Childhood Friend of the Zenith Chapter 127

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༺ Where Did it Go? ༻
  The meal was thankfully peaceful.
  I did get beaten up by Gu Ryunghwa, but it was bearable enough, and Tang Soyeol managed to explain the poisonous gift that she had given to the Sword Master. 
  Even if she had told him that it was safe, the Sword Master could not help but smile awkwardly.
  As Tang Soyeol went on and on about everything the Sword Master had done, it was clear that she revered her. 
  She even made the her ears flush with her recitation of the Sword Master’s most famous feats.
  ‘My plum blossoms will not lose to evil! Is that really what she said… She really was like that in the past, huh.’
  I couldn’t help but cringe a little bit, but I was also glad that I was able to see the rare sight of the Sword Master being flustered.
  The meal ended relatively quickly. 
  Both the Sword Master and Gu Ryunghwa didn’t seem to mind being there, as they were enjoying the conversations. 
  However, the way Gu Ryunghwa glared at Tang Soyeol was very fierce. 
  「She has a naive face of a puppy, but she turns into a wolf when angry.」
  ‘You say I look like a mantis, but call that child a wolf? Aren’t you discriminating just a little bit?’
  「It appears that something did not settle properly in your stomach, as you are babbling nonsense.」
  Was she staring at her because she was stealing her teacher’s attention? After that, I felt like a huge chasm opened up between the two of them. 
  After the main course and tea were consumed, the meal was finished. 
  Tang Soyeol seemed like she wanted to stay longer, but that didn’t seem possible as the Sword Master didn’t look too well.
  I didn’t know how to describe it, but the Sword Master looked a bit exhausted.
  I wasn’t the only one who seemed to feel this way, as Gu Ryunghwa looked concerned for her teacher. 
  I checked on Namgung Bi-ah who was slowly chomping at the food by herself. 
  Wi Seol-Ah kept chirping next to her, but Namgung Bi-ah still looked like she had lost her soul.
  “Are you alright?” I asked the Sword Master after the meal was over.
  “As you can see, I feel much healthier than before, thanks to you.”
  The Sword Master did indeed seem like she was recovering her health…
  “Did something happen?”
  But her expression didn’t look the best. 
  The Sword Master was shocked at my question. Her expression was asking me how I knew that, so I responded, “Your face looks extremely glum right now.”
  “…It must be that noticeable, huh.”
  Was she trying to hide it perhaps? Then the Sword Master should not ever go around telling lies.
  How could she hide anything when it was so obvious? 
  “My sister is worried about you too, you know?”
  Gu Ryunghwa struggled to hold still and continued to nervously watch her master from the back. 
  The Sword Master smiled awkwardly when she noticed. 
  “I tried not to worry anyone, but I guess it’s too late.”
  “Did you run into a problem somewhere?”
  It didn’t seem like she was suffering physically, so I wondered if something had happened to her recently. 
  “I’m fine. This too shall go away with the flow of time.”
  With a response that dodged my question, the Sword Master thanked me and walked toward Gu Ryunghwa. 
  The girl smiled as her teacher brushed her hair.
  It seemed like she had gone back to being a squirrel. 
  “Um… Young Master Gu.”
  I turned around to face the voice I had heard. 
  “It was really nice to have a meal with everyone today…!”
  “Are you sure you are not just happy you got to eat with the Sword Master?”
  “Um… Uh… That’s not…! I mean, that’s true, but…”
  I laughed a bit when I saw her struggling to answer my question, which I asked as a joke. 
  When Tang Soyeol saw that, she stopped for a moment and asked me, “You just laughed, right?”
  “Young Master Gu, did you just laugh at me?”
  “Uh… Yeah, if it made you feel bad- “
  “No! Not at all!”
  Tang Soyeol then smiled brightly after saying that. That smile was similar to the smile of the Poison Queen of my past life. 
  That was obviously the case considering they were the same person, but her smile just now seemed to have more weight to it.
  Unlike the dense and exhausted smile that the Poison Queen had, her smile just now looked like it was from pure joy. 
  「Do you regret it?」
  ‘What are you talking about all of a sudden?’
  Elder Shin asked with a playful tone, but I knew why he asked me that. The thought alone made me feel exhausted. 
  「It just seems that way.」
  ‘I do not regret it.’
