After Argent has properly rested, I came to visit to discuss the matter regarding the trade.
“Finally, the pitiful prince, poisoned by the witch and doomed to an endless sleep has awoken. Awoken by the love of his pure and magnificent sister who fought and slew the witch along with the evil dragon to retrieve the dragon’s blood at the cost of her life.”
“I hope you actually die.”
“Oh, what sorrow, for a kingdom to have such a dull and lifeless prince, what future does this kingdom have?” I continued.
“Amelia,” He called. “What have you been reading in Academia?”
“A variety of genres.” I smiled.
“… For you to have enough time to read stories,” He said. “How much free time do you have?”
“I’ve been reading some now and then,” I answered. “Some stories hide some secrets you know? And it’s not like all the stories I read are all fiction, there are those that are historical when I’m investigating civilizations of old. Anyway, it's not good to read only books of one genre.”
“Fine...” He gave up. “In any case, let’s discuss the trade.”
In response, I nodded.
“So let me start," He started. "What commodities do you think we can receive from the Tribe?”
“Their top commodities are leather, minerals, weapons, and armors. Aside from that, they have luxury goods such as soap, glass, and high-quality timber. We could also trade for alchemy materials such as herbs, flowers, oils, and powder. Not to mention their abundant supply of shards and crystal, in addition to the crystal thread.”
“Have you confirmed this all?”
I wouldn’t have flown to one place to another if not for this.
“To think that the Tribe did have crystal threads. This will be a good leverage to reduce their procurement from Academia.”
“Argent, we shouldn’t openly tell the public nor the other kingdoms that we have access to crystal threads.”
“I agree, we could also reason out that we began a larger effort in trading with the Tribe to reduce the import.” He answered. “Anyway, have you found out what they need in exchange? The fact they don’t need any form of money means we could only barter.”
“Yes,” I nodded. “For most of the Dwarfs, they wanted an alcoholic drink; mead, ale, beer, wine, name it. The rarity of fermented drinks here in the Tribe made them more interested in it so we could trade a hefty sum for them.”
“It’s a good thing we have a lot of grape vineyards, bee farms, and several distilleries in Laurel.” He added. “How about the Elves?”
“Most Elves wanted to trade for cotton, silk, wheat, milk, cheese, and salt just like it was during five years ago.”
Confirming it, he nodded with his hand on his chin. “We don’t have any shortage on any of those so we could prepare them.”
“What about the questions I’ve sent to Mother?” I asked. “What did she say?”
“Oh, that.” He replied. “Mother said to proceed with the bulk trade. She also sent me here to tell you not to worry about it since she would take care of the loose ends.”
“That’s reassuring.” I breathed a sigh. “So what did she plan?”
“She planned on letting the army receive the armors and weapons first before using the old ones for the trainees and new Knights while we slowly release the weaker ones to the public.”
“And the crystal thread?”
“Actually,” wryly, he smiled “Mother wanted you to gather more information on how Academia uses their crystal threads and how they procure it.”
“Regarding that matter,” I said confidently. “I’m planning to get access to the 4th area of Academia upon my return. Maybe I’ll get some hints there. If not, I’ll try to look for another way to access the 5th area without the help of a True Scholar.”
“Okay, I’ll tell her when I return.” He said. “Oh, another thing, she said you can take a rest and let me check the prepared trade route. Then for the rest, Grandfather's vassals are willing to work the part for the road construction and maintenance, guarding, and the connection to the merchants.”
“That’s good to hear, but I’ll still join the visit to the trade route tomorrow.”
“Suit yourself.” He replied. “Another thing, we found out that the Lynxes who came from Alabaster seemed like they belong to an Island east of Alabaster. Do the Tribe know anything about them?”
In response, I shook my head. “No, apparently, they just sighted the Lynxes at times, but they considered them as ordinary cats. And regarding that island, there’s a high dragon further east of here so the wyverns couldn’t get near.”
“That isn’t a good news...”
“I think it’s fine, they said that it doesn’t leave its nest that much. I also heard that Amalthea is looking after it so it won’t create that much of a disaster.”
“Was it written in any myths or legends?”
“No, apparently, it’s just an ordinary high dragon and not an elder one nor anything above that. I even thought it was named Gandr...”
“No, never mind that.” I chuckled. “Anyway...”
We further discussed the details of the trade until we settled it at the night of that day.
The following day, the next ten Guards went hunting with the Elves as ordered while the remaining guarded me and Argent. For my servants, I tasked them to build a small distillery beside the lodge with the full consent of the Dwarfs. Kanna on the other hand, left to check on the egg and to lead the other riders for scouting, knowing she’ll be useless in checking the trade route.
Before we went to the caves leading to the mines, we were blocked by Garfin and a group of seven dwarfs.
[Amelia,] Garfin called. [You’re going to visit the trade route?]
“Yes,” I answered. “Is there any problem?”
[Hrmm...] He muttered. [We’ll come along, but you’ll have to split midway.]
Puzzled, I asked. “Why? Wasn’t it supposed to be tomorrow?"
[Yes, it is.] He replied. [But Arkand and Dresbon encountered a problem while mining a vein deep in Alabaster, so I have to take a visit there and help. In any case, the path towards the sealed entrance to Randolf’s stash is somewhere near the vein so we can escort you there now.]
