The Origin of Magic
Then God said, “Let there be light,”
and there was light.
—The Old Testament, Genesis 1:3
“How did you do that!?”
“I-I don’t know.”
When I moved my head over to Ai in excitement, Ai looked at me, her body frozen as though she was frightened.
“Hey, settle down.”
My horn suddenly yanked by Nina, I calmed down.
“Sorry. Did I frighten you?”
Ai had put her hand over her heart like she was trying to keep it from exploding out of her chest.
Even if she’s gotten accustomed to me, I really do look like a terrifying dragon.
Of course she would react like that when I get closer to her so suddenly.
I wind up forgetting about it since I can’t see myself, but I have to be mindful of it.
“It’s alright, let’s go through it piece by piece, okay? Are you able to stop doing it?”
Following Ai’s response, the leaf that was dancing about on her hand stopped moving.
“Can you do it once again?”
“Umm… this, okay?”
Seeing the leaf start moving again, I let out a sigh of admiration.
“Hey! Don’t I keep telling you about your fire!?”
“Come on! Are you trying to burn down our house after all the effort we put into it!?”
“No, really, I’m sorry.”
I apologized to Nina, who was standing there and scolding me with her hands on her hips.
“But Nina, this is a huge step in the history of magic. It’d be impossible for me to not be excited.”
“What are you talking about? Can’t I do that too?”
Holding up her hand, a tree branch came in through the window, making rustling sounds all the while.
“Ai, can you do the same thing as her?”
“I will, try.”
Knitting her brows as she focused, Ai performed a gesture that looked like she was praying. With that, the branch that Nina had guided inside began to move slowly and awkwardly.
As would be expected, there was a noticeable difference in its precision between Ai and the more experienced Nina.
“Do you think that you could explain how you did it for me?”
Ai looked somewhat troubled when I asked her that question.
“Umm… like this…”
After moving her hands around like she wanted to demonstrate something, her shoulders drooped.
“I can’t, say it…”
“I can’t explain how I do mine either, so please don’t worry about it, alright?”
Trying to explain the sensation behind using magic would be like telling someone to explain how they move their arms. It’s something extremely difficult to put into words and is something that you’d have to experience with your own body.
Even if I don’t understand how it’s used right now, just knowing that it can be done is easily an extremely important step in the right direction.
“Now, Ai, how about this one?”
I held up a finger and carefully emitted a flame from its tip.
Not from my mouth, but from my fingertip.
“Eh? When did you start being able to do that?”
I’d suddenly had a thought: if my ability to produce flames is due to magic, doesn’t that mean that it doesn’t have to be emitted from within my throat?
Of course, if it wasn’t magic and I was simply born with some sort of gas pouch that I could ignite whenever I want within my body, I shouldn’t be able to do something like this.
Still though, this world’s magic truly is magical. It’s incredibly similar to my previous world’s ignition reactions. In that case, shouldn’t I be able to produce fire from places other than my mouth?
Thinking that, I’d decided to give it a shot. It turned out being considerably smaller than when I exhale it from my mouth, but I am in fact able to emit fire from my fingers.
One again squinching her brows, Ai stared at the tip of her finger rather fixedly.
Nina and I watched her attentively as we gulped back our saliva in anticipation, but one, then five, then ten minutes passed without even a spark appearing.
“No no no, it’s nothing to worry about. Fire and trees are completely different things, there’s no way it would happen so easily.”
Her shoulders drooping, I comforted Ai with as gentle a tone I could muster.
I’d honestly like to pat her on the shoulder, but my clawed hands might just end up fearing her again. Having a dragon’s body is difficult.
“Hey, which one is that?”
Unexpectedly, Nina asked me a question.
“What do you mean, which?”
Her eyes were staring at my hand.
“That. The fire. It’s part of you, so it’s a living thing? Or is it a material?”
“Oh, that… it’s energy.”
Let’s see, how should I explain energy?
Organizing my thoughts, I tried explaining it to them without distorting the facts too much.
With it being a borrowed word from English, they repeated the word back to themselves.
I thought about keeping it in Japanese with words like power, work, or force, but I gave up on that after figuring that I’d run into an impasse sooner or later. It’s probably going to turn into me having them wrack their brains and learn another alphabet, but there’s no other choice than to just do it.
“Energy is neither a living thing nor is it a material… it’s shapeless, the power needed to do an action. Take this for example…”
I placed my hands under Nina’s armpits and carefully lifted her up so that I wouldn’t scrape her with my claws.
