Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 75

January 12, 2024 • 12 min read • 264 views

Where Destiny Leads…… (4)

Novel- Martial Artist Lee Gwak

The group arrived at a village with a large wharf. In front of the village was a large river that could only be crossed by boat.

The dock was full of people waiting to board the boat.

“This place is a major junction to the Myriad Merchant Troupe. That’s why it’s always bustling with merchants,”

Lee Gwak nodded at Lim Sobo’s explanation.

According to her, the boat crossing the river operates only once a day. Missing the morning departure meant having to spend a day stranded here.

Fortunately, thanks to their diligent efforts, Lee Gwak’s party managed to reach the dock before the boat’s departure.

As expected of a boat that transports merchants, the boat was enormous. It had large spaces beneath the deck to carry horses, carriages, and numerous goods.

Lee Gwak’s party entrusted their horses to the crew and boarded the deck.

Woon Dae Yon and the Divine Blood Executioner Squad immediately went to their assigned cabins upon boarding, while Lee Gwak and the 13th Squad sat on the deck and enjoyed the scenery.

“Marvelous!”

Ki Jin Hwi smiled, embracing the river breeze with his whole body.

Since leaving the Jade Heaven Alliance, he was always smiling. He was naturally cheerful, but it seemed leaving the Jade Heaven Alliance made him even happier.

Ki Jin Hwi slyly showed a bottle of liquor to Lee Gwak.

“It’s still working hours though…”

“What could possibly happen on the river? Let’s just take a sip.”

“Just one sip.”

“I won’t urge you more, so don’t worry.”

At Ki Jin Hwi’s words, Lee Gwak smiled and sat next to him.

After taking a sip, Ki Jin Hwi offered the bottle to Lee Gwak.

Swallowing the drink, Lee Gwak felt a burning sensation in his throat. It was a potent liquor.

Seeing Lee Gwak’s surprised expression, Ki Jin Hwi chuckled.

“It’s hard to come by. Just one sip and your whole body feels fiery.”

“You seem to be in a good mood.”

“Well, being out after a long time naturally lifts the spirits.”

“You used to go out often, didn’t you?”

“Half a day’s outing and staying out for a long time are entirely different. Maybe a squad leader like you, living outside the Jade Heaven Alliance, wouldn’t understand, but for those of us who live in the quarters, this freedom is quite missed.”

Ki Jin Hwi took another sip.

Lee Gwak intently observed Ki Jin Hwi’s face, causing him to wear an awkward expression.

“Why, is there something on my face?”

“Haven’t you found it yet?”

Though the question lacked a subject, Ki Jin Hwi understood Lee Gwak’s words. He grinned and said,

“They must be hiding very well. Not even a single hair found.”

“Isn’t there a possibility they are hiding somewhere other than the Jade Heaven Alliance?”

“It’s possible. But I think the Jade Heaven Alliance is most likely. It’s the only place that meets all the conditions I have in mind.”

“Can’t you tell yet? Who you are looking for.”

“Sorry, Squad Leader!”

“It’s alright.”

“If the situation arises where I can tell you, I’ll let you know first, Squad Leader. Just wait a little longer.”

“Understood.”

As Lee Gwak nodded, Ki Jin Hwi offered him the bottle of liquor again. Lee Gwak silently took another sip.

“You have a rather interesting fate, Squad Leader.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s not a fate that leads destiny, but one where destiny converges.”

“What does that mean?”

“Whether you want it or not, Squad Leader, you’ll find yourself at the centre of significant events.”

“I’m content as I am. I don’t wish to be entangled in such affairs.”

Ki Jin Hwi’s gaze drifted toward the river.

“How wonderful it would be if fate followed our will. I think of fate as this river.”

“…”

“It bends, it gets blocked, but in the end, it always reaches the sea, doesn’t it? Fate is similar; no matter how many variables come in between, it eventually reaches its destination.”

There was a strange wisdom in Ki Jin Hwi’s voice.

He had a scarred face and a missing front tooth, which usually made him look comical, but at this moment, he appeared quite serious.”

