Childhood Friend of the Zenith Chapter 153

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༺ Friendly Martial Arts Competition (6) ༻
  With intense heat, objects began to scatter in all directions. 
  The smoke, created by the fire, was whisked away by the wind that came shortly after. 
  When everyone saw what the arena had turned into, silence fell upon them. 
  The arena was turned into a complete mess, as if a hurricane had just passed by.
  Moreover, a huge mark was left on the arena as if a beast had taken a bite out of it. 
  Meanwhile, the flames continued to burn fervently without relenting. 
  Fiery Fangs of Beast.
  It was an attack that required the user to concentrate their Qi into one spot.
  And it was the Gu Clan’s skill that was only attainable at my level. 
  The fire emitted by this technique assumed a beast-like appearance, relentlessly gnawing at the opponent. 
  ‘Not bad for a display of fire power.’
  This much was enough to satisfy me.
  Whether it was perfect or not, what was important was my ability to wield this power. 
  Worrying about how much Qi I could condense into the attack and how powerful I could make it could wait for another time. 
  Furthermore, this experience confirmed that I possessed enough Qi to use in a real battle. 
  ‘The Qi usage isn’t too shabby either.’
  Thanks to all the things I ate up thus far, just using one ability wasn’t enough to drain my Qi.
  As the last remnants of smoke dissipated from the arena…
  I was able to see Namgung Cheonjun on the other side, standing in extreme shock. 
  I called out, noting his trembling demeanor. 
  “Didn’t I say it last time?”
  This was something I told him last time.
  “That there is nothing more pathetic than letting your guard down as a martial artist.”
  I was pretty sure I said that to him back in Sichuan, but I guessed he didn’t listen to my advice, which was earned through blood and sweat. 
  That was why he stood there, in his current state. 
  “Are you back to your senses now?”
  “How… is this…”
  “Everyone else said something similar to you. Do you know why that’s not good? It means you failed to accurately gauge your opponent’s power and in a real battle, that could have cost you your life.” 
  I grasped the situation clearly. 
  Not many martial artists would remain vigilant against someone like me. 
  What kind of threat would they feel from this child-like body?
  But even so…
  They couldn’t afford to do that.
  Especially for martial artists in this generation.
  Namgung Cheonjun stood a few meters away, but it wasn’t a very far distance for high-level martial artists. 
  In my case, it was around one or two steps of distance. 
  As such, I closed the gap between us. 
  Startled by my sudden proximity, Namgung Cheonjun attempted to react, but his unprepared attack had little chance of success. 
  His lightning Qi posed a threat, but that was pointless if the attack couldn’t reach me.
  I tilted my head slightly and dodged his sword.
  At the same time, Namgung Cheonjun’s knee was bent due to my small kick. 
  His balance broke. 
  And a body off-balance only exposed more openings.
  There were at least five critical points on him that could end the fight in a single blow. 
  However, I opted for a different spot. 
  With a resounding slap that reverberated through the air, Namgung Cheonjun’s head snapped to the side. 
  A slap on the cheek that landed perfectly. 
  With his cheek reddened, Namgung Cheonjun’s eyes were shaking as though experiencing an earthquake, as he couldn’t fathom the situation he found himself in. 
  ‘What just happened?’
  Namgung Cheonjun started to wonder if this was a dream.
  Wouldn’t it make sense?
  If it wasn’t a dream, then how could that brat pull off something like this?
  Beyond the pain throbbing in his cheek…
  He was much more concerned about the arena stage that had been destroyed next to him.
  Just by looking at the material used in its construction, he was able to know that it couldn’t be easily destroyed. 
  It looked like he would struggle to scratch it even if he used the full power of his Qi. 
  ‘…But he did it so easily, just like that.’
  In just one movement…
  With one simple movement of his fist, a raging fire was summoned for destruction.
  It was a calamity. 
  He was a calamity Namgung Cheonjun couldn’t even compare himself to.
  “How dare you…!”
  He finally felt the swelling in his cheek. 
  As well as the pitiful state he was in. 
  A blood relative of the great Namgung Clan was slapped in the arena completely filled with spectators. 
  Something like this could never happen.
  He immediately summoned his Qi.
  To unleash the full force of his lightning Qi,
  Namgung Cheonjun tried to swing his sword at Gu Yangcheon with every ounce of his Qi channeled into the attack. 
  But Gu Yangcheon’s hand moved faster. 
