Childhood Friend of the Zenith Chapter 128

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༺ Lord of the West ༻
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  Some mysterious sounds could be heard in the silent room.
  The sound that tickled the ears was distracting, but not enough to make a person do something about it. It was right in the tolerable range.
  Namgung Jin had his eyes closed while listening to that sound.
  He would’ve usually criticized something like this, but he thought that he couldn’t afford to spend time elsewhere. 
  He had to let all the new movements he learned sink into his mind. 
  He had to think about how he should position his wrist, how much strength should go into his waist, and where his feet should be pointing.
  He was relearning the basics he had learned back when he had just turned twenty. 
  He had to erase everything and overwrite it with a new set of movements. That would likely take a very long time.
  Namgung Jin, who was very focused, finally opened his eyes instantly when he heard the sound of the chair moving. 
  He was so focused that he failed to notice a presence that was right in front of his nose. 
  “I heard that you had something to do.”
  “I took care of it nicely.”
  In front of Namgung Jin’s eyes was a skinny old man, Gu Changjun, who was in charge of the Old Gate of the Gu Clan, Gu Sunmoon. 
  He was the First Elder of the Gu Clan, and he was called the Flame Sword of Death. 
  “It was very unexpected. I did not expect that the Lord would be looking for an old man like me.”
  “I was concerned about the topic we didn’t have the chance to finish talking about last time, so I came here looking for you.” 
  “Ah… I can only welcome you with my arms open.” The First Elder smiled while saying those words.
  ‘What a snake this man is.’
  Namgung Jin felt a cold and dark presence coming from the old man.
  For Namgung Jin, the First Elder was the man who least fit the Gu Clan.
  The Tiger Warrior, the lord of the Gu Clan, had a nasty personality, but at least he didn’t play dirty.
  He was a man who destroyed things in his way if he had to. He wasn’t the type of man to look for a different path; he only looked forward. 
  He did seem like he had changed quite a bit, although his nasty personality was still the same as ever.
  ‘He even has a son that is just like him.’
  Not only did the son of Gu Cheolun look just like him, but that brat even had a personality similar to his.
  ‘Though I can’t really call him a brat anymore.’
  Anyway, both Gu Cheolun and Gu Yangcheon were people who fit into the Gu Clan well.
  They both rose in flames and had monstrous talent. 
  The more Namgung Jin thought about that, the more his stomach ached. Every one of Gu Cheolun’s children was talented beyond belief. 
  Ignoring the greatest prodigy of the current generation, the Sword Phoenix, the second daughter was also rumored to have great talent. 
  Almost nothing was known about the fourth child, but considering she was said to be associated with Mount Hua, she wouldn’t be weak.
  And then there was Gu Yangcheon. 
  Namgung Jin couldn’t even explain Gu Yangcheon’s capabilities. 
  His level was way too high to call it mere talent. 
  The number of martial artists that overcame that wall at Gu Yangcheon’s age, even when looking at the entire history of the world, could be counted on one hand.
  Even Namgung Jin’s grandfather, the greatest of their clan and the Lord of Heaven, was said to be around Namgung Cheonjun’s age when he reached the peak realm. 
  ‘So he must be associated with them.’
  The secret group formed by the Murim Alliance—Namgung Jin’s grandfather called that group “Meteor.”
  ‘Gu Cheolun, you pretended that wasn’t the case even till the end.’
  He said that he would never associate himself with that place again, yet he was contradicting himself. 
  ‘How did he do it? I couldn’t even find this information.’
  Was he already in touch with the Beggar’s Sect? There was a good chance that was the case, considering all the rumors about Gu Yangcheon turned out to be false.
  ‘Same with that seal.’
  Namgung Jin thought about the seal that had been cast on him.
  This technique was similar to the one that the Murim Alliance used.
  He was definitely using Murim Alliance’s seal as a base for his own.
  Furthermore, Namgung Jin noticed that it wasn’t easy to escape from the seal due to its complexity and effectiveness, which exceeded the Murim Alliance’s. 
  He thought to himself that he should research Meteor more once he returned to his clan and saw his grandfather. 
  “I heard last time…” The First Elder began to speak first. 
  “That the engagement date was planned for a good day.”
