Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 67

January 8, 2024 • 11 min read • 269 views

After the Storm… Part 2

Novel- Martial Artist Lee Gwak

Swoosh!

A small figure was swiftly moving across the courtyard.

Crossing the yard paved with blue stones, the figure suddenly kicked against the tall wall and ran up it.

The small figure swung his sword as he ran along the wall like a monkey.

Swish!

The tall grass under the wall, sliced by the sword, soared high into the air and then rained down like a downpour.

“It’s going to take a while to clean up the yard,”

Lee Gwak muttered to himself as he watched the grass rainfall in the courtyard

The little figure, cutting the innocent grass and moving around the yard, was Cheon Wol.

Lee Gwak had secretly passed on the Sun Splitting Sword Art to Cheon Wol. It couldn’t be taught where others might see, so after work, he brought Cheon Wol to his house to instruct him.

Cheon Wol absorbed the teachings of the Sun Splitting Sword Art quickly. Cheon Wol and the Sun Splitting Sword Art were a great match.

Having learned the technique not long ago, his skills had improved leaps and bounds. In a few months, it seemed he would surpass the skills of any ordinary outer hall martial artist.

Lee Gwak too learned a lot while teaching Cheon Wol.

It was truly a case of learning while teaching.

“Phew!”

Finally, Cheon Wol took a deep breath, ending his practice. He squinted his half-closed eyes at Lee Gwak.

“How was it today?”

“It was good.”

“Really?”

“Yes!”

Cheon Wol smiled brightly at Lee Gwak’s response.

Cheon Wol’s expression had brightened a lot while learning martial arts here.

His physique improved, baby fat shed, making him even more handsome. Already a pretty boy, his facial lines became sharper, turning him into a strikingly handsome young man.

However, Cheon Wol himself didn’t like showing his face openly. When going out, he would wrap half of his face with cloth. Only in Lee Gwak’s presence did he show such a bright demeanour.

“Let’s go out for a meal.”

“Yes, Brother!”

At Lee Gwak’s suggestion, Cheon Wol nodded energetically.

Over time, Cheon Wol had grown closer to Lee Gwak, comfortably calling him ‘brother.’
Shoulder to shoulder, the two stepped out of the house.

Their destination was a humble inn outside the outer city walls. It hadn’t been long since the Baekun Guesthouse started business, but the cook’s skill was exceptional, making all the dishes delicious.

After stopping by the inn by chance and falling for the cook’s skill, they kept coming back. The food at Baekun Guesthouse was that good.

“Welcome!”

As Lee Gwak and Cheon Wol entered, a kind-looking middle-aged woman greeted them. She was the owner of Baekun Guesthouse, running it with her husband, the cook.

Lee Gwak looked around and commented,

It’s quiet today.”

“Indeed. If you hadn’t come, today would have been just flies buzzing around.”

“Come on, people will show up soon.”

“Ha ha! Either way is fine. It’s a long-term business, so no worries.”

The owner burst into a warm laugh.

Lee Gwak and Cheon Wol smiled and took a seat by the window.

“What will you have today?”

“The Gan Guo ji we had last time was delicious.”

“Ha ha! It’s the dish we’re most proud of. My husband went through so much to learn it, I can’t even begin to explain.”

Her lengthy chatter followed.

Her husband, the cook, had learned the Gan Guo ji after ten years of hard work and various struggles from a guesthouse run by the best cook in the Jianghu. It was indeed a culinary masterpiece. However, hearing the same story every visit was almost enough to make their ears bleed.

Finally, after a long chat, she rushed to the kitchen.

Freed from her chatter, Lee Gwak and Cheon Wol finally exhaled a sigh of relief.

The food here was really delicious, but the owner’s chatter was always part of the package. So on days like this, when the guest house was empty, they came mentally prepared. Still, they were satisfied, considering that this time the conversation ended relatively quickly.

Cheon Wol looked around the guesthouse and remarked,

“It’s really quiet today.”

