Childhood Friend of the Zenith Chapter 103

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༺ Master (1) ༻
  …How did he find out?
  I never expected him to be aware of my regression.
  ‘Was he pretending before, then…?’
  As if to answer my question, Elder Shin spoke up.
  ‘When I fell asleep after getting devoured by the monster in your body, I was able to see many things.’
  「What are you…」
  ‘There were more things that I couldn’t see, but I saw things that you couldn’t tell me about.
  ‘I have many things to ask you now that I have returned, but we aren’t in a situation to talk about that right now. Just sit back and focus for now.’
  If I could control my body, I likely would have collapsed to the ground by now.
  Elder Shin’s words were just that shocking.
  ‘Instead of wasting your time being shaken like that, watch and learn.’
  His words were strict. What did he see and what was he thinking for him to say this to me?
  My abdomen flinched.
  Even when I refused, I was able to feel the sensation all too clearly.
  I probably felt it even more since I wasn’t used to it; my fighting style was so much different.
  Was this the sensation of blossoming with plum flowers? It felt like plum flowers were even flying around me.
  The dream of every martial artist of Mount Hua.
  It was strange to feel such a sensation within my body.
  ‘It’s not just blossoming.’
  Elder Shin continued his lesson while I was busy perceiving the strange sensation in my body.
  ‘If you only stop after blossoming your flower, it’s all pointless.’
  This was coming from none other than Mount Hua’s past hero.
  ‘Once you are done with the blossom, maintain it. That’s where it truly begins.’
  I was able to notice it after hearing Elder Shin’s explanation—the endless amount of wind that blew in my body.
  From outside, it looked peaceful, but inside, there was a raging storm of plum flowers.
  ‘Now do you get why I told Mount Hua’s students to first achieve a complete physical body?’
  Even with his perfect control, I felt some of it leak out.
  I assumed this was because of my incomplete body.
  ‘I believe you know this as well. Gu Clan’s art is no different.’
  As Elder Shin said, I was aware of it to a certain extent.
  The process of summoning flames required me to maintain heat inside my body.
  Gu Clan’s art was basically the process of using Qi to maintain heat in one’s body to then use it to enhance one’s attacks.
  ‘Did you really think you just needed a lot of Qi? No, that’s just because an unnecessary amount of Qi is leaking from your body.’
  My body moved.
  It felt more correct to say that the sword was picked up along with the wind, rather than that I picked up the sword.
  Then, my body began floating about. I was shocked to feel how light my body was, and how fluid my movements were. I was shocked at how fluid my body looked.
  ‘Tsk… I can’t believe I have to teach this to some mantis when I never got to teach it to my own children.’
  Despite him saying this, the sword was swung.
  When Nachal saw this, he quickly moved away.
  Even though he had lost an arm, he was still clearly faster.
  However, the blade of the sword had already been aimed at where Nachal would be.
  – Swish-! Swish!
  The sword cut Nachal continuously. The shockingly precise sword was aiming for his arm and legs.
  Compared to Yung Pung’s immense amount of flowers he showed with his sword, Elder Shin’s sword only formed fragile leaves. 
  ‘Don’t be mistaken. If one maintains the blossom after it bloomed, it’s bound to return to them in the end.’
  There was no need for a shower of plum blossoms.
  Just one leaf brighter than all those flowers was enough.
  I felt like that was what Elder Shin was telling me.
  ‘Your stupid way of fighting is only possible with an ocean of Qi, and the end result is obvious. You know this yourself, don’t you?’
  I had never ran out of Qi in my past life because I had demonic Qi.
  But even then, I was never able to reach the apex, right until the very end.
  Thinking about the giant tall wall that stood over me only made me less confident.
  ‘Watch and learn.’
  Only after a few sword swings, the peak realm assassin, Nachal, was shut down completely.
  The man that was missing an arm collapsed onto the floor after he lost all his power and looked at me in trepidation. 
  He was faster, he was stronger. If that wasn’t enough, the amount of Qi in his body was far greater too.
  But in the end, he was being toyed with by a child with an ordinary sword.
  “Monster… You… are a monster…”
  I understood Nachal’s words that he spoke with no spirit. I was able to understand it more than anyone.
  Not a single strand of Qi was wasted.
  Furthermore, Elden Shin completely disregarded the Qi in my body and only used the little Qi I had absorbed from the treasure.
  I understood what Elder Shin was trying to show me, but seeing it and actually learning and doing it were two different things.
  All my joints hurt. It really showed that I had many untrained muscles I wasn’t using until now.
  I couldn’t even use the excuse that Elder Shin used sword arts while my body was specialized in using fists.
  It was simply the fact that I hadn’t been using my body to its full potential. 
  ‘Don’t obsess over the amount of Qi.’
  「So you went through all this hassle just to tell me that?」
  ‘You were gonna die if I didn’t, so what was I supposed to do? Goddammit, you should be on your knees instead of complaining after all this hassle I went through to help you.’
