Childhood Friend of the Zenith Chapter 139

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༺ Harmonic Sword Jang Cheon (1) ༻
  It had already been a week since I arrived in Hanam.
  And it was snowing today as well.
  As proof of the current weather, there was enough snow on the ground to make the whole world white. 
  Every time I stepped on the snow, it made a cute sound.
  “Woah! Wow!”
  Wi Seol-Ah, bundled up in fur, had a bright face as she was captivated by the snow. 
  That was understandable since there wasn’t much snow or rain back in Shanxi. 
  The weather must’ve been rather cold today because my ears were starting to ache a bit. 
  “Young Master! Where are we going right now?”
  Wi Seol-Ah asked while hopping towards me like a rabbit.
  I brushed back Wi Seol-Ah’s black hair with my hand when she approached me. 
  ‘It seems like she grew a little.’
  Just like me, Wi Seol-Ah had also grown this year. 
  If I had to point out a difference, our eye levels were around the same height before…
  But now, I was a little taller than her. 
  I spoke while playing with Wi Seol-Ah’s hair.
  “The Murim Alliance.”
  “What kind of place is that?”
  “Nothing much. It’s just a place filled with darkness pretending to be pure and bright.” 
  “Oh, I get it! Gomoku at home looks like that.”
  When I tilted my head in confusion, Hongwa, who was next to us, explained. 
  “She is referring to the cat that comes by our place from time to time.”
  “There is a cat back at my place?”
  Hongwa seemed momentarily shocked by my question. 
  Huh, was this something that I shouldn’t have said? 
  She hesitated for a bit, then spoke after making up her mind. 
  “…I’m sorry. We will get rid of the cat immediately when we retur-”
  “What are you saying…! I was just curious, that’s all.”
  How could one just get rid of a cat…
  I heard someone sneezing after I finished talking to Hongwa. 
  When I turned around, I saw Namgung Bi-ah wiping her nose. 
  She looked bundled up, but was she still feeling cold? 
  The fur clothing currently adorning Namgung Bi-ah was given by Tang Soyeol. 
  “You cold?”
  “…A little.”

  “Then flow your Qi around.”
  I wasn’t cold since the martial arts I learned happened to be Flame Arts, but… 
  That wasn’t the case for Namgung Bi-ah. 
  Typically, for cases like this, one would flow their Qi around to find some sort of relief. 
  “…Too lazy…”
  “How are you lazy about that…?”
  But Namgung Bi-ah wasn’t one to do that.
  Jeez, she’s lazy about even that?
  Observing Namgung Bi-ah’s hands, now red from the cold, I reached my hand out to her. 
  Namgung Bi-ah paused briefly, seemingly puzzled, but then cautiously reached out to me. 
  “You say you are cold, but you don’t even wear any gloves.”
  “Too la-”
  “Never mind.”
  Trying to talk to her would only cause a headache.
  I grabbed Namgung Bi-ah’s hand and infused it with warmth. 
  Her cold hand in mine felt like ice. 
  She should have, at the very least, wrapped her hand in clothing or tucked them into her pockets if it was that cold for her. 
  It was making me concerned. 
  After using a little bit of my Qi, Namgung Bi-ah’s hand quickly became warmer. 
  But now her face had become red.
  “Is your face cold now?”
  I let go of her hand and tried to reach toward her cheek, but Namgung Bi-ah backed away after flinching. 
  Namgung Bi-ah tried to cover her face, realizing that it had turned red. 
  Struggling to cover her face with her clothing, she eventually resorted to using her long hair. 
  “…What are you doing?”
  She was successful in covering her face thanks to her long hair, but she looked quite funny in such a state.
  I had no idea what she was doing.
  My hand, which had been hovering awkwardly since it failed to reach Namgung Bi-ah’s cheek, was instead taken by Wi Seol-Ah. 
  “Woah! Young Master’s hand is so warm!”
  She then started to rub her cheek against my hand to savor the warmth. 
  I felt a little disappointed every time I felt Wi Seol-Ah’s cheek.
