Childhood Friend of the Zenith Chapter 145

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༺ Dragons and Phoenixes Tournament (4) ༻
  Gu Jeolyub was born in Gu Sunmoon. 
  He had few memories of his parents, who died in the Abyss when he was five years old,
  And the first person who took the role of a parent was his grandfather, Gu Changjun. 
  Gu Changjun, who desired the position of the Gu Clan’s Lord, took advantage of Gu Jeolyub’s talent and charming appearance.
  And Gu Jeolyub, who tried to listen to his grandfather’s will, despite the pressure it imposed… 
  Had a small dream that no one, not even his grandfather Gu Changjun, knew.
  Gu Jeolyub wanted to become a hero.
  A true hero that saves the weak from the dangers of this world. 
  There really wasn’t a grand reason for his goal. 
  The person that Gu Jeolyub respected the most was the Sword Emperor. 
  He couldn’t help but look up to the martial artist who had achieved everything solely through his talent as a swordsman. 
  Back when the Sword Emperor was still active, he was called the Wind Sword, as well as a hero.
  Not even the critiques, calling him a vigilante, could block his will to help the world,
  And all the achievements he earned through unwavering determination eventually earned him the title of Sword Emperor in his later years. 
  What did it mean to be a hero?
  What was this so-called hero that stirred a young boy’s heart with a flaming spirit?
  To a young boy, it was too difficult of a question, yet undeniably simple at the same time. 
– A martial artist’s belief should never be twisted,
– And to be a hero means that they should follow their heart.
– If you follow your heart, that is when you become a hero.
  Long ago, back when the Sword Emperor was still called the Wind Sword,
  He said those words after single-handedly stopping a True Demonic Gate. 
  And these words became famous enough to touch every swordsman’s heart. 
  And this was also the primary catalyst that made Gu Jeolyub have such a dream. 
  – Let’s become a hero.
  – No, I will become one.
  If it was required for a person to follow their heart in order to become a hero…
  Then, that was precisely the kind of person he needed to become. 
  In order to do that, Gu Jeolyub needed to become an adult first. 
  As a young child, he had seen only one path before him and at that time, it had felt right. 
  However, as Gu Jeoylub’s thought process matured, he began to realize more and more.
  That the path he was taking was a little twisted. 
  The reason why Gu Jeolyub didn’t complain once to Gu Changjun’s desires…
  Was because he thought that his grandfather’s goal was similar to his.
  Even if that meant that his life became humiliated in the process. 
  The heir of the clan selfishly and viciously bullied his servants. 
  ‘Which was why I destroyed him in a duel.’
  Instead of a person like Gu Yangcheon becoming the lord of the clan, Gu Jeolyub thought that it was much better for him to become the lord, just like how his grandfather had told him ever since he was young. 
  Gu Jeolyub never really wanted to become the lord of the clan, but he thought that it was better than Gu Yangcheon becoming one instead. 
  Just like that, a year has passed and that day came. 
  The starting point of change and the most humiliating day that Gu Jeolyub had ever experienced. 
  The day he lost to Gu Yangcheon in a duel. 
  Gu Yangcheon, who couldn’t even reach his clothes before, was still just as small.
  Not only did he have a poor physique, but his tone of voice was still as distasteful as ever. 
  But for some reason, Gu Jeolyub felt a strange feeling, perhaps due to Gu Yangcheons’ eyes. 
  Those eyes were cold and hollow.
  It looked like a calm lake devoid of any emotion. 
  This made it harder for Gu Jeolyub to read his mind. 
  Moreover, he couldn’t meet Gu Yangcheon’s gaze directly because his breathing became erratic and his words stifled.
  Just like a rabbit trembling in fear in front of a beast. 
  ‘Me? There is no way…!’
  He couldn’t accept such a reality and charged in recklessly. 
  And, as now known, only a humiliating defeat awaited him. 