  「…Thank you.」
  Like he said, he had indeed helped me and he really had tried to teach me.
  Thanks to this, I was able to shake off the arrogance I felt after my resurrection.
  Whatever level I reached in my past life didn’t matter.
  There was still a long way to go. I was able to realize that once again.
  Elder Shin let out a snort, then approached Nachal’s body.
  Although he said he had wanted to teach me, I could feel how infuriated he had been.
  Mount Hua Sect’s corpses strewn across the ground, all dead.
  It was honestly shocking to see how he didn’t let any of his emotions to affect him.
  “Kill me…”
  Nachal said in a feeble voice.
  Nachal had even tried to run away before, but he was blocked by the sword.
  His eyes had already lost all hope. He didn’t even try to beg for his life. He was well aware that even if he did, it wouldn’t achieve anything.
  “It’s a shame that I can’t tell the leader about you. Hehe… Don’t get too conceited since the Heavens are on our side!”
  “It was like this in the past too, but kids in your faction really are sick in the head.”
  – Stab-!
  After Elder Shin was done talking, he stabbed Nachal’s heart with the sword.
  It was almost too lame of a death for a martial artist that reached the peak realm.
  “I’m asking just in case, but do you have any complaints that I killed him before interrogating him?’
   「It’s kind of strange to hear myself talking like an old man.」
  “You do realize I can just not give you your body back, right?”
  「I have no complaints.」
  It was practically impossible to ask anything of an assassin at that level in the first place.
  He would have definitely kept his mouth shut, and even if we tortured him, he would have found a way to kill himself.
  I was a bit disappointed since there was always a chance that I could’ve gotten something out of him, but it was only right to let Elder Shin kill him considering his feelings.
  The old man moved my arms around and spoke as though he was disappointed.
  “For you to get tired only after moving this much, what a waste of a body.”
  「How long are you going to use it for…」
  “Don’t worry, I’m at my limit anyways.”
  After saying that, he walked somewhere slowly.
  The spot Elder Shin trudged to was where the corpses of Mount Hua’s people were.
  Ignoring the rotting smell, he kneeled and closed his eyes.
  I didn’t know what he was thinking with his eyes closed, but I probably never felt the emotions he was currently feeling.
  After sitting down for a bit, he spoke up quietly.
  “I’m done now. Just like you, I have many things to ask, but let’s save it for later.”
  Along with a sensation of impact, my vision returned to normal.
   I was able to move my body again without any problems. The sensation of my consciousness switching places was much more disturbing than I imagined.
  “Elder Shin…”
  Thankfully, Elder Shin didn’t disappear this time. I moved my body some more, just to check if there were any problems, but I couldn’t find any.
  Relieved that I wasn’t injured, I looked around and asked, “Should I bring them to Mount Hua?”
  Elder Shin responded to my question without hesitation.
  「No need to go that far. This isn’t your business to begin with and you know yourself that you couldn’t possibly do that.」
  Like Elder Shin said, I couldn’t afford to bring those corpses with me.
  Of course, if I was given enough time, it was possible, but I had no way to explain the situation.
  「That flower, bring that with you.」
  I looked behind me. Nachal said his main goal here was that flower, right?
  I walked toward the flower carefully. The puddle of blood made a splashing sound as I stepped in it.
  The blood that was being boiled was hot, but it wasn’t hot enough to cause me any damage.
  I felt the air get denser as I approached. ‘How can a flower actually bloom in the middle of a blood pool?’
  “These fuckers… What did they make here?”
  There were probably tens of flowers that had a red color, but I never heard of a flower that bloomed after absorbing energy from blood.
  If I had to guess, though, there was one thing that came to my mind.
  “The Abyss, huh?”
  A hellish place that defied all reason.
  It was possible that this flower came from that place.
  After all, there was no way that a normal flower would produce this amount of nasty aura.
  What I was curious about was what they were trying to use this flower for after making it.
  I touched the red plant with my hand. Thankfully, there was no problem and my absorption  ability didn’t activate either.
  「You aren’t going to ask me if it’s just better to leave this here?」
  ‘Even if I just leave it here…’
  The Murim Alliance would find it in the end. There were many reasons why, but I didn’t really like the idea of the Murim Alliance finding this.
  – Snap-!
  Even though I barely used strength, the flower and its root were pulled out almost too easily.
  When the flower was picked, the blood that was boiling instantly became calm.
  It looked like everything was for this flower.
  「Are you not afraid?」
  “Afraid of what?”
  「You just grabbed something you don’t even know, yet you show no sign of fear.」
  The Abyss, just thinking about its name made me sick, but it was also a word that I heard so many times that I got tired of it. Regardless, my conduct was a bit too careless.
  ‘I should be more careful.’
  I looked at the flower, and besides its leaves and even its root being red, it looked fairly normal.
