Childhood Friend of the Zenith Chapter 54

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༺ The Plum Blossom Dragon (4) ༻
  I could feel their intense stares.
  I didn’t know why, but the people of Mount Hua had suddenly begun staring at me intensely. 
  Why are they suddenly acting like this?
  I slowly scratched my cheek and Shinhyun and Yung Pung, who were next to me, flinched visibly at my movement.
  Huh? Why are you all scared?
  I couldn’t understand what was going on.
  Shinhyun let out a fake cough on noticing the weird gaze I was giving him. 
  “…Why are you all suddenly acting like this?”
  “No, it’s uh…”
  “…How can I say this?”
  Huh? What was that reaction?
  At this point I realized that the people of Mount Hua who had been previously staring intensely at me could suddenly no longer look at me. 
  Instead they began whispering amongst themselves. 
  “…I knew he looked familiar.”
  “But his eyes aren’t too similar?”
  “That’s why it’s hard to make eye contact with him…”
  I could hear all of their murmurs. 
  It was obvious that they were speaking about me, but why all of sudden?
  “What are you all talking about?”
  I finally asked after holding it in for a while.
  It didn’t feel too nice to see them whispering about me while standing right in front of me. 
  Shinhyun responded to the question I’d asked with an audibly irritated tone. 
  “…Uh, everyone is just surprised that you are from the Gu Clan.” 
  He was suddenly talking to me more formally. 
  What did me being a descendant of the Gu Clan have to do with any of this? 
  “Your little sister is rather famous amongst our people…”
  “My little sister?”
  I carefully mulled over Shinhyun’s response.
  If I was to be honest, I didn’t really know much about my little sister. 
  I just knew that ever since young, she had been away from the clan and had spent her life in Mount Hua. 
  So unlike my two older sisters that were in the clan, I didn’t really have the chance to interact much with my little sister. 
  Now that I thought about it, it was a strange thing for a descendant of a noble clan to be accepted into a taoist clan as one of them. 
  But back then, I hadn’t really thought much of it.
  Of course, in the later days, it was impossible not to know since my little sister gained so much fame. 
  One thing that I did know about her, however, was that every once in a few years my little sister would come back to the clan for a few days.
  Besides that, I didn’t really have much information on her during this time. 
  “…What about her?”
  I asked Shinhyun because I couldn’t figure it out no matter how much I thought about it.
  Shinhyun kept opening and closing his mouth as though he couldn’t answer easily.
  What’s the big fuss about for him to hesitate that much?
  “Sir, I would really like to ask you something.”
  Yung Pung interrupted the conversation while Shinhyun was struggling to speak.
  “What is it?”
  “…Young Master, was senior always like that?”
  The Shinhyun before me was a disciple of the second generation of Mount Hua, and since he was called master by Yung Pung, it meant that Yung Pung was a disciple of the third generation of the clan. 
  Let alone me, my little sister was around two years younger than Yung Pung, so I expected them to be in the same generation.
  So… why were they referring to her as ‘Senior’?
  “…What do you mean by that?”
  “Um… It’s, uhh…”
  After struggling for a while, Yung Pung shut his eyes tightly and spat out his question. 
  “Was Senior Gu once a boy-”
  I couldn’t hear all of Yung Pung’s words,
  Because Shinhyun immediately slapped Yung Pung’s lips with his hands.
  Yung Pung rolled backwards while holding his lips that got slapped, and was sent even further away after being kicked by Shinhyun. 
  Then in the back, the people from Mount Hua started to kick and beat up Yung Pung as if they had been waiting for it.
  Yung Pung’s screams rang out as kicks rained on him.
  “O-Ow! Master, please wait…!”
  “Is this guy crazy?”
  “He was really about to say that out loud? Hey! Who is the direct master of this kid!? Who is responsible for this third-generation student!? Who taught him this way!?”
  “It’s you, you idiot!”
  The situation before me rendered me speechless.
  Yung Pung who was getting beaten up to the point where dust spread everywhere… I could’ve sworn that he had been trying to ask me about some boy…
  I tried to ask Shinhyun, but Shinhyun strictly refused.
  “You do not need to worry about this.”
  “Um… I feel like I do have to.”
  “No, no, you really don’t need to. We felt that he needed more teaching anyway, and this is a good time.”
  Teaching? That was teaching? Could they really treat the one being called the Sword Dragon like that…? 
