Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 52

December 14, 2023 • 11 min read • 388 views

Chapter 52(The More People Gather, The More Incidents occur)

The Great Jianghu Tournament was formally announced.

The number of people attending the event exploded, and everyone’s attention was focused on the Jade Heaven Alliance.

Countless heroes from the Jianghu set out for the Jade Heaven Alliance, and the Alliance was busy preparing to receive them. But it was the martial artists from the Outer Hall, like Lee Gwak, who were the busiest.

The crowds of people who flocked to see the mighty heroes caused countless incidents and accidents. And it was up to the outer hall to clean up most of them.

As a result, the outer hall was swamped with duties, and Lee Gwak’s group, the Thirteenth squad, was no exception. Lee Gwak himself had been so busy that he spent more days at the lodging than at home.

With a sigh, Lee Gwak stepped out of the dormitory. Even though it was early morning, a long line of people had already formed at the main gate, all waiting to enter the Jade Heaven Alliance.

Most of them were martial artists. Ordinary people, even if they queued, could not enter the Jade Heaven Alliance, and among the waiting martial artists, only a handful were granted entry.

Those who couldn’t enter the alliance remained outside, watching the martial artists attending the tournament.

Lee Gwak looked at the long line of people and then started to walk home. He wasn’t particularly tired, but after several days in the dormitory, he missed his home.

As he quickened his pace, a familiar voice called out,

“Are you leaving now?”

Suddenly, he heard a familiar voice.

He turned his head and saw Nam Woo Gyeong walking towards him, but his clothes were different from usual. Instead of his usual shabby clothes, he was wearing a neat and tidy outfit.

“Where are you going?”

“Why? Oh, this outfit? It’s nothing special,”

“It suits you,”

“Don’t lie. I know it doesn’t suit me,”

At Nam Woo Gyeong’s self-deprecating remark, Lee Gwak only smiled.

“I’m going to meet someone. Want to come along?”

“No, thank you.”

“Why?”

“I don’t want to wear clothes that don’t suit me either.”

“Fair enough. You’d gain nothing by coming. You must be tired; go rest.”

“Understood!”

As Nam Woo Gyeong waved goodbye and walked away, Lee Gwak stood watching his retreating figure, contemplating the curious nature of human connections.

Lee Gwak replied, and Nam Woo Gyeong waved his hand and walked away. Lee Gwak stood in place and watched him walk away.

He never imagined he’d become brothers with Nam Woo Gyeong.

Back home, instead of sleeping, Lee Gwak practised the Cloud Stride Art. He had been too busy to even think about mastering it, and it seemed there wouldn’t be another chance for a while.

Lacking proper stepping techniques and Qigong skills had been a concern for Lee Gwak, who now immersed himself in the Cloud Stride Art.

The essence of Cloud Stride Art was to move freely and unpredictably, like clouds drifting with the wind, scattering and gathering.

The key was not in memorising the steps but in embodying them through practice.

Lee Gwak stepped into the courtyard, moving according to the technique. Naturally, it didn’t go as planned on his first try.

He stumbled and fell several times and quickly became covered in dirt, but he did not stop practising.

He knew well that, like a child enduring pain to grow, mastery in martial arts also required enduring hardship to achieve desired proficiency.

He fell but kept rising again.

He didn’t know how much time had passed.

Lee Gwak was so engrossed in Cloud Stride Art that he lost track of time.

He stopped only when he was extremely hungry.

No matter how greatly his skills improved, he couldn’t survive without eating.

After searching the kitchen and finding no food – not even rice or side dishes – Lee Gwak decided to go out for a meal.

He changed his dirty clothes for clean ones and headed out, pondering where to go before deciding on the bustling area near the Alliance’s main gate.

Since the announcement of the Jianghu Tournament, inns near the alliance were thriving, with no rooms available. Those who couldn’t secure a room faced a difficult situation, with vacant rooms commanding high prices.

Lee Gwak, considering dining at an inn but put off by the crowded scenes, chose a street stall near the main gate instead.

