Childhood Friend of the Zenith Chapter 104

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༺ Master (2) ༻
  Why is Namgung Bi-ah in my room?
  After seeing such an absurd sight, Elder Shin spoke up.
  「How far did you guys go while I was gone…」
  ‘What do you mean?’
  Elder Shin ignored my question, seemingly disappointed that he missed the action.
  It would be a bit of a problem if I woke her up, so I quickly grabbed my clothes and snuck out in secret.
  I wrapped my injured arm with a cloth to stop the blood, and I incinerated the blood-stained clothes, subsequently burying them. 
  ‘The servants might be anxious when they realized some of my clothes are missing but I couldn’t just leave the evidence like that.’
  Clean and in a new change of clothes, I came back to my room.
  Now was the time to deal with the real problem.
  “What do I do with her?”
  I couldn’t help but wonder as I looked at Namgung Bi-ah who was rubbing her face on the blanket.
  It was not like I could just throw her out.
  “…Why does she insist on sleeping here when she has her own room?”
  I heard that if she wasn’t out to train during the day, she usually napped in my room. Did that mean she waited for me to leave before entering?
  I didn’t think that’s the case.
  ‘Should I just sleep with the servants then?’
  Usually, it would be fine if I just missed a day of sleep, but the fatigue I was feeling right now would not go away unless I got a good night of sleep.
  Was this also because of the fact that Elder Shin had been using my body?
  「Then it’s probably not physical fatigue.」
  Like Elder Shin said, I was feeling it as well.
  Even if he had used my muscles that I didn’t normally use, it didn’t make sense for me to have gotten this tired. 
  That could only mean what I felt was mental fatigue.
  ‘I’m not sure if sleep can help with that.’
 I was also not sure if I could keep myself awake, I was about to pass out.
  Since I couldn’t just sleep next to her nor could I miss sleep, I took a pillow and lay down on the floor outside the room. 
  「Seems like that part of you that refuses to take what’s offered to you on a silver platter hasn’t changed when I was gone, huh…?」
  ‘Do you really have to nag all the time after your big return?’
  「I understood it back then because I thought you were young… but now that I learned that you come from a different time, and see you acting like this despite your age, how do you think I feel?」
  ‘Well, you say that, but you yourself never actually got to-‘
  I stopped my words. I realized I went a bit too far with that one.
  ‘Elder Shin…?’
  ‘I apologize. I agree I went a bit far just now…’
  I called out to him a few more times, but the old man didn’t respond.
  In the end, I offered him a few more apologies and decided to sleep.
 * * * * 
  Today marks the end of my business here at Mount Hua.
  The only thing I had to do was to see the Celestial Plum Blossom, so I was thinking of spending at most four days before returning to my clan.
  My journey really was nearing its end.
  Soon after, the Murim Alliance would find the basement of the Black Palace’s hideout and contact Mount Hua.
  If that happened, could Mount Hua’s tournament festival continue?
  I wasn’t too sure because I had never paid too much attention to Mount Hua, but once they heard about this, they might either delay the tournament or just shut it down completely.
  That blood pool was essentially the same thing as a tool for human sacrifice. 
  ‘But if it does go on…’
  There were two things that would cause the tournament to go on.
  First, if they didn’t want the news of this discovery to reach Huayin City.
  Telling them about the deaths of Mount Hua’s swordsmen would only make them quake in fear.
  For that reason, I believed they would try to keep it as quiet as possible, at least when they first discovered the hideout.
  ‘Though they might find a different excuse to stop the tournament regardless, without raising any suspicion.’
  The second thing was that they might not find the cave at all, or find it too late.
  The latter was probably the worst-case scenario and the one no one wanted.
  It was a piece of intel that would show them how serious the matters were, so I prayed the second option would not come to be.
  ‘…Let’s just get some sleep for now.’
  Trying to think about it with my fatigued, fuzzy mind was pointless. I couldn’t even collect my thoughts any longer.
  As soon as I closed my eyes, I dozed off….
  …and shortly after, I woke up.
  I forcefully opened my tired eyes. Thankfully, I didn’t see a foreign ceiling this time.
  How long did I sleep? Judging by the fact that I could see the sunlight, I supposed I hadn’t slept that much.
  When I lifted my body up, someone pressed my head down and blocked me from getting up.
  Because of the sudden surprise, I fully woke up from my half-asleep state. Now that I looked at it, I was using something as a pillow—and it was definitely not a pillow.
  Putting aside the fact that it was soft and smooth, I was able to smell a fragrant scent coming from the direction of my left check. 
  “You can lie down for a little longer.”
  Hearing the monotone voice I heard from above my head, I didn’t have to think for even a second to realize who it was.
  I was using Namgung Bi-ah’s thighs as a pillow right now.
