Childhood Friend of the Zenith Chapter 150

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༺ Friendly Martial Arts Competition (3) ༻
 
 
  Tang Soyeol was a late child of old parents.
 
  You could tell just by seeing the age gap between her and her brother, Tang Jooyeok. 
 
  And thanks to that…
 
  Her father, who was the clan’s lord, spoiled her at a young age whereas he treated his first son, Tang Jooyeok, like trash. 
 
  Which was why Tang Soyeol was able to avoid her engagement with the Namgung Clan just by stubbornly arguing with her father. 
 
  She grew up receiving a lot of love from her family. 
 
  In noble clans, most siblings didn’t get along well.
 
  And they all had their own reasons for their strained relationships. 
 
  A significant factor contributing to these conflicts was the competition for inheritance. 
 
  ‘Daughter.’
 
  ‘Yes.’
 
  ‘If you ever find a man you like, make sure you bring him to father first.’
 
  ‘Why?’
 
  ‘…Nothing, I just felt like I should at least see his face.’
 
  When Tang Soyeol heard those words from her father that day, she decided that she’d  never do that. 
 
  Because when she noticed the poison Qi fluctuating inside her father’s body, she knew that nothing good would come of it. 
 
  Poison Qi.
 
  This was something that Tang Soyeol held dear. 
 
  There was a good reason why she, along with her talent, was highly regarded within the Tang Clan. 
 
  Moreover, Tang Soyeol was a blood relative who had the most impressive physique in the Tang Clan’s history. 
 
  Not only did she have impressive immunity against poison, but she even showed amazing talent with martial arts that used poison. Though, she lacked proficiency in assassination skills. 
 
  One of her eyes had a striking green glow even before she turned 20, a testament to her extraordinary abilities. 
 
 
  Immunity of Ten Thousand Poisons.
 
  Even the greatest martial artist of the Tang Clan who stopped the Blood Disaster of the Blood Demon, Tang Jaemoon, couldn’t fully achieve such a state. 
 
  Many said this:
 
  Tang Soyeol had the potential to achieve that extraordinary state. 
 
  Though Tang Soyeol herself didn’t really care about it too much. 
 
  She only ate poisonous herbs as it was to her liking.
 
  And she enjoyed poison martial arts because she was good at it.
 
  Combining those two factors led her to eventually achieve the title, Poison Phoenix.
 
  But Tang Soyeol never never harbored a deep thirst for martial arts to begin with.
 
  ‘Just go with the flow.’
 
  Live while being satisfied with what she got.
 
  That was Tang Soyeol’s goal in her life. 
 
  Which was why she remained unfazed when she saw the genius talents of the Sword Phoenix and the Sword Dragon. 
 
  And she didn’t wallow in envy when she saw Namgung Bi-ah and Wi Seol-ah whose beauty were leagues beyond everyone else. 
 
  She was satisfied with herself. 
 
  Tang Soyeol lived her life thinking that this quality was one of her strengths.
 
  Until now.
 
  To be more accurate, until she met him.
 
  – !
 
  When something trickled down her mouth, she wiped it away, only to find that it was blood.
 
  She was bleeding from her nose. 
 
  ‘What was that just now…?’
 
  Her sight started to waver as well.
 
  ‘I could’ve sworn I dodged his attack, so what’s going on?’
 
  Tang Soyeol barely managed to steady her shaky eyesight and focused on her opponent. 
 
  The boy who announced himself as the Alliance Leader’s son.
 
  She didn’t like him from the beginning, just from his looks.
 
  He had a soft appearance like the Sword Dragon she met back in Mount Hua.
 
  Not only did he look greasy, but he also seemed like he would be a shitty person behind closed doors.
 
  ‘…I already feel like I’m going to throw up.’
 
  Tang Soyeol was well aware that her taste in men was quite unique. 
 
  How could she not, when everyone’s reaction around her told her that, including her crush himself?  
 
  But she didn’t care.
 
  ‘So what if my taste is weird. I always believed I’ll find someone who fits my preferences one day.’
 
  ‘And luckily, I did…’
 
  However, the challenge lay in the fact that he was surrounded by other beautiful and powerful girls. 
 
