Within the countless peaks of the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts were innumerable ageless trees and forests that made travel through the range very difficult. What made it even more difficult was the constant need to pass through one peak and ravine after another, or perhaps take a circular path.
“When traveling within the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts, don’t carve out a path through the pre-existing thorns and brush. It’s best to take an alternate path.” Doehring Cowart continued to provide the benefit of his experience to Linley.
Linley listened carefully as he proceeded forward.
“Remember, the biggest mistake you can make in the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts is to constantly make noise. This will cause many magical beasts to pay attention to you. Even if you are forced to make some noise, you need to immediately leave the nearby area.” Doehring Cowart continued. “Remember, if you are injured, you must immediately do your best to staunch any loss of blood. The stench of blood will attract beasts as well. The noses of magical beasts are far more sensitive than we humans.”
The massive crowns of countless trees covered the entire sky. Looking at them, Linley was reminded of some information that he had gleaned from books at the Ernst Institute. In a place like this, where even the sun was all but blocked out, one had to learn how to distinguish north, south, east, and west.
As agile as a monkey, Linley leapt past a series of disorderly tree roots and vine growths, but just as he walked past…
“Whoah.” Linley sucked in a cold breath as he saw something not too far away.
The corpses of three men and two women were a few dozen meters away from him. The five corpses had not yet rotted much, but the bite marks on them were very visible. The corpses had all been dismembered. A male corpse had half its leg eaten, and a giant hole ripped in its belly, with his severed intestines laying strewn about. Half of a female corpse’s head had been eaten, leaving behind a single eyeball and a white skull bone with a few strands of hair attached.
Linley’s face turned pale, and he forgot to breathe.
“They should’ve died three or four days ago.” Doehring Cowart appeared next to Linley, carefully inspecting the corpses. His face was still quite calm. “Linley, take a close look. On the chest of every single person, there are some similar, unremarkable wounds. If my guess is correct, these five should’ve been killed by humans, and most likely, by a single person.”
“Doehring Cowart, you’re saying that a person killed them?” Linley looked at Doehring Cowart, shocked.
Doehring Cowart smiled calmly. “Linley, this is your first visit to the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts. Once you’ve been here a bit longer, you will come to realize that in the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts, in addition to dealing with the attacks of local beasts, you also have to guard against the attacks of other humans.”
“The attacks of humans? Why would other humans attack?” Linley felt a bit of rage beginning to grow in his heart.
In the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts, the local monsters already held a huge advantage by virtue of their countless numbers. He didn’t expect that the humans here would fight amongst themselves as well, instead of helping each other.
“This is very normal. Why do humans venture into this mountain range? The vast majority come here in the hopes of acquiring magicite cores. If they kill a magical beast, they will only acquire a single core, but if they kill a human being, that person might have several magicite cores in their backpack, or even more.” Doehring Cowart stroked his white beard.
Linley finally understood.
It was all due to greed. Some people here wanted to easily acquire a large number of magicite cores, and indeed, killing the other human beings here was a good way to do so.
“Linley, you must be careful. Based on what I’m seeing, the person who killed these five must possess astounding ability. If you look closely at these people’s clothing, you can see that four of them should be warriors, while one of them was a magus. But all five of them were killed at about the same time by a clean blow through the heart. The ruthless precision of this assault is chilling. However, since we don’t know how strong these five people were, it’s hard to estimate the strength of their killer.” Doehring Cowart frowned. “But for these five to be willing and able to brave the dangers of the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts suggests that they were not weak. From this alone, we can safely say that the person who killed them is, at the very least, no weaker than you.”
Linley stepped forward to take a closer look, then nodded in agreement.
The killing blows were very clean and direct.
“This is still just the outer perimeter of the mountain range. Hurry on in.” Doehring Cowart laughed.
Linley nodded, then continued on his journey deeper into the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts. On his journey, the sight of corpses of both men and monsters became quite common, as well as many rusted weapons. Linley also occasionally ran into a few weak monsters.
Nightfall. Linley and the little Shadowmouse were resting while each munched on a leg of boar. Linley was seated on the ground, while the little Shadowmouse was seated on his shoulder.
“At night, one cannot light a fire in the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts.” Doehring Cowart once again instructed.
“Understood, Grandpa Doehring.” Linley knew quite a bit about the basics of survival here. This place was no ordinary wilderness, and the beasts here would not be afraid of fire.
Seated on the ground, Linley calmed himself down and closed his eyes, while beginning to sense the flow of earth essence and wind essence around him. The feeling of elemental essence around him was akin to the feeling of being in one’s parents’ embrace.
Due to his exceptional affinity with earth essence and wind essence, Linley could sense them quite clearly.
“The Pulse of the Earth. The Flow of the Wind.” A peaceful smile was on Linley’s face, as he began to drift off into sleep. Linley had total confidence that any tremors on the ground caused by something approaching, or any disturbances in the wind caused by something moving rapidly to him, would immediately awaken him.
These were the abilities possessed by earth magi and wind magi.
The night slowly grew deeper. Curled in front of Linley, the little Shadowmouse ‘Bebe’ also began to emit extremely light, quiet snoring sounds. The night wind grew cool as well, but right now, it was summer in the Mountain Range of Magical Beasts. Only at night would it feel cool and refreshing. In the day, it felt stiflingly hot.
Late at night. All was dark.
“Rustle, rustle.” The soft sounds of something rustling against the grass could be heard.
A pair of powerfully built Windwolves with gleaming blue fur were pacing about within the forest. Their green-tinted eyes were carefully inspecting their surroundings as their powerful limbs silently stalked through the area.
Their cruel white fangs gleamed with a cold light in the night.