  But one thing that became clear from this experience was that Gu Jeolyub had a rather keen sense. 
  As he was able to notice Gu Yangcheon’s threatening aura.
  – Young Masterrrrr!
  Judging by how Gu Yangcheon looked at his servant after the duel and how his servant looked back at him…
  Gu Jeolyub was able to learn one thing.
  That Gu Yangcheon might not be the horrible person that he used to be.
  And that he didn’t possess enough talent to deduce someone’s capabilities only through speculation. 
  ‘I am an imperfect human.’
  Then how could one become perfect?
  ‘I do not know.’
  Gu Jeolyub didn’t know, since he wasn’t perfect himself.
  What defined a hero?
  What distinguished justice from injustice? Gu Jeolyub didn’t know the answer yet.
  “Caused some trouble back in the lodge, eh?”
  Gu Jeolyub repeatedly asked himself, he knew one thing for sure.
  “Why no response? Are you afraid, perhaps? Because you don’t have your crew with you?”
  Justice was the clearer path over injustice. 
  So clear that he couldn’t possibly mistake it. 
  Hwangbo Cheolwi continued to insult him, but Gu Jeolyub didn’t react to it.
  – You should only act when you know you’re certain you can handle the consequences. 
  – If you can’t afford to clean up the mess you make, then channel your energy elsewhere alone.
  Gu Jeolyub still vividly remembered what Gu Yangcheon told him back in Bacheonmaru.
  He wasn’t the one in the wrong.
  After all, there was no wrongdoing in trying to save a lady in distress. 
  But even so, Gu Yangcheon’s words bothered him. And Gu Jeolyub did not know why.
  “If you’re going to be so scared like this, then why did you try to go up against this mighty Hwangbo?”
  After saying those words, he broke into laughter as if he had realized something.
  “Oh, is it because of your crew at the back? There were some nice-looking girls. How could a guy like you mix in between them? You’re just from a mere Gu Clan, after all.”
  ‘Mere’, he said.
  Those words bothered him the most, but he didn’t display it.
  Because he felt that getting involved in this trouble would likely bring more harm than good, just like last time.
  ‘I’m not holding back because of what happened last time.’
  Gu Jeolyub tried to convince himself that he wasn’t holding back because of last time, when Gu Yangcheon forced him to plant his head to the ground. 
  With his attention on Gu Jeolyub, Hwangbo Cheolwi continued to speak.
  “That guy at the front.”
  Gu Jeolyub slightly moved his shoulder after hearing Hwangbo Cheolwi.
  “The one surrounded by all those girls. Is he the son of the Tiger Warrior? Because it’s definitely not you.”
  There were too many clues to suggest how Hwangbo Cheolwi had reached this conclusion. 
  Gu Yangcheon’s attire featured the distinctive red with gold highlights, which symbolized the Gu Clan.
  And unlike Gu Jeolyub’s cold and sharp appearance, Gu Yangcheon had a fierce demeanor, which was the Gu Clan’s trait.
  And along with that, he had black hair and eyes that slightly glowed red. 
  He was showing all of the typical traits of the Gu Clan martial artists. 
  “How does that seat belong to him? Even I, Hwangbo sat here…”
  Since he wasn’t fond of that realization, 
  Hwangbo Cheolwi’s breathing got rougher.
  Then, he lifted his mouth upwards to form a horrifying smile.
  It looked as if he was smiling on purpose.
  “How did I not know already? He obviously secured that seat by offering up his clan’s treasure.” 
  Gu Jeolyub lifted his eyebrow ever so slightly after hearing Hwangbo Cheolwi.
  Was that really the case? 
  Gu Jeolyub may have believed such words if they were directed at the Gu Yangcheon from before, but the Gu Yangcheon he had observed through the trip wasn’t like that.
  He was completely different from his past self.
  “And to see that, I must assume that you also have a hard time.”
