Rockwall Lou – V8 Chapter 1

𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟏

(1)

It became a journey just for the two of them and one creature.

Luo carries a backpack, while Tweney has a water bottle slung over her shoulder. The small Horned Lion, flapping its back wings, leads the way as if guiding them.

There was a small forest on the north side of the temple.

The trees that make up the forest are short with thin leaves. Therefore, sunlight easily filters through.

“It’s a white pine.”

According to Luo, white pines are resistant to wind and drought, extending their trunks and roots even from cracks in rocks. Feathers-like structures grow on the tree trunks, which turn pure white when morning dew accumulates. It can also provide hydration when one is thirsty.

Tweney became interested in this practical knowledge that isn’t found in typical reference books.

Luo was also knowledgeable about medicinal herbs. In the village, there were no doctors, so they make their own medicine. In the forest, whenever he spots familiar plants, he explains their benefits.

Although the plants growing in the “wilderness” were mostly unfamiliar, this forest had very common plants growing naturally. It might have been a forest created by human hands a long time ago.

“By the way.”

As Tweney pondered these thoughts, the Horned Lion, trotting on the ground, asked him.

“What’s with the name Peppoko? Isn’t your name Tweney?”

“Well.”

When Tweney first met Luo, she blurted out a fake name, and Luo still uses that name.

“It’s kind of a nickname.”

“Humans are complicated. So many of them, yet they have multiple names.”

The Horned Lion used to be imposing and frightening when it was a massive beast. Now, its form is akin to a somewhat feisty kitten. Tweney really wants to pet or hug it, but it seems the lion wouldn’t easily allow that.

They needed to become closer friends.

For that, they probably needed to address each other by name first.

“What’s your name, Lord Horned Lion?”

“I don’t have one.”

“Why?”

“In this world, I am the only Sacred beast. There’s no need to differentiate.”

“Can I give you a name then?”

“Do as you like.”

Tweney, who used to spontaneously name little animals she saw from the window, was confident.

She clapped her hands together and smiled joyfully.

“Your name is Funyapippi!”

After leaving the white pine forest, the ground vanished.

It was like the edge of a sheer cliff, as if a piece of the world had been cut away.

“This is the edge of the ‘Great Hole’.”

In myths, it’s said this hole was formed when a wicked god was banished from the celestial castle and fell to the earth. The bottom of the hole is hazy, and the opposite shore is invisible.

“The bottom of the ‘Great Hole’ has a denser miasma, so powerful demon beasts roam there.”

“The Grand Canyon.”

Luo quietly mentioned.

“This is the Grand Canyon!”

Near the village where Luo grew up, there was a cliff area called the Grand Canyon, where Luo worked as a moss collector.

“I wonder if it’s connected to the village.”

He gazed at the edge, looking somewhat nostalgic.

“Our business is at the ‘Miniature Garden’ at the bottom of the hole.”

“Could it be, over there?”

In the direction Luo pointed, nothing was visible.

 ㅤ

“There’s a silver-colored large tree and a spring.”

“Hey, can you see it?”

“Yeah.”

“How did you know about it?”

“I saw it through the colored glass of Akkare Castle.”

The Akkare Castle where Tweney once lived had a sealed cathedral, and it’s said that the stained-glass windows depicted scenes like those from tales.

Apparently, they had scenes reminiscent of myths told by Maasa and the encounter between Tweney and the Horned Lion.

“Probably that guy who came with the ‘Sixth’ told them. He’s always meddling.”

Grumbling something under his breath, Funyapippi stomped on the ground with his front paw.

“Anyway, to get to the bottom of the ‘Great Hole’, we have no choice but to descend from here. Hey, “you”, use that wicked magic of yours to help.”

Vines, the color of soil, sprouted from the ground, wrapping around Funyapippi’s body and lifting him up to Luo’s eye level.

“Gyaah!”

Like a mother chiding her mischievous child, Luo pinched Funyapippi’s cheek and tugged it sideways.

