Do you know what he said back
when he blew it off the mountain?
“Mentor, you really are amazing.”
Yeah. He laughed.
—The Verdant Witch, Nina
“W-was he that big!?”
I definitely do remember there being a mountain there.
Rising into the heavens, it had turned into Jack Frost’s round head, eyes and mouth included.
“Did it absorb the snow at its summit and get bigger…?”
Still though, that’s way too big!
Now that it’s grown this much, wouldn’t I not be enough anymore?
While Ken and I were shuddering at the thought of taking it on, Jack Frost opened its crescent mouth with a rusty machine-like motion.
“Salamander, bring forth your fire!”
“Oh flames, burn everything!”
We each recited our own incantations. Immediately afterwards, a thick snowstorm assailed us.
Our two streams of fire twisted around each other and shot out. It was barely enough to compete against the snowstorm’s strength, but us two combined managed to be on par with it.
—No, it wasn’t enough.
“Mentor…! How long is this going to keep up!?”
With my mouth preoccupied by spewing out flames, I couldn’t answer Ken’s shout.
However, I could tell from his voice that he was also approaching his limit.
Similar to how I’m unable to breath while spewing fire, it’s impossible to continue using magic indefinitely.
Be that as it may, it seemed like Jack Frost’s snowstorm was inexhaustible. If things continued on, we’d lose against the snowstorm and get blasted down to the ground.
It’d be great if we could protect ourselves with ice like Ai did, but I’m incredibly bad when it comes to ice magic. Even if I miraculously managed to succeed in invoking it, I wouldn’t be able to create an ice wall.
What can I do, what…!?
Exhausted, Ken’s flames stopped. Just after that, the snowstorm began pushing back my flames and gradually drew closer. I’d tried my best at flying sideways to dodge out of the snowstorm, but Jack Frost was able to change its direction. There were no signs of me being able to get out of it.
My flames would soon reach their limit.
Similar to a collapsing dam, the icy snow surged at us all at once after I stopped spewing fire.
But just on the verge of getting blasted, I recalled it.
Rather than using the opposite of something to defend against it, it’s easier to manipulate something similar.
So although I couldn’t produce ice—
Manipulating wind was one of my specialties!
The snowstorm split in two and streamed past us to both sides. It’s not a type of magic I have to emit from myself, so I’ll be able to keep it up for however long I need like this.
Even so, I have to concentrate to be able to accurately divide the snowstorm apart.
So much so that using fire magic as well would be difficult.
“Ken, I’ll keep the snowstorm at bay. You attack!”
I headed toward Jack Frost while tearing apart the wind. Even if it isn’t that effective, we have to do something to shrink his giant body.
“That which extends its tongue of red, which is clad in garments of flame, oh salamander, consume it as kindling—”
Listening to Ken’s incantation, I suddenly thought of something.
Assuming that there is an ice spirit, wouldn’t summoning a salamander—a fire spirit—be able to entirely oppose it?
I immediately scrapped the idea after thinking of it.
It feels like summoning it would be possible.
But I couldn’t take the chance of losing control of the salamander.
“The spear that singes all, the sword that destroys all, the arrow that pierces all, and the hammer that smashes all. Bundle yourself, wind tightly and bore through creation, create a blinding flash of light!”
A flash shot out from Ken’s outstretched palms.
Easily piercing the fierce storm, it bore through Jack Frost.
The second half of the incantation was what I used when I was truly angry at Darg.
“… Mentor, I respect you.”
Panting, Ken unexpectedly said that.
“You’re stronger than anyone, know more than anyone, and are more gentle than anyone. Ever since I was a kid, you’ve been my goal.”
Come to think of it, he was more simple-minded back when I met him five years ago.
“But it’s different for Sis. You know, right? Sis always, always rejects my courtship. Why? Why…”
“—Why, why does she only ever see me as her younger brother?”
Of course I know.
I’ve known for a long, long time.
“So why, why don’t you respond to her!?”