  Namgung Cheonjun’s face was turned away once more.
  Along with a fierce sound.
  “At the very least, you should have created some distance, yet you swing your sword when you’re this close? What a dumbass.”
  Namgung Cheonjun’s head shook as the impact was greater than last time.
  Gu Yangcheon then grabbed Namgung Cheonjun’s collar and threw him away.
  Despite being a head shorter than Namgung Cheonjun, Gu Yangcheon had thrown him away with ease. 
  Namgung Cheonjun’s shaky body couldn’t even manage to land safely and tumbled across the floor. 
  “What on earth am I watching right now?”
  “…The Lightning Dragon is losing to that small boy?”
  “Leaving that aside, look at the state of the arena!” 
  “Who and where is that child from again…? Gu Clan of Shanxi was it?”
  The previously hushed crowd, which had watched in awe when the massive flame erupted, now grew increasingly animated, filling the arena with chatter. 
  The Sword Phoenix, the Sword Dragon, and the Water Dragon had not come to this tournament.
  Which meant that the Lightning Dragon was one of the strongest candidates, but he was rolling on the floor just like that, so how could people not be surprised?
  Furthermore, his opponent was a small boy who had yet to make a name for himself.  
  And it wasn’t only the spectators who found this remarkable, and even those who observed quietly couldn’t believe their eyes. 
  “Boss, shouldn’t we report this…?”
  A disheveled young man, who looked like he had been rolling in the dirt, asked a middle-aged man next to him.
  They were members of the Beggar’s Sect, often referred to as the mouth and ears of the Orthodox Faction.
  “Wait for now.”
  “They are going to be furious, saying we were slow with the information, you know?”
  “I told you to wait, you bastard…”
  Something so unexpected had just happened. 
  The members of the Beggar’s Sect had to organize their thoughts about the unexpected event that had just happened. 
  They were already planning to spread Gu Yangcheon’s name around, saying that he had great potential, after seeing him beat everyone in just one blow.
  However, they didn’t expect that he was strong enough to make the Lightning Dragon look this pathetic.
  ‘Did he overcome the wall?’
  Even the Beggar’s Sect had to hide their shock after witnessing Gu Yangcheon’s recent attack. 
  Overcoming the wall meant reaching the peak realm…
  And the peak realm was a crucial turning point for martial artists on their path to becoming a superhuman. 
  Even the blood relatives with the backing of their noble clans usually took well over twenty years on average to reach such a level.
  Yet, this child was already at the peak realm. 
  If that wasn’t the case…
  There was no other explanation for the incredible power he had demonstrated, both in his earlier attack and the aura he emitted. 
  The Beggar’s Sect members, with their vast knowledge of many martial artists, had only now realized;
  That boy was utterly monstrous. 
  ‘Could we even call that a fight?’
  It was more one-sided bullying than anything. 
  There was too much of a difference between them to call this a duel.
  The duel continued, but there wasn’t any twist.
  The Namgung Clan boy swung his sword. 
  His strike was precise. It was a movement that did justice to his clan’s name.
  But the boy from the Gu Clan was faster. And he wasn’t even using the flames he displayed earlier. 
  He was toying with the Lightning Dragon with just basic movements. 
  There weren’t any fancy techniques either, he only showed the basics of hitting and dodging.

  His small fist landed straight into the Lightning Dragon’s abdomen. His fist looked soft, but Namgung Cheonjun could attest that the impact was anything but soft, as his back flinched in pain.
  Without resting, Gu Yangcheon spoke to Namgung Cheonjun.
  “Are your legs just there for decoration? You’re only fighting with your upper body. Is that how your household teaches you?” 
  Namgung Cheonjun clenched his teeth and attempted to attack once again after hearing Gu Yangcheon’s taunt, but nothing changed. 
  His Qi was certainly commendable.
  But his opponent moved without caring.
  As Chu Wong contemplated these events, another member of the Beggar’s Sect seated next to him spoke up, realizing something. 
  “Boss, that fellow, he seems to practice flame martial arts, but he’s refraining from using them now. It appears he exhausted his supply earlier.”
  Chu Wong, hearing this, frowned with disappointment at the other member. 
  “Your shitty eyes are the reason why you could barely manage to eat, you dumbass hobo.”
  “…What’s the insult for when we are all hobos? The boss last time-”
  “Just shut up and watch. Do you really think that he can’t use it? He’s just not using it.”
