Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 86

January 29, 2024 • 12 min read • 254 views

Encounter with the Black Mist (2)

Novel-Martial Artist Lee Gwak

Lee Gwak abandoned the Stealth Sword Squad.

A mismatched ally was as frightening as a valiant foe. Lee Gwak had learnt this the hard way.

The individual members of the Stealth Sword Squad may have been strong, but they were not used to this kind of battle.

In contrast, the unidentified enemies knew how to fight properly. They fired their bows from a distance, reducing the range of the Stealth Sword Squad, and then tore apart the individual members of the Stealth Sword Squad, isolating them.

The sight of the Stealth Sword Squad martial artists being isolated, then swarmed by two or three enemies and finally brought down was terrifying.

Lee Gwak and the 13th squad protected Lim Sobo and escaped the battlefield.

The decision was swift, and the action even more so.

They rode their horses furiously.

The Black Ghost Mist Squad, realizing their departure too late, gave chase, but they couldn’t keep up with the frenzied gallop of the horses, now at full speed.

Lee Gwak headed straight for Steel Crown Gorge.

If they couldn’t shake off the Black Ghost Mist Squad by normal means, the best thing they could do was to barricade themselves at the Steel Crown Gorge, as Lim Sobo had said.

“O… Oraboni!”

Lim Sobo’s lips trembled as she rode her horse.

She had not expected Lee Gwak to so boldly give up on the Stealth Sword Squad.

The Lee Gwak she knew was a person of warmth and compassion, not someone who would easily abandon others. So she hadn’t expected him to abandon the Stealth Sword Squad so quickly.

There was not a hint of hesitation in Lee Gwak’s expression. His eyes were also resolute. It felt strangely unfamiliar to see such a side of Lee Gwak, who always wore a gentle smile.

‘Maybe this is the real side of Oraboni Gwak…’

Such a thought crossed her mind.

Lee Gwak’s mind was more clear-headed than ever.

His heart was racing with passion, but his reason remained steady and calm.

It was surprising even to himself.

‘Simply holding a siege won’t be enough to protect everyone.’

In the brief clash between the Stealth Sword Squad and the enemies, Lee Gwak had gathered significant information.

First, the attackers were extremely skilled in this kind of operation. Second, their strength was beyond imagination. And third, there was a mastermind behind all this, who had not yet revealed himself on the battlefield.

The nature of the leader could be inferred from his subordinates.

The attackers cruelly mocked and then hunted the Stealth Sword Squad. Surely, the leader’s nature would be similar.

Lee Gwak suddenly looked back.

He couldn’t see the pursuers with his naked eye, but he knew they were tracking them from a distance.

They were following the trail left by Lee Gwak and his group, like hunting dogs following a scent.

It was impossible to shake them off by normal means.

As Lim Sobo had suggested, they needed to take refuge in the Steel Crown Gorge.

Lee Gwak and the 13th squad raced like madmen and arrived at Steel Crown Gorge.

Lim Sobo quickly dismounted her horse and instructed the members of the 13th squad.

“We’ll set up the Cloud and Mist Ghost Formation. Quickly gather straight trees and rocks. We need about twenty rocks, each as big as my body.”

“Understood.”

The 13th squad moved swiftly in response.

Meanwhile, Lim Sobo took out from her possession several iron cores engraved with strange characters. These small iron cores were the key objects that would serve as the medium for the formation.

She quickly surveyed the terrain and handed the iron cores to Cheon-wol.

“Plant these two inches deep here.”

Cheon-wol did as she instructed.

Some cores were planted deeply, others in very strange locations. The logic behind their placement was not clear, but Cheon-wol followed Lim Sobo’s instructions without question.

Meanwhile, the 13th squad had gathered the rocks and trees.

They placed the rocks and trees where Lim Sobo had indicated. Although it seemed disorderly, there was an elaborate logic to it.

“Phew! Now, if I just plant this in the center of the heavens…”

Lim Sobo planted the last iron core at the center of the formation. Suddenly, a thick mist appeared at the entrance to the Steel Crown Gorge.

