Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 30

November 12, 2023 • 13 min read • 443 views

Episode 30(Returning Home to No One’s Greeting (1))

Novel- Martial Artist Lee Gwak

After returning to the Jade Heaven Alliance, Lee Gwak did nothing but stay in his quarters for a while.

Perhaps in recognition of their hard work, the Jade Heaven Alliance had given them a break after returning from Mount Sohua and hadn’t sent them on any missions. As a result, Lee Gwak was enjoying his first free time in many years.

Since he didn’t have any members in his squad yet, he had the spacious living quarters to himself. But after a few days of reflection, he realised it wasn’t just that.

This place was not entirely his own.

While being alone had allowed him to rest comfortably, the eventual addition of new members would change that. The peace he knew would be shattered, and certain restrictions would undoubtedly follow.

Lee Gwak needed a space of his own. A place where he could relax without having to be mindful of others.

Luckily, he hadn’t had to spend any money during his time in Mount Sohua, and he had saved a considerable amount of his salary. With this sum, he thought it possible to buy a small house outside the walls of Jade Heaven Alliance, if not within.

Once he made up his mind, Lee Gwak didn’t hesitate and stepped outside the Alliance. He spent the whole day searching the streets for a house for sale. But the prices were much higher than he expected.

Especially the closer he got to the Jade Heaven Alliance, the more the prices skyrocketed. With the money he had now, he couldn’t even dream of buying a house in the central area.

He had saved every penny he could over the past few years, but the reality of not being able to buy a home in the right place was overwhelming.

Eventually, Lee Gwak gave up on the idea of buying a house in the central area and turned his attention to the outskirts. But even there, he couldn’t find anything within his budget.

“Sigh!”

A deep sigh escaped him involuntarily.

Roaming around looking for a house proved to be more mentally exhausting than secretly practising martial arts.

“Should I just stay in the quarters?”

He was so frustrated that the temptation to give up and just accept his current situation crept up on him. After a moment’s hesitation, he convinced himself to look one last time.

This time, he headed towards the northern streets. Being close to the slums, the houses here were somewhat more affordable.

Due to their proximity to the slums, the houses were not in great shape. Many were poorly maintained, with crumbling fences and broken roofs.

A decent house was out of Lee Gwak’s financial reach.

What Lee Gwak finally settled for was a nearly collapsed, grotesque house. Long neglected and without proper maintenance, it was almost a ruin.

Just looking around the inside was enough to make one sigh. However, Lee Gwak’s face wasn’t as grim as it seemed.

Although the house was in ruins, he liked its location and internal structure. The high walls surrounding it meant the inside was completely hidden from the outside view. There were only two rooms, but it had a spacious yard, large enough for Lee Gwak to practise martial arts.

The problem was that the house was so badly damaged that a proper repair would cost a significant amount of money. That’s why the landlord had put it on the market for cheap.

Lee Gwak had scraped together every penny he had and bought the house. Despite its dilapidated state, his face was lit up with a bright smile.

For it was the first time in his life he owned a home.

The fact that the house was half in ruins didn’t bother him. In Mount Sohua, he had built and repaired houses to the point of exhaustion. Although it was impossible to repair it perfectly right away, he knew that given enough time, he could restore it to its original form.

“Excellent!”

Lying on an old bed in the abandoned house, Lee Gwak looked up at the sky.

For the first time in his life, he had a home of his own, and the feeling was indescribable.

He was struck by the profound mystery of life.

When he wanted to be with Geum Yul Seon, it was so hard to find a home. But now that he had let go of that intense longing, it had come so easily.

Lee Gwak stared at the sky for a while.

The next day, Lee Gwak’s first stop was the Creation Pavilion. The Creation Pavilion was always overflowing with materials as it supported the major events and facilities of the Jade Heaven Alliance.

During his time at Mt. Sohua, Lee Gwak had developed a close relationship with the people at the Creation Pavilion. Maa Doo Won, who had taught him and entrusted him with the task of repairing the machines, was a key figure there with considerable authority.

Maa Doo Won greeted Lee Gwak warmly.

“What brings you here?”

“I have a favour to ask.”

“A favour?”

“Yes!”

Lee Gwak told Maa Doo Won that he had bought a house and needed materials to repair the ruined house.

“So, you’re asking to borrow materials for the house repair?”

“Yes! Can you help me out?”