  Chu Wong saw the huge flame that engulfed the arena as well. This boy, who had barely lived half his life, had unleashed an unbelievable attack that no one would have expected from someone his age. 
  ‘If I tried to use an attack of that magnitude, I would probably collapse because I ran out of Qi midway.’ 
  But that boy was different. 
  His countenance remained fierce and intimidating, yet oddly relaxed. 
  He already knew where the Lightning Dragon would swing. He stopped his attack before his sword could follow through. 
  Moreover, he positioned himself to strike before Namgung Cheonjun could even begin his own attack. 
  Just from seeing this, it was enough to tell.
  He was a monster.
  ‘…It’s unbelievable.’
  People often stated that this current generation possessed the most talent in the history of the world. Even the Lightning Dragon, who was currently rolling on the floor, couldn’t be underestimated at all. 
  And it was known that the Sword Phoenix and the Sword Dragon were even more exceptional. 
  Chu Wong, who attended the Dragons and Phoenixes tournament every year to gather information, had a more intimate understanding of these matters than most. 
  As such, he wasn’t certain if he could even dare to call that child a genius. 
  The term seemed far too inadequate to describe him. 
  The Sword Phoenix, the Sword Dragon, and even the one who was once called the Heavenly Dragon, Peng Woojin; Not a single one of them could compare.
  And at such a young age at that.
  “This is problematic.”
  “What is?”
  “…I had an order from the sect, but I’m not sure if I will be able to fulfil it.”
  “Huh? Out of the blue?” 
  An order was given to Chu Wong to collect information about Jang Seonyeon, son of the Harmonic Sword, and to spread information about him. 
  After all, he had beaten the Poison Phoenix incredibly effortlessly, not to mention his other fights. Therefore, word about him had already been spread. 
  As a new star, he would be called the Divine Star.   
  ‘This is a problem.’
  As sweat trickled down Chu Wong’s cheek, his brows furrowed.
  It seemed that their mission to promote the new ‘Divine Star’ would likely succeed, but…
  Would that title still go to the Alliance Leader’s son?
  ‘Is that really a question for me? What a joke. I already know the answer.’
  The middle-aged hobo from the Beggar’s Sect was able to know already, thanks to his extensive experience. 
  The answer had already been revealed, as soon as all the spectators here witnessed this recent fight. 
  As Chu Wong was lost in his thoughts, the Lightning Dragon tumbled on the stage once again.
  He got up immediately, using his sword as support.
  But he couldn’t block the flow of blood from his nose. 
  “You’ve become really pathetic, brother-in-law.”
  The Young Lord, who initially exuded elegance, was no longer present. 
  “You… Bastard…!”
  “Can you really afford to speak like that? There are plenty of eyes on us.” 
  Namgung Cheonjun calmed down his breathing after hearing Gu Yangcheon’s taunt.
  Like he said, there were indeed many eyes watching him.
  After watching him, Gu Yangcheon smirked. 
  After all, he found it amusing to see Namgung Cheonjun clinging to his fake persona even after such humiliation. 
  When Namgung Cheonjun noticed Gu Yangcheon’s mocking smirk, he shouted. 
  “Don’t be so full of yourself…!”
  “Since when did I?”
  “Do you really think you won just because you had one trump card?”
  ‘Why is he the one getting so angry when he brought this upon himself?’ 
  “Do you listen with your asshole or something? Did you not hear what I told you last time? There is nothing for me to hide since you’re so weak, why don’t you know your place already?”
  “You… you bastard! You know nothing about me!”
  “Yeah, I don’t. And I’m not even interested in whatever you’re hiding.”
  Namgung Cheonjun swung his Qi-enhanced sword once more, but as it approached the halfway point of its swing, he was sent flying from the impact. 
  It was because Gu Yangcheon kicked Namgung Cheonjun’s chest whenever he came close to him. 
  ‘How… is a bastard like you.’
  Namgung Cheonjun had no choice but to stand up before he could fully recover from the impact. 
  After all, Gu Yangcheon continued to approach, without any intention of going easy on him.
  But the problem was that Namgung Cheonjun couldn’t dodge it.
  ‘I don’t understand.’
  ‘Why am I losing to that bastard?’
  ‘When it’s none other than me, Namgung Cheonjun?’
  ‘This simply cannot happen…!’
  ‘I am a genius. Not only has Father approved, but even the Lord of Heaven also did. I had no problems until now.’
