Bad premonitions are often right on the mark.
“Fireball, salamander, stick out your tongue. Use your tongue to make fire!”
When I heard Ken chanting inside the village, I saw a bundle of kindling begin to burn.
“That one’s gotten fairly popular…”
What Ken just recited just now was something that could be heard in various places around the village nowadays.
Still, I’ve realized that it’s easier for them to memorize incantations that use simple sentences, so after making a few, even those that aren’t able to read words yet are able to memorize several incantations.
As a result, most of the villagers have gotten to the point of being able to use magic that can produce true flames.
Ai and Ken have been learning magic that’s reached the level of being actually useful and would follow up by displaying their practical uses to the adults.
And the simple freezer has improved enough so that we can now store fish inside of it for three days and it still be safe to eat after cooking. To put it another way, we now only have to go fishing once every three days.
Moreover, even the children are able to manipulate plants and trees well enough to pick the fruits and berries that are usually too far out of reach. There’s even been some instances of them catching small birds and animals.
Our general food situation has improved greatly, so there are even some adults coming with the children to learn magic. Language too, of course.
Everything has been going smoothly.
—Except for just one concern.
It happened at the time I was worried about how to handle it.
The one who called out to me was the eldest man in the village.
Ai’s father, Guy… My nonexistent naming sense is awful.
“Hunt, go. Come?”
“… Alright. I’ll go with you.”
Well, it’s not something that’ll be resolved just by me sitting here thinking about it.
Thinking that a change of pace might help, I decided to follow Guy and the others on their hunting trip.
“Mentor! I’ll go too!”
Just as we were about to leave the cave, Ai came shooting out towards us.
However, Guy thrust his arm out suddenly, stopping her.
“Hunting, man, do. Woman, wait.”
With Guy sounding as though there was no room for a rebuttal, Ai looked toward me.
Their society was patriarchal, with fathers holding absolute authority. I’ve been overlooked as far as that rule is concerned due to being an irregularity, but as a human woman, Ai wasn’t allowed to go out hunting.
Or maybe I should say that even her wishing to defy her father’s intentions itself wasn’t allowed?
She wasn’t even able to complain about being offered as a sacrifice.
I’ve come to believe that they practically treat women as objects; however, they do decide things with at least some rationality. At the very least, I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to butt into the matter simply out of my own ego.
“It’s alright. We’ll capture something big, so be a good child and wait here, okay?”
Hearing what I had to say, Ai hung her head and reluctantly nodded.
“Try not to goof up too badly!”
With Ai’s and Nina’s voices sending me off, we headed out to hunt.
Their customs and the thing I’m concerned about are, honestly, in agreement with each other.
Not about women’s position in their society, I mean.
It’s that there simply aren’t enough people.
Not including me and Nina, this village has seventeen people in it.
Of them, eight are children. Of the adults, five are men and four are women.
Given that there are eight children and nine adults, that means that their population is currently in a downward trend. That isn’t to mention how there isn’t even the concept of medicine or medical treatment in this world. There’s no guarantee that those eight children will live until adulthood.
As those that give birth to the next generation and maintain their population, women are incredibly important. Therefore, they aren’t allowed to do something as dangerous as hunting. At the very least, the old-fashioned custom of having women protect the dwelling is reasonable, given the circumstances. I am in one of those pre-modern eras, after all.
Even so. No matter how I think about it, as a dragon, I am unable to have children with them. It would be impossible for them to give birth to something as large as a dragon in the first place.
The only things I could do were: defend them, hunt prey, and develop magic as much as possible while I am still alive.
As my train of thought was travelling down that fruitless path, I noticed just how far we had walked away from the cave.
“Could it be that we’re going to leave the forest?”
When I asked Guy that, he nodded in response.
Both they and I generally only hunted within the forest.
It’s partly due to me building my base close to the cave, but it’s also partly due to the things we could hunt in the plains being particularly more difficult.
First was the fact that the trees Nina could manipulate into helping us were much fewer than what she could in the forest.
She’s able to manipulate grass as well nowadays, but it’s almost impossible to catch the giant beasts that live in the plains with grass.
I thought that I might be able to catch them easily if I swoop down on them from the sky, but that ended in vain, too. The moment they saw my figure in the sky, they would run away into cover and make it very, very hard to find them. Unfortunately, moving faster makes it so that I lose my ability to make tight turns. Making the tight turns needed to catch prey that’s trying to escape as I’m in the middle of a dive is incredibly difficult.
Guy and them were having similar troubles with hunting in the plains, so they had generally only been hunting in the forest.
Passing by the old base Nina and I made (it’s been several months since we left it, but it’s already in ruins), we left the forest.
Come to think of it, I just realized that this is the first time I’ve left the forest on foot.
Surprisingly, it didn’t take too long despite having to weave through and over the forest’s underbrush.
It’s not to the point of Nina’s being able to do it without even a single strand of hair getting caught on something, but seeing Guy and them walk just as fast through the forest as when they walk on flat ground, it looks like they’re right at home.
Rather, we’re walking at a fast enough pace that I might be what’s holding them back.
Once we reached the plains, Guy and the others set out unhesitatingly.
I can’t really tell if they have some destination in mind or if they’re just walking. Either way, I trusted their sense of direction and followed along.
Just then, Guy suddenly raised his voice and held up his spear.
That’s supposed to be the signal for when they’ve found prey, but I can’t tell where it is at all.
When I started looking about the vicinity, they set out once more. They weren’t crawling and hiding, nor were they running away in a hurry. They were just walking normally.
Did he make a mistake?
Following them as I tilted my head in befuddlement, I suddenly noticed it.
Guy definitely had seen something. But it wasn’t the prey itself.
What he found was its footprints.
I only saw grass growing on the ground, but Guy bent down to check the ground repeatedly.
We had continued on in this manner for somewhere around two hours. Guy said it again, but this time, he’d seen the prey itself.
And so he spoke to me, politely using the Japanese I had taught him.
“Yeah… I see it. Alright.”
More like, there’s no way that I wouldn’t see it.
“Do you really intend to hunt that?”
When I asked to make sure, they all nodded together.
“I mean, that? Really?”
Listening to the thuds resound from its steps, I looked up toward it.
The biggest thing I’d seen since mother was moving slowly.
“It’s as big as a multi-floored building though?”
Those who could understand what I just compared this gargantuan to did not yet exist in this world.