Childhood Friend of the Zenith Chapter 154

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༺ Friendly Martial Arts Competition (7) ༻
  The fiery sphere enveloped the entire arena stage.
  No one could fathom how much Qi was used to set up a flame at such a large magnitude. 
  The flames blocked the view of the surroundings. 
  And it made it impossible for people to see what was happening inside the fiery sphere. 
  “What the? What’s happening?”
  “I can’t see…!”
  “Show us already! What’s going on!”
  The audience, their eyes filled with trepidation, grew increasingly restless. 
  This all happened in an instant.
  The Lightning Dragon started to get up with his exhausted body, but Gu Yangcheon suddenly trapped him inside the flames. 
  And the fierce flames blocked people from seeing what was happening inside. 
  Thanks to that, the judge and the Alliance swordsmen were left perplexed. 
  “Isn’t it impressive?”
  Said a young man who was watching from afar. 
  He was watching the arena stage with a smile.
  “I didn’t expect it to be that much, but it seems like I was wrong once again.”
  The young man’s black uniform fluttered in the breeze. 
  It was exciting. 
  He never felt such excitement in his life. 
  That boy always made his heart heat up. The proof was right in front of him.
  He had once again exceeded expectations. 
  ‘Could I beat him in a fight?’
  It still seemed possible.
  ‘Still’ being the keyword that is. 
  As the young man in black, Peng Woojin, steadied his thoughts, the boy standing beside him furrowed his brow. 
  “Did you call me here just to say these things?” 
  The person who spoke with a rather cold voice was none other than Jang Seonyeon. 
  Peng Woojin smiled slightly while looking at the boy. 
  “Of course not, there is no way I’ll call a busy Young Master for something so insignificant.”
  “Then what for?”
  “I just thought it’d be fun for us to watch it together?”
  In the end, it was basically insignificant. 
  Hearing Peng Woojin’s response, Jang Seonyeon frowned. 
  After seeing him, Peng Woojin continued to speak as he giggled. 
  “Just kidding.”
  “I know.”
  “Tsk, lame.”
  “Get to the real point, I can’t really afford to stay here much longer.”
  Peng Woojin’s expression grew serious upon hearing Jang Seonyeon. 
  He now had the same expression when he had talked to Namgung Cheonjun in the carriage previously. 
  Jang Seonyeon felt a sudden shift in the atmosphere, making it difficult for him to breathe. 
  ‘Did he use his Qi? It doesn’t feel that way.’
  ‘Which means it must be his sheer presence.’
  “I came looking for you because I have something to ask.” 
  “You may ask.”
  “Why did you call the Namgung Clan’s Young Master?”
  Jang Seonyeon’s eyes widened after hearing Peng Woojin.
  Jang Seonyeon met Peng Woojin’s gaze and answered while slightly turning his head away. 
  “He was needed.”
  “That lacking talent of his?”
  “The Lightning Dragon isn’t lacking.”
  Upon hearing Jang Seonyeon, Peng Woojin started to burst out into laughter. 
  “Don’t bother pretending, I might start getting nauseous.”
  “…Young Lord Peng, I suggest you watch your words.”
  “Why? Do you feel offended that a mere Young Lord of the Peng clan is talking to you like this?”
  Peng Woojin’s words were filled with thorns.
  His tone was completely different from when he spoke to Gu Yangcheon.
  His tone grew cold, devoid of any amusement. 
  “Young Lord Peng.”
  “I do not believe you are unaware of everything. Isn’t that correct? Since all the pieces laid out on this board are all for you.”
  “What do you want to say?”
  “I don’t really have anything to say. I’m not in a place to give you advice, nor am I here to relate.”
  “Then what is your intention?”
  “I guess it’d be the most accurate to say consolation?”
  Peng Woojin’s gaze shifted from Jang Seonyeon back to the arena stage. 
  Then, a smile began to creep onto his face once again as if it had just been waiting to surface. 
  “What do you think?”
  Jang Seonyeon looked at the arena, pondering Peng Woojin’s words. 
  Despite the long distance, fierce flames were unmistakably visible. 
  Once more, Peng Woojin’s voice reached his ears. 
  “I think of Young Master Jang as someone who thankfully knows his place. Though the Lightning Dragon seemed otherwise.” 
  ‘Is he implying that I’m still lacking?’
  Jang Seonyeon’s mask, which he had carefully constructed, always seemed to crack whenever he was up against this man.
  Was it because he consistently poked at his nerves?
  “That boy will gain much from this.”
  “I know that. He looks like a talented person.”
