Childhood Friend of the Zenith Chapter 151

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༺ Friendly Martial Arts Competition (4) ༻
  Two days have passed since the tournament kicked off.  
  There was another fight after the first one, but it didn’t attract as much attention as Tang Soyeol’s fight did.
  That was because it was unbelievable that one of the Five Dragons and Three Phoenixes got eliminated right from the start. 
  Thanks to that, word spread like wildfire. 
  “Did you hear? The Poison Phoenix has already been eliminated.

  “What the hell are you saying? Did you drink this early in the day?”
  “…Why don’t you believe me? I swear it’s real.”
  It was indeed unbelievable, but evidence was all around. 
  “The son of the Alliance Leader?”
  “Yeah! I heard that the Poison Phoenix couldn’t even use her power to the fullest and fainted. They said that they were in different leagues.”
  “…And that’s the Poison Phoenix we are talking about? Is that really possible?”
  “Well, he is the bloodline of the Harmonic Sword… Wait, isn’t there an open spot in the Five Dragons and Three Phoenixes?”
  “Yeah, which is why everyone is excited, since a new dragon might be born.”
  “But what about that other boy? You know, the one from the Gu Clan… “
  This was what it meant to be part of the Five Dragons and Three Phoenixes in the world. 
  The symbol of the greatest genius that represented the Orthodox Faction. 
  And the Murim Alliance knew that as well, which was why they put an immense amount of effort into arranging a good bracket when hosting tournaments.
  As things could turn out badly if two genius prodigies met early in the first round.
  ‘I can tell just by looking at this.’
  That the Murim Alliance was pushing for Jang Seonyeon.
  So that he could become the new star.
  One thing that piqued my curiosity at this point; The absence of some of the Five Dragons and Three Phoenixes from the tournament. 
  It made sense that the Sword Phoenix would sit this one out. 
  I knew my crazy sister’s personality and it was perfectly possible that she skipped it just because she felt like it. 
  But the Sword Dragon…
  And the Water Dragon.
  Did they really not come out of their own will?
  ‘I’m not sure.’
  However, I started to suspect that perhaps the Murim Alliance had a hand in their absence. 
  Thinking about the Celestial Plum Blossom I met back in Mount Hua, he didn’t strike me as the kind of person who’d let such things slide. 
  But one never knew what went on in someone else’s mind. 
  Anyway, the Snow Phoenix and the Lightning Dragon were able to make it to the next rounds of the tournament without breaking a sweat.
  And the same applied to Gu Jeolyub and Namgung Bi-ah as well.
  Namgung Bi-ah, especially, won while maintaining a bored expression throughout all of her fights. 
  And some of the crazy folks who were smitten by that appearance started spreading rumors about her being the flower of Namgung Clan or something.
  Which really made me realize once again how many crazy f*ckers there were in this world. 
  ‘Gu Jeolyub was a bit unexpected though.’
  I knew that Gu Jeolyub had talent, but he did get lucky with the bracket. 
  As he was put against an opponent who was considered somewhat weak. 
  And there were more unexpected outcomes.
  Because some of the people that I thought would undoubtedly win ended up losing. 
  This included the young man I faced named Bi Yeonsum. 
  ‘…He got extremely unlucky this time.’
  He wasn’t bad at all. 
  He was able to precisely put his Qi into his sword, which meant that he was among the top young prodigies. 
  But the problem was that he had to face me. 
  ‘Did I go too hard on him?’
  Maybe I should have taken it easier on him, but I was in a hurry.
  And I also wanted to show what I was capable of.
  “My name is Woo Leehyun, and I’m a third-generation disciple of the Wudang Sect.”
  “Gu Yangcheon from Shanxi’s Gu Clan.”
  Judging by the way he held his sword, pointing it out slightly… 
  And the way he stared and breathed…
  ‘He’s from the Wudang Sect, huh.’
  I was able to see it right away.
  Not from his introduction, but from the aura I felt from him.
  He looked like a calm martial artist, maybe a year or two older than me. 
  This was the second day of the tournament.
  And it was also the fight that was deemed the most crucial, as it would determine who advanced to the top eight. 
  As I was stretching, Woo Leehyun suddenly spoke to me.
  “I heard many things about you,”
  “That you finished all your earlier opponents in one blow.”
  “Oh… yeah, it kinda just happened.”
  How could I resist when I could blatantly see their opening?
  Every opponent I faced left themselves vulnerable, whether it was their chin or chest.
  They would have died by getting stabbed if it was a real battle. 
  Kids these days I swear… tsk tsk.
