Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 154

May 23, 2024 • 12 min read • 48 views

In a Hurry but Moving Slowly (1)

Haenam Island had long been an object of awe for many. Located at the southernmost tip of the Jianghu and accessible only by crossing the sea, not just anyone could enter, nor was just anyone allowed.

Moreover, Haenam Island was home to one of the Jianghu’s prestigious schools, the Haenam Sect. For generations, the Haenam Sect stood shoulder to shoulder with the leading sects of the Jianghu, producing numerous heroes and masters.

When southern Jianghu was devastated by the Celestial Demon Troupe, it was the Haenam Sect that stepped forward to establish the Martial Sword Troupe. It unified the strength of the southern Jianghu.

The Martial Sword Troupe was thus founded with the Haenam Sect at its core. Haenam Island and the southern Jianghu were under the influence of the Martial Sword Troupe.

At least in the southern Jianghu and on Haenam Island, the influence of the Martial Sword Troupe was absolute. Therefore, people referred to the Martial Sword Troupe as the Southern Hegemon.

The Martial Sword Troupe was based on Haenam Island. Consequently, the island’s port was always bustling with people seeking to join the alliance.

Thud!

With a heavy sound, the Azure Maritime Company’s ship docked at the port. The gangway was lowered, and the passengers disembarked. Lee Gwak was among those who got off the ship.

“Sigh!”

Stepping on solid ground after a long time felt refreshingly new.

Lee Gwak paused for a moment and looked around.

“Bother!”

It was then that a familiar voice called out from behind him.

Turning around, Lee Gwak saw Mok So-pung looking at him.

Before revealing his martial prowess, Mok So-pung had been so friendly. However, after witnessing Lee Gwak’s formidable strength against the Nine Shadows Fleet, he hesitated to approach Lee Gwak.

It wasn’t because he disliked Lee Gwak.

People naturally felt fear towards those with strong martial arts. Mok So-pung was no exception.
One would need a certain level of martial arts to confidently interact with someone of Lee Gwak’s caliber, but Lee Gwak’s skills far exceeded Mok So-pung’s imagination. He didn’t dare to approach him.

It was only when Lee Gwak was about to leave that Mok So-pung mustered the courage.

“I wish you fortune in your martial journey.”

“Thank you.”

“Ha… ha!”

Mok So-pung laughed awkwardly. It seemed calling Lee Gwak ” brother” felt strange now.

Lee Gwak smiled back at him, and Mok So-pung, relieved, continued.

“If you’re looking for a place to stay, I recommend the Jangmyeong Inn in the North District. The rooms are clean and the owner’s cooking is second to none.

“Aren’t you staying at the Jangmyeong Inn?”

“There’s accommodation at the shipyard where we’ll repair the ship. It costs a lot to repair, so they provide it. The facilities are pretty good, almost like any other inn.”

“Thank you. I’ll definitely check out the Jangmyeong Inn.”

“Then take care.”

Mok So-pung waved his hand.

Lee Gwak watched him for a moment before walking away.

Numerous people brushed past him, and a few murmured about Lee Gwak’s attire. It seemed his clothing was not common in this area and thus attracted attention.

Lee Gwak felt the need to buy new clothes.

Fortunately, the harbor area was lined with shops, and it wasn’t hard to find one that sold clothes.

“Welcome!”

As Lee Gwak entered, the shopkeeper greeted him warmly.

There were several pre-made clothes in the shop. Lee Gwak chose a set of plain clothes that fit him.

As he was about to pay, Lee Gwak was surprised to find not only silver coins in his pouch but also a banknote.

Upon inspection, it was a banknote worth a thousand nyang, issued by the trustworthy Myriad Merchant Troupe in the Central Plains. The banknote could be exchanged for silver immediately at any branch of the Myriad Merchant Troupe

Though the amount seemed excessive, returning it now felt absurd. Ultimately, Lee Gwak put the banknote back and paid with silver coins instead.

Before boarding the ship, he had been nearly penniless, but now, upon disembarking, he had acquired a considerable sum. With this amount, he wouldn’t have to worry about travel expenses for quite some time.

After leaving the shop, Lee Gwak made his way to the Jangmyeong Inn.

The northern street was filled with numerous inns, some of which were large and luxurious. However, Lee Gwak passed all these inns and sought out the Jangmyeong Inn.