“Is this the formation?”

“Uh-huh!”

The 13th squad were startled by the sudden appearance of the mist.

Lim Sobo spoke to them.

“Let’s go inside quickly. It’s a hastily made formation, but it will buy us some time.”

“Yes!”

“Everyone, get inside.”

The 13th squad hurried into Steel Crown Gorge. However, Lee Gwak did not move.

Seok Yi Cheon shouted at him.

“What are you doing? Why aren’t you coming inside?”

“Go ahead without me. I still have something to do.”

“Alright. But make sure to come in quickly.”

With Lee Gwak’s firm response, Seok Yi Cheon reluctantly entered the mist.

Once he was alone, Lee Gwak lifted his brown windbreaker and searched for something. A moment later, he had a small collection of steel needles in his hand.

The Cloud and Mist Ghost Formation was a combination of illusion and maze techniques. It had some lethality, but it was weak and aimed mainly at disorientating the enemy and buying time.

Lim Sobo set up the formation with the intent of buying time, not believing it would actually stop or harm the enemies.

“Typical Cloud and Mist Ghost Formations would be so, but…”

Lim Sobo might not know, but Lee Gwak was well-versed in the formation. Although he was not as proficient as her in deploying it instantly, he knew the basic concepts and countermeasures from Lim Ji Moon, Lim Sobo’s brother, who was a genius in formation techniques, even surpassing Lim Sobo.

Lim Ji Moon had once casually explained to Lee Gwak how to utilize the Cloud and Mist Ghost Formation.

Lee Gwak bent a branch of a tree to the sky. He tied the steel needles to the end of the branch, curved like a bow, and secured them with a prepared string.

He placed steel needles on the ground in some places and stuck them onto rocks in others.

Half of the needles he brought were used up quickly. But Lee Gwak left the place without any hesitation.

Just after he disappeared into the formation, a group appeared. They were the Black Ghost Mist Squad, following their trail.

At the forefront of the Black Ghost Mist Squad was ‘he.’

“Hmph! They’ve set up a formation already? How clever.”

Though he said so, his eyes shone with a chilling light.

The Black Ghost Mist Squad had hunted the Stealth Sword Squad in an instant. Like wolves among sheep, they brutally slaughtered the squad.

However, when they had annihilated the Stealth Sword Squad, Lim Sobo and the 13th squad had already left the battlefield.

It was an outcome neither he nor the Black Ghost Mist Squad had anticipated. It was both surprising and amusing to them.

“Quite a cunning woman. Quick in decision-making.”

Not only had they chosen to flee, but they also deployed a formation. It wasn’t an impulsive decision.

“But a hastily made formation like this won’t stop us.”

He gestured to his subordinates, and the Black Ghost Mist Squad jumped into the Cloud and Mist Ghost formation.

What threats lay inside the formation were unknown. Normally, anyone would be scared. But there was no hesitation in their actions as they entered the formation.

As soon as they entered, the scenery changed. A world of gray and white unfolded, and their sense of direction became distorted. However, they moved relentlessly.

The best way to break a formation was to understand its principle and then remove the objects that served as the medium one by one.

However, not many were so knowledgeable in formations. The Black Ghost Mist Squad was no exception. So, they chose the next best option.

That was to forcefully break through the formation.

Alone, it would be impossible, but with dozens of people, it was feasible.

Shush!

Dozens of them gathered and formed a wedge to break through the white-gray mist.

They had mastered a very special mind technique.

The Heart and Spirit Unity Technique.

It was a forbidden technique that shared the senses of dozens of individuals as one.

By sharing the senses of many, their perception range widened, and they became more sensitive, but there was a side effect.

It eroded one’s humanity.

That’s why even the creators of the Heart and Spirit Unity Technique didn’t recommend its use. However, the Black Ghost Mist Squad did not hesitate to learn it. The benefits outweighed the side effects for them.

Sharing senses through the Heart and Spirit Unity Technique, they could navigate correctly even in the thick mist.

Thus, breaking through the Cloud and Mist Ghost Formation seemed imminent.

But then, an incident occurred.

