Childhood Friend of the Zenith Chapter 60

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༺ The Fall of Plum Blossom Dragon (3) ༻
  None of it was welcoming. 
  The sound of rainfall, the moonlight shining down from the night sky above, and the breeze brushing past his hair.
  Not a single thing was welcoming. 
  The woman asked while the man was trapped in those hazy thoughts.
  「…Are you crying?」
  「Crying my ass, it’s obviously just because of the rain.」
  The man responded rudely, but the hand of the woman reached out to his cheeks.
  He would normally have slapped the hand away, but this time, he embraced her touch and let her nestle his cheeks. 
  「You… really aren’t.」
  「It looks like you want me to.」
  The man had already gone through too much.
  He believed that he had nothing left in him that could make him shed tears. 
  The woman’s voice held no traces of emotions. 
  And it was the same even when death crawled infinitely closer to her being. 
  The man guessed that the woman had become like this as she had already killed more people than she could hope to count, and, in the process, saw so many visions of death herself. 
  The woman was missing one of her arms and had a huge hole lodged in her chest. 
  The reason why she was still alive when she should’ve already died was probably because of the level she reached as a martial artist. 
  Even then, she didn’t have much time left.
  「Why did you do this?」
  The man asked the woman as he couldn’t understand her actions a single bit. 
  At the last moment, the sword had been aimed towards the man.
  And, even though the woman herself could’ve survived, she threw herself in front of him. 
  The man couldn’t understand.
  No, he just didn’t want to understand.
  He was supposed to be the one that should’ve been laying on the ground right now.
  That was what was supposed to happen ever since this bloody war had started.
  But the woman interfered with the man’s destiny. 
  And that roused the man’s anger. 
  Yes, it made the man angry. He was sure of it. He told himself that to be the reason for the seething anger burning inside of him right now. 
  The woman slowly touched the man’s cheek.
  The sound of rainfall made the man nauseous. 
  「Don’t cry.」
  The man tried to push away the woman’s hand.
  But when he grabbed her frail wrist, he found himself unable to do what he desired. 
  「…Don’t cry.」
  The woman kept repeating the same line to the desolate man. She kept speaking even though she couldn’t see anything as her eyes had long since closed. 
  Was it sympathy?
  Or was it friendship?
  He couldn’t really understand anything anymore.
  「…I told you I’m not crying.」
  「Don’t… cry.」
  The woman’s white, blue-tinted hair started to lose its light as it became drenched in the tumbling rain. 
  Of course, the moonlight that the man hated to his bones… just had to go away the moment he needed its presence the most. 
  「…Is the moon still up…?」
  The woman asked the man in a hushed tone. 
  The man looked up to the sky.
  It was only filled with dark clouds and the constant pouring of the cold rain. 
  The woman loved the moon.
  She would often look at the moon while sitting on a rock. 
  The man could remember every single time that she gazed up at the moon in a daze. 
  「…Yes, it’s up there.」
  There was no way the moon was visible with the presence of the dark clouds and the rain blocking it. 
  Both the man and the woman knew.
  They just acted like they didn’t know anything.
  「…Are you next to me?」
  The woman asked, her voice slowly diminishing to a whisper.
  The man smiled blankly at her stupid question.
  「You’re still asking that even though you are touching my cheek.」
  It almost looked as if the woman smiled a little at the man’s words. 
  Did she smile? The man thought that he was just seeing things. 
  「…Both of us are here, thank goodness.」
  What is she so relieved for?
  The man wasn’t able to ask her that question. 
  Because those were the last words before she left this world. 
  And then, the man slowly put down the woman’s hand. 
  It didn’t seem like he could afford to bring her body along with him or bury her. 
  As she probably wouldn’t have wanted that, nor could the man afford to do that in his current situation. 
  「Found you!」
  The man slowly turned around to the voice he heard from behind him.
  Tens, or perhaps even hundreds of martial artists were facing against the man.
  They were people that wore a white uniform with blue accents which had the word ‘Pledge’ written on it.
  In front of all these martial artists stood a very handsome man, and that man pulled out the sword from his scabbard. 
  「Thankfully you couldn’t run that far.」
  The man could see the handsome man’s will and determination to save the peace of the world. 