Compared to others, the Jangmyeong Inn was smaller and tucked away in a corner, not immediately noticeable. But once inside, its cleanliness impressed him.

Not a speck of dust was seen on the tables, and the floors were clean, indicating the proprietor took good care of the place.

Lee Gwak paid the owner and rented a single room.

For the price, the room came equipped with a wooden bathtub for bathing. Lee Gwak requested that the innkeeper fill the tub with warm water.

“Ah!”

Entering the warm water, his body relaxed completely.

It was his first proper bath in six years. Although he had washed himself while living in the forest, soaking in warm water like this had been beyond his dreams.

Lee Gwak leaned back in the tub, closing his eyes.

He wanted to think of nothing at this moment, simply enjoying the sensation of the water gently caressing his body.

When Lee Gwak opened his eyes, much time had passed. Only after thoroughly scrubbing himself clean did he step out of the tub.

After drying off, he donned the clothes he had purchased from the shop, feeling much better.

Though the fabric was cheap and not particularly soft, Lee Gwak was content with the clothing. When he was living in the forest, he wore nothing better than rags.

Compared to those times, his current situation was luxurious.

Lee Gwak briefly opened the window and looked outside. From his room, he had a clear view of Haenam Island’s port.

As darkness fell, one by one, lights began to illuminate the streets. The brilliantly shining lights made him truly feel his return to the Central Plains.

After gazing at the streets for a while, Lee Gwak left his room and headed down to the first floor of the inn, where food was served to guests.

As Lee Gwak came down, the innkeeper approached him.

“Will you be having a meal?”

“Yes! Bring me one of your best dishes and a bottle of wine.”

“Yes! Please take a seat, and I will bring it right over.”

The innkeeper hurried to the kitchen, and Lee Gwak took a seat by the window.

It was still early evening, so the inn was relatively quiet, giving Lee Gwak some peace.

However, his tranquility was short-lived, as groups of people started entering the inn shortly afterward.

The inn quickly filled with customers, who claimed tables and placed their orders.

“Bring us some stir-fried pork and wine.”

“Roast duck, please.”

People naturally ordered both food and wine as if it was the most natural thing to do.

They sat around the tables, engaging in conversations. Lee Gwak was the only one sitting alone.

Suddenly, he felt a sense of loneliness.

While training martial arts in the forest, he had been too exhausted and drained to feel lonely. And during the voyage, he had been too busy interacting with others to feel the solitude. But now, surrounded by so many people, his solitude became tangible.

Shortly after, the innkeeper brought over the stir-fried pork and a bottle of wine.

“This is Jangmyeong Inn’s specialty, Maotai wine. The innkeeper personally learned the secret recipe from the mainland. One sip, and all your worries and fatigue will melt away like snow. Hehe!”

The innkeeper exaggerated with animated gestures, making it clear what he was hinting at. Lee Gwak understood without needing further explanation.

Lee Gwak handed him a coin, and he returned with a happy expression.

Clink!

Lee Gwak filled his cup with wine and took a sip.

‘Excellent.’

The aroma and taste were impeccable, better than any wine Lee Gwak had ever tasted.

The stir-fried pork was delicious as well. Perhaps due to the warm climate, the seasoning was strong, but it suited Lee Gwak’s palette perfectly.

Lee Gwak enjoyed the scenery outside the window alone, savoring his meal.

The red lanterns illuminating the streets and the bustling crowd showed how prosperous Haenam Island was. Lee Gwak found the scenery and atmosphere unfamiliar.

He felt as if he didn’t belong there, like a stranger.

“Sigh!”

Just as Lee Gwak was about to set down his wine cup, someone spoke to him.

“Wow, you’re making the ground shake with that sigh. Why the long face?”

Looking up, Lee Gwak saw a strange man standing in front of his table.

The man wore a headband and had a neatly groomed beard, appearing to be in his mid-years. Uniquely, he carried both a lute and a sword crossed on his back.

Seeing Lee Gwak’s puzzled expression, the man quickly added, realizing his mistake.

“Ha ha! My apologies for the intrusion. There’s no other place to sit, so would you mind if I joined you?”

Lee Gwak looked around the inn. As the man had said, it was fully packed except for Lee Gwak’s table.

Lee Gwak quickly offered the man a seat.

“Please, feel free to sit.”

“Ha ha! Thank you. I was worried I’d be rejected.”

The man laughed heartily as he sat down, placing the lute and sword he carried on the chair next to him.