“Lu, o. You shouldn’t say such things.”

“I, I understand.”

The otherwise useless Funyapippi, who couldn’t even fly, burrowed into the hood of the coat Luo was wearing.

The problem was with Tweney. She was too scared to even approach the edge of the cliff.

Luo placed a hand on his chest and bowed.

“Milady, I shall escort you to the bedroom.”

Ah, that feeling, Tweney thought.

Sometimes Luo would speak in a dramatic tone with mysterious lines, seemingly imitating his father. Judging by his actions, he must’ve been quite a gentleman.

Luo moved behind Tweney, placing his hands on her shoulders and knees, and lifted her up in one swift motion.

She recognized this embrace.

It’s from the last page of “The Hero’s Tale”. The scene where the hero, Maltheus, rescues Princess Ophelia, imprisoned by the king, and they set off on a journey together.

Princess Ophelia must have felt this way.

Tweney wrapped both arms around Luo’s neck and tightly closed her eyes.

“Alright, let’s go.”

“Y, Yes.”

Facing the edge of the cliff, Luo started walking nonchalantly.

“Be careful.”

Close to Tweney’s face, Funyapippi, poking his upper body out of the hood, issued a warning.

“I trust you.”

Luo’s stride was unwavering.

Funyapippi changed his earlier stance.

“W, Wait. Are you still mad about what I said earlier? Isn’t that so?”

They felt a rising wind.

“I, I’m sorry, Luo.”

Suddenly, they felt weightless.

“Wooooooah!”

They dropped a short distance and landed on something soft. Then again, they felt weightless, dropping repeatedly. With Funyapippi screaming every time, it felt terrifying, Tweney thought.

Eventually, the falling ceased.

“Shall we take a break?”

When she opened her eyes, they were in a peculiar space surrounded by rocks. Looking around, there was a ledge overhead and a curved floor beneath, with rock walls behind and an open view ahead. It felt like being inside a massive bowl split vertically.

Luo mentioned that it was a resting place modeled after the nest of a demon beast called Rock King Eagle.

The sound of wind was intense. It seemed a strong wind was raging outside.

 ㅤ

“My Aniki told me. In the Grand Canyon, if you suddenly climb or descend, it’s not good for the body.”

To acclimate their bodies, moss collectors seem to take breaks little by little as they search for moss.

“Such unimaginable power.”

Peeking out from his hood, with his front paws lazily draped over Luo’s shoulder, Funyapippi spoke.

“You’re not one of them. Luo is just like him.”

“Who’s him?”

“The male that ‘Number Six’ brought.”

“Number Six?”

“The sixth ‘Star Princess’. I think her name was Ophi, Lia?”

“Princess Ophelia?”

Tweney’s eyes widened.

“Could it be, is the man’s name Maltheus?”

“I think that was it. Do you know him?”

“Just a little.”

However, Tweney hadn’t expected that Princess Ophelia was a former “Star Princess” and was related to the hero Maltheus.

“The last time, though it was 709 years ago, was challenging. When I went to fetch ‘Number Six’, whom the human king hid, it turned into a big fuss.”

They say that Hero Maltheus had an immense power, just like Luo.

“He single-handedly defeated the demon beasts of the ‘wilderness’ and delivered ‘Number Six’ to the ‘Altar of Endings’. But that wasn’t all.”

Funyapippi frowned in distaste.

“He threatened me and made me go to the ‘miniature garden’. Such a rude human male he was.”

“Is that so?”

Realizing that a famous legend was connected to him, Tweney felt strange. Perhaps hundreds of years later, he too might be spoken of in the same way.

Luo crafted a rock container and poured water from his flask into it, then added something.

“White pine leaves. They warm up the body. Ideally, hot water would be best.”

“Leave it to me!”

Funyapippi puckered his mouth and breathed out a thin flame.

After a short break with the white pine tea, the two and the creature set out towards the bottom of the “great hole”.

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