  After noticing that subtle difference, I spoke to Wi Seol-Ah.
  “You lost weight again, didn’t you?”
  “Do you want me to scold you, seriously?”
  “W…Why would you scold me for that?”
  “Because it’s something you deserve getting scolded for!”
  How was this happening?
  I even told Hongwa to feed her more.
  To answer my curiosity, Hongwa quickly spoke to me.
  “I am feeding her well 3-4 times a day.”
  “What about midnight snacks?” 
  “She eats them herself, without me telling her to do so.”
  Judging by what Hongwa just told me, it did seem like she was eating well.
  Then why wasn’t she gaining weight?
  This was quite puzzling.
  It wasn’t just words without evidence either because I could see for myself that she had a healthy appetite. 
  ‘Then how much did she eat back when I thought she had a little bit of weight?’
  This was a few months ago, so did that mean she just ate that much before?
  That thought was a little scary.
  But Wi Seol-Ah seemed like she was hiding something from me recently, as she spent more time alone. 
  ‘Hiding something from me, huh?’ 
  She was at the age where she would keep secrets, 
  But I still couldn’t help but be bothered by it. 
  While I was fidgeting with Wi Seol-Ah’s cheek…
  I felt a presence approaching. 
  When I looked back, wondering what it was, it turned out to be Tang Soyeol, wearing an embarrassed expression. 
  “Lady Tang?”
  “Young Master Gu…”
  Then she reached her hand out.
  That’s strange?
  I could’ve sworn I saw Tang Soyeol with gloves on just a moment ago. 
  Really expensive-looking fur gloves at that.
  Yet now, Tang Soyeol had bare hands without such gloves. 
  “My hands are also col-”
  Before Tang Soyeol could finish, Namgung Bi-ah quickly grabbed Tang Soyeol’s hand away.
  “…My hand is still warm.”
  Namgung Bi-ah rubbed Tang Soyeol’s hands with her hands, which retained some warmth from my touch. 
  Tang Soyeol’s hands appeared warmer, but she seemed more disappointed. 
  [What a dog-like mess… Or should I say cat-like mess?]
  While Elder Shin spoke with a sigh, I identified the person he had in mind when he mentioned a cat.  
  “…Still as harmonious as ever, even after a few days, huh?” 
  It was Moyong Hi-ah, who I didn’t see for a few days. 
  She had vanished after encountering Namgung Cheonjun and I barely got to see Moyong Hi-ah after that.
  However, around the time we left Bacheonmaru, Moyong Hi-ah appeared again and joined us on our trip. 
  Since we were all headed to the Murim Alliance, I didn’t really say much, noticing that  Tang Soyeol also wanted to go with her for some reason.
  Unlike her time at Bacheonmaru, Moyong Hi-ah wasn’t wearing a mask at the moment, but her face was still the same as ever. 
  The cat-like face that held a strange aura. 
  Did she emanate that charming aura even when she stood still due to the way her eyes looked? 
  Perhaps her sky-blue eyes contributed to that charming aura. 
  Since I was staring at her for a moment, my eyes met with Moyong Hi-ah’s. 
  When our eyes met, Moyong Hi-ah responded with smiling eyes.
  It was so charming and seductive that it would’ve instantly charmed any guy. 
  ‘What’s wrong with her?’
  But for me, nothing she did would be more uncomfortable than this. 
  Since it usually signaled trouble whenever she made that expression. 
  Moyong Hi-ah was well aware of her own beauty. 
  She knew that her face had the power to captivate men effortlessly and she was a woman who knew how to take advantage of that. 
  And usually, whenever she made that face, it was to take advantage of whoever she charmed. 
  However, since I already knew her true intentions, it made me dislike her even more, even though I had already disliked her quite a bit.
  ‘I did also get used to something like that because of the girls around me.’
  Just looking at Wi Seol-Ah and Namgung Bi-ah for a while made other girls look like mere clay statues. 
  I nodded slightly to Moyong Hi-ah’s smile and looked away.
  […I… For some reason, feel cold recently.]
