His First Pupil
That’s one small step for man,
one giant leap for mankind.
“Welcome, back. Mentor.”
Her face full of smiles, Ai ran over to me when I landed at the forest’s entrance.
“I’m back. But Ai, you shouldn’t leave the forest.”
“You didn’t say that she couldn’t greet you. And besides, she’s still barely in the forest, it’s alright.”
Nina popped up from behind Ai, sighing.
This world was filled with dangerous animals.
Although there weren’t many fierce beasts like the Armored Bear, there are many animals that could be dangerous to a young girl like Ai in both the forest and the grasslands outside of it.
They’d be able to stay out of danger so long as they’re in the forest because of what Nina can do, but I get worried when they’re at the forest’s boundary like right now. But although I get worried—
“Mentor… did I, do bad…?”
“No, you did well. Thank you for coming to greet me.”
I just couldn’t find it in me to berate Ai after seeing her get so dejected like that and forgave her.
… Which caused her face to light up into a smile as she clung to my muzzle.
“What was this kind of thing called again… a [Doting Dummy]?”
Nina snorted as she poked fun at me.
I only said that term one time… good job on remembering.
What she spoke with and what I’ve been teaching Ai wasn’t Elvish, but Japanese.
I was a bit troubled over which language I wanted to teach Ai.
If I went with Japanese, I’d have to teach it to Nina as well.
But I decided on teaching her Japanese even after taking the disadvantages into consideration.
I mean, there is a remarkable difference in the amount of vocabulary between Elvish and Japanese.
Elvish uses simple ways to express things and is staggeringly restrictive for more complex matters.
For example, there isn’t a word that means [Word]. There aren’t even any other languages, after all. It has neither [Magic] nor [Academy] and even lacks words for [Elf] and [Human].
I wouldn’t be able to run an academy with that many limitations.
I’d just been substituting Japanese words into Elvish for words it didn’t have, but I felt that it would be faster to just have her to learn Japanese itself.
Which is why I taught the two of them Japanese. They still falter a bit when they speak, but it’s gotten to the point that they’re able to have everyday conversations without being too troubled. It didn’t happen in a simple few days like it did when I learned Japanese, but it has been several months since I first began teaching them. They’re both astoundingly fast learners.
“Nina. Mentor, not a dummy.”
Ai started puffing out her cheeks in anger.
The girl who’d trembled in fear at the mere sight of me had grown very attached to me these past few months.
“No, I mean that he’s wonderful at that.”
Meanwhile, Nina was the same as ever.
It feels like she’s grown attached to me as well, though.
“What do you mean, that?”
“Alright you two, stop quarreling. How about we have some lunch?”
Saying that, I held up the fish basket I was carrying on my foreleg.
Although dragon forefeet are surprisingly dexterous, it’s not to the point of being able to weave baskets.
The basket was made by Nina.
“Let’s head home.”
Yes, home. The era of us living with tree boughs as our roof has long since come to an end.
It isn’t much to look at, but we have a house.
It’s not far off from the forest’s entrance and was surrounded by some sporadically placed trees.
We made the house out of wood, so it’s simple, yet sturdy. It doesn’t even break when I enter it either.
Well, although it is large enough that I’m able to move around inside it without being inconvenienced, I probably won’t be able to fit sooner or later, given how mother’s size makes it appear that dragons continue growing forever and how I’m already larger than a horse.
But that’s not all. It’s all made from wood, but we have furniture, too.
Nina took out an unglazed pot as Ai arranged our dishes on the table.
What a civilized sight this is.
It’s an incredible leap in progress compared to the time we were eating roasted dear outside.
“Alright, roast it.”
I blew a few minor flames out onto the fishes she’d stuck sticks through to skewer them. I’d caused quite a lot of our meats to burn into nothing at first and had even almost burned down our house at one point, but I’ve since gotten used to doing it.
Grilled in the blink of an eye, a fragrant smell spread through the house.
That done, Nina started to sprinkle some salt that she’d gotten from the pot onto it all.
“”” Time to eat! “””
Our voices overlapped.
Picking up a skewer with the tips of my toes and placing it on my tongue, I threw it back into my mouth and ate it all at once. An irresistible umami flavor spread through my mouth as the grease and salt mixed together.
“It’s so good!”
“Hey! Be careful!”
“Whoops, excuse me.”
Nina shouted at the sight of me accidentally flaming at the mouth.
I’ve gotten to the point I can just about control the flames, but they sometimes make their way out when I get excited.
“It just means the fish you salted was so tasty that my fire wanted some too.”
