Childhood Friend of the Zenith Chapter 122

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༺ This isn’t it…? (2) ༻
  My head started to ache due to the constant maniacal laughter I heard. It was rather annoying to hear him have so much fun the entire day.
  “Could you please be quiet?”
  「You deserved this… The five fingers on my hand would be enough to count situations as satisfying as this in my whole life.」
  “You lived for that long, yet you only had no more than five moments of your life as exciting as this…?」
  I couldn’t bear with Elder Shin anymore, so I went out to the training area. There was a nice breeze outside, but I couldn’t really feel much because of the heat raging inside my body.
  A day had passed ever since my duel against Namgung Jin. Because of me causing rather big trouble, the whole clan was shocked by it. 
  It was because I dueled against the Lord of the Namgung Clan, and if that wasn’t problematic enough, the Lord himself admitted defeat. 
  “Why would he suddenly do that…”
  How nice could it have been if I had just gotten what I wanted while also counting it as my loss? He could have kept his image as the lord of the clan too. Now it has become a problem for me as well. 
  One thing that was fortunate, though, was that I didn’t tell people that I used a sword. 
  I may have been the cause for the duel to begin with, and although I was rather harsh with my approach, Namgung Jin also admitted his wrongdoing, so there shouldn’t be any major problems between the two clans. 
  However… there was another big problem.
  ‘This is all your fault…’
  「You little…! I went out of my way to help you and you’re so ungrateful!」
  ‘If you are going to help me, at least do it properly till the end…!’
  Disciple. A freaking disciple, for f*ck’s sake!
  I told the almighty lord of Namgung Clan to become my disciple!
  And because I said such an absurd thing to an arrogant man filled with so much pride… my head ached like crazy. 
  That only worsened when I looked at the man that was leaning on a tree with his eyes closed. 
  The man spoke to me.
  “You came.”
  “…How long were you waiting for me?”
  “It hasn’t been that long.”
  The Azure Heavenly Sword was leaning on a tree, patiently awaiting my arrival. That was the first time I had seen him after he had been taken away the day before. 
  “Are you okay?”
  “What do you mean?”
  “Your body.”
  “I’m fine, as I wasn’t injured anywhere.”
  It may have been a duel with the use of real swords, but both Namgung Jin and I had come out unscathed. Elder Shin didn’t swing with the intent to kill him, and Namgung Jin’s sword didn’t reach me either.
  The man stared at me, still rooted in place. I didn’t know what he was thinking, but it was extremely pressuring to be stared at by a face that was so similar to Namgung Cheonjun’s. 
  “I made sure that there would be no problems for you, Young Lord.”
  “What’s wrong?”
  It was because of the change in title with which he was calling me. If the title wasn’t enough, he had even switched the way he talked to me. ‘Young Lord, he says… Even though, just yesterday, he was calling me a brat.’
  “If you don’t like that title, should I call you master?”
  Not minding my refusal, Namgung Jin continued to speak. 
  “I know you didn’t actually mean what you said.”
  “Yes. I wasn’t being serious.”
  「Why are you ignoring my sincerity? I was being sincere.」 
  I ignored Elder Shin. My head right now was filled with how I should fix this situation. 
  The reason why I wanted to use a sword against him was because I had an excuse to wield it. Not only was Qi not allowed, but my body had reached the peak realm and the Gu Clan was known for using either their fists or swords in combat. 
  I was able to come out victorious thanks to my talent; was this a convincing enough excuse? It was not like he could do anything to tackle this even if he had questions or felt something was wrong. 
  In the end, I had nothing I could come up with to explain the fact that I had used the Namgung Clan’s sword art. It just wasn’t something I could logically explain. 
  I hadn’t been secretly born to the Namgung Clan, nor was I a secret disciple that trained there. 
  ‘How could you expect me to handle something like this…’
  「I mean, you also left me with work to do.」
  I looked at Namgung Jin. I didn’t know where all the anger he had felt the day before had gone, but his eyes were as calm as a lake now.
  Noting the awkward silence, Namgung Jin spoke up again.
  “I hadn’t made this incident public yet.”
  His words were cold. 
  “I am not threatening you, as I’m not really in a position to do such a thing. I’ll also admit that I lost the bet, since my daughter is already arranged to marry the Young Lord anyway.” 
  It didn’t seem like he had any other intention. But did he not think one bit about Namgung Bi-ah? It felt strange hearing him decide his daughter’s fate like that, without asking for her opinion first.
  In the end, I got what I wanted, but I still felt a bit bothered. 
  “Like I said yesterday, I’ll do anything that you ask of me. If there is anything you want, or if you want me to fall to my knees, I will, just say the word. I will do anything for you to recognize me as your disciple.” 
  ‘How could he say such scary and uncomfortable words like it’s nothing?’
  “What does it mean for you to take it this far?”
  “What does it mean, you ask? How funny. Do you really not know what you used yesterday?”
  I did. I was well aware of the value of the swordplay Elder Shin had put on display back then. Namgung Jin would only know it better.. 
