Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 42

November 27, 2023 • 11 min read • 342 views

Episode 42(When Fate Branches Out (2))

Novel- Martial Artist Lee Gwak

A man sat atop the third floor of the Crimson Flower Brothel, looking out into the distance.

It was Nam Woo Gyeong, his eyes, deep and contemplative, were fixed on the distant gate of Jade Heaven Alliance.

“They swallow so much.”

The endless procession of goods entering the Jade Heaven Alliance was far from over.

The Jade Heaven Alliance seemed like an insatiable demon that never felt full no matter how much it ate. No one knew how much more they could take before their city was full.

Then, someone ascended to the top.

“Woo Gyeong!”

“Master!”

Without turning, Nam Woo Gyeong recognized who had come up. Only one person could move so freely around him .

It was his master, Hwian, a man with platinum hair and grey eyes.

“Something Big has happened.”

“What happened?”

“Iron Monarch Go Jin Rak has been assassinated.”

“Is that true?”

“The news just came in.”

“My god!”

Nam Woo Gyeong stood up, startled.

Go Jin Rak was the highest-ranking battlefield officer of the Celestial Demon Troupe. Known for his ghostly strategies and martial prowess, he led the war against the Jade Heaven Alliance.

Many warriors of the Jade Heaven Alliance had either lost their lives or suffered defeat at his hands. He was a nightmarish figure for the warriors of the Jade Heaven Alliance.

The Jade Heaven Alliance had tried various strategies to kill him, but all of them had been crushed by Go Jin Rak, resulting in more losses for them. It was a fact that their morale had suffered greatly as a result.

“Who killed Go Jin Rak?”

“That’s still unknown.”

“Hmm!”

Nam Woo Gyeong let out a thoughtful hum, indicating that he took Go Jin Rak’s death seriously.

“Although Go Jin Rak led the Celestial Demon Troupe’s forces on the front lines, he was a moderate. He always tried to contain the war and was wary of expanding the frontlines.

“Yes, that’s consistent with our information.”

“With Go Jin Rak dead, the Celestial Demon Troupe will undoubtedly seek revenge. Ignoring his death would tarnish their honour.”

“The frontlines will escalate.”

“It’s an inevitable consequence.”

“More people will die. I was already curious about the huge amount of supplies entering the Jade Heaven Alliance today. It seems the Jade Heaven Alliance is also preparing for the expansion of the frontlines by stockpiling in advance.”

Nam Woo Gyeong bit his lip, his mind whirling with thoughts.

Hwian watched his disciple silently.

He knew that his disciple’s ability to read the world situation and judge things was unparalleled.

After a moment, Nam Woo Gyeong spoke again.

“I wonder who assassinated Go Jin Rak. It’s surprising considering his personal martial prowess and the tight security he always had around him.”

“We’re using all resources to find out, but it seems difficult to uncover.”

“We need to find out. If the assassin of the Jade Heaven Alliance is currently targeting the Celestial Demon Troupe, they might turn their attention to us next. If we know the assassin’s identity, we can prepare ourselves accordingly.”

“Understood.”

Hwian responded with a grave expression.

While it might seem like an excessive worry, he trusted his disciple’s insight. Nam Woo Gyeong’s judgments had never been wrong.

“I heard you revealed your identity to Lee Gwak. Is that alright?”

“Lee Gwak is trustworthy.”

“On what basis did you make that judgement?”

“Just an instinct.”

“An instinct?”

“Yes.”

“For such a reason… No, you must have your reasons.”

Nam Woo Gyeong smiled at Hwian’s words. As always, Hwian understood him too well.
***
Lee Gwak gazed up at the enormous warehouse.

Its size was reminiscent of a mountain range. There were five warehouses that housed all of the Jade Heaven Alliance’s supplies, and they were usually so heavily guarded that no unauthorised person was allowed to enter.

