Childhood Friend of the Zenith Chapter 142

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༺ Dragons and Phoenixes Tournament (1) ༻
  “f*ck my life.”
  I thought to myself while shaking off the bits of threads stuck to the ring. 
  What should I do with this?
  I let my guard down.
  And now I was paying the price for underestimating the Second Elder. 
  For him to be so slick with his giant physique.
  I could have never imagined this twist. 
  “No, let’s think positively. There is a chance that this isn’t actually a treasure, right?”
  Surely a treasure wouldn’t look so cheap and rusted. 
  The Mount Hua’s treasure I had last time may have been a pain in my ass, but it definitely did have traits of a treasure.
  The scent of plum flowers that had emanated from it was proof of its value.  
  “But this is just junk.”
  A ring that had rusted to the point where I couldn’t even discern its original color. 
  There seemed to be a hollow space in the center where a gem might have been, but now it was empty. 
  Maybe it had been a mistake on the Second Elder’s part. 
  Perhaps he accidentally included this ring while putting in silver coins. That had to be it. 
  [You sure you’re not just telling yourself that?]
  “Let’s be objective, does this look like a treasure to you, Elder Shin?”
  A ring that had no scent or aura.
  It felt fragile, like it would break with the slightest pressure. so there was no way such a thing was a treasure. 
  It had to be anything but that. 
  [Wouldn’t it be better to show this to the Alliance Leader first?]
  “I did consider that.”
  I could go directly to him and ask him something like ‘Is this a treasure?
  ‘But I have to go to the meetup first.’
  I couldn’t really afford to dwell on this too long, 
  Because I didn’t have much time to spare. 
  The gathering had already started quite a while ago, after all.
  So I carefully put the ring back in my pouch, hiding it deep in my pocket, and set off for the meetup. 
  Thankfully, the guide outside assured me that I wasn’t late as I opened the door.
  Inside the place was filled with people talking. 
  The place was completely filled with martial artists around my age already.
  While there were a few individuals who appeared to be in their thirties, the majority were in their twenties. 
  So I found myself among the last generation of the young prodigies. 
  It was odd to think that it wasn’t the current generation, but us, the last one, that had made a name for ourselves during the past war. 
  Inside, I recognized some people from clans I was familiar with, while others were entirely unknown to me. 
  And as I walked further into the hall, I started to see more people of familiar clans. 
  They were intentionally positioned in that way.
  Starting from Bacheonmaru, the waiting room, and now the banquet hall. 
  The stark contrast in treatment among different clans was blatantly noticeable. 
  And if you wished to avoid discrimination, you had to rise through the ranks. 
  ‘Either by being born into a more prestigious clan or by climbing the ranks yourself.’
  Wasn’t that cruel?
  They themselves already knew that surpassing those born into noble clans was nearly impossible. 
  ‘Where is it?’
  The spot I was assigned was all the way to the front row. 
  This, too, was most likely because of the recommendation letter I showed. 
  After walking for a bit while looking around, I saw Gu Jeolyub, who was seated. 
  Gu Jeolyub had also noticed me, as our eyes met.
  ‘I guess we weren’t assigned the same seats.’
  He was sitting closer to the front, but not right at the front. 
  It was a good way to see where the Gu Clan ranked compared to other clans. 
  ‘Though he could have likely sat with us since we were in the same crew.’
  It seemed like Gu Jeolyub and I were purposely separated. 
  However, there was a problem looming nearby. 
  “You bastard, so you were from the Gu Clan.”
  Gu Jeolyub happened to be sitting right near Hwangbo Cheolwi, whom he had fought last time. 
  Hwangbo Cheolwi had a scowling face, while Gu Jeolyub appeared to be silently cursing his luck, indicating that he wasn’t in the best situation. 
  ‘Endure until the gathering ends.’
  Even if Hwangbo Cheolwi was hot-headed and reckless, the Alliance Leader would soon arrive to start the event. 
  And once it ended, everyone should start moving, so things should improve from there. 
  I looked away and continued walking. 
  When I passed a certain point, I felt a change in the atmosphere. 
  The noble clans, the blood relatives of noble clans, or those who made huge donations to the Murim Alliance every year. 
  Those who basically acted as the pillar of the Murim Alliance, were seated in the frontmost row. It was a completely different atmosphere. 
  And my destination was the very front row. 
  I found Wi Seol-ah and Namgung Bi-ah standing far away.
  Those two must have found me a while ago, as they were already looking at me. 
  I suppressed the smile that crept onto my lips and made my way toward them.
  As I drew closer, I saw Moyong Hi-ah and Tang Soyeol as well.
  When I walked closer to them, my breath caught as I noticed the person conversing with Tang Soyeol. 
