Longing for the Past
Oh? Hello, it’s nice to meet you.
Hey, could I ask you a weird question?
Why are you so red?
“Big brother, what’s that!? What’s that!?”
“Oh right, this is the first time you’ve seen it, isn’t it, Yuuki?”
Looking toward the magnificent blue extending as far as the eye can see, Yuuki pulled on my horns in excitement.
“That is the sea.”
I used to come to the sea to catch fish, but I haven’t come here at all in the past few decades. There wasn’t much of a reason, since I wouldn’t be able to catch enough to support our ever-growing population. Marine resources certainly do seem attractive, but the sea is too far away for anyone but me.
It takes less than an hour if you head there through the sky, but it takes several days to walk there. Moreover, with out current technological level, it’s simply much less efficient compared to hunting.
“Ah, there’s one.”
I wonder if it’s because people’s hands still hadn’t affected them yet?
The seas in this world are very translucent, enough to see all the way to the bottom from the shore. And, seeing the creature swimming through the sea as though it were flying, I flapped my wings and landed with a thud.
When I descended onto the rugged reef, a small mermaid popped up through the water’s surface and called out.
Not cowed by my dragon form in the least, the mermaid returned my greetings.
The girl looked to be around ten years old in human terms. Her long blue hair swaying in the waves, the girl stared at me with her big, shining eyes.
“Is Utai here? She’ll know who it is if you say that Scarlet’s dragon is here.”
“I’ll call her!”
The young mermaid responding in an energetic manner, the fins at her waist fluttered and she dove back into the sea.
“I called her!”
Immediately afterward, she popped up.
“Long time no see, Mentor.”
“It truly has been a long time, Utai.”
The one to appear just afterward was a beautiful mermaid. She looked to be in the latter half of her twenties, but she was at least five centuries old. Fluttering the large, wing-like fins at her waist, she hoisted herself out onto the reef.
“You… don’t look like you came to play.”
“Sorry. But you know that I can’t go into the ocean.”
Seeing Utai look at me with just a small tinge of blame, I shrugged my shoulders. Although it isn’t much of a deal for me to enter the sea, for the fish that live in it… as well as the plankton they eat, well, that’s another matter entirely.
As soon as a heated thermal mass like me enters the water, it starts to boil, inflicting no small amount of damage on them. Contacting the sea-dwelling mermaids has been difficult due to that.
“I came in hopes that you may have a child that could be one of our students.”
The opposite was yet another matter. Just how Utai was currently doing, mermaids can move around on land. Them being able to respire underwater is something I believe to be a form of magic. That, or maybe them being able to respire above water is.
“A student? Mentor, are you talking about that magic school thing?”
“Yes. I believe that we should all learn magic together.”
Mermaids were the elves of the sea, so to speak. Not having any natural predators in the sea, their lifestyle didn’t provide them any impetus to innovate. Unlike the lykos, they had no reason to study for the sake of their survival.
“… Sorry, Mentor. We don’t have any children that fit.”
“Really? I would have thought that at least you would know of a child interested in learning, Utai.”
Utai, holding her hands in front of her face, shook her head back and forth quickly.
“It’s just that your school is on land… it would be in that thing called a forest, right?”
“Yeah. It isn’t exactly inside the forest, but it is nearby.”
“There is a child that would want to go so far from the sea that they wouldn’t be able to see it anymore, but—”
“I wanna go!”
The one to interrupt Utai and wave their hands in the air was the young girl who’d brought her.
“I wanna go! I wanna go! Let me go, Utai!”
“… Rin, quiet down.”
Somewhat disconcerted, Utai ordered the excited youth to settle down.
“I wanna go, I wanna go, I wanna go! I mean come on, it sounds so fun—it’s on the land!”
“… This girl is a little peculiar.”
Our eyes meeting, Utai said only that as if that was all that needed to be said.
“Let’s see… your name was Rin?”
The girl… Rin, that is, nodded energetically when I called her name.
“How many tiers do your fins have?”
While pointing at the fins on her waistline, she counted the patterns on them.
Just like how Utai looked so young at over five hundred years old, the age of a mermaid was hard to discern from appearance alone. However, the skirt-like fins at the girls’ waists would grow thickness through the years, similar to tree rings. Counting them would lead one to understanding their exact age.
