Childhood Friend of the Zenith Chapter 168

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༺ True Dragon (2) ༻
  “He’s apparently now being called the True Dragon.” 
  “Who? The victor of this tournament?” 
  On the day of the finals of the tournament, the crowd was more spirited than ever.
  Something like this would always happen on the final day of the tournament, but the spirit of the crowd this year was in a whole different league when compared to the previous tournaments. 
  Was it because a new dragon had been born?
  Or, was it because this tournament had shown a number of stars greater than any other?
  It could even be that the spirits of the spectators hadn’t yet calmed down due to the performance that boy had shown on the arena stage.
  A man spoke up quietly from between the crowd, seemingly not fond of the heated spirits of others.
  “True Dragon? Isn’t that title a bit too much? A real dragon they say…” 
  “Hah! Then does that mean other dragons like the Lightning Dragon and the Sword Dragon are fake?” 
  “I could just tell that this year’s tournament only consisted of kids that barely even grew hair, so how great could their fights even be?” 
  “Look at this man.” 
  When the man mumbled, others that listened to him all let out a sigh.
  Right as one person was about to say something to the man…
  “Just let him be, that Kim Chung is only salty that he couldn’t come see the tournament because he apparently had work.” 
  “Did I say something wrong though? The Sword Dragon, Water Dragon, or even the Sword Phoenix; none of them came, so how did any of you have any fun in watching this year’s tournament…”
  The man named Kim Chung only continued to empty his cup filled with alcohol with a frown on his face.
  Merchant Cheon, seeing that, smiled a bit.
  ‘He really is salty.’
  It made sense since everyone had such heated excitement.
  As such, he couldn’t help but be mad, since he wasn’t able to see any of the fights.
  ‘He should have just come when I had asked him to.’
  Merchant Cheon knew something like this would happen when Kim Chung refused to come, giving the excuse that there was no point in coming as half of the Dragons and Phoenixes weren’t even present.
  But contrary to everyone’s expectation of it being lacking, this tournament exceeded everyone’s expectation.
  Merchant Cheon could even dare to say that this was the most memorable tournament that he had seen in his life.
  It could only have made sense.
  After all, three young prodigies had earned a title at their debut appearance, one of them even earning the throne of the True Dragon. 
  “But even so, what the hell even is a True Dragon…?”
  “Well I think it’s rather cool, what are you even so upset about?” 
  “I heard that he still has a long way to go until he reaches the age of twenty, so I’m sure such an arrogant title befits him.”
  “Who even cares about age, if he is worthy enough, then simply he shall be called that.” 
  “That’s exactly why it doesn’t make sense. I get that he has talent…but you guys should know if you watched the tournament. I’m sure the Murim Alliance did something in order to-” 
  Kim Chung looked if there was anyone that agreed with him, but everyone just mockingly smiled at him.
  “Murim Alliance doing something behind the scenes? Stop making us laugh.” 
  “I get that you are saying this because you didn’t watch the fight, but boy are you a stubborn man.”
  “Then, do you all think that such a young martial artist like him is worthy enough to be called the True Dragon?” 
  To this question, Merchant Cheon spoke up himself.
  “More than enough.” 
  “Merchant Cheon?”
  Kim Chung looked at Merchant Cheon with shocked eyes.
  It was because Merchant Cheon wasn’t the type to barge into a conversation like this.
  Merchant Cheon spoke while looking at Kim Chung.
  “You may not know the boy’s worth since you didn’t get to see him fight, but at the very least I do.”
  When Merchant Cheon had watched the finals of the tournament, he was rendered speechless.
  Because even he himself, who didn’t even know the meaning of the ‘Martial’ in Martial Arts, was able to see that the boy was in a whole different league compared to the other young prodigies.
  Furthermore, his son, who was watching the fight with him, even said that he would quit martial arts and would instead work in the shop.
  It was because he wasn’t confident enough to live amongst such people.
  And Merchant Cheon respected his son’s decision, because he would do the exact same thing if he was in his son’s shoes.
