Tate’s room was one which was rather unusual for a girl her age. Where one would normally find books, or sewing materials, or just cute, feminine objects in general, her room was littered with numerous pieces of metal, a number of forging tools, and grindstones for polishing. Next to the bed which was positioned directly opposite the door, a soot-covered, well-worn craftsman’s apron was strewn messily on the ground. A single window let in the last vestiges of daylight into the room, with a shade that could be drawn across it. Along the walls hung various different implements, all used for smithing in some way. Lily looked at the room and sighed in nostalgia. It was just like her own room, back in Azoria, woefully lacking in feminity but proudly displaying the tools of her trade. In one corner of the room, a number of unadorned shields were haphazardly stacked. They seemed perfectly serviceable to Lily, but she knew from her own unorganised pile of machinery that it was likely to be the resting place for failures.
Lily made herself at home, sitting in a chair next to the window, as Tate walked over to the door and closed it.
“Ah. Do you mind locking it?”
Iris’ interjection caused Tate to display a questioning gaze, but she complied, latching the door. Without saying anything, she walked over to her bed and sat on it, facing Lily. An awkward silence engulfed the two for several moments, before Lily spoke.
“…So, this is a nice room.”
“Eh? You think so? Dad always says it doesn’t look like a girl’s room though…”
“…Well that’s true…”
“Um, anyway, you said you wanted to do something in private?”
“Ah, yes. I wanted to confirm something. Iris?”
Iris, who had been standing quietly behind Lily, walked forward as she was called.
“Yes. Sorry Tate, this might hurt a little, but bear with it.”
“…Eh? Hurt? What? I- Nnn!”
Tate’s line of confused questioning was abruptly cut off as several strands of Iris’ hair shot out without warning and entered Tate’s right ear canal, shedding their organic appearance and returning to their chrome colour and texture. Tate’s expression changed from confusion, to pain, to apathy. Her irises flickered rapidly, cycling through colours before settling on a dull grey. She sat perfectly still, and spoke in a monotone voice.
“Auxillary command system override confirmed. Awaiting imprint authorisation from registered user.”
Lily turned to Iris expectantly.
“She needs you to prove that you authorised my override. She needs to receive your DNA.”
“What does that mean?”
“Basically, kiss her. On the lips.”
Feeling slightly perturbed at the sight of the usually lively girl looking so lifeless, Lily quickly walked over and touched her lips with Tate’s. She felt Tate’s tongue snaking into her own mouth, exploring around. After several seconds, Tate pulled away. She blinked several times, then tilted her head downwards in a deferential bow.
“Authorisation confirmed. Welcome, User.”
Lily turned to Iris again. She had no idea what Iris was doing, but she trusted Iris more than anything, so it was best to leave this to her.
“Terminal. State your Owner, Model, Designation, AI Type, Purpose, Function.”
“Acknowledged. Owner: Lily Voirgaire. Model: IW-PDFPHD0013-B. Designation: <<Tate>>. AI Type: AI-Organic Hybrid. Intelligent Weapon – Shield. Purpose: Protection and preservation of Owner, then the self. Function: Physical Defence, Magical Defence, Emotional Stabiliser, Counter Offense. Mana Compatible.”
“Elaborate on Function.”
“Acknowledged. Physical Defence: Using a physical medium, typically a shield, to protect Owner. I am further able to convert myself into a shield form, to be used as Owner desires. Magical Defence: Using mana to create barriers to protect Owner from physical or magical projectiles and interference. Emotional Stabiliser: I share emotional resonance with Owner. Based on emotional resonance and independent judgement, I am to keep Owner’s mental state in a healthy condition. Counter Offense: The use of the shield as a weapon is permissible if it does not conflict with primary function as the protection of Owner. I am able to use a shield as a melee blunt weapon.”
“Check Definition, <<Emotional Resonance>>.”
