Chapter 16: Reunion, Arrangement
With the rising sun, a new day began for Nisha, and although she couldn’t see the bright rays of light starting to fall through the window, she was able to feel their warmth heating up her face and the arm resting on top of the blanket.
The rest of her body was clinging to the sleeping elf, enjoying the gentle heat of his body and his earthen smell.
When they had prepared for the night the previous day, Eldrin had allowed the blind girl to sleep next to him, the bed was wide enough to accommodate both of them effortlessly, and Nisha had expressed the wish to stay with him.
Since the small girl was a grandchild to him, he had no issues with this request and had quickly fell asleep, mumbling about things he had to think of.
Nisha only caught a few words, ‘supplies’, ‘lessons’ and ‘responsibility’ before drowsing in slumber, near his calming presence.
She herself wasn’t quite sure when exactly she had moved over the course of the night to get closer to her friend, but since their current positions felt highly comfortable she didn’t stir and just enjoyed it for a while longer.
Unfortunately the elf must have felt her budge, seeing that he patted her head and addressed the little rascal pretending to be asleep.
“Come on, get up. We’re having a long day ahead of us.”
Pressing her head against the hand pampering her, Nisha wished to stay like this forever.
The old man allowed her to linger under his hand a bit more, recalling the events that had been leading to this situation.
Delaying the day’s chores, he asked her something that weighed on his mind, the reluctance audible in his voice.
“Do you regret the fact that your body changed? I mean, you were a dragon before, and now you lost your scales, you can’t go back to your siblings … and you lost your sight?
You look like you’re happy at the moment, but aren’t you going to resent me for stealing that from you?
I’d understand it if you did.”
Truthfully, the blind girl had considered this before.
She was left with small wings on her back and a tail a little lower as the only remains of her dragon form, as well as some of her scales, but they could qualify for decorative at best.
She had tried to fly the previous day, however the feeling was different from her large dragon wings and she couldn’t take off the ground.
The tail helped maintaining her balance, but it wasn’t as powerful as before and harder to move.
With only some patches of her skin covered by scales, she felt defenseless and vulnerable.
On top of that, being blind turned out to be a terrifying experience, something Nisha would never want anyone to go through.
She also didn’t aspire to be separated from her three siblings, as she loved them dearly.
However Eldrin only saw a second of reflection and indecisiveness on her small face, before she beamed a brilliant smile at him, revealing her sharp canines.
“I think it’s okay like this. You didn’t plan for things to turn out this way either, and I know that my family is strong, they wouldn’t lose to anyone while I’m away.
I might have lost my eyes another way, and here you’re helping me out, I could be in a much worse position.
We can’t do anything about it, so I’m just trying to make the best out of the situation, and being with a good friend like you isn’t bad at all.
I’m glad you’re here with me.”
And I’m sorry for lying to you. I had an opportunity and took it.
I don’t regret it one bit.
The sincere smile and bold response overwhelmed the old elf. A single tear rolled down his cheek.
“Is that so? I understand.”
Trying his hardest to not show how emotional he was, he took Nisha’s hand and helped her put on one of the new sundresses he had made for her, accommodating both the wings and the tail was hard, and donning it would require her some effort if she was to do it alone.
Once they were both finished with dressing, Eldrin gave her head one last pat and they headed downstairs together while conversing.
“Actually I’ve thought about things you might need to know in the future.
I’m not sure if the change your body went through is not permanent, but assuming it is, there are various things I can teach you to ease your life.
After observing the transformation, your mana and aura seem to have diminished by a very large margin.
Can you still gather either of these?”
Feeling happy that the elf paid so much attention to her, Nisha answered the inquiry honestly.
“Actually, I can’t do it like in the past. I just hunted and slept in my chamber, and the power would naturally gather. Now it feels different, and that method doesn’t work anymore.”
Having expected this somewhat, the elf nodded his head, albeit she couldn’t see it, and continued his speech.
“I think I know why, and I can probably even help you with it.
Many monsters naturally gather and refine aura unconsciously. Likewise, beasts have an innate way to amass mana.
On the contrary, humans, elves and what we call humanoid races need to cultivate energy.