  “Everything went well.”
  Compared to how Namgung Jin acted the last time he saw Gu Cheolun, everything did indeed go nicely this time around. 
  “This was very unexpected. I did not even dream that the Namgung Clan would be here for an engagement with our Yangcheon…” 
  “Our Yangcheon,” he says.
  To Namgung Jin, the old man’s friendly way of calling him felt really out of place considering the cold tone of his voice. 
  Namgung Jin spoke up after hearing what he had to say.
  “I heard that the Second Elder of the Gu Clan worked hard for it. It was the first time that I’ve seen such good reactions from our elders myself.” 
  When Namgung Jin brought up the Second Elder, the First Elder’s expression changed slightly.
  It went back to normal right away, but it took enough time for Namgung Jin to notice.
  It didn’t seem like the First Elder welcomed the two clans’ engagement. 
  It also looked like he and the Second Elder didn’t have a good relationship. 
  Namgung Jin then organized his thoughts while sipping his tea.
  “As you said earlier, there was a small incident.”
  “I heard that you unfortunately took the blame for it.”
  “Yes. What a sad situation it was.”
  Originally, when Namgung Jin first had a conversation with the First Elder, he had a different thought. He thought that if the First Elder’s thoughts supported his own, then he could bring him onto his side.
  But that wouldn’t happen anymore due to the incident that damaged the Namgung Clan’s reputation. 
  If it was really the First Elder who tried to keep him there, then it was pretty much confirmed that they wouldn’t stand on the same side. 
  A suspicion was enough to end the relationship. There was no need to associate himself with danger. 
  Even with all these thoughts, Namgung Jin’s expression didn’t change.
  “Is there anything you might want?”
  the First Elder responded with shock after hearing Namgung Jin. 
  He was showing that he didn’t expect that the lord would ask such a thing. 
  The First Elder may have been skilled at hiding his inner thoughts, but his greed was stronger.
  It wasn’t something he could ever hide, which made Namgung Jin wonder why the Gu Clan was still keeping such an individual. 
  If it was the same Gu Cheolun from before, he would’ve burned this snake alive. 
  ‘Not that I should care about that.’
  Whatever they were thinking didn’t matter to Namgung Jin.
  – You just have to pretend.
  He thought about what Gu Yangcheon had asked of him.
  ‘What was his goal? Was it to let the First Elder’s guard down, or was it to test me with the seal placed on me?’
  All was pointless to Namgung Jin.
  He couldn’t afford to think about things such as these.
  He smiled and said to the First Elder, “It’s possible that our goal is the same.”
  Namgung Jin noticed the First Elder’s eyes shine at those words. 
  * * * * *
  It’s been a day since I taught Namgung Jin the way of the sword. 
  “I heard that the two had a conversation once again.”
  “Where do you even hear that from?”
  As I was chatting with Wi Seol-Ah after my training, the Second Elder came to see me.
  Wi Seol-Ah was wiping my sweat off with a towel, but the Second Elder appeared with a sad face and said, “I think they formed a relationship.”
  “Is that so?”
  “Young Master, you are covered in sweat!”
  “C-Could you wipe it a bit gently?” I told Wi Seol-Ah after feeling the rough sensation of the towel.
  She was rubbing so hard that I felt like my skin was being peeled off.
  Of course, I did sweat that much for her to act this way.
  I didn’t expect that I would still be sweating even after reaching the 5th realm of my flame arts.
  「That just means you’re still not used to it. Keep training.」
  ‘Yeah… I really should.’
  The process of compressing my Qi and making precise movements was still a hard training exercise for me.
  To become used to something that one wasn’t used to was the hardest thing to do as a martial artist, but it was also the one thing that brought the most excitement. 
  It was a process of experiencing new things while feeling progress. 
  ‘Is Namgung Jin trying to reach higher realms because of this sensation too?’
  I felt like I could understand him a little bit. The Second Elder then shouted at me, making me put those thoughts aside. 
  “What do you mean, ‘is that so,’ you brat?!”
  “What am I supposed to do about them meeting up?Just let them be.”
  I thought about telling the Second Elder about my relationship with Namgung Jin, but it was better that he knew less about it. 
