The elves’ goldmine was situated outside of the village. You could see it if you went upstream. I think that’s why Luna said she could often find gold in the lake.
Normally, collecting gold in a goldmine isn’t complicated. The gold you mine is just rough bits of gold. You need to purify and refine it before it becomes usable gold. The complex part is the smelting process.
I trust that you know how gold is purified and refined if you passed chemistry in high school.
Though I’m not one-hundred percent sure, I think that the purification and refinement methods for gold are the same for both this isekai and my original world. At least the element should be the same. They probably don’t have the modern-day methods for weaving things out of gold by hand. They’re probably using out-dated methods, so they require water.
Water is used to operate the machine which then crushes the ore. I don’t know if the elves have it or not, but since there’s a lake nearby, I imagine they do have it. It’s not that elves don’t use machinery at all, but that they usually replace machines with their magic.
The reason gold can be found in the lake is that gold leaks out during the filtering process, thereby letting bits of gold slip out.
“Brother, are we going to the goldmine now?”
“Uhm… if you want to go, then you can come for a look, but I don’t think we’ll find anything. Unless you want to go underneath the mine.”
“We have to go before tonight regardless of what the case is because the celebration is tonight.” Luna looked at us and continued, “Everybody needs to be present when the celebration starts. We will be suspected if we are still roaming around outside when it starts, so we need to be quick.”
I looked up at the sky to see the sun going down. It should be around three o’clock right now.
I nodded and said, “I don’t think we’ll find anything at the goldmine since we aren’t going down below. As such, I think we need to go to the location where they refine the gold. These two locations should usually be located together.”
Freya nodded and said, “In other words, we just need to see if the refinement factory is still in operation. But would they let others enter that sort of place? Normally speaking, not everybody can just casually enter a place that handles this sort of goldmine.”
I nodded. It’s like a windmill after all. I heard that the people operating windmills tended to be hated by the people around because the food that gets milled out by a windmill gets reduced a lot… That’s not actually true.
It’s not that it becomes less, but it is perceived as less. If you took a large bale of wheat and threw it in, you would only get a small bag of flour from it. Such a big difference when exchanged understandably causes people to feel that they’re losing.
The same principle applies to gold. When you take it from the mine, it’s a massive piece, but you only get a tiny piece of usable gold from it. The workers themselves are suspicious as is, so if people were coming and going as they pleased, then it would be even more suspicious.
I looked at them and said, “But we have no reason to go inside.”
To honest, I’m not one-hundred percent confident. But you can tell if a place where gold is refined is still in operation with just a single glance, especially if it operates under old practices. That’s due to the fact gold must be melted at high temperatures. Consequently, there will be a large amount of ash thrown out. You just have to go there and touch it. If it’s hot then, it’s still in operation. If it’s cold then, it indicates it has been abandoned.
I led the two of them along the lake. The gold refinement factory is located just over there.
According to the map, the factory was built by the lake and has a waterwheel. We could see what the waterwheel looked like in the distance. The waterwheel creaked as it turned. It looks like it’s still in operation.
Luna grabbed my arm.
She appeared to be very nervous since we were going to be able to evaluate if this village was guilty or not.
If they’re still producing gold, then it proves that the village has no reason to be trafficking elves. On the other hand, if it’s been abandoned, then that means this village has already run out of gold and that there’s a problem with all of the gold they offer.
If the village has no need to be trafficking elves, then it proves this village isn’t participating and are merely just hiding something. If, however, they have run out of gold, then it proves that this village has been trading elves for gold. I don’t know the reasons behind it, but it’ll be a confirmed reality.
We went towards that place.
Elven villages don’t separate themselves the way humans do. Other than the imperial capital which has sturdy city-walls, most villages just separate themselves by woods. I assume it’s because elves like being close to nature.
Contrarily, when we arrived at the vicinity around the gold collection spot, we found that they formed a net using iron wires to cut off contact with the outside world.
Yes, you read that right; iron wires.
The area emitted a heavy and serious aura similar to a war zone where no trespassing was allowed. It doesn’t look like they welcome people coming close, nor do they want to get close to anyone.
“Who goes there?”
Just when we got close to the iron-wire net, two troops walked up to us with their long-swords in hand. The elf on surveillance from the watchtower also loaded up his bow.
I raised both my hands up high to indicate that I had no ill-will or weapon.
“Erm… we were just taking a stroll and ended up here…” I replied.
“Please return, then. This is the goldmine. No strangers are allowed in.” Though they were very polite, they watched us extremely vigilantly, nonetheless. In fact, they didn’t even sheath their swords.
I looked around and noticed a pile of ashes at the entrance. It looks like it hasn’t been moved away. That’s what I’m after then. How long has that pile been there?
No smoke was coming from those ashes which indicated that they weren’t something that had just been brought out. Since they weren’t just brought out, how long have they been there? A day? Two days? Three days? The deep layers should be hot if it was because of the celebrations, as fires can reach up to over a thousand degrees. Ashes that were that hot should still have some warmth left over.
“We… just want a quick look…”
“You’re not allowed to. Hurry up and leave.”
The veins on my forehead started to become apparent. I really wanted to say “I’m the elven prince, Troy, now get lost”, but I’m hiding my identity right now. I can’t enter if I don’t get rid of these two. Come on, at least let me touch the ashes inside.
Freya gently poked my back a few times.
Just as I went to turn to look her way, a small silhouette ran into the factory really swiftly.
The two elves froze up and then turned around to look in its direction.
Freya’s dog ran inside and immediately disappeared. Freya shouted out in a high-pitched voice and tried to rush over.
Luna quickly ran up and hugged Freya tightly to hold her back. She then pleaded the two guards, “I beg you. I beg you. Could you please bring my sister’s dog back? We don’t want to enter, but could you please bring the dog out?”
Seeing Luna’s pale and concerned expression, they exchanged glances and then hopelessly sheathed their swords and replied, “Wait here then. Don’t come in. I’ll go and bring your dog back… Ah… There it is!”
The moment they turned away, Freya threw a paper bag towards the pile of ashes. The dog paused for a moment and then sprinted over to the pile of ashes. In an instant, the dust and ashes covered the sky and the sunlight.
The elves quickly covered their nose and mouths as they rushed over to the dog who was already busy kicking the ashes up into the air. The elves then grabbed its tail and pulled it out.
“Here, here, here, your dog. Now get going!”
The kept their noses pinched as they tossed the dog over to us.
Freya happily picked and hugged the dust-covered dog. She then bowed deeply, grabbed me, and we turned around to leave.
“Onii-sama, it’s cold. Not only is it cold, nobody has gone near there for a long time since…” Freya raised the dog in front of her up high.
I looked at his body covered in black and grey. I even saw charcoal residue… It looks like it isn’t just simple ashes. It seems that they no longer need charcoal in there.
In other words, they don’t even need to light a fire…
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