Heaving, Lily pulled away the last chunk of the Warden’s lower body. Its torso, above its waist, was now lying horizontally on the ground next to the deep hole in which its supports had been placed. On the other side of this hole was a mountain of metal, piled several meters high. Lily unceremoniously threw the last bit of metal on top of the pile and stood back, admiring her work. She wiped the sweat from her forehead, then reached down and casually took off her shirt, which had become soaked with sweat. She threw it haphazardly on to the ground, next to Tate’s shirt. Tate, having finished up her bit earlier, stretched her naked body, massaging her shoulder. As she did so, she raised a question.

“Well? What now? This is certainly a lot of metal, but it’s hardly enough to form the number of rods you said you needed. Are we going to have to pull apart the upper bit too?”

Lily flashed Tate a knowing smile.

“Oh no. It may not look like a lot, but this is more than enough.”

Tate simply replied with a confused expression. Lily turned to Iris, who nodded and retrieved the semi-circular pod that was lying some distance away. It was the lower half of the egg in which Iris had been hibernating when Lily first found her. When she had first broken it open, it had fallen apart, but Iris had shown her how to fit it back together. As for why she wanted to reconstruct the pod, it was because the inner surface of the metal used in making the pod formed a perfect semicircle, which in turn was optimal for use as a makeshift cauldron.

Iris set the pod on the ground, then placed her right hand along its exterior. Her fingertips opened up, revealing a series of cables. These cables sought out a group of five holes in one of the exterior plates, fitting snugly into these holes. Iris’ eyes briefly flashed red, and the interior of the pod became coated in an intangible amber film of pure mana.

Tate and Prei watched on with curiosity, crowding around the pod. Lily cleared her throat.

“You two should step back.”

As per her instruction, the two younger girls took exactly one step away from the pod, such that they could still see within the pod. Lily selected a chunk of metal about the size of her forearm and tossed it inside the pod. The moment the metal touched the amber film, a large pillar of impossibly hot mana erupted upwards from the base of the pod, causing both Prei and Tate to jump in surprise. Prei’s reaction was particularly pronounced, scurrying behind Lily and hiding behind her torso while quivering. Lily smiled and allowed herself to be hugged from behind, turning her attention to the pod. It was now filled with liquid metal, of the same color as the metal Lily had thrown in. However, despite the initial piece of metal being reasonably small in size, the pod, which was easily three meters wide and a meter deep, was completely full with the liquid metal, glowing orange from the heat. Tate instinctively cupped her hands over her nose, bracing herself for the pungent odor that accompanied metalwork, but then displayed a look of confusion when the expected stench never emerged.

Lily turned to the astonished Tate.

“This metal in the solid form used in the Warden was magically compressed, making it far harder than anything in the world. In the liquid form, it expands rapidly when heated. We don’t need such a high degree of hardness for our purposes, so it’ll be fine to cast it into a less tightly-packed solid state. As for the fumes, well, for some reason, the fumes given off by this metal are colourless, odorless and non-toxic, so you have nothing to worry about. I suppose we should thank the brilliance of the ancient civilisation for that.”

Tate regarded her dubiously, then shook her head and sighed.

“Well, it’s not like I have any reason not to believe you. But how are you going to cast it? I don’t see any moulds of any sort?”

Lily grinned.

“This is where I come in.”

Gently easing Prei’s hands away from her torso, Lily walked over to the neglected box of hydration fluids while grabbing a strand of her long green hair and yanking it clean off her head. She tied half of the strand of hair around her right wrist and index finger, then retrieved a tube of hydration fluid. Removing the cap, she carefully dipped the loose end of her strand of hair into the gel-like substance, causing the viscous liquid to drip off the end of the strand of hair. Lily concentrated and Extended into the strand of hair, continuing on to the liquid. She made the liquid spread itself evenly across the entire strand of hair, forming a transparent sleeve for the strand.

Lily, with the now-soaked strand of hair in hand, strode over to the pod with the molten metal. She carefully lowered the strand of hair into the liquid metal, the hydration fluid acting as an insulator. Using the hydration fluid as a vector, Lily Extended into the liquid metal, assimilating the entirety of the molten metal into her consciousness. The sudden sensation of heat caused her some discomfort, just as a scalded hand would cause discomfort, but she grit her teeth and focused. She nodded to Iris, who tilted the pod on its side. The liquid flowed outwards quickly, and as it did, Lily carefully controlled it to flow into a rod shape, with the dimensions that she required for her purposes. The sensation was not unlike that of stretching one’s hand to reach a high shelf, but far more strenuous.

Once the metal had settled into her desired form, she closed her eyes, tightening her focus. She pictured the molten metal as her arm, and imagined this arm being held perfectly still. As she did, the metal started to cool down, losing its orange tint. After several seconds of this, she relaxed, releasing her control over the metal. She pulled the strand of coated hair away from the side of the rod, where it was plastered, and examined her work. The rod was still slightly warm to the touch, but it was solid. That piece of metal had given her a single fifteen meter long rod. She looked to the heap of metal they had salvaged. It seems they would need far less of the material than she had first anticipated.

She turned to Tate, who was staring at the metal rod with an expression of disbelief. She chuckled and asked,

“Does that answer your questions?”

Tate turned her gaze away from the rod and instead cast it upon Lily, her face shifting from disbelief to amazement.

“…You used Extension. To shape molten metal. Without a cast, or tools, or oil.”

Her expression soured.

“That’s no fair! Why do you get to have such a convenient ability?!”

Lily burst out laughing at Tate’s outrage. She had to agree: <<Extension>> was certainly a useful affinity to possess, especially if she took into account the new information Iris had revealed. Wiping a tear from her eye, she lightly slapped the sulking Tate on her back.

“Hm. Convenient it may be, but trust me when I say it’s not easy. It took me many attempts to learn how to use my abilities in this manner. Besides, this just means that I’m doing all the work for this part. So sit down and rest for now, Tate.”

Still pouting, Tate grumpily walked over to Prei and sat down next to her, a distance away from the pod. Prei, watching Tate with wide eyes, quickly followed suit, plopping her rear on the ground, jumping as it struck a stray piece of metal. Rubbing her rear with teary eyes, she sat down again, this time carefully lowering herself to the ground, avoiding protruding pieces of metal. The sight caused Lily’s lips to turn up slightly, indulging in the sight for several moments before she returned to the pile of metal, selecting another piece and tossing it into the pod.