Lily took several steps back and took in the house that had finally taken shape, the culmination of months of effort. Standing on each side of her were Iris and Tate. Prei was sandwiched between her and Iris, looking at the completed house with wonderment. Lily brushed a lock of her hair out of her face, tucking it behind her ear. The four girls looked wordlessly at the house that they had built through their collective efforts.

The project had taken about five months to complete, with most of the time spent travelling to and from Riasode to get more materials and other objects. Whenever they returned, Lily and Iris would use the materials they had purchased to work on finishing the house, while Tate and Prei would stay to a side and work together on creating new works of armor or shield to sell.

After the initial feedback on the lack of affordability of Tate’s first work, she had started to reduce the level of craftsmanship in each shield, instead focusing a much larger quantity of lower-quality work within the same time period. Though these mass-produced shields were of quality inferior to that which they had sold Victoria, they were still light and sturdy, with quality that surpassed that of Riasode’s resident smiths. Since they were more expensive than the locally-produced items due to the need to account for the tax, it was difficult convincing the townspeople to purchase the shields at first. Fortunately, a live demonstration of their sturdiness wherein Victoria had offered to do a test of the shield’s capabilities in the middle of the town square had resulted in a shattered sword and an unblemished shield. Demand for the shields surged after that. Lily had happily paid for Victoria’s replacement sword, knowing that Victoria’s aid had ensured the shields would be a steady source of income.

Within a short period of time, Tate’s name had became renowned as an assurance of quality. Despite the higher price of her works, they were quickly bought up by the town’s numerous mercenaries. Victoria had even placed a bulk order of shields for all one hundred and twenty of her guards, an order which Tate was still working on completing. Throughout the whole period, Tate had continued to hone and improve her craft, even as Lily and Iris worked on building the house. Prei, too, had grown: she was now able of creating fire crystals, in addition to water and earth crystals. Wind crystals were still beyond her capabilities, unfortunately.

Lily and Iris had largely worked in silence, cooperating to create the house Lily had envisioned. Although they never said anything beyond simple instructions given by Lily, both worked with a smile, enjoying each other’s company.

The five months had passed rather quickly and uneventfully, each of the girls growing in their own way, their lives settling into a peaceful rhythm of work, rest, travel and hunting. As the days and weeks flew by in a serene haze of work, the house was finally complete.

The mansion was large, very large. It was 25 meters long by 20 meters wide, with the roof beginning 11 meters off the ground. Its facade was an unassuming mass of red bricks, covered by a tiled, brownish roof. Based off the size alone, it was more of a mansion than a house. It was three stories high, as had been dictated in the initial plans. The pillars that supported the home were made of a rectangular pillar of concrete surrounding the metal bars. The brick walls were double layered, made with interlocking bricks supporting each other. Along each face of the building, every few meters there was a arch-shaped window frame, wherein a wooden window resided. In the exact centre of the building’s facade, on the side that faced away from the lake, was a pair of large wooden doors extended above Lily’s head, sitting snugly in a brick doorway.

The interior of the building was not yet fully furnished, but had basic necessities: Iris and Lily had cut down more nearby trees and used their wood to construct bed frames, tables and chairs. Unlike the rest of the interior, which had wooden flooring covering a concrete base, the room designated as the kitchen was made completely out of stone, with a doorway that faced the lake. Its windows were far larger than those found in other parts of the mansion, to allow for better ventilation. The rooms on each floor designated for restrooms were, for the moment, empty, until Lily could figure out how to install a plumbing system.

In sum, though the interior was bare and undecorated, though they would have to leave the house to use the toilet for now, the mansion was complete and ready to be inhabited. The plumbing would take some time, but Lily was confident she would figure it out soon enough. The lacking interior and bleak exterior could be decorated intermittently as they lived there.

As they looked at the building, Iris took Lily’s hand. Lily placed her free hand on Prei’s head, who nuzzled against it happily. Lily turned to Tate, and the two friends shared a smile and nod.

Before them was the result of their shared efforts, each working to maximise their abilities, to achieve this great result. Four girls, in five months, had constructed such a impressive mansion from scratch. Compared to the houses of nobility and the truly wealthy, it was not a particularly impressive building, but to the girls, who had created a home with their own hands, it was perhaps the grandest building in the world.

Lily did not let go of Iris’ hand as she walked towards the wooden doors with a certain gait. Tate and Prei hung back, letting the two of them approach the door alone. Lily placed her hand on the doorknob, then paused. She had passed through this doorway many times while building the house, but now that they had put in the doors and windows as the finishing touch, it felt different from all the previous times. Now that the house was complete, entering it carried a new sense of significance, like it was symbolic.

Lily shut her eyes and smiled. Months ago, she had promised to give these girls a place to call home. Starting from nothing, she had made a decision to let them lead peaceful lives, to create a place they could call home. Now, at last, this promise was fulfilled. After crossing the ocean, after suffering blow after emotional blow, finally she had a place to rest, and a place for these girls who followed her to rest. Once she stepped over the boundary into her new home, it would be the start of their new, peaceful lives. She squeezed Iris’ hand and grinned, filled with pride and resolve.

She threw the doors open, and took the first step into a peaceful life.