Some believe this sets us apart from animals, and others that humanoid races have a really low absorption rate for natural mana and aura by birth.
I don’t know who is right or how it works, but having a method to train speeds up the process, even if there are still differences in each individual’s training speed.”
The small girl didn’t understand all of the words, but she was learning more of the adventurer’s tongue every day, so she was able to somehow figure out the general meaning.
“I can teach you the fundamentals to raise your aura and develop your mana, however you need to promise me that you will learn some other subjects too.
I’ll ask the two sisters to instruct you on how to act like a woman, and I’ll personally teach you some etiquette as well.
In return I will oversee your training in mana if you wish to go down that path, and answer any questions that you want to ask me.
Is that okay with you?”
As their conversation went on, though it consisted mainly of Eldrin talking and Nisha listening, they arrived in front of the cottage, where he suddenly stopped talking.
“What happened? Is there something wrong?”
Wondering why the elf had suddenly ceased talking and moving, the girl inquired after a few seconds.
“Nisha, I know this might sound strange … but do you happen to know why there is a heap of items lying around the place where we fought yesterday?”
Unsure what to make of this question, she asked him to describe the different things that were scattered on the ground.
“Let’s see. There are various ores, I can see some orichalcum … and there’s mithril! There are also exquisite fabrics and clothes, as well as some armors and weapons.
Some herbs, including rare plants …
By the gods, there are even a lot of gemstones!
It looks like a treasure trove, a lot of precious stuff is just spilled on the ground near the remains of the hellhound.”
Treasure … that’s it!
“I know! I brought these with me. In my soul space. But I can’t open it anymore, so I guess it just scattered around after I kinda lost myself.
Didn’t you see it when big sister Gabriel patched you up?”
The elf squeezed her hand harder for a second, embarrassed, he did indeed miss such an eye catching pile.
“I was worried about someone at the time, so I did actually fail to notice it.
But you said you carried all of this in your soul space? I can’t believe that’s true, there’s so much of it, at least a wagon’s worth … That’s not an amount someone of the fourth or even the seventh rank could carry.”
“No! I really said the truth! All of these are my treasures, I found them in my chamber before, and collected them.
I’m not a liar!”
So mean. He only wants to distract me from the fact that he didn’t detect them.
“What’s so bad about this?”
Truthfully, Nisha didn’t care too much about her material possessions, although she called them her treasures.
Collecting the different shiny metals and stones was fun, the soft fabrics were used to make her bed and the remainder happened to be stored away.
From talking to the elf and the two maids about their experiences, she had learned what weapons and armors were, and recalling their descriptions, the odd metal and leather things, as well as weird wood constructions that appeared from time to time were fitting these depictions.
“Well, I wasn’t saying you were a liar, it’s just really unbelievable. You’re seriously amazing.”
Getting praised by the elf made her particularly happy, and her cheeks stretched into a smile.
“But how are we going to move all of this? I think I might be able to fit a part into my own soul space, but going back and forth transporting all of these items? I don’t think I have enough mana.
Nisha, can you use your inner space right now?”
Eldrin was trying to uncover the secrets of the mysterious dragon’s new abilities attached to her different body, but just as she was about to answer, a shadow appeared out of thin air and two more broke through the boundaries of the clearing.
With a thunderous roar they declared their anger, rushing straight at Eldrin and Nisha.
The elf quickly summoned a defensive spell by channeling mana into a complex pattern shimmering right in front of him, including the small girl inside of course, however compared to pouring mana into an enchantment to activate a spell, casting it was taking longer, and Nisha used this chance to escape the [Water Rings].
Unlike the two maids, who were hiding inside the house because they feared another monster attack, the blind girl was understanding the earth-shaking cries, and she was familiar with their origins.
Waving her short arms and wagging her tail slightly, she ran towards the sources of the roars, answering with high-pitched yells of her own, calming the elf as he realised who the beasts were, despite being reluctant to lift his defenses.
“Little Terra! Little Stream! Little Breeze! I’m here!”
Answering their furious screams clearly had the desired effect, as the charging flashes of amber and aquamarine stumbled and fell down, while the emerald spark in the sky landed quite closely to the other two.