  The time I had to end the Poison Queen’s life with my own hands? That was necessary.
  Not for me, but for her.
  I had to do that back then. 
  “C-Could you call me next time as well?”
  I nodded at Tang Soyeol’s question.
  I hesitated a little bit, but Tang Soyeol smiled, not minding the pause.
  “It’s not possible… for it to be just the two of us, right?”
  “I’m sorry! I crossed the line because I was so excited. You don’t need to respond to that…!”
  She yelled those words, shoved something into my hand, and ran off in a hysterical panic. 
  A small bottle was in my hand. When I shook it, I heard clinking sounds, indicating that there was something inside. 
  “…I am curious what kind of poison it is this time.”
  I had already determined that it was poison. It was because I was given poison the last time something similar happened. 
  The problem was that I had no idea why she had given me these. 
  ‘For the time being, I’ll keep it in my pocket. I’ll just ask next time, I guess.’
  After sending everyone away, I asked my servants to clean up, and went out for a late-evening walk. 
  The Gu Clan’s paths and gardens weren’t really that beautiful. I remembered they used to decorate them when mother was still here,
  But now, no one really took care of it.
  “Young Master, what flower is this?”
  Wi Seol-Ah, who was walking with me, asked.
  It was a whitish, pretty-looking flower, but I didn’t know the name of it. 
  “White flower of youth.”
  Namgung Bi-ah, who was following me in the back, whispered.
  “What the… You know a lot of about flowers?”
  It was rather unexpected. 
  For a person like Namgung Bi-ah to know the name of that flower was very unexpected. The girl continued to speak while looking at the flower Wi Seol-Ah was looking at.
  “It was a flower my mother used to like.”
  After saying that, she walked up to the flower and sat next to it carefully.
  “…It bloomed here too.” 
  After touching the flower a few times carefully, she asked me, “Can… I take this…?”
  “For what, you going to grow it yourself?”
  I told her she could, since it was just some flower, and not that big of a request. 
  Namgung Bi-ah pulled out the white flower and put it in Wi Seol-Ah’s hair.
  Wi Seol-Ah was confused, so Namgung Bi-ah talked to her while brushing her hair.
  “Pretty… My mother often did this to me.”
  Wi Seol-Ah then started to smile, and when Namgung Bi-ah saw this, she smiled with her.
  「When two beautiful people sit together, they shine even brighter.」
  ‘You’re being nice all of sudden.’
  After patting Wi Seol-Ah’s head for a bit, Namgung Bi-ah picked up another white flower, this time with dirt so that it didn’t die. 
  Her white hands got dirty due to the dirt, but she didn’t seem to care.
  “Seems you’re fine now.”
  I told her after being reminded of her neurotic phase earlier that day.
  Namgung Bi-ah nodded slightly. Her ears were still slightly red, which made me wonder if it was because of the cold air of fall or because she hadn’t recovered fully from earlier. 
  “I’m fine now… I think.”
  Her whispering voice couldn’t be any more shy. 
  “…Did you know…?” Namgung Bi-ah began to ask.
  “Know what?”
  “A baby… doesn’t come from just holding hands.”
  “Just saying.”
  What was she on about all of a sudden? After she said that, she walked away. ‘Is it just me or is her walking speed faster than usual?’ 
  “Young Master, it’s cold. Let’s hurry!”
  Wi Seol-Ah grabbed my hand and dragged me because I was standing there dumbfounded.
  Namgung Bi-ah stopped taking naps in my room after that day. 
  * * * *
  A day later, I paid a visit to Namgung Jin. 
  We had agreed to meet, so I went to see him as soon as I finished my morning workout. 
  Namgung Jin was swinging his sword in the same training area as before. 
  The reason it was empty around him was probably because the Namgung Clan’s martial artists were still being cured. 
  “I made plans to meet with the First Elder,” Namgung Jin said while swinging his sword ferociously. It was because of the request I made to him the last time. 
  “I believe it should be this evening.”
  I didn’t make too big of a request. I just asked Namgung Jin to pretend to listen to the First Elder when the latter was asking the lord for help. 
  “Do you not need to go back to your clan?”
  “It’s fine. I have more important things to do.”
  “…Hmm, all right.”
  He probably planned to go back to the clan with Namgung Bi-ah after the day of the engagement, but something was stopping him from going.
