༺ King of Iron Mountain (2) ༻
– Kwaang! Kwagang!
The trees of the forest were being swept away by the birchwood club of the infuriated ogre.
Nature was being destroyed. The green remains scattering everywhere made its onlookers realize that humans weren’t the only cause of the destruction of nature.
“What a tough bloke.”
It was a conjoined twin ogre that had two heads. Normal conjoined twins were said to have under-performing immune systems and a high metabolism rate which shortened their life span, but for some reason, conjoined twin demonic beasts had more than double the power of their originals as if they drank the blood of godzilla.
How is this even possible though? Does it make sense for them to get stronger just by gaining a head?
“A birchwood club huh…”
“What about it?”
In a corner of the forest, Old Man Haman was hiding at the same place as me but unlike myself, he wasn’t even carrying a weapon. Despite coming all the way here, he seemed to have no plans on helping me.
“Back when I was in middle school, the teacher used to smack me on my bum a few times with a similar stick.”
Of course, the stick from then was far from being taller than my height, though.
“Oh. I guess you weren’t a good student then.”
“Personally, I do think I used to be one of the model students though.”
Did I bash kids up or smoke cigarettes or what? Aside from having bad grades, I was a great student.
“Well. Anyway… When are you going to kill that?”
“Let me just wait until that guy uses up more power. Ehew. Seriously, he’s very strong isn’t he?”
Old Man Haman silently agreed to my decision with a grin.
A few days ago, we discovered the cave that was being inhabited by the twin-headed ogre, but I had no plans of running in like a fool.
Old Man Haman and the people from the Alliance were only here as support in case things turned south. Even though they would help me if there was a serious risk to my safety, that would mark an immediate end to my grading test.
Firstly, I started off by investigating the area around the twin-headed ogre’s cave, and on the presence of other demonic beasts nearby and what the ecosystem was in this forest.
“Report what you have discovered from your investigations. Korin Lork.”
“From the surrounding footsteps, I have found traces of the ogre moving together with long hounds. That pretty much confirms their cohabitation.”
“How many long hounds are there?”
“Hooh? There are only two sets of footsteps of four-legged animals following around the ogre though?”
“It’s because one is a female that is pregnant.”
In response, Old Man Haman floated a smile while the evaluating guardians of the Alliance started writing things down on their notes.
“You look like you know the answer already, but give us an explanation.”
“Aside from the footsteps, there is also a trace of a dragged beast. That means instead of eating the hunted animal there, they dragged it all the way back to the cave.”
Although the twin-headed ogre and the long hounds were in a symbiotic relationship, hunting was mainly up to the hounds. The ogre was just a deterrent to stop other enemies and its job was to protect the long hounds from other demonic beasts.
“Both the ogre and the long hounds aren’t the types to store food. That means they have a kindred that cannot move, whom they are bringing the food for.”
I could hear my evaluation of the Alliance members rising.
“Now, Korin Lork. How are you going to hunt the young semi-Grade 1 twin-headed ogre and Grade 3 long hounds?”
“Firstly, I will separate the ogre from the hounds.”
“Since we’re humans, we have to use our brains.”
Unfortunately for them, I was a professional at things like this.
Humans broadened their borders, founded cities and created highways to increase the number of man-made structures in the continent, but most of the world was still being occupied by naturally-made ones.
No matter how many trees were cut down by humans; no matter how many forests were to be broken down to turn into farms and no matter how many animals were to become extinct, the demonic existences were still imposingly standing in place, threatening humanity.
The ruler of this forest was one of them.
This forest with little passersby was like a kingdom to the twin-headed ogre who was reigning as a dictator.
– Woof! Woof woof!
The prey hunted by the hunting dogs today was another source of delight. A deer as large as this was enough for both the tyrant and the hunting dogs to have their fill.
The hunting dogs grabbed on the remaining leg of the deer and started dragging it behind them, as the tyrant leisurely followed them through the foggy forest for a stroll. Even though it wasn’t even an adult yet, the ogre still reached 4 meters in height and had to break the branches while walking through the woods.