“Haha! You ridiculous bastard.”

Maa Doo Won laughed as if in disbelief.

He hadn’t expected Lee Gwak to come to him for such a trivial matter.

“Are you mocking me?”

“Why should I mock you? I’m really out of money. Until I get next month’s salary, I’m completely broke. I will pay you back as soon as I get it. Can’t you arrange something?”
As Lee Gwak put on the most pitiful face he could muster, Maa Doo Won grimaced.

“Fine, man! What do I get out of it? Just take whatever you need. I’ll write you an order.”

“Really?”

“Yes! But in return, you must come and help me when I ask.”

“What help could I possibly provide?”

“You know how it is with the Creation Pavilion’s work. No matter how many people we have, we’re always short-handed.”

“Understood.”

Lee Gwak readily agreed.

The Creation Pavilion was a much more critical organization compared to the Outer Hall. Even if it wasn’t obvious outwardly, without the Creation Pavilion, the Jade Heaven Alliance’s operations would grind to a halt.

Maintaining a good relationship with the Creation Pavilion was beneficial for Lee Gwak as well.

“Take this and go to the warehouse.”

Maa Doo Won immediately wrote an order and handed it to Lee Gwak.

After thanking Maa Doo Won, Lee Gwak went straight to the warehouse. When the warehouse manager saw Maa Doo Won’s order, he immediately opened the doors for him.

The warehouse was filled with materials for the maintenance of the Jade Heaven Alliance. Lee Gwak took out bricks, tiles, timber, and other materials, loading them onto a large cart.

Despite taking quite a lot, the warehouse manager said nothing; the order from Maa Doo Won stated that Lee Gwak should be given whatever he needed.

Thanks to this, it didn’t take him long to get all the materials he needed. Now it was a race against time.

He worked his official duties during the day, and in the evenings, he dedicated himself to repairing his house.

Drawing on his experiences from Mount Sohua, Lee Gwak skillfully restored the house.

He rebuilt the half collapsed wall, filled the holes in the walls and took his time, doing all the work meticulously and without haste.

The courtyard was his main priority. By laying blue stones across the wide ground, he fashioned a respectable training ground.

Had he paid for all this, it would have cost a fortune, but Lee Kwak had managed to secure everything he needed from the creation pavilion.

A smile played on the corners of his lips.

When he first acquired this place, it was almost a ruin, but now, ten days later, it had changed quite impressively.

The high wall completely blocked the outside view, and the neatly tiled roofs gave the place an air of elegance.

There was still much to repair, but these were minor issues that could be addressed gradually over time.

From that day on, Lee Gwak moved all his belongings out of the dormitory and started living in his own house.
***
“Squad Leader!”

As soon as Lee Gwak entered the gates of Jade Heaven Alliance, a young martial artist sought him out. He was a newcomer assigned to the outer hall not long ago.

“What’s the matter?”

“The Hall Leader is looking for you.”

“For me?”

“He has summoned all the squad leaders.”

“Is that so?”

Internally, Lee Gwak knew it was coming.

He had taken over the squad leader position from Seo Jong Myeong, but it wasn’t through the official channels. As a result, Lee Gwak’s status was rather ambiguous, and he was excluded from the major missions of the outer hall.

Of course, Lee Gwak quite liked the current situation, but he couldn’t afford to stay aloof forever.

Lee Gwak made his way to the main building of the outer hall.

The outer hall boasted the largest scale within the Jade Heaven Alliance. Upon entering the main hall, familiar faces came into view.

“Hey, you made it?”

“Haha! Look who it is, our young thirteenth squad leader.”

It was the other squad leaders of the outer hall who greeted him informally.

Lee Gwak’s face turned a shade of red.

“I apologise. Somehow, I ended up as a squad leader despite being the youngest.”

“Kid! If you were getting cocky just because you became a squad leader, I was ready to put you in your place. If you dare to act up in the future, you’re done for. Got it?”

“Yes!”

“Haha! Sit down. The Hall Leader will join us shortly.”

Oh Gu Hong, who had become the eighth squad’s leader, gestured to the seat beside him.

It was Oh Gu Hong who had previously been the thirteenth squad’s leader before Seo Jong Myeong. He had taken care of Lee Gwak for a long time, which made their bond special.

“Thank you, Leader.”

Lee Gwak smiled.