  Do spirits also feel cold? Elder Shin seemed to be weak to cold last time as well, so could it be a real issue? 
  [Why do all those girls always come to you? It’s so strange that I feel cold. Is it my time to die or something?]
  ‘Ugh… I thought you had an actual problem.’
  I was worried for nothing. 
  Why was a man who had already spent hundreds of years in the afterlife talking like this? 
  [Do you know my pain!? Do you know how I felt when I couldn’t even engage in romance with anybody because I was busy with clan work!?]
  ‘Why are you blaming that on me?’
  He was getting increasingly weird… Should I actually just try to find a female ghost or something? 
  ‘…But how would I find such a thing?’
  Should I go visit the Wudang Sect? 
  Actually no, they might try to exorcise Elder Shin.
  [What are you talking about? Why would they exorcise me?]
  ‘No matter how you look at it, Elder Shin looks more like an evil spirit because of your personali-’
  [You, come here. Even if it’s the last thing I do, I’ll make sure to drag you with me when I go up to heaven.]
  Just as Elder Shin was on the brink of yelling in frustration, Muyeon came towards me and spoke. 
  “Young Master.”
  “We have arrived.”
  Before Muyeon finished speaking, my eyes were already looking at the giant building in front of me.
  Let alone the Gu Clan, the wall in front of me dwarfed even the Tang Clan I saw back in Sichuan. 
  Beyond the imposing wall laid even larger buildings. 
  This was a place that was called the heart and the center of the Orthodox Faction. 
  The Murim Alliance.
  For me, it had been several years since I last laid eyes on this place, including both my past and present life. 
  It wasn’t too difficult to enter the Murim Alliance. After all, I spent a few days in Bacheonmaru…
  And I had more than enough proof to show them. 
  I was currently in the waiting room so that I could participate in the Dragons and Phoenixes tournament. 
  ‘A gold room, huh?’ 
  The change in treatment from the silver room I had in Bacheonmaru raised some questions in my mind.  
  ‘No need to think too deeply… It’s obviously because of the Dishonored Venerable.’
  The recommendation letter I showed back in Bacheonmaru, along with the invitation letter. 
  It seemed like the Murim Alliance was already notified of that.
  I was already able to see the benefits of a Heavenly Venerable’s recommendation letter. 
  Though it had its downsides. 
  Oh well, I couldn’t really do anything about it since it had already happened. 
  “The meeting will start in around 15 minutes. If you need a change of clothing – “
  “It’s fine. I brought my own.”
  While the Dragons and Phoenixes tournament may be for the young prodigies to showcase their talents and growth to the world…
  The Murim Alliance’s main goal was to foster connections among everyone present. 
  The tournament served as a platform for noble bloodlines to gather, allowing them to network, introduce themselves, and forge connections for the future. 
  Without that, the noble clans would have little incentive to send their blood relatives to this place. 
  […It’s all gone wrong. It wasn’t like this back in my days.]
  If a young prodigy wanted to showcase their training, physical prowess, and their belief as a martial artist…
  ‘There are better places than this one.’
  And that would be the Heavenly Dragon Academy established by the Murim Alliance, an educational institution for swordsmen. 
  Or the separately run Heavenly Dragon Festival. 
  Those places would be better.
  Heavenly Dragon this, Heavenly Dragon that, and even the title Heavenly Dragon.
  It seemed like the Murim Alliance really liked the name Heavenly Dragon.
  ‘Heavenly Dragon, huh…’
  I wondered why I was reminded of that giant snake I saw back in the secret vault. 
  The demon that bore an uncanny resemblance to what I thought a dragon would look like. 
  I still had a clear memory of that snake looking at me with its golden eyes. 
  ‘Isn’t this too random of a thought?’
  Even I thought that I brought this up quite randomly.
  Was I nervous or something?
  ‘Me becoming nervous in this kid’s playground?’
  It was more likely that my physical body was getting nervous rather than my mind.
  Or at least that was me coping about the situation. 
  “Young Master, your clothes-”
  “Oh, right. I’ll leave it to you.”
