Martial Artist Lee Gwak Episode 145

April 24, 2024 • 11 min read • 250 views

The Young Grow, and the Old Wane (1)

Even as the seasons changed many times over in the Jianghu, there was little change in the dense forest where Lee Gwak resided.

It was hot all year round and the air was humid. The environment was unpleasant to breathe in and the conditions were inhospitable to human life.

But there were people living here, and Lee Gwak was one of them. The difference was that Lee Gwak’s stay was deep in the forest, barely touched by human presence.

Lee Gwak was sitting cross-legged under a large tree.

His hair, not tended to for a long time, hung messily down to his waist, and his face was covered in a beard.

To an unknowing observer, Lee Gwak’s appearance was so natural that one might mistake him for an indigenous person of the area.

Gwang Noh ya watched Lee Gwak from a not-too-distant place, absorbed in his deep cultivation.

Lee Gwak had been practicing his cultivation for several days now.

He was engaging in his practice longer and deeper than usual.

Gwang Noh ya had an intuition that a significant change would occur in Lee Gwak once this session of practice ended.

“Sigh!”

Suddenly, Gwang Noh ya let out a soft sigh.

Lee Gwak was becoming stronger by the day. Gwang Noh ya, who almost daily sparred with him, felt this truth through his body.

On the other hand, he himself was noticeably weakening day by day.

Gwang Noh ya glanced at his hands. Wrinkles, which hadn’t been there before, had formed.

The God’s Blood Tear was gradually consuming his life. His internal energy, once as vast as the ocean, had nearly halved, and cracks had started to form in his once sturdy body.

This deterioration had accelerated recently.

Gwang Noh ya sensed that his days were numbered.

He thought he had no fear of death. In fact, he had wished for death to come sooner. But now that he felt that his death was not far off, he found that he had many regrets.

“Gong Wol hyung, Hwaseol, Cheon Myeong.”

Lately, he found himself frequently thinking of them.

They were martial artists who had lived during his time.

The Jianghu had collectively referred to them as the Four Divine Emperors.

Together, they had combined their strengths to save the Jianghu from the invasion of the demonic sects and were revered as heroes.

Strangely, it was the good memories that came to mind, not the bad ones.

‘It’s said that as one’s death approaches, they reminisce about the past.’

Gwang Noh ya suddenly felt the reality that his time was running short.

Those who have many days left to live imagine the future instead of remembering the past. Only those who are nearing the end of their lives look back on the past with regret.

That was the situation Gwang Noh ya found himself in.

“What would have happened if I hadn’t opened the forbidden scriptures of the Heavenly Sect?”

By opening the forbidden scriptures, he had become a lost soul and lived as a madman for a hundred years.

Looking back, he realized that he hadn’t been in his right mind for much of his life.

As much as he had regrets, he also had lingering attachments.

Gwang Noh ya’s somber gaze turned towards Lee Gwak.

“I hope you won’t live a life full of regrets like mine…”

Lee Gwak was progressing at a terrifying pace.

Like a cotton ball absorbing water, he had absorbed a lot while fighting Gwang Noh ya.

Even Gwang Noh ya found Lee Gwak’s talent to be frightening.

Gwang Noh ya knew that Lee Gwak’s talent was not innate.

Lee Gwak’s talent had been developed later in life.

He had been in a vegetative state, learning the Yoga Secret Manuals, which resulted in an extreme development of his muscles and senses. If it weren’t for this period of hardship, Lee Gwak would still be living as an ordinary martial artist.

Lee Gwak was aware of this fact. That’s why he delved into martial arts more desperately.
Such determination made Lee Gwak what he was now.

“Sigh!”

Gwang Noh ya let out another sigh and got up.

His gaze had changed.

It was no longer the look of an old man reminiscing and regretting his past.

It was infinitely cold and terrifyingly calm.

The eyes of a martial artist.