Lee Gwak and his thirteenth squad were assigned to patrol around the warehouse. The influx of supplies from the Myriad Merchant Troupe was so great that the time required to store them had increased, prompting a request for additional support from other squads.

The porters brought by the Myriad Merchant Troupe worked tirelessly, resembling diligent ants transporting their loads.

They were carrying loads several times their own size, moved with difficulty. They seemed on the verge of collapsing under the weight, yet skillfully managed to maintain their balance.
If they started to lean to one side, they quickly shifted their centre to the other, their movements not unlike those of martial arts masters.

It was evident that these ordinary porters had naturally acquired this skill over time, not through martial arts training but through sheer experience.

Their breaths were heavy, and sweat dripped off them like beads, but they never rested. The short walk back to the carts was their only chance to regain their strength before hauling another enormous load, a sight bordering on the miraculous.

‘Impressive,’

Lee Gwak was strangely moved by their behaviour.

Unnoticed and working at the very bottom, these labourers had reached a master’s level in their field.

Among them, one in particular caught Lee Gwak’s eye.

A young boy, not more than sixteen, grunted under the weight of a load several times his size. Despite being half the size of the adults, he didn’t utter a word of complaint and kept pace with them, even displaying more finesse in balancing the load.

If the weight on his back felt like it was going to shift to one side, he would move his hips to the other side to disperse the force, and he would distribute the weight from his back in all directions through his skillful weight distribution.

Lee Gwak thought the boy’s movements resembled those of a cat, or perhaps a young leopard.

Despite being crushed under life’s burdens, the boy’s eyes never lost hope. His gritted teeth spoke volumes of his tenacious spirit.

Suddenly, the leader of the labourers shouted.

“Move it, move it! We’ll be here all night at this rate, you fools!”

He rushed among the labourers, urging them to move faster, prompting them to hasten their pace.

Then, an accident occurred.

“Argh!”

An elderly labourer stumbled in his hurry, losing his balance and toppling into a precariously stacked pile of supplies in the warehouse.

The supplies came crashing down on him like an avalanche.

“Damn it, old man!”

In that moment, the boy threw off his load and rushed to the elderly man’s aid. Moving swiftly as the wind, he managed to push the old man out of harm’s way, but he himself was unable to avoid the falling debris.

“Ah!”

A scream escaped the boy’s lips as he was buried under the mountain of supplies.

“What the hell, asshole!”

The head labourer spat out curses as he witnessed the scene. To him, the damage to the supplies was of greater concern than the boy’s well-being.

“Ouch! Cheonwol!”

“What now?”

Other labourers attempted to rush to the boy’s aid, but the head labourer scowled and cursed at them.

“What are you doing? Hurry up with the loading, you idiots!”

Intimidated by his fierce demeanour, the workers hesitated, unable to approach the boy under the pile.

“Damn it!”

The head labourer, cursing continuously, carefully removed the supplies covering the boy. He was more concerned about whether the supplies were damaged, so the removal process was slow.

It was clear he was not concerned about the boy’s safety.

“Move aside.”

Suddenly, someone pushed him aside and started removing the supplies.

“What the…?”

The head labourer was about to react angrily but stopped short when he saw the man’s attire.

The man who had pushed him aside and was now hastily clearing away the supplies was wearing a faded hemp robe, a symbol of the outer hall of the Jade Heaven Alliance. The head laborer was not stupid enough to not recognize it.

The man clearing the debris was unmistakably a martial artist of the Jade Heaven Alliance’s outer hall. And he was not alone.

“Leader!”

“Let’s do this together.”

Other warriors in hemp robes joined in.

‘Leader?’

Only then did the head labourer realise that the man who had pushed him and was clearing the supplies was the squad leader of the outer hall. His status was sky-high compared to the head labourer. The difference in their stations was as vast as that between heaven and earth.

The head labourer couldn’t comprehend why someone of such high status would push him aside and actively clear the supplies. Regardless of his understanding, the leader, driven by urgency, continued to clear the debris.

