Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 79

January 19, 2024 • 12 min read • 310 views

Each With Their Own Thoughts (1)

Novel- Martial Artist Lee Gwak

Life at the Myriad Merchant Troupe was more monotonous than expected.

Initially fascinated, the members who went out every day soon lost interest and stayed indoors.

Throughout this time, Woon Dae Yeon and Lim Sobo never once showed up where the 13th squad was staying. They were rumored to be in intense negotiations with the Myriad Merchant Troupe on a daily basis.

There was no telling when the negotiations would end.

Until a clear conclusion was reached, Lee Gwak could only pass the time.

Since entering the Myriad Merchant Troupe, Cheon-wol had shut himself in his room, deeply engrossed in studying the Hidden Sword Art.

Ki Jin Hwi also remained in his room, occupied with something he bought from the black market. The other members also spent their time individually.

It was on the fifth day that Lee Gwak went outside for the first time. Until then, he too had been confined to his room, practising martial arts, but he felt the need to take a break due to the limitations of practising in a confined space.

The Myriad Merchant Troupe had a distinctly free and easygoing atmosphere.

The streets were bustling with merchants trading. These were not just ordinary transactions between merchants and the public, but between merchants themselves.

Their eyes sparkled with intensity, and a palpable tension filled the air. Nerves were on edge as a single word could mean hundreds or thousands of nyangs in profit.

“For an item of this quality, I should get at least a hundred silver coins.”

“Maybe for pristine goods, yes. But see this flaw here? That means at least a hundred and twenty nyang less. I’m even giving you this much because of our long-standing business relationship.”

“Oh! You can’t talk like that. Reducing over a hundred nyang for just this small defect? Forget it. I won’t trade with you.”

“Why are people so hasty these days?”

If one party wanted to end the deal, the other would hold on.

Lee Gwak watched these transactions with interest.

‘They may not wield swords, but they too are waging wars.’

Each merchant negotiated and argued fiercely for even the smallest profit. In some ways, their battles seemed more fierce and deadly than those of the martial artists.

Such trades were happening all around.

The intense energy they emitted made Lee Gwak shake his head.

That’s when it dawned on him.

How Myriad Merchant Troupe had amassed the greatest wealth in the land.

‘Myriad Merchant Troupe doesn’t directly engage in trade but creates a marketplace where merchants can freely conduct their business. By providing a place where the greatest merchants of the world can comfortably trade, naturally, wealth accumulates.’

For Lee Gwak, who had always thought of the Jade Heaven Alliance as the centre of the world, the commercial activities in the Myriad Merchant Troupe were a fresh shock.

That’s when it happened.

“Make way, please.”

A booming voice suddenly came from behind.

Turning around, he saw a procession entering the Myriad Merchant Troupe.

The endless line of impressive cargo caravans was so astonishing that even Lee Gwak gaped in awe.

At the front of the caravan fluttered a large banner with the words ‘Heavenly Escort Establishment’ written on it.

Then, a group emerged from within Myriad Merchant Troupe.

Judging by their attire, they were clearly key figures of the Myriad Merchant Troupe.

Lee Gwak watched the entire scene with keen interest.

He didn’t know what the Heavenly Escort Establishment was transporting, but it had to be something of great value for the leading figures of the Myriad Merchant Troupe to personally greet them.

As if to prove his speculation, the surrounding merchants began to chatter noisily.

“It’s the Heavenly Escort Establishment.”

“The leader of the escort, Mo Yong Shin, has come out himself. They must be carrying something really important.

Listening to the merchants, Lee Gwak realised that the elderly martial artist leading the escort procession was Mo Yong Shin, the escort leader.

The Heavenly Escort Establishment was the only escort bureau operated directly by the Myriad Merchant Troupe. Escort leader Mo Yong Shin, known as the “King of Escorts”, was highly respected in the Jianghu and was said to be very close to Eun Won Ho, the leader of the Myriad Merchant Troupe.

The fact that Mo Yong Shin personally led the escort was an indication of the immense value of the goods being transported.

Lee Gwak’s gaze turned to the people from the Myriad Merchant Troupe. He was curious as to who would be the one to personally greet Mo Yong Shin.

Suddenly, his eyes widened in surprise. An unexpected figure was among them.

A smirking merchant who appeared to be in his early forties was fanning himself with a faint smile on his face.