  The man had to forcefully suppress the goosebumps he got because of the handsome man’s appearance. 
  「…The Meteor Sword.」
  The Meteor, Jang Seongyeon. He was the man that was called the future of the Orthodox Faction. 
  The man slowly called to him.
  With the man’s call, the Meteor’s eyebrows shook ever so slightly. 
  Then the woman next to the Meteor shouted before he could utter anything. 
  「How dare you! Don’t you dare put the name of our leader in your filthy demonic mouth!」
  The man didn’t respond to her. 
  The rainfall felt much much heavier than usual. 
  「…I keep forgetting.」
  The man rubbed his face in exhaustion. 
  Yes, he kept forgetting. 
  The reason why he was standing in this spot, and the role he had to play in this farce. 
  He just kept forgetting all of it over and over again.  
  「…The Heavenly Demon will soon be killed. Just surrender yourself!」
  The man smirked at the Meteor’s words.
  He tried to hold it in, but couldn’t, in the end. 
  「Lord will soon be killed? Who will do that?」
  「The Heavenly Demon is currently fighting against the Heavenly Venerables-」
  「Ah, the Heavenly Venerables? So you left them with the Heavenly Demon and all of you came here to capture a lowly soldier like me, huh?」 
  The man couldn’t stop his smile from stretching further along his lips. 
  The Meteor’s face slowly and gradually morphed into a frown. 
  The man finally managed to stop his chuckling. 
  「Right, let’s do it… let’s do it already, since if I don’t do it seriously, everyone will throw a tantrum again.」
  As the man took a step forward,
  Raging flames of dark fury rose from the soles of his feet and instantly engulfed the entirety of the forest they now occupied. 
  While all the martial artists were getting into their battle stances, the man had his eyes set on the Meteor and him only. 
  His emotionless visage returned once more as he spoke to the Meteor.
  「You sick bastard.」
  The Meteor’s mouth shook slightly at his words, but his face quickly lost visibility as the destructive flames of destruction surged all around the man and the others. 
  The flames that gradually increased in size managed to swallow the entire forest, and in a short span of time, they burned down everything within the radius of a few miles. 
  According to the report of the Murim Alliance— ‘The demonic human had managed to escape. The sole survivor of that incident being the Meteor as the others were burnt to ashes.’ 
* * *
  I coughed at Namgung Bi-ah’s response.
  The memories that resurfaced out of nowhere and without my control were always the ones that made me feel the most amount of nausea. 
  Why? Why did I suddenly remember that incident? Why now of all times, dammit? 
  I couldn’t look at Namgung Bi-ah’s face, so I had to avert my eyes away from her. 
  I felt like I would lose control if I looked at her any longer due to the terrifying memory surfacing once again.
  “…Did you not just see I just finished fighting with someone?”
  I had just finished a duel against Yung Pung.
  Wasn’t Namgung Bi-ah watching that with the others?
  Why was she asking for a duel right after that?
  Following my question, Namgung Bi-ah’s lips formed a pout and she became sulky. 
  For her to make such a face… was very rare. 
  I couldn’t even dare to imagine her making such a face in my previous life. 
  Every time something like this happened, I couldn’t help but feel that she really was different from the Demon Sword in my memories, but I still couldn’t completely throw away the strange feeling that resided in the corner of my heart whenever I saw her. 
  「You’ve suddenly become so inconsistent with whatever you do, just stick to one thing already, it’s annoying me.」
  Your words are becoming harsher and harsher, Elder.
  Was he mad that a person from his clan got beaten up even though he was the one that wanted me to duel him? 
  Nah, no way was he that narrow-minded, right…? 
  「…You rotten piece of shit.」
  …I wasn’t wrong, it seems.
  But I guess he really was from Mount Hua, seeing as he still felt so biased towards the clan.
  「That doesn’t matter here. It’s the lord’s job to take care of their own children.」
  Then what are you so mad for?
  「…I just feel frustrated that he got beaten up even after manifesting the plum blossoms. Back in my days, I wasn’t like that…!」
  …What do you mean-
  「Kids these days, sigh… That’s not how you use that technique…」
  I just decided to ignore him altogether. 
  Turning my focus to Namgung Bi-ah, I spoke.
  “Are you like this because you are still sulking about my rejection?”
  Was she being so stubborn because I rejected her duel and accepted Yung Pung’s instead? 
  I guess I was right because Namgung Bi-ah’s eyes flinched slightly when I mentioned that. 
  “…I’m not sulking.”
  Her voice was shaking a bit too.
  “It looks like you are though?”