Even though it considered itself the ruler of this forest, its scope of activity wasn’t very big. Despite the mist, there was no way it would get lost while returning to its habitat.
– Woof! Woof!
The hunting dogs were the first to notice a change. They were very sensitive to the foreign scent that had infiltrated into their base because a pregnant female was by itself inside the cave.
They had been careless because no-one had dared to trespass their territory ever since they became the ruler of the forest.
The ogre commanded the dogs as the hunting dogs then hurriedly searched through the cave.
It wasn’t there.
The female with a baby that should have trouble moving was nowhere to be seen.
– Woof! Woof woof!
Hearing the call of its friend, the other hound raced towards where the sound was coming from. There, they came across the sign of something that had been dragged outside.
Even though it might be the trace that was created when they were dragging some meat inside, the smell was different.
The infiltrator had dragged the female out of the cave.
The hunting dogs roared in fury. After realizing that their kindred, the female of the group and their baby had been kidnapped, they expressed their pure bestial fury.
The infuriated scream of the ruler of the forest and its subjects made the entire forest tremble.
– Woof! Woof woof!
– Woof woof woof!
Blinded by fury, the two male dogs pressed their king in dissonance. They had to go after the trace. They had to save their female kindred.
The ogre responded to that suggestion without any hesitation. In a symbiotic relationship that was there to supplement each other’s weaknesses through the hardships of nature, both sides had rights and duties.
Action was mandatory. The owners of the forest moved with a clear purpose in mind.
The hounds dashed after the smell of their female kindred as the ogre chased from behind. The two hunting dogs raced across the foggy forest to where the smell led them.
They looked at each other in the middle of their sprint. The smell of their female kindred was becoming denser over time and along with that was the deepening scent of the infiltrator who had snatched the female from them.
There was nothing in this forest that could shake them off.
This forest was where they were born, and they knew this place like the back of their paws. Using their tough four legs, the demonic beasts kicked off the dirt and jumped over the thick tree roots.
Now, the foolish trespasser will receive its due punishment for messing with the ruler of the forest.
At the end of their sprint, they came across their kindred that was wailing on the ground.
The female dog groaned while staying on the ground. Unable to hold itself back anymore, one of the two male dogs dashed forward. It was the father of the baby inside the female’s belly.
“Woof! Woof woof!”
While rubbing its nose on the body of its spouse, the dog confirmed its safety. Right as it was about to support the female to stand up on its legs…
Right when the female moved its body, a click echoed across the forest as a rope made with vines tightened itself.
At the same time… A log that appeared to have been discarded in the forest suddenly started to soar up.
The log flew towards the sky as the other logs that were connected to it began to fall. The male was in the middle of supporting the female dog and couldn’t react in time and—
Its face was blown away by one of the flying logs.
“Woof! Woof woof!”
The remaining male hound somehow managed to dodge the flying logs. It was looking around in extreme wariness when its ears sensed something ominous.
Something was falling down the air. The hound immediately rolled to the front as sharp stakes of wood fell on where it was standing.
“Woof! Woof woof!”
Thinking of how one of those stakes could have pierced through its head and the spine made its hairs stand on its end. However, there were more.
A bunch of stakes that had been installed on the branches started falling all at once.
– Pabak! Pababak!
Leaving behind its kindred that were still under the downpour of stakes, the remaining hound started another sprint but this time, it was for survival instead of a pursuit.
Despite starting off from a non-ideal posture, the hound still reached the speed of 70 kilometers per hour. After racing at a speed faster than the falling stakes, the dog turned around to confirm its safety.
…The stakes were no longer falling down.
The dog relaxed itself a little.
And because it was relaxed… It was too late by the time it noticed that something was sparkling beneath it.
[ᚲ] – Kenaz
ᚲ ᚲ ᚲ ᚲ ᚲ ᚲ ᚲ ᚲ ᚲ ᚲ ᚲ ᚲ ᚲ ᚲ ᚲ ᚲ ᚲ
But even if it did notice them, it was questionable whether that would have changed anything or not. The letters of flame covering the ground were too enormous and dense for it to escape at the speed of 70 km per hour.
