The Abandoned Mine’s Investigation
On the morning of the next day, Alfred’s group climbed the mountain as planned, arriving at the entrance to the abandoned mine.
It was still early in the morning. The weather was good, too, so it probably wouldn’t begin storming with how things were.
They advanced while comparing the map of the village’s local area they were using to the geography around them, but they managed to arrive mostly faster than expected.
“Doesn’t look like there’s anything here.”
Of the three adventurers, the one to speak was the eldest man. The five people concealed themselves in the surrounding vegetation and watched the abandoned mine’s entrance.
“Is our prey inside? Maybe somewhere else…?”
“There’s also the chance it left the area.”
Through the experienced adventurers’ intuitions, they came to consider that it might have left.
Whatever it was, it attacked adventurers. It was possible that it would expect people like them to come and subjugate it at the cave. It was within the realm of possibilities that their mark was a beast rather than a group of humans, but they couldn’t imagine a mage like Frederica falling to a beast.
Sure, the two she had brought seemed like amateurs that could barely grow facial hair, but even so they shouldn’t have had a problem against an opponent at the level of a common beast.
That was the opinion of everyone here.
They would explore the abandoned mine after this to look for clues for where the bandits went off to.
As for them staking out the entrance, the reason was that there was a small chance the bandits weren’t too wary of adventurers and kept the area as their roost all the same. So for now, this had to be done.
“Should we go in and look through the mine?”
“Maybe. It doesn’t look like anyone’s still here.”
Those things said, the five all moved out from the thicket.
It was decided that three people, Alfred included, would make up the vanguard with Satia and one of the other adventurers comprising the rear guard.
Preparing two lanterns, one of the adventurers from the vanguard and rear guard each hung them at the belt on their waists.
One of the vanguards unfurled a map, relying on the light shining in from the entrance to see it. Understanding that it was fairly complicated from a simple glance, he seemed a bit offput by that alone.
“It’s dark, as well as damp in here… Satia-chan, watch your step okay?”
“Yes… Goshujin-sama, please be careful as well.”
“Haha, I’m alright.”
Despite it being so bright nearby the entrance from the outside’s light, the abandoned mine quickly grew darker as they advanced.
That much should be obvious, though. No one had come into this place for more than ten years. The abandoned oil lanterns were broken with pickaxes and the like carelessly strewn about along the path.
Clearly, there were no signs of people inhabiting the area. This abandoned mine had an uncannily cold atmosphere, and—
“A poltergeist, maybe?”
“It’ll be fine if you keep a grip on your mind, Alfred.”
Not carrying a lantern, Alfred kept one hand firmly placed on the hilt of his sword as they moved forward.
A word that one of the adventurers said: poltergeist. What was a poltergeist? It was something that would have died in a place like this abandoned mine, time passing without it receiving a proper burial, the soul of someone who hadn’t been purified.
Although its voice wouldn’t cause any particular harm, it could break someone’s concentration in such a closed space as this, irritating them. Gradually depriving someone of their sanity, they would cause people to go mad if left alone.
In the era that monsters existed in, they were an existence that afflicted humanity to a great degree.
“Alright, let’s keep moving.”
Checking once again that the sword on his waist was still in working order, Alfred spoke. It was the same with Satia, she walked cautiously, holding her large staff that didn’t quite match the size of her body.
Without any further speaking, the five continued their advance.
However, people wouldn’t live in a place that had poltergeists inhabiting it. Perhaps their mark wasn’t a group of bandits after all?
Everyone began to come to that conclusion as they moved further in, not seeing any indications towards the presence of people. It would be impossible for them to explore all of the passageways in a single day, they had talked about it beforehand.
They’d told the village chief that they were planning on allocating three days to search through the abandoned mine.
In the case of an unexpected event, they told him that they should request the aid of a knight order from the royal capital if they wound up not returning to the village after four days pass.
Alfred’s group judged that if they also fell to whatever their opponent was, it was something that was too much for adventurers to handle.
“Nothing here either…”
How long had they walked since entering the abandoned mine?
They couldn’t see the sun, so they could only traverse the mine with a dulled perception of time. Even if adventurers were accustomed to situations like this, things that were unpleasant would be unpleasant.
Reacting even to the smallest of noises, their nerves were ground down little by little.
There was an additional problem: the poltergeist’s moans. Poltergeists fed off of the dismay of the living.
Adventurers that were mentally and emotionally cornered in dark areas like how Alfred and the rest currently were would gradually… bit by bit, be driven mad, even without the person themselves being aware of the fact.
It wouldn’t be a problem for those that could keep a firm grip on their mind, but after walking through a place like the abandoned mine for such a long time, things could change.
They couldn’t be cut down by swords and most standard magics were barely effective.
They were difficult existences to handle without priests, people who could use holy magic that conveyed the miracles of god.
“We still have a good amount of oil for the lanterns, but maybe we should head back and take a rest?”
“Sounds good, but keep your eyes peeled, don’t want to injure ourselves from rushing.”
There still had time to spare. They were anxious about Frederica’s safety, but there was no reason in them getting themselves injured.
Even Satia, the youngest of everyone here, had a good bit of endurance to spare.
That said, she didn’t have a reckless character and wouldn’t needlessly push herself.
“Well then Satia, let’s go back.”
She answered, nodding to her master’s statement, and began to walk with a steady pace.
Satia’s black robe hid her in the darkness of the cave despite the lanterns’ light, but her platinum hair shined vaguely.
Her doll-like figure and mood seemed to stand out and sparkle to those who saw her in the cave.
As for the men, seeing her calmed their nerves. The existence of an adorable girl like her was like healing to them.
Like so, they retraced their path and exited from the abandoned mine.
Even though there was the light from the lanterns, the sun was dazzling to their eyes after being in the mine for so long. They blocked the sun from their eyes by holding their hands up until they grew accustomed to the brightness.
“It’ll be noon soon huh.”
“Let’s eat some lunch.”
No one objected. Their meal was comprised of some dried meat and bread they’d received at the village.
Though their exploration of the abandoned mine had only just begun, the five of them still held optimistic views towards the outcome.
There were no signs that people were still inhabiting the mine, so they at least knew that their situation wouldn’t shift out of nowhere.
After leaving that abandoned mine filled with stagnant air, the men were more talkative than usual. Satia watched them while eating her bread, staring vacantly as usual.
If things kept up how they were going, they probably wouldn’t even take all three days to finish looking through the mine.
That’s what all of them believed.