Phi was determined and Fanged was pleased with her quiet enthusiasm. The tunnel was narrow and Fanged felt a bit claustrophobic as they continued on. She didn’t have too much of a fear of enclosed spaces, but she wasn’t used to them to this extent. She hoped with time things would get easier, but for now, she would have to first gain that experience.
“I don’t know what to look for, but I trust you to guide me,” she commented.
Phi flicked her ears, prepared to alert Fanged to any possible gems. The woman gripped her flashlight tightly, feeling secure as she remained close to the source of light.
“I need to rely on this just as much as my own eyes. I can’t exactly trust what I see in the dark. My vision is now too poor regarding low light areas,” she muttered.
Fanged felt a bit more comfortable within the tunnels.
They continued through the tunnel, stopping only when they reached a dead end. It was a new challenge, but one that Fanged would need to learn to deal with. She squinted as she took in the wall.
“There should be a way to break through easily, but I’ll have to find a weak point first.”
She glanced at Phi, wondering if the Raikiri had any ideas on how to proceed. Phi took a moment to study the wall. When she was confident in herself, she moved closer and then stared directly at a particular spot. Fanged got the sense that she was meant to hit the wall in that area.
“Alright, I’ll use the pick and try hitting the wall. You should probably stand back, I don’t know exactly what will happen.”
Phi took her advice and moved a good distance away from the wall. Fanged grabbed her pick and held it high above her head.
She steadied herself, planting her feet shoulder width apart to keep herself from falling. When she felt ready, she struck the pick down, making sure to aim for the spot that Phi had indicated to her. The wall shuddered underneath her pick, but held steady. It would take a few more hits before she made any substantial progress with it.
“Alright, here we go again!”
Phi took another step back as Fanged raised the pick once more. This time, the woman struck the wall at an angle, trying to destabilize it. She gritted her teeth as the pick connected with the wall. The blow was heavier than she intended and pain jolted up her fingers. She dropped the pick in shock, wiping her hands against her pants, trying to ease the string.
“Well it didn’t break the wall down. I think I made a bit of an indent there though.”
On closer inspection, the indent revealed to have a chunk of ore hidden inside. With the assistance of her tools, Fanged was able to extract it with a bit of work.
“Wow there’s also a gem here too! I don’t know what kind it is, but it is blue.”
Phi looked pleased, stepping closer to examine her finds before retreating back to her spot away from the wall. With the wall having already yielded some treasure, Fanged was determined to break into it further. She decided to use the shovel to help destabilize the wall. If she could dig into the base, she might also have the added bonus of finding some neat gems.
“I don’t know a lot about physics, but I think if we weaken the bottom, then it will be easier to collapse the wall.”
Phi watched her work, not moving to help, but Fanged didn’t mind.
Fanged felt at ease as she worked in the tunnel. It felt unwise to be so comfortable, but she had yet to face any proper danger in the underground. If she was careful enough, she hopefully could stay out of trouble. Not that any precautions she had taken before served to keep her safe for long.
“You don’t know any battle moves. Maybe that should be something that we can work on when our first trip is complete. Of course, I’ll need to train you the basics first. I’m not the best at it, but I’ve managed to teach a couple of my pets some tricks.”
She didn’t know exactly what Phi would like for a treat. Perhaps she could use gems to convey a reward. She didn’t know if the Raikiri was particularly interested in owning gems herself, but she seemed to recognize the value in them. Maybe they could convey praise.
Contemplating future training wouldn’t help her much in breaking through this wall. She felt determined, her mind clearing of anxieties and her focus narrowing in on the work ahead. Focus wasn’t something that always came easily to her, but she would utilize it while it remained.
“Alright, let’s give this another go.”
She tightened up her stance, shoveling away a great deal of dirt from the base of the tunnel wall. That should help to destabilize it a bit. Phi drew closer to her, still wary of the dirt, but interested in the events that could potentially transpire.
“I’m going to strike the wall and see what happens now.”
She grabbed the pick, tilting her head as she deliberated where to strike down. Her fingers itched to continue working, so she was quick to thrust the pick into the wall. It caught on the edge of a rock and tugged it free from the wall.
Phi jumped back, avoiding the shower of dirt that accompanied the rust. Fanged couldn’t help but laugh at her sudden urgency. She didn’t mind that her halfbreed wasn’t fond of mud and dirt. It added to her strange charm. With the rock out of the way, Fanged could peer behind it and get a better gauge for what they were dealing with.