  ‘And did a rumor spread again during that time?’
  I did hear just earlier about some people talking about me being the disciple of the Dishonored Venerable or whatever. 
  Though the buzz about me had faded somewhat due to Jang Seonyeon’s victory over Tang Soyeol. 
  Woo Leehyun responded to my words with a glint in his eyes. 
  “I won’t be defeated that easily like the others.”
  “Ah, I see.”
  Everyone said that too.
  ‘If you’re gonna get ready, at least fix your leg- …Never mind.’
  What’s the point of criticizing him in my thoughts?
  I had my own reservations about the Wudang Sect.
  As it reminded me of that one guy who boasted incessantly about his amazing sword. 
  “Disciple Woo.”
  “Can I also ask you something?”
  Woo Leehyun seemed somewhat nervous when he heard that I had a question.
  He probably thought I was also going to taunt him like he did to me.
  ‘Why did he even taunt me in the first place if he’s gonna be so nervous?’
  It did irk me a little that he taunted me.
  However, my intention when I called him over wasn’t to provoke him.
  “It seems like the Water Dragon is not participating in this tournament.”
  Woo Leehyun’s expression oddly worsened when I brought up the famous young prodigy of the Wudang Sect. 
  “…Why are you asking about that?”
  His tone was strongly against this question.
  I knew the reason behind his unease. 
  ‘I guess he’s still the same as ever.’
  The Water Dragon was a crazy maniac like Peng Woojin, but in a different way.
  Because in the Wudang Sect, he wasn’t called the Water Dragon, but something else.
  ‘A guy too embarassing to show in public.’
  He was probably getting such treatment.
  Because despite his talent, he had a really nasty personality.
  And the reason why Woo Leehyun showed so much discomfort was because he didn’t want to discuss the Water Dragon with others. 
  I was happy now that I checked that.
  “I was just curious. We are quite close actually.”
  “…Huh? Young Lord Gu and our Senior Brother?”
  He was looking at me as if I was absurd. 
  I was obviously referring to my past life since I hadn’t really become friends with him yet.
  “Yeah, something like that.”
  When I spoke with a smile on my face, Woo Leehyun actually became even more nervous and tense. 
  Why though…?
  Why did everyone back away whenever I smiled?
  That was quite sad.
  As I let out an emotional sigh, the judge announced the start of the match, deeming both sides ready.
  Woo Leehyun held his sword and got into his stance. 
  When I saw that, I nodded in my thoughts. 
  ‘Not bad.’
  Instead of tensing his strength, he loosened himself.
  He knew the principles of the Wudang Sect’s Sword Arts. 
  It emphasized blocking rather than slashing. 
  And changing the flow of the attack instead of blocking outright. 
  If Mount Hua’s Sword Arts were about letting the roots grow deep within the ground… 
  Wudang Sect’s Sword Arts was akin to becoming a calm lake. 
  ‘It’s not bad… but…’
  Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to have fully understood the principle of his clan’s Sword Arts. 
  To be fair, it didn’t really make sense for a third-generation disciple of the Wudang Sect to have already mastered their clan’s Sword Arts to the fullest. 
  As such, it really exemplified how exceptional the Water Dragon was.
  Judging by how he pointed his sword in a careful position, he seemed to be waiting for my movement.
  ‘A good decision.’
  It was probably due to the fact that everyone who had charged at me head-on had ended up collapsing on the ground as if they were dead. 
  Now, more cautious opponents started to appear in my fights. 
  When I moved my foot slightly, Woo Leehyun’s eyes followed.
  His gaze was quite sharp. 
  ‘It makes sense why the Wudang Sect sent him here.’
  I heard that some other representatives from the Wudang Sect came in place of the Water Dragon. 
  Though it seemed like Mount Hua didn’t send anyone at all.
  Did anyone else from the Ten Sect Alliance come?
  I didn’t know as I didn’t look that far into it.
  It was a challenging time for young prodigies right now. Because even just a few years ago, young prodigies had been emerging in the world at a rapid rate.
  However, now, it felt more like a stagnant period.
  With the current generation being dominated by the Meteor Generation, comprising only the most outstanding young prodigies… 
  This era was a hell for young prodigies to thrive in. 
  As I stood still and continued to watch him, Woo Leehyun’s sword began to move slowly. 
  His sword traced the symbol of his clan.
  The strike he initiated showed that he trained endlessly. 
  But this guy also had his chin wide open.
  Woo Leehyun fainted.
  We weren’t in the same league to begin with.
  Although I had mentioned his vulnerability, it wasn’t as if he could have blocked or changed the flow of my attack anyway.
