Lily drummed her metal fingers along the tabletop impatiently. The sun had long since set, blanketing the exterior of the house in a curtain of darkness. The interior of the house, however, was still brightly lit, thanks to Lily’s self-sustaining magical lamps. However, while the room was well-illuminated, the food that lined the table was getting cold. Even so, none of the girls touched the food, waiting for the last member of their table. Lily bit her lip, worried.
“She’s late. She’s never been this late before. Maybe something happened…?”
Prei was three hours later than usual for her weekly return to their home. Ever since Victoria had granted her the position of guest instructor, Prei had been coming home at later times, spending more time training new soldiers. However, the latest she had ever arrived was forty five minutes past sunset, a mark which had passed a good two hours ago. Lily’s fingers increased in speed, drumming more quickly, betraying her worry. Iris, sitting at her usual place next to Lily, placed her own small hand over Lily’s rapidly moving fingers, calming her down. Lily turned her palm around and interlocked fingers with Iris, squeezing tight, clinging to the reassuring palm.
“Come on, Lily. You know Prei can take care of herself.”
A strong, quiet voice interjected, assuaging Lily’s fears. Over the last four years, Tate had grown into a fine woman: she now had the appearance of a beautiful young eighteen year old girl, equal to Lily in height. She had decided to grow out her hair, and it now swayed out behind her, its full waist-level length swaying about in the magical wind that breezed through the dining room, emitted by another of Lily’s inventions.
Despite the amount of physical labour Tate performed, the muscle mass of her body never seemed to increase past a specific point, such that she seemed to be a woman with a reasonably slender build despite her monstrous strength. Her facial features had also grown more defined, developing from the rounder face of a child into the sharper, more angular features of a young woman. It was a shame that her beauty was often marred by the fact that she was usually covered in soot, with noticeable eyebags resulting from late nights at the forge. Her obsession with work was such that Lily had recently forced her to stop accepting as many orders, much to her displeasure. Still, the mandatory rest allowed her to recover somewhat, and the signs of exhaustion were starting to fade away.
Lily nodded in response to Tate’s statement of reassurance. It was a fact that Prei had grown to be a very strong woman in her own right. With her accelerated physical development – a result of her heritage – Prei had already taken on the appearance of a full-fledged adult, her magnificent white wings becoming more lustrous, her lovely blue eyes becoming brighter and more vivid. Her dragon form, too, was larger than when she had first transformed; it was now closer to the size of her parent, the dragon which had bitten off Lily’s legs. In the four years since she joined the knights of Riasode, Prei had long since established a name for herself as the greatest combatant among their ranks, finally besting Victoria in combat several months ago. Victoria had promptly offered her the position of guest instructor, which Prei had accepted without hesitation.
Undoubtedly, when it came to combat, Prei was the most skilled of their little family. Even though she had never once defeated Lily in their sparring sessions, that was primarily due to the versatility and power of Lily’s ManaScript compilation abilities. Lily would surely lose in a contest of pure skill.
Yet, even knowing this, Lily could not help but worry. Even if Prei was an unparalleled fighter and battlemage, even if Prei was a dragon, the most powerful and feared of the creatures of legend, even if logic dictated that Prei was fine, Prei was still Lily’s precious daughter. She could not help but worry about the girl.
After another fifteen minutes of agonising waiting, Lily perked up as she felt an immense living creature rapidly approaching their home. She quickly pushed herself away from the table and walked out to the front of the house, preparing to receive her daughter. As she watched, the shadow that was approaching slowed down and began to shrink as it moved. As the descent ended, Prei landed neatly in her humanoid form, a short distance away from Lily.
Prei was taller than Lily now, with a slender build. She constantly wore the armor that Tate and Lily had created for her. It had been modified over the years to cover her entire body as Lily and Tate made more breakthroughs in their respective fields, including new features and options in the excessive manner which many creators were prone to. In its current form, it resembled full plate armor, complete with a visored helmet. As an added aesthetic touch, Lily and Tate had insisted that the plate armor should prominently feature draconic motifs, a condition that had caused Prei quite a deal of embarrassment. The plates were shaped like Prei’s scales, and the softer parts of the armor had the appearance and texture of the webbing on Prei’s wings. The left pauldron featured the upper half of a dragon’s head, and the helmet was also shaped to resemble the head of a dragon, with the visor a single screen of ManaScripted glass which rested in the dragon’s maw.
Prei raised a hand to the helmet, touching the area around her ear, causing the helmet to unfold itself and reform into a small, pendant-like object that rested atop her neckguard. Freed from its restraints, her shoulder-length white hair spilled out around her head, framing her delicate-looking face. Despite all her training, just like Tate, Prei’s muscles had stopped growing larger beyond a certain point. In Prei’s case, it was because her muscles were a dragon’s muscles – none of her training was taxing enough to force them to grow. Her features were notably softer than Tate’s, giving her a gentle impression. Were it not for the armor, she would have looked more like a dainty, sheltered princess than a combat-ready knight.
Lily walked up to her, a mixture of annoyance, relief and pride creeping into her voice.
“Welcome home. Is there a reason you’re this late?” Lily put on an expression of mock disapproval. “I swear, if it’s because of another girl again…”
Lily grinned as she waited for Prei to blush and deny it, waited for Prei to kiss her on the cheek in greeting as she always did, waited for Prei to join them at the dining table.
Prei did none of these. Lily’s eyes narrowed as she took Prei by the shoulders and carefully scrutinised her daughter’s face. Prei’s expression was not one of embarrassment. It was one of confusion and doubt. She looked into Lily’s eyes with a troubled gaze, then turned to regard Iris. She refocused on Lily again and shook her head vigorously, shaking away her uncertainty, donning a focused look.
“Sorry I’m so late, but a strange mana signature caught my attention while I was flying back. It’s a distance away, but let’s go. There’s something I think you should see, mother.”