Gwang Noh ya had returned to being the absolute expert known as the Iron-Blooded Martial God.

Although his internal energy had been halved and his body was not in its prime, his spirit was the same as it had been hundreds of years ago when he was revered in the Jianghu.

He half-opened his eyes and practiced his cultivation.

This was the first time he had seriously practiced his cultivation since being poisoned by the God’s Blood Tear. He felt intense poison and pain within his body.

Gwang Noh ya’s cultivation had stimulated the poison.

The God’s Blood Tear poison he was afflicted with was different from ordinary toxins. The more he tried to resist it with cultivation, the more violently it reacted, increasing his pain. However, Gwang Noh ya did not change his expression and continued his practice.

Time flowed indifferently for the two men in silence.
***
“Sigh!”

Lee Gwak opened his eyes.

His gaze was ordinary.

There was no intense gleam, nor did the previously mystical aura appear anymore.

He seemed as ordinary and gentle as someone who had never practiced martial arts, though Lee Gwak himself was unaware of this fact.

Lee Gwak got up.

Despite sitting in a cross-legged position for a long time, he felt no discomfort anywhere.

That’s when it happened.

“Congratulations on opening the eighth gate.”

A familiar voice awakened Lee Gwak’s consciousness.

When Lee Gwak looked up, he saw Gwang Noh ya. Gwang Noh ya had timed his cultivation to end as Lee Gwak’s did.

For some reason, Gwang Noh ya’s aura seemed chilling.

It was wild, rough, and frightening.

Having spent years together and fought with Gwang Noh ya, Lee Gwak had never felt this atmosphere before. It felt even more unfamiliar.

“Master!”

“When the inner qi flows unobstructed and communicates with the outer qi, it is called the “unobstructed flow”. When you attain this state, you no longer need a teacher. Only one’s own brave and vigorous practice can elevate their realm further.”

“…”

Lee Gwak’s eyebrows twitched.

He sensed a strange feeling from Gwang Noh ya’s words.

There was a solemnity in him that Lee Gwak had never seen before, a sense of desperation hidden in his determined eyes, as if he were a man with nothing to lose.

“Therefore, you must never be complacent and must always diligently train.”

“Master! Is something wrong?”

“From now on, I will face you with all my strength.”

“What?”

“Not as teacher and student, but as martial artist against martial artist…”

Suddenly, the air around them became heavy.

The wind ceased to blow, and even the birds that chirped incessantly were silent at this moment.

Lee Gwak’s eyes wavered.

“Why?”

Boom!

At that moment, an explosive sound erupted.

Gwang Noh ya had launched an attack without warning. Lee Gwak blocked Gwang Noh ya’s strike with his forearm.

Zzzt!

Lee Gwak’s forearm twitched.

Had he not opened the eighth gate, had he not awakened the eighth serpent, and had the eighth serpent not merged with the great serpent, his forearm would have been broken by that blow.

Gwang Noh ya was serious.

His declaration of using his full strength was no lie.

“Huu!”

Lee Gwak took a deep breath.

He didn’t know why he was doing this, but if Gwang Noh ya was sincere, he had to be sincere as well.

That was the courtesy he should show Gwang Noh Ya.

Lee Gwak stretched out his hand, and a sword planted far away in the ground was drawn to his hand. It was telekinesis.

The sword was ordinary, but the moment it was held in Lee Gwak’s hand, it emitted an extraordinary aura.

As Lee Gwak held the sword, Gwang Noh ya smiled.

It was clear to him that the disciple he had accepted in his later years was now truly ready to face him. This was what Gwang Noh Ya had hoped for.

Lee Gwak pointed his sword straight at Gwang Noh ya.

In that instant, Gwang Noh ya felt as if Lee Gwak’s sword was piercing through his forehead. It was a testament to the threatening nature of Lee Gwak’s sword.

Pop!

Gwang Noh ya stomped on the ground.

At the same time, Lee Gwak moved.