  Seeing me act so carefree about the matter, the Second Elder tried to hit me in the head, but I dodged it.
  “Hey! I finally dodged it n- Ugh!”
  I barely managed to dodge the first one, but I couldn’t dodge the second. Along with a “Pow!” I went down to the ground.
  It really felt like my head had cracked open.
  “Grandfather is dying of stress, yet my grandson does nothing!”
  “Why am I your grandson all of a sudden?!”
  We did share the same blood, but we weren’t exactly that close.
  “I raised you and cleaned up your shit when you were young, so how dare you?”
  Since he tried to hit me again, I put Wi Seol-Ah in front of me. 
  The Second Elder stopped. There was no way he could do such a thing to the granddaughter of the Sword Emperor. 
  “Stop trying to hit me and tell me what happened when you went to the Namgung Clan.” 
  I was talking about when the Second Elder had suddenly gone to the Namgung Clan to have a talk with their elders. 
  It had only been a few days, and the Second Elder was already back.
  I didn’t think he would return so quickly. 
  When I brought that up, the Second Elder instantly put on an awkward expression.
  “Don’t ask. I already got a scolding from the lord on the way here.”
  “Oh really, sir? Did my father catch you?”
  “Shut your mouth… How was I caught? I could’ve sworn I was sneaky enough to not get caught. You were not the one that snitched on me, right, Gu Yangcheon?”
  He started to look at me with suspecting eyes. 
  How absurd of him. Did he really think that he could be sneaky with his mountain of a body? 
  “Second Elder… Take a look at yourself… You can’t possibly hide yourself with that body of yours.”
  “You little? This old man, back in my days, used to make bets with the Shadow King to see who could use shadow stealth better.” 
  “Yeah, yeah, sure.”
  “Grandpa Ryoon, are you going to grow big again?” the Second Elder responded with a forced smile on his face when Wi Seol-Ah asked naively. 
  “No… this old man can’t get any bigger.”
  “No? It seems like you did.”
  “Is that a compliment?”
  “Yeah! It’s cooler the bigger you get!”
  “Right, thank you.” The Second Elder smiled awkwardly after seeing Wi Seol-ah’s brightness. 
  But even so, him saying that he used to make bets against the king of assassins to see who can use shadow stealth better? He could not have bluffed any harder. 
  “Anyway, judging by how the elders of the Namgung Clan didn’t seem to be fond of this incident, there seems to be a problem.”
  I obviously didn’t think that it wouldn’t happen, but the Second Elder found it weird that the outcome of the incident turned out the way it did. 
  Despite the Second Elder looking like an old musclehead, he was a much more thoughtful man than people saw him as. 
  If he had come to that conclusion, then there was more to this matter. 
  “I also heard that you had a problem with the Sword King. Did that go well?”
  “You even heard about that?”
  “I told you, this old man’s eyes and ears are always open when I’m in the clan.”
  “Yeah, it all went well.”
  The biggest problem for me was probably the servant’s well-being. 
  I was told that even though she would have a scar on her face, her life would be completely normal. 
  Considering that the Immortal Healer himself was the source of this information, it was likely accurate. 
  She had not yet regained consciousness, but I intended to go see her as soon as she did.  
  Even as I had this thought, the Second Elder spoke to me in an annoyed tone.
 “Yangcheon, if you keep giving me those carefree answers, this old man will take it upon himself to discipline you.”
  “Could you just stay st- I understand.”
  Why does this old man always think about using his fist first…  I need to get stronger just so that I don’t get hit by his fist. 
  When I flinched my neck half-jokingly, the Second Elder let out a sigh and brought up a different topic.
  “Also, I heard that you are participating in the Tournament of Dragons and Phoenixes. Is that right?”
  “Did you hear that from the Lord?”
  “Yeah, I’m planning to participate.”
  “When do you plan to leave?”
  “I plan to leave early, in about a week.”
  The Tournament of Dragons and Phoenixes was held at the end of the year, so if I left late in the fall, I should arrive relatively early. 
  “You are leaving much earlier than I expected.”
  “It’s better than being late, after all.”
  At first, I felt like I was being forced to go there due to Tang Soyeol’s request and my father actually approving that, but if I thought about Elder Shin and the value that the tournament held, I had good reasons to go. 
