Chapter 82. <The World’s Shabbiest. (2) >
Translator: thursdays QC: LightBrin
Her nose bone was broken and bleeding. As she shed blood in the white snowfield, whoosh! Master swung her bare fist.
The fist hit the Murim Lord square on the chin. Master didn’t miss a beat when the Murim Lord stumbled back. She ran. She rushed at him. She bit him.
“Kuggh, huff! Ugh…! You… bastard…!”
The Murim Lord hurriedly pushed Master away, but his ears were already wet with blood. His flesh was ripped off with a squelching noise. “Kuhaa!” A quiet scream rang through the snowfield.
Master spat out the blood-stained ear in the snow. Master’s mouth also tinged red. She smiled as if she was happy with the outcome of her hunt.
She was like a bloodthirsty evil spirit.
“Pfft! It tastes dirty! The Namgung family’s lofty virtues do nothing to improve the taste of your flesh!”
“Oi, Madu. Heh. Seems like you don’t enjoy human flesh anymore. Can you even call yourself a demon?”
“You’re so old that you taste like rotten spinach. But there’s some truth to what you said earlier.”
Master wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.
“The Great Battle of Good and Evil should have ended on the first day. Both you and I were holding back. I thought I was fighting with everything on the line, but in fact, I couldn’t. I didn’t really risk my life!”
“Today’s fight is a second opportunity that nature wouldn’t have allowed us.”
Master looked at me.
Her silent eyes contained warm and tender regard.
“We can’t foolishly repeat the same mistakes. Ax Saint. Today, I shall use up everything I have.”
“……Are you going to use your true chi?”
Innate true chi.
It was the energy that everyone has when they are first born. In other words, it was their life force. Unlike internal energy, true chi could not be artificially cultivated. If it was used, it was no more. And once it was used up, it was the end of the martial artist’s ‘life’.
They would die. Or become crippled.
For martial artists, true chi was the last resort. It was a point of no return.
“……Madu. You and I are weak anyway,”
The Murim Lord said. Was it because he lost an ear? The Murim Lord frowned with a terrifying expression.
“If we try to draw out your true chi now, we can only use it like a novice or a trainee, let alone as a master. Of course, there is no internal energy without our lower abdomen. It will be impossible to demonstrate our skills… Don’t you know this?”
“Are you intending to use up your true chi to show the martial arts of a trainee, at best?”
“Don’t be angry, Namgung Un. I do not intend to throw away my life. I would never. I just hope that my inevitable last day happens to be today.”
“I now feel the full joy of being alive. I’m grateful twice over. I’m grateful to myself for surviving to this day, and I am grateful to fate that I may die today.”
“Even though the world is destroyed?”
“Yes. I am grateful for all the connections I have made up to this very moment.”
Master slowly got into a stance.
Right hand forward. Left hand back.
“Looking back at it, I am truly happy as a warrior.”
Snow flew through the air. It wasn’t snow from the sky. A small maelstrom of snow swirled around Master. Her innate true chi had trickled out. The wind whipped around, centering on Master.
“……I see. Is that so?”
The Murim Lord accepted her wish with a clear face.
“All right. I’ve also longed for a day like today.”
The wind flowed backward.
“Let’s die together, Heavenly Demon.”
The two ran toward each other.
And as for me, I looked at the scenery as their life forces spilled onto the snowfield.
Master smacked away the Murim Lord’s hand. The Murim Lord stepped on Master’s foot. Their arms crossed and their feet crossed, their true chi ceaselessly dripping from their bodies. It was a leakage that spilled their lives.
The permanent snowfield that the sun couldn’t melt mixed and melted into the lives of the two warriors.
Master hit the Murim Lord’s back. The wind blew. The wind flowed in the direction her fingertips pointed, and snow followed this path.
In a world covered with snow, only the path through which the hands and feet of two people crossed slowly turned to the bare ground.
And that wasn’t all.
Little by little, rapidly, things that weren’t white grew around the spot where Master and the Murim Lord fought. A weed. A bush. The ground elsewhere was still frozen with snow, but between the two fighters, the seasons bloomed.
-They’re being fed true chi.
Bae Hu-ryeong said bluntly.
-It’s like a feast for the plants because it’s the true chi of such masters. But even then, it’s only temporary.
Even if it was only a moment, the seasons were beautiful.
