Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 65

January 1, 2024 • 11 min read • 270 views

Hidden Perils in the Deep Sea (3)

Novel- Martial Artist Lee Gwak

“What’s this?”

“My goodness!”

Fishermen who arrived at Dongting Lake early in the morning were stunned by the unbelievable sight.

A huge ship was floating in the middle of the lake, which had been empty until last night.

It was so huge that it reminded them of a small hill. It was no wonder the fishermen were surprised that such a huge ship had suddenly appeared in the lake.

Three large flags were fluttering on the mast of the giant ship.

One bore the name Jade Heaven Alliance, another had the word Poseidon written on it, and the last flag displayed the words – Jianghu Tournament, stitched in gold thread.

People then realised that the giant ship was the Poseidon of the Jade Heaven Alliance, and that the Jianghu Tournament was being held aboard it.

As if to confirm their speculation, early in the morning dozens of boats were shuttling between the shores of Dongting Lake and the Poseidon, ferrying participants to the tournament.

Of course, those who came to watch the tournament could not even catch a glimpse of the participants’ faces.

Some curious onlookers rented boats to approach the Poseidon but were warned off by the Jade Heaven Alliance before they could get close.

Boats that ignored the warnings were attacked by the Jade Heaven Alliance’s warriors and sank.

Although everyone had guessed that the security would be tight, no one expected the Jianghu Tournament to be held in the middle of Dongting Lake.

Participants and the topics discussed at the tournament remained a mystery.

People shuddered at the Jade Heaven Alliance’s meticulousness and were awed by their ability to stealthily bring such a gigantic ship, like the Poseidon, into Dongting Lake without notice.

While the Jianghu Tournament was taking place on the Poseidon, the Next Generation Leader’s Meet, led by Woon Dae Yeon, was being held at the Detached Building.

Numerous talents attended the Next Generation Leader’s Meet, forging connections.

Everything was proceeding as planned by the Jade Heaven Alliance.

They had successfully orchestrated a major event in the Jianghu, but the expression of the Phantom Moon Sword, Joo Shin Yoon, who had orchestrated it all, was far from bright.

With a cold gaze, he listened to the report from his trusted subordinate.

“So you’re saying that you couldn’t find the person who killed the Dark Emissary?”

“I apologize.”

Joo Shin Yoon’s subordinate bowed his head in shame at his words.

“Let’s go over it again. Assassins from the Celestial Demon Troupe attacked the Hidden Blood Squad at the Detached Building, right?”

“Yes!”

“The one leading the Celestial Demon Troupe’s assassins was the Dark Emissary.”

“That’s correct.”

“And his target was Han So Cheon from the Hidden Blood Squad. He came for revenge, presumably for someone Han So Cheon killed, right?”

Life in the Jianghu was entangled with numerous grudges. Especially someone like Han So Cheon, raised as an assassin, was more likely to be caught in a net of vengeance.

It wasn’t surprising if a family member or friend of someone she assassinated held a grudge against her. The issue was that the person who came to kill Han So Cheon was a big shot like the Dark Emissary.

Little was known about the Dark Emissary, but it was discovered he was a legendary assassin within the Celestial Demon Troupe.

Although the Hidden Blood Squad had achieved remarkable feats recently, they were nothing compared to the Dark Emissary. In fact, Cheol Gwan Ho, the leader of one of Hidden Blood Squad’s units, had been severely injured by the Dark Emissary.

It wouldn’t have been surprising if the Hidden Blood Squad had been annihilated in this major incident. However, the damage was less than expected because Han So Cheon cleverly lured the Dark Emissary outside.

That much was understandable.

Han So Cheon’s quick and shrewd decision-making showed her exceptional ability.

The problem was the Dark Emissary’s death, or rather, his presumed death.

When the Jade Heaven Alliance’s warriors arrived, Han So Cheon was in a near-death state, surrounded by traces of a fierce battle. They also found a pool of blood and the unique weapon, the Crescent Moon Blade, presumed to belong to the Dark Emissary.

