Childhood Friend of the Zenith Chapter 101

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༺ Nice to Meet You, Kid (2) ༻
  The Ferocious Beast was an old man that had lost both his legs. Although he had the talent to build whatever he wanted with his wrinkly hands, he wasn’t able to walk.
  The Heavenly Demon offered him legs, but he said that he didn’t need them and asked for more time instead.
  The Heavenly Demon accepted his request and gave the Ferocious Beast, who was already knocking on the hell’s door, more time. 
  When I heard this, I couldn’t help but think that the Heavenly Demon wasn’t human after all. 
  Was it possible to control a person’s life and death without being a god?
  When the Heavenly Demon gave the Ferocious Beast more time, he started to reinforce the Demonic Cult. 
  It only took half a year for one man to turn a small castle into a fortress. 
  The only thing I remembered was that he was a skinny weak old man filled with lunacy. 
  ‘He was already working for the Black Palace before he met the Heavenly Demon?’
  A device that only reacted to demonic Qi… The only human capable of creating such a thing was that old man.
  Behind the door, there was a staircase that led downward.
  Judging by the ubiquitous bloodstains, it certainly didn’t seem like a normal place.
  I walked down the stairs while keeping the flame above my hand alight. 
  With each step, the smell of blood got stronger.
  It was getting bad to the point that I had to cover my mouth and nose.
  ‘What the hell were they doing down there?’
  Looking at the colors of the bloodstains on the walls, it seemed like a long time had passed.
  As I was about to wonder how much longer I had to go down for, I finally saw the staircase’s end.
  There was a long passage underneath the stairs. The space here was filled with a disgusting smell, and some mysterious sound akin to boiling water could be heard from the end of the passage. 
  While covering my mouth with my clothes, I carefully walked toward the source of the sound.
  When I arrived…
  I bit my lips because of the awful thing before my eyes.
  In the room, there was a small pond that was filled with blood.
  It was hard to calm my heart down because of how shocking it was.
  The smell of rotting corpses was filling up the room, and the missing swords of the Mount Hua Sect’s swordsmen were strewn across the floor. 
  Seeing that, I had to curse.
  “…These pieces of shit.”
  Anyone could tell whom the blood of the pond belonged to unless they were stupid.
  What for?
  What were they trying to achieve for them to do such a thing?
  I quickly looked around. I had to find out what this room was used for.
  After a short search, I was able to find it.
  The small flower that bloomed in the middle of the pond.
  It had a beautiful color that looked like it absorbed nourishment from the pond of blood.
  Contrary to its beautiful presence, it let out an ominous feeling.
  Furthermore, I was able to feel a slight bit of taoist Qi from it as well. 
  I could obviously tell that this flower was a serious matter.
  That red flower,
  Was all of this for that flower?
  What is that thing for them to go this far…?
  As I was about to walk closer with shaky eyes, I noticed some strange things.
  Some of them were still in good shape unlike some of the corpses of Mount Hua’s swordsmen.
  They weren’t wearing white uniforms like the others, but unlike the uniforms that were rotting due to the passage of time,  those corpses looked like they hadn’t been dead for too long.
  I looked at the uniform that the corpse was wearing and searched with my Qi.
  The Alliance.
  That corpse was from the Murim Alliance.
  Furthermore, it looked like it hadn’t been that long since the person died.
  That means that the Murim Alliance didn’t withdraw…
– Swish-!
  A presence was caught by my Qi that was spread out in the area.
  I didn’t have the time to guess who it was.
  Instead, I quickly protected my neck.
– Slash!
  A blade slashed my shoulder, blood spattering the ground. 
– Blaze!
  I used flames to protect my body while also lighting up the room, erasing the darkness.
  I focused my sight, trying to make out the person that ambushed me.
  He was wearing full-black clothing, so I couldn’t tell who it was.
– Drop. Drop.
  Blood dripped down my injured shoulder.
  ‘That was close.’
  I was able to protect my throat.
  All of the corpses of the Murim Alliance had stab or slash wounds around their necks.
  Thanks to that, I was able to predict and block the attack. I looked at the person and asked,
  “Are you from the Black Palace?”
