Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 33

November 14, 2023 • 13 min read • 482 views

Episode 33(Each Carries Their Own Tale (2)

Novel- Martial Artist Lee Gwak

Thud, thud!

Someone knocked on the Thirteenth Squad’s door.

“Is anybody inside?”

“Who is it?”

As Seok Yi Cheon opened the door, a short, stout man appeared.

His face was pockmarked, and with a front tooth missing, his expression was somewhat comical. He was barely in his early thirties, but the missing tooth made him look older.

The man was carrying a small pack on his back and looking up at Seok Yi Cheon.

“Is this the Thirteenth Squad’s quarters?”

“That it is, but who might you be?”

“Ah! Found it right. Pleased to meet you. My name is Ki Jin Hwi, and as of today, I have been assigned to the Thirteenth Squad of the Outer Hall.”

The man who introduced himself as Ki Jin Hwi smiled brightly and grabbed Seok Yi Cheon’s hand. Seok Yi Cheon was startled and tried to pull away, but Ki Jin Hwi gripped his hand even tighter and shook it wildly.

‘Ugh! What monstrous strength…’

Seok Yi Cheon was surprised that Ki Jin Hwi, who was one head shorter than him, had such a strong grip.

“You’ve been assigned to the Thirteenth Squad?”

“That I have. Here is the order from the hall leader.”

“The order should be given to the squad leader, not me.”

“Oh, you’re not the squad leader?”

“I’m just another member of the squad.”

“Then who is the leader?”

Ki Jin Hwi looked around curiously.

With his bundle slung over his shoulder, he looked more like a merchant hawking his wares than a martial artist.

That’s when it happened.

“What’s going on here?”

Lee Gwak walked out from inside.

Seeing Lee Gwak, Ki Jin Hwi’s face lit up with a smile.

“Ah, so you are the squad leader.”

“And you are?”

“I’ve been assigned to the Thirteenth Squad. Here is the order from the hall leader…”

Ki Jin Hwi handed over the order to Lee Gwak.

Inside the order there was clear evidence of Ki Jin Hwi’s assignment to the Thirteenth Squad, complete with the seal of the leader of the Outer Hall, Maeng Hee Cheon. There was no doubt that this was an authentic order.

Lee Gwak alternated his gaze between the order and Ki Jin Hwi’s face. Ki Jin Hwi smiled innocently, his missing tooth giving his smile a satirical edge, but Lee Gwak did not smile back.

“You’ve been assigned to the Thirteenth Squad?”

“As you can see for yourself.”

“Where were you before joining the Outer Hall?”

“I was a head instructor at a place called Jade Light Martial Hall.”

“And how did you come to join the Jade Heaven Alliance?”

“It fell apart.”

“Excuse me?”

“You may or may not know, but the Jade Light Martial Hall was in close proximity to the Celestial Demon Troupe. And the Celestial Demon Troupe is currently clashing with the Jade Heaven Alliance in many places.”

“So?”

“Yes! It collapsed overnight. The disciples scattered, and I wandered without a place to go until I ended up here. Fortunately, I had an acquaintance within the Jade Heaven Alliance, which allowed me to enter. I’m looking forward to working with you, Squad Leader!”

Ki Jin Hwi bowed deeply to Lee Gwak.

“Come on in first.”

“Hehe! Thank you.”

“Is that all your luggage?”

“This bundle contains everything I need, squad leader.”

Ki Jin Hwi pointed to the small bundle slung on his back.

“If you need anything, let us know later, and feel free to use any of the empty rooms.”

“Oh! Can I use a room all to myself?”

“For now, yes. You may have to share once we get more members, but you can enjoy it alone for the time being.”

“It seems I’ll be able to rest comfortably for a while. I appreciate your consideration, squad leader. I will not forget this kindness.”

“No need to mention kindness.”

“How shall I ever repay this favour? Ah, I know a bit about Physiognomy. Shall I give it a try on you?”

“No, thank you.”

Lee Gwak declined, but Ki Jin Hwi paid him no heed.

“Though it may not look it, I am quite skilled in physiognomy, astronomy, and geography, much better than the charlatan fortune tellers out there.”

“Gwak! Let him read you. He can read me afterward.”

Encouraged by Seok Yi Cheon, Lee Gwak could no longer refuse.

“Alright. Please go ahead.”

“Let’s see. Your forehead is a square which is a little curved in, so your luck must have been bad in your early years. No luck with parents or superiors, like a lone tree standing in barren soil. You seem unsupported, dried up now, but with the right trigger, water could make you bloom splendidly. Aha! It seems someone has already dug the channel for that water to flow. To think that someone would use a pickaxe and dig out a canal for you. I wonder what happened to all that blood and dirt that got stuck on that person’s hand”

“……”

Ki Jin Hwi looked meaningfully at Lee Gwak.

