Chapter 253 - Baekun Mountains (2)
"The Tiger King is a tiger, just as the name implies."
Theodore's pace was fast, but it was challenging to climb the slope of the Baekun Mountains on the East Continent. Under the biting wind pressure that tore at their ears, Lee Seol started talking about the boss spirits-Tiger King and White Bear.
Regardless of whether they were spirits, tigers and bears were beasts that stood at the top of the ecosystem. They each had the ability to tear up a small troll. If they were the boss spirits, then they must have individual strength.
"A long time ago, tigers used to be a target for hunters because of their nice hide. But after the Tiger King appeared, no one tries to hunt tigers in this country anymore. This is why the markets are almost out of tiger leather."
"Come to think of it, I have never seen it before."
"Sometimes there are fools who attempt it without knowing anything. I don't know how many of times I've met one while living in the mountains," Lee Seol said with a sigh. "But I wasn't part of the Fairy Dance's main house, so I couldn't ask them to control the people in the Baekun Mountains."
"Seol," Theodore quietly listened to the complaints and then asked her a question, "But even if the Tiger King is so powerful, it can't always protect the tigers. Surely there are some poachers who act outside of its sight?"
"Yes. It is exactly as you said."
"Hrmm?" Theodore couldn't understand the meaning of the words.
Lee Seol understood the meaning behind his gaze, so she shrugged and explained, "It is a simple story. The tigers of the Baekun Mountains are too strong to hunt."
"What, the tigers?"
"Yes, the Baekun Mountains is the best spiritual land in the center of the continent."
Theodore's eyes filled with interest at the words. In magic, it was a place called a 'Power Spot,' where mana gathered abnormally.
The flora and fauna in that area exceeded the specification of the species. There were also cases where intellect beyond a human being was formed. It was hypothesized that the centaurs, that existed in the Age of Mythology, had developed due to this phenomenon.
Theodore thought this far and asked, "So, it wasn't just the Tiger King. The other tigers became spiritual as well?"
"Yes, although they aren't as strong as the Tiger King. But they can't be compared with ordinary beasts. They are too strong for first-class warriors to win against one on one."
"It is already a war, not a hunt. You should ask the imperial family to prohibit access."
First-class warriors were abundant on the East Continent. It was a term referring to those who had trained in martial arts for more than 10 years and played a full-fledged role on the battlefield. Even so, the first-class warriors couldn't win against the tigers?
In these mountains, beasts had the advantage over humans. Those who were unable to conceal themselves would become the prey of the tigers. So, it was dangerous, even if a master was mobilized.
'The mountain's keepers might not actually be protecting the spirits.'
It might be different for the Fairy Dance Lee Family in its prime, but if the declining family tried to forcefully take over the Baekun Mountain Ranges now... They might be wiped out by the boss spirits that led hundreds of spirits.
Theodore kept moving. By the time the story ended, the two of them were already at the foot of the Tiger King's mountain. Perhaps it was because he was listening to an interesting story, or maybe Theodore's speed as faster than he thought.
"....Indeed, this terrain is extraordinary."
It was a sheer slope with rock tips protruding everywhere, and there was a worn track like someone had been treading on it. There were marks on the walls which weren't made by a human, but rather, they were made by a beast. The marks were perfect territory markers.
Sometimes the wind blew coldly, and shadows wriggled in the valley.
Tiger King's Valley...
It was the residence of the Tiger King, one of the boss spirits that reigned in the Baekun Mountain Ranges. A weak person wouldn't dare step into this valley, while even the animals backed away.
However, Theodore's reaction wasn't either of these.
"Seol." After arriving at their destination, he set Lee Seol down again and talked to her. "Your request was to arbitrate between the two boss spirits. Will you tell me what the circumstances are?"
"Of course, Theo," Lee Seol said, looking at him with a somewhat regretful expression. Then she explained in a serious tone, "There is a dragon vein that circulates that energy of the Baekun Mountains. It begins in the heart of the mountain range and flows down several rivers to different areas. There are two trees that have received this energy and grown into sacred trees."
"Yes, spirits often live around these sacred trees. There is one tree in the Tiger King's Valley, and another tree is in the forest where the White Bear resides." Then a shadow crossed Lee Seol's face. "The sacred tree that the Tiger King was taking care of is dying. It will take at least 100 years for a new sacred tree to grow, so the Tiger King asked the White Bear to share the remaining sacred tree."
"Asked... This request, was it refused?"
Perhaps the feud had started with this refusal. Theodore thought inwardly with a bitter smile, 'Spirits don't seem very different from humans.'
If there was one thing another person needed, it wouldn't be given. In a sense, it might be an instinct born in both humans and beasts. This wasn't just a matter of the Tiger King and White Bear. No, this was a confrontation between the two groups they commanded. It seemed that this problem couldn't be solved easily, so Theodore breathed in deeply.
Chill. A sudden chill ran down his spine.
Theodore pushed Lee Seol behind without any hesitation and stepped forward. Theodore's senses warned him that if he didn't respond immediately, he would suffer fatal damage.
A roar shook the earth! The mountains trembled, birds flew into the sky, and elks that were grazing started to urinate. The instincts of wild animals were more developed than those of humans, so they were able to see it right away.
The owner of this roar was at the apex of the ecosystem. It was the roar of the king of beasts.
However, Theodore wasn't stunned stiff. Instead, he faced the monster that caused unbearable physiological interactions and bore down at him with a quick speed.
Unlike the unstable lightning of the past, this time the blue light around Theodore's body flowed like water. The three months he'd spent at the Fairy Dance Lee Family's home hadn't been a waste.
Theodore was so sensitive that he didn't miss a drop of mana inside his blood vessels. He focused briefly, and exactly 0.12 seconds after that, Theodore looked ahead.
