To her surprise, she found a new gem mixed in with a few rocks. She picked it up, carefully studying its colours and committing them to memory. She didn’t know what this gem was called, but she found it to be rather pretty.
“Look Phi! We’ve found another!”
The halfbreed fluttered her wings in excitement, stepping closer to Fanged to get a better look. Phi moved carefully through the dirt, making sure to step lightly enough to ensure that she was at low risk for getting too dirty. She regarded the gem with intrigue, studying it similarly to how Fanged had. When she had finished her examination, she stepped back and allowed Fanged to put the gem away with the others.
“I take it you approve.” She smiled down at Phi. The interaction made her feel giddy, glad that she and her pet had similarities in work ethic. She then returned to her work.
Phi settled in to watch her as she worked. Fanged felt herself grow determined after finding the first gem. She was curious to see if she could find more. Shoveling through dirt gave her an opportunity to test her strength. She wasn’t as fit as she used to be, but mining would hopefully help her to recapture her peak form. She kept a careful eye on the dirt, trying to make sure she didn’t miss anything as she worked. A quick glance over at Phi confirmed that the Raikiri was doing the same.
“With both of us watching, our treasure hunting should go smoothly,” she commented.
Fanged wasn’t one that minded hard work. It gave her a chance to think and she found the whole endeavor oddly relaxing. She was amazed by how quickly she could make a sizable hole within the dirt. With more effort, maybe she’d be able to dig through to another tunnel.
The prospect was exciting! It had taken it a while for things to sink in, but the possibilities in the mines appeared endless. She hoped that she could convince Phi to travel to a new tunnel if she found one, but it might be a bit difficult to get the Raikiri to enter areas that she deemed too grimy.
“I guess I’ll have to figure out a way to compromise,” she teased.
Phi was a bit of a mystery, but Fanged found herself growing more and more attached to her as they continued their expedition through the mines. She found that the feeling of danger that she had experienced earlier was subsiding. Hopefully, that meant the danger had passed. Otherwise, it would be indication that she was growing too complacent.
“Maybe when we’re out of here, I’ll train you properly. I’m sure you’ll have some cool moves up your sleeves. Not that you wear sleeves.”
Before they could continue onwards, Fanged and Phi both spotted a few gems carefully stuck in the wall a few feet ahead of them. Extraction shouldn’t be difficult and Fanged worked quickly to retrieve them. She made to show Phi the gems before she put them away. It was a good system and it made them feel more like a team.
“I think we should be fine to move on now. Whatever danger was here, I am confident has subsided. At least for now.”
Phi didn’t wait for her to finish talking. She led them forward, eager to see what was up ahead. Fanged was glad that Phi had a natural bioluminescence to her. She didn’t need to be so reliant on her flashlight. If it broke, she’d still be able to see. Phi moved with a grace that Fanged wished she could match. She felt too out of practice to move with the same confidence.
She admired the halfbreed. She was created with an intelligence that Fanged couldn’t imagine having. She wasn’t the creative type herself. She preferred to study the behaviour of people over the other sciences. She had an interest in biology, but no will to develop it further than a passing interest. Diverging interests between people was always a good thing.
“I wonder if that was what people thought when they were messing around with me.” She frowned, usually avoiding the topic of her scars. She couldn’t fathom the type of person who would do such a thing. It was one of the few types of behaviour that she couldn’t quite understand. “I hope you don’t feel the same way that I do.”
The thought scared her for a moment. Were her creatures happy? She liked to think that she was a good owner, but she historically hadn’t treated Imogen ideally. She had always put her work first.
“I hope you don’t hate me.” She leaned down and looked Phi directly in the eyes. The Raikiri looked surprised, but she didn’t move away. Fanged placed a hand on the top of her head holding still for a moment.
She pulled away after a moment, allowing Phi to resume her mission. She felt better after that conversation. Fanged had a lot of insecurities that she hadn’t confronted before. It was something that she needed to be better about. She switched her focus as she took in her surroundings. Being underground felt almost surreal.
“I wonder if anyone has ever died down here. Statistically they should have, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard news about such an event. Maybe they never find the body?” Her new topic was dark, but it was certainly better than the last topic.
Phi didn’t seem disturbed, but Fanged knew she didn’t quite have a grasp on the conversation.
They walked in silence once Fanged took a break from monologuing. At least Phi didn’t seem to mind when she decided to talk to her. The tunnel was silent, the only sound emitting from the two of them while they walked. The quietness was a little unsettling, but she supposed it was better than the alternative.
“How are you getting along?”