  ‘To be more accurate, he was stopping himself from leaving.’
  Just for some stupid way of the sword…
  「How could you say ‘stupid way of the sword’ you brat?! You should know better than anyone about a martial artist’s greed… Tsk.」
  It was really strange to think about the sword art that should’ve been left by the Thunderous Sword, Namgung Myung. 
  Why wasn’t it inherited by the descendants? How did Namgung Clan end up forgetting his sword?
  It was impressive to see that the Namgung Clan, despite their worsened sword, was still occupying the top spot among swordsmen’s clans, but I could not help but wonder.
  “Are you ready now?”
  Because it had been a few days, Namgung Jin started to press me more. 
  I guess it was understandable since he couldn’t just leave empty-handed after I had even put a seal on him. 
  “I just hope that you keep your promise.”
  “You have nothing to worry about.”
  We talked about many things when I was putting a seal on him, but there was one thing that was the most important to me.
  When Namgung Jin awakened his sword, he would teach it to Namgung Bi-ah as well.
  Namgung Jin didn’t really show a positive reaction when I made this request. 
  What made him feel so uncomfortable when it was just him teaching his own daughter?
  In the end, we made a deal that he would only teach it to Namgung Bi-ah. 
  ‘Isn’t it ironic?’
  I didn’t really care for anyone else in the first place, but Namgung Jin himself had made a deal that he would not teach it to others of his bloodline. 
  Why would he make such a deal, though?
  I was perplexed as to why Namgung Jin would go to such lengths, but my best guess was that he was trying to pass off as the clan lord—being able to do something that others were unable to do.
  Furthermore, if the lord himself used an enhanced version of their own clan art, he would be seen as someone worthy of sitting on a lord’s throne; at least, that was my guess. 
  ‘But to not even teach his other children?’
  For me, all I had to do was give him a small lesson, and since that would be ultimately passed down to Namgung Bi-ah, I didn’t really mind. 
  But the more I saw him like this, the more curious I became about why Namgung Bi-ah had made that choice.
  Because Namgung Bi-ah wasn’t the type of girl that would do such a thing. 
  “I have two things to tell you.”
  I didn’t hold a sword.
  Elder Shin told me he couldn’t take control of my body for a while. He said it would be dangerous. 
  I couldn’t afford to actually pick up a sword myself and try to show it to Namgung Jin since I wasn’t very skilled in swordplay. 
  Still, Elder Shin told me that just words should be enough.
  「The sword of Namgung has a cut in flow.」
  「Yes, the flow that connects one movement to another. That flow is ever so slightly cut off, which makes it hard to notice.」
  ‘And you’re telling me just saying that will help him fix the issue?’
  「I don’t know that myself. I’m just repeating what Myung told me.」
  ‘How could you be so irresponsible…?’
  「The Thunderous Sword Namgung Myung said this after all the experience and awakenings he had achieved, so if that Namgung child doesn’t get anything out of this, then that’s it.」
  ‘Then what if he complains to me saying that he got nothing from this?’
  「What else? Just run to your daddy and hide behind him.」
  ‘…For f*ck’s sake.’
  Did he really tell me to go to my father and hide behind him at my age?
  ‘I mean… I am still young in this timeline but come on, I still have some pride.’
  「You never had pride to begin with, so why try to fix your image now?」
  Namgung Jin had his ears open and his eyes gleaming as I prepared to speak.
  It was rather uncomfortable for a man at my father’s age to look at me with such shiny eyes. 
  All I had to do was relay what Elder Shin told me to Namgung Jin in my own words.
  “Namgung Clan’s sword is like an ocean wave. The sword may be using lightning-like movements, but in essence, its arts and techniques are closer to unstoppable, crashing waves.”
  Achieving an awakening was abstract. 
  This was more so the case for a swordsman to become one with their sword. 
  Many talented sword users like Wi Seol-Ah had reached this level in the past, not to mention the Demonic Sword.  
  Close-combat fighters also had a similar level, but it was slightly different. 
  All I was doing was delivering what Elder Shin had told me and moving my hand from time to time whenever Elder Shin instructed me to, for some reason. 
  “…Yes you have to put your main focus into the speed of your sword since you use lightning Qi, but… “
  However, when it came to the flaws in Namgung Clan’s body movements, there was a clear way to fix them—a way that was not abstract.