The hound’s fate was decided the moment it was swallowed by the flames blazing from the ground.
– Kung! Kung! Kung!
By the time the ruler of the forest and the owner of the hounds arrived at the scene, the dogs had already been killed.
The couple had been pierced by wooden stakes while the other one was scorched by the blazing flames that were still burning the trees nearby.
The two heads shared the same emotions as they roared together.
The roar of the tyrant reverberated sonorously.
It was truly what one would expect from the so-called ruler of the forest but the ogre did not even have the time to dwell in its sorrow. One of the devices it accidentally stepped on ended up triggering another trap.
Logs started flying towards it, but the two-headed ogre was able to notice them ahead of time due to its wide vision.
Without even moving its feet, the two-headed giant swung the club in its right hand.
The logs were shattered by the birchwood club. There were still a few more traps that hadn’t been activated, but none of them would be able to serve as a threat against the wide vision of the twin-headed ogre and its monstrous strength.
However, what the tyrant did not know was that this was just the beginning of the hunt.
As the ruler of the forest, the twin-headed ogre was also an innate hunter.
The 1st head was very perceptive with its eyes while the 2nd head had a good sense of smell. Through cooperation, the two heads tried to avenge the hounds and in fact, chasing after its prey was quite simple.
In fact, there were so many traces that it was ridiculous. The enemy couldn’t even hide their scent or their footsteps, and it was a shame how the hounds had been defeated by someone of this caliber.
Of course, the journey wasn’t that easy because there were all sorts of traps that were trying to deter the ogre from advancing forward.
But although the twin-headed ogre was not a full-grown adult, it was still a semi-Grade 1 demonic beast. The traps that could barely defeat some dogs were easily swept away by the massive birchwood club in its hand.
A few sharp stakes did land straight at its body, but they could only create some tiny wounds after coming into contact with its thick skin.
However, unlike what it expected, the ogre could not find the prey on the first day.
There were definitely a lot of traces and it was stubbornly chasing after them but for some reason, the ogre just couldn’t find its prey. It felt like they were so close yet so far.
Despite feeling discontent by it, the ogre decided to rest for the night, but it was that very night that something attacked it.
[ᚺ] – Hagalaz
It wouldn’t have been able to respond in time if not for one of the two heads being awake the whole time. A hail fell from the sky as the sleeping head of the twin-headed ogre also woke up.
The hail itself wasn’t much. A few pieces of stones had fallen on the body of the ogre from the sky and the damage was very miniscule.
However, it was still true that its sleep had been disturbed. The ogre crushed all the trees nearby to express its fury.
Similar things continued happening after that. A hail fell from the sky whenever it was about to go to sleep. If the ogre decided to ignore it after thinking that it would be the same thing again, the falling stones would then have flames surrounding it as they scorched the surrounding land.
The ogre destroyed the surrounding forest in a midnight pursuit but the prey continued leaving vague traces without revealing itself.
After that repeated for three days,
The ogre realized that itself was the one that was being hunted.
With countless wounds around its body that were caused by Rune Magic and natural traps, the ogre couldn’t even fall asleep for the past few days and was thus exhausted both physically and psychologically.
All it could do in retaliation while limping with innumerable burns and scratches on its body was to crush everything in its sight.
The role of the hunter and the prey had been reversed. At last after realizing that it had fallen to becoming the prey, the ogre felt grief and fury.
On the afternoon of the third day, the hunter finally revealed himself.
“Huaahm~. Why do we all have to go through so much trouble just to kill you? Let’s hurry up and end this.”
After harassing it on repeat, the hunter confronted the ogre while provoking it.
The ogre let out a scream as Korin likewise lowered his body.
Like sprinters waiting for the sound of the flare gun, the two of them gazed at each other in silence.
The ogre ran.
And so did Korin.
Dashing towards the large ogre like a gust, the spear-bearer used the forward momentum to kick off the ground.
His body soared into the air. Noticing the huge mistake made by the hunter at the very last second, the ogre’s lips curled into a crescent.