If they hadn’t found the empty Deadly Soul Sucking Needles nearby, they might have missed the clue that the blood belonged to the Dark Emissary.

“Who could have killed the Dark Emissary?”

Joo Shin Yoon’s eyes shone coldly.

It wasn’t Han So Cheon.

She had just regained consciousness when questioned, appearing genuinely unaware and shocked.

Despite pressing her, little was gleaned.

It wasn’t an expert from the Jade Heaven Alliance. All of the experts who were capable of dealing with the Dark Emissary were busy preparing for the Jianghu Tournament, and none of them had gone outside.

“Could it be one of the masters who came to Dongting Lake for the Jianghu Tournament?”

“And who would that be?”

“That’s…”

The subordinate hesitated, unable to provide a definite answer.

Joo Shin Yoon looked at his subordinate with disdain. Usually reserved in showing his emotions, his irritation was evident now – a sign of his discomfort.

‘A master in my own territory, unknown to me.’

As the Phantom Moon Sword from the Jade Heaven Alliance, Joo Shin Yoon prided himself on knowing everything happening within and around the Jade Heaven Alliance.

If the Dark Emissary’s body had been left behind, they could have analysed the wounds to speculate about the killer. But since it had dissolved into a pool of blood, that was impossible.

“Compile a list of all the masters active outside at that time.”

“Understood.”

“Not just from our main court, but track the movements of all masters who came to Dongting Lake for the Jianghu Tournament. Whoever killed the Dark Emissary must be a renowned master in the Jianghu. So approach with caution.”

“Yes.”

“You may leave.”

With a gesture from Joo Shin Yoon, the subordinate cautiously retreated.

Left alone, Joo Shin Yoon flung open the window. In the distance, the vast Dongting Lake and the enormous Poseidon were visible.

For the next three days, the Jianghu Tournament would be held on the Poseidon.

“Celestial Demon Troupe, so you dare to act like this?”

He couldn’t forgive the Celestial Demon Troupe for dispatching assassins to disrupt the Jade Heaven Alliance’s event.

They had to pay a price equivalent to the attack they made. Otherwise, it would be seen as a sign of weakness.

Joo Shin Yoon contemplated a bloody retribution.
***
Han So Cheon gazed blankly out of the window.

It had been three days since she had opened her eyes. As soon as she opened her eyes, she was interrogated by the Jade Heaven Alliance.

Her memories were jumbled, but she managed to recount the battle with the Dark Emissary.

The interrogator was the Phantom Moon Sword, Joo Shin Yoon himself, a clear indication that this was no ordinary matter.

Joo Shin Yoon repeatedly questioned her, and only after she gave the same answers several times was she released.

“Sigh!”

She looked at her hands.

They were covered in numerous scars, old and new, from her fight with the Dark Emissary. But that wasn’t all. Under her clothes, deep wounds still fresh and unhealed hinted at the severity of the battle. Wounds so severe that a normal person would have died. Fortunately, her profound internal energy had saved her life. Any deeper, and she would have been dead.

When the martial artists of the Jade Heaven Alliance found her, they immediately brought her to the inner court and administered the Jade Heaven Alliance’s Arcane Healing Pill. This saved her life, but her mind was still in turmoil.

“Who actually killed the Dark Emissary?”

She had been utterly outmatched by him. To confront someone at the pinnacle of assassination required greater martial prowess than hers. As far as she knew, no one capable of facing him had been nearby at the time.

Joo Shin Yoon mentioned that the Dark Emissary had dissolved into a pool of blood and vanished from the world. But for Han So Cheon, his death still didn’t feel real.

“Really dead? the Dark Emissary…”

She shook her head.

Her dishevelled hair tickled her face, but she hardly noticed, overwhelmed by her chaotic thoughts.

Covering her head with both hands, Han So Cheon suddenly remembered hearing someone’s voice before she lost consciousness. But it was so faint that she wasn’t sure if what she heard was real. But it seemed to have been very warm.

Han So Cheon shook her head again, still uncertain about everything.

That’s when it happened.

“Can you move?”

With a cold voice, a middle-aged man as thin as a bamboo stick walked into her room.

