Chapter 23 – “Preluding Destiny”
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A few years had gone by in an instant.
By now I think I'm probably more like a teen dragon, I should hope I'm not still a baby or something, it's going to get hard to comfortably interact with everyone if I get too much bigger than this.

Could it be selfish of me to hate transformation so much?
The other kids seem to like me better this way anyway, since I'm always letting them slide down my wings.

I also haven't let this slip to anyone, but at some point I realized it actually felt good when they tried to pet me. They just never stop reaching for my vulnerable spots.
My dignity wasn't strong enough to fight it off.

Raine visited regularly but I wasn't really learning much anymore, so I wondered why she kept coming back.
Then I finally decided to ask.

Before she left this time, I asked why she was still coming here.

"You're a great source of side income." She answered.

"What? Income? What income?" I mumbled in a confused daze.

"It's not easy to get detailed drawings of a dragon, and you have a bunch of kids around you that love drawing you, just look at these!" Raine responds while holding up a couple pieces of paper with me drawn onto them. "All I have to do is give them the tools and they draw up money in the form of paper!"
So that's where they were getting all that paper from...

"Is that a flower on my head?! Why are they drawing me with flowers on my head!" I complain.

"You can keep these ones, I don't think the pictures with flowers will sell as well..." She muses. "You look like you're starting to get bored here, why don't you come with me tomorrow to try out a dungeon? None of the monsters there should be a threat for you."

Do I really want to get into a fight of my own will? It is true I'm getting bored here, but am I that bored?
Who am I kidding? I'm extremely bored! People back home would never want to be isekai'd if they knew how boring it got when nothing was happening.

"Absolutely!" I agreed with what was probably too much eagerness than I should have.

"Alright, meet me outside the adventurer's guild tomorrow." She said before leaving.

I started wondering what a dungeon even was, since there was no common trope of levels or skills here, I had no idea how a dungeon would work or why they exist.
Hopefully I can get answers later, but I'm probably just curious, it doesn't actually matter to me how or why they exist.

--- Ria

After years of training these young mages, Raze was finally confident they could handle themselves alone.
All of them were probably the best she's had to teach up until now, except Rulio, who was pretty much just the average noble with a lot of Mana and too much arrogance.

Litz was said to have little Mana, but that wasn't very true according to what she witnessed, and he very much had the ideal mentality of any mage.

Ria didn't think much when using spells, but Raze gave up trying to get her to think too hard since she was just going to spam overpowered flame attacks anyway. You would think she was trying to impress a dragon!

Raze didn't like the idea of training kids to grow up knowing how to fight, but it wasn't her place to complain even if the country was probably going to use them to fight wars and not just defending the world.
Because of how magic worked, intellect and experience were what mattered most, and kids that haven't fully developed their thought patterns were the easiest way to cultivate strong mages.

It would be difficult to try and get an adult to develop a new magic affinity compared to children that can be guided to hold deeper lasting interest in something.
As for Ria, Raze couldn't even imagine what she could possibly be so enthralled with to have such an insane affinity with fire.
'Was she saved from a monster by a wildfire? Is she just a pyromaniac?' Raze thought.

Raze, Litz, Ria and Rulio were now in the nearby forest outside the city.

"All of you keep your eyes open! You never know what you're going to find out here." Raze warned them.

The trees remained silent as they made their way forward.
It wasn't until they got further in did something feel different.

"It's so cold, I hate being cold." Ria complains repeatedly.

"It's just a chill, get over it." Rulio scorns.

The group continued through the chill, not noticing any of the thin threads glistening in the air until Rulio hits one.

"Aaah! What is this?!" He screams in pain as he gets away from the thread he just ran into.

Raze takes a look at the glistening threads suspended in the air and knows exactly what is happening and starts cutting them down with her sword.
"Frostweave spiders! Don't get caught in their threads, they will freeze you to death if you let them catch you. They're coming, remember what you learned for monsters with restraining abilities!"

The spiders knew exactly where they were after their webbing was disturbed and destroyed, and furiously rushed towards the commotion at great speed.

Raze hid her presence before they could even see her, since this was to test the others ability in a real fight.

Rulio was the first to be directly attacked, but blew the attacking spider away with <Shockwave>.
The spider hit a tree with a thwack, but crawled up to a branch unharmed and tried to shoot more frozen thread to encircle him.

Rulio made a wall of wind to block the thread and cut the attacking monster in half with a slash of concentrated wind.
The spider fell apart and three more took its place.

Neither Rulio or Litz trusted Ria to fight in a way that wouldn't burn the forest to the ground, so they were ahead enough for the spiders to be three against two.
Raze didn't want Ria to raze the forest either.

One of the spiders was distracting Rulio so that the other two could gang up on Litz.
Rulio wasn't the brightest when it came to strategy, and was easily distracted.

Litz didn't expect much help from the bonehead in the first place, and was able to fight both at once by using magic barriers to focus on a single one at a time.
Now that he had the strength to put behind his plans, he was no longer completely helpless like he used to be.

There was just the one left that Rulio was getting angry at for dodging his attacks.

Litz laughed at him and trapped it in a box of Mana with ease.
"Come on, even an insect thinks you're predictable."

"Why, you! Take that back!" Rulio growls in anger and gets interrupted by a different voice.

"Hey, it's my turn!" Ria pushes by, "<Fireball>!"

"Nooooo!" Litz, Raze, and Rulio scream and try to interrupt, but the spider and the surroundings are already scorched.

"Everyone put out the fires before the forest burns! Even beasts that use fire regularly have more sense than this!" Raze commands quickly and they manage to contain the flames before they get too out of control.

Raze didn't want Ria to burn any more of the forest, and started leading them back.
Halfway to the exit of the forest, a commotion stirs.

*crash*

A tree breaks and is pushed aside in front of the group, revealing a giant reptilian body.

"A dragon- No,  a drake?! Everyone run!" Raze yells in terror.

Everyone was already reacting except the airhead they called Ria, who was just standing there while it growled.
"Dragons aren't bad, I'll be friends with it instead!" She squeaked like an idiot.

Raze grabbed her instead and ran off while she whined and fought to get back to it.
"No, you brainless fool! You would be dumb enough to try that on a dragon, but that's not a dragon! Drakes don't have intelligence!"

Raze hides behind some large foliage and hopes the beast leaves, knowing she wouldn't be able to outrun it with Ria even using magic.

"Don't worry! I know what to do!" Ria proclaims as the drake draws closer and detects them in hiding.

"What are you going to do? Flames won't do anything to that thing! What are you holding right now, is that a... scale?" Raze scorns.

"On the verge of danger, I beg my beloved Lava to lend me strength and defeat this monster, because that's what a sister should do; <Fire Lance>!" Ria shouts.

Raze is bewildered, both at why she has a scale and at her profoundly personalized chant that seemed to actually work, if the huge pole of compressed flames launched into the beasts chest was any indication.

In just a few moments the drake was slumped over on the ground.
It fortunately happened before the others got too far away to regroup, and they made it back to the city safely.

--- Lava

I was done for today's hunt.
The village hasn't had a food shortage for a long time since I arrived, mainly because of how easy it is for me to just go catch a bunch of food to bring back.
I can even cook it for them too.

It's been so long since they've had to starve that the children are less interested in the food and more in trying to get responses out of me.
They aren't as bad as Ria, though.
At least the adults can say thank you in a form other than trying to head pat me.

I felt a sudden drain from me and got dizzy for a few seconds, I wasn't sure what that was but I lost some Mana because of it.
I wonder what Ria is doing right now... I can't believe I'm actually missing her...

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