Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 153

May 23, 2024 • 12 min read • 213 views

Martial Artist Lee Gwak Novel

It’s Natural to Repay a Favor (3)

Lee Gwak, like a deeply rooted tree, did not move a single step and countered all of Dam Il-cheon’s attacks.

“How little must you think of me…”

Dam Il-cheon clenched his teeth so hard they could bleed.

Seeing this, Lee Gwak inwardly sighed.

He had hoped that Dam Il-cheon would recognize his own shortcomings and retreat, but it seemed he had only provoked his opponent’s fighting spirit more.

‘Is nothing ever simple?’

Lee Gwak’s gaze hardened.

He did not wish for the situation to escalate further.

Although he had been forced to intervene in the battle, he did not wish to become an enemy of the Nine Shadows Fleet if he could help it. Judging by Dam Il-cheon’s reaction, however, a peaceful resolution seemed unlikely.

Lee Gwak tightened his grip on the iron rod.

Whoom!

The blunt iron rod let out a cry.

Seeing this, Dam Il-cheon shouted.

“Are you finally ready to fight for real?”

Dam Il-cheon raised his internal energy to its limit, and a distinct sword qi emanated from his sword.

Swoosh!

As Dam Il-cheon swung his sword, the sword qi flew towards Lee Gwak.

It was flying sword qi.

It was his own unique martial art that used sword qi to attack from a distance.

The crescent-shaped sword qi came hurtling with terrifying force.

At that moment, Lee Gwak moved.

Clang!

The sword Qi bounced off the rod he swung. Lee Gwak then stomped on the deck.

His form surged forward with terrifying speed. By the time Dam Il-cheon realized it, Lee Gwak had already closed the distance between them.

“Argh!”

Dam Il-cheon hurriedly tried to perform a life-saving technique. But at that moment, Lee Gwak’s iron rod overpowered his sword.

The weight of the rod pinned the sword down onto the deck. Dam Il-cheon quickly tried to gather his energy to pull out his sword, but Lee Gwak’s iron staff was pressing down with the weight of a thousand boulders, immobilizing it.

Crack!

Unable to withstand the weight, Dam Il-cheon’s sword split in two.

“What?”

Dam Il-cheon’s pupils dilated in shock. In his retinas flashed Lee Gwak’s knee.

Bang!

“Argh!”

Lee Gwak’s knee smashed into him, causing his head to bounce back like it was going to break.

Even as his consciousness faded, Dam Il-cheon dispersed his internal energy, a move honed by relentless training. But Lee Gwak easily brushed aside Dam Il-cheon’s life-saving technique.

Thump!

Lee Gwak’s rod struck Dam Il-cheon’s solar plexus.

“Argh!”

With a scream, Dam Il-cheon was sent flying backward.

“Leader!”

“This can’t be happening!”

The pirates, who had been merely spectators until now, were shocked by the unexpected outcome and rushed towards Dam Il-cheon.

“Are you alright?”

“Leader!”

They tried to help Dam Il-cheon to his feet, but he pushed them away.

“Get back!”

He attempted several times to stand on his own, but his internal organs were so shaken that he couldn’t muster the strength in his arms and legs, and he collapsed.

Dam Il-cheon stared at Lee Gwak with bloodshot eyes. The sight of him, his veins bulging to his forehead, was so terrifying that one would fear to see it even in a nightmare, but Lee Gwak looked back at him with an unfazed expression.

Such an appearance from Lee Gwak made Dam Il-cheon feel even more miserable.

“You! Dare to mock me? Me…”

Overcome with anger, Dam Il-cheon lost consciousness.

Lee Gwak silently observed Dam Il-cheon for a moment. He had neither mocked nor underestimated him.

Instead, Lee Gwak had admired Dam Il-cheon’s martial prowess.

Despite leading a group of pirates like the Nine Shadows Fleet, there was nothing about his martial arts that suggested he was from the demonic path. Instead, it smelled of being properly trained in a reputable school.

This puzzled Lee Gwak. The fact that someone who had learnt martial arts at a prestigious school was leading the Nine Shadows Fleet was perplexing. For Lee Gwak, at least, it was an incomprehensible situation.

Lee Gwak frowned as he scanned the pirates of the Nine Shadows Fleet.

“Gulp!”

A young boy who had locked eyes with him gulped nervously. He was terrified of Lee Gwak, who had effortlessly subdued the leader he revered like the sky.

