The mining town, El Valley, spread out against the cliff that had been carved out of a portion of the mountain.
There were a lot of people going in and out of the city and there were also a lot of restaurants and inns. The black smoke coming from the smelting building at the foot of the mountain bothered me, but there were no visible signs of air pollution.
It was strangely lively and pleasant for a place where a plague was prevalent.
Is this how this city is normally like or is this how people show their anxiety?
“So, there are young mages like you.”
A soft-spoken gentleman was walking beside me and was speaking to me calmly.
He was Baron Dion McBain, the lord that governs the area around the mine. He was an attractive middle-aged man with his hair parted in the middle.
We, Platoon Commander Gwen and I, first met him at the lord’s mansion on the edge of town. Baron Dion was only faintly surprised to see that the mage was a commoner and a kid at that, but he didn’t say anything rude.
He didn’t lose his politeness even now as we are talking. He was a mature person.
His clothes were a bit flashy though. The elaborate way he tied his scarf was dazzling.
He was wearing a jacket or something that didn’t look as if he was dressed up for a trip to the mine, but he wore heavy boots that allowed him to walk in the mountains.
After we greeted each other, Platoon Commander Gwen went to command the soldiers after confirming the situation and I immediately headed to the mine to investigate the magic stone vein. Baron Dion, as the owner, was curious and came along with a few private soldiers.
Only Giedt accompanied me, but we were well protected since the lord’s soldiers were also here.
I also saw other soldiers around the city.
“It’s a bit dangerous in the city right now, so please be careful even if you are a mage.”
Dion-san explained when he saw where I was looking.
As I thought, this city seemed a bit rough.
It was no wonder that they were short on manpower since they had a lot to do such as guarding the city and villages and quarantining the sick.
“Are people still mining?”
“Yes. Fortunately, many of the miners are in good health. As I have reported to the palace, the plague seems to only affect the old and those who are weak. I’m sure it will subside in time. It isn’t so bad that a mage and medical personnel had to come all the way from the capital to help us.”
Dion-san smiled wryly.
But the nation couldn’t just not do anything since Princess Philia was to be married and there were strange rumours circulating around.
It must have been a disaster for him. It was as if a golden tree had been infested with a diseased bug. This was a somewhat inappropriate metaphor, but it conveyed what was happening.
“How long has the mine been open?”
“About 80 years. It belonged to the Galesh Kingdom before Traus Kingdom was founded. This is a tumultuous land that has been fought over many times in the past.”
Securing resources was one of the main reasons for war. Why don’t they divide it among themselves and get along?
The mine has lasted for quite a long time. Has their mining technology not progressed much?
We soon arrived at the entrance of the mine and many miners were busily moving in and out of the mine shaft.
One of them was summoned by the lord.
“This is Hugo, a miner. He has worked here for a long time and knows more about the mines than anyone else. Please let him guide you through the mountain.”
Hugo was a dark-skinned and stocky old man.
My first impression of him was that he looked like a dwarf with his short stature and bush-like beard.
He didn’t speak but he did look at me up and down with his glazed eyes. His eyes were saying, “Is this the mage from the palace?”
Well, there’s nothing I can do about being underestimated. So, I should at least greet him properly.
“My name is Aime. It is a pleasure to meet you.”
Hugo-san bowed in apology and immediately turned his hunchback and began to guide us silently.
A little further up the mountain road, which was wide enough for two people to walk side by side, was the entrance to the tunnel where the magic stones were being dug out.
The path which was dug horizontally against the mountain was narrow and about two metres high and wide. The ceiling and sides were also reinforced with wood to prevent the tunnel from collapsing.
It became chilly once we were inside. It was the end of summer, but the temperature inside the tunnel was even colder than the outside air as the sun didn’t always reach the inside. I unconsciously tugged at the collar of my robe.
Lamps were placed at regular intervals on the walls of the dark tunnel to light up the wet ground.
Using fire to light a tunnel where gas might erupt was really unsettling. I’ll write on the report that this kind of place should be lit with magic stone lamps.
“What are the symptoms?”
My voice echoed a little when I asked the lord this question.
