I’d thought that using weapons was cowardly.
However, I came to learn the truth soon after.
Not using them was even more so.
—Shig, the Skyarms.
“Unnecessary. We have no need to partake in that.”
I couldn’t help but nod back due to his matter-of-fact response.
Interrupting me with his deep voice, Beol folded his four arms and looked at me with arrogance.
Lizardmen. Those of their race were hunters that relied on their physical strength.
To briefly describe his appearance, he was like a four-armed lizard that walked upright. With a thick, long tail and green scales covering his body, he held an amazing level of strength. His thin, sharp pupils gazed at me motionlessly.
I was currently in my human form, so I felt a tremendous sense of intimidation wafting off of him.
“I acknowledge you. However, that is not due to the techniques you refer to as magic.”
Ambition filled his entire four-meter tall body to the brim.
“You are strong. This magic you continue to talk about is irrelevant to that.”
In the past, I had fought against him and won. I’d done it back when I was looking for a method of prolonging Ai’s life.
“But… there are things that cannot be handled by strength alone. Magic has the possibility to solve those things.”
“I don’t believe that to be so.”
Beol ignored my attempts at persuasion.
“You red dragons, are you not the very embodiment of strength?”
Conversely, his words struck home, causing me to let out a groan.
It’s true. I’ve never come across a creature stronger than a dragon. I’m not talking about myself, of course, but my mother. It was only one time, but I have seen her fight.
Her opponent was a blue dragon, one easily twice as large as I am now. The dragon had attacked by using lightning that had clad its entire body, swooping down and letting out extremely loud roars. Mother had casually swiped her leg at it, turning it into that evening’s meal.
Even for me, my research into magic has nothing to do with being able to continue living. For that, I could simply continue hunting behemoths whenever I need.
I feel like I’ve come to understand Mother’s unnecessarily extreme knowledge of astronomy. Dragons are too strong and too smart to simply use their time on surviving.
“Beol, is there no one else who might be interested in it?”
“We do not have someone so weak as to—”
Beol suddenly stopped himself, hesitant.
“No. Among my comrades, there is no one like that.”
It was a rare break from his usual matter-of-fact way of speaking, but Beol quickly restated his response.
“… Alright. Thanks anyway.”
Judging that I wouldn’t gain anything by attempting to negotiate further, I left the cave he lived in.
“… You kept quiet?”
Yuuki walked over to me when I had made my way out of the cave. I asked her a question.
Her head hanging, Yuuki answered weakly. The reason I asked was that was because, given her personality, I was secretly afraid that she might try to challenge him to a fight like she did back with Violet.
“That person there, he’s super strong. I don’t think I’d win.”
Yuuki spoke, vexed.
“Yeah. He would be difficult for you.”
Beol was more than three time’s Yuuki’s height. Their physical abilities would be about the same after Yuuki strengthened herself and weakened him, I think. Assuming they were of equal strength, the larger one… that is, the one with the longer reach would have the advantage. Adding on to that, Beol would have two extra arms compared to her.
Frustrated that I admitted it outright, Yuuki groaned.
“Yuuki, you’re still growing up. Beol’s lived even longer than me.”
There’s no way he’d let himself lose face by losing to someone just a few years old with his strength he’d tempered for several hundred.
“You would probably even give him a good fight in ten or so years.”
“But that’s sooooo long away!”
Yuuki pouted. For a girl as young as her, something a decade away probably felt impossibly far away. I wonder how long its been since I last felt like that?
“Well, it appears there’s nothing more we can do here. Yuuki, get on my back…?”
It was easier to put her on my back before turning back into my dragon form than doing the opposite. When I turned around and bent down to let her on, she, no longer sulking, faced a direction with a sharp glint in her eyes.
“Someone’s fighting… there!”
As soon as Yuuki said that, she sprinted off toward it. I chased after her in a hurry.
As my physical strength suited my human form’s looks, I was adequately slow. It was to the point that I would fall behind if I didn’t take it seriously. I ran frantically in attempt to somehow catch up to her… and when I finally did catch up, what I saw was a spectacle I couldn’t quite call a fight.
