Chapter 15: Adjusting and Learning
Waking up from a long slumber, Little Flame attempted to open her eyes to get rid of the warm darkness surrounding her. Trying to find the light, the tired girl slowly shook herself up from her drowsiness and began remembering the events of the previous day. She panicked thinking about her friend Eldrin, who had been very badly injured for her sake.
As she was getting up, she finally noticed the strangeness of her reconstructed body. Instead of scales covering her from head to toe, delicate skin was exposed to the bare air, and Little Flame also had a bit of trouble moving her new extremities due to their unusual form.
Strong sharp claws had changed into fingers and toes with pointed nails, giving her an uncomfortable sensation when she appraised her body with her new hands.
“Eldrin, where are you? I can’t find you! Are you alright?”
Little Flame’s voice sounded different from that of her old dragon form too, the soft and silvery voice had a more human note, appearing somewhat more childish and higher pitched.
A hand suddenly touched the hair on top of her head, a caress she had gotten used to in her former frame.
“It’s alright, I’m here and completely fine, nothing bad happened. Are you okay too?”
The familiar rubbing helped the panicked girl calm down and recalling what had exactly happened, to her but also to her companion. After Eldrin had collapsed, two sisters showed up … and offered help.
For a price.
That harsh realization struck her: there was nothing blocking her sight, her eyes were simply gone. The panic returned, stronger than before. Being sentenced to a life in darkness terrified Little Flame. Experiencing it firsthand was a thousand times more frightening than she could have imagined. She was only eleven years old after all, a small helpless girl lost without her family.
She focused on the feeling of the blanket scraping on her skin and remaining scales, and mostly on the warmth, the residual one of the bed, and that of Eldrin’s wrinkled hand on her head.
The old elf being there and just providing his silent support soothed Little Flame’s exacerbated emotions, she relaxed and stopped from losing herself in that petrifying new world.
Sacrificing something like an eye wasn’t that much compared to saving the life of the very first friend she ever made, even more so after he got a life-threatening injury by protecting her from harm.
“Is something wrong? Does your body hurt? Why aren’t you answering me?”
The concern and care in Eldrin’s voice reassured Little Flame and a single tear ran down from her closed left eye.
“Everything is alright if you’re fine, I was so scared that I’d never get to see you again, Eldrin”
Hugging the surprised elf, she couldn’t think that abandoning a precious organ of hers had cost her too much, or regret her decision one bit.
The loss of one sense amplified the perception of the other ones, and as the old elf was returning the embrace, she felt as if the rough material of his robe wasn’t the usual soft sky-blue piece of clothing he had been wearing most of the time.
“There’s truly nothing wrong with me, so there’s no need to cry. See, I’m all healed up.”
The remark provoked a small tinge of pain since she couldn’t see for herself whether the elf was really alright or not, but from his tone he should be telling the truth; Little Flame just continued to hold him tightly, burying her eyes in his robe, hiding them from his point of view to enjoy a moment of peace a short while longer, preventing him from spotting the obviously damaged limbs.
Eldrin must have had noticed her closed eyes when they separated from each other, because he went on to question her about it directly afterwards.
“Did something happen to your eyes? I thought you were completely healed by the two from before?”
Little Flame detected the way he had he avoided talking about Gabriel and Bael, but couldn’t figure out why the elf wouldn’t want to mention their saviours.
“Yes, Gabriel healed me all up. It’s nothing really …”
Even if the loss of her eye was done voluntarily, the blind girl wished to hide her condition from her friend.
I don’t want to worry him any more than he already is.
“Apparently my eyes can’t be healed right away, she explained to me why but I couldn’t quite understand … it had something to do with a curse on the claws of an enemy that died resentfully, it can only heal on its own. But it’s not that bad, really, I can still smell you and sense where you are! So this is nothing!”
The hectic speech gave off a pleading feel, and was accompanied by frantic hand gestures; Eldrin chose not to question her further on that curse story she had made up.
What Little Flame couldn’t see was the shock and disbelief on the elf’s face, who had seen through her lie right away, and made the connection with the trade the goddess of death Bael had mentioned.
“Don’t worry, I’ll help you out as much as I can, and you can of course stay here to heal as long as you need. Rather than that, is your body alright? And why did your form change?”
Happy to evade the topic of her eyes, Little Flame readily replied to his questions.
“I don’t actually know why my body changed, the kind sisters only pointed out that an energy had transformed me. There is no pain, only some discomfort since I’m used to have claws and dragon limbs. But speaking words is much easier now! I feel like a completely new being.”
At this point Little Flame’s stomach forced itself into the conversation by emitting a loud rumble. As she was covering the origin of the loud sound, Eldrin simply laughed.
“You must be hungry, you slept for almost a complete day after all, I was quite worried. Stay in the bed a little longer, I’ll make something to eat and bring it upstairs.”
