Chapter 15: Alone and Motivated (3)
Light Novel: Volume 1 Chapter 15
Manhwa: Chapters 18-19
Episode 5. Alone and Motivated (3)
When Lee Gwak returned to his quarters, Seo Jong-myeong was nowhere to be found. Lee Gwak looked around for a moment, before sitting on the wooden bed.
The quarters, enveloped in darkness, were so quiet that only an eerie stillness hung in the air. If it were in the past, he would have found this atmosphere unbearably unpleasant. But having gone through a hard year, he now found it somewhat comforting.
Lee Gwak took out the Eight Sects Sword Art from his pocket and began to read it carefully.
The Eight Sects Sword Art was composed of eight major techniques.
Mountain Splitting Slash.
Raging Tidal Force.
Blood Dragon Roar.
Lone Scorch Demon.
Phantom Shadow Assassinate.
Heaven Shattering Iron Blood.
Eight Gateways of Destruction.
The more he looked at it, the more it reeked of a martial art used by the military.
Shadowless Strike was most effective when riding a horse, and Lone Scorch Demon was useful in dealing with large numbers of troops. The other techniques were also optimized for killing, which was a far cry from the typical martial arts of Jianghu.
Such was the characteristic of military martial arts.
Although these techniques were not lacking compared to other advanced martial arts, the issue was that they lacked proper internal insights. Perhaps when these techniques were leaked to the outside world, the internal insights were also lost. This was also probably the reason why the Eight Sects Sword Art was neglected and left in the Outer Hall’s vault.
“The problem is whether the Eight Snakes Art can substitute for the internal insights of the Eight Sects Sword Art.”
There was no way to know the outcome without trying it out.
Once he made up his mind, Lee Gwak didn’t hesitate.
He began to apply Eight Snakes Art as he unfolded each of the Eight Sects Sword Art techniques.
He was combining two very different martial arts into one. Such a feat was by no means an easy task.
If he makes a mistake even once, his internal energy could end up twisted and tangled, leading to qi deviation.
Lee Gwak was well aware of this but did not hesitate because it felt somehow right.
He tried out the first technique, Mountain Splitting Slash.
When performing the Luminous Sword Art, the operation of the Eight Snakes Art was strangely twisted, but there was no such thing in Eight Sects Sword Art.
It was as if the two had always been one body, the Eight Snakes Art naturally merged into the Eight Sects Sword Art. Of course, it would take strenuous effort to fully integrate the two, but the first step was easily taken.
Lee Gwak stayed up all night practicing the Eight Sects Sword Art.
Thick beads of sweat drenched his body and his breath rose to the top of his lungs, but he didn’t feel exhausted. On the contrary, he found it enjoyable.
Never before in his life had he been so immersed in something, and it was by his own will.
The feeling of giving everything to accomplish something made him happy.
A smile unknowingly appeared on his face as he swung his sword.
He forgot everything and became immersed in the Eight Sects Sword Art.
Seo Jong-myeong, who came in after opening the door, saw this spectacle.
Shaking his head side to side, Seo Jong-myeong went inside.
* * *
The first sensation Lee Gwak felt upon opening his eyes was pain.
His muscles felt like they were being torn apart, and he could hardly breathe as if his insides were being shaken up. But even then, Lee Gwak welcomed that pain with joy.
Lee Gwak activated the Eight Snakes Art. Then, the pain that had dominated his body gradually dissipated. Only then did he eat a simple breakfast and start practicing the Eight Sects Sword Art again.
The worn-out sword cut through the air, creating a whooshing sound.
His previously clumsy sword movements had become somewhat proficient. Lee Gwak’s movements became more and more precise, and his swords began to carry more force.
However, the blade couldn’t withstand the internal energy being channeled into it causing it to break in half.
Lee Gwak let out a disappointed sigh.
His sword just had to break just as he was deeply engrossed in his training. He knew that the training swords were of low quality, but this was too much.
“Should I get a new one?”
A conflicted look appeared on Lee Gwak’s face.
He honestly didn’t want to go outside if he could help it. He had grown accustomed to solitude and disliked busy places, but without a sword, he couldn’t practice the Eight Sects Sword Art. So, whether he liked it or not, he had no choice but to go outside.
In the end, Lee Gwak grabbed some money and went outside the dormitory.
It had been a long time since he had been on the streets of the Outer Hall.
Although the streets looked the same as they did in the past, they felt oddly unfamiliar. Whether it be the familiar-looking shops, the merchants who did business there, and most of whom he knew– he felt strangely distant from them.
Lee Gwak unknowingly let out a deep sigh.
