Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 40

November 22, 2023 • 11 min read • 459 views

Episode 40(Dragons and Tigers gather (3))

Novel- Martial Artist Lee Gwak

Lee Gwak and Nam Woo Gyeong sat facing each other inside a shabby straw hut.

To Lee Gwak, who was not relaxing, Nam Woo Gyeong said.

“Relax. I’m not going to eat you.”

“…”

“Tea or liquor, which do you prefer?”

“I’m fine, thank you.”

“Tea it is, then.”

Nam Woo Gyeong made his own decision and took out a teapot and began to stir the tea. Lee Gwak watched him wordlessly.

He had a sense of elegance in his movements contrasting with the humble surroundings.

Nam Woo Gyeong meticulously checked the water temperature before steeping the tea.

The fresh aroma of tea filled the straw hut. But, Lee Gwak couldn’t relax.

He still didn’t know the true identity of Nam Woo Gyeong. He wasn’t naive enough to blindly accept the kindness of a stranger.

Lee Gwak watched Nam Woo Gyeong with a steady gaze.

Clink!

Nam Woo Gyeong poured the brewed tea into a cup with a slight smile.

“You’ll bore a hole through me with that stare. Relax your eyes a bit.”

“…”

“Have a sip. It’ll help you unwind.”

He offered a cup of tea to Lee Gwak.

Lee Gwak accepted the cup without refusal. The warm tea seemed to ease his tension slightly.

Nam Woo Gyeong also took a sip before speaking.

“You’re quite an interesting fellow.”

“What do you mean?”

“Hiding your martial skills so well. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would have never dreamed you were so proficient.”

“I wasn’t particularly trying to hide them.”

“Well, I’m not criticising you. Just frustrated with my own judgement.”

“…….”

“I prided myself on having the keenest observation and sharpest eye in the world. Yet, I failed to notice that you’ve mastered martial arts to such an extent. I suppose I’m angry with myself.”

“I apologise.”

“There’s nothing for you to apologise for. My words aren’t meant as a reprimand.”

Thud!

Nam Woo Gyeong set down his teacup.

He gazed directly at Lee Gwak. A fierce light, as if piercing through everything, emanated from his eyes.

“Lee Gwak!”

“Speak.”

“Let’s be honest with each other. It will be easier that way.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ll lay everything out first. It’s only right that I start.”

“…….”

“Let me formally introduce myself. I am Nam Woo Gyeong, the young leader of the Hao Clan.”

At that moment, Lee Gwak’s eyes fluttered in shock.

He had suspected that Nam Woo Gyeong was no ordinary figure, but he never imagined he would be the leader of the Hao Clan.

The Hao Clan was a faction formed by the lowest in society to protect themselves.

It started as a means of survival by gathering information, but over the years, it amassed such power that now no other sect could challenge them.

Even the current rulers of the Jianghu, the top Ten Sects, dare not underestimate them, particularly for their unparalleled intelligence network.

Nam Woo Gyeong was the young leader of such a formidable faction.

This was a huge gap in status that was incomparable to the current Lee Gwak, but Lee Gwak was not intimidated and looked straight at Nam Woo Gyeong.

The difference in their status was astronomical compared to the current Lee Gwak. But Lee Gwak was not intimidated and looked straight at Nam Woo Gyeong.

“Why would the young leader of the Hao Clan be in a place like this?”

“A place like this?”

“It doesn’t seem fitting for you.”

“The origins of Hao Clan began here, among the poor and downtrodden who banded together to protect themselves. So, this place suits me best.”

“But why under the shadow of the Jade Heaven Alliance? Aren’t there many other poor areas?”

“Are you asking because you don’t know, or are you testing me? Obviously, because the Jade Heaven Alliance is the centre of the world. All the information in the world flows through here. No other place can match its quality and quantity. It’s only natural for me to come here. Besides, those who are destined to lead the Hao Clan must spend time here. It’s a tradition.”

“A tradition?”

“Yes. Since the founding of the Jade Heaven Alliance a hundred years ago, all the potential leaders of the Hao Clan have passed through here. It’s just that the outside world didn’t know about it.”

“Hmm!”

Lee Gwak let out a thoughtful hum. Nam Woo Gyeong looked at him calmly.

“I’ve revealed everything. Now it’s your turn, Lee Gwak.”

“What would you like to know?”

“How did you master that martial art?”

At Nam Woo Gyeong’s question, Lee Gwak closed his eyes for a moment.

He had anticipated a moment like this. It just came much sooner than he had thought.
Opening his eyes, Lee Gwak stared intently at Nam Woo Gyeong. Nam Woo Gyeong did not avoid his gaze.

Suddenly, Lee Gwak felt he might trust this man.

After uniting the five snakes, his intuition had developed remarkably. At least, he was confident in his ability to see a person’s true nature.

In his eyes, Nam Woo Gyeong was a trustworthy person. Revealing his identity to Lee Gwak was a significant risk on its own. It was time for Lee Gwak to take a risk too.

“I…”

Lee Gwak calmly recounted how he had learned the Eight Sects Sword Art and the Invisible Puncture Art. However, he was coy about his mastery of the Yoga Secret Manual, which was the foundation of the Eight Sects Sword Art.

Even though they had agreed to share secrets, revealing everything felt too burdensome. Fortunately, Nam Woo Gyeong did not press further on this.

Instead, he asked about something else.

“What about at Mount Sohua?”

“You knew about that too?”

“Don’t underestimate the intelligence of the Hao Clan. The Crimson Flower Brothel you visited the day before…”

“Was a branch of the Hao Clan.”

“How did you know?”

“The liquor you gave me before was the same as what I drank at the Crimson Flower Brothel.”