“What I used to lift Nina up just now was a force I exerted… and her going back down when I let go is due to the ground always exerting a force that pulls us down toward it.”
“Don’t just go and use me for your explanation without asking… I don’t really mind though.”
Landing back onto the ground as quietly as a cat, Nina puffed her cheeks out.
I’ve seen her jump down from a few surprisingly high places, is she able to do that because elves live in trees, or is it yet another variety of magic? She also appears to like tall places, she didn’t even look mad even though I used her as teaching materials on my own accord.
“For fire, its energy is in the form of both light and heat. It lights things up and feels hot, yeah? Those are both forms of energy and is what we call fire when they happen together.”
I was a bit uncomfortable with the explanation I gave. Although my lecture was rather inadequate as an explanation, Ai payed attention to it all the way through with keen interest. My area of study was of the occult, I’ve only learned the basic amount when it comes to science. I’m not confident in being able to explain any further than this.
But luckily, Ai closed her eyes and muttered the word again, not pursuing the topic.
“Ai? What are you…”
It happened the moment I noticed something about how she was acting and bent in toward her face.
Seeing the flames flickering up from her palms, both Nina and I shouted at the same time.
The house we’d built large enough for me to live in easily even with my huge body was around four meters tall. The flame was big enough that it reached even our house’s tall ceiling.
“Ai, put it out! Quick!”
“Uhh, like this!”
All three of us panicking, I acted on impulse and put out the flame Ai produced.
My body was extraordinarily resistant to heat, so I figured that at least the fire wouldn’t spread if I put it into my mouth.
“Are… are you okay?”
Nina asked me in a trembling voice.
It looks like I was able to put out the fire, thankfully.
“I’m alright… or rather…”
What did this mean?
“You’re not in pain? Are you sure you didn’t get hurt?”
I wonder how strange of an expression I have on right now. It was at least strange enough that Nina looked to be on the verge of tears just by looking at me. When I looked over to Ai, she was trembling with a pale face, too.
“I’m alright, really. There’s nothing wrong with me, so please, don’t worry.”
When I carefully placed a fingertip on each of the two girls’ shoulders, they both let out a breath and seemed to calm down.
“Ai, could you try creating that flame again?”
“It’s alright. I’ll just eat it again if there’s a problem.”
Seeing her nod, it looks like me saying it with a deliberately gentle tone managed to convince her that it’s alright.
She then closed her eyes the same as earlier and caused a flame to appear above her palm.
It’s a surprisingly adorable fireball compared to last time, I wonder if that’s because she was being careful this time?
“… So it’s like that after all, huh?”
Seeing the flame again, I was convinced about it.
“Nina, try touching it.”
“It’s alright. It’s not very hot.”
I put my forefoot into Ai’s flames.
“That’s because you’re a fire dragon!”
“U-umm… not, hot. Really.”
Ai spoke falteringly. She’s the one emitting the fire above her palm, so she’d also noticed that it wasn’t hot.
“See? … It doesn’t even burn the leaves on this.”
I broke off a part of the branch that Nina had moved inside earlier and placed it into the spire. The flames just continued to flicker uneventfully, not spreading to the leaves.
“… It’s true. Although it’s not… cold, it’s lukewarm.”
Nina looked curious when she spoke after timidly putting her hand into the fire.
My body won’t get burned by flames, but it’s not like I don’t feel heat. Rather, it feels like I can tell how hot something is or isn’t much more accurately than I could as a human.
As I said, the flames Ai made were awfully cold. About the temperature of water at room temperature.
“I see. I’m slowly starting to understand…”
I didn’t tell Ai something important when I explained what fire was to her earlier.
That something… is combustion.
The reason I hadn’t explained it is because I’m not knowledgeable enough to be able to explain it in simple terms, but as a result of that, the fire Ai had produced was just a bundle of light and heat that didn’t truly combust… in short, it turned into [Something That Only Looks Like Fire].
In other words, things brought forth by magic depended greatly on the perception of the person creating them.
So then, what does it mean to perceive?
“Could you two move that tree over there?”
I pointed to a different tree.
Even while tilting their heads in confusion, Ai and Nina moved their hands over in the tree’s direction—
And only the branch Nina had pointed her hand to appeared to move, verifying my thoughts.
“Ai, let me teach you something else.”
I thought about how I should say it. There wasn’t a name to call this one in Japanese. It did exist in Elvish though, fortunately.
“This kind of tree is called a fuggi.”
The instant Ai spoke that word, the branch she was holding her hand out towards trembled.
This was evidence that, just now, her horizons had broadened.
This world’s magic was one comprised of names.