It was because he felt like he’d been in seclusion for too long. Having been secluded for too long, he had lost the knack for interacting with people.
Lee Gwak walked with heavy steps.
Though the streets felt unfamiliar, he hadn’t forgotten the terrain. He headed toward a workshop located on the outskirts of the Outer Hall.
The Jade Heaven Alliance generally provides weapons to its warriors. However, because the weapons were ordered in bulk to save money, the quality was often poor. Therefore, martial artists in the Inner Court often have their own craftsmen custom-made their weapons.
Such workshops existed in the Outer Hall as well. However, the quality was much lower compared to the Inner Court, so not many people used them. This was also the reason why the front of the workshop was empty.
The four words ‘Yin Family Weapon House’ were written on the signboard of the workshop, and various weapons were disorderly displayed on the outside. Lee Gwak chose a sword from among them.
From saw-like serrated swords to gently curved swords, and even creepy-looking killing swords, there was a variety of swords.
Among them, Lee Gwak chose an ordinary straight sword.
A straight sword with a well-distributed weight. It wasn’t something that could be called a masterpiece, but the forging seemed solid enough.
After choosing the sword, Lee Gwak went into the workshop to pay. Inside, many more weapons were on display.
Among them, there was one that caught Lee Gwak’s eye.
It was a spike the size of a child’s palm. The blunt, unpolished edge caught Lee Gwak’s attention.
Lee Gwak picked it up and estimated its weight with his hand. Despite its small size, it was fairly heavy.
It was then.
“Are you interested in that?”
A soft voice asked.
When Lee Gwak turned his head, he saw a neatly dressed man. The man had the air of a merchant handling money rather than a craftsman working with iron.
He seemed to be the owner of this workshop.
Lee Gwak nodded his head.
“Yes! I am interested in this.”
“You’re quite an unusual one. Many people have come here to buy weapons, but none of them have chosen that.”
“Is that so?”
“It’s a failed creation by an artisan from the main family. He had planned to melt it again to create another weapon, but he died, so it’s been left as it is. If you want to buy it, I can give it to you cheaply. What do you think?”
“How much can you offer?”
“Six pieces of silver.”
“Is the sword already included in the total price?”
Upon hearing the merchant’s reply, Lee Gwak slightly frowned. Misinterpreting Lee Gwak’s expression as one of disapproval, the merchant hurriedly said,
“As you can see, it’s already quite a bargain. I don’t think you will be able to find another workshop that could sell those for that low.”
“But I don’t have that much money.”
“Then why are you here to buy a weapon without having the money for it?”
The merchant’s face visibly tightened. However, Lee Gwak was unfazed.
He had a strange feeling that if he held on a bit longer, he might be able to get the weapons for a cheaper price.
“All I have are four pieces of silver.”
“Yes. If that’s not enough, I’ll go to another workshop.”
“You’re quite audacious, aren’t you?”
The merchant glared at Lee Gwak as if trying to see through him. However, Lee Gwak remained utterly composed under his stare.
Lee Gwak then discreetly set down the sword and spike he was holding. It was a sign that he was ready to leave immediately if the negotiation broke down.
“Tch! You look unassuming, but you’re harboring a snake inside, aren’t you?”
Finally, the merchant raised both his hands in surrender.
Only then did Lee Gwak slightly smile. The merchant clicked his tongue, but it wasn’t an unpleasant expression.
“Give me the silver quickly.”
Lee Gwak handed over the silver to the merchant.
“I thought I’d caught a big fish, but it seems I’m the one who got caught. I don’t know who you are, but make good use of those. They are well-crafted, after all.”
“I will handle them with care.”
“Weapons are never something to be handled with care. No matter how well-crafted, a weapon is merely a tool for protecting oneself. How could you have the luxury of treating a weapon with care when your life is at stake? If you’re a warrior, please keep that in mind.”
“I will take your words to heart.”
“Then be on your way.”
The merchant motioned for him to leave.
Lee Gwak bowed his head to him and then stepped outside.
He placed the spike in his pocket and strapped the sword to his waist.
It felt incredibly fulfilling to have a weapon he bought with his own money, rather than one provided by the Jade Heaven Alliance.
Lee Gwak kept touching the sword strapped to his waist as he walked down the street.
It was then.
“Oh, aren’t you Lee Gwak?”
A familiar voice rang in his ears.
When Lee Gwak turned his head, he saw a familiar face looking at him with a surprised expression.
“Is it really you, Lee Gwak?”
The person who approached Lee Gwak with a face of disbelief was none other than Go Jeon-ok. He scanned Lee Gwak from head to toe.
“What? I heard you were paralyzed. How are you walking?”
“I was lucky.”