  ‘Calm down, Soyeol.’
 
  She pushed that thought aside. She was in the middle of a duel after all.
 
  Not even four minutes had passed since the fight started.
 
  Tang Soyeol first created distance from him. 
 
  Her body shook a little. It seemed like she hadn’t fully recovered from the earlier strike. 
 
  ‘Did I let my guard down?’
 
  No, Tang Soyeol knew that she didn’t.
 
  It was Gu Yangcheon himself who had warned her that her opponent was going to be strong.
 
  It was funny how another person’s words could make her body so tense.
 
  But for some reason, his words always had that effect on her. 
 
  Tang Soyeol channeled more Qi.
 
  She winced due to the sudden pain she felt in the process.
 
  ‘I have internal injuries.’ 
 
  Her Qi didn’t listen to her command.
 
  And it was because of her opponent’s earlier strike. 
 
  ‘How did he do it?’
 
  Tang Soyeol struggled to comprehend it. 
 
  The fight started, and Tang Soyeol and Jang Seonyeon started to fight as well.
 
  She definitely dodged his sword. 
 
  Jang Seonyeon’s sword wasn’t particularly fast.
 
  The Lightning Dragon and the Sword Dragon’s swords were much faster. 
 
  She was certain of it as she faced them herself.
 
  ‘But then why?’
 
  She couldn’t afford to dwell on it for too long.
 
  It may have been a friendly duel, but she had to treat this like a real fight.
 
  When Tang Soyeol realized that her Qi wouldn’t listen to her, she resorted to using small weapons and hurled them toward him. 
 
  The weapons provided by the tournaments were usually poor. 
 
  And fighters couldn’t bring their own weapons either, as it was against the rules.
 
  This was especially challenging for the Tang Clan’s martial artists. 
 
  It was damaging to other martial artists as well. But it was especially hard for the Tang Clan, who were known for their Poison Arts and assassination techniques, since it was hard to use unfamiliar weapons for them. 
 
  Cling-! Clang-!
 
  The weapons thrown at him rolled on the floor with just a few sword swings.
 
  It didn’t matter though.
 
  As this was just a distraction.
 
  Ssss-!
 
  Tang Soyeol’s dagger started to emit a green glow. 
 
  It wasn’t like she couldn’t use her Qi at all.
 
  So even if she could use just a little bit, she still had enough to employ her martial art skills effectively. 
 
  Tang Soyeol’s small frame shot forward like an arrow. 
 
  Her movement was faster than the blink of an eye. 
 
  Tang Soyeol’s hand moved, and five marks formed in the air. 
 
  Swiiish!
 
 
  It earned its name because the seven poisonous energies resembled a snake’s fangs.
 
  But Tang Soyeol, who was still inexperienced, could only use five fangs. 
 
  Nonetheless, it was far from weak. 
 
  If anything, it was more than enough, considering Tang Soyeol’s young age. 
 
   As she saw her green attack, relief washed over Tang Soyeol. 
 
  ‘It reached him…!’
 
  It was too late to dodge her attack, and it wasn’t a good distance for him to counterstrike.
 
  He’ll get disarmed at this rate-
 
  Ring…
 
  “…Ugh…!?”
 
  Painful groaning escaped from Tang Soyeol’s mouth. 
 
  The sudden impact disrupted her fragile hold on her Qi. 
 
  Because of this, her Seven Poison Fang attack disappeared before reaching her opponent.
 
  Smack-!
 
  “…!!”
 
  A powerful blow struck Tang Soyeol’s abdomen. 
 
  Judging by the sensation she felt, she concluded that it was the hilt of a sword. 
 
  The impact shook the inside of her body as the attack was enhanced with Qi,
 
  And along with the impact, Tang Soyeol’s body flew backward.
 
  Tang Soyeol barely managed to land safely, 
 
  “Cough… Ugh…!”
 
  But her consciousness started to waver as her internal injuries and loss of Qi control took their toll. 
 
  Drip.
 
  Blood started to trickle down her mouth.
 
  Despite her attempt to stand up immediately, her knees refused to cooperate. 
 
  ‘…Just… Now.’
 