His penetrating gaze seemed out of place with his otherwise comical appearance.
Lee Gwak’s eyes sunk into a profound depth.

For some reason, Ki Jin Hwi’s words carried weight. But Lee Gwak kept his composure with a smile.

“An interesting story. Well, if the barren tree has begun to blossom, there might be a chance for it to thrive.”

“Haha! Everything depends on the person’s will, doesn’t it? Our Squad leader is tall and handsome, so merely a smile would sway many women’s hearts. A luxury us dwarfs can only dream of in a lifetime. I envy that. If you happen to go somewhere good, please take me with you.”

“Somewhere good?”

“Hehehe! I’m counting on you, squad leader.”

Ki Jin Hwi bowed deeply to Lee Gwak. Lee Gwak silently watched the back of Ki Jin Hwi’s head.

Seok Yi Cheon then interjected.

“How about me? What do you see?”

“Let’s have a look! You, sir, are fated to live a long and slender life.”

“What? Is there nothing else?”

“Kind-hearted but narrow-minded, and you do a lot of good without realising it, but nothing comes back to you. Your accrued luck has helped you avoid death. You will manage.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Hehe! It’s good fortune. At least there is no misfortune of sudden calamity. You won’t die from an arrow in the dark, so what could be better?”

“Will I be rich? How about my luck with ladies? Nothing at all?

“None.”

“Oh!”

Seok Yi Cheon was at a loss for words at Ki Jin Hwi’s blunt response. Ki Jin Hwi passed him
and walked to the room at the end.

“I’ll take this room.”

“Please do.”

“Hahaha! It seems I will have it to myself for a while.”

Ki Jin Hwi threw his bundle into the room and laughed.

Seok Yi Cheon snapped back to reality and chased after Ki Jin Hwi.

“Is it true? No wealth, no women? You must be joking, right? Please say you’re joking.”

“Hehe!”

***
If one were to list the five busiest people in the Jade Heaven Alliance, Joo Shin Yoon would undoubtedly be one of them. As the master of the inner court, Joo Shin Yoon had a schedule more packed than anyone else’s. His schedule was so dense that you couldn’t fit a needle through it.

Yet, despite this, there was no sign of fatigue on his face, a testament to his profound internal strength.

After completing his external affairs, Joo Shin Yoon returned to the Inner Court. But before he could catch his breath, a martial artist clad in a blue robe emerged behind him. His expressionless face, as if carved out of ice, and snake-like eyes gave off an eerie aura.

It was Naeng Ha Yoon, Joo Shin Yoon’s trusted aide and the head of the Pure Blood Squad, an organisation under the Inner Court known for its formidable martial prowess.

“Master!”

“What is it?”

“A message has arrived from Gaeyang.”

“Gaeyang?”

Only then did Joo Shin Yoon turn around.

Gaeyang was the area where the current conflicts between the Celestial Demon Troupe and the Jade Heaven Alliance were unfolding. A minor clash years ago had led to ongoing skirmishes.

Neither the Celestial Demon Troupe nor the Jade Heaven Alliance wanted the frontlines to expand beyond Gaeyang, but there was no guarantee they could keep it contained indefinitely.

Joo Shin Yoon opened the message that Naeng Ha Yoon handed him. As he read the contents, his face turned to stone.

“Hmm!”

His face showed that he didn’t like it.

Naeng Ha Yoon cautiously asked.

“What Happened?”

“The supply convoy heading to Gaeyang has been completely annihilated,”

“Uhm!”

“It seems to have shaken the Gaeyang frontline quite severely.”

“Should we not then reinforce our power? If we continue to be pushed back, the front will expand uncontrollably.”

“That we should.”

Joo Shin Yoon nodded.

He did not want the frontlines to expand further. Nor did he want them to shrink.

The current level of chaos and conflict was perfect for the operation of the Jade Heaven Alliance.

Over the past hundred years, as peace had been maintained in the Jianghu, some had begun to question the necessity of the Jade Heaven Alliance. While many acknowledged its importance, there was an underlying discomfort with its ever-expanding size.

Had the conflict with Celestial Demon Troupe not arisen, this discomfort would have only grown.

Ironically, for the Jade Heaven Alliance to exist, it needed a formidable enemy like the Celestial Demon Troupe. Likely, the same was true for Celestial Demon Troupe.

After a moment of thought, Joo Shin Yoon issued a command to Naeng Ha Yoon.

“Deliver my words to Nam Il Geuk, the head of the main court. Tell him to use what I have prepared.

