Prei wiped her forehead dry with a small towel and stretched, feeling a satisfying ache in her muscles. Her grey shirt was drenched in sweat, the result of an afternoon of spear drills. The muscles that ached the most were perhaps her wings, which had been put through intense use as Prei tried to incorporate flight into her attack patterns. It wasn’t working all too well; being airborne meant she lacked the solid footing necessary for ordinary thrusts and attacks; each attack required either more force on the swing, or the added force of wingbeats. As a result, the most efficient fighting style became one which utilised gravity to augment the force of attacks, leading to the strongest strikes being vertical and downward, a style of fighting she was not at all used to. Prei was being forced to re-learn how to fight, this time without the assistance of Iris’ training programmes, which had no information on midair combat.
“Ah, Prei! Wait for a bit!”
As she walked back to the house, she heard her mother calling her name, stopping her in her tracks. She turned to face Lily with a puzzled expression. It had been a month since she had revealed her heritage to her adopted mother, and while she had long grown used to her wings, she still felt a surge of warmth everytime she thought of her loving and understanding foster mother. As Prei cocked her head, Lily ran up to her, coming from the direction of the workshop.
Prei tilted her head questioningly.
Lily smiled mischievously and placed an arm around Prei’s shoulders, steering her in the direction of the workshop. Prei meekly allowed herself to be guided, but grew increasingly confused and curious.
When Prei entered the room, what greeted her was a mannequin, the same kind used by Tate to hold her armor works when decorating them. It was adorned in a set of light armor, a simple ensemble of a torso piece, a pair of long leather gauntlets, and leather leggings. The torso piece was crafted of leather, with metal plates covering the chest area, along with the shoulders, and a metal collar which protected the neck. The gauntlets had metal plates affixed to the back of the hand and was adorned with metal bracers along the forearm. The leggings had metal guards which enclosed the thighs and calves. The outfit seemed designed to be easy to wear, with hinges running along the sides of the gauntlets and leggings, along with metal clips to hold the armor closed. In the centre of the breastplate, placed slightly higher than the area the wearer’s chest would be, was a single circular sapphire, glinting in the light that filtered in through the windows of the workshop.
Lily released Prei’s shoulder and watched with a smile as the girl walked up to the armor and touched it. One glance was enough to tell Prei that the armor had been made to fit her, and her alone. The greatest indication of this was the conspicuously large symmetrical slits in the back of the torso piece, with the clips that fastened the piece placed in the middle of the two slits, such that the armor could be worn around the obstruction of her wings. Furthermore, the left shoulderguard was crafted in the shape of a dragon’s maw: her maw. She ran her hand along the metal, knowing from its feeling that it was no ordinary metal; it was the metal from the Warden. The trim of the metal pieces was lined with the intricate flower-patterned engravings which had become Tate’s trademark. As she touched it, she felt a thrill in her magical core. The armor had some kind of magic imbued within it, undoubtedly some brilliant concoction of her mother’s. She turned to Lily with a look of disbelief on her face.
“This is… for me, isn’t it?”
“So, this last month, when you said you were working on a secret project with Tate, you were…”
“Yep. Well? Surprised?”
“Evidently. I-I don’t know what to say.”
“Then don’t say anything and try it on!”
Lily removed the armor set from the mannequin and helped Prei to put it on, clasping the pieces securely around her body and limbs. When she was done, she took a step back, allowing Prei to try moving around. Prei flexed her wings, feeling no obstruction. She quickly attempted a few kicks and punches. The armor was light enough as to not slow her movement, and the construction of it was such that her joints were unobstructed, affording her a full range of motion. She turned to Lily with a brilliant smile.
“I love it! It’s light, so I can still move normally, and it fits so perfectly! Thank you, mother. This is an amazing gift.”
At this, Lily grinned with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.
“Oh, don’t thank me so quickly. This is for my benefit, as well.”
Confused by her mother’s statement, Prei blinked questioningly. Lily chuckled and ushered Prei outside the workshop, on to the open courtyard.
“Now, transform into your dragon form.”
Prei shouted in horror at her mother’s request. Over the last month, she had achieved a fine control over her draconic and humanoid forms, and was now able to freely switch between the two at will. However, doing so while fully clothed caused any clothes she was wearing to rip apart, effectively destroying them.
“If I change while wearing this, then…!”
“It’s fine. Trust me. Just try it.”
Prei frowned and bit her lip, conflicted. Ultimately, she decided to trust in her mother, and closed her eyes, visualising her dragon form. She imagined herself touching its head, and as she did, a light began to envelop her. To her surprise, the instant her transformation began, the armor began to glow as well. As she changed, the armor changed as well, rearranging itself. Watching it change, she realised that the armor was made of innumerable smaller pieces of leather and metal, bound tightly together by thin, barely visible wires. In its original form, the pieces were held so closely together that they looked and felt like a singular piece, but watching the armor change, the small pieces separated and rejoined from one another to create the change. By the time Prei’s own transformation was complete, the armor had completely changed, providing a metal plating to protect her large head, while the leather pieces now clung snugly to her torso, encasing most of it in a leather covering. Something about its shape was a little strange, though. Prei craned her head back to get a better view of what the covering looked like. As she did, its distinctive shape was made known to her, and a wave of embarrassment surged up within her.
“…Mother. You didn’t.”
Prei glared at Lily, but her foster mother was too busy laughing while rolling on the ground to pay her any mind. She loosed an exasperated growl and slumped to the ground dejectedly.
“…A saddle? Really?”
Lily wiped a tear from her eye as she desperately calmed herself down.
“Aye. Sorry, Prei. I was thinking, with a saddle, we could ride on you into Riasode, and cut the travel time significantly. I know it’s a bit undignified, though, so… sorry. Don’t worry, I’ll change the dragon form of the armor later.”
Prei growled again.
“‘A bit’ is an understatement, mother.”
Lily apologised again while giggling. In the meantime, Prei reclined on the ground, thinking carefully. Truth be told…
“Actually, mother… It’s fine. Leave it.”
“As I thought, I’ll need to change it to- eh?”
Lily cut herself off mid-sentence, staring at Prei with a disbelieving look. Prei laughed, a series of small snorts, and spoke again.
“I said it’s fine. I’m okay with this. This way, I can make our lives a little easier, right? Then I’m fine with it.”
Lily blinked several times, before widening her eyes.
“Really? You’re okay with it?”
“Aye. It may be a little embarrassing, but a little embarrassment is nothing if I get to repay you – in any way I can – for all you’ve done for me. Besides, you’re my mother. It’s only natural I’d want to help you in any way I can, right?”
Lily stood and stared, at a loss for words. Then she strode forward and hugged Prei’s snout.
“Thank you, Prei. You’re the best daughter anyone could hope for.”
Prei playfully licked Lily’s face with her long, forked tongue.
“And you’re the greatest, kindest mother in the world.”