Chapter 29: Not a Single Person to Welcome Me Home (1)
Light Novel: Volume 2 Chapter 4
Manhwa: Chapter 31
Episode 2. Not a Single Person to Welcome Me Home (1)
Lee Gwak bit down hard on his lip. Blood flowed from the split flesh, but he felt no pain. He was too overwhelmed by the immense pressure and agony bearing down on his entire body.
It was merely the vestige of someone else.
It was one thing to leave one’s image behind through a wall-gazing meditation, but for that shadow to exert such presence was utterly inexplicable.
Lee Gwak could not continue his train of thought.
He felt as if his whole body was being crushed under the pressure of the black shadow. His organs seemed on the verge of bursting, and his eyes were about to pop out of their sockets.
Lee Gwak desperately activated the Eight Snakes Art. The five snakes writhed wildly throughout his body. Still, the pressure he felt only intensified.
He inwardly screamed.
Having mastered the Eight Snakes Art and the Eight Sects Sword Art, Lee Gwak had soared with confidence.
Although he wasn’t given the chance to show off his accomplishments, he was confident that his current strength could rival the most renowned late-stage martial artists of Jianghu.
His confidence peaked as he clandestinely passed through the Steel Blood Hell Training Ground. But now, the shadow left by an unknown person on the wall had ruthlessly shattered his confidence.
He realized he was still nothing.
His achievements were meager, and he was powerless in the face of overwhelming strength.
Feeling as if his soul was being torn to shreds and his body was disintegrating, Lee Gwak shuddered uncontrollably.
‘At this rate, I’ll die.’
He wasn’t even against a real person, but a shadow, and yet the pressure it exuded made him feel like he was on the verge of death.
Lee Gwak’s eyes widened in shock.
Sure enough, the shadow that had seemed to be meditating a moment ago now seemed to be throwing a fist at him.
Whether the sight before him was truly a moving shadow or a hallucination caused by the pressure, Lee Gwak couldn’t tell.
The truth didn’t matter. What mattered was surviving this moment.
With great effort, he moved his immobile hand to grasp the handle of his sword, attempting to draw it. But that was as far as he got.
Shaking uncontrollably, the muscles in his arm bulged, but they did nothing more than tremble.
A muffled grunt squeezed through Lee Gwak’s clamped teeth.
He was tempted to turn away his head, to look away from the black shadows on the wall, to escape the excruciating pain.
If he turned away his head now, the pain would be gone. He didn’t have to die, nor did he have to feel this kind of pain.
Lee Gwak’s head slowly turned.
It was then.
—Once a dog’s habits are ingrained, they can only live as a dog forever.
Suddenly, the words of Lunatic Pugilist came to mind.
And he realized.
If he averted his gaze here, he would have to live forever avoiding it.
Lee Gwak bit his tongue and forced himself to maintain eye contact.
The blood rushed to his face and he came to his senses.
It was then.
The five snakes that had been whirling around Lee Gwak’s body gathered at the perineum point. His perineum point was so narrow that accommodating even one snake was difficult. As the five snakes crowded into such a tight space, Lee Gwak felt immense pain.
It was as if his entire lower abdomen was being ripped apart, his mind growing faint with pain.
It was then. The second snake, squeezing through the first gate, bit the tail of the first snake and took up space in the narrow area. The third and fourth snakes wedged themselves in between.
Thus, the four snakes entwined and rotated, expanding the space of Lee Gwak’s perineum point.
If the martial arts of the Central Plains are based on the dantian, then the Yoga techniques are based on the perineum point. The expansion of the perineum point meant that the internal energy Lee Gwak could hold within his body greatly increased.
The fifth snake entered the space created by the four snakes. As the fifth snake entered, it felt as if the perineum point would burst.
The five snakes became one. They spun around, each biting the other’s tail, before merging into one. Then the merged snakes slithered upward along Lee Gwak’s spine.
It swiftly passed through the second and third gates, which were already open, and reached the fifth gate in a flash. During this process, all five gates were expanded, and the blood vessels became sturdier.