  Clutching her stomach and groaning in pain, Tang Soyeol stared at Jang Seonyeon who remained still in his original spot. 
 
  He had his sword drawn, but hadn’t moved much.
 
  His expression appeared concerned, as if he was worried about her being flung away, but she found it hard to believe that it was genuine. 
 
  Setting aside her doubts, Tang Soyeol had to contemplate what had just happened. 
 
  ‘…The sound.’
 
  Right before her stomach was hit, the sensation Tang Soyeol felt which disrupted her flow of Qi.
 
  It was certainly the sound she heard from Jang Seonyeons’s sword.
 
  ‘Sword Resonance…?’
 
  Did Jang Seonyeon already reach the realm where he could create Sword Resonance?
 
  She couldn’t be sure. 
 
  As Sword Resonance wasn’t a martial art in the first place.
 
  At least according to her knowledge.
 
  ‘Then… Is it Sound Arts?’
 
  That seemed to be the most plausible explanation. 
 
  Sound Arts was the only way to strike an opponent with the use of sound.
 
  And it was certainly possible that he possessed this capability as he was the son of the Harmonic Sword. 
 
  ‘That’s how different our strengths are?’
 
  Attacking with sound was an extremely advanced technique, which meant that martial artists at a lower level couldn’t even attempt to use this art. 
 
  If Tang Soyeol attempted to use Sound Arts right now, not only would she have to deplete all her Qi, but she could even faint due to exhaustion. 
 
  ‘He’s strong enough to use such an attack in a duel…?’
 
  Sound Arts that wasn’t even produced with an instrument, but instead with a sword.
 
  This unique combination was also one of the reasons why the Alliance Leader was called the Harmonic Sword.
 
  Jang Seonyeon looked like an ordinary boy from the outside. 
 
  He was around the same age as the person she had feelings for, Gu Yangcheon.
 
  But she was certain of one thing after her last clash.
 
  She couldn’t defeat that boy.
 
  ‘He’s in a different league…’
 
  Tang Soyeol knew that she was ranked lower among the Five Dragons and Three Phoenixes, but Jang Seonyeon felt different, even compared to other young prodigies. 
 
  Tang Soyeol recognized this more clearly as she wasn’t arrogant. 
 
  Jang Seonyeon didn’t even use his full power.
 
  She barely managed to stop the blood trickling from her mouth.
 
  But even during this, Jang Seonyeon did not come toward Tang Soyeol.
 
  ‘Is he waiting for me?’
 
  ‘It definitely doesn’t feel that way though.’
 
  ‘…Maybe, he wants me to forfeit?’
 
  Forfeiting for a martial artist was a severe blow to one’s pride. It was no different from the end of their world. 
 
  As it meant that they ran away from their opponent without seeing the battle through. 
 
  And she was the infamous Poison Phoenix.
 
  ‘Does he want that?’
 
  Tang Soyeol started to contemplate.
 
  Whether that was what that boy might want. 
 
  She began to entertain the notion that the boy had ulterior motives lurking beneath his unassuming appearance. 
 
  And considering such a sudden thought, she wondered if he was truly hiding something.
 
  Trying to rise to her feet, Tang Soyeol faltered and collapsed once more. 
 
  She didn’t know what Jang Seonyeon’s intentions were.
 
  ‘…Should I forfeit?’
 
  But she knew that she couldn’t win this battle, so she contemplated the idea. 
 
  ‘I’ll only make it harder for myself if I keep going.’
 
  She was disappointed, but this wasn’t a battle where she could win simply by trying harder. 
 
  And she didn’t care even if this battle damaged her title as the Poison Phoenix.
 
  Because unlike others, it wasn’t a title she sought to protect. 
 
  She looked away from Jang Seonyeon and scanned her surroundings. 
 
  In the arena, many spectators were watching the duel. 
 
  Many eyes reflected shock at Jang Seonyeon’s dominance. 
 
  Fair.
 
  It made sense, given how much he was overpowering Tang Soyeol. After taking in the expressions of those watching, Tang Soyeol let out a sigh, thinking that her father might be sad to hear about today. 
 
