The Beginning Of It All
The moment I realized that that point in time was destiny,
a long, long time had passed.
—The White Magus, Ai
“Nina, have you ever seen a human?”
“What’s a human?”
The girl I’d saved from the Armored Bear, Nina, tilted her head upon hearing my sudden question.
Her response was reasonable enough. I’d pronounced the word in Japanese, the rest of my question being in whatever language she uses.
It had been a few months since I met Nina. Since then, it’s somehow gotten to the point that we stay together, we’ve even become able to communicate with each other easily enough.
It appears that not only are dragons far stronger than humans, they’re also much faster learners.
As my hardware changed, so did my software, allowing me to become able to speak her language at a frightening speed.
“They look similar to you, but their ears are short and round… and they likely live in houses made out of wood or stone.”
The feeling of wanting to see humans has been building within me ever since the day I met Nina. Living as a dragon isn’t that bad, but I just can’t throw my humanity away.
“I know what you’re talking about… maybe?”
Which is why I all but floated into the sky when Nina said that.
“Could you show me where?”
She nodded when I asked her the question, so I had her get on my back and flapped my wings.
＊ ＊ ＊
“Over there. Those are what you were talking about, right?”
I looked over to where Nina pointed and was surprised.
“Those are… the humans?”
“They look like me, have round ears, and live in a stone den. Are those them?”
Twitching her prided pointy ears, Nina thrust her flat chest out.
Well, she wasn’t wrong.
“… Setting aside whether or not they look like you, are there any humans that live like you?”
“It’s not like I know much about them, but the way they live is roughly the same as me.”
So that’s it… well, alright.
I looked back toward the scene Nina pointed out to me.
What I saw from the small hill we were on top of was a cave that opened up on the side of a mountain.
There were a few men carrying spears exiting from the cave, so it looked like they were about to go hunting. Each of their spears were made out of a long stick with a stone fastened to the end it. Both them and the group of women seeing them off were wearing nothing but beast fur. There were probably only several dozen people living there at most. The group of primitive humans were barely numerous enough to be called a settlement, let alone a village.
Magic existed, dragons soared through the skies, fairies lived, and mysteries suffused the world.
It’s a world that I can only describe as something straight out of a fairy tale, so I unconsciously started thinking that the level of civilization here would be around the same as medieval Europe.
But I was incredibly mistaken.
Now that I think about it carefully, the only reason I thought that it would be like that is because that’s how it was in fairy tales… it was also a common enough setting in light novels.
Rather, I should be thankful that there are even any humanoid creatures that I can communicate with. I would’ve been pretty depressed if this was a world filled with nothing but slimes.
Not really thinking about it, I sighed.
“Woah—hey, cut it out! Are you trying to kill me!?”
Nina jumped back quite a distance with her hands held up to protect her head.
I hurriedly closed my mouth.
The most difficult thing about spending time with Nina is my breath.
Flames keep on coming out of my mouth even without me thinking about it, so I end up burning everything if I sigh like that.
“Maybe I should try talking to them…?”
“Eh, you’re going? Those guys don’t talk, they’re pretty aggressive.”
When I pulled myself together and muttered that, Nina gave me a warning.
“Well, that’d happen either way… probably. Nina, wait here for me, alright?”
Saying that and spreading my wings wide, I leapt into the sky.
I’m around two or three kilometers from those humans’ cave from the looks of it.
I haven’t been that confident in my sense of distance or time at all since my body turned into this, but it didn’t even take a minute for me to arrive in front of the cave.
A little girl just happened to be leaving the entrance as I arrived and looked up at me before screaming and falling to the floor.
“It’s okay, little miss. It’s okay, see? I’m a good dragon. I won’t eat—”
Spears shot toward me from all directions and interrupted me.
I see. She really wasn’t wrong when she called them aggressive.
I looked over them as their spears were repelled by my scales.
“I have no hostility toward you. Could you stop attacking me?”
I spoke especially slowly, but one of the men throwing spears shouted something. The women escaped into the cave with their children in tow.
Hmm, this is troubling.
“I. Not. Enemy. Understand?”
Speaking so that I wouldn’t breathe out as best I could, I used the tip of my muzzle to push the spears they’d thrown at me across the ground to them. It’d be nice if this helps them understand that I’m not hostile.
The men looked at each other in bafflement, but they still came forward to take their spears timidly.
“You all still don’t have a language yet, do you…”
That’s what I was convinced of after analyzing the situation. They had only used short, command-like words. Like attack that thing and run. They still didn’t have a language they could use to exchange more complex concepts.
