Dragon Devouring Chapter 177

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EPISODE 89.

“Is… is that you, Lord Io…?”

Startled by the voice that emerged through the spirit, Russel muttered to himself.

Then, the spirit next to him, in the shape of a round doll, playfully waved its hand and spun itself around.

“Hehe─.”

The spirit’s appearance, showing off its new clothes, resembled that of a proud child. Unconsciously swallowing their saliva, the mages realized the significance of the phenomenon before them.

They adjusted their stance, alternately looking at Io and the forest spirit.

‘Does Io’s consciousness coexist not only in his main body but also within the individual spirit entity?’

It was as if his consciousness had somehow split into two. Moreover, it was only Io’s will that moved the forest spirit.

There was no sense of the spirit’s own will anywhere to be found.

‘I can combine my strength with a spirit like that too… but…’

This phenomenon was similar to his and Pepper’s Spirit Garment (精靈衣), yet distinctly different.

After all, the Spirit Garment was merely Pepper’s power wrapped around Russel. Russel wasn’t controlling Pepper; it was just that Pepper moved according to his will.

At that moment,

“Ugh─.”

With a swallow of his saliva, the spirit stumbled. Then its appearance began to crumble, with the grains of sand and leaves that constituted its form scattering in the wind.

Only a few tree roots remained on the ground, and Io pressed his palm against his forehead.

Frowning beautifully several times, he said,

“…It’s not easy to summon even a small spirit.”

The comment was accompanied by the implication that the forest’s condition was not good.

‘Hmm.’

After a moment of calming down, Io’s explanation suggested that the forest spirit was significantly smaller than other spirits.

The doll shape summoned just before was merely the combined appearance of an enormous number of spirits.

The actual size was much smaller.

‘And, did he mention that the spirits with such small sizes have almost no ego?’

They weren’t without will, but it was very weak. Hence, there was a necessity to form a collective to use power effectively.

“It’s like coral, if you will.”

“Coral?”

“Yes, coral. It’s an organism from the sea that looks like a plant but is actually a colony of… Cnidarian animals.”

After a brief exchange in which Russel educated her, she nodded and murmured with eyes twinkling like stars,

“I see, there are such mysterious creatures even in the abyss of the ocean.”

Elves have a close relationship with nature, so it appeared they developed an interest in the sea, as much as they had in the forests.

Unlike Io, who was immersed in the story of the sea, Russel was analytically reviewing the incident in his mind from a mage’s point of view.

‘Is this some kind of golem, then?’

The technique of clustering forest spirits to build an exterior and projecting one’s will inside to control was akin to a golem’s overall structure.

Though the medium, summoning, and creation methods were completely different, the overall structure quite resembled that of a golem.

The same could be said about the abomination, used by heretics…

Spirits were considered one of the most pure existences in the world.

It was fascinating that their operation method resembled that of the heretics.

Perhaps that was what they meant by two sides of the same coin.

“Then, Lady Arein is also…”

Russel was about to say something but stopped mid-sentence as he caught Io’s eye who had just finished another bowl and was sneakily reaching for the ladle again.

“…It was just too delicious, I couldn’t help myself.”

Her voice shrank, as if she wanted to hide in a mouse hole out of embarrassment.

She had an appetite?

While thinking this, Russel softly chuckled and scooped another portion into Io’s bowl.

“We have plenty of stew, so please feel free to have as much as you like.”

“Th-Thank you, my benefactor.”

Grasping the bowl, she hastily moved on to another topic.

“That aside… what were you about to say?”

“Oh, nothing much, just a little curious if Lady Arein was also trying to summon a forest spirit right now.”

Io took mere seconds to summon the forest spirit.

But Arein had been sitting still for more than ten minutes by now.

Her stationary form had piqued his curiosity.

“No, that’s not it, benefactor. The reason I summoned the forest spirit was to explain things a bit better to you.”

“Then Lady Arein is…?”

“She seems to be examining the condition of the forest.”

As their name suggests, forest spirits are the beings most closely connected to the forest.

As the forest thrives, so do they grow, and conversely, as the forest declines, they weaken…

There was no better entity than a forest spirit to assess the state of the great forest.

It was then when Arein, who had been focusing for a while, exhaled deeply and opened her eyes.

“Did you find anything, Mother?”

As Io sat beside her, Arein shook her head.

“I’ve tried several times, but the spirits are all in poor condition.”

She replied with a slightly tired voice.

“Moreover, they seem frightened, trembling in fear of something.”

It was unclear precisely what had scared the forest spirits. However, it was certain that it had something to do with the darkness situated in the center of the great forest.

Upon hearing Arein’s words, Russel turned his head.

‘Just what…’

He clenched his fist tightly as he glared deep into the depths of the great forest, pondering what lay beyond the darkness and the abyss.

Whether he liked it or not, he would find out in a few days.

‘But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If I could find out beforehand, it would be better for preparing…’

Russel clicked his tongue in frustration.

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