Rockwall Lou – V1 Chapter 1

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟏

(1)

Luo is a moss collector.

At the edge of the village, along the cliff walls of the Grand Canyon, people gather a blue-green moss. When this moss is dried and powdered, it becomes a type of spice. Luo, who had never left the village, wasn’t fully aware, but apparently, it’s a highly valued and sought-after item in the city.

That morning, Luo was diligently preparing for work.

A special scoop to scrape off the moss, a pouch filled with portable food and small tools, a water bag, a sturdy rope. His leather gloves, which left the fingertips exposed, were worn and tattered. It’s been past the time to replace them, but he’s been hesitant to do so.

As he always did when getting ready, Luo made three wishes to the small stone statue on the living room shelf, known as “Ishigami-sama.”

𝐓𝐋: ※”𝐒𝐭𝐨𝐧𝐞(𝐑𝐨𝐜𝐤) 𝐃𝐞𝐢𝐭𝐲”

“First, may no falling rocks strike me. Second, may I not be blown away by the valley winds. Third—━”

Next to the stone statue were an adult-sized pair of gloves and a pendant adorned with jade.

They were mementos of Luo’s parents.

“And may I avenge you, Mom and Dad.”

Every morning, his prayer was the same. In his lifetime, his father’s third wish was always, “May I find good moss.” Only that part was changed by Luo.

After his morning prayer, Luo tapped “Ishigami-sama” with his finger. The spot he touched emitted a faint glow and rippled. The ripples interfered with each other and spread throughout the statue. It swayed as if dancing and then “Ishigami-sama” returned to its solid stone state.

“I’m off.”

After leaving his home, Luo’s first stop was the general store to check the day’s moss price.

“Saji-san, how much?”

“Same as yesterday.”

The store owner, Saji, responded indifferently. It was unlikely for the price in such a remote area to change in a short time. For Luo, this interaction had become routine. It was important to maintain consistency in his daily routine.

However, that day, Saji had a word of caution.

“Luo, you’re going down from the ‘Jaw Gate’ again, right?”

“Yes.”

“I heard a rock lizard was spotted around there.”

The rock lizard was a demon beast big enough to swallow a petite person like Luo whole. They freely roam the cliff walls of the Grand Canyon and voraciously prey on any moving creature.

“They dislike the smell of smoked red grass. Want to buy some?”

“I have some. What about the Rock King Eagle?”

“Don’t know.”

The Rock King Eagle was a more dangerous demon beast than the rock lizard. They were rare, but it’s said that if you come across one, you’d likely not survive. Unlike rock lizards, they had no specific aversion to smells. Moss collectors feared the Rock King Eagle like a demon, but Luo was different.

Because the Rock King Eagle was responsible for his father’s death.

“I’m off.”

“Alright, just don’t die.”

Saji’s blunt response was the same every time. Taking it as a sign of goodwill, Luo, with a spring in his step, headed for the Grand Canyon. En route, he stopped by a log cabin in the woods to register. This just meant writing his name and destination in a ledger. Upon returning from the Grand Canyon, he’d erase his name. He was the first one there today. Just as he was feeling even better, the cabin door was flung open, and three boys, slightly older than Luo, entered.

 ㅤ

“Oh, he was irritated.”

“That’s what I told you. To come early in the morning.”

“Hey, orphan Luo.”

Luo thought things had become troublesome.

They were moss collectors like Luo. Luo, who was parentless, was teased and bullied, so he disliked them.

Moss collectors weren’t supposed to appear in the Grand Canyon when the morning dew remains on the rocks. Yet they did, ruining what had been a smooth morning routine.

One of the boys checked the ledger and reported to his mates.

“Ah, look at this. It’s written ‘Jaw Gate’ again.”

There are several places in the Grand Canyon named after their geographical features. “Jaw Gate” is one of them.

“This blabbermouth!”

“He’s probably sneaking around ‘Hawk Nose’ or somewhere. It’s obvious.”

“He said he’d defeat the Rock King Eagle, but he’s nowhere in sight.”

Luo wasn’t lying. “Jaw Gate” was a place his father often descended. He had no intention of working anywhere else, and he just hadn’t encountered the Rock King Eagle yet.

“Hey, say something.”

Luo remained silent.

Arguing would just get him retorts. He was not good at debates.

“Ah!”

So, he ran.

“Coward.”

“Chase him!”

Fortunately, Luo was confident in his speed. He sprinted and quickly left the boys behind. Racing through a thicket, he eventually arrived at his destination.

The Grand Canyon.

A cliff so deep and sheer its bottom couldn’t be seen. Luo didn’t know how far it stretched. The opposite side was faintly visible through the haze.

That place was called “Jaw Gate”.

The cliff’s angle was more than vertical, and looking down from the edge, one couldn’t see the rock wall. It was indented from the inside, resembling a jaw protruding out.

Luo untied the rope he had slung over his shoulder. He attached one end to a tree growing at the edge and wrapped the other end around his belt. He pulled it a few times to check its security.

Luo ran towards the cliff and leaped.

The rope caught on the cliff’s edge, and Luo’s body swung towards the indented rock wall. Twisting in mid-air, he clung to the wall like a rock lizard. The solid rock flexed slightly, absorbing the impact. Luo untied the rope from his belt and fastened it to a peg he had previously embedded in the rock.

From here, he would move without a safety line.

Meanwhile, the three boys who had arrived at “Jaw Gate” later witnessed Luo’s moment of descent.

“Ah, he really went down.”

“Is he serious?”

“Is he trying to die?!”

“Jaw Gate” was a challenging spot that even veteran moss collectors avoided. Few descended, so the chances of finding moss were high. However, it wasn’t worth risking one’s life. The most important thing for a moss collector is to return safely.

“My father said. . . . . .”

One of the boys muttered.

“‘Jaw Gate’ is a place where you need real guts and strong protection from ‘Ishigami-sama’. You have to descend once to become a full-fledged collector, but he said he’d never want to do it a second time.”

 ㅤ

A roaring valley wind blew up from the bottom of the Grand Canyon, making the boys shiver.

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