  I saw a boy talking to her with a smile on his face. 
  It felt like the world around me suddenly became silent. 
  Starting from my feet that had come to a halt, I felt a hot breath climb up my body through my abdomen. 
  When I released the breath that I was holding, it came out as a searing heat. 
  I tried to calm down my Qi, but it only got worse, as I stared at that boy. 
  ‘The Meteor Sword.’ 
  The fiancé of Wi Seol-ah in my past life. 
  The man who betrayed the Murim Alliance.
  The man that I wanted to kill the most was standing there in his youthful form. 
  How could I just hold it in?
  When I could see his disgusting eyes and hands right there in front of my eyes?
  – Do not forget your role. I’m saying you shouldn’t forget where you belong. 
  His current smile reminded me of the way he had spoken to me in the past. 
  – You crawl on the floor, while you give the shining world to her? What a hero you are. But so what? You’re still a demonic human in the end. 
  – Don’t be mistaken. Whether it’s her, the world, or even time, you have nothing. 
  – It doesn’t even belong to the Heavenly Demon.
  Flames began to flicker behind my back. This life was different from my past life. 
  I knew that more than anyone.
  However, I realized once again. That I couldn’t forget anything that had happened in that life.
  – All of it is mine. After all, I swore to myself that it would be. 
  The bastard said that to me when he saw me for the last time, right before the Heavenly Demon and the Celestial Sword fought. 
  It was still clear to me.
  His eyes from back then. 
  And the desire blazing within his eyes.
  And me, who couldn’t do anything despite noticing that.
  All of it was still clear to me.
  One step.
  Towards that bastard, I took just one step. 
  I myself didn’t even know what I would do to him.  
  Right at then,
  “What are you doing?”
  My boiling anger started to go away when someone grabbed my wrist. 
  I then looked at the person who grabbed me. 
  The first thing I noticed was her short hair that barely reached her shoulders,
  And she looked at me with those same black eyes again. 
  The girl flinched when our eyes met. 
  Then the girl, Peng Ah-hee, asked me. 
  “You. What did you try to do just now?”
  “…I didn’t do anything.”
  “At least say that after you fix your eyes. Do you even realize how you look right now?”
  I wondered. Judging by the slight fear in Peng Ah-hee’s eyes, I must have appeared quite intimidating. 
  I didn’t let out any killing intent, though.
  Thankfully, I controlled myself just enough to hide that. 
  “Do you know him?”
  Peng Ah-hee asked.
  She was referring to Jang Seonyeon, who I was looking at.
  After calming the heat inside my body, I shook my head. 
  “No, I don’t know him.”
  “You go to someone you don’t know with such eyes?”
  “He happened to look similar to someone I hated, so I couldn’t help it.”
  “Just because of that…? You still don’t have a very good personality, huh?”
  Seeing Peng Ah-hee’s apparent disgust with me, I felt like I was slowly regaining my senses. 
  Peng Ah-hee continued to stare at me as she spoke. 
  “It’s been a while since we last met, but instead of a greeting, your first instinct is to cause trouble. I guess that’s just the way you are.” 
  “It has been a while. How have you been?”
  “I practically had to drag that out of you. Just drop it.”
  Peng Woojin mentioned that Peng Ah-hee was also coming the last time I spoke to him, and here I was running into her unexpectedly. 
  “I did see Young Lord Peng earlier.”
  “I already had a feeling he’d come to you, considering all he does is talk about you in the clan… So stop talking about that bastard. I get pissed off just hearing about him.”
  It seemed like Peng Ah-hee was still busy keeping Peng Woojin under control.
  I worked on calming myself down as I noticed the sweat forming on my back.
  ‘That was dangerous.’
  Whatever I was trying to do, I almost did it without even thinking.
  ‘Elder Shin.’
  I called for Elder Shin, but there was no response from him.
  I bit my lips slightly. I knew something like this was going to happen.
  Back in Mount Hua, when I couldn’t control my anger, I had lost my connection with Elder Shin as well. 
  Since consuming that flower from Mount Hua, I hadn’t experienced any outbursts like this. 
  ‘Is it because I’m running low again on demonic Qi?’
  It was clear that I needed to consume more demonic Qi to keep the energy within me in check. 
  But did it also affect my emotions? 
  I had expected it to last a few months, but it seemed to have dwindled faster than I thought. 
  “Where’s your seat?”
  I glanced over at my seat after hearing Peng Ah-hee’s question.
  When Peng Ah-hee looked towards the spot where my crew was, she made a slightly shocked expression. 
  “For some reason, all those people are females?”
  “Just a coincidence…”
  “Yeah, it would be, given that you don’t really have a face that would charm any girls.”