Moreover, they’d only been throwing ordinary stone spears at me to attack. It looked like they didn’t have anyone that could use magic like elves, at least.
“Sorry for alarming you all.”
Figuring out that we wouldn’t be able to communicate, I once again took off into the sky after leaving them with a few words.
＊ ＊ ＊
“How’d it go?”
“Not well. They couldn’t understand me at all.”
“Told you so.”
Seeing me shake my head, Nina smiled for some reason.
“Even though I thought I’d finally be able to meet humans…”
“Hey, don’t aim that stuff at me!”
Ah, whoops. I wound up sighing again.
“Sorry. It’s just normal breathing for me…”
“You can’t just burn down the forest out of thoughtlessness.”
Nina spoke with her hands placed on her hips.
“And even if you can’t meet them… am I not enough?”
Nina pouted as she muttered that.
Her voice dwindled away to the point it was barely even a whisper at the end there, but dragons have needlessly good hearing. I heard everything as clear as crystal.
“Well, it doesn’t feel like it’ll be impossible with you here, Nina…”
I really don’t have any confidence in myself when it comes to communicating with a group of primitives that don’t even have a language. However, when I said that despite feeling somewhat gloomy about it, Nina’s mood improved visibly.
“The sun’s about gone, let’s call it a day and get some rest.”
Saying that and extending her arm, a tree spontaneously lowered its boughs. Elven magic.
Nina took off her clothes and tossed them across a tree’s branch before laying down in the newly-made bed of leaves.
“I told you that that’s immodest.”
Laying down and not covered at all, her body’s brilliantly white skin was dazzling to my eyes. With her well-proportioned body despite her youth, she was at an age that made it hard for me to be troubled over where I should look.
“And I keep asking: what does immodest mean?”
I was as stumped on how to answer her as always.
The language Nina used had no concept of immodesty. I mean, her race didn’t even have a word for embarrassment. Clothing was simply something meant to protect them from the cold, so nakedness wasn’t something they felt ashamed about at all.
“C’mon, hurry up.”
She held her arms out towards me and beckoned me over. Trying my best not to look at her body, I headed over to her and surrounded her bed by coiling myself around it.
As a fire dragon, my body was warm. It’s more comfortable for her like this, according to her. I’m a bit worried that I might accidentally let out a big sigh when I’m sleeping, though.
But still, I realized something when I tried meeting those humans.
That is, an elf’s lifestyle wasn’t so different from their way of living. I could easily write it off as them being a forest race, but they generally didn’t build any houses, they slept on simple bedding, and lived off of animals, nuts, and berries. They also hunted and scavenge if there was a need, but weren’t they basically primitives as well?
They could sustain themselves even with that kind of lifestyle, of course. Through their ability to manipulate trees with magic and listen to their voices to find food, they were able to live so long as they had the forest. I got the feeling that that’s actually what hindered their cultural development, though. Since they’re able to live so easily, they had no need to advance or develop anything new. I also got the feeling that they’d end up being surpassed by mankind and eventually brought to ruin.
The same concept applied to me as well. Dragons were strong to the point of being abnormal. We didn’t have any problems with hunting prey, nor did we have any natural predators. We were probably at the top of the food chain. But our livelihood was supported solely by hunting. Not something that could be called a civilization at all.
I doubt that civilization itself even existed in this world yet.
This was a world still in its primitive era.
Even though I had knowledge of a world far, far in the future compared to this one, it all amounted to nothing without the groundwork of civilization and its infrastructure to make use of it. The current human race could barely even make use of words, much less a full language… so even passing on my knowledge to others through books was impossible.
It’s a terrifying loneliness.
Nobody knew me, nor could they understand me. We couldn’t even communicate.
I could speak with Nina, yes, but she had such a foreign outlook on everything that just talking with her has made me realize just how different of a creature she was from me.
And with that, I finally realized: no matter what kind of mystery there is, no matter how wonderful a discovery I find is, there’s no meaning to it without someone to share it with.
Am I, once again, not going to understand anything, not leave anything behind… and live my life in futility?
—Just like my previous life.
The moment I cursed myself in bitterness, an idea flashed into my mind like I’d been given a divine revelation.
Accidentally spouting the words that should’ve been kept in my mind out of sheer excitement, Nina sprung to her feet in surprise.
“An academy, Nina. I’m going to build an academy!”
Elvish didn’t have the word for academy, of course, but I told her what I was thinking about all the same.
If it doesn’t exist, I just have to make it.
If there’s no place to teach others, I just have to create one.
—A place where I can teach it all.
This was the beginning of a very, very long—long to the point of being ridiculous—story.