Childhood Friend of the Zenith Chapter 121

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༺ This isn’t it…? (1) ༻
  The Heavenly Dragon Gu Cheolun.
  The lord of the Gu Clan that was now called the Tiger Warrior. 
  Namgung Jin and Gu Cheolun, back when they both had been in the Murim Alliance, didn’t have a good relationship even at that time. 
  The fact that there weren’t too many young prodigies back then played a part in this, as many often speculated about who was the stronger of the two. 
  Namgung Jin, who was prideful, wasn’t about to just sit back and listen to this.
  The arrogant young noble then searched for Gu Cheolun and challenged him to a duel…
  Which he lost completely. 
  Namgung Jin remembered. 
  The heat and flames that filled up the entire sky. 
  The red eyes that looked down at him from amid those flames. 
  How could he forget, when that memory of his still haunted him to this day?
  That wasn’t the only reason he ended up hating Gu Cheolun, but this memory was something he could never forget. 
  He despised Gu Cheolun.
  Not only was his pride hurt, but he also held resentment due to the friendship that had been ruined. 
  And, most importantly…
  It was indeed his fault that he had lost her.
  But it was also Gu Cheolun’s fault that he had neglected the flower he had gotten. 
  How could it not be a sin, when he was willing to let go of everything just for a woman that he didn’t even know the name of?
  Even when he learned the secrets of the Gu Clan, Namgung Jin’s mind didn’t change…
  The sword shone brightly under the moonlight. Around the time Namgung Jin surpassed the peak realm and set foot into the fusion realm, the Lord of Heaven told him.
  ‘You are empty inside. You must first fill that void up.’
  He most likely wasn’t referring to Qi, and Namgung Jin wasn’t so stupid that he didn’t understand that. 
  A long time had passed since then. He had trained for countless hours and experienced countless life-and-death battles in this time, but Namgung Jin was still in the same spot. 
  He didn’t notice any progression, and it was hard to say if he was even the Lord of the clan.
  Even with the help of his clan, he was still not complete. He may have reached the fusion realm, but any enlightenments he gained didn’t stick with his body.
  Was there something wrong with his body, then?
  One morning, his grandfather ordered his people to call for the Immortal Healer. 
  Namgung Jin had a check-up from the Immortal Healer, but after looking at the man’s body, the Immortal Healer said strictly, “I’m not sure what kind of treatment you want, but there is nothing wrong with your body.”
  The Immortal Healer had found no problem with his body. That meant that Namgung Jin was stuck and unable to overcome the wall as a martial artist. 
  As the Lord of the Namgung Clan, he needed more strength to live up to that title. 
  Namgung Clan was a martial arts clan, so it was hard for a weak person to sit at the apex of it. 
  Namgung Jin had reached the fusion realm and had been easily able to achieve a spot amidst the top hundred masters of the world, but it was still not enough for him to be the lord of the Namgung Clan, which was why he planned to take power from other places to use for himself.
  Whether that was the Gu Clan that he so despised, or anything else. 
– Slash!
  The point of the sword skimmed Namgung Jin’s cheek along with the wind. The thought of giving his opponent ten seconds disappeared, replaced by frantically looking for an opening in between the sword slashes that kept coming at him. 
  Namgung Jin had an advantage in speed.
  And that was the same for strength.
  Not using Qi? That shouldn’t have been a problem at all, as he had much more experience when it came to using a sword, or at least he prayed that that was the case. 
  So what was the problem, then? What was it that made it so that he couldn’t block that sword? Just because Namgung Jin was stuck at a wall didn’t mean that he was a weak martial artist. 
  But even so, for him to be pushed back by a young prodigy…
  Gu Yangcheon didn’t seem to have gotten any basics down, even though those should be learned by every aspiring swordsman.
  It looked like he was swinging his sword at random, but it also looked like he was making only necessary movements. 
  ‘Am I dreaming?’
  The almighty Azure Heavenly Sword, Namgung Jin, couldn’t even predict the movements of this young prodigy. 
  It wasn’t that he couldn’t read his movements because he was too slow, he just simply couldn’t understand it. 
  ‘Even if this is a dream, this shouldn’t be happening…!’
  The sword slashed the air. 
  Namgung Jin had great movement, and this was a duel between swords and nothing else. Namgung Jin was also the king of swords, so it should be impossible for him to be pushed back.