  I still wondered if it was something that amazing for him to act this way. 
  “It’s something I need more than anything else right now.” 
  To Namgung Jin, he could have seen it as the last piece of enlightenment that could push him to the next level, or he could’ve just been charmed by the swordplay. 
  A martial art of high value was pretty much poison to a martial artist. It was impossible for them to escape it if they were addicted to it. 
  The problem was that I had no way of teaching him the thing he so desired. 
  ‘I showed him this art, but I can’t teach it to him? What kind of bullshit is that?’
  And if I just said something along the lines of ‘I actually don’t know much about it myself…’
  ‘There is no way he’d believe me.’
  「Yeah, he wouldn’t believe that.」
  I stopped thinking after hearing Elder Shin try to speak in between maniacal laughter. I suddenly had a thought and asked Namgung Jin, “Aren’t you curious how I could use the sword art of the Namgung Clan?”
  This was an important question which Namgung Jin had never asked despite it being the first thing that came to mind.
  Wasn’t that strange? I knew that he was blinded by the swordplay, but he didn’t ask about what should be the most important thing. 
  Namgung Jin then put on a strange expression after hearing my question.
  “Need I ask?”
  “The Young Lord must be one of them. Is it something I should ask?”
  ‘Who is he talking about?’
  I didn’t expect the words Namgung Jin uttered. It wasn’t like I knew nothing about our world, so he caught me by surprise.
  I wondered if he was talking about the Black Palace, but I didn’t think that was the case. ‘That name shouldn’t be known to many at this point of time.’
  Then who were the ‘them’ that Namgung Jin was referring to? Who were they for Namgung Jin to let this matter slide like it was nothing?
  Noticing my lack of response, the man frowned.
  “Young Lord…?”
  “You are correct. I just did not expect that the Lord of Namgung would know about this.”
  Namgung Jin was about to question me, so I straight up lied to him. After all, if I denied, there would be nothing else I could use as an excuse. 
  「How could you be so shameless…」 
  ‘This is all because of the mess you left for me to clean up, so don’t say a word.’
  「You sure it’s okay for you to do this?」
  ‘No, it’s not okay, and this is all your fault.’
  「You don’t think about the shit you do and instead blame me for it. You really are a rotting piece of shit.」
  The Lord of Namgung was this close to becoming my disciple, so I really needed to do something. 
  I didn’t know who he was referring to when he said ‘them,’ but at least their existence helped me convince him. 
  A group that made it not strange at all for a blood child of the Gu Clan like me to know the sword art of the Namgung Clan. 
  ‘What did he mean by that?’
  Put that way, I actually had no group that came to mind. The Black Palace was already enough to give me a headache, but now I had to think about a different group. ‘And you are telling me such an absurd group like that exists?’
  ‘I don’t remember anything like that either.’
  At this point, it was either a group that was unknown to the world, or it could’ve been Namgung Jin’s scheme. 
  I had so many things that rolled inside my mind. As I was repeatedly thinking about complicated things, Namgung Jin continued to speak. 
  “You even exposed your true identity to give me a lesson, so I assumed you would want to gain something from this.”
  “Yes… Of course.”
  There was no way Elder Shin had done that for some gain. And even if he had wanted something, he wouldn’t have asked Namgung Jin. 
  「Things are getting entertaining.」
  ‘You think this is entertaining?’
  My brain felt like it was going to burn as I didn’t know the origin of the problem, but Elder Shin just continued to giggle as if he was entertained by this. What group was it that Namgung Jin was thinking of?
  “As much as I would like to get straight into it, I should first talk about what happened yesterday with my servants.”
  “About what?”
  “Yesterday, I heard that one of the Young Lord’s servants has been attacked by my servants and is now hospitalized.”
  “…You are correct.”
  One of the servants told me that the name of the injured was Beehee. The name didn’t ring any bells for me—it seemed like we hadn’t interacted at all thus far.
  But even so, I still remembered the way she looked at me at the last moment. 
  “And because of that, you beat up my servants to the ground to the point of them being half-dead.”
  “I don’t feel that you are trying to put the blame on me, so what are you trying to say right now?”
  “Of course I’m not blaming you. It’s just an important matter, as even if the Namgung Clan is ranked among the top, they don’t have the right to just beat up a servant of another clan and treat them this way.” 
  Yeah, which was why it was so absurd and out of nowhere. 
  The Gu Clan wasn’t looked down upon by anyone, and those guests had come here for a marriage agreement. For them to beat up a servant of mine like that? Confounding. 
  There was no other reason for such a thing to happen besides them thinking we were beneath them, like ants.
  As I came to that conclusion, Namgung Jin said, “Neither of us was responsible for that.”
  “Including me, I am saying that none of Namgung was involved with what happened yesterday.”
  He had come to learn under me, yet he was lying instead of apologizing? I felt like my rage would make my body explode at any moment now.
  “Then are you telling me that what I saw yesterday were ghosts?”