  His appearance was completely polar opposite of what I was expecting.
  I had expected that he would be the calm and mature type, but what in the world…?
  「As expected, they taught him well. It is important for teachers to make bonds with their students like that.」
  “Oh… right.”
  If this old man had really been the Divine Sword, then I could guess from where it all started to go wrong.
  I felt like I could understand the situation better with that way of thinking.
  After the people of Mount Hua were done with their beating, they stepped away from him, leaving Yung Pung who was lying on the floor as if he was dead.
  It looked like he’d lost consciousness, was he really alright…?
  Someone then lifted Yung Pung onto his shoulders and disappeared to the back.
  “Don’t worry about it. He’ll wake up soon.”
  Before I could ask anything, Shinhyun initiated the conversation.
  I felt like I could no longer ask anything…
  “Yeah, um, anyways…”
  “So you are on your way to Mount Hua then?”
  “That’s the plan, I do have a task to complete after all.”
  “You have more things to do in Mount Hua besides from returning the treasure?”
  “It’s nothing big, I just have to bring back my little sister to our clan.”
  Did I say something weird again?
  Just like before, the people of Mount Hua began staring at me once again.
  No, it wasn’t like before.
  Their stares were more intense now than earlier. 
  …Was Mount Hua always known for having these lunatics?
  「What did you just say!?」
  Jeez, please be a little quiet… My head is aching.
  「You little brat, you talk shit about other people’s clan since you got nothing better to do!」
  No matter what he said, my opinion didn’t change. 
  I felt that, considering the situation before me, it was completely fair for me to call them as such.
  Shinhyun suddenly and firmly grabbed my shoulders.
  “What are you doin-”
  “Let us go, Young Master.”
  He was now being even more formal to me.
  The people of Mount Hua that were behind Shinhyun also gathered up in front of me.
  “We shall guide you to Mount Hua with utmost safety.” 
  “You must be tired from all the walking, right? Do you want me to carry you there? I am pretty fast.”
  “Shall I fan you?”
  “Hey! Get rid of that horse, I can run faster than that horse.”
  “Two horses are better than one, I’ll also become a horse.” 
  What should I do? These guys really ARE crazy. 
  I responded while also forcing a smile onto my face. 
  Thankfully, my voice didn’t quiver.
  “No, I think it’s better for us to travel separately.”
  That was my plea, but my words were completely ignored and we ended up traveling along with the people of Mount Hua. 
  「Haha, all these cheerful appearances are quite wholesome.」 
  Mount Hua was located near Huayin city of Shaanxi Province. 
  The season whence plums bloomed had already passed, but in Mount Hua, plums bloomed through all four seasons. 
  The constant bloom was caused and maintained by the Qi of martial artists of Mount Hua.
  We were currently in the middle of a flaming summer, but at Mount Hua it looked like it was winter due to the flowers falling down like snowflakes. 
  After walking through the mountain path, there was a small hut after reaching the closest point to the peak.
  Forget the third-generation, even the second-generation disciples weren’t allowed to enter here. 
  Only the Lord and the elders of the clan and a select few of the first-generation disciples could enter. 
  But a small girl carefully opened the door of the hut after climbing the mountain. 
– Creeeaak.
  She opened it as carefully as possible, but the old door refused to follow her intentions. 
  Because of that, the person that was inside was woken up from his slumber. She then said. 
  “Come in.”
  Her voice gave away her old age, but even then, a certain elegance and softness remained in her voice. 
  The small girl carefully appeared before while looking guilty.
  Then the woman asked,
  “Ryunghwa, why are you making such a face?”
  “…I’m sorry, I just wanted to see your face but I woke you up.”
  The master smiled back upon hearing her disciple’s words.
  No matter how many years had passed, her disciple remained as adorable as ever, so she had no other choice but to return her feelings.
  She carefully opened her arms.
  The disciple then ran towards her master and hugged her.
  The master spoke to her disciple while patting her head.
  “How come you keep coming here every day even though it is scary at night, you make me feel bad…”

  “It’s because I want to… Don’t feel that way.”
  To arrive here, the disciple had to go through rough mountain roads and run for a long time.
  It was a painful and tiring ordeal for a small kid to do.
  But the disciple came to see her master every day regardless. 
  The disciple asked carefully while being in her master’s embrace.
  “Are you feeling alright…?”