  I asked with a confused voice, “What are you doing?”
  “You fell asleep.”
  “What does that have to do with anything…?”
  “Seol-Ah was here… but she left just now.”
  Instead of answering my question, she tried to change the subject and tell me about Wi Seol-Ah’s whereabouts.
  “She waited for you to wake up, and now she’ll be disappointed…”
  “Well, I woke up now, so it should be fine. Move your arm so I can get up.”
  Despite knowing I wanted to get up, Namgung Bi-ah pressed my head down so that I couldn’t.
  As I wondered if I should just use brute strength to force my way out, she started talking.
  “Did you go somewhere during the night?”
  “You… said you’d tell me everything.”
  I couldn’t give her a straight answer. I never expected her to come into my room in the dead of the night.
  ‘Plus, I don’t think I actually promised her that I would tell her everything.’
  “Uh… I smell blood…”
  I remained silent. I washed myself and even burned the smell away with heat, but she could still pick up the scent. 
  Or perhaps…
  ‘…Is it the flower I have with me that she can smell?’
  The flower that had bloomed after soaking up blood; it wasn’t too big, so I had carefully wrapped it up and put it in my pocket.
  Although I couldn’t really sense it, Namgung Bi-ah had a fairly sensitive sense of smell.
  Seeing my hesitation to answer, Namgung Bi-ah let out a small sigh and continued to speak.
  “I had a nightmare… I wanted to see you… but you weren’t here.”
  “That… is probably not my fau-“
  “But I’ll let it pass.”
  “I won’t complain why you went somewhere without telling me, and I won’t ask where you went for you to smell like blood.”
  “…So just stay like this for a bit…”
  After hearing Namgung Bi-ah’s quiet whisper, I relaxed my body. I couldn’t answer her, so I wouldn’t resist either.
  The hand that was forcefully preventing me from getting up was now a soft, kind hand caressing me.
  I felt her touching my hair, so I just gave up and decided to continue to lie down there.
  「…If there is God, please send this bastard to hell.」
  I almost burst out laughing at the sudden words I heard.
  It seemed like it was the first time I heard Elder Shin curse like that.
  * * * *
  After being freed from Namgung Bi-ah’s hand, I went to the training area. I had to be quick as I was held for a rather long time.
  I had to figure out what would happen to Mount Hua’s tournament and what to do about the flower I had in my possession.
  But the thing I had to do before that was to rethink the fight I had against Nachal. 
  This bout was somewhat enlightening.
  Before I forgot, I had to remember the sensation Elder Shin tried to teach me.
He didn’t use a lot of Taoist Qi.
  To put it more bluntly, he couldn’t use a lot of Taoist Qi because I didn’t have that much to begin with, not when compared to the other types of Qi inside of me.
  Of course, it was true that the Qi I absorbed from the treasure was pure.
  Furthermore, it was understandable that Elder Shin could control my body like that considering the experience he had accumulated during his life, but that was no excuse for me to not be able to do that as well.
  It couldn’t be that much different for me since it was my body.
  ‘A fist fighter may have differences compared to a weapon user,’
  Unlike the martial artists that put their understanding of martial arts into their weapons, fist fighters focused on their whole body which made the two styles completely different.
  I could probably list a hundred more differences, but the biggest one was how much they changed after they broke through their limits.
  A fist fighter was more exposed to danger considering they used their body as a weapon, but, again, that was no excuse.
  ‘None of that matters anyway, since I am a blood relative of the Gu Clan.’
  ‘That’s what it means to use Gu Clan’s flame art.’
  Armor just got in the way since we had to control the fire from inside our bodies.
  In the end, what mattered the most was how much control I had over my flames, just like Elder Shin told me, and how effectively I used it. 
  「You and I are different.」
  Elder Shin suddenly spoke up while I was circulating my Qi.
  「I too had a lot of experiences in the past, so my Qi reserves were not that small. Still, I could never fight like you, just throwing Qi around like it’s garbage.」
  As Elder Shin said, that was indeed my fighting style.
  To use an endless amount of demonic Qi that I got from my ability.
  I covered my flaws with my endless Qi, and I brute-forced my way out of whatever predicament I found myself in.
  I did that because I knew that I wouldn’t run out of Qi no matter what.
  Even this nasty habit of mine was brought along to my second life.
  ‘The fact that I’m still running out of Qi even after absorbing that much is because of this.’
  I had to get rid of the mindset that this issue can’t be fixed because I haven’t broken through my limits yet.
  I remembered what Elder Shin had told me.
  If I remained like this, the end result was obvious.
  If this wasn’t the path I chose to go, I probably wouldn’t have taken Elder Shin’s words to my heart.
  In my past life, I was never able to reach the max realm of Destructive Flame Martial Arts.