Sensing Lee Gwak’s gaze, Ki Jin Hwi suddenly chuckled.

“Don’t take it too seriously. Just saying, hehe!”

“…”

“Ah, the liquor tastes good. I should have another round with Yi Cheon hyung.”

He naturally got up and approached Seok Yi Cheon, who was on one side of the deck. They exchanged smiles and drinks.

After watching the two for a while, Lee Gwak shifted his gaze elsewhere.

The deck was now crowded with people.

They were gathered in small groups, chatting or admiring the scenery.

There were merchants and their hired guards, as well as ordinary people unrelated to the Jianghu.

Some had serious expressions, while others were continuously smiling, pleased with something.

Lee Gwak couldn’t know their stories, but he could feel the flow of their emotions.
Suddenly, his gaze stopped at a particular spot.

The flowing emotions seemed to halt at one point, like a river blocked by a massive mountain.

There was a presence, obstructing the flow of emotions, sitting on the bow’s railing, indifferently watching the flowing river.

His long, black hair was draped over his shoulders, and his eyes were half-closed. He blended seamlessly with the surrounding scenery.

Despite the many people around him, not a single person seemed aware of his presence, as if he was just part of the landscape.

Among the crowd, only Lee Gwak noticed his existence.

From the moment Lee Gwak became aware of him, he felt chills running down his spine. The goosebumps started from his forearms and spread throughout his body.

The surrounding scenery faded from his view, leaving only the man in his sight.

Lee Gwak swallowed dryly without realising.

His muscles tensed, and his breathing quickened.

His vision narrowed, and his eyes involuntarily reddened.

Though the man made no move, Lee Gwak alone felt threatened and tense.

In that brief moment, Lee Gwak debated several times whether to unsheathe his sword, such was the man’s imposing presence.

Then, it happened.

The man, who had been indifferently watching the river, raised his head and looked at Lee Gwak.

Only then could Lee Gwak clearly see the man’s face.

The man was as beautiful as if painted in a picture. Cheon Wol was handsome, but compared to this man, he was just a firefly before the full moon; the man was that stunning.

Lee Gwak stopped breathing at the man’s peculiar beauty dripping with decadence.

Had the sixth snake not awakened at that moment, Lee Gwak would have been enchanted by the man’s beauty.

Shiii!

The sound of the sixth snake seemed to warn him, and only then could Lee Gwak barely hold on to his senses.

There was a flicker in the man’s eyes as he looked at Lee Gwak.

He gestured to Lee Gwak to come closer.

Lee Gwak could have refused the call, but he didn’t.

Though he didn’t know the man’s identity, he felt that avoiding him now would lead to eternal regret.

Lee Gwak made his way through the crowd towards the man.

As Lee Gwak approached, the man stood up from the railing with a faint smile.

“Interesting young man. My name is Go Geom Wol. What’s yours?”

“I’m Lee Gwak.”

“Gwak? Like the word for ‘Protect’? A good name.”

Go Geom Wol’s smile deepened.

At that moment, Lee Gwak felt a peculiar sensation. It felt like he was isolated from the world, trapped in a separate space.

Ssiiii!

After the sixth snake, the great snake awoke and curled violently around his body as if to warn him.

Go Geom Wol’s gaze shifted towards the sword at Lee Gwak’s waist.

“Have you mastered the Blade Arts? A good choice. People often call the sword the ‘king of all weapons’, but in terms of utility, nothing can match the Blade. It’s better to choose the blade rather than half-heartedly learn the sword.”

“So you’ve mastered the sword?”

Lee Gwak’s gaze was fixed on the sword hanging like an ornament from Go Geom Wol’s waist.

It was as ordinary as Lee Gwak’s own sword.

Together with the handle, it was barely three feet (90cm) long, much shorter than Lee Gwak’s sword and smaller than typical swords.

Go Geom Wol caressed the sword at his waist and said,

“If I had the choice, I would have chosen Blade Arts too. Mastering the sword to its ultimate essence is an arduous task. But I had no choice; since a time I can’t even remember, I had to hold a sword. Now, it’s too late to change weapons.”

Ziiing!