As the most senior among the gathered squad leaders, Oh Gu Hong’s friendly approach left the others no choice but to accept Lee Gwak as one of their own.

“Wow, to think you’ve already become a squad leader. Time flies. I heard you had a tough time in Mount Sohua? Well done.”

Cho Mu-tak, the twelfth squad leader, patted Lee Gwak on the shoulder.

Most of the squad leaders, including Cho Mu-tak, hadn’t been to Mount Sohua. They had been told by Maeng Hee Cheon beforehand that going there would only mean taking care of the errands and duties of the Creation Pavilion.

Those who were sent to Mount Sohua were either the powerless from the outer hall or the young martial artists. This had caused much gossip, and on their return, complaints poured from those who had gone.

Lee Gwak was aware of this but didn’t show it. After all, he had gained much from his time at Mount Sohua.

As a person, as a martial artist, he had grown tremendously. The three years and seven months he spent there marked the most explosive period of growth in his life.

His eyes, deeper than before, seemed to attest to that fact. Cho Mu-tak noticed the change in him and tilted his head, sensing something different but unable to put his finger on it.

‘Must be my imagination?’

Cho Mu-tak thought it might be because he hadn’t seen him in a while.

“Has everyone gathered?”

With a heavy voice, someone walked into the room where the squad leaders were gathered. It was Maeng Hee Cheon, the outer hall master.

“Have you arrived, Hall Leader?”

The thirteen squad leaders rose from their seats and bowed their heads in unison. Lee Gwak quickly followed suit.

“Hmm!”

Maeng Hee Cheon sat down at the highest seat.

In the grand scheme of the Jade Heaven Alliance, the outer hall might have been at the bottom, but here, Maeng Hee Cheon was as good as a king.

His gaze swept over the squad leaders one by one, finally coming to rest on Lee Gwak.

“A face I haven’t seen before.”

“I am Lee Gwak, the newly appointed leader of the thirteenth squad.”

At Lee Gwak’s reply, Maeng Hee-cheon’s face took on a strange expression. It wasn’t that he didn’t recognize Lee Gwak, but his appearance was unexpected.

“So, You’re the new leader that Master Seo has chosen? Life is indeed unpredictable.”

“……”

“Good! Well, you’ve become a squad leader anyway, so do well from now on.”

“Yes!”

Lee Gwak responded succinctly.

Maeng Hee Cheon watched him for a moment longer, then shifted his gaze to the other squad leaders.

“I’ve called you all here because the current state of the world is quite precarious.”

“Hmm!”

“According to the Heavenly Intelligence Hall, there have been sightings of the Celestial Demon Troupe’s movements in various places.”

The faces around the room turned pale. They were prepared, yet the news of Celestial Demon Troupe stirring again was unavoidably frightening.

“Keep tight control over your subordinates. There’s nothing to gain from drawing negative attention in times like these.”

“Yes!”

The squad leaders answered in unison.

Maeng Hee Cheon continued to issue instructions to the squad leaders.

Among these was the addition of new members to the thirteenth squad, which had no members.

Seizing the opportunity, Lee Gwak asked if he could bring Seok Yi Cheon into his squad. Surprisingly, Seok Yi Cheon’s current squad leader readily agreed to transfer him.
Seok Yi Cheon was an existence that was as good as none; he was old and crafty, someone you could do with or without.

“Thirteenth squad leader.”

“Yes!”

“Now that new members are to be assigned, ensure there’s no disharmony. If I hear any discord, know that your position as leader can change. Remember this.”

“I understand.”

“Good! We’ve said all we needed to say, so let’s all have a drink together, it’s been a while. It’s also a good opportunity to welcome the new leader.”

At Maeng Hee Cheon’s words, the leaders cheered.

The Seventh Leader especially beamed with delight as he said,

“There’s actually a place I’ve had my eye on recently. It’s a newly opened pleasure house, and the quality is top-notch. Heh heh!”

“Oh, is that so?”

“I’ve made a reservation in anticipation of your visit. We just need to go.”

“You’re quite something. Let’s not delay then.”

Maeng Hee Cheon smiled contentedly.

A fervent heat was already rising in the hall. All this was still strange to Lee Gwak.

At that moment, Oh Gu Hong approached and slung his arm over Lee Gwak’s shoulder.

“Let’s go!”

Refusal was not an option.