Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 100

February 15, 2024 • 11 min read • 304 views

Birds of a Feather Flock Together (4)

Novel-Martial Artist Lee Gwak

Cheol Dae-san’s gaze, after warning the people inside the inn, turned towards Lee Gwak standing behind Bang Ye-in.

“What are you?”

“Don’t make such a scary face. Thanks to this gentleman, I could comfortably come here.”

“Ah! So, you’re the lady’s benefactor?”

“Well, something like that. Despite appearances, He’s affiliated with the Outer Hall of the Jade Heaven Alliance.”

Bang Ye-in’s response eased Cheol Dae-san’s expression.

“Then I guess I can’t just send you away. Please, have a seat over here.”

His tone became soothing, which made Lee Gwak look rather perplexed.

“I am not Ye-in’s benefactor.”

“If the lady says you are her benefactor, then you surely are.”

Cheol Dae-san stated firmly.

Lee Gwak looked at Bang Ye-in pleadingly for help, but she only laughed and didn’t offer any assistance. Bang Ye-in sat down in the empty seat and said.

“Then, I shall taste Big Bear’s cooking after a long time”

“Please let me know if there’s anything specific you’d like to eat. This bear has really practiced hard recently.”

“Then, make me Twice-Cooked Pork. I’ve missed eating the Twice-Cooked Pork made by Big Bear for a long time.”

The Twice-Cooked Pork Was a dish made by boiling pork in large pieces, then slicing it appropriately and stir-frying it in oil. It was especially popular in hot regions due to its spicy seasoning.

Cheol Dae-san puffed out his breath and said,

“Twice-Cooked Pork? I’ll prepare it right away. Please wait a moment, miss! And you, guest, don’t go anywhere and just wait for a bit.”

Cheol Dae-san thumped his way back to the kitchen.

Soon after, the sound of meat being chopped could be heard from the kitchen.

Bang Ye-in then spoke to Lee Gwak,

“Don’t just stand there awkwardly, come and sit here.”

“Phew!”

“He may look fierce on the outside, but he’s actually very gentle and kind-hearted.”

“It seems so…”

“It’s true.”

“But how do you know this person?”

“Big Bear was taken in by my father when he became an orphan and roamed the world during his childhood. And my father taught him how to cook.”

The training at Bang Clan’s Inn was by no means easy. Their philosophy on food was extremely strict, to the point that even the most renowned chefs in the world would throw in the towel.

The formal training at the Bang Clan’s Inn wasn’t limited to just cooking. It also required learning martial arts necessary for cooking. Therefore, while many learned a few dishes, very few completed the martial arts training to finish their formal education.

It was no easy feat for young Cheol Dae-san to endure such training. He cried a lot and despaired countless times.

It was Bang Ye-in who gave him courage during those times and helped him in ways he didn’t even realize. Thanks to her, Cheol Dae-san was able to complete his training safely and considered Bang Ye-in a benefactor for life.

Cheol Dae-san, after wandering the world, eventually settled in this place, the Siege Fortress. Initially, there were many who, not knowing any better, picked fights with him, but he coolly suppressed them with the martial arts he had learned at the Bang Clan’s Inn.

Lee Gwak chuckled.

He had come along worried about Bang Ye-in, but seeing Iron Butcher Cheol Dae-San made him realize his worries were unnecessary.

“I’m looking forward to how much the cooking has improved.”

Bang Ye-in rubbed her hands together and licked her lips in anticipation. Her eyes shone brighter than ever.

She was happiest when eating delicious food. She enjoyed making her own dishes, but she also loved eating food prepared by others.

Shortly after, Cheol Dae-san came out with a tray containing Twice-Cooked Pork, and she clapped her hands in delight.

“Wow! The smell is incredible. Big Bear, you must have practiced really hard since then.”

“Hehe!”

Cheol Dae-san smiled proudly at Bang Ye-in’s praise.

Having her recognize his skill was the greatest joy for him.

Though the world didn’t know yet, Iron Butcher Cheol Dae-San was well aware of her exceptional taste. Even her father, the current owner of Bang Clan’s Inn and considered the best chef in the world, couldn’t match her.

