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Chapter 127

TL/Editor: raei

Schedule: 5/week

Illustrations: None

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The Mountain King muttered "I'll be fine" like someone under a spell.

Ian sensed the hidden anxiety behind his voice.

The Mountain King knew he wasn’t well. He kept repeating that he’d be fine, as if trying to convince himself.

‘... What’s that?’

Ian noticed a sinister energy swirling around the Mountain King.

At first, he thought it was the life force leaking from the Mountain King’s body.

But upon closer inspection, it resembled ghosts.

‘Damn it—’

Ian was horrified.

The ghosts were bound with rusty chains, forced to circle around the Mountain King.

The sight was eerie and disturbing.

Ian quickly understood the nature of these ghosts.

They were—

“[Did you... eat the Yagons?]”

The Mountain King remained silent.

Ian had guessed correctly.

Despite being a herbivore, the Mountain King had forcibly consumed the Yagons!

He did it to trap their life force within his body!

Ian finally understood everything.

The Mountain King had sustained severe injuries for some reason and ate meat to heal himself.

This was the same principle northerners used to create health potions.

The idea was that consuming the life force of a beast like the Yagon would grant him that energy.

Behemoth, as a creature of mystery, could absorb life force far more efficiently than humans.

[You did something foolish.]

Winnie chirped.

[Mountain King, your wounds cannot be healed by drawing the life force of lower creatures.]

Ian knew Winnie was right. If it were a regular wound, eating a few Yagons would have healed it by now.

But look at Behemoth’s condition.

Despite consuming enough Yagons to fill a valley with corpses, he still bore those foul, festering wounds.

He must have realized long ago that the principle of 'like cures like' was worthless.

Facts have a way of infuriating people.

Winnie stated a fact, and Behemoth was irked by it.

[Shut up! Immortal one!]

Rumble!

The cave echoed with Behemoth’s angry roar.

Belenka hurriedly drew her sword again.

But Ian calmed her down.

[What do you know! What do you know about living with a physical body! How dare you speak about it when you’ve abandoned your flesh!]

“[Mountain King! Please calm down!]”

Ian quickly pushed Winnie forward.

“[She’s young and made a mistake! Look, see?]”

[... An undying phoenix that hasn’t abandoned its body. What is this?]

Behemoth had assumed Winnie was a disembodied spirit.

But the phoenix had not yet discarded its flesh.

Ian whispered urgently.

“Apologize, Winnie.”

[I spoke out of turn. I apologize, Mountain King. But...]

Ian smacked Winnie on the head.

There is no such thing as an apology that includes a ‘but.’

If someone insists otherwise, they’re trying to gaslight you.

[... I’m sorry.]

When Winnie apologized, the Mountain King calmed down. 𝒻𝓻𝘦𝑒𝓌𝑒𝓫𝓷𝑜𝓋𝘦𝓵.𝓬𝘰𝓂

Before he could get angry again, Ian quickly asked another question.

“[How did you get those wounds?]”

[...]

The Mountain King trembled as if restraining his anger.

But then, with a deep, sigh-like voice, he spoke.

[A beast with black wings... invaded my territory.]

“[A beast with black wings?]”

The Mountain King spoke with trembling eyes.

[Draca.]

And his forepaw shook.

As if even pronouncing the name terrified him.

[The creature you humans call a ‘dragon’...]

Ian barely suppressed the curses rising in his throat.

‘Damn it...’

A dragon? Did the Behemoth just say a dragon?

Ian recalled the lessons he had learned from Eredith.

Dragons.

The epitome of evil.

In Japanese fantasy worlds, there were demon kings, and in martial arts stories, there were heavenly demons.

In Western fantasy worlds, there were dragons.

Like the demon kings and heavenly demons, dragons were ultimate, terrifying beings.

Dragons were cruel and ruthless.

Their hobbies included killing creatures and hoarding treasure.

In terms of bad temper, they were on par with or worse than manticores, and their combat power was incomparable to manticores.

Eredith had drilled into him, never! Absolutely never!!! to engage a dragon, to the point of annoyance.

