Traps hold two key concepts.
The first is to strike quickly. The second,
lower their guard until it happens.
—Soff the Trap Master
It could be called the origin of mankind’s wisdom.
There were other animals with their own languages. It was well known that some species of birds and mammals could communicate vocally, some apes could even speak to humans in sign language.
Humans were not the only animals capable of making use of tools. Chimpanzees could use twigs to fish out termites and crows were seen using stones to break particularly hard nuts open.
However, when it came to leaving behind concepts on a physical medium that could persist through time and space, only humans had managed to achieve that.
The knowledge of paper spread explosively, working to greatly advance human civilization.
Humans were able to document their experiences, leaving them behind for future generations.
—In other words, they recorded history.
In that meaning, this world was still prehistoric. Although it did have characters and words, mediums to render the text on were scarce… well, there were tons of creatures that could live effectively forever—me included—so perhaps it couldn’t be called a true prehistoric era.
The main writing medium used in Scarlet were thin wooden planks and papyrus.
Well, it wasn’t true papyrus, since we didn’t have the same plant that was used back in Ancient Egypt. It was merely something I based on my faint recollections of it and was just a paper-like thing I was able to make from plant I didn’t know the name of.
The planks were really easy to write on, but they were overly bulky.
And while papyrus was the opposite in terms of how light and easy to handle it was, it was also conversely just as poor in its durability.
They’d end up tearing as soon as you tried bending them, so they generally wouldn’t even last a decade even if you tried to preserve them. Their brittleness kept me from putting them together into booklets. The pages would just break apart, after all.
Most importantly, it simply took too long to produce. We had to cut the plant’s reeds as thinly as possible, submerge it in water for several days, carefully arrange the resulting strands one by one, then finally place a heavy weight over it all and let it dehydrate. All in all, it took somewhere in the range of one and two weeks.
That said, that might change if we start some more sophisticated research by establishing a university. Even with my improved mental facilities as a dragon, it was simply impossible to memorize all of what we knew, so we’d be making a university to leverage the power of researchers other than myself.
We needed a medium that wasn’t bulky, durable, and mass-producible.
“Rin, it went that way!”
“Kay, I got it!”
Which is why Rin and I were out hunting.
Nimbly taking a leather pouch out of her bag, Rin used her fingers to flick off its cover and open it.
Immediately after, a stream of water poured from its opening like a snake and captured the escaping cow.
Well, it wasn’t exactly a cow. It was a huge creature with three sharp horns—like spears, really.
I’d never actually seen a triceratops in the flesh, but I felt it looked more like one of those than a cow.
Given how strong and ferocious it appeared to be, it being captured by her water rope and swaying back and forth midair was a strange sight.
Still in my dragon form, I resolutely snapped the immobile tri-horned cow’s neck. Following the dull sound of its neck breaking, the tri-horned cow died. It had been a long time since I last went out hunting, but it appeared that my intuition hadn’t dulled.
“It’d be great if we can use this one.”
“Yep. It’s older, so maybe its hide will be soft and pliable enough?”
Our goal wasn’t its meat, but its hide. I was wanting to give making parchment a go.
Parchment wasn’t only ever made from sheep. Although its hide was generally the most suitable, it was also made from cow, pig, and deer hide.
Paper made from animal hides took longer to produce as well as a lot more effort, not to mention how it was harder to use than the paper modern humans had grown used to. That said, it lasted an overwhelmingly long time. There were several examples of it lasting over a millennia. Paper produced from a plant base could never match up to that.
To say why I was so familiar with this stuff, well, I’d actually made some in my previous life.
What did I use them for? For magic talismans, of course.
Talismans might be a bit too grandiose of a term, I suppose they were closer to good luck charms. Well, that was just me looking into various trivial things as I tried to find an example of magic back then. Making talismans with parchment was no exception.
I’d gone and bought a lamb, dismantled the corpse, removed its hair, and dried it all under the supervision of an artisan. Thanks to that, it came out nicely.
The problem was the materials. I tried to use the hides of the six-legged goats we’d domesticated at the village, but although they appeared to be white due to the color of their pelts, their skin was jet black.
After that failure, I tried it with another animal—the large horned deer. Its skin was a very deep blue. All of the other animals we’d looked at had vibrant skin, not one anything close to a light brown, let alone white. No matter how I thought about it, I couldn’t see the outcomes as being suitable for writing on. Due to that, I was flying around with Rin trying to find animals with white hides.
“… This one’s a failure, too. It has a pure amber color.”
After carefully shearing off the tri-horned cow’s fur with my claws, I let out a deep sigh upon seeing the vibrant colored skin that laid beneath. I thought it’d at least be usable since its skin seemed thin, but its skin was close to a deep orange, like a mandarin orange.
“Next is…. in that valley, I think? Umm, I think I saw some six-legged animal there.”
“Alright, let’s give it a go.”
I wasn’t able to use the tri-horned cow for its hide, but I didn’t want to abandon the corpse, so I put it on my back before unfurling my wings and taking off.
