While Fanged was musing aloud to herself, Phi caught sight of something interesting trapped in the tunnel wall. Under the added light of her flashlight, she could distinctly make out two pink gems trapped within the dirt. She approached the wall with caution, aware that Phi was tracking each movement. If she damaged the gems during extraction, the halfbreed would be displeased with her. She felt the wall with one hand, checking around the gems to see how badly they were stuck. To her surprise, it was as if they were simply pressed into the dirt. With a little assistance for her fingertips, she was able to pick the gems cleanly from the wall.
“That felt much too simple. I didn’t even need to use a tool for extraction,” she murmured.
Phi trotted over to get a close view of the gems. When she was done her examination, Fanged placed the gems away.
With her newfound treasure, Fanged felt better about the tunnel selection they had made. When Phi was ready, she led the way forward. They settled into a comfortable pace. She was steadily growing more used to being underground. Phi had acclimated well, but it had taken the woman a bit longer to get used to things.
“We should take things slowly. There might be other gems in the walls that will take a careful eye to see.”
Phi was content to go slower than she normally would have. Fanged took the extra time to really take in her surroundings. The tunnel walls were pressing inwards and a more claustrophobic person would have been nervous. She found the small space to be more of an obstacle to be beaten. She pressed one hand against the tunnel wall, testing how stable it was. It remained firm under the press of her fingers.
The sturdiness of the tunnel served to erase some of the doubts that filled Fanged’s mind. She followed Phi, trying to match the path that the Raikiri made. The crossbreed went out of her way to avoid patches of dirt that she deemed to be an unreasonable amount of filth.
“Can’t get ourselves too dirty, can we?”
She wouldn’t judge Phi for her eclectic behavior towards dirt. It might be a bit odd, considering she technically counted as a mining familiar, but crosses appeared to have peculiar quirks. Working with Phi gave her an opportunity to closely study a crossbreed. Fanged understood how crossbreeds were created, but she was still curious on how their behaviours emerged and how they differed from their siblings. The fact that the labs created Phi was astonishing to Fanged. She had never paid much attention to the labs before when she had been working full time as a detective.
The thought made her a bit nostalgic, but she loved the collection of creatures that she was slowly building up. There were things that she would prefer not to have happened, but dwelling on them wasn’t healthy. For now, she was focused on recovering. In order to do that, she needed plenty of distractions.
“For now, mining will have to do.”
They followed the tunnel, walking in comfortable silence. Fanged couldn’t help but keep a close eye on the path they were taking. She needed to learn more about the mines and figure out how the underground was different from the other areas she knew.
“I bet we’ll be experts in traversing the underground. But first we need lots of experience.”
Phi briefly turned back to look at her, listening carefully to the sound of Fanged’s voice. Though she was not a verbal companion, Fanged felt less lonely talking to her.
It took a while, but eventually they reached an area where the tunnel opened up. Fanged immediately relaxed, glad that she wouldn’t have to contort herself through the small space any longer. She raised her flashlight, doing a thorough check of the open space. Phi remained alert, only relaxing when Fanged’s check revealed nothing dangerous.
“Looks like we’re safe for now,” Fanged remarked.
Phi took a moment to scan the walls for any signs of gems. When she was finished, she seemed content to move forward. Fanged followed, trusting her companion’s judgement.
“If we don’t find more gems soon, we can always dig for some.”
Having different options made Fanged feel more in control. She liked that aspect of mining. There was no pressure to do things a certain way. She could try different strategies without feeling pressured to stick with the same one. If she wanted to, she could just superficially explore the area.
To her surprise, it wasn’t long before they came across something rather unusual. Pushed to the side was an abandoned minecart. It appeared to be broken which might explain why it had been discarded in such a random area. Phi was wary of the newfound obstacle. She waited for Fanged to approach it, intrigued as well by the object but maintaining her distance.
“Don’t worry, I’ll check for traps,” she told Phi.
She kicked at the minecart with her foot, leaving herself room to dash away if she ended up triggering a trap. The minecart shifted and revealed a stash of gems hidden underneath. Thankfully, there appeared to be no danger. She quickly scooped up the gems, making sure to show them to Phi before putting them away. So far, they were steadily building up a decent hoard of gems. She checked the rest of the minecart, but there was nothing else.
