Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 73

January 12, 2024 • 10 min read • 270 views

Where Destiny Leads……(2)

Novel- Martial Artist Lee Gwak

From the moment he decided to join Lim Sobo on the mission, the Thirteenth Squad was relieved of their duties in the Outer Hall. As a result, Lee Gwak and the Thirteenth Squad were able to spend their time more leisurely.

Lee Gwak left home early in the morning.

He had personal items to prepare.

He headed to the Eun Family Steelsmith, located on the outskirts of the Outer Hall. It was the very place where he had obtained his current sword.

Upon entering, the merchant recognised him.

“It’s been a while.”

“Yes! It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you.”

“Surely the sword hasn’t broken again?”

“The sword is intact.”

“Good, because if it had broken again, I would have doubted the reliability of the goods produced by our ironworks.”

Lee Gwak smiled at the merchant’s joke.

“You say such things.”

“So, what brings you here today? You said your sword is still in good shape.”

“I’ve come out to gather various necessary items for a long journey.”

“Seems like you haven’t decided on anything specific.”

“Yes! I’ll decide as I see.”

The merchant nodded at Lee Gwak’s response.

“Then, take your time to look around. Oh! But first, may I offer a piece of advice?”

“Of course, I’d appreciate it.”

“From my experience, if you’re travelling far, it’s good to prepare a small knife or hand axe separately. Inevitably, if the journey is long, there will be many nights spent outdoors, leading to a lot of odd jobs. Like cutting twigs, or trimming food. It’s quite inefficient to use the large sword you carry for these tasks. So, a small knife or hand axe would be a good addition.”

“Hmm!”

“That’s my advice. Now, take your time to look around.”

With that, the merchant gave Lee Gwak space to browse comfortably.

Left alone, Lee Gwak slowly looked around the room.

Displayed on the shelves were numerous weapons.

Swords, Knives, Spears, Axes…

Lee Gwak carefully examined all the weapons.

As he had noticed in the past, the weapons sold at the Eun Family Steelsmith were of very high quality. They were not masterpieces made by renowned craftsmen, but it was still rare to find weapons of this quality.

Therefore, Lee Gwak focused more on utility rather than the quality of the weapons.

As the merchant suggested, he needed a small knife or axe. Lee Gwak chose a dagger and a small hand axe from the display.

The dagger was only as long as an adult’s palm, but that made it easy to store. Its blade was quite sharp, seeming immensely useful.

“Hmm!”

Inwardly satisfied with the dagger, he was still reluctant to give up the hand axe. The hand axe, the size of a child’s arm, was light and balanced, and seemed just as useful as the dagger.

After some deliberation, Lee Gwak decided to buy both the dagger and the hand axe.

On a long journey, one never knew what might happen. It was best to be thoroughly prepared.

That’s when Lee Gwak’s eyes caught some peculiar items.

They were steel needles, each about the size of an adult’s finger. Though much thinner than a child’s finger, they looked incredibly sharp. There were more than a dozen of these needles scattered around.

‘These would be useful for traps or mechanisms.’

Instantly, Lee Gwak thought of more than ten different ways to use the needles.

Although they weren’t immediately necessary, seeing good materials made him greedy. Eventually, Lee Gwak bought the dagger, hand axe, and the steel needles.
The merchant looked puzzled.

“Why buy the needles along with the dagger and hand axe? They don’t seem very useful.”

“Just felt like it.”

“Your taste is quite strange, buying such useless things.”

“Then why make something useless?”

“Sigh! Someone in the main house likes to try and make various things. Sometimes they
create quite impressive items, but mostly they end up making such useless things. It’s more profitable to sell them cheaply than to melt them down and make something new.

The merchant sighed.

Whoever made the needles seemed to be a bit of a bother to him.

Nonetheless, this was of no concern to Lee Gwak. To the merchant, they might seem useless, but to Lee Gwak, they had endless utility.

After paying, Lee Gwak left the Steelsmith.

His next stop was a clothing store in the marketplace.

Inside, there was a wide variety of clothing. There were garments made of fluttering silk and lightweight armour. However, Lee Gwak chose a brown leather windbreaker.

The bulky windbreaker was perfect for blocking wind and rain, essential for someone like Lee Gwak who was travelling far.

Then, something else caught his eye—a wide leather belt.

The leather belt was much broader than a typical belt and designed to conveniently store daggers and various items.

Lee Gwak strapped the belt around his waist and stored the dagger and hand axe he had bought from the Eun Family Steelsmith.

“Perfect!”

As if they were made for this purpose, the dagger and hand axe fit perfectly in the belt. Adding the steel needles to the leather pouch attached to the back of the belt made it even more perfect.

Lee Gwak also tried on the windbreaker.

It felt as if it was tailor-made for him.

A satisfied smile appeared on Lee Gwak’s lips. He paid the shopkeeper and stepped outside.

Having been busy since early morning, it was already past noon.

After a quick meal at a street vendor, Lee Gwak bought a few more items. He returned home in the evening with his hands full.

“Phew!”

Lee Gwak spread out the items he had bought today on the floor.

The dagger, hand axe, leather belt, steel needles, a leather bag, a bundle of ropes, and a water container—the variety was diverse.

He had spent two months’ worth of salary on these items. His pockets were empty, but Lee Gwak did not regret it.

They might seem useless now, but he was confident they would be useful someday.

Lee Gwak glanced around his house.

