Childhood Friend of the Zenith Chapter 125

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༺ How could I have known that?! ༻
  Tang Soyeol wondered if she had simply misheard her.
  Namgung Bi-ah just said she had slept with Gu Yangcheon while holding his hands.
  But now she was saying she might bear his child…?
  Tang Soyeol then wondered if Namgung Bi-ah’s words were figurative.
  When she said she slept with him while holding his hands, she might have meant that holding his hands was a part of sleeping with him. Tang Soyeol, recovering from her shock, began asking Namgung Bi-ah questions. 
  “Sis, are you saying your hand… um… the…” 
  However, the issue was that she did not know how to ask the question. She struggled to choose the most appropriate vocabulary. 
  She tried to ask anything, but at the same time she could feel her ears getting red.
  Tang Soyeol finally asked after stumbling over her words for a long time.
  “…So you slept only holding his hands?”
  After hearing Namgung Bi-ah’s reply, Tang Soyeol bit her lip. So it wasn’t all figurative, then…
  Tang Soyeol had to hide her emotions, which were beginning to plummet.
  “I-I also hugged him too…”
  “I think… I also touched his cheek.”
  Namgung Bi-ah, who was talking while avoiding eye contact, had slightly reddened cheeks, as if she was embarrassed. When Tang Soyeol saw that, she felt like she was getting closer to the truth.
  It was strange.
  Like, very strange.
  Tang Soyeol then asked Namgung Bi-ah with her eyes opened wide. 
  “…What about after?”
  “Do I… need to do anything more after…?”
  After Tang Soyeol learned that she had just misunderstood, she felt that her mood improved. 
  But could a grown-up woman like that really have no knowledge in this department? Tang Soyeol started to wonder just how much Namgung Bi-ah didn’t know.
  Did the Namgung Clan not have sex education?
  Not only did Tang Soyeol get sex education from her clan, she willingly studied more in this department herself, so for her to hear that babies were conceived by holding hands was…
  It would’ve honestly made more sense if she had said a phoenix, stork, or even a crow had delivered the baby for them. Hearing that babies came from two lovers holding hands was just that nonsensical.  
  In the end, Tang Soyeol stood up and sat next to Namgung Bi-ah. The sword-crazed girl couldn’t help but wonder why her friend decided to sit closer to her.
  Tang Soyeol was trying to be as respectful as she could. Tang Soyeol could not bring herself to say it bluntly while facing the naive Wi Seol-Ah who was sitting next to Namgung Bi-ah.  
  “W…What’s wrong…?”
  “Sis… Babies aren’t made like that.”
  Tang Soyeol wondered if it was okay for her to tell her, but she also thought that she couldn’t just leave Namgung Bi-ah like this.
  Tang Soyeol then whispered quietly into Namgung Bi-ah’s ears. She started telling Namgung Bi-ah what she knew in this field. 
  Did Tang Soyeol know that she was actually rather good at explaining things? 
  That day, Namgung Bi-ah found out the truth and got to see a whole new world because of it. 
  It was an eye-opening day for Namgung Bi-ah. 
  * * * *
  I could not return to my residence until it was time for dinner. Namgung Jin had kept me longer than I expected.
  Thanks to that, though, I was able to go through with the contract. 
  「I did not expect that Namgung child would accept that easily.」
  “Neither did I.”
  Both Elder Shin and I couldn’t help but wonder why Namgung Jin had accepted such a contract so easily. 
  I called it a contract, but it was more of a Shackle that was cast on him since some words on paper weren’t going to be that effective.
  – Clomp.
  As I walked back, I made sure to keep my body in motion. After sitting for several hours doing little more than circulating my Qi, my body felt stiff. It was also not simple to use such a Shackle on a martial artist at the fusion realm.  
  「I didn’t expect you to know how to put a seal on people.」 
  “Just an extra thing that I learned back in the day.”
  The seal skill I used was a bit complicated, but it also wasn’t that impressive of a skill either.
  I couldn’t even call it a seal when I compared it to the seal that the Heavenly Demon cast on people.
  The seal of the Heavenly Demon held exorbitant power. Even if the person tried to escape from its grasp, they would never be able to escape.
  We called that a curse.
  On the contrary, the seal I used was similar to the one the Murim Alliance used. Not only did it require the caster to have their hands on the target while casting, but the person the seal was being put on had to flow their Qi in accordance with the movement of the caster’s Qi. Due to the process requiring so many things, it wasn’t a very effective skill.