  ‘I will inherit Father’s position in the future.’
  ‘And I will become the new King of Swords with my astonishing talent.’
  ‘The Sword Dragon? He’s only ahead of me for now.’
  ‘I am certain that the day I will surpass him will come’
  ‘That piece of trash ruined everything for me.’
  ‘Sichuan. Yes, that’s where it all went wrong.’ 
  ‘Whether it was things refusing to go my way or my beloved sister starting to change, it all happened when I met that bastard.’
  Everything changed. 
  ‘So, to put everything back to normal again, I came all the way here. But then why?’
  – You are a great vessel.
  ‘That’s what they told me. That I had great talent.’
  – We will give you power, but hold off on using it for some time. As it would take a long time for the power to fully become yours.
  ‘They said that a brave new world would come forth, completely different from this current one. Which was why I acted behind my father’s back, as I knew that.’
  ‘Doesn’t it not matter anyway? Since I’ll be the future lord of the clan.’
  ‘But then, why am I subjected to such humiliating treatment from that bastard right now?’
  ‘My eyes don’t even work properly anymore.’
  Namgung Cheonjun knew that that bastard had been toying with him from the beginning.
  He was able to know that just from seeing the first attack he had launched. 
  The bastard was much stronger than him.
  How did this happen?
  That bastard was definitely weaker than him, even back when they had crossed paths in Sichuan. 
  There was a noticeable gap between them. 
  ‘I may have been defeated, if you could even call it that, but if Qi was allowed, it wasn’t a fight that I would lose.’
  ‘But then, what about now?’
  Namgung Cheonjun let out a curse without even realizing it himself. He couldn’t hold it in.
  It hasn’t even been a year since then.
  Namgung Cheonjun swung his sword crazily, trying to chase the Sword Dragon’s shadow, which loomed over him like a wall. 
  His first encounter with the Sword Dragon had been a hellish experience. 
  After dueling with him, he had come to realize just how far beyond his reach the Sword Dragon’s talent was. 
  He had realized what true God-given talent was. 
  That day, he became the Lightning Dragon.
  The title, Sword Dragon, became his goal. Namgung Cheonjun thought of stepping over him one day to earn that title. 
  With such a mindset, he swung his sword, striving to become stronger every day.
  ‘But to this… to this mere bastard!’
  Did he not work hard? No, he did.
  He couldn’t even remember how many times he swung his sword.
  His hands, torn and blistered from training, were proof of that.
  Additionally, the ease with which he could now manipulate lightning Qi was further proof. 
  ‘But then why!’
  ‘Why won’t my sword reach that bastard?’
  His shining sword was stopped once again when faced against Gu Yangcheon’s fist. Namgung Cheonjun wondered how he managed to stop all of his strikes. 
  He wondered if he could even call that talent. If so, he wished to resent God.
  Namgung Cheonjun couldn’t even hear the spectators anymore. All he could sense was the astonished gazes fixed upon him. 
  ‘My despair is probably joy for them.’ 
  Namgung Cheonjun was well aware of how harsh reality was, perhaps more than anyone else. After all, he was born into a noble clan.
  ‘But I… will fall?’
  To that bastard?
  “Huff… huff…”
  Namgung Cheonjun’s exhausted body screamed in pain, even if all he did was breathe.
  It was because of all the damage that had stacked up every time he was attacked in the middle of his sword strike. 
  Namgung Cheonjun’s eyes focused on one spot. 
  On one side of the arena, Tang Soyeol was shouting while watching Gu Yangcheon with a bright face. 
  ‘Was she really cheering for him? How absurd.’
  Since they were engaged in the past, they did know each other. But that was it.
  Namgung Cheonju’s thoughts then drifted to the woman seated on his side of the arena.
  The Snow Phoenix, Moyong Hi-ah.
  She showed interest in him, as if she was on his side and had feelings for him. However, Namgung Cheonjun knew the truth.
  Her eyes held no trace of affection for him. 
  Everyone around him was always like this.
  His father, his clan members, people from the alliance, they were all the same. 
  Namgung Cheonjun then thought of his sister. At the very least, his sister didn’t expect anything from him.
  Her swordplay was beautiful.
  Moreover, the fact that she did not say anything unnecessary showed extreme elegance. 
  She sometimes struggled to find her way.
  And it was the same right now.
  ‘Sister is only lost right now. Since she’s having trouble finding the right path, I just have to lead her in the right direction.’
