Childhood Friend of the Zenith Chapter 28

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༺ The Demon Sword (5) ༻
  We ended up spending the night at the lodge, and it was now morning.
  Well, technically speaking, it was still nighttime—midnight, to be precise. But we needed to be up and ready around this time if we wanted to make it to the Tang Clan’s estate before the end of the day.
  I stepped out of my room while trying to get rid of the grogginess that accompanied one who had just woken from sleep and was watching the surroundings with an amused gaze when Wi Seol-Ah emerged from the servants’ quarters to the side.
  She seemed to have also just woken up , as she was still drowsily rubbing her eyes, and so I walked over to her and gave her a flick to the head.
  “Wake up. Hurry and go and wash your face.”
  “It huuuurts…”
  “Don’t be so melodramatic. And what kind of servant gets up after me?”
  “The servant sisters left without waking me up…”
  “You need to learn to wake up on your own.”
  After our small exchange, Wi Seol-Ah went downstairs with small steps.
  I wondered how long it would take until we could get going. 
  Around two hours…?
– Creak
  I turned my gaze towards the door that had just opened and found that it was Namgung Cheonjun.
  He was dressed up and seemed ready to depart already.
  However, I frowned as our eyes met.
  ‘Do I still need to greet him?’
  After what had happened yesterday, I honestly didn’t feel like I needed to.
  His gaze turned sharp upon seeing me, and he opened his mouth, seemingly wanting to say something-
  But right at that moment, Namgung Bi-ah stepped out of her room.
  At her appearance, Namgung Cheonjun’s expression immediately changed. His visage instantly morphing back to that of the kind and friendly older brother he had shown when we first met.
  “Young Master Gu, you’re up early. How was your night?”
  I couldn’t help but be impressed upon seeing Namgung Cheonjun’s sharp switch. Where the hell did the Namgung Cheonjun who seemed to want to cut me down in two halves with his gaze disappear off to?
  I was suddenly reminded of Peng Woojin. I had thought that he was a lunatic at first, but after seeing the Namgung Young Master before me, I felt a bit bad for labeling him like that.
  He might have been insane, but at the very least, he was a nice guy.
  This Namgung Cheonjun, however, was just a straight-up lunatic.
  Namgung Bi-ah tilted her head in confusion at my response and then at the fact that we were together. From her eyes, I could tell that she was wondering what exactly was going on.
  “I coincidentally met with Young Master Gu after waking up. You look like you just woke up.”
  “Ah… Yeah…”
  “We will be leaving soon, so you should start getting ready. I’ll send a servant to your room.”
  After their little exchange, I felt that Namgung Cheonjun was definitely a pro at cutting off people’s sentences. The ease with which he consistently cut off his sister mid-sentence showed that this wasn’t the first time he had done this.
  Namgung Bi-ah gave a short yawn and then returned to her room. And Namgung Cheonjun’s expression switched once again the instant the door to her room was shut—the sharp gaze he had shown moments before returned.
  He spoke.
  “The warning I gave you yesterday, don’t forget it.”
  And went downstairs immediately after.
  As I looked at his departing back, I couldn’t help but wonder; was the guy known in the future as the Lightning Sword always like this?
  Before Namgung Bi-ah went crazy and wiped out her clan, he had been known as a man who would protect the world as the Lord of Namgung in the name of justice.
  The people of Namgung were certainly crazy; whether it was their Lord or his offspring. The experiences of both my lives did nothing but reaffirm this fact to me.
  ‘He is fated to be the center of Namgung when he’s like that? What a world…’
  I went downstairs shortly after.
  The Gu Clan servants were already gathered together on the first floor.
  Muyoen, seeing me come down, immediately walked towards me.
  “Young Master, would you like to eat?”
  “Hm… I’m not really hungry…”
  “The dumplings are really good.”
  “Very well then, I’ll eat.”
  The word ‘dumpling’ seemed to trigger something within me.
  Wi Seol-Ah, who somehow still looked sleepy, was letting the other servants take care of her hair.
  “Seol-Ah has such nice hair.”
  “Don’t you think it’s because she’s young? I also had nice hair when I was young…”
  “Pfft, nice? Your hair was such a mess that your brother said that it could be used as a mop!”
  “…Don’t bring that up. I scratched his face when he first told me that.”
