The warm sunlight lanced in through the slight opening in the window, casting its amiable glow on the bed upon which two figures were intertwined in a close embrace. As the gentle heat tickled her cheek, Lily stirred and opened her eyes, Iris’ own slowly shifting eyes the first thing that she saw.
“Good morning, Lily.”
“Good…Morning, Iris… did you not- oh, right, you don’t need sleep…”
Lily blinked slowly and shook her head, trying to clear the sleepiness from her mind, along with the resultant pink-tinted haze from what had occured the previous night. She brought her hand up and ran it through Iris’ soft hair.
“Thanks for the company. I… really needed it.”
“Of course. Remember, Lily. I’ll always be here for you.”
Lily closed her eyes and smiled, then slowly extracted herself from Iris’ naked skin and sat up, stretching while sounding off a large yawn. Turning away from Iris, she got up, off the bed, and began putting on her clothes. On the other side of the bed, Iris was doing the same. Without a word, the two girls got dressed. Then, when she was done, Lily glanced over her shoulder, catching sight of Iris, who was taking slightly longer due to the complex nature of her dress.
“Have you thought of getting simpler clothing? I mean, that dress looks great on you, but it also looks kind of difficult to move around in.”
“I attack from a range; I don’t need as many precision movements as you. This dress doesn’t really obstruct my regular movement, so it’s fine. I like this dress, and it’s pretty simple to put on too.”
Iris gave her reply while casually lacing up the back of her dress, a task usually left to another, by having her arms bent in an entirely unnatural angle, impossible for a human. Lily resisted the urge to comment on how she was likely the only girl in the world who describe find such attire as “simple to put on”, and instead chose to focus on admiring the speed and precision with which she was able to lace up the back of her blouse without a mirror or any kind of visual indication.
Once finished, Iris turned and walked over to the awaiting Lily, then the two began to make their way toward Tate’s home.
Tate was, surprisingly, waiting for them outside the shop, sitting on the floor and gorging herself on a sandwich. She perked up when she saw Lily approach, and quickly chomped down the rest of her meal, jumping to her feet.
“Morning, Tate. Did you wait long?”
“No, just came out of the house when you started heading in this direction.”
“…and…how did you know when we started moving?”
“I don’t know. Just got a feeling that you were heading here. Mom says it’s because I registered you as an owner, so I instinctively know where you are.”
Lily wasn’t entirely sure when this registration had occurred, but if she was indeed the same kind of existence as Iris, it meant that there was no chance of her harming Lily. A sudden thought occured to Lily. She pulled Iris aside and whispered,
“Is there any way to check for certain if I’m really her owner?”
Iris stood still for a moment, thought processes running.
“Mmm… If she’s what I think she is, then yes. But it’s a bit… unusual, so it’s best to do it in private.”
Lily considered for a moment. She supposed she could save the confirmation for a later date. It was hardly a top priority. She turned back to Tate, who was watching the two of them with imaginary question marks over her head.
“Well then, let’s get going.”
The three girls proceeded to the guild, where a sleepy-looking Kain slapped two large bags of coins on the table at the reception, accompanied by three pieces of paper. Lily skimmed through them; they were just acknowledgements of receipt.
“I’ll need each of you to sign these.”
Lily and Tate both quickly signed off on their slips, but Iris just stood staring at hers. Lily shot her a concerned look, whereupon she tugged on Lily’s sleeve. Lily bent over slightly and put her ear by Iris’ lips.
“…I can’t write. I haven’t learned the necessary motor function. And I have nothing in my database that teaches me how to write.”
Lily blinked. This was an unexpected development.
She turned to Kaine.
“Apologies, Mr. Hyssop. I forgot that my sister here never learned how to write. Is there any other way for her to do this acknowledgment?”
“You learned how to write, but your sister didn’t?”
Kaine arched his eyebrow in suspicion. Lily’s mind raced as she tried to find an excuse. She managed to settle on one, but it was entirely unconvincing.