  Plus, I also wanted to see someone there personally. 
  I believed that person would be coming to the tournament around this time. 
  “Judging by your face, you don’t seem like you are planning to just sit still and do nothing.”
  “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
  “True, you do have to go on a rampage at least once now that you are at that level.”
  The Second Elder completely ignored me and said those words with certainty. 
  …He really is a sly fox.
  Like the Second Elder said, I planned to do something there, but I wasn’t thinking of anything too major. 
  If I had to think about all the things that would happen in the future, I did have to spread my name around a little bit.
  Of course, it would be easier for me to spread my name to the world if I let everyone know what I had done so far, but now wasn’t the time as it would be troublesome if I associated myself with the Black Palace. 
  The easiest and most comfortable way of doing so was the Tournament of Dragons and Phoenixes. It was a place where even the smallest things became big. 
  For example, there was a rumor that a lightning bolt had appeared in the clear sky once Namgung Cheonjun entered the tournament, which was the celebration of a new star in the sky. 
  A lightning bolt from a clear sky…? That was something that would only happen in stories. 
  I didn’t think that I wouldn’t get anything from this tournament, and that wasn’t me being arrogant either. If anything, I felt guilty that I was participating in some kids’ tournament. 
  One could see it as me pretending to be the strongest among the kids, even though I technically wasn’t one. 
  「It would make your face red if others found out.」
  ‘That’s why it’s fortunate that no one else knows about it.’
  「You must be happy that others don’t know.」
  I couldn’t argue against Elder Shin’s playful tone.
  I just had to be blunt at times like these. 
  The Second Elder spoke to me with a smile. 
  “Have a good time devouring others; you have the Lord’s approval.”
  “Am I some beast? What do you mean devour…”
  “You do look like one.”
  After saying that, the Second Elder took something out of his pocket. 
  I knew what it was as soon as I saw it.
  It was the invitation letter that Tang Soyeol had shown me last time.
  “Did you get that letter too, Second Elder?”
  “Uh… You could say that.”
  “What is that half-assed response. You’re making me nervous…”
  Did he not get that from my father? My invitation letter should’ve already arrived at Gu Clan, so I thought he just brought that.
  But to prove me wrong, the Second Elder soon said, “It’s not an invitation letter, but a recommendation.”
  “A recommendation? Is it mine?”
  “I brought it just in case, but I should’ve brought something cooler if I had known this would happen.”
  A recommendation letter was usually given to a young prodigy by their supporter. 
  For Tang Soyeol, it was probably obvious that the lord of the Tang Clan had given her the recommendation letter. 
  I wasn’t sure about Namgung Bi-ah, since Namgung Jin had probably given the recommendation letter to the Lightning Dragon.
  And in my case, I was going to get that from my father. 
  Though I wasn’t sure what would happen once Gu Yeonseo was freed and decided to enter.
  ‘Who is the one responsible for giving me this recommendation letter then?’
  A martial artist at the level of the Second Elder was certainly eligible to give me such a letter, but was it really necessary that he give it to me instead of my father?
  The recommendation letter for the Tournament of Dragons and Phoenixes was given by the master to their disciple or by a parent to their child. 
  To look at it differently, it was pretty much a certificate that showed that a guardian was supporting their child or was responsible for their protection.
  So who was it that could do something like that for me? 
  Moreover, I doubted that the few rumors that had been going around me were any positive, so the person that was responsible for writing me that letter risked their own reputation.
  “Take it. I got this last year, so it makes me glad that I can use it now.”
  I began to frown after I heard the Second Elder.
  Last year…?
  That meant the letter was written before I even regressed. 
  And yet, I didn’t have any memories of receiving such a letter in my past life.
  I carefully took the recommendation from the elder.
  And my body froze as soon as I saw the word written on the letter.
  How could it not?
  There was only one word on the letter.
  “Second Elder… This is…”
  I said, reeling from shock, but the Second Elder had a proud smile on his face. 
  There was only one reason why I felt so pressured by a letter with just one word in it.  
  This letter…
  Came from one of the three Heavenly Venerables—the Dishonored Venerable, Bijuu. 
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