He never expected to hear that name in the holy mountain of northern barbarians.

[It called itself ‘Predius.’ Do you know it?]

“[No. This is the first I’ve heard of it.]”

[... I see.]

The Mountain King began to explain calmly.

One day, a black dragon named Predius invaded his territory.

Naturally, the Mountain King fought against the intruder.

And... he was utterly defeated.

The black dragon stole the treasure the Mountain King had been guarding, [Cloud of Lightning], and disappeared somewhere.

[Ian. That treasure contains the spirit of the mountain. It's the source of the Mountain King’s power.]

“Then...”

Winnie whispered softly.

[Yes. Having lost that treasure, the Mountain King will soon die.]

“...”

Ian understood immediately.

Winnie’s words were facts.

The reason the Mountain King’s wounds weren't healing was because he had lost the treasure that contained the mountain's spirit.

To be precise, the Mountain King had suffered wounds that would have killed any ordinary creature long ago.

If he still had the treasure, the wounds would have healed, but without it, he was dying.

However.

This didn’t change the fact that there was no way to heal the Mountain King’s wounds.

[What nonsense!]

The Mountain King roared loudly upon hearing Winnie’s words.

[I...! I will not die! I am the lord of this land and have endured for a thousand years! Do you think I will die from such wounds!!!]

Thump! Thump!

The Mountain King limped off somewhere.

Ian followed him in silence.

Deep within the ice cave.

In a makeshift pen, numerous Yagons were imprisoned.

“Oh no.”

The stench was overpowering, but Pyra couldn’t hide her surprise.

A considerable number of Yagons were still alive!

However, Pyra’s expression soon soured at the Mountain King's next actions.

The Mountain King dragged a Yagon out of the pen and began to eat it.

Crunch! Crunch!

The Yagon died instantly without even a scream.

The Mountain King chewed the Yagon's flesh.

Then he vomited the half-chewed meat into a disgusting pit.

“What is this...”

The Yagons, terrified, urinated on the floor.

The Mountain King silently pulled out another Yagon and shoved it into his mouth.

Crunch!

Pyra sighed deeply as she watched the Mountain King.

Belenka couldn’t hide her disgust, and Kira looked on with pity.

[I will not die... I will heal my wounds... reclaim my treasure... and take revenge on that beast...]

Crunch! Crunch!

The Mountain King vomited the half-chewed meat into the pit.

Ian couldn’t bear to watch any longer.

“[Mountain King. Please stop.]”

[...]

“[You must stop eating that.]”

The Mountain King glared at Ian with a murderous look.

[What do you know to say such things?]

As the Mountain King exuded a murderous aura, Belenka reacted swiftly.

“Ian. Let’s stop here and go outside. We can deal with him with the warriors.”

“Right. He’s clearly not in his right mind. We’ll handle it, so you stay safe.”

They were right.

Outside, the furious northern warriors were waiting.

There would be sacrifices, but it wasn’t impossible to kill the Mountain King.

However, Ian declined their proposal.

He understood the Mountain King’s erratic behavior.

The Mountain King was facing death.

Few beings can remain calm when confronted with their own mortality.

Even a mayfly struggles to live just a little longer.

The Mountain King, having lived for a thousand years, must have an immense attachment to life far beyond Ian's imagination.

“[Mountain King. Do you truly believe your wounds will heal?]”

[What...?]

The Mountain King raised his voice.

But Ian looked him straight in the eye and spoke firmly.

“[Humans on the ground praise you as a wise and intelligent being. I believe in your wisdom. So answer me.]”

[...]

“[Do you truly believe your wounds will heal?]”

At that moment, the Mountain King ran to the pit and vomited its contents.

Undigested chunks of meat spilled out, emitting a sour smell.

[H-heuu...!]

The Mountain King sobbed, his shoulders shaking.

As the northerners said, the Mountain King was wise.

He already knew.

His wounds would never heal.

In fact, he should have died when he encountered the dragon...

[I...!]

The Mountain King cried out.

[I am afraid... of dying...!]