“Stash?” Argent asked. “What does he mean Amelia?”
“It’s a message left by Grandfather to me once I become chief,” I answered. “Anyway, do I have anything to bring with me?”
[None, we already prepared enough resources for two weeks,] He replied. [and here, take this robe, it’ll be cold once we begin entering the Sapphire Domain.]
I looked towards Argent and nodded.
“I understand.” He said. “Don’t worry about the route, I’ll properly check it. Go and focus on the message left by Grandfather.”
“Thanks, Argent,” I replied. “Also, please tell Erina and Kanna that I won’t be returning today.”
“Got it.” He nodded.
“Ark,” I called. “You are free to direct the servants while I’m away.”
“Yes, your Highness.” He bowed.
““Your Highness.”” The guards called.
“It’s fine, guard Argent for me.” Then I waved my hands as I left.
After that, we left the gates of the Tribe and ascended Alabaster until we reached the top where a deep valley surrounded by steep cliffs was visible. Rather than going down the valley, we walked for a while until we reached a place filled with boulders.
[We’re here,] Garfin said.
The Dwarfs then scaled the boulders while I followed behind. We moved from one boulder to another until we reached a depression revealing a hole large enough for a small carriage to go through.
The Dwarfs started to descend using the ropes hanging at the sides attached to iron stakes driven on the boulders.
As I watched them descend using the rope, “Whoa, that’s deep...” I muttered.
Using a leather glove given to me, I descended to the cave while I used the knots on the ropes as support. Eventually, I reached the bottom.
I looked up to take one last look at the hole, with a thick ceiling filled with numerous sharp stalactites.
Afterward, we continued moving until we reached the end of the twilight zone, the zone where light meets its end. The dwarfs, prepared for the exploration, brought out torches coated with resin.
“Should I make a light instead?” I suggested.
[No,] Garfin refused. [You should save up your mana, once we go deeper it’ll be a different world filled with beasts.]
“There are beasts that live underground?”
[Yes, and there are quite plenty of them.]
With only the torches as our guide, we continued deeper into the cave filled with uneven rocks until we reached another hole, but this time the bottom is visible.
“Is that water?” I asked as I looked at the mysterious water emitting a dull blue light.
[Yes,] Garfin answered. [And we have to swim underneath it until we reach the sapphire domain.]
“Wait, swim?” I asked for confirmation. “You mean we have to swim into an underground cave submerged in water?”
[Yes, there’s already some crustacean beasts in that water.] While he spoke, he took out a shard and tossed it.
At the next moment, a loud sound suppressed by water was emitted while the water surface jumped then raged after the explosion.
So that’s how they use it… I thought.
[Down we go!] without even letting the water set still, the dwarfs jumped one by one followed by a splash.
In a panic, I hurriedly searched my pouch for a shard.
Not this, Not this!
[Just jump,] Garfin suggested. “There’s not much time before those crustacean beasts return.”
“B-but how about air?”
[Don’t worry, just hold your breath long enough and swim fast enough. Hup!] Then he jumped.
Waaaait! Without a second thought, I tightened up the pouch’s string then dived.
It’s good that I grew up near a harbor so I at least know the basics of swimming. When I dipped into the water. This is unbearably cold!
Afraid of being left behind, I follow closely behind Garfin that kept swimming downwards. Fortunately, my build is more suited for swimming compared to the dwarfs, reducing the difficulty in catching up. Soon enough, my lungs started to ache.
A-are we there yet? Nervously, I thought as I stomach the extreme cold that slowly sapped my strength. Oh, they’re changing direction! Just a little more!
Following dwarfs, we swam diagonally upwards into a large crevice.
Finally! I thought as the dwarfs surfaced just above me.
“Haah… Haah...” I breathed heavily. I moved my sights around and noticed that there's no path leading to anywhere. It’s just a huge dome filled with nothing but air.
[I’m done taking a breather!] A dwarf shouted then he began to swim again.
[It’s an air pocket,] Garfin said before diving once again.
After two more air pockets, we finally reached our destination.
“I-it’s… c-c-cold…” I muttered, with my teeth clattering. Reaching for a shard inside the pouch, I took one out and poured mana into it. Immediately, a fireball manifested in front of me.
“I-I n-never… k-knew I’d… u-use it… l-like this...” I muttered as I took in the heat from the fireball, careful not to touch it.
I’m definitely getting a cold after this…
Looking around, I found that the other dwarfs are covering themselves with the robe after drying themselves with their own fireballs. Noticing something odd, I untied the robe from my waist and checked it.
I checked the robe once, twice, before confirming that it was indeed dry.
A waterproof clothing? I thought.
“G-garfin,” I called as I slowly regain my body heat. “H-how did you... make this waterproof?”
[Oh, t-that.] He muttered as he kept on drying himself. [The Elves said they used beeswax for that. They’ve been doing that for centuries they say.]
Beeswax huh… I thought. Another thing I could use in the future.
After drying ourselves, we restarted our journey, following the trail of glow moss until we reached a huge chamber filled with blue crystals sprouting like weeds of different sizes. They emitted a glow reminiscent of a sapphire, powerful enough to paint the chamber in a gentle blue hue.
“Is this the Sapphire Domain?” I asked.
[Yes,] Garfin confirmed. [Welcome to one of the domains in Alabaster, the Sapphire Domain.]