The leader clearing the supplies was none other than Lee Gwak.

He carelessly threw aside the supplies, not caring if they were damaged. Seok Yi cheon and Ki Jin Hwi joined in, and soon, the buried boy was revealed.

“Hmm!”

A collective sound of concern escaped from Lee Gwak and his squad. The boy’s condition seemed grave, especially his right ankle, which appeared to be severely twisted.

Lee Gwak picked up the boy and called out to the head labourer.

“You!”

“Yes, yes?”

“What are you doing? Hurry up and take this child for treatment.”

“But…”

“This child is a part of the Myriad Merchant Troupe, isn’t he? Quickly, get him treated.”

“Well…”

The head labourer hesitated, not knowing what to do. Seeing his hesitation, Lee Gwak felt his anger rising to the boiling point.

“You…”

At that moment, someone stepped forward in front of the head labourer and responded.

“Ah, that child isn’t part of the Myriad Merchant Troupe. He’s just a temporary labourer we hired. So, we have no responsibility for him.”

The speaker was a merchant, appearing to be in his early forties.

He looked at Lee Gwak with a sly expression.

Standing with the boy in his arms, Lee Gwak asked,

“What do you mean? He got injured while carrying the Myriad Merchant Troupe’s supplies, and you say you can’t take responsibility?”

“As I said, that child was just temporarily hired on the way here. He’s not related to the Myriad Merchant Troupe. It’s his own fault he got injured; the Myriad Merchant Troupe has no reason to take responsibility.”

“Is that the Myriad Merchant Troupe’s official stance?”

“You might say that.”

Lee Gwak felt a surge of indignation from deep within at the merchant’s indifferent response.

Observing Lee Gwak’s hardening expression, the merchant looked amused. He had frequented the Jade Heaven Alliance for trade but had never encountered a warrior like Lee Gwak. Typically, the warriors of Jade Heaven Alliance regarded those from other halls and untrained labourers as beneath them.

It was the first time he saw someone like Lee Gwak, who was not just a member but a leader, show concern for a mere labourer. To the merchant, Lee Gwak’s reaction was a novel experience.

Lee Gwak, glaring at the merchant, said,

“Then I’ll take the boy and see to his treatment. That’s alright with you?”

“Of course. As I’ve said, that child has nothing to do with our organisation.”

Lee Gwak handed the boy over to Woo Il Yeong, who carefully picked him up.

“Let’s go.”

Just as Lee Gwak and his squad were about to leave, the merchant called out.

“One moment.”

“What is it?”

“May I know your name?”

“I am Lee Gwak, leader of the thirteenth squad of Jade Heaven Alliance’s outer hall.”

“I’ll remember that name, Leader Lee Gwak.”

The merchant’s words held a significant undertone, causing Lee Gwak to look at him intently. Despite the intense gaze, the merchant continued to smile.

Suddenly, the merchant pulled out a small copper badge and tossed it to Lee Gwak. The badge had a sword emblem embossed on it.

“What is this?”

“A token of gratitude.”

“…”

“Don’t look so surprised. the Myriad Merchant Troupe’s official stance and my personal view are slightly different. I appreciate you taking care of the boy. If you ever need help, go to any branch of the Myriad Merchant Troupe, say my name, Lee Shin Chung, and show them this badge. Then…”

Merchant Lee Shin Chung slightly bowed his head in farewell.

Lee Gwak looked at him for a moment before hurrying back to his quarters with his companions. As he walked away, Lee Shin Chung muttered to himself.

“So Jade Heaven Alliance has such a person too.”

“Master, we should go inside now. The inner court head is waiting for you.”

A middle-aged warrior exuding a razor-sharp aura approached Lee Shin Chung, but the merchant hardly acknowledged him.

“It’s a pity! If only his staunch heart had a bit of martial prowess to back it up, I might have considered investing in him.”

Regret tinged his voice.