A Dragon’s Curiosity

Chapter 17

Chapter 17: Start of the Training

With the help of the three dragons, Nisha’s treasures were quickly relocated from the clearing to one of the empty storerooms of the corridor behind the kitchen.

The sight of a room filled to the brim with rare metals and ores, herbs, weapons, armors, mana and aura rich cultivation resources, crystals and gems, clothes and countless gold coins would drive anyone mad, yet the lizard siblings had thrown everything through the door without an ounce of care, they had no use for the treasures of their older sister.

Eldrin, who stood behind Nisha, only shook his head seeing the  amount of wealth that probably equaled that of a small kingdom, similarly not moved in the slightest.

“You’re also free to stay as long as you want to. As family of Little Flame, my humble abode is always open for you; being separated from your sibling must be hard.

I’m about to cook a meal, how about you stay with your sister, and I’ll bring it outside once it’s done.”

The blind girl suspected that the elf wanted to inform the two maids of the situation, although he probably wouldn’t tell them the whole truth.

Spending time with her three cute siblings would be a pleasure, so she agreed and followed the steps of the beasts who were making their way back towards the entrance.

It’s a wonder how fast one can get used to things. Yesterday I was bumping into every single piece of furniture, and today I can already navigate through the whole floor.

Arriving in front of the cottage without accident, Nisha sat down on Eldrin’s favourite spot, enjoying the sun rays falling on her face and engrossing herself with their warmth, waiting for her dear family to voice their concerns.

“Are you really sure you want to stay here, Little Flame? I’m sure you can live with us although your eyes are not healed.

And your current form is probably only temporary as well, so we can stay together.”

If only that was how it is.

Nisha only smiled at Little Stream who had made the offer, shaking her head slightly.

“It’s alright, I’m okay with staying here too. Remember, I originally wanted to find something to do, since we were all so busy.

The way it is now is a bit more complicated than what I had initially hoped for, but every day is fun and there’s so much to learn.

Rather than that, I’m feeling guilty to leave you alone like this.

The den is also under my responsibility after all.”

Although the small girl was convinced that her siblings had the strength required to survive and thrive in a world filled with predators, they would have to face some hardships in the future without her power.

Most likely some of the rather hostile groups of monsters in the area would come to challenge them for the ownership of the domain, attempting to chase the current inhabitants out.

Nonetheless, with the aid of the Fairy and Harpy Queens, the [Dragon’s Den] should be able to survive and hold their position.  Indeed, by relying on their friendly relations with them, the dragons would be able  to try to convince their neighbours to lend them a helping hand and claw.

“Truth to be told, we are in quite the situation …

The band of [White-Eyed Demon Leopards] in the nearby forest has been getting stronger recently, and invaded our borders. Little Breeze has been talking to the two queens, but I’m afraid we’ll have to make quite some concessions for them to agree to give us troops to defend against the invaders.”

Immediately after the yellow wyrm’s careless remark, the two remaining dragons shot a harsh glance in its direction and nudged its flanks .

However Nisha managed to understand their intentions because of the slight pause in the conversation and the rustling sound of their scales.

This is my fault too. I don’t really want to burden Eldrin more, but …

“I think I know someone who can help with that. But enough of these serious matters, how have you been? Are the [Grey Gnomes] done with the redecoration of the main hall, Little Terra?”

Indulging into small talk, the four of them happily spent time, until Eldrin came back to them, carrying several large meat and fried potatoes dishes, putting one of them in front of each dragon.

After a second trip, he carefully handed Nisha her own plate and cutlery, paying close attention to place every article directly into her hand so that she wouldn’t spill her food.

That kind of special effort ended up  creating a grateful smile on Nisha’s face, the elf was taking her into account and adapting to her impairment.

The meal was soon filled with chatters on various topics, Little Stream and Little Breeze had good impressions of the elf whose concern for their older sister showed through all of his actions, but Little Terra was feeling unsettled at the thought of leaving Little Flame instead of taking her back to the den, and only answered questions directly asked.

Compared to eating only meat, the potatoes were savored by both Nisha and the dragons, and Eldrin decided to hand a sack of seed potatoes to Little Stream, who would be in charge of cultivating a field of those near the den.

