Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 140

April 24, 2024 • 11 min read • 177 views

He Who Stands Up Once, Can Stand Up Twice(2)

“Practice your internal energy.”

These were the words of Gwang Noh ya to Lee Gwak after he had finished eating the meat.

He closed his eyes again as if he wouldn’t accept any arguments. Despite Gwang Noh ya’s attitude, Lee Gwak didn’t show any signs of disappointment.

Gwang Noh ya must have had a good reason for saying so, he thought.

Lee Gwak sat down cross-legged on the spot and practiced his internal energy.

Perhaps because he had eaten, it felt much easier to practice than before. While Lee Gwak was practicing, he heard Gwang Noh ya’s voice.

“You must eat well. If you eat well, you can use your strength properly. The same goes for your internal energy. Practicing internal energy after eating well and after not eating has a different effect on the body. For those whose bodies are severely damaged, like you, eating well and then practicing internal energy can be much more helpful in recovery”

Gwang Noh ya told him details that Lee Gwak had never thought of before. Perhaps because of his words, the efficiency of practicing his internal energy improved.

Lee Gwak became deeply absorbed in his practice.

Gwang Noh ya, leaning against a large tree, quietly watched Lee Gwak.

He remembered the first time he saw Lee Gwak.

Back then, Lee Gwak didn’t stand out from others. Like many, he seemed to be just swept away by the tumultuous times, lacking his own will.

But there was one thing different about him.

It was his pride.

The pride of not kneeling even in the face of death.

That pride alone distinguished Lee Gwak from others.

Not many people can maintain their pride in the face of death.

Gwang Noh ya held Lee Gwak’s pride in high esteem. He was such a person himself.

That was why he had saved Lee Gwak.

However, Lee Gwak’s current level of martial arts was something he had not anticipated.

It was impossible for someone’s martial arts to improve overnight. It could only improve gradually through years of diligent practice and the guidance of a good master.

Lee Gwak’s achievements were abnormally fast.

Gwang Noh ya thought it was because of the internal energy technique Lee Gwak had learned.

“I didn’t know Yoga arts had such capability.”

In his youth, he had met a monk from the Western regions.

The monk was also practicing Yoga arts, but his techniques were not impressive. However, his physical strength and internal energy were astonishing. Thus, Gwang Noh ya had spent three days and nights discussing martial arts with him.

Back then, Gwang Noh ya was so proud of his martial arts, believing only the martial arts of the Central Plains were the best, and he belittled the monk’s Yoga arts.

However, as he guided Lee Gwak’s internal energy and examined its path directly, he newly appreciated how profound Yoga arts was. But Lee Gwak’s Yoga arts was still immature.

He had correctly grasped the main path, but his detailed practice was lacking. It was proof that he hadn’t been taught by a real master.

Gwang Noh ya looked deeply at Lee Gwak practicing his internal energy.

***
It was just as dawn was starting to turn the world red that Lee Gwak awoke from his practice.

When he opened his eyes, he saw Gwang Noh Ya stirring a campfire across from him. Gwang Noh Ya reached into the hot embers and pulled something out.

In his hand was an object the size of a child’s fist, covered in black ash.

Gwang Noh ya threw the object to Lee Gwak.

“Eat this.”

The object he threw looked like the root of some plant. Peeling off the ash-covered skin, the golden-brown flesh inside was revealed.

“This is excellent for removing toxins from your body. The more you eat, the faster your body will recover.”

“Thank you.”

“No need for thanks, just eat.”

“Yes!”

Lee Gwak was no longer taken aback by Gwang Noh ya’s blunt tone. He had realized that, despite his gruffness, Gwang Noh ya cared a lot for him.

Following Gwang Noh ya’s advice always made him feel better. He thought this time would be no different.

The root tasted delicious. It was rich and nutty. Above all, eating the plant made him feel better.

Lee Gwak’s gaze suddenly turned to Gwang Noh ya. It was because Gwang Noh ya wasn’t eating anything.

“Aren’t you going to eat?”

“I only need one meal a day. Don’t worry about me and just eat your fill.”

“Yes!”

Gwang Noh ya dug into the ashes again and pulled out another root. Even amidst the hot flames, his hand was smooth without a hint of burn.

Gwang Noh ya threw another root to Lee Gwak, who thanked him and ate it.

Lee Gwak’s complexion noticeably improved. Only then did Gwang Noh ya ask.

“What happened? Tell me your story.”

“Which story?”

“Everything that happened from when we parted ways to your arrival here.”

In other words, Gwang Noh ya wanted to hear about all of Lee Gwak’s life.

After a moment’s gaze at Gwang Noh ya, Lee Gwak began to speak.

“After parting with you, sir…”

He talked about being bedridden for over a year due to the beating from Gwan Il Hyeon.

How he managed to learn the Yoga Secret Manual with the help of Han So Cheon.

Learning the Eight Snakes Art.

Stealing martial arts techniques at the Steel Hell Blood Training Hall.

Lee Gwak shared his life story without hiding anything.

Aside from Han So Cheon, this was the first time he had ever spoken about his life like this.

He talked about everything, including his deployment to the battlefield after returning from Myriad Merchant Troupe, joining the Delegation, and entering the Celestial Demon Troupe. He didn’t even hide his relationship with Han So Cheon.

After hearing all about Lee Gwak’s life, Gwang Noh ya suddenly sighed.

“Your life has been a series of hardships. But you’ve managed well. Good job.”

“Thank…you.”