“Ah, my shoulders! Finally, I can relax. Why is this lute so heavy?”

He massaged his shoulders and sighed. His face clearly showed relief.

Regaining his composure, the man spoke to Lee Gwak.

“Thank you for letting me share your table. Since we’re sitting together, let’s introduce ourselves. My name is Seop Yu-saeng, known in the Jianghu as the Celestial Hermit.”

“My name is Lee Gwak.”

“That’s it?”

“Yes?”

“Ah, never mind.”

Seop Yu-saeng quickly shook his head, but his face betrayed his surprise. It was because Lee Gwak seemed completely unaware of the name Celestial Hermit Seop Yu-saeng, which was quite well-known in the Jianghu.

Narrowing his eyes, Seop Yu-saeng observed Lee Gwak, wondering if he was pretending not to know. However, after seeing Lee Gwak’s simple attire and the cheap sword placed beside him, everything made sense.

‘He must be new to the Jianghu. That explains it.’

Seop Yu-saeng looked at Lee Gwak with a hint of pity.

Many young martial artists enter the Jianghu dreaming of glory, but only a few achieve fame and fortune.

Seop Yu-saeng assumed Lee Gwak came to Haenam Island to attend the Sea Martial Festival hosted by the Martial Sword Troupe. So, he cautiously asked.

“Did you also come to participate in the Sea Martial Festival?”

“What’s the Sea Martial Festival?”

“You’re on Haenam Island and you don’t know about the Sea Martial Festival?”

Seop Yu-saeng was flabbergasted.

Most martial artists arriving at Haenam Island around this time aimed to participate in the festival. Even if they weren’t participating, they should have at least heard of it.
Realizing Seop Yu-saeng’s misunderstanding, Lee Gwak clarified.

“My arrival on Haenam Island is purely coincidental.”

“Coincidental?”

“Yes!”

Lee Gwak briefly explained the situation.

They were attacked by pirates while on the ship, and he had no choice but to disembark at Haenam Island.

“My apologies for the misunderstanding.”

Seop Yu-saeng acknowledged his mistake and apologized.

“It’s okay.”

“So, you must have been away from the Jianghu for quite some time. In that case, it’s understandable that you’re unaware. Do you know that the Martial Sword Troupe is a coalition led by the Haenam Sect within the southern Jianghu?”

“Yes!”

“Then, explaining will be easier. Since the Martial Sword Troupe comprises numerous sects, internal affairs can get complicated. To promote unity, they host a grand gathering every three years, known as the Sea Martial Festival.”

“So, it’s an event to strengthen internal unity.”

“Exactly. To maximize its effects, the Martial Sword Troupe holds a martial arts competition during the festival. Winners receive great wealth and fame, which is why martial artists from all over strive to attend. I thought you were one of them.”

“Are you attending the competition, Seop Yu-saeng?”

“Me? You may not know it, but the title Celestial Hermit is quite famous in the Jianghu. If I took part, I’d probably be criticised for not acting my age and interfering with the younger generation’s fun”.

“Then why are you here?”

“I have many acquaintances in the Martial Sword Troupe. I’m attending on their invitation.”

“I see.”

Lee Gwak nodded neutrally, noticing Seop Yu-saeng’s slight frustration at his lack of recognition.

Celestial Hermit Seop Yu-saeng was a peak martial artist who gained prominence during the latter part of the war between the Jade Heaven Alliance and the Celestial Demon Troupe. His lute was not just for music; it was a tool for sound-based martial arts.

His ability to use sound to defeat twenty martial artists of the Celestial Demon Troupe in one night was still a famous story.

Thanks to this, Seop Yu-saeng was respected everywhere in the Jianghu, with no one daring to disrespect him.

The Martial Sword Troupe was no exception.

They officially invited Seop Yu-saeng to the Sea Martial Festival, setting him apart from the masses flocking to Haenam Island for the event.

If the people in the inn knew Seop Yu-saeng’s true identity, they would have offered their seats and treated him with utmost respect. Although Seop Yu-saeng didn’t necessarily expect such treatment, Lee Gwak’s indifferent reaction still irked him.

Smirking, Seop Yu-saeng let out a laugh, finding his own expectations amusing.

Feeling apologetic, Seop Yu-saeng said, “Ha ha! Since I’ve intruded on your table, let me buy the drinks today. Let’s enjoy ourselves to the fullest.”