Childhood Friend of the Zenith Chapter 16

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༺ Necessity (1) ༻
  It’s been three days since we returned from the Nine Dragons Ceremony. 
  It’s also been three days since I realized I could use the demonic arts granted to me by the Heavenly Demon. 
  I’ve already circulated fire Qi throughout my body numerous times to feel any traces of demonic Qi but have failed so far.
  While it was definitely a good sign, I didn’t want to let my guard down too quickly.
  “They make me go through all this trouble even after death, those bastards.”
  The temperature of the training grounds quickly rose as sweltering heat radiated from my body.
  The heat, while stifling, shouldn’t be too dangerous considering that I was only in the second realm of flame arts.
  “…Still far from reaching the third realm, huh.”
  My understanding of the art was more than enough, but my physique and the amount of Qi I could muster didn’t meet the requirements for me to ascend to the next level.
  So, all I’ve been doing is just training non-stop.
  My muscles were screaming in agony. 
  I had to get out of this sauna of a training area lest I roast myself to death.
  Cool breeze burst through the open crevice as I opened the door, sending refreshing tingles against my skin.
  “Hey! There’s still dust over there!”
  What’s going on here?
  As I got closer, faint outlines became more recognizable. A tall, imposing figure stood next to the Sword Emperor, monitoring him as he diligently swept the floors. It was a familiar figure, one with broad shoulders, over eight feet tall and an unruly mane of white hair – a sign of his age that seemed to serve no purpose other than to show a wild contrast to his comically large muscles.
  It was none other than the Second Elder.
  “Oi! Sweep with more care! Over here, there’s still dust everywhere!”
  …What’s this crazy old man doing?
  The Second Elder, who had seemed so imposing from a distance, was manically pointing at the Sword Emperor and ordering him around.
  I never thought I would see the day when the great Sword Emperor got in trouble for something so mundane as poor cleaning technique. 
  “Look at this. It’s as though you’ve never touched a broom your whole life!”
  The specks of dust still lying around were so sparse that one could barely see it even after enhancing their vision with Qi.
  ‘…Well, this is certainly something I wish I hadn’t stumbled upon.’
  Both the Second Elder and the Sword Emperor were active at around the same era.
  They definitely knew each other.
  So what is this farce that I’ve stumbled across?
  “What are you doing here, Lord Second Elder?”
  “Oh! You are here, Yangcheon.”
  “…Did you come here just to bully an elderly man?”
  The Sword Emperor may have asked me to call him by his name, but knowing his true identity, I couldn’t possibly bring myself to do it.
  “I mean, this old man can’t even sweep correctly. Tsk tsk, he shouldn’t be paid at all if he always works like this.”
  But…I don’t see any dust, though?
  “Isn’t it clean enough…?”
  “Absolutely not! If this is the standard you hold, it’s no wonder this place is always so dirty!”
  What was he on about?
  To a normal human being, this place would look completely spotless.
  The servants and even Wi Seol-Ah worked hard to keep it this way.
  So what was with this strange behavior? Was he purposefully trying to get on the Sword Emperor’s nerves?
  No… Surely a respected elder of a reputable clan wouldn’t do such a petty thing. Surely… Right?
  ‘…Is the Sword Emperor fine with this?’
  The Sword Emperor, who had a smile on his face as he always had, didn’t pay any attention to him. 
  He just kept sweeping.
  Of course, a person that got the title of “Sword Emperor” wouldn’t get pissed at such-
  ‘Nevermind, he’s fuming.’
  When I looked closely, I saw veins starting to form on his face.
  As I tried to get some distance from the ticking time bomb, I was caught by the Second Elder.
  “Have you just finished your training?”
  “Yes Senior, as you can see.”
  “What’s the matter, sir?”
  “Nothing. Your escort was waiting for you over there, by the way.”
  The Second Elder pointed to the entrance of my house. 
  Had he been waiting outside for me?
  I thought I told him to come inside if he needed to tell me something.
  “Thank you, Senior. I’ll be leaving.”
  “You are leaving…?”
  I was going to make my way towards Muyeon, but the Second Elder stopped me. 
  “Are you hungry by any chance, Yangcheon? This old man brought something really delicious-“
  “The Young Master had already finished his meal earlier.”
  The Second Elder was unceremoniously cut off by the Sword Emperor.
  “Huh! You have some nerve to dare to interrupt the conversation between two members of the prestigious Gu Clan!”
  “Why are you acting like this, Second Elder-“
  I stopped in the middle of my sentence as I felt the temperature drop a few degrees. 
  ‘What’s with this sudden bad premonition that I feel…?’
  My honed instincts were screaming at me to get out of there.
  The unsettling feeling came from the Sword Emperor, who was still sweeping.
  I wasn’t sure, but it seemed the Sword Emperor was signaling for me to leave.
  If that’s the case, I’ll gladly heed your warning.
  “Lord Second Elder, I have something urgent that needs to be taken care of.”
  “Then this old man will also-“
  “Take care, Senior.”
  I didn’t stop to hear what he said after that. If I stayed there any longer, I’d definitely get caught up in something bad.
  I quickly fled, running away from the Second Elder, who was still trying to stop me from leaving.
  * * * * 
  After Gu Yangcheon left, the Second Elder and the Sword Emperor stood in awkward silence outside the training area. 
  The Second Elder’s eyes darted across the perimeter nervously.
  ‘There are too many trees in front of the wall… Do I have to jump over the roof?’
  …He was looking for a way to escape.
  Watching the almighty Sword Emperor do paltry housework lit a mischievous spark within the Second Elder. Seeing a man as powerful as him simply sweeping the floors was ridiculous, after all. 