  “Oh? I asked him where the scar on his face was from, and he told me that it was from a cat. So that cat was actually you, huh?”
  “Sister Hongwa’s hair is a mop?”
  “Seol-Ah, don’t learn to use those bad words!”
  They also seemed to be engaging in meaningless conversation, with the half-asleep Wi Seol-Ah contributing from time to time.
  But… why does she have a dumpling in her hand? Does she eat even while sleeping?
  I shook my head at the picture before me and then followed Muyeon to where the dumplings were kept.
  Upon taking a seat, I grabbed one and took a bite…
– Scrape
  As I ate, I heard a chair being dragged to my side. When I looked to the side, it was Namgung Bi-ah. She seemed to have freshened up… but that wasn’t the problem right now.
  ‘Why are you sitting next to me!?’
  “…I think you should be sitting over there, not here.”
  The members of the Namgung Clan had gathered on the other side of the room, and logically, Namgung Bi-ah should have been there with them.
  The fact that she was here instead caused the clan of crazy bastards to focus their gazes on me, with fire threatening to spew out of their eyes.
  Namgung Bi-ah, who seemed oblivious to the situation, grabbed at a dumpling. A grab I quickly intercepted with my chopsticks.
  “Lady, this dumpling belongs to me. And, why are you sitting here again?”
  “…I just sat wherever the closest seat was.”
  “Your brother’s stare is about to burn a hole through me.”
  Namgung Bi-ah turned her eyes to her brother in a bid to confirm my words, but all she saw was a kind smile on his chameleon-like face.
  “What a lunatic.”
  Why is he treating me like shit? Did I actually do something that offended him?
  Namgung Bi-ah gazed back at me, and I could tell that she was wondering what exactly the problem was. I decided to let her be.
  ‘But stop taking my dumplings, you stupid bitch…’
  I stood up after shoving the last dumpling into my mouth.
  Namgung Bi-ah remained seated, a forlorn look in her eyes as she gazed at the bowl where the last dumpling used to be, but what could she do about it?
  As she sat there, looking desolate and disappointed, Wi Seol-Ah randomly appeared with more dumplings. However, I suspected that the dumplings were hers.
  It was a sight for the ages, seeing one so crazy about food offer her food to someone else. Particularly in this situation where neither individual would end up satisfied after eating the food.
  Namgung Bi-ah, seeing Wi Seol-Ah’s gesture, patted her head and then accepted the dumplings.
  Wi Seol-Ah gave a bright smile in return and came over to sit by my side shortly after.
  She tilted her head towards me, seeking pats after doing what she believed was a good thing.
  I flicked her head instead.
  “What are you seeking compliments for?”
  “Grandpa told me that it’s nice to offer food to a hungry person…”
  “She would get more than enough food from others even without you! Now go and eat more dumplings.”
  Bearing a saddened visage, she walked back to the other servants, who dutifully fed her more dumplings.
  I sighed after all of this had occurred and then closed my eyes to rest… Muyeon came not long after.
  “Young Master, it seems like we’ll be leaving soon.”
  “We’ll be leaving sooner than expected. Is everything ready for the journey?”
  “Yes. As soon as we finish our meals, we will bring the necessities and store them in the carriages.”
  It would probably be after noon by the time we arrived.
  Thankfully, we were still more or less on schedule.
  “Well then, let’s get read-“
  As I spoke, I noticed that Muyeon’s focus was elsewhere.
  I followed his gaze, and I saw Namgung Bi-ah staring at his sword.
  Sigh… This girl.
  “…Lady Namgung, we already said that we wouldn’t accept your duel, so stop staring. Your gaze is making my servant uncomfortable.”
  Following my words, I released Muyeon, unable to continue our conversation in such an atmosphere.
  Muyeon quickly paid his respects and then disappeared, seemingly relieved at being dismissed.
  “Why are you so obsessed with Muyeon?”
  I turned my gaze to Namgung Bi-ah after Muyeon’s dismissal, my gaze understandably irritated. 
  “There are many others you can meet.”
  “He is a strong swordsman… I feel like I’d learn a lot from him if I exchanged swords with him.”
  “Then go do that with your brother who’s staring at me like a lunatic.”
  “Cheonjun is…”
  Namgung Bi-ah paused at that moment, causing me to frown.