  Just like always.
  ‘Then one day, Sister will acknowledge my sincerity.’
  – Young Master Guuu!
  Namgung Cheonjun began to hear a voice as his vision started to fade. 
  It was Tang Soyeol, who had been cheering for Gu Yangcheon from the beginning. 
  And next to her was Namgung Bi-ah.
  His sister was as beautiful as ever. 
  Her hair color, which represented the Namgung Clan, shone even more brilliantly in the moonlight. 
  Namgung Cheonjun wanted to run toward her right away.
  However, he couldn’t move.
  After all, he could clearly see who his sister was looking at. 
  Gu Yangcheon.
  His sister’s two eyes were solely fixed on that trash.
  Why? Just why?
  Namgung Cheonjun couldn’t understand.
  An engagement between two clans? Sure, it could happen.
  Namgung Cheonjun believed that it was an engagement his sister had never wanted. 
  And when he gained more power within the clan…When he obtained a higher position after being acknowledged by the Lord of Heaven…
  The first thing he planned to do was to break the engagement with the Gu Clan for his sister so that she wouldn’t suffer any longer.
  Everything was for his sister. 
  But then, what were her eyes doing right now?
  Why was she looking at that bastard with what looked like love?
  ‘There is no way.’
  ‘There was no way my perfect, noble sister could have such feelings for that bastard.’
  ‘If she does, then that bastard surely must have done something to her.’
  ‘Did he use a drug of some sort?’
  ‘Yes, judging by how close he seems to be with Tang Clan’s lady, he must have used some kind of drug on her.’
  “How dare you… how dare you.”
  ‘My sister is perfect.’
  ‘She is like a blank piece of paper.’
  ‘She’s not someone a bastard like you could even dare to think of tarnishing.’ 
  ‘Me, only I could…’
  – Sss
  Energy flinched inside his body.
  It wasn’t Qi, but something cold like the winter.
  It was definitely the energy he obtained from his clan back then. 
  The energy that they had told Namgung Cheonjun to hold off on using, no matter what.
  Namgung Cheonjun’s arm began to tremble. 
  To be more accurate, the bracelet on his arm was vibrating.
  As if it was resonating with the energy.
  The item that the Lord of Heaven gave to him resonated.
  And thanks to that, Namgung Cheonjun started to feel more strength in his body. He felt like he could do anything with this kind of- 
  “You piece of shit.”
  Namgung Cheonjun, who had been slowly building up power, collapsed onto the ground with a loud thud.
  It was because Gu Yangcheon had grabbed Namgung Cheonjun’s neck and smashed him into the ground.
  With a resounding crash, Qi scattered in every direction. 
  Namgung Cheonjun couldn’t even sense Gu Yangcheon approaching him.
  “You f*cker, where did you get that?”
  Along with harsh words, flames started to materialize behind Gu Yangcheon’s back.
  Flames then began to form into an orb around them. 
  It looked like a nearly impenetrable barrier to anyone outside. 
  Gu Yangcheon’s hand, which had gripped Namgung Cheonjun’s neck, tightened further. 
  Namgung Cheonjun felt like his neck would break at any moment.
  “Answer me. The shit around your body, where did you get that?”
  Gu Yangcheon’s expression seemed furious and he exuded an overwhelming and menacing aura that pressured Namgung Cheonjun’s body. 
  Gu Yangcheon’s once-black hair had taken on a reddish hue…
  And his black eyes had also changed into glowing red orbs. 
  The threatening aura emanating from Gu Yangcheon had Namgung Cheonjun on the verge of fainting. 
  The two flame shapes that had formed behind Gu Yangcheon resembled wings. 
  That’s what Gu Yangcheon looked like in Namgung Cheonjun’s eyes.
  A monster that looked like it would burn down the whole world.
  The energy that Namgung Cheonjun had slowly been accumulating scattered away. 
  Almost as if they were afraid of Gu Yangcheon’s flames. 
  “You’re not gonna answer me? Maybe I should burn your arm- …Hmm?”
  As Gu Yangcheon was speaking to him, he glanced down toward Namgung Cheonjun’s lower body, sensing something peculiar. 
  The weird warmth Gu Yangcheon felt wasn’t his heat. 
  Because of the sudden salty scent that wafted up to his nose, Gu Yangcheon involuntarily released some of the pressure from his hand. 
  Namgung Cheonjun had wet himself. 
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