  Gu Jeolyub couldn’t help but open his mouth after hearing Hwangbo Cheolwi.
  “About what?”
  “I can somewhat understand how you feel, considering that little kid is the son of the Tiger Warrior.” 
  Why had his target switched to Gu Yangcheon all of a sudden?
  A look into Hwangbo Cheolwi’s eyes revealed the reason. 
  It was because of the girls surrounding Gu Yangcheon.
  Gu Yangcheon didn’t seem to realize it, but everyone could see it from far away.
  That a beauty that could be called an eternal flower was treating Gu Yangcheon with great care.
  Whenever Gu Yangcheon finished his tea, she promptly refilled it as if she was waiting.
  She would clean up the crumbs left from his distracted eating, 
  And whenever he showed signs that he was a bit hot, she used her hands to fan him. 
  Even in Gu Jeolyub’s eyes, Gu Yangcheon was receiving treatment that would make anyone envious. 
  And it seemed like Hwangbo Cheolwi wasn’t pleased with the seat assignments for the members of the Hwangbo Clan, while Gu Yangcheon was sitting in the gold row, getting pampered. 
  ‘Just watching him is enough to get second-hand embarrassment.’
  But Gu Jeolyub couldn’t solely criticize Hwangbo Cheolwi for feeling this way, as he also harbored similar feelings towards Gu Yangcheon.
  Hwangbo Cheolwi spoke.
  “He’s called the troublemaker of Shanxi, correct?”
  “He doesn’t have a single good rumor about him. I heard he lacks talent and has a terrible personality. Compared to his bloodline, he’s rather pathetic.” 
  “I heard as well. They said that he couldn’t even accomplish half of what his sister did.”
  “I did, too, I heard that he was completely different from his father and sister. Unlike him, the Sword Phoenix only showed amazing talent in the earlier Dragons and Phoenixes tournaments…”
  “And not just the Sword Phoenix, I heard his second sister shouldn’t be underestimated either. They said that she wasn’t far from the Sword Phoenix in terms of talent.” 
  “But then, the son that would lead the clan’s future is a complete disappointment … Hehe.”
  Along with Hwangbo Cheolwi, other people also joined in to disparage Gu Yangcheon.
  Gu Jeolyub’s fist clenched without himself noticing. 
  Gu Yangcheon wasn’t like that.
  And Gu Jeolyub was able to learn that during their journey together. 
  Despite the grueling nature of their trip, Gu Yangcheon trained excessively, to the point that it gave Gu Jeolyub goosebumps whenever he secretly watched him. 
  Despite being younger, Gu Yangcheon engaged in rigorous training every day. 
  Gu Jeolyub couldn’t help but wonder if Gu Yangcheon ever slept, considering that he seemed to be training most of the time. 
  And after getting humiliated by him in the duel, he realized.
  That he was far out of Gu Yangcheon’s league right now. 
  And judging by how Gu Yangcheon treated his servants, Gu Jeolyub even wondered if he was a completely different person. 
  What kind of master would care if their servants ate or not?
  What kind of master would dry their wet clothes with his heat?
  Gu Jeolyub saw that even his servants who had accompanied him on the journey seemed envious of those serving Gu Yangcheon. 
  ‘Is Gu Yangcheon really a bad human being?’
  Gu Jeolyub definitely thought so in the past,
  But he wasn’t sure anymore. Instead, Gu Jeolyub looked like a worse human being than Gu Yangcheon.
  Gu Jeolyub’s breathing got rougher with every second. His emotion seemed to have affected his breath control.
  It wasn’t because he got angry after hearing them talk badly about Gu Yangcheon.
  In fact, Gu Jeolyub probably would have preferred it if others spoke ill of him. 
  But even so, his anger stemmed from the feeling that Hwangbo Cheolwi’s comments about Gu Yangcheon were directed at him, Gu Jeolyub, instead.
  Without noticing Gu Jeolyub’s internal turmoil, Hwangbo Cheolwi continued to speak.