“Understood.”

Naeng Ha Yoon replied and disappeared.

Left alone, Joo Shin Yoon furrowed his brows and gazed out the window.
Knock, knock!

Someone knocked on his office door.

“Who is it?”

“Ha-ha! It’s me, Yeo Joong Wol. May I come in, Master Joo?”

“Yeo Joong Wol?”

A glint of interest sparked in Joo Shin Yoon’s eyes. An entity that could be considered his sworn enemy had come to visit.

“Come in.”

Upon his permission, a young man burst through the door.

He was a handsome man in his mid-thirties, exuding elegance, with eyes that sparkled with wisdom. His demeanour was more akin to that of a poet or scholar rather than a warrior.

As Joo Shin Yoon looked at the handsome man, there was a faint glimmer of caution in his eyes.

The handsome man in front of him wasn’t just handsome. Behind that handsome exterior, he hid the most brilliant mind in all of heaven.

He was Yeo Joong Wol, the Secret Court Leader, one of the four institutes that made up the Jade Heaven Alliance, and a military genius to boot.

Though he rarely engaged in outside activities, and his existence was almost unknown to the outside world, those who were entrenched in the key roles within the Jade Heaven Alliance were well aware of how formidable an entity Yeo Joong Wol was.

A man who could devise ten strategies with ten steps, hence known as the ‘Ten-Step Mastermind’,

“What brings strategist Yeo Joong Wol to such a humble place?”

“Ha-ha! Is there anywhere I shouldn’t be? I just stopped by to see how you were while passing through.”

“Appreciated! Take a seat.”

“Thank you.”

Yeo Joong Wol took the seat offered by Joo Shin Yoon without hesitation. Joo Shin Yoon’s brow furrowed slightly at his easy demeanour.

“What tea shall I serve?”

“I heard that you received some good tea as a gift not long ago.”

“Are you speaking of the Jisun Tea? And how did you come to know of this? Few are aware that I acquired Jisun Tea.”

“Haha! I’m a bit of a tea connoisseur. The merchant I do business with informed me that you had purchased some.”

“That merchant won’t live long, not with such a loose tongue. Tsk!”

“It would be problematic to kill him, you know. As you’re aware, there are many teas we wouldn’t be able to procure without him.”

“I’ll remember that.”

Joo Shin Yoon brought out the tea set and the Jisun Tea.

Jisun tea was a wild tea that grew only on the slopes of Mt. Guzhu, and even if you picked it all morning, you could barely get a handful of it, and that was the entire year’s harvest.

It was so hard to come by that it was considered one of the finest teas in the imperial household, which is why Joo Shin Yoon could barely get his hands on it and only tasted it occasionally.

Yeo Joong Wol leaned back in his chair with a relaxed smile, his demeanour so at ease it was almost vexing.

Joo Shin Yoon brewed the Jisun Tea and offered it to Yeo Joong Wol.

“Hmm! As expected, it is exceptional. It truly is the tea of teas. Merely smelling its fragrance seems to cleanse the soul.”

“Cut the flattery and state your business here.”

“What business? I really did come just to enjoy the tea.”

“Ha! Not even a dog would believe that tale.”

“Oh, come on! It’s the truth.”

“Strategist!”

“Yes!”

“I know you as well as you know me. So stop the empty talk and get to the point.”
Yeo Joong Wol’s smile faded at Joo Shin Yoon’s icy words.

“It seems I’m truly disliked here. This is why one must always behave well. Come infrequently, and you’re met with such suspicion.”

“Are you going to continue beating around the bush?”

Chillness dripped from Joo Shin Yoon’s voice. Finally, Yeo Joong Wol set down his teacup.

“Since you insist, I must speak. Please reconsider deploying the Hidden Blood Squad.”

“Why?”

“It’s too dangerous.”

“What’s dangerous about it?”

“The Hidden Blood Squad is a double-edged sword. If mishandled, it could escalate the frontlines.”

“Why are you telling me this? The Hidden Blood Squad is under the Main Court.”

“Everyone knows that the Main Court’s leader Nam Il Geuk and you are close. I don’t understand why he only listens to you. I wish he would favour me as well.”

At Yeo Joong Wol’s words, Joo Shin Yoon’s expression hardened. He glared at Yeo Joong Wol with a steely gaze.

Unperturbed, Yeo Joong Wol brought the teacup to his lips.

“Goodness!”

During their exchange, the Jisun Tea had gone cold.

The prime time for the perfect taste had passed, and Yeo Joong Wol’s face fell into a frown.

Joo Shin Yoon watched Yeo Joong Wol with a fierce stare.