༺ King of Iron Mountain (3) ༻
King of Iron Mountain,
Killer of Heroes,
The Demonic Boar of the Dingle Peninsula.
This boar that was perhaps one of the most well-known Unique Grade demonic beasts of the continent first appeared 88 years ago at the tip of the Northern Continent, Dingle Peninsula.
Those lands were incredibly cold but had a remarkable abundance of natural resources, and the mountain range had so many mines that it was called the Iron Mountain.
The miners that one day visited the mine to look for iron, silver and gold ended up witnessing a shocking scenery.
– Kaduk! Kaduk!
A large boar was greedily devouring everything inside the iron mines.
That was the first eyewitness account of the one who devours everything, the King of Iron Mountain.
“What do you think is the difference between Unique Grade demons and demonic beasts below that, Student Marie?”
“…Maybe their strength?”
Marie replied after tilting her head and thinking about Professor Deina’s question. The topic about ‘Unique Grades’ was something that was also very relevant to herself.
“Strength is like a natural passive skill that goes with Unique Grades. One of their most powerful abilities is the power to ‘rule’.”
“Power to rule?”
“It is said that Unique Grade demons give off a different energy compared to other demons. We call that the alpha energy.”
“You know how we have alpha entities of groups sometimes even among Grade 2 and Grade 1 monsters right? The ones that are stronger than their kindred that give out commands?”
As Professor Deina said, there were oftentimes leaders – the alpha entities – among demonic beasts that traveled around in groups. These entities were more powerful than their kindred and could even break through the restrictions of their grade to become incomparably stronger.
“But even those alpha entities cannot give out commands to demons that are of different species to them. Their ruling ability does not go through. But…”
“…Unique Grades can give out commands to every lower-graded demon.”
“Exactly. You have experienced it yourself, right?”
Marie used to control the demonic beasts of the forest when she had run away to the hunting grounds. It was the same even when she was feeding the Fang Boars who did not dare fight against her.
“Nnn? But, Miss. I… think it was a bit different from ruling them.”
She said while reflecting on what happened at the hunting grounds. It was true that the beasts of the forest couldn’t fight back and offered her their blood, but that wasn’t because of a conscious command from her.
Those frightened demonic beasts had simply been unwilling to fight back.
It was the same even with the Fang Boars. Although Marie did command them to have a better time feeding them, that was slightly different from ruling over them. The Fang Boars had simply been overwhelmed by her and were fearful.
“Right. But that is mainly because of your race, Student Marie.”
“We have three types of demons right? Demonic beasts, demonic spirits and demi-humans. It’s a very simple classification but the effect of alpha entities do depend on this as well. Can you make a guess?”
As expected of a professor, Professor Deina naturally suggested Marie to think about the answer herself, and as a clever high-achieving student, Marie was quickly able to come up with an answer.
“Does the degree of the ruling ability of alpha entities change depending on races?”
In other words, Unique Grade demonic beasts would have trouble giving commands to lower graded demonic spirits, while Unique Grade demonic spirits would have trouble commanding lower grade demonic beasts. This was apparently due to the ‘language systems’ of each race.
“Hmm… Does that mean I would be able to command other demi-humans?”
“That still requires some research but the general consensus is a no.”
“Do you mean it’s impossible?”
“Yes. Demi-humans are former humans that awaken into demons right? Because their intellect is above a human level at least, they are apparently immune to the ruling power of demonic aura.”
It seemed that she wouldn’t be able to command them even if she were to come across other demi-humans.
‘That’s a bit of a shame. Demi-humans are tough, so they should be good at farmin…!!’
“I, I wasn’t thinking about anytthingg!!”
What was that just then?
Marie shook her head to get rid of the scary thoughts that appeared in her mind. She wasn’t someone who would have such violent thoughts in her mind after all!
“M, Miss Deina!”
“Y, you see, I have been recently experimenting with making potions and elixirs at the laboratory!”
“Yes. I’ve heard about it. I heard there are a bunch of people from the Magic Department that are lining up to buy your elixirs. Is that true?”
“Ugh, yes, but… It’s a bit… Weird for me.”
“Why? The potions made with the blood of a high-class vampire should be priceless though?”
Professor Deina jested that she wouldn’t have to worry about money all life even if she did nothing but sell her blood.
Deina reminded herself that Marie was still a teenage girl. It was normal for her to feel repulsed by the idea of feeding her blood to someone else – unless it was someone special for example.
