Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 70

January 8, 2024 • 12 min read • 321 views

The Brighter the Light, the Darker the Shadow (2)

Novel- Martial Artist Lee Gwak

After imprisoning both Jang Wi-mun and Lee Umyeong’s gangs in the detention facility, Lee Gwak came out of the city.

Dozens of men were brought in, tied in a line, by a group of only six men, so he couldn’t help but wonder at the bewildered looks on the faces of the martial artists guarding the detention facility.

This was the first time so many people had been locked up at once in the detention facility. Despite their stern faces, they confined Jang Wi-mun and Lee Umyeong’s gangs.

Lee Gwak knew exactly why they looked displeased.

They probably thought he was unnecessarily escalating a minor issue. Lee Gwak himself was aware that what he had done might not be very effective.

Just imprisoning these two men’s gangs temporarily was not a solution. Without a major overhaul of the entire Outer Hall and an innovative solution for the entire slum, such incidents will continue to happen.

As a mere squad leader of one of the outer hall squads, it wasn’t up to him to solve the problem. But he couldn’t just stand by and do nothing.

At the very least, he wanted to show that someone was watching them, hoping it would make them act more cautiously.

He didn’t want to change the whole world, but he did hope to maintain a minimum order in the areas he could see.

Lee Gwak headed to the slums where Jang Wi-mun and Lee Umyeong’s gangs had fought that day. Specifically, he was going to the residence of Nam Woo Gyeong.

Nam Woo Gyeong’s residence was surprisingly shabby for someone who was the young master of Hao Clan.

“You’re here?”

Nam Woo Gyeong looked up at Lee Gwak.

In his hand was a small booklet. He couldn’t tell what was inside the booklet. But he suspected it contained something important.

Nam Woo Gyeong had changed a lot over the past year. Gone was his shabby appearance, replaced by a neatly dressed figure resembling a nobleman.

Lee Gwak felt a strong sense of discomfort at the sight of Nam Woo Gyeong, as he seemed to be wearing clothes that didn’t quite fit him.

“Why don’t you sit down, instead of just staring?”

“That outfit?”

“What, do I look strange to you too?”

Nam Woo Gyeong’s expression crumpled.

“It’s not exactly strange, but…”

“Damn it! Why would I, of all people, wear fine silk clothes?”

Nam Woo Gyeong’s self-deprecation left Lee Gwak unfazed; it wasn’t the first time he had seen this behavior.

With no reaction from Lee Gwak, Nam Woo Gyeong wrinkled his nose.

“You caused some trouble today, didn’t you?”

“What trouble are you referring to?”

“I heard you threw all those troublemakers who drifted into the slums into the detention facility.”

“Well, it just happened.”

“Lately, with all sorts of people coming in, those types of scoundrels have increased. Thanks to them, this place isn’t like it used to be. The atmosphere is quite grim.”

“You seem to be enjoying it, though.”

“Hardly!”

Nam Woo Gyeong closed the small book and stood up.

When he talked to Lee Gwak casually, he seemed like a carefree, mischievous person, but when he got serious, he exuded the weight of a mountain.

He was an intriguing man.

As the young master of the Hao clan, it was remarkable how he had stayed in such a humble abode for so long, and how he had interacted with Lee Gwak without any pretense. Neither was easy, but Nam Woo Gyeong fit naturally into this environment.

“I have something I want to ask you.”

“Go ahead!”

“Why don’t you control the influx of people into the slums? With your and the Hao Clan’s power, it wouldn’t be difficult to do so.”

“That’s true.”

Nam Woo Gyeong answered nonchalantly, as if it was someone else’s problem.

“Knowing that, why don’t you control it? If you stepped in, the unrest would quickly subside.”

“Why should I?”

“Well…”

“Gwak! You seem confused because you’ve been close to me, but I’m neither affiliated with the Jade Heaven Alliance nor do I have any obligation to maintain order here.”

“…”

“My stay here is to fulfill my duties as Hao Clan’s young master and to gauge Jianghu’s situation through the Jade Heaven Alliance. I’ve become quite close to the slum dwellers during my time here, but that doesn’t mean I can interfere in their lives recklessly. If I can’t take responsibility until the end, it’s best not to meddle at all.”