For a while, the snake continued to rotate at the fifth gate, and then, as if making a decision, it shot towards an unknown space in the brain, a place level with the eyes and the horizon that it had never reached before.
It was an act to awaken the sixth snake.
The snake hammered at the sixth gate.
Lee Gwak’s body shook.
Blood flowed from his nose and ears.
According to the Yoga Secret Manual, waking up the sixth snake would give him spirituality and open another eye. However, the location where the sixth snake lay dormant was in the middle of the brain, the most important and dangerous part of the human body.
The Yoga Secret Manual warned that it was too perilous to touch rashly, and one must wait naturally for the gate to open, not foolishly attempt it.
Although Lee Gwak had changed the name of the martial art to Eight Snakes Art, he had always adhered to the fundamental teachings of the Yoga Secret Manual and had not acted recklessly. But now, faced with this situation, Lee Gwak had to make a choice.
It was impossible to reverse the awakening of the sixth snake, nor could he stop the flow of his energy.
Dead or alive, there was only one path left for him.
The snake relentlessly pounded on the sixth gate.
Blood streamed from his eyes, mouth, nose, and ears. It was the bleeding of the seven orifices.
It felt as if his brain was melting away. He could feel his consciousness fading. But Lee Gwak desperately held on.
It was then.
A faint ringing burst forth in his head.
It was a sound that only he could hear.
Perhaps no sound had been made at all, but none of that was important.
The gate had not fully opened, only partially.
The sixth snake had not yet fully awakened, yet the world Lee Gwak saw had changed.
He could see a flow.
Whether it was the flow of qi or something else, Lee Gwak’s eyes saw a massive swirling current and pattern centered around the black shadow.
Suddenly, Lee Gwak’s sword was drawn out like lightning.
The time when he was unable to move just moments ago seemed like a lie.
His sword unhesitatingly pierced through into the flow’s pattern. As if cutting through a tangled thread, Lee Gwak’s sword cut through the pattern with such precision.
Lee Gwak blinked his eyes.
The pressure that had been caging his body disappeared.
The blood flowing from his seven orifices gradually stopped, and his eyes, which had been so bloodshot that they looked like they might burst at any moment, returned to normal.
Only then did Lee Gwak release the breath he had been holding in.
The sixth gate, which had opened slightly, closed again, and the awakened snake returned to the first gate.
A slight look of disappointment appeared on Lee Gwak’s face.
It was because he had not fully opened the sixth gate. However, he decided to be satisfied with this much. Having opened it slightly, he thought that if the opportunity arose, he could fully open it.
Most importantly, he had united the five scattered snakes into one. That alone was a great fortune and achievement for Lee Gwak.
In the art of Yoga, the human blood vessels are compared to a tree growing backward. Starting from the perineum, it grows up towards the spine, and when the brain gate is opened, it spreads its branches and leaves backward.
In terms of the martial arts of the Central Plains, it would be like stimulating the main meridians before piercing through the scattered finer meridians throughout the body.
Uniting the five snakes was almost the same as stimulating the main meridians.
Now there was no need to open the gates or move the snakes separately. Unified as one, the internal energy could move instantly as he wished, and he gained even greater destructive power.
Lee Gwak put away his regret and walked towards the shadow that had been pressing on him.
The shadow, which had projected someone’s form, no longer had any presence or pressure. It was as if the pressure and pain Lee Gwak had felt until just a moment ago had been a lie.
Lee Gwak reached out his hand.
In an instant, the surface of the wall where the shadow had been engraved crumbled away like a sandcastle, as if it had fulfilled its purpose.
Lee Gwak sighed and retracted his hand.
Everything felt like a dream. But what he had gone through was certainly not a dream.
The unified snake was the proof.
“Who are you?”
Lee Gwak asked the wall where the shadow had been. Of course, no answer came back.
Lee Gwak thought that someone had not left their will projected as a shadow here with any particular intent.
He had simply meditated facing the wall here, and because his achievements were so high, a form projecting his will had naturally remained.
The strongest warrior Lee Gwak knew was the Lunatic Pugilist.
He thought that Lunatic Pugilist could well compete for the title of the number one warrior under the heavens. But Lee Gwak realized that even the Lunatic Pugilist seemed to fall short in comparison to the warrior who had been here.