Lee Gwak suddenly felt a lump in his throat.

No one had ever said such things to him before.

The simple words of acknowledgment shook his heart to the core.

He didn’t know what to say, feeling a heavy emotion in his chest. Gwang Noh ya then said to him,

“It seems our fate is stronger than I thought. I believed our brief encounter would be our last.
Yet, here we are, connected again.”

“How did you come to save me?”

“I was looking for a place to die, and you happened upon me.”

“Place to die?”

“Yes! I was searching for a place to meet my end, and I found a suitable spot beneath a ravine. Then, you fell down with the landslide, and I saved you.”

“Uh!”

“It may be hard to believe, but all of that was coincidence. Perhaps it was fate.”

Lee Gwak found Gwang Noh ya’s words hard to believe.

Gwang Noh ya seemed too vigorous to be someone waiting for death. He didn’t look like someone who was waiting for his end at all.

Gwang Noh ya, with a calm smile, said,

“There was this old woman who bothered me for a long time. I ignored her due to the gap in our martial skills, but this time she came prepared. God’s Blood Tear, was it? Anyway, she stabbed me with a dagger condensed with a rare poison, and it was no laughing matter.”

God’s Blood Tear was an extremely potent poison.

It had managed to poison Gwang Noh ya’s body, which was nearly invincible to all toxins, slowly eating away his vitality from the inside. His near-immortal body was finally failing to overcome the poison.

Anyone else would have tried to save themselves by any means. But Gwang Noh ya was different.

He had lived for a very long time. There were glorious days, but also times he felt like a puppet, losing his way due to a friend’s betrayal.

He had glimpsed secrets of the world he could not handle, and so he had sacrificed himself to protect his poor descendants at all costs. But all he got back was a bitter betrayal.

He was tired of everything in the world.

He could no longer find any reason to live, and death was the only true rest for him. But his near-immortal body denied him death. So, unable to die, he wandered the world, living as he saw fit.

Death was not something he feared. It was what he longed for.

Thus, he did not resist the deadly toxin of God’s Blood Tear, allowing it to consume his body.
Even now, his life was slowly being chipped away. Though the process was slow due to his powerful internal energy, once it crossed a threshold, it would rapidly decline, eventually leading him to the death he so desired.

An ironic fact was that after being poisoned with God’s Blood Tear, his madness was gradually disappearing.

He had lived most of his life in madness, devoid of reason, but since the poisoning, he hadn’t experienced any bouts of madness. Thanks to this, Gwang Noh ya could reflect on his life with a clear mind.

“Uh!”

Lee Gwak made a sound of empathy upon hearing Gwang Noh ya’s explanation.

He had always struggled to live, whereas Gwang Noh ya seemed to have lived seeking death.
However, Lee Gwak felt that had their situations been reversed, he might have made the same choices as Gwang Noh ya.

“I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“I feel like I’ve disturbed your peace unnecessarily.”

“Maybe that’s fate too?”

“Fate?”

“Yes! Fate.”

Gwang Noh ya looked up at the sky as dawn was breaking.

He had lived without fearing anything in the world, believing his martial prowess was unmatched even by the heavens.

It was only as his death approached that he began to understand the will of the heavens.

He still had things left to do.

Gwang Noh ya then said to Lee Gwak,

“My name was Lee Gwan.”

“Lee Gwan?”

“Yes! A name similar to yours. I was once called the Iron Blood Warrior, and at times, I lived as someone’s puppet. With such a life, I don’t deserve to use the name my parents gave me. Just call me Noh ya.”

“Understood.”

At Lee Gwak’s response, Gwang Noh ya smiled warmly.

“Perhaps the reason I’ve endured such a harsh life until now was to meet you.”

His martial arts had reached the boundary between heaven and man long ago.

He had continuously advanced in his practice, breaking through every barrier in his way. Thus, he reached a state beyond estimation.

His achievement was rare throughout history, and this led to a subtle arrogance taking root in his heart.

The belief that without him, it couldn’t be done.

The arrogance that only he could bring complete peace to the world had taken hold.

Caught in the belief that he was the best, he had no capacity to look around him. Thus, he couldn’t understand his close friend’s thoughts and lost his way, becoming a puppet.

He didn’t hate his friend. He saw it as a tragedy brought about by his own arrogance.

If he hadn’t met him… If he hadn’t come to his senses, he would have lost his way forever, being used by others.

‘That person…’

Although most memories from when he lost his way are vague, the memory of one person remained clear.

Black hair disheveled like a lion’s mane.

A black robe rippling roughly.

Black eyes flashing fiercely.

A limp in one leg.

Even after a hundred years, the image of that man was still vivid in Gwang Noh ya’s memory.
The man who gave Gwang Noh ya his first defeat.

Even though it was a defeat suffered when he had lost his way, he didn’t think he could have won even with a clear mind.

The best outcome would have been a mutual defeat, and even that wasn’t certain.
Gwang Noh ya’s face was filled with regret.

If it weren’t for that man, he would still be living in an inescapable delusion forever.

Thanks to him, he found his way again and was able to face his own destiny.

In Gwang Noh ya’s eyes, as he looked at Lee Gwak, there was a passion that hadn’t been there before.

Lee Gwak felt burdened by Gwang Noh ya’s gaze.

“Noh ya!”

“Everyone has a destiny. I once thought I was destined to save the world. I overestimated myself. But now, I think I understand my true destiny.”

“…”

“Lee Gwak!”

“Yes!”

“You are my destiny.”