Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 76

January 17, 2024 • 11 min read • 315 views

Connections Are Meant to Be Made (1)

Novel- Martial Artist Lee Gwak

“What are you thinking about so deeply? You look like you’ve lost your mind.”

“Hmm!”

Startled by Ki Jin Hwi’s voice, Lee Gwak snapped out of his reverie.

Before he knew it, Ki Jin Hwi had come to his side and they were riding side by side. Lee Gwak had fallen into a daze, prompting Ki Jin Hwi to catch up.

“It’s nothing.”

“It doesn’t seem like nothing.”

“Just a variety of random thoughts.”

Lee Gwak forced a smile.

His mind had been busy since his encounter with Go Geom Wol. The lingering effects of Go Geom Wol continued to haunt him.

It wasn’t about the superiority of martial arts.

Although he learned martial arts alone, Lee Gwak was a martial artist who staked his life on a single sword.

He was always prepared to lose his life if he encountered an opponent stronger than him.

To him, the fact that Go Geom Wol’s martial prowess was profoundly superior was not a significant issue. After all, their starting points were different. It was natural to be outmatched by someone who started from a much higher place than himself.

The likelihood of never catching up to him, even after a lifetime of racing, was greater. But Lee Gwak didn’t mind. He was doing his utmost, after all.

He didn’t know how far he could go, but he was confident he wouldn’t stop until death.

That was Lee Gwak’s resolve.

To walk alone, not conscious of anyone else.

He didn’t want to live his life in vain, wasting his mental energy by considering someone else as a competitor.

That might be why he couldn’t leave the Jade Heaven Alliance.

It wasn’t that he particularly believed in or relied on the Jade Heaven Alliance, but he didn’t want to deliberately reject the many benefits it offered. Perhaps he justified his complacency with the excuse that he was waiting for Han So Cheon.

The shock Go Geom Wol gave him was enormous.

He knew it the moment he saw Go Geom Wol.

He was his natural enemy.

His exact opposite existed.

And it was unreachable, high above.

He didn’t know why the heavens showed him such a being, but one thing was certain.
As long as he lived in the Jianghu, he would never escape the lingering effect of Go Geom Wol.

Now that he was aware of Go Geom Wol’s existence, the net of cause and effect would terrifyingly tighten.

“Phew!”

Lee Gwak let out a soft sigh.

For the first time, a determined light appeared in his eyes, which had been filled with a myriad of emotions.

‘I should leave the Jade Heaven Alliance.’

Staying in the Jade Heaven Alliance might be comfortable, but he wouldn’t advance much from his current level.

There is no further progress for those who settle.

With the gap already vast, settling would mean losing any chance of catching up with Go Geom Wol.

Go Geom Wol would be advancing at a terrifying pace even at this moment. To catch up, Lee Gwak needed to reset his mindset.

Suddenly, Lee Gwak chuckled.

He thought it ironic that Go Geom Wol, his natural enemy, had spurred him to such a resolution.

Go Geom Wol had shattered his fixed notions and perceptions in just one encounter.

Meeting Go Geom Wol had spurred Lee Gwak to finally decide to stand alone as a warrior.

All of this would have been impossible without that encounter.

But leaving the Jade Heaven Alliance right away was not feasible.

There were still many things binding him. However, now that he’d made his decision, he’d be able to settle everything and leave the Jade Heaven Alliance soon.

Lee Gwak’s expression looked much relieved after making his decisions.

Ki Jin Hwi closely observed Lee Gwak’s face.

‘It seems the young bird is finally ready to flap its wings.’

Having been together for a long time, he could read Lee Gwak’s thoughts just by his expressions.

Lee Gwak’s current face was one he made when he had made a significant decision.

Ki Jin Hwi genuinely thought it was for the best.

Lee Gwak was too valuable to settle in the Jade Heaven Alliance.

Initially, he seemed just an ordinary person.

Just right for an outer hall squad leader, nothing more, nothing less.

That was his initial judgement of Lee Gwak. Even after joining the 13th Squad, he hadn’t thought much of him.

It took a long time for Ki Jin Hwi’s prejudice to break.

He couldn’t pinpoint Lee Gwak’s martial arts level, but Lee Gwak was constantly improving.
Day by day, slowly but surely, without ever stopping.

Such a man was bound to reach the top of the mountain one day.

‘If it weren’t for the mission entrusted to me, I would have followed and watched over him.’

He felt a tinge of regret but quickly brushed it off.

He didn’t know how long his connection with Lee Gwak would last, but he was sure it wouldn’t easily break.

Then, Woon Dae Yon’s voice came from the front.

“Let’s rest here today.”

Lost in thought, they had arrived at a sizable village.

The well-paved main street was lined with numerous inns, a testament to the heavy traffic of visitors.

Indeed, the streets were busy, mostly with merchants driving their cargo wagons.

Woon Dae Yon chose the largest and most lavish inn as their lodging.

“Let’s all go to our rooms and rest, and then we’ll gather again for dinner.”

The group obeyed his instructions without question.

They had been working hard since crossing the river, so everyone was secretly tired.

They all really wanted to rest for a day at the inn, especially young Lim Sobo, who looked exhausted.

Agreeing to meet again for dinner, everyone went to their respective rooms.

Lee Gwak entered the room he was assigned and unpacked his belongings.

His luggage was just a small bundle, all he had.