That flash magic must have been a heavy burden for Ken.
“Or maybe… Mentor, do you not think anything of Sis!?”
Out of breath and intermittently firing attacks, he asked me a question.
“Answer me. Without putting on airs, without treating me like a child.”
“If you don’t, I’ll force—”
“It’s obvious that I like her!”
By the time I realized it, I’d roared out my response.
“There’s no reason that I wouldn’t like such a hard working, gentle, earnest, cute child…!”
“Because I’m a dragon!”
It was something I hadn’t admitted to at all up till now.
“We couldn’t walk together holding hands. We couldn’t have children—I couldn’t even embrace her in my arms.”
Around where the chest and throat meet on a dragon is where the reverse scale was said to be in my previous life.
There isn’t a reverse scale there, but it is instead the location where my body temperature is at its highest. If a human touched it, a simple burn wouldn’t be the end of it. If Ai were to embrace me, that would be where her face rested.
“For such a good child to be forced into being with someone like me… she doesn’t deserve having her life ruined. Don’t you agree?”
This time, Ken said nothing in response to my words.
Just then, several huge pillars of ice appeared around Jack Frost.
Did he change his method of attacking after seeing that he couldn’t kill us with a snowstorm?
Ice arrows… no, those are closer to spears or battering rams. I don’t think I could defend against those with wind.
But I did have a trick to use.
“Carry my wings!”
If you can’t move your opponent, you can just move yourself to them.
Responding to the intense gust, my body shot up, down, left, and right at high speeds.
However, I wouldn’t be able to avoid it like this forever.
Ice spears were flung toward us one after another, gradually becoming smaller and more frequent, its supply seemingly inexhaustible.
It realized that quantity was more important than quality here.
“Mentor. I understand how you feel, and although I don’t agree with you…”
Sounding like he’d broken through something, Ken spoke.
“Will you lend me your power?”
I didn’t know what he was thinking.
But of one thing, I was sure.
He and I were both thinking about and fighting for Ai from the bottoms of hearts.
“Yeah, of course.”
Therefore, I had no reason to refuse his request.
“That which extends its tongue of red, which is clad in garments of flame—”
Ken began reciting his usual incantation.
“—which has sharp horns, and which is the bearer of sagacious wisdom.”
No, it’s different. His incantation, it’s—
“Oh compassionate salamander, the fire dragon whose strength lords over all—”
“Grant me your breath and scour that menace with your majesty!”
I felt the heat within my belly soar.
Take it, take it all!
From Ken’s palms shot a giant flame.
It was different from the flash that aimed solely to bundle its power tighter together.
It was a hot, intense crimson flame.
This was the breath of a genuine dragon.
The giant flame wrapped around Jack Frost, evaporating it and all of the flying ice pillars around it, continuing on to burn the entire mountain.
Everything ended up burning.
“… Mentor, you really are amazing.”
Relieved, Ken muttered those words.
“No, not yet!”
I forced my wings back toward me and dove to the mountain’s tip that Jack Frost had been concealing.
The snow still hadn’t stopped.
Sure enough, the falling snow was reforming, trying to revive Jack Frost.
“What should we do!? Mentor!”
Taking a look at it, I was convinced.
This was the place I had brought Ai so that she could see and understand what ice was.
This Jack Frost was something Ai had created after all.
Something she had produced with her magic, something that had gone out of control.
In that case, I have a good solution for this.
I opened my mouth wide and—
—ate Jack Frost.
Thinking back, I had eaten the first magic she’d produced back then as well.
Magic would disappear once it entered my body, something that was itself magical.
Even if that weren’t so, it would constantly be melted by the flames within my body, never getting the chance to reform into Jack Frost.
My conjecture appeared to be correct, as the snow that had been falling in the vicinity stopped immediately.
The dark clouds disappeared with surprising swiftness, allowing the rising sun to shine from beyond the horizon and for it to illuminate the mountaintop.