  「So it’s not really usable in a life-or-death situation.」
  It was effective once cast, but overall, it wasn’t that much of a seal as it required the approval of the target.
  Because of that, we had to spend a long time discussing the seal and our agreements. This included how long the Shackle would last, our goal for it, and many other things. 
  “He said he would do anything for the sword, but he still had a lot to say.”
  It was understandable, though, as it was a process of literally putting a seal onto oneself. With his position, Namgung Jin had to give it some serious thought. 
  Nonetheless, he did go through with it in the end. 
  But I did not learn this Shackle so that I could use it as a weapon or to get what I wanted; rather, I did it because I wanted to earn people’s trust. 
  – To not betray.
  – To not hold grudges against each other.
  – To believe in each other.
  This Shackle was created by a friend in order for us to survive the damned Abyss. Thinking about it now, that Shackle didn’t even work in there. 
  But, ironically, we humans continued to believe that the Shackle was effective simply because we chose to believe so. Even after surviving the Abyss and living through a different timeline, I still wondered if perhaps that seal was still on me. 
  ‘The seal does work.’
  It just didn’t work in the Abyss, so I was still able to use it outside of that hell. 
  Quite a few times, actually.
  Every time I used it, I remembered his voice; the voice of the man who was responsible for its creation.
  – I swear I’m gonna kill you if you use this outside of this place.
  – Why bark at me when you made it for us to use?
  – I’m saying this because I didn’t make it for you to use it, you dimwit…! 
  He told me many times not to use this Shackle, but I used it to the fullest without listening one bit. 
  How could I not if this was the only seal I knew how to use?
  「Even if he’s only half-complete, he’s still a man who’s reached the fusion realm. Shouldn’t you check if the lock is working in the first place?」
  Elder Shin made some alarming comments, but I was not the least bit concerned.
  While casting the lock on Namgung Jin, I had also done something else to his body.
  ‘I never imagined putting my demonic Qi to use in such a way.’
  If possible, I didn’t want to use it, but I wasn’t in a situation to be picky about my options. 
  I poured some of the demonic Qi that was in the process of being purified after I had consumed that flower into Namgung Jin’s body.
  It was not enough to harm him like it harmed the Sword Master, but just enough to enhance the sealing Shackle. 
  And once the seal dissipated, so would the demonic Qi I put in Namgung Jin’s body, so I would know when it did. 
  For Heavenly Demon, it could notice if demonic Qi had disappeared from a person from even a long distance, but that wasn’t possible for me. 
  “Another problem is the First Elder.” 
  The thing I asked about the first time while casting the lock on Namgung Jin was about his conversation with the First Elder. I had to know what they talked about. 
  Since he was a suspicious man, I was expecting that they were doing something nasty in the background, but funnily enough, he told me they didn’t have such a conversation. 
  – It was just a friendly conversation, like I said. We didn’t talk too much about politics. 
  It wasn’t too weird for the First Elder to have a talk with Namgung Jin as he was also a well-known person in the world. He just wasn’t as famous as the Second Elder.
  But if Namgung Jin was being honest when he said he did not discuss anything major, there was an issue.
  Namgung Jin’s absence from the scene of the incident involving my servant. 
  I was wondering if the First Elder was the one who had set up that stage. 
  “If the incident really is connected to the First Elder,”
  Was there a reason why my father didn’t do anything to him? 
  There was no way that father did not know if this actually occurred. In the end, everything that transpired within the Gu Clan was reported to Father. 
  I prayed that this was not the case, but if the First Elder had caused this, I would not be surprised.
  I had to consider whether ‘that’ should occur faster.  
  The death of the First Elder… 
  「Even if that happened, would all the problems go away?」
  “Probably not.”
  The First Elder played a unique role. Not the position he held within the Gu Clan, but the significance of his role in this timeline. 
  The reason I did not do anything despite knowing that First Elder was doing bad things in the background was, first and foremost, because my father did nothing about it.
  Second, I wanted him to stay in that position for another two to three years. After that, the First Elder would face his final moments without my intervention. 
  His own greed and ambition would engulf and consume him.
  Because that’s what happened in my past life. 
  “I can’t really do anything since I do not know for sure, so I guess I should go warn him.”
