Childhood Friend of the Zenith Chapter 130

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༺ Why Are You Here Again? (1) ༻
  The breeze was chilly as the clouds blocked the moon.
  I remembered the look on that person’s face as they asked me while holding a sword. 
  – The night is cold. What brought you outside?
  The person’s tied gold hair was shining even in the dark. 
  When was this?
  There were too many scenes like this, so I could not exactly pick out one. 
  -Why are you worried about whether or not I am cold, and not anyone else?
  The question may not have been asked in the warmest of tones, but my response could not have been shittier.  
  It was difficult to see myself as inept. 
  Even with my harsh tone, her expression remained the same.
  – It must be your time then. 
  – Screw off if you have realized. 
  – Will you be alright?
  – What?
  Unlike the person’s hair that was shining in gold, their eyes were silver. 
  – It’s the most dangerous around this time.
  – So, you’re telling me to crawl on the ground cause I’m weak?
  – I’m not saying that…
  In response to her question, I burst into flames.
  It really was a pathetic sight to behold.
  The flames that expanded disappeared right away when she made a single swing of her sword. 
  She responded to me with a frown, bothered. 
  – How could you attract attention like this? Perhaps you want them to come here?
  – I’m telling you to stop your pointless chatter and go inside. I’ll be fine on my own.
  – I think we should just wake the Water Dragon-
  – Should I make a bigger flame this time?
  She let out a sigh and proceeded to walk away.
  As she was about to enter the barracks, she asked me a question.
  – Young Master Gu, once you manage to escape this place, what will you do?
  – Did you become sentimental because it’s nighttime? You’re asking a pointless question. 
  I responded to her while dumbfounded. The question came out of nowhere. 
  If I leave this place?
  Could I even leave in the first place? The Abyss was a hellish, hopeless place. 
  – Putting me aside, what will you do?
  I didn’t have an answer for her, so I asked her the same thing. 
  Even if I managed to escape this place, the only thing I had left in the world was to continue the tasks given to me.
  So I asked what she wanted to do.
  Wi Seol-Ah thought for a long time, then opened her mouth.
  – I’d like to wander around.
  – Wander? Just do that now.
  After hearing me, Wi Seol-Ah made a disdainful expression, which was unusual for her. 
  – I’m saying that I’d like to go where many people are. 
  – What’s the point of having such a hassle of a dream?
  – I don’t know myself.
  Wi Seol-Ah laughed. I was able to feel the fatigue from her laugh, but I didn’t comment on it.
  – I wonder myself why I want to do such a thing.
  She looked exhausted. 
  She wasn’t exhausted physically, as she was a martial artist who had already overcome her wall.
  I stared at Wi Seol-Ah who slowly entered inside, then turned around.
  I didn’t think much of it back then.
  All I had to do was survive that day and live to see tomorrow. 
  Who knew that the time we would spend there would be that long?
  Even after surviving in this place for a long time, after losing everything, I went back in there with my own two feet. 
  But this memory of mine helped me a lot in the future. It was the fuel that allowed me to go through many changes as I thought about you. 
  Everyone may have forgotten about you, but I still remembered you, and that was enough.
  「The deal is established. Small flame.」
  I prayed that you felt the same way as I did. 
  * * * *
  I was shocked after seeing Namgung Bi-ah arrive all of a sudden, but I just let it be since I could never get a proper read on her. 
  「What’s the problem? A whole waterfall raged on as soon as you heard her say that she wanted to see you.」
  ‘That’s because I was just shocked for a second.’
  「Yeah, I’m sure that’s the case. That’s why you said something random like asking her if she ate.」
  ‘Elder, you are becoming meaner as time passes.’
  After we ate, Namgung Bi-ah wanted to take a nap in my room, as if she had waited for this moment.
  “So, why sleep in my room?”
  She even grabbed my personal blankets and slept under them like she had no problem with it. 
  “Sis must be really tired.”
  “That’s not the pro-… Never mind.”
  Nothing would come out of me complaining, so I let her be.
  Because of her sudden arrival, I also had to stop my training. I didn’t know if I wanted to continue.
  And more than anything, I was concerned about Wi Seol-Ah who, for some reason, seemed to be down.
  “Do you want a yakgwa?” I offered her a snack.
  She refused, adamantly at that. This was an emergency.
  I tried to think of hundreds of things I could do in this emergency, but I only had a few options to choose from. 
  In the end, I had to resort to asking her. “Why is your face looking so sad?”
  “It’s just not working out for me.”
  “What is?”
  “A bunch of stuff…”
  I had almost never seen Wi Seol-Ah so down like this. 
  I didn’t know what her problem was, but she seemed to have these bouts of sadness in recent days.
  I may have been slightly neglectful of her, but I couldn’t help but be concerned when I noticed her cheeks gradually losing weight.
  While looking at her shoulders, which were down, I said, “Let’s go out.”
  Wi Seol-Ah looked at me in confusion after hearing my words.
  “Let’s go outside for a bit, for a walk.”
  When Wi Seol-Ah realized what I said, her eyes finally brightened.
  * * * * *
  “Sis Hongwa told me to buy many tasty things on my way back.”