  After hearing Jang Seonyeon’s unamused response, Peng Woojin smiled slightly. 
  “Is that all?”
  “What more do you want?”
  “Didn’t I say? I’m here for consolation.”
  “What’s the consolation for, exactly?” 
  “It’s for the many things that you won’t be able to get from this tournament.”
  Jang Seonyeon’s shoulders flinched after hearing Peng Woojin. 
  At the same time, a blue light formed in his eyes. 
  The air around them grew denser as his Qi surged. 
  “I advise you to be cautious with your words.”
  “Huh… How intimidating this is. It seems like I made Young Master Jang very angry.”
  Jang Seonyeon’s body let out more Qi, but Peng Woojin’s expression didn’t change.
  Instead, he even started to chuckle as if he wasn’t affected at all.
  Observing this, Jang Seonyeon stopped the flow of his Qi.
  He acted out of his anger for a moment. 
  But he realized he couldn’t afford to challenge Peng Woojin, at least not yet. 
  “It seems like Young Lord Peng isn’t too fond of me.”
  After hearing Jang Seonyeon, Peng Woojin responded in a laughing tone. 
  “No way. Of course not. I do like Young Master Jang.”
  His words sounded absurd. 
  Jang Seonyeon found it impossible to believe, given their previous conversation. 
  “You may find this hard to believe, but it’s the truth. We may not have a brotherly relationship, but I am fond of you, as you are certainly a figure who can also shine.” 
  It might have been too late for Peng Woojin to say that now, but he didn’t speak further.
  “As you said, it is not something I can believe. Since your attitude toward me hasn’t been very good ever since our first meeting.” 
  “That was me being rather kind. What? Are you expecting love from me?”

  After hearing Peng Woojin, Jang Seonyeon took off his mask for the first time, revealing a rough expression. 
  His expression was filled with disgust. 
  “Don’t worry, Young Master Jang, I’m not that generous.” 
  Peng Woojin didn’t lie.
  He was indeed fond of Jang Seonyeon.
  As he was definitely another boy with the potential to shine like a star in the future. 
  It was just that…
  ‘When it’s next to a star that shines much brighter, it seems lacking in comparison.’
  It was simply because of that reason.
  “Be honest. You are just taking your anger out on me because you don’t like me.”
  After hearing Jang Seonyeon’s sudden words…
  Peng Woojin looked at him with confusion.
  “Aren’t you just unhappy that the Lightning Dragon, whom you once deemed lacking in talent, received baptism from his clan before you?”
  Peng Woojin seemed impressed for the first time.
  And it wasn’t because Jang Seonyeon correctly guessed what Peng Woojin was thinking.
  Peng Woojin was more impressed with how he could have such a thought.
  “It just means that the Lord of Heaven’s input was huge… The Meteor’s intentions are-“
  “You seem to be misunderstanding something, Young Master Jang.”
  Jang Seonyeon shut his mouth at Peng Woojin’s cold voice. 
  “Whether it’s baptism, the Meteor, or whatever, I have no interest in any of them.”
  “What are you…”
  “I’m sorry, but I’m strong even without that garbage and I will only become stronger. I will climb higher than anyone has ever reached.”
  His arrogant-sounding words were filled with confidence. 
  His overpowering presence grew stronger than before.
  Jang Seonyeon gulped in response to his nervousness. 
  Just like how Peng Woojin knew Jang Seonyeon’s true self to a certain extent, Jang Seonyeon knew Peng Woojin as well.
  He was an abyss. 
  No one knew what he was thinking, and his mind seemed like an endless void.
  It was a darkness that seemed to have no end. 
  What made it even more unnerving was that he didn’t even try to hide it.
  “…Or, do you think I will lose to that young man over there?”
  “Let me answer with a question, do you think you’ll win? Against that monster?”
  Peng Woojin, who was cruel and ruthless when it came to judging people, just called someone a monster. 
  Gu Yangcheon.
  It was a name that already bothered Jang Seonyeon.
  Where did he come from?
  All Jang Seonyeon knew was that he was the son of the Gu Clan.
  The Gu Clan of Shanxi.
  It was a rather bothersome clan.
  Even the Chief Abbot of Shaolin, who could read the laws of nature, warned to not provoke the Sword Phoenix, who was second only to Peng Woojin, solely because she had the blood of the Gu clan running in her veins.
  ‘But even so, he’s just an ordinary martial artist.’
  Even if he overcame his wall, Jang Seonyeon wasn’t afraid.
  He acknowledged that he had talent, but that was it.