“I would say it’s a disease that rots the skin.”
“I have heard that the serious cases have that symptom.”
He heard. So, he didn’t see them himself.
“No fever or coughing?”
The lord looked as if he was recalling information.
“I haven’t heard of any patients having symptoms like that.”
“I see. When did the plague begin?”
“I heard it began in spring.”
So, it has already been a few months? I see.
His answers were all a bit vague, but I got the gist of it.
We passed many miners carrying ores on their backs as we talked and moved through the complex maze which resembled an ant’s nest.
I peeked at the bags they were carrying and saw red and green magic stones.
Even before the Dwarf-ojisan mentioned it, the place where the magic stone was being mined was so obvious that it didn’t need an explanation.
The wall where the miners were standing in a line with their picks thrusted in was glistening green, red, and yellow.
My voice came out on its own.
How can magic stones shine so brightly without polishing? It was as if an aurora was embedded in it.
Our arrival brought the work to a halt.
I quickly approached the wall to examine the mana, replacing the miner who had stepped back.
I waited for a while, but I didn’t feel mana being released. Just to be sure, I removed my own magic stone and touched the magic stone protruding from the wall and heard the opening spell.
This indicated that the magic stones were sealed.
When I told the lord and miners this, they all looked relieved.
This was good news for those who mined for a living and the result was as I had expected, but this meant that the plague was caused by something else, and we don’t know what yet.
“There are still some mining sites at the back.”
“Let’s go around and look at them all.”
I will complete my task properly.
But I had forgotten that El Valley was the largest producer of magic stones in Traus Kingdom.
It took me three days to visit all the mining sites in the end.
My muscles ached due to lack of exercise in my daily life, and I was at my limit by the time I had finished checking out the last mining site.
“You don’t have any stamina at all.”
“Don’t compare me to a soldier…”
I was too tired to reply to Giedt’s remark.
I stopped at a place where I would not disturb the miners and rested.
By the way, the lord was only with us on the first day and didn’t follow us on day two or three.
I saw a stone at my feet while I was watching the diligent miners at work.
I picked up the stone and found it to be a dark, bloody-red stone.
This was also a magic stone, but its mana was about to run out.
The miners seemed to be tossing them aside.
“Are these magic stones the ones you won’t ship?”
I asked Dwarf-ojisan, or rather Hugo-san, who had been guiding us every day.
Hugo-san, who finally spoke after the lord was gone, was a very blunt man.
His accent was unique and made him difficult to understand so I had to listen to him very carefully. His accent must be from this region.
The magic stones that were mined were green, red and yellow and came in all shapes and sizes.
The darker stones are considered to be of no use and are thrown away on the spot.
“So, they’re unused resources.”
Could they possibly be used for magic tools?
I opened the rubbish magic stone and cast a light spell.
A ball of light floated in front of my eyes for a few seconds and then the magic stone turned completely black.
… This is too useless.
This isn’t supposed to happen even if my body is inefficient at converting mana.
“Was that magic?”
Giedt and Hugo-san had their eyes wide open in amazement. The other miners who happened to be watching us were also looking at me. Is this the first time you’ve seen magic?
“You really were a mage.”
“What else did you think I was?”
After retorting to Giedt, I turned back to Hugo-san again and pointed at the road behind him.
“What’s over there?”
“Over there? A draining canal. What about it?”
Water comes out when you dig into a mountain. Air is needed in the soil. That’s why there are tunnels for drainage and ventilation alongside the main tunnels. The mountain was full of holes.
“The drainage goes into the river, right?”
“What if it does?”
Hugo-san sounded irritated. He’s an impatient man.
“No, I was just curious. By the way, can I have some of these rubbish stones?”
“… If you want.”
“Thank you very much.”
We may not be able to use them at all, but it was better than bringing nothing back.
So, I put as many magic stones as I could fit into the pocket of my robe and left the mountain when I got my strength back.
This was the end of my investigation as a mage.
But from what I’ve heard from the lord and Hugo-san, there was still more for me to investigate as a scientist. Of course, there is something I’ve been suspicious about.
Which is the possibility of pollution.