Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 84

January 24, 2024 • 11 min read • 337 views

On the way home (3)

Novel- Martial Artist Lee Gwak

The reaction of the Stealth Sword Squad was dazzlingly quick.

At Naeng Ha Gyeom’s shout, they immediately grabbed their weapons and assumed a defensive posture. But even so, there were casualties.

Thud!

“Agh!”

A piercing scream followed the sharp sound.

“So Myeong!”

“Damn it!”

The victim was Jin So Myeong, the youngest member of the Stealth Sword Squad.

A long arrow, longer than an adult’s arm, had penetrated Jin So Myeong’s neck. He choked on his blood and died instantly. It was a futile end for a young man who had been so highly regarded by the Stealth Sword Squad.

“Who’s there?”

Naeng Ha Gyeom shouted angrily towards the direction the arrow came from. But no answer came from the darkness.

Instead, more arrows flew.

Whiz! Ping!

The piercing sound echoed repeatedly.

Naeng Ha Gyeom and the Stealth Sword Squad raised their swords to defend their front. But the arrows flew past them towards the back.

‘Ah!’

‘Lim Sobo!’

Only then did Naeng Ha Gyeom and the Stealth Sword Squad realize their mistake.

The real target of the hidden attackers was not them, but Lim Sobo.

Naeng Ha Gyeom felt a dizzying sense of responsibility. If Lim Sobo was killed in this ambush, it would be his fault.

He looked behind him, thinking that Lim Sobo had been killed by an arrow. It was inconceivable that the 13th Squad would be able to block the arrow that had taken Jin So Myeong’s life, which made his expression even more despairing.

However, neither Lim Sobo’s body nor the members of the 13th squad were anywhere to be seen.

A look of doubt crossed Naeng Ha Gyeom’s face.

Just then, from behind the boulder blocking his view, Lim Sobo shouted.

“Be careful, Captain Naeng!”

Fortunately, Lim Sobo was unharmed.

The moment the arrows flew, Lee Gwak grabbed her body and hid behind a rock. At the same time, he sent out a secret warning to his squad members. Thanks to this, all the 13th squad members were safe.

‘Relief.’

Having confirmed Lim Sobo’s safety, Naeng Ha Gyeom finally regained his composure.
He gave orders to his men.

“Woo-gwang, Nam-il. You two stay here and protect Lady Lim. The rest, follow me to hunt down the attackers.”

“Yes!”

With a resolute response, the two quickly rushed to Lim Sobo’s side to guard her.

Once Lim Sobo was safe, Naeng Ha Gyeom rushed with his men to the direction the arrow had come from.

‘I won’t forgive them.’

Anger blazed in Naeng Ha Gyeom’s eyes.

He resolved to capture those who dared to attack them and tear them limb from limb.
Naeng Ha Gyeom and the Stealth Sword Squad quickly disappeared into the darkness. Only then did Cheon-wol cautiously approach Lim Sobo.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes! Thanks to Gwak Oraboni…”

Lim Sobo looked at Lee Gwak, her eyes filled with questions.

‘He was certainly quicker than the leader of the Stealth Sword Squad’

Lee Gwak had moved before the whizzing sound of the arrow. Lim Sobo was startled by how suddenly he had grabbed her.

Just as they ducked behind a boulder, an arrow flew by and struck it. If Lee Gwak’s reaction had been any slower, she would have been seriously wounded.

‘Who exactly is this man…’

Confusion filled Lim Sobo’s face.

She thought she had a good understanding of Lee Gwak, but now everything was mixed up in chaos again.

Noticing her gaze, Lee Gwak looked at her and said,

“It’s safe now. The attackers have retreated.”

“Oraboni?”

“Still, just to be safe, stay hidden behind the rock with Cheon-wol.”

Lee Gwak’s voice carried an undeniable authority. Lim Sobo had many things to say but couldn’t voice any of them.