“Who are you! What have you done to Little Flame?!”
The low growls and barks didn’t make much sense to Eldrin, yet Nisha had no trouble interpreting her siblings’ words. Little Breeze took the initiative while the other lizards were attempting to recover from the shock of seeing a small creature calling out their names.
Similarly to speaking the common tongue as a dragon, answering in the draconic language she knew from birth was slightly harder as a half-elf now, and because of her piercing voice, the little girl sounded more like a princess posing as the dragon that had captured her than a black and scary animal, therefore she could comprehend her siblings’ hesitation and decided not to throw herself at her family, although she wanted nothing but that since she hadn’t seen them in a while.
“Done something to me? He didn’t do anything, he saved me! See, I’m Little Flame.”
Turning her back in the general direction of the three dragons, Nisha showed her small wings and scaled tail, the last remaining features of her original form, and a big smirk appeared on her face.
“Lies! You don’t look like our big sister at all! You’re not even a dragon. What have you villains done to her, the ground is soaked with her blood!”
While the concern the beasts demonstrated for their older sister moved Nisha, she couldn’t help but feel angry as they wouldn’t recognize her although she knew their names and shared their language.
Trusting the dragons to restrain themselves from suddenly lashing out at her, the blind girl walked forward with open arms until she stumbled upon Little Terra, who had positioned itself in front of the two others, she sensed the usual rock-like plated scales that covered the body of the yellow lizard, ignoring Eldrin who was calling her out, saying to be careful and to not carelessly approach them.
“Little Breeze, you stupid bird brain! Did hanging out with the two harpy sisters turn you into an idiot?! It’s me Little Flame, I just look different!”
That kind of outburst coupled with the hug to Little Terra did indeed remind them of the unpredictable behaviour of the red and black dragon, yet Nisha’s human-like form was completely alien to them, albeit her weird scales bore a certain resemblance to Little Flame’s.
“But you are completely different from Little Flame …
Can you prove that you are really her?”
Little Stream looked at her skeptically, while Little Terra was backing off from the girl’s embrace.
Feeling that they still didn’t recognize her even now, and didn’t trust her words, Nisha’s posture changed, she crossed her slender arms in front of her.
So that’s how you want to play.
“Then what about this: Do you remember, Little Terra, when we were just settling down in the cave? You caught a small rabbit and named it Clover instead of eating it. When I found out, you had me promise that I’d help you hide it from Little Breeze and Little Stream, because you wanted to raise it.
I had to argue with you for three whole days before convincing you that the rabbit was very scared of you and wanted to go back to its family. How’s that?”
The sudden attack caused Little Terra to wince with shyness as the embarrassing episode came to light, while the other two dragons roared with laughter at the previously unknown event of the usually level-headed golden wyrm.
“Don’t think I don’t have any stories about you two either.
Little Stream, do you remember when we all learned to hunt in autumn and you wet our bed of leaves once?
I helped you clean it all up and gather new leaves while the three of you were out hunting dinner.
And Little Breeze, I think you know what I have to tell about you. When we made contact with the harpy queen and you met her daughters-”
The deafening laughter died down at this point, and all of the dragons pointed their noses at the ground one after the other, shame flashing in their eyes.
Just as Nisha was about to reveal the humiliating past of the emerald beast, Little Breeze hurriedly interrupted.
“Please never bring that up again or tell anyone!
I understand, it’s really you, Little Flame, you just look … different.
You understand why we had trouble recognizing you?”
The blind girl would have liked to glare accusingly at her family to tease them a bit more, yet she couldn’t with her sealed eyelids, but their familiar presence and voices managed to cheer her up nonetheless.
“It’s alright, now come along so I can introduce you to my friend Eldrin and tell you what happened.”
The elf had abandoned his wariness at one point and had even started chuckling when he had seen the little girl subduing three fearsome dragons, yipping shrilling growls.
When she said his name in between two growls, he assumed that the content of that conversation in dragon language had shifted to him, and almost to confirm his suspicions, Nisha led her team in his direction.