As soon as it landed, the ogre would use the 2-meter long birchwood club to strike his tiny body. Even though that was its plan, the ogre couldn’t see it through.
｢Crumbling Mountain: Secret Arts｣
｢One Strike One Shot, Thunderous Strike｣
Jumping into the air, the spearman readied himself to throw the spear.
This was the innate purpose and use of the spear. It was the single most powerful strike that humans could pull off with a spear.
The spear pounced at the ogre through the air. When the ogre subconsciously raised its club, the two weapons collided and… A crack appeared on the club that used to break everything without fail during the past 3 days.
The top half of the birchwood club was now nowhere to be seen. In addition, the ogre’s right shoulder was also gone along with an incomprehensible tempest.
Landing back on the ground after the abominable javelin toss, the spearman dashed forward without killing his momentum. Even though the ogre was shrieking from the pain, its two heads were still able to perceive the world.
It reached its arms forward at the dashing Korin but it was too late – he was already right in front of its chest.
｢Eight Trigrams, Mixed Origin｣
The palm strike landed directly on the ogre’s chest. A compression of inner energy was sent from Korin’s dantian to the ogre’s body. As expected of one of the three most powerful strikes of Eight Trigrams, the energy sent from Korin’s palm rooted up the innards of the ogre.
The twin-headed ogre soon fell on its knees. Due to the explosion that occurred inside its body, the demonic beast was bleeding profusely through its two mouths.
“What the heck… Why did I bother filling up my Aura Core…? I didn’t even get a chance to use it.”
This appeared to be the limit of a semi-Grade 1 demonic beast that couldn’t even reach Grade 1.
Due to spending the past few days putting all of his aura into the Aura Core in preparation for a decisive battle, Korin had a dispirited look on his face after the underwhelming outcome of the fight.
At the underground laboratory of Merkarva Academy, there were countless test subjects. This was the biggest reason why the professors of the Magic Department rejected the offers of the Tower and stayed at the Academy.
Golden Miss, Professor Deina, who had been working at the Academy for 15 years, put on a thicker layer of makeup and a stronger perfume than usual. That meant that she had gained problems on her skin and a bad odor due to the repetitive late night research.
“Ohh. Student Marie. You’re here!”
Marie, who had been helping her with the experiments as a volunteer for the past few days, assisted her with the same face as usual.
‘Wow… Look at how soft her skin is. Is this youth…?’
Professor Deina’s skin wasn’t bad by any means. In fact, she looked younger than others of her age due to being a mage, but she obviously did not want to stand side-by-side next to someone with real baby-skin.
Look at how white and moist her skin was, as well as its softness that could probably swallow a finger like a mochi!
Marie had the youthful appearance of a girl her age but the reason Professor Deina couldn’t help but question the fairness of this world was because Marie had also been working late overnight just like herself.
“Student Marie… You’ve been helping me a lot these past few days right?”
“Nnn~. I guess?”
Professor Deina knew herself that even though Marie was the one who volunteered for the task, making a student work three days overnight had been questionable as an educator.
But surprisingly, Marie was showing off her incredible stamina by doing more work than Professor Deina herself.
It should be normal for her to gain some dark circles under her eyes and yet she was still lively like always.
‘Is it because she’s a vampire?’
After recently awakening into a vampire, Marie became the hot potato of the Magic Department. How many professors had joined the fray just to prove that she was safe and rational enough?
Normal vampires had pale skin and were weakened under sunlight, but Marie was proven to be at the level of an elder-rank vampire that was at least 100 years old.
As for vampires, the elder was right beneath the lord rank, and yet Vampire Elders were already in the Unique Grade… in other words, Vampire Elders were already unmeasurably strong so how strong would the legendary Vampire Lords be?
That question aroused her inquisitive mind as a scholar but that wasn’t the important matter at hand.
“Student Marie. What is the state with the demonic beasts that will be used for the experiment with ‘King of Iron Mountain’?”
“Ah yes. They’ve all been isolated.”
“We will be able to carry out a more detailed experiment thanks to your help, Student Marie. The demonic boar of Dingle Peninsula and a Unique Grade vampire… It will lead to a huge progression of the magic industry!”
