Chapter 26: Some Go, Some Stay… (1)
Light Novel: Volume 2 Chapter 1
Manhwa: Chapter 29
Episode 1. Some Go, Some Stay… (1)
A man walked through the cave, where night pearls embedded in the ceiling gave off a faint glow.
His stride was as impressive as his height, which was a head taller than an average person.
Beneath the brown cloth tightly tied around his hair, a smooth forehead and thick eyebrows were firmly in place. His eyes were clear and deep, and the jawline, beneath his firmly closed lips, was sharp.
He was Lee Gwak.
Three years had hardened what had seemed his somewhat frail countenance.
Lee Gwak looked around the cave with clear eyes.
On the floor lay dozens of spears broken in half, scattered about in disarray.
Lee Gwak picked up a severed spear handle and examined the cut surface. The section glistened like glass.
After a moment’s inspection, Lee Gwak continued deeper into the cave.
A little further in, a larger space appeared.
On the floor of the spacious area, someone’s deep footprints were embedded.
Lee Gwak got down on one knee and examined the dizzying array of tracks on the floor.
As he checked the depth of the tracks with his hand, a small smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.
Lee Gwak stood up, stretching his back.
This was the place where a formation had been deployed.
The formation was called the Nine Heavens Illusionary Shadow Labyrinth Formation,1 and it was designed to disrupt the human senses, preventing them from making proper judgments.
To pass through the Nine Heavens Illusionary Shadow Labyrinth Formation, one needed not only a deep understanding of formations but also excellent intuition and instantaneous judgment. Only then could one find the ever-changing escape routes.
The footprints on the floor indicated that someone had successfully passed through the Nine Heavens Illusionary Shadow Labyrinth Formation.
What was particularly encouraging was that none of the objects making up the martial formation were damaged. It meant the owner of the footprints understood the Nine Heavens Illusionary Shadow Labyrinth Formation perfectly and used the correct method to break through.
Lee Gwak observed the footprints and muttered,
“It seems they’ve mastered the Nine Movement Flash Step.”2
This movement technique, which involves attacking the enemy by splitting into nine paths in the blink of an eye, was a profound skill that only a very few of the talents who entered Mount Shaohua had learned.
The owner of these footprints possessed an awe-inspiring talent.
Lee Gwak couldn’t help but inwardly admire as he moved on.
As he walked further inside, he came upon a golden puppet in a horrible state of disrepair. The sight of the puppets, broken and cracked, beyond recognition from their original forms, was an unsettling sight to behold.
A soft sigh squeezed through Lee Gwak’s lips.
“They’ve completely destroyed it. Hoo!”
It was his job to fix the broken puppets. But unlike his sigh, a faint smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.
The puppets were remnants of the Asura Blood Soul Trial.3
It was a deadly gateway where martial formations, trap mechanisms, and intricate puppets came together as one.
It was known as the most dangerous and terrifying gateway within the Steel Blood Hell Training Ground.
Hundreds of talents had challenged the Asura Blood Soul Trial, but less than ten had passed it perfectly.
The rest were not even qualified to challenge it, let alone pass through it.
Lee Gwak walked past the remains of the puppets.
It was as if a wall bomb had exploded inside the cave.
Everything as far as the eye could see was devastatingly destroyed. The traces of destruction extended to the very end of the cave.
Today, another talent had passed through the Asura Blood Soul Trial. And Lee Gwak had come here to assess the extent of the damage.
Lee Gwak thought it would take at least five days to completely repair the Asura Blood Soul Trial. However, to Lee Gwak, the duration of the repair was not so important.
Coming here under the pretense of assessing the damage was just an excuse. It wasn’t the real reason he was here.
At the end of the Asura Blood Soul Trial, Lee Gwak finally stopped walking.
At the end of all gateways, a black figure could be seen panting heavily.
The figure, who used a chipped and broken sword as a support, was clearly a woman.
Disheveled hair covered her face, and numerous wounds were visible through the torn fabric of her clothes. The blood flowing from her wounds had stained her black martial uniform red.
Among her wounds, the most critical one was the slash across her back. The wound cut diagonally across her back, deep enough to expose the hollow bone.
The smile on Lee Gwak’s face vanished.
Only then did the woman lift her head.
Her eyes, framed by strikingly dark and thick eyebrows, were striking. Even though she was covered in blood, her beauty, cold like an ice flower, could not be concealed.
The woman was Han Socheon.
Three years had transformed her from a girl into a woman.