It was a difficult emotion to admit.

But once he did, the Mountain King could be honest with himself.

[I don’t want to die like this! I want to keep living! If only that black dragon hadn’t stolen my treasure! Ah...!]

The Mountain King’s sorrowful cries echoed through the cave.

“[Mountain King.]”

To an outsider, it might seem pitiful.

Unable to accept death, thrashing about in desperation.

But that is the nature of living beings.

The fear of death is hard to overcome. That’s why those who face it calmly are praised.

Ian fully understood the Mountain King’s fear.

He pondered what kind of encouragement he could offer to someone facing death.

Just go when it’s time?

Leave the future to the next generation?

All wrong.

Living beings fear death because they see it as the end.

So, for someone tormented by the fear of death...

You must talk about life after death.

The afterlife.

“Takaryon.”

And present was an expert on the afterlife.

Takarion, the monk.

“Huh... me?”

“Come over here.”

Takarion approached the Mountain King as Ian instructed.

“[Mountain King.]”

Ian spoke calmly, trying to soothe the Mountain King.

“[Do you have a god you believe in?]”

If he believed in Hrundal, Ian would have had Pyra handle it.

But the Mountain King shook his head.

[A god? They have no interest in us.]

“[Isn’t it the opposite? Perhaps you have no interest in them?]”

The Mountain King looked surprised at Ian’s remark.

[... You’re right. I had no interest in gods. I didn’t need to believe in one to live.]

Ian smiled and said.

“[Humans are the same. Nobles pretend to believe in gods just before they die by donating money. But it’s not something to be criticized. Death is frightening for everyone.]”

[...]

“[Would you consider believing in a god?]”

[A human god... you mean?]

“[Not a human god. A god of this world.]”

Ian turned to Takarion.

"Takarion, please perform a sacrament for the Mountain King."

"???"

Takarion was immediately taken aback by the request.

"Perform a sacrament on a wild animal that can't even talk? That's impossible!"

“Because the Mountain King is an animal? He can speak well and acts like a person...”

"It's not that! I'm a monk!"

"Yes, you are a monk."

Takarion shouted in frustration.

"How can a monk perform a sacrament?"

"Can't you?"

"For heaven's sake, have you ever seen a nun hearing a confession?!"

Actually, yes. Quite often, in fact, in fiction.

Ian thought that but quickly understood Takarion's point. A monk is not a priest.

A monk is a devoted follower of the faith, not an official of the faith.

They're treated as semi-official because of their deep devotion, but strictly speaking, a monk cannot perform sacraments.

However...

All human rules are insignificant before God.

"Then I'll ask."

"??? Ask what?"

"I'll ask God if you can perform the sacrament."

"???"

What kind of nonsense is this?

Takarion looked at Ian with a bewildered expression, but Ian was already praying earnestly.

"God of Heaven, can you hear my voice?"

[Yes, I can hear you.]

"Takarion wants to guide a lost soul to Heaven. Is that acceptable?"

[Of course, Ian.]

As Ian prayed, something miraculous happened.

A golden halo began to shine around Takarion.

"Wow!"

Pyra looked at Takarion in amazement. Was this the magic of the heavens?

At the same time, Takarion felt extreme tension and excitement, almost fainting from the sensation.

Was this...

A miracle?!

"He, Heaven has answered!"

For once, Takarion sounded like a proper clergyman.

"Ian! I'll do it!"

"Thank you."

With his eyes closed, Takarion placed his hands on the Mountain King's head and began to recite the scriptures.

[What is he doing?]

The Mountain King asked Ian.

Ian smiled gently and answered.

"[He is praying for your soul to reach Heaven.]"

[...]

The Mountain King blinked his large eyes. Warm tears rolled down his cheeks.

[So... I am dying...]

"[You are ascending to Heaven.]"

Some say that religion is a tool created by humans to overcome the fear of death.

Whether the afterlife truly exists is unknown. It is a matter of faith.

But if it can save the soul of someone gripped by fear, then religion has fulfilled its role.

Ian prayed for the Mountain King for a long time.

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