Marie gave an awkward smile which was a very rare sight. Seeing that smile, Deina immediately noticed that she had made a mistake.
“Ahh, that’s not what I meant. Of course it’s a huge misfortune that you ended up awakening into a vampire. My apologies. I shouldn’t have said that.”
“No, it’s okay.”
“Are you sure?”
“It probably doesn’t matter to him whether I’m a vampire or not.”
“Oh right! I forgot to give food to the demonic beasts! Sorry. I’m a bit all over the place!”
“Hmm… There’s no need for you to do that much though.”
“I’m fine! And it’s safer for me to go as well!”
Professor Deina couldn’t refute those words.
It was just the day before yesterday when one of the staff members had been greatly hurt while feeding the demonic beasts. She had to pay hospital fees and compensation for both physical and emotional distress.
They were running low on budget due to buying Grade 1 demonic beasts like the King Tyrant and the Melting Dragon. What would happen if there were to be another casualty?
Let alone the screams of the budget team, their research might also be forced to a stop due to safety reasons.
“C, could you please take care of that then?”
By making use of their budget problem as an excuse, Marie organized the visit to the demonic beasts while carrying food.
– Oink! Oink!
– Oink oink!!
Echoing all the way to the corridor from one of the rooms at a corner of the 2nd basement floor of the laboratory building were the disharmonious grunts of pigs. They were the Grade 4 demonic beasts, Fang Boars, that were screaming due to the distressful experience of having to live in a small fenced-up area.
There had been a huge increase in their numbers due to their recent breeding season and Professor Deina ended up buying a whole bunch of them out of greed.
Although their individual prices had gone down, buying hundreds of Grade 4 demonic beasts in one go might make others question the financial senses of mages, but Marie found nothing wrong with that.
– Oink oink!?
The sudden howling voices of the beasts from the echoing sound of footsteps rapidly started to dwindle back down.
When Marie’s beautiful white boots stepped across the stone floor, their changes became all the more apparent.
Her tiny hand landed on the door of the iron fences that had at least hundreds of fang boars inside but what came back was a deathly silence.
Even though the Fang Boars were extremely savage beasts, they became nervous after sensing Marie’s approach. Some of them were even squeaking while driving their heads into the bums of their friends to hide themselves.
Normal staff members would have thrown the food inside from outside the fence but Marie opened the gates and walked into the cage like a madman.
Those Fang Boars that used to threaten every staff that threw the food from outside the doors by pouncing at them were silent and still as if the world stopped.
“Time to have some food.”
Overwhelmed by the demonic aura that was being emanated out of her voice, gaze, and scent. The Fang Boars shivered heavily but still queued up in front of her in a line.
Marie gave the trembling monsters a piece of chicken alongside some small pebbles. Those pebbles that were mixed with the meat weren’t a part of the meal that she had received from the staff.
– Munch munch!
It was when the Fang Boar that was hurriedly trying to finish its food accidentally crunched on the pebble.
Like a fiend, Marie moved in an instant to grip on the beast’s fang. While holding onto the fang that was several times bigger than her hands, Marie raised the animal up with her monstrous strength.
The Fang Boar floundered in the air but it was unable to escape from her grip with its body that weighed only 400 kilograms.
– Crack! Crackkk!
Her otherworldly grip started causing cracks on the sharp fangs of the demonic beast.
The golden eyes of the amicable girl with water-colored hair started being tainted in red. With their instincts, the beasts sensed the demonic aura of the monster that was wearing the skin of a harmless girl.
Only one of them was caught and yet all the Fang Boars froze stiff. The one that was being held by Marie was in a worse state, and was even peeing itself.
“Did I not tell you?”
Yellow liquid was dripping down its shivering rear legs. Despite the puddle of smelly liquid, the girl from a family of farmers, who was used to the smell of feces, did not even spare a glance.
“Do not bite on the rock. Swallow it.”
Her eyes that were now tainted in a deep crimson color oppressed the beasts.
Soon, the hundreds of Fang Boars started hurriedly swallowing all the rocks and pebbles they saw as if it was a competition.
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