– Swish swish!
  The sound of swords slashing through the air gradually became clearer. Qi had become one with his body after surpassing the peak realm, so his movements were naturally infused with Qi without him having to focus on it. 
  And even if he couldn’t use martial arts with the use of Qi, he thought that there was no way that he would lose when it came to speed.
  The Namgung Clan’s art may have been the best of sword arts, but this skill couldn’t be done without the use of Qi. 
  However, that wasn’t the only thing that the sword of Namgung had. 
  They were still able to effectively use their sword without Qi.
  When Namgung Jin made up his mind, he used the Azure Heavenly Tidal-
– Clang!
  The sword Namgung Jin was holding was pointed at the sky. 
  Gu Yangcheon hit the sword away when he found an opening due to Namgung Jin not using Qi. 
  Along with the sword being blown away, Namgung Jin also let his guard down, giving Gu Yangcheon an opening. His chest was unprotected. 
  ‘Damn iit…!’
  It was Gu Yangcheon’s victory if he swung his sword right there. A dirty thought of using his Qi flashed in Namgung Jin’s mind. 
  He had learned that he should do anything and everything to achieve whatever he wanted, but that also hurt his pride as a martial artist. 
  Namgung Jin already accepted his defeat, unable to respond to the incoming sword attack, but Gu Yangcheon’s sword didn’t strike him as he had been expecting. 
  “What are you doing?”
  Gu Yangcheon put his sword away and asked Namgung Jing while standing still. 
  “I told you to give it your all, so what is it that you’re doing?”
  Namgung Jin couldn’t understand what Gu Yangcheon was saying. 
  He wondered if the young man was trying to humiliate him, but Gu Yangcheon had a serious expression. 
  “Not only did you not give it your all, but is it that you fail to see what’s in front of you because you’re blinded by your delusion?”
  “What… are you saying right now?”
  Namgung Jin got angry, unable to understand Gu Yangcheon’s words. The urge to use his lightning Qi was getting unbearable now.
  He wanted to rip apart that damned mouth of the young man in front of him.
  “I do applaud you for keeping your promise to not use your Qi, but a duel so selfish as this…”
  Gu Yangcheon stopped talking as he was about to finish, his expression serious, and getting worse by the second. 
  Noticing this, Namgung Jin couldn’t help but ask, “What is that expression of yours… Why are you looking at me that way?”
  Why he was making such an expression, Namgung Jin couldn’t understand.
  Gu Yangcheon couldn’t help but let out a hollow laugh after hearing the Namgung Lord.
  「What is it?」
  Elder Shin didn’t respond even to Gu Yangcheon. Instead, he started to swing his sword in front of Namgung Jin as if he was telling him to watch. That movement was different from the one he had used against him earlier. It was because Elder Shin had never actually used a proper form to fight him in the first place. 
  He had no intention of using the Plum Blossom Sword art, nor did he have to use it. Elder Shin finally seemed like he was putting the pieces of the puzzle together while looking at Namgung Jin. Gu Yangcheon, who was watching from the inside, was also familiar with this movement. 
  “I do admit your talent, but you shouldn’t dare to give me a-!”
  Namgung Jin, who was about to shout at him, quickly shut up after watching Elder Shin’s sword. 
  Then, his mouth opened, his jaw threatening to hit the ground. That was just how shocked he was. 
  Elder Shin’s movement definitely wasn’t the movement of Mount Hua. 
  ‘But I’ve seen this before. I’ve seen it so many times.’ 
  「How come you’re using this form?」
  Gu Yangcheon asked Elder Shin with a shaky voice.
  He wasn’t using his Qi, but that was certainly the swordplay of the Namgung Clan. To be more accurate, it was very similar to the form the Demonic Sword had used in my past life. 
  If her form held more weight, roughness, and more killing intent, the form Elder Shin was showing right now showed precise movement with no flaws in it. 
  The sword that had gotten rid of the Namgung Clan’s weakness. It was the form the Demonic Sword had used when she destroyed the Namgung Clan. 
  It wasn’t a perfect replica, though. His lower body almost never moved, and it seemed like he was trying to copy the form with his hand, but even so, it was very similar. 