The earth drank the true chi of the two people. Thus, heaven and earth briefly returned to what they were before they immersed in eternal winter.
It was a forest of peach flowers.
A peach tree grew and thickened as if time were accelerated. The peach trees resembled human fingers. The branches, crawling out from the ground, stretched their hands toward the sky like they were trying to grab something.
Through the petals of pink-colored flowers, through the cracks of the branches like fingers, Master and Murim Lord duelled.
Their hands and feet moved with the intent to kill each other.
However, covered by the petals, it looked like a dance, and as it took the lives of two people, it was an unnatural death. Many things in the world are beautiful when covered by flower petals. Even killing intent. Even the poison of my master.
-……This is a rare event.
The white snowfield.
Red peach petals flew around.
-Is it because one side was born with the ideal yin body and the other with a body for martial arts? The yin and yang have almost completely meshed together. Those two people are already in a world of their own… I’ve never seen such a curious sight.
The peach flowers bloomed and closed.
Spring stayed, then passed again.
“March of the Heavenly Demon.”
Master stepped forward. As the blizzard struck, the peach flowers scattered.
“Destruction of the Yellow Moon.”
The Murim Lord grabbed her wrist and twisted it. The wind stopped, and the peach blossoms were in full bloom again.
The petals then were carried on the wind and buried my shoulder.
It was only then that I knew.
These red flowers were Master’s blood. It was the blood of the Murim Lord as well.
The petals bloomed from drinking the blood of these two people.
“—I hate you and your people.”
Winter itself was bleeding.
“I hate you.”
“I hate the Righteous Sect. I don’t like ‘heroes.’ I don’t like the Nine Great Schools. I hate the Five Noble Clans. You all are happy while the common man screams. So aloof. But it is not your happiness that I cannot forgive. Of course it wasn’t.”
“It was that even people like you could be hurt.”
Peach blossoms bloomed and fell. The seasons passed. But the number of flowers that bloomed became fewer and the seasons became shorter and shorter.
“Even those like you said that things were painful. You made expressions of pain, spoke of pain, sought comfort and provided comfort. Like you were pretending to be human.”
Master was dying.
“I am a detestable person.”
The seasons passed.
“Why were you beastly to the others, but always human among yourselves?”
Countless peach blossoms covered the shadows of the two.
In retrospect, it was a momentary dream, a quick scene in a book.
The branches were dry. No more peach blossoms bloomed. The wind blew, and snow covered the ground again. Amid the fallen petals, Master and the Murim Lord stood tall.
“……Kk, euhp! Phew, haa…!”
Over the red flower field, an even redder color was spewed.
It was the blood of the Murim Lord.
Master’s tightly clenched fist had reached the chest of the Murim Lord. The old man stumbled like a mirage. Then, lightly, he fell. The red flowers rose up as if to accept the old man’s body.
Master stood still.
No answer came back when I called.
I stepped toward her. I hastened. I ran, and I hugged Master’s body that was still standing tall.
It was cold.
Her body was cold, like an ice field.
Master’s voice was clear. The body heat that had disappeared from her body was still hanging onto her voice. But it was too light. Her fingers and body all became light in a moment as if she was rapidly aging.
“Yes, you won. You won, Master.”
“Originally, I should have pierced his chest and grabbed his heart. But rather than piercing, I stopped at hitting. I showed my disciple a shameful face.”
“Not at all. It wasn’t like that.”
“Well. My face is still in better shape than yours now. What sort of expression is that?”
I carefully laid down Master with my arms. I used Aura to cover her body. Even so, Master did not get any warmer. Pat. Even the fingertips that touched my cheek were as cold as icicles.
“Don’t worry, disciple. I still have a bit of time before I die.”
“Isn’t that enough time to say goodbye?”
I only had two hours left to hear this person’s voice and hear her breath.
“……You’re still crying.”
Master looked sad.
“You’re making things difficult for your master. Well, I have also made things difficult for you. I wanted to take a long time to tell you everything, but this old lady’s stubbornness prevented me from even that. I worry about what I will leave in your heart, what I will hand down to you.”
“I’m afraid I’ll leave a void in you,” Master whispered, letting out a cold, bloody cough.
“I wish for you to remember me like one remembers the flower at the moment it bloomed…”
I heard an urgent cry.
It was the voice of the Alchemist. Maybe they just now realized that the Great Battle of Good and Evil had taken place in the snowfield, as the Alchemist and the party from the tower were running toward us.
