A Creeping Ruin
It came upon us like a shadow,
catching us unaware.
“I give up…”
Stopping the pen in my hand from continuing to write on the wooden board, I was at wits’ end. No matter how many times I recalculate it, it’s always the same.
“What should I do?”
Just as I started wracking my brain with my head held in my hands, the area outside the room suddenly grew noisy. Shifting my gaze to the window, I looked toward the now red-tinged sky and, noticing the time, sighed.
“Mentooor, see you!”
“Yeah, see you later.”
I waved and smiled at the village’s children running outside the window, smiles on their faces.
They were the village’s precious beings, those who would one day inherit the village. Which is why I cannot overlook this issue.
“Haah, so tired. Finally done for the day.”
“Good work today, Nina.”
I welcomed Nina as she walked into the faculty office. Though well, Nina and I are the only faculty.
“What’s wrong? You look more miserable than usual.”
She spoke as she looked me over. It’s been somewhere near five hundred years since I met her. Now that I think about it, we’ve known each other for quite a long time now. We’re able to more or less understand how each other feels with a simple look-over.
Her expression didn’t change much at all, but her current expression was the one she used when she was concerned.
It happened when I began to speak.
I caught the tiny figure that jumped at me and shouted with a rather energetic voice.
“Finished my stuff!”
With her red hair drawn into two separate tails, a brilliantly sparkling smile lit up her face. Although her large, shining red eyes spoke well of her future beauty, she herself acted mostly like a tomboy with a sword carried at her hip.
“Oh? That’s great, Yuuki.”
This young girl who’s energetically clinging to me was one of the children attending school and has taken a particularly keen liking to me.
“Excuse me, I think I saw Yuuki heading this way… oh. So she did come here.”
Shortly after Yuuki’s sudden burst into the room, a boy whose face looked just like hers appeared. He was a beautiful youth who, with his similarity to Yuuki save for his calmness and slightly grown out short-cut hair, could easily be mistaken for a girl.
“You must have it hard, Amata.”
“No, I apologize for how my sister always inconveniences you.”
His conduct as he lowered his head in a bow was, despite being only one or two years’ different in age compared to the childish Yuuki, very calming. That said, I do think that it would be alright for him to act more his age; he’s still a child, after all.
“Come on Yuuki, we have to head back!”
For example, he could be more like Yuuki here, who’s now clinging to me as tightly as she can, not wanting to go home.
Despite what was happening, unexpectedly, Nina spoke up.
“What’s bothering you?”
Eh? You’re asking me that right now?
“It’s not really something I want to talk about in front of children…”
“Oh come on, they’re both Swordsaints. It’s fine.”
“Yeah! I’m a Swordsaint!”
Hearing what Nina said, Yuuki’s eyes immediately gleamed as she started waving her hand in the air. Taking in a deep breath, I raised my hands in surrender. Well, talking about it in front of these two won’t make much of a difference.
“To be honest… I found out that if things continue on how they’ve been, this village will go under.”
Nina’s eyed opened wide, Amata took in a sharp breath, and Yuuki shouted in surprise.
“That said, it should take somewhere upward of one hundred years, and even then only if we don’t do anything right now.”
“That surprised me a bit!”
Yuuki and Amata felt relieved at hearing what I followed up with. Right, one hundred years. It’ll only take a century.
“What do you mean though? Did you see the future?”
Speaking in a serious tone, the only one who felt the same as me was Nina. For Yuuki and Amata, something that won’t happen for another century was of little concern to then and would very likely only occur well after their deaths. However, that’s not the case for Nina and I. That amount of time could pass with a surprising swiftness.
“It’s not precognition, it’s a prediction. Simple mathematics.”
Me, Nina… and Ai. The magic academy that started with just us three grew up along with this village that has come to be known as Scarlet. The number of people living here has been increasing to the extent that magical research has progressed far enough to make life in the village relatively comfortable. Closely following the village’s development and growth, the magic academy’s student base has increased as well, causing a positive feedback loop in growth.
Neither the village nor the academy has had any major problems of concerns—
It went too favorably, in fact.
“The problem is that if things continue on, we’ll run into a food shortage.”
The village’s food is still dependent on hunting and gathering. Although we’ve long since passed the sustainable population size that normal hunter-gatherers could maintain, we’ve even been able to store winter rations and then some for emergency. This has all been thanks to magic.
The ice house constructed through the usage of cold magic can preserve meat for a long time and the hunting of that meat itself has become much more simple by using magic to cause spears and arrows to hit their mark even if they would have normally missed. By manipulating trees and listening to the voice of the grass, even small children could safely divide themselves into groups to collect fruits from high up in the trees in the forest.
Nina and I defend everyone from external threats and there hasn’t been a large epidemic at any point so far, so we’ve come this far without any problems.
So one finally arrived.
“The amount of edible plants and animals have been decreasing slowly year by year. Meanwhile, our population has only ever increased. As is, everyone would have to eat rice… but again, that’s only what would happen in one hundred and twenty-eight years.”
Unable to fully comprehend my explanation, both Yuuki and Amata stared at me with somewhat dazed faces. Only Nina nodded in understanding.
“But big brother, you’ll manage it somehow, right?”
“Yeah, of course.”
Of course. There’s no way I would allow this village to fall. I have to make this school even bigger, big enough so that its known the world over.
“You know what to do already?”
I nodded in affirmation to Amata’s eager question.
“It’s time to begin cultivation.”