Strengths come in various forms.
The moment I learned the true meaning behind those words
was when I realized that weaknesses, too, were the same.
—Shig, the Skyarms
Shig, seeing the flame he produced, ground his teeth and suddenly dashed away.
Ignoring me entirely, he’d jumped out of the schoolyard surprisingly fast.
Now that I think about it, I’d never seen Shig produce a flame with a single word before. He always used long incantations, but I just thought that was to prevent himself from produce too much fire.
Timidly, Luka handed the wooden board with his measurements on it to me.
Pitifully low results were written on it. A hundred for wind. Twenty for earth. Zero for water. Let alone Nina, his was the lowest among the five students.
Shig being shocked by the results he was getting is definitely the cause. I didn’t think about this enough. I’d thought that Shig would discover his strengths and weaknesses through the numerical values and learn what he needed to work on, but it turned out to have an entirely adverse effect.
Nina stopped me from leaving to follow after him.
“What are you planning to do after catching up to him?”
I couldn’t answer her. Honestly, I couldn’t think of anything.
What would I tell him? Me, someone who’s obtained this much strength without any hardships at all.
“… I don’t know.”
I shook my head feebly.
“But I’m his teacher.”
I couldn’t just leave him alone.
When I said that, Nina struck me on the back.
She’s probably angry for me not being able to think of anything.
“Alright. Good luck.”
However, contrary to my belief, she was actually smiling.
I nodded back to her, returned to my dragon form and unfurled my wings.
“Big brother, wait! I’m going too!”
Just before my feet left the ground, Yuuki grabbed onto my tail.
The moment I took off into the sky was when my body would be subjected to the most pressure. However, even during that, Yuuki easily maneuvered up my tail and took her usual spot on my back, grabbing a horn on my head.
“… I’ll find him.”
Not wanting to shake her off, I pointed my head downward only slightly as I flapped my wings.
Dragons had keen senses. Their eyes, ears, and nose were incomparably better than a human’s. My highly developed sense of smell quickly caught track of Shig’s scent and when I looked in the direction it came from, I could see his tracks in just as much clarity.
He was headed for a forest that grew near the village. It was a place we’d often used for the class’ game of hide and seek. Shig’s scent weaved through the trees and brush, moving from place to place like a beast trail. Sniffing out his trail from up in the sky, I followed after him.
However, it suddenly stopped.
“That’s weird. He definitely passed through here.”
I circled back around at checked the scent again, but at a certain point, Shig’s smell just cuts off.”
“I’ll take a look.”
As soon as she said that, Yuuki jump from on top of me down into the trees’ branches, descending to the ground.
“… Big brother, it was magic!”
After looking around for a few moments, she shouted back up.
Descending into the forest from above, I changed to my human form and went over to her. Having such an over sized body was a nuisance at times like these. On the other hand, my human form’s senses felt dull and it was physically weaker, so it was a bag of mixed dice.
“See? He kept going without bothering to avoid anything.”
Yuuki showed me a broken bush’s branches and his footprints. It was true, the signs pointed to him not avoiding any obstacles at all, but then it gets to the big tree’s trunk.
“Did he camouflage it so we couldn’t follow?”
Luka often used magic that could create shadow clones.
Moreover, these didn’t only leave traces, but smell as well.
“Are you going to get Violet or big sister?”
Shaking my head no, I touched the traces he’d left. The fact that smell created by magic were still there meant that there must be magic remaining as well.
“You are him, he is you. Shadow that imitates and disguises. Wake, oh shadow of shadows. I bid you to guide me to your master.”
That being the case, I will turn it into a fetish that guides me to Shig. A shadow rose from the footprints left on the ground and took the shape of a young lizardman running in reverse.
Chasing after it, the shadow turned at a certain point and passed through an area of trees that grew oranges before un-jumping into the river that was there. Upon entering the water, the shadow blurred out like ink and disappeared. The smell here had been erased, as well as the magic.
“Guess he went through the river?”
“I wonder. I would if I were Shig.”
Water was a thing to be avoided for me. I had a go at the four major element measurements myself, but I couldn’t even produce a drop of water. There’s times that Shig is obstinate and inflexible, but he’s not actually slow in the head or anything. If he wanted to throw me off, he’d definitely do it with water.
But even though he’s escaped through water, it’s not like I have to use water magic.
“That which spreads its roots through the hard earth, which grow its plentiful bed of leaves, which produces beautiful flowers, and which births delicious fruit. I bid you to tell me, which direction did the lizardman youth go?”
When I asked a citrus tree, its leaves shook and pointed downstream. It’s a magic that Nina was easily able to use without an incantation, but even I could do it if it’s just for something like this.
I said my thanks to the tree and followed the river bank.
“After this is…”
I nodded in response to Yuuki, who’d realized where Shig had headed first. After this was the spring where Yuuki and Rin fought against Violet in our first game of hide and seek.
Sure enough, Shig was sitting beside it.
When I called out to him, he turned toward us in surprise, his expression off. Like he was angry, like he was sad—and yet, like he was happy.
“I was looking for you.”
I didn’t know what I should say, so I said the first thing that came to mind. He closed his mouth, drawing it into a line.
His words stabbed my heart.
“Liar. Liar. Liar.”
Shig repeated it over and over, like he’d forgotten every other word.
“You told me. You said I would get stronger. Didn’t you!?”
“Don’t talk to him like—!”
