Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 55

December 26, 2023 • 11 min read • 281 views

(The Return of the Warriors (2))

As the morning sun filtered through the window, Lee Gwak awoke. He immediately noticed the emptiness in his arms.

Han So Cheon, who had fallen asleep in his embrace, was nowhere to be seen. Lee Gwak left the room and looked around the house, but he couldn’t find Han So Cheon anywhere.

For a moment, he wondered if her visit had been a dream. However, a small note on the table confirmed it was real.

The note was from Han So Cheon.

[I’ll come back, Oraboni.]

It was a short message, written in Han So Cheon’s handwriting.

Lee Gwak stared at the note blankly for a moment.

“Sigh!”

Han So Cheon had appeared out of nowhere, stirring his heart, only to disappear just as suddenly. The only good thing was that she now knew where Lee Gwak lived, so she could come back anytime.

Lee Gwak quickly washed up and left the house.

His destination wasn’t the Jade Heaven Alliance, but a nearby slum.

As he entered the slums, he could feel the wary stares of the residents. Lee Gwak didn’t pay attention to their stares, and walked quickly.

He was heading to Nam Woo Gyeong’s house.

“What brings you here so early in the morning?”

Nam Woo Gyeong looked a little surprised to see Lee Gwak looking for him that morning.

“I have a favour to ask.”

“A favour? From you?”

“Yes!”

Nam Woo Gyeong’s expression changed at Lee Gwak’s response.

They had known each other for a while, but Lee Gwak had never asked for a favour before, even knowing that Nam Woo Gyeong was the young master of Hao Clan.

“You must want information, right? What do you want to know?”

“A master who passed the Steel Hell Blood Training Hall has entered the Jade Heaven Alliance.”

“Is that true?”

“I saw it with my own eyes.”

“Hmm!”

Nam Woo Gyeong let out a thoughtful sound.

Masters who passed the Steel Hell Blood Training Hall were sent to various battle fronts and became famous for their remarkable achievements against the Celestial Demon Troupe. Although their existence was not widely known to the world, organisations such as the Hao Clan, which dealt in information, were well aware of their fearsome reputation.

“Can you find out why they’ve entered the Jade Heaven Alliance?”

“Just one question. Is this master someone you know well?”

“Yes.”

Lee Gwak answered without hesitation.

“It’s a woman.”

“What?”

“The master who entered the Jade Heaven Alliance.”

“…”

“A man only gets that determined look in his eyes when a woman is involved.”

“Can you find out?”

“I’ll do my best. We are also curious why they’ve secretly entered the Jade Heaven Alliance.”

“Thank you.”

“So, I have a debt on you now?”

“I’ll repay it someday.”

“Good! Remember that promise.”

Nam Woo Gyeong smiled pleasantly.

He knew well. Lee Gwak was not one to make idle promises. He always took responsibility for his words.

For Nam Woo Gyeong, having a small debt owed by someone like Lee Gwak was not a loss at all.
***
The inner court of the Jade Heaven Alliance was not a place accessible to just anyone.

Even those who had been formally invited to attend the Jianghu Tournament were only allowed to stay in the outer hall, and could not dare to enter the inner castle.

The high walls of the inner court symbolised the authority and prestige of Jade Heaven Alliance. Merely residing within them was a source of great pride for its members.

The same was true for the martial artists of the main court. Together with the secret Court and the Succession Hall, they occupied the inner court, far outnumbering the other two in size and number.

With its vast size, the main branch housed many secret places, one of which was the Demon Extermination Pavilion.

The Demon Extermination Pavilion, a completely isolated space, was off-limits to even the martial artists of the main court. Apart from a few authorised individuals, no one else could even approach it.

This led to much speculation in the main court as to the purpose of the Demon Extermination Pavilion.

Some said it was a place where the forces secretly nurtured by Nam Il Geuk of the Main Court stayed, while others speculated it was a place inhabited by those who undertook dirty work that couldn’t be exposed to the outside world

They imagined the Demon Extermination Pavilion filled with all sorts of gruesome weapons and tools. Contrary to their expectations, however, the interior of the Demon Extermination Pavilion was peaceful and serene.