Rin did the same, spreading her waist fins out to fly in the sky. Once fully expanded, they practically didn’t move at all as she used he tail fin to virtually swim through the air.
Deers, goats, rabbits, boars, as well as various other sorts of animals. Although we’d tried all of the animals nearby that I knew of, none of them had white hide usable for parchment. None of them had too extreme of a fur color, but their hides were all immediately visible as vibrant once defurred.
Since there were many species I hadn’t seen yet, I just had to go and try them as well. Fortunately, since Rin had travelled all around for decades, she knew of a ton of flora and fauna I’d never seen.
“Oh, there! That one!”
“I see, it does have six legs, but…”
The downside was that it played havoc on my emotions. Seeing the beast Rin pointed out, all I could do was grumble.
The animal’s face was like a mix between a cat’s and a dog’s with two upper halves starting at the waist. It had two hind legs with four forelegs—two for each head, of course. It was like a creature straight out of Greek mythology, an orthrus.
It was true that it had six legs and all, but it was just too unexpected. I also held no doubt that it was just as ferocious as the tri-horned cow from before.
It also had a huge body, large enough that it could even probably eat Rin in two bites. Err, it had two mouths… so maybe in one bite?
“Can you stop it with water like you did earlier?”
“Hmmm, probably not?”
Going in circles in the sky, Rin and I set up a plan.
It’d be simple if all we had to do was take it down, but doing it in a way that left its hide intact was somewhat more troubling. We had to take them down without damaging the hide as much as possible, after all.
Upon seeing my current form, most animals would run away. It was the same even for these beasts. That said, there’s a definite chance—although small—that something could go wrong, so I wasn’t in my human form. I couldn’t just use Rin as a decoy either, though.
Capturing escaping animals without damaging them was many times more difficult than simply killing them.
“… Alright. Guess we’re doing this manually then. Make sure you run if things get dangerous.”
“Yep, leave it to me!”
Although I felt a slight uneasiness at seeing Rin answer so enthusiastically, she had managed to go through such a wonderful journey on her own. With me convincing myself it would be alright, we headed to reach our mutual positions.
A few moments later, Rin’s elated voice sounded in my ears. This sort of communication was incredibly useful during times like this.
[Ok. Here I go.]
I folded my wings and nose dived, landing directly in front of the two-headed beast—maybe I would just call go with calling it an orthrus?
The beast reacted swiftly. Not even trying to threaten me, the orthrus immediately turned tail and ran. The ravine we were in was enclosed on the left and right by the ravine’s walls. The only direction it could run was directly to where Rin was waiting.
Immediately following my shout, Rin placed her palms onto the ground. Lines of light sprung from her and travelled across the ground to connect to a magic formation that was prepared beforehand. Just as it did so, the surrounding ground rose to become a wall, confining the orthrus.
“Rin, behind you!”
I shouted a warning to Rin, who’d let her guard down in delight. There were two orthrus. The second one had snuck up behind Rin and tried to launch an attack on her. Even if I flew toward her at that point, I wouldn’t have made it. Its four forelegs, each with two sharp claws, approached her body.
“My scale, become armor!”
I cried out as quickly as I could. The scale I’d attached to her hair enlarged, spreading out to encompass her body like a coat of armor. Seeing the orthrus’ claws play off the red armor, I took my chance to soar toward it at full speed as I roared.
The moment the orthrus froze as it was hit by my roar, my claws tore through its necks.
Even if it was a huge beast for Rin, it was nothing but a small animal to me.
Both its heads soared through the air in parallel arcs, hitting the walls of the valley and splatting like tomatoes.
“Rin, are you alright!?”
Seeing that Rin was safe and sound inside the armor that appeared from my scale, I breathed out a sigh of relief. I’d been mostly in my human form these days, so a small spout of flame leaked from my throat as I did so.
“Sorry I didn’t notice it sooner. That gave me a scare.”
It was a spur of the moment thing, but that was the first time I’d tried to transform something not attached to me. I felt truly happy it worked out.
“Mentor, you really are a dragon, aren’t you.”
“Eh, you’re just now realizing that!?”
Hearing Rin say that with such a feeling of admiration actually shocked me.
Well, I guess even I don’t think of myself as a dragon…
I killed the orthrus we’d captured in the magic formation and put it on my back.
The two orthrus being there together may have not been by chance, they were probably watching out for one another.
Like one would hunt while the other kept watch.
The lines that had come from Rin’s palms and stretched to the magical formation were what she called magic conduits.
Well, they couldn’t do anything in particular on their own, but when linked to a magic formation, you could use magic to activate the magic formation from afar.
We were able to use them to make impromptu traps, but I never thought they’d fall for it so easily.
“Let’s go home for today.”
“Yeah… getting surprised like that tired me out, can I ride you on the way back Mentor?”
“Yeah, go for it.”
I stretched my head down, letting Rin onto my head, and flapped my wings and headed back to Scarlet.
Rin was always lively and never felt afraid of anything, but I guess even she could feel how close to dying she’d been.
—Moreover, the orthrus’ skin color was bright red, like a burning flame.