“Acknowledged. <<Emotional Resonance>> is an extension of the mana link serving as the imprint of Owner’s ownership. I constantly experience a lesser degree of the emotions which Owner experiences, and thus am able to form independent assessments of Owner’s emotional state, enabling me to carry out my function as an emotional stabiliser.”
Lily cocked an eyebrow. Tate felt a portion of her emotions? That would explain why the girl had been so quick at recognising and calming Lily’s state of mind, back at the Church. Lily frowned. She was not particularly fond of the idea of her emotions being read in this way, but she knew it was not Tate’s choice. She would just have to live with it, knowing her own emotions would affect this smiling girl. It would be a sad thing, if this lively girl were to change because of Lily’s emotions… Lily quietly resolved to keep her emotions more firmly in check.
“Anything else you want to know?”
Iris’ question brought Lily out of her thoughts.
“Ah, er… Nothing, for now, anyway. Oh! Wait! Is there any way we can make it so that if we have to do this a second time, you can make it painless for Tate?”
“Ah, yeah, sure.”
Iris turned back to Tate.
“Unit IW-PDFPHD0013-B, Designation <<Tate>>. System information access complete. Close Sysinfo, initialise override command registration. Two-step, Verbal Plus Confirmation.”
“Acknowledged. Override command registration initialised. Input first command of Two-Step verification.”
Lily sat in her chair with illusory question marks floating around over her head. Iris turned to her and smiled.
“I’m setting it up so that you can activate this mode without needing me to stick cables into her head. It’ll be two steps, a verbal command and an action. She’s asking for your verbal command.”
“…Ah. Er… Well… Tate, verbal command is [Tate System].”
“Acknowledged. [Tate System] Registered as verbal command. Please perform the action command.”
Lily thought for a bit. Something she wouldn’t normally do, and that would not generally be performed in a context where the first command was spoken.
“Uh… Make the action something like this.”
She leaned over and kissed Tate lightly on the lips.
“Acknowledged. Action recorded and registered. Configuration complete. Exit Terminal Command Override module?”
Iris responded to this last query.
“Affirmative. Switch priority to human command, <<Tate>>.”
Tate’s monotone voiced trailed off as her eyes sparked and shifted, returning to their original colour. She shook her head with a confused expression, looking around wildly.
“Huh? What was I – Eh? When did it get dark?”
Indeed, while they were speaking, though only a little time had passed, the daylight had completely vanished, cloaking the room in the serenity of the night. Tate did not seem to remember anything, causing her a large amount of confusion.
“…Aaaaanyway, what did you want to talk about?”
Lily smiled a little, heart heavy with the knowledge that she held great sway over how Tate acted and thought. She was not entirely sure if it was a responsibility she was ready to undertake, but for Tate’s sake, at least, she would try.
“Nothing. That was just an excuse to see your room.”
“What!? I knew it! You think it’s weird, don’t you!?”
“No, I think it’s pretty cute.”
Tate dove under her blankets and hid there, unsuccessfully attempting to hide a blushing demeanour.
“Well, we’ll get going for today. We’ll come pick you up on the morning when we leave, so make sure you do your preparations, okay?”
Tate did not reply, but instead nodded her head in asset under the blanket, causing her silhouetted outline to contort slightly.
Lily and Iris unlocked the door and left the smithy, waving a quick goodbye to a smiling Jeanne and a crying Jeremiah, before heading back to the inn.
A/N: And here we are. Chapter 50. I never thought I’d make it this far, or that this story would run for so long; it’s been close to half a year, and we’re still going strong! Plot-wise, I’d say we’re at about or slightly over the half way mark, and I hope that all of you, my dear readers, will stick it through with me to the end. I should also mention that this sort of marks a turning point, and the next few arcs will be far more Slice-of-Life oriented. So if you’re a reader that enjoys action and battle scenes above all else, I have to warn you that you might get a bit bored. Sure, there will still be bits of action, but for the most part it will be slow-paced and calm.