  For something like this, Elder Shin took control and spoke.
  The problem was that…
  ‘It does seem like it’s actually helping him.’
  Whether it was waves or lightning, trees or forests, none of that mattered for a person like me who didn’t know a single bit about the Namgung Clan’s sword art.
  I didn’t know what kind of experiences Namgung Jin and his sword had accumulated, so I didn’t know how much these abstract ideas were helping him. 
  I wasn’t even finished talking, but Namgung Jin’s eyes became different.
  He slowly closed his eyes.
  Did he gain something?
  That being said, I didn’t feel anything from him that screamed awakening.
  「He may not be complete, but I guess he’s not completely stupid.」
  ‘I don’t know if it was right for me to do this.’
  「I didn’t tell him everything since I thought about your perspective. That Namgung child won’t get too much from this.」
  I let this happen since I understood how Elder Shin wanted to pass down his friend’s sword to his descendants. 
  The silence didn’t last long.
  Namgung Jin opened his eyes that he had closed a moment earlier, then swung his sword.
 – Swish! Swoosh!
  His sword didn’t look too different compared to before, but there was a slight difference nonetheless.
  「He seems to have succeeded in fixing his feet.」
  That was what Elder Shin said, but I couldn’t tell there was much difference with my eyes. 
  I was able to see that something was indeed different. That was what was important.
  After swinging his sword for a few seconds, Namgung Jin stopped and quietly whispered, “…Thank you.”
  The martial artist that had reached the fusion realm was sweating in just a matter of seconds. 
  “Were you able to gain anything from this?”
  “Barely… just a tiny bit.”
  Namgung Jin then said it would take an immense amount of time to put what he learned into a real form. 
  “I might have to throw away everything that I’ve put in my body…”
  He was saying that he had to change the movements he had trained for decades. 
  And yet he was still willing to go through with this? I doubted he’d have enough time as a lord of a clan. 
  「Could you not see it? He’s already been captivated.」 
  When I looked into Namgung Jin’s eyes after hearing Elder Shin, his eyes were filled with flames. 
  「It’s small, but certainly different. And he knows how much different he will be if he manages to learn that. It’s too late to go back now.」
  ‘There really is no normal sword wielder in the world, huh.’
  「…You are the one discriminating now, you brat.」
  ‘See, you bark just like a swordsman would.’
  There was no difference in realm, nor was there a change in Qi.
  He simply swung his sword slightly differently.  
  But even something as simple as this, he said, would take a few years. 
  Isn’t this poison to him? That was how I saw it. 
  In the meantime, I checked on the demonic Qi that I had placed in Namgung Jin. 
  Since he got what he wanted from me, there was a chance he might suddenly change. 
  “I hope you don’t forget about our promise.”
  Namgung Jin gave a light nod, even though he had not completely calmed down yet. 
  He looked like he was ready to swing his sword again right away. 
  Then I checked the seal on him again, closed the door, and left. 
  We agreed to see each other a few more times, so it was not over just because I taught him this little thing. 
  Would Namgung Bi-ah’s life improve as a result of this? 
  It may not be a huge change, but maybe I could make a small difference.
  Such pointless excitement passed through my mind. 
  “That’s that… But Elder Shin?”
  「What’s wrong?」
  “About all the things I was relaying to Lord Namgung.”
  Not about the strict movements, but the abstract part. 
  I think I’ve heard that somewhere.
  “…Are you sure that the Thunderous Sword had left behind those words?”
  「Yes, those were this annoying f*cker’s words. He went around everywhere, bragging how great his swordplay was.」 
  ‘What kind of insane person goes around bragging about one’s awakening? I’m sure Elder Shin was exaggerating.’
  But if those words were really left by the Thunderous Sword, it was troubling.
  「Anyway, why do you ask that?」
  “Just because.”
  There was only one reason I asked.
  I believed the Demonic Sword in my past life had said the same thing.
  Exactly, word for word. 
  When was it? I believed it was around when I was asking about the process of becoming one with the sword.
  The Demonic Sword back then said she had learned it that way. 
  – Like that…
  – …I’ve no idea what you just said.
  I couldn’t understand a single thing as everything she said sounded like gibberish to me. 