“…Our parents are dead. We were seperated at birth. I was adopted into a loving family, but she was sold into slavery. I only met up with her again a few months ago, but I never thought to ask if she knew how to write, it’s my fault. Is there any other way…?”
The blatant suspicion on Kaine’s face deepened as Lily gave her lackluster excuse. Then he sighed and shook his head.
“Well… since you’re going to be managing her share, anyway, I guess it’s fine. Sign on her behalf.”
Lily gave an apologetic smile and signed across the line. Kaine grabbed the papers and waved them away, chasing them out of the guild, clinking bags of coins in their hands.
Iris looked aside, flushing red, as they exited the building.
Lily patted the shorter girl’s head in a gesture of comfort.
“Don’t worry about it, it’s not your fault. I’ll teach you how to write later, okay?”
Iris smiled and perked up. Tate, meanwhile, was looking wondrously at the heavy bag she held in her hands. Lily glanced over and spoke up.
“Your first time seeing so much money?”
Tate looked at Lily and beamed.
“Yep! Think about how many materials Dad’ll be able to buy! And Mom might be able to get that gloss enchantment she’s been thinking about!”
Lily’s lips turned up. Such a sweet girl, thinking of her parents first.
“Well, let’s head over to that famous weaponsmith first. No offence Tate, but I don’t think your father’s weapons are all that amazing.”
“Nn. Not at all. Dad’s weapons suck, he hates making them. He’s always going on and on about shields.”
Lily found herself slightly amused at the thought of a weaponsmith who disliked making weapons. Then again, the man had married a shield, so she supposed a bit of absurdity was to be expected from him.
After a bit of walking, she found herself at the weaponsmith. Unlike Tate’s home, which had a warm and welcoming atmosphere, the exterior for this shop felt cold and detached. The facade was painted black, with gold trim lining the door and windows. There were no weapons on display, and the wall on either side of the open door was a solid block of black, with slitted windows that disallowed outsiders to see the inside of the shop. Above the door, in gold lettering, were written the words “Premium Edge”, the name of the shop.
Tate looked clearly intimidated by the oppressive exterior, her face showing an expression of visible discomfort. Truth be told, even Lily felt a bit uneasy. She took a deep breath and opened the door.
A bell rang out as she stepped through the doorway, indicating her arrival. The shopkeeper, a well-dressed woman with perfectly white teeth and her hair tied up in a tight bun, wearing black pants and a black jacket over a collared white shirt, looked up and scrutinised the party coldly. Upon seeing the large bag of coins they carried, her countenance changed, becoming extremely friendly, with a warm smile. Lily was slightly taken aback by the shopkeeper’s sudden change, but she was far more surprised by the interior of the shop. While Jeremiah’s shop had been a disorganised mess with far too many shields, this shop was the exact opposite. It had no shelves or displays, but instead had only twelve swords, held in individual ornate glass cases, placed against the wall at regular intervals. On the carpeted floor at each case was a small pedastal, bearing the price of the weapon.
Lily walked right up to the display directly opposite the entrance, housing a rapier. Its silvery guard was inlaid with brilliant jewels and laced with white gold. Its blade was untarnished and gleaming, with small inscriptions running along its length. The sheath itself, displayed under the rapier, was as intricately decorated as the handle.
Her eyes glanced down, and she blanched at the price of the weapon. She might have a good amount of coin on hand, but eight million Pars was far too much for her to afford. Fearing that this price might be the standard for the rest of the shop, she turned away and began to walk to the door – and caught sight of the weapon on display next to the door. Her breath caught, her mind blanked out.
As if possessed by some strange force, she began to walk towards the sword. It was unlike any she had seen before. Or rather, it was exactly the same as one particular sword she had seen before. Without saying a word, she reached out and touched the glass display. The fingers touching the glass trembled, causing a soft buzzing sound to echo out as metal vibrated against glass. A tear threatened to leak from her eye. Her heart wrenched in pain.
Enclosed in the glass display was a stark black katana, its pitch-black sheath partially wrapped with a green rope.