Dragon Devouring Chapter 176

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EPISODE.88

The scene was as if a part of the world had been torn away.

Or it felt as if an immeasurable monster had its maw wide open.

“Gasp-!”

“Inhale!”

All the fairies covered their mouths in unison at the ominous sight.

“Oh, my…”

“How could the beautiful Great Forest look like this…”

Arein muttered in horror, and another Muenol who had joined recently chimed in.

It was a Muenol that appeared much more aged than Arein, as if they’d lived a considerably longer life.

Following that, Aitri, the representative of the dwarves, shook his head with a hardened complexion.

“Hah. We’ve spent our lives only touching rock and iron, but it’s the first time seeing the forest in such a state since I was born.”

True to his word, the central part of the Great Forest revealed in the video was bizarre and ominous, unlike anything seen before in this world.

To the extent that one could feel the ominousness inside the abyss even from beyond the screen.

Perhaps.

‘The ominous feeling I sensed could be due to that.’

Russel frowned with that thought and opened his mouth.

“Nonetheless…”

Though the scene was horrifying, he was a mage. It suited him to speak logically and rationally rather than showing surprise first.

“It seems likely that the pit, which is reminiscent of an abyss, is ‘that’.”

“By ‘that’ you mean…”

As a glint passed through the eyes of the gathered mages, Russel nodded.

“The origin of this crisis, the source from which the monsters have been pouring out.”

As mentioned before, the number of monsters that had surfaced was clearly beyond the numbers that had existed in the Great Forest.

Moreover, many among them were not species native to the Great Forest.

But if all the individuals emerged from that abyss, the situation made sense.

“Certainly, by its size alone, it could easily accommodate tens of thousands of monsters.”

“The sudden changes following the emergence of the monsters, it’s very likely.”

Vermillion and Allen exchanged words.

A drowsy voice, seemingly laden with sleep, followed.

“…We need an investigative team.”

It was Amelia Merwin, the Tower Master of the Ivory Tower.

And so, as the mages exchanged words one by one, the fairies soon quelled their agitations and their eyes widened as they slightly tilted their heads.

They simply could not keep up with the conversation happening around them.

Amidst the various discussions flowing, Io was the first to speak.

“Excuse me, benevolent one.”

Holding on tightly to the hem of Russel’s robe, she asked.

“If it’s not too much trouble, may I inquire about the nature of the conversation you’re having?”

“Ahh─”

Realizing that he had not provided a detailed explanation to the fairies, Russel nodded.

Half a breath later, after confirming that all the fairies were focused on him, he began to explain gently.

“The truth is…”

If he just covered the crucial points, there was little reason for a lengthy story.

Once the short story ended and all was said,

The two Muenols present were no longer showing surprise on their faces. They merely exchanged meaningful glances.

“Perhaps…”

After a short sigh, Arein spoke up.

“That might be related to the ancient creation myths of the Great Forest.”

“The creation myths of the Great Forest?”

Russel was quite familiar with that story.

Back then, at almost the end of the era of the gods, Gaia, also known as the Mother Goddess of the Earth and of Life, bestowed her blessing, making the verdure lush and allowing the Great Forest to grow.

Whether it was truth or fiction was unclear; it was a tale like those from old fairy tale books.

But now to suggest a relation between that story and this abyss.

Aware of Russel’s gaze, Io asked him.

“Do you know why the mother of the earth blessed this place and made the forest lush?”

“That is…”

Since that detail was not written in fairy tales or history books, he was at a loss for words.

The answer came from somewhere else, from Nicolo.

“To hide something that resides here. Am I correct?”

It made sense given that archaeomagical studies related closely to the earth were a specialty of the Amber Tower.

“…Exactly.”

“Mr. Muenol believes the abyss is what Gaia wanted hidden from the world.”

It was a plausible notion that Russel had suggested.

“But doesn’t it seem a bit odd?”

Tens of thousands of monsters,

It was undoubtedly a catastrophic event. But if you ask whether it was something that required the Mother Goddess of the Earth’s intervention, then it wasn’t.

Much less back then at the tail end of myths. Were not grandmasters and transcendents roaming the earth at that time?

In such an era, to seal away merely tens of thousands of monsters out of fear and to conceal that seal…

“The priest’s words…”

While Hubert’s voice trembled, Russel spoke with a voice half-filled with conviction.

“…Perhaps what Gaia wanted to hide wasn’t merely an army of monsters.”

A startling statement.

With his words, the mood of those present chilled as if doused with cold water.

Most likely because all present thought the possibility existed. Soon after, Nicolo spoke gravely.

“—As the Tower Master said, we do need an investigative team.”

.

.

It didn’t take long for the members of the investigative team to be decided.

Since the deployment presumed there would be something causing the issue from the start, there were already plans to form an investigative team.

However, one unexpected point was─

‘─I hadn’t expected the scale to scale back to the mythological era.’

While Russel let out a wry smile, Nicolo spoke.

“As originally planned, we will include all members affiliated with the royal capital in the investigative team.”

Nicolo and Amelia Merwin.

Including two superhumans, the investigative team was comprised of eleven mages and aura master practitioners of master rank.

