Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 106

March 15, 2024 • 10 min read • 139 views

There Are Friendships Lighter Than a Feather (3)

Novel-Martial Artist Lee Gwak

The old man’s white, disheveled hair obscured his face, and the clothes loosely draped over his body seemed as if they would crumble to the touch. It seemed as if the clothes themselves were narrating the years the old man had roamed the Jianghu.

The old man was walking alone on the plateau in the southwestern part of the Jianghu. The endless mountain ranges spread before him, but the old man’s eyes, visible through his unkempt hair, held no excitement for the scenery.

Instead, his gaze was lost in the distant past.

A time so long ago that he could barely remember it anymore.

“Sigh.”

As he neared his destination, a sigh laden with regret escaped the old man’s lips.

He could see a candlestick-shaped rock standing tall in the distance like a guide.

Even when he was very young, the Candlestick-shaped Rock existed, serving as a beacon for those passing through the area.

Although many years had passed, leaving only a few memories behind, the image of the candle-shaped rock remained vivid.

The old man’s pace quickened, though he himself didn’t seem to notice.

He soon arrived at the foot of Candlestick Rock. The sight of the sky piercing rock brought back memories of the past.

As he reminisced about old times, he turned right around the Candlestick Rock, and a fairly wide mountain path appeared.

It was a path he had walked many times before. The old man walked casually along the path.
The feeling of the dirt under his feet seemed just the same.

For the first time, a faint light of nostalgia appeared in the old man’s indifferent eyes.

The scenery around him gradually receded into the background. His pace quickened with each step.

The last bend came into view. Just past that point, a very old village would appear.

His hometown…

There were barely fifty houses in total.

As there was hardly any influx of people, the number of households hardly increased. It was his hometown, boasting an old landscape as if time had stopped there.

The moment he finally rounded the bend.

“……”

The old man’s eyes twitched.

A completely different landscape from his memories greeted him.

Where once there had been a wide field of flowers, there was now an endless row of high fences made of sawn logs. There was no trace of the village where the old man had been born and raised.

Men with weapons stood guard on the fence and at the gate. Even at a glance, there was a harsh atmosphere.

As the old man approached the fence, the men on the fence spotted him and shouted.

“Who are you?”

“Stop there!”

Their voices echoed, and soon, martial artists guarding the gate swarmed towards the old man, encircling him.

“What’s this? An old man?”

“How did you get here?”

The men who surrounded the old man exuded a menacing aura.

Even someone with a stout heart would feel intimidated by their ferocious demeanor.

The old man scanned their attire and then spoke.

“Are you Mountain bandits?”

“We are the heroes of Black Dragon Fortress. Don’t lump us in with ordinary bandits. Heh!”

“Black Dragon Fortress?”

“How did you come here, old man? Hardly anyone knows about the Black Dragon Fortress being here.”

A particularly fierce-looking bandit tilted his head in curiosity.

Strictly speaking, Black Dragon Fortress belonged to the green forest, but it wasn’t under the jurisdiction of Sky High Castle.

Sky High Castle strictly regulated the green forest bandits, preventing them from raiding at will. The Black Dragon Fortress was established by those who harbored resentment against the Sky High Castle’s policies.

Located far from the Jianghu, Sky High Castle’s laws did not reach here, allowing them to be free from their influence.

The lord of the Black Dragon Fortress, Blood Mountain Demon Blade Lak Il-san, was known for his unruly nature and uncontrollable madness. To him, the strict control of the Sky High Castle was a source of dissatisfaction.

Thus, he established the Black Dragon Fortress here, ruling over the region as its king. They remained untouched, committing countless crimes like looting, arson, and rape, mainly because the Jade Heaven Alliance and the Celestial Demon Troupe’s war distracted the Jianghu.

The war was a stroke of luck for Lak Il-san and the Black Dragon Fortress, but a dire misfortune for the people living in the area.

The old man asked.

“There used to be a village here.”

“A village? Ah, there was.”

“What happened to it?”

“Heh! It had a good location, so we took it over.”

“And what of the villagers?”

“Heh! What do you think happened?”

The bandit’s response made the old man close his eyes momentarily.

“Did you kill them?”

“Haha! At first, we tried to negotiate. We told them we wanted to live here, so sell us the village. But they wouldn’t listen. So, we killed them all and took it by force.”

The bandit laughed heartily, and his companions joined in the laughter.

“Ahahaha! It was quite satisfying.”

“Maybe it’s because they ran around the mountains, but the women were particularly resilient. Heh!”

The bandits showed no shame or intent to hide their crimes.

In their eyes, the old man was nothing more than a worthless vagrant.

It was unclear how he had ended up in this deep part of the mountains, but they had no intention of letting him live.

Thanks to the war between the Jade Heaven Alliance and the Celestial Demon Troupe, people were distracted, but the bandits were still wary about revealing their fortress’s location.

Then, the old man opened his eyes that he had been keeping closed. A chilling light burst forth.

The look in his eyes, mixed with madness and regret, pierced the bandits’ hearts like a dagger. They had never seen such a gaze before.

Just a glimpse of those eyes made their hearts ache as if they would stop beating at any moment.

“Cough!”

“What, what’s this?”