  “We have a guy like that in our clan as well, even with the name of Hwangbo, he’s useless and talentless… I get angry every time I see him.”
  “I don’t like you, but you seem to have talent, unlike him. So isn’t it relatable? That you get angry seeing that the blood relative of your clan is so pathetic and powerless. Oh, maybe you don’t care since you aren’t part of the main bloodline?”
  After saying everything he wanted, Hwangbo Cheolwi started to gulp down the tea that was in front of him as if it were a refreshing beverage. 
  “Plus, he only watched from the sidelines last time. How unmanly of him.”
  It seemed like he was referring to the incident when Gu Jeolyub got into a fight with Hwangbo Cheolwi.
  Hwangbo Cheolwi looked pathetic when he spoke so shamelessly, as if threatening a lady wasn’t a wrongdoing. 
  In the end, Gu Jeolyub let out a sigh and placed his hand on his sword, strapped to his waist. 
  It was so that he could pull it out whenever he wished. 
  He tried his best to hold it in…
  But he was reaching his limits.
  “He needs no further education, since the tournament is starting soon. Once he faces against this Hwangbo, I’ll kindly- “
  “Stop barking already.”
  The room momentarily fell into silence. 
  This obviously included the endlessly speaking Hwangbo Cheolwi and the people around him.
  At the same time that Hwangbo Cheolwi spoke, Gu Jeolyub continued while flowing his Qi slowly. 
  “What did you say?”
  “I feel like my ears are rotting, so stop barking.”
  “You little… “
  “Hwangbo. It’s a great clan. I know that myself.”
  The King of Savage Beasts. 
  Hwangbo Clan was the clan that had the Savage Beast Fist as their leader. 
  At one point, they were on the cusp of becoming one of the Four Noble Clans, but time passed and so did their prestige. 
  But even so, they were still a noble clan.
  And no one could deny that fact. 
  “However, I do not know if you are a person talented enough to inherit that name in the future. In my eyes, you look just like a savage beast, barking without knowing its place.”
  After hearing Gu Jeolyub, Hwangbo Cheolwi instantly exploded his Qi.
  The Qi wave he emitted felt dense, which was unexpected from someone like Hwangbo Cheolwi.
  He truly was worthy of being a blood relative of a noble clan.
  “You piece of… What the hell are you saying!”
  He displayed his giant physique when he stood up. And his body definitely looked well-trained.
  But Gu Jeolyub wasn’t afraid.
  He had a keen sense. So he was able to know.
  This guy was certainly weaker than himself.
  “How dare a lower being like you show fangs to me, this Hwangbo!”
  He continued to emit more Qi without caring for his surroundings. During this, Gu Jeolyub observed Hwangbo Cheolwi’s movements.
  His verbal tirade continued. 
  “I heard that Hwangbo means ‘the Tiger of the Central Plains’, but how could your behavior seem more like a cat than a beast?” 
  Hwangbo Cheolwi smiled after hearing that.
  “How dare you mock me, Hwangbo, when you come from the Gu clan, known for its fire, yet in reality, that fire is smaller than a torch flame? I was even being generous, but y…!”
  “Only the strong can be generous to the weak. And unfortunately, you cannot do that with me.”
  “You little…”
  In the end, Hwangbo Cheolwi couldn’t hold it in and started to flex his muscles. 
  As his body size increased, Gu Jeolyub felt overpowered. 
  He put his hand on his sword immediately. He started to regret his actions as he thought that he had just caused big trouble.
  But he couldn’t afford to back down now.
  This was a matter of his pride.
  ‘Grandfather might kill me when I return.’
  Ironically enough, that was what was on his mind during this.
  He was reminded of Gu Changjun’s face when he said Gu Jeolyub could shine brighter than Gu Yangcheon.
  But that was impossible right now. Gu Jeolyub knew that he wasn’t a person who was capable of shining brighter than Gu Yangcheon. 