With that settled, she felt a thrill at the prospect of finding more intriguing objects like the minecart. She might run into something that involved a real mystery. Phi was pleased to keep moving. Fanged was still trying to figure out her nature, but she seemed to enjoy adventuring just fine. With more time, she was sure she will have cracked the mystery of the halfbreed. She smiled at the thought, pleased that they were already growing closer.
“For some reason, I feel like we’re both loner types. It’s good though that I’m working to overcome that. Hopefully we can learn together.”
Phi stopped and turned to look at Fanged. She moved closer to the woman, briefly pressing against her legs before retreating. Fanged felt her heart swell at the gesture. She jogged to catch up to Phi, the halfbreed’s pace having suddenly quickened. They continued to follow the tunnel.
Phi was becoming more confident in her own abilities. Where Fanged hesitated, the Raikiri press onwards. It made them different from each other, but it made them a better mining team. Now, they could focus on getting the necessary experience. She was steadily growing used to the tight spaces, the musty air, and the consistent feeling of being trapped. Tight spaces didn’t necessarily bother her, but she was not used to them in this capacity. For now, she would avoid faces that she deemed too uncomfortable. In the future, that would likely change, but for now she wanted to keep herself from panicking.
They followed the tunnel until it opened up. The ceiling stretched up well above their heads and Fanged observed a variety of plants growing here that were unfamiliar to her. She squinted, trying to spot anything familiar to her, but they just looked like strange plants. Nothing she could identify.
She would avoid touching any plants for now. There was no way for her to tell which ones were poisonous. Besides, she wasn’t here to look for plants! She was glad for the extra room. There was less danger if there was a tunnel collapse, she’d have room to escape to safety. Phi was pleased with the decision to continue onwards. This time, they set a pace that was a bit slower, allowing them time to really take in their surroundings. Fanged felt a sudden rush of nervousness and a quick glance at Phi confirmed that the Raikiri was feeling uneasy as well.
“Something in the air maybe? Perhaps there is a creature around.”
When it came to instinct, there could be many triggers that kickstarted one’s feeling of danger. They would both be on guard for now. There was no need to panic just yet, but being alert was a necessity.
Both of them stopped, ready to assess what danger they might be facing. Something in the air certainly felt wrong, but Fanged couldn’t pinpoint exactly what that was. It could be her picking up some scent that was unfamiliar to her, perhaps dangerous, perhaps not. They could be feeling small vibrations that would indicate a tunnel collapse. Both would be difficult for her to consciously understand and the end result would be this overall feeling of wrongness.
“We’ll stop for now. Then we can wait and see if the danger presents itself.”
Phi was fine to take a break from walking. The Raikiri stuck close to her, fearing a sudden separation. Even if they did end up separated, Fanged was confident that both of them were crafty enough to find each other again. Fanged suddenly had what she considered a good idea. She could take a moment and dig while they waited!
Digging theoretically shouldn’t be too destructive if she was careful. She grabbed her shovel, feeling suddenly more assured now that she had something to do. Phi watched her with interest, curious to see each of the mining tools that Fanged had in action. Curiosity drove Fanged’s movements. She wasn’t sure how far she could dig before she would be unable to continue. She had a sudden urge to try and find that out. She needed to choose a spot to start digging first. She stepped over to the side of the tunnel, wanting to dig closer to the wall. There was always a possibility of a tunnel collapse and it seemed like a good idea to test the sturdiness of the wall. She took the shovel and tapped the metal bit against the wall. When it held steady, she gave the wall a solid hit. Luckily, it remained completely stable.
Feeling a bit more reassured, Fanged chose a spot that looked easy enough to dig through. She pressed the shovel into the dirt, feeling her muscles tense with the added weight of the dirt. She chose a spot to pile up all the dirt she had to move. Phi kept her distance, having a distaste for anything involving direct contact with dirt. It was a little ironic for a halfbreed with mining familiar blood, but Fanged didn’t mind. Shoveling dirt made Fanged feel more relaxed. Hard work tended to calm her down. She settled into a rhythmic pace of lifting dirt out of the hole that she was creating. It didn’t take her long before she started hitting rocks. They were still manageable, but it took time to dig out each rock that got in her way. She made a separate pile to place the rocks in to keep them out of the way.