  After swinging a few more times, he stopped his sword and looked at Namgung Jin. Seeing the man standing in silence, he decided to speak. His words were filled with bitter sadness.
  “So, it wasn’t that you didn’t do it… but more so that you couldn’t.”
  “Wh, what did you do just now…?”
  Namgung Jin’s tone had changed.
  “Just now, what did you-!”
  “I showed your own clan’s sword art right in front of your eyes, yet your curiosity takes priority over your anger. You must be that desperate.”
  It may have been slightly different, but that was certainly the sword art of Namgung Clan just now. It was so similar that I couldn’t have mistaken it.
  「Elder Shin.」
  ‘I wondered for a long time. The Namgung Clan’s sword art I saw in your memory was as poor as ever. The form of that mighty Namgung Clan.’ 
  Originally, the clan should’ve been filled with monsters that usurped the throne with their lightning Qi. At least that was what the Namgung Clan was for Elder Shin. 
  The Thunderous Sword, Namgung Myung. He was the master that was capable of swinging his lightning-filled sword tens of times in a matter of seconds. 
  He had many achievements that Elder Shin remembered, but to point out his biggest achievement… 
  He had perfected the Namgung Clan’s sword. 
  It was the word that Namgung Myung dared to utter after reaching a certain point. 
  He would drink himself silly, shouting how he had made something that he could pass down to his descendants. That swordplay he showed that day was the complete embodiment of all of the Namgung Clan’s enlightenment and even the Divine Sword of Mount Hua thought that way. 
  And all of this was done out of nowhere, by a single man, when the evolution of his clan’s sword art was rather slow. 
  “S-Something like this shouldn’t be happening…”
  Times have changed. When the Divine Sword Shincheol opened his eyes, many things had changed in the world.
  However, Mount Hua still had plum flower leaves floating about in the air. 
  They were still shining even after his death.
  Other places should have been the same.
  At least so that the five seeds they had left weren’t left there in vain. 
  “It should have been that way, so what is that half-complete garbage?”
  「Are you saying that there is something wrong with the current generation of the Namgung sword?」
  ‘If I had to choose an answer for that, I couldn’t say that it’s wrong, as that’s also an impressive thing.’
  「Then what is the impre-」
  ‘It has simply gotten worse. Whether it’s because they weren’t able to pass it down, or because they just forgot.’
  Where did it go?
  Where did the accomplishment of Namgung Myung run off to?
  Was it just that half-complete guy that was the weird one?
  ‘It’s because he’s half-complete that he just wanders without being able to overcome the wall.’
  Gu Yangcheon’s body was currently at the peak realm. He might be more capable compared to others at the same rank as he had experience of his past life, but it was very weird how Elder Shin was able to easily see through Namgung Jin’s body who should certainly be in the fusion realm. 
  He stopped midway. The current Namgung Jin was barely holding onto the fusion realm. 
  It was just one step. He was struggling like that solely because of that one step he couldn’t overcome. Arrogance, desperation, pressure, and his destroyed pride were what stopped his progression.
  Namgung Jin asked with a shaky voice, 
  “…Please tell me… What was that just now? You, what are you?”
  Considering how he had just used his own clan’s sword art right in front of him, he should be filled with rage, but Namgung Jin was filled with desperation. 
  Was it hope? To think that he’d become so hopeful after watching a replica of that poor form. 
  Namgung Jin even started to question Gu Yangcheon’s identity despite looking down on the young man just moments earlier.
  “Don’t be mistaken, I am Gu Yangcheon of the Gu Clan.”
  「At least fix your way of talking if you’re gonna say that.」
  ‘Stop interrupting me and stay still.’
  「This is way different from what I asked you… Why are you doing this?」
  ‘Have you never wondered why the child of Namgung couldn’t earn the Sword Dragon title?’
  「Are you telling me it’s because the current sword of Namgung is at fault?」
  I had a hard time understanding Elder Shin. Namgung Cheonjun was talented, at least compared to others at his age. 
  He had the talent for him to be called a genius, but Yung Pung was simply more talented than him.
  Even if Elder Shin’s words were true, I couldn’t understand why he was acting this way in this situation. 
  “Can you call your sword complete when you can’t even perfect it without the use of Qi?”
  “What are you…”
  “I tried to give you a hint, but I guess there is no point…”
  Namgung Clan’s art used by Namgung Cheonjun and, of course, Namgung Jin, wasn’t very powerful without the use of Qi. 