“Now, is there anything else you need? Did the meal suit your tastes?”

Gathering the dishes, Eldrin played the part of a perfect host, and inquired if his guests had any other wishes.

“Actually, there’s something I think you can help my siblings with. You see …”

Explaining the [Dragon’s Den]’s current predicament, Nisha detailed the political situation of her home to the elf, supplying the reports of her brethren with her personal impressions.

“However, the [White Eyed Demon Leopards] seem to have made a large scale breakthrough, they used to be only around the third rank. If they have the guts to threaten my den when I’m gone, they might have a strong leader or managed to massacre and consume a smaller conclave to reach the fourth rank on average…

Do you have any ideas about the situation, Eldrin?”

The old man thought silently for a while, then let out a sound of self-satisfaction as he found a way out of the deadlock.

“I know! Wait here for a second, I’m getting my carving tools. This will protect your family.”

Taking the statue of Little Flame out of one of the pockets of his grey robe, he placed it on the bench besides Nisha, leaving the other dragons staring at the item with curiosity.

She asked her siblings, who were awestruck at the details and finesse that had been invested into the figurines conception, as even the tiniest scales were reproduced, to describe the item to her.

As soon as the elf returned, Nisha questioned him.

“When did you make that? I’ve never seen you work on it.”

The elf chuckled for a second, picking up the wooden Little Flame and appraising it.

“I started it the day you went hunting for the spiders. After your … transformation, I had enough time on my hands and nothing to do besides watching over you while you were sleeping.

I thought it would always remind you of your dragon form ; truth to be told I really liked your scales and eyes, they made a good model.”

He handed the wooden figure to Nisha, who gauged it up and down with her hands. She couldn’t believe that this really was nothing but a block of wood, and not a small living and breathing dragon.

The scales and limbs felt exactly like a miniature of her, and even without her eyes she felt like she could see the familiar shape of a dragon.

Such a precious gift, just for me.

“Thank you. Thank you so much, Eldrin.”

Overwhelmed with happiness, the small girl thanked him in a low voice, almost too quiet to hear, but Eldrin only smiled and patted her head one more time as she curled her tail around the bench.

“Actually, this is going to be the thing we will use to protect your siblings.

By placing an enchantment on it, I can turn this statuette into a guardian.

Let’s see …”

The disturbing noise of metal scraping on wood resounded, the elf had resumed his work on the replica, carving fine lines onto the already etched wood.

The delicate technique didn’t leave any marks on the material, almost as if Eldrin wasn’t doing anything at all.

Yet his profound technique coupled with his experienced execution of hand movements resembled the performance of a highly skilled craftsman, wordlessly focused on a masterpiece.

Not even Little Terra, who was slowly abandoning its wariness towards the elf, dared to make a sound, as they watched together the process of the creation of an enchanted item; the blind girl only listened intently, feeling the pressure building up around Eldrin.

As the elf was just about to finish his product, a piercingly bright bird of blue fire suddenly appeared in Nisha’s dark world, sending a sharp pain through her head.

As she covered her eyes out of pain, Eldrin and the dragons hurriedly gathered around her.

“What happened? Are you hurt?”

The ache disappeared as fast as it had appeared. The bright light ceased burning and Nisha regained her bearing.

What was that?

“I’m alright, no need to worry … just my head hurt for a second as I saw a really bright bird of light at the moment when Eldrin enchanted the statuette.”

By shrinking back in reflex, she had missed the chance to observe the exact appearance of the being and didn’t want to make a big deal of the situation.

“Really, I’m completely fine. You don’t have to worry this much, please continue and explain the enchantment. Eldrin, you said it will protect our den? How does that work?”

The elf frowned, sensing that she hoped to play down her condition. He had a hunch regarding the origin of the sudden pain that had tormented  Nisha, as it was highly unusual to experience something like this during a normal enchantment process, but still possible.

“Alright, but we will talk again about this later.

Now, this enchantment is a curious thing. The spell that has been imprinted in this little dragon figurine has been developed after the discovery of an unique bird species.

