It was the exact opposite of those fairy-tales.
The causes, the genders, even the order of it all.
I cried out in spite of myself.
“Why… why isn’t it melting!?”
Even though we killed Jack Frost, Ai remained frozen.
“That Jack Frost guy should be gone now…”
Even Nina was frowning, her tone stiff.
“Yeah. He should be.”
According to Nina, Jack Frost’s reaction vanished a little after I ate him. There wasn’t a reaction even after she casted magic on the ice encasing Ai again, and the snow falling around here disappeared as well.
Rather than believing that Jack Frost had devised some countermeasure against detection magic, it would be better to think that the magic’s effect has continued on even after his disappearance.
But if we assume that, what should we do?
The one who came to the place Ai was frozen at was Guy, worried.
“Guy… sorry. Because of me, Ai…”
“Not, Mentor’s, fault.”
Guy shook his head as he spoke with some difficulty.
Guy called my name as I was shaking my head, feeling like I wanted to vanish.
“I, don’t know, magic. I no good, at words, too.”
As he said, he still wasn’t well practiced with his Japanese.
But I understood what he was trying to convey and looked into his eyes.
“But Ai, I know. A little.”
He turned his gaze toward Ai, touching the pillar tenderly.
“I think, Ai did this, herself.”
“Herself? Why would she…”
“To be with Mentor, forever.”
I was shocked at the gravity of Guy’s brief statement.
It was all connected.
“That which is rock solid, yet as invisible as the wind. What is stale as a shadow, yet as dazzling as light, I call upon you!”
I uttered an incantation.
Not towards Ai, but towards the ice inside the ice house.
“Please teach me. Teach me what you heard, the words you’ve stored.”
At that moment, countless words streamed toward me.
I finally understood it all.
The only people in this world that knew what Jack Frost looked like was me and Ai.
The two of us visited that snowy mountain.
She had used cold magic over and over in that ice house.
It was conceivable that Jack Frost’s manifestation had to do with Ai’s magic. However, I was wondering if it was a side effect of her magic or an accidental outcome from using the magic so much.
But I was wrong.
Ai is a very patient child.
I’ve never seen her complaining or being dissatisfied in front of anyone, not even once.
But it wasn’t like she didn’t have any complaints to give.
That that was obvious, I hadn’t realized at all.
Jack Frost didn’t just suddenly appear last night.
It had stayed within that ice house for a long time, listening to Ai express her true thoughts.
Then, when he saw that I wouldn’t accept her, he showed himself.
Jack Frost wasn’t running away.
In his own way, he was trying to realize Ai’s desire.
I turned to the frozen Ai and placed my paw against the ice pillar.
Ai’s height was around a hundred and sixty centimeters.
Although my height was two-ish meters, my head’s position at the end of my neck was a little lower, just enough so that I would look her straight in the eye.
The perspective of this young girl who’d always clung to my forelegs was already the same height as mine.
Meanwhile, I hadn’t grown at all.
It wasn’t as though I wouldn’t grow any further—that much could be seen by looking at mother.
She was more than tenfold my current size.
My lifespan is long. Overwhelmingly so.
Although Ai was now a matured woman, I still hadn’t left my adolescence as far as dragons are concerned. That’s just how it is.
Because of that, Ai would overtake me in the blink of an eye, continuing on to a far away place.
The thought of that scared me, it was painful. Therefore, I kept her away.
I wholeheartedly pretended not to notice that she longed for me.
What, I wanted her to be happy?
It was just me running away.
Ai understood that we were so different, yet still chose to be with me… to the point of freezing herself.
“… I don’t want that.”
My true feelings tumbled out.
But her magic was strong, strong enough that perhaps only she herself could undo it.
In that case, this magic would never be undone.
There is a way, just one.
Just like how Ken called out to me and summoned my flames, I just need to call out to Ai and use her magic.
The way I had been speaking to call out to all of the various objects followed an incantation theory I came up with.
Nevertheless, I completely ignored that method and the first thing to come from my mouth was her name. I racked my brain trying to think of how I should continue.
“If… if us being together forever means you being frozen, I don’t want that.”
Not stopping, I continued to speak like an unreasonable child.
“That fish I ate with you… was terribly delicious.”
Unable to think of a good incantation, I was instead only able to recall our memories together.
“I truly enjoyed living together in the same house as you and Nina… though bathing together was embarrassing.”
Oh, so that was it?
I suddenly realized it.
“It’s all thanks to you that everyone is able to live so prosperously now. You, who’s been with me this whole time.”
Up till now, I didn’t understand what magic was at all.
“Tomorrow, next week, next year, even beyond that.”
Why is it that magic gets stronger as the incantation grows larger?
“Forever and ever… I’ll always want to see your smile.”
It’s because you’re filling it with your thoughts, your heart.
“Please, come out. Ai.”
I embraced the ice pillar.
At that moment.
The ice pillar suddenly lost its hardness and crashed down as water.
“I love you, too—”
Her voice trembling, Ai looked at me with teary eyes.
“I love you, Mentor.”
Enduring the impulse to hug her as tightly as I could, I gently placed my claws on her shoulders.
With that, she jumped toward me and hugged my head tightly, kissing me on my brow.
Her soft touch and gentle scent tickled my nostrils.
The heavenly joy I felt quickly drowned out Darg’s voice.
Which reminds me.
I’d lost myself and forgot about them, but Darg, Nina, Ken, and Guy had all watched that.
Rather, the sun had risen and many of the villagers were gathering around us.
“Maaan, I thought they’d get together at some point, guess it finally happened.”
“Now I can, be, relieved.”
“Really, I thought it’d take a few more years.”
“But Mentor did his best yeah?”
“For him to say I love you in front of so many people…”
“Even so, it’s a good thing.”
“Yeah, but too bad for Nina.”
“Hey now, I’ll comfort her.”
“Nina’s too flat, I’ll pass.”
“She will punch you, you know.”
The villagers cheered and jeered amongst themselves.
It was at this moment that I was glad at being born a red dragon.
It’s not like my face could get any more red, after all.