The bandits staggered back, instinctively knowing they needed to distance themselves from the old man. But they could not retreat any further.

Whoosh!

A gust of wind blew past them and swept across their bodies. For a moment they felt a chill, and it was the last sensation they ever felt in their lives.

Their bodies were cut in half at the waist and collapsed. Blood and guts spilled out, and their upper bodies tumbled to the ground.

In an instant, the area became a land of death, and silence followed.

The wind came from the old man, the wind of his killing intent a weapon in itself.

The old man proceeded towards the fortress.

KukuKu!

Once again, a wind of death blew, and the log fence that had been Black Dragon Fortress’s sturdy barrier crumbled like grains of sand.

Despite witnessing an unbelievable scene, fear flashed across the faces of the bandits.

Most of the bandits retreated in awe of the old man’s prowess, but some did not.

The younger bandits, who had a fierce bloodlust, had no idea what they were up against, even if they had eyes to see.

“This old man…”

“Die!”

They bravely gripped their weapons and charged towards the old man. But before they could even get close, their bodies were cleaved in two and collapsed.

Witnessing this, the remaining bandits trembled like leaves in the wind.

“Ugh!”

“Good heavens!”

The scene was beyond their wildest imagination. They had never thought humans could die so insignificantly.

It was as if the countless values and meanings of human existence were being negated in front of the old man’s mighty power, which made it all the more horrifying.

Despite numerous bandits present, none dared approach the old man.

The old man slowly surveyed the inside of Black Dragon Fortress. The terror-stricken looks of the bandits did not stir any feelings in him.

Dozens of haphazardly arranged huts stood within the fortress, built without any order whenever there was a need. Naturally, they did not harmonize with the surrounding landscape, instead, they destroyed it.

A flicker of disappointment crossed the old man’s face.

He had not expected much, but he did not know it would be so disastrously ruined.

Everything he remembered was gone.

There was no longer a past for him to reminisce about.

The madness in the old man’s eyes intensified rapidly. A dark red energy swirled around him, centering on his being.

“Cough!”

“Retreat!”

Swept up by the dark red energy, the bandits were shredded like straw. The sight of humans being pulverized and scattered was so horrifying it seemed like something from a nightmare.

Unable to muster the courage to resist, the bandits scattered in all directions like locusts.

Reason had no place in their minds. Their minds were blank with terror, and their instinct was to flee.

In an instant, the Black Dragon Fortress crumbled.

Then it happened.

“This crazy old man!”

Lok Il-san, the lord of the Black Dragon Fortress, charged at the old man like a wild boar after seeing his men slaughtered.

The sight of everything he had painstakingly built collapsing made him lose his sanity.

His sword emitted a red aura, manifesting the phenomenon that earned him the nickname Blood Mountain Demon Blade.

At that moment, the old man waved his hand toward Lok Il-san, and an immense force surged, engulfing him.

Boom!

With a tremendous noise, everything in Lok Il-san’s path exploded.

Lok Il-san was crushed and flung like minced meat, and about a dozen houses behind him were obliterated as if hit by a blast wave.

“Good heavens!”

The overwhelming scene left the fleeing bandits speechless.

In their minds floated a legend circulating in the jianghu about the mad old man, Gwang Noh ya .
That day, the Black Dragon Fortress was erased from the world.

***

Lee Gwak opened his eyes.

His mind was restless, as if throwing a stone into calm water, causing ripples that spread out in a chain reaction.

“Sigh!”

Eventually, giving up on sleep, Lee Gwak went outside. There, he saw Cheon-wol practicing martial arts.

Despite the late hour, Cheon-wol was immersed in martial arts like a madman.

Cheon-wol’s obsession and venom could be felt in the air.

Lee Gwak had no doubt that Cheon-wol would achieve high accomplishments.

In Mount Sohua, there were not many who possessed such determination as Cheon-wol. Once he set a goal, he would not stop until he achieved it, a perseverance and venom combined with a heaven-sent talent. Though his achievements might not seem significant at the moment, Lee Gwak believed Cheon-wol would reach higher realms than anyone else..

Then, someone approached Lee Gwak and sat down beside him with a thud.

“It’s quite a sight, isn’t it?”

The man, exuding a strong aroma of alcohol with every word and holding a bottle of liquor, was none other than Ki Jin-hwi.

Ki Jin-hwi handed the bottle to Lee Gwak.

Lee Gwak accepted the bottle without refusal. Taking a sip, the strong liquor burned down his throat.

“Ha! It’s quite strong. I wanted to get something better, but this cheap liquor is all that’s available here. Still, it’s good enough to quench my thirst.”

“That’s fine. Did you go out?”

“Sitting still made me restless. So I wandered around to get a grasp of the situation here.”

“How is it?”

“It’s a mess. Both the Celestial Demon Troupe and the Jade Heaven Alliance are deploying forces frantically.”

Ki Jin-hwi always kept his humor, but he wasn’t laughing now.

“Sometimes, I wonder. Is it really okay for the jianghu to continue like this? For those who have learned martial arts to cause such chaos in the world?”

“…”

“How long can the jianghu exist? How long will the world tolerate the jianghu? What do you think, Squad Leader?”

“…”

Lee Gwak didn’t answer