  “Yeah, so I plan to buy a good amount!”
  “Good amount, huh… All right, let’s do so.”
  I went to the streets with Wi Seol-Ah.
  I wondered if I should’ve come here after telling Muyeon, but I just went out anyway. 
  I was already at a point where I didn’t need escorts with me after all. 
  “Young master, did you plan to go somewhere?”
  “Nah, just wandering around.”
  It seemed like this succeeded in cheering her up, as she looked excited right now. 
  「Are you sure you have spare time?」
  I put on a bitter smile after hearing Elder Shin’s question.
  Spare time?
  I didn’t have any.
  My demonic Qi was still in the process of being purified, and it would do me good to continue training at this crucial time.
  “Young Master, over there!”
  “Right, you can eat it, but only if you finish everything in your hand.”
  I thought about it while looking at Wi Seol-Ah who was having a good time.
  Taking a day off shouldn’t be that bad. After all, the future had a lot in store for me.
  I also asked Namgung Bi-ah who was taking a nap, but she thought about it for a few seconds with her eyes half-open, then fell back asleep after wrapping herself in my blanket. 
  It seemed like sleep was more of a priority for her.
  I looked at Wi Seol-Ah who was hopping around in excitement.
  Her face, which was filled with boundless joy, always felt new to me. 
  「A little child like that is the future’s hope, huh?」
  Even Elder Shin, who had seen my memories, questioned that, but that was the reality.
  “Young Master! Let’s eat this together!”
  With a bright smile, she brought some fruit that I didn’t know the name of.
  I was in the middle of taking out my money, but Wi Seol-Ah spoke proudly. 
  “I already bought it!”
  “Huh? How?”
  “Umm? I just did…?”
  She then took out a small purse and showed it to me.
  When I checked inside the purse, there really was money inside.
  Now that I thought about it, it did make sense that Wi Seol-Ah got paid for her work as a servant. 
  For a kid who never paid for any yakgwa to buy something with her own money… 
  ‘She changed a lot in that short time.’
  She should’ve already done this a long time ago, but her common sense was lagging behind her age, so it was a fascinating thing to see from Wi Seol-Ah. 
  “Eat this.”
  I took the fruit that Wi Seol-Ah had offered me and took a bite. 
  As soon as it entered my mouth, I tasted sourness that filled my whole mouth, making me cringe.
  When she saw that, Wi Seol-Ah started to laugh.
  “Is this funny to you…?”
  “Young Master’s face is so funny.”
  “That’s an insult, right? That has to be an insult.”
  Wi Seol-Ah vehemently denied this until the end. This girl, I swear…
  We walked around the streets while chatting around.
  It had been a very long time I had seen this place. 
  I hadn’t been here ever since before I had left or Mount Hua. I hadn’t come here even after my return.
  Thus, if I had to point out one thing that surprised me…
  “Oh, you’re here Seol-Ah!”
  “It’s been a while! Where is your sis?”
  “Sis is busy right now. I’ll take one of these, please!”
  “Oh, it’s Seol-Ah!”
  I noticed that many people in the streets knew who Wi Seol-Ah was. 
  Did she come out here with other servants a few times without my knowledge? 
  When they mentioned “sis,” I assumed it was Hongwa. 
  ‘Does that mean that the Sword Emperor allowed this?’
  Without his approval, she wouldn’t have been able to come out here, so it was the only answer for why she was able to strut around the streets like that.
  The world may still be at peace, but it still wasn’t safe enough for her to wander around like that with her beauty. 
  I didn’t cover Namgung Bi-ah or Wi Seol-Ah’s faces not because I didn’t want to get involved, but more for their own good. 
  “Hey, Young Master.”
  I was surprised for a moment after seeing Wi Seol-Ah that appeared right in front of me.
  I may have been thinking about many things, but I still failed to notice that she was right in front of my nose. 
  I quickly hid my shock and asked back.  
  “What’s up?”
  “Everyone calls the Young Master ‘Sir.’”
  What is she talking about all of a sudden?
  “Sis Soyeol calls you that often. I guess Sis Bi-ah doesn’t seem to do so.”
  Most people did indeed call me that, since they couldn’t just talk to me informally right off the bat.
  “Well, that’s because…”
  Because people had different social statuses. That was the simplest way to describe it; however, it was rather hard to say it with my own mouth. 
  Wi Seol-Ah couldn’t just stay as my servant forever. 
  The girl then started talking in a playful manner. “Sir Gu!” She wanted to try it herself.
  I couldn’t help but stop for a moment after hearing her.
  – Sir Gu.
  Because I was reminded of that damned memory.
  In front of me was a more mature face than the one the current Wi Seol-Ah had.
  Her voice and expression were also slightly different. I could still vividly remember my interactions with that Wi Seol-Ah.
  Maybe because my expression was twisted in a weird way, Wi Seol-Ah seemed a little sad.
  “I knew it. It doesn’t fit me after all…”
  I finally woke up from my daze after seeing Wi Seol-Ah’s disappointed face.
  “What do you mean it doesn’t fit you?”
  “Sis Tang is pretty, and Sis Bi-ah is pretty so it fits them, but I guess it’s weird when I do it… Young Master’s face turned ugly.”