‘Lee Shin Chung!’

Lee Gwak remembered his name.

He had once led a procession carrying an enormous amount of war supplies into the Jade Heaven Alliance. Back then, Cheon-wol was merely a laborer under his command, who was dismissed after an accident injured his leg.

Although he was dismissed in a miserable way, Lee Shin Chung had shown enough courtesy to Lee Gwak and Cheon-wol. Therefore, Lee Gwak’s impression of him was not entirely negative.

Lee Gwak still kept the copper badge with the sword emblem that Lee Shin Chung had given him.

“Hmm!”

Lee Gwak had thought that Lee Shin Chung was just one of many merchants. However, from the reactions of the other merchants, it was clear that Lee Shin Chung was quite high up in the ranks of the Myriad Merchant Troupe.

Mo Yong Shin dismounted from his horse and walked towards Lee Shin Chung.

“Haha, did you come out yourself?”

His face bore a bright smile.

Lee Shin Chung bowed respectfully towards him.

“The elderly Escort Leader has travelled a long way, shouldn’t I be the one to greet him?”

“Ah! Calling me old? Where do I look old to you?”

“It’s just the age, not strength. Who can match you in toughness? Even the leader of the Alliance envies you.

“Flatterer! Anyway, let’s go inside. We have a lot to talk about.”

Mo Yong Shin shook his head in amusement and put a hand on Lee Shin Chung’s shoulder. Together they walked side by side.

Mo Yong Shin chattered on and on. Despite his dignified appearance, he was quite talkative.

‘I’m going to have ear calluses.’

Lee Shin Chung inwardly sighed and looked around.

He was fond of Mo Yong Shin but found his endless chatter hard to bear.

Young people talk about the future, but old people often glorify the past.

Especially Mo Yong Shin, who had a tendency to reminisce excessively about the past and boast about his exploits. As a result, many in the Myriad Merchant Troupe were reluctant to meet him. Once caught, they had to listen to his stories for half a day.

Lee Shin Chung half-listened, half-ignored Mo Yong Shin’s stories while he looked around. It was a habit he had when talking to Mo Yong Shin.

‘Huh?’

At that moment, Lee Shin Chung spotted an unfamiliar face in his field of vision.

It was not unusual to see a stranger in the Myriad Merchant Troupe. Many people came and went every day. But Lee Shin Chung could not take his eyes off this particular person.

His gaze fixed on the stranger, Lee Shin Chung eventually remembered where he had seen him.

‘The Jade Heaven Alliance!’

Unwittingly, Lee Shin Chung’s steps led him to Lee Gwak.

“So, as I was saying… Hey, look there.”

Seeing Lee Shin Chung suddenly walk away, Mo Yong Shin, who had been talking at length, looked perplexed.

Lee Gwak was taken aback as Lee Shin Chung approached him directly.

Lee Shin Chung addressed Lee Gwak.

“Squad Leader Lee, right?”

“Do you remember me?”

“Of course. Didn’t I give you a sword token? But what brings Squad Leader Lee here? Ah! Are you accompanying Master Woon and Miss Lim, who have come to negotiate?”

“Yes!”

“I thought as much.”

Lee Shin Chung beamed at Lee Gwak’s confirmation. He looked around and continued.

“Did Cheon-wol come with you?”

“Cheon-wol is resting at the inn.”

“Has he officially joined the Outer Hall?”

“Yes.”

“That’s wonderful. I was concerned about him.”

Lee Shin Chung rejoiced as if it were his own business.

Then Mo Yong Shin approached Lee Shin Chung, asking,

“Who is this young man that you greet so warmly?”

“Ah! My apologies. This is Captain Lee from the Jade Heaven Alliance. He’s escorting the dignitaries who are currently negotiating inside.”

Lee Shin Chung took the opportunity to tell Mo Yong Shin about the events in the Jade Heaven Alliance. Mo Yong Shin looked at Lee Gwak with newfound interest.

“Oh! Such an event occurred?”

Lee Gwak felt the weight of his gaze.

Mo Yong Shin then placed his hand on Lee Gwak’s shoulder, saying,

“We shouldn’t stand here. Let’s go inside, young man.”

“Ah! But I need to wait here for my companions.”

“Your companions? Ah! Master Woon and Miss Lim? As far as I know, their negotiations might take at least five more days to conclude. Don’t worry about them and come inside with me. A man should have that kind of spirit.”