The race is called [Amaranthine Mirage Bird] and innately grows up to be a beast of the sixth rank.

By wrapping  itself in its water mana, the originally small bird can appear as any monster it has seen before, imitating its shape and aura.

Although the [Illusion Transformation] spell derived from this bird isn’t quite as versatile, you can temporarily give life to this figurine and create a copy of Little Flame … at the sixth rank, the same rank as the spell.

Here, take it.”

Nisha heard the wooden object land on the grass in front of the dragons, the old elf was treating it like a disposable item, but the lizard siblings stared at it in awe.

Little Breeze prodded the small thing that might represent the solution to all their problems, before quickly storing it away within its soul space.

“Is it really alright to give us something so precious? This is quite powerful, isn’t it?”

Despite not refusing being gifted the magical item, Little Breeze couldn’t quite believe that the old elf would give away a costly artifact for free and inquired about it.

The spells or the bird in question were not familiar to either Nisha or the dragons, nonetheless they chose to give in to their eagerness to know more about the statue and requested  for more information regarding the obscure terms.

The explanation of the old elf didn’t dampen their excitement, but it shed more light on his reasons to offer it.

“Actually, it isn’t that much of a valuable gift.

The enchantment is fairly unpopular in the circles of mages, since the spell itself is only on the sixth rank. If you are more powerful, moving an item you have enchanted that’s only at the sixth step with your consciousness isn’t that much of an advantage besides deception, and the illusion can’t move too far from its mana supply.

On the other hand you can’t move when you’re channeling your mana in the artifact, so your body is vulnerable to attacks, and you need to be in the vicinity of the fight.

But in your case, I think the spell is perfect. The mirage should be able to maintain a physical form if two of you dragons use your mana to sustain the spell, while the third defends you inside the den.

At least defending your territory should be possible with a Little Flame at the sixth aura rank.”

The dragons didn’t understand the concept of ranks, yet the present would apparently solve all of their issues, which they quite appreciated.

After the meal and a quick explanation on ranks, mana and aura, Nisha’s siblings hesitatingly bid their farewell, only agreeing to go back without her at the promise that they would be able to visit her anytime; and the little girl handed them the remains of the hellhound, it should help raising their aura upon consumption.

She was reluctant to let her family leave like this, a tinge of regret manifesting itself within her chest.

However the blind girl also knew that her current condition didn’t allow her to help them out or live with them, and moving away from Eldrin was out of the question.

Sending them off with a smile, she sought the hand of the old elf to provide her with his support.

I wonder when I’ll see them again. If I actually see them again.

“You’re worried about them, aren’t you?”

Squeezing her hand as he was collecting the dishes, Eldrin seemed to have seen through her perfectly.

“Don’t torment yourself, they understand your choice.

And they can always come here and live with us if there’s no other choice, but I think they’ll do fine with a copy of Little Flame protecting your den.

In a way, you are watching over them right now.

So cheer up, alright?”

Feeling the evident concern of the elf, Nisha reprimanded herself for burdening him even more after he had saved her. She had promised herself that she definitely wouldn’t let him down, and would learn not only mana training, but also etiquette and any other lesson he would ask her to attend.

Trying to keep the emotions out of her voice, but still sniffling a little bit, Nisha turned around and pulled Eldrin in the direction of the house.

“I’m not sad … at all. You promised you would teach me how to use my mana, right? I’ll be strong in no time, you’ll see!

Come on, let’s go.”

Seeing the small child dragging  him along, Eldrin indulged in her wish to appear strong in front of him and followed, having read her like an open book.

Back inside the house, Annabelle and Lydia were already waiting for them, awaiting them in their usual mannerism as maids, although they had changed their ruined clothes for casual ones that the elf had found inside the storage rooms.

The complexion of the two sisters had constantly improved under the plentiful meals and the comfortable rest they had in the cottage, returning them to their former cute appearance, as they were granted things that had been denied from them under the tyranny of the noble’s party.

“Anna, Lydia, if you don’t mind, please take care of the [Sapphire Cows] and the [Ice Chickens]. Because of the … disturbance, we couldn’t go to them, I’m afraid they’ll get restless.

