Episode 29: Towards the Rock Salt Mine.
The day to challenge the Rock salt mine had finally arrived.
Guided by the Mountain Clan blacksmith Gaton, they left the village and safely arrived at the entrance of the rock salt mine without any problem.
“I remember that twin rock formation… after those is where the ‘curse’ of the Spiritual Beast was active.”
“Yeah, it gives off a strange feeling.”
As he came closer, Gaton remembered more clearly that time with the Spiritual Beast a hundred years ago.
It was past this place that the Mountain Clan families went mad under the influence of the ‘curse’, and mercilessly killed each other.
Approaching the place, Yamato’s body also started to warn him about the danger. From this point onwards, risk was sure to be encountered.
“Are you okay, Jii-san? your face is quite pale.”
“I’m ok… I’ve become stronger in these past hundred years.”
Taking deep breaths, Gaton regained his composure.
Even for him, a strong and stubborn craftsman, it took a hundred years to somewhat overcome his fear. That much was the horror caused by the Spiritual Beast.
“Is it really okay to be that lightly equipped, boy? “
“Don’t worry, its fine.”
Uneasy about Yamato’s apparent lack of proper armor and weapons, Gaton anxiously voiced his concern.
Currently Yamato was equipped with a few knifes made in this world, his crossbow and bolts, and some ropes and other outdoor equipment.
He wasn’t even wearing some armor to protect himself.
“I chose to go like this after listening to your story, Jii-san.”
“I see… indeed, normal weapons and armor means nothing to a Spiritual Beast after all…”
He had heard beforehand from Gaton about the characteristics of the Spiritual Beast inhabiting this rock salt mine.
Apparently, it had the appearance of a large quadruped animal, and had very quick movements.
『In the blink of an eye, it disappeared from my eyes and suddenly it was walking behind me…』
In the incident a hundred years ago, the Mountain Clan warriors took a stand against the Spiritual Beast in order to survive.
Although their height is a little shorter than that of normal humans, the Mountain Clan People possess considerable strength.
Those warriors, armed with big hammers and tough metal armor, had battle abilities surpassing those of an order of knights.
However, the strong weapons they wielded in the battle were not effective, after they swung them the weapons bounced off inches away from the Spiritual Beast’s fur.
And on the other hand, the sharp claws of the Spiritual Beast tore and shredded their metal armor.
“Since the opponent is a highly mobile animal that can slash and tear metal. I guessed it would be better to have lighter clothes.”
“Hmm, I guess you’re right…”
Spiritual Beasts had strange abilities, and their tendencies and habits defied common sense.
Yamato didn’t tell Gaton, but he secretly had some other weapons prepared besides those, and they were hidden inside several of his pockets.
He wasn’t sure if some sort of understanding could be made with the Spiritual Beast, so it was best to be safe than sorry.
“It’s about time, I’m going. If something happens, protect the village.”
After doing some final check with Gaton, Yamato addressed those from the village, who obviously looked anxious.
“Yamato-sama, please be careful…”
“Yamato-niichan, you definitely have to win! “
Those voices belonged to Liscia, and some of the village and Han clan children.
Not all of the children had come, only a small portion of the older ones did, since they still needed to work in the village and keep the patrolling.
And in a similar way to Gaton, they had accompanied him to see him off up until that place.
“Liscia, take care of the kids.”
“Don’t worry, leave them to me, Yamato-sama.”
I’m worried that the children carrying crossbows will come after me into the cave, Yamato thought.
Since there existed the risk of being manipulated by the “curse”, he wanted to keep them in check and follow his orders.
“Ya-Yamato-niichan… are you really going to go…?”
“To me, it f-feels kind of dangerous…”
The young, innocent children were trembling as if they were feeling something was off.
Yamato though this sensation was probably caused by the Spiritual Beast.
But with this he was surer of them not approaching closer than the twin rock formation.
The same was also true for the old Gaton and the hunter girl Liscia.
It was hard to put it in words, but it felt like just being there gave you a cold sweat, as if trying to endure something.
This is probably too much for ordinary people, I doubt they’ll be able to enter the cave due to fear, Yamato thought to himself.
“It will be fine. I’ll definitely come back.”
Saying those reassuring words to everyone, Yamato walked towards the inside of the rock salt mine.
He carefully walked inside the dark passages.