A mere flick of Lee Gwak’s finger could mean death for the boy, but Lee Gwak had no desire to harm him unnecessarily.

Stepping back, Lee Gwak said,

“Take him and leave.”

“Leader!”

“Damn it!”

The boy and the pirates carried Dam Il-cheon on their backs and retreated to their flagship.

With Yu San-ok and now Dam Il-cheon defeated, there was no one left in the Nine Shadows Fleet who could match Lee Gwak. It wasn’t easy to launch a mass attack on Lee Gwak in the confined space of the deck. While attacking from a distance with cannons could have been an option, unfortunately, the ships they were using didn’t have space to mount cannons.

“We will never forget this grudge.”

With only threats left behind, they moved away from the Azure Maritime Company’s ship.

Lee Gwak stood at the bow, silently watching them disappear into the distance.

His intervention ended here; the rest was up to the Azure Maritime Company. Thinking he had done enough to earn his passage, Lee Gwak turned around, only to see the astonished faces of the Azure Maritime Company’s crew.

“…”

They were speechless, overwhelmed by Lee Gwak’s martial prowess that surpassed their imagination.

The techniques Lee Gwak used against Dam Il-cheon were ordinary. There wasn’t a single move that could be called a special technique. That made it all the more astonishing.

To subdue a master like Dam Il-cheon with ordinary techniques suggested a level of martial skill that was not possible without reaching a certain pinnacle.

Throughout their journey together, Lee Gwak had never once shown or boasted about his martial arts skills.

With such skills, he could have demanded special treatment, yet Lee Gwak had been content with a humble cabin and mingled easily with the sailors. Thus, no one had imagined Lee Gwak to be such a powerful martial artist.

Especially the martial artists of the Azure Maritime Company who had openly scoffed at Lee Gwak were now unable to raise their heads. They were clueless about how to interact with him.

Then, Ahn Yu-san stepped forward.

He approached Lee Gwak and performed a formal bow.

“I am grateful for your assistance.”

Even his tone had become more respectful.

Lee Gwak found An Yu-san’s change somewhat burdensome.

“Just treat me as you normally would. Leader.”

“But how could I…”

“If you act this way, it makes me uncomfortable. Please, just speak to me as you did before.”

“Is that really okay?”

“Of course.”

Relieved by Lee Gwak’s response, Ahn Yu-san’s expression softened.

“Thank you! We could survive because of you.”

“I apologize for not intervening sooner.”

“No, no! Thanks to you, many lives were saved. Without you, we all would have lost our lives today. We should be thankful that the damage was limited to this extent.”

Ahn Yu-san’s face darkened.

Fortunately, they had escaped the crisis thanks to Lee Gwak, but many had suffered injuries or lost their lives. Their ship had also sustained significant damage and required repairs.

“It seems we’ll need to stay in Haenam Island to repair the ship. It will take some time.”

The hull had been damaged, and the mast had also suffered significant harm. Although they could sail for now, a full repair was needed for a safe voyage. Additionally, they needed to care for the injured and deal with the deceased.

Naturally, their stay at Haenam Island would have to be extended.

Hearing Ahn Yu-san’s explanation, Lee Gwak made his decision.

“Then, I will also disembark at Haenam Island.”

“I’m sorry. I wish I could accompany you to the end.”

“It’s fine. Getting me to Haenam Island is more than enough.”

“Sigh!”

Ahn Yu-san sighed deeply.

Although they had managed to overcome the crisis, his heart felt heavy as if weighed down by a massive boulder.

***
Lee Gwak stood on the deck, gazing at the sea.

After revealing his martial prowess, many things had changed. The crew no longer treated him casually, and the martial artists were hesitant to approach. Even Mok So-pung, who had been friendly, kept his distance.

As a result, Lee Gwak found himself alone more often.

Being accustomed to solitude, it wasn’t much of an issue for Lee Gwak, but he couldn’t help feeling a bit bitter. However, he understood their reactions.

He, too, had been a lowly martial artist in the Jade Heaven Alliance, and had looked upon martial artists with high status or great martial prowess with fear.

Even the smallest actions from those above could greatly influence the lower-ranked martial artists. Indeed, Lee Gwak himself had suffered paralysis from being used as a target for venting anger by such a superior martial artist.

Considering the situation, Lee Gwak easily understood their reactions. Thus, he felt a slight disappointment but bore no resentment or hatred towards them.