Suddenly, Go Geom Wol’s sword let out a cry.

Lee Gwak felt a pain as if his eardrums were tearing and stepped back. Go Geom Wol smiled contentedly.

“Impressive. To hear the cry of another’s sword.”

“Cry?”

“It’s also called ‘Sword Howl’.”

Go Geom Wol looked momentarily perplexed.

It seemed that Lee Gwak was unfamiliar with the concept of Sword Howl. Then, Go Geom Wol realised that Lee Gwak’s martial arts were different from the norm.

“Hmm! I thought your training seemed unusual, and now I see you haven’t had a proper master. To reach such a level on your own, stimulating the major meridians throughout the body, is a rare harmony of creating something from nothing.”

“……”

Lee Gwak was startled, almost out of breath.

He had met many martial artists, but none had ever recognized his level, let alone that he was self-taught. Yet, Go Geom Wol not only discerned his level but also saw through the fact that he had taught himself.

‘How?’

Unwittingly, Lee Gwak’s hand reached for the handle of his sword, driven by a strong sense of danger.

Despite seeing Lee Gwak grip his sword, Go Geom Wol did not lose his smile.

“No need to be so guarded. I’m not your enemy. Not yet, anyway.”

“Who are you?”

“Didn’t I tell you? Go Geom Wol .”

Though he knew Lee Gwak wasn’t asking for his name, Gogeomwol responded as such.
Lee Gwak glared at Go Geom Wol with wide eyes.

“I left my sect long ago and trained alone. So I know how hard it is to train in martial arts alone. But my situation was a bit better than yours. I received the best support and systematically learned martial arts from a young age. The special inner techniques I’m learning now are also part of that training.”

“……”

“From the moment I saw you, my inner techniques have been ringing alarms in my soul. I just came to see the famous Sword Dragon, but meeting you, it seems perhaps our fates are intertwined.”

“Fate?”

“It might seem coincidental that we met today, but if you trace back in time, there’s surely a point where the webs of cause and effect intersect. We just don’t know it yet.”

Lee Gwak felt as if an awl was piercing his temples. He even thought Go Geom Wol’s words might be true.

Go Geom Wol continued speaking.

“That’s the way of the world. It doesn’t leave anything outstanding alone. When someone with a great fate appears, the world brings forth another to counterbalance them. It’s quite ironic.”

“I’m not as grand a being as you make me out to be.”

“Not yet!”

“……”

“Don’t be so tense. I have no intention of doing anything to you yet.”

Lee Gwak realised Go Geom Wol ‘s words were true, not because someone explained it to him, but because he instinctively knew it.

Go Geom Wol looked up at the sky.

“It was worth coming this far in search of the legacy of the Demonic Sword Immortal left in the War Sword Style. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have met you. Your training is rare and valuable in this world. So cherish and hone it, and come to where I am.”

“I don’t have wings sturdy enough to approach you.”

“Even a Dapeng bird which can fly ten thousand Li on a single flap of its wings, needs someone to take care of it when it is young. If your heart is strong, fate will lead you to someone who will give you strong wings.”

“……”

“I hope such fortune finds you, young brother.”

“I…”

“Listen to the voice of the sword. When you’re ready, the sword will show you the way.”

Ziing!

The ringing in his ears made Lee Gwak close his eyes for a moment. When the noise subsided and he opened his eyes, no one was in front of him.

“Why have you been standing there so blankly?”

Then a familiar voice sounded.

Turning around, Lee Gwak saw Seok Yi Cheon approaching.

“Didn’t you see the man who was standing in front of me?”

“What are you talking about? You’ve been standing alone the whole time.”

“That’s…”

Lee Gwak bit his lip hard, giving up on explaining.

What he experienced was neither a dream nor an illusion. The big snake still fiercely coiling around his body proved it.

Go Geom Wol was real. He must have done something to prevent the people on the ship from noticing him.

‘Go Geom Wol , the Demonic Sword Immortal, and the War Sword Style…’

Lee Gwak bit his lip till it bled.

He too realised it.

His fate was heading towards Go Geom Wol