“All things considered, this looks like a well-maintained tunnel…”
His voice was quiet, almost like a mutter, so as to not cause echo in the surroundings.
Although he already heard it from Gaton, he was surprised to see how well arranged the interior of the mine was, with tunnels made to be easy to move around.
The ground was flattened out and solid, almost like a modern sidewalk.
And on the side, there was a rail track with a mine cart, probably used to bring outside the mined rock salt.
“Where’s the light coming from? The moss, huh? Interesting.”
As he went further inside, the interior of the tunnel became dimly lit, giving off a gentle shimmer.
The reason for that was the faint glow of the light-emitting moss, a plant brought inside by the Mountain Clan People in order to light up the tunnels. Thanks to that, the visibility inside the tunnels was decently good without the need for torches or other forms of lightning.
“Being able to see so far into the distance is definitely thanks to the improvement of my senses.”
For Yamato, he wasn’t yet used to his sense improving. Ever since he came to this world and up to this day, his senses still kept on getting better as the days went on.
Although back in Japan, he could easily see the streets at night. This was a completely different feeling, since with only the dim light of the moss, he could see with no problems up to the end of the tunnel.
“…Oh, seems like there’s a large opening up ahead, is that the mining site?”
The structure of the rock salt mine was not a complicated one.
And it was even easier since he had gotten a detailed map from Gaton, and he had memorized it.
From the entrance, take the path straight ahead and keep going straight, those were Gaton’s instructions. After that, the tunnel will go slightly down and you will arrive at the rock salt mining site.
And that’s where the Spiritual Beast is located, Yamato said in his mind.
According to Gaton’s story, the Spiritual Beast came to that place a hundred years ago. And because it rarely moved its resting spot, it should still be there at the bottom.
As he approached the place where his target was supposed to be, Yamato strengthened his vigilance.
Unlike forest or mountains, a tunnel was a place with little to no places to hide.
On the plus side, it meant that the chances of running into an ambush by the opponent were low, but it also meant that he had no places to hide himself if he wanted to.
The moment he and the Spiritual Beast see each other, would probably also be the start of the fight. As he moved closer, he once again checked the tools and weapons he had.
It might end after receiving a single hit… I just need to keep dodging and counterattack when I see a chance.
The Spiritual Beast was said to be a quadruped, according to Gaton.
Therefore, he expected the movements to be fast enough to avoid a crossbow bolt. And planned to avoid at all costs its attacks that could tear and shred even metal armor.
This will probably be the most difficult fight yet…
He imagined it would be a carnivorous animal of a species he had never seen or heard before in the jungles and forests of Earth. Therefore, he assumed it would be a completely different animal, even if it resembled something he had seen.
“Alright, I’ve arrived.”
While remaining wary, he reached the lowermost part of the mine.
The surroundings shone a faint tone of red as they reflected the light of the moss.
A beautiful sight was before him, almost like a painting, the rock salt crystals reflected the light and illuminated the surroundings with a red tint.
And along that sight, a chilly feeling and an eerie silence descended upon him. That bizarre silence dominated the area.
“Where’s the Spiritual Beast?”
He looked around carefully, but the figure of the Spiritual Beast was nowhere to be seen.
This was indeed the bottom part of the mine, and there were no rocks or places where someone or something could hide, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t find signs of the beast.
Could it be… that it already left?
It had been already a century since the Mountain Clan People living here was attacked.
So, he thought that maybe the Spiritual Beast had already gone somewhere and left.
No… there’s no sign of it, but… I can feel it…
That ‘unpleasant feeling’ from before was still present.
A feeling similar to having the hair in the back of the neck stand up… like having a piece of ice pressed against the back… It was such an unpleasant feeling.
Don’t trust your eyes… just feel it…
He closed his eyes and focused his mind.
He focused his mind and body, letting the feelings flow, not paying attention to his sight nor hearing. This was a technique learned from his adventurer father.
It was then.
He felt ‘that’ behind him. He finally found what he was looking for.
“…Seems like the leading actor finally decided to show up.”
Taking a glance at his back, he saw a shadowy figure, the purpose of him coming here, looking straight back at him. Although both of them were still a distance away, ‘it’ clearly was showing no sense of alertness.
“So this is the Spiritual Beast…?”
At the end of his gaze stood a jet-black beast.
A huge Spiritual Beast with two sharp and gleaming eyes, ready to strike down on the comparable small Yamato.