Chapter 45 – Silver mines (6)
The morning at Graham’s mountain was a sky painted with desaturated purple and scant blue, and thin rays of light shot out from the horizon to pour onto the dense mountain forest— It was a picturesque view of vivid shapes.
But the time when workers went to work was even earlier than the break of dawn. Whistles sounded out when it was still dark.
The shimmering light from oil lamps lit up the shadows. Brendel and the others were called out of their camps to gather at the valley. He eyed the cross-like mining pick in his hand drowsily while he walked in the slightly chilled air due to the sun’s absence.
The coarsely made mining pick was about four feet long. It had undoubtedly served many users, as the wooden surface had been completely worn down till it was smooth, and the edges of the metallic blades were dull.
[I can’t believe I’m mining again.]
He had mined metal veins throughout the game in ancient ruins for quite a long time. He carefully inspected the rocks to extract ores and crystals from them and sold them at the market. Although he thought that it was an irksome and dull task now, he had endless motivation and fun back then to equip his character step-by-step, and it satisfied his mind immensely.
But he quickly came to the thought that it was done in a fake world and started to mock himself. When he was done thinking about the past, he looked up and carefully observed the crowd in front of him. He quickly discovered Jana, Scarlett and Medissa’s presence. They had evidently noticed the marks and clothes he left behind in the forest and were now disguised amongst the workers.
They wore bandanas for easy recognition, though the headdress was uncommon amongst the Highland folks, and their dirty clothes were bought from the group of youths in the hut. It was quite convenient to have them, but the greatest benefit he got was the information from the malnourished youth called Cohen. The fact that the tunnels linked to the Jurgen Underworld gave him a particular thought about the game’s information, and he decided to check it out and execute his plan at the same time.
[Whether or not this plan works will depend on tonight’s situation.]
He did not think that the chance to lure out the enemy’s Gold-ranked Swordsman would come so quickly. While he was deep into his thoughts, someone elbowed him from behind. He turned around vigilantly, but he discovered it was Jocah.
“Hey, you need to be careful. If you’re late you’re going to get whipped,” Jocah whispered.
Brendel’s first thought was to check his money bag. When he found it was intact, he glanced back and saw Cohen nodding towards him from afar. The latter had sent Jocah to remind him.
It seemed like the group of youths had lessened their wariness towards him, despite having only a day’s interaction. Brendel felt that Cohen was helping him because the latter did not want to owe him gratitude, but was surprised that the sickly young man had such influence amongst them.
“Where should I go to mine?” Brendel whispered back to Jocah.
Jocah now knew Brendel’s reason for coming here was something else, so he did not find the question strange.
“You should follow us if you don’t know where to go, I know the better mining areas.”
“This isn’t a free service,” Jocah raised his hand and rubbed his fingers together, “you have the money right?”
“Of course.” Brendel gave a faint smile.
Once they entered the mines, Brendel discovered different tunnels distributed in the slightly flat ground. Oil lamps were lined appropriately to ensure the minimum amount of light to walk through safely. The workers who entered started scattering and went into different tunnels. He chanced upon the girls again as they silently integrated themselves into the crowd and disappeared.
Jocah continued to walk quickly, with Brendel following closely behind.
“The tunnel which Cohen mentioned is in the deepest pit of the mines. We’re going to a different section to mine for ores, although it’s still quite far away,” Jocah said.
“I see.” Brendel nodded.
[…… The chance to reach a huge ‘Nest’ that’s in between the Jurgen Underworld and the surface. It’s something worth using despite the risks.]
The snaking tunnels seemed to venture out to even more tunnels, and anyone who was lost would find it hard to exit the place. It was also one of the barriers between the Jurgen Underworld and the surface. The Nest was also another reason why there’s a barrier between them. With so many monsters living in there, it would be a death trap.
But Brendel wanted to make use of the monsters to lure the enemy’s commander into the tunnels. The workers would get out of the mines to safety, while he and his men would stay behind. It was a good plan.
Jocah finally led Brendel out to an open area, and they got onto a lift that descended deeply. They then continued walking for ten-odd minutes in a tunnel with a low ceiling after the lift stopped.
