Chapter 22: Where the Sun Shines, the Shadows Fall (1)
Light Novel: Volume 1 Chapter 22
Manhwa: Chapters 24-25
Episode 8. Where the Sun Shines, the Shadows Fall (1)
As day broke, Dan Mok-wol, the head of Creation Pavilion, called everyone and issued orders.
“From now on, the Creation Pavilion will inspect all the trap mechanisms and obstacles, while the Outer Hall will repair all the collapsed huts. We don’t have much time, so hurry up and get to work.”
Only then did Lee Gwak realize why he had been dispatched to this place. The Outer Hall he belonged to was once again tasked with the menial work, so they were sent as manpower.
The opening of the Steel Blood Hell Training Ground was a closely guarded secret. If the Celestial Demon Union found out, they might move faster than expected.
Of course, the Celestial Demon Union would someday find out about their actions, but the later that happened, the better. Because of this, the number of people involved had to be kept to a minimum, especially the common people.
‘So we were dispatched to work as a laborer after all.’
Lee Gwak smiled bitterly.
To the outside world, Lee Gwak was a low-level warrior who had just escaped illness. It was safe to bring him as a laborer.
“What? So in the end, we’re stuck doing all the menial work?”
Seok Yi-cheon and Gok Chae-bong could not contain their frustration and voiced their complaints. However, they dared not raise their voices as their squad leaders watched them with intimidating eyes.
“What are you doing? Why aren’t you moving?”
The squad leaders glared and issued commands.
In the end, the warriors of the Outer Hall had no choice but to start moving.
On the first day, they cleared the debris of the collapsed huts.
Although they were low-ranking warriors of the Outer Hall, they had still cultivated martial arts. Naturally, they were many times stronger than regular laborers and did not tire easily.
Although their frustration was palpable, they worked diligently, and after three days, the vast clearing was clean.
Now it was time to rebuild their quarters.
Under the direction of a craftsman specially dispatched from the Jade Heaven Alliance, the warriors of the Outer Hall moved with the efficiency of ants.
“Bring that wood over here.”
“You fool! Is your head just for decoration? Line it up exactly here.”
“What’s the use of being strong if you have no skill in work?”
The bearded craftsman did not stop berating the warriors of the Outer Hall. At first, the warriors resisted, but they soon adapted and followed the craftsman’s orders.
Soon enough, a building worthy of being called a lodging began to take shape, and some of the martial artists found themselves enjoying the work. They found it fascinating that they could build such large houses with their own hands.
Lee Gwak was among them.
At first, he moved without much thought, just following orders, but as time passed, he found the work increasingly enjoyable.
“You have a good head for work after all. Stay by my side and help me.”
Eventually, the craftsman recognized Lee Gwak’s ability and kept him close.
Lee Gwak moved like the craftsman’s own limbs, learning the entire process of building a house.
To build a proper house, it needed to have a solid foundation, strong pillars, and proper weight distribution. This was to keep the whole building balanced.
The entire process was, in some ways, akin to learning martial arts, which perhaps added to the enjoyment.
Lee Gwak put aside the troublesome martial arts for a while and focused more on building the house.
Eventually, he was involved in most of the process of creating lodgings that could accommodate hundreds of people.
When the massive lodging was finally completed, Lee Gwak felt an indescribable sense of joy.
“I’ve heard you’re quite skilled at this work?”
Just then, someone from Creation Pavilion came looking for Lee Gwak. He needed a capable worker and so he took Lee Gwak with him.
Lee Gwak had no choice.
“Stay here for a while. From tomorrow on, you’ll accompany me.”
The person who had brought Lee Gwak was a man named Ma Duwon. He was particularly skilled and knowledgeable in the field of mechanism.
Over the course of a hundred years, many of the mechanisms in Mount Shaohua had been damaged, and skilled professionals were needed to restore them. However, there was a shortage of manpower.
Even with all the laborers from the Creation Pavilion brought here, the work was slow.
Eventually, the Creation Pavilion drafted useful people from the Outer Hall, who had been brought in to handle menial tasks, and Lee Gwak was temporarily assigned to the Creation Pavilion.
Since his squad leader, Seo Jong-myeong, hadn’t shown up for some reason, Lee Gwak had no choice but to follow Ma Duwon’s orders.