Compared to Utai’s beautiful and lengthy wedding dress-like skirt fins, Rin’s were small and adorable. She was undoubtedly young.
But the age she told me was even younger than I’d imagine. She’s actually as old as she looks.
“That might be a bit difficult, then…”
She really was young.
Vocal dissatisfaction came not only from the girl before me but the one sitting on my head as well.
“Big brother, why?”
“Eight years old is too young.”
“But I’m ten and I started school a full four years ago!”
Yuuki’s sound reasoning made me groan in spite of myself.
It’s true, I made it so that people can begin going to my magic academy. Something like an elementary school. It’s not as though I could deprive people from the workforce once they’re able to provide labor, so my judgement thus far has been to teach young children how to read and write as well as how to use magic.
Thinking about it that way, Rin certainly would be at a suitable age.
“But isn’t Rin still unable to walk on the ground yet?”
Mermaids could use the large fins on their waist to move across the ground like seals, but only after they’ve grown up some. With Rin’s small waist fins, I can’t see her being able to support and move her weight.
“I so can!”
Asserting that she could, Rin climbed up onto the reef and tried moving her waist fins. However, only able to weakly strike the ground, her small body was unable to itself at all.
Rin struck the reef with her tail fin, vexed.
“It’d be cool if you could shapeshift like big brother.”
“Yeah, like this.”
Lowering my head and placing Yuuki on the ground, I showed her me changing into my human form. Upon doing so, Rin’s eyes grew wide and seemingly started to sparkle.
“Wow! Cool! I wanna do that!”
Honestly, I think that I might be the only able to do it.
Being able to imagine yourself becoming another existence isn’t something that just happens.
On that point, I’ve become able to recognize my body as both in my dragon form and my human form.
However, that is only due to the unique circumstances concerning me remembering my previous life.
At the very least, there has been no other Magus other than me that can do it.
“I really wanna do that!”
However, in her extreme passion, Rin plopped into the water and swam over to me before taking my hands and begging me.
“That’s really, really cool! Please, take me with you!”
Perhaps it was no different from how a child may feel a temporary excitement over a toy and beg for it. However, I could remember the same strong aspiration and rapture that was in her eyes. I hadn’t seen it myself, but I’m certain that they were shining just like hers… the young me’s eyes, that is.
“But even if you’re wanting to go that badly…”
All things considered, not being able to move around would make day-to-day life impossible for her.
“Oh right, couldn’t you make one of those for her?”
Unexpectedly, just as I started to feel stumped, Yuuki spoke up.
“One of what?”
“What you made for Luka and the others, the thing that moved around.”
She was referencing the cart I made.
“Making another cart wouldn’t work, but maybe I could use that?”
The problem lies in whether or not I can make it. Either way, I’ll give it a shot.
＊ ＊ ＊
Spinning the wheels round and round, Rin was in high spirits. I’d just made a simple hand-operated wheelchair, but she took to its operation quickly and was moving to and fro in no time flat.
Thankfully, I was able to make the wheelchair. Well, I call it a wheelchair, but its structure is closer to one of those wheelchairs meant for disabled dogs.
“Running around outdoors might be impossible since I wasn’t able to make it too proficiently, but it’s certainly enough to move around inside the village and classroom. There’s even a pond that Rin could live in, so I don’t think there would be any problems in that regard. What do you think?”
I’ve long since confirmed that mermaids are able to live in freshwater. It should be alright if we have her live in the spring we used to use as a bath a long time ago.
“… Do as you wish.”
Astonished, Utai could only shake her head.
“I can’t say that I understand what is so interesting about going onto land though.”
Seeing Rin and Yuuki hold happy in shared delight, Utai grumbled.
Thinking back to what we did five hundred years ago, I chuckled. It was something from back when I first met her; the young mermaid girl was so excited about seeing a dragon for the first time that she ignored what the adults told her and came to meet me.
“I’ll take care of your daughter, don’t worry.”
“She isn’t my daughter.”
Her beautiful face straining slightly in disinterest, she spoke.
“She’s my great-granddaughter.”