  ‘I guess you can say that talent is horrifying in situations like this.’
  The talent of a merchant lies in their eyes of seeing others.
  They buy products at a cheap price and sell them for a higher price.
  Merchants need to learn many things in order to succeed in their business.
  And the most important of them all was that they needed to be able to find something worthy amongst cheap things.
  ‘But unfortunately, I lack such eyes.’
  Merchant Cheon knew his place.
  He knew that if he had such eyes, he would have become a well-known merchant in Hanam, unlike his current position of owning a small market.
  However, he didn’t completely lack them either.
  After surviving in this industry for a long time, he had naturally gained an ability to see through some things.
  “You said that it’s a bit too much for him to be called the True Dragon? I disagree with that.” 
  “Then are you saying that the title, True Dragon, is deserving of him?”
  “Deserving? That title is actually lacking.”
  Merchant Cheon actually wondered about this.
  Why did the Murim Alliance not give the boy the title of The Heavenly Dragon?
  In Merchant Cheon’s eyes, the performance the True Dragon showed was far more powerful than the performance Peng Woojin had shown when he debuted.
  ‘I heard that the Heavenly Dragon spot was already taken, was that really true?’
  That was the rumor that had spread throughout the world.
  That someone was already appointed to the spot of the Heavenly Dragon.
  ‘There is no way that’s true.’
  When the tournament ended and the Alliance Leader was saying good job to everyone…
  Merchant Cheon had observed carefully.
  Jang Seonyeon, who was being called The New Star, had lost to his opponent, The True Dragon.
  ‘I can’t believe he was able to maintain his calmness despite his son being overpowered onesidedly.’
  For Merchant Cheon, who saw how Jang Seonyeon lost in such a humiliating way, it was very shocking that the Alliance Leader was showing himself as the leader of Murim Alliance, and not as a father who had just watched his son’s defeat.
  This was why Merchant Cheon couldn’t believe such a rumor.
  “Kim Chung, stop embarrassing yourself. Come, sit down and let’s talk about something different.” 
  ‘He is acting really childish at his age just because he didn’t get to see some tournament.’
  ‘Though even I would have regretted for the rest of my life if I didn’t get to see this tournament.’
  Merchant Cheon understood Kim Chung’s feelings.
  Because a martial artist that would change the generation was born in this tournament no matter who looked at it.
  And there was probably nothing more disappointing than not being able to see this process as a person of this world.
  Merchant Cheon pictured a boy’s face in his mind.
  ‘True Dragon…’
  The boy, who one knew nothing about besides his surname, was now being called the True Dragon of Shanxi’s Gu Clan.
  The boy had achieved all of this in just three days of his first debut in the Martial World.
  And this made Merchant Cheon wonder if this would send waves of impact throughout the world.
  ‘I am a bit concerned about his look at the last moment.’
  Merchant Cheon remembered the boy that had way too heavy of an expression for a young boy to make.
  The boy who had just won the tournament that all other young prodigies could only dream of winning, had a rather strange reaction.
  Others thought that the boy looked cool because he wasn’t happy about winning in a mere tournament.
  The nonsense that other people said was that a genius like him would have a unique reaction such as that.
  But in the eyes of Merchant Cheon, it didn’t seem that way.
  In a field far away from the tournament arena…
  I stood still, alone.
  As I watched the snow fall down…
  The snow slowly stacked up into a pile…
  Yet unlike such a simple process, my mind was plagued with thoughts far too complicated.
  -I, Dok Gojun, seek you, child.
  At the last moment of the duel, I couldn’t seem to forget about the name that the bastard had told me.
  ‘Dok Gojun.’
  It was the first time I heard that name.
  Both in this life and my past one.
  The name didn’t seem to be from any clan, nor did it hint to any clan.
  It really was a name that I heard for the first time in my life.
  ‘Who is it…Who can it even be?’
  Who was it, I wonder.
  The person that had spoken to me while borrowing Jang Seonyeon’s body…
  How could anyone be capable of such a thing?