Despite what must have been excruciating pain, she did not grimace once and looked straight at Lee Gwak. Lee Gwak hurried over to her.
“Why did you come?”
“Your wounds are severe.”
“You’re not fine.”
Lee Gwak moved to Han Socheon’s back.
Through the tattered fabric of her clothing, numerous wounds were visible. Among them, the diagonal gash on her back was the most serious.
The injury was perilously close to the nerves on her back, and without timely treatment, it could lead to serious aftereffects.
“Just bear with it a little longer!”
Lee Gwak tore the back of her clothing open with a rip.
One would expect her to be shocked, but Han Socheon kept her expression unchanged, only looking forward.
Lee Gwak pressed a pressure point on her back with his right index finger to stop the bleeding. The blood that had been flowing gradually ceased.
Once the bleeding stopped, Lee Gwak took out a small jade box from his possession. He quickly opened it, revealing a black ointment which was a healing salve good for external injuries.
Lee Gwak carefully applied the ointment to Han Socheon’s wounds. As his fingers touched her skin, her eyelids fluttered slightly.
Despite the pain, she did not make a sound. She only kept looking straight ahead.
Lee Gwak applied the healing salve meticulously and gently, trying not to cause more pain, but it was impossible to prevent every discomfort.
Han Socheon’s injuries were grave.
Had her internal energy been even slightly weaker, or her body not been extremely trained, it wouldn’t have come as a surprise if she died instantly.
A look of pity crossed Lee Gwak’s face.
If one were to name the talent who had made the most progress over the past three years, it would undoubtedly be Han Socheon. When she first came here, her achievements were not particularly high. But she had an indomitable will and a relentless nature.
In the midst of so many competitors, she had shown outstanding presence. She had challenged the Steel Blood Hell Training Ground countless times, continuously getting knocked down and injured in the process. Yet, she always got back up and faced the challenge again.
The instructors had taken notice of Han Socheon.
All sorts of elixirs and secrets were passed on to her, allowing her to achieve rapid growth. However, as a consequence, she suffered numerous wounds, and each time, Lee Gwak was there to apply healing salve like this.
Lee Gwak sighed as he finished.
After putting the healing salve away, he removed his outer garment and draped it over her back.
Only then did Han Socheon open her tightly closed mouth.
“Thank you, big brother.”
“This is just first aid. Make sure you see a doctor and get proper treatment.”
No need! This is enough for me.”
“I’ve finally passed through the Asura Blood Soul Trial.”
“Now it’s over. These tiring days as well.”
Han Socheon bit her red lips firmly. Lee Gwak just watched her in silence.
Han Socheon turned around, clutching onto the garment that Lee Gwak had draped over her. Her figure looked both beautiful and desperate.
“You’ve had a hard time. You’ll be going down soon.”
“Yes, I’m listening.”
“You knew, didn’t you?”
“That I killed someone before I came in here.”
Lee Gwak answered honestly. At this, Han Socheon smiled sadly.
“So you knew, but why didn’t you ask?”
“Because I’m sure you had a good reason for it.”
Han Socheon’s eyes wavered at Lee Gwak’s calm response.
It had been more than three years since she had come to Mount Shaohua. Throughout that time, Lee Gwak had become her emotional support. Without him, she would not have been able to last this long in the mountain.
Lee Gwak was the only person she could trust in this world.
After looking at Lee Gwak for a moment, Han Socheon spoke with difficulty,
“They… ordered me to do it. They said they wanted to see my resolve.”
“The resolve to become a sword for them.”
Lee Gwak’s expression hardened for a moment. With her gaze still fixed on Lee Gwak’s face, Han Socheon continued,
“They said it was a prisoner of the Celestial Demon Union. Killing them was the test. So, we killed them and then, we were brought here.”
“Now that I’ve passed through all the gates, they will come to take me back again. Today might be the last day I see you here.”
“Thank you, brother. It’s because you were here that I could stay strong.”
Contrary to her determined expression, Han Socheon’s voice was calm.
She had always been like that.
She hadn’t smiled once since she’d arrived, and she hadn’t shown her emotions outwardly. The only time she had somewhat showed a hint of emotion was when she met Lee Gwak like this.
Among the talents, Han Socheon was known as the Ice Witch.4
She was as cold as ice, and showed no mercy like a witch. It was to such an extent that even other talents feared and shunned her.
Even Geum Shi-woo, who had provoked her on her first day, now avoided her as much as possible.