  Was it because I didn’t have enough time? I had thought that to be the case until the first few days of my resurrection.
  ‘Let me recount the sensation I felt.’
  I honestly thought that I was using my Destructive Flame Martial Arts properly.
  I thought this way because I had been able to win battles that I thought I shouldn’t have been able to.
  Maybe that was why I had been taking the process of maintaining heat for granted.
  「I didn’t tell you to change your style.」
  ‘You say that even after showing me that?’
  「I just showed you the difference between you and I. If your Qi really was endless, then your way of fighting isn’t that bad.」
  ‘Yes, if my Qi was endless.’
  If I decide to use demonic Qi just like in my past life, my Qi would only continue to increase.
  That was the monstrous power of the Heavenly Demon after all.
  ‘However, if I do this, then I’ll be the same as in my past life.’
  In the end, I would be met with a wall and I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.
  Whether it was the peak or the fusion realm, reaching those levels wasn’t important to me.
  The max rank of the Destructive Flame Martial Arts, that’s what I had to focus on. I realized that in order to do that, I had to find a different path than the one I had chosen in my past life.
  Luckily enough, a master that would help me was closer to me than anyone else.
  「Who gave you the permission to call me master? Now you are just trying to use me.」
  ‘You should pay rent if you use my body like that without permission.’
  「Now you are just being shameless!」
  After flowing my Qi, I used it to generate heat inside my body.
  ‘Up until now, it’s been the same.’
  I had to think about the sensation Elder Shin had shown me.
  The sensation that felt like a storm inside my body.
It would’ve taken a long time to express this with words, but I experienced it with my own body, so I already knew full well how it felt.
  – Whoosh…!
  Trying to replicate the sensation as closely as I could, I circulated my Qi.
  The pressure I felt from doing so made my shoulders shake.
  ‘How… How can I maintain this?’
  I needed to have crazy control of my Qi in order to maintain the raging storm inside my body.
  I had to make sure that none of it leaked out.
  My body already remembered how to do that.
  All I had to do was recreate that feeling, but that was quite difficult.
  「You should at the very least be able to do that much if you are using me like that. How much help are you trying to get from me?」
  ‘I didn’t say anything, though?’
  I supposed Elder Shin still was mad about the conversation we had earlier.
  The storm that started in my abdomen started to spread throughout my body, but none of it leaked out of my body.
  I even controlled my breath in case it tried to leave through my mouth.
  Enduring the Qi that felt like it would erupt at any moment made veins pop out on my neck.
  The condensed Qi started to rise up to my middle abdomen.
  – Sssss-
  My body burned, as though it wasn’t ready yet. 
  I collected Qi and flowed more of it into my mid-abdominal area without hesitation. My instincts were telling me that now was the time.
  – Kwaaaaa-!
  As if to tell me that my instincts were correct, the wall of the middle abdominal area was broken through all too easily and the Qi entered it like a tsunami.
  Subsequently, the Qi I had been building up inside my body erupted and heat was discharged all around me.
  「…You really like to use me.」
  I raised my hand, focusing my Qi.
  The heat aura that formed around my palm looked calm and stable.
 Seeing that, I said, “Thank you.”
  I couldn’t help but express my gratitude toward the old man. It was thanks to him that I was able to break through that wall.
  「I don’t like how you barely react to a feat that most martial artists only dream of reaching.」
  “…This is where it truly begins after all.”
  The peak realm.
  I reached the level that I thought it would take me at least another year.
  My progress was much faster than I expected.
  Time was one thing, but I felt like I now knew what path to take.
  I wasn’t going to throw away my old style of fighting, but incorporate new techniques into what I already knew.
  「Don’t you think you should inspect your Qi?」
  “I think it’s fine. All the different types are harmoniously flowing around on their own.”
  「That’s good, I probably don’t need to tell you anything else. Seems like you know what to do now.」
  “I do.”
  「However, don’t we have something to talk about?」
  “…We do.”
  My heart sank. That was another reason why I had left the lodge.
 Up until now, Elder Shin had been silent about the matter.
  I knew that he was being considerate. 
  Even when he didn’t know about my resurrection, he said that he had lots to ask of me.
  But now that he knew, there was probably much more that he wanted to ask about me.
  「I have way too many things I want to ask you, but I would like to ask the most important thing right now.」
  “What would you do if I just don’t answer, or lie in my response?”
  「I’ll consider it your choice and respect it.」
  My heart felt heavy. Elder Shin’s belief in me felt heavy.
  I always knew him as an annoying old man that nagged all the time, but I also knew that he was a hero of the past that saved his generation. 
  To deny that fact was impossible because of everything he showed me.
  「I’ll begin asking my questions now.」
  And so, he did.
  「What is the Heavenly Demon?」
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