  He just had to follow Gu Yangcheon for now.
  Then he will surpass him one day. Not because of the First Elder’s desire, but for his own dream.
  “I’m not fond of your constant interruptions, but fine. I, Hwangbo, will gladly rip your mouth apart right in this spot.”
  Hwangbo Cheolwi started to walk forward.
  His movements were accompanied by impressive Qi emanating from his feet. 
  ‘His shoulder moved, then his left arm.’
  Gu Jeolyub’s eyes moved fast. To react sensitively to even a small movement.
  Funnily enough, this was what Gu Yangcheon taught him.
  – Huh, are you trying to run away? Your thigh is moving!
  – N…No sir!”
  – No, my ass! Your feet are already showing it all.
  – Oww!
  It definitely wasn’t a good memory. It was more bullying than teaching. The trip felt like hell, but it also contributed to Gu Jeolyub’s growth. 
  Hwangbo Cheolwi moved. He already expected the path his opponent would take.
  He would dodge his left arm and make him powerless by hitting his chin with the sword-
  Gu Jeolyub, who was ready to get into posture, suddenly felt a chilling sensation, so he looked behind him.
  It was a stupid decision to make, as Hwangbo Cheolwi was in front of him, but his senses were telling him to do so.
  ‘Two people.’
  An aura that was in a whole different league.
  Gu Jeolyub tracked the owners of the aura that seemed intent on interfering.  
  One of them was the Lightning Dragon, Namgung Cheonjun, whom he saw back in Bacheonmaru… 
  And the other was the son of the Alliance Leader, a boy named Jang Seonyeon, who had garnered much attention. 
  The chilling aura made cold sweat trickle down his cheek. 
  Gu Jeolyub realized that if either of the two decided to intervene, he wouldn’t stand a chance against their strength. 
  ‘Thank goodness.’
  He was thankful for his sharp senses. 
  However, while gulping down his saliva, he noticed something strange.
  The Lightning Dragon, who had his hand placed on his sword…
  And Jang Seonyeon, who was flowing around his Qi.
  Instead of charging in, they were looking in his direction with widened eyes. To be more precise, they were gazing in front of him.
  This applied to all the other young prodigies as well, who had been spectating the whole situation. 
  Their expressions conveyed shock, as if they were witnessing a monstrous sight beyond belief. 
  Then Gu Jeolyub realized. 
  Hwangbo Cheolwi, who was in front of him, showed no reaction.
  Gu Jeolyub’s eyes followed the gazes of everyone else present and looked towards Hwangbo Cheolwi.
  What Gu Jeolub saw was not a giant martial artist showing off his physique. Instead, Hwangbo Cheolwi was on his knees.
  He had already lost consciousness, his eyes turning blank white as he slowly collapsed to the ground. 
  A giant who was well over 8 feet, crumbled so easily like a sand castle being swept by the wind.
  Then Gu Jeolyub was able to see…
  The person that was standing in front of him.
  “I don’t understand.”
  Hwangbo Cheolwi collapsed next to a fierce boy.
  “I should be the one causing trouble, so why are you the one acting out? You f*cker, you followed me so you could do this, right?”
  Gu Jeolyub instinctively took a step back after seeing the boy shake off his hands. 
  His survival instinct was telling him to do so.
  No Qi could be felt from the boy.
  And Gu Jeolyub couldn’t even tell when he approached so closely.
  Unlike Namgung Cheonjun and Jang Seonyeon’s Qi, nothing could be felt from the boy.
  The boy, Gu Yangcheon, spoke with glowing red eyes.
  “You really are no help at all.”
  Gu Yangcheon’s soft voice echoed throughout the banquet hall.
  The volume of his voice was ordinary, as he didn’t use Qi to enhance his voice.
  But since all the young prodigies were watching him with their mouths shut, it resonated loud and clear. 
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