He was concerned about managing his house while being away for a long time. He thought about setting up mechanisms before leaving but decided against it.

He couldn’t be sure if Han So cheon might visit in his absence. He didn’t want to startle her with any mechanisms.

‘So Cheon!’

Thinking of Han So cheon, Lee Gwak’s gaze deepened.

She must still be on the front lines, carrying out assassination missions.

Lee Gwak had experienced how soul- and spirit-consuming it is for a person to take another’s life when he killed the Dark Emissary. Therefore, he was even more worried about Han So Cheon.

“Sigh!”

Just thinking about her made him sigh deeply.

A myriad of emotions were mixed in his breath.
***
Lee Gwak and the members of the Thirteenth squad were each given horses.

Normally, Outer Hall Martial Artists were not provided with horses, but this time was an exception.

As figures like Woon Dae Yeon and Lim Sobo were travelling on horseback, it wouldn’t make sense for their attendants, including Lee Gwak, to walk.

Lee Gwak, Seok Yi Cheon, and Ki Jin Hwi adapted well to the horses, but the rest struggled to ride comfortably. They had to dedicate themselves to learning until just before departure.

Finally, the day to leave the Jade Heaven Alliance arrived.

Lee Gwak and the Thirteenth squad members brought their horses to the meeting place.

Even the experienced Seok Yi Cheon and Ki Jin Hwi showed signs of tension. It was a
burdensome task for them to travel far from the Jade Heaven Alliance.

The rest of the squad members were no different. Their eyes were constantly moving, a clear sign of their nervousness.

Lee Gwak spoke to Seok Yi Cheon.

“You’ve taken care of the liquor, right?”

“Liquor?”

“Didn’t you bring any?”

“Of course, I did.”

At the mention of liquor, Seok Yi Cheon laughed as if he had never been nervous. He pointed at his horse’s back where bottles of liquor were tied.

“You did well.”

“When camping out, nothing’s better than liquor. The other guys have also brought some, so we won’t run out.”

Hearing Seok Yi Cheon’s words, the other squad members smiled.

The tension in their faces seemed to have dissipated.

“Everyone’s here.”

At that moment, Lim Sobo appeared with a youthful voice. Behind her stood Woon Dae Yeon and three warriors. At first glance, they looked like ordinary martial artists, but they were Woon Dae Yeon’s bodyguards.

The moment Lee Gwak saw the bodyguards, he recognized them. They were the ones he had seen before.

‘The Divine Blood Executioner Squad.’

They were the direct unit of the sect leader, first revealed during the hunt for Gwang Noh ya. Although they failed in the hunt and their leader, Yook Hyeon, lost his life, their prowess remained vividly in Lee Gwak’s memory.

Though disguised in ordinary clothes instead of blood robes, Lee Gwak clearly remembered their faces.

He realised that Woon Dae Yeon and the others must be on a significant mission.

The Divine Blood Executioner Squad wouldn’t move independently without the sect leader’s permission. Their involvement suggested a mission linked to the sect leader, which couldn’t be ordinary.

The squad members were conversing in low voices. Their casual appearance belied the sharpness in their eyes.

Woon Dae Yeon approached Lee Gwak.

“Are you all ready?”

“Yes!”

“Then let’s set off immediately. Don’t worry about me; focus on So bo.”

“Understood.”

Without waiting for a response, Woon Dae Yeon mounted his horse, followed by the Divine Blood Executioner Squad.

They left first, followed by Lee Gwak and the Thirteenth squad.

While riding beside Woon Dae Yeon, Lim Sobo gradually fell back to align with Cheon Wol.

“You’re covering your face again.”

“Sorry!”

Cheon Wol reflexively apologised at Lim Sobo’s remark, and she smiled.

“No, it’s okay this time. Keep your face covered. We don’t want other women falling for you while we’re on the road.”

Cheon Wol blushed slightly at Lim Sobo’s playful words, but his face was wrapped in cloth, so Lim Sobo couldn’t see it.

Lim Sobo then moved her horse next to Lee Gwak.

“Thank you, Oraboni, for willingly accompanying us.”

“No need to mention it. But isn’t it time you tell me our destination?”

“That’s actually why I came to you. Our destination is the Myriad Merchant Troupe.”

“Myriad Merchant Troupe?”

Lee Gwak’s eyes lit up.

Myriad Merchant Troupe was one of the Ten Sects, a conglomerate of merchants from across the land wielding immense financial power and influencing a corner of the world.

Over the past hundred years, they invested enormous sums to build their own force. They collected various martial arts secrets and hired renowned martial artists for a hefty price.

Initially, martial artists ridiculed the Myriad Merchant Troupe.

The prevailing thought was that true martial prowess couldn’t be bought with money. Martial artists’ pride was considered unswayed by money.

However, the Myriad Merchant Troupe shattered this prejudice. They recruited and supported masters by offering unimaginable sums of money.

With the support of extensive martial arts secrets and elixirs, these masters grew stronger and pledged loyalty to the Myriad Merchant Troupe.

A kingdom built on gold.

That’s how the Jianghu referred to the Myriad Merchant Troupe.

Even in the Jianghu centred around the Jade Heaven Alliance, Myriad Merchant Troupe maintained its autonomy, partly due to this reason.

“Why the Myriad Merchant Troupe?”

“The reason a martial artist seeks the Myriad Merchant Troupe is only one.”

“…”

“To beg for money. Jade Heaven Alliance needs money. A lot of it.”

Lim Sobo smiled brightly.