Chapter 23: Where the Sun Shines, the Shadows Fall (2)
Light Novel: Volume 1 Chapter 23
Manhwa: Chapters 25-26
Episode 8. Where the Sun Shines, the Shadows Fall (2)
They were the most prominent members of their respective factions. Chosen for their innate abilities rather than the reputation of their sects, they stood out on their own merits.
Each one was either strikingly handsome or had a sparkle of cleverness in their eyes. Their lively faces seemed to shine with light.
The sight of hundreds of brilliant talents gathered in one place was a spectacle to behold in and of itself.
“Is this where we will be living from today on?”
“Was there such a place in Jianghu?”
Their reactions varied.
Some had expressions filled with anticipation, while others seemed somewhat intimidated.
The former seemed to already have some inkling of what this place was, while the latter appeared to have come without any knowledge. One could guess their status just by looking at their expressions.
Lee Gwak quietly observed these promising talents.
Though they were evaluated as the future leaders of Jianghu, they were still just fledglings.
“Really lucky youngsters. To be able to learn martial arts here in Mount Shaohua.”
“I’m jealous! So jealous! If I were just a bit younger, I could have trained here too.”
“You? Forget it! With your talent, you wouldn’t be able to get in here even if you were reborn. Keke!”
“How would you know, brother? I also have some talent. It’s just that I had the misfortune of having the wrong parents. Hehe!”
Seok Yi-cheon and Gok Chae-bong chuckled together.
Their faces were filled with envy.
They had spent the last few months doing all sorts of menial tasks here. They had built lodgings for the talents and repaired damaged facilities. As a result, their hands were full of blisters and calluses.
After all their hard work repairing the Steel Blood Hell Training Ground, they wouldn’t actually be using it themselves. The efforts they had put in over the past few months were for the talents who had just entered.
The sweat and blood they had shed would become the stepping stones for the talents to soar to greater heights— heights they could never reach.
The instructors to train these talents had arrived a month ago. They had thoroughly assessed the trap mechanisms and obstacles laid out in the Steel Blood Hell Training Ground and found the best combinations to train the talents.
Therefore, the warriors from Creation Pavilion and Lee Gwak had to accompany the instructors, explaining in detail the mechanisms they had repaired.
The instructors weren’t curious about the principles of the mechanisms. They only cared about how the mechanisms operated and their power. Nothing else was of concern to them.
Lee Gwak let out a soft sigh from the back of the crowd.
He was worn out from guiding the instructors through the mechanisms. Just when he thought he could rest, the new talents arrived, which meant that he would not be able to rest for a while.
Lee Gwak watched the talents with deeply sunken eyes.
Their backgrounds were all different, but the fact that they were chosen cannot be changed.
From the start, they were on a different starting line than him. Like Seok Yi-cheon and Gok Chae-bong, Lee Gwak also envied those talents.
‘No, there’s nothing to envy. I will become strong in my own way.’
Lee Gwak shook his head.
Although the pace may be slow, Lee Gwak himself was changing little by little every day. His progress in the Eight Snakes Art and Eight Sects Sword Art was slow, but his mastery of the meteor hammer was improving day by day.
The Eight Sects Sword Art and the meteor hammer techniques would become like a wolf’s teeth and claws to him. By honing them sharper and stronger, he would be able to step out into Jianghu alone someday.
Until then, he would hone himself within the confines of the Jade Heaven Alliance.
That’s what Lee Gwak vowed to do.
Suddenly, Lee Gwak’s eyes flickered. He spotted a familiar face among the many new talents.
The small girl with an expression as stiff as a startled kitten was undoubtedly Han Socheon.
Her eyes were not filled with fear, but they were cold as ice, filled with wariness.
Han Socheon had not noticed Lee Gwak’s presence yet.
Ever since Lee Gwak received the previous Yoga Secret Manual, which was now the Eight Snakes Art, from Han Socheon, she had not visited even once.
Lee Gwak had thought she was doing well, but unexpectedly, he encountered her here.
Seeing her again after almost two years, Han Socheon’s face was barely recognizable.