The shadow that had been pressuring him disappeared, but Lee Gwak could not easily shake off its aftereffects for a long time.
* * *
The Steel Blood Hell Training Ground was closed.
The talents who had been learning martial arts at Mount Shaohua descended the mountain first under the guidance of their instructors. What organizations they would be assigned to, or what tasks they would be tasked with, there was no way for an Outer Hall martial artist like Lee Gwak to know.
Even after the young talents had left, Lee Gwak could not descend from Mount Shaohua. It was because the warriors of the Creation Pavilion and the Outer Hall had been tasked with closing the Steel Blood Hell Training Ground.
It took almost a month just to seal the mechanisms that had pushed the talents to their limits and to close the entrance so that no one could access it.
Bright smiles appeared on the faces of the Creation Pavilion and Outer Hall warriors.
After three years and seven months, they could finally return to their families’ embrace. Even those without families were nearly homesick, so the emotions they felt at this moment were more overwhelming than ever before.
“You’ve all worked hard. We can now return to the Jade Heaven Alliance.”
“We’re going home!”
Everyone cheered at the declaration of the master of the Creation Pavilion, Dan Mok-wol.
Under his command, the warriors of the Creation Pavilion and the Outer Hall descended Mount Shaohua. The procession of carts and carriages laden with luggage seemed to continue endlessly.
Lee Gwak boarded a cart loaded with baggage.
As he leaned back against the luggage on the cart, the view of Mount Shaohua naturally entered his eyes.
Mixed feelings crossed Lee Gwak’s eyes.
Even if it seemed to others that he had wasted his time, he had gained much here. It was a fruitful time that would not come again.
It was then.
“What are you thinking so deeply about?”
Along with the familiar voice, someone plopped down beside him. Just by the voice, Lee Gwak knew who it was.
“Why? Feeling sentimental because we’re leaving?”
The man who joked with a smile was none other than Seok Yi-cheon.
Lee Gwak shook his head.
“Not at all. What is there to feel sentimental about?”
“That’s right! I’m very happy too. We’re finally leaving this tedious place.”
“You’ve worked hard.”
“You’ve worked harder. You’ve had a tough time serving the Creation Pavilion all this time.”
“Not at all. It was fun.”
“What’s fun about that? You don’t have to say so in front of me.”
Seok Yi-cheon patted Lee Gwak’s shoulder as if he knew everything.
Not knowing Lee Gwak’s achievements, Seok Yi-cheon could only think that way. Lee Gwak didn’t feel the need to make excuses, so he just smiled faintly.
Seok Yi-cheon, on the other hand, had a look of boredom on his face.
All he had done here was clean up after the talents. Because they were confined in a closed-off place, there wasn’t a single normal one among them.
Some showed signs of paranoia, while others despised the Outer Hall warriors who were stuck with menial tasks.
It was frustrating, but since it was his job, he had suppressed his anger all this time. As a result, his insides were blackened with frustration.
“By the way, I heard you became a squad leader?”
“It just turned out that way.”
“Congratulations. You’ve risen higher than your brother here.”
“No need. Everyone has their own capacity. I’m just not cut out to be a squad leader.”
“Do you think you could take me with you if there’s a spot?”
“Are you serious?”
“Wouldn’t it be a bit more comfortable under you? Please take me with you. The current squad leader is too meticulous and demanding, he makes people tired. It’s killing me.”
Seok Yi-cheon’s expression was serious.
Lee Gwak realized that he was sincere.
“Understood. I’ll talk about to him about it.”
“Heheh, thank you.”
“Not at all.”
Lee Gwak nodded to Seok Yi-cheon, who expressed his gratitude.
When Lee Gwak had been paralyzed and unable to move, it was Seok Yi-cheon who had taken care of him to the end. The gratitude Lee Gwak felt towards Seok Yi-cheon was beyond words.
Side by side, the two men silently watched Mount Shaohua grow increasingly distant.
It was ten days later when they arrived at the Jade Heaven Alliance.
Both departure and return were quiet, with not a single person to welcome them back.
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