There was a deep resonance in Nam Woo Gyeong’s voice.

He continued.

“Light things rise to become the sky, while heavy things settle to become the earth. The way of the world isn’t different. Left alone, everything finds its place naturally. The same goes for this place. Although it’s chaotic now, over time, a natural order will establish itself.”

“So, you’re just going to watch? Isn’t that just bystander behavior?”

“Maybe. Heh!”

Nam Woo Gyeong chuckled as if he had never been serious.

Lee Gwak frowned, finally understanding the source of his unease around Nam Woo Gyeong.

“Are you leaving this place?”

“Kid! You’re sharp as a tack.”

Nam Woo Gyeong looked surprised.

Despite his correct guess, Lee Gwak wasn’t happy.

Over the past year, he had grown close to Nam Woo Gyeong, reaching a point where they could joke freely. But now, just as he had become attached, they had to part, leaving him with a bittersweet feeling.

“How did you know?”

“Your clothes, and the perspective of a bystander. Both don’t suit you.”

“Tsk! You’ve grown sharp. Well, with that kind of perception, I can leave with peace of mind.”

“When are you leaving?”

“Soon.”

“…”

“I’d like to stay longer, but the sect leader has other plans for me. I have to go.”

Nam Woo Gyeong didn’t want the slums to become chaotic, which he had stayed in for so long. However, now it was beyond his ability to intervene.

Hao Clan thrived on collecting information discreetly. Revealing themselves to calm the slums’ chaos would mean losing their core strength and becoming a target for other factions.

It was his destiny to follow what his cold head told him to do, rather than what his hot heart told him to do.

Lee Gwak understood Nam Woo Gyeong’s position.

As the squad leader of the Outer Hall, his world view differed vastly from that of a young master like Nam Woo Gyeong, who oversaw information on a grand scale.

Whatever decision Nam Woo Gyeong made, Lee Gwak had no say in it.

He had to suppress any feelings of disappointment. That was the adult world and the Jianghu he lived in.

“Gwak!”

“Yes!”

“You know that a protruding nail gets hammered, right?”

“Yes!”

“Don’t stand out too much until you’re strong enough to your satisfaction. In the Jianghu, only one person has ever stood alone without any support.

“Who is that?”

“The Fist Demon of Mount Hua. Only he was truly free.”

Lee Gwak’s eyebrows twitched.

The mention of Mount Hua’s Demon Fist piqued his interest again.

“Who is he? If you mention him, he must be an extraordinary martial artist, but why don’t I know about him?”

“Because the current Jianghu has mostly erased his traces.”

“What do you mean?”

Lee Gwak looked at Nam Woo Gyeong with disbelief. Nam sighed and continued.

“Sigh! Hard to believe, but what I’m saying is true. Before the Jianghu was divided into Jade Heaven Alliance and the Celestial Demon Troupe, there were Murim Alliance and the demonic sects. These two powers fought over the hegemony of the Jianghu, resulting in the destruction of many factions within the Murim Alliance. The one who stood up to save the Jianghu from this chaos was none other than the founder of Jade Heaven Alliance, Choi Yeon-woon.”

Lee Gwak was familiar with this part of the story as it was the first thing he learned upon formally entering the Outer Hall.

But Nam Woo Gyeong’s story didn’t end there.

“It’s true that Choi Yeon-woon led the Great Heavenly Blood War to victory. However, there was one martial artist he trusted and relied upon: that was the Fist Demon of Mount Hua, Damho. His deeds are nearly forgotten now, but he was the one who truly ended the Great Heavenly Blood War. After that, the demonic sects fell into a decline, and a great martial artist named Geom Yul Cheon gathered the remnants of the Demonic and founded the Celestial Demon Troupe.”

“Why isn’t this known to the world?”

“Jade Heaven Alliance didn’t want to tarnish the dignity of its first leader, Choi Yeon-woon. So, as soon as he retired from the Jianghu, they began to erase Damho’s deeds from public memory. Celestial Demon Troupe did the same, not wanting the dignity of its first leader to be overshadowed by Damho. Thus, Damho’s actions were erased from public memory, but a few still remember him.”