“No, it’s fine, Yuuki.”
I reigned Yuuki in from retorting.
“It’s like you said. I am a liar.”
Shig spoke cutting words, but he said it with a hurt expression the whole time.
“But you’ve misunderstood something. Even more than you think, way more—”
“You’re talking about my progress in magic? You’re always telling me that. But you know? I already get it… I’m not suited for magic. I don’t have any talent in it.”
Sure, it’s true that his magic is progressing the slowest amongst the students.
“No, that’s not true. But that’s not what I’m saying you’ve misunderstood, either.”
“What did I misunderstand then?”
Hearing his vexation, I bowed my head forward.
“Far more than you realize… I… I’m weak.”
He probably never thought he’d hear those words come from my mouth.
Shig let out a voice like he’d just seen something really weird.
“If you don’t believe me, let’s try fighting.”
Saying that, I held up my fists and looked at him.
“No, that’s not—”
“If you’re not going to come at me, here I go!”
I shouted and flung a fist at him.
“Uwah, hey, wait up!”
Shig stood up in a hurry to dodge.
Easily avoiding my following attacks, he simply turned his body to avoid my kick.
“Really, what are you doing!?”
After I turned back around after stumbling forward a few steps, he grabbed my arm and threw me down to the ground. The impact on my chest was so hard that I had trouble even breathing.
“Are you making fun of me!?”
I had trouble managing to respond to Shig, who shouted angrily.
“This, really is, my best.”
I’d hunted many times. Same with fighting to protect something. But a fist fight? This was the first in my life. Beating an opponent you don’t want to hurt is harder than you could imagine, but I knew that I could give it all I had without even being able to put a scratch on him.
Because he had grown up splendidly.
Shig glared at me, indignant.
“Let alone not your dragon form, you’re not even using magic, what kind of best is that!?”
“This is my true full strength.”
Bearing the pain, I sat my body up and answered him.
“There was a time, when I was a human.”
Shig looked at me in suspicion.
“A second ago, you said that you had no talent, right?”
His face grimacing, Shig nodded.
“But I really do have no talent. I’ll tell you something about me. I couldn’t use magic at all… I died, not even able to make a tiny flame or a tiny breath of air, that’s the kind of man I am.”
My lack of talents aren’t just in magic. I couldn’t even land a fist on a boy more than forty centimeters shorter than me. If I didn’t depend on a small girl, I wouldn’t have even been able to put together the classrooms. That’s the kind of pitiful man I am.
“… What are you talking about? You’re alive.”
“In the past, I was a human. I researched magic my entire life, yet I died without ever using it… When I came to after that, I’d become a dragon.”
I heard the sound of Yuuki breathe deeply beside me. I’d only ever told Ai the story of my previous life until now. It wasn’t that I meant to hide it, it was just too absurd of a story.
“There’s no way that—”
“Then hey, have you ever heard of a dragon that could take human form other than me?”
Shig kept quiet. Dragons were things that stood out. Although there were terrifyingly few of them, anyone would talk about them after seeing one. Even if someone had never actually met one before, they would have heard of someone else that did at least once or twice.
I’ve actually met some as well as heard stories about others, but I’d never once heard about a dragon that could take human form. There was no reason for a dragon to want to use magic to weaken itself in the first place.
“That’s why I know. I know what it’s like to put in all your effort and get nothing for it. I know the pain of seeing no results.”
Me reincarnating as a dragon was nothing but dumb luck. I didn’t obtain this power nor this magic because of my effort.
Which is why this form is the real me… Confessing this in front of them, who idolized me as their mentor, was extraordinarily hard.
“But even someone like me has one thing—just one thing that I won’t be beaten at by anyone.”
“… What thing?”
Shig asked half out of doubt.
“I’ll never give up.”
“Although effort doesn’t always pay out, you can be rewarded if you never give up. Who knows, you might just get lucky at some point.”
“But then… then it could still turn out as pointless?”
“Yeah, which is why I’m not telling you to not give up. That’s not it.”
I nodded back in response to the youth’s question and spoke.
“Give me another chance. I won’t give up. I will definitely make you stronger.”
Shig’s red eyes reflected my face.
“… So, in the end, aren’t you telling me to give it my all and not give up anyway?”
“Eh? Uhh, yeah… I think?”
A short moment later, I inclined my head and answered him.
No matter how I think about it, there’s no way he’d achieve anything without putting in his own effort. So I guess it ends up as me telling him to not give up after all?
“Whatever, sure. It’s not like I ran away because I didn’t like the results or anything anyway…”
Surprised, I held my mouth closed. I didn’t breath fire in my human form, but it was a remnant of my early habits as a dragon.
“Yeah. I don’t mind them.”
Shig spoke with an expression that looked somehow over it. Well, I guess it’s alright if he says it’s alright, but still…
“Then I was the one to make a mistake, everything I said was for nothing…”
“I-It wasn’t for nothing. It did make me happy.”
“Yeah! Besides, big brother, you looked so cool like that!”
The two hurried to cheer me up after I slumped forward.
Objectively, all I did was suddenly try to punch and kick Shig but get thrown to the ground. Then, my two students had to comfort me from feeling so down after thinking about it. Huh, that’s weird. I could have sworn I’d come here to encourage Shig?
—And doing all this in the middle of the forest, there’s no way that Nina didn’t see it all.
I, having returned to the school, was amazed yet again.