His eyes were as emotionless as a viper’s, and his skin was as pale as if he had never seen sunlight in his life. Han So Cheon’s expression stiffened at his appearance.

“Grand Master!”

The middle-aged man was Cheol Geuk jin, the leader of the Hidden Blood Squad.

Behind him stood Cheol Gwan Ho, the unit leader, his upper body wrapped in white bandages, leaning on a cane. He waved weakly at Han So Cheon.

‘He’s alive.’

Cheol Gwan Ho had also been severely injured by the Dark Emissary but had barely managed to survive.

“What a sight! The core members of the Hidden Blood Squad in such a state.”

A chillingly cold light flickered in Cheol Geuk jin’s emotionless eyes. Han So Cheon trembled slightly under his gaze.

“I’m sorry, Grand Master.”

“To be so heavily wounded by a retired old man. Seems like your training has been lacking.”

“…”

“Were you afraid of death?”

“No…”

“Then what made you so weak? If you had shown your true abilities, you wouldn’t have been so easily defeated by the Dark Emissary.”

“I’m sorry.”

“This is a disgrace like no other. Brought in to face the assassins of the Jade Heaven Alliance, yet showing such an unsightly display.”

Han So Cheon bit her lip, unable to find an excuse.

Cheol Geuk jin was known for his ruthless nature. To him, the Hidden Blood Squad was nothing more than a tool to efficiently eliminate Celestial Demon Troupe’s key figures.

To him, a tool that loses its efficiency should be discarded and replaced. Many young warriors were abandoned and discarded because of this philosophy. To not be discarded meant proving one’s worth and surviving against all odds.

“If you can move, get up. We’re leaving the Jade Heaven Alliance.”

“What about the Jianghu Tournament?”

“It’s over. The Hidden Blood Squad is no longer needed here.”

“Oh!”

“Prepare to head to the battlefield. Heal your wounds on the way.”

“Understood.”

Han So Cheon answered and descended from the bed. As her feet touched the ground, immense pain shot through her body, but she clenched her teeth and endured it.

Every step was agonising, but she refused to scream.

Cheol Geuk jin had no tolerance for the weak. In his eyes, the weak deserved to be eliminated.

Sweating, Han So Cheon put on her outer garment. Cheol Geuk jin turned and walked out without a word.

She followed him. Cheol Gwan Ho, the unit leader, approached her.

“It’s good that you’re alive.”

“You too.”

“The luggage is ready. We’re heading straight to the battlefield. At least we don’t have to say goodbye to anyone here.”

“…”

Han So Cheon didn’t respond, but Cheol Gwan Ho didn’t mind. He hadn’t expected a reply anyway.

As they stepped outside, the surviving members of the Hidden Blood Squad were visible.
Although a few were missing, most had survived. That was somewhat relieving.

“Let’s go!”

Cheol Geuk jin commanded as he mounted his horse.

“Yes!”

The whole Hidden Blood Squad mounted their horses in response.

Han So Cheon struggled onto her horse, exerting pressure on her wounds, causing blood to flow. But she silently pressed on her acupoints to stop the bleeding.

The Hidden Blood Squad swiftly left the inner court and headed towards the outer hall.
Han So Cheon quietly surveyed her surroundings.

“Looking for someone?”

Next to her, riding a horse, Lim Moon hye asked curiously. Han So Cheon calmly replied.

“No.”

“Hmm.”

Lim Moon hye observed Han So Cheon with a scrutinizing gaze but couldn’t find anything unusual.

Just then, the outer hall gate opened.

Han So Cheon’s eyes lit up.

A group of warriors lined up outside the gate came into view.

They were the outer hall warriors of the Jade Heaven Alliance, guarding the gate as usual. Among them was a familiar face.

‘Oraboni!’

It was Lee Gwak. He was looking straight at her.

A faint smile formed on Han So Cheon’s lips as she felt a sense of relief. Now she could depart for the battlefield with a clear heart.

Just like at Mount Sohua, she was once again seeing off Lee Gwak as she headed into battle.