  “…Victory goes to Gu Yangcheon.’
  As soon as I heard the judge, I exited the arena. 
  His crew would probably take care of him.
  “A single blow this time too…?”
  “Was his opponent weak…?”
  “You, do you think the Wudang Sect Clan is a joke? You’re going to get punished if you keep thinking that.”
  “But seriously, whether it’s the Wudang Sect or your mom… Does it really make sense that he’s defeated everyone with one blow? We should consider that.”
  I began to overhear more people talking about me.
  To be honest, I had expected them to start talking sooner. 
  After all, if I showed this much, they should’ve already found out something was up. 
  Was it because of how many unexpected situations there were?
  But this rumor could work in my favor if it spread further, so…
  “I knew it… he really is the Dishonored Venerable’s- “
  “I’m not!”

  I couldn’t hold back and yelled, causing those bastards to quickly scatter. 
  Ugh, this personality of mine.
  ‘I can’t believe I exploded again.’
  This shitty personality always seemed to get the best of me. I was becoming frustrated with how easily I lost my cool, so I ruffled my hair in exasperation. 
  Let’s please behave like your age, Yangcheon.
  As I was calming down my anger, I sensed someone approaching. 
  “What’s… wrong?”
  A quiet, chilly voice. 
  Normally, I would have raised my guard when sensing someone approaching, but the scent I smelled along with the presence put me at ease. 
  Her bluish-white hair gently swayed in the winter breeze. 
  “It’s nothing.”
  I responded to Namgung Bi-ah, who was looking at me with a worried expression. Because it really was nothing after all.
  I had just lost my temper over something insignificant. 
  “Did you do well?”
  It seemed that way.
  I knew that she was fighting around the same time as me.
  However, judging by how she was here right now and how her uniform wasn’t dirty at all, I could see it clearly. 
  “Who was your opponent?”
  “…I don’t know…?”
  She really didn’t seem to know. I couldn’t help but feel bad for her opponent.
  They were defeated without even getting the chance to say their name. How sad.
  “You’re… going somewhere? Medical room…?”
  “Huh, what do you mean medical room all of a sudden? I’m not hurt anywhere.”
  “It’s fine. She’s probably receiving good treatment.”
  I did secretly visit Tang Soyoel this morning, although she was still asleep and unaware of it. 
  “…Then where are you going?”
  “Where you were.”
  Namgung Bi-ah tilted her head in confusion, not quite grasping what I meant.
  Then her eyes widened as realization struck her. 
  She then looked at me with a strange expression.
  It felt like she was thinking, ‘So you were worried about me’.
  “What, why?”
  Namgung Bi-ah smiled in response. 
  Then she shook her head like it was nothing. I really didn’t like how she looked right now.
  I couldn’t believe a dumbo like her was looking at me so proudly…
  “…Where is Seol-Ah?”
  As I chewed on my tongue absentmindedly, Namgung Bi-ah asked.
  “She went out.”
  “Today too…?”
  “Yeah, she seemed busy.”
  I was starting to feel a little sad about that too.
  She sounded like she would be cheering me on the whole time, yet she never appeared in the spectator seats. 
  Of course, there hadn’t been any particularly long fights for her to watch yet. 
  ‘Though she did seem tired due to how busy she was.’
  It was rare to see Wi Seol-Ah exhausted. 
  Because even when she worked a lot, she always looked bright.
  Although she did skip work from time to time. 
  ‘I should ask one day.’
  The easiest way to ask was to find Hongwa.
  But even Hongwa was hard to find.
  Slam-! Slam!
  As I walked and pondered, I started to hear sounds in the distance. 
  The sounds led me to the first group’s arena, where Namgung Bi-ah had fought just earlier.
  And in that spot currently…
  “Why is it those guys again?”
  Gu Jeolyub and Hwangbo Cheolwi were fighting against each other. Those guys again, huh.
  What a karmic bond they had. Maybe they were fated to meet each other at this point?
  At this point, I could only see it that way. 
  Hwangbo Cheolwi’s heavy, massive hand punched through the air.
  Contrary to his giant physique, his movement was quick.
  However, Gu Jeolyub was faster.
  I had mentioned this at the banquet and Bacheonmaru as well, but…
  I didn’t really have to watch this fight if I’m being honest.
  After all, that dumbass wouldn’t lose as long as he didn’t make any mistakes.
  “So why did you come…?”
  I found myself at a loss for words after hearing Namgung Bi-ah’s sudden question.
  Yeah, why did I come?
  “I was just bored.”