At that moment, Lee Gwak was having a remarkable experience.

His hearing was exceptionally acute, picking up every sound in the area. This phenomenon started after his duel with Mo Yong Shin.

Not just that, his eyes pierced through the pitch-black darkness as if it were broad daylight.

He knew. He knew the attackers had already retreated.

‘At least eight. Three archers and five swordsmen, seemingly their protectors.’

Lee Gwak’s eyes shone coldly in the darkness.

They weren’t mere bandits.

They were more like soldiers, retreating in unison after gauging the reaction and strength of their opponents.

‘Could it be the Celestial Demon Troupe?’

It was a plausible suspicion.

Killing or capturing Lim Sobo could shake Yeo Joong Wol, the brain of the Jade Heaven Alliance. The only group that stood to gain from this was the Celestial Demon Troupe.
Lee Gwak’s expression darkened.

If the attackers were really from the Celestial Demon Troupe, then the Stealth Sword Squad alone might not be enough to protect Lim Sobo.

The question was whether the attacking force was just these eight.

Lee Gwak thought not.

The way they retreated as soon as they saw the other side’s reaction was more like the vanguard of some organization. If so, the main force that sent them to probe the reaction might be lurking somewhere nearby.

After organizing his thoughts, Lee Gwak spoke to Cheon Wol.

“Cheon-wol! From now on, under no circumstances should you be more than two steps away from Sobor.”

“Yes, brother!”

Cheon-wol responded with firm resolve.

From the moment he realized Lim Sobo was the target, his eyes had been shining coldly.
Then, the Stealth Sword Squad returned from their pursuit.

It was clear from the anger on their faces that they had returned empty-handed.

They gathered around the body of Jin So Myeong, cursing.

“Damn it!”

“So Myeong, we will surely avenge you.”

They vowed revenge as they took care of Jin So Myeong’s body. After all was done, Naeng Ha Gyeom approached Lim Sobo.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“Then that’s good.”

Naeng Ha Gyeom coldly responded and turned away.

He was angry that he’d lost a man while escorting Lim Sobo, and it infuriated him that he hadn’t been able to figure out who the assailants were after all this time.

It was an incident that wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t been assigned to escort Lim Sobo. He couldn’t vent his anger on her, so he forcefully suppressed it.

The Stealth Sword Squad decided to depart after taking care of Jin So Myeong’s body.

They couldn’t leave their suddenly deceased comrade behind.

“Tch! Our mobility will be reduced.”

Ki Jin Hwi clicked his tongue.

He thought it would be better to bury Jin So Myeong here and take care of it after the situation is resolved. However, he couldn’t voice his opinion against the intimidating presence of the Stealth Sword Squad.

The Stealth Sword Squad was emanating a deadly aura. Their presence, sharp as a drawn sword, made the Outer Hall martial artists unable to approach, merely swallowing their saliva in silence.

Naeng Ha Gyeom issued an order to the Stealth Sword Squad.

“We’ll set off as soon as it’s daylight. Until then, we’ll take turns standing guard.”

A part of him wanted to leave the place where his comrade had died as soon as possible, but traveling on a dark mountain path could invite another attack. They couldn’t risk being ambushed again.

Naeng Ha Gyeom’s gaze turned to Lee Gwak.

“Our sole mission is to protect Lady Lim. We don’t have the capacity to look after you as well. So, take care of your own lives.”

His voice was ruthless.

He didn’t regard Lee Gwak and the 13th squad as equals. For the Stealth Sword Squad, only Lim Sobo mattered. If necessary, he was prepared to sacrifice the 13th squad.
Lee Gwak understood his intention clearly.

“Understood.”

“I’ve made it clear. Look after your own lives.”

“We heard you.”

Naeng Ha Gyeom frowned.

For some reason, Lee Gwak’s casual answer bothered him.

‘Those eyes…’

The steadiness of his gaze in a crisis felt out of place.