  Just as she was about to declare her forfeit… 
 
  Tang Soyeol noticed someone from far away. 
 
  Sharp fierce eyes and a red uniform.
 
  She saw the boy who had been watching her from a much greater distance. 
 
  ‘Young Master Gu…?’
 
  Tang Soyeol was astonished that she was able to find him amidst the crowd.
 
  Her shock doubled after seeing his expression.
 
  ‘Why is he worried about me?’
 
  Gu Yangcheon’s eyes unmistakably conveyed his concern. 
 
  But why?
 
  ‘A boy, who seems to not care about anyone, is worrying for me?’
 
  This realization made her heart beat faster. 
 
  Even though she knew she shouldn’t be distracted like this in the middle of a duel.
 
  “Phew…”
 
  She couldn’t hold her breath and let it out.
 
  There was a little bit of heat in the breath, likely due to her heightened physical exertion. 
 
  ‘I’m doomed… I think I really am.’
 
  Tang Soyeol thought, her heart racing at the thought of Gu Yangcheon worrying about her. 
 
  ‘He should’ve just pushed me away completely…’
 
  She found it funny how she was resenting him. To Gu Yangcheon, who definitely put a wall between the two, but refused to push her away completely. 
 
  Did Gu Yangcheon know? That he was really bad at lying.
 
  This happened during the trip to Hanam. 
 
  Due to the striking beauty and slim figures of Namgung Bi-ah and Wi Seol-ah, Tang Soyeol found herself eating less than usual. 
 
  And Gu Yangcheon, ever observant, confronted Tang Soyeol one day.
 
  – You’re hungry, right?
 
  – Huh?
 
  – It looked like you ate less than usual.
 
  – N-No, I’m fine. I just…don’t have much of an appetite.
 
  – …Hmm, understood. 
 
  Tang Soyeol hated herself for how abruptly their conversation had ended. 
 
  Thinking that it would’ve been nicer if she continued their conversation. 
 
  A bit after that…
 
  – Mistress.
 
  – Hmm?
 
  – This…Young Master Gu asked me to give you this…
 
  After every meal, Tang Soyeol’s servant kept bringing her something.
 
  Claiming that Gu Yangcheon asked her to do so. 
 
  – Oh, oops… Young Master Gu told me not to tell you.
 
  Though things didn’t really go the way Gu Yangcheon had intended. 
 
  Tang Soyeol then wondered if it was because of their last conversation.
 
  When she asked him about it later, he responded with ‘…I’ve been caught huh’.
 
  Tang Soyeol even liked that side of him.
 
  Gu Yangcheon had expressed his aversion to anyone going hungry. 
 
  It was quite absurd, since a blood relative of Tang Clan would never really starve. 
 
  And whenever it got cold, he would use his warmth to keep everyone comfortable. 
 
  Even though he probably didn’t learn such a skill for that purpose.
 
  When she looked at Gu Yangcheon wondering what he was doing, he would offer the same response. 
 
  – It’s just part of my training.
 
  Liar.
 
  He couldn’t maintain eye contact, and his voice sounded stiff.
 
  Anyone could tell that this was a lie.
 
  A lie to hide his embarrassment. 
 
  ‘I know that he’s not doing this only to me.’
 
  Tang Soyeol knew that Gu Yangcheon’s cold yet kind personality wasn’t only directed at her.
 
  It was directed to everyone around him…
 
  Without expecting anything in return.
 
  Despite his rude demeanor and annoyed expression… 
 
  Gu Yangcheon’s actions were as warm as his martial skills.
 
  ‘How could I not love him?’
 
  ‘How could I not want to go closer to him?’
 
  She wasn’t in love with him just because of his looks.
 
  She realized it might have been because of the warmth he radiated. 
 
  However, when she finally learned how she felt…
 
  Tang Soyeol gave up.
 
  To let him go for good.
 
  ‘…Giving up…’
 
  She noticed Gu Yangcheon watching her from far away.
 
  – If we happen to face each other in the arena, would you do me a favor?
 
  Those confident words she had spoken replayed in her mind. 
 
  But now, faced with such a situation, she found herself considering surrender. 
 
  She was always like this.
 
