The Black Demon King 499
Chapter 26: Storm of Gluttony
The Man-Eating Mountain – Part 1
“Huh? Really, Nino? You didn’t know about the legend of the Man-Eating Mountain!?”
The expression on the lamia girl’s irritated face was a perfect mixture of surprise and mockery, as if she was thinking “Wow, this kitty cat sure is a slow one”.
Her loosely wavy lilac hair, and her snake-like eyes –which shone with the light of an unyielding spirit– were no different from that of the many girls like her that could be found in the villages of Daedalus, where many different races coexisted. However, a bronze-shining plate was hanging from her slender neck, showing her identity as her adventurer.
“I-I don’t. Is that legend really that well-known?”
The young cat-man called Nino replied with an unpleasant look on his face. A bronze plate shines on his chest as well, just like the lamia girl.
They were members of the rank 2 Adventurer Party “Ils Bladers” based in the neighboring Ils Village.
The young cat-man swordfigther Nino was the leader, and the lamia ice mage Aten was the sole woman of this party. Though they were not present at the moment, the party had two other members –the lizardman warrior Craydle and the harpy archer Harry.
Adventurer parties that were based in their home village would normally not only operate just there, but also in some of the nearby villages. If a group of goblins is found near a neighboring village, they would provide support in hunting them down, and if an outbreak of medicinal herbs is found, they would help collect them as well.
As usual, the request they had received this time was to join a neighboring village’s vigilante team to form a response group to the recent sightings of a considerable number of wolf-shaped monsters named “Windles” in the vicinity. Although it is a relatively serious matter for the village –since there was a concern that their livestock could be in danger–, it could be said that it was a relatively recurrent event, commonly happening several times a year.
Those weren’t the kind of quests an adventurer’s party that has just become Rank 2 should worry too much about. They already were strong enough to simply take the time to enjoy a cup of tea and a friendly chat between members in the Adventurer’s Guild.
“Everyone in this village knows about it! Oh well, I guess I’ll have to tell you. I heard this from a friend of a friend of mine.”
“Whoa, it already sounds pretty unreliable.”
Aten began to narrate the rumor while glaring at Nino, who was pouring in a moderate amount of tea in his cup.
“If you get out of the east gate here, you’ll see a small round mountain, right?”
“The one on the other side of Galahad?”
“Oh yeah, that’s it! That’s the rumored Man-Eating Mountain.”
Both Nino and Aten were thinking of exactly the same mountain landscape.
Its size made it more appropriate to call it a hill, and the reason it stands out is because it’s quite isolated in the plains, but it has no other characteristics aside from that. So naturally there should be nothing wrong with it, like the myriad other mountains out there…
“Did you know that a lot of villagers went missing on that mountain?”
“Huh? So they must have been attacked by some kind of monster, right?”
“Ah, but dat’s where yer wrong!
“What’s with that accent?”
“That mountain has fewer monsters than the others. It’s even safer than entering the Fairy Garden, so even average villagers usually go there to pick edible wild plants and mushrooms.”
Nino’s reply was cut short there, but he still kept thinking about it.
He remembered one of his friends in this village once shared a good amount of mushrooms from a request while boasting about having found a secret gathering spot.
This friend was neither an adventurer nor a strong vigilante, much less a hunter with a lot of knowledge about mountain wildlife. He was just a boy, but his mushrooms proved that he had still obtained that much harvest outside the village.
“Well, that mountain certainly isn’t steep enough for a lot of accidents to happen there.”
It was at most 100 meters tall, with a relatively gentle slope, and it didn’t have steep cliffs or anything dangerous like that. More than climbing it, one would hike their way to the top of this quiet mountain.
“And yet, there’s an amazing missing people rate of 5 per year!
“That’s not a very average number, is it?”
“That’s right! It’s a little strange because for 5 people to go missing in that poor excuse for a mountain per year. No one has even found their corpses yet, and that’s pretty strange, don’t you think?”
“Well, though there may be only a few, there has to be some monsters up there. All it takes is a few Dagger Raptors to leave no trace of any missing person behind.”
Besides, if everyone realized how much of an unusual situation that was as Aten described it, that mountain would have been already made off-limits, or an investigation quest would have been issued in the Headquarters of the Adventurer’s Guild back in the capital of Daedalus.
The fact that it was all hearsay and no one had done anything about it yet was good reason to think that the mountain in question was actually safe and the missing people were victims of bad luck.
“But there’s that too!”
“The old legend passed down in this village!”
“Oh boy, this just gets harder and harder to believe…”
Nino’s cat ears flopped down to evidence that he had no intention to hear any more of this, but Aten went on regardless.
“It’s said that when that mountain disappears with the fog, you have to run away, for everything will be eaten!”
“What…? Don’t tell me it’s gonna be something like a massive swarm of locusts coming down from that mountain…”
“Whoa, c’mon, Nino! Did you fall on your head or something? I’m a bit too surprised to see that you can jump to that conclusion with a straight face. Though I can’t say I’m too impressed…”
“Do you think I’m stupid or something!?”
Nino’s protest came along with a threatening hiss, a sound commonly made by cats and cat-people when angered. However, Aten was already quite used to such a reaction –rather, she was actually expecting it– and simply laughed mischievously.
“Well, you’re a swordsman. Swordsmen don’t tend to have much to worry about, am I wrong?”
“I do have a few things to worry about… Well, right now, I actually have a single huge worry…”
“You mean that Kurono guy who has recently showed up in our village, right? Nyareko seems to be very interested in him.”
“W-What did you say just meow!?”
Did any member of the party not know this already? Aten had said that just to tease Nino.
“Well, certainly our beloved Nyareko seems to have fallen head over heels for that man, but it was my first time actually seeing her so absorbed.”
Nyareko was a cat-girl about the same age as Nino, and he came to develop Nino had secretly fallen for Nyareko, a cat-girl about the same age as him whom he had grown up with in Ils Village. In such a small village, everyone of the same age knows each other and are friends with one another. Therefore, everyone knew about Nyareko’s love interest.
At least, as far as Aten could see, Nyareko seemed to like this Kurono guy a lot. She knew her tastes, and being a woman like he as well, she felt her intuition to be 100% on the right track.
“D-Damn it… that guy… I can’t stand this anymore!”
Burning with jealousy, Nino slammed his padded fist against the table as his words fiercely came out of his mouth.
“Once this quest is over, I’m gonna give that Kurono guy a piece of my mind!”
“Are you sure? I’m kinda interested in that guy as well, I was thinking of asking him to carry my luggage when I see him…”
On that day, at that time, they forgot about the legend of the Man-Eating Mountain like that.
Would they really remember this legend if they were to visit the village now, one year later, on the 20th of the Ice Crystal Month?
For on that day, just as the legend says, the so-called Man-Eating Mountain had suddenly disappeared along with a white fog.