The ice-cold expression and gaze, the well-trained body, and the small wounds visible over her clenched fists— nothing about her seemed to reflect an ordinary life.
‘What on earth?’
Just as Lee Gwak was pondering what kind of life she was having–
A voice laden with powerful internal energy echoed through the area.
Instantly, the talents who had been chatting among themselves closed their mouths and looked at the stage with tense eyes.
A masked man had already taken to the stage. The man exuded such an overwhelming presence that it dominated the entire area.
Although it was impossible to see the man’s true identity through the mask, it was clear that the man was of extraordinary prowess.
With everyone’s attention focused on him, the man introduced himself,
“I am the Head Instructor of the Steel Blood Hell Training Ground. From now on, you will address me as Head Instructor. Here, your status or position in Jianghu does not matter. I will train you harshly, and all you need to do is follow. No dissent or resistance will be tolerated. If you dislike this, you may walk out right now. This is the only moment you can reverse your decision. Choose now. To stay, or to leave.”
No one countered the Head Instructor’s words, nor did anyone leave.
The overwhelming atmosphere and pressure that filled the place kept the talents from raising any objections.
The mask of the Head Instructor showed a slight movement. To Lee Gwak’s eyes, it seemed as if he was smiling.
Behind him, about ten men ascended the stage and lined up.
Like the Head Instructor, the men wore masks. But their masks had small numbers written on them, from one to ten.
The mere presence of the Head Instructor was intimidating enough, but with the addition of ten other instructors of equal standing, the talents felt as if the air was being squeezed out of them.
“These are the instructors who will teach alongside me. You will refer to them by the numbers on their masks, like First Instructor, Second Instructor, and so on. All you need to do is follow their lead.”
It was then.
“I have a question.”
One of the talents bravely raised his hand.
For a moment, a gleam flashed in the eyes of the Head Instructor.
“Who might you be?”
“I am So Geum-jin from the Ash Spirit Sword Sect.”1
A faint smile tugged at the corners of the talent’s mouth as he answered.
His sect, the Ash Spirit Sword Sect, was quite renowned in the north. So Geum-jin was a well-regarded talent within his sect and had great pride in himself. Hence, he daringly interrupted the Head Instructor.
The glint in the Head Instructor’s eyes intensified.
“Very well! Speak, So Geum-jin. What is your question?”
“Why are all of you wearing masks? Only Orthodox martial artists are gathered here, so why conceal your identity with a mask? If there’s nothing to hide, why the need for a mask?”
“You want to know why?”
So Geum-jin raised his voice as he replied.
At that moment, some of the talents around him nodded, seemingly in agreement with So Geum-jin’s stance.
Suddenly, a scream sounded, and So Geum-jin tumbled to the ground. The First Instructor, who had been standing behind the Head Instructor, had swiftly moved and struck So Geum-jin.
Taken aback by the sudden attack, So Geum-jin bent over like a shrimp, vomiting out everything in his stomach.
Looking up at the First Instructor with eyes filled with terror, So Geum-jin asked,
In response to his question, the First Instructor began to launch a horrific assault. Like hammering down on a pig, the First Instructor pummeled So Geum-jin’s body mercilessly.
His face started to cave in, and blood splattered in all directions. Periodically, So Geum-jin’s body would jerk up into the air.
Nearby talents tried to intervene with the First Instructor. However, the other instructors had already formed a human barrier between them and the First Instructor.
Overwhelmed by the instructors’ presence, the talents could do nothing but gulp down their saliva, unable to take any action.
It was then that the Head Instructor approached So Geum-jin.
The talents parted to either side, suppressed by the Head Instructor’s presence. They looked at the Head Instructor with eyes filled with fear.
The Head Instructor knelt on one knee, looking at the nearly unconscious So Geum-jin.
“You’re curious as to why we’re wearing a mask?”
So Geum-jin, of course, couldn’t respond, having lost consciousness. Nonetheless, the Head Instructor continued to speak.
“Because of this. We can kill you at any time. The masks we wear symbolize how we have cut ties with humanity. So don’t expect any mercy or fair treatment.”
The Head Instructor lightly tapped So Geum-jin’s cheek. Still, So Geum-jin didn’t regain consciousness. Only then did the Head Instructor stand up and look around.