Judging from their physiques, they were still children. Lizardmen all around one and a half meters in height surrounded a single lizardman that was about a head shorter than the others.
The small lizardman took sent a punch out to one of the ones surrounding him, but his fist was grabbed and twisted, bringing him to the ground rolling.
“Just give up, Skyarms. You’re no match for us.”
The lizardman that appeared to be their leader called out, grabbing hold of the smaller lizardman’s arms and legs with his four arms and raising him into the air.
I quickly came to understand the reason the small lizardman was called Skyarms. Of the four arms lizardmen had, his upper pair of arms stopped at their elbows.
“Stop! Let go of me!”
The youth they called Skyarms shouted, biting the arm of the lizardman holding him up.
Grimacing at the pain, the lead lizardman let go of him and stuck his body with the remaining three.
Seeing the young Skyarms once again roll across the ground, I shouted to interrupt the rowdy lizardmen.
“Bunching up on someone smaller than you, is that how you lizardmen do things?”
“… This guy here’s the one who started it.”
When the leading youth said that, he turned his back to me and stalked off. Imitating their leader, the other lizardmen did the same, leaving the young Skyarms alone as Yuuki and I ran over to him.
“Are you alright?”
“… Who asked you for help?”
However, the youth looked away from me and responded in a provoking manner.
Did his pride get hurt there?
“I don’t care!”
In my hesitation, Yuuki responded instead.
“Whether or not I help gets decided by if I help or not, not if you ask!”
Her objection was rough, but it was true in a sense.
Unable to think of a way to respond, the boy just kept quiet.
“If you don’t like it, get stronger!”
“What are you saying I should do then, huh!?”
Finally responding to Yuuki’s continued chiding, the boy snapped back.
“Just look at my arms! Even my body’s smaller than theirs. No matter how much I train, I can’t bulk up. How can I get stronger with a body like this!?”
Seeing him clench his teeth and fists, Yuuki responded in puzzlement.
“Eh? Aren’t there lots of ways?”
“Use a weapon. Use magic. Use the terrain. Use tactics. The biggest thing you can do, use them thinking you’re weak against them. And taking on so many alone is just a bad call.”
The boy’s eyes opened wide after hearing her oh-so-obvious response—no, it actually was obvious for her.
“By weapons, you mean what you all use… that, that right there?”
The boy spoke, pointing at the stone sword at Yuuki’s waist.
“Isn’t using that cowardly?”
“Eh, why would it be?”
“Using something like that is like admitting you’re weak.”
I had to hold in my laughter after hearing Yuuki answer so honestly.
“I’m weak, so I improve.”
Humans were weak. Weaker than beasts, dragons, elves, lykoscentaurs, merfolk, and lizardmen. Overwhelmingly weak. Accepting that as natural, Yuuki puts in effort so that she can win. Not only for herself, either. For over five hundred years, the Swordsaints have inherited from each other in an unbroken line of succession.
“You are bigger than me, have more arms, have a tail, claws, and scales.”
Yuuki stood in front of the boy and compared his height to hers, showing him her skin against his.
“But if we fought, I’d definitely win. Even though I’m weak.”
“What was that?”
As expected, he didn’t overlook that.
“Want to give it a shot?”
Calm and composed, Yuuki provoked the now-flaring up youth.
“I don’t think you should…”
“Shut up! This shorty’s making fun of me and you’re wanting me to sit back!?”
Ignoring my advice, the youth shouted and struck toward Yuuki—
In the next instant, he was flying through the air.
He probably couldn’t figure out what just happened. Rolling a few times upon landing back on the ground, the boy was flustered. Yuuki used neither weapons nor magic. She just threw him by using his own momentum against him.
I’d only taught their family the rough concepts of the akido style of martial arts, but they managed to sublimate the skill splendidly through several centuries of trial and error. What an amazing clan.
“If you come to big brother’s school, you’ll get stronger, too.”
Yuuki reached her hand out to him. The boy didn’t make eye contact with her… but he took her hand.