“But what about it?”
“Actually… I want to make the potion more delicious.”
Wasn’t she repulsed until just then? Why would she bother making it delicious? Professor Deina tilted her head in doubt.
“Why? People would line up to buy a bit of your unprocessed blood for gold coins, won’t they?”
“Actually the thing is, such and such—–”
“Hooh, hooh… N, now this is a very interesting idea… The effect does change depending on the materials and such but this…”
“Do you think it will be possible?”
“Theory-wise… It looks like there are no problems. But we would need a lot of materials and precise experiments. We would need some clinical experiments… We might even need a knight to…”
“May I please ask for your help?”
“Hmm… It might be a bit strange of me to say this, but I’m quite an expensive and busy person as well, you see. Maybe if you share a little bit of your blood, Student Marie?”
“Would this much be enough?”
– Whisper whisper!
– Nod nod!
Professor Deina and the 2nd year student Marie shared a firm handshake as a symbol for their successful negotiation.
“Kuhum…! We kind of strayed off the topic. This experiment with the King of Iron Mountain is on the magnitude of a Unique Grade demonic beast’s alpha ability.”
“Is that why you’ve purchased a bunch of demonic beasts?”
“Yes. If we could analyze this ability and be able to control it at free will… Theoretically, that means humans would be able to control most of the demonic beasts and spirits around the world at will.”
It was a more incredible experiment than Marie had initially thought, and was one that was compellingly attractive to mages. If this experiment succeeded, humanity would be able to practically nullify the risk of demons.
“I’ve also purchased Grade 1 demonic beasts like the King Tyrant and Melting Dragon just for this experiment. My article will definitely be included in next year’s Tower’s academic journal!”
Grade 1 demonic beasts. They were extremely powerful monsters which most Grade 1 knights and mages would team up to fight against for safety measures.
There were semi-Unique Grade demonic beasts as well, but there were essentially zero organizations in the world that could capture these alive so it was impossible to buy them with the experiment budget.
‘But aren’t hundreds of Fang Boars more expensive than those two monsters?’
Professor Deina did purchase them at a low price since they were easy to catch during the breeding season, but the problem was with their maintenance cost. Grade 1 demonic beasts were monsters in a different plane that could survive without eating anything by changing the mana in the air into energy but on the other hand, Fang Boars needed to have as much food as their own weights everyday.
A few days of the experiment and the maintenance fees of the Fang Boars would quickly drain their budget.
Marie was in the middle of calculating how long it would take for the budget to run dry when a different work partner visited Professor Deina’s lab.
He was the professor who had been working at the Academy for 10 years with eye-catching afro hair and black sunglasses, Fermack Daman.
“Wassup! Professor Deina, I’m here~”
“Oh. You’re right on time.”
“Should I have come earlier?”
“No no no. You came at the perfect timing. We just finished organizing the rune that will be carved on the King of Iron Mountain.”
Marie tilted her head after hearing Professor Deina’s words. They were supposed to be experimenting with the alpha ability, so what was this rune for?
“Ah. I guess I haven’t explained that part yet. The King of Iron Mountain is currently being sealed.”
“I… Am aware of that.”
“That seal was done by using runes 80 years ago, by the previous chairman, Sir Biren, Senior Professor Johsephine and… The knight who used to be praised for being the strongest of the times, Tates Valtazar.”
“Do you need Rune Magic to lift the seal?”
“Yes. And we need a highly proficient Rune Mage for that.”
“I see. Professor Fermack… Is a famous Rune Mage after all.”
His tales were well-known and it was even included in the magazines published by the Guardian Alliance, the ‘Guardians’.
A stylish high-class knight who merged boxing with Rune Magic – Fermack Daman was a hero who even defeated Basilisk, a semi-Unique Grade demonic beast along with a party.
“But… Isn’t it dangerous to lift the seal? It is a Unique Grade demonic beast…”
“Haha. Here in the laboratory, we have strict legion-ranked restriction systems and layers of gravitational pressure devices. Even if it’s a Unique Grade demonic beast, it won’t be able to escape from this place in a weakened state after 80 years of confinement.”
The confident voice of Professor Deina made Marie feel all the more anxious.
‘Nnn… This always leads to a problem in all the novels I read though…’
But what else could she do? As a mere experiment assistant, she could only trust Professor Deina and move on. Besides, there was something she heard from Korin.