  Shouldn’t the Lightning Sword be really strong? Currently, he should be above Gu Yeonseo and Gu Jeolyub, I don’t know about Muyeon though.
  Namgung Cheonjun was at a level that I couldn’t beat even if I used the same tactic I’d used against Gu Jeolyub.
  Upon thinking up to this point, I paused as I realized something.
  ‘Come to think of it, shouldn’t Namgung Bi-ah be a well-known name as well?’
  The Demon Sword was an incomparable swordswoman.
  Before she became a demonic human, she was already an insanely strong person. So…
  ‘There’s no way that her crazy talent for swordsmanship hasn’t bloomed by now.’
  I couldn’t tell their exact levels, but I was sure that she wouldn’t be far behind the crazy guy who was currently giving me a death glare.
  There’s also the fact that she was given the title of “Demon Sword”.
  She should have already spread her name as a swordswoman strong beyond her years by now.
  So… why isn’t that the case? Of the ranks, she should at least belong among the Five Dragons and Three Phoenixes.
  Is there something I’m not aware of…?
  “I should stop being curious.”
  “Nothing. Enjoy the rest of your dumplings, I’m getting up.”
  I quickly rose to my feet and went outside. Wi Seol-Ah followed me as if she had been waiting. She had two dumplings in her hands and looked like she was about to eat them.
  “You’re going to eat two? You might get sick if you keep eating.”
  “One is for you!”
  “Oh. That’s a nice thought.”
  We walked toward the carriages while eating dumplings together.
  It seemed like my appetite was also increasing, as Wi Seol-Ah would always give me something to eat.
  I was gaining some fat around my hips… It seemed like I would need to increase my training as well.
* * * *
  Namgung Bi-ah kept staring at the backs of the boy and girl who had stepped outside.
  She couldn’t take her eyes off of them.
  Why was that the case? She asked herself. But she already knew the answer.
  Namgung Bi-ah then suddenly perceived a horrible stench.
  She wanted to cover her nose, but she knew it wasn’t a smell that would go away just by covering her nose.
  Namgung Bi-ah slowly turned her head to look at her little brother.
  It was a thick stench. How come her brother always had that horrible stench on him?
  She couldn’t figure it out.
  She didn’t want to be close to her father, the elders, or even her brother.
  Her brother treated her nicely, but that alone couldn’t change her feelings.
  She couldn’t tell if she felt guilt towards her family, or just pure hatred….
  ‘…I want to run away.’
  She wanted to run away from the horrible stench.
  “All of us are over there, so how come you sat here?”
  Namgung Cheonjun asked.
  Because the smell is worse when everyone is gathered together like that.
  Namgung Bi-ah couldn’t say that, though.
  “…This spot was just the closest to me.”
  “You can cause trouble for others if you act like this. Come sit at the right spot next time.”
  “Yeah… Sorry.”
  She saw Namgung Cheonjun’s smiling face, but she felt frustrated instead.
  ‘I want to run away, but to where?’
  Namgung Bi-ah asked herself. Then she thought of the boy.
  The boy she coincidently ran into surprisingly had no stench around him.
  There was no smell on him. It was the first time she had felt such a thing.
  The man named Muyeon had a bit of a smell, but even his smell would go away when he went near the boy.
  She couldn’t figure out the reason why the boy felt annoyed around her and wanted to keep his distance from her, but even then, she felt comfortable around him.
  After being around him, after experiencing what it felt like not to have to bear the smell, she found it particularly hard to bear the stench coming from her brother.
  She quickly rose to her feet.
  “Sister? Where are you going?”
  “The carriage… I’ll be going first.”
  Namgung Bi-ah left her little brother and quickly followed Gu Yangcheon.
  Namgung Cheonjun, who was left behind, stared at Namgung Bi-ah, his expression slowly morphing.
  From his nice and kind little brother facade, he went back to his cold face.
  “What’s the problem?”
  – Crack-crack.
  Namgung Cheonjun had a habit of cracking his fingers.
  Something was wrong, Namgung Cheonjun could tell this much. Such a thing had never happened before.
  “I hate disruptors.”
  The sound of cracking stopped, and Namgung Cheonjun slowly turned around.
  Namgung Cheonjun’s eyes, after he turned around, were filled with the desire to kill.
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