  Was that person an existence similar to Elder Shin? 
  But something felt different for me to conclude that.
  That existence had given me the chilling sensation of what felt like a sword aimed right at my head. It was extremely different from Elder Shin.
  If I had to compare, it felt similar to the enigmatic aura of the Heavenly Demon.
  ‘It might be a stretch to compare it to the Heavenly Demon, but there are undeniable similarities.’
  The Heavenly Demon, often revered as a God, of course exuded much more potent off an Aura, but that sensation felt definitely close.
  It also made me wonder what that bastard inside me was.
  ‘For f*cks sake…Can’t everyone just leave me alone so that I could have a peaceful life?’
  Whenever I finish one thing, another pops up to make my life even more complicated.
  I already felt like I was crumbling due to the weight of the numerous things inside my body.
  If there really was a God, then I for sure knew that they weren’t on my side.
  “At least say something, instead of keeping your mouth shut.”
  My frustrated voice, that I couldn’t hold in, quietly scattered away along with the wind.
  My voice reverberated in a field void of anyone but myself, yet I wasn’t speaking to myself.
  “You were so talkative before? So, why the silence now?” 
  The being that had emerged in the final moments of the tournament to devour the energy.
  I had tried speaking to that mysterious entity residing inside my body, but ever since Jang Seonyeon had lost consciousness, it had remained silent.
  “For f*cks sake…”
  I had simply dismissed it as a curse I got in the process of regression.
  Since this ability, Demonic Absorption, was a power that belonged to the Heavenly Demon, it wasn’t strange for any side effects to appear.
  I had taken it as me still not being able to escape the grasp of the Heavenly Demon even with time passing, yet, it seemed like there was more to it than that.
  “Is there something that you want from me? Why does everyone create a hassle for me?”
  I couldn’t help but speak in a harsh tone due to all the complicated thoughts lingering in my mind.
  Did Jang Seonyeon have that power to begin with?
  Or did he tamper with something in order to change the past?
  ‘Though it is more than possible that I simply didn’t know about this.’
  Judging by how a lot of things I learned in this life seemed to differ from what I knew from my past life, there was a good chance that it was the same for this as well.
  ‘Who’s the mastermind?’
  Not only was the Black Palace using a poor imitation of Demonic Qi, they were also doing some suspicious things in order to grow some weird flower.
  Jang Seonyeon was plotting behind the scenes as well.
  I hadn’t cared if it was the right path or not, because I was far from a hero.
  Still, it is concerning that I hadn’t known about this.
  ‘What should I do?’
  Should I start making some plans now that I have learned about it?
  I also had to think about the possibility of their side having information about me, since when the bastard possessing Jang Seonyeon’s body had spoken to me, it already seemed to have known my identity.
  Finding myself stuck in this utterly complicated situation made me bite my lips and scream out loud. I couldn’t take it anymore.
  “Tell me if there is something you want. Only then can I consider whether to grant your wish or not.”
  I tried to speak to the entity living inside my body.
  Although I had no intention of actually granting his request even if it spoke up, I still felt like I would feel better if I heard anything from the beast inside me.
  I rubbed my face with my hands.
  Then I repeatedly dried and washed my face.
  It was probably because of this, that despite completing all the plans for my Hanam trip, I didn’t feel better.
  ‘A gift huh.’
  The last words uttered by that bastard Dok Gujun about the gift they had rewarded me.
  It wasn’t long after, I was able to realize what they meant by that.
  I asked with a smirk on my face.
  “You devoured everything else fine, so what’s your problem with all of this?” 
  The energy that I had absorbed from Jang Seonyeon.
  To be more accurate, the energy that Dok Gojun had given me wasn’t really getting purified properly inside my body.
  Just like how the Demonic Qi had taken over a spot in my dantian, this piece of shit energy was doing the same and was making itself home.
  ‘Is it even getting purified?’
  My Fire Qi purified Demonic Qi as soon as I absorbed it, seemingly devouring it.
  But what about this energy?
  ‘I don’t know.’