  So he could admit that he may have gotten a bit too immersed in his teasing. But, of course, it was to be expected of a man whose nature was to act before thinking. 
  The Second Elder felt a foreboding sense of danger for the first time in years. 
  ‘…I went too far.’
  Although the Sword Emperor Wi Hyogun may appear to be a feeble old man, it was impossible to mistake the bloodlust that emanated from him.
  ‘A sword fanatic who immediately slaughters his enemies on sight.’
  To the Unorthodox Faction, the Sword Emperor was a psychopath who hunted and killed them without mercy.
  The Sword Emperor never hesitated to hunt down evil after all. 
  “Gu Ryoon.”
  The second elder’s hair prickled as the atmosphere became icy. It was a feeling he hadn’t felt in a while.
  “Ahem… Could it be that you are angry, Senior? I was just being a little playful. With how I treated you, I’m sure Gu Yangcheon wouldn’t notice who you were-“
  “That child really is magnificent.”
  “He was different two days ago, he was different yesterday, and today he is different yet again.”
  The Second Elder, who had been busy searching for an exit, was caught off guard by the comment from the Sword Emperor. 
  ‘Every day he changes.’
  When the Sword Emperor first met Gu Yangcheon, all he saw was just a son of the Gu Clan. 
  The Sword Emperor may have been taught not to judge a person based solely on their rumors, but that was all to it. 
  In comparison to other members of the Gu Clan, his fire Qi wasn’t anything to write home about, and his own natural talent seemed to be even less impressive.
  He was just the son of the Gu Clan and only that.
  That was the Gu Yangcheon the Sword Emperor knew.
  ‘But now?’
  He recalled Gu Yangcheon’s figure that had just left.
  His fire Qi hadn’t increased, nor did it get hotter.
  But it was stable.
  The Gu Clan’s fire Qi was known to be the most ferocious in the Orthodox Factions, only Peng Clan’s Qi could contend with it.
  It wasn’t easy to keep such untamable Qi from fluctuating.
  It required one to possess both natural talent and to train for many years. 
  But Gu Yangcheon was still so young, so he couldn’t have trained for that long.
  So it had to have been his talent. 
  “While it didn’t feel all that special, fire Qi of that nature is almost impossible to achieve at his age.”
  “I was also surprised when I saw him at the ceremony. It may have been a while since I last saw him, but I didn’t expect that he’d change that much.”
  “…Are you telling me he wasn’t like that the last time you saw him?”
  “It was only 3 months ago that he ran away saying that he couldn’t bear to train.”
  The kid that had acted so immaturely had grown up so suddenly. 
  The time he spent training now wasn’t even in the same realm as the meager amount he had spent before.
  According to his servants and escorts, so long as he wasn’t eating or sleeping, he was training. 
  And the training he did was no laughing matter, either.
  The Sword Emperor, who always kept an eye on him, knew that Gu Yangcheon never slacked in his training.
  “What made that child wake up all of a sudden?”
  It was obvious that humans changed over time, but there had to be a reason behind each change – something that drove them to do something different.
  That was the law of nature.
  What caused Gu Yangcheon to change? The Sword Emperor was endlessly curious.
  “You’re thinking too hard on this one.”
  The Second Elder clicked his tongue at the Sword Emperor. In his view, old age had left the Sword Emperor with too much time to ponder things over.
  “Something good is still in the realm of being good. Why do things have to be complicated?”
  For the Second Elder, he was just glad that all his previous issues regarding Gu Yangcheon had been resolved.
  ‘What would the First Elder think about this?’
  The Second Elder recalled the conversation he had with him.
  He had been worried about introducing the idea of Gu Yangcheon becoming the next lord to the First Elder in fear that he’d be opposed to it. Gu Yangcheon had lacked a good work ethic, and without any talent to compensate, the idea simply hadn’t been feasible.
  The Second Elder was relieved his biggest worries were left unfounded.
  “Senior, sometimes it’s best to keep things simple. It is what it is.”
  There was no way the elder’s words would reach the Sword Emperor. 
  Especially since the Sword Emperor’s family was involved. 
  “Thank you for the advice.”
  The Sword Emperor showed his gratitude regardless.
  “Ahem… Well, now that we are done here, I’ll take my leave-“
  “Where do you think you’re going?”
  “I mean, I’ve met with both you and Gu Yangcheon, so I have other things to attend to-“
  “Gu Ryoon, don’t we still have something important to discuss?”
  “I haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about-“
  The Second Elder paused as he felt the mood shift once again.
  The Sword Emperor, who had a languid smile on his face, spoke calmly.
  “Why don’t you keep coaching me on my sweeping? I’m very eager to learn.”
  The Second Elder was suddenly reminded of his past actions. It seems he hadn’t been forgiven that easily after all.
  ‘This man who gets easily butthurt…’
  The very instant the Sword Emperor took a step towards the elder, the Second Elder jumped over the roof.
  He had been planning the escape route the whole time.
* * * * *
  “What’s going on outside? Why is it so loud?”
  “I heard yesterday that a new building is being built in the clan.”
  “Really? It must be a big project for me to hear it from here.”
  Something about that noise felt off, but I shook off the odd feeling.
  I couldn’t afford to think about insignificant things like a new building being built right now.
  As I walked towards the entrance, Muyeon seemed to have something important for me since he looked restless.

  Thus, I couldn’t help but inquire what was up with him.
  In his hands was a letter containing the exact message I had been waiting for.
  I gave a big smile as I received the news.
  I didn’t have to ask where this letter was from.
  Hao Clan has finally contacted me.
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