『I have a plan.』
Although Marie wasn’t sure how he would carry out the plan now that he was outside the city, she still trusted the boy without any suspicion.
Alicia’s idle life went on day by day. The refreshing spring breeze was on its leave as soothing heat was slowly starting to seep into the ground in this early summer.
Inside the hot deep fryer, the potato croquette was resting on the frying basket after being scooped up from the scorching oil.
“Here you go.”
After buying a potato croquette at one of the street vendors of the Academy, Alicia took a big bite into it.
The melting sensation of potatoes and the deep fragrance of oil filled her enclosed mouth but there was something lacking.
‘I used to eat this a lot with Mr. Korin.’
This was the store they used to visit after training at the training rooms to replenish energy while having some unhealthy food. It might be because she wasn’t with her usual company, but Alicia wasn’t 100% content with the food today.
Training together, having snacks and discussing each other’s skills took a lot of time and it was thus very common for the two of them to also have a meal afterwards.
It had only been a month since the matter with her older sister had been handled, but in that short period of a month, Korin had become a very important person inside Alicia’s mind.
‘Maybe I should just go back and read a romance novel.’
Reading romance novels was a new hobby of hers. While going to the library for the group assignment, she happened to come across the romance novel section and those served to be a decent pastime activity.
She especially liked it when she could link the male protagonist to someone else…
– Tap tap!
It was then. Someone tapped her on her shoulder.
“Who is… Huaahk?!”
A red werewolf… That looked a bit closer to a dog instead of a wolf had been touching her shoulder.
“A, are you Doggo?”
One of the abilities Marie gained after awakening into a vampire was the ‘Familiar of Blood’. Doggo was the familiar born from her blood that could also be considered as her child.
Its name was very adorable but as someone who knew about the monstrous power of this familiar, Alicia couldn’t help but feel slightly frightened.
– Flick flick!
“Uhh. Do you want me to follow you? Is Senior Marie calling me?”
– Nod nod.
She wanted to ask why but it’s not like Doggo could speak in human language so Alicia decided to obediently follow it from behind.
There were times when Doggo would come and take Korin with him so Alicia was quite used to this turn of events as well.
‘Actually, how was Doggo able to find out where Mr. Korin was every single time?’
Was it because it was a dog? But rather than a dog, Doggo was similar to a magic formula that didn’t even looked like an organism. Let alone a sense of smell, it was very questionable whether it even had internal organs like other animals.
“A, alright! I’m coming!”
Alicia hurriedly chased after Doggo after he shouted at her to hurry up. Before long, she arrived at the laboratory in the western region of the Academy.
“I wonder why she called me?”
She didn’t have much connection with Marie, the 2nd year senior. Since she met her quite often while traveling around with Korin, she did greet her every time but that was it.
‘What’s her relationship with Mr. Korin? They looked very close…’
Alicia wasn’t aware of the things Korin had done to save Marie. Because she only knew about the false announcement of Chairman Eriu Casarr and Senior Professor Josephine, it was natural for her to be oblivious to the nature of their relationship.
However, one thing she did know was that Marie and Korin’s relationship was far from being a normal senior-junior relationship.
The fact that Marie had a connection with Korin which she wasn’t aware of was something that subconsciously caused Alicia to feel a slight sense of distance. She herself wasn’t really sure about the nature of her feelings though.
B1 – 1st basement floor of the laboratory – even though this floor was only for the professors and staff and did not allow student entry, Alicia was easily able to pass the check thanks to Doggo being in the lead.
After seeing Doggo, the securities immediately let her go through.
When she arrived at the basement, she realized that the underground lab was completely different from the dark and somber image in her mind.
The basement was incredibly enormous. At the center was a hollow space that connected B1 all the way down to B3, and going along the sides was a platform which appeared to have been made by carving out a rock, that led to the rooms where mages were conducting all sorts of experiments.
Alchemy, demonic beasts, astral experiments, cultivation of magic plants, dissection, magic engineering… There were all sorts of experiments taking place, and Alicia could also see through the windows of the rooms, several students that were here as either assistants or observers.
As expected of one of the dream jobs of mages, it was on an entirely different scale.
“O, okay! Can you please not bark? It’s scary…”
She was led to one of the labs on B1 and felt puzzled after smelling something.
“Is this food? Ah.”