Lee Gwak thought back to his confrontation with Dam Il-cheon.

This was the first time he had fought someone other than his master, Gwang Noh-ya, but the fight with Dam Il-cheon had ended too easily.

Not because Dam Il-cheon’s martial arts were weak, but because Lee Gwak’s skills were too strong.

His master, Gwang Noh-ya, was among the greatest experts of his time, an absolute force that even the combined might of the Jade Heaven Alliance and the Celestial Demon Troupe couldn’t contend with.

Lee Gwak sparred daily with Gwang Noh-ya.

Gwang Noh-ya didn’t go easy just because Lee Gwak was his disciple. Their sparring sessions were dangerous enough to be life-threatening, forcing Lee Gwak to be vigilant at all times.

Used to sparring with Gwang Noh-ya, Lee Gwak found the fight with Dam Il-cheon too easy. Not that Dam Il-cheon was weak.

Dam Il-cheon was undoubtedly strong, especially his flying sword qi, which wasn’t something to be taken lightly.

Creating sword qi or blade qi wasn’t easy, and launching an intangible force without dispersing it was even harder. Flying sword qi was a profound technique capable of such a feat.

It certainly wasn’t a trivial technique that anyone could learn. It was clear that it was a profound technique researched and developed by a reputable school over a long period.

‘Why would someone who has mastered such martial arts resort to piracy?’

Of course, not all martial artists led pure or noble lives. Otherwise, there would be no bandits or villains in the Jianghu.

The issue was that Dam Il-cheon seemed to have too much pride to merely scrape by with piracy.

“Sigh!”

Suddenly, Lee Gwak shook his head.

Thinking too deeply was giving him a headache.

Lee Gwak decided not to dwell on the Nine Shadows Fleet or Dam Il-cheon any further. After all, once he disembarked at Haenam Island, he would likely never see them again. It was a waste of time to worry about them any longer.

Then, it happened.

“We’ve reached Haenam Island.”

“Land!”

The crew suddenly became noisy.

Lee Gwak looked up to see the vast silhouette of a large island faintly visible beyond the horizon.

“Is that Haenam Island?”

“Yes, it is.”

Ahn Yu-san’s voice came from behind Lee Gwak. Turning around, Lee Gwak saw Ahn Yu-san holding a sword.

“An Yu-san.”

“We’ve somehow made it to Haenam Island. Sigh!”

Ahn Yu-san sighed in relief.

His face had aged significantly, reflecting the severe stress he had endured.

“What about the sword?”

“It’s yours. It seems about time to return it.”

“Thank you.”

“Thank me? I should be thanking you. You are a hero to our Azure Maritime Company.”

Ahn Yu-san handed the sword back to Lee Gwak.

Lee Gwak caressed the sword for a moment before strapping it to his waist. Although it was a cheap sword, having it by his side made him feel secure.

Ahn Yu-san also handed him a small pouch.

“What’s this?”

“The lives of fifty members of the Azure Maritime Company.”

“What?”

“If it weren’t for you, all fifty members of our company would have perished at sea, losing everything. Compared to that, this is quite modest.”

“I can’t accept this money. You’ve already done enough by transporting me here.”

“I heard from the captain that we were able to save our cargo thanks to you amidst the storm. You’ve already earned your passage. So, please accept this as compensation for saving us”

Don’t make me feel like a man who doesn’t recognize kindness.”

With Ahn Yu-san insisting, Lee Gwak could no longer refuse.

“Then, I’ll accept it gratefully. Ahn Yu-san!”

Lee Gwak accepted the pouch with an awkward expression.

He didn’t know how much was inside, but the pouch felt quite heavy.

As Lee Gwak took the pouch, a smile appeared on Ahn Yu-san’s face.

“Are you planning to cross over to the Central Plains right away?”

“I’ll look for a ship first and then decide.”

“There are frequent ships to the Central Plains, so you don’t need to worry. With your martial arts, you’ll surely make a name for yourself in the Central Plains. Although I can’t accompany you any longer, I eagerly await news of you carried by the wind.”

“Thank you. I hope Ahn Yu-san and the Azure Maritime Company safely return home.”

“Thank you!”

Ahn Yu-san smiled.

By then, Haenam Island had approached closely.

A large, bustling port came into view.

Haenam Island, the gateway to the Central Plains.