

“How do you find life in the outer hall?”

“With just one member under my command, what’s there to manage or not?”

“It was intended to give you peace, sending you to such a secluded place. It seems you’re not pleased with that.”

“I am grateful for that,”

Seo Jong-myeong said with a smile.

“You brought an aide with you?”

“Even if it’s just one, I ought to look after them, right? He has adapted well on his own, so thankfully, there’s little for me to worry about.”

“Is that so?”

“He has a passion for martial arts and seems quite capable with tasks at hand.”

“What’s his level?”

“His talent isn’t bad, although his age is a little worrying. But he has improved a lot since the beginning, although I can’t say exactly what his level is.

“Hmm, is that so?”

“However, he has acquired considerable expertise in mechanical engineering. He will be quite useful in that regard.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

The Chief Instructornodded.

Seo Jong Myeong put his mask back on and stood up from his seat.

“I shall take my leave now.”

“Hmm.”

Left alone, the Chief Instructor murmured to himself.

“At times like this, I miss him. If he were here, there would have been no need to open the Steel Hell Blood Training Hall.”

A martial artist who chastised the world with nothing but his fists had vanished over a hundred years ago, yet the Chief Instructor still remembered him vividly.

The Steel Hell Blood Training Hall opened. And the promising talents who had climbed Mount Sohwa all entered the Training Hall.

Their faces were bright with confidence.

They had unwavering faith in their abilities and talent, believing they could overcome even the most daunting gates. However, their confidence shattered into pieces the moment they entered the Steel Hell Blood Training Hall.

It was a place not meant for humans to pass through.

The mechanisms had been reinforced to be more lethal, and the deadly traps had been renovated to be several times more powerful than before.

For young tigers that had yet to grow their claws, the Steel Hell Blood Training Hall was too terrifying and brutal.

But there was no turning back.

The masters relentlessly pushed the young talents. Those who retreated faced merciless judgment, as they were driven to their limits.

They were devoid of pity and tears.

Many perished.

Every day, cries of anguish echoed. The once-quiet Mount Sohua was stained with the blood of the talents.

Rooms that were once filled with these individuals now stood empty. In the rooms shrouded in darkness, the lights never turned on again.

Survivors were awarded elixirs.

The Jade Heaven Alliance had released all the elixirs they had created so far. Thanks to this, the achievements of the talents skyrocketed, and their chances of survival slightly increased.

The Jade Heaven Alliance spared no expense in investing in the surviving talents. Secret manuals were passed down according to each individual’s characteristics and tendencies.

Day by day, they grew stronger.

They shattered the gates that stood in their way, becoming terrifyingly powerful.

They were no longer powerless cubs.

Within the trials of hell, they were growing into great tigers.

And so, three years passed.