  I didn’t get the sensation of it being purified.
  Instead, it felt more like it was combining with my Fire Qi.
  I rubbed my stomach and started to charge my strength.
  My Qi then started to flow inside my body and spread everywhere.
  It was a basic process of enhancing my body with Qi.
  And as long as I don’t use Gu Clan’s art of using heat to enhance my body even further, it should just end there.
  But when I focused more into my dantian, I was able to feel the energy that was hiding itself, mixing into my Qi.
  Then, I was able to feel my strength getting enhanced in an instant.
  This was the gift that Dok Gojun was referring to.
  Just like how Jang Seonyeon and Namgung Cheonjun could, I, too, was now able to use that shitty energy.
  ‘This is crazy.’
  I didn’t say this because I was happy.
  Instead it was because I felt bothered. It felt like I had another shackle onto myself.
  One unknown energy was already enough for me.
  No, even one was a bit hard to deal with.
  I could already tell that by moving my body slightly.
  This energy wasn’t all positive, it had a negative effect.
  I was able to feel that the energy was being consumed at an absurdly rapid rate, but it gave me overpowering power in return.
  Furthermore, it didn’t just end with my body being enhanced.
  I mixed some of the energy into my Qi and summoned a flame in my hand.
  I wondered if I could do something like this since Jang Seonyeon’s martial skills were enhanced as well.
  “…f*cking hell.”
  I couldn’t help but curse out loud when I saw the blazing flame in my hand.
  Instead of the flame mixed with Taoist Qi shining in a bright light, it was burning passionately with a blue color.
  “This’ll surely attract everyone’s eyes.” 
  Just the color of the flame made it look like some witchcraft.
  I couldn’t believe it changed the color of the flame.
  “I can’t even explain this to Father if he ever catches onto this.”
  Not only Father, but I couldn’t imagine what others of the clan would say to me if they found out.
  What excuse could I even give?
  Do I say something like I dyed my flames with the gift I got in Hanam?
  ‘Hahahaha! f*ck me.’
  My head started to ache.
  I clenched my fist and exploded the flame.
  And when I summoned the flame again,
  ‘It returned to its original form.’
  The flame returned to its original color.
  It seems like it’s different depending on my use of the energy. 
  ‘I think I can hide it as long as I try.’
  It was one thing that made me glad out of all the misfortunes. As I had calmed the energy down and was about to make my way back,
  I suddenly felt dizzy and my body started to falter.
  Fortunately, it was only for a moment, so I was able to regain my posture.
  ‘Is this the energy’s recoil?’
  I had only used it for a tiny amount of time, yet the recoil of it was this bad.
  Now I understand why Jang Seonyeon had tried his best not to use it.
  But one thing that made me wonder was…
  If I recall correctly, considering the amount of time Jang Seonyeon had used this energy for, he would’ve used much more of the energy, thus the recoil should’ve been much greater.
  But that bastard looked just fine.
  ‘It’s either that the recoil I receive is greater or that I consume more energy.’
  Whichever it was, it didn’t change the fact that it wasn’t something good, so it was still a shitty situation I was in.
  But even in a situation like this, I had to forcefully lift myself up.
  “…I won’t collapse for something like this.” 
  No matter how much the world pits against me, it was still better than my past life.
  No one that I cared about had died in this world and I was given the chance to get rid of the ones that had given me scars in my past life, with my own hands.
  As such, I should be able to endure this much.
  “How exhausting…”
  Still, I was starting to feel tired.
  My body may have been heated, but the cold breeze felt rather difficult to handle.
  Was it because it was especially cold today?
  Or perhaps I missed that sleeping elder, a very tiny bit?
  Not only did I miss Elder Shin a little, I also wanted to ask him about something.
  For some reason, I felt like Elder Shin would know something about Dok Gojun.
  Though, I didn’t know why I got that feeling.
  ‘So wake up already, old man.’
  After practicing with the new energy by myself for a while, I came back to the guesthouse.
  The sun had already set and since the tournament came to an end, it seemed that not a lot of people were left in the area.