Bang Ye-in savored the aroma of the Twice-Cooked Pork before taking a bite with her chopsticks.

Her eyes widened in surprise.

“Wow! It’s really delicious. The best!”

At Bang Ye-in’s high praise, Cheol Dae-san beamed with a broad smile. Suddenly, he stood up and exclaimed,

“It’s on the house today. Everyone, eat your fill, you bastards!”

“Wow!”

The guests cheered at Cheol Dae-san’s unexpected declaration, and the atmosphere inside the inn heated up.

“Isn’t this too much?”

“Not at all, miss! I’ve made a lot of money recently.”

Cheol Dae-san joked for a moment, then turned his attention to Lee Gwak.

“Eat a lot, brother. If you’re a benefactor to our miss, you’re a benefactor to me as well. Feel free to come by anytime.”

“Thank you.”

Lee Gwak tasted the Twice-Cooked pork with his chopsticks.

The juice exploded in his mouth, filled with a deep flavor. It was the first time he had tasted such a delicious meat dish, and he unwittingly widened his eyes.

After a moment of contented smiling, Cheol Dae-san lowered his voice and said,

“You’re a martial artist from the outer hall of the Jade Heaven Alliance?”

“That’s correct.”

“Listen well to what I’m about to say. It would be best not to go outside for a while. Even if you’re assigned a mission outside, make up an excuse and pass it on to someone else.”

As Cheol Dae-san’s expression grew serious, Lee Gwak put down his chopsticks and asked,

“Is something wrong?”

“The Celestial Demon Troupe must be quite desperate by now.”

“Assassination?”

“Yes. Some of their key figures were assassinated recently.”

“They’ll surely seek revenge, whether through a direct confrontation or assassination. So, it’s best to stay indoors as much as possible.”

“Will I be safe here?”

“Probably not? It’s just relatively better, not safe. But it’s still better than going outside and meeting a terrible end.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

Lee Gwak nodded.

Cheol Dae-san continued to inform him about the Siege Fortress, detailing what to be cautious of and what dangers lurked.

It was invaluable information that money couldn’t buy.

Lee Gwak committed everything Cheol Dae-san said to memory. It wasn’t just about him; his comrades were here too. For their sake, he had to remember.

“I should be going now.”

After finishing the dish, Lee Gwak stood up to leave.

“Take care, Ahjussi! See you next time.”

“Be careful on your way.”

After bowing to them, Lee Gwak left the inn.

As he disappeared, Cheol Dae-san’s expression changed.

“I’m surprised, miss.”

“What about?”

“I didn’t expect you to travel with someone so ordinary.”

“Does he seem ordinary to you?”

“Ah… Isn’t he?”

“You’ve grown quite dull, Big Bear.”

Cheol Dae-san’s eyes wavered at Bang Ye-in’s words.

Among all the people Cheol Dae-San knew, Bang Ye-In was the most accurate at judging others. Since she was young, she had an almost magical ability to see people’s true nature.
So much so that he once wondered if she possessed some mystical power.

“His… eyes.”

“Yes?”

“They didn’t waver at all.”

Even when faced with the subtle menace of Sky High Castle’s young master, So Gun-myeong, Lee Gwak’s eyes did not waver.

A person with such eyes and resolve could not be ordinary.

Bang Ye-in mumbled to herself while looking out the window.

“Times of turmoil always give rise to unexpected heroes. Will he become a hero? Or will he be forgotten like so many others, an unnamed warrior?”

****

After leaving the Westwind Inn, Lee Gwak walked on in silence, his mind a whirl of thoughts.

He let his feet take him wherever they led, and after a while, he found himself in an unfamiliar scene.

It was a spacious clearing. But scattered throughout the clearing were martial artists sitting or lying down, each radiating a distinct presence.

Some openly exuded a fierce aura, others lay down as if everything was bothersome, closing their eyes, and some watched newcomers with sharp gazes.

Despite seeming entirely unrelated at first glance, they shared a commonality: an untamed, raw vibe that permeated the air.