[H-how’s he keeping up with me? He’s definitely not a newcomer!]
The surprised youth thought Brendel would be unused to the sudden changes in the tunnel and was even prepared to slow down. If one were careless, they would knock against the ceiling easily and get injured. But Brendel seemed like he had done it for several decades. The way he moved through smoothly and unhindered through the cracks was something that Jocah had never seen before, even amongst the veteran workers.
In the end, it was Brendel who led the progress, and he shortened the time to less than half what Jocah usually took to reach his destination.
The latter did not know how he managed to keep up with Brendel’s speed, but he was panting with his whole body drenched with perspiration, partly because of the stuffy heat within the tunnels. He had not felt this way since he started out as an apprentice a long time ago.
The air in the underground was quite thin, so flames were not used. Instead, Brendel took out a light crystal that was given to him. In order to save costs, the quality of the crystal that was handed out was one of the worst in the market, costing no more than a few Tor coins. Although the light given out was just slightly brighter than a firefly, it still managed to light up the uneven outlines on the surrounding walls.
He nodded inwardly. Jocah’s group had indeed picked a good spot. There was a faint purple sheen on some of the nearby boulders. It was not the silver ore that the workers were looking for, but Brendel was certain that there were Mana crystals within the rocks.
It was not uncommon. A typical mine usually had different types of Magic Energy accompanying it. Based on his long experience in mining, he was certain there was a rich vein of highly prized raw materials behind the boulders.
Footsteps could be heard. Brendel turned back and discovered it was Maher’s group who arrived, and they were surprised to find Jocah and Brendel.
“Jocah, the two of you arrived this quickly?” Maher asked.
Jocah was still catching his breath, so he glanced at Brendel before nodding to Maher.
“The place you picked isn’t bad,” Brendel said. His gaze stopped at the youths for a moment before it went back to the walls.
“Hmph,” Maher scoffed lightly, “you can tell?”
“A faint purple sheen on the boulders means that it’s likely to have Cold Iron nearby. It’s a rare component.” Brendel narrowed his eyes when he saw weaving patterns on some of the walls and asked: “Have you ever mined out slightly blue quartz with diagonal patterns?”
“Quartz with patterns? What the hell is that?” Maher looked back blankly.
“It’s also called Azure Quartz.”
“That sounds like a fake crystal. Why would a silver mine have it?” Maher shook his head with distaste and said: “If you are looking for that, I can tell you that you came to the wrong place.”
“It’s not an ornamental crystal. It’s a type of Moonstone, one that reacts to moonlight and gives out a Mana signature. Low-grade Azure Quartz crystals are worthless, but the highest grade is called Mystic Eye Gems.”
Brendel closed his eyes for a moment, and decided to leave out the part that the Mystic Eye Gems were used as the source of Mana for Magic Rings, then pointed with his finger.
“In any case, you’re digging the wrong place. If you mine in this direction, you might be able to find veins of Cold Iron.”
“How do you know all these things? And why tell us?” Maher said as he exchanged looks with the other youths. He would not have trusted Brendel a few days ago, but it was different now, and it seemed like the latter did not have any reasons to lie.
Brendel merely told them spontaneously as an experienced miner and did not deceive them.
“What’s Cold Iron used for?” The girl behind Cohen asked.
“…… It’s a valuable ore that’s mixed into a weapon as an alloy,” Brendel said slowly, “and raises the effectiveness in injuring monsters. A sword made out of pure Cold Iron has twice the effectiveness of an ordinary one, as an example.”
[It’s fine to give them more information. It’s free of charge to me, and I can win them over, especially when I still need their aid.]
“Kingdoms in Vaunte face monsters at any given time, so the demand for it is very high. These Cold Iron ores only exist alongside with silver or copper mines, as well as a few crystal mines, and their demand is high enough to cost as much as gold.”
Brendel’s explanation drew the youths’ attention. If they were able to mine out Cold Iron, secretly take a portion of it and sell to a suitable buyer, they would be able to attain unimaginable wealth.
It was not their first stint to smuggle out precious ores. In truth, the mines’ supervisors knew such deeds were ongoing, but since they reached their quota and the stealing attempts are few, they were too lazy to investigate.