“Did Choi Yeon-woon and the first leader of the Celestial Demon Troupe allow this?”

“No way. Although they walked different paths, one of righteousness and the other of demonic ways, they genuinely liked Damho and considered him a friend. They would never have made such a decision. Had they been around, they would never have allowed their followers to erase his history like that.”

“Then why?”

“It’s unclear, but they disappeared from the Jianghu around the same time, effectively retiring. Since they never showed themselves again, no one knows what became of them.”

“Hmm!”

Lee Gwak let out an involuntary hum of surprise at Nam Woo Gyeong’s shocking revelations.

“No one knows how their last years were spent. They might still be alive or perhaps have passed away. The important thing is that the Jade Heaven Alliance and the Celestial Demon Troupe used their fame to erase Damho from history. So, even though it’s been only about a hundred years, very few people remember him.”

“And the Fist Demon of Mount Hua? If he was really stronger than Choi Yeon-woon and Geom Yul Cheon, wouldn’t he have stopped people from altering history like that?”

“Hmph! Do you think he would care about such trivial matters? To him, public opinion or fame wasn’t important. His only concern was forging his path with his fists.”

Nam Woo Gyeong’s voice rose involuntarily, showing his heightened state of mind.

Although the Jade Heaven Alliance and the Celestial Demon Troupe tried to erase the legend of Mount Hua’s Demon Fist, they couldn’t hide everything.

Many who survived the Great Heavenly Blood War remembered the Demon Fist and passed his legend on to future generations, away from the eyes and ears of the Jade Heaven Alliance and the Celestial Demon Troupe.

There was a book in the Hao Clan that recorded the legend of Mount Hua’s Demon Fist. It was not vaguely written but detailed, as if someone had witnessed his deeds up close.

Nam Woo Gyeong grew up reading this book about the Demon Fist’s deeds, which is why he disliked the Jade Heaven Alliance and the Celestial Demon Troupe for erasing the history of the person he admired most.

That was why he remained indifferent to the courting of Yeo Joong Wol and Lim Sobo. He cooperated only when necessary, keeping a distance otherwise. He saw the Jade Heaven Alliance as an unreliable group.

Lee Gwak felt his heart strangely stirred.

‘Mount Hua’s Demon Fist, Damho.’

This was the first time he heard the full name of Mount Hua’s Demon Fist. The name resonated within him, though it was unfamiliar.

Suddenly, a memory from Mount Sohua surfaced.

He recalled the shadow that had oppressed him in the secret chamber of the Asura Blood Chaos Trial.

Perhaps that was a trace left by Mount Hua’s Demon Fist, Damho. It was more of a certainty than a guess.

‘Hmm!’

Feeling as if he was connected to an unknown destiny, Lee Gwak shivered.

Nam Woo Gyeong continued to share untold secrets of the Jianghu with Lee Gwak for a long time afterward.

Lee Gwak absorbed every word.

Nam Woo Gyeong’s insights were astonishing, not just as the young master of Hao Clan. While Lee Gwak viewed the world through a limited lens as part of the Jade Heaven Alliance, Nam Woo Gyeong saw it through the countless eyes and ears spread across the Jianghu.

Nam Woo Gyeong and Lee Gwak talked through the night, with Nam mostly speaking and Lee listening.

This time was precious to Lee Gwak, irreplaceable by any other moment.

After their last drink, Nam Woo Gyeong, with a flushed face, said,

“Gwak!”

“Yes!”

“Always be careful, and then be careful again.”

“I will keep that in mind.”

“If you ever need anything, contact me through the Crimson Flower Brothel.”

“I understand.”

Nam Woo Gyeong watched Lee Gwak nod with a smile.

Initially, he had approached Lee Gwak with the intent of observation, but they had grown close enough for him to care deeply.

Lee Gwak had become like a real younger brother to him, which made parting even more difficult and regrettable.

After that day, Nam Woo Gyeong was no longer seen in the slums. And Lee Gwak no longer visited the slums for personal reasons.