“Looks like the tunnel continues behind this wall. I wonder if this is remnants of a collapse? That would explain why it’s relatively easy to break through.”
Phi returned to her side, leaning forward to peer through the opening as well. When they were both clear on their plan of action, Fanged picked up the shovel. It would be a bit better at clearing away dirt than the pick would be.
“This will get a bit messy, so I won’t blame you if you want to stay back a bit.”
She used the shovel to loosen large portions of dirt and small stones. There were a few large rocks in the mix as well, but the shovel made it possible to sweep them to the side. She beamed as she recognized how much progress they were making.
“We should be done this in no time!”
Phi of course was helping in a minimalist way. Fanged hoped that she was keeping her eyes peeled for gems and would alert the woman if there was anything of importance to find. If she could spot some treasure, then her job would prove to be crucial. Fanged continued to work, making an opening in the tunnel wall large enough for both of them to fit through. It took her a fair amount of time, but soon she was satisfied with the job she had done.
“There I don’t think that will collapse while we step through.”
There were a few gems to be found in the rubble of the tunnel wall. Fanged was quick to retrieve them, amazed that there were quite a few gems hidden away within the wall. Phi watched with caution, not wanting to draw nearer out of fear of getting dusty. When Fanged was finished, both of them stepped through the opening that had emerged before them. She felt a slight prickle of nerves as she moved through the gap, afraid for a moment that its instability would cause it to collapse. Thankfully, the opening remained in tact long enough for both Phi and her to make it through. She had put away her tools now, not expecting to need them for a while. She didn’t want to wear herself out too much with more digging. At this point, the plan was to move forward, heading deeper into the tunnels. She wanted to get away from the entrance.
Fanged didn’t like being so close to the entrance. There was a higher chance of another wayward traveler stumbling across them and she didn’t think Phi would appreciate that. The Raikiri was reserved and didn’t trust easily. If they found another person, it would be difficult to predict her reaction. She wiped her palms on the fabric of her pants, trying to rid herself of the sweat that had gathered there.
“Maybe we should scout each direction and pick which route is easiest to move through.”
There were three different paths presented before them. Instinctively, Fanged would check the left path first. She tended to start at the left and make her way right when given the choice. In her culture, books were read from left to right. That pattern tended to become habitual to people like her. Phi waited at the fork, allowing Fanged to wander off on her own for a minute to check the path.
She jogged down the path, doing a quick check for any immediate signs of danger. When the path remained quiet, she returned to Phi. The Raikiri fluttered her wings, as though asking the woman a question.
“That one seems fairly safe. It withstood me jogging across it and there were no signs of wild animals.” She gave Phi a quick assessment. “I don’t know if it will yield much in the way of treasure, but it shouldn’t kill us.”
Phi seemed content with her recap and turned to check the middle tunnel. This time, her companion took initiative to check the tunnel. Fanged decided she would trust her and waited patiently for Phi to check the tunnel. She was gone briefly and when she returned, her expression looked pensive.
“I know you can’t speak, but I take it that way isn’t the best option.”
Phi turned to the right tunnel, indicating her agreement.
This time, they both went to check the tunnel. Immediately, Fanged could tell that it was smaller than the other paths had been. The entrance narrowed and she had to duck to fit comfortably through the opening.
“It’s passable. At least it looks more interesting than the first path was. Are you okay with following this one?”
Phi continued forward, conveying her agreement with the plan. Fanged felt a rush of relief at her companion’s agreement. They were starting to get along better. She wasn’t the greatest at friendship, but her efforts had been more than passable at this point. It was still unfamiliar territory, but Fanged felt that it got easier with each new pet she got. It felt a bit strange to consider them pets, but that was how most people around the labs referred to them. There was a need for ownership over such dangerous creatures. Even a smaller creature could be dangerous.
Musing over such distinctions felt a bit strange. There was nothing inherently amoral over ownership of another being, but that line became murkier when it came to sentient beings. That was not normally a problem when it came to natural animals, but labs created creatures could be a lot smarter than the average animal.
“I guess I tend to view myself as your friend over your owner. Makes me feel a bit better about the whole thing,” she commented.
Phi was not quite sentient, but she was smarter than a cat or dog. Even though her first real friend, Rusty, was not highly intelligent, she still treated him like she would a sentient creature. It felt a bit wrong not to. She glanced at the Raikiri now, studying her movements.
“Change of subject. I wonder what the mythology of the mines is? I haven’t read all that much about this area. Maybe I should do some research the next time I get that opportunity.”