“You must follow me carefully from now on. Step only where I step. If not, I can’t guarantee your life, so remember that.”
Ma Duwon entered a certain cave with Lee Gwak.
It looked ordinary from the outside, but once inside, the meticulous craftsmanship was evident. The floor was laid with flat bluestones, giving off an eerie feeling.
Ma Duwon exclaimed in admiration as he looked around the cave interior.
“Heh! It’s amazing how the trap mechanisms made over a hundred years ago are still functioning.”
“They’re still functional?”
“Do you want to see?”
Suddenly, Ma Duwon threw a stone onto the bluestone floor.
In an instant, countless spears shot out from the walls on both sides of the cave. Had anyone been standing on the bluestone, they would have been turned into a porcupine in a blink of an eye.
“See? Some are damaged, but many traps are still working. So you shouldn’t let your guard down and be extra careful. If you die here, there’s no compensation.”
Lee Gwak swallowed dryly.
This was the first time he had seen trap mechanisms in action.
He had heard stories about the various mechanisms within the Jade Heaven Alliance, but he was someone who stayed only in the Outer Hall.
There was no chance for him to experience such things.
“So how do these traps work?”
“There’s a spring under the bluestone that triggers the spears when pressed with sufficient weight. It sounds simple, but the actual process is incredibly complex.”
“I could explain it to you a hundred times, but it’s not as good as seeing it firsthand. Now, stop talking and just follow where I step.”
Ma Duwon led the way, stepping on the bluestones. Lee Gwak carefully followed, stepping only where Ma Duwon did. The mechanisms did not activate.
‘There must be places with springs under them and places without. The spots without springs don’t trigger the mechanisms.’
Lee Gwak made a mental note of where he had stepped.
Having crossed the bluestone floor, Ma Duwon touched a recessed area on the wall. With a heavy sound, the wall opened.
Lee Gwak involuntarily let out an exclamation at the astonishing sight.
Inside the wall were numerous gears interlocked with each other.
“This is the heart of all the trap mechanisms. These things have to mesh seamlessly for all the trap mechanisms in Mount Shaohua to work properly. If there’s one like this that’s broken, it won’t work properly.”
Ma Duwon removed one of the gears. The gear in his hand was worn down.
“There should be a gear of the exact same shape in the pack. Bring it to me.”
Lee Gwak rummaged through the pack and handed over a gear that was identical to the one Ma Duwon was holding.
Ma Duwon skillfully replaced the gear.
“It’s important to tighten it just right. If it’s too tight, the reaction will be slow, and if it’s too loose, it’s prone to failure.”
Lee Gwak watched carefully as Ma Duwon worked. It didn’t seem so difficult once he understood the principle.
Perhaps sensing Lee Gwak’s thoughts, Ma Duwon smiled wryly and said,
“Honestly, it looks easy, doesn’t it?”
“Yes? Well, that is…”
“That’s because this is the most basic area. It’s not this easy anywhere else, just keep following me and you’ll see.”
Ma Duwon’s words were right.
The other areas were not as simple or straightforward as the first place they had repaired.
Within the cavern lay mechanisms beyond imagination.
Some were so cunningly concealed they could strike unpredictably, while others left no room for escape even when you knew they were there.
Among them, what astonished Lee Gwak the most were the figures made of bronze that resembled humans. There were eighteen bronze figures, each in a different pose.
“What is this?”
“These are the Eighteen Bronze Men of the Shaolin Temple.1 It’s one of the essences of mechanism engineering.”
Ma Duwon looked at the Eighteen Bronze Men with a rapturous expression.
Originally, the formation of the Eighteen Bronze Men existed only in the Shaolin Temple. However, during the Great Heavenly Blood War, the Shaolin were devastated, and they sought to rebuild here on Mount Shaohua.
The masters of Shaolin created the Eighteen Bronze Men here, dreaming of revenge. Although made of bronze, the intricate movements and forms were hardly different from those performed by humans. Naturally, the power of the Eighteen Bronze Men was even greater than that of humans.
Martial artists had to face the Eighteen Bronze Men here without using their internal energy, relying only on their forms.
Lee Gwak’s gaze sank deeply.
Despite being lifeless bronze figures, the poses they adopted emitted an overwhelming pressure.