  This was the case for other clans’ arts as well, but I understood Elder Shin a bit more after hearing this comment.
  The openings that he showed while using his sword. The movements that only became complete with the use of Qi.
  It was as if Qi was patching the flaws of this form. The openings that were barely noticeable would be covered with the use of Qi, so it was understandable why he neglected this flaw. 
  Namgung Myung’s sword art…
  Demonic Sword’s sword art…
  Both of us who had seen their form were able to see how big the difference was between him and them.  
  The short swordplay that Elder Shin had shown earlier was certainly similar to the sword of Namgung, but I was able to see how big the difference in quality between the two was just because of those small things. 
  Even I, who didn’t have much knowledge in swordplay, was able to see this, so how would Namgung Jin not? 
  「I guess he completely forgot about our bet.」
  His expression was destroyed. It was as if he couldn’t escape what he had just seen.
  He looked as if he had swallowed a bunch of bitter seeds. 
  How Gu Yangcheon was able to use a sword, and how he had such talent, none of that mattered to him.
  The words that humiliated him, his servants that were on the floor in pain. All of it was long gone from Namgung Jin’s mind. 
  It seemed like he had also given up on the bet.
  To see the lord of a noble clan in this state… It bothered me that I witnessed such a pathetic side of him, but I couldn’t do anything about it.
  “…Lost. I lost…”
  Namgung Jin admitted defeat. The man that was fiercely dueling with a kid even despite the difference in power, was completely shattered after seeing a short display of swordplay. 
  “I’ll go on my knees or apologize if that’s what you want, and I’ll do anything that you ask of…”
  Is he asking me to tell him what that was? 
  「He lost his mind.」
  ‘He should first search how he can achieve such sword art.’ 
  Was Elder Shin’s sword really that shocking to him? He looked like he couldn’t even think logically at this point, let alone keep his cool. 
  He was a fusion realm martial artist, no less. Something was certainly strange.
  「Does he have a mental problem or something?」
  Elder Shin let out a sigh while looking at Namgung Jin. It seemed like the old man also found something strange in the lord’s behavior.
  ‘Maybe not, it kinda looks like he’s smiling?’
  “Do you want to know?”
  「Elder Shin?」
  I quickly called out to Elder Shin after hearing his question. Was he really about to suddenly teach it to Namgung Jin?
  ‘Why? I get that this isn’t what you wanted, but I did come out victorious.’
  「I mean I get that part, but are you really going to teach him?」
  ‘Teach what?’
  「The sword art the Thunder Sword used.」
  ‘If he was friends with the Thunderous Sword, I get that he was disappointed that his swordplay hadn’t been passed down to his descendants, but it’s still illogical for him to just suddenly teach him right here.’
  Elder Shin responded to my question.
  ‘How could I teach him that? I don’t even know the basics.’
  What is he on about now?
  Namgung Jin looked like he was ready to get on his knees at any moment after hearing Elder Shin. To see that a man filled with such arrogance would be so easily destroyed was something else. 
  ‘Since I already showed him what I was capable of, I couldn’t just use my talent as an excuse for why I was this strong. Not only did I show him Namgung Clan’s sword art, but I also showed him an evolved form of it, so I had to come up with a different excuse.’
  ‘Does Elder Shin have something in mind?’
  「Then what are you…」
  ‘Of course it’s up to you to do the rest.’
  What did this old man just say now?
  ‘Up to me to do the rest? What nonsense is he spouting? How could I teach Namgung Jin the swordplay of the Namgung Clan?’
  While I had many nervous thoughts in my head, I quickly called out.
  「Elder Shin… Wait, what are you doing?」
  Elder Shin completely ignored my words, and spoke to Namgung Jin.
  “From now on… You will treat me as your master.”
  「You… crazy old man…」
  His words made my head explode. I desperately tried to say, but Elder Shin still had full control of my body,
  There were lights outside, on the way to the guesthouse. It was Gu Clan’s people who had heard the news, and Namgung Bi-ah that appeared.
  Namgung Bi-ah’s eyes became wide after seeing the Namgung Jin that was kneeling and me who was completely untouched. 
  “I’m f*cked…”
  That was the first thing I said after I had gotten back my body. 
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