As Lily’s leg swung towards Iris’ stomach, Iris jumped up and over Lily, landing on her other side.

“A little warning would have been nice!”

Despite her apparent indignation, Iris’ eyes shifted rapidly between various hues of orange. Laughing, Lily pushed off and closed the distance, levelling a jump kick at Iris.

“I wouldn’t give a thinking opponent any warning, so this is what you get!”

Iris again leapt over the leaping form of Lily, but this time, Lily fired the boosters in her legs to forcefully end the kick, somersaulting midair and firing the boosters downwards, propelling herself upwards at the mid-leap Iris.

Iris’ eyes widened as Lily rapidly approached. With a quick motion, she removed a weapon from a compartment on her legs. It was long and cylindrical in shape, about half a metre in length, with an ornate L-shaped handle, the same white colour as Iris’ body. She held one in each hand, and had the opening of one levelled at Lily. She squeezed the trigger, causing the weapon to release a projectile of concentrated mana, flying directly at Lily. Lily fired her boosters, adjusting her course of movement. Iris fired shot after shot at Lily, a barrage through which Lily weaved with ease.

Finally, Lily reached Iris’ position, and threw a quick, powerful punch. Iris, sensing the danger, knocked aside Lily’s arm with one of her weapons, causing Lily’s body to twist backwards. Making use of this position, Lily pivoted and released a powerful booster-propelled roundhouse kick, smashing into Iris, sending her plummeting to the ground, creating a massive cloud of dust. Lily landed lightly and called out.

“Well, Iris, that’s one point for me. You still want to continue?”

No response. The dust cloud was not settling, and Lily heard nothing from within the cloud.

“Iris? You okay? Iris!”

Worried, Lily hurriedly approached the cloud, calling out. At that moment, while she was approaching, a barrage of mana emerged from within the cloud. Taken by surprise, Lily jumped to the side, but was tagged by two of the shots, which stung slightly, but otherwise caused no harm.

Iris walked slowly out of the dust cloud, weapons levelled, grinning.

“Aaaand that’s two for me.”

“Uuuuu~ that’s cheating.”

Lily smiled wryly and dashed in to close the distance again, trying to get within striking distance. Iris responded by bombarding her with mana bullets, a situation that was strangely reminiscent of Lily’s battle with the huge machine. This time, however, Lily had the boosters, and that granted her much better mobility.

She quickly got into melee range.

Starting with a kick, Lily attempted to land herself another point, but Iris bent her body backwards, dodging the kick. She responded by bringing up one weapon to point at Lily’s chest, which Lily knocked aside with her arm. Taking advantage of Iris’ resultant loss of balance, Lily struck Iris’ chest with her other arm. Before she could follow up, however, Iris’ other weapon was inside her guard, preparing to fire, forcing her to disengage by throwing herself to the side with her boosters. Lily smiled triumphantly even as she avoided Iris’ barrage of mana, allowing Iris to create distance.

“Now it’s at 2 points for both of us.”

Iris’ eyes twinkled.

“Guess it’s time for me to get serious.”

“So just now you weren’t being serious?”

Lily raised a skeptical eyebrow. As she did, she saw Iris’ arms open up, revealing a circle of four half-conical protrusions around each arm. The protrusions’ circular ends were embedded into her arm near her wrist, tapering up the length of her arm to blend in with her arm near her elbow. Lily heard several whirring and clicking sounds, before eight long, flat, diamond-shaped panels, each about a metre long, emerged from her back and fanned out like wings. Iris grinned.


Lily stared at the new protrusions and the strange panels with a growing sense of foreboding. Then the tubes on Iris’ arms started firing beams of mana at Lily.

“Oh, you have got to be-”

Her complaint was prematurely silenced by an imminent need to dodge. The beams sliced through the air, incredibly fast, forcing Lily to switch her focus to defence, using her boosters to weave and duck midair. While keeping up the barrage of mana beams, Iris began firing from her handheld weapons in the same direction.

“Good work, Lily! You’re doing great!”

“You little…”

Iris’ taunting, playful voice accompanied a new salvo, causing Lily to grumble a bit. She was being overwhelmed. Finally, a gap in the attacks opened, and Lily quickly closed the distance.

Or she tried to. As she approached, four of the strange triangular panels surrounded her, firing mana bullets into her path of movement. As she stopped in her tracks and began to retreat away, the other four panels began pursuing her, joined promptly by the initial four. She zigzagged across the ground and air, utilising all directions of movement, but the panels relentlessly pursued her. All the while, Iris continued to fire at her, keeping up a constant stream of dangerous projectiles and mana beams.

“What do you think of these children? They’re my favorites. I call them <<Varia>>. They have a full range of motion, and I can control and power them by using my mana core. They even have an unmanned mode for when I can’t afford to control them manually. Aren’t they cute?”

Apparently Iris was confident enough to start talking about her cone-shaped weapons. Lily, being preoccupied with dodging and moving, could only grunt ineloquently.

Finally, she found an opening. By jumping upwards and over, the Varia were momentarily disoriented, allowing her to activate her own weapons.

“<<Extend: Bind – Machinejack>>!”

Thin, sturdy wires emerged from her fingertips, wrapping around the temporarily immobile Varia. Holding them in place, she sent her tendrils of magic along the wires, into the Varia, taking them and making them hers.

“Hey! I never said you could assimilate these kids!!! Stop that! Uuuuuu~”

Through her magical connection with the Varis, Iris felt control being slowly ceded to Lily, then finally the connection was cut.

Lily was unable to use the projectile functions of the Varis due to her lack of Iris’ high-output magic core, but with <<Extension>>, she was able to manouvre them as a part of her body.

Gathering them before her like a shield, she moved closer towards Iris. The attacks stoppped coming, and Iris started trying to aim around the shield of Varia, evidently reluctant to hit the Varia. When Lily finally got in striking range, Iris has her hands up in surrender, sighing in resignation. Lily reached up and flicked Iris’ forehead with her finger, causing the metal girl to rub her head and wince.

“Three points, my win.”

“Fine, fine. So that’s why you wanted to include those wires in your arms.”

The two girls smiled at each other, recognising the other. Lily relinquished her hold over the Varia, and watched Iris stroke one of them lovingly, before they receded into eight slots along her back, four on each side.

“Thanks for that, Iris. That was a good experience.”

“No problem, Lily. I had fun too. I do wish you had warned me before snagging my Varia though.”

Lily burst into laughter even as Iris frowned in discontent. Iris seemed to be exceptionally attached to those weapons.

Through the duel, Lily had gotten a rather good grasp on the basics of her and Iris’ combat potential. With that, she felt she was ready to escape from this place.

“Hey, Iris. You said you’ll follow me anywhere, right?”

“Yes, of course. It’s the least I could do after you saved me.”

“In that case… let’s go home.”

“Lead the way.”