“Death King-nim, wh, what is this…”
The Venomous Snake was surprised to discover the Murim Lord.
“Are you okay!? Hey, Master! Look at me! Open your eyes!”
“The old man is fine.”
Master coughed again.
“The last hit was shallow. It didn’t go in deep. He was boasting that luck was on his side today… Being crippled is that fellow’s luck.”
“Wh, what do you mean by crippled?”
The Alchemist opened and closed her mouth again.
“I would never let him go in that condition… A-anyway we don’t have time for this! Both of you need treatment!”
“I’m fine. Take care of the old man.”
“I know my body the best. It’s already over for me.
And,” said Master.
“I want to spend the last of my time with my only disciple.”
“Child. Could you leave us two alone?”
The Alchemist was both a pharmacist and a doctor. She approached and checked Master’s pulse. She activated her skill to examine her patient’s physical condition. The Alchemist’s complexion turned dark.
“…I have painkillers. Would you like some?”
“That’s all right.”
“The winter wind is lovely. It’s nice and cool for my heart. When I reach Nirvana, I want to feel this wind as it is now.”
The Alchemist stood up. Her head drooped. She quietly bowed toward Master. The Medicine King, who was standing by without a word, beckoned and gathered the rest of the party. It wasn’t long before they went back to the cave with the Murim Lord.
They were being considerate of Master and me.
Master held onto my hand.
“What shall we do with the remaining time? Did you want to hear about my childhood? Would you like to hear how beautiful the headquarters of our cult is?”
I, too, held Master’s dry hand.
There was still something left.
Her life hadn’t become perfect. There was still a missing puzzle piece, the one that would make sure that she enjoyed her greatest moments and would make a completely satisfying ending.
“I have a request.”
“What is it?”
“Please have a match with me.”
Master’s eyes widened.
“How unexpected. All disciples dream of surpassing their master, but as you can see, I cannot move any further. Gongja. What’s the point of winning against a person who can’t even move?”
“If it’s not a match that involves the body.”
“I want to compete against Master with words.”
“A battle of wits, I see.”
A battle of wits.
It was a match done not with the body but with one’s mouth.
One person starts by describing what skill they would use and how. When the other person counters the attack, they also explain how they would deal with it.
Therefore, there was no need to move one’s limbs. No internal energy was required.
It was a fight that pitted two people’s perception of martial arts.
A confrontation of their knowledge.
Master gently laughed.
“Our disciple is being quite arrogant. If we compete with our bodies, Gongja, you will be victorious, but your defeat will be inevitable in a battle of wits. I have many skills that I’ve learned in my heyday, but you would fight with just the slight knowledge of the Infernal Heavens Demonic Art!”
I opened my mouth.
“I don’t think that the match against the Murim Lord was your best, Master. You even said this. Originally, you would have pierced his chest and grabbed his heart… Even if it’s just a verbal fight, I want Master to achieve the most satisfying match in the end.”
The greatest fight with no regrets.
That was the wish of all martial artists.
“Gongja. Do you mean that you can show it to me?”
Master seemed to find my proposal interesting. Was she thinking that this was the childish thought process of her young student? She didn’t seem to have any expectation that I could provide her with a satisfying match.
“All right. However, I will not take mercy on you, even in a verbal match. I will allow you to go first, but don’t resent your master too much if I end the match with one strike.”
“When the match is over, I shall tell you the tales of when I was younger! Now, show this master the results of your training.”
It was a smile that felt like a peach blossom.
I looked down at Master’s face and slowly turned to the man sitting across from me. I looked at the martial artist who had reached the peak not here, but in another world.
The Sword Emperor.
-Is it my turn now?
He was also someone who rose to be the greatest of all time in another world.
Even though he could not fight with his body as a ghost, he could do a verbal spar by borrowing my mouth.
‘Yes. Please fulfill the [promise] from when you lost the bet.’
Bae Hu-ryeong smirked.
-I wanted to go up against the head of the Demonic Cult here anyway.
He crossed his arms and sat on the snow.
-I’ll give her the greatest match of all time. Tell her that you will yield the first three moves.
With me in the center, two godlike beings faced each other.
 Duel, dance, and unnatural death: 비무, 비무, and 비명 respectively in Korean. A fun bit of wordplay.
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