Each of the Eighteen Bronze Men took a stance representing Shaolin’s martial arts techniques. Only when the eighteen forms were executed together would the formation of the Eighteen Bronze Men be complete.
Lee Gwak asked Ma Duwon,
“Is the Eighteen Bronze Men formation broken?”
“No, as far as I’ve checked, it’s still functioning perfectly.”
“Would it be possible to see it in action?”
“Just… I’m curious. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
“Heh! You’re a martial artist after all, huh? Well, anyone would be curious to see such a thing. Alright! Normally, it’s not allowed, but I’ll make an exception and let you watch. Take a good look, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Ma Duwon shrugged his shoulders and activated the mechanism.
With the sound of gears turning, the bronze figures began to move. Rust fell from their joints, and their arms and legs swept through the air in a dizzying display.
The techniques were so intricate it seemed as if they were being executed by real people.
A hum of admiration involuntarily escaped Lee Gwak’s lips.
While Ma Duwon simply admired the intricate movements of the Eighteen Bronze Men, Lee Gwak was astounded by the formidable power of the formation they created.
‘What if I were in there?’
Lee Gwak envisioned himself being attacked by the Eighteen Bronze Men, his bones breaking and his muscles being crushed.
His palms were soaked with sweat.
Lee Gwak was so engrossed in the Eighteen Bronze Men formation that he couldn’t tear himself away.
Finally, when the Eighteen Bronze Men finished their sequence and simultaneously stepped into their final positions, the inside of the cavern resounded as if an earthquake had occurred. Only then did Lee Gwak snap out of his reverie and come back to his senses.
“What do you think? Impressive, isn’t it?”
Even as he responded, Lee Gwak couldn’t take his eyes off the Eighteen Bronze Men. It felt as if the moment he looked away, they would come to life and attack.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg. Mount Shaohua is full of such things.”
“The talents coming in this time are really lucky. Just experiencing the Steel Blood Hell Training Ground will drastically increase their martial arts achievements.”
“It really is enviable. Damn! If I had known this, I should have paid a bit more attention to martial arts rather than just mechanism engineering.”
Ma Duwon genuinely looked envious.
Every martial artist dreams of becoming stronger than others. The talents being brought here had essentially seized an opportunity to become much stronger than their peers.
It was an opportunity that any person in Jianghu would dream of. Ma Duwon envied the talents who had seized such a chance.
“If you’re done watching, let’s get back to work.”
Ma Duwon deactivated the mechanism that moved the Eighteen Bronze Men.
The Eighteen Bronze Men were indeed the epitome of mechanism engineering, intricately and precisely designed.
The innumerable gears interlocking flawlessly were too complex for Lee Gwak to fully comprehend.
What Ma Duwon wanted from Lee Gwak was not an understanding of the mechanisms but enough skill to assist him cleverly in maintaining them. And Lee Gwak, catching on quickly, assisted Ma Duwon and learned about the mechanisms one by one.
Time flew by quickly.
During that time, Lee Gwak followed Ma Duwon around, helping to repair the various mechanisms spread throughout Mount Shaohua.
Ma Duwon took quite a liking to Lee Gwak. His skill in work greatly assisted him, so Ma Duwon answered well whenever Lee Gwak was curious about something.
Thanks to this, Lee Gwak came to understand the general principles of the mechanisms. He even acquired the skill to dismantle simple mechanisms without anyone’s help.
Time passed quickly.
What was once a desolate Mount Shaohua quickly became well-maintained, and finally, everything was ready to welcome the talents.
On a winter day with heavy snow falling, new faces arrived at Mount Shaohua.
Boys and girls, still with a hint of immaturity about them.
They were the talents selected from all over Jianghu.
Thank you for reading!
- Eighteen Bronze Men. Raws: 십팔동인진(十八銅人陣).
- 十八 shíbā – eighteen
- 銅 tóng – copper
- 人 rén – people / person
- 陣 zhèn – disposition of troops / wave / spate / burst / spell / short period of time / classifier for events or states of short duration
If you wish to support my translations for Martial Artist Lee Gwak, you can head over to my Patreon, SW21 Translations. This is a Patreon account dedicated to Martial Artist Lee Gwak.
You can join for free to get notifications when a chapter is posted or become a member for $1 to show your support!