The investigative team was kept so small for a simple reason.

While the ominous fog wasn’t toxic, it was unnecessary to thrust an entire legion into that place.

Adding numbers would only complicate matters.

Rather, it was better to form an investigative team with a small group of reliable and skilled individuals.

“Then, Count Krueger.”

At Nicolo’s call, Count Krueger, the commander of the 7th Legion, laughed heartily.

Slapping his chest vigorously, he said,

“Don’t worry, Commander-in-Chief. With the 5th and 7th Legions encircling from the inside and out, the monsters will probably be overwhelmed before they know it.”

“Just as you say, I trust you’ll manage your role well from the outside.”

The staffing of the Endymion side was thus concluded.

The members who had finished their tasks looked back at the fairies, and three of them stepped forward.

Arein and Io, and a dwarven figure covered in reddish-brown hair.

The hair was so long it was comical, a fluffy figure with limbs jutting out awkwardly from the thick tufts.

Yet the presence emanating from his body was by no means light.

‘Comparable to an aura practitioner who uses Sword Qi…’

In terms of mage rankings, it was like just stepping into the 5th circle – not quite reaching master rank.

But undoubtedly, he was a fierce warrior not to be taken lightly in any place.

“Hmm.”

Thud─

As the ground lightly vibrated, he put down his hammer – a siege weapon-like implement much larger than his body – and introduced himself.

“I am Gyoril. Although I am but humble, I have been accepted into the investigative team, so I look forward to working with you all.”

His introduction was heavy and simple, befitting a dwarf. Facing the three who had stepped forward, Russel nodded.

‘There is one more Muenol among the Elvenkind, so there shouldn’t be a problem if Arein joins the investigative team.’

The situation was a little different for the dwarves.

If their strongest, Aitri, joined the investigative team, there would be no one else to lead the dwarves.

‘Considering the Featherkind or Fairies…, they don’t have any notable warriors.’

A rather logical selection of members.

Once the team formation was completed, the fourteen-member investigative team moved out.

They walked towards the forest shrouded in darkness.

.

.

“Ah, to encounter a forest so devoid of life.”

“There’s no complete cessation of vital activity, but it’s indeed curious.”

The mages’ inquisitive chatter continued, and past the fog, an endless forest stretched ahead.

The Great Forest.

True to its name, substantial enough to be called Great (大). Its area alone covered tens of thousands of square kilometers (km²).

To reach its center, one had to traverse hundreds of kilometers.

“Let’s prepare for a break soon.”

As darkness enveloped the forest, Nicolo raised his hand. With his words, he gestured to the group.

“Eejah.”

“Then I’ll set up the tents. Will the priest prepare our meal?”

In the blink of an eye, camp preparations were underway.

Several tents were erected in no time, and a stew began to simmer concurrently.

In consideration of Io and Arein, the stew was abundant with protein, chock full of beans rather than dried meat.

“It’s delicious…”

Io’s eyes widened at the taste of Russel’s stew.

Despite the apparent absence of exceptional ingredients, the broth enriched with vegetables and bean oil was surprisingly tasty.

“Would you like another bowl?”

Observing her empty bowl, Russel offered, and Io nodded with her cheeks blushing.

“Yes, kind sir…”

Was it his imagination, or had her voice grown fainter? As Russel poured another ladle of stew into her bowl, he inquired.

“By the way, what is Arein doing right now?”

He noticed that after finishing her bowl quietly, Arein had closed her eyes and murmured something softly.

The flow of mana was noticeable, yet so peculiar and foreign.

‘It feels similar to what I use to open the doors to the spirit realm…’

Yet, it wasn’t entirely the same.

“Ah. Mother is currently communicating with the forest. It seems she’s attempting to converse with the forest spirits…”

“Forest spirits…”

Russel murmured curiously about this unfamiliar type of spirit.

The other mages seemed intrigued by spirits as well, their ears perking up in interest.

Driven by curiosity, Russel asked about it.

“Hmm.”

After a moment of contemplation, an explanation followed.

“You’re surely aware that besides the primary elemental spirits, there are many others.”

“Yes, of course.”

Prominent examples included spirits of lightning, ice, light, and darkness.

“The spirits of the forest are one of these. However, they’re slightly different from common spirits.”

“Different in what way? May I know?”

“Umm.”

After some hesitation, Io closed her eyes, probably thinking it better to show rather than tell. Her surrounding mana began to stir.

“Huh-?”

At the unfolding scene, Hubert, who had been eavesdropping, widened his eyes in surprise.

So did the other mages. So astonished were they that Allen even dropped his spoon.

‘This is…’

Russel’s eyebrows twitched as.

Roots and leaves from the surroundings began to gather, forming a shape.

It was something far too cute to be considered a human, less than half the size of a dwarf.

‘A root and leaf-made doll, perhaps…?’

Its appearance was chubby and quite endearing.

As Russel pondered, the little creature slowly opened its eyes.

Meeting Russel’s gaze, it began to move its lips.

「How does it look, kind sir?」

“Io, Madam?!”

The magicians gasped, taken aback by a live specimen of the forest’s unique magic.

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