“You’re quite observant.”

“One has to be, to survive.”

“Right! The Crimson Flower Brothel is a branch of the Hao Clan. And Cho-ha, the woman who shared your bed…”

“With her…….”

“I know! you didn’t sleep with her. That’s not the point right now. So, what happened at Mount Sohua?”

“Why do you think something happened?”

“It doesn’t make sense otherwise. The Invisible Puncture Art and the Eight Sects Sword Art are good martial arts, but they wouldn’t allow you to reach your current level on their own.”

“You’re right. That’s why I used the Asura Blood Chaos Trial.”

“What?”

“I snuck in under the pretext of repairs and use it for my training.

“Hahaha!”

Nam Woo Gyeong burst into laughter, unable to contain himself.

He had never expected Lee Gwak to have secretly used the Asura Blood Chaos Trial.

For the first time in a long while, Nam Woo Gyeong laughed heartily. Tears had formed in the corners of his eyes.

“You really are a treasure. Truly impressive. To think you used the Asura Blood Chaos Trial in such a way.”

“…….”

“Well done. It’s good to use whatever you can.”

“Aren’t you going to scold me?”

“Why would I? Just for using the Asura Blood Chaos Trial?”

“It’s a place meant only for the chosen.”

“Chosen? Ha!”

Nam Woo Gyeong scoffed. To Lee Gwak’s puzzled look, Nam Woo Gyeong explained.

“The Asura Blood Chaos Trial was never just for the chosen. It was meant for anyone with the spirit to challenge themselves. At least, that’s how it started.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Of course, you wouldn’t. The current murim is erasing its past.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ll explain later. It’s not important right now.”

“…….”

Nam Woo Gyeong looked at Lee Gwak with a profound gaze.

“You’ve had it tough. I’m proud of you.”

Lee Gwak didn’t know how to respond.

It was his first time opening up about his secrets and receiving such praise.

“I am…”

“You deserve respect. This is my sincere belief. And this secret, irrespective of the Hao Clan, I will keep till my death. I, Nam Woo Gyeong, promise you that on my name.”

“Thank you.”

“One last piece of advice. As I’ve mentioned before, recognition is necessary in the Jianghu, but it should depend on who you’re dealing with. The Berserk Three Demons will never keep their promises. Right now, they might be afraid of you and keep quiet, but in time, they’ll forget that fear and definitely talk. It’s impressive that you’ve mastered martial arts to this extent on your own. But because you’ve cut yourself off from the world and gone into seclusion, you’ve missed out on a lot.

“That’s…”

“A man must be clear about what to hold onto and what to let go of. Know when to keep your compassion in your palm and when not to. Your kindness might turn into a calamity someday.”

“Why are you telling me all this?”

“Just…”

“Yes?”

“Just because. You don’t seem like others. You’re impressive.”

“…….”

“And if I were to add one more reason, it’s because I know how significantly a properly grown person can influence the world.”

“I’m not that remarkable.”

“It’s not just about you.”

Nam Woo Gyeong walked towards the window and opened it.

The night sky, filled with stars, came into his view.

“My great-grandmother laid the foundations of today’s Hao Clan. She wasn’t always so extraordinary. Her life changed dramatically after meeting someone.”

His great-grandmother always told young Nam Woo Gyeong to pay attention to those who rise alone from the shadows.

Such individuals can greatly change the world.

The one who shaped the current martial world was such a person.

“Fist… Demon.”

“What did you say?”

“Nothing.”

Nam Woo Gyeong shook his head and turned back.

Whether Lee Gwak was the kind of person his great-grandmother spoke of was uncertain. But it was true that he was a talent worth betting on.

“Lee Gwak! If you need anything, just ask. I’ll help if I can.”

“…….”

“No need to feel burdened. It’s just what I feel like doing.”

“Thank… you.”

Lee Gwak bowed in gratitude.

Nam Woo Gyeong smiled warmly.

“Now that our talk is over, how about a drink?”

“That sounds good.”

Lee Gwak nodded.

The two sat opposite each other and raised their glasses.

Their murmured conversation flowed out through the open window.
***
Geum Gu Ho furrowed his brow.

“So you’re saying the Berserk Three Demons disappeared overnight?”

“Yes.”

“Have you figured out what happened?”

“We confirmed their confrontation with Mok Seon Wol of the Dragon Heaven Valley, but their whereabouts afterwards are completely unknown.”

His trusted aide, Janghwak, responded.

Jang Hwak, his trusted aide, replied.

“Hmm!”

Geum Gu Ho, known as the Hundred-Faced Fox, was usually adept at hiding his emotions like a fox. Thus, seeing him with a troubled expression was no common occurrence.

The Berserk Three Demons were the experts he wanted to bring in to expand his influence in the outer court. Their disappearance after a clash with Mok Seon Wol caused him great headache.

“Keep searching for them. If they’re still around here, we must bring them in.”

“We’ve already assigned the task to Heavenly Intelligence Hall.”

“Heavenly Intelligence Hall?”

“Yes! There’s a new recruit who recently joined, quite capable.”

“Who is it?”

“There’s this guy named Go Jeon-ok. He’s ambitious and skilled. If nurtured properly, he could become a valuable hunting dog.”

“Really?”

A flicker of interest appeared in Geum Gu Ho’s eyes.

It was rare for Jang Hwak to speak with such certainty. Conversely, when he did, there was always a substantial reason behind it.

“Nurture him well. He might be very useful in the future.”

“Yes! I will train him to be a loyal hunting dog, obedient only to your commands, my lord.”

“Good!”

A cold smile appeared on Geum Gu Ho’s lips.