  Events like the congratulation ceremony from the Alliance Leader to the victor of the tournament and the fight for second place between Namgung Bi-ah and Moyong Hi-ah remained, but it seemed like they weren’t too important for some people.
  ‘It makes sense, since the world only cares about first place.’
  Any other world would be the same, but this world especially was one that cared about the top.
  “Oh! Young Master!” 
  As soon as I entered the guesthouse, Wi Seol-Ah ran towards me and threw herself inside my arms.
  Her tackle was rather strong, so I let out a grunt without being able to hold it in.
  Because I had practiced with the energy for a while, it seemed like my fatigue had piled up as my body ached even to Wi Seol-Ah’s tackle.
  ‘…Or maybe not, it feels like she got more solid than before.’
  “Uh…Um…Young Master, are you okay?” 
  Because of me letting out a grunt when I usually don’t, Wi Seol-Ah looked at me with worried eyes.
  I then smiled at her signaling that I was fine.
  “I’m fine. I just felt a little surprised.”
  “When Young Master smiles in such a scary manner like that, it usually means that something happened…”
  “…What did you say, you little brat?”
  Scary manner…? I even went out of my way to smile for her.
  As I was pinching Wi Seol-ah’s cheek because of what she said to me, I heard a voice from a different direction.
  “Young Master Gu, you came back…?” 
  It was Tang Soyeol.
  When I looked at her, I also saw Namgung Bi-ah using Tang Soyeol’s knees as a pillow for her to sleep on.
  “Oh, Sis fell asleep just now while waiting for you.”
  “You sure she wasn’t just sleeping the whole time?” 
  “I-I swear.”
  I couldn’t believe it no matter how much I thought about it, but I let it pass.
  “Oh right, the Beggar’s Sect was looking for you earlier in the day.”
  “Beggar’s Sect?” 
  I thought about Chuwong as soon as I heard Tang Soyeol.
  It seemed like he had come searching for me as soon as he heard that I had won.
  “And when I came, I saw that he was already talking to Seol-Ah.” 
  “This girl?” 
  Wi Seol-Ah spoke to Chuwong, huh.
  That would’ve been a rather interesting scene, so I felt a bit disappointed that I missed it.
  ‘Because they were companions in my past life.’
  The King of Beggars, the Celestial Sword, and a few others aside from those two.
  They were a group consisting of strong individuals with great talent.
  And since he was one of the few people that the Celestial Sword Wi Seol-ah cared for, I was sure that their meeting held many meanings.
  If they had retained their memories that is.
  ‘He’s just an ordinary hobo at this point of time.’
  “He asked that when he returns, we let the True Dragon know that Chuwong from the Beggar’s Sect had come looking for him.”
  “Thanks for letting me know, I’ll talk to him when I get to see him lat-”
  I was about to respond to Tang Soyeol, but there was one strange thing in the middle of her sentence.
  “What Dragon did you just say?” 
  “True Dragon!”
  When I asked Tang Soyeol, she responded with excitement.
  “…True Dragon?”
  Was that referring to me by any chance?
  ‘That seems like the case.’
  Just hearing that title gave me goosebumps.
  ‘Though the title I got in my past life was much worse.’
  I guess True Dragon was better.
  “Is Young Master Gu not happy?” 
  “Should I be…?”
  “You should be!”
  Must I really be happy for me to be included in this group of geniuses?
  Also as an adult, it was embarrassing for me to be happy about this.
  Tang Soyeol kept looking at me with shiny eyes, so I responded to her in the end, pretending that I was happy.
  “Yay…I’m so happy…”
  “…Wow…Young Master Gu…you look like you have no soul.”
  But, I tried my best…
  I just pretended not to hear when Tang Soyeol whispered ‘Even his emotionless face is handsome’ right after.
  Behind this scene, Wi Seol-Ah was looking outside the guesthouse, up at the sky.
  She was looking towards the west.
  Towards none other than the Murim Alliance building, the place where Jang Cheon and Jang Seonyeon were.
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