In front of the large hall was a well-kept courtyard and garden, with a waterway running through the middle of the garden and a large pond.

A simple gazebo stood near the pond, blending beautifully with the picturesque garden.

TL/N- A gazebo is a small, open structure in a garden or park, usually with a roof, used for relaxation and enjoying the outdoors

Around the gazebo and pond, about a dozen young men and women relaxed leisurely.
Some of them were polishing their swords, others were lying on large boulders with arm cushions, looking up at the sky.

To an outsider, it would have appeared to be nothing more than a peaceful scene of young people leisurely taking a break

Among them, a young man sitting in the centre of the gazebo stood out. He appeared to be in his late twenties, with a robust build and a massive stature.

His huge frame, reminiscent of a boulder, combined with his enormous muscles and long, untamed hair, gave him the appearance of a formidable lion.

He sat in the centre of the pavilion, tending to his great iron sword, which, like his enormous bulk, was so enormous that it would have been impossible for an ordinary man to lift it.

Yet the man was handling it with ease in one hand.

“Hmm!”

Pleased with the maintenance of his sword, the man smiled and sheathed it.

Creak!

At that moment, a small moon door connecting to the Demon Extermination Pavilion opened.

Everyone’s gaze turned towards the moon door.

Amidst their attention, a mysterious woman appeared.

She stood out with her jet-black hair, dark eyebrows, porcelain-white skin, and lips red like plum blossoms, a beauty that captured the eye.

The giant man spoke up.

“You’ve arrived, So Cheon.”

The woman walking towards the pavilion from the moon gate was Han So Cheon. At her entrance, the young men and women who had been sitting comfortably rose from their seats.

“So Cheon!”

“Vice Squad Leader!”

They greeted Han So Cheon with familiarity.

Han So Cheon nodded slightly, acknowledging their greetings.

These young martial artists around the pavilion were her comrades who had also passed through the Steel Hell Blood Training Hall at Mountain Sohua. They were among the finest warriors, having excelled in their training.

Han So Cheon addressed the giant man.

“I’m back, Squad Leader.”

“Where have you been?”

“…”

“Hmm! “Aren’t you going to tell me? Tsk! As always…”

The giant man clicked his tongue, looking at Han So Cheon.

His name was Cheol Gwan Ho, and he was the Squad Leader of the martial artists residing in the Demon Extermination Pavilion, with Han So Cheon as the vice squad leader.

Cheol Gwan Ho and Han So Cheon were almost equal in skill. Yet, Cheol Gwan Ho became the chief due to his better leadership and interpersonal skills.

Contrary to her beautiful appearance, Han So Cheon had a cold nature. Rarely did she reveal her emotions or share her inner thoughts. However, her martial prowess was exceptional.

She had achieved many feats and provided significant aid to her comrades. Many were grateful to her, but her personality made her unsuitable to lead the squad, thus her role as the vice squad leader.

Cheol Gwan Ho shrugged, looking at the silent Han So Cheon.

“Well, fine! We’re free right now anyway. Do whatever during the rest of the time, but make sure you don’t miss the gatherings. And remember, don’t be late.”

“Understood.”

“I don’t know where you’ve been, but you seem to have gotten some sleep, right?”

“Right!”

Cheol Gwan Ho’s eyes lit up at Han So Cheon’s response.

Everyone who fought on the battlefield had to live with the aftermath. The same was true for those here. Everyone had their own problems, and in Han So Cheon’s case, it was insomnia.

Thanks to her strong internal energy, she managed to cope, but her condition was serious. So much so, in fact, that everyone around her thought her life was in danger.

Until yesterday, her face had looked extremely haggard. But now, there was a glow to her
skin, a clear sign she had slept well.

“Good. For now, take a seat.”