  I remembered the man I had seen in front of the guesthouse. I forced myself in as I found it strange how my servant had gone missing, which resulted in me finding her on the ground, beaten up. 
  Namgung Jin then asked, “That is why I’m asking. Who was that man?”
  “What are you trying to say-“
  “I’m saying that the man you saw yesterday wasn’t any of my people. We had nothing to do with your servant getting beaten up like that. None of my escorts have any idea who that person was.”
  Hearing his answer, I couldn’t help but look at Namgung Jin with shaky eyes.
  “Are you really telling me to believe such an absurd thing?”
  “For one to be accepted into the Namgung Clan, they must first be given a lock formation that puts them in order. If you want, I’ll show you by calling my servants here. And if you still don’t believe me, there are many other ways I can use to prove it to you.”
  It didn’t look like Namgung Jin was lying based on his expression and the atmosphere he put out, but it still wasn’t easy for me to believe it. 
  The man that tried to block me in front of the gate, I twisted his arm, broke it, and knocked him out with a strike to the chin. 
  Since I came in contact with his body, I could feel his Qi.
  Face. What did his face look like again?
  It was foggy, even if I only looked at him for a brief moment. It didn’t make sense for me to not remember it at all. 
  “I already let Lord Gu know about this, but I came here as I wanted more confirmation. I should also send a letter about this incident.”
  “What did your servants say?”
  “They said that they didn’t know who it was, as if all their memories had been wiped.” 
  I audibly gulped, since no matter how much I thought about it, it was a situation I couldn’t explain. 
  If Namgung Jin was right, then him becoming a disciple of mine or whatever wasn’t my biggest problem.
  “…We should first wait for the Young Lord’s servant to wake up-“
  Namgung Jin tried to speak further, but I walked away without hearing the end of it. 
  「Where are you going? It looks like he has more to say.」
  ‘I need to go see my father.’
  The fact that there was a problem with everyone’s memories; the fact that I couldn’t remember that foggy face; the fact that everything I had heard from Namgung Jin was giving me goosebumps, as if something major was happening under my nose. 
  ‘There’s no way…’
  All these characteristics are pointing to ‘him’, but this shouldn’t have been possible. 
  Since he should still be hidden under the basement of the Gu Clan. 
  * * * * 
– Crack Crack
  The sound as if bones were being broken was echoing throughout the room. The man was touching an arm that was twisted in an abnormal way and trying to put it in its original position. 
– Craaack
  “What an interesting kid, to make me end up in this state. He also broke my ribs, did you know?”
  The man spoke toward the darkness. It looked like there was nothing there, but a response soon came.
  “You could’ve certainly run away, yet you did something unnecessary.”
  “Run away? You talk as if that’s so easy, old man. How do you suppose I do that when dealing with the Namgung Clan?”
  “That was in our agreement, and you’re going to hold up your end of the bargain.”
  The man threw a book into the darkness.
  “I wrote it just like you wanted. This is enough, right?”
  “This matter aside, what about your second task?”
  “Why ask if you already know? It was a failure, a disrupter came in.”
  “Is it the guy that left you in this sorry state?”
  “I couldn’t defend myself or dodge it. If I did that, I would’ve been found out right then and there. That’s why I said it would have been easier for me to just kill him and bury him in the ground…”
  “Stop with your bullshit. It’s fine that you failed. It’s not like it was an important task anyway.”
  If he had acted as a martial artist and not a servant in the first place, things could’ve gone differently, but it was hard to understand what that damned old man was saying. 
  The old man then said, “You are done with that face. You don’t have to stay in the Namgung Clan any longer. Return.”
  “How disappointing, I was getting fond of this place.”
  His disappointed voice echoing in the air, the facial muscles of the man started to change abnormally.
  – Twiiiiist.
  From a middle-aged man’s face to an old man’s face, from an old man’s face to a middle-aged woman’s face, and in the end, a face of a young boy. 
  The man that had now become a child, asked the old man, “I can rest for a bit now, right?”
  His way of talking remained the same, but his voice and appearance had been completely altered. 
  “Shaolin is your next target.”
  “You’re insane! Are you not giving me any time to rest?”
  “If you want to regain your freedom faster, listen to my orders.”
  “f*cking hell… Fine. What do you want me to do?”
  The old man calmly responded to the boy’s harsh words, “As always, the thing you need to steal is the same. You have until the end of winter. That’s enough for you, correct?”
  “You give me jack shit for time. You know the first thing I’m gonna do once I’m free?”
  “I heard it more than a hundred times; you’d kill me.” 
  “You know it. Just you wait.”
  “I’ll await news of your success in Shaolin.” 
  No response came back after the old man’s words, since the boy was already gone. 
  This was something that the old man was used to, so he didn’t care about it. 
  His eyes were on the letter that was in his hand. Its contents were interesting. It was information that related to that recent failure of his. 
  At the bottom of the letter was a name—Gu Changjun—of the man who had signed it off.
  The old man slowly read the letter, and in the end, stamped it. 
  And thus, the commission was accepted. 
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