  If not for the insane amount of Qi that tingled the hand that was holding it, that is.
  Normal herbs, when they were picked from the ground, would lose more than half of their energy.
  Furthermore, their root would lose their strength and color, unlike the leaves, so it was advised to consume them right away.
  “But this one isn’t losing any Qi.”
  That’s what makes it even scarier.
  I was thinking of burning it away in flames if a problem appeared after I grabbed it, but I put it in my pocket for now.
  I got out of the pool and cleaned myself. Because of the blood pool reaching up to my ankles, the hems of my pants were soaked in blood.
  Furthermore, my body felt a bit sore too, likely because of the way Elder Shin had used my body earlier.
  “Is it really okay to just leave them here?”
  「…It’s fine.」
  The short answer Elder Shin gave me hid so many meanings and emotions behind it.
  At the very least, I wanted to get rid of that sickening blood pool, but I didn’t have the strength to produce enough heat to vaporize the entirety of it. 
  All I could do in the end was just leave.
  I prayed for the souls of the dead ones and walked toward Nachal’s body. I reached out with my hand…
  「What are you doing…?」
  – Ssssss…!
  Nachal’s demonic Qi started to get absorbed into my hand.
  Putting aside its quality and only looking at the sheer amount, it seemed like he had less than Ya Hyeoljeok.
  After watching this, Elder Shin piped up, thinking my action was preposterous.
  「You kept going on and on about how you hated doing this, so why do this now?」
  “It seems like you saw a lot.”
  I didn’t remember ever telling Elder Shin about something like this, but even when the man saw me absorbing demonic Qi, he didn’t exhibit any reaction.
  I wonder how much he saw while being trapped in my body.
  Furthermore, I couldn’t figure out why that monster had shown him such things.
  「This is one of the many things that I’ll ask you about later.」
  “It was only now that I realized I’m not in the position to be picky and make up dumb excuses..”
  I had to absorb demonic Qi if I wanted to calm the monster inside my body, and I had come to realize that I wasn’t in a situation where I could be picky about my choices. The world wouldn’t be peaceful for much longer.
  If I didn’t do that, I felt like I would lose everything.
  Even though it hadn’t been long at all since I absorbed demonic Qi from the sword master, I had to quickly fill my body with even more demonic Qi. Despite knowing that my hand was forced here, I couldn’t help but frown.
  Nonetheless, I absorbed all demonic Qi from Nachal’s body and left the cave afterward.
  * * * *
  It was sunrise by the time I arrived back at Mount Hua.
  Too many things had happened during the night—both my body and mind were completely spent. On the other hand, I had to train so that I wouldn’t lose the sensations I felt in my body when Elder Shin used it.
  In the end, my exhaustion prevailed.
  I had thrown Nachal’s dead body between the other corpses after erasing his traces, and since I had left the cave open, the Murim Alliance would find it soon.
  It would become the main point of discussion then.
  「Did you think about what you’ll do with the flower?」 
  ‘I don’t know, I was thinking about giving it to Mount Hua as it is technically their’s.’
  Elder Shin also sounded very tired when he was talking. It seemed like it had taken a lot more energy than I had originally thought back then.
  After hearing my response, Elder Shin responded with a sigh.
  「Don’t do that.」
  It was an unexpected response. I thought that he would hope that I would return it to Mount Hua considering his feelings.
  「We don’t know why all those children were sacrificed for this flower.」
  ‘All the more reason why we should give it to them, no?’
  「You have no way of explaining how you came into possession of that flower, and Mount Hua’s current leader would only be more depressed if you gave it to him right now.」
  Then what does he want me to do? Eat it up?
  「Yeah, just consume it.」
  ‘Are you insane?’
  Despite it having an ominous energy, I knew that it also had a good amount of taoist energy within it.
  Furthermore, I was able to see how dense this energy was since Nachal even called it a ‘liquid’.
  「Idiot, you’re still looking for excuses even though you said you realized something.」
  Hearing Elder Shin, I felt like a huge hammer struck my head.
  「Don’t use the guilt you feel as an excuse to hesitate, you know more than anyone how you can atone for your sins.」
  How much did he see to say such words to me?
  My mouth remained closed, I was too afraid to ask.
  Does Elder Shin… know about the fact that I destroyed Mount Hua in my past life?
  「…You should rest for now, as it won’t do you any good for you to be caught in your current state.」
  I already covered up the wound on my arm I had gotten from Nachal, but I still had to take care of my legs which were dyed with blood.
  I carefully opened the door to get some clothes to change after washing myself.
  Something was moving in my room, and it was supposed to be empty.
  The suspect seemed like they moved a lot in their sleep. Their white skin was being revealed because of their clothes being messed up from all the movement.
  “Why is she sleeping here again?”
  The girl that was sleeping in my blanket was none other than Namgung Bi-ah.
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