  “Why insult me when we’ve just met again after so long?” 
  “How lucky of you to be surrounded by a garden full of flowers all by yourself. Those girls have so many eyes on them already.”
  I looked around and realized she was right. It made sense as there was not just one, but a bunch of girls with beauty that would undoubtedly draw many eyes. 
  “And your spot?”
  Peng Ah-hee responded with her finger pointing.
  As expected, Peng Ah-hee also was in the front seat. 
  “You’re already late so go and sit for now. We’ll talk later.”
  I couldn’t help but make a strange expression after hearing Peng Ah-hee. What does she mean by ‘we’ll talk later?’
  Peng Ah-hee smirked, as she read my expression.
  “I heard that you had an engagement, but that doesn’t mean things have to be awkward between us, right?”
  Our engagement had been broken when we were younger, and we had settled our relationship amicably the last time we met a few months ago. 
  And it wasn’t like we actually liked each other anyway.
  So after we had resolved our animosities, our relationship had become more comfortable. 
  It was hard to explain it in words.
  “And I said this last time, but I’m older than you. So stop talking so informally.”
  Peng Ah-hee said before walking toward her seat. 
  The Alliance Leader would arrive soon, so I also needed to find my own seat and sit down.
  ‘I feel calmer, thanks to her.’
  When I took my eyes off Peng Ah-hee’s back, my sights naturally went towards that bastard again. 
  My emotions that boiled instantly, cooled down just because of this little thing. 
  My anger, resentment, contempt, and desire to kill still remained, but they no longer had full control over my mind. 
  I was able to control my emotions. And that was just because I talked with Peng Ah-hee? I’m sure she helped, but I didn’t think that was the sole reason that helped me calm down. 
  I carefully approached my group, managing my expression in order to avoid drawing attention to myself. 
  ‘I’m worried about Elder Shin.’
  There was a good chance that he’d be gone for a long time like last time.
  Since it wasn’t stange for him to disappear at any moment. 
  As I drew closer to my crew, Tang Soyeol noticed me as well.
  Tang Soyeol’s cold expression instantly melted into her usual cheerful one. 
  “Young Master Gu…!”
  “I’m sorry, I’m late.”
  “I-I was worried.”
  As I arrived, Jang Seonyeon also turned his gaze towards me. 
  I spoke to Jang Seonyeon first.
  “And, you are?”
  I barely managed to tone down my aggression, so I couldn’t afford to even make an attempt at a smile. 
  On the contrary, Jang Seonyeon smiled back at my words.
  “I am Taeryung Clan’s Jang Seonyeon.” 
  “Taeryung Clan, you say…”
  After hearing Jang Seonyeon’s introduction, Tang Soyeol and Moyong Hi-ah’s way of looking at him changed. 
  It was understandable since that clan belonged to the current leader of the Murim Alliance. 
  ‘Of course, it had to be around this time.’
  I bit my lips slightly. 
  Now, I understood why young prodigies received better treatment from the Murim Alliance, starting from the rooms they were provided. 
  This was the moment when Jang Seonyeon made his debut as a young prodigy. 
  The beginning of his rise to fame as he showcased his genius talents. 
  “Yes, I happened to overhear a conversation about my father… So I couldn’t help but join in on this lady’s conversation.”
  Tang Soyeol shut her mouth when she saw Jang Seonyeon’s smile. 
  It appeared that she was talking about the Alliance Leader. 
  I then glanced over at Wi Seol-ah.
  Thankfully, Wi Seol-ah was yawning in the back without being noticed. It seemed like she didn’t converse with Jang Seonyeon. 
  “It is nice to meet you. I’m quite embarrassed as it’s my first time in a place like this.”
  After saying those words, Jang Seonyeon reached his hand out to me.
  I stared at that hand for a bit, then slowly grabbed it.
  Jang Seonyeon’s expression turned shocked as he felt the pressure from my grip. 
  “Yes, it is nice to meet you as well.”
  I kept my potentially explosive killing intent confined within my body,
  And hid my hatred towards him beneath the surface. 
  I tried my best to speak calmly and softened my rough tone, channeling my emotions into my blazing gaze. 
  “I am Gu Yangcheon of Shanxi’s Gu Clan.”
  Back when I met Nachal in Mount Hua, he said these words to me.
  – You should at least know the name of someone who’s going to kill you.
  I wondered…
  Why did those words suddenly come to mind?
  As I stared at Jang Seonyeon, I purposely raised my lips to form a smile. 
  “Oh, uh…Oh.”
  I then saw Tang Soyeol react strangely which I ignored. 
  Because my attention was solely on Jang Seonyeon while holding back a plethora of feelings…
  I failed to notice.
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