There seemed to be demonic beasts that could be eaten by demonic beasts, and Alicia did hear how researching about that was also one of the jobs of mages. Those things would become poison when consumed by a normal person, but knights or mages with enough immunity might receive some positive enhancement from it.
“Excuse me… Senior Marie?”
Boiling inside the laboratory was an experiment beaker holding something murky inside as it gave off a savory scent, and next to that was Marie gazing at the beaker with an extremely serious gaze.
“Hmm… What if I add a bit more of ‘this’ here? No, it’s too much. That’s going to take away from the main ingredient…”
Alicia carefully walked up to the girl with water-colored hair that was immersed in the experiment, and spoke to her.
Marie jumped in the air while letting out a cute gasp. After seeing Alicia, she settled her startled heart.
“It was you, Junior Arden…! You surprised me there!”
“Sorry… For bothering you while you were in the middle of an experiment. Was it a very important one?”
“I, it’s nothing! I was just doing this and that during the short break!”
Alicia heaved a sigh of relief after hearing her say that it was nothing, because she had often heard rumors of how mages utterly detested being interrupted during their experiment.
“By the way, why did you call me? I did come because Doggo told me to come but…”
“Nn nn. Actually, Korin wanted me to explain something to you during this time in his stead!”
There seemed to be a message left behind by Korin who had left for the grading test a few days ago… So Alicia readied herself.
“Oh right. Before that, would you like to have a sip of this?”
Marie said while pointing at the liquid inside the beaker. All sorts of medicinal herbs had been added to the murky liquid inside the beaker that was constantly bubbling up.
“Uhh… Is this a potion?”
“I, I guess? You can say that…”
“I would be glad to have it, if it’s good for the body.”
“It will definitely be good for your body! I’ve only added nice ingredients to it!”
“Wow~. Really? I haven’t had things like this in a long time. I used to have them quite often back in my hometown but I was busy earning a living after coming to the Academy, you see. I didn’t have time nor money.”
“I see. W, would you like to try? It should be tasty as well!”
Tasty? Since when were potions and elixirs supposed to be tasty? Especially for potions like this that were similar to an elixir, they only showed their effect once per person so taste wasn’t even a consideration for most…
But the savory scent spreading out of the elixir inside the beaker was a sign that Marie wasn’t lying about the taste.
“I, it’s hot so take your time. We also have to check its safety, so…”
“Yes, I will. What was that at the end, sorry?”
“Nothing! I’m very happy to have such a tough junior!”
Even though the last sentence sounded a bit strange, Alicia carefully started to drink the boiling medicinal decoction, thinking that Marie wouldn’t give her something dangerous.
“W, what’s wrong?”
“It’s delicious! Like, the taste of my hometown? I can even feel that from it!”
Marie started writing down something on her notepad.
More experiments required just in case.
“It’s over there.”
The place we came to under the guidance of one of the staff members from the Alliance was a large mansion built in the middle of a mountain. According to the mission, it seemed that the owner of this mansion became pessimistic after a failed business idea and committed suicide with his entire family.
It would have become a well-known venue for a ‘test of courage’ in modern Earth and that would have been all, but this was a fantasy world.
In this place, demonic spirits were born from the grudges of the dead. In other words, a tragic end like a family suicide was highly likely to end up creating a demonic spirit.
“The grudge itself shouldn’t have been enormous but the land wasn’t good for us. This place is near the center of the ley lines and has been a long-time favorite of demonic beasts, so it seems that the spirit ended up swallowing a bunch of demonic aura.”
“Can’t believe he decided to build a mansion in such a place.”
“It’s probably because of that bad instinct of his that he failed his business.”
Because of the tragedy and all sorts of unfortunate events, this haunted house became extremely dangerous. Since it was a stationary spirit, it couldn’t move anywhere else to wreak havoc, but should nonetheless be immensely powerful in its home grounds.
The demonic spirit that had to be defeated this time was the ‘Haunted House’ itself.
“What do you say? Will you investigate this as well? Just letting you know, lighting it on fire is not going to let you remove that house.”
Old Man Haman waited for my response with an expectant gaze, asking what kind of detailed plan I’ll use this time to play with the demon.
Unfortunately, investigating a demonic spirit was meaningless for me.
Because of one of the 3 rules engraved onto my body, the Restriction 〚I do not perceive spirits〛, I couldn’t even sense them. So…
“I will deal with it in 30 seconds.”
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