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I am at the entrance of the mine.
I left the village chief at his house after he pointed out the place to me.
I can see the rails that serve for the cart, on which, if the mine were active, the minerals would be transported.
But there is no sign of the cart.
As I enter I see no signs of activity, either human or monster.
I only see some mice running to hide when they see us.
As I go deeper into the mine, a melody begins to play in my head.
It is as if the music is coming from nowhere and is directly played in my mind.
And, even though I cover my ears, I still perceive it with the same intensity.
The melody urges me to withdraw, and an atrocious fear begins to take shape in my mind.
Although I don't know why I'm so scared, if it weren't for Azur I would have run out of the mine.
Through the link, Azur communicates to me that he too is sensing the music
But that he is being called into the mine, and that it gives him a sense of calm and security.
Allowing myself to be guided by Azur, while resting a trembling hand on his back, I advance into the depths of the mine.
As we go deeper into the mine, I have to use a night vision potion to be able to keep seeing where I am walking, as there is less and less light.
After a few minutes, we come to a place where the path splits into three.
The first goes to the right, the second to the left, and the third goes straight ahead.
Following the instructions of the music through Azur, we take the central path that goes straight ahead.
Thanks to Azur's help, I am slowly regaining control of my emotions.
Knowing that the fear I perceive is an illusion, I can focus on ignoring it and blocking it out.
Slowly, I begin to see much more clarity in front of me and we come to a wide cavernous area.
There is a small lake in its center, which seems to emit a certain luminosity.
At the edge of the lake, I see what appears to be a girl surrounded by different types of animals and monsters.
I can only know the name of some of the species thanks to my inspection skills.
At first glance, I can see that there are two dire wolves, a dragon, four giant spiders, a group of mice that are on the girl's lap, a manticore, a lindworm, and a giant turtle that the girl is sitting on.
The most eye-catching is a flaming bird that, according to my skill, is a phoenix. From which most of the room's illumination comes.
There are also a lot more that are hidden behind the first ones.
I approach her and see that the music is coming from a lute she is holding in her hands, in addition to her voice.
She is concentrating on playing with her eyes down, but she stops when she perceives that I am approaching, looking at me with her eyes wide open.
At first glance, the girl appears to be a dwarf because of her stature.
But her pointed ears and slender build, along with her golden hair and eyes with greenish tints, identify her as an elf.
She doesn't even look 20 years old.
But that's the thing with elves, it's very hard to tell her age by her appearance. Their life expectancy is about 300 years. So, a 100-year-old elf can look as a human in their thirties.
"How did you get here?" she asks as she sees me approach, stopping her singing, clearly surprised to see a person in the cavern.
"Who are you?" I ask, puzzled by her appearance.
I've never seen a half-elf or half-dwarf that had such an amalgamation of the traits of the two races.
With my identification skill, I can see that above her head the words 'Auri Magic Bard' appear.
"That should be my question. But first, answer my first question!" she says in an authoritative voice.
I introduce myself and explain to her about the mission that brought me here.
She for her part, tells me that she has lived in this mine for 30 years.
And that she doesn't like the idea of letting other people intrude on her home.
"You could live with the villagers. They just want to be able to get some minerals" I say when I finish my explanations, trying to convince her.
"I couldn't. Since, eventually, we're going to have a problem" she says in an annoyed voice "when I'm not playing, I like to listen to the music of silence. If people come looking for minerals, this place will become a mess of noises and sounds. Besides, I'm sure they would hire people to get rid of my friends as soon as they saw them" she adds, stroking the head of one of the dire wolves.
As we talk, occasional drops can be heard falling from the cavern roof into the lake.
"It's a shame... I was hoping to have some peace for a little while longer" she sighs "but expectations are like fine china. The tighter you hold on to them, the more likely they are to shatter" she sighs again with a deep sadness in her eyes "I really like living here, but I guess we'll have to move. Since people may try to resist the effects of my music if they know about me. And, although we could try to keep you here so you won't talk, I'm not interested in doing any harm to you or anyone else."
"I could tell the village chief that there is some kind of poison in the air. That way you wouldn't have to leave your home. They could set up a new mine somewhere else" I say, touched by the girl's vulnerable appearance.
"Really?" says the girl and her hopeful voice is like a gentle caress "You would do that for me?"
"Yes, I would. Everyone has the right to live in peace!" I say, as the image of Mia comes to my mind.
Her situation is similar to Auri's but in reverse.
And I can't help but compare them.
Because of her hair and eye color, Mia is forced to live in seclusion at home to be safe.
I can't do anything to change that situation. But, in this case, I can do something. And I will do it...
I'm sorry for the village, but I'm not going to let them take away someone's home so they can use their mine again.
Maybe I'm jumping the gun, and just telling the village chief about the situation would solve everything, but I can't be sure.
No, my idea is better...
Then, another thought comes to my mind.
"But, what if they block the entrance to the mine because of my story? You could get trapped and, without food, you wouldn't last long in here." I say worried to Auri.
"Actually, it would be very helpful if you blocked the entrance. We have other exits to the outside that humans don't know about. Likewise, you don't have to worry about my needs or those of my friends" she says looking at the animals and monsters "my music can sustain us… As you may have noticed upon entering, there is magic in it. If necessary, I can eliminate our need for food, drink, or sleep indefinitely, simply by playing my lute. That's why you shouldn't worry about us..."
In the end, I returned to the village chief empty-handed.
I told him a made-up story about there being poison in the air in the mine.
So, it could be dangerous for people to try to go into it.
And, for that reason, Azur and I decided to block the entrance.
A few mana bombs were enough to do it.
After hearing my report, the village chief decided to try to open a new mine in another area and ignore the now-closed entrance to Auri's home.
I refused to receive any payment for the work, as it seemed dishonest to me.
And, after saying goodbye to the old man, I mounted Azur and we set off in the direction of the Crossroads Town.
I have to deliver to the guild the corpses of the bandits we encountered on our journey to the village.
Also, my plan before finding the retired adventurer was to spend a few days in the town, so I will continue with my plan from where I left.