At Lee Gwak’s nonchalant response, Go Jeon-ok scowled as if he were a puppy in need of a bathroom.
“This is great! I’m relieved that you’ve recovered. I was planning to visit you sometime today or tomorrow. I haven’t able to visit you so far since I’ve been too busy to make time. Do you understand?”
“Haha! I knew you’d understand, you’re my friend after all.”
Go Jeon-ok patted Lee Gwak’s shoulder and slung his arm around him.
Lee Gwak didn’t push him away or make a displeased look.
The aspect where he had grown significantly over the past year was not his martial arts or internal energy, but his mental fortitude. He had learned firsthand how cold and fearsome the world could be.
When misfortune befell him, the number of people he could truly rely on was minimal, and Go Jeon-ok was not among them.
There was neither room for improvement nor deterioration in their relationship. It was just that.
So there was no reason to be upset just because Go Jeon-ok hadn’t visited him while he was sick.
Lee Gwak glanced at Go Jeon-ok’s attire as he hung his arm around his shoulder. It was not the hemp robe, the symbol of the Outer Hall members, but rather ordinary clothing.
At that moment, Go Jeon-ok chuckled softly.
“Why? Surprised I’m not wearing Outer Hall clothing?”
When Lee Gwak nodded, Go Jeon-ok lowered his voice so that others couldn’t hear.
“This is a secret, but I’ll tell you and only you. You absolutely cannot tell anyone else. Promise?”
“I’ve actually joined the Heavenly Intelligence Hall. I’m still at the bottom, but I’ll soon be deployed for an important mission.”
Go Jeon-ok’s face was filled with pride.
Though the two organizations belonged to the Outer Court, the difference between the Outer Hall and Heavenly Intelligence Hall was vast. While the Outer Hall was simply responsible for guarding the outer fortress’s border and doing menial tasks, the Heavenly Intelligence Hall performed the crucial task of gathering information from the outside world.
Naturally, the more important tasks a member carried out, the more likely they were to rise in the ranks. Go Jeon-ok aimed to make significant contributions in the Heavenly Intelligence Hall and then move to the Inner or Main Court.
Just by entering the Heavenly Intelligence Hall, he had already achieved his first goal.
“You absolutely mustn’t tell anyone else.”
Go Jeon-ok emphasized once again.
Lee Gwak had no intention of telling anyone. However, those who knew Go Jeon-ok would have some idea that he had joined the Heavenly Intelligence Hall.
“But you’re already being sent on a big mission? I thought you were at the bottom.”
“I have no choice. The situation in Jianghu is getting increasingly unstable.”
“Tell me more.”
“There was an incident not long ago where a patrol of the Dragon Sky Valley was completely wiped out. It seems likely that the Celestial Demon Union was behind it.”
“Really? They’ve been quiet for a hundred years. Why now?”
“They’re probably revealing their ambitions now, which is why the entire Dragon Sky Valley is in a state of emergency. The Jade Heaven Alliance is in an uproar too.”
The Dragon Sky Valley became one of the Ten Supremes about a hundred years ago during the Great Heavenly Blood War, when their sect leader, Muk Ji-gwang made significant contributions. Until then, the Dragon Sky Valley had been a mysterious force in name only.
When Jade Heaven Alliance’s founder Cho Yeon-woon created the alliance and fought against the Demon Sect, the predecessor of the Celestial Demon Union, Muk Ji-gwang came out of seclusion and rose spectacularly. He made great contributions alongside Cho Yeon-woon and was later revered as one of the absolute masters of Jianghu.
Given the circumstances, the Celestial Demon Union considered the Dragon Sky Valley as their greatest eyesore since their locations were also closest to each other.
“Anyway, the entire Jianghu is in turmoil over this matter. People are worrying that another Great Heavenly Blood War might happen.”
“Well, these things don’t really matter to you, but you should still be aware of it. I have to go now. Let’s meet again later.”
After patting Lee Gwak’s shoulder, Go Jeon-ok ran off.
Lee Gwak watched Go Jeon-ok’s back as he walked away.
While Go Jeon-ok said that Jianghu was in turmoil due to the threat of the Celestial Demon Union, somehow, it felt like a story unrelated to him.
Lee Gwak felt slightly detached from the winds of Jianghu.
Thank you for reading!
- Yin Family Weapon House. Raws: 은가철방(銀家鐵房).
- 銀 yín – silver / silver-colored / relating to money or currency
- 家 jiā – home / family / (polite) my (sister, uncle etc) / classifier for families or businesses
- 鐵 tiě – iron (metal) / arms / weapons / hard / strong / violent
- 房 fáng – house / room
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