After introducing her family to her friend, she retold them the sad events that had happened so far in the adventurer’s tongue, and asked Eldrin to provide them with some of his insights as well.
Being stared at by three more legendary creatures made Eldrin slightly nervous, but he discovered that unlike the former dragon living with him, her siblings didn’t have bewitching golden eyes, although they still had typical dragon-like slitted eyes.
Recounting the several developments that she had been through since she had left the [Dragon’s Den] didn’t take Nisha very long, as she didn’t mention the time spent with Eldrin, merely alluding to the meals they had had together.
When she reached the point in her narrative where the human party injured and hunted her, the green wyvern supplied a few corpses from its own soul space and explained that it had found the site of her first battle, asking its sister to verify if these cadavers were indeed those of the adventurers she had battled.
They were consternated when Nisha revealed that she had lost her eyes to a monster, and repeated her usual lie, that they would take a long time to heal.
I don’t want them to feel guilty after all.
Asking them to wait for the end of the story, she told them a bit about the fight that had taken place in front of the mansion, where she was heavily injured, but managed to rip the remaining enemies to shreds.
Once again the blind girl couldn’t report the truth to her family, and just disclosed that Eldrin had taken care of her after the loss of her eyesight, and that the changes in her body were caused by a strange spell she had casted on herself in the heat of the battle, with no ideas on how to reverse it.
To her surprise, the dragons didn’t question her weak reasoning and just nodded their heads, apparently having faith in their older sibling.
Done with her story, Nisha waited for the reactions and questions of the others, but curiously all of the lizards bowed their head before Eldrin, apologized for their rash behaviour and thanked him for protecting their sister.
The old elf didn’t know what to voice out of his numerous thoughts.
“Don’t worry about it. I personally had some grudges against nobility as well, and Ni- Little Flame is a very well-behaved girl.
She can stay here as long as she needs to recover, and maybe we can figure out a way to … restore her dragon form.”
Little Stream looked like it was about to complain, but the two animals on its side calmly accepted the statement, shutting down any objection.
Ah! I just remembered!
“Since you are already here, we had a problem just now.
As you can see, my treasures are scattered around here, I can’t keep them in my soul space anymore, and we need to move them out of the way.
Can you lend us a hand and carry them in your inner space to the storage room? I’ll show you where it is.”
Nisha didn’t waste any time, and grabbed Eldrin’s hand, having him lead the way to the place where she could store the items, while the elf dumbfoundedly stared at the spectacle of three mythical creatures crouching down and collecting each and every item diligently in their soul spaces.
“No one would ever believe me if I were to say that I used dragons as pack mules …”
The blind girl didn’t understand the meaning of pack mule, and tilted her head lightly.
“Did you say something just now?”
With an exasperated sigh Eldrin just replied to her not to worry about it and drove the queue of lizards towards one of the unused storage rooms, wondering how come the three fabulous beings had accepted to leave their sister to a suspicious elf so fast.
As they passed through the entrance, Nisha heard footsteps on the stairs at the end of the room, but in absence of evidence, she deduced that it had been her imagination’s work.
Back in their room, the two maids sat down on their respective beds and tried to catch their breath.
“I don’t believe it! They know each other.”
Annabelle was visibly excited after she had grasped a glimpse of real dragons, and eavesdropping on the conversation between their hosts and the attacking beasts had revealed them a lot.
Instead of being an elven child, the small girl that seemed so timid was actually a genuine dragon!
“But Anna … we can’t let them know that we overheard their talk. You know how valuable dragons are, they’ll never let us leave with that knowledge.”
The older maid scowled for a bit, looking at her younger sister.
“You’re always so fearful Lydia. When we heard those roars, you screamed and hid, thinking it was another monster attack. We’ll just continue to act respectfully like we did before, I don’t think they want to hurt us …”
Annabelle’s scolding didn’t seem to have any effect on her little sister, as she immediately pouted.
“I wasn’t the only one scared! If I remember it correctly, you were hugging me and trembling just as much as I did!”
Getting rebuked caused the older woman to blush, yet she didn’t reply anything.
“But you’re right. Let’s just pretend this didn’t happen and stay here, we’ll just see what happens.”