  「You are quite good at holding back, huh? You seem like you want to kill him on the inside.」
  “…Don’t just look into my emotions like that so rudely. And can a taoist like you really speak so carelessly about other people’s lives?” 
  「You brat, do you know what I learned after the war?」
  “What is it?”
  「Those who deserved to be killed, should be killed.」
  I halted my steps after hearing Elder Shin’s cold words. They were way too brutal for a taoist like him.
  「I’m not going to say anything about you trying to fix up that Zhuge Hyuk kid, as I can’t really say that was the wrong decision. But I’ll tell you when I think you’re wrong.」
  “I understand what you’re trying to say.”
  「That’s what war is, kid. I thought you would know that yourself since you experienced it on your own, didn’t you?」
  No loose ends. He was telling me that it’d be too late to regret later if something happened because I didn’t finish the job. 
  And like Elder Shin said, I was able to relate to his words since I had experienced it more than anyone else. Those words may have sounded way too brutal to come from a taoist, but it was a realistic thing to say for a hero who saved the world after a war. 
  But now still wasn’t the time. I first had to find a good reason to do that.
  “Don’t worry. I’m not just going to sit and watch.”
  This was why I also requested something else from Namgung Jin.
  If not a tiger, but an old dog like him was trying to show his fangs, I had to pull them out, whether it were his teeth or claws. 
  Fortunately enough, I was a professional in this department. 
  * * * * *
   When I got to my place, I thought it was pretty loud. Even though it was dinner time, I thought there were more people than usual here.
  ‘Wait, there actually are more people here.’
  I saw some that I had never seen before. Well-trained martial artists were here on guard as well. The way they were dressed suggested that they were from the Tang Clan.
  Wi Seol-Ah ran over to me as soon as I walked in, as if she had been waiting. I reached out my hand to her as she ran like a puppy toward me. 
  I planned to pat her on the head.
  “Young Masterrrr!”
  “Don’t think about hugging me since you’re heavy.”
  “I-I’m not heavy!”
  She probably wasn’t heavy, since she had indeed lost some weight. Because of this, touching her cheek that had lost weight did not have the same effect as before. 
  I patted her head despite my disappointment.
  “How come there are so many people here?”
  “Lady of the house and a pretty aunt came!” 
  There was only one person in existence that Wi Seol-Ah would call a ‘lady of the house’.
  ‘Seems like Gu Ryunghwa came.’
  Gu Ryunghwa, who was staying in a separate guest house, appeared to have come here. Also, what did she mean when she said pretty aunty…
  Because of a sudden thought that passed through my mind, I asked Wi Seol-Ah just in case. 
  “You… You were not referring to the Sword Master herself when you said ‘pretty aunty,’ right?”
  “Hmm? Oh, I was! Pretty aunty.”
  “Did you say that in front of her too?”
  “Yesh, she said she liked that and told me to keep calling her that in the future!”
  ‘She said she liked that…?’
  It didn’t seem like a good title, no matter how much I thought about it.
  ‘I guess it’s okay if she herself said she liked it.’
  Wi Seol-Ah did not seem to have done anything wrong, and the Sword Master said it was fine, so I thought it was probably okay to let this go?
  With that thought, as I was patting Wi Seol-Ah’s head, Hongwa appeared and pulled the girl away.
  “Seol-ah! You shouldn’t bother the Young Master since he’s tired.”
  After hearing Hongwa, Wi Seol-Ah turned away in disappointment.
  Still, it did not bother me. Even touching her hair helped me feel better.
  I retrieved my hand that had been touching Wi Seol-Ah’s hair awkwardly hanging in the air and asked Hongwa.
  “Did Lady Tang come here?”
  “Yes, Young Master. She came here with Lady Namgung.”
  ‘With Namgung Bi-ah? I guess it makes sense since they’re friends, but did they have a reason to come to my place?’
  “Lady of the house and the Sword Master are also here currently.”
  “Oh yeah, I was already told. Why did they come here anyway?”
  Hongwa tilted her head a bit after hearing my question.
  “Uh, they said the Young Master invited them to dinner today…”
  “I did what?”
  ‘Did I?’
  I felt like I had said we should have dinner together sometime, but was that today?
  I could’ve sworn we hadn’t set an exact date for that.
  It was still good, though, since I planned to see the Sword Master in the near future anyway. While I was thinking, Hongwa spoke with a worried tone. 