Once you’re done, come up in the living room, I’ll instruct you and Nisha together about properly training your mana, we’ll start already and I’ll fill you in once you’re done with taking care of the animals.

And don’t worry, there’s nothing dangerous out there, I’ll explain what happened later.”

Without saying anything, the two maids bowed in front of them and left to take care of the chores. Eldrin continued to follow Nisha, who was still hauling him along, and was soon surprised to see her mastery in navigation through the house without being able to see.

After being helped by the elf to steady her steps on the stairs, the blind girl finally let go of Eldrin’s arm to seat herself on one of the armchairs, patiently waiting for the lesson on mana.

“Let’s see … to start off, I’ll tell you something about the nature of mana itself. As a form of energy, it exists everywhere in nature and is available to everyone. There is a type of mana and aura for each element, and in total there are 7 elements. Fire, Water, Earth, Wind, Light, Darkness, Life and Death.”

Nisha raised an objection at this point.

“Isn’t that one too much?”

Unable to fight it, a small smile appeared on Eldrin’s face, proud to watch his student diligently following the lesson and actually thinking about the contents instead of blindly swallowing everything he claimed.

“Indeed, these are eight different types. However, Life and Death are like the two sides of a coin, and are therefore part of the same element. Both types of aura and mana of this branch of the magic system use the same energy, only applied differently.

But before we can identify whether or not you have an element affinity, although I have an idea which of them you possess, you need to reach the first rank in mana first.

Actually, the method for training in the ways of mana and aura don’t differentiate much at first, they only branch out later.”

Pausing for a moment, Eldrin gathered his thoughts, and looked at the blind girl, who was listening to his instructions.

“Usually an apprentice would be tasked to sit down, close his eyes and meditate to get a feeling of the mana surrounding us, and keep at it until he can grasp any type of energy and take it inside his body, slowly nurturing his power.

In your case however, you have already sensed, seen, and tasted mana. I’m sure you will be able to gather it quickly, and approach the first rank again.

Try to collect aura as well, with the thought of reinforcing your body, and aim for the first aura rank at the same time.

A magician doesn’t rely on his magical prowess alone, he needs to be nimble and quick on his feet, and have a plentiful range of chants to support himself and his party.

You can begin your meditation now, and even if it doesn’t work right away, you can try together with Annabelle and Lydia when they return.

If you make a breakthrough in either category, focus on the other path, I’ll be here and think of your future training.”

Reassured by the elf’s presence, Nisha drifted in her own world, searching for the power she had held before her transformation, smiling.

I will not let him down. Becoming a great mage is going to be my goal, I’ll catch up to him in no time.

As the elf had predicted, sensing the different energies that were swirling around her body without penetrating it proved itself as an easy task for the concentrating girl. Three energies in particular seemed to be flocking around her already, condensing themselves around her body and clinging to her skin, as if they were just waiting for her to absorb them.

Unsure on what to make of the suspicious energies, Nisha decided to allow them to infiltrate her for the moment, and examined all of the mana and aura she could perceive more closely, regardless of their proximity, a task easy enough in a house filled with artifacts, enchanted or inscribed.

True to Eldrin’s words, she recognized two of the energies lingering around her, the fiery red glow of the fire element and the black sheen of the dark element.

The third type was a mixed mess of grey, changing its hue constantly.

Beckoning the remaining white streaks of light, the blue waves of water, the yellow crumbs of earth and the emerald gales of air to surround her too, the aspiring magician worked hard on distributing the elements equally around her, regardless of mana and aura, and ingrained them into her essence.

From the magician’s point, she had only spent a short amount of time meditating before being able to move the energies in the room.

Dancing slowly, they congregated around her to the point of becoming visible to a mortal’s eyes, a feat that not even some of the churches worshipping the different gods of the seven elements were able to achieve, no doubt that this aurora of colours would perfectly supplement the development of the two maid sisters alongside the blind girl once they started their own practice.

While Nisha was lost in her inner self, delving deeper into her exploration of nature’s mysteries, Eldrin silently withdrew from the room, leaving her to uncover enigmas on her own.