Mo Yong Shin patted Lee Gwak’s shoulder with a smile. His touch, typical of a highly skilled martial artist, was heavy enough to make an ordinary person sway like a reed in a storm. But Lee Gwak stood firm, not moving an inch, impressing Mo Yong Shin.

His voice grew louder.

“Having met a spirited young man, how can I not have a drink with him? Come inside with me.”

“Is it alright for me to enter the Myriad Merchant Troupe?”

“If you have the sword token I gave you, just show it. It will allow you to move freely through most areas of the Myriad Merchant Troupe.

He hadn’t expected that the sword token he had received would be of such a high value within the Myriad Merchant Troupe.

“It’s settled then. Squad Leader Lee, come with us. I’ll speak on behalf of the dignitaries from the Jade Heaven Alliance, so don’t worry.”

With Lee Shin Chung also insisting, Lee Gwak could no longer refuse.

“Then, I shall take up on your offer.”

“Ha ha! There’s no obligation here.”

Eventually, Lee Gwak followed Lee Shin Chung and Mo Yong Shin into the Myriad Merchant Troupe.

“Who is that guy, to be so attentively looked after by Lord Lee and Escort Leader Mo?”

Merchants watching Lee Gwak’s departure couldn’t hide their puzzlement.

They knew Lee Shin Chung as a very rational and strict person, especially known for his inflexibility.

For him to welcome a stranger so warmly was a significant event, at least for those who frequented the Myriad Merchants’ Troupe.

Lee Gwak, following Lee Shin Chung and the rest, arrived at the deepest part of the Myriad Merchant Troupe.

“Hmm!”

Lee Gwak’s eyes slightly trembled.

Like other areas, this part of the Myriad Merchant Troupe had no high walls. However, unlike other places, he felt secret gazes all around. Numerous experts were hidden, vigilantly guarding the area.

‘With traps and hidden defences, this is as heavily fortified as the Jade Heaven Alliance.’
Lee Gwak’s keen eyes caught details that most people would have missed. The Myriad Merchant Troupe appeared to be completely open, but in reality it was one of the most heavily guarded places in the land.

Then Mo Yong Shin spoke.

“What are you looking at so intently? It must seem strange for someone here for the first time. But compared to the Jade Heaven Alliance, this place is quite dull. Nothing much special.”

“No, the Jade Heaven Alliance isn’t that special either.”

“Ha ha! No need to be so modest. I’m just stating facts. For now, go ahead with this official. I will report to the Alliance Leader and join you later.”

“You don’t need to make special arrangements for me.”

“It’s not out of consideration. I just want to have a drink with a young man like you. So, don’t run away. Understand?”

“Yes!”

Only after getting Lee Gwak’s reply did Mo Yong Shin leave with his subordinates towards the residence of the Myriad Merchant Troupe’s leader.

Lee Shin Chung, looking slightly embarrassed, said to Lee Gwak,

“I’m sorry to have put you in this position. I didn’t expect Escort Leader Mo to take an interest in you.”

Lee Shin Chung’s expression was genuinely apologetic. His attempt to divert Mo Yong Shin’s attention had inadvertently drawn more of it.

It was well-known within the Myriad Merchant Troupe that receiving attention from Mo Yong Shin could be quite a burden. Many respected him yet avoided sitting with him.

Lee Gwak scratched his head, not fully grasping the situation.

Seeing his reaction, Lee Shin Chung smiled.

People who met Mo Yong Shin for the first time often had the same expression on their faces as Lee Gwak. But soon they would understand.

What kind of person Mo Yong Shin was and why people tended to avoid him.

As Lee Shin Chung appraised Lee Gwak, his eyes lit up with interest.

“That blade?”

“Yes?”

“It’s made by our forge, isn’t it?”

“You mean this one?”

Lee Gwak pointed to the blade at his waist, and Lee Shin Chung nodded.

“Right. Where did you get it?”

“I bought it from the Eunha Ironworks in the Jade Heaven Alliance.”

“Ha ha! I thought so. The Eunha Ironworks is one of the forges directly operated by Myriad Merchant Troupe.”

“Ah!”

Lee Gwak’s exclamation made Lee Shin Chung’s smile widen.

“Would you like to take a look? The place where that blade was made.”

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