Lily opened her eyes and rose to consciousness. On her lap, Prei still slept quietly, her tiny chest moving up and down as little white breaths of air escaped her lips, condensing in the morning chill. A cold wind blew through the forest, causing Lily to shiver and hug her arms around her body. The metal of her arms, chilled by the passing of the night, served to only make the cold worse, causing Lily to jump at the sudden touch of cold metal. As she jolted, Tate, who had at some point allowed her head to leave Lily’s shoulder, slowly roused. Lily’s sudden movement had caused her legs to jerk, and Prei was uncomfortably shocked awake. The smaller girl got up off Lily’s lap and looked at her with an expression that was equal parts sleepy and irritated. Apologetically, Lily reached over and patted Prei’s head, causing her expression of discontent to quickly warp into one of happiness.
Lily pushed herself to her feet. She nodded her head in thanks to Iris, who had not ceased her vigil. Iris smiled in return and allowed herself to relax. As Tate and Prei rubbed the sleep from their eyes, Lily strode over to the lake and cupped a handful of the clear water, splashing it across her face. As the cold water struck her features, she jerked back to full consciousness. Stretching, she turned back to her own party, who were just finishing up their own preparations. Tate was contentedly stretching her entire body, working out the kinks. Prei had an orb of floating water in her hand, which she promptly lobbed into her face, reminiscent of Lily’s own face-washing. She watched them in silence, with a smile gracing her face. She was again reminded of the conviction she had arrived at the previous night.
Her family was right here.
The other three girls looked at her expectantly. She had ended the previous day without indicating what she intended to do from this point on, so it was only natural that they would bear a degree of curiosity as to her future plans. She placed a finger on her chin as she thought about various things. In truth, she had an idea of the direction she intended to take from this point forth, but first she needed to confirm something. She turned to Iris and held up the hand which carried the <<Link Conduit>>.
“Iris, if we use this, then exit the wasteland again, we’ll end up at that lake again, right?”
Iris, surprised by the sudden question, shook her head.
“No, the waypoint records your current position in the world and refreshes its configuration once a day, at sunset. The waypoint is currently set to this location.”
Lily blinked as her initial assumptions were immediately debunked.
“…And you didn’t tell me that earlier.”
Iris averted her eyes at Lily’s accusing stare and began to fidget on the spot.
“Well, you never asked, and I didn’t really think it was crucial information… I mean, wouldn’t people normally want to go back to exactly where they left from…? In the first place that place wasn’t meant to be travelled to and from, anyway… sorry…”
Lily sighed and walked up to the dejected Iris, placing a hand on her head.
“It’s okay. You’re right. I should have asked. No need for apologies.”
Iris blushed, then nodded. Meanwhile, Lily placed the tip of an index finger to her lip, thinking. If they could not return to the city of Saphiz, her initial plan was impossible. She spoke up, addressing the other two girls.
“Well, initially I planned to return to Saphiz, earn money by adventuring or making machines, and then purchase a house.”
This question was posed by the perplexed Tate. Indeed, it was very different from the direction that Lily had been pursuing up to that point.
“A house so that all of us can live out the rest of our days together peacefully. Preferably in Saphiz so that you could go home if you wanted.”
This was the conclusion that Lily had come to after a night of thought. With Azoria lost, she had lost her home, and her dream. Therefore, there was only one thing to do that would allow her to regain both of these: she would create a new home for herself and her family, and she would make that her new dream. The previous night, as she slept, she had not dreamt, but rather had imagined a future for herself, seeing herself setting up a machinist’s atelier among the busy streets of Saphiz.
Iris would be her companion and assistant. Prei would go to school, make friends, and come back to tell them of all the new experiences she’d attained. Tate would occasionally visit just to chat, and there would be a separate workshop in the house reserved exclusively for her use. It was a peaceful, if mundane, prospective existence. Lily instinctively knew that if she could achieve this, and live in serenity alongside Iris, she would be content. Tate was still confused at the sudden change in direction of Lily’s goals, and Lily’s elaboration only deepened her confusion.
“But…why? What about your dream? Didn’t you want to become the best machinist in Azoria? Giving that up… is that really okay?”
Lily smiled sadly as she met Tate’s eyes.
“Azoria is gone. That dream cannot be fulfilled. Therefore, I decided on a new dream.”
Lily glanced at Iris, then Prei, then back to Tate.
“I’m going to try my best to make a place for all of us, to make all of you happy. Last night, you all said you would continue to follow me. It’s only right that I try to return that kindness. Sadly, since it seems we have no way to return to Saphiz, I won’t be able to let you return to your parents again. Sorry!”
Lily bowed deeply in apology as she addressed that last line to Tate. Tate hurriedly shook her head, flustered, and tried to push Lily back to an upright position.
“What are you talking about? When I left with you I already knew I probably wouldn’t be returning home. Just knowing that you wanted to do that for me makes me happy.” Tate grinned. “I haven’t told you this properly yet, Lily, but you’re the most important person to me, right now. You have been ever since you bumped into me on the street.”
Lily allowed herself to be pushed back up, then smiled gratefully.
“To live happily with all of you. To make all of you happy. That’s my dream.”
Prei interjected at this point.
“But, mama, since we can’t go to Saphiz, what now?”
Lily cast her gaze at the forest around them. A smile played along her lips as she surveyed the area. When she had asked Iris about the waypoint, she had already thought of an alternative in the event that returning was impossible. She eyed the lake, then the surrounding trees, then the soft dirt that lay beneath their feet. Then she took a few steps forward, walking closer to the water’s edge. She spun around to face the other girls, and spoke with a grin.
“Since we can’t return, getting a house in Saphiz will be impossible. But that doesn’t mean getting a house is impossible.”
Tate and Prei looked at her in confusion. Iris, understanding Lily’s intention based on her prior survey of the land, smiled in amusement and helped Lily elaborate.
“If you don’t have a place to belong, create one. Am I right, Lily?”
Lily broke out into laughter as she spun around, her arms spread open and upwards.
“Exactly. The house is all around us.”
She met eyes with Tate, who was starting to smile due to understanding Lily’s intention, and then locked eyes with Prei, who still looked equally confused.
“Well, shall we get to work? This house isn’t going to build itself.”