Being left alone in the shadows allowed the now-awoken girl to carry on her inspection of the changes in her body. She still had four limbs, a tail and wings, but the horns she grew in the last year were gone and all of her extremities had a different shape.
Lying on her back, Little Flame held one of the new ‘paws’ in front of her face, like she would have to closely inspect it if she was still been able to see.
The thought that someone out there was there for her reassured the young girl, and the twilight surrounding her didn’t seem as hostile anymore.
Focusing on the right hand hovering in the air above her face, she tried to imagine how the new limb would look like based on its movements and the examination she had done with the other hand.
After several attempts and experiences, Little Flame gradually became familiar with her new body. Stretching each limb, she concentrated on the motion created by bending and stretching individually fingers, the elbows and the knees. Moving them felt rather mundane, she didn’t have to relearn their use, only to get accustomed to their new forms.
The smell of meat tickled Little Flame’s nose, unbeknownst to her quite some time had passed since Eldrin had left the room and started cooking a meal to sate the empty stomach of the transformed dragon.
He said I should stay here … but I need to get used to this faster.
The blind girl relied on her memory and instincts to navigate through the room, following the airflow towards the open door, and then to the delicious smell from downstairs. Fortunately she still possessed beast senses even though her body had changed, she only bumped into furnitures a few times, partly because she was unaccustomed to her humanoid body.
Based on the layout, she had been sleeping in Eldrin’s chamber and was now heading through the living room.
Conquering the stairs at the end of the corridor proved itself to be a hard task, since each step appeared like a short fall into nothingness.
As a dragon on the verge of breaking into the fifth aura rank, Little Flame would have had no issues jumping down the stairs and landing on the ground, not even a single scale would have taken a scratch from such a minor tumble.
Yet at the moment things had taken a different course.
Shortly after she had woken up, her body examination had included a check of her aura and mana.
But not even a single shred of either was left in the blind girl’s body, something that had never happened when she still had her dragon form.
Whenever Little Flame had used up her mana or aura through a [Dark Flame Breath] and was unable to cast any more enhancements or breaths, a small amount of energy remained in her body, she was just unable to utilise it.
Currently however, only the tiniest amount lingered, which didn’t even qualify for the first rank in both categories, decreasing her physical ability and mental fortitude.
Placing her left hand on the wall, she bravely continued her descent, following the smooth grain of the wood.
Arriving at the bottom of the stairs Little Flame stumbled for a second, expecting another step that wasn’t there. Putting one hand on the wall again, she advanced through the lobby into the kitchen.
Hearing the familiar sounds of Eldrin working in the kitchen to prepare a meal from one of the many pieces of meat Little Flame had hunted before cheered her up even further.
Though walking and navigating through the darkness was still pretty tricky, the discovery that her other senses had gotten sharper as a result came as a great relief.
The blind girl managed to get a good grasp of the elf’s location based on his smell, different from the scent of frying meat, a note of wet leaves and earth.
Eldrin was softly humming a tune while working, the harmony seemed sweet, yet sad.
I wonder if that song has a name. The [Water Nymph] Lynn sometimes sang for us too …
Unsure on how to approach the elf after having disregarded his advice to stay in bed, she silently stood in the door frame and focused on the things she could perceive.
Aside from Eldrin’s familiar scent, the blind girl was able to smell the spices used to season the meat, the fruits Eldrin liked to collect during his walks through the forest, the slight odor of fire mana from the magic tool the elf used to cook and had poured mana inside, and a sparse stench from the unwashed dishes left on the counter.
Besides, the frizzling of the pan created a pleasant sound.
Aside from the noise of Eldrin in the kitchen, Little Flame was also listening to the [Sapphire Cows] mooing in front of the house as they grazed, and the song of birds chirping around the clearing.
With the wind softly whispering a tune, the area was as peaceful as it could be.
Lost in the tranquil scene, she didn’t detect the soft footsteps on the floor above her, and only when the two steps’ sources indulged in coming down and descended the stairs did the blind girl heard them.
Turning around hastily, she shouted at the unknown presences.
Alarmed by Little Flame’s scream, Eldrin left the kitchen and arrived behind her back, his presence stopping to shield her from the two intruders.
“Oh, it’s just the two of you. I’m sorry, it seems my granddaughter got scared.”
The little girl didn’t know the word granddaughter before, but it seemed that the elf knew the two trespassers.
“We’re sorry Sir Eldrin, we didn’t mean to.”
Reassured by the calm demeanor his friend was displaying, she waited silently for an explanation, but soon got disappointed.
“Please go ahead and wait at the table. I’ll bring breakfast in a second and introduce you to each other.”
Before Little Flame had a chance to think it through, she was already hugging Eldrin’s back, hiding her small frame from the eyes of the unknown party. She hated the fact that the elf wasn’t there only for her, and unconsciously wanted to be spoiled more before considering the possibility of someone else invading their life.