  My response felt rather uncool, even to me. 
  It reminded me of what Elder Shin had said about me aging backward. 
  ‘…That old man is not a Taoist I swear.’
  A Taoist, my ass.
  And he was even called a hero at that.
  “Yeah… because you were bored.”
  During this, Namgung Bi-ah responded kindly, pretending to be fooled by my words, but her eyes were already twinkling with amusement. 
  Namgung Bi-ah, who almost never smiled, showed this side of her from time to time. 
  This side where she smiled with her eyes.
  How did my life end up being treated like this?
  “Victory goes to Gu Jeolyub.

  How long was I lost in my thoughts?
  I was able to regain my consciousness thanks to the judge’s announcement, but the duel was already over. 
  Gu Jeolyub’s sword had reached Hwangbo Cheolwi’s neck, while Hwangbo Cheolwi’s fist had passed by Gu Jeolyub’s cheek, missing him, and was frozen in place.
  As soon as the fight ended, the spectators cheered. 
  An evenly matched fight had a way of making the audience’s hearts race. 
  “But it was even…?”
  Even when it shouldn’t have been?
  It shouldn’t have been close at all? Gu Jeolyub should’ve easily won?
  Gu Jeolyub even shook Hwangbo Cheolwi’s hand. What was going on?
  ‘What am I watching right now?’
  For some reason, the duel ended in a warm-hearted manner. Why did it feel so wholesome…? 
  Then Gu Jeolyub descended from the fight stage.
  As he walked down with a proud face with everyone cheering for him, he froze when he noticed me.
  He even flinched when I called him.
  However, he still couldn’t hide his proud face.
  “You must be happy, your mouth really wants to lift up, eh?”
  “…Oof, it’s not like that.”
  Not like that, my ass.
  “You… never mind, you did well.”
  I was going to scold him for barely managing to win, but I decided against it. 
  I honestly didn’t expect Gu Jeolyub to make it this far. Though the same went for Hwangbo Cheolwi.
  “Uh, so what brings the Young Master here- “
  “I stopped here as I happened to pass by, wondering if there were any fights left.”
  Gu Jeolyub nodded in understanding.
  I wasn’t wrong.
  I had indeed come to see the remaining fights. 
  “Did you see at the end, by any chance?”
  “See what?”
  Gu Jeolyub, who would rarely speak to me out of fear, suddenly spoke to me for some reason.
  In a slightly excited tone at that.
  “I dodged Young Master Hwangbo’s Tiger Fist Barrage and used my sword to- “
  “Huh… you know Hwangbo Clan’s martial arts?”
  “…Hmm? No, Young Master Hwangbo shouted the name of his skill as he attacked me…”
  “…He shouts the names of his attacks as he uses them?”  
  Was he sane?
  Might as well kindly tell your opponent something along the lines of, ‘Hey, I’m attacking your left now~’. 
  Imagining how that giant fought like that made me feel a bit queasy. 
  “…You didn’t do that either, right?”
  “Why can’t you answer? You piece of- “
  “I-I did not.”
  “Right? If you did, there’s no way I could lift up my face due to the embarrassment I’d feel.”
  “Why would Young Master feel that way if I do that- “
  “Because we have the same surname, you idiot… That’s an embarrassment for the entire clan, seriously.”
  Even if he wasn’t mature, there was no way he actually did something like that. Surely, he didn’t shout out the name of his attack.
  If he did, f*ck our shared surname; I was going to burn him to ashes.
  As I was struggling with my thoughts, Namgung Bi-ah approached me and asked.
  “Hey… aren’t you going to watch the others?”
  Namgung Bi-ah then pointed somewhere with her finger.
  Her finger definitely pointed to where the arena was.
  “No need.”
  I wasn’t even really curious anyway.
  It was where Namgung Cheonjun and Moyong Hi-ah were. 
  And those two would obviously advance to the top.
  After all, the bracket practically spelled it out. 
  And as expected…
  I started to overhear people talking about what happened just now.
  Rumors tended to spread faster than the wind in this small place. 
  And just as predicted, those two made it to the top.
  I didn’t think much up to this point.
  As there hadn’t been many surprises so far, except for the fact that Tang Soyeol and Jang Seonyeon were put against each other.
  After the last fight of the day ended…
  The eagerly awaited new bracket was revealed. 
  After hearing about the new bracket, I was pleasantly surprised. 
  The first fight of tomorrow.
  I couldn’t fathom how this happened, but this was quite an amusing situation.
  I couldn’t help but break into a smile as soon as I saw the bracket. 
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