Those who made eye contact with him quickly bowed their heads. The Head Instructor’s gaze was too intimidating for the young talents to bear.
“No matter how many of you die here, or who else dies, it won’t matter at all to the outside world, which means that your status in the outside world doesn’t matter here at all. This mask is a sort of impunity, indicating that we won’t be held accountable even if we kill you.”
The talents trembled.
They finally understood the meaning behind the masks the instructors wore and realized the terrifying place they had entered.
Even if the instructors whimsically killed any of the talents because they took a dislike to them, no one outside could question it due to the anonymity.
“Don’t expect mercy here. We will push you to your limits, and it will be up to you to survive. One thing is for sure, if you make it through the Steel Blood Hell Training ground, you will be stronger by leaps and bounds, and you will be rewarded accordingly. Do you understand?”
The talents answered in unison.
Only then did a satisfied expression appear on the Head Instructor’s face.
“Since today is the first day, we will assign your lodgings. Follow them to your respective lodgings.”
The Head Instructor gestured towards the warriors of the Outer Hall standing behind the stage. Only then did the talents’ gaze turn towards the warriors of the Outer Hall.
A spark of recognition flickered in Han Socheon’s eyes.
Among the warriors of the Outer Hall, she saw a familiar face. It was Lee Gwak.
Although she did not know why Lee Gwak was here, the mere fact that someone she knew was present somewhat calmed the fear she had felt.
‘Can I really walk there?’
Han Socheon thought it fortunate but did not show her emotions.
One of the things she had learned over the years was that she should never reveal her true feelings.
In the past two years, she has experienced many things.
Just as Lee Gwak had warned, the Jade Heaven Alliance was a dangerous place. Here, one wrong word or action could lead to death— as in the case of So Geum-jin, who was left in a near-death state for speaking out of turn.
She had learned to conserve her words and hide her emotions. Thus, Han Socheon maintained an expressionless face. She did not acknowledge knowing Lee Gwak.
Lee Gwak approached the group she belonged to.
Bowing his head, he said,
“Those in this group, please follow me.”
The talents nodded, looking uncomfortable.
Their attention was still on the instructors and the unconscious So Geum-jin, and not a single one looked at Lee Gwak.
Lee Gwak led them away. The lodgings assigned to Lee Gwak’s group were a bit further in, requiring a longer walk.
Han Socheon, along with the other group members, followed Lee Gwak in silence, warily observing their surroundings. Their unease in this unfamiliar environment was palpable.
Lee Gwak glanced at them from the corner of his eye and caught Han Socheon’s gaze. She gave a faint nod. Lee Gwak responded with a slight smile.
Soon after, they arrived at the lodgings.
“This is the place.”
The members of the group murmured.
The high walls surrounding the lodgings were reminiscent of a prison.
“We have to stay here?”
“It’s insane. It seems freedom doesn’t exist here at all.”
They muttered their complaints in low voices.
Lee Gwak then said to them,
“I will take my leave now then.”
One of the group members called out to Lee Gwak.
“What is it?”
“Who do we talk to if we need something?”
“You can talk to me, for now.”
“To you? So, you are in charge of us?”
“Not really, but I’ve been ordered to make things easier for you for the time being.”
“Is that so?”
The group member scrutinized Lee Gwak with a displeased look.
Lee Gwak knew what that gaze meant.
It was filled with contempt, disregard, or perhaps mockery.
They were the chosen ones, and Lee Gwak was nothing more than an errand boy, someone to do their bidding.
They felt reassured and superior knowing someone was there to serve them.
Though it might have been offensive to some, Lee Gwak calmly accepted the superior gaze of the talents.
Thank you for reading!
- Ash Spirit Sword Sect. Raws: 회령검문(灰靈劍門). This was translated as Hwa Ryeong Sword Clan.
- 灰 huī – ash / dust / lime / gray / discouraged; dejected
- 靈 líng – quick / alert / efficacious / effective / to come true / spirit / departed soul / coffin
- 劍 jiàn – double-edged sword
- 門 mén – gate / door
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!