I wonder if granddaughter means friend.
Staying silently behind the old man, the capricious kid waited for him to speak up and tell her about the two persons who had appeared suddenly, while he was trying to finish the preparations for the meal.
“Let’s go Little Flame, I think I have an idea on what to tell them.”
Taking his hand into hers, the confused child held hands with the elf until he let go to carry plates to the table in the lobby.
She trusted her friend and was curious to see what was going to happen now.
Eldrin offered her one of the seats and placed a plate in front of her, instead of the usual stone dish on the ground, and handed her something.
From the cold feeling, it should be one of the metal tools she had seen him use to eat, yet before she could ask what to do with it, the elf spoke up again.
“Let’s start with the introductions. I’ve already said it, but this is my granddaughter Nisha. She was living with her mother before, but because her parents couldn’t safely protect her anymore after the loss of her eyesight, her mother asked me to let her stay with me.
And Nisha, these two are the maids we’ve rescued with Little Flame, I think you’ve met them before when they were recuperating in one of the guest rooms on the second floor.
They are sisters called Annabelle and Lydia.”
Is he calling me Nisha? And why does he act like Little Flame is someone else?
The two sisters politely introduced themselves, their voices reminded Little Flame of the [Water Nymph] back at the [Dragon’s Den], they were speaking with the same kind of meek undertone.
As they began eating breakfast, Eldrin further explained the situation, although Little Flame was too occupied with her struggle with the utensils supposedly used to consume the food to listen to him.
“Please don’t be offended if Nisha does something impolite, she grew up in the Wilderness so far. I’d be glad if you could get along with her and teach her many things.”
After the two maids agreed to do their best teaching Little Flame more about human habits, a rather dangerous question was raised by the younger sister Lydia.
“Is there a specific reason why Nisha doesn’t wear any clothes?”
As soon as the words left her mouth, her older sibling looked terrified and sent an apologetic glance to the old elf, who looked mortified too.
Help came from an unexpected source.
“Why do I have to wear clothes? Are clothes fun?”
Little Flame’s innocent inquiry defused the situation, and the older maid took the chance to explain the bewildered former dragon why clothes were important for a girl.
So confusing … and useless.
She only accepted to wear something after Eldrin told her that he would like to see her wear something pretty.
Throughout the day, Little Flame spent some time getting acquainted with the two women and asked them about their lives in the capital, and anything else that looked interesting. From their answers, she learned more and more words from the common language.
Eldrin used his free time to make daily necessities and appropriate apparel for the blind girl, fortunately he had learned basic sewing in his time as an adventurer, and later on from his wife, who had fairly high skills as a tailor though it was only a hobby for her ; and reused some of the robes made out of [Heavenly Silk] to create some simple sun dresses.
At first the blind girl acted shy with the two unknown persons, still afraid because of her previous encounter with humans and elves – aside from Eldrin – but soon warmed up enough to ask them to stop calling her ‘Miss Nisha’, after being explained the concept of honorary titles.
She learned a lot about her new body throughout the day, especially after one especially embarrassing episode when the maids had to accompany the blind girl to the toilet when she had a certain issue and no idea how to resolve it. Overall the two maids were adding a certain liveliness in the house.
In the evening, the four of them took a light supper, and Little Flame retired together with Eldrin.
Spending the day without the elf made the blind girl miss him, though Annabelle and Lydia were fun to be around and taught her a lot, they couldn’t replace Eldrin in the end.
“I’ve got a question Eldrin.”
Stripping off the yellow sundress he had given her, she threw herself onto the bed and wrapped her new body in her own blanket. After the incident with the [Bloody World Hellhound] she had decided to never again leave the old elf alone, and had asked him to fetch her blanket from the guest room.
“What is it?”
He sounds tired. Must have been a long day for him.
“Why did you call me Nisha, and not Little Flame?”
The question took the elf by surprise, he had expected the talk to go in a different direction.
After thinking for a second, he replied.
“It’s a bit hard for me to see you as the dragon you were, and the name Little Flame is linked with your previous shape for me. Now that you’re looking like me, an elf, I thought I’d call you by a new name.
It would also help to avoid people noticing that you’re a dragon, a name like Little Flame is fairly uncommon after all.”
The explanation convinced Little Flame, and the idea to have a name gifted to her by Eldrin didn’t seem too bad.
“Can you tell me where my name comes from?”
Smiling sadly, Eldrin finished the maintenance of his pocket watch and faced the girl, who couldn’t see the tears in his eyes.
“Sure. Nisha means Night in the elven language, and I’ve always admired your black and red scales. I thought of you like a flame in the night, and since you already have a name for the fire, I figured being called Night would fit you.
Do you like the name Nisha?”
Lying down besides her, he patted her head like he had done many times before.
“I do! Thank you very much! In the future, I’ll call myself Nisha too.”
And I’ll treasure that name forever.