“Indeed,”

“Do you think it’s because many have been drafted to the front lines?”

“Probably.”

Lee Gwak nodded.

It had been a year since the Jianghu Tournament had ended, and since then the war with the Celestial Demon Troupe had intensified.

Many warriors from the Jade Heaven Alliance were sent to the front lines, and a significant number of the Ten Sects also joined the war.

Dragon Heaven Valley, the White Light Sect, the Martial Sword Troupe, and the Thousand Kingdom School all confirmed their participation, and even the Nine Dragons Clan was holding internal discussions.

All these developments stemmed from the Jianghu Tournament, which had pulled in numerous factions for participation.

The war had evolved from being just between the Jade Heaven Alliance and the Celestial Demon Troupe to involving the Jianghu.

The front lines were expanding, and countless warriors were dying daily. Due to this, the Jade Heaven Alliance faced a crisis in recruiting martial artists.

The war required not just powerful martial artists but also a large number of lower-ranked ones. Hence, a proclamation was issued across the land, encouraging people to join.

They promised food, shelter, money, and martial arts training.

However, this led to unintended consequences.

Desperate parents sold their children to reduce one less mouth to feed, and there were cases of kidnapping orphans for sale to the Alliance.

More often than not, people were sold to the Jade Heaven Alliance against their will, rather than volunteering. But the Alliance didn’t care.

If they were to be defeated by the Celestial Demon Troupe, the horrors of a hundred years past would repeat. Any means necessary had to be employed, regardless of criticism about inhumanity or cruelty.

Ironically, this was why Lee Gwak and Cheon Wol had some leisure time.

Their main duty in the outer hall was to protect the Jade Heaven Alliance. While they could be dispatched elsewhere as needed, their primary role was defence.

Thanks to this, they could spend relatively leisurely time here, far from the front lines.

But Lee Gwak knew this wouldn’t last.

From his experience, the Jade Heaven Alliance was not a place to let any organisation or a person rest easy for long.

A new mission would surely come soon. That’s why this peaceful time was so important to Lee Gwak.

Then, Cheon Wol asked,

“By the way, I heard that Master Ma of the Creation Pavilion has fully retired?”

“Yes, he left the city not long ago.”

“Jade Heaven Alliance actually allowed his retirement?”

“He had to wait a year to get permission. It wasn’t easy.”

“So he can now live freely.”

“Seems so.”

Lee Gwak said this, but his expression was not very bright.

He had formally inherited the art of mechanism from Maa Doo Won over the past year. Therefore, he knew the full story behind it better than anyone else.

It was true that Maa Doo Won had been allowed to retire from the Jianghu. However, there were conditions attached.

He would have bodyguards for the rest of his life. No matter where he went, he had to be accompanied by ten bodyguards at all times, and he had to return to the Jade Heaven Alliance in the event of a crisis.

Lastly, he was required to reside within a 200-li radius of the Jade Heaven Alliance. Although he wasn’t confined within the Jade Heaven Alliance, he was essentially under its surveillance.

In essence, it was a partial retirement.

This underscored the importance of the knowledge Maa Doo Won possessed. A year ago, assassins had successfully infiltrated the Detached Pavilion thanks to the knowledge he had.
Jade Heaven Alliance couldn’t afford to completely free Maa Doo Won. Lee Gwak, having witnessed this, believed that Maa Doo Won hadn’t truly retired.

For this reason, Maa Doo Won didn’t inform the Jade Heaven Alliance that he had fully passed on his knowledge of the mechanism to Lee Gwak. If the Alliance knew Lee Gwak had received all of Maa Doo Won’s knowledge, he would undoubtedly be similarly restrained.

Lee Gwak smiled wryly, recalling Maduwon’s words just before leaving the Jade Heaven Alliance.

“Don’t attach any significance to the Jade Heaven Alliance. Don’t think of sacrificing yourself for the greater good of the Jianghu. Jade Heaven Alliance isn’t as noble as you think. It might have been a hundred years ago, but not anymore. Just think of it as a well-paying job. That’s the way to live a long and peaceful life.”