  Hongwa came towards me and carefully helped me wear my uniform. 
  Changing clothes was such a hassle. 
  However, I had to since the first day of the Dragons and Phoenixes tournament was a gathering day.
  It was so that everyone could meet each other, socialize, and also make friends.
  And because of that, I was practically forced to change clothes. 
  Even Father, who I thought wouldn’t care, gave me clothes to change into, so this day must be quite important. 
  While changing my clothes without complaints, I spoke to Hongwa. 
  “Could you please skip the accessory part?”
  “Oh, don’t worry, Young Master. I knew you’d feel that way, so I didn’t bring any.”
  Well, that made me a little sad. 
  Usually, for something like this, shouldn’t she say, ‘Our Young Master used to love shiny and expensive things, but now he doesn’t want any?’ while acting surprised?
  ‘They get used to it way too quick…’
  It seemed like Hongwa also got used to me, having  raveled with me a fair bit along with Wi Seol-Ah. 
  “Isn’t this too simplistic?”
  “This is simplistic?”
  The red clothing with some gold accents could seem simplistic compared to other people’s uniforms… 
  “This cost probably way more than your salary.”
  But it certainly wasn’t some ordinary clothing.
  Hongwa’s eyes became huge after hearing my words.
  Despite the Gu Clan’s relatively modest buildings and my frugal lifestyle after resurrection…
  The Gu Clan’s clothing had always been of exceptional quality and value. 
  “He doesn’t cut corners when it comes to something like this.”
  I could never figure out what Father was thinking.
  As I was looking for a string to tie my hair… 
  Wi Seol-Ah came with a string as if she was lying in wait.
  “Young Master!”
  “Can I tie them?”
  “What? My hair?”
  Hongwa tried to scold Wi Seol-Ah right away after hearing her request, but I blocked her with my hand.
  “Go ahead.”
  It wasn’t a difficult request at all.
  After my permission, Wi Seol-Ah quickly went behind me and started to run her fingers through my hair.
  She seemed to lack skill, but there shouldn’t be any problems.
  Since Hongwa would fix it for me if it seemed too weird.
  ‘Was Wi Seol-Ah ever good with her hands?’
  Not that I knew of, from my memories. 
  Even in my past life, I remember her struggling to tie a simple knot. 
  Unsurprisingly, the more Wi Seol-Ah fiddled with my hair, the more Hongwa’s expression became filled with despair. 
  “Let Big Sis… do the rest.”
  I’m also quite curious.
  “What’s wrong?”
  “Nothing, Young Master, there is no problem…”
  How could I believe that when such despair was so obvious on your face? 
  “There is nothing wrong with the Young Master’s hair.”
  “If I find out you are lying, you have to wear the same hairstyle as mine.” 
  “…There is a tiny bit of a problem.”
  In the end, Wi Seol-Ah backed away in disappointment and Hongwa started to fix my hair.
  Knock knock.
  But then, I felt a presence outside the waiting room door. 
  – Young Master Gu, are you in here?
  “J-Just a moment.”
  Hongwa’s hands grew more frantic upon hearing the voice outside the door.
  It seemed like things weren’t going well for her.
  – We need to see him righ- Ah! Alliance Leader, wai-
  I didn’t even give them permission, but the door slid open.
  I couldn’t help but wonder why someone was intruding when there was still some time left until the gathering time began. 
  “I apologize for suddenly com-”
  I halted upon locking eyes with the man who had entered and he, too, came to a sudden stop. 
  He was a middle-aged man who bore a kind expression and the word ‘Alliance’ was emblazoned on his uniform. 
  And he was also a man that I knew. 
  “Alliance Leader…?”
  The Leader of the Murim Alliance, the Harmonic Sword, Jang Cheon.
  He currently held the reins of the Murim Alliance and commanded great attention and respect among the Orthodox Faction. 
  So why did such a man come to see me?
  Right as Jang Cheon was about to say something, he covered his mouth slightly. 
  ‘Didn’t that man look like he was about to laugh?’
  He wasn’t laughing at my hair, right…?
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