Without changing his clothes, Lee Gwak sat in a chair by the window. Through the open window, he could see the busy street filled with people.

Lee Gwak thought about just sitting and resting, but instead, he decided to head outside, as he didn’t feel tired unlike the others.

“Ah, Squad Leader!”

As he stepped outside, he unexpectedly ran into someone.

It was Ki Jin Hwi.

He too had just dropped off his things and come out.

“Aren’t you resting?”

“I have somewhere to visit.”

“Do you know someone here?”

“Not exactly…”

Ki Jin Hwi looked troubled for a moment, but then continued resolutely.

“If it’s not a problem, come with me, Squad Leader. Just promise not to tell anyone else about where we go. That’s all I ask.”

“If my presence is a burden, I’d rather stay here.”

“No, not at all. Just keep it a secret.”

“Understood.”

As Lee Gwak nodded, Ki Jin Hwi grinned, showing his yellow teeth.

“We should hurry if we want to be back by dinner.”

“Yes!”

Lee Gwak followed Ki Jin Hwi, not knowing what to expect.

Navigation in the crowded streets was difficult, but Ki Jin Hwi’s movement was confident.

He led Lee Gwak to an alleyway in a secluded part of the village, where a large house stood at the end of a dirty lane, apparently a hangout for thugs.

“What is this place?”

“A gambling den.”

Just as Ki Jin Hwi answered and moved forward, they were stopped.

“Halt!”

“You can’t just enter here.”

Men with fierce looks blocked their path, their appearances enough to chill the bones.

As they stared menacingly at Lee Gwak and Ki Jin Hwi, Ki Jin Hwi stepped forward and showed them something.

“Ah!”

Their faces turned pale instantly.

Ki Jin Hwi put the item back and said,

“We’ve come to the black market. Can we enter?”

“Of course. There will be someone inside to guide you.”

“Thank you!”

The men stepped aside, allowing them to pass.

Ki Jin Hwi confidently walked in, followed by Lee Gwak.

Inside, as Ki Jin Hwi said, it was a gambling den, with many engrossed in gambling.

There were ordinary looking people and those haggard from long gambling, all with a common glint of desire in their eyes.

None of the gamblers paid any attention to Lee Gwak and Ki Jin Hwi; their focus was solely on the gambling.

“A distinguished guest has arrived.”

Then, from deeper inside, a woman approached quickly.

It was a middle-aged woman wearing a silk robe that revealed her curvaceous figure. She looked to be in her early to mid-thirties, with a sensual appearance and a smile full of colour.
She greeted Ki Jin Hwi warmly.

“It’s been a long time, Soo Wol.”

“It’s been a decade, Oraboni.”

“Seems so.”

“You haven’t changed at all, Oraboni. Still the same.”

“Haha! I’m already not handsome, what would I do if I aged terribly?”

“Hohoho!”

Soo Wol, the woman, laughed heartily at Ki Jin Hwi’s words.

Her gaze then shifted to Lee Gwak.

“And who is this?”

“He’s the Squad Leader I serve.”

“Can I let him inside? The boss doesn’t want this place to become more known.”

“I’ll take responsibility. He’s discreet and will keep secrets.”

“Only if my Oraboni says so…….”

Soo Wol looked at Ki Jin Hwi with affectionate eyes, not just as an ordinary acquaintance.
Lee Gwak sensed there was more to their relationship but kept silent as it wasn’t his place to interfere.

Soo Wol led them to a shabby warehouse in the deepest part of the gambling den.

She knocked on the wall in a specific rhythm, triggering some mechanism.

Grrrung!

A wall opened, revealing a corridor.

“Please, come in.”

Soo Wol, with a sly smile, led the way into the dark hallway, followed by Ki Jin Hwi and Lee Gwak.

The corridor was unexpectedly long, almost to the point of causing fear. But Lee Gwak knew exactly where they were heading.

‘We’re spiralling downward underground.’

Not many knew mechanics better than him.

The corridor used darkness to disorient the human senses. It seemed like they were travelling far, but in reality, they were spiralling down into the building’s basement.

They arrived in a large underground space, like a giant warehouse, with shelves filled with various items and people inspecting or bargaining for goods.

“This is?”

“The black market.”

Lee Gwak furrowed his brow, hearing the term for the first time.

“As you know, the central hub of the celestial world is the Myriad Merchant Troupe, our destination. That’s an undeniable fact. But where there is light, there must be shadow. There’s a place boasting wealth comparable to the Myriad Merchant Troupe – the black market. Here, you can find things not available in the Myriad Merchant Troupe.”

“Hmm!”

“The black market is truly unique. Because of its tight security and selective clientele, ordinary people don’t even know its name. But once you’ve traded here, you’re bound to come back”

“Because they can find things not available in the Myriad Merchant Troupe?”

“Exactly! I also get the items I need through here.”

Ki Jin Hwi’s knowledge of the black market came from Soo Wol. They had a long-standing connection, and when Soo Wol joined the black market and rose through the ranks, she informed him about it and gave him a token for access.

Thanks to this, Ki Jin Hwi was able to use the black markets scattered across the central plains to find what he needed.

‘The black market…’

Lee Gwak mentally noted the place, intrigued.

Soo Wol was the person in charge of this black market, essentially the regional chief.

She asked Ki Jin Hwi,

“So, Oraboni, what do you need?”

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