With those words, Maa Doo Won left the Jade Heaven Alliance.

That had been several days ago.

As Maa Doo Won said, Jade Heaven Alliance paid well. Lee Gwak had never felt financially inconvenienced in his daily life.

“Sigh!”

Lee Gwak exhaled softly as he looked out the window.

“You’ve waited a long time. Your order Gan Guo ji is ready.”

The guesthouse’s cook came out holding a tray.

In contrast to the amiable owner, he was a thin middle-aged man. He placed the dish containing Gan Guo ji on Lee Gwak and Cheon Wol’s table.

Gan Guo ji was a dish cooked in a large pot with various vegetables and chicken, without broth. The combination of vegetables greatly affected the flavour, making the cook’s skill crucial.

The cook had thoughtfully shredded the chicken for easy eating.

“Please enjoy.”

“We will, thank you.”

Lee Gwak and Cheon Wol began eating eagerly. The well-cooked chicken melted in their mouths.

A happy expression naturally appeared on Cheon Wol’s face. He gave a thumbs-up.

“This is really the best.”

“Ha ha! I’m glad. This Gan Guo ji was a hard-earned recipe from Bangga Guesthouse, considered the best in the Jianghu. Please enjoy as much as you like.”

“Heaven’s Best Gourmet Restaurant?”

Cheon Wol’s eyes widened as if he was hearing about it for the first time. The cook smiled and explained.

“You might not know if you’re not in our profession. It’s a guesthouse established by Bang Jinbo, the great cook of Mount Hua, famous a hundred years ago. His descendants continue to run it, not just for taste but also for healing and enhancing internal energy with food.”

“Really?”

Cheon Wol looked incredulous, but the cook’s expression was serious.

“It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Many martial artists increased their internal energy by eating the food prepared by Bang Jinbo during the Great Heavenly Blood War a hundred years ago.”

“…”

“Many unbelievable things happened back then. Some even call it the Mythical Era, as it was filled with legendary martial artists.”

“Like who?”

“Choyeonun, who founded the Jade Heaven Alliance, and Geom Yul Cheon, who established the Celestial Demon Troupe. And above all, the martial artist of Mount Hua…”

“Honey!”

Just then, the lady called the cook. He stopped talking, turned around, and she spoke,

“Stop chatting and let them eat in peace.”

“Hmm!”

After a mild rebuke from the lady, the cook frowned but didn’t dare contradict her. He bowed to Lee Gwak and Cheon Wol and returned to his place.

Left alone, Cheon Wol asked Lee Gwak in a low voice,

“Is what he said true? A Mythical Era? Eating food and increasing internal energy? And the martial artist of Mount Hua? It’s my first time hearing this.”

“Who knows!”

Lee Gwak answered ambiguously.

His gaze returned to the window.

The sparsely populated street and the distant view of the Jade Heaven Alliance came into view. Everyone knew about the Jade Heaven Alliance, but very few knew its inner workings.

Similarly, very few knew the truth about the Jianghu.

Much of Jianghu’s history from the past hundred years had been erased. So people today didn’t know much about what happened a century ago.

Maa Doo Won, his mentor, was extremely knowledgeable. Not just in mechanism but also in the history of the Jianghu. He had said that someone had intentionally erased the history of the Jianghu. So, the details of events that occurred just a hundred years ago were known to few.

The war between the Jade Heaven Alliance and the Celestial Demon Troupe was also shrouded in mystery.

It was said that the death of Iron Monarch Go Jin Rak exacerbated the war, but the detailed reasons for the conflict between the two great forces were not well known.

“Sigh!”

Lee Gwak suddenly felt overwhelmed by the amount he didn’t know.

To survive in the harsh world of Jianghu, one needed more than strong martial arts. Keeping an open mind to the world was crucial for survival.

Suddenly, Nam Woo Gyeong came to mind.

He was the man with the most extensive intelligence network in the world.

He was still in the slums.

“I should visit him soon.”