  “I am feeling fine since today’s weather is good.”
  “Do you want to go on a walk with me?”
  The disciple smiled brightly as if she’d been waiting for this and then grabbed her master’s hand.
  It was a cold, wrinkled hand, but the disciple was satisfied with it.
  They got out of the hut and went for a walk together.
  It wasn’t completely dark thanks to the moon that shined brightly at night, and the plum blossoms became even more beautiful when the moonlight shone upon them.
  Walking through the mountain filled with plum blossoms alongside her master was something that the disciple loved.
  The hand that she held was cold, but she was definitely able to feel the warmth in it. The disciple took this as a sign of love. 
  She walked at the same pace as her master so that she wouldn’t fall behind.
  She kicked away the stones that could trip her as well.
  Dust slowly gathered on her pretty clothes, but she didn’t care.
  The master calmly patted her disciple’s head.
  “Yes, master.”
  The master was hesitant to speak.
  She had something to say, but it was something that her disciple disliked.
  “It’s around that time when you return to Shanxi for a little.”
  As expected, the disciple became quiet after hearing her teacher’s words.
  The master noticed the slight frown on her face.
  The master lightly smiled upon seeing that appearance.
  “You are going there to see your family, do you hate it that much?”

  The disciple whispered quietly.
  The master moved her ears closer to her.
  She was then able to hear her disciple’s voice a little more clearly.
  “…They are not my family.”
  She sounded like she was about to cry.
  The master slowly lifted her head and hugged her student. 
  “…I’m sorry.”
  The master couldn’t do anything but apologize.
  It was not her business to talk about such a topic.
  She was a disciple she had been asked to teach her, but she had no regrets.
  Because she realized not long after, that the happiness she got was from none other than her disciple. 
  The only disappointment was that her body wasn’t in its healthiest state.
  If they had met a bit earlier, she would have taught her more things and hugged her more frequently.
  She felt a heavy grudge against time because of that.
  The master wanted her disciple to only find happiness in this forsaken world. 
  Under the moonlight that shone on Mount Hua,
  The Plum Blossom Sword patted her student’s head bitterly. 
* * * *
– Roooaaar-!
  The birds that hid in the forest quickly fled following the roar of a bear. 
  The area was filled with the corpses of demons.
  In a puddle of blue demon blood, Namgung Bi-Ah calmly withdrew her Qi. 
  How many times had she come across demons?
  She counted up until her finger’s limits, but she couldn’t remember any more after that.
  She had run restlessly from Shanxi, but after running for a long time, she started feeling doubts about what she was trying to do…
  But she didn’t want to go back home.
  As she’d found a place that was more comforting than home.
  Namgung Bi-ah was someone who found her way with her senses.
  To be precise, she moved in the direction where the stench was least present. 
  But because of that, she would often get lost.
  And now, she was already running out of Qi,
  A sudden rain had drenched her, alongside the equally sudden appearance of demons in her path,
  And because she kept running through the mountain roads, her neat clothes had now turned dirty and ragged. 
  However, she was familiar with all of those things.
  And thankfully, she had come across a lake, so it wasn’t all bad.
  “…Just a little more.”
  Namgung Bi-ah whispered to herself in the forest where only trees and grass were visible. 
  She was determined to follow through with her quest.
  If you asked how she was so sure about her whisper, not even she would be able to answer.
  She just felt that way.
  That if she went this way, he would be there.
  The only cozy and warm place that existed in this forsaken world. 
  She cleaned her sword and started to move again.
  It was definitely this way.
  She just felt that this way was the right direction for some reason.
  “I want to see him alr-”
  Namgung Bi-ah’s eyes widened and she covered her mouth after speaking without thinking.
  …I want to see him?
  Is it because he doesn’t smell? Is that why?
  She started to slow down her steps and eventually came to a halt. She then began organizing her thoughts.
  She stood still for a long time.
  After thinking for a while, she finally spoke.
  “I want to see him…? I want to see him.”

  Namgung Bi-ah nodded her head. 
  She didn’t know why, but she felt that she wanted to see him.
  And that much was enough.
  There was no need to think about it further.
  “Only a little more.”
  She could feel him from far away.
  It was an uncertain certainty. 
  She still felt like she had some ways to go, but it wouldn’t take that long.
  Namgung Bi-ah, after finishing organizing her thoughts, started to move again. 
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