  “Young Master…”
  “Lady Namgung’s expression didn’t look too good.”
  “What? Does she feel sick?”
  “No, it didn’t seem that way.”
  “Hmm, all right, I’ll go ask her.”
  It was rather rare for a servant to worry about a child of a different clan, but it was understandable as I had seen Namgung Bi-ah and Hongwa talk to each other from time to time.
  ‘Her expression didn’t look too good, huh.’
  Almost never did her facial expressions change, and even when they did, few people would have noticed, so how bad was the change for even Hongwa to notice?
  Concerned that she might actually be ill, I walked with rapid steps. 
  I saw Namgung Bi-ah flinch as soon as I opened the door.
  Tang Soyeol was next to her, and they both flinched when I entered, as if they were having a private conversation. 
  “Lady Tang, you are here.”
  “Hello, Young Master Gu…”
  “What brought you here? Oh, was it because of the reason you were here before?”
  “Oh, that is not it. Sister Bi-ah said she wanted to eat with us…”
  “Here? Together?”
  “Is that not… possible?”
  “…Nah, it’s fine.”
  I might have said it was fine, but I couldn’t help but feel a little uncomfortable after learning that Tang Soyeol had feelings for me. I didn’t know what to do with her.
  ‘I’ve never had to deal with anyone having a crush on me.’
  It was such a new feeling for me that it was obvious I would feel uncomfortable. 
  「To word it differently, it takes a Tang girl like that for you to finally notice.」
  ‘Why do you always pipe up when I think about those things?’
  「It’s the joy of my life.」
  I let out a sigh and asked the two girls who couldn’t fix their expressions.
  “You both seemed very surprised when I came in. What were you two talking about?”
  “N-Nothing. We weren’t talking about anything! Right, sis?”
  Why were they acting this way? Anyone could tell they were talking about something. 
  They must have been very focused, since first-rate martial artists like them didn’t even notice me approaching the door. 
  I first looked at Namgung Bi-ah.
  As Hongwa had said earlier, her expression did seem rather different. I even saw that her face and ears were slightly heated.
  I approached Namgung Bi-ah and asked, “You feeling okay?”
  “No… I’m fine.”
  “No? You don’t look fine, though?”
  “I’m… fine… so please back off a little.”
  She seemed to have a fever, so I tried to place my hand on her forehead. 
  I didn’t really hesitate to do so since I had done this a few times before. I thought it was the same for Namgung Bi-ah.
  However, I was wrong.
  Namgung Bi-ah slapped my hand away. She seemed surprised by herself too, as she covered her mouth with her hand while her eyes widened up. It was a novel sight to see Namgung Bi-ah make such a shocked expression. 
  “You found it uncomfortable for me to touch your forehead? You should’ve told me.”
  “No… It’s not uncomfortable. I was just surprised…”
  “I don’t think I did anything too shocking… I can call you a medic if you don’t feel well.”
  “Today is just a bit hot…”
  “…You know it’s already fall, right?”
  Even I felt the chilly weather despite my body being tempered with my flame arts, so how could she be hot?
  Tang Soyeol interrupted the conversation because I was looking at Namgung Bi-ah suspiciously. 
  “S-Sis must be sweating because she worked out earlier. Right?”
  It seemed like Tang Soyeol was talking for Namgung Bi-ah for some reason. That being said, Namgung Bi-ah’s clothing looked too neat. 
  Furthermore, she even looked different from usual, as she had some makeup on, though not as much as on the day of the engagement. That meant that she didn’t train. 
  That was my thought, but I didn’t intend to argue any longer.
  I thought that I should just let it be since they seemed to be having a secret conversation. 
  “All right. I’ll tell the servants to prepare more meals.”
  “Thank you.”
  “Oh, by the way, the Sword Master might be joining us for the meal, would that be okay?”
  “O-Of course, I came here without any notice, so I have no right to-“
  Tang Soyeol, who was replying joyfully, suddenly stopped. After a brief pause, she opened her mouth again.
  “Wait, Young Master Gu.”
  “…Who did you say we were eating with?”
  “The Sword Master.”
  Tang Soyeol’s expression changed strangely after hearing my words, as if she had misheard me.
  I noticed that Tang Soyeol seemed to have lost her posture, so I asked her.
  “Did you not know that the Sword Master was here in the Gu Clan?”
  “How could I have known that?!” 
  Tang Soyeol shouted back.   
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