  The person nodded to my question. Thankfully, he wasn’t fully retarded because he started to speak.
  “You have no respect, little one.”
  While he was giggling, I responded.
  “Why does everyone from the Unorthodox Faction look for respect recently? Do you guys think you actually have manners? You literally just ambushed me.”
  “How did you dodge it?”
  “Your attack was just that poor.”
  Despite me saying that, I was using all my power to get a grasp on who he was.
  ‘He’s an assassin.’
  Sweat flowed down my cheek. He was a difficult opponent. He wasn’t an ordinary martial artist, but an assassin.
  I was able to block his first attack, but if we were on the same level of martial arts, he had the advantage in a one-on-one battle. 
  It was good that we were in a room where there was no place to hide, but I still didn’t have the advantage.
  I circulated my Qi and increased the output of my flames. Upon seeing my actions, the person nodded.
  “A small body with a sharp expression, a red uniform, and your use of flame arts… Right, so you are Gu Yangcheon.”
  I frowned upon hearing his words.
  “You know me?”
  “You were also on the list… But thankfully, you came to us yourself. That makes our work easier.”
  His demonic Qi was similar to Ya Hyeoljeok’s. He was definitely from the Black Palace.
  ‘The Black Palace knows about me.’
  Did they get information on me because I killed Ya Hyeoljeok? I was expecting it, but it happened faster than I thought.
  Does that mean their business here was that much important? That flower? Or the Immortal Healer?
  ‘What do I do?’
  My opponent was a man that reached the peak realm. He was at a different level compared to Ya Hyeoljeok.
  I raised my focus with Qi, but he still seemed relaxed and calm.
  I didn’t let my guard down. What a shitty situation I had found myself in.
  It wasn’t going to be easy to escape as he was blocking the entrance, and the chance of me winning against him was nonexistent.
  I would have at least hoped for him to let his guard down like Ya Hyeoljeok had,  but clearly, he didn’t have any intention of doing so.
  While I was strengthening my body with Qi, he spoke to me.
  “I’ll offer you a deal.”
  His words came out of the blue.
  “The main palace wants you. They ordered us to capture you alive rather than dead, if possible, so how about you come with us peacefully?”
  His words were absurd.
  “Even though you tried to kill me with your ambush attack?”
  “I didn’t know it was you back then. You seem like a precious child of a family, so how about you just come with us instead of ending up as nothing but a tragic tale?”
  “Oh, you can even joke.”
  “I’ll have to suppress your strength, but I’ll at least let you live.”
  I smirked at the man’s words.
  He was telling me to basically beg the Black Palace for my life, when it was highly likely that they had a connection to the Demonic Cult.
  My life is precious.
  It felt even more so because I had been given a second chance at life. However, it wasn’t precious enough for me to lower my head to him. At the very least, I didn’t want to do that to these shitty demonic humans.
  I spoke to him with a smirk on my face.
  “f*ck off, trash.”
  The man’s eye twitched after hearing my vulgar language.
  Even though I couldn’t see his face, I was certain of it.
  “You should say that after you at least get rid of that murderous look in your eyes, you retard.”
  “Hehe… You are keener than I thought.”
  He wasn’t the type to keep his promise in the first place. I knew that as soon as I met him.
  He’s an assassin, but he failed to hide his emotion huh.
  How much is he underestimating me?
  The man stopped giggling and spoke.
  “I am Nachal.”
  “Why are you introducing yourself all of a sudden? Do you want to be friends with me or something?”
  “You should at least know who you are dying to. I’m just being considerate.”
  What a dogshit of a consideration. Then what, do they introduce themselves telepathically when they kill their targets with an ambush?
  Of course not.
  He just wanted to play with me.
  ‘Nachal… I never heard of such a name.’
  I didn’t think that he was telling the truth, and even if he was, I had never heard of his name.
  Then again, there were almost no assassins that were known in the world besides the Shadow King.
  The important thing right now was that the man in front of me was a skilled assassin and I had to survive.
  I didn’t expect the Black Palace to get information on me this fast. It was my fault for being this hasty.
  I thought of many ways to handle this situation, but I didn’t have enough power to best him.