It was as if a pack of wolves had been let loose in the clearing.

While the martial artists from the Jade Heaven Alliance or the Ten Sects had a rough but somewhat orderly vibe, these individuals showed none of that.

At that moment, Lee Gwak recalled what Cheol Dae-san had told him.

“There’s a Vagrant Market here. Literally a market for hiring vagrants.”

Hiring Vagrant wasn’t something extraordinary. Among the wanderers without a fixed abode across the lands, there were those skilled in martial arts who sold their services for a meager sum of money. For those hiring, there was little risk involved since it wouldn’t matter much if the Vagrants died, and it didn’t cost much either. Hen novel

As the war with the Celestial Demon Troupe escalated, vagrants drawn by the scent of money flocked to the frontlines. Initially scattered across various fronts, the Siege Fortress led them to converge here, forming the large market seen today.

Vagrant Market.

A place where one could always find those willing to sell their martial prowess for a few coins.
Jade Heaven Alliance also resorted to hiring personnel from this place as needed.

Most likely, those remaining were either free after completing their assignments or were too weak to be sold.

“What’s this? Are you here to hire some vagrants?”

A few of the vagrants approached Lee Gwak, their gazes fierce, suggesting they’ve led rugged lives. They surrounded him as if encircling prey.

Lee Gwak shook his head quietly.

“No.”

“Then why are you loitering around here causing trouble? Pfft! Just hire us, why don’t you? You seem to be with the Jade Heaven Alliance, we can ensure your safety. Hehe!”

They proposed a deal to Lee Gwak, which was more of a threat than an offer.

Mad Blood Trio

Vagrants known in the vagrant market for their particularly bad quality. They were infamous for ignoring their clients’ requests or abandoning their missions after taking the money, making them undesirable even within the vagrant market.

They looked at Lee Gwak like wolves eyeing their prey, immediately recognizing him as a newcomer.

The vagrants watched the Mad Blood Trio with keen interest.

They suspected Lee Gwak belonged to the Jade Heaven Alliance, given his unfamiliar face and the fact that martial artists from the alliance had just arrived today.

Killing a martial artist of the Jade Heaven Alliance was out of the question. Doing so would surely lead to the downfall of the Vagrant Market, even with its notoriety. Hen novel

But they could still toy with him.

Jang Gwang, who oversaw the place, allowed such behavior. He didn’t care what happened to the lower-ranked martial artists, and the vagrants in the market knew this from long experience.

Thus, the Mad Blood Trio brazenly picked a fight with Lee Gwak.

It was a kind of initiation.

Living a life without fear of tomorrow, they had nothing to lose.

“Just hand over ten silver coins. We’ll protect you while you’re here so you don’t lose your life. How about it? It’s a great deal. Probably no one else here can protect you for such a cheap price. Hehe!”

The leader of the Mad Blood Trio, Gu Jang-saeng, grinned, showing his yellow teeth, and his foul breath hit Lee Gwak’s nose.

Thinking Lee Gwak’s grimace was out of fear, Gu Jang-saeng boldly reached into Lee Gwak’s clothing to find his purse.

“Let’s all live well together. Hehe!”

“You better take your hand out.”

“Oh? Even he knows how to make a face. This brat!”

Despite Lee Gwak’s warning, Gu Jang-saeng didn’t withdraw his hand. Instead, he brazenly searched Lee Gwak’s clothing. Hen novel

Watching this, the other members of the Mad Blood Trio laughed mockingly, and the vagrants looked on with interest.

Lee Gwak closed his eyes for a moment.

Some dream of romance in the jianghu, believing in propriety and that there are those who perform righteous deeds somewhere.

But the jianghu Lee Gwak experienced was different.

A place where the powerless are ignored.

A lawless land where, no matter the injustice, there’s nowhere to turn.

That was Lee Gwak’s jianghu.

Show weakness once, and you’re relentlessly bullied, a wild land where the dogs of society look down on you.

“That hand…”

“This Bastard!”

The moment Gu Jang-saeng’s eyes narrowed, Lee Gwak’s calm voice followed.

“I told you to take it out.”

Crack!