  The first time, it was against the Sword Phoenix and the second time was against the Sword Dragon; In both cases, she had realized the immense gaps that existed between them. 
 
  So she ran away.
 
  Thinking that this much was enough for her, that the title, Poison Phoenix, was already enough.
 
  Thinking that she would never become the greatest in the world.
 
  It was the same for other things as well.
 
  She gave up since she believed that she couldn’t become the lord of the clan.
 
  She gave up many things…
 
  And ran away since she believed she couldn’t achieve them.
 
  However, she couldn’t do the same when it came to him.
 
 
She didn’t want to run away.
She didn’t want to give up.
She wanted to stay next to him.

 
  Which was why, when Gu Yangcheon said that she could speak to him comfortably, she denied that offer.
 
  Because she thought it was unfair.
 
  To earn such a relationship so easily. 
 
  The word forfeit had already reached her throat, but she forcefully suppressed it back down.
 
  Tang Soyeol got up.
 
  She forced her body up even if it refused to cooperate fully. 
 
  She wiped away the blood on her chin.
 
  “Thank you for waiting.”
 
  Whatever Jang Seonyeon’s intentions were, she had to let him know.
 
  After all, it was true that he was waiting for her.
 
  Even the act of speaking caused her insides to ache. 
 
  At the same time, her stomach screamed in pain.
 
  It felt like the inside of her body was undergoing an internal earthquake. 
 
  “May I go once again?”
 
  But she didn’t show it. Gu Yangcheon was watching, so she had to make sure that she looked okay.
 
  She didn’t want to see Gu Yangcheon worried. 
 
  Tang Soyeol wanted to become, not someone who made Gu Yangcheon worried…
 
  But a strong person who could stand beside him.
 
  Jang Seonyeon’s expression changed after hearing Tang Soyeol.
 
  A rather shocked face.
 
  “…How astonishing.”
 
  Jang Seonyeon spoke.
 
  His tone sounded a little different from the kind voice he had used during the banquet. 
 
  Jang Seonyeon adjusted his posture after his short words.
 
  He then pointed his sword toward Tang Soyeol.
 
  Tang Soyeol clenched her teeth.
 
  She knew that he was going to attack, but didn’t have any clear means to block it. 
 
  So just like before, she channeled her Qi into her dagger once again.
 
  ‘Uoughh…’
 
  The inside of her body was screaming in pain.
 
  Attempting to forcefully use her Qi when it refused to listen felt as if her body was being stabbed all over. 
 
  Seven Poison Fangs.
 
  The Tang Clan’s skill that she used before.
 
  The green aura that formed once again.
 
  Moreover, she felt one of her eyes gradually getting hotter.
 
  Was it because of pain?
 
  But the sensation she felt was somewhat different from pain. 
 
  It was almost refreshing. 
 
  It felt like she had broken free from her shell and was embracing a refreshing breeze. 
 
  To prove that, her Qi became stronger and clearer than before. 
 
  ‘How?’
 
  Just moments earlier, her Qi had been unresponsive. 
 
  And she was faltering due to the damage she had sustained. 
 
  But now, her body felt more sensitive and clear than ever. For some reason, she felt like she could do it.
 
  Tang Soyeol stabilized her breathing and charged toward Jang Seonyeon once again.
 
  Smack-!
 
  But Tang Soyeol collapsed along with the pain that struck her head.
 
  It was because Jang Seonyeon went right in front of Tang Soyeol’s nose and struck her head down with the hilt of his sword. 
 
  It all happened in an instant and the judge, who was watching the fight in the arena, spoke hurriedly after staring at Jang Seonyeon for a bit. 
 
  “Victory goes to… Jang Seonyeon.”
 
  Along with the judge’s words, cheering began to fill the arena. 
 
  People welcomed this unexpected outcome.
 
  And this applied especially more to the martial artists.
 
  And this was because the Poison Phoenix, one of the Five Dragons and Three Phoenixes, lost to a young prodigy who had yet to make a name for himself. 
 
  But the victor himself was looking down at the collapsed Tang Soyeol with cold eyes. 
 
  His expression was hidden from everyone as he kept his head lowered. 
 
