A Dragon’s Breath
Each time I exhale, a blessing escapes.
The next day.
Nina rubbed the sleepiness from her eyes as she spoke, her mouth wide open due to yawning.
Still trying not to look at her butt-naked body to my utmost, I greeted her back.
“Still tired… you were so noisy last night…”
Complaining, she held out her hands and the trees shook as they inclined their leaves toward her, having the dew on them drip into her palms. Once Nina was done washing her face, wind blew away the remaining water on her face. Next, the silk she’d tossed over on the tree branch floated over to Nina, wrapped around her body, and turned into clothing.
As ever, magic is a magnificent thing.
I decided to call her race elves for convenience’s sake. It’s just for convenience because, be it their abilities, lifestyle, or physical characteristics, they differed heavily from the design laid out by the great 20th century novelist named Tolkien—they even differed from the variety of elves that existed within Norse mythology, the álfr.
I guess it might have been more accurate to call them dryads or nymphs, but there’s no reason I have to match it with Earth’s mythology either way. She lives in this world and is an existence of this world, after all.
“So what was that think you were on about? An academy?”
“Yeah. I’d like you to help me build one, Nina.”
Typing up her golden hair with blades of grass, she asked me about what I brought up last night.
I nodded—her cooperation was imperative for the academy I pictured.
“I don’t really mind.”
Elves seemed to live very monotonous lives.
That’s also the reason she was even associating with a strange dragon like me. I also think that it’s because it meant that she’d be able to live without having to work, though.
“What is that academy thing, anyway?”
“An academy is a place you live at for a long time, somewhere to teach youths about the world. Your parents taught you about the world, right?”
Tilting her head to the side as she recalled her past, she nodded.
“Humans are a race much younger than yours. When it comes to what they need to survive, they know next to nothing. I will build a magic academy and teach them magic.”
Magic was another word that didn’t exist in Elvish. Nina repeated the word I’d spoken in Japanese back to me.
“Nina, you know how you manipulate trees? That’s magic.”
Her eyes opened wide in surprise.
“Teach, you say… how?”
She looked as though she had no idea how that could be done.
“Nina, how do you do it?”
Saying that, Nina looked over to a tree and extended her arm toward it.
The tree rustled and moved to place a branch on her palm almost exactly like she’d given it a command to [Shake] like one might give to a dog.
Nina knit her brows, troubled. She didn’t have any further explanation to give me.
I see. I guess that to her, moving trees is like moving her own limbs.
“I mean, you’d be stumped if I asked you how you breathe fire, right?”
“Ah. So that’s magic, too, then.”
It’s rather obvious now that I think about it. Breathing is something done to take in oxygen, how would I be able to do that if my lungs were filled with fire? It’s simply impossible. So, obviously, that has to be magic as well.
But she is right, though. I wouldn’t be able to explain to her how I’m breathing out fire. It’s just like breathing normally to me. I myself don’t even feel the heat from it. That fact often causes me to forget that I breathe fire, though.
“Nina. Can you move your arms without moving trees along with them?”
When I thought of something and gave asking Nina about it a shot, she quickly held up her arm. As expected, it appears as her action itself isn’t the requirement for it. In other words, I should be able to both breathe fire and not breathe fire.
“Could you try moving them this time?”
This time, Nina just looked at them without changing her stance.
A tree branch squirmed, shaking up and down.
“What did you do different?”
“Umm, I… imagined it?”
So it’s all about the image, is it? Let’s give it a shot.
I closed my eyes and imagined myself from before I reincarnated, back when I still had the body of a human.
A body standing on two legs. A back with no wings. An upright neck.
I breathed in slowly, the air filling me lunged.
Then, keeping that image in my head… I breathed out.
“Kyaah!? What’re you doing!?”
Panicking, I beat out the flames that had started to spread into the trees.
It seems like doing it right won’t be easy.
＊ ＊ ＊
The firewood crackled, making popping noises.
“So you do eat meat, huh…”
“Hmm? Did you say something?”
Nina was digging in to some roasted deer meat, enjoying its flavor immensely.
“You don’t think that it’s pitiful or anything, do you?”
Hearing my question, Nina tilted her head to the side and replied like I’d just said something weird.
“Ah, sorry. It’s nothing.”
I guess that’s the normal response? That kind of thinking is something that only more plentiful societies would have. But it’s really surreal seeing a dainty elf chow down ravenously on a hunk of roasted meat.
I say that, but I’m even worse in terms of sophistication.
Having a dragon’s body even changed my sense of taste, so things taste delicious even if they’re raw.
Juices ooze out of the meat when it gets burned by the flames in my throat. It’s extremely delicious.
Munching on the deer meat, I thought about magic.
It seems that this world’s magic isn’t something that requires incantations or motions to invoke. It’s simply as natural as breathing.
Being able to freely manipulate something that I’d liken to an imaginary arm is difficult.
Watching the flowers that somehow managed to not get burned, I held back my desire to sigh.
I was able to get to the point that I could freely move my wings about though.
I had neither wings nor a tail back when I was a human, so they were puzzling things to me when I was born.
But I got used to them after a few years, I don’t even have any discomfort from them at this point. I’m now able to use them as naturally as I can use my hands.
I suddenly questioned my own thoughts.
… Is it really like moving an imaginary arm?
Right now, I have wings so that I may soar through the skies, scales so that I may protect my body, and fangs so that I may chew deers whole.
If that’s how it is…
Isn’t there also some organ within my body so that I may breath fire?
I closed my eyes once more.
This time, I pictured myself not as a human, but as a dragon.
Where is the source of my fire?
In my throat?
No. That deer meat I ate earlier was being burned even after passing through my throat.
Then is it in my lungs?
But flames still flicker out of my mouth even if I stop breathing.
In that case… in my abdomen? The moment I thought of that, I felt something strange.
Like there was something hot located near my stomach.
Picturing myself blocking that off, I looked down and breathed out.
The flowers blooming before me fluttered, no fire to be seen.