“How irresponsible, really now.”
Nina puffed out her cheeks.
Seeing us like that, Ai giggled.
“By the way, Ai, is there anything inconveniencing you in everyday life?”
Whoops, I haven’t taught her that word yet, have I?
“Sorry, I mean—is there anything that’s troubling you or hard for you to do?”
She’s living apart from her parents despite still being so young, after all.
There should at least be one or two things like that.
But even so, she just shook her head.
“Mentor, I, umm…”
She started trying to say something, but she probably still didn’t have the vocabulary to say what she wanted to.
She kept trying to find the words for it.
“I understand. Just let me know if you find something difficult, alright?”
Ai nodded cheerfully. What a good kid.
But that’s exactly why I have to be more careful.
“Incidentally, how is your magic practice going?”
I asked Ai another question as I ate some fruit Nina had fetched for dessert once our meal was over.
“Sorry… I still, can’t use.”
“It’s okay, it’s nothing worth worrying about.”
Seeing Ai fall despondent, I quickly did a follow up.
Even I can’t do anything other than breathe fire and float a bit.
Life itself has been smooth sailing, but my research into magic hasn’t advanced at all.
“Isn’t breathing fire and flying in the sky something only you can do?”
What Nina pointed out put me at a loss for words.
It’s true, I hadn’t thought of the possibility of that.
I’d had Ai test out various things, but none of it bore fruit.
“It’s okay, I’ll try my best.”
Ai spoke bravely.
While on one hand that made me feel grateful, it made me a bit sorry on the other.
But still, the only thing I can do for this world’s humans is teach them about magic.
The scientific age I lived in had a highly specialized division of labor as its norm. Very few people actually understood how the whole of something worked. There probably wasn’t even a single person that could reproduce something without already having all of the materials and infrastructure needed.
Even if I managed to make a house out of wood, I don’t know how to use a furnace to smelt iron, nor how to refine oil, nor how to design an electronic circuit, nor how to make a quantum computer.
When it comes to magic, however…
When it comes to magic, who in this world would know it better than me?
To quote Arthur C. Clarke, a famous twentieth century science fiction writer: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Assuming that that’s true, any magic should be indistinguishable from sufficiently advanced technology as well.
As a matter of fact, the magic that causes my hefty body to float is indistinguishable from the recently developed quantum levitation techniques from my previous life.
If I can use magic to do it, even someone like me should be able to develop a civilization.
“Couldn’t Ai do it more like how I do? She looks like me, after all.”
A strand of ivy crept in through the window and twined around the finger Nina held up.
“Maybe… but I get the feeling that creating fire should be easier than manipulating plants.”
Besides, the problem is that Nina practically can’t explain the feeling she has when she uses magic at all.
“What’s a plant?”
The two got caught up by another matter as they both tilted their heads to the side.
“Trees, grass, flowers. That kind of stuff.”
They simply tilted their heads all the more when I answered, though.
“Huh? Why would you call different things the same name?”
Nina’s question surprised me for a moment. She still hadn’t understood the notion of generic terms yet?
“It’s because of convenience. We give things that have similar characteristics or appearances a broad term that cover them all. For example, things that are able to move about and think like all of us are called living things. Deer and fish are living things, as well. Stuff like stones or water are not. They are materials.”
Nina understood me, but it looked like Ai was still trying to figure out what I meant judging by the serious expression on her face.
“But that means what I move aren’t plants. I can’t move [Trees That Have Shed Their Winter Leaves] and [Branches That Have Been Cut Off].”
The two things Nina listed off there were names for kinds of trees and wood in Elvish.
There were countless ways to say things related to flora in Elvish, each having slight nuances to them.
Kind of like how Japanese has a decent amount of ways to define rain.
“That so? That means you can only move trees that are still alive then?”
“Living? Trees, are alive, too?”
Nina retorted to Ai’s simple question, but I nodded my head.
“Trees and plants are different kinds of living things. It’s not like trees die when they shed their leaves for the winter… I guess it’s more like they are asleep?”
“Living, things… plants…”
Ai fumbling over the words I said as she repeated them to herself.
“But then why can’t you move the grass sprouting out of the ground?”
“It’s because they don’t have that stuff—bones.”
Nina spoke like it was common knowledge as she sat there eating an apple.
Bones… well, I kind of get what she was trying to say, at least.
“I don’t think trees have bones either though…?”
“Then what’s that stuff that’s left over when you burn it?”
It had happened at the point we ran off into a tangent.
“Is this… okay?”
Within Ai’s cupped hands was a leaf moving to and fro.