  But the movements that Elder Shin had shown Namgung Jin were definitely similar to those of the Demonic Sword. 
  The current sword of the Namgung Clan didn’t look like that.
  I didn’t know if the current greatest of Namgung, the Lord of Heaven, knew, but Namgung Jin didn’t know how to use that sword. 
  Furthermore, he didn’t even seem to know the problems Namgung’s sword held. 
  Then how and who did the Demonic Sword learn that from?
  If not from Namgung Jin, then who was it?
  I originally thought that the Demonic Sword learned it herself with her own talent, but now, I had a different idea.
  Was this just a coincidence?
  I couldn’t help but think that it wasn’t. 
  * * * *
  After that, I went to the guesthouse where Namgung Bi-ah was staying. 
  Because all of the Namgung Clan’s martial artists had been injured, the martial artists of the Gu Clan guarded her instead.
  That was paradoxical enough. 
  I was about to leave a letter for the servant standing in front of the guesthouse when Namgung Bi-ah opened the door from the other side and magically popped out. 
  “…You’re here…”
  “How did you know that I was here?”
  Was she looking outside the window or something?
  I didn’t know if that could be the case considering she looked like she had just woken up and her expressions looked rather stale.
  “Were you sleeping?”
  I didn’t really have a big reason for coming here. I just came because she didn’t look too well the day before.
  “Did you eat?”
  “…Not yet.”
  “Then let’s eat together later.”
  The accessory I had given her was still interwoven in her hair.
  ‘I wonder if she uses it every day.’
  Thinking that couldn’t help but make me a little happy, even though I should know my place. 
  “How is your body?”
  “Then can I touch your forehead?”
  I asked this time, as she had dodged me last time when I had tried to touch her.
  「What a loser you are for having to ask that…」
  ‘Elder Shin…’
  「What? What’s wrong?」
  I didn’t say a word, but Elder Shin growled.
  I really didn’t say anything…
  Namgung Bi-ah paused for a moment before taking a step back when I asked for her approval.
  Did she not like it? 
  “I’ll stop asking if you don’t li- “
  “…You can…”
  Namgung Bi-ah spoke with a slightly trembling voice. Was it really that difficult for her?
  Since she seemed to give me the go-ahead, I approached her and touched her forehead.
  “…Your body is not feeling well after all.”
  Her forehead was hot.
  Her forehead, which had been warm just a second before when I touched it for the first time, continued to warm up. 
  Given how hot it was, there had to be an issue. It was unusual for a top-tier martial artist to heat up so quickly. 
  Right as I was about to bring her to the Immortal Healer, my hand that was on her forehead was touched by something.
  It was Namgung Bi-ah’s hand.
  “I’m fine… I really am…”
  After that, she grabbed my hand and put it down. 
  Her action naturally put us in a position where we could start walking together while holding hands. 
  I didn’t ask her what she was doing because Namgung Bi-ah’s white face had turned red.
  ‘I didn’t think she was the type to get embarrassed at something like this.’ 
  Was she really fine? Namgung Bi-ah then spoke while cooling her face with the breeze.
  “I… want to eat.”
  “Where? In your room?”
  “N-No, not my room…”
  Namgung Bi-ah seemed to have really been shaken, as her voice was way louder than usual. 
  ‘Huh, she’s pushing me away from her room when she barges into my room whenever she wants?’
  I thought about going inside her room wondering if she was hiding something, but I felt that Namgung Bi-ah might actually become mad at me if I did that.
  Namgung Bi-ah angry…?
  ‘I’m curious how she’d look, to be honest.’
  I never saw her angry both in this and in my past life. 
  Because she noticed what I was thinking, Namgung Bi-ah pulled me away and began to walk along with me. 
  I didn’t resist and let myself be taken away. 
  I had no intention of letting her hand go either.
  I felt like Elder Shin was cursing at me all the while, but I didn’t listen.
  I allowed myself to be led along and followed her. 
  I found out later from my servant that some of my pillows that should’ve been in my room had disappeared. 
  The servant appeared to be on the verge of crying due to their high value, but a short while later, she resumed her work as if nothing had happened. 
  She even seemed to be smiling, as if something had made her happy.
  They didn’t matter much to me since they were worn out after I had been using them for a long time…

  But I still wondered where they could have possibly gone.
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