“Do you know where you are going?”
“I do, but I can’t tell you. I’ve sworn to secrecy.”
Not all talents who passed through the Steel Blood Hell Training Ground were assigned to the same place. The organization they were placed in depended on their performance, temperament, and the martial arts they had learned.
“What is it?”
“When I have completed my mission and return, I wish you would still be in the Jade Heaven Alliance.”
“I will be so lonely if there is no one I know there.”
“I’m sorry for making such a selfish request.”
“Will you do it?”
At Lee Gwak’s response, Han Socheon bit her lip tightly. Her eyes were filled with regret.
This time, Lee Gwak was the first to speak.
“I’ll try not to.”
“I wish you would say you’ll do your best.”
“I will do my best!”
“That’s all I needed.”
Lee Gwak nodded.
Han Socheon smiled faintly.
Lee Gwak helped Han Socheon out of the Asura Blood Soul Trial.
The news of Han Socheon’s passage through the Asura Blood Soul Trial immediately reached the ears of the higher-ups. She was now the ninth talent to have passed through the entire Steel Blood Hell Training Ground.
A few days later, an unfamiliar warrior arrived at the red pavilion where the instructors were gathered.
He was a middle-aged man, as skinny as bamboo. His eyes were as emotionless as a viper’s, and his skin was as pale as if he had never seen sunlight in his life.
His weapon was a thin sword like an iron skewer.
The Head Instructor recognized the man’s identity at a glance and said,
“I didn’t expect you to be the one to take Han Socheon, Geuk-jin.”
“That child was assigned to our Hidden Blood Battalion from the beginning.”
“I hope you put her to good use.”
The man smiled vaguely.
The Head Instructor frowned as he looked at the man.
The man’s name was Chul Geuk-jin. Of all the people the Head Instructor knew, he was the most dangerous. Naturally, the missions he was assigned to were also extremely perilous.
‘To send the best talent to such an assassin.’
The Head Instructor inwardly clicked his tongue but did not show it.
It was the fate of the talents who came to Mount Shaohua to be placed according to their usefulness.
The Head Instructor gestured, and the First Instructor entered the room with Han Socheon.
Chul Geok-jin’s gaze turned to Han Socheon.
“It’s been a long time.”
“I’m glad to see you looking well. I have a lot of work for you to do. Let’s go!”
“Yes, my lord.”
Han Socheon replied briefly.
Apparently pleased with her succinct answer, Chul Geok-jin smiled wryly.
He led Han Socheon outside.
Outside, a carriage was waiting to take her away.
Chul Gyeok-jin climbed into the carriage first, followed by Han Socheon.
Just before the carriage door closed, Han Socheon turned her head to look back at the mountain peak.
It was then she heard Chul Gyeok-jin’s cold voice.
“Is there something wrong?”
With Han Socheon’s brief reply, the carriage door closed. The carriage carrying her began to descend Mount Shaohua at a fast pace.
Thank you for reading!
- Nine Heavens Illusionary Shadow Labyrinth Formation. Raws: 구천현음미로진(九天眩陰迷路陣).
- 九天 jiǔtiān – ninth heaven; the highest of the heavens
- 眩 xuàn – dazzling / brilliant
- 陰 yīn – overcast (weather) / cloudy / shady / Yin (the negative principle of Yin and Yang)
- 迷路 mílù – to lose the way / lost / labyrinth
- 陣 zhèn – disposition of troops / wave / spate / burst / spell / short period of time / classifier for events or states of short duration
- Nine Movement Flash Step. Raws: 섬광구류보(閃光九流步).
- 閃 shǎn – flash, avoid, dodge, evade
- 光guāng – light, brilliant, shine
- 九 jiǔ – nine
- 流 liú – flow, circulate, drift
- 步 bù – a step, pace, walk, march
- Asura Blood Soul Trial. Raws: 수라혈혼관(修羅血魂關).
- 修羅 xiūluó – Asura
- 血 xuè – blood
- 魂 hún – soul / spirit
- 關 guān – mountain pass / to close; to shut; to turn off
- Ice Witch. Raws: 빙마녀(氷魔女).
- 氷 bīng – ice
- 魔女 mónǚ – witch / sorceress / enchantress
- Hidden Blood Battalion. Raws: 암혈대(暗血隊).
- 暗 àn – dark / to turn dark / secret; hidden / (literary) confused; ignorant
- 血 xuè – blood
- 隊 duì – squad / team / group
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