'...Much faster than expected. The speed is comparable to Randolph's.'
Four claws flew out before Theodore, aiming at his skull. It was a power that even a wall of mithril couldn't endure. Therefore, Theodore didn't confront the blow. Instead, he moved diagonally into the arms of the assailant.
Fairy Dance's Direct Transmission.
Hand Counterattack Technique.
Left Palm Lone Peak.
This blow wasn't sufficient. Theodore sensed this fact and rotated his seven circles after a long time. He used attack magic which could be produced at the maximum speed.
Spell Fusion: Keraunos.
Lightning emerged from Theodore's palms.
The heavens seemed to be split in two. The animals on the ground fell down, while the birds flying in the sky crashed into the ground and turned into a mess. The roar of the Tiger King echoed several times, causing the rocks to shake. It could be called a perfect counter.
Theodore's skill at blending martial arts and magic at once was amazing. However, his expression was still dark. He had felt it through his hands that he had hit the opponent perfectly. Nevertheless, he wasn't convinced that the enemy was knocked down.
Theodore stared at the enemy, who had fallen further away, while raising his palms. This time, he could see the appearance of the opponent.
"Tiger person?" Theodore muttered it to himself.
However, he was sure that the other person's ears twitched at the sound.
"Huh? Where do you see a beast person when looking at this body? You're a little boy who has yet to grow a beard, yet you have such bad eyes?"
"Still..." Theodore didn't respond to the words, as he carefully looked his opponent up and down.
A pair of eyes looked out from amidst golden hair. A striped tail emerged from its buttocks and swung from side to side. The canines which emerged from a pair of lips revealed it was a carnivore.
With the exception of the tall body that was close to 190cm, the owner could be called a sensual beauty. The body was covered with several pieces of fur, and it was so voluptuous that it seemed like it would burst out at any moment. There were no signs that it had been hit by lightning, except for a few strands of curled hair.
At this time, Lee Seol stepped out from behind Theodore and cried out, "Tiger King! What are you doing all of a sudden?"
"Oh, our cutie is here! Are you worried because we haven't said hello for a few months?"
"Please don't change the subject! Why did you attack Theo?"
"No, that is..." The half human, half beast beauty scratched her head at Lee Seol's question. It seemed like she had acted without thinking. "That... you know? I am feeling a bit bad these days, so I can't push down my will to fight when I see a male. It is fight or mate, so I chose this method to solve it."
"By the way, haven't you brought a fairly good male? I was worried about you, but it seems like there was no reason for it."
It seemed like the Tiger King liked making fun of Lee Seol. Theodore finally understood that a fight wasn't going to start and relaxed. He had thought the Tiger King would emerge, but he never thought she would be a beauty.
'No, it is unclear if she even is a human?'
Words couldn't help flowing out of Theodore's mouth, "I didn't think the Tiger King would be a woman."
"Well, I am a female according to the standards of your species. It doesn't matter from my viewpoint," the Tiger King answered smoothly and laughed, turning her back to Theodore while mocking him with her tail. "What? Is it important that I'm female? Since you are a male, do you want to try me one time?"
"Kyahahaha! It is a joke, a joke. I honestly don't mind, but the little cutie won't come back forever."
The tense air from the previous exchange loosened. Theodore let out a long sigh as he realized the Tiger King had a personality which was hard to deal with. She was a spirit, and she was wilder than humans. Although she had been drawn by instinct to launch a preemptive attack, she now seemed childlike.
Then at that moment...
"Don't be so shallow, Tiger King. Your dignity is crumbling," a heavy bass voice rang out over the heads of the three people.
Meanwhile, when the Tiger King realized who owned the voice, she grumbled, "Tch, this damn bear."
As she spoke, something gigantic jumped down to the ground.
It was a considerably heavy weight, which caused a crater to form in the ground. If that fall had been meant as an attack, the target below would've been flattened like a pancake. There was a body within the small crater.
He had white hair and white skin, and he was wearing white leather like the Tiger King. At least 2 meters and 30 centimeters tall, he was much taller than the previous Pan Hellions. The White Bear might have a human-like appearance, but his body was several times larger than an ordinary bear. Additionally, the presence he emitted was intense despite there being no hostility.
'I can win against one... but not two.' Theodore instinctively measured the power of both spirits and made a calm assessment.
They might have powers different to those of humans, but it wasn't difficult to compare strengths. The Tiger King and the White Bear were both intermediate level masters. Moreover, Theodore didn't know the inherent power of spirits, so they could have a few more hidden powers.
It was impossible to suppress them or to make both of them surrender.
'...Now, then how should I move?'
The two spirits gazed at each other, and the atmosphere became tenser. Theodore observed the situation calmly.
It was wiser to take a neutral position until he judged who was right and wrong. Magicians always assumed the worst in order to create the best premise. This code of conduct wouldn't change regardless of the circumstances.
However, an unexpected variable popped out before Theodore could pick an option.
[Hoing!] A little girl emerged unexpectedly from the ground of the valley. There was a swaying bud on her head, and her healthy skin had earth tones. She was Mitra, a fragment of Mother Earth and the ancient elemental of the earth.
Her sudden appearance made the two spirits focus on her.
The Tiger King made a surprised look and muttered as she looked at Mitra, "...M-Mountain deity?"
"Mountain deity?" Theodore asked about the words which were unfamiliar to him.
Meanwhile, the White Bear corrected the words with wide eyes, "No, the earth deity!"
"Earth deity?" Theodore didn't know what was going on, but he was stunned when the two spirits each grabbed one of Theodore's hands. The warmth of the beasts' fur was transmitted over to Theodore.
As Theodore tried to remove his hand with an absurd expression, they both cried out, "Please help us!"