  “I’m… not.”
  “Are you sure you aren’t?”
  But then why is she avoiding my gaze? Was she always capable of showing so much emotion on her face?
  Whether it was because she was still young, or perhaps she was originally like this, was something I was unaware of. 
  But I was curious about one thing about Namgung Bi-ah who kept avoiding eye contact with me.
  “Lady Namgung.”
  “Do you like the moon?”

  Namgung Bi-ah tilted her head at my question.
  It was understandable because it was a very random question.
  Maybe she thought about it a little, she answered my question after rolling her eyes. 
  “Not really…?”
  I smirked at her response. 
  “She didn’t like the moon, huh.”
  I thought I heard her say that she did like the moon.
  Maybe she didn’t actually say it out loud.
  I spoke to Namgung Bi-ah who seemed visibly confused by my mutters. 
  “The duel… We can do it next time.”

  Namgung Bi-ah’s eyes widened at my words. 
  Is she that surprised that I said we’d do it next time? 
  “…You’ll duel with me?”

  “Only if you speak to me formally.”

  “Young Master?”

  “…Never mind, just do whatever you want.”

  I honestly gave up at this point.
  This habit of hers won’t be fixed no matter how hard I tried. 
  I had already used up too much Qi and would probably feel tired down to my bones very soon. 
  I did control myself a little, but it was a rough skill that wasn’t meant to be used for a long time, and I was sure it would put a toll on my body not long after. 
  I would probably be in pain laying down.
  「I hope you get sleep paralysis.」 
  Are you really not going to act your age? How can a ghost pray for a sleep paralysis demon to affect his host?
  「Act my age!? Why you little brat…!」
  I suddenly got a headache because of the constant shouting of the old man inside my head. 
  While I was wrapping my hands around my head, Namgung Bi-ah came towards me.
  “What’s wrong?”