The depth in the eyes of a mere Outer Hall squad leader seemed too profound, resembling that of a seasoned martial artist.

‘Must be my imagination?’

Naeng Ha Gyeom turned away, trying to dismiss his feelings.

Lee Gwak watched his back in silence before turning to the 13th squad.

Lee Gwak relayed Naeng Ha Gyeom’s words to them.

“They’re saying they might use us as shields if necessary.”

Seok Yi Cheon was the first to catch on to their intent.

“Isn’t that serious?”

“Damn! We’re doomed.”

Woo Il Yeong and Go Cheon Gwang’s faces darkened.

Unlike Ki Jin Hwi or Cheon-wol, they were ordinary martial artists. They didn’t have strong ambitions or beliefs to overcome life-threatening situations.

The events that were unfolding before them were too much for them to handle, and they were naturally frightened.

Excluding them, the others responded well.

The experienced Seok Yi Cheon calmed himself down, Ki Jin Hwi looked at the Stealth Sword Squad with a curious gaze, Cheon Wol was burning with fighting spirit.

Then Lee Gwak spoke.

“We… can survive.”

“Leader?”

“We will all return safely.”

Lee Gwak’s voice was soft yet somehow resonated clearly.

Hearing him, squad team members felt an inexplicable sense of relief and calmness.

There was strength in Lee Gwak’s words.

His voice wasn’t loud or forceful, but it had the power to focus and reassure people.
Lee Gwak looked at Ki Jin Hwi.

“Brother, please guard our rear and watch for the enemy.”

“Understood.”

“Cheon-wol, never leave Sobo’s side. You are her shield. Protect her with your body.”

“Yes, brother!”

“Yi Cheon, please ensure Cheon Gwang and Il Yeong don’t panic.”

“Got it.”

No one objected to Lee Gwak’s instructions.

Usually, Lee Gwak’s presence was as invisible as if he were not there, but once he gave an order, no one dared to disobey him.

Lee Gwak issued a final command.

“The Stealth Sword Squad will be on guard, so we should rest and conserve our energy until departure. It won’t be easy, but try to get as much sleep as possible. We might not have another chance to rest for a while.”
***
Far from where the Stealth Sword Squad and the 13th squad were camping, ‘he’ stood on a mountaintop in the wilderness.

He was clad entirely in black.

He wore a black hat and his body was wrapped in a black robe. Even his face, peeking out from under the hat, was covered with a black cloth.

Chilling eyes glinted through the gaps in his attire.

Behind him stood about ten martial artists, dressed similarly. They stood motionless like statues behind him.

Suddenly, his gaze grew even more chilling.

A group of men had emerged from the darkness.

They were dressed just like the martial artists behind him. As soon as they appeared, they kneeled on one knee before him.

The man carrying a bow on his back spoke for the group.

“We have returned, leader!”

“What about their strength?”

Finally, he spoke.

The air seemed to freeze with his words. His piercing eyes flickered like torches behind his hat.

“Fifteen from the Stealth Sword Squad and about six rabble.”

“Rabble?”

“Yes! We tested them with an arrow, and unlike the Stealth Sword Squad, their reactions were all over the place.”

“Hmm! So, we only need to worry about the Stealth Sword Squad? Seems less challenging than I thought.”

He murmured, stroking his chin.

His mission was to kidnap Lim Sobo. Given that she was a disciple of the genius strategist Yeo Joong Wol, he had deployed more forces than usual. That’s why he felt disappointed.

His subordinates watched him in silence.

A subtle movement appeared on the face covered by the black cloth. His mouth, hidden beneath the cloth, formed the arch of a smile.

With a sly smile, he issued an order to his subordinates.

“Let’s see how formidable this force bought with money is. Black Ghost Mist Squad.”

“Yes!”

His subordinates responded in unison.

The members of the Black Ghost Mist Squad looked at him with eyes darkened by the night.

“Begin the hunt.”

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