“Ouch—owowow ow, ow, ow, ow! It’s gonna break!”
Turning his hand upside down, Yuuki studied his joints.
“Don’t worry! I haven’t broken it yet.”
“Yet!? What do you mean by yet!?”
I knelt next to the struggling youth.
“Let’s see… your name is?”
“Why’re you… Shig! I’m Shig! I said it, stop!”
When Yuuki put some force into it, the youth… that is, Shig confessed his name in a panic.
“If you believe that you’re ready to use any means to become stronger, I believe that I could be of help to you.”
Shig looked at me in disbelief. Well, I don’t look strong at all, so it’s a natural enough reaction.
“Yeah. At least, to the extent that you could defeat someone at my level.”
“… I think I could do that right now though?”
Seeing my smile, Shig responded.
“Then how about you come to the school if big brother wins?”
Letting go of his hand, Yuuki gave him an offer.
“And if I win?”
“Eh, that’s definitely not happening, so don’t worry about that.”
Yuuki answered Shig, who was holding his arm Yuuki had investigated so thoroughly, without any ill-will. She wasn’t intending to provoke him at all, she was just being frank.
“Just you wait and see!”
But as a result of that, Shig held up his fists and turned to me.
“Ah, yeah… well then.”
I kind of feel like I should apologize for swindling him. Thinking that, I returned to my original form.
The coat that had covered me fluttering and changing as it clung to my skin, the hems where the coat split rose up to the sides and turned into wings. My limbs swelled up as talons grew from my hands and feet. Turning into a muzzle, my mouth extended up my cheek as my teeth reformed into fangs.
Staring at me with his eyes wide open, he looked to be caught in a daze due to my transformation.
“Come at me.”
When I breathed out flames with my provocation after having turned entirely back into a dragon, Shig was overwhelmed and fell backwards as though shoved by the pressure of my words.
“A… a dragon——!!”
“Yep, I’m a dragon. Sorry about that.”
I apologized to him.
Screaming, Shig jumped to his feet and started running.
However, unexpectedly, he didn’t run away. He ran straight at me.
Raising his fists, he threw a punch at my muzzle as strong as he could.
I let it connect and he hit my nose.
Holding his hand against his stomach, he writhed in pain.
“Be careful now. I’m pretty hard.”
Thankfully, his injury didn’t seem to be too bad. It’s probably a good thing that he’s not too strong, hitting me with a herculean strength would just end up hurting your fist.
However, Shig’s fighting spirit didn’t abate as he aimed at my legs over and over. He struck with his palms, his feet, his tail, even with his teeth. His attacks were all-out, but they didn’t even feel like mosquito bites to me.
It had been over ten minutes and he was more than exhausted, but he was still keeping at it. Bringing my face down near his as he bit at my toes, I spoke his name.
“Why… why, why…!”
Still biting at my toes, he shed tears and glared at me. I’m sure this is an incredibly mortifying experience to him.
“You are very strong.”
Not just Shig’s, but even Yuuki’s eyes opened wide when I said that.
“I was mistaken. You are strong.”
Seeing him continue to bite down with all the strength his jaw could muster, he likely thought I was being sarcastic.
“There are not many among even the lizardmen who would so boldly face a dragon. Even when Beol had fought me, he was double your size and I was half mine.”
However, as I continued to speak, he stopped biting down on me.
Challenging a creature much larger than yourself is a truly frightening thing. Especially if you know that it is stronger than yourself.
Even Yuuki was unable to challenge Beol, someone she knew would defeat her.
“Your strength of spirit is rare. It is just that your body and skill cannot match up to it.”
The polar opposite of me. While thinking that, I returned to my human form and knelt in front of him, bringing my eyes to his.
“I believe that I can help you if you come with us.”
“… Enough to defeat you?”
Shig looked straight at me, his eyes tinged with both doubt and hope.
“Yeah. Defeating me is pretty simple.”
I was speaking honestly, but the doubt in Shig’s eyes strengthened.
“… Alright. I have my doubts, but… I’ll believe in what you’re saying, at least a bit.”
But he just sighed and chose to believe.