  “My head is just-”
  Then Namgung Bi-ah’s hand suddenly touched my cheek.
  Because of that, the memory from earlier overlapped with what she was saying to me right now. 
  “It’s burning…”
  An ominous feeling crept up immediately as both scenes overlapped, causing me to reflexively slap away Namgung Bi-ah’s hand. 
  Namgung Bi-ah kept repeatedly looking at her hand, which was slapped away. and my hand, which had slapped her hand away, for some time. 
  I’d accidentally acted too rashly with her. 
  I let out a fake cough and apologized to her for my misconduct. 
  “I’m sorry, I was just surprised.”
  「You can’t even eat the things that are thrown at you for free.」 
  Namgung Bi-ah nodded her head at my apology.
  It looked like she was saying that she was fine.
  “Then… next time.”
  After muttering those words, Namgung Bi-ah turned around and walked away. 
  Was it just me or did her footsteps make it seem like she was feeling a bit happy? 
  While I was watching her, Elder Shin asked me a question. 
  「You really didn’t want to do it, but what made you change your mind?」
  When did I say I didn’t want to do it?
  「Up until the point you told her you would duel her next time, and even now, you felt hesitant about the thought-」
  She really seemed like she wanted it so badly, so I just said yes to it.
  「…Right. Well, if you do get a chance to duel with her, control it this time.」
  Control what?
  「Whatever beast-like skills you use, just be a little more cautious when using your Qi.」 
  I couldn’t really understand Elder Shin’s words, but it didn’t seem like he was joking anymore. 
  「I had to go through the hassle of suppressing the beast because you used so much of your Qi.」 
  「What did you consume for you to have this horrendous thing inside you… You really want an old man to suffer like this, you little brat!?」
  It’s not like you’re alive anyways, so what are you talking about?
  Elder Shin rampaged back at my response.
  I couldn’t stop his rampage just by blocking my ears, so it was more than a bit annoying.
  Regardless, while I’d responded jokingly to him, it seemed like I had a serious problem at my hands.
  For that thing to go on a rampage when I use a lot of Qi… 
  Elder Shin’s words were an unwelcome warning. 
  Now that I was able to freely use my power, there was a problem inside me all of a sudden?
  What could it be?
  Whether it came from the treasure or was something I had inside my body from the start was something I didn’t know. 
  I hoped that Elder Shin is lying, but even that… I’m not sure of…
  Hopefully, I can figure something out when we reach Mount Hua.
  I felt like I wasn’t going to get a solution even if I went to the Mount Hua Sect, but I didn’t exactly have any other choices. 
  Is this also something I’m going to have to deal with later?
  Since it’s not like I could do anything about it in the middle of a mountain.
  I let Mount Hua’s crew do their business with Yung Pung and returned to my camp. 
  I felt that something was different as I entered the camp, and thinking about it for a bit, I realized that Wi Seol-Ah didn’t come running to me anymore… 
  “…Huh? Did she really go somewhere?”
  It obviously wasn’t possible for her to come and greet me all the time, but she always came to me most of the time in these situations, so I couldn’t help but feel a bit worried. 
  So, I asked one of the servants.
  “Seol-Ah was with her grandpa earlier.”
  I felt relieved upon hearing servant’s response. 
  There was nothing to worry about when she was with the Sword Emperor. 
  …I guess starting tomorrow we will travel with Namgung Bi-ah, huh?
  「…You’re lucky she’s packing–」
  While I was thinking of what to do, Elder Shin spoke out.
  …Elder Shin, you aren’t a Taoist after all, are you?
  「You little brat… How dare you say that to the ancestor of a Taoist clan!?」
  No matter how I looked at it, this guy should not have become the Lord of the Mount Hua Sect…
  Let alone him becoming the Divine Sword of Mount Hua on top of that.
  That would be an embarrassment to the people of the Mount Hua Sect that were currently living there as well as the future people of Mount Hua. 
  「…You know I can hear you, right?」
  Yes, that’s why I’m saying it. Don’t worry about it.
  「Hahaha, what a piece of shit you are, indeed.」
  After finishing the duel, the night sky became much darker than before.
  I had to go to bed as staying up any longer would only make it harder for me tomorrow.
  I felt a little bad for Yung Pung since I did go a bit far in the duel.
  「A bit far? You say that now after burning all those flowers away!??」
  …I felt that he would handle it nicely on his own. 
  If something like this broke him, there was no way he would be able to overcome his wall anyways.
  I wanted to wash myself as I had sweated a lot during the duel, but I was feeling really lazy, so I just decided to sleep anyways. 
  「…How filthy of you to sleep in your current state.」
  As always, I ignored Elder Shin’s words completely.
* * *
  Wi Seol-Ah was having a conversation with the Sword Emperor for the first time in a while.
  Their conversations usually consisted of him narrating tales to Wi Seol-Ah while she attentively listened to them and enjoying every bit of them. 
  While she was about to fall asleep with her eyes half closed, Wi Seol-Ah suddenly asked the Sword Emperor a question that she had wanted to for a while. 


  “What’s a fiancé?”

  The Sword Emperor made a strange face following Wi Seol-Ah’s question. 
  He felt a bit embarrassed that although he was lenient with raising her, he hadn’t even taught her something as simple as that. 
  He didn’t know why she was randomly asking such a question, but he just thought that it was just another one of her random questions and nothing else. She was curious about many things, such as what an eagle would taste like, or a hawk… 
  So Sword Emperor just took the question lightly and responded as such to Wi Seol-Ah. 
  “A fiancé is…”

  Wi Seol-Ah’s expression became darker and darker as she listened to the Sword Emperor’s explanation.
  But the Sword Emperor didn’t notice her expression and continued to explain to Wi Seol-Ah about her question. 
  The next day,
  Wi Seol-Ah stopped talking to Namgung Bi-ah.
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