Episode 28: Gaton’s Old Story
Regarding the circumstances surrounding the problem in the rock salt mine near Urd Village, Yamato inquired Gaton.
“Is there no rock salt left in the mine? Jii-san.”
“No… there’s still plenty there. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I estimate that mine to be one of the best rock salt reserves in the continent.”
Being who they were, the Mountain Clan people were also excellent miners.
Some of them worked as miners in different countries and were competent enough to the point of influencing the economics of those countries by the ores they collected.
And according to Gaton, a person belonging to the top ranks of the Mountain Clan, the reserves of rock salt left in the mine near Urd were still quite considerable.
That would be plenty enough salt to be used in this small village.
“Is the rock salt deposit owned by someone already?”
“No… the mine is now abandoned and it belongs to nobody… if I had to say, it would become the property of ‘the person who overcomes the trial’.”
Yamato wasn’t one to beat around the bush while speaking. But just this once, he was paying close attention to every word in Gaton’s story.
This old blacksmith was a skilled craftsman, and an intelligent person.
But currently, this person was speaking ambiguously every time he opened his mouth.
“Then, let me be straight to you. The salt stock in the village is running dangerously low.”
Therefore, he decided to tell the problem of the salt shortage without obscuring the truth. After all, Yamato trusted him.
“So that’s why…”
After hearing the salt situation, Gaton quietly nodded to himself.
Then, after making up his mind, he continued with the story about the mine.
“The truth is, a ‘spiritual beast’ descended upon the salt mine…”
“A spiritual beast, you say.”
“Yeah… a spiritual beast…”
The old craftsman Gaton then continued with the story in a low voice.
He said that roughly over a hundred years ago, the Mountain Clan People worked and mined in the salt mine. The salt obtained from that mine was high quality and it circulated across several parts of the continent.
He also said that in his younger days, he used to sometimes skip his smithing work and secretly go inside the mine.
“A hundred years ago?”
“Well, the Mountain Clan People live longer lives than normal people.”
But then, an incident occurred at such salt mine.
And that was the ‘Spiritual Beast’――――without warning, one day a spiritual beast suddenly appeared.
“Most of the Mountain Clan families that worked in the mine were slaughtered by the Spiritual Beast.”
“I was able to barely escape alive, but I was severely wounded while doing so. The next thing I knew, was that I had been treated and saved by the people of Urd…”
“So that’s why you said you felt indebted to the people of Urd, huh?”
“Yeah, that’s the reason…”
In this continent, mysterious animals called ‘Spiritual Beasts’ suddenly appeared.
Their appearances mimicked that of various animals, but not much was known about them. They had no regular patterns or timings, they simply appeared all the sudden.
Those who had been lucky enough to escape said the spiritual beasts were walking disasters who destroyed the land, and there was nothing one could do but to run away.
“Is there no way to kill it? Maybe with soldiers or an order of knights.”
“That’s impossible… the Spiritual Beasts carry a ‘curse’…”
“What kind of ‘curse’? “
It was said that the Spiritual Beast had abnormal strength, several times that of a normal beast, and possessed mysterious abilities.
And the most troublesome among them was the ‘curse’.
A few decades ago, a city-state send an order of knights to try and subdue a Spiritual Beast that had appeared.
But when they engaged to Spiritual Beast, the knights went berserker and started to target each other, ending up being wiped out. And in addition to that, the city-state was also wiped out by a mysterious disease a few months later.
『The curse of a Spiritual Beast can bring the destruction of even a country.』
Since then, no nations or Feudal Lords have tried to put their hands on a Spiritual Beast. And decided on a policy of avoiding that existence until it naturally left.
“According to a legend, there was once a hero who defeated a Spiritual Beast in the past. It was said that in order to avoid the ‘curse’, he fought the Spiritual Beast alone…”
“In other words, one has to challenge the Spiritual Beast one on one?”
“Can’t say, for decades now… a hero like that hasn’t appeared…”
But with this, Yamato was able to grasp a general idea.
The animal called ‘Spiritual Beast’ had some sort of ability that made its opponents attack each other.
Therefore, trying to subdue it with a large number of people was impossible, and it depended on one individual’s fighting abilities to defeat it.
In addition, the combat abilities of the Spiritual Beasts were very high, and it was difficult even for a seasoned soldier or knight to be a proper opponent against them alone.
“That’s why it’s impossible to get the salt, even if there’s a mine full of it…”
The old Gaton looked towards the rock salt sculpture on the shelf as he muttered those words.
It was a family memento that he had struggled to take with him a hundred years ago.
Gaton had kept this article as a warning, to remind him of the danger and fear caused by the Spiritual Beast, and for him to not forget about those who passed away that day.()
“I understand what you’re getting to, yet…”
After a short silence, Yamato finally opened his mouth.
“I’ll leave after I’m ready. So please, show me where the entrance to the salt mine is located.”
“W-what!? Did you not listen to what I said! Kid!? “
Gaton was shocked after hearing Yamato’s reply. He knew better than anyone how dangerous Spiritual Beasts were, even large countries could do nothing against them.
“I heard. All I’m asking is for you to guide me, if so you won’t receive the ‘curse’.”
“This is not a time to be joking around…”
“You know I dislike jokes.”
Gaton hadn’t known Yamato for a long time. However, he knew how honest and serious he had been up until now.
If that wasn’t the case, he wouldn’t have come up with the tools needed to rescue the village.
So, in a sense, Gaton was the person who knew Yamato the best.
“Do you think you have a chance at winning? “
“If I feel I’m in danger I’ll run away. Weren’t you able to escape before? “
“I guess so… I’ll need seven days to prepare…”
“Alright. Then I’ll leave the morning after the seventh day.”
Gaton said he needed time to prepare before departing.
And in a similar way, Yamato too wanted to have some time to prepare before leaving for the mine.
He wanted to hear more information about the Spiritual Beast in the rock salt mine. And wanted to prepare as best as he could in advance, before he had to challenge it alone.
After leaving Gaton’s house, Yamato gathered and told the circumstances to everyone in the village.
He honestly spoke about the salt issues, and that he was going to be fighting a Spiritual Beast to try and find a solution.
“Yamato-sama, that’s too dangerous! “
“It’s reckless! Nii-chan! “
Many objections rose against Yamato’s dangerous plan.
However, after having everyone see that this was a last resort to help the village survive, everyone agreed.
“No matter how, but please be sure to come back alive.”
Of course, they agreed on the condition that he would retreat if the situation became life-threatening.
Still, I don’t think the Spiritual Beast would let me escape so easily…
His senses were telling him this would be extremely dangerous. And most likely, the Spiritual Beast wasn’t such a forgiving existence either.
But he decided not to tell anyone about those thoughts.
And like that, soon the day of his departure came, the day he would go towards the rock salt mine.
TN: Spiritual beasts are mythical creatures in the chinese folklore. Google image 瑞獣 for some examples.