The First Step
It’s said that everything that can go wrong will go wrong on your first try,
but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen again the second time.
“Here are our three exchange students. Luka, Rin, and Shig.”
Finished with the necessary arrangements, the three exchange students all came to Scarlet.
The lykoscentaur girl who came with a lot of luggage due to her worrywart father, Luka.
The young mermaid who’d already wrecked three wheelchairs in her excitement, Rin.
The lizardman youth who left his home with just the clothes on his back, Shig.
“… They’re all kids though?”
Looking at the three in turn, Nina voiced her dissatisfaction.
“That just means they have promise. Besides, I have another reason.”
Half-suspicious, Nina sent me a look
“We’ll eventually be trading with where each of them are from… I believe that it will be mutually beneficial.”
The mermaids can easily catch fish from the sea, so if we can trade for the meat they can’t eat themselves with fruits and vegetables, even the lykos children too small to hunt will be able to help out their families. The promises of that working out with the lizardmen… but it’s not like they just live and eat, so we should have at least a chance at making the negotiations work out.
“Our first order of business here is getting the villagers all used to the way they look. They shouldn’t be too scary since they’re children, they’re easy to get along with.”
Unlike how the elves look practically the same as humans, all three of our exchange students are visibly different. They’re used to seeing me in my dragon form, so I don’t think they’ll be too resistant, but they still may find them strange. I’m hoping to remove as much of their racial discrimination as possible.
“Hmph, it all sounds a bit forced to me, but sure. Why not.”
I was honestly surprised at how interested Nina sounded. It’s true that what I said is how I really feel, but I only thought of it after I decided to bring Rin. The lizardmen had no one that would come other than Shig, so it’s just a coincidence that all of them are children.
“At any rate! I thought this would be a good opportunity for Violet and these three greet each other as our Scarlet Magic Academy’s first ever exchange students and show them around.”
Clearing my throat, I changed the mood and spoke.
“I look forward to learning more about all of you.”
“Ah, umm, mmm, h-hello.”
Following Violet’s warm greeting, Rin answered back with her hands waving back and forth in the air. Luka lowered her head, timid.
“… I’m not here to make friends.”
But Shig merely said that, his mouth bent into a frown.
“Well aren’t you a cheeky one.”
Suddenly narrowing her eyes, Nina raised one of her thin eyebrows.
“What. I came here to become stronger. I won’t listen to what a weakling says. Or are you a dragon too?”
“No, she isn’t a dragon, but…”
“You’re coming with me.”
I tried to stop what was about to happen, but Nina just seized Shig by the neck and dragged him outside the classroom.
“Be careful, she’s stronger than a dragon… ah, looks like I was too slow. Oh well, then.”
I turned to the other three.
“He didn’t bring any luggage so we can help him later. Let’s go, I’ll show you to your rooms.”
I decided to entirely ignore the scream coming from outside.
＊ ＊ ＊
The next day.
“Well then. I’d like to start with our first lesson.”
Looking toward the four exchange students side-by-side in our newly-built small classroom, I began.
There are two major subjects taught in our school: general knowledge and magic.
For their general education, they will be taught the alphabet, words, and simple arithmetic with Scarlet’s other children. However, when it comes to magic, I decided to use another time slot to teach them because this is very experimental.
Nina’s attending this first attempt as an aide, but I’m the one that’ll be leading them. The general education lessons will be left in Nina and Violet’s hands.
“If you have any questions, raise your hand and let me know.”
We didn’t have any chairs or desks for them yet.
The reason for that is because I’ve been unable to prepare suitable furniture for anyone but Violet.
Setting aside Rin, who’s unable to move after getting off her wheelchair, Shig is unable to sit on a normal chair due to his tail getting in the way and I can’t even begin to imagine a chair that Luka could use comfortably with her four legs.
So, unfortunately for Violet, I had everyone but Rin sit on the floor as equals. Many of our students are unable to even write the alphabet yet, so it goes without saying that desks were unneeded.
“I have a question!”
I was lecturing on the basic fundamentals of magic. When I brought up the most important part, Rin shot her hand up.”
“What’s a name?”
But hearing a question I didn’t anticipate, I was taken by surprise.
“You don’t know even know something like that? You have a name, it’s Rin.”
Sounding just as surprised, Shig interjected.
“I know thaaat. I mean why is it Rin?”
“Why…? Because that’s what your parents named you, duh.”
Shig responded with a somewhat dampened vigor once Rin asked him a strangely philosophical question.
“Then you’d be Sleepybum if I called you that?”
“Of course not! And don’t give me such a weird name!”
Rin’s question left me at a loss for words.
“… So is the important part what is first first, then?”
“Nope. True names can be changed, after all.”
Nina responded to Violet’s confusion, her arms folded and a difficult expression on her face.
True, be it plants, minerals, or animals, humans have given everything names to wield with magic. On the other hand, it’s impossible for someone to reference another unless they have a true name they are aware of themselves. I haven’t even thought about that until now. Just what is the difference…?
Luka’s reserved question pulled me out of my thoughts and back into the lesson.
“At any rate, you know how you can more or less understand that things have names and recognize them by it even if you don’t know what the basis behind what having a name is?”
Everyone nodded when I asked that, causing me to feel a little relieved.
“What’s important is that you know something’s name. If you don’t know its name, you will be unable to use it with magic.”
I stuck my index finger upright.
“Fire, my friend. Please ignite a very, very small flame on my fingertip.”
A tiny, candlelight-like flame ignited at the end of my finger once I chanted the incantation.
I’d get a flame large enough to burn down the entire building when I used fire spells in the past, but I’ve made advances in magic these past five hundred years. Not just in how much the incantation can influence its strength, but in my suppression over its output as well.
That I have to use two verses for something as small as a candle’s flame is a bit sad, though.
“This is Fire. Fire is…”
“What kind of fire?”
Once I attempted to begin explaining as I recalled what I said when I first taught magic, Shig interrupted me with a question.
“What do you mean?”
“Fire to roast meat, fire to warm the body, fire that burns trees, there’s lots of kinds.”
Oh. Come to think of it, didn’t the lizardmen’s original language have many different ways to describe fire due to them living at the base of volcanoes?
“Is fire not simply fire?”
As I was thinking about how I should respond, Violet asked a question of her own.
“Hey, what is fire?”
Rin inclined her head to the side.
“Excuse me, umm, Mentor? There are different kinds of fire?”
Hearing Luka raise her hand and ask her question seriously, I was stumped on how to respond.
Each of them recognized fire differently, very different from one another.
Shig, a lizardman, grew up with fire as his ally, something so close to him that he had a way to refer to it for each of its uses. On the other hand, Rin, a mermaid born and raised in the ocean and who was on land for the first time, didn’t so much as know of fire’s existence at all.
As an elf who spent her life living in a forest, fire was akin to being the symbol of danger, the thing that could take the roof over her head away and ruin her surroundings. However, for Luka, a lykos who lived as a nomad in the grasslands, it was just a tool to cook with and warm up.
… Teaching all four of the exchange students at once may have been a mistake. When I tried to look to Nina for help, I found that she’d disappeared.
Sh-she ran away!?
“Teach me how to be stronger than fire.”
“I would prefer to go over something else.”
“Umm, uhh, I…”
“Hey! What’s this fire thing?”
There were only four students in all, but I couldn’t keep up with them in the least with them all talking at once.
I thought back to my very first pupil.
Ai. How patient and diligent she was, the ideal pupil.
She studied under my inexperienced teaching, never complaining.
How blessed was I for that?
It’s been five hundred years since and I’m only just now realizing.