  Even if Peng Woojin was speaking highly of him, Jang Seonyeon didn’t believe that Gu Yangcheon was deserving of such praise. 
  The incompetent Lightning Dragon only ended up in that humiliated state because he didn’t know how to use the power he had recently gotten from his clan. 
  ‘…Though it was still unexpected that the Lightning Dragon was beaten.’
  Jang Seonyeon expected that they would have a closer match.
  As such, he didn’t foresee such an easy defeat. 
  Jang Seonyeon’s back started to tense up.
  It seemed like his muscles were getting nervous after watching the duel unfold just now. 
  As if that guy would pose any threat to him. 
  Peng Woojin watched Jang Seonyeon for a short moment, then looked away again.
  He only continued to watch the arena stage again.
  ‘How did he do it?’
  Along with a small curiosity in his mind.
  ‘How did you find out, Young Master Gu?’
  Peng Woojin didn’t know much about the baptism bestowed in the basement of the Murim Alliance.
  Not that he wanted to know about them, to begin with.
  But he was able to feel it.
  That nasty cold energy.
  It seemed they couldn’t feel it, but that was because they lacked talent.
  ‘Then, does this mean you felt it too?’
  Gu Yangcheon was different. 
  Peng Woojin was certain that he, too, noticed the energy.
  His actions proved it.
  As soon as the Lightning Dragon started to harness that energy, Gu Yangcheon charged at him right away with his true power.
  ‘Though I’m not sure if that even is his true power.’
  Gu Yangcheon’s level, which Peng Woojin was able to see clearly in the past, now appeared foggy.
  If Peng Woojin, with his keen eye for assessing people’s abilities, struggled to see through him…
  ‘Good, very good.’
  Just like with the Tiger Warrior and the Sword Phoenix, the Gu Clan of Shanxi was a den of dragons.
  He wanted it.
  If given the chance, he would have abandoned his position as the Young Lord and headed straight for the Gu Clan. 
  Which was why Peng Woojin tried to join the Gu Clan’s swordsmen after he ran away from his clan.
  Though, he failed. 
  Flinch- Flinch-
  The persistent flinching in his abdomen bothered him. 
  Peng Woojin had to rein in his excitement.
  And had to suppress his roaring Qi.
  How long has it been since he felt this way?
  It was probably the first time ever since he parted ways with the Sword Phoenix back in the Heavenly Dragon Academy. 
  Peng Woojin’s life was gray for him.
  His life lost all colors and made him feel nothing. 
  Rather than having actual problems with his eyes, Peng Woojin just saw the world this way. 
  And this sight of his made his life boring. 
  Even Peng Woojin’s talent, which reached the sky, was playing a role in making his life uninteresting. 
  Yet, there were rare moments when Peng Woojin saw different colors. 
  Colors that served as a thread of light in his boring life. 
  Those colors were the only reason why Peng Woojin was able to endure his boring life. 
  Jang Seonyeon, standing beside him, was shining as well, although it seemed weaker than before. 
  It seemed likely that he had done something different.
  But unlike him, that boy was special. 
  Not only did he shine the brightest, but he even made people around him shine.
  Perhaps, his light was contagious? 
  ‘The ones who had no color are starting to show colors now.’
  Tang Soyeol was a good example of that.
  The girl, who previously only had one shining eye, now radiated brightness throughout her entire body. 
  And Peng Woojin knew that it was because of that boy.
  This was the first time Peng Woojin experienced something like this. Which was why it felt all the more impactful. 
  The process of putting colors in a colorless existence…
  It could not be any more beautiful. 
  ‘If such a miracle is possible…’
  Perhaps, Gu Yangcheon could even bestow color upon him as well.
  Peng Woojin became lost in such thoughts, as he watched Gu Yangcheon who made engulfing flames. 
  After all, the darkest thing in his gray world was none other than himself. 
  “What is with this bastard?”
  I released my grip on Namgung Cheonjun’s neck.
  “Why is he pissing his pants?”
  This was absurd.
  I overpowered him due to the chilling energy I felt.
  But I didn’t expect this kind of outcome.
  “…The f*ck…?”
  I was a little rough as it was an urgent situation, but I didn’t expect him to piss his pants.
  Especially since he was a blood relative of a noble clan.
  “You were showing so much pride in yourself, but you do this.”
  He even fainted too.
  What kind of a chaotic situation am I in?
  “What do I do…?”
  I didn’t have much time to interrogate him. 
  After all, I had to remember that I was in the middle of a duel watched by many people. 