Thud!

“Ugh!”

A warrior at the forefront, attempting to break through the Cloud and Mist Ghost Formation, let out a muffled cry. A sharp steel needle had sprung up under his foot.

It was one of the needles Lee Gwak had set up.

This was the signal.

Whoosh!

The needles, acting like hidden weapons, flew towards the Black Ghost Mist Squad.

Focusing all their senses on breaking through the Formation, the Black Ghost Mist Squad was unable to react to the sudden attack.

Consequently, several warriors suffered significant injuries from the needles.

“Caught by such a crude trap…”

He frowned, seeing his wounded subordinates.

Under normal circumstances, they would never fall for such a primitive trap. But combined with the Cloud and Mist Ghost Formation, it proved to be quite threatening.

Inevitably, as the Black Ghost Mist Squad focused on avoiding Lee Gwak’s traps while advancing, they were delayed. By the time they emerged from the Cloud and Mist Ghost Formation, much time had passed.

They wanted to proceed without any delay, but another elaborate formation was blocking their way.

While they were wasting time in the Cloud and Mist Ghost Formation, Lim Sobo had set up another intricate formation.

For the first time, a look of bewilderment appeared on the Black Ghost Mist Squad.
He gritted his teeth.

“This young bitch…”
***
While Lim Sobo set up the formations, Lee Gwak used his knowledge of mechanisms to set traps. The traps were rudimentary because of the limited space and materials, but they were effective because they were strategically placed.

“Phew!”

Lim Sobo exhaled deeply and slumped down on the spot. Her entire body was drenched in sweat.

She was exhausted from setting up five consecutive formations.

Although it seemed easy, it required high-level calculations. As a result, her brain was overworked to its limits.

Feeling like her brain was melting, Lim Sobo struggled to keep her consciousness. However, she managed to hold on with her extraordinary willpower.

Cheonwol looked at her with concern.

“Can you lean on me?”

At Lim Sobo’s nod, Cheon-wol quietly offered his shoulder. She leaned on him, taking deep breaths.

Lee Gwak spoke to Lim Sobo.

“You’ve worked hard. Rest now.”

“Oraboni.”

Lim Sobo barely managed to look up at Lee Gwak. Her eyes were filled with fatigue, on the verge of losing consciousness due to mental exhaustion.

“Get some sleep.”

“Can we hold out?”

“We’ll manage.”

Comforted by Lee Gwak’s response, a faint smile appeared on her lips before she passed out.
Cheon-wol quickly caught her collapsing body.

“Sobo!”

“It’s just exhaustion. She’ll be fine.”

“Oraboni?”

“Take good care of her.”

“Yes!”

Cheon-wol nodded vigorously.

Lee Gwak left them and approached the other members of the 13th squad.

They all looked utterly exhausted, drained from following Lim Sobo’s instructions. Only Ki Jin Hwi seemed to be in relatively good condition.

Lee Gwak looked at them for a moment, then turned his gaze to the front.

In front of him, a curtain of pitch-black darkness had formed. It was the harmony created by the formation set up by Lim Sobo.

It was the last elaborate formation to protect Lim Sobo and the 13th squad.

If this formation collapsed, there would be nothing left to protect them.

Ki Jin Hwi approached Lee Gwak.

“Leader! How long do you think it will hold?”

“A half-day at least, a day at most.”

“What a mess.”

Ki Jin Hwi sighed deeply at Lee Gwak’s response.

He scratched his head for a while, then looked back at Lee Gwak. Lee Gwak noticed the change in his eyes.

His gaze had sharpened, as if he had transformed into a different person. It wasn’t his usual playful expression.

“Leader!”

“Speak.”

“Are we just going to wait and see?”

His question was loaded with meaning.

Lee Gwak silently looked at the formation.

His eyes seemed to pierce through the pitch-black darkness, observing the space beyond. The enemies were breaking through the formations set up by Lim Sobo one by one.

Lee Gwak realized he was at a crossroads.

Would he live as a dog with hidden fangs, or as a wolf with bared teeth?

And Lee Gwak made his choice.

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