“Hm? No what?”
“No, you are not bringing four bags of luggage with you.”
“Ehhhhh, why? I can carry them, no problem!”
“It’s not about weight, they’re bulky.”
Lily and Iris were standing outside Tate’s house, with Lily’s arms crossed sternly as she glared down Tate. The half-shield girl was carrying two enormous luggage bags – each easily three-fourths her height – in each hand, in addition to a large rucksack slung on her back. In contrast, Iris had nothing on her except her impractically frilly clothes, and Lily had just the single satchel which Serena had gifted her, with Hina’s katana strapped to her side. Iris tilted her head in curiosity.
“What do you even have in those bags, anyway?”
“Uh… Important things. Yeah!”
Tate shifted her feet and averted her gaze. Upon seeing such suspicious behavior, Lily dashed forward faster than Tate could react and grabbed one of the bags.
Ignoring Tate’s indignant voice, Lily took the bag and opened its flap, revealing a number of shields packed neatly into the interior of the bag. She placed the bag on the ground and stared at Tate with a look somewhere in between disbelief and disapproval. Tate placed the other three bags on the floor and avoided Lily’s eyes. Sighing, Lily strode forward and checked each bag. True to her suspicions, they were all filled with shields, of various shapes and sizes. Lily glanced at Tate, reproach evident in her eyes.
“Tate, you don’t need any of these.”
“B-But I can’t just leave them! They’re like my babies!”
As she said so, Tate picked up a shield from one of the bags nearer to her – a tower shield – and starting rubbing herself against it in a tight, loving hug. Lily brought her palm to her face, shaking her head in a gesture of incomprehension.
“Tate. You know where we’re going. Carrying around so much metal is going to make a lot of noise, and that’s going to draw attention to us. And we don’t want that. Okay? So we can’t bring these shields along.”
Tate looked on the verge of tears. Lily could, to an extent, understand her feelings. After all, she considered herself a craftswoman at heart, as well. She decided to compromise.
“Okay. I’m not budging on the issue with the shields; you can’t bring those. But you can bring your tools. I’m sure that where we’re going, there’ll be lots of new materials for you to try working with. Okay?”
Tate looked at Lily with teary eyes for a moment, then reluctantly nodded her consent.
“…Okay… Let me say goodbye first, then.”
Lily took a moment to comprehend the thought of saying farewells to inanimate objects. She took another moment to accept that people actually did that. Then she decided that taking into account the fact that Tate was half-shield, it was a moderately reasonable action. She sighed and sat on the side of the road. Iris toddled over and sat down next to her.
“…Fine. Take as much time as you need.”
Two hours later, Lily greatly regretted her generosity in offering Tate such a lenient time frame. Apparently, the girl had found it prudent to name each and every one of her creations uniquely, and spent several minutes on each just talking to the unmoving shield before putting it on the ground with teary eyes. The girl was only halfway through. Sighing, she put her head on Iris’ shoulder, drifting to sleep.
Several hours later, with the cooling late afternoon breeze licking her skin, Lily was awoken by Iris’ light touch. She blinked the sleep from her eyes and focused on the door to the smithy, where Tate now stood with just her rucksack. The shields were gone, presumably inside the shop. Tate was presently hugging her parents deeply, as Jeremiah bawled into her shoulder and Jeanne displayed a lonely smile. As Lily watched, Tate pulled away from their parents, and they exchanged a few more words. Then Tate, eyes red and puffy, turned and strode over, joining Lily’s party on the other side of the road. Lily met Jeremiah’s gaze, and the smith nodded firmly. As she did so, Tate kept her back turned to the smithy, trembling. Lily and Iris stood on both sides of Tate, taking hold of one shaking hand each. Gradually, the shaking slowed, then stopped. Lily dipped her head towards Jeremiah, then the party of three walked away from the house, down to the docks.
At the docks, Lily searched the sailors sitting idly by, searching for the elderly, scarred fisherman. She found him staring expectantly at her, and she walked over to him. She counted out the 300 gold coins they had agreed on, then took half of it and returned it to her coin purse. The fisherman narrowed his eyes.
“The rest after we get there.”
The fisherman’s lips upturned into a close-lipped smile, and he jerked behind him, pointing at a specific ship. Lily blinked, dumbfounded. He had told her that he owned a fishing vessel, but the ship looked like anything but. Certainly, she could see fishing nets bundled up along the side of the ship, and there were barrels of fish being offloaded by burly men into the carts of waiting merchants, but the ship was big. Far bigger than any fishing vessel had the right to be. Lily was no nautical expert, but she was well-read. And from her passing knowledge of naval affairs, along with her visual estimation of the ship’s dimensions, it was closer to a medium-sized warship. somewhere between 34 and 45 meters long, and about 8 to 10 meters wide. It had twin masts and two decks. At the front, near the prow, was hung a statue which seemed to portray a woman, chained to the ship. Glancing closer, the woman’s face was contorted with pain; the chains were spiked. Lily frowned at the tastelessness of the statue, but sighed. It was a common feature on ships of this make, after all.
…Which brought her back to the question of why the apparent fishing vessel looked nothing like a standard fishing vessel. She looked at the fisherman in confusion, but he simply tilted down his cap. Sighing, she led the way and climbed up the large boarding ramp, paying no mind to the numerous muscled, rough-looking men who were preoccupied with offloading the fishy cargo. In the worst case, even if this turned out to be a terrible idea, she was confident that between the three girls, they would have more than enough leverage to handle negotiations.
And thus began their journey at sea.