Gwang Noh ya moved through space, shortening the distance between them with his qigong derived from the Immovable King’s Step.

Like a god who has reached the peak of his cultivation, he moved freely through space, folding the earth to run. But wherever he moved, Lee Gwak followed.

Lee Gwak pursued him through the air, using his Revolving Steps.

Swoosh!

Lee Gwak’s sword was thrust towards Gwang Noh ya.

A simple stab was all it was. But Lee Gwak’s attack missed, as Gwang Noh Ya deflected the blade with the back of his hand.

Lee Gwak’s sword, having been deflected into the air, returned in a graceful curve.

Clang!

As their weapons clashed, sparks flew between them.

Lee Gwak staggered.

Such was the massive shock he felt.

Until now, Gwang Noh ya had always adjusted his strength to match Lee Gwak’s level. But this time was different.

Gwang Noh ya was using his full strength.

Facing Gwang Noh ya at his full power was terrifying.

His gaze and martial arts, as if facing a matter of life and death, cornered Lee Gwak. However, Lee Gwak was not just on the receiving end.

Facing Gwang Noh ya, Lee Gwak unleashed all his accumulated power.

His body hovered low like a swallow skimming the water surface, and his sword relentlessly targeted Gwang Noh ya’s vital points.

Slash, chop, grab, push, stab, press.

Lee Gwak returned everything he had learned from Gwang Noh ya back to him.

Lee Gwak’s sword sliced, chopped, swung, pushed, stabbed and pressed. In response, Gwang Noh Ya unleashed a martial technique worthy of being called a form for the first time.

Boom!

Thunder roared as if from a clear sky.

The atmosphere went wild, and the surrounding vegetation waved like the sea.

Bang!

A shockwave turned the ground upside down.

Lee Gwak’s face turned pale.

Even after opening the eighth gate and merging with the snake, he was still no match for Gwang Noh Ya. Gwang Noh Ya, using his full power, was too much for Lee Gwak to handle.

Lee Gwak gritted his teeth.

Blood seeped out from between his clenched teeth.

Each blow piled on top of the other, and the layers of impact shook him to the core.

‘It’s my limit.’

That thought involuntarily came to him.

Gwang Noh ya was pushing Lee Gwak to his extreme.

A single misstep in receiving even one of Gwang Noh ya’s strikes could be fatal.

Gwang Noh ya was fully embodying the aspect of a Martial God.

Boom!

His fist covered the earth, and the landscape around them changed.

The forest, thriving for thousands of years, was being devastated by just one man, Gwang Noh ya.

Boom!

The atmosphere screamed.

Gwang Noh ya was a living disaster.

“Ugh!”

Lee Gwak involuntarily groaned.

His insides were jumbled, and his mind went blank.

Lee Gwak thought of despair.

He felt his limit.

The strength gradually drained from the hand gripping the sword.

The temptation to let go and find peace was overwhelming, like a powerful demon.

That was when it happened.

“Never limit your own potential. The moment you think it’s the end, it is. Believe in yourself. If you can’t believe in yourself, believe in me.”

Gwang Noh ya’s voice struck Lee Gwak’s ears.

Lee Gwak involuntarily lifted his head and looked at Gwang Noh ya.

Gwang Noh ya’s gaze was wildly tumultuous, like a fiercely burning torch.

“Ah!”

At that moment, Lee Gwak realized.

Just as a candle burns brightest and most brilliantly in its final moments, Gwang Noh ya too was burning his last flame.

Gwang Noh ya was expending his remaining life to impart his teachings to Lee Gwak.

It was the last lesson from the Iron-Blooded Martial God.

His eyes said it all.

‘I do not wish to die as a decrepit old man.’

Lee Gwak felt obligated to meet his expectations.

Do not define your limits.

Believe in yourself.

If you can’t believe in yourself, believe in your master.

Lee Gwak gritted his teeth.