  Tang Soyeol’s face was bloodied after she fainted, a somewhat pathetic appearance. 
 
  Jang Seonyeon continued to watch her until he could form a smile on his face once again. Then, he left.
 
******************
 
  After the first rounds of fights in the tournament ended, there was a short waiting time. 
 
  Tang Soyeol, who fainted in the fight, was taken to the Murim Alliance’s medical room.
 
  It was still vivid in my memories; the way Namgung Bi-ah immediately carried Tang Soyeol as soon as her fight ended. 
 
  ‘And she held herself back too.’
 
  I noticed how Namgung Bi-ah’s clenched fist was trembling as she watched Tang Soyeol’s fight.
 
  Blood had been wiped from Tang Soyeol’s face, as she lay with her eyes closed. 
 
  No further damage had been dealt to her body and the doctor said that she would wake up soon, so all I had to do was wait. 
 
  “I already knew that she wouldn’t win.”
 
  I already knew.
 
  Tang Soyeol couldn’t win against Jang Seonyeon.
 
  Despite knowing that, I had held onto a glimmer of hope until the last moment.
 
  ‘Was she about to overcome her wall?’
 
  What Tang Soyeol showed in her last moments.
 
  Unlike Muyeon and Yung Pung, Tang Soyeol didn’t even face her wall.
 
  But the aura she was showing at the end of her fight was the sensation of her overcoming the wall.
 
  ‘She wouldn’t have been able to overcome it even if she was left alone, though.’
 
  She wasn’t at a point where she could overcome it even with enlightenment.
 
  She had only just taken the first step. 
 
  So did Jang Seonyeon end it fast because he noticed it too?
 
  ‘I don’t think so.’
 
  Jang Seonyeon wasn’t at a level where he could even sense that.
 
  He had probably just felt something strange and acted quickly on it.
 
  ‘But I wonder.’
 
  Jang Seonyeon’s expression and the way he stood still after the fight.
 
  Lost in thought, I suddenly felt a soft hand grab mine. 
 
  “…Young Master… Gu.”
 
  “You woke up?”
 
  “…Ah.”
 
  Tang Soyeol sat up, one hand cradling her head. 
 
  She looked around, then let out a bitter laugh.
 
  “It seems like I lost.”
 
  Her slightly smiling face was filled with disappointment. 
 
  “I didn’t expect to lose my first battle… This is so embarrassing. Even though I spoke as if I would make it to the end.”
 
  “It’s fine.”
 
  “Huh?”
 
  “You looked cool, actually.” 
 
  A martial artist that didn’t give up deserved respect. 
 
  Just like my past life, she was more than worthy of being called a martial artist. 
 
  “…But since I lost…?”
 
  Tang Soyeol began to say, but her eyes suddenly widened.
 
  It was because she noticed something different.
 
  I couldn’t handle her gaze on me, so I stood up. 
 
  “…Bi-ah and the doctor will be here soon.”
 
  “Wait, Young Master Gu, wait… You just spoke informall- “
 
  “Take care.”
 
  “W…Wait!”
 
  Tang Soyeol hurriedly tried to stop me, but I had no intention of getting caught, so I closed the door and went outside. 
 
  Unlike back when I started to speak comfortably to Namgung Bi-ah…
 
  This situation felt extremely embarrassing for some reason. 
 
  ‘…’
 
  It was going to be fine since I wouldn’t be seeing her for a while.
 
  I adjusted my expression, which kept changing due to my embarrassment.
 
  And I also fixed my mindset of taking this tournament lightly.
 
  I felt that I had to, just a tiny bit…
 
  Be more serious in this tournament. 
 
 
 
TL/N: 
Hey guys! In previous chapters, we TLed a few things incorrectly, so I am here to enlighten you. There aren’t MULTIPLE blood demons. It is just the Blood Demon. Just like how it’s “Heavenly Demon”. Also, the Blood Demon War is actually the Great War of the Blood Demon. Lastly, we have been TLing Tang Soyeol as the Poison Bee. But, this is also incorrect because she is supposed to be the Poison Phoenix. The hangul is the same for both bee and phoenix at times, so we got confused. That’s all! Enjoy the novel!
 
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