Han So Cheon nodded and sat down on one side of the pavilion. A young woman of her age stealthily approached and sat beside her.

“Where have you been?”

“…”

“Won’t you even tell me?”

The name of the woman with a slightly pouty expression was Lim Moon Hye, Han So Cheon’s colleague and competitor.

Despite her outwardly friendly demeanour, Han So Cheon was well aware of how wary she was of her. Preferring not to engage in a verbal spar, Han So Cheon spoke briefly.

“Sorry!”

“Tch!”

Lim Moon hye snorted.

Han So Cheon leaned back against the gazebo pillar and closed her eyes slightly. A breeze blew in, gently caressing her body, and a small smile tugged at the corners of her mouth.

She couldn’t remember the last time she had slept so soundly. It felt like the first time in almost a year that she’d slept soundly without waking up once in the middle of the night.

‘Oraboni.’

Lee Gwak was a curious figure. Despite having not seen him for a year, she felt no strangeness, only a deeper sense of comfort and closeness.

Perhaps that was why she sought his embrace.

His arms were so comforting.

She could still feel his warmth all over her body.

In Lee Gwak’s arms, she could sleep not as a weapon but as a human.

While Han So Cheon was lost in thoughts of Lee Gwak, another person entered the Demon Extermination Pavilion.

He was a thin, middle-aged martial artist, resembling a bamboo stick. His emotionless, snake-like eyes and pale skin, as if he had never seen sunlight, were striking.

A sinister aura seemed to hover around him, warping the air.

His entrance caused the gathered martial artists to rise.

Cheol Gwan Ho spoke up, representing everyone.

“Grand Master!”

“Squad Leader of the First Squad! Has everyone assembled?”

“Yes! With So Cheon’s arrival, everyone is here now.”

At Cheol Gwan Ho’s response, the middle-aged warrior nodded.

The young martial artists, about ten in number, now stood in line behind Cheol Gwan Ho. Their faces showed a mix of tension and anticipation.

The middle-aged man was Cheol Geuk jin, a dangerous martial artist known only to a few at the top of Jade Heaven Alliance.

Hidden Blood Squad’s leader Cheol Geuk Jin.

That was his official title.

The Hidden Blood Squad consisted of three squads, and Cheol Gwan Ho, Han So Cheon, and others belonged to the First Squad.

Cheol Geuk Jin’s icy gaze swept over the martial artists. Those who met his eyes felt a chill run down their spines.

“You all did well. The higher-ups are very impressed with your assassination of the Iron Monarch Go Jin Rak”.

“…”

“Under normal circumstances, your achievements would warrant a longer rest, but the situation has changed.”

Cheol Geuk Jin paused, looking straight ahead. His gaze landed on Han So Cheon, who sat alone, leaning against a pavilion pillar, unaffected by his presence.

Although her aloofness might have seemed arrogant, Cheol Geuk Jin wasn’t bothered.

In the Jianghu, respect was reserved for the strong, and Han So Cheon was a fitting figure in that world. Therefore, he didn’t reprimand her for her lack of formalities.

He continued,

“According to information from the Secret Court, the Celestial Demon Troupe is preparing a large-scale assassination plot for the Jianghu Tournament. They seek revenge for Go Jin Rak.”

“Hmm!”

“We don’t know how many assassins will infiltrate the Jade Heaven Alliance. Your task is to identify and eliminate Celestial Demon Troupe’s assassins in advance.”

A fierce light flared in Cheol Geuk Jin’s eyes.

“A slip-up could ruin the Jianghu Tournament we’ve prepared. Eliminate them before that happens. The Heavenly Intelligence Hall and the secret court will provide information.”

“Can we move independently upon receiving the information?”

At Cheol Gwan Ho’s question, Cheol Geuk Jin smiled slyly.

“Of course. No one will hinder you. Crush those mayflies daring to challenge the Jade Heaven Alliance with the hammer of wrath. Even if there are casualties among our ranks, it doesn’t matter. I’ll take full responsibility.”