Phi seemed both comfortable and confident. The Raikiri had grown acclimated to the underground and Fanged wished she was at that level of self-assuredness. The two of them were proving to be a decent treasure hunting team and she assumed that they could only get better from here. Fanged felt a steely determination set firmly in her body. She wanted to improve and she needed to put in extra effort in order to do that.
“How about we play a game? Whoever finds the most gems wins.” It wasn’t a complicated game, but it was something.
Phi didn’t exactly have a choice in the matter, but that was why Fanged decided to make the game simplistic. She expected that Phi would win, but it also gave her a goal to work towards. Hopefully, it would help her sharpen up her senses as well.
“Let’s follow this tunnel as far as it goes, seeing what gems we find along the way.”
They were already walking through the tunnel, but having a firm objective made Fanged feel more in control of the situation. She didn’t tend to be a control-freak, but there was security in having goals and objectives to achieve.
“For now, if we only hunt the easy to get gems, then we’ll be able to cover more ground.”
The prospect thrilled her. She liked exploring, but she tended to be one that was more cautious about things. If they moved quickly she would be put out of her comfort zone.
Phi was first to find more gems. Before they could celebrate her find, Fanged felt the tug of magic pulling her over towards a crystal. The sensation was strange and she found herself wanting to recoil away from it. It didn’t take her long to find the crystal tucked away underneath the cover of a few additional rocks.
“Wow it really is beautiful.” The crystal shimmered in the light and Fanged could feel the magical energy emitting from it even after she had tucked it safely away.
She collected the gems Phi had found as well. Fanged felt a sense of victory, but Phi hadn’t been made truly aware that there had been a competition in the first place. She decided to nix the game altogether.
“We make a formidable team. You find the regular gems and I can find the magical ones.” Phi raised her head at the words, meeting Fanged’s gaze one with an expression of contentment.
With that settled, it was time for them to move forward once again. She was curious to see more of the underground. Most of the terrain they had already covered was much of the same. From what she knew of the mines, there should be at least some variety in what could be discovered down here. She hadn’t even found any creatures yet!
“I guess that means we’ll have to head in further.”
Phi was pleased at the decision to keep going. The Raikiri was the determined sort. She allowed Fanged to take the lead for a while. The woman was growing more confident in her ability to navigate the tunnels. She didn’t move as smoothly as Phi did, but she was less clumsy than she had been.
“Looks like we’ll be descending for a while.”
The ground inclined downwards and she followed it with a sense of wariness. It was both terrifying and exciting.
The prospect of heading deeper in the mines was certainly thrilling. Phi looked just as excited as she was. Fanged was suddenly aware in a change in temperature. It was growing more and more frigid despite the fact that they hadn’t descended very far.
“Seems strange, but I suppose a little chill is to be expected as we head deeper.” She tried to talk herself out of assuming that something was wrong.
Phi was unconcerned which helped to ease her worries for a moment. If there was something dangerous afoot, she hoped the Raikiri would be able to alert her. She hadn’t thought of a plan for if they ran into any wild creatures. She wasn’t prepared for any fighting and she hoped she wouldn’t have to resort to such tactics. For now, this was a gem hunting team. There was no need for violence unless something else attacked first.
To her surprise, there were plants that grew the deeper they went. The tunnel walls had vines descending from them. She couldn’t even fathom how they could grow so deep. Surely the dirt here didn’t offer much in the way of nutrition. She had a sudden urge to read up on plants. Perhaps she could find some interesting fauna if she descended deep enough.
“I really do need to get on that whole learning plant knowledge thing.” She muttered to herself.
Phi picked up the pace, seemingly catching sight of an area of interest. When Fanged caught up, she realized that she had come across a branching tunnel. They were given two options. One descended further and Fanged had a feeling that they would end up choosing that one. The other branched to the right, holding steady at the level they were currently at. Without a word, Phi headed down the tunnel that descended further.
Fanged felt her sense of anticipation growing the farther they traveled. She was expecting something to happen, but she wasn’t quite sure what that was. She kept her eyes fixed on Phi, following the Raikiri as she moved down the tunnel.
“You don’t have to go so quickly. I don’t think the treasure will run away from us.” She teased.
Phi regarded her for a moment, slowing down only because she wanted to match pace with Fanged. Fanged felt herself relax. She had grown slightly out of breath while she was busy trying to keep up with the crossbreed. The way ahead was still clear to them. There was no risk of hitting any dead ends for now. In order to keep herself from growing bored, Fanged studied each rock that was embedded in the wall. She kept a clear picture of them in her mind, trying to memorize the order they appeared in.