  Hey, how could you just bluntly say it was ugly…
  Her words, filled with her naiveté, always stabbed at my heart. 
  Is she really disappointed by that? I don’t think that’s all.
  “Putting everything else aside, when it comes to beauty, I think you too are…”
  My words got stuck in my throat.
  I tried to tell her that she was pretty too, but this small little thing prevented me from speaking as if a boulder was blocking a door. 
  Wi Seol-Ah seemed to have noticed what I was trying to say, as her eyes started to smile.
  “What? What is it?”
  “You are doing this on purpose, right?”
  “No, Seol-Ah knows nothing.”
  I was certain. She definitely picked up some nasty habits when I wasn’t watching.
  “If you don’t tell me, I’ll snitch on you.”
  “What? What did I even do that you can snitch on me?”
  “You ran away from Grandpa Ryoon last time when he was looking for you, saying that he was a hassl-”
  “You’re pretty.”
  Wi Seol-Ah smiled after hearing my words that had been forced out of me. 
  Because her cheeks had been losing the little bit of fat they had, she was slowly starting to look like herself in my past life. 
  Her beauty shone brightly, but her grin amplified it, and her charm reached far and wide. 
  Had she purposely made herself look disappointed? 
  If that was the case, it really wasn’t like her to behave like that. 
  「You really are clueless, huh? This child is much more of a fox than you think.」
  ‘You sure she’s not more of a cub or a puppy?’ 
  Wi Seol-Ah, a fox? Both the current her and the one from my past life didn’t fit that description.
  Elder Shin laughed after hearing that thought of mine. 
  「In my opinion, you brat, I think you need to train your eyes more than anything.」
  Putting aside Elder Shin, it seemed like Wi Seol-Ah’s mood had brightened up.
  “I’m fine now!”
  After saying that, she walked forward with a bright smile.
  Did me saying “you’re pretty” really make her that happy?
  It was a warm but difficult emotion I was feeling.
  ‘It’s heavy.’
  The way that the girl felt about me and the way I felt about her. 
  “Even so…”
  I couldn’t just afford to let it all go now. I was living so stubbornly because I hated that. 
  “You’re going to trip if you run like that.”
  “Young master will help me up if I do.”
  Her cheerful laugh while shining like the sun stopped my feet time to time. 
  – If I do fall, you can help me stand back up.
  Was it a coincidence, that the current you was saying the same things as the Wi Seol-Ah of my past life?
  – So I’ll be fine.
  “So I’ll be fine!”
  It felt like you were doing this so that I wouldn’t forget, which only made my heart bleed.
  Wi Seol-Ah, who was running around with a happy face, tripped over a rock as expected and fell. 
  With a strange sound, she fell to the ground. 
  I ran toward her in shock, but even more shockingly, she managed to save the food she was holding. 
  “I told you not to run.”
  I reached out my hand to her, and Wi Seol-Ah grabbed it and got up.
  “What do I do… I have dirt all over me…”
  “Yeah, Hongwa will yell at you as soon as she sees you.”
  “Oh no…!”
  I laughed when I saw her realize her biggest problem. 
  “I’ll make sure to help you talk it out.”
  “Young Master, you said that last time but snitched on me anyway!”
  “Okay, guilty as charged.”
  How did she find out…? I could’ve sworn I snitched on her in secret. 
  “So cruel…”
  Even while she was talking in a disappointed tone, she hugged the food she was holding tighter. 
  What part of her did he see in her that led him to call her a fox?
  “Could you buy me more since I’m sa-“
  I laughed once more, seeing Wi Seol-Ah in shock with her eyes wide open when I rejected her right away. 
  In the end, I still bought her all the food she wanted. 
  The last of our purchases were dumplings, and when we arrived back at the clan, she seemed to want to give them to me.
  Along with a half-asleep Namgung Bi-ah, the three of us filled our stomachs with dumplings before dinner time.
  Additionally, Hongwa had noticed Wi Seol-Ah’s dirty uniform and reprimanded her.
  The girl signaled me for help with her eyes, but since I had no way to help her, I pretended not to see her. 
  I still remembered the cute face Wi Seol-Ah made as she felt betrayed. 
  * * * * *
  It had been a week already, and the day of my going to the Tournament of Dragons and Phoenixes arrived. 
  It was something I’d planned for quite a while, but something happened that I had not expected, which turned all my plans upside down. 
  In the area where everyone had gathered around the carriages, there was a boy standing in front of me. He seemed at least a head taller than me, and he had a sharp, handsome face. 
  Tang Soyeol, who was next to me, was glaring at the boy for some reason, but he didn’t feel pressured since the girl looked so innocent. 
  In this absurd situation, I said to the boy, 
  It wasn’t just me who didn’t like this. His expression wasn’t any better than mine.
  Though he did seem rather nervous, as his body looked stiff. 
  “You’re coming with us?”
  The boy flinched at my question.
  I let out a sigh after hearing the boy’s response.
  In front of me stood the grandson of the First Elder and the genius of Gu Sunmoon.
  “Please take care of me,” said Gu Jeolyub. 
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