  But even so, I had to try.
  I was able to charge at him after strengthening my body with Qi.
  「…I just woke up and you are already in trouble.」
  My feet that were about to leap at him, stopped right away.
  「Tsk tsk… The world should know that I can’t get any rest even after death.」
  It was a familiar voice.
  I was delighted to hear him, even in the situation I was in.
  ‘Elder Sh-‘
  「Don’t be stupid and step aside for a bit.」
  The world around me then calmed down. 
* * * *
  ‘What’s going on?’
  Confused, Nachal looked at Gu Yangcheon who suddenly lowered his head. 
  The orders that had been given by the Black Palace were to retrieve the ‘liquid’ that was in the branch hideout, to capture the Immortal Healer, and to get information on the child from the Gu Clan. 
  It was easy to find the liquid. The Heavenly Qi was required to activate the device anyway, so all one had to do was go down and retrieve it.
  I ambushed and killed the flies from the Murim Alliance that were blocking the hideout and put their corpses aside.
  It would take at least two hours for anyone to notice what happened. 
  Therefore, I went into the hideout and retrieved the liquid, but then, I felt some unknown presence and immediately concealed myself.
  When the presence came closer, it opened the door and went down to the basement.
  I first thought that it was someone from the main palace, but shockingly, it was just a boy.
  ‘I was worried for nothing.’
  I didn’t know how he had entered this place. I thought I had closed the entrance, but maybe I had left it open after all?
  In the end, all I had to do was just kill him, but as I was about to finish him, the boy surprisingly dodged my killing blow.
  Then, the room filled up with flames, and when I saw his face, I was certain.
  He was the child of the Tiger Warrior that was currently staying in Shaanxi. 
  When the leader gave the order to gather information on Gu Yangcheon, we were also told that we could kill him.
  Even though he killed Ya Hyeoljeok, the child was still a first-rate martial artist. 
  I could probably take out Ya Hyeoljeok in one attack if things went my way.
  ‘But he really is a monster for his age.’
  When I felt the amount of Qi in the flames that were filling up the room, I couldn’t help but inwardly exclaim in surprise.
  Not only did he look like he was against the main palace, but leaving a monster like that alive would certainly backfire in the future.
  And so, I decided to get rid of Gu Yangcheon at this moment.
  “Ugh, my back…”
  Gu Yangcheon who started to move again looked way too different.
  “Why must I go through this hassle at this old age…”
  Is he playing around right now?
  ‘He must be trying to buy time.’
  Even so, nothing would change. I took out a dagger from my pocket and made my Qi flow.
  Neck, and if possible, the heart.
  I was going to end him by aiming for one of those vital spots. 
  I had no intention of watching his poor acting any longer and charged, resolved to end it in but an instant.
  However, I couldn’t walk more than three steps.
  After one step, my neck was cut, and after the second step, my body was stabbed.
  In just an instant, hundreds of deaths flashed by me.
  “…What in the world…”
  “No matter how much time passes in the world, there are still kids like you.”
  The voice came from somewhere else.
  When I quickly turned around, I saw Gu Yangcheon swinging a sword after pulling one out from one of the corpses of the Mount Hua Sect’s swordsmen.
  “I hated them, so I lived trying to get rid of them, but now I realize that the world hasn’t changed after all.”
  I took a step back without even noticing after I heard his words. Then, I frowned after noticing my pathetic behavior.
  Ignoring my actions, Gu Yangcheon continued to speak.
  “What did you say earlier, that you have to know who you die to?”
  “…What did you do?”
  The sound of Gu Yangcheon chuckling echoed in the silent room. No Qi was put into his voice to enhance his volume, but his voice was still loud to the ears.
  I should only be able to smell the rotting blood through the mask that was covering my face, but for some reason, it felt like I was able to smell a sweet scent.
  Gu Yangcheon once again spoke up.
  “Nice to meet you, greenhorn.”
  A gust of wind blew through the room, bouncing off the walls and quickly filling the entire space.
  “My name is Shincheol.”
  The biggest plum blossom tree that had succumbed to the passage of time…
  …bloomed again at this spot.
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