  And this bastard pissed his pants during this situation. 
  Oh my f*cking g-…
  I didn’t care if he fainted, nor did I care if he pissed his pants. Good for him! Our Cheonjun will get a new nickname, thanks to this.
  Instead of the Lightning Dragon, Pissing Dragon would fit more.
  “I shouldn’t be thinking about something like this right now.”
  It was a funny thought that almost made me laugh out loud, but I wasn’t in a very good situation right now.
  I put up a wall that prevented others from seeing what was inside, but this consumed much more Qi than the initial attack I had used. 
  Which meant that I couldn’t maintain it for much longer.
  Setting aside my amusement, I put my hand on Namgung Cheonjun’s body right away. 
  It was really uncomfortable to touch him like this all of a sudden, but I was in an urgent situation. 
  ‘…I knew it.’
  I felt a different kind of energy inside Namgung Cheonjun’s body.
  ‘It’s not… Demonic Qi.’
  It wasn’t Demonic Qi.
  Which was something I already expected. 
  If it were Demonic Qi, I would have sensed it the moment I saw him.
  However, this was similar yet different. 
  And, I knew this energy.
  I even experienced it many times, so I was used to it.
  “…Wi Seol-Ah.”
  I blurted out her name without even realizing.
  This energy was very similar to the energy that I could slightly feel from Wi Seol-Ah in my past life. 
  To be more accurate, it felt lighter than that. 
  Just like back then…
  It reminded me of how the current Black Palace’s Demonic Qi paled in power and quality compared to the Heavenly Demon’s Qi.
  “But why?”
  Why was I suddenly reminded of Wi Seol-Ah’s energy right here? 
  And why did this bastard have such an energy inside him? 
  As I was chasing curiosity after curiosity, the flames that surrounded me started to weaken.
  It was because I was slowly running out of Qi.
  I still had so much to find out.
  I used the rest of my Qi to generate heat and used it on Namgung Cheonjun. 
  The smell of urine pierced my nose, but I didn’t have a problem drying his clothes.
  ‘Not that I care what happens to him.’
  I honestly didn’t care or feel bad if he was called the Namgung Clan’s Peeboy, or the Pissing Dragon…
  But it was a problem that he bore the Namgung surname. 
  Since I was reminded of the woman who always fell asleep next to me, this was me showing my final act of kindness to him. 
  Around the time Namgung Cheonjun’s clothes completely dried up,
  I got up instantly and distanced myself from him after the sudden sensation I felt in my arm. 
  Then the wall of flames that blocked the spectators’ view disappeared. 
  I was then able to feel the gazes of everyone watching. 
  The judge and people of the Alliance rushed toward us and checked on Namgung Cheonjun and me.  
  I was standing unharmed…
  And Namgung Cheonjun was lying there as if he was dead. 
  It was obvious who won.
  I held myself back when I beat him up, so he shouldn’t have any long-lasting injuries. 
  Though the last strike I gave him might have been a little too strong and potentially problematic for him. 
  “…Quarterfinals victory goes to Gu Clan’s Gu Yangcheon.”
  After a short sentence echoed through the air with the resonance of Qi, 
  The crowd erupted in cheers and applause, understanding the significance of the announcement.  
  – !!

  The deafening cheers of the crowd drowned out any discernible words. 
  This was what I wanted from the start. 
  I came here with the intention of making a name for myself, even if it was just a little bit, as I considered it is my most important task. 
  But I realized after hearing the cheering around me.
  That my name had etched a mark on their memories.  
  However, whether it was the cheers that felt like they were tearing my eardrums apart, or the praise that I never was able to feel in my past life…
  None of it mattered to me now. 
  Because I was doing my best to endure this chilling sensation that had crept into my arms and was now spreading throughout my body. 
  I tried my best to block it, but this sensation dug into my abdomen and made itself at home. 
  It was the energy that was inside Namgung Cheonjun; I absorbed some unknown energy that wasn’t even Demonic Qi. 
  “…Oh, please, you crazy pig-like f*cker.”
  I was already feeling crazy because of everything making themselves at home within my body…
  But another one had just joined the gang. 
  “Why are you eating it when it’s not even Demonic Qi…!! Stop eating, for f*cks sake!”
  My outburst startled the judge as he flinched. 
  Apologetically, I couldn’t afford to care at this moment. 
  Because of the incident that happened just now…
  I had to rub my face with my hand amidst the loud cheering.
  [He… He…]
  Whether I misheard it or not,
  It felt like I heard a satisfied, mocking laughter from somewhere.  
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