It was run by an elderly woman with white hair.

She was selling spicy hot pot, a dish of various vegetables and meats cooked together in a spicy broth. It was so fulfilling that no other food was needed.

Despite its local fame, the stall was quiet as martial artists from outside didn’t frequent it.
Lee Gwak took a seat and ordered,

“One spicy hot pot, please.”

“Just a moment,”

The old woman took a small pot of broth, filled it with various ingredients, and let it simmer for a while.

“Eat up, you must be hungry,”

“Thank you, I will enjoy it,”

Lee Gwak picked up his chopsticks with an enthusiastic reply.

He first tried the combination of vegetables and meat. The spicy taste numbed his mouth, and he broke into a sweat.

Despite the sweat, a bright smile appeared on his face, and he gave a thumbs up.

“This is fantastic!”

“Haha! Eat a lot”

The old woman looked on with a satisfied expression, Lee Gwak frantically moved his chopsticks and spoon. Sweat soaked his face and ran down his neck and chest.

As he was busy eating…

“Is it that delicious?”

A sudden voice asked.

Lee Gwak stopped and looked up to see two women.

One was dressed in all black, the other in a simple robe. Despite their different attire, both women were beautiful.

A look of concern crossed Lee Gwak’s face.

He knew both of them.

Putting down his chopsticks, he stood up and greeted them with a fist-and-palm salute.

“Lee Gwak of the outer hall greets the Dark Martial Empress Dan Li Yeon, and Dark Moon Fairy, Mok Seon Wol.”

The women were Dan Li Yeon, the Dark Martial Empress, and Mok Seon Wol, the Dark Moon Fairy.

Mok Seon Wol apologised,

“I’m sorry. We didn’t mean to disturb your meal. It’s just that we happened to see you enjoying your food so much that we were drawn here.”

They were on their way back to the inner court after a particularly tense meeting. Unable to eat properly due to the stress of the meeting, they were inadvertently lured to this spot by the sight of Lee Gwak enjoying his food at the stall.

Dan Li Yeon looked alternately at Lee Gwak and the spicy hot pot with a slightly furrowed brow. Since becoming a disciple of Ja Hong Cheon, she didn’t expect the food on the streets to be delicious.

In contrast, Mok Seon Wol’s eyes sparkled as she gazed at the spicy hot pot. Unlike Dan Li Yeon, she was very familiar with street food and harboured no prejudices against it.

She asked Lee Gwak,

“How does it taste?”

“It suits my palate perfectly.”

“So, it’s good?”

“Yes, it is.”

“That’s great! I was feeling a bit hungry. Grandma, please give us one each.”

As Mok Seon Wol briskly placed the order, Dan Li Yeon’s expression turned slightly uncomfortable.

She was still hesitant about eating street food. However, seeing Mok Seon Wol sit down confidently beside Lee Gwak, she reluctantly joined them.

“Please, take a seat, Mr. Lee.”

“Yes!”

Lee Gwak sat down, smiling awkwardly.

Both Mok Seon Wol and Dan Li Yeon were influential figures of their time, their status far exceeding that of Lee Gwak. The very fact that such distinguished women were dining with him at a street stall was a significant burden to him.

Whether Mok Seon Wol sensed Lee Gwak’s discomfort or not, she waited for the food with genuine excitement.

“It looks really delicious, doesn’t it?”

“Uh-huh!”

Dan Li Yeon nodded reluctantly.

Lee Gwak watched the two women briefly before resuming his meal. Their presence made him uneasy, but he couldn’t skip eating.

Slurp!

As he sipped the broth with meat, a tingling spiciness filled his mouth. As he ate, sweating profusely, small pots filled with Spicy Hot Pot were served to Mok Seon Wol and Dan Li Yeon.

Mok Seon Wol was the first to taste the soup. Her eyes widened in delight.

“Delicious!”

She began to eagerly scoop up meat and vegetables with her chopsticks.

Dan Li Yeon looked at Mok Seon Wol with a slight frown on her brow, then asked cautiously.

“Is it really good?”

“The best! Try it, or I’ll finish it all.”

“Hmm!”

Dan Li Yeon hesitantly picked up her chopsticks. As she tentatively tasted the food, her eyes widened in surprise.

“Ah?”

“Tasty, right?”

“Yes!”

Dan Li Yeon nodded unconsciously, and Mok Seon Wol smiled as if she had expected this reaction.

Dan Li Yeon was genuinely surprised. Contrary to her prejudice that street food would be tasteless and dirty, it was extremely delicious. The spicy flavour that tingled her mouth was particularly exceptional.

Slurp!

Conversation ceased, replaced by the sound of them enjoying their meal.

The sight of the three sitting on small stools at the street stall, eating, was somehow comical yet fitting.

“Phew!”

Finally, after finishing the last drop of soup, Dan Li Yeon breathed heavily. Her face flushed from the spicy meal, sweat beading on her nose, a sight mirrored by Mok Seon Wol.
Mok Seon Wol wore a happy smile.

She hadn’t expected to stay so long when she first entered the Jade Heaven Alliance, so she had come in with a light heart, but the longer she stayed, the more she struggled with the food that didn’t suit her palate.

The region where her sect, Dragon Heaven Valley, was located, had a cuisine characterised by spicy and salty flavours due to its unique heat. But the food inside the Jade Heaven Alliance was relatively bland compared to her homeland’s.

Although it was just a street stall, the Spicy Hot Pot she was enjoying now reminded her of home.

Mok Seon Wol turned to Lee Gwak.

“Thank you, Mr. Lee! Because of you, I was able to have a satisfying meal after a long time.”

“It’s nothing. I’m glad you enjoyed it.”

“I think I’ll be visiting this place often.”

Mok Seon Wol looked at Dan Li Yeon, who nodded with a satisfied expression.
Dan Li Yeon had felt guilty watching Mok Seon Wol struggle with the Jade Heaven Alliance’s food. Seeing Mok Seon Wol’s happy smile now improved her mood as well.

Mok Seon Wol then spoke to Lee Gwak,

“Anyway, since you introduced us to this great place, I’ll take care of today’s meal.”

“No, that’s not necessary.”

“No, really! It’s only right to repay a favour.”

Mok Seon Wol countered, quickly settling the bill before Lee Gwak could protest further.

Seeing Lee Gwak’s uneasy expression, Dan Li Yeon advised,

“Just accept her kindness. It’s no big deal.”

“Understood.”

“And thank you. Thanks to you, I’ve overcome my prejudice against street food. I never imagined there could be such delicious places outside the alliance walls. If you know of any other spots like this, please let us know.”

“That’s…”

“I don’t mean right now. If we happen to meet again by chance, you can tell us then. That’s not too much to ask, is it?”

“Alright.”

Eventually, Lee Gwak nodded. Dan Li Yeon was right; it wasn’t an unreasonable request, especially since there was no telling when they might meet like this again.

Dan Li Yeon stared intently at Lee Gwak.

Only then did she realise that Lee Gwak’s expression hadn’t changed much upon seeing her and Mok Seon Wol.

Dan Li Yeon, known as the Dark Martial Empress, was a formidable martial artist and the third disciple of Jade Heaven Alliance’s leader, Ja Hong Cheon. Mok Seon Wol, on the other hand, was one of the notable figures of Dragon Heaven Valley. Both were among the top echelons of the Jianghu.

Even the most recognized martial artists in the Jianghu would feel intimidated in their presence. In fact, everyone at the meeting they had attended before coming here was too petrified to speak properly to them.

But Lee Gwak was different. Despite being a mere low-ranking martial artist, he treated them quite comfortably, even showing signs of annoyance. His reaction was unlike any other renowned martial artist she had encountered.

It was then that she remembered something Mok Seon Wol had said earlier.

―”A fascinating person?”

Suddenly